Love Under Fire


Peace With God

A desire to find peace with God led him to devote himself to a monk's life. As part of this, he was required to do the lowest jobs and to beg from house to house. He patiently endured this humiliation, believing it was necessary because of his sins. LF 55.1

Luther loved to study God's Word. He had found a Bible chained to the convent wall, and he often went to it there, robbing himself of sleep and grudging even the time he spent at his meager meals. LF 55.2

He led a very strict life, trying to subdue the evils of his nature by fasting, vigils, and whippings. Later he said, “If ever a monk could gain heaven by his monkish works, I would certainly have been entitled to it.... If it had continued much longer, I would have carried my self-denial even to death.”3 With all his efforts, his burdened heart found no relief. Finally he was driven nearly to despair. LF 55.3

When it seemed that all hope was gone, God raised up a friend for him. Staupitz opened the Word of God to Luther's mind and urged him to look away from self and look to Jesus. “Instead of torturing yourself because of your sins, throw yourself into the Redeemer's arms. Trust in Him, in the righteousness of His life, in the atonement of His death.... The Son of God ... became man to give you the assurance of God's favor.... Love Him who first loved you.”4 His words made a deep impression on Luther's mind. Peace came to his troubled heart. LF 55.4

After being ordained a priest, Luther was called to a professorship in the University of Wittenberg. He began to lecture on the Psalms, the Gospels, and the Epistles to crowds of delighted listeners. Staupitz, his supervisor, urged him to go into the pulpit and preach. But Luther felt that he was unworthy to speak to the people in Christ's place. It was only after a long struggle that he yielded to the request of his friends. He was mighty in the Scriptures, and the grace of God rested on him. He presented the truth with a clearness and power that convinced their understanding, and his earnest appeals touched their hearts. LF 55.5

Luther was still a true son of the papal church, and he had no thought that he would ever be anything else. Led to visit Rome, he made the journey on foot, spending the night at monasteries along the way. He was amazed at the magnificence and luxury that he saw. The monks lived in elegant apartments, dressed in costly robes, and feasted on rich food. Luther's mind was becoming perplexed. LF 55.6

Finally in the distance he saw the seven-hilled city. He stretched himself face down on the earth, exclaiming: “Holy Rome, I salute you!”5 He visited the churches, listened to the priests and monks tell their fantastic tales, and performed all the required ceremonies. Everywhere, what he saw filled him with astonishment—evils among the clergy, indecent jokes from church officials. He was filled with horror by their foul language even during mass. He met intemperance and immorality. “No one can imagine,” he wrote, “what sins and shameful actions are committed in Rome.... They are in the habit of saying, ‘If there is a hell, Rome is built over it.’”6 LF 55.7