Recently, I spent time in Germany for two leadership conferences. I was involved in training Arabic-speaking, Christian leaders and church planters. Between the two conferences I had the privilege of spending three days in Wittenberg, Germany. where Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church 500 years ago. This act is considered to mark the start of the Protestant Reformation.

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It was a great experience to worship at both the church where Luther nailed his 95 theses and where he preached for many years in Wittenberg. I saw some of his belongings in a museum, including his table where he would sit and drink beer or wine (both of which his wife made), and talk with friends at night. I saw groups protesting the celebration of the Reformation because of Luther’s remarks towards Jews. I saw indulgences (pieces of paper granting the bearer a certain amount of years off from his or her stay in purgatory) that were sold. These indulgences were one of the main acts which prompted Luther’s opposition to the Catholic Church. I saw many things and thought many thoughts.

I thought about how much culture and context has to do with how we live our lives. For example, I don’t drink, but I am sure I would have if I had lived in Luther’s day. There was no clean water, and milk was hard to come by. Worst of all, there was no sweet tea. One either drank beer or wine, or stayed sick all the time. Culture and context has a big influence.

As I thought about the Catholic Church of the day, and about Martin Luther and the other reformers, complete with all their warts, I had one overwhelming thought: We are all so broken, so fallen, so messed up. God has no choice but to use broken, fallen, messed up people to accomplish His purposes… Even the best of us are in desperate need of God’s amazing grace. This was true in Biblical times, in Luther’s time, and is certainly true in our time.

More than anything else, my visit to the cradle of the Reformation made me appreciate more fully the principle tenant of the Reformation. 

That is, “We are saved by GRACE ALONE through FAITH ALONE,
in CHRIST ALONE, according to the SCRIPTURE ALONE,

Five hundred years ago Martin Luther brought this basic Biblical truth to light. It brought reformation in his day.  It can do the same today.