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Always Being Reformed: “Solus Christus”
10/29/2017 – Reformation Sunday
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Grant, Almighty God, that as [You see] us to be so prone to corrupt superstitions, and that we are with so much difficulty restrained by [Your] Word, O grant that we, being confirmed by this Spirit, may never turn aside either to the right hand or to the left, but be ever more attentive to [You] alone, and not worship [You] presumptuously, nor pollute [Your] worship with our outward pomp, but call on [You] with a sincere heart and, relying on [Your] aid, flee to [You] with all our necessities and never abuse [Your] holy name, which [You have] designed to be engraven [sic] on us, but be conformed to the image of [Your] Son, that [You may] be to us truly a Father, and that we may be [Your] children, in the name of the same Christ our Lord. Amen. (John Calvin, prayer for faith from his Commentary on Amos 5:21-27)
How many of you here are like me? On the side of my Google Calendar, used to be on my weekly Day-Timer, it doesn’t matter where you put this, but on the side of my Google Calendar is a “To-Do-List”. Every week there are a number of the same things, and there are a few things that happen monthly, or quarterly, and occasionally a once-in-a-lifetime thing comes up.
And every day, I take great joy in checking things off my list! (On Google Calendar, not only does it put a check-mark next to the item, it also crosses it off – that is so awesome!)
I have found that when I don’t have a to-do-list, my day wanders. I may know what I need to do, but I don’t go after it with the same passion as when I have a list that I get to check-off!
8 years ago, when Brianna was starting her college days, Andrew and I drove her across the country to western PA. That meant we drove through South Dakota – which I had never done before. But seeing Mt. Rushmore was on my “someday-to-do-list”, so we spent a night in Keystone, SD, and I got to check Mt. Rushmore off my list. What I didn’t know was how full of wonder the I-90 corridor through SD is! Belle Fourche (John Wayne’s cattle drive destination in his movie The Cowboys), Wall Drug Store, Corn Palace, the list goes on and on! None of those were ever on my list – but when we saw them we had to do them, and then I had to add them to my list so I could cross them off!
I start today with all of that simply to indicate how much better we usually are when we know what we’re about! McDonald’s is at its best when it they hear people say, “I’m lovin’ it!”; “Eat Fresh” refers to what fast food company? [Subway]; “Just do it!” [Nike] states a goal of achievement; “Let your fingers do the walking,” (this is an age test) states the goal of giving people a resource for finding what they’re looking for. Knowing where the center focus of your business is gives a driving force behind reaching your goals!
This Fall, marking the 500th anniversary of what kindled the already ignited Protestant Reformation, finds that at the center of the Christian faith is the person and work of Jesus Christ. Making known His identity and what He came to do formed the core of Jesus’ public ministry.
The easiest and most common Bible verse stating the goal of God in sending Jesus is – what? We still see people proclaiming this verse in World Series games, football games, all sorts of public gatherings – and most of us here can quote it from memory – John 3:16.
Let’s turn there, and hear the Word of God – John 3:14-18 …. —-
14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” (together…)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
This is what the Apostles preached. And until Christ returns the Church has been entrusted with the mission of making disciples, proclaiming this Good News of Jesus’ work to all nations.
The Protestant Reformers structured their ministries around this calling, proclaiming Christ for the sake of the salvation of their flocks, and their communities.
In proclaiming justification/salvation by grace alone (sola gratia) through faith alone (sola fide), the Reformers were ultimately advancing the doctrinal truth that Christ alone saves (solus Christus)!
To deny, reject, or alter this doctrine in any way is to deny and reject the free gift of the grace of God through His Son Jesus Christ – and to have lost the name of Christian. This is what that means!
Why is this a topic for a Sunday sermon in a Christian church? Isn’t this like preaching to the choir?
Martin Luther once said something about why he preached salvation by grace alone every Sunday, was that he would forget that truth by every Monday! And choir, nothing against you as a choral ensemble, but, yeah, of course I’m preaching to the choir – the choir needs this truth nearly as much as the preacher needs it!
And, can I take a moment and just confess a personal discomfort I have? Every year, the last Sunday of October is officially Reformation Sunday – an annual commemoration of Martin Luther’s work to fan the flame of spiritual truth in a global church that seemed to have lost its spiritual footing in the 16th Century. And every year I walk this line of truth-telling about what the Bible teaches and fear-of-offending some in our own congregation that have deep Roman Catholic roots.
And this year, we invested two whole months, not just one Sunday, tightrope walking that line!
The honest truth is that the Roman Catholic Church had fallen into some bad theology and false teaching and power-motivated-money-grabbing practices – and people like Peter Waldo and John Wycliffe and Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli and Jane Grey and William Tyndale were desperately needed in the Church! These were all Roman Catholics! They were all insiders – who saw some things that desperately needed fixing!
And while through the centuries this had turned into a very bloody battle between the churches – and that shames us, in the sight of God and of the world! – it was never meant to be such a thing.
The point was not that it was wrong to be Roman Catholic – but it was that we are saved by Christ Alone!
There certainly are theological, doctrinal, differences between the multitude of Christian denominations, traditions, and understandings – some of which we may continue to debate until Christ does return.
These are not reasons to hate, however, but to listen, and to study, and to pray, together.
To that end, while we read John 3:14-17 and see that God so loved whom? [The world!] that He gave His one and only Son, that who might believe? [Whoever!] would not perish but have everlasting life!
The caveat is that we must receive and believe that Good News!
In Volume 1 of his 8-Volume tome called Tracts and Treatises (that was well over 2,000 pages of theological faith statements), John Calvin wrote these words:
“Let it therefore be a fixed point, that a holy unity exists among us when, consenting in pure doctrine, we are united in Christ alone…. For Christ is the only bond of holy unity. Anyone who departs from Him disturbs and violates unity, while out of him there is nothing but sacrilegious conspiracy…. If it be true that wherever the pure truth of Christ, together with an entire consent in mind and doctrine with all the godly in Christ, exists, there too the real unity of the Church exists, Protestants assuredly [and Papists, by implication] are not [necessarily] aliens from the Church.” (Calvin, John; Tracts and Treatises, Vol. 1, Pp. 215, 259, 264.)
Now I want to offer a little feedback time – so if you have comments you’d like to add, insights to share, or questions you might want to ask, now’s your chance.
And, if they’re a little more private or personal, I’ll be downstairs during the Fellowship Time where we can talk even more ….
Any thoughts, questions, criticisms, concerns?
Grant, O God, that we may learn to surmount all obstacles and to raise our eyes of faith above the world, so that we may acknowledge that governed by [Your] wonderful counsel is everything that seems to us to happen by chance, in order that we may seek [You] and know that help will be ready for us through [Your] mercy whenever we humbly seek the pardon of our sins, through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
“Into the Word, Christ Alone”; TableTalk; May 2017; P. 31.
Keesecker, William F. (ed.); A Calvin Reader: Reflections on Living; Westminster Press; Philadelphia, PA; 1985; Pp. 21, 43.
Nichols, Stephen J.; “The Ninety-Five Theses of Martin Luther, October 31, 1517”; TableTalk; October 2017; P. 71.