In my reading I happened across this quote from Martin Luther describing his own conversion. This could have been a page right from this very book:
“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 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 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 of heaven.
If you have a true faith that Christ is your Savior, 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.”
Oh my goodness!!! Luther is drinking the same potion I’ve been drinking! I’m telling you, if you get hold of this message, the message of the enduring grace and kindness of God, it is a game changer. The pharisees hated it in Jesus’ day, the catholic priests hated it in Luther’s day, and many if not most pastors and clergy hate it in our day. If they hate us we are certainly not alone!
You know what else I like about this? Luther was so honest. He admitted that he didn’t get it at all. He admitted that he read these passages and he couldn’t stand them, that he hated God for them. It was not from some fake rotten holiness that he hammered away and pondered these things. He had real desire! He admitted, I can’t stand all of this! I hate God’s rotten intrusion into my happiness and freedom! I hate His onerous and overwhelming requirements! I hate His holy and unending gaze! He pondered and pursued from a place of real honesty. He didn’t care if he had some damned ministry or what people thought! Who cares about that stuff!
Some people listen to me talk about all of this and pretend they are there, they pretend they love it all. You start talking, and you can see the little cloud come over their countenance. They resist it. They say, “that’s right, that’s great. Love you brother! But … are you saying we should just sin all the more that grace might increase?” That question comes in some form, that accusation arises. In answer, I believe Luther would say, admit it, you hate it! You can’t stand the things of God! You can’t stand His insipid and irritating holiness! You hate His justice, you have found that His mercy is a vapor of nothing. This honesty is your only real starting place. You do not love God. Please get there. Please be real. Do not pretend, it just doesn’t work. Be passionate and honest and real about this, it is the only path to liberation and release.
Then it dawned upon him, finally Luther saw it. It comes to people in different ways. I remember it distinctly. I was looking at the parable of the pearl of great price. I was pondering how He wasn’t really any kind of treasure to me. It came to me, that it is not that God is the pearl, but I am the pearl. I am the greatly loved one. How greatly I wept! The scriptures began to open like I’ve never seen. This message that was revealed to Luther, this message of absolute grace, is a history changer. It is a continent shifter. Most importantly, it is the one thing that can capture you and change you. It is the place of true worship, of true freedom, of true transformation.
If you believe in scandalous grace, you are not alone. Martin Luther is one of us! He would be whooping it up with us. What an encouragement! He was far from perfect, and I would kick him for his anti-semitic stuff and some other things, but I really love this guy!