Thursday, October 31, 2013

What Drove Luther's Hammer?

The brief article below is a little piece I wrote for our local paper, the Huntington Beach Wave. It is scheduled to be published today on Reformation day proper. A Blessed Reformation Day to you all!

October 31, 1517 - the hammer blow heard ‘round the world. On this date Martin Luther posted his famous 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. It was the 16th century version of Facebook and Twitter. If you had information you wanted people to read and discuss that’s where you posted it.
But what drove Luther’s hammer that All Hallows Eve? It wasn’t fame and fortune. It was a simple question: How can a guilty sinner stand in the presence of a holy God?  The church of Luther’s day had an answer: you can’t unless you made satisfaction for your sins. Luther worked hard, yet despaired. His good works were not enough to blot out his guilt. For Luther, finding forgiveness and salvation in the eyes of God was like climbing a never-ending ladder. And the church had an answer for this too. Buy an indulgence, a piece of paper which was sold to the people granting partial, and in some cases plenary (meaning full), remission of sins.

Problem is, when Luther searched the Scriptures for answers he didn’t find God’s forgiveness up for sale. That hammer blow of October 31, 1517 goes to the very heart of what the Reformation is all about. It answered Luther’s question: How can guilty sinners stand before a holy God? On the basis of works, merits, pieces of paper, coins, or anything we do? No. Never. Rather, salvation is a free gift by the grace of God through Christ’s death. On the cross, Jesus took your sin and gives you his righteousness. He took your death and gives you his life. It’s a blessed exchange.
That knock-knock of the hammer was the joyful proclamation of the Gospel breaking Luther’s despair. After Luther put the hammer away he picked up the pen and the Scriptures. He found in the pages of Scripture a Savior who rescues guilty sinners by being numbered with them. He found a merciful God who exchanged everything we have - sin, death, and guilt – for everything he has - holiness, eternal life, and righteousness. That was Luther’s comfort and it’s yours too.

For there’s something else that comes to mind when I hear the knock-knock of a hammer. Nails. Wood. Hands. Feet. Christ Crucified for you.
Jesus is your guarantee of eternal life. Jesus’ death for you. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead for you. So, do not fear. Christ bore your sin. Your guilt is covered. Your debt is paid in full. Death is destroyed. Rejoice in this good news.

And that’s what the Reformation is all about.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Pastor! I was searching for an image of Luther and passed by the photo above. I remember using that as my wallpaper years ago, but just realized that Luther is nailing his theses on the Doctor's TARDIS! Was this intentional? I know your calling yourself a nerd but a Whovian Christian's eyes's just excited to this image. Anyway, a Blessed Reformation Day to you, pastor! Regards from the Philippines.