Monthly Archives: October 2017

500 Years of Reformation

Today’s post comes from Dr. Jim Denison’s Forum:

Nine hundred million Protestants the world over are remembering an event that was far more obscure at the time but soon changed the world.

On October 31, 1517, an unknown monk in a small village nailed a document to the door of the town church. I’ve seen stories on Martin Luther, the Catholic Church, and the Protestant Reformation. But I haven’t seen much coverage of the document that made history.

Luther’s Ninety-five Theses are a set of theological statements regarding the church of his day. Their central concern remains an issue of enormous significance to our culture and our souls today.

The promise of religion

The subject Luther wanted to address was the selling of “indulgences.” Church historian Michael Whiting explains:

“Indulgences had been available in the church since the Middle Ages. In exchange for the giving of alms towards a religious cause, penitent sinners could be remitted part or all of the acts of penance, or temporal discipline, required for their sins. . . . Now, following a papal bull promulgated in 1476, indulgences could even be purchased on behalf of loved ones suffering in purgatory.”

The slogan of the day was, “When a coin in the coffer clings, a soul from Purgatory springs.”

Luther became convinced that indulgences could not save a person’s soul. To the contrary, he noted, “Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better deed than he who buys indulgences” (Thesis #43). He added: “Christians are to be taught that he who sees a needy man and passes him by, yet gives his money for indulgences, does not buy papal indulgences but God’s wrath” (Thesis #45).

Luther meant to begin a discussion within the church. However, ecclesiastical authorities eventually condemned him as a heretic. His supporters formed a protest movement calling for reform, leading to the Protestant Reformation.

Here’s the part of his Reformation I would like to explore with you on this significant day: the difference between religion and relationship.

Indulgences can be an expression of transactional religion: if we do our part, God will do his part. Such religion is endemic to Western culture, with roots in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Our ancestors built temples to various deities and promised that sacrifices to these gods would ensure their response and blessing. If you’re going to war, you sacrifice to Mars. If you’re going to sea, you sacrifice to Neptune. If you need wisdom, you sacrifice to Athena.

The same religious spirit is popular today.

It’s not hard to find preachers promising that financial contributions to their ministries will ensure God’s monetary blessings in your life. People go to church on Sunday so God will bless them on Monday. We read the Bible and pray so that God will guide and help us.

The promise of religion is that if we do what it wants us to do, God will do what we want him to do.

The peril of religion

What’s wrong with religion?

Fil Anderson is a longtime Young Life leader, speaker, and counselor. In Breaking the Rules: Trading Performance for Intimacy with God, he defines religion as “a human activity devoted to the impossible task of reconciling God to humanity and humanity to itself.”

Fil knows his subject matter. His insightful book describes his personal journey from a legalistic religion about God to a life-giving relationship with Jesus. His experience has been shared by many of us:

“The pathology of my religion erupted in insidious fashion: believing and doing the right things became a substitute for living in right relationship with God. As a result, I got lost in the details and simultaneously lost my heart. I spent most of my time learning what I couldn’t do instead of celebrating and enjoying what I could do because of my relationship with Jesus.”

Fil quotes pastor Doug Banister: Religion is “what is left after a true love for God has drained away. Religion is a shell that is left after the real thing has disappeared.”

Speaking to the transactional religion of Hosea’s day, the Lord warned: “I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6). Our Father wants our love before he wants our service (Matthew 22:37). He longs for a transformational relationship with his children, one founded on worship and grace rather than works and grades.

Whenever people confuse religion with relationship, the Reformation is still relevant.

Just as Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of his church, so Jesus stands at the door of his church today: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).

When last did you open your door to Jesus?

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Wise in the Lord’s Eyes, James 3:13-18

If you missed Sunday’s Sermon, here are the notes for you to follow along. May the Lord use His servant to glorify His name!

Introduction—I wish we were all wise in the Lord’s wisdom. Really, I do. I know we can, but it really does take hard work. The saying “the things worth having, take hard word” is true in this instance. It would be really nice if we could receive the wise guidance of Jesus without any real effort. Somehow when we pray, all of God’s wisdom would just enter our minds and we would clearly understand all things. Can God do that?

God can do anything, including creating a way in which we can understand as we pray. He has instilled inside of all people who has confessed Him as their own personal Lord, by way of invitation, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit isn’t just your conscience. If we rely on our consciences to guide us, we won’t go very far. You see, when our conscience allows us to distinguish right from wrong, we don’t have an incentive to actually follow through with selecting the right thing. It used to be enough to do right in order to honor yourself, your community, your family, etc. Today those don’t mean the same anymore. Individualism is the new way of thinking. It is my life therefore, I can do as I please. Even that motto used to contain the incentive just as long as I don’t harm anyone else, but that doesn’t even seem to matter anymore. No, we can be who we want and do what we want, in spite of our consciences telling us any different. That is precisely why we can’t rely on our consciences solely.

Today, I want us to travel into the world of being wise in the Lord’s eyes. Godliness flies in the opposite direction of worldliness. It swims in the opposite direction. It is a direction, when first observed, that seems to be going against everything most people understand, which it is.

Wise in the Lord’s eyes

Stand & Read—James 3:13-18

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

These verses are a natural progression from the previous verses about taming the tongue. Our tongues are small yet pour out great boasts. Our tongues are like a fire that can start a whole forest burning, and our tongues can also be used to praise our Lord Jesus!

Wisdom by definition—Verse 17 – who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

  • If you were to define wise by the textbook definition, it would go like this: characterized by wisdom: marked by deep understanding, keen discernment, and a capacity for sound judgment.
  • Sounds good. I like that definition. It is a good definition. We do have wise people in our world today that meet this definition.
  • But here is the problem that we should recognize right away.
  • The definition doesn’t give us a standard to compare what is considered wisdom. Everyone has their own standard therefore the variance of wisdom can vary from person to person.
  • James teaches us that if we are wise, our lives will show it. In other words, we can have wisdom, but not have the actions that actually show wisdom.
  • Here is an example: A person can be super intelligent, have a great understanding of many deep-thinking things, and yet it not show in a life lived out of that wisdom.
  • Without a standard, there isn’t a reason to follow through with all the wisdom a person has. The moral compass is subject to interpretation.

Application—Have you believed in wisdom that is subjective or standardized? By who’s standard?

Wise by the World’s Standards—verse 14-16 – But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

  • James now starts to explain worldly wisdom in verse 14.
  • Envy—when first glancing at this word, you, like me, automatically believe ourselves not to contain envious tendencies inside of us.
  • Even as we defend the truth of our Biblical heritage and standards, we too can be an envious torch carrier for God. We come with our foreknowledge that we are the only ones that have it right when it comes down to our God.
  • That is true, but we can have a prideful spirit by which we believe. That in and of itself contradicts the God’s wisdom.
  • We want others to be envious of what we have—the truth.
  • Our hearts are what God is in constant battle for. He wants the inside of you to as clean as the outside of you.
  • Galatians 5:19-2119 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality,impurity and debauchery;20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.We must know that worldly standards cannot define godly standards.
  • We should want others to want to know the Jesus we proclaim by a willingness to acknowledge that freely. If Jesus is not Lord of all, then He isn’t Lord of any. It is by confession that Jesus becomes a reality to those of us who know Him.
  • Our love for Him is what draws people to Jesus.
  • Selfish Ambition—characterizedby or manifesting concern or care only for oneself
  • It is so difficult today not have selfish ambition. We have implanted well-meaning thoughts and phrases into the minds of our children from an early age.
  • You can be anything you set your mind to do. Great message from the outside, but when really dissected, who knows what subliminal message you send to them. “I can do whatever I want.” My mommy said so, or my daddy said so.
  • They should be told from an early age, “you can seek out the Lord and he will direct your path so that you can fulfill God’s plan and purpose for your life.”
  • We can send self-seeking messages if we aren’t careful to speak godly wisdom to our families.
  • You have to stop worrying about others and focus on yourself. I am guilty of speaking these words.
  • What that message sends to our loved ones is this: take care of number one, even at the expense of others.
  • This too is not the Gospel message of peace and love for others.
  • Luke 6:3131 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
  • Verse 15—James goes way out there and gives this statement that worldly wisdom is unspiritual and also demonic.
  • Wow—tough words from James. I understand the part of the guidance not being spiritual, but demonic.
  • We don’t often think of it as demonic, do we?
  • 1 Corinthians 2:11-1311 For who knows a person’s thoughtsexcept their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.
  • We are in a spiritual battle for our hearts and minds. We cannot fight the battle with earthly guidance no matter what.
  • Without a standard, the wisdom is limited, and that is where Satan can come in and allow us to be persuaded that we don’t need God’s wisdom. We can attain our wisdom by seeking what we believe to best for us.

Illustration—Poll after poll, sheds light on this paradox of increased religiosity and decreased morality. According to most polls, a great percent of the American people say they agree that “an individual should arrive at his or her own religious belief independent of any church or synagogue.” Thus, the key to the paradox is the fact that those who claim to be Christians are arriving at faith on their own terms—terms that make no demands on behavior. Today many embody this attitude of “I believe in God,” but “I can’t remember the last time I went to church. They still believe their faith has carried them a long way. Selfishness and prideful people receiving bad messages all their life results in an unspiritual, selfish generation.

Application—Have you been receiving the wrong kind of advice or wisdom? Today, ask God for guidance and understanding through His Word.

Wise by the Lord’s Standards—verses 17-18 – But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

  • James concludes chapter 3 with an awesome ending.
  • Verse 17—The list of what God wants for us is amazing. He wants the best for us.
    • Pure—the absence of any sinful motive or attitude. It is opposite of self seeking
    • Peaceful—It is not competitive or bitter
    • Considerate—meaning gentle and kind. Speaking truth in love
    • Submissive—a readiness to yield. If you can’t be submissive to God, you will have a very difficult time being submissive to others
    • Merciful & Good—compassionate and always ready to help others
    • Impartial—showing no favoritism
    • Sincere—this means “for real.” Being godly is the result.
  • Verse 18—Being a person of peace makes one yield a harvest of righteousness.
  • There is a climate that works best for certain crops. In our climate here, citrus thrives in this context. In New Mexico, green chilies thrive form some rain, but lots of sunshine to stress out the chilies in order to create heat.
  • In an environment of peace, God can use that to allow His Holy Spirit to work in ways we could never generate.
  • Peacemakers live in peace, they cultivate, peace, and they strive to create conditions for peace.

Application—Does God’s wisdom permeate your life? Today you can change. Today you can create that climate of peace in order to receive a harvest of righteousness.

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7

Pastor Larry

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