One of the things people most admire about Martin Luther was his steadfast courage in the face of great opposition. When the Reformation began to heat up Luther was summoned to appear before the Holy Roman Emperor and the senior authorities of the Church at the imperial Diet of Worms. They would have made for a very intimidating audience!
At the council Luther was shown copies of his writings and instructed to recant of his teachings. Refusing to do so would have very much put his life at risk.
Yet Luther replied: ‘Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason, (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen’.
What was the source of Luther’s courage? It was God ’s encouragement of Luther through Luther’s biblically informed conscience. Luther knew what the bible taught about the gospel of Jesus Christ. And Luther trusted that God had spoken authoritatively through the bible. Thus for him the bible was the
highest authority on all matters of faith, and so Luther’s conscience was bound to live and obey the scriptures even if the highest authorities of Church or State demanded otherwise.
Like Luther, we too can have a great courage that comes from knowing what the bible teaches and standing firm upon its truths , even in the face of great opposition.
One of the most precious gifts of the Reformation was restoring the access of
God’s people to God’s word. In the middle ages the bible was only available in
Latin, which common people could not understand. In England, a man named
William Tyndale took up the challenge of translating a version of the New
Testament from the Greek into the English language. But Tyndale’s great gift to
English speaking people came at a great cost.
Tyndale soon discovered his project would be resist ed by both the religious
and state authorities, who were keen to keep control over the church. So
Tyndale fled to continental Europe, and upon completing his translation in
1525, his New Testament was smuggled back into England where it quickly
became a best-seller.
The authorities were not amused and responded with plans to silence Tyndale.
This came about in Antwerp, where Tyndale was befriended by a man named
Henry Phillips. Phillips was a regular guest of Tyndale’s and gained a
privileged access to his writings. However Tyndale was betrayed by his friend;
Phillips lured him into a trap where he was seized by soldiers and put under
arrest. For his crime of translating the bible, Tyndale was charged with heresy
and burnt at the stake.
However, Tyndale’s translation fueled the fires of reform. For as God’s word
became understandable and available, desire grew in the church to reform
doctrine and practice in line with the bible’s teaching. As we gather to worship
God today, thank him that we have access to his word in a language we can
understand! It came at a great cost, and is a most precious gift.
Are you weary? Or feeling weighed down from the grind of the world? I’ve had a busy few days and am recovering from a cold, and I feel tired as I write this! But I’ve been reading Ecclesiastes as part of my morning prayers of late, and it continues to encourage me, albeit in curious ways.
For example, take this rhetorical question; ‘What does the worker gain from his toil?’ (3:9). To which the answer is, ultimately… nothing! We live in fallen world, our efforts are often frustrated, and no matter how successful today has been, there is always more to do tomorrow. But I find it oddly refreshing to find this pessimistic observation in the bible! It debunks the myth that we are supposed to feel great all the time and honestly recognises that much of this life is, and always will be, tedious. And that’s OK, because as Christians, life in this world is not our final home, nor is it where we place our hopes.
And yet life is not all bad and God sustains his people as they wait for his return. As Ecclesiastes concludes on the matter of toil; ‘I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God’ (3:12-13).
If you are feeling weary, or are not looking forward to the tasks of this coming week, ask God to sustain you with joy and satisfaction in your work, and focus each day on giving thanks to him for all good things that you do enjoy, despite the toil of this world.
Ben Soderlund – Assistant Minister
If you want to find God, how would you search? Recently at our BAC Thursday service we were reminded of one of the most famous conversion stories of all time, that of Augustine of Hippo in the fourth century.
As a young man, Augustine lived a wild and sinful life. Yet was constantly searching for spiritual fulfillment and was even involved in a number of strange cults. He also had Christian friends and family. But despite much looking, Augustine never found peace, and his heart was restless.
One day while he was sitting in a garden, in the distance Augustine heard what sounded like a child singing ‘take up and read!’. He believed this to be a prompt from God to read the bible. He found one, took it up, and started reading at Romans 13:13-14: Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
As he read the bible Augustine felt that his heart was being transformed. He turned from his life of sin and finally found the peace that he had been long searching for. As Augustine famously wrote later about finding God; ‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you’.
Is your heart restless? Then ‘take up and read!’. In some ways it is quite obvious that the place to find God is in his Word… but that is often the last place we look. Primarily, God speaks to us through the bible, and knowing God through his Word is the best single way to find his rest and peace.
Ben Soderlund – Assistant Minister