Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. ~2 Timothy 2:15

About Me

I am a young man who is following God's call into pastoral ministry. I have been so blessed with the privileges which the Lord has granted me. I am blessed to serve the Mt. Joy congregation in Mt. Pleasant, PA. I am constantly humbled and amazed at what the Lord is doing in my life.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Happy Reformation Day!

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. ~Romans 3:28

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the work of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. ~Ephesians 2:8-9

This doctrine [Justification by Faith] is the head and the cornerstone. It alone begets, nourishes, builds, preserves, and defends the church of God; and without it the church of God cannot exist for one hour. ~Martin Luther

Wherever the knowledge of it [the doctrine of "Justification by Faith"] is taken away, the glory of Christ is extinguished, religion abolished, the Church destroyed, and the hope of salvation utterly overthrown. ~John Calvin

Tonight many will spend their evening "trick or treating," celebrating a so-called holiday called Halloween and not realize an event that transpired 497 years ago on this day that marked a major turning point in the history of the church. October 31, 1517 marks the day the German monk named Martin Luther posted his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church, an event most scholars identify as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. These "theses" called the authority of the Pope in matters of salvation into question and sought to expose how the "treats" of the indulgences that were sold were actually "tricks" with no real significance except for making the pope and those who sold them very wealthy. An indulgence was a letter the Catholic church sold that promised forgiveness of sin and an early release from purgatory (a place the Catholic church conceived of where one would stay after death but before heaven which length of stay was based on the number of sins one committed in their earthly life). Luther's posting of his theses on "All Hallow's Eve" was instrumental. The next day the church would celebrate "All Saints Day" so they would see these as they walked in. Luther's students actually took the list and made copies with the aid of the new printing press creating quite a stir. The first ripple of Reformation fervor had been struck and would gain in momentum as God enlisted others such as Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin to join the cause. Several current protestant denominations are products of God's work through them.

Many may question why such an event is a big deal. Why would a man complaining about certain teachings in the church be something to celebrate? People do this all the time. However, I think the celebration really is about God and how He used this man with his many, many, many flaws (he clearly had an anger problem and appeared to promote some wayward morals) to call His Church back to the truth. The Catholic church had repudiated the Bible's teachings on salvation by creating a synergistic economy of grace where man cooperated with God for his salvation. The selling of indulgences was a form of works-righteousness where the church taught that one could earn their salvation by paying a certain price for an indulgence. The sacraments became viewed as works that one must do in order to receive God's grace. In the Pope claiming the authority to grant the remission of sins based on a sale of an indulgence, he placed himself above both God's Word and Christ Himself. Many were blinded by such teaching (and some still are today) thinking that they could earn their own salvation.

The Reformers combated such views and practices. They claimed sola scriptura, that Scripture alone was the only authority for the believer. This led Luther to translate the Bible into German so people at the time could have a personal Bible and be able to study it on their own instead of relying on the false teachings of the priests who were the only ones who could own and read one. The Reformers called the people back to the truth taught in Scripture that one was justified (declared righteous in God's sight by God Himself) through their faith in Christ and not by any works that they could do. They rightly stated that salvation was by grace alone (sola gratia) through faith alone (sola fide) in Christ alone (sola Christa) for the glory of God alone (soli Deo gloria) as Scripture taught. Paul explicitly states For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation is a gracious gift given by God and received through the means of placing one's faith in Christ. The Lord used Luther as well as the other Reformers to call the church back to this truth, a truth foundational to the gospel.

Let's celebrate God using such men with their numerous flaws (much like we each have) to call the church back to the truth of His Word, especially with the central doctrine of "Justification by Faith," as well as pray that God would continue to raise people up with a passion for His Word and boldness for His truth to continue to reform His Church as to where He would have it to be.

Soli Deo Gloria!!!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Evidence of a True Believer - Part 2

In last month’s newsletter, we began to look at the characteristics that should be seen in the life of a true believer in Christ. In someone who has been born again by the Holy Spirit and has been made into a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). One of the biggest scandals today are those who claim to be a Christian but demonstrate no fruit of having an actual faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who, as Paul warned Titus about, “profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed” (Titus 1:16). So, we would do well to look at the characteristics that God gives us in His Word that we should expect to find in the life of one who has been saved by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

1 John is a great book to turn to for this since his specific purpose in writing his letter is to give assurance to believers that they have eternal life (1 John 5:13). He does this by pointing out the characteristics of one who has been given a new life in Christ. We have already examined two of these characteristics: being obedient to Jesus’ commands and having a genuine love for other believers. Now, we will look at three more characteristics that John points out to us.

John tells us that a true believer can be seen in their denial of the world. He states, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1 John 2:15-16). Now what does it mean to love the world? Steven Lawson describes it well when he states, “To love the world is to seek the world’s applause, adopt its values, crave its pleasures, and follow its philosophies.” The true believer should not buy into the world’s system. They should be more concerned about the things of God than the things of the world. More concerned about seeing God’s kingdom built instead of establishing their own kingdom. Seeking to store up treasures in heaven instead of those on earth (Matthew 6:19-20). Actually, whether the treasures that one desires are on earth or in heaven demonstrate where one’s heart truly lies. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). In fact, John goes so far to say that if one does love the world, that it is evidence that they do not possess the love of God. One cannot love both. As James puts it, “do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). It should be found in a Christian a heavenly mindset instead of a worldly mindset.

Another evidence that John provides in his letter of one who has been born again and is a true believer in Christ is that they remain in Christ. In describing the group of those who had left the church and began to teach false doctrine, he says, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). Read this carefully. John tells us that the group that left the church never really belonged to the church. The reason he knows that they actually were not part of the body of Christ through faith is because they left. In fact, it was their leaving that demonstrated the truth that they were never truly a part of the church in the first place. In other words, those who are in Christ will remain in Christ. They are the one in whom the seed of the gospel has been sown upon good soil and who do not fall away when the affliction or persecution for their faith comes (Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23). John presents a nice contrast in his second letter where he says, “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 1:9). This means that those that we know who have left the church and renounced the faith, according to Scripture, never actually had faith in the first place. Their leaving revealed that they lacked true saving faith and hence never truly were a part of the church. As the saying goes, “Faith that fizzles before the finish was flawed at the first.” A true believer in Christ will remain in Christ through thick and thin because God will be working in them to keep them (John 6:39; Philippians 2:12-13). A fair-weather Christian, one who is a Christian in fair weather only, proves themselves to not be a Christian at all. But a Christian which perseveres in the faith shows the reality of their conversion and of the ongoing work of God in their life.

So here we have two other characteristics that should be expected to be present in a believer’s life. Not perfect but present. In fact, we will fall short of these every day in our lives but we should at least notice them there. Along with a desire to be obedient to Jesus’ commands and having a genuine love for other believers, do you see in yourself a love for God or a love for the world? Are you continuing in the faith and growing in your walk with Christ? Rejoice if you are and give God the glory for His ongoing work. Keep relying on Him to continue such a work in your life. We’ll come back next month and look at a few more evidences of God’s work in a believer’s life in order to provide assurance to those who have truly repented and trusted in Christ that they indeed have a new life in Him.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee