The Reformation (500 Years Since)!

I am teaching a class for OCU right now, on Church History (Part II).  It highlights the events in the church from 1054 to current times and even looks at future trends.  It is interesting that the way the scheduled topics fall, that we discussed the pre-reformation last week and this week (Thursday), we will look at the Reformation.  Sunday evening, I shared a little bit about the Reformation.  Even though I do not agree with many of the nuances in Reformed Theology, the Wesleyan-Arminian movements are much indebted to the principles championed by the Protestant reformers.

The Coming Reformation

The Roman Catholic Church had become deeply corrupted.  There had already been the “Great Schism” between the Roman Catholic Church of the West and the Orthodox Church of the East in 1054.  However, towards the 14th and 15th centuries, many things brought this corruption to the forefront.  People were leaving the church because of the crusades and the chasm between the priests and people.  Those that stayed were encouraged to buy indulgences from the Catholic church to get some time off of purgatory for themselves or others, living and dead.

Other things, such as pressure to have the state to come out from Church’s scope of authority.  As people came back from the crusades, they also brought back the lost writings of early Christian fathers and apologists that helped formed the faith after the close of the New Testament.  In other words, some Christians were stepping out of superstition and ignorance, back into the light of authentic Christian teaching.  Individuals such as Wycliffe and Erasmus realized that the people needed the Word of God in their own language (Wycliffe), and that it was essential to study the Scripture in its original languages (Erasmus).  At that time, all they had was Latin and the only ones that could read it was the priesthood.  The invention of the printing press was also instrumental, as it made it easier for everyone to have reading materials of their own (now everyone could have the Scripture for themselves).  These pre-reformers and much more were hoping for drastic change.

The Protestant Reformation

It is said that “Luther hatched the egg that Erasmus laid.”  Of course, Erasmus argued that he intended for a different kind of eff.  Both, Erasmus and Luther were hoping for reform inside the church.  Luther did not want to start a new group, but he did.  It is accepted that on October 31, 157, the monk, Martin Luther, went to the Castle Church Wittenberg and nailed his 95 theses to the door.  The response was overwhelming, and Luther would be called to recant his stance.  To which he responded in an assembly called the Diet of Worms, “Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me.”

More reformers, such as John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli would later join in the movement.  Groups such as the Anabaptists (“to again baptize”) would move farther past the other reformers regarding practice.  When the Reformation came to England, the state resolved to create the Anglican church, reformed in theology but Roman Catholic in practice.  The Puritans of England would seek to make a full transition from Roman Catholics altogether.  However, all these protestant groups and even my holiness brethren affirm the key principles of the Reformation.  The principles are Sola Scriptura (“by Scripture alone”), Sola Fide (“by faith alone”), Sola Gratia (“by grace alone”), Solo Christo (“Christ alone”), and Soli Deo Gloria (“glory to God alone”).  Another primary tenant is the priesthood of all believers.  Highlighting our emphasis that we do not need a priest to approach God on our behalf but that we can have a personal relationship with the Lord.

Again, we owe much to the Protestant Reformation that seems much older than 500 years.  It was and remains a great revival of Biblical proportions.  In conclusion, have a happy Reformation Day!

Scripture Reading Challenge (#33)

One of the most familiar stories of the Bible is that of David and Goliath.  This is a story of a young teen facing impossible odds and through the grace of God was victorious.  The stance that David made is admirable.  The faith that he displayed is inspirational.  The commitment he had to God is challenging us to us.

Read 1 Samuel 16:1-18:16

The Spirit can leave a person. Saul is a testimony to this. Scripture reminds us,“And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians‬ ‭4:30‬). The Holy Spirit is the testimony to our soul that we are a child of God (Rom. 8:16). Saul grieved God so deeply and for so long that the Holy Spirit moved away from Saul.  This is the sad condition of many people, and like Saul, they do not repent of their secret or open sins and errant thinking.  Instead, the chasm between them and God widens.

God will raise up leaders after his heart.  The Scriptures substantiates our hopes at this point.  These leaders may not always replace toxic leaders, as in the example of David and Saul.  They may challenge leaders in the wrong, they may only offer a new direction to follow, or they may inspire and bring hope to those while enduring a difficult situation.  God would remove Saul from leadership and David would step up into the position of king.  However, David was leading the people long before he was king.  You lead from proximity and manage from a position.  David spent time with the people while Saul became separated.  Leaders today must guard their relationships if they hope to remain a good leader.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#28)

First John 4:1 reads, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”  John continues with a litmus test for professing believers.  Discernment is an essential part of the Christian life.  Not everything that seems like it is from God is actually from Him.  We must be hyper-vigilant to be on guard for our faith and the faith of our families.  Gideon was such a man that wanted to be sure it was God helping Him.  God wanted to raise Gideon up as a judge.  Gideon, however, wanted to be sure it was the Lord calling Him and not something else.  

 

Read Judges 6:1-7:25

What are you doing for the Lord by His grace?  Are you sure it is for the Lord and not something for yourself or another?  It is important to examine ourselves to make sure we “beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (Eph. 4:1).  We can become drawn away from our initial calling and trapped in sin.  However, the Lord can help us keep our focus and commitment to the calling on our life.  By His grace, we can be sure of our identity and work.

An essential piece of Gideon’s story is that God does look on our ability and think, “They don’t have the right stuff.”  The cliche motto is “God does not call the equipped, but equips the called.”  God wants faithfulness.  He will take care of the rest.  It doesn’t matter if you are weak or outnumbered.  If we are faithful to the Lord, He will perform miracles.  In fact, that is his counter to human wisdom.  When reasoning says that something is impossible, God makes it possible.  Whatever the Lord has called you to do, He will accomplish it through you if you are faithful to Him.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#18)

One of my favorite stories is the Chronicles of Narnia.  In The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, the children are talking about the Christ-like figure, Aslan the Lion.  The conversation goes, “Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh,” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr. Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

God is certainly good, but he is not safe, at least for sin and wickedness to be around. The Lord is going to demonstrate in our reading His power and intolerance of sin and the evil in the hearts of men and women.   God will send ten plagues upon Egypt.  We will learn about the first nine in our passage today.

Read Exodus 6:28-11:10

What does it mean that God would harden Pharoah’s heart (Exodus 7:3)?  There are a variety of explanations based on how one understands God’s sovereignty and man’s free will.  However, it may be sufficient at this point in God’s story to note that this is ultimately above our pay grade, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).  Still, I would like to point out God’s dealings with people’s hearts in Romans 1:18-32.  A passage we have already visited.  You will notice that in the Romans passage, three times God says “God gave them over” (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28).  I believe this is similar to God hardening Pharoah’s heart.  Pharoah made a choice to live without Israel’s God and when confronted with another choice, kept going against God.  God gave Pharoah over to his desire to not listen, and he reaped the consequences of Godlessness.  In other words, Pharoah chooses where he wants to make to his bed, and God said, “Okay, if that’s what you want.”

The plagues demonstrate another aspect of God.  God is holy and loving.  They are not separate concepts.  Instead they are two sides of the same coin.  God’s holiness may seem harsh, but it is in His holiness that He is the only real source of Love.  As love, there is the aspect of the Lord appearing tough on those things that cast themselves against what God loves.  Through the plagues, we see judgment fall on those who are against God, but mercy on those who follow God.  Whether God’s action is seen as judgment or compassion is based on what side of redemption you are standing on.  From the side of the unredeemed, God’s actions produce conviction, fear, and at times bitterness.  However, from the viewpoint of the redeemed, all that came before was accompanied by God’s providential grace.  Providence is the grace that God sends before us to bring us to Him.  Thank God for His grace that goes before us to prepare the way.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#15)

Have you ever had to keep a surprise hidden but couldn’t keep it secret because you were so excited to share it?  I remember one year at Kohl’s, I set inside the car with our baby boy while my wife and three or four-year-old daughter went Christmas shopping.  When they came out of the store and opened the hatch of the car, my wife said, “don’t tell Daddy what we got him for Christmas.”  Well, after my wife put my daughter in her car seat and before she could sit in her seat, my sweet daughter blurted out, “Daddy!  We got you a watch!”  It was great.  As we come to the end of this part of the story, Joseph is so overwhelmed with emotion, that he can no longer keep his identity secret from his brothers.

After today’s passage, we will be finished with our readings in Genesis and have 85 more readings to go before we are done.  Do you feel that you are getting a better grip on the Biblical story? I pray that you are already feeling strengthed in your faith and encouraged to keep on moving forward with the challenge.

Read Genesis 45:1-46:7

There are two passages that I want to focus on for our devotional today.  The first is Genesis 45:7-8, namely, “So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God.”  Wow.  God took the evil that Joseph’s brothers committed and turned it to everyone’s good.  Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  God had a plan for Joseph’s life, and nothing would thwart his counsel.  The same is true in our present reality.  Whatever trial and great difficulty come our way, God can take those and turn them into our good and to the benefit of others.  Nothing happens in vain when God is in our life.  Without him, anything and everything that happens good or bad are in vain.  The Lord makes everything have a holy purpose.

The second passage is Genesis 46:3-4.  The focus here is, “I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt…I will go down with thee into Egypt.”  I feel that this reinforces the previous point.  Look at Jacob and his families direction of life.  It’s going down.  Some may say it’s going up because they are heading to a land of protection and wealth because of the famine in the land.  However, even some good things can turn out to be wrong things because they are not the great things God really has laid out for us.  The good is that Egypt would supply them during the famine and be a good place to multiply numbers for the future nation of Israel.  However, the good turned to bad as Egypt would enslave Israel.  The great is that God had a promised land he wanted them to live in all along.   God would go down into good land of Egypt, but He did not want them to stay there forever

God would go down into the good land of Egypt but He did not want them to stay there forever, he had something better planned for them.  God does intend for us to be entangled in this world.  There are many good things here to enjoy, however, it is easy to lose sight of God’s Spirit in this world for the elements of the world.  God has something far better in store for the faithful.  He is with us here, but to make us ready and keeping us pure for what Jesus is preparing for us (cf. John 14:1-7).

Scripture Reading Challenge (#14)

God does not point out our sin to laugh at us or scorn.  Instead, he reveals our issues so that we can deal with them appropriately.  That is, to be cleansed and forgiven.  In the story of Genesis, the brothers need to make a second trip to Egypt.  They will face their sin one way or another.  Joseph is building with excitement to reveal his unfeigned love for his brethren.

Read Genesis 43:1-44:34

Something that should be jumping off the pages of the Bible to us about this story is Joseph is dropping hints to his brothers all the time.  In Genesis 42:18, he says, “for I fear God.”  The word used for God is Elohim, which can be a generic term to identify any God. However, the writer of Genesis uses it to signify the One True God of Israel.  It’s possible that Joseph is letting his brothers know that he fears their God.  We also see in our text today that He knows that his brother’s and father’s God blesses (Genesis 43:23).  This Egyptian is very well acquainted with the Hebrew God.  Egyptians probably had cultic practices and perspectives against Hebrews.  Finally, the individual interest he took in his full brother, Benjamin, and the extra food he gave him (Genesis 43:34).  All I can say is Joseph may have disguised himself from his brothers, but at the same time, he is trying his best to get them to recognize him.

God is doing the same thing.  First Timothy 1:17 and Colossians 1:5 reminds us that God is invisible.  He has dropped hints all the way through the Old Testament about his character in that is it claimed, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1)  The Psalms also teach, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalm 19:1).  God is fully revealed in Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:5).  The Father has made himself known fully in the Son and witnesses in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.  Even more, Christ has left us the Church, His literal body on earth.  First John 4:20 says, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”  It is difficult for me to believe someone has faith in God but does not live in faithfulness with the Church (by participating in

It is difficult for me to understand that someone has faith in God but does not live in faithfulness with the Church (by participating in fellowship with a local congregation).  We have faith in the invisible head of the Church but no faithfulness to the visible body.  God has revealed Himself fully in time past through His Son.  Today, God continually reveals Himself through His people.  Our bodies are the temple His spirit dwells in now (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  Not something made with human hands but fashioned by God.  So, again, how are you living out the faith you claim to have?  God has given us the Church as the community where we are to live out our faith.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#13)

I grew up with the saying, “be sure your sins will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).  And, found out that it’s true.  If we think that we can escape being noticed when we do something wrong or when we neglect to do the right thing, we are only fooling ourselves.  We will reap what we sow (Proverbs 11:18, 22:8; 2 Corinthians 9:6; Galatians 6:7-8).  Reaping and sowing is not the idea of karma.  Karma has to do with reincarnation and a person receiving the repercussions of actions of a previous life in the next life until eventually they reach a state of nirvana and are no longer reincarnated.  Christianity holds the belief that once this earthly life is over, judgment is final.  There are no do-overs.  We must seek to live holy and righteous in the time that is now.

Read Genesis 42:1-38

Joseph is going to play a grand charade before his brothers.  His goal is to bring his entire family to Egypt and surprise them that he is still alive and second in command of Egypt.  However, he is going to have a little fun with his brothers and see if they are remorseful for what they did to him so many years before.  We know that they are indeed sorrowful over their actions.  One of his brothers, Reuben, who tried to protect him then, said “Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against eh child; and ye would not hear?  Therefore, behold, also his blood is required” (Genesis 42:22).  The brothers of Joseph are being led to a contrite spirit, repentance, and restitution.

If only we would become sick of our sin, repent, and seek God.  King David wrote in Psalm 51 about his sorrow for the crime he committed and sought after God’s forgiveness.  He knew that peace, joy, and contentment only would only come through an unbroken fellowship with God.  It had been broken by sin, and he wanted to have it restored.

Is your relationship with God broken?  What sin have you allowed to remain that is separating you from the sweet fellowship of our Savior?  Why not, right now, seek God’s forgiveness and repent of your sin?  First John 1:1 teaches us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  He is faithful.  Are you faithful?