Reformation before Revival!
By Chad Taylor
"Christians are to be taught that if the pope (pastor) knew the exactions of the pardon-preachers, he would rather that St. Peter's church should go to ashes, than that it should be built up with the skin, flesh and bones of his sheep." (Martin Luther, 95 Thesis, parenthesis mine.)
On October 31st, 1517 Martin Luther, the German monk born a peasant in Eisleben Germany, began what some would call a revolution. A revolution in religious thought and spiritual canon, a grass roots revival that brought the freedom of salvation to thousands, even millions. But what Martin Luther opposed is much more critical than the opposer. If he is forgotten, we lose nothing, but if what he opposed is forgotten, we are in danger of falling into the same pit and snare that the church 500 years ago did. God forbid, if we have not already...
October 31st, 1517 Martin Luther nailed the 95 Thesis to the Castle Church in Wittenberg, thus bringing him the precarious title of heretic and ruffian. Enemy of the church of Rome and Germany. What brought this infamous title is even more shocking. Martin Luther confronted the use of Indulgences: "A release from the temporal penalties for sin through the payment of money." These "indulgences" were being sold in order to raise money for the building of Saint Peter's Church in Rome. Paid for by the common man on the basis of false hope and fear for loved ones trapped in Purgatory. Martin Luther cried out to the common peasant and citizen of Germany,
"Christians are to be taught that it would be the pope's wish, as it is his duty, to give of his own money to very many of those from whom certain hawkers of pardons cajole money, even though the church of St. Peter might have to be sold." (# 51 of the 95 Thesis.)
Today it seems we find ourselves as the Church at the same crossroads. We are told if we pay enough, spend enough, give enough, and tithe enough, we will be rewarded in this life and in the one to come great and lofty things. By doing this we will somehow secure a greater access to Heaven than we had before. In giving money to them we will find riches for ourselves and family. And all the while these churches and ministries grow larger than life itself and the streets and alleys of our cities and towns are left none the better. Still the orphan and the widow go unattended and unvisited. Still the gangs and children 'faint for hunger at the top of every street.' While "nobles" grow richer on the hard work and sweat of the common man.
Conferences charge hundreds of dollars per person to meet budgets that are unnecessary. And still the streets only hear an echo of what is preached. Inspiration has become an institution, and the institution has become an industry. Like a circus at times the conference comes to town in flashing lights declaring its procession of names and celebrities, drawing the crowd and charging the money. Forgetting that Jesus Himself set a precedent for us to follow,
"When you give a dinner or supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor your rich neighbors... But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind, and you will be blessed..." (Luke 14:12-14).
The reason we do not have revival in our cities and nation, is because we have not had a reformation first! We have not had the revelation of who Jesus really is that will lead to a revolution. Martin Luther somewhere in his pursuit of knowledge and peace of mind came to a revelation of Jesus Christ. That led to a revolution. It led to a spiritual revival from dead works and greedy practices. It gave back to the common man salvation and liberty in the Holy Ghost. It fed the people the unleavened bread of simplicity instead of the rotten manna of men's thinking and reasoning. Only in a revelation of that simplicity will we find the revolution that will change our crime ridden, gang infested streets to rivers of living water. Only at the feet of Jesus Himself will we be empowered to make the impact harvest demands. The cry is this,
"Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better work than buying pardons; Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in need, and passes him by, and gives [his money] for pardons, purchases not the indulgences of the pope, but the indignation of God." (Martin Luther).
We must move beyond conference to confrontation. We must take off the garments of enterprise and put on the garments of eternity. Seeking first the Kingdom of God. The word revolution means "a radical change in thought..." We must make a radical change in our thinking and approach to the throne of grace. No longer bringing petitions of grandeur and gain, but rather crying out, "Give me souls or give me death!" Only then will we see the revival that we long for. For if we really longed for it then we would not hesitate to pay the price to secure it...
Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Peace, peace," and there is no peace! Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Cross, cross," and there is no cross!" (Martin Luther).
Paul said in Philippians even weeping that there were some that were the "enemies of the cross of Christ..." They were not enemies necessarily of Jesus Himself, they probably followed Him from town to town just to get something from Him. But they were enemies of the CROSS OF CHRIST! They were enemies to the lifestyle of Jesus, the sacrifice, the denial of oneself. And thus this made them enemies of Him! Today many embrace the doctrines of Jesus, they applaud Him every Sunday, They wear t-shirts and necklaces that advertise Him, but they refuse to take up their cross and follow Him!
"They are enemies of Christ and of the pope, who bid the Word of God be altogether silent in some Churches, in order that pardons may be preached in others." (# 53 of the 95 Thesis).
Revival will come when a reformation of religion comes first. We have seen the first fruits in some places, but God knows a revolution awaits us! One that will shake institutions and intuitions. That will change the way we approach the throne of grace. That will reform and renew our minds and the way we think about each other that may be of a different denomination or doctrinal statement. Reformation will clean out the closets of the church and what will emerge is a purified bride ready for the Bridegroom!
"Let the Bridegroom go out from His chamber, and the Bride from her closet, Let the priests, who minister to the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar; Let them say, "Spare Your people, O Lord! And do not give Your heritage to reproach..." (Joel 2:16-17).
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