Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther went to the church door in Wittenberg. He nailed 95 Theses that he was willing to debate with anyone who took a differing opinion. The ideas contained in these 95 Theses spread quickly across Europe, providing a spark to the Reformation of the Church. On October 29, 2017, we will gather here at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church on Reformation Day, to remember the work that God has done, is doing, and yet will do to continue to reform His Church, leading her to turn from sin and trust in His Son for forgiveness and eternal life.
The Reformation is and always should be about repentance from sin and trust in God’s Word which proclaims Jesus Christ as the Savior of the World. We hear the emphasis on repentance in the very first of those 95 Theses: “1. When our Lord Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ He willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Reforming the Church occurs when each of us hears the Word of God in its truth, and we ask for forgiveness and trust in Christ.
In the Bible, we hear the Word of the Law and the Word of the Gospel. Both are statements from God, but they work different things in us. The Law tells us all the loving things that God wants us to do. But when we hear the depth of the love that God requires us to show to Him and our neighbor, we realize how we have failed to love God and our neighbor. We have sinned against God. Thus the loving commands in the Law wind up showing us our sin and the punishment we deserve for that sin. The Law silences our vain self-righteousness, and calls us to pay attention to God before it is too late.
This work of the Law is clearly stated in our epistle reading for Reformation Day from Romans 3:19-20:“Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”
If the Law is all we hear from the Bible, we would despair. But God has another Word to share with us, the Word of the Gospel. The Gospel gives us the message of forgiveness of sins and eternal life by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is a free gift to us from Jesus. We do not earn it, for we could never do that. JESUS GIVES SALVATION FREELY TO ALL WHO TRUST IN HIM. He earned salvation for the world when He died on the cross and rose again from the dead.
This work of the Gospel is clearly stated in our epistle reading for Reformation Day from Romans 3:21-25: “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.”
This Reformation season, please listen to the Word of God and hear the Law and Gospel. Hear the Law call you to repent. Hear the Gospel promise you forgiveness freely by faith in Christ. It is important to continue to hear the Law and the Gospel, because our sin leads us to tend to forget, and the devil wants to lead us away from Christ. Until we are safely with Jesus in heaven, we will suffer constant attacks designed to lead us away from Christ. That is why it is so important to continue to hear the Word of God, for it protects us from the Evil One, teaches us the truth and gives the forgiveness of Christ.
The best thing you can do this Reformation is to hear God’s Word. You can hear that Word of God here at Gloria Dei. It is read here, preached here, sung here, and taught here. The Word is poured over you here in baptism and fed to you in the Lord’s Supper. The Word of Christ is here. It is here for your entire life to lead you every day in repentance and faith in Christ.
Do you recognize your need for that Word? Have you let it have a place in your life? Are you bored with that Word? Have you let it slip from your eyes and ears? If so, beware. Today is the day of salvation! Come and hear Christ! He will save you, and you will praise Him as your Lord and Savior. Amen.