Happy Reformation Day

October 31, 1517. A German Agustinian Monk walked to All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany. The monk had a hammer, nails and a scroll in his hands as he approached the large wooden doors. Unrolling the scroll he nailed the four corners right to the front face of the door and then walked away. The document started off by saying, “Out of love and concern for the truth, and with the object of eliciting it, the following heads will be the subject of a public discussion at Wittenberg under the presidency of the reverend father, Martin Luther, Augustinian, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and duly appointed Lecturer on these subjects in that place. He requests that whoever cannot be present personally to debate the matter orally will do so in absence in writing.” The monk was Martin Luther. The date, October 31, is what most christian historians attribute to as the start of the Reformation. As the 503 anniversary passes it is important to realize the significance of this date. While many celebrate by dressing up in costumes, having parties and passing out candy, there is something much more important to reflect on for October 31. There are two main lessons I want to draw your attention to from this historic event; faithfulness to God and the fight for truth.

Let's first look at Luther’s faithfulness to God. He never realized or anticipated the magnitude his actions would take. He was not looking for fame. He was not looking to pick a fight. He was not looking to transform a nation. He was not looking to cause a revolution. He was not looking to start his own church or denomination. He was not looking to be a martyr for a cause. All he wanted to do is start a conversation with those in power. He wanted to transform the church from within. He never imagined it would swell to the magnitude that it did. He wasn’t looking to be such a lighting rod. In short, he never saw what God had in store for him and neither will we. We must look at Luther’s life and realize that we are tools in His hand (Romans 6:13). We must be both humble and faithful, willing to be used however He sees fit. Usually you have two kinds of people in the church, those looking for attention and those looking for obscurity. But God doesn’t ask for either of these pursuits. All he wants is for us to be holy by being faithful to Him (1 Peter 1:16). Especially today with the internet and social media, everyone has a megaphone and an audience. It is thus very easy to think if you are not noticed you are a nobody. But who we should always bring attention to is not us but God (Matthew 5:15-16). We should live peaceful and quiet lives (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12) that are faithful to God. Let Him decide if He will use you in a mighty noticeable way or in a quiet hidden way. Don’t look for the next big thing. Instead look for Him and be faithful. 

As noted above, Luther started out his objections by giving the reason why he was doing it, “Out of a love and concern for the truth…”. This is something that is also very important to reminisce about as we remember Reformation Day. Knowing the context of the church in Luther’s day is important. During this time in history the Catholic Church was who determined what christians knew about the bible. The word of God was never in a common language for people to read and understand for themselves. They told the people how to behave and act when it came to their faith. Luther began to realize the danger in this when he compared the church’s teaching to scripture. Having the education to read the bible for himself Luther saw the numerous flaws in the church’s teachings. The biggest of these being the purchasing of indulgences. He exposed it for what it was; a marketing ploy playing off of people’s guilt to make money. 

And this is the whole point. Luther was able to see right through the error of the church by reading the bible for himself. By going to the word to know the truth he was able to see how far off and sinful the church had become. It was scripture, not the church’s teaching, that brought him to saving faith. Referring to Habakkuk 2:4 & Galatians 3:1 Luther says, “Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that 'the just shall live by his 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.” He read the truth in God’s word and was saved. We must cherish and guard the truth of God’s word. Many years later the early settlers in our country established schools so that their children would be literate to read and understand the bible for themselves. They wanted their future to turn to God for truth and not to rely on anyone else. We need to be reminded of the importance of truth and where to turn to get it. Too often we are quick to accept information from the world because of where it came from. It was told to us by a friend, family member, an “expert” in a certain field or they have a title before their name. But the only infallible truth is in the word of God. May we not take for granted the amazing privilege we have to be able to read the word freely and in a language we can understand. May we be willing to stand and fight for what the truth is. May we not be intimidated. May we not negotiate or compromise our faith to avoid conflict. May we be loving, but loving always in the truth. As Luther also said, “Peace if possible, but truth at any rate.”

Happy Reformation Day

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