500 Years of Unlocked Doors
The great magician, Harry Houdini, was a famous escape artist. Known for his uncanny ability to free himself from: handcuffs, ropes, chains, straight jackets, locked trunks, and just about anything else. He often issued challenges for people to try to confine him, but he could always find a way of getting free.
One day a prison official challenged him to get out of a particular prison cell. Houdini accepted the challenge and met the official at the prison. He was blindfolded, placed in a cell, and the door was closed behind him.
Immediately he began to work on the lock—fiddling with it, jiggling it, and turning it this way and that. But no matter what he did, he was unsuccessful. Finally, after nearly two frustrating hours, Houdini uncharacteristically gave up. He couldn’t get out of the prison cell.
At that point, the prison official walked over to the door of the cell and simply pulled it open.
The door had never been locked.
The Reformation of Gospel Rediscovery
In the sixteenth century, Martin Luther found himself in a church that had convinced the people they could only obtain freedom from sin through a complex system of good works and financial payments that were impossible to fulfill. It became a treadmill of hopelessness and condemnation.
When Luther posted his “95 Theses” on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg (500 years ago today) on October 31, 1517, he was attacking this very system. That was the beginning of what became his huge announcement to the world—that the door is already unlocked.
God in Christ already picked the lock long ago, and the door is open!
The tragedy of our sinful human nature is our willful desire to make freedom and salvation something we can earn. There is something within all of us that simply does not want to accept freedom and salvation as the gracious gifts they are.
The Reformation marked a rediscovery of the Gospel—justification by grace alone through faith alone (Romans 3:19-28).
Justification—What is It?
In a first century courtroom, as a trial would draw to a close, the judge, having heard all the evidence, would pronounce his verdict. If the accused person was found guilty, then he must suffer the punishment for his crime. But if the verdict was “not guilty” the accused person was “justified.” The accusation no longer had any power, and he or she was free to go—Justified.
Justification is the free and gracious gift of God received by faith. Because of the death of Jesus on the Cross we who are guilty are declared to be: “Not guilty!”
Nothing you do and nothing you ever could do contributes to your justification or salvation in Christ.
It is entirely an act of God on the sinner’s behalf.
Justification is the good news that guilty sinners are now declared “not guilty” in God’s eyes for Christ’s sake.
No strings attached.
What happens when you do wrong?
In the movie, The Last Emperor, a young child was anointed as the last Emperor of China. He lived a magical life of luxury with thousands of servants at his command. One day his brother asked him, “What happens when you do wrong?”
The young emperor answered: “When I do wrong, someone else is punished.” Then to demonstrate it to his brother, he broke a jar, and one of his servants was punished in his place.
That about sums up what Jesus has done for us.
“When I do wrong, someone else is punished.”
The Great Exchange and Unlocked Doors
Jesus died for us. The sinless God-Man Jesus became sin for us. He took away our sin and gave us his righteousness in exchange. He takes away your guilt and makes you clean and perfect in God’s eyes.
The Reformation’s rediscovery of the good news of salvation by grace through faith is as true today as it was 500 years ago.
The door to freedom is unlocked.
All charges have been dropped.
You are free in Christ.
You are justified.
You have been declared: “Not guilty!”
For Jesus’ sake—your sins are forgiven.
For Jesus’ sake—you are declared free.
In Christ, the door is unlocked.
Your chains are gone.
You’ve been set free.