Discovering Spiritual Truths & Celebrating God's Grace in the Every Day Happenings of Life.
This coming Sunday is the 504th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. You may recall the images and memes. Martin Luther standing in front of the big church doors; with a hammer in his hand ready to pound in nails to hold his theses in place for all to read. Decisively, though innocently, he was modestly hoping for an audience with the pope or authorities of the church. He did not set out to bring conflict or division; he desired only to correct some of abuses and misteachings of the church. In other words, Luther was not concerned with establishing a new Christian tradition, but with the renewal and correction of an existing tradition. He genuinely wanted the Catholic church to again understand the original and true meaning of the Gospel. At that point in time, Luther had no idea just how much he would change the world. “[Luther’s] Reformation neither transformed the church, nor was crushed by it. Instead, a de facto partition took shape. One by one, a series of German and Scandinavian cities and territories abolished the Catholic Mass, repudiated the church’s hierarchy, and required preachers to proclaim Luther’s doctrines. A new form of Christianity was starting to come into being… Like all great revolutions, it had created a new world.” (Alec Ryrie, author, Protestants) In exaggeratedly simple terms, this October 31st of 1517 essentially became the birthday of the Lutheran church. But what is the essence of the Reformation? Why is it a day that continues to be remembered?
Walk through any Walmart or Target right now and you’ll soon realize a child can be anything he or she wants—if only for a day or two. At either of these places, and in many other stores, Halloween fills the aisles. Costumes galore hanging on clothing racks and endcaps. Masks and makeup overflowing the shelves. Toy swords, plastic pitchforks and sparkling princess wands pouring out onto the floor. In these final days leading up to the end of October, kids have an opportunity to let their imaginations run wild. They can pretend to be anything from a dinosaur to a garden gnome. That’s the innocent thrill of this holiday (that and free chocolate of course 😊). Kids can dress up and be whatever they want. Scary or cute, it doesn’t matter. They can dress up as their favorite superhero or Disney princess. They can dress as their favorite toy or even their favorite food. They can live out their dream job of being a firefighter, baseball player, or ghostbuster.
Although there are plenty of adult costumes available, the merriment and playfulness of Halloween often dissipates as you age. It is hard to get enthusiastic about paying a small fortunate on overpriced, bite-sized candy. In the world of grown-ups, we no longer walk around excitedly asking each other, “What are you going to be for Halloween this year?” Sure, we may still love the occasional piece of leftover candy. And it is fun to ooh and aah over the trick-or-treating neighborhood kids in their cute costumes. But as you get older, the excitement of dress-up and the allure of make-believe sadly disappears. Our childhood innocence gives way to the reality of adulthood. We know better. No matter what costume we put on, nothing about us really changes. Our identity is still what it is. This, however, is not a bad thing at all!
As Christians, we wear something far better than a temporary masquerade. No cumbersome costumes. No fake layers of makeup. No hiding behind clever disguises. The Bible (Galatians 3:26-27) reminds us that we are forever transformed and changed because of what God has done for us in Jesus. “For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with [put on] Christ.”
Clothed with Christ. How’s that for an ultimate costume? It doesn’t get any better than that! The Apostle Paul reminds us that as Christians, we have been clothed with Jesus. In the powerful waters of baptism, God costumes us with a new identity. We are His children. We are part of His family, brothers and sisters in Christ. No need to pretend that we are something we are not. Our identity is first and foremost in the unchanging fact that we have been united with our Savior. We are connected to Jesus by His love and mercy. That is far more important than any other worldly or material attribute we often tie our identity up in—profession, hobbies, accolades. The beautiful, holy scriptures urge us to rejoice and embrace the eternal, spiritual clothing that believers put on each day. The Biblical language of “putting on,” suggests taking on a new life and purpose through being spiritually united with Christ. So leave the costumes to the kids. Dress yourself with Christ every morning. Let Him lead you!
“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness…” Isaiah 61:10
“No man can put on the robes of Christ’s righteousness till he has taken off his own.” (C. H. Spurgeon)
“The Bible is a remarkable fountain: the more one draws and drinks of it,
the more it stimulates thirst.” (Martin Luther)
One of the “safety” measures of my Honda CRV is something called LKAS. I’m fairly certain this is now a standard feature in most cars today. LKAS (Lane Keeping Assist System) is designed to make driving more convenient by helping to keep your vehicle in the middle of a detected lane, and it provides alerts and steering adjustments if the vehicle is detected drifting out of its lane. In other words, if you’re not paying attention, distracted, or slacking off behind the wheel, the car will automatically steer back into the proper lane and alert you to your inattention. It is there to help keep you on the road. In the past such daydreaming and negligence could more swiftly result in a sideswipe or fender-bender; but with these new safety features there is a bit more warning so you can remain safe and avoid calamities. Of course, this doesn’t completely absolve the distracted driver from potential accidents. But when you hear the beeping alert, feel the vibrating steering wheel, or see “Steering Required” flashing on the dashboard you know you need to refocus asap.
I’ll admit that I had some fun playing with and testing this feature when I first got the car. My kids were equally impressed watching the steering wheel move by itself as we traveled down the highway. "Look kids, no hands!" However, it's important to know that there are limitations. If I ignore the audio and visual alerts, the car will continue to veer off-course and end up in a ditch or something worse. This safety feature is only meant to reengage my attention. It is never going to self-pilot the car or completely prevent an accident. That being said, it has saved me a couple of times in the short two months I’ve had my car. For whatever reason my car, and my mind, have drifted causing me to get too close to the painted lines. It is definately good to have such safety features.
Pastor Steve Vera