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Daily Reformation, Isaiah 63:7-13
About the Reformer
His chief concern was to become a saint and to earn a place in heaven. “If ever,” he said afterward, “a monk got to heaven by monkery, I would have gotten there.” He observed the minutest details of discipline. No one surpassed him in prayer, fasting, night watches, self-mortification. He was already held up as a model of sanctity.
But he was sadly disappointed in his hope to escape sin and temptation behind the walls of the cloister. He found no peace and rest in all his pious exercises. The more he seemed to advance externally, the more he felt the burden of sin within. He had to contend with temptations of anger, envy, hatred, and pride. He saw sin everywhere, even in the smallest trifles. The Scriptures impressed upon him the terrors of divine justice. He could not trust in God as a reconciled Father, as a God of love and mercy but trembled before him, as a God of wrath, as a consuming fire. He could not get over the words: “I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God.” His confessor once told him: “Thou art a fool, God is not angry with thee, but thou art angry with God.” He remembered this afterward as “a great and glorious word,” but at that time it made no impression on him. He could not point to any particular transgression; it was sin as an all-pervading power and vitiating principle, sin as a corruption of nature, sin as a state of alienation from God and hostility to God, that weighed on his mind like an incubus and brought him at times to the brink of despair.
He passed through that conflict between the law of God and the law of sin which is described by Paul (Rom 7:24), and which; ends with the cry: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?” He had not yet learned to add: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death.”
—Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church
Pulling It Together
One brother railed against the other for not tithing and the second brother shouted back at the first that he was living under the law. Yet neither was living in the Spirit. The Spirit sets one free. The life of the Spirit is at once disciplined and filled with cheer and liberty. We do not so much determine to do a thing simply because it is the right thing to do but because the Spirit motivates us toward righteousness. We are happy to behave as the Spirit dictates—even if it looks like bondage to another.
Each brother—the one who tithed and the one who did not—had yet to arrive in that Spirit controlled realm of liberated cheer in giving (2Cor 9:7). Each was still dictating his own lifestyle instead of letting the Spirit of God lead. It is good for us to remember with Isaiah the mercies of God—that his love remains steadfast even when his people follow their own direction and wander in the wilderness of death.
© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reformation: Devotions with the Reformers