Luther’s Hymns and Some Free Reformation Day Resources

As part of our commemoration of Reformation Day I post once again (as I did in 2010) Martin Luther’s great Reformation Hymn “A Mighty Fortress”, sung by the St.Olaf’s Choir. This particular video also includes a wonderful collection of Reformation pictures. Turn up the volume and praise God for the great Reformation!

Another hymn which Luther wrote captures well his struggle to find the gospel of God’s sovereign grace. I trust that this hymn will also speak to your own heart.

In devil’s dungeon chained I lay
The pangs of death swept o’er me.
My sin devoured me night and day
In which my mother bore me.
My anguish ever grew more rife,
I took no pleasure in my life
And sin had made me crazy.

Then was the Father troubled sore
To see me ever languish.
The Everlasting Pity swore
To save me from my anguish.
He turned to me his father heart
And chose himself a bitter part,
His Dearest did it cost him.

Thus spoke the Son, ‘Hold thou to me,
From now on thou wilt make it.
I gave my very life for thee
And for thee I will stake it.
For I am thine and thou art mine,
And where I am our lives entwine,
The Old Fiend cannot shake it.’

Found in Here I Stand, by Roland Bainton, pp.66-67.

Of further interest to our readers is this: various Reformed/Calvinistic sources are also offering free eBooks and other resources for Reformation Day 2013. Be sure to check out these deals!

From Ligonier:

Many people are unaware of the events of Martin Luther’s life that led him to make a courageous stand for the gospel in the sixteenth century. In celebration of Reformation Day, we are offering the downloadable edition of R.C. Sproul’s ten-part series Luther and the Reformation for free. This series introduces the life and thought of Luther while exploring the lessons we can learn today.

Download Luther and the Reformation today and please share this resource with your friends. The study guide can also be downloaded for free.

And don’t forget this special free ebook for October (expires today!).

From “Desiring God”:

From Reformation Heritage Books (nothing free, but a good sale on some solid Reformation titles!)

From Zondervan Academic (click on the link for their Reformation Week eBook sale – through Nov.3 – not free but good prices!)

Luther’s Struggle to Find the Gospel of God (3)

HereIStand-RBaintonThe final part of our little Reformation series on Martin Luther’s struggle to find the gospel of God takes us to that part of his life when he assumed the chair of Bible at the University of Wittenberg and began preaching and teaching the Word of God to his fellow Roman Catholic monks. It was during this period (1513-1517) and through these labors (Scripture alone!) that God led Luther to see the light of salvation by grace alone in Christ alone and through faith alone.

For our description of this we quote once more from Roland Bainton’s classic biography of Luther, Here I Stand. And then we will hear from Luther himself as he describes his conversion by and to the true gospel of God.

Luther set himself to learn and expound the Scriptures. On August 1, 1513, he commenced his lectures on the book of Psalms. In the fall of 1515 he was lecturing on St.Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. The Epistle to the Galatians was treated throughout 1516-17. These studies proved to be for Luther the Damascus road. The third great religious crisis which resolved his turmoil was as the still small voice compared to the earthquake of the first upheaval in the thunderstorm at Stotternheim and the fire of the second tremor which consumed him at the saying of his first mass. No ‘coup de foudre’, no heavenly apparition, no religious ceremony, precipitated the third crisis. The place was no lonely road in a blinding storm, nor even the holy altar but simply the study in the tower of the Augustinian monastery. The solution to Luther’s problems came in the midst of the performance of the daily task (p.61-62).

And then came the intense struggle – and solution – in his studies on Romans and Galatians and the Biblical expressions on justification. Here is how Luther himself spoke of his conversion:

I greatly longed to understand Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, ‘the justice of God,’ because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust. My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Therefore I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and murmured against him. Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant.

Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that ‘the just shall live by his faith.’ Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before the ‘justice of God’ had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven….

If you have a true faith that Christ is your Saviour, then at once you have a gracious God, for faith leads you in and opens up God’s heart and will, that you should see pure grace and overflowing love. This it is to behold God in faith that you should look upon his fatherly, friendly heart, in which there is no anger nor ungraciousness. He who sees God as angry does not see him rightly but looks only on a curtain, as if a dark cloud had been drawn across his face (Bainton, p.65).

About this gospel change in Luther Bainton says, “Luther had come into a new view of Christ and a new view of God. He had come to love the suffering Redeemer and the God unveiled on Calvary” (p.65).

Indeed he had. The question we face on this Reformation Day 2013 is, Have we also by faith embraced this gracious and merciful God of the Scriptures? Do we see Him in Christ as Just and the Justifier of those who trust in Him? May God continue to shine the light of this fundamental truth on our own hearts, so that we also shout Soli Deo Gloria – to God alone be the glory!

Luther’s Struggle to Find the Gospel of God (2)

HereIStand-RBaintonAs we take a brief look at Luther’s struggle to find the gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ during this Reformation remembrance week, we move on from Luther’s trip to Rome (yesterday’s post) to his time at Wittenberg, where he was transferred (from Erfurt) in 1511. Keep in mind that at this point Luther is still a staunch Roman Catholic monk, loyal to the church and striving to use all her means to soothe his soul and find peace with God. In Wittenberg he lived in an Augustinian cloister and had begun to teach at the University, which Roland Bainton describes as “the darling of the elector,  Frederick the Wise”.

Now let’s return to the narrative of Bainton in Here I Stand as he describes Luther’s continued struggle:

Luther’s difficulties persisted. A precise delineation of their course eludes us. His tremors cannot be said to have mounted in unbroken crescendo to a single crisis. Rather he passed through a series of crises to a relative stability. The stages defy localization as to time, place, or logical sequence. Yet this is clear. Luther probed every resource of contemporary Catholicism for assuaging the anguish of a spirit alienated from God. He tried the way of good works and discovered that he could never do enough to save himself. He endeavored to avail himself of the merits of the saints and ended with a doubt, not a very serious or persistent doubt for the moment, but sufficient to destroy his assurance.

He sought at the same time to explore other ways, and Catholicism had much more to offer. Salvation was never made to rest solely nor even primarily on human achievement. The whole sacramental system of the Church was designed to mediate to man God’s help and favor. Particularly the sacrament of penance afforded solace, not to saints but to sinners. This only required of them, that they should confess all their wrongdoing and seek absolution. Luther endeavored unremittingly to avail himself of this signal mercy. Without confession, he testified, the Devil would have devoured him long ago. He confessed frequently, often daily, and for as long as six hours on a single occasion. Every sin in order to be absolved was to be confessed. Therefore the soul must be searched and the memory ransacked and the motives probed. As an aid the penitent ran through the seven deadly sins and the Ten Commandments. Luther would repeat a confession and, to be sure of including everything, would review his entire life until the confessor grew weary and exclaimed, ‘Man, God is not angry with you. You are angry with God. Don’t you know that God commands you to hope?’

And yet Luther still had no peace – why?

There is, according to Luther, something more drastically wrong with man than any particular list of offenses which can be enumerated, confessed, and forgiven. The very nature of man is corrupt. The penitential system fails because it is directed to particular lapses. Luther had come to perceive that the entire man is in need of forgiveness. In the course of this quest he had wrought himself into a state of emotional disturbance passing the bounds of objectivity….

In consequence the most frightful insecurities beset him. Panic invaded his spirit. The conscience became so disquieted as to start and tremble at the stirring of a wind-blown leaf. The horror of nightmare gripped the soul, the dread of one waking in the dusk to look into the eyes of him who has come to take his life. The heavenly champions all withdrew; the fiend beckoned with leering summons to the impotent soul. These were the torments which Luther repeatedly testified were far worse than any physical ailment that he had ever endured (pp.54-56).

Can we understand and even appreciate this soul struggle of this man of God? Can we see how God was leading him – painstakingly – to the true gospel of forgiveness in His Son? Of that final step we will learn tomorrow, D.V.

Luther’s Struggle to Find the Gospel of God (1)

HereIStand-RBaintonFor the next few days leading up to Reformation Day on October 31 I thought we would go back in Luther’s life to consider his struggle to find the gospel of God. That struggle, of course, did not come by the power of Luther’s own will or wisdom, but by the power of God’s grace leading him to the knowledge of true salvation in Jesus Christ.

We plan to look at three aspects of Luther’s intense, personal spiritual struggle, beginning today with his trip to the heart of Catholicism – Rome, in 1510. This was one of the major events in his life that God used to cast doubt on the way of “salvation” with which he had grown up.

To learn about this, we will quote from that classic biography of Luther by Roland Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (Abingdon Press, 1940 – this is an older paperback ed. I own. There are many others, including a new hardback copy published by Hendrikson).

Yet all these sorry disclosures (of Rome’s moral corruption -cjt) did not shatter Luther’s confidence in the genuine goodness of the faithful (i.e., the saints with their meritorious works -cjt). The question was whether they had any superfluous merit which could be conveyed to him or to his family, and whether the merit was so attached to sacred places that visits would confer benefits. This was the point at which doubt overtook him. He was climbing Pilate’s stairs on hands and knees repeating a ‘Pater Noster’ for each one and kissing each step for good measure in hope of delivering his soul from purgatory. Luther regretted that his own father and mother were not yet dead and in purgatory so that he might confer on them so signal a favor. Failing that, he had resolved to release Grandpa Heine. The stairs were climbed, the ‘Pater Nosters’ were repeated, the steps were kissed. At the top Luther raised himself and exclaimed, not as legend would have it, ‘The just shall live by faith!’ – he was not yet that far advanced. What he said was, ‘Who knows whether it is so?’

That was the truly disconcerting doubt. The priests might be guilty of levity and the popes of lechery – all this would not matter so long as the Church had valid means of grace. But if crawling up the very stairs on which Christ stood and repeating all the prescribed prayers would be of no avail, then another of the great grounds of hope had proved to be illusory. Luther commented that he had gone to Rome with onions and had returned with garlic (pp.50-51).

Koinonia Quiz: Test Your Church History

Koinonia: Quiz: Test Your Church History.

This blog, hosted by Zondervan Academic (publishing) and Friends, recently posted this brief church history quiz based on a new book they published. Go ahead and take it and see how you do. And make the reading of church history a part of your regular reading plan! Here’s a part of the post, which also promotes the recent church history book published. You can find the quiz either at the link above or the one below.

If you can’t see it above, view the quiz here.

To compare your answers to those of your peers, click the “See Previous Responses” link at the end of the quiz.

Learn more about church history from Frank A. James III and John Woodbridge in their new book Church History, Volume 2: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day.


Church History, Volume 2

Church History, Volume 2

by John D. Woodbridge and Frank A. James III

Buy it Today:

Barnes & Noble
Find More Retailers

– See more at:

You’ll discover that story — plus a few more surprises — when you take this brief quiz on church history, created by Frank A. James III (co-author of Church History, Volume 2) and Emily Varner ( – See more at:

Quiz: Test Your Church History

How did this famous reformer meet his unfortunate end?


You’ll discover that story — plus a few more surprises — when you take this brief quiz on church history, created by Frank A. James III (co-author of Church History, Volume 2) and Emily Varner (

– See more at:

Quiz: Test Your Church History

How did this famous reformer meet his unfortunate end?


You’ll discover that story — plus a few more surprises — when you take this brief quiz on church history, created by Frank A. James III (co-author of Church History, Volume 2) and Emily Varner (

– See more at:

Meditation and Spiritual Growth – T.Tripp

meditatingonthewordThe weekend devotional for this past week was penned by Dr. Tedd Tripp (author of Shepherding a Child’s Heart among other titles) and titled “Flourishing as Christians”. It is a meditation on meditation – how to meditate on the Word of God for spiritual growth. It ties in nicely with the devotional series I have been writing on Psalm 119, where the psalmist praises the godly activity of meditating on the Scriptures.

Though brief, Tripp’s article is one of the best summaries on this subject I know of (He takes his starting point in Psalm 1). Unfortunately, it is not available on the Ligonier website, but I can give you a few excerpts from it for your spiritual benefit.

Notice that in this Psalm (Ps.1 -cjt), meditation takes place day and night. When my heart faints within me because I am despairing, I need to meditate on the Word of God. When doubts rise up within me, tamping down every reason for hope, I need to meditate on the Word of GOd. When I am struggling to break free from sinful habits, meditation on the Word of God will usher me to God, who has grace and power to deliver. When I wake up in the morning wondering if anyone really cares for my soul, the Word of God will remind me that God has loved me everlastingly.

The pleasures and delights of knowing God – of being mesmerized and enthralled and thrilled by God – are experienced as you meditate on His law day and night. You will never be a person who sees God as glorious and more delightful than the pleasures of sin unless you are in the Word beholding God every day.

If you are not delighting in God in his Word, you will become enthralled and thrilled by something else, some lesser thing. Remember that you are hardwired for pleasure and delight. God has made you like that because He made you for Himself. You must be feeding the life of faith to grow strong, and you feed it through the Word of God… (p.58)

Overcoming Our Fears – October “Tabletalk”

Fear and the Sovereignty of God by Kim Riddlebarger | Reformed Theology Articles at

TTOct2013Yesterday I finished reading the special articles relating to the theme of this month’s Tabletalk, “The Seven Deadly Fears”. The last two were “Fear of the Future” by Dr.Ed Welch and “Fear and the Sovereignty of God” by Dr.Kim Riddlebarger (linked above). Both were profitable – Bible-based, God-centered, and comforting. I quote from the second article today, encouraging you to use the Ligonier links to read them in their entirety on its website.

There are two points to consider about confronting our fears in the light of God’s sovereignty. The first is to consider those biblical passages (there are many) which tell us what it means for God to be “in control.” When we have a good (or better) grasp of God’s control over all things, we discover that nothing which comes to pass is random or outside the will of God. The psalmist reminds us, “For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth” (Ps. 135:5-6). In Proverbs, we read that God’s sovereignty extends even to seemingly incidental things: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Prov. 16:33). This information is given to remind us that nothing outside the will of God can happen to us.

God knows when a sparrow falls from the sky, and if He cares for them, how much more does He care for us? (Matt. 6:26). Paul tells us that “for those who love God all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28), and James states, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13). James adds, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (1:17). God does not tempt us (or cause us to be afraid), He gives us all good things, and He promises to turn everything (even our fears) to our good.

This short list of biblical passages reminds us that any fear we may be facing can bring God glory, be turned by God to our ultimate good, and grant us needed reassurance when we are afraid. Scripture calms our fears by reminding us that God is our heavenly Father who loves us and cares for us even when we fear Him, or dread His sovereign purposes. He still loves us even when we are afraid that He doesn’t.

J.Calvin on Psalm 119:139,141 – “…We are too tender and delicate in bearing wrongs.”

JCalvin1As we meditate on our next section of Psalm 119 today (vss.137-144), we also point you to these comments of John Calvin on two verses, 139 and 141. May they also serve to instruct our minds and inflame our hearts with zeal for God and His law.

139. My zeal hath consumed me. 

The Psalmist speaks of his persecutors, by whom it is certain he had been subjected to much trouble. But although they were virulent and cruel towards him, he avows that it was not so much his own private wrongs which offended him as the violation of God’s law; yea rather, that he was so consumed with grief on that account as not to be affected at all with his own individual troubles.

This is an example from which much profit may be derived. We are too tender and delicate in bearing wrongs; and hence it is that if we are but touched with a finger, we are instantly inflamed with anger, whilst at the same time we are but coldly affected at the most grievous offenses committed against God. But if we are animated with the zeal that inspired the Prophet it will carry us away to another kind of sorrow, which will take entire possession of our souls.

141. I am, insignificant and despised.

The meaning is, that although he was tried with poverty and many other calamities, he steadily persevered in the exercise of true godliness, and in the observance of the law. On that account, as he states, he was despised by wicked men. Every man gives praise to God just in proportion as he is gorged with his benefits; and very few will be found applying their minds to the service of God, unless they have all their wishes gratified.

Hence it comes to pass that hypocrites, as long as they are pampered to the full, accumulate riches and increase in power, are very lavish in praising God. But let them be treated in some degree roughly, and immediately the blessed name of God is heard of no more.

Since then men are ordinarily mercenary in serving God, let us learn from the Prophet’s example that true godliness is disinterested, so that when under its influence we cease not to praise God, although he may afflict us with adversity and make us despised in the eyes of the world. These upbraiding words of Christ in John 6:26, ought, no doubt, to be carefully attended to,

“Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.” (John 6:26)

The persons then who serve God ingenuously and sincerely, are such as continue steadfast in his fear, although their condition in this world may be mean and despised; in short, they are such as seek not their reward on earth, but through heat and cold, poverty and danger, slanders and mockeries, persevere with unwearied steps in the course of their warfare.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 119r (Tzaddi)

Psalm119rOn this final Lord’s Day of October we focus on the eighteenth section of Psalm 119 (vss.137-144). This stanza is headed by the word “Tzaddi” (or “Tzadde”) because all the lines begin with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet (comparable to our “ts” sound, as in “pots“).

As we reflect on this special section of God’s Word, let us consciously use it to prepare for worship in the Lord’s house of praise and prayer. May we remember that even as Psalm 119 extols God’s law as our guide in life, so God also guides us by that law in the worship that is pleasing to Him because it is according to His will and not our own. Here, then, is God’s Word in this section:


137 Righteous art thou, O Lord, and upright are thy judgments.

138 Thy testimonies that thou hast commanded are righteous and very faithful.

139 My zeal hath consumed me, because mine enemies have forgotten thy words.

140 Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.

141 I am small and despised: yet do not I forget thy precepts.

142 Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth.

143 Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me: yet thy commandments are my delights.

144 The righteousness of thy testimonies is everlasting: give me understanding, and I shall live.

We note here how the inspired psalmist praises God and His law in line after line. Over and over he calls attention to the beautiful attributes of both the Lord and His Word. As God is righteous, so are His judgments, even everlastingly so (vss.137,138,142,144). Because God is faithful, so are His testimonies (v.138). As God is true, so is His law (v.142). As the Lord is very pure (perfectly!), so is His Word (v.140).

These truths about God and His Word have implications for our worship. It means among other things that we ascribe these truths to God and His Word when we worship Him. We may certainly take the psalmist’s words as our own when we come into the Lord’s house for worship. Filled with thoughts of God and consumed with His glory, we should praise Him according to His attributes, pointing them out specifically as the psalmist does. That also helps us remember what our worship is about – not ourselves, our feelings, how we look, etc. – but God and His glory. That must be our focus. Shall we not keep that before us today?

And if we truly believe that God’s law and Word have the same attributes as God Himself, we will treat it with reverence and obedience. When His law is read, we will bow before it, confessing our sins, fleeing to Christ for forgiveness and righteousness, and proclaiming our gratitude with lip and life. When God’s Word is read and proclaimed, we will fall down before it, seeing and savoring the beauty and glory of God and His Son revealed in it. We will gladly receive the gospel of grace made known to us and willingly submit ourselves to the way of righteousness and purity set forth in it.

We will also note in this section of Psalm 119 that once again the psalmist speaks of his suffering. That suffering was primarily the suffering of persecution at the hands of cruel, oppressing enemies, as we have seen many times before. Yet here he does not point out their actions against him as much as he does his response to their attitude to God and His law. He is not discouraged and paralyzed by their hatred of God and himself. Their sin troubles and grieves him (v.143), makes him feel small and despised (v.141); but it also fills him with greater zeal for God and His law. It makes him love God’s Word all the more (v.140), helps him not forget God’s precepts (v.141) and gives him with deeper delight for His commandments (v.143). Can we say the same when we see the sin of the wicked about us and feel their pressure to conform to them? May God by His grace and Spirit work these things in our hearts today.

If you wish to reflect on this section of Psalm 119 through the music of the Psalter, you may use this versification. On this page you will also find piano accompaniment so that you may sing along. Here are the lyrics as found in Psalter #338:

1. O Lord, Thy perfect righteousness
Is in Thy judgment shown;
In Thy unchanging faithfulness
Thy truth Thou hast made known.

2. Because Thy foes forget Thy law
My soul is greatly stirred;
Thy servant loves the purity
Of Thy most holy word.

3. Though I am humble and despised
I strive Thy will to do;
Eternal is Thy righteousness,
And all Thy law is true.

4. Delight amid distress and pain
Do Thy commandments give;
Thy word is righteous evermore,
Teach me that I may live.

Why Sing the Psalms? -The Christward Collective

Why Sing the Psalms? | The Christward Collective.

Psalter1912I truly appreciated this brief post by Dr. David Murray made this past Tuesday, Oct.22 (professor of OT at Puritan Reformed Seminary here in Grand Rapids). I know that we love the Psalms for devotions, because they speak for us as well as to us concerning every circumstance of life, from the spiritually high to the spiritually heavy.

But sometimes we struggle with why we should sing them (whether mostly or only) in public worship. Maybe Murray’s thoughts will help us understand why it is good in every season of our lives to do so.

Here is the first part of his post. Read the rest at the link above. And then go and sing heartily to the Lord tomorrow.

Since coming to America over six years ago my family has continued our Scottish tradition of singing our way through the Scottish Metrical Psalms at family worship.  We sing four verses at a time and when we get to the end of the Psalms we simply start all over again. It’s one of the ways we fight to stay connected to our precious spiritual heritage. But it’s not always straightforward. For example on Friday evening we ended up singing Psalm 31 verses 9-12 which starts:

9. O Lord, upon me mercy have,
For trouble is on me:
Mine eye, my belly, and my soul,
With grief consumed be.

10. Because my life with grief is spent,
My years with sighs and groans:
My strength doth fail; and for my sin
Consumed are my bones.

Which raises a big problem; because it’s simply not true of me or my family at this  present time of our lives. Quite the opposite, in fact. So how or why do we sing such songs?  We talked about this afterwards as a family and came up with four reasons why we should still sing this psalm, and many others like them, even though not an accurate  description of our present experience or circumstances.

1. It reminds us of suffering Christians all over the world. This psalm reminds us  that there are many Christian who are passing through such dark valleys and deep  waters. When we sing such songs, we are effectively praying for suffering Christians  all over the world. We are interceding for the persecuted in North Korea and Iran.  But we are also reminded of the afflicted in our own circles too and challenged to  reach out to them in practical sympathy.