The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
When we think of the Reformation, we tend to get very reminiscent. We focus heavily on the past. Our thoughts center on such things as Martin Luther nailing 95 theses to a Wittenberg church door. Reformation is grounded in a lot of old-school tradition. We sing Divine Service 3. We sing “A Mighty Fortress” as we think of courageous men like Luther fighting the good fight against wicked popes and their made-up heresies of indulgences and purgatory. Because of the geographical nexus of the Reformation, we also tend to associate the Reformation with great Germanic things like bratwurst, beer, and polka music. The Reformation and Oktoberfest just go together perfectly. Sadly, many believe the two can’t be separated. “If you don’t like bratwurst and sauerkraut, then you’re not Lutheran!” (My Ethiopian Lutheran friends would strongly disagree!)
What about the events portrayed for us in the book of Revelation? When you hear “Reformation,” does your mind immediately go to the book of Revelation? Probably not. Maybe the book of Romans. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and all are justified by His grace as a free gift. We are justified by faith apart from works of the law.” Faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone. That’s the message of the Reformation in a nutshell. That makes sense. But Revelation? That’s all apocalyptic doom-and-gloom, right? That’s end of the world kind of stuff. Armageddon? Yes. Reformation? Not so much.
Well… that’s where you’re wrong. In fact, today’s lesson from Revelation hits the Reformation nail on the head. Think about it (and don’t over-think, because it’s not difficult). The angel—the messenger from God—is flying directly overhead—high noon. This is showing that the time to listen up and pay attention is right now. It’s immediately overhead, and it’s urgent. Now is the day! This heavenly messenger has an eternal Gospel to proclaim, not just to bratwurst-loving Lutherans, but to all who dwell on earth, “to every nation and tribe and language and people.” That means EVERYONE! And what is that universal Gospel message? “Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come.” Okay… that doesn’t sound very “Gospel-ish,” does it? “The hour of His judgment has come.” That certainly doesn’t sound very “Reformation-ish.” That’s a dead-ringer for Judgment Day. Why? Because it has the word “judgment” in it?!
Folks: Look to this cross. Here is God’s judgment, in the flesh. In all the history of mankind—past, present, and future—here is the hour of God’s judgment. Here is that moment in time when all of God’s righteous wrath was poured out on living, breathing flesh as punishment for all sin for all time. Here is where all sin for all time was paid for—in full. Look to this cross; look to God Himself in the flesh, battered, bloodied, and dying for you in your place; battered, bloodied, and suffering His Father’s righteous judgment against sin so that you would never have to taste even a single second of it for yourself. He died the death to sin so that you wouldn’t have to. It is finished, once and for all in Him alone.
And because of His all-atoning death and resurrection, our heavenly Father shows us mercy and grace. He justifies us. That’s a judgment word too. The Divine Judge declares us innocent of all sin; He justifies us. We are saved; not because of our works, but because of Him and His justifying grace. The Truth (as in, “The Way, the Life, and the Truth”) has set you free. Notice the language here. It’s so very important, and yet so often missed. You are set free. You don’t earn your freedom. You don’t make yourself free. The Truth sets you free, therefore you are free indeed. Umm… isn’t all this reason to fear God and give Him glory? Look! His hour of judgment has come! It’s come and it’s been fulfilled in Christ! This is precisely why that angelic messenger also says, “Worship Him!”
Folks: This is what the Reformation is all about! All the focus is on Christ! Radical, isn’t it? This is what true and faithful Christendom is all about—always has been and always will be. All the focus is on Christ and His all-atoning sacrifice. All the focus is on the heavenly Father and His unconditional, unmerited free gift of grace, which He bestows upon us, not because of our works, but because of Christ alone.
It’s sad when you think about it. This all seems so simple (and it is), and yet… it was so radical and revolutionary in Luther’s time. Even worse, it’s still radical and revolutionary in our time too. Just like those living under the tyranny of works-righteousness in Luther’s time; just like those in Luther’s time who were trying (in vain) to work off their sins and earn (or buy) their way into heaven, many today will regurgitate Scripture, saying that they’re saved through faith alone in grace alone because of Christ alone, but then in the next breath say, “and now here’s what you need to do in order to be saved.” It’s sad, but all those “Protestant Christians,” who today are really celebrating nothing more than independence from Roman Catholicism, are still laboring under the same yoke of works-righteousness that the Roman Catholics labored under (and continue to labor under). They don’t recognize the fact that they’re still toiling in a system of works that robs Christ of His cross and the grace that He won for us on that cross (as well as denies the blood-bought cruciform grace that He bestows upon us right here in His Word and Sacraments). They may change the name (because nobody would ever admit to being “works-righteous”), but they’re still laboring under the Law, which cannot and does not save. (If the Law could save you, then Jesus didn’t need to die!)
The Reformation is alive and well, my friends! It’s so sad because salvation for so many ignorant Christ-loving Christians—Protestant and Roman Catholic—remains a question mark. “Am I saved? Am I good enough? Have I done enough? Have I done too much?” They love Jesus, and yet in their ignorance and fear look past His cross and His means of grace to their own works, where they will only find uncertainty or false assurance—neither of which is good. It is to this darkness and fear and uncertainty and false works-righteous assurance that our Lord’s heavenly messenger still proclaims, “Fear God and give Him glory, for the hour of His judgment has come! Worship Him!”
Dear friends: You know this pure Law/Gospel Truth, and that Divine Truth has set you free. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and all are redeemed—totally and completely—in the all-atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s that simple. Baptized into Christ, you have been set free in Christ. It’s that simple.
May this Christ-centered, Life-giving Truth of baptismal freedom be revealed through you. May this light of Christ; this light of your justification in Christ and because of Christ, shine forth in your heart and soul like the noon day sun. May it shine forth in you and through you in all that you say and do; in your daily worship. In terms of Reformation, may you ever and always be that heaven-sent messenger of justifying Gospel to every tribe and nation and person that your Lord brings you into contact with in all your daily comings and goings, always pointing to and glorifying Christ in all your words and deeds. Faith alone in God’s grace alone because of Christ alone. It’s that simple, and that’s what it’s all about, now and to the end of the age.
All glory, all worship, and all honor and praise be to Him alone… AMEN.
Feel free to use any or all of this sermon for the edification of God's people. It is NOT necessary to ask my permission for any of it! In fact, you don't have to mention me at all. (I think it's highly problematic when pastors seek credit/glory for sermons inspired by the Holy Spirit!) Give praise to God for the fact that He continues to provide for His people.
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