Tag Archives: Martin Luther

The Roman Catholic Church is Not the Enemy

Martin Luther supported the Roman Catholic Church and did not want to leave her

The name of Martin Luther remains unknown to most in the Roman Catholic Church, and many of those who know of him blame him for dividing Christianity and causing disunity. Yet remember Martin was a Catholic.

He tried to bring about change within the Catholic Church. He didn’t want to start a revolution against her. Only after Church leaders expelled him did Luther resort to pursue a new church practice apart from the Roman Catholic institution.The Roman Catholic Church is Not the Enemy

However, Protestants lessen their Christian heritage if they view Catholics with disdain for pushing Luther away. In the same way, Catholics miss a greater faith perspective if they regard Protestants as rebels. We’re on the same side. We pursue a comparable faith in the same God.

The Bible is common to our faith. Christian unity should be the mutual intent of Protestants and Catholics. We must strive to get along. Our unity will point people to Jesus. Our lack of harmony will repel them.

Protestants can celebrate that the Roman Catholic Church later went through its own mini-reformation. This Counter-Reformation corrected many of the errors Luther had pointed out. Though the Roman Catholic Church leaders’ reactions to him (and others like him) sparked the Protestant Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church is not the enemy of Protestantism. We are not at war.

Though not his intention, Luther, however, did divide the Church. He diluted the Christian stream of Catholicism.

Furthermore, note that Protestantism never enjoyed unity within itself. It started as multiple opposing factions. These groups further divided over the centuries that followed to become 43,000 splintered denominations today. For all the good the Protestant Reformation accomplished, the painful outcome produced massive division, something the Roman Catholics have smartly avoided.

The Roman Catholic Church’s initial response to Luther and his criticism of their practices was opposition. This stands as a typical posture of an institution when attacked. Yet, their attitude went beyond resistance to Martin’s words. They grew hostile, both vicious and vile, toward his person. Though not excusable, we can understand this reaction.

The Catholic hostility toward Luther continued for over four centuries. A turning point came in 1937 when Joseph Lortz, a Catholic professor, published a two-volume book on Luther. His work provided a balanced, scholarly review of Luther. This advanced a better understanding for Catholics of this much-maligned man.

Lortz’s work provided a path to thaw Catholicism’s icy attitude toward Luther. Aided by the later ecumenical efforts of Pope John XXII and the second Vatican Council (1962-63), the culmination of Lortz’s work may have occurred in 2011 when Pope Benedict XVI spoke in Germany, to Lutherans, about Luther in a positive way. Though this didn’t resolve the issue, it served to reorient attitudes. Christian unity should be the mutual intent of Protestants and Catholics. Click To Tweet

To move forward, we can embrace both Catholicism and Protestantism as equal facets of Christianity. We both follow the teaching of Jesus, albeit from different historical traditions. With much more to unite than to divide, both groups must acknowledge that neither approach to faith is error-free or superior, just different.

More importantly, Jesus desires we pursue Christian unity. In his prayer before his death, he pleaded that we, his future followers, would be one, just as he and the Father are one. TThe Roman Catholic Church in 95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaanhis harmony will let the world know that the Father sent Jesus to us, John 17:21, 23. May Catholics and Protestants work together to point the world to God the Father, through Jesus.

May we pursue unity.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

The Excommunicated Martin Luther Gets Married

Luther saw marriage, not celibacy vows, as the preferred option for most clergy

As Martin Luther’s ordeal wore on, he eventually left the castle where he was hiding. He returned to Wittenberg, some five years after he posted his ninety-five theses. Though still a wanted man, some powerful people offered him a degree of protection, so he no longer lived under constant threats. Even so, he needed to watch for traps and guard where he went. Because of this, he often opted to remain in seclusion. With care, he resumed his teaching and preaching.The Excommunicated Martin Luther Gets Married

Aside from the abuse of indulgences, Luther went on to find no biblical support for the celibacy vows of priests and nuns. He saw marriage as the biblical preference. Excommunicated and therefore no longer bound by his pledge to the Church, he married Katherine von Bora, a former nun, on June 13, 1525, in a small private ceremony. She was 26 and Martin, 41. He called her Katie. Once excommunicated, Martin Luther was no longer bound by his celibacy vows. Click To Tweet

A suitable complement to Martin, Katie was both strong and intelligent. Her outspoken nature matched her husband’s. Though they often lacked money, their union stood as a happy and successful example of ministerial marriage. Over the years they had six children—three boys and three girls—and raised several orphans.

Now ousted from the Roman Catholic Church, in 1526 Martin set about to organize a new church based on biblical principles. This isn’t what he wanted, but the Church left him with no other options to pursue his faith in community. In doing this he sought to avoid excessive change, lest he confuse or upset people.

In addition to establishing a reformed church structure, Luther wrote catechisms, a German liturgy, and a German Mass—though he intended it to supplement, and not replace, the Latin Mass. He established his famous doctrine of the priesthood of all believers and authored the Augsburg Confession to clarify essential beliefs and practices. The Augsburg Confession continues as a formal expression of Lutheran teachings today. Having a lifetime of writing to his credit, his voluminous output could fill a hundred books.

With his lifelong love of singing, Martin emerged as a prolific songwriter, too, authoring many hymns.No more celibacy vows. Read more in 95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaan Having completed his New Testament translation of the Bible into German earlier in 1522, he (with the help of others under his direction) finished his Old Testament translation in 1534. However, he continued to refine it throughout his life. The principles he used to guide his translation work would later influence other Bible translators.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

Martin Luther Sought Reform and Unity

The Church opposed Martin Luther and eventually excommunicated him

Longing for unity, Martin didn’t want to see the church divided. But when reconciliation didn’t happen, he had no choice but to form a new church practice aligned with what the Bible taught and apart from the Church he loved. A new faction of Christianity emerged, one separate from the Catholic Church.

In the end, Martin realized the changes he sought, but instead of the Catholic reformation he desired, he ended up with the Protestant Reformation he never intended.Martin Luther Sought Reform and Unity

Not only did October 31, 1517 mark a turning point in the history of the Christian church but also in the life of Martin Luther. At that moment, just short of his thirty-fourth birthday, his life would forever change.

At first Pope Leo X dismissed Luther’s ninety-five theses as the work of a drunk monk, who would think better of his words once he became sober. As the Church tried to ignore Luther, the groundswell of interest that followed the publication of his theses made this impossible.

The Church attempted to silence him, using increasingly severe methods. First they made several attempts to force him to recant his views. When that failed, they tried to manipulate him into making a public statement they could label as heretical. Though they came close to succeeding, Martin dodged their carefully-planned scheme before they could snare him.

The Church also ordered Luther to appear in Rome to defend himself. Martin, along with his supporters, knew this ruse would result in his death. For, once in Rome, he could be easily arrested, imprisoned, and left there to die. A change in venue, perhaps through the intervention of an ally, removed the immediate threat of death; however, he still needed to evade a rumored arrest attempt as he traveled to the meeting’s new location.

These were not the only occasions he faced danger. Other times, in fear for his safety, supporters—often students—armed with sticks and clubs went with Martin to protect him. On one occasion they numbered two hundred. Pope Leo X demanded Martin Luther recant his views or be excommunicated. Click To Tweet

Yet another time, Martin’s adversaries maneuvered him into publicly admitting that the pope could be in error. This provided the damning evidence they sought. Pope Leo X demanded Luther recant or be excommunicated. Attempts by his supporters to broker a solution failed. The pope expelled Martin Luther from the Church on January 3, 1521.

Martin Luther excommunicated. Read 95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaanAfter that, Martin hid in a castle in Wartburg, posing for a time as a knight. Safely protected there, he translated the New Testament into German. Though other German translations existed, these all had a regional focus and weren’t accessible to all Germans. Luther’s translation addressed this and connected with all the people in his country.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

The Latter Years of Martin Luther

Martin Luther wanted to work within the Church to bring about change but they kicked him out

Martin Luther intended to work out his ninety-five theses within the Church leadership. However, once the masses read and heard them in their own language—through no fault of Martin’s—an internal Church discussion became impossible. A revolution brewed. The people, poised for change, saw to that.

But the leaders of the Church had a different reaction. They saw Luther as a threat. His views opposed them, their power, and their profit motives.The Latter Years of Martin Luther

Yes, Martin wanted a reformation. But he wanted it to occur in an orderly fashion, to work within the Church and discuss his concerns with its leaders. He loved the Church and desired to remain part of her. He never planned to create a new church and certainly never wanted a Lutheran denomination named in his honor. To him there was one church, the church of Jesus, which Martin sought to fine-tune.

Later Luther would seek to reclaim key doctrines that had fallen away: biblical authority, justification by grace through faith alone, preaching the good news of Jesus, the true meaning of communion, the priesthood of believers, faith in Jesus, and the universal church, as well as others.

He also began to question the addition of new practices that lacked biblical support. These included papal infallibility, the practice of Mass, penance, and indulgences. In addition, he objected to the absolute authority accorded to the pope, along with the secularization and corruption of the Church’s upper leadership. To communicate his concerns, Martin spoke often and wrote volumes about these issues. Martin Luther didn’t desire to leave the Church, but to correct her errors. Click To Tweet

Work within the Church. Read more in 95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaanLuther didn’t desire to leave the Church, but to correct her errors. For several years he and his followers toiled to do just that. They believed their efforts would restore a pure Christian community. He persisted despite the Church’s personal attacks on his character. Their opposition escalated to physical threats on his freedom and risks to his very life. Even after his church labeled him as a heretic and expelled him, he still hoped-for reconciliation.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

There’s No Shortcut to Heaven: Buying Full Indulgences Won’t Help

Martin Luther worried that buying full indulgences served to hinder salvation

What most raised the ire of the Church against Martin Luther and his ninety-five theses, however, was not his claim of salvation through Jesus alone or the pope having no power over purgatory, but his bold statement that indulgences served to hinder salvation.Follow Jesus as his disciple.

Martin realized indulgences instilled a false sense of spiritual security in those who bought them. It was as if they had purchased a pass to enter heaven; they were good to go. Then they could live their life as they wanted, without regard for what God wanted. Instead, the people’s complete trust in papal indulgences to secure their salvation removed the requirement of repentance and damned them for eternity.

With their certificate of indulgence in hand, a full indulgence, the people no longer felt a need to repent, Mark 1:15, or to work out their salvation by doing good and helping the poor, Philippians 2:12.

Jesus, however, commends those who clothe the naked and care for the sick, Matthew 25:34-40. Yet all the attention given to buying indulgences removed the focus from those in need. Jesus didn’t say, “Sell your cloak and buy an indulgence.” (He said to “sell your cloak and buy a sword,” Luke 22:36.)

Martin noted that when people paid for their indulgences, they in effect diverted money from the poor and even the needs of their own family. Instead, they redirected it to the Church. Full indulgences had the direct impact of producing less charity for those who needed it most. Instead it provided more money to those in power who already had too much. The Church wanted the people’s money. They had already downplayed helping the poor so they could receive more. The sale of indulgences advanced their unethical quest to get more of their followers’ cash.

Full indulgences were also dangerous because they encouraged complacency.

God’s work in the lives of his creation unfolds in a strange way. Only when a person feels completely lost can the light of God provide the needed illumination. Yet the crutch of indulgences kept people from ever feeling utterly lost and in need of God. True peace comes from faith in Jesus, not by receiving absolution through the purchase of an indulgence.

As a response to placing faith in Jesus comes the need to carry our cross to follow him as his disciple, Luke 14:27. We die to self to live for God. We deny our wishes and become crucified with Jesus, just like Paul, Galatians 2:20. The cross of Jesus, not an indulgence from a pope, provides the way to cover our wrongs. In response to placing faith in Jesus, we need to carry our cross to follow him as his disciple. Click To Tweet

The German people had long lived under the financial tyranny of the Church. They sought relief. Martin’s theses demanded financial liberation and resonated with them. They understood it. It became their manifesto against the Church’s corrupt money grab.

What most of the German people didn’t grasp, however, was Martin’s call to be crucified with Jesus. The people rallied around a vision of financial release from the Church’s practices, thanks to some of Martin’s theses. Read about full indulgences in 95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaan

As a result, the other theses accompanied them. This pushed the group of ninety-five theses forward, even if the people didn’t understand them all.

Though Martin understood his theses, he had no idea of the problems they would cause.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

Martin Luther Supported the Sacrament of Penance

But Luther believed the Pope had no power over purgatory

Martin Luther’s second group of ninety-five theses addressed the pope’s authority over purgatory, or to be more correct, the pope’s lack of authority. Martin asserted that the pope had no power when it came to remitting sins and their penalty in purgatory. Though some accounts claim Luther found no biblical support for purgatory itself, as well as the Sacrament of Penance, his ninety-five theses don’t support this position.Martin Luther Supported the Sacrament of Penance

He agreed that the Sacrament of Penance allows for forgiveness of sins to those who are truly sorry for their actions. He didn’t criticize penance. The difference between the Sacrament of Penance and the pope’s greatly expanded extension of the concept may not be immediately apparent, but the distinction is significant.

The essential aspects of penance reside in admitting mistakes and being remorseful for them. After meeting these conditions, the priest offers forgiveness for the confessed sins.

What the pope had approved, however, was far different. He removed the elements of confession and repentance. Then he replaced them with a monetary payment. Next, the scope of forgiveness expanded to cover all sins, not specific ones. And last, instead of addressing forgiveness in this life, the pope authorized a future forgiveness in death.

Martin made his view clear: The pope had overreached. The papal indulgences didn’t, and couldn’t, remove guilt. These full indulgences fell short of being able to reconcile people with God, which comes solely from sincere repentance. The extent of the pope’s actual authority was limited to what he imposed, not what God established.

The pope didn’t have a stockpile of eternal credits. He couldn’t subjectively transfer salvation to others. Even if one person could go beyond what God requires, they couldn’t save their excess to use later for someone else, as some people believed. Only Jesus can do that. And he did. He freely offered forgiveness to all who believe, without any involvement of the pope. Martin Luther concluded that the pope had no real authority over purgatory. Click To Tweet

From this Martin concluded that the pope had no real authority over purgatory. Martin argued that if the pope truly did have power to release one person from purgatory that he should release all people. That out of love he could free everyone. This would effectively abolish purgatory. And if the pope intentionally left people in purgatory merely to raise money, his actions accounted for nothing more than greed.

Martin did, however, identify one thing the pope could do in relation to purgatory. He could pray for the early release of the people there, an action any member of the clergy could exercise.Sacrament of Penance in 95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaan

Prior to Martin, others had proclaimed salvation only through Jesus and questioned the pope’s authority over purgatory. They did this without being charged with heresy. Had Martin restricted the focus to these points, he might have escaped the firestorm of attacks that followed. But he took one more step.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

You Can’t Buy Salvation: Heaven Is Not For Sale

Some of Martin Luther’s 95 theses counter the practice of buying salvation

Martin objected to the abuse of indulgences; you can’t buy salvation. Though he mentioned the Church and the pope in some of his theses, he focused on the unbiblical excess of this one practice.You Can't Buy Salvation: Heaven Is Not For Sale

Here’s the background:

In a creative, though misguided, fundraising effort, some church leaders began selling full indulgences. Through the purchase of indulgences, people could essentially purchase their salvation. They could also secure the eternal deliverance of others, both dead and alive. They could buy their way into heaven.

The money raised was supposed to go to Rome to build the new Saint Peter’s Basilica (Church), replacing the old Saint Peter’s. It had stood over a millennium and reportedly served as the burial site for Jesus’s disciple Peter, also recognized as the first pope.

Historians debate how much of the money collected actually made it back to Rome to help erect this shrine, but the promise of payment secured the permission to sell indulgences. The pope granted this authority to peddle eternal pardons to archbishop Albert of Brandenburg. Albert in turn tapped John Tetzel, among others, to carry this out. Tetzel pursued his assignment with much zeal. In the process, he earned Martin’s ire.

In the years leading up to this approval to market indulgences, Church decisions began to depart from a biblical understanding of salvation. This became a slippery slope that made their latest ruling feasible. The Church headship at that time had become corrupt and greedy. Ambitious religious leaders no longer saw the papacy as a way to serve God and lead his people. Instead they viewed it as a means to live a life of luxury and wield unrestrained power.

But Martin objected to the Church selling what Jesus died to give away with no strings attached. You can’t buy salvation.

Martin’s main concern was that a full indulgence removed the need to repent to become right with God. Instead of professing remorse for sins, a person could pay a fee to secure their eternal reward. The price was often disproportionate to their economic condition.

Beyond that, people could purchase the release into heaven for loved ones who had already died. They could also secure a future liberation for those still living. For these souls, their salvation happened without any action on their part. It wasn’t an act of personal repentance or their decision to purchase forgiveness.

Martin advocated that we become living temples through our bodies instead of constructing church buildings. He placed Saint Peter’s as the least important of all Church structures. Martin may have considered Saint Peter’s Church last as a matter of hyperbole. However, as the costliest of Church facilities, he saw it as the biggest distraction to people from becoming living temples.

He based this view on what he read in the Bible. Paul wrote that our bodies are temples for the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), and we’re built on the foundation formed by the apostles and prophets, with Jesus as our chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). Ironically, Peter—for whom the building was named—wrote that we are like living stones, which are being built into God’s spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5).

Martin also noted that the wealthy pope already had enough money to finance the new Saint Peter’s Basilica. He had no reason—other than greed—to approve a fundraising campaign. Yet by him granting authority to Albert to sell indulgences, even more money could pour into the Church’s treasury. This essentially grew the pope’s personal wealth.

Instead of building this grand shrine, Martin advocated giving the money to the poor. These were the very people Tetzel and others fleeced when they hawked indulgences. Besides, few of Martin’s fellow Germans would ever make a pilgrimage to Rome. They would never see the building they helped finance with their purchases of indulgences. Martin Luther based his views on what he read in the Bible. Click To Tweet

Martin provided a voice for their simmering angst.

You can't buy salvation. Read 95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaanThis message resonated with the German people. They had suffered under the corruption of Church leadership and felt the Church in Rome overlooked their plight in Germany.

They also rankled under Martin’s revelation that they had wasted money to purchase indulgences. He said the certificates they received held no value, either in this world or the next.

But Martin had more to say…to be continued.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

Martin Luther Grew Concerned over the Abuse of Indulgences

Luther’s 95 theses detail his objection to the sale of indulgences

As we consider Martin Luther’s ninety-five theses, it’s important to note that his initial objection centered on the abuse of indulgences, not indulgences themselves. He didn’t object to the concept, but merely how it had morphed into something he found unsupported by scripture.Martin Luther Grew Concerned over the Abuse of Indulgences

It’s also an overstatement to suggest he started out opposing many of the church’s practices as unbiblical and in need of reform. Martin sought not to provoke a revolution against the Church, but to spark a civilized, theological debate within its leadership. He wanted to address what he saw as an overreach of one specific church doctrine.

He preached publicly on this to the laity and sought to discuss his concerns privately with Church leaders. The leaders weren’t interested.

Frustrated, Martin drafted a list of ninety-five points of contention. Some say he wrote on impulse and out of anger. Others insist his concise words resulted from a carefully informed study. His points of dispute addressed purgatory, a place between heaven and hell; indulgences, a payment of money to escape purgatory; and the pope’s unbiblical role in this.

Writing in Latin, to keep the uneducated masses from overreacting, Martin intended his ninety-five theses to be a document for the learned that would spark debate among Church leadership and bring about needed reform within the Church.

According to legend, and consistent with his fiery personality, here’s what allegedly happened: On October 31, 1517, on the eve of the Feast of All Saints day, he took a hammer and defiantly nailed his list of grievances to the wooden door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. His bold act of rebellion symbolized revolution.

This myth, while compelling, is unlikely. It stands in contrast to his calling to serve the Church and his character as an academic, professor, and preacher.

An alternative understanding shows Martin respectfully posting his theses on the church doors, which served as a bulletin board for the local university housed there. This wasn’t a show of brazen rebellion, but the accepted practice of the day: attaching a notice, written in Latin, on the church’s door of the items he wanted to debate. Since only learned scholars could read Latin, the masses would have no idea of the issues he raised. This would allow the Church to consider this issue in isolation.Martin Luther desired to offer correction to his beloved Church and change her from within. Click To Tweet

Or so was Martin’s intent. Regardless of which explanation we follow, his action brought attention to his words, but not in the way he hoped.Abuse of indulgences in 95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaan

His attitude wasn’t rebellion, but respect. He desired to offer correction to his beloved Church and change her from within. His short preamble to his list of ninety-five items confirms this. In it, he conveyed his humility and called for a discussion to discern truth.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

The Concerns of Martin Luther

Martin Luther studied the Bible to see if it supported Church practices

As Martin studied the Latin translation of the Bible, he grew worried about the lack of biblical support for the Church’s misuse of indulgences, of essentially allowing people to buy their salvation. Instead, he found the Bible overflowing with grace. This disconnect alarmed him.The Concerns of Martin Luther

The practice of indulgences confuses many outside the Catholic Church. A simple explanation is that an indulgence offers a way to reduce the amount of punishment for sins by taking a specified action. These acts might include repeating a prayer a certain number of times, traveling to a specific place on a pilgrimage, or performing an assigned task, such as doing a good deed.

Indulgences can tie in with the sacrament of penance, which involves remorse, confession to a priest, acceptance of punishment, and absolution. Among other things, penance is a partial indulgence that can reduce the time spent in purgatory for a sacramentally absolved sin.

Though his view seems to have changed later, Martin viewed the practice of indulgences as acceptable. His alarm centered on their abuse.

Here’s what happened:

Some overeager church leaders had turned the concept of indulgences into something more. Taking indulgences to an unhealthy extreme, they offered them in exchange for money to raise funds for a church building project—rebuilding Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Martin Luther objected to the idea that people could buy their way into heaven, without repenting. Click To Tweet

This overzealous application changed indulgences from taking a conciliatory action to making a monetary payment. This fundraising scheme escalated out of control and further impoverished already poor people, as they spent what little money they had trying to make themselves right with God.

Conerns of Martin Luther in 95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaanAlso, these misguided church leaders sold a full indulgence, which guaranteed a quick release from purgatory upon death—a complete pardon, if you will. In effect, they sold the promise of eternal salvation. Martin objected to the idea that people could essentially buy their way into heaven, with no need to repent.

This, and the heretical teaching that accompanied this abuse of indulgences, prompted him to act.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

The Turning Point for Martin Luther

God used a lightning storm to get Martin Luther’s attention and change his life

While studying law and not yet 22, Martin Luther went home for a visit. What he experienced along the way reminds us of Paul’s conversion experience on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-4).

Caught in a thunderstorm, a nearby lightning strike knocked Martin from his horse. Fearing death from the next flash of electricity, he pledged himself to a lifetime of service to God if Saint Anna—who protected the miners—would also save him.The Turning Point for Martin Luther

The nearness of death and fear of eternal judgment gave him the push he needed to pursue God’s will instead of his father’s. Martin stopped his education in law and entered a monastery under the order of Saint Augustine.

Despite following God’s call on his life, Martin’s struggle with his perception of God’s high demands and inevitable punishment continued at the monastery. There he engaged in extreme, self-inflicted practices of mortification, which he later called his martyrdom, to try to conquer his desires of the flesh.

His mortifications included fasting to the point of being unable to move, locking himself in an unheated cell for prayer until anxious friends broke down the door to save him, and praying at the altar until he passed out.

Yet none of his efforts lessened his terror over God’s judgment. In fact, the harder he tried to keep God’s commandments, the worse he felt. Even participating in the Church’s sacrament of penance failed to provide the relief he sought. Though many in the monastery tried to ease Martin’s internal spiritual struggle, no one had much success.

Later, in 1510, while on a trip to Rome, what Luther saw there shattered his idealism over Church practices. Rome had become anti-Christian, with the pope and cardinals giving in to worldly pursuits and corrupt practices. They strayed far from what the Bible taught and made up doctrines that suited them to wield power and amass wealth. In doing so, they pushed God aside.

Disillusioned, this experience scarred Martin, and his despair deepened.

Two years later, he received his doctor of theology degree, which permitted him to teach. He chose Wittenberg University. There he continued to wrestle over church teaching that emphasized doing things to earn salvation from what he read in the Bible, which says that righteous people will live by faith (Romans 1:17, which references Habakkuk 2:4). Martin Luther continued to study the Bible, and he struggled with what he read. Click To Tweet

Students flocked to his classes. They embraced his bold teaching and his fresh examples that gave his words meaning, so different from the methods of other professors. In 1516, Martin published his first book, based on his lectures on the book of Romans. His renown as a scholar, professor, and preacher grew. Over his lifetime, many more books would follow.

Martin continued to study the Bible, and he struggled with what he read.

Though a devout Catholic and not a rebel by nature, his anxieties wormed their way into his teaching. Martin loved his Church, its traditions, and its common people—which he was by birth.

Learn about the turning point for Martin Luther in 95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaanYet out of integrity, he spoke with honesty instead of blindly repeating what the Church leaders decreed; he saw some of the instruction from Rome as heretical. This prepared him to act, something that would change his life, along with the rest of Christianity.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.