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A Freedom Worth Fighting For, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
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May 30, 2024 9:00 am

A Freedom Worth Fighting For, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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May 30, 2024 9:00 am

On October 31, 2017, Christians around the world celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg church and called Christians to return to the true gospel.

Summit Life
J.D. Greear

Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. Some things are worth fighting for. Paul knew it. Martin Luther knew it. The gospel is worth fighting for in our day because again if we change it, we cut ourselves off from the presence of Christ and we obscure God's saving power. There is no other gospel. Jesus has done it all and it is only by faith in him that you and I are saved and have the power of new life. Welcome to Summit Life with J.D. Greer, pastor of the Summit Church in Raleigh, North Carolina.

I'm your host, Molly Vitovich. Okay, a little history lesson as we start. Did you know that it's been more than 500 years since the Protestant Reformation? That's when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of his Catholic church and called Christians everywhere to return to the true gospel, a gospel of salvation through faith alone. So why is the work of an old German monk still relevant in our lives today? The answer lies in the explanation of the gospel found in the book of Galatians.

So let's return to chapter one for the second part of our teaching called A Freedom Worth Fighting For. Here's Pastor J.D. So here's a question. What was it about the book of Galatians that Martin Luther and many others have found so powerful?

Thought you'd never ask. Let's take a look. Galatians 1 verse 6 is where I will start. I am amazed, Paul said, that you are so quickly turning away from him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel. Not that there is another gospel. There is no other gospel. But there are some who are troubling you and want to distort or pervert the gospel of Christ. But I tell you, even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, a curse should be on him.

Now that's a big old statement, isn't it? Then Paul is going to repeat that statement for emphasis in verse 9. As we have said before, I now say again, if anybody is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you already received, let a curse be on him.

I have only two real points I want to make with you today. The first point is that the apostle Paul wants us, in no uncertain terms, to reject the perverse gospel. And then number two, he wants us to fight, be willing to fight for the true one. Number one, reject the perverse gospel, he says. There was a group in the early church known as the Judaizers. Well, after these Jews had come to faith in Christ, after they believed that, they still kept some of this old law mentality.

Paul calls what these Judaizers are teaching, that is, in addition to faith in Christ, you've got to be circumcised in key parts of the law. He calls that not just a corruption, he calls that a different gospel. The real gospel, he says, is that in salvation, God did for us what we were utterly incapable of doing for ourselves. He did it all by himself, and we can only receive it by faith.

Now, most of us today are not going to be hung up on circumcision or aspects of the Jewish law, but let me just try to suggest for you a few ways that I see Christians today believing the same perverse gospel, they just substitute different things in for circumcision. We do it whenever we make something else besides faith in Christ necessary for salvation. For example, for some people, they think you need to accept Christ as your savior and take communion and go to confession.

Accept Christ and be baptized. There is no and in the gospel. There is faith plus nothing else in what Christ has done that saves.

Here's a second way. Some more progressive Christians assume that it doesn't matter what you believe as long as you are a sincere, loving, and good person. But it really is just another way of saying that what you do determines whether or not God accepts you because there's still a standard you have to reach, even if it's a really loose one, right? But the gospel is not that God saves all good people. The gospel is that there are only bad people, only bad people, who received the rescue of Jesus Christ by faith.

Now, here's a third way we do it. Sometimes we do it and we try to grow ourselves spiritually through self-effort. You realize you're saved by grace, but you think now becoming Christ-like is on you. In chapter three of Galatians, Paul is going to explain that any growth in the Christian life is not the result of you willing it into your life, but it is the fruit of the Spirit in you. The power of the Spirit is released by faith in Christ, not by resolution or self-discipline.

Here's the fourth way. I realized this week that I often believe a false gospel when I think that I can produce spiritual change in other people. A lot of times that I'm getting up here ready to preach and I'm thinking, what's going to make me successful as a preacher? When you peel back the layers, what I'm most depending on are my speaking abilities, my ability to persuade, my study and my preparation. Or sometimes when I think about whether how I'm going to be successful as a dad and I think what's going to make my kids turn out the way they should, I think, well, it's the strength of my personality.

It's the fact that I've mastered these parenting techniques or whatever. Paul would say that is foolish. Only the Spirit can produce eternal life in your congregation or in your kids. And listen, the Spirit is not released into your kids or your congregation because of your personality or abilities.

The Spirit is released in others through faith in the gospel, which leads me to number two. Paul says after you reject it, I want you to fight for the true gospel. I want you to fight for the true gospel. Paul has used the strongest language imaginable here. He has said that preachers and teachers or even angels who distort this gospel should be cursed. Now, most people don't like any kind of fighting or controversy in the church.

And honestly, I agree. But Paul says some things are worth fighting for. Some things are matters of life and death. If you pervert the gospel, he says, you're going to do two things. You notice this, verse six, he says, you're going to turn away from him who called you by the grace of Christ. In other words, you're going to desert Jesus. And the last person that you want to walk out of his presence is Jesus. This is not a matter of this range of what we can believe and let's us all get along. This has to do with whether or not we are connected to Jesus's saving power. Secondly, he says you condemn people by pointing them to another gospel that's actually not another gospel at all. There is no other gospel. You're giving people who are dying of thirst, you're giving them a cup of hydrochloric acid. And it might look like water, but it's not water. It's not going to bring life.

It's going to bring death. And Paul says those two things, the presence of Jesus in your life and the way of salvation, those are things we're striving for, even if it means you have to sometimes offend people. And even if it means you have to create division and enemies, which brings us back to the reformation. What was so important that Martin Luther was willing to split the church over it? Martin Luther was a German university student who was studying law at the urging of his parents who were paying for his education. His family was not super religious.

They were just normal religious like most Germans at the time. He was a good practicing Catholic. One day, Martin Luther, as a college student, was walking home and he got caught in a terrible lightning storm. He was terrified, thought he was going to die. And so he called out to Saint Anne, who was the patron saint of his family, he said, Saint Anne, save me.

If you will save me from this lightning storm and I don't die, I promise that I will become a monk. Well, he survived. And so to stay true to his word, he dropped out of law school and enrolled in a monastery. But there Luther, while he was there in the monastery, really started to obsess about what was going to happen to him when he died. And he experienced an emotion that he later called Anfechtung, Anfechtung in German, which best translates as extreme anxiety, maybe even depression. And it came from thinking he was rejected by God. He desperately wanted to know he was right with God and that he wouldn't go to hell. So he started to do everything he could do to try to gain an assurance of salvation. For example, he would fast for days on end.

He would sleep on the floor. He would spend hours in confession trying to remember all of his sins. Because in order to get forgiveness for a sin, the church taught, you had to confess it. So he would spend five and six hours in the confessional trying to remember his sins. He would beat himself with a whip as a way of trying to show God that he was sorry.

The church taught that all these things are necessary to help ensure that you're right with God. But Luther wondered how could he ever know that he had done enough? How did he know he confessed enough? How did he know he'd repented enough?

How did he know he was sorry enough? He said trying to remember every sin in the confession was like trying to remember and trying to mop up the floor with the faucet running. Well, a mentor and confessor there at the monastery, whose name was Staupitz, who had to sit and listen, by the way, to Luther's like six hours of confession on end, finally said to him, Martin, Martin, brother, you got to let this go. And Luther said, but how can I let it go? Isn't my soul the most important thing that I have?

Shouldn't I, shouldn't everybody be obsessed about this? And Staupitz said, you know what, you need Luther, here's what you need to do. You need to start teaching the Bible. And Luther said, I couldn't do that. If I tried to teach the Bible, it would kill me.

Well, finally, Luther agreed to do that. He took up a volunteer Bible teaching post at the local university. And in his study, he started to see things of the Bible that at first infused him, but then delighted him. For example, the first book he taught from was the book of Psalms.

He just taught all the way through it. And he came to Psalm 22, where David cries out, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Which was a prophecy about what Jesus would one day pray from the cross. And Luther said, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? That's infectum. That is the sense that you're rejected by God.

That's what I feel. And then Luther said, I started to wonder, why does Jesus, the son of God, why would he ever feel that way? And then he said, it finally started to dawn on me that Jesus had suffered my condemnation and judgment in my place. All that I felt because of my sin, Jesus felt in my place. Then Martin Luther started to teach the book of Romans.

That was next. But he said, I couldn't get out of chapter one. I tried to teach the Romans, but I couldn't get out of chapter one because there was a phrase in chapter one I couldn't get past. And it was the phrase, the righteousness of God. In fact, I love his account of this so much. I have it up on a thing in my office.

Here's what he said. I hated that phrase, righteousness of God, which I'd been taught to understand as the righteousness with which God punishes the unrighteous sinner. In other words, it's a standard you got to live up to. And if you don't live up to it, then God's going to punish you for not living up to it. Thus I raged against God with a fierce and troubled conscience. Nevertheless, I beat relentlessly on Paul with that verse. I love that image for Bible study.

I just beat on Paul. Most earnestly desiring to know what Paul wanted. At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely in it, the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel. The righteousness of God is revealed as it is written. He through faith becomes righteous, shall live. There I begin to understand, look at this, that the righteousness of God is righteousness with which the merciful God justifies us by faith. It is, he called it, gift righteousness. Righteousness, not that God tells us to live up to, but righteousness that God gives us because of what Christ accomplished for us. Therefore, it's not about me confessing my sin enough.

It's not about me feeling sorry enough or being good enough or beating myself enough. Jesus had done enough and it was finished in him. He had lived the life that I was supposed to live.

He did everything in my place. Luther said it started at his baptism because Jesus, Luther pointed out, he said, Jesus, when he was baptized by John the Baptist, it was a really odd scene because John calls it a baptism of repentance. And Luther said, my question was, what was Jesus repenting of?

He'd never sinned. Why would Jesus be baptized in repentance if he'd never sinned? Jesus' answer in Matthew chapter three, he did it to fulfill all righteousness. Luther said, wasn't Jesus already fully righteous?

Why would he fulfill all righteousness if he was fully righteous already? And Luther said, then it dawned on me that he was fulfilling my righteousness. He was repenting in my place. Jesus did everything in my place. He repented in my place. I could never feel sorry enough for my sin.

So Jesus felt sorry for me. He lived the life I was supposed to live, died the death I was condemned to die so that when I trust in him by faith, his record becomes mine. Thanks for joining us today for Summit Life with Pastor JD Greer.

We'll get back to today's teaching in a moment, but I wanted to let you know that today is your last chance to get a hold of our current featured resource here on Summit Life. It's called Elijah and Elisha, an eight-day scripture guide through 1 Kings 17 to 2 Kings 6, and it parallels the teaching series that we just completed here on the program this week. It's an eight-part devotional that takes you through the amazing, extraordinary lives and ministries of these two prophets. And like so many of our resources, you can walk through it on your own or bring someone along the journey with you through some key passages in 1 and 2 Kings.

As you'll see, reading about the great faith of others is a very helpful way to grow your own faith in God's power. At the end of the day, we want you to be drawn deeper into the gospel and to fall more in love with Jesus. We'd love to send you a copy of this new devotional today with your gift of $35 or more to this ministry.

To give, call us at 866-335-5220, or you can give online at And don't wait. Again, today is your last chance. Now let's get back to today's teaching. Once again, here's Pastor J.P. Luther developed this phrase sola fide. In Latin, faith alone. Christ did it all. Simply putting faith in what Christ has done is what saves us. Here he said, here he said, I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. Well, meanwhile, back over in Rome, Pope Leo, the pope at the time, wanted to finish a construction project he had begun on St. Peter's Basilica.

You can still see it in Rome today. But Pope Leo had run out of money and he needed to raise some money, so he started to sell indulgences. Now, indulgences were basically merit tokens that you could buy from the church that would earn you extra credit for heaven. So the pope sent out all these preachers throughout the Holy Roman Empire to preach these fiery sermons about hell and the rapture and get everybody scared so that they would buy indulgences to shore up their chances of getting into heaven.

Well, while Luther is studying Romans and hearing these sermons, it all starts to really take him off. And he said, for example, he said, if the pope has all this credit to give out and he really loves us, why not just give it? Secondly, he said, and more importantly, isn't the righteousness of Jesus Christ sufficient? And why would we have to go to purgatory to pay for our sin? Weren't Christ's sufferings for us complete? Didn't Jesus say it's finished?

Doesn't scripture say he put away sin once for all by the sacrifice of himself? And so he listed out these and a bunch of other grievances in a document that we now refer to the 95 Theses, and he nailed them to the door of the church in Wittenberg. Incidentally, by the way, he wrote them in Latin because he intended for them only to be read by the religious elite, but they really struck a chord with the German people because all the German people resented the pope putting this tax and this obligation on them.

It caught in Germany and it took off. Well, the Catholic Emperor Charles V learned about all this, and so he wanted to put Luther to death as a heretic. The problem was that Luther had grown so popular among the Germans that King Charles couldn't do that without provoking a riot, at least without giving Luther a trial first. So he invited Luther to come recant his beliefs at something called the Diet of Worms. Well, Luther gets the summons that he's got to meet King Charles and all these bishops at Worms, and his statement, he said, well, why do I need to go all the way to Worms to recant what I could just recant here in Wittenberg? If you really want me to recant to take back what I said, then here you go. Previously I said that the pope was a representative of Jesus. Now I say he is an apostle of the devil. That's my recantation.

That is actually what he said. He was spicy, let me tell you. So they bring Luther in to Worms and they spread out before him his 95 theses and all of his other books in front of him and they demand that he recant. Luther, the story goes, witnesses say he got really quiet and he asked for a day that he could think about it, which is kind of confusing because you're like, I thought he was, you have to realize he thought he was going to die. He thought he would not recant and they would burn him at the stake the next day.

So he just said, I need some time to think about this. And he goes back to his cell and he prays one of the most touching prayers that I've ever read in my life, where basically he just says, God, I'm scared and I don't want to die, but I know this is right, but I'm not sure that I'm going to have the strength to do this. The next day, Luther walks back into the courtroom.

It was even more packed than the day before. The king and all the princes and all the nobles were there and Luther, they spread out the books before him and said, Luther, we demand that you recant these things. Luther says, he says, well, first there are many things in these books that the church agrees with, so I can't recant of those, at which point one of the bishops interrupted him and said, Luther, the question is, do you insist that the church is in error for selling indulgences? And are you continuing to hold to this ridiculous idea that the church and membership in the church and all these things are not necessary for salvation and that it's faith alone that's necessary for salvation? Are you really saying, Luther, that all these other church leaders are wrong and all these people throughout history have been wrong and that you, Luther, you alone are right? Witnesses said that Luther got really, really quiet for a minute.

And then finally he kind of looked up and looked the bishops in the eye and he said, and I quote, since you want a simple reply, I will give you one without horns or teeth. Unless I am convinced by scripture and plain reason for I do not accept the conclusions of councils or popes because they contradict each other, my conscience is held captive by the word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.

Amen. The courtroom at this point, witnesses say, just descended into chaos and Luther slipped out the back. Seriously, King Charles had promised Luther safe conduct to Vermes and back as part of the deal to get in there. So we had to let Luther walk out free.

But as soon as Luther left, King Charles published what they call the edict of Vermes in which he declared that once Luther got back to Wittenberg, anybody anywhere could kill him without punishment. So on the way home, some local militia kidnapped Luther and Luther thought he was going to die. But these turned out to be friends and they took him and hid him in a castle in Wartburg where for several years he lived in secret, translated the Bible into common German, and just wrote a bunch of books that we still have today. You can visit the very cell where they kept him there at Wartburg. In fact, there's a famous story about this cell where Luther says, they believe he said he threw an ink well at the devil.

And if you take a tour of it, if you have a savvy tour of God, they'll smudge some soot on the wall and they'll say, here is the very spot where the ink well exploded against the wall. But what Luther actually said in German, this is fascinating to me, what Luther literally said was, in this cell, I thought the devil would ink. And what he meant was not that he threw an ink well at Satan, but that he fought Satan by writing out the first ever translation of the New Testament into common German so that the people could read it because the word of God itself would do all the work. The problem was only the popes and only the priest had access to the word of God.

And he said, everybody should have access to it. Not even Luther was expecting the impact this simple discovery would make. He later said, I didn't mean to cause the reformation and I'm not the one who engineered it and I'm not the one who propelled it forward.

I simply translated the Bible and prayed and then sat back and drank a good pint of German beer while the word itself did all the work. Luther was a very colorful and deeply flawed individual, but that's what he said. The reformation, which was built on the idea that salvation came through faith alone in Christ, began to spread like wildfire all throughout Europe as more and more preachers begin to translate the Bible into the common language. What followed were some of the bloodiest years in history.

Scholars say more Protestants died for their faith in the years following the reformation than all the Christian martyrs in early Rome. Yet they did it gladly. One historian at the time describes that he said, no human being was able to take out of their hearts what they experienced. The fire of God itself burned within them. They would rather die 10 deaths than forsake the divine truth because they knew this was about eternity.

Some things are worth fighting for. Paul knew it. Martin Luther knew it. The gospel is worth fighting for in our day because, again, if we change it, we cut ourselves off from the presence of Christ, and we obscure God's saving power. There is no other gospel.

Jesus has done it all, and it is only by faith in him that you and I are saved and have the power of new life. Paul is going to spend the last half of chapter one in Galatians explaining why he is so zealous about the gospel. And basically what he says is the gospel is the only place that you can experience Jesus is the only place that you can experience Jesus. He's going to use himself as case in point. He's going to say, only a real resurrected Christ with real power could have changed me. And if you tamper with the message, you're going to lose the presence of God and cut yourself off from his power.

I've heard it described like this before. If you were dying of starvation and a rich person had compassion on you and said, I'm going to give you access to my bank account. So here's my ATM card.

You can go anytime you want and take out any amount of money you want. All my millions and millions and millions of dollars are yours. And you say, well, what's the pin number? And they said, the pin number is 1973, the year that I was born. And you say, oh, that's going to be hard for me to remember. I was born in 1978. So that's the pin number I prefer to remember. The rich person would say, well, you can try to enter 1978 if you want, but you're never going to have access to my money that way.

If you want my money, you got to enter 1973. What Paul is saying is if you want access to the riches of Jesus Christ, this is not a plan that you can edit. This is a plan that God gave and said, this is the way that you get it.

It is by acknowledging that you have no power to save yourself and that you have no power to live the Christian life that Jesus has done it all through his death and his resurrection. And simply by believing that and resting the weight of your soul upon it, will you experience the forgiveness and the resurrection of Jesus Christ? You see, I'm glad Luther believed this. I'm glad Paul believed this. I believe this, and I want you to believe it.

And I want you to be willing to fight for it. Have you experienced this gospel? Are you fighting for this gospel?

The end of the day, this is what it's about. Are you experiencing the power that flows from this gospel alone? Today's message is part of our new teaching series in Galatians called Freedom in the In-Between. If you happen to join us late, you can hear the full message online at The free online resources at our website are part of our mission to reach the world with gospel-centered Bible teaching, because we believe the gospel is a deep well of transformative grace, and we'll never find the bottom. And when you give to this ministry, you're making that mission possible. As our way of saying thanks for your generous support, we'll send you a brand new devotional from Pastor JD called Elijah and Elisha, an eight-day scripture guide through 1 Kings 17 to 2 Kings 6.

Today is your last chance to get a hold of it. It is broken up into eight parts, and each part includes a short chapter that aligns with the teaching we just completed this week. Request a copy of Elijah and Elisha, an eight-day scripture guide through 1 Kings 17 to 2 Kings 6 when you give today.

The suggested giving level is $35 or more. Call 866-335-5220 or go online and request the book when you visit us at And if you don't receive our e-newsletter yet, be sure to stop by the website to sign up. You'll get ministry updates, sneak peeks of our new resources, and Pastor JD's latest blog post delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up today at I'm Molly Vidovitch inviting you to join us next time when Pastor JD talks about a freedom that could only come from God. That's Friday on Summit Life with JD Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by JD Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-30 10:07:19 / 2024-05-30 10:18:31 / 11

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