Reflecting on the Reformation


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I am aware that outside of the original apostles, nobody in church history has given us perfect doctrine. The apostles were not perfect men, but were the instruments God used to release His truth. Through the apostles God gave the Word as a compass of nonnegotiable truths. The heart of the message written in God’s Word is a message of redemption. The second nonnegotiable truth is the good news that Jesus gave His life for us; that He is willing and able to save our souls, that if we repent for our sins and confess with our mouth that Christ die and rose again and, if we accept His Lordship, we shall be saved.[1]

            My personal frustration with all of the books I have read of church history so far is that they mix in truth with lies. Galatians 1:8 tells us, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (KJV)

            Even as, in the mix of all, God still raised ambassadors of truth within the walls of the Catholic Church, it is obvious that the Catholic Church, as an institution, completely lost her way and became indeed accurse. The veneration of Popes, the selling of indulgence, the adoration of Mary, praying to dead saints and leveling councils and men’s opinions to the level of the authority of Scripture, were the key factors that force a desperate cry for reformation.

            Through Scripture we see that God always raises leaders as instruments of blessings or as instruments of judgment; God indeed raised Luther to deliver his church as He did Moses to deliver His people out of Egypt. Next year we celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, what an amazing time to reflect on such historical event!

            Martin Luther was not the first one to point out the Catholic Church’s inconsistencies and hypocrisy. There were others, such as John Wycliff and John Hus who also spoke against the Catholic Church’s abuses of power before Luther. These men proclaimed Scripture as the ultimate authority of truth. However, without a doubt, Martin Luther was the chosen one by God to ignite the fire of the return of the preaching of the Gospel to the church and to the world. Another key voice on this reform came from Switzerland, Ulrich Zwingli.

            An attempt was made to unite these two giants of the protestant movement, however, even as both men agreed on key theological issues such as: the authority of Scripture alone, the rejection of the authority of the Pope and salvation by faith alone and not by works, they could not come to an agreement on the Lord’s Supper. Martin Luther saw the bread and the wine as the actual body of Christ while Zwingli saw it as symbolic.[2] On that point, we can say that the protestant movement initiated the never-ending protest against themselves.

            I am afraid that today, just like in the times of Luther and Zwingli’s, some other factors get in the way of truth. Factors such as: political pressures, pride and selfish ambitions. Zwingli was perhaps more radical than Luther in his approach to the Bible[3], but even as he could not find biblical evidence of infant baptism, his political ambition or his view of politics as an instrument to advance the reform, blinded him to compromise on this issue. Zwingli is the indirect father of the Anabaptist movement as a couple of his students were inspired to search the Scriptures for truth[4], accept what was there and reject what was not, a key theme of Zwingli’s approach. These students did not find any Biblical evidence for infant baptism. Nevertheless, Zwingli rejected that revelation for political gain and even persecuted the Anabaptist.[5]

            Was the reformation a failure? Some may argue that it was; our divisions as protestants are obvious and shameful, but the reality of God’s compass for us is as true as it was 500 hundred years ago. How much of what we are doing is indeed Biblical? With the reformation we can say that now it seems like everybody has the freedom to read the Scriptures, which is a great thing, but what is indeed dangerous is all these private interpretations of Scripture. I do believe in Sola Scriptura, but what has happened to us? Can we find the Gospel today or have we also become accursed? Perhaps, just perhaps even as traditions are not divine as the Catholic Church proposes, we should look back and pay more attention to those traditions that poses clear biblical backing. The Bible gives us absolute truths; our orthodoxy, dogmas and the sound doctrine, so we must definitely and desperately must start there in our quest for truth.

 

 

[1] Romans 10:8-10

[2] John B. Payne, ZWINGLI AND LUTHER: THE GIANT VS. HERCULES, Christian History Institute, https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/zwingli-and-luther/

[3] John D. Woodbridge, Frank A. James III, Church History Volume Two, (Grand Rapids: Zonderland), 2013, 154-155

[4] Ibid., 153

[5] William R. Estep, The Anabaptist Story, The Reformed Reader, http://www.reformedreader.org/history/anabaptiststory.htm

My Favorite Christian Apologetic Method


apologetics

Three hundred years of persecution was not able to stop the spiritual and physical growth of the church. Who does not get excited when reading the book of Acts? The sound doctrine, the power, the signs, the wonders, the love and the sense of family! As a pastor I prayed many times to see these characteristics manifesting in our local churches.

         The history of the church shows us that the enemy came up with a very effective system; a system that was able to do what persecution did not. That system is the mixing of the church with secular things, concepts, philosophies, ideologies and yes apologetics.

         I believe we need Christian apologetics today like never before. Our core belief are being challenged and mocked by friendly fire; a fire from within. I believe the focus should be internal apologetics for we are consumed with much confusion. The minimizing of the authority God’s Word is rampant. It seems like we have enter the season of, what I like to call, the Hippie Gospel.

         So I look at our apologetic ministers who fearlessly and humbly defend our dogmas and I look for our pastors and teachers in our local churches to dig deep and explain those core values through the uncompromising teaching of the sound doctrine of the apostles.[1] But what do I see? Many of us, from within, have embrace the demonic trap of mixing God’s truth with the devils lies. The Babylonian system is alive and well today, but God’s cry continue to be the same, “Come out of her…”[2]

         Why should I even attempt to convince a lost soul of God’s truth through reasoning? This was the devils successful attempt to deeply affect the ministry of apologetics. This approach opened door for the era of The Enlightenment and we allow that worldview to deeply affect us. The seventh and eight century was an era of great apologetics, as explained by Beilby. However, look at the results of mixing with worldly ideas;

         “Nevertheless, this period is known as a time when the opponents of orthodox Christianity belief began to get     the upper hand on Christian apologist.”[3]

         Why was this taking place? How did the opponents of orthodox Christianity were able to start turning the tide? Beilby gave us the answer in a very clear fashion. Beilby tells us that the first thousand years apologetics was between Judaism and Islam. However, for the first time we had skeptics and freethinkers in our camp. We now have a group of very smart people who recognized the existence of God, but rejected, and continue to so today, any divine revelation. This group is known Deist.[4] These folks were and are the worst, because they openly recognize the existence of God, still rebel against Him; his plan of salvation and their conditions as sinners.

         We are lost without God; we are lost without salvation and salvation will never be achieved through reason. Salvation is not an intellectual thing. We are save by grace alone; through faith alone.[5] We are dead in our sin.[6] John Locke goes as far as stating that “reason is the sole arbiter of truth and that faith is unnecessary when rational arguments are present.”[7]

         As of this point in my life I don’t have the time nor the intelligence to go back to school and study the cosmos, physics, mathematics, philosophy, history and all of these wonderful disciplines that are able to equip us to defend the faith against the enormous wave of skepticism we have in our society today. The reality is that it will take me too many years to be able to compete with these highly educated atheist and deist. But is God requiring from every believer to be highly educated on these different fields in order to be able to fulfill First Peter 3:15? Is that is so, we are greater trouble.

         As I look at the evidentialist strategy and as it seems like C. S. Lewis is their best ambassador[8]; I am trouble by the idea that we must present a well-reasoned and well-supported response. The trouble that I have with C. S. Lewis is that after you finish being mesmerized by his great presentations and arguments and you look deeply into his theology you are left with a very disturbing theology. I believe strongly in Lewis’s contemporary theologian, Karl Barth when he states, “The best apologetics is good theology.”[9] The Scripture tells us that God’s attributes are clearly seen; God has left mankind without excuse; we all know that He exists.[10] Using evidence is a good approach, but it cannot be the main approach of my apologetics.

         I find the experientialist strategy noble, but ineffective. Our experiences with God have a place when addressing the lost and as a tool of encouragement for one another. It is a powerful tool indeed that helps us overcome the discouragement of this sinful world.[11] But as a formal strategy for apologetics it can be easily dismissed. The reality is that when faced with unbelievers in general, especially skeptics, atheist, etc., we are dealing with folks that want nothing to do with God.[12] Like us before we got saved, they need a personal encounter with Jesus.

         Does this means that I don’t believe in the ministry of apologetics? I do believe in this ministry, but I will personally embrace the presuppositionalist strategy. I strongly believe that God will confirm His Word[13], not my reasoning, my knowledge or how good of an argument I was able to present. This goes in great harmony with what Beilby states concerning the presuppositionalist strategy,

         “Consequently, the authority of Scripture and of Jesus Christ must be presupposed before sense can be made of arguments for the truthfulness of Christianity”[14]

         Some evangelists today are preaching a different Gospel; a gospel that does not require repentance or even believe. Preachers are reading one Bible verse and then go on for an hour talking about thinks that have nothing to do with Scripture. Teachers are introducing appealing teachings, making outrageous statement with no Biblical backing. The apologetic ministry is the backbone that brings us back to the core, to the center, to what sustain our belief. The apologetic ministry is not afraid of the tough questions; they study, they read and show themselves approve as they rightly divide the Word of truth[15] and, most importantly, the apologetic ministry goes the extra mile by standing strong and ready; defending the hope that is in us to whomever ask.[16]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] 2 Timothy 4:3

[2] Revelation 18:4

[3] James K. Beilby, Thinking About Christian Apologetics: What it is and Why We Do it, (Downers Groove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011) 61

[4] Ibid. 62

[5] Ephesians 2:8-9

[6] Ephesians 2:5

[7] James K. Beilby, Thinking About Christian Apologetics: 88

[8] James K. Beilby, Thinking About Christian Apologetics: 96

[9] James K. Beilby, Thinking About Christian Apologetics: 76

[10] “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world           His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,” Romans 1:18-20 (NKJV)

[11] Revelation 12:11

[12] James K. Beilby, Thinking About Christian Apologetics: 99

[13] Mark 16:20

[14] James K. Beilby, Thinking About Christian Apologetics: 99

[15] 2 Timothy 2:15

[16] But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 1 Peter 3:15 New King James Version (NKJV)

A Journey Through The Greatest Revivals in Church History


REVIVAL

 

“O Lord, I have heard Your speech and was afraid; O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy.” Habakkuk 3:2 (NKJV)

 

I believe in revivals; I believe in the need for revivals; in the power found in revivals, the love, the passion, the deep search for truth, the hope and the ministerial effectiveness of revival. Even as I am aware that there are other revivals that have taken place in history, these are the revivals that I consider had regional, national and/or international influence. These are the revivals that changed hearts, change local churches, changes communities, cities, nation and the world.

 

  • 1517: The Reformation. Led by the German Martin Luther. Through Martin Luther God reestablished the definition of JUSTIFICATION. It was a return to the true definition of the Gospel. We can say that, perhaps 300 hundred years after Christ, the doctrine of Justification was tragically corrupted. The overtaking of the Catholic Church deeply affected the spiritual health of Christianity. The reformation took us back to the primitive church’s doctrine of the Apostles; it explained how people receive salvation according to the bible and not according to some man-made idea. The central theological point of Martin Luther was that, we are saved by faith alone through grace. Martin Luther made it clear to the world that salvation is only available through Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

  • 1790-1840: The Second Great Awakening. This was an evangelistic explosion that brought millions of new converts. This was also an American revival, even as it also affected the world. The Methodist and the Baptist were used by God to lead this powerful revival.

 

It is important to point out how God made sure that JUSTIFICATION was well-defined before releasing this powerful evangelistic anointing. Also, historically speaking, we see that God had His hands on this great nation from the beginning. The First Awakening took place during the times of the Colonies and as we were formed as a new nation we started experience the Second Great Awakening. With less than 100 years as a nation; a nation that was established the 4 of July of 1776 we entered the Third Great Awakening.

 

  • 1850-1900: The Third Great Awakening. With this revival the church actively embraced what is known as the Social Gospel. This is the church getting actively involved in social issues. A new movement rose during this time, the Holiness Movement; this movement established Christian Perfection. In other words, a life free from voluntary sin was possible as the person experience the second work of grace, SANCTIFICATION. The holiness movements established that with salvation we are free from the guilt of the original sin (Adam and Eve’s sin) with this second work of grace, sanctification, we now become perfect as any tendency or desire of sin is no longer a reality in the sanctified heart.

 

So now the body of Christ, not only understands salvation, but is also getting involved in social issues and is recognizing the central place of sanctification in the live of a believer. I believe that it is here where great divisions start taking place. The issue of Sanctification, from John Wesley’s point of view was the prevailing theology in the Body of Christ during this time. The division comes because other theologians, even as they understood the importance of sanctification, saw it as a process. This division is still a cause of division in the Body of Christ today.

 

With the Social Gospel we also have to be careful, as we must remember that even as we live in this world, we are not from this world. I get the feeling that the Body of Christ focus too much on what the world is saying and doing and forget that the judgment of the Lord will start with us.

 

  • 1904-1905: The Welsh Revival. This revival was a massive and spectacular move of God. In this revival God used a young man by the name of Evan Roberts. This man created a habit of waking up at 1:00 AM and meet with God until 5:00 AM. This is a good example of a revival starting in one man’s heart and spreading through nations. This revival started in Welsh, it spread through the rest of Britain, Scandinavia, parts of Europe, North America, the mission fields of India and the Orient, Africa and Latin America. The Welsh Revival involved young people, involves music, a hunger for prayer, for God’s Spirit and at its heart the theology of this revival was very simple:

 

(1) Confess all known sin to God, receiving forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

 

(2) Remove anything from your life that you

 

are in doubt or feel unsure about.

 

(3) Be totally yielded and obedient to the

 

Holy Spirit.

 

(4) Publicly confess the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

I believe that this simple formula that marked the center of Welsh’s theology, is as real and current today as it was then. Welsh gave us a passion for prayer, a passion for worship, a passion for holiness and a passion for souls.

 

  • 1906-1909: The Azusa Street Revival. In this revival God used a black man by the name of William J. Seymour. Again, we see the hunger that is so characteristic in the lives of these men that God uses to bring these mighty moves. Seymour was known for his prayer life, from five hours a day dedicated to prayer he increased the time to seven hours a day. This was a man whose dependency in God was unparalleled. At Azusa, the meetings were truly led by the Holy Ghost. You did not know who was going to preach, who was going to sing; there was no order of service, no service structure and no man agenda. Seymour use to place his head in a shoebox and pray for God’s guidance in every service. At the peak of the revival they had three services a day, every day and, none of the services looked the same. This was the revival that brought Pentecostalism all over the world. This was a revival of God’s Spirit and the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. Here we see, theologically, that they embraced the First Work of Grace, Justification. They also embrace the Second Work of Grace, Sanctification, from John Wesley’s prospective and, they also introduced the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Baptism of he Holy Spirit was not necessarily introduced as a third work of grace, but as necessary empowerment for the believer to be fully equipped and ready for ministry. I am aware that people were baptized in the Holy Spirit prior to The Azusa Street Revival. We must recognize Charles Parham and his school in Topeka Kansas, where one of his students was baptize in the Holy Ghost within hours of the arrival of the twenties century. We must also acknowledge that Charles Parham also explained and introduced this experience as a Biblical Doctrine. However, history revealed to us that it was William J. Seymour who God used to bring this amazing experience back to the Christian experience. It is part of the spiritual treasures God has available for us. With this revival we saw an amazing displayed of God’s power.

 

With the Pentecostal movement we also see many doctrinal atrocities. As I said before, in every movement and in the lives of all the mighty men of God, we see a lack of truth in their doctrinal views. With the exception of the original apostles we see that everybody missed something, if not in doctrine, in love. The Pentecostal denomination, more than any other is infected by a history of racism. Also, Azusa incorporated the doctrine that Justification, Sanctification and the Baptism of the Holy Ghost were all necessary for a person to be saved.

 

I strongly believe that in order for us to be able to find the Church, we must look at these revivals as road maps. The history of the church is found in these revivals as we see God’s hand behind these supernatural movements. These were things that could have never being achieved without God, that is how I know that it was HIM. We are also able to see that the selfishness and arrogance of men ended these revivals.

 

What is next? The Body of Christ stands in need of another revival. We need a revival that places God’s Word in the center of what we believe. We need to develop a mentality where we refuse to accept anything as doctrine that can’t be found in the Bible. That means that we must question everything and start from the beginning. We need to go over the Biblical definition of Justification, what does it means to be saved? and How do we get saved? etc.

 

We need to truly understand sanctification. Was John Wesley right with his Christian perfection doctrine? or Is sanctification a process? We live in a time where churches are too liberal. Under the umbrella of “Nobody is perfect” we go after imperfection, justify our sin and continue sinning. The “Don’t judgment me doctrine” is the spiritual version of the political correctness that is consuming our society today.

 

We also need to reevaluate the doctrine of the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. Being baptize in the Holy Ghost must be more than just speaking in tongues. We say that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence, but what is the real tangible evidence? After speaking in tongues what else do we look for?

 

The Body of Christ is seriously and shamefully divided. This division can’t be taken lightly. We are supposed to be one Body!

 

 

So I pray, may the Lord bring us together, may the Lord save many, give us a heart for holiness and a heart to recognized the needed power of the Holy Ghost so that we may be effective witnesses in this fallen world.