The Focus of Preaching

When the Spirit empowers the preaching of the Word of God its message becomes timeless. John Calvin wrote in the 16th century to warn his parishioners of the dangers of the opulent statuary of the Catholic church. His warning is still efficacious today.

What areas of our worship become crutches to facilitate merely external worship? What do we use to create an emotional experience when our hearts are far from God?

As evangelicals we rarely find our houses of worship filled with elaborate statuary or gilt. Instead we find technology and elaborate multimedia. Sometimes these become so important that they obscure the clear proclamation of God’s Word. We allow glamor and glitz to become the focus and let them eclipse the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Calvin’s warning is  timely. Even though he new little of the many modern distractions, his wisdom still speaks. We would do well if our churches were notorious for gospel preaching rather then the latest technology or for having the hippest service.

“Let those who would discharge aright the ministry of the gospel learn, not merely to speak and declaim, but to penetrate into the consciences of men, to make them see Christ crucified, and feel the shedding of his blood. When the Church has painters such as these, she no longer needs the dead images of wood and stone, she no longer requires pictures; both of which unquestionably, were first admitted to Christian temples when the pastors had become dumb and been converted into mere idols, or when they uttered a few words from the pulpit in such a cold and careless manner, that the power and efficacy of the ministry were utterly extinguished.”
-John Calvin, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians (Galatians 3:1)

The modern marvels of the technological era are often a blessing. Let’s keep them that way. Let’s use multimedia and technology to aid gospel preaching.  Just as long as we are careful to keep them from eclipsing Christ in our hearts and in our worship.

The Legacy of Luther -Part 2

Was Luther all that important? Were his reforms needed? Was the Reformation itself really necessary? Today we look sections of one of the sixteen documents of the Second Vatican Council to see what the Catholic church truly teaches. We see that even 400 years later the Catholic church still rejects the gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, through Christ alone, completed on the cross, as revealed in scripture alone to the glory of God alone. Luther’s reforms were, yea, are still needed.

“…the liturgy, ‘through which the work of our redemption is accomplished,'”

-Vatican II: Sacrosanctum concilium, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 1963, I

” At the Last Supper, on the night when He was betrayed, our Saviour instituted the eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again…a paschal banquet in which Christ is eaten…”

-Vatican II: Sacrosanctum concilium, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 1963, II

“…for well-disposed members of the faithful, the liturgy of the sacraments and sacramentals sanctifies almost every event in their lives; they are given access to the stream of divine grace which flows from the paschal mystery of the passion, death, the resurrection of Christ, the font from which all sacraments and sacramentals draw their power….”

-Vatican II: Sacrosanctum concilium, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 1963, III

“…[Christ Jesus] continues His priestly work through the agency of His Church, which is ceaselessly engaged in praising the Lord and interceding for the salvation of the whole world. She does this, not only by celebrating the eucharist, but also in other ways, especially by praying the divine office.”

-Vatican II: Sacrosanctum concilium, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 1963, IV

“…holy Church honors with especial love the Blessed Mary, Mother of God, who is joined by an inseparable bond to the saving work of her Son. In her the Church holds up and admires the most excellent fruit of the redemption, and joyfully contemplates, as in a faultless image, that which she herself desires and hopes wholly to be.”

-Vatican II: Sacrosanctum concilium, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 1963, V

Translation of Latin Original by the Holy See Provided Courtesy of: Eternal Word Television Network, 5817 Old Leeds Road, Irondale, AL 35210, 
http://www.ewtn.com/library/councils/v2all.htm

The Legacy of Luther: Part 1

Translation by Thomas Carlyle, 1831

A safe stronghold our God is still, A trusty shield and weapon;
He’ll help us clear from all the ill that hath us now o’ertaken.
The ancient prince of hell hath risen with purpose fell;
Strong mail of craft and power he weareth in this hour;
On earth is not his fellow.

With force of arms we nothing can, full soon were we down-ridden;
But for us fights the proper Man, whom God Himself hath bidden.
Ask ye, who is this same? Christ Jesus is His Name,
The Lord Sabaoth’s Son; He, and no other one,
Shall conquer in the battle.

And were this world all devils o’er, and watching to devour us,
We lay it not to heart so sore; not they can overpower us.
And let the prince of ill look grim as e’er he will,
He harms us not a whit; For why? — his doom is writ;
A word shall quickly slay him.

God’s Word, for all their craft and force, one moment will not linger,
But, spite of hell, shall have its course; ’tis written by His finger.
And though they take our life, goods, honor, children, wife,
Yet is their profit small; these things shall vanish all:
The City of God remaineth!

 

Translation by Frederic H. Hedge, 1853

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

 

-Martin Luther, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, paraphrase of Psalm 46, 1527-1529

Psalm 46:1-11

For the choir director. A Psalm of the sons of Korah, set to Alamoth. A Song.

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.
Selah.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, The holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered; He raised His voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold.
Selah.

Come, behold the works of the LORD, Who has wrought desolations in the earth. He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire. Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold.
Selah.