Salvation Can only be Found in Christ

by Martin Luther

“…The devil does not intend to allow this testimony about Christ.  He devotes all his energy to opposing it and will not desist until he has struck it down and suppressed it.  In this respect, we humans are weak and stubbornly perverse and are more likely to become attached to saints than to Christ.  Within the papacy they have preached about the service rendered by these beloved saints, that one ought to rely on their merit.

And I, too, believed and preached thus.  St. Ann was my idol, and St. Thomas my apostle.  I patterned myself substantially after them.  Others ran to St. James and strongly believed and firmly trusted that, if they conformed, they would received all they wished and hoped for.  Prayers were said to St. Barbara and St. Christopher in order to avert an early and sudden death, and there was no uncertainty here.  So completely is man by nature bent on renouncing this testimony of John the Baptist.

For this reason it is necessary constantly to persevere and adhere to John’s testimony concerning Christ.  For it requires toil and effort to continue with word and testimony, for a person at death to be able to say, I must die, but I have a Savior concerning whom John the Baptist testifies; on him and on no other creature, either in heaven or on earth, do I rely.  However, that a person can die as cheerfully by believing in St. Barbara, in an indulgence, or in a pilgrimage to Rome, as in the man to whom alone John the Baptist points, is out of the question.  Also, that a person can build as strongly on monkery or monastery life as on holy baptism is a forlorn hope.

“What I am telling you is that it is easier for us humans to believe and trust in everything else than in the name of Christ, who alone is all in all, and more difficult for us for us to rely on him in whom and through whom we possess all things.”

Quotes are excerpted from volume five of Luther’s 7-volume set of sermons (page 79).

USA Divers Acknowledge Christ at the Olympics

As reported by Townhall.com,

“A golden moment took place alongside the Rio Olympic diving boards Monday night. The Chinese team of Chen Aisen and Lin Yue may have taken first place, but U.S. divers David Boudia and Steele Johnson stole the spotlight in their NBC interview by giving all the glory to God after their silver medal-winning performance.”

I watched the Olympic event, listened to the interview, and I think it’s great that these athletes spoke of their identities in Christ when interviewed after winning their silver medal! At the same time, the headline at the Townhall article could have been more accurately written. Here’s the headline:

“USA Divers Tell NBC Reporter They Won Silver Medals Thanks to Their ‘Identity in Christ’”

That title seems to say that they won because of their identity in Christ, which is a different issue than what I actually heard. David Boudia, in a recently released book, expressed the pair’s sentiment during the interview:

“It’s totally freeing when I stay in tune with scripture,” Boudia said. “I don’t have to worry if I miss a dive. I go into competition and it’s like, ‘Praise God no matter what.’ If I do well, that’s awesome. I praise Him. If I don’t do well, praise Him even more. Competition looks way different now.”

The pair’s prevailing sentiment wasn’t that they won because they are Christians, which the article’s title can be interpreted to say. Rather, they said that self-identity ‘in Christ’, is more significant for them than their identities as Olympic medal winners. Ultimate significance is tied to our identity in Christ, not in being world class athletes or any other great achievement in this life. That’s the truth of the matter, as I see it.

Sometimes the ‘demonstrations’ of star athletes gives the impression that God somehow ‘made sure’ one of His kid’s took the medal, made the great play or touchdown, etc. I don’t think that we as Christians should be communicating that sort of message. There are plenty of ‘wolves in sheep suits’ out there that preach exactly that, that if you are a believer, you ought to be the best of the best at whatever you do.

The point I am making is that David Boudia and Steele Johnson communicated something of far greater significance than the title of a Townhall article suggested, and that’s important.

Food for thought.

ALL Lives Matter!

America is burning and the fires have many names I won’t discuss. We all can probably name them and each one of us probably has a ‘hot button’ or two; I know I have. What I will say is that ALL lives matter, black ones, white ones and every color in between. Soldiers serving our country and police serving our citizens (even the ones who want to kill them). Unborn babies matter, as do the mothers who don’t want them and the abortionists who carry out their murders. Self-serving politicians who care more about their careers and/or legacies than our country. ALL lives matter! Skin color just seems to be the #1 issue at the moment.

ALL lives matter because, as human beings, we were created as ‘image bearers’ of God (Genesis 1:26-31). At the same time, we are greatly flawed human beings; image bearers of God yet tragically flawed – by SIN. We have ALL sinned ‘in Adam’ (Romans 5:12), and we are ALL sinners in our conduct (Romans 3:23). In other words, we ALL sin because we’re sinners, and we’re ALL sinners because we sin.

My friends, SIN is still the problem and Jesus Christ is STILL the answer. It’s really that simple, although many will disagree. I’m talking about the Christ who died for our SIN (1 Cor 15:1-5), not for the many other reasons we like to talk about, like ‘our best lives now’.

Fellow believers, I guarantee you that those who perpetrate evil (of any kind) won’t address the sin problem – they love their sin (John 3:19). Sadly, there are a whole lot of professing Christians and alleged evangelical churches, who have the answer but won’t talk about sin.

What can we do about it? That’s easy. It’s up to us to join the conversation and ‘take it to the gospel’ – the gospel that has the subject of sin at the center and Jesus Christ as the only answer. Brothers and sisters, what an opportunity we have to do just that! America is burning and people are screaming for answers!

I’ll say it again. SIN is the problem and Jesus Christ is the answer!

Do we want racial reconciliation? Christ is the answer!

Do we want an honest government that cares for the Constitution and the people it serves? Christ is the answer!

Do we want stop all the crime and violence? Christ is the answer!

Do we want to see mothers stop killing their babies and abortion doctors put out of business? Christ is the answer!

Yes, America might be burning and yes, everyone has an opinion about what’s wrong. Most of the opinions miss the point and fail to get to the ‘root cause’. It’s time for us to join the conversation and ‘take it to the gospel’.

Are you with me?

“The Bible is NOT the WORD OF GOD: A Polemic Against Christendom”

That’s the title of a blog post, in two parts, that was published in the ‘Emergent Village’ subsection of the Progressive Christianity section at Patheos.com. You can read it here.

If you are unfamiliar with what is called emergent/progressive Christianity it’s basically a movement dedicated to destroying orthodox Christianity. The above title, ‘A Polemic Against Christendom’ should be a clue. Here are two small portions of the original article:

Is the bible the Word of God?

What are we saying when we make this statement (the Bible is the Word of God)? Two things really: first, God’s word is limited to the text itself and nothing else. . . Second, it places the writer’s intentions secondary to “God’s intentions” (I have also heard it said “God’s intentions trumps the authors intentions”) – though it’s not entirely clear how one has the ability to know “God’s intentions”.

As to the first contention, that in saying that the Bible is the Word of God we are limiting God’s word to words on a page is patently absurd. I know of no Christian, past or present that would make that claim. As to the second contention, I really have not figured out what he is trying to say, other than we cannot know God’s intentions. While we cannot know everything God has planned, we can know quite a bit of it. It’s in the Bible, the written word of God.

A major objective of the Emergent cause is to destroy the credibility of the Bible, much like the Serpent in the Garden. The author of the article says:

“The bible is not the WORD OF GOD. The WORD OF GOD is Jesus Christ.”

He also says:

The WORD OF GOD is a moment that a human being encounters. It is Jesus Christ in his full glory and revelation. The WORD OF GOD occurs through a compilation of acts that bring forth the WORD OF GOD within the individual– prayer, reading and meditating on sacred scripture, fellowship, and worship.

If Jesus is the Word of God (and he is) how is it that the Word of God is also a ‘moment’? Is Jesus a ‘moment’ or is he the Son of God? Is he both? If the author’s Jesus a ‘moment’ is his Jesus the Jesus of the Bible?

There is nothing I could find in the article that recognized Jesus Christ as the substitutionary sacrifice for our sins. Jesus is reduced to a ‘moment that ‘occurs’ when we ‘do’ certain things. Of course no self-respecting Emergent would say Christ died for our sins. God sending his son to die was cosmic child abuse, according to some of the major players in the movement. That, my friends is not the gospel message of the Bible and not true Christianity. But then again, the Bible is not the word of God and Paul was just a man who wrote a good book, so Paul’s definition if the gospel could be flawed, so maintains the author.

That’s all I have time for at the moment. I mentioned the referenced article to a friend of our and she asked me to post it. Rather than posting the entire article and cause your brains to explode, I just posted a small portion and the link to the original, here.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/emergentvillage/2013/04/the-bible-is-not-the-word-of-god-a-polemic-against-christendom/

What ABOUT Jesus Christ?

If we say ‘evangelism’ is “…to present Christ Jesus to sinful people in order that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, they may come to put their trust in God through Him”, what about Jesus Christ are we to share? After all, there is much to share, is there not?

I’m glad you asked – it’s a great question! Given everything we are told in the Bible about Jesus, from Old Testament prophecy to New Testament fulfillment, from Jesus’ birth to his ascension, from the stories of his life, from his parables and teachings, from miracles he performed, what’s the most important fact about Jesus we need to share with others? In terms of evangelism, is there something more important than everything else we know about Jesus that we need to proclaim? I believe there is, and we are given a clue even before Jesus was born!

There’s a short passage in the 1st Chapter in Matthew in which we are told that Jesus’ earthly father Joseph was pondering the fact that Mary, his betrothed, was pregnant with a child not his and the cultural/social implications thereof:

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt 1:18-21)

Our ‘evangelistic’ hint is this: She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Emphasis mine). Those few words, spoken by an ‘angel of the lord’ to a troubled Joseph, defined Jesus’ mission before he was born. So given that salvation from sin was Jesus’ mission for coming to Earth; shouldn’t the issue of ‘sin’ be central to our evangelism?

I hope that’s somewhat of a rhetorical question to you. It should be. If you are not yet convinced, let me tell you what the Apostle Paul said was of utmost importance in evangelism – how Paul defined the gospel.

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” 1 Cor 15:1-4 (Emphasis mine)

So What?

By now you might be asking that question. Maybe you are familiar with methods for sharing Christ that seem to be more about what Jesus offers in terms of abundant living, special purposes, or wonderful plans for your life. Perhaps you have never even sin talked about much from the pulpit in the church you attend. Well, regardless of what you might not have heard in your own Christian circle, the fact remains that Christ came to die for our sins. While there are great and wonderful promises for the child of God, they are all secondary to dealing with the issues of sin, repentance, and belief in Christ as our substitute on Calvary.

The purpose of this post is NOT to tell you to beat anyone over the head with a 25 pound Schofield reference Bible and scream “Repent or perish!” While “repent or perish” is an accurate statement, the purpose of this post is to remind us that in our ‘evangelistic’ encounters we need to take the ‘discussion’ to the issue of our sin. How that happens is up for grabs and subject to the leading of the Holy Spirit as we share Christ!

We just need to remember that we need to take the conversation to the “bad news” of sin that the “good news” of the gospel addresses.

The Divine Mission of the Christ Child

Well here we are, once again in the middle of the Christmas season. It seems appropriate to provide a reminder of Jesus’ Divine calling and mission. Amidst all the hustle and bustle, we tend to think of all sorts of things and neglect the fact that God sent His Son to us for a very specific reason that was revealed to Joseph:

“And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:19-20

John Gill expressed it well:

He shall save – This expresses the same as the name, and on this account the name was given to him. He saves people by dying to redeem them; by giving the Holy Spirit to renew them (John 16:7-8); by His power in enabling them to overcome their spiritual enemies, in defending them from danger, in guiding them in the path of duty, in sustaining them in trials and in death; and He will raise them up at the last day, and exalt them to a world of purity and love.

His people – Those whom the Father has given to him. The Jews were called the people of God because he had chosen them to himself, and regarded them as His special and beloved people, separate from all the nations of the earth. Christians are called the people of Christ because it was the purpose of the Father to give them to him (Isaiah53:11; John 6:37); and because in due time he came to redeem them to himself (Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:2).

From their sins – This was the great business of Jesus in coming and dying. It was not to save people in their sins, but from their sins. Sinners could not be happy in heaven. It would be a place of wretchedness to the guilty. The design of Jesus was, therefore, to save them from sin.

Have you ever noticed how we tend to separate Christmas and Easter, the two greatest events on the Christian calendar? One is about the birth of our Savior and the other about his death and resurrection.

Somehow I suspect that in the mind of God such a separation has never existed. God knew the end from the beginning and everything in between.

Am I suggesting that we, as Christians, should dwell on Christ’s death when we celebrate his birth? Not at all. What I am saying is that in the midst of all the gift giving, tree decorating, carol singing and family gatherings we never forget the divine mission of the Christ child. For it is the remembering of that that mission – the Father giving the Son to save us from our sins – that the Christmas spirit reaches its fullest and deepest meaning in the human heart.

May God bless you this Christmas and throughout the coming year!

All Jesus really wanted was my heart?

That’s the theme of a song by a popular contemporary Christian band that shall remain nameless. It’s a nice thought that permeates most of today’s evangelicalism, but is it true? Does Jesus want us to just give him our hearts? Ask 10 Christians on the street and 9 of them would probably give you a resounding YES, as if ‘everybody knows that’!

I ask again, is it true? Is such a thought in the Bible? What does the Bible say about our hearts, every single human heart, after Adam’s Fall?

One of the earliest glimpses of the human heart after the fall can be found in the book of Genesis, just before we are told that ‘Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord’:

”The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Gen 6:5

The writer of Ecclesiastes reiterates that thought with a keen observation concerning all men:

“. . ., the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.” – Ecc 9:3

One of the strongest descriptions of the human heart was given to us by the prophet Jeremiah:

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” – Jer 17:9

In case you are thinking that those are just Old Testament passages, and not Jesus’ opinion of the human heart, consider this:

“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” Jesus – Matt 15:18-19

Do you think that Jesus wants any of the above ‘hearts’? If he doesn’t, what sort of human heart does Jesus really want?

We are given an answer in a ‘thus sayeth the Lord’ moment spoken through the prophet Ezekiel:

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh”. – Eze 36:26

I’ll ask it one last time. Does Jesus really just want us to give him our hearts?

Think about it. . .