Friday Thoughts: Inspired by History
I sit here in my office safe and sound in Bellbrook, OH. I'm amazed and grateful as I consider the enormous sacrifice that men of the Allied Forces gave on that fateful day 70 years ago on the beaches of Normandy. No one doubts (save maybe a few) the importance of that landing in those days. We can read story after story outlining, in often brutal detail, the gruesome task of taking the various beaches in France and the long, costly march to Berlin where victory was certainly not inevitable but came nonetheless. We exist as free men and women today because of God's kind and restraining grace through the heroic and selfless acts of myriads of men and women from a number of countries. I am grateful, and I trust you are as well.
Considering huge historical events like D-Day certainly informs us in the present don't they? At least they should. The perspective we receive from history really does help us as we live in our culture today. This, of course, is true no matter if the historical event was a positive or a negative event. We have the opportunity to learn from those who have gone before.
As much as I am amazed and grateful to God for D-Day and the eventual victory over the Axis, I am still more amazed and grateful to God for what is ultimately, and eternally, more significant than even D-Day. As I spent time studying at the Sovereign Grace Pastors College I found that some of my favorite classes focused in on the history of the church. We studied century after century of church history tracking both the spread of the gospel globally as well as the doctrinal clarity and precision that thankfully came as men and women fought for biblical truth - a fight that even sometimes surpassed the brutality of Normandy. Men and women throughout the centuries giving up not only their freedom but their lives. And for what? A country? A principle? An ideology? No. They suffered, bled, and many died because they worked diligently to develop the eternally significant doctrines found in God's word for the sake of the church and the fame of God's name among the nations. They battled against an enemy worse than the Axis powers, an enemy that was out to destroy "faith in God" through hundreds of "sorties" all designed to make biblical truth irrelevant and impotent. And we battle the same enemy today. But we battle that enemy in the power of God with specific, and biblically accurate doctrine that was written systematically for our benefit through the last 2000 years. You see, as I sit in my office I also look around at the books on my shelves and realize the wealth of doctrinal truth I have at my disposal. This is a gift from God through the faithfulness of his people throughout the centuries.
Some of the key means of grace that God has given us through the pens of his people throughout church history are a number of biblically accurate creeds, confessions and catechisms: The Apostle's Creed, The Nicene Creed, The Athanasian Creed, The Heidelberg Catechism, The Belgic Confession, The Westminster Standards, The Canons of Dort. All of these were primarily written to clarify biblical truth and to teach the church true doctrine found in God's word. Secondarily they were written to confront the false teaching that was (and is) always prevalant in the culture. These are all rich, rich documents and I can't encourage you enough to spend time studying them. They are of enormous benefit to us in learning why we believe and what we believe and then, of course, prepare us to confront the challenges of our day.
All that to introduce you to Article 10 of the Belgic Confession. I will, periodically, point to one of the above writings in the hope that we all will be served by words penned in the face of vehement opposition both in and outside the church (sadly, mostly within "the church"). One of the biggest battles in early church history was over who Jesus Christ is. You see, if you get Jesus wrong you get everything wrong and you're without hope in this world. This battle raged on throughout the centuries (and still rages today in a number of different ways) but in the 16th century there was again a need to clarify true doctrine. Listen to this brief explanation of why the "Confessio Belgica" was written:
During the sixteenth century the churches in this country were exposed to the most terrible persecution by the Roman Catholic government. To protest against this cruel oppression, and to prove to the persecutors that the adherents of the Reformed faith were not rebels, as was laid to their charge, but law-abiding citizens who professed the true Christian doctrine according to the Holy Scriptures, de Bräs prepared this confession in the year 1561. In the following year a copy was sent to King Philip II, together with an address in which the petitioners declared that they were ready to obey the government in all lawful things, but that they would "offer their backs to stripes, their tongues to knives, their mouths to gags, and their whole bodies to the fire," rather than deny the truth expressed in this confession. Although the immediate purpose of securing freedom from persecution was not attained, and de Bräs himself fell as one of the many thousands who sealed their faith with their lives, his work has endured and will continue to endure.
I thank God for these "thousands" who "sealed their faith with their lives" for their work has indeed endured to this day as it serves to inform and remind us of the truth of God and his word.
This Sunday we will be rehearsing together, during the service, "Article 10: The Deity of Christ," to both declare what we believe and to remind ourselves of the greatness of our Savior. Here's what it says:
10. That Jesus Christ is true and eternal God
We believe that Jesus Christ, according to his divine nature, is the only begotten Son of God, begotten from eternity, not made nor created (for then he should be a creature), but co-essential and coeternal with the Father, the express image of his person, and the brightness of his glory, equal unto him in all things. He is the Son of God, not only from the time that he assumed our nature, but from all eternity, as these testimonies, when compared together, teach us. Moses says, that God created the world; and John says, that all things were made by that Word, which he calls God. And the apostle says, that God made the worlds by his Son; likewise, that God created all things by Jesus Christ. Therefore it must needs follow, that he, who is called God, the Word, the Son, and Jesus Christ, did exist at that time, when all things were created by him. Therefore the prophet Micah says, His goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. And the apostle: He has neither beginning of days, nor end of life. He therefore is that true, eternal, and almighty God, whom we invoke, worship and serve.
This is Jesus. This is our Savior. The Son of God, the Word, the true eternal God, the Almighty, whom we live for, love, invoke, worship, and serve. May the biblical clarity found in Article 10, by the power of the Holy Spirit inform and inspire lives of devotion to Christ that far surpasses lives of devotion to country (Hebrews 11:13-16).
Looking forward to worshipping our Savior together in a few short days.