Life, 500 years ago, at the time of the Reformation, was quite different. Or was it?
Watching the recent PBS special: Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World, it became evident that the struggles and trials he, and many others, faced then, were no different than what people face today. It is all a part of the same old problem that has plagued man since the bite of the fateful fruit: the promise of being something we are not.
Ultimately, we could say the problem is sin. This is a true statement. It is, however, often used in a way that minimalizes, even trivializes, the issue being faced. What many have struggled with through the course of history is wanting to be like God and, when they realize they cannot, struggling with how to appease Him.
To me, one scene of the PBS special stands out boldly. Martin Luther, spending hours in confession, and, still wrestling with how to please God, would go to his cell and whip himself. Did this lead to forgiveness? No, but it was his attempt to show the deep sorrow he had for his sin.
The struggle continues today. I wince every time I hear on an advertisement or television show that says “you deserve it.” One of the local channels carries an advertisement that, at this particular dealership, “You can get the car you deserve”. It is a part of the sinful mentality. Why do we think we “deserve” these things?
St. Paul, in Romans 6:23 tells us what we deserve. The wages of sin is death, he writes. That is what we deserve, but not what God wants for us. God, from the beginning of time, had a better plan for mankind. In the last part of the above verse St. Paul continues: but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“You deserve a better life”, we hear, but is there one better than the one we have received from God? That is a strong impossibility! “Pull yourself up by the bootstraps.” Luther showed again and again how this is an impossibility. It only leads to further despair! On our own, we could never please God. Yet, through the life and death of Jesus Christ, that is exactly what has happened. God’s wrath is removed forever!
Paul stated these eye-opening words in Romans 3: For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus… For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (VV. 22b-24, 28, ESV).
Yet, how many seek to do it on their own? Mankind continues to struggled with this. It seems, the stronger our faith, the more Satan will seek to cause us to struggle with this, or another, sin problem. It is a joy to know that God uses these times of trial to bring us through stronger than when we began. He, Who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6 ESV). It is Him working in that situation, and through you, in His time, that strengthens and guides us.
So, when those trials come, what do we do? We pray. We spend time in the Word. We seek good, biblical counsel and guidance. We follow the guidance of the Psalmist. In one of the Songs of Assent, focused on entering Jerusalem and the time of worship at the Temple, begins: I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2, ESV)
Lift up your eyes to the heavens. Look to God from bended knee. Seek His counsel and wait. He will guide you through times of storm, even as He guides you through the joys! And, take time, daily, to be with Him; weekly, to worship Him, and regularly to grow in the love and knowledge of Him Who is the resurrection and the life, even Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Pastor Kendall Schaeffer Proverbs 16:3
Assistant Pastor, Biblical Counselor
To God alone be the glory