Reformation Day is one of my favorite days of the year. It is coming up on October 31st. Jane's due date is November 7th, but I wouldn't be mad if she came exactly one week early. I'd love if we had a lil Reformation baby. We will see!
The Reformation of the sixteenth century is close to my heart because learning about it was pivotal for my own faith in Christ during college. I had sincere belief, but wrestled with questions about the faith and about the Bible and Christian history. I struggled to make sense of whether I was a Christian because I personally wanted to be or because I grew up in a Christian home in the Bible Belt. I struggled to understand how I could be a Christian and still sin.
With that last concern in particular, it was quotes like this I was finding from men like Martin Luther that kept me digging in the history:
"So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: 'I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!'"
I remember reading this quote in a biography on Luther I was reading. It was in the summer of 2017, and I was alone in my college dorm room, discouraged about my disobedience to God and questioning if I ever really knew him. Reading Luther's advice brought me to tears and I prayed and asked the Lord to help me see Christ and his sacrifice for me in this way; that Jesus took on the punishment of my sins, those that I committed before knowing him, as well as those I have committed while knowing him. I believe I have sinned in worse ways as a Christian than I did before I was a Christian. That is a hard pill to swallow, and its the kind of thing the devil loves to throw in your face. But in Christ, I can admit that, and be astonished at his grace to die for me, knowing I would still, at times, go back to sin. He became my curse for me. As John said, "I am writing to you, little children, in order that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1). His advocacy makes me want to obey him even more.
2017 is the year when Church history became close to my heart, because of moments like these. The same struggles I experienced day in and day out as a Christian were not uncommon in the history of the church. I found that as I read about and from believers in the past, my faith was encouraged. A great cloud of witnesses in the Christian past offer so much of value. We can see how they struggled, suffered, and turned to Christ in those moments. We can see how they understood Scripture and applied its teaching to their life. We can see how they lived as families and churches. We can see how they engaged a lost, and many times hostile, world. I have consistently found all of this in the centuries of the Christian tradition, especially in people like Augustine, Athanasius, Martin Luther, William Tyndale, John Calvin, Herman Bavinck, Martin Lloyd Jones and many more.
The Reformation, though, is where it all started for me, and I have not lost an interest in the time period since then. That is why I look forward to Reformation Day each year. I have invited some guys over to our house this Friday to watch a documentary about Martin Luther that I try to watch yearly around this time. The documentary belongs to Ligonier Ministries and is free to watch for the month of October. October is always a fresh reminder not only of a great work of God in the history of the church, but of the impact of the Christian past on my life today. The faith was passed down by men and women of every generation. And by God's grace, we have the ability to reach back and hear from every generation in Christian history. The Reformation generation just happens to be my favorite.
I encourage you to watch the free documentary! Or, if you want to read something about Luther, here is a picture below of my favorites. And I will end with the first line of Luther's 95 Theses, which marks the beginning of the Reformation.
"When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, 'Repent' (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance."