Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Reformation Day!

Our family doesn't "do" Halloween. I get to explain this every year to friendly folks who ask if we'll be going trick-or-treating. To me, it's a bit like a loyal member of the GOP wearing a "Hillary '08!" pin. It is a religious holiday... and it's not my religion!

But, happily, this date does mark another event which I as a Christian do most warmly embrace: Dr. Martin Luther boldly nailing up his 95 theses to the door of that church in Wittenburg. Through the providence of God, the printing press had just recently been put to use, allowing his theses -- which ended up striking at the death-grip in which the Roman church held professing Christendom -- to be broadly and widely disseminated.

The central text that set Luther free was Romans 1:17:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17)
Luther pondered and agonized over the meaning of that phrase, "the righteousness of God." It is the key to the central question, "What must a man do to be put right before God?"

(Aside: my pastor, Reddit Andrews III, preached a fine sermon yesterday on Isaiah 53:11-12. If your church didn't do something to hat-tip the Reformation yesterday... well, you have my sympathies, and mild alarm. As a pastor, I found it a wonderful excuse to preach on Romans 1:17 or some other text related to the grand theme that rocked the world in 1517.)

Luther, indoctrinated in the Roman system of mingling God's grace with human merit, was led by God to realise the Gospel truth through this text. "The righteousness of God" is not (as he had thought) God's righteousness in damning us all to Hell; it is His righteousness by which He is righteous, and declares righteous the one who simply and savingly believes in Jesus Christ. Thus was born the Reformation cry: by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

(Aside II: Dr. Luther will, in fact, be putting in his annual appearance tonight to tell my kids about this very truth. He never tires of talking up God's wonderful grace in Christ!)

Enshrine that event, and the truth it brought to the light, in your family tonight.

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