November 6, 2011: Reformation Begins at Home

Let us pray: Dear Savior, today as we celebrate the reformation of Your visible church keep us from arrogance and selfish pride. Keep us from apathy and indifference. Keep us from laziness and spiritual carelessness. Lord, You have given us a tremendous gift and blessing in Your Word of truth and grace. Now move us to live out Your truths from the bottom of our humble hearts. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE GIVER OF DIVINE TRUTH!

TEXT: Romans 7: 24-25: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Fellow Redeemed Sinners In Need of God’s Grace and Peace:

He wasn’t thinking about greatness when he walked out the door. He wasn’t thinking that in just a few years all of Europe would know his name, or about writing a fair-sized library during his lifetime, or about standing up to the world’s most powerful men as he walked to church that day. Indeed, he wasn’t thinking about his “legacy” of someday being viewed as one of the top ten most influential people of the past 2000 years as he got out his hammer and pounded some tacks into that piece of paper we know as the 95 theses. And yet, all that and more happened to Dr. Martin Luther as he humbly inaugurated the Reformation. The place was the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg Germany. The date was: October 31st, 1517.

So, what was Luther thinking about that morning as he took his momentous walk to church? Well, I can’t be sure, but I can give you a pretty good guess. That is, he was pondering the truth of our text! We know that Dr. Luther closely identified with St. Paul. We know that like Paul, Luther had tremendous inner struggles with his sins and with his attempts to make himself right with God. We know that like Paul, Luther would have been lost and forgotten except for the intervention of the Holy Ghost in his life. And we know that through that intervention, Luther, like Paul, came to know Jesus as a loving, kind, and caring Savior Who won forgiveness for all people on the cross and Who implants in hurting humans the peace of that forgiveness—through faith! Luther’s goal that morning was to spark debate about how people get to heaven—is it through their own efforts, or God’s effort?

I often wonder: if Dr. Luther were here today what would he talk about? Would it be the importance of one man standing up for God’s truth? Or perhaps, how we should be thankful to God for raising up prophets such as him? Or, would he discuss with us how proud we should be of our Lutheran heritage? The answer is: none of the above! No, the Lutheran Reformation wasn’t and isn’t about pious platitudes. It was and is about applying God’s forgiveness to shriveled souls. So, today St. Paul, Luther, and I want to remind you that:

REFORMATION BEGINS AT HOME

I

True reformation begins at home—with you—in your heart. In our impersonal world in which we’re usually just a number, God’s Son wants you to remember that He is always willing to leave the 99 behind in order to find that one lost sheep. In short, you are vitally important to Him! And what about you? Where is your heart and soul at these days? Do you feel “one” with God? Do you feel forgiven, loved, and at peace with your Creator? Is your conscience clear and clean, or not?

Let’s be blunt. Every one of us struggles with inner anger and personal frustration. We get angry with ourselves because as Paul says: “The good that I would, I do not do.” We get frustrated because as Paul also says: “The evil that I don’t want to do, I keep on doing.” Think about it. Think about how people and work bother you. Think about how you have all kinds of goals and plans for your life and how they always seem to get pushed aside because you run out of steam. Of course, we blame others or perhaps circumstances for such anger and inner frustration. But, in reality we’re upset with ourselves. We’re upset because we handle people poorly and can’t seem to change our attitude. Our pride also pushes us into a corner. “I’m right and everyone else is wrong!”—That’s what our old Adam says. Or, “It’s my way or the highway!” And then when someone else disagrees with us, or when God has something different in mind, well, our inner rage builds and we lash out at anyone and everyone. Indeed, how many of you lack inner peace because down deep you’re angry with God, others, or perhaps even yourself?

II

Like St. Paul, Luther would exclaim: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Who can reform my heart? Who can change me from an angry sinner into a peace-filled saint? Who can give me a clean heart? Who can take my spiritual pain away? Surely I cannot. I’ve tried, but I just can’t seem to let go of my anger. I try to be “holy” and “good” but as soon as I turn over a new leaf my heart condemns me because I re-embrace my old hurtful ways. So, what’s the answer?”

The answer is: Jesus Christ! The answer is: Jesus died on the cross to take away God’s anger over our incompetence with life. We’re angry because we want to be perfect, and are anything but. We’re frustrated because we want to always be in control, and never really are. Well, my friends, the one way out such pain is forgiveness. God looks at you and says: “I forgive you. I love you. I’ve made you clean because Christ’s blood has washed your every sin away.” He says: “Trust in Me and My love and be empowered to do what I’ve done for you; to forgive and forget, to let go, and to have peace.”

The bottom line to all anger is this: we’re trapped in our own mortality and pride and we don’t like it. Moreover, any person or situation that reminds us of how fragile we really are upsets us and we lash out. Well, Christ has made us immortal! He has taken away our death and given us His life in its place! He made peace with us. He loves us without conditions! And when we embrace His forgiveness in faith, well, then our souls, our faces, our hearts, and our voices are uplifted to exclaim: “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Reformation Begins at Home. It begins with you in your heart. It begins with letting go of all your inner rage and inner frenzy over life because God has forgiven you in Christ! You know, you cannot forgive others until you realize that you’re forgiven. Well, now you know that you are. And armed with such Godly peace you, too, can go and change your own little corner of the world—for the better! Amen