Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The Apostle Paul records the precious words that are held so dear by Christians: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9)
On October 31, 1517, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther walked to the Castle Church in Wittenberg and posted 95 Theses for public reflection and debate. A very common practice in Luther’s era. God used Luther and his writings to re-ignite the Christian faith through out Europe. The Protestant Reformation guided hurting souls back to the atoning work of Jesus Christ and the fact that their sins were truly forgiven for His sake apart from the works of humanity. Souls filled with guilt and doubts were offered comfort and assurance as they rediscovered the beautiful Gospel for their lives.
The three pillars of the Protestant Reformation: Scripture Alone, Grace Alone, and Faith Alone became the bedrock upon which the Christian Church saw powerful renewal take place and a passion to take the Gospel to the utter ends of the earth. God’s people were suddenly freed from the unbearable strains of trying to earn their forgiveness. More than that suddenly they took hold of a profound sense of assurance as God’s Word reaffirmed to them that salvation was not earned but God’s gift to us through Christ Jesus.
Christians would bask in the light of the Gospel and their souls overflowed with joy, peace, and comfort. Their Christian journey ceased to be one of trying to earn God’s forgiveness. Instead, they took hold of Ephesians 2:10 and saw their life as one of joyful service in thanksgiving to the One who had changed their life forevermore. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) And walk in them, they did! Christians started to see meaning and purpose for their lives. Even the most menial of tasks took on a sacred dimension as it was carried out in thanksgiving to God for His Son. The endless guilt and the heart-wrenching uncertainty of one’s salvation was gone. Now, God’s people could daily live in the joy of the Christian faith holding dear unto them their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
On the Last Sunday in October, Emmanuel will celebrate Reformation Sunday. We are in many ways living in times such as Europe in the 1500’s. All around us, we are inundated with “works righteousness.” People, many of whom are Christian, are struggling daily with guilt in their life and they question their very own salvation. The blessings of Christ’s atoning work on our behalf are replaced with a desperate need to somehow show God we should be allowed into heaven. Proving our faith to others and ourselves replaces living the faith in joy and thanksgiving. The Christian faith is minimized to where it becomes nothing more than “do good and keep the Ten Commandments” therefore we prove to God that we belong in heaven. Hurting souls will never find peace through this tragic approach. Luther and the Protestant Reformers fought for the centrality of the gospel in one’s life. Our baptism takes on immense significance, as we are “born again” by water and the spirit. Luther called God’s people to return daily to their baptism; for in it there is a beautiful comfort that we are truly “beloved, Children of God.”
As God’s redeemed people, shown grace, mercy, and forgiveness, let us daily live in the beauty of the Gospel. Hold dear unto your heart the precious gift of Jesus Christ, Savior and Lord of humanity. In Christ Jesus, there truly is forgiveness, new life, and eternal salvation! Do not ever let the world take that from you. You are God’s child and you are going to heaven because of Christ’s death and resurrection.
Treasuring the Reformation,
Pastor Michael McFarland