January 19, 2018

Long Before Luther

I really enjoyed this interesting and informative book. The best way to describe it would be: a reformed thinker (the author), defending and sharing the doctrine, that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone. And that this doctrine has been taught throughout the generations. Also that this teaching is biblical and found throughout the entire bible.

And that this is the heart of the Gospel.

The author says here of the sixteenth-century reformers:

"The sole authoritative basis for their teachings was the Word of God (the idea captured by the phrase 'Scripture alone')."  *(see note at end of post)

And the author quotes R.C. Sproul here:

"The sixteenth-century Reformers were not interested in creating a new religion. They were interested, not in innovation, but in renovation. They were reformers, not revolutionaries."

These are the chapter headings:

Part 1: The Reformers and Justification
 1. An Invention or a Recovery?
 2. Regaining Biblical Clarity
 3. Clothed in Christ's Righteousness

Part 2: The Church before Augustine
 4. Saved by Grace
 5. Justification: A Divine Declaration
 6. The Great Exchange

Part 3: Augustine and Justification
 7. A Forerunner to the Reformers?
 8. The Doctor of Grace

Part 4: The Church after Augustine
 9. Pardoned from Sin
10. Reckoned as Righteous
11. Coming Full Circle

Throughout the book the author states his case for this belief throughout history, from Christ to the Reformers. He quotes and shares from many Church fathers to prove this, men such as:

Irenaeus of Lyons (ca. 130-202)
Origen (ca. 182-254) 
Ambrose (337-397)
Augustine (354-430)
Fulgentius of Ruspe (462-533)
Ildefonsus of Toledo (ca. 607-657)
Julian of Toledo (642-690)
Bede (673-735)
Symeon the new theologian (949-1022)
Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)
Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)

At the end of the book there is an appendix called ' Voices from History' which includes many quotes from Christian men during these 1500 years, between Christ and the Reformation.

The author says here of it:

"What follows are 100 selected quotes from church history highlighting salvation by grace alone and the truth that believers are justified solely through faith in Christ, apart from works."

 I thought I'd share a few quotes by a few of these Church fathers:

Polycarp (ca. 69-160):

"Though you have not seen him, you believe in him with an inexpressible and glorious joy (which many desire to experience), knowing that by grace you have been saved, not because of works, but the will of God through Jesus Christ." 

Basil of Caesarea (ca. 329-379):

"This is perfect and pure boasting in God, when one is not proud on account of his own righteousness but knows that he is indeed unworthy of the true righteousness and is justified solely by faith in Christ. And Paul boasts that he despises his own righteousness, seeking that righteousness that is on account of Christ, which is the righteousness of God by faith." 

Ildefonsus of Toledo (ca. 607-667):

"Behold, he (Paul) preached the beginning of faith which, when it is in Christ, is justification for the believer." God, who makes the unclean clean and removes sins, justifies the sinner apart from works." 

Bede (673-735):

"The apostle Paul preached that we are justified by faith without works."

Bernard of Clairvaux (2090-1153):

"Nobody will be justified in His sight by works of the law"..."Grace freely justifies me and sets me free from slavery to sin."

This is why the reformers protested. The doctrine of grace was at stack and their love for God and for others was what drove them to stand up. They saw first hand how wrong teachings can distort the Word of God, and so they risked their own lives to proclaim:

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." Eph. 2:8-9

I've always believed we are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone, not by our works. What an amazing gift! What joy it brings! So for me, this book was not only reaffirming, but encouraged me in my faith. I highly recommend it!

*Side Note: The Bible is not the only authoritative basis for the Catholic Church, traditions of the church, as well as the openness to new revelations through the Pope are authoritative to Catholics, equal to Scripture.

This is also why the reformers protested. They believed that the Bible was the only authoritative Word of God. This is what most protestants believe as well today.

January 12, 2018

2018 Reading Challenge and Goals

Happy New Year everyone! Hope it's going well for you all so far. I've been sick with a nasty cold most of this new year, but I'm looking forward to feeling better and getting some reading done!

This year, as in past years, I'm setting my reading goal to 50 books.

I'm also looking forward to taking part in Tim Challies 2018 reading challenge. There are 4 sections to the challenge, but I am only focusing on one, and that is to read 13 books from the props he has given. I'm picking my props from throughout the whole challenge instead of just the 'light reading' section. You can check  it out... HERE

Here are my props and picks for 2018:

1. A book by a female author -  'None Like Him' by Jen Wilkin

2. A biography - 'Jane Austen: A Life' by Claire Tomalin

3. A book by your favorite author - 'Miracles' by C.S. Lewis

4. A book more than 100 years old - 'Crime and Punishment' by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

5. A classic novel - 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' by Robert Louis Stevenson

6. A book about history - 'Mysteries of the Middle Ages' by Thomas Cahill 

7. A book you have read before - 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen

8. A book about Christian living - 'This is Our Time' by Trevin Wax

9. A novel longer than 300 pages - 'The Snow Child' by Eowyn Ivey

10. A memoir or autobiography - 'The Emancipation of Robert Sadler' by Marie Chapian and Robert Sadler

11. A book about theology - 'The God Who is There' by Francis A. Schaeffer

12.  A book of 100 pages or less - 'Mary' by Leonardo De Chirico

13. A book of your choice - 'Elizabeth and her German Garden' by Elizabeth von Arnim


I'd also like to get to some more classics. I really enjoyed reading the ones I got to last year.

Here is that list of classics read in 2017:

1. 'Treasure Island' by Robert Louis Stevenson - this was a little slow going and a bit boyish for my taste, but enjoyable over all.

2. 'The Vicar of Wakefield' by Oliver Goldsmith - I listened to this one while painting my daughters room and enjoyed the narrators exuberant voice.

3. 'Holiness' by J.C. Ryle - this was one of my favorites this year, you can read about it... HERE

4. 'The Secret Garden' by Frances Hodgson Burnett - this was my least favorite classic. I loved the first half of the book, but the second half had some elements that I found disturbing. ex. (children dancing around the fire in what seemed like nature worship). : (

5. 'Answers to Prayer' by George Muller - another wonderful Christian classic. Loved it.

6. 'Anne of Green Gables' by Lucy Maud Montgomery - these books are so wonderful and I can't wait to read the rest of the series this year.

7. 'Anne of Avonlea' by Lucy Maud Montgomery

8. 'Anne of the Island' by Lucy Maud Montgomery

9. 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald - this one was so so. I did like the message that material things can't make you happy.

10. 'Villette' by Charlotte Bronte - 'Jane Eyre' by Charlotte Bronte is one of my all time favorite novels so I found this one a bit lacking in comparison, but enjoyed it non-the-less.

11. 'North and South' by Elizabeth Gaskell - this was an interesting read set in the industrial age. I liked it, but wish I hadn't watched the mini-series before-hand, which of course gave away the story!

12. 'David Copperfield' by Charles Dickens - Loved this one!

13. 'The Rector' by Margaret Oliphant - A short read, but enjoyable.

I've started Oswald Chambers 'My Utmost for His Highest' and hope to continue throughout the year. This is probably my favorite devotional, one that is thought-provoking, as well as convicting.

Here's a quote from the Jan. 1st devotional, 'Let Us Keep to the Point'...

"Shut out every other thought and keep yourself before God in this one thing only - my utmost for His highest. I am determined to be absolutely and entirely for Him and Him alone."

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."  1 Cor. 10:31

That's what I desire for 2018. Doing all to the glory of God. My utmost for His highest.

I want to step up my bible reading as well, as more and more I see how privileged we are to have God's Word at hand. A privilege that could be taken away at any time. Keep it close to your heart, drink it in, as Jeremiah said...

"Your words were found, and I ate them,
And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart;
For I am called by Your name,
O LORD God of hosts." Jer. 15:16

May His word bring you joy and His peace be with you this coming year!

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