The Only Reason To Be Thankful

It is hard to believe that Thanksgiving is today. This year has passed by so quick, and I’m fairly certain that I say that every year. Week passes after week, and month after month, and then the turkey is on the table. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, as it is hard to be a good meal with family. But more than before, this day reminds me of why I should be thankful. Thanksgiving is a very Christian holiday, because the Bible talks a lot about being thankful. 

One of the traditions that we typically do at the table is to answer the question, “What are you most thankful for?” Some of the most common responses are jobs, health, family, and friends. But what does it mean to be thankful for these things? Is it just a good feeling? If it is a good feeling, those come and go. 

Someone must be receiving that thanks. So if I am thankful for my health, who am I thanking? If I am thankful for my job, who am I thanking? If I am thankful for my family, who am I thanking? Thanksgiving in the end has an external focus. 

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57)

A truly thankful heart overflows from a sinner who has been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. We can be thankful in everything, because everything that we have (or don’t have) is a blessing that comes from God. 

Having been born again into the family of God, we have everything we need in Christ. The Bible says that we are co-heirs with Him. We will one day inherit everything that God possesses. And what does Christ have? Everything. 

Which ultimately means that to be apart from Christ, you have nothing. Surely the grace of God falls on everyone in some way. But everything that someone outside the family of God has today will one day be gone, and they will be forever separated from the One who created them.

This is why I am thankful. Because God saved me from the end that I deserved. Instead of counting my sin against me, He counted the righteousness of Jesus Christ on my behalf. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I was saved and received the assurance of eternal life. And because of His finished work, I will get to spend eternity in His presence. There will be a day when I will gather with the multitude, the angels, the elders, and the four living creatures around His throne to say:

Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen! (Revelation 7:12)

Advertisements

A Day to Celebrate

While many people are thinking about carved pumpkin, costumes, and consuming candy, my mind on the other hand is consumed with the theological and historical significance of today. Five hundred years ago today was the greatest movement of God in church history next to the birth of the church at Pentecost. This movement revolved around a question that still is asked today: How does an unrighteous sinner stand before the throne of a righteous God? 

According to the word of God, you are justified by faith alone in Christ alone:
“For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” (Romans 3:28)
But, according to the Roman Catholic Church, to believe this is to be condemned:
“If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema.” (1546 Council of Trent, Canon 9)

A plain reading of scripture and this declaration clearly shows that there is a contradiction. Either the scriptures are right, or the Roman Catholic Church is right. Are the scriptures the final rule and authority, or the church?

The Protestant reformation was necessary because the true gospel of salvation is necessary. And the reformation is still necessary today. The unchanging gospel, which was obscured over many years of the tradition of men, shined into a world of darkness like the dawn of the day. The heart of the gospel, which was once for all delivered to the saints, was rediscovered.

The only way that you can be made right before God is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone according to scripture alone and for the glory of God alone. Your works and merit add nothing to your justification. When God saves a sinner, it is the righteousness of Jesus Christ alone that is counted on the sinners behalf. And all of their sin is counted paid in full by the cross.

To believe that anything other than the finished work of Jesus Christ alone and His righteousness is necessary for salvation is to believe a different gospel that does not save, but rather condemns.

And almost four years ago, that was me.

It wasn’t until I began to read the bible when my eyes were opened to this good news. As Martin Luther once said, “the very gates of paradise opened up before me”. When I was saved, I did not know or understand much of what I have written to this point. And I didn’t need to.

But, I did understand one thing. I knew is that I was a sinner in need of forgiveness, and that Jesus Christ was the only way. There isn’t anything I could to do make up for my sin against God. I did not have to obtain my own standing before Him, and I could not. Jesus already accomplished that salvation on the cross when He said, “It is finished.”

The protestant reformation is worth celebrating because the gospel is worth celebrating. But, how would the reformers want us to celebrate this good news today? The same way that Jesus did: preach the gospel.  

It is my prayer that God would do this great work again. May God fan into flame the pulpits across this world, and bring about an even greater reformation as the church is continually reformed according to the word of God alone.

Soli deo gloria.

A Life Worth Imitating

“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

If you approached someone in your church and said to them, “You should imitate me”, what do you think their response would be? My guess is that they would probably smile and chuckle, thinking that you were joking. That does seem like an odd conversation starter. And I’m fairly certain that would be the reaction I would get as well.

Saying to someone “you should imitate me” at a first glance appears to be quite prideful and arrogant. This is essentially telling someone that you are the standard of living, and they need to be like you. But, looking back at this statement made by Paul, he did not stop at that point. He continued on and said, “as I am of Christ”.

To say “imitate me” is much different than “imitate me, as I am of Christ”. The first statement set yourself as the standard. The second statement sets Christ as the standard.

Not only does saying this set the standard to be that of Jesus Christ, it does something further. It actually sets a standard for yourself. There is accountability in saying to someone else, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” This is putting your life on display for others to inspect and see if you are truly walking in the ways of the one you are following.

As children of God, we are to display His glory in our lives to this world. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to follow Him in everything, and also called to make disciples. Discipleship in essence is to help others follow Jesus. And how incredibly important is it that our lives are to reflect Jesus to those who we are discipling.

So we should be thinking, if someone were to imitate your life, would it bring them closer or further away from Christ?

Even more, imitating Jesus Christ ascribes to Him that He is truly both Lord and Savior. And it tells the world that He is worth following, no matter the cost. Imitating Christ says that I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:8)

Let us imitate Paul and say, “You should imitate me because I am imitating Christ.”

What is Needful

Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the LORD?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.
(Proverbs 30:8-9)

This proverb outlines two extremes when dealing with material possessions: the rich and the poor.

There is the rich person who has everything, and who does not have a single need that is not met in their lives. Because of the contentment and comfort of their riches, they cannot see a reason to need anything more than what they have, or need anyone to give them something they are missing.

Then there is the poor person who has absolutely nothing, and has many needs in their life, including a need for food. They are so desperate for a meal that they resort to stealing from someone else to satisfy that need.

What is common between these two people? Both declare they have no need for God. The rich person is in a condition where they deny God because they do not see their need for Him. The poor person is in a condition where they deny God because they do not see Him meeting their needs.

So the writer of the proverb is praying that they never be in either of these conditions because they do not want to lose sight of what is needful, knowing God.

I can say that apart from my own decision to forgo eating, I have not lived a day without a meal. I can even say that the majority of my life I have had a breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. I don't know what it is like to be poor and pray the words, "give us this day our daily bread" in the hope for a slice of bread.

But is food the most important thing that we humans need? To stay physically alive, yes we need food. Without it, our bodies would begin to break down, and we would eventually starve to death. But what about when we die?

After Jesus had fasted for forty days and nights, He was tempted in the wilderness. What was His first response to the temptations of Satan?

But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Matthew 4:4

It is not physical food that Man truly needs, but spiritual food.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
John 6:35

To eat of this bread is to come to Jesus by faith alone, believing that He alone can provide what is needful for your soul: the complete and perfect atonement of your sins, to be counted righteousness on His behalf, and to be reconciled to God.

The desperate need that everyone has is to be in Christ.

The Ultimate Authority: Scripture or the Church?

How has God revealed Himself to us? In what ways do we receive revelation? Is there any new revelation? Is the written word sufficient? Is it beneficial to add something to what has been revealed in the written word?

One of the great doctrines emphasized during the Reformation was the sufficiency of scripture, also known as sola scriptura. This doctrine can be summed up as the following: Scripture alone is the sole infallible rule of faith and practice. All truth that is necessary for salvation is taught implicitly or explicitly in the written scripture. 

Sola scripture is not the rejection of the use of creeds or doctrine statements. It is not saying that we can know everything for life from the Bible either, such as the formula for gravitational force. Rather, sola scripture affirms that the Bible is the only God-breathed revelation.

So then, if we hold to sola scripture, then how do we know what books should be in the Bible? Do we need an infallible table of contents? No. Do we need a group of people to decide what is and is not in the Bible? No. The sixty-six books became part of the canon not by the declaration of man, but were a part of the canon by the very stroke of the pen, as the Holy Spirit guided the author (2 Peter 1:19-21). The fact that God has revealed to us the canon, and not man, is why we can confidently say that we can know what is scripture and what is not scripture. 

To this very point, and to prove this statement, we could ask the question: How did a Jewish man, 50 years before Christ came into this world, know that 1 Chronicles and Isaiah were scripture? They did not have a magisterium to tell them what was and was not scripture. So how did they end up with the books that were to be regarded as authoritative, which were the very books of the Bible that Jesus held them accountable to know and obey?

We can confidently say that an omnipotent sovereign God will reveal to His children what is scripture. And that the sixty-six books that we have today are the only God-breathed revelation that is authoritative, and therefore is the sole infallible rule of faith and practice.

This leads us to the main concern, which is determining what is the ultimate authority. Is the ultimate authority scripture? Or is the ultimate authority the church? Either Scripture interprets Scripture. Or the Church interprets Scripture. Either you live by sola scripture or sola ecclesia. It is either one or the other, and cannot be both. A final authority must appeal to itself in the end, otherwise it would not be a final authority.

Now, what does scripture say on this matter? Does scripture contain the words “sola scripture” or “scripture alone”? No, it does not contain those words, and to hold this doctrine to that standard would be ignorant on the fact that there are concepts taught in the Bible where those very words are not mentioned. 

Scripture does give us patterns that show what the early church believed about the written word:

“that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:4)

Luke was concerned that a record would be written to describe the things that were taught. We can confidently say that what is written matches what was spoken.

“but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)

John was concerned that a record would be written to know what to believe for eternal life. We can confidently say that what is written is enough to know the salvation that is offered through Jesus Christ alone.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Paul was concerned with what was being taught, and directing the church to the God-breathed source. We can confidently say that what is written is sufficient to make the man of God complete. And if the scripture can make the man of God complete, then there is no need for anything more.

This year is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant reformation. On the day of October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, for the purpose on invoking a discussion on the topic of indulgences. He was in fact looking for a reformation, and that the church at the time would come back to scripture as the final rule of faith and practice. But as we know from the days to follow, that did not happen. 

In April of 1546, the Roman Catholic Church declared during the sixth session of the Council of Trent, in Canon 9: “If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.”

This declaration still stands today, which has in fact anathematized the gospel. If salvation is contingent on the works of sinful man in any degree, rather than completely on the finished work of Jesus Christ, there is no hope, and there is in fact no good news. But thanks be to our God that salvation does not come from our own works, but rather by faith alone in Christ alone.

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

(Romans 3:28)

The High Calling of a Husband

Marriage has been on my mind. I recently attended a wedding for a coworker, and witnessed him and his now wife stand at the alter, exchange vows, and begin a new life together. The days leading up, I recall another coworker joking say that he still has a chance to turn around. Which, to his point, he in fact could still call the day off. But this man, who desired this woman to be his wife, was certainly not going to turn around. Marrying this woman was worth it to him, no matter the cost.

What is the cost of being a husband? No, I am not referring to the financial aspect, such as buying a ring. But a deeper, biblical understanding of the purpose of marriage and the God given role of the husband. It is something that I have put much thought into myself, and so I write these words as a single man prayerfully considering marriage.

First, what are the biblical qualifications for marriage? As a Christian, what are you to look for? There are exactly two criteria:

  1. They must be of the opposite sex (Genesis 2:24)
  2. They are to be believers (2 Corinthians 6:14)

So for me, I am to look for a Christian woman. That seems pretty simple, right? Unfortunately, we like to make things complicated, and do this thing we call dating. And in this dating thing, we like to sit down for hours and try to make getting to know each other as awkward as possible. Does he like me? Does she think I’m funny? Well, even before considering dating, I think it’s important to look inwards and see if you are in fact ready for marriage. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend dating until you are ready to be married, since that is the biblical end goal.

So, knowing what to look for in pursuit of a wife, what then should a man understand before considering becoming a husband? What is required on his behalf? There is much to be said about marriage in the Bible, and some of the most notable sections can be found found in 1 Corinthians 7, Colossians 3, and Ephesians 5. But, there is one verse that stands out from the rest.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25)

This is the standard: to love your wife as Christ loved the church. 

Do you know and understand what Jesus Christ did for the church? Do you feel the weight of that verse? Are you contemplating if you should pursue marriage because of this standard? Well, you should be thinking, and if not, then read it again and again until you do.

Marriage is not a decision to be taken lightly, and the same with being a husband. Paul continues on in verse 32, saying “this mystery is profound”, speaking on how the two become one flesh in marriage. There is much more to the marriage day than simply saying “I do”. You are united in a covenant before a Holy God. In addition, if the wife is called to submit to the husband, then how much more should the husband model Christ for that submission? I am convinced that the culture today, including Christians, do not consider in full the weight of this calling.

The love of Jesus Christ for the church is the standard for husbands. So then, how did Jesus love the people who would be called the church?

Jesus humbled himself for the church

Jesus Christ emptied himself, becoming the form of a servant, not counting equality with God something to be grasped (Philippians 2:5-7)

Jesus, who is the son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, never created and existing eternally, came down into creation. Becoming God-man is not as if Jesus lacked something. Instead, taking on flesh was a form of humility. He emptied himself by leaving heaven, where He dwelled in perfect unity with the Father. He set aside His eternal rights for the good of the church, and for the glory of God.

Are you ready to set aside your own wants and desires? Are you prepared to put someone else before yourself? Is your life agenda more important than your potential wife’s? Do you see your potential wife as someone you are to serve as Christ served the church? Having this mind among you as a future husband will be for the good of your marriage, your wife, and for the glory of God.

He sought the church. 

And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. (Mark 3:13)

Jesus called out the disciples by name. He pursued each one individually, He desired the church, and therefore called them to Himself. In the same way, each believer is called by the grace of God into His family. Every person that is written on the book of life was put there because God desired them to be with Him for all eternity. And it is God who does the pursuing first.

Men, find for yourself a wife. This means you must pursue her. She isn’t going to show up on your doorstep and say, “here I am!” Although there are situations today in which the woman pursues the man, the man is the one who should lead and make the move to marriage. As the true proverb says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.” (Proverbs 18:22)

He died for the church.

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)

What was the reason for God to enter into this world? Was it to set a good example? No. There was a specific purpose that was set out from eternity past. What was that mission? To purchase for Himself a people, the church, who will be with Him and enjoy Him forever. This cost God his one and only Son, whom he did not spare, but gave him up for us all.

Jesus Christ died for the church, on the cross, purchasing them with His own blood. This was the cost required to satisfy the just wrath and punishment due for our sin. This is how much He loved the church. And as Ephesians 5:25 says, the husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Men, are you ready to set your life aside for the benefit of your wife?

He is faithful to the church.

For he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

God never promises something and then changes His mind. Everything that He has said in his written word is true. When He says that he “will never leave you nor forsake you”, He means just that. This is to be a picture of the marriage covenant, where the husband and wife make a commitment that only death can separate.

When two come together for marriage, there is a very common vow which is proclaimed. “Until death do us part.” Can you say this and mean it? What about if something unexpected comes up in marriage? What about adultery, or if an unbelieving spouse leaves? Does this change God’s view on divorce? Would divorce be better than hope for reconciliation?

God’s word is clear that when a man and woman come together in marriage, the two become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). In addition, the bible says that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). Yet, there are instances where the New Testament says that divorce is allowed if an unbeliever leaves a believer (1 Corinthians 7:15), or if there is sexual immorality (Matthew 5:32).

My point here is not to address those questions (and would suggest you talk with your pastor for biblical guidance), but to to say this: Jesus will never leave the church, and will be faithful to the end. That is the model for marriage, and that is what a believing husband is called to do in accordance with the word of God.

If this post has made you feel inadequate for marriage, then my job has been completed. The truth is that there is no man that can live up to these standards perfectly. Only Christ can perfectly love His bride, the church. You on the other hand will fail many times. But, your desire should be to pursue your wife in such a way that would point the world to what marriage represents. And that is Christs love for the church.

If you are single, or married, I exhort you to look to Christ alone for your supreme satisfaction, to Christ alone for your strength, and to Christ alone as your motivation in all that you do. Marriage is not the ultimate good that we were made for. God is that supreme treasure we were made for, to delight in, and to enjoy for all eternity.

But, if you receive the high calling of being a husband, I pray that you love the woman God has entrusted to you with in such a way that points to the love of Christ for His bride, the church.

Think on These Things 

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

“Do not be conformed” and “be transformed” stand in opposition of each other. Either your mind is being conformed, or it is being transformed. Either your mind is becoming like the world, or becoming like Christ. 

Are your thoughts on things that are temporal or eternal? Do you love the things that this world loves, or the things that Christ loves?

We are given the imperative to renew our minds. So then, how do you renew your mind? 

God in His grace has give us His written word to hear, to read, to meditate on, and to pray over. It is in these ways that the Holy Spirit sanctifies us and changes us. (John 17:17)

Knowing the scriptures are sufficient in themselves to make the man of God complete, let us pursue knowing His word by spending time in His word. 

More specifically, we are to fill our mind with whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, of excellence, and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8) 

These things are made known to us through the entirety of scripture. So as Paul exhorts the church in Philippi, so we too are to think about these things.