Martin Luther: Here I Stand (Part 1 of 3)
May 1, 2009
Here I Stand!
(Martin Luther's Story)
RPM Ministries, Dr. Robert W. Kellemen
Martin Luther's Main Message: In ourselves, we stand naked before the All-Holy God;
in Christ, we stand clothed in righteousness before our All-Compassionate God.
Romans 1:17: For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from
faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
Presentation Introduction: Purpose
The presentation you are about to witness is a dramatization of major points in the life of Martin Luther. It will vividly portray the differences that he had with the Catholic Church of his day regarding the way of salvation. The intent is not to offend, but to instruct. The purpose is to enlighten the heirs of the Protestant Reformation to the nature of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone.
People know this Sunday by at least three names: Halloween, All Saints Day, and Reformation Sunday. They call it "Reformation Sunday" because on October 31, 1517, a thirty-three year old man dressed as a monk strolled to the door of the Castle Church in the small town of Wittenberg, Germany not to cry out, "Trick or Treat," but to nail to that door a parchment listing his deeply held theological convictions. Convictions that on that Halloween would scare Satan to death. Convictions that on that Halloween-the eve of All Saints Day-would tell all sinners to exchange their filthy clothes for the spotless garments of Christ. Convictions that would erupt into and inspire the Protestant Reformation.
I am that man. My name is Martin Luther. And this is my story. No. This is Christ's story. The story of how He died and rose again to change a sinner like me into a saint like Him. The story of how He showed me that there was nothing I could do to earn God's favor, no price I could pay to buy God's forgiveness, no works I could perform to merit God's acceptance.
This morning may a costumed character on Halloween Sunday teach us the true significance of All Saints Day: that all saints are made saints by faith in Christ, not by faith in self. The truth that we can dress ourselves up, we can fool others, but we can't fool God. He always sees what's on the inside. And without Christ, our insides are scarier than any Halloween costume. Without Christ, our insides are filthy rags. Through faith in Christ, we gain not a new costume, but a new heart. Through faith in Christ, we do not have to knock on the door of God's heavenly home wondering whether we'll receive a trick or a treat. God's door is wide open, as are His arms, welcoming for all eternity all those who place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior from sin. God's treat is eternal life through faith in His eternal Son.
Introduction: Luther's Lightning and Longing-Luther's Story/Christ's Story
On a sultry day in July 1505, I trudged over a parched road on the outskirts of the Saxon village of Stotterheim. Wearing the dress of a university law student, I approached the village as the sky became overcast. Suddenly a shower erupted, then a crashing storm. A bolt of lightning displaced the gloom and knocked me to the ground. Struggling to rise, I cried in terror, "Saint Anne help me and I will become a monk!"
Calling upon a saint, I later repudiated the cult of the saints. Vowing to become a monk, I later renounced monasticism. A loyal son of the Church, I later shattered the structure of medieval Catholicism. A devoted servant of the Pope, I later identified the Popes with Antichrist.
I. Here I Stand: Naked before All-Holy God
Living as you do almost five centuries later, you may marvel at my fear of death prompted by that thunderstorm. However, you must recall that the Church of my day had largely forgotten the mercy of God. We pictured God as our angry Judge and Christ as our relentless Prosecutor. We stood in constant dread of a furious Deity. We stood before a holy God naked and afraid.
A. Standing before God Naked and Afraid
Toward God, I was at once attracted and repelled. I knew that only in harmony with the Ultimate could I find peace. But how could a pygmy stand before Divine Majesty? How could a sinner face Divine Holiness? Before God the high and holy, I was stupefied.
I knew in my conscience that God designed me to live face-to-face in a peaceful relationship with Him. However, I also knew, due to my sin and God's holiness, that I lived in separation from Him. My awareness of my distance from God terrified me.
I longed to know how I could find a gracious God. I longed for rest for my troubled soul. More than life itself, I wanted to be sure that I was acceptable to God. However, I was convinced that God was incensed with me. Angry with me. I was sure that He hated me.
The thunderstorm I experienced in Stotterheim was nothing compared to the thunderstorm I was experiencing in my soul. My conscience was terrified. My spirit despaired. I was unable to satisfy God at any point. What could I do?
B. Standing before God with Filthy Rags and Ashamed
I did exactly what the Church taught me to do. I latched onto every help that the Church had to offer: the monastery, works, sacraments, pilgrimages, indulgences-everything. It was only years later that I discovered that all my works of righteousness left me standing before God ashamed of my filthy rags.
Walk with me down the foolish road of works. Walk first with me into the monastery where I tried on the garment of the filthy rags of good works.
1. The Filthy Rags of Works:
I entered the monastery to find peace with God, to earn peace with God. I knew that I could never appear before the tribunal of a terrible God with an impure heart; so I must become holy. What better place to practice good works unto holiness than in the monastery? Here lived heroic athletes rigorously training to take heaven by storm.
One of the privileges of monastic life was that it freed me from all distractions, allowing me to strive to save my soul through works of chastity, charity, sobriety, poverty, love, obedience, fastings, vigils, and mortification of the flesh. Whatever good works a man might do to save himself, I was resolved to perform.
I was a good monk and I kept the rules of my order so strictly that I may say that if ever a monk got to heaven by his monkery, it was I! All my brothers in the monastery who knew me testify to this. If I had kept on any longer, I would have killed myself with vigils, prayers, fasting, and other disciplines.
For instance, when I was a monk, I was unwilling to omit any of my required prayers. However, when I was busy with public lecturing and writing, I often accumulated my appointed prayers for a whole week, or even two, or three. Then I would take a Saturday off, or shut myself in for as long as three days without food and drink, until I had said the prescribed prayers. This made my head split, and consequently I could not close my eyes for five nights. I lay sick unto death, and went out of my senses. I thought I could save my soul by punishing my body.
Though driven there for soul rest, the monastic life of good works failed to ease my guilt. Bowed down by sorrow, I tortured myself with the multitude of my thoughts. I would say to myself, "Look! You are still envious, impatient, passionate! It profits you nothing, O wretched man, to have entered this sacred order."
I clearly recognized the futility of my good works when I said my first Mass. I wrote my father about my ordeal.
Here I experienced another thunderstorm, this one in my spirit. I stood before the altar and began to recite the introductory portion of the Mass. Then I came to the words, "We offer unto Thee, the living, the true, the eternal God." At that very moment, the terror of the Holy struck me like lightning. At these words I was utterly terror-stricken. I thought to myself, "With what tongue shall I address such Majesty, seeing that all men ought to tremble in the presence of even an earthly prince. Who am I, that I should lift up mine eyes or raise my hands to the Divine Majesty? And shall I, a miserable little pygmy, say, ‘I want this, I ask for that?' For I am dust and ashes and full of sin and I am speaking to the living, eternal, and the true God."
In short, as a monk I experienced the horrors, the shame, and the futility of trying to earn peace with God through good works.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Romans 10:12-13 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever (your name) shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Continue to Part 2
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