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And He Himself gave some to be....evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ...
- Ephesians 4:11-12

THIS BLOG HAS MOVED TO www.timeintheword.org

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Location: The Hill Country of Texas

Pastor - Providence Reformed Baptist Church
Director - TIME in the Word Ministries

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Wycliffe, Hus, and Luther

In 1384, John Wycliffe, the morning star of the reformation, died of a stroke in Lutterworth, England. His life, until its end, was the beginning of a recovery of the Scriptures and the Gospel from the corrupt and power hungry Church of Rome.

Wycliffe broke with tradition by refusing to claim that the Church was the final authority in matters of faith. In 1378 he authored The Truth of Holy Scripture in which he claimed that the Bible alone was the authority for believers. He stated that church councils, tradition, and even the Pope himself were to be held accountable to the authority and teaching of Scripture.

He also proclaimed that every Christian should be able to read the Bible for himself! This was novel, for the church not only controlled and interpreted the Bible for its members, but only the clergy were even allowed to own or read Bibles! Wycliffe’s answer was to publish the Bible in the everyday language of the people.

Wycliffe went on to say that the office of Pope was an invention of men and not based on Scripture. He said that the Pope was indeed the antichrist, exalting himself in the place of Christ the Lord. Further, he stood up against the doctrine of transubstantiation – the idea that at the offering of the mass, the Eucharist, that the priest offered Jesus again as a sacrifice for God’s people and that the people then ate bread and wine which was literally the physical body and blood of Jesus.

As Wycliffe continued in the teachings and tradition of Augustine his greatest contribution to the world was the Bible translated into everyday language.

John Hus carried on the teachings of Wycliffe after his death. Hus, from Bohemia, not only encouraged the translation of the Word of God into the language of the people, but he preached in the language of the people instead of in Latin. He wanted the gospel to be heard and believed by those to whom he preached.

Hus also rejected the power and authority of the Pope, and while at a meeting to discuss his views in 1415 was arrested and burnt at the stake for his “heresy.” The council also took the opportunity to proclaim Wycliffe a heretic, even though he had been dead for almost 40 years. In fact, they dug up his bones and burnt them in contempt for his teaching and its influence on Hus.

At the end of Hus’ trial, when asked if he would appeal to the Pope for mercy, he responded, “I do affirm before you all, that there is no more just or effectual appeal, than that which is made unto Christ. Who is a higher judge than Christ?” When the chain was wrapped around his neck, binding him to the stake, he cried out, “My Lord Jesus Christ was bound with a harder chain than this for my sake, and why then should I be ashamed of this rusty one?” As Hus was dying, being burned alive at the stake, he proclaimed, “What I have taught with my lips I seal with my blood. You are now going to burn a goose, but in a century you will have a swan which you can neither roast nor boil.”

The name Hus, means literally “goose.” In the 100 years from 1415 to the early 1500s another man came on the scene, a man whose family crest was the picture of a swan. That man was Martin Luther.

In the years between Hus and Luther there arose another figure of great importance, William Tyndale. He learned Greek so that he might translate the Word of God in the New Testament from the original language into English. You and I have our Bibles today because of the perseverance and hard work of William Tyndale. His English New Testament is perhaps the most important book ever published in the English language.

Tyndale, while in attendance at a meeting with priests and bishops said that he "defied the Pope and all his laws" and vowed that "a plough-boy would know more of the Scriptures than they." He was condemned as a blasphemer and heretic and burnt at the stake.

As the Word of God spread, and God continued moving upon men to proclaim the truth of the gospel, on the Eve of All Saints Day, October 31, 1517, (Reformation Day) exactly 488 years ago this week, a momentous and incredible event took place at the Church in Wittenberg, Germany, in fulfillment of Hus earlier prophecy. There this Roman Catholic monk named Martin Luther, the swan, challenged the leaders of the church that had burned the goose to a debate. He did so in the form of a protest.

Luther had long been studying the Scriptures and having been regenerated by the Spirit of God was given understanding as to what the Scriptures taught about sin, salvation, and especially about the justification of lost sinners by faith alone in Jesus Christ. He came to see, as had Wycliffe and Hus, that the sole authority for the church was the Word of God.

Describing his own conversion, Luther wrote:

At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, “In this the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’.” There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives, by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, God justifies us by faith, as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.

As Luther reacted against and protested the selling of indulgences (money paid to the church for the forgiveness of sins) and many other abuses by the church – things that he saw the church doing that clearly contradicted the teachings of Holy Scripture – he made a list. His list of 95 offenses or abuses, which are referred to as Luther’s 95 Thesis was an indictment of the church and many of its tradition and practices.

In challenging the church, he wanted a public debate, and so took and nailed his list to the church door at Wittenberg. He made a public protest by posting this in such a way. It was a public statement about the condition of the church and its relation to the truth of Holy Scripture.

In response he was put on trial and challenged to recant of his thesis, which the church court saw as heresy. He challenged their ultimate and infallible authority to interpret the Word of God for the people. At this trial, know as the Diet of Worms, Luther stood his ground. In fact, his final reply to the command to recant was an absolute appeal to the authority of Scripture alone as his guide in matters of faith. Luther was asked by the court:

Do you wish to defend the books which are recognized as your work? Or to recant anything contained in them? . . .

He concluded his reply by saying:

You demand a simple answer. Here it is, plain and unvarnished. Unless I am convinced by Scripture or by plain reason (for I do not accept the authority of popes or councils, for they have often contradicted each other), my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.. God help me. Amen. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.

As history unfolded around him, this date and time at that church door have become the spark that brought FIRES of renewal to the church and freed to gospel from the clutches of the cultic church controlled by Rome and the Pope. This spark, this birth of a protest against the abuses of the Church, is known to us today as the Protestant Reformation.

This turning point in history has given us many rich traditions and doctrines. The foundation of the Reformation of course is the doctrine of justification by faith alone. This truth sprung forth from the cornerstone, the conviction that God’s Word, the Holy Scriptures, was itself the sole infallible authority for life and faith, for salvation and Christian living, for the church and the world.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Rebuilding PRBC - UPDATE

Providence Reformed Baptist Church is now meeting for worship on Sunday mornings at 10:30 AM at the pastor's home in Round Rock. If you are interested in attending a meeting and worshipping God with us, please call or email for directions.

Phone: (512)577-8433
Email: info (at) providencerbc (dot) org

Phillip M. Way, Pastor
Providence Reformed Baptist Church
TIME in the Word Ministries

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Wilderness

Have you ever given much thought to the Wilderness? So much of life around us is no longer wild. There are snake farms, zoos, wildlife preserves, and other places that bring the wildlife to us in cages and make it all seem so tame. We rarely experience the wild any more.

On a trip earlier this year to Florida I noticed the dense vegetation around us as we drove down the interstate highway and I paused to think about those explorers who worked their way across the New World with no pre-existing maps, GPS satellites, or even roads. I am sure working through the wilderness to establish a new civilization was hard and hazardous work. The wilderness is often uncharted and those who venture in may not come back out again.

Scripturally and spiritually speaking there are other dimensions to the wilderness. It was the backside of the desert where God took Moses for 40 years preparing him to lead the people out of Egypt. It was the Arabian wilderness where God took Paul for 3 years after his conversion on the Damascus Road. It was the wilderness where Jesus was tempted by Satan after 40 days of fasting. It was the wilderness where John the Baptist preached the gospel of the Kingdom, wearing camel skin and eating locusts and honey. At times He even used the wilderness to judge His people. That is, after all, where the generation that came out of Egypt died while wandering for 40 years, headed for the Promised Land.

The wilderness is barren. Hot during the day and cold at night. It is far from civilization and the comforts of home. It really is wild. And yet this is where God over and over again takes His people to teach them and to prepare them, making them useful for His service.

Have we been in the wilderness? Have we been rejected by friends and family, exiled to wandering in the wild, far away places? Has God taken us out into the places where there is no help and no resources except for those He providential sends our way? The wilderness can make us crazy, you know. The isolation. The silence. Those things out there which would prey upon us and consume us if given the chance. Some outside and others inside of us, ringing in our ears as we do battle with our own thoughts and fears.

And yet the wilderness is used to purge, to cleanse, and to prepare us for the work that God has for us. Without the wilderness we would not know what to do or how to respond to hardship. Yet we often reject the wilderness. We flee for what is familiar and comfortable. We hide. But God is still able to send us out so that He might teach us how to depend on Him and how to turn back to Him. When in the wilderness all we have is God we learn to long for Him, to hear Him in the hustle and bustle around us once we return to civilization. Yet these lessons are missed by those who prefer the easy paths.

I have often thought that many today, if put back in the day of our ancestors, would die a quick death and hardly be able to survive with the pioneers and those who settled our land. It is no different in the church. When we mistake apathy for contentment and activity for obedience we are sure to miss the great blessings of the wilderness. When we think a full schedule and a busy program is the same thing as living in the power of God then we have been deceived. Being busy will only make us barren. Spiritually, abundant life flows from the times our faith is tested and tried and proved.

Just because we are comfortable does not mean that God is blessing us. Just because things are going along smoothly does not mean that we are being obedient. And just because we think we are full does not mean that we should cease to hunger and thirst after righteousness.

The church today, safe from the hardships of the wilderness, is full of junk food. Sermons that do not feed the inner man. And we are malnourished. There is a famine from hearing the Word of the Lord. And the men charged with preaching that Word, with feeding the sheep, too often feed themselves and appease the sheep, all the while leading them to death and despair. For it is the truth that makes us free. Anything less than the truth serves only to enslave us.

Have you been to the wilderness? The place where it is just you and God? And sometimes there even He does not answer? Can you relate to the Psalmist who cried out many times, "How long, O Lord?" and as he waited on God he learned to believe even in the absence of all evidence and to trust simply because God said so and His every Word is true? The same man, David, hungered for God. He panted after God. It was God who sustained his life.

The wilderness is a place where we are forced to ask uncomfortable questions and to face our deepest fears. It is also the wilderness where we learn who we are in Christ and we see that He was telling the truth when He told us, "Without me you can do noting."

Maybe we need some time in the wilderness, some place where we cannot do it on our own, some place where it has to be the power of God that sustains us so that we see that without Him we really cannot do anything.....but with Christ, and through Christ, and in Christ, then all things are possible.

Sometimes I look longingly at the wilderness, for it is there that I see Who God is and what He can accomplish by the power of His might. There He does these things without my help! There I cannot rely on books, programs, or methods. There it is me against the wild, and it is the wild that He uses to show His power in preparing us for His use.

Have you been to the wilderness lately? It is not a place for the fainthearted, but it is for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Maybe it is time for us to "take a walk on the wild side."

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Worship and Witness

Two new messages from Jonathan find him continuing on in his series on Bible Basics and his series through Genesis. These messages show us what it means to be a worshipper of God and how it is that we can press on in being a witness even after we have failed and fallen into sin.

What is Worship?

John 4:24

What is worship? You might expect a variety of answers. Here we look at the meaning of the Bible words translated as 'worship' and particularly about what the Lord Jesus Christ had to say to the woman of Samaria. We see how misunderstood the term 'worship' is today, and we ask, most vitally of all, 'Are we true worshippers?'

Abraham and Abimelech

Genesis 20

In the life of Abraham, we reach another low point. Repeating a mistake of 25 years before, Abraham moves into a new neighbourhood and disgraces himself. Yet God is not ashamed of him, and still uses him despite his failures. We take encouragement from the record of scripture, and ask how we should deal with our own shortcomings. We reflect on how our mistakes do not thwart God's sovereign plans, and on how we must press on in our life of witness and service for Him.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Interfering with God's Will

I wonder how often we pursue God's will and at the same time interfere with His will. What am I talking about? Well, often we are willing to do what God wants us to do. We meditate on the Scriptures and we strive to be pleasing to Him in all that we do. We really do care about His will for our lives and likely have even read a book or two on the topic. I know I have preached and written about God's will on numerous occasions.

However, it is not enough to find or to know God's will. Some make finding God's will an end in itself. "I found it", they proclaim, and yet they do not live it. They hear but do not obey.

Lately I have been thinking about another problem we run into when seeking God's will. We find it and we assure ourselves that we know what God wants for us but then we get impatient. We know what God wants and so we decide to help Him bring it to pass.

The best example of this of course is the story we find in Genesis when God tells Abraham and Sarah that they will have a child in their old age. They wait and wait and wait. They know what God is going to do, but they do not know how He is planning to do it and finally their impatience leads them to the decision to have Abraham take Sarah's maidservant Hagar and with her have "their" promised child.

We need not look far to see the turmoil that this decision has wrought upon the world even still today. But what happened?

I have termed this "Interfering with God's Will." This happens when we are sure that we know what God wants, we have clear direction spiritually speaking, but we try to make it happen. We try to force it. We think that God's will depends on us and so we think about ways to make sure that we can make God's will happen. We offer Him a helping hand.

We need to be reminded that God's will is going to happen! We also need to remember that Jesus did not teach us to pray, "God help me find your will." He prayed, "Your will be done." And it will be!

So why do we interfere? Why do we think that we have to make things happen? Why do we have to be so impatient and so in a hurry? Often we miss the lessons, the faith building challenges that God has provided for us so that we can know and trust Him better. Often, too, it is immaturity. Experience and wisdom teach us that we must indeed let God be God and learn to walk by faith and not by sight.

Do you know what God wants for you? Trust Him. Wait on Him. Be still as He works. And learn what it means to pray, "Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." Then, if we live like we pray we will not interfere but will instead find the joy of knowing and doing God's will, in His way and in His time.

Next time you think you know what God is doing, stop and wait to see how He is going to do it. And remember, if you try to make it happen your way instead of His you have followed in Abraham and Sarah's footsteps, but not in a good way!

Don't interfere. Persevere!