Watson’s 17 ways for glorifying God

Often we speak of glorifying God as the goal of our Christian lives – but what does it actually mean to do it? How can we test whether we are increasingly bringing God glory or if we need to repent for a decline?

Thomas Watson thought seriously about these questions and came up with 17 specific ways that a Christian can glorify God. Here they are below (excerpted from his Body of Divinity available online at Grace Gems).

*         *         *

In how many WAYS may we glorify God?

[1] It is glorifying God when we AIM purely at his glory. It is one thing to advance God’s glory, another thing to aim at it. God must be the ultimate end of all actions. Thus Christ says, “I seek not my own glory—but the glory of him who sent me.” A hypocrite has a squint eye, for he looks more to his own glory than God’s. Our Savior deciphers such, and gives a caveat against them in Matthew 6:2, “When you give alms, do not sound a trumpet.” A stranger would ask, “What means the noise of this trumpet?” It was answered, “They are going to give to the poor.” And so they did not give alms—but sell them for honor and applause, that they might have glory of men. The breath of men was the wind which blew the sails of their charity! “Truly they have their reward.” The hypocrite may take his bill and write, “received in full payment.” Chrysostom calls vain-glory one of the devil’s great nets to catch men. And Cyprian says, “Whom Satan cannot prevail against by intemperance, those he prevails against by pride and vainglory.” Oh let us take heed of self-worshiping! Aim purely at God’s glory. We do this,

(1.) When we prefer God’s glory above all other things; above credit, estate, relations; when the glory of God comes in competition with them—we must prefer his glory before them. If relations lie in our way to heaven, we must either leap over them, or tread upon them. “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me!” Matthew 10:37. A child must unchild himself, and forget he is a child; he must know neither father nor mother in God’s cause. “Who said unto his father and mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren.” This is to aim at God’s glory.

(2.) We aim at God’s glory, when we are content that God’s will should take place, though it may cross ours. “Lord, I am content to be a loser—if you be a gainer. I am content to have less health—if I have more grace, and you more glory. Let it be food or bitter medicine—if only you give it me. Lord, I desire that which may be most for your glory!” Our blessed Savior said, “Not as I will—but as you will.” Matt 26:69. If God might have more glory by his sufferings, he was content to suffer. “Father, glorify your name.”

(3.) We aim at God’s glory when we are content to be outshined by others in gifts and esteem—so that his glory may be increased. A man who has God in his heart, and God’s glory in his eye, desires that God should be exalted; and if this be effected, let whoever will be the instrument, he rejoices. “Some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely. But whether or not their motives are pure, the fact remains that the message about Christ is being preached, so I rejoice.” They preached Christ out of envy, they envied Paul that throng of people, and they preached that they might outshine him in gifts, and get away some of his hearers. “Well,” says Paul, “So long as Christ is preached, and God is likely to have the glory, I will rejoice. Let my candle go out, if the Sun of Righteousness may but shine!”

[2] We glorify God by a sincere CONFESSION of sin. The thief on the cross had dishonored God in his life—but at his death he brought glory to God by confession of sin. Luke 23:3I. “We indeed suffer justly.” He acknowledged he deserved not only crucifixion—but damnation. “My son, give, I beg you, give glory to God, and make confession unto him.” A humble confession exalts God. How is God’s free grace magnified, in crowning those who deserve to be condemned! The excusing and mincing of sin casts a reproach upon God. Adam denied not that he tasted the forbidden fruit—but, instead of a full confession, he blamed God. Gen 3:32. “The woman whom you gave me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” “If you had not given me the woman to be a tempter—I would not have sinned.” Confession glorifies God, because it clears him; it acknowledges that he is holy and righteous, whatever he does. Nehemiah vindicates God’s righteousness; chap 9:93. “You are just in all that is brought upon us.” A confession is sincere, when it is free, not forced. Luke 15:58. “I have sinned against heaven and before you.” The prodigal charged himself with sin, before his father charged him with it.

[3] We glorify God by BELIEVING. “Abraham was strong in faith, giving glory to God.” Unbelief affronts God, it gives him the lie; “he who believes not, makes God a liar.” But faith brings glory to God; it sets its seal, that God is true. He who believes flies to God’s mercy and truth, as to an altar of refuge; he engarrisons himself in the promises, and trusts all he has with God. “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” This is a great way of bringing glory to God. God honors faith—because faith honors him. It is a great honor we do to a man when we trust him with all we have; when we put our lives and estates into his hand—it is a sign we have a good opinion of him. The three Hebrew children glorified God by believing. “The God whom we serve is able to deliver us, and will deliver us.” Faith knows there are no impossibilities with God, and will trust his loving heart, where it cannot trace his mysterious providential hand.

[4] We glorify God, by being tender of his glory. God’s glory is as dear to him as the pupil of his eye. An sincere child weeps to see a disgrace done to his father. Psalm 69:9. “The reproaches of those who reproached you are fallen upon me.” When we hear God reproached, it is as if we were reproached; when God’s glory suffers, it is as if we suffered. This is to be tender of God’s glory.

[5] We glorify God by FRUITFULNESS. “Hereby is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit.” As it is dishonoring God to be barren, so fruitfulness honors him. “Filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are to the praise of his glory.” We must not be like the fig tree in the gospel, which had nothing but leaves—but like the pomecitron, which is continually either ripening or blossoming, and is never without fruit. It is not mere profession—but fruit which glorifies God. God expects to have his glory from us in this way. “Who plants a vineyard, and does not eat the fruit of it?” Trees in the forest may be barren—but trees in the garden are fruitful. We must bring forth the fruits of love and good works. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Faith sanctifies our works, and works testify our faith. To be doing good to others, to be eyes to the blind, feet to the lame—much glorifies God. Thus Christ glorified his Father; “he went about doing good.” Acts 10:08. By being fruitful, we are beautiful in God’s eyes. “The Lord called you a thriving olive tree, beautiful to see and full of good fruit.” And we must bear much fruit. It is muchness of fruit which glorifies God: “if you bear much fruit.” The spouse’s breasts are compared to clusters of grapes, to show how fertile she was. Though the lowest degree of grace may bring salvation to you, yet it will not bring much glory to God. It was not a spark of love, which Christ commended in Mary—but much love; “she loved much.”

[6] We glorify God, by being CONTENTED in that state in which Providence has placed us. We give God the glory of his wisdom, when we rest satisfied with whatever portion he carves out to us. Thus Paul glorified God. The Lord cast him into as great variety of conditions as any man, “I have worked harder, been put in jail more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jews gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled many weary miles. I have faced danger from flooded rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the stormy seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be Christians but are not.” 2 Corinthians 11:23-26. Yet he had learned to be content. Paul could sail either in a storm or a calm; he could be anything that God would have him; he could either lack or abound.

A good Christian argues thus: “It is God who has put me in this condition; he could have raised me higher, if he pleased—but that might have been a snare to me. He has done it in wisdom and love; therefore I will sit down satisfied with my condition.” Surely this glorifies God much; God counts himself much honored by such a Christian. “Here,” says God, “is one after my own heart; let me do whatever I will with him—I hear no murmuring—he is content!” This shows abundance of grace. When grace is crowning, it is not so much to be content; but when grace is conflicting with inconveniences, then to be content is a glorious thing indeed. For one to be content when he is in heaven is no wonder; but to be content under severe trials, greatly glorifies God. This man must needs bring glory to God; for he shows to all the world, that though he has little meal in his barrel, yet he has enough in God to make him content! He says, as David, “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance; the lines have fallen to me in pleasant places.”

[7] We glorify God by working out our own salvation. God has twisted together, his glory and our good. We glorify him by promoting our own salvation. It is a glory to God to have multitudes of converts; his design of free grace takes effect, and God has the glory of his mercy; so that, while we are endeavoring our salvation, we are honoring God. What an encouragement is this to the service of God, to think, “while I am hearing and praying, I am glorifying God; while I am furthering my own glory in heaven, I am increasing God’s glory!” Would it not be an encouragement to a subject, to hear his prince say to him, “You will honor and please me very much, if you will go to yonder mime of gold, and dig as much gold for yourself as you can carry away”? So, for God to say, “Go to the ordinances, get as much grace as you can, dig out as much salvation as you can; and the more happiness you have, the more I shall count myself glorified!”

[8] We glorify God by living for God. “Those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them.” “Whether we live, we live unto the Lord.” The Mammonist lives for his money. The Epicure lives for his belly. The design of a sinner’s life is to gratify lust—but we glorify God when we live for God. We live to God when we live to his service, and lay ourselves out wholly for God. The Lord has sent us into the world, as a merchant sends his ambassador beyond the seas to trade for him. We live to God when we trade for his interest, and propagate his gospel. God has given every man a talent; and when a man does not hide it in a napkin—but improves it for God, he lives to God. When a master in a family, by counsel and good example, labors to bring his servants to Christ; when a minister spends himself, and is spent, that he may win souls to Christ, and make the crown flourish upon Christ’s head; when the magistrate does not wear the sword in vain—but labors to cut down sin, and to suppress vice; this is to live to God, and this is glorifying God. “That Christ might be magnified, whether by life or by death.” Paul had three wishes, and they were all about Christ; that he might be found in Christ, be with Christ, and magnify Christ.

[9] We glorify God by walking cheerfully. It brings glory to God, when the world sees a Christian has that within him, which can make him cheerful in the worst times; which can enable him, with the nightingale, to sing with a thorn at his bosom. The people of God have ground for cheerfulness. They are justified and adopted, and this creates inward peace; it makes music within, whatever storms are without. If we consider what Christ has wrought for us by his blood, and wrought in us by his Spirit, it is a ground of great cheerfulness, and this cheerfulness glorifies God. It reflects poorly upon a master when the servant is always drooping and sad; surely—he is kept to hard commons, his master does not give him what is fitting. Just so, when God’s people hang their heads, it looks as if they did not serve a good master, or repented of their choice, which reflects dishonor on God. The uncheerful lives of the godly bring a scandal on the gospel. “Serve the Lord with gladness.” Your serving him does not glorify him, unless it is with gladness. A Christian’s cheerful looks glorify God. True religion does not take away our joy—but refines it; it does not break our violin—but tunes it, and makes the music sweeter.

[10] We glorify God, by standing up for his truths. Much of God’s glory lies in his truth. God has entrusted us with his truth, as a master entrusts his servant with his purse to keep. We have not a richer jewel to trust God with—than our souls; nor has God a richer jewel to trust us with—than his truth. Truth is a beam which shines from God. Much of his glory lies in his truth. When we are advocates for truth we glorify God. “That you should contend earnestly for the truth.” The Greek word to contend signifies great contending, as one would contend for his land, and not allow his right to be taken from him; so we should contend for the truth. Were there more of this holy contention, God would have more glory. Some contend earnestly for trifles and ceremonies—but not for the truth. We should count him indiscreet that would contend more for a picture—than for his inheritance; more for a box of pennies—than for his box of title deeds.

[11] We glorify God, by praising him. Doxology, or praise, is a God-exalting work. “Whoever offers praise, glorifies me.” The Hebrew word Bara, to create; and Barak, to praise; are little different, because the end of creation is to praise God. David was called the sweet singer of Israel, and his praising God was called glorifying God. “I will praise you, O Lord my God, and I will glorify your name.” Though nothing can add to God’s essential glory, yet praise exalts him in the eyes of others. When we praise God, we spread his fame and renown, we display the trophies of his excellency. In this manner the angels glorify him; they are the choristers of heaven, and trumpet forth his praise. Praising God is one of the highest and purest acts of true religion. In prayer we act like men; but in praise we act like angels! Believers are called “temples of God.” When our tongues praise, then the organs in God’s spiritual temple are sounding. How sad is it that God has no more glory from us in this way! Many are full of murmuring and discontent—but seldom bring glory to God, by giving him the praise due to his name. We read of the saints having harps in their hands, the emblems of praise. Many have tears in their eyes, and complaints in their mouth—but few have harps in their hand, blessing and glorifying God. Let us honor God this way. Praise is the rent we pay to God; while God renews our lease, we must renew our rent.

[12] We glorify God, by being zealous for his name. “Phinehas has turned my wrath away, while he was zealous for my sake.” Zeal is a mixed affection, a compound of love and anger; it carries forth our love to God, and our anger against sin in an intense degree. Zeal is impatient of God’s dishonor; a Christian fired with zeal, takes a dishonor done to God, worse than an injury done to himself! “You cannot bear those who are evil.” Our Savior Christ thus glorified his Father; he, being baptized with a spirit of zeal, drove the money-changers out of the temple. “Zeal for your house has consumed me.”

[13] We glorify God, when we have an eye to God in our natural and in our civil actions. In our natural actions; in eating and drinking. “Whether therefore you eat or drink—do all to the glory of God.” A gracious person holds the golden bridle of temperance; he takes his food as a medicine to heal the decays of nature, that he may be the fitter, by the strength he receives, for the service of God; he makes his food, not fuel for lust—but help to duty.

In buying and selling, we do all to the glory of God. The wicked live upon unjust gain, by falsifying the balances, “The balances of deceit are in his hands;” and thus while men make their weights lighter, they make their sins heavier, when by exacting more than the commodity is worth. We buy and sell to the glory of God, when we observe that golden maxim, “To do to others as we would have them do to us;” so that when we sell our commodities, we do not sell our consciences also. “Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence towards God, and towards men.” We glorify God, when we have an eye to God in all our civil and natural actions, and do nothing that may reflect any blemish on true religion.

[14] We glorify God by laboring to draw others to God. By seeking to convert others, and so make them instruments of glorifying God. We should be both diamonds and magnets; diamonds for the luster of grace, and magnets for attractive virtue in drawing others to Christ. Gal 4:19. “My little children, of whom I travail,” It is a great way of glorifying God, when we break open the devil’s prison, and turn men from the power of Satan to God.

[15] We glorify God in a high degree when we suffer for God, and seal the gospel with our blood. “When you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go. Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.” God’s glory shines in the ashes of his martyrs. “Glorify the Lord in the fires.” Micaiah was in the prison, Isaiah was sawn asunder, Paul was beheaded, Luke was hanged on an olive tree; thus did they, by their death, glorify God. The sufferings of the primitive saints did honor to God, and made the gospel famous in the world. What would others say? See what a good master they serve, and how they love him, that they will venture the loss of all, in his service. The glory of Christ’s kingdom does not stand in worldly pomp and grandeur, as other kings”; but it is seen in the cheerful sufferings of his people. The saints of old “loved not their lives to the death.” They embraced torments as so many crowns. God grant we may thus glorify him—if he calls us to it. Many pray, “Let this cup of suffering pass away!” Few pray, “May your will be done!”

[16] We glorify God, when we give God the glory of all that we do. When Herod had made an oration, and the people gave a shout, saying, “It is the voice of a God, and not of a man,” he took the glory to himself. “Immediately, because Herod did not give glory to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.” We glorify God, when we sacrifice the praise and glory of all we do—to God. “I have worked harder than all the other apostles,” is a speech, one would think, which savored of pride. But the apostle pulls the crown from his own head, and sets it upon the head of free grace! “Yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.” As Joab, when he fought against Rabbah, sent for King David, that David might carry away the crown of the victory; so a Christian, when he has gotten power over any corruption or temptation, sends for Christ, that he may carry away the crown of the victory. As the silkworm, when she weaves her curious work, hides herself under the silk, and is not seen; so when we have done anything praiseworthy, we must hide ourselves under the veil of humility, and transfer the glory of all we have done to God. As one used to write the name of Christ over his door—so should we write the name of Christ over our duties. Let him wear the garland of praise!

[17] We glorify God by a holy life. A bad life dishonors God. “You are a holy nation, that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you.” The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you.” Epiphanius says, “That the looseness of some Christians in his time made many of the heathens shun their company, and would not be drawn to hear their sermons.” By our exact Bible-lives, we glorify God. Though the main work of true religion lies in the heart, yet our light must so shine that others may behold it. The safety of a building is the foundation—but the glory of it is in the frontispiece. Just so, the beauty of faith is in the godly life. When the saints, who are called jewels, cast a sparkling luster of holiness in the eyes of the world, then they “walk as Christ walked.” When they live as if they had seen the Lord with bodily eyes, and been with him upon the mount—they adorn true religion, and bring revenues of glory to the crown of heaven!

Advertisements

QLD Votes: A matter of life and death

It’s easy for Christians (along with the wider public) to be fed up with the state of politics in Queensland and Australia more broadly. With contentious postal surveys about the redefinition of marriage, a political crisis over widespread ineligibility of MPs to sit in Parliament and lacklustre leaders on both sides of the divide at the state and federal level, it’s difficult to participate in the political process with confidence that things will get better.

But it’s essential that we think carefully about how to vote at the QLD state election in two weeks time, as the outcome may literally be a matter of life and death for thousands of vulnerable Queenslanders…

22459194_1682314445120393_572025897565872905_o.jpg

When controversial former Labor MP for Cairns Rob Pyne failed to get his changes to abortion law in Queensland through the Parliament earlier this year, the government made a concerning pledge. The ALP promised to refer the laws concerning abortion in the state Criminal Code to the Queensland Law Reform Commission (QLRC) for review if it won the next election (i.e. the one we’re having this month). While the QLRC’s recommendations cannot be anticipated with certainty it is fairly clear, from a political point of view, that the government hopes to have member of the legal community do their dirty work for them in paving the way for decriminalisation of abortion.

This means that should the Palaszczuk government be re-elected later this month, it is highly likely that it will attempt to fully legalise abortion in Queensland in the next term of parliament.

Ominously, the Premier called the election immediately after disowning the most outspokenly pro-life member of her government, Pumicestone MP Rick Williams. Whatever Mr. Williams’ personal faults may prove to be as further details come to light, he has certainly been active in opposing moves in the Parliament to make abortion more acceptable in Queensland and even joined other MPs in leading a March for Life parade through Brisbane earlier this year.

This means that in re-elected Labor government, the voices against liberalising abortion laws will be even softer than in this term of parliament. While the Premier and the Attorney-General do not appear to be rabid proponents of abortion-on-demand, they are also not willing to speak out against it when it is pushed for by members of the (increasingly dominant) Left faction of Queensland Labor, led by Deputy Premier Jackie Trad. This means that should the QLRC recommend abortion be decriminalised in Queensland, Ms. Trad and her allies will push for it so strongly that it will become government policy and eventually become law.

If abortion becomes decriminalised in Queensland, it will remove what little safeguards against it are currently enshrined in our legal system and these lethal procedures will be able to take place more easily, with the doctors who perform them becoming free from any fears of legal punishment for unjustifiably destroying a human life.

Put simply, more vulnerable, unborn children in Queensland will die if the dominant Left faction in Labor gets its way.  

22829158_1699181833433654_3526567839929316069_o.png

So what is the alternative? Sadly in Queensland at the moment the options are not great. The LNP has a leader that leaves a lot to be desired and who is hardly a champion for the lives of those his political opponents would happily sacrifice to further their ideology. Liberal/National MPs in Queensland have at best supported the status quo (which allows abortions to occur in many circumstances), rather than advocating much needed reform to prevent abortion-on-demand from occurring. But they deserve some credit for putting up a united front to the changes Mr. Pyne proposed in the last parliament and were instrumental in seeing his bill defeated.

In my own electorate, the newly minted Maiwar, I have no real pro-life option to support with my vote. The ALP candidate Ali King is a pro-abortionist who is bankrolled by Emily’s List (an organisation which supports women getting elected to Parliament if they agree to push a particular agenda which includes voting in favour of abortion at every turn). She has also signed the pledge being promoted by “Fair Agenda” that commits candidates to voting to decriminalise abortion, as has the Greens candidate for this electorate, Michael Berkman.

Meanwhile, Scott Emerson (who would likely be Treasurer in an LNP government) is our LNP candidate, but he too is in favour of abortions occurring legally (the only difference is that he is more moderate in his support than the other two candidates). This leaves only an independent candidate who supports a direct democracy approach (i.e. electors express their wishes on a particular bill online and the MP votes on it in accordance with the will of the electorate) who provides any possible alternative to the candidates that support the killing of unborn children.

23120123_1702490659769438_2512299763431967416_o.png

Do you know where your candidates stand on this important issue of life and death? If you intend to vote for the ALP in two weeks’ time – are you sure that your local candidate would be a voice in the party room in defense of the right to life of unborn Queenslanders? If you aren’t, can I plead with you not to give them your first preference.

If you intend to vote for the LNP, are you confident that your local candidate will contribute to shifting this party’s position more in favour of supporting life and not weakening its already lacking stance? If not, please consider voting for someone else if you can find a pro-life candidate.

23154952_1703548179663686_8929873284853035855_o.jpg

I can’t enthusiastically or wholeheartedly support the LNP, but I do wholeheartedly oppose the ALP and Greens as parties with policy commitments that threaten the basic right to life of our most vulnerable citizens. There are many reasons to be disillusioned about the prospect of a Nicholls government, but they would be unlikely to pursue this agenda the way a re-elected government appears to be committed to doing. But any government where the likes of Jackie Trad and Steven Miles have significant policy influence is a real and present danger to the lives of thousands of children conceived in Queensland every year.

So whoever you decide to vote for this month, please don’t give your support to a candidate or party that is committed to the erosion of what little legal protection we have left for our unborn citizens. If you need help finding out where your candidates stand, please let me know and I’ll do what I can to assist with your inquiries.

Let’s vote for a Queensland where the sacred dignity of all human life is taken seriously.

‘Nailing’ the essence of the Reformation: Key catchphrases

We’ve finally reached 31 October 2017 – 500 years since Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg  Church door on All Hallow’s Eve in the hopes of sparking a debate within the Catholic Church about the nature of repentance and the appropriateness of indulgences.

There are many ways we can celebrate this momentous anniversary, but there’s little point in any of it if we don’t understand what the Reformation was really about. Here’s a very brief guide to the essence of the Reformation, through the lens of the key catchphrases that summarise the truths that Luther, Calvin and their colleagues contended for so vigorously.

THE FIVE SOLAS 

“Scripture Alone” (Sola Scriptura)

Protestants believe that many people and things in our lives can carry authority, provide information or act as guides to us. But “Scripture Alone” means we recognise the Bible as the only infallible (i.e. unfailing and therefore reliable) Word of God that conveys His supreme authority to our lives. There are many voices in the world with much to say about God, sin, salvation, happiness and how we approach life now and our eternal future. But only the Bible is inspired by God (see 2 Timothy 3:16) and teaches with certainty “all things that are necessary for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3, LEB).

This belief stands in contrast to the traditional view of the Roman Catholic Church, in which the Pope and priestly hierarchy have the authority to interpret the Scriptures for the laity (i.e. the common people) and make determinations about what people should believe and how they should live.

“Grace Alone” (Sola Gratia) 

This refers to the basis for our salvation. God doesn’t save people because they are good, because they do good, or because they’re clever enough to figure out the truth about Him and believe. God saves people who are dead in their sins because of His own gracious and kind disposition towards them. No one earns or warrants salvation at any stage of their lives – if we receive eternal life it’s completely due to God’s mercy and generosity.

This is in contrast to the Roman Catholic view that, in addition to God’s grace, we are saved on the basis of what we do and what we become.

“Faith Alone” (Sola Fide) 

This is inseparable from “grace alone,” but it refers to the means by which we receive justification (our right standing or right status before God). God counts the Christian as righteous due to their union with Christ by faith. The believer is fully right in God’s sight from the moment they trust in Christ and what He has done for them (i.e. His perfect obedience, death and resurrection) and they are never more justified than they were at that point.

This is in contrast with the Roman Catholic system, which taught that faith plus works contributed to our receiving of salvation and that our co-operation was absolutely necessary in the process.

“Christ Alone” (Solus Christus)

This refers to the question of who acts as mediator between us and God and whose help we need in order to be saved. Protestants believe that salvation only comes through the person and work of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12) and that we approach God through Jesus alone – as the only Person who is simultaneously divine and human. We relate to God and receive life from Him, through faith in Jesus – and not through any other means or mediators.

This stands in contrast to the Roman Catholic system of many heavenly mediators we can call upon for help (Mary, saints, angels) and earthly priests who stand between us and God/Christ.

“To the Glory of God Alone” (Soli Deo Gloria)

Because an individual can take no credit for their own salvation by grace, and because their church, or priest (or a heavenly mediator like Mary) cannot be credited with bringing about their salvation either – God alone receives all glory for saving sinners. The purpose of our salvation, in the Protestant faith, is for God to be glorified as a merciful and powerful Saviour.

This stands in contrast to Catholicism where the Christian who enters heaven is partly responsible for their arrival there and the Pope, Church, priests, Mary, saints and others can receive some of the credit for aiding them in their salvation.

A FEW OTHER KEY PHRASES

The Threefold Office of Christ (Triplex Munus)

This refers to Jesus being God’s “anointed one” (Messiah/Christ) in three specific senses. He is the Ultimate Prophet who reveals God and His will to us like no one before or after Him has done. He is the Great High Priest who makes atonement for our sins and grants us unrestricted access to God. He is the Supreme King who rules over all and helps us conquer sin, Satan and the world.

This idea was not invented in the Reformation (it’s much older), but as an extension of the Reformers’ belief in “Christ Alone” this understanding of Jesus as Prophet, Priest and King became an antidote to the Catholic system of unnecessary spiritual mediators. Jesus spoke directly to believers through the Word – God did not have to reveal new things about Himself through priests. Jesus opened the way for intimate communion with God, by His blood – Christians didn’t need to come through priests, Mass or the saints. Jesus ruled as King – believers could follow and obey His orders without being enslaved to the invented rules and teachings of the Catholic hierarchy.

Priesthood of All Believers (Presbyterii fidelium)

This is a key idea that flows out of the one directly above. The Reformation abolishes priests as a special religious class, because Jesus Himself did so as our High Priest. All believers, young or old, educated or uneducated, married or single, were priests in the true sense and had the privilege of access to God through Christ and the responsibility to pray and care for other believers.

Back to the Sources” (Ad Fontes)

A cry of the humanistic Renaissance that became an important principle for the Reformers. The Reformers did not take the Catholic Church’s word for granted when it came to how the Christian faith should be understood and practiced. Instead they went back to the prime source of our faith, the Holy Scriptures, and searched them for themselves. They also read the works of Christians from earlier centuries in an effort to discover what had always been understood as true and what had gradually been introduced or invented by the Church. This was a crucial principle that allowed reform to take place.

Repent” (Poenitentiam Agite)

The 95 theses that instigated Luther’s programme of reform hinged partly on how to understand the Latin phrase for repentance.

Luther rejected the idea that repentance amounted to doing the acts of penance prescribed by the Catholic Church and instead saw it as a genuine spiritual turning from sin that was expressed in appropriate outward behaviour. Forgiveness from God was not attained through religious performances, donations or any action of the penitent. It was freely granted on the basis of God’s grace to those who turned from their sins and exercised faith towards Jesus Christ.

Here I Stand…” (Hier stehe ich)

When Luther was called before the Diet of Worms (a political and religious assembly in the Holy Roman Empire) to give an account for his beliefs, the Catholic authorities called upon him to renounce what he had been teaching.

Luther famously replied,

Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason-for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves-I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound. Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me. Amen.

The phrase has become a catch-cry for subsequent generations of Protestant Christians as a symbol of bold defiance towards Catholic pressure to betray the truths the Reformers rediscovered in the Scriptures.

After Darkness – Light” (Post Tenebras Lux)

This phrase has come to serve as a motto of thankfulness and hope in relation to God’s deliverance of His church out of the spiritual darkness of medieval Catholicism through the light of the gospel recovered at the Reformation. It recalls the messianic hope of Isaiah 9:2 “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (NIV).

Christians before 1517 were kept in the darkness of ignorance by the church that refused to give them access to the Scriptures in their own language. They were at risk of eternal darkness because the gospel of Christ was obscured by erroneous teachings. But wherever Protestantism has spread, God has brought light to His people through His Word and the clear preaching of the Gospel of His Son.

Always Reforming” (Semper Reformanda)

Some churches self-identify as “reformed” in reference to the fact that their beliefs and practices have been shaped by God’s Word and the principles emphasised during the Reformation. But while there are no grounds to reinvent Christianity every generation or re-evaluate the core truths that Christians have always understood as both biblical and essential – there remains a need for Christians to have the desire to be continually reformed by the Word of God.

The motto Semper Reformanda drives a stake deep into the heart of the attitude that says “We’ll keep doing things this way at church, because it’s just the way we’ve always done it.” It demands constant obedience to God’s Word and re-evaluation of doctrine and practice when Scripture shows us to be deficient in some areas. We do not foolishly reject history and tradition for an approach that seeks to change the church based on what we “feel” needs altering. But we do recognise that we have not finally arrived at perfect theology, Christlikeness, piety or obedience and that God will continue to show His people where we need to repent and be reformed – until the return of His Son to rule over us directly for all eternity.

 

Happy 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation!

 

 

 

 

Protestant Profiles #31: Ayako Miura

Ayako Miura (1922-1999)

ayako miura

Born: Asahikawa, Japan
Role: author/novelist
Emphases: original sin, deception, shame, grace and forgiveness, the sacrifice of Christ, Christian love
Protested Against: national sins related to Japanese militarism

Ayako Hotta became a junior teacher at age 17, during the years of Japan’s involvement in World War II. Two main factors brought about a personal crisis for Ayako during the post-war years. For one, she was confronted with the reality of her nation’s imperial might being defeated and coming under American occupation. She had faithfully indoctrinated her students in the hyper-militaristic worldview that dominated Japanese society during the early-mid 20th century, but Japan’s loss made her realise she had been promoting a lie.

Then, shortly after her engagement to be married, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1947. The combination of these events drove her deep into depression and a nihilistic outlook on life. Being forced to call off her engagement due to her debilitating sickness drove her to attempt suicide in 1950 (she was prevented by her former fiancé).

The gentle persistence of a Christian friend named Tadashi Maekawa (who himself had tuberculosis and had lost his younger sister to the disease earlier) led to Ayako reconsidering her nihilism. Reading the Book of Ecclesiastes challenged her misconceptions about the simplistic nature of Christianity and spoke directly to her sense of meaninglessness in life. In her autobiography The Wind is Howling, Ayako recounts that the ending of the book “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth” struck her powerfully and “From that time on my search steadily became more serious.”

Several years later, while convalescing in hospital, Ayako had an epiphany about sin. “I began wondering whether it was not the greatest sin of all to be unaware of one’s sin. And then I felt I had begun to understand the significance of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.” A severe diagnosis of tuberculosis in her spine solidified this sense of her sinfulness.

“Although my spine was being eaten away by tuberculosis and I stumbled as I walked, we had been blind to its presence simply because it had not appeared on the X-ray. If this ignorance had continued, might not all my bones have been affected? I certainly would have died. And then I thought, ‘The same could be true of my soul.’ Maybe I did not realise my heart was being eaten away or how infected I was, simply because I was unaware of my sin.”

She became a believer in Christ and was baptised shortly afterwards.

Ayako was a fine poetess and frequently had her work published in Araragi, a top Japanese literary magazine. Her close Christian friend Tadashi, whom she had fallen in love with, was also a keen poet and great source of encouragement to her writing. His death from TB in 1954 rocked her greatly, but during her season of grieving she busied herself with connecting seriously ill Japanese patients with Christian publications. She was soon getting inquiries about the faith from patients across the country.

She married Matsuyo Miura in 1960, who was also a great encouragement to Ayako in her faith and the use of her gift of writing. Her first novel, Hyoten (‘Freezing Point’) was serialised in Asahi Shimbun (one of Japan’s main, national, daily newspapers) from 1964-65 and won the newspaper’s literary award that year – earning her nationwide recognition as an emerging author. Hyoten details the intrigues of a couple with a strained marriage, murdered daughter and adopted child with a dark past. It seeks to explore the theme of original sin in a manner that would be accessible to non-Christian Japanese readers.

Perhaps her most famous novel came a few years later. Shiokari Pass is a love story interwoven with the characters’ attraction and antipathy towards Christianity and thinly veiled autobiographical connections to Miura’s own tuberculosis. It culminates in a great episode of personal sacrifice that powerfully depicts the substitutionary death of Christ to readers. Miura also produced works such as A Heart of Winter, which is stylised as the baptismal testimony and confessions of a young Japanese woman who has long personal journey of shame, revenge and redemption.

Miura continued to use her platform as a nationally recognised author to pen novels with an evangelistic thrust such as these – in the hopes that more of her fellow Japanese would begin to share her understanding and appreciation of the Christian gospel. In addition to these stories, Miura sought to produce resources that would help Japanese seekers understand the Christian faith which often seemed so foreign and perplexing. She wrote an introductory overview of the Christian faith (‘While there is still light’), and separate Introductions to the Old and New Testaments. She described her approach to writing as follows, “Directly or indirectly I write to transmit the gospel of Jesus Christ. Whether the work is literary or not, I write standing on this foundation of faith.”

Philip Gabriel, author of Spirit Matters: The Transcendent in Modern Japanese Literature,  summarised her significance as thus,

…no Japanese writer before Miura so openly declared that the point of writing is to transmit the gospel…her dozens of books in many genres, all testaments to her faith, established her as a unique  “missionary writer”, attracting great numbers of readers who may have had little initial interest in the faith under-girding her work.”

Ayako Miura died in her late seventies in 1999 and remains well-loved by Japanese Christians and widely known by the wider Japanese public. Her life and ministry brings our Protestant Profiles series to the end of the 20th Century and to the present frontiers of the ongoing Protestant Reformation.

Miura does not hold her place among the preceding 30 figures for rigorous, systematic theology or outspokenness against the errors of Catholicism or theological liberalism (both of which are real problems in Japan). But together with the other women featured in this series – Queen Jane of England, Selina Hastings, Fanny Crosby and Amy Carmichael – she was a notable figure in Protestant history in her own right, rather than being known for who she married or mothered. She embodies the evangelistic heart of the Protestant movement and the positive use of God-given gifts for communicating the message of Jesus far and wide to those who may otherwise never be reached by it. And uniquely among those featured previously, she represents the Asian future of Protestantism in distinction to the very European past reflected in our other profiles.

Ayako Miura shows us what it looks like to be a faithful evangelical Christian with a heart for people to know Jesus in a nation that has few of the resources possessed by Western churches and yet manages to have many of the same problems. Japan and Asia need to be reached for Christ and the churches in Asia must continually be reformed by the Word of God, lest they fall into errors that compromise the faith. For these things to happen, we will need to see God raise up more women and men with the heart and dedication of Ayako Miura, who are prepared to use their talents and indigenous knowledge of their culture to help their people encounter Jesus and become firmly grounded in His teachings.

Sources

Ayako Miura, The Wind is Howling 

Philip Gabriel, Spirit Matters

 

 

 

 

Protestant Profiles #30: Martyn Lloyd-Jones

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899 – 1981)

MLJ

Born: Cardiff, Wales
Role: preacher, author, evangelical statesman, president of IVF and chairman of IFES, Westminster Conference organiser
Emphases: firm commitment to evangelical principles, sola Scriptura, justification by faith alone, substitutionary atonement of Christ, need for regeneration
Protested against: liberalism, ecumenicalism, Catholicism, neo-orthodoxy, evolutionary theory

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones had a promising career as part of the London medical establishment ahead of him when his life took a dramatic turn. He experienced a spiritual conversion from nominal Christianity to true, living faith in Christ and began to develop a deep desire to preach the gospel in vocational ministry.

His departure from the wealth, comfort and prestige of practicing medicine in London to pastoral ministry in a small Calvinistic Methodist church in Wales was so astounding to many in his social circles that (as his biographer Eryl Davies notes) several newspapers picked up the story and ran headlines like “Leading Doctor turns Pastor.” But if MLJ had continued to practice medicine, his name would likely be forgotten today and the majority of his patients would now be long dead. His decision to enter the ministry changed many lives for all eternity and that is why he is fondly remembered by so many.

 

For just over a decade, MLJ ministered in Wales, where his preaching made a considerable impact. ‘The Doctor,’ as he was affectionately known (for Doctor Who fans, that puts him way before William Hartnell!), returned to London in 1938, where he would serve at the Westminster Chapel for three decades, until his retirement in 1968. He began as the associate of G. Campbell Morgan – a renowned preacher in his own right – and eventually became the main pastor of the congregation there.

 

MLJ is regarded by some as the greatest evangelical preacher of the 20th century. He was both thoroughly expositional and powerfully evangelistic. He likely holds the record for the most sermons in a single expository preaching series, with his Ephesians sermons numbering 260 and taking almost eight years to complete. This suggests that he could be overly detailed in his preaching and yet he had a remarkable gift for applying his text to the hearts and doubts of modern men and women.

 

The Doctor was a lover of the Puritans and sought to emulate their combination of solid Reformed theology and warm, experiential piety. He was committed to evangelicalism more than a particular denominational brand (his short work, What is an Evangelical? is well worth reading) but was willing to speak out against doctrinal error in various churches, including those within the evangelical movement.

 

His commitment to the gospel and evangelical principles did lead to disagreements with other key evangelical statesmen who seemed to MLJ to be less committed to some of the same positions. Whereas Billy Graham is revered by almost all evangelicals today – especially in America – as the greatest evangelist and above-reproach figure in evangelicalism, Lloyd-Jones refused to co-operate with him and his crusades in the 1950s. MLJ was (rightly) concerned with Graham’s use of liberal, Roman Catholic and high church Anglican leaders and church members as ‘counsellors’ in his evangelistic outreaches and his failure to distinguish his gospel ministry from the Christ-denying positions of these kind of churches.*

In the mid-1960s MLJ had a showdown with his friend and fellow British evangelical statesman John Stott over the place of evangelicals in denominations that were increasingly liberal in their theology. At a National Assembly of Evangelicals meeting in 1966, the Doctor gave an address which called for evangelical Christians in the UK to leave their compromised denominations and pursue pan-evangelical unity in distinction to the liberal churches. Stott [ab]used his position as chair of the session to take the stage and begin rebutting what Lloyd-Jones had said and denying the need for such drastic action. The two men partially reconciled later on, but their conflicting positions on this issue polarised British evangelicals for some time to come.

 

But while MLJ was prepared to take a stand for what he believed were compromises of evangelical standards, he was far more active in building evangelical co-operation and institutions than he was in contending with other prominent leaders. His involvement in the InterVarsity Fellowship and the International Federation of Evangelical Students were invaluable – with the Doctor having a positive global impact on evangelical student ministry. His involvement with the Banner of Truth Trust was key in its early days to fulfilling its mission to publish valuable Christian resources that connect evangelicals with the best of their theological heritage. He also used his profile and gifts to bless the Christian Medical Fellowship, help launch the London Theological Seminary and run a local ministers fraternal in London. While his involvement with the British Evangelical Council from the late 1960s highlights his points of difference with Stott and others, it also represents his constructive efforts to continue pursuing uncompromised evangelical unity.

 

From his retirement from pastoral ministry in 1968, for health reasons, until his death in 1981, MLJ busied himself with speaking, writing and promoting solid Reformed theology and principled evangelical co-operation.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones was the 20th century’s paragon of the strand of British, reformed evangelicalism that includes the English martyrs, the Puritans, Charles Spurgeon and J.C. Ryle. He embodied the same doctrinal emphases as these figures that came before him and shared their grave concerns about departures from Protestant principles by the English churches.

What is the legacy of such a man today – 36 years after his death? His uncompromising approach to the principles of the Reformation and its implications for ecclesiology (how we “do church”) are probably even less popular now than they were fifty years ago. This will mean that many evangelicals view the Doctor as a rigid and polarising figure, unreasonable and unnecessarily uncooperative with those who disagree with him. But others will celebrate him as a champion of truth and tireless labourer for evangelical prosperity for the very same reasons.

Those of us with deep appreciation for MLJ’s ministry and legacy needn’t be shy about his brilliance as a preacher and evangelical leader. Liberalism, heresy and watered-down Protestantism are even more of a problem in many denominations today than they were when the Doctor sounded the alarm in the 1960s. Many evangelical Christians will be forced to leave their compromised denominations in the coming years due to incompatible beliefs about the gospel, human sexuality and other issues. Lloyd-Jones is worth emulating in the 21st century both in taking a stand for the truths that count and urging better solidarity amongst those who hold core evangelical principles in common.

Many of Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ sermons are available on audio recording through the MLJ Trust. Take the opportunity to listen to one of the greatest evangelical preacher in living memory if you’ve never heard him preach before.

 

 

 

*[N.B. This is the reason Billy Graham does not feature in this series of Protestant Profiles. Despite being unquestionably one of the most effective evangelists of the 20th Century and being used by God to bring countless people to Christ, his unjustified co-operation with non-evangelicals prevents me from considering him as a model Protestant. In MLJ’s words: “He is anxious to evangelise, and that is right; but whether it is equally right to be sponsored by people who in reality deny your very message is another matter.”]

Sources

D.E. Davies, “LLOYD-JONES, David Martyn” Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals

D Martyn Lloyd-Jones, What is an Evangelical? 

Eryl Davies, Dr. D Martyn Lloyd Jones (biography)