Today’s devotion builds on the thoughts from Sunday’s Sermon – Week 7 of “Fan or Follower – Seek Truth” (LISTEN HERE).
Most of the country is observing Halloween today. October 31st at it’s worst is the night of celebrating all that is ghoulish and at its best, a night to dress up and have fun collecting candy from neighbors.
The day has much more significance for Christians.
Halloween is the old English form for All Hallows Eve. All Hallows Eve was followed on November 1 by All Hallows Day, more commonly known as All Saints Day. In the 1500s, this was a big worship day where people would come to the Catholic church to honor the saints. Relics of the saints would be on display, so more than usual would gather for worship.
Martin Luther knew this.
He took advantage of All Hallows Eve in 1517 to post 95 statements he desired to debate with the church officials of his time.
The issue? Indulgences.
Indulgences were pieces of paper sanctioned by the pope that when purchased were to give individuals assurance that their sins were forgiven. The validity of the paper was based on what was called the “treasury of the saints.” This treasure was said to be the extra good works the saints had done over and above what they for their own salvation. Because the saint didn’t need them, they were available to be assigned to others.
Thus the sale of indulgences.
The proceeds? Gathered to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Forgiveness is not based on the merits of the saints or our merits for that matter.
People were being guilted into buy indulgences at the fear of their own salvation or that of someone they loved.
Consciences were not being soothed, they were being taken advantage of.
This deception deserved debate and discussion.
So Luther wanted to have that debate.
And we live in the legacy of what this these statements sparked.
Was our certainty of salvation based on our own merits or that of the saints or would our salvation be based on the merits of Jesus Christ and trust in him?
The clear truth of Scripture had been clouded over by the traditions of the Church and the decrees of the pope.
But the Lord led Luther to see clearly the truth the Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write in Romans 1:16-17
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Rightness before God comes by faith in the good news about Jesus.
Perhaps this truth seems trite and ordinary, but it is profound and unique.
Many, including the Catholic Church, still believe and teach that in some way my performance before God merits eternal life. The teaching seems to make sense, but it is eternally destructive. If we can be honest with ourselves, the only thing our performance deserves is separation from God, not life with him.
So we need grace. We need forgiveness. We need Jesus.
The 95 statements sparked a debate, many discussions, and finally a divide from the Catholic Church. The followers were called “Lutherans” but more importantly, the message of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone found in Scripture alone resurfaced from the pages of Scripture and brought true peace, joy and forgiveness to every soul who by faith, believed it!
So happy Reformation Day! Know YOU are a “holy one” who has been covered by the blood of Jesus.
Apply: Ever read the 95 Theses? Here’s a link. Which statements would you like to discuss or debate if you had the chance? Which do you agree with?
Prayer: Lord, thank you for the work of Martin Luther who you used to bring the truth of grace back to the forefront amidst the deception of indulgences. As we thank you for the work of Martin Luther, may our confidence always rest in the gift of grace you have given in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. AMEN.