One of the most influential teachers in the history of Christianity is Marin Luther. He spearheaded the reformation of the church by defying the Pope and proclaiming the heresy of indulgences (purchasing favor with God by money). He was born to a nominally religious family, baptized as an infant into the catholic faith, and raised with the highest education so that he could become a lawyer. After nearly being struck by lightning, he called out for help to Saint Anna and promised to become a monk if he survived, and later felt obligated to fulfill that vow. He thus dropped out of law school and entered an Augustinian monastery. He was drawn to philosophy and was troubled over the afterlife and spent much of his time trying to understand and prepare Himself for eternity. He described his time in the monastery as a time of deep spiritual despair:
“I lost touch with Christ the Savior and Comforter, and made of him the jailer and hangman of my poor soul.”
After two years he was appointed to the priesthood, and then he began teaching theology, spending his entire career at the University of Wittenberg. While he was there, he became convicted of the Gospel found within the Scripture – that faith is by grace alone through faith alone, and that the catholic church was not only a wrong application of the Scriptures, but that through deceiving the public with ideas like indulgences was actually a false prophet. Luther went so far as to declare the pope the antichrist.
Luther had a passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and making the Bible accessible to everyone. While hiding for his life in exile, he translated the entire New Testament from Greek into German so that people could read the Word on their own and know Christ personally. He also preached the Gospel for the salvation of people, every week at church, because he perceived that his congregation was not grasping the weight of it and being transformed. But most influentially, in contrast to today where pastors and leaders are continually falling into sin, Martin Luther lived a life devoted to Jesus Christ and wrote (as an example for us) that he needed to preach the gospel to himself every day.
Preach the gospel to yourself every day.
If you grew up in the church, the story of Jesus dying on the cross and raising again three days later might be very familiar to you. Occasionally there are efforts made to renew the reality and grotesque nature of the cross like “The Passion of the Christ” which came out some eleven years ago. And while we teach the story and the Gospel to our children so that they can recite the key points as toddlers, we must always remember that our eternity rests in this single historic event. Were it not for Jesus and the cross, we would be left dead in our trespasses trying to earn our salvation and appease God through sacrifice and ritual.
The Gospel is the pivotal point in history, to which all things before it pointed and on which all things after rely. We must never grow tired of the Gospel.
If we would follow Martin Luther’s example of preaching the Gospel to ourselves every day, we would avoid many of the temptations and sins of the flesh. If every morning we would remind ourselves that we are sinful and worthy of death and damnation before God, we would hate our sin and run from it. If we would wake up considering that Jesus gave His life and unity with God so that we could be forgiven, we would praise Him and worship Him with our entire being throughout the day. If we would remember that He offered forgiveness and relationship with God by His life, death and resurrection, we would be quick to die to ourselves and to forgive one another their offenses because we would understand that no offense we have suffered is as great as our offense against Jesus. If we would remember His resurrection and promise of eternity, we would live with a focus on eternal treasures and not for those which moth and rust destroy.
Do you believe the Gospel? Does your hope rest fully in the person and work of Jesus Christ? Are you dying to your flesh, and living for eternity? If not, preach the Gospel to yourself today. Instead of using the normal Roman’s Road or gap presentation which offers salvation to anyone who would believe, put your name in those verses and phrases. For the wages of my sin is death. But God so loved me that He gave His only begotten son. If I will call upon the name of the Lord I will be saved. Now, these promises are given to the world and all who believe – do not twist the scriptures to believe that this is primarily about you (because it is primarily about God and His glory). But it is indeed the greatest act of love that Jesus laid down His life for you and for your eternity. Therefore, preach the Gospel to yourself today, let it humble you and transform how you make decisions. Let it set your focus on Jesus and eternity.
“But know that to serve God is nothing else than to serve your neighbor and do good to him in love, be it a child, wife, servant, enemy, friend.…If you do not find yourself among the needy and the poor, where the Gospel shows us Christ, then you may know that your faith is not right, and that you have not yet tasted of Christ’s benevolence and work for you.”
– Martin Luther