Raise your hand if you know what makes this day, October 31, 2017, special.
Some might suggest Halloween; any holiday that includes dressing up in a costume and getting free candy is really special, or at least that wins the kid vote. (I know, I know . . . many church-goers don’t celebrate Halloween as such, but think Trunk or Treat or fall festival.)
But, no, Halloween isn’t the answer I’m looking for…
Today marks the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation!
Now before your eyes glaze over because boring church history, please stick with me for a few minutes because this one’s important, lovies. It’s one of those times I wish we could be sitting across from one another, sipping our favorite beverages and having a conversation about why this matters to you and to me —
Apart from Martin Luther’s work relative to the Reformation, I don’t know how we could answer the question, “Why do you believe what you believe?”
Bold statement. I’ll explain.
Briefly, first, let’s make sure everyone understands a bit about the Reformation. History tells us that on this day in 1517, Luther, a German-born Augustinian monk and professor of biblical studies, nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany (though scholars suggest it wasn’t quite this dramatic of a display). The 95 Theses were a Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences. As explained by Greg Allison and Chris Cataldo in The Unfinished Reformation, an indulgence was “a remission of temporal punishment by paying money to the church.”
People were encouraged to buy their own way out of sin, so to speak, and they could also offer money on behalf of others, living or dead.
The short of the long is Martin Luther, upon reading the Bible himself, realized many of the Roman Catholic Church’s practices at the time weren’t consistent with Scripture. In writing the 95 Theses, Luther, and then other reformers, raised questions related to authority and salvation. They pressed for reform by exposing the abuses that were going on in the Church, which eventually led to the establishment of the Reformed and Protestant Churches.
Please, please hear my point in sharing this: not to focus on the rightness or wrongness of any particular denomination or religion, but to remind all of us about the transformative, life-changing affect of studying scripture.
The Bible inspired and informed a paradigm shift in Luther’s faith. His beliefs changed after a careful, personal examination of the Scripture.
For by grace you have been saved through faith.
And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Sola Scriptura – by scripture alone
Sola Gratia – by grace alone
Sola Fide – through faith alone
What we accept with little thought was not only revolutionary during Luther’s life, it was heretical. Challenging the church placed his life at stake, and in 1521, he was forced to go into hiding. It was during this time Martin Luther worked to translate Erasmus’s Greek New Testament. In the first two months following its publication, an estimated 5,000 copies were sold. Twelve years later, he completed a translation of the Old Testament.
We owe Luther a debt of gratitude impossible to repay. To the glory of God, after studying the Scriptures he:
- Bravely and boldly challenged the status quo.
- Demonstrated how one person can make a difference for generations that follow.
- Made the Bible accessible for all of us.
Now, end of the mini church history lesson, and a look at where most of us find ourselves today:
A society where we can worship freely, with access to countless Bible translations by the click of a mouse. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of us have more Bibles in our homes than we have fingers on our hands.
Spending time in the Word is transformative. A careful, personal examination of Scripture informs our belief and changes who we are.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
Attending women’s retreats is a good thing; they can equip you for Kingdom work and refresh your heart and soul. Making corporate worship a priority and listening to sermons online can also be helpful in your faith-walk.
But there is no resource more powerful than God’s Word to teach us about Him, who we are in Christ, and what difference all of that makes; in this world and throughout eternity.
When Martin Luther studied the Scriptures, he discovered common religious practices were inconsistent with its teaching. He recognized the value of reading the Bible, and committed himself to translating it to make it accessible for the common person.
The invention of the printing press [Johannes Gutenberg, c. 1440] together with Luther’s German Bible [New Testament, 1522; Old Testament, 1534] did in a sense ‘unchained’ the Scriptures by making them available not only to scholars and monks but also to ploughboys in the fields and milkmaids at their pails. (Timothy George, Theology of the Reformers, p. 79)
I suggested at the beginning, “Apart from Martin Luther’s work relative to the Reformation, I don’t know how we could answer the question, ‘Why do you believe what you believe?'” It is the Lord who first stirs our hearts and draws believers to Himself, but thanks be to God for inspiring writers to provide a written account about Him and His plan for mankind, that we might know Him personally.
Jesus loves me, this I know.
For the Bible tells me so.
Would you be willing to share something you’ve learned recently from Bible study in your church, small group, or quiet time? Proverbs 27:17 tells us “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another,” and the wisdom you’ve gleaned from Scripture might just be what one of your (in)sisters needs to hear.
With BIG thanks to my pastor for his recent sermon series that inspired today’s words!