I am Yours

The most moving line in the movie Luther is a Scripture that a monk overseeing Martin Luther gives him one night when he is flat on the floor of his chamber cell, trying to defend himself against Satan in a crazed monologue. [1]

Luther is rambling, ranting, and crying out in an effort to overpower the work of Satan in his life.  He is frantic in his fear of going to Hell, and he keeps trying to ward off the Devil and his attacks.

Luther chronicles Martin Luther’s morphing life from trying to appease God to discovering that Christ has already taken away his sin, and the first breakthrough moment is when the overseeing monk intervenes as Luther rants and gives him a single line to cry out to God,

I am Yours.  Save me.

In the darkest times of his life that follow, Luther retreats in the arms of Christ, crying out,

I am Yours.  Save me.

The prayer is the core of faith in Jesus Christ.  We rely not on our ability to defend ourselves against Satan, but on Christ’s ability to defend us, rooted in His work on the cross.  It is the work of Christ, not the work of us, that saves us.

A heartbreaking part of American Christianity is that many in the church never or rarely get to the point where they see what the atoning work of Christ has done for them.  Either they are not saved, or they live out their existence on earth as immature Christians because they have little concept of what they have been saved from.  They see Christ more as a character from the Marvel comic series who rescued them from the world’s evil, rather than recognizing that Christ is the Lamb of God who submitted to anguish for our individual, very personal sin.  They do not know how to cry out to God for forgiveness and salvation.  They instead merely ask Him for forgiveness and salvation the way they might ask for the certain title of a book at Barnes & Noble or where the jackets are located at Macy’s or on what aisle the caulk is found at Lowe’s.

I am Yours.  Save me

Radical is Luther’s cry for forgiveness, because radical is his awareness of what God has saved him from.  Many in the church never more than glimpse at the burden, the load of weight which Christ carried on the cross.  Many in America see His suffering as something “fated” to happen, not something purposefully planned at God’s greatest expense for the sake of you and me..  They do not know enough about God, or sin, to even realize the extreme sacrifice given on their behalf.

Jesus was at odds with many people who thought they were really wise, really philosophical, and really religious.  They trusted in their wisdom, philosophy, and made-up religion to get them into Heaven.  So they didn’t grasp even the smallest meaning within the Scriptures.  The atoning work of the Messiah was completely veiled from them because they were looking to themselves for salvation, not to Him.  Jesus said one time when some of them tried to trick Him because of their total ignorance of the true and living God,

“Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?” (Mark 24:b, NIV)

Luther experienced the enormous torment of conviction because he knew the Scriptures and he knew himself.  He knew that God is holy, and he knew that he is not.  We shirk away from conviction because, at its full weight, it is nothing short of torment.  What we don’t realize is that the more we come to terms with who we are, the more significant the Messiah becomes.

Conviction by itself is deadly, though.  It is spirit-breaking, and in its vulnerability, suicide and madness are all too eager to flood in.  But a broken spirit in and of itself is no bad thing.  Actually, it is what God longs for within us.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:17, NIV)

If I am really honest with myself, as much as I hate the suffering that guilt brings, I know that without it I would be unimaginably wicked.  Luther was so burdened by his guilt that he realized, in a society that believed otherwise, that no amount of self-inflicted wounds, monetary gifts, good luck talismans, patronage to the church, ritualized prayers, chants for forgiveness, or so-called good deeds could make him right with God.

At a significant point in the movie, after his pilgrimage to the ‘holy’ city of Rome, he is barraged with the poverty and sin of the streets.  He sees a monk going off with a prostitute and a woman abused by a crowd of men.  Then everyone falls to their knees as a religious leaders gallops by–and then the wild street life starts once more just where it has stopped.

Luther decides he will complete a ritualized prayer to help a relative escape from purgatory while he’s in Rome, where just such a feat is said to be possible.  Luther pays the money at a booth, and is given a paper for his grandfather’s release from purgatory to hold in his hand as he crawls up a long, long flight of stairs on his knees and chants a prayer at each step.

As he starts climbing, he prays dutifully, in the full use of the word dutifully.  As he keeps climbing, he starts looking around him, and sees this sea of impoverished, ill-educated humans crawling up the stairs with him.  A change takes place within him, and by the time he has reached the top, and he can stand, he looks down over them with overwhelming compassion and immense anger.  He watches them all climbing towards the top, where they can look at more religious relics.  He sees a man climbing who is missing a hand.  And the paper Luther holds in his hand that is supposed to release his grandfather from purgatory becomes a wad of fury in his fist.

I am Yours.  Save me

He begins to see that everything he has ever hoped would make him right with God is, at best, a disappointing venture that never leads to the self-righteousness it promises and, at its worst, an appalling masquerade intended to rob coins out from the hands of the poor.

Rather than see himself as ‘justified’ because of the rampant wickedness of the so-called church of his day, Luther still sees himself as in need of rescue, but he stops turning to religious ceremonies, relics, and false religious teachers to tell him what to do.  Here is the turning point of his life. Instead of the artificial religion of his day, he begins to look to Christ as he finds Him in the Scriptures.

Realizing that we sin is not equal to salvation.  Judas realized his sin, and killed himself for it.  But he could not pay for his crime through that, and he accomplished only quickening the day of his judgment by his decision.  Luther, for all the times he lay flat on the floor trying to fight the sin out of his flesh, and every time he abstained from something to try to make himself right before God, and all the times he inflicted punishment of some kind on himself, was no closer to God than he had been before, except that he now knew, by God’s grace, that those things did not work.

I am Yours.  Save me.

He had to be saved by Christ.  Not by himself, but by Christ.  The blessing of a terrifying conviction is that, if that person finds Christ, he is probably a thousand times more useful to God than the one who merely thinks he’s gotten forgiven from his ‘mistakes’.

To really know yourself and how depraved you are is a grace, because God is burning in your heart a passion for forgiveness.  He is giving you a yearning for Him.  If you turn to Him and cup your hands towards Him, His love will spill out not only just over your hands, but your whole body, too.  He will drench you with His mercy and you will know, far more than the Christian who has only known mild-mannered conviction, how beautiful His grace really is.  [2]

The more convicted you are of your sin, the more thirsty your guilt.  The more thirsty your guilt, the more the love of Christ can quench you.

The one who cries out with a heavy heart,

I am Yours.  Save me.

and trusts in the Messiah will soon cry out the unburdened heart’s longing,

I am Yours.  Use me!

The more we are aware of what God has saved us from, the more God uses us in this life for the salvation of other sinners who He wants to become His, too.

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. (2 Peter 3:9, NLT)

Luther reached thousands and thousands and thousands in his lifetime, and millions (and counting) after his death.  Had he not seen so clearly the grace of God that destroyed the sin of his life (which climbing millions of stairs on his knees could never so much as wound), I don’t think he could have ever become the mighty man of God he became.

Had he only been a little convicted; felt a little saved . . he would have only wanted to have become a little useful.

One time, when a religious man was way offended at the way Jesus was letting a woman with a public sin life cry at His feet, wash His feet with her tears and hair, kiss His feet, and pour perfume on His feet, Jesus said this,

“I tell you, her sins–and they are many–have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” (Luke 7:47, NLT)

Was Jesus saying it’s better to be a big-time sinner than to sin only a little?  No!  Jesus was saying that it is better to realize you are a big-time sinner than delude yourself into thinking you sin only a little.

Luther realized he was a sinner.  He had lived for years with the guilt of his past, and the nightmare that he kept sinning in his present.  His awareness of the dungeon of culpability he had been locked in by righteousness became incredibly powerful when Christ’s key turned in the prison lock and the sunlight of His mercy poured in.  Luther lived his life as a man in passionate loyal allegiance to God because he had seen where he had been, and he had an idea of what God had saved him from.  [3]

If we cry out to God with all our heart,

I am Yours.  Save me.

Then we will cry out to God with all our heart,

I am Yours.  Use me.

If we only halfway believe we are sinners, then we will only halfway want to serve Him.  If we think we’re not so bad and just needed a little help, then our service to Him will be as artificial, insincere, and destructive as that of the religious leaders in Luther’s day or those of Jesus’ time on earth.

I desire to cry out to God with the heaviest heart a sinner can have,

Jesus, I am Yours.  Save me.

so that I can cry out to God with the lightest heart a sinner can have,

Jesus, I am Yours.  You have saved me.  I beg You now to use me!

With David, we can cry out Psalm 119:94a, but, unlike David, we don’t have to hope our pursuit of God’s Law, through trusting the promise of the Messiah to come, will bring Him to save us.  Instead, we can hope in the Messiah Himself and His fulfillment of the Law.  Salvation is here.

I am Yours, save me (Psalm 119:94a, ESV)

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11, ESV)

_________________________________________________

[1] LutherMGM, 2003

[2] My pastor, John, gave me this illustration in two sermons that he did.

[3] No one actually knows how much God gave for us at the sacrifice of Christ.  As finite persons, we cannot understand what the infinite trinity of Persons, without beginning or end, gave up through the death of Christ Jesus.  We could not even bear knowing; it would burst our mortality.  God in His graciousness does not expect us to fully realize what He has done for us; never will we.  Nor do any of us understand even in full mortal capacity what He has done, because we are sinners and our understanding is crippled by sin.  In my salvation about 4 years ago, I certainly did not grasp the reality of what Christ had done for me.  I knew He wanted me; I am now on the never-ending journey of discovering how much.

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