Why the Reformation Matters


500 years ago today Martin Luther nailed 95 Thesis to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany. And we might be thinking, “So what?” 

Luther himself probably did not realize the importance of this simple act. The church door in a German town was like a public bulletin board. Along with Luther’s document outlining the corruption of the church in his day, the church door might have also held an announcement for a lecture series at the university or a posting of the times for confession in the upcoming week.

But Luther’s act of nailing the 95 Thesis was the beginning of the Reformation of the church–a church that had added man’s rules and customs onto the Word of God. A church that had misled the people. A church that told the masses they needed more than faith, more than grace to get to heaven.

The three cornerstones of the Reformation were Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, and Sola Fide–Word Alone, Grace Alone, Faith Alone. These cornerstones are still important to us today.

Sola Scriptura–Word Alone

In the years leading up to the Reformation, the church had begun to add onto the Word of God. The edicts of the church and of the pope were considered equal to the Bible. Martin Luther and other reformers reminded the people that God’s Word has all the truth necessary for our salvation and that no words added by men–even important men–are on the same level as the Bible.

In our modern world, we are also tempted to look for the answers to our problems everywhere but the Bible. Certainly, Scripture does not tell us how to bake a red velvet cake or give directions to Minneapolis. But it does tell us how to have a relationship with God, how to obtain peace and joy,  how to love and live in a broken world.

Why theReformationMatters

Sola Gratia–Grace Alone

In Luther’s time, people were told that God’s grace was not enough to get to heaven. Good works were a prerequisite. Luther himself agonized over this teaching, totally despairing because he knew he could never be good enough. He could never be perfect.

But through Scripture, Luther realized that none of us can measure up to God’s standard of perfection and that the only way to heaven is by the Lord’s mercy and grace. None of us deserve God’s forgiveness, it is only available to us through Christ’s death and resurrection.

This truth matters today because we often try to fix our problems on our own. We rely on self-help books. We work hard to improve our financial situation. We live like it all depends on us.

Grace alone allows us to let go of the try-hard life and rest in God’s mercy. It is only through His love and acceptance that we can come to Him. His grace gives us the strength to live day by day.

The truth of Grace Alone allows us to let go of the try-hard life and rest in God's mercy. Click To Tweet

Sola Fide–Faith Alone

Another falsehood the church of Luther’s day promoted was that faith in Christ was not enough to get to heaven. A man named Johann Tetzel and others were selling indulgences–little pieces of paper that “guaranteed” a quicker path to heaven. Most of Luther’s 95 Thesis dealt with this practice.

Romans 1:16-17 tells us:

 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.

These verses were the turning point for Luther’s relationship with God. Once he realized that salvation was not dependent on good works or expensive little pieces of paper, but on faith in Christ, he felt the burden of his sin lift. Righteousness can only come from faith in what Jesus has already accomplished on the cross. I do good things out of gratitude for what He has done, but I do not have to be “good enough” to get to heaven. What a relief!

Even today, listening to preachers on radio and TV today may leave listeners with the feeling that there is so much they need to do to be a good person. So much to do to earn a ticket to heaven. But God’s message is faith alone–faith given to us through God’s grace. We accept this faith as a life-changing gift.

Faith alone in Christ’s death and resurrection gives us access to God and His power and love.

Faith alone in Christ's death and resurrection gives us access to God and His power and love. Click To Tweet

What happened 500 years ago in a little town in Germany changed the world. A list nailed to a church door still matters today.

Next step: Take a moment to contemplate the three tenets of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide. Which of these truths is hardest for you to put into practice in your everyday life? Ask the Father to help you in this area.



A Simple Way to Pray When You Don’t Know How to Pray

a simple way to pray

I have to admit. Sometimes I struggle with prayer.

At times the struggle is to simply make time for prayer. Other times the problem is keeping my wandering mind on the prayer.

Sometimes I simply don’t know how to pray. I don’t have the right words to express my chaotic thoughts. Or I’m not sure how to pray about a complex problem. Or I’m feeling defeated in an area of my life.

That’s when I start praying Scripture. Taking my words from God’s Word helps me to focus on His will, His strength, and His care.

A few years ago I discovered a little book that Martin Luther wrote on the subject of prayer. The short volume, titled A Simple Way to Praywas written as in response to his barber’s questions, “How do you pray?” (Interesting topic to be discussing while getting that little bald spot shaved.)

Luther’s “simple way to pray” was to pray Scripture, specifically the Ten Commandments. In the book he told his barber, “I divide each commandment into four parts, thereby fashioning a garland of four strands. That is, I think of each commandment as, first, instruction, which is really what it is intended to be, and consider what the Lord demands of me so earnestly. Second, I turn it into a thanksgiving; third, a confession; and fourth, a prayer.”

This method can be used with any Scripture. For instance, lately I have been struggling with my mouth again. Too many harmful words have been tumbling out of my mouth. And the verse that came to mind was Proverbs 25:11:

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”

My words have not been gold or silver, but more like ashes and dust.

A simple way to pray PINSo using Luther’s model, I prayed:

Father in heaven. Your word instructs me that my words have value. They can be precious to the people in my life.

I offer thanksgiving for the gift of speech. Of all creation, you gave the ability to speak to humans alone.

I confess that my words are not always like gold and silver. Sometimes they are not something to be cherished and treasured, but something to be thrown out and forgotten.

But I want to change. Lord, give me appropriate words for every situation today—words that are as valuable as gold and silver.

When you are struggling with finding the right words to pray–try drawing your words from the well of God’s Word.

It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business of the morning and the last at night. Martin Luther Click To Tweet

Next step: Pick a Scripture (try Psalm 56:3-4 or Psalm 57:1) and use Luther’s simple method to pray through the Scripture.

Is Meditation Dangerous?

This post is part of the Soul Spa blog tour. My new book is taking a tour around the Internet. You can catch the rest of this post at Natalie Eastman’s website.

Christian meditation focuses on filling

I remember clearly when a friend mentioned he was seeing a counselor who recommended meditation.

“Clear your mind,” the counselor instructed. “Try to empty it completely.”

Red flags immediately shot up in my own mind. “Empty your mind” did not sound like good advice in light of Jesus’ warning that an empty mind may be an invitation for evil to take up residence (Luke 11:24-26). So I warned my friend that this kind of meditation could be dangerous.

But not all meditation is alarming and unsafe. Christian meditation doesn’t aim to empty the mind. Instead, Christian meditation focuses on…

Click here to read more at Natalie Eastman’s site.