For many history is a course we took in high school that was not as bad as math and a little better than English. For the growing Christian history becomes a life long pursuit of understanding and growing in knowledge of.
Who cares? WE DO!
This month many (including us) are celebrating the 500 year anniversary of the Reformation, October 31, 1517. Martin Luther in response to what he saw as abuses in the church of his age, wrote 95 theses, which he posted on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church. The idea behind this bold move was to open discussion with others in church leadership and bring reform to the Catholic church.
It has been said, “if you don’t know history, your doomed to repeat it”. The Bible constantly calls for us to remember things that occurred in the past, and in Jude, the warning it sounds is based on history repeating itself. The Bible calls for us to learn from Biblical history and find endurance and encouragement and we need those now as a church (Romans 15:4)!
History has particular value for us as Christians, because we believe that God is Sovereign over what is happening (Ephesians 1:11), and therefore we can watch for His story. D.A. Carson points out in an article for 9 Marks, “Three large-scale movements set the stage for the contemporary Western world: the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment”.
For us as leaders in churches that have been directly impacted by the Reformation, it stands above almost all events in the last 1500 years in terms of its importance to us. We should care about the reformation, and grow in our understanding of it and its characters for three essential reasons:
- The Demonic Schemes Repeat: Ephesians 6:10-20; 2 Corinthians 2:11 As you look at the reasons for the Reformation, the decay of the church and its lack of adherence to Scripture, those peddling religion for money, and a works addition to the gospel, we have these same issues infecting the church in our own generation. The Gospel is under attack, and knowing the repetition of what is being attacked through the study of the Reformation will help us learn from godly men and women, and contend for the faith today with those lessons learned.
The attack on the Gospel, truth and the glory of God, is something that we find throughout history, we must not allow ourselves, or our people be caught unaware of the schemes of the devil!
Tetzel and the Pope have lost their influence, but the temptations that stood behind them, the issues at the root of their folly still exist! The Reformation is worth studying because it reminds us of the schemes the devil uses to attack the church.
- The Dopes God Used: A careful study of the reformation not only shows the schemes of the demonic realm, but also the reality that God uses broken people. Martin Luther was sometimes vulgar, seems to have been racist, and drank too much. He is a worthwhile hero, but only because He points us to the One true God, who will never let us down. Not only was Martin (and other reformers) frail, so are we. It is good to study history to remember that there was only One perfect man that God used (Jesus), the rest of us are His work of art (Ephesians 2:10), and in our frailty show His power because He uses cracked pots like us (2 Corinthians 4:7; 12:5-10). As we look at the world broken world around us, history reminds us that God uses real people, and when healthy introspection reminds us that we are real people, rejoice, God uses dopes like us!
- The Days Were Dark: Like the men of Issachar (1 Chronicles 12:32), it is helpful to realize that God uses specific people in space time history to respond to what is going on in the church and world. He chooses to use His people to shape the world, and we as church leaders have the responsibility to understand our times and respond with courage. I believe that we are on the verge of revival or total moral collapse, and in this it is time for the church (led by her leaders in God’s strength to stand up, and stand firm. To speak the truth in love, and to live the truth in humility. We live in dark days, and a study of the reformation reminds us that these are not the first dark days that have existed, nor will the (unless Jesus returns) be the last. So let us understand our times, and serve our LORD with courage as where the Word is under attack and the glory of God being diminished. We must know God’s Word, live it, display it, teach it and stand firm on it…as Luther stated, “Also it does not help that one of you would say: ‘I will gladly confess Christ and His Word on every detail, except that I may keep silent about one or two things which my tyrants may not tolerate, such as the form of the Sacraments and the like.’ For whoever denies Christ in one detail or word has denied the same Christ in that one detail who was denied in all the details, since there is only one Christ in all His words, taken together or individually.”
The days are dark and we are called to be loyal to God and call our church families to do the same!
So as we enter October, and this year have the immense privilege of celebrating the 500 year birthday of the Reformation, let us take the time to attend a conference, read a book, encourage our people to know our history!
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, noted, “It is all too plainly apparent men are willing to forego the old for the sake of the new. But commonly it is found in theology that that which is true is not new, and that which is new is not true.”