How is your church celebrating the Reformation this year?
If you’ve been following the news, the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation – the reason the Protestant Church even exists – falls on October 31, 2017.
I’ve always kind of dreaded talking about the Reformation, because there’s only so many times the Martin Luther story can be told – right?
If your church is anything like mine, the choir will sing some really moving songs, ang moh guest speakers might be invited over, and there you may be treated to a special week of messages. Which is all very nice, and proof that we’re quite good at commemorating things.
We often get caught up in all the deep theology and complex Latin phrases that defined the movement, and forget that the Reformation was really all about … God.
But what’s so good about this message, such that countless preachers have been willing to be burnt at the stake for it?
To explain this simply, consider the Five Solas of the Reformation. You can think of them as the five slogans that chiefly defined what the Protestant Church was even protesting about.
Scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.
Sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus, soli deo gloria.
But if you ask me what the protest was really about, my answer would be God.
We often get caught up in all the deep theology and complex Latin phrases that defined the movement, and forget that the Reformation was really all about … God. Not the Reformers per se, and definitely not us.
The Reformation is about a God who took the initiative, even though we spat in His face by refusing to obey, to bring us back into right understanding of Him.
It is about the God who takes pity on us, even as we cling to rituals and traditions that we think can make us right with Him.
It is about the God who shows us the way home, 500 years ago and now.
Only God can lead us home. And only by trusting Him can we find the way. That was the lesson of the Reformation, and it still holds true today.
It baffles me why God would want anything to do with someone like that. When someone turns their back on me, my last instinct is to reach out to them. I’m still in a cold war with a friend who de-friended me for 9 months. (Sinful? Maybe not. Childish? Yes.)
But God did, even back in the Garden of Eden. After Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, Adam ran away and blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. In contrast, God saw that they really CMI, and held an intervention.
The God who created the whole universe, commands the winds and the waves, and breathed life into man – He reached out first. He didn’t leave an ambiguous trail of gingerbread crumbs, but put up huge neon signboards with arrows pointing the right way.
“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:7-8)
We may think we’re not quite as bad as the Church was 500 years ago.
We tell ourselves there is still goodness in this generation, and we have the wisdom of the Reformers to stand on. We think we can find our way back.
But the fact is, we can’t. Only God can lead us home. And only by trusting Him can we find the way. That was the lesson of the Reformation, and it still holds true today.
Exactly 500 years ago, the Reformers wrestled with Scripture. Now, 500 years later, dare we wrestle with Scripture and be honest with ourselves, about if what we believe holds absolutely true to the unchanging Truth?