Why Celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation?

Martin LutherMartin Luther launched the great Reformation when he nailed “The Ninety-Five Theses” to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral on October 31, 1517. Since then, many protestant churches commemorate this day on the Sunday closest to Reformation Day (October 31) each year. This year we celebrate Reformation Day on Sunday, October 29th.

Why should you and your church celebrate the Reformation? At the core, we owe an immense debt of gratitude to the Reformers for their courageous efforts in recovering the biblical gospel: That God accepts us sinners not because of any work or supposed merit of our own, but because of His own mercy, on the basis of Christ’s finished work in which by grace we put our trust.

Robert Capon shares in a graphic metaphor exactly what happened during the time of the Reformation: “The Reformation was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellar full of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two-hundred proof grace—of bottle after bottle of pure distillate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly” (Between Noon & Three: Romance, Law & the Outrage of Grace).

Thus, on Reformation Sunday we remember the essence of all that we believe. You can summarize it in three words: Christ saves sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Christ saves sinners from beginning to end all by His grace alone. If that’s true, then our lives should be distinctly marked by three character traits: Gratitude, humility and joy. Which of these marks of a Christian do you need to grow in the most?

As Reformation Day approaches, ask yourself if your faith at its core is more of a grace-filled journey or a moral code? Is it a love affair with your Savior rather than merely a religious exercise and a philosophy of love? Is your Christianity characterized by receiving a gift with open hands or is it keeping rules with clenched fists? As your relationship with Christ is characterized more as a grace-filled journey, a love affair and receiving a gift with open hands, you will grow in gratitude, humility, and joy.

Let us pray that our church would continue trumpeting God’s grace and that the Lord would unleash His Gospel with its transforming power so that He might revive us again so that we rejoice in Him (Psalm 85:6) and so that times of refreshing would come from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:20). Don’t let this Reformation Day pass without praying this for yourself, your family, your church family and community!

What inspired Luther to recover the biblical gospel?

Luther Theses

In the little town of Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517, a priest nailed a challenge to debate on the church door. No one may have noticed then, but within the week, copies of his theses would be discussed throughout the surrounding regions; and within a decade, Europe itself was shaken by his simple act.

Later generations would mark Martin Luther’s nailing of the 95 theses on the church door of Wittenberg as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, but what did Luther think he was doing at the time? To answer this question, we need to understand a little about Luther’s own spiritual journey.

As a young man in Germany at the beginning of the sixteenth century, Luther was studying law at the university. One day he was caught in a storm and was almost killed by lightning. He cried out to St. Anne and promised God he would become a monk. In 1505, Luther entered the Augustinian monastery, and in 1507 became a priest. His monastic leaders sent him to Rome in 1510, but Luther was disenchanted with the ritualism and dead faith he found in the papal city. There was nothing in Rome to mend his despairing spirit or settle his restless soul. He seemed so cut off from God, and nowhere could he find a cure for his malady.

Martin Luther was bright, and his superiors soon had him teaching theology in the university. In 1515, he began teaching Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Slowly, Paul’s words in Romans began to break through the gloom of Luther’s soul. Luther wrote

My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement ‘the just shall live by faith.’ Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning…This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven.

The more Luther’s eyes were opened by his study of Romans, the more he saw the corruption of the church in his day. The glorious truth of justification by faith alone had become buried under a mound of greed, corruption, and false teaching. Most galling was the practice of indulgences — the certificates the church provided, for a fee, supposedly to shorten one’s stay in Purgatory. The pope was encouraging the sale of indulgences. He planned to use the money to help pay for the building of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Johann Tetzel was one of the indulgence sellers in Luther’s vicinity. He used little advertising jingles to encourage people to buy his wares: “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” Once Luther realized the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice alone for our sins, he found such practices revolting. The more he studied the Scriptures, the more he saw the need of showing the church how it had strayed from the truth.

So on October 31, 1517 he posted a list of 95 propositions. This was the means of inviting scholars to debate important issues. No one took up Luther’s challenge to debate at that time, but once news of his proposals became known, many began to discuss the issue Luther raised – that salvation was by faith in Christ’s work alone. Luther apparently at first expected the pope to agree with his position, since it was based on Scripture; but in 1520, the Pope issued a decree condemning Luther’s views. Luther publicly burned the papal decree. With that act, he also burned his bridges behind him.

Bibliography:

  1. Adapted from an earlier Christian History Institute story.
  2. Bainton, Roland. Here I Stand. New York: Mentor, 1950.
  3. Durant, Will. The Reformation. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1957.
  4. Köstlin, Julius. Life of Luther. New York, C. Scribner’s sons, 1884.
  5. Wells, Amos R. A Treasure of Hymns; Brief biographies of 120 leading hymn- writers and Their best hymns. Boston: W. A. Wilde company, 1945.
  6. Various encyclopedia articles.

Source: http://www.christianity.com/ChurchHistory/11629921/

Martin Luther & The Courage to Face Your Fears

images

Martin Luther leading family worship.

On Sunday, October 29th, we will celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. We remember on this day that Martin Luther began a process that resulted in the recovery of the biblical gospel. Many congregations will recall the efforts of Martin Luther and will sing his famous hymn based on Psalm 46 entitled “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

When Luther needed encouragement, comfort and strength to face the many afflictions and trials that came upon him, he would frequently go to Psalm 46 for courage.

He himself explains why he would regularly sing Psalm 46 during times of trouble:

“We sing this psalm to the praise of God,
because He is with us
and powerfully and miraculously preserves and defends
His church and His Word
against all fanatical spirits,
against the gates of hell,
against the implacable hatred of the devil,
and against all the assaults of the world, the flesh, and sin.”

 

When the Lord Redeploys You

The call of God on all of our lives is to serve God lovingly and contentedly. The tenth commandment to not covet teaches us that. However, sometimes a restlessness of soul lingers that comes from the Spirit of God when He is preparing you for something new.

John Piper offers you wise counsel when God redeploys you:

“Many of you should stay where you are
and ponder how you can fit
your particular skills and relationships and resources
more strategically into the global purpose of your heavenly Father.

But if the discontent with your present situation
is deep, recurrent and lasting, and if that discontent grows
in Bible-saturated soil, God may be calling you to a new work.
If, in your discontent,
you long to be holy and to magnify Christ with your one, brief life,
then God may indeed by loosening your roots
in order to transplant you to a place and ministry
where the deep spiritual ambitions of your soul can be satisfied.

It is true that God can be known and enjoyed in every legitimate vocation;
but when he deploys you from one place to the next,
he offers fresh and deeper drinking at the fountain of his fellowship.
God seldom calls us to an easier life,
but always calls us to know more of Him
and drink more deeply of His sustaining grace.”

Martin Luther’s Reflection on Music

Martin Luther - the father of song

God’s Fair and Glorious Gift

“Music is a fair and glorious gift of God.
I would not for the world forego my humble share of music.
Singers are never sorrowful, but are merry,
and smile through their troubles in song.
Music makes people kinder, gentler,
more staid and reasonable.
I am strongly persuaded that after theology

there is no art than can be placed on a level with music;
for besides theology,
music is the only art
capable of affording peace and joy of the heart…
the devil flees before the sound of music
almost as much as before the Word of God.”

– Martin Luther

Preach the Gospel to Yourself – How?

How have believers in the past proclaimed the gospel to their own hearts?

Why not reflect on the examples below and then write out your own summary of the gospel? Then use it as a tool in spiritual battle when you are plagued with a sense of condemnation, shame, and guilt:

1. The Apostle Paul recounts the stunning grandeur of the gospel throughout his life like this:

  • Romans 1:16 – 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.
  • 1 Timothy 1:15 – The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

2. John Newton captures the simple beauty of the gospel when writing as an 82-year-old man: “My memory is nearly gone; but I remember two things; That I am a great sinner, and that Jesus Christ is a great Savior of sinners like me.”

3. Bono: “Grace, she takes the blame; She covers the shame; removes the stain; Grace makes beauty out of ugly things!”

4. Jack Miller: “Cheer up and smile! You are more sinful and flawed that you ever dared imagine, yet at the same time you are more loved than you ever dared to dream because Jesus Christ lived a perfect life and died a sacrificial death for you.”

5. YOU: How about you?

The Power of Worship

Both for perplexity and for dulled conscience
the remedy is the same;
sincere and spiritual worship.
For worship is
the submission of all our nature to God.
It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness;
the nourishment of mind with His truth;
the purifying of imagination by His beauty;
the opening of the heart to His love;
the surrender of will to His purpose —
and all of this gathered up in adoration,
the most selfless emotion of which our nature is
capable and therefore the chief remedy for that
self-centeredness which is our original sin
and the source of all actual sin.
Yes—worship in spirit and truth
is the way to the solution of perplexity
and to the liberation from sin.
—William Temple, Readings in St. John’s Gospel, 1939

Remaining Loyal to Jesus Until the End

The gospel of Jesus Christ demands my utmost devotion.

Listen to the words of a young preacher from Zimbabwe:

“I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed.
I have the Holy Spirit’s power.
The die has been cast.
I have stepped over the line.
The decision has been made; I’m a disciple of His!
I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.
I won’t give up, shut up, let up,
until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up and preached up
for the cause of Jesus Christ.
I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.

And his disciples will be hated to the end of time.
They will be blamed for all the divisions that rend cities and homes.
Jesus and his disciples will be condemned on all sides
for undermining family life, and for leading the nation astray;
they will be called crazy fanatics and disturbers of the peace.
The disciples will be sorely tempted to desert their Lord.
But the end is also near, and they must hold on and persevere until it comes.
Only he will be blessed who remains loyal to Jesus and his word until the end.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

J.C. Ryle on Christ in the Psalms

A Greater than David is here!

We have probably little idea how much deep truth is contained in the book of Psalms. No part of the Bible perhaps is better known in the letter, and none so little understood in the spirit. We err greatly if we suppose that it is nothing but a record of David’s feelings, of David’s experience, David’s praises, and David’s prayers. The hand that held the pen was generally David’s. But the subject matter was often something far deeper and higher than the history of the son of Jesse.

The book of Psalms, in a word, is a book full of Jesus Christ—Christ suffering—Christ in humiliation—Christ dying—rising again—Christ coming the second time—Christ reigning over all. Both the advents are here—advent in suffering to bear the cross—the advent in power to wear the crown. Both the kingdoms are here—kingdom of grace, during which the elect are gathered—the kingdom of glory, when every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord. Let us always read the Psalms with a peculiar reverence. Let us say to ourselves as we read, “A greater than David is here.”