1517 was a remarkable year. It was a year in which Martin Luther began challenging the authority of the church to dictate the ‘how’ of Christian living. Luther’s nailing of the 95 Thesis at Wittenberg was a direct response to the hierarchical church’s promotion of ‘earning your way to heaven’. Luther’s emphasis was that the only source of proper belief are the sacred texts (sola scriptura), and that it is by faith alone in what Jesus has done (sola fide) that restores our relationship with God (and faith itself is a gift that God gives)! Notice the period at the end of that sentence. That is the gospel!
The implication of such a stance led people to experience a spiritual freedom and life which was the original intent of Jesus’ mission (John 10:10).
To what extent do we allow the grace and freedom encountered through the Reformation, to enable us to engage in mission today?
While the selling of indulgences might no longer be an issue, are there other church culture and human rules that become stumbling blocks for living the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:35-40 and Mark 12:28-34)?
A couple of observations (more will be shared over the coming newsletters).
1. Fear. Fear of getting things wrong, or of saying the wrong thing. Fear of negatively impacting personal relationships. Fear continues to stifle mission engagement. Initially, fear controlled Luther. He thought that he had to do things to be right with God again. The problem was, he never knew when he had done enough. I wonder whether this fear of getting things wrong, or ‘letting God down’ has become a new law that threatens the gospel. Hear this clearly. Luther warned against any teaching that could be interpreted that faith only justified someone when love and good works were added to it. It was only as Luther discovered grace, that Luther became overwhelmed by the reality that God loved him no matter what, that fear lost its grip!
Sometimes I have noticed, that instead of living in the freedom of the gospel, the freedom to love unconditionally, we hesitate to share that which is good and
this impacts our ability to share the gospel. I regularly hear people share that they are unsure as to how to share the gospel.
The first thing is to love others unconditionally. To love as Christ loved, giving up all that was important to himself for others. (John 13:34, Ephesians 5:2) A second thing is to know with certainty your own ‘why’ of the faith. Why is Jesus important to you? What difference does your faith in Jesus make in your life? Many years ago, I did this… and this is what I discovered… I used to think that my value was tied up in what I did. Then it hit me that the heart of the gospel is that God loves me DESPITE who I am and or what I do and don’t do. This changed my perspective so that now I am increasingly discovering what it means to ‘live free.’
2. It’s OK! It’s OK to take risks. It’s OK to fail. It’s OK to succeed. We live by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of scripture alone! This gives us permission to live in freedom. Have a go!
- To what extent do we allow the grace and freedom encountered through the Reformation enable us to engage in mission today?
- What church culture and human rules have become stumbling blocks for living the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:35-40 and Mark 12:28-34)?
- What difference does your faith in Jesus make to your life? How would you complete the following sentence about that difference… I used to think (____________fill in the blank) but now (_____________fill in the blank)
- Are there things you do in your faith community that are robbing your joy of the gospel, but you‘re afraid to stop doing?
- Are there things you’d like to try, but you don’t because there is no guarantee they will succeed?
Pastor David Schmidt is Director of the LCAQD Ministry and Mission Department.