I’m No Longer the Man You are Looking For
Martin Luther offers wonderful advice to us when the Devil wants to lead us to despair due to our sins or any suffering and affliction in life:
A Christian must learn to apprehend this and to avail himself of it when the battle is joined and the Law attacks him and tries to accuse him, when sin wants to slay him and thrust him into the jaws of hell, and when his own conscience tells him: “You have done this, and you have done that; you are a sinner and are deserving of death, etc.” Then the Christian should answer confidently: “It is unfortunately true that I am a sinner and that I have surely deserved death. So far you are right. But still you shall not condemn and slay me. Another, who is named my Lord Christ, shall stay your hand. You accused and you murdered Him innocently. But do you remember how you vainly dashed full tilt against Him and burned yourself and thereby forfeited all your rights to me and to all Christians? For [Vol. 28, Page 212] He both bore and overcame sin and death not for Himself but for me. Therefore I concede you no rightful accusation against me. I can, rather, justly assert my rights against you for trying to attack me without cause and despite the fact that you were already condemned and overcome by Him, which deprived you of any right to assail and accuse me. And although you may now attack and devour me according to the flesh, you shall not accomplish or gain anything by this. You must eat your own sting and choke to death on it. For I am no longer the man you are looking for; I am no longer a child of man, but a child of God, for I am baptized in His blood and on His victory, and I am vested with all His possessions.
You see, in this way Christians must fortify themselves with this victory of Christ. With it they must repel the devil. They must not give way to him in a dispute, but say: “How dare you accuse and harass a Christian? Do you not know who my Lord is and what He is able to do?” There is nothing better—for anyone who can do it—than to deride and defy him and say cheerfully: “If you want to be a villain, go ahead, but take heed and do not bother me! and do not expect any thanks for this either.66 If you are so eager to sting and to strike, go up to Him who is seated above and do battle with Him. If you have any designs on me, lodge your accusation there, before your Judge and mine, and let us see what you will accomplish.” But he does not want to go there, for he is well aware that he has lost out there and that he is already sentenced and slain by Him. Therefore he avoids going there as he avoids the cross. Nor does he go to the impudent, wild, and coarse people who are unconcerned about sin and death, for he already owns these. No, he wants to attack only us who seek Christ and who would fain be rid of sin and death. He is intent on tearing Christ from our heart and on frightening and oppressing us with sin and death, so that we might despair and surrender to him completely. Therefore we must again rebuff him and point him to the victory which is ours in Christ. In that way we must embrace Christ and hold to Him, so that the devil cannot approach us; for he knows very well that he is unable to accomplish anything if we but cling steadily and firmly to this by faith.
This is the beautiful sermon for Christians which shows us how we, through Christ’s victory, rid ourselves of sin’s sting, which kills us, and of the power of the Law, which drives this sting into us. And it [Vol. 28, Page 213] shows us that in the end this sting will be completely destroyed in us. And now St. Paul appropriately concludes with a song which he sings: “Thanks and praise be to God, who gave us such a victory!” We can join in that song and in that way always celebrate Easter, praising and extolling God for a victory that was not won or achieved in battle by us—it is far too sublime and great for that—but was presented and given to us by the mercy of God. He had compassion with our misery, from which no one could rescue us, and He sent His Son and let Him enter the battle. He laid these enemies, sin, death, and hell, low and retained the victory. He transferred this victory to us, so that we may say it is our victory. It is just as if it had been gained by us. The only condition is that we must accept this sincerely and not give God the lie, as they do who presume to overcome their sin and death by themselves. Nor dare we be found ungrateful for this, as vulgar, false Christians do, but we must keep this in our heart in firm faith and confirm ourselves in this and always be engrossed in such a message of thanks and sing of this victory in Christ. And in faith in this we must cheerfully depart this life, until we experience this victory also in our own body. May God help us to that end through the same dear Son. To Him be glory and honor forever.67
Martin Luther, vol. 28, Luther’s Works, Vol. 28 : 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Corinthians 15, Lectures on 1 Timothy, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works, 28:211 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1973).