Advent: Jesus Is Coming, and This Time It’s Different

 

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TV commercials, radio stations, and shopping malls are all proclaiming that it’s the Christmas season! But actually, it isn’t.

Last Sunday, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, in churches all around the world, the Gospel reading was Matthew 25:31-46.

The passage opens with words that should make our hearts soar, or, perhaps, shiver with dread: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”

As the passage makes clear, Christ’s second coming will be very different from his first. He will return in glory, not obscurity. He will return as the King of the Universe, not as a nobody in an obscure corner of the Roman Empire. And this time, He will do the judging.

This, and not shopping, or who saw whom kissing Santa Claus underneath the mistletoe, is what we’re supposed to be thinking about these next four weeks, the season known as Advent.

Now if you’re wondering, “Wait, isn’t this the Christmas season?” the answer is, well, “no.” Of course, we wouldn’t know that from watching television, where some networks have been running “Christmas” movies–none of which ever mention Jesus–since late October.

Beginning Sunday, December 3rd through Christmas Eve, many Christian traditions celebrate the season of Advent. The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word adventus meaning “come to.” Thus, Advent is the season Christians anticipate the celebration of God’s coming to live and die as one of us. And to better appreciate the immensity of that gift, we are to put ourselves in the place of ancient Israel which yearned for the promised Messiah who would set things right.

One of the ways to do this is through hymns. The ancient Advent carol “Creator of the Stars of Night,” which dates from the 7th century, expresses this Old Testament yearning in a way that has literally stood the test of time.

“Thou, grieving that the ancient curse/ Should doom to death a universe/ Hast found the medicine, full of grace/ To save and heal a ruined race,” the hymn reads.

The “medicine” required to “save and heal a ruined race” was Jesus, as Paul told the Philippians, emptying himself and becoming obedient to death.

But that’s not the entire story. We also sing “At Whose dread Name, majestic now/ All knees must bend, all hearts must bow/ And things celestial Thee shall own/ And things terrestrial, Lord alone.”

That’s because Advent is not only a time of anticipating Christ’s first coming but also anticipating the next and final time Jesus comes to Earth. And, I repeat, this coming will be very different from the first: The same Jesus who was born in Bethlehem during the reign of Caesar Augustus will return as the “judge of the living and the dead,” and “his kingdom will have no end.”

This makes Advent not only a time of reflection, but also a time of repentance. This season is a time to examine our lives and ask ourselves whether we are sheep or goats. Are we living, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, for ourselves or for Him who died for us and rose again?

Originally published at Breakpoint.org – reposted with permission.

Read more at http://www.prophecynewswatch.com/article.cfm?recent_news_id=1820#coLiACRIRS72FjLw.99

 

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WAITING For Christmas ~ WAITING For Christ’s First Coming ~ WAITING For His Second Coming

Our Daily Bread

Read: Micah 5:2–4
Bible in a Year: Ezekiel 45–46; 1 John 2

Bethlehem . . . out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel.—Micah 5:2
“How much longer until it’s Christmas?” When my children were little, they asked this question repeatedly. Although we used a daily Advent calendar to count down the days to Christmas, they still found the waiting excruciating.
We can easily recognize a child’s struggle with waiting, but we might underestimate the challenge it can involve for all of God’s people. Consider, for instance, those who received the message of the prophet Micah, who promised that out of Bethlehem would come a “ruler over Israel” (5:2) who would “stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord” (v. 4). The initial fulfillment of this prophecy came when Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Matt. 2:1) —after the people had waited some 700 years. But some of the prophecy’s fulfillment is yet to come. For we wait in hope for the return of Jesus, when all of God’s people will “live securely” and “his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth” (Mic. 5:4). Then we will rejoice greatly, for our long wait will be over.
Most of us don’t find waiting easy, but we can trust that God will honor His promises to be with us as we wait (Matt. 28:20). For when Jesus was born in little Bethlehem, He ushered in life in all its fullness (see John 10:10)—life without condemnation. We enjoy His presence with us today while we eagerly wait for His return. —Amy Boucher Pye

We wait, Father God, and we hope. We wait, dear Jesus, as we long for peace to break out. We wait, comforting Spirit, for all the world to experience Your love.
We wait for God’s promises, believing they will come true.

INSIGHT: Christ’s second coming is also the theme of several New Testament passages. As Christ ascended into heaven, the angels told His disciples that Christ “will come back in the same way” they saw Him go (Acts 1:11). Jesus said His return would be unannounced and could occur at any moment; therefore, we are to “Be on guard! Be alert!” (Mark 13:33-37). The early Christians believed that Jesus’s return was “almost here” (Rom. 13:11-14). The apostle James encouraged believers to “be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near” (James 5:8; see also Rev. 1:3). The anticipation that Jesus could come any moment led some Christians in Thessalonica to become idle, quitting their jobs and waiting for Him to return. But Paul told them to get back to work and live meaningful lives (2 Thess. 3:11-13).
“While we [patiently] wait for the blessed hope” (Titus 2:13)—that wonderful day of Jesus’s return—we can ask the Spirit to help us to live “holy and godly lives . . . spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (2 Peter 3:11, 14).
In what ways can you enjoy God’s presence today as you wait for Jesus’s return?    Sim Kay Tee

[God] has . . . set eternity in the human heart. Ecclesiastes 3:11

This is why man always continues on futile searches until if/when he finds the Lord.  We are spiritual beings, made in the image of God.  Men are thrill seekers (look at the tragic story of Roy Halladay a couple of weeks ago on this blog site), drug users, alcoholics, power hungry, hoarders, abusers of illicit sexual encounters, seekers of worldly fame, etc., etc., etc.  None of these will fill man’s spiritual void – only the ONE Triune God of the universe can do this, as this devotional so aptly puts it!  In Christ, Pastor Steve  <><

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Our Daily Bread

The Heart’s True Home

 

Read: Ecclesiastes 3:10–11 | Bible in a Year: Ezekiel 22–23; 1 Peter 1

[God] has . . . set eternity in the human heart. Ecclesiastes 3:11
We had a West Highland Terrier for a number of years. “Westies” are tough little dogs, bred to tunnel into badger holes and engage the “enemy” in its lair. Our Westie was many generations removed from her origins, but she still retained that instinct, put into her through years of breeding. On one occasion she became obsessed by some “critter” under a rock in our backyard. Nothing could dissuade her. She dug and dug until she tunneled several feet under the rock.
Now consider this question: Why do we as humans pursue, pursue, pursue? Why must we climb unclimbed mountains, ski near-vertical slopes? Run the most difficult and dangerous rapids, challenge the forces of nature? Part of it is a desire for adventure and enjoyment, but it’s much more. It’s an instinct for God that has been implanted in us. We cannot not want to find God.
Beneath all our longings is a deep desire for God.
We don’t know that, of course. We only know that we long for something. “You don’t know what it is you want,” Mark Twain said, “but you want it so much you could almost die.”
God is our heart’s true home. As church father Augustine said in that most famous quotation: “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
And what is the heart? A deep void within us that only God can fill.
Help me, Lord, to recognize my deep longing for You. Then fill me with the knowledge of You. Draw me near.
Beneath all our longings is a deep desire for God.

By David H. Roper | See Other Authors

INSIGHT
Ecclesiastes was written by one who calls himself “the Teacher” and identifies himself as the “son of David, king in Jerusalem” (1:1). In this book, Solomon shows that a life not centered on God is without meaning and purpose (1:14; 2:11). He also shows how and why God must be a part of our lives. In chapter 3, he paints a picture of a life trapped between birth and death, experiencing the mundane repetition of life’s recurring seasons and cyclical activities (vv. 1–8). Such a life is both frustrating and burdensome (v. 10). But Solomon hints that life is not supposed to be like this. We were made for far grander things—God created us for Himself “in his own image” (Gen. 1:27). And God has “set eternity in the human heart” (Eccl. 3:11). We were created for fellowship with the eternal God. C. S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, put it this way: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” Without God, life will be purposeless and meaningless.
What are some ways that our culture offers false fulfillment.

Sim Kay Tee

One Hundred Years Ago Today, Oswald Chambers Died From A Ruptured Appendix

How Much More!       November 15, 2017

Oswald Chambers was a product of latter Victorian England, and a contemporary of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, during Spurgeon’s twilight.  Chambers lived incredibly close to the Lord, and is best known for his profound devotionals and inspirational writings, as well as his service to British soldiers in Egypt during World War I.  I love his writings.  He died one hundred years ago, on November 15, 1917.

Pastor Steve

 

Our Daily Bread

How Much More!
November 15, 2017

Read: Luke 11:5–13
Bible in a Year: Ezekiel 1–2; Hebrews 11:1–19

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!—Luke 11:13
In October 1915, during World War I, Oswald Chambers arrived at Zeitoun Camp, a military training center near Cairo, Egypt, to serve as a YMCA chaplain to British Commonwealth soldiers. When he announced a weeknight religious service, 400 men packed the large YMCA hut to hear Chambers’s talk titled, “What Is the Good of Prayer?” Later, when he spoke individually with men who were trying to find God in the midst of war, Oswald often quoted Luke 11:13, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
The free gift of God through His Son, Jesus, is forgiveness, hope, and His living presence in our lives through the Holy Spirit. “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (v. 10).
On November 15, 1917, Oswald Chambers died unexpectedly from a ruptured appendix. To honor him, a soldier led to faith in Christ by Oswald purchased a marble carving of a Bible with the message of Luke 11:13 on its open page and placed it beside his grave: “How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” This amazing gift from God is available to each of us today. —David C. McCasland

Father, You are the giver of all good gifts. We thank You for the great gift of the Holy Spirit who lives in us and guides us in Your truth today.

Learn more about the legacy of Oswald Chambers at utmost.org.
God’s gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives is available to each of us today.

INSIGHT: Would you want a God who gave you everything you asked for? Or would that be a bit frightening? While Jesus was teaching His disciples how to pray (Luke 11:1-4), He described God as being like a loving Father who would not give them a scorpion if they asked for an egg.
Was He just assuring us that God is good? Or was He gently suggesting something about us? Was He hinting that sometimes we don’t know how to pray for our own good? (Rom 8:26). Maybe that’s why He promised that His Father would share His Spirit with those who trusted Him for what is best (Luke 11:13). Mart DeHaan

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“Shut out every other consideration and keep yourself before God for this one thing only—My Utmost for His Highest. I am determined to be absolutely and entirely for Him and for Him alone.”
OSWALD CHAMBERS

A Religious Revival In Europe? ~ November 14, 2017

Feeling threatened by Muslims, Europeans are seeking cultural cohesions in their Christian heritage. Bible prophecy foretold the trend.
Capernaum Church in downtown Hamburg, Germany, is under new management and is much busier than it used to be. The main hall accommodates 500 worshipers. Under the building’s previous owners, the Evangelical Church, only about 20 people showed up each week. But for its new owners, the hall is not big enough.
Why the dramatic change? Because it is now the Al-Nour Islamic Center.
The change is symbolic of the trend sweeping Europe. In London, since 2001, 500 churches have become private homes, and more than 400 mosques have opened. In 2016, seven French churches were demolished, 26 put up for sale, and many more converted into offices, apartments, gymnasiums, etc. Meanwhile, since 2003 nearly 1,000 French mosques have been built.
So it seems odd to talk about a Christian revival in Europe. Churches are dying. Religion is playing a smaller role than ever in people’s everyday lives.
But in politics, religion is making a major comeback.
Politicians are talking about their nation’s religious heritage more than ever. They are using it to differentiate themselves from Muslims. They talk about its importance to their culture. Although Europeans aren’t going to church or letting religion tell them how to live their lives, they are looking to religion to tell them who they are.

Eastern Europe
As early as 2014, the Catholic magazine First Things noticed this trend emerging in Central and Eastern Europe: “In Hungary, Croatia, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, a pro-family, pro-life revolution and a rediscovery of Christian roots is occurring.
“Unnoticed in the shadow of a secularized West, religion’s public role has been growing in the East since the collapse of communism” (Jan. 17, 2014).
This process has sped up dramatically as Europe’s migrant crisis has worsened. Since 2013, around 2.5 million migrants have applied for asylum in the European Union. The EU does not track the religion of asylum seekers, but the vast majority are from Muslim-dominated countries. According to PewForum in 2010, about 19 million Muslims lived in the EU. So the EU has had roughly a 10 percent jump in its Muslim population due to the refugee crisis alone.
As thousands of Muslims have arrived every year, bringing their religion with them and setting up numerous mosques, European leaders have shifted their rhetoric away from strict secularism and have begun to emphasize how Christian their nations are.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was one of the earliest to take this route. In May 2015, he said flatly, “I think we have a right to decide that we do not want a large number of Muslim people in our country.”
“Let us not forget, however, that those arriving have been raised in another religion and represent a radically different culture,” he wrote in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “Most of them are not Christians, but Muslims. This is an important question, because Europe and European identity is rooted in Christianity” (Sept. 3, 2015).
Orbán has since been joined by many others. Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico said in May 2016, “I do not want to see a Muslim community in Slovakia. … We do not want to change the traditions of this country, which are built on the Christian tradition.” The president of the Czech Republic warned in January 2016 that integrating Muslims into Europe “is practically impossible.” Earlier this year, Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said that the presence of the largely Muslim refugee population is a “ticking bomb.”
The rhetoric is popular. Polls in Poland and Bulgaria show that three-quarters of respondents want their countries to stop accepting Muslim migrants.
Catholic leaders also support this stance. Although Pope Francis has been one of the most prominent leaders encouraging Europe to take in more migrants, senior bishops in the East are singing from a different hymn sheet. The former leader of the Czech Republic’s bishops’ conference, Archbishop Jan Graubner, has said his country should take only “Christian refugees.” At a February meeting of Catholic leaders from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the current Czech president of the bishops’ conference, Cardinal Dominik Duka, said, “The whole history of humanity shows how uncontrolled migration causes violence and conflict, as well as economic and cultural collapse.”
“The larger the Muslim community, the likelier the violence—in such a situation, it’s legitimate to ask about the religion these people profess, and how beneficial it is to our society,” said Archbishop Stanislav Zvolenský, the leader of the Slovak bishops’ conference. “We shouldn’t forget that Christianity and Islam are, despite all efforts at dialogue, in permanent conflict. Once one side gains the upper hand, there’s always conflict” (emphasis added throughout).

The West
In the West, bishops who will speak so bluntly are scarce, but they still exist. The most high-profile is Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, who is considered a possible successor to the current pope.
“Will there now be a third attempt at an Islamic conquest of Europe?” Schönborn asked in September 2016. “Many Muslims think so and long for it and say: Europe is at an end.”
Luc Ravel was made archbishop of Strasbourg, France, by Pope Francis in February. In July, Ravel told a French newspaper, “Muslim believers know very well that their birth rate is such that today, they call it … the Great Replacement. They tell you in a very calm, very positive way that, ‘one day all this, it will be ours.’”
This trend extends even to political leaders in Western Europe.
Western Europe is traditionally the most secular place on Earth. In late 2015, a Gallup International poll found that Western Europe and Oceania were the only regions in the world where around half of the population was either atheist or nonreligious. But even here, political religion is making a comeback.
In France, the very religious François Fillon was nominated to lead Les Républicains—France’s main conservative party. “Help, Jesus Has Returned!” was the headline in the Libération newspaper (Nov. 24, 2016).
Robert Zaretsky at Foreign Policy wrote, “[L]egions of Frenchmen and women who have not kept their faith will nonetheless turn out in droves for a politician who has. … [I]n a country where barely five citizens in 100 attend church, the weight of Catholicism is still evident” (Dec. 1, 2016). He termed these voters “France’s zombie Catholics.”
As it turned out, Fillon crashed and burned, brought down in a financial scandal. So Marine Le Pen and her far-right National Front party attempted to raise the standard of Christendom.
Le Pen’s religion is “a secularized Christianity as culture,” Rogers Brubaker, a sociologist at the University of California–Los Angeles, told Atlantic magazine.”It’s a matter of belonging rather than believing,” he said. Brubaker described it as a Christianity that says, “We are Christians, precisely because they are Muslims. Otherwise, we are not Christian in any substantive sense” (May 6).
That is an excellent summary of the trend occurring across all Europe. Christianity is not motivating people to attend religious services or to obey religious rules, but it is being used to drive people to vote for religious-sounding leaders.
Germany’s September 24 election saw the same Christian revival. One mainstream political party that has helped form the foundation of German politics since World War ii—the Christian Democratic Union (cdu)—was founded by those seeking to cement Germany’s Christian character. However, despite its having “Christian” in its name, it has grown progressively more secular. It seems many voters in September’s election punished the cdu by migrating to the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party, which achieved great success.
Foreign Policy wrote about the “party’s goal to become the true guardian of Germany’s—and Europe’s—Christian identity” (September 11). A group of Catholic and Protestant theologians formed the organization “Christen in der AfD” to urge support for the party. They warned that if Germany loses its Christian identity, it will “endanger nothing less than the foundations of our system of state and of our civilization.”
The AfD, though, is a perfect example of this “belonging rather than believing” Christianity. Its election slogans, such as “Burkas? We’re into bikinis,” are hardly paragons of chastity and virtue. Two of its top leaders are lesbians. But it is identity that matters. Even the lesbian leaders have made no big push for homosexual “marriage” or any other kinds of homosexual rights. In the culture wars, they are on the side of the Christian right, and the Christian right is happy to accept them.
The AfD’s stunning election success—coming from nowhere to become the third-largest party in Germany’s parliament—shows the appetite in Germany for this kind of religion in politics.
But the AfD isn’t the only group embracing this Christian heritage. Angela Merkel’s sister party, the Christian Social Union, has kept much closer to its Christian heritage. The party has good relations with Viktor Orbán. It even invited him to Bavaria, despite great opposition from the German federal government.
The csu’s star speaker in the recent election, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, brought a “Christian” message. At the Gillamoos festival, he told a packed crowd, “When we are not ready to love our culture, then others will start to define our culture,” adding that Germany must protect its “Christian/Jewish Western society” (Trumpet translation throughout).
“If you go outside in August with temperatures of 35 to 38 degrees [95 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit] and go through a street in Munich and you see a gentlemen from Abu Dhabi … and at a respectable distance, one or two women with a niqab behind him, I don’t see much freedom there,” he said. The “suppression of the woman has no room in our culture!”
His statements are milder than the message from the AfD or many in Eastern Europe. But they are stronger than many Western mainstream politicians are willing to make. And they were met with enthusiastic applause.
A Growing Trend
Europe’s rediscovery of its Christian identity comes mostly as a reaction to Islam. Muslim migration is changing the nature of Europe’s cities, and radical Islam is outright attacking them.
Time has proved that the migration and the attacks are not going away. In response, secular Europe is only becoming more Christian.
“We know who we are only when we know who we are not and often only when we know whom we are against,” wrote Samuel Huntington in his classic work The Clash of Civilizations. ”For people seeking identity and reinventing ethnicity, enemies are essential.” Many of Europe’s enemies have been Muslim. And so the Continent is adopting the language, symbols, and identity of Christianity—because that is what most clearly distinguishes it from these enemies.
“Instability and violence in the Middle East has led to Muslim migration to Europe,” wrote Geopolitical Futures analyst Jacob Shapiro. “Muslim migration has, in turn, stoked nationalism, sometimes to electoral effect, and has even led to limited European involvement in Muslim wars” (August 23). Terrorism, he pointed out, has been rising in Europe since 2005. Nationalism began rising at almost exactly the same time. The terrorism is already transforming Europe. “The age-old conflict between Europe and the Middle East, Christendom and Islam, is simmering once more” (ibid).
Once again, religion is playing a major role in the fate of Europe!
The Trumpet and, before us, the Plain Truth have been watching for this development since the 1930s. For decades Herbert W. Armstrong forecast that Europe would unite into a 10-nation superpower. But most of the Continent’s history is of one European nation fighting another. What force is strong enough to bind Europe together?
Attacks on Europe from outside are one powerful motivating force. Europeans certainly have one common enemy: radical, extremist Islam. But there is one other important factor all European nations share: their Christian heritage.
In August 1978, Mr. Armstrong wrote in the Christian-living magazine Good News,“Europeans want their own united military power! … They have made a real effort toward union in the Common Market. … But they well know there is but one possibility of union in Europe—and that is through the Vatican.”
Mr. Armstrong forecast a common currency in Europe. In the November-December 1954 Plain Truth, he wrote, “Germany inevitably [will] emerge as the leader of a united Europe”—a sentiment many in southern Europe would agree with today. The September 1967 Plain Truth declared, “[O]ne thing you can count on. In fact, it is so sure you can bank on it: The cry of a political union in Europe will get louder.” In April 1952, Mr. Armstrong’s Good News said, “Russia may give East Germany back to the Germans and will be forced to relinquish her control over Hungary, Czechoslovakia and parts of Austria” in order to complete this union.
So much of this has already happened. Mr. Armstrong’s forecasts, based on Bible prophecy, have proved accurate. Yet full union has not yet been achieved. Why? Mr. Armstrong wrote, “In only one way can this resurrected Holy Roman Empire be brought to fruition—by the ‘good offices’ of the Vatican, uniting church and state once again, with the Vatican astride and ruling …” (Plain Truth, January 1979).
The Catholic Church has been the one missing ingredient in European unity. And now that ingredient is being added back into the mix.
The same prophecies that forecast European unity also foretell that a church will have a major role in leading this new superpower. Revelation 17 describes a woman that sits “upon many waters.” Her power stretches over a vast portion of the Earth. Typically in the Bible, a woman represents a church. The “kings of the earth have committed fornication” with this woman, meaning that she is a major political power.
The religious revival in Europe is paving the way for the return of this woman.
The Bible has a great deal to say about what this European religious power will look like. And so does history. Religious empires, in close alliance with the Vatican, have repeatedly risen in Europe.
Reported by: Richard Palmer – The Trumpet
By Prophecy in the News| November 14th, 2017|Tags: Christian News, Christian Roots, Europe, Evangelical Church, Germany, Islam, Prophecy News, Religious Revival

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This article really nailed it.  I have been to both Eastern and Western Europe three times since 2005, the last time was this past January and February.  Revival is already happening in Eastern Europe, as I personally was engaged in crusade evangelism in Romania.  Hungary is likewise prepared for revival.  The Slavic nations have not been overly inundated with materialism as Western Europe and the family unit is strong.  I have noticed the same exact trend in the United States of America, whereby Slavic churches and people from Belarus, Russia, the Ukraine, etc., etc., have a strong faith and family orientation.  Furthermore, Eastern Europeans do not want a large number of Islamic immigrants, realizing that the two faiths are diametrically opposed to each other.  Large numbers of Islamic immigrants will inevitably destroy the culture of the nation they move into.  Perhaps the spirit of revival can spread to Western Europe and the U.S.A. from Eastern Europe!  I have pastor friends who are planning on taking the Gospel into England and other Western European nations as we speak.  We pray for God to bless them.   Because Of Him, Pastor Steve  <><

Pray For Revival In America!

500 years ago today, Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. This marked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation

Luther’s Sola Fide

Posted: 31 Oct 2017 02:06 AM PDT
500 years ago today, Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. This marked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. In his publication, Luther criticized the sale of indulgences, the papal pardons which reduced the amount of punishment for sins in Purgatory. We can all appreciate Luther’s challenge to papal authority, specifically toward the Roman Catholic Church about the selling of papal pardons to rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. But did the Reformation get us back to biblical Christianity?
The Protestant position would come to incorporate doctrinal changes such as sola fide, or justification by faith alone. Sola fide has been a hallmark of Protestant theology since the beginning of the Reformation. For Luther, faith alone is specifically contrasted with good works. In his preface to Romans, Luther said, “faith alone makes someone just and fulfills the law.” By “faith alone” the Reformers clearly meant belief or trust, apart from anything else. According to Luther, good works have nothing to do with our salvation other than being the result of saving faith. Sola fide is thus formulated in the Augsburg Confession of Faith as follows:
[T]his faith is bound to bring forth good fruits, and that it is necessary to do good works commanded by God, because of God’s will, but that we should not rely on those works to merit justification before God. For remission of sins and justification is apprehended by faith, as also the voice of Christ attests: When ye shall have done all these things, say: We are unprofitable servants. Luke 17:10. The same is also taught by the Fathers. For Ambrose says: It is ordained of God that he who believes in Christ is saved, freely receiving remission of sins, without works, by faith alone. (Augsburg Confession of Faith, Article VI)
Luther was so insistent that justification was by faith alone and not works that, when translating Romans 3:28 into German, he added the word allein (“alone”), so that the verse would read: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith [alone] without the deeds of the law.” But the word “alone” is not present in the Greek text. This also brought Paul in direct contradiction to James. Church Historian Philip Schaff summarized:
The most important example of dogmatic influence in Luther’s version is the famous interpolation of the word alone in Rom. 3:28, by which he intended to emphasize his solifidian doctrine of justification, on the plea that the German idiom required the insertion for the sake of clearness. But he thereby brought Paul into direct verbal conflict with James, who says (James 2:24), “by works a man is justified, and not only by faith.” It is well known that Luther deemed it impossible to harmonize the two apostles in this article, and characterized the Epistle of James as an “epistle of straw,” because it had no evangelical character. (History of the Christian Church, Book 7, Chapter 4)
Ironically, the only place “faith alone” appears as a phrase in the New Testament is in James 2:24: “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (NET, or “faith only” in the KJV). James also says: “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17). In context, James wrote:
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:14-26)
Most Protestants argue that James is merely attacking an empty faith. In order to agree with Luther, they say, “Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is not alone.” But here is an obvious contradiction of terms in order to agree with Luther’s interpretation of Romans 3:28. In the end, an “empty faith” is nothing other than “faith alone” or “faith without works.” And James tells us that “faith alone” cannot save.
Taken at face value, James 2:14-26 contradicts Martin Luther’s doctrine of sola fide. How did Luther reconcile this glaring conflict? He sought to expel the Epistle of James from the New Testament canon. In his Preface to the Epistles of St. James and St. Jude, Luther said that the Epistle of James was “not the writing of any apostle.” Luther went on to question the authority of James:
Flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture, it ascribes righteousness to works, and says that Abraham was justified by his works, in that he offered his son Isaac, though St. Paul, on the contrary, teaches, in Romans 4:2, that Abraham was justified without works, by faith alone, before he offered his son, and proves it by Moses in Genesis 15:6. . . .
I cannot put him [James] among the chief books, though I would not thereby prevent anyone from putting him where he pleases and estimating him as he pleases; for there are many good sayings in him.
Luther not only questioned the authority of James, but also of Jude, Hebrews, and Revelation. Moreover, in his Preface to the New Testament, Martin Luther wrote:
In a word, St. John’s Gospel and his first Epistle, St. Paul’s Epistles, especially Romans, Galatians and Ephesians, and St. Peter’s first Epistle are the books that show you Christ and teach you all that it is necessary and good for you to know, even though you were never to see or hear any other book or doctrine. Therefore St. James’ Epistle is really an epistle of straw, compared to them; for it has nothing of the nature of the Gospel about it.
But Paul doesn’t have to conflict with James. The most satisfactory solution to the alleged contradiction between Paul and James is that Paul was referring to the “works” of the Law of Moses, especially circumcision (cf. Romans 4:2, 6, 9-12; Galatians 2:6-10, 12, 16; 3:2, 5, 10). On the other hand, James was referring to good “works” or works of obedience to God (James 2:14, 17-18, 20-22, 24). The raging issue for the first century Church was whether or not Gentiles needed to keep the works of the Law of Moses, i.e., circumcision (Acts 15). Preaching at Antioch, Paul said, “And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:39).
The Scriptures have a much broader view of justification than Luther’s doctrine of sola fide. The Greek word dikaioō (translated “justified” throughout Romans 3 and James 2) also occurs in other passages without reference to faith. For example, Jesus said, “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matthew 12:37). Even Paul said, “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified” (Romans 2:13).
Again, James also says, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? . . . Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?” (James 2:21, 24-25).
The Greek words dikaioō (“justified”) and dikaiosynē (“righteousness”) both come from the root word dikaios which is normally translated “righteous” or “just.” In this broader sense, justification is the righteousness acceptable to God, more in line with the use of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).
John says: “If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him” (1 John 2:29); “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous” (1 John 3:7); “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother” (1 John 3:10).
The Scriptures deny that one is justified by faith alone. Indeed, “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” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Though our good works do not earn or merit our salvation, our obedience is in cooperation with divine grace, working together with God for our salvation (see Philippians 2:12-13).
On the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, we can appreciate Martin Luther for his challenge to reform the Roman Catholic Church and papal abuses. But we must not simply reject the infallibility of the Pope in order to embrace the infallibility of the Reformer. Pope Leo X was not infallible, and neither is Luther. Unfortunately, many Protestants hold to Luther’s doctrine of sola fide as if it were an infallible interpretation of the Scriptures. Let’s be honest with what the Scriptures actually say and reform our own lives accordingly, by the grace of God.
Related:
Faith & Works – Harmonizing Paul & James
The post Luther’s Sola Fide appeared

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The above is very good theology.  My simple mind interprets it succinctly as follows:  We are saved by our faith in Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 5:17,21; Ephesians 2:8-10), but a genuine saving faith is always accompanied by works.  Specifically, please note Ephesians 2:10.  It is true that Martin Luther is NOT a Protestant Pope, and he erred in his disparaging comments in reference to the book of James.  A genuine saving faith and works are like a horse and carriage or love and marriage.  They mesh together beautifully and naturally.  You cannot have one without the other.  Should not the numerous exploits of the faithful saints described graphically in the “Hall of Faith,” Hebrews 11, convince us of this?   Pastor Steve   <><

Christ The Creationist

The Bible is full of affirmations for a recent creation, if one properly reads, exegetes, and believes in it!  Both Old and New Testaments confirm this fact to be true.  Jesus Christ also validates this often, and a couple more of His references are cited below, in the devotional “Days Of Praise” from the Institute For Creation Research.  This article was written by their founder, Dr. Henry M. Morris:

Christ the Creationist
by Henry M. Morris, Ph.D. | Oct. 5, 2017
“For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be.” (Mark 13:19)
In predicting a future judgment on the unbelieving world, the Lord Jesus referred to “the beginning of the creation which God created,” thus affirming the biblical doctrine of supernatural, sudden creation. In the pagan world of His day, evolutionism was dominant almost everywhere. The Epicureans, for example, were atheistic evolutionists. The Stoics, Gnostics, Platonists, and others were pantheistic evolutionists. None of the extra-biblical philosophers of His day believed in a God who had created all things, including even the universe itself.
But Christ was a creationist, and the much-maligned “scientific creationists” of today are following His example and teaching. He even believed in recent creation, for He said (speaking of Adam and Eve) that “from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female” (Mark 10:6). The pagans all believed in an eternal cosmos, but Jesus said it had a beginning and that man and woman were a part of that beginning creation, following which “the sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27).
He also believed that the “two accounts” of creation (Genesis 1 and 2) were complementary, not contradictory, for He quoted from both in the same context. “Have ye not read,” He said, “that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female [Genesis 1], And said For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? [Genesis 2]” (Matthew 19:4-6).
There may be some Christians who are evolutionists, but there is no such thing as “Christian evolution,” for Christ was a creationist! HMM

The Offense Of The Cross (Part 2 of 2)

The Offense Of The Cross

Galatians 5:11  King James Version (KJV)
11 And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.

Consider why the cross is an offense today:

1)The cross of Christ condemns the world.  The thief on the cross who was saved, saw Jesus as He really was, and himself for what he was.  Sin reveals that we fall short of God’s demands.  It is the gigantic evil, the transgression towards God.  Sin leaves us far from God’s holy nature.  It leaves us no hope, we must pay the price.  “The soul that sins shall die.”  Sin lies upon our conscience – we lie in bed with insomnia, dreams and nightmares.  Jesus was made sin and a curse for us – He put away our sins and the condemning power.  There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.  But the world is offended by the crucified God/man, suspended on a stick, and told this is the only way you can be saved.  An illustration would be Madalyn Haira and her hatred of the cross.  She actually desired for the state flag of Maryland to be changed since there was a cross on it, even though it did not depict the cross of Christ.  Another example is the movie, The Last Temptation, which made Jesus a sinner just like you and me.  Furthermore, the National Arts submerged a cross in urine in order to portray their disdain of the cross.  The first funeral that I officiated, dealt with a murder/suicide.  I spoke a eulogy to the county Rescue Squad.  When I preached on sin and the cross, the congregation was offended and they filed out.  Here is the “eulogy” that offended them:  “There are none righteous, no not one.”  Madonna, another name for the Virgin Mary, is another example of one who despises the cross of Christ.  She is offended by the cross and wears several in mockery.  The press claimed it was her trademark.  I beg to differ.  She wore it but never bore it.  She was noted for the perverted quotation:  “I love the crucifix because there is a naked man on it.”  Wrong Madonna – the cross and the tomb are empty.  Jesus Christ died for the sins of Madonna, you and me.  Many throughout the world, at work and school, curse Jesus Christ and are offended by the cross.  They feel self sufficient.  Have you ever heard of Buddha, Confucius or Mohammed cursed?  Of course not, they bore no cross.  The cross is an offense because “…men loved darkness because their deeds are evil.”  The cross throws light into the dark recesses of our soul and reveals our sins – the cross becomes an offense because it condemns us as sinners.

2)The cross is an offense because blood was shed there.  Unbelievers accuse us of a “slaughterhouse religion.”  But the Bible tells us that the shed blood of our Savior on Mount Calvary is our only hope:  “Without the shedding of the blood there is no remission of sins.”  Amen and amen.

3)The cross sets up an imperative ideal life.  Jesus said:  “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, carry his cross, and follow me.”  This imperative eliminates the church crowd.  Many people “have a form of religion and godliness but deny the power thereof.”  There is an outward show, but little evidence of the real Christian life and the new birth.  They are offended by real Christianity.  Jesus always thinned out the ranks and never sought the popular “gospel.”  Today, big churches often seek mass membership, and do not stress the new birth, the cross, the blood, true salvation and the need to repent from sin.  Today’s country club has an organization, members, reports, and programs, but is not one of self denial.  Even Jesus’ large crowd did not want self denial.  They desired the kingdom, the crowd, and to rule and live in a palace – they did not want to go to the cross with Jesus.  We shudder at a life like Jesus, refusing to surrender what the cross condemns.  

4)The cross is an offense because it claims to be the power and salvation of God.  The first duty of every man  is to get right with God.  Man does not like this, and wants to believe that many roads lead to heaven.  Jesus said the gate is narrow, and at the beginning of the gate is the cross, and one cannot enter but by the cross.  The cross humbles, demands, and expects everything we have to be given to Christ.  The cross condemns every other way of salvation.  Acts 4:12  “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”  If people tell you that you are narrow minded, you can share with them that “narrow is the way to the kingdom, there be few who find it.”       

The Offense Of The Cross (Part 1 of 2)

The Offense Of The Cross

Galatians 5:11  King James Version (KJV)
11 And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.

The cross represents the true Christian Church.  The symbol is on and/or in every church.  Then there is the Red Cross organization, people wear the cross, it is placed on cars, and on Bibles.  Christ’s pulpit is often in the shape of a cross.  The event of the cross is the foundation of our faith.  For the Christian, the cross alone is our theology.  The knowledge of God comes through the crucified Christ.  Love outside of the cross is really not God’s love – we learn of God’s love through the cross, and not by any other means.  Worldlings follow horoscopes.  The cross is the sign of a believer.  The world sees the cross through good Friday alone.  The believer sees the cross through Easter Sunday and Resurrection Day.  The cross is a mystery and a paradox.  Just as Jesus was crucified and resurrected, we now struggle and bear our cross.  Believers will have our resurrection later.  The resurrection is life through death, strength through weakness, hope through despair, recovery through loss, suffering, folly, persecution, and joy through sorrow.  For Paul, the scandal of the cross dominates the believer’s life.  The cross stands before those who say the Christian life is a bowl of cherries.  Following Jesus is sharing His suffering.  There is no by passing rejection and death, to eternal life and the glory of the risen Christ.  There is no “pie in the sky / you can have it all now” Christianity.  Suffering, humiliation, and rejection are hallmarks of our faith, and evidence of true discipleship.  The cross of Christ is forsaking everything and clinging to Christ alone.  It is the center of God’s truth revealed to man.  But to many,

the cross is an offense:  Offense comes from the Greek word- scandalon, from which we get the word scandal.

Jesus said, “If you are going to follow me, you have to take up the cross.”  Today we might say “…take up your gas chamber or electric chair.”  We must die to self before Christ can reign in our hearts.  In our scripture text, the Judaizers, through the works of circumcision, sought to rob Christians of their freedom in Christ.  Legalists always avoid the themes of persecution and “the offense of the cross,” by insisting on circumcision and law-keeping.  If Paul preached legalism, he would not be persecuted.  Circumcision and the cross are opposed – Paul could not preach both – if he did – the offense of the cross would cease.  The “offense” is the foolishness and stumbling block of the cross.  The cross uproots the doctrine of salvation by human merit.  Salvation is through grace alone – and there can be no compromise.  The offensiveness of the cross to self righteous legalists is that salvation is by grace without circumcision and obedience to the law.  “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”  (Galatians 5:9)  One work added to the cross perverts it all!