Friday, October 31, 2008

A Mighty Fortress is our God

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! II Cor. 9:15

Today is Reformation Day, the commemoration of the day in 1517 that Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses at the doors of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany to debate the doctrine and practice of indulgences. This was not an act of defiance as is sometimes thought. Luther was simply taking advantage of location: since the Castle Church faced Wittenberg's main thoroughfare, the church door functioned as a public bulletin board and was therefore the logical place for posting important notices.

This posting of the Theses was an initial attempt to bring reform to the Catholic Church. Many were troubled by what they saw as false doctrines and malpractices within the Church, particularly involving the teaching and sale of indulgences. This corruption was seen by many at the time as systemic, even reaching the position of the Pope.

An indulgence, in Roman Catholic theology, is the full or partial remission of temporal punishment due for sins which have already been forgiven. The indulgence is granted by the church after the sinner has confessed and received absolution. The belief is that indulgences draw on the storehouse of merit acquired by Jesus' sacrifice and the virtues and penances of the saints. They are granted for specific good works and prayers.

Luther knew, from reading God’s Word, that people didn’t need to buy forgiveness from the church – it was already granted to us from God through Jesus Christ’s work on the cross. And it is not a result of good works and prayers, but rather is God’s free gift to us!

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

Paul makes it clear that it’s nothing we can do – it is not of ourselves. More good works and more prayers won’t “buy” us more grace. It’s God’s gift to those who believe. We have all sinned, but we are justified as a gift by His grace, and not by the works of the Law.

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Romans 3:21-28

Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. Galatians 2:16

I am so thankful that I don't have to earn, or buy, forgiveness and grace. As a child of the King, I am granted it daily. For that, I praise Him.

*Although this hymn's content is not about work vs grace, it is the traditional Reformation hymn so I wanted to include it today.

A Mighty Fortress is Our God
Words by Martin Luther

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Jesus Shall Reign

Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.” Revelation 19:6

Like many, I have been caught up in the frenzy surrounding the upcoming election. Largely because of what I wrote about last week, I feel the outcome of this election is more important than any other in my lifetime. The stakes are high. And I find myself getting all worked up and worried about it time and again. I was so encouraged to be reminded of these important truths as I listened to a radio program.

On November 5, God will still own the whole earth.

No election will ever put Jesus back in the grave.

No election results will ever impede the day of Christ’s coming again.

We can be sure that God reigns over the whole world yesterday, tomorrow, tomorrow, through the coming weeks, months, years, and FOREVER.

The LORD shall reign forever and ever. Exodus 15:18

Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever." Revelation 11:15

Jesus Shall Reign
Words by Isaac Watts

Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Does his successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

To Him shall endless prayer be made,
And praises throng to crown His head;
His Name like sweet perfume shall rise
With every morning sacrifice.

People and realms of every tongue
Dwell on His love with sweetest song;
And infant voices shall proclaim
Their early blessings on His Name.

Blessings abound wherever He reigns;
The prisoner leaps to lose his chains;
The weary find eternal rest,
And all the sons of want are blessed.

Where He displays His healing power,
Death and the curse are known no more:
In Him the tribes of Adam boast
More blessings than their father lost.

Let every creature rise and bring
Peculiar honors to our King;
Angels descend with songs again,
And earth repeat the loud amen!

Great God, whose universal sway
The known and unknown worlds obey,
Now give the kingdom to Thy Son,
Extend His power, exalt His throne.

The scepter well becomes His hands;
All Heav’n submits to His commands;
His justice shall avenge the poor,
And pride and rage prevail no more.

With power He vindicates the just,
And treads th’oppressor in the dust:
His worship and His fear shall last
Till hours, and years, and time be past.

As rain on meadows newly mown,
So shall He send his influence down:
His grace on fainting souls distills,
Like heav’nly dew on thirsty hills.

The saints shall flourish in His days,
Dressed in the robes of joy and praise;
Peace, like a river, from His throne
Shall flow to nations yet unknown.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Christ the Lord is King

The LORD is King forever and ever; nations have perished from His land. Psalm 10:16

Sometimes I am so disappointed and downright disgusted with what is happening in our world. I hardly ever watch the news anymore, and when I do, I end up wishing I wasn’t. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that most people in our country, and across the world, have forsaken the Word of the Lord. Many people have stopped living by any moral code, much less the Biblical standard, and they have devised a new moral code, based on their own feelings or what they think is right. It reminds me of what was happening in the book of Judges:

In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 17:6

Have you ever read Judges? It is fascinating. And it is clear what “what was right” was different for each person and led to much disaster. After all,

The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

The people of Israel wanted their own human King – the other nations had them, and they wanted to be like them. But God wanted to be Israel’s king, and Israel just didn’t get it.

I see so many parallels in our world today – although we have government rulers on a regional, state and national level, God is still our King. Many in our world don’t live in a way that honors, or even acknowledges, God as King. But He is still King. He has established standards for us, and when we do what is right in our own eyes, we invariably go against those standards. In other words, we sin.

As believers in Christ, we are set free from our slavery to sin. However, we live in a world full of people who I believe to be increasingly enslaved in their immorality, selfishness and disregard for Christ. Let us pray that these people would repent and proclaim Christ as King in their lives.

…if My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
II Chron. 7:14

Christ the Lord is King
Words by Fanny Crosby

Shout for joy, ye holy throng,
Christ the Lord is King;
Angel harps, the sound prolong,
Christ the Lord is King.

Bear the news from pole to pole,
Spread the truth from sea to sea,
Lo! the Prince of life and glory
King of Heav’n and earth shall be.

Shout for joy, ye nations all,
Christ the Lord is King;
Crowns before His throne shall fall,
Christ the Lord is King.

He Who rent the boasting grave,
Christ the Lord is King;
He Who lives the lost to save,
Christ the Lord is King.

Shout for joy, ye realms of night,
Christ the Lord is King;
Hail the beams of Gospel light,
Christ the Lord is King.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

What a Wonderful Savior

Last night began the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. Yom Kippur is the most solemn and important of Jewish holidays, a time set aside for fasting and prayer, in order to seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God and against each other.

Especially during this time of year, when I see the throngs of people in my neighborhood making their annual pilgrimage to the temple, I am so thankful I have a Savior who has made atonement for me! Praise God for His miraculous gift that sent Jesus to atone for my sins and set me free!

The Law was given by God to show people their sin. God knew that we, as sinners, would never be able to live up to the requirements of the Law. Especially since breaking one law meant breaking the WHOLE LAW!

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. James 2:10

God's grace sent Jesus to the cross on my behalf.

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. I Peter 2:24

I should have died in my sins, but Jesus took my place. He took my sins, and the sins of the whole world, on His body, and died a substitutionary death to save me - save me from a life in slavery to sin, and the wrath of God.

Our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin... Romans 6:6

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. Romans 5:9

And there's more! Jesus through His work has reconciled us to God.

Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. II Cor. 5:18-19

And made us overcomers!

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. I John 5:4

Truly, He is a wonderful Savior.

What A Wonderful Savior
Words by Elisha A. Hoffman

Christ has for sin atonement made
What a wonderful Savior!
We are redeemed, the price is paid
What a wonderful Savior!

What a wonderful Savior is Jesus, my Jesus!
What a wonderful Savior is Jesus, my Lord!

I praise Him for the cleansing blood
What a wonderful Savior!
That reconciled my soul to God
What a wonderful Savior!

He cleansed my heart from all its sin
What a wonderful Savior!
And now He reigns and rules therein
What a wonderful Savior!

He walks beside me in the way:
What a wonderful Savior!
And keeps me faithful day by day;
What a wonderful Savior!

He gives me overcoming power
What a wonderful Savior!
And triumph in each trying hour
What a wonderful Savior!

To Him I’ve given all my heart:
What a wonderful Savior!
The world shall never share a part:
What a wonderful Savior!