Tag Archives: Reformation

Reformation Sunday Hymn

Today is Reformation Sunday, and so of course we sang Martin Luther’s famous hymn A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. I found this great video of it on YouTube and so decided I would share.

Martin Luther was passionate about God’s people trusting in faith alone in the grace of God alone as revealed by His Word alone. I am thankful for his service.

3 Comments

Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life, Music

Psalm 28 – A Mighty Fortress

Going in order of Psalms I’ve not posted before, we come to Psalm 27. I have posted a few verses of this Psalm as parts of other posts, but never the whole Psalm for Psalm Sunday. I think it is an appropriate Psalm for today, Reformation Sunday, because in the last stanza is speaks of God as our fortress of salvation. This is appropriate because one of the most famous hymns written by Martin Luther, which we always sing in church on Reformation Sunday, is “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” It is an awesome hymn, and as a bonus I’ve posted a video of it sung by Chris Rice below the Psalm.

Psalm 28

    Of David.

 1 To you I call, O LORD my Rock;
   do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent,
   I will be like those who have gone down to the pit.
2 Hear my cry for mercy
   as I call to you for help,
as I lift up my hands
   toward your Most Holy Place.

 3 Do not drag me away with the wicked,
   with those who do evil,
who speak cordially with their neighbors
   but harbor malice in their hearts.
4 Repay them for their deeds
   and for their evil work;
repay them for what their hands have done
   and bring back upon them what they deserve.
5 Since they show no regard for the works of the LORD
   and what his hands have done,
he will tear them down
   and never build them up again.

 6 Praise be to the LORD,
   for he has heard my cry for mercy.
7 The LORD is my strength and my shield;
   my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy
   and I will give thanks to him in song.

 8 The LORD is the strength of his people,
   a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.
9 Save your people and bless your inheritance;
   be their shepherd and carry them forever.

7 Comments

Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life, Music, postaday2011, Psalms

Works of Service Don’t Earn Salvation

It is clear in scripture that God has work for His people to do, but what is the purpose of those works and what do they accomplish? In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul explains the purpose of works:

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV).

The works that God has given us to do are not for the purpose of earning our salvation. Paul is talking here to those who are already God’s people by faith in Christ before the works are appointed. But the work He has appointed for us – that the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are called to prepare us for – are for the purpose of building each other up, for strengthening the faith and knowledge of His people so that they might know the fullness of the blessing of salvation and eternal life. The works of service that God has set before us are for the purpose of helping His people to trust in Him each day and to bring us together in unity.

There is nothing in the whole of scripture that suggests that our works of service will gain for us salvation or peace.

I am thinking today about Martin Luther because tomorrow is Reformation Sunday. Martin Luther was a monk who is considered the father of the Reformation. Of his years as a monk he remarked, “If anyone could have gained heaven as a monk, then I would indeed have been among them.” Yet throughout this time he felt no peace with God and believed that he was far from Christ. He lived in constant fear of God and hell, wondering if he had done enough, if he had been good enough, to earn salvation. He tried, in vain, to find an assurance of salvation in his works of service.

His superior at the monastery ordered that he pursue an academic career and so Luther began his academic career, as a student and then professor, at the University of Wittenberg. It was during this time that he studied the book of Romans and came to understand the doctrine of justification by faith. It was only then that he found peace with God as he understood the assurance of salvation through the atoning sacrifice of Christ. He came to the point where he could honestly say, “Is it not wonderful news to believe that salvation lies outside ourselves?” And it is wonderful news, indeed, that we need not earn our own salvation.

That is what the Reformation was all about. The Church had become corrupt. The common people were denied the ability to read the scriptures for themselves and were taught that they would pay for their sins in purgatory when they died. But they could avoid such penalty by paying indulgences to the Church, in essence buying their own salvation. Luther opposed this practice and fought for the Gospel when he hung his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church, calling for a public debate of his arguments made in that document.

Because of his actions, and his refusal to recant what he believed the scriptures clearly taught, Luther was eventually excommunicated from the Catholic Church. But he had found peace with God, knowing that he was justified by his faith alone and so his excommunication did not matter to him. He certainly did work as a pastor and teacher so that the body of Christ might be built up and God’s people might attain the full measure of the fullness of Christ, but he never again worked to earn his salvation. He knew that it was a gift of God.

6 Comments

Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life, postaday2011, Service

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

One of my fellow bloggers post a hymn every Sunday, and I love checking out which hymn he has chosen. Often it is a hymn I have never heard, but the lyrics are always wonderful. Because it is Reformation Sunday, I thought I would post a hymn of my own, one that is always sung in the Lutheran church on this day. It was written by Martin Luther, originally in German, and has been translated into English.

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

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

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing,
Were not the right man on our side,
The man of God's own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He.
Lord Sabaoth, his name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

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

That word above all earthly powers
Not thanks to them, abideth.
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also.
The body they may kill,
God's truth abideth still.
His kingdom is forever...

4 Comments

Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life, Music

Remembering the Reformation

Tomorrow is Reformation Day, the day we remember and celebrate the work of Martin Luther and others to expose non-Biblical theology and practices of the church in the 1500s. It is an important day to be grateful for the fact that we have God’s Word available to us and for the gospel of grace that His Word shows us.

My Lutheran Book of Prayer includes Luther’s prayer for the Reformation Festival, as he called it, and I wanted to share that prayer because it remains a good prayer for the church today, 400+ years after the Reformation.

Lord God, who after long ages of darkness delivered the Church from the bondage of error, we thank You for those faithful witnesses through whom You restored the Gospel of Christ to men, and we praise You that this blessed light has been preserved for us to this present age. We thank You for making known among us the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make us wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, our only Mediator. Defend Your Church against all her foes. Seek and save the lost and all who have gone astray. Preserve among us the pure Word and the holy Sacraments, turn our hearts from false and pernicious doctrine. Direct and strengthen us by Your Holy Spirit that we may abide in the confession of Your Word all the days of our lives and in the end, by Your grace, obtain everlasting life. This I pray in the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We cannot become complacent about the teachings of our churches. We must continue to pray that Jesus defend His church against those who would set aside His Word and lead God’s children astray. We must rely on the direction and strength of His Holy Spirit to help us stand firm on the truth of scripture. We must cling to grace and lift high the cross of Christ as the only means of salvation.

The Reformation was an important stage in the history of the Church, but that doesn’t mean we can sit back on our laurels and not remain vigilant. False and pernicious doctrines still creep in from time to time. We need to guard our hearts against them.

We need to guard against the doctrine of the progressive Christian  movement that says that other religions are just other paths to God and that Jesus is not the only way. We need to guard against the doctrine of legalism that says we need to follow all the rules in order to be saved, essentially requiring that we save ourselves. We need to guard against doctrine and theology that says the Bible is not the inspired and inerrant Word of God.

There are many warnings in the New Testament about false teachers within the Church. Heresies were not new when Martin Luther and the other reformers fought against them in the 1500s, and they will always be something we must guard against until the Day of Christ Jesus. The Apostle Peter warned:

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. 2 Peter 2:1-3.

When asked to recant his faith in Christ and the Gospel, Luther said, “Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.” Let us stand firm as Luther did and not follow the shameful ways of false teachers. This I pray in the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

1 Comment

Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life

The Politically Incorrect Narrow Gate

There is a movement in the church to forge a new, “progressive Christianity.” One of the primary tenants of this movement is that all religions and faiths are true for their adherents. In other words, progressive Christians reject the core Christian doctrine that Jesus is the only means of salvation. Although they generally eschew doctrine and “dogma,” they are adherents to the doctrine of relativism.

[Note: As I read through to edit this, I noticed that the initials for “progressive Christian” are P.C. And P.C., or “politically correct” they are indeed. This post, on the other hand, is not P.C.]

I have read and studied the Bible, and I frankly do not understand how this group can consider itself Christian. They ignore most of what Christ said about Himself and the means of salvation. Christ was very clear about the fact that trusting in Him was the only way to truly have a relationship with God. Although much of the writings of the apostles confirms this, one need not read past the Gospels and the words of Christ Jesus himself to see this truth.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14

     “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.
     Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” John 10:1-9.

There is only one gate, and that gate is Jesus Christ. Those who try to find salvation through their own works and their own efforts are trying to “climb in by some other way.” Those who call themselves pastors in the progressive Christian church have not entered by the One True Gate and are so are not true shepherd’s of Christ’s sheep. They are strangers. Those who belong to Christ will never listen to them.

Also, by claiming that all faiths are equally valid paths to God, the progressive Christians fail to follow Jesus’ great commission given to His disciples:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20.

He didn’t say to baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit “unless they have found some other path to me.” There is no provision for allowing alternate paths because to do so leaves people traveling down the broad road to destruction. All other paths are based on each person saving themselves or one the collective salvation of a group because one belongs to the group that has earned salvation for its members.

The progressive Christian movement also focuses on what they call love, because Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love the Lord your God and the second was to love your neighbor as yourself. It is true that the best-known quote of Jesus talks about how much God loves the world and that He did not send Jesus to condemn the world. But it doesn’t stop there. To truly understand John 3:16, one must continue reading the rest of what Jesus said:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” John 3:16-21.

Jesus is the light and when we come into His presence and believe in Him, He exposes the depravity of our human heart and the power of God alone to make us righteous. But many do not want to admit that their heart is truly depraved. They prefer to cling to their pride and point to their own good deeds of social justice and loving their neighbor in the way they see fit.

This doesn’t seem like real love to me. A love that allows someone to continue down the broad road to destruction is not true love. A safe love that doesn’t rock the boat or stand upon the hard truths about the human condition and our need for a savior is no love at all. We show that we love our neighbor when we are willing to put our lives on the line for them. That’s what Jesus was willing to do, what He did, for us. And that’s how we know what love is.

I know what Jesus said, and if I am going to follow Him (which I definitely am!) then I am not comfortable ignoring what He said. Why, if there were other ways that God was going to call people to Himself, would Jesus say, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through me”? John 14:6. What kind of God would say “This is the only way” but not really mean it? I cannot understand claiming to be a follower of Christ but not believing or trusting what He has said.

I know that there are friends of mine who will read this and completely disagree with me, so may even get mad at me. Others won’t bother to even read this far. So be it. I also know I have other friends who will be encouraged, strengthened, and emboldened by what I have written and by the words of our Savior. Along with the great reformer Martin Luther, I respectfully but boldly state:

“Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”

4 Comments

Filed under Faith, Family, Jesus, Life