Soli Deo Gloria – To The Glory of God Alone

By Carine MacKenzie

You are out in the countryside on a beautiful day, admiring the view, enthralled by the trees and the songs of the birds. What is your response?  How does a dramatic sunset affect you?  When you see a field of wheat, ripe and ready for harvesting, do you congratulate the farmer? Or do you think of our Creator God, who made the heavens and the earth? (Psalm 124.8.)

So much of the beauty and glory around us, is shut out of our lives as we are distracted by television, mobile phones and other devices, but our created universe is speaking loudly to us and inviting us to respond. “The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19.1.). “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth You have set your glory above the heavens.” (Psalm 8.1.). Our response to the view, the sunset, the field of wheat should be, “What a wonderful Creator, worthy of all praise and glory.”  The bird was made to fly; the fish was made to swim.  We are made to glorify God and enjoy him for ever. (Shorter Catechism 1)

We glorify God when we praise his name, and when we thank him for all his goodness to us.  “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice, glorifies me,” God says in Psalm 50.23.  Our all-knowing, all-powerful, holy and just God deserves all the glory.  “For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be glory for ever” (Romans 11.36.)

All of life must be for the glory of God – even the mundane, everyday activities. “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”. (1 Corinthians 10.31.). Singing praises to God, gives him glory too. “Serve the Lord with gladness!  Come into his presence with singing.” (Psalm 100.2.). Johann Sebastian Bach was a talented musician and composer. Many people would praise him for his wonderful music. “I play the notes as they are written” he said. “It is God who makes the music.”  His prayer was “Help me to show your glory.” We would like this prayer too as we work and play and interact with friends and family.

The Lord Jesus Christ reveals God’s glory. God created the world through him. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. (Hebrews 1.2-3.). The Son of God is known as the Word and he was with God from the beginning. All things were made through him. (John 1.1-3.) The Son of God became a man and dwelt among us. John tells us that he has “seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1.14.). John, James and Peter were witnesses when Jesus was transfigured, and his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. (Matthew 17.2.). What an amazing experience for them. Peter speaks about this experience in his second letter. He tells us that we have something more sure and valuable in the Word of God – the Scriptures that we have too. How much God deserves our praise and thanks for giving us his Word.

Our supreme gift is Jesus, God’s own Son who gave his life to save his people from their sins. “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Galatians 6.14.)

Each day of creation tells us about God’s glory.

Each day of our life should be for God’s glory.


Carine MacKenzie’s talent for retelling Bible stories has meant that children from all over the world have been given the opportunity to discover Jesus Christ for themselves. She has sales of several million books and lives in Inverness, Scotland.

Her book Creation Sings is available at local Christian bookshops, or online:

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Solus Christus

By J. V. Fesko

One of the Protestant Reformation’s five solas is solus Christus, or Christ alone. But what, exactly, does this sola mean and why is it still important to Christians five hundred years later? The answer to this question lies in the Reformation’s reawakening to the authority of Scripture, especially the Pauline epistles. Reformers like Martin Luther read Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians and saw that in the earliest days of the church, well-intended but nevertheless mistaken Christians thought that they needed to supplement the work of Christ. The false teachers in Galatia claimed that faith in Christ was necessary for salvation, but they also taught that the Gentile Christians needed to be circumcised. According to the false teachers salvation was a combination of faith and obedience. Paul responded quite forcefully and clearly that salvation was by faith alone in Christ alone (e.g., Gal. 3:10-14). This is where the theologians like Luther derived and created the Reformation slogans, solus Christus and sola fide.

When Luther and the reformers read Paul’s letter to Galatia and then looked around at their own theological context, they saw people in their own day trying to repeat the Galatian error. Rather than circumcision plus faith in Jesus, sixteenth-century Christians were trying to combine faith in Christ with their good works. The Roman Catholic Council of Trent (1545-65) was the official response to the Protestant Reformation and codified common beliefs such as the idea that God justifies people on the basis of faith in Christ and their good works. Trent, for example, states: “Justification itself, which is not remission of sins merely, but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man” (Sixth session, chp. 7). This means that a person’s right standing before God rests both on the forgiveness of his sins and his sanctification, or his good works. In fact, Trent taught that people received their initial justification in their baptism and with this infusion of grace, they could then grow and increase in righteousness through their obedience so they could then be finally justified at the last judgment (Sixth session, chp. 10).

The reformers rejected such ideas because they recognized this was another version of the Galatian error. John Calvin, for example, writes: “Surely the material cause [of justification] is Christ, with his obedience through which he acquired righteousness for us” (Institutes, III.xiv.17). Or in the words of the famous hymn Rock of Ages:

Not the labors of my hands
can fulfill thy law’s commands;
could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears forever flow,
all for sin could not atone;
thou must save, and thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to the cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.

These poignant words capture the heart of solus Christus, namely, that God saves us by the work of Christ alone—only his perfect obedience to the law and suffering the penalty of the law’s violation constitutes the unbreakable and sole foundation for our salvation.

Some might think that all of these things are true, but believe that the Roman Catholic Church has changed and no longer rejects solus Christus. As popular as such sentiments might be, the truth is sadly different. The official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church remains committed to the proclamations of the Council of Trent (e.g., Catholic Catechism, §§ 1989, 2019, 1992, 2010). This means that solus Christus is still relevant even though five hundred years have passed since it was first forged in the fires of the Reformation. But even then, solus Christus will never cease to be relevant because it reminds us of the all-important biblical truth that Christ alone saves. This is certainly a message that was desperately needed on the heels of the sin of our first parents in the garden of Eden, in Paul’s day, during the sixteenth-century, in our own day, and until Christ returns.


J. V. Fesko is Academic Dean and Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary in California. He is author of Death in Adam, Life in Christ: The Doctrine of Imputation.

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Sola Gratia

A wonderful thing it is, this being justified, or made just. If we had never broken the laws of God we should not have needed it, for we should have been just in ourselves. He who has all his life done the things which he ought to have done, and has never done anything which he ought not to have done, is justified by the law. But you, dear reader, are not of that sort, I am quite sure. You have too much honesty to pretend to be without sin, and therefore you need to be justified.

Now, if you justify yourself, you will simply be a self-deceiver. Therefore do not attempt it. It is never worthwhile.

If you ask your fellow mortals to justify you, what can they do? You can make some of them speak well of you for small favours, and others will backbite you for less. Their judgment is not worth much. Our text says, “It is God that justifieth,” and this is a deal more to the point. It is an astonishing fact, and one that we ought to consider with care. Come and see.

In the first place, nobody else but God would ever have thought of justifying those who are guilty. They have lived in open rebellion; they have done evil with both hands; they have gone from bad to worse; they have turned back to sin even after they have smarted for it, and have therefore for a while been forced to leave it. They have broken the law, and trampled on the gospel. They have refused proclamations of mercy, and have persisted in ungodliness. How can they be forgiven and justified? Their fellowmen, despairing of them, say, “They are hopeless cases.” Even Christians look upon them with sorrow rather than with hope. But not so their God. He, in the splendour of his electing grace having chosen some of them before the foundation of the world, will not rest till He has justified them, and made them to be accepted in the Beloved. Is it not written, “Whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified”? Thus you see there are some whom the Lord resolves to justify: why should not you and I be of the number?

None but God would ever have thought of justifying me. I am a wonder to myself. I doubt not that grace is equally seen in others. Look at Saul of Tarsus, who foamed at the mouth, against God’s servants. Like a hungry wolf, he worried the lambs and the sheep right and left; and yet God struck him down on the road to Damascus, and changed his heart, and so fully justified him that ere long, this man became the greatest preacher of justification by faith that ever lived. He must often have marvelled that he was justified by faith in Christ Jesus; for he was once a determined stickler for salvation by the works of the law. None but God would have ever thought of justifying such a man as Saul the persecutor; but the Lord God is glorious in grace.

 


The above is an extract from All of Grace: An Earnest Word with Those Seeking Salvation by C. H. Spurgeon.

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Sola Fide – Assurance and Justification by Faith Alone

By Joel R. Beeke

One reason many believers lack assurance of faith is that they lack clarity on the doctrine of justification by faith alone, often confusing it with sanctification. Justification is clearly spelled out in the Word of God in Romans 4:5: ‘To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness’, and in Galatians 2:16, ‘Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ.’
Many do not understand that the Lord freely gives to those who ask of Him the results or benefits of all that Christ did on the cross (His passive obedience) and of His life of perfect obedience to the law (His active obedience). By this twofold obedience on behalf of sinners, God’s justice is satisfied. He thus may be just and the justifier of those who believe in Jesus (Rom. 3:26).
We can do nothing that will make us worthy or fit to receive God’s forgiveness. Nothing is necessary to make us acceptable to God. As poor sinners, we receive the gift of salvation by true faith and are justified; that is, we begin as Christians in a right relationship with the Lord. There is nothing that we can do to make ourselves acceptable to God. God does not justify us because of our sincere sorrow for sin, our good works, or anything else. Justification by faith alone means that all our sins are forgiven only because of what Christ has done.
If we base our justification on some condition that we must fulfill or a particular experience that we must have, we inject a kind of legalism into our justification that destroys its gracious character and robs us of its saving and assuring character. Then our spiritual deficiencies can lead us to spiritual depression, for justification by works, no matter how subtle its form, will demolish assurance. If salvation were by works, we could never do enough of them to be saved! If salvation were by experience, no experience would stand up for long under close scrutiny.
It is true that God expects His justified people to put off their sins and do good works, but only as the fruit of being justified, not as a means to being justified. The Belgic Confession of Faith says that when Christians have received Christ by faith as ‘the only Savior, they avoid sin, follow after righteousness, love the true God and their neighbor, neither turn aside to the right or left, and crucify the flesh with the works thereof’ (Art. 29). But we must remember that none of these things can be the ground of our acceptance with God. Judged in themselves, our best works must fall short, for whatever we do is stained with sin. James says that if we are guilty of breaking the law at one point, we are guilty of breaking the whole law (James 3:2).
Thus, no true Christian will ever feel that he is fit to be accepted by God. Even the holiest of men are accepted by God only because the merits of Christ are imputed to them. Once we understand believe that, we are released from bondage. We may then go to God as sinners, knowing that God does not require anything from us as a condition for receiving His grace. We may come as we are, resting completely and exclusively on Christ’s merits.
This view of justification continues to be an important factor in the lives of those who have been assured of their faith. For when they fall into sin, they are reminded that they are unworthy to be accepted by God and that if God were not willing to receive us as sinners for Christ’s sake, there would be no hope for anyone. That is what it means to live out of Christ: to need His forgiving grace every day, to know that there is nothing in us that is acceptable to God, but that He is willing to wash away all our sins for Christ’s sake. Justification by faith alone stands in the foreground of the experience of every child of God who has assurance.

 


Joel R. Beeke is President and Professor of Systematic Theology and Homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and Pastor of the Heritage Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

His book, Knowing and Growing in Assurance of Faith is available at local Christian bookshops, or online:

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Sola Scriptura

By John and Keri Folmar

Post tenebras lux.  “After the darkness, light.” Gospel truths had become shrouded in Medieval religion. The 16th century Protestant Reformation wasn’t a sociological phenomenon. It wasn’t a political movement. It was a revival, a spiritual awakening.  What sparked the awakening? Martin Luther knew where the credit lay. When asked about his accomplishments, he said, “I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing…The Word did it all.”

And yet everything changed—from the architecture of the church building, to the public order of service, to the underlying theology. The Bible was now translated into the language of the people. The preaching, now simple, verse-by-verse exposition. The Lord’s Supper, now observed in both parts, not just the bread (where formerly the wine was superstitiously kept from the people, lest they spill it on the ground). The singing, it returned to the church, in congregational form. The theology, it was reformed by the Word of God.  No longer was salvation by cooperation with the mechanics of the church—penance, the Mass, last rites.  Now, salvation was seen as a unilateral, sovereign act of God, where the Holy Spirit regenerated the sinner, enabling him to respond in repentance and faith. The agent of regeneration was “the word of truth” (James 1:18). It was this recovery of the biblical gospel that lit Europe on fire; and, then, eventually much of the world. The Word of God did it all.

Sola Scriptura was the fountain, the first of the five Solas of the Reformation. The Bible is where we find the precious gospel by which we are saved—by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone for God’s glory alone.

But times have changed since the Reformation. In our modern world, we have constant access to the Internet and can hear from our favorite commentator on Twitter in real-time. Entertainment is at our fingertips, only a click away. Isn’t the Bible terribly inefficient, if not irrelevant? Don’t we need something more current to spice up our churches? Something more immediate and personal to speak into our own lives?

Never! Our glorious and sovereign God has spoken and he continues to speak to us today through the Scriptures (Hebrews 1:1-3). As God’s Word, the Bible is sufficient, relevant in every culture and every age (Psalm 119:89).  As Scripture is read, sung, prayed and preached, churches continue to be reformed today, established as pillars and buttresses of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). The Bible alone is necessary and sufficient for the task.

Just as the Scriptures continue to reform churches, they continue to transform individual lives. Second Timothy 3:16-17 promises, “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.” As we daily dedicate ourselves to reading the Bible and as we listen with open ears to faithful preaching, God’s Word transforms us from one degree of glory to another. And this, not just because the Bible tells us how to live, but because in it we hear from God himself and see Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.

As Luther himself said, “Let the man who would hear God speak, read Holy Scripture.” This is how God makes himself personally present to us—through the Holy Spirit inspired words of the Bible.  The Bible is not a behavioral manual, or a set of instructions, or a textbook, but the very voice of God.

Sola Scriptura means the Bible is the Christian’s ultimate source of authority. It is God’s inspired Word, necessary and sufficient for doctrinal fidelity and life to the full. As Spurgeon beautifully said:

 

Believer, there is enough in the Bible for you to live upon forever. If you should outnumber the years of Methuselah, there would be no need for a fresh revelation; if you should live until Christ should return from the earth, there would be no necessity for the addition of a single word; if you should go down as deep as Jonah, or even descend as David said he did, into the depths of hell, still there would be enough in the Bible to comfort you without a supplementary sentence.

 

Sola Scriptura: The Bible is enough indeed.


John is Senior Pastor of the United Christian Church of Dubai. Keri is John’s wife and the author of The Good Portion: The Doctrine of Scripture for Every Woman and several inductive Bible studies for women.

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Biblical Church Revitalization

When Brian Croft first arrived at Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, it was the classic dying Southern Baptist church. In the five years that followed, he survived 3 firing attempts, threats of violence, and the betrayal of close friends. But God saw fit to breathe life into his church again. Hear some of Brian’s story in this video from the Missouri Baptist Convention:

 


To find out more about this, check out Brian’s book, Biblical Church Revitalization, at your local Christian bookstore, or online:

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Spurgeon’s Sorrows

How do we get through them? The times that knock the breath out; when even our strongest and bravest must confess with desolate eyes, “I do not know what to pray” (to paraphrase what Paul expresses in Rom. 8:26). How do we get through such times, when silences trump sentences? It is as if our words have no life jackets. They must stay, tread water in the shallows, and watch us from a distance. Words have no strength to venture with us into the heaving deeps that swallow us.

And many of us who believe in Jesus don’t like to admit it, but we find no immunity here either. Many of us know what it is to lose hair, weight, appetite and the semblance of ourselves. Painful circumstances or a disposition of gloom within our chemistry can put on their muddy boots and stand thick, full weighted and heavy upon our tired chests. It is almost like anxiety tying rope around the ankles and hands of our breath. Tied to a chair, with the lights out, we sit swallowing in panic the dark air.

These kinds of circumstances and bodily chemistry can steal the gift s of divine love too, as if all of God’s love letters and picture albums are burning up in a fire just outside the door, a fire which we are helpless to stop. We sit there, helpless in the dark of divine absence, tied to this chair, present only to ash and wheeze, while all we hold dear seems lost forever. We even wonder if we’ve brought this all on ourselves. It’s our fault. God is against us. We’ve forfeited God’s help.

Mentally, all of this, and its only Tuesday!

How do we get through?


The above extract is from Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression, written by Zack Eswine. This is what people have said about it:

…Spurgeon from early years to final days found dark distress ever hovering on the edges of his mind and sometimes launching an all out assault on his very being. How he managed all this, by the grace of God, both for himself and for others, drives both the gripping content and the riveting literary style of Zack Eswine in Spurgeon’s Sorrows.

Tom J. Nettles, Former Senior Professor of Historical Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky

The river of life often flows through sloughs of despond. Charles Spurgeon knew that well… Ditto Zack Eswine in this unusual, refreshing, sensible book… Read it, and take it to heart.

David Powlison, CCEF Executive Director, Senior Editor, Journal of Biblical Counseling

Zack Eswine is a pastor with the mind of a scholar and the heart of a poet. His wisdom gleaned from Charles Spurgeon’s struggle with depression is theologically profound and pastorally lucid.

Jason Byassee, Senior Pastor, Boone United Methodist Church, Boone, North Carolina

Zack Eswine, like Spurgeon, a preacher, pastor, and no stranger to suffering… there is much encouragement, comfort and practical help to be found in this rich and poetic treasure.

Richard Winter, Author of When Life Goes Dark: Finding Hope in the Midst of Depression, Director of Counseling at Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri

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Answered Prayers

 

In this wonderful video, the late Helen Roseveare, affectionately known as Mama Luka, shares a story about a time when God provided just what was needed, even when she didn’t believe he could.

To read about this story, and lots more, try ‘On His Majesty’s Service’, written by Irene Howat and part of our Trail Blazers series.

Or try ‘Digging Ditches: The Latest Chapter of An Inspirational Life’, one of several books written by Helen Roseveare herself.

 

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Podcast with Melissa Kruger

We love to hear our authors share the stories behind the books that they write – and the insights and lessons which God gives them along the way! Here is a podcast from the folks at the Alliance of Confessing Evanglicals as Aimee Byrd, Carl Trueman, and Todd Pruitt speak to Melissa Kruger about her books, The Envy of Eve and Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood:

A-List Uptown Girl

For a more in-depth discussion on the topic of envy, listen in to this podcast from Revive Our Hearts where Melissa speaks specifically about The Envy of Eve. Recognising envy in our lives; the link between unbelief and envy; and the trap (and dangers) of comparison are all highlighted and discussed by Melissa. Well worth a listen!

Revive Our Hearts

 

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Judas kissed Jesus

“The contrarian in me loves this – a look at Jesus through the eyes of His betrayer. And a look at our own relationship with Jesus through exploring theirs.”

Barnabas Piper, Author of ‘The Pastor’s Kid’, ‘Help My Unbelief’, and ‘The Curious Christian’


The kiss of death

No matter what our culture says and what social mores they’ve come to accept, kissing is intimate. You’re in someone’s space, you’re touching them, and you’re not merely touching, you’re touching lips. Now, I understand that Judas didn’t touch lips with Jesus, but he shared something intimate with the Son of God in order to betray Him.

One of the most intimate of human experiences was used as a signal to turn the Son of God over to His destroyers. This kiss would notify the guards who to mock, ridicule, beat, scourge and nail to a cross. This kiss would bring separation between Jesus and His disciples. This kiss would be the moment Jesus’ entire life has been building up to. This kiss of death, however, would bring God’s plan of redemption to fruition.

This kiss signified death. It signified death for Jesus. It was part of the plan Judas had discussed with the guards. It signified death for Judas. He looked one last time into the eyes of the Man who could save him and simply turned him over. It signified the death of death. Three days later, Christ would roll away the stone and walk away from that tomb. It signified the death of life as we know it. This earth is now closer to its end but the beginning of life eternal is ready for its beginning.

The ‘kiss’ of Christ

The beautiful hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, contains these rich lyrics that reflect upon the Savior on the cross, ‘Did e’er such love and sorrow meet? Or thorns compose so rich a crown?’. Two polar opposites coming together: love and sorrow; sharp thorns and rich crown … kiss and betrayal. These things didn’t belong together, but they were brought together through the man Jesus Christ. Judas disgraced the kiss by using it to betray the Savior of the world. The kiss did not deserve to be disgraced in the manner Judas did. Judas betrayed with a kiss. The greatest traitor in human history kissing the most faithful and trustworthy. Christ, however, has a kiss of His own. What is the ‘kiss’ of Christ? The kiss of Christ is epitomized in the reality of the divine God ‘kissing’ humanity by becoming a human being. Jesus the King became Jesus the babe. The Creator became creature by taking on flesh, leaving His throne and coming to dwell with sinful man. The King of Glory does not belong among prostitutes, tax collectors and self-righteous Pharisees, yet He humbled Himself and dwelt among them.

King of contrasts

What else doesn’t belong together? Enemies adopted as children. You see, God has a way of reconciling things that don’t belong. Judas abused the kiss but God used it to bring His plan of redemption to completion. Christ’s disciples argued about who was the greatest, but Christ became the least so we could inherit the Kingdom. Leaders don’t serve and servants don’t lead, but Jesus led by serving, reconciling what doesn’t belong together. Giving away something is losing, but Christ reconciled giving as receiving.

Any one of us can see a lot of ourselves in Judas. He was an idolater and so are we. He feared man and so do we. He lacked faith and so do we. He sinned against Jesus and so do we. We should be humbled as we survey the life of Judas and realize our lives are often anything but faithful. However, we serve a Savior of reconciliation and He’s the faithful one that reconciles the faithless to Himself.


The above extract is from John Perritt’s new book, published with Christian Focus, What Would Judas Do?: Understanding faith through the most famous of the faithless. If you don’t have a Christian bookstore near you, you may want to consider purchasing a copy from one of the online book retailers listed below:

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