HAMMERING NAILS ON THE HEAD (SOLUS CHRISTUS)

This week I am working as a carpenter to remodel part of our garage into an extra bedroom. It is relaxing to me as I meditate or listen to sermons (Paul, Graham, Chris and others) while I am hammering away. Every pastor should learn to hammer. On one of our trips to Ukraine we helped put a floor in the Makarovo Church. The old carpenter, Philpovich, I worked under taught me my first word in Russia for a tool. “Molatak” means “hammer.”  What a blessed time we had hammering. 

Hammering is holy work. Jesus did it. He knew how to hit the nail on the head. But he is more than a carpenter too. He built the universe you know and died to save believers.  

Luther knew how to hammer too as he nailed his 95 complaints to the Castle Church door in 1517. He wanted to start a discussion on the problem of the sale of indulgences in the church. In so doing he “He hit the nail on the head 95 times.” 

The first two theses contained Luther’s theme, that God wanted believers to seek repentance and that faith alone in Christ, not deeds, leads to salvation. This is not just believing in anything, having faith in yourself or that God exists. This faith is in Christ lone as Savior.  He is the only way (John 14:6; Acts16:31). The other 93 theses really supported these first two. Here they are.

  1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ``Repent'' (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
  2. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.

Read them all here. http://www.luther.de/en/95thesen.html 

While in Wittenberg, Germany last month, where this all happened, we had a surprise when we walked to the city square one noon.  People and police were everywhere with snipers watching overhead. German President Steinmeier was even there. Suddenly church bells rang and the people sang “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” within sight of Luther’s church and statue. 

Luther's statue is on the left with his church in the center background with two spires as seen from city square as people gather for the start of the national celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Luther's statue is on the left with his church in the center background with two spires as seen from city square as people gather for the start of the national celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

The hymn is sometimes called “The Battle Hymn of the Reformation.”  Verse three makes it clear who wins the battle. “Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is he; Lord Sabaoth, his name, from age to age the same, and he must win the battle.”

Solus Christus or Christ Alone is one of the Solas of the Reformation. The medieval church had added many human achievements including paying your way to Christ’s simple salvation. Luther saw this as heresy and formed the “Christ Alone” emphasis to call people to trust only in Christ.

Today there are many heresies too. Many things are added to Christ’s simple salvation in our day.  It is Christ plus self, emotions, the health and wealth gospel, living a good life, helping others and more. May we bring reform today by putting proper emphasis on trusting in Christ alone for salvation.  He said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (Jn. 14:6).

Those 95 theses are still there and now engraved in the material of the door of the Castle Church for all to see.

Pastor Chris stands in front of the Castle Church door that Luther nailed his 95 discussion points to.  Today those points are engraved in the door.  This is one of the most famous doors in the world.

Pastor Chris stands in front of the Castle Church door that Luther nailed his 95 discussion points to.  Today those points are engraved in the door.  This is one of the most famous doors in the world.

 Hammering away,

Pastor Mark   

Rom. 1:17 “…the just shall live by faith.”

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P.S.

Guys,  Saturday morning join our men for our monthly Men’s Discipleship Breakfast at 8:00 AM in the Fireside Room. We enjoy breakfast, a time of prayer and this week Paul is giving a character sketch of Martin Luther in keeping with our theme of Little Known Men Who Made a Big Difference.   See you at 8 AM.

Sunday (6/18) is Fathers Day. Join us at 9:15 with dad’s favorite finger food breakfast. Then at 10:30 we’ll have a baby dedication and worship as we look at an emotional love story from Scripture and meet the man from who is a great example of manhood but is seldom considered.  I’ll be speaking.    

 

WHAT THE DOCTOR TOLD ME (SOLA FIDE)

I was fatigued after an hour without moving. Our connecting flight to Europe had been canceled so we were in line to reschedule. It was very slow so I got my computer out to do some work on my “carry on desk.”

Working from my carry on desk in D.C.

Working from my carry on desk in D.C.

But God has reasons for delays. The couple behind us were Irish Anglican national youth leaders John & Cricket. We soon talked ministry and found them very concerned about the lack of gospel and Bible teaching in their national church. They were excited about us going to the Reformation 500th Anniversary Conference in Germany and ministry in Ukraine. They tried to get on the next flight with us so we could visit over the Atlantic. It didn’t work so we exchanged addresses and prayer requests and said we’d see them “Here, there or in the air.”  What a blessing to fellowship with  believers around the world.

Meeting our new Irish friends John and Cricket who are national youth leaders.

Meeting our new Irish friends John and Cricket who are national youth leaders.

A blond middle-aged lady next in line continued our conversation as we walked to our next gate. Liz was a medical doctor but had a lot of spiritual questions. We had hours to wait so we invited her to join us for dinner in an airport restaurant. This “delay” was a foreordained counseling opportunity. 

The doctor said, tongue in cheek, she was from the “original church” (Catholic) but had concerns about it. Due to a crisis in her life she had read the New Testament for the first time and was amazed that it seemed to teach salvation was not by human merit. It was a great opportunity to explain that it is by faith alone in Christ we are saved. I suggested she read the Bible more and gave her the www.dailyaudiobible.com link to listen through the Bible daily like we do with Jerry Cudney’s schedule. Nancy and I enjoy it. 

Liz’s final question was, “Do you think Catholics and Protestants will ever get back together?” As a Bible believing Christian I said “No” because of irreconcilable differences over their salvation teaching. There are many points of agreement but the biblical teaching of salvation by “faith alone” (The Latin is Sola Fide) is contrary to Rome’s teaching that salvation comes by receiving small portions of grace by faith and doing the sacraments. Works or merits have nothing to do with salvation (Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:5). That is what Luther’s concern was and the spark that torched the reformation from Romans 1:17 “the just shall live by faith.”  That was recovered after being buried under centuries of tradition and non-biblicalteaching.

One of the five “solas” or key points of the Reformation is that man is not saved by works or by faith plus works but by faith alone (Sola Fide) in Christ.  Luther hit the nail on that head with that one as a T-Shirt I saw proclaimed. At the conference, we learned a good way to say it today is “Real faith is not cold intellectual assent to a bare outline of gospel facts; it entails an earnest trust in Christ as He is offered to us in the gospel.; Authentic faith perseveres.;” This faith has as its object the Lord Jesus. There is no other way to be saved other than by Christ (Acts 16:31). No human priest is needed. We get Christ’s righteousness and He gets our sin all at once. Sacraments, water baptism, communion, dreams or visions have nothing to do with it. It all comes from Christ. Are you saved by “faith alone” in Christ? If not, then you are not saved. We’ll cover another Sola on that next time.

Loved this T-shirt I saw in the Luther Hotel in Wittenberg that reminded us Luther "hit the nail on the head" when he nailed his 95 thesis on the door of the Castle Church there.

Loved this T-shirt I saw in the Luther Hotel in Wittenberg that reminded us Luther "hit the nail on the head" when he nailed his 95 thesis on the door of the Castle Church there.

When it was time to go Dr. Liz demanded she pay for the meal because she “made a lot of money” she said. I told her my boss has all the wealth in the world. She demanded to cover it since she had great gratitude for the counsel. I gave her our De Roo tract and my card. When we parted in Amsterdam she told us we were like angels that were sent to her. The Spirit had touched her with a clearer understanding of faith. She hugged us and we said goodbye.  Pray for our friend Dr. Liz. 

Writing to you from home again!

Pastor Mark   

Rom. 1:17 “…the just shall live by faith.”

JET LAG CRASH

 

We're back from Germany and Ukraine!  It was a long road but after five flights and a train journey we made it through ten time zones to our own bed by 3 AM. The last flight was grounded due to a violent storm. We were so exhausted we were not sure what country we were in when we woke at home. Then during the day we have those "jet lag crashes" at times. It makes you appreciate missionaries and others who travel long distances for the sake of the Gospel. They have their ways of minimizing it though. One we met actually crosses the Atlantic by ship now instead of plane. It takes six days but softens the jet lag. Think I'll try it some time.

Kiev train station.

Kiev train station.

What about Abraham moving his family around the fertile crescent to find the land God promised him? He went from modern day Kuwait to Israel. Or have you thought of Joseph and Mary or Jesus walking from Galilee to Jerusalem or Bethlehem? There were no hotels on the way. After the resurrection the apostles went to all points of the compass to preach Christ. The apostle Paul took three very long missionary journeys and almost died a few times while traveling. Martin Luther is said to have walked 800 miles to Rome to try to find a way to be at peace with God. John Calvin traveled from France to Geneva and other places.

Odessa port lighthouse.

Odessa port lighthouse.

With the modern missionary movement of the last century they traveled great distances by sailing ships. Some never returned. When they did take a furlough it was after decades at times.  One spent forty years on the field before his first furlough. May we be encouraged to risk more for Christ in our day of easy travel.

Hitler's headquarters.

Hitler's headquarters.

We truly live in a unique time in history when travel is so easy even with jet lag. We complain about the economy seats.  We do have melatonin.  Chris, Ruth, Nancy and I, over the last two weeks, have walked were Luther walked, stood in his pulpit, gazed at his house and kneeled beside his grave and saw the president of Germany in person. We have eaten wiener snitzel in Berlin a few feet from the Brandenburg Gate and stood atop the bunker that became Adolph Hitler's suicide grave. We spent time with the Gustafsons, met with pastors and walked the streets of Kiev where the heavenly hundred died. We sailed the Black Sea and worshiped with believers at Caleb's church and encountered cattle rush hour in the remote village of Makarovo. We toured an abandon Soviet military base and told the Sgt. De Roo story to young Ukrainian soldiers there on their way to the front lines. 

Ukrainian soldier we ministered to.

Ukrainian soldier we ministered to.

We also touched down in Ireland and enjoyed some Irish potatoes and fish on our way home.  But we're home now and will be reporting on this unique mission trip.  Chris and I with our wives will have more to say this Sunday and in the weeks to come.  Thanks for praying.

Odessa train station.

Odessa train station.

Writing from my study (At least that is where I think I am this morning??),

Pastor Mark