Reformation Day Reflections 2006

The famous quote attributed to Johan Tetzel, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs” probably doesn’t mean much to many in the church today. If it weren’t for my own studying and reading, as a layman, it probably wouldn’t mean much to me either.

The struggle today is similar to that of Luther’s day in that it is internal though not necessarily against Rome. Oh, there is still a battle with Rome, but few people in the pews even know the difference between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. The battle is so far off the radar and in some areas truly is non-existent so no one notices. This brings us to the internality of the problem which points us to a lost or at the very least hidden Gospel of Jesus Christ in Protestantism today. To clarify, I am defining Protestantism as Christianity that is non-Roman Catholic which does not include pseudo-Christian cults like Mormonism or Jehovah’s Witness.

Many churches are being grown in number rather growing spiritually. By that I mean that we as the Church, the bride of Christ, are suffering spiritually with stagnant growth. We aren’t being taught how to share the Gospel as we are going. Rather, we are taught to invite people to church. The church then caters to these invitations so as not to offend, but to make “worship” comfortable for the unbeliever. This drives home a mean catch 22 that may be endless. Instead of being the church we play church pretending that many unbelieving people are also the church. Pretending that light and darkness as well as righteousness and lawlessness have fellowship. This to the detriment to our Lord and to ourselves. Fooling those to hell who die too soon before we could become good enough friends with them to share the Gospel without being afraid to offend them.

A more appropriate jingle today may look like this:

The more catered to who in the pews sing, the more growth to our church it will bring.

Today, many are seeking to be sensitive to the seeker as they merge into the culture to grow a church so they can how the love of Jesus. To be relevant I say, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” Except many times the Gospel, as we say in the South, went missin’. Instead, the benefits of the Gospel is what is being preached. If you want peace, joy and love, etc. then just receive Jesus into your heart. Don’t worry about sin and God’s holiness just know that He loves you.

I am not saying that God doesn’t love you, but how is that the call of the Gospel? I can imagine correcting my daughter by doing nothing but telling her I love her over and over again. It might make her feel good at times. She may even smile at me. Telling her how much I love her doesn’t call her to turn from her wrong doings nor does it tell her why she should nor does it tell her any of the consequences if she doesn’t. How would she then react if after telling her I love her half a dozen times, the next day out of nowhere, I all of a sudden punish her in some way? That certainly wouldn’t make much sense to her. Let’s think of our daily jobs for a moment. If you kept deliberately not doing your job how motivating would if be if your boss just kept telling you how much you are appreciated as a way to encourage you to do your job? Then to come in one morning the following week and just fire you? Pretty confusing, huh? I use these imperfect analogies to move to what I call preaching “half of the Gospel.”

Preaching half of the Gospel can be seen in stopping at reading John 3:16 and not at least continuing through to verse 18. Stopping at verse 16 is a nice and unoffensive way to show God’s love, but it’s not the whole Gospel. Just read verse 16 in a fuller context and no wonder it’s pulled from its context so often as a summary of the Gospel.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17″For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18″He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.[NASB]

“Judged? What do you mean judged? I thought God loved me?” one may ask. He does which is why He has written the whole truth in His Scripture. And if we as Christians want to show that same love we will not preach only half of the Gospel. Even as John prepared the way for Christ by preaching repentance and forgiveness so must we.

For this Reformation Day of 2006 I propose that we as preach the fullness of the Gospel whether we be layman out in the world or shepherds feeding the sheep. Just read and meditate on what Paul wrote here:

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, [NASB]

However relevant, seeker sensitive, contextualizing or emerging you want to be if you do not in anyway alter the meaning of Paul’s words above people are going to be offended and/or ask questions. This is what I think lies at the heart of problems in communicating the Gospel. Think of the nicest way you can tell someone that if they do not repent of their sins before a Holy God and believe Jesus took their sin upon the cross, died and was resurrected unto life that they are to believe this and live or else they are going to hell. Erase repentance, sin, hell and the resurrection and it’s a much easier conversation to have. Don’t compromise and it will be hard not to offend the unbelieving.

It’s time to nail the Gospel to our own Wittenberg door.

tagged as , in Church Issues,Culture,Gospel,theology

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Frank Martens October 31, 2006 at 9:40 am

“Telling her how much I love her doesn’t call her to turn from her wrong doings nor does it tell her why she should nor does it tell her any of the consequences if she doesn’t.”

However, the ignorance of people runs deap. Some people would think you are wrong here and say that it would drive her to repentance.

Oh how sad it is to be blinded by sin and to be driven to ignorance.

2 Vicki October 31, 2006 at 12:15 pm

Thanks for this great post! I added you to my list of links for Reformation Day.

3 johnMark November 1, 2006 at 6:54 am


It is sad and I really do think people can handle more depth in teaching. It’s ashame more pastors don’t seem to think so. That’s just my observation though I could be wrong.


I appreciate that and it’s nice to hear from a local. Looks like you do something I would like to do which is write well and write more.



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