95 Reforms for Reformation, Then and Now

Does the number 95 mean anything special to you… Especially in the light of the month of October?

When you think about what happened just 500 years ago in Germany – 95 points of discussion were posted on the community bulletin board, a church door – a lowly monk unintentionally set in motion a sequence of events that changed the world more than any other single action by a human being since the resurrection of Christ. 

 My missionary friend in South Africa, Dr. Peter Hammond, has provided for us profound insights that can impact our priorities for generations to come if we’ll take them to heart. 

Unprecedented

Western civilization has been blessed with the greatest freedom, productivity and prosperity ever known in history. The liberty, standards of justice and creativity enjoyed in Western civilization is a direct result of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century.

First Things First

Our Lord Jesus Christ taught:

“But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.”

Matthew 6:33

The Question of Authority (more…)

Why Halloween Reformation Day was a Transforming Day in History

By Dennis Petersen

Do you know what October 31st is besides Halloween?  Hint: it’s one of the most important days in the history of the Christian church and it affects everything about your life today.  Everything!

It was on the 31st of October 1517 that a Catholic monk named Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 Theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany. By God’s grace, Luther’s courageous act of challenging corruption and unbiblical heresies launched the Great Reformation.  But why is this legacy worth recalling and how does it affect us today?

On Reformation Days – October 31st   – most American Christians seem more conscious of Halloween than of the Reformation. It appears that more of the children in our churches are celebrating pagan and dark, grotesque symbols for Halloween than the great spiritual Revival that led to the birth of the Protestant Reformation.

Halloween

Halloween is celebrated by millions on October 31st each year with costumes and candy. Despite its Christianized name, Halloween stems from an ancient pagan Celtic religion that started nearly two centuries before the birth of Christ.  The tribal Druids of Ireland and Europe offered end-of-harvest sacrifices at this beginning of winter to appease a Celtic demon they called Samhain (SOW-in), the lord of death, and of evil spirits. The early Gaelic Celts apparently believed that Samhain sent evil spirits into the world to attack humans, who could escape only by assuming disguises and looking like evil spirits themselves.  Catholic Christians tried to form an alternative tradition by moving the celebration of “All Hallows’ Day” that celebrated the lives of Christian martyred saints from May to November 1st.  So November 1st is referred to as “All Saints’ Day.” In medieval England that Catholic festival was known as All Hallows.  The evening before (October 31st) was thus named “All Hallows’ eve” which became Hallow-een.

Reformation Day

Reformation Day (October 31) commemorates Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517. This one act triggered the Protestant Reformation because Luther’s challenges to the church’s practices were immediately translated and distributed all across Germany in a matter of weeks. The Protestant Reformation was the rediscovery of the doctrine of justification—that is, salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone, like we read in Ephesians 2:8 and 9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one should boast.”  It was also the protest against the corruption within the Roman Catholic Church. The century before the Reformation was marked by widespread dissatisfaction with the corruption of the leaders in the Roman Catholic Church and with its false doctrines, biblical illiteracy, and superstition. Monks, priests, bishops, and popes in Rome taught unbiblical doctrines like the selling of indulgences, the treasury of merit, purgatory, and salvation through good works.

All Souls’ Day

All Souls’ Day or the Day of the Dead is normally celebrated, primarily by Roman Catholics, on November 2. This is a day dedicated to prayer and almsgiving in memory of ancestors who have died. People pray for the souls of the dead, in their hopeful belief to hasten their release from purgatory to heaven by being purged and cleansed from their sins.

Treasury of Merit

Spiritually sincere people were taught to redeem themselves by charitable works, pilgrimages, and all kinds of religious rituals. They were persuaded to acquire this “merit,” which was at the disposal of the church, by purchasing “certificates of indulgence.”  This left them wondering if they ever did enough or paid enough to appease God’s righteous anger and escape his judgment. That was the popular mindset that prompted Luther’s desire to refocus the church on salvation by grace through faith on account of Christ by imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us.

Think of it.  Almost 98% of medieval people couldn’t read.  They were spiritually oppressed by indulgences.  They had no assurance of God’s grace.  Doctor Luther proclaimed the grace of God’s acceptance for true saints.

Instead of the treasury of merit that was for sale, Luther protested, “The true treasure of the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of God”

Life in Europe and England (not to mention the rest of the world) has changed drastically since 500 years ago.  For both Christians and unbelievers, the time of the early 16th Century when Martin Luther lived was radically different and desperate.  It’s obvious that modern technology’s conveniences were absent, but even common things we take for granted like clean water and comfortable housing were unknown.

Think of Productive Prosperity

Western civilization has been blessed with the greatest freedoms, productivity and prosperity ever known in history.  The liberty, standards of justice and creativity enjoyed in Western civilization are direct results of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century.  Don’t miss why these amazing results occurred.

Our Lord Jesus Christ taught:  “But seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

Think of Peace with God.

 Martin Luther was passionate about finding peace with God.  He studied the Bible so intently that it led him to challenge the unethical fund-raising tactics of the papacy.  That’s what ignited the Protestant Reformation.  Luther’s love for the Word of God and his dedication to truth led him to challenge the entire ecclesiastical and political authority of the Roman Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Empire.

Can we imagine a society without Freedom of Conscience?

Sometimes I think we miss the huge gravity of some things.  Luther’s courage to stand against the political and religious might of Europe was one of the most incredible acts of conscientious defiance in the history of the world.  He argued for freedom of conscience based upon the authority of Scripture.  Until then the fear of man was preeminent.  Luther feared God.   All religions and cultures on earth bowed to a monarchy, aristocracy and authoritarianism.  The formal Roman Catholic institution was corrupt.  Luther and the Reformers were convinced that man without God is hopelessly depraved and no human authority could be trusted as absolute.  He rejected ecclesiastical totalitarianism and championed the principle of Sola Scriptura – the Bible alone is our ultimate authority.

Education for All

Luther translated the Bible from the original Greek and Hebrew into the common tongue.   Everybody could now have access to it; both nobles and peasants.  Luther championed education and literacy for everyone.  He defended the Priesthood of all Believers.  And what Revolutionary concept did that one biblical principle lead to?

Constitutional Authority

Jesus Christ is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  Everyone is under God’s Law.  The reformer’s principle of Sola Scriptura broke down ecclesiastical and political totalitarianism.  The Protestant emphasis on the Priesthood of all Believers led to the concept of representative government and constitutional authority as the supreme law of the land.

What results from convincing society of the truth of Religious Liberty?

By emphasizing the Biblical doctrine of Faith as a gift of God, Luther undermined the Catholic Inquisition and provided the theological foundations for religious liberty and freedom of conscience.  Religious liberty and freedom of conscience led to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of association and all the other out-workings of political and social freedom.

The Reformation gave us the Bible – available in our own languages.

Few people today realize that the first Bibles printed in English had to be printed in Germany and smuggled into England in bales of cotton from Holland.  The first Bible translator, William Tyndale, was executed by strangulation and his body burned at the stake for the crime of translating the Bible into English.  Seven mothers and fathers were burned alive at Coventry for teaching their own children The Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Apostles Creed – in English.

Courage and Sacrifice for Believers today?

The sacrifices made by the Reformers and the far-reaching impact of their courageous application of the Word of God to every area of life, needs to be rediscovered.  The Christian Church has made more positive changes on earth than any other force or cause in History.

Blessing the Nations

Most of the languages of the world were developed into a written system by Christian missionaries.  More schools and universities have been started by Christians than any other religion, nation or group.  Christian Reformers and missionaries have succeeded in bringing about the abolition of slavery, cannibalism, child sacrifice and widow burning.  Those countries that enjoy the most civil liberties, are those lands where the Gospel of Christ has penetrated the most.

Transforming Nations

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is life-changing, history making and nation transforming.  If it doesn’t change your life and the lives of those around you, then it’s not the Biblical Gospel.

Checks and Balances

The Reformers understood God’s Sovereignty. They courageously proclaimed that Scripture alone is our final authority.  Christ alone is the Head of the Church.  Justification is by God’s Grace alone, on the basis of the finished work of Christ, received by Faith alone.  The Reformers’ teaching on the depravity of man, the New Covenant in Christ, and church government, have influenced positive political and social developments in liberty throughout the Western world and beyond, establishing checks and balances, the separation of powers and constitutional authority.

Faith and Freedom

All of us are beneficiaries of this tremendous movement for Faith and Freedom.  If you love liberty, you need to re-examine the history and principles of the Reformation.

The Reformation took the Church out of gross ignorance and spiritual darkness.

Before the Reformation the church had no Bible. And a church without a Bible is as useless as a lighthouse without light, or a car without an engine. The priests and people knew scarcely anything about God’s Word or the way of salvation in Christ.

Now think of this:  Our current generation of believers… not to mention the world learning corrupted revisionist history … is in danger of losing the profound legacy of courage that preserved Bible truths that are much forgotten.

The 16th Century was the pivotal generation of martyrs who willingly laid down their lives to preserve the scripture for us.  That was providential!  Why?  Because the truths in the Bible are eternal and essential for communicating the heart of God and regenerating lost souls to gain eternal life.

Deuteronomy 7:9 says: “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.”

The second commandment contains both a severe threat and a most incredibly gracious promise.

“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in Heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing love to thousands who love Me and keep My commandments.”

Deuteronomy 5:8-10

A Solemn Responsibility

Parents have an awesome responsibility. We are to bring up our children “in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)  We are to “train a child in the way he should go …” (Proverbs 22:6)  According to 1 Timothy 3:4, we are to manage our own family well and see that our children learn to obey with proper respect.

Psalm 78:4-8 tells us to…

 “tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power and the wonders He has done … so that the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds, but would keep His commands. They would not be … stubborn and rebellious … (like previous generations) whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to Him.”

The Bible tells us to not just raise God-fearing sons, but sons who will become God-fearing fathers, who in turn will raise God-fearing sons to become fathers who will love, honor, trust and obey God. We are to raise disciples who raise disciples so that God’s generational blessing is passed down and the chain unbroken.

Invitation

I invite you to visit our website www.ReclaimYourLegacy.com and share our resources with your family and friends.  And if your church or group would like to have us minister in person, just contact me.  I truly trust we can help you and your friends strengthen your life’s purpose and reclaim your legacy.

Martin Luther said:

“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God’s Word, except precisely that point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, then I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing him. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battlefront besides is mere flight and disgrace – if he flinches at that point.

Compromise and cowardice hurts everyone It’s short-sighted.  The Word of God commands us not to be afraid of any man (Deuteronomy 1:17). We are warned that the fear of man will prove to be a snare (Proverbs 29:25).  It is cowardice for us to remain silent when we should speak up. To be passive and inactive when we should fight for what is right. Isaiah 51:12-13 says:

“Who are you that you should be afraid of a man who will die, and of a son of man, who will be made like grass? You forget the Lord your maker, who stretched out the Heavens and laid the foundations of the earth…” 

The Bible tells us that God seeks “Godly offspring…” Malachi 2:15. It is the first priority of parents and teachers to ensure that children are taught to love God and His Word. Secular humanist education is attempting to kill God by eradicating Him from the classroom and from the minds of the next generation. By eliminating the Bible as the basis for all knowledge, humanists are removing the very foundation of truth. They are prohibiting the only objective standard by which reality can be evaluated.

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world, rather than on Christ.”   Colossians 2:8

Martin Luther wrote:

“I am much afraid that schools will prove to be wide gates to hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them on the hearts of the youth. I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount. Every institution in which men are not constantly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt.”

In this culture war, it is vital that we understand the war between Creation and the theory of Evolution. Science textbooks and Museums are strategic battlegrounds in the world war of worldviews.

We need to know the Word of God and we need to know the God of the Word. We need to know God and to make Him known.  It is vital that we know what we believe, why we believe it, and to practically know how to defend it in argument. It is also vital that we become effective soul winners.

Christians must recognize that we are involved in a world war of worldviews. There is a war against God and against His Word – The Bible. In this battle for the mind, classrooms and cinemas are battlefields. Education is a battleground. The textbooks and the teachers are frequently promoting evolutionism, situation ethics, sex education and values clarification. Reality is being rearranged by selective focus and in what Karl Marx declared “the first battlefield – the rewriting of history.” By twisting perceptions, secular humanists hope to steal our children and hijack our culture and country. Much of the entertainment industry has been so subverted as to glamorize evil, popularize profanity, and celebrate ugliness. It is the duty of Christians to support excellent Christian media.

The philosophy of Evolution that is called a theory is a vile attempt to get rid of God from society’s thinking.  Evolution destroys all meaning, purpose, direction, justice and hope in life. The Scriptures declare: “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God’. They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.” Psalm 14:1

We are called to be the light of the world. All the darkness cannot put out the smallest light. “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14

Young people have a far greater capacity for spiritual and social maturity than we give them credit for. Young people should be encouraged to go deeper, further and higher for the Lord.  The recent phenomenon of age-segregated Sunday morning worship should be re-evaluated in the light of Scripture. The youth are not the Church of tomorrow, they are part of the Church today. The Church is one body. “For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that body being many are one body; as also is Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:12

Parents should be raising up their children in the fear of God, in fellowship with all believers. Church social events should involve families. Youth ministry should be returned to where it belongs – to families and fathers. It is a sad fact that many youth groups are doing more harm than good. “Those who walk with the wise become wiser still, but the companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20

Many mainline denominations have been infiltrated by secular humanists, who have gutted the churches of the Biblical Gospel and produced generations of spineless quasi-believers. (Dr. Hammond calls them evangellyfish). Many churches are filled with pseudo-saved, semi-saved, half-saved, un-saved, pew-warmers who have never been truly converted, nor have they come into any real relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.

What are we going to do about all this?

Is there not a cause?

By Dennis Petersen

“Is There not a cause?” asked the shepherd David in Israel 3,000 years ago, when he witnessed the fear of Goliath among his fellow countrymen.

 

It’s bad enough when the enemies of your own life overwhelm you with fear.  But when the enemies of your whole culture, indeed of the very kingdom of your God, are openly hostile to the absolute values and objectives of life itself, do you think we might possibly be encouraged by this memorable ancient landmark recorded so specifically for us in our Bible?

 

I’m reminded of the Apostle Paul’s insight in Romans 15:4, telling us that:

 

“whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

 

Do you think that our generation could use some hope?  Do you sense that Christians and non-Christians alike are feeling overwhelmed by the “Goliaths” that threaten our very existence in today’s world?

 

Take a little time to personally review the story of David’s encounter on the battlefield with the giant Goliath in first Samuel 17.

 

There are lots of Scriptural encouragements. We must continually reflect on them when facing fearful conditions.  Those causes may make us faint or recoil from the calling of God on His people and on us individually.  We need strength that comes from His Word.

 

“The battle is the Lord’s”

1 Sam. 17:47.

 

And that declaration emboldened David to proclaim to his enemy that God “will give you into our hands.”

… Let’s read the whole passage beginning after Goliath’s cursing of David, at verse 45.

 

“ Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. 46 This day the LORD will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the LORD’S and He will give you into our hands.”

Read Psalm 2.

Why are the nations in an uproar
And the peoples devising a vain thing?
2 The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast away their cords from us!”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
5 Then He will speak to them in His anger
And terrify them in His fury, saying,
6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”
7 “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD:
He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
8 ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.
9 ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron,
You shall shatter them like earthenware.’”
10 Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
11 Worship the LORD with reverence
And rejoice with trembling.
12 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!
“For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.”

2 Chron. 16:9

 

Let’s not forget what is the promise of God to those who chose the Lord’s true fast in Isaiah 58:10:

“If you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday.”   And look at verse 12: “And those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will raise up the age-old foundations; and you will be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets in which to dwell.”

Does that remind you of the work of Nehemiah in ancient Israel?

“When I saw their fear, I rose and spoke to the nobles, the officials, and the rest of the people; “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.”

Nehemiah 4:14:

 

In times of crisis the urgency for followers of Jesus to “Abide” in Him could not be more absolute.  Read John 15:4-11

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 9 Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”

We all need to be reminded daily of the message of Galatians 6:2-10:

“Bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ.”

And we dare not forget about the warning of 1 Peter 5:8:

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

With all the negative and seemingly hopeless conditions surrounding our generation, do you think God, the Holy Spirit, might be speaking to us to “encourage one another day after day?”  Read Hebrews 3:7-19.

“Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says,
“TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE,
8 DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME,
AS IN THE DAY OF TRIAL IN THE WILDERNESS,
9 WHERE YOUR FATHERS TRIED Me BY TESTING Me,
AND SAW MY WORKS FOR FORTY YEARS.
10 “THEREFORE I WAS ANGRY WITH THIS GENERATION,
AND SAID, ‘THEY ALWAYS GO ASTRAY IN THEIR HEART,
AND THEY DID NOT KNOW MY WAYS’;
11 AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH,
‘THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST.’”
12 Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, 15 while it is said,
“TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE,
DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME.”
16 For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.”

Today’s poorly taught Christians need to rediscover the implications of what is written in several places like Hebrews 10:12-13 about the cause to which we are assigned.

“but he, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until his enemies be made a footstool for his feet.”

Who does the world belong to?

“…who did Abram tell the king of Sodom about God?  Genesis 14:22 says: “But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth…”

Psalm 24:1-6

Is God able?

“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?”

Jeremiah 32:27

When you think about the enemies of God in the world today, do you have your hope in God or in man to deliver the righteous children of God by the grace of our Savior Jesus Christ?

The Devil may be “the god of this world (system)” the idol of people who ignore God Almighty, but that does not mean that Jesus has revoked the authority and jurisdiction that was validated by His resurrection.

“Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.”

Ephesians 4:8

When Jesus decreed from the cross, “it is finished” what remained yet to be done?

Colossians 2:15 says:

“He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”

When does the end come?

“then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.  For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.  The last enemy that will be abolished is death.”

1 Corinthians 15:24-26

Are there enemies yet to be abolished besides the last enemy of death itself?

Read on to the last verse of chapter 15:

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”