At the end of October, the 31st to be exact, we just passed the 500th anniversary of Luther posting his famous 95 theses to the church door in Wittenburg. It was an event that led to many other events that truly changed the world— the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation eventually produced what is known as “Five Solas.” Sola is the Latin word for “sole” or “only.” The cornerstone of the Reformation was bringing back five central ideas of Christianity that had been lost with the rise of the Roman Catholic Church.
They are 1. Sola Fide 2. Sola Gratia 3. Sola Scriptura 4. Sola Christus 5. Sola Deo Gloria. In English, they mean, “only faith,” “only grace,” “only Scripture,” “only Christ,” and “only the glory of God.”
I think it’s the last one that is such a huge faith journey for me. I was born in an itinerant minister’s home. I was literally in church almost every day of my first 12 years of life as we traveled from church to church. I heard the gospel in a story-time setting with my mother or my father’s sermons day after day. Because of the natural repetition in presentations in an itinerant ministry, I had memorized many of the sermons and stories by the age of five. My dad would usually quote about 100 to 125 verses in every sermon. Again, because of that kind of repetition, I had all those verses memorized by the time I was six or seven. Fifty years later I still tell many of my mom’s children’s stories in chapels and gatherings of children. I came to saving faith as a young child and led my first adult to Christ when I was only five. I knew Christ and all about Him.
I struggled a bit as a young teen to really trust God with my life. The ministry was difficult, and I saw that in my parents, but I knew deep in my heart that God wanted me in the ministry. I was a pretty compliant teen, and at fourteen I fully surrendered to God’s call of ministry, knowing the difficulty and pain that often accompany such a call, but also the joys and blessings as well for I had witnessed it in my parents and our home. I knew in my head that I Corinthians 10:31 taught that I was to live to the “glory of God” and that the fifth Sola was about God’s glory, but I didn’t get that experientially until my mentor handed me the book Our God is Awesome by Tony Evans.
In that book, Dr. Evans gave a definition about “glory” that completely changed my view of this last Sola. Dr. Evans said “glory” meant something like, “the visible manifestation of one’s essence.” In other words, I was supposed to live every moment as the very embodiment of Christ. At that moment, “living for His glory” became a life-long pursuit. I began to understand the expansive nature of the command for holiness, purity, kind-heartedness, service to the unthankful, etc. I began to understand what I think the Early Church understood naturally because of the persecution they went through, but that I am never living more to the glory of God or being the visible manifestation of His very essence than when I am falsely accused, or my integrity is wrongly called into question.
When that happens in my life, the Scots-Irish rears its ugly head with a desire to push back and attack. But that’s not living to the glory of God. For we read that “when He was reviled, He reviled not again.” I must confess, that when I’m treated poorly on the freeway, by a member of my church or school, by my wife or kids, or anyone else, I want to strike back. Obviously, I NEVER consider that I treat anyone else poorly!
But if I am to reflect my Master, I simply can’t strike back. I must exhibit that “fruit of the Spirit” we tend to leave off because it comes near the end of Paul’s list in Galatians. I must exhibit “self-control.” When I rail at the world, vent my anger, or rant about relatively inconsequential stuff, I’m not being Christ, for He did no such thing. At that moment, I’m not living for the “glory of God,” but rather the “glory of Mike.” The world already has enough of Mike; it needs more of Jesus. My mission in life is to be the visible manifestation of who Jesus is and how He is presented in Scripture.
I figured out what I needed to do and quickly set out to do it, but the question was, “how do I do that”? Living life in every aspect to reflect exactly who Jesus is in Scripture…every thought, word, and deed. That’s my job. As I continue to grow in my faith, this “job” continues to create such a spirit of amazement in me that God would give me the honor of becoming like His Son so the world can see what His Son looks like through ME! Me, a wretched and filthy sinner, the Father wants me to look like His Son! Not even Professor Henry Higgins in the 1964 classic My Fair Lady could dream of such an incredible transformation.
This week, my daughter told me she and my son-in-law are expecting a baby boy. It will be my first grandchild. I’ve heard they are lots and lots of fun. I’m looking forward to it. One of the activities of friends and family is to look at a newborn and try to decide who the child looks like. “Oh, he has the dad’s eyes,” or “she has the mom’s ears or nose.” These are fun and exciting moments.
I imagine the angles looking at me spiritually, and I wonder if they see any resemblance to the Son of God? Do I have His heart for the lost and hurting? Do I have His desire for holiness? Do I have His mind? Do the angels say of Mike Sproul, “He so looks like his Heavenly Father”?
This is my faith journey!