Tuesday, 31 October 2017
Scripture alone, Faith alone, Grace alone, Christ alone, to the Glory of God alone
Today marks the 500th anniversary of, arguably, one of the most important events in church history: The Protestant Reformation.
On October 31, 1517, a man named Martin Luther nailed a piece of paper to the doors of the Wittenberg Castle church in what is now the nation of Germany. He may not have realize it then, but this piece of paper—his 95 Theses—was about change the course of church history around the world.
Reflecting back upon this period, Luther wrote that he had been wrestling with one particular phrase in the first chapter of the Book of Romans for quite some time: “the righteousness of God.” With great candor, he admitted in his writings that, “Not only did I not love, but I actually hated the righteousness of God who punishes sinners.” Despite his life as a faithful monk, devoted to piety, Luther could never see himself as anything but a sinner before the throne of God. Every religious observance and obedience failed to satisfy a righteous God.
Throughout this turmoil, Luther comments that he never left Paul’s writings in Romans, desiring to know what Paul meant by “the righteous shall life by faith.” Meditating day and night on Romans 1:17, Luther slowly came to appreciate their theological meaning and application: “There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely faith.”
Luther writes of this joyous moment when the veil lifted from his eyes: “The merciful God justifies us by faith.” This conclusion echoed across Europe and has continued to reverberate into the sanctuaries of churches around the world ever since. What we take for granted today, that salvation is by ...
Dr. Josh Moody is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton.
Episode 38: The Gospel of John in Light of the Synoptics
In this episode of Theology for Life, Lynn and Ed talk with Josh Moody, senior pastor of College Church (Wheaton, IL) about the Gospel of John—how and why it differs so much from the Synoptic Gospels. In John, we hear more of the authentic voice of Christ, along with a deeper blend of spiritual depth and evangelistic passion.
What are some of the things readers today need help with when they read the Gospel of John? According to Moody, this is sometimes understanding the structure of the book and the signs and miracles.
What about the theme of John and how we see and understand John’s Christology? Are there themes people misunderstand? In what way and how is Jesus the Logos in John 1? What about Jesus as Truth standing in front of Pilate?
Dr. Josh Moody is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton.
Dr. Lynn Cohick is professor of New Testament at Wheaton College.
Dr. Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.
The second season of Netflix’s groundbreaking series explores the dire consequences of ignoring suffering.
This article contains spoilers for Stranger Things 2.
Leading up to its highly anticipated release last Friday, Stranger Things 2 faced a familiar challenge for surprise breakout hits: How would it recapture the magic of the original while offering something surprising and new the second time around?
The Netflix original show’s wildly popular first season managed to make Dungeons and Dragons and ’80s fashion endearing to all ages and generations—and its second season does not disappoint. It has all the warm nostalgia and nerdy kid innocence that made the first season so delightful. Instead of reinventing the wheel, though, Stranger Things 2 simply tells the next chapter of the story: a chapter that manages to balance being darker, deeper, and more hopeful than the first.
A year after the events covered by the first season, Hawkins, we discover, has experienced a superficial return to normal. The majority of the town has been shielded from knowledge about the gate that was opened into the “Upside Down,” and our beloved gang of geeks are more concerned with their scores at the arcade and their Ghostbusters Halloween costumes than fighting monsters from another dimension.
Except—maybe they’re not. Will may have returned to this dimension, but he experiences frequent “episodes” in which it seems like he’s back in the Upside Down, facing a new and bigger threat. Mike is still mourning the loss of Eleven (“El”), counting the days that he calls out to her on his radio and hears nothing but silence. Nancy’s guilt about Barb’s death and the lies she has to tell Barb’s parents is slowly eating away at her. And perhaps most hauntingly, Eleven struggles ...
Halloween gives Christians a unique opportunity to welcome our neighbors
I know several Christians who detest Halloween. A 2015 Lifeway Research study shows that 21% of American Christians avoid Halloween completely. I’ll be the first to admit that Halloween is not my favorite holiday; I’m both jumpy and squeamish, and to this day I cannot stand with my feet beside my bed for too long thanks to watching Stephen King’s Pet Semetary 20 years ago. But Halloween gives Christians a unique opportunity to creatively serve, love, and welcome our neighbors.
Acts 17:26 tells us that God has placed us specifically and strategically in our “places” (our neighborhoods) to know him, and to demonstrate his love, his generosity, and his care for the people around us. We are called to live our lives on ‘assignment’ and to take seriously the responsibility that we have to pray for our neighbors, engage in relationship with them, and speak the truth of the gospel to them.
Just because we’re on assignment doesn’t mean we can’t have fun. In fact, I would argue that fun and whimsy are a great way to tighten relational strings! Here are a few ‘do’s and don’ts’ to help us leverage Halloween as a way to connect with and invest in our neighbors.
DO pray for your neighbors
Our neighbors live beside us because God placed us in proximity with one another. We should take seriously the powerful opportunity that we have to go to battle in prayer on behalf of our neighbors, even if they never know we are doing it.
Pray for them as they walk up your driveway. Pray for them as they walk away. Pray for opportunities to develop lasting relationships with them. Ask God to reveal himself to your neighbors, to encourage them through their interactions with ...
As a young Catholic, learning about the Protestant Reformation dramatically changed my faith.
In all my years of Catholic schooling, I’m sure I was taught about the Reformation in my history or religion classes, but I don’t remember those classes at all. However, what I do remember vividly is walking into a Lutheran church one October years ago and experiencing my first Reformation Sunday celebration.
All of it was new to me—the red clergy vestments, the red geraniums displayed on the altar, the sea of red clothing worn by congregants to commemorate the day.
The pastor preached on Martin Luther, the devout Catholic monk who was exhausted by trying desperately to earn his way into heaven through good works. (As an earnest young Catholic, I related to this 15th-century priest right away.) Luther knew that penance, fasting, and prayer weren’t enough to get him into heaven. Although he didn’t set out to start a schism, nonetheless he questioned the emphasis on good works (and indulgences) over God’s freely given gift of grace and in so doing changed the church.
For Luther, discovering that the church was minoring in grace and majoring in works changed his life. It changed mine, too. This month, as the church celebrates the 500th anniversary of Luther’s brave-hearted reform, I’m reflecting on the many ways his Reformation has impacted my personal faith.
1. Questioning is good.
Despite being a rather feisty and independent Italian woman in most areas of my life, it never occurred to me to question the Catholic church until I was gently prompted by my loving Protestant boyfriend. We took a journey deep into the Bible to dig for answers to questions and to understand the traditions, practices, and precepts that I had always taken for granted. I was a happily devout Catholic and ...
Luther's law/gospel insight is as brilliant as ever—especially in 21st century America.
Playmobil, the German toy company, made unexpected headlines in 2015 when it released a limited edition Martin Luther figurine. Outside of how smiley it cast the cantankerous theologian, the toy itself wasn’t especially newsworthy. What got everyone’s attention was how quickly it flew off the shelves. Overnight little Luther became the fastest-selling item in the company’s 40-year history. While factories scrambled to catch up with demand, consumers descended on eBay in search of what they knew was the perfect gift for the pastor in their lives. At least, the ones with a sense of humor.
In retrospect, irony might have been the better word. It was not the first time Luther had been at the center of a collision between demand, expectation, and gift. Thankfully, the stakes were quite a bit lower this time around. The same cannot be said for those raised by his theology.
A few years ago, in response to a spate of suicides on its campus, the University of Pennsylvania put together a task force to explore the mental health of its students. What they found was tragic, but sadly unsurprising. “The pressures engendered by the perception that one has to be perfect in every academic, co-curricular, and social endeavor can lead to stress and in some cases distress,” the task force’s report said. “[I]n turn, [distress] can manifest as demoralization, alienation, or conditions like anxiety or depression. For some students, mental illness can lead to suicide.”
The mercilessness described here hints at a tragic escalation of a phenomenon experienced not just by college students, but by everyone today—the pressure to perform, to make something of oneself, to become acceptable, to make a ...
Monday, 30 October 2017
Start each week with this encouragement to show and share the love of Jesus.
Jerry Root, evangelism professor and director of the Evangelism Initiative at the Billy Graham Center, talks about how to disciple those we’ve just led to faith. What kind of questions can we ask? What kind of practices can we help instill? Jerry gives examples of how he moves people deeper into their understanding of Jesus after they have accepted Christ, and why that can lead to future discipleship.
Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.