Sermon: Reformation Sunday 2015

This message is from Habakkuk 2:4 and Romans 1:17, and pertains to justification by faith and the Protestant Reformation.

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The Righteous, by Faith, Shall Live

A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing;
Our shelter He, amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing. For still our ancient foe Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great, And, armed with cruel hate, On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing; Were not the right Man on our side, The Man of God’s own choosing. Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth is His name, From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And tho’ this world, with devils filled, Should threaten to undo us; We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us. The prince of darkness grim — We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, For lo! his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly pow’rs — No thanks to them — abideth: The Spirit and the gifts are ours Thro’ Him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.

The first record of this hymn that we currently have is in the hymnal of Andrew Rauscher in 1531, but it was reportedly in the Wittenberg hymnal of 1529, but no copy of that hymnal still endures. Its original title in that hymn was , “Deus noster refugium et virtus” – taken from the first half of the first verse of this Psalm, “God is our refuge and strength.” It truly was, as it’s come to be called, the Battle Hymn of the Reformation.

Written by Martin Luther, it most likely became prominent, being sung by the five princes led by John the Stedfast and Philip of Hesse in their opposition to Charles the Fifth at the Diet of Spires in 1526 or perhaps, or possibly written in light of the plague devouring Europe and coming quickly to Germany in 1527. Regardless, this hymn came to embody the spirit of resistance among those great Protestants and we – still today – sing this song to remind ourselves why we are still protesting.

The question is often asked, “Is the Reformation over?” The question was asked in the book by that title by Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom in 2005. Carl Trueman asked the question in relation to that book also in 2005. Trueman spoke on that topic in 2012 at Together for the Gospel. Albert Mohler asked the question on his blog in 2010. Charlotte Hayes asked the question in the Wall Street Journal of that year in an article by that name. Sam Storms asked the question on his website in 2011. Kevin DeYoung asked the question at The Gospel Coalition last year, 2014. Michael Horton has asked the question on the White Horse Inn in a special message entitled, “Is the Reformation Over?” People want to know when the Protest will be over, and the answer seems to be consistent. Mohler summarizes the opinion of these men well…

But is the Reformation on its last gasp? Not where the Gospel is prized and
preached. Not where a repudiation of justification by faith alone is known to be a repudiation of the Gospel itself — and to be a heresy that has lasted far more than 500 years.

Is the Reformation over? The short answer is “No.” The longer answer is, “Never.” Not so long as the Roman church spreads her seed o’er all the Earth and these words from Luther ring true…

And tho’ this world, with devils filled, Should threaten to undo us; We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us

We are protestants, brothers and sisters. And, we are still protesting on this Reformation Sunday, 2015.


Four-hundred and ninety-nine years ago, a monk by the name of Martin Luther took a document he had written entitled, “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” in which he provided 95 different reasons why the Catholic Church’s selling of indulgences were unbiblical, and he nailed the document to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany.
Essentially, the problem – from Luther’s perspective – was this; Indicative of the excesses and abuses of the Roman Catholic Church, was the system of indulgences. Chiefly, that means, the granting of forgiveness for payment. A certain Dominican priest by the name John Tetzel had been commissioned by Pope Leo to raise funds for the completion of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. To do so, he began to sell indulgences. One of the princes of Germany, Prince Frederick the Wise, had forbidden the practice of buying forgiveness in his province, but many insisted on traveling to find Tetzel and pay to be forgiven, often in advance of whatever sin they desired to commit. They would return and tell Luther and his associates that they no longer need to repent for anything, since they had paid for their sin from the Roman Catholic Church.

The catchy jingle they would sing when collecting money for St. Peter’s Basilica by selling forgiveness was, “When a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.” This meant that not only could you buy your own forgiveness, but you could buy forgiveness for your dearly-departed relatives who were being held in purgatory. You could pay the church, and that payment would act essentially as bail-money to spring them from purgatory into Heaven. And, of course, the system of indulgences is still in place by the Roman church all these years later. Perhaps you were unaware, but did you see the throngs and throngs of Catholics in the streets to see Pope Francis in Philadelphia several weeks ago? There’s a reason for that. The Vatican released a statement telling Catholics that a plenary indulgence would be granted to any who attended the festivities in Philadelphia to see the Pope. Your sins could be forgiven by showing up. Now, if that seems like a works-based forgiveness, it is. Clearly. In fact, Friar Patrick Brady, a Catholic professor at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary explains, “The punishment done… your sin is remitted or forgiven by doing pious works…”[1]

The Pope has announced that from December 8 2015 through November 26, 2016 a one-time opportunity to be forgiven for the sin of abortion, so long as they follow the prescription for receiving an indulgence. Get it while it’s hot. Forgiveness. For a limited time only. Last year we saw one poorly-visited chapel get the diocese to offer an indulgence for visiting it, in hopes of it increasing tourism into the area. You get forgiveness. The locals get your vacation dollars. Win-win. This was the construct argued against by Luther in his 95 Theses.

And although nailing a theses to the church door was a fairly common way to provoke discussion, the ideas challenging the validity of the Roman Catholic Church made such shockwaves that it’s fair to say Martin Luther easily caused more stir in the Christian church than any individual since the Apostles. And although the 95 Theses dealt with, in particular, the selling of indulgences, nailing it to the door in Wittenberg grew into something much larger. It led to several realizations that grew in both substance and acceptance among millions throughout the world, growing over the next twelve years until the term, “Protestant” was first used in 1529 to describe those who began to pursue independence and separation from the doctrines refuted by Luther. These notions included, but were not limited to, the assertion that the Scripture alone was the only infallible rule of faith and practice, that one was saved by grace alone and through faith alone in Christ alone and not through the sacraments or the declaration of the Roman Catholic Church. These were not new ideas, of course, but these were rediscoveries and reassertions of the faith taught by the very apostles of Jesus Christ that found themselves back into the light of the world with the creation of the printing press as normal and ordinary citizens, really for the first time in world history, could read the Bible for themselves. The Papacy of Rome could not then, and can not now, stand the scrutiny of literate people under the light of Scripture, which is why now – as then – the Roman Catholic Church has only thrived by keeping its members relatively ignorant of all the Scripture holds and teaches.

These doctrines – what we call the 5 Solas of the Reformation – one is saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone and that we know this by the Scripture alone and that it’s all done through God’s glory alone are the benchmarks of what it means to be a Protestant, which is why we are and always will be protesting the church of Rome, holding to our Confession, Article 4 of Chapter 26…

The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, in whom, by the appointment of the Father, all power for the calling, institution, order or government of the church, is invested in a supreme and sovereign manner; neither can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof, but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God; whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of his coming. 

And to that, all of God’s people unashamedly say, “Amen.” There is one true and holy apostolic and catholic church, but it is one under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and with no human head. Such, again, is what it means to be a Protestant. And that is the story we retell each Reformation Sunday.
But, like many often-told tales, there’s an important part that doesn’t get told as often because it lacks the flashiness of the whole. While it’s hard to get much more dramatic than picturing an incensed Luther hammering down the nail thunderously upon the Wittenberg church door, simple truth wrapped in ink and paper that would begin the greatest era of Reform and change the world more than any other time since the Apostolic age, the truth of the matter is that at the time Luther penned his 95 Theses, little more than an understanding of the Catholic Church’s corruption was known by the young priest. In other words, Luther did not understand the heresy of the church, but more or less only it’s corruption. He viewed the church as a moral failure, but not necessarily a doctrinal one. It wasn’t until one night in the tower of the Black Cloister in Wittenberg that a certain passage of Scripture brought to him conversion and a true acceptance of Protestant – and therefore Biblical – theology.

There was a certain passage, you see, that Luther struggled with immensely. None of his training as a Catholic priest prepared him to even begin to grasp its meaning. It was, for him, a riddle. It was a cruel riddle that despite his vast theological education he could not fathom or comprehend its subject matter. Here it was, the verse that so vexed the young priest…

[17] For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17 ESV)

Luther, in places like his famous “Table Talks” from 1538, 1542, 1545, or also in the Preface to the Complete Edition of Luther’s Latin Writings, Luther would recall the night he was in the tower of this place called the Black Cloister. Once a home to monks who had now left the Catholic Church on account of the beginning days of the Reformation, this monastery was now Luther’s home and his study was within the tower. He retells the night that he wrestled with this Text, which was the night, so it would seem, that Luther was first converted to the Gospel. It seems strange that God used an unsaved man to begin the Reformation, but even Luther spoke of this night in the tower as providing a conversion experience. In fact, Luther writes concerning this experience…

“At last meditating day and night, by the mercy of God, I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith. Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through the gates that had been flung open.”

The stumbling block, for Luther, was at first this phrase – “For in [the Gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith…” In fact, not only was this verse a stumbling block, Luther loathed this verse. He writes…

“I hated that word, ‘the righteousness of God,’ by which I had been taught according to the custom and use of all teachers … [that] God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner.”

Luther, you see, understood “righteousness” to be grasped in light of a theology of law and works, in which one was “righteous” (or right-standing) with God based upon their own good behavior and good deeds. Luther, understanding his own depravity, hated what he thought this verse taught. Is it not enough, Luther muttered, “that God crushes us miserable sinners with His law, that He has to threaten us with punishment thorough the Gospel, too?[2]

If the righteousness of God was in Luther, he surmised, he would then be damned. For he had no righteousness of his own. It was only when Luther understood this verse, after much fear and trembling that night in the tower, that he was converted and his eyes divinely illumined to understand the Christian faith. And that’s the same illumination that will be provided for you today, on this Reformation Sunday.

Romans 1:17, you may notice in your study Bibles if you follow the asterisk, is a reference to today’s Text in Habbakuk.

[2] And the LORD answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. [3] For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. [4] “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith. [5] “Moreover, wine is a traitor, an arrogant man who is never at rest. His greed is as wide as Sheol; like death he has never enough. He gathers for himself all nations and collects as his own all peoples.” (Habakkuk 2:2-5)

Very little is known about the prophet, Habakkuk, other than what is written in the book, as is the case with most of the minor prophets. But in the case of Habakkuk, unfortunately, there’s very little inside the book to identify him or give a thorough background. Ironically, the scarcity of his biographical information probably implies that he was a man who was well known in his own day, and needed no introduction.

In the first chapter, Habakkuk mentions the Chaldeans, which implies an authorship sometime during the late seventh century BC, as it would have been before Nebuchadnezzar conquered Assyria and before he came to conquer Jerusalem. Prophesying in the end of Assyrian Empire and at the beginning of the Babylonian Empire, Habakkuk saw redemption fall into rebellion and a momentary reprieve for the nation of Israel soon become retribution. Egyptian King, Necho, had gone through Jerusalem to assist the fleeing king of Assyria, and he was resisted by King Josiah of Jerusalem. Josiah, a good king, one who had restored the law of God back to its rightful place, was killed in that battle. He was replaced by a series of three of his sons, each one worse than the last. Each one, over-turning the reforms of their father, Josiah. Habakkuk watched this downgrade of faith and grew to question God as to why he was neither punishing Israel’s oppressors or the backslidden in Israel.

[2] O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? [3] Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. [4] So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted. [5] “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told. (Habakkuk 1:2-5 ESV)

Habakkuk cries out, “How long, Oh Lord, will you not hear me? How long will I cry, ‘violence’ and you not save? Why do you see sin and just sit there, idly? Where is justice? The wicked surround the good and justice is perverted!”

This world, according to Habakkuk, is the pits. This world is unjust, it is difficult, it is unfair, and where is God? Where is God in the midst of all the bad? Beloved, I ask you, have you ever felt this way? “How long, oh, Lord, shall you tarry? How long shall I call out to you and you not save?” But look at the Lord’s response, “I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if I told you.”

God’s response is that he was doing something that Habakkuk’s little brain could not comprehend.

[6] For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own. (Habakkuk 1:6 ESV)

God’s solution was the raising up of the Chaldeans as his instrument of justice upon the enemies of Israel. God was coming, God was doing, God was accomplishing His will through human hands in a way that Habakkuk could not understand. As Pulpit Commentary says, “The executors of the Divine vengeance are now plainly announced. God [raises up]; he uses the power and passion of men to work out his designs.”[3]

But Habakkuk continues in another complaint to God. In verse 13, “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he? (Habakkuk 1:13 ESV)”

What about the Chaldeans? Surely, they will be worse than the people to come before them. Trading themselves as property from one empire to the next, for how does this prosper the nation? The Chaldeans will see their victory not as the result of God’s hand, but their own ingenuity. This bothers the prophet. It also bothers the prophet the possible ramifications for Israel in a world where the Chaldeans are replacing the Assyrians and they’re not any better. Where, God? From where God comes our salvation? How can we live when our oppressors clearly want us to die? So after his second complaint in which Habakkuk points out that God’s “solution” certainly doesn’t look like a solution, and dying seems all the more certain, he says…

[1] I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint. (Habakkuk 2:1 ESV)

So, how would God respond to the indisputable reality as painted by Habakkuk that this chaotic, tragic, bloody, brutal, hopeless world. Chiefly, the answer is to trust in the sovereignty of God and in his plan of salvation for his chosen people, as we shall soon see. Matthew Henry writes…

However matters may be, yet God is the Lord our God, our Holy One. We are an offending people, he is an offended God, yet we will not entertain hard thoughts of him, or of his service. It is great comfort that, whatever mischief men design, the Lord designs good, and we are sure that his counsel shall stand.[4]

Here is what God is speaking through Habakkuk so that His people might know that whatever the prevailing odds of death might be, what it is that is God’s plan of salvation. And it’s in these words, beloved, that we have all of the Gospel, all of the Scripture within one phrase, within one verse.

[2] And the LORD answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. [3] For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie.

In other words, this vision will be made plain so that it can be acted upon by the one who reads it and YET the vision will not be fully understood and realized, or fulfilled until its appointed time. God is saying, “Ok. I’m going to tell you how there is hope. I’m going to tell you how there is a light at the end of this table. I’m going to tell you how there salvation. I’m going to tell you how there is life. And it won’t make sense yet. But it will. God is saying, “Trust me. Trust me. I’ve got this handled. I’ve got this resolved.” He tells them to be patient – look…

If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

Then, an incredibly confusing but paradoxically beautiful verse.

[4] “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:2-4 ESV)

It is the first half of this verse that Luther could not comprehend. It is this concept that kept him from being born again until he could reconcile it with the last half of the verse. It is this concept in the first half of this verse that separates all true religion from all false religion. “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him…”

The first half of this verse, you see, condemns the Chaldeans. The first half of this verse condemns the Chaldean war-lord, their heir-apparent, Nebuchadnezzar. The first half of this verse condemns the Assyrians. The first half of this verse condemns all the enemies of God. But what Luther understood is when your soul stands naked before the mirror that is the Law of God, this verse condemns Luther. The first half of this verse condemns Habakkuk. The first half of this verse condemns you. The first half of this verse provides a description of those under God’s curse – your soul is puffed up and it is not upright within him. And when the first half of this verse is combined with the second half, if we cannot come to the same eventual understanding as Luther, then let it be said that this verse, rather than providing hope, damns the whole world to hell.

If the righteous live, then those who are not righteous, which includes those whose soul is puffed up and is not upright, it is implied that they die. If the righteous live, the unrighteous, those who are not upright in soul, die. And what Luther understood rightly is the righting of Paul that “none are righteous…no, not one.”

Whose soul is upright? And the answer is, “Not yours.” This is the Fellowship Baptist Church of Sidney. You do not have stand before some motivational speaker whose chief ambition it is to elevate your self-esteem. There are churches that will do that for you, and in our town they abound. Rather, I presume, dear soul, that you are here to hear the Words of God. And if that is true, let it be said that God be true though every man a liar, and God’s Word has much to say about your heart and “upright” is not one of them. On this Reformation Day, I need not belabor the point of your own depravity. We need no further defense for the wickedness of the human heart. In fact, if you can’t agree with this fact, you have no felt need for the Gospel and you are lost in your trespasses and sins; you are not okay. You are not alright. You are not good. We are all of whom it speaks in the first half of this verse, those whose souls are not upright. If the righteous are promised life, the problem is that none of us are righteous, and we are all, therefore, damned beyond measure. Even if we see that the righteous live by faith, the problem is, we are not righteous. This is what Luther meant when he said in despair, “Is it not enough that God crushes us miserable sinners with His law, that He has to threaten us with punishment thorough the Gospel, too?[5]

In Luther’s understanding as a Roman Catholic, his understanding of righteousness was that of every other religion in the world – that righteousness is the product of good behavior and Christ Jesus says that no man is good, but God alone. So then, any promise for the righteous man, pertaining to faith or otherwise, is a cosmic carrot hanging on a cruel stick, a shallow and hallow promise that could never be attained. And in the religion that hangs reward upon your good behavior is one that promises life but only brings death and hopelessness and condemnation because regardless of what the televangelist will tell you, you are not good!

But, it was in his tower study that Luther understood the nature of God’s righteousness and why his religion was false, the papacy a lie, and the Roman church apostate. It was there that he understood the righteousness of what the Scripture speaks. It is not a self-righteousness that comes from good behavior, for that way leads unto death.

[10] as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; [11] no one understands; no one seeks for God. [12] All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” [13] “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” [14] “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” [15] “Their feet are swift to shed blood; [16] in their paths are ruin and misery, [17] and the way of peace they have not known.” [18] “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” [19] Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. [20] For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. The Righteousness of God Through Faith [21] But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—[22] the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: [23] for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, [24] and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, [25] whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. [26] It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. [27] Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. [28] For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Romans 3:10-28 ESV)

There is a righteousness that comes from faith. It is for this reason, we are told that the righteous, by faith, shall live. Get this – I will tell you a truth in one sentence that is worth more than all the jewels of England, it is worth more than all of your 401k and retirement savings and current income and salary put together, for in this one sentence, that I will share will you, hangs all the gospel and holds in balance the powers of heaven and hell, here it is…faith is not only the means by which we can live, but it is the means by which we’re righteous.

This righteousness is the type that justifies us apart from works of the law. And yet, that was not and is not the teaching of Rome.

Canon 14 of the Council of Trent, the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that is, until this day, the official teaching, says this…

If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified…by this faith alone, …let him be anathema.”[6]

And so, we say, the teachings of this church have elevated themselves to the status of not only anti-Christ, but anti-Christianity and, indeed, anti-Gospel.

The second half of this verse is צַדִּיק חָיָה אֱמוּנָה (tsaddiyq chayah emuwnah). The ideal literal rendering, is not “the righteous shall live by his faith” although that is a correct way of putting it. You see, there can be – and often is – an easy and common misconception regarding that translation and it is that a righteous person lives by faith, meaning that a righteous person lives faithfully. You might recall, with all the hubbub in the news about the new Star Wars movie that’s coming out at Christmas that Yoda has a peculiar way of speaking, but a very, very precise way of speaking. It may sound funny, but you know his meaning. To put in Yoda speak, which typically ends up sounding like Hebrew when translated for clarity and not for fluency, is “the righteous, by faith, shall live” (and now you’ll probably hear that in Yoda’s voice the rest of your life.

It is not, as some paraphrases put it, “the righteous person lives faithfully.” No! No! A thousand times no! No. It is not, it is not, it is not talking about how we live our lives throughout the course of our lives. No! It’s not talking about some kind of ethos or motto or strategy by which we live our lives faithfully. Neither is it to be understood as it is translated by The Message (which no Christian should use EVER by the way), “But the person in right standing before God through loyal and steady believing is fully alive, really alive.”

God forbid! God forbid! No! This verse is not talking about one who is somehow independently right-standing before God who is “loyal and steady” and being really alive. That guts the Gospel and renders our hope hopeless. This isn’t about “walking by faith” – even though that’s a “thing,” that’s not what this passage is about.

No, the best literal rendering of צַדִּיק חָיָה אֱמוּנָה – which is why the Young’s Literal has it this way in both Habakkuk 2:2 and it’s New Testament citation – is this – “The righteous…by faith…shall live.” It’s not about, you see, how we live in terms of an ethos or worldview or outlook. It’s about how we are alive. It’s about how we’re not dead. Faith is not an adjective that we live by. Faith is the substance by which we live.

I’m going to say this a number of different ways to make sure you understand.

  • We do not live cognizant of faith, but faith is how it is that we live.
  • We do not live having lots of faith in God, but faith in and of itself is how it is that we don’t eternally perish.
  • We don’t live in a really faithful fashion, rather the belief in and of itself is how it is that we live.
  • In a physical sense, we would say “The still living man, lives by air. The still living man lives by food. The still living man lives by water.” Like these things, the spiritual man made righteous by God lives by faith.”
  • In other words, without faith, you die.

It is here that we must emphasize what it is that we are to have faith in. Charismatics may tell us to have faith in their miracles. But God does not tell me to have faith in their miracles. Self-help gurus may tell us to have faith in ourselves. But God does not tell us to have faith in ourselves. A certain celebrity by the name of Kardashian this week said to have faith in positive thinking. But God does not tell us to have faith in positive thinking. Word-of-Faith and Prosperity Gospel teachers tell us to have faith in faith, as though faith in and of itself is deity and with enough faith in faith, faith can grant our wishes and realize our dreams and accomplish our visions. But God does not tell us to have faith in faith. Having faith is like praying. There is no power in prayer – none – but the power rests in to whom we pray. If you say you believe in the power of prayer, then pray to that cactus over there and see what it accomplishes. No, there is power in the one to whom we pray. Likewise, faith accomplishes absolutely nothing unless it is in the right object. The object of our faith must be faith-worthy.

Understand this, then, for why we Protest any religion that would make works necessary for salvation, which is every religion except for Christianity. There are Roman Catholics who have faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that when combined with their own effort, combined with the merit of Mary and the Saints and other works and declarations of the Church, who genuinely believe in their own salvation. They genuinely, in a heart-felt way, have faith in their good works that are enabled with faith to forgive them of their sins. Beloved, such faith cannot save. Faith and trust in anything less than Jesus’ blood and His righteousness is a faith that is for naught. A misplaced faith cannot save. Faith in anything besides the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ can only provide a spiritual lullabye that soothes our crying conscience on the way to hell.

The righteous may do good deeds, but we do not live by good deeds, for in good deeds no one is made righteous, but by faith alone in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now, this message will play on the radio. It will be heard by several thousand online before the week is out. I realize it’s harshness. I realize that I have said in no uncertain terms that millions who profess Christ do not possess Christ and are dead in their trespasses in sins because their church is anti-Christ, anti-Christian and anti-Gospel. And to that, I say, I am still protesting. I am still protesting because Christ is still King and His Gospel is still saving those who would lay down their works and trust in Christ alone for salvation.

Might we embrace the Reformation? Might we embrace these core doctrines, without which there is no Christianity, that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone? Might we rejoice in the reality that we’ve been saved by God from God for God in the accomplished work of Jesus Christ? Might we rejoice in the reality that ours is not a religion of do, but a religion of done? Might we rejoice in a righteousness that comes by faith? Might we rejoice in life that comes by faith?





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