Hallelujah! What a Savior!

In our day we can hardly imagine God not loving us, for many of us were nurtured on theories of self-esteem-ism. We have come to believe that, “when we feel like hope is gone, you can look inside you and be strong, and you’ll finally see the truth, that a hero lies in you.”  (compliments of Mariah Carey)

Though we can’t imagine God not loving us, in the late medieval period most people had hard a hard time believing God could love them. They were not nurtured by Mariah Carey’s hero-inside-you philosophy, but instead were brought up to concentrate on God’s wrath and the coming judgment. Instead of thinking they could live any old way and somehow still be a “pretty good person” that God would accept, they strived with all their might to secure God’s favor through good deeds and acts of righteousness, while being anxiety ridden that God would still say, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

imagesJust ask the young Martin Luther. During a lighting storm where Luther feared for his life, he vowed to God that he would become a monk if God would only save him from what felt like certain death. God protected Luther, and like he promised, Luther entered the Augustinian order where he devoted himself to a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience. But instead of calming Luther’s spiritual anxieties, the monastery life only further increased them. No matter how good he was, Luther never believed he was good enough.

In preparing a lecture at the University of Wittenberg, he poured over the book of Romans and finally, like a shaft of light breaking into a dark dungeon, Luther saw the truth—that the righteousness God required of us is the same righteousness that Christ won for us! We are saved, not by what we do, but what he has done. We are justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. When this realization came to Luther, he wrote, “I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through doors into paradise.”

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It’s not that there’s a hero inside of you, or that we can work hard enough and become the hero, but that Jesus is the hero for you. For only He has defeated the primordial dragon of Satan. Only He has freed us from the curse of sin and death. Only He has released us into a new life of redeeming love where the old has passed away and the new has come. And only He gives us the heart to sing in faith,

“Bearing shame and scoffing rude,

In my place condemned he stood,

Sealed my pardon with his blood:

Hallelujah! What a Savior!”

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