Reformation Day

The Five Solas of the Protestant Deformation

Happy Reformation Day!

Originally published September 15, 2017

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. October 31, 2017 will commemorate the date in 1517 when Martin Luther famously nailed his 95 theses – a list of grievances against the Catholic church for unbiblical doctrines and practices – to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

Luther’s calls for reform spread quickly throughout Europe, inspiring the likes of church fathers Ulrich Zwingli (Zurich), John Calvin (Geneva), and John Knox (Scotland) to join the effort in their own locales. As they worked to address the issues raised in Luther’s document, these men codified what we know today as the “Five Solas of the Reformation,” the basis of Protestant church doctrine. The five solas are:

1. Sola Scriptura– Scripture alone is the basis for all church doctrine, belief, and practice. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

2. Sola Gratia– Salvation is by grace alone. It is an unmerited gift of God based solely on His goodness, not our own (because we don’t have any). (Ephesians 2:8-9)

3. Sola Fide– Salvation is through faith alone. Faith is a gift bestowed by God. We are saved only by placing that faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross, not by doing good works or by any other attempts to earn salvation. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

4. Solus Christus– Salvation is found in Christ alone. As Acts 4:12 says, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

5. Soli Deo Gloria– God saves man for God’s glory alone, and Believers are to live our lives to glorify Him alone. (Romans 11:36)

The five solas should be the foundation of the church’s orthodoxy (beliefs or doctrine) and our orthopraxy (church practices). But over the past five centuries there’s been a declension. A downgrade. The church has become deformed from the beautiful biblical portrait of a bride “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” because we’ve functionally replaced the Five Solas of the Reformation with pragmatic, and often idolatrous, solas of our own making…

No longer is Christian doctrine and practice governed strictly by sola Scriptura, especially among Christian women. Now it’s all about our own personal feelings, opinions, and life experiences. Won’t go to a church that preaches sin and repentance because it offends your sensibilities? You’ve become accepting of homosexual “marriage” because someone you love dearly has adopted that lifestyle? Believe God is in the habit of talking to people because you’ve “heard His voice”? Then you’re basing your doctrine and practices on your own feelings and experiences rather than on what the Bible says.

The Christian’s instructions for life and godliness are found in only one place: the Bible. We do not squish Christianity into the mold of what makes us happy, what we agree with, our relationships with others, or the things we’ve experienced. We start with the Bible and we bring everything else in our lives – everything we think, feel, believe, say, and do – into submission to it. If a personal feeling, opinion, or experience conflicts with Scripture, it is wrong. We don’t change Scripture to fit our perspective, we change our perspective to fit Scripture.

If you want to know what road the modern church is headed down simply pick up your Bible and turn to… the Old Testament. Especially the verses that say “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Jesus said the way to greatness was humility, servanthood, and anonymity. We want glory, recognition, and applause. God says, “walk in My ways.” We say, “I’ll consider that if it fits in with my plans, is agreeable to me, and makes me look good to others.” We “welcome” the Holy Spirit into His own church as though we own the place. We are so used to being on the throne of our own lives that we use words like “letting” or “allowing” God to do something without even realizing it. We don’t ask, “Is it pleasing to God?”, we say, “If it’s pleasing to me, it must be pleasing to God.” Goodbye soli Deo gloria. Hello soli ego gloria.

More and more, “Christians” are driven by the selfish greed of “What can God do for me?” rather than the pursuit of holiness. So-called Christian teachers who will scratch itching ears are sought out, and an abundance of hucksters are at the ready, eager to “give the people what they want” in order to make a fast buck.

These people who claim the name of Christ care nothing about following in His footsteps – or even knowing what those footsteps are – craving instead the temporal creature comforts of wealth, success, popularity, health, self esteem, and influence. They want to be told what their flesh wants to hear, and they want to believe that’s Christianity. Share in Christ’s sufferings? Never. Away with the Via Dolorosa. Lead us down the primrose path.

Spotlights. Merch. Audiences of thousands. Agents. Entourages. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the Christian celebrities from the secular. The star-struck church has created its own caste system in which biblical fidelity is measured by how many books you’ve sold, the number of attendees at your megachurch or conferences, and the size of your audience on social media. That many followers? That number of bestsellers at the Christian retail chain? She must know what she’s talking about. We’ll use her books for our women’s “Bible” study – no vetting necessary! But that 85 year old pastor who’s been faithfully expositing the Word to his rural congregation of twenty for the better part of his life? No kudos. No esteem for honorable servants of the Lord such as he. We want glitz and glam and hype and bling. We want to be cutting edge, relevant, and attractional. Because maybe – just maybe – some of that glory will rub off on us. And so it goes – we follow the latest and greatest Christian authors, bands and personalities, attracted more to their pretty faces, stylish clothes, and charisma than to sound doctrine, while Christ’s sheep, relegated to a dark corner of the sanctuary, bleat to simply be fed the Bread of Life and the Living Water.

What’s hot rightthisminute? What’s the current style, the latest trend, the fad du jour? The Church of What’s Happening Now wants to know. Whether it’s today’s Christian bestseller that simply every small group is using now, dahling, or caving to whichever way the wind is blowing today when it comes to the world’s sexual morality, if we can just ride the viral wave of the immediate we can get people in the doors, money in the offering plate, and souls into Heaven. Maybe.

Vox populi, vox Dei? Have we forgotten how uncool it was to be the only one building an ark before rain was invented? That idol worship was the latest thing going in Jeremiah’s day? That it was the crowds who cried “Crucify Him!”?

The God of the Bible is not hip and groovy. He’s seen as hopelessly out of touch with current morals and values. A doddering old fool who just can’t seem to get with the times. His holy ways are antiquated and obsolete. We’re modern and educated and wise to the ways of the world. We know better how His church and our lives should run.

Just what is it we’re building our Christian doctrine and practices on these days? ‘Cause it sure isn’t the unadulterated written Word of God and the original five solas. Maybe it’s time we took a good hard look at how far we’ve slidden in the last five hundred years. How far we’ve strayed from the purity of Scripture and doctrine the Reformers worked so hard for, were imprisoned and persecuted for, were martyred for.

Maybe it’s time for another Reformation.


Additional Resources:

Why We’re Protestant: An Introduction to the Five Solas of the Reformation by Nate Pickowicz

What was the Protestant Reformation? at Got Questions

5 Questions and the 5 Solas at The Cripplegate

Speaking Engagements

Report Back: Cruciform Conference

What a joy it was to help kick off the first annual Cruciform Conference last weekend in Indianapolis, Indiana!

I spI wIth mI lIttle I
somethIng’s mIssIng from Indy’s welcome to vIsItors!

The theme of Cruciform this year was The Cross Purchased Life. We were treated to wonderful cross-centered preaching from a number of pastors, speakers, and godly men, including a couple of my Twitter friends…

Dustin Benge                                           Kofi Adu-Boahen

I had the honor of teaching two breakout sessions just for women.

Faithfully Fighting Feminism:
Fighting the Good Fight by Walking Out Biblical Womanhood

Click here for the session outline handout.

 

Hooked on a Feeling:
Living by God’s Word Instead of Our Emotions

Click here for the session outline handout.

 

One of my favorite parts of conferences is meeting social media friends face to face. Bunking with Michael and Erin Coughlin for two days was so much fun. They were so kind and hospitable, and I owe them a million thanks for treating me like a queen. If you’ve been around the blog a while, you may recall that Michael has written several guest posts for me. He also writes for the Things Above Us blog and hosts the Things Above Us Roundtable podcast which Michael interviewed me for during the conference. And Erin does everything else. It was a delight to get to know this sweet sister in Christ!

Erin and me

L-R: Michael Coughlin, Amy (whose last name I can’t remember, but who was such a blessing to drive me to the airport!), me, Erin

with Dustin Benge                                      with Kofi Adu-Boahen

with Kofi and Michael

And, of course, what’s a conference without books? Thanks so much to Cruciform, Michael, and Allen Nelson for these lovely gifts. (You can read a review of Before the Throne here, if you like.)

I was in Indianapolis less than 48 hours, and most of that was at the conference, so I didn’t have time to do any touristy stuff. For all you Indy Car fans, here’s a display that was set up in the airport on loan from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum:

Normally, when I go on a trip, in lieu of buying souvenirs, I try to have a meal of whatever food is iconic to that area (clam chowder in Cape Cod, Chicago deep dish pizza, etc.). I’m clueless as to what sort of cuisine is iconic to Indiana, but we found a phenomenal little local taqueria that you simply must visit if you’re ever in Indianapolis: Paco’s Taqueria. (Like I said, I was in Indy less than 48 hours and we had two meals at Paco’s. It was that good.) Traditional style tacos, quesadillas, and lots of other choices made by folks who know how those dishes are supposed to be cooked. I can highly recommend the shrimp, ground beef, and chicken tacos, but everything looked and smelled wonderful. I am officially obsessed with these tacos.

 

All too soon, the conference was over and it was time to head back home. But I’m so excited to announce that I’ll be speaking at next year’s Cruciform Conference along with Justin Peters, Justin Huffman, and more great men of God (to be announced at a later date) that you won’t want to miss! You’ve got almost a year, so start making plans now to attend October 23-24!

Many thanks to those of you who helped make this trip possible!


If your church or organization is ever in need of a speaker for a women’s event, I’d love to come share with your ladies as well. Click here for more information.


Photo Credits

Cruciform Conference video and promo pics- Courtesy of Cruciform Conference

Photos of friends at the conference- Some of these were taken by Michael or Erin Coughlin, but I can’t remember which ones. Probably the good ones.

Photo of tacos- Courtesy of Paco’s Taqueria on Facebook

All other photos by Michelle Lesley

Prayer Bible Study

Sweet Hour of Prayer: Lesson 8

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Read Luke 11:1-13, Matthew 6:5-13

The Lord’s Prayer/Jesus Teaches About Prayer

Questions to Consider

1. To acclimate yourself to the books of Luke and Matthew, choose a Bible Book Background to review.

2. Considering that the disciples were all good Jewish boys who had been praying all their lives, why do you think they asked Jesus to teach them to pray? (11:1)

Compare Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer (2-4) to Matthew’s version (9-13). What is “missing” from the Luke version?

3. Go through each verse of the Matthew version and explain what Jesus means for us to pray about in that verse:

9-

10-

11-

12-

13-

Now write your own personal prayer in your own words that follows the general pattern of each verse. For example, instead of “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,” your prayer might begin, “Heavenly Father, I praise Your holy name.”

Are the things Jesus instructs us to pray about mostly spiritual needs or physical/tangible needs? Why? How might it change the perspective of your prayer life to focus more on the spiritual than the physical/tangible when you pray?

Is it OK for us to pray for or about things that aren’t included in the Lord’s prayer? Safety on a trip? Healing for a friend? Giving thanks? Praying for your pastor? How do we know it’s OK to pray for those things if Jesus said, “Pray like this,” and those things are not included in His model prayer? (hint: Think about other NT verses about prayer, and remember who the author of Scripture is.)

4. Carefully examine Matthew 6:5-8. What is Jesus teaching us here about public prayer? What does He mean when He says “they have received their reward”? (5) Is Jesus forbidding public prayers, or is He teaching us to examine the motive of our hearts when we do it? With what motive of heart should we approach public prayer?

Have you ever seen a modern day version of “heaping up empty phrases”? (7) What did it look like? (Ex: Praying the rosary? Speaking in “tongues”?) How can we avoid heaping up empty phrases in our own prayer life?

If our Father knows what we need before we ask (8), what is the point of praying? How does the act of asking God to provide for our needs and work in our lives humble us, grow us in dependence on God, and help us align ourselves with God’s will and purposes? Could these be the purposes of prayer rather than giving God a “to do” list?

5. Study Luke 11:5-8. What topic is this mini-parable about? Who does the friend with the bread represent? Who does the man pestering the friend represent? What makes the man so persistent? What does this tell us about our own neediness, desperation, and dependence on the grace of God, and how should this drive us to persist in prayer?

How would you characterize the attitude of the friend with the bread? (7-8) Is Jesus trying to teach us that God considers our persistent prayers bothersome or annoying, or that He will, in aggravation, give us what we want so we’ll go away? Compare the annoyed friend with the heart of God in verses 9-13, and finish this sentence: “If even an irritated pagan will give the man what he wants…(hint: see v. 13).

6. Study Luke 11:9-13, and explain how this is “the rest of the story” about prayer that Jesus started in 5-8. Compare the asking, seeking, and knocking of God in verses 9-10 to the asking, seeking, and knocking of the man in verses 5-8.

Compare the child asking the father motif in 11-13 to the first verse of the Lord’s prayer in both the Luke (2) and the Matthew (9) version. Did OT Jews approach God in prayer as “Father” (you may wish to examine the OT prayers in our previous lessons, links above)? Why is Jesus teaching the disciples (and us) to approach God as “Father”? What is He trying to teach us about the nature and character of God, our relationship with Him through Christ, and prayer?


Homework

Read my article After This Manner, Therefore Pray and model your prayers after The Lord’s Prayer this week.

These gents do a lovely job on the hymn Teach Me to Pray, Lord. I thought you might enjoy it. (I am not familiar with the church itself other than this brief description, so you will need to vet it for yourself if you want to know more.)


Suggested Memory Verse

Holidays (Other)

Should Christians Participate in Halloween? 7 Scriptures to Consider

Originally published October 24, 201410394788_860513210656281_4509180524943822101_n

Should Christians participate in Halloween? 

Since there is no specific Bible verse that says, “Thou shalt/shalt not participate in Halloween and its related activities,” this is an area of Christian liberty that must be decided by each individual or couple on the basis of scriptural principles and prayer. If there are Halloween activities available to you that do not violate scriptural principles or your conscience or cause you to become a stumbling block to someone weaker in the faith (which may even be your spouse or child), you are free to participate in those aspects of Halloween.

Here are some Scriptures and principles that may be of help as you make your decision:

1 Corinthians 10:23:
“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.

Is it helpful? Does it build you/your family up?

1 Corinthians 10:24-30:
Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?

Who is watching what your family does? Are you serving your neighbor and drawing him closer to Christ by the activities you participate in?  

1 Corinthians 10:31:
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Are you glorifying God by participating in the activity you’re considering?

Philippians 4:8:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Does the activity exemplify and cause you to think about things that are pure, lovely, etc.?

Ephesians 5:11-12-
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.

Is the activity spiritually unfruitful, a work of darkness, shameful? Are you taking part in evil or exposing it?

Isaiah 5:20:
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

Does the activity celebrate, honor, or make light of sin, evil, and darkness?

1 Corinthians 15:54b-55:
Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

Christ died to put death to death. Does the activity you’re considering glorify death?

 

Additional Resources:

Cancel Halloween Unless You Can Do These 5 Things by Aaron Armstrong

Halloween History and the Bible from Answers in Genesis

Should Christians Celebrate Halloween from Got Questions

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Should I attend seminary?

I’ve been tied up speaking at the Cruciform conference this past weekend.
I hope you’ll enjoy this article from the archives.

Originally published November 13, 2017

 

For the past few months, I’ve felt a strong desire to attend seminary. After a lot of prayer, Scripture reading, and reaching out to my pastor and trusted, older, Godly friends for counsel, I began the process of applying [to a doctrinally sound seminary].

I’m in my early 30s, have never been married, and have no children. I lead middle school youth girls, women, and children in various classes at church, and work as a part time staff member in my church. I have a strong desire to pursue further education, and to teach and lead women and students. I am incredibly excited at the prospect of going to seminary.

I would like to know your thoughts about how a woman might know for sure she is being called to full-time ministry and what part attending seminary should or could play in that.

Great question, and one I wish more doctrinally sound women were asking!

Some might wonder, “What is the point of a woman getting a seminary degree if she can’t, biblically, become a pastor, elder, or exercise authority over men in the church?”. Because there are tons of other ways women can serve the Body of Christ, maybe in parachurch ministries or missions or as an author, or maybe by simply striving for godly excellence as a Christian woman, wife, mom, or church member.

Learning as much as you possibly can about the Bible, the church, and Christianity is never a waste, even if you don’t go into some sort of formal, paid position of ministry. If you’re a woman with time and resources on your hands, I’d encourage you to consider taking a seminary class or two, or even getting a degree, just for all the valuable things you’ll learn. Some seminaries will allow non-students to audit courses. Others offer degree and certificate programs specifically designed for women, online degree programs, and free online (non-degree) classes. A couple of good ones to check out are Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary. The Master’s University, while not a seminary, offers many courses and degree programs which are open to women. (The Master’s Seminary does not admit women as their scope is limited to preparing men for the pastorate.) Ligonier Ministries doesn’t offer a seminary degree program, but does offer many theologically rich online classes.

Whether you opt for a non-credit online course or move into campus housing and pursue a degree, be sure you keep your discernment radar on high alert, even at a doctrinally sound seminary. Believe it or not, even multi-degreed seminary professors can lack discernment or teach unbiblical doctrine. Don’t be intimidated by a string of letters and decades of experience behind someone’s name. If what he’s saying doesn’t match up with rightly handled, in context Scripture, he’s wrong.

Now let’s address a few of the more specific points the reader mentioned:

I think we way over-mysticalize this whole “call to ministry” thing. We think there’s got to be some kind of supernatural “road to Damascus” experience that we can point back to and say, “There! That’s the moment God ‘called’ me into ministry!”. But the Bible doesn’t really talk about a call to ministry in those kinds of terms. Remember, the account of Paul’s (and other Bible characters’) conversion and call experience is descriptive, not prescriptive. The prescriptive passage looks like this:

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 1 Timothy 3:1

No mention of God speaking to you or a particular feeling or goose bumps or feeling “a peace about it.” Scripture just says if a man has the desire to be a pastor, that’s a good and noble goal. Just an objective statement of fact. So, by the same underlying principle, if a woman wants to dedicate her life to full time ministry, that’s a good desire.

The next step is to see if you’re biblically qualified to be in full time ministry. Simply wanting to be in ministry does not mean you should be in ministry or that God thinks you’re qualified to be in ministry. A few biblical passages any woman considering seminary or a career in ministry should consider:

📖 1 Timothy 2:11-15 You cannot, without sinning, pursue the office of pastor, elder, associate pastor, or any other position which requires you to teach Scripture to men, or hold authority over men, in the gathered body of Believers. If you’re a woman who’s going to seminary in order to pursue such a position, you are already biblically disqualified from ministry.

📖 Galatians 5:22-23 How’s your fruit looking? If your life generally doesn’t reflect the Fruit of the Spirit, you’re probably not ready for seminary or ministry. (In fact, you might want to examine yourself against Scripture to see if you’re really saved.)

📖 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 These may be qualifications specifically for pastors, elders, and deacons (which are all offices restricted to men) but the underlying principles would extend to anyone in a position of Christian leadership, and nearly all of them apply to Christians in general. Indeed, Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:15 that he is writing these things so that “you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God.”

📖 Genesis 2:18, Ephesians 5:22-33, Titus 2:3-5, 1 Timothy 3:4-5 If you are married and/or have children, Scripture is clear that it is your primary calling to be a helper to your husband, raise godly children, and manage your household well. Any seminary classes or degrees or ministry positions you pursue may not interfere with or impede your first calling. Additionally, if your husband objects to you attending seminary or pursuing a career in ministry, Scripture mandates that you submit to him and respect his decision.

📖 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 If you’re single with no children, God has given you the precious gift of being able to serve and focus solely on Him, and it may be the perfect time for you to attend seminary or serve Him in full time ministry. 

If you have a strong desire to attend seminary or pursue a career in ministry and you meet the biblical qualifications, the next step is exactly what our reader has done: pray about it, search the Scriptures, seek wise counsel, consider and evaluate the ministry you’re already doing in your church (If you don’t already love being a faithful, serving member of a local church, why on earth would you want to go to seminary or into full time ministry?), realize that there are a lot of things about ministry that are difficult and that seminary doesn’t prepare you for, and if you still want to go to seminary or seek out a ministry position, trust God to guide you and go for it.

Yes, it really is that simple. Desiring to dedicate your life to the service of our Lord or to study more about Him in seminary is a good and God-pleasing desire. If you can accomplish those goals within the parameters Scripture has laid out for godly women, why wouldn’t you pursue it?


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.