Friday, March 31, 2017

Christ Alone- The Great Single Sacrifice

DAY 32- 4/1/17  CHRIST ALONE


It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins… We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…  For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.  And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.  (Hebrews 10:4, 10. 14,18)

Thoughts: The Great Single sacrifice- the one sufficient for all human beings has been offered.  The ransom for our captivity to sin has been paid.  How can one man’s dying pay for all human being’s sin?   Well, Jesus is not just any man- He is the infinite-worth God- man.  Can you compare the value of God’s life to ours?  Could I compare the lives of a thousand amoebas to my pet dog?  I would choose my dog even if it were a billion amoebas!  The value of the perfect Jesus- God in the flesh- does not compare to our own value.  He is not a lamb paying for human sin- He is God paying an infinite price for a finite amount of sin.  For even though we sin a bunch- our sins are limited by death and number.  But God’s value on Jesus- the Son is infinite.  All the Old Testament sacrifices point to the idea that we need a sacrifice- we need to find a way to have forgiveness before the holy God.  But they also point to the One true Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world- Jesus.  Christ alone has this value.  To degrade this value by saying we need to add our own sacrifices or merit to it is ridiculous.  Christ alone is worthy of our praise- He is the lamb that was slain and He alone is worthy.  “You are worthy…because you were slain and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation…worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”  (Revelation 5:9,12).

Prayer: Lord, help me to grow in my appreciation of your worthiness.  

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Solus Christus- Christ Alone Forgives Sins


No one can forgive sins but God alone…but that you may know the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins, take up your mat and walk.    (Mark 2:7ff)
All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name. (Acts 10:43)

Thoughts: Our hope is not in ourselves and Christ or someone and Christ.  We fail ourselves.  Others fail us.  Christ never failed and never fails.  What makes us realize our sins are forgiven as far as the east is from the west is that Christ has paid the price for them.  Many do not name “forgiveness” as their problem. Guilt and shame are not perceived in our culture.  But alienation from others, depression and loneliness, and purposelessness are aching and nagging problems.  But the root of these things is our own selfishness and pride- which are also sins that we must somehow get past.  Sadly, we usually cannot name our basic sin, but we can only name the symptoms without naming any kind of real cure.  The cure to emptiness, depression, and purposelessness is the hope offered by Christ- and that is the hope of the cross.  It is on the cross alone that we can get past our past failures and alienations to move on in life.  Forgiveness is not made up for by doing good.  For how much good do we need to do?  We cannot earn our way to feeling better and being reconciled to God, others, and ourselves.  If we could, then we could boast about how good we are.  However, Christ gives us a way to pay our debt from outside of ourselves.  The Creator who designed things and holds things to account- also made a way to reconcile us to Himself.  He Himself has paid the price and bore our sins.  To think that we have added to that payment by our own small acts of goodness is demeaning to the majestic cost of the cross.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the forgiveness offered in Christ. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Christ Alone- NOT Christ And

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

Thoughts: Late medieval theology (Ockham) had disintegrated into thinking that doing good was so important that it should be rewarded with eternal salvation.  One can understand why we should motivate people to do good. 
      Similarly, late medieval Latin theology talked about forgiveness being earned by penance, by confession, by the Eucharist, by indulgence, and by the transferring of righteousness/grace from one person to another.  The problem is that while a priest could say that they absolve someone, that does not mean that the sinner felt forgiven.  Luther, when he was a good monk, felt he needed to do more and more to somehow obtain forgiveness for his sins.  It was only when Luther realized Christ alone could forgive that he actually realized he was forgiven and trusted his forgiveness.  Protestants could speak of assurance of salvation because of the assurance that they were forgiven by Christ’s act (and not their own plus Christ’s act).  The Roman Catholic church at the time taught that repentance and our actions were necessary for salvation and that we could lose our salvation.  While Luther was more vague, Calvin spoke of the doctrine of eternal security and perseverance.
       Our salvation does not depend on our actions plus Christ.  Our salvation does not depend upon some saint and the cross of Christ.  Our salvation does not depend on our taking the Lord’s Supper and Christ’s cross.  It is not doing any law or good that makes us acceptable.  Christ’s grace shown on the cross and accepted by faith makes us acceptable- and forgiven. 

Prayer: Lord, help me to appreciate your love alone and your work for me.  

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Solus Christus and Pluralism

11And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:11-12)

Thoughts- E pluribus unum- “Out of many one” is a motto of the United States on the Great Seal.  Ironically the official motto of the United States (1956) is “In God we trust.”  This trust in God can be a uniting thing that brings people of different races and backgrounds- rich and poor together.  In our day the ‘E pluribus Unum” motto has taken precedent in a kind of reverse.  Today we seem so divisive that perhaps a better descriptive motto (that I do not recommend) is “E Unum pluribus” (out of one- many).  The sense of oneness is disappearing along with the spiritual and purposeful bonds that once helped us pull in the same moral and spiritual direction.  What is missing is a sense of love. The idea of True Love has been derided and confused with lust.  We have elevated an ever- hungry but never-satisfying-government into the role of the One who cares for us above all others.  Though all religions in America are equally protected, not all are equally useful for the good of the state nor are they all equally valid.  For example, some religions do not encourage charity but instead encourage focus on self in order to find inner peace.  Arkansas struggled in 2015 as the government put a Ten Commandments statue up.  Some Satan worshipers asked to put a statue of the devil up claiming equal treatment and equal validity and were recently (1/25/17)given the green light to move ahead.  For some, this is simple fairness- everyone should be on equal grounds.  But this goes beyond common sense into the realm of silly moral ineptitude.  The solution is not to get rid of all statues- or even all religious monuments.  The solution is to begin to make a distinction.  Who makes that distinction?  The people should be able to make (by vote or by representatives) that distinction.  For a Satanic symbol could quickly become an idol and an object for worship for some, and Satanists elevate hate and division over love and unity.  There are those who think Christianity is evil- but it is a religion that teaches love.  There are some who believe Christianity is judgmental- but Christianity teaches to leave judgment to God and it is the Christians who teach “he who is without sin cast the first stone” and “Judge not lest ye be judged.”  Yet, having said that, Christianity has always been a believer in truth.  God is the ultimate judge of truth.  What we believe matters.  If we really believe that all religions are alike, would we allow ISIS to have a monument on the statehouse grounds out of fairness?  It matters what you believe.  There is a difference between those who behead Christians (like ISIS) and those who are beheaded for simply being Christian.  It is not wrong to affirm Christ as our model for belief and practice. The Reformers were right to affirm the truth of Christ.  We would do well to not be ashamed of the truth of the Gospel- the truth of the one, true, Christ whom alone we worship and serve.  

Prayer: Lord, let me claim the truth and not be ashamed of it.  
Reformers Statue Geneva

Monday, March 27, 2017

Solus Christus- Only Christ


“I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father but by me.”  John 14:6
“Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction , and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Mt. 7:13,14
There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death. Proverbs 16:25

Thoughts: For some Jesus is only one among many ways, one among many truths.  Jesus was not saying, “Follow me and I will lead you to the truth” rather- “I am the truth.”  Many do not have a problem adding Jesus to their spirituality- or having Jesus as one god among many.  But the “solus” or “only” claim of Jesus is what not only rubs them the wrong way but frustrates them.  For them, all roads lead to the mountaintop, however winding.  But, despite what post-moderns think, Jesus was saying that truth matters.  To say that truth matters means that lying and deceiving is not okay. 
     At the time of the Reformation (and still today), people were trying to get around the idea that salvation comes through faith in Christ and trust in the cross as a sacrifice for our forgiveness.  So the idea of purgatory- that we may somehow pray for others to have their sins burned off in time with punishment; or as some Catholic sects believed- transfer the righteousness of one saint over onto us was followed.  Luther and the Reformation leaders called people back to the idea of Christ as our Savior. 
    Once a baby had jaundice and her parents were told that if they put the baby underneath a special light for so many hours, the baby would get better.  But suppose the parents quarreled- “That’s too easy!  How about if we scrub her, warm her, put a little skin coloring on her, and drops in her eyes? If we work hard enough at it, I’m sure we could get her normal coloring back.”  The doctor would have insisted, No, there’s only one way to handle this.”  If the parents had said, “No, we will just ignore this and maybe it will go away.” The doctor would remind them that things can get better if they do not follow his simple but important steps.  Believing in Christ is simple but it is also important.  Jesus opens the door to belief to whosoever will.  It is not exclusive in its invitation it is exclusive in its solution.  
    Lee Strobel asks, if there were two country clubs- one of which had an exclusive membership for those who earn it and do a multitude of tasks; and the other invited everyone- no matter what they looked like or what they had to join. For the second, entry was not based on qualifications or earning it but on accepting the invitation.  Christianity is like the latter.  All are invited and we do not earn our way.  Rather we depend on one who has paid the way for us. 

Prayer: Lord, help me to see you are my only and most important savior.  Help me to trust in you alone.  

Song: "In Christ Alone" 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Soli Dei Gloria- To Glorify and Enjoy Him


“I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly.”  (John 10:10)
WSCQ1: “What is the chief end of man?”  A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”
Translation: “What is the main purpose of human beings?”

Thoughts:  The Christian life is not so purposeful that it has no fun.  The old saying is, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”  We are made to glorify and honor God and find our pleasure in that.  I remember the movie, “Chariots of Fire” about Eric Liddell who won the gold in the Olympics.  He said, “When I run, I can feel his pleasure.”  We can run, skip, jump, play in a way that honors God. Having good, clean fun can honor Him.  Calvin talked about sailing on Lake Geneva on Sundays.  In fact, if you know you are enjoying your life for God- and not just for yourself- there is even more fun in that!  Your work and your chores can also have more meaning if you are doing them to God’s glory but also if you are learning that you may enjoy God’s presence and help in the midst of the work you do.  It is not merely an inconvenience.  Interruptions can become ways we see God’s providential hand leading us.  So whatever you do, know Jesus came to help, to heal, to comfort, to give you life- abundantly.  The abundant eternal life does not begin after you die and go to heaven- it begins now.

Prayer: Lord, help me to find you in my life.  Help me to find purpose but also joy in my journey.  

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Soli Dei Gloria- The Place of Mary and the Saints

“Then the angel said…At this I fell at his feet to worship him.  But he said to me, “Do not do it!  I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus.  Worship God!” (Rev. 19:10,22:9)
“Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” (Mt. 4:10)
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”  1 Corinthians 11:1 (cf. I Cor. 4:16)

“Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”  (Heb. 12:1)
Thoughts: Part of the confusion and division between the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant churches is the role of Mary and the saints in our worship, prayers, and salvation.  There are those who accuse (falsely) that devotion to Mary derives from the very common pagan devotion to Mother earth. However, there are others who have obviously taken this too far.  For example forming a later tradition of the immaculate conception of Mary by her parents, and the perpetual virginity of Mary even though Jesus clearly had younger brothers and sisters (and thus not by Joseph from a previous marriage as some conjecture).  Some even have her playing  a role as a co-redemptor with Christ for our salvation (Cult of the Redemtrix- which is not generally recognized).  Some even superstitiously worship the bones or relics of the saints (see Second Helvetic Confession V).
      The Second Helvetic Confession (written by Zwingli’s successor in Zurich, Bullinger) says, “At the same time we do not despise the saints or think basely of them.  We love them as brothers and also honor them; yet not with any kind of worship but by an honorable opinion of them and just praises of them.”  We also imitate them.  We probably need to remember the words of the angel to Mary, “Blessed are you among women.”  She is the mother of Jesus, and chosen by God for this purpose.  Other saints too are to be imitated as they follow Christ.  In scripture, the term “saints” is used many times.  It means “sanctified ones”- those who believe and are following our Lord.  The term is not limited to the holiest amongst us.  But even saints like Abraham, Moses, Peter, and Paul sin and fail.  1 Corinthians 10:11 (in reference to the saints of the Old Testament) says, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us. There are both good and bad found in everyone.  It is important to set before us those who follow Christ close that we may not be discouraged  in our own journey. 
Prayer: Lord, you alone are worthy to receive honor and glory and power and wealth and strength.  For you created all things.  Help me not to worship or pray or trust in another for my salvation. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Soli Dei Gloria- Thoughts on Glory


In the Old Testament, the word “Glory” is Kabod meaning heavy.  It tends to imply that someone who receives glory is rich (Gen. 31:1), powerful (Is .8:7), in position (Gen. 45:13).  Kabod also carried with it the idea of light emanating from the center of God’s glory- a blinding splendor with flashes of lightning. 
In the New Testament the word “Glory” is doxa- from which we get our word “doxology.”  It denotes the majesty and holiness of God. 
    Christ is the manifestation of the divine glory (Heb. 1:3);  he is the exact representation (Col. 1).  We see the glory of the One and Only in this Word made flesh (John 1:14).  Christ purely glorified the Father.  He was full of grace and truth.  As we imitate Christ- as we love others and do His work we also honor and glorify God. 
    We glorify God as we reflect His glory in our lives.  Jesus is the light of the world- and he calls us “the light of the world.”  But our lights are reflectors of His great light.  Moses face glowed when he saw the glory of God on the mountain- but it was not Moses’ glory that was reflected-  but God’s glory that was glowing on Moses’ face.  Any glory we have should point people to the glory of God working in and through us. 
     In heaven we shall see this glory face to face.  We shall be made like Him and enabled to be in the presence of the throne of God- to see the throne described but beyond description in the book of Revelation. 

Prayer: Lord, when I am honored, give me grace to point up to you.  When I am blessed, help me to remember you are the Blessor.  

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Soli Dei Gloria- Nature Glorifies God

The heavens are telling the glory of God, and the earth proclaims the work of His hands.  Psalm 19:1

Calvin believed that the created order display the goodness of the Creator (Selderhuis CH p.274).  Nature, he said, is the “theater” of God’s glory, the “mirror” of the providence and power of God, a “witness” to the glory of God and proof of his love toward man (Inst I.5.1,8; I 6.2).  

The world along with all humans groan for a day when things will be fair and just- where right wins and is clear.
  But the problem is that we know if we were treated justly we would be condemned.  Yet we long for things to be made right.  We long for the heat to not be so hot and the cold to not be so cold.  We long for bad things to come out of the shadows.  We long for the weak to be made strong, and the captive to be set free, the blind to see and the deaf to hear.  Jesus gave us a glimpse of this happening when he came the first time- healing and helping.  One day there will be no more dark, and there will be no more sun to eclipse.  God will be our light and we will see things for what they really are.  In the meantime- the sun points to the Son. The invisible qualities of God are seen in creation (Romans 1).  Creation is like the moon reflecting the sun.  Creation is the fingerprint of God- pointing to His glory.  We do not need to glorify anything in creation.  Creation is meant to be a mirror to reflect God's light..  To glorify creation would be to glorify the mirror instead of the substance.  But creation is meant to reflect the One we should glorify.  

Prayer: Lord, give me eyes to see your invisible character in nature.  

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Soli Dei Gloria- How Do We Glorify God

DAY 23- 3/23/17- SOLI DEI GLORIA- How do we Glorify God?  

“I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols” (Isa. 42:8).

          While our work may glorify God, and our actions of love may glorify God, and things like prayer and witnessing honor Him, there is one thing we do that is more special still- it is to worship God.  We take this for granted.  One of the reasons God asked us to keep a Sabbath weekly is that it is good for us to honor God with our time and focus. 
    When we believe in His redeeming work, we glorify Him.  When we trust in Him by faith, relying on His grace, believing in His sacrifice on the cross.  When we trust in His reality, His real love- we honor Him.  As we continue to grow in our faith- He becomes more and more the center of our lives.  He becomes our Lord more and more as we follow in His steps.  This glorifies God and reflects positively back to Him- even if no one else sees it.                           

Prayer: Lord, may my heart, my time, my talent, my giving all reflect your glory.  

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Soli Dei Gloria- The Singleness of Glory

DAY 22- 3/22/17- SOLI DEI GLORIA- GLORY TO GOD ALONE  The Singleness of Glory

“Soli Deo honor et Gloria” (Vulgate translation of 1 Tim. 1:17)- “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever Amen.” 

Some translate Soli Dei Gloria as “Glory to the only God.”  In some parts of animistic African Religion (and American voodoo) there are many gods who receive growing ranks of glory until the most glory goes to the invisible creator God.  In Roman Catholicism and to a lesser degree in eastern orthodoxy there are differing ranks of glory going to saints and especially to Mary.  The Second Council of Nicea spoke of three different levels of glory: 1) the latria that glorifies and adores the Trinity; 2) the Hyperdulia that glorifies Mary; 3) the dulia that glorifies the other saints.  Ironically when the angel came to Mary to tell her she would have a son you see her tremendous humility and she said, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Lk. 1:46).  The problem is when we start spreading the glory around to others (instead of to God alone) that we can easily slip (consciously or subconsciously) into praying to, worshiping these other saints as if they were god, demi-gods, or mediators between us and God.  But there is only one mediator between us and God (1 Tim. 2:5) and that is Jesus Christ.  When we try to take the glory that is due to God and give it to another- it diminishes the honor that is due Him.  So the first two commandments say, “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God...(Dt. 5:7,8). 
Prayer: Help me Lord to give my heart solely to you and to no other.  May you alone be my one true Lord.  

Monday, March 20, 2017

Soli Dei Gloria- Glorifying God in our Actions

“So whether you eat or drink of whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  (1 Cor. 10:31

Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel, perhaps the greatest Reformation musicians, wrote on each of  their pieces, “Soli Dei Gloria.”   This does not mean (as some suppose) simply that our music should praise God.  It also means that what we produce, what we work for, what we do in life should glorify God.  If you look at the lives of Handel and Bach they were prolific.  Their work was not simply motivated by money (though Handel sometimes appears to be the merchant) but their inspiration was purposeful.  They lived on- purpose lives- writing music to honor God. 
    To Glorify God is to have a purpose.  The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, "What is the chief end of man? The answer is "To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever."  The Reformation brought a supreme sense that we are not to glorify the saints, or the church, or the Pope, but we should glorify God alone.  This singleness of heart and purpose brought about the Protestant work ethic- a motivation to do even small things (washing dishes, taking out the trash) to the glory of God.  Today we are missing that direction, meaning and purpose in life (and even in church life).  

Prayer: May my work, my song, my art, my love, my life honor you and you alone, O Lord. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Faith Alone- Assurance of Salvation


I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:13

Thoughts: The Medieval Roman Catholic Church thought that to be assured of your faith was to rest on your laurels and that this was not healthy spiritually.  But both Luther and Calvin spoke of the assurance that comes by the Holy Spirit when we have faith.  We do not always have to be in a constant state of doubting and wondering.  There is a joy knowing that He is our God and we are His people.  This is the covenant statement that is made real by faith.  Faith is the key that opens the door to the benefits, joy,  and reality of God. 

Prayer: Lord thank you for the certainty of faith and the assurance of hope we have in you.  

[1- Roman Catholic Council of Trent: Sess Vi, Canon 23: "If anyone maintain that a man once justified can not lose grace, and, therefore, that he who falls and sin never was truly justified, let him be accursed." ] 

The Westminster Confession (Reformed) makes the following points:
1) Assurance of salvation is possible for those who believe.
2) This is based on the promises of scripture and is not a conjecture.
3) You can have faith but not have assurance.
4) True believers may have their assurance shaken.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Sola Fide- What this Denies

For by grace you are saved through faith and this not of yourselves so that no one can boast. 
All your righteousness is as filthy rags. Isaiah 64:6

Thoughts: Faith alone means that all good is secondary.  It is not that we are good and so God gives us faith.  It is not that we do some good and our faith pulls us up making us righteous the rest of the way.  It is faith alone- by itself that brings us salvation.  If anything was of ourselves we could brag and boast about it.  But in heaven we lay our crowns before the throne. 
     Penance- the idea that we can make up for our bad; doing good deeds to some how help ourselves or even another in their salvation is somehow wrong.  There were some who believed we could pray another into heaven.  We cannot pass our faith onto another- it is their faith that saves them.  The   Latin church criticized this idea saying that this degrades good works so that people will not try to be good.  But we do good not because we need to go to heaven, but out of gratitude to God.  Luther is purported to have said , we sin in our best deeds as well as our worst.  Bad motives affect even the good we do.  Calvin said, “The human heart has so many crannie where vanity hides, so many holes where falsehood lurks, is so decked out with deceiving hypocrisy, that it often dupes itself.” (Inst. 3.2.10)

Prayer: Lord, help me to appreciate that any good I do is not of me.  

Friday, March 17, 2017

Faith Alone- What this affirms

Now faith is being confident in what we hope for and assurance of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

Thoughts: Faith alone means that faith is important.  We should appreciate the gift of faith and to treasure, guard, and nourish that gift. 
     We should be careful not to wallow in doubt.  Doubt in itself is not is not a virtue- as worry is not a virtue.  The ability to live free of worry- being assured of God’s love and trusting in Him- is both freeing and develops love and hope. Faith and hope bring with them a sense of meaning and purpose in life. The idea of faith alone only enhances that purpose and confidence in truth and God.  Today many are missing this affirmation- and live to hear spin tickle their ears.  Faith not only leads us and gives us hope it also convicts showing us where we start to off the right path and calling us to repent and turn around. 
    Faith is tied to hope and love.  Faith makes hope real and gives us a goal to live for.  Faith is trust that the hope is not a false hope but a real hope.  Faith is tied to love.  Without trust, love would be shallow.  Faith develops deep and true love.  Faith in God enables us to love God in response to His love which gives us faith.
Prayer: Lord, help me to treasure the faith you give me and to let it grow in me.

Luther: The Holy Spirit is no skeptic.  He has written neither doubt nor mere opinion in our hearts but solid assurances- which are more sure and solid than all experience and even life itself.   

Today there are some who even say "the opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty."  This flies in the face that the definition of faith- above is certainty and assurance.  There is room to doubt.  Doubt is not a sin in and of itself but it can become a sin.  It is not a sin when we doubt what is not true.  It can become a sin when we trust in our doubt more than we trust in the Lord.  The emphasis of the certainty faith flies int he face of those in the catholic church who say that we can never find assurance in this life.  Luther and Calvin taught that assurance can be found as sure as anything in this life by the Holy Spirit speaking through the Word of God- when we believe and trust it.  

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sola Fide- Faith Alone


“For by grace you have been saved by faith, and this not of yourselves.  It is the gift of God so that no one can boast.”  (Ephesians 2:8,9). 

“A man is justified by faith apart from works of law.” (Romans 3:28)

“Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification…that works by love.” (WCF 13.2)

Thoughts: For Martin Luther, this was the foundational principle of the Reformation.  Everything else should be measured against this for him.  Faith itself is a gift from God of His grace.  Today there is a great deal of boasting.  But we cannot and should not boast of saving ourselves. 
    It is through faith- not through any good acts- not prayer, Bible reading, church attendance, helping the poor, voting properly, establishing a Christian state, not a religious bureaucracy or a religious elite telling us what to do.  Faith puts all people on equal footing- no matter what our wealth, education, popularity, faith is what counts.  We would do well to note that in our day.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for your gift of faith.  Help my faith to grow and honor you.  

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Sola Gratia- The Role of Good Works


 4But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,7so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-6)

   Late Medieval Teaching (Occam-Biel, Duuns Scotus) taught that doing good prepares us to receive God’s grace.  “By living up to the highest within him, he could merit the grace of justification.”  Occam said that “God is committed to give his grace to all who do what is in them.”  For some Protestants on the far right or far left, this is their view- a semi-Pelagian view that we cooperate with God to receive grace.  The Council of Trent affirmed this view in reaction to the Reformers.  Bloesch points out that “Luther did not deny that people do on occasion seek and ask for the grace of God.”  Yet in his view, “this very wishing and asking, seeking or knocking is the gift of provenient grace, not of our eliciting will.”
Calvin said, “God does not graciously accept us because he sees our change for the better…he comes into our lives , taking us just as we are out of pure mercy.” (CR Calvin 39.139).  Kuyper said, “All our running and racing, toiling and slaving, can not create in us a holy disposition.  God alone can do that.” 
    Protestantism encouraged doing good- but not in order to be saved or cooperate with our salvation.  Luther and Calvin spoke of doing good out of gratitude to God and love for Him, not because we have to do good in order to obtain His favor.  Calvin pointed out we do good not as servants who are paid, but as sons out of love.
    Why do you even try to be good? There are some who only live by their feelings- or by other’s feelings (not trying to hurt others).  But people will be hurt.  Some are offended when you do good today.  Others are offended when you do bad.  Truth is, we are God’s children (if we believe in Him) and we want to please God above all others. 

Prayer: Lord, Help me to do good- not because I have to do it- but because I am grateful toward you. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Sola Gratia- What is Grace

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:44). 

     All Christians (Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant) believe grace is God’s undeserved favor.  It is God’s blessing us when we do not deserve the blessing. 
     The medieval and Roman Catholic view of grace is very different from the Protestant view of grace.  The Roman Catholic view of grace is that grace is infused (not as the Protestant view of imputed or imparted righteousness). For the Medieval Catholic, the prevalent view was that God gives grace that we may live more acceptably.  For Protestants, we are accepted despite our sins- from the beginning to the end.  For Protestants, grace is given when we have faith (faith alone).  For Catholics grace is infused into people through the sacraments (especially baptism and the Mass), through doing good, through Penance, and directly through God.  No one denies that God uses means (tools) to give us grace- like scripture, or fellowship/worship, or prayer. 
      The Roman Catholic view is grace is received through the church- most commonly by the mass (eucharist/communion), but also through prayers, and good works.  Roman Catholics believe Christ has given a treasury of grace to the church through His life and death. 
        The Reformers rightly believed that we come to God not on our own, but by His grace.  He deserves all the credit and glory.  We do not glorify ourselves but the Creator who enables us to respond to Him.

Prayer: Your grace is amazing and saves a wretch like me.     


Monday, March 13, 2017

Sola Gratia- Grace is Not Karma

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked.  What we reap we also sow.” Galatians 6:7
there is, “…no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2)

      The idea that we get what we deserve and we reap what we sow are certainly natural ideas.  The Hindu idea of Karma- that the bad that you do comes back to haunt you and the good comes back to bless you is very different from the idea of grace.  Grace is undeserved favor.  Mercy is not punishing us as we deserve; Grace is God’s blessing us when we do not deserve it.  Grace and mercy are not fair, but they are a deep relief to those who don’t deserve them.  Once a man could not make his house payments.  That the bank did not foreclose on him was mercy.  That his friend heard about his demise and made his house payment was grace.  The ultimate blessing here is salvation.  
         One of the myths people believe is that we deserve heaven just because we are (and despite what we do).  Their reasoning is that it is not fair that God would create anyone who does not go to heaven.  But God does not force us to be good and does not force everyone to accept His love.  It is obvious that some purposefully choose to reject God and to reject His ways.  What is their karma?  Should the devil go to heaven?  There are some who think that God will continually offer His love until the ones who reject Him break down.  Scripture itself does not teach this.  Hebrews 9:27 says, “we are destined to die and after this the judgment.”  There is a sense in which judgment comes right at our death.  So Jesus could tell the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”  Paul could say “to depart is to be with Christ.”  Those who believe that belief and behavior here do not really matter because they will be given a second chance are hoping in a hopeless hope.  The idea that we will be reincarnated and that reincarnation (or transmigration of the soul) will give us a second chance downplays that those who are reincarnated or transmigrated do not learn from their mistakes in the previous life.  No, there is judgment.  This is what we deserve- all of us.  But God chooses some out of this judgment to Himself.  Before the Reformation the second chance idea evolved into the idea of purgatory.  This evolved into a different idea of grace (explained in the next lesson) that could be conferred from one person to the next, and prayers made after death to transport the soul from a state of purgatory to heaven.  In some sense we want a second chance (thus reincarnation, transmigration, or purgatory).  Yet in another sense we want karma- to get what we deserve.  Basically, we have a deep fear and a denial of facing judgement- what we do deserve.  Grace is a reminder that God gives us mercy and hope beyond what we deserve.  This is amazing love.  In karma there is no love.  

Prayer: Thank you Lord, for your salvation and love you offer right here and now. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sola Gratia- Salvation by Grace Alone

DAY 12- 3/12/17 SOLA GRATIA- Salvation by Grace Alone

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us.”  (Ephesians 1:8)

“For by grace are you saved through faith.  Not by works so no one can boast.”  (Ephesians 2:8)

Salvation, this teaching tells us, is not earned by the sinner.  It is unmerited favor by God.  There are not ten things you can do to earn your way to heaven.  We do not initiate our salvation, we do not cooperate with God’s grace, and we do not earn it or deserve it. 
      When are we saved?  Before we were ever born, God made a plan to redeem us.  Ephesians tells us that before the creation of the world we were predestined.  On the cross Christ saved us- before we could respond.  By placing us in a position to hear the Gospel, the grace of God is at work without our cooperation or even our response.  Gratita and Gratitude are similar words.  We are due to give God credit, glory, and honor and not steal the gratitude for ourselves. We love because He first loved us. 
     Calvin wrote, “When God elects us, it is not because we are handsome.” 

Prayer: Lord, you are deserving of all my thanks and gratitude.  Thank you for your love.  

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Sola Scriptura- The Unfailing Bible

“All your commands are trustworthy.” (Psalm 119:86)

      The Reformers did not use the word “inerrant” but did speak of the “infallibility” of scripture.  Zwingli (of the Reformed/Presbyterian persuasion) wrote an important work on “The Clarity and Certainty of the Word of God” that used this word.  The Westminster Confession also uses the word “infallible” to describe scripture (I.v; I.ix).  The scripture is unfailing to us.  It does not mislead us, it is a reliable and certain standard for our belief about God and the duty God requires of us.  Scripture claims to be “truth” or “true.”  (Psalm 19:7-9; 119:86, 138, 142, 144, 151, 160; John 17:17- “Your Word is truth”; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pt. 1:20-21).  This alone does not mean it is true; but one would expect the true testimony of God to say it is a true testimony.  But Jesus' testimony to the Scripture's truth (Jn. 5:39 17::17, Mt. 5:17-19) should be enough for the followers of Jesus.  There are empirical evidences we could list- prophecies amazingly fulfilled, archaeological evidences that confirm the history that once was doubted, but these fade in comparison to the simple testimony of the Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts convicting and convincing us of its truth.  Calvin said the Holy Spirit's testimony is all we really need.
     There obviously are human elements in scripture.  God uses the grammar, background, and style of each writer.  But just because humans do not tell the truth does not mean that scriptures do not tell the truth.  Humans do not have to be false all the time- they may speak truth- especially when they are inspired to do so by the Holy Spirit. 

       The infallibility the Reformation Leaders taught was one not of impeccability as much as indeceivability (Bloesch). The Spirit accommodated the truth of the Gospel to the mind-set and language of the writers.  The Holy Spirit makes the truth really truth to us.  Without the eyes of faith, the truth of scripture is irrelevant but also not perceived.  Scripture is a trustworthy, enduring, unfailing witness to what God reveals to us.
      Zwingli indicated that God will do what He says.  He related how when God spoke the action was certain.  Thus God spoke and the world began, “Let there be light- and there was light.” Isaac will be born- and he was. 
Or in the New Testament- the leper is cleansed according to Jesus’ word, the centurion’s servant is healed, the storm is stilled with a word, “Peace be still.” Zwingli says that “what God promises He will infallibly/certainly perform… His Word can never be destroyed, undone, or resisted.”

Prayer: Lord, may I trust in your promises.  May I rely on your Word in scripture.  May I doubt all other witnesses before I doubt your witness found in scripture. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Sola Scriptura- The Unity of Scripture

Had you believed Moses, you would have believed me, for he testified of me.”  (John 5:46)

      There is a supernatural character of the Bible.  It is amazing that it has escaped persecution (Greek, Roman, Chinese and more). One of the most expensive books in English ever is the “Cuthbert” printing of the  Gospel of John ($14.3 million).  The Guttenberg Bible sold for $4.9 million in 1987.  It is the most translated book in the world by far (636 languages and 3,233 partial translations as of 2016).          
      One of the amazing things that the eyes of faith see in scripture is its unity.   It is a book written over 1400 years with over 40 authors of 66 books.  Yet the theme of who God is, who human beings are, and the need for grace and forgiveness runs throughout.  There is no book like it.  There are other sacred books written by one author (like the Koran by Mohammed, or the Analects by Confucius) that you would expect have a unified theme.  There are other books that are written over centuries with diverse views of God (like the Hindu Vedas).  The idea that God is one is found in both Old and New Testaments; the idea of holiness and that God cares about our behavior and sets forth His will is in both;  the idea of love and grace are found throughout.  Genesis and Revelation (the first and last books) have similar ideas of God, man, sin, Satan, paradise, and the tree of life.  What is introduced in Genesis is accounted for in Revelation.   (Ramm). 
       The Bible is a handbook of our faith.  It is the constitution of the church.  It is a map to God and to the duty we owe God.  The Bible is more than just a history book or a history of a people’s faith from which we can learn.  It is a Word for us.  God is not silent- but cares and speaks a Word. Jesus said, “You search the scriptures for in them you think you find eternal life.  But the Scripture testifies about me” (John 5:29).  The Scripture is our Covenant Book.  It is a record but also a promise of how God related, relates, and will relate to His people.  The word “diatheke” does not mean “testament” as much as it means “covenant.” It is a promise to relate- “I will be their God and they will be my people.” Both testaments are a covenant to relate in love to God’s people. 
     There have been over 6 billion Bibles printed, with over 100 million sold or given away each year, and the number is growing.  Where is the competitor to the Ten Commandments or to Jesus’ Beatitudes or Lord’s Prayer? 

Prayer: Lord, you have in your providence, provided a Word for me.  Help me to hear it and apply it to my life.