Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Celebrating the Protestant Reformation

This last weekend was special in that we remembered the Protestant Reformation, which began on October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany.

On Saturday I attended a Reformation mini-conference in Flint hosted by Calvary Presbyterian Church (EPC). Keynote speaker was Dr. Joel Beeke, president of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids. About 100 people attended to hear him address a variety of topics including Maturing in the Faith, Cultivating Holiness, Assurance of Salvation, and Perseverance. At a pre-conference luncheon for pastors he spoke about a familiar topic -- Handling Criticism in Ministry. In addition to the messages there were a lot of great books for sale. I was also able to network and met several like-minded folks from our area.

Our Sunday worship service centered on the great truths of the Reformation. Our call to worship was from Romans 1:16-17 and the congregation stood and read it in unison. We sang familar hymns like A Mighty Fortress (Martin Luther), Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder (John Newton of Amazing Grace fame), and Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken (also by John Newton). Continuing my series in the book of Romans I preached 2:1-16 with a message entitled, Nice Guys Finish Last.

On Sunday evening we gathered again and sang Reformation hymns written by James Montgomery Boice in the last weeks of his life before his death in June 2000. They are entitled, Hymns for a Modern Reformation, and are available through The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. There are about a dozen hymns in this collection and they are theologically rich and beautifully set for congregational singing. I would be remiss if I failed to note that 5 of these hymns explicitly deal with the 5 solas of the Protestant Reformation: Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Christus, Sola Scriptura, and Soli Deo Gloria.

Let me close with a couple of stanzas from Newton's hymns:

Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder (# 172 Trinity Hymnal )

Let us love and sing and wonder,
Let us praise the Savior's name!
He has hushed the law's loud thunder,
He has quenched Mount Sinai's flame:
He has washed us with His blood,
He has brought us nigh to God.

Let us love the Lord who bought us,
Pitied us when enemies,
Called us by his grace, and taught us,
Gave us ears and gave us eyes:
He has washed us with His blood,
He presents our souls to God.

Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken (#345 Trinity Hymnal)

Glorious things of thee are spoken, Zion, city of our God;
He whose word cannot be broken formed thee for his own abode:
On the Rock of Ages founded, what can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation's walls surrounded, thou may'st smile at all thy foes.

Savior, if of Zion's city I, through grace a member am,
Let the world deride or pity, I will glory in thy name:
Fading is the worldling's pleasure, all his boasted pomp and show;
Solid joys and lasting treasure none but Zion's children know.

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