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1st Sunday of End Time – Reformation Sunday

Baptism- Matthew 28:19-20
Luther was born November 10, 1483.  The very next day his father took him to the church to be baptized.  Since November 11 is St. Martin’s day, they named him Martin.  He was also given another name on that day.  When the minister poured water on his head and read the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and Holy Spirit,” Martin Luther was called “God’s son.”  Although for a while Martin Luther didn’t recognize it, on that day God made Martin Luther His very own child.

The same is true for us.  You and I, too, can look back on our baptism and see what a great miracle God did in each one of us.   He washed you clean from sin, put faith in your heart, gave you a new life, and claimed you as his very own child.  You also have the name written on you “God’s son” or “God’s daughter.”  And that’s GOOD NEWS!

Crisis in Life- Galatians 3:10
Martin Luther was a gifted student and studied to become a lawyer.  During his schooling he came down with a serious fever, once almost bled to death, and witnessed many people around him dying.  Perhaps Luther often thought about dying and what his relationship with God was.  He tells us that he saw God as a fearful judge who was never satisfied no matter what he did.  His soul was in turmoil.  Then on the road to Erfurt, lightning struck near him and he cried out to St. Anne- the patron saint of miners- and vowed to become a monk, surely he would find some rest for his soul in the strict obedience of the monastery!

Oh, it sounds so right doesn’t it?  “There must be something that I can or have to do to earn salvation; to earn God’s favor!  God simply is not dumb, surely he demands something of us!”  But what does God demand?  Perfection in everything.  God says, “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”  Cursed is anyone who relies on the law to be saved!

The Righteous will live by faith- Romans 1:17
You are forgiven!  Jesus lived a perfect and innocent life for you.  Jesus died to pay for every one of your sins.  Jesus rose from the dead to declare you innocent!  Your sins have been taken away.

But Luther didn’t understand this right away.  He spent his time in strict monastery obedience.  He was also put to work lecturing and preaching on the Bible.  The false teaching of the Catholic Church still caused him to misunderstand God and His Word.  Although he lived in strict obedience to monastery rules, his sins still gnawed at him and his conscience greatly plagued him.   He said, “I could not believe that he (God) was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God …”

The Lord worked through his powerful Word and convinced Martin Luther of the truth.  Finally, he understood.  The righteousness of God is NOT the righteousness God demands of us, rather, the righteousness of God is what He credits to us, it is a gift, it is free, it is ours by faith!  The righteous life Jesus lived is now credited to us- He took our sins on Himself and gave us His perfect robe of righteousness.  So, instead of earning or deserving God’s love or God’s forgiveness by something we do, God’s love and forgiveness is freely ours.  It is completely separate from anything we do or do not do; in grace God credits us with the perfect life that Jesus lived.  That’s awesome news!

Indulgences come to Germany; Taking a stand! 1 Corinthians 15:57-58
God convinced Luther through the Word that God is a God of love.  Luther dove into Scripture and little by little discarded the errors taught by the Catholic Church.  Luther proclaimed the truth of Scripture again and it caused quite a stir among the Church and the Empire. Specifically, when the Catholic Church was selling indulgences (pieces of paper that would “forgive sins”), on October 31, 1517 Luther posted 95 statements on the church door asking for a debate on this subject.  Luther wanted to get a chance to defend his teaching based on Scripture and to bring the Catholic Church back to God’s Word. Instead of debating with Luther on the basis of Scripture, the Church tried to please him, then threatened him, and finally the pope excommunicated him. The Church never did give him the chance to defend his teaching; rather they only wanted to hear him recant his teaching.  Finally, Luther stood before the Emperor himself and the Emperor asked him if he would recant or else he would be an outlaw.  Luther answered, “If I am not convicted by testimony from the Holy Scriptures or by common, clear, and evident reasons… and if I am not convicted by my own published writing, my conscience being held fast in the Word of God, then I can not and will not recant anything, for it is neither safe nor advisable to act against conscience. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me! Amen!”

It sure didn’t look like Luther was in a position to win a victory.  How could he be right and everyone else in the Church, the great Catholic theologians, be wrong?  But Luther took to heart God’s Word, “”But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you.” You and I take to heart God’s Word too.  Stand firm on God’s Word.  When society says God’s teachings aren’t “popular,” stand firm.  Stand firm on all of God’s Word.   When church bodies go away from God’s Word and trust in human teachings, stand firm on God’s Word!

Final Victory! Psalm 118:15-19
On February 18, 1546 Luther was on his death bed.  He was asked if he still held to all of the teachings he rediscovered from the Bible and Luther responded with a firm “Yes.”  After that, God gave Luther the final victory.  What great news when God takes one of His own to heaven!

What a God of love we have!  He sent Martin Luther to lead the church back to the good news of the Bible.  Like Luther we too want to treasure God’s Word, hold firmly on to it, and share its good news with other.  So finally, reassured from God’s Word we close our eyes in death only to open them in life eternal!  “Shouts of joy and victory…”