Martin Luther: Rediscovering the Gospel and Reforming the Church (A Biographical Sermon)

reformation

Martin Luther: Rediscovering the Gospel and Reforming the Church

As we gathered at church this Reformation Sunday, we did so with the fruits of the Reformation still impacting our lives. From the Bibles in our laps (or on our phones) to the message justification by faith alone in Christ alone, we who know the true gospel of grace are, in so many ways indebted to the men and women of the Reformation. Through their suffering, couple with the faithful who have gone before and after them, we have received an incredible heritage.

Accordingly, it is appropriate to spend time learning from their example. Indeed, it is even biblical. Hebrews 13:7 says, “Remember those who taught you the word of God, consider the outcome of their lives, and imitate their faith.” This morning, that is what our church did, setting our series of Ephesians aside for one week, in order to remember the life of Martin Luther and to learn from his faith.

Indeed, any study of Martin Luther requires a specific topic. His writing is so voluminous and his impact, not to mention his personality, is so vast, it requires any biographer to hone in on some aspect of his life. When John Piper preached a biographical sermon on Luther, he chose his relationship with God’s Word. For me, I chose to focus the church he aimed to reform with the gospel he reclaimed.

In this biographical sermon, I considered how Luther’s rediscovery of the gospel led him to fight for the purification and replanting, if you will, of the church. In truth, he never abandoned the church, but with the key of the gospel, he sought to unlock the church from its captivity to Rome. Therefore, there is much to learn from Luther about the gospel and the church, and how we can and ought to be gospel-centered churches.

To find out what we can learn from the life and legacy of Martin Luther, you can listen to the sermon online, or you can read the sermon notes. Discussion questions and additional resources are included below. Continue reading

Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Preaching and Preachers, Revival and Religion

mljA few months ago I finished Iain Murray’s condensed version of his two-volume biography on Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 1899–1981. For those who do not know of “The Doctor,” Martyn Lloyd-Jones left the medical profession to be a preacher. From the late 1920s to the 1970s he was a powerful Calvinistic evangelist, whose pastoral labors took his to Wales and London, England.

Situated at Westminster Chapel, Lloyd-Jones impacted many prominent scholars (J. I. Packer and Iain Murray), interacted with dozens of evangelical leaders, and carried out a preaching ministry that shaped the likes of John MacArthur and John Piper. Though a generation removed from the Young, Restless, and Reformed crowd, his expositional commitment and doctrinal convictions have been carried on in his preaching, his writing, and his publishing house—the Banner of Truth Trust, which was begun under his ministry.

In short, Lloyd-Jones lived remarkable life as a man committed to prayer and evangelistic, expositional preaching. I benefitted greatly from reading his biography, especially in his treatment of subjects like preaching, revival, religion, and evangelism. In what follows, I have listed a number of his insightful comments on these and others subjects.

May they spur you on towards love and good deeds and (re)fuel in you a hunger for the Word of God rightly preached and warmly embraced. Continue reading

Lottie Moon: Further Reading

For Further Reading

Much of the information, anecdotes, and theological considerations in these blog posts about Lottie Moon have come from Tom Nettles eminently helpful chapter on Lottie Moon. Fuller treatments can be found in Catherine Allen’s book and Keith Harper’s edited volume of Lottie’s personal letters and memoirs.  Daniel Akin also preached a sermon on Lottie Moon at SEBTS, and it has been transcribed in his little book, Five Who Changed the World.

If you know of other good resources, please let me know.

Books

Catherine B. Allen, The New Lottie Moon Story, 2nd Ed. (Birmingham, AL: Women’s Missionary Union, 1980).

Lottie Moon, Send the Light: Lottie Moon’s Letters and Other Writings, ed. Keith Harper (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2002)

Chapters

Daniel L. Akin, “The Power of a Consecrated Life: The Ministry of Lottie Moon” in Five Who Changed the World (Wake Forest, NC: Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 57-80.

Tom Nettles, “Lottie Moon (1840-1912)” in The Baptists: Key People Involved In Forming a Baptist Identity, Vol. 2 (Ross-shire, UK: Mentor, 2005), 363-94.

 

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

William Wilberforce: A Factory of Good Works

I love the way politician William Wilberforce united his faith to his legislative action.  For those who don’t know Wilberforce, he was the single driving force in England to end the slave trade.  He was a peer of John Newton, pastor and author of the hymn “Amazing Grace.”  He was a bold advocate for public justice, but one who spent countless hours in personal meditation on the truth of God’s word.  In other words, his appeals for justice were fruit the Spirit at work in his life.

Consider John Piper’s description of Wilberforce in his biographical sermon, “Peculiar Doctrines, Public Morals, and the Political Welfare.”  He shows how good works overflowed from this man who was filling his mind with Christian truth and walking in the power of the Spirit.

What made Wilberforce tick was a profound Biblical allegiance to what he called the “peculiar doctrines” of Christianity. These, he said, give rise, in turn, to true affections – what we might call “passion” or “emotions” – for spiritual things, which, in turn, break the power of pride and greed and fear, and then lead to transformed morals which, in turn, lead to the political welfare of the nation. He said, “If . . . a principle of true Religion [i.e., true Christianity] should . . . gain ground, there is no estimating the effects on public morals, and the consequent influence on our political welfare.” [1]

But he was no ordinary pragmatist or political utilitarian, even though he was one of the most practical men of his day. He was a doer. One of his biographers said, “He lacked time for half the good works in his mind.” [2] James Stephen, who knew him well, remarked, “Factories did not spring up more rapidly in Leeds and Manchester than schemes of benevolence beneath his roof.” [3] “No man,” Wilberforce wrote, “has a right to be idle.” “Where is it,” he asked, “that in such a world as this, [that] health, and leisure, and affluence may not find some ignorance to instruct, some wrong to redress, some want to supply, some misery to alleviate?” [4] In other words, he lived to do good – or as Jesus said, to let his light shine before men that they might see his good deeds and give glory to his Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).

But he was practical with a difference. He believed with all his heart that new affections for God were the key to new morals (or manners, as they were sometimes called) and lasting political reformation. And these new affections and this reformation did not come from mere ethical systems. They came from what he called the “peculiar doctrines” of Christianity. For Wilberforce, practical deeds were born in “peculiar doctrines.” By that term he simply meant the central distinguishing doctrines of human depravity, divine judgment, the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross, justification by faith alone, regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and the practical necessity of fruit in a life devoted to good deeds. [5]

Wilberforce’s public service is not only a model for Christian politicians, but a model for all Christians.  He was a factory of God works, as his friends attested, and in this way he shows the kind of worldly good the gospel can effect when a man is gripped by the “peculiar doctrines” of Jesus Christ.

May we consider his life and imitate his faith.  (Piper’s biography is available online and in print.  I would encourage you to read or listen to it).

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Weekend Websites: Audio Resources from Desiring God and 9 Marks

One of the most edifying activities that I have engaged in since becoming a Christian has been listening to sermons, biographies, and interviews while driving, working at home, or doing monotonous computer work.  When I was a church janitor in Chattanooga, TN, I would often and repeatedly listen to John Piper’s expository messages as I vacuumed the church.  On many solitary cross-country drives, Dr. Piper was again my tour guide.  He introduced me to so many heroes of the faith through his yearly biographical messages from his pastor’s conference.  His voice still reverberates in my mind, even today, as I think about his inspiring messages on Spurgeon, Brainerd, Luther, Owen, Paton, Calvin, and others.  

More recently, I have begun listening to the Mark Dever’s audio interviews.  I await with anticipation the first day of every month, when 9 Marks Ministries (typically) releases new interviews with pastors, theologians, and church leaders.  These  engaging and lively conversations have clarified my thinking on many theological and ecclesial matters and they always rekindle my desire to serve the Christ’s church.  My favorite interview is definitely C.J. Mahaney’s interview with Mark Dever.  If you know anything about C.J., you can understand why.  If you are experienicng any kind of depression in life or ministry, this interview will surely lift your soul.  (In the spirit of these interviews, I even attempted to conduct one myself at SBTS with Dr. Jonathan Pennington, in an interview sponsored by the Theology School Council at Southern Seminary).

With all that said, I commend these two resources as this weekend’s website(s): Desiring God’s biographies and 9 Marks interviews.  These treasure troves are filled with wisdom and they are conducted in a format that I have found can be received and enjoyed in a variety of settings.  Unlike sermons, I can listen to them while doing a variety of things.  For me, sermons take much more effort to process and apply, and so they require a healthy measure of reflection and repentance.  These audio other audio formats–biography and interview– may at times call for such response, but typically they are more readily processible as you go about your daily affairs–mindlessly working on the computer, driving, having dominion over your home (i.e. chores), or vacuuming the church.  I have benefitted immensely from these audio resources, and I hope you will do the same.  In a world that beckons us to be conformed to its standards, meditating on these edifying conversations can be a salubrious antidote to its corrupting effects and a tremedous means of spiritual and ministerial growth.  I hope you will join me in listening.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss