Thursday, October 25, 2012

Approaching Reformation Day

As we approach Reformation Day I look back on the journey my family has taken in our twelve years together (my wife and I were married on October 7, 2000).  As I formed Christian convictions I rejected the practice of Halloween due to the evil often associated with it.  The celebration of fear is not something I am willing to identify with.  When I was younger I would often think of 1 Timothy 1.7, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind," (NKJV) as I formed this conviction.

The rejection of Halloween as an acceptable celebration gave me two choices at that time: ignore the practice or celebrate an alternative.  We did both.  However, in time I realized that October 31 was the date Martin Luther posted his "95 Theses" on the door of the church at Wittenberg, Germany, an act that really ignited the fires of Reformation that had begun previous to him (see Jan Hus, John Wycliffe for instance).

With this, I determined that the proper celebration for Christians should be Reformation Day.  Since Luther was the focus of this day, it was not just a Reformed perspective, but an Evangelical one.  I decided that we would celebrate Reformation Day as a family.  It has been a slow process, but we look to the history of the Reformation and celebrate the Biblical fact of justification by faith ("Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 5.1 ESV; "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." Epeshians 2.8-9 ESV) and the Five Solas (Sola Scriptura - Scripture Alone; Solus Christus - Christ Alone; Sola Gratia - Grace Alone; Sola Fide - Faith Alone; Soli Deo Gloria - The Glory of God Alone).

Granted, our celebration is a work in progress, and my young daughters are influenced by the constant barrage of Halloween advertisements around us- and churches offering Halloween parties and alternatives (I do not take issue with the alternatives, I just have a different conviction and side with Augustine: "In the essentials, unity; in the non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity"). 

One day I would like to see many non-Reformed churches embrace Reformation Day in place of Halloween since it is a celebration directly related to Church history- something we do not teach enough of in the United States.  Anecdotally, this can be seen in a time I preached and mentioned Martin Luther and afterward was asked why I did not mention his "I Have a Dream" speech (which, for any who may be confused by this, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the "I Have a Dream" speech- which was also a needed speech).

I did have someone object to Martin Luther's anti-Semitic writings, and I do take issue with racism of any type- anti-Semitic, hate based on skin color or ethnic background, etc.  Martin Luther was a flawed man.  He pointed to a Gospel that has no flaws.  Calvin was flawed.  John Wesley was flawed.  You are flawed.  I am flawed.  The greatness of the Reformation is that it was bigger than any one man.  It was a return to a focus on the greatness and grace of God.  People could find hope in God instead of finding corruption in the Romanist church.  We can look to Jesus as our head, not a fallible pope. We are justified by our faith in God, not by our obedience to the papacy.

That is why Reformation Day has a growing significance for our family.  I look forward to learning more ways to make it even more a part of our practice as my daughters grow toward adulthood.

Pete Garbacki is a minister with Time for Truth Ministries and Mission.Brasil.  Follow him on Twitter @mission_brasil or FaceBook at

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