Thursday, March 28, 2013

Soli Deo Gloria

Soli Deo Gloria; to the Glory of God Alone

 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1st Corinthians 10:31)

I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. (John 17:4)

As Christians, we should look to Jesus Christ as our supreme example of how to live and honor God. Everything Christ has done is for God's glory. Mark Driscoll summarizes Jesus' God-glorifying early life well.

 "Jesus' ministry began before he started preaching. He obeyed his parents, worked a trade, & loved his neighbors as worship to God."

     Jesus' Ministry continued as he performed miracles, taught in the synagogues, and called His disciples. All of this He did for the chief purpose of giving all the Glory to God (Luke 5:25-26; John 17:1-5).
     As we approach the celebration of resurrection Sunday, we should remember that Jesus' mission on earth was to be unjustly tried, crucified, buried, and resurrected on the third day to display to the world the ultimate illustration of God's Glory. The God of the universe dying and rising from the dead to save His people is the greatest example of God's love. It shows the world not how great we are, but points to the greatness of God, and how valuable His own glory is to Him. 

     Following Jesus' example, we should do everything for God's glory. Whether it's eating or drinking--as the scripture says--washing dishes, preaching, praying, getting cut off in traffic, reading, showering, or working overtime, everything we do should keep the Glory of God in view. 

     One day, the lamb who was slain will return as the Faithful and True one to judge and wage war (Rev. 19:11). On that great day, God's glory will not only be displayed through the love of the crucified Savior, but also through the power of the conquering King.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Isn't It Romantic

     "Now let us hurry on to something much more important-- the romance of preaching! There is nothing like it. It is the greatest work in the world, the most thrilling, the most exciting, the most rewarding, and the most wonderful. I know of nothing comparable to the feeling one has as one walks up the steps of one's pulpit with a fresh sermon on a Sunday morning or a Sunday evening, especially when you feel that you have a message from God and are longing to give it to the people. This is something that one cannot describe. Repeating your best sermon elsewhere never quite gives you that." 

                                                             -Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers

Miscellanies (3/13/13)

     This week is spring break at the community college where I work. Since the school is on spring break, I have decided to take the week off from writing any original material. However, I wanted to share some of my most interesting internet findings over the past few months.
     Identities- I found this link on Tim Challies' blog. It is a fascinating photo gallery from a photographer who finds old portraits and then shoots their subjects in the same pose many years later. It reminds me of Psalm 90, "Teach us to number our days that we might apply our hearts unto wisdom."

      How to Study the Bible- This is a post from Ray Ortland's blog. No explanation needed, just go check it out.
     The Story of Ian and Larissa- John Piper writes a brief article about a young couple who are displaying the Gospel through their marriage despite overwhelming odds. Please watch this video below; its probably my best internet finding in 2012.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sola Gratia

     "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
(Ephesians 2:1-10)

Sola Gratia; "Grace Alone"

     When I was 19, I was coming home too late from my girlfriend's house and ran my Dodge Dakota off a Tennessee back road . I ran off the gravel road into a shallow ravine, and no one else was involved in the accident. The truck was totaled, and other than a few scrapes and bruises, I was fine. The experience did shake me up a bit, especially when the state trooper that worked the wrecked charged me with reckless driving. 

     On the day of my court date a few weeks after the wreck, I stood in front of the judge who announced my case, "The State of Tennessee v. Joshua Caldwell". I felt fire climb up the back of my neck...I was terrified! As a teenager, I liked to spend time with my friends playing video games or music, but I didn't party. I was pretty tame, and this was my first encounter with the law. I stood there bewildered as my case was read. The lawyers who were present discussed things amongst themselves in a whisper, and the judge walked up to me. He spoke with a deep, kind rattle, "Is this is the first time you've been in my courtroom?" Trying to hide the trimmer in my voice, I replied, "yes." 

     He told me he was going to reduce my charge to a speeding ticket; fifteen miles over the speed limit. The judge showed me grace; favor that I had not earned. The terrifyingly heavy charges against me had been lifted! I rejoiced in the knowledge that my penalties had been greatly reduced

     Christ, by His grace, has taken away the charge of sin we owe to God, a charge inexpressibly more weighty than my reckless driving charge. And while my charges were reduced, the bible says Christ has completely canceled our penalty and nailed it to the cross. 
    "And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross."

(Colossians 2:13-14) 
      Do you rejoice daily in the pardon you've received by grace through faith? How would your life look differently if you lived with a posture of rejoicing over the grace you have been given by God? Let me know in the comments below. 

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt! 
Yonder on Calvary's mount outpoured
,there where the blood of the Lamb was split.

Grace, grace, God's grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within; 
grace, grace, God's grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin!

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace, 
freely bestowed on all who believe! 
You that are longing to see his face
will you this moment his grace receive?

taken from a hymn by Julia Johnston

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Solus Christus

Drawing by my friend, Casy Kovach

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
     (Romans 8:1 ESV)
 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
     (John 14:6 ESV)

     The phrase “Solus Christus” in Latin means “Christ Alone”. The phrase reflects the doctrine that through Jesus Christ and Him alone humanity can be reconciled to God.
 God, in His perfect plan, sent His Son to earth to save His people. Jesus gave Himself up for the people whom He loved.  For those whom God the father gave Him, Jesus went to the cross to satisfy the wrath God held against them. While on earth, Christ also lived a perfect, sinless life and fulfilled the entire Old Testament law. Christ rose from the grave three days after being put to death on the cross. By Jesus' death on the cross and His life-giving obedience to God, we can be declared righteous before God. It is through trusting in Christ's work we receive God's free gift of salvation!
The lyrics and video to the song below explain this doctrine well.

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone! Who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied -
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine -
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.

By Stuart Townend and Keith Getty

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sola Fide

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.     (Galatians 2:15-16)

     Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
     For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
     (Galatians 3:7-14)

     The Phrase "Sola Fide" literally means, "Faith Alone", or "By Faith Alone". It represents the scriptural truth that God's people are justified by faith in Jesus Christ's merits, and His merits alone.

     As I have been preaching through the book of Galatians over the past two months, God has revealed truths to me about the mechanisms of salvation by faith alone. Paul connects salvation through faith to the covenant God made with Abraham in Genesis 15. In this covenant, God agreed to bless Abraham (who was then Abram) with a son, a large posterity, an inheritance of land, and an offspring.  God also promised to bless the nations through this offspring (Genesis 22:18; Galatians 3:8). The Bible says, "Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness" (Genesis 15:6; Galatians 3:6).

     Paul also says that all who rely on the Old Testament law to save them will be cursed. Why? Because no one is righteous (Romans 3:10) and all have fallen short of God's glory (Romans 3:23). Jesus preached during His ministry if a man sinned against God in his heart, he was guilty (Matt. 5:21-30). Because of our sinfulness, God's Holy standard is not reachable by any human being, therefore we can't be saved by moral efforts. We cannot live by the whole law, and the Bible says to fail in one area of the law is to be guilty of all the law (James 2:10). In summary, to strive to save yourself by any moral standard is disobedience to God.

     But Paul tells us, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us" (Galatians 3:13). Jesus Christ's mission in coming to this world was to fulfill the law (Matt. 5), stand in the place of those that the Father had given Him, and satisfy the debt of God's wrath against them. Christ also gives us His perfect law-fulfilling obedience when we take Him at His Word, just like Abraham did when he, "believed God and it was counted to Him for righteousness." God asked Abraham to believe some illogical things. For example, He told Abraham that his wife Sarah would have a son when she was well passed childbearing age. God told him to sacrifice his son Isaac, but Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness! God also asks us to believe some illogical things: the authority of the Bible, the virgin birth, and the resurrection just to name a few. But by following in Abraham's footsteps of faith, through Christ's substitution for us on the cross, we are justified before God.

     I would like to ask you a question. In whom do you trust? Are you trusting in God's Grace through Christ's perfect righteousness to save you from eternal punishment, or are you hoping your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds enough for you to "make it" to heaven? If you believe the latter, you are deceiving yourself! You might fool others into thinking you believe in Christ, but what do you believe in your heart? Justin Martyr wrote to those who would persecute the church, "You can kill us, but you can't harm us." He knew that there was a life after this one, and while someone could take away his life on earth, no one could change his eternal destination. He trusted that Jesus Christ's merits and sacrifice on the cross were sufficient to give him access into God's presence forever. Do you have the same foundation that Martyr had? Would you be willing to say with him, "Take my life, you can't change my eternity"?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sola Scriptura

     The Latin Phrase, "Sola Scriptura" means "by the Scriptures alone", and I have decided to discuss this Sola first because it is an integral belief by which the Christian's worldview and understanding of the Gospel stands or falls.

     The Bible as it exists in the Old and New Testaments is the inspired, infallible Word of God without error. The Scripture gives testament to itself in 2 Timothy 3:16, 

     "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,"
(2 Timothy 3:16 ESV)

     If Christians can agree on this, we have a plumb line by which to measure ourselves and the truth. We have an authority and standard for what is true. Without it, all of our convictions decay to merely suggestion and the Christan faith becomes as subjective and impotent as any business leadership or self-help book on the market.

     God has given people (who only deserve His wrath) a book by which to know Him. He has revealed His character, His saving plan, and His way to Holiness in this book. We would do well to give our lives to studying it. There are men, like John Wycliffe and William Tyndale who devoted themselves daily to the translation of the Bible into English, or even had their blood shed for it. 

     I never cease to be surprised and overjoyed that God has revealed in His Word everything we need to know about Him and His plan to save a people. Through the Bible, God has spoken to humanity and given us comfort, wisdom, correction, instruction, knowledge, and salvation.
     In conclusion, I challenge you to treasure the Scriptures for what they truly are; God's words. I charge you to spend time reading and contemplating the Word of God. Even if you have been reading the Bible for years, God can reveal something about Himself in His Word by the Holy Spirit. Finally, I ask you to not just be a hearer of the Word, but a doer of the Word (James 1:22). I would be better off as a Christian to know two or three scriptural truths and live them in my life than to know many scriptural truths and do none of them. 

     What amazes you most about "Sola Scriptura"? Please let me know in the comments below.

     Deal bountifully with your servant,
          that I may live and keep your word.
     Open my eyes, that I may behold
          wondrous things out of your law.
(Psalm 119:17-18 ESV)