Sunday, January 22, 2017

Solus Christus Through Christ alone

What is in a name? The question was asked by Shakespeare when he wrote In Romeo and Juliet, “What's in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  To which Anne Shirley responded  “I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I've never been able to believe it. I don't believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.”

For those of you who don’t know, my name is Dennison.  I was named after my father’s uncle.  And yet the only person who has ever called me Dennison was Austin White when he was little.
For the first 19 years of my life I was called Denny, and I still am by some who knew me then.

When I went to university I decided that Denny was a little boy’s name and so I changed my name to Den, spelled with one “N”.  And for the next 15 years’ people would correct it for me and spell it  Dan or Don.

In 1994 just before we left Australia, someone asked my what Den was short for, when I told them Dennison they asked how that was spelled and when I told them they asked “Then shouldn’t Den be spelled with 2 “Ns” and three months later when we returned to Canada I became Denn, with 2 “Ns”.

I thought the misspelling of my name was a thing of the past, one of the first thing I applied for with my new spelling was my library card.  And it arrived in the mail two weeks later, addressed to Dean Guptill.  

Oh well, I guess it just goes to prove the truth of W.C. Fields’ words “It ain't what they call you, it's what you answer to.”

In the scripture that was read this morning Peter was defending himself in front of the Jewish religious leaders.  And his message that day shared the common theme that most of his messages in the book of Acts revolved around.  “God sent his Son, you killed him, now say you are sorry.”

And he ends his message with these words.  Acts 4:12  “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

 In case you missed it let’s read it again, “There is salvation is no one else!  God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”  The name he is talking about is the name of Jesus.  And that is not a comfortable concept in 2017 where people feel like there should be many names by which a person can be saved.  But the Bible, the word of God tells us that God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. 

This is week three of our “Old Foundation” series.  2017 is the  500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  Which was the point in history that the Protestant church saw it’s beginning. 

And while there were other people who were seeking to reform the Catholic church at that time, history tends to point to a Catholic Priest, named Martin Luther, who challenged the church on some of its teachings that he felt were in error, as the father of the reformation.

Luther didn’t start down that path so that he could start a new denomination, although eventually he did.  He didn’t start down that path so he could leave the priesthood, marry and become a father, although eventually he did.

Luther was simply trying to open debate within the church on some of these topics, which he thought would ultimately strengthen the church and make it better.  But the church didn’t feel that way and eventually the church excommunicated Luther.

Often the central beliefs of the protestant reformation are referred to as the “Five Solas”  Sola being the Latin word for “One” or “Only”.   And while there was no attempt by men like Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and other reformers to define what they were doing, church historians have gone back and kind of reverse engineered their beliefs and came up with the Five Solas.  In hind sight, this is the foundation of the reformation.

And so, in week one we looked at Solas Fide, or By Faith Alone, and this was the belief that it is faith that is the main component of our salvation, not works or good deeds and certainly not a belief in purgatory.  So, we are saved by faith alone.

Last week we looked at Solas Scriptura, or in the Scripture Alone.  And that was the belief that the final authority for our Christian life is the Bible.  And while the reformers would allow room at the table for tradition and the teaching of the church only the scriptures would be considered infallible and it would be by scripture that those other traditions and teachings would be measured. 

This week we are looking at Solus Christus, through Christ Alone.  And there are a number of scripture that teach us that there are not many ways to God, or several ways to God or even two ways to God but only one way to God.

And while that may seem very exclusive it is reality of Christianity.  And while the other Solas may have been seen as a reaction to error in the Catholic church, the Catholic church very strongly believes in Solus Christus.  More so even than a number of liberal protestant churches today.

If there was one difference in how the Catholic church and the Reformers would view the centrality of Christ it would have been in how they viewed the priesthood.  For the reformers, there was nobody standing between the believer and Christ, everyone had direct access to Christ.  However for many Catholics the parish priest was seen as the intermediary or the go between them and God.

Which was why Luther would remind priests of his time: “You are not lords over the pastoral office.… You have not instituted the office, but God’s Son alone has done so.”

And Solus Christus is drawn and taught from the many scriptures that speak of the “Name of Jesus”.

Throughout the New Testament we see this concept of the “Name of Jesus” being brought up again and again. By Peter, by Paul, by James and by Jesus himself.

There is something about the “Name of Jesus” which is unlike any other name.  So what is it?

The first thing we need to realize is that The Name of Jesus is a Descriptive Name  Remember how we started with the quote by Shakespeare, who said that if you called a rose by a different name it didn’t make it a different thing?    Well in the same way simply calling something a rose that isn’t a rose will not make it a rose.
Abraham Lincoln was fond of asking people “If you call a dog’s tail a leg, how many legs would a dog have?”  And when people would respond with “Five” Lincoln would say “No, four.  Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”
If someone handed you a tulip and said it was a rose, you would know right away it was not a rose.  But only if you knew what a rose looked like.  However, if you had never seen a rose it is conceivable you would think the flower you had been handed was indeed a rose and you might even tell other people it was a rose.
But would that make it a rose?  No.  it would still be a tulip.
And so, we have churches and those who are part of those churches who say “Here is Jesus, but he’s not the Jesus who was born of a virgin, because we don’t believe that.  And he’s not the Jesus who was the Son of God because we don’t believe that.  And he’s not the Jesus who was raised from the dead or who will return again because we don’t believe that either.”  
Then I would tell them that you are looking at a tulip and not a rose.
When the Gospel Writers talk about the name of Jesus they were talking about a very specific Jesus.  They are writing about the Jesus who always was and always is.  They are writing about the Jesus who is not only the son of God but is God.  They are writing about the Jesus who was born of a virgin. They are writing about the Jesus who lived a sinless life.  They are writing about the Jesus who died on the cross. They are writing about the Jesus was raised from the dead and ultimately they are writing about the Jesus who will someday return.  That is the Jesus who is named in the Bible.   
And for two thousand years churches around the world have embraced that Jesus.  
And we are told in the Bible in Hebrews 13:8  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  And then in the very next verse we are told: Hebrews 13:9  So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas.   There is a reason why for two thousand years the church has taught and believed that Jesus was born of a virgin and why for two thousand years the church has taught and believed that Jesus lived a sinless life and why for two thousand years the church has taught and believed that Jesus died on the cross. 
And why for two thousand years the church has taught and believed that Jesus was raised from the dead and and why for two thousand years the church has taught and believed that that Jesus will someday return.  Because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

You might remember five years ago when Mitt Romney was running for President of the US there was some discussion about whether or not he was a Christian because he was a member of the church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints, the group popularly referred to as the Mormons. 
And when Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, called Mormonism a “theological cult” he was vilified by the press for being judgemental. 
But he was correct.  Because the Jesus of the Latter Day Saints is not the Jesus of the Bible.  On the other hand I think Jeffress was over the line when he went on to declare “Evangelicals ought to give preference to a Christian instead of someone who doesn’t embrace historical Christianity.”   Mitt Romney might have made a great president. 
I think history has shown that you just because you are a good Christian doesn’t mean that you will make a good national leader.  And vice versa.
Lifeway Research a Christian research firm in the states did a survey and found that among Protestant pastors 75 % disagreed with the statement that Mormons were Christians.    But hopefully most of us would agree with the president of Lifeway Ed Stezer who stated “Though pastors believe overwhelmingly that Mormonism is not Christianity, their opinions should not be confused with personal scorn for Mormons, A person can respect a religious group and even appreciate their commitment to traditional moral values without equating their beliefs with Christian orthodoxy.”
But understand that it’s not enough to claim the name of Jesus without claiming the Jesus of the name.
The Name of Jesus Is a Holy Name  This goes back to what we believe about Jesus, if we truly believe that Jesus is God then his name deserves the same respect as the name of God.
 And that takes us back to Exodus 20:7 "Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God. The LORD will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.   and we’ve talked about this before.  To misuse God’s name is to use it in a frivolous manner, to misuse Jesus’ name is to use it in a frivolous manner.  It’s not an exclamation, or a statement of surprise or anger.  It is a holy name and deserves to be treated as such. 
It’s not just a command about the way we speak, it’s also a commandment concerning the way we live.  When you call yourself a Christian then you are calling yourself a follower of Christ, you are in effect taking his name, his name, and attaching it to yourself and to your behaviour.   And when your life does not reflect your commitment as a Christian then you are misusing his name.  So, when you call yourself a Christian then live like the devil what does that say?  What are you doing to the name of Christ with the way you are living?
Not only is his name descriptive his name is holy, but more than that:
The Name of Jesus Is a Powerful Name  If you read through the book of Acts you discover that the early church depended on the name of Jesus.  It was in the name of Jesus that the message of the Gospel was preached, it was in the name of Jesus that demons were cast out and it was in the name of Jesus that people were healed.
I love the story about Peter and John going to the temple one afternoon to pray and they encounter a crippled beggar outside the temple gate.  And when he sees them approach he asked them for money.  And this was their answer:  Acts 3:6  But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!”   And he was healed.  But it was done in the name of Jesus.
And it was in the name of Jesus that tyrants were rebuked and it was in the name of Jesus that people found the strength to be martyred for their faith.
And there are great scriptures that we claim and hold unto to, scriptures like John 14:14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.   How often have we heard that promise, and how often have we claimed that promise?  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. Wow! 
But did Jesus actually mean that you could ask for anything in his name and it would be yours?  That you and yours would never be in want, that you would never be sick that you could ask for anything in Jesus’ name and it would be yours?  Because if that’s the case I want an electric smart car convertible, and a giraffe. 
That’s how it is preached sometimes and that is a heresy and a mockery of the words of Jesus.  Seriously you can’t just cherry pick verses like this and let them stand on their own.  You can’t just take a sentence out of the bible and look at it in isolation. 
The very least that you can do is look at the verses that immediately surround that verse.  That’s called taking the verse in context.

In this case, we need to look at John 14:12-13 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.   What is it talking about here?  It is talking about doing what Jesus did.  That your prayers and your life would bring glory to God. 
And you are thinking “Well sure Denn, but if I won the lottery that would bring glory to God.”  Do you really believe that? 
This goes back to the line in the Lord’s prayer that says “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  There is power in Jesus name and that power is living in Jesus name and means that we live in such a way that our requests are requests that Jesus would honour.  John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.   
We sure like the last part.  Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.   But you can’t isolate the last part from the first part of Jesus statement and that is that you will bear fruit that will last, because that is what your requests are supposed to lead to. 
When you pray for the power and desire to live the life that Jesus would have you to live, then then power that you need is there.   When you pray for the strength to resist temptation then that strength is there.  When you pray that you will be better able to bear the name of Jesus and that your life will produce the fruit that Jesus wants you to produce, that request will be answered.
As a young pastor, I thought that praying “Your will be done” was a cop out, that if we were truly to pray in faith, believing that whatever we asked for in Jesus name would happen that we were just given ourselves an out by praying “your will be done” because if our prayers weren’t answered then we could just say “well I guess that it wasn’t in God’s will” 
But what if we truly believed that God is smarter than us, and ultimately that God wants the very best for our lives, even if at this point in our lives it doesn’t seem that way? 
Sometimes we are like children who feel that we need every shiny new toy that captures our imagination and every cone of ice cream or candy bar that tickles our fancy and that doesn’t bring glory to God. 
But have you ever wondered what would happen if every prayer you ever uttered had been answered in just the way you wanted it to be answered? 
The power that is in the name of Jesus is the power to live as a new creation, the power to be a witness to his name, the power to bear the fruit that he would have us to bear. 
Paul wrote these words to the believers in the Colossian church, Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father.   Now listen to how it is said in the New International Version,   NIV Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.   
So, you understand that if you are a Christ follower, then whatever you do, whether in word or deed, you’re supposed to do in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  The question of course is: Do you? 
So to finish this morning let’s go to the book of Romans, where Paul writes Romans 10:13  For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”   Have you called on the name of the Lord?

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