It’s Reformation Day today. Nearly 500 years ago, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses in Wittenberg. At the time, he didn’t expect this would lead to his being put on trial just a few years later—the trial where he ultimately said:
[M]y conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.
Being faithful to the Word of God is not easy. It involves pain. Sometimes fear, loneliness, helplessness. We may think of Martin Luther as a hero now, but he had the same fears you and I have. When asked if he was ready to recant during the trial, Luther asked for another day to consider his answer. He went back to his room and prayed this prayer:
O God, Almighty God everlasting! how dreadful is the world! behold how its mouth opens to swallow me up, and how small is my faith in thee! ... Oh! the weakness of the flesh, and the power of Satan! If I am to depend upon any strength of this world—all is over.... The knell is struck.... Sentence is gone forth.... O God! O God! O thou, my God! help me against all the wisdom of this world. Do this, I beseech thee; thou shouldst do this...by thy own mighty power.... The work is not mine, but thine. I have no business here.... I have nothing to contend for with these great men of the world! I would gladly pass my days in happiness and peace. But the cause is thine.... And it is righteous and everlasting! O Lord! help me! O faithful and unchangeable God! I lean not upon man. It were vain! Whatever is of man is tottering, whatever proceeds from him must fail. My God! my God! does thou not hear? My God! art thou no longer living? Nay, thou canst not die. Thou dost but hide thyself. Thou hast chosen me for this work. I know it! ... Therefore, O God, accomplish thine own will! Forsake me not, for the sake of thy well-beloved Son, Jesus Christ, my defense, my buckler, and my stronghold. Lord—where art thou? ... My God, where art thou? ... Come! I pray thee, I am ready.... Behold me prepared to lay down my life for thy truth...suffering like a lamb. For the cause is holy. It is thine own! ... I will not let thee go! no, nor yet for all eternity! And though the world should be thronged with devils—and this body, which is the work of thine hands, should be cast forth, trodden under foot, cut in pieces...consumed to ashes, my soul is thine. Yes, I have thine own word to assure me of it. My soul belongs to thee, and will abide with thee forever! Amen! O God send help! ... Amen! (Quoted by R.C. Sproul in The Holiness of God.)
Because the Gospel Luther found in the pages of the Bible freed him from his tortured conscience before a perfectly holy and just God, because it reconciled him to that great God, the Gospel was worth any price to Luther.
Is it worth it to you? Have you seen your own sin? Do you, like the woman of Luke 7, love much because you’ve been forgiven much? You will need to. Standing for the truth as Luther stood will never be easy. Plead with God for courage, and keep focusing on Jesus, “the author and perfecter of faith,”
who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.