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Monday, August 23, 2010
I am reminded of Martin Luther's many attempts to eradicate the horrible stain of sin from his life. We were all born under the same death sentence of sins bondage, and subsequently find much joy in contributing to this folly, whole heartily our entire lives, unless and until we are quickened by God's Spirit. Luther thought it was extremely hard to follow after God and His impeccable standards of righteousness. How true this is for all unconverted souls. It is hard to follow after God without the Holy Spirit first causing us to be born again.
Luther was hounded by the fruitless attempts and endless endeavors to obliterate sin from his bountiful life, lived in flagrant disobedience to God's Word. He did penance, self-flagellation, and spent numerous hours in the confessional, to the point where many of his roommates, in the monastery, thought him a bit unhinged. He was obsessed with the onerous task of scrupulously living up to standards of righteousness that no man could possibly live up to. He beat his body into submission along with torturing his mind endlessly to work out his ill-fated, ill-informed heart‘s desire to be good enough for God to accept him. All his attempts to eradicate sin from his life, of his own doing, by good works and self-flagellation, proved to be the insanity of Luther’s well-deserved, early-on reputation. Until that one bright and shining moment, when he lit upon the doctrine of justified by faith alone. It was a turning point for Luther in every respect.
He realized that “all men have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23),” and that, "there is none righteous, no, not one (Rom 3:10).” And only by resting in the perfect sacrifice of Christ on the cross is any man justified and declared righteous before God. He knew God had very high, unattainable standards, and felt it was impossible to live up to such extreme standards of sinless perfection. All this time salvation was available to him, but God in His infinite wisdom needed to demonstrate to Luther why he could do NOTHING to accomplish his own salvation, nothing to obtain or merit the free gift of redemption. Luther had to stop white washing the outside and allow the Holy Spirit to cleanse and renew the inward man and allow Christ to pay his sin debt in full, so he could rest peacefully in Christ’s finished work, knowing that it was finished, and he needed to do nothing but believe in the ONE who justifies.
And this is how it is for all of us, thus the reference to the bitter sweet state of affairs of the life of the ever-mercurial Luther. It IS hard to follow after God without the Holy Spirit to guide and help us, God’s perfect standards seem insurmountable, like a mountain too high for the saintliest of saints to traverse, but with Christ all things are possible (Matt 19:26).” This is why we need to be reminded that: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an ADVOCATE with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:3).” We do not rely on our own efforts, but we rest in Christ alone for the remittance of sins.
God's yoke is easy, if we rest totally in Jesus' work alone, on the cross. This was the full, demonstrable testimony of Luther’s whole life experience for all of Christendom to stand up and take note of. We are justified by faith alone.
Luther's experience is a common one among all true Christian's, we find our stain of sin unbearable, and find no relief from our own ill-fated attempts to procure a remedy. We all have a Luther-like moment. Even the publican experienced a moment such as this, when he deemed himself unworthy to even come to the temple. "And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner (Luke 8:13)."
And some people find Luther unimportant.