“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet."--Matthew 5:13

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Reformation Day

Everyone realizes that October 31 is Halloween. But you may not be aware of another important celebration on that day. October 31 is the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in Europe. On October 31, 1517 a German priest named Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the church in Wittenburg, Germany. Luther was protesting, among other things, the sale of indulgences. According to Roman Catholic theology, salvation could not be attained through faith alone, but through works of charitable deeds, such as purchasing indulgences. Luther's reaction became known as the spark which ignited the Reformation.

Not only did the Reformation have major theological and religious implications, but practical and cultural implications as well. Up until this time, very few people in Europe knew how to read and write. Those skills were mostly reserved for those involved with the Catholic church. The church intentionally kept its parishioners in the dark so they could have more control over them. All works of literature were published in Latin, including the Bible. Luther translated the Bible from Latin into German, making it easily accessible to commoners. The Reformation brought the people of Europe out of the Middle Ages. More people had a desire to read the Bible, and this led to a major jump in the literacy rate.
The Catholic church, of course, was not pleased with Luther. Luther was accused of heresy. He was asked by Pope Leo X to recant or else risk excommunication and possibly even death. When Luther would not recant, it was suggested that he be burned at the stake. Luther's Theses were banned from publication and he was ordered to appear before the Diet of Worms, a general assembly of the Holy Roman Empire, in 1521. During this assembly, Luther was noted as saying, "Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason...I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything". Luther was declared an outlaw, his works were banned, and he was arrested.
Martin Luther, priest, theologian, author, and reformer, strongly taught the doctrine of salvation by faith through Christ alone. Although Reformation day is not as exciting as Halloween, it is very important and should be remembered. The positive effects of the Reformation transcend 16th century Germany, Lutheranism, and even Christianity in general. We have all positively benefited from the courage of Martin Luther, as well as other reformers after him.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Transforming Effect of the Gospel

A couple of months ago, I drove past a well-known Christian church on the South side of Indianapolis. The church had a sign out by the road that read "Transforming lives, one at a time". I was curious as to what this church meant by "transforming lives". Who does the transforming? How does the transforming occur? What happens after the transforming? So I decided to call the church and ask them what is meant by "transforming". The church secretary answered the phone and told me that the transforming "means lots of things". I pressed her about what she meant by "lots of things". She again replied that the transformation can mean many different things. I replied, "My wallet needs transforming. Can you help me with that?" She chuckled and said that they have programs that can help me financially. She asked me if I was interested in filling out a form for financial help. This church secretary had an awesome opportunity to share the Gospel with me. She could have told me about the life transformation that comes through a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. She also could have explained the transformation that occurs though the sanctification process of the Holy Spirit. But instead, she asked me to fill out a form. The fact is that she had no idea what is meant by transformation.

I heard a commercial on the radio this morning from a Baptist church. It talked about the physical way Steve Jobs changed the world. Then, it descibed the spiritual and emotional changes made by Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, and the Apostle Paul. The commerical discussed the positive changes made by these leaders and rightly described how the changes made by these people were greater than those made by Steve Jobs. The commercial was headed in the right direction, but then it stopped. It never even mentioned Jesus Christ, the ultimate earth changer.

Life transformation and change does not involve conferences, workshops, how-to-books, motivational speeches, or paperwork. According to Romans 12:2, we are "transformed by the renewal of your mind". This begins by studying God's Word. We are to meditate on His Word, applying it to our own lives. Everything in the Bible is applicable to our lives. Second Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness".

Transformation can also occur by getting rid of sin in our lives. When we rid ourselves of sinful habits and behaviors, our steps toward Christlikeness become stronger.

Finally, transformation occurs through the Holy Spirit. God chooses us for salvation, Christ cleanses us, taking away our sin, and the Holy Spirit sanctifies us and makes us holy. The Holy Spirit is our conscience, giving us the ability to recognize right from wrong, and convicting us when we engage in sin.

These two churches have the opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ to thousands of people, one through a sign on a busy road, and another through a commercial on a secular radio station. I pray that the Lord will open their eyes to show them the true transforming and life changing Gospel that only comes through Jesus Christ.