Nailing Our Theses

What does this week mean to a Christian? If we know our history, we have hope in Christ that was hidden until the 1500s. This post is not to educate Christians about the period of Reformation, just to relate the events to our individual lives.

We have Bibles available that others did not have before the Reformation. The Word of God, proclaimed to all men, was held in trust by only a few of the church. That was changed when the heart and life of a young monk named Martin Luther was changed. He saw the only hope of salvation apart from works as he searched the Scriptures for himself. His study of Paul’s letter to the Romans brought him to see and know Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. To make known his thoughts on the corruption of the church, he arranged his 95 theses and nailed them to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany, thinking to arrange discussions or debate.

“But why October 31? November 1 held a special place in the church calendar as All Saints’ Day. On November 1, 1517, a massive exhibit of newly acquired relics would be on display at Wittenberg, Luther’s home city. Pilgrims would come from all over, genuflect before the relics, and take hundreds, if not thousands, of years off time in purgatory. Luther’s soul grew even more vexed. None of this seemed right.One of Luther’s 95 Theses simply declares, “The Church’s true treasure is the gospel of Jesus Christ. That alone is the meaning of Reformation Day. The church had lost sight of the gospel because it had long ago papered over the pages of God’s Word with layer upon layer of tradition. Tradition always brings about systems of works, of earning your way back to God. It was true of the Pharisees, and it was true of medieval Roman Catholicism. Didn’t Christ Himself say, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light?” Reformation Day celebrates the joyful beauty of the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ.” What is Reformation Day?

“Martin Luther claimed that what distinguished him from previous reformers was that while they attacked corruption in the life of the church, he went to the theological root of the problem—the perversion of the church’s doctrine of redemption and grace. Luther, a pastor and professor at the University of Wittenberg, deplored the entanglement of God’s free gift of grace in a complex system of indulgences and good works. In his Ninety-five Theses, he attacked the indulgence system,” Reformation, Encyclopedia Brittanica

We might ask, “Are there false teachings in the church today?” How far have we come even in this century, from the simplicity that is in Christ, having added our own traditions, programs, etc.?

Two main questions we are led to ask at this point in the life of the church are really personal. The church will not stand in final judgment with us. We will stand alone, either in Christ through the salvation offered to us through Him, or outside of the gospel, alone and without hope for eternity.

  1. What is our personal thesis or theses? What do we believe of Christ as revealed in God’s Word? Have we discovered the truths about our own salvation as Martin Luther did?
  2. Where have we nailed our theses? On what doors of our lives have we proclaimed Christ as our Lord and Savior?

We have the Bible. We hold the truth in our own hands. We claim the gospel alone as our attack against false teachings and against Satan’s power in the church and in our own lives.

We nail our beliefs to the door of our heart. We proclaim the truths of God’s grace in Christ alone, nailing these to the door of our homes, the door of our car, the door of our workplace, the door of our schools.

Wherever we are as faithful followers of Christ, we wear our theses as our armor of faith, we take them wherever we go; we testify of them without fear, and die with them if need be.

Are there enough of us as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1-2) to challenge our churches today?

Have you taken the time to establish the truths of God’s Word for yourself, and to stand firm on His Word no matter the cost?

Gracious Father in heaven, thank you for leading the Reformers to know your Word and to stand firm. Thank you for those who died that we might have your Word in this generation. Guide your people to take a stand for the truth of the gospel in our churches and before the world. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

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The Need for a True Christianity

As we near another year in celebration of the Protestant Reformation ~ October 31, 1517, there seems to be a need for two articles from this heart that beats for the Lord Jesus. Before Nailing Our Theses next week, my thoughts are turned to how far we have come from the corruption that ruled the church in the century of Martin Luther and other reformers. Though the church will never be perfect here in this world, we do have God’s Word available for every person who desires to know the truth; not depending on man for the knowledge of our relationship with God.

We have enough wickedness in the world. I can’t bear to see it in God’s house. Having experienced almost eight decades of this wilderness, I think of the song Leaving on a Jet Plane and want to take that plane home, but like Jesus, I have a purpose here for now. “Stop the world; I want to get off” is an expression from past decades which reflect the thoughts of many who wonder where the world is going.

We praise the Lord that He, as our Lord God Almighty, is still and always reigning and ruling His universe. We are still learning to live in the language of a new world order with Christ as King and to spread this vocabulary wherever we can. Others need to hear and know that this world is not all there is. We will look briefly at why Christianity is necessary in the world in every generation.

What we advocate is not what is normally seen, but what is real in the true Christian life and the difference we make, being who we are in Christ. We see this in the individual life and the life of the true church. We see the difference between Christianity and other religions.

The True Christian Life
Christians are those who individually and adamantly follow Jesus Christ, learning, knowing, believing and loving with all the heart, soul, mind and strength the Lord and Master who lived and died sacrificially for His people. We follow and obey Him through a knowledge of His Word, and by His Holy Spirit live daily by His example. This world is not our home. We are only here to witness of Him and the salvation He came to give. This life is preparation for eternity with Him and our heavenly Father in their kingdom.

The true church is not the visible church that meets every week for planned programs and entertainment, but the invisible body of Christ whom He has brought to Himself, living where we are in every generation with others who join in worship around His Holy Word and His Supper renewing faith and love. From this gathering we go into the world as salt, light, a sweet fragrance and full of His Spirit bearing the fruit of His kingdom ~ love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, holiness, righteousness, truth, grace, humility, godliness, mercy and compassion.

True Christianity is revealed to the senses  of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.

Salt was necessary is Jesus’ day to preserve food. Salt is needful in a world that is in decay.

Light is necessary in the darkness of this world, as we “hold forth the word of life.”

“That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the worldHolding forth the word of life;” Philippians 2:15-16

Good fruit is produced by true Christians.

“Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.” Matthew 7:17

Fragrance is needful to cover the stench of this world.

 “And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.” 1 John 5:19

The world needs Jesus’ touch.

“And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.” Matthew 17:7

The world filled and overflowing with oppression, sin, and corruption has no recourse in other religions, nor in a false Christianity. Only a true Christianity has the answer to sin through the only person who has claimed to be God and became a sacrifice for the sins of those who believe His claim on their lives.

We live, proclaiming LIFE over death. If we die for our faith, it will not be to take other lives with us, but to witness of the life of Christ who loved us and gave His life to deliver us from this evil age (Galatians 1:4).

We must know who we are in Christ and live accordingly. True Christianity makes a difference.

Gracious Father, we could say so much more, but you have said it all. It is but for us to read your Word faithfully, intentionally seeking your guidance for us as your people. Enable us to speak your truth wherever you lead us, living our faith to the fullest and most fruitful with our families, in our churches, and in the workplace. Shine your light in and through us into the darkness of this world.  In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Fran

Related Post: Beyond a Mere Christianity
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Preaching, Teaching, Reaching

Week after week we are blessed to witness of the Lord’s work through the ministers of our church. This gives me much by which to express my thoughts on the Christian life that is beyond what most experience in the world today (Beyond a Mere Christianity).

A mere Christianity may serve some who are independent of the church, but to see how God’s Word leads His minsters to serve Him, we experience the church that He creates. God’s Word teaches us that we are all members of one body, with each one having its special place. Some are leaders, knowing and preaching God’s Word on the Lord’s Day as the center of His worship. From this Word preached, the members are given direction as to how we are to live in faith during the week. We learn how to worship at home personally and with our families, and to prepare for worship on the next Lord’s Day; this all, in preparation for that eternal worship to which we live onward and upward.

 PREACHING

“Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.” Acts 8:4

“But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour;” Titus 1:3

 “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18

Preachers are also pastors to the Lord’s sheep, knowing each family and its members.

“And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the Lord.” Jeremiah 23:4

TEACHING
But the pastor cannot do all the work. Elders are ministers who teach and serve the members, reaching out beyond what the preacher is able to do.

“And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.” Acts 14:23

REACHING
Deacons are also servants of the Lord, knowing and attending to needs of the church.

Families and other members of the body of Christ are taught to reach out, to exhort one another; to love and teach as they are taught.
Everyone prays, interceding for other members of the church.
Before there is a need, a child of God knows their church family and knows where to turn; either to a close member or to a minister of the church.

It is through the body of Christ that He reaches those in need outside the church. When they see the work of Christ in us, He draws others to Him and His church.

THE TRUE CHURCH
This is the true church, growing in grace, knowledge, love and devotion to Christ and His people; knowing the Father, the Son; their presence and the power of the Holy Spirit in everyday life. Jerry and I have experienced this love and relationship with the whole of our church; blessed and praising the Lord everyday for the church family He has given us.

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you that as your sheep, we have been brought into your fold under the true Shepherd who leads us in the path of righteousness for His name’s sake. Thank you for placing us in the care of your under shepherds from whom we receive the truth of your Word. We are taught the doctrines of your grace; to experience heaven opened to us so that we are able to witness of Christ to others, to reach out in love when there is a need, and to praise you together for all that you are and promise to be in and through us ~ to your glory and our joy. In Jesus’ name, we thank and praise you. Amen.
Fran

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Breakthrough and Follow-through

So as not to miss any gods they might appease, the Athenians had set up an “unknown god” among the others. And so, Christianity today is seen as a religion among many others. The God of Christianity is “unknown” even to some who claim it as their faith. If we see little more than the surface of this way of life, we simply exist without the source and the power of this life. For the most part, we fail to differentiate between what other religions offer. We must be sure that it is an offering; a supernatural offering between our God and us. It is a spiritual gift from the Lord God of Christianity whom we know as Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of Jehovah, the Almighty God and Creator of the heavens and the earth and Redeemer of mankind.

Baptized as a child on a profession of faith, Christianity was basic but ineffective in my life until as an adult, I was drawn to read, then study; to write and teach what I was learning from the Bible. During those years, the Holy Spirit I was reading about in the Bible used God’s own words to transform my life. Through a new birth, with a new heart and spirit, my life was changed and has not been the same for decades. My books, articles, and poems attest to the revealed and fulfilled promises made to those He brings to Himself.

The best way I can describe this new way of life is with a parable I heard several years ago.

A prisoner was held captive for years, not knowing where he was. He existed in an obscure stronghold in a foreign country. His food and drink were barely enough to keep him alive. Since he knew no other way of life, he did not wish for anything else.

One day a stranger entered his cell and told him about life outside his captivity. He had come to deliver him. At first, the man could not vision anything beyond his own existence, and so refused to follow him out. Unknown to the prisoner, the stranger had broken through the outside barrier of the stronghold to save him. He was there, not to be refused; and so, stayed with him, living off the same fare by which the prisoner had been fed most of his life. At times he would open the cell door and lead him down a long dark hallway to show him the light outside. Not used to the light, the prisoner would soon move back to his comfortable cell.

With time, the stranger presented truths about the light, each day praying with him and leading him a little further out from his cell. Gradually getting used to the light, he was drawn more; then more, to it. One day, his eyes becoming used to the light, embraced the light, walking with the stranger into a new life outside himself.

As I contemplated writing this post, I was reminded of an old TV series Mission Impossible. A different mission presented to the team with every episode including the statement, “This is your mission if you choose to accept it.” The missions involved seemingly impossible situations providing an escape for captives.

I imagined what this would have looked like for Jesus before Creation. He and the Holy Spirit were the team, Jesus being the one who would suffer and sacrifice to bring His people out of their bondage. His mission from God the Father was to go down, go to, and live with the captives on earth; live in full obedience to God’s law, which no man had ever done, and provide a true understanding of the laws of His kingdom. He would be the light from heaven to people living in darkness, under oppression and sin. He would at the appointed time, be offered up as a means of appeasing the unknown God and ascend back to the Father, where He would live and reign for us as His people.  He would send His Spirit of light from heaven; through His Word bring us out of our captivity and guide us into all truth.

Jesus accepted and fulfilled His mission. His Holy Spirit is now fulfilling His mission in our hearts and lives as we continue to follow Jesus.

Gracious Father in heaven, we praise you for so loving us that you sent your Son to be a propitiation for our sins. Lord Jesus, we thank you for being the author and finisher of our faith; for breaking through and enabling us to follow through this darkness until we see you in your full glory. Holy Spirit, we know your presence and power of the life of Christ in us. Continue to reveal and fulfill all that the Father has willed for us as your people. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Fran

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The Secret Place

 We might have titled this The Secret Place of AFFLICTION because this chapter of Beyond a Mere Christianity is tied to our previous post, Words of Life ~ AFFLICTION.

The secret place of which we write is basically “the secret place of the Most High” referenced in Psalm 90:1. “He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” But it has a deeper meaning as we will show in this chapter.

How do we get to this secret place? We must first know about it through the revelation of God’s Word (1 Corinthians 2). We must be born into it by His Spirit (John 3:3-8; John 1:12). It is a spiritual experience of our heart and spirit ~ He gives us a new heart and a new spirit (Ezekiel 36:26). He makes us joint-heirs with His Son in His kingdom (Romans 8:17).

He has provided the means of communication with Him in this secret place. He speaks to us through His Word and receives our speech through prayer. His Word teaches us how to pray, and hears our prayers and our praises. As children, we are disciples and servants of His Son Jesus Christ; God gave Him for us as a propitiation for our sins showing His great love for us (1 John 4:10). Because we are believers and His followers, we will experience a taste of His persecution from those who do not believe in Him.

We experience affliction, suffering, and tribulation for His name’s sake.

We see this privilege, this honor of suffering in the life of the apostles in Acts 5:41; the apostles left those who had beaten them and had commanded their silence of the gospel, “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”.

The Secret Place is an honorable place for His people who in all generations follow Christ and if need be, to suffer persecution.

No other people can claim this honor except those who belong to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. As we look at the remainder of our references, I encourage you to take time to meditate on these, take them to heart and remember whose we are as pilgrims and strangers in a foreign land. If you don’t have time to read all the references now, I encourage you to copy and save them.

We will look at these three areas and end with a section on Chastisement:

AFFLICTION of Christ
AFFLICTION of Followers of Christ
AFFLICTION within the Body of Christ

AFFLICTION of CHRIST

H6031 ânâh, aw-naw’ to afflict, oppress, humble

The affliction of Christ prophesied in Isaiah is the same word used for other references in the Old Testament.

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” Isaiah 53:4

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” Isaiah 53:7

The prophecy was fulfilled at the end of Jesus’ ministry when by His affliction, He took upon Himself our punishment for sin. We are not exempt from afflictions in this life but saved from the afflictions that will come to those who do not accept His sacrifice for salvation.

In the following verses from God’s Word, we hope to prove that afflictions are part of this life for all humanity because we live in a fallen, sinful world. The afflictions of unbelievers are just a prelude to the forever tune of eternal suffering. But as believers, we accept affliction as a part of our unity with Christ, our Lord, and Savior. We follow Him in the paths of righteousness with the promise that He is with us in our suffering for the sake of the gospel.

The prophecy of Jesus’ sufferings bridges the gap between the Old and New Testaments, bringing us to the record of His life and HIs instructions to His disciples as He was preparing them for His crucifixion and resurrection.

“Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.” Matthew 24:9

New Testament G2347
Strongs’s defines affliction thlipsis thlē’-psēs tribulation, affliction, anguish, persecution  References

The word is the same used for tribulation.

Jesus spoke of the tribulations that would come with discipleship. His encouragement was for peace and joy through His victory over death and the world. He promises all the physical blessings, including persecution (Mark 20:30).

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Romans 8:32

 AFFLICTION of Followers of Christ
Paul wrote of this tribulation to the early church.

“Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22

To the disciples in the church in Rome Paul wrote to encourage them during those times. See how many times “joy” is related to affliction in these verses.

“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;” Romans 5:3

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” Romans 8:3

“Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;” Romans 12:12

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;” 2 Corinthians 4:17

“How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. 2 Corinthians 8:2

“Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:” Colossians 1:24

“And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.”1 Thessalonians 1:6

G3804.pathemapath’-ay-mah from a presumed derivative of 3806; something undergone, i.e. hardship or pain; subjectively, an emotion or influence:– affection, affliction, motion, suffering. The sufferings of Christ; also the afflictions which Christians must undergo in behalf of the same cause which Christ patiently endured.

“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;” Philippians 3:10

 “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” Hebrews 2:9

“Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” 1 Peter 1:11

“But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” 1 Peter 4;13

“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:” 1 Peter 5:1

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

AFFLICTION within the body of Christ
G2347 thlipsisis the same word used for tribulation and trouble in 2 Corinthians 1:4

“Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”

“For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:5

 “And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 2 Corinthians 1:6

“So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:” 2 Thessalonians 1:4

“Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.” Hebrews 10:33

G4778. sugkakoucheo soong-kak-oo-kheh’-o from 4862 and 2558; to maltreat in company with, i.e. (passively) endure persecution together:–suffer affliction with.

The writer of Hebrews speaks of Moses choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. Hebrews 11:25

In James 5:10 he speaks of the prophets who were an example of suffering affliction, and of patience ~ from G2552 kakopatheia kak-op-ath’-i-ah from a compound of 2256 and 3806; hardship:–suffering affliction.

In 1 Peter 4:14 we read: “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you.”

Is this not the “secret place” in which we dwell with Him “under the shadow of the Almighty” who has sanctified us and is bringing us to glory in Him (Hebrews 2:10-11)?

Chastisement ~ the Secret Place  in the Life of God’s Child

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

“Though he was a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;” Hebrews 5:8

It is interesting that we are writing about this secret place of affliction at the same our pastor is preaching through the book of Hebrews. Finishing the eleventh chapter with the list of martyrs, the last two weeks we have been in Hebrews 12, seeing the relationship between God and His children, the same kind of relationship between Him and the Israelites in the Old Testament. The Old Testament speaks not only of affliction but also of chastisement (Isaiah 26:16). While we might not like the idea that He afflicted His people because of their rebellion, we might also not hold to the idea that God causes pain to His children who fail to hear and obey the instructions of His Word. In hearing these sermons, I have been moved to a deeper understanding of what it means to be a child of God, to be blessed that He chastens me because He loves me. (Hebrews 12:5-14); and all this, so that I stay close to Him and partake of His holiness; which means I pray even for His chastisement, along with instructions and corrections as needed, so that I know Jesus did not bear my chastisement in vain but is my example in His suffering and obedience. Our chastisement fell upon Him, so that we may become the children of God. Any pain we have to suffer now will be worth it all for the glory that waits with Him in eternity. All pain and adversity, whether or not we are suffering for Christ’s sake, is accepted because the Lord our God is sovereign over all things.

“He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” Proverbs 13:5

“And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Revelation 7:14

Gracious Father, we thank you for revealing the truth of your Word to us by your Holy Spirit. Enable us to accept all things, pain, sickness, and all adversity at your hand, working for our good and conforming us to the image of Christ, as we continue to abide in your word and under the shadow of your wings. Thank you for that secret place you prepared for us in Christ our Lord, in whose name I pray. Amen.
Fran

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