Monthly Archives: October 2017

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.

The Good Portion: The Doctrine of Scripture for Every Woman is available at local Christian bookshops, or online:

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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

Buy Spurgeon’s Sorrows from your local Christian bookstore, or from these online retailers:

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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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