October 31, 1517

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
– Romans 3:28

Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed….” Martin Luther 95 Theses Introduction

On Tuesday October 31st children will walk their neighborhoods and ask for free candy. However, within the Christian faith, October 31, 1517 plays a significant role in shaping the church life that we know today. This year marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses on the door of the church at Wittenberg. Luther in his studies realized that many of the teachings of the Catholic Church were not supported in Scripture.

Luther took issue with the selling of indulgences. Indulgences were basically fundraisers for the Catholic Church; in one case it was raising money to build St. Peter’s Basilica. Raising money for such a large project certainly sounds reasonable, until you realize that by giving money people believed they were basically buying remission of the punishment of sin! There is even more involved in this practice, but Luther looked at this practice and knew that this is not what Scripture taught. Luther also took issue with the Pope forgiving sins (only God forgives), purgatory, and the use of sacraments (prayers, giving, fasting, and pilgrimage) as ways of forgiving sins as well. The traditions of the Catholic Church had taken on the same weight as the truth of Scripture.

Luther said that Scripture should be the only place where the church should find the basis for its practices. Luther also reintroduced the fact that salvation comes by faith alone, not by the works or sacraments that one performs. It is these two points that would begin to reform the church: Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) and Sola fida (faith alone). As you can imagine life after October 31st got rough for Luther; he faced much backlash and was even called a heretic. But he knew he had truth on his side and this moment began the period of the Protestant Reformation separating from the Catholic Church.

We gather on Sundays in part because of what Luther stood for on that day. Faith Fellowship Church stands on the two principles of salvation by faith and Scripture being the only source for practices within the church. I’d encourage you over the next week to look into Martin Luther’s actions 500 years ago and be encouraged by his seeking of truth. We realize that it doesn’t matter what your background is in the faith, all need to hear about the free gift of salvation that is offered to all through faith.

The Early Church

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:12

The class I am currently taking online through Liberty University is Church History. The first part of the class has covered the time period just after the Disciples up until the fourteenth century. I have found it to be the most enjoyable class that I have taken so far in my graduate studies. To hear about the faith of the early church leaders who carried on the instructions of Jesus to take the Gospel and make disciples. Their commitment to the Word of God should be inspiring to us today. They faced widespread persecution within the Roman Empire, yet in spite of the many that lost their lives for the faith, teaching and disciple making continued.

The persecution finally stopped in 313 A.D. when Emperor Constantine made Christianity legal. The focus of the early church was now on the various false teachings that had been going on. Biblical truth needed to be known and taught, there was no room for false teachings that would lead people astray.

Much of the false teaching focused on Christ. False teachers taught that, Jesus wasn’t really God, or that He isn’t eternal, He was created by God. They were weakening the view of Christ as the God-Man, who is eternal, and the sacrifice who paid the penalty for our sins. Even today people will talk about Jesus as only a good teacher, or someone who lived a good life but wasn’t really God. Just like the early church we need to stand up for the truth of Scripture and what it teaches about Christ.

Things got so bad with false teachers that in the year 325 A.D. Constantine gathered together the early church leaders and they discussed and sought out the Scriptures to come up with a universal teaching about Christ. Their work is actually a part of our Statement of Faith as a church, The Nicene Creed. These men read the Scriptures and saw how the Scriptures described Jesus.

We need to be in God’s Word as well. Currently, we are studying the Book of James, and starting in 2018, we will begin a two year series of preaching through the entire Bible. The obvious question is “why?” The answer is because we need to know God’s Word and what it teaches. We don’t want to repeat the mistakes from church history. We need to have a solid foundation so we can teach and live in a way that honors God; this is what James is all about!

We are thankful for those that have come before us, and we are mindful of those that are coming after us. Let’s continue in the instructions of Christ by learning, teaching and making disciples.

Nothing Earned

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith.” – Galatians 3:1-5

Everything in life trains us to think that we work hard, and because of that work we earn something. At work, we work hard to earn a raise and promotion. One of the complaints against the millennial generation is that they just want everything given to them so they don’t have to work for anything. But that just is not the way it works, right? We work hard to get everything.

However, when it comes to salvation, we simply believe.

As believers we can fall into the trap of focusing on the things that we need to earn our salvation; it’s something we have all done. This is what Paul is addressing here in Galatians and it’s also what James has already addressed in our study of James. Paul, during his first missionary journey (Acts 14), visits a few cities in the Galatia area and preaches the message of the cross. However, after Paul left, some Jewish Christians came in and started preaching about following the law for salvation.

Paul uses what might seem like some rather harsh language. Twice he calls them foolish. Paul cannot believe that they have so quickly forgotten the message of the cross that was preached to them. The Galatians allowed themselves to be poorly influenced by false teachers who preached a different gospel. We can try and work all we want but it’s never going to be enough. All we will do is end up worn out and tired. Instead, God gives us you salvation freely when we accept the work of His Son on the cross.

When you combine this teaching with what we have been learning in James you get the perfect picture of what our Christian life should look like. With Paul we know that we belief in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus for salvation. Then from James we learn that we should live a life that is worthy of the gift we have been given. Our faith affects how we view the trials and temptations of life. We listen and do what the word says regarding how we treat people, how we talk with people, and how we submit to God.

Paul calls out the Galatians, and calls them to remember the message of the cross. May the message of the cross always be in the front of our minds.

A Broken World

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” – Roman 8:18

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” – Romans 8:22

If your week has been like mine you have spent time thinking about the tragedy in Las Vegas. What a heartbreaking event for the families that have been affected by the death of loved ones who were simply enjoying a concert. The reaction on Facebook and the media outlets has been a desire to pray for those affected but also to try and understand why a tragedy like this happened. This is not the first tragedy here or around the world, and sadly we all know it won’t be the last.

People are responding with shock that an event like this could occur; the family of the shooter as well is shocked and in a state of confusion over the whole event. While many answers may never come, we as the church can understand the unseen power of this world that is behind tragedies such as this and others.

We live every day in a world that sees the good in people and thinks that while there are some bad things are in this world, the amount of good outweighs the bad. But then an event like this happens and we are all confronted with the evil that is present in the world. Remember, the Bible does not speak of the world we live in as good. In fact, if we take a Biblical approach to there is nothing good in this world except for God. The Bible says that we are all sinners, and that there is no one that does good. This is a hard truth to understand but it shines a light on the fact that there is only one solution to the evil that is present.

Jesus is the only hope for the broken and painful world that we live in. In my own personal life, I cannot even imagine living life apart from God, His Son, and the hope they provide. This week, pray for those who have lost family and loved ones, that they would find peace. Also pray for the people around the world or even in our own neighborhoods and families who do not understand the love of our God who sent His Son into this world to save it from all its sin. We also need to think about the love that we show to others. It is often after tragedies like what happened in Las Vegas that a door is open for conversations about the solution to the pain in this world. Tragedies like this make life hard, but we look to Christ knowing that a day is coming on which ultimately the pain and suffering will be gone for those who believe.