On that day in 1517 A.D., a German monk named Martin Luther nailed his "95 Theses," or propositions, to a church door in Wittenburg. This event kicked off the religious, cultural, and political movement called the Reformation, which some historians say impacted the course of the world more than any other event since the life and death of Jesus Christ himself.
The Reformation wasn’t really about breaking away from the Roman Catholic Church and the authority of the Pope, though that did end up happening in many places as a result. The original “Reformers” didn’t want to destroy the Catholic Church, they wanted to reform it. But what the Reformation was about, more than anything, was a re-discovery of the Bible's teaching about "salvation by faith alone,” and that is something that should be of interest to everyone, regardless of religious background or affiliation.
You see, the Bible says (over and over again) that we all need to be "saved." This is because "all of us have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), and "the payment for sin is death" (Romans 6:23). Most of the people who lived at the time of the Reformation believed that God was real, and that one day He would judge the world. (This was before we became so impressed with ourselves, that we now think we can explain everything without referencing God.)
Because they knew that they would have to stand before God one day, the people of the Middle Ages were looking for a way to be sure that God would accept them, rather than condemning them in His righteous anger against evil. And the conventional wisdom of the day was that they had to become righteous by performing religious works, which they hoped would be good enough for a perfect Deity. They thought He would forgive their sins if they did enough "church stuff."
What Martin Luther, and the other Reformers discovered, was that the Bible says "no one can be saved by works" (Galatians 2:16), because none of us can be perfect, and none of us can wipe away the sins we have committed, no matter how hard we might try. So the only way to be saved is to trust in Jesus Christ, who did live a perfect life, then died on the cross to pay the penalty we owe and rose from the dead as our representative. He lived for us and died instead of us, so that God could freely forgive us, but still exercise His perfect justice.
When we place our trust in Jesus as our Savior, and in gratitude commit ourselves to serve Him as our Lord, God declares us to be forgiven and perfect in His sight, because of what Christ did. He treats us with nothing but love, as if we had never done anything wrong! And even the bad things that happen to us will work together for our good in the end (Romans 8:28). This is the good news, or "the gospel," which is the message of the whole Bible, and one that everyone needs to hear (whether we want to or not!).
If you are interested in learning more about this, or anything related to spiritual issues, I encourage you to contact or visit a church that believes the Bible and teaches the truths that were rediscovered in the Reformation. I'm sure they'd love to meet you and help you in any way they can...I know our church would, if you're anywhere near Malvern, PA.
Happy Halloween! And Happy Reformation Day!!
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