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Candles for the Lord
The brave deeds of the fathers of our faith throughout Church history call to us across time and demand that we too defend our faith when we see it being eroded.


The Study of Christian History is the study of raw courage in the face of great danger. From the biblical acts of courage (Daniel in the lion's den; David and Goliath; Esther before the king) to modern times, there have always been men and women who have stood firm in spite of the political and social climate of the day.

His life was on the line … Yet he could not keep silent.

The Reformation period had its share of heroes, as well. Consider Jan Huss, John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, in the early part of the Reformation, and Cromwell, Latimer and Ridley later on! These men defied the authorities of the day, simply because they were compelled to stand for truth and for righteousness. They had God on their side–they trusted His word, and no matter what, they refused to give in. They would never surrender.

Martin Luther did not intend to be a rebel or a radical reformer when he nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg. It was a traditional way to invite the academic community to discuss an issue. He was simply posting his opinion on the "bulletin board" of the day, inviting dialogue. He felt sure that once the Roman Catholic church saw the error of its ways in regard to the selling of indulgences, they would admit it, and all would be well.

Imagine his surprise when copies of his theses were spread throughout Europe in a matter of weeks!

Jump ahead in the story to the Diet of Worms. Summoned to answer to charges made by the Pope, Luther was well aware that his life was in danger. Spectators lined the streets. Spanish guards filled the hall ready to drag him away to be burned at the stake!

He stood before the imposing assembly—the Emperor, the Archduke, electors, dukes, margraves, archbishops, bishops, abbots, princes and the papal nuncios—and listened to the questions.

At first, Luther seemed to falter. He asked for time to consider his response. "I entreat your imperial majesty, with all humility, to allow me time, that I may answer without offending against the Word of God."

The next day, Martin Luther returned and said this: "Were I to retract what I have said on this subject, what should I do but lend additional strength to this tyranny and open the floodgates to a torrent of impiety?"

When asked, "Will you, or will you not, retract?" Martin Luther replied without hesitation, " … I cannot submit my faith either to the pope or to the councils, because it is clear as the day that they have frequently erred and contradicted each other. Unless therefore I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture, or by the clearest reasoning—unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted, and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the Word of God, I cannot and I will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience." There is some dispute about the next phrase attributed to him, but Aubigne and others claim that Luther declared, "Here I stand; I can do no other; may God help me. Amen."

What an example Martin Luther is to Christians in the 21st century! His life was on the line for speaking out against the pope and the established Roman Catholic church. He was not about to be fined, but burned! Yet he could not keep silent.

Consider William Tyndale. As a young man attending Cambridge University, he was disgusted to discover that the students were not permitted to look at Scripture until saturated with "heathen learning" and armed with "false principles" for eight or nine years. Later, while living in the household of Sir John Walsh, he was able to meet many of the local clergy who would be invited to dine with Sir John. He was shocked by their lack of Bible knowledge and began to argue with them. He echoed Erasmus' famous wish declaring that "if God spare my life, ere many years pass, I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the Scriptures than thou dost."

When Tyndale began teaching at Little Sodbury, he was embroiled in disputes with the local clergy and was arraigned on charges of heresy. When he sought Bishop Tunstall's patronage in his project to translate the Scriptures into English, his hopes were dashed, and he left the land of his birth, never to return.

He prepared to print an English New Testament in Cologne, but was discovered, and escaped with only a few printed portions. The next year (1526) his completed English New Testament had to be smuggled into England, and Bishop Tunstall ordered the purchase and burning of all of the copies.

Between 1527 and 1530, English agents pursued Tyndale, seeking to capture him on the continent. He had to keep moving, and continued to translate and write. Sir Thomas More then began writing against him. On top of that, to add to his grief and pain, his beloved friend, John Frith, was burned at the stake in 1533.

Did persecution make him falter? No! William Tyndale got his orders from his Heavenly Father …

Tyndale lived for many years with the awareness that his life was continually in jeopardy. In 1535, he was "befriended" by the King's agent, tricked into walking alone down a narrow alley, then arrested and cast into prison, where he languished for 15 months before being strangled and burned at the stake on October 6th, 1536.

Did opposition stop him? No! Did persecution make him falter? No! William Tyndale got his orders from his Heavenly Father, and he was not going to be halted in his task.

Fast forward to Richard Wurmbrand, the pastor who spent a total of 14 years in jail under the Communists in Rumania. Three of those years he spent alone in a cell thirty feet below ground; he never saw the sunlight, heard a bird chirp, or smelled a flower. In his book, Sermons in Solitary Confinement, Richard Wurmbrand discusses the substance of deeds, whether lying or killing in some circumstances may be right. He mentioned that Jael was praised for smiting an enemy of God.

Wurmbrand asks, "If it is sacred history when the Jews fought against tyrants, why should the fight of Rumanians to get rid of Communist slavery not be sacred also? No, you have not sinned, patriotic fighters. St. Augustine said: "Love God, and do what you will."

It is written: "Sing unto the Lord a new song". This is a warrior's song. Nobody is so courageous a warrior as the Lord Himself. He never slumbers nor sleeps. Christianity teaches us not so much to be good, as to be warriors for the good. You cannot be a warrior for the good without fighting, and so striking not only abstract evil and evil institutions but also evil men.

God is the beginning and the end. The middle of the day is ours. We do not know what the future holds for us. And I do not want His Kingdom in the future only. Fight today for His Kingdom of righteousness, peace and love. Amen.

The fight goes on today. We live in a postmodern world, where truth is relative or non-existent. Pragmatism is the order of the day. God has been pushed to the periphery of our lives. In a secular society, religion may survive, even flourish, but its influence in the public world is basically nil. The results are astounding, when you consider how rapidly public opinion has changed regarding issues of parenting, of the value of life, of sexuality and purity.

Lest you think that the issues we face can't be as compelling as the issues the men of the Reformation had to deal with, listen to the words of the late Francis Schaeffer:

"The Christian must resist the spirit of the world in the form it takes in his own generation. If he does not do this, he is not resisting the spirit of the world at all … It is our generation of Christians more than any other who need to heed these words attributed to Martin Luther:
"If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point."

In my country, Canada … To preach the first chapter of Romans would be grounds for arrest. What then should we Christians do?

In my country, Canada, same-sex marriages have been permitted, and Bill C-250 passed making any criticism of homosexuality a hate crime. Bill C-250 effectively criminalizes all debates on the great moral and ideological struggle of our culture. To preach the first chapter of Romans would be grounds for arrest. What then should we Christians do?

How should we fight in our culture? By getting involved. By not being politically correct. By standing for truth, even when it is not popular! Practically, by writing letters to the editor of our local newspapers, by contacting elected officials and voicing our disagreement, by taking the time to pick up the phone or to send an email. We cannot be complacent. Who knows if we were placed on this earth, in our very circumstances, for such a time as this?

It may be that we will be called to suffer for our faith. In a post-modern society, we may find our pastors arrested and ordinary people accused of hate crimes for simply sharing their faith in the God of the Bible. We may have to be willing to be a "candle for the Lord."

I mentioned Latimer and Ridley, above. Let Bishop Hugh Latimer's words inspire you. As they were suffering together, being burned at the stake, he said, "Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as, I trust, shall never be put out." Let us not let the candle go out!

Janet Billson and her husband Rick are the homeschooling parents of 12 children. They have eight grandchildren.

Originally published in Homeschool Today®. magazine, September/October 2003.
www.homeschoolingtoday.com

 

 
 
 
 

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