Did you know that you are protestor? You may not be part of Antifa or standing on a street corner in front of your tent holding an occupy sign. But if you are part of an evangelical church, you can likely trace your soteriological lineage to the protestant reformation. You are a protestor…What a rebel! But what exactly am I rebelling against?” you ask. Just like Martin Luther and his rebellious reformation contemporaries, you are protesting against the religion of humanity, a twisted belief system that has wrapped its foul tentacles tightly around the heart of every person that has ever walked God’s fair earth. This false religion is one that says, “I will accumulate enough righteousness to make myself worthy of God’s glory,” It is an insidious hydra of false belief encompassing all the works-based belief systems in the world. Raging from the apparently benign, eschewed in the adage “don’t smoke or chew, or go with girls who do” to the overtly malign, as embodied in the worst of Jihad (or many other religious movements that that attempt to procure God’s favor through the eradication of His enemies), or anywhere in between. We who have been chosen to behold the father’s glory (revealed through Christ) are called to reject this natural appeal to self-righteousness. We protest against it, placing our faith instead in the righteousness Christ the Worthy.
The call to be a protestor is a lifelong call, not just to proclaim the truth publicly, but to do so inwardly. We can never cease in this struggle against our own natures to self-justify, because it will never be over this side of eternity. So strong is the desire to self-justify in the human heart that not even the universal church of Christ is immune. Luther was not the first to sound the alarm bell that the wall of faith alone had been breached, nor was he the last. We saw this same issue presenting in the later 20th century as a strange sort of trusting in the profession of faith as sufficient for salvation (as was embodied in the soteriology of the sinner’s prayer). As we progress into the 21st century we hear the death knells of this easy-believism (comingled with those of cultural Christianity) being swallowed by the new antichrist of personal autonomy, a manifestation of the universalism that declares God as being enamored with humans, just because of our inherent goodness. You don’t need to attend Lakewood Church to see this sort of man-exalting theology masquerading as Christianity, It’s likely a prevalent belief in your own church. According to Ligonier Ministry’s most recent State of Theology survey, 67% of church-goers believe that God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. This is a symptom of the spirit of the age that refuses to accept the possibility that a person can be wrong about anything.
But take heart, fellow protestor, the Lord has dealt with many such attacks on His gospel. As I mentioned the soteriological lineage that we call Protestantism originated from just such an attack, and God’s counterattack to it. On October 31st, 1517 Martin Luther’s 95 theses were nailed to the door of the Castle church in Wittenberg Germany, and the smoldering flames of the protestant reformation ignited powder keg of those theses that launched what had been an obscure debate in the Academy into the foremost issue of Christendom. Luther’s theses were in response to many egregiously errant doctrines taught and enforced by the Roman Catholic Church. Among these false doctrines – the selling of indulgences and overall extortion of money from the peasantry under the guise of religion. Tragically the Roman Catholic church had become a global corporation – and had transformed the gospel – of salvation as a free gift through faith into a twisted salvation through paying money to the church. This heresy was yoked to an assortment of legalistic requirements, holding to many man-made traditions and superstitions that are not found in scripture.
It is interesting to note that, as we trace the general pattern of orthodoxy through the history of the Church we often see these cycles of heterodoxy and orthodox (bad teaching and good). Much like Israel in the time of the Judges and Kings, these cycles are often associated with periods of affluence in the church drawing us away from the God and the way to salvation he Has provided, and a return to it following periods of destitution. It has been 500 years since the protestations of the faithful hit the reset button on the Church, and we see the need for it again, though we live in a different world now. One where Church has been decentralized and the bible (the Word inscripturate), no longer shackled by magisterium, has more freedom keep the local church pure and looking to Christ( the Word incarnate). But at large the Church is doing a poor job of keeping faith alone in Christ alone as their central thesis; instead behaving as if this ultimate and defining theme is simply an introductory lesson to the real truths of Christianity. Believing that we are holding onto Christ as our unspoken foundation, we move on to the “greater truths”, but these greater truths often devolve into moralistic therapeutic deism.
Do you believe it? I didn’t until I conducted my (former) church. After a year of a steady diet of Paul Washer sermons, it had become patently obvious to me that there was something missing from the pulpit that I, and my family, sat in front of every Sunday – Christ. Troubled and wondering about the state of the body, I began to ask people, “what is the gospel, how are we saved,” most weren’t sure how to even to respond to such a question, others gave some version of a legalistic, works-base salvation, but all of the responses I heard were lacking Christ. Hard to believe, isn’t it? I encourage you to try something similar at your own church, and add your comment on what you find out, below.
There is a sickness upon much Christ’s Church and I pray we are teetering on the edge of a new reformation. Perhaps it will require a period of destitution to draw us back to our first love, but regardless of the macro-means of reformation, at the individual level the means Christ will use to draw His true church back to himself is, individuals, duh!
You can be the cure for this gospel blight. You can prostrate yourself before the Lord, imploring Him for revival. You can refuse to settle for a Gospel void pulpit, and (lovingly) tell your Church to preach Christ alone, or if not find a church that will. You can become a student of the bible – a reformation style theology nerd – and (lovingly) share what you know with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Christ is drawing a people to Himself by His grace, through faith in His work on the cross, as is declared throughout the entirety of the scriptures, and in doing so, He is building the treasuries of His own glory, which he will share with all who call on His name. It will be worth it, be a protestor now!