3-Week Series: Double Blessing

Sermon Illustrations


In 1517, an obscure Catholic priest named Martin Luther placed his life in God's hands when he nailed his 95 theses, his 95 arguments against the Catholic church, on the door of the Wittenberg Church. There was nothing wrong with nailing pages to the door. Everything was posted there for everyone to read. It was the community bulletin board. But Martin Luther had been studying the Bible personally and realized that Catholic ceremonies did nothing to dispense grace and the church had no right to sell indulgences. Salvation is received through faith in Jesus. His 95 theses specified errors of the Catholic church in the light of personal Bible study.

At that time, Catholicism was the most powerful institution in the western world. The Pope not only coronated kings, he could order them to abdicate if he so chose. The power to excommunicate did not so much inspire the fear of God as the fear of eternal hell. Opposition to the church meant a charge of heresy, possible torture, possible death, and certain excommunication.

After ten years of leading the Reformation, a series of health problems assaulted Martin Luther. In April, 1527, a dizzy spell struck him while preaching. Things got worse. By July he wondered if he had long to live. He regained some strength, then was assaulted with depression, heart problems, and severe intestinal complications. In those days, some treatments were as bad as the ailments.

At one point he wrote, "I spent more than a week in death and hell. My entire body was in pain." Some of you may know how that feels. He continued, "I labored under the vacillations and storms of desperation and blasphemy against God."

That sounds like Job, who was tempted to "curse God and die."

Then the black plague struck Germany. His home became a hospital where he watched his friends experience the blessed relief of death. Then his year old son became seriously ill.

The 46th Psalm became his favorite. It inspired Martin Luther to write, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." The hymn is so compelling that, ironically, it became a suggested hymn for Catholic Masses, appearing in the second edition of the Catholic Book of Worship, published by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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