Monday, 31 October 2011

Halloween or Reformation Day?

Today is 31 October 2011. What do you call this day?

My assumption would be that many of you know this day as "Halloween".

However, I prefer to call 31 October by its less known designation: "Reformation Day".

On this day, many Christians remember the historical period in the 16th century known as the Reformation and, in particular, Martin Luther's nailing of his "95 Theses" to the door of the church in Wittenberg on 31 October 1517. This event sparked the Reformation, in which Luther and other reformers such as John Calvin and John Knox spoke out against false doctrines and practices of the church in an attempt to reform it.

The reformers pointed to the Bible as the inspired Word of God and the sole authority for religious faith and practice (sola scriptura). They confirmed the biblical teaching that Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and man - there is no other way of salvation (solus Christus). Furthermore, as God's Word says in Ephesians 2:8-9, salvation is a gift of God given by grace alone (sola gratia) and through faith alone (sola fide) - it cannot be earned or achieved by good works. Therefore, since salvation is totally a work and a gift of God, all the glory belongs to God (soli Deo gloria). These beliefs have become known as "the five solas."

So do we remember today as Reformation Day or Halloween? Shall we think about Luther and the Reformation or about the devil his doings? Who is the winner?

Actually, I don't mind what name you want to give for this day. Although I prefer the designation "Reformation Day", I have no problem with people who refer to today as "Halloween", as that is what it is most commonly known as. I'm not interested in a "name game" or in scoring points in favour of one name over the other or the like.

But I do want to get address this symbolic "fight" between Martin Luther and the devil... Although symbolic by way of the names "Reformation Day" and "Halloween", there was and is also a real fight going on between the devil on one side and Luther and every other human being on the other side.

 Room in Wartburg Castle where Martin Luther translated the Bible into German
and where he is said to have thrown an inkwell at the devil

As much as I greatly admire Martin Luther, I readily admit that he is no match for the devil. The devil is real and evil and far more powerful than Luther, or than any of us human beings for that matter. Indeed, that is precisely what Luther wrote in the first stanza of his most famous hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God:

For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow'r are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

So there is no hope for anyone to stand a chance against the devil.

However, neither Luther nor any of us are the devil's greatest enemy. The devil's greatest enemy is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And although we are no match for the devil, the devil is no match for Jesus Christ.

These are the next two stanzas of A Mighty Fortress Is Our God:

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God's own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth is His name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And tho' this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us;
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim --
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

If you do not have Jesus Christ, you will most certainly lose the battle against the devil and will remain forever under his bondage and, like him, suffer eternal punishment. Jesus Christ is your only hope to be freed from the devil and from sin, death and hell. When Jesus Christ is at your side, you can know that the devil is no match for Him and you need no longer fear him.

How is this possible?

When Jesus, the perfect and holy Son of God, came to this earth as a sinless man, He came to die and to provide eternal life. Although He had done no wrong, He died on the cross to bear God's just wrath against the sins of all who put their faith and trust in Him. By doing this and by rising from the dead after three days, Jesus destroyed the power the devil had over sinful beings like Martin Luther and you and me. And He provided a way for us to escape.

In Hebrews 2:14-15, we read:

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

Anybody who believes on Christ and calls out to Him for salvation in faith and repentance, will be saved (Rom. 10:13). Who or what are you trusting in today? Yourself and your own strength? A church? A religion? Good works? None of this will be able to save you! Run to Christ - He alone can save! (Acts 4:12)

This morning, I read the following lines in a book called The Valley of Vision:

Jesus strides forth as the victor, conqueror of death, hell, and all opposing might;
He bursts the bands of death, tramples the powers of darkness down, and lives for ever.
He, my gracious surety, apprehended for payment of my debt, comes forth from the prison house of the grave free, and triumphant over sin, Satan, and death.

May you have the same assurance that Martin Luther expressed in the words of this prayer:

O Lord, I do not deserve a glimpse of heaven, and I am unable with my works to redeem myself from sin, death, the devil, and hell. Nevertheless, you have given me your Son, Jesus Christ, who is far more precious and dear than heaven, and much stronger than sin, death, the devil, and hell. For this I rejoice, praise, and thank you, O God. Without cost and out of pure grace you have given me this boundless blessing in your dear Son. Through him you take sin, death, and hell from me, and do grant me all that belongs to him. Amen.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Bibles for the London Olympics

Here are three interesting facts about London:

1) It is the city with the most international visitors of any city in the world.
2) London Heathrow is the world's busiest airport by number of international passengers.
3) Next year, it will become the first city to host the modern Summer Olympic Games three times.

Needless to say, London will be bursting at its seems when the Olympic Games are held there from 27 July to 12 August 2012. It is expected that over 10,000 athletes from more than 200 countries will be coming to London in those weeks, not to mention all the spectators and regular tourists!

London has been preparing for the Olympics not only by building stadiums and other sports venues, but also by building new hotels. And the Gideons International in the British Isles have been preparing for the Olympics by seeking to provide Bibles for all hotels and guest houses in and around London.

Last month, I had the opportunity to join around 180 other Gideons from the British Isles to visit these hotels and guest houses and offer them free Bibles for every room.

I went along with a Gideon couple to visit hotels and guesthouses at Heathrow airport and the surrounding area. We enquired whether all their rooms were equipped with Gideon Bibles or whether they had Bibles that needed replacing. Many hotels were already equipped with Gideon Bibles. Of course, there were also those that did not want Bibles. In those cases and in cases where they already had Bibles, we were able to offer a New Testament to the manager or the staff which was well received in most cases, even where the manager/staff may well have been from another religious background. The greatest joy was to come to hotels/guesthouses that did not have any Bibles but whose managers were eager to receive them. In the space of the four days that the Gideons were in London, more than 50,000 Bibles were given away free of charge.

For more than a century, God has blessed the ministry of the Gideons International with its unique business model - giving away its main product free of charge! In the last year, more than 78 million copies of God's Word were distributed worldwide by the Gideons.

God still uses His Word today to change lives. Take a look at this video with a testimony from a man who intended to commit suicide in a motel room but instead had an encounter with God's Word and was given a new life: