At the break of day every Saturday morning 20 men gather for food, fellowship and Bible study at my church. Beneath the cross high atop the church steeple, bathed in the light of the rising sun, we immerse ourselves in gospel light. As the rising sun illumines the darkness of the night, just so, in Fellowship Hall, the gospel illumines the hearts and minds of 20 sinners. Post tenebras lux—after darkness, light.

More famously, that phrase was the motto of a turning point in the history of western civilization—October 31, 1517—when a Saxon monk and college professor named Reverend Doctor Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the castle church door, the bulletin board in those days, in Wittenberg Germany. The announcement, written in Latin (ordinary parishioners did not read Latin, and few anything else), of his desire to have an academic discussion with his fellow monks exploded into what is known as the Protestant Reformation, an extraordinary spiritual awakening when “God poured out his Holy Spirit in great abundance on ordinary men” (John Knox) and changed the world.

It was a dark age, pervading even the church. Luther contended the church’s primary mission was to proclaim the good news of the Son of God’s atoning death on the cross for us and for our salvation, not priests peddling “indulgences,” an extra-biblical scheme. Luther strongly affirmed that the true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God. (#62 of the 95 theses). But money spoke louder than the gospel among the church hierarchy in need of cash in those dark days, and man-made rules and rituals were trumping sola scriptura—scripture alone—as ultimate authority for faith and practice. “The righteous shall live by faith,” as Paul told the Romans in 1:17, was the hinge that swung open the gate of heaven for Luther, the key verse of God’s Word that sparked the fires of Reformation. That faith is in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone as revealed in scripture alone—the gospel.  It is the possession of faith, not just the profession. It is trust in Christ’s dying, not man’s doing that saves sinners. It’s had wide ranging effects on Christianity and western civilization to this day. There are now between 800 million and 1 billion Protestants and 1.2 billion Catholics in the world.

It’s been a contentious 500 years. Salvation of one’s soul is the most important consideration that can occupy the mind of man, and being right or wrong in what is necessary has eternal consequences. The most careful Bible study and prayerful self-examination are of critical importance. If you could but glimpse one thousandth of the wrath of eternal damnation…

At the Diet of Worms in 1621, when Luther was confronted with papal authority and all the heads of state of the Holy Roman Empire and commanded to recant his writings, he said, with his life in the balance, “ … my conscience is captive to the Word of God … Here I stand.  I can do no other.  So help me God.” Five centuries later darkness is descending again, and here I stand, a stooped old man in the shadow of that cross high in the light of dawn, my soul warmed by the heat of gospel light, my heart captive to God’s Word, confessing my own unworthiness—a debtor in default claiming Christ paid my debt in his infinite love and mercy—and proclaiming the grace and glory of my Savior. O Lord, in your infinite mercy, shine your gospel light into our darkening age. We desperately need a Post Tenebras Lux Redux. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17).

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

See you in church.


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