It’s officially Fall in the Northeast – vibrant foliage, festivals, costumes and candy. Autumn happens to be my favorite of the four seasons. Maybe it’s because I hardly experienced any seasonal changes in my native stomping grounds of Orlando, Florida. (Yeah, you read that right. I moved from Florida to New York. But that’s another story.)
What you might not realize is that Fall, or more specifically, the end of October is celebrated around the globe for more than falling leaves, Jack O’Lanterns, and the “H” word (Halloween). On October 31, 1517 an Augustinian friar by the name of Martin Luther submitted his Ninety-Five Theses to his fellow professors, nailing them to the wall of All Saint’s Church in Wittenburg, Germany. The theological debate that ensued eventually ballooned into one of the most significant movements in the history of Christendom – the Protestant Reformation.
Throughout his life Luther was determined to combat the corruptions he saw in the Catholic Church with the abiding truth of Scripture. Why? Because he had a first hand experience of the peace and freedom that comes in knowing Jesus. The despair, deep rooted hate, and self disgust he shouldered for years melted when he finally realized that salvation from sin, Satan, and death cannot be earned. Salvation is a gift of God to sinners that is accepted by grace along through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).
This understanding of salvation is drastically different than what he had been taught. Religion wore him out. Following the law wore him out. The same is true for us today. Religion – living by an external, self imposed set of rules or axioms – can lead to despair. It may produce some superficial change, but it will never produce the transformation or metamorphosis (think caterpillar to butterfly) that comes through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Gospel stands in direct opposition to merit driven religiosity.
Luther also recognized the insufficiency of religion to exterminate rebellion toward God in the human heart. He tried to kill the disease of sin in his heart, but it only exacerbated his hate. Once asked if he loved God, he shouted, “Love God? Sometimes I hate Him!” All that changed, when Luther experienced the sweetness of God’s forgiveness and grace. The Gospel disarms the pride, rebellion, and hate present in every human heart.
Nearly 500 years later, we are still experiencing the ripple effects of the Protestant Reformation. We believers are heirs to the important work that Luther and the other Reformers did in returning the church to God-centered theology. And like them, we are tasked with guarding the good deposit of the Gospel that has been entrusted to us (2 Timothy 1:14). Consider this: we have been changed by the transforming power of the Gospel so that we might have the privilege of declaring and demonstrating that same Gospel to the world around us. That is something worth celebrating.
Soli Deo Gloria! (Glory to God alone!)