Tap. Tap. Tap. The ring of Martin Luther’s hammer echoed through the quiet streets of Wittenberg, Germany under cover of the late autumn predawn darkness. On the 31st of this month 500 years ago, a troubled monk broke the seal on a Reformation that had been whispering in the heart of medieval Europe for over 100 years previous.
I don’t know exactly what you think about Martin Luther. Frankly, I don’t care. He had issues, but so do I, and so do you; as Jonathan Edwards explained, we all, at some point, have been “sinners in the hands of an angry God.” Your choice of Christian sect–Catholic, Protestant, or other–doesn’t matter much to me right now. Instead, I’d like to focus on one universally applicable aspect of Luther’s walk with God, especially displayed in his early years: he knew how to tremble before El Elyon, God Most High.
“…at a time when the choicer sort were glorifying in the accomplishments of man, strode this Luther, entranced by the song of the angels, stunned by the wrath of God, speechless before the wonder of creation, lyrical over the divine mercy, a man aflame with God.”
~Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand
Isn’t that beautiful? Luther had one goal: he wanted to get religion right. He so desired the “pure and undefiled religion” James describes that, as a result of his deep awe and fear of God, he trembled too much to hold the bread and cup at the first communion he administered. I’d venture to say that Martin Luther’s fear was somewhat misplaced. Perhaps he was “entranced by the song of the angels,” but did he remember where he stood in respect to the angels, only “a little lower” (Psalm 8:5, Hebrews 2:7)? “Stunned by the wrath of God,” did he forget the reconciling power of Christ’s sacrifice? “Speechless before the wonder of creation,” did he recall the love of a Creator who would fashion such a world for His children? Bainton describes Luther as “lyrical over the divine mercy,” and yet he failed at first to apply the reassurance of God’s mercy to his own unsettled soul.
Let’s apply our fear of the Lord to Christianity in a way that leaves us bold, not cowering, as Luther did once he took a stand for his faith. We know, for example, that Jesus is holy and seated at the right hand of the Father, an awe-inspiring position. Let us also remember that we are seated with Him and therefore have the right to come boldly before the throne of grace. As we recall the power of the amazing position we’re granted in the kingdom, I want to leave you with the bridge of a worship song as well as a quote by one of my favorite Victorian-era preachers. May they, along with Luther’s testimony, inspire you to a new wonder and strength of faith.
May I never lose the wonder
Oh, the wonder of Your mercy!
May I sing Your hallelujah:
~ “ Mercy,” Matt Redman
“Difficulties, dangers, disease, death, or divisions don’t deter any but Chocolate Soldiers from executing God’s Will. When someone says there is a lion in the way, the real Christian promptly replies, ‘That’s hardly enough inducement for me; I want a bear or two besides to make it worth my while to go.’”
~ Chocolate Soldier, C. T. Studd