Reformation 500

October 31st isn’t just the day little kids dress up in costumes and knock on strangers doors demanding candy. It is a date far more historically meaningful than any ghost, goblin or Disney character. It is also the date that marks the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. That glorious event that reclaimed many of the biblical truths you may take for granted today and reshaped the world in sweeping and dramatic ways. 

This October is especially important as it marks the Reformation’s 500-year anniversary. 

I have obsessed over the celebration of this momentous event. So much so that my wife is sick of hearing the names Luther, Calvin, and Zwingly. But not everyone is equally enamored with Reformation Day. Many ask the question, “Why does the Reformation matter?” 

A great deal has happened in the half millennia since Martin Luther nailed his theses to the chapel door and you are its beneficiary. But from what have you benefited? 

The Reformation is not a date on the calendar or a mere historical event but as something alive and active in your life today. Below are two reasons the Protestant Reformation matters today.

1. The Bible you hold in your hands or keep in your pocket.

Reading the Bible for yourself was not a common or acceptable practice 500 years ago. The church told you what it said, what it meant and what you were to believe. The concept of a commoner with a Bible in their language was so unthinkable that it got John Wycliffe in trouble nearly 200 years before Luther. Wycliffe died before he could finish translated the Scriptures into English, but that didn’t stop authorities from digging up his body, burning it and throwing the ashes into the river. That’s what you call opposition to an idea! 

The reformers picked up Wycliffe’s torch and ran with it by translating the Bible into the languages of everyday people. They put the words of God into the hands of men and women to read and learn for themselves. 

While facing martyrdom Luther declared, “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason-for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves–I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen.” 

If your heart and mind are to be held captive to the Word of God, you have to be able to read and know what it says. Without the tireless efforts of the reformers, you may not have the access and knowledge of exactly what the Bible says. 

2. Justification by faith alone.

The reformers reclaimed the very heart of the gospel. The sweet and simple message of the good news of salvation was corrupted by the Roman Catholic Church. A system of penance and religion had replaced the finished work of Christ. Luther led the charge to recover the truths of the gospel—namely that salvation is by faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone. 

The Westminister Catechism expresses this clearly in question 70: 

Question: What is justification?

Answer: Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners, in which he pardons all their sins, accepts and accounts their persons righteous in his sight; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.

Talk about an issue worth standing and ultimately dying for! 

Luther was right that justification is, “the article by which the church stands or falls.” It was the case 500 years ago and it remains so in our day. Too many have abandoned the truths of Scripture delivered to us, chief among which is how a man is saved. The church needs to hear the call of the gospel again today and every day.  

Spiritual Disciplines: Worship

We continue our reading of Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life together this week by turning our time and attention to the topic of Worship. If you’d like to know more about what we’re doing, you can read about it here: Will You Read Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life With Me? Last week, we learned how the discipline of prayer helps us grow to be more like Christ. In that post, we discovered that meditation on Scripture is the fuel for our prayer life. 

“The rigid rehearsal of a routine,” Whitney said, “is not the same as rightly practicing a Spiritual Discipline.” Don’t hold onto things too tightly. Hold them loosely instead. Our goal in studying the Spiritual Disciplines is that we might grow in Christlikeness, not that we would morph into strange creatures so weighed down by activities and routines that we completely miss their purpose. Remember that we are after growth in godliness not a growing to do list! 

Summary  

“Worship,” Whitney says, “is focusing on and responding to God.” It’s why we are here, and our purpose for eternity but what does it look like and what does it have to do with our growing in Christlikeness? 

Most picture standing and singing without end when they think of worship and specifically heaven. Popular culture and poor teachers of Scripture have done us a disservice by allowing this image to of worship to remain in our minds. Singing songs to and about God can be worship, but there is more to the worship of God than songs and hymns. 

Nearly any practice can be turned into a moment of worship. “To worship God,” Whitney said, “means to ascribe the proper worth to God, to magnify His worthiness of praise, or better, to approach and address God as He is worthy.” There is no shortage of opportunities to reflect back to God His worth. Drinking a cup of coffee while watching the sun erupt over the horizon can cause praise of the Father to overwhelm your heart. When spontaneous affections for God rise in your heart, you are worshiping God. 

“The more we focus on God,” Whitney said, “the more we understand and appreciate His infinite worth.” It’s not simply that we allow our mind to drift to occasional thoughts of God but rather our intentional focus upon Him that constitutes worship. Focus is key in our understanding of what it means to worship God. Only when God is the center of our attention can He be uppermost in our affection.  

We aren’t to focus our minds towards vague thoughts about God, however, but upon specific attributes and truths about Him found in Scripture. “all worship of God—public, family, and private worship,” Whitney said, “should be based upon and include much of the Bible. The Bible reveals God to us.” God has revealed Himself to us generally through Creation, more specifically in the Bible, and most deliberately in His incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.  

The Bible therefore is central to our proper worship of God. For it is within Scripture that we learn of the life, death, burial and resurrection of Christ. It is Scripture that we find example after example of faithful men who loved God, yet remained heavily tainted by sin. We see how God intentionally pursued them and in turn see how He has done the same with us. “As we meditate on this and begin to discover more of what it means for God to be holy,” Whitney said, “the Holy Spirit causes the desire to worship Him to overwhelm us.”

This brings to mind Jesus words to the women at the well in John 4:23-24. There he reveals this powerful link between worshiping in spirit and truth. “Before we can worship in spirit and truth we must have within us the One who is the ‘Spirit of truth’, (John 14:17), that is, the Holy Spirit.” Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, true worship can not happen. 

“The Holy Spirit,” Whitney said, “opens minds to the truth of Scripture and awakens hearts that were dead toward God.” He aides us in finding new occasions to praise God each time we open our Bibles. We see new and different things that while present before, did not catch our notice. As we meditate on Scripture the Holy Spirit is at work to kindle our emotions towards worship. 

Worship in truth is worship according to the truth of Scripture.

1.) We worship God as He is revealed in the Bible, not as we might want Him to be. We worship Him according to the truth of who He says He is: a God of both mercy and justice, of love and wrath, who both welcomes into heaven and condemns into hell. 

2.) Worship according to the truth of Scripture means to worship God in the ways to which He has given His approval in Scripture. In other words, we should do in the worship of God what God says in the Bible we should do in worship.”

The title for this and every chapter includes the words “for the purpose of godliness.” Whitney’s book is not concerned merely with our learning new and interesting things about the Spiritual Disciplines. He is more concerned with helping us see how each is given to us by God for our growth in conformity to the image of Christ.

What about worship conforms us to His image? 

“Godliness without the worship of God,” Whitney said, “is unthinkable.” We can’t grow to resemble the character and grace of a God we spend little time beholding. “The worship of God makes believers more godly,” Whitney said, “because people become like their focus.” What we choose to think about shapes us. If we fill our minds with good, pure, honorable things the same will ooze out of us. 

For all we have learned worship to be in this chapter, we must come to grips with the reality that it is both a public and private affair. The one is meant to feed the other. Our private worship of God in meditation upon Scripture and prayer is meant to fuel our corporate worship on Sundays. We will seldom worship a God on Sunday that we haven’t spent time with in private all week long. The opposite is also true. 

Reflection

I’ve often taken worshiping God for granted. I wrongly assumed that all He wanted from me was a few moments each morning and an hour on Sunday. That idea couldn’t be farther from the truth. God not only desires a deeper richer relationship with us, but has gone to great links to secure it. Why would I not meditate on His Word, thank Him for all He has done for me in Christ and all He is doing in my life through the power of the Holy Spirit? My failure to understand how sweet an invitation to spend time with Him is, is shameful. 

Reading this chapter was the kick in the pants I needed. “We minimize our joy,” Whitney said, “when we neglect the daily worship of God in private.” I’ve found the same to be true about the neglect of public worship as well. I rarely miss my private devotional time. It’s part of my morning routine. But too often I allow myself to miss the joy of gathering with other believers for corporate worship. Sure, there are valid reasons why we miss Sundays, but my heart is the real issue. It should bother me to miss seeing and worshiping with my church family. It should be as important to me as my daily time in Scripture. 

Next Week

We will continue with the next chapter (chapter six) of the book next Sunday. We may be in the middle of this series, but it’s never too late to get the book and join in. Click here to see what ground we have covered so far.  

Your Turn

I’d like to hear what stood out to you in this week. Please post your reflections, and thoughts in the comment section below. If you have shared your thoughts on your own blog, please link to it as well. Do not feel the need to be profound or to share something new. Simply share what caught your eye, or stirred your heart as you read. 
 

Keeping Truth Before You

“Everything,” Andre Gide said, “that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.” 

And better still—it is worth hearing again.

There are messages you need to set before your eyes and ears on a regular basis. 

Cheif among them are the truths of the gospel of grace. 

Preach it to yourself daily, even moment by moment if need be. 

Make it the refrain of your life. 

Reading excellent books is one of the best ways to keep biblical truth before you. 

I’m inviting you to read Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney with me for this reason. 

You can find out more about what we’re doing here if you missed last Sunday’s post. 

I am excited to dive into the Spiritual Disciplines once more and see all the Lord has in store for us these next thirteen weeks. 

We will kick off the series next Sunday, August 20th and I would love for you to jump in with us. 

If you’d like to read along, I found the best price on Amazon. You can order it here if you’re so inclined. 

Note: The link above is an affiliate link. I earn a small commission should you choose to use it while making your book purchase.