Justin Martyr had finally seen the Light and shared it with others.
Augustine's inspiration turned into action through his ministry.
But, somehow, this same magnificent Illumination had left Martin Luther in darkness.
How can that be?
What had been previously known as the only triumphant truth and the meaning of life now condemned the theologian. He entered a penitential state. Caught between as struggle of his soul against the power of God ... the will of man verses the will of the Lord, he did not know whether his salvation was truly based on the merits of his own works or by submitting everything, even his own identity, to God. It was a type of tug-of-war with no regard for the sake of the rope.
The Jesus Christ that the early theologians had known had been replaced by the Judging Christ, the Lord with a sword for a tongue and wrath in his eyes.
“One part of his vocation that Luther came to despise” was confession. With Augustinian monks who rarely openly sinned “the confessor sought to uncover motives, emotions, thoughts, and even repressed feelings. These revealed the evil in the heart. And like the body, the heart, too, had to be purged of every impurity.
These rigorous examinations horrified Luther. After the fact, he would suddenly remember a thought or an emotion that contradicted his vocation and stained his heart. He knew that it would rightly bring the wrath of God down on him.
These daily and sometimes hourly experiences were so terrifying that he once said, ‘When it is touched by the passing inundation of the eternal, the soul feels and drinks nothing but eternal punishment….’” “In retrospect Luther insisted that such probing into the heart lay too grievous a burden on sinners. In his own case, the awareness of secret sins nearly drove him to despair,” the unforgivable sin:
“He confessed frequently, often daily, and for as long as six hours on a single occasion. Every sin in order to be absolved was to be confessed. Therefore the soul must be searched and the memory ransacked and the motives probed...
Luther would repeat a confession and, to be sure of including everything, would review his entire life until the confessor grew weary and exclaimed, ‘Man, God is not angry with you. You are angry with God. Don’t you know that God commands you to hope?’
This assiduous confessing certainly succeeded in clearing up any major transgressions. The leftovers with which Luther kept trotting in appeared to [his mentor]... to be only the scruples of a sick soul. ‘Look here,’ said he, ‘if you expect Christ to forgive you, come in with something to forgive—parricide, blasphemy, adultery—instead of all these peccadilloes.’
But Luther’s question was not whether his sins were big or little, but whether they had been confessed. The great difficulty which he encountered was to be sure that everything had been recalled. He learned from experience the cleverness of memory in protecting the ego, and he was frightened when after six hours of confessing he could still go out and think of something else which had eluded his most conscientious scrutiny. Still more disconcerting was the discovery that some of man’s misdemeanors are not even recognized, let alone remembered…”
He had to make up for a world of sin.
There was nowhere to go, nowhere to turn to.
If there was, the Church had remained silent about it.
Luther had lived the life of Romans 7, "I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out." Someone had once told Luther that he had begun to live off of his failures.
That is why his epiphany, his sudden inspiration, from Romans 6 is so crucial: "You are not under law but under grace." He must instead live off of Christ.
He had a faith of action, but his action had seemed to only lead him to fall short, fall apart, and fall into sin. (Remind you of another big Fall?) But, instead of dwelling on it, instead of tearing himself to pieces over minor stains, he had been reminded to live in Christ.
The Church had remained silent, they had given into Mammon and Power, they served secular idols, and they needed to repent. The concept of a life of grace had been stolen. And, Luther sat there, shook, trying to make things right on his own.
He knew it was an impossible feat.
That is why he turned to a life of Christ. He lived for Him and faith alone. He faced death-threats, excommunication, damnation, and his own family and friends. But, he realized that if he faced these things with his Lord and Savior, the God of Grace, he was not alone.
He was not empty, but filled by the Spirit.
He knew the Christian life must continue to be a life of repentance. We cannot sin all the more so that grace may abound. But, this holy life must also be a life of absolution. Our sins are forgiven. The Old Adam is dead. Done.
But, then he comes back.
That's why Christ must remain.
He does not empower us to empower ourselves.
But, He does empower us to lean on Him... to be forgiven again... to become ourselves again.
The THREE WISE GUYS might be a funny name for this series. But, it fits.
A wise guy is still just the fool without knowing Jesus Christ.
 Kittelson, 55-56.
 Bainton, 54-55.