From the Word
9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass. 10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. 11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your captives free from the waterless pit.
Zechariah 9:9–11, RSV
Learn from these words what takes place when God begins to make us godly, and what is the first step in becoming so. There is no other beginning until your King comes to you and begins to work in you. It is done in this way: the gospel comes first and must be preached and heard. In it you hear and learn how all your works count for nothing before God and that everything that you work and do is sinful. Your King must first be in you and rule you. Here is the beginning of your salvation; you relinquish your works and despair of yourself, because you see and hear that all you do is sin and amounts to nothing, as the gospel tells you. You receive your King in faith, cling to him, implore his grace and find consolation in his mercy alone.
But when you hear and accept this it is not your power, but God’s grace, that renders the gospel fruitful in you, so that you believe that you and your works are nothing. For you see how few there are who accept it, so that Christ weeps over Jerusalem. Nor is it by virtue of your power and your merit that the gospel is preached and your King comes. God must send him out of pure grace. Hence, no greater wrath of God exists than where he does not send the gospel; there is only sin, error and darkness, there man may do what he will. Again, there is no greater grace than where he sends his gospel, for there must be grace and mercy in its train, even if not all, perhaps only a few, receive it.
This is what is meant by “Thy King cometh unto thee.” You do not seek nor find him; he seeks and finds you. The preachers and their sermons come from him, not from you; your faith and everything that your faith works in you comes from him, not from you; when he does not come, you remain outside; where there is no gospel, there is no God, but only sin and damnation. Therefore you should not ask where to begin to be godly; there is no beginning, except where the King is proclaimed and enters.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 423–24.