Five hundred years ago, on October 31, 1517, Brother Martin, a monk and a scholar, approached the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, and nailed a piece of paper that would shake the world and send it in another direction. He had struggled for years with the teachings of his beloved church. He had been particularly disturbed by an unprecedented sale of indulgences, the selling of forgiveness by the church for past, present and future sins.
But why October 31? November 1 held a special place in the church calendar as All Soul’s Day. On November 1, 1517, a massive exhibit of newly acquired relics would be on display at Wittenberg, Luther’s home city. Pilgrims would come from all over, genuflect before the relics to take hundreds, if not thousands, of years off time in purgatory. Luther’s soul grew even more vexed. None of this seemed right.
Martin Luther, a scholar, took quill in hand, dipped it in his inkwell and penned his 95 Theses on October 31, 1517. These were intended to spark a debate, to stir some soul-searching among his fellow brothers in the church. The 95 Theses sparked far more than a debate – they ignited a fire. The 95 Theses also revealed the church was far beyond rehabilitation. It needed a reformation. The church, and the world, would never be the same.
One of Luther’s 95 Theses simply declares, “The Church’s true treasure is the gospel of Jesus Christ.” That alone is the meaning of Reformation Day. The church had lost sight of the gospel because it had long ago papered over the pages of God’s Word with layer upon layer of tradition. Tradition always brings about systems of works, of earning your way back to God. It was true of the Pharisees, and it was true of medieval Roman Catholicism. Didn’t Christ Himself say, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light?” Reformation Day celebrates the joyful beauty of the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ.
What is Reformation Day? It is the day the light of the gospel broke forth out of darkness. It was the day that began the Protestant Reformation. It was a day that led to Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, and may other Reformers helping the church find its way back to God’s Word as the only authority for faith and life and leading the church back to the glorious doctrines of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. It kindled the fires of missionary endeavors, it led to hymn writing and congregational singing, and it led to the centrality of the sermon and preaching for the people of God. It is the celebration of a theological, ecclesiastical, and cultural transformation.
But Reformation Day is also a celebration of a dream that gave one man the courage to stand up. Luther didn’t set out to reform the church or start a new movement. He loved the church just not the way it was working. His theses, his dream, was a dream within God’s dream to prepare His Bride. The unleashing of Luther’s theses had a domino effect that is still reverberating to this day.
Destiny is not a mystery. It is a decision – a difficult, courageous, daring decision. You create your destiny one decision, one seized opportunity at a time. Of course those opportunities often come disguised as a lion in a pit on a snowy day. Go ahead run to the roar and create your destiny. #chasethelion
You can join a small group of lion chasers and find encouragement and strength to start your chase on Wednesdays at 6:30 pm at 970 Church.
“If your dream doesn’t scare you, it’s too small.” – Mark Batterson