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!

What inspired Luther to recover the biblical gospel?

Luther Theses

In the little town of Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517, a priest nailed a challenge to debate on the church door. No one may have noticed then, but within the week, copies of his theses would be discussed throughout the surrounding regions; and within a decade, Europe itself was shaken by his simple act.

Later generations would mark Martin Luther’s nailing of the 95 theses on the church door of Wittenberg as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, but what did Luther think he was doing at the time? To answer this question, we need to understand a little about Luther’s own spiritual journey.

As a young man in Germany at the beginning of the sixteenth century, Luther was studying law at the university. One day he was caught in a storm and was almost killed by lightning. He cried out to St. Anne and promised God he would become a monk. In 1505, Luther entered the Augustinian monastery, and in 1507 became a priest. His monastic leaders sent him to Rome in 1510, but Luther was disenchanted with the ritualism and dead faith he found in the papal city. There was nothing in Rome to mend his despairing spirit or settle his restless soul. He seemed so cut off from God, and nowhere could he find a cure for his malady.

Martin Luther was bright, and his superiors soon had him teaching theology in the university. In 1515, he began teaching Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Slowly, Paul’s words in Romans began to break through the gloom of Luther’s soul. Luther wrote

My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement ‘the just shall live by faith.’ Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning…This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven.

The more Luther’s eyes were opened by his study of Romans, the more he saw the corruption of the church in his day. The glorious truth of justification by faith alone had become buried under a mound of greed, corruption, and false teaching. Most galling was the practice of indulgences — the certificates the church provided, for a fee, supposedly to shorten one’s stay in Purgatory. The pope was encouraging the sale of indulgences. He planned to use the money to help pay for the building of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Johann Tetzel was one of the indulgence sellers in Luther’s vicinity. He used little advertising jingles to encourage people to buy his wares: “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” Once Luther realized the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice alone for our sins, he found such practices revolting. The more he studied the Scriptures, the more he saw the need of showing the church how it had strayed from the truth.

So on October 31, 1517 he posted a list of 95 propositions. This was the means of inviting scholars to debate important issues. No one took up Luther’s challenge to debate at that time, but once news of his proposals became known, many began to discuss the issue Luther raised – that salvation was by faith in Christ’s work alone. Luther apparently at first expected the pope to agree with his position, since it was based on Scripture; but in 1520, the Pope issued a decree condemning Luther’s views. Luther publicly burned the papal decree. With that act, he also burned his bridges behind him.

Bibliography:

  1. Adapted from an earlier Christian History Institute story.
  2. Bainton, Roland. Here I Stand. New York: Mentor, 1950.
  3. Durant, Will. The Reformation. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1957.
  4. Köstlin, Julius. Life of Luther. New York, C. Scribner’s sons, 1884.
  5. Wells, Amos R. A Treasure of Hymns; Brief biographies of 120 leading hymn- writers and Their best hymns. Boston: W. A. Wilde company, 1945.
  6. Various encyclopedia articles.

Source: http://www.christianity.com/ChurchHistory/11629921/

How Singing God’s Praise Changes Us

Have you ever wondered why singing is such a prominent feature in Christian worship services?

  • Singing serves as a way to bless and thank our God for who He is and for all that He has done to love and rescue us.
  • Singing our Lord’s praise is a primary way that we enthrone Him in our hearts (Psalm 22:3).
  • Singing serves as a means of proclaiming the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. In singing, we commend to others the Jesus that we know and cherish ourselves (1 Corinthians 14:24-25).
  • Singing enables us to savor God’s Word and makes it more memorable and vivid. The Apostle Paul admonishes us: “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly…singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…” (Colossians 3:16).
  • Singing changes us. It makes us kinder, gentler, and more reasonable. It also affords peace and joy to our hearts.
  • Singing galvanizes us to trust God in the midst of trouble (e.g. Paul and Silas sing hymns while persecuted and imprisoned for their faith – Acts 16:25).
  • Singing serves as a weapon when we are in the midst of spiritual conflict. Martin Luther claims that “the devil flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the Word of God.”

William Cowper, the beloved 18th century English poet and hymnodist, was right:

“Sometimes the light surprises the Christian while he sings. It is the Son who rises with healing in His wings.”

Oh that we might experience anew His healing and transformative work in our hearts as we draw near to worship our Lord!

Reflections on “The Poor in Spirit”

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)

The sermon on the Mount describes what human life and human community

looks like when they come under the gracious rule of King Jesus… Still today

the indispensable condition of receiving the kingdom of God is to

acknowledge our spiritual poverty… Thus, to be ‘poor in spirit’ is to

acknowledge our spiritual poverty, indeed our spiritual bankruptcy, before

God… Right at the beginning of his sermon, Jesus contradicts all human

judgments and all nationalistic expectations of the kingdom of God. The

kingdom is given to the poor, not the rich; the feeble, not the mighty; to little

children humble enough to accept it, not to soldiers who boast that they can

obtain it by their own prowess.

– John Stott

We are beggars. This is true! – Martin Luther

The kingdom of God can only be received by empty hands. Jesus warns

against two things: Worldly self-sufficiency which leads you to trust yourself

and your own resources so that you don’t need God; and religious self-sufficiency

where you trust your religious attitude and moral life and don’t need Jesus.

– Michael Crosby

He only who is reduced to nothing in himself, and relies on the mercy of God,

is poor in spirit.

– John Calvin

Blessed are the spiritual zeros – the spiritually bankrupt, deprived and

deficient, the spiritual beggars, those without a wisp of religion – when the

kingdom of heaven comes upon them.

– Dallas Willard