Monday, November 1, 2010

Reformation Day - Oct. 31st

I am not sure who exactly wrote this, but I received it from our school's retired congregational pastor.  He might have wrote it.  I thought it'd be good to share at this time.  Knowing church history is of course part of apologetics. 
Reformation Day – October 31
Who are the Lutherans  -- FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE?

1)  Because we are Christians with a Lutheran heritage, it is important for us to understand the history, HIS-story, God's-story, behind the Reformation and the development of Lutheranism.

        a)Lutheranism is NOT a religion -- it is a brand of Christianity.  Even Christianity is NOT a religion if by "religion" we mean a set of rules or rituals we follow to get to Heaven.  Christianity is a relationship -- a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  Lutheranism, therefore, is simply a description of this relationship with God we are offered through Jesus Christ.
        b)Why is our denomination called "Lutheran"?  Do we worship Martin Luther?  Absolutely not!  We worship Jesus Christ.  We are called "Lutherans" because a fellow named Martin Luther, back in the 1500s, made it very clear that, in every age and era of human history, we who love and worship Jesus Christ need to strip away empty traditions, human made rules, and false interpretations of Scripture in order to faithfully meet and walk with our Lord in a living day-to-day relationship which saves us and leads us into eternal life.
2)  Let me begin by giving a brief historical sketch of what led to the Reformation in the 1500s.  It all began with a person, named Martin Luther, who was born in 1483 to poor parents in Germany.  Martin Luther was raised in a very Christian home.  Martin Luther did well in school, completed college, went on to earn a Master's degree, and then began studying to be a lawyer.  One day, Martin Luther was caught in a terrible thunder storm.  A lightning bolt knocked him from his horse, and, from the ground, Martin Luther prayed that if the Lord would save him he would become a priest.  Martin Luther did survive the storm, and he kept his commitment; he enrolled in the seminary and became a priest.
        a)Luther was ordained into the priesthood in 1507.  Having grown up in a very Christian home, Martin was shocked at the moral and spiritual waywardness of the Church he served.  Martin had always been an over-achiever, so perhaps his expectations and efforts were much greater than other priests of his day.  Nevertheless, Luther was profoundly disappointed at the neglect of Scriptural truths known by and taught to the church.  Luther determined not to neglect the Holy Word, so he gave himself entirely to its study.  He also determined to live a holy life -- to do all he could to merit or earn or deserve forgiveness and favor from the Church.  The more Martin read, studied, and did penance, the more unworthy he felt, the more aware of his sins he became, and the more he realized that he could NEVER deserve the salvation he so desperately was trying to earn.
        b)Finally, his study of Scripture led him to a discovery!  And, it turned out to be no new discovery, just an uncovering of the plain simple truth that had been there all along, just covered over by the addition of human traditions and teachings of the centuries -- like coats and coats of paint over fine furniture. The plain simple truth of Scripture was made profoundly clear to him as God spoke to him through the book of Romans.  Luther read, "The righteous will live by faith" -- not by works, not by merit, not by doing what the church tells one to do -- but the "righteous will live by faith."  Luther read on in Romans 4:25, "Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins, and He was raised to life for our justification."
        c)Like a light finally being switched on, Luther's life was filled with joy and peace at this simple truth.  No longer did Luther pursue salvation, forgiveness and worth through his own efforts. Luther simply fell humbly in faith before the awesome love and mercy of God.  Martin Luther commented about this discovery, "At this realization, I felt myself to have been born again and to have entered paradise itself."
        d)Naturally, this affected Luther's life from that very moment.  He became even more ardent in his study of Scripture.  He saw to it that the Scriptures became available, no longer just to the priests in Latin, but to all people in their common languages.  Luther began questioning layer upon layer of the tradition which the Church had laid over the simple and glorious Word of God.  Traditions which were not contrary to Scripture he didn't touch, but traditions which were contrary to God's Word or traditions which placed unnecessary burdens upon people or acted as walls between them and the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, Martin publicly denounced. 
        e)On Oct. 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed a list of 95 of such teachings or traditions on the front door of a church in Wittenberg.  This public stand taken by Martin Luther precipitated events which eventually led to reforms in the Church, a stripping away of many teachings and traditions which had been suffocating or hiding the simple story of God's love and way of salvation through Jesus Christ, and the birth of many denominations.  All the Protestant denominations (or brands) of Christianity owe Martin Luther thanks for being the one who first "protested" against the layer-upon-layer of misinterpretation, empty tradition, or human white-washing over the glorious Gospel -- the Gospel which simply needed telling in order for it to work its miracles and wonders.
3)  The rest is history.  Luther was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.  Luther married, finding no Scriptural warrant for not marrying.  Luther taught, preached, proclaimed, and wrote boldly and prolifically for the rest of his life. 
        a)Luther really didn't discover anything new; he simply UNCOVERED the truth of Scripture which unBiblical traditions, regulations, and rituals and restrictions covered like coats of paint over an old piece of furniture.  In the long run, all of Christianity has benefited from Martin Luther.  Even the Catholic Church today appreciates the gift of Luther's emphasis on the centrality of Christ alone for salvation.
        b)Is the Reformation over?  No, it continues today and will continue until Christ comes again.  Every age, every human institution of the church, including your own church and our Crean Lutheran South High School, will struggle every day against the temptation to cover over, to complicate, and to add our own rules and regulations to the simple story of salvation offered to us through faith in Jesus Christ, Who died and rose for our forgiveness and salvation and Who comes to us today through the Holy Bible, Baptism and Holy Communion.

If you haven't seen this movie, you should! Roman Catholic, Lutheran, protestant, or not even a Christian; it still is good to see to witness a special time in history.  This movie was not cheaply made like many Christian movies tend to be.  It would serve great for a video to watch for a history class or bible class if you are a teacher looking for a video to share with your students.

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