Reformation Sunday

To many reading this article, the following Latin phrase may mean little to you, Coram Deo, interpreted, “before the face of God”. This was a phrase often spoken by Reformers of the 16th century which emphasized that all of life was to be lived as though you were before God every moment of the day. Since Sunday is Reformation Day, we will spend some time on this idea of living out our lives in similar fashion, as before God, and why this can even be possible. The reason why we can live for God in a consecrated fashion begins with forgiveness.
Martin Luther discovered the truth of forgiveness when he understood that it is granted by God freely by faith. It was in his later years at the monastery, that the Biblical passage from Romans 1:17, the “righteous shall live by faith” had resonated in his heart and mind, the newly discovered doctrine, only new in the sense that Luther never understood it before. It was only afterwards that Luther became a Christian. From there, his studies into Sacred Scripture led him to the position that salvation is a gift of God and none can earn it. Of course, the religious order in which he was part of opposed him. Luther learned that salvation was granted by God through Christ’s sacrifice and received by faith that hearts are truly changed. Before his salvation, he only knew about God but never truly realized what saving faith was all about, and that living for God without saving faith was impossible.
Luther was earnest and determined in his newfound faith. He would live life as though he was before God each moment of the day. Living before the face of God was not something that originated with Luther either since many had done so before Luther. Calvin, Knox and others knew about going through life with the awareness of being in God’s presence. In a sense, He was!
Even before the period of the Reformation, this idea of living your life day in and day out as though you were in God’s very presence, originated in Bible times. Many figures are named, but a couple of them that come to mind are the prophets Elijah and Isaiah. Elijah said, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before who I stand.” This was spoken by him despite having to face hostile forces seeking his demise; still, Elijah remained fixed on his LORD. Another instance was that of Isaiah who was overwhelmed when God came before him. Isaiah could only repeat how amazingly holy God is; three times he called Him holy in succession!
Many more similar instances are given in Scripture, but the challenge for us today is to live as though God is ever before us, like some of the courageous and conviction-filled figures we have seen from the past. But to do so, you must first ask yourself if you truly know the forgiveness of God? If not, then consider your state of sinfulness, and the plight of Luther and the condition he was in before realizing his own need to experience salvation by faith and the forgiveness of God. You must also follow the same path. It is entirely by the grace of God that this is even possible.
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17

A False Start

From a growing list of philosophies in circulation today, you probably could find one or two that most fit the way you live. It is said that almost everything about the way a man thinks and acts is related to a philosophy. Theorizing about man’s purpose in the universe and related matters does stretch our minds to consider possibilities that range from the abstract to the credible and everything in between. Yet only two platforms from which we draw our way of thinking and find our way in life can exist. Either we fashion our thoughts around the mindset that singles out the individual as the central figure in our universe, or you begin with God as your starting point in your search for truth. In either case you have two available paths to choose from: one path seems wide and all encompassing, while the other is straight and narrow. Whichever way you choose to follow your way of living will be sharply influenced by either man’s wisdom or God’s. Let me say up front that it is a fool’s errand to be strung along by speculative and intellectual musings and that is something we wish to avoid at all cost. While hundreds of philosophies exist, errors in thinking about man and our universe abound; yet no margin for error can exist with God — otherwise, He ceases to be God. Our Creator provides us with all the details necessary for this life and the life to come. He warns us to be careful about ideologies where He is not central or left out completely from its teachings.

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” Col 2:8

Many freethinking souls say that they have the answers, but their followers are led away from reality and truth. The prophet Jeremiah describes O.T. Israel when they abandoned God for another way of life in this way: they were like those who settled on leaking wells that are useless and leave you thirsty, instead of relying on God, the Fountain of living waters.

“for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Jer.2:13

While some branches of philosophy such as metaphysics (the study of what is), epistemology (how do we know?) and axiology (the theory of value, moral or otherwise), have some merit to them, yet any train of thought that promotes man as an autonomous figure that has no need for God or salvation is futile thinking. Such conceptions of a universe without the recognition of Christ as Creator and Redeemer will deeply affect our conduct, outlook and eternal fate. Certainly, some philosophers synchronize selective Biblical truths into their distinctive theories and rationale, but these efforts to strike a balance do not make their already flawed views any better, and in fact, may lead us even further from truth. Take for instance the attempt to incorporate that the purpose for Christ’s teaching and exemplary life in the gospels was to teach us how we can live a moral life. Some theoreticians see Christ as a moral example for us to mimic;  and may even cite some of the commandments and some sayings of Jesus; and may seek to link Him to other notable figures in history such as Mohammed, Buddha, Marx, etc. While this attempt to blend selective parts of Christianity into the whole of their way of thinking may sound reasonable, it misses the point of the gospel. Consider the following verses from Acts and Peter:

“For we live, move, and exist because of him,” Acts 17:28

“by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” 2 Pet. 1:4b

Scriptures teach us that our lives are bound up in Christ. It is not about living a good life to earn a passing mark with God and thus gain His approval but about being saved from our sins. In a letter to Timothy Paul writes:

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” 1 Tim. 1:15

A compromised view of life by splitting the difference between man’s opinion and God’s Truth, no matter how decent and conventional it may seem to us, is no better than filling your gas tank with water; the tank may be full, but you are not going anywhere. Same thing can be said about syncretistic thinking. What is more it will only lead to an unfortunate end.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Pro.16:25

Christ’s perfect righteousness cannot be understood apart from the basic truth that Christ is God in the flesh, and any who wish to become a follower of His must first know that an inner transformation of the heart is needed. Ezekiel spoke of this radical inner change as being given a new heart and spirit. These metaphorical terms help to explain what happens inside the repentant sinner when he experiences salvation. This then is the reason why Christ came into the world – to save sinners like us. A system of thought that wishes to represent reality must base its teaching on the premise that man has sinned and is in a lost spiritual state that requires a Savior which God provided in HIs Son, Jesus Christ. Apart from those essentials, you have no real foundation to build upon. Those that try are on loose footing and far from the truth that they seek to tell about.

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Cor 10:5




Truth Does Matter

Wander down any university hallway and surely you will come across a department of philosophy. Here you can study ideas in their historical context and how influential they were on that specific period in our history. It asks questions like “how should we understand the progress of this or that civilization, or humanity as a whole? It is a way of understanding the past through a particular lens, simply put a way of thinking about life. What emerges then is a way to view history so we can learn enough from it to avoid the same past mistakes. Interpreting history through a particular ideology may be tricky, even dangerous since either it liberates us to see things from God’s perspective and follow His course of life or it may enslave us to follow a humanistic view which rules out God’s intervention into history and sees our past and current situations as nothing more than unrelated events with seemingly no cohesion and no ultimate goal. Some, as is the case with Marxists and Postmodernists, find meaning through a narrow viewing glass that sees egalitarianism as the end goal.

Let us back-up a bit before we face off between a Divinely appointed end and the idea that history itself is absurd and has no ultimate meaning, other than the subjective means man chooses to attach to it. We begin with the Enlightenment period. It has been described as an age whose primary emphasis was upon reason, all-embracing reason as a philosopher has described it. Optimism was the order in that age, especially right after the second world war, where peace and prosperity were thought to be on the immediate horizon. Mankind felt that reason and knowledge put us on the road to human emancipation or autonomy, and that it sought to disassociate itself from traditionalism. At that time man became convinced that scientific knowledge and technology would be the way to a better life and would lead us further into our social progress. According to popular opinion, western civilization would never look back. But the dream came crashing down where succeeding generations sadly found out that previous hope of a better future were both premature and disappointing; where now whatever optimism may have been shared in a past era; any bright future ahead finds disapproval and rejection by the postmodernists of our day. Pessimism has replaced positivism from an earlier era.

Present day philosophers speak of the period we live in as Post modernity and refer to it in part as the loss of confidence in what we knew formerly to be the age of reason. The thought is that the influence of science and industrialization failed to solve much of this worlds problems and optimism faded, leaving behind a sense that most everything is uncertain and unpredictable. Just as in the 18th century, where the enlightenment era bred a new way of looking and feeling about things apart from traditionalism, came to believe in a brighter future, today post modernity now distrusts simple reality and despair sets in instead where even objective truth is rejected in the grand narrative. To the postmodernists history becomes nothing more than a bunch of detached stories unrelated in form and structure where it only becomes possible to find meaning by yourself interacting with the narrative to form any meaning from it. In reality, history becomes meaningless since it is left to someone else to find meaning in it by subjecting it to his own experience of reality. Meaning is not inherent in the text itself but must be brought to life by the interpreter, which leaves many viewpoints and perspectives that differ to each other and has no real centre in which objective reality can be known. Today’s Christian opinion runs afoul of the current trend that may be best characterized as a mix of skepticism, subjectivism or relativism which deny the existence of objective truth; which can be the case if their prism is anything other than a God perspective, then their ideology colors their historical narrative. Truth becomes the first war casualty when humans judge our past strictly from a human experience. For a moment, let us look to heaven to find out something about the course of history and where we are going.
The apostle John had lived during the Roman empire. He had been numbered among many Christians to be found in violation of the decree to acknowledge self-ascribed ruler as divine, and because of that he was relegated to the isle of Patmos, currently a Greek Island off the coast of Turkey. It was there that John was given a series of visions from God wherein he saw certain occurrences taking place in heaven. John sees both a lion and a lamb, both images of Christ, wherein one symbolizes quest and sacrifice, and a scroll. The scroll is in the right hand of Him seated on the throne and sealed with seven seals. An angel poses a question about the worthiness of any who might open the seal, and when none reply in heaven, John begins to weep. That is when the Lion of Judah appears. Only Jesus is worthy seeing that He came as a lamb to die for sinners and will return as Conqueror to receive them at His second coming. Jesus draws attention to the fact that He is worthy since He breaks the seal and opens the scroll depicting that He alone can and does interpret history but too, executes its events according to the divine plan of God! So that history follows a plan that will ultimately usher in a new age for His Redeemed people, which we know will take place in a new heaven and new earth. The linear time line is not encoded with mystery and secrets about the future, but rather on God’s Calendar. Much is given in the book of Revelation regarding the disclosure of profound forces against the Church and His gospel and the action of God against them! Some eminent philosophers may have abandoned the traditional methods of the philosophy of history and stopped looking to the purpose of providence directing the course of events. The Marxists and the Postmodernists may see equality and freedom as the proprietorial if we are to find meaning in history, but that misses the point that Christ is at the Lord of history and is both its interpreter and its executor Who in the end of time will bring all things under His authority for the purpose of His Glory and that of the Father and to reconcile His elect to Himself. One day Christ will return in His Glory and triumphantly reign over all of His creation.
Does history have a central point in which all things are governed by? Or is it for you a matter of blind chance, or some intransigent element like economic equality or social freedom that guides your thinking to believe in some kind of reason for all the things both terrible and good from past eras for you to be able and make sense of it all. When Christ is at the epicenter of it all, it all begins to fit together nicely. In two weeks time more about this but for now what is essential is that you consider where you stand today with God. God calls you to consider His Son and His offer of salvation. Do you recognize that He is the holder of the keys of heaven and hell and has complete authority to cast you in hell or save you?

I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. Rev.1:18

We have intonated earlier, that Christ is the only one worthy to open the scroll for He alone is the originator and executor of what takes place in our universe. That is why He is praised in heaven and we should praise Him too.
Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. Rev.5:12

In two weeks time more on history’s relevance.