If I am being honest, when this time of year rolls around, I hear more and think more about Halloween than the Reformation. However, Reformation Day is one of the most significant days in the Christian faith. Martin Luther made a decision to stand up for the truth of Scripture and go against false teachings in the church. Today, we are going to go through facts about the Reformation and discover how this should influence our lives as modern-day believers.

Britannica describes the Reformation as the breaking off of the Protestant Christians from Roman Catholics, which occurred in the 16th century. When something sinful and wrong happens within a faith-based organization, it can cause a lot of fear and insecurity within those under the leadership. This is no new problem. Mark 7 describes the seriousness and the hurt that hypocrisy causes. Jesus Himself addresses the issues with the Pharisees. Although their lives looked put together and holy on the outside, their hearts were far from God.

Matthew 7:6-8 says, “He replied, ‘Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules. You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions’” (Reference: Isaiah 29:13).

During the time of Martin Luther, the church was telling people that they needed to pay indulgences to receive forgiveness for their sins. Randy Petersen from Christianity Today teaches that corruption was normal in the leadership of the early church. Specifically, he shares, “Leo X was Pope in Rome, a member of the high-living de Medici family. He dished out bishoprics to his favorite relatives and tapped the Vatican treasury to support his extravagant lifestyle. When the money ran out, he made use of a fairly new fundraising scheme—selling forgiveness of sins. For a fee, bereaved relatives could get a deceased loved one out of Purgatory. At the right price, they could also save up for their own future sins—sort of a spiritual IRA. Indulgences, they called them.”

Maybe this seems foreign to you, or perhaps you have been in a church situation yourself where the sins of leadership have negatively affected you and your church community? This is sadly a common problem in many churches and organizations. Those who are seeking to build their own kingdoms like Leo X are not seeking to build the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33).

Martin Luther knew that this sin was hurting the body of believers and someone needed to stand up for truth. Feeling compelled, he wrote 95 theses that expressed the divine authority of the Bible and that salvation is by faith alone. According to Luther.de  Martin Luther began with the first theses, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Luther ends with number 95 which says, “And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations rather than through the false security of peace (Acts 14:22).” From start to finish, we see the heart of repentance is from a place of devotion to Christ. We see the assurance of salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) clearly presented to all who read the theses.

3 Things We Can Learn from the Reformation:

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Luther knew the Word, and when someone tried to teach and lead others contrary to the truth, he revealed what God said about the matter. We too are called to hold our leadership to the integrity of Scripture. Yes, there is grace that no pastor or leader is perfect, however we are given the responsibility to share truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). It is always important to believe the best in people, but when we see someone in faith pointing people in a direction that is opposite of the truth and love of Christ, we need to raise the red flag. We likely won’t use 95 theses, but we like Luther can speak up or write in about our concerns.

None of us are above hypocrisy. We can pray that prayer of David in Psalm 139:23-24 which says, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” It is very easy to read a convicting Scripture verse or hear an amazing message but apply it to another person instead of our own lives. We need to be careful that we are not just living lives that appear holy, but that we have hearts after Christ. This means daily surrender and humility to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and His leading.

Our culture today is still corrupted by sin. We see people misusing the Bible in so many ways. There are some who deny the entirety of the Holy Word of God. There are others who diminish the value to the Old Testament. There are some who only share that Jesus loves you and give a message of prosperity that is not guaranteed in the life of a disciple of Jesus. There are others who use one Bible verse out of context to provide a message that they desire to present. There are some who use Scripture to lessen the value of people who are made in the image of God. So many challenges face us today when it comes to accurate interpretation and sermons from the Bible. Having a clear understanding of the Bible is not the job of the pastor, but the responsibility of each believer. When the Roman Catholic church relied on Leo X to read the Bible for them, they were led down a path of false teaching. May we always uphold Scripture with integrity individually and educate ourselves, not relying on others.

We can learn so many things from Martin Luther. He stood up against a false teaching of salvation. His boldness enabled many people to understand true salvation in Christ. The Lord used him to start a movement of Biblical accuracy and living out a genuine repentant faith while knowing that salvation comes from Jesus’ grace alone, not our own works. We are called as believers to still uphold these truths and share the love of Christ today to our generation.

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Emma DanzeyEmma Danzey’s mission in life is to inspire young women to embrace the extraordinary. One of her greatest joys is to journey with the Lord in His Scriptures. Emma is a North Carolina resident and green tea enthusiast! She is married to her husband Drew and they serve international college students. She enjoys singing, dancing, trying new recipes, and watching home makeover shows. During her ministry career, Emma recorded two worship EP albums, founded and led Polished Conference Ministries, ran the Refined Magazine, and served in music education for early childhood. Currently, she is in the editing stages of her first two writing projects: a Bible study on womanhood and a non-fiction book on singleness. You can visit her blog at emmadanzey.wordpress.com