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Friday, October 31, 2008 

Reformation Day

Nearly five hundred years ago on October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in which he laid out the abuses of the Roman church’s selling of indulgences.

It is this day in history that we celebrate the start of the reformation. It was not to start a new church from scratch but rather to re-form a church that twisted the Christ’s gospel into one of salvation by one’s own works.

It would serve us well to look back at history to measure how far we have come or how far back we have slid. Consider these points;

The papacy even today still sells indulgences.

The majority of Americanized Christianity thinks that making a decision is how an individual can gain their own salvation.

53 percent of American evangelicals are less likely to believe that salvation is based on grace, not works; 46 percent less likely to say they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs with others; 42 percent less likely to list their faith in God as the top priority in their life; 38 percent less likely to believe that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; 27 percent less likely to contend that the Bible is totally accurate in all of its teachings; and 23 percent less likely to say that their life has been greatly transformed by their faith.

One of the most popular religious leaders, Rick Warren, has repeatedly said that “deeds not creeds” is how we are judged by God.

One of the most popular religious leaders, Joel Osteen, refuses to talk about sin, the consequences of sin (death), and God’s gracious plan for salvation, Jesus and His cross.

I could go on and on and on. We have much to be thankful for on this day but we are not really all that far from that door in Wittenberg five hundred years ago.

I agree with you in that "works" has made its way back into the evangelical churches. In most cases, I don't think that folks even realize that they are putting some level of trust in their works while still saying they are saved by grace.

But I take issue with this statement:

The majority of Americanized Christianity thinks that making a decision is how an individual can gain their own salvation.

This is probably more of a semantics argument than anything else. The truth of God's grace and the free gift of salvation is true no matter what. I don't gain it by making a decision. I merely acknowledge it and put my faith in what Christ did for me. You have done this very same thing even if you didn't answer an altar call or prayer the "sinners prayer" at a youth camp, retreat or by yourself in bed. You acknowledged it to be true and put your faith in it.

The works part today is where well-meaning believers insist that a real Christian will produce works in his/her lifetime as proof of regeneration. That's the part that I have the biggest problem with.

BD, I’m lumping Lutherans into the whole works righteousness cesspool as well. In addition, my synodical president went on a radio show and talked about “making a decision for Jesus” so ya gotta add Lutherans into that mix as well.

It may be semantics but folks like me think it’s critical; is one able to choose God or is the gift of faith given undeservingly to people on the account of Christ?

This difference in semantics is the difference between comfort and terror on one's deathbed: Do I look back at my decision and how sincere I have been, or do I look to the cross?

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  • I'm Frank Gillespie
  • From The Haut South
  • Confessional Lutheran
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