AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO CHRISTIAN WRITERS
Martin Luther once penned the quote, “If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.” And change the world Martin did. But how? By first picking up a pen and writing …
We left Martin with a decision, a decision to remain quiet or to speak out. What do you think he did? In the words of Martin himself: “If he has faith, the believer cannot be restrained. He betrays himself. He breaks out. He confesses and teaches this gospel to the people at the risk of life itself.” And that’s exactly what Martin did.
He began by writing a letter to his bishop, Albert of Mainz, writing how ridiculous and sinful the sale of indulgences were. In the letter he enclosed a copy of his famous Ninety-Five Theses, actually called 95 Theses on the Power and Efficacy (Effectiveness) of Indulgences. On October 31, 1517, Martin made his first bold move. Filled with a burning anger over indulgences, he stormed to the church and nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the doors.
Back then, the church doors were like the local bulletin board. All news and events were put up there. It didn’t take long for people to see the Theses and, before Martin Luther could say, “Indulgences are evil,” over 200 copies of his Theses circulated the country. It wasn’t long before the Pope got his hands on a copy of Martin’s Theses. To say the least, he wasn’t too happy.
Think about it: for hundreds of years, the Pope had been the final authority. His word was more concrete than the Bible itself. Suddenly this theology professor that nobody’s ever heard of becomes the most famous person in all Europe. And why? Because he defies most everything the Pope has worked so hard to attain! His ultimate authority, indulgences, bringing money into the church through dishonest means. And the people are starting to listen to this Luther guy. The Pope is in trouble. So what’s he going to do?
Meanwhile, Martin hadn’t slowed down for a minute. Yesterday, Dad and I were listening to a sermon on Martin Luther by John Piper. In it, Piper found out that Martin Luther preached a sermon every 2 1/2 days. But that’s not all. Piper also pointed out that Luther was a busy family man. When he was forty-one he married Katherina von Boren. She bore Martin six kids. But his second daughter, Elisabeth, died at only eight months old.
That year, Martin preached 200 sermons, more than any other year. As well, he wrote a publishable work every second day for at least four years. Every second day something was going to the printer! Besides that, people from all over Europe flocked to him with questions and concerns. There was a rare time when the Luther home was empty of visitors.
As tension between the Pope and Martin Luther mounted, Luther was finally called to the Diet of Worms (a diet was a legal assembly, kind of like a court) in the city of Worms on April 17, 1521. The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V acted as the “judge” in the “hearing.” Martin Luther was asked to verify his writings, which he did. He was then asked to recant. Shaking with nervousness and timidness, he meekly asked for a day to think it over. He was granted his request. On April 18, 1521, Martin stood boldly and, when asked if he would recant, proclaimed, “I neither can nor will recant anything, for it is neither safe nor right to act against one’s conscious. Here I stand, I can do no other. May God help me. Amen.”
Well. After that, the tension seemed to oscillate to a billion. The Pope was getting to the point that he would “happen to mention” to his envoys that if Martin Luther stumbled upon a band of thieves and “accidentally” died, it would seem to solve a lot of the Pope’s problems. Prince Frederick III, who was actually a rather secretive fan of Luther, realized that he couldn’t let that happen, so he staged his own “kidnapping.”
Luther was kidnapped by friendly envoys of the prince and taken to Wartburg Castle, a place quite off the beaten track. There Martin remained for about a year. But he didn’t remain idle while he was there. For so long he had fought for a Bible that the people could read in their own language, but he had never had the time nor opportunity to translate it. Well, here was his chance. While in Wartburg, he translated the first ever German New Testament, as well as a selection of other publishable pieces.
Martin Luther lived until he was 62 years old. For the last 13 years of his life, he suffered from several diseases, including vertigo, fainting, tittinus, a cataract in one eye, kidney and bladder stones, arthritis, angina and Meniere’s disease. Martin Luther’s last sermon was delivered in Eisleben, the town of his birth, three days before he died. His last trip was made to Mansfeld, to help out his siblings who were undergoing some financial difficulty.
At about eight p.m. on the evening of February 17, 1546, Martin Luther began to get some chest pains. A few hours later, Martin Luther died. But if anyone thought his death would end what he had started, they were very wrong. For in fact, it was only the beginning. The beginning of what would later become known as the Protestant Reformation, a movement that would change the church as people knew it forever.