I’m starting a new series this Sunday entitled, “Memorial Stones.” This is the first sermon in this series for Sunday, November 16th, 2008.
Memorial Stones part 1
This morning, we are going to be preaching a new sermon series entitled, “Memorial Stones.” This first sermon in this series is entitled, “Foundation stones.”
Before we begin the sermon this morning, I want us to look at a passage from Joshua.
Joshua 4:1-9 ESV – 1 When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, 2 “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, 3 and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’” 4 Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. 5 And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, 6 that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ 7 then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” 8 And the people of Israel did just as Joshua commanded and took up twelve stones out of the midst of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, just as the LORD told Joshua. And they carried them over with them to the place where they lodged and laid them down there. 9 And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the covenant had stood; and they are there to this day.
Let’s quickly look at this passage this morning before we begin dealing with the theme of the Sermon. The nation of Israel is about to cross the Jordan and enter the promised land. The LORD tells Joshua that 12 men representing each of the twelve tribes are to take 12 stones out of the midst of the Jordan, take them to the place that they spend the night after the crossing. These stones were to be Memorial stones. As future generations would see these stones, they would be reminded how that God cut off the waters of the Jordan, so that their ancestors were able to pass through into the promised land.
This morning, the question must be asked, “Where are our memorial stones? Has God done something significant for the church Universal throughout history that we can lay claim too? That we can look back and say, “Here we have seen God moving, His Sovereign hand guiding.”
Yes I believe that we do have some Memorial stones that we can be reminded of God being at work.
These Memorial Stones are none other than the five solas of the reformation.
Let’s do a little historical background if you will. We’ve seen some of the great reformers of the past listed in the video, but I want to go all the way to the beginning.
On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther posted what has been commonly called, “the 95 theses,” on the Church door at Wittenburg Germany. He posted them as a protest of the Roman Catholic churches abuse of indulgences.
What are indulgences? In Roman Catholic theology, it is the full or partial remission of temporal punishment due for sins which have already been forgiven. The indulgence is granted by the church after the sinner has confessed and received absolution. The belief is that indulgences draw on the storehouse of merit acquired by Jesus’ sacrifice and the virtues and penances of the saints. They are granted for specific good works and prayers. According to the teaching outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, every sin, both mortal (planned out sins) or venial sins (non-planned out sins), cause a turning from God through what the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory.
The actual title of what Martin Luther posted on the church door was, “The 95 Theses on the power of indulgences.” Luther used these theses to display his displeasure with the Church’s sale of indulgences, and this ultimately gave birth to Protestantism. It especially challenged the teachings of the Church on the nature of penance, the authority of the pope and the usefulness of indulgences. They sparked a theological debate that would result in the Reformation.
The Roman Catholic church would sell indulgences for penance for sin, thus becoming a commercial transaction instead of a genuine change of heart. So, instead of granting an indulgence as a remission of the penalty for breaking church law, making a confession, and then restoring whatever had been damaged – property or human relationships or other serious sins – an indulgence could be purchased. This was a perverse violation of the original intention of confession, penance, and the role of indulgences, according to Luther, and contributed to what Luther felt was an offense to justification, a right relationship with God, or salvation, among Christians who were being falsely told that they could find forgiveness of their sins, through the purchase of indulgences, rather than through the free gift of God’s mercy offered in and through Jesus Christ.
You see God used Luther to again begin preaching the true gospel in the midst of a time that all that was preached was pure heresy. It is during this time that the 5 solas (latin for “only, or alone) was declared.
This morning, I want us to think of these 5 solas as foundation stones.
Before we quickly go into what these 5 solas are, I want us to make this realization.
We are again living in a time that the Gospel is being perverted. But not just in pulpits and our education centers, but now on the TV, radio, internet, and books as well.
Notice what Scripture says.
2 Timothy 3:1-5 ISV – 1 You must realize, however, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unfeeling, uncooperative, slanderous, degenerate, brutal, hateful of what is good, 4 traitors, reckless, conceited, and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. 5 They will hold to an outward form of godliness but deny its power. Stay away from such people.
That Scripture I believe describes what is going on right now.
The answer is the same as it was during the time of Martin Luther – we must return to these 5 Solas, these 5 foundation stones . Think of them as memorial stones, where God broke through Sovereignly to the human condition and changed the course of the body of Christ’s history.
We need this to happen again.
Over the next several weeks we are going to take a look at each Memorial stone, one at time, but let’s just look quickly at what they are this morning to finish up this sermon.
Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone is our standard for faith and practice).
It is not some Catechism, book, Papal Bull, prophecy, tongue or interpretation, teaching of men, either from pulpits, or from media or whatever else that makes some claim as the standard of our faith, but it is Scripture, the Old Testament and New Testament of the Holy Bible, that is our only standard for faith and practice.
Solo Christo (By Christ’s work alone we are saved).
We are not saved by works of righteousness we have done, nor do we keep our salvation by works of righteousness that we continue to do.
We are saved only through the work that Christ has done both through the cross and the resurrection.
You may ask a quick question, if we don’t keep our salvation by doing works of righteousness, what good is works of righteousness? Works of righteousness is evidence that we are saved, not the keeping of our salvation. We are kept by Christ’s power and ability, not ours.
James 2:20 ISV – Do you want proof, you foolish person, that faith without works is worthless?
John 6:38-40 ISV – 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of the one who sent me. 39 And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything that he has given me, but should raise it to life on the last day. 40 For this is my Father’s will, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him to life on the last day.”
John 10:27-29 ISV – 27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it from the Father’s hand.
Sola Gratia (Salvation by Grace alone).
Salvation is a free work of God’s grace.
We don’t earn His grace, nor do we deserve His grace – we receive His grace.
Sola Fide (Justification by Faith Alone).
We are justified (declared righteous and clean in the sight of the Father) not by works, but by faith in the finished work of Christ.
Soli Deo Gloria (For the glory of God alone).
Salvation is not for our glory, but for God’s glory and His alone.
He also does not share His glory with another.
Another thing about God’s glory is that everything that we do, both in our spiritual life, as well as our natural life should be done to bring glory and honor to God and God alone.
Well, there we have a condensed version of these Memorial, Foundation stones. What should be your goal while this series is being preached?
Well, correct your theology if you need too. Let Scripture guide you into correct doctrine, and not the doctrines of men.
Let the truths that we will learn stir you up to repentance and further Bible study.
Finally, become grateful for what God has done for us His children. He has given us stones to remember how He has dealt with the church in the past, and begin praying that these truths would once again become established in God’s church today.
There is a world out there, both secular and religious, that is walking in darkness. These Memorial stones will expose them to the truth. Let’s learn throughout these weeks and take these truths to those walking in darkness. May we see God reach out and touch people mightily.