The Chosen

Jesus Christ Statue Photo - Myriam Zilles

The Chosen” is a television-like series of shows on the internet that tells the story of Jesus.   I like it, because it fleshes out the characters and brings them to life.  I see this series as an example of what I call good historical fiction.  Good historical fiction tells a story in a historical setting and keeps the historical details correct while adding fictional details to create the story.  Most historical fiction is mostly fiction using history as the backdrop for the story, but some historical fiction is about telling the historical story by fleshing out the history with added details.  I think “The Chosen” does a good job of keeping the facts straight while fleshing out the story with fictional details.

An example of bad historical fiction is the “The Da Vinci Code”.  There is even a separate Wikipedia page showing all that is wrong with the “The Da Vinci Code”.   Dan Brown rewrote history to tell his story, and to make matters worse he claims it all to be true at the start of his book on the “Fact” page.

So one needs to be careful reading or watching historical fiction to keep in mind what are the facts and what are the added fictional details.  Moses most likely does not look like Charlton Heston, and Jesus most likely did not look like the blue eyed blonde Jesus that the Northern European painters portrayed.  A good historical drama follows the facts and tries to have the fictional details be plausible. The added fictional details need to fit in with the known facts.  Oftentimes good historical fiction will bring out the implications of the facts known in the story.  This means there is a lot of research that goes into creating good historical fiction.  Good historical fiction illuminates the story with historical facts from a variety of sources.  I think “The Chosen” does a good job of this.  It does not mean they have it all right but they do present a reasonable possibility. 

Let us look at a bit of an episode from “The Chosen” and compare it with the account in the Bible.  Looking at Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3:1-21 and the corresponding part from “The Chosen” series, you notice that what John had recorded is only about a 2 minute conversation, whereas “The Chosen” expands it to a 10 minute conversation (and that with the last 3 verses not being included).  And my guess is that the actual conversation was even longer.   “The Chosen” creates a fictional backstory that brought Nicodemus to Jesus.  There is also conversation that included why Nicodemus came at night and an invitation from Jesus for Nicodemus to follow him. All this is added detail that may have happened but maybe not. It is a reasonable possibility.  I like the end of the conversation where Nicodemus, being hesitant to commit to following Jesus, kneels before Jesus, kisses his hand, and  quotes the first part of Psalm 2:12, and Jesus then gives Nicodemus a word of grace and encouragement by quoting the last part of the verse.  That too was an added detail along with the added details that include things like the scene taking place outside on a rooftop.

I like “The Chosen” and I would recommend it.  I think it follows the accounts of Jesus well.  It has sparked my imagination of what it was like back then and who the disciples were.  It paints a good picture of Jesus and the disciples. However, it is not the Bible and is not a replacement for the Bible, but I do consider that they have been faithful to the text of the Bible in the episodes I have seen. It is a worthy depiction of the Gospel story of Jesus.  So again I recommend that you watch “The Chosen”.  Seasons 1-3 are available now for viewing.

Critical Race Theory

It was about 4 years ago, when I began to learn about this view of the world called Critical Theory. Before that I had heard of Critical Race Theory or CRT but I really did not know what it was.  Today I look around and see that Critical Theory is everywhere in various forms, and in many cases it is called CRT even when it has nothing to do with race. It is foundational for the concepts of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Equity is pretty much just CRT.  So what is it and as Christians how do we respond to it?  I will focus on CRT and not the other Critical Theory variants, but they are all interconnected.  You will find that in most cases the only difference is the focus on race in the case of CRT.  Unfortunately, CRT has been defined in many different ways, but I will try to give a good definition of it.

First, though CRT is incompatible with Christianity, it does highlight some truths that we as Christians can agree with.  There are norms, social structures or institutions that perpetuate ideas that are opposed to the truth.  Secularism can be one dominating structure and racism is another one that still lingers today.  Racism is nothing more than a social construct.  One could use hair color instead of skin color to divide people.  What if the darker your hair was the better and more desirable the person you became.  The point is these ideas are still being intentionally or unintentionally promoted and can be used to oppress, dominate, and divide.

Critical Theory seeks “to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them” (Max Horkheimer, 1982).  Critical Theory and CRT sees the world and relationships in terms of power dynamics.  The world can be divided between the oppressed and the oppressors.  The goal is then to liberate people by dismantling the institutions and structures that subjugate and oppress. Racism is one such dominating structure that still exists today.  If you listen to the stories of black people, you can not deny that racism exists today.  We, whites, many times are always not aware of it, and may not be aware sometimes of our own racist actions.  These are the remnants of slavery that colored our thinking.  I believe that even blacks are colored by these remnants of slavery.  According to CRT, the worst thing one can do is to continue in this state of oppression, and it is a virtue to pursue liberating people from this oppression.

Christians are also in favor of liberating human beings, however we recognize the reality that we are broken, sinful, self-centered people, who can not save ourselves.  We look outside ourselves to our loving Creator, who is able to save us from ourselves. We are liberated from our sin, and because of God’s love for us we can love others and care for them.  We see others and the world through the lens of God’s love, and not in terms of power dynamics.

We need to move to being color blind in regards to race and move towards reconciliation.  Unfortunately, that is not what CRT is about.  Racial color is important to define who the oppressors and the oppressed are.  Though CRT wants to liberate the oppressed minorities from racial discrimination, I believe it ends up reinforcing the racial separation.  Instead we all can work together to help  blacks and other minorities overcome past mistreatment by helping them identify the unique gifts and talents God has given to each of them individually.  Doing so can help them understand God’s guidance that will allow them to achieve their full potential.

In order to move towards reconciliation, white Christians need to listen to the racial minorities in our towns.  We need to learn their stories and understand where they are coming from.  CRT claims we can not understand them because we are not the oppressed.  They say the oppressed have the truth because of their lived experience.  There is a kernel of truth in that but the truth is not dependent on our lived experiences. To the best of our ability we can try to understand them as individuals. The truth is found in God’s Word, the Bible. We need to connect and reconcile with them whether they be hispanic, black, asian, native American, or some other racial brand.

We need to share God’s love with them, help them fight against oppression and victimhood, and show them there is hope for them. They have hope because they are loved by God and God will lift them up.

What Does Real Love Look Like?

love you

In the English language, there are many uses for the word love.  Love can be defined as a strong like or an affection.  Many people would say love is a good feeling.  Some would even equate lust with love.  Others would say love is a result of evolutionary biological urges and an inbred drive.  I think there is a better definition of love.  I believe love is altruistic.  Here is a definition I like. “Love is a commitment you make to act in someone else’s best interest. True love can only be known by the actions that it prompts.” (“God Space”, by Doug Pollock, p. 92). Love puts the needs of the other person first.

The Bible talks a lot about love.  Here is a great description of love. 

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)

Note how relational the love description is.  You can replace the word ‘love’ with ‘God’.  God fits the love description perfectly.

Love is patient.  Patience (long-suffering, forbearance) is a fruit of the Spirit.  Can you be patient and gracious with people? 

Love is kind.  Kindness (goodness) is also a fruit of the Spirit.  Can you be nice and kind to people?

Love does not envy. Being not envious or jealous helps strengthen relationships.  Can you support the achievements of others? 

Love does not boast. Being not boastful allows you to be focused on the other person.  Can you put the other person above your own needs?

Love is not arrogant. Again, being not arrogant or proud means you can focus on the other person.  Can you listen to the other person and try to understand them?

Love is not rude.  You should not act unbecomingly or dishonorably.  Can you treat the person with honor?

Love does not insist on its own way. You should not be self-seeking or focused on yourself.  Can you be concerned about the other person?

Love is not irritable. You should not be easily angered or provoked.  Can you treat abrasive people graciously?

Love is not resentful. You should not keep a record of wrongs suffered. Can you forgive the other person?

Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing. You should not rejoice in unrighteousness.  Sin is destructive, and it hurts people. Can you be concerned about the destructive effects of wrongdoing?

Love rejoices with the truth. Truth is found in Jesus.  We can rejoice in all that God has done and is doing in the lives of people.  Lies hurt people. Can you be honest to others?

Love bears all things.  You will experience tough times.  Can you continue to love in these tough times?

Love believes all things. Love acts in the best interest of others.  Love is realistic and yet positive.  Can you put the interest of others ahead of your own?

Love hopes all things. Love sees the God given potential in others.  Can you see potential in others and not dismiss them?

Love endures all things. You can stand with others as they go through tough times.  Can you stand with those hurting?

Love never ends. Love is unconditional.  There is nothing to stop love.  Can you continue to love others when they are acting unlovable?

Can you be a loving person?  With God’s help you can.

The Kingdom of God

Is the Kingdom of God here today or is it coming at the end of time?  The answer is “Yes”.  Both are true. The Kingdom of God will be fully realized at the end of time, but it is here today.  Too often we focus on the end and not on what God is doing today.  If we focus only on what Jesus has done for us, we then miss out on what the Holy Spirit is doing in us and through us.

In the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) we learn to pray “Your kingdom come”.  The Kingdom of God is not just about being with Jesus someday with a new earth and heaven (Revelation 22:1-5), because God is reigning now (Psalm 93:1-2) though we may not always see it.  Jesus proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was here right now (Mark 1:15; Matthew 3:2).  The Kingdom of God is here today, because Jesus reigns in the hearts of all believers and through our witness the Kingdom of God is expanded. So when we pray “Your kingdom come”, we are asking that by his grace the Kingdom of God would be made known in our lives and the lives of others. God’s reign will be fully realized at the end of time.

The Kingdom of God comes to us when God saves us, forgives us, and calls us his own. But salvation is not just about forgiveness (Colossians 1:13-14).  Salvation is also about restoration and healing (Jeremiah 30:17; Isaiah 53:4-5) now.  Jesus paid the price for our sins (Romans 6:23; 1 Peter 1:18-19), but salvation is more than a legal transaction that brings us back to God. Salvation is also a way of life (1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Peter 2:24). Likewise, eternal life is not only something for us in the future (John 3:15-16), rather eternal life is something we have now (John 3:36).  Also we are not just saved from Hell (Matthew 25:46), but we are also saved to restoration, healing and wholeness (John 10:10; Colossians 2:9-10).

This restoration, healing, and wholeness allows us to become Kingdom Ambassadors for God (2 Corinthians 5:20), sharing the Good News of God’s love for us.  God has prepared good works for us to do (Ephesians 2:10)  so that people may glorify God the Father (Matthew 5:16).  Feeling overwhelmed!  No need to worry.  The Kingdom of God is all about Jesus and he with the Holy Spirit gives us the power to do those good deeds.  Jesus is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:1-11).  The juice that nourishes us flows from the vine to us, the branches, to produce good fruit.  We need to abide in him and let his grace transform our lives to produce good fruit that honors God.

Christianity is more than receiving  a “Get out of Hell Free Card” for the future. It really is all about restoring your relationship with God, and that is life changing right here and right now.

This post was inspired by a table in an article by Robin Dugall.

Inside, Outside, Upside Down

Das Bean Photo by Mark Publava

Today, many of us feel like the world has been turned upside down.  Now today’s emerging culture has people looking inside at their feelings and desires to determine if they are male or female and whether or not they are gay.  It used to be that you looked at the outside, and found out whether your body was male or female.

Again today we look outside of ourselves to find what is wrong in the world, and we look inside to try to find a solution to all that is wrong, because we are considered to be good by default.  This is upside down from the Christian Faith, which points out that when we look inside, we find that we are self-centered and selfish, and that is the origin of all that is wrong in the world.  And as Christians we look outside to God for our help and salvation.

So this emerging culture change is very much upside down from the previous Christian influenced culture.  So which worldview or culture is right-side-up? It depends on how you look at it.  I believe the Christian worldview is right-side-up, but you can make an argument that the nonChristian worldview is dominant and thus it should be right-side-up. About 2000 years ago, the Thessalonians referring to Paul and Silas, shouted “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also” (Acts 17:6-7).  Christianity has always been countercultural to the sinful ways of the world.

I have friends who have a grown child, who is gay.  I believe this person looked inside to discover their homosexual desires and looked outside to blame the parental upbringing for all the struggles the adult child currently faces.  And this young adult also blames the conservative government where they live for their problems.  It appears that this young adult is quite unhappy, and I believe their issues and their unhappiness is due to their worldview.  That is to say this person has embraced this emerging worldview that they are good and anything wrong that happens is outside themselves. They think they are not to blame.

This means this emerging worldview also takes a dim view of forgiveness.  Forgiveness allows the offender to not pay their dues, while the forgiver takes on the offender’s “debt”.  Forgiveness is not fair, and some say it promotes injustice, but reconciliation is very hard without forgiveness.  Forgiveness goes against human nature.  We want justice and vengeance for those who have harmed us.  However, we would rather not take the punishment for our own wrongdoing.  As Christians we note that God has forgiven us.   Every one of us is a sinner and is in need of God’s forgiveness.  Because God has forgiven us so very much, we are able to forgive others and bring peace and reconciliation.

In this post-Christian society, there is this darkness of unhealthy thinking that is causing a lot of chaos, suicides, and mental problems.  As Christians, we can be lights to show a better way to live.  We show a life that offers love, peace, and security that is only found in Jesus Christ. Forgiveness is a key tool Christians can use to show God’s love and bring some peace and reconciliation to the world. There will be pushback because Christianity is countercultural and counter to our human nature, but we have the answer.  Therefore let us go out in love to serve, to speak the truth in love, and to lovingly correct the wrong thinking. 

Paul’s Rule of Life

A year ago, I suggested that having a “Rule of Life” might be better than New Year’s Resolutions.  A Rule of Life is a document of simple statements that create a pattern of life to live by.  In today’s world it is good to become more intentional and less reactive about how you interact with people and with God.  I have created some “rules” or “habits” for me to follow. Below is my “Rule of Life” document.

Paul F. Hein’s Rule of Life

Listed below are some of the “rules” or “habits” of life that I try to follow.  The motivation for all “habits” listed below is:

Jesus Christ, who out of love, gave his life and rose from the dead to restore life to me and for all in the world. And now his Spirit empowers me that I might have a wonderful and abundant life in him.  For this reason I am his disciple and out of gratitude I try to live my life to his glory.

Spiritual Activities and My Relationship with God

  • Be intentional and disciplined about growing spiritually.
  • Daily read Scripture..
  • Pray as often as possible.
  • Weekly gather together with other Christians for worship.
  • Give of my time, abilities, and finances to support Christian ministries.
  • Serve with others in Christian ministries.
  • Follow all that Jesus has commanded.
  • Daily repent and turn from my sins so that I might be renewed and restored.
  • Share my faith with others that do not know Jesus so they may come to know Jesus.
  • Share my faith with those that do know Jesus to encourage and help them grow in their faith.

Interactions and Relationships with Others

  • Be intentional and disciplined in my relationships with others.
  • Remember all people are important.
  • Make my relationships a priority.
  • Be kind, loving, generous, and gracious toward others.
  • Listen to people and try to understand where they are coming from.
  • Ask for forgiveness to those I have done wrong to or have wrongly offended.
  • Promote peace in my relationships, and as much as it is possible be at peace with everyone.

Healthy Living

  • Be intentional and disciplined in living healthy.
  • Walk daily to exercise.
  • Limit the eating of sweets and fats.
  • Eat healthy foods most of the time.
  • Eat small portions and limit seconds.
  • Take vitamins.

Service Opportunities

  • Be intentional and disciplined in my serving.
  • Be open to all opportunities that arise.
  • Be willing to step out of my comfort zone.
  • Do my best while serving.

Paul F. Hein’s Rule of Life as of 27 December 2022

Advent: Jesus is Coming

Christmas Nativity

This is the season of the church year when we remember Jesus coming at Christmas; Jesus coming into our hearts; and Jesus coming at the end of time. The name of the season is called Advent, which means coming.  (For the secular world, December is the Christmas season with shopping and family gatherings.)  Advent is 4 Sundays long.  The traditional focus of the Sundays is on hope, peace, joy, and love (in that order for each Sunday).  

You can see progression in the Advent Wreath which has four candles surrounding the white Christmas candle in the center.  Three of the candles are purple and one, the Joy Candle is pink.  You light one more candle each week as one counts down the weeks to Christmas.  (The Joy Candle is week three.) There are also Advent Calendars where each day you open a door or flap for a message or a small gift as you count down the days until Christmas. (Advent Calendars have become popular in the secular world too with secular messages.)

The first Sunday is traditionally focused on hope.  We have a sure and certain hope found in Jesus. Out of love, 2000 years ago, Jesus came into this world to reconcile us with God (Romans 5:6-11). We are broken, because of our self-centered natures.  The world is broken, full of wrongs, because of us. Jesus paid the price for our freedom from sin, and began the process of righting the wrongs in this world.  Because of Jesus, we are made right before God and can be agents of change for the good of all.  And we look forward to when Jesus bodily returns. He will then set all things right.  That is the hope we have (1 Peter 1:3-5).

The second Sunday in Advent is on the theme of peace.  Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have peace with God (Romans 5:1).  We can live our lives confidently, knowing that we are his and he is working things out for our good.  I experience peace in the midst of many different circumstances of life because I know Jesus.  I cast my burdens on him, because I know he cares for me (1 Peter 5:7).  Because of him, I have peace with God and I can live in that peace.  When the problems and messiness of the world gets to us, we can rest in the fact that God has these situations in his control.  We are his and there is no need to worry.  We can have peace (Philippians 4:4-7).

The third Sunday is the Sunday of joy.  Joy is not happiness.  Happiness is connected to what is happening around us.  Joy is a fruit of the Spirit and is not influenced by circumstances.  Here is how Kay Warren defines joy:  “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.” This means we can rejoice even in our trials and sufferings (James 1:2-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). It does not mean a happy face 24/7, but joy is the confidence that God is good and everything will work out. We look to Jesus for our joy. We have joy as we remember all God has done for us, that God is using these events for our good, and there is a full life today and a wonderful life that is waiting for us in heaven.

For the fourth Sunday the focus is on love.  It is because of God’s love for us that Jesus came, so that we might have life in him.  It is not because who we are and what we have done, rather it is totally about God’s love for us.  We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:7-19).  Jesus restored that relationship with God.  That is what Christmas is all about Jesus coming in love, so that we might be reconciled to God and have full and eternal life in him.

So as you celebrate Christmas, remember there is more to Christmas than just gifts, family, and food.  It is about God loving you so much that he came down and became a little baby so that he might restore this broken messed up world.  Jesus came for you so that you might have life in him (John 10:10-11).

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17)

It is Good to be Thankful

Photo of wheat by Jimmy Lemon

This is the third year I am doing a Thanksgiving post.  Why?  Because it has been shown that it is healthy and therapeutic to be thankful.  It is good for you!  God has blessed you!  When I stop and think about my life, I can have two different attitudes.  I could complain and grumble about all that I have had to endure.  I could complain about what is wrong with myself or with the people around me.  I can complain about the country and the world and all that is wrong with it. OR I can give thanks that I am alive.  That God has clothed me and fed me.  That I am not starving, and I have a place to sleep.  All this and so much more, I can be thankful for.

Gail read “The Last Green Valley”. It is historical fiction based on a true life story about this German couple who fled Ukraine during World War II.  The husband, because of all the difficulties, lost faith in God.  He focused on all the difficulties and thought that God had left him.  A friend pointed out his wrong thinking.  Yes, he went through a lot of tough situations but he survived.  God was with him, guiding him through these tough situations.  God in seemingly miraculous ways had allowed him and his wife to survive several difficulties.  They made it to the West and ended up in Montana.  Having a positive, thankful attitude did not change the difficulties, but it helped him go through the remaining difficulties.

There is no question in my mind what the focus of this attitude should be.  We focus on God who made us and loves us.  God has our best interests at heart.   He works things out for our good (Romans 8:28), even in the difficult circumstances of life. We remember his goodness and all he has done for us. Even in those tough situations he uses it for our good. That is why he tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

If you are in a tough situation, how can you move to thanksgiving?  I would look to the Psalms of lament, and you can even write your own.  You first address God, and then tell him what is wrong. You then request God’s help and express your trust in him. And you end with praise and thanksgiving for God’s many blessings.  You move from focusing on the problem to focusing on God with thanksgiving and praise.

Actually, worship is giving thanks and praise by remembering who God is and what he has done for us.  An example of this is David offering a great song of thanks and praise in 1 Chronicles 16:8-36. At the end David says

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! (1 Chronicles 16:34)

Let us remember the goodness and love of God, and give him praise and thanksgiving.

Basic Discipleship

Bible with heart shadow

My church, Immanuel, recently went through the Red Letter Challenge (RLC).  The challenge is about basic discipleship.  So as Christians, saved by God, how do we live as followers of Jesus Christ?  What does it look like?  RLC gives us 5 Biblical principles for us to put into practice: Being, Forgiving, Serving, Giving, and Going.  These are based on the words of Jesus, the red letters of Jesus speaking as found in some Bibles.  Jesus at the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) says doing his words is like building your house on a rock, and not doing them is like building your house on sand which means the house will collapse when the storms of life come (Matthew 7:24-27).  Doing his words gives your life a solid foundation. 

Being is a foundation principle. God wants you to be in a relationship with him.  How can we build that relationship?  God speaks to us through the words of Scripture (Psalm 119:105).  The words of Scripture were inspired by God and were written to God’s people then but for us today.  We respond in prayer with praise and thanksgiving (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18), as well as sharing our concerns and requests (Philippians 4:4-7).  We worship together (Hebrews 10:23-25), remembering all God has done for us and supporting one another. Our doing flows out of who we are as people of God and who we become when we spend time with God.  God changes us.

Forgiving is needed in our broken world.  We are broken people who do wrong and hurt people.  We need God’s forgiveness (Romans 3:23). God has every right to punish us, but when we turn from the wrong we do, say, or even think, and turn to him, God forgives us (Acts 2:37-38). There is no sin too big for God to not forgive (1 Timothy 1:15-16). He empowers us to forgive others and bring reconciliation. Forgiveness is all about showing mercy and grace and realizing we are no better than those who offended or hurt us.  We forgive because God has forgiven us (Matthew 18:21-35).

Serving is a way we can share God’s love with those around us and point them to God (Matthew 5:16).  We do it because we love Jesus (John 14:15) and want to imitate him (Philippians 2:5-11; Ephesians 5:1-2).  As people of God, he has given us good deeds for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).  God loves everyone so the people we serve are people loved by God and are worthy of our love and service.  We put their needs ahead of our own.

Giving starts with us realizing all God has done for us (John 3:16). Everything we have really belongs to God (1 Chronicles 29:14). He has been very generous with us and for our benefit wants us to be generous to others (Acts 20:35).  Too often our possessions and money become idols (Matthew 6:24).  We put our security in them more than trusting God for his provision.  We should seek after the things of God and not worry about our needs but trust that God to provide (Matthew 6:32-33).

Going happens as we follow Jesus.  God chose us and saved us though we did not deserve it. He did it, because he loves us and wants us to be in a relationship with him.  He desires that for all people (1 Timothy 2:3-4), and he has given us the task of going forth to share the good news of God’s love and make disciples by teaching them all we know about God and the good he desires for us (Matthew 28:19-20). We can share the good news of how God loves us and has been good to us (Acts 1:8). We do not need to worry, God will give us the words (Matthew 10:19-20).

This post is inspired by the book, “Red Letter Challenge” by Zach Zehnder.

The Five Solas

The Five Solas or Solae of the Protestant Reformation summarize the Reformation beliefs that differed from the beliefs at that time.  Sola is Latin for alone. The five solas are “grace alone”, “faith alone”, “Scripture alone”, “Christ alone”, and “to the glory of God alone”. The funny thing is the Five Solas were not put together as a group until the 20th century. Some people only count three solas, but I find all five to be important core theological truths. These beliefs are central to my faith.

Sola Scriptura

“Scripture alone” says Scripture is the sole infallible source of authority for faith, doctrine, and practice.  It is the final authority from which other authorities derive their authority.  The 66 books of the Bible are God’s words (2 Peter 1:21), that tells us of God’s salvation for us (John 3:16) and how to live our lives to the glory of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Sola Gratia

“Grace alone” tells us by our own merit we can not save ourselves from the judgment and condemnation of God, because we are not righteous or good (Romans 3:10-12). But God, by his goodness and grace through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, restores us to a right relationship with him not because of anything we did but purely out of his mercy and grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation is his gift to us (Romans 6:23).

Sola Fide

“Faith alone” reminds us that we are not saved by anything we do or by who we are, but it is through faith in God, who can justify us (Romans 4:4-5), that we are saved and are made righteous (Romans 5:8-9).

Solus Christus

“Christ alone” points us to Jesus as the only way (John 14:6) to be reconciled with God.  Salvation is found in no one else (Acts 4:23).  Jesus is at the center of the entire story of Scripture (Luke 24:27).

Soli Deo Gloria

“To the glory of God alone” because he is the one who has saved us (Titus 3:4-5).  Out of gratitude for his restoring us to himself and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we live our lives to his glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).

These five core beliefs help define my faith and the Christian faith of the Protestant Reformers, and yet many times we want to add or subtract from these core beliefs.  We want to put reason, culture, and/or tradition at the same level as Scripture so to water it down.  We want to make certain we have something to do for our salvation so we can feel good about ourselves, take credit, and/or feel better than those who do not have faith.  We want Christ to be not the all in all but rather to be only a piece of our lives.  We want him to be just a nice guy and not Lord and Savior.  We want to do our own thing and not to worry if the action glorifies God or not. In all these cases, we are taking the truth found in Scripture and changing it because we think we know better than what God’s Word says.  We do this because we are broken self-centered people.  So we need to take care and not let these five core beliefs be added to, subtracted from, or minimized. These five solas are essential to my faith.