The monastery provided Martin Luther with a disciplined life. In fact, Luther was a disciplined man of prayer throughout his life. However, Luther was such a student of the law, he understood that he could not perfectly fulfill the law of God. It troubled him to his soul. He was filled with guilt and driven to discover forgiveness. A forgiveness he would not find in the monastery.
Luther was preoccupied by guilt while he was in the monastery. He would spend long hours in the confessional. He was involved in self-flagellation. He afflicted his body with great pain in order to purge himself of his sinful guilt.
At this time in church history, the church was very corrupt. The clergy were horrible in their ungodliness. Therefore, to enter into a monastery gave a person an inside track to heaven. Luther was hoping he would gain salvation by entering the most rigorous of monasteries.
Luther was asked once if he loved God. Luther responded, “Love God? Sometimes I hate God.” For Martin, there was always the question of guilt. Luther understood the law of God. He knew his soul was exposed to damnation. Luther did not rationalize his guilt. He did not ignore his guilt. The law of God terrified Luther. God terrified Luther.
This terror Luther felt towards God was visibly witnessed by many, including Luther’s family. This was strikingly evident when Martin celebrated his first mass as an ordained monk. In recognition of this momentous occasion in his son’s life, and perhaps as a way to further reconcile himself to his son, Hans brought his associates to the celebration of the mass.
However, when Martin was at the point of the transubstantiation of the elements, at the prayer of consecration, he froze. He couldn’t speak. Someone else said the prayer for Luther. Hans was embarrassed. When he later approached his son and began berating him, young Martin said to his dad, “Don’t you understand? I was holding the body and blood of Christ. I was utterly stupefied and terror-stricken.”
Do we have such a fear when we approach the One, True, and Holy God of the universe? Do we casually come into God’s presence without even a shred of awe and wonder for who He is and what He does? Let each of us examine our hearts and repent of such casualness. I encourage you to read Isaiah 6:1-7.
Soli deo Gloria!