“For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” Romans 1:17
About a month ago, I was surprised to find that one of my neighbors had totally decorated their yard to get ready for Halloween. Mind you, this was not just some sort of simple pumpkin on the porch, but an entire Hollywood transformation. Maybe it is just me, but it seems like Halloween is becoming a bigger holiday each year.
If you study your calendar for the month of October, you can’t help but notice that “Reformation Day” is on October 31, the same day as Halloween. Scholars are not entirely agreed on how the two days connected in history. However, I do believe it points to some important issues for us to consider about our faith and changes going on in American society and the Church today.
The great reformer, Martin Luther, used October 31, 1517 as the day to post his “Ninety-Five Thesis” on a church door in Germany to protest spiritual abuses by the Catholic Church that led to the selling of salvation. Prior to that time, Europe was a prisoner of confusing laws and traditions that held millions in spiritual bondage....including the sensitive conscience of a tortured, young monk named Luther. Luther was gloriously set free from these abuses as a result of his study of the Bible and the revelation of God’s amazing grace to him in the Gospel. Luther’s new-found freedom in Christ launched a movement that changed the course of Western Civilization and the history of the world. All of our lives today have been profoundly affected by this issue, even if we havn’t recognized it.
The specific thing Luther discovered came from a correct understanding of Romans 1:17, listed above. Luther understood that the Lord was NOT looking for his goodness or righteousness, but instead wanted him to have Christ’s goodness and righteousness as a wonderful gift of His love. In writing about this discovery of God’s grace Luther wrote, “Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself though open gates. There a totally other face of Scripture showed itself to me.” Luther had finally found the true meaning of the Bible and the Lord Who wrote it.
Luther’s discovery of the transforming grace of God was shared by many other people in his day and eventually became the Reformation. Few events in history have had such a profound effect on the lives of men and women as the Reformation. We don’t hear much about it anymore, but America was founded as a fruit of the Reformation period. Without Luther and the Reformation, America as we know it would not exist.
The surprise about “Reformation Day” is that few know or even seem to care about it anymore. Everyone knows about Halloween. As a result, it appears that we have lost an important understanding of the Lord’s grace, love and salvation, and traded them for a silly pagan holiday. What happened? How do you explain that? I think you will find few people in the Church today who could tell you much about it one way or another. Reformation Day has truly become the Church's lost holiday.
Let’s return to my neighbor’s front yard. The messages of that front yard and the growing size of Halloween in America are simple. If we don’t know the Lord, all of us will eventually drift into paganism sooner or later. Sadly, that is the direction that America is moving toward today. We are moving deeper and deeper into paganism as we leave our Christian heritage and roots behind. All of this is happening right before our eyes, but few see it and even fewer will speak about it. After all, who likes to talk about paganism anyway? Isn’t everyone a good person? Does sin really exist? Who really needs grace, after all?
And yet, there is STILL good news to discover and celebrate. Have you discovered the meaning of grace for your life? Have you ever shared it with others? What is your understanding of Romans 1:17? Those are the real questions of the Reformation that are still relevant today. If we lose sight of God’s love and grace, what is left in life that is truly worth having and living for each day?
The Carlson Report celebrates “Reformation Day” today. Here’s to Martin Luther. Here’s to all the men and women who died to make sure it at least got on the calendar. The rest is up to us, their spiritual descendants. Let’s celebrate the Lord and His grace to us this weekend and leave the Halloween decorations to someone else.