Siddhartha Gautama grew up a Hindu. He believed in reincarnation. He believed in the wheel of samsara (the endless cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth). He wanted to be free of this curse. He set out to live as a monk and discover the way to escape the endless cycles of birth and death. Finally, he sat down under a tree and meditated for 40 days until he achieved enlightenment. The title Buddha means “The Enlightened One.” The Buddha based his teaching on his “Aha” moment known as the Four Noble Truths regarding suffering.
The Four Noble Truths
1) The universality of suffering (All of life is suffering.)
2) The origin of suffering (You suffer because you have unmet/wrong desire.)
3) The overcoming of suffering (To eliminate suffering, you must eliminate desire.)
4) The way leading to the suppression of suffering. (The way to eliminate desire is to follow the 8-fold path.)
Martin Luther struggled with how to become right with God. He grew up thinking that God was an angry God always looking to catch him in wrongdoing. Luther was afraid of God. He tried to do things that he felt would make God feel sorry for him. One day he was studying his Bible when he read Romans 1:17 (ESV) 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Luther had been taught that the righteousness of God meant that God proves His righteousness by punishing the sinner and the unjust. But as Luther wrestled with this text, he came to realize that God is merciful and justifies us through faith. Luther understood that God gives us the gift of faith in Jesus. God also gives us the gift of being declared righteous on account of Jesus. Our sins deserve God’s anger and punishment. But God’s love for us is demonstrated in Jesus exchanging His righteousness for our unrighteousness. God does for us what we are unable to do!