Last year I posted a blog that was a challenge to me and maybe others to read more books about theology this year and to really strive to learn as much as possible about our Lord and Savior from the Bible and other sources as well. I started out with Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley. I figured this would be a good place to start, giving me an overall idea about how the church is what it is and, to quote Shelley,” to separate the transient from the permanent, fads from basics.” That is my hope for this book among my readers.
Shelley, Bruce (2008-12-02). Church History in Plain Language: Third Edition (Kindle Locations 154-155). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition. . Little did I know that this book was as long as it is. I started it January 1st and did not anticipate it taking me this long to finish. I didn’t want to rush through it though, so I took my time and tried to commit as much to memory as possible. My original plan was to finish 14 books by the end of the year and while that is still my goal, I have got some catching up to do.
I wanted to share a few of the highlights I made that will hopefully give you something to think about. I also will expound upon a few of them to share what thoughts were running through my brain as I read this.
In reference to Jesus it says, “Little by little his disciples came to see that following him meant saying ‘no’ to the other voices calling for their loyalties. In one sense that was the birth of the Jesus movement. And in that sense, at least, Jesus ‘founded’ the church.”
Could this be any more well-stated? “True philosophy, said Origen, always focuses on the Word, ‘who attracts all irresistibly to himself by his unutterable beauty.'”
Two quotes from John Hus, a Czech Protestant reformer really stuck out to me as how I hope I can view Christ as well. These two quotes influenced me to find a biography of Hus so I can learn more. He said:
“O most holy Christ,” he prayed, “draw me, weak as I am, after Thyself, for if Thou dost not draw us we cannot follow Thee. Strengthen my spirit, that it may be willing. If the flesh is weak, let Thy grace precede us; come between and follow, for without Thee we cannot go for Thy sake to cruel death. Give me a fearless heart, a right faith, a firm hope, a perfect love, that for Thy sake I may lay down my life with patience and joy. Amen.”
“God is my witness that the evidence against me is false. I have never thought nor preached except with the one intention of winning men, if possible, from their sins. In the truth of the gospel I have written, taught, and preached; today I will gladly die.”
My favorite person to read about in the book was Martin Luther, mostly because he spoke his mind and said things like:
“I kept the rule so strictly,” he recalled years later, “that I may say that if ever a monk got to heaven by his sheer monkery, it was I. If I had kept on any longer, I should have killed myself with vigils, prayers, reading, and other work.”
And, “There is a lot to get used to in the first year of marriage,” Luther said later. “One wakes up in the morning and finds a pair of pigtails on the pillow which were not there before.”
This is what I want to talk about today though, in a little more detail than the others.
“Any religion that becomes the religion of the majority and slowly turns into a social habit tends to grow humdrum and flat, regardless of its original glow of enthusiasm. So it proved in many areas of Lutheran Germany.”
I think we are beginning to see this in the US right now and it seems as though in Europe it has been happening for a while. People are moving away from what their parents and grand-parents did because it became a social habit instead of a lively, energetic all-life encompassing movement in their heart. Church became something to do and that’s all. That is why you have a huge number of people in the US saying they are Christian when in reality it is only because they grew up in the church that they say they are Christian. When need to get back to the revival in our nation like the stats below show is happening almost everywhere but Europe and America.
“More Christians worshiped in Anglican churches in Nigeria each week than in all the Episcopal and Anglican churches of Britain, Europe, and North America combined. There were ten times more Assemblies of God members in Latin America than in the United States. There were more Baptists in Congo than in Great Britain. And there were more people in church every Sunday in communist China than in all of Western Europe.”
My next book I am reading is Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin. It might be a long one so we will see how long it takes me to finish that one.
Let me leave you with this thought by the great evangelist George Whitefield. I can add nothing to this, but an Amen!
“Father Abraham, whom have you in heaven? Any Episcopalians? No! Any Presbyterians? No! Any Independents or Methodists? No, no, no! Whom have you there? We don’t know those names here. All who are here are Christians. . . . Oh, is this the case? Then God help us to forget party names and to become Christians in deed and truth.”