In 1505, a 21-year-old Martin Luther was walking in the midst of a tremendous thunderstorm when a bolt of lightning struck the ground near him. The average bolt of lightning, contains roughly one billion joules of energy. This is enough to power a 60-watt light bulb for six months! In Martin Luther’s case, it contained enough energy to scare him in to becoming a monk. Shortly after the lightning bolt incident, he sold all of his possessions and entered the monastery.
While at the monastery, he came to be known as an incredibly “successful” monk. That meant he immersed himself in prayer and fasting and all of the disciplines of the monastic life. He once commented that “If anyone could have earned their way to heaven by the life of a monk, it was I.” Yet, he found himself continually discouraged and no amount of discipline or tradition was found to help.
At the age of 27, after a visit to Rome, he became very disheartened by the corruption he saw in the church and among many of the priests. He began to study Scripture in search of the answers and the hope he was looking for and between the years 1512 – 1518, he went through a series of intellectual revelations, especially after studying the book of Romans.
On October 31, we will celebrate the 500th anniversary of when Martin Luther infamously nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church and the Reformation was born. The basic tenants of the Reformation are: Scripture Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Christ Alone, To the Glory of God Alone. The tenants of the Reformation have had a major impact on me personally. Here’s why:
Scripture Alone – When reading the Bible, I discover that God, ,through Jesus, is restoring everything that sin has ruined The Bible alone is God’s word to mankind. In it I find the very words of God. With those words I am taught what is true, shown was is wrong, corrected when I stray, taught to do what is right, equipped for every good work, comforted in every struggle, and given the opportunity to know the God of the Universe. I’m no longer chained to tradition or bound by the words of those in “religious authority.” I can open up God’s word, study it for myself (or better yet, in community with other followers of Jesus), and then trust the Holy Spirit to soften my heart, open my eyes, and empower me to obey.
Faith Alone – This is not faith in my faith. Depending on the day, my faith can be weak or strong. If I place my faith in my faith, then I’m setting myself up for a very unbalanced life. My faith is not in my faith. My faith is in God who “does not change like the shifting shadows” (James 1:17). My cry of faith is to Him alone for salvation. I do not trust in the size of my faith or the strength of my faith because even my faith can then become an idol. What you boast in is what gives you confidence to face the day. I do not want to boast in my faith. I want to boast in the object of my faith. “As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Galatians 6:14)
Grace Alone – Without grace I find myself seeking to earn something from God. So as long as I’m “doing, doing, doing” … God is happy with me. But, if I’m “don’ting, don’ting, don’ting” … God is out to get me. What an exhausting way to live. Grace frees me from all of that. God’s grace says that even my best “doing” would never be enough to earn His favor and it also says that my worst “don’ting” is never enough to lose His favor. “Grace never calls wrong, right. Grace is a way of dealing with the wrong.” (Tripp) “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8 – 9)
Christ Alone – “Jesus lived the perfect life of obedience so we could be saved from striving to live that life on our own. God declares us to be righteous, not because of any work we have done, but because of the work Jesus did. (Romans 5:1) We can rest from working to measure up to perfection. We can ceases striving to be perfect by our own strength and efforts. We can rest in the life of Jesus lived on our behalf (Matthew 11:29, Romans 5:8 – 9) … Jesus died in our place to save us from the wrath of God and the penalty of sin, which is spiritual, relational, and physical death (Romans 6:23) He saves us from spiritual death and makes us alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:4 – 5) He atones for our guilt and removes our shame (Romans 8:1 – 3). He reconciles us to God so that we can also be reconciled to one another (2 Corinthians 5:18). And ultimately, though our bodies will fail and die, he will give us glorified resurrection bodies that will live forever … We are new! We are alive! We are free! We are no longer slaves to sin, but are now slaves to righteousness – slaves to what is truly living!” (Vanderstelt)
To the Glory of God Alone – As much as I’m tempted to make it so, my life is not about me. I am not the center of the Universe. And, even my salvation is not about me. It’s about God! He put something of Himself on display through saving me … His holiness, His love, His justice, His grace, His compassion, His mercy, His righteousness. The salvation I have received is more about the One who gave it rather than the one who received it. If and when I begin to lose sight of this, I forget that I am saved only by grace alone … not because I was voted most likely to become a Christian. If I forget that my salvation is more about God than it is about me, I am in danger of becoming less in awe of God and more in awe of me. “For everything comes from Him and exists by His power and is intended for His glory. All glory to Him forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:36) The only reason that I can look in the mirror and say to myself that “I am saved” is because God is kind and I am loved by Him.
Scripture Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Christ Alone, To the Glory of God Alone … may God continue to use these truths to remind us of His goodness. “I will praise the Lord, and may everyone on earth bless His holy name forever and ever.” (Psalm 145:21)