Online Worship for Reformation Day, Sunday October 31, 2021
Sermon Devotions/Reformation – Sunday October 31, 2021
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
My Fellow Lutheran Christians,
While the world around us considers this day a secular holiday, it is for Lutheran Christians -- Reformation Day.
On this date in 1517, a little-known monk named Martin Luther nailed a document called, The 95 Theses Against Papal Indulgences, to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther’s purpose in posting that document was to call for a debate, a meeting to discuss what God’s Word says about God’s Forgiveness. The result was what even secular historians call, The Reformation.
Martin Luther was not a saint, but he was a forgiven sinner, a Christian. He was also a teacher, a pastor, a father and even a writer. He wrote volumes of commentary on Scripture. He wrote sermons and catechisms. He wrote hymns (three of which we sing today) as well as a total of 23 in our Hymnal.
This morning we will meditate upon three different Scripture passages under the theme: A Mighty Fortress is our God. Our God is a fortress from the accusations of our own consciences; from the persecutions of the world; and from the attacks of the Devil.
If it appears that my memory isn’t very good this morning and I’m looking down quite a bit, that’s because the words you hear are not mine, but almost entirely those of Martin Luther Himself, taken from his own writings.
1 John 3:20
20 For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
To be sure, from our conscience we get only thoughts of accusation, because our works are nothing in the presence of God (unless He Himself by His grace works in us), although it is easy for us to excuse ourselves in our own eyes, because we are easily pleased with ourselves.
But what does it profit except that we are thereby convinced that we knew the Law? For any such self-pleasing thoughts testify that we have done good and refrained from evil, but we have not thereby pleased God or fulfilled the Law completely.
Whence shall we take thoughts to defend us?
Only from Christ, and only in Him will we find them. For if the heart of a believer in Christ accuses him and reprimands him and witnesses against him that he has done evil, he will immediately turn away from evil and will take his refuge in Christ and say,
“Christ has done enough for me. He is just. He is my defense. He has died for me. He has made His righteousness my righteousness, and my sin His sin. If He has made my sin to be His sin, then I do not have it, and I am free. If He has made His righteousness my righteousness, then I am righteous now with the same righteousness as He. My sin cannot devour Him, but it is engulfed in the unfathomable depths of His righteousness, for He himself is God, who is blessed forever.”
Thus, we can say, “God is greater than our heart” (1 John 3:20). The Defender is greater than the accuser, immeasurably greater.
It is God who is my defender. (Martin Luther, Lectures on Romans, Luther’s Works, Volume 25).
This is sufficient for me. Why should I fear? And whom should I fear? For (In John 6:38) He says… “Him who comes to Me I will not cast out.”
This I will accept, love, and cherish.
Therefore I will surely remain secure with Him. For here I am dearly and unmistakably assured that I will not be rejected and cast out… in another passage it is written that no one will snatch me out of His hand (John 10:28).
Christ is determined to protect and defend me, so that no one will take me from Him, even though all the devils and the gates of hell (Matthew 16:18) were against me. (Martin Luther, Sermons on the Gospel of St. John, Chapters 6-8, Volume 23).
Let’s continue by singing the first two verses of Hymn 388, “Just as I am without One Plea.”
God is also our mighty fortress from the persecutions of the world.
33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
You, dear brethren, need to hold especially fast to the gospel of grace and you need a large number of laborers in the harvest-field [Matthew 9:38], for you dwell, as Ezekiel did, among scorpions [Ezekiel 2:6]…
If we are now accorded like treatment we should not be amazed.
The fact that we see and feel that we fare in the same way as did the prophets and apostles because of the word of God should rather tend to strengthen us all the more. Christ himself had to suffer and be maligned as a perverter of the nation before Pilate because he taught differently than their scribes had done for so long.
Therefore we are not concerned with our woes, but with the wretchedness of our persecutors; for we ourselves are well provided for.
We are certain that they cannot detract from that; rather, the more they rage against us, the more they destroy themselves and prosper us, as St. Paul states in Philippians 1 [:18]. “Who can harm us since we have a Lord who holds the death and life of all our adversaries in his hand” [Romans 14:9], and who addresses our heart so comfortingly in John 16 [:33] saying, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
They threaten us with death. If they were as smart as they are stupid, they would threaten us with life. It is a shame and disgrace to try to threaten and terrify Christ and his Christians with death for, after all, they are lords and victors over death.
It is just like trying to frighten a man by bridling and saddling his horse and bidding him to ride on it. (Luther’s Works, Volume 43, Writings II)
Therefore, dear brethren, stand firm.
Edify and comfort one another in the power of God, that is, with God’s word, which overcomes everything. Be assured that what Christ said in Luke 6 [:22–23] applied to you: “Blessed are you when men hate you on account of the Son of man, and exclude and revile you, and regard your name as something evil, for that is what their fathers did to the prophets.”
Christ himself declares, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own, but because you are not of the world, and because I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
This then is the true art, that in suffering and cross we should look to the Word and the comforting assurance, and trust them, even as He said, “In me you shall have peace, but in the world, tribulation” [cf. John 16:33].
It is as if he were saying: Danger and terror will surely hit you if you accept my Word; but let it come, this will happen to you because of me. So be of good cheer; I will not forsake you, I will be with you and will help you. No matter how great the affliction may be, it will be small and light for you, if you are able to draw such thoughts from the Word of God. (Luther’s Works, Volume 51, Sermons)
Let us therefore now rejoice with all assurance and gladness, and should any thought of sin or death frighten us, let us in opposition to this lift up our hearts and say: “Behold, dear soul, what are you doing?
Dear death, dear sin, how is it that you are alive and terrify me?
Do you not know that you have been overcome? Do you, death, not know that you are quite dead? Do you not know the One who says of you: ‘I have overcome the world?’ It does not behoove me either to listen to your terrifying suggestions, or heed them.
Rather [I should listen] to the comforting words of my Savior:
‘Be of good cheer, be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.’ He is the victor, the true hero, who gives and appropriates to me his victory with this word: ‘Be of good cheer!’ I shall cling to him, and to his words and comfort I shall hold fast; regardless whether I remain here or go yonder, I shall live by [this word, for] he does not lie to me. You would like to deceive me with your terrors, and with your lying thoughts you would like to tear me away from such a victor and savior.
But they are lies, as surely as it is true that he has overcome you and commanded us to be comforted. (Luther’s Works, Volume 50, Letters III)
Let’s continue by singing the third verse of Hymn 388, “Just as I am without One Plea.”
God is finally our Mighty Fortress from the assaults of Satan.
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
For we are absolved through the Word, and on the authority of Christ we are told: “I baptize you; I extend to you the body and blood of Christ; I tear your soul by force from the power of the devil; I set you free from eternal death and damnation; and I make you a child of God and an heir of eternal life.”
These words which God speaks to us are so grand, eternal, and infinite that we cannot grasp them; for my nature is too weak to be able to endure them. This weakness draws us back and hinders us, so that we do not feel such great joy and gladness as those words and divine promises really bring…
Yet they are completely true. Surely, we must die in this faith. Satan... rages horribly when he hears that this is taught in this way, and he persecutes those who preach it or who listen to this doctrine and embrace it.
But we should listen with grateful hearts and with joy, and we should believe at least weakly. Only let us not fight against it, blaspheme, persecute, reject, and deny. The reason why we do not comprehend it firmly and perfectly lies in the wretchedness of our flesh and in the narrowness of our heart, which cannot grasp that incomprehensible glory. Thus Paul says in 2 Cor. 9:15: “Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!”…
For GOD promises and gives an inexpressible treasure, the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, the grace of GOD, the inheritance of heavenly blessings, victory, and the power to trample the devil underfoot.
Therefore, must I, wretched little man and worm that I am, fight against so many angels, against principalities and powers, against the rulers of darkness (Eph. 6:12), and indeed without the sword of the flesh, without strength, without wisdom, without power?
But how? Believe in the Seed of Abraham, the Son of God. This faith is our victory which overcomes the world (1 John 5:4), vanquishes the devil, and destroys the gates of hell (of. Matt. 16:18). But it is still a slender grasping and a tiny spark of faith.
Therefore, in that slender grasping it does not yet appear how great the thing we believe is. May the Lord grant that we endure in faith to the end! May our Mighty Fortress so grant it. Amen.