Reformation Heritage

This entry is part of a series on Psalm 119.

Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. Psalm 119:111 NIV

Heritage is a word that has a broad scope of meaning about history, culture, identity, legacy, tradition and as the word itself might imply, inheritance. We have heritage listed buildings and heritage foundations which seek to preserve the landscape of architecture and landmarks, which due to age, unique structure or social background reflect something of history or significance in a locality. Our own Church building in Kogarah is heritage listed by the local municipality, as such there are strict guidelines governing the appearance and maintenance of the property.

God’s heritage for us is not limited to grass and dirt or bricks and mortar. This is vividly explained in the New Testament after Jesus arrives. We are given an inheritance in heavenly places that consists of a spiritual heritage conferred upon us through adoption. God chose us and set his love upon us, not because of any merit on our part and not because of anything in us or done by us, but because of his grace. He did this so that we could display his praise and his glory. This is made possible by the presence of his Holy Spirit who not only enables us to have faith and hope but also to enjoy our inheritance by displaying God’s praise and glory. However, in our sincere desire to provide a heritage for our children, that will see them financially secure and capable of independently supporting themselves, we, like Israel, value material possessions above faith. By our example, we teach salvation by University, that heaven is having a mortgage and God’s blessing equates to a 6-figure income. None of these things, in and of themselves are sinful or evil, but we make the mistake of worshipping created things instead of the creator. We make sacrifices to acquire or retain them, exclusively spend time on them, and grieve the loss of things given to us by God to enjoy and enable us to serve him.

The word “heritage” in Psalm 119:111 (nachal) used 59 times in the Old Testament, relates to an inheritance, allotment, assignment, possession or acquisition. Most often it is used in reference to land or property designated to an individual, family or tribe. It is also used to refer back to the original promise to Abraham regarding the Promised Land (Exodus 32:13). The Psalmist’s use of the word though, focuses on the ultimate spiritual inheritance we are invited to celebrate as God’s children. Whilst land was part of Israel’s inheritance they became materialistic and repeatedly ignored the legacy of Abraham’s faith. This greater inheritance, (their history, culture, identity and tradition) consisted in being a nation of God’s representatives (priests), taking delight in Him, serving Him and providing an example of his goodness, was a means to demonstrate His unconditional generosity.

In the 1500’s a priest called Tetzel raised the ire of Martin Luther due to the unethical manner in which he raised money for the construction of St Peter’s Basilica. He sold indulgences (credits alleged to cancel out sin). “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs” was his marketing hook. In doing this Tetzel encouraged materialism which taught that money was a functional saviour that rendered Jesus and faith in him impotent. Luther protested to Tetzel’s superior and posted a copy of his protest on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenburg. That protest, in turn, sparked the Protestant Reformation, which recovered for Christians an emphasis on the rich heritage we have in the scriptures of God’s provision of salvation and blessing through the merits of faith alone in Christ alone, through grace alone, according to the Bible alone all to the glory of God alone.

What heritage do you value? What would your children/friends say is your heritage? Creator or creation?