It’s been 500 years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg, Germany.
As a girl in Minnesota I grew up going to a Lutheran church, of course. If you live here, chances are that you’re Lutheran and you go to potlucks. 😉
What is sad and ironic is that my church was very dry and I came away with a sense that if I followed certain rules I was accepted by God. Ironic because that was the very thing Luther was revolting against. I was given a Bible after I went through confirmation which I kept on my bedside table at all times and occasionally attempted to read. I remember trying to slog my way through Leviticus before I gave up.
Of course a system of rules just isn’t very compelling especially as you grow up and your world view gets very much expanded.
When I did come back to God and was filled with the Holy Spirit, the Bible came to life for me. I read through the New Testament for the first time and was blown away. This wasn’t dry or boring at all. It was alive and exciting.
To me, the reformation freed the common believer to experience God firsthand. It gave the people access to the previously inaccessible- the Word of God in the common language. It seems shocking to us but 500 years ago the church didn’t want the Bible translated into the common tongue. They actually rounded up all the copies they could find and burned them. I guess they wanted to be the people’s only access to God and salvation.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9
There aren’t certain believers that are elevated above the rest. “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism…” Acts 10:34 Titles and positions are bestowed by people, not God.
Any believer, anywhere can go directly into God’s presence through our High Priest, Jesus Christ. “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God…Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16
This verse is saying that we all have Jesus as our perfect priest, and therefore we can commune directly with God. We don’t have to go to “middle men” or settle for some kind of second hand experience.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 It doesn’t say if we confess and then jump through a bunch of hoops to earn what God has already freely given through his shed blood on the cross….
The Bible says that we are heirs of God and Co-Heirs with Christ. Romans 8:17 Jesus was a priest, and if we are filled with his spirit, we are a part of a royal priesthood. It’s our spiritual inheritance and it comes from God himself.
I think it is human nature to elevate the spiritual superstars of our times. I remember doing just that with my favorite Bible teacher. I could tell she was an amazing godly woman and such a talented writer. I didn’t think I could ever live up to that so I read all her books and blogs and put her up on a pedestal. I can just see God shaking his head and saying; “child, don’t you realize I love you every bit as much as I love her?”
There aren’t any rules we can follow to make God love us more than he already does.
He doesn’t want great things from us or even steadfast obedience so much as he wants our hearts. He wants us to know him and love him the way he knows and loves us. Consider the prayer Jesus prayed for us before he was crucified; My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17:21-22
There are many traditions and denominations in the church but none of us are saved through church membership. We aren’t saved by communion. We aren’t even saved by baptism.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God….” Ephesians 2:8
My fear is that so many people are missing it. They may warm a pew occasionally but they have no real, living relationship with their Savior. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:23
Martin Luther was not a perfect man, not at all. But God doesn’t use perfect people. The reformation was an important step into bringing us common, everyday people into the very presence of God and obtaining the gift of salvation, unencumbered by extra-biblical traditions and rules.