For I am dust and ashes…

Martin Luther is perhaps best known as the foremost instigator of the Reformation a few hundred years ago; however, he started his journey of faith entrenched within the Roman Catholic Church, living a monastic life and becoming an ordained priest.

However, when the time came to perform his first Mass, Luther choked up when the time came to say the words, “We offer unto thee, the living, the true, and eternal God.” He stood there as if dumbstruck, eventually walking away in shame, joining his family where they sat.

What did Luther have to say about his failure to recite those words?

At these words I was utterly stupefied and terror-stricken. I thought to myself, “With what tongue shall I address such majesty, seeing that all men ought to tremble in the presence of even an earthly prince? Who am I, that I should lift up mine eyes or raise my hands to the divine Majesty? The angels surround him. At his nod the earth trembles. And shall I, a miserable little pygmy, say ‘I want this, I ask for that’? For I am dust and ashes and full of sin and I am speaking to the living, eternal, and the true God.” ((As quoted in The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul (page 80).))

Wiser words are rarely spoken by men.

Dignified man may be as the crown of Creation, the most blessed of all the creatures, the bearers of the very image of God.

But, oh!, how far goodness is from the hearts of man. Oh!, how wretched the hearts of man before the holiness of God.

Yet even as I say those words, I know I don’t always believe them. It’s easy enough to make the mental assent to those words; the Scriptures declare those truths, I believe the Scriptures, and so I accept those words.

Deep down, do I truly accept that no matter how noble my deeds, no matter how selfless, when they are laid out before Yahweh, they are as polluted garments? ((Isaiah 64:6, ESV; the phrase “polluted garment” refers to garments stained by menstruation. To put that into a modern context, our righteousness are as used menstrual pads when viewed in light of the holiness of God.))

Whatsoever good may be wrought in me and by me, do I fully credit Jesus Christ, who is to blame for anything that is good? Or do I accept the credit myself? The same goes for good wrought in and by others: Do I praise Jesus for the good, or do I give the credit to the person, who is but a vessel?

I hold out hope that the Lord would strike me as He struck Luther so that I may realize how inadequate I am, how woefully depraved. More than that, though, I desire to know more fully the holiness of Yahweh, more fully how beyond He is.

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