October, 1517 (Part 1)

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.” (Romans 1:16-17 ESV). October is a very important month in church history, especially this year. To emphasize this event, PBS has produced a wonderful two part video, “Martin Luther – the Idea that Changed the World.” You can find on their web site or perhaps on your cable/satellite provider. This month marks the 500th anniversary of one on the most important events in Western civilization. It is the birth of an idea that continues to shape the life of every American today. In 1517, power was in the hands of the few, thought was controlled by the chosen, and common people lived lives without hope. On October 31 of that year, a penniless monk named Martin Luther sparked the revolution that would change everything. He had no army. In fact, he preached nonviolence so powerfully that, 400 years later, Michael King would change his name to Martin Luther King to show solidarity with the original movement. This movement, the Protestant Reformation, changed Western culture at its core, sparking the drive toward individualism, freedom of religion, women’s rights, separation of church and state, and even free public education. Without the Reformation, there would have been no pilgrims, no Puritans, and no America in the way we know it. I have chosen to begin this little series in Morning Devotionals with two essential verses. Our reading (Romans 1:16-17) may have sparked the entire concept in Luther’s mind. In these two verses, Paul is giving us an outline of everything that he is going to say for the rest of the letter. Here is the whole of Romans in a nutshell. Notice how many themes of Romans are present here: gospel, power of God, salvation, faith, Jew/Gentile, righteousness of God, revelation, righteousness by faith, and eternal life. Roused to action by the corruption and abuses they saw in the Roman Catholic church of the time, visionary pastors and leaders like Martin Luther and John Calvin spearheaded a movement that transformed Christianity and eventually led to the emergence of the Protestant denominations that exist today. The Reformers were guided by the conviction that the church of their day had drifted away from the essential, original teachings of Christianity, especially in regard to what it was teaching about salvation—how people can be forgiven of sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and receive eternal life with God. The Reformation sought to re-orient Christianity on the original message of Jesus and the early church. We will do well to revisit each of the five principles and measure our own beliefs. Today, merely thank God for these men who put Scripture above all else. They insured that we would be the recipients of an unabridged understanding of the grace of God, which our world and culture sorely needs...

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