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October 29, 2017 Five

 

 

The number five is an interesting number.  God gave us five digits on each hand. Why five? No one knows that answer, but it is easier to pick up things with five fingers than with four. And six would be a little creepy. God knew that there would be a piano invented and consider what beautiful music is made by having five fingers! We have five senses.

 

  • Five is a prime number.
  • Five is a Fibonnaci number (the series of numbers obtained by adding the two previous numbers in a sequence). In fact, it is the fifth Fibonacci number.
  • Natural (wild) roses have five petals.
  • Apple flowers have five petals.
  • So do the flowers of blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, pears, cherries, plums and peaches.
  • A starfish, a beautiful creature, has five legs.
  • The representation of a star is a five-pointed figure. Children love to get stars on their papers at school. (I did!)
  • The highest rank one can obtain in the army, air force and marines is the rank of General. Not just in the U.S. but all countries have their highest non-maritime officers designated as Generals. The rank of General is represented by a five-pointed star. Usually, the highest rank that a General can have is four stars. In times of war, though, a General may receive an even higher rank as a five-star General. There have been only five five-star Generals in the history of the U.S.: Marshall, MacArthur, Eisenhower, Arnold, and Bradley. (Even Patton did not achieve five-star status.)
  • The pentagram is an interconnected five-pointed figure. Although now a cultic symbol, it was originally believed to carry power to ward off witches and demons and was considered a good symbol in ancient times. (Of course, the symbol has no power, but it is interesting.)
  • The best selling perfume of all time and still considered the best by experts is…Chanel No. 5.
  • The Ten Commandments consists of two tables of five commandments. In Jewish rendering the first five were towards God and the second five were for our fellow man. The fifth commandment, “Honor your father and mother,” was seen as towards God because parents are his delegated authority and represent the Lord to their children.
  • The fifth commandment is the only one that has a promise associated with it.
  • The altar in the Tabernacle was five cubits long and five cubits wide, a perfect square (Exodus 27:1).
  • Five pillars were commanded to be made at the entrance to the Tabernacle.
  • When David went out to fight the giant, Goliath, how many stones did he take with him? Yes, you are right – five.
  • Jesus took five loaves of bread and multiplied them to feed five thousand people.

 

 

The prefix penta means five.

 

  • The first five books of the Bible, written by Moses, are called the Pentateuch. The Jews called it the Torah and considered it as more important than the rest of the Old Testament.
  • The pentagon is the five-sided building that protects our nation. It is the headquarters of the Department of Defense. That is why it was attacked on 9/11. Although it is only a few stories tall, it holds twice as many people as the Empire State Building!
  • The shape of the pentagon has unique advantages over rectangles and squares. It creates shorter distances for travelling within the building – up to 50% shorter as compared to a rectangular building.

 

Still more…

 

  • The musical staff has five lines.
  • There are five vowels in the English language.
  • The symbol of the Olympics is five circles overlapping one another. The circles represent the five continents on the earth.
  • The most common ending time of a workday is 5 O’Clock. There was a song written about that. [play 5 O’Clock World]

 

Maybe five is mysterious. There was a man who told his friend about a dream he had and the amazing events that followed. He said, “I had the craziest dream the other night. I was hiking in a beautiful meadow and I entered a pleasant but dim wooded area. I looked up and there between the ground and the treetops I saw a large, glowing number “5.” It was made of gold and it had five diamonds in it. Then five thousand-dollar bills came out of it and I reached up and grabbed them. Then I woke up.”

 

“The first thing that I did in the morning was to grab the daily racing digest and look up the 5th race.”

Jeff raised an eyebrow. The man went on: “The #5 horse in the 5th race was named ‘The 5th Element.’" Jeff started grinning. Then he proceeded to tell him point-by-point what he did that entire day.

I ate items for breakfast: cereal, an egg, toast, corned beef hash, and coffee.

I went for a 5 mile jog to clear my head

I took a 5 minute shower to rinse off

I dressed in the 5th suit I found in my closet

I sat in my car for 5 minutes before starting it

I drove to the racetrack and parked in the 5th stall in the 5th row

I entered through the 5th admissions gate

When I purchased a program I learned that the odds on 5th Element were 5-to-1.

 

I went to the 5th betting window and bet $500 on the 5th horse in the 5th race

I went and sat in the 5th row of the bleachers making sure there were 5 people sitting on both sides of me.

I settled in and waited for the race to start.”

 

"Well," said Jeff. "Did your horse win??"

The man frowned and said, "Stupid horse came in 5th.”

 

So, what is all the fuss about five? In two days will be the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The day we call Halloween is actually the date that most historians consider the beginning of the Reformation. What Martin Luther did when he posted his 95 theses on October 31, 1517 may be the most significant and important event in history outside the Bible.

 

It is no exaggeration to say that Martin Luther and the Reformation changed both the Western world and the church forever.

 

Out of the Reformation came what is known as the Five Solas with which every Christian should be familiar. We should know the five solas and embrace them for the speak against the self-sufficiency of man.

 

Jael asked me a few days ago, “Why do we need to know history?” She may have been thinking it is a waste of time. I thought that when I was younger. History is important because God says it is. The purpose of all the Holy days (festivals) in the Bible was to remind the Israelites, and us, where we came from and what God is doing. In fact, half of the OT is history and 60% of the NT is history. So, more than half of the Bible is history. God thinks history is worthwhile!

 

Practically, it tells us what decisions worked in particular situations in the past and what didn't. This can be useful when taking decisions today in similar situations, including our personal decisions that will affect our individual lives. There is a famous saying: “Those Who Forget History Are Condemned To Repeat It” True!

 

Let’s briefly visit history with respect to our friend, Martin.

 

He was born in 1483 in Saxony, Germany. At 16 years of age he went to the university, learned Greek, and earned his B.A. in only 2 years. His father was a worker in the copper mines and wanted something better for his son. He wanted him to become a lawyer so that is what Martin obediently studied at college. In 1505, while completing his Master’s Degree at 21 years of age, he was walking on the road to the city of Erfurt and was caught in a thunderstorm. The weather became worse, the storm more severe. Lightning lit the sky all around him and the thunder boomed so loudly that it seemed as if he were going to be hit. His fears almost came true because a bolt of lightning struck the ground in very close proximity and he was filled with terror. He thought he would be hit next.

 

God often uses fear to bring people to Himself. This is because we are a stubborn, self-willed people and we sometimes need to be shaken out of our slumber by fear or tragedy.

 

When that bolt struck near him, he cried out, “Help me, St. Anne! If you do I will become a monk.” He was true to his word. He gave away all his possessions and entered the monastery, much to the disdain of his father.

 

Luther was extraordinarily successful as a monk. He plunged into prayer, fasting, and ascetic practices—going without sleep, enduring bone-chilling cold without a blanket, and whipping himself. As he later commented, "If anyone could have earned heaven by the life of a monk, it was I."

 

Though he sought by these means to rid his life of sin and love God fully, he found no consolation. He was increasingly terrified of the wrath of God. His mind kept thinking about eternal punishment. He earned his Doctor of Theology in 1512 and became the head of the Biblical Studies Dept at the University of Wittenburg but these matters still troubled him. He had no assurance that God accepted him or even loved him.

 

The biblical verse that would open his eyes to salvation, instead brought him grief for years! That is Romans 1:17.

 

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17             For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” [1]

 

When he got to verse 17he kept seeing the word “righteousness” and glossed over the word “faith.” In his mind, the order was reversed. Who, after all, could "live by faith" but those who were already righteous? The text was clear on the matter: "the righteous shall live by faith."

 

He wrote, “I hated that phrase, 'the righteousness of God,' by which I had been taught according to the custom and use of all teachers ... [that] God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner." The young Luther could not live by faith because he was not righteous—and he knew it.

 

In 1514 he was teaching a course on the Psalms where he also had to study the book of Romans, because Romans quotes from the Psalms, in his tower. He had what has come to be known as the Tower Experience. In his own words:

 

 "At last meditating day and night, by the mercy of God, I ... began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith… Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through the gates that had been flung open."

 

 

The Holy Spirit illumined that verse to him and caused him to be born again! We need two people to help us understand God’s word rightly. We need a faithful teacher of God’s word. So, the Lord has raised up teachers in the church. (Another reason why the church is so important.) And, we need the Spirit of the Living God. Martin did not have the former because the Roman Catholic Church was steeped in darkness. No one had ever taught him the way of salvation despite all his years in the RCC. Here he was, a doctor in theology, and he neither understood the Scriptures well nor the gospel. Learning does not make one wise. It just makes you more educated. He did not have a teacher himself, but he was illumined by the Holy Spirit!

 

Because of the Reformation, we today have the privilege of having both faithful teachers and the illumination of the Holy Spirit.

 

For the next two years life carried on for Luther as normal. He taught at the university and, since he was a priest, he preached and ministered at the church where he was assigned. But he was aroused when Johann Tetzel, a friar, began preaching throughout Germany that if one wanted to get their deceased loved ones out of their suffering in purgatory they must buy an “indulgence,” that is, pay money to the church. His famous line was, "Once the coin into the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory heavenward springs!"

 

Tetzel and others who taught the same thing were quite successful. Millions of dollars, in today’s value, was raised and this money was used to build St Peter’s Basilica, still standing and one of the more famous structures in Catholicism[2].

 

In disgust and protest, Luther drew up 95 theses which denied indulgences and other doctrinal deviations. These he nailed to the door of his castle church on October 31, 1517 – 500 years ago. When these began to be circulated it brought about a tide of anti-Romanism and wrecked the indulgences. Luther came to the attention of the ecclesiastical powers in Rome and there were attempts to intimidate him into compliance. But Luther refused to be silenced. He engaged in two debates, one in 1518 and one in 1519. He won both of those debates and won many fellow Augustinians over to his cause.

 

He began writing books articulating and defending his biblical positions as arrayed against the false doctrines of Romanism. The Pope could have said, “Martin Luther is right and we have been wrong. He is God’s man of the hour. Let us heed his warnings.” Instead, he issued what is called a Papal Bull, a public decree that is written, ordering Luther to recant his works and that they all be burned.

 

You should know that this time in history the Catholic Church was all-powerful. You had to submit to their authority or risk imprisonment or death. But Luther was in Germany and there was a powerful prince named Frederick who protected him. Under Frederick’s protection, Luther denounced the bull and the faculty at Wittenburg, who supported him, burned it publicly in a ceremony on December 10, 1520.

 

In 1521, a stronger bull of excommunication was issued which would have denied Luther protection and which the King of Germany, Charles the Fifth (hmm…there is that number again!), would have had to obey. Charles was still a supporter of Romanism. But King Charles favored Luther, too.  He arranged to give Luther a chance to recant at the infamous “Diet of Worms.” Sounds like Luther had to eat worms. But, the word diet just meant “assembly” or “court” and Worms was the name of the German city where it was held.

 

There he was ordered to recant, that is, admit that he was wrong. His response is one of the greatest in history. He said,

 

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.”

 

He was about to be arrested and, if so, execution may have been next. But Frederick was there. He and his men whisked Luther away to his castle. There, he took on a disguise of George the Knight. As George, he translated the New Testament into German so people could read it. Before then, the German people could not read the NT because it was only available in Latin and Greek, languages no one understood except scholars. He then translated the OT from the Hebrew.

 

Along with other Reformers like Calvin, Zwingli, and John Knox, Luther’s legacy was carried on and the whole Christian world embraced the truths that brought light and freedom to the oppressed. The Reformation spread like wildfire.

 

The truths of the Reformation have been simplified into what is known as the Five Solas. These were in response to the perversions of the truth promulgated by Catholicism.

 

Soli Deo Gloria: This phrase, as with the other four, are in Latin. Soli means alone. Deo is the Latin word for God and Gloria means glory. It means  ‘”The glory of God alone.”

 

The Catholic Church adhered to what came to be known as the “theology of glory” (in opposition to the “theology of the cross”), in which the glory for a sinner's salvation could be attributed partly to Christ, partly to Mary, partly to the deceased  saints, and partly to the sinner himself. The reformers responded, “No, the only true gospel is that which gives all glory to God alone, as is taught in the scriptures.”

 

It is not just in salvation that God should receive all the glory. It is in every aspect of life. Consider the pursuit of glory that is perhaps most apparent in the lives of Hollywood and in the music industry. Many of the so-called stars in these categories of entertainment are constantly striving for notoriety and glory. What does it get them? It gets them a life and an outlook on life that becomes extremely imbalanced. They lose their moral anchor. They are blind to even what the purpose of life is. It is both sad and ominous that so many of these stars died an untimely death.

 

  • Whitney Houston died at the age of 48 from a cocaine overdose.
  • Michael Jackson died at the age of 50 from a intravenous sleeping medicine, years after being accused of molesting children.
  • Janis Joplin died at the age of 27 from a heroin overdose.
  • Heath Ledger died at the age of 28 from a drug overdose, prescription drugs.
  • Kurt Cobain committed suicide at the age of 27.
  • Robin Williams committed suicide at the age of 63.
  • Elvis Presley died from an accidental drug overdose at the age of 42.
  • Prince died from a drug overdose at the age of 57.
  • Jimi Hendrix died from a drug overdose at the age of 27.

 

The list goes on and on. It is not just celebrities whose lives get out of control because they are seeking their own glory rather than God’s. It is all of us. It is just that they make the news.

 

Neither is death always the result of pursuing our own glory and satisfaction. Death is not always the result, just the most extreme result. I will tell you what is always the result. It is a diminished life. Five might have some mystery to it, but what is a real mystery is this: when we seek our own way, our own satisfaction, our own glory we end up getting lost, we end up unsatisfied, we end up often embarrassed. We may even find ourselves in a dangerous place (emotionally, spiritually, or physically). We may find ourselves not only unsatisfied but depressed and in despair. We may find ourselves humiliated.

 

Yet, when we begin to live for whom we were created for, the true and Living God, we find that for which we sought but could not get. It comes when we live for the Lord.

 

  • When we live for the glory of God and the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, we discover the way of joy and peace – the King’s Highway.
  • We find satisfaction. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Mat 11:29, ESV)
  • We find fulfillment in giving God alone glory. When this life is over, if we are faithful, we will discover that the Lord will grant us modest glory according to his good pleasure and his perfect measure (never getting more than we deserve).

 

Indeed, to bring glory to God is our very purpose for living.

 

I will say to the north, Give up,
    and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
    and my daughters from the end of the earth,
everyone who is called by my name,
    whom I created for my glory,
    whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:6-7, ESV)

 

Nest time, by God’s grace we will consider the other four Solas of the Reformation. Until then, let us reorient our minds, our hearts, and our lives. Let us cease to seek our own glory and satisfaction and live Soli Deo Gloria – to the glory of God alone,

 

Then, we will find those things that have eluded us for a long while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 1:16–17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] I will use the terms Catholicism and Romanism as synonyms.