For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
October 31, 2017, known as Reformation Day, marks the 500-year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, which began when Martin Luther nailed his list of ninety-five theses on the door of All Saints’ Church in the German town of Wittenberg. The list, which outlined a number of abuses by the Roman Catholic Church, was a bold public statement by Luther, although he probably had no idea just how significant his actions would prove in the aftermath of that fateful day in 1517.
Of course, history tells the story of trials, resolve, martyrdom, and great awakenings that were born out of the Reformation. Meanwhile, the Word of God spread like wildfire as the Scriptures were translated into common languages (by Luther and others) for the first time and the development of the printing press made it possible for ordinary people to read and study the Bible for themselves.
Any number of Protestant denominations arose out of the Reformation, including the Lutherans, Methodists, Calvinists (Reformed churches), Anglicans, Baptists, Presbyterians, and more.
So what was so revolutionary about Luther’s ninety-five theses that it changed Christendom forever? Now that five hundred years of dust has settled, what are the major takeaways from this momentous event?
Perhaps the most important theological understanding that emerged from the Reformation is the preeminence of Scripture in our lives and faith. Prior to Luther’s act, believers considered the church and its leaders in Rome to be the ultimate authority on any doctrinal issue. But today, numerous churchgoers might say, “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it.”
However, there are really five major pillars, all closely related, that came out of the Reformation and have stood the test of time:
Sola Scriptura. Sola scriptura is Latin for “by Scripture alone,” meaning that the Word of God is the sole infallible authority over Christian faith and practice. “All scripture is breathed out by God . . . that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Sola Gratia. Sola gratia means “by grace alone.” This means that the totality of our salvation is a gift of grace from God. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Sola Fide. Sola fide is Latin for “by faith alone.” In other words, salvation comes by way of faith, not by works. We can do nothing to earn or buy our way into heaven. When the jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Paul also wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. . . . For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith” (Romans 1:16-17).
Sola Christus. Sola Christus means “in Christ alone.” This is the belief that Christ is the one and only mediator between God and man, and He is the only way to salvation. “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Soli Deo Gloria. Soli Deo gloria is Latin for “glory to God alone.” In other words, we must give every part of our lives to God and do all for His glory alone. Johann Sebastian Bach signed each of his compositions with the initials SDG to declare that God alone was to receive the glory for the wonders of His creation and redemption. “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
In 1521, a few years after the incident at Wittenburg, Martin Luther stood trial before an assembly of the Holy Roman Empire and was ordered to recant his teachings. Although the words were not recorded in the trial transcript, tradition holds that Luther concluded his defense by saying, “Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”
Do you stand with Luther? Do you stand on Scripture alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone?
O Lord God Almighty, I come before you now in humility, with a heart full of gratitude for your amazing grace that saves this wretch. Thank you for saving me by faith in Christ alone. Thank you for your Son, your Word made flesh. Thank you for the Scriptures, which reveal the truth of my sinful state and the means by which I can be saved. To you be all glory, now and forevermore. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.
Walking by faith and enjoying the homeschooling adventure of a lifetime!
© 2017 Davis Carman
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 2:5
You and I are in desperate need of a mediator. Yes, as Christians and adopted sons and daughters of the Most High, we are encouraged to approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16). But sin still gets in our way. Every time we choose to indulge our fleshly desires instead of choosing to do God’s will, we distance ourselves from the Father.
We need someone to speak for us, to advocate for us before a holy God—someone who is blameless and without sin.
Jesus is your Mediator to God the Father.
Just as a mediator works to resolve a dispute between two parties, so Jesus is your Mediator. Although you were once an enemy of God (Romans 5:10), Jesus has reconciled you to the Father and made peace between you through His death on the cross (Hebrews 9:15).
Just as a mediator works on your behalf as a go-between, a liaison to communicate or transfer information between you and another person, so Jesus is your Mediator. He makes it possible for you to talk with the Father. That’s one reason why we pray in Jesus’ name.
Just as a lawyer is a mediator who represents you before a judge, so Jesus is your Mediator. He pleads your case before the One who forgives sins (1 John 2:1).
Do you feel unworthy to stand before the Father’s throne? We’re all in the same boat. You and I need Jesus to advocate for us and clothe us in His righteousness to make us presentable before the Father. Pray in Christ’s name. Let Him speak on your behalf. God will surely listen to His only begotten Son.
A human mediator could never represent you to the heavenly Father. His or her own sin would get in the way. You need a mediator who is without sin to safely approach God, who is altogether holy and righteous and cannot look upon sin (Habakkuk 1:13). Also, a human mediator would have his or her own fleshly agenda and wouldn’t be appropriately concerned with your needs and problems.
But Jesus can—and will—properly represent you at the throne of grace. Because He is God, He knows the Father’s heart. Because Jesus lived as a man, He knows your struggles and the inclinations of the flesh (Hebrews 4:15). And because He lived and died without sinning, you are safe to stand before the Father through Jesus Christ, your faithful Mediator.
Lord, I am lost and alone. I am keenly aware of my need for a mediator. I dare not approach the throne of grace on my own, for I have sinned. Jesus, plead my case, cover my sin, and deliver me. I need you. Oh, how I need you! Thank you for interceding with the Father on my behalf. Amen.
For [God] Himself has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
A while back, I read this story about a man who attempted to live one whole year without God. The title, “A Year Without God,” certainly caught my attention, and I had several initial thoughts before I ever read a word.
Did the author mean that he tried to actively disobey God for a year? Had his faith been wavering and he wanted to explore alternatives to the Christian life? Was he exposed to lies that pulled him away from the truth? Did he really think it was possible to live beyond God’s reach? Was he hoping to find peace and quiet somewhere else? Would he eventually repent and turn back to his heavenly Father? Or would he discover new friends and temptations that dragged him farther away than he could ever have imagined?
I also had other questions, the kind that came from deep within my soul. For example: Does this man not realize that his very existence is due to the will and pleasure of God? He must have been following an awfully small God to even think this was worth a try, and I pray I am never foolish enough to follow his example. But what about my kids? How can I prevent them from making this kind of mistake in their lives?
Sure, knowledge about God is important. Beyond deciding whether or not we believe that God exists, there are plenty of important issues such as what it means for God to be eternal, holy, unchanging, all-powerful, and all-knowing. It turns out the author of the article was a pastor. He grew up in a church and went to seminary, so he knew plenty. But isn’t it possible for smart people with academic knowledge to walk away from God? It’s sad but all too true.
What about experience? Does a person have to see a real-life miracle, feel something deeply with stronger-than-normal emotions, or have a firsthand, unexplainable experience that removes any possibility of doubt? Will an indelible memory of God’s power and faithfulness protect one from the lure of sin and worldliness?
When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus pointed to Deuteronomy 6, saying that the most important commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Why is this so important? The more you love God, the more you will want to know Him. And the more you know Him, the bigger He will grow in your eyes. Our faith will only be as big as the God we serve. And peace will only come when we are safe in His family.
Are you serving a small God? Is He a God of convenience, guilt, or tradition? Are you crazy in love with Him, or is He more of an acquaintance? If I asked your kids, what would they say? Now that’s a sobering thought. What kind of a God are you presenting to you kids? Are your kids convinced by your actions that you even believe in God? Do they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you love Him and are in awe of Him?
Some of the worst times in my life have been when I felt far away from God. I wasn’t trying to live without Him. As a matter of fact, during those times I was troubled by the fact that I didn’t feel closer to Him. I desperately wanted to get out of my funk and back to a place of peace, calm, and intimacy in my faith walk and mindset. I can’t imagine ever intentionally cutting myself off from God.
Scripture says that God will never leave you or forsake you. If He’s not leaving me, then I’m not about to try and leave Him. The fool says in his heart that there is no God. It seems just as disastrous for someone to try and live without God or to live as though He isn’t present everywhere.
When I was young, I was taught to think and act as though God was always in the room with me. The point of this instruction was to teach me what it means that God is omnipresent. I’m glad that the Holy Spirit brings this lesson back to mind when I find myself alone. I want to please my God and Savior whether or not anyone else is watching. As we’ve all heard, it is in the secret places that one’s true character is determined.
God is good. He is good to me, and He is good for me. There are myriad material objects, foods, discussions, or practices that would be good for me to live without for a year or longer. If I’m going to remove something from my life, I’d rather choose from this list. But a year without God? I can’t imagine having any peace of mind. No thank you. I’m not interested.
The man who made this decision to try and live without God for a year said this experiment felt a little risky but that his desire was to pursue truth in both serious and playful ways. The truth will still set this man free, as it will for any of us. I pray that he will run back home to the Father. God is waiting, just like the father in Luke 15 who gladly welcomed his prodigal son back to the family with open arms. It was at that moment when the prodigal son finally found peace for his soul.
So what do you think? Was this person foolish, playful, serious, or cutting edge? What does his experiment cause you to contemplate when it comes to ideas about God or your current relationship with Him? If you want real and lasting peace, don’t even try to live one day without God.
A day in [His] courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. Psalm 84:10
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14
The history of our country is full of proclamations declaring certain days for public worship, prayer, fasting, or thanksgiving. These days were often referred to as “days of humiliation.”
Can you imagine devoting a full day of fasting, silence, humble mediation, and praying for divine guidance, protection, provision, or breakthrough? You’ve probably fasted (and prayed) sometime in your life. But have you ever participated in this spiritual discipline with other family members? What about with a larger group, like your local church? Or the entire country?
I remember the humility that seemed to exist among our citizens in the days following Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I vividly recall that first Sunday after the attacks, when churches across the nation were filled to overflowing. There was a serious mood in the air, a swell of patriotism like nothing in our lifetime, and a unity that was previously uncommon. There may not have been an official proclamation, but I think it’s safe to say that, as a country, we were humiliated in a good way.
The Continental Congress urged the colonies to observe a day of “public humiliation, fasting, and prayer” on July 20, 1775, to bless King George III. Another such moment in history was March 30, 1863, when President Lincoln signed a proclamation to designate and set apart that day for “national prayer and humiliation.”
Humiliation. This form of the word “humble” seems extreme to many of us in the twenty-first century. I mean, we’re all for being humble. Most of us agree that there are too many prideful, narcissistic, egotists out there making life miserable for everyone. But do we really need to subject ourselves to humiliation? What exactly does this mean? And how is it similar to or different from merely being humble?
Listen to some of the words from the 1863 proclamation, which recognizes “the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations.” It says that nations have a duty to confess their sins “in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope,” recognizing that “those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord. . . . It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”
Wow! This ought to move us to tears.
We celebrated Memorial Day less than a week ago, and many of us are already making plans for the Fourth of July holiday. We know our country has lost its way when it comes to giving honor and reverence to the one true God. Sadly, most folks in the good old USA, including many who attend church on a regular basis, can be described as biblically illiterate. I think it’s safe to say that we need to pray. We need to fast. We need to humble ourselves before the Great and Glorious Sovereign, the Lord God Almighty.
Heavenly Father, please hear our prayer. Help us repent of our evil ways, humble ourselves, and seek Your face. May Your Sovereign will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Please forgive us, both individually and as a nation, for our sins against You. Be merciful toward us and heal our land. Bring glory to Yourself and for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ. In His name we pray! Amen.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2-3)
When bad news shows up on your doorstep, how do you typically respond? Do you complain to anyone who will listen? Do you try to explain away your difficulties and move on to the next headline? Enduring unpleasant circumstances is certainly no fun, but is it truly possible to simply grin and bear it? We’ve all been on the receiving end of bad news at one time or another, and we know that trials and suffering are a part of the Christian’s life on this earth (John 16:33; 1 Peter 4:12). So wouldn’t it be smart to have an emergency response plan in place for such occasions?
Let’s consider three possible options for how to react to bad news.
Emergency Response Plan A
The knee-jerk response to bad news and suffering is often to blame God, get angry with the world, and choose to wallow in your pain. Basically, have a really big pity party. This may seem like the natural thing to do, but as a Christian, you aren’t meant to live according to your sinful nature anymore. If you make it a habit to respond to bad news this way, your pain will soon turn into a root of bitterness. And that’s not good either for you or the people around you. So although this may seem like the easy route to take, it is not the healthy choice.
Emergency Response Plan B
A second option is to lie down, throw in the towel, and just give up. This sounds quieter and not as volatile as Plan A, but does it really take you to a better place? Choosing this path will most likely lead to a life of despair and hopelessness. You may not be able to control every aspect of your present dilemma, but you can choose your attitude and actions. Be patient, be still, and wait on God (Psalm 46:10). Of course, this doesn’t mean you must sit on your hands and do nothing; God accomplishes His will by way of His people, and this new trial might be the catalyst God uses to bring about good for yourself or others (Isaiah 46:9-11; Romans 8:28). So be wary of giving up. It takes courage to get up off the mat and go another round, but be brave and know that God has your back.
Emergency Response Plan C
Of course, you could decide to be joyful in the trial, secure in the knowledge that God is in control. This sounds easy when you aren’t in the middle of walking through a long, hard valley, and you may have decided already that next time troubles arise you’re going to keep a joyful attitude like the one you’ve read about in the book of James. But do you really believe that God is in control, that He will use this testing of your faith to produce perseverance, maturity, and perfection in you?
Plan C isn’t easy. It doesn’t feel natural. But it is clearly the best choice.
Before acquiring Apologia, I found myself unemployed for an extended period of time. It was one of the toughest trials I’ve ever faced, and I was forced to deal with some harsh facts every week. Yet God provided what my family needed, sending just enough manna for today, and I had to trust that He would send more tomorrow. The experience was scary and exhilarating at the same time. I was often tempted to respond in negative ways (see options A and B), but God kept reminding me that He was my strength, or more specifically, the joy of the Lord was my strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
In other words, the more I was joyful in that trial, the more He strengthened me, which served to increase my joy. It was a positive, life-giving stairway leading upward, not one of those emotional death traps that can send one spiraling downward and out of control. Like His peace that passes understanding, this was a joy that didn’t make earthly sense. Yet my joy wasn’t irrational—it was a more sane and lucid response than I would have on my own. By God’s grace, He helped me to look at my trial through heaven’s eyes, stand and face my giant, and then calmly—and joyfully—grin and bear it.
Heavenly Father, as hard as it is to say, I sincerely thank you for the trial I am currently facing. I say this in a sane moment, knowing that I am weak and prone to anger and frustration with my circumstances. I confess that I want to blame others and be angry with You, even though I know full well that You are a loving and sovereign God. Forgive me for my faithless response. Guide me in the paths of righteousness and give me the strength to face this giant with courage and joy. Then do your work in and through me for your glory.
Walking by faith and enjoying the homeschooling adventure of a lifetime!
© 2017 Davis Carman
I’ve been watching, waiting, observing. You have what it takes. I’m looking for a few good men and women who can make a difference in my world. Folks who seek to serve, not be served. People who will not run when the going gets tough. Instruments of righteousness who will march to the beat of a different drummer. Men who will dream big dreams, possess vibrant faith, take risks for the things in life that matter. Women who are selfless, for whom mediocrity is an abomination, and who are determined to raise their voice and be heard. Individuals who will sacrifice and, if necessary, die for Me.
I’m looking for people who walk so close to Me that we cast only one shadow. People who bend their knees in the lonesome valley. Brave souls who stand tall in the face of injustice. Soldiers who are bent but never broken, knocked down but never knocked out. Fighters who will go one more round.
Yes, I’ve been cheering for you, coaching, and pacing the sidelines. It may sound like a cliché, but your life and your future are much more important than field goals and touchdowns, balls and strikes, wins and losses. I wish it was that simple. But I have a lost world, I sent my Son, and He paid the supreme sacrifice. Now I’m sending you.
Enclosed you will find some shoes. It will take a big person to fill these shoes—a woman with unconditional love, eternal vision, unshakeable hope, and deep faith.
You have giants to face, battles to fight, and victories to win. It’s going to take someone with unshakable character. Go face your giants, and know that I’m cheering for you along with all the redeemed—My Son, the Holy Spirit, and all the heavenly hosts. There’s not a stadium big enough to seat everyone who is rooting for you, and I’m the original season ticket holder. I’ll be watching this Friday night because I’m your biggest fan.
In the grand scheme of things, the games aren’t that important. Yet for some, they are. Not for Me. People are living and dying every day who don’t even know My name. That’s important. Children are starving to death every day. That’s important. Wars are being fought, and the innocent are dying. Now that’s important.
I have plans for you—big plans! Plans to bless you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. So try on the shoes. I know they are a little big. Believe me! What I have planned for you is going to take some big shoes and a really big heart. You better get ready. It’s game time.
Well, I’ve got prayer requests to answer, bodies to heal, souls to save, wars to resolve, storms to manage, and I haven’t even had breakfast yet.
I love you. And never forget that you are My child.
Oh, one more thing. The shoes may seem big at first. But I had them custom-made just for you. So trust me, they are a perfect fit. And whether you are walking, jogging, or in an all-out sprint, fix your eyes on me, and run straight for my arms. I can’t wait to give you a big hug.