Celebrating the Reformation

Resist the temptation to act as though there is no King in your life. Instead cling to the living and life-giving Word of God.

Daniel M. Deutschlander

“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit” (Judges 17:6).

These words appear more than once in the book of Judges and become a theme for much of the book. Read the book. What happened back then when the people turned away from the God of Israel and his Word?

What happened then is what always happens. The nation sank into ever greater depravity, and God in his love and mercy sent the consequences of their sin: famine, plague, chaos in the streets, and another war worse than the one before. His goal was always the same: to call them back to his grace and his rule.

When there is no King

We are observing another anniversary of the Reformation. Luther’s days too were days when people did as they saw fit. In the church, authorities imposed doctrines and rules that contradicted the chief doctrines of the Bible. “Under the bench,” as Luther put it, was the gospel of forgiveness by grace, through faith, on account of the perfect work of Christ for our redemption. Gone was the notion that we strive to live a life in accord with God’s Word out of gratitude for salvation given, not in order to earn salvation for ourselves.

And what was the result? In some who imagined that they could earn their salvation there was self-righteousness. In others, the more realistic ones, there was despair that they were doomed before an always angry God. Both ended up doing whatever they saw fit. Both wandered further away from the joy of the gospel. Both lost the peace and the love of God won for them and freely offered in the Word and the sacraments.

How everything changes only to stay the same! Today most still want to be free from the authority of the only King ever worth having. Most think themselves free to believe and behave exactly as they please. And so society and culture sinks ever deeper into the muck and mire of chaos, lawlessness, violence, self-righteousness, and despair. God lets peoples and nations suffer the consequences when there is no king in the land except the sinful will of the individual.

Following the King

So how shall we celebrate the Reformation? Let’s resist the temptation to act as though there is no King in our lives. Let’s cling to the living and life-giving Word of God. Let’s immerse ourselves in the joy of God’s love, his peace, and his forgiveness for us in Christ. Let’s strive to live in grateful obedience to our gracious God. Such are the lives of true children of the Reformation.

We still can be witnesses to the joy of faith in Christ, which is the opposite of the chaos that comes eventually to all those who have no such king in their lives. By our witness to God’s love and power, we can still draw few—or many—to share with us in his kingdom of peace and eternal joy.

As Luther sang in his battle hymn:

“Though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us,
We tremble not, we fear no ill; they shall not overpower us.
This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will,
He can harm us none. He’s judged; the deed is done.
One little word can fell him” (Christian Worship 200:3).

Daniel Deutschlander, a retired pastor, is a member at St. Mark’s, Watertown, Wisconsin.


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Author: Daniel M. Deutschlander
Volume 103, Number 10
Issue: October 2016

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