If you attend any Lutheran church during the month of October, there’s a good chance you’ll hear something about 2017 being the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. You’re likely to hear about Martin Luther posting “95 Theses” on the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany, which kicked off a discussion of what he thought was wrong in the church. You’re likely to hear that Luther was not trying to start a “new” church but simply make some changes to the old. You may hear more about Luther than you care to!
But what you need to hear is what Luther emphasized, why he started the reformation of the church in the first place. Boil it all down and what makes Luther important is that he emphasized how people go to heaven not because of the good works they do but because of God’s grace.
The church of Luther’s day taught that to be forgiven of sins and get to heaven you had to do good works…lots of good works. But the Bible doesn’t teach that. And that’s what Luther came to see. He himself tried working for God’s forgiveness but could never get to the point where he felt like he did enough. He saw God as an angry judge and never felt he lived up to what God expected. He constantly felt guilty and many times was in complete despair.
But God led Luther to see him differently. Through the Bible, God showed Luther that he was also a God of love, of love that no one deserves, but love he gives anyway. God showed this undeserved love by sending his Son Jesus to be the world’s Savior, the one who died to take the penalty for everyone’s sins. Luther saw that there was no way he could earn God’s forgiveness: God forgives sins because of Jesus.
God shows that same undeserved love and mercy to you and me. That’s what the Reformation – and the Bible – is all about!