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    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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THE REFORMED TRADITION

James Montgomery BoiceJames Montgomery Boice:

Reformed theology gets its name from the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation, with its distinct theological emphases, but it is theology solidly based on the Bible itself. Believers in the reformed tradition regard highly the specific contributions of such people as Martin Luther, John Knox, and particularly John Calvin, but they also find their strong distinctives in the giants of the faith before them, such as Anselm and Augustine, and ultimately in the letters of Paul and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Reformed Christians hold to the doctrines characteristic of all Christians, including the Trinity, the true deity and true humanity of Jesus Christ, the necessity of Jesus’ atonement for sin, the church as a divinely ordained institution, the inspiration of the Bible, the requirement that Christians live moral lives, and the resurrection of the body. They hold other doctrines in common with evangelical Christians, such as justification by faith alone, the need for the new birth, the personal and visible return of Jesus Christ, and the Great Commission. (Reformed Theology)

Two Ways to Believe in God

Martin LutherHow do you believe in God? Some believe about and others believe in God. Martin Luther explains his thoughts on this below:

There are two ways to believe. The first way is to believe about God, meaning we believe that what is taught about God is really true. It’s similar to believing that what is taught about the devil or hell is true. This type of belief is more a statement of knowledge than an expression of faith.

The second way is to believe in God. This not only includes believing that what is taught about God is true, but also includes trusting him and daring to be in relationship with him. It means believing without any doubt that he really is who he says he is, and he will do all he says he will do. I wouldn’t believe any person to this same degree, no matter how highly others might praise him. It’s easy to believe that someone is godly, but it’s another matter to rely completely on him.

Those who believe in God believe everything written about God in Scripture. They dare to believe this in life and in death. This faith makes them true Christians and gives them everything they desire from God. A person with an evil, hypocritical heart can’t have this type of faith, for it’s a living faith, as described in the first commandment: “I am the LORD your God. . . . You shall have no other gods” (Exodus 20:2–3).

Therefore, the little word in is well placed and should be carefully noted. We don’t say, “I believe God the Father,” or “I believe about God the Father,” but “I believe in God the Father, in Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit.” Only God can give us this type of faith.

It was Foreordained Who should Receive the Word of Life

Every event in the course of human affairs in all of history and in all nations, no matter how insignificant it may appear to us, has its exact place in God’s eternal plan. Loraine Boettner D.D. writes:

That Luther was as zealous for absolute predestination as was Calvin is shown in his commentary on Romans, where he wrote: “All things whatever arise from, and depend on, the divine appointment; whereby it was foreordained who should receive the word of life, and who should disbelieve it; who should be delivered from their sins, and who should be hardened in them; and who should be justified and who should be condemned.”

And Melanchthon, his close friend and fellow-laborer, says: “All things turn out according to divine predestination; not only the works we do outwardly, but even the thoughts we think inwardly”; and again, “There is no such thing as chance, or fortune; nor is there a readier way to gain the fear of God, and to put our whole trust in Him, than to be thoroughly versed in the doctrine of Predestination.”

“Order is heaven’s first law.” From the divine viewpoint there is unbroken order and progress from the first beginnings of the creation to the end of the world and the ushering in of the kingdom of heaven in all its glory. The divine purpose and plan is nowhere defeated nor interrupted; that which in many cases appears to us to be defeat is not really such but only appears to be, because our finite and imperfect nature does not permit us to see all the parts in the whole nor the whole in all its parts. If at one glance we could take in “the mighty spectacle of the natural world and the complex drama of human history,” we should see the world as one harmonious unit manifesting the glorious perfections of God. “Though the world seems to run at random,” says Bishop, “and affairs to be huddled together in blind confusion and rude disorder, yet, God sees and knows the concatenation of all causes and effects, and so governs them that He makes a perfect harmony out of all those seeming jarrings and discords. It is most necessary that we should have our hearts well established in the firm and unwavering belief of this truth, that whatever comes to pass, be it good or evil, we may look up to the hand and disposal of all, to God.

In respect of God, there is nothing neither casual nor contingent in the world. If a master should send a servant to a certain place and command him to stay there till such a time, and, presently after, should send another servant to the same place, the meeting of these two is wholly casual in respect to themselves, but ordained and foreseen by the master who sent them. They fall out unexpectedly as to us, but not so as to God. He foresees and He appoints all the vicissitudes of things.” (The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination)

The Distorted Gospel

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19 ESV)

People today believe they are more intelligent and wiser than the people who lived in centuries past. They assume that such an ancient book as the Bible has very little relevance to modern living. Therefore, these cultural Christians, feel they must import the “revelation” of modern writers, psychologists, and various pseudo-scientific books to modernize the “Old Time Religion”. Such actions, however, deny that the Bible is the Word of God.

Bogus teachers avoid submitting to the Bible’s original intent by ignoring what Scripture actually means; instead, they manipulate it to seem to mean what they want it to mean. They will look to unorthodox sources as their authority to support their unworthy claims. They suppress the truth because they do not wish to live their lives under the authority of God. (Romans 1:18-20)

The Word of God has been under assault since the serpent visited Eve in the Garden. Satan knows that the Word of God leads to salvation. Therefore, this creature plants in men’s minds the seeds of doubt about the Bible. Rejecting or altering the Bible is also a part of his diabolical plan. God, however, has strengthened His Word, that it may stand against any assault. According to Martin Luther, “The Bible is like a lion; it does not need to be defended; just let it loose and it will defend itself.”

“Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5-6 ESV) The term “sola Scriptura” or “the Bible alone” represents the simple truth that there is only one special revelation from God and that is the Bible. God’s truth is seen in the light of God’s truth. In order to support the purity of God’s written word, the source of interpretation must be from the same pure source as the origin of the Scripture itself. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26 ESV)

The Bible clearly exposes the human element in the distortion of the Word. Such people go beyond rejecting the Word of God in their own lives. They want to change the Scriptures in order to be justified in their sins. Many profess themselves to be Christians. Yet, they take inspired Scripture and bend it to match their own twisted teachings. Such blasphemers are interested only in wealth, fame, and followers. In their pride, they make a mockery of the Word of God.

You must not allow the leaders and teachers in your church to add to or take away from God’s Word. Awake sleeper and read God’s word for yourself. “And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.” (Deuteronomy 4:1-2 ESV)

Escaping Sinful Thoughts

Christ laid down His life for us even though we did not believe in Him, nor were able to believe in Him. He died for us, not as believers, but as sinners. Christ died to make sinners into saints while we were utterly without strength. Charles H. Spurgeon writes:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6 ESV)

I have heard another [man] say, “I am tormented with horrible thoughts. Wherever I go, blasphemies steal in upon me. Frequently at my work a dreadful suggestion forces itself upon me, and even on my bed I am startled from my sleep by whispers of the evil one. I cannot get away from this horrible temptation.” Friend, I know what you mean, for I have myself been hunted by this wolf. A man might as well hope to fight a swarm of flies with a sword as to master his own thoughts when they are set on by the devil. A poor tempted soul, assailed by satanic suggestions, is like a traveller I have read of, about whose head and ears and whole body there came a swarm of angry bees. He could not keep them off nor escape from them. They stung him everywhere and threatened to be the death of him. I do not wonder you feel that you are without strength to stop these hideous and abominable thoughts which Satan pours into your soul; but yet I would remind you of the Scripture before us—“When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” Jesus knew where we were and where we should be; He saw that we could not overcome the prince of the power of the air; He knew that we should be greatly worried by him; but even then, when He saw us in that condition, Christ died for the ungodly.

Cast the anchor of your faith upon this. The devil himself cannot tell you that you are not ungodly; believe, then, that Jesus died even for such as you are. Remember Martin Luther’s way of cutting the devil’s head off with his own sword. “Oh,” said the devil to Martin Luther, “you are a sinner.” “Yes,” said he, “Christ died to save sinners.” Thus he smote him with his own sword. Hide you in this refuge, and keep there: “In due time Christ died for the ungodly.” If you stand to that truth, your blasphemous thoughts which you have not the strength to drive away will go away of themselves; for Satan will see that he is answering no purpose by plaguing you with them.

These thoughts, if you hate them, are none of yours, but are injections of the Devil, for which he is responsible, and not you. If you strive against them, they are no more yours than are the cursings and falsehoods of rioters in the street. It is by means of these thoughts that the Devil would drive you to despair, or at least keep you from trusting Jesus. The poor diseased woman could not come to Jesus for the press, and you are in much the same condition, because of the rush and throng of these dreadful thoughts. Still, she put forth her finger, and touched the fringe of the Lord’s garment, and she was healed. Do you the same.

Jesus died for those who are guilty of “all manner of sin and blasphemy,” and therefore I am sure He will not refuse those who are unwillingly the captives of evil thoughts. Cast yourself upon Him, thoughts and all, and see if He be not mighty to save. He can still those horrible whisperings of the fiend, or He can enable you to see them in their true light, so that you may not be worried by them. In His own way He can and will save you, and at length give you perfect peace. Only trust Him for this and everything else. (All of Grace)

Free Will

In the words of Martin Luther:

“If any man ascribes anything of salvation, even the very least thing, to the free will of man, he knows nothing of grace, and he has not learned Jesus Christ rightly.”

Love and Faith

The following article reminds me of Martin Luther’s admission, “I did not love God and was indignant towards Him, if not in wicked revolt, at least in silent blasphemy.” Luther’s deep sense of his own sinfulness led him to understand that a God who dealt with human beings strictly on the basis of merit was always going to be a God of punishment. Therefore, Luther’s discovery in the Bible of a God who loves His children by grace changed everything for him. For God’s love is to be experienced by grace through faith – not as something earned – but as something freely given. Do you love God and trust Him? Charles H. Spurgeon writes:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. (Ephesians 2:8 ESV)

Another and a higher form of faith is that faith which grows out of love. Why does a boy trust his father? The reason why the child trusts his father is because he loves him. Blessed and happy are they who have a sweet faith in Jesus, intertwined with deep affection for Him, for this is a restful confidence. These lovers of Jesus are charmed with His character, and delighted with His mission, they are carried away by the loving kindness that He has manifested, and therefore they cannot help trusting Him, because they so much admire, revere, and love Him.

The way of loving trust in the Savior may thus be illustrated. A lady is the wife of the most eminent physician of the day. She is seized with a dangerous illness, and is smitten down by its power; yet she is wonderfully calm and quiet, for her husband has made this disease his special study, and has healed thousands who were similarly afflicted. She is not in the least troubled, for she feels perfectly safe in the hands of one so dear to her, and in whom skill and love are blended in their highest forms. Her faith is reasonable and natural; her husband, from every point of view, deserves it of her. This is the kind of faith which the happiest of believers exercise toward Christ. There is no physician like Him, none can save as He can; we love Him, and He loves us, and therefore we put ourselves into His hands, accept whatever He prescribes, and do whatever He bids. We feel that nothing can be wrongly ordered while He is the director of our affairs; for He loves us too well to let us perish, or suffer a single needless pang. (All of Grace)

Christ Is Not Ashamed To Call Us Brothers

Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of those whom the Father gave him. He opened up the way of eternal life for all who are called his brothers. Martin Luther explains:

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews has grasped the words of Ps 22,23 and taken them well to heart, when he says of Christ: “For which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the congregation will I sing thy praise.” Heb 2,11-12. If any worldly lord were to condescend so low as to say to a thief, or a murderer or to a low French character, Thou art my brother; that would be a great thing and everyone would be amazed at it; but that this King, who in his glory sits at the right hand of God, his Father, says to a poor sinner: Thou art my brother, that no one takes to heart, no one receives it in earnest, and yet on that hangs our highest comfort and courage against sin, death, Satan, hell, law, and against all misfortune, both of the body and of the soul.

Since we are flesh and blood, and subject to all kinds of affliction, it follows that it must be thus also with our brother; or he would not be like us in all respects. Therefore, in that he becomes like us, he tastes of all that we do, in order to be our true brother and save us, so that we on the other hand may become like him. This the Epistle to the Hebrews paints and brings out very beautifully when it says: “Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner partook of the same; that through death he might bring to naught him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily not to angels doth he give help, but he giveth help to the seed of Abraham. Therefore it behooved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, be is able to succor them that are tempted.” Heb 2, 14- 18.

St. Paul in a very beautiful way condensed the benefit and use both of Christ’s sufferings and his resurrection in one short passage, as in a nutshell, when he says to the Romans: “Who was delivered up for our trespasses, and was raised for our justification.” Rom 4, 25. But on this theme enough has been said for the present; whoever desires may with profit meditate on it. . . . (“The Fruit and Power of Christ’s Resurrection”)

Martin Luther: We Have A Great Confidence And Refuge In God Through Christ

People are sometimes presumptuous and disrespectful of God when they put themselves, too easily, forward in lightheartedness or pride as a Christian. Martin Luther believed that Christians should be serious about their relationship with Christ and approach the subject with more humility:

Those who only cry: “Christ is my brother! Christ is my brother!” are not true Christians. A Christian acts quite differently, and it is very wonderful, so that the flesh shudders at it and dares indeed neither speak of it nor confess it.

We should bestir ourselves to hear this, not only with the natural ear, but also to experience it in our hearts, for then we would not be so forward and impudent, but would be surprised and amazed over it. True and godly Christians go along in life in contempt of themselves and in fear; they think thus: Ah, shall I, a poor, miserable person, who am steeped in sin, be now so exalted that God’s Son becomes my brother? Ay, how is it that I, a miserable poor creature, am thus honored? I am at once confounded before it and feed upon it; for it truly requires a great effort to believe it; yea, when one experiences it thus, how it is in truth, he must from that hour die; for man, since he is flesh and blood, cannot understand it. Here in this life man’s heart is in too great straits to lay hold of it; but after death, when the heart becomes larger and broader, we experience what we have heard through the Word.

In the Gospel of John, Christ tells Mary Magdalene of the benefit and use of his death and resurrection still more plainly, when he says: “But go unto my brethren, and say to them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God.” Jn 20,17. This is one of the great and comforting passages upon which we can venture, and of which we dare boast. As if Christ had said: Go hence, Mary, and say to my disciples who have deserted me on the field of battle, and who have well merited punishment and eternal condemnation, that my resurrection has taken place for their benefit; that is, by my resurrection I have brought it to pass that my Father is their Father, and my God is their God. These are few words and very short; but they contain a great thought, namely, that we have as great a confidence and refuge in God as Christ his Son himself has. Who can grasp such exceeding joy, unless one speaks of himself when he says a poor, corrupt sinner can and may call God his Father and his God, just like Christ himself does? (“The Fruit and Power of Christ’s Resurrection”)

In Him We Have Obtained An Inheritance

We hear much about the “inheritance of the saints” but are you personally enjoying the experience as a Christian? Martin Luther has much to say on the subject:

However, what is Christ’s inheritance? His heritage is life and death, sin and grace, all that is in heaven and earth, eternal truth, power, wisdom, righteousness; he governs and rules over all, over hunger and thirst, over fortune and misfortune, over everything imaginable, whether in heaven or on earth, not only spiritual but also secular affairs; and the sum total of all is, he has all things in his hand, be they eternal or temporal. Now if I believe on him, I become partaker with him of all his possessions, and obtain not only a part or a piece; but, like him, I obtain all, eternal righteousness, eternal wisdom, eternal strength, and become a lord and reign over all. The stomach will not hunger, sins will not oppress, I will no more fear death, nor be terror-stricken by Satan, and I will never be in want, but will be like Christ the Lord himself.

In the light of this we now easily understand the sayings here and there in the prophets and especially in the Psalms; as when David in Ps 34, 10 says: “The young lions (the rich) do lack, and suffer hunger; but they that seek Jehovah shall not want any good thing.” And in another Psalm: “Jehovah knoweth the days of the perfect; and their inheritance shall be forever. They shall not be put to shame in the time of evil; and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.” Ps 37, 18-19. And immediately following in verse 25: “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” All this comes of itself from the fact that we are and are called Christ’s brethren; not because of our worthiness, but because of God’s pure grace. Yes, if God gave us this in our heart, so that we experience it, then we would be saved; but it goes in one ear and out the other. And this it is that Paul praises so highly and strongly to the Romans when he says: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him.” Rom 8,14-17.

The title of being Christ’s brothers is so high that the heart of man cannot understand it. If the Holy Spirit bestows not this grace, none can say: Christ is my brother. For reason is not bold enough to say so; although one may say it with the tongue, as the spirits of modern times do. It is not uttered in this way, it is necessary for the heart to experience it; otherwise it is pure hypocrisy. If you truly experience it in your heart it will be such a great thing that you will much prefer to keep silence than to speak about it. . . . [in an unbecoming way.]

The Freedom To Choose

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30 ESV)

If you have ever heard a conversation on free will, what did you think about it? Do you think human beings have free will? If you were asked to define “free will”, what would you say? The question of free will is very important when you try to understand salvation.

Martin Luther wrote that; “If anyone ascribes salvation to the will, even in the least, he knows nothing of grace and has not understood Jesus Christ aright.”

Man is born with a self-centered heart. We want to do things our way. We wish to be “the masters of our fate’ and “the captains of our soul”. (William E. Henley)

So, if man has free will and God has free will, what does it matter anyway? Because a man has free will, can he do anything he chooses? Suppose a man chooses not to drink water or any form of liquid. What will be the result? He will die. A man may choose to drink water or not, but if he chooses “not” – he will die. A man’s choices are limited by his nature. Therefore, his free will is limited by the nature of who or what he is. Adam was the federal head and perfect moral representative of the human race. When Adam sinned, we all sinned. All die in him (First Adam), but those who belong to Christ (Second Adam) are made alive in Him.

Now please read this closely: God has free will, but even His will is limited by His nature. God is pure, holy, and cannot sin. This is what makes God –God – along with omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence and so forth. God makes choices according to His holy nature. Man makes choices based on his sin nature inherited from the fall.

This is the problem with saying, “By my free will, I have decided for Christ.” Man’s will is spiritually dead according to its nature and so the inclination of his heart is to choose to go on sinning. Man is free to choose, but he is not free to choose not to sin.  Here we need the power of rebirth through the Holy Spirit. Then we have the ability to choose Christ. Jesus says in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” No man is able to come to Christ without His Divine intervention. It is the works of the Holy Spirit to change the inclination of men’s hearts and make God’s elect willing to come.

We are “free” to do what we want to do, but we are bound in what we want by our evil nature and desires. We cannot use our will to shape our natures, but rather, our natures determine how we will use our wills. We are only free when the Son sets us free. (John 8:36)

The United States And Calvinism

From the desk of David Steinmetz:

Calvinism, as it is commonly called, has a rich European history, but it finds its most striking influence during the foundation of these United States. Owing to Martin Luther’s commitment to reform, the church that bears his name was founded on the teaching of God’s election and determinate predestination. John Knox, the founder of the Presbyterian Church, held these doctrines. Early American history reveals that the vast majority of the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock were Calvinistic Presbyterians. The Congregationalist Churches of early America were once bound by these doctrines. And the original Baptists were avid predestinarians, which is why their modern counterparts advertise themselves as “Freewill Baptists” to distinguish themselves from their ancestors.

This English Calvinist strain was strengthened by the Dutch Calvinists of New York and New Jersey, the German reformed of Pennsylvania and Maryland, and the Scots-Irish Presbyterians who settled in the mid-Atlantic and southern colonies. While not all settlers in the New World were Protestant and not all

Protestants were Calvinist, nevertheless there was from the very beginning a strongly Calvinist influence on American thought and institutions. Calvinists founded universities, pioneered the New England town meeting, insisted on the separation of powers in the federal government, played a prominent role in the movement for the abolition of slavery, and even promoted such characteristic institutions of frontier revivalism as ‘the anxious bench’ and the ‘camp-meeting’… In short, although Calvinism is not the only ingredient in American intellectual and religious history, it is such an important ingredient that no one can claim to understand American history and culture without some appreciation of its Calvinist heritage. (Calvin in Context. New York, N.Y. Oxford University Press. 1995)

Reformation Day Is A Time For Christians To Celebrate!

If you are not familiar with Reformation Day, it celebrates the day that the Reformation began in Europe with Martin Lutherposting his 95 theses on the Wittenburg church door to protest the selling of indulgences on October 31, 1517. Little did he realize how his 95 theses would be used by God to change the world. His desire was to see the Catholic Church reform in terms of God’s Word. His intention was to begin a

Martin Luther

discussion with other teachers in the Catholic Church. Instead, Luther was used by God to begin a reformation of the church by returning to the foundation of Scripture alone. Scripture alone taught that salvation was not earned or sold by indulgences and grace was God’s alone to give.

Martin Luther is widely considered the father of the Protestant Reformation. As a monk, Luther struggled to find peace with God. He dedicated himself to fasting, flagellation, long hours in prayer, pilgrimage and constant confession. In all these rituals, he still did not find peace with God. Later, he was ordered to pursue an academic career and in doing so studied Scripture in-depth. In his studies as a Monk and university professor, Luther began to develop a sense that the Roman Church had abandoned several essential doctrines of the Christian faith; among these was what he considered to be the chief article of Christian Doctrine: Justification by Faith Alone (Sola Fide). This doctrine states that justification is entirely a work of God (monergism) and is received by men through faith in Jesus Christ. This runs contrary to the understanding taught by the Roman Church that justification is an act of coöperation between God and man (synergism).

The teachings of the Reformation are established upon Scripture alone. These doctrines are Scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone, and all the glory to God alone. Salvation is only found by going to Christ, not by going through the motions of external obedience. The righteousness of Christ is received by faith alone. Christ’s righteousness, not ours, allows us to stand before a Holy and Just God. Christ alone is our sanctification and it is He who has paid the ransom price to purchase us from the consequences of sin and make us children of God.

One sola of the Reformation, “sola scripture”, includes emphasis on the implementation of the entire Bible in our living out our lives. We can celebrate on Reformation Day the same truth that Luther rediscovered then: that salvation is by faith alone through grace alone.

Huldrych Zwingli

History records that Luther, Calvin and other reformers were not greeted with open arms in appreciation for their work. In fact, they faced much opposition. Many were martyred for holding to reformation principles. Let us mention three of the most well-known men here:

Huldrych Zwingli was a contemporary of Martin Luther and the leader of the Swiss Reformation. Although much less recognized, Zwingli was developing many of the same conclusions concurrently with Luther. Zwingli was killed in a battle against the Roman Cantons at Kappel am Albis in October of 1851.

John Calvin is the much celebrated father of Calvinism and much of what we now call Reformed Christian theology. While, today, Calvin is often singled out for his teachings on election and predestination, most of the earlier reformers held to this view as well. The overarching theme of Calvin’s teaching was an emphasis on the sovereignty of God, or that God is absolutely sovereign in all things. His book, Institutes of the Christian Religion, and his commentaries on the books of the Bible are still used today (especially by me!).

John Knox was the leader of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland and a student and contemporary of John Calvin. Prior to his instruction in Geneva, he was an influential reformer in the Church

John Knox

of England. During one of his frequent exiles he settled in Geneva where he was instructed in the particulars of Calvin’s Reformed theology and Presbyterian church government. Upon returning to Scotland, he was influential in the Scottish Reformation and in creating the Kirk (now Church of Scotland), instituted after Scotland’s break with Rome in 1560.

While the Reformation continues to have profound and lasting impacts on the political, economic, social, literary, and artistic aspects of modern society, it is at its heart a religious movement. The Reformation was the great rediscovery of the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

The truth of the gospel — is that God offers forgiveness and salvation not because of what we do, but because of what Christ has already done for us. The Holy Spirit used Martin Luther to restore the gospel to its rightful place as the cornerstone doctrine of Christianity. Martin Luther and the other reformers came to understand that if we sinners had to earn salvation by our own merits and good works, we would be lost and without hope. However, through the working of the Holy Spirit, the reformers rediscovered the truth of Scripture.

The Holy Spirit Is Doing Great Wonders

Bishop J. C. Ryle

The Holy Spirit is the agent who brings life to the spiritually dead. As Christians, we should all be praying for a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who gives an edge to sermons and power to the rebukes of the minister of God. The iron gates of a sinful heart cannot prevail against the Spirit of God. We do not need man-contrived schemes to motivate an audience. We need more of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Bishop J. C. Ryle tells us more about the Spirit’s power:

“And He has made you alive, who were once dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1)

Never, never will the Spirit turn away from a soul because of its corruption. He never has done so—He never will. It is His glory that He has purified the minds of the most impure, and made them temples for His own abode. He may yet take the worst of us, and make him a vessel of grace.

Why indeed should it not be so? The Spirit is an Almighty Spirit. He can change the stony heart into a heart of flesh. He can break up and destroy the strongest bad habits, like string in the fire. He can make the most difficult things seem easy, and the mightiest objections melt away like snow in spring. He can cut the bars of brass, and throw the gates of prejudice wide open. He can fill up every valley, and make every rough place smooth. He has done it often, and He can do it again.

Such is the power of the Holy Spirit to regenerate people, and as it were to bring them forth anew, so that they shall be nothing like the people they were before.

The Spirit can take . . . the bitterest enemy of Christianity, the fiercest persecutor of true believers—the strongest stickler for Pharisaical notions, the most prejudiced opposer of Gospel doctrine—and turn that man into an earnest preacher of the very faith he once destroyed. He has done it already. He did it with the Apostle Paul.

The Spirit can take a . . . monk, brought up in the midst of Romish superstition—trained from his infancy to believe false doctrine, and obey the Pope—steeped to the eyes in error, and make that man the clearest upholder of justification by faith the world ever saw. He has done so already. He did it with Martin Luther.

The Spirit can take an English tinker, without learning, patronage, or money—a man at one time notorious for nothing so much as blasphemy and swearing—and make that man write a pious book, which shall stand unrivaled and unequaled, in its way, by any book since the time of the Apostles. He has done so already. He did it with John Bunyan, the author of “Pilgrim’s Progress.”

The Spirit can take a sailor drenched in worldliness and sin—a profligate captain of a slave ship, and make that man a most successful minister of the Gospel—a writer of godly letters, which are a storehouse of experimental religion—and of hymns which are known and sung wherever English is spoken. He has done it already. He did it with John Newton.

All this the Spirit has done, and much more, of which I cannot speak particularly. And the arm of the Spirit is not shortened. His power is not decayed. He is like the Lord Jesus, the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb. 13:8.) He is still doing wonders, and will do to the very end. (“Alive or Dead?”)

When It Is Necessary To Find A New Church. . . .

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

We have recently moved to another city and today we attended (for the second time) a very friendly and welcoming church. The worship music is very upbeat (a little more than I am use to), but the songs were all God-centered. I like all kinds of praise songs so this is not a problem for me, but I do love the great hymns that not only praise God but teach us about Him.

The pastor is teaching on the eternal security of the believer just now. Today’s was the second message in the series. Just like last week, the sermon was excellent. The pastor is obviously a wonderful preacher/teacher. It has been a pleasure to worship there and hear the Word of God delivered in truth.

When you have been attending one church for many years, do you think you would find it difficult to begin again in a new church where none of the people you know attend? Do you think it would be difficult to move between similar denominations or to an independent non-denominational church? If you were a leader in your other church would you now feel like God is putting you on the shelf for awhile or that your ministry, which you were so comfortable with, is now concluded in His eyes? What if God is challenging you to begin ministering in a totally new area of His church?

I have been a member of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP) for many years. There are similar denominational churches here but no ARP. Therefore, I must look for a new church that is Christ-centered and pretty consistent with the Westminster Confession of Faith. It is important to me that a church teaches doctrine because we can only worship God by knowing Him through His word. It is important to me that the church leadership is serious about Christian discipleship and loves the congregation. I guess you can see that I will only be comfortable in a church where an uncompromising gospel is preached and practiced.

How about you? If you were in my shoes, do you have a firm foundation in Christ that will serve as a compass to guide you to a new Church? It is certainly a difficult task to find a new church, but with Christ all things are possible.

“Let him who wants a true church cling to the Word by which everything is upheld.” (Martin Luther)

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