If you missed it, I did a livestream while I was recording on the Facebook page. Follow this link if you want to see this sermon read unedited for mistakes, coughing, etc.
I won’t belabor this final episode of the year, except to wish you all a merry Christmas and happy new year. I ran a little poll on the Twitter account to see what people would choose for the Christmas episode, and this sermon won out by a large margin. I found it very fitting as well.
Right before things began to officially blow up in my life earlier this year, I recorded an episode called “Joy in Place of Sorrow.” In it I talked about two phrases from Scripture that struck me as being very central to the day to day life of a Christian: “Rejoice” and “Do not fear.” Furthermore, they both seem linked directly to the greatest commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength; and the second which is like it: love your neighbor as yourself. If you are loving God completely, you will rejoice in all circumstances, and that love will kill what Brother Spurgeon here calls “slavish fear,” the fear that drove Adam and Eve into hiding in the garden.
I have been put through a crash course in these truths this year, and as we prepare to close out one year and begin a new one, I want to say to you, my listeners: Rejoice in the coming of Christ, every day. Do not fear the Lord, but call out to Him and seek to worship Him in everything you do. Let that love spill over to how you treat your neighbors, how you love the people close to you and the strangers you meet. I have seen a disturbing trend of many Christians digging in trying to find safety for their traditions and I want to tell you: stop. Safety is not why we are here. Love is why we are here, and we must have our eyes open to those around us, for every way we can show it.
We don’t do it out of fear, but because of the love He has shown us. Do not let your thinking be so high that you cannot lower yourself to the level of Jesus loving the poor, broken, desperate people around Him. If you want to show the truth of Jesus, let your hands match your words, brethren. I pray that I will live as consistently with that as I can in this coming year.
“For your sakes he became poor.” -2 Corinthians 8:9 The Lord Jesus Christ was eternally rich, glorious, and exalted; but “though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor.” As the rich saint cannot be true in his communion with his poor brethren unless of his substance he ministers to their necessities, so…
Morning and Evening does continue apace even through the holidays thanks to Theology Mix. I intend to record the sermon for the Christmas episode of Spurgeon Audio this evening. Furthermore, I am planning to livestream that on Facebook, so if you would enjoy hearing the sermon with all my coughs, water-drinking, and puppy interruptions intact, keep an eye on the Spurgeon Audio Facebook page.
“O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men.” -Psalm 107:8 If we complained less, and praised more, we should be happier, and God would be more glorified. Let us daily praise God for common mercies–common as we frequently call them, and yet so…
I know I just posted another Morning and Evening, but I really wanted to write a bit on this one too because this was honestly one of my favorite ones to record so far. We in the USA just celebrated Thanksgiving, a tradition that we think of as going back to the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony and to later presidential declarations of such days, including George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
I was intending to do a sermon episode on it with this sermon, but with the time crunch as well as falling ill, that will probably be done next year around the same holiday, God willing.
The power of gratitude
I wanted to take a moment here and talk about why as Christians, this occasion should be particularly meaningful to us. We should, as a natural course of living, be constantly thankful to God, and I believe it goes hand in hand with the biblical command to rejoice in the Lord in all things. We should remember that our lives, our families and homes, our very existence, and most of all our salvation in Christ, is a gift of God’s goodness and love to us. Certainly, however, it is appropriate for us in this season when we begin to close out the year and reflect on everything that has happened, to make time as a nation to stop and give special gratitude to God.
Gratitude is also one of the believer’s greatest weapons against the temptation to run to sin. Someone who hopes in the cross and pours out his gratitude on the unending grace of God can endure the darkest pits. My own experiences have only grazed the truth of this, but the goodness and grace of God is so very sweet after a deep draught of sadness and suffering, and a time of thanksgiving is all the more appropriate in that time.
I have said before that I believe two important commands we find in Scripture are “rejoice” and “do not fear,” both of which are tied into the idea of loving the Lord with every element of your self, and which overflow into loving your neighbor as yourself. I am reminded most of all of this passage from Hebrews:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.–Hebrews 12:1-2
Such an amazing picture of the strength we can find in God is seen here! Christ set the example for all His people by enduring not just giving up His heavenly throne to live as a servant, but enduring the torment of death on a cross, doing so because He knew the joy that would come of it, of the coming perfect union between Christ and His church, was far more valuable than the shame meted out to him in such an ignominious death.
I am constantly holding myself up against this, and I fall so very short. Yet even knowing that drives me to further gratitude, because the immense and glorious grace of God is more than enough to fill that gap, and to grow me up further. I pray that I will always keep this weapon at hand, as I go forth into the next part of life and into whatever God has planned for me there.
I have been thinking for a while now about what an episode in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation would look like. After all, there are so many things that can be discussed, and are being so discussed in churches, podcasts and blog posts around the world: the fives solas of the Reformation, the history of the church that led up to and resulted from the actions of the reformers, and the finer points of the theological debates that produced such massive change throughout Western civilization and the church worldwide.
I decided, however, to get down to what I see as the real “why” of the entire issue: What was so important that Martin Luther decided to pursue an open debate on the subjects that he did, 500 years ago? What motivated so many people to buck against the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and pursue the Scriptures without layering them with Vatican magisterial tradition and teachings? It was the realization that peace with God lay not in the repetitious taking of the mass, not in plenary indulgences or penances performed, not in any deed a man can do, but in the perfectly atoning and transforming blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross of Calvary.
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,and since we have a great priest over the house of God,let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.–Hebrews 10:19-25
Hebrews 10 contrasts the constant working of the Israelite priests, with the finished work of Jesus. The high priest of Israel entered the Holy of Holies once a year to perform the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement, and even then before he entered he had to ensure that he had observed the sacrifices to cover his own sins, lest he fall down dead while in the holy place. But when Jesus died the veil separating that holy place in the temple from everything else tore. The types and shadows of the Old Testament that, as Hebrews says elsewhere, could not truly pay for a single sin, gave way to the weight of the real and final sacrifice of Christ Himself.
Because of that we can walk into that holy place ourselves–not simply wherever that place might have been on the planet, though the temple itself has long since fallen, but into the throne room of God. We can speak with him in prayer. We can trust in His providing hands to give perfect gifts to us in life. And we can go to Him with our sins, fears, failures and weaknesses, because Jesus did exactly what He intended to do:
For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own,for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.–Hebrews 9:24-28
When Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenburg castle church, he wasn’t challenging the authority of the pope, at least not yet. He was acting on conviction of the words of Scripture, as he had been teaching through Galatians for the last year and had, as he had examined the Greek text, come to believe that certain traditions of the Roman Catholic Church did not seem to line up with them. Indeed, the reality was that the Catholic Church had set aside its duty to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in and out of season and disciple its people, and instead had become a world power that held great authority over many kingdoms in Europe.
Luther wanted to see debate happen on these theses, these specific statements based on the conviction put on his heart through the Word of God. He challenged the culture that was holding onto false, unbiblical ideas about the nature of our relationship with God, in this case over the issue of buying indulgences that can supposedly help free one from time spent suffering in purgatory before being able to go to heaven. That was only the beginning, of course, but that was the spark that set off the firestorm of the Reformation across Europe.
And it is in that same spirit today that, as Christians, I believe the Reformation must continue. The Reformation did not end when the last of the original reformers died, or when the pope stopped allowing the sale of indulgences.
The Reformation continues today, as we must still hold our cultures accountable to the testimony of the Scriptures. There is a great deal of confusion and deception within elements of the church: the Roman Catholic Church still teaches as official doctrine that you can have right standing before God by taking part in their sacraments. There are many counterfeits of the faith, such as Mormonism and the Watchtower Society’s Jehovah’s Witnesses, that attempt to use Christian lingo and Christian Scripture but use them to arrive at decidedly non-Christian ends. And there are entire denominations that have been taken over by secular humanism and have no gospel to preach, ultimately to shrivel up and die.
Being a Reformed Christian is not simply about believing in the truth of the doctrines of grace or understanding the meaning and importance of the five solas of the Reformation, though certainly those are important and foundational. Being a Reformed believer means you are living out and holding up the truths of Scripture against those inside and outside of the church that would draw us away and distract us from the mission to carry the gospel of Jesus Christ to all the corners of the earth.
That spiritual battle continues, and we must persist exactly as the reformers did in calling for a return to the fundamental truths of Scripture as the ultimate rule of truth, and in pointing to the blood of Christ alone as the perfect and complete atonement for the sin of all who believe in His great Name.
I want to leave you with some recommended reading that I feel is very much on this theme. Firstly, is an article at the Gospel Coalition called “Thank God for Flawed Heroes.” It discusses some history about the reformers and the fact that God used very flawed and imperfect men to effect such a tremendous moment in the history of the church. I also want to link to an article at Desiring God, called “Prisoner Number 2491: The Inspiring Story of the First Nazi Martyr.” It is the story of Paul Schneider, a Christian pastor who stood firm in the heyday of Nazi rule over Germany and refused to bow to pressure to change his teaching of the Christian gospel. As a result he was arrested, horribly beaten, and eventually died in the Buchenwald concentration camp.
Schneider’s story reminds of many important truths, but for just a moment I want to mention this one: suffering will come, in one form or another, into the life of every Christian. We know that is true because our Lord suffered, and if we are following after Him, we can very much count on the world and the enemy despising us and seeking to harm us. Schneider, however, did not respond with vitriol. He sought to live and love faithfully in line with the Word and with the example of Christ, and just like the reformers before him, he knew that eternity was so very close and so very much more important that this brief and troubled life.
So many today suffer in the same way. My friends, my brethren, let us take this day of remembering the 500th anniversary of the Reformation not simply as an occasion to think of the job as being done back then, but to think how we can continue to pursue the same goal the reformers had in our own day. Let us worship our King boldly and with all love. Let us serve and love our neighbors faithfully, and seek to see the best for our cities. And let us respond to hatred given by those who despise the word of the gospel of Jesus Christ with the same love and humility that Christ himself showed on the cross, trusting as the reformers did that God will accomplish His work perfectly as He has intended to since before the world was founded.
Every morning at work I have a basic routine to kick things off, before I actually clock in and start to business. I fire up my computer, get all the basic programs I need loaded, and pop up a browser window to glance at Google News for what’s going on. It’s interesting to see what gets pushed to the top, and the other day one appeared that really caught my eye: “Trump: ‘We’re Saying Merry Christmas Again.‘”
President Trump reignited the “war on Christmas” on Friday, telling a crowd of supporters that “we’re saying merry Christmas again” now that he’s president.
Speaking to a packed crowd at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., Trump argued political correctness has gotten in the way of celebrating the holiday.
“We’re getting near that beautiful Christmas season that people don’t talk about anymore. They don’t use the word Christmas because it’s not politically correct,” he said to strong applause and cheers from the audience at the Christian public policy conference, sponsored by the Family Research Council.
So I am in a position where essentially I find myself at odds both with my very traditional-minded conservative brethren as well as my friends on the left. The latter is probably more normal for my experience, but as I have tried to push forward in seeking Christ in obedience to the gospel, I have noted many times that what often passes for Christianity in the US is, unfortunately, very much the opposite in various ways.
Those ways differ from place to place, but they work out the same way: rather than worship God boldly and joyfully, obeying the commands to not fear and to rejoice in all things, they instead are seeking after themselves. They use the name of Jesus, they claim to love and believe in Him. Yet they operate in fear and they do not rejoice, at least not in Him, not the way modeled by the early church. They put immense weight on cultural expressions of Christianity (like visible decorations and holidays) but their handling of such issues rarely reflects the heart of Christ towards others.
The apostles left the beatings they received at the command of the Sanhedrin “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name [of Jesus].” Are Western Christians similarly ready to truly suffer loss and pain for the sake of Jesus? Or are we fleeing from pain for the sake of our comfort? Are we trusting to God in all things or are we trying to control the world to our tastes?
When I see the President or any other public figure standing in front of a group that has declared itself to be Christian and delivering the line “We’re saying merry Christmas again” as though it is demonstration that victory has been won over the godless pagans who only say “happy holidays,” I am deeply concerned. I am concerned that for many in the West, Christianity has been reduced to platitudes and traditions. I am concerned that the Jesus worshiped in the hearts of many is not the Savior who died on the cross and the mighty King who sits upon His throne, who will one day dispense both justice and mercy perfectly.
What I see is many evangelicals trying to build a fortress to hide themselves and their families inside, lest they be impacted by a society that is darkening around them. They are doing exactly what Jesus said not to do, and hiding their light under a basket. And when they do try to drag it out, there is little love in it. Rather, there seems to be a great deal of arrogance and self-righteousness.
Brethren, if the thing that excites you is the idea that “Now we can give Christmas-specific greetings rather than generic holiday ones because the federal government is slightly less antagonistic towards Christians,” I would suggest you need to stop for a moment and examine your own heart. As Christians we ought to be thinking about things like “How can we look at the people near us who are hurting and lost and serve them in a way that glorifies Jesus? How can we make the gospel our speech and walk every day?”
And if we’re going to talk about Christmas, then perhaps ask yourself, “How can we use this celebration of the incarnation of the Son of God to show what it really means to worship a God that is so mighty He requires nothing, and yet cares so much about His creation that He became flesh to pay the price for our wicked and sinful deeds?” We should be able to live even in a society that truly despises us and still be serving and loving, because that is the model Christ set even as He was despised and rejected.
The point of this post is not to hate Trump or rag on him. I do not hate him and to despise him like that would likewise be un-Christlike. But I believe that it is unwise and just as un-Christlike for believers to attach their affections and hopes to a man who is so manifestly manipulative and who clearly has no interest in the faith beyond what it can bring him in the moment. Hope in God alone.
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.–Psalm 146:3-7
I want to thank everyone for their patience as I got back online, and especially everyone who has reached out to encourage me in the last month or so. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, damage to my computer kept me “off the air” and I was forced to put everything for the podcast on hold.
I want to start off looking at the larger context of the passage for today. Everyone has heard John 3:16, even a large number of my non-Christian friends probably have at least a rough idea what it says if they don’t have it involuntarily memorized. But I want to take a few minutes to dive deep into the passage from what I would say is probably my favorite book of the Bible:
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”-John 3:1-21
Jesus unveils the truth to Nicodemus: life is not gained from God by adhering to the law. Entering the kingdom of God, being adopted as a child of God and following after Christ, is something that happens through renewed life. Our life is not renewed by our own doing, but it is renewed by the grace and gift of God. The Spirit moves as God wills and brings life to spiritually dead rebels by God’s grace, not man’s will. Moreover, that life is gained by looking upon the Savior, Jesus Christ, made a curse for us. Jesus refers to Numbers 21 when God punished the rebellious Israelites in the wilderness by sending serpents to bite them. The only way to survive was to look upon an image of a serpent, made of bronze, which Moses held up before them on a staff. Those who looked at the serpent would live, those who would not look died.
This was not to call them to worship snakes, but rather it was a shadow of the work of the Messiah: Jesus took on the curse of death, willingly choosing the most humiliating and painful death one could imagine. And those who look upon His curse, find covering for their sins in His death, and hope in His resurrection.
So now the verse itself: I love Spurgeon’s preaching here, but I would have to disagree with him on his emphasis on the word “so.” The phrase “God so loved the world” is not an expression of degree or amount, but rather an expression of method: “God loved the world in this way: by sending His Son.” Yet it does not detract from the degree of God’s love by pointing this out. This is something I want to really focus on. This time of year, as so many gear up to celebrate Christmas, we in the US get a lot of people arguing about “keeping Christ in Christmas” and such things. But even with that, we tend to really miss the point in such debates. The point is not simply about “baby Jesus was born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger, and gee aren’t babies cute,” although for a lot of people that’s about as far as it goes.
The Son, the perfect second Person of the Trinity, to not come down as simply a glowing unstoppable Judge who could rightfully have set all things to right, cast the entire human race into hell and restored creation to perfection. As Paul puts it in the passage from Philippians 2 called the carmen Christi,
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.-Philippians 2:5-11
In John 3, and most especially in that well-known 16th verse, Jesus talks about what it is we are truly celebrating when we commemorate Christmas: it isn’t about presents, it isn’t about how sad it was that Mary and Joseph were in a stable, or any of the other distractions that are ever present during the holidays. He is talking about the miracle of the incarnation, and its great purpose: salvation for those who believe. “Whoever believes,” the original phrase is πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων, “all those believing.” That is the way one identifies the people of God: belief in Christ, in His person and work. And Jesus specifies further, those who do not believe are already under condemnation, but belief is rescue from condemnation.
The book of John goes on to discuss all of this much further, and I hope over the course of time that I’m given to do this podcast that I can walk through all of it. But for now I will simply have to say: this passage produces worship in me, because it is a powerful testimony to the truth that God will save His people and has paid for our sins completely through the work of Jesus. When we think of the coming Christmas celebration and we hear people tell the Christmas story, don’t think “Oh, it’s so magical, a little baby being born and it’s such a pretty night and hey, that star is nice.” Think, “This is the coming of God to be with His people, to demonstrate love in a way we could never have shown or understood apart from Christ, and to save us!” Hear this truth, my friends. Believers, draw strength from this and know that God is moving to complete the work begun here. Unbelievers, hear these words and repent, turn to know and love the One who made you and calls you by name. In Christ is peace, rest, and love; apart from Him is only condemnation and death. Embrace the peace of Christ, and celebrate this advent season the most powerful and loving deed we could ever know: the coming of the Son of God.
This week’s song: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God by Jarod Grice
For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all, at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of those realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written off me in the scroll of the book.'”
When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifices for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.—Hebrews 9:24-10:14
I don’t normally start out with such a long passage, but I thought it was necessary in light of my reasons for choosing this sermon and in light of what we are remembering when we call October 31 Reformation Day. For some, the idea of such a day is simply a historical occurrence, when a monk named Martin Luther brought what was essentially a call for the academic equivalent of a football game to the public’s attention. Luther wasn’t trying to set the world on fire, and he wasn’t even trying to criticize the Pope (at that time, at least). He was trying to bring challenges to public debate on very important issues. But what those 95 theses became as they spread across Germany was the spark that lit the fuse on a powderkeg piled up on Rome-controlled Europe by godly men like Jan Huss and William Tyndale, men who saw the truth of Scripture even in the face of a Roman Catholic Church that was (and still is) trying desperately to obfuscate it for their own power’s sake.
And that brings me to the reason that I wanted to read this particular sermon on the 499th celebration of the beginning of the Reformation: there were many issues that were debated over and that served to demonstrate the rot at the foundation of the Catholic Church. But the very root of it, and the issue which was foundational to the Protestant return to biblical theology, was the completeness of Jesus Christ’s work on the cross in paying for sin on behalf of His people. Rome taught, and continues to teach at least as its official dogma, that Christ essentially made a way for us all to have right standing before God, but that the way we truly achieve that standing is through participation, for our entire lives, in the sacraments of the church. Even then, that is not sufficient in Rome’s view, for all but the purest of saints do not go directly to heaven after death, but instead go to purgatory to endure satispassio, the suffering that is part of atoning for sin.
The sale of indulgences was one of the major issues that led to Luther’s actions. Indulgences were (and are, though today they are not given the same way they were in his day) a “get out of purgatory but not for free” card, or at least a way to cut the time of relatives there shorter. But Scripture makes no such claims about Christians and their sins. It is why I chose this sermon, and why I chose to use such a large passage of Scripture: Hebrews, by its testimony to the completed work of Jesus on the cross and His place seated at the right hand of the Father, completely repudiates the idea that there is any longer any sacrifice or suffering for sin on behalf of those for whom Christ worked. It is, in fact, an insult to Christ as Savior to say that you believe you need to add anything to what He did. The author of Hebrews makes it clear: Jesus paid the price, completely and utterly, and there is no work left to be done. Paul takes this argument on fully in his writings to both the church of Rome and the church of Galatia, and if you haven’t taken the time yet to read those books, you should. The truth of the gospel of Jesus, that we can rest completely in His work and that in Christ, there is no fear of any judgment but only peace with God, is life to us, and is the message I want to bring through this episode.
The Reformation began as a man standing upon the convictions of his conscience, that he would not be convinced of anything but what Scripture pointed to, and that he would trust fully in the strength of God in the face of governments and church leaders who threatened life, limb and livelihood. I wanted to read this sermon because it is important for us to remember this truth, and just as much it is important for us to prepare to do the same thing. The world echoes the same lies it did in Luther’s day and that it has since sin first cracked the world’s joy and fractured our relationship with God in the garden: you can have your own way, because the real source of wisdom and goodness is you. You can do what you want, because ultimately your heart is the arbiter of good.
But yet we continue to find, as we run after this mythical realm of perfect peace coexisting with everyone pursuing the natural desires of their hearts, that all we find there is sadness, heartbreak, and ultimately death. Our hearts cannot bring us happiness, all they will do is hand us a broken cup to try to satisfy our thirst. In the end, we as Christians cannot agree with what the world wants, because we know it ends in death and hell. We want to see those around us set free from these lies, and find the truth, because in that truth is life as it was truly intended for us by our Maker.
So no matter the human orthodoxy demanded of us, the believer ought to reject it, and stand on his conscience and the convictions of God’s own Word. God has worked perfectly in the sacrifice of Christ to pay for our sins, and all those who trust in Christ have, right now, perfect union with Jesus and right standing as holy before God, able to go to Him in prayer for everything. If you do not know Jesus, if you do not trust Him, then I urge you to do so right away. Go to the Bible and read, see the words of God to His people, and find healing there. If you do know Jesus and trust Him, then let me remind you: do not fear anything the world threatens in the face of our rejection of their sinful desires. God is faithful, and even death itself cannot separate us from Him, but in all things we can rejoice and live lives to His glory.
I thought for Easter Sunday, this one seemed very fitting. It comes from the text of Isaiah 53:5: “By His stripes, we are healed,” and truly we are. I recently ran across a blog post from a man who I would venture to say identifies as a Christian but seems to hold a great deal of contempt for Christians and Christianity as an entity. He said that he believes the Gospel, yet he rejected the first tenet of the Gospel: man’s sinfulness. I wrestled with how to respond, and in the end I decided to let Mr. Spurgeon make my response for me in this sermon. This, along with the subject of episode 2, make the case clear: man cannot begin to know God, or grow close to God, without first coming to Him as a sinner in need of grace, which is lovingly and freely given.
Please listen and enjoy, and pass it along! I hope it has an effect on listeners of turning eyes to Christ, just as much as it did to me in reading it.
Happy Good Friday to all those who have begun to follow this podcast as we slowly figure out what exactly we’re doing here. Today is a day to celebrate the death of death, and the payment made in full for our sins by the Lord Jesus Christ! We will be releasing Episode 4 very soon. In the meantime, I present this morning’s entry from Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening devotional:
April 3 – Morning
They took Jesus, and led him away.
He had been all night in agony, he had spent the early morning at the hall of Caiaphas, he had been hurried from Caiaphas to Pilate, from Pilate to Herod, and from Herod back again to Pilate; he had, therefore, but little strength left, and yet neither refreshment nor rest were permitted him. They were eager for his blood, and therefore led him out to die, loaded with the cross. O dolorous procession! Well may Salem’s daughters weep. My soul, do thou weep also.
What learn we here as we see our blessed Lord led forth? Do we not perceive that truth which was set forth in shadow by the scapegoat? Did not the high-priest bring the scapegoat, and put both his hands upon its head, confessing the sins of the people, that thus those sins might be laid upon the goat, and cease from the people? Then the goat was led away by a fit man into the wilderness, and it carried away the sins of the people, tso that if they were sought for they could not be found. Now we see Jesus brought before the priests and rulers, who pronounce him guilty; God himself imputes our sins to him, The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all; He was made sin for us; and, as the substitute for our guilt, bearing our sin upon his shoulders, represented by the cross; we see the great Scapegoat led away by the appointed officers of justice. Beloved, can you feel assured that he carried your sin? As you look at the cross upon his shoulders, does it represent your sin? There is one way by which you can tell whether he carried your sin or not. Have you laid your hand upon his head, confessed your sin, and trusted in him? Then your sin lies not on you; it has all been transferred by blessed imputation to Christ, and he bears it on his shoulder as a load heavier than the cross.
Let not the picture vanish till you have rejoiced in your own deliverance, and adored the loving Redeemer upon whom your iniquities were laid.