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The Sinful Conscience
Scripture and a reading from Luther's sermons and devotional writings

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

4 And when he had ceased speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, 7 they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

Luke 5:4–8, RSV

From Luther

A sinful conscience is apt to do just as Peter does here, flee from its Saviour, and think: O God, I am not worthy to be saved and sit among the saints and angels! That treasure is far too high for me! But this is foolish; for should you establish yourself upon your own holiness, you would build on the sand. Not until Peter considered himself unworthy did he become really worthy. Just because you are a sinful person you must the more trust in God. In this matter you must open wide and greatly expand your heart that grace may freely flow into it.

It is proper that you know yourself, and the more thoroughly you do this, the better it is; but you must not on that account reject grace because of your sins. If you find that your conscience troubles you and would drive you to despair, you are most fortunate; then you will find consolation in the words of Micah and say: “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity and casteth our sins into the depths of the sea?” All gods that do not take away sin are idols. These wish to discover righteousness, but the Lord God brings it. Therefore when your God comes to you and your conscience feels its sins, you must not despair. The more you feel your disgrace, the quicker God imparts grace.

The Scriptures praise God because he takes away sins and casts them into the depths of the sea. Gods says: “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake; I will not remember thy sins.” We cannot become rid of our sins by our works, nor become righteous by means of any power within ourselves. God will do that without merit and without works, out of pure grace. Therefore the more you feel that you are a sinful man and the more you wish to flee from God, the more you should press toward him. Do not desist, but approach God with renewed confidence and hold fast to him.

Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 297–98.

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