Luther loved to preach on the benefits of the sacrifice of Christ. If you read through his sermons you will quickly find that he consistently pressed the gospel into the hearts of his hearers. In a sermon on the cross he states this about the value of meditating on the work of Christ.
“Whoever meditates thus upon God’s sufferings for a day, an hour, yea, for a quarter of an hour, we wish to say freely and publicly, that it is better than if he fasts a whole year, prays the Psalter every day, yea, than if he hears a hundred masses. For such a meditation changes a man’s character and almost as in baptism he is born again, anew. Then Christ’s suffering accomplishes its true, natural and noble work, it slays the old Adam, banishes all lust, pleasure and security that one may obtain from God’s creatures; just like Christ was forsaken by all, even by God.”
Luther goes on to explain that the act of meditating and grasping the implications of the cross are divine gifts. It is by grace that we understand grace, according to Luther.
“It is impossible for us profoundly to meditate upon the sufferings of Christ of ourselves, unless God sink them into our hearts. Further, neither this meditation nor any other doctrine is given to you to the end that you should fall fresh upon it of yourself, to accomplish the same; but you are first to seek and long for the grace of God, that you may accomplish it through God’s grace and not through your own power.”
In Luther’s view, meditation must lead to application. We must take the truths of Christ’s cross and impress them into our souls. We must rest our faith upon the promises of God. In this sermon, Luther calls his listeners to connect their faith to the explicit promises of forgiveness and justification.
“Cast your sins from yourself upon Christ, believe with a festive spirit that your sins are his wounds and sufferings, that he carries them and makes satisfaction for them, as Isaiah 53:6 says: ‘the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all;’ and St. Peter in his first Epistle (1 Peter 2:24): ‘He bore our sins in his body upon the tree’ of the cross; and St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:21: ‘Him who knew no sin was made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him.’ Upon these and like passages you must rely with all your weight.”
The more I read Luther the more I appreciate his ability to probe the depths of the cross-work of God and bring his hearers along with him.