“Do you know what the Devil thinks when he sees men use violence to propagate the gospel? He sits with folded arms behind the fire of hell, and says with malignant looks and frightful grin: ’Ah, how wise these madmen are to play my game! Let them go on; I shall reap the benefit. I delight in it.’ But when he sees the Word running and contending alone on the battle-field, then he shudders and shakes for fear. The Word is almighty, and takes captive the hearts.”
– Martin Luther –
Last night, we had a Reformation Day service at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Jackson. It was a cool experience for a lot of reasons. Trinity and Redeemer (my church) have a long history together, and it’s pretty awesome to see them continue to be fond of one another and staying connected. A service like that, where two local bodies come together to worship and fellowship afterwards, is something I’ve never experienced before, but it’s a glimpse of what I think heaven is going to look like. As our ruling elder Bryant Taylor said during his prayer, we were two distinct congregations yet one unified body. It was a great night and one I hope to get to experience again soon.
Since the service was a celebration of the Reformation and all, Ken Pierce (the pastor at Trinity) shared some backstory. Imagine you go to church every Sunday, but you don’t have a Bible (largely because you can’t even read), the church’s Bible is chained to the front of the church and written in a different language, and the services are presented in a different language. You, as a churchgoer, are not trusted to hear the Word of God in a language you’re familiar with because you aren’t thought of as able to interpret and understand it.
Not only that, but the message being preached and proclaimed was one of works righteousness. Say penance, buy indulgences, go to confession, etc. (aka live a righteous life), and you’re in. Don’t do those things, and you’re not in.
Then God called Martin Luther to change the world, based on the message from Romans 10:5-13:
For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
So, while I am very excited about Halloween and celebrating it with some great friends at a super fun party, today is a day for thankfulness for a lot of things. I’m thankful for a tradition that seeks to stay close to the heart of the Reformation, continuing to preach the gospel of grace that Paul talks about here in Romans 10. I’m thankful for a tradition that values the Word of God as its life and authority. And I’m thankful for a church that is truly committed to reaching our community with the gospel (and I’m praying that God will continue to move me beyond the “this is a great idea” phase of everything to the “I’m ready to actively engage this, le’s do it” phase).
And, above all, I am thankful that I have been saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. I’m thankful that God has given us His Word to read, study, and preach.
Soli Deo Gloria!
(and Happy Halloween too!)