by John Armstrong
It’s here, the 500 th anniversary of Martin Luther posting his 95 Theses on the Castle Church door
in Wittenburg, Germany. That simple act of inviting an academic debate ended up being the
opening salvo of the Protestant Reformation, arguably the most influential event in Western
history in the last 500 years. So, what? How does that make any difference in my life today? I
could list out all kinds of ways the Reformation has changed the world you live in. We will be
talking about a number of these as I begin preaching a short series on the Reformation in mid-
October and November.
Recently, I had a chance to visit an aviary where a staff member was trying to get a waddling
(real term) of four ducks to stop following him and to get back in their little pond. He tried
herding them into the pond, but they would not go. Instead they would fly a short way away and
then regroup in order to follow the man. Sensing his opportunity, the man said, “You can lead
ducks to water, but you cannot make them swim.” I, of course, could appreciate the sentiment
and would have said the same thing, but I didn’t want to steal his opportunity. He took the
opportunity to modify the old idiom, “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it
drink.” I really can’t think of a more poignant idiom than “you can lead a horse to water, but you
cannot make him drink.” Now, some of you may be wondering why I think that is sad and I’ll
tell you. Ask any pastor about their work and how that relates to the idiom of leading a horse to
water… or we would be more biblical to shift metaphors and talk about leading sheep to pasture.
You can lead the sheep to green pastures, but you cannot make them eat. The job of the pastor is
to care for and feed the sheep. As a pastor, I cannot make you feed upon the life-giving Word of
God. That is something you must want to do for yourself. It is my responsibility to present it to
you clearly and faithfully. It is my responsibility to appeal to your sensibilities in order for you
to desire the Word and to have it change your life. Now, you know, or you should know, I have
no power to make that happen. We are entering the realm of the Holy Spirit’s work. He is the
one who changes hearts. It is my calling to teach you stand upon the Word of God alone,
trusting by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, all for the glory of God alone. If those
things are true of you, you can say you are a Christian and more than that, you are reformed.
Understand, you need not be reformed in your theology to be a Christian. However, we believe
and we teach, without apology, the reformed faith which we believe is most faithful to the
Scriptures. We believe this is the faith once delivered to the Saints. Therefore, here we stand.
Are you reformed? Being a member of a Reformed church doesn’t make your reformed. The
Christian Education committee which is now the Committee on Discipleship Ministry has, since
its inception, been concerned about how we provide opportunities to ensure that our children
have the best preparation and that our adults are constantly steeped in Bible-centered, Christ-
centered, Gospel-centered teaching that is solidly reformed. Now, we come back to the idiom,
you can lead sheep to pasture, but you cannot make them eat. Let me say this one thing in
closing. Do not starve at the banquet. Feed and drink deeply, avail yourself of the marvelous
advantages that are yours because of the Reformation.