Today marks 70 years since the wedding of Princess Elizabeth of the United Kingdom and Lt. Philip Mountbatten of the Royal Navy, the newly minted Duke of Edinburgh (formerly a Prince of Greece & Denmark). By God’s grace they have reached a milestone attained by no … Continue reading 70 years of marriage in the spotlight
Photo: Tony Abbott portrayed as Satan in a Sydney mural (via: quadrant.org.au) I don’t know about you, but on more than a few occasions I’ve heard people speak about “sectarianism” (i.e. social division between religious groups) in Australia as a negative element of the past. In … Continue reading Australia’s New Sectarianism
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Ayako Miura (1922-1999)
Born: Asahikawa, Japan
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.
Ayako Miura, The Wind is Howling
Philip Gabriel, Spirit Matters
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899 – 1981)
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.”]
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)
With only a few days left until the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation (Tuesday 31st October), how will you be celebrating?
Here are a few suggestions on how you can commemorate this important occasion if you don’t already have plans or need some ideas…
1) Prayer(s) of Thanksgiving
Whether you’re alone or gathered with friends next Tuesday, would you consider taking time to thank God in prayer for His mercy and kindness in bringing the Reformation about and allowing us to live in a time when we can benefit from its fruits.
There are innumerable things we could give thanks for on this occasion, but the main ones would be that we are able to access God’s Word and the clarity of the gospel of Christ in our own language, without being kept in the dark by a corrupted, religious establishment.
2) Read the Bible
One of the best ways to celebrate the Reformation is to go to the Word of God yourself and read it carefully and regularly. As you open your Bible this week and next, it is worth pausing for a moment to recall William Tyndale‘s part in the Reformation – risking his life and eventually losing it as a result of his dedication to ensuring the Scriptures were available in English.
If regular reading of God’s Word hasn’t been part of your life recently, the Reformation anniversary offers an opportunity for re-dedication to this crucial means of grace.
This is a strange suggestion to make for commemorating a historical event, but the very first of Martin Luther’s 95 theses read: When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. When we have a defective view (or practice!) of repentance our life of discipleship is dangerously askew.
The Catholic Church’s teaching and practice on repentance was one of its key deficiencies that drew Luther’s concern. Few of my readers would have a medieval Catholic view of what repentance looks like, but we are all prone to making it peripheral, rather than crucial to our relationship with God.
In the past week, have you taken any time to repent of thoughts, attitudes and actions that you know to be displeasing to God? Reflecting on the instigation of the Reformation confronts all of us to get serious about confessing our faults to God, asking for forgiveness and turning away from sin to Christ.
4) Familiarise yourself with some of the key doctrines and themes of the Reformation
Could you explain why you’re a Protestant to a Roman Catholic workmate? Or break down the meaning of justification by grace through faith to a child? Or talk about the “priesthood of all believers” with a new Christian? Getting clear in your own mind the truths that were recovered and emphasised by the Reformers is one of the best ways to make the most of this 500th anniversary.
Complacent evangelical churches become less Protestant as time goes on, because many of us fail to think seriously about how and why our movement started, what its core principles have been and how they apply today.
Here are some resources that will help you grasp these key truths:
Got Questions: Five Solas (brief)
Desiring God: What are the 5 solas? (more detailed)
Reformation Theology: Threefold Office of Christ (Prophet, Priest, King)
Timothy George on “The Priesthood of all Believers”
5) Read an overview of the Reformation
As a historical event, the details and timeline of the Reformation need to be known in order to appreciate its significance properly. In the lead-up to the anniversary, you might like to read a short overview of the events and after-effects of the Reformation.
9Marks: The Sunday before the 95 theses (in fictionalised short story form)
Monergism: Background to the Reformation (pdf)
Ligonier: Why the Reformation Matters (video)
Gospel Coalition: Top Ten Moments in Reformation History
6) Attend a celebratory Reformation service
Such a momentous anniversary is best celebrated with other Christians through corporate praise, reflection and hearing from God’s Word. If your church isn’t doing anything special to commemorate the Reformation, perhaps consider getting along to an event that is being held near you.
For those living in Brisbane (particularly on the Northside), City North Baptist Church will be holding a special service of celebration on Tuesday night of October 31st, which promises to be a great evening of fellowship and reflection. You can find details for that event here.
This weekend (28-29/10), there will be special events held at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Annerley by the Reformation Fellowship of QLD. Queensland Theological College lecturer Dr. Mark Baddeley will speak on Saturday on the theme “What if the Reformation didn’t happen?” with sessions running 9am-2pm (with breaks for morning tea and BYO lunch). On Sunday afternoon, 2pm, at the same location, there will be a Reformation Thanksgiving service.
My own church, Enogerra Baptist, will be commencing a sermon series on the 5 solas of the Reformation from this Sunday morning at 9:30am. Sermon audio will be available online here, shortly after each Sunday.
Finally, for those on the Southside of Brisbane, consider visiting Hope Reformed Baptist Church in Slacks Creek for a Reformation-themed service this Sunday night from 5:30pm.
7) Read some biographies of the Reformers
One of the best ways to get into the Reformation is to read a bit about the lives of those God used to make it happen. You could of course peruse our own Protestant Profiles series here at Lion & Phoenix (particularly the earlier editions), but Desiring God has produced an excellent devotional series “Here we Stand” for use leading up to the anniversary, featuring short biographical accounts of key Reformation figures.
8) Watch the Luther movie or a documentary on the Reformation
I’ve not yet seen the Luther movie, so I can’t vouch for its quality or historical fidelity, but I’m keen to watch it during this season. Even if it turns out to have its deficiencies, I’m sure it will have the capacity to generate dicussion about the events it depicts. You may also like to watch a documentary detailing the events of the Reformation in place of a dramatisation. [Update: this documentary looks like a winner]
9) Read some of the key documents that came out of the Reformation
If you’ve never read Martin Luther’s 95 theses, there will never be a more fitting time to peruse them than now (this article may assist you with understanding the context and their ongoing relevance)! But there are many other things you could read to appreciate the early reformers. The introduction to Luther’s Romans commentary touches on key points of his theology that were at stake in the Reformation. If you’d like to read an actual book by the man, his Bondage of the Will is short and readily accessible online and in print.
You could also try a section of Calvin’s Institutes which covers Reformed theology more broadly, or read through the Heidelberg Catechism – one of the most important summaries of Reformed teaching in simple Q&A format.
10) Internalize the truths of the Reformation and live them out!
An appreciation of the Reformation will lead us to see that the purpose of our salvation (and therefore our saved life hereafter) is the glory of God (“to God alone be the glory” – the final sola of the Reformation). This will cause us to re-engage with crucial Scriptures like: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31, ESV) and “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1b).
An appreciation of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone will lead us to look less to ourselves, our achievements and abilities and more to the finished work of our crucified and risen Saviour. It will both humble us and make us hopeful: steering us away from self-exaltation and self-condemnation.
An appreciation of being the priesthood of all believers will lead us to get on with the business of ministering to other Christians, not leaving it up to the “professional clergy” (that is, expecting your pastor to do all the work of the gospel).
An appreciation of the Reformation will lead us to embrace the principle semper reformanda “always reforming.” We want ourselves, our families, our churches and our communities to constantly be challenged and changed by the truths revealed in the Word of God.
And an appreciation of the clear, bright and pure gospel recovered and re-emphasised by the Reformation will move us to share the precious good news of Jesus with others – far and wide.
How will you celebrate 500 years of God’s grace outflowing through the Reformation?