Summary: This is a Reformation sermon, reflecting on Martin Luther’s contribution to history & renewal of the gospel. The message also reflects the similarity that Jesus had with the Pharisees who believed you could earn God’s love by keeping the commandments.
In Jesus Holy Name October 28, 2007
Text: Romans 1:17, 3:20-22 Redeemer
“One Man’s Pen Changed The World”
A Jesuit priest in the 16th century complained, “Luther has damned more souls with his hymns than with all his sermons.” Few people have read his pulpit sermons, but his sermons continue through hymns which are sung every Sunday throughout the world.”
Luther restored the gift of song to people in their own language. He has been called the father of congregational song. Prior to Luther, for over 1,000 years only the clergy and monks sang in worship, the people did not. Luther opposed what we today call “spectator worship”. Luther, himself, wrote 37 hymns. One of his hymns “Out of the Depths I Cry to You” so impressed Bach that he used it as the basis for his cantata, No. 131. (quotes are from Christianity Today, October 21, 1983 p. 18,19)
Luther himself supervised the publication of 6 hymnals between 1525 and 1545. He said, “…… He who believes the gospel can not be quiet about it …… you must gladly and willingly sing and speak …… if not it shows that he does not believe.”
Luther translated the entire N.T. from Greek into the German language in ten months in 1522. 5,000 copies were sold the first month. His translation forever changed his country’s language, literature and dramatic arts. Over 3,000 original letters survive. He wrote two catechisms; one for parents, the other for pastors and teachers. He wrote the Augsburg Confessions with his friend Philip Melanchthon and together they started the Protestant Lutheran schools. He was also a full-time Professor at Wittenberg University. The Reformation dates from October 31, 1517 when Luther nailed 95 theses to the Castle Church door, in Wittenberg, Germany.
There were two ultimate questions of life for Luther; “How can I, as an individual, be assured of forgiveness of sins and thus be at peace with God?” How can I be sure that heaven is my eternal destiny?
These are still the two questions men and women are asking in the American culture. Charles Coben, in his book “The Body” writes: From the beginning, civilized Western thought and civilization have been built on the existence of objective truth. The prevailing intellectual consensus was rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition and the Greco-Roman ideas which explained the universe, humanity and the purpose of life.
Whether we believed in God or not, this consensus gave birth to the form and substance of science, art, music, commerce that assured a positive environment for political and ethical discourse.” How the Western world is under the influence of Eastern mysticism and secularism where there is no absolute truth. Severed from an absolute truth we are lost in the cosmos, like the Starship Enterprise, we are adrift in time and space.
Pilate asked Jesus: “What is Truth?” Jesus answered, “I Am The Truth.” “Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” Pilate had ears but he did not hear. He thought, like many in our culture, he would find truth looking in the mirror.
R.C. Sproul wrote: “Modern man is betting his life that this is it, and that there is no judgment and that there is no eternity.” How about you? The Phil Donahue culture seeks to rule the day and the night. Donahueites always say, “do whatever is right for you, be faithful to what is true for you. No one else has the right to tell you what to do. Who are we to object if this is what you want to do?” The only thing left is unbridled tolerance. Believe me, it is a scary thing to ride an unbridled horse at full speed. That’s our culture where ideas have no consequences.
A close friend shared with me the following story. A car dealer in Turlock,
Ca. in recent years has become a Christian. Throughout his life, he and his wife had nothing to do with Christianity. Their children are now raised and have families of their own. At the present time his wife wants nothing to do with Church and Christianity. At a recent Thanksgiving dinner when all the family (children and grandchildren) were gathered he asked the following question. “If you believe in absolute truth please raise your hand.” He was the only one to raise his hand. “How sad….for I have done this to my own family.” “I enabled them to grow up without knowing there is absolute truth and now they too feel that Christianity is not important.” All he can now do is pray for them and witness to them…. how sad he feels.
People know it. Intuitively they no longer believe God is dead. Yet people feel adrift. Living life without ultimate answers for how they might obtain forgiveness and eternal life. We know that people around us are spiritually hungry. They seek to connect with God through crystals, dabble in a blend of America Hinduism where you are reincarnated. (But never into an animal!!!) But most people we know simply believe that God is good! And in their mirror they see a good person. They then convince themselves that a good God would not reject their effort to keep the commandments the best they could ……