10/29/2017 = John 3:14-18 = Always Being Reformed: “Solus Christus”

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Mark Wheeler

John 3:14-18

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 GodJohn 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.

 

Resources:

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.

 

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10/22/2017 = Romans 3:21-26 = Always Being Reformed: “Reformation Resolve”

Clicking HERE will bring you to an AUDIO link of this message.

Mark Wheeler

Romans 3:21-26

Always Being Reformed: “Reformation Resolve”

10/22/2017

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Grant, Almighty God, that as we are at this day tossed here and there by so many troubles, and almost all things in the world are in confusion, so that wherever we turn our eyes nothing but thick darkness meets us, O grant 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. (John Calvin, prayer for faith from his Commentary on Lamentations 3:39)

 

A young pastor was sitting in a restaurant eating lunch. He opened a letter he’d just received that morning from his mom. As he opened it a twenty-dollar bill fell out. He thought to himself, Thanks, Mom, I sure needed that right now.

As he finished his meal, he noticed a beggar outside on the sidewalk leaning against the light post. Thinking that the poor man could probably use the twenty dollars more than he, he crossed out the names on the envelope and wrote across the top in large letters, PERSEVERE!

So as not to make a scene, he put the envelope under his arm and dropped it as he walked past the man. The man picked it up and read the message and smiled.

The next day, as the pastor enjoyed his meal, the same man tapped him on the shoulder and handed him a big wad of bills.

Surprised, the young pastor asked him what that was for.

The man replied, “This is your half of the winnings. Persevere came in first in the fourth race at the track yesterday and paid thirty to one.”

 

Today, as we come near the conclusion of our sermon series themes that drove the Reformation Movement, we’re going to talk about the required faithful perseverance of the saints, the spiritual drive to live in a manner that glorifies God rightly, the need to continue Reformation Practices.

 

This Fall marks the 500th anniversary of what kindled the already ignited Protestant Reformation.  This movement was the hope of the Church. There had been 300 years of flickers of Reformation already in place, and when Martin Luther’s October 31, 1517, 95 theological debate topics finally got their posting, the Reformation fire got to roaring.

 

This event created an intense chaos within the Church, and it corrected some insanely wrong doctrines, practices, and power-plays (of Luther’s 95 Theses, which will continue for a few more weeks on the Sermon Notes page, they seem to center around the purchasing of indulgences to gain the Church’s pardon for our sins and the pope’s stated authority over the Word of God).

 

So, on the quincentennial of this flame fanning affair, we need to be reminded that the struggle against our own self-centered sinful desires must be sustained. This is what I’m calling Reformation Resolve!

This is an accepted truth from the days of Martin Luther and John Calvin. In fact, the phrase that has been noted as the Reformation Motto: “ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda” = “the Church Reformed, and always being Reformedwasn’t actually stated for another 150 years (Jodocus van Lodenstein, a Reformed Pastor in the European Low Lands, what we now call The Netherlands, wrote this phrase in a devotional in 1674).

But we should never forget that the whole phrase includes the line, “secundum verbi Dei”. That is, “the Church Reformed, and always being Reformed, according to the Word of God”!

 

Before we go too far with that historical footing of our faith, let’s make sure we follow that rule about the Word of God. I invite you to turn to Romans 3:21-26, and hear from that Word of God. Paul’s letter from Corinth to the Christians in Rome, chapter 3, verses 21-26 …. —-

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

 

This well-known 6-verse passage from this Reformation-inducing epistle holds within its words the five Sola-statements we have seen over the last several weeks, and the five marks of grace which John Calvin outlined.

Listen again, and I’ll highlight those ten overlapping doctrinal truths:

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known (Soli Deo Gloria), to which the Law and the Prophets testify (Sola Scriptura). 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ (Sola Fide) to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace (Sola Gratia) through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Solus Christus). 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe (Limited Atonement). There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Total Depravity), 24 and all are justified freely (Unmerited Favor) by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus (Irresistible  Grace and Perseverance of the Saints).

 

But, because all of those doctrines are real and true, including our inherent proneness to sin, Luther and Calvin and Zwingli and Knox obeyed God’s call to Reform the Church (Ecclesia Reformata), and to declare that we need to always and continuously Be Reformed (Semper Reformanda), and only as according to the Word of God (Secundum Verbi Dei).

 

Notice three things about that saying.

First, it begins by addressing the Church that is Reformed. Given van Lodenstein’s context in the Netherlands, we are right to capitalize Reformed. The saying was not generally about churches of the Reformation (though it has application for those churches too). Rather, van Lodenstein was addressing the Dutch church that had identified as confessionally Reformed. In other words, far from encouraging doctrinal innovation, the original phrase presumes doctrinal stability. Whatever semper reformanda means, it cannot mean figure out your theological standards on the fly.

Second, the Latin verb reformanda is passive, which means the church is notalways reforming” (as many of us have incorrectly learned this phrase) but is “always being reformed.” The difference is consequential. The former sounds like change for the sake of change, while the latter suggests adhering to the proper standard. The difference between those two interpretations also divides over who does the reforming. Are we in charge of our own Reformation? Or is there an outside force who directs these changes? The passive construction suggests that there is an external agent operating upon the church to bring about the necessary reform. Who is that agent? Is it the culture and societal changes around us? Or is it Someone else?

Which leads to the third and most important point: the church is always being reformed according to the Word of God. May we never forget this as our identity.

 

Yesterday, a handful of us gathered with folks from a dozen other churches, talk about how we might faithfully adapt in the midst of rapid change. The question is one of how we communicate the Gospel, how we love our neighbors, how we follow Jesus and proclaim His Good News in a world where everything is changing around us, from the languages people speak to the ethics by which people decide to live. And, by the way, we need YOUR input. If you’d like to answer a four question “survey” to begin uncovering what new adventures God might have in store for our congregation. If you would like to participate in this process, please let me or Jacob know and we’ll arrange a way for that to happen.

How do we adapt in the midst of these changes? Some things must hold to their solid foundational truths, or we fail to be the Church; other things can change every day, to meet the needs of the listening world in ways to offer them God’s irresistible grace.

 

I began this sermon with a story about perseverance as a way to open the topic of our faith persevering with continual reformation, according to the Word of God, and now I will close after watching you persevere through this sermon.

But 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. And for anyone who is able, we have a class on the Reformation, lunch provided, today at noon – that’s another place to go deeper….

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.

 

Resources:

DeYoung, Kevin; “Semper-Reformanda”; The Gospel Coalition; October 27, 2016.

Godfrey, W. Robert; “Continuing the Reformation”; TableTalk; October 2017; Pp. 33-24.

Nichols, Stephen J.; “The Ninety-Five Theses of Martin Luther, October 31, 1517”; TableTalk; October 2017; P. 71.

Parsons, Burk; “The Courage to Be Reformed”; TableTalk; May 2017; Pp. 26-28.

 

10/15/2017 = Genesis 6:18 = Always Being Reformed: “People of God”

Click right HERE if you wanna HEAR this message.

Mark Wheeler
Genesis 6:18
Always Being Reformed: “People of God”
10/15/2017
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

Grant, Almighty God, that as we are at this day tossed here and there by so many troubles, and almost all things in the world are in confusion, so that wherever we turn our eyes nothing but thick darkness meets us, O grant 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. (John Calvin, prayer for faith from his Commentary on Lamentations 3:39)

Several years ago we re-roofed our house, with the help of neighbors who know what they’re doing we did the work ourselves – with a lifetime warrantee! At the end of the project we had most of a square of roofing left over – for repairs and whatnot. But I, with yet unseen quantity of wisdom, decided to use some of it to build a roof over our back basement entry stairwell. And we did this without the help of neighbors who know what they’re doing!!
So, with no building permit, or blue prints, or expertise of any kind, I went to Home Depot and bought some 4X4s, some plywood, some 2X4s, four concrete footings, and miscellaneous hardware.
The final product looks … just fine!
But if we ever put the house on the market that roof will have to come down before the house will pass inspection! It keeps rain and snow out of the stairwell, but when I stand on it to wash the kitchen window above, everything wobbles a little. The foundation is not strong enough and the structure has no real integrity.

This Fall marks the 500th anniversary of what kindled the already ignited Protestant Reformation. This movement was the hope of the Church. The truth is, the Reformation got its start nearly 300 years earlier with the work and the words of people like Peter Waldo (1218) and John Wycliffe (1340s). But it was Martin Luther’s October 31, 1517, act of posting his 95 theological debate topics that really got the fire roaring.

This event created an intense chaos within the Church, and it corrected some insanely wrong doctrines, practices, and power-plays (take a look at the sampling of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses that are on the Sermon Notes page today).
So, what ultimately gives strength to the foundation of the Church? What creates integrity in the Church to hold it together?
Look at your Pastor, at your Deacons and Elders, at yourselves – it ain’t the People of God who do that.

Read with me, from the NIV (although if you read a different translation you won’t find much that differs here), Genesis 6:18. The setting of this verse is that just a few chapters after Adam and Eve the world is so filled sin and sadness that, with broken heart, God calls Noah into a covenant relationship and God will start again.
On your Sermon Notes page is today’s single-verse passage. Let’s turn to that and read together, Genesis 6:18 ….—- God is speaking, and He says, (together)
18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you.

I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark …. Sinclair Ferguson, a professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA, and a Scottsman by birth, has said that “God’s covenant commitment to His people, made in successive promise-bonds, forms the scaffolding within which He builds His Church; its shape and growth are determined by it.”
Today’s reading contains the first of ten times the word “covenant” is used between God and Noah. The word is then used another 285 times in the Old Testament and 37 more times in the New Testament.
What is a “covenant”? Can anyone here answer that?
[It has to do with two parties being bound together through thick and thin. It implies something more than a mere contract which binds people together. An example I use at weddings is that when I go to the store and buy a gallon of milk, there’s a contract between us that says the milk will be good; if it’s gone bad I am expected to return it for a new bottle. Covenant, often between two parties of very unequal status (king and subject, master and servant, God and God’s people), says that the lesser party (us) has responsibility in the relationship but the greater party (God) will be there for us regardless of our response.]
I will establish my covenant with you (that’s God’s promise), and you will enter the ark (that’s Noah’s response).
This covenant is implied, although the word is not used, from the very beginning, in Genesis 1 and 3, between God and His first created people. But, as we know Adam and Eve failed to keep their end, so God kept His end through Noah and his family. In Babel we broke our side of the deal again, and God kept His side through Abraham and Sarah. Then came Egypt and our forfeiting our responsibilities, and God kept His side through Moses. And then the Judges and King Saul, and God’s work through David; and then we abandoned our responsibilities again and ended up in Babylon and Medes and Persia, and God kept His side through the prophets…. And then the Old Testament closes with 400 years of silence.
Luke 22:20 tells us that “Jesus is the Deliverer-Seed who forges ‘the new covenant in my blood’”. Thus, Luke confirms that from Adam to Christ, this unified series of divine covenants created a single family tree. And when we are “in Christ”, we are the next branch in that tree.
Matthew tells us that from Adam through Noah, from Abraham through Moses, from David through Jesus Christ, God’s people have been defined, united, and shaped through an ever-renewed and developed covenant bond; from the Fall of Adam and Eve, always sinners who “found favor in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:8); always justified by faith alone, not by works, always trusting in the promise of God, and always conscious that we are one family!
Two weeks ago, on World Communion Sunday, we heard from people in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America, from Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian, Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic distinctives. If we are “in Christ” we are included!

At our Elder Council Meeting last Tuesday, Scott, our Clerk of Session, opened our time together with a devotional extolling the differences between having an alliance and having allegiance. “As citizens of this great country we live in, we might have an alliance with our home town, or our high school alma mater, or our favorite professional sports team, but we pledge allegiance to the flag of these United States of America!”
As Lidgerwood Presbyterians we might have an alliance to our home church or our affiliated denomination, but if we have not pledged allegiance to Christ alone (solus Christus), revealed to us through the Bible alone (sola Scriptura), that we are saved by God’s grace alone (sola gratia) through faith alone (sola fide), then our alliance does nothing to secure any kind of relationship to God!

Dr. R.C. Sproul has written a hymn called “Saints of Zion” which has for its final verse these wise words of assurance: “
The Church of God triumphant shall in that final day
Have all her sons and daughters home from the well-fought fray.

Look at the words of our second song this morning, “Come to Jesus”. “Come to Jesus” is our response like “enter the ark” was Noah’s. God establishes the covenant with His people – we respond…. Will we?

The strength and integrity of the Church is not us, it is Christ Himself:
The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ Her Lord; …
Elect from every nation, yet one o’er all the earth; …
Though with a scornful wonder we see Her sore oppressed, …
Mid toil and tribulation, and tumult of Her war, …
Yet she on earth hath union with God the Three in One, ….

In my effort to be shorter for these sermons I’ll stop talking here, and offer a little feedback time – so if you have comments you’d like to add, 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. And for anyone who is able, we have a class on the Reformation, lunch provided, starting today at noon – that’s another place to go deeper….
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.

Resources:
Ferguson, Sinclair B.; “God’s Covenant People”; TableTalk; May 2017; Pp. 22-24.
Nichols, Stephen J.; “The Ninety-Five Theses of Martin Luther, October 31, 1517”; TableTalk; October 2017; P. 71.
Vandoodewaard, Rebecca; “The Women of the Reformation”; TableTalk; October 2017; Pp. 28-32.

10-08-2017 = Romans 11:33-36 = Always Being Reformed: “Soli Deo Gloria”

CLICK HERE for the AUDIO of this MESSAGE.
Mark Wheeler
Romans 11:33-36
Always Being Reformed: “Soli Deo Gloria”
10/08/2017
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

Grant, Almighty God, that as we are at this day tossed here and there by so many troubles, and almost all things in the world are in confusion, so that wherever we turn our eyes nothing but thick darkness meets us, O grant 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. (John Calvin, prayer for faith from his Commentary on Lamentations 3:39)

Friday night I went to see the new Blade Runner movie – this tells the story of a futuristic world where both humans and “replicants” (androids, “fake humans”) co-exist. As I left the theater I was forced to ask myself what true artificial intelligence really is, what it means to have real humanity, to have a soul, and, while we don’t live in a world filled with androids yet – or do we? – the question the movie itself asks, can androids be more human than humans? Their answer has something to do with sacrificing themselves for something/someone else….

I start with this today, because while I do not recommend this movie as a religious experience, or as a story which will encourage your Christian faith, it did force me to wonder about truth, and about existence, and about who is responsible for life. And I came back to our Christian faith!
This Fall marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. This movement was the hope of the Church. A few hundred years later the British Lord Acton wrote a letter to Church of England Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” The Church of the early 16th Century had all the power – religious and political – over most of the known world, and history tells us how corrupt it had gotten.
The truth is, the Reformation got its start nearly 300 years earlier with the work and the words of people like Peter Waldo (1218) and then 150 years after that with John Wycliffe (late 1300s). But it was Martin Luther’s October 31, 1517, act of posting his 95 theological debate topics that really got the ball rolling.

For every one of the men and women involved in this movement among the people of God, the central truth of their message was to insist that “salvation is of the Lord!” Ultimately, we cannot earn it or buy it, and the Church is not the gateway by which we enter eternity – the Church IS, as the Body of Christ, as the Temple of the Holy Spirit, God’s chosen means of Gospel communication and transmission, but we are not the Final Judge…
Someone has said that “the only contribution we make is the sin that was laid upon Jesus Christ at the cross.”
• Not the sins we commit, the problem is that we are sinners! Not that we sin (not what we do), but that we are sinners (who we are).
• “Salvation is of the Lord” concerns the work of Christ: Christ takes our sin upon Himself when He dies on the cross, and Christ gives us His righteousness, through faith.
For Luther it is Sola Scriptura, the Bible alone, which teaches us God’s truths; it is Solus Christus, Christ alone, by which we find salvation; it is Sola Gratia, grace alone which saves us; and it is Sola Fide, faith alone, that opens us to receive this gift from God! Therefore, it is Soli Deo Gloria, to the glory of God alone, that our lives should always give tribute!

Today we read from Luther’s study in the New Testament Epistle from Paul to the Church in Rome, chapter 11, verses 33-36 where-in he quotes from the Old Testament story of Job and the Old Testament prophet Isaiah ….—-

33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?”
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

This passage, all three of them actually, tell us that salvation is God determined, God purchased, God applied, and God secured. From start to finish, salvation is of the Lord alone!
This truth is best summarized in John Calvin’s doctrines of God’s amazing grace!
There are five points of this doctrine – each of them points to God’s ultimate rule wherein we sing songs like Our God Reigns, How Great Is Our God, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, Amazing Grace, The Earth Is the Lord’s, Rock of Ages, O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing.
Those five points are these:
• Total depravity – the first man, Adam sinned and by his sin death entered the world. His corruption was then transmitted to his natural offspring, and has then become an undeniable part of every human. The rest of the Bible tells the story of how God has been pursuing us ever since – the stories of Noah and Abraham and Moses and David, the stories of the flood, the Ten Commandments, famines and exiles. They all point us to Jesus who is finally revealed in the New Testament.
• Unconditional election – before Adam and Eve even sinned God had already decreed and determined salvation for sinners. He chose a people through whom He would deliver this salvation (check out Genesis 3 and 6 and 9 and 12). Our monthly Adult Sunday School class is discovering how the entire Old Testament leads us to God’s Son, our Savior – and we are told over and over again that this salvation is offered simply as a gift from God that we are able to attain through faith.
• Definite atonement – in the fullness of time God sent forth His Son to enter this fallen world on a mission to redeem His people. We deserved the death that God foretold Adam about, but Jesus took our sin on Himself making all mankind potentially savable! “God so loved the whole world and everyone in it that He sent His only begotten Son – so that who ever believes in Him, who ever received Him, might not suffer that eternal death of actually receive the gift of eternal life!” (John 3:16) But notice, while He would wish that all would believe, only some actually do. Atonement, salvation, is limited to those whom He has called as his own, who have believed in Him! God is in charge!
• Effectual calling – with oneness and purpose, the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit into the world to apply this salvation to those chosen and redeemed. The Holy Spirit comes alongside, fills us from within, covers us as protection, so that we have the faith and strength to persevere. And God’s grace is perfectly effectual, meaning it is irresistible. As Isaiah 55 tells us, God’s Word is never wasted, every time it is read it has power, so is His grace!
• And, Preserving grace – once we come to know God’s amazing grace, once we have been adopted into the family of God, John 10 tells us, we are secure in His grasp!

From beginning to end, salvation is of the Lord. Jesus met two disciples on the road to Emmaus, in Luke 24, and starting from Moses (that means Genesis) and going through the prophets (that means Malachi) He told them how they all pointed to Himself – God’s amazing grace!

When it is rightly understood that God alone – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – saves us sinners, then all glory goes to Him – Soli Deo Gloria!

In my effort to be shorter for these sermons I’ll stop talking here, and offer a little feedback time – so if you have comments you’d like to add, 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. And for anyone who is able, we have a class on the Reformation, lunch provided, starting today at noon – that’s another place to go deeper….
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.

Resources:
Lawson, Steven J.; “Salvation is of the Lord”; TableTalk; May 2017; Pp. 17-19.
Nichols, Stephen J.; “The Ninety-Five Theses of Martin Luther, October 31, 1517”; TableTalk; October 2017; P. 71.
Thomas, Derek W. H.; “God’s Sovereignty and Glory”; TableTalk; May 2017; Pp. 6-8.

10/01/2017 = Psalm 46 = Always Being Reformed: “Soli Deo Gloria”

Click HERE to listen to this message.
Mark Wheeler
Psalm 46
10/01/2017
Always Being Reformed: “Soli Deo Gloria”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

Grant, Almighty God, that as we are at this day tossed here and there by so many troubles, and almost all things in the world are in confusion, so that wherever we turn our eyes nothing but thick darkness meets us, O grant 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. (John Calvin, prayer for faith from his Commentary on Lamentations 3:39)

This week, in 1544, Martin Luther preached at the dedication of the Castle Church in Targau, Germany. This church building was the very first Protestant Church built as a Protestant Church – up to this point there had been several Protestant churches, but they were all Roman Catholic Churches that had converted to Lutheranism.
At this dedication Luther declared: “It is the intention of this building that nothing else shall happen inside it except that our Lord shall speak to us through His Holy Word, and we in turn to Him through prayer and praise.”
This was Luther’s singular focus for his ministry: “the pure worship of the true God by the true people of God.” And he taught that this pure worship can happen only when God’s Word is at the center of church life.

This Fall marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. This movement was the hope of the Church. A few hundred years later the British Lord Acton wrote a letter to Church of England Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” The Church of the early 16th Century had all the power – religious and political – over most of the known world, and history tells us how corrupt it had gotten.
After surviving a violent thunderstorm during which the young Luther promised God that he would enter the monastery if God pulled him through, he found himself struggling in the ministry. Later he would say, “If ever a monk could get to heaven by monkery, I would be that monk!”
In 1510 Luther was sent on a pilgrimage to the Church’s headquarters in Rome, and he was revolted by the debauchery he discovered. He found his ecclesiastic supervisors preaching that one could earn heaven by doing more good than bad, or by paying for one’s sins with their money, buying their forgiveness. (How many times have we said, or heard someone else say, “She’s such a good person, certainly she’ll be in heaven”? That’s this same old church-lie!)
The next part of this church-falsehood was the non-biblical teaching of “purgatory” – that is, if one’s sins outweighed their good deeds at death, their sins could be “purged” after death, making them ready for heaven. And, in order to help a loved one through purgatory, we could pay an extra indulgence to the church on their behalf. (Look at today’s list from the 95 Theses Luther posted in 1517. #29, which mentions Sts. Severinus and Paschal, is about two men who did not want anyone to speed their purgatory time by paying for their sins because, they thought, if they spent extra time in Purgatory they would earn a better place in heaven!)

Martin Luther, in reading the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk 2:4 saw that “the righteous shall live by faith” (not by good deeds), and throughout New Testament books like Romans and Galatians and Ephesians, that we are saved by faith not by works. He rediscovered two truths:
• The first concerns sin: The problem is not the sins I commit, the problem is that I am a sinner! Not that I sin (not what I do), but that I am a sinner (who I am).
• The second concerns the work of Christ: Christ takes my sin upon Himself when He dies on the cross, and Christ gives me His righteousness, through faith.
For Luther it is Sola Scriptura, the Bible alone, which teaches us God’s truths; it is Solus Christus, Christ alone, by which we find salvation; and it is Sola Fide, faith alone, that opens us to receive this gift from God! Therefore, it is Soli Deo Gloria, to the glory of God alone, that our lives should always give tribute! (Side note: Johann Sebastian Bach, when he was satisfied that a composition was finished, would write “SDG” at the bottom of the sheet music – Soli Deo Gloria, to God be the glory!)

To that end, today’s Scripture reading is from Psalm 46. On this World Communion Sunday, in this Reformation remembrance month, let us hear the Word of God – listen for themes of all the world, of God’s glory, of Reformation ….—-
Psalm 46 (NIV)
For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to alamoth. A song.
1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Martin Luther’s most well known hymn (he wrote more than 35 hymns, on top of everything else he did), which we sang today as we prepared ourselves for hearing God’s Word, is based directly on the words of this Psalm. God is our refuge and strength – a mighty Fortress is our God!
And the Reformed theology of everything being done to/for the glory of God – There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God … he lifts His voice and the earth melts … Come and see what the LORD has done … He will be exalted among the nations, exalted in the earth.
And on this World Communion Sunday, when we sit together at the Lord’s Table, together with brothers and sisters in Christ across every aisle – Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant of every stripe, non-denominational, too; Democrat, Republican, Independent, something else; Conservative, Progressive; Red, yellow, black, brown and white. The Lord’s Table is meant to call us all together, to hold us all together. And Psalm 46 is sung by and for the whole Church of Christ! The Lord Almighty is with us, people from every nation – the God of Jacob is all of our Fortress! He brings His peace to the very ends of the earth, where God alone will be exalted. Every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord!
On this World Communion Sunday, let is not allow our “enemy” to pull us apart – so long as our faith is in Christ alone – Soli Deo Gloria – to God be the glory, forever!

In my effort to be shorter for these sermons I’ll stop talking here, and offer a little feedback time – so if you have comments you’d like to add, 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.

Resources:
Lawson, Steven J.; “Salvation is of the Lord”; TableTalk; May 2017; Pp. 17-19.
Nichols, Stephen J.; “Luther and His Significance”; TableTalk; October 2017; Pp. 12-15.
Nichols, Stephen J.; “The Ninety-Five Theses of Martin Luther, October 31, 1517”; TableTalk; October 2017; P. 71.
Thomas, Derek W. H.; “God’s Sovereignty and Glory”; TableTalk; May 2017; Pp. 6-8.