Reformation Day and the Five Solas

Unfortunately, Halloween comes to mind when many people think of October 31st. This date actually looks back on one of the most dramatic moments in church history. On this day in 1517 Martin Luther nailed his list of grievances against the Catholic Church to the door of a chapel in Wittenberg, Germany. These Ninety-Five Theses became the catalyst for the Reformation, which produced the Five Solas.

Martin Luther spoke one of my favorite quotes when the Catholic Church threatened to excommunicate him. He said:

Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the Popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.

The Catholic Church was unable to defend their false teaching with Scripture or respond to Luther’s criticisms. On May 25, 1521 Luther was declared an outlaw and his literature was banned. The Catholic Church said, “We want him to be apprehended and punished as a notorious heretic.” It was a crime for anyone in Germany to give him food or shelter.

Jesus said, “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). It’s hard to argue there are more significant fulfillments of this promise than the victory God produced through Martin Luther. When October 31st rolls around each year we would do well to think not of Halloween, but of the Reformation and the Five Solas.

In honor of the Reformation I want to provide a brief summary of each of the Five Solas…

1. The Five Solas: Sola Fide—“Faith Alone”

This excludes any works from being necessary for salvation. Justification – or being declared righteous by God – is received by faith only, apart from anything man can do. At the time the Catholic Church emphasized the use of indulgences (donated money) to purchase status, and even forgiveness, with God. Works, such as baptism and other sacraments, were seen as required for salvation. Continue reading “Reformation Day and the Five Solas”

Does the Gospel make God an abomination?

People mean well when they say all sins are the same, but the problem is they’re not. One way they’re different is certain sins are identified as an abomination. Two such examples are recorded in Proverbs 17:5:

He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.

Two groups are an abomination to the Lord:

  1. Those who justify the wicked.
  2. Those who condemn the just.

The tremendous irony is this is exactly what God does through the Gospel!

God justifies the wicked, which is an abomination

Romans 4:5 says God, “justifies the wicked.”

The word justify means, “to declare righteous. The Lord takes evil, wretched people and justifies them through faith in Jesus Christ. Continue reading “Does the Gospel make God an abomination?”

4 Graduation Tips for Seniors

4 Graduation Tips for Seniors
A view from the back table where the kids sat. My son Ricky is in the middle. The screen shows the welcome slide.

Each year one of the outreaches Woodland Christian Church puts on is the Senior Dinner. The graduates join us in the fellowship hall for a nice meal. I present a message with graduation tips, and my brother brother-in-law, D.J. Malinowski, plays some music (see below).

I tell the seniors that I’m going to share with them the four graduation tips I wish someone would’ve shared with me when I was in their place. I use a PowerPoint presentation and the slides are below…

4 graduation tips for seniors
The welcome slide that was up when they arrived.
4 graduation tips for seniors
Contrasting two individuals who invest the same amount of money at the same interest rate, but one starts at 20 and the other at 30. The person who started 10 years earlier makes over twice as much as the other.

Continue reading “4 Graduation Tips for Seniors”

What does it mean to be spiritually poor?

Do you know what it means to be spiritually poor?
Do you know what it means to be spiritually poor?

Last post laid a foundation for understanding the Beatitudes. Now we can discuss the first one on the spiritually poor.

Jesus said, “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20).

Jesus presented values that were completely contrary to the thinking of the day. This is a perfect example—the world says the poor are cursed.

But the Bible also doesn’t say the poor – at least financially – are blessed: “[Do not] give me poverty…lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God” (Pro 30:8-9).

Poverty can tempt people to steal or curse God. If it were a blessing, God wouldn’t have given wealth to people, i.e. Abraham, David, and Solomon. Being financially poor isn’t a blessing, any more than being financially rich is a curse.

Jesus’ words only make sense if we understand He’s discussing spiritual poverty. The parallel account in Matthew 5:3 says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” This means recognizing you’re a sinner who’s spiritually bankrupt, with nothing of value with which to purchase salvation. Continue reading “What does it mean to be spiritually poor?”

Unworthy of Heaven?

Unworthy of HeavenIn The Parable of the Wedding Feast, heaven is pictured as a marriage with Jesus saying, “Those who were invited (referring to the Jews) were not worthy.” (Verse 8). These words stuck out to me: “How could they not be worthy when we’re all not worthy?”

Worthy can mean you deserve something; therefore, were they unworthy because they didn’t deserve to attend? The Jews were God’s chosen people. If anyone deserved to attend, it would’ve been them. If they didn’t deserve to attend, nobody deserves to attend.

Worthy can mean you’ve earned something. Had they not done enough? There are two reasons this can’t be the case:

  1. Paul said the Jews “have a zeal for God” (Rom 10:2). They had probably done more for God than anyone; if anyone had earned, or shown themselves worthy to be in heaven, it was them. If the Jews hadn’t done enough, nobody has done enough.
  2. The Gospel is salvation by grace through faith, and grace is unmerited or unearned favor. Grace can’t be earned. Grace can only take place when something hasn’t been earned: Romans 11:6 If by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. Grace is the opposite of being worthy; grace is necessary because we’re not worthy. By definition the Gospel is for unworthy people.

So they can’t be unworthy because they hadn’t done enough.

Worthy can mean “great character or commendable excellence”, so did their sinfulness make them unworthy?That would seem reasonable except verse 10 says, “the wedding hall was filled with guests” and they were as sinful as the Jews who couldn’t attend (Rom 3:10, 23).

So if they’re unworthy, but it’s not because they didn’t deserve it, and it’s not because they hadn’t earned it, and it’s not because of their sinfulness, what makes them so…not worthy?

They were unworthy for one very simple reason: they rejected the invitation. They were invited in verse 3 and it says, “they were not willing to come.” The simple, yet terrifying truth is if you reject Jesus then you become unworthy of heaven. None of us are unworthy because of our sinfulness or lack of works, but we are unworthy if we don’t embrace Jesus. The King says, “I can handle murderers, adulterers, thieves, people who haven’t done anything deserving attendance, but I can’t handle anyone who doesn’t love My Son.”

In John 16:9 Jesus said, “The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin, because they do not believe in Me.” This sounds like an odd statement considering there are so many sins. We’d expect Jesus to say, “The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin, because men are sinners” but His statement makes it sound like there’s only one sin: not believing in Jesus. While there are different sins, there is only one sin that has eternal consequences…there’s only one sin that can’t be forgiven…there’s only one sin that determines where people spend eternity, and it’s not the sin of lying, adultery, murder, homosexuality…it’s the sin of not believing in Jesus. And that’s sin these people committed; that’s what made them unworthy…

Acts 13:46 Paul and Barnabas [told the Jews], “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and JUDGE YOURSELVES UNWORTHY of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.

People who reject Jesus judge themselves unworthy of everlasting life. People who surrender their lives to Jesus – regardless of what they have earned or haven’t earned, regardless of what they deserve or don’t deserve, regardless of what they have done or haven’t done, regardless of their sinfulness or perceived lack of sinfulness – become worthy of everlasting life and will find themselves at the wedding: Revelation 19:9 Blessed are those who are called to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb!

You can listen to a sermon I preached on The Parable of the Wedding Feast here.

Few Are Chosen

Few Are Chosen

During yesterday’s sermon I discussed The Parable of the Wedding Feast, stopping right before Matthew 22:14 which says, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” That verse doesn’t seem to fit though; it seems like it should read, “Many are called, but few respond” because the parable is primarily about people unwilling to accept the King’s invitation (aka call to salvation).

The many called are those who hear the Gospel. It’s the second step in God’s wonderful plan of redemption: (1) Whom He predestined, (2) these He also called; (3) whom He called, these He also justified; (4) and whom He justified, these He also glorified (Rom 8:30). The call itself takes place in Matthew 22:2-3 The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who…sent out his servants to CALL those who were invited to the wedding. The call is to see yourself as a sinner, stop trusting in your own righteousness, embrace Jesus as Lord and Savior and receive His righteousness by grace through faith.

Of the many called, it’s a much smaller number that actually respond to the Gospel and are saved: they are the few. The “many”and “few” Jesus discusses in Matthew 22:14 are the same “many”and “few”Jesus discusses in Matthew 7:13-14:

  • Matthew 22:14 MANY are called, but FEW are chosen.
  • Matthew 7:13-14 Wide is the gate that leads to destruction, and MANY who go in by it. Narrow is the gate which leads to life, and FEW find it.

The few chosen in Matthew 22:14 are the same few that enter by the narrow gate in Matthew 7:14, are they’re the same few that are predestined, justified and glorified in Romans 8:30.

The balance struck in these verses is really tremendous…

In verse 3 after the call goes out it says, “they were not willing to come”; it’s not that they weren’t able to come it’s that they weren’t willing to come. The call goes out again in verse 4: “Again, [the King] sent out other servants, saying, “Come to the wedding.” But in verses 5 and 6 it says, “They made light of it and went their ways…the rest seized his servants…and killed them.” This group’s rejection is even worse than the first as you again see the people choosing not to come, choosing instead to reject the wonderful love and grace of the King. Then after all that you see that they weren’t “chosen”, looking to the sovereignty of God in choosing the elect.

The finer details of how people are chosen, and why few are chosen instead of many, looks to the very center of the tension between:

  • Calvinism and Arminianism
  • Unconditional Election versus Conditional Election
  • God’s Sovereignty versus Man’s Free Will

This has caused a debate that has raged in the church for centuries, but the truth is if you want to be one of the few chosen as Matthew 22:14 says, and be  justified and glorified as Romans 8:30 says, enter by the narrow gate as Matthew 7:13 says by confessing Jesus as Lord.

The Gospel Is Explained Financially in Scripture

The Gospel is explained financially in Scripture by using words accounting terms. The best way to appreciate the beauty that takes place when believers put their faith in Christ is by understanding these words. Let’s take a look at each of them!

The Gospel Is Explained Financially: Sin Debt

Because of our sins, we have a huge amount of sin debt against God. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray in Matthew 6:12 He encouraged them to say, “Forgive us our debts.” In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, the man doesn’t have a huge criminal record, but he does have a huge amount of debt. The servant pleaded with the king for mercy. In Matthew 18:27 it says, “The master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.” The forgiveness of the man’s debt pictured the forgiveness of his sins.

The Gospel Is Explained Financially: Ransom and Redemption

marriage-gods-way-author-scott-lapierre Gospel is explained financiallyA ransom is something paid to cancel or erase a person’s debt. In Matthew 20:28 Jesus said He “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Paul said, “Jesus gave Himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim 2:6).

When someone pays the ransom for another’s debt, it’s known as redemption. The individual who pays the ransom is known as a redeemer. Titus 2:14 says, “Jesus gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed.” Peter discussed what was required to cancel our sin debt and he said we “were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold…but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Pet 1:18, 19).

The Gospel Is Explained Financially: Imputation of Sin and Righteousness

“Impute” is accounting term referring to moving assets from one side of a ledger to the other. The Greek word for impute is logizomai, and it occurs forty-one times in Scripture. Almost half of those times it occurs in Romans, and of those nineteen times, eleven times it occurs in chapter 4! Just like 1 Corinthians 13 is the Love Chapter, Romans 4 is the Imputation Chapter. Continue reading “The Gospel Is Explained Financially in Scripture”

The Gospel changes lives

I grew up in the mountains of northern California and some of my parents’ closest friends were Pete and Susie Lorenzen. We would go to their house and the adults would party while us kids ran around pretty unaware of what our parents were doing. When I was a teenager my best friend was JP Cochran. After high school he got into drugs and was arrested. Now let’s fast-forward twenty years…

  • Pete is the pastor of Little Country Church in our hometown, where he serves with Susie.
  • When JP was in jail, he started reading the Bible, was saved, met an inmate who happened to be the guy his wife cheated on him with…and JP invited him to the study he was attending. Now JP is married, has kids, and his family attends Pete’s church. When I married Katie I asked JP to be my Best Man.
  • Regarding my parents and me, obviously being the pastor of WCC with my dad being one of the deacons isn’t what we would’ve imagined twenty years ago.

When we were in California a few weeks ago, Pete had me preach in his church, and JP was there. I thought of how much has changed with all of us over these years. Katie wrote something about that evening that I copied down and wanted to share: “Special night tonight. I am in my hometown where Scott and I grew up, but neither of us were Christians. Now he’s preaching here and it was wonderful. My God is a God who changes lives! I am no longer that girl, and my husband is no longer that boy. We are new creations in Christ and I am forever thankful for the new life in Him that we share together.” The point is the Gospel changes lives; I have so much confidence in it because I’m familiar with lives that it’s changed, including obviously my own.
Some weeks ago a man passed out in front of my office with pills all over the ground and and a half-empty bottle of vodka.

Man passed out in front of office.
NOTE: I would not have posted this picture if the man was recognizable.

What he wanted was food, money, a place to sleep (he ended up being taken to a hospital in an ambulance), but what he needed was the Gospel (which I was able to share with him). Only the Gospel could change his life and prevent him from waking up countless more times on the edge of overdosing, or worse, not waking up at all. During Sunday’s sermon I talked about the spiritual liberty we can experience from our sins, and it’s a liberty that’s really only available from the Gospel. Nothing else changes lives or saves people temporarily and eternally.

The two sides of the Gospel's Good News

We’re going through Luke’s Gospel on Sunday mornings and this past week I was studying Luke 4:18, which says “Jesus preached the Gospel to the poor.” In many translations it says “Jesus preached the Good News to the poor”, because gospel means good news. This had me thinking about what the good news actually is and I really see two sides to it. Of course the Good News is that through faith in Christ our sins are forgiven and His righteousness becomes our righteousness. It’s the Good News that we get to go to heaven. I’ve heard some people say, “You don’t want to tell people about hell though…that’s the Bad News!” Well…no, it’s not actually. It’s actually as much the good news as the Good News. I would say it like this: there are two sides to the Gospel, or two pieces of Good News for us:

  1. We get to go to heaven.
  2. But it’s equally Good News that we don’t have to go to hell.

We rejoice that we get to go to heaven, but we should also rejoice that we don’t have to go to hell. Since when did it become Bad News that we don’t have to go to hell? If you preach the Gospel and you leave out hell, you’re leaving out some really important, wonderful stuff. You’re leaving out that Jesus experienced Hell so we wouldn’t have to. The Gospel is about the grace AND mercy of God, but if you leave out hell, you’re leaving out the mercy of the Gospel. Here’s what I mean:

  • Grace is receiving what we don’t deserve, and going to heaven is grace. Heaven reveals the grace of God. We don’t deserve to go to heaven, but we get to go by God’s grace.
  • Mercy is not receiving what we deserve…it’s not receiving a punishment we deserve (you’re speeding and the cop doesn’t give you a ticket; he had mercy on you because you didn’t receive what you deserved). If we don’t go to hell that’s mercy, because we’re not receiving the ticket we deserve. Being spared from hell is the greatest revelation of God’s mercy.

Think of Jesus’ example: Luke 4:18 says He preached the Gospel, and He taught about the Kingdom of Heaven really often…but He also talked about Hell…A LOT. If you present the Gospel and don’t mention hell, you’re leaving out the mercy; you’re leaving out half of the greatness of the Gospel. Tell people how to be saved. Tell them what they’re saved for: Heaven. But also tell them what they’re saved from: Hell.

Here’s the sermon I preached on part of Luke 4:18: The Spiritually Poor.

Salvation in the Old Testament?

We know we’re saved by grace through faith, and one of the most common questions I’ve received since teaching the Bible is, “How were people in the OT saved, since they lived before Christ’s First Coming?” The answer is people were saved in the OT just like they’re saved in the NT: by grace through faith. God made numerous prophecies that a Messiah would come into the world. If they believed those prophecies, or had faith those prophecies would come true, or had faith that Messiah would come, they were saved as they looked forward in faith to the Messiah coming.

Last Sunday we looked at the prophecy in Genesis 3:15 that the Seed of the Woman would come and crush the head of the Serpent. As soon as sin came into the world, that prophecy was introduced allowing people to look forward to, or put their faith in the Seed of the Woman. In other words, as soon as sin came into the world, so too did the opportunity for people to be saved by grace through faith. Just like we pass along to our children what we know about Christ, that prophecy would’ve been passed along to Adam and Eve’s descendants,  allowing them to be saved by grace through faith.

What was their faith IN since they didn’t know Jesus like we do? Their faith was in all the prophecies about His coming. If they believed Jesus would come, they were saved, similarly to how we’re saved if we believe Jesus has come. OT and NT believers are both saved by looking to Christ in faith, but from opposite sides of the cross. People in the OT were saved by grace through faith in Jesus coming like we’re saved by grace through faith in Jesus having come. That’s why Gen 15:6 can say Abraham was saved (accounted righteous) by his faith or belief in what God had said to Him in Gen 12 when He established the Abrahamic Covenant with him. But didn’t Abraham live before the Gospel? Genesis 3:8 says God “preached the gospel to Abraham.” Consider that!!! Abraham heard the Gospel!  Here’s a quote I really like: “The basis for salvation in every age is the death of Christ; the requirement for salvation in every age is faith; the object of faith in every age is God; the content of faith changes in the various ages.”