Seven seniors threw their black caps high in the auditorium celebrating their graduation from Christian Heritage School. Everyone present grinned from ear to ear as the seniors shared their gratitude to parents, teachers, and classmates who had encouraged them in their lifetime.
A highlight was the commencement address given by one of our Peruvian teachers, Priscilla Ugarte. We published the address in its entirety so you can receive the full context of her message. It's impacting!
The Five Solas of the Reformation for our daily life
I’ve had the privilege of being a teacher for most of you since you were in 10th grade. I’ve seen so much growth these past three years. I have learned to walk with you and reason with you. I’ve learned and grown alongside you, so much so that I have to admit that I too, have a heart, and I’ll miss having you in my classroom.
When I was asked to give this commencement speech, I got an idea right away. The first thought that came to my mind was the 5 Solas⏤or key teachings⏤from the Reformation.
The Reformation was taught to me as a revolution in the Medieval Church, with a very aggressive message. But in my study of it, I learned that the Reformation was a result of the Medieval Church forgetting to look back at history, and at the disastrous consequences of placing works, philosophies, and traditions before the Lord. It happened in the Old Testament, it happened during the Medieval ages, and it happens today, in our personal lives.
The Reformation wasn’t a movement that looked to divide but wanted to reform. And yes, I looked up that word in our favorite book, Webster's 1828 Dictionary. Reform means to change from worse to better, to remove that which is bad or corrupt . The Reformation didn’t end with Luther or Calvin. The Reformation needs to continue internally, in our hearts and minds, and its continuance or the lack of it will show its effects externally. And I know you already know this well.
Tonight, I want to encourage you one last time as your teacher, and friend to reflect on these beautiful truths that have sustained me all these years away from home. I want to invite you to always consider them when you feel like you're losing sight, when your foundations are under attack, and even when you think you are doing everything right.
Our salvation is a gift from God, there’s no human effort that could attain it for us. In our fallen nature, we weren’t drowning but we were already dead. Our only chance to be saved was by being resurrected. And that is an act of pure grace and grace alone .
This is an eternal truth that we understand when we come to Christ, but it has to be a daily truth in our hearts. As Paul tells us in Romans 7, the good we want to do we don’t do, but what we don’t want to do, that we do.
I know you have already experienced this great dilemma of the new life in Christ: the flesh that is dead but not yet, the fact that you have been made holy but not yet. And a lot of times the acts of our still sinful nature can be a great source of condemnation.
Now, the more you step into a life of your own, the implications of your decisions will feel greater. Even though we all wish life could be perfect, we continue making decisions we later regret. You will need to be securely planted in Him, knowing that no matter what, His grace is unshakable, His grace is not a temporary stage; you were covered by His grace the day you surrendered your life to Him, You are covered by His grace today, and you will continue to be covered by His grace everyday of your life.
Wear His grace on your sleeve, remind yourself of it daily, especially when you feel like you don’t deserve it because that’s exactly it: a gift, a very underserved one. But you already took it, it’s yours so embrace it. And be always ready to be a practical witness of the grace you daily receive from the Lord by extending it to others.
It’s the biblical truth that we can only receive the gift of salvation by faith in Jesus, and not by works or personal efforts. This was the hill that Luther was willing to die on. And this is so important for you to also understand.
God doesn’t ask for your faith and something else. We don’t have a chance of cooperating with Him, and personally I’m glad I don’t because I’d probably fail.
I think that this is why our faith can so often be under attack, because our minds can hardly ever comprehend His love and grace, and we try to make sense of something that makes no sense to us because we are nothing like Him.
Your faith, which is the understanding of the truth of what God has revealed, will constantly be under attack. Multitudes of philosophies and streams of thought⏤good and bad⏤will come your way, especially if you are heading out to college. Some of them will be easy to say "no" to right away, but there will be others that will take more thought, that will make you sit down and ponder, and some might even shake your theology. But this is nothing new to Christians, and this is why you always need to look back at history. The letter of 1 John is a clear example of this. Among many things, some people then were claiming that Jesus wasn’t the Son of God, and they were also claiming that they had attained a higher level of consciousness therefore, they didn’t sin anymore.
You will hear philosophies like these, maybe not expressed with the same words but with the same intention which is to move your faith from Jesus so that you make an idol of yourself or any other figure or idea in your life.
But Colossians 2:8 warns us saying, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”
There will be times when your faith will thrive, and there will be times when your answer will be “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). And it’s great that Jesus told us that all we needed was faith the size of a mustard seed, as long as it was placed in Him.
As one of my favorite songs says: this is how the Mustard Seed became a literary superstar. Who would’ve thought that being the tiniest seed, it would be the clearest representation of what God will use to do great things. And that in His divine, unexpected logic, He has chosen that the superhuman enterprises will be done with mustard seeds .
It’s only by faith⏤trusting and believing that everything was fulfilled in Jesus Christ⏤that your soul will find true rest. Jesus is the Truth, He is not afraid of your questions, don’t be afraid to bring your mustard-seed sized faith to Him. Like He did with Thomas, He will welcome your doubts with His hands wide open whenever necessary. Identify those people around you that will be willing to stand with you and walk alongside you when your faith is challenged.
This sola teaches us that nothing can take Jesus’s place in our lives. In the context of the Reformation, sacraments had usurped the pre-eminence of Christ . And in our day, there are so many distractions that fight for your attention already. They promise you fulfilment and growth, they promise you grace before men, and even before God.
You can find these impostors in your heart, inside and outside of the church, at work, on social media, they are everywhere you go.
You know how we jokingly say “All I need is Jesus and ____________” [coffee, music, trips] insert your favorite thing in the blank, but more often than not we live out this belief through our actions. Trust me, you don’t need “whole lot” of Jesus, and a little bit of this other thing, you only need a whole lot of Jesus. He is the only Mediator, not even your favorite Bible scholar can stand next to Him in the same sentence. Christ alone must be the object of your faith.
Many idols will try to take His place in your life, and although sometimes we can be very good at acting as if He has the first place in our lives, our hearts know otherwise. Remember that eventually, your mouth will speak what your heart is full of, either publicly or privately. Yet I don’t say this with an accusatory intention, but for you to make sure that your heart is set in Him so that the words of your mouth are not a thermometer but a thermostat wherever you grow.
And as Colossians 2:6-7 says “… just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”
This teaching was born out of the fact that over many centuries the Church had placed final authority and revelation somewhere other than God. The doctrine of Sola Scriptura affirms that Scripture is to be understood as the sole final authority .
The Bible shows us that our God is a God that speaks, and has spoken in many different ways throughout history, and according to Hebrews He has now spoken to us through His Son. So to know the Father, we must look at the Son, and to look at the Son we must diligently look to His Word.
In the words of one of my favorite authors, Lucas Magnin, “The search for a direct line to God is a constant temptation for us. The possibility of discovering a spiritual highway that leads us to the heart of God, to the will of God, to the mysteries of God, is a permanent dream of many believers and an inexhaustible promise in many communities. Without potholes or detours, with detailed signposts and a minute-by-minute GPS, we could free ourselves from the twists and turns and failures that undermine the existence of the rest of the mortals.”
And I know that right now, this is probably what you are looking for, you’re hoping you are making the right choices for your future, and you might be wondering if those steps you are taking are God’s will for your life. I believe that God speaks today, and there are times when you'll know God is leading you very specifically but, what can you do when you don’t seem to be hearing anything?
I believe all we can do is to look at Jesus. When He was questioned for the miracle He had performed on the Sabbath, he answered that he was working because His Father is always at work. He proceeded to say “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” So although today I can’t give you a map to find a specific treasure chest that holds all the instructions for your life, I can encourage you to look to the Son, and live how He lived, wherever you go. Look for His Hand working around you, ask yourself what is the Father doing, and see how the gifts He has placed in you may be a good contribution wherever you find yourself at.
And as we’ve learned in History this year, and years past, look for God’s providential hand in your story. You won’t always be able to immediately see how God is working in your life, but if you look back you will be able to see His hand always present.
Don’t be dazzled by your personal idea of God, anchor yourself in the Word. When you don’t seem to “hear” anything, you need to rest in the comfort, clarity and solidity of Scripture, let that be your spiritual compass.
Again, in words of Lucas Magnin, “What we know of the Lord [from His Word] is enough to find consolation and hope, but let us not be confused. Being friends of Jesus does not free us from the challenge of learning to walk behind his mysterious footsteps without a pocket GPS. Being a Christian implies all kinds of risks, the journey will be at times uncomfortable, dark, unusual and more than once we will discover that we are on the wrong track. [Remember] the word of God is living and active, not magic. ”
And lastly but just as important...
The other four Solas have this one wrapped all around them. All the other solas are for the glory of God alone. He is the God of glory, and His glory is made manifest in His creation, redemption, and ultimately and most significantly, in the person and life of Jesus.
And you, being not only His creation but His children, are called to do whatever you do for the glory of God according to 1 Corinthians 10. Remember that you don’t need to be a missionary or a pastor or to work at a church to be “full-time” in ministry, your life is your God-given ministry. You are always full-time with Him.
Whether you go to college or not, start a friendship, have a conversation, if you write a song or a book, become a parent, create a piece of art, teach a class, fly a plane, work a shift, perform brain surgery, wherever you may find yourself, do everything for His glory. You are a living letter, meaning that your life will demonstrate what has been sown in your life, by your parents and teachers, but most importantly by the Lord.
And at last, if you really, really want to know what you should do next, here it goes:
He has shown you, O [insert your name here], what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
Webster, N., & Education, F. F. a. C. (1989). Noah Webster’s First Edition of an American Dictionary of the English Language.
Mathison, K. (2021). The Five Solas. Reformation Bible College
Thompson, A. (2021) What Are the Five Solas of the Protestant Reformation? Concordia University
Benavides, S. (2014) Concurso de Semillas. Un Lugar Llamado Gracia
Magnin, L. (2022). 95 Tesis para la Nueva Generación: Manifiesto de Espiritualidad y Reforma a la Sombra de Lutero. Editorial Clie. P. 129
For more information about Christian Heritage School, visit their website.
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