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A Better Man


In 1505, a 21 year old law student at the University of Erfurt Germany, oppressed and afflicted with guilt over his sin, dropped out of school and joined the local Augustinian Monastery known as “The Black Cloister” for the color of the monks’ habits. His father was furious over what he considered a waste of his son’s education. Desperate to find relief from the weight of his guilt, the young man once spent six hours in the confessional with the vicar of the monastery Johann Von Staupitz. Rumor had it that the comprehensive breadth of his confessions rivaled that of Saint Augustine himself after whom the monastery was named. Staupitz would later say of this young man, Martin Luther, that he would confess for hours on end without confessing “anything interesting.”

In his commentary on Galatians, Luther reflects on his time at the monastery, “When I was a monk I thought I was lost forever whenever I felt an evil emotion, carnal lust, wrath, hatred, or envy. I tried to quiet my conscience in many ways, but it did not work, because lust would always come back and give me no rest. I told myself: You have permitted this and that sin, envy, impatience, and the like. Your joining this holy order has been in vain, and all your good works are good for nothing.” Luther then recalls something his former mentor Doctor Staupitz used to say: “I have promised God a thousand times that I would become a better man, but I never kept my promise. From now on I am not going to make any more vows. Experience has taught me that I cannot keep them. Unless God is merciful to me for Christ’s sake and grants unto me a blessed departure, I shall not be able to stand before Him.”

Luther learned through experience that God is not at all impressed with our many vows, promises, or commitments. Our guilty consciences can never find peace or rest in these things. Luther concludes “The Christian feels the unholy condition of his heart, and it makes him feel so low that he cannot trust in his good works. He therefore goes to Christ to find perfect righteousness.” There is a better man but it’s not the man that I promise to become. It’s Jesus Christ. And the only way to find peace and rest from my guilty conscience is to go to Him.

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 9th, 2017 at 5:03 pm and is filed under Theology & Religion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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