I'll post photos of our day in tomorrow's post. But for today, I want to think of Martin Luther, who, under God's hand, was instrumental in bringing the truth of God's word to so many.
Poor Martin Luther.
Like so many others, Martin Luther was trying to earn his way into heaven by his 'good works'. You may already know that he became a monk following a terrifying experience he had one night as he returned from home to the university in Erfurt, where he was studying Law. As the thunder and lightening raged around him, the terrified Martin prayed to Saint Anne and promised to become a monk, if she would spare his life.
And become a monk he did. That part was easy: what wasn't easy for Martin was finding peace with God. Desperate to earn his way to heaven, and to have peace through the knowledge he was heaven-bound, Martin caused himself great suffering. He would endure freezing cold; he would suffer hunger (almost to the point of killing himself); he would beat himself until the blood ran. He suffered all this, believing sufferings here on earth would both sanctify him, and lessen his sufferings in Purgatory (a place, believed by Roman Catholics, where souls are cleansed by suffering before becoming fit for heaven).
Poor Martin Luther.
All this suffering, and yet no peace.
Martin would speak to the priests constantly. He would confess all the sins he was aware of.
Still no peace.
He would just have left the confessional, when he'd remember another sin he hadn't confessed. Back to the priest he'd go. Martin's problem was that all he did was 'coming short of the glory of God', and so all he did was sin. How could he ever reach the end of his confession?
How could we? The greatest commandment says to
'love the Lord thy God with all your heart, your
mind, your soul, your strength'.
Who of us can say we have ever, for one moment, loved the Lord with all of our being perfectly. Of course, we cannot, and so there must be some other way of salvation - otherwise we're all condemned to a lost eternity.
Never could Martin's works or sufferings have saved him.
As he read his Bible one night, he read these words:
"For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.! (Eph 2: 8, 9)
Through his studying of Scripture, Martin finally had his heart and his eyes opened to see that our 'good works' are as filthy rags, but we have, in Christ, HIS righteousness. This is our only hope.
Mary, our host, had a perfect illustration of what Martin Luther had to go through. Even after he was brought alive by the work of the Holy Spirit, he was, in her words, like Lazarus who, having been brought alive by the Saviour, was still bound tightly in the grave clothes.
Martin's 'grave clothes' of works, of tradition, and of superstition had to be taken away. Bit by bit, God's words of
"The just shall live by faith"
echoed in his heart and mind, until finally the last of the binding grave clothes were torn away, and Martin Luther had true peace.
Poor Martin Luther? Not a bit of it! He had the liberty of the Gospel. He was RICH!
He had the righteousness of Christ; the peace of God, which passes all understanding; he was safe for time and for eternity.
And so, on this Reformation Day, I give thanks for the peace my Saviour has given me. I give thanks that my salvation is by grace alone, that it is the gift of God, and not of works. I give thanks that, because it is God's work, it can never be undone. And I pray for those who are in spiritual bondage, still believing they can do something to earn God's favour.
"It is the gift of God...."