About Dan C.

Retired U.S. Army Special Forces SGM (28 years). Currently employed as a government contractor. Member of Christian Military Fellowship (www.cmfhq.org) for 25 years. Married for 35 years to the lovely Dee; three children and 2 grandchildren.

Starting a Conversation

In a previous post titled “What is Evangelism?”, the following definition of what it means to evangelize was presented:

 “To evangelize 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.”

The article proposed that this definition defined four important aspects of personal evangelism:

1. It defines the mission of the evangelist – “to present Christ”.

2. It defines the primary audience for the gospel message – “sinful people”.

3. It defines the problem the gospel message addresses – “our sin”.

4. It defines the power behind both the gospel message and the response to that message – the Holy Spirit, thus establishing the sovereignty of God in the salvation of men.

Armed with the above definition, and with a burden for a lost loved one, friend, or even a perfect stranger, you are ready to go. How does it start?

First of all, pray – before, during, and after. Pray specifically that God will open hearts to receive the message. And secondly, no matter how you get the conversation off the ground, do so with gentleness and respect. Remember that it is God who saves and that your mission is simply to share Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Don’t ‘force’ a conversation. You could actually enter an ongoing conversation, or you might have an opportunity to initiate the discussion. What follows is an example of the conversation process.

1. Just start talking about a current news item in which somebody did something we all would consider a bad thing to do. Just pick something that’s a hot topic. Once you start talking about it and are agreed that so-and-so did a bad thing, ask…..

2. Why did so-and-so do that? That WILL get an answer. The answer will guide you to the next question. Whatever the answer is it will be what your conversation partner thinks motivated so-and-so to do a bad thing. Whatever the specific answer is, it will automatically lead to the next question. Example might be: “I think he/she must be a bad person.” then ask:

3. WHY/HOW is it that so-and-so is bad? You can get a variety of reasons to lead you to the NEXT question.

The object of the questions is to be able to get to a point of agreement that the real problem is something ‘inside’ so-and-so. Outside influences don’t cause bad behavior. There’s something inside a person that is at issue. In James we are told that we sin when we are drawn away by our own lust/passions. Keep that in the back of your mind.

Once you agree about an internal problem ask:

4. What do you think the internal problem is?,. You can even add ….’and how did you think it got there?’ Regardless of the answer you can inject God into the discussion with something that doesn’t accuse, but rather points out that there’s a book called the Bible that talks about this guy called Adam. You are sharing a story from a ‘source’ document, not preaching. And it keeps going.

Once you agree it very well could be this thing called sin (the bad news of the gospel) you ask another question:

5. What do you think can be done to solve the problem of sin? You know the answer and prayerfully anticipate the opportunity to provide another answer from the same ‘source’ book.

And the conversation continues step by step until you have shared God’s answer from the ‘source’ book. At some point it might be time to consider a response to the message. Then you can say something like “Based on what you have heard so far, do you think you are ready to respond (the gospel must be responded to), or ARE you still on the way?” You very could hear that someone is ready to respond, or you could hear a person say, “I’m still on the way, I guess………”, which keeps the door to conversation open.

Do you see what’s going on in the ‘conversation’? You don’t preach, you PRESENT Christ. You don’t push for anything, you just talk about God’s plan of salvation from a ‘source’ book – the Bible. Asking questions shows you care what someone thinks. And really care. If you don’t weep for that lost soul, pray to God for ‘a weep’. He will give it to you.

My friends, be blessed as you share your Savior!

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What is Evangelism?

Many people use the word evangelism in different ways. However, what does the Bible say about this important word? When we look to Scripture, we run into a problem: there is no direct-equivalent word for our English word evangelism in the New Testament. Its origin is rooted in three Greek words:

euangelion—“gospel”—to describe what is said (Mark 1:14–15)

euangelistes—“evangelist”—to describe the person who is telling the gospel (Acts 21:8; Eph. 4:11)

euangelizo— “to proclaim the gospel”—to describe the activity of telling the gospel (Rom. 10:15).

Evangelism, then, is the English term for the act of communicating the gospel, an act conveyed in the New Testament by the verb euangelizo (‘to bring good news’).[i]

The verb evangelize is used over 50 times in the New Testament, including 25 by Luke and 21 by Paul. As stated above, its essential meaning is to announce or proclaim Good News. . The underlying picture is that of a herald or town crier who sounds the trumpet and conveys the news from the king. In that sense, the task of a herald isn’t to express his opinions or ideas, but to deliver his message in the humility of heart that must accompany such authority of speech.[ii]

After years of study concerning what it means to evangelize, this writer’s all-time favorite definition comes from Alistair Begg:

“To evangelize 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.”[iii]

What a RICH definition:

1. It defines the mission of the evangelist – “to present Christ”.

While it doesn’t tell us exactly what to present about Christ, the Apostle Paul did in one of letters to the church at Corinth. He defined the gospel as being of first importance, and “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures…” (1 Cor 15:3). My friends, that is the core of the gospel message, the GOOD NEWS!

2. It defines the primary audience for the GOOD NEWS – “sinful people” who have yet to trust in Christ as the solution to the problem of sin.

3. It defines the power behind the proclamation of the GOOD NEWS – “the power of the Holy Spirit”. The Holy Spirit is the power behind both the proclamation of the Gospel, and the power behind a genuine affirmative response to the message of the Gospel.

4. It defines the goal of our evangelistic efforts – that “they (sinners) may come to put their trust in God through Him”. That sinners would realize their sinful condition and genuinely trust in Christ for forgiveness is the desired response to the message we proclaim. A ‘genuine’ response is one that pours forth from a God-opened heart (See Lydia in Acts 16), and one that is not the result of our ‘powers of persuasion’, whatever that might look like.

Simply put, our part in evangelism is to faithfully present Christ as the answer to problem of sin. It means that we need to talk about the BAD news (the problem of sin), followed by the GOOD NEWS!

When we look at what passes as presenting Christ in today’s evangelical environment, it seems clear that the bad news concerning sin, and the need for repentance, have all but been forgotten entirely! If you think that a mistaken notion, just listen/watch just about any sermon from any of today’s popular pulpits/stages while asking the question “Where’s Paul’s gospel?

When it comes to our personal efforts at sharing Christ, it’s always easier to talk about what receiving Christ means in terms of temporal and heavenly benefits than it is to share the bad news that at times drives people away. But remember Lydia. God opens hearts to hear the what we have to say, both the bad news and the good news.

What can be done to best prepare us for personal evangelism? For this old guy, there’s a simple two-part answer.

1. KNOW Paul’s gospel!

2. Ask God for 1) tears for the lost and 2) that He would open the hearts of those with whom we share His Son


[i] Jeremy Bouma, ‘What is Evangelism?’

[ii] Alistair Begg, Crossing the Barriers, Lesson 1

[iii] Ibid.

Who really shared the gospel?

Here is an interesting tweet from a week ago by Jacob Denhollander, about whom I know next to nothing:

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I remember the accolades from fellow Christians when Mr. Pratt was lauded for mentioning God in a public forum, and the MTV awards at that. I also remember wondering if he said more about the gospel than “God is real. God loves you. God wants the best for you. Believe that. I do.”, which is what I heard in the short clip I watched. I also wondered if I was just making an observation or being intentionally overly critical. After all, when anyone mentions God in a public forum it’s a good thing.

Next we have Mike Pence at the recent Southern Baptist Convention in which he gave a commendable speech in praise of Southern Baptists and their efforts to advance the gospel through the years. He also shared a bit of personal testimony about something that happened to him 40 years ago, when he heard a particular message:

“God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever might believe in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.” And I walked the sawdust trail that night in 1978 and gave my life to Jesus Christ, and it’s made all the difference.

So back to  the question at hand. Who shared a more clear gospel message, Chris Pratt or Mike Pence? I’ll leave that to you – I am eager to hear your responses.

I do however have a couple of other questions to ask that are also worthy of comment and discussion.

1. Is Mr. Denhollander’s sentiment that Chris Pratt presented a clearer gospel message than Mike Pence a widely held belief among today’s evangelicals, and if so, WHY?

2. Do YOU believe Mr. Denhllander’s comment to be true, and if so, WHY?

3. Do we evangelicals sometimes make TOO much of a celebrity mention God in public than we ought, and if that’s true, is there a bit of idolatry in play here?

Just rambling questions of an old soldier. . . . let’s talk about it anyway.

🙂

What’s in YOUR Eternity?

In a recent Sunday School lesson in 1 Peter, the question was asked “When you hear someone say “The end of the world is near” how do you respond, and why?”

I could say, “Why do you ask?” Knowing why the comment was made just might help guide the conversation along it’s path, especially if your desire is to steer it toward the message of the gospel.

Given that the topic is the end of the world, I could get straight to the point and ask, “What’s in YOUR eternity?”

First, phrasing it more like a credit card commercial might elicit a more positive response than just asking “Where’s your soul going when you die?” like the sidewalk Christian evangelist downtown handing out tracts to young soldiers out for a good time in Junction City, Kansas, outside of Fort Riley Kansas  (deja vu). I could claim just about any religion and ask my question. Without being overly blunt, my question assumes that, like a credit card, everyone has an ‘eternity’. Every major religion believes we will eventually spend eternity somewhere. You can check it out. We have the technology.

My goal is to present the Christian view of eternity in a loving manner, using the Bible as my source document.

The Bible tells us that there is something about ‘eternity’ in each and every one of us:

He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) (Emphasis mine)

John MacArthur says of this passage:

“God. put eternity into man’s heart. God made men for his eternal purpose, and nothing in post-fall time can bring them complete satisfaction.”

Our innate sense of eternity comes from knowing something of God, the eternal creator. Concerning this knowledge of God, there is perhaps no clearer verse in all of scripture than Romans 1:19, in which the Apostle Paul tells us:

“For what can be known about God is plain to them (men), because God has shown it to them.”

We all know something about God and eternity, although what we know is limited. I believe this knowledge is part of the ‘imago dei’, the image of God, in which we were created. God IS eternal, and although our bodies will one day die, we have an innate interest in life after death.

Here’s where the conversation can get a bit more challenging. You see, along with being told that we all know that God IS, we are also told something about those who try and deny the existence of God. Immediately before Romans 1:19 we are told:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18)

So what’s this about “The wrath of God”? We can turn to Matthew, Chapter 25 and Jesus’ teaching about His second coming and the final judgment of all men.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.

Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

. . . .

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,

I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’

Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’

Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’

And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

(Matthew 25:31-34 & 41-46)

In the above verses, there are two groups of people, the ones on Jesus’ right, and the ones on Jesus’ left. The ones on Jesus’ right represent those who knew and loved Him in this life and those on Jesus’ left represent those who denied Him in this life. Those on the right will inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the world’s beginning. Those on the left will experience eternal fire reserved for the devil and his angels.

SO WHAT?

1. There are two groups of people inhabiting this world; those who have received the truth of God and the ones who suppress the truth of God; the ones who have repented of their sin and believed the gospel and the ones who have rejected Christ.

2. There is an eternal destiny for every human being who ever lived or is living today; eternal life or eternal death.

3. What’s in YOUR eternity, my friend?

Is God Reckless?

I saw that question on a Facebook post a couple of weeks ago, connected to the recently released Bethel Music song “Reckless Love”, written by Cory Asbury. Apparently it hit the top of some Christian music charts but has also garnered quite a bit of dialogue, some of which is helpful and some decidedly not so much.

Nevertheless, the above question is quite valid and deserving of discussion, at least when examined in light of what scripture teaches us about the nature of God’s love.

Here are the song’s lyrics:

[Verse 1]
Before I spoke a word
You were singing over me
You have been so, so
Good to me
Before I took a breath
You breathed Your life in me
You have been so, so
Kind to me
[Chorus]
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it
I don’t deserve it
Still You give yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
[Verse 2]
When I was your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so
Good to me
When I felt no worth
You paid it all for me
You have been so, so
Kind to me
[Bridge]
There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
No lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me

To be fair, the song speaks well of God’s love, calling it overwhelming and never-ending. We can’t earn it and we don’t deserve it. God, through Christ the good Shepherd, seeks and saves the lost. God loves his own even when they are his enemies living in rebellion against him. And Jesus did pay the ultimate price, sinless and underserving, dying in place of sinners – absorbing the full weight of God’s just wrath against our sin.

But is the love of God for his own reckless’? The song’s claim that it is deserves closer examination, but not from our gut level emotions, which seem to have prompted the ongoing banter both, pro and con. We need to examine what the Bible has to say about God’s love to determine if the ‘reckless’ adjective is as well-deserved as the other descriptions “Reckless Love” presents to us. After all, it’s the adjective used in the song’s title and the author’s main point!

Here is the author’s response to many of the comments made about his song, as an attempt to clarify what he meant by calling God’s love ‘reckless’:

“When I use the phrase, “the reckless love of God”, I’m not saying that God Himself is reckless. I am, however, saying that the way He loves, is in many regards, quite so. What I mean is this: He is utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His actions with regards to His own safety, comfort, and well-being. His love isn’t crafty or slick. It’s not cunning or shrewd. In fact, all things considered, it’s quite childlike, and might I even suggest, sometimes downright ridiculous. His love bankrupted heaven for you. His love doesn’t consider Himself first. His love isn’t selfish or self-serving. He doesn’t wonder what He’ll gain or lose by putting Himself out there. He simply gives Himself away on the off-chance that one of us might look back at Him and offer ourselves in return.”

Again, to be fair, there is truth in this explanation, especially the descriptions of what God’s love is NOT. It’s the summary of God’s love that is problematic for many, including me:

“He (God) simply gives Himself away on the off-chance that one of us might look back at Him and offer ourselves in return.”

Is that a Biblically supportable description of God’s love? While there is much in scripture that would answer with a resounding ‘no’, we offer a short passage from the book of Romans that should settle the matter:

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:29-30)

That short passage speaks of intentionality, not recklessness. It describes deliberate actions of God toward his people! It describes the people of God from a point in eternity past and God’s foreknowledge through ultimate glorification in the presence of God for the rest of eternity.

I also offer to you that both major schools of theology (Calvinist & Arminian) are in complete agreement concerning God’s love being intentional and not at all reckless! Either God ‘foreknew’ his people in such an intimate way that he sovereignly changes their human will, causing their greatest desire to be to receive Christ when confronted with their sin (Calvinists), or he foreknew the ‘free will’ decisions many would make for Christ at some point in their lives.

Either way, God’s love is not ‘reckless’, as Corey Asbury describes recklessness! And because the song’s lyrics speak so much truth about God’s love, I cannot help but wonder why he thinks that God loves recklessly. It’d s popular sentiment among certain segments of evangelicalism. And that saddens me. Is my criticism justified? I believe it is. I also know that we should pray for Corey, his spiritual growth and ministry. Add to that prayer the thousands of young people who have been and are being terribly deceived by all the false teaching that Bethel Redding represents.

“He will save his people from their sins.”

The Battle Cry

18Now 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. 19And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20But 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. 21She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:18-21 ESV)

I love these few words that the angel of the lord spoke to Joseph:

“for he will save his people from their sins.”

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8 implications of calling Jesus “Lord” by Jesse Johnson

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I recently preached 2 Corinthians 4:5 (“We do not breach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord”), and in preparation I came across this powerful list of 8 implications of preaching Jesus as Lord. These are from Murray Harris’s New International Greek Testament Commentary (p 332), where he writes:

Whenever worshiping Christians repeat the church’s confession “Jesus is Lord,” they are:

1. Implying that the Christ of faith was none other than the Jesus of history (Acts 2:34–36),

2. acknowledging the deity of Christ (John 20:28; Phil. 2:6, 9–11),

3. admitting the Lord’s personal rights to absolute supremacy in the universe, the church, and individual lives (Acts 10:36; Rom. 10:12; 14:8; 1 Cor. 8:6; Jas. 4:15),

4. affirming the triumph of Christ over death and hostile cosmic powers when God raised him from the dead (Rom. 10:9; 14:9; Eph. 1:20–22; Col. 2:10, 15) and therefore also the Christian’s hope of resurrection (1 Cor. 6:14; 2 Cor. 4:14),

5. epitomizing the Christian message (Rom. 10:8–9; 2 Cor. 4:5) and defining the basis of Christian teaching ( Col. 2:6–7),

6. declaring everyone’s accountability to the Lord, the righteous judge (1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Tim. 4:1, 8),

7. making a personal and public declaration of faith (Rom. 10:9), which testifies to their being led by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3), and

8. repudiating their former allegiance to many pagan “lords” and reaffirming their loyalty to one Lord through and in whom they exist (1 Cor. 8:5–6; 1 Tim. 6:15).

It is good to be reminded that “Lord” is more than a title, and more than a name. It reveals the identity of Jesus, and compels a response from us that is more than simply a phrase we say–ie. there is more at stake here than saying “Jesus is Lord.” That phrase implies so much, that when rightly understood it alters our worldview.

Why the Reformation Still Matters

by Michael Reeves

Last year, on October 31, Pope Francis announced that after five hundred years, Protestants and Catholics now “have the opportunity to mend a critical moment of our history by moving beyond the controversies and disagreements that have often prevented us from understanding one another.” From that, it sounds as if the Reformation was an unfortunate and unnecessary squabble over trifles, a childish outburst that we can all put behind us now that we have grown up.

But tell that to Martin Luther, who felt such liberation and joy at his rediscovery of justification by faith alone that he wrote, “I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.” Tell that to William Tyndale, who found it such “merry, glad and joyful tidings” that it made him “sing, dance, and leap for joy.” Tell it to Thomas Bilney, who found it gave him “a marvelous comfort and quietness, insomuch that my bruised bones leaped for joy.” Clearly, those first Reformers didn’t think they were picking a juvenile fight; as they saw it, they had discovered glad tidings of great joy.

Good News in 1517

At the beginning of the sixteenth century, Europe had been without a Bible the people could read for something like a thousand years. Thomas Bilney had thus never encountered the words “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). Instead of the Word of God, they were left to the understanding that God is a God who enables people to earn their own salvation. As one of the teachers of the day liked to put it, “God will not deny grace to those who do their best.” Yet what were meant as cheering words left a very sour taste for everyone who took them seriously. How could you be sure you really had done your best? How could you tell if you had become the sort of just person who merited salvation?

Martin Luther certainly tried. “I was a good monk,” he wrote, “and kept my order so strictly that I could say that if ever a monk could get to heaven through monastic discipline, I should have entered in.” And yet, he found:

My conscience would not give me certainty, but I always doubted and said, “You didn’t do that right. You weren’t contrite enough. You left that out of your confession.” The more I tried to remedy an uncertain, weak and troubled conscience with human traditions, the more daily I found it more uncertain, weaker and more troubled.

According to Roman Catholicism, Luther was quite right to be unsure of heaven. Confidence of a place in heaven was considered errant presumption and was one of the charges made against Joan of Arc at her trial in 1431. There, the judges proclaimed,

This woman sins when she says she is as certain of being received into Paradise as if she were already a partaker of . . . glory, seeing that on this earthly journey no pilgrim knows if he is worthy of glory or of punishment, which the sovereign judge alone can tell.

That judgment made complete sense within the logic of the system: if we can only enter heaven because we have (by God’s enabling grace) become personally worthy of it, then of course no one can be sure. By that line of reasoning, I can only have as much confidence in heaven as I have confidence in my own sinlessness.

That was exactly why the young Martin Luther screamed with fear when as a student he was nearly struck by lightning in a thunderstorm. He was terrified of death, for without knowledge of Christ’s sufficient and gracious salvation—without knowledge of justification by faith alone—he had no hope of heaven.

And that was why his rediscovery in Scripture of justification by faith alone felt like entering paradise through open gates. It meant that, instead of all his angst and terror, he could now write:

When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: “I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where he is, there I shall be also.”

And that was why the Reformation gave people such a taste for sermons and Bible reading. For, to be able to read God’s words and to see in them such good news that God saves sinners, not on the basis of how well they repent but entirely by His own grace, was like a burst of Mediterranean sunshine into the gray world of religious guilt.

Good News in 2017

None of the goodness or relevance of the Reformation’s insights have faded over the last five hundred years. The answers to the same key questions still make all the difference between human hopelessness and happiness. What will happen to me when I die? How can I know? Is justification the gift of a righteous status (as the Reformers argued), or a process of becoming more holy (as Rome asserts)? Can I confidently rely for my salvation on Christ alone, or does my salvation also rest on my own efforts toward and success in achieving holiness?

Almost certainly, what confuses people into thinking that the Reformation is a bit of history we can move beyond is the idea that it was just a reaction to some problem of the day. But the closer one looks, the clearer it becomes: the Reformation was not principally a negative movement about moving away from Rome and its corruption; it was a positive movement, about moving toward the gospel. And that is precisely what preserves the validity of the Reformation for today. If the Reformation had been a mere reaction to a historical situation five hundred years ago, one would expect it to be over. But as a program to move ever closer to the gospel, it cannot be over.

Another objection is that today’s culture of positive thinking and self-esteem has wiped away all perceived need for the sinner to be justified. Not many today find themselves wearing hair-shirts and enduring all-night prayer vigils in the freezing cold to earn God’s favor. All in all, then, Luther’s problem of being tortured by guilt before the divine Judge is dismissed as a sixteenth-century problem, and his solution of justification by faith alone is therefore dismissed as unnecessary for us today.

But it is in fact precisely into this context that Luther’s solution rings out as such happy and relevant news. For, having jettisoned the idea that we might ever be guilty before God and therefore in need of His justification, our culture has succumbed to the old problem of guilt in subtler ways and with no means to answer. Today, we are all bombarded with the message that we will be more loved when we make ourselves more attractive. It may not be God-related, and yet it is  still a religion of works, and one that is deeply embedded. For that, the Reformation has the most sparkling good news. Luther speaks words that cut through the gloom like a glorious and utterly unexpected sunbeam:

The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. . . . Rather than seeking its own good, the love of God flows forth and bestows good. Therefore, sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive.

Once Again, the Time Is Ripe

Five hundred years later, the Roman Catholic Church has still not been reformed. For all the warm ecumenical language used by so many Protestants and Roman Catholics, Rome still repudiates justification by faith alone. It feels it can do so because Scripture is not regarded as the supreme authority to which popes, councils, and doctrine must conform. And because Scripture is so relegated, biblical literacy is not encouraged, and thus millions of poor Roman Catholics are still kept from the light of God’s Word.

Outside Roman Catholicism, the doctrine of justification by faith alone is routinely shied away from as insignificant, wrongheaded, or perplexing. Some new perspectives on what the Apostle Paul meant by justification, especially when they have tended to shift the emphasis away from any need for personal conversion, have, as much as anything, confused people, leaving the article that Luther said cannot be given up or compromised as just that—given up or compromised.

Now is not a time to be shy about justification or the supreme authority of the Scriptures that proclaim it. Justification by faith alone is no relic of the history books; it remains today as the only message of ultimate liberation, the message with the deepest power to make humans unfurl and flourish. It gives assurance before our holy God and turns sinners who attempt to buy God off into saints who love and fear Him.

And oh what opportunities we have today for spreading this good news! Five hundred years ago, Gutenberg’s recent invention of the printing press meant that the light of the gospel could spread at a speed never before witnessed. Tyndale’s Bibles and Luther’s tracts could go out by the thousands. Today, digital technology has given us another Gutenberg moment, and the same message can now be spread at speeds Luther could never have imagined.

Both the needs and the opportunities are as great as they were five hundred years ago—in fact, they are greater. Let us then take courage from the faithfulness of the Reformers and hold the same wonderful gospel high, for it has lost none of its glory or its power to dispel our darkness.

__________________________

Dr. Michael Reeves is president and professor of theology at Union School of Theology in Oxford, England. He is author of several books, including Rejoicing in Christ. He is the featured teacher on the Ligonier teaching series The English Reformation and the Puritans.

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).