This is the time of year when Protestant Christians should be reminded of their Reformation heritage and a few actually begin to search for a new Reformation. Unfortunately the Christmas holiday consumes their attention, so religious reformation is soon forgotten. Other Christians are content to search for spooks, witches, devils, and demons who hide behind the corner ready to frighten you. Actually they are waiting in the department stores for you to buy them, so you will have a costume for Halloween. It is with great delight that I remind Christians the significance of October 31st is not found in the holiday we call Halloween.
On the eve of All Saints Day, October 31, 1517, at twelve o’clock, Dr. Martin Luther went to the door of the castle church and posted ninety five theses on the church door. This was the normal process used to ask for an academic disputation (a debate) on a particular theological question. Luther had an irresistible compulsion to resolve the question of indulgences. The manner he chose was widely practiced and a regular feature of university life at that time.
The title of the theses was a “Disputation to Explain the Virtue of Indulgences.” Luther was careful to explain that “They are no protest against the Pope and the Roman Church, or any of her doctrine, not even against indulgences, but only against their abuses.”
No one responded to the challenge for debate, but God heard the cries of Martin Luther along with other professors and students at Whittenberg. Rather than debating the issues, the Pope took offense to Luther and set out to destroy Martin Luther. It was time for reformation (recovery of biblical truth) and God brought it about by using the least likely man, Dr. Martin Luther, and the least likely doctrine, indulgences.
The church has celebrated the Reformation on October 31st for the past 498 years. It is the birthday of the Protestant Church. It is the Protestant Church, because a “protest” was made against false teaching. The Protestant Church is now lost in the maze of denominations and false teaching that has accumulated for 498 years.
It is time for Christians to recover or discover the meaning of reformation. The definition is simple, but engaging in reformation takes a resolute mind. Reformation is the recovery or discovery of biblical truth based on the full counsel of God! If God grants reformation, courageous, intelligent, and devoted Christians will be His instruments. Christians must be willing to protest against the abuses and false teaching in the church. Not many, if any, are willing to take the financial loss to protest. Instead they schedule a seminar, get a few celebrity speakers to explain reformation, and charge the participants $119.00 for attending the seminar.
Luther’s protest began by saying: “In the desire and with the purpose of elucidating the truth, a disputation will be held on the underwritten propositions at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Monk of the Order of St. Augustine, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and ordinary Reader of the same at that place. He therefore asks those who cannot be present, and discuss the subject with us orally, to do so by letter in their absence.” Now, as in the day of Luther, discussing and debating the doctrinal and theological issues and submitting to the authority of Scripture are the means we should use in our search for reformation.
Some of the greatest enemies of the church are those para-church organizations who use the church like a leech feeding on its prey. However, not all para-church ministries pull the church down. Some devote themselves to the work of preserving the orthodoxy of the Christian religion. Reformation is a joint venture and not an individual agenda.
The struggle for identity has driven many ministers and laymen away from Reformation. They have retreated into the chaotic worlds of pragmatism, consumerism and relativism. Many ungodly worldviews have them trapped in a postmodern agenda. I hope this blog will challenge you “not to be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).
I pray God will motivate and inspire a new Martin Luther or John Calvin, or John Knox to stress the importance of reformation, for without it the evangelical church will continue to slide into the abyss. I haven’t completely given up, but I don’t see any widespread effort for reformation in my life time. But, then perhaps the Holy Spirit of God will marvelously bring about a new Reformation that I may witness it before I die.