We think of the 15th and 16th centuries as a time of great enlightenment and prosperity for the world. Michelangelo, Columbus, DaVinci, and the printing press are just some of the Renaissance Era’s highlights. The world was moving past the barbarism of the Dark Ages. However, not all people groups were enjoying the liberty of this progressive time. Christians were vehemently hated and persecuted for holding fast to beliefs that contradicted the Roman Catholic church.
The Catholic church had buried the Gospel in a mountain of superstition, tradition and abhorrent theology. Relics were worshiped, and services were given in a language (Latin) that the common man didn’t understand. Mediators were placed between God and man. Prayers to Mary and priestly confessions were instituted. The corrupt clergy took money from the poor (selling indulgences) to perform tasks such as giving dead people a ticket out of an imagined purgatory; thus allowing them to enter heaven. Even the supposedly chaste Popes had mistresses and many illegitimate children. All of this was able to happen because the church had stepped away from the truth of Scripture and the people had no access to the Gospel, written or spoken.
It took courageous men like John Wycliffe and Martin Luther to translate Latin Bibles into the languages of the people. John Huss was so outspoken on indulgences that he was burned at the stake. Other notable and persecuted men like Zwingli, Calvin, and Knox, joined the rising tide of educated theologians that believed salvation was by faith alone, through Christ alone, as revealed in Scripture alone. They spoke out about traditions, relics, mediators and works not being necessary to receive God’s free grace. All the people needed was the inspired Word of God to illuminate the truth in their own hearts. The advent of the printing press began to make this possible, and the common man started to possess their own Bibles.
In last week’s blog, “Ripped Out Of Context“, the Scriptures helped us to understand that believers receive an illumination of true Scriptural meaning directly from God when reading His words in the Bible. Pastor Wilson continues with this thought in “After Darkness – Light“. Here he points out that we, the local church, are also guilty of obscuring the light of God’s inspired words with our behavior.
“[In the church today] there is a pervasive fear of death with no biblical understanding of it, and it fuels idolatry of the dead. It is now becoming pervasive in the church. Nowhere is the light more obscure than in a local Christian church during a funeral. The dead are memorialized, idolized, and canonized. The Holy Word is only tossed in to add some flavor of devotion to the whole thing. ”Pastor Steve Wilson
We have our own 21st-century version of 15th-century darkness. We have relics of praying hands, fish, angel wings and crosses everywhere. Services have lost reverence and are void of the deep things of God. We’ve swung so far from services spoken only in Latin, that we now see preachers in hip clothes giving breathless, pithy sound bites of an anemic Gospel. Instead of seeking out God’s plan and purpose for our lives we (professing believers) take our own shortcuts with mediator-versions of Mary; seeking out psychological relief from skilled counselors and priests.
We’ve abandoned the burning light of the truth that is available between the covers of our Bible. This revealed light is inherently more able to rip apart the human heart, exposing intentions and the real troubles we are in. We either don’t know the value in this kind of soul-cleansing salvation/sanctification, or we’ve never been told it exists. Shame on the pastors who aren’t making this clear. My goodness, what are they in the pulpit for?
In some denominations we have upwardly mobile pastors climbing the corporate ladder of the church. Reaching a certain-size-church, with a certain-size-salary, by a certain year in a pastor’s career, is a for-certain-sign that he/she is “worthy.” In my experience, as a pastor’s child, it meant you were just better at kissing the superintendents’ backside, and you were more gifted at talking your congregation into exceeding their minimal apportionment giving. Pretentious parsonages and preening sycophants definitely didn’t set the stage for much-needed holiness in my childhood, or for the lives of the congregants, that we sadly only had a few years with, before we moved on to the next church (i.e., got a raise).
Rotten Fruit & Dead Cats
Hence, my doubled-over laughter the first time I heard of a little preacher called George Whitefield who was regularly pelted with rotten fruit and dead cats for his fiery itinerate preaching. I couldn’t believe there were men of the cloth that were willing to do this. You can be assured that he and his martyrdom would never have seen “a raise” in my childhood denomination. However, I bet ya’ he and the Apostle Paul are regularly seen swapping persecution stories at the manna-fondu bar in heaven. Come on, you know everything is better with cheese.
“What! Get to heaven on your own strength? Why you might as well try to climb to the moon on a rope of sand!”George Whitefield
Let’s pray for our local churches, elders, and pastors that they work diligently to shepherd us away from the ever-creeping darkness and always toward God’s light.
 1 Peter 4:12
 1 Corinthians 2:12-13