Occasionally, I see an interview with a person who stands out in their field who says, “I always knew I wanted to be a ___” Fill in the blank â writer, doctor, musician, entrepreneur, missionary, or whatever. To be honest, I often come away from those interviews feeling a bit envious of their clarity.
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This coming Lord’s Day, September 24, we will begin a six week series on the Protestant Reformation. You may ask, “Why preach six sermons on the Protestant Reformation?”, so I want to share my thinking with you on why we are doing this. This October 31st marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany, effectively beginning what would eventually be known as the Protestant Reformation. Sadly, many Protestant Christians today have little knowledge of the Reformation, the principal issues behind it, or what it means to be Protestant at all. They know that Protestantism is different from Catholicism, but they don’t really know why.
First and foremost, the Protestant Reformation was a theological reformation. The practices of the Roman Catholic church in the 16th century that stirred Martin Luther to “protest” were broad, but the principal issues of the Reformation were theological, and they came to be summarized in what is known as the 5-Solas. Sola is a Latin term which means “alone,” so the 5 Solas are:
- Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)
- Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)
- Sola Fide (Faith Alone)
- Solus Christus (Christ Alone)
- Soli Deo Glory (to the Glory of God Alone)
We will examine each “sola” over the next six weeks leading up to Reformation Day (October 31st, 2017), with the first sermon this coming Lord’s Day serving as an introductory message that will “set the stage” for the coming weeks. This series will be biblical, historical, theological, and applicable (as all sermons should be), and I believe that we will find it immensely helpful in our personal lives as well as in the life of our church. So, invite your family and friends (both Protestant and Catholic!) to join us in our study of these glorious truths that ignited a Reformation and restored the gospel of grace to the church!
It would be good to define what the gospel is. The gospel means simply, “good news.” This “good news” consists of four basic parts: God, man, Christ, and response. In short, God created man (the 1st Adam) holy and upright, but man willfully plunged himself and the whole human race into sin through disobedience. Christ (the 2nd Adam) came to the Earth, lived and died in our place, for our sin and was resurrected. Because of this, human beings must respond in one way or another to the offer of forgiveness through Christ.
Sadly, the gospel of much of modern evangelicalism is “God loves you, and wants to give you purpose in life.” While that statement certainly contains elements of truth, it is not the gospel, nor is it the essential message of the Bible. When sharing the gospel with your children, your conversations must include that we were created righteous and rebelled against our Creator in selfishness. Our sin has separated us from God and we justly deserve His wrath. However, in His great love, God has to come us in Christ and paid the penalty for sin in His death on the cross. The resurrection of Christ assures us that God has accepted Christ’s work on our behalf. Now that God has provided a remedy for sin, we must respond in either rejection and unbelief or repentance and faith.
This is not a one-time conversation that has as its end goal a “decision for Christ,” but rather a whole way of talking about life and faith everyday in your home. When your children sin against another person, or they witness a sin in public (perhaps in the neighborhood or at school), or when they see their parents fight, these are all times ripe with opportunity to share the message of the gospel in word and in example with your children.
The gospel is a message of good news (forgiveness), because of some bad news (sin), that demands a response (repentance). This not just a conversation, but a lifestyle for families–a way of living before each other everyday.
Preaching in American churches today takes many forms. Generally speaking, sermons can be categorized as topical, textual, or expositional (expository). Topical sermons begin with a topic and draw various passages of Scripture together of the same topic to build the sermon. Textual sermons begin with a single text of Scripture and launch into the message from there (example: 1 Corinthians 13 as the basis for a sermon on Christian love). Expository sermons also begin with a text/passage of Scripture, but do so within the broader context of an entire book. Expository sermons are verse-by-verse studies of a complete book of the Bible or large segment within a book.
The vast majority of the time, I preach expositionally through books of the Bible. The exceptions would be special services such as Christmas and Easter. This means that a series of sermons in the book of James, for example, would begin with James 1 and continue weekly until every verse in the book is preached and explained. For shorter books, this may only take a couple of months; for longer books, it could take years.
The benefits to this approach are:
- It is the most natural way to read and study the Bible.
- It is the best way to understand the Bible in context (both in its immediate context, and in the broader context of redemptive history).
- It guards the preacher against avoiding difficult portions of Scripture containing tough doctrines such as election/predestination or other “hot-button” topics like homosexuality, gossip, gender issues, etc.
- It protects the congregation from the preacher’s personal “soapbox.”
- It puts both the preacher and congregation in a position of submission to the biblical text.
- It ensures that the congregation will be spiritually nourished by the whole counsel of God.
Here is a good article by Albert Mohler on the importance of expository preaching.
I trust this short explanation helps!
This question has come up several times, so here is my best “short” answer:
I use the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible. The ESV was originally released in 2001 by Crossway. I have used it since 2009, having used the New King James Version (NKJV) for the vast majority of my Christian life before that. The ESV is an “essentially literal” translation of the original Hebrew and Greek (and a little bit of Aramaic) languages of holy Scripture, meaning that everywhere possible, the ESV tries to capture the wording of the original texts and writing styles of the human writers. Here is a good overview of the ESV from Crossway. In addition to the basic text of the ESV, the ESV Study Bible is, in my opinion, one of the best study Bibles available.
I have found the ESV to be a very accurate and readable translation. It is suitable for use in public worship, memorization, and private and family devotions. We use it at home for family worship, and our reading children use it as well. The ESV is becoming increasingly popular among Christians and typically ranks in the top 5 most used translations according to recent sales data.
Other translations of the Bible that I really like:
- Christian Standard Bible
- New American Standard Bible
- New English Translation
- New International Version (note: the 1984 NIV doesn’t reflect the gender-neutral changes of the 2011 revision)
Hope this helps!
We should acknowledge up front that this is a question we should ask of ourselves as well. 2 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” Paul’s admonition indicates that the genuineness of our faith is something we should consider and reconsider often. That being so, it makes sense then that we should encourage our children to do the same — to examine themselves often, to see if they are truly in the faith.
This stands in contrast to much of the evangelistic methodology of the past hundred years where emphasis is put on “making a decision,” signing a commitment card, or saying the “sinner’s prayer.” We do not find any such method or language in Scripture. What we do see is the call to follow Christ: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). This is the essence of what it means to be a genuine Christian. If we want an evangelistic method, then Mark 8:34 outlines it: deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Christ — this is how one becomes a Christian. The problem is that true faith is difficult to measure. Many kids may grow up in Christian homes and never have “that moment” to which they can point to and say “that is when I was saved.” Does that mean that they are not Christians? Hardly. True faith is measured by lifelong perseverance, with different stages of Christian maturity and fruit bearing along the way.
So, what does that mean for me practically as a parent? Let me offer a couple of suggestions: 1) Resist the temptation to urge your child into making a “decision for Christ.” It may help us sleep a little better believing that our children are “saved” because they made a profession, but professions can be inauthentic. Instead, pray for their salvation regularly — even after they confess Christ as Savior. Pray for the genuineness of their faith and the strength to persevere in it until the end. 2) Remember the parable of the sower (Mark 4) and live by it in your parenting. Our job is to faithfully sow the seed (the word of God) into our children’s lives, but their salvation is God’s business and is best left in his sovereign hands. Lead them in regular family devotions and above all, model genuine faith in front of them. They need to see that you read your Bible, that you pray, that you are committed to the things of God — not out of some legalistic dread, but out of a vibrant love for Christ and His truth.