Today is Halloween, ending the second largest retail season of the year, only behind the Christmas season. While many people will celebrate with candy and costumes, for Christians, today represents a significant moment in church history. Today is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic Monk, nailing his 95 theses to the door of his church.
I don’t want to spend this entire post recounting the historical moments that both preceded and succeeded Luther’s actions on this day. If you want to read more about Reformation Day, here are a few links:
What is Reformation Day? – ligonier.com
3 Things Every Christian Should Know About the Reformation. – thegospelcoalition.com
Here We Stood (a brief history of Martin Luther) – desiringgod.org
The Reformation and your Church – 9marks.org (This is a Fall Journal loaded with great articles on the reformation. Save this link and read/watch/listen to everything that is included.
What I want to write is how the Reformation impacts us today. Though they were flawed men and women, the stance the Reformers took 500 years ago is a model for us today.
We must take a stand for the Gospel.
After Luther posted his 95 theses, he knew he would have to defend his claims. So he stood before the Emperor of Rome and, knowing he may very well lose his life, stated, “Here I stand. I can do no other. So help me, God.”
What Luther was standing for was the Gospel. While the church he served under said earn or pay your way to heaven or your can pay your relatives out of purgatory, Luther read from the Scriptures that our righteousness was like filthy rags and the only hope for salvation is through Jesus Christ. After years of hating what he was reading in the Scriptures, he fell in love with the righteousness of God. Christ died for our sins and it is his righteousness that is placed on us.
This among other things lead Luther to take stand against the Roman Catholics idea of the Gospel. His influence then is an example for us today. In the midst of so many false gospels, we must take a stand for the true Gospel of Jesus Christ; that salvation comes by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The church in Luther’s day wanted to make sinners look good, but as Luther put it: “Sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive.”
While we take a stand for the gospel, it also means we take a stand against false gospels taught by churches. Whether it’s the deceitful prosperity Gospel or a works based gospel, we must take a stand for the Gospel. Taking a stand for the Gospel has never been popular, but if we fail to take a stand, then who will?
We must take a stand for the Scriptures.
Luther’s conflict with the church began when the church’s teachings collided with his understanding of the Scripture. He was a Scholar and when he realized that the church was teaching something contrary to the Word of God, he spoke up. He saw God’s Word as authoritative and should be available to all people.
God’s Word must be the authority in our lives. It’s how we learn about God, his grace, and his forgiveness through Jesus. The Holy Spirit uses Scripture to convict us daily. To limit it’s authority is a dangerous step towards apostasy. The church must teach and disciple believers on how to read and study the scriptures.
We also make sure that all we do within the church is founded on the teachings of the Bible. Our traditions, our theology, and our individual and corporate practice must be grounded in the Word of God. Luther stood up for the authority of the Scriptures during a time when the authority was given to the church.
We must take a stand for God’s Glory.
It may sound odd, but the church today needs Jesus. While Luther’s church may have said “Jesus!”, everything else said other-wise. It was about the church, it was about the pope, it was about money. It was about everything other than Jesus. Unfortunately, too many churches have become about other ideas other than Jesus.
If programs, methods, or anything else because more important than Jesus, then we’ve missed it. If we give over to more lights or more buildings or more “coolness” and set Jesus to the side, then it’s necessary to evaluate our churches. The Reformers understood that it was through Christ alone and it was for God’s glory alone. They weren’t out to make a name for themselves or for their church, they only desired to make a name for Jesus.
If the worship is about how well done the music is and now about who God is, then a reformation is needed.
If the preaching becomes about the speaker’s giftedness and not about God’s goodness, then a reformation is needed.
If the church becomes inward focused and not focused on the spreading of the gospel to people outside the church, then a reformation is needed.
It’s never been about us; it has and must always be about God’s glory.
So much more could be said about the influence of the Reformers. Their impact 500 years ago should influence us to take a stand for Scripture Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Christ Alone, and to the Glory of God Alone. May we all be reformers in our churches.
Happy Reformation Day.