Why Solus Christus Still Matters

Why Solus Christus Still Matters

As a student of theology, Ralph Erskine made the rounds to many of Edinburgh’s notable churches to hear the great preachers of his day.  In his journal he recorded notes and assessment of each sermon.  In one entry he noted only, “not very good  — no word of Christ.”   I wonder what assessment Erskine would make of preaching in our day?   Would he hear a word of Christ or merely a moralistic prescription for self-improvement?

Scottish divine, Thomas Chalmers noted the spiritually fatal effect of the entertaining, self-help, power-of-positive-thinking type preaching of his day that lacked a word of Christ.   He aptly remarked that  such preaching was

“like a winter’s day, short and clear and cold. The brevity is good, the clarity is better; the coldness is fatal. Moonlight preaching ripens no harvest.”  

The Middle Ages, steeped in superstition and error, had no lack of interesting preaching.   Its art and rhetoric; its value as entertainment was without rival in the frivolities of Medieval life.   Yet it lacked the sunlight of the gospel.  It had the form of godliness but was bereft of gospel power because it spoke no word of Christ.   Calvin describes this preaching.

“Indeed what one sermon was there from which old wives might not carry off more fantasies than they could devise at their own fireside in a month?  For, [these] sermons … contained smooth stories, or not unamusing speculations, by which the people might be excited to cheerfulness.   Only a few expressions were thrown in from the Word of God, that by their majesty they might procure credit for these frivolities.   But as soon as the Reformers raised the standard, all these absurdities in a moment disappeared from among us.”

The Reformation grew in the soil of expository, gospel preaching.  Preaching that proclaimed salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.   Today’s preaching often aims merely to excite the hearers to cheerfulness and tell a few smooth stories.   Yet such moonlight preaching ripens no harvest.

Why does the Reformation still matter?  And why does Solus Christus, “In Christ Alone,” still matter?  Join us this Lord’s Day, October 22, as we consider these questions. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions.

Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.

Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis

Medical misdiagnosis is a serious problem.  Recent studies have estimated that as many as 12 million adults a year seeking outpatient care are misdiagnosed.  Worse yet, diagnostic errors may result in as many as 10% of patient deaths — more deaths annually than breast cancer.  To be fair, diagnosis is incredibly complex and patients place extraordinarily high expectations for accuracy on their doctors.  Patients often bet their lives on the opinions of their doctor.  When those opinions are wrong the prescribed treatment will fail to address the real condition and may even make the condition more acute.

Misdiagnosis is a serious problem but it is nothing compared to the misdiagnosis of a deeper sickness that affects us all – a spiritually terminal condition the Bible calls sin.  This condition is congenital and inherited.  It is always fatal.  Every one of us has it.  Yet it is often misdiagnosed.  Doctors of skepticism dismiss that any sickness exists, while doctors of philosophy are more concerned with classification than cure.   Doctors of psychology declare this sickness to be a non-fatal dysfunction, easily resolved with the right therapeutic tweak.   Doctors of world religions prescribe a course of works, coupled with a regimen of rituals and outward piety.  But with all these prescriptions, the cirrhosis of the soul continues unabated.

At the dawn of the Reformation, the Church taught that man needed the grace of God to overcome his sin problem, just not grace alone.  The Church and its teachers had misdiagnosed the depth and severity of sin as mere spiritual sloth.  If only the patients would exert themselves, even just a little, and show that they were trying, God would give them the loan of grace they needed to make up what they lacked.   God helps those that help themselves!

Yet these Doctors of the Church had failed to read their diagnostic manual, the Scripture, which reveals that the patients are already spiritually dead (Ephesians 2) and that none of them can ever exert themselves, even just a little (Romans 3).   Martin Luther worked and worked to do his part, yet with all his working he only felt that more working was needed.   Far from loving or seeking God, he hated and despised God for his implacable justice and harshness.  It was not until he read in Romans 1, “the just shall live by faith” that he realized that his hope was not in a loan of grace, but in grace alone — grace given to him, not in response to his willingness, but in spite of his rebellion.  Luther commented.

“He is not righteous who does much, but he who, without work, believes much in Christ…. The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it…. Rather than seeking its own good, the love of God flows forth and bestows good. Therefore sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive.”

Dead men do not need renovation, but resurrection.   For this reason, the Reformers insisted that the only remedy for sin was Grace alone (Sola Gratia) through Faith alone (Sola Fide).  Why do Sola Gratia and Sola Fide Still Matter?  Because the epidemiology of sin has not changed in the last 500 years.

Join us this Lord’s Day, October 15, as we consider the question, “Why do Sola Gratia and Sola Fide Still Matter?”  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions.

Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.

Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

While old campaign slogans may be catchy and the memorabilia that immortalized them collectable, the issues they expressed are hardly relevant or even discernible in our day.   As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation on October 31, 2017, our social media feeds will be burgeoning with memes and sermon series announcements related to the Five Solas, or Reformation era slogans, expressing the central concerns of the Protestant Reformers.  These slogans are:

  • Sola Scriptura, By Scripture alone,
  • Sola Gratia, By Grace alone,
  • Sola Fide, By Faith alone,
  • Solus Christus, By Christ alone,
  • Soli Deo Gloria, For God’s Glory alone.

As a Reformed Church our identity and our name is connected explicitly to a Sixteenth Century historical movement in Western European History, while our faith and practice is staunchly defined and directed by a book that has not been updated in almost two thousand years.

Are we not a living, breathing anachronism?   Are we not irrelevant to culture and a world that has advanced and moved on from the historical context into which we were born?  Does the Reformation still matter?  Do the Five Solas have any more relevance for our lives today than “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too?”  Or are we just worshiping and practicing our own outdated style in a world that is moving on without us?  These are weighty questions which we need to ask and answer as we consider “who” and “what” we are as a Reformed Church in the Twenty-First Century.

Join us this Lord’s Day, October 8, as we consider the question, “Why Does Sola Scriptura Still Matter?”  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions.

Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.

Relentless Pursuit

Relentless Pursuit

Deputy Marshall, Bass Reeves set the standard for relentless pursuit.  Born to slave parents in 1838 in Crawford County Arkansas, Reeves would become the first black U.S. Deputy Marshal west of the Mississippi and one of the greatest frontier heroes in our nation’s history.

Appointed by the infamous Judge Isaac Parker because of his significant knowledge of the area and ability to speak several tribal languages, Bass Reeves earned his place in history as one of the most effective lawmen in Indian Territory, bringing in more than 3,000 outlaws during his 35 years of service.

Though Reeves could not read or write it did not diminish his effectiveness in apprehending fugitives. He memorized every warrant and never failed to produce the right one. Reeves earned a reputation for his courage, success and ingenuity. He was a master of disguises and often utilized aliases.  A meticulous dresser, he was known for his trademark hat and two Colt pistols, butt forward for a fast draw.  Ambidextrous, he rarely missed his mark.  He was so renowned for his relentless pursuit, that noted female outlaw, Belle Starr turned herself in at Fort Smith when she heard Reeves had a warrant for her arrest.

But despite his reputation, Reeve’s tenacity and effectiveness is as nothing compared to the Lord’s relentless pursuit of those He calls.   In spite of Jacob’s trickery and his grasping self-concern and self-conceit, the Lord pursued him as he fled from the wrath of his brother Esau.  In this pursuit, the Lord revealed Himself and His promises.  In running for his life as a fugitive, Jacob found life through the relentless pursuit of God.

Join us this Lord’s Day, October 1, as we examine the story of Jacob’s flight from home in Genesis 28 and consider how God relentlessly pursues us, even when we are not pursuing Him.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions.

Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.

The Fairness of God

The Fairness of God

Most children’s games are simple.  They have simple rules and simple goals.  Yet every parent can attest that in no time at all, most children’s games devolve into intense and serious litigation.   Claims and counter-claims of unfairness erupt like Mount St. Helens.

Concern for justice and fairness is lodged deep within our souls.  For this reason the following scriptures from Romans 9 often cause fear and anxiety in our relationship to God.

And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.   Romans 9:10-16

These verses are provocative and appear to reveal a capricious God who acts unfairly, that is, until we go back to Genesis and consider the account of Jacob and Esau and realize there are no human heroes in their story.  Neither the brothers nor their parents act as we would expect Christians to act.  Modern counselors might say they put the ‘d’ in ‘dysfunctional family.’

Yet the focus is not on them, but on God’s determined purpose to be gracious to sinners and to freely choose to save some out of their sin.  Not because of anything worthy in them, but because of his free love alone.  God did not choose Jacob because of his greater worth, but in spite of his unworthiness.  This is the foundation of grace – that God demonstrates His love in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Join us this Lord’s Day, September 24, as we examine the troubling story of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 27 and consider how God graciously saves us not because of what we have done, but in spite of it.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions.

Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.

Bumper Rails

Bumper Rails

Where were bumper rails when we were young?  Bowling was much harder than we imagined and gutter-balls were the mainstay of our early forays into the sport.  Children today, however, can experience the euphoria of crushing pins without the disappointment of gutter-dwelling, due to a truly marvelous modern invention – the bumper rail.  Throw in an adaptive bowling ramp and your average adult league bowler will be hard-pressed to beat a three year old without a sizeable handicap.

Older children may argue that this is an unfair advantage and bowling purists may complain that youngsters need to develop the character that comes from a single-digit score, but bowling alleys have learned that bumper rails and adaptive bowling ramps make the game more fun and significantly reduce crying among its fledgling bowlers.

In a similar way, the Lord graciously protects us when we struggle in our journey of faith.  Despite our struggles with unbelief, disobedience and conflict, the Lord, through His gracious providence keeps us out of many gutters and directs our paths when we are too weak to do so.   This great truth of God’s kindness in providence does not makes us apathetic or callous toward the demands of obedience or holiness, but rather increases our desire to grow in these areas out of gratitude for Him.  How has the Lord guarded and directed your path in the midst of a difficult faith journey?

Join us this Lord’s Day, September 17, as we examine Genesis 26 and consider how God graciously protects us when are struggling with unbelief, disobedience, and conflict in our journey of faith .  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions.

Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.

Walking Away

Walking Away

While statistics vary from one study to another, it appears well established that a substantial percentage of young people in the United States who have grown up in Christianity will leave the faith following high school.  Data from the Southern Baptist Convention indicates that they are currently losing 70-88% of their youth after their freshman year in college and that 70% of teenagers involved in church youth groups stop attending church within two years of their high school graduation.  The reasons for this are varied.  Click here for a few statistics on the “whys.”

This apostasy is grievous, not just because of the waning influence of Christianity in our society, but because of the brokenness it brings to the lives of precious covenant children and the unfolding generations of their families.  Children who leave the faith are in grave danger.  Unwittingly, they are trafficked and abused by the enemy of their souls and by the world.  Yet parents are often too busy or blind to see the subtle and gradual departures from the faith in the lives of their children which lead to blooming atheism.

Abraham and Isaac treasured God’s covenant promises, so it is shocking to read that Esau, Isaac’s firstborn “despised his birthright” and all the promises and grace of God connected with it.  Esau was a man more concerned about the desires of the moment, certain that, in the end, everything would work out, no matter how he lived or what decisions he made.   But when a man despises the grace of God and loves only himself, mere tears of regret cannot restore what is lost forever.

Join us this Lord’s Day, September 10, as we examine Genesis 25 and consider the lives of Jacob and Esau and the warning their lives hold for us.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions.  Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.