Put Away All Hypocrisy.

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (I Peter 2:1-3).

Chapter Two of I Peter begins a conclusion which directs the reader throughout the rest of the epistle. Peter identifies “five” sins involving our speech and attitudes which we must eliminate.

The word “so” is another way of saying “therefore.” As a consequence of who we are in Christ and our desire to be holy as He is holy (I Peter 1:16) God directs believers to put away or cease what we are accustomed to doing. What follows is not a pretty list, but Peter is less concerned with hurting people’s feelings as he is with truth. Please notice the adjective “all” which precedes all five nouns. This repentance is to be a total renunciation of ungodliness.

The first sin mentioned is malice. The second is deceit. The third is hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy comes from the Greek word ὑπόκρισις (hypokrisis) which means play-acting or pretense. It was the word for an actor in the ancient Greek plays. It means a person pretending to be something they are not. It is from this Greek word that we derive our English word hypocrite.

Now, this is not a problem on the stage when involved in performing in a play or live musical. However, it is a sin when pretending to be someone you are not in your relationships with other people. One pastor writes that hypocrisy is, “to give an impression of having certain purposes or motivations, while in reality having quite different ones.”

Jesus saved His most stinging criticism for the Pharisees. Seven times in Matthew 23 He pronounced woe upon them because of their hypocrisy.

One of the most common criticisms of the local church made by non-believers is that the “church is filled with hypocrites.” The common response is “Well then, join us! There is always room for one more.”

The Scriptures tell us otherwise. We must repent of any and all pretense in our Christian behavior. We must be people of integrity. God encourages us to be so. As His children, we must be so.

Have a blessed day, beloved.

Soli deo Gloria!

Put Away All Deceit.

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (I Peter 2:1-3).

Chapter Two of I Peter begins a conclusion which directs the reader throughout the rest of the epistle. Peter identifies “five” sins involving our speech and attitudes which we must eliminate.

The word “so” is another way of saying “therefore.” As a consequence of who we are in Christ and our desire to be holy as He is holy (I Peter 1:16) God directs believers to put away or cease what we are accustomed to doing. What follows is not a pretty list, but Peter is less concerned with hurting people’s feelings as he is with the truth. Please notice the adjective “all” which precedes all five nouns. This repentance is to be a total renunciation of ungodliness.

The first sin mentioned is malice. The second is deceit. Deceit (δόλος; dolos) is trickery, treachery and deception. In other words, it is lying.

Deceit can take on many forms. It may be exaggeration of one’s accomplishments. It could be a failure to tell someone some of the details of their legal agreement in buying an item like a car, house or even a time-share. Whatever the circumstances, deceit is willfully seeking to trick or deceive another individual.

Abraham was guilty of this sin. He not only commited this sin once (Genesis 12:10-16), but twice (Genesis 20:1-13). On both occasions Abraham deceived people into thinking that his wife Sarah was his sister.

Often we face the temptation to deceive in our jobs. We may experience pressure from a higher-up to trick a client or a board of directors in making the quarterly earnings appear better than they are. It may be deceiving one’s spouse. The Christian striving to be holy can never succumb to deceit.

When a Christian determines to be a person of integrity, it may cost them their job. Not all the time, but in some circumstances this could be the result of not being a deceitful person. Are you ready and prepared to be a Christian totally committed to God and truth, whatever the cost?

Have a blessed day, beloved.

Soli deo Gloria!

Put Away all Malice.

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (I Peter 2:1-3).

We now resume our study of I Peter following our month long profile of Martin Luther and the 16th century Protestant Reformation. Chapter Two of I Peter begins with a conclusion directing the reader throughout the rest of the epistle. Peter identifies “five” sins involving our speech and attitudes which we must eliminate.

The word “so” is another way of saying “therefore.” As a consequence of who we are in Christ and our desire to be holy as He is holy (I Peter 1:16), God directs believers to put away or cease what we are accustomed to doing. What follows is not a pretty list, but Peter is less concerned with hurting people’s feelings as he is with truth. Please notice the adjective “all” which precedes all five nouns. This is to be a total renunciation of ungodliness.

The apostle begins by saying “put away all malice.” With your total being, cease being malicious. Malice is from the Greek word κακία (kakia). It refers to hateful feelings and a strong dislike we may have towards someone. Synonyms include the words baseness and depravity, or even wicked ill-will.

How many times can you remember having a strong dislike for someone because of what they did to you, or to someone you love? Those feelings often do not just go away. Untended, they can grow into a bitterness and wrath which can result in even worse sinful behavior: not by the original perpetrator mind you, but rather by you.

Toward whom have you had malicious feelings? A co-worker? A relative? Perhaps, even your spouse or a dear friend? Repent of this attitude immediately and ask God to give you the desire to not only pray for this person, but to self-sacrificially love this individual.

How do you know if you have repented of malice? Try this test. When you think of the person(s) in question or when their name is mentioned, how do you feel? What emotions come to the surface? Are the feelings you’re feeling include anger and bitterness? Or, are you thinking fondly about this person? This is a good way of knowing if you still have malice toward them.

Have a blessed day, beloved. Soli deo Gloria!

Reformation Day, 2017

Happy Reformation Day. It was five hundred years ago today that Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Thesis on the Castle Church Door in Wittenberg, Germany, thus beginning the Protestant Reformation. We have spent close to a month examining this significant moment in history, along with the individual God used to bring it about: Martin Luther. I trust you have been as blessed as I have.

The impasse which occurred between the Reformers of the 16th Century and the Roman Catholic Church remain in full force today. These issues are as critical now as they were then. What key takeaways from the Reformation would we be wise to apply to the context of Christianity in the 21st Century?

The first would be that the sole authority for the Christian is to be the Scriptures: Sola Scriptura. Then, and now, the Roman Catholic Church views Scripture as deferring to the church’s authority and traditions. This was not the view of Luther Calvin, or the other Reformers. This was the foundational issue in the Protestant Reformation.

However, I am concerned that there are those within Evangelical Protestant churches who do not have the viewpoint that the Scriptures alone are our sole and primary authority in matters of faith and practice. I am concerned that believers opt for their own opinions and attitudes to shape their decisions, rather than obeying God’s Word. It is when these attitudes and opinions run contrary to the Scriptures, the Scriptures are often set aside. This is not becoming the exception, but rather the norm.

 

For example, when a Christian is unhappy in their marriage, they may feel free to pursue and engage in an extra-marital affair. It doesn’t matter to them what the Bible says about adultery. They want to be happy and woe to the pastor who confronts them about their sin in accordance to Matthew 18:15-20 and Galatians 6:1-2.

Secondly, the commitment to objective truth instead of subjective experience is another lasting benefit from the Reformation. Martin Luther went from one religious experience to another; not only as a child, but also as a young adult. He constantly sought relief from his guilt over his sin by pursuing a religious experience. Whether it was promising to become a monk during a violent thunderstorm, constantly confessing his sins in the monastery, or traveling to Rome and climbing so-called sacred stairs on his knees while reciting the rosary, his life prior to conversion was a search for the right experience where he would find peace with God. However, his peace with God eventually came not from an emotional experience, but rather through the truth of the God’s Word specifically contained in Romans 1:16-17. On the basis of biblical truth, God credited Martin Luther with Christ’s righteousness, which resulted in Martin’s positional, personal and emotional peace with God.

Today, many seek a subjective, religious experience for the sake of a subjective religious experience alone. Their desire for a religious “high” becomes the goal they pursue, rather than the pursuit of objective truth. This is not only true at youth conferences, but also at women’s and men’s conferences. It is also seen in regularly in churches. Few are the worship leaders, pastors and conference speakers who resist this pandering to the crowd for an emotional response. They’re out there, but they’re few and are far between.

Thirdly, there is the commitment to the doctrine of sola fide or faith alone. This is a short-handed slogan which summarizes the doctrines of grace alone and Christ alone within the specific context of the biblical gospel of salvation. For more churches than I would care to estimate, the gospel has become a self-help movement focused on personal peace and financial affluence. Your best life now, so to speak. It may be summarized by one church which has as its slogan, “Join us! Where it’s okay to not be okay.”

The Reformation is far from over. It continues on and is as critical today as it was in Martin Luther’s day when biblical truth was at stake regarding how a sinner becomes righteous before God.

There are those who teach and believe that Scripture plus the church is the believer’s authority. That grace plus human merit saves. That faith plus works is necessary to be made righteous. That Christ’s righteousness along with one’s own is indispensable for salvation. That the glory of salvation is to be shared between God and man.

Today’s children of the Protestant Reformation hold that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone, to the glory of God alone based upon the teachings and truth of the Scriptures alone.

May we continue to hold to these truths as tenaciously as did Martin Luther. It won’t be easy, but “Here we stand; we can do none other. God help us!”

Soli deo Gloria!

Is the Reformation Over?

Is the Protestant Reformation over? Some would say that it is. Recent overtures resulting in theological agreements between Evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics would seem to support this idea that little is left of the theological disagreements which occurred in the 16th century.

On October 31, 2016, Pope Francis said that after five hundred years, Protestants and Catholics “have the opportunity to mend a critical moment of our history by moving beyond the controversies and disagreements that have often prevented us from understanding one another.” In light of the pope’s statement, one evangelical professor of theology commented, “From that, it sounds as if the Reformation was an unfortunate and unnecessary squabble over trifles, a childish outburst that we can all put behind us now that we have grown up.”

Tell that to John Wycliffe who the Catholic Church persecuted for translating the Bible into English. Tell that to Jon Huss who was burned at the stake for speaking against the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church. Tell that to Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin and others who were hounded, hunted and hurt by the Catholic Church who refused, and continues to refuse, to acknowledge its errors. People have asked me is the Protestant Reformation over? I say no!

The Latin phrase Semper Reformanda applies here. Rather than mean that churches should always be changing in order to conform to the ever-changing culture, instead it means “always being reformed” or “The church reformed and always being reformed according to the Word of God.” God’s Word should always be reforming God’s people, and for that matter God’s churches. Each and every generation must return to God’s Word each and every day so that the Scriptures would continue reforming our lives, and keeping us from heresy.

Pastor Burk Parson explains, “The Reformation isn’t over, nor will it ever be over, because reformation –God’s Word and God’s Spirit reforming His church—will never end.”

Soli deo Gloria!

Is the Reformation Over?

Is the Protestant Reformation over? Some would say that it is. Recent overtures resulting in theological agreements between Evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics would seem to support this idea that little is left of the theological disagreements which occurred in the 16th century.

On October 31, 2016, Pope Francis said that after five hundred years, Protestants and Catholics “have the opportunity to mend a critical moment of our history by moving beyond the controversies and disagreements that have often prevented us from understanding one another.” In light of the pope’s statement, one evangelical professor of theology commented, “From that, it sounds as if the Reformation was an unfortunate and unnecessary squabble over trifles, a childish outburst that we can all put behind us now that we have grown up.”

Tell that to John Wycliffe who the Catholic Church persecuted for translating the Bible into English. Tell that to Jon Huss who was burned at the stake for speaking against the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church. Tell that to Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin and others who were hounded, hunted and hurt by the Catholic Church who refused, and continues to refuse, to acknowledge its errors. People have asked me is the Protestant Reformation over? I say no!

The Latin phrase Semper Reformanda applies here. Rather than mean that churches should always be changing in order to conform to the ever-changing culture, instead it means “always being reformed” or “The church reformed and always being reformed according to the Word of God.” God’s Word should always be reforming God’s people, and for that matter God’s churches. Each and every generation must return to God’s Word each and every day so that the Scriptures would continue reforming our lives, and keeping us from heresy.

Pastor Burk Parson explains, “The Reformation isn’t over, nor will it ever be over, because reformation –God’s Word and God’s Spirit reforming His church—will never end.”

Soli deo Gloria!

Husband and Father

What impact did the Protestant Reformation have upon Martin Luther personally? Did he ever marry? Did he have children? Did he die a natural death, or like many other Reformers, did his enemies eventually execute him?

Martin never expected to marry. As a monk, he took a vow of celibacy. However, upon his excommunication by the Roman Catholic Church because of his writings and teachings against the church, his vow of celibacy was no longer in force.

Yet, Martin was still hesitant to marry. He was a fugitive from the church and expected to be arrested and executed at a moment’s notice. He believed it would be unfair for a woman to commit to a marriage under those conditions. But true love has a way of changing a man’s mind.

Martin wasn’t the only monk, or nun for that matter, to leave the Catholic Church and to eventually commit to marriage. Many men and women, who respectively left the monasteries and cloisters, were getting married and establishing their own homes. So Martin became involved in helping former nuns find husbands or homes. One such woman was Katherine von Bora.

While it was not love at first sight, they became increasingly committed to each other. Luther’s parents encouraged him to marry Katie. They became betrothed, or engaged, on June 13, 1525. On June 27, fourteen days later, they had a public ceremony. Martin and Katie believed that their marriage and family would provide a model for other couples in ministry. Theirs was a union of mutual respect and blessing. They were together for twenty-one years.

While Martin served the Lord in preaching and teaching, Katie ran the home. She took care of the family finances along with looking after her husband and his frequent bouts with gout, insomnia, hemorrhoids, constipation, dizziness and ringing in the ears. She brewed her own beer, which she gave to Martin to help him sleep.

The Luther’s home was open to university students and friends who would stop by for dinner and a drink. Conversations would eventually turn to theology. The records of these discussions are available today as Table Talk, or The Table Talk of Martin Luther, among other similar titles.

The Luther’s were blessed with six children. These included eldest son, Hans, along with Elizabeth, Magdalena, Martin, Paul, and Margaretha. Two of their daughters died in infancy. They also raised four orphaned children along with providing shelter for numerous others. It was Magdalena’s death, at the age of fourteen that resulted in one of Martin’s greatest sorrows. She died in his arms. His grief over her death was more than compensated by the knowledge she was with Jesus Christ, her Savior.

Martin Luther would preach his last sermon in his hometown of Eisleben on February 15, 1546. His text was Matthew 11:25-26, “25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”

Following his thirty-five minute sermon, Martin remarked that he was too weak to continue. He walked across the street to his room, where he became sick and died three days later.

His funeral in Wittenberg was held with crowds lining the streets along the funeral procession. He was buried in the Castle Church, the same church where he had nailed his Ninety-Five Thesis twenty-nine years earlier. Luther’s tombstone reads as follows: “Here is buried the body of the Doctor of Sacred Theology, Martin Luther, who died in the year of Christ 1546, on February 18th, in his hometown Eisleben.” Katie would die four years later in 1550.

Pastor Erwin Lutzer writes, “Martin and Katie taught us not only how to live and love but also how to die. In the end, both humbly bowed to accept God’s will in all things, including the inevitability of death. Even today their example of love and hard-won partnership is an inspiration to us all.”

Soli deo Gloria!

Brothers in Christ

Was Martin Luther the only leader of the Protestant Reformation? Who were some others who were actively involved in the initial days of God’s great movement? I direct your attention all too briefly to two: Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin.

Zwingli was born seven weeks after Luther in early 1484. He lived in Switzerland and was converted to the gospel. He was called to the priesthood but when he became the pastor of a church in Zurich on January 1, 1519, he abandoned the traditional methods of worship, preached from the Gospel of Matthew and began to teach the Word of God systematically.

While he encouraged his congregation to read Luther’s books, he refused to be called a Lutheran. He looked to the Scriptures for his understanding of the gospel, and not to Luther.

The primary difference between Luther and Zwingli was over the Lord’ Supper. Luther initially believed the elements became the actual body and blood of Christ, but adjusted to eventually say the body and blood were present, while Zwingli, like Calvin, believed the bread and wine only represented the body and blood of Christ.

The two actually met, in Marburg, Germany just north of Frankfort. They never did come to an agreement over the Lord’s Supper. In fact, Luther did not shake Zwingli’s hand upon leaving their meeting because he did not believe Zwingli to be a Christian because of not only his view on Communion, but also because Zwingli taught to take up arms against Catholics.

John Calvin was born in northern France in 1509. He was 26 years younger than his two peers. Calvin and Luther never met. Calvin was converted to the gospel, perhaps in some measure through the influence of Luther’s writings on the gospel. Calvin would call Luther his “most respected father.” Calvin’s lasting importance would undoubtedly be his Institutes of the Christian Religion and his Five Doctrines of Grace.

Like Luther, Zwingli denounced papal authority and preached justification by faith alone. He denied the merits of the saints and indulgences. He, like John Calvin, believed in predestination and urged there be only two church sacraments: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Zwingli would eventually publish Sixty-Seven Articles against the Roman Catholic Church.

For Luther, the primary doctrine to defend was justification by faith. It was the article, he said, by which the church stands of falls. Luther stressed the wonder of redemption while Calvin stressed the sovereignty of God in salvation.

Luther believed all methods of worship could be employed, unless strictly forbidden by Scripture. Calvin and Zwingli worshipped according to only that which was expressly taught in Scripture. Luther used instruments in worship, Zwingli and Calvin did not.

Luther still held, interestingly enough, that infant baptism was the entry point into the Christian Life. Lutheran churches hold to this doctrine today. Zwingli and Calvin believed that infant baptism was a sign of “future faith” and that God was making a covenant with the parents for their child’s eventual salvation.

They all agreed on the five solas of the Reformation.

There is no way we can with great depth and detail chronicle the lives of Zwingli and Calvin in this brief blog. Let me say that all three Reformers were human beings just like you and me. They possessed great spiritual strength from God, but they were also men who possessed feet of clay; they weren’t perfect. Their greatest legacy I think would be their perspective that people should seek to follow God and His Word, and no human beings such as themselves.

While we respect these men, we do not follow these men. We follow Christ, as they most certainly did.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Under Attack!

Have you ever sensed the Devil is attacking you? Have you ever had an awareness of the Devil’s presence in your home, bedroom or even in school or at work?

I recall one occasion when I was a student at Detroit Bible College. I was taking an evening theology class on the Doctrine of Angels. Obviously, the content of the class would not only include the subject of angels, but also the Devil and demons.

One evening, our prof played a cassette tape (lets you know how long ago this was) by an evangelical minister performing an actual exorcism. As you may know, an exorcism is the casting out of a demon from an individual who this demon(s) has possessed. The recording was pretty intense.

As I listened to the tape, I began to sense in the classroom a heaviness or a spirit of oppression and fear. I thought it was just me. I mean, the original Frankenstein movie still freaks me out. However, I was not the only one sensing this uneasiness.

Our professor stopped the tape and said that he felt the spirit of oppression as well. We began to sing hymns and choruses we knew by heart. Almost immediately the sense of fear and oppression began to leave the room. However, when I left class and went to my car, I checked the back seat before getting in to drive home. Even as I drove home on a major Detroit freeway, I kept singing hymns and choruses and reciting Scripture to keep the sense of fear at bay.

Martin Luther sensed this same spirit of oppression when he was at Wartburg Castle for ten months. While in his room, which served not only as his office and study but also as his bedroom, he often struggled with doubt and conflicts within his soul. Don’t we all?

Tradition says that Luther once threw an inkwell at the wall where he sensed the Devil was standing. While this story is probably not true, what is true is what Luther wrote about his battle with the Devil. He said, “I fought the devil with ink!” This probably refers to not only Luther’s books and pamphlets, but also his translation of the New Testament into German. Luther would use God’s Word to defeat his adversary.

Luther once wrote, “When I awoke last night, the Devil came and wanted to debate with me; he rebuked and reproached me, arguing that I was a sinner. To this I replied: Tell me something new, Devil! I already know that perfectly well; I have committed many a solid and real sin… [Christ] took all my sins upon Him so that now the sins I have committed are no longer mine but belong to Christ. This wonderful gift of God I am not prepared to deny, but want to acknowledge and confess.”  

I recall verse three from Luther’s hymn A Mighty Fortress is our God. Perhaps you can identify with it as I can.

And though 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.

The Apostle Paul writes, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

Keep fighting the good fight, beloved!

Soli deo Gloria!

God Help Me!

“Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.” Martin Luther

When the day final dawned, Luther was ready to give his answer. However, the delay caused even more people to attend the diet and so a larger assembly hall was used.

Eck, the council’s interrogator once again asked Luther if the books and pamphlets on display before Martin were his. He replied that they were. Eck then said, “I ask you, Martin – answer candidly and without horns – do you or do you not repudiate your books and the errors which they contain?”

Luther’s answer was as follows:

Since then Your Majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.

The following words were added: “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.”

The council’s decision was to honor the safe passage they had given Martin, allow him to return to Wittenberg, where he would then be arrested and executed for heresy. As Luther was returning to Wittenberg following the hearing, he was captured by friends who took him, for his own protection, to the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach. He would remain there in seclusion for ten months.

Pastor Erwin Lutzer writes, “It was here in isolation that Luther had one of the most productive periods of his life. Amid his doubts, depression, confusion and insomnia, he feverishly wrote books and pamphlets, and most astoundingly of all, translated the New Testament into German in just eleven weeks.”

Luther’s life parallels those mentioned in Hebrews 11:36-38: “36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

Luther did not recant a single item of what he had written. Because of this, he would spend the rest of his life as a fugitive.

Luther was willing to evaluate and count the cost for his commitment to biblical truth. Are we so willing? We recognize Martin Luther’s legacy. What will be your legacy?

Soli deo Gloria!