This Sunday we will continue in our series God Is Closer Than You Think with a message that will respond to the question, “What are justification and adoption?” This is good timing. 495 years ago on October 31, 1517 in the little town of Wittenberg, Germany a Catholic priest nailed an invitation to debate on the church door. People immediately began to take notice and within the week, copies of his theses would be talked about throughout the surrounding regions; and within a decade, Europe itself was shaken by his act of conviction and courage. Later generations would mark Martin Luther‘s nailing of the 95 theses on the church door as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, but what did Luther think he was doing at the time? To answer this question, we need to understand a little about Luther’s own spiritual journey.
As a young man in Germany at the beginning of the 16th century, Luther was studying law at the university. One day he was caught in a storm and was almost killed by lightening. He cried out to St. Anne and promised God he would become a monk if he survived. In 1505, Luther entered the Augustinian monastery, and in 1507 became a priest. His monastic leaders sent him to Rome in 1510, but Luther was disenchanted with the ritualism and dead faith he found in the papal city. There was nothing in Rome to mend his despairing spirit or settle his restless soul. He felt cut off from God, and he could not find a cure for his discontent.
Martin Luther was bright, and his superiors soon had him teaching theology in the university. In 1515, he began teaching Paul’s epistle to the Romans. Slowly, Paul’s words in Romans began to break through the gloom of Luther’s soul. Luther wrote,
“My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement ‘the just shall live by faith.’ Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning…This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven.”
The more Luther’s eyes were opened by his study of Romans, the more he saw the corruption of the church in his day. The glorious truth of justification by faith alone had become buried under a mound of greed, corruption, and false teaching. The more Luther studied the Scriptures, the more he saw the need of showing the church how it had strayed from the truth.
In Martin Luther’s day, nailing of the theses to the church door was the means of inviting scholars to debate important issues. No one took up Luther’s challenge to debate at that time, but once news of his proposals became known, many began to dialogue about the issues Luther raised – and particularly that salvation was by faith in Christ’s work alone. Luther apparently at first expected the Pope to agree with his position, since it was based on Scripture; but in 1520, the Pope issued a decree condemning Luther’s views. Luther publicly burned the papal decree. With that act, he also burned his bridges behind him.
Who can you invite to church this Sunday to hear about this great distinction between Catholicism and Protestantism? Invite someone today – or forward this email to a friend…
Justification and Adoption are foundational to our faith – and feed our assurance of God’s relentless and scandalous love. Who do you know that could benefit from this life altering truth?
Search Team Update
To date we have nine completed packets. Our Search Team will be meeting this Sunday afternoon from 4-6pm to review the candidates. Please be in prayer for this VERY important process. As a church we have we have engaged the “hard good” of getting healthier spiritually and emotionally. We are looking for and praying for a pastor and his wife who have done the same. We need God’s uncommon wisdom during the search process.
See you Sunday (I can’t wait!)