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America’s Foundation of Freedom

martin lutherAs we come to celebrate and remember Reformation Day this week, we have come a long way from the days when a German monk named Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517. Luther complained that salvation was a free gift of a gracious God and not something that could be controlled, bought or sold by corrupt officials. Most Christians have long forgotten Luther and Reformation Day. It has been replaced with Halloween, now the second biggest holiday after Christmas. Some churches are trying to do something spiritual during Halloween, like having a Gospel party or giving out tracts, but the real theology and the reasons for the Reformation are slipping away from America as you read this article. In the end, every society ends up moving toward freedom or slavery as their history unfolds.  This journey to slavery or freedom is at the center of the Bible’s story line, the people of Israel’s history and the destiny of all the nations on earth. When you forget what freedom is and why you have it, it is only a matter of time until you have lost it. That surely could be said for America today. Our nation is surely fighting for its’ future under the power of increasing government control, massive debt, politically correct speech and an anti-Christian understanding of the relationship between Church and State.

Now, if we step back for a minute and take a look at Europe prior to the Reformation, we see that it was run by a few powerful people in the Church and in the State. People were not free at all. Their speech, their thoughts and their lives were always controlled in some way by someone. You couldn’t choose the church you wanted to attend, buy a Bible or vote to elect leaders that represented your interests. People were generally stuck in the class they were born to and upward mobility, education and personal growth and development were experienced by few. It would almost be impossible for any of us to really understand what the world was like in Europe before the Reformation. Our society is so used to the benefits that came from it that we take them for granted.

At the heart of Reformation thinking was the basic belief that the Lord had set humanity free   through the Lord Jesus’ death on the Cross for sin and glorious Resurrection. The Reformers were very fond of putting this wonderful freedom in Christ into 5 “solas”, a Latin word for “alone”. God alone had created and given freedom to the world through Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, expressed through the Scriptures alone for the glory of God alone. God alone had given this precious freedom to humanity. As a result, they were free to love the Lord and others, free to serve the Lord and others, free to choose, free to assemble, free to worship the Lord without hindrance, free to vote, free to earn a living, free to speak out. The list is very long! All of these freedoms were a Divine gift and were not created or controlled by earthly rulers or clerical leaders of the day.

And so, while it is not very politically correct to say it, the Reformation really created America and the concept of freedom as understood by most Americans today.   Sadly, it would be hard to find such a clear and blunt statement about the Reformation in a public school textbook. Instead, large numbers of our children leave American schools having never heard of the Reformation, let alone knowing why it was and is important to them and their future. Even fewer students are able to recognize that the Declaration of Independence’s concept of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, as given by the Lord, was the fruit of the Reformation and its legacy of God given freedom that influenced the Founding Fathers and the birth of America.

As we celebrate Reformation Day this year, may the risen Lord Jesus Christ speak to us all. Without our Lord, there never will be any freedom of any kind. Without the Lord restraining human sin, power and ambition, through the checks and balances of government that came from the Reformation, America risks slipping back to the issues of pre-Reformation Europe.   America today stands at the crossroads of history and is given the same choice that was given to Israel during the days of Joshua. We must choose this Reformation Day who we will serve, the Lord or His Creation. The answer to that question will determine the future of America and our individual souls as well.
Author Information
Jeffery Carlson
Jeff Carlson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs. Jeff came to personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as a college freshman through the witness of a campus evangelist. He graduated from the University of Illinois in Urbana, Illinois with a degree in engineering and worked in the corporate world for several years before his call to ministry. Following graduation from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California Jeff came to Oakhill Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he currently serves as pastor. Jeff has a tremendous passion to teach, preach and communicate God's Word in simple and clear ways that the average person can understand.

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