I’m about halfway through reading a biography of Martin Luther right now. Pretty amazing life. I’ll probably add some other things in the future, but here’s a few of the things that really set him apart as a generational catalyst. 


1. Luther had to work things out between himself and the Bible.

            As Luther studied the Bible, a gradually wider gap opened between his faith and the teachings of Scripture. Unlike the vast majority of us, Luther had no one to help him cross that gap. He spent years poring over the Bible’s pages, trying to reconcile the doctrines and practices of his church with Scripture. But everything glorious that happened through the life of Luther was rooted in these times of study. Certainly that doesn’t mean that we should ignore everything we’ve been taught, but it does mean that we should each spend time personally wrestling with the gaps between Scripture and our own lives.


2. Luther was constantly chided for thinking he was right and “all the ages in error.”

            This was thrown in his face over and over. How could he really think that hundreds of years and millions of people were wrong, and he alone had discovered the truth? It gave him plenty of grief, but caused him to dig deeper and find certainty and confidence in Scripture alone. Again, not that we should instantly discount all other voices, but many of us will be given what we believe to be a divine initiative, which most everyone will think is nonsense or needless. Especially those of us with dreams of building churches in other countries. If we try to encourage ourselves in anything but the Lord, we’ll soon tap out.


3. Luther wrestled with despair and anxiety his whole life.

            That kind of pressure naturally resulted in periods of great depression. But Luther was struck more than anything else by his own nature – he always found it hard to fathom that God could simultaneously be just and merciful. Anyone who begins to understands God’s feelings towards sin has to sympathize at times. But the same realization that caused him to despair also drove him to the throne of grace. This understanding of sin and mercy also gave him immense fortitude in the face of earthly powers. Though he half expected his teachings to cost him his life, he could stand and proclaim, boldly and humbly – a mixture procured only by a thorough grasp of his own sinfulness and his own forgiveness. How do we fare when opposed? Anxiety is normal, but arrogance and cowardice are both products of misunderstanding our depravity and God’s mercy, respectively.


4. Luther saw faith as of singular and ultimate importance.

            Though he found himself leading a revolution that had political, social, and financial implications, Luther saw nothing as disconnected from his faith. His theology dictated to him more than just how to have a church service, it told him what life itself was all about. Things that did not propel the Gospel forward fell into the “unimportant” pile, and whatever did won his approval. That seems to be the only categories he thought in. We’d do well to put this kind of emphasis on the Gospel in our own lives.

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