I have always loved this time of year. In the last month, my family has enjoyed carving pumpkins, watching Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin, digging out school sweaters and jackets from storage, and dressing up in princess and superhero costumes. On Halloween night we even went out and collected some candy while trick-or-treating.
But Halloween this year was actually more special to me than it was to my kiddos, and not because I enjoy costumes, scary movies or pumpkins. It is because of what happened exactly 500 years ago this Halloween in a small town tucked away in the forests of Germany. On October 31, 1517 in Wittenberg, Germany, a young, well-educated and promising Catholic Monk, posted his “95 Theses,” or criticisms of what he saw in the organised church.
This monk was Martin Luther. Luther was a member of and a strong supporter of the Catholic Church. He did not post his critique like so many bloggers post things today – to stir up emotions and create havoc. No, Luther posted his “theses” to begin a discussion on how the church could improve and be healthier. He was not protesting the church but attempting to reform the church. This is something that we should all desire to do as we continue to serve in the Body of Christ!
Martin Luther’s writing began to spread like wildfire thanks to the recent invention of the Gutenberg press, which allowed for rapid printing of books and pamphlets when everything prior had to be transcribed by hand. It was because of the printing press that people now had direct access to God’s Word. Now anyone could read the Bible and grow in their faith. And historians tell us: People did not begin reading their Bibles because of the Reformation, the Reformation took place because people began reading their Bibles.
Martin Luther began this history-shifting movement. Yet as a monk, Luther was terribly troubled by his own unrighteousness before God – he believed (rightly) that there was nothing a sinful human could do to become presentable to a holy God. So Luther committed his life to learning how he could become holy. It was reported that some days he would literally spend hours (as many as six!) in giving his confessions to the priest. Yet he never felt healed – how could he ever pay God back for his sin?
And then… through reading Scripture, Luther was awakened by the gospel.
Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Luther was changed by the realisation that he was indeed beyond hope of fixing himself. He could not make himself righteous before the holy God. But Jesus could, and Jesus did.
Martin Luther realised how wonderful the grace of God is through Jesus Christ, and he began spreading that message. What Luther began has radically moved history, and has brought life and health back into the Church. May we continue to study the Bible to discover God’s beautiful truths anew. May we continue to grow and be strengthened by the beauty and the power of the gospel. We are thankful to Martin Luther for pointing us toward Jesus, and we are indebted to Jesus forever for His wonderful sacrifice to save all those who trust in Him.
This year, I was overjoyed to celebrate on Halloween, not because of candy and costumes, but because of the amazing grace of my Saviour Jesus. That grace which transcends the walls of the universe.
Soli Deo Gloria.