Dear Fellow Children of God,
Today, October 31, Kathy and I are in Wittenberg with St. John members Carol Gustafson and Dwayne and Donita Odland. On October 31, 1517, an obscure catholic monk and university professor posted a document on the church door for the purpose of encouraging a debate on the topic of “indulgences.” This document also touched on the related topics of Scripture, and God’s plan for forgiveness and salvation by His grace through faith. The document Luther posted, “The Ninety-Five Theses” became the spark that led to the Reformation throughout Europe.
The reason Luther posted “The Ninety-Five Theses” is that the church of that time was spreading teachings that he considered contrary to God’s Word, and spreading teachings that caused people to look for salvation and eternal life in a hope that was different than the reason for hope which God has, the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.
I personally am thankful for my Lutheran Heritage. I continue to find Luther’s Reformation principals of “By Grace Alone,” “By Faith Alone,” and “By Scripture Alone” to still guide my own faith and ministry. I am thankful that the Lutheran Church as I have known it has been committed to learning the Scriptures and teaching the truth of God’s love in Jesus.
However, a danger in celebrating the Reformation is that Lutheran Christians, or any Christians, can point our finger at others, and ignore our own failings. The truth is many churches seek to teach God’s word, not just the Lutheran Church. We had best not mis-characterize what others teach. And, the reason we need a Savior is that all of us stumble and sin and fail.
The best way to celebrate the Reformation is to watch our own faith and lives. Jesus tells his disciples in John 8:34-36, “34 . . . "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” In these words Jesus calls for a personal reformation in each of His followers.
What kind of reformation might we work toward in our own lives? First, knowing we are sinners we need to constantly repent. It is important that we admit our selfishness, our greed, our doubt, our sin, and seek God’s help to live in faith and love. This turning from sin is a constant fight in this life, because everyone who sins is a slave to that sin.
Second, we turn from our sin to the Son of God, Jesus Christ. A personal reformation means we trust Jesus for forgiveness. We trust in Jesus to strengthen us for the struggle by His Word and Spirit. This is what Jesus means when He says, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
Finally, we can sustain this personal Reformation by growing in the knowledge, the grace, and the power of God’s Word. In John 8:31-32, Jesus says, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." God’s Word found in Scripture can guide us in our own personal reformation. It can teach us how to live. God’s Word can show us our sin, and show us our Savior, and strengthen us in God’s love so we can continue the struggle of personal repentance and reformation.
It is exciting to be in Wittenberg on Reformation Day. I pray that we all use the occasion and celebration of this historic date for the purpose of growing closer to our Savior, Jesus.
A Child of God, Seeking God’s Reformation in My Life,
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am always adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you don’t want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message. . . Or, if you know someone who would like to receive one of these e-mails, please send me their e-mail address.
ST. JOHN NEWS