It’s Not About US


This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image reveals the iridescent interior of one of the most active galaxies in our local neighbourhood

I’ve written another post which I titled “It’s Not About Us,” so maybe I should fish around and come up with something different for this one. But it seems like the most fitting summation of the fifth “Sola”: soli deo gloria or God’s glory alone.

So many people miss the fact that creation and salvation alike point to God as excellent. That’s what giving glory means. It’s a way of shining a spotlight on the star of the show. It’s a way of saying, without Him, this wouldn’t work, it wouldn’t be good. It’s a way of saying, Here’s the one who gets the credit.

And what should God get credit for? All that He’s done, because all His works are good. So God deserves glory for creation—everything we can see with the naked eye and all that we can only see with a microscope or a telescope. In other words, all that we have only recently discovered, is cause for us to glorify God. All of creation reflects who He is, though sin has even had an effect on the natural world. How so? I’ll save that discussion for another time because it deserves a much more complete answer than I can give in passing.

Besides creation, God deserves glory for what He does personally and individually. Psalm 139 tells us that God “formed my inward parts,” that He “wove me in my mother’s womb.” So we can start with the very life He gives.

Of course He sustains that life. He provides, protects, sustains.

He also cares for each of us emotionally. His Spirit comforts, for instance, and gives peace. He Himself is cause for joy. He makes our spirits glad.

Which takes us to God’s work which involves the spiritual. of most importance, He provides salvation for all who believe. Salvation is far more than the hope of heaven, though there certainly is that. But in the here and now, those who believe in Jesus Christ have His Spirit within.

This might be one of the most confusing truths for those who don’t believe. At the same time, for those who do believe, it’s one of the best aspects of salvation. We simply are no longer alone. We have God with us and available to us—to give us strength or wisdom or counsel or any number of things.

I have an author friend who keyed in on this concept in his first series of books. Ever since he signs his notes “Never alone.” Because we aren’t.

God deserves glory for His presence in our lives.

Even more, He deserves glory for His character. He reveals who He is through what He has made, what He did for the nation Israel, what His prophets said, the words His spirit inspired, and most especially in His Son who shows us the Father. So even though we have not seen God, we know about Him and we can know Him personally because He made a relationship possible.

When He reveals through Scripture that He is merciful, we don’t have to scratch our heads and wonder if God is merciful. He said He is. What grounds do we have to say otherwise?

Some people, to be sure, look at the sin-ravaged world and blame God. But all the wickedness and “inhumanity to man” that fill the world, are results of mankind going our own way—not something we can accuse God of doing. Just the opposite. He warned us not to go our own way, that to do so would lead to death.

God’s love and mercy often get a lot of attention, but He is just as deserving of praise for His righteous judgments. He doesn’t make mistakes. And for His sovereignty. For His omniscience. Psalm 139 again: He is “intimately acquainted with all my ways.”

That’s both comforting and frightening. How awesome that He knows me so well. But that also means there’s nothing I can hide from Him.

There are so many qualities that God has revealed about Himself, I know I could never present them all or do them justice. One that seems particularly significant to me is His transcendence. Another way to say that is that He is Other. He is above us, beyond us, better, able to do and be what we can never do or be.

Actually, God’s transcendence makes His Incarnation that more meaningful. In order to reconcile us to Himself He left heaven, yes, but He also became like us. He was greater in every respect, yet He became like the creature He had made.

So faith and grace and Scripture and even Christ Himself all give us cause to give God alone glory.

Published in: on October 27, 2017 at 4:51 pm  Comments Off on It’s Not About US  
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Nobody’s Perfect—Except One


When Martin Luther make his declarations that served as the catalyst to the Reformation, one of the key points focused on Christ—not His person. Not even His work. Luther didn’t disagree with the Church on those doctrines. Rather, his statement had to do with the sufficiency of Christ.

Evangelical Protestantism embraces that point while also declaring Christ’s person and work. Because, sadly, in our world many who claim the name of Christ, don’t hold fast to what the Bible says about who He is or what He has done.

Some say He was a good example, and we simply need to live the same kind of selfless life that He did. Some think He was created by God to carry out His plans. Some think “exercising faith in Jesus is vital to salvation” but they don’t see Him as God.

These positions are outside the teaching of the Bible. These false teachings use Scripture, pulled from its context, to explain what they believe, yet the essence of all these approaches is that Jesus is not God.

While the Bible doesn’t contain the words “Jesus is God,” in a thousand other ways it proclaims the divinity of Christ. The Church of old came to a settle view of Christ’s person—He is fully human and fully divine.

Any faith community that denies the divinity of Jesus Christ is simply not Christian no matter how they identify themselves. These false groups might recognize Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. They might even speak of His playing a part in salvation. But if they don’t accept that He is in fact God, they are teaching a different gospel than the one that the disciples preached.

But what was Luther on about, if not the person of Christ or His work? He was declaring that what Jesus did on the cross, needs nothing else. His work, and His work alone, paid the debt of sin. His work, and His work alone, satisfies the Father’s righteous wrath against sinners.

For centuries the Israelites took animals to the temple to make sacrifice for their sins. There were sacrifices when they knew they had sins, others when they didn’t know. There were peace offerings and thank offerings, offerings when they needed to be cleansed, others when they were celebrating. But all these sacrifices had one thing in common. They required a perfect animal, one without blemish and spotless.

In his first letter to the early Christians, the apostle Peter tied together the old sacrificial requirements with what Jesus accomplished:

you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. (1:18-19)

We could just as easily fit in other things from today’s culture: you were not redeemed with good works, with going to church regularly, with taking communion, with saying certain prayers, with ceremonial washings, with a word from a pastor or priest, with the laying on of hands. In short, we are not redeemed by anything we give or do or say.

Redemption comes from Christ alone.

There it is—the sola that Martin Luther preached. Through his extensive study of the Bible, he realized the truth that salvation comes through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross, plus nothing.

The apostle Paul spelled out Christ’s work a number of times in his letters. To the church in Colossae he wrote

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (2:13-14)

In short, spiritual life comes from Christ’s work at the cross.

Because the new life has such a powerful and transforming effect on the believer, people can easily mistake the outer results with the inner cause. But what a person does because He’s received the gift of salvation, has nothing to do with how he received the gift.

Simply put, we can add nothing to the work that Christ already accomplished.

How could we? Like the sacrifices of old, only a perfect offering is sufficient. Nothing about us qualifies.

In conclusion, this fourth sola gives us this picture of salvation: “According to the authority of Scripture alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone . . .”

That leaves one more piece to the puzzle which we’ll look at next time.

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