Freedom Movement – 500 Years of Reformation

There are many books written on church history and the Hand of God watching over his true church and in His sovereign purposes of lighting the fire of the Reformation and granting the blessing of the Bible in our own language and through the work of the Holy Spirit revealing the truth as it is in Jesus (Acts 4: 10-12). The challenge is finding a book that will act as a starting point. One such book is “Freedom Movement – 500 Years of Reformation” by Dr Michael Reeves and we have included the following contributed review of this book as we commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

“As we commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it is clear that most people in world, and sadly many in the church have no idea what it was really all about. Earlier this year, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York issued a statement in which, whilst acknowledging that some blessings had come from the Reformation, they bemoaned the ‘lasting damage done…to the unity of the church’ and the legacy of ‘mistrust and competition’ to which they say the Reformation led.

It can be hard to tackle this lack of understanding, especially as most of us are not expert church historians.

In this short booklet, Michael Reeves provides a simple account of the Reformation and its legacy. Written in an engaging, easy to read style, and using bold graphics, it portrays the excitement and importance of these world changing events.

The booklet begins with Martin Luther, and the author bases his narrative around the key events in Luther’s life, using quotes from his writings to bring it alive. We are reminded how Luther expended huge effort trying to make himself righteous before God, but found that the more he strived, the worse he felt he was. In the end Luther began to hate the very God he longed to be reconciled to, until, through God’s grace, he discovered the true meaning of Romans 1:17 ‘the just shall live by faith’. He realised that faith wasn’t given to those who were already just – rather it was the complete opposite, sinners were justified through their God given faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who died as their substitute on the cross. Luther saw that the church was corrupting the gospel, and keeping people in spiritual darkness. He had discovered spiritual light, a light that brought unspeakable happiness, and wanted this to be shared with everyone else. Indeed, the title of this booklet comes from a short book Luther wrote called ‘The Freedom of a Christian’, in which he described his discovery.

The narrative goes on to mention others who followed Luther, such as William Tyndale, whose life’s work was to translate the Bible into English so that all his fellow countrymen could discover the happiness of the gospel for themselves. He describes how for many (such as Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley and Thomas Cranmer), this good news, this Christian freedom, was worth dying for. The author also emphasises that the Reformation wasn’t just ‘a clean-up job’ on the church, but led to genuine changes in the world. He highlights men that followed in later centuries; William Wilberforce (who campaigned for the abolition of slavery) and Lord Shaftsbury (the social campaigner).

Michael Reeves’s key theme in the booklet is based on a quote from Luther, that sinful people ‘are not loved [by God] because they are attractive, but they are attractive because they are loved’. He weaves this message throughout the narrative, and in places expands it to explain the gospel more fully. It is in this that I have one minor reservation about the booklet. Whilst the gospel message of sin and salvation is clear, it is in the context of the reformers and the 16th century. At the end of the booklet where Michael Reeves summarises the relevance of the reformation for the 21st century and ‘the next 500 years’, the fundamental problem of our sins as individuals could be made clearer. It would also be beneficial to make more of the necessity of a ‘changed life’ following faith.

However, given the purpose of the booklet, these are minor niggles. As a short, readable introduction to the Reformation, presented in an attractive way, it is excellent. Sadly, church history is often seen as dull, this booklet is anything but and will appeal to both Christians and non-Christians alike. Very often, the church should make more of the joyful nature of the gospel and that great exchange that took place when our sins were given to Christ and his righteousness given to us. In Freedom Movement this is the focus and we’re shown that the Reformation was an extraordinary rediscovery of these extraordinary truths.”

Anyone wishing to obtain a copy of Freedom Movement by Dr Michael Reeves (ISBN 978-1-91127-248-9) can do so through contacting the Christian Bookshop Ossett: https://christianbookshopossett.co.uk/ Email: lorna@christianbookshopossett.co.uk Telephone: 01924 260502 The book is priced at £3.99 for single copies plus postage, discounts for multiple copies. (The Christian Bookshop Ossett carry a range books on the Reformation, church history (and other subjects) and are very willing to help find suitable title to meet the needs of their customers)

Other sources of information
 
For those with limited time then Footsteps Blog have some useful links Reformation 500 that may well encourage others to find out more on this important subject
 
Video – What Was the Reformation All About?
http://footstepsblog.net/2017/10/13/video-what-was-the-reformation-all-about/
 
Video – Reformation 500: The Five Solas
http://footstepsblog.net/2017/10/31/video-reformation-500-the-five-solas/
 
The Bible and the Protestant Reformation
http://www.tbsbibles.org/news/371695/The-Bible-and-the-Protestant-Reformation.htm
 
For anyone wishing a more in-depth understanding, the Christian Institute have made available on their website a 12-part series of presentations given by Dr Michael Reeves on the Reformation and its impact in England during the time of the Puritans. These presentations are very easy to follow and well researched. They can be found at: http://www.christian.org.uk/resources/series/the-english-reformation-and-the-puritans/