Is the Reformation over?
I’ve heard this question asked a lot recently in many places on social media. There’s been a couple things this week in my own life and experience that tell me unequivocally that the Reformation is not over. Not by a long shot. And not only is it not over, we have much need for continuing reformation within American “Christianity.”
There were two things this week that happened that illustrated this to me. One is the idea of observing Lent. Now, in fairness, there are some protestant traditions that observe Lent. But not many. In fact, I can only think of two Protestant traditions that observe Lent: Methodists and Anglicans. If I’ve missed some, sorry about that.
As an aside, I’m a big fan of the reformed movement among the Anglican Church these days and I hope and pray that it bears much fruit.
Back to my rant…
So I expressed confusion as to why Protestants would be observing Lent; not criticism, merely confusion. And I got blasted by all these “Protestants” for my statement. It illustrates yet again to me that we, even “Christians”, will happily be offended by other people’s opinions and also that most modern day evangelicals have no idea what is and is not biblical.
The second thing that happened this week is what I really want to focus on. In a meeting this week at work, while listening to a sales presentation, I heard something that I hope is not a common belief but I fear that people believe it.
Here’s what happened. This dude was sharing with everyone how he “came to faith” and his life since. He said, “I’ve heard the audible voice of God twice in my life.” It was all I could do not to laugh out loud. But then I saw that everyone around the table was staring at him intently and several people were nodding their head.
To say I was stunned is an understatement. I was around a table of people who claim to be Bible believing followers of Jesus and it looked to me like everyone was buying this load of crap.
The audible voice of God?!
I want to be really clear here.
This dude has never heard the audible voice of God.
Neither have I.
Neither have you.
God no longer speaks in an audible voice. He has spoken and He continues to speak by His Word. You don’t need to hear the audible voice of God.
You need His Word.
This was one of the most important rallying cry of the Reformers; Sola Scriptura.
What has happened to Protestants? How have we allowed ourselves to fall back into “traditions” and the mysticism of Catholicism?
The apostle Peter addresses this also in 2 Peter 1. Here’s what Peter said under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,
“For we do not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:16-21, ESV)
What was Peter saying there? Read it carefully. Peter was saying, ‘Hey, I was there. I heard the very voice of God. But we’ve got something better: the Bible, the prophetic Word.”
What does that mean for us today?
You don’t need to hear the audible voice of God.
You have the voice of God. It’s called the Bible. If you want to hear God’s voice, read His Word. Carefully, faithfully, and in the community of God’s people.
He has spoken; of that, make no mistake. But let us be careful that we hear what He has said and is saying by His Word and not what the voices in our own heads say to us.
Let us give thanks to God that He has spoken a sure word to His people by His Word.
Soli Deo Gloria!
So all of us in the Reformed world know the significance of today’s date in the history of the church. 499 years ago, Martin Luther famously nailed his 95 Theses to the door in Wittenberg and the rest is history.
Or is it?
Is The Reformation over?
I submit to you that it goes on today. We do not push back simply against the church in Rome but, to be brutally honest, against modern day evangelical so-called Christianity. So what was driving the Reformers, such as Luther, to push back against the church in Rome? What drives us today to continue the work of the great Reformers.
1. Sola Fide – Faith alone
Can we honestly say, as we look the state of the church in the west that this drumbeat doesn’t need to continue? To say that we are saved by faith alone still needs to be shouted from the mountaintop. Don’t believe me? Go to most mainline Protestant “churches” this next Sunday, open your Bible and see if the guy standing up front tells you that you are saved by faith alone. In most modern day evangelical churches, they’ll pay lip service to “faith alone” but you better believe that, if you listen real close, their message says you are saved by faith and being Republican or American or being a good little boy. Oh they won’t say that out loud but if you pay close attention, that’s what they’re saying.
2. Sola Gratia – Grace alone
I could say a lot of the same things with this that I said in my first point. If we actually believed and preached that we are saved by God’s grace alone, we wouldn’t be seeing so many people leaning so heavily back toward a works based salvation. I’ll give you an example. I had coffee with a brother today. During our conversation, he began to bemoan the fact that he wasn’t spending enough time in prayer or reading God’s Word. He said, “I have to do this.” I asked him why he needed to spend time in God’s Word. He said something along the lines of because it must be done. Now, follow me closely here. I’m not saying you don’t need to read your Bible or pray but the instant we say that something must be done to gain access to God, we deny the atoning work of Christ and that we believe in salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone. In essence, we fall back to works based salvation. What we’re saying is that if we will just spend more time reading the Bible or praying, then surely we’ll be more holy or God will love us more or something like that. Which brings me to the third thing.
3. Solus Christus – In Christ alone
We are saved by grace (alone) through faith (alone) in Christ alone. Back to the conversation with my buddy this afternoon. It is very subtle, the work of Satan. See, he wants to convince you that you can pray enough, read the Bible enough, go to church enough, be good enough to work your way to God.
If you could earn it, then you can lose it. Pay close attention to your heart. Your emotions will lie to you and tell you that you can do more, try harder, pray more…etc.
Now for the good news. If you believe that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ alone, then you should also believe that He who began a good work in you will finish what He has started (Phil. 1:6). In other words, your sanctification is not up to you. The Bible says that He who began a good work in you (salvation) will bring it to completion (sanctification and glorification). Of course we participate in His work but we mostly participate by resting in the One who has finished it all on the cross.
4. Sola Scriptura – In Scripture alone
I want to go back to my conversation with my buddy earlier and ask a rhetorical question. Why do you read the Bible?
That’s a serious question.
Why do you read the Bible? Do you read it because you have to or you’ve been told to by your preacher? Do you read it because you are looking for some inspirational quote that you can take out of context and fit into your day?
Do you long to hear the voice of your Saviour? Are you desperate to hear the love song of your Creator? Do you understand that God has spoken by His Word? Stop and think about that for a second. God has spoken and has said all He needs to say in His Word.
We don’t need any other word. He has revealed Himself in the Word.
5. Soli Deo Gloria – To the glory of God alone
The whole point of all this from creation to His restoration of all things is the glory of God. And yet we really act like it’s for our glory or the glory of America or whatever. When you hear that God has done all this (creation, fall, redemption, salvation and restoration) for His own glory, what do you think? What’s the first thing that comes to mind?
Do you find God somehow greedy? Or petulant or narcissistic?
Here’s what I find narcissistic. That we think this is somehow all about us. God has done all He has done and continues to do for our good and His glory. He gets to do that ‘cause He’s God. If He is, within Himself, the greatest good, then it logically follows that all things for His glory makes sense. Where we’ve gotten things off is that we’ve tried to make it all about our glory. That’s called idolatry.
So again I ask you: Is the Reformation over? Or will we always be reforming, always looking for our salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone? Do we look to His Word for all we need and live for His glory? Or have we actually never really left the church in Rome and still believe that we can earn it?
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9
Soli Deo Gloria!