Category Archives: Faith

“Christ is the True Hero and I shall cling to Him” by Martin Luther

“Dear mother,

You know the real basis and foundation of your salvation, on which you must rest your confidence in this and all troubles, namely Jesus Christ, the cornerstone.

He will not waver or fail us, nor allow us to sink and perish, for He is the Saviour and is called the Saviour of all poor sinners, of all who face tribulation and death, of all who rely on Him and call on His name.

He says, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

If He has overcome the world, surely He has overcome the prince of this world with all His power. And what is His power but death, with which He has made us subject to Him, captives on account of our sin?

But now that death and sin are overcome, we may joyfully and cheerfully listen to the sweet words, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

And we must not doubt that they are certainly true. More than that, we are commanded to accept their comfort with joy and thanksgiving.

Whoever is unwilling to be comforted by these words does the greatest injustice and dishonor to the Comforter— as if it were not true that He bids us to be of good cheer, or as if it were not true that He has overcome the world.

If we act thus, we only restore within ourselves the tyranny of the vanquished devil, sin, and death, and we oppose the dear Saviour. From this may God preserve us!

Therefore, let us rejoice with all assurance and gladness. Should any thought of sin or death frighten us, let us lift up our hearts and say:

“Behold, dear soul, what are you doing? Dear death, dear sin, how is it that you are alive and terrify me? Do you not know that you have been overcome?

Do you, death, not know that you are quite dead? Do you not know the One who has said of you, I have overcome the world?

It does not behoove me to listen to or heed your terrifying suggestions. I shall pay attention only to the cheering words of my Saviour, ‘Be of good cheer, be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.’

He is the Conqueror, the true Hero, who in these words, ‘Be of good cheer,’ gives me the benefit of his victory. I shall cling to Him.

To His words and comfort I shall hold fast. Whether I remain here or go yonder, He will not forsake me.

You would like to deceive me with your false terrors, and with your lying thoughts you would like to tear me away from such a Conqueror and Saviour.

But they are lies, as surely as it is true that He has overcome you and commanded us to be comforted.”

This is also the boast of Saint Paul and his defiance of the terrors of death:

‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?’ (1 Cor. 15:55)

Like a wooden image of death, you can terrify and frighten, but you have no power to destroy. For your victory, sting, and power have been swallowed up in Christ’s victory.

You can show your teeth, but you cannot bite. For God has given us the victory over you through Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be praise and thanks. Amen.’

With such words and thoughts, and with none other, you may set your heart at rest, dear mother.

Be thankful that God has brought you to such knowledge and not allowed you to remain in papal error, by which we were taught to rely on our own works and the holiness of the monks and to consider this only comfort of ours, our Saviour, not as a comforter but as a severe judge and tyrant, so that we could only flee from Him to Mary and the saints and not expect of Him any grace or comfort.

But now we know differently about the unfathomable goodness and mercy of our Heavenly Father.

We now know that Jesus Christ is our mediator, our throne of grace, and our bishop before God in heaven, who daily intercedes for us and reconciles all who call upon and believe in Him.

We now know that He is not a grim judge, except to those who do not believe in Him and who reject His comfort and grace.

We now know that He is not the Man who accuses and threatens us, but rather that He intercedes for and reconciles us by His own death, having shed His blood for us in order that we might not fear Him but approach Him with all assurance and call Him our dear Saviour, our sweet Comforter, the true Bishop of our souls.”

–Martin Luther, “To Mrs. John Luther, (May 20, 1531),” Letters of Spiritual Counsel, Ed. and Trans. Theodore G. Tappert, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1955/2006), 34-35.

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“I commend you to Him who loves you more than you love yourself” by Martin Luther

“To my dear father, John Luther, citizen in the valley of Mansfeld:

Grace and peace in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. Amen.

Dear Father:

My brother James has written me that you are seriously ill. As the weather is bad and the season dangerous, I am very anxious about you, for though God has given you a strong, tough body, yet your age and the inclemency of the weather give me disquieting thoughts.

None of us is, or should be, sure of his life at any time. I should have come to you personally with the greatest willingness, but my good friends advised me against it and have persuaded me not to, and I myself thought it better not to tempt God by putting myself in peril, for you know how lords and peasants feel toward me.

It would be the greatest joy to me if it were possible for you and mother to come hither, which my Katie and all of us beg with tears that you will do. I hope we are able to take good care of you.

Therefore I am sending Cyriac to see whether your weakness will allow you to be moved.

However in God’s wisdom your illness turns out, whether you live or die, it would be a heartfelt joy to me to be with you again and with filial piety and service to show my gratitude to God and to you according to the Fourth Commandment.

In the meantime I pray from the bottom of my heart that our Father, who has made you my father, will strengthen you according to His immeasurable kindness and enlighten and protect you with His Spirit, so that you may receive with joy and thanksgiving the blessed teaching of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to which doctrine you have now been called and to which you have come out of the former terrible darkness and error.

And I hope that His grace, which has given you such knowledge, and thereby begun His work in you, will guard and complete it to the end of this life and to the joyous hereafter of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

God has already sealed this teaching and faith in you and has testified to it by such marks as that you have suffered much slander, abuse, obloquy, mockery, scorn, hatred, and odium for His name’s sake, as we all have done. These are the true marks of our likeness to the Lord Christ, as Paul says, that we may be like Him also in future glory.

Let your heart be strong and at ease in your trouble, for we have yonder a true mediator with God, Jesus Christ, who has overcome death and sin for us and now sits in heaven with all His angels, looking down on us and awaiting us so that when we set out we need have no fear or care lest we should sink and fall to the ground.

He has such great power over sin and death that they cannot harm us, and He is so heartily true and kind that He cannot and will not forsake us, at least if we ask His help without doubting.

He has said, promised, and pledged this. He will not and cannot lie; of that we are certain.

“Ask,” says he, “and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Matt. 7:7) And elsewhere: “Whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21)

The whole Psalter is full of such comforting promises, especially Ps. 91, which is particularly good to read to the sick.

I wish to write this to you because I am anxious about your illness (for we know not the hour), that I may become a participant of your faith, temptation, consolation, and thanks to God for His holy Word, which He has richly and graciously given us at this time.

If it is His divine will that you should postpone that better life and continue to suffer with us in this troubled and unhappy vale of tears, to see and hear sorrow and help other Christians to suffer and conquer, He will give you the grace to accept all this willingly and obediently.

This life, cursed by sin, is nothing but a vale of tears. The longer a man lives, the more sin and wickedness and plague and sorrow he sees and feels. Nor is there respite or cessation this side of the grave. Beyond is repose, and we can then sleep in the rest Christ gives us until He comes again to wake us with joy. Amen.

I commend you to Him who loves you more than you love yourself.

He has proved His love in taking your sins upon Himself and paying for them with His blood, as He tells you by the gospel.

He has given you grace to believe by His Spirit, and has prepared and accomplished everything most surely, so that you need not care or fear any more, but only keep your heart strong and reliant on His Word and faith.

If you do that, let Him care for the rest. He will see to it that everything turns out well. Indeed, He has already done this better than we can conceive.

May our dear Lord and Saviour be with you so that, God willing, we may see each other, either here or yonder. For our faith is certain, and we doubt not that we shall shortly see each other in the presence of Christ.

Our departure from this life is a smaller thing to God than my journey would be from here to Mansfeld or yours from Mansfeld to Wittenberg. It is only an hour’s sleep, and after that all will be different. This is most certainly true.

I hope that your pastor and preacher will point out such things to you in faithful service, and so you will not need what I say at all. Yet I write to ask forgiveness for my bodily absence, which, God knows, causes me heartfelt sorrow.

My Katie, little Hans, Magdalene, Aunt Lena, and all my household send you greetings and pray for you faithfully. Greet my dear mother and all my friends.

God’s grace and strength be and abide with you forever. Amen.

Your loving son,

Martin Luther
February 15, 1530.”

–Martin Luther, Letters of Spiritual Counsel, Ed. and Trans. Theodore G. Tappert, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1955/2006), 30-32.

[John Luther, Martin’s father, died on May 29, 1530, three months after this letter of consolation was written. On June 5, Luther wrote to Melanchthon: “John Reineck wrote me today that my beloved father, the senior Hans Luther, departed this life at one o’clock on Exaudi Sunday. This death has cast me into deep mourning, not only because of the ties of nature but also because it was through his sweet love to me that my Creator endowed me with all that I am and have. Although it is consoling to me that, as he writes, my father fell asleep softly and strong in his faith in Christ, yet his kindness and the memory of his pleasant conversation have caused so deep a wound in my heart that I have scarcely ever held death in such low esteem.” (30)]

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“Saving faith is not the enemy of good works” by Michael Horton

“Saving faith is not the enemy of good works, but their only possible source.

We never offer up our good works to God for salvation, but extend them to our neighbors for their good. As a result, everyone benefits.

God, who needs nothing from us, receives all of the glory; our neighbors receive gifts that God wants to give them through us; and we benefit both from the gifts of others and the joy that our own giving brings.

Reverse this flow, and nobody wins. God is not glorified, neighbors are not served, and we live frustrated, anxious, joyless lives awaiting the wrath of a holy God.

The gospel produces peace and empowers us to live by faith. We live no longer anxious, but secure and invigorated because we are crucified and raised with Christ.

We are no longer trying to live up to the starring role we’ve given ourselves, but are written into the story of Christ.

We have nothing to prove, just a lot of work to do.Good works are no longer seen as a condition of our union with Christ, but as its fruit.

We are no longer slaves, but the children of God– co-heirs with Christ, our elder brother.

The first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism summarizes this faith well:

Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?

A. That I am not my own,
but belong with body and soul,
both in life and in death, 
to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. 
He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood,
and has set me free from all the power of the devil.
He also preserves me in such a way
that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head;
indeed, all things must work together for my salvation.
Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life
and makes me heartily willing and ready
from now on to live for Him.

As God’s creatures, made in His image, we are ‘not our own’ already in creation. Yet our redemption doubles this truth.

Created by God and saved by His grace, I am truly ‘not my own, but belong– body and soul, in life and in death– to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.'”

–Michael Horton, Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 41-42.

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“Whatsoever is in God is God” by Thomas Brooks

“Premise this with me, that God is essentially holy, and in this sense, none is holy but Himself. Now essential holiness is all one with God Himself.

God’s essential holiness is God’s conformity to Himself. Holiness in God is not a quality, but His essence. Quicquid est in Deo, est ipse Deus, Whatsoever is in God, is God.

Holiness in angels and saints is but a quality, but in God it is His essence. The fallen angels keep their natures, though they have lost their holiness; for that holiness in them was a quality, and not their essence.

Look, as created holiness is the conformity of the reasonable creature to the rule, so the uncreated holiness of God is God’s conformity unto Himself.

God’s holiness and His nature are not two things, they are but one.

God’s holiness is His nature, and God’s nature is His holiness. God is a pure act, and therefore, whatsoever is in God is God.

It is God’s prerogative royal to be essentially holy. The most glorious creatures in heaven, and the choicest souls on earth, are only holy by participation: ‘There is none holy as the Lord,’ (1 Sam. 2:2).

God’s holiness is so essential and co-natural to Him, that He can as soon cease to be, as cease to be holy. Holiness in God is a substance, but in angels and men it is only an accident, or a quality.

The essence of the creature may remain when the holiness of the creature is lost, as you may see in Adam, and the fallen angels; but God’s essence and His holiness are alwa

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“Our blessed Saviour’s unwearied kindness” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us learn a lesson from the centurion’s example.

Let us, like him, show kindness to every one with whom we have to do.

Let us strive to have an eye ready to see, and a hand ready to help, and a heart ready to feel, and a will ready to do good to all.

Let us be ready to weep with them that weep, and rejoice with them that rejoice.

This is one way to recommend our religion, and make it beautiful before men.

Kindness is a grace that all can understand.

This is one way to be like our blessed Saviour. If there is one feature in His character more notable than another, it is His unwearied kindness and love.

This is one way to be happy in the world, and see good days. Kindness always brings its own reward.

The kind person will seldom be without friends.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 155. Ryle is commenting on Luke 7:1-10.

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“With Christ nothing is impossible” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us see, furthermore, in this mighty miracle, a lively emblem of Christ’s power to quicken the dead in sins. In Him is life.

He quickeneth whom He will. (John 5:21.) He can raise to a new life souls that now seem dead in worldliness and sin.

He can say to hearts that now appear corrupt and lifeless, “Arise to repentance, and live in the service of God.”

Let us never despair of any soul. Let us pray for our children, and faint not.

Our young men and our young women may long seem travelling on the way to ruin. But let us pray on.

Who can tell but He that met the funeral at the gates of Nain may yet meet our unconverted children, and say with almighty power, “Young man, arise.”

With Christ nothing is impossible.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 162-163. Ryle is commenting on Luke 7:11-17.

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“We must read our Bibles like men digging for hidden treasure” by J.C. Ryle

“What our Lord did mean to rebuke was that excessive attention to labour for the body, while the soul is neglected, which prevails everywhere in the world (John 6:26). What He reproved was, the common habit of labouring only for the things of time, and letting alone the things of eternity—of minding only the life that now is, and disregarding the life to come. Against this habit He delivers a solemn warning.

Surely, we must all feel our Lord did not say the words before us without good cause. They are a startling caution which should ring in the ears of many in these latter days.

How many in every rank of life are doing the very thing against which Jesus warns us! They are labouring night and day for ‘the meat that perisheth,’ and doing nothing for their immortal souls.

Happy are those who learn betimes the respective value of soul and body, and give the first and best place in their thoughts to salvation. One thing is needful. He that seeks first the kingdom of God, will never fail to find ‘all other things added to him.’ (Matt. 6:33)

We should mark, thirdly, in this passage, what Christ advises. He tells us to ‘labour for the meat that endureth to everlasting life.’ (John 6:27) He would have us take pains to find food and satisfaction for our souls. That food is provided in rich abundance in Him. But he that would have it must diligently seek it.

How are we to labour? There is but one answer. We must labour in the use of all appointed means.

We must read our Bibles like men digging for hidden treasure.

We must wrestle earnestly in prayer like men contending with a deadly enemy for life.

We must take our whole heart to the house of God and worship and hear like those who listen to the reading of a will.

We must fight daily against sin, the world, and the devil, like those who fight for liberty, and must conquer, or be slaves.

These are the ways we must walk in if we would find Christ, and be found of Him. This is ‘labouring.’ This is the secret of getting on about our souls.

Labour like this no doubt is very uncommon. In carrying it on we shall have little encouragement from man, and shall often be told that we are “extreme,” and go too far.

Strange and absurd as it is, the natural man is always fancying that we may take too much thought about religion, and refusing to see that we are far more likely to take too much thought about the world.

But whatever man may say, the soul will never get spiritual food without labour. We must ‘strive,’ we must ‘run,’ we must ‘fight,’ we must throw our whole heart into our soul’s affairs. It is ‘the violent’ who take the kingdom. (Matt. 11:12)

We should mark, lastly, in this passage, what a promise Christ holds out. He tells us that He himself will give eternal food to all who seek it: ‘The Son of man shall give you the meat that endureth unto everlasting life.’

How gracious and encouraging these words are! Whatever we need for the relief of our hungering souls, Christ is ready and willing to bestow. Whatever mercy, grace, peace, strength we require, the Son of man will give freely, immediately, abundantly, and eternally.

He is ‘sealed,’ and appointed, and commissioned by God the Father for this very purpose. Like Joseph in the Egyptian famine, it is His office to be the Friend, and Almoner, and Reliever of a sinful world. He is far more willing to give than man is to receive. The more sinners apply to Him, the better He is pleased.

And now, as we leave this rich passage, let us ask ourselves, what use we make of it? For what are we labouring ourselves? What do we know of lasting food and satisfaction for our inward man?

Never let us rest till we have eaten of the meat which Christ alone can give. They that are content with any other spiritual food will sooner or later ‘lie down in sorrow.’ (Isa. 50:11)”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, Volume 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1869/2012), 1: 243-245. Ryle is commenting on John 6:22-27.

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