Happy 500th Anniversary of the Reformation of the Christian Church!!
Hi Friends! I pray your week and weekend went well in the grace and shelter of our Lord’s grace and care.
Well this week the Christian Church celebrates the 500th Anniversary of its Reformation. The Reformation began with the first nail that Martin Luther, a German Catholic priest, used to hammer his 95 theses (topics of debate) into the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in Germany on October 31, 1517. Although it was not Luther’s desire to create a new Christian denomination, his actions opened the flood gates for individuals to separate from the Roman Catholic Church and define their own doctrine. Although I am not a scholar in the field, I believe it is safe to say that if you are a member of a Christian denomination that is not Roman Catholic or Greek Catholic (Eastern Orthodox), your denomination was formed due to and following Luther’s actions that lead the Reformation and Protestant movement. To learn more about the start of the Reformation you may be interested in viewing the Docudrama, Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World (view the trailer at https://vimeo.com/154364811 ).
In celebration of this momentous event, our time this week is going to be spent looking at Luther’s favourite Bible verses. So, top up your coffee and let’s celebrate…
For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” Romans 1:17
Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” Galatians 3:11
“But my righteous one will live by faith…” Hebrews 10:38a
If you haven’t picked up on it yet, Luther’s favourite verses were totally focused on the proclamation that “The righteous shall live by faith”.
To translate, the word righteous means to be made right with God. Not only is it comforting to be right with those we love, but in God’s case, we cannot enter his presence and eternity without being right with him, without being righteous.
This phrase was first used in its fullness with Abraham but can go back even before the flood, with Enoch – Noah’s great grandfather- who “walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” (Genesis 5:24) We don’t know much about Enoch but we do know quite a bit about Abraham. Abraham was not perfect. There were times he was afraid and where he made poor decisions, even decisions that involved his wife, Sarah, and put her in questioning situations. So, it is clear to see, we are not considered righteous by our good deeds. In fact, that was Martin Luther’s issue: it didn’t matter how much he repented, he still felt the depth of his sin, and that sin kept him separated from God. His attempts to be ‘good enough’ for God were useless, if God were expecting us to become righteous by keeping the law. This was a burden he carried.
On the other hand, Enoch trusted the Lord, and as a result, followed in his ways. In the same way, Abraham trusted the Lord’s words and promises to be true. Although they were sinners, they lived looking towards the coming of a saviour and God’s plan for man’s salvation, they lived their life in faith of God’s love for them and his promises for them and mankind. They trusted his words to be true.
Now, as people who live on this side of the cross, we have seen the fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation through Christ, as he paid the judgement that our sins deserve. Our hope is built on him who has come and endured the cross for the purpose of our salvation, your salvation. Faith in all that Christ has done for us and our life eternal with him is what declares us righteous. It is this truth that freed Luther’s conscience. It is what assured him, and assures you and me of our home in the presence of the Lord for eternity; it is what leads us to be assured that our days are in good hands, his hands; and it is what guides us to love others because of his love and grace that we have received from him. It is not what you do or do not do, it is your faith in Christ. Your actions of love towards others simply follow in its wake.
On this 500th Anniversary week, may you boldly proclaim, “I am considered righteous because I live by faith in all that Christ has done for my salvation! AMEN!!” ..And may you be as bold in this truth, as Martin Luther was.
Prayer: Dear Lord, it can be so easy to get caught up in ‘working’ for my salvation, or in considering that I have earned it because I have done this good thing or that good thing. On the other hand, I may consider that I am never worthy of eternity in your presence because my sin goes so deep. No matter which extreme, please set my heart on the truth that through Christ you did it all for me. There is nothing I add or subtract from the reality that Jesus paid the full price that ALL sins, all my sins, deserve so that I can be with you forever. Strengthen my faith to walk in this assurance today, and all my days this side of heaven. Help me to show and share this wonderful news to those on my life’s path. In Jesus’ name. AMEN!
Reflection: Take some time to read and reflect upon all the elements of Luther’s Rose. Just as we wear poppy’s to remember our soldiers, Luther’s Rose helps us remember the teachings of God’s grace in scripture.
“Grace and peace from the Lord. As you desire to know whether my painted seal, which you sent to me, has hit the mark, I shall answer most amiably and tell you my original thoughts and reason about why my seal is a symbol of my theology. The first should be a black cross in a heart, which retains its natural color, so that I myself would be reminded that faith in the Crucified saves us. ‘For one who believes from the heart will be justified’ (Romans 10:10). Although it is indeed a black cross, which mortifies and which should also cause pain, it leaves the heart in its natural color. It does not corrupt nature, that is, it does not kill but keeps alive. ‘The just shall live by faith’ (Romans 1:17) but by faith in the crucified. Such a heart should stand in the middle of a white rose, to show that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace. In other words, it places the believer into a white, joyous rose, for this faith does not give peace and joy like the world gives (John 14:27). That is why the rose should be white and not red, for white is the color of the spirits and the angels (cf. Matthew 28:3; John 20:12). Such a rose should stand in a sky-blue field, symbolizing that such joy in spirit and faith is a beginning of the heavenly future joy, which begins already, but is grasped in hope, not yet revealed. And around this field is a golden ring, symbolizing that such blessedness in Heaven lasts forever and has no end. Such blessedness is exquisite, beyond all joy and goods, just as gold is the most valuable, most precious and best metal. This is my compendium theoligae [summary of theology]. I have wanted to show it to you in good friendship, hoping for your appreciation. May Christ, our beloved Lord, be with your spirit until the life hereafter. Amen.”*