October 31, 2012

Happy Reformation Day!

Martin Luther

n October 31, 1517, a young Catholic monk walked to the door of Wittenburg church and posted a message written in Latin. This monk, Martin Luther by name, was presenting his thoughts about the religious current events of his day for discussion and debate among theologians. But... he didn’t count on a civilian who could read Latin walking by, reading his 95 Theses, translating them into the common language (German) and using Gutenberg’s printing press to publish and distribute them to the masses.

And this simple, innocent act began a firestorm among the common folk, which led to anger among the religious leaders. And in the process Martin Luther became the focal point for a religious revolution—a revolution that returned the bible to its proper place as the source for everything the Christian needs to know for faith and practice.

Luther nails his 95 Theses
to the door of
Wittenberg Castle church

Before Luther left the church and started the first recognized Protestant denomination, he was called to stand before a tribunal of Roman Catholic religious leaders to answer for the things he had written... such things as: salvation by faith alone... man’s total inability to conform to the righteousness demanded of us... God’s effectual plan to save sinners through faith in Christ... allowing marriage for the clergy... rejection of any statements of mere men if they contradict the bible. When this tribunal demanded that he recant his beliefs and declare his loyalty to the teachings of the Popes, he said:

Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.

Luther’s teachings so greatly angered the religious leaders of the Roman Catholic church that they put out an international death warrant on Luther. He was snatched up and taken away into exile for his own protection by his friend Prince Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony. While he lived in exile, Luther translated the entire bible into the common language so the common folk could read it. This was something that had been forbidden by the Catholic church, so anyone not trained in Latin could not read the scripture for themselves and was forced to accept whatever the religious leadership told them was contained in the bible.

Wittenberg Castle church

During this time, Luther also wrote my favorite hymn—perhaps my favorite song of all time, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” A careful reading of the words of this hymn coupled with an understanding that, as he penned these words Luther was under an international death edict, always brings me to tears as I listen to this incredible hymn.

May we have the courage to live for Christ as Martin Luther did. May we honor his sacrifices and his life by carrying on the faith taught in the bible.

Happy Reformation Day!

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper he amid the flood
of mortal ills prevaling.
For still our ancient foe
doth seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great,
and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right man on our side,
the man of God's own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabbaoth, his name,
from age to age the same,
and he must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers,
no thanks to them, abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours,
through him who with us sideth.

Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
the body they may kill;
God's truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever.

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