Thursday, October 30, 2014

A History Changing Event, Yet Often Overlooked

As Halloween approaches many believers find themselves in a dither about what to do with a kind of weird, bizarre, fake holiday that by and large seems to celebrate darkness and exalt paganism. 

So, while you can still have fun with some of the alternatives offered up these days, just watch that candy. I didn't, and ended up with eight!, yes, count them, 8 cavities, after one particular Halloween when I was a little varmint. However, it is cool that there is at least some alternatives offered up these days.

Nevertheless, the larger point I want to make is that in the midst of all the candy, and harvest festivals, and on and on, there is something of major importance to the Christian faith being missed here on this date:  It is called the birthday of the Reformation. The Reformation began in 1517 on October 31st, “All Hallow’s Eve,” when Martin Luther in protest to the selling of indulgences—selling forgiveness for money—posted his Ninety-Five Theses on the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany, which unwittingly would be the spark that set off the firestorm called the Reformation.  

You know, that little thing where masses of people in Europe turned away from nonsense like the selling of forgiveness—quite literally priests were out there (all this initiated and supported by the church system) on the street, hawking forgiveness like some dude selling street tacos from a truck—and praying to dead saints’ bones—the claims the church made about their relics verged from insanity to absolute comedy: from a supposed twig from Moses’ burning bush to a hair from Jesus’ face. So was the twig still burning? And who had the nerve to run up and pull a hair from Jesus’ face?  The time was ripe with exasperation from all the church’s abuses, so when the spark was lit by Luther, a mass movement was launched that returned back to the teachings of the Bible, and a simple and saving faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, October 31st is a holiday known as Reformation Day in Germany and much of northern Europe. And yet, America, one of the most evangelical countries in the western world, instead ended up celebrating Halloween instead??? Huh???
Well, to help you get informed and edified on these topics, we have produced a number of video and audio programs on the Reformation and other essential historical and biblical topics.  

In fact, we made these programs for just this reason: so that people of both English and Spanish-speaking origin could get up to speed quickly and learn about the more salient aspects of Christian History, such as the Reformation and other revivals, in a quick and easy modern format that uses the prominent media of our time. 

When I was doing a concentration in History at Fuller Theological Seminary, I noticed  a strange phenomenon: Heavy eyelids trying to stay open while weary heads nodded back and forth as these history professors droned on and on. I was thinking, “Why does this professor cat get a parking spot, and more and more of my tuition money, if he can’t even manage to make this the least bit interesting?” It is not boring material, in fact it is often very exciting stuff.  Hum drum dudes who spend their days debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin make it boring with their overloading of extraneous information and their focus on the excruciating minutiae of minor details--I did learn a few big words at seminary though. Thus, many run the other way when they hear the word “history.” But it doesn’t have to be boring.

So, after graduating from Fuller, I felt the Holy Spirit leading me with a mandate to put important aspects of Christian History into formats that people could easily consume and digest.  Not everyone has the time or opportunity to share in the joy of going to a cemetery—oops, I meant seminary—and enjoy the rigors of being bored to absolute tears while going broke from all the expenses. How much did you say that book costs that you just self published “mister doctor professor whatever your name is demands so much money” sir? Yes, that book that I am being forced to buy to complete this course?

So, from rural Mexico to Latvia and beyond, I noticed that no matter how humble the dwelling, they always had a TV and a DVD player as well as a radio and CD player, usually turned on continually in each dwelling I ever visited. Well, it has gotten even easier to get stuff to others  with all the advances in digital media.

Sometimes we all need a reason as to why we should spend time learning and understanding a topic like this at all in the first place, so let me help on that end too:

Why was the Reformation important? Well, here are a few quick reasons:

The massive turn in Europe away from aspects of dead religion, which had become polluted with magic-like superstitions and other nonsense. The church taught these unbiblical superstitious practices, which of course were not saving people but keeping them and affirming them in their lost state. Dead religious works like indulgences (forgiveness for sale—yes, can anyone say blasphemy?!) praying to dead saints’ bones, and throwing holy water around doesn’t save one from sin. A massive turn back to the Bible and simple faith in Jesus Christ was initiated, that spread the message of Christ’s salvation throughout the world. It spawned Bible translations into vernacular languages, as well as mission movements that would take the Gospel to the nations.  

The birth of a little place called America. As the History Channel put it: "Without Martin Luther and the Reformation there would be no America!" Ok, maybe that should be significant. Yeah well, how did that work? When the Reformation hit England, it birthed movements like the Puritans, Separatists, and Independents.  Continually persecuted in Britain, many made their way to the New World even on boats like the Mayflower. Thus, colonies were formed, and  eventually they kicked out the heavy-handed dudes in their funky red uniforms and started a new country. Seems to have done ok so far. 

The Reformation became the foundation that was laid for earth-shaking and history-changing Revivals:  From the outpouring at Hernhutt in Germany, to John Wesley’s conversion in England, and on to the Great Awakening in early America, these revivals had their foundation laid in the Reformation: Wesley was converted as Martin Luther’s commentary on the Book of Romans was being read at a church called Aldersgate Street Temple, and his heart was strangely warmed by the Holy Spirit.  The Great Awakening itself was the apex where the teaching of salvation by faith through grace combined and met with the power of the Holy Spirit and exploded through the early American colonies.  These programs will help fill in the details:

  • Martin Luther and the Reformation
  • The Great Awakening
  • The Reformation and the Birth of America
  • The Herrnhut Revival
  • John Wesley and the Methodist Revival
  • Charles Finney's Conversion

  • You know, it really isn’t possible to go out and tackle and beat up the darkness; trying to do the "ground and pound" on it like some UFC fighter is useless. The only way to extinguish darkness is to turn on the light.   

    That brilliant light broke forth over Martin Luther as he read the pages of Scripture in Romans and Galatians, which spoke of the grace of God wrought in Christ, who paid for all our sin on the cross once for all. When Luther finally understood Paul’s words in his epistles, the Holy Spirit came upon him and Luther says, “I was born again through gates of paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning.”  This in turn led to him posting his Ninety-Five Theses on October 31st, which in time led to massive revivals and mission movements.  Focusing on that brilliant light shone forth by the Holy Spirit that broke forth back then is a good way to turn the light on, instead of trying to assault the darkness in a way which just becomes beating the air.

    So, if the secular publications like both Time and Life magazines recognized Martin Luther and the Reformation as one of the most important events in the past 1000 years, in fact they both ranked it number 3 out of the 100 most important events of the past millennium, right after Columbus’s discovery and Gutenberg’s printing press, well then, doesn't it behoove Bible-believing Christians to know a little of their own history too!  Study to show thyself approved, a workman that does not need to be ashamed…(1 Timothy 2:15)

    So Happy Reformation Day to you!  

    Thanks for your prayers and support, we can sure use your help as we continue to work to carry out this mandate.  New equipment is needed and we appreciate your support.