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“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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A person God turned around many times.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Taking Up the Cross

Can I die for my faith? Do I love the truth that much? After reading Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, this is a question that screams out from every smoldering pile of ashes in the book’s pages.

The description of Master John Hooper is a recurring theme throughout the book:

Even as he began, so he continued unto his life’s end. For neither could his labour and painstaking break him, neither promotion change him, neither dainty fare corrupt him. His life was so pure and good, that no kind of slander could fasten any fault upon him. He was of body strong, his health whole and sound, his wit very pregnant, his invincible patience able to sustain whatsoever sinister fortune and adversity could do. He was constant of judgment, a good justicer, spare of diet, sparer of words, and sparest of time: in house-keeping [hospitality] very liberal and sometimes more free than his living would extend unto. He bare in countenance and talk always a certain severe grace, which might, peradventure, be wished sometimes to have been a little more popular in him: but he knew what he had to do best himself. Pg. 192. Yet it was his excellent character and sound Bible doctrine that caused his burning at the stake in early February, 1555.

These martyrs had been transformed by the Bible and Bible Christianity. They were real powerhouses. That is why they were burned. It was as Paul said, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2Tim. 3:12). That means that I may not have anything to worry about, in terms of martyrdom. If I’m not having the holy walk with Jesus that they had, my personal religion will be so dead that I won’t stand out enough to be accused of heresy. I will never be dragged into court and have to face the command to recant. They won’t recognize me as a threat to false religion. Would you feel insulted?

Do I walk in meditation of Jesus, His beautiful righteousness and wonderful love? Do I love His life, His law? Do I walk by such faith in Him that my love endures the hardest life, “seeing Him who is invisible.” (Heb. 11:27).

Are we “seeing” Him, though He is in a far country? Is our most intense desire: “I shall see Him, but not now: I shall behold Him, but not nigh”? (Num. 24:17). Are we really beholding His precious soul and His tenderest spirit so that we are being changed into His same beautiful image? 2Cor. 3:18. Is He breathing into our nostrils His breath of life and making our souls live? Are we receiving the Holy Spirit? Jn. 20:22. The care and compassion He had for the people who lived two thousand years ago, do we translate this to a love He has for us today? Do we know that He ever lives to love us and intercede for us? Heb. 7:25.

We are to appropriate all the scriptures, written so long ago, for our case today. Does He do to you today, as He did the rich, young ruler, “Jesus beholding him loved him”? (Mk. 10:21). Would He do that to YOU? Would He love you that much? Can we claim that precious promise for ourselves? Dare we? I guarantee you that Satan says you can’t, that you aren’t worthy. He resists anyone and everyone trying to make peace with God through Christ. Zech. 3:1.

Imperceptibly influences affect the mind, and form the character. If the mind does not appropriate high and holy influences, it appropriates those that are low and debasing. If there is not a growth in piety and grace, there is a growth in worldliness and sin. RH, April 9, 1901 par. 14. We are to appropriate the righteousness of Christ through studying His matchless charms, which are His merits. It was this gospel that martyr and Doctor of divinity Hugh Latimer loved to preach:

On the Sunday before Christenmas day coming to the church, and causing the bell to be tolled, he entereth into the pulpit, exhorting and inviting all men to serve the Lord with inward heart and true affection, and not with outward ceremonies: meaning thereby how the Lord would be worshipped and served in simplicity of the heart and verity, wherein consisteth true Christian religion, and not in the outward deeds of the letter only, or in the glistering show of man’s traditions, of pardons, pilgrimages, ceremonies, vows, devotions, voluntary works, works of supererogation, foundations, oblations, the Pope’s supremacy; so that all these either be needless, where the other is present, or else be of small estimation, in comparison. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, p. 265.

Appropriate the love of Christ for yourself and the righteousness witnessed to in the Bible. It is in this kind of personal friendship, daily enjoyed and daily witnessing His character, that we appropriate His love and His high standard, which prepares us to be commissioned by God to speak for Him, even to the forfeiture of our property, to physical harm, and even to death (if that is God’s will).

We return to the lovely Master Bishop Hooper. At His execution, after two fires went out and he was burnt only at his lower body, but still very much alive:

The third fire was kindled within a while after, which was more extreme than the other two: and then the bladders of gunpowder brake, which did him small good, they were so placed, and the wind had such power. In the which fire he prayed with somewhat a loud voice, ‘Lord Jesus, have mercy upon me; Lord Jesus, have mercy upon me: Lord Jesus receive my spirit.’ And these were the last words he was heard to utter. But when he was black in the mouth, and his tongue swollen, that he could not speak, yet his lips went till they were shrunk to the gums: and he knocked his breast with his hands, until one of his arms fell off and then knocked still with the other, what time the fat, water, and blood, dropped out at his fingers’ ends, until by renewing of the fire his strength was gone, and his hand did cleave fast, in knocking, to the iron upon his breast. So immediately, bowing forwards, he yielded up his spirit.
Thus was he three quarters of an hour or more in the fire. Even as a lamb, patiently he abode the extremity thereof, neither moving forwards, backwards, nor to any side: but he died as quietly as a child in his bed.
Ibid. p. 213.

Why read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs? Listen to what Ellen White wrote.

Some will be imprisoned because they refuse to desecrate the Sabbath of the Lord. —PC 118 (1907).
LDE, p.149.

As the defenders of truth refuse to honor the Sunday-sabbath some of them will be thrust into prison, some will be exiled, some will be treated as slaves. To human wisdom all this now seems impossible, but as the restraining Spirit of God shall be withdrawn from men and they shall be under the control of Satan, who hates the divine precepts, there will be strange developments. The heart can be very cruel when God’s fear and love are removed. —GC 608 (1911). LDE, p. 149.

If we are called to suffer for Christ’s sake, we shall be able to go to prison trusting in Him as a little child trusts in its parents. Now is the time to cultivate faith in God. —OHC 357 (1892). LDE, p. 149.

Many Will Be Put to Death

The best thing for us is to come into close connection with God and, if He would have us be martyrs for the truth’s sake, it may be the means of bringing many more into the truth.—3SM 420 (1886).
LDE, p. 149.

Many will be imprisoned, many will flee for their lives from cities and towns, and many will be martyrs for Christ’s sake in standing in defense of the truth. —3SM 397 (1889).
LDE, p. 150.

There is a prospect before us of a continued struggle, at the risk of imprisonment, loss of property and even of life itself, to defend the law of God. —5T 712 (1889). LDE, p. 150.

Men will be required to render obedience to human edicts in violation of the divine law. Those who are true to God will be menaced, denounced, proscribed. They will be “betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends,” even unto death. —PK 588 (c. 1914). LDE, p. 150.

We are not to have the courage and fortitude of martyrs of old until brought into the position they were in. . . . Should there be a return of persecution there would be grace given to arouse every energy of the soul to show a true heroism. —OHC 125 (1889). LDE, p. 150.

The disciples were not endowed with the courage and fortitude of the martyrs until such grace was needed.—DA 354 (1898). LDE, p. 150.

How to Stand Firm Under Persecution

We shall find that we must let loose of all hands except the hand of Jesus Christ. Friends will prove treacherous and will betray us. Relatives, deceived by the enemy, will think they do God service in opposing us and putting forth the utmost efforts to bring us into hard places, hoping we will deny our faith. But we may trust our hand in the hand of Christ amid darkness and peril. —Mar 197 (1889).
LDE, p. 150.

The only way in which men will be able to stand firm in the conflict is to be rooted and grounded in Christ. They must receive the truth as it is in Jesus. And it is only as the truth is presented thus that it can meet the wants of the soul. The preaching of Christ crucified, Christ our righteousness, is what satisfies the soul’s hunger. When we secure the interest of the people in this great central truth, faith and hope and courage come to the heart. —GCDB Jan. 28, 1893. LDE, p. 151.

Many, because of their faith, will be cut off from house and heritage here, but if they will give their hearts to Christ, receiving the message of His grace, and resting upon their Substitute and Surety, even the Son of God, they may still be filled with joy. —ST June 2, 1898. LDE, p. 151.

Did you catch her statement, “The disciples were not endowed with the courage and fortitude of the martyrs until such grace was needed”? Let’s not deceive ourselves into thinking that we can claim this as a promise while disregarding her other statements, “The preaching of Christ crucified, Christ our righteousness, is what satisfies the soul’s hunger. When we secure the interest of the people in this great central truth, faith and hope and courage come to the heart.”

Christ in Righteousness by Faith, His beautiful holiness, is what she declares we need in order for our faith to stand in the big troubles ahead. This is what Hugh Latimer taught, and got him burned at the stake. But through it, Christ sustained him in his death. And the Lord Jesus will sustain us today if we put our faith, all of our time and effort, in knowing Him and appropriating His love to “them then” for “us now.”

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs

I just finished reading Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. A friend gave it to me many months ago, but I put off reading it assuming it would be about gruesome descriptions that would depress me. The book was just the opposite. It was filled with praise of the lives of faithful and holy men and women who at the end of their lives stood firmly against brutal, persecuting religion and state officials ignorant of the Bible.

With exception of its beginning, which lauded Emperor Constantine for ending the blood-bathed reign of his brother Diocletian (when in actuality he acted purely self-interestedly and allowed the church leaders’ intrigue to subtly overthrow the political status of the hedonistic atheists in order to take their place of political power), the succeeding accounts of persecutions and martyrdom provide an inside view of the battle the gospel had against Satan’s wrath-filled error and superstition and self-indulgence.

In declaring and praising the faithfulness of Reformation heroes the danger exists of creating another pantheon, that of Protestant saints and martyrs to be worshiped. Notwithstanding, the record is clear from other sources, that the church of Rome was a corrupt, ruthless enemy of all true peace and civility and righteousness. Satan used this system to enslave the souls of men by force or subterfuge. The Catholic Mass was and is still Satan’s giant counterfeit, his replacement for the once-for-all great propitiation to God by Christ for us.

In His sacrifice of His own self, who alone pleased the Father perfectly, we can find acceptance and peace with God. We have redemption alone through Christ's eternal love for us, and our reckless hatred for Him which caused the Father to finish His Son’s destruction after we did what we could to kill Him, together with Satan and his hosts doing all they could to tempt the Son of God to give up His redeeming love for us. The Mass sidesteps the gospel through glorifying a priest’s supposed power, through senseless mummery, to supernaturally reincarnate the Son of God, not into the image of fallen man, but into a morsel of bread.

Even more subtle, and thus more deceptive, it is called faith to believe this “mysterious” magic trick; whereas Bible faith means simple trusting in a friend, that is a Friend in heaven, who sends His Holy Spirit upon us like a kiss. True faith comes with hearts knit together in love; faith is our response to grace. Gracious love, from whatever source, human or divine, appeals to us and we trust our new friend and benefactor forever. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.” (Jn. 10:17-29).

It is not “faith” to simply believe in something mysterious and unexplainable. If that were so, believing in ghosts and the world of spiritualism would qualify as faith. Transubstantiation and the Mass are substitutes for the gospel; and like Jeroboam’s temples to Baal, providing easy alternative instead of reliving the infinite self-sacrifice of God’s Son which alone can break our heart and self-will, sweeping away our pride and congenital bitterness and wrath.

We retain our natural born bitterness unless we receive the transforming effect of the dying Lamb of God, the tormented tranquility of the perfect Prince of peace, suffering the cost of our corruption in sin and rebellion. Without our drawing near to God and receiving His Holy Spirit through the expiring Victim on Calvary, we continue in pride and selfishness, hurtful and vengeful.

This substitute religion, correctly called a religion but falsely called a church, leaves the fallen nature unredeemed and fully capable of persecuting. It was just such a religious substitution as was Cain’s offering, which left him so insanely bitter that murder was the natural product. We see it in all the cruelty and wickedness of the Canaanite nations surrounding Israel. We see it in Israel after their return from Babylon, but with a religious twist. The Jews had abandoned the barbaric practices of ancient Canaan, but had lost the truth of God’s grace from Moses and the prophets. Thus they became full of force and cruelty. Ez. 34:4. What do we see differently throughout mainline Christianity’s history after the passing of the apostolic church?

The human is born basically evil, not basically good. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:
Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:
Their feet are swift to shed blood:
Destruction and misery are in their ways:
And the way of peace have they not known:
There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Rom. 3:10-18).

Through innocent-looking, holy-sounding false religion Satan always works ingeniously to perpetuate the evils of our nature. “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” (Heb. 12:15).

Offered in the papal substitute for the apostles’ gospel, which is heaven’s cure for our bitterness and rebellion, false worship brings forth every evil work: envying and strife; a devilish genius, ready to destroy those who cross its self-seeking inclinations; sensuality, physically and intellectually; “all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Rom. 1:29-32); “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.” (Gal. 5:19-21)”.

The substitute gospel leaves our old corrupt nature intact, untouched, and unchanged, but the true worship and true religion baptizes us with fire and water, and produces “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” (Gal. 5:22,23). The counterfeit “gendereth to bondage.” (Gal. 4:24). The original makes us free, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” (1Tim. 2:2). “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (Jn. 8:36).