I love October. It’s a month of welcome transitions. The cool weather is a long-anticipated break from a hot and muggy Charleston summer. Tree leaves of various types transform into a magnificent array of autumn colors. The holidays begin to make their approach. But for Protestants, October means more than just milder weather, college football, and the breaking out of old comfy sweatshirts. In October we remember our profound spiritual heritage in the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation.
On October 31st, 1517, a German Augustinian monk named Martin Luther (1483-1546) nailed 95 theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg. Luther’s 95 theses were intended to spark a debate on some of the aberrant doctrines and corrupt practices of the Roman Catholic Church. Luther’s provocation turned out to be more than just a local one after a couple of his followers took the document and reproduced it for the masses. The rest is, as they say, history.
Following in the wake of Luther were significant Reformation leaders such as Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531), John Calvin (1509-64), John Knox (1514-1572), Thomas Cranmer (1489-1566), and Martin Bucer (1491-1551). Each of their impressive and faithful ministries highlighted the Five Solas of the Protestant Reformation: Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), Solus Christus (Christ alone), Sola Fide (Faith alone), Sola Gratia (Grace alone), Soli Deo Gloria (To God alone be the glory)–– slogans that should continue to define our churches today.
As we reflect on the Reformers’ blood-earnest insistence that the Church reform her doctrine and practice, seeking to recover a biblical foundation for her worship, ministry, and piety, it should inspire us to consider our own commitments. Like the medieval Roman Catholic Church, caught up in ignorance, tradition, and superstition, we too can wander off the path of orthodoxy (right belief) and orthopraxy (right practice/behavior) if we are not careful. To pursue Reformation in our own day means to seek conformity to the Word of God in all things as individuals, families, and as a church.
What are some ways that you can personally reform your beliefs and behavior according to Scripture? Are you holding to doctrinal beliefs that you know are more sentimental than biblical? Are there sinful patterns in your life that need to be broken, besetting sins that need to be renounced and mortified? Have the values of this world begun to persuade your heart? The Bible exhorts us “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). Take a little time to evaluate your life in the light of Scripture. Then look to Christ for grace, guidance, and reformation.
What about the family? The recovery of biblical marriage and the God-centered family were key aspects of the Protestant Reformation. Perhaps your family could use a renewed commitment to family worship–– a brief time to gather daily as a family in order to read and discuss Scripture, sing Psalms and hymns, and offer sincere prayers. Or how about a renewed commitment to Lord’s Day morning and evening worship where the blessed triune God meets with his covenant people to nourish their faith on the Word and sacraments? Spend a little time reading Ephesians 5:22-33 and ask God to bring reformation and renewal to your marriage, granting you the wisdom and strength to carry out your God-given roles in the relationship.
How about Reformation in our church? We should always be thinking about how we can more faithfully carry out the mission of the church, that is, to “make disciples” (Mt. 28:18-20) at home and around the world. Pray that the means of grace would always remain central at Christ Church, and that we would faithfully proclaim the gospel through them. May our worship always be God-centered, our preaching biblical, our praying earnest, our singing robust, our unity strong, and our outreach constant. May the glory of God be our aim in all things.
Beloved, the Protestant Reformation began with an unknown German monk taking a step of faith for the sake of the Gospel and the health of the Church. God used it as the beginning of something that would turn western civilization upside down. As we take time to remember the Protestant Reformation this year, let us be mindful of the small steps of faith and godly decisions that will bring reform to our lives, marriages, families, and our church.
- Pastor Jon