Tag: salvation

Why the Reformation Matters Today

This coming Monday is Halloween, ending the second largest retail season of the year, only behind the Christmas season. While many people will celebrate with candy and costumes, for Christians, today represents a significant moment in church history. On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic Monk, nailed his 95 theses to the door of his church. Luther wrote these words out of a deep concern with the Roman Catholic Church’s view on several issues that Luther deemed unBiblical. His efforts lead to what is now referred to as the Protestant Reformation.

I don’t want to spend this entire post recounting the historical moments that both preceded and succeeded Luther’s actions on this day. If you want to read more about Reformation Day, I’ll provide a few links at the bottom. You can also read more from this blog post.

What I want to write about is how the Reformation impacts us today. Though they were flawed men and women, the stance taken by the Reformers 500 plus years ago is a model for us today. 

We must take a stand for the Gospel.

After Luther posted his 95 theses, he knew he would have to defend his claims. So he stood before the Emperor of Rome and, knowing he may very well lose his life, stated, “Here I stand. I can do no other. So help me, God.”

What Luther was standing for was the Gospel. While the church he served under said salvation can be earned or paid for or you can pay your relatives out of purgatory,  Luther read from the Scriptures that our righteousness was like filthy rags and the only hope for salvation is through Jesus Christ. After years of hating what he was reading in the Scriptures, he fell in love with the righteousness of God. Christ died for our sins and it is his righteousness that is placed on us.

This, among other doctrinal concerns, led Luther to take a stand against the Roman Catholic’s idea of the Gospel. His influence then is an example for us today. In the midst of so many false gospels, we must take a stand for the true Gospel of Jesus Christ; that salvation comes by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The church in Luther’s day wanted to make sinners look good, but as Luther put it: “Sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive.”

While we take a stand for the gospel, it also means we take a stand against false gospels taught by churches. Whether it’s the deceitful prosperity Gospel or a works-based gospel, we must take a stand for the Gospel. Taking a stand for the Gospel has never been popular, but if we fail to take a stand, then who will? The apostle Paul took a stand for Gospel priority by calling out those who abandoned the Gospel of Jesus:

[6] I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—[7] not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. [8] But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. [9] As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. [10] For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:6–10)

We must take a stand for the Scriptures.

Luther’s conflict with the church began when the church’s teachings collided with his understanding of the Scripture. He was a Scholar and when he realized that the church was teaching something contrary to the Word of God, he spoke up. He saw God’s Word as authoritative and should be available to all people.

God’s Word must be the authority in our lives. It’s how we learn about God, his grace, and his forgiveness through Jesus (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Holy Spirit uses Scripture to convict us daily. To limit its authority is a dangerous step towards apostasy. The church must teach and disciple believers on how to read and study the scriptures.  

We also must make sure that all we do within the church is founded on the teachings of the Bible. Our traditions, our theology, and our individual and corporate practice must be grounded in the Word of God. Luther stood up for the authority of the Scriptures during a time when the Catholic church claimed to hold all authority.

We must take a stand for God’s Glory.

It may sound odd, but the church today needs Jesus. While Luther’s church may have said “Jesus!”, everything else said other-wise. It was about the church, it was about the Pope, it was about money. It was about everything other than Jesus. Unfortunately, too many churches have become about other ideas other than Jesus.

If programs, methods, or anything else becomes more important than Jesus, then we’ve missed it. If we give over to more lights or more buildings or more “attractiveness” and set Jesus to the side, then it’s necessary to evaluate our churches. The Reformers understood that it was through Christ alone and it was for God’s glory alone. They weren’t out to make a name for themselves or for their church, they only desired to make a name for Jesus. 

Here are a few indicators that a reformation may be needed within a church:

  • If the worship is about how well done and entertaining the music is and not about who God is, then a reformation is needed.
  • If the preaching becomes about the speaker’s giftedness or focuses on relative topics and opinions and not about the teaching of God’s Word, then a reformation is needed.
  • If the church becomes inwardly focused and not focused on the spreading of the gospel to people outside the church, then a reformation is needed.

It’s never been about us; it must always be about God’s glory.

So much more could be said about the influence of the Reformers. Their impact 500 years ago should influence us to take a stand for Scripture Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Christ Alone, and to the Glory of God Alone. May we all be reformers in our churches.

Happy Reformation Day.

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ARTICLES

What is Reformation Day? – ligonier.com

3 Things Every Christian Should Know About the Reformation. – thegospelcoalition.com

Here We Stood (a brief history of Martin Luther) – desiringgod.org

The Reformation and your Church – 9marks.org (This is a Fall Journal loaded with great articles on the reformation. Save this link and read/watch/listen to everything that is included.

DOCUMENTARIES AND PODCASTS

Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer – Watch this documentary in its entirety to discover the events God used in Martin Luther’s life that led him to rediscover the gospel of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Luther in Real Time – It’s 1520. Martin Luther has been declared a heretic by Pope Leo X, and his books are being burned. How much longer before Luther himself is thrown into the fire?

Enter the German Reformer’s dramatic story with Luther: In Real Time. First released 500 years after the events described, this podcast allows you to walk in Martin Luther’s footsteps from his heresy charges to his famous stand for the authority of God’s Word at the Diet of Worms. Share this podcast with people of all ages so they can hear—in Luther’s own words—what Protestants are protesting and why it still matters today.

Annoyingly Bold with the Gospel

It’s summer time in Florida which means we are dealing with the influx of mosquitos. The mosquito is the most annoying species in the world. There are over 3,500 different species of mosquitoes, all of which are annoying. They fly around your ear, bite your ankles, and ruin your cookouts and send you inside before you’re done with the outdoors. 

When I think of the word “annoying”, I think of the mosquito. I think of the people who take too long to turn. There are hundreds of habits and mannerisms that are annoying to me and I’m sure there is something I do that annoys other people. In fact, I can tell you exactly the habits I have that annoy my wife and my kids. I can’t help it. It’s who I am. I am the mosquito to someone.

The dictionary definition for annoying is “to irritate someone” or “to make someone a little angry” and this is how the Jewish people labeled the teaching of Peter and John in Acts 4.

“And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand”. – Acts 4:1–4

It did not take long for Peter and John to irritate people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Shortly after Jesus ascends into heaven, Peter, empowered by the Holy Spirit, stands up on the Day of Pentecost and proclaims the death and resurrection of Jesus. Thousands place their faith in Jesus Christ and are added to the church. The Gospel has broken free.

This must have been exhilarating for Peter and John because they keep proclaiming Jesus. In the name of Jesus Christ, they heal a lame man who stood up and started praising God with them. We don’t know the lame man’s name but “all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” (Acts 3:9–10)

But not everyone responded this way. The religious leaders were greatly annoyed because Peter and John were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. This is how we should be labeled.

Sharing the Gospel with someone is intimidating, mainly, because we know the Gospel is offensive to those who do not believe (1 Corinthians 1:18). Yet, over and over again in Scripture we are reminded to be bold and to not be ashamed of the Gospel (Romans 1:16). Even in the books of Acts (Acts 4:13), the disciples are said to have shared the Gospel with boldness, meaning, they knew sharing the Gospel was offensive and intimidating, but the good news of Jesus must be proclaimed. The eternal life of the sinner is at stake.

In love, let’s proclaim the message of salvation. Let’s be so bold in our proclamation of the Gospel that it irritates people. But let’s not be irritating in our presentation. It’s the message of the Gospel that is offensive, not the presenter of the Gospel. Peter and John had such a passion for Jesus that it annoyed people, but more importantly, it led many to Jesus. Take every opportunity to share the hope of salvation and the forgiveness of sins with someone. It may be annoying to some, but it will be life changing to others. 

How can we be annoyingly bold with the Gospel?

Take every opportunity to share the Gospel.

The Gospel, in short, is the good news that Jesus Christ died and rose again for the sins of the world and through belief in Jesus, you can have eternal life. This is the message we share. Not our opinions. Not just an invitation to church. Jesus has called us to “Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Romans 10:13-17 asks the question, “How will people believe on Jesus if they have not heard about Jesus”? Most likely, when sharing the Gospel, the questions you are asking yourself internally are, “Will they say no?”, “Will they still be my friends?”, or “What if I don’t have the right answers?”. You’re probably not asking the question: “What if this is their last opportunity to hear the Gospel?” Or “What if no one else tells them?”.

This is what Romans 10 is telling us to consider. Consider every encounter as a last opportunity to share the Gospel with someone. “How can I do this?” you may ask. God desires to use ordinary men and women, like Peter and John and like me and you, to proclaim the extraordinary message of salvation in Jesus Christ. 

In love, let’s proclaim the message of salvation. Let’s be so bold in our proclamation of the Gospel that it irritates people. But let’s not be irritating in our presentation. It’s the message of the Gospel that is offensive, not the presenter of the Gospel. Peter and John had such a passion for Jesus that it annoyed people, but more importantly, it led many to Jesus. Take every opportunity to share the hope of salvation and the forgiveness of sins with someone. It may be annoying to some, but it will be life changing to others.

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

Marvelous Grace

On our way out of town for vacation, Julie and I took the kids on a slight detour past our first apartment in Knoxville, TN. It was the first time we had been there since we left in a Penske truck back in 2008. It looked just like we remember it. 

We then drove the winding road back towards the highway, a road I traveled quite a bit for classes, work, and church. We drove up the hill where I spun out the winter of my freshman year. I hadn’t learned how to drive in the snow yet. We drove past neighborhoods where our friends used to live, places we used to eat, and stores we used to shop at. Finally, we drove past the college and church I attended for close to four years.

With memories flooding back of the different places and people from those years in Tennessee, there is one word that explains how thankful I am for this short time in my life: grace.

Those four years were quite difficult to say the least. Everyday I fought the legalistic posture of my heart. I was working so hard to please God. I tried doing everything right and still didn’t feel like it was enough. I couldn’t keep the rules of the school the way they were intended to be kept. I was often scrutinized, questioned, and ridiculed. After an accidental rule breaking, I was asked a question that I didn’t have an answer to at the time: “What would Jesus think of you right now?” 

“He’d think I was a failure”, is how I wanted to answer. But I didn’t. I didn’t know at the time how much Jesus truly loved me. It was around this time I realized I was never going to be able to do enough to be good. I was never going to be good enough. I was never going to be righteous. 

Legalism is a deadly weight. It devalues the finished work of Jesus and elevates our filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). It is an unbearable task to earn any favor with God. There is nothing we can do to earn the righteousness of Jesus. No matter how often we keep the rules, no matter how “good” we are, no matter how churchy we appear, legalism is a lie from the pit of hell. Legalism continues to yell, “Do more! Do more! Do more!” while Jesus lovingly declares, “It is finished!”

It had been close to 10 years since I had placed my faith in Jesus Christ for the salvation of my sins, but in the Rocky Mountains of Tennessee, I learned and came to appreciate the grace of Jesus. While I was never going to be able to do enough to be good enough, Jesus did. While I was never going to be righteous, Jesus was and now through His grace, His righteousness covers me (2 Corinthians 5:21). We are so underserving of the grace of Jesus. His grace is truly marvelous.

The good news of Jesus reminds us that we are saved through faith in Jesus Christ. It is faith that pleases the Father (Hebrews 11:6), faith in His Son, Jesus. While our natural tendency given to us from Adam (Genesis 3) is to cover ourselves, there is freedom in knowing that we can’t. Our sin covering, our standing before God, only comes from the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Our joy comes from the victory we have through His resurrection. And none of this was deserving. When we fell short of God’s standard of righteousness, Jesus measured up (Romans 3:23). It is all because of grace. 

As the old hymn says, 

“Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt! Yonder on calvary’s mount out-poured, there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt. Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that will pardon and cleanse within; grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all our sin!”

If I were to be asked the question again, “What would Jesus think of you right now?” I’d respond with great joy, “He loves me as His own, not for what I have done, but for all that He has graciously done for me”. And it is this grace of Jesus that frees us to live in obedience to all his commands.

Church Membership at Grace Life Church

What is church membership, and why does it matter?  For the people of Grace Life, our partnership covenant is birthed out of our love for the church body and her individual members whom we hope will experience the fullness of joy which is found in the presence of the Lord. This helps us with three things:

  • To clarify the biblical obligations and expectations for both the elders of Grace Life Church and the individual members of Grace Life Church body.
  • To establish teaching and doctrinal parameters for Grace Life Church body.
  • To serve as a tool for reflection and growth toward holiness.

Each of these functions is in accordance with our overall vision to provide an accessible explanation of the Scriptures in hopes that Grace Life Church would grow in the grace and truth of Jesus Christ.

But first, we must answer a few questions. What is the church?

The church is an embassy that represents the kingdom of God on this earth. 

An embassy is an institution that represents one nation inside another nation. It declares its home nation’s interests to the host nation. And it protects the citizens of the home nation living in the host nation. The embassy does not make us a citizen, but it officially affirms it.  In this case, the church represents the heavenly kingdom of God while we are here on earth. Like an embassy, the church must approve those who are a part of the Kingdom.

The church exists to display the glory of God because all things exist for His glory. Those of us who trust in and follow Jesus are caught up in something much bigger than ourselves. We have graciously been invited into God’s redemptive purposes in the world.

Since the beginning, God has been creating and calling forth His people for the display of His glory in a grand narrative of redemption and reconciliation. Though creation now suffers the curse of Genesis 3, the gospel is the means by which the world is being made right. The gospel also carries with it the promise of ultimate renewal, a restoration even more glorious than Eden, and thus believers eagerly anticipate the return of Christ. The Church universal (i.e., all believers, everywhere) is the means by which God is fulfilling His purposes in the world (2 Cor. 5:17-20). The Church universal is being used to write God’s beautiful and dramatic story of redemption and reconciliation. In light of this reality, the opportunity to join a local church body (i.e., a particular group of believers in a particular locale) is much more than a commitment to consistent attendance or active involvement in community. It is also a sacred call to be involved in the redemptive work of our sovereign God to push back the darkness of a fallen world through the power of the Holy Spirit with the light of His Son, Jesus Christ. 

So then, what is a church member?

A church member is someone who is formally recognized as a Christian and a part of Christ’s universal body.

There are two qualifications for being a church member in the New Testament: salvation and baptism. There is freedom to pursue ways to determine if someone has been redeemed. At Grace Life Church, we believe that baptism is a symbol of what Jesus has done for us and that it is a baptism by water immersion after a person has placed their faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. 

Church membership matters because God calls His people into covenant, not only to Himself but also to each other. 

He calls us to a life of sacrifice, generosity, service, and radical commitment to the good of the body. This happy obligation is most readily pursued within the context of a particular body—a local church. In light of this reality, membership is not merely a responsibility but a blessed opportunity to covenant with a particular people to live out the gospel together.

Membership is not about privilege or prestige. It is not some elevated level of access with secret insider benefits. It is not a legal document or means of control. Membership recognizes and responds to the call of discipleship in the context of gospel-centered community. It is an affirmation and agreement to contribute to the good of the body rather than consume from it. It is a formalization of that which already implicitly exists. It is an obligation to sacrificially seek the good of others in the body of Christ by taking the general call toward service and incarnating it within a particular people. 

Christians commit themselves to each other in the context of the local church in countless ways. At Grace Life, the current process for partnership involves participating in a class, reading a book, and completing a questionnaire. Far from mere formality, these expressions are important representations of the formal commitment that members make. So if you have not yet committed yourself to the local body of Grace Life Church, plan to attend The Intro on June 26th after the morning gathering to learn what the next steps are towards becoming a member.

 

In Christ,

Pastor Ben

We exist to make Jesus-Centered Disciples for God's glory.

3180 County Rd 220, Suite 1
Middleburg, FL 32068
info@thegracelifechurch.org