Reformation Day!

Reformation Day!

Original Intent, Individual Dignity, and Freedom of Conscience

–By Daniel Sheridan (Audio Version Here)

Martin Luther, a Catholic Priest, became convinced that certain practices and beliefs of his Church were errors that stealthily crept in throughout previous centuries. He put his concerns, his “95 Theses,” in writing and posted them on the door of the Wittenberg Church, on October 31, 1517, intending to spark a debate among Church leaders. Contrary to his wishes, the theses were translated and dispersed among the common people causing great agitation among the masses.

In those days, the Church and state were joined at the hip; the doctrines of the Church were state-enforced. The king, nobles, and clergy ran everything, while ordinary people, who were in the majority, were oppressed. It was a top-down fixed system.

At first, Luther didn’t want to leave his beloved Church; he wanted to reform it. But the rulers of the powerful Church-State system didn’t want reform. The Pope expelled Luther on January 3, 1521, for his writings. Three months later, on April 17, Luther was summoned to either renounce or reaffirm his beliefs at the Diet of Worms, which had been in session since January 28. Appearing before the august crowd consisting of the religious hierarchy, nobles, and the king, they asked Luther if he was willing to renounce the teachings contained on a table stacked with copies of his writings. Luther, perplexed over this tactic, requested time to think about his answer. Granted an extension, Luther prayed, consulted with friends, and then presented himself before the Diet the next day.

Luther was asked again if he was willing to retract those writings. He apologized for the harsh tone of many of his works but declared that he couldn’t reject the teachings they contained. He respectfully, but boldly stated:

“Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”

This statement was the seed of a future society based on liberty of conscience; it marked a turning point in European History. By respectfully declaring that the Church had no authority to enforce a belief, Luther was not only challenging the Church but the Civil Government as well.

Luther wasn’t asking for much. He simply wanted, nay pleaded with, the leaders to convince him through persuasion and reason, not force, that he was wrong. He was willing to admit his error if presented with evidence and sound reasoning. The hierarchy, however, wasn’t interested in reason.

On May 25, 1521, the Diet of Worms ended when Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, issues the Edict of Worms declaring Martin Luther, an outlaw.
The Reformation was underway.

Luther and his followers dispensed with many practices they felt were contrary to the original intent of Scripture. Luther held that the individual approaches God directly through Jesus Christ without the need of any human intermediary. Thus, in the spirit of the Renaissance, the individual was emerging from the massive, top-down, hierarchical, corporate religious structure.

The Reformation didn’t bring total religious freedom, but it was a huge first step in that direction. Original intent, individual dignity, and freedom of conscience are the principles which emerged out of the Reformation. Europeans brought these ideals to the American Colonies, shaped them to their American experience, and slowly improved them over time.

Americans of all colors and creeds are today guaranteed complete liberty of conscience and individual rights. We are also sticklers when it comes to original intent when interpreting and applying our Constitution, our laws, and even our Bibles. In America, tyrannical overlords, both political and religious, were ousted over time. We have abolished slavery and enforced religion.

What other reforms do we still need to implement? May God grant us the wisdom to discern and the virtue to pursue the changes needed in our day. Let us never stop reforming because “reproofs of instruction,” wrote the wise King Solomon, “are the way of life.”

Luther’s Bible

Luther’s Bible – By Daniel Sheridan #Bible #SuccessfulSavior #Love #Joy #Peace
 
Images of Luther throughout the world portray him as an imposing figure with Bible in hand. Luther’s greatest accomplishment was making the Bible readable by all the people in the world, not just the elite. Luther grew up in a time when virtually nobody read the Bible, it only existed in Latin as translation into common tongues was outlawed. But the people were so hungry for God’s Word that fragments of the Scriptures were translated at great risk to the translators.
 
Luther loved the Bible because he believed it gave him the very thing he longed for – forgiveness of his sins from the resurrected Jesus Christ. Luther suffered from severe anxiety and depression because he was terrified of orthodox teaching concerning eternal damnation. Through study of the Scriptures he found out that God wasn’t angry with him, that God was a merciful God who loves, forgives, and gives life to sinners. This is why Luther wanted everyone to have access to this life-saving book.
 
—Luther’s New Testament
 
Luther was excommunicated by Leo the 10th in 1521, a year later Emperor Charles the Fifth banned him from the Holy Roman Empire. Duke Frederick the Wise, to keep him safe, kidnapped Luther to the Wartburg Castle. Luther, while there, translated the New Testament in eleven weeks. It was called the September Testament because it was published in September, 1522. Luther relied on Erasmus’ text and annotations for this translation.
 
—Luther’s Old Testament
 
Luther also translated the Old Testament from the Masoretic Hebrew text – it was called Masoretic because the Masoretes, tenth century Jewish scribes and scholars, inserted vowels into the Hebrew text. Luther’s decision to return to the Masoretic text was a monumental decision.
 
Hebrew was spoken among Jews, a people who were socially, economically, and politically marginalized. Few institutions offered Hebrew, so Luther learned the language and spoke with converted Jews about Hebrew and associated customs because he wanted the best translation possible. Luther completed the Old Testament translation in 1534 after twelve years of labor, and he spent the rest of his life perfecting this work. This translation differed from the Vulgate and Septuagint as it did not include certain additions to the text contained in these versions, the Apocrypha for example.
 
Luther’s translation changed everything about the way people read, think, and act. Luther’s ideas still influence how we see ourselves and our world.
 
Without this work, people like us would not have been able to search the Scriptures and find out that Jesus Christ is truly a #SuccessfulSavior!  

Envy: The Great Enemy of the Universe Conquered By Love

Envy: The Great Enemy of the Universe Conquered By Love – By Daniel Sheridan #Love #Joy #Peace #SuccessfulSavior #Bible #Jesus

Alexander Pope wrote,

“All human virtue, to its latest breath
Finds envy never conquer’d, but by death.”

Envy, according to Webster, means pain, uneasiness, mortification or discontent excited by the sight of another’s superiority or success, accompanied with some degree of hatred or malignity, and often or usually with a desire or an effort to depreciate the person, and with pleasure in seeing him depressed. Envy springs from pride, ambition or love, mortified that another has obtained what one has a strong desire to possess.

Pope’s words are confirmed by history. Envy is one of the worst vices to plague the universe.

Because of envy Satan fell.
Because of envy Adam sinned.
Because of envy Cain killed Abel.
Because of envy Esau hated his brother Jacob and planned on murdering him.
Because of envy Joseph’s brothers sold him into bondage.
Because of envy Moses’ countrymen rejected him saying, “Wilt thou reign over us?”
Because of envy Miriam was smitten with leprosy.
Because of envy Dathan and Abiram went down alive into the pit.
Because of envy Saul persecuted David.
Because of envy the religious leaders delivered up our Lord Jesus to death.
Because of envy the Apostles were persecuted.
Because of envy the false Apostles tried to win over Paul’s converts.

Envy and strife brought sin and death into the world, have overthrown great cities, rooted up mighty nations, corrupted commerce, dissolved organizations, poisoned the work-place environment, broken-up families, and ruined individual lives and reputations. “For where envying and strife is,” says the Apostle James, “there is confusion and every evil work.” Envy, according to King Solomon, is “the rottenness of the bones.”

But there is a cure for envy – only one.

Love, according to the Apostle Paul, “envieth not.” Adam Clarke, commenting on this passage, says love is “not grieved because another possesses a greater portion of earthly, intellectual, or spiritual blessings. Those who have this pure love rejoice as much at the happiness, the honor, and comfort of others, as they can do in their own. They are ever willing that others should be preferred before them.” Paul also says, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor.” Romans 13:10.

God is Love. Love is defined by giving, for God so loved the world that He gave…” God is the great giver because God is love.

“Love suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth…”

Who are we to extend love to?

“And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men…” 1 Thess. 3:12

God is love. God is the Savior of all Mankind. God loves all mankind. We are told to be imitators of God. Let us, therefore, conquer envy with love – love for all mankind.

Envy will be vanquished by love.

Love wins!

Jesus Saves!

Jesus Shall Save Mankind And His Environment – By Daniel Sheridan #SuccessfulSavior #Jesus #Bible #Love #Joy #Peace

Jesus’ very name means Savior. “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for HE SHALL SAVE…” We believe that He lives up to His name. The Lord Jesus Christ will not fail in saving humanity; He is a SUCCESSFUL Savior, not a POTENTIAL Savior.

Jesus is the Savior of the World, “for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.” The world includes mankind and his environment. Jesus isn’t a POTENTIAL Savior of the world; He IS THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD.

Jesus came into the world to save sinners. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” Christ didn’t come into the world to give people the POTENTIAL to be saved, or give them the OPPORTUNITY to be saved – He came to SAVE them – period.

Jesus does all the Saving; the world and its inhabitants do all the being saved. This is our Lord’s great errand – to make an atonement for, and to destroy, sin and its consequences. He is the Savior of all mankind, ESPECIALLY of those who believe, not EXCLUSIVELY. Less than this is not the Gospel, and less than this is no Gospel at all. The perfection of the Gospel system is not that it makes allowances for sin, but that it makes an atonement for it: not that it tolerates sin, but that it destroys it. Sin and death will be abolished, not perpetuated.

This is the mission of Jesus.

There’s Nobody Like Jesus…Nobody!

Who would not shrink from the attempt to describe the moral character of Jesus, or, having attempted it, be not dissatisfied with the result? Who can empty the ocean into a bucket? Who (we may ask with Lavater) “can paint the glory of the rising sun with a charcoal?” No artist’s ideal comes up to the reality in this case, though his ideals may surpass every other reality.

Jesus, with the same nature as ours and tempted as we are, never yielded to temptation; never had cause for regretting any thought, word, or action; he never needed pardon, or conversion, or reform; he never fell out of harmony with his heavenly Father. His whole life was one unbroken act of self-consecration to the glory of God and the eternal welfare of his fellow-men.

A catalogue of virtues and graces, however complete, would give us but a mechanical view. It is the spotless purity and sinlessness of Jesus as acknowledged by friend and foe; it is the even harmony and symmetry of all graces, of love to God and love to man, of dignity and humility of strength and tenderness, of greatness and simplicity, of self-control and submission, of active and passive virtue; it is, in one word, the absolute perfection which raises his character high above the reach of all other men and makes it an exception to a universal rule, a moral miracle in history. It is idle to institute comparisons with saints and sages, ancient or modern. Even the infidel Rousseau was forced to exclaim: “If Socrates lived and died like a sage, Jesus lived and died like a God.” Here is more than the starry heaven above us, and the moral law within us, which filled the soul of Kant with ever-growing reverence and awe. Here is the holy of holies of humanity, here is the very gate of heaven.

—Excerpts from Schaff’s History of the Christian Church, Volume 1.

Odium Generis Humani

Odium Generis Humani (hatred for the human race) – By Daniel Sheridan
 
“Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3
 
God called Abram to bring the light of the true and living God to the nations under the cruel bondage of idolatry – to bless, or exalt them out of that darkness. They weren’t to look on the nations as inferiors, but as a mission field. But something happened.
 
“To the outside observer the Jews at that time of our Lord were the most religious people on earth…Never was a nation so ruled by the written law of God; never did a nation so carefully and scrupulously study its sacred books, and pay greater reverence to its priests and teachers. The leaders of the nation looked with horror and contempt upon the unclean, uncircumcised Gentiles, and confirmed the people in their spiritual pride and conceit. No wonder that the Romans charged the Jews with the odium generis humani (hatred for the human race). Yet, after all, this intense religiosity was but a shadow of true religion. It was a praying corpse rather than a living body.”
 
“Alas! the Christian Church in some ages and sections presents a similar sad spectacle of the deceptive form of godliness without its power. The rabbinical learning and piety bore the same relation to the living oracles of God as sophistic scholasticism to Scriptural theology, and Jesuitical casuistry to Christian ethics. The Rabbis spent all their energies in “fencing” the law so as to make it inaccessible. They analyzed it to death. They surrounded it with so many hair-splitting distinctions and refinements that the people could not see the forest for the trees or the roof for the tiles, and mistook the shell for the kernel.  Thus they made void the Word of God by the traditions of men. A slavish formalism and mechanical ritualism was substituted for spiritual piety, an ostentatious sanctimoniousness for holiness of character, scrupulous casuistry for genuine morality, the killing letter for the life-giving spirit, and the temple of God was turned into a house of merchandise.”
 
The leaders of our Lord’s day knew full well that they had the reputation of being haters of humanity; this should have smitten the conscience of every follower of the true and living God. But they only doubled down on their hatred. The Jews, for instance, had no dealings with the Samaritans, but our Lord, in the true spirit of Genesis 12:1-3, dealt with them beautifully. As a result, the whole town confessed Jesus as the Savior of the World. See John 4. Jesus was acting like man as God intended man to be – love and light in a dark world.
 
Beloved, what is our reputation to those around us? Do they see us as angry self-righteous people who will have “no dealings” with them? Do they see us as “haters of the human race?” Is our “religion” a sad spectacle? Do we have a form of godliness with no power? Do our words and actions speak otherwise? Do we, by our kind actions and words, attract others to our glorious Savior? Will our neighbors, because of our character, be led to confess that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World? 

What characterizes a person who is universally loved? Excerpts from the First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians

What characterizes a person who is universally loved? One whose faith is as fruitful of virtue as it is firmly established. One who is habitually hospitable, distinguished by humility, more willing to give than to receive, has an insatiable desire for doing good, and who never begrudges any act of human kindness being ready to every good work.

These are encouraging excerpts from chapters One and Two of the First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians. 

“…your venerable and illustrious name, worthy to be universally loved…For who ever dwelt even for a short time among you, and did not find your faith to be as fruitful of virtue as it was firmly established? Who did not proclaim the magnificence of your habitual hospitality? And who did not rejoice over your perfect and well-grounded knowledge? For ye did all things without respect of persons, and walked in the commandments of God…Ye enjoined young men to be of a sober and serious mind; ye instructed your wives to do all things with a blameless, becoming, and pure conscience…Moreover, ye were all distinguished by humility, and were in no respect puffed up with pride, but yielded obedience rather than extorted it, and were more willing to give than to receive…and carefully attending to His words, ye were inwardly filled with His doctrine, and His sufferings were before your eyes. Thus a profound and abundant peace was given to you all, and ye had an insatiable desire for doing good…Day and night ye were anxious for the whole brotherhood…Ye were sincere and uncorrupted, and forgetful of injuries between one another. Every kind of faction and schism was abominable in your sight. Ye mourned over the transgressions of your neighbors: their deficiencies you deemed your own. Ye never grudged any act of kindness, being ‘ready to every good work.’ Adorned by a thoroughly virtuous life, ye did all things in the fear of God. The commandments and ordinances of the Lord were written upon the tablets of your hearts. Every kind of honor and enlargement was bestowed upon you…”

The Credibility of the Four Gospels

The Credibility of the Four Gospels – By Phillip Schaff (Edited by Daniel Sheridan – Twitter: @DanielWSheridan) 

Christianity is a cheerful religion and brings joy and peace from heaven to earth. The New Testament opens with the gospel, that is with the authentic record of the history of all histories, the glad tidings of salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The four canonical Gospels are only variations of the same theme, a fourfold representation of one and the same gospel, animated by the same spirit. They are not full biographies, but only memoirs or a selection of characteristic features of Christ’s life and work as they struck each Evangelist and best suited his purpose and his class of readers. They are not photographs which give only the momentary image in a single attitude, but living pictures from repeated sittings, and reproduce the varied expressions and aspects of Christ’s person.
 
The style is natural, unadorned, straightforward, and objective. Their artless and naïve simplicity resembles the earliest historic records in the Old Testament, and has its peculiar and abiding charm for all classes of people and all degrees of culture. The authors, in noble modesty and self-forgetfulness, suppress their personal views and feelings, retire in worshipful silence before their great subject, and strive to set it forth in all its own unaided power.
 
The Gospels have their common source in the personal intercourse of two of the writers with Christ, and in the oral tradition of the apostles and other eye-witnesses. Plain fishermen of Galilee could not have drawn such a portrait of Jesus if he had not sat for it. It would take more than a Jesus to invent a Jesus. They did not create the divine original, but they faithfully preserved and reproduced it.
 
The symbolical poesy of the church compares them with the four rivers of Paradise, and with the four cherubic representatives of the creation, assigning the man to Matthew, the lion to Mark, the ox to Luke, and the eagle to John.
 
The Gospels make upon every unsophisticated reader the impression of absolute honesty. They tell the story without rhetorical embellishment, without any exclamation of surprise or admiration, without note and comment. They frankly record the weaknesses and failings of the disciples, including themselves, the rebukes which their Master administered to them for their carnal misunderstandings and want of faith, their cowardice and desertion in the most trying hour, their utter despondency after the crucifixion, the ambitious request of John and James, the denial of Peter, the treason of Judas. They dwell even with circumstantial minuteness upon the great sin of the leader of the Twelve, especially the Gospel of Mark, who derived his details no doubt from Peter’s own lips. They conceal nothing, they apologize for nothing, they exaggerate nothing.
 
Their authors are utterly unconcerned about their own fame, and withhold their own name; their sole object is to tell the story of Jesus, which carries its own irresistible force and charm to the heart of every truth-loving reader. The very “discrepancies” in minor details increase confidence and exclude the suspicion of collusion; for it is a generally acknowledged principle in legal evidence that circumstantial variation in the testimony of witnesses confirms their substantial agreement. There is no historical work of ancient times which carries on its very face such a seal of truthfulness as these Gospels.
 
The credibility of the canonical Gospels receives also negative confirmation from the numerous apocryphal Gospels which by their immeasurable inferiority and childishness prove the utter inability of the human imagination, whether orthodox or heterodox, to produce such a character as the historical Jesus of Nazareth.
 
No post-apostolic writers could have composed the canonical Gospels, and the apostles themselves could not have composed them without the inspiration of the spirit of Christ.
 
***The picture above is from the Book of Kells. These are the symbols of the Four Evangelists (Clockwise from top left): a man (Matthew), a lion (Mark), an eagle (John) and an ox (Luke).

The Matthew of the Gospel Bearing His Name

The Matthew of the Gospel Bearing His Name – By Daniel W. Sheridan
 
Matthew, also known as Levi, was a native of Galilee and one of the twelve apostles. When our Lord first met Matthew he was working for the Romans as a publican or tax-collector at Capernaum. Such an occupation implies that Matthew was probably conversant in both Greek and Hebrew as Galilee was bilingual, and this would require him to keep his accounts in both languages – a talent which will be put to greater use when writing his gospel. But this position would most certainly have made Matthew the object of hatred and ridicule by many of his own countrymen as it was thought that only a traitor to his people and one who forsook Messianic hopes would have taken a job such as this with his people’s conquerors.
 
One day, as Matthew sat in his custom house near the seaside, the Savior of the World called Matthew into service. No doubt he made sure the accounts of his business were honestly settled with his employer, and then Matthew gave up that work to serve our Lord Jesus Christ. He retired from service to the Roman Emperor, and became in the employ of the Emperor of the Universe.
 
Matthew, to celebrate his new “career,” held a feast in his home. The Lord and his disciples were invited as well as many of Matthew’s former tax-collecting associates and other characters who were odious to the Pharisees. “We may conceive,” one wrote, “what a joyous banquet that was for Matthew, when he marked the words and acts of Jesus, and stored within his memory the scene and the conversation which he was inspired to write according to his clerkly ability for the instruction of the church in all after ages.”  At this very banquet in the presence of Matthew and the Pharisees, Jesus said “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” These words would have caused the Pharisees to cringe as they in their self-righteousness labeled men like Matthew and his friends sinners. Matthew and his friends, however, would have taken great comfort in those words.
 
This publican’s gospel is the first thing that occupies our attention when we open the New Testament. God, characteristic of His limitless grace, uses a man who was considered a traitor to his own people to write the gospel of the Kingdom of God, of the King of kings, the Sovereign of the Universe, the Savior of Mankind. What a wonderful display of the tenderness of our God! Later, our same God uses Mary Magdalene, from whom Christ expelled many demons, to announce the good news of the resurrection of Christ!
 
Matthew’s gospel is the great link between the Old and New Testaments. Matthew quotes the Old Testament something like sixty times and applies the passages to Christ or current events that were unfolding at the time of our Savior. Messianic prophecy is brought to life with Matthew’s constant refrain, “that it might be fulfilled,” or “then was fulfilled.” The gospel begins with “God with us,” and it ends with “Lo, I am with you alway.”
 
“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”

Faith’s Realm

Faith’s Realm: Mankind and Its Endeavors – By Daniel W. Sheridan (Twitter: @DanielWSheridan)
 
Christianity is intimately associated with scholarship and providing for the general welfare. Faith in Christ always leads to learning and practical living. The history of missions in the far-illustrates this living faith.
 
William Carey, the “Father of Modern Missions,” went to India with the goal of translating the Bible into every Asian language. He wrote grammar books for a number of Asian languages, and Carey’s friends translated Western literature into Asian languages and Asian works into English.
 
Henry Martin carried the gospel to the Hindus and Muslims, established educational institutions, and translated the New Testament into three languages.
 
An Indian Prince wrote this in response:
 
“Where did the English-speaking people get all their intelligence, and energy, and cleverness, and power? It is their Bible that gives it to them. And now they bring it to us and say, ‘This is what raised us. Take it and raise yourselves.’ THEY DO NOT FORCE IT UPON US, as the Mohammedans did the Koran, but they BRING IT IN LOVE, and translate it into our languages, and lay it before us and say, ‘Look at it, read it, examine it, and see if it is not good.’”
 

As a result of Christian missionary work, many languages were committed to writing and Biblical literature was disseminated among the people. Schools were opened, health-care provided, and the status of women was improved.

In China, Robert Morrison created a Chinese dictionary and translated the Bible into Chinese. Historian Kenneth Scott Latourette, in his History of the Expansion of Christianity, noted that prior to 1914 the best High Schools and Colleges were founded by Chinese Christians.

“They pioneered the introduction of Western medicine, in public health and education, and in the creation of medical and nursing professions which would apply the rapidly advancing medical skills of the Occident. They led in the care of the insane and the blind. They engaged in famine relief. They sought to prevent famines by introducing or developing improved methods of agriculture and forestry, ways of fighting plant and animal disease, and increasing the yields of grains and fruits.”

All these activities were the result of the “love of Christ constraining” believers to serve humanity. Biblical faith leads to action. Believers have a life-giving and life-sustaining faith which touches all aspects of life:

 
1. Personal
2. Family
3. Education
4. Literature
5. Medicine
6. Science
7. Welfare
 
The list goes on. There is not a single aspect of life the Savior won’t touch. If He is the Savior of All Mankind, that means He’s the Savior of All Mankind’s endeavors and institutions as well.
 
You don’t need to travel to distant lands, however, to imitate these missionary works. Just give all that you are and have to Christ. Open yours eyes. Look around you. Be sensitively aware of the people around you. There are needs everywhere which we can fill in the name of our awesome, wonderful, and successful Savior of All Mankind!
 
“To know the will of God, we need an open Bible and an open map.” – William Carey
 
You have a Bible, you have your knees, use them! Christ is worth it!