Wednesday, May 9, 2012

John Wycliffe: Biblical Teachings, Not Human

England and Wales c. 1400AD

Background Check:
In the early years of the church, education of children was based on the Scriptures and prayer.  As the church became more accustomed to the Greek way of thinking, they adapted the Greek “university” form of education.  This involved studying brilliant men called philosophers and studying their books.  The Scriptures were secondary to what men taught about the Scriptures and the ideas and thoughts of men.  No one understood the Scriptures for what they said by themselves. The teachers at the universities wore expensive robes and everyone spoke Latin, not the language of the people.  Colleges and universities taught priests and lawyers their trade, but these trades were only for the wealthy and highly educated.

His Story:
John Wycliffe was a professor at Oxford University.  Wycliffe was a serious student of the Bible, and he felt that the church and the university should follow what the Bible said, especially the teachings of Jesus.  When Jesus said that the word of God had not come to the educated and important, Wycliffe listened and began to wear peasant’s clothing instead of the usual rich robes.  And when Jesus said that his followers were “little ones” or unimportant people, Wycliffe listened and he decided to teach the Bible to people who didn’t know Latin or were wealthy.  And he also decided that he would begin a translation of the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into English—which had never been done before.

     From these teachings, some of the people Wycliffe taught felt that they should preach the gospel and also speak against the injustices of the English government.  These preachers were called Lombards.  They stirred the people up, and some of the peasants decided to revolt against the English government.  This rebellion caused a small civil war in England, but it was stopped by the English soldiers and the peasants were put back in their place. 

     Wycliffe, however, continued to teach the Bible for what it said, not what other teachers thought it should say.  He wrote a book about the Lord’s supper, opposing the idea that the bread and wine transformed into literal flesh and blood.  He also opposed many other views of his day, on the basis of the authority of Jesus and the Bible alone.


Jesus took his own word very seriously.  He made it clear that if people didn’t obey his word, that they could not be pleasing to God.  And he also said that His words would never fail—they would certainly be kept forever.  Jesus also wanted people to interpret God’s word through his teaching.  This is what John Wycliffe was about.  Jesus was pleased at how Wycliffe was serious about Jesus’ word and he was willing to sacrifice himself to teach it and do it. 

The Final Word (of men)
     Some people claimed that the war was all Wycliffe’s fault—even though he spoke against it when it came up.  The rulers in England listened to those who hated Wycliffe and his teaching and they arranged for him to be dismissed from his teaching in Oxford.  By the end of his life, he was forced to stop teaching and leave Oxford.  His reputation was destroyed and no one would learn from him.  He died a few years after in a small town outside of Oxford.  After he died, his teachings were banned in England and in all of Europe, his books were burned and his body was dug up and burned.  All because he was more interested in following what the Bible said than following the traditions of men.

A Word From Our Sponsor
The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed.  The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?" And He said to them, "Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. 'BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.'  "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men."  He was also saying to them, "You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. "For Moses said, 'HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER'; and, 'HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER, IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH'; but you say, 'If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),' you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother;  thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that."  Mark 7:1-14

Heaven and earth may pass away, but my word will never pass away.  Matthew 24:35

Helpful Hint: Giving Up This Life for the Next
Let’s face it, the lives of most of these Faithful were miserable.  They were beaten, imprisoned, rejected, wanderers without a home, enslaved, threatened and many of them were killed.  Being a Faithful one isn’t necessarily a fun job, nor does it have many extra benefits.  And none of them would gain a good rate on life insurance.  But these faithful weren’t looking for benefits on earth or the rewards of this age.  Rather, they looked to God for everything and knew that their real reward would be in the age to come—the kingdom of God.  Peter Waldo gave up all he had so that he would gain treasure in heaven.  Martin Luther wasn’t looking for assurance from men of his salvation, but from God.  Jim Elliot was looking for God’s life, not his own.  They all knew that to gain one’s own life in God’s kingdom, the life in this age had to be given up.  And they were all willing to do that for Jesus.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Francis of Assisi: Giving Oneself for the Poor

Background Check:
The Roman Church was very concerned about the "heretical" Waldensian movement, begun by Peter Waldo.  In Southern Europe, the Waldensians were becoming an alternative to the Roman Church and were becoming more and more directly opposed to that church.  At first, the Roman Church sent armies out to physically destroy the Waldensians, but that only made the movement stronger.  So they appointed a man named Dominicus to train people to practice “evangelism” to the Waldensians.  And they were also looking for someone else to lead an alternative movement for those who wished to live in voluntary poverty.

His Story:
Francis was the son of a wealthy businessman in who sold cloth in Assisi, Italy.  As a youth, he would sing and dance and go to parties as often as he could.  He was taken to war as a soldier and held prisoner for a year.  During that time, he had a powerful experience with God and determined to follow Jesus. 

As he was praying in a broken-down chapel outside of Assisi, Francis heard the voice of God say, “Rebuild my temple, which is broken down.” After hearing this word, Francis took all the money he had to buy stones and mortar to rebuild the little chapel.  When he found that he did not have enough resources, he began to take his fathers cloth and sell it without his father knowing, in order to get what he needed to rebuild the temple.  When his father found out about this, he was furious. 

He took his son to court, and accused him of theft.  Standing before the church magistrate, Francis told him of his dedication to Christ and what God told him in the temple.  His father accused him again of being a lazy, incompetent son.  Francis looked at the witnesses in the court and said, “I am no longer the son of Bernardone, but instead I entrust myself wholly to God.  I renounce everything that my earthly father ever gave me and I believe my heavenly father will provide.”  With that, Francis stripped all of his clothes off and left them in a pile on the floor of the court, standing completely naked.  The bishop quickly covered him and allowed him to stay in the little chapel he had been rebuilding.

     Francis would regularly stop by a church and read the words of Jesus.  At one point he read that Jesus did not have a place to lay his head.  So he determined that Jesus was a beggar, asking for his daily bread, so Francis did the same.  But what he received he never kept only for himself.  Rather, in obedience to Jesus, he would share with the poor whatever he had.  He always determined to give to those who had less than he did. When some men gathered around him to follow him, he told them to sell all they had and to give to the poor, to be humble and poor like Jesus was.

Francis would always give everything he had to those who were needy.  He preached the gospel to those who could not hear it.  Because he believed that the animals were our brothers in creation, Francis would preach to birds and wolves, encouraging them to praise God.  If he received a coat, if he saw a beggar who did not have one, he gave it away.

It is not enough for the Faithful to obey God and serve Jesus alone.  Rather, they led others to serve Him as well.  The Faithful inspired many to dedicate themselves to Jesus, to be like the Faithful.  This is how we often know about the Faithful—not by their works or their speech, but because of those who sought to be like them.  Paul started churches.  Anthony began a movement of monks.  Peter Waldo began the Waldensian movement.  Francis began the Franciscans.  As we will see, Michael Sattler began the Anabaptists.  Ignatius began the Jesuits.  And George Fox began the Quakers.  And on and on.  It is not enough to have a personal relationship with God.  We need to lead others to do the same.  And if we inspire others to follow Jesus because of our lives, then we will be called one of the Faithful as well.

Jesus loved Francis and spoke to him often.  Francis was able to do some miracles because of his sacrifices.  Jesus loved Francis because Francis loved Jesus so much and took him at his word.  However, Francis also misunderstood much of what Jesus said.  He was not a scholar, but a simple believer.  And for that, even though he made many mistakes, Jesus blessed Francis.

The Final Word (of men)
Francis became the most beloved Christian of his day.  He refused to judge others, and so he was seen as a living saint, while not demanding that everyone live his life.  Eventually his order, the Franciscans, wandered from pure poverty, and Francis resigned from leadership of the order.  By the time he died, he had received from the Lord the stigmata, marks on his hands and feet, indicating unity with Jesus’ suffering.

     Stories of Francis in the 12- and 1300s became as common as comic books today.  Everyone knew about Francis’ super-human spirituality.  Many Franciscan monks rejected the order Francis started and began their own, based on Francis’ words and life.  They were called the Spirituali and they were condemned as heretics by the orthodox church for condemning that church as wealthy and arrogant.  The Spirituali eventually were all killed off.  But the Franciscan order developed into three orders, which still exist today.

A Word From Our Sponsor:
Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys.  Luke 12:33

Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.  Luke 14:31-33

Helpful Hint: Inspiring Others to Follow Jesus

It is not enough for the Faithful to obey God and serve Jesus alone.  Rather, they led others to serve Him as well.  The Faithful inspired many to dedicate themselves to Jesus, to be like the Faithful.  This is how we often know about the Faithful—not by their works or their speech, but because of those who sought to be like them.  Paul started churches.  Anthony began a movement of monks.  Peter Waldo began the Waldensian movement.  Francis began the Franciscans.  As we will see, Michael Sattler began the Anabaptists.  Ignatius began the Jesuits.  And George Fox began the Quakers.  And on and on.  It is not enough to have a personal relationship with God.  We need to lead others to do the same.  And if we inspire others to follow Jesus because of our lives, then we will be called one of the Faithful as well.

Check it Out:

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Peter Waldo: Teaching Poor Preachers

Background Check:

Over the years, the church of Christ changed.  Instead of a persecuted minority, it became the ruling majority in Europe.  The church had armies and kings who would fight in support of the church.  But the church also supported the wars Christians had with each other.  Instead of looking at the words of Jesus, the church focused on the rulers of the church as the ultimate authorities.  It was these rulers who taught them the truth, and the Bible wasn’t something anyone used in their daily Christian lives.  In fact, the Bible was not even written in a language that most people could understand, but only in Latin, a language only the educated knew.  Instead of preparing for the return of Jesus or listening to the Spirit, they built huge buildings and focused on the material things of this world.

His Story:
     In the 1100s there was a wealthy businessman named Peter Waldo (his last name could also be pronounced Valdes).  He was a firm believer in Jesus and wanted to do all he could to obey him.  So he asked a monk to translate the words of Jesus into a language Peter could understand.  The monk did so, and so the book called Sentences was completed.  Peter studied this book day and night, amazed at the teaching of Jesus.
     After studying the teaching of Jesus for years, Peter determined that he needed to obey Jesus.  He sold his possessions, sold his business, provided all his resources for the poor and began to preach the word of Jesus. Immediately, some of the leaders of the church were upset with him.  They tried to stop him from preaching, saying that only the appointed bishops could preach God’s word.  They tried to find all the copies of the Sentences and burn them.  They even killed the monk who translated the Sentences for Peter. 
     However, they could do nothing to stop Peter Waldo, who gathered more and more followers.  These followers were called Waldensians.  These followers were made up of the poor and women who were taught the words of Jesus and then sent out to preach them.  The Waldensians taught that Jesus said we are to sell our possessions and give to the poor.  They taught the Sermon on the Mount.  They taught that the poor are not to be despised but accepted as brothers.  They taught that the Bible should be followed, not human authority.

Jesus was pleased with Peter, for Peter was acting as a true disciple of Jesus.  He sat and listened to Jesus’ words.  He obeyed these words even when it was difficult for his life.  He openly spoke of Jesus’ words.  He suffered persecution for Jesus.  And he did what Jesus himself did: Jesus himself selected the poor and uneducated to be preachers.  In this age, there was probably no better follower of Jesus than Peter Waldo.

 The Final Word
The Waldensians grew from a tiny movement to one that filled all of Europe.  Eventually, the persecution against the Waldensians became so great that whole armies were sent out against them and thousands were killed.  It was illegal to be a Waldensian all over Europe.  However, the Waldensian movement survived and exists today in Italy.  They have since joined with the Methodist church.

A Word From Our Sponsor:
The Lord appointed seventy and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. “Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace be to this house.' If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' “  Luke 10:1-9

Helpful Hint: Help the Poor
Every time the faithful saw someone in needy, they thought about what God wanted them to do.  The answer they always received was to give.  And when they gave, they were not stingy.  They gave up everything.  Peter Waldo sacrificed all of his wealth and gave it to the poor.  As we shall see, Francis of Assisi would take every cloak he received and gave it to someone who had none.  Desmond Tutu would invite people to live with him who had no where else to go.  To love God, the faithful must also love those around them.  No one can remain faithful to God if they don’t sacrifice what they have to those in need.

Patrick of Ireland: Sharing the Gospel with Enemies

Background Check:

     Europe in the fifth century was a chaotic time.  The city of Rome had been sacked by Germanic tribes and all of Western Europe was in disarray.  Vikings from the North and Huns from the East came in to attack the peoples there and they often left as quickly as they came.  Many people were taken as slaves and no central government existed to protect large groups of people.

His Story:
Patrick was a young Christian of 12 who lived in England, when his family was attacked by a group of Irish marauders.  They burned his house, stole his goods and took Patrick as a slave to Ireland.  He worked as a shepherd for six years until he escaped and, with the help of a ship’s captain, returned back to England. 
     In England again, Patrick long remembered his days in Ireland.  He remembered his anger and the injustice he suffered.  He remembered the people, who were little more than barbarians.  But he also realized that much of their roughness and evil ways is due to the fact that no one in Ireland had the gospel.  They didn’t know anything about Jesus.  And so Patrick made the decision that he would return to Ireland, and tell the people there about Jesus.  And he prayed constantly for the people of Ireland, that they might come to know the Lord.
     Patrick went to a missionary “school”—which was actually a monastery—for years and then he was ready to go.  However, the church in England was reluctant to send Patrick because he didn’t know Latin—the language of the church and the educated at the time.  But when their other choice suddenly became sick, Patrick was the only one to send to Ireland, and so Patrick was chosen to go.

Jesus and the Holy Spirit put their own approval on Patrick by allowing him to work miracles—such as finding food when he and a group of travelers were starving after Patrick prayed. (The snake story is just a myth-- Ireland never did have snakes) Patrick did just what Jesus said—he loved his enemies, he preached the gospel to those who did not know it, he made disciples of Jesus wherever he went.  It did take him years of maturity to get to maturity in obedience to Jesus, but for Jesus it was worth the wait.

The Final Word (of men)
     At first when Patrick taught the gospel, he was rejected by the people.  But he remained with these rough people and became their friend.  Over time they listened to the story of Jesus and realized that their peace could come from no other than him.  Soon, hundreds and then thousands of people would flock to listen to Patrick tell about the gospel.  By the time Patrick died, in 461, almost all of Ireland had been baptized and they were now sending missionaries, instead of marauders across the sea to spread the gospel to others.
     Patrick and a few others began a new kind of Christianity—Celtic Christianity.  It remains to this day distinct from Roman, Orthodox and Protestant Christianity, but it is still a great example of a community of Jesus.

A Word From Our Sponsor:
But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
Luke 6:27-28

Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 10:26-27, 32

Helpful Hint: Loving Your Enemies 
God's heroes love their enemies, which is radical enough.  But even more than that, they follow Jesus’ example in forgiving their enemies and seeking to reconcile with them.  Patrick made it his life goal to go back to the people who enslaved them and to bring them the gospel.  As we will see later, Peter Waldo sought to reconcile with the Roman Church, even though they were attacking his group.  Elizabeth Elliot went back to the very tribe that killed her husband in order to bring them the gospel.  Desmond Tutu sought to have the persecuting whites confess their sins and be pardoned.  The forgiveness they gave was personal and complete—not just a half-hearted “it’s alright.”  They laid down their lives to be reconciled with their enemies.

Check It Out—
Patrick (a novel) by Stephen Lawhead

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Antony: Separation From the World

Background Check:
In the late 200s and early 300s, in many places of the Roman Empire, Christians were being arrested for their faith. But Anthony lived in Alexandria, Egypt, which was a great Christian city in that time. There was preaching of the gospel every day, the Lord’s supper every day and you could walk down the street and talk openly with other Christians about the faith. It was an open place where Christians had freedom to express themselves.

His Story:
Anthony saw Alexandria as a city of decadence and worldliness. Christians not only went to church, they also went to the theatre and the gymnasium where actors and atheletes performed nude in public. Many Christians were as involved in secular philosophy as they were in the truth of Christ. And there were many who were involved in sexual immorality and gossip.

Anthony decided that he could no longer live in such a corrupt atmosphere and be able to be pure before Christ. He knew of some people who lived apart from any worldly people. He learned from them how to pray and fast and so become spiritually strong. At first, he lived within the city, but in cemetaries, where no one else lived.

Finally, to be more separated, he left Alexandria and went out to live in the desert. He ate grasshoppers and small plants and wore rough clothing, like John the Baptist. He also found that in the wilderness there were demons ready to attack him. He spent much time in fasting and prayer overcoming the temptations and attacks of demons.

Even though he lived alone, he had visitors. They were rare to begin with, and Anthony was at first afraid that they would interrupt his time alone with God or tempt him to compromise his standards. However, he remembered Jesus’ command to be hospitable to his brothers, so Anthony welcomed them and gave them something to eat and a place to sleep. He found that the visitors didn’t disturb him, but most of them wanted to learn from him how to live a godly life.

Jesus was also deeply concerned with purity. He told people that it was better to cut off a hand or leg than to disobey God—now he didn’t mean this literally (otherwise every Christian would be missing a limb!), but he did mean that we have to separate ourselves from everything that makes us disobey God. This could mean our friends or certain places that causes us to sin. Jesus was as serious about purity as Anthony was.
But if Jesus was counseling Anthony, he probably would have encouraged him in another area as well: evangelism and fellowship. Anthony was serious about loving God, but loving his neighbor is just as important. We need to remain as pure as we can, but we shouldn’t separate ourselves from everyone we know. Some people still need to hear the gospel, and we need the encouragement of other Christians as well.

A Word From Our Sponsor:
"If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” Mark 9:43-48

The Final Word (of Men):
After spending years in the desert alone, his determination to live in purity became well known, especially in Alexandria, but in other cities as well. In order to accomplish this for themselves, others also decided to live in the desert. In the desert, they learned about the importance of prayer, discipline and hospitality. The group of followers of Anthony were later called “the Desert Fathers.” Anthony and the Desert Fathers became the inspiration of the monastic movement throughout Christianity.

Helpful Hint: Hating what God Hates
Sin is anything that is hateful to God. And to the faithful, whatever God hates, they hate. If there is any portion of their life that God is displeased with, they destroyed it. While sometimes they didn’t always understand what it was that God hated, they were faithful to do what He wanted. As we will see, Therese got rid of her pride and self-interest. Menno got rid of his laziness. Patrick got rid of his bitterness. And Ignatius got rid of his worldliness. They knew that sin was not consistent with a life faithful to God and they did all they could to repent.

Check It Out:
Anthony of Alexandria by Athenatius
The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers
Christian History: Antony of Egypt

Montanus: Listening To The Spirit

Background Check:
Early in the Church’s history, they were speaking about Jesus and the church was growing. But not everyone was happy about this—Jews and pagan priests wanted the church to be stopped. Even the Roman government, led by Caesar who was the empire’s lord and god, did not want the church to be in competition with the Empire. In many places in the Roman empire, Christians suffered under the Romans. There were rumors that Christians ate people and drank blood. And they did not acknowledge the gods that the Romans worshipped. So the Romans arrested and killed any Christian who did not renounce Christ.
This was very difficult for many gatherings of Christians throughout the empire. Most congregations of Christians were able to stay together because they strictly obeyed their leaders, whom they called Overseers. They gave these Overseers complete say over what they believed, how they acted and how they responded to authorities.

His Story:
In one province, Phrygia, the persecution was especially heavy in 172. The Phrygians did not trust authorities or those who oppressed others. So they did not want to establish an Overseer over them to tell them what to do. Nor did they want other Overseers from other congregations tell them what to do. But who should lead the congregations? Montanus, a man in the Phrygian church said, “We must not listen to men, but to God. Let us listen to the Holy Spirit and He will lead us rightly.” And so they began to listen to the Spirit and to do what He said. They would see visions, have dreams from God, speak in strange, unknown tongues and say words that came directly from God.

However, Montanus and his followers were not always easy to listen to. They did crazy things and said even crazier things. People thought they were raving and that they talked like madmen. And they did sometimes say things that were opposed to Scripture. But Montanus did hear the Spirit of God and desired to follow him alone.

In this way, Montanus reliance on the Spirit was in line with Jesus’ teachings. Jesus told his followers to listen to God’s Spirit and to trust what the Spirit had to say. Paul also told his churches not to “quench the Spirit” but to listen to those who had messages from the Spirit. The early church leaders forgot about this part of the teaching of Jesus.

But Montanus himself forgot some of the teaching as well. Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit would remind the believers of what Jesus had said and would be in line with Jesus’ teaching. Paul and John both taught that the spirits of prophets should be tested to make sure that they are of God’s Spirit, and that they weren’t being decieved. Paul also said that a particular prophecy had to agree with the rest of the church. Montanus himself prophesied some future events that never happened. Thus, sometimes he and his followers did not speak for the Spirit. They needed to be tested, but not rejected.

The Final Word (of Men):
Over time, the Christians outside of Phygia decided that the Montanists were heretics—not teachers of the true faith—and rejected them and their teaching. From that time, anyone who wanted to listen to the Spirit and say what the Spirit said was rejected as a heretic.

A Word From Our Sponsor:
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. John 14:26

I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. John 16:12-14

Helpful Hint: Listening to the Spirit, not men
The Faithful were those who focused on God in Jesus—on his word, on his life and on what he was telling to them right at the moment through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit taught them the Bible and told them what they were to say. And if men’s teachings disagreed with them, the Faithful didn’t care. What Jesus said and what the Spirit taught them was more important. Montanus spoke the visions and prophecies the Spirit gave him, even if he is rejected by the rest of the church. As we will see in later chapters, George Fox was thrown in prison for teaching what the Spirit taught him and Hudson Taylor focused on what the Spirit was telling him, not on the traditions of men. What the Spirit says is more important than human reasoning and belief. So the Faithful listen to the Spirit and obey Him.

Paul: Jesus is the Only Lord

Background Check:
Israel in the first century was extremely complicated. The Jewish people were those who lived in Israel and they were very strict about their religion. They believed that God was coming to change the world and to put his righteous people in charge. But there were different ideas of who these righteous people were: Some thought that they were people who made sacrifices in the Jewish temple. Others thought that it was those who followed certain commands of Moses strictly—such as not working on the Sabbath and following certain festivals. Then Jesus came and his followers were named Christians. The Christians believed that they needed to simply follow and obey Jesus and to take up his cross and that they would be righteous before God. But many people disagreed with the Christians and hated them for their teaching.

His Story:
Saul was a man who hated Christians. He despised them because he believed that they were teaching things that were tearing down his belief, Judaism—believing in the temples and in the commands of God from Moses. He hated Christians so badly that he got permission from the rulers of Judaism to arrest Christians and have them killed by the authorities in a town called Damascus. On his way to Damascus, Paul was stopped by a vision from God. There was a great spiritual power in his vision who said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul didn’t know who this great power was so he asked, “Who are you, Lord?” And the power answered, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” The vision stopped, but Saul couldn’t see. His servants took him to Damascus and there a Christian named Annias healed him and baptized him. Saul renamed himself Paul and began to teach that Jesus was the Son of God, especially to the Gentiles, those who were not born under Judaism.

Paul went all over Asia Minor and Europe teaching that Jesus is the way to God for everyone—Jew and Gentile. Sometimes teachers would follow him and say, “You obey the commands of Moses to follow Jesus.” Paul spoke very strongly—“Don’t return back under the slavery of the Law of Moses! Jesus set us free to follow him alone!” Sometimes people would be angry or act in sin and Paul would say to them, “Don’t think the way you did before you were a Christian! Jesus set you free—don’t act like a slave of other gods who don’t love!” Paul wanted every Christian to have faith and to act like Jesus. To act like someone else is to be under their authority.

Because of his teaching, Paul was often arrested and beat up. He was arrested in the temple of God and held as a prisoner for many years. Eventually Paul proclaimed the gospel to the ruler of the world, Nero. Nero had Paul beheaded for teaching about Jesus.

A Word From Our Sponsor:
The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. Matthew 6:22-24

In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him."
 John 14:6-7

Helpful Hint: Nothing But Jesus
These faithful were faithful simply because they had dedicated themselves to Jesus and nothing would stand in their way. They wanted what God wanted to give them and knew that only following Jesus would get it for them. They wanted God’s truth, God’s life, God’s joy, God’s blessing—and all of that came through living in Jesus. Everything else seemed like garbage to them—all the earthly popularity, wealth, comforts. They could have had anything they wanted and they chose Jesus. Francis ran his father’s business, but gave it all away for Jesus. Paul was an important rabbi, but he gave it all up for Jesus. Ignatius was gaining glory in the court, but he determined it was pointless without Jesus. Jim Elliot could have done anything he wanted—but he wanted nothing but Jesus. All of these people were great, not because of what they achieved but because they achieved nothing but Jesus.

Check It Out:
The Acts Of the Apostles by Luke
Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free by F.F. Bruce