To be born again and to reshape.
As Protestant Christendom prepares to honor the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing his 95 theses to the Wittenberg church door, I have been thinking about what it means to be reformed.
Scholars agree that the philosophies that shaped Luther’s thinking, and the ability to spread the word about his ideas could not have happened before they did. God carefully orchestrated history to create the ideal moment for the Church to get her act together by bringing into play great inventions, great minds and great discoveries.
We call this era the Renaissance, or re-birth. This is the time of great discovery, a time which changed and re-shaped our world. The invention of the printing press in the early/mid 15th century allowed for inexpensive reproduction of written word. Suddenly, the Bible was available for anyone to read. When great men of thought like Luther, Wycliffe, Calvin, and Zwingli – along with some of their lesser known predecessors – actually read the Bible instead of blindly accepting what the corrupt leadership of the Church was telling them, the belief system of the western world was rocked to its very foundation.
Only not really. The foundation of the Church was built on Christ alone. The Reformers just wanted to clear away the crumbling mortar and detritus of the centuries and get down to solid rock.
That shakes the world.
Great, all cool history, the church is reformed, but what does that have to do with me?
How do I apply all this to my own life?
The real question that bears asking is: where have I allowed tradition, complacency, selfish ambition and pride to crumble my mortar? How can I experience a renaissance and reformation in my own life and faith?
Isn’t that what Christ calls us to? He tells Nicodemus in the dark of night that unless he is born again, unless he experiences a renaissance, he will not find God’s kingdom. (John 3:1-6)
On another dark night, Jesus himself prays for us “Sanctify them by the truth: your word is truth.” (John 17:17) To be sanctified is to be made holy, to be reformed in the eyes and by the hands of God.
“Your word is truth.” Here is the crux of the matter. How can I possibly know who God is, how He wants me to be re-born and re-shaped unless I know what He says? Since I haven’t recently actually heard thundering from heaven, there is no way for me to hear His voice, to KNOW His voice, unless I immerse myself in the only form of His truth I have handily available. And I have the great minds of the past – minds like Gutenberg the inventor, and Wycliffe the English translator – to thank for the fact that I own not one, but many, Bibles. To hear and know God’s voice, I need to, in the words of Martin Luther, rely on sola scriptura. Luther said, “a simple layman armed with Scripture is greater than the mightiest pope without it”.
God’s word is truth. To know His word, I need to read it. Pray it. Live it. To experience renaissance and reformation, I must deliberately and thoughtfully put God’s word in my heart and actions.
Reform me. Reshape me. Let me be born again.
That is what will rock the world. That is what will bring re-birth and re-shaping. Not just of me, but of those around me. Church, wake-up. It’s time for another Renaissance and Reformation.