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Martin Luther: Lunatic for the Lord

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There’s a poster in our Youth Wing that says, “Do you seriously think God can’t use you?”

Then it lists a whole lot of people from the Bible who no one would ever think could be used for the furtherance of God’s Kingdom.

  • Noah was a drunk.
  • Abraham was too old.
  • Jacob was a liar.
  • Samson was a womanizer.
  • Rahab was a prostitute (who ended up in the generational line of Jesus).
  • Elijah was suicidal.
  • Lazarus was dead.

God also used a crazy man in the 16th century who was rude, crude and a Jew hater. He was also a worry wart, always thinking God was going to strike him dead for his sin. His name was Martin Luther and the reason you are a Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Pentecostal or even a non-denominational believer is because of what he did on Oct. 31, 1517, commonly called the Protestant Reformation. It’s been 500 years since the day faith in God was RE-formed, and we celebrate our independence from hierarchical religion and cherish the truth that we can come to God on our own, by faith, through his Son Jesus Christ. Though this truth has always been with us, it was hidden for centuries. What Martin Luther did changed the direction of Christianity forever—all because God used this one man.

Every Christian should celebrate the third greatest Holy Day of the year after Christmas and Easter: Reformation Day, not that silly Halloween, the day that ghouls, ghosts and gross gaggles of the grave are happily acclaimed while death, murder and fiendish activity is lionized.

It all came about in this way: Luther was a Professor of Biblical Studies’ who got irritated over the sale of “indulgences,” a money-making scheme used at the time to raise cash for the building of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. An indulgence was purchased by Catholic believers to “pay off” extra time one might spend in Purgatory for any overlooked or unconfessed sin. They could also be bought for any dead relatives or friends. An infamous Tweet was used at the time by a man named Johann Tetzel : “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory rings.”

Professor Luther wanted to hold a debate with fellow faculty members on this subject. Any professor who wanted to hold one of these discussions would nail his questions and propositions, called theses, on the huge wooden door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther nailed 95 of them to that door on October 31, 1517. He knew that the Bible taught that the only way to be forgiven of any sin was by repentance and trust in Jesus Christ. Through his own studies, he found that the Greek word for repentance meant a change of heart, not just doing good things to please God, as the theologians of his day taught.

He wrote:

“I hated that… ‘righteousness of God…’ to which God is righteous and punishes sinners and the unjust. I led an irreproachable life. Nevertheless, I felt that I was a sinner before God…Not only did I not love, but I actually hated the righteous God who punishes sinners…. Day and night I tried to meditate upon the significance of these words [in the Bible]: ‘The righteousness of God is revealed in [the Gospel], as it is written: The righteous shall live by faith.’ Then, finally, God had mercy on me, and I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that gift of God by which a righteous man lives, namely, faith…that the merciful God justifies us by faith…. Now I felt as though I had been reborn altogether and had entered Paradise.”

Luther wrote his 95 theses in Latin with the intention that they be debated only among the scholars, but the populace posted them on Facebook, and, as Luther acknowledged,

“In a fortnight they flew all over Germany.”

From that fateful Halloween Day in 1517 came five Latin phrases called “The Five Solas,” which defined the Protestant Movement’s theological convictions about Christianity’s essential doctrines in centuries to come:

  1. Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is our highest authority.
  2. Sola Fide (“faith alone”): We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
  3. Sola Gratia (“grace alone”): We are saved by the grace of God alone.
  4. Solus Christus (“Christ alone”): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
  5. Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”): We live for the glory of God alone.

When Martin Luther was told to recant his teachings by the religious authorities, he famously said,

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture or by clear reason, I am bound by the Scriptures I have cited, for my conscience is held captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything…I cannot do otherwise. Here I stand, may God help me. Amen.”

Here we stand, 500 years later, trusting that all who declare with their mouths that “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in their hearts that God raised him from the dead, are saved. For it is with our heart that we believe and are justified, and it is with our mouth that we profess our faith and are saved.

***Now, watch this great teaching by Dr. R.C. Sproul which shows how crazy Luther really was. Or was he?

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