Monday, October 29, 2007

Reformation Day; What it means to me

I have found it interesting these past few days to uncover some of God's chain of events concerning Christian history. Obviously we can go back to the beginning, but I have kind of parked myself in the 16th century, and more specifically around Martin Luther and Reformation day which is October 31st.

Luther was born in 1483 in Eisleben Germany. The son of an ambitious father, who desperately wanted to see his son become a lawyer. Luther was baptized as a catholic in the Holy Roman Empire, and was raised with education being of high priority. In 1505 while experiencing a lighting bolt strike near him, he declared to "Saint Anna", that he would become a monk. Because of his extreme fear of death and judgement he saw this vow as a decision he would never break.
Luther was known for often punishing his body for sin. He spent many hours fasting and in confession. His recognition of his sin put him in a state of deep spiritual despair.

In an effort to distract him from his very introspective self, his superior ordered him to study more academics. After receiving his Doctor of Theology, Luther was giving the position of Doctor in Bible at the University of Wittenburg. He lectured in the Psalms, Hebrews, Romans, and Galatians. Through his studying and lecturing of the N.T books, he was struck by the Biblical teachings of righteousness and justification, salvation through faith. Through his discovery of justification he began studying that Salvation was the gift of Gods grace to be saved, only attainable through His son Jesus, and received through Faith. With his new found acceptance of true salvation came a healing of a soul that had been in deep despair. Luther said of his old life, " I lost hold of Christ the Saviour and comforter and made Him a stock master & hangman over my poor soul."

Obviously Luthers doctrinal stance on justification flew right in the face of that of the Catholic Church that was steeped deeply in the sale of indulgences or basically purchasing for yourself from a priest, absolution from your sin. This was a practice that was seriously abused and obviously anti-gospel.
Luther, in an effort to see the catholic church freed from this practice, wrote what is known as the 95 thesis. These 95 statements were nailed to a wall at the Whittenburg church, which was a traditional way back then of making an announcement. This was not a defiant move, but rather one of deep concern for the state of the church. This sparked the period of Reformation and brought about a case for the true gospel that had been warped and belittled by the Catholic Church of that day.

Luther was passionate about the doctrine of justification by faith, and his writing of the thesis to "correct" the papal abuses accuring within the church. However he stated that he would happily yield every point of dispute to the Pope, if only the Pope would affirm the Gospel. You can hear the concern for the heart of the Pope to change in Thesis # 48..." Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting pardons, needs, and therefore desires, their devout prayer for him more than the money they bring."
In Thesis # 55 Luthers states " It must be the intention of the Pope, that if pardons, which are a very small thing, are celebrated with one bell, with single processions and ceremonies, then the Gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies."
His sincere reverence for the true Gospel rang out loud and clear by that statement.
Luther was a true "evangelion", which is the Greek term for Evangelical, that translates.."Return to the true gospel."

So I submit today that whether you are Baptist, Presbyterian, Free Will, Calvinist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Non denominational, whatever, you have to appreciate these facts.
That almost 500 years ago, a man who was overwhelmed with his sin, who saw himself as a wretched sinner uncapable of earning the Love of God, read the inspired words of God and understood for the first time what it meant to be fully justified by faith, to have Christs righteousness imputed to him for his belief on those grounds alone.
That he did not keep this knowledge to himself, but instead urged others to be transformed by the true Gospel.
I believe that Reformation day is not just a day that should be celebrated by those of the quote un quote, reformed faith, but by all those that through God's grace have come to the saving knowledge of salvation by God alone through Faith alone.

Because of movements like Luthers Reformation, other critical periods of Christian History were spawned.
I believe that God used men like Martin Luther to spark a true evangelical movement (in the literal meaning of the word!) that in turn set up a series of events leading to a group of Separatist embarking on a ship some 100 years later, which as we all know, was a search for religious freedom that WE now have.
I wonder,without the Reformation movement, how long the arrival of the first Separatist to the shores of America would have been postponed.
The observance of Reformation day should inspire us all to return to a true protestant movement.
A true declaration that we are praying and seeking a return to true evangelicalism in this country and especially in our own lives.
The true Gospel, that we must daily remind ourselves of, not too earn merit in the eyes of God, but to bestow our deepest gratitude to the God that has fully justified us through His Son. That because of the gospel, we are triumphant, even when we fail.
In the words of Martin Luthers powerful hymn "A Might Fortress is our God"...
"And though this world with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, We will not fear for God hath willed, His truth to triumph through us."
That is what I will be celebrating this Reformation day!


Marsha said...

Great post, Missy. Very well read and thought out. I liked it a did your Dad. He says you are absolutely right, it's for ALL of us who have been justified by faith in Christ.
It was a good reminder about the Pilgrims leaving 100 years later on the Mayflower. We are descendents of 3 who made that journey. My brother Tom has everything thoroughly researched. We've always known we were descendents of Edward Doty, one of the 2 indentured servants. That line went all the way to Howard who married Minnie Parks - a.k.a. my Great Grandmother Doty.
But there is another line that is even more awesome for me to think on. You are 16th generation from the spiritual leader of the Pilgrims, Elder William Brewster and his wife Mary. He organized that group of separatists that broke away from the Anglican Church. When they launched to the New World, he named their group of dissenters Pilgrims. His lineage at the 12th generation begat Minnie Parks -a.k.a. Grandma Doty!
Our ancestors were directly affected by Luther's movement. Our ancestor - Elder William Brewster, got the land grant from the Virginia Company for the tract of land in America to start a colony where they would be free to worship God.
Thinking back to my blog story about Grandma Doty and how she prayed 6 generations. She had to have learned it somewhere. IF William and Mary Brewster prayed 6 generations, they prayed for Sarah Culkins. If SHE prayed 6 generations, she prayed for Grandma Doty. And Grandma Doty prayed for your children.
I just got goose bumps! I think I'm gonna cry.

Marsha said...

Actually, 6 generations out from Grandma Doty would be YOUR grandchildren.

Laura Leigh said...

Morgan family just watched the Luther movie for the first time. So powerful. Steven and I saw a play last week about Luther and his wife. Also powerfully done. I am ever amazed at his boldness and willingness to defend the true Gospel no matter what the cost. Oh, to be more like that!

Kim said...

WOO HOO! I loved this post. We are studying Luther at home and I'm always hit by his humanity. That he actually loved the church and wanted to see the church reformed. He had no intention of separating. I think it must've broken his heart to think that the Pope supported the abuses of the Catholic Church and was not in support of Luther's love of the gospel. Praise God for this wonderful, courageous man. He's the most famous, but he's one of many to stand up for the gospel, sometimes at the price of their lives.

Chuck said...

This really is an excellent recounting of a very important period of church history. I would add to your list of denominations who benefit from Luther (deep breath) Catholics as well. While there are still significant theological issues betwixt them and other realms of Christendom, the blatantly abusive practices of Popes & Bishops from that time have ceased.

Luther struggled with anti-Semitism. And the Puritans who came to the new world apostasized into Unitarianism and eventually secular American civil religion (i.e., worship of democracy and the "American way" as opposed to Christ). I only toss out these unfortunate factoids as a reminder that ultimately it is the Holy Spirit who preserves the church. May God help each of us to finish as well if not stronger than we started.

Again, great post...keep it up!