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"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable,  and perfect, will of God."   -Romans 12:2

Today Marks the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation!

Luther Posts His 95 Theses

by Rusty Entrekin

T oday, October 31st, 2017, is a day worthy of celebration. We should be ringing bells everywhere, and I truly mean it. It's the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation! On this day 500 years ago, Martin Luther bravely posted his 95 theses on the local social media forum of his day - the door of All Saints Church, in Wittenberg Germany!

What was the Protestant Reformation all about? In a nutshell, it centered around one very important issue - how to get saved and escape the punishment of hell for your sins.

The New Testament has a very simple solution for that: simply trust in Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross for your sins. When you do, the New Testament teaches us that these wonderful things will happen.

  • The Holy Spirit will come to reside in you and will transform you into a new person who wants to live for God.
  • He will empower you and help you to live for God, too.
  • God will forgive you and wash away your sins, and will not condemn you to hell.
  • God will give you everlasting spiritual life - meaning that His Holy Spirit will never, ever depart from living inside of you, as He did with Adam and Eve when they sinned.
  • You will go to heaven when you die.

If you don't believe me, you can read this for yourself in John 3:16 and John 10:27-29:

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." - John 3:16

"My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them out of My hand. My Father who has given them to Me is greater than all. No one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand." - John 10:27-29

That is the very best news one could ever hear, isn't it? And it so simple that even a little child can understand it. But why, oh why, did people want to complicate a truth so simple and profound? That is what had happened by Luther's day. The New Testament's simple and pure teaching of salvation through faith in Jesus alone had become perverted. People were teaching that you must obtain salvation not just by faith, but that you also had to earn it by good deeds. And if people failed to measure up at doing that (and doesn't everyone), then they could purchase escape from purgatory for themselves or someone else through the church's sale of indulgences!

However, the apostle Paul made it very clear that it is not our good deeds that save us. Instead, it is God's grace (His undeserved favor and mercy) that saves us - through faith in Christ. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9,

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

Paul made it very clear the good works are the RESULT of salvation - NOT a way to EARN salvation, didn't he?

The money-raising tactics of a Domincan friar named Tetzel really got Luther's gander. Tetzel was raising money for the reconstruction of St. Peter's Basilca.

"When a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs" Tetzel proclaimed!

And so in theses 27 and 28 of those 95 theses posted on the door of the church, Luther wrote, "They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory. It is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and avarice can be increased..."

A lot of people agreed with Luther and his theses, and that is what sparked the Protestant Reformation. Ironically, Luther's goal at first was just to reform the Catholic church - not to spark a reformation that would eventually result in scores of new denominations. But the Roman Catholic church leaders of the day did not take too kindly to Luther. They would have executed Him, if his noble governmental leader Fredrick of Saxony had not rescued him. However, the Roman Catholic church eventually agreed with Luther, at least on the matter of indulgences. 50 years later, the Pope outlawed the sale of indulgences or their association with any financial transaction.

Strangely however, In 2009 indulgences became associated with money again. A February 9th, 2009 article by Paul Vitello which appeared in the NY Times stated,

"You can get one for yourself, or for someone who is dead. You cannot buy one — the church outlawed the sale of indulgences in 1567 — but charitable contributions, combined with other acts, can help you earn one. There is a limit of one plenary indulgence per sinner per day."

A plenary indulgence is a complete release from purgatory.

By contrast, Protestants do not teach that true believers go to purgatory for their sins, because Jesus died for those sins. Rather, they will suffer a loss of reward for the good deeds they could have been doing instead. They also regard God as an impartial judge whose rulings cannot be influenced by money - no matter how much of it one has.

As for me, I am so glad that the NT teaches that my salvation was purchased and earned by Jesus, and not by me. I am grateful that God, in his great mercy and His grace, made it possible for imperfect human beings like me, who try to measure up to God's standards, but fail to fully achieve them, to be saved. What a burden lifted! And so it is with gratitude and love that I serve Him, and not out of fear that if I do not measure up, I will be condemned to hell. Though I have a healthy fear and respect for our Father's loving discipline, as any son would with a loving father, I no longer fear God condemning me to hell.

So, let today be a reminder to reflect on the great and wonderful salvation that God has purchased for us through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus on the cross. Don't insult God by trying to earn or purchase your salvation. Instead, through faith in Jesus, receive salvation as exactly what it is -a free gift that cannot be bought, which God, in mercy, is lovingly offering to you. I urge you to simply accept it.