Suppose we ponder how slippery is the fall of the human mind into forgetfulness of God, how great the tendency to every kind of error, how great the lust to fashion constantly new and artificial religions. Then we my perceive how necessary was such written proof of the heavenly doctrine, that it should neither perish through forgetfulness nor vanish through the error nor be corrupted by the audacity of men. It is therefore clear that God has provided the assistance of the Word for the sake of all those to whom he has pleased to give useful instruction because he foresaw that his likeness imprinted upon the most beautiful form of the universe would be insufficiently effective. — John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Book 1)
Today is Reformation Day. It marks the anniversary Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses
to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany and the start of the Protestant Reformation. Luther’s statement was a definitive challenge against the practice of indulgences, in which release from Purgatory would be granted on the basis of donations to the Church. He saw the practice prescribed nowhere in Scripture and, in fact, he saw it as a direct violation of good news revealed in Scripture.
Other Reformers, including Calvin, recognized this tendency to forget God as he has revealed himself and to “fashion constantly new and artificial religions.” The Reformers’ burden to hold up the Scripture as the one, true revelation of God was married to their burden for the souls of men and women. To depart from Scripture was to enter into despair and insecurity. In the Scripture, God has revealed good news of great joy that comes on the wings of truth that is hard to hear. It is the “hard truth” that we wish to adjust but we do so at the peril of our “great joy.” No man-made religion could offer the secure hope revealed by God in the Scripture.
Today is Halloween. It draws its origins from the church calendar. November 1 was “All Saints Day,” a day originally intended to celebrate the faith of those who had died and, in particular, those with remarkable faith. Many churches had a store of the relics of the Saints (bones, hair, coffins, etc.) that would be brought out for the public on All Saints Day for all to pay to see. This payment was given as an indulgence payment – eradicating some of the penalty for sin. The night before “All Saints Day” was “All Hallows Eve” (Halloween). This night grew as a celebration of its own that included a fascination with the dead and mortality.
That fascination continues today…because we all fear death. We fear the horrors of what exists on the other side of our existence and so we immerse ourselves in the world of the dead (and, today, the impending Zombie Apocalypse). Maybe we’re attempting to find some foray into death and thereby remove the fear of the unknown? Maybe we long to mock death, and this is the only way we know how?
And maybe the only antidote to our fear is what God has revealed in the Scriptures. Namely:
- We have all rejected God’s authority to be our own authority – ruthlessly taking what we want to secure our future and give us joy (Romans 3 and, in particular, 3:21-27).God must deal with that wanton, self-centered rebellion with justice and wrath. Therefore, each person stands condemned before God, needing to be saved from God. (Ephesians 2:1-3)
- But God, being rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4), has offered the solution to this problem, which we cannot solve.
- He does so by offering himself in Christ (fully God and fully man) to live a perfect human life and, yet, to receive as a substitute all the wrath our sin deserved (1 John 4:10).
- Therefore, the Christian (who by faith in Christ no longer faces wrath) is credited with Christ’s perfect life and accepted forever by God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 and Romans 8:32-39)
- And Christians have nothing to fear, not even death.
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Hebrews 2:14–15)
“Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. (1 Corinthians 15:54–56)
Tonight, fear not. Fear not the Zombie Apocalypse. Fear not the many dangers, toils and snares you may face. Fear not your impending death. In Christ and Christ alone we can mock it all (read 1 Corinthians 15:54-56 again). God has graciously provided and revealed the rescue from all of it. He is for you forever – the Bible tells you so.