Reformation: the Centrality of Faith and Scripture
505 years and a day ago, Martin Luther is credited to have nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Church at Wittenberg, Germany. In spite of what many think, this wasn’t to separate himself from the Catholic church, but to reform it. Luther saw the indulgences, the penances, the traditions of the Catholic Church and compared them to the Scriptures, and sought to reform and restore the Church to its biblical model. As with all reformation, this brought about criticism and violence from those who sought to hold fast to their traditions (And, for quite a fair number, their power). This wasn’t done in secret, but done publicly, and was done trying to get people to return to two concepts: the centrality of faith in Christ and in the Scriptures to move us to holiness, not by works. This was met, however, with violence. Every time men have tried to reform, before Luther and since, it’s always met with opposition from those who try to be “good enough” for heaven on their own rights. True reformers, though, know that it is by Faith in Christ that we are saved, and that none of us are good enough. When Paul tried to spread the Gospel, drawing all men to Christ Jesus and to return to the God who made them, he was met with violence. Before Paul, a man named Stephen openly challenged his Jewish Elders, Priests and Religious leaders by pointing them to Jesus through the Law and the Prophets: they had him stoned to death, an act which Paul, to his regret, stood in approval of. Before Stephen, Jesus preached the Gospel, attempting to lead men from their traditions back to the God who called them out of Egypt, but they nailed him to a tree. We can go back further: many of the prophets were beaten, and a good number of them were killed for trying to bring people back to God’s intent. Why? Because men love darkness rather than the light (Jesus’ own words in John 3:19). Loved ones, reformation is something we must consider every day. It will usually be met by opposition, within ourselves first, but also from others after, however well-intended they may be. Jesus died to conform us in to His image. He called us to be filled with the Spirit and build His Kingdom, not with armies, cities and towns, but soul to soul through the Gospel message. It is why Jesus said we must deny ourselves and pick up our crosses daily and follow Him: we must be reformed every day, to seek His face every day, to compare ourselves to Him every day, and to submit to Him by dying to our own wants, wishes and desires every day. Reformation is about the centrality Faith in Christ and the Scriptures. We must seek Christ in every aspect of our lives, so that we can bring Him glory in all we do, and in the process, bring others to Him so that they, too, may be freed from the slavery of sin and reformed in to the image we were always meant to be: in the Image of Christ. Joel 2:12-32
“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber. Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep and say, “Spare your people, O LORD, and make not your heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” Then the LORD became jealous for his land and had pity on his people. The LORD answered and said to his people, “Behold, I am sending to you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations. “I will remove the northerner far from you, and drive him into a parched and desolate land, his vanguard into the eastern sea, and his rear guard into the western sea; the stench and foul smell of him will rise, for he has done great things. “Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the LORD has done great things! Fear not, you beasts of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit; the fig tree and vine give their full yield. “Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before. “The threshing floors shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame. “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.
“And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.