Monday, October 31, 2016

Rejoicing in Reformation Day

(This is a revision of a post from Oct. 31, 2012.)

Happy Reformation Day!

As evangelical Christians, we should rejoice in this day and what it represents. On Oct. 31, 1517, a Catholic monk named Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. That event helped set off the Reformation, which continued for decades and still affects us today. We will celebrate the 500th anniversary of this history-changing event next year, God willing.

That reform came at great cost to Luther and many others, and we continue to benefit from their sacrifice and the truths they recovered, stood for and proclaimed. The issues that produced the Protestant and evangelical movements remain important today.

The truths of the Reformation are often summarized as the five solas. That word, sola, means “only” or “alone.” The five are: Scripture alone; Christ alone; grace alone; faith alone, and the glory of God alone.

The use of the word “alone” is important. For instance, the Roman Catholic Church did not deny Scripture had authority; it said Scripture was not the sole final authority.

As we think about the Reformation ignited by Luther on this date 499 years ago, let us remind ourselves of these truths:

-- Scripture alone is our final authority, not Scripture plus an individual, council, church, tradition, experience or document.

-- Christ alone is our mediator with God, not Christ plus any human righteousness or accomplishment.

-- Grace alone is the way of salvation, not grace plus any human work or method.

-- Faith alone is the means of justification, not faith plus any human merit or infusion of Christ’s righteousness.

-- The glory of God alone is the purpose of life, not His glory plus that of any other.

As those saved by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone, may we hold onto these truths as we recognize our ongoing need for reformation in our own lives.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The evangelical election audit: Where is grace?

Two weeks from today, we will have a new president and a new Congress -- barring results that leave the election winners undetermined.

The pundits and many other Americans will likely be conducting postmortems already, and some of our fellow evangelical Christians may be providing similar examinations of our movement. There will be much for evangelicals to discuss, and lots of it will be painful.

Even before election day, here is the first of my observations as an evangelical about evangelicals and this presidential campaign:

Some of us have failed to extend grace to each other.

The division over Republican nominee Donald Trump has not always shown us at our best. Some on both sides have fallen short. The harshness in rhetoric toward others seemed to be more from the #NeverTrump band in the primaries. It appears to have switched to the Trump-supporting evangelicals since the GOP convention.

Passions still run high. Both sides are convinced of their positions. It is difficult in such situations not to lash out, convinced ours is the only possible way for a Christian to think.

But we can, and must, do better. We sin if we don't. Amid our disagreement over what to do in this election, we who were enemies of Christ before He made us His own should not treat one another as enemies. We are brothers and sisters through His blood. We may have a family disagreement, but we should give each other not only the benefit of the doubt but, as pastor/blogger Scotty Smith recently said, the benefit of grace.

It is not the unanimity of our votes but the love we have for one another that enables the world to see in the church what God is like (I John 4:11-12).

We have almost two weeks left. May we express our differences before Nov. 8 with the desire to understand and the devotion to love one another. And may we do so in every election hereafter.