Reformation Sunday Sermon

29 11 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – November 2010 – Vol. 16 Issue 10 – Reformation Sunday Sermon – Rev. Mark Braden, Pastor, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church

Discernment Ministries International

Reformation Sunday Sermon

By Rev. Mark Braden, Pastor, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church

The Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence. The violent take it by force. So speaks the Lord of the Church, the Lord of the Kingdom. It is not the Kingdom of Glory of which He speaks. No, thanks be to God, the saints are safe, at rest, in bliss and felicity, their souls in the very presence of God. No one takes them. They are eternally secure. It is not the Kingdom of Glory that suffers violence.

Nor is it the Kingdom of Power, that Kingdom by which God creates and sustains all things. Indeed, there is violence amidst that Kingdom, for God causes His rain to fall upon both the just and the evil. Like an ant taking throwing a punch at the sun, God’s good provision and prvidence are in no danger of man’s puny violence. It is not the Kingdom of Power that suffers violence.

But the Church, oh, the Holy Church on earth! She is the Church Militant, the Church at war, the Church beset by struggles, the Church that tastes of the sufferings of Her Lord, the Church that is the Kingdom of God on earth, for this Kingdom comes when God gives us His Holy Spirit. The Kingdom suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. Of this Abel’s blood testifies. So too does the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, murdered between the temple and the altar. And which true Prophet did not endure the darts of violent tongues, the stones of angry hands, the sword or lance of proud and violent men. But sword and lance pierce them no more. They are the Church Triumphant. They dwell in the Kingdom of Glory.

Physical violence can only harm the body. But there is a violence that can harm the soul, a violence that opens the dark trap door to imprison men’s spirits, a snare to capture the wayward, a siren’s cry to beckon the ship too close to crushing rocks, a strange voice to lure the sheep away from safe pasture. That violence is false doctrine—wrong teaching about God and so wrong teaching about salvation. False doctrine is violence perpetrated against the Kingdom of heaven.

Among the chief lies of the devil is that doctrine doesn’t matter. He would have you think that what one believes about God is a personal thing, not subject to review by anyone. The devil teaches that anyone that would insist that there is a right belief and a wrong belief about God is simply not nice, uncompromising, inflexible, unloving, just plain mean.

But God’s Word teaches something very different. God’s Word teaches that there is a right and a wrong, there is Truth and there are lies. You see, teaching that fallen men can earn God’s favor by their works is a lie. It is a violence. It is contrary to the clear Word of God. And yet, by such false teaching, sinners would take the kingdom by force. They desire to wrest forgiveness and salvation away from God by the puny strength of their own works. So too the doctrines of purgatory, indulgences, monasticism, multiplying the Sacraments, Mariolatry, and prayer to saints. Matthew 11:12-15 The Festival of the Reformation, 2010 A. D.

So too the teaching that “real” Christians don’t suffer, but rather are rich and happy in the world inasmuch as they rightly believe. That’s where Robert Schuler meets the Pope. So too the teaching that a man born of human father can rule Christ’s Church on earth by Divine right. These false teachings, these sins, do violence to the Word of god. They lead men to seek salvation where it has not been promised. They are but lies born of the father of lies, and the harvest of their deceitful violence is fodder for hell.

Bad doctrine is always popular among sinners, however, for there is a little pope in each of us. Our old man is proud to don the triple tiara, to take rulership of the Kingdom by force. For each of us has been bold to invent our own justification for our false beliefs, to craft our own plan of salvation, in which we work together with God as equal partners. We have unseated, if it were possible, God from His heavenly throne, and sinfully appointed Him to be our “co-pilot”. We have granted ourselves indulgences by minimizing our sins, and have assigned ourselves penance to “work off” our sins and earn God’s favor. To the fallen flesh, it all makes sense. Each of us has desired to take the Kingdom of heaven by force.

The irony is, of course, that what men desire to take by force God freely gives–but never to men who believe they can take it by force. God freely gave His Son over to violent men. The King of Heaven suffered violence. They desired to make Him King. When He would not be an earthly king, a king of their own design beckoning to their whim and call, they took Him by force. For when the Son came, the vinedressers said “This is the heir, come, let us kill Him and the inheritance will be ours…” And the Kingdom of Heaven suffered violence as the King willingly allowed Himself to be put to death.

But what men could not take, God freely gives. It is in Christ’s death that sins are forgiven, and by which God, by grace alone gives the Kingdom of Heaven to men. For Christ indeed from death has risen, our new life obtaining, that men be justified, declared righteous in His sight because of Christ. And this God works by faith alone, in Christ alone. What men could never take God freely gives you — as the faith He works in you trusts in Christ.

By that faith you know that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. By this faith, Baptismal faith, God declares you forgiven, holy and blameless in His sight, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. He freely gives you the Kingdom.

This faith, this living, life-giving faith, is born of the Word of God by His Spirit. This faith seeks Truth in Scripture alone, for there God reveals His love for all men in Christ Jesus. This faith is fed and nurtured by God’s gifts of Word and Sacrament, not by what is earned or sold, but by what is freely given: His Body given for you, His Blood shed for the remission of your sins. This faith is fed and nurtured by right teaching about Matthew 11:12-15   The Festival of the Reformation, 2010 A. D.

Christ and salvation, by the Word preached in its purity and the Sacraments rightly administered, for true faith hungers to hear only what it already knows best — that man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law. Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

Amen.

Copyright ©2010

Advertisements




Bob the “Bully”

27 10 2009

Truth Matters Newsletters – June 2007 – Vol. 12 Issue 6 – Bob the “Bully” – by Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

Bob the “Bully”

By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

“Nowadays any one who insists that pure doctrine is a very important matter is at once suspected of not having the right Christian spirit. The very term “pure doctrine” has been proscribed and outlawed…If any one goes to the extreme, as it is held to be, of even fighting for the pure doctrine and opposing every false doctrine, he is set down as a heartless and unloving fanatic.”

C.F.W. Walther, September 11, 1885.

Dr. Walther made the above statement over 125 years ago in his book “The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel.” (in fact all his quotes are from that book) and I have learned over the years of involvement in this type of ministry that his words are truer today then when he initially spoke them. It is the responsibility of every minister, as our ministry motto says to “teach truth and expose error.” Yet when any minister does this he is indeed called a “heartless and unloving fanatic,” and that is putting it mildly compared to what I am called on a regular basis by those who walk in doctrinal darkness. Walther goes on to say:

There is no question, then, but that both, yes, both these efforts are necessary: to defend the truth and to oppose every doctrinal error.

Walther’s position is most assuredly the biblical one as we read stated in Jude:

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. Jude 1:3

When I embarked upon this facet of ministry over ten years ago I did not expect the vitriol, personal attacks and unreasoned arguments that were to come. Initially, I assumed that others involved in charismatic extremism would rejoice and embrace the truth when it was showed to them as my wife and I did. It did not take long for me to realize that biblical truth (pure doctrine in Walther’s words) is fought against and often out rightly rejected by the ones who should be embracing it. The following e-mail is merely that latest of many attacks DMI endures form those who call themselves Christians. This “sister” wrote us regarding our article about Joel Osteen:

The greatest Christian sin is not adultery. Adultery is one of the greatest wicked acts. It’s not stealing. Stealing is a terrible thing because it puts others at a disadvantage. It’s not lying. This is the worst kind of deception and must be condemned. It’s not murder. This is inhuman. It’s not prayerlessness or lack of Bible reading. It’s not absconding church services. This is because Christians do not commit any of the above sins. What then is the greatest Christian sin? The greatest Christian sin is judgment. How? True, because judgment is only reserved for the judge or for the King and in our case God. It’s God’s privilege to judge and we cannot share that honor. I pray that God will help me not to judge in these entire short messages. I write….

How incredibly arrogant you are. Again nothing but judgment from someone who thinks he is so above every thing and everyone including God…Your response was no surprise and is typical of someone who can’t see the forest for trees. Sham on you! Funny thing is God and the universe will find a way of humbling you. It’s called the two by four between the eyes and it happens to those whose arrogance clouds their real vision and keeps them from loving kindness. When it happens I hope you will see that attacking others is not Christian, nor is it kindness. It is arrogance at it’s worst. You’ve taken something you’ve incorrectly interpreted and spun your own arrogant view on it and use it to bear false witness against those you have NO RIGHT to judge. I agree you will not stop being a bully or being arrogant. Your motivation is jealousy and hatred. I just wanted you to know that your lies and hateful behavior will never reach those of us who love unconditionally the way God and Jesus do.

Note how the writer says the “greatest sin” is judging another person. First of all, this is not the greatest sin in the Bible and if it was then she is extremely guilty of this. Note the following judgmental statements: (1) incredibly arrogant you are, (2) thinks he is so above every thing…including God, (3) a bully, (4) motivation is jealousy and hatred and (5) lies and hateful behavior. Fortunately for sister Bailey, these 5 spiritual deficiencies of mine will NEVER reach her or those like her who “love unconditionally.” In responding to her I kept asking what specifically had I written concerning Mr. Osteen that was factually wrong, or what comments I had written that were hateful towards him in any way; she never answered me. I also told her that neither I or DMI doubts the sincerity of Mr. Osteen nor do we doubt that he loves Jesus. However his sincerity does not abrogate Mr. Osteen’s lack of biblical education or the lack of sound biblical preaching to the congregation Osteen, Robert Schuller, Rick Warren and others all fit perfectly in with another comment by C.F.W. Walther:

The worst offenders in this respect are the so-called rationalistic preachers, who with diabolical audacity mount Christian pulpits and instead of preaching Christ, the Savior, to all sinners, recite their miserable moral precepts for a virtuous life and fill ears of the people with their empty bombast.

I guess Walther would have been excoriated by sister Bailey too as a bully and filled with envy. Pray that our Lord mercifully opens Ms. Bailey’s ears to the truth and all those like her. She is just one of the many emails DMI receives each month. Pray for us too, that we will stay the course and continue to teach truth and expose error.

Copyright © Robert S. Liichow

 





TRUTH MATTERS and It Is Worth Fighting For

20 07 2009
Truth Matters Newsletter – October 2005 – Vol. 10 Issue 10 – Truth Matters and it is Worth Fighting For – by Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

TRUTH MATTERS

And

It Is Worth Fighting For

Maybe Paul should not have publicly rebuked Peter for playing the hypocrite before the Jewish believers (read Gal 2:11). Perhaps he should not have dared to “name names” in some of his epistles (read 2 Tim 4:14). Obviously Paul was emotionally overwrought and an alarmist when he told the Ephesian elders warning them night and day for three years with tears about the wolves from without and the danger of false brethren from within (see Acts 20:27:31).

Pelagius taught man’s will was totally free and that original sin was a myth, perhaps Augustine and Jerome should have agreed to disagree with him. What if Athanasius had said ‘well brother Arius has a different revelation of the Godhead, nothing to break fellowship over” instead of sounding the alarm and condemning the man as the heretic he was? Possibly Irenaeus was too harsh on the false prophets and teachers attacking the Church in his day, and he even had the gall to name the miscreants in his book “Against Heresies.”

What if Martin Luther seeing Tetzel selling salvation and said wow, what a shame, but what can one person do against an entire religious system? And walked away thinking “ the Lord will settle the matter”?  Where would we be today?

My dear brothers and sisters it is costly to take a stand for God’s Word in a world that grows spiritually darker by the minute. It is even more difficult to stand up for righteousness within the Church that drifts further from the secure anchor of their souls, the Word and sacraments.

We are fast coming to a time when the cry again is being sounded ‘who is on the Lord’s side?” (read Luke 11:23), which is it in your life and mine? To follow the Lamb is to be in the minority, it is to carry the cross outside the camp (read Hebrews 13:13); suffer humiliation and be considered a fool for forsaking all the “goodies” YOU COULD HAVE HAD, YET DID NOT FOR His names sake. To be a disciple means to take a stand for God’s truth regardless of what it may cost you in family, friends, or societal position. It means not being popular or in with the in crowd.

Like Abraham, we are pilgrims in this world, yes in it, but not of it…at least that is the way it is supposed to be. Is this true in your life and mine? Or have we become bewitched with the baubles and glitter of a system decaying before our very eyes? Judas sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver, today too many sell Him far more cheaply I fear.

I wish I could write you and say “hey folks, its ok,” but I’d be lying. It is not “ok” not by a long shot. The Church is under attack just as Paul warned almost 2,000 years ago. False apostles, prophets and teachers make merchandise of the sheep and if anyone dares to raise their voice against them they are engulfed with cries of “you’re accusing the brethren; you’re causing division; who died and made you judge?”   Evil prevails when good men keep silent and I for one refuse to keep silent and allow evil to prevail in my generation.

Brothers and sisters, God has never used the “many” He has always used a select group. For example: He chose Israel not because of their great size and might, for exactly the opposite reasons “ The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye [were] the fewest of all people” (Deut. 7:7). When Gideon went out to fight, We know that God made a separation and sent all but 300 soldiers back home (read Judges 7:4) so that the victory would be clearly seen as coming from Him and not their own abilities and numbers. Our Lord Himself chose twelve men to turn the world upside down (read Acts 17:6). The early Church itself was small but it spread from Jerusalem to Judea, then Samaria to the uttermost parts of the earth (read Acts 1:8)

Often Apologists are called “accusers of the brethren” by our detractor’s. Yet it is Satan who falsely accuses the brethren before God. We in the Church are called to judge those within the Church (1 Cor. 6:3). We are called to exhort (Titus 1:9) and rebuke with all authority (2 Tim. 4:2) when we see people departing from the standards of God’s holy Word. In fact, for Christians not to serve as watchmen on the wall would be a dereliction of duty.

Discernment Ministries International is one voice that God has raised up to stand as a watchman on the wall and shout out a warning to the Body of Christ saying “test the spirits to see if they are of God.” We are in the minority within a sleeping Church, one that we are striving to rouse from its slumber. DMI and others are swimming hard upstream against every wind of doctrine which so many lovingly are bodysurfing downstream on.

However, DMI cannot do the work alone I am sending out this appeal with the hope that God still has a legitimate remnant of people who are spiritually dissatisfied with the current religious status quo. That there are a people whose righteous indignation has been stirred up by the Holy Spirit to the degree where they will faithfully support a ministry that dares to say  “the Emperor has no clothes on” regardless of the cost.

DMI needs more faithful partners to help us expand our mission of Teaching Truth & Exposing Error. Won’t you join our ranks and get involved in the battle for the integrity of the Gospel?  We thank God daily for those He has raised up thus far, but we need many more people to wake up to the reality of the battle we are all involved in and help support those of us who’ve dedicated their lives to sounding the alarm. Please pray about supporting us, we need your help more now than ever. ♦

His servant and yours,

Rev. Bob Liichow

 Copyright © 2005  Robert S. Liichow





Sola Christus

15 06 2009

Truth Matters Newsletter – November 2004 – Vol. 9 Issue 10 – Sola Christus –by Rev. Robert S. Liichow

John 1:29  KJV

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. 

We are saved by Christ alone! One would imagine that this doctrine need not even be discussed by Christians because it is an “obvious” truth. Sadly, many people who declare themselves to be Christians are blind to this truth and untold numbers do not even believe such a statement to be biblically true.

Not only are people confused by what it means to be redeemed by Christ and Him alone there are currently several perversions of who the biblical Jesus is and what He came to do and what He does now for His people. Ron Rosenbladt cites several examples of these “false Christs” on page two in the following article:

“Solus Christus means there is only one genuine and saving Christ. He is not only sufficient in his bleeding and dying to save us, He is the only Christ. Today’s American culture offers many “Christs” who are not really Christ at all.  Asserting solus Christus means that a Reformation Christian rejects positions in opposition to it as false (“and therefore we condemn…”) will mention just a few of these positions.

1. Christ the psychotherapist   The is an extremely popular position in today’s evangelicalism. This “Christ” is preached as the one who can heal our inner psychological wounds. He can heal broken marriages, aid us in communication with our children, and deal with other dysfunctional situations.

2 Christ our example. Often Christ is preached as a moral example whom we are to emulate. The idea lying behind this view is that our sin is little more than confusion and that we have within us the inner moral wherewithal to do whatever should be done, once we are taught it. The “gospel” of this particular “Christ” is pure law, though few pastors who preach “Christ is you model” seem to recognize this fact.

3. Christ who gives health and wealth  Surprisingly common is the preaching of a “Christ” who always grants health or wealth to those whose faith in him reaches the level it should. Those who have watched the Pentecostal televangelists recognize this “Christ”.

4. Christ the lover   This is popular in certain seminaries where faculties recommend (or even require) students to read the supposed profundities of the mystics. The idea here is not (as it should be) that the student is enabled to critique these writings as examples of man’s perennial attempts to use inner experience as the basis for his justification before God. Rather, the student is encouraged to see the possible application of such writings to the laity in his parish. But as Luther says, mystical experience is just one more counterfeit “ladder to heaven.” Such examples could easily be multiplied.

All of the above views comprise the regular spiritual diet on Christian television and much of religious radio today. Jesus is usually presented as the One who can make your life better, He is touted as “the missing ingredient” to achieving the American dream.  I do not dispute that belonging to Jesus Christ makes the believers life better or that He is truly the missing ingredient (but not to achieving the American dream).

John the Baptist speaking by the Spirit announced to all exactly who Jesus was: “The Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world.”  That is precisely what the Gospel message is all about–Jesus Christ the Bearer of the sin of the world. That means I am a sinner, and no matter how hard I try or how long I work at attempting to keep God’s holy Law I fail miserably and I must admit that I am in need of a Redeemer.

Such a message is extremely unpopular in many of today’s pulpitsThe very notion of telling the people that they are sinners in need of redemption is antithetical to church growth!  To remind people that they are sinners and that God is holy might cause psychological damage and somehow impede their escaping the myriad dysfunctions plaguing their lives. In such congregations people are simply not told this basic truth about themselves and about the glorious work of Jesus as our sin-bearer.  In other congregations people are taught that they must add their works to the redeeming work of Christ.

On the one hand (call them “group one) many people are simply not taught that they need redemption and that it has been completely and graciously provided by the Father through the death of His Son on the cross. The simple yet profound message found in the following text is foreign to them:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (KJV) John 3:16-19

The Father loved us enough to give His only begotten Son. He did not send Jesus to condemn us, we already stood condemned by our own wickedness, no He sent Jesus to redeem us from the curse of sin and the bondage of the law.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (KJV) Romans 5:8-10

While we were sinners and enemies of God, Christ died for us! Who were the sinners and enemies? You, me, the whole world. Who died for us? Christ Jesus. It seems plain to me, but it is obscured from the sight of many people.

On the other hand (call them “group two”) we find that people know something of Christ’s death for sinners but His death, in and of itself is insufficient to secure redemption on the basis of faith alone. For these misguided folks it boils down to this: Christ + works = salvation and its maintenance. This version of Christ is as damning as knowing nothing of Him at all. In fact this is another “Jesus” who is presented to people in another “Gospel” that Paul warned the Church against:

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.  But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any (man) preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (KJV) Galatians 1:6-9

The believers in Galatia were being brought back under the yoke of the law by legalistic Jews. When works are added to the gospel (the Good News of salvation in Christ alone) Paul called it a perversion and those who proclaimed such heresy he declares anathema or damned. The Judizers taught that faith alone in Christ alone was not enough that the keeping of the ceremonial law was necessary to be redeemed. The Bible is clear on this matter:

“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses: Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; [And} having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. (KJV) Colossians 2:13-15

We were dead in our sins but the Father made us alive with Jesus. He forgave all (past, present and future sins) our trespasses and blotted out every ordinance of the law that was against us and took it away. When? When Christ Jesus died on the cross! How much can a dead person contribute? Absolutely nothing. Jesus triumphed over Satan on the cross (not in hell as the Word of Faith cult teaches):

He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.  (KJV) 1 John 3:8

Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil and He did so by taking our place and being our substitute on the cross.

For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (KJV) 2 Corinthians 5:21

He took our sins and God imputed to our account His righteousness. Our Lord bore the brunt of the curse of the law that rightly belonged to us (see Gal. 3:13) that we might receive God’s blessings through faith.

Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated [us] into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, [even] the forgiveness of sins: (KJV) Colossians 1:13,14

We’ve been translated into the eternal kingdom of His dead Son from the former dominion of darkness. How did the Father do this? It was accomplished through the power of the perfect sacrifice of Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God who took away our sins. We have been redeemed by His blood and by that same blood our sins have been washed away.

And it is by God’s ill that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (NRSV) Hebrews 10:10

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, [as] silver and gold, from your vain conversation [received] by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: (KJV) 1 Peter 1:18,19

We are sanctified by what, our works? No, we are made (declared) holy through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ on the cross, once, for all. There is no more sacrifice to be made, there is no more work to be completed Jesus has don it all for us.  Brothers and sisters receive the Gospel—

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: (KJV) 1 Corinthians 15:1-4

Christ died for our sins. He died and was buried and He rose again on the third day. It is Jesus from start to finish; He is the Author and Finisher of our faith (see Heb. 12:2); He is the Alpha and the Omega (see Rev. 1:11). Salvation is of the Lord:

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. (KJV) 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10

Jesus has done it all, rest in Him and in His work and put no trust in your own feeble attempts to merit the favor of God. I know too many believers who are like the Galatians, they begin by confessing they are saved by the grace of God, but from that point on fall from grace back into a form of “works righteousness”

By wrongly believing they are kept saved by their works. No my dear friends, from start to finish it is Christ and Him alone. Any good works we do are because of Jesus and His working in us by His Spirit. Remember the words of our Master when He said:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye [are] the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (KJV) John 15:4-5

In the end, even our best spiritual works have their origin in Christ and thus He is to receive the ultimate praise for them. This no doubt this is why the elders cast their “earned” crowns down at their Savior’s feet in Rev 4:10. Yes our good works in Christ are rewarded, but this reward too has its basis in the grace of God through Christ Jesus our Lord. To whom alone be the glory and honor forever and forever. Amen!!   ♦

 copyright © 2004  Robert Liichow

 





Sola Gratia – Part One of Five

3 06 2009
Truth Matters Newsletter – Sept. 2004 – Vol. 8 No. 9 -Sola Gratia—Part One of Five

I had recently received a counseling phone call from a sister who had come out of an abusive charismatic congregation and was now ensconced in a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. Her issues concerned spiritual stability and in talking with her it occurred to me that if she was established doctrinally in five simple “Reformed” truths then most of her questions and issues would be solved (if she remains in her MSLC hopefully her pastor will instill these same truths into her life).

The bedrock of any spiritual life that is truly built on Jesus Christ can be summed up in these profoundly simple doctrines. In fact, I am so convinced that unless one has the truths we shall be considering in the next several issues, imbedded in their hearts they will be ineffective and unfruitful in God’s Kingdom. People who lack these essential truths will be stunted spiritually and remain infants who are prone to be tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of false doctrine that cunning and crafty men (and women) promote. The Apostle Paul warns of this danger in  Ephesians 4:14.

That we [henceforth] be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

It is my prayer that we will be no more children, but will grow up and achieve the full stature of Christ. Yet for us to do so we MUST make sure our house is built on the rock of the following five truths:

Sola Gratia,   Sola Fide,   Solo Christo,   Solo ScripturaSoli Deo Gloria

These 5 Evangelical truths  heralded after years of spiritual darkness in the Church initially by Martin Luther simply, yet profoundly mean that the Christian is SAVED by GRACE ALONE through FAITH ALONE, by CHRIST ALONE, according to the SCRIPTURES ALONE, and to GOD ALONE be ALL the GLORY.

Prior to the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church emphasized grace, but not grace alone. Roman Catholicism and other religious sects teach that grace requires human cooperation and effort if one is to be saved.

Luther, Melancthon and later Calvin, Knox and other reformers taught and rightly so that biblically, salvation is modernistic, which simply means that a thing has only one cause. In this case Jesus Christ alone is both the Author and Finisher of our Faith as Hebrews 12:2 teaches us.

We’ve already covered the reality of total depravity in a prior issue, so I will not deal with it now. As a reminder let me state that this does not mean that mankind is as bad as he can be, but it does mean that humanity is as bad off as it can be.

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no not one; There is none that understand, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Romans 3:10-12   (KJV)

The Scriptures are clear that men and women are sinful by nature and cannot do anything to save themselves. Not only are we unable but we are unwilling to come to the light— as our Master says in John 3:19; “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. John 3:19 (KJV)

The Word of God is equally clear that it is God who saves us by grace alone (Sola Gratia) through faith alone (Sola Fide) on account of the atoning death of Christ alone (Soli Christi).  Let’s consider 2 clear examples of Sola Gratia. Turn and read in your Bibles beginning at John 11

“Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. 15) And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. 40) Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? … 41) Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42) And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. 43) And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. 44) And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. John 11:14 (KJV)

The example of Lazarus clearly demonstrates the doctrine of sola gratia. There are a great many lessons in this miracle. What I want us to focus on is this simple fact: Lazarus was dead. He could do NOTHING to help in his resurrection—that was the work of God the Son, the Living Word—Spoke to the dead man and He commanded Lazarus to come forth and he who was dead became alive.

This is exactly what occurs in the life of an individual when the Gospel is proclaimed. Like Lazarus we too must be called to life by God through the GOSPEL. This is what is meant by being saved by grace alone. Turn in your Bible to the next example in Ephesians Chapter 2:

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins (just like Jesus did with Lazarus); Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; Not of works, lest any man should boast.   For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them   Eph. 2:4-11 Note carefully Paul’s assessment:

1. We were dead, not wounded, not sick, dead (nekro,j, necros)

2. We willingly walked according to this fallen world’s dictates and it’s Dictator the devil.

3. We were all by nature children of wrath and thus rightfully subject to the judgment of a Holy and Righteous God.

If left to ourselves we were all headed for eternal damnation, and deservedly so.

Yet after painting so plainly a picture of depraved humanity when left to its own devices, Paul switches gears and by the INSPIRATION of the Holy Spirit pens 2 of the most BEAUTIFUL WORDS in the entire Bible — “But God”. Paul goes on to give the clearest picture of sola gratia in the New Testament.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions it is by GRACE you have been saved. It is vitally important for you to note that it is when we are dead in sins and transgressions that God made us alive with Christ. (1)

Paul’s explanation of sola gratia— “it is by grace you have been saved.”

Those 8 words should bring every Christian to their knees in thankful humility to God because of His undeserved mercy towards us in Christ.

These 8 words should forever slay any remaining vestiges of human pride because Paul makes it repeat himself more emphatically in verses 8 and 9 when he says again “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Salvation is the work of God from start to finish. If you are saved at all it is because God saved you through faith in the work of His Son — even the faith to believe the Gospel does not come from yourselves—it is the gift of God.

Salvation is not of works, lest ANY man should boast. It cannot be made any clearer, yet multitudes of professing Christians wrongly believe that they made “a decision for Christ.”  Many Protestant’s teach that unless we “decide,” or unless we “choose,” or unless we “accept Jesus as our Personal Savior” then God’s grace is useless.

To teach such a thing is a damnable lie. To argue that grace is of no avail to us unless “we do” something first, is to deny SOLA GRATIA ALTOGETHER. To believe in such a manner is to rob God of His Glory.

In closing Paul had to rebuke Peter publicly when Peter played the hypocrite when some Jews came in and Peter separated himself from his gentile brothers—Paul reminded Peter and us all that WORKS have no place in God’s plan of salvation in Gal. 2:16:

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified  Gal 2:16 (KJV)

2004 © Rev. Robert Liichow

Next Month Sola Fide