This Halloween, Give Grace a Chance
With a hammer in one hand and a large scroll under his arm, Martin Luther approached the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. He paused to take a couple of nails from a pouch hidden in the folds of his dark woolen habit then began pounding his 95 theses to the church’s heavy wooden doors.
The date was October 31, 1517 and the event changed the course of human history.
Luther’s protest was not against ghosts and goblins or children dressing up to trick-or-treat. He chose All Hallow’s Eve because it was the night before All Saints’ Day, a day when most of Wittenberg’s inhabitants would be in church. It was good advertising.
This was not the United States of America where freedom of speech is protected as a Constitutional right. The Catholic Church was the supreme authority in the land: those who went against the Church did so at the peril of their lives.
What prompted this act of courage and defiance on Luther’s part?
As Luther studied Scripture, his eyes were opened to a new concept: the concept of God’s grace. Passion burned inside him as he read verses like Ephesians 2:8-9:
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (NIV)
The established Church in Luther’s day misled people into thinking they could be saved by their own works through pilgrimages, confessions and by purchasing indulgences, which were basically “get out of hell free” cards. It became clear to Luther that men could not purchase God’s grace: it was freely given. This conviction led him to write out 95 main points of contention with the Catholic Church, his “theses,” which he ended up nailing to the door of the church in Wittenberg.
Today many Christians debate the proper stance to take toward Halloween. Some believe that the holiday glorifies witchcraft and evil, while others see it simply as innocent fun. One of Satan’s most successful tactics is to incite Christians to fight each other on matters of doctrine. Perhaps we would do better this October 31 to focus on what is most important to God, just like Martin Luther did on that fateful day in history.
Luther was determined. He was passionate. He was willing to sacrifice his credentials, social status, even his life for the sake of sharing the news about God’s saving grace. The words of Romans 10:14 struck him at the core:
“… And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (NIV)
Are you willing to make similar sacrifices to bring people from darkness to light?
Taking It to the Streets
Here are some ideas for taking God’s grace to the streets this Halloween.
- Organize a prayerwalk around your neighborhood. Before the night falls and costumed children begin their quest for candy and fun, walk around your neighborhood alone or with friends, praying that the children will be protected from physical and emotional harm inside and outside their homes. Pray that the people in your neighborhood might be brought from darkness to light.
- Be a Witness. How will they hear unless they are told? Halloween provides a great chance to plant seeds for the Gospel. It’s like door-to-door witnessing in reverse: the lost come to you! Try slipping in a kid-friendly tract along with any candy you distribute. And be friendly: these are likely to be kids from your neighborhood. You may not recognize them out of costume tomorrow but they’ll sure recognize you!
- Organize a Neighborhood Party. Provide a “holy” alternative celebration for children and adults in your neighborhood. Consider hosting a “Reformation Day Celebration” in commemoration of Martin Luther’s brave act or a “Harvest Party” that celebrates the things we love most about fall.
- Lend a Hand. Many churches organize Halloween alternatives but need help from volunteers to decorate, bring candy, or to help out at the event. Join in their efforts to provide good, clean fun.
Luther’s brave act was like a bolt of lightning rending the midnight sky. Now it’s your turn to do something revolutionary: give someone the gift of God’s grace this Halloween.
Psalms 103:10-12 10he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
These songs of praise are rich with teaching. In this psalm the writer tells us a fact we need to remember. We never get what we deserve. Never ask for justice, or you may get it. We always forget our sins and remember our good deeds with a little embellishment. If we got what we deserve, we would all be cast into the Lake of Fire. We are by nature rebels against the loving goodness of our Creator. Instead of giving us what we deserve, God lavished His love upon us by sending His one and only Son to take what we deserved. Only Jesus could bear it.
How did we ever learn to fear Him, that is, to reverence His just nature that will not let sin go unpunished? It is only an undeserved gift of grace! It is an expression of His great love. That love is much greater than you or I could ever muster. What is your attitude toward those who have betrayed your love for them? God just continues to love us to the fullest extent of His love.
Satan would try to get us to dwell on all our failures and past mistakes. God doesn’t, so why should we? Satan’s accusations are true, but so is the fact that those sins are covered by the sacrifice of Jesus. They are removed from us as far as east is from west. That is a long ways! Next time the enemy tries to get you down about a past sin, remind him of this verse. The future is as bright as the promises of God. You are a work in transition, but the debris that has been chiseled away is already cleaned up and hauled off.
Remember: Look forward, not back, and praise God for loving you so! Praise Him for sending Jesus to bear what you deserved.
Streams in the Desert – October 24
- 202124 Oct
I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument (Isa. 41:15).
A bar of steel worth five dollars, when wrought into horseshoes, is worth ten dollars. If made into needles, it is worth three hundred and fifty dollars; if into penknife blades, it is worth thirty-two thousand dollars; if into springs for watches it is worth two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. What a drilling the poor bar must undergo to be worth this! But the more it is manipulated, the more it is hammered, and passed through the fire, and beaten and pounded and polished, the greater the value.
May this parable help us to be silent, still, and longsuffering. Those who suffer most are capable of yielding most; and it is through pain that God is getting the most out of us, for His glory and the blessing of others.
Oh, give Thy servant patience to be still,
And bear Thy will;
Courage to venture wholly on the arm
That will not harm;
The wisdom that will never let me stray
Out of my way;
The love that, now afflicting, knoweth best
When I should rest.
Life is very mysterious. Indeed it would be inexplicable unless we believed that God was preparing us for scenes and ministries that lie beyond the veil of sense in the eternal world, where highly-tempered spirits will be required for special service.
“The turning-lathe that has the sharpest knives produces the finest work.”
Do Not Worry
Scripture Reading — Matthew 6:25-34
“Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” — Matthew 6:31
Jesus’ early disciples lived with war, violence, disease, and famine in a way that is foreign to many of us. On any given day, people could lose a child or lose their harvest or be robbed by a Roman tax collector. And, unlike today, there were no safety nets. There were no stimulus payments, no social security checks, no food stamps, and no hospitals.
This is not to say that our struggles in 2021 aren’t real, or that they somehow don’t matter. But it’s helpful to understand that even in the harsh environment of the ancient world, Jesus had the audacity to tell his followers not to worry about their lives. He was reminding them that God called them into a relationship with him. And if God watches over plants and provides for animals, if these other parts of creation have what they need, then we can trust that God will provide everything we need. Why wouldn’t we expect our Father in heaven to provide for his children?
Jesus is showing us how to find relief from our worries and anxieties, no matter what they are. For God is our loving Father. If there’s something we need, we can ask him to provide it. If there’s a struggle that we face, we can ask God for help. If we feel totally lost or confused about what we should do, we can ask him for clarity. And as we pray these things, we can trust not only that God can provide what we need, but also that he will.
Father, no matter what challenges I face, help me to remember your love and your faithfulness to me. Amen.