Gates Open Wide

Sometimes it gets lost in the trick-or-treating, but don’t let it. Happy Reformation! Reformation Day was October 31, to be exact. It was that date in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. I had the privilege of being there in 1995, so I’ll include an old pic. (Just to be clear: I’m not old, just the photo.)

Why did the Reformation matter? Because the old religious system was very broken. Not just in the buying and selling of indulgences like tickets to heaven, but in the understanding of how a sinful person is justified before a holy God. Without the Reformation, there was no assurance of heaven for anyone – as a person’s confidence in eternal life could be no greater than that person’s confidence in their own sinlessness. Try that on for size.

If all we can get from God is some kind of enabling grace that modifies our behavior until we’re somehow worthy of salvation, I’m closing up shop and going home. That is no gospel. That is no comfort at all, in life or in death (Romans 3:23).

The Reformation mattered. It still matters.

When he was a young man, Martin Luther was terrified of death. He realized his own terror when he was nearly struck by lightning in a violent thunderstorm. But God used that moment to ignite Luther’s journey toward understanding salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. The Bible had taught that all along, but the truth of it had been eclipsed by religiosity and pride.

Check out Romans 1:16-17 today. Read it to your kids or grandkids. In German, as in Hebrew, Greek, and even Latin, “justice” and “righteousness” are the exact same word! The gospel of Jesus is “good news” only when we understand this, friends: a justified (“saved”) person lives by a gift of God – that is, by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). God credits us with righteousness because Christ endured the just punishment for our unrighteousness. We died with Him. We live with Him. We will be raised with Him.

Once Luther understood that, the truths of the gospel were reawakened for many people all over the world. Including us! There was tremendous opposition, of course, but that is always the reality whenever THE TRUTH is proclaimed.

Do you love the gospel? Does even the thought of it make you smile? Are you grateful for grace? Martin Luther, now transformed by Christ’s Spirit, recorded: “I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.”

The “Father of the English Bible,” William Tyndale, would pay a steep price for trusting firmly in Christ. Tyndale found the good news of Christ so incredibly marvelous that he called the gospel “merry, glad, and joyful tidings.” It was such good news for Tyndale that he could be strangled and burned at the stake with a song in his heart which made him “sing, dance, and leap for joy!”

Please don’t miss it.

Today we say “farewell for now” to our dear friend, Pam. I’m so glad that I know that Pam is with the Lord. She has passed through gates open wide. You see, I’m not counting on Pam’s righteousness for her resurrection. I’m counting on Christ’s. Hallelujah!


Pastor Charles

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