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When Doctrine Determines Your Destiny Part 3

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
June 13, 2023 1:00 am

When Doctrine Determines Your Destiny Part 3

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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June 13, 2023 1:00 am

What is the measure of a man? Many people overplay Martin Luther’s positive contributions and overlook any negatives. In this message, Pastor Lutzer offers an evenhanded evaluation of Luther’s life, teaching, and accomplishments. Despite Luther’s flaws, he was greatly used by God.

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.

What is the measure of a man? They say hindsight is 20-20, and as we evaluate the life of Martin Luther, it's easy to overplay the positives and overlook the negatives. Today, Pastor Lutzer takes an even-handed look at the life of the great reformer and what he accomplished for the Kingdom of God.

Stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, do you see people with Luther's courage these days as much of the church seems to be falling in line with the culture?

Dave, you're absolutely right. It's heartbreaking, but many churches are giving the culture exactly what the culture wants. Martin Luther was a man with many flaws, but when the time came for him to be courageous, he was.

I want us to grasp a few sentences of the prayer that he prayed before his big decision to stand with the Scriptures. O almighty and everlasting God, how terrible is this world! Behold, it opens its mouth to swallow me up, and I have so little trust in Thee. How weak is the flesh, Satan, how strong! If it is only in the strength of this world that I must put my trust, it is all over. My last hour has come, my condemnation has been pronounced.

O God, O God! And the prayer goes on at some length. This is a prayer, of course, that I've recorded in my book entitled Rescuing the Gospel, the Story and the Significance of the Reformation. And here's the point. The night before the Diet of Worms, Luther had no real sense of God's presence, but he believed God's bare word. For a gift of any amount, this book can be yours. Here's what you do.

Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Let me now give an evaluation of Luther's life in ministry. First of all, he broke the monopoly of the medieval church that the medieval church had on the souls of men. You see, in medieval theology, if the priests do not give you the sacraments, you go to hell. That's what an interdict was. It was when the pope was angry with someone within a certain district, he said to the people, this is an interdict.

We will offer none of the sacraments. And that meant that all the people were going to hell so the people would rise up and they take care of this person like John Hus. Because if you didn't have a right relationship with the church, you could not go to heaven. That was medieval theology. So what Luther did is he, by emphasizing that it is through faith in Christ alone, it is through faith that we have a relationship with God. It is possible to have a relationship with God apart from the church.

Boy, that's critical. In fact, that was one of the things that they threw into his face in forums. It was that he believed that a sacrament had value only if the recipient had faith. And the teaching of the church was you don't need any faith.

The sacrament has value in and of itself, you see. So Luther broke that monopoly and said we can relate to God properly even if, even if the church is against us. And certainly the popes were against him. So he uncovered the gospel.

Some of us believe that he confused it by maintaining that infant baptism still saves, but that's a whole different discussion. He broke the power of the tradition and the superstitions of the church. Second, he planted the seeds of freedom of religion. Now freedom of religion in Europe has a long tortured history.

And that's a whole separate discussion. You know this idea that you can believe whatever you like or not believe anything if that's okay with you? This is an American idea, our Constitution. In Europe until 1648, the Peace of Westphalia, you couldn't believe however you wanted to believe. What happened is the Enlightenment helped Europe to understand that there should be freedom of religion. And all the books thank the Enlightenment for freedom of religion. The Enlightenment did bring freedom of religion.

Unfortunately, it also brought a lot of bad things with it, a kind of humanism. But the seeds of freedom of religion go back to forums. My conscience is taken captive by the word of God. Luther preached afterwards and he told people that nobody can coerce someone else to believe.

And those are the seeds that began to grow. It took a long time before it happened, but those were the ideas implanted in the minds of the Lutherans in Europe that conscience should be free. Radical idea.

Radical idea. The Puritans didn't even have that idea by the way. When the Puritans came to America, they were not about to give freedom of religion to everybody. Roger Williams was run out of New England because, or at least one of the states, because he was a Baptist. And even in America, therefore, freedom of religion has had an interesting history. But we can thank Luther for that emphasis. Third, the impact of the German Bible is enormous. Here I am, my parents grew up in the Ukraine, but they were Germans.

And they come to Canada and were married 75 years ago. And we as children had devotions every morning. Our parents had devotions with us. And what did they read? The German Bible, Luther translation.

Now, of course, it was updated. Something like the King James is updated today because Luther's German was quite different from the contemporary German. But there it was, I remember, Die einreich komme, Die kingdom come, all read in the German Bible. The impact of the Bible in German beyond all belief and comprehension. Now there are some negatives, negative impact.

Two things. First of all is doctrine of the two spheres that you should obey the temporal powers no matter what they ask you to do. And at the same time, you see, you can serve God over here and that those two spheres have to be kept distinct.

This is an interesting discussion which again we shall avoid. But Nazism came along and built on that. You see, the Nazis were told and the German people were told you obey the powers that be the temporal powers, your government.

They ask you to shoot somebody you shoot. But that doesn't mean that you can't serve God in your private life as a Christian. So you can kill people in concentration camps, but you can go home for Christmas and sing Christmas carols and still be a good Christian in that sphere.

Now, this is a very tricky issue as to the relationship between church and state and obligation. So I'm over drawing Luther's distinction a little bit to make a point, but Nazism came along and they of course capitalized on that. Another interesting historical thing, when you go to Luther's hometown where he was born, Eisleben, and also where he preached his last sermon, which I'd love to tell you about his last sermon.

Come on to me all you that labor and are heavy laden and I'll give you rest. But if you go there, at least when I was there when the Berlin Wall was still up, there's a statue of Luther. It was a statue that was admired by the communists. Why, how could the communists take a Luther and turn him into one of their heroes? Well, he stood against the church, he stood against organized religion, et cetera, et cetera. So isn't that interesting how people can come along and take somebody like Luther and twist him into any shape that they want him to be. But anyway, the doctrine of the two spheres, problematic probably. And then the other thing, of course, is his words about the Jews, which I was asked about a couple of times ago where he said, let us burn their synagogues, let us confiscate their books, let us destroy them, et cetera.

And I mentioned that that was based on naivete. He believed that when he had uncovered the gospel that the Jews would believe. When they didn't, he became an angry old man. And by the way, he died an angry old man and made many mistakes and said those terrible, terrible things, which are inexcusable based though on the fact that they were the Christ killers. Hitler came along and was opposed to the Jews because they were of the wrong race. They weren't Aryans.

So you have a difference. But but you have a lot of hatred of the Jews. And Luther was a product of his time. And he simply did not get it early on. He said, let us be kind to them.

Why should they believe on Jesus unless we treat them kindly? But later on, he ended up. Can I tell you one other mistake that Luther made? There was a guy by the name of Philip and Philip of Hesse had a castle and it's north of Frankfurt. It was my privilege to be there a few years ago and that's where the famous debate took place between Swingly and Luther.

And I won't tell you about the debate. I will when we talk about Swingly, but Philip of Hesse wanted to unify the reform movements. He wanted to unify the reform movement in Switzerland and Germany so he said, let's get together and let's debate this and let's leave United. But Philip of Hesse was in a bad marriage, a very unhappy marriage.

It was a marriage that was imposed upon him because of the political intrigue and he wanted to marry a different woman. And he came to Luther and said, what do you think about that? And Luther said, go ahead and do it.

Just do it privately so nobody hears about it. Well, everybody heard about it and Luther was vilified for that advice and later on basically said, if you've got marriage problems, don't come to me. Okay. How do we assess a life like Luther's? Always remember that when you're talking about human beings, you are talking about wheat and chaff and we all have some wheat and we all have some chaff. But when God wanted a man to do something drastic, to take on the whole monolithic structure of medieval religion, he chose a man who had courage, who had nerve, who had faith, who was exceedingly brilliant and who did some very wonderful things.

And we are still the recipients of that heritage. We do not accept or condone his mistakes and his frailties and his stupidities, but we do affirm the fact that we are standing upon the shoulders of someone who saw a lot of truth. So that my friend is a Martin Luther story. And do you have any questions for me?

I have time for three or four minutes. Luther married Katie. She bore him children. He had a little child by the name of Elizabeth who died at the age of 13 and that also contributed I think to Luther's anger, so forth. He was deeply wounded.

My little girl, he would say, what is it like for you to go to heaven without me? And so there was a really soft side to Luther. Were there true believers in the times preceding the reformation, even though there was not a clear gospel message?

Yes, God always has his people. There were small groups like the Waldensians. There were the Hussites that I told you about who predated Luther, the followers of Huss a hundred years, of course, before Luther. So there were pockets of truth.

And then the other thing that you have to understand is this. There were many, many people who believed in medieval religion who undoubtedly will be in heaven because despite the superstitions and the traditions, their faith was in Jesus and they did trust Jesus to be the one that saved them apart from their works. At the end of the day, I'm convinced of that. So let's even look at our hymnals, Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly, written by someone who was a part of the church, but of course he knew Jesus as savior. So God has always had his people, even in the midst of it. Why did it take over a thousand years to really get the Bible translated correctly? Were people really that satisfied with doing good works to get to heaven? Why did it take a thousand years to really get the Bible translated correctly? Why is it that you folks ask such good questions? If you didn't ask such good ones, I could just brush them off and then we could go on to something else.

But virtually every question I've ever had up here has been a good one. I will say this, that it was God's intention that as the scripture was given to the church, that generation after generation would teach its truth, even though not all people were able to read. And if you look at the history of the church, even though there were heresies and so forth, the first 350 years, shall we say, basically the church was more evangelical in its theology. Yes, baptism was sometimes thought to be necessary for salvation. Yes, there were other beliefs that began to creep in, but by and large it was. And then what happened is Jerome translated the scripture into Latin, you understand. He worked there in Bethlehem, in the basement actually of the church where Jesus supposedly was born.

We can go there today and you can see where Jerome worked. And that translation had many good parts, but some that weren't all that good. And that became in effect the Bible of Christendom for a thousand years. You're right. So if you ask the question, why did it take so long?

I don't think I can answer because that's puzzling. Why did God not raise up others? And there were other translations, but that Latin Bible, the Vulgate, became incredibly important. And despite its imperfections, it did have the gospel in it, but I'm not sure I can answer that question. Is once in grace always in grace true? Can you ever be not saved if once you were?

Well, we believe by we, we mean me, the pastoral staff, Jesus and Paul, that once a person is in grace and saved, you will make it to your heavenly home. Now that's not to say that there are some passages in the Bible that could maybe be interpreted differently. But when you study the Bible, what you need to do is to look at the clear passages and then you have to look at those that aren't so clear and you have to make sense out of them because you can't believe both. Only Alice in Wonderland, she was able to believe as many as six contradictions before breakfast.

But you can't believe two even before lunch. So it is either true or it isn't. So here's the deal.

If God saves you by electing you to eternal life, is it thinkable that the God who saves you and elects you from before the foundation of the world is going to actually lose you along the way? Best illustration is sheep. Jesus said, the sheep have been given to me by my father.

Okay. If you give a shepherd a hundred sheep and he comes home at night and he's only got 93, what do you think of that shepherd? You say, oh yeah, but the sheep were really stubborn. They had free will and they chose false paths. Yes, even if they choose a false path, that shepherd has the responsibility by hook or by crook to get those sheep back and to have them home for nightfall. And so I believe that there are sheep who do wander from the path. I believe that there are Christians who backslide and when they do, we have every right to ask whether or not they were truly saved.

But only God knows there are some who I believe are saved who will show up in heaven with no rewards because they were God's people, but they didn't live like it. And that has its own implications. Now that's the general picture, but of course there are many, many fine people who disagree with us. And the good news is that in less than a hundred years, we'll all be agreed on it.

That is everybody who's here. You'll be agreed on it. We're headed for heaven folks, and I hope to enjoy the journey.

Thank you so very, very much. Come back for Calvin in Geneva next week. You have to hear about John Calvin. I suppose you can get to heaven without having heard of him, but, but it would be much better if you did. All right, let's stand, shall we? And Father, we thank you today for the life of Luther. We thank you that he wrote though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us, we will not fear for God has willed his truth to triumph through us. The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not from him.

His rage we can endure for lo, his doom is sure. One little word shall fail him. Give us that same confidence in your bare word when nothing else around us makes sense. When we cannot harmonize circumstances, even with your promises, may we go with your word.

Now dismiss your people. And for those who perhaps have never trusted Christ as savior, may they know that Jesus is available to those who believe. Cause them to believe for your glory that they also might inherit eternal life in Jesus name. We pray.

Amen. Well, this is pastor Lutzer at the introduction of this message. I read a few lines from Luther's prayer.

Here's another line from it. Where dwell as thou old Lord. Oh my God, where art thou come? I am ready. I am ready to lay down my life for the truth. Patient as a lamb.

The next day he stands before the emperor, makes his declaration and believes he is going to be killed. Now he wasn't for some interesting reasons, but my point is that in the end he believed God's bare word. For a gift of any amount, my book entitled Rescuing the Gospel can be yours.

Simply go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Time again for you to ask pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Today's question has to do with how Protestants and Catholics differ. Richard from Florida writes, simply put, I view the difference between Roman Catholics and Christian non-Catholics this way. It involves how we are to make ourselves presentable before God to be admitted into heaven.

Is this right? Richard, first of all, I want to thank you so much for your question because as you might guess, we have many Catholics and non-Catholics that listen to our broadcasts and we welcome both. As a matter of fact, we welcome those who are of other religions.

We're so glad that God has given us a diversity of listeners and we thank God for each of them. But in relationship to Catholicism versus Protestantism on the issue of salvation, if I could put it simply, in Roman Catholic theology, grace is received through the sacraments and if you receive grace through the sacraments and you receive enough grace and you combine that with your own efforts and good works, hopefully you will have enough righteousness to enter into heaven. If you don't, you will go to purgatory.

There you will be purged until you'll be able to enter into heaven and be righteous enough to enter. What we believe that the Bible teaches is that when Jesus Christ died on the cross, his death was so sufficient and so complete that when we trust Jesus as our Savior, God gives us the righteousness that we need as a gift through faith. And this means that we are saved on the basis of what Jesus did for us, we're saved on the basis of his merit, and if our faith is in Christ, when we die, we are welcomed into heaven as if we are Jesus because we are indeed saved totally on the basis of what he did. What that means is it is possible to have assurance of salvation now because it's not a matter of me helping the Lord reach the standard that is necessary to reach, but that standard is given to us as a free gift from Christ alone.

So that's the difference. And I commend to you the wonderful promises of Scripture that tell us that the righteousness of God is a gift through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord. Thank you, Dr. Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer. Or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. That's 1-888-218-9337.

You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614. While most people associate the Reformation with Martin Luther, another man played a prominent role. His name was John Calvin, and his influence was felt most keenly in Geneva, in what is now Switzerland. Next time on Running to Win, don't miss Calvin, Love Him or Hate Him. Thanks for listening. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-13 03:39:08 / 2023-06-13 03:47:47 / 9

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