Rockport Sermon

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happy Reformation Day!

So many, today, are unaware of the great significance of October 31st. Greater than Halloween (or Pumpkin Day), for it was on October 31st, 1517 that God used a timid young monk to begin one of the greatest revivals in history: The Reformation. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Apostle Paul wrote, in Romans 1:16-17,

16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed,
a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written:
"The righteous will live by faith."

When he read these words, nearly 500 years ago, they stunned the young monk who's name happened to be Martin. Up to that point, he’d been taught by his Church that salvation came as a result of his own efforts to be righteous by doing good and trying his hardest to keep the commands of the Law laid down by the priests and bishops. And try, he did – as hard as any man could. He fasted. He prayed. He wept. He confessed his sins. Yet still he was plagued by doubts and tormented by the guilt of his sins. It nearly drove him mad!

How could he, sinner that he knew he was, ever hope to be righteous in the eyes of God! That was his problem. He knew his sin. He knew God was holy. He understood that even if he did manage to purge the sin from his life (as impossible as that was!) and even if he did come to the place where he could believe he was righteous 98% of the time, with only 2% sin remaining, still he knew he would fall short of God’s perfect standards. What could he do? When told by his superiors that he must simply “Love God”, in the agony of his soul he cried out,”Love God? Sometimes I think I hate Him!”

But God had mercy upon young Martin. He was assigned the task, by one of his superiors, of teaching the New Testament. And there, in the book of Romans, God opened his eyes and let him see the simple, life-giving truth of the Gospel – that God gives the righteousness He requires freely, as a gift, to all who put their faith in Christ alone to save them. Not by works! Not by religion! Not by morality! Not by ritual! But by grace alone through faith in Christ, sinners may be saved!

That realization changed everything for Martin, who’s last name was Luther. He began to share the good news with others, thinking it would find as welcome a home in their hearts as it did in his. It was that drive to let others know what he had found that drove Luther, on that cool October day, to post his 95 Theses (95 points of debate he wished to raise about the religious system of his day). He thought his publication would lead to a lively debate among scholars and perhaps even a return to the truths of Scripture for some. Instead, it touched off a firestorm that would erupt into the Protestant Reformation. Europe would never be the same. Millions who came to faith through his preaching and the preaching of those who followed him would never be the same. And now 500 years later I, as an heir of the Reformation, can never be the same.

The message that God used to open the eyes of a terrified monk, has come home to me as well. By faith in Christ I know that my sins are forgiven, and I have been accepted by God as righteous, not because of any good thing I have done, but because of the finished work of Christ received by faith! It is my hope that this same message will come home to you as well. There is hope for every sinner, who by faith will repent of his sin and trust in Jesus, God's Son, by Grace, through faith alone.

Oh! What a rich mercy!

Pastor Scott Lee

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