10 Things You Should Know about Martin Luther | Crossway with H. Selderhuis

On this Reformation Day 2017 – the 500th anniversary of the great reforming movement planned, prepared, and produced by our sovereign Lord (albeit through His reforming agents, the magisterial Reformers) – we consider this fine summary post of Crossway publishers, written by Herman Selderhuis, and based on his new book Martin Luther: A Spiritual Biography.

Selderhuis gives us ten things to remember about this German monk, things that we probably know, but which are well stated and good to recall today.

I’ve selected a few of the ones that stood out in my mind tonight. You may find all ten at the link below. I am determined to read Selderhuis’ book this year too, though I must admit, I may be over-booked.

What are YOU reading for Reformation 500?

5. Luther published prolifically.

Luther wrote a lot more than ninety-five theses and a few sermons. The official edition of his works—the so-called Weimarer Ausgabe—consists of more than one-hundred and twenty thick volumes.

Central to this impressive set is his work on the explanation and the translation of the Bible. Luther was appointed as professor of biblical exegesis and that remained his profession all of his life. This resulted in many rich commentaries.

Although he was not the official pastor of Wittenberg, we also have a great number of his sermons in which the fruits of his exegesis can be enjoyed. And then there are polemical and theological works, tabletalks, letters, and so much more.

7. Luther was a family man.

Luther was a little late when it came to starting a family. He was forty-one when he got married and forty-two when he became a father for the first time.

He wrote letters to his children during the many times he was away from home; sometimes he even took them with him on his journeys. At home, he would play and make music with them. He was also a father with worries and sadness. For example, he was besought with grief over the death of one of his daughters and was concerned when a son struggled at school.

Foundational to the Luthers’ home life was his wife, Katharina von Bora. She not only took care of the children but also told their father straight if his talk was too full of animosity of if he wasn’t taking good care of himself.

10. Luther remained a monk all of his life.

When Luther entered the monastery, he said he was searching for God—and, in a way, he kept searching for God the rest of his life.

Having found God as the gracious God, he kept searching for him, knowing that he needed him every day and also aware that sometimes God hides himself.

In becoming a monk, Luther promised God eternal obedience, poverty, and chastity—the three famous vows every monk had to make. Luther remained faithful to these vows all of his life. He remained obedient to God all of his life and even tried to obey the Roman Catholic Church as long as possible. Although the printers of his books became wealthy, Luther remained poor as he didn’t care much for money. Finally, while he did break his vow of celibacy by getting married, he embodied chastity as a husband.

Even on his deathbed, Luther’s last written words hinted at the fact that he thought of himself as a monk all of his life: “We are beggars. This is the truth. Amen.”

 

Source: 10 Things You Should Know about Martin Luther | Crossway Articles

There are a host of good Reformation Day sales going on (many beyond today). I encourage you to check out these links:

 

Another Look at the Special Reformation Issue of the “Standard Bearer” – October 15, 2017

The October 15, 2017 issue of the Standard Bearer is now in print and has been mailed out, and it is the first installment of our annual special Reformation issue, marking the 500th anniversary of the great Protestant Reformation (1517-2017).

SB-Oct-Ref1-2017

The articles in this special Reformation issue reflect “the heritage of the Reformation,” that is, the special truths of the gospel that were restored to the church of Jesus Christ through the various brave and bold Reformers God raised up in the sixteenth century.

Last week we looked at one of the articles; today let’s do that with another today. Part of the wonderful heritage of the Reformation is the body of confessions, creeds, and catechisms that were composed during this period of church history. In his article “In Praise of a Well-Built Confessional House,” Rev. Brian Huizinga treats the beauty and benefits of this confessional heritage.

Here are a few paragraphs from his contribution:

A Well-Built House

The Reformation gave us an incredibly well-built house. The Reformation did not merely give us an attractive front façade (justification by faith alone or creation), a load-bearing interior wall (original sin or the necessity of divine satisfaction), roof trusses and a roof over us (Scripture or double predestination), a cozy fire place (providence or prayer), a spacious utilitarian kitchen (the means of grace or good works), or a private bedroom (assurance of our election or hope for the second coming). The Reformation era gave us a complete house of all the essential doctrines of Scripture.

Evidence of the indispensable work of the Spirit of truth is the fact that our house sits perfectly on the basement foundation that had been laid a millennium prior. The house of the Three Forms of Unity not only sits squarely on the foundation of the Ecumenical creeds, but, to employ another figure, it is the massive oak arising out of the acorn “Jesus Christ is Lord” and the little sapling of the Ecumenical creeds. Jesus Christ is the revelation of God. Therefore, if we take the confession “Jesus Christ is Lord” and open up each one of those words and the whole statement in the light of Scripture, we not only arrive at the narrower theology of the Ecumenical creeds, but the broader and more comprehensive theology of our Reformed creeds.

For example, “Jesus” means “Jehovah salvation” or “He shall save His people from their sins,” (Matt. 1:21). To understand that one word “Jesus” we must ask the Bible: What is sin? What is the origin of sin? Who is a sinner? What is salvation? Who is Jesus? How does Jesus save? Whom does Jesus save? Why does Jesus save? Unto what does Jesus save? Work it all out according to Scripture and you end up with something like the Canons of Dordt with its five heads of doctrine. The same can be said of “Christ,” that is, “God’s anointed Prophet, Priest and King” and “Lord.” Some professing Christians denounce creeds in opposition to the confession “Jesus Christ is Lord,” but creeds only take that simple confession and reveal the comprehensive theology contained in it. What a massive, structurally sound, tidy, spacious, comfortable and even luxurious house is our confessional house, covering all the doctrines from theology to eschatology

The November 1, 2017 issue will be “The Heritage of the Reformation” part 2. That too will have a variety of articles on the important truths and practices restored to the church according to the Word of God. Look for that issue in a few weeks!

First 2017 “Standard Bearer” Special Reformation Issue

The October 15, 2017 issue of the Standard Bearer is now in print and being mailed, and it is our annual special Reformation issue, marking the 500th anniversary of the great Protestant Reformation (1517-2017).

SB-Oct-Ref1-2017

The articles in this special Reformation issue reflect “the heritage of the Reformation,” that is, the special truths of the gospel that were restored to the church of Jesus Christ through the various brave and bold Reformers God raised up in the sixteenth century.

From the front cover of the issue you can see some of the topics treated. And from the table of contents posted below, you can see the rest of the important subjects covered in this issue.

You may have noted that I wrote “first” special issue in my heading. That is because we have also planned and will publish a second special issue on the Reformation this year. The November 1, 2017 issue will be “The Heritage of the Reformation” part 2. That too will have a variety of articles on the important truths and practices restored to the church according to the Word of God. Look for that issue in a few weeks!

SB-Ref1-2017-contents

For today, we take a quotation from Prof. D. Engelsma’s article on the controversy over the bondage of the will, a subject of vital concern to the Reformers. Lord willing, we hope to feature another article from this issue as well.

The truth of the bondage of the will, including its being fundamental to the gospel of grace, has its urgent application to churches and professing Christians in AD 2017, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation of 1517. The doctrine is not a petrified mummy safely sealed up in an ancient ecclesiastical museum. It is not a truth to which hypocritical ministers and church members can pay lip service when this is convenient for them (as in the 500th anniversary year of the Reformation, although even then the bondage is usually not one of the topics of their celebrations), while effectively denying it in their synodical decisions, in their preaching, in their writings, by their church membership, and by their ostracism and slander of churches and theologians whose only offence is an uncompromising confession of the bondage of the will.

First, applied to the heart of the elect believer, this truth assures him of his salvation in that his willing of God and the good by a true faith carries with itself the assurance that he is saved. His will is free, and it is free because it has been freed by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Therefore, he will glorify God on account of his salvation.

Second, confession of the bondage of the will is a fundamental mark of a true church. Confession of the bondage of the will is an essential element of the proclamation of the gospel of grace, and the true church proclaims, confesses, and defends the gospel of grace—the gospel of salvation by grace alone, without the will and works of the saved sinner.

Third, confession and defense of the alleged free will of the natural, unsaved, man, which purportedly cooperates with grace and upon which grace depends, are the mark of an apostate, false church. In our ecumenical age, God’s people need to know this, and to act accordingly.

How to Contemplate Christ’s Holy Sufferings – M. Luther

Luther&LearningFor this second Sunday in October – Reformation 500 month – we post one of Martin Luther’s most popular sermons, a Good Friday sermon titled “How to Contemplate Christ’s Holy Sufferings.” It was preached in the early years of the Reformation and first published in 1519, undergoing several editions.

We post a few paragraphs from the third point of the sermon (yes, Luther also had three points to his sermon!), which is called “The Comfort of Christ’s Sufferings.”

…When man perceives his sins in this light and is completely terror-stricken in his conscience, he must be on his guard that his sins do not thus remain in his conscience, and nothing but pure doubt certainly come out of it; but just as the sins flowed out of Christ and we became conscious of them, so should we pour them again upon him and set our conscience free. Therefore see well to it that you act not like perverted people, who bite and devour themselves with their sins in their heart, and run here and there with their good works or their own satisfaction, or even work themselves out of this condition by means of indulgences and become rid of their sins; which is impossible, and, alas, such a false refuge of satisfaction and pilgrimages has spread far and wide.

…Then cast your sins from yourself upon Christ, believe with a festive spirit that your sins are his wounds and sufferings, that he carries them and makes satisfaction for them, as Is 53,6 says: “Jehovah hath laid on him the iniquity of us all;” and St. Peter in his first Epistle 2, 24: “Who his own self bare our sins in his body upon the tree” of the cross; and St. Paul in 2 Cor 5,21: “Him who knew no sin was made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” Upon these and like passages you must rely with all your weight, and so much the more the harder your conscience martyrs you. For if you do not take this course, but miss the opportunity of stilling your heart, then you will never secure peace, and must yet finally despair in doubt. For if we deal with our sins in our conscience and let them continue within us and be cherished in our hearts, they become much too strong for us to manage and they will live forever. But when we see that they are laid on Christ and he has triumphed over them by his resurrection and we fearlessly believe it, then they are dead and have become as nothing. For upon Christ they cannot rest, there they are swallowed up by his resurrection, and you see now no wound, no pain, in him, that is, no sign of sin. Thus St. Paul speaks in Rom 4, 25, that he was delivered up for our trespasses and was raised for our justification; that is, in his sufferings he made known our sins and also crucified them; but by his resurrection he makes us righteous and free from all sin, even if we believe the same differently.

For the full sermon and many others, visit this site.

 

How Do We See and Savor the Glory of the Lord in the NT? By Reading (the Word)!

Reading-Bible-Supernaturally-Piper-2017So Paul has shifted our focus from the old covenant to the new – from the law of Moses to the gospel of Christ. From the veiled, temporary glory, to the unveiled, permanent glory. And his central point is that when the veil is lifted  – when the hardening and blindness are removed – we see the glory of the Lord. ‘We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed’ (2 Cor.3:18). …Seeing the glory of God was, and is, preeminent.

Recall [from the author’s previous points] that the point of contact with the glory of God was, at one time, supposed to be the reading of Moses (2 Cor.3:14-15). Reading! This was supposed to be the way the glory of God was seen. Has that changed? No. there has been no criticism or abandonment of this window we call ‘reading.’ So we may assume that the value of this window remains.

The difference is that once there was reading with a veil. Now there is reading with no veil. Once there was a window with a curtain, and now that curtain has been pulled aside. But the window of reading remains, as we saw in Ephesians 3:4. It remains God’s plan for the revelation of his glory. …’Beholding the glory of the Lord with unveiled face’ (2 Cor.3:18) happens through reading. This is true both for the Spirit-illumined reading of the old covenant as well as a reading (or hearing) of the gospel of Christ.

Quotation from Chapter 4, “Reading to See Supreme Worth and Beauty, Part 2” of John Piper’s new book Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture (Crossway, 2017). In this chapter he is emphasizing and explaining this part of his “proposal,” ‘that we should always read his word in order to see this supreme worth and beauty.”

Winning the Souls of Unbelievers – J. Payne

As we pointed out earlier this month (see my Sept.10 post) the September 2017 issue of Tabletalk has as its theme “Soul Winning,” with the featured articles covering the various aspects of the Christian calling and methods of this task (based Prov.11:30).

I have once again profited from these articles, including that by Jon D. Payne, “Winning the Souls of Unbelievers.” In the first main section of this article, headed by the words “Wonderfully Ordinary,” Payne gives the “regular” believer great encouragement in the calling to evangelize.

I post these paragraphs tonight, so that you too may be assured that God has you right where you ought to be to be a means to win souls.

Rather than heap guilt on regular Christians for not soul winning on street corners or in market squares (which few believers are called or gifted to do), wouldn’t it be far better to foster a view of evangelism that naturally flows from the ordinary rhythms of daily life and weekly schedules? Shouldn’t we view gospel witness primarily as the overflow of a sincere walk with God in the particular sphere in which God has placed us?

God is sovereign, and in His sovereignty He has placed each one of us right where He wants us (Ps. 115:3; Acts 17:26–27). You may wish to be somewhere else, but right now you are exactly where God wants you to be. “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Prov. 16:9; see Rom. 8:28). Therefore, God calls us to reach the lost right where we are. He has sovereignly placed us in a distinct sphere of influence, in part, to reach out to nonbelievers with the life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ.

Dear believer, God by His sovereign hand has put you in a specific community and planted you in a particular neighborhood or apartment building. He has also given you a distinct vocation. Why? In part, so that you would shine the light of the gospel to those around you in the ordinary course of your life.

Source: Winning the Souls of Unbelievers

Comfort in Life and Death

As you have noticed, I have been absent from these “pages” for a week. That was due to circumstances surrounding care for our ailing mother, whom God delivered out of this vale of tears and shadow of death and ushered into everlasting glory this past Monday morning.

A private family funeral and committal service was held yesterday morning and a public memorial service last evening, both in dad and mom’s home church, Hope PRC in Grand Rapids, MI.

moms-obituary-2017

Watching one’s mother die is one of the hardest experiences in life but, when she is in the Lord and has the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ in her heart, it is one of the most precious experiences in life. We praise God for His mercy to our dear mother, and for His sustaining, comforting grace to us as a family.

Today’s “Grace Gems” devotional was timely and comforting, as this is the way mom always taught us to live – one day at a time, without fear or worry for the next. I pray it comforts your heart as it did mine, whatever your circumstance may be today.

One of the secrets of happy and beautiful life!

(J.R. Miller)

“As your days–so shall your strength be!” Deuteronomy 33:25

One of the secrets of happy and beautiful life
, is to live one day at a time. Really, we never have anything to do any day–but the bit of God’s will for that day. If we do that well–we have absolutely nothing else to do.

Time is given to us in days. It was so from the beginning. This breaking up of time into little daily portions means a great deal more than we are accustomed to think. For one thing, it illustrates the gentleness and goodness of God. It would have made life intolerably burdensome if a year, instead of a day–had been the unit of division. It would have been hard to carry a heavy load, to endure a great sorrow, or to keep on at a hard duty–for such a long stretch of time. How dreary our common task-work would be–if there were no breaks in it, if we had to keep our hand to the plough for a whole year! We never could go on with our struggles, our battles, our suffering–if night did not mercifully settle down with its darkness, and bid us rest and renew our strength.

We do not understand how great a mercy there is for us in the briefness of our short days. If they were even twice as long as they are–life would be intolerable! Many a time when the sun goes down–we feel that we could scarcely have gone another step. We would have fainted in defeat–if the summons to rest had not come just when it did.

We see the graciousness of the divine thoughtfulness in giving us time in periods of little days, which we can easily get through with–and not in great years, in which we would faint and fall by the way. It makes it possible for us to go on through all the long years and not to be overwrought, for we never have given to us at any one time–more than we can do between the morning and the evening.

If we learn well the lesson of living just one day at a time, without anxiety for either yesterday or tomorrow, we shall have found one of the great secrets of Christian peace. That is the way God teaches us to live. That is the lesson both of the Bible and of nature. If we learn it, it will cure us of all anxiety; it will save us from all feverish haste; it will enable us to live sweetly in any experience.

Is God unfair to save sinners only through Jesus? – August “Tabletalk”

TT-August-2017The August issue of Tabletalk (Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional magazine) has as its theme, “Giving An Answer,” focusing on the Christians’ calling to be faithful witnesses to and apologists of the gospel of our Lord based on 1 Peter 3:15.

I read a couple more of the featured articles yesterday before worship services, including James N. Anderson’s “Is There Only One Way of Salvation?” Part of his defense of the gospel of exclusive salvation through Christ alone involves answering the objection that God is unfair not to save sincere followers of other religions.

I appreciated his great answer to this issue (which included the truth that because salvation is by grace alone God is under no obligation to save anyone) and post part of it here, so that you too may have a good defense of salvation in Jesus only.

The unfairness objection also reflects flawed assumptions about who gets to define salvation. Surely, it is up to our Creator – not us – to diagnose our problem and prescribe a remedy for it. The pluralist treats salvation as if it were like a hair treatment: you should be able to choose your color, your style, and so on, all according to your own preferences. Whatever works for you.

But what if salvation is more like a medical treatment for a fatal disease? If there is only one medication that can actually cure the illness, it would be extremely foolish to advocate ‘medical pluralism’ – a have-it-your-way approach to treatment – and it would be bizarre to accuse your doctor of unfairness for prescribing the only remedy that works.

And so Anderson makes the application to salvation from sin:

The point should be obvious: the prescription must fit the diagnosis. If the basic human problem is as the Bible describes it – that we’re sinners standing under the judgment of God, unable even to begin to make an adequate atonement for our sins – then only Christianity presents a solution that adequately addresses the problem. No other religion offers a perfect mediator between God and man who removes the enmity between us and our Creator by bearing the penalty for our sins in our place (Rom.5:6-11; 2 Cor.5:18-21; I Tim.2:5-6) [p.17].

Do we truly believe that? And are we, then, prepared to “give an answer” to those who may ask us about our precious Savior?

Why the Reformation Still Matters – Because of the Holy Spirit

why-reformation-matters-reeves-2016One of the books we are making our way through this year of remembering the Reformation (500th anniversary!) is Why the Reformation Still Matters, co-authored by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester (Crossway, 2016).

Each chapter touches on a significant doctrine rediscovered by the Reformers, showing why the return to that particular truth was important for that time and why it is still important for the church today. I have been pleased with and profited by each chapter so far.

The next chapter I read last night is Chapter 7, which treats the Reformation’s rediscovered doctrine of the Holy Spirit under the title, “The Spirit: Can We Truly Know God?” With ample quotes from the magisterial Reformers, the authors show just how significant the truth concerning the Third Person of the Holy Trinity was for that time – and still is.

Here is just a sample of what they say:

Deep heart metamorphosis instead of superficial behavioral change, personal communion with God instead of abstract blessing, and joy-inducing assurance: these were some of the vital benefits of the Reformers’ theology of the Holy Spirit.

But in fact the Reformers’ view of the Spirit really permeated everything they fought for. If he is the giver of life, then salvation must be by grace alone. If he, the Spirit of adoption, freely unites to Christ, salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone – and must be about knowing God with the security of the Son. In fact Calvin showed that the Spirit even keeps us from placing any other authority over that of Scripture, so protecting the principle of Scripture alone. We believe Scripture, he argued, not finally because the church tells us to or because intelligent men persuade us that we can, but because the Spirit opens our eyes and witnesses to us that Scripture is indeed God’s own Word.

Then after quoting Calvin on that point, the authors state this:

The fact that the Spirit is found in every doctrine the Reformers fought for should not be surprising. All the life-giving truths of the Reformation are life-giving because they are to do with him, the giver of life. [pp.140-41]

One more quotation I must share is this little gem from William Tyndale about the Spirit and the fruit He produces in believers – appropriate for the summer season:

Where the Spirit is, there it is always summer, and there are always good fruits, that is to say, good works.

*Nota bene: This book is still available for review if there are interested parties.

Your Mind and the Quest for Holiness – J. Stott

mind-matters-stottThere is, however, a second kind of mental discipline to which we are summoned in the New Testament. We are to consider not only what we should be but what by God’s grace we already are. We are constantly to recall what God has done for us and say to ourselves: ‘God has united me with Christ in his death and resurrection, and thus obliterated my old life and given me an entirely new life in Christ. He has adopted me into his family and made me his child. He has put his Holy Spirit within me and so made my body his temple. He has also made me his heir and promised me an eternal destiny with him in heaven. This is what he has done for me and in me. This is what I am in Christ.’

Paul keeps urging us to call these things to mind. ‘I want you to know,’ he writes. ‘I don’t want you to be ignorant.’ And some ten times in his letters to the Romans and Corinthians he utters his incredulous question, ‘Don’t you know?’ Don’t you know that by being baptized into Christ you were baptized into his death? Don’t you know that you were the slaves of the one to whom you have yielded yourselves in obedience? Don’t you know that you are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Don’t you know that your bodies are members of Christ?

The apostle’s intention in this battery of questions is not just to make us feel ashamed of our ignorance. It is rather to prevail upon us to recall these great truths about ourselves, which in fact we know very well, and to talk to ourselves about them until their truth grips our mind and molds our character. This is not the self-confidence of Norman Vincent Peale. Peale’s way is to get us to pretend we are other than we are. Paul’s way is to remind us what we truly are, because God has made us that way in Christ.

Taken from Your Mind Matters: The Place of the Mind in the Christian Life (Inter-Varsity Press, 1972) by John R. W. Stott. Specifically, this is drawn from Chap.3, “The Mind in the Christian Life” and the section “The Quest for Holiness,” where Stott points us to the significant role of the Christian’s mind in his sanctification (pp.41-42).