A Reformation Day Tribute: Martin Luther and the Righteousness of God

Today is Reformation Day! It is a day theat commemorates the beginnings of the protestant reformation as a German monk named Martin Luther intended to start a theological debate as he nailed his 95-Thesis on the door of the church.  We are greatly indebted to men like Martin Luther and the other reformers who began to rediscover a the light of the true Gospel that had been shrouded within medieval scholasticism.  The key doctrine that Luther rediscovered was the doctrine of Justification by faith. As Luther began to study the Bible, particularly Romans he was greatly disturbed by one particular phrase, "The Righteousness of God".  By divine Grace this phrase began to become the sweetest of all phrases as he began to learn that we received the righteousness of God by faith in Jesus Christ.  All of this is by the grace of God.  I'll let Luther himself describe this discovery later in his life,

I had certainly wanted to understand Paul in his letter to the Romans. But what prevented me from doing so was not so much cold feet as that one phrase in the first chapter: "The righteousness of God," which I had been taught to understand as the righteousness by which God is righteous, and punish unrighteous sinners....

As last, as I meditated day and night on the relation of the words "the righteousness of God is revealed in it, as it is written, the righteous person shall live by faith" I began to understand that t"righteousness of God" as that by which the righteous person lives by the gift of God (faith); and this sentence, "the righteousness of God is revealed," to refer to a passive righteousness, by which the merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, "the righteous person lives by faith." this immediately made me feel as though I had been born again, and as though I had entered through open gates into paradise itself. From that moment, I saw the whole face of Scripture in a new light...And now, where I had once hated the phrase, "the righteousness of God," I began tool and extol it as the sweetest of phrases, so that this passage in Paul became the very gate of paradise to me.

This beautiful doctrine, so central to the Gospel, is something we protestants tend to take for granted, but on this reformation day may we praise the Lord for showing to a German monk the glorious truth that sinners are justified and given the righteousness of God through Jesus Christ.  Happy Reformation day!

True Faith Perseveres

How is it we are saved?  As many would say, we are saved by faith alone.  That is absolutely 100% right.  We are saved by putting faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior.  However, the great danger is that we twist the doctrine of justification by faith into a get out of hell free card.  Many reduce this doctrine into simply praying a prayer when you were a kid and then your eternity is secure.  The danger is that we have turned faith into a one time decision not a life long decision.  In the Scriptures we see that true faith is a lasting faith.  Authentic faith is a faith that endures to the end.  Let me show you in 1 Peter 1. Salvation Comes through a Faith that Perseveres

In 1 Peter 1:6-9 Peter encourages a church in the midst of persecution.  He provides a reason for why they are suffering so incredibly.  Peter tells them that the reason they suffer various trials is so that their faith may be tested.  This means that trails in life are testing grounds to see if our faith is legitimate.  The hope is that the fires of suffering reveal whether our faith, "may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ".  It is in the perseverance of our faith that we receive the outcome of our faith, "the salvation of your souls".  This means that we receive our inheritance and our reward by enduring till the end.  True faith is a lasting faith that survives the various trials of life that come.  If we endure to the end, then we will receive our eternal reward given to us in Christ, the salvation of our souls.

Does this Mean we Earn our Salvation by Persevering?

No, we are justified by faith alone.  However our perseverance reveals whether our faith is real or fake.  To understand this truth better, we must look at the verses before in 1 Peter 1:3-5.  Peter blesses the Lord because "According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope".  In other words, God is the one who initiates our salvation causing our new birth and thus our faith.  As Peter continues he tells us about an inheritance we have that is "imperishable, undefiled, and unfading".  This inheritance, he tells us, is kept in heaven for us.  This is "by God's power being guarded".  You see our initial faith and our persevering faith is all the result of the power of God.  He is the causal agent that initiates the new birth, and He is the one who protects our inheritance and causes us to persevere to the end.  In other words, God finishes what he starts.  Our initial faith and our persevering faith is all an act of divine grace.  It is not of our own doing, but it is the gift of God.

Trusting in God's Power to Persevere

This means that we must pray and ask God to give us faith until the end.  The only way our faith will survive to the end is if the power of God sustains it.  This means we confess our utter dependency on the power of God.  We cling to the cross daily and rely daily on the power of the Holy Spirit.  Let us then live our Christian life with the end in sight.  Salvation is more than praying a special prayer but a life sustaining faith in Jesus.  Over the course of our lives we will watch friends whom we thought were Christians reject Christ and reject the Gospel.  It is emotionally painful to watch, but we must remember that true faith survives till the end.  May we never cease to pray that God by his power would sustain our faith until we breathe our last breath and enter into His glory.

 

 

Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth, or Something More?

There has been an acronym that demonstrates how most people think about the Bible. You have heard it before it is "Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth". We call the Bible to "road map to life". Most people think of the Bible as nothing but a rule book that Christians follow. It shows in the way many Christians handle their Bibles. When a person wants to know what the Bible says about sex, they open up their concordance in the back of their Bible, look at their teen study Bible notes, or do a quick google search to find the few verses that gives them the rule for them to follow. Many view the Bible as the strict task master of the Christian faith, and that it is nothing more than a rule book. Although the Bible does have rules. It does have instructions for us. It does tell us how we must live. However if that is all you think the Bible is your view of Scripture is incomplete. The Scriptures are not just about rules, but about Jesus! The Bible is a story, the true story of the whole world. The Bible tells the story of God's plan for redemption through Jesus.

In Luke 24, Jesus appears to two guys on the road to Emmaus. Jesus has resurrected and appears to these guys who are bummed out because they thought Jesus died in Jerusalem, not knowing he had risen on the third day, just like he said he would. Jesus joins in on their conversation and corrects them with the truth. Jesus begins to walk through the whole Scriptures with them and tells them how the whole Bible talks about Him! Here is what Luke 24:27 tells us, "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself".

The Scriptures are all about Jesus! The meta-narrative, the over encompassing story, of scripture revolves around Jesus. The Bible isn't just a rule book but a story book centered around Jesus as the hero. When we read the Bible then we don't need to just understand it as a boring rulebook, but as the amazing true story of the world. We read the Bible and discover how we fit in with God's story and what he is doing in the restoration of this broken world. Once you begin to understand the Bible as more than a rule book, studying the Bible gets much more exciting. The Christian life isn't about just succumbing to a list of rules, but joining God in his mission to redeem this world through the blood of Jesus! When you read the Bible, you are reading about a story you get to join!

Prepare for Suffering

I'm currently reading Let the Nations be Glad by John Piper. In the third chapter on suffering he has an excerpt from Richard Wurmbrand who endured fourteen years of imprisonment and torture in his homeland of Romania between 1948 and 1964. Here is the section Piper quoted:

What shall we do about these tortures? Will we be able to bear them? If I do not bear them I put in prison another fifty or sixty men who I know, because that is what the Communists wish from me, to betray those around me. And here comes the great need of the role of preparation for suffering which must start now. It is to difficult to prepare yourself for it when the Communists have put you in prison.

I remember my last Confirmation class before I left Romania. I took a group of ten to fifteen boys and girls on a Sunday morning, not to a church, but to the zoo. Before the cage of lions I told them, "Your forefathers in faith were thrown before such wild beasts for their faith. Know that you also will have to suffer. You will not be thrown before lions, but you will have to do with men who would be much worse than lions. Decide here and now if you wish to pledge allegiance to Christ." They had tears in their eyes when they said yes.

We have to make the preparation now, before we are imprisoned. In prison you lose everything. you are undressed and given a prisoner's suit. No more nice furniture, nice carpets, or nice curtains. You do not have a wife any more and you do not have your children. You do not have your library and you never see a flower. Nothing of what makes life pleasant remains. Nobody resists who has renounced the pleasures of life beforehand.

For the Christian it is not a matter of if we will suffer, but when. Most of us in America will never experience the kind of persecution you just read about, but we must prepare ourselves for that time. We must decide to renounce the pleasures of this life now, before the time of suffering comes. Then, by God's grace the suffering will be far easier to endure, because we already treasure Christ as our most supreme joy. Just as Peter tells us, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you" (1 Peter 4:12). As Piper says, "Suffering with Christ is not strange; it is your calling, your vocation". Suffering is coming. It is the joyful task of the Christian to suffer for the sake of Jesus as we advance the Gospel. It is not a matter of if we will suffer but when, and how we will respond. May Christ find us faithful when that fiery trial does arrive.

Youth Week Sermon Videos

This week in Wilson, NC churches from across the city have brought their youth groups to worship Jesus.  The theme for this year is faith in action, and that is our heart behind this week.  We want to see teenagers from across our city rise to the challenge of sharing the glorious Gospel of Jesus.  Each night, different youth pastors in Wilson preached God's Word.  As the week progresses, the sermon videos will be uploaded on Youtube, but I will compile them and add them to this blog as they come out for easy reference.  Hope you are blessed by them!

Night 1 - Faith in Jesus - Justin Deeter

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pjt05qUixO4&feature=youtu.be

Night 2 - Faith in God's Plan - Daniel Ritchie

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EeDvODuZ0w

Night 3 - Faith that Works - Joe Strange

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nG8Qd8sIaVo&feature=youtu.be

Night 4 - Faith that Shares - Brad Perry

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4B7bKJVMFXU&feature=youtu.be

Night 5 - Faith that Hopes - Justin Deeter

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEe3yCqcRfM&feature=youtu.be