Oct 31=Reformation Day

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The doctrine of justification by faith alone is what sparked the protestant reformation in 1517. On October 31, a Catholic priest named Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of All Saints Church protesting the abuses of the Catholic Church regarding the sale of indulgences. The document was meant to start a local discussion but, due to the printing press, the paper was distributed all over Europe. The 95 Theses, along with Luther’s other published writings, began a global discussion concerning the biblical nature of Catholic doctrine. The protestant reformation spread throughout the world forcing a split between Catholics and those who agreed with Luther’s position on Justification by grace through faith in Christ alone.

Happy Reformation Day!

~ Stephen Beagles

The Spiritual Path to Peace

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Jesus, the divine Son of God, proclaimed to the crowds during the Sermon on the Mount, “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink: nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing” (Matthew 6:25, NASB).

He then goes on to explain that the Heavenly Father knows that we need these things, and if He takes care of the birds of the air and grass of the fields, then He will most certainly provide for human beings created in God’s image.

How many of us have enough faith to take Jesus at His word and refuse to worry about food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and the balance in our checking accounts? When will we realize that money and possessions only add to our worries, and only God can bring everlasting peace?

Jesus never promised us that life would be easy or that we would be guaranteed everything we want in life. However, He did promise that God would meet our daily needs. Jesus defined success in this lifetime as putting God first in all things and seeking God’s will for our life. In fact, Jesus gives us the secret cure for anxiety and worry:

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

How many of us have the courage to put God before our jobs, our family, our friends, and our own selfish desires? Do we really trust that God will provide what we need in all circumstances?

This formula will only work if we refuse to allow negative thoughts to rule in our minds. James, the brother of Jesus, warned us of being “double-minded” about our faith in the promises of God (James 1:8).

Our emotions may not always cooperate, but faith is holding onto the facts of God’s word instead of our own human feelings. We must work to keep our feelings subject to the word of God.

Money cannot purchase peace of heart, but trusting in the God who created the universe will give us a supernatural peace that is beyond comprehension.

The popular Hymn, What a Friend we have in Jesus, goes:

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

The Bible tells us to replace our worry with faith, and our negativity with prayer. God loves us and Jesus is our friend. There is no problem in the Universe that God cannot solve, and He sent his beloved son to die for our sins. If He is willing to sacrifice Jesus so that we might have eternal life then do we really think that He wants us to doubt His willingness to provide for us?

Charles Spurgeon, wrote a chapter called “The Raven’s Cry” in which he counseled us to never stop praying and trusting God for our needs:

“Satan, too, is telling you, dear friends who are now in this state of mind that God will never hear you, that He will let you cry until you die, that you will pant out your life in sighs and tears, and that at the end you will be cast into the lake of fire. I long to give you some comfort and encouragement. I want to urge you to cry yet more vehemently, to come to the Cross and lay hold of it and vow that you will never leave its shadow until you find the blessing that your soul covets.”

Let us ponder the words of our savior until they sink into our daily consciousness: “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! (Matthew 6:30).

Jesus commands us not to worry and to trust the Heavenly father, who feeds the birds and clothes the grass of the field, to provide for our daily needs. As followers of Christ, we should not allow anxiety to rule our emotions, and we should cast our worries upon the one who loves us enough to sacrifice the life of His own son for our eternal life.

“Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5: 6-7).

~Stephen Beagles

Justification by Faith

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Martin Luther, the icon of the protestant reformation, said it best when he proclaimed the doctrine of Justification by faith to be articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiae “the article of faith that decides whether the church is standing or falling” (Packer). The doctrine of Justification by faith is not only one out of many church doctrines, it is the primary doctrine that breathes life into the rest. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that sparks spiritual reformation when given its proper place in the Christian life. Churches that ignore the doctrine of the perfect righteousness of Christ that covers our sinful imperfection ignore the primary message of the Bible at their own peril.

Reformation theologian J.I. Packer stated there are certain presuppositions that must be granted in order to come to a full understanding of Justification:

1. The divine authority of scripture
2. The divine wrath against human sin
3. The substitutionary death of Christ

If Protestants lose a clear understanding of these doctrines, they will lose justification by faith that can be equated with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In my own life, I have been disappointed with the willingness of fellow protestant believers to compromise the divine authority of scripture for more liberal views of the ancient texts. Some refuse to believe in a wrathful God that punishes sin and focus on an unbiblical view of God that makes the death of Christ nothing more than a historical event. Others go to the opposite extreme by proclaiming Christ died for the whole world and therefore the whole world will be saved regardless of devotion to Christ.

A more dangerous and evil brand of theology claims that doctrines are nothing more than human attempts to explain the mind of God, that doctrine is simply a matter of personal interpretation, and  salvation comes apart from knowing the essentials of the Christian faith.

All of these unbiblical points of view are not from the Holy Spirit and are diabolical attempts to undermine the core doctrine of the Bible—Justification.

The apostle Paul equates the gospel of Justification with the message of Christ’s death and resurrection. Christ died to atone for our sins and resurrected so that sinful human beings might stand justified before a holy God:

“He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25, NIV).

~Stephen Beagles