On this date, 498 years ago, a little-known monk in Wittenberg, Germany started a “little” controversy. He posted 95 declarations of debate on the door of the church in that town, intending to start a discussion with the Roman Catholic Church to transform her. Instead, he started the Protestant Reformation.
Some of the theses he proposed that day:
- Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ in saying: “Repent ye,” etc., intended that the whole life of believers should be penitence.
- This word cannot be understood of sacramental penance, that is, of the confession and satisfaction, which are performed under the ministry of priests.
- Every Christian who feels true compunction has of right plenary remission of pain and guilt, even without letters of pardon.
- Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has a share in all the benefits of Christ and of the Church, given him by God, even without letters of pardon.
- The true treasure of the Church is the Holy Gospel of the glory and grace of God.
- We affirm on the contrary that Papal pardons cannot take away even the least of venial sins, as regards its guilt.
- Christians should be exhorted to strive to follow Christ their head through pains, deaths, and hells.
- And thus trust to enter heaven through many tribulations, rather than in the security of peace.
We are grateful for Luther’s work, along with the other Reformers:
It is fitting that we still remember Martin Luther today, nearly five centuries after he first posted his famous Ninety-Five Theses on the church door. He was truly larger than life; his legacy is known the world over. Yet, it is most fitting that we remember him because he so ably pointed beyond himself to Christ.
Many churches celebrate Luther and his accomplishments on Reformation Day. It is a day about history, a time to remember what happened in the past. It is also about the present. It is about the power of the gospel to break through the noise and static of the world and to point to Christ. That gospel broke through in the life of monk bent on getting to heaven through his own efforts. It broke through in a time and a place when the church had lost its way. That God used a monk and a mallet to do it amazed no one more than Luther himself. [Stephen J. Nichols, The Reformation]
But there is still reformation work to be done. The church is always in need of renewal and change and we individually are also in need of renewal and reformation. It is that second concern that I want to address this morning from a familiar passage — Romans 12:2.
Specifically, I want to think with you about our personal reformation — how is it that we might be changed to be like Christ? And while we desire changed actions and ways of living, what Christ desires is inward change — heart change and soul transformation; and that is the very change we will find in this verse.
Paul identifies two steps in the process of inward reformation:
- Stop succumbing to worldly enticements
- Start renewing your mind