Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Alderaan? I'm not going to Alderaan. I've got to go home.

One of my heroes is Martin Luther, whom I have previously mentioned. He shares a characteristic with another stalwart of the faith, John Calvin. Both wound up being major players in the Protestant Reformation, but both seemed reluctant.

Luther, you may recall, did not intend to break away from Rome, but was rather excommunicated and called a heretic. After being unwanted and having no potential to bring about reform of the church, his only recourse was to start another one.

William Shakespeare noted that, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

John Calvin would be in the third category. Born in France in 1509, he had humble beginnings, but a brilliant mind. He wrote commentaries on nearly every book of the Bible and at age 27 he published the first edition of his monumental Institutes of the Christian Religion. He wanted only to be a scholar, but was thrust into much more.

While Calvin was passing through Geneva, Farel tried to persuade Calvin to stay and pastor the church and lead the community. Calvin was not particularly interested, so Farel strenuously insisted, saying, “May God condemn your repose, and the calm you seek for study, if before such a great need you withdraw, and refuse your succor and help.”

Calvin caved, later saying, “Terrified by his words, and conscious of my own timidity and cowardice, I gave up my journey and attempted to apply whatever gift I had in defense of my faith.” Calvin went on to be a major cog in the machinery of the Protestant Reformation as a writer, a pastor, and community leader.

You know ...

You may not be the next John Calvin, but consider me your Farel and I am thrusting you into greatness. If you’re a Christian, God has gifted you for His service: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10, ESV)

You may not be great on a national scale, but you can certainly be great in impact in the lives of those with whom you come in contact. You are likely already great in the eyes of your children.

But to be truly great, make an impact on the lives of others to the glory of God.

Like Luther before him, Calvin embraced sola Fide, faith alone, as the “article by which the church stands or falls.” Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ who died for the sin of others and rose again showing God’s satisfaction with that substitutionary sacrifice. Trust in Christ and Christ alone, solus Christus, for a righteousness that comes as a gift for those who believe.

If you have, recognize that you are a child of God, equipped for greatness, even if you have to have that greatness thrust upon you.

Incidentally, being great means being both embraced and rejected. Some will love you. Others will hate you. The following demonstrate the mixed reaction to John Calvin.

“Calvin was one of those strong and consistent men of history who people either liked or disliked, adored or abhorred.” -Lewis W. Spitz, Lutheran Historian

ADORED . . .
“ . . . he was the most Christian man of his age.” -Ernst Renan, French Historian

“The longer I live the clearer does it appear that John Calvin’s system is the nearest to perfection.” -Charles Haddon Spurgeon, English Preacher

“The strength of that heretic consisted in this, that money never had the slightest charm for him. If I had such servants my dominion would extend from sea to sea.” -Pope Pius IV, Roman Pontiff at time of Calvin’s death

“Taking into account all his failings, he must be reckoned as one of the greatest and best of men whom God raised up in the history of Christianity.” -Philip Schaff, Historian

“Few great Christian leaders have suffered quite so much misunderstanding as John Calvin. He has often been dismissed as a theologian without humanity. In fact, the very reverse is much nearer the truth. . . . He was a man of deep and lasting affection, passionately concerned for the cause of Christ in the world; a man who burned himself out for the gospel.” -Banner of Truth Trust

“To omit Calvin from the forces of Western evolution, is to read history with one eye shut.” -Lord John Morley, English Scholar

“The sixteenth century was a great century. It was the century of Raphael and Michelangelo, of Spenser and Shakespeare, of Erasmus and Rabelais, of Copernicus and Galileo, of Luther and Calvin. Of all the figures that gave greatness to this century, none left a more lasting heritage than Calvin.” -Georgia Harkness, Theologian

“Calvin is the man who, next to St. Paul, has done most good to mankind.” William Cunningham, Scottish Theologian

“If Calvin ever wrote anything in favor of religious liberty, it was a typographical error.” -Roland Bainton, Yale Church Historian

[Calvin] “belonged to the ranks of the greatest haters in history.” -Eric Fromm, Author

“Calvin has, I believe, caused untold millions of souls to be damned.” -Jimmy Swaggart, Preacher

“Better with Beza in hell than with Calvin in heaven!” -A saying coined by Calvin’s enemies in Geneva

[Calvin was] “the cruel and the unopposed dictator of Geneva.” -Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church

“The famous Calvin, whom we regard as the Apostle of Geneva, raised himself up to the rank of Pope of the Protestants.” -Voltaire, French Enlightenment Philosopher

“But we shall always find it hard to love the man who darkened the human soul with the most absurd and blasphemous conception of God in all the long and honored history of nonsense.” -Will Durant, Historian

“It was the fact that Calvin’s own character was compulsive-neurotic which transformed the God of Love as experienced and taught by Jesus, into a compulsive character, bearing absolutely diabolical traits in his reprobatory practice.” -Oskar Pfister, Freudian Psychologist
You may not write the Institutes or start a Reformation or even follow old Obi-Wan on some idealistic crusade, but God can still use you for the advancement of His kingdom as His glory fills the earth.

It may be risky to your own greatness in the eyes of some, but a servant of Christ longs to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant," for they drown out all others.


At 22 February, 2007 09:27, Blogger Lance Ward said...

Some encouraging thoughts, esp. to anyone in ministry.


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