The Indictment of Martin Luther – “A Wild Boar”

Martin Luther learned a powerful lesson that, when power-hungry, religious people are threatened, they will even use the Scriptures (in his case the Psalms) to assail and assault you.

This should not be a novel insight since the Devil misquoted Psalm 91 in tempting Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:5-6). It is interesting to note that a verse from the Psalms was used to excommunicate Luther from the Roman Catholic Church – Psalm 80:13. This Psalm refers to God’s people as a vineyard that He planted. It grew and became expansive in the earth. Then, people began to take advantage of and abuse His vineyard. The text says, “The boar from the forest ravages it, and all that moves in the field feed on it.”

Pope Leo X prayed “Arise, O Lord, and judge your own cause….Listen to our prayers, for foxes have arisen seeking to destroy the vineyard whose winepress you alone have trod….THE WILD BOAR from the forest seeks to destroy it and every wild beast feeds upon it.”

It is essential that we acknowledge that even those who care and cultivate the Lord’s vineyard are misunderstood and can be vilified. For those in leadership in Christ’s church, we must recognize that sometimes we may be maligned, slandered, and abused in our efforts to bring reformation and revival to Christ’s church. Luther’s life serves as a clear illustration of this reality. Yet for Luther, the Psalms served as a vital source for perseverance in fulfilling his calling and God-ordained mission in life.

Martin Luther & Singing the Psalms

Martin Luther encouraged praying the Psalms by providing the common people with singable versions of metrical psalms in their own language.

He acknowledged that,

the common and ancient custom of the Christian church [was] to sing Psalms. St. Paul himself instituted this in I Corinthians 14:15 and exhorted the Colossians [3:16] to sing spiritual songs and Psalms heartily unto the Lord so that God’s Word and Christian teaching might be instilled and implanted in many ways.

(Hughes Oliphant Old, Worship: Reformed According to the Scriptures, (Atlanta, Georgia: John Knox Press, 1984), 48.)

As early as 1537 the Strasbourg Psalter included vernacular versions of all one hundred and fifty psalms.” Luther turned six Psalms into evangelical song (12, 14, 67, 124, 128, 130, and then later Psalm 46).

Hughes Oliphant Old claims that “Martin Luther did as much as anyone to revive and popularize psalm singing in the sixteenth century.”

Prayer of Confession by Martin Luther

Behold, Lord, I am an empty vessel
that needs to be filled.
My Lord, fill it.
I am weak in faith; Strengthen me.
I am cold in love; Warm me and make me fervent
that my love may go out to my neighbor.

I do not have a strong and firm faith;
at times I doubt and am unable to trust You altogether.
O Lord, help me. Strengthen my faith and trust in Thee.

In You I have sealed the treasures of all I have.
I am poor; You are rich and came to be merciful to the poor.
I am a sinner; You are upright.
With me there is an abundance of sin;
In You is the fullness of righteousness.
Help and forgive me, O Lord,
for my only hope is in You. Amen.

Martin Luther & The Courage to Face Your Fears

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Martin Luther leading family worship.

On Sunday, October 29th, we will celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. We remember on this day that Martin Luther began a process that resulted in the recovery of the biblical gospel. Many congregations will recall the efforts of Martin Luther and will sing his famous hymn based on Psalm 46 entitled “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

When Luther needed encouragement, comfort and strength to face the many afflictions and trials that came upon him, he would frequently go to Psalm 46 for courage.

He himself explains why he would regularly sing Psalm 46 during times of trouble:

“We sing this psalm to the praise of God,
because He is with us
and powerfully and miraculously preserves and defends
His church and His Word
against all fanatical spirits,
against the gates of hell,
against the implacable hatred of the devil,
and against all the assaults of the world, the flesh, and sin.”

 

Martin Luther’s Reflection on Music

Martin Luther - the father of song

God’s Fair and Glorious Gift

“Music is a fair and glorious gift of God.
I would not for the world forego my humble share of music.
Singers are never sorrowful, but are merry,
and smile through their troubles in song.
Music makes people kinder, gentler,
more staid and reasonable.
I am strongly persuaded that after theology

there is no art than can be placed on a level with music;
for besides theology,
music is the only art
capable of affording peace and joy of the heart…
the devil flees before the sound of music
almost as much as before the Word of God.”

– Martin Luther

When the Spirit of God Descends Upon Your Heart

The lovely words of the Irish hymn-writer, George Croly
serve as a simple reminder of why we desperately need the Holy Spirit
poured out upon us:

Spirit of God, descend upon my heart,
wean it from earth, through all its pulses move;
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art,
and make me love Thee as I ought to love.

  • According to Romans 8, when the Spirit descends upon our hearts,
    He rivets our attention upon the Lord Jesus Christ and His work
    for us on the cross.
  • When the Spirit descends upon our hearts, He produces in us the
    family trait of holiness by granting us the desire, determination and
    discipline to reject and kill sin.
  • When the Spirit descends upon our hearts, He assures us of our sonship
    and of our permanent gift of eternal life.

Martin Luther explains:
The Law scolds us, sin screams at us,
death thunders at us, the devil roars at us.
In the midst of the clamor,
the Spirit of Christ cries in our hearts: ‘Abba, Father.’
This little cry of the Spirit transcends
the hullabaloo of the law, sin, death, and the devil
and finds a hearing with God.

  • Luther’s Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians

No wonder we call the Holy Spirit the “Lord and Giver of Life!”

Why Celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation?

Martin LutherMartin Luther launched the great Reformation when he nailed “The Ninety-Five Theses” to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral on October 31, 1517. Since then, many protestant churches commemorate this day on the Sunday closest to Reformation Day (October 31) each year. This year we celebrate Reformation Day on Sunday, October 29th.

Why should you and your church celebrate the Reformation? At the core, we owe an immense debt of gratitude to the Reformers for their courageous efforts in recovering the biblical gospel: That God accepts us sinners not because of any work or supposed merit of our own, but because of His own mercy, on the basis of Christ’s finished work in which by grace we put our trust.

Robert Capon shares in a graphic metaphor exactly what happened during the time of the Reformation: “The Reformation was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellar full of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two-hundred proof grace—of bottle after bottle of pure distillate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly” (Between Noon & Three: Romance, Law & the Outrage of Grace).

Thus, on Reformation Sunday we remember the essence of all that we believe. You can summarize it in three words: Christ saves sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Christ saves sinners from beginning to end all by His grace alone. If that’s true, then our lives should be distinctly marked by three character traits: Gratitude, humility and joy. Which of these marks of a Christian do you need to grow in the most?

As Reformation Day approaches, ask yourself if your faith at its core is more of a grace-filled journey or a moral code? Is it a love affair with your Savior rather than merely a religious exercise and a philosophy of love? Is your Christianity characterized by receiving a gift with open hands or is it keeping rules with clenched fists? As your relationship with Christ is characterized more as a grace-filled journey, a love affair and receiving a gift with open hands, you will grow in gratitude, humility, and joy.

Let us pray that our church would continue trumpeting God’s grace and that the Lord would unleash His Gospel with its transforming power so that He might revive us again so that we rejoice in Him (Psalm 85:6) and so that times of refreshing would come from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:20). Don’t let this Reformation Day pass without praying this for yourself, your family, your church family and community!