The Two Ages in Full Focus

In this, the third in a teaching series on eschatology, we start with the clear words of Jesus regarding the two ages, and conclude that under scrutiny, of the three main views prevalent in our day, only one seems to remain intact. That is quite a claim, but here is why.

Text: Various New Testament References

What Practical Difference Does Reformed Theology Make Today?

Dr. James White: What Practical Difference Does Reformed Theology Make Today?” With Q and A at the conclusion.

Halloween or Reformation Day?

luther-nailing-theses-560x538Dr. Sam Storms writes: (original source but not for the same reason given by most in our society. Although the last day of October is most frequently referred to as Halloween, our focus as Christians should be on the momentous event that occurred in Wittenberg, Germany, in the year 1517.

Let’s return to the first few years of the 16th century in order to set the stage for what happened. In order to finance the rebuilding of St. Peter’s church in Rome, Popes Julius II and Leo X sanctioned the indiscriminate sale of indulgences. In the language of Rome, indulgentia is a term for amnesty or remission of punishment, in particular, the remission of the temporal (not eternal) punishment for sin on the condition that one perform specified good works and make generous financial contributions to Rome. Only God can forgive the eternal punishment of sin, but the sinner must still endure the temporal punishment for sin, either in this life or in purgatory. This latter penalty was under the control of the papacy and priesthood. Thus, for a price, the church can reduce both the degree and duration of punishment in purgatory, both for you and your deceased loved ones who are already there.

Leading the sale of indulgences in Germany was a Dominican monk, well-known for his immorality and drunkenness, by the name of Johann Tetzel. He began his trade on the border of Saxony, at Juterbog, just a few hours from Wittenberg. Tetzel was particularly crude and mercenary in his tactics. He used poetic phrases to highlight the benefit of indulgences. For example,

“When the coin in the coffer doth ring,
The soul out of purgatory doth spring.”

Here is one excerpt from a sermon he preached:

“Indulgences are the most precious and the most noble of God’s gifts. . . . Come and I will give you letters, all properly sealed, by which even the sins that you intend to commit may be pardoned. . . . But more than this, indulgences avail not only for the living but for the dead. . . . Priest! Noble! Merchant! Wife! Youth! Maiden! Do you not hear your parents and your other friends who are dead, and who cry from the bottom of the abyss: We are suffering horrible torments! A trifling alms would deliver us; you can give it, and you will not!”

It was difficult for the people to resist Tetzel’s ingenious appeals to both selfishness and love for one’s parents. The story is told that after Tetzel made a large sum of money from the sale of indulgences in Leipzig a man approached him and asked if he could buy an indulgence for a future sin he planned on committing. Tetzel said yes, and they agreed on a price. Later the man attacked and robbed Tetzel, explaining that this was the future sin he had in mind!

Tetzel had a “fee schedule” for the forgiveness of sins:

Witchcraft – 2 ducats
Polygamy – 6 ducats
Murder – 8 ducats
Sacrilege – 9 ducats
Perjury – 9 ducats

Martin Luther lost his patience when a stumbling drunkard handed him a certificate of indulgence as warrant for his inebriated condition.

Indulgences could also be obtained by viewing or venerating certain religious relics. Luther’s prince, Frederick the Wise, owned one of the largest relic collections in the area, over 19,000 pieces, worth more than 1,900,000 days’ indulgence. Frederick’s collection included a piece of the burning bush, soot from the fiery furnace, milk from Mary’s breast, and a piece of Jesus’ crib, just to name a few. Cardinal Albrecht’s collection of relics was worth 39,245,120 days’ indulgence!

Infuriated by this blasphemous turn of events, at noon on October 31, 1517, Luther posted to the door of the castle-church at Wittenberg, 95 theses or propositions on the subject of indulgences and invited a public discussion on the topic. There was little initial response, but rapid circulation of the theses (entitled “Disputation to explain the Virtue of Indulgences”) was certain to stir things up. Philip Schaff writes this of the theses:

“They are no protest against the Pope and the Roman Church, or any of her doctrines, not even against indulgences, but only against their abuse. They expressly condemn those who speak against indulgences (Th. 71), and assume that the Pope himself would rather see St. Peter’s Church in ashes than have it built with the flesh and blood of his sheep (Th. 50). They imply belief in purgatory. They nowhere mention Tetzel. They are silent about faith and justification, which already formed the marrow of Luther’s theology and piety. He wished to be moderate, and had not the most distant idea of a separation from the mother church. When the Theses were republished in his collected works (1545), he wrote in the preface: I allow them to stand, that by them it may appear how weak I was, and in what a fluctuating state of mind, when I began this business. I was then a monk and a mad papist, and so submerged in the dogmas of the Pope that I would have readily murdered any person who denied obedience to the Pope.”

And the rest, so they say, is history. The Protestant Reformation had been launched, and the recovery of the true gospel of the saving grace of God through faith alone in Christ alone was underway. So make this the reason for your celebration on the 31st and the focus of your gratitude to God.

Jesus Was Buried

1 Cor. 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…

Here’s a fascinating article concerning what has been uncovered regarding the burial place of Jesus.

Chosen Before Time

but never Christmas.

In C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the land of Narnia was under the cruel reign of the White Witch. But Aslan was on the move. When the witch and lion finally meet, the witch says to Aslan that one of the children, Edmund, has been found to be a traitor. The law of Narnia is that anyone who is a traitor belongs to the White Witch, and will be punished with death.

So Aslan strikes a deal with the witch and agrees to die in Edmund’s place. But then Aslan comes back from the dead. After he returns, the children are confused.

“But what does it all mean?” asked Edmund’s sister, Susan.

“It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know: Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.”

Behind the Curtain of Eternity

In this children’s tale, Lewis masterfully gets to the heart of our redemption. And he helps us see the love of the triune God toward us in “the stillness before time dawned.” There, in eternity past, Father and Son and Spirit conspired to love a people for themselves. They determined both to create us and — knowing that we would bring their good creation to ruin — also decided to set their loving and eternal gaze on us, as particular, chosen, and treasured children.

It’s unfortunate that the biblical teaching of “God’s decree” (as theologians have called it) and his predestinating glory has turned sour among so many Christians. When something so biblically rich and spiritually nourishing becomes so distasteful that we refuse to consume it, we need to reconsider our diet.

In the Stillness Before Time

In the first chapter of Ephesians, the apostle Paul is so overtaken with the majesty of our redemption that he can hardly stop to put a period behind his statements. So, his one long sentence runs from verse 3 through to verse 11. But what infuses every pore of that one, long sentence is its beginning:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will. (Ephesians 1:3–5)

God’s servant is inspired by God’s Spirit to show us what God was doing before the world began. In these verses, we have what only God can give: a glimpse into the eternal moment of his glorious plan. The triune God prepared every detail of the blueprint for his eternal kingdom. Not only did he plan it all, but he himself would work the entirety of that blueprint according to the counsel of his own sovereign will (Ephesians 1:11).

Without the solid meat of this biblical truth, our souls eventually will falter. Unless we eavesdrop on eternity, we will develop spiritual cataracts. In order to see clearly, we first need to hear clearly. We must set our minds on the transcendent so that the immanent can take its proper place in our lives.

Not to Us, O Lord

Paul begins by ascribing blessing to God the Father because of what he has accomplished in his Son. But Paul won’t let us focus that accomplishment on us. His immediate interest is not in the benefits we receive from Christ, important as those are. His mind moves immediately from praising God to God’s eternal choice. Paul’s interest is to help us see that what we have from the Father, through the Son, is a result of the Father’s determination “before the foundation of the world” to so love us that he would save us from our sin.

We’ve just finished another Olympic year. American athletes earned a record number of medals. These athletes committed the entirety of their lives to their athletic tasks. It is natural, then, that they take pride in their accomplishments.

But the Christian can never think that the salvation that we have in Christ is anything like the rigors of athletic training. Not only have we earned nothing of what we have in Christ, but what we have is a result of decisions made by the triune God before we, or anything else in creation, even existed.

Who Gets the Glory?

Most Christians recognize that, apart from Christ, there is no salvation. But far fewer recognize that our salvation had its beginning before time began. It was there that the triune God determined to love you for eternity. It was there that the Son did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, being obedient to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:6–8).

Until we see this divine determination as the eternal “ground zero” of our salvation, we simply cannot engage in wholehearted worship of God. If God did not unilaterally, from eternity, instigate his sovereign plan of salvation for me, then my salvation must, even if in some small way, be “up to me.” If we contribute anything to our salvation, our songs of praise to the glory of God will always be playing our own tune in a minor key.

Paul will not let us speak into eternity past; we can look, but not touch. Only in that way will the light shine in the proper place, on the stage and not the audience. Only in that way is it possible to say, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” without whispering on the side, “And me, too.”

Lectures on Preaching

Dr. Mark Dever, Senior Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D. C., speaking at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky:

1. The Symbol and Significance of Preaching

2. The Use of Preaching

3. The Art of Preaching

Elements of Reformed Worship

God cares about our worship and about how we worship. He does not receive all worship. Some worship is corrupt and greatly displeases Him. So what kind of worship does in fact please Him? How can we know for sure?

Elements of Reformed Worship

Text: Psalm 100

God cares about our worship and about how we worship. He does not receive all worship. Some worship is corrupt and greatly displeases Him. So what kind of worship does in fact please Him? How can we know for sure?

The Atheist Delusion

Having to prove the existence of God to an atheist is like having to prove the existence of the sun, at noon on a clear day. Yet millions are embracing the foolishness of atheism. “The Atheist Delusion” pulls back the curtain and reveals what is going on in the mind of those who deny the obvious. It introduces you to a number of atheists who you will follow as they go where the evidence leads, find a roadblock, and enter into a place of honesty that is rarely seen on film.

From Living Waters, creators of the award-winning TV program “The Way of the Master” and the hit movies “180” and “Evolution vs. God,” comes the powerful film “The Atheist Delusion.” Executive produced by TV co-host and best-selling author Ray Comfort (Hell’s Best Kept Secret, Scientific Facts in the Bible).

Learn more at http://www.AtheistMovie.com

Theological Triage – Maintaining Unity

Today I had the privilege of guest hosting another Dividing Line broadcast and brought what I believe to be an important teaching on first order and second order doctrines. As the quote attributed to Augustine says, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.”

We experienced some audio difficulties during the first two minutes of the show but after that there were no further sound issues.