Reformation Day/10.31.10/Fort Q & IH/Romans 3:28
“For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”
The date today is October 31. For Lutherans this day is significant because it is Reformation Day. The day that we pause and reflect upon some of the core teachings of the Bible. The core teachings that the Lutheran Reformation brought back from the periphery and placed in the centre of the Christian Faith where it belongs. Often these are referred to as the “Sola’s” of the Reformation. Christ alone. Grace alone. Faith alone. Scripture alone.
Reformation Day is not a day for pride. Reformation Day is not a day to look down upon those who are not Lutherans. Reformation Day is a day to be filled with humble thanksgiving. It is to be a day of thanksgiving for the undeserved, unmerited, gracious goodness of God to us poor sinners. We rejoice and give thanks for the gifts God gives us for the sake of Jesus Christ.
However we are bold to say that what we believe as Lutherans today, in the direct line of the Reformers of the 16th Century, is what the Christian Church has always believed, taught, and confessed. What we believe is not new. What we believe is not something Martin Luther came up with 500 years ago. No! What we believe is what the Bible teaches. What we believe is catholic in the truest sense of the word. It is universal. What Lutherans believe, teach, and confess is what the Bible teaches and confesses.
But who cares really? What difference does it make? Does it really matter if you go to this church or that? They are all pretty much the same aren’t they? I mean the Anglican church’s liturgy and the Roman Catholic church’s liturgy are pretty close to what we do. The Baptists and Alliance folk believe in Jesus don’t they? What is the big deal?
Today we will see little ones, and some not so little ones, running around all dressed up in various costumes. Princesses and pumpkins, cats and hockey players, firemen and barbies. But, there are also those who will dress up like monsters. Vampires, ghouls, ghosts, etc. Monsters. Of course we know that monsters aren’t real. It is all for pretend and fun. It’s a little spooky. But there is one monster that I want to tell you about on this October 31st that is very real. It is the scariest and most deadly monster that has ever been. This monster is alive and well today.
The Monster of Uncertainty. Luther knew this monster well. In fact, it was he who coined the term – the Monster of Uncertainty. This is not a monster I have made up. It is real. It lives today. This monster prowls about looking to terrify consciences. This monster prowls about looking to cause doubt and fear. This monster prowls about looking to destroy trust and hope and joy. This monster prowls about looking to destroy peace.
The Monster of Uncertainty roars: “Did God really say?” The Monster of Uncertainty takes Jesus out of view and places you as the only player on the field. The Monster of Uncertainty calls into question God’s promises.
How do you know God loves you? How do you know that you are not left alone by God? How do you know your sins are forgiven? How do you know that particularly dark sin in your past is forgiven? How do you know that when you die you will not be damned to hell? How do you know that the gates to heaven are open for you?
Well, how do you know? Are you absolutely certain that God loves you? Are you absolutely certain that your sins are forgiven? Are you certain that when you die you will be welcomed into heaven? Does the Monster of Uncertainty lurk in the background of your life? Is the Monster of Uncertainty growling in the dark corners of your life? Does the Monster of Uncertainty strike fear and terror in your heart?
If you seek to answer these questions by looking to yourself – the Monster will win. You will never have any peace – only uncertainty. You will never have any comfort – you will only hear the Monster of Uncertainty growling and striking doubt and fear in your heart.
If you look to yourself and the good things you have done hoping that you have earned God’s love and merit – ask yourself – how do you know if you have done enough? Are you sure? Are you certain?
If you look to yourself and base your faith upon your action of deciding and accepting Jesus – ask yourself – are you sure you gave all your heart to Jesus? Are you sure you really decided to accept Jesus? Maybe it was just an emotional thing? Did you really mean it?
The Monster of Uncertainty points you away from Jesus and has you look at yourself for your assurance and your certainty of God’s love and forgiveness. The Monster of Uncertainty wants you to find your certainty and assurance somewhere in you.
Lutherans reject all of this and this is why what you believe matters. This is why not all churches are the same. Not all churches have an answer to the Monster of Uncertainty. Many churches will have you look to something in yourself for your certainty of salvation. You see Lutheran theology – which is Christian theology – points you in the exact opposite direction as the Monster of Uncertainty. We look not to ourselves for our assurance and certainty of God’s love and forgiveness. We look to Jesus. We look not to what we have done to earn God’s merit – we look to Jesus and what He has done for us. We look not to our accepting of Jesus – but to His accepting of us by grace through faith.
How do you know what Jesus did 2000 years ago in His life, death on the cross, and His resurrection is for you? For you specifically? Individually?
Because Jesus says so.
He said so in your baptism. Through the blessed waters of Holy Baptism He claimed you as His own and promised to always be with you and to remove your sin. Notice – not what you do – but what Jesus has done and promised to you. Therefore – you can have certainty that it is true for you.
Jesus speaks His word of forgiveness in the Holy Absolution to you and by His doing He erases your guilt. Again – this is not something that you do –it is something that is given to you by the Lord’s promise. His forgiveness of your sins does not rely upon you but upon Jesus Word and faithfulness.
In the Sacrament of Holy Communion He gives Himself to you – personally and individually. He promises to be there in the Sacrament for you in His Body and Blood with the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of faith. You don’t do anything to make this so. It is so because Jesus says it is so. It is sure and certain because it is not reliant upon you but upon Jesus.
Jesus provides you with these sure and certain places to find Him and His gifts for you. He does not want you to suffer through life with doubts and uncertainty regarding His love for you, His forgiveness of you, and His promises of eternal life for you.
For you. Specifically. Individually. For you. Jesus speaks it. Jesus promises it. Jesus gives it. For you. There is no doubt. There is no uncertainty. The One who rose from the dead and defeated sin, death, and the devil has spoken. This is most certainly true.
The Monster of Uncertainty is slain not by your efforts. The Monster of Uncertainty is slain not by your good works or merit. The Monster of Uncertainty is not slain by the strength of your faith. The Monster of Uncertainty is slain by Jesus. The Monster of Uncertainty is slain when we look to Jesus and Him alone for our life and salvation. The Monster of Uncertainty is slain when we by grace through faith trust Jesus’ Word and promises – the Word and promises that are given for you.
Dear friends, you can leave here this morning and go out into the scary world without doubt and fear. You can be fearless in the face of your sin and failure knowing that in Jesus you are forgiven. You can be fearless in the face of the trials and struggles of this life because you know that for Jesus’ sake you are beloved by God and are never left alone. You can be fearless when you face death itself because you know that in Jesus your death has been conquered – it no longer has dominion over you.
There is no doubt. There is no uncertainty. Jesus has accomplished it all for you. Jesus has given you all that He has done for you through His Word and Sacraments in the Church. On this Reformation Day let us rejoice in this Good News of Jesus Christ. Let us take comfort and have peace in our Lord Jesus’ work for us. Let us humbly acknowledge the great heritage of faithful biblical teaching that has handed down to us through the millennia. Let us seek to share this wonderful Good News with others who may be haunted by the Monster of Uncertainty. But above all else let us find peace in our Lord Jesus: For His sake - You are forgiven. You are loved by God. You have been given eternal life. This is most certainly true. Amen.