Here is the first of the Ninety-five theses Martin Luther nailed to the Castle Church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517:
1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Matthew 4:17), He willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
Luther went on to point out our Lord commands us to fight against our sin through repentance—not through the performance of sacraments the Roman Catholic church sells as a way to bypass repentance.
Thus the second, third, and fourth theses read:
2. This word [“repent”] cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.
3. Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is worthless unless it produces various outward mortification of the flesh.
4. The penalty of sin remains as long as the hatred of self (that is, true inner repentance), namely till our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
Those are the first four of Luther’s Ninety-five theses. Here are the last four:
92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Peace, peace,” and there is no peace! (Jeremiah 6:14)
93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Cross, cross,” and there is no cross!
94. Christians should be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, death and hell.
95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations rather than through the false security of peace (Acts 14:22).
Those of us claiming to be followers of the Reformation are liars.
We do not preach repentance.
We do not call Christians to repentance.
We do not teach our seminary students to repent.
We give no evidence that we ourselves cling to repentance.
The fruit we produce in our sheep is a false security of peace.
In the Reformed church in the United States, the preaching of repentance is dead.
Therefore, the Reformation itself is dead.
O God our Father, have mercy on us! We are the wicked hypocrites Your Son warned against, who lay garlands on the tombs of the dead prophets, but then on the way home from the cemetery stone the living ones. We plead with You to turn our eyes away from rabbinical discussions, sacramental penance, and liturgical righteousness to the preaching of Your Holy Law and repentance. Give us humble hearts that grieve and mourn over our own sin and lead us to cry out to You for the cleansing of Your Son’s precious blood. We plead with You to revive Your Church through the work of Your Holy Spirit convicting the world of sin and righteousness and judgment. Command us to repent and give us what You command. Command us to preach repentance and give us zeal and boldness and faith to do so. We trust in You Alone and live for You Alone. In the blessed and holy Name of our Lord Jesus Christ we ask these things, Amen.