Martin Luther and the 21st Century

A few nights ago, I watched a PBS special about the life of Martin Luther and how he changed the course of Western Europe’s history. [1] The documentary talked about his upbringing, his life as an Augustinian monk, his letter of 95 theses rejecting the sale of indulgences, and his conversion to Christ when he realized that the solution to the problem of sin and his unworthiness before a righteous God, is solely the grace of God offered as a gift through faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. One thing that was remarkable about the man was his dogged insistence that he was right because the scriptures were his final authority. He considered all other forms of authority as either subservient to the scriptures, or irrelevant if they contradicted or challenged the authority of God.

He didn’t care who mocked him.

He didn’t care about articles from other fallible men that denied what was plainly taught in the Bible.

He didn’t even care about the threats to his life.

The Word of God held him captive.

When he was urged to recant in front of the Holy Roman Emperor, he was recorded as saying: “Since your majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason–I do not accept the authority of popes and councils for they have contradicted each other–my 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.”

He wasn’t a perfect man. He made bad decisions, wrote some stupid things, and was known for being bull-headed, stubborn, and down right rude. But through his failings and fears, God used him to revive the clear gospel again.

Here’s where the documentary challenged me. In the 21st century, we live in a world reminiscent to his 15th century world. We may not have a corrupt and idolatrous church in power that influenced the state, but we have vicious and powerful secular organizations that have tremendous influence on the state. We don’t have the Inquisition hunting us down, but we do have courts and Human Rights offices that punish those who dare to challenge the prevailing dogma and perceived infallibility of scientism and secularism.

They may not burn us at the stake (yet), but they burn us through social media, the mass media, and sometimes the physical destruction of property and person.

Thus, we cower; we make excuses; we give up praying and trusting the Word of God, because others (who don’t know God nor care for His authority) laugh and ridicule us.

But this is the time when we need to trust in God again:

Trust his Word and the many promises in them, whatever the cost. His Word is truth. It shows us the truth: the man and God, Jesus Christ.

Trust in the Holy Spirit for the power to live a holy life.

Trust in the authority of intercessory prayer.

The late pastor Chuck Smith made an intriguing analogy about why Satan tries to convince us not to pray. He said if two men fight each other and one of them pulls out a switchblade, the other man would do all he can to disarm him since he knows the weapon gives his opponent an advantage.

Prayer is our spiritual “switchblade.”

Like Martin Luther, we need to stand in boldly defiance against this world and declare:

“Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason–I do not accept the authority of secularism and scientism and all other ‘isms’ (for they have contradicted each other and caused misery and death). My 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.”

 

[1] Here’s the trailer to the PBS documentary on Martin Luther: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9A7xvTFNpCQ