Tag: Martin Luther

Why the Reformation Matters Today

This coming Monday 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. On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic Monk, nailed his 95 theses to the door of his church. Luther wrote these words out of a deep concern with the Roman Catholic Church’s view on several issues that Luther deemed unBiblical. His efforts lead to what is now referred to as the Protestant Reformation.

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, I’ll provide a few links at the bottom. You can also read more from this blog post.

What I want to write about is how the Reformation impacts us today. Though they were flawed men and women, the stance taken by the Reformers 500 plus 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 salvation can be earned or paid for or you 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 doctrinal concerns, led Luther to take a stand against the Roman Catholic’s 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? The apostle Paul took a stand for Gospel priority by calling out those who abandoned the Gospel of Jesus:

[6] I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—[7] not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. [8] But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. [9] As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. [10] For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:6–10)

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 (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Holy Spirit uses Scripture to convict us daily. To limit its authority is a dangerous step towards apostasy. The church must teach and disciple believers on how to read and study the scriptures.  

We also must 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 Catholic church claimed to hold all authority.

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 becomes more important than Jesus, then we’ve missed it. If we give over to more lights or more buildings or more “attractiveness” 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. 

Here are a few indicators that a reformation may be needed within a church:

  • If the worship is about how well done and entertaining the music is and not about who God is, then a reformation is needed.
  • If the preaching becomes about the speaker’s giftedness or focuses on relative topics and opinions and not about the teaching of God’s Word, then a reformation is needed.
  • If the church becomes inwardly 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 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.

****

ARTICLES

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.

DOCUMENTARIES AND PODCASTS

Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer – Watch this documentary in its entirety to discover the events God used in Martin Luther’s life that led him to rediscover the gospel of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Luther in Real Time – It’s 1520. Martin Luther has been declared a heretic by Pope Leo X, and his books are being burned. How much longer before Luther himself is thrown into the fire?

Enter the German Reformer’s dramatic story with Luther: In Real Time. First released 500 years after the events described, this podcast allows you to walk in Martin Luther’s footsteps from his heresy charges to his famous stand for the authority of God’s Word at the Diet of Worms. Share this podcast with people of all ages so they can hear—in Luther’s own words—what Protestants are protesting and why it still matters today.

Standing Against A Modern Day Indulgence

From the Elders of Grace Life Church: This post continues a month long look into the Protestant Reformation. See the previous post on “What is the Protestant Reformation?” here. There is much we can learn from church history, mainly, the encouragement from men and women who boldly stood in the face of false teaching. One such example is provided below and written by one of our church members and LifeGroup leader, Josh Bird. 

———

On October 31, 1517, a German monk posted a challenge to debate on the doors of the Wittenberg Church. That German monk was named Martin Luther, and the challenge to debate was on his 95 theses.  Today, the posting of the 95 theses is viewed as the beginning of the Protestant reformation. It certainly wasn’t the beginning of the reformation as several reformers preceded Luther, and it wasn’t Luther’s intent to start a reformation.  

We romanticize the moment in hindsight.  We think of Luther nailing the theses to the door with every hammer blow thunderously shattering against the Catholic church.  But that was not Luther’s intent at all. In fact, Luther posting his theses was like posting on a bulletin board.  Luther did not even post the theses in German, the common language. He posted them originally in Latin, the language of the academics. Some of his students translated his theses into common German, and once the laity were able to read the theses, a spark ignited into a flame which remains unquenched today.

Luther’s intent was to have an open discussion and debate about what he felt were abuses within the church, particularly with the selling of indulgences.  The Catholic catechism defines indulgences as follows: “An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which as the minister of redemption dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.”

Under Catholic theology, when one dies and they are a believer, they are not immediately allowed to enter Heaven. They undergo what is called Purgatory. A Protestant understanding may describe this as further sanctification from sins in purgatory until they are allowed to enter Heaven.  Indulgences were sold by the Catholic church which would allow a reduction in time one had to spend in Purgatory. Indulgences could be bought on one’s behalf, or on behalf of the dead, such as a departed relative. As John Tetzel, a prominent seller of indulgences stated, “as soon as a coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.”

In the early 1500’s, indulgences were sold to help pay for the rebuilding of St. Peter’s in Rome.  Luther felt that this practice was being abused and that the poor were being taken advantage of.  Luther stated in his theses that “they preach human folly who pretend that as soon as money in the coffer rings a soul from purgatory springs.” 

While the reformation primarily focused on issues of faith and justification, it started as an argument about indulgences.  An argument that Luther eventually seems to have won. The Catholic church outlawed the sale of indulgences in 1567, though the practice of earning indulgences is alive today.  But while the Reformers battled indulgences and buying God’s favor, today, there is a popular and prominent theology which seems to focus on the worldly. That false teaching has come to be known as the Prosperity Gospel. Prosperity theology teaches that God is predominantly concerned with a believer’s health, wealth, and prosperity is rampant. 

Prosperity theology operates on the assumption that it is God’s will to have financial blessings in this life. Oftentimes this blessing comes in the form of “sowing a seed,” via tithing to the church.  One prominent prosperity teacher stated in 2015 that “Jesus bled and died for us so that we can lay claim to the promise of financial prosperity.” He would delete the statement, but he never actually or formally retracted his statement to my knowledge.  His further writing seems to show he still believes that logic.  He would later go on to say, “He took our sins upon himself and exchanged them for His righteousness so that we could become enriched and abundantly supplied.” 

He looks to 2 Corinthians 8:9 as proof for his assertion which says,

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” But if you read that verse within the context of the entire chapter, it’s easy to see where he gets it wrong. 2 Corinthians 8:1-3 says “we want you to know brothers about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify and beyond their means of their own accord.” (Emphasis added). 

When we look at the entirety of the chapter, it has nothing to do with obtaining worldly wealth, but a wealth of joy at the great news of Jesus Christ. Out of this joy, the Macedonians gave to continue spreading the word of God and help fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who were in need.  

In his book “Your Best Life Now,” Joel Osteen also argues that “God wants us to constantly be increasing, to be rising to new heights. He wants to increase you in His wisdom and help you to make better decisions. God Wants to increase you financially, by giving you promotions, fresh ideas, and creativity.” He then goes on to argue that “you must conceive it in your heart and mind before you can receive it. In other words, you must make room for increase in your own thinking, then God will bring those to pass. Until you learn how to enlarge your vision, seeing the future through your eyes of faith, your own wrong thinking will prevent good things from happening in your life.”

Joel Osteen starts out on bad footing.  First, he creates a vision in which a Christian is supposed to be constantly seeking after things of this world, financial gain, promotions, etc. Consider Paul’s words in Philippians 4:12-13, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Contrasted with the constantly seeking more version of Christianity from Joel Osteen, Paul talks of having as much contentment in prison as when he had abundance. Paul can do this because he has Christ.

The next thing to notice about Osteen’s premise, is it’s works-oriented. Notice that we are not responding to God, but it is God who is responding to us.  God will not bless us, we are told, until we have enlarged our vision, increased our thinking, and then God will respond by blessing us with good things in our life. Ignoring that prosperity theology has us focus on the wrong thing, financial and worldly position, it also ignores that we can do no good work but by God acting through us. We can produce no fruit unless we abide in Jesus Christ, the True Vine (John 15:4).  

While our fight may no longer be against indulgences, we fight against the false teachings of the Prosperity Gospel by standing on the right teachings of Scripture. We proclaim the spiritual and eternal “riches of God’s mercy” (Ephesians 2:4-10; Romans 11:33-36) and we trust that the Lord sovereignly cares for us in the abundance and in the little (Matthew 6:25-34; 2 Corinthians 12:9) and our earthly possessions in no way communicate the strength of our faith. We are recipients of saving grace and we testify to the world that the undeserved grace of the forgiveness of sins is far greater than any earthly wealth or prosperity.

As we come up on the anniversary of the Reformation. It is important to remember that we must always be reforming. We do this by remembering the five Solas of the reformation: Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”), Sola Fide (“Faith alone”), Sola Gratia (“Grace alone”), Solus Christus (“Christ alone”), and Soli Deo Gloria (“To the Glory of God alone”).  We must remember that the Bible is our highest authority. That we are saved by faith alone. This faith is through grace alone. Christ is our only Lord, Savior, and King. And we must live our lives to the Glory of God alone. As Scripture refers to the Church as Christ’s bridegroom, we must remember that in sickness and in health, in wealth and in poverty, we have all that we need through Christ.

What is the Protestant Reformation?

While many people are prepping their costumes and candy buckets for Halloween, October 31st marks a significant day in church history. On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic Monk, nailed his 95 theses to the door of his church. Luther wrote these words out of a deep concern with the Roman Catholic Church’s view on several issues that Luther deemed unBiblical. His efforts led to what is now referred to as the Protestant Reformation. Christians now see October 31st as Reformation Day.

For the next couple of weeks, we’re going to look at the Reformation and how it impacts us today, 500 plus years later. First, let’s take a brief look at the historical context leading up to the Protestant Reformation. Much has been written on the Reformation, so allow me to give a short summary, specifically looking at Martin Luther’s role in the Reformation. Additional resources will be provided below.

Leading up to the 1500s, The Roman Catholic Church had substantially departed from the teaching of the Apostles recorded in the New Testament and heretical teachings were being promoted by monks all the way to the Pope.

In July of 1505, a young man named Martin Luther was on his way home when he was nearly struck by lightning. Seeing he was in the throes of death, he cried out “Help me, St. Anne! I will become a monk.” And so he did, abandoning his plans to become a lawyer. At 21, Martin Luther kept his vow from that stormy walk home and became an Augustinian Monk.

When Luther was given the tasks to lead in his first Mass, he was overcome by his sinfulness and God’s greatness. He was barely able to make it through Mass and considered running away from his duties in fear of again being confronted by a Holy God. But he kept to his commitment and continued on, despite the insistent reign of fear of God in his life. 

Luther was very much in tune with the depravity of his own soul, spending hours and hours in the confessional booth. He wrote later on in his life, “Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction” (Selections, 12).

While Luther was deep in despair over his unworthiness, a close friend, Johannes von Staupitz, gave Luther several opportunities to teach from God’s Word and soon became a theological professor at Wittenberg University in Germany. It was through his preparations for his classes that the Holy Spirit struck the heart of the German monk and confronted him about his unrighteousness. It had been clear to this point that Luther despised all teachings on righteousness because he fully believed it was impossible to obtain it. It was here when he realized that righteousness comes by faith alone, Christ alone, for the glory of God alone.

This life changing gift of salvation spurred Martin Luther to eventually forsake the teachings of the Catholic church and stand firm to the teachings of Scripture. He proclaimed that justification came by faith alone in Christ alone and that no one deserved grace, let alone could earn it or pay for it. His teachings on the truth of Scripture caused an uproar within the Catholic Church, leading the Pope to admittedly deny Luther’s, and ultimately the Scripture’s, teachings as “A cesspool of heresies”. Luther didn’t care and stated as much when he nailed his 95 Thesis to the doors of his church.

Two great issues were at stake during the Reformation, justification by faith alone (sola fide) and the authority of Scripture alone in the life of the church and the believer (sola Scriptura). The efforts to return to the Apostolic teachings contained within the 66 books of the Bible was at the forefront of the Reformation. Men Like Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, and so many others wanted to see the church reformed or changed in such a way that tradition became secondary and God’s Word became primary.

Martin Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic Church and when asked to recant his teachings at the Diet of Worms in 1521, Martin Luther stated,

“If, then, I am not convinced by testimonies of Scripture or by clear rational arguments—for I do not believe in the pope or in councils alone, since it has been established that they have often erred and contradicted each other—I am bound by the Bible texts that I have quoted. And as long as my conscience is captive to the Word of God, I cannot nor do I want to retract anything when things become doubtful. Salvation will be threatened if you go against your conscience. Here I stand; I can do no other. May God help me. Amen.”

The life of Martin Luther and the men of the Reformation is a reminder that we too must stand firm on the teachings of God’s Word in the face of heretical malpractice and cultural denial. It is from God’s Word we know the universal need for salvation from God’s wrath and sin and it is from God’s Word we learn that this precious salvation comes to us through Christ and Christ alone. There is no other Savior. Here we stand.

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

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

Luther at the Diet of Worms. – Crossway.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.)

Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer – Watch this documentary in its entirety to discover the events God used in Martin Luther’s life that led him to rediscover the gospel of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Luther in Real Time – It’s 1520. Martin Luther has been declared a heretic by Pope Leo X, and his books are being burned. How much longer before Luther himself is thrown into the fire? Enter the German Reformer’s dramatic story with Luther: In Real Time. First released 500 years after the events described, this podcast allows you to walk in Martin Luther’s footsteps from his heresy charges to his famous stand for the authority of God’s Word at the Diet of Worms. Share this podcast with people of all ages so they can hear—in Luther’s own words—what Protestants are protesting and why it still matters today.

Why the Reformation Matters Today

This coming Sunday 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. On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic Monk, nailed his 95 theses to the door of his church. Luther wrote these words out of a deep concern with the Roman Catholic Church’s view on several issues that Luther deemed unBiblical. His efforts lead to what is now referred to as the Protestant Reformation.

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, I’ll provide a few links at the bottom.

What I want to write is how the Reformation impacts us today. Though they were flawed men and women, the stance taken by the Reformers 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 salvation can be earned or paid for or you 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 doctrinal concerns, led Luther to take a 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 Catholic church claimed to hold all authority.

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 becomes more important than Jesus, then we’ve missed it. If we give over to more lights or more buildings or more “attractiveness” 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. 

Here are a few indicators that a reformation may be needed within a church:

If the worship is about how well done and entertaining the music is and not about who God is, then a reformation is needed.

If the preaching becomes about the speaker’s giftedness or focuses on relative topics and opinions and not about the teaching of God’s Word, then a reformation is needed.

If the church becomes inwardly 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 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.

****

ARTICLES

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.

DOCUMENTARIES AND PODCASTS

Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer – Watch this documentary in its entirety to discover the events God used in Martin Luther’s life that led him to rediscover the gospel of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Luther in Real Time – It’s 1520. Martin Luther has been declared a heretic by Pope Leo X, and his books are being burned. How much longer before Luther himself is thrown into the fire?

Enter the German Reformer’s dramatic story with Luther: In Real Time. First released 500 years after the events described, this podcast allows you to walk in Martin Luther’s footsteps from his heresy charges to his famous stand for the authority of God’s Word at the Diet of Worms. Share this podcast with people of all ages so they can hear—in Luther’s own words—what Protestants are protesting and why it still matters today.

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