O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Is the Reformation still relevant?
Is the Reformation still relevant?
Based on Rev. 14:6-7
Preached on October 28, 2012
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Fellow baptized saints, nearly 500 years ago on Oct. 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the Cathedral in Wittenberg. The pounding of that hammer set off an earthquake in all of Europe and shook the Christian Church to its core. The very foundations of Christianity were tested as the tremors rocked everything. Every region, every person, was forced to answer the question that Luther was calling: What is the truth of the Gospel? Nothing escaped its magnitude.
Today, however, it seems like this question has gone out of style. Many Protestant churches have played the "telephone game" over the years, you know, add a little here, change a little there, remove a little over here. The tenets of the Reformation are no longer earthquake worthy, and the truth of the Gospel no longer considered. The average Canadian thinks more about which brand of dog food they should feed their dog, than which teachings are in line with the Gospel of Christ. So is the Reformation still relevant today?
Let us ask the question another way. Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ still relevant today? What is the truth of the Gospel? You see this great question of the Reformation is not a product of Martin Luther at a particular time in history. It is not a product of the nation of Germany. It is not a product of cultural advancement. It is the product of the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ! It is a question that once asked must be asked forever - an eternal Gospel - proclaimed from God in heaven to those who dwell on earth, of every nation, and tribe and language and people, as the angel from Revelation declares.
What is the truth of the Gospel? It must be asked because our Lord has called the question. He has taken on flesh and blood, suffered unto death on the cross and raised Himself from the dead to win salvation for the whole world. This is the truth of the Gospel, that God justifies the ungodly by grace alone, through faith alone, for the sake of Christ alone. The blood that Jesus shed on the cross has made things right between man and God. No other payment is needed. And Christ freely offers you this 'rightness' that you might receive it, not by being a good person, but by faith as a gift from Him. This means free forgiveness. This means salvation from this fallen world. This means eternal life with God.
This was the reason for the Reformation. This was the truth that Martin Luther could not give up. Though excommunicated, exiled and threatened with death, Luther held up the Gospel and said, "Here we stand. We can do no other." This too is why we celebrate the Reformation, because we love the Gospel.
Is the Reformation still relevant today? It is still happening, and you are a big part of it. The pounding of that hammer still shakes things to their core. It still forces everyone to consider the truth of the Gospel. And as a confessing member of the Lutheran Church, you hold the hammer in your hand. Not because you call yourself Lutheran, but because of the question that will never stop sounding in our church. "What is the truth of the Gospel?" It remains the centre of our entire proclamation, not only in our preaching, but in the liturgy, in the Sacraments, and in all that we teach and do. Here we stand. We can do no other.
We take the same stand for the Gospel. We show the same courage, for we call the focus of all people away from everything else, that it may rest squarely on the Gospel. That the only thing souls turn to is the grace and mercy of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is why our Confessions say, "nothing can be yielded or surrendered, even if heaven and earth and all things sink to ruin." For it is not the Lutheran doctrine and Lutheran Church that is at stake, but the Gospel itself, which is the life of the whole Church on earth.
What is the truth of the Gospel? Keep this question in the front of your mind. Keep it in the front of everyone's mind, your family, your friends, your co-workers, everyone. For there is no greater service the Lutheran Church can give to those around us, even those churches that do not quite understand the Lutheran Church, than by preaching the Gospel in all purity and clarity. The pure Gospel is the only thing that will keep the Church pure. Here we stand. We can do no other.
Pastor, this I believe with all my heart, soul and mind, and I want all people to know this Good News, but how do I do that? How do I keep the truth of the Gospel in its rightful place? Luther faced the same question from thousands, and so he summarized the truth of the Gospel in three immovable stones, that are known as the "Three Solas," or the "Three Alones." Faith alone, Grace alone, Scripture alone. Here's what he said.
Faith alone. Salvation comes from outside of us. From Christ. So we add nothing to our salvation. Not a choice. Not a good thought. Not a good intention. Only faith worked in us by the Holy Spirit receives the benefits of Christ's life, death and resurrection. Here we stand. We can do no other.
Grace alone. Most people think God justifies "good people" and damns "bad people," but the Gospel declares that God justifies sinners. God does not save those who are trying to do their best or those who are the most improved. He saves those who come empty-handed, who want to receive what Christ has accomplished, and rely on nothing more. Jesus did not come to show us the way. He came to be the Way for us. He is our righteousness. He is our perfection, and by being united to Him in faith God covers our old sinful Adam with the new perfect righteousness of Christ. God makes us into all we need to be. Here we stand. We can do no other.
Scripture alone. Anything that contradicts Scripture or hinders the Gospel has no place in the Church, for the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God. It is not our interpretation that determines truth, but the Word of God, which interprets itself. Scripture is read as a whole, it is not cut up into verses that can be taken out of context. This is why we follow the Lutheran Confessions: because they agree with the full body of Scripture. This doesn't mean we should throw out all tradition, only those that do not serve the Gospel. When a tradition serves the Gospel, that is, when it expresses it, delivers it or teaches it clearly such as the liturgy, here we have a precious treasure.
What is the truth of the Gospel? That God justifies the ungodly by grace alone, through faith alone, for the sake of Christ alone, on the basis of God's Word alone. Remind yourself of that everyday. When you wake up, when you travel in the car, when you go to bed at night. What is the truth of the Gospel? When you find yourself in an argument, when you feel yourself pulled by temptation. What is the truth of the Gospel? For this is not a question for the Reformation of the Church alone, but it is the power of reformation in your personal life as well. For the Gospel is for you. Christ is for you. His forgiveness is for you. You have eternal life. You are right with God. Because He sent His Only Son to defeat your enemies and win you a place in His heavenly kingdom. Is the Reformation still relevant today? It is the only thing that matters. All glory be to God. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr