Hello, and welcome to this message from Calvary Church. We're excited to welcome our special guest Eric Metaxas, best selling author and host of the nationally syndicated radio program The Eric Metaxas Show. We pray this message strengthens your relationship with the Lord. If it does, let us know. Email us at email@example.com. And if you'd like to support the ministry of Calvary Church financially, you can give online securely at calvaryabq.org/give.
In the message Martin Luther-- the man who rediscovered God and changed the world-- Eric shares about Luther's life as this year marks the 500th year anniversary of the start of the Reformation. Now please open your Bible as he begins.
You all have something very special here. I think you probably know that. But I want you to know I live in New York City, and when I see what God is doing around this country-- and the faith and the bodies that comprise the body-- it is just a joy. I just love being here. I've been astounded as I've been signing books. A lot of people come up to me and say, I listen to your radio program. And this is the first time, ever, that I have spoken anywhere around the country where so many people say, I listen to your radio program, so it's obviously on at like a decent hour where you can listen to it. But I promise you that it thrills me that there are folks listening because you know, you always wonder-- when you're a writer or whatever-- is anybody out there appreciating this and it means so much to me. So, thank you. And if you aren't listening, shame on you. Shame.
Can you imagine? I'm here to deliver a message of shame. No, just the opposite. Well, thank you, Pastor Skip, for letting me speak to your flock here. It's just a great honor. There's so much I want to say. I guess I want to tell you a little about my story before I leap into the Luther story.
In a nutshell, my mom and dad came over from Europe in the 50s. My dad came from Greece. My mom came from Germany. They met in an English class in New York City and got married. And if you're raised Greek and German, I gotta say this-- that means you will be raised Greek. You get that? I don't get it, but it's just like one of those-- it's like rock, paper, scissors-- and Greeks just crush other ethnicities. There's nothing else. There's nothing else. It's like we're lucky. You know, if you're not Greek, you're lucky that they let you talk to them because they know they're the best. It's the best ethnicity. They just know. So-- and if you ask them, they'll tell you so. And if you don't ask them they'll tell you. So, it's annoying. But I was raised in the Greek Orthodox Church. Every single Sunday we went. I was an altar boy and the whole thing.
But like a lot of people who are raised in-- I would say ethnic or cultural church environments-- a lot of times it's about the ethnicity and the culture. So even though it was wonderful-- the Greek community was a wonderful community-- I didn't get the guts. I didn't get the gospel. I didn't know how to pray. I didn't know the Scripture. I didn't know if what we believe is really true, or if it's just what we say, or whatever. And I think a lot of people grow up in the church you kind of have that sense, right? Like you're not really asking the questions-- maybe you shouldn't ask the question.
Next thing you know you're out in the wide world and you're going to college, or whatever it is. And I went to Yale University, which is a very secular environment-- extremely secular. A lot of colleges, of course, are extremely secular, and they're basically at this point half nuts. So think twice about sending your kids to one of these places. They're insane-- they don't care about truth anymore because they don't believe in truth. And so they're so-- they're so lost, and they don't dare ask the real questions of like, why am I on this planet? Is there a God? Is there meaning in life? Those are the questions that have to form the basis of any actual education, all right? Unless you're going to trade schools. You want to talk about education. Those are the questions. But they're afraid to ask those questions.
So I went to Yale University, and they are tremendously secular. Now you understand, they started out as an extraordinarily serious Christian school in 1701. And they've only been really been preaching heresy for like 200 plus years, so we've got to give them grace. You know, anybody could screw up for a couple of centuries, right? They're going to bounce back any second.
But the point is that when you go into an environment like that and you've not been prepared, and you're not sure what you believe-- that's not good. And most kids, I would say, are going to go to colleges like that. I went to college. I just didn't know-- I don't know what I believe. I'm not anti-God, but I'm not sure. I just don't know. Well, if you don't know, they're going to tell you what to believe. What to believe is that we evolved out of the primordial soup through random mutations. There is no God. Life has no meaning, and try not to kill yourself when you think about it. Right? It's really encouraging.
So it's kind of wild when you think about the fact that they don't have answers. They don't know what it is to even ask-- dare to ask those questions. And I think they basically think like, we're just not going to go there. So here's what you do-- study hard, get a good job, and you know, you work really hard for a few decades, and then it'll all be over. They just don't think about those questions. Don't think about the fact that there's no good or evil. It's just something that you impose, that meaning-- that life is meaningless. Don't think about it. Try not to think about it.
Well-- so you distract yourself with a good job for a few decades. But I was an English major. I wanted to be a writer. As you can guess, I did not get a good job. Correct. I just floated and drifted, and if you float and drift after college, you know what happens-- you end up moving back in with your parents. Which is exactly-- there's no way you're going to avoid that. And that's what happened to me. My parents were not pleased to see their son return from this fine education that they broke their backs to provide for me. And I think they're wondering, what is the problem exactly? We didn't get to go to college, so what is your problem again? You went to Yale. Tell us-- what can we do for you here? How do you like your eggs cooked?
I mean-- I was lost, folks. I was really lost. And the bottom line is-- I had been convinced that there is no answer to the big questions of life. That no one can know. That if you're really educated, you're smart enough to know only silly people actually expect answers.
Well, the good news is that I was wrong. The good news is that the Lord visited me-- sent a friend to share his faith with me. And then one night visited me in a dream where He made it clear that Jesus is Lord. And I just completely accepted Him.
Now, if you want to-- I write about it in my book Miracles but there's a short video on my website. Just go to EricMetaxas.com, and there's a great video made by the folks at I Am Second-- some of you may know that ministry. They've got amazing-- I mean if you watch my video-- keep watching. There's great videos-- celebrities telling their stories of coming to faith. But I tell my story. Just go to-- it's just my name-- EricMetaxas.com.
But the Lord spoke to me in a dream in a way that completely blew my mind-- changed my life forever overnight. And I always like to say that I was unconscious at the time, so how much credit can I get for that, right? How much credit do you get for coming to faith? I hope you understand the answer is zero. Zero. Nada. Any Spanish speakers in the group? I just think-- I know I could tell. I am in Albuquerque. Anybody tell me where Albuquerque came from? The name Albuquerque-- do we know? Where's it come from?
Spain? There's an Albuquerque in Spain? "Al-bu-quer-kay?"
So-- I-- I-- I have no idea what I was saying. What was I saying? So the point is that the Lord saved me dramatically. Now, it doesn't matter how He does it. The matter is that He wants you to know Him.
And once I knew Him, my whole life changed-- which is exactly what's supposed to happen. It's like suddenly you see things in color, you know? And I said, Lord, take control of my life. Take control of my career. And the Lord really did. And it was very hard. It doesn't-- the Lord doesn't promise us a rose garden, right? It doesn't mean everything's going to be easy. But He promises us His presence in the midst of difficulty. He promises us His presence and His love and faith in the midst of trials.
And folks, that's the only way to fly. That is the only way to get through this tough life. Life is tough. If you haven't experienced difficulties, it's just because you're young. Life is tough, but it's OK because the Lord is with us. And when I see people complaining about this or that, I want to beg them-- have you tried giving everything to Jesus of Nazareth? Have you tried that? Because let me tell you what-- it's not like it might work for you. It's not like it's a nice idea. This is the truth of the universe, and you can't escape it. And if you reject it-- what a pity, because you were born to walk with Him through this life.
And so the Lord took over my life and he took me on this strange career where I worked for my hero Chuck Colson. I did work for Veggie Tales. I did very little for Veggie Tales. I just want to tell you-- I don't want to give you the impression like I invented Bob the Tomato or something like that. But I was privileged to work for them. I'm the voice of the narrator on the Esther video. Yeah? You like-- you like Esther?
Now the narrator in the Esther video-- you all understand I got to break it down for you. It's a vegetable universe. So the narrator-- I was the narrator-- you don't see the narrator, but you know the narrator must be some kind of vegetable. Now it's kind of weird because I was the narrator, but I don't know what kind of vegetable I was. And I believe if you would pray maybe the Lord will reveal to you what kind of vegetable I was because I still haven't gotten that in prayer. I think there's some secrets in blocking me from hearing the answer. I believe it's broccoli rabe, but I do not yet know, and I'm struggling with that. But so somehow I got the privilege of doing something goofy, like being the voice of the narrator on one of the videos, and I got to write half of Lyle the Kindly Viking. I wrote the Hamlet omelet parody.
Yeah, you think that's funny. Well, it's intentionally funny. But I got to do some fun stuff for them, and I got to know-- behind the scenes, show business is weird. Because you get the impression from watching Veggie Tales like Bob the Tomato is like this happy Christian tomato, you know? But I just want to tell you behind the scenes it's kind of dark, man. Like-- you get to know him, and you realize he's a bitter chain-smoking agnostic. But the lights come on and he becomes this happy Christian. That is a lie. I just want you to know-- pray for Bob, because he's struggling right now. That's also a lie. That's not true. But it was such a joy to get to do that.
Now, if anybody asked me 15 years ago, do you think you'll ever write biographies in your life-- I knew I wanted to write books. I always knew I wanted to write books, but I was like, Lord lead me. And the Lord led me to write a biography about William Wilberforce, but it was never my intention. I never wanted to write a biography. I always say I'm far too self-centered to want to spend two years thinking about some other person in depth. Why, right?
But the Lord led me to do that. And the book on William Wilberforce is one of the happiest stories in the history of the world-- how God used one man to change his culture. If you think there's no hope for America-- you read the story of William Wilberforce, and you will see that God, if He has some willing servants, He can do anything. He can do anything. And He calls each of us to live for Him the way Wilberforce lived for Him-- no exceptions. He's not saying, I want you to be a great person like Wilberforce. I want you to be a great person like you. He loves you as much as He loves Wilberforce or Luther or anybody. Do you really believe that?
Yeah. Yeah. Imagine if I said, well because it's not true. You're not as great as they are. In God's economy, we are all totally equal. 100% equal. And the Lord says, whatever I've given you I want you to use it to My glory, and you will see what I will do through you. And what I will do through you touches eternity. It's infinite. You can't compare yourself to these people.
But the Lord gives us these examples from history to inspire us, and they should inspire us. And Wilberforce-- that story is incredibly inspiring. I mean, I write about stuff in the book that-- the movie just talks about the politics, but the rest of the story is unbelievable, as you know-- his whole story.
So I wrote that book, and then I was convinced to write another biography. And I thought the only person I could write about who rises to the level of Wilberforce is Dietrich Bonhoeffer-- a man who, because of his faith in Jesus, stood up to the Nazis. I remember when I first got saved I heard the story of Bonhoeffer, and I said, what? I have never heard this story of a man in the middle of Nazi Germany who stood up against Hitler because of his faith in Jesus Christ, and who spoke up for the Jews because of his faith in Jesus. The whole world should know that story. Shouldn't they know that? But they don't tend to know these stories.
Well, by the grace of the Lord, I get to tell some of these stories and get them out there. And the Wilberforce book, you know, it was OK, but the Bonhoeffer book opened my career. A lot of people read that book that had never heard of me. Whenever I got invited to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast with some of you-- that video is also at my website. And then you know-- just-- these things are privileges folks. No-- nobody-- I could never dream that I get to do this except by the grace of God, and it's an honor.
But after the Wilberforce-- I'm sorry, after the Bonhoeffer book-- I was sure I would not write another biography just because it was tough. It was tough. I mean it's-- I think sometimes people have this idea of writing, like, oh you go to a cabin on the lake and you just kinda stare at the pines and like, great thoughts kind of come out, you know, onto the paper while you're drinking your coffee. And it's not true. Writing is hard work. Many times-- and I'm not at all joking-- I would much rather go to the dentist than face a day of writing. And you laugh, but I have a very good dentist. So I'm telling you-- I'm not even kidding. Writing can be agony.
But the Lord has used it, but I really didn't expect to write another book on-- a biography. And I wrote a book called If You Can Keep It which is all about America and American liberty because I have a passion to communicate that we, as Americans, need to understand what it means to be an American. We have not taught that for about 40 years. I did not get that in school. If we don't teach that to the next generation, it's over folks. The joy that we have, even to share the gospel-- these freedoms that we take for granted, we should not take for granted.
So I wrote that book. I wrote a book on miracles. But, at some point, I had a couple of friends twisting my arm, saying, Eric, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is coming up. The 500th anniversary. And I thought, eh, I don't care. I didn't go to seminary. I'm not like big into this kind of stuff. And they said, you don't understand-- this is a big deal. 2017 is going to be a big deal. You are the guy to write the book on Martin Luther. And I said, well thank you very much but no thank you.
And they kept coming at me and explaining to me, you don't understand the significance of Luther, and you need to tell the world of the significance of Luther-- that what he did was not some theological thing. It ended up bringing the gospel into the world. So that everything that we take for granted-- all these freedoms and democracy and all this stuff-- came through Luther. He opened the door to the future, and that's a fact.
And as I looked into it, I began seeing more and more-- wow, his influence was shocking, and I didn't know that. As usual. I didn't know these things, and I suddenly get into it, and I think, where have I been all my life? And now that I know this, I want to make all my friends feel dumb for not knowing it, right? You know how that is. Well, in a way. But in another way, I was like, now I want to tell everybody, you've got to know this. This is huge.
I would say Luther's the most influential man in 2000 years, apart from Jesus. There's no doubt that God used this very flawed man to open a door to all of these things. And so I was really convinced that this is a gigantically important story. But then I got to see that the details of this story are hilarious and very entertaining. And after writing a book on Bonhoeffer, which is not exactly hilarious and entertaining-- would you agree? Shame on you. But you're right.
You can't write a book about the Holocaust and the Nazis where your hero-- the young hero-- was killed at the end. That's not like fun, but it's important. But really, that took so much out of me. I said I want to write a story that is entertaining and fun and funny. And this story-- this character of Luther-- is so wild, that it's very entertaining. And so I can say that to recommend it to you that it's just a kind of an amazing story. And if you just tell the story, especially tell the funny parts, trust me-- it's just amazing. It's crazy. And of course, you learn about history.
So I was convinced to write it, and of course, I wrote it. And what I discovered is many, many things. First of all, I discovered that a lot of the stuff that you hear about Luther is not exactly true. It didn't happen the way you hear that it happened. And it's a cool thing to get to put things right, you know? When you hear about this and this, and you look into it, and you say, well, that's not exactly right. I need to clarify this. I want to clarify this for posterity so that future generations know exactly what we can know. Right?
But to tell you the story very briefly, Luther was born in-- I forget. He was born on November 10th, but the year in which he was born we actually don't know. We believe-- we're sure-- that it's 1482, 1483, or 1484. I'm pretty sure it's 1483, but no one really knows, including his own mother, who was nearby when it took place. You get that? Good. Good. Mature crowd.
So we actually don't-- that's kind of weird, but it's true. But he's born on November 10th. On November 11th, they take him to church and baptize him, because the whole point was-- if you're not baptized, you'll go to hell forever. Right? So you might want to speed up the baptismal process-- kind of important. So they baptized him on November 11th-- which was St. Martin's Day-- and they named him Martin after the saint for whom the day was named.
So, Luther was raised in a fairly well-to-do family. Now there's all these myths you hear that he grew up in-- he always said, I am the son of a poor miner and I come from peasant stock. He was kind of blowing smoke the way politicians do. They want to try to tell you they come from these humble roots. But the reality is his roots were not that humble. He was exaggerating a little bit.
His father was not a poor miner. His father was an ambitious successful businessman in the mining business. Now, he owned four smelt works. In the mining-- these were-- he was a businessman. So Luther was raised with some money, and they weren't wealthy or nobility, but he had everything. They lived in a big house. Archeology was done-- and all this stuff-- I love finding new stuff, because again-- people said, we've heard this story a million times. What can you tell us new? Well, what's new is in 2003 and 2008 they did all this archeology at his childhood home, and they discovered that his childhood home was three times as big as they had thought for 500 years.
So he was raised in not exactly the lap of luxury, but this was not a peasant's home. He went to the finest schools. His father, being an ambitious businessman, wanted his brilliant son to go to the best schools, and to go to the university, study law, and then come home to Mansfeld and work in the family business. They needed a brilliant lawyer to work with them and they put him on this path. They could never go to college, so they said, it's on you.
So the problem is that Luther grew up at a time when, as I said, with the baptism-- salvation and the fear of Hell was so real that while he is away from home, at these schools, he's meeting people and experiencing things. And I think more than if he'd been at home, he's thinking about eternal matters.
Now his parents were Christians, but I think that wherever he was that he had the freedom, as being a very sensitive brilliant young man, to be thinking about this stuff. And I think it was eating at him. And by the time he goes to law school he's 22 years old. His father sacrificed everything. I think things come to a head.
And he has heard of some people dying, and on their deathbed saying, you know I wish I hadn't done this or that. I wish I'd gone into a monastery. I wish I had given everything to God because now I'm facing eternity and I'm scared.
Because in those days, they didn't see God as a loving father, or they didn't think about Jesus as our loving brother-- elder brother in the faith who died for us. They thought of God almost exclusively as a fearsome unpleasant judge, almost licking His lips to cast you into Hell. Well, we know that's the Devil. That is not God, OK? God is doing anything He can including dying on the cross-- the only thing that he did in history-- to save us. But Luther was not living in a world where that was being preached or thought about very much.
So by the time he gets to law school he's like, I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do. And he decides to go into the monastery. It's a kind of a crazy story, involves a thunderstorm and a horse-- and you're going to have to read about it, but it's nuts. And the bottom line is this was against his father's wishes. But he said I cannot take a chance. He was scared of obeying his father and going to Hell forever. And so he does this against his father's wishes.
And he gets into the monastery, and what happens in the monastery? Well-- he realizes that, if I have to earn Heaven, which was the basic way of thinking, that means I have got to pray constantly. I've got to fast constantly. I've got to deny myself every pleasure. I have to confess every sinful thought, otherwise, any sinful thought can drag me to Hell unless I confess it to a priest. Not to God-- to a priest, who'll officially absolve me. And if he doesn't officially absolve me, I go to Hell.
So, if you're a sensitive soul, and you take this very seriously, you will not be happy. And so he was miserable trying to please God-- trying to earn his way into the favor of God. We all know that if you try to earn your way into the favor of God, you're nuts. You will never earn your way into the favor of God. You are by definition a Hell-bound sinner separated from God by an infinite gulf that you can never cross. You can never bridge. If you try, you will fail.
Now if you know that-- that's good because it means that you say, well it's hopeless. I guess I'm going to have to ask God for help. I can't do it. The moment you realize that is the moment you can be saved because you realize, Lord I can't do it. Help me. And the Lord says, well I've been waiting for that. And I literally died to help you, and I'm dying to help you, and I will help you. And he brings us into His presence, carries us the infinite distance, bridges the Gulf. And that's the good news of Jesus Christ. We can't do it. He knows we can't do it. The devil knows we can't do it, and God says, I volunteer to do it for you.
Now if you say, well Lord, let me just help a little bit-- that's really stupid. That's like a guy says, OK, there's an infinite debt, and you say, let me just get a little part of that. And he says well, no, the Lord has covered the infinite debt-- and the tip-- so there's nothing you can do. And you say, well-- but I just want to offer my-- well, a billion added to infinity equals infinity. You've added nothing.
Once you understand you can't do anything to earn your way into the presence of God-- to earn the love of God-- you have wisdom. Because you realize God says, I love you so much now that for you to try to earn my love is insulting. I literally died for you, now, in the worst sinful condition you're in. I love you with an infinite love.
Now, if you don't believe that, you are going to say, I've got to do something. I've got to do something. So Luther spends his life praying and fasting and confessing like a maniac, driving his father confessor insane. The father confessor, Johannes von Staupitz, is a figure in the book-- wonderful man. Very much a father figure to Luther, trying to-- seeing what Luther's going through. How he's tortured and brilliant and passionate and intense. And he sees that he's not finding peace. And he says to him, do you hate God, or you think God hates you? God loves you.
But Luther could not get this. So he would come in, and he thought, I've got to confess every sin. And he would confess things like, on Tuesday I prayed for five hours, and at the end of it, I had a flicker of pride for having prayed for five hours. And that flicker of pride will pull me into Hell, so I confess it. And you can imagine von Staupitz like rolling his eyes and thinking, I am tired. Do you mind? We've been here for hours. Bring me something-- he actually says, I quote all this in the book, he actually says to Luther, only half joking, bring me a serious sin. Bring me adultery or murder or otherwise get out. I'm a busy man. Luther was just driving him insane with every random thought. Confessing, confessing. And he understood that Luther is never going to find peace this way. He's trying to earn the peace of God, and if you try that, folks, you will fail. And Luther was failing.
So Luther had another idea. He said since this is not working, I wonder if some place in the Bible there is the key-- the golden key-- that I'm looking for. The cure for what ails me.
Now, people had not read the Bible up to this point for many, many centuries. Obviously, the printing press was not invented until the 1450s, and Luther's at the monastery in 1505, so having Bibles was not a normal thing. And the Catholic church of that day did not have Bibles, and they didn't read the Bible. They would use the Bible as a text to create commentaries on the Bible. So you would study the commentaries, and you'd study commentaries on the commentaries. But actually studying the Bible was not done. The Bible had been translated by Jerome-- St. Jerome-- 1,200 years earlier into Latin, and they had the Latin Vulgate, and that was the official church translation in Latin.
Well, Luther was living in a time, and I go into this in the book-- this idea of humanism, this intellectual trend was coming out where-- because of the fall of Constantinople in 1453, all these Greek scholars had come out, and suddenly they were revivifying the ancient languages. And people began to read ancient texts, including the Bible, in the original language.
So Luther jumps on this and starts studying the actual Bible, digging into it like a man looking for the cure to a fatal disease, saying, if I don't find it I will die. And Luther felt, if I don't find it, I will die the second death. I will never be in the presence of God. I need to find it. And so he obsessively reads through the Scriptures.
Now he was a super brilliant Bible reader. And he dug and dug, and he taught Bible at the University. And at some point, around 1517, he comes on the big text that we identify with Luther. He reads Romans 1:17-- he reads this verse that he'd never really understood before. It says "For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed as it is written 'The just shall live by faith.'"
And it finally strikes him, I've been doing it all wrong. It is only by faith that I can apprehend God. And by faith, I get the free gift of the righteousness of God. I can't become righteous on my own, it's useless. But God, who is holy and righteous, gives me the free gift-- the gospel, the good news-- is that he gives it to me as a gift.
I mean imagine somebody gives you a gift, and you go, hey let me just give you $5 for that. That's insulting, is it not? It's insulting. He understands this is a gift from God. The love of God and the righteousness of God are given to me, and all I need to do is believe that-- and the word says it-- and it's imputed to me as righteousness. I am free. I am saved. Game over. I don't need to climb and claw and work and pray, I'm saved. It's over.
And then when you appreciate that gift and you apprehend it by faith, you accept the gift-- now you can do all kinds of good works. But it's-- the motivation is gratitude to the God who gave you this free gift. It's not trying to earn His love. You say, I can't earn His love, He gave it to me. I'm already bathed in his love. But now that I know that, I want to bless Him. I want to love people with the love with which He has loved me. I want to help the poor. I want to feed the hungry. I want to do every good thing out of the joy and the gratitude of this free gift of grace which I have apprehended only by faith. Wow.
This changes Luther's life, obviously. It changes everything. He understands that he was in dead religion. Even Christianity can be dead religion-- where you think there's something I've got to do, there's something I've got to do. There is nothing you can ever do except accept the love and the gift of grace and righteousness that God gives to you. All you can do is that and when you accept the gift, you're home free. Folks, that's the good news. Now, what-- amen.
Now imagine living in a world where nobody gets this. Imagine living in a world where nobody gets this. They have-- because of tradition over centuries-- built this up where it's sort of about do this, and don't do this, and do this, and don't do this. There's a lot of Christians today living like that, and I'm not talking about Catholics. I'm talking about good people who have a false idea of this. All you think about is how they're sinners. They're sinners. They forgot about that. Yeah, God knows them. The devil knows that. They know that. And God took care of it. If you forgot that He took care of it, you're forgetting the most important part.
We can be trapped in dead religion and living in fear and fear and fear. It's a free gift. But once Luther experiences this, and he sees other things, the famous moment-- the reason we celebrate 500 years this month, in fact in nine days from today-- is that it's the day he nails the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenburg Cathedral. That's the moment.
And it's related-- but not that directly related-- basically, on a sort of side issue, Luther notices that in the Catholic church at this time, they're doing this thing where they preach indulgences where people are throwing money into the coffers of the church and buying these certificates-- kind of get-out-of-jail-free cards-- and it was creating this kind of corrupt, cynical world. And Luther said, as a priest, this is not good for the flock. This is not good for the sheep. As a theologian, I need to tell my superiors what is going on.
Now, this is related to the works / righteousness stuff that I was just talking about, but it starts out with the specific thing of indulgences. And Luther does not shake his fist at the church, and you know-- we get this image of him, which I hope I clear all this up in my book-- we have all these mythical ideas about Luther. He was a humble monk, a humble man of God, wanting to say in the humblest way to his superiors, we have a problem. We need to examine this problem. So why don't we have a theological debate? That's what we theologians do in the university. So, in Latin, I'll write up these 95 Theses, I'll post it on the church door-- which, by the way, was only the local bulletin board. He wasn't trying to be like a big shot by saying, I'm going to put it on the church door. The church door was the bulletin board. Once you realize that, it doesn't seem so heroic, right? It's kind of like sneaking down to the laundry room and tacking something up. It had all the heroic quality of that-- he's just putting it on the bulletin board. But, in retrospect, we act like it was this brave moment. It was not.
But, in retrospect, we realize that when he did that it blew everything up. It led to trouble. People said, who does he think he is, criticizing indulgences? And they threw mud at him, and he threw some mud back. He defended himself, and it turned into a conflagration that consumed all of Europe. This humble monk never intended that. He never intended to break away from the church. This was the only church he knew. He never intended to start another church. Never.
But because of the way things blew up-- more and more Luther was attacked. He tries to defend himself. In defending himself, he says more dramatic things, and it just got out of control. And eventually, in 1521, at the grotesquely named Diet of Worms-- remember that from high school? The diet of-- I don't mean the food, I'm talking about the-- it was on the test. If there was anything about Luther on the test it was the phrase "Diet of Worms," right? Worms-- Worms was a city in Germany, and Luther was called to go to the city of Worms to face the music. The pope had sent a representative. The Holy Roman Empire was represented by the emperor, Charles, and all of the nobles, and they're there to hear this man defend himself. Four years into this insanity-- where the whole world is talking about these ideas, and this is not, as I said, intentional on Luther's part-- he felt himself dragged into this controversy.
So, suddenly he's there, and they say to him-- because they're trying to crush this dissent-- things have gotten out of hand. And they're trying to say to him, excuse me, shut up. Right? Not excuse me, what did you mean by that? How can we help you? It's excuse me, you-- shut up. Recant what you said, and we'll let you walk out of here. But if you don't, you will be taken to Rome and burned at the stake.
So Luther has an opportunity to walk away. And it reminds me of my friend Chuck Colson-- I write about him in my book Seven Men. He was given a plea bargain at Watergate, and they basically said to him, look, look, look-- you want to avoid jail time. You've got teenage kids, you don't want to do jail time. Just sign on this. Just say you did these things that you didn't do. But you do that, and you walk out of here. Take the deal, Chuck. You're nuts not to take the deal. Sign it. And he said, I have a problem-- I'm a Christian. I can't do that.
And Luther was in the same position. He said, I understand that all I have to do is say, I recant everything I've said-- sorry, won't happen again-- and I walk out of here. But he felt compelled by God, not to do that. He felt compelled by God to demand of them that they show him where he had made a mistake. He said, if I'm wrong, I don't want to paper this over. Show me where I screwed up. Show me, and of course, I will recant and repent. But you have to show me from the Scriptures-- what did I get wrong? They didn't do that.
They said, are these your books? Yes or no? Yes. Do you recant what you've written in these books? Yes or no? He said, how can I recant what I've written? I've written many good things in these books. Show me what it is that I've gotten wrong. Show me. They weren't going to do that. They wanted just to say, shut up-- bow before the authority of the church and everything will be fine. And he says, I can't do that. And the famous line is "Here I stand, I can do no other." You want me to recant. Unless you show me from the Scriptures-- here I stand, I can do no other. God help me. Amen.
He cast himself on the mercy of the Lord. Now that's a good thing to do, folks-- because we serve a merciful God, and if somebody wants to burn you at the stake or behead you, that is nothing. That is nothing. Serving God and being in His presence forever and ever and ever-- if you have a hint of what that is, nothing in this world can compare to it. Luther did not fear what they could do to him. He said, I fear God. I fear the truth. I want to represent what is true. What about all those people depending on me? God's going to hold me responsible. All those people-- I have to speak the truth. So he spoke the truth, and this is one of the watersheds in the history of the world, and again-- it's why I wanted to write this book-- when you appreciate what happened in that room, it is mind-blowing.
Now, he was not killed, and that's complicated. I won't go into it because we don't have the time, but his local prince contrives to have him secretly kidnapped, and that is where the story gets crazy. He's kidnapped. He goes-- he wears a disguise, all kinds of crazy stuff happens, which I won't go into. But I will tell you that he survives. And as a result of that, the gospel was allowed out of its cage into the world in a way that it had never been before. And this is not to say that the gospel didn't exist before Luther, God forbid. But it had been sort of hidden and forgotten. Luther rediscovers it in a way that he brings it into the world, not just so that we can get saved, but so that we who get saved can then take that gospel and do every good thing imaginable in the world in gratitude to the God of mercy.
So bringing the good news to people who haven't heard the good news-- bringing food to those who have no food-- doing all those things, the gospel frees us to bring justice and truth and life. Slavery would never have been abolished in the United States of America, if not for born-again Jesus freaks who believed we're all created in the image of God. Where do you think the idea came from? Secular people? Church people? Born-again Jesus freaks who believed in the word of God said slavery is an abomination, and we don't care what has been going on for thousands of years. It needs to end. That is the gospel of Jesus Christ freed into history.
And the gospel of Jesus Christ, like the leaven that-- it leavens the whole lump. It goes through and through and through and it doesn't end until the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Earth kiss, and history ends and we're in the presence of God forever. That's what the gospel is supposed to do. And so, folks, we get to be a part of that. And there's nothing more extraordinary than the idea that we would get to be a part of what God is doing. He loves you so much that he invites you to be a part of what he is doing in history. Luther is a huge piece of that, and I have to tell you if he had not had the courage and the faith to stand when he stood-- I have no idea how it would have gone down. But the Lord calls each of us to stand in our small circles stand with the joy and the peace of God and what he can do through you is infinite. It will touch eternity if you give it to Him.
Let me pray. Father God, we love you. We praise you. We thank you for the good news of Jesus Christ, which we do not deserve, but which you in your infinite mercy and grace and love have given to your children whom you love so much. You died for every one of us. Lord give us the gift of faith to appreciate that, to accept it, to live it out in every moment of our lives, with every calorie of energy, with every penny, with everything we have every second to live in gratitude to you for what you have done. We declare you King of kings and Lord of lords, we love you, Jesus. Use us and our generation to your glory. Amen.
Thank you for joining us for this teaching by our special guest Eric Metaxas. If this message impacted you, we'd love to know. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And just a reminder, you can give financially to this work at calvaryabq.org/give.
Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary Church.