PROTESTANT AND PENTECOSTAL #1

PROTESTANT AND PENTECOSTAL #1

 

Rom. 1:16 ¶ For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Our world is in a constant state of change, and regretfully many of these secular changes gradually but steadily affect the church. Regretfully we are losing our moorings, our connection to the heritage of our Christian faith.

Over the past twenty years I have been on a spiritual safari, searching for the reality of God in my life and in His church. This journey inevitably leads me to the past, to the men and women who have gone before us. I find myself drinking from the ancient wells of our fathers. The wells of Augustine, Luther, Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, Matthew Henry and many others keep attracting me and calling me to drink. The more I drink; I am convinced of two things. First, I am a Protestant Christian. The message that birthed Western civilization penned by the Apostle Paul “The just shall live by faith,” and echoed by Martin Luther 15 centuries later is still the foundation of Western Civilization today, the undergirding of His church and the anchor of my soul.

Martin Luther was lost in the snare of human effort and a system of religious works until one day he read those words from Romans 1:17, “The just shall live by faith.” Those words brought freedom to his soul and began the revolution that drug Europe from the shadows of the dark ages. The Protestant Reformation had begun.

As a monk, Luther later wrote, he was tormented by the thoughts of damnation for sins, saying that he “hated this God who punched sinners, if not with silent blasphemies at least with huge murmurings. I was indignant against God. As if it were not enough that miserable sinners, eternally ruined by original sin, should be crushed…through the Law of the Ten Commandments…and so I raged with a savaged and confounded conscience.” He therefore turned to the Bible. The Catholic Church had always taught that grace was active, in the sense that it came into force at the Day of Judgment when the righteous would be separated from the damned. As he read Romans 1, Luther became convinced that the grace of which Paul wrote was passive, hence available to everyone. This led to his conclusion that salvation came not through penance and repentance, nor through the intercession of saints and martyrs or the prayers of the church, but by faith alone. It was an entirely new idea. As Luther re-read Romans 1:16-17, he wrote, I felt myself straightaway born afresh and to have entered through the open gates into paradise.” This led to the further belief that the Bible was the sole authority. In 1517, he nailed his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg University.

Just like Luther, we are accepted by God not on the basis of our works but by faith in Christ alone. This is the foundation stone of our Christian faith.

Part 1 of 3 days – PROTESTANT AND PENTECOSTAL

HERE I STAND

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Rom. 1:17 For in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith”.

We all have to have something to believe in. Without a final authority, man wanders through life doing what is right in his own eyes. Public opinion, or political correctness, rules the day unless we have something of substance to stand on. That is where Martin Luther found himself when he was summoned to appear before the emperor and the representatives of the Pope at Worms. His answer began to break the chains of spiritual darkness that had strangled our faith and hindered man’s creativity and freedom for hundreds of years. His words “Here I stand” reverberate through the halls of history. Here are Luther’s own words when threatened with death by the powers of the political and religious world.

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the scriptures or clear reason, for I do not trust in the Pope or in the councils alone, since it is well known that they often err and contradict themselves, I am bound to the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise. Here I stand. God help me. Amen.”

Luther had found somewhere to stand, he would make his stand on the written word of God. His commitment to the scripture caused him to translate the Bible into the common language of Germany, that’s when the floodgates were opened, the Bible began to be available for all mankind. The results have been hard to fathom. Here is how Eric Metaxis describes the importance of that event.

“There isn’t a historian the last five centuries who could argue against the idea that Luther’s stand that day at Worms—before the assembled powers of the empire, and against the theological and political and ecclesiastical order that had reigned for centuries, and therefore against the whole of the medieval world—was one of the most significant moments in history. It ranks with the 1066 Norman Conquest and the 1215 signing of the Magna Carta and the 1492 landing of Columbus in the New World. And in its way, it far outweighs all of those historic moments. If ever there was a moment where it can be said the modern world was born, and where the future itself was born, surely it was in that room on April 18 at Worms.”

So what are you standing on? We live in another time similar to Luther’s when God’s word is being threatened and abandoned. We are being challenged everyday for our faith. You have to make a decision like Luther, recant your belief in the Bible or take your stand.

PROTESTANT AND PENTECOSTAL #2

1Pet. 2:9 ¶ But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

 

Luther also taught us a second great lesson, the priesthood of the Christian believer. In I Peter 2:9 we are called a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” This teaching birthed a great revolution in the souls of those experiencing this new faith. No longer did they need an earthly mediator; they had a mediator in heaven, the man Christ Jesus. We all have direct access into the holiest of all by the blood of Jesus. We are all priests unto God.

Luther also taught us the importance of the written Word of God. He proceeded to translate the Bible into German for the people in his churches. As these new believers began to search the scriptures in their own language everything changed. Today we have access to many great translations, commentaries and word study books. Dig into the word of God; it is food for our soul.

 

 

Our Protestant fathers also taught us the importance of the local church. The ministries of the ministers flow out of the local church and become the centerpiece of our Christian lives.

In the revival of 1734-1735 in Northampton, Mass, the local church became the hub of everything. This is where our instruction, our relationships, and even our business found its protection. The local church is critical to our way of life in our western culture.

Ephesians 2:17-22 17And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

 

These truths in today’s devotion can change your life. We learn the importance of the priesthood of the believer. We all have access to God and can hear from Him. Also we see that the Lord speaks to us primarily from His written word. Immerse yourself in scripture and you will begin to grow profoundly. Finally in today’s segment, we are reminded of the blessing of the local church. This is our place of safety and our place to serve together with other believers.

 

PROTESTANT AND PENTECOSTAL #1

Rom. 1:16 ¶ For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Our world is in a constant state of change, and regretfully many of these secular changes gradually but steadily affect the church. Regretfully we are losing our moorings, our connection to the heritage of our Christian faith.

Over the past twenty years I have been on a spiritual safari, searching for the reality of God in my life and in His church. This journey inevitably leads me to the past, to the men and women who have gone before us. I find myself drinking from the ancient wells of our fathers. The wells of Augustine, Luther, Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, Matthew Henry and many others keep attracting me and calling me to drink. The more I drink; I am convinced of two things. First, I am a Protestant Christian. The message that birthed Western civilization penned by the Apostle Paul “The just shall live by faith,” and echoed by Martin Luther 15 centuries later is still the foundation of Western Civilization today, the undergirding of His church and the anchor of my soul.

Martin Luther was lost in the snare of human effort and a system of religious works until one day he read those words from Romans 1:17, “The just shall live by faith.” Those words brought freedom to his soul and began the revolution that drug Europe from the shadows of the dark ages. The Protestant Reformation had begun.

As a monk, Luther later wrote, he was tormented by the thoughts of damnation for sins, saying that he “hated this God who punched sinners, if not with silent blasphemies at least with huge murmurings. I was indignant against God. As if it were not enough that miserable sinners, eternally ruined by original sin, should be crushed…through the Law of the Ten Commandments…and so I raged with a savaged and confounded conscience.” He therefore turned to the Bible. The Catholic Church had always taught that grace was active, in the sense that it came into force at the Day of Judgment when the righteous would be separated from the damned. As he read Romans 1, Luther became convinced that the grace of which Paul wrote was passive, hence available to everyone. This led to his conclusion that salvation came not through penance and repentance, nor through the intercession of saints and martyrs or the prayers of the church, but by faith alone. It was an entirely new idea. As Luther re-read Romans 1:16-17, he wrote, I felt myself straightaway born afresh and to have entered through the open gates into paradise.” This led to the further belief that the Bible was the sole authority. In 1517, he nailed his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg University.

Just like Luther, we are accepted by God not on the basis of our works but by faith in Christ alone. This is the foundation stone of our Christian faith.

Part 1 of 3 days – PROTESTANT AND PENTECOSTAL

AN ALIEN RIGHTEOUSNESS

MERRY WEDNESDAY-BY PARRIS BAILEY -Hebrews 10:38 “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.”

I never tire of reading about Martin Luther’s conversion. A monk becoming born again and turned Germany and the world upside down! I love the fact how he beat upon the words of Paul. I pray you too today beat upon the word of God and make it RHEMA to you. How can we ever come to the end of this precious salvation? Grab a hold of this ALIEN RIGHTEOUSNESS. IT IS THE POWER OF God that leads us to salvation.
Read again this amazing story and I pray that you too will see paradise open and enter into the joy of the Lord.
Luther called RIGHTEOUSNESS–iustitia alienum or a alien righteousness that belongs properly to somebody else. It’s a righteousness that is extra nos, outside of us. Namely, the righteousness of Christ. And Luther said, “Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, “As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!” Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience. Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted. At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, “In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’ ” There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.” Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. There a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me. Thereupon I ran through the Scriptures from memory. I also found in other terms an analogy, as, the work of God, that is, what God does in us, the power of God, with which he makes us strong, the wisdom of God, with which he makes us wise, the strength of God, the salvation of God, the glory of God. (Luther’s Works, Volume 34, P336-337).

THE SON OF GOD

John 1:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The mystery of Christmas is connected to the person  called Jesus Christ. Is He the unique Son of God or is He just another man? Most everyone has heard the story of the donkey ride, no room in the inn, angels singing and the virgin birth. The mystery actually started before this famous story, way before. Actually it’s hard to say that it started before because somehow this mystery has always been. As Micah the prophet said, “His goings forth were from the days of eternity”.

In today’s verse John declares that the word was from the beginning. John goes on to say that the word became flesh. This word that was from the beginning is actually a person. He is the Father’s idea of Himself vocalized. This word is actually a person that has the same essence as the Father. He is the eternal word of God. Here are some thoughts from Martin Luther about the Son of God.

“The following illustration is overly simplistic, but it makes the birth of the Son of God a little easier to understand. As a human son receives his body and his very being from his father, so the Son of God, born of the Father, receives his divine essence and nature from the eternal Father. But this or any other illustration can never adequately describe how the divine majesty can be given to another, as when the Father gives his entire divine essence to the Son. A human father can’t give his entire being to his son. This is where the comparison breaks down.

However, as far as the divine being is concerned, all of God’s divine essence and nature passes into the Son. Yet the Son, who remains in the divine being together with the Father, is one God together with the Father. Likewise, the Holy Spirit has the same divine nature and majesty as the Father and the Son.”

This is what the mystery of Christmas is all about; this eternal word Who is a person and Who is God became a man. He was born of the virgin Mary to become part of the human race to save us from our sins. So is He the Son of God? Is He a man, the son of Mary? Yes and yes. Great is the mystery of God. He has always existed as the Son of God, in Bethlehem He became the Son of Man. The Word became flesh at Christmas; the world has never been the same.

THE WORD BECAME FLESH

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

Today’s verse could be the greatest verse in the Bible. This is the mystery of godliness that Paul spent a lifetime trying to describe. In the middle of all of the shopping and parties, church services and decorating it can become quite easy to miss the whole point of Christmas; God became a man, the Creator visited His creation, eternity broke into this realm of time and space that we live in. The Word became flesh, that’s why the angels were singing. They had known Christ in heaven from the day they were created but never like this. This shocking truth for the angels was the demonstration of love and humility when He took on a human body, Immanuel had come, God was really with us. Martin Luther preached often about this verse in his Christmas sermons, here is a small sample of Luther’s take on this verse.

“The Word became flesh.” We can never fully grasp this teaching concerning our salvation and eternal life using human reason. Nevertheless, we must believe it, and we must cling tightly to what Scripture says about it. The Bible says that Christ, our Lord, is true and natural God and true and natural man. The Bible says that in his divine essence and nature, Christ is coequal with the Father. The heretics have cast doubts on both the divine nature and the human nature of Christ. During the lifetime of the apostles, some heretics claimed that Christ was not God. Centuries later, others claimed that Christ was not human. Some of our contemporaries teach similar things. They claim that because he was conceived solely by the Holy Spirit, Christ could not have been a human being like we are. He could not have had the same kind of body that we do. They insist that because he was a man from heaven, his body must have been from heaven too.”

The whole Christmas story is a picture of this great verse. Christ was born in Bethlehem, had a human mother and a heavenly Father, was announced by the angels and born with the animals. The heavens declared His birth with a star but there was no room in the inn. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have beheld His glory.

MY SPIRIT REJOICES

Luke 1:46, 47 ¶ And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

As Mary begins to sing her famous song, ‘The Magnificat’, if you listen carefully you can feel the joy pouring out of her. It’s as if every bone in her body is rejoicing; rather than trying to pent it up, she breaks out into this powerful prophetic song. Mary has just a glimpse of what actually is happening in her body and the greatness of her Son, but her spirit knows that something greater than she can fathom has just begun. How can you shut down such a surge of God’s joy and revelation? Why should you? Mary was a picture of the coming New Testament church. The joy she tasted as she carried Christ in her womb shadows the joy we have today as we carry Christ in our heart. Why should we quench that flow of joy? Here are some comments from Martin Luther on this great song.

“These words express the strong ardor and exuberant joy with which all her mind and life are inwardly exalted in the Spirit. Therefore she does not say, “I exalt the Lord”, but, “My soul doth exalt Him.” It is as if she said: “My life and all my senses float in the love and praise of God and in lofty pleasures, so that I am no longer mistress of myself; I am exalted, more than I exalt myself, to Praise the Lord.” This is the experience of those who are saturated with the divine sweetness and Spirit; They cannot find words to utter what they feel. For to praise the Lord is not a work of man; it is rather a joyful suffering and the work of God alone. It cannot be taught in words but must be learned in one’s own experience. Even as David says in Psalm 34:8: “Oh taste and see that the Lord is sweet; blessed is the man that trusts in Him.” He puts tasting before seeing, because this sweetness cannot be known unless own has experienced and felt it for himself; and no one can attain to such experience unless he trusts in God with his whole heart when he is in the depths and in sore straits.”
As Luther said, ‘ this is the experience of those who are saturated with the divine sweetness and Spirit’. Just as Mary anticipated the birth of her Son with joy, we anticipate the coming joys of His Christmas visitations and His soon return for His church.

REJOICE AND TREMBLE

Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling.Psalm 2:11

Have you ever really read this verse. Wow! Rejoice with trembling! Often, rejoicing and trembling are at the opposite extremes of the spectrum of our lives. Rejoicing deals with good news that will improve our quality of life. Trembling is often associated with the fear of something terrible or unpleasant happening in our lives. David is describing something that is totally different from any blessing or tragedy that can happen in our natural experience of life. What he is describing is spiritual by nature, rejoicing and trembling happen simultaneously when one encounters the glorious presence of the Lord. In His presence is fullness of overflowing joy; also, there is a terrifying fear because of His greatness and holiness. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God. Martin Luther had tasted this apparent contradiction in his God encounters. Check him out.

“So we should fear God in a way that doesn’t entirely exclude joy. It should be a genuine joy—a joy that can’t be kept bottled up in our hearts. When we truly believe that we have been reconciled to God because of Christ, we will have a smile on our face, a twinkle in our eyes, and a song of praise on our lips. The Holy Spirit tells us to serve our heavenly King with inward and outward joy, combined with reverence. If we don’t, we’ll become overconfident. We’ll start acting like animals and sink into lustful human pleasures. If we make sure we don’t become overconfident, then God won’t be offended by our happiness. In fact, he’s offended by sadness and demands joy. That’s why people who were in mourning were not allowed to bring God sacrifices, and why the offerings in Malachi were unacceptable to God (Malachi 2:13). We have to mix joy with fear and mix fear with hope.This psalm warns us not to become either proud or despondent. Falling into despair is as offensive to God as being overconfident. God doesn’t want us to be down in the dumps or high up in the clouds. He wants us to be somewhere in the middle.”

Rejoicing with trembling is not something you can fake. It is the immediate response of being touched by God. Have you been touched by God? If and when that happens you will know. How will you know. Rejoicing and trembling will become a way of life.

ALIEN EXILES

1Pet. 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, ¶ To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,

It’s easy to misunderstand the significance of regeneration. The born again experience changes many things in our lives. Peter went so far as to call us elect exiles or temporary residents. This world and its culture is not our home nor our final destination. We have received a new nature, totally alien to the culture of this world. The more we try to conform to the culture all around us the more awkward it becomes. I have been privileged to travel to much of the world doing ministry trips in the last thirty five years. Every human culture is precious but often very different to what I am accustomed to in Southeast Louisiana. For me, it was good to enjoy these various cultures for a couple of weeks but at the end of the day there was no place like home. In a similar way this present world system is not our home, we are traveling pilgrims on our way to another land. Martin Luther recognized this valuable truth, here are some of his thoughts.

“Christians still have an external existence. While they live here on earth, they are nurtured by a mother and father, eat and drink, wear clothes and shoes, have a house and garden, and own money and property. They view all of this as if they were guests who were traveling through this land to another city—their true destination. When they arrive there, they will no longer care about the places where they stayed along the way. During the journey, they were always thinking, “Today, I am a guest. Tomorrow, I will continue my trip.” In the same way, a Christian also thinks, “Today, I am a guest on this earth. I eat and drink here. I live honorably and modestly in this life. But tomorrow, I’ll proceed on my way to an eternal life in the kingdom of heaven, where I am a citizen.” So Christians also journey through this life. When they come to the end of this life, they will let go of everything physical and enter a spiritual life that will never end”.

When you recognize this valuable reality then something else begins to dawn on us. We are here for a reason. The reason is not just to accumulate wealth or power, our goal is to impact people for the kingdom of God. Using Peter’s analogy, there are other elect exiles all around us, they just don’t know it yet. Our job is to share Christ and watch the light turn on in their heart.