A Monk’s Bravery
The 16th century was conversely both a perilous and splendid time where history’s course would be drastically altered. Perilous because it would be through the blood of the martyrs that the seeds of change were sown. Splendid since God moved by the power of His sovereign plan to build up His church unleashing the light of the Gospel. Martin Luther, a fiery, and controversial monk stepped onto the scene. Luther had joined the Augustinian monks, but the more he studied the more he realized the Roman Catholic Church had placed a black blanket over the eyes of the people preventing them from seeing the light of Scripture. Luther was a man who was incredibly powerful when correct, but horrifically cringe-worthy in his errors. His infamous 95-theses had been driven into the door of Wittenburg Castle, yet roughly four years later his most notable meeting with destiny would come.
As Luther’s life unfolded, his journey to the Diet of Worms was an event church historians have discussed for centuries. It lives on in infamy and continues to teach valuable lessons into our present day. Author and preacher Dr. Steven J. Lawson discusses this event by saying:
The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V demanded that Luther appear before the Imperial Diet in order to officially recant. Depsite warnings from friends, Luther fearlessly travelled to the city of Worms where the Diet was meeting. Before the political and ecclesiastical powers of the day, Luther was shown his books on a table. Johann Eck, an official archbishop of Treves, pressed him: ‘Will you retract them? Yes or no’ Sensing the magnitude of the moment, Luther asked for time. The next day, April 18, 1521, he replied with his now famous words:
‘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 I will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me, Amen.’”1
Luther rightly took this stand against the powers of his day. He was willing to march directly into the heart of those who would oppose him declaring the truth of Christ at each step of the journey. In a day when many Christians are paralyzed by the increasing hostility of the lost world, Luther exemplifies a valuable lesson. Believers must not synthesize with the world flirting with Satanic ideas grounded in lies. Yet, they also must not run from the lost hiding in a secluded cave out of fear. No, we must take a stand as Luther did and countless others have throughout Christian history. We must march into a lost world in flames taking the true living waters of Christ’s Gospel.
The Apostolic Example
If you ponder the example of the Apostles and the early church, we see a living illustration of the reality that they did not compromise, nor did they hide their light under a basket (Matthew 5:15). The Apostle Paul endured shipwrecks, beatings, hunger, imprisonments, and countless other sufferings for the sake of Christ (2 Corinthians 11, 12:10). Peter and the Apostles preached, were commanded to stop, and then kept on proclaiming the truth in obedience to God even though they were beaten for it (Acts 5). My point, Christianity is not a worldview that hides on the outskirts, it is marked by courage in confronting the lost with the Gospel and the entire counsel of Scripture.
My concern is that there are seemingly two disastrous approaches from individuals in evangelicalism as it relates to engaging the lost world. On the one hand, there are those who want to almost entirely withdraw themselves never seeking to engage with the lost. They are so afraid that they believe they should hide never to be seen again. However, Christ did not pray that His disciples would be taken out of the world, but that they would be kept from the evil one and be sanctified in the truth (John 17:14-19). At the same time, there are those who want to assimilate with the world placing ungodly ideologies on top of the Scripture. These individuals have joined forces with darkness becoming unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14). We need to learn from the biblical teaching on this matter to develop an accurate theology that will ground us in this moment.
Strong In The Storm
As we live during a period of insanity in our culture, the task of the believer is to skillfully live with wisdom unashamedly declaring the truth without fear all for the glory of Christ. Joseph was specially gifted by God to store up for the coming famine (Genesis 41:46-49). There is nothing wrong with Christian individuals and families planting more gardens, storing up food, and such, understanding the difficult realities which might lie ahead seeking to wisely prepare. However, there is no biblical basis for going into the ditch burying ourselves in the sand, and not seeking to be salt and light. Live with skillful wisdom, be obedient to the commands of Christ to teach the nations all He has commanded (Matthew 28:18-20), and entrust yourself to His sovereign plan. Courage not fear, wisdom not folly, conviction not cowardice, are what we need to be exhibiting as the church.
Should we run from the chaos? No, we must not. Should we assimilate with the culture? No, we cannot. Should we naively act like we are in paradise? No, that would be fool hearty. Let us not live terrified, but brave understanding we serve the Lord who is sovereign over everything. We are willing to go to the martyr’s stake if need be for Christ who died for us. The call to be salt and light in this world is real for the believer (Matthew 5:13-16). We know that Christ is conquering His enemies, even if we happen to find ourselves in the midst of a trying time in history (1 Corinthians 15:25). We must remember we are not the first believers to live in such a time as this. Moses was given the difficult task of bringing the people of God out of Egypt, by God’s power He accomplished that purpose. Esther also had to stand for her people, she was a tool used by God in a mighty way. The Apostles upended the mighty paganism of the Roman Empire by the grace of Christ in His Gospel. Luther, Calvin, and the reformers shook the world by preaching Scripture. Edwards and Whitefield’s thunderous preaching struck bolts of lightning upon a continent leading to the birth of America. Spurgeon thwarted Marx, Machen stood against liberalism, and now the torch has been passed to our own era. May we pick up that torch shining the light of the Gospel of Christ looking to the captain of our salvation Jesus Christ as the example in whose steps we must follow!
1 Lawson, The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther, p. 22.