It’s the nightmare call every parent fears. For Charles and Janet Morris, the news of their son’s death came on a late Summer night in 2003. Nearly five years later, they sat down to speak with friend and counselor Dr. Dan Allender for a public discussion of their son’s overdose, the courage they’ve found in the intervening years, and the understanding they’ve gained that Jesus rescued their son — even through death.

Now twenty years after the incident, we are sharing this vulnerable conversation that has been a profound resource for so many who have also been touched by similar tragedy and grief. Whether you have experienced the loss of a loved one or not, we pray this episode from the Haven archives will bring you hope.

More from Charles & Janet Morris

  • All week on Haven Today, we are revisiting content related to the struggles of grief, loss, and drug addiction — all pointing to Jesus. Listen in to hear Charles’ appearance on the air the day after his son died, as well as more from other parents relating their own unique situations.
  • The book Saving a Life by Charles and Janet Morris goes into greater detail the process they went through following Jeff’s overdose. You can get your copy here.
  • Charles and Janet’s other son also went down the path of substance abuse. This is his story of addiction and redemption.
  • Listen in to another conversation between a father and son overcoming addiction.

You can also find the podcast on …

If you liked what you heard, please write a review and help new listeners discover the show!

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“Come to me, you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

That’s the theme of season three. Taking place right where season two left off, episode one begins with Jesus delivering the most famous sermon in history. What follows are the consequences of living out his teachings. The world changes because of this sermon, and the believers in (and enemies of) Jesus increase exponentially. Chaos and confusion ensue, and yet the theme continues to be the rest Jesus offers weary souls.



This series allows viewers to see the life of Jesus through the eyes of those that knew Him. Follow the transformations of His followers through the ministry of Jesus as He journeys to change the world.

“Come and see” the global phenomenon that is changing tens of millions of people with each new episode. Click here if you already have the first two seasons and just want Season 3.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for their’s is the kingdom of God.”

Imagine hearing these words for the first time. The hit TV show The Chosen seeks to help viewers do this by telling the gospel story through the eyes of those who encountered Jesus in the first century. In the video below, take a look at what comes up next in Season 2.



It’s no longer hidden. The word is spreading that Jesus is the Messiah. Increased fame brings growing crowds, new disciples, and more miracles. It also brings trouble.

Mary is confronted with old demons. The tension between Simon and Matthew explodes. James & John battle their prejudices and fiery tempers. But they all continue to passionately pursue the man they don’t always understand but will always follow.

“Come and see” the global phenomenon that is changing tens of millions of people with each new episode. Click here if you already have Season 1 and just want Season 2.

John 3:16 is the most famous verse in the Bible… at least if you’re judging on what verse is seen most frequently in the endzone during televised football games. 

It’s a verse many people have memorized, even if they stopped attending church years ago. It’s a powerful verse. The entire Gospel is tucked into this one short sentence. 

In one late night meeting, Jesus fundamentally changed a man for the rest of his life. But what must it have been like for Nicodemus, the religious leader who met with Jesus that night all those years ago?

Imagine the political dangers of Nicodemus’ decision to meet with Christ. The religious leaders didn’t want to endorse Jesus, unless he was willing to fall in line. This meeting had to be behind closed doors “at night” as John 3 reminds us, where (at least he thought!) Nicodemus had control. It was a risk. And Jesus’ words cut right through the pretensions, and ours.

“No one will see the Kingdom of Heaven unless he is born again.”

That goes for me, that goes for you. Jesus’ words confront us at the exact moment we think we are in control. It isn’t the powerful or the hyper-religious that will see the Kingdom, but those who have been born again by the gracious love of the Savior. 

Exclusive clip from “The Chosen” episode titled “John 3:16” where Jesus and Nicodemus discuss the Gospel.

This is what Nicodemus had to learn, and by the grace of the Lord he was changed. At the end of John’s gospel Nicodemus makes another cameo, but this time not coming to Jesus in secret, but openly carrying Jesus’ dead body after his crucifixion. This gospel that Nicodemus heard that night changed him. Jesus changed him. And because he was changed, he wasn’t afraid to identify himself with Christ. 

This is the power of the gospel, not just for Nicodemus 2000 years ago. This is the gospel that can change us today, and every day until we meet him face to face. 



This series allows viewers to see the life of Jesus through the eyes of those that knew Him. Follow the transformations of His followers through the ministry of Jesus as He journeys to change the world.

“Come and see” the global phenomenon that is changing tens of millions of people with each new episode. Click here if you already have the first two seasons and just want Season 3.

How Can I know God?

     What is Christianity? Some say it is a philosophy, others say it is an ethical stance, while still others claim it is actually an experience. None of these things really gets to the heart of the matter, however. Each is something a Christian has, but not one of them serves as a definition of what a Christian is. Christianity has at its core a transaction between a person and God.

     A person who becomes a Christian moves from knowing about God distantly to knowing about him directly and intimately. Christianity is knowing God.

     “Now this is eternal life; that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” –John 17:3

Why do I need to know God?

     Our desire for personal knowledge of God is strong, but we usually fail to recognize that desire for what it is. When we first fall in love, when we first marry, when we finally break into our chosen field, when we at last get that weekend house — these breakthroughs arouse in us anticipation of something which, as it turns out, never occurs.

     We eventually discover that our desire for that precious something is a longing no lover or career or achievement, even the best possible ones, can ever satisfy. The satisfaction fades even as we close our fingers around our goal. Nothing delivers the joy it seemed to promise. Many of us avoid the yawning emptiness through busyness or denial, but at best there is just a postponement. “Nothing tastes,” said Marie Antoinette.

There are several ways to respond to this:

By blaming the things themselves – by finding fault in everyone and everything around you. You believe that a better spouse, a better career, a better boss or salary would finally yield the elusive joy. Many of the most successful people of the world are like this — bored, discontented, running from new thing to new thing, often-changing counselors, mates, partners, or settings.

By blaming yourself – by trying harder to live up to standards. Many people believe they have made poor choices or have failed to measure up to challenges and to achieve the things that would give them joy and satisfaction. Such people are wracked with self-doubts and tend to burn themselves out. They think, “If only I could reach my goals, then this emptiness would be gone.” But it is not so.

By blaming the universe itself – by giving up seeking fulfillment at all. This is the person who says, “Yes, when I was young I was idealistic, but at my age I have stopped howling after the moon.” This makes you become cynical, you decide to repress that part of yourself that once wanted fulfillment and joy. But you become hard, and you can feel yourself losing your humanity, compassion, and joy.

By blaming and recognizing your separation from God – by seeing that the emptiness comes from your separation from God, and by establishing a personal relationship with Him.

In order to form a personal relationship with God, you must know three things:

1) Who we are:
     God’s creation. God created us and built us for a relationship with Him. We belong to Him, and we owe Him gratitude for every breath, every moment, everything. Because humans were built to live for Him (to worship), we will always try to worship something — if not God, we will choose some other object of ultimate devotion to give our lives meaning.

     Sinners. We have all chosen (and re-affirm daily) to reject God and to make our own joy and happiness our highest priority. We do not want to worship God and surrender ourselves as master, yet we are built to worship, so we cling to idols, centering our lives on things that promise to give us meaning: success, relationships, influence, love, comfort, and so on.

     In spiritual bondage. To live for anything else but God leads to breakdown and decay. When a fish leaves the water, which he was built for, he is not free, but dead. Worshiping other things besides God leads to a loss of meaning. If we achieve these things, they cannot deliver satisfaction, because they were never meant to be “gods.” They were never meant to replace God. Worshiping other things besides God also leads to self- image problems. We end up defining ourselves in terms of our achievement in these things. We must have them or all is lost; so they drive us to work too hard, or they fill us with terror if they are jeopardized.

2) Who God is:
     Love and justice. His active concern is for our joy and well-being. Most people love those who love them, yet God loves and seeks the good even of people who are his enemies. But because God is good and loving, He cannot tolerate evil. The opposite of love is not anger, but indifference. “The more you love your son, the more you hate in him the liar, the drunkard, the traitor,” (E. Gifford). To imagine God’s situation, imagine a judge who also is a father, who sits at the trial of his guilty son. A judge knows he cannot let his son go, for without justice no society can survive. How much less can a loving God merely ignore or suspend justice for us — who are loved, yet guilty of rebellion against his loving authority?

     Jesus Christ. Jesus is God Himself come to Earth. He first lived a perfect life, loving God with all his heart, soul, and mind, fulfilling all human obligation to God. He lived the life you owed — a perfect record. Then, instead of receiving his deserved reward (eternal life), Jesus gave His life as a sacrifice for our sins, taking the punishment and death each of us owed. When we believe in him: 1) our sins are paid for by his death, and 2) His perfect life record is transferred to our account. So God accepts and regards us as if we have done all Christ has done.

3) What you must do:
     Repent. There first must be an admission that you have been living as your own master, worshipping the wrong things, violating God’s loving laws. “Repentance” means you ask forgiveness and turn from that stance with a willingness to live for and center on Him.

     Believe. Faith is transferring your trust from your own efforts to the efforts of Christ. You were relying on other things to make you acceptable, but now you consciously begin relying on what Jesus did for your acceptance with God. All you need is nothing. If you think, “God owes me something for all my efforts,” you are still on the outside.

     Pray after this fashion: “I see I am more flawed and sinful than I ever dared believe, but that I am even more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope. I turn from my old life of living for myself. I have nothing in my record to merit your approval, but I now rest in what Jesus did and ask to be accepted into God’s family for his sake.” When you make this transaction, two things happen at once: 1) your accounts are cleared, your sins are wiped out permanently, you are adopted legally into God’s family and 2) the Holy Spirit enters your heart and begins to change you into the character of Jesus.

     Follow through. Tell a Christian friend about your commitment. Get yourself training in the basic Christian disciplines of prayer, worship, Bible study, and fellowship with other Christians.

Why should I seek God?

     On one hand, you may feel that you “need” Him. Even though you may recognize that you have needs only God can meet, you must not try to use Him to achieve your own ends. It is not possible to bargain with God. (“I’ll do this if you will do that.”) That is not Christianity at all, but a form of magic or paganism in which you “appease” the cranky deity in exchange for a favor.

Are you getting into Christianity to serve God, or to get God to serve you? Those are two opposite motives and they result in two different religions. You must come to God because 1) you owe it to Him to give Him your life (because He is your Creator) and 2) you are deeply grateful to Him for sacrificing His Son (because He is your Redeemer.)

     On the other hand, you may feel no need or interest to know God at all. This does not mean you should stay uncommitted. If you were created by God, then you owe Him your life, whether you feel like it or not. You are obligated to seek Him and ask Him to soften your heart, open your eyes, and enlighten you.

     If you say, “I have no faith,” that is no excuse either. You need only doubt your doubts. No one can doubt everything at once — you must believe in something to doubt something else. For example, do you believe you are competent to run your own life? Where is the evidence of that? Why doubt everything but your doubts about God and your faith in yourself? Is that fair? You owe it to God to seek Him. Do so.

What if I’m not ready to proceed?

Make a list of the issues that you perceive to be barriers to your crossing the line into faith. Here is a possible set of headings:
• Content issues. Do you understand the basics of the Christian message — sin, Jesus as God, sacrifice, faith?
• Coherence issues. Are there intellectual problems you have with Christianity? Are there objections to the Christian faith that you cannot resolve in your own mind?
• Cost issues. Do you perceive that a move into full Christian faith will cost you dearly? What fears do you have about commitment?
Now talk to a Christian friend until these issues are resolved.
Consider reading: Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis (MacMillan) and Basic Christianity, by John Stott (IVP)

© 1991, Timothy Keller (used here by permission)


Can I Really Trust the Bible?

For further reading … The Bible makes big claims for itself. But do those claims stand up? Aren’t the stories just legends? Hasn’t the information been corrupted over time? Isn’t the Bible full of mistakes? And isn’t it culturally outdated? In this absorbing little book, Barry Cooper explores these questions – and many others – with warmth, wit and integrity. request-your-copy-today-400

Billy Graham went home to be with the Lord Wednesday, February 21, at the age of 99. And though he may no longer be with us, we can be confident that his soul has already settled into his Father’s house.

There are very few people in our world who were as recognizable as Billy. God opened up doors for him to meet with world leaders and to speak to hundreds of millions of people.  And yet his life began on a humble farm.

Listen to our audio series with interviews and messages remembering Billy Graham’s life and ministry.

Born just outside Charlotte, North Carolina in 1918, Billy grew up on his family’s dairy farm and regularly attended church. Though he often heard his “daddy” reading the bible at home, it didn’t mean that Billy was a Christian himself. He was known as a nice kid, but it wasn’t until his teen years that he saw his need for a Savior.

At first, Billy privately resisted the call to Christ, but his life was changed forever when he attended an evangelistic meeting in Charlotte when he was 15 years old in 1934. It was through the ministry of Mordecai Ham, a traveling evangelist, that Billy finally made a personal commitment to Christ.


Ordained in 1939 by Penial Baptist Church in Palatka, Fl., Billy eventually graduated from Wheaton College in 1943 and married the love of his life, Ruth McCue Bell. Despite the hardships of Billy’s traveling schedule, they would go on to have a loving relationship for over 60 years.

Over the next several years, Billy would find himself rising in prominence after joining Youth for Christ as a young evangelist preaching throughout the US and Europe following World War II.

Finally, Billy was invited by several churches in Los Angeles to bring his crusade to the West Coast. Scheduled for just three weeks, Billy would go on to preach to packed crowds and overflow tents in the now famous Los Angeles Crusade for more than eight weeks.


In the years that followed, countless individuals would come to Christ through 417 crusades throughout six continents. He also wrote 33 books, began the weekly “Hour of Decision” radio program, and founded several other ministries to reach people around the world for Christ.

Watch one of his powerful messages on “The Offense of the Cross”



Billy Graham took Jesus’ words literally from Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” But Billy’s influence went beyond the pulpit. He also became God’s ambassador to world leaders.



But for all of the accomplishments, Billy preferred to humbly be known as a sinner in need of of Christ’s extravagant grace. Each of his sermons included an alter call, and they’d often be accompanied by the song “Just As I Am.” That’s the life he lived before the Lord, and it’s the way we remember him today.

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot;
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt;
Fightings within, and fears without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind;
Yes, all I need, in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Just as I am, Thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

bgga-dvdBilly Graham God’s Ambassador

Billy Graham was one of the most influential and respected spiritual leaders of the 20th century. This documentary, hosted by David Frost, provides a special look into the life and work of the world’s most famous evangelist.

Billy Graham: God’s Ambassador features rare archival footage from Dr. Graham’s early life, his ministry, and his worldwide evangelical efforts. It also features interview footage with former President George W. Bush, former President George H. W. Bush, NBC News anchor Brian Williams, close associates, and family members.



If you’ve been looking for a way for the children around you to memorize and even understand the Bible this Christmas, you don’t have to look any longer. Randall Goodgame, the singer-songwriter behind Slugs & Bugs, has come out with a Christmas album that’s totally based on God’s Word.

This album tells the truth of Scripture in a way that helps it stick in young hearts. With music inspired by “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” these songs were created so the truths of the Bible can resonate in young hearts, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work on the hearts of parents and grandparents, as well.

Here are a few songs from Randall Goodgame’s Sing the Bible Family Christmas that will help you and the kids in your life get in the Christ-centered Christmas spirit this year:


John 1:1-4, 14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.


Isaiah 9:6

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.


Luke 1:46-48

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;”


STBC-productSing the Bible Family Christmas

To have this album for the Christmas season, don’t hesitate to request your copy when you make a gift to Haven Today and we’ll send you Sing the Bible Family Christmas as our “thank you” for your generosity to this listener-supported ministry. Randall Goodgame created this album so that each word-for-word Scripture song would celebrate the miracles of all miracles: the coming of Jesus. When you follow the link below, you’ll get the chance to listen to samples of other songs on the album, such as “When the Fullness of Time had Come,” “Zechariah’s Prophecy,” “I Heard the Bells,” and more.



October, 2017—This is the month where Christians around the world are commemorating 500 years since God used Martin Luther to start the Protestant Reformation. But Luther wasn’t the only one the Lord used to bring about this great gospel recovery.

The events of the Protestant Reformation were set into motion long before Luther nailed his “Ninety-Five Theses” to the doors of a church in Wittenberg, just as the legacy of these events continue on today, as well. I want us to consider John Wycliffe, who is often called “The Morning Star of the Reformation.”

A British theologian and Bible translator, Wycliffe was a forerunner to the Reformation over a century before those historic events would unfold. Wycliffe said, “Trust wholly in Christ; rely altogether on his sufferings; beware of seeking to be justified in any other way than by his righteousness.”

Wycliffe’s teachings and work translating the Bible into the language of the people would resonate heavily with the reformers long after his death in 1384, laying a foundation for Martin Luther to ignite the Protestant Reformation.

Dr. Carl Trueman is an ordained minister of the gospel, and professor of church history at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Carl is also featured on the new documentary by Haven’s own Stephen McCaskell called Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer. In this audio clip, Dr. Trueman offers a perfect summary of who Wycliffe was, what he taught, and why Christians today should follow in his footsteps:

Even if you are not familiar with John Wycliffe, you may have heard of an organization that bears his name: Wycliffe Bible Translators. Even today, Wycliffe’s legacy of Bible translation is carried on—not just by Wycliffe Bible Translators, but by many other missionaries around the world.

Translating the Bible into a people group’s known language is the first step in any reformation or revival. Wycliffe said, “Englishmen learn Christ’s law best in English. Moses heard God’s law in his own tongue; so did Christ’s apostles.” And of course, he wasn’t just all about the law. Wycliffe said, “Preaching the Gospel is the best deed that man does here to his brethren.”

I think those of us in the English speaking world often take for granted the groundbreaking work of Wycliffe, and the work of others like William Tyndale (another English Bible translator in the 16th century). But we shouldn’t take this access to God’s Word for granted. Why? Because the Bible says faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. (Romans 10:17)

One of my colleagues, Dan Warne, shared a powerful story of how Bible translation and gospel proclamation—hallmarks of Wycliffe’s teaching that we heard about—have begun to impact the village where he grew up on the mission field, and it’s where his parents still serve today.

It all began with a man who spoke the Mayo Indian dialect in Mexico, dying of cancer. Dan’s father and a couple of Mayo Christians came from another village and began sharing the good news with him in his own language. When they left, they were able to leave a cassette recorder to playback a Mayo language translation of one of the New Testament gospels. (The Mayo people didn’t have the whole New Testament in their own language until just three years ago.)

Lying there on his burlap cot in an adobe room, the man listened and came to know the Lord. As cancer slowly took over his body, this man was filled with joy and peace in the face of death because he finally knew Jesus! Just as Wycliffe preached so many years ago, this man heard the gospel and wholly trusted in Christ to save him.

Though this man was old, both of his parents were still living at 98 and 100 years old. When they saw the peace their son experienced as he faced death, they asked through a translator how they could know this kind of peace, too. “We’re not so young ourselves” they said. And, little by little, the majority of that man’s family came to know the Lord through the simple power of hearing the Word of God and coming to Jesus by faith.

Isn’t that incredible? This story is a great illustration of John Wycliffe’s legacy today. Just as a Spanish Bible wouldn’t make sense to a Mayo speaker, Wycliffe knew that a Bible in Latin wouldn’t do the average Englishman any good.

Wycliffe also did it at a high risk to his own safety—the Church issued five edicts for his arrest. But he labored on, just as other Christians work throughout the world continue to translate God’s Word into every known language. And many of them do this despite the hostile and dangerous countries and contexts they work in.

The sacrifices made by Bible translators every day make the work they do that much more beautiful and significant. Because of this, I’d like to echo what Paul said in Romans 10 when quoting Isaiah: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

About the Author

As the leader of the Haven Ministries, Charles Morris is always thinking of ways to lead Christians and non-Christians to Christ—hence the familiar slogan, “Telling the great story … it’s all about Jesus.” A former secular journalist, Charles has worked for United Press International, and as a press secretary for two former U.S. senators. He and his wife, Janet, have authored several books, including Missing Jesus. Charles’ latest book is Fleeing ISIS, Finding Jesus: The Real Story of God At Work.

Most of the thoughts above are taken from broadcasts of Haven Today. Corum Hughes serves as the editor of this blog and coordinator for Haven’s social media content. A graduate of Moody Bible Institute, Corum lives in Boise, ID with his wife Molly.

Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer

Discover the story of the former monk who sparked the Reformation. Told through a seamless combination of live-action storytelling and artistic animation, Martin Luther’s daring life is presented in extensive detail while still making the film relevant, provocative, and accessible.
Produced and just released by Haven Ministry’s Stephen McCaskell, this highly acclaimed 90-minute documentary will transport you back to the definitive moments that impacted the Church today. It will challenge you to a bolder faith and a greater passion to see the saving truth of Christ go into the world. This documentary needs to be watched and shared with small groups and in churches.

Christians around the world are celebrating a momentous occasion this October—500 years of Reformation truth. And one of the most clear messages that came out of the Protestant Reformation can be distilled into five simple statements known as “The Five Solas.”

Five key reformation truths called Solas (or “alones” in English) make up a complete picture of our salvation: for we are saved by Scripture Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Christ Alone, and God’s Glory Alone.

Though these truths come straight from Scripture, they were long forgotten in the early 1500’s before Martin Luther began his quest toward assurance that his sins were forgiven by grace through faith. When this idea finally dawned on him, Luther said, “The gates of paradise swung open to me, and I was altogether born again.”

Once and for all, these five reformation truths spell out how we are truly saved. When we look to Scripture alone, it tells us that salvation is by grace alone. The way to receive that grace is by faith alone. And the one we put our faith in is Christ alone. Finally, as the last sola says, that’s worth praising God for … so let’s give all the glory to Him alone!

You can listen to the full audio series Here, or continue reading for a brief introduction to these five important truths of the Christian faith.


1. Sola Scriptura (or “Scripture Alone”)

Scripture alone doesn’t mean there’s no use for anything other than Scripture. We should always look to Scripture as part of the Church, and as part of a community looking to God’s Word together.

When we say Scripture Alone, we mean that when it comes to what Scripture speaks about, it’s true and authoritative. It’s not the ultimate Science textbook or a manual about human anatomy—it’s God’s revelation of redemption in Jesus! Everything we need for a godly life, a life that loves and follows the Lord, can be found in Scripture.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” — 2 Timothy 3:16-17


2. Sola Gratia (or “Grace Alone”)

In the Bible, grace is disruptive. It destroys and overturns the way we normally think things should be. It says that our perception of our own lives and and how we fit in this world is upside-down. I think we often want God to be big in love and small in righteous judgment. But the measure of His grace is exactly the measure of his righteousness. Grace is not God helping those who help themselves; grace is God helping those who hate him and are hostile to him.

The basic meaning of the grace God gives to us is happiness, pleasure, joy, and merriment. To experience this grace is to experience a spontaneous good pleasure in God’s spontaneous favor toward us. It’s His undeserving, unearned love and kindness.

This kind of grace is always given from a great person to a smaller person—and it’s free. It’s free because the lesser person doesn’t deserve it; in fact, he deserves the opposite. God is not moved to love us because of our value or because of our loveable-ness, or because of our trying hard. And He doesn’t withhold his love for us because of our hostility or disobedience or lack of care from him.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” — Ephesians 2:8-9


3. Sola Fide (or “Faith Alone”)

When the Bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, it’s not just talking about the naughty things we’ve done. It’s saying that deep in our hearts, our dreams, and our desires, we are hostile to God, and therefore we aren’t able to do anything to contribute toward our salvation. As one pastor recently put it, “The only thing we contribute to our salvation is the sins from which we need to be forgiven.”

That’s why faith cannot be a personal ability. It’s all receiving. We receive the gift of God. Real faith has no interest in itself. It points away from itself to something else. Because the power of faith is only as strong as the object that we believe in—and for our salvation, that faith must be in Jesus Christ.

“We are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood to be received by faith.” — Romans 3:24


4. Solus Christus (or “Christ Alone”)

The Church in Luther’s day had started thinking about merit as if it were stored up in a giant bank account. You could borrow from it or make a transfer from a more worthy person to a less “meritorious” person. But that’s not the picture the Bible paints for us. I’m thinking here of 2 Timoty 1:9, where it’s very clear that the only merit that counts for anything is Christ’s merit.

Paul says that God the Father …

“… saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time” — 2 timothy 1:9

We see here that Christ alone is our merit. If my salvation rests on my own merit, then I would be a goner. My only hope is found in Jesus’ righteousness given to me by grace when I am united to Christ alone. But there’s another beautiful side to this—Christ’s sacrifice is final. Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, there is no continual, ongoing propitiation of sins.

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” — 1 Peter 3:18


5. Soli Deo Gloria (orTo the Glory of God Alone”)

You might recognize this sola from some of the music by Johann Sebastian Bach. It’s present in some of his lyrics, and it’s also what he would sign when he was finally satisfied with a piece of music. Bach is quoted as saying, “The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.” Isn’t that powerful?

As Paul told the curious outsiders at Athens, we live and move and have our being in the Lord. It’s not just the big things that are from God, Paul says ALL things are from the Lord. From the joy you feel when you read a story to your grandkids to that hearty Thanksgiving dinner we consume each November, everything is from the Lord. And, for that, we give thanks and glory to God alone.

Even more, the greatest gift of all is from the Father:

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” — Romans 8:32

About the Author

As the leader of the Haven Ministries, Charles Morris is always thinking of ways to lead Christians and non-Christians to Christ—hence the familiar slogan, “Telling the great story … it’s all about Jesus.” A former secular journalist, Charles has worked for United Press International, and as a press secretary for two former U.S. senators. He and his wife, Janet, have authored several books, including Missing Jesus. Charles’ latest book is Fleeing ISIS, Finding Jesus: The Real Story of God At Work.

Most of the thoughts above are taken from broadcasts of Haven Today. Corum Hughes serves as the editor of this blog and coordinator for Haven’s social media content. A graduate of Moody Bible Institute, Corum lives in Boise, ID with his wife Molly.

LDDVD-flatLuther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer

Discover the story of the former monk who sparked the Reformation. Told through a seamless combination of live-action storytelling and artistic animation, Martin Luther’s daring life is presented in extensive detail while still making the film relevant, provocative, and accessible.
Produced and just released by Haven Ministry’s Stephen McCaskell, this highly acclaimed 90-minute documentary will transport you back to the definitive moments that impacted the Church today. It will challenge you to a bolder faith and a greater passion to see the saving truth of Christ go into the world. This documentary needs to be watched and shared with small groups and in churches.

Modern Protestants and Catholics may not see eye-to-eye on the actions and legacy of Martin Luther, but there is one thing we can all agree on—the church of 1517 was in dire need of a wakeup call.

Popular legend asserts that on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation when he nailed a document to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in Germany. For him, this document was a much-needed criticism of corrupt preachers and their abusive practices of selling plenary indulgences (certificates which would supposedly reduce the punishment for the sin of loved ones in purgatory) to Christians.

Today, we know this as Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses, but it was originally titled the Disputation on the Power of Indulgences. Written first in Latin, it was quickly translated into German, distributed, and eventually led to Luther becoming a religious outlaw who could be killed on sight.

[Click here to learn about the stunning new documentary exploring the life and legacy of Martin Luther.]

But before you get into the nitty gritty of Luther’s arguments, here is a quick breakdown of some important highlights to look out for: theses 1-4 focuses on the need for repentance (not indulgences) in the Christian life, 5-13 concern the pope’s and priest’s power (or lack thereof) to influence someone’s status in purgatory, 14-16 challenges common beliefs about purgatory, 17-26 argue that no one can definitively say anything about the spiritual state of anyone in purgatory, 27-29 attacks the idea that payment of any kind can release the payer’s loved one from purgatory, 30-34 criticizes the false sense of certainty these indulgence preachers offered Christians, 35-80 gets into the meat of the argument against the role of indulgences in salvation and further problems with how they are being preached, 81-91 offers criticisms and objections from laypeople in Luther’s congregation, and 92-95 admonishes the reader to imitate Christ even if it brings pain and suffering.

Many of us have heard of this document, but few have read any of its contents. So, without further ado, here are the original words translated into English:

Out of love for the truth and from desire to elucidate it, the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and ordinary lecturer therein at Wittenberg, intends to defend the following statements and to dispute on them in that place. Therefore he asks that those who cannot be present and dispute with him orally shall do so in their absence by letter. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

2. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.

3. Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is worthless unless it produces various outward mortification of the flesh.

4. The penalty of sin remains as long as the hatred of self (that is, true inner repentance), namely till our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

5. The pope neither desires nor is able to remit any penalties except those imposed by his own authority or that of the canons.

6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God; or, to be sure, by remitting guilt in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in these cases were disregarded, the guilt would certainly remain unforgiven.

7. God remits guilt to no one unless at the same time he humbles him in all things and makes him submissive to the vicar, the priest.

8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to the canons themselves, nothing should be imposed on the dying.

9. Therefore the Holy Spirit through the pope is kind to us insofar as the pope in his decrees always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity.

10. Those priests act ignorantly and wickedly who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penalties for purgatory.

11. Those tares of changing the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory were evidently sown while the bishops slept (Mt 13:25).

12. In former times canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.

13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties, are already dead as far as the canon laws are concerned, and have a right to be released from them.

14. Imperfect piety or love on the part of the dying person necessarily brings with it great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater the fear.

15. This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, to say nothing of other things, to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the horror of despair.

16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ the same as despair, fear, and assurance of salvation.

17. It seems as though for the souls in purgatory fear should necessarily decrease and love increase.

18. Furthermore, it does not seem proved, either by reason or by Scripture, that souls in purgatory are outside the state of merit, that is, unable to grow in love.

19. Nor does it seem proved that souls in purgatory, at least not all of them, are certain and assured of their own salvation, even if we ourselves may be entirely certain of it.

20. Therefore the pope, when he uses the words “plenary remission of all penalties,” does not actually mean “all penalties,” but only those imposed by himself.

21. Thus those indulgence preachers are in error who say that a man is absolved from every penalty and saved by papal indulgences.

22. As a matter of fact, the pope remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to canon law, they should have paid in this life.

23. If remission of all penalties whatsoever could be granted to anyone at all, certainly it would be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to very few.

24. For this reason most people are necessarily deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of release from penalty.

25. That power which the pope has in general over purgatory corresponds to the power which any bishop or curate has in a particular way in his own diocese and parish.

26. The pope does very well when he grants remission to souls in purgatory, not by the power of the keys, which he does not have, but by way of intercession for them.

27. They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory.

28. It is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and avarice can be increased; but when the church intercedes, the result is in the hands of God alone.

29. Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed, since we have exceptions in St. Severinus and St. Paschal, as related in a legend.

30. No one is sure of the integrity of his own contrition, much less of having received plenary remission.

31. The man who actually buys indulgences is as rare as he who is really penitent; indeed, he is exceedingly rare.

32. Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.

33. Men must especially be on guard against those who say that the pope’s pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to him.

34. For the graces of indulgences are concerned only with the penalties of sacramental satisfaction established by man.

35. They who teach that contrition is not necessary on the part of those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessional privileges preach unchristian doctrine.

36. Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters.

37. Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters.

38. Nevertheless, papal remission and blessing are by no means to be disregarded, for they are, as I have said (Thesis 6), the proclamation of the divine remission.

39. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people the bounty of indulgences and the need of true contrition.

40. A Christian who is truly contrite seeks and loves to pay penalties for his sins; the bounty of indulgences, however, relaxes penalties and causes men to hate them — at least it furnishes occasion for hating them.

41. Papal indulgences must be preached with caution, lest people erroneously think that they are preferable to other good works of love.

42. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend that the buying of indulgences should in any way be compared with works of mercy.

43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better deed than he who buys indulgences.

44. Because love grows by works of love, man thereby becomes better. Man does not, however, become better by means of indulgences but is merely freed from penalties.

45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a needy man and passes him by, yet gives his money for indulgences, does not buy papal indulgences but God’s wrath.

46. Christians are to be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they must reserve enough for their family needs and by no means squander it on indulgences.

47. Christians are to be taught that they buying of indulgences is a matter of free choice, not commanded.

48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting indulgences, needs and thus desires their devout prayer more than their money.

49. Christians are to be taught that papal indulgences are useful only if they do not put their trust in them, but very harmful if they lose their fear of God because of them.

50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence preachers, he would rather that the basilica of St. Peter were burned to ashes than built up with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep.

51. Christians are to be taught that the pope would and should wish to give of his own money, even though he had to sell the basilica of St. Peter, to many of those from whom certain hawkers of indulgences cajole money.

52. It is vain to trust in salvation by indulgence letters, even though the indulgence commissary, or even the pope, were to offer his soul as security.

53. They are the enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid altogether the preaching of the Word of God in some churches in order that indulgences may be preached in others.

54. Injury is done to the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or larger amount of time is devoted to indulgences than to the Word.

55. It is certainly the pope’s sentiment that if indulgences, which are a very insignificant thing, are celebrated with one bell, one procession, and one ceremony, then the gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.

56. The true treasures of the church, out of which the pope distributes indulgences, are not sufficiently discussed or known among the people of Christ.

57. That indulgences are not temporal treasures is certainly clear, for many indulgence sellers do not distribute them freely but only gather them.

58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, for, even without the pope, the latter always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outer man.

59. St. Lawrence said that the poor of the church were the treasures of the church, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.

60. Without want of consideration we say that the keys of the church, given by the merits of Christ, are that treasure.

61. For it is clear that the pope’s power is of itself sufficient for the remission of penalties and cases reserved by himself.

62. The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.

63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last (Mt. 20:16).

64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.

65. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets with which one formerly fished for men of wealth.

66. The treasures of indulgences are nets with which one now fishes for the wealth of men.

67. The indulgences which the demagogues acclaim as the greatest graces are actually understood to be such only insofar as they promote gain.

68. They are nevertheless in truth the most insignificant graces when compared with the grace of God and the piety of the cross.

69. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of papal indulgences with all reverence.

70. But they are much more bound to strain their eyes and ears lest these men preach their own dreams instead of what the pope has commissioned.

71. Let him who speaks against the truth concerning papal indulgences be anathema and accursed.

72. But let him who guards against the lust and license of the indulgence preachers be blessed.

73. Just as the pope justly thunders against those who by any means whatever contrive harm to the sale of indulgences.

74. Much more does he intend to thunder against those who use indulgences as a pretext to contrive harm to holy love and truth.

75. To consider papal indulgences so great that they could absolve a man even if he had done the impossible and had violated the mother of God is madness.

76. We say on the contrary that papal indulgences cannot remove the very least of venial sins as far as guilt is concerned.

77. To say that even St. Peter if he were now pope, could not grant greater graces is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope.

78. We say on the contrary that even the present pope, or any pope whatsoever, has greater graces at his disposal, that is, the gospel, spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written. (1 Cor 12:28)

79. To say that the cross emblazoned with the papal coat of arms, and set up by the indulgence preachers is equal in worth to the cross of Christ is blasphemy.

80. The bishops, curates, and theologians who permit such talk to be spread among the people will have to answer for this.

81. This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult even for learned men to rescue the reverence which is due the pope from slander or from the shrewd questions of the laity.

82. Such as: “Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love and the dire need of the souls that are there if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a church?” The former reason would be most just; the latter is most trivial.

83. Again, “Why are funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continued and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded for them, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?”

84. Again, “What is this new piety of God and the pope that for a consideration of money they permit a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God and do not rather, beca use of the need of that pious and beloved soul, free it for pure love’s sake?”

85. Again, “Why are the penitential canons, long since abrogated and dead in actual fact and through disuse, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences as though they were still alive and in force?”

86. Again, “Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build this one basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?”

87. Again, “What does the pope remit or grant to those who by perfect contrition already have a right to full remission and blessings?”

88. Again, “What greater blessing could come to the church than if the pope were to bestow these remissions and blessings on every believer a hundred times a day, as he now does but once?”

89. “Since the pope seeks the salvation of souls rather than money by his indulgences, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons previously granted when they have equal efficacy?”

90. To repress these very sharp arguments of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies and to make Christians unhappy.

91. If, therefore, indulgences were preached according to the spirit and intention of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved. Indeed, they would not exist.

92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Peace, peace,” and there is no peace! (Jer 6:14)

93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Cross, cross,” and there is no cross!

94. Christians should be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, death and hell.

95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations rather than through the false security of peace (Acts 14:22).

Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer

Discover the story of the former monk who sparked the Reformation. Told through a seamless combination of live-action storytelling and artistic animation, Martin Luther’s daring life is presented in extensive detail while still making the film relevant, provocative, and accessible.
Produced and just released by Haven Ministry’s Stephen McCaskell, this highly acclaimed 90-minute documentary will transport you back to the definitive moments that impacted the Church today. It will challenge you to a bolder faith and a greater passion to see the saving truth of Christ go into the world. This documentary needs to be watched and shared with small groups and in churches.