This morning I had the incredible opportunity of preaching from this wonderful passage. It was the perfect context to encourage God’s people on Reformation Day. “For by grace you have been saved (2:8 [sola gratia]) through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, (2:8,9 [sola fide and solo Christo] so that no one may boast (2:9 [soli Deo gloria]). For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” In the process of preaching this text, I also covered the content given in the first seven verses of the chapter (the “For” beginning verse eight required it). The quality time spent in God’s Word illustrated another “sola” that I hold dear: Sola Scriptura (the Bible is our ultimate authority on all matters pertaining to doctrine and practice). In the twenty-five years that I have been a Christian, I have met quite a few people who either have this passage memorized or have a very good working knowledge of it. These are wonderful truths we need to be reminded of on a regular basis. God deserves all the glory for our redemption. We could not save ourselves (twice in the passage the Apostle Paul declares that we were spiritually dead apart from Christ [2:1 & 5]). We cannot take credit for any work in our salvation [the grace and faith we received were “gifts” from God [2:8,9]). Out of rich mercy and great love (2:4), God gave (and still gives!) unworthy people (spiritually dead, sinners, followers of Satan, children of wrath [2:1-3]) spiritual life (“God…made us alive” [2:5])! Believers are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus (2:10)! For what purpose? Good works (2:10)! Allow me to remind you of one of those good works as I close: Proper boasting. Improper boasting would be our boasting in our role in our salvation (“not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” [2:9]). Proper boasting would be our boasting in God’s role in our salvation (“Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord” [1 Cor. 1:31])! The Reformers (men like Luther, Melanchthon & Calvin) would be encouraged tonight to hear us giving God glory “for the things He has done”! I hope you have had a great celebration today with the people of God!
Today is Reformation Day! Each year I celebrate God working through men like Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon and John Calvin to reform His Church. This day has particular significance due to Luther’s nailing the 95 Theses to the church door so that a debate could ensue on the issue of indulgences. That was 1517. Four years later Luther was summoned to appear before the Diet of Worms (a civil and religious trial called to deal with Luther’s heretical writings). It was April, 1521. The atmosphere was charged. Would the pesky German professor bow to the pressures being applied by the Church? Would fear for his life lead him to recant (disavow what he taught in his books)? Not in the least! I will quote his now-famous answer for your reading pleasure on this Reformation Day.
“Since, then, Your Majesty and Lordships demand a simple response, I will give one with neither horns or teeth to this effect. Unless I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture or by clear reason–for I believe neither Pope nor councils alone, since it is certain they have often made mistakes and contradicted each other–my conscience is obedient to the Word of God. I cannot and will not retract anything, for it is neither safe nor right to act against one’s conscience. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me! Amen” (this version of Luther’s response is found in Harry Emerson Fosdick’s Martin Luther [Random House, 1956, p. 113, 114]).
Now those are giant footsteps! Sola Scriptura means that the Bible is our final and ultimate authority on doctrine and practice. We must be convinced by the testimony of Scripture. But in order to be convinced by the testimony of Scripture we must know Scripture. Semper Reformanda means that we are “always reforming.” As we learn the Scriptures, we continue to readjust our theology and our application, our doctrine and our practice. The reformers did so. Let’s do the same! Have a great Reformation Day!
Celena turns eleven years old today. I’ve never had an eleven-year-old before. Any advice? I know what she likes. I also know what I want her to like. Furthermore, I know what I want her to be like. Every parent has hopes and dreams regarding their children. First and foremost, I deeply desire for my daughter to know and love Jesus Christ. As I prepare her for her flight as an adult, I must remain steadfast in my prayer for her and in my training of her. Only God can transform her. But God often chooses to use–chooses to profoundly use–parents in the lives of their children. Without a doubt, I want to be used of God to help Celena know God objectively and subjectively. I also want her to become all that God wants her to be. As we enter another year together, we plan to continue to challenge her to do her best at what she is called to do as well as to be on a mission to bless others. Would you be so kind as to pray for us today? On her birthday, would you offer a prayer for Celena? Thanks!
“Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God.” That was the confession of Jonathan Edwards after he finally stopped arguing with the clear and consistent testimony of Scripture regarding the kingship of God. I was reminded of this as three of my teachers this week proclaimed a very big view of God. In three separate conversations, these three ladies glorified God by acknowledging His complete control over His creation. His divine right to rule what He has created is His sovereignty. His actual reigning of that creation is His providence. The Westminster Standards serve as a bridge between Martin Luther and Jonathan Edwards. Consider Question 11 from the Shorter Catechism: “What are God’s works of providence? God’s works of providence are, His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all His creatures, and all their actions” (taken from the Great Commission Publication edition of The Westminster Standards, 1994, pg. 72). Friends, how BIG is your God? If you believe in the God of the Old and New Testaments, you have a HUGE God, a God who created and governs the universe for His great glory and your great good. Be encouraged! Be worshipful! Today finds me thankful for teachers with theology!
Just before bedtime, Dayton (five-year-old) asked me what my “favorite thing” was. I said, “God.” The conversation continued. Dayton: “Then what?” Daddy: “The Bible.” Dayton: “Then what?” Daddy: “Mommy.” Dayton: “Then what?” Daddy: “My kids.” Dayton: “Then, my hair, right?” Yep–that is exactly what he asked! If you haven’t seen a photo of him, you need to know that he has a beautiful head of blonde hair! I guess he’s proud of it! Honestly, I really do like it! I also like the question my two-year-old asks me pretty regularly now: “Daddy, coffee shop now, please?” We spend time together on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Today we went to the coffee shop and then to the park. It was a lot of fun. I am thankful tonight that my son hugs and kisses me and asks me questions, and I am thankful that my baby girl likes to hang out with her almost middle-aged Dad. “Children are a blessing from the Lord” (Ps. 127:3). Thanks for peeking into my life today to hear my confession: I love my kids.
Post Tenebras Lux
The “solas” of the Protestant Reformation
My head is spinning with Latin phrases!
Reformation Day is just around the corner. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his now famous 95 Theses on the Castle Church door in Wittenberg (Germany). Some people will celebrate Nevada Day this coming Sunday. Nevada entered the union on October 31st. Many people will celebrate Halloween (costumes, trick or treat, etc.). We will celebrate Reformation Day. This particular year is especially meaningful because I will be preaching at our church. However, the Latin phrase that is particularly on my mind today is Deo volente. It is translated “God-willing.” When used, it is a verbal acknowledgment of an inward condition. Deo volente means “if the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that” (James 4:15; NASB). I plan to wake up in the morning, seek God’s face, serve at Rhea County Academy and spend time with the family on Friday Deo volente. If the Lord wills, I will live. Munch on that. I only have life and breath on Friday if God grants it (Acts 16:25). Each time I inhale and exhale, I am in debt to Him “who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15). Secondly, I will only accomplish that which God allows. All of my plans must be made with the perspective that God’s will may indeed trump my own. I saw this in action today. Something I desired to see happen six months ago came to reality today. God and I were thinking the same (a rare convergence), but our timing was different. I wanted my plan to happen in my timing. God ensured that His plan happened in His timing. As a result, I rejoice. God’s will was done. His will is always done. That’s why Deo volente is such a great attitude to adopt. It’s biblical. It’s wise. Set your alarm. Plan to make a difference tomorrow. Deo volente. God-willing to God’s glory!
She wasn’t a theologian. She wasn’t a pastor. She wasn’t an evangelist. Honestly, she wasn’t very well educated. That was evident in how she was dressed and how she communicated. But let me tell you what she was. She was caring, deeply caring. She sat near another patient in the clinic waiting room. In order to pass the time, she struck up a conversation with a man who was also waiting. I was sitting nearby, interacting with TJ and reading a magazine. With the remaining 1/3rd of my attention, I was listening to their discussion. Within ten minutes, the woman encouraged the man to attend church and seek Jesus Christ. That’s how much she cared. It makes me think of a Penn (of the famous Penn and Teller comedy/magic duo) comment that he respects Christians who warn non-Christians about hell (his basic line of argumentation is: If you really believe that there is actually a hell, you should warn others. It’s the most loving thing to do. He’s right). That woman cared enough to bring up Christ. She cared enough to offend. I don’t care enough. Do you? Too often I do not care enough to bring up the truth. Crazy, eh? We are an inconsistent lot!
I’ve been thinking about the rewards of being positive and the consequences of being negative. When I did a Google search for what would end up being the title for this entry, I found an interesting website with some food for thought. If you are curious, here’s the link: http://www.ordinarypeoplecanwin.com/positive.htm It’s easy to go too far with the whole “power of positive thinking” approach. It seems to place us in the driver’s seat rather than grasping the sovereignty of God (cancer is still cancer even if you’re smiling). The link given makes no mention of Christ. In reality (and HE is described exactly as that [Col. 2:17]), we need Christ if we are going to affect genuine and lasting change in this world. One of the areas in which we can make a difference is by being positive in the biblical sense of the word. The Bible commands believers to rejoice always (1 Thess. 5:17). We are to teach and admonish one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in our hearts to God (Col. 3:16). Now that’s upbeat! There is a sense in which we ought to be on a mission to make others happy in God. People ought to leave their time with us encouraged (Heb. 3:13). Is that happening? Far too often, I commiserate with people; I mourn with those who mourn. I complain with those who complain. I grumble with those who grumble. When I do so, what am I adding? How am I helping? Positive attracts positive. In Christ, and because of Christ, I want to be more positive! I want to bless others more!
This afternoon finds me thankful for my pastor, Wayne Layton. He is a faithful man. Our church is small. This morning we had less than thirty people again. Wayne preached as if three hundred were in attendance. He studied hard, and he preached to the best of his ability. This morning he challenged us to trust God in times of famine (Gen. 12:10-20). I appreciate his steadfastness and his desire to see his sheep, his friends grow in their faith. As I reflect upon my experiences in churches since becoming a Christian, I praise God for the number of faithful men who have served as my pastors. I have been greatly blessed! What about your experience? Would you describe your pastor as “faithful”? If so, have you thanked him lately? I trust you pray for him often. A faithful pastor is a gift from God. A praying congregation is a gift to a pastor. If God has blessed you, be sure to bless the elders over you, thus making their service to be a joy (Heb. 13:17).
When I had a difficult time sleeping in Las Vegas, I picked a book off of my mom’s bookshelf. I had read John Grisham’s The Broker (2005) previously, but it proved to be a nice distraction again. Two sections jumped off the page to me this time through. The first selection reads as follows: “What a sloppy life. Fifty-two years, and what’s to show for a career of bilking clients, chasing secretaries around the office, putting the squeeze on slimy little politicians, working seven days a week, ignoring three suprisingly stable children, crafting the public image, building the boundless ego, pursuing money money money? What are the rewards for the reckless pursuit of the great American dream? Six years in prison” (p.59). The second selection is: “You carry the past with you, regardless of how unpleasant it was” (p.64,65). Wow! I could write a book on both selections! I would hate for my life to be described as “sloppy”! Without a doubt, I want to live for what matters! I want to live for eternity! I also believe that Grisham is correct in his assessment that we carry the past with us. It has become part of us. In a sense, we are what we once were. Our experiences and our memories, our victories and our losses all serve to make us what we are today. I suppose that is why TODAY matters so much. TODAY shapes us. TODAY determines tomorrow and the rest of our lives. As a result, let’s live for what matters! Let’s live for eternity! Thanks to the sage, John Grisham, I am encouraged to strive for reality one more day.