Happy Reformation Day!

Today as many celebrate Halloween, Protestants all over the place celebrate the day that Martin Luther and others in his wake, asserted the true good news of the cross of Christ in the face of the Roman Catholic Church, that had long-since forgotten the riches of God’s grace in Christ.

The Events of the Reformation

On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther published his 95 theses – 95 assertions against the Roman Catholic Church – and then he nailed them a copy to the door of the Wittenburg Castle church. The printers would soon spread these documents, in both Latin and German, throughout Germany, a game-changing moment that was, in many ways, the start of what we now call the Reformation.

Martin Luther had whacked a hornet nest with a stick.

The Roman Catholic Church gave him chances to take back what he had said. He didn’t take those chances. Then finally they called him to task before a Catholic Church council in Worms, Germany where they asked him finally to recant. To this he replied: “My conscience is a prisoner of God’s Word. I cannot and will not recant, for to disobey one’s conscience is neither just nor safe. God help me. Amen.”

 Luther meme

What were these 95 theses all about?

The 95 theses were fundamentally about a shift from the glory of man’s pursuit of God to the glory of God’s pursuit of man in the cross. The Reformation was all about the cross and our proper response to the cross. The cross of Jesus is where the powerful God who made heaven and earth hung powerlessly on a Roman execution device. This thinking was almost completely opposite to Roman Catholicism  – instead of thinking that man can trust themselves, making their own efforts the basis of their standing before God, Luther maintained that man must trust God, and Christ’s work alone as the sole ground of our acceptance by God. Likewise, instead of thinking that what we do matters most before God, Luther protested that what matters most is what God has done for us – God suffered for us. We can’t add to the accomplishment of Jesus in order to save ourselves!

 

The Five Solas

Out of this movement of reform, there were “five solas” that developed in response to specific ways the Roman Catholic Church had distorted God’s truth. “Sola” is Latin for “alone.”

First, the Roman Church taught that the foundation for faith and practice was a combination of the scriptures, church tradition, and the teachings of the pope and the Catholic councils. The reformers rejected this and said, “No, the foundation of our faith is Scripture alone! Sola scriptura!” Only the Bible has the authority to tell us what God wants – not the Bible in combination with the traditions and authorized interpretations of the Church.

Second, the Catholic Church taught that we are saved through a combination of God’s grace, operating beside the merit of our own good deeds and penance, and also the extra good deeds that the saints before us achieved. To this the reformers said, “No! Grace alone saves us! Sola gratia.” Salvation is not ultimately based on our actions – it is based on the kindness and compassion of God.

Third, the Catholic Church taught that we are saved, that is, we are acceptable before God, because of the combination of our faith and our works. Belief in God matters, but we need good actions to supplement our belief if we are going to be saved. To this, the reformers responded, “No, we are justified by faith alone! We are saved only by faith! Sola Fide!” It is our faith, our trust in God, and only our faith that grabs a hold, so to speak, of the righteousness of Jesus that is credited to us. Faith alone, apart from good deeds, is what makes us completely righteous before God.

Fourth, the Catholic Church taught that we are saved, not by Christ alone – in his death and then his resurrection – but also by the good merit of the saints, and Mary, who have gone before us and who pray for us. To this the reformers said, “No, we are saved only by the good deeds, the merit, of Jesus Christ. Christ alone saves – not Christ plus the saints and Mary. Solus Christus! Christ alone. We must approach the Father only through His Son, Jesus.”

Finally, the Roman Catholic Church said that the praise for salvation – the glory that results – is shared between Christ, Mary and the saints, and the sinner himself or herself. In response the reformers said, “No, the Bible teaches that God alone is glorified when we are saved. All the glory goes to God. Sola Deo Gloria!

Why is this so important?

It is important that we know about these five solas because the Reformation isn’t over. The Roman Catholic Church still needs to come to a strong, full-throated position on the extravagant, do-nothing-do-add-to-it, grace of God. They still need a Reformation! If I could sit down tonight for a few minutes and talk the pope, what I would tell him is exactly that – you guys still need a reformation. It’s high time you embraced the five solas.

But on a more personal level, the reality is that we all need a mini-reformation every day. Every morning my sin wakes up right beside me and it says, “Forget the Bible today! Trust yourself! Rely on your own actions to move forward! Glorify yourself!”

The five solas are a daily war in the heart of the Christian. Will we trust the Bible or our experience? Will we trust God’s grace, through faith, or will we trust in our own good actions to be saved? Will we approach God through Jesus alone or are we going to rely on some other thing, some other “saviour,” to get to God – our reason, our emotions, our actions? Are we going to exalt ourselves as we strive to be the best, the coolest, and the smartest, or are we going to give the glory to God alone in all aspects of life?

We need these five solas – every day – we ought to wake up in the morning and think: “YEAH! FIVE SOLAS AGAIN TODAY! JESUS IS MY SAVIOUR! GOD GETS THE GLORY!”

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Marijuana Mania

Apparently Justin Trudeau is already setting up marijuana dispensaries across the nation. Apparently.
Wherever you land on the issue of marijuana decriminalization/legalization the fact is that for the Christian it should be a total non-issue. Getting high – getting “stupid” – is sin. It is an offense to God. It is an abuse of the faculties He entrusted to you with. It is poor stewardship in the extreme. It is the same thing as drunkenness but perhaps worse…
Back in the day people would quote me this verse from 1 Timothy 4:4: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving…” So, they said, “receive the dope with thanksgiving, man!” To which I say, how can you give thanks for anything when you’re that doped up? Furthermore, God also created lightning bolts. Think about that. Should we receive them too? Make like Ben Franklin and go fly a kite…

Legal weed

So now that I’ve established it’s sinfullness – let’s discuss the whole legalization thing:

I want to begin by reminding people that there is in fact a difference between a sin and crime. Of course, that is a problematic distinction to make, but it’s also an important and necessary one. For example, murder is both a sin and a crime. And rightly so. Yet, there are a whole host of sins that we ought not criminalize – lust, bitterness, covetousness, etc. That’s because we we don’t want a massive, totalitarian, “statist” country. It would be ugly. Nobody wants the coveting police to be snooping through our Facebook posts, looking for any whiff of envy. Laws have their limits. Governments too, contrary to popular opinion, have their limits. And I say all this because when it comes to marijuana the courts of the church, so to speak, will do a much better job of dealing with the sin of it than the courts of the country can do with the crime of it. So yes – I think getting high, like getting drunk, should be placed in the “sin” category but probably not in the “crime” category (unless of course, you get into a car doped up – or a cockpit). Although I’m no policy-maker…and I could be grievously wrong as everything shakes out in the next twenty years.
However, based on the above reasoning, it follows then, that just because something is decriminalized, or legalized, doesn’t mean that it is now moral. No. Again, there is a difference between a sin and a crime. The prohibition of alcohol was lifted years ago – getting slammed on a Friday night is still a sin. Period.
The reason this is all so important to stress is that for years now, as Christians have been able to say to people, “Don’t smoke weed because it’s illegal.” All the while what we should have been saying was, “Don’t smoke weed because it’s immoral. It grieves God.”
It’s high time that Christians (and churches) affirmed, wholeheartedly, and preferably before the dispensaries are installed in every neighborhood, that getting high is wrong in the eyes of God whether or not society recognizes and enforces that conclusion. We need to hold each other to a higher ethic than the shifting standards of “Babylon.”
And that’s because Babylon (the world systems represented in the Apocalypse as that blaspheming harlot) will soon be no more (Revelation 17). And the New Jerusalem will be descending shortly (Revelation 21). So I’d like to close with a personal invitation for anyone reading this to get ready for that new reality – believe in Jesus and then await his coming with a sober mind.
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13 ESV).

Also, watch this. It’s interesting:

Postmillennial-ish Premillennial

Revelation 20 teaches that Christ will reign for “1000” years. The smarty-pantses have historically called that the “millennial reign of Christ” or “the millennium.” (From the Latin word for one thousand – “mille.”) Although theologians often debate what this millennium looks like, we should remember that the millennium is really only one small point in the book of Revelation, which is written to Christians in the first century to teach them how to suffer well as they witness to Jesus. Being a “faithful witness” is what Revelation is all about – allegiance to Jesus. (All the silly “prophecy conferences” would do well to consider that – don’t miss the point of John’s Apocalypse by looking for plane crashes, and blood moons, and whatever other timeline stuff you are preoccupied with.)
But the thing is, it’s important for people to think through the different views on the millennium – not as some academic exercise, but because having an idea of where you are headed gives hope for the journey. These are functional, practical truths.

millenium kid
That said, there are three main views for how this “millennium” is understood. The views on Jesus’ “reign” are named with respect to the timing of the return of Jesus. Pre-millennialism says that Jesus will return and then Jesus will reign on the earth for 1000 years, hence “pre” – Jesus retursn before his millennium. Post-millennialism says that Jesus is reigning on earth right now and then one day Jesus will return to kinda wrap it all up as a final conclusion (“post”). A-millennialism is a lot like post-millennialism with respect to the timing of Jesus’ return. Jesus is reigning now – but he is reigning “in heaven.” So the negating particle “a” in “amillennialism” is really not quite appropriate here. It’s not that amillennialism says there is no reign of Christ, it’s just that it’s spiritual. So a-millennialism spiritualizes the reign of Jesus.

From Wikipedia:

My view is premillennialism (without all the goofy dispensational stiff about a tribulation and a hidden return of Jesus). I think it is abundantly clear that when you consider that Revelation was written to suffering saints in Asia Minor, then chapter 20 could only be understood as the physical reward, on earth, for their physical suffering, on earth. The martyrs are raised!
However, emotionally, I love postmillenialism the most. Postmillennialism says that Jesus is alive and reigning now. I think this view has so much to commend it. It aligns the millennial reign of Christ with the Kingdom of God that is advancing through the work (and even the suffering) of the church today. What is not to like about that? What is unbiblical about that? I LOVE postmillennialism! It’s triumphalist. It says Jesus is alive and his purposes are advancing right now on earth. It says that the reign of God is not some “spiritual” thing but that it actually affects matters pertaining to life, food, and public policy. The blessings of the future are reaching back onto the present because of Jesus rule! This is thoroughly biblical.

So there you have it. I’m postmillenial-ish premillenial. An “optimistic” premillenial. I woke up this morning thinking, “sweet – one day Jesus is coming back.” Then I remembered, “wait – the kingdom of God is both ‘already’ here and also ‘not yet’ here.” The kingdom is here and also coming. Present and future. Jesus is alive and well today. He is building his church. He is ushering in his reign. There is reason to enjoy and express his life-giving work right now, with a bounce in our step, even as we look forward to that future, visible millennium to come.
Sweet deal.

Oh – and here – for further study: http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/an-evening-of-eschatology