Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Happy Reformation Day!

Friday is Halloween on our calendars, and there is much controversy surrounding this day among our Evangelical circles, with opinions on both sides of the issue being drawn by thoughtful and reverent Christians. Personally, the pagan origins of Halloween cause me some concern but I must balance them with the pagan origins of other holidays (Christmas and Easter come to mind for example). Our apartment has pumpkins, and some jack o' lantern decorations, and I fully intend on dispensing candy to children who come to our church Fall Festival. I cannot condemn a Christian father for allowing his family to celebrate Halloween and his children to go trick-or-treat in the same that I cannot condemn a Christian father who sees concern and decides to not allow his family to participate. There is a need for Christian families to discuss this issue and for parents to consult Scripture, approach the Lord in prayer, and seek counsel from wise men and women on what to do about this.

That said, I would like to really celebrate a monumental day in Christian History that coincides with All Hallow's Eve. In 1517 a young Augustinian monk nailed 95 concerns to the Castle Church door in Wittenburg, concerning the practice of plenary indulgences being sold by the Pope and in Germany by Tetzel. These concerns brought a whirlwind of attack against Luther, forcing him to flee from his home and address Roman authority concerning his heresy. As a lecturer in Bible he studied Romans and became convinced that the teaching of penance for forgiveness was in err, and that justification could only come by faith alone. The righteous shall live by faith, and this became the cornerstone of Luther's theology.

In 1521 Luther was summoned to the Diet of Worms where his writings were placed before him and he was asked to recant. His response was this: "Unless I shall be convinced by the testimonies of the Scriptures or by clear reason ... I neither can nor will make any retraction, since it is neither safe nor honourable to act against conscience." He was also known to say "Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anders. Gott helfe mir. Amen." ("Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen."). It was decreed by the Emperor that anyone could kill Luther without arrest or punishment, and he was an outlaw in his own country, hated by his own people.

Luther's actions began the movement known as the Reformation, and we as Evangelicals stand in the great history of this movement. We hang on the coattails of giants like Luther, Calvin, Hus, Wycliffe, etc. who reclaimed for the Church the Gospel, who reclaimed the prominence of Scripture, who reclaimed the preaching of the Word as being the center of worship. We owe our lives, our doctrinal knowledge, our theological insight and freedom to preach to this movement.

Where are the men today who stand in the gap like Luther and the others? Where are those who stand holding the Bible as ultimate authority in the midst of an anti-truth and anti-revelation society who seeks to only be entertained and have all of life reduced to therapy and self-esteem? We live in a day where biblical ignorance is at its highest since the late Medieval Church, and I pray that God brings about a new Reformation where His Bride is reclaimed by the Gospel, where the innovations of the world are stricken from the Church and the purity of the Gospel is restored. We do not need to rely on marketing and strategies to grow our churches, that's relying on something other than the Holy Spirit to do the work of regeneration. The Gospel convicts sinners, and brings them to repentance and faith. Any of our efforts have to always come back to this dependence on the preaching of the Word and the work of the Spirit in the hearts of men and women, that we are simply the vessels by which the Spirit ministers to people and draws those God calls to Himself.

I pray the Lord gives me the strength to stand in that gap, to stand in the rushing tide of our day and hold up the Scripture and say "Thus saith the Lord," and call on sinners to realize their sin and repent of it and draw to Christ as He draws them to Himself and He to them. So men who seek a new Reformation in the church, stand in the valley as a prophet calling to the dead bones to live. Who is with me, humbly I put myself in the Lord's service, may He do with me as He will.

"Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anders. Gott helfe mir. Amen."

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