Reformation Day

October 31, 2010

As the world, or perhaps more precisely western culture, celebrates Halloween today, there is perhaps a more important anniversary celebrated every October 31st.  But it is one little known apart from academic and theological circles, in spite of the fact that today marks the 493rd anniversary of this particular event.  Today is Reformation Day.  On October 31, 1517, a German Catholic monk named Martin Luther nailed (literally) the so-called 95 Theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany.  Luther, himself a Catholic theologian, prepared the 95 Theses as his objections to what he perceived as numerous unscriptural practices in the Catholic church of the 16th century, not the least of which was the selling of indulgences or forgiveness of sins.  In preparing his objections, Martin Luther had no intention of leaving the Catholic Church. His motive was not to raise a stink and threaten to leave and become a Presbyterian or Baptist or Methodist or Nazarene…those churches did not exist.  Rather, he intended his 95 objections to be the source of reform from within the Church through protesting its practices. The term “protestant reformation” was a title given to what ultimately happened years later in church history, in fact after Luther’s death.  But it was in literal fact, the essence of Luther’s strategy…to bring about reform through protest.  Ultimately some of the reforms he sought, did come about and the Catholic Church of today is not what it was in the early 1500’s.  Millions of Roman Catholics around the world should be grateful for that.

Reform of religious practice has been present throughout history and not limited to Martin Luther’s.  In the Old Testament, there are examples of the Kings of Israel who brought about reform in the then current practice of the worship of the One True God. Hezekiah (II Kings 18: 1-8) and Josiah (II Kings 23: 1-20) are two examples and God blessed their reigns as kings because of the reform they brought about.

Perhaps the greatest example of reform in history is one that we are all familiar with.  But interestingly it is seldom, if ever, referred to as “reform”.  The advent, earthly ministry, sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was God’s most profound act of reformation.  The worship of God and even Jewish culture itself had been corrupted by the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes.  They had corrupted the Law and sacrifices to a point where God the Father could stand no more. While Christ was foretold as far back as Genesis 3, God had had enough and reform was needed.  We are all familiar with the story of Christ’s work, but in Hebrews 9 we are reminded that Christ Himself, brought about “the new order” (NIV) or “reformation” (NASB and ESV) in verse 10.

While reformation has been a pattern in church history, let me invite you to consider that reformation is something that should be present in our LIVES, not just today, on Reformation Day, but everyday.  We are all works in process. The “churchy” word is sanctification.  God, through the Holy Spirit, is working on us, improving us and making us more Christ-like.  Are we cooperating with Him?  We need to surrender to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and be reformed every day. With the constant bombardment of the world and its lusts and oh by the way, our sin nature, it is so easy for us to revert to the easy way of not following the Spirit.  Blogger Dave Bish from the United Kingdom says it beautifully:

“What I need is men and women who will rub the grace of God in the gospel into my heart.  Not just once a year, but daily. Not because I don’t know it, but because I do.  I need to be suspicious of myself – the word of God functions to correct and encourage, to rebuke and instruct.  Through His word God demands change of me in areas that I’ve never considered.  Not because it was never making those demands, but because God is working to change me from one degree of glory to another.”

May it be our prayer and our purpose to allow God to reform us from one degree of glory to another!  He wants to do it.  Are we willing to receive it?

Happy Reformation Day

See another article I wrote on Reformation day a few years agoby clicking HERE.


The Apostle

October 7, 2010

The Apostle – A Life of Paul by John Pollock was a surprisingly good book and a very enjoyable read.  I am not certain how to precisely classify the book, as it really is a hybrid of fiction and non-fiction that has been wrapped together in what reads like a biography of Saul of Tarsus, more commonly known simply as Paul. 

I used the term “fiction” because apart from the non-fictional information about the life of Paul that is available from scripture, virtually anything and everything else in the book was pure speculation, albeit well calculated and not in the least bit unreasonable.  So, what makes this book seem biographical in nature is the manner in which Pollock has woven his well calculated and reasonable speculation into the fabric of what we do know about Paul from the Bible.  Rather than simply reading about a few specific incidents in Acts, and understanding the theological mind of Paul from his letters, we are given a deeper look into what may have driven and motivated this man during his public ministry, as well as some helpful descriptions of what some of his sufferings might have been like.  What was really great about the book is that Pollock has a great knack for both story telling and for actually expositing scripture, and, if you are looking carefully, you can actually tell which is which.  And there were at least a couple of places where the author inserts a comment into his text that what he was about to write was simply unknown, but that he was going to take a certain route in explaining Paul’s life that seemed most reasonable given other evidence.  A hat tip to Pollock for his honesty.

Pollack, who has been deputized by the man himself to be the “official” biographer of Billy Graham, is a very good writer, based on this one sampling.  The book is not new by any means, with the original British edition copyrighted in 1972 and the U.S. edition in 1985, but it still available, now in paperback from Amazon.  Strictly an extra-Biblical resource, it nevertheless is a good one to add some texture to what was likely going on in and around Paul, as he evangelized the Gentile world of the first century A.D.  Read it.