God Help Me!

“Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.” Martin Luther

When the day final dawned, Luther was ready to give his answer. However, the delay caused even more people to attend the diet and so a larger assembly hall was used.

Eck, the council’s interrogator once again asked Luther if the books and pamphlets on display before Martin were his. He replied that they were. Eck then said, “I ask you, Martin – answer candidly and without horns – do you or do you not repudiate your books and the errors which they contain?”

Luther’s answer was as follows:

Since then Your Majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.

The following words were added: “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.”

The council’s decision was to honor the safe passage they had given Martin, allow him to return to Wittenberg, where he would then be arrested and executed for heresy. As Luther was returning to Wittenberg following the hearing, he was captured by friends who took him, for his own protection, to the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach. He would remain there in seclusion for ten months.

Pastor Erwin Lutzer writes, “It was here in isolation that Luther had one of the most productive periods of his life. Amid his doubts, depression, confusion and insomnia, he feverishly wrote books and pamphlets, and most astoundingly of all, translated the New Testament into German in just eleven weeks.”

Luther’s life parallels those mentioned in Hebrews 11:36-38: “36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

Luther did not recant a single item of what he had written. Because of this, he would spend the rest of his life as a fugitive.

Luther was willing to evaluate and count the cost for his commitment to biblical truth. Are we so willing? We recognize Martin Luther’s legacy. What will be your legacy?

Soli deo Gloria!

Martin’s Prayer

“Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.” Martin Luther

That night before Martin Luther was to give an answer before the council at the Diet of Worms, he wrote a prayer. The prayer was a window to the soul of this monk who tried so hard to become righteous before God by his own works, but who God declared righteous on the basis of grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. This is Martin’s prayer.

O God, Almighty God everlasting! How dreadful is the world! Behold how its mouth opens to swallow me up, and how small is my faith in Thee… Oh! The weakness of the flesh, and the power of Satan! If I am to depend upon any strength of this world – all is over… The knell is struck… Sentence is gone forth… O God! O God! O thou, my God! Help me against the wisdom of this world. Do this, I beseech thee; thou shouldst do this… by thy own mighty power… The work is not mine, but Thine. I have no business here… I have nothing to contend for with these great men of the world! I would gladly pass my days in happiness and peace. But the cause is Thine… And it is righteous and everlasting! O Lord! Help me! O faithful and unchangeable God! I lean not upon man. It were vain! Whatever is of man is tottering, whatever proceeds from him must fail. My God! My God! Dost thou not hear? My God! Art thou no longer living? Nay, thou canst not die. Thou dost but hide Thyself. Thou hast chosen me for this work. I know it… Therefore, O God, accomplish thine own will! Forsake me not, for the sake of thy well-beloved Son, Jesus Christ, my defense, my buckler, and my stronghold.

Lord – where art thou…? My God, where art thou?… Come! I pray thee, I am ready… Behold me prepared to lay down my life for thy truth… suffering like a lamb. For the cause is holy. It is thine own!… I will not let thee go! No, nor yet for all eternity! And though the world should be thronged with devils – and this body, which is the work of thine hands, should be cast forth, trodden under foot, cut in pieces,… consumed to ashes, my soul is thine. Yes, I have thine own word to assure me of it. My soul belongs to thee, and will abide with thee forever! Amen! O God send help!… Amen!

 

When the day final dawned, Luther was ready to give his answer. Having read Martin’s prayer, are you ready to give your answer? Are you willing to lay down your life for God’s truth?

Soli deo Gloria!

Indulgences

The growing controversy between Martin Luther and the Roman Catholic Church in 1517 centered on the abuse of the church’s sale of indulgences. What exactly are indulgences? What did the indulgence buyer receive? Are indulgences still sold by the Catholic Church today?

Indulgences were then, and are now, part of the sacrament of penance within the Roman Catholic Church. While there were many unbiblical practices observed by the church in the 16th century, the practice and abuse of indulgences were the focal point of Martin Luther’s ire.

Indulgences are the payment of a gift to the church in order for the payer to avoid the temporal consequences of their sin. By paying an amount of money, the church leader or priest would remove the temporal consequence the individual could face because of a sinful act on their part. Consequently, the more that was paid the more effects of sin could be avoided.

The indulgence could be applied not only to the living and also to the dead in purgatory. One pastor explains, “Notice that the definition says that it (the indulgence) can also be applied to the dead because, after all, purgatory itself is seen as temporal penalty for sin. Although most people at death are too good to go to hell, they nonetheless are not good enough to go to heaven. Therefore, in the fires of purgatory, their sins are purged and they are made ready for heaven.”

Indulgences remain a most important sacrament in the Catholic Church today. While only God can forgive sin according to Catholic theology, the church continues to teach that an indulgence can cancel the temporal penalty the sinner may incur.

Nowhere in the Scriptures do we find a teaching of, or a validation for, indulgences. Rather, the Bible teaches the avoidance of sin altogether, even its appearance (I Thessalonians 5:22). Believers are to confess their sins to God (I John 1:9) in order to have intimate fellowship with God restored. However, even though sin can be forgiven, its consequences may remain. Avoidance of sinful behavior on the part of the believer is the key, not the purchase of an indulgence.

The increasing sale of indulgences were to become the focal point of Ninety-Five Thesis or criticisms Martin Luther would write and post about the 16th century Romans Catholic Church. His thoughts would ignite the fires of Reformation.

The passionate pursuit for biblical truth spurring Martin Luther should also spur ourselves to ever remain committed to the Scriptures alone as our final and supreme authority.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Dream of Hans

Upon earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University at Erfurt, young Martin Luther was set to begin studies for his doctorate to eventually become a lawyer. His father Hans wanted his son to not only be a lawyer, but also to become a successful lawyer. This would mean that Martin would be able to take care of his parents when they were old.

Dr. R.C. Sproul explains that Luther seemed to encounter a crisis every five years. The first of these “crises” happened in 1505 when an event occurred in which Luther’s life would be irrevocably changed.

Following a visit with his family in Mansfield, Luther was returning to Erfurt. He encountered a violent thunderstorm. Lightning struck so close to him that he feared for his very life. At that moment, he cried out to St. Anne, the patron saint of miners and exclaimed, “Help me, St. Anne, and I will become a monk!”

St. Anne was supposedly the mother of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Superstition during Martin’s day taught that St. Anne would bring protection and prosperity to those who worked in the mines. This was Martin’s theological background.

As Pastor Erwin Lutzer explains, “And so it was—partly to fulfill this vow and, most assuredly, because of his own inner turmoil—that Luther went against his father’s wishes, left the university in Erfurt, and entered the Augustinian monastery in the same city.”

When physically entering the monastery, Martin was asked what he sought. He responded, “God’s grace and your mercy.” Martin would now begin a rigorous and disciplined regimen of living which he hoped would satisfy the longing in his soul. More than anything, Luther sought relief from the guilt he felt because of his sins.

What about you? What rigorous regimen have you pursued to satisfy the longing in your soul? Is it good works, community involvement and financial generosity? Or are you going with whatever works to silence the nagging conviction that you are not right with God.

Repent of your sin and receive Jesus Christ and his righteousness as your own. This is the only way to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:17-21) and to satisfy your soul’s longing for peace with God.

Have a blessed day. Soli deo Gloria!