When Martin Luther was a child, he demonstrated an aptitude for learning. When Martin Luther was 13 years old, his father sent him off to study at the University of Erfurt. He began with his general studies and then, according to plan, he continued on to law school. After receiving his baccalaureate and master's degrees, he was welcomed into the faculty of law there at the university. This especially pleased his father, Hans, who was a peasant. And with his son practicing law, it would surely provide a financial security for Martin as well as for his parents.
But, in the summer of 1505, when Luther was 21 years old, he took a trip to his hometown in Eisleben, to speak with his parents. From best we know, he was seeking counsel from them regarding his future. He was having doubts about practicing law and was toying with entering the ministry, something his father was strongly against, especially as it had implications on Luther's ability to support his parents in their old age.
Well, as God's sovereignty would have it, on his way back to Erfurt, on July 2, 1505, he was caught in a severe thunderstorm. And at one point, a lightning bolt struck the ground near where he was and knocked him over. And in desperation and in fear for his own safety, he shouted out to the heavens, to the patroness of minors, "St. Anne help me! I will become a monk!"
And true to his word, later that month, in July 1505, Martin Luther became a monk. His first year of monastic life in those days was a probationary period, in which a prospective monk would experience a life of religious devotion--rising early, taking the mass daily, praying seven times each day with the brethren, fasting and praying alone, singing with the brothers, and searching your heart to see if you are fit for the monastic life.
After a year, the brothers in the monastery found him fit and Luther pledged his life to live as a monk. He gave away all of his possessions. His musical instruments, his many books, his clothing, and he entered the monastery.
He took things seriously. He fasted and prayed. He went without sleep. He endured bone-chilling cold without a blanket. He whipped himself to beat his body into submission.
Of his days as a monk, he would later testify, "I was a good monk, and I kept the rule of my order so strictly that I may say that if ever a monk got to heaven by his monkery it was I. All my brothers in the monastery who knew me will bear me out. If I had kept on any longer, I should have killed myself with vigils, prayers, reading and other work." 
And through all this effort, he was empty. He was trying with all of his might to be made right with God, doing what the most righteous through the ages had done: fasting and praying and living a life of poverty. But something was missing. But still, he pressed on.
As Luther was a man with gifts, he was selected to be trained as a priest, which meant that he was able to officiate at the mass. The mass is the high point in Roman Catholic worship.
Well, the day for his first mass came. This is a big deal for a priest. Relatives often came to celebrate with the new priest. And things were no different on this occasion for him. In fact, the day was delayed a month, so that his father could attend the service. And he came in style, with twenty horsemen. Furthermore, he made a significant contribution to the monastery, which was a generous act indeed for the peasant to make.
And then, during the mass, Martin Luther experienced another lightning bolt. This time, it wasn't a literal lightning bolt to his body, but it was a lightning bolt to his soul. It was with the reality of what was going on in the mass, when he truly thought on what was actually taking place through his actions.
See, Roman Catholics believe that when the bread and wine are presented before God in the mass, they actually become the body and blood of Jesus. They take the words of Jesus at the Last Supper, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19). And Roman Catholics take Jesus to be speaking literally at this moment. And that whenever the mass is celebrated and the priest lifts up the host, Roman Catholics believe that it becomes the body of Jesus.
This doctrine is called, "Transubstantiation." That is, the substance is transformed during the mass. If you go to a Roman Catholic mass today, you can witness this. At the high point in the service, the priest holds up the wafer and says, "Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life." And often there is a boy at the altar who will ring a bell three times, denoting the very moment that the substance is transformed into the body of Christ.
And from then on, the priest and people treat the wafer as if it is the body of Jesus. The priest will kneel to adore Jesus, who they believe is really present in the host.
Now, we at Rock Valley Bible Church don't believe this. But Luther did. And at that moment when he lifted the bread into the air, Luther was hit with another lightning bolt. At the moment he said, "We offer unto thee, the living, the true, the eternal God," he froze. R. C. Sproul well describes the scene, ...
He froze at the altar. He seemed transfixed. His eyes were glassy, and beads of perspiration formed on his forehead. A nervous hush filled the congregation as they silently urged the young priest on. [His father] was growing uncomfortable, feeling a wave of parental embarrassment sweep over him. His son's lower lip began to quiver. He was trying to speak the words of the mass, but not words came forth from his mouth. He went limp and returned to the table where his father and the family guests were seated. He had failed. He ruined the mass and disgraced himself and his father. 
Luther would later write, ...
At these words I was utterly stupefied and terror-stricken. I thought to myself, 'With what tongue shall I address such Majesty, seeing that all men ought to tremble in the presence of even an earthly prince? Who am I, that I should life up mine eyes or raise my hands to the divine Majesty? The angels surround him. At his nod the earth trembles. And shall I, a miserable little pygmy, say 'I want this, I ask for that'? For I am speaking to the living, eternal and the true God. 
See, Martin Luther clearly understood his place before God. He was a miserable sinner. And God was entirely majestic and holy. This led Luther to the confessional to confess his sins. Luther longed to see his sins forgiven, so he would confess his sins to another priest, "frequently, often daily, and for as long as six hours on a single occasion." 
See, Luther rightly understood the stain of his sin. And he believed that every sin needed to be confessed to be absolved. So, he would rack his brain and try to come up with anything in which he sinned, so that he could confess it; so that he would be forgiven of his sin. And he knew the tricks that his mind would play. And he tried and tried and tried to plum its depths and see his sin, even the sins of thought that he committed while in the confessional! That it might be confessed. That it might be forgiven.
Obviously, he drove his confessors weary with his endless confessions; because, they had to listen through everything in order to absolve the sins. At one point Johann Staupitz, Luther's superior, exclaimed, "Look here! If you expect Christ to forgive you, come in with something to forgive--parricide, blasphemy, adultery--instead of these peccadilloes." But, for Luther, it was never enough.
Now, I tell you all of this to make one point. In all of these experiences--the committed life as a monk, the duties of the priest, the idea of confession--drove Luther to think that there must be something more. God is so big, and we are so small. And all of our religion will never really satisfy. All of our religion will never really help our condition before God as a sinner. We need something far bigger than ourselves.
And Luther and the reformers found what was far bigger: Jesus Christ. My message this morning is entitled, "Solus Christus." This is the fourth in our series of "Solas" which we are looking at this month of June.
So far, we have seen "Sola Scriptura." It is the Scripture alone to which we give authority over our lives, not the tradition of the church. "Sola Fide." We are justified before God through faith alone, not by works of the law. "Sola Gratia." Our salvation is entirely a gift of God's grace. Not one iota of our salvation can we take credit for. And this morning, "Solus Christus." Our salvation comes through Christ alone. Not through the church or through the Sacraments.
See, this was the very point with Martin Luther. As he sought his salvation through sacraments that the church had given--the holy orders, the confessional, the mass--it was never enough. It was never enough to satisfy until he saw the sufficiency of Christ. And he found that Jesus satisfied!
And what Luther found (or rather, rediscovered), all of the reformers found and embraced. And that's why we are looking at the Solas this month. It's bringing us back to our spiritual heritage. Because, we stand right in line with all of the reformers on these issues. I want for you to see that and know that and embrace that!
I have an evangelist friend who often quotes this little phrase, "We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, plus nothing." And the aim of my messages during this short little series has been that you would embrace this for yourselves. That you would come to say, "Yes! I believe what the Reformers taught. Yes! I believe what the Bible teaches." That we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, plus nothing!"
And this morning, as we look at Solus Christus, we have a problem. We have a problem because there are so many texts that speak about this. Because, as Luther once said, "[Jesus Christ is the] center and circumference of the Bible."  That is, the entire Bible is talking about Jesus! It's whole message is to draw us to Christ!
The Scriptures don't point us to go to the priest. The Scriptures don't point us to go to the sacraments. The Scriptures don't point us to go to the ritual. They tell us to go to Jesus. Because, in him and him alone is our salvation.
Now, as has been our custom in this series, we have looked first at the life of Martin Luther and what led him to believe what he believed. And then, we went to the Scriptures to see if, indeed, these things were so. So, I'm turning the corner now and we are going to dig into the Scriptures.
I want to begin this morning in the gospel of John. Specifically, John 14:6. This is, perhaps, the most fundamental passage in the Bible where Jesus speaks of how he is the way of salvation. Jesus says clearly, ...
I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
Jesus says that He is the only way to the Father. You can't get to God any other way. It's not through priests or rituals or sacrifices. It's through Jesus Christ. It's not through psychology or opening the mind or yoga. It's through Jesus Christ. It's not through Abraham or King David or the apostle Paul or Mohammed. It's through Jesus Christ. He is the way to God. He is the only way to God.
Often in the gospel of John, we see Jesus pointing people to Himself. He never directs people to He invites people to come to Him. Turn over to chapter 5, and verse 39.
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.
Jesus said that eternal life is in Him. And that you need to come to Him to have it. What a statement! Turn to chapter 6.
"I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.
Jesus calls himself "the bread of life." And to have life, you need to come to Jesus! And when you do, you will never hunger.
The second phrase in verse 35 show us what it means to "come to Christ." It means "to believe in [Him]." It doesn't mean that you need to come to him in the front of a church. It doesn't mean that you need to take some spiritual pilgrimage any place. It means that you "believe in Jesus."
And those to whom Jesus was speaking didn't believe.
But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.
And then, Jesus makes this statement that we could have gone to last week when we talked about "Sola Gratia."
All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.
It is the Father who gives Jesus His followers. And as the Father gives them, they will come. Notice that "all that the Father gives" will come. But, not all come to Jesus. Why is that? Because the Father hasn't given them. Because it's all of grace.
Furthermore, because it is the Father who initiates salvation. He it is who completes the salvation. "The one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out." There is great security in Jesus.
In fact, that's one of the great implications that come out of this doctrine of Solus Christus. Whereas before Martin Luther we striving and striving and working and working, he never possessed assurance of his salvation. But, when you realize that it all depends upon Jesus, and that the one who comes to Jesus will never be cast out (verse 37), then there is great assurance and comfort in those words.
Let's continue down to verse 44, ...
"No one can come to Me unless the Father who send Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.
You cannot come to Christ, unless the Father is acting first upon you. You cannot come to Christ, unless the Father draws you. This is grace.
Now, I know that there are those who don't like this. But, these is the words of Jesus. And Jesus knew how hard it would be for his listeners to receive these things. Verse 60, ...
Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, "This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?"
This is a hard saying of Jesus. It doesn't make sense to our human reasoning. Isn't the choice up to us? Don't we choose to follow Jesus? Certainly! But, we choose, only because God is working in our lives. And Jesus said, "Don't stumble on these things."
But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, "Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father."
As if to make His point clear, he repeats it. You come to Jesus only because it has been granted from the father.
I mentioned last week how many people don't like this, because they want to take some credit for their salvation. And so, wanting to hold on to their own sovereignty, they reject this clear teaching of the Bible. It was no different in Jesus' day.
And look at verse 66, ...
As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.
I encourage you, don't walk away from Jesus because you don't like what Jesus says. Don't walk away from Jesus because you don't understand everything. Simply trust that His words are life. Come to Jesus and believe in Jesus.
Turn over to chapter 7. Here we find Jesus at the Feast of Booths (7:2). And he calls out to the multitude (in verse 37), ...
Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'"
This is almost parallel to what Jesus said about being the bread of life. Bread is the substance that gives life. Water is the substance that sustains life. You come to Jesus and you will have an abundance of life-refreshing water for your soul!
But, please note, again, the verbal picture that Jesus is giving here. It is "coming to Jesus for life." It's not ritual. It's not special knowledge. It's not duties or sacrifices. It's not vocational ministry. It's not coming to church. It's not doing x, y and z. It's simply coming to Jesus. Again, a metaphor for believing in Jesus.
We see a slight change of metaphor in chapter 10, but still the same idea. Jesus says in this chapter that He is "the good shepherd." He pictures Himself as the shepherd of His sheep. This imagery is often used in the Bible, as we see one instance in Psalm 23:1, "The Lord is my Shepherd.
Let's continue in John, picking it up in verse 22, ...
At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem;
This is the festival of Hanukah that the Jews still celebrate today, roughly around Christmastime. Continuing, ...
it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, "How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these testify of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one."
Again, my point is simply this: you see the metaphor of Jesus. It's following Jesus to eternal life (verse 27). It's coming to Him! It's believing in Jesus.
And again, we see grace coming up here in this passage. We have the battle between those who believe and those who don't believe. In verse 25, Jesus says that they don't believe in Jesus. And in verse 26, Jesus gives the reason why they don't believe. "Because you are not of My sheep."
Now, most people switch these things. "Those who believe are God's sheep." Now, that's true. Those who believe in Jesus can call God "My shepherd." But, Jesus reverses the order.
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.
In other words, there is something fundamentally different between the sheep in the fold of Jesus and those outside. And when the call of Jesus goes forth, His sheep will follow Him.
It's not that they become his sheep by following. It's that following is a manifestation of who they really are. And it's right here that we see the difference between our concept of "church" and the Roman Catholic view of "church."
For Rome (as well as for the Jews of Jesus' day), the church is necessary for you to enter into heaven. You must be baptized into the church. You must confess your mortal sins to a priest. You must be confirmed to receive the mass, which imparts saving grace to you. You must have the last rites given to you. And in this way, the church becomes indispensible to your eternal life. Because the church has the keys to the kingdom. And you must go through her.
Whereas the Protestant view is entirely different. The church is an expression of love to Christ. The church is the assembly of His sheep. On the one hand, we don't really need the church, because we come to Jesus alone
And yet, on the other hand, the church is a joy. It is a source of strength. It is where God's people love to gather to hear his word and to encourage one another. The church becomes an expression of heaven on earth. And that's why it's important.
But, catch this, the church itself is not important to bring you God, because you only come to God through Jesus. But, the church is important for continuing to direct you to Christ.
In fact, that is what we seek to do at Rock Valley Bible Church. Every Sunday we gather, we seek to direct you to Jesus and not to ourselves. Because, there is one mediator between God and man, "Christ Jesus."
1 Timothy 2:5
"There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."
And our role as a church isn't to point you to our church as necessary to come to God. No! Our role is to point you to Jesus, through whom you can come to God.
Now, our church is helpful in bringing you to God in as much as we point you to Jesus. But, we are needed to bring you to God, because you don't get to God through the church. You get to God through Jesus.
And the reformers saw this. And that's what "Solus Christus" is all about. It's all about eternal salvation. It's wrapped up in a person, not a doctrine.
Go to the end of John. Chapter 20 and verses 30-31. These verses give the purpose of why John wrote his gospel. It was to direct people to Jesus.
Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
Life comes through Jesus Christ. Come to Him. Follow Him. Believe in Him!
So, you say, what does it mean for us as a church? Consider Paul's words in 1 Corinthians. He writes, ...
1 Corinthians 1:17-2:5
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.
Believing in Solus Christus means that we need to be relentlessly pointing people to Jesus, over and over again, all the time. And if we don't, then the cross of Christ is emptied of its power.
There are many churches today whose driving force is numbers. And so as to get numbers, they don't preach the gospel. They preach helpful messages, like what makes your marriage better or how to handle conflict or how to organize your life to make keep your life in balance. These things are good for drawing a big crowd. I mean, who doesn't want help in these areas. But, what are you doing when you do this? You empty the church of its power.
In other words, when you wax eloquent and speak wisdom about how to make your life better apart from the cross of Christ, you have just nullified the power of the cross. Oh, you may get numbers this way, but you have taken the power of the church away. True church growth will happen when the gospel is preached and all is focused upon Christ. This is Paul's message in the next few verses.
1 Corinthians 1:18a
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.
There are many perishing people who fill churches who are never hearing the word of the cross. Before my brother-in-law was saved, he attended such a mega-church as I'm describing. It was years before he figured out that he was perishing in his sin apart from Christ. By God's grace he did eventually. It drove him to a church where the gospel was preached.
1 Corinthians 1:18
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Genuine believers will long to hear the gospel preached, because it is the power of God for their lives!
1 Corinthians 1:19-21
For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside." Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
As a nation, we think ourselves to be so wise. In the name of being all-inclusive, we pass laws that are against the laws of God. But, such actions demonstrate our own foolishness. Who are we to think that we know better than God?
And today (in the wisdom of the world), the only unpardonable sin is to speak against the movement toward same sex marriage. Should you speak in any way against this, the vast cultural pressure will force you to apologize or lose your job or business. Such is the wisdom of the world. It is entirely contrary to the ways of God.
1 Corinthians 1:22-25
For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the fooolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
This is exactly what took place in the early church. Through the power of Christ, Peter was able to make a lame man walk. When called to account before the religious leaders, Peter said, "There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). They rejected this message and refused to believe the preached word. This was because they refused to believe in the sign that was given. The religious leaders couldn't deny the miracle. They said, "For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it" (Acts 4:16). And yet, they still didn't believe in the sign that was given. Instead, they rejected Christ and his gospel. This shows the impotence of signs to convince people of Christ.
The Greeks were always seeking for wisdom. You can read in Acts 17:21 how they were always seeking something new. But, Paul said, that he had one agenda on mind when he came to Corinth. It was to preach the cross. The Jews in that place stumbled over the stone (Psalm 118:22; Acts 4:11), but it was the chief cornerstone. J
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
I imagine that there was some pressure placed upon him to preach some other things, but Paul knew that the way to be truly effective was to focus his ministry upon Solus Christus, nut upon himself or upon his own wisdom. This is the effect of preaching Solus Christus--It builds people up on God's wisdom, not your own. When God builds his church, he does it through the preaching of the cross.
When God builds his church, he chooses the weak and foolish of the world to shame the wise (1 Corinthians 1:26). God builds his church through the preaching of the cross because he brings in the humble who have nothing to offer God, but pleads Him for everything. And thereby, God gets all the glory, because it is "by His doing you are in Christ Jesus" (1 Corinthians 1:30). God saves us in such a way that it isn't our own doing that we are in Christ Jesus. Yes, the gospel goes out and yes, we believe. But, it's all because of God's hand working in our lives. Our boasting should be only in the Lord, and not of ourselves (1 Corinthians 1:31). We are nothing.
As a church, we need to trust that God gives the growth through these means.
1 Corinthians 3:5-7
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
In the end, it is God who builds His church. And He builds it upon "Solus Christus." So, let us do it his way, by preaching the cross.
But, it gets better than this. Not only is Jesus the way to God, He also gives us everything that we need for godliness.
2 Peter 1:1-3
Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
Jesus has given to us everything that we will every need pertaining to life and godliness. You want to be godly? Seek Jesus. He has the resources to make you godly.
There are many who go about in their lives yearning for more of God in their lives. They will go from book to book, from teaching to teaching, from teacher to teacher, and from church to church, looking for just the right thing that is going to help them in this life. Maybe they think that it's the charismatic church that's going to help them, through some miraculous sign. Maybe they think that it's the rock band and high energy worship that is going to help them. Maybe they think that it's the liturgy that will help. Maybe they think that it's a large crowd that's going to help. Maybe they think that it's the Christian conference that might help. Maybe they think that it's the teacher from England who will help them.
Through all this, think that they need to find something "out there." They think that they simply haven't quite found yet that will be the key to their spiritual progress in this life. And, they miss it, not realizing that all the power they will ever need to live a godly life has been given to them in Christ Jesus. They have it already!
They sing, "More love, More power, More of You in my life." But, the reality is that by faith, God is in our life and has given to us everything that we need. We don't need "more love." We have God's love in our life. We don't need "more power." We have God's power in our life. We don't need "more of You in my life." We have everything that we need.
Our problem is that we simply don't realize the treasure that we have in Christ! In Ephesians 3:8, Paul spoke of the ministry that was given to him "to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ." In Ephesians 1, Paul prayed that the believers in Ephesus would know that they have in their salvation. He prayed, ...
[I pray] ... that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.
See, our problem isn't that we don't have enough to live a godly life. Rather, our problem is that we don't fully grasp the riches of what we do have as believers in Christ.
Solus Christus! And that's the point that I have been trying to pound home these past few weeks. Our salvation is all of God.
This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on
June 28, 2015 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.