In the Fall of 1998 a political dark horse from the Reform Party, a man by the name of Jesse Ventura, came onto the scene of Minnesota politics and, as he said, “shocked the world.” He shocked the world with a fresh take and new ideas about politics and government in Minnesota.
He shocked Minnesotans by suggesting that the surplus tax money belonged to them, not to the government. Even more shocking was his suggestion that the government did not exist to give the people a leg up on life. And even more shocking than all of this was his election in November.
Whether or not this will be a good thing for Minnesota remains to be seen. But like him or not, Ventura’s election definitely marked a change for politics in Minnesota.
At Luther’s time the Christian church was in desperate need of reform. “Ultra-conservatives” had taken over the church and had put a stranglehold on the Gospel. Rather than people receiving the assurance of the forgiveness of sins through the blood and merits of Jesus Christ, they were encouraged to look to saints, to themselves, to the papacy, and to their pocketbook to find relief from their sins.
When these “conservatives” were challenged and change was demanded, the reply was: “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” Their rationalization was that, if it was good enough for the “fathers,” it should be good enough for you.
Then in 1517 a radical named Martin Luther came on the scene. With his “liberal” new ideas and “fresh” thinking the Reformation began.
Martin Luther shocked the world with his “new” ideas. Imagine the suggestion that God’s Word should be available to the common people in their common language! Imagine the suggestion that the free forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed without cost; or that a person is justified, not by works but through faith in Jesus Christ alone!
What dangerous, new thinking was this!? Of course, we know that it was the Lord who instituted the Reformation, and that Luther’s “fresh,” “new” thinking was really the good, old preaching of the Gospel that had been missing from the Roman Catholic Church for centuries.
Need For Reform
Everyone among us would agree that Lutheranism today is in desperate need of reform. Lutheranism as a whole could use a good dose of “conservatism”–not political conservatism nor the popular religious conservatism which focuses only on family and morality.
Certainly these are important. But Lutheranism and Christianity in general need to return to conservatism in the truest sense of the world–to preserve what has been established, not by politicians, not by a pope, not by an organization or culture. Rather, to go back to or preserve that which has been established by the LORD God in His Holy Word–most notably the doctrine of justification through faith in Christ alone apart from our works.
With the recent union between the Episcopal Church and the ELCA, it would seem that Lutheranism is slowly sliding back into the web of Catholicism and her Pope. As the cry goes up from the world for “one church!” the pressure to compromise and give up the precious Word of God will be increased.
Martin Luther writes: “Oh, with great effort and exertion, also with proof from Holy Scripture, did I barely succeed in justifying before my own conscience that I, a lone man, dared rise against the pope, consider him the Antichrist, the bishops his apostles, the schools of higher learning his house of ill fame! How often my heart struggled, rebuked me, and threw up to me their one and strongest argument: You alone are wise? Can it be that all the others are erring and have been erring for so long a time? What if you are erring and leading into error so many people, all of whom will be eternally damned? Such questions continued until Christ strengthened and settled me by His own certain Word so that my heart no longer struggles but confronts these arguments of the papists as of a rock-bound shore the wave and laughs at their threatening and storming” (SL 19, 1069).
What a shock it is to the world that there are some who will not give in, give up, or compromise God’s Word!
God Himself sees to the preservation of His saving Word. He did at the time of the Reformation through His servant Martin Luther. And He will see to the preservation and proclamation of His saving Word today.
May He strengthen and settle us by His Word as we strive to weather the waves of the world and to remain faithful to God and His saving Word.
–Pastor Joel Fleischer