One single story, no matter how long and elaborate, can tell the full story of the 16th Century Reformation. Between the late medieval period and the 17th century, two extraordinary events stood out in history. First, it was the flowering of art, science, and literature known as the Renaissance; and second, the fracturing of the church into competing denominations, known as the Reformation. It was a period not of one reformation but of many. Many bitter wars were fought, blood was spilled and countless martyrs gave their lives to it. So, one story cannot tell it all. What I tell here is my own very little story of my own reformation. I dare say many thousands could have gone through the same experience. Therefore, this may not be new to you.
In my formative years, I grew up a Catholic; schooled by Jesuit priests in a Jesuit school that was co-located in a Catholic seminary. Unsurprisingly, I became rather a devout Catholic, trying to find and keep righteousness by faithfully practising my “faith” and religiously adhering to all the “holy” rituals, and by studying church doctrine and church history. I was vainly seeking to earn redemption, not because I knew that I needed salvation, but I wanted to avoid going to hell! Sin, death and hell-fire frightened the wits out of me. “Salvation” I was resolutely taught was only available in and through the “one, holy, apostolic and catholic [“catholic” means universal] church.” But the more I tried to find this elusive righteousness the more it eluded me. Empty, hollow, and having failed to find a way to avoid hell, I turned away from the church. My personal spiritual emptiness was greater than my fear of hell. I was nineteen then.
My eyes were opened only when (with retrospect, I can say) by God’s grace, I was “called” to read the Bible -- something that I’ve never heard of; something I’ve never done. Light began to dawn from the pages of that old dusty hardcover bible, mysteriously given to me by a bible college student. It was without center-columns and cross references; but wisdom flowed from it, and with wisdom, came enlightenment.
If the whole experience of traversing from darkness to light by the reading of the Bible could be stated in one sentence, it would be this: in it, I see God’s command to all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel. Only the quickening grace of Jesus Christ applied by the Spirit can reveal this to blind eyes and open closed hearts.
Salvation found me where my self-directed efforts could not. How sweet are the words of scripture which says, “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
I’d be sharing this gospel message when we give thanks to God on 28 October 2012 for the Reformation. Will you invite your relatives and friends to this?
Rev Robert Chew