Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Reformation Day

Four hundred ninety-five years ago today, Martin Luther nailed his 95-Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg. This event is looked upon by many as having been the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

Basically Luther was protesting such practices as selling indulgences and granting absolution for oneself or a relative for a fee.  Many other things were involved of course, but at the heart of it all, Luther was complaining about practices that were not supported by the Word of God. He didn't want a religion that was filled with pretense and hypocrisy and that did not involve true repentance, faith and obedience.

There is the danger, in any age and in any church tradition, of beginning to rely on the habits, forms, vocabulary and rituals rather than the truth that underlies them. We begin to adopt performance or conformity of our behavior as a condition to merit salvation. If we attend the worship service. If we stand, sit and kneel at the appropriate time and speak the same religious jargon that those around us use, we consider ourselves "in". We adopt an easy-believism which claims salvation but denies God by the way we live our lives. (See Titus 1:16) These are as very real dangers today as they were in Martin Luther's day.

Our faith must be in the truths taught in Scripture and not in our particular worship tradition. Our faith must be genuine and not superficial.  With all of this in mind, I'd like to review what I believe are essential truths that the Bible teaches regarding our salvation.

Salvation is by grace through faith and it is a gift from God. It is not earned or merited in any way. (Ephesians 2:8,9)  It is based on the facts given to us in God's Word. Christ bore our sins in his own body on the cross. (1 Peter 2:24) He was buried and rose again the third day. (I Cor. 15:3-5)  We've been given he Christ's righteous record as our own. (2 Cor 5:21). There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1) We are justified by grace. (Romans 3:24) We have peace with God. (Romans 5:1) We are reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:18) We are redeemed from the curse of the law. (Galatians 3:13)

So we see that God has granted to us everything we need for life and godliness. All is a gift of His grace. None of it is earned or merited.

The second essential point I would like to make is that salvation includes God's changing us. 2 Corinthians 5:17.  This change may be slow, but it will be there. There is no such thing as a truly saved person who isn't being changed day by day into the likeness of Christ. It is part of the whole saving process. God promised to give His people a new heart and new motivation. (Ezekiel 36:26,26) He promised to write his law in our hearts so that there would be a natural desire to obey Him. (Jeremiah 31:33)  In the change we call salvation, we are regenerated and renewed. (Titus 3:5)  His grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live soberly, righteously and godly. (Titus 2:12). This teaching removes the claim of having faith in Christ but yet not having any interest in doing things God's way. We can easily deceive ourselves and that is why God tells us that we should examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. (2 Cor. 13:5)

Finally, salvation is entered by genuine repentance and faith. God commands all men everywhere to repent. (Acts 17:30)  Jesus said to repent and believe the gospel. (Mark 1:15) Paul preached repentance toward God and faith toward Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21)  He also preached that people should repent, turn to God, and do works fitting for repentance. (Acts 26:20)  In fact he taught that it is godly sorrow the produces repentance that leads to salvation. (2 Cor 7:10).

No matter what religious tradition you are a part of, let me encourage you to examine yourself to make sure you are not merely going through motions. Going through your church's traditions and rituals does not save anyone. What saves is a recognition that before God we are guilty and condemned. But Jesus Christ paid our eternal debt-punishment and God is willing to credit us with Jesus' perfect righteous obedience if we are willing to turn from our current path and put our faith and trust in these offers that God has made to us through Jesus Christ. Then all of the things we have discussed above will be yours.

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