Message from Rev. Moore – October 2017

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:8-9ESV)

For the last few Newsletters, I briefly shared with you the Five-Solas. If you recall, the Five-Solas are five Latin phrases (or slogans) that emerged from the Protestant Reformation intended to summarize the Reformers’ basic theological principles in contrast to certain teachings of the Medieval Church of Rome during that time. Sola is Latin meaning “alone” or “only.” The phrases are:

  • Sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone.
  • Sola Fide, through Faith alone.
  • Sola Gratia, by Grace alone.
  • Solus Christus, through Christ alone.
  • Soli Deo Gloria, to the Glory of God alone.

In preparation for Reformation Sunday this October 29th (in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation), I shared with you the first of the solas: Scripture alone. These two months (October and November), we’ll take a look at the second and third of the solas: Faith alone and Grace alone! What does Faith and Grace alone mean? Faith is the manner by which a sinner receives God’s gift of salvation. Grace is the manner by which a sinner is given salvation by God. Grace is God’s giving. Faith is our receiving. And both grace and faith are gifts from God. Let me explain further.

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Message from Rev. Moore – June 2017

They make night into day: ‘The light,’ they say, ‘is near to the darkness.’
(Job 17:12 ESV)

Darkness comes in many figurative forms. One symbol of darkness in Scripture is that of suffering, or sickness of the soul and/or body. In the Old Testament Scriptures, Job is an exemplar of such suffering. Job describes his suffering in terms of the darkness of night. Amidst his suffering, Job prays to God for relief, hoping that God will soon dispel his misery with a cheer of liberation, cheer in terms of hope, hope symbolized by the light of day.

Another prominent symbol of darkness in Scripture is spiritual blindness. Scripture tells us that both the world is in darkness and that all people in the world (that is unconverted, unregenerate people), are blinded by the spiritual darkness of night, a night ruled by “the god of this world,” the Prince of Darkness. Paul says:

And even if our gospel is veiled, bit is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2Co 4:3-4 ESV).

But what about the Church, the visible gathering of God’s people in history? Can the Church experience spiritual darkness? The Old Testament Church (the Church of Israel) surely did. A cursory study of the history of Israel is replete with copious examples of spiritual darkness. Case in point is the Nation of Judah during the reign of King Josiah (Southern Israel comprised of the two tribes of Benjamin and Judah). Josiah was a godly King during a time of spiritual darkness.

The reason for the spiritual darkness was because the light of God’s Word had been lost, quite literally. We read: “And Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it” (2Ki 22:8 ESV). The Bible (Hebrew Bible) had been missing along with a thorough knowledge of its contents. Hilkiah, the High Priest, was cleaning the treasure room in the Temple, and he found their missing bible, the “Book of the Law.” Hilkiah informed Josiah the King that the Word of God had been found; the King immediately enacted reform. Josiah’s “Reformation” ushered in a spiritual awakening, an awakening from pagan darkness to the light of God’s Word to guide the people of God away from darkness and into the light.

Something very similar happened in the Church almost 500 years ago. For nearly a thousand years or more both the unadulterated Word of God and the gospel had been eclipsed by spiritual darkness: the spiritual darkness of man-made tradition vs. the Scripture, the spiritual darkness of man earning his way to heaven by mixing good works with faith vs. the gospel way of man not earning, but receiving salvation as a gift by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus’ work of earning salvation for us as our one-and-only Mediator between man and God. For over a thousand years there was spiritual darkness, darkness that gave way to light. Protestant historians all agree that the date for when this happened was on October 31, 1517. This was when an obscure German, Augustinian monk, Martin Luther, nailed his 95 Thesis on the doors of All Saint’s church in Wittenberg; this event was the beginning of a reformation in the church, a reformation that still goes on today. The motto which the first and second generation of Reformers used to capture the spirit of the 16th-century Reformation was Post tenebras lux (After the Darkness Light), inspired by the Vulgate (Latin Bible) translation of Job 17:12.

Two things I want to bring to your attention. First, at our last session meeting, session approved to celebrate this special occasion on Reformation Sunday. So, on October 29, 2017, during worship, Starkdale will commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with something special. Second, over the summer leading up to Reformation Sunday, I will be sharing with you the light that came out of the darkness known as the Five-Solas. The Five-Solas are five Latin phrases (or slogans) that emerged from the Protestant

Reformation intended to summarize the Reformers’ basic theological principles in contrast to certain teachings of the Medieval Church of Rome during that time.

Sola is Latin meaning “alone” or “only.” The phrases are:
Sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone.
Sola Fide, through faith alone.
Sola Gratia, by grace alone.
Solus Christus, through Christ alone
Soli Deo Gloria, to the glory of God alone.

Praise God for the hope of both the light of His Word and the liberating truth of His gospel!!

In Christ
Pastor Carl

Message from Rev. Moore – April 2017

“More Wonderful Beyond!”

12But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

I Corinthians 15:12-14

Alister McGrath, a former atheist who has become a believer in Christ, a theologian and a scientist, tells the following story about the first time he awakened to the hope of Christ’s resurrection:

[As a young man], I was a grumpy and frankly rather arrogant atheist. I was totally convinced that there was no God, and that anyone who thought there was needed to be locked up for her own good. I was majoring in the sciences at high school and had won a scholarship to study chemistry at Oxford University, beginning in October 1971. I had every reason to believe that studying the sciences further would confirm my rampant godlessness. While waiting to go up to Oxford, I decided to work my way through a pile of “improving books.” Needless to say, none of them were religious.

Eventually, I came to a classic work of philosophy—Plato’s Republic. I couldn’t make sense of everything I read. But one image etched itself into my imagination. Plato asks us to imagine a group of men, trapped in a cave, knowing only a world of flickering shadows cast by a fire. Having experienced no other world, they assume that the shadows are the only reality.  Yet the reader knows—and is meant to know—that there is another world beyond the cave, awaiting discovery.

As I read this passage, the hard-nosed rationalist within me smiled condescendingly. Typical escapist superstition! What you see is what you get, and that’s the end of the matter. Yet a still, small voice within me whispered words of doubt. What if this world is only part of the story? What if this world is only a shadowland? What if there is something more wonderful beyond it?

McGrath’s struggle with the truth(s) of the Christian faith is not unique. The Apostle Paul had his own barriers, one being (from a Jewish perspective) the barrier of a religious tradition that assumed that the Messiah would conquer via the glory and honor of war, not the ignominious cross of dishonor.

Barriers to belief many times come in the form of intellectual pride as with McGrath, but McGrath knew by virtue of the moral law within and the starry sky above that “there is something more wonderful beyond” this life. Our neo-pagan culture lies to itself by saying that this is all that there is. It reduces reality to matter, a contiguous concourse of mere molecules in motion. We are like the ancients in Plato’s allegory of the Cave; we believe the shadows of this dark fallen world are all that there is. Yet, some of us are like St. Paul prior to his conversion; because of religious pride we assume “man-made” traditions are all that there is. Religious tradition too can cast a long, dark shadow upon us. Even regenerate (born again) Christians will allow the need to belong, to muddy our thinking in the morass of misconceptions. This was the case for Paul as he addressed the First Church of Corinth. Their intellectual pride of wanting to be accepted by their surrounding pagan culture (sounds familiar?) had them buying into pagan concepts (like the pagan idea that there is no bodily resurrection of believers), concepts contrary to the essentials of the faith (like the Christian idea of the physical, bodily resurrection of Christ).

These are just some barriers to belief. Other barriers can be suffering, evil, and pain. However, when we are confronted with the resurrected Lord, when we have an encounter with the living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, when we encounter the ultimate reality of the Word of God made flesh then all the idols of our minds retreat while our hearts surrender to Christ. This is what happened to Paul. It was Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus which eroded his doubt; his pang of a guilty conscience receded into the shadows in the face of the overwhelming effulgence of the resurrected Lord.

During this season of Lent and Easter if you are struggling with doubt—e.g. doubt from pride, or doubt from pain and loss, etc.–turn your gaze again to the reality of our Lord who conquered death not for Himself, but for us. Because of Christ’s death on the cross, death for us is but a shadow; and because of Christ’s life and resurrection there is something more wonderful here and now for us and beyond!

Soli Deo Gloria

Pastor Carl

 

Message from Rev. Moore – February 2017

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Mat 16:18 ESV)

As an under-shepherd, I love the church: big churches, little churches and everything in between. And Jesus promised that His church will withstand the gates of hell. But what is the church?   As Gregg Allison in Sojourners and Strangers notes the church is:

…the people of God who have been saved through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and have been incorporated into his body through baptism with the Holy Spirit.

Allison continues to make the distinction between the universal church and the local church. The universal church is all of the people of God saved in Christ, from Pentecost (the birth of the church) to the second coming of Christ when God brings judgment to earth, ultimately bringing heaven to earth in future glory. The universal church includes all of the people of God in the past, present, and future: saints who have died, who are living, and who are yet to be born, all of God’s elect in Christ. St. Augustine noted that the universal church is mostly invisible; in other words, it’s hard to put a finger on it.

In contrast, there is the local church; you can point to the local church. You can put your finger on it.

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Message from Rev. Moore – December 2016

holynight

 

Silent night, Holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth!

 

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”—Nelsen Mandela.

Mandela was a great humanitarian and civil rights leader for the people of South Africa! But he had too high a view of human nature and human moral ability. For the unregenerate, hate is more natural; love is most unnatural. You cannot change the human heart by naively teaching people to love and not hate. Until the depraved human heart is reconciled to God by way of regeneration (i.e. being born again from above by the Spirit of Christ Jesus), and no longer hostile to God, then and only then can human beings truly learn to love his and her fellow man as he or she ought!

This is why Jesus came as a baby in the manger. Our Lord God incarnate– the second Person of the Trinity, as the Son of God enfleshed– came to put an end to hate and hostility. He came first to announce the beginning of the end of hostility between humanity and God. The reason why there is hate and there is hostility between our fellow man is because of the hostility between mankind and God. That is the source of our hate for one another. Yet while we were enemies against God, He offered His love to us! This is what Christmas is all about!!

During this Holy Season of Advent and Christmas may God’s radiance beam from the holy face of the Son of God as His love, love’s pure light, of redeeming grace continue to infuse us with supernatural love  as grace changes our hearts to love and not hate.

Soli Deo Gloria
Carl Moore