"Unless I am convinced by the testimonies of the Holy Scriptures or evident reason . . . , I am neither able nor willing to recant...Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen." These are the fiery words that resounded from the mouth of the zealous young monk as he stood before the powerful leaders of the church. Although this statement would cost him his career, his position, and potentially his life, Martin Luther was committed to the truth of God's Word, and nothing could shake him.
Martin Luther was born into a poor German family in 1483, only nine years before Christopher Columbus discovered America. As a young child, he walked the long, steep, slippery roads to and from school every day, working hard to receive an education. Martin's father had very high hopes for his son, planning for him to become an influential lawyer when he grew up. Because of these hopes, Martin's parents sacrificed greatly to send him off to another town when he was older so that he could continue his education. He supported himself by going to door to door, singing and begging people for food, clothing, and shelter. Martin excelled in everything that he tried and quickly became one of the top students in his school. Even at that point in Martin Luther's life, God was providing for him and raising him up to be a powerful light in a darkened world.
Despite all of his success, Martin Luther had no peace or satisfaction in his life. He grew more and more restless as he thought of the constantly nagging question, "What must I do to be saved?" When Martin heard of the sudden murder of one of his friends, horror filled him at the thought that his friend died without a chance to make his soul right with God. Martin did not want the same thing to happen to him! Just a short while later, Martin was walking through the woods late at night during a violent thunderstorm. As the winds roared around him, a bolt of lightening streaked through the sky and hit the ground right beside him. He fell to the ground in terror, and right there vowed to God that he would become a monk. Martin thought that giving his whole life to God as a monk would surely make God pleased with him and finally give him the peace that he had longed for. Although he knew that this decision would greatly displease his earthly father, Martin Luther had such a fear for his heavenly Father that he was willing to follow Him at all costs.
Life in the monastery was strict and difficult. The church of that day taught that men must work hard to earn their salvation. The monks strove to please God by leading lives of absolute denial and hardship. Martin determined that he would earn God's pleasure, and he set about accomplishing this with all of the vigor and strength that was in him. He would work harder than any of the other monks, often suffering from the taunts of his former friends. When this did not earn him the peace that he so earnestly sought, he began starving himself and beating himself until he would fall over unconscious, his body covered with blood and his flesh shredded to pieces. And yet none of this extreme devotion to pleasing God by good works brought poor Martin any closer to peace with God. The burden of his sin only pressed greater and greater upon him until he thought he could bear it no more. "What must I do to be saved?" was the anguished cry that continually came from the lips of Martin Luther.
One day as he sat in the monastery library reading the huge book that they called the Bible, Martin came across a passage in Romans that would change his life forever. The words leapt out to him from the page, "The just shall live by faith." Martin's eyes filled with tears as this powerful truth hit him for the first time. He did not have to earn his salvation! The price had already been paid by God Himself. All that Martin had to do was to believe that Jesus had earned salvation for him by suffering in his place. Floods of joy and peace washed over Martin as he experienced peace with God for the first time in his life.
With this newfound peace also came a passion to spread to all the people of the world the liberating message of salvation by God's grace through faith in Him. Martin Luther was determined to free people from the lies of the church. He did not want them to continue in the same bondage that he had suffered under for so long. He continued to study what the Bible had to say, taking it as his authority rather than the church leaders. More and more he found that the things that the church leaders had been teaching were false. The time had come to take action and bring the truth to light!
Early on the morning of October 31, 1517, Martin Luther stood on the steps of the church of Wittenburg with a piece of paper in his hands listing all of the lies that the church was teaching. The blows of his hammer as he nailed the paper to the church door would be heard around the world. This event marked the beginning of what we now call the Reformation, in which many men like Martin Luther would also discover the truth of God's Word and fight to make it known to all people. This was a message that the leaders of the church did not want people to hear, because they would be caught in their lies and lose their power over the people. The church leaders would do everything they could to keep the Bible and its truth from the ears of the people, but God's Word cannot be bound. Martin Luther and the other Reformers would be tried before the church leaders and persecuted for their stand, many would even die the horrible death of martyrs, but their message would not be stopped.
"Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." - John 8:32
I. Introduction - Martin Luther's committment and strength while on trial for beliefs
II. The Young Martin Luther
A. Born 1483
C. Father's ambitions for him
D. Success in higher education
III. Martin Luther the Monk
A. No peace
B. Reasons for becoming a monk
C. Misery in the monastery - attempt to earn salvation through work and self-torture
IV. Martin Luther the Reformer
A. Discovery of truth
B. Committment to spread truth
C. Theses nailed to Wittneburg church door (October 31)
D. Results - spread of truth to the world through Martin Luther and other Reformers despite trial and persecution
brown monk's robe, whip, Bible, hammer, long piece of paper
3. By working hard and by torturing himself
4. Salvation comes by God's grace through faith in the death of His Son
5. Studied it, posted it on the church door, and spread it to the world
6. No, they intentionally wanted to keep the people in ignorance so that they could keep the power and not be discovered in their lies
Schroeder, Morton A. Martin Luther: Man of God. Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1983.