One could assume the priority of studying church history for the Christian today is low on the list of importance for many. I agree with the great preacher, Martin Lloyd Jones who said, “My contention is that the Christian should learn from history, that because he is a Christian it is his duty to do so, and he must rouse himself to do so.” Church history should be high on the list alongside theology because it all points to God. To some, history is history, so what’s the point? I would disagree and argue that the Christian can gain so much by understanding the past. Here are four reasons for studying church history. Continue reading
Augustine of Hippo, who stands as a church father of theology, was an intellectual giant whom I must confess I fall short in writing about. He wrote over 100 books, 500 sermons, and 200 letters. Many who read Augustine relate to him because of his rebellious life and the inward struggle with truth. The Bible reminds us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV). Augustine as a new creation was able to look at truth, which he passionately pursued, with new, clear lenses. With a clear look at truth, he saw that truth is found in Christ. He is a world changer—he impacted not just those in North Africa in the 4th century, but so many believers throughout history because his writings have been preserved.
Andrew Murray (1828–1917)
Though Andrew Murray has now been with the Lord 100 years, his life still shows us the closeness one can have with God. The life that he lived is contagious to the believer. Just like an infectious laugh, someone who shows the reality of God’s presence is someone the Christian wants to model after. He penned over two hundred and fifty titles, which include some of his more well-known books, Humility and Abide in Christ. Andrew Murray is a world changer.
I remember being a freshman in high school and receiving as a gift from one my Christian friends a copy of My Utmost for His Highest. At the time of my receiving this devotional, I had no idea of the impact it has had, nor much about the author. Years later, as I come across the different pages from that devotional, I see nuggets of truth to be mined. I see why this devotional has lasted so long. I am thankful for Oswald Chambers and also for his wife and daughter, who transcribed much of his writings.
What is interesting about Oswald Chambers is that he was little known in the Christian world at the time of his life. Over thirty different titles are attributed to him, yet he only penned one in his lifetime. His most famous work, My Utmost for His Highest, which has sold millions of copies and is written in several languages, is really a result of Oswald’s wife, Gertrude (who was called Biddy by friends), and their daughter, Kathleen. Though the impact of Oswald’s work during his life may have been limited (he lived only to 43), he is a world changer as he has impacted many believers with his writings. Continue reading
One of the most colorful and impactful figures who led the Scottish Reformation is John Knox.
It has been said that Martin Luther was the hammer of the Reformation, John Calvin the pen, and John Knox the trumpet. Martyn Lloyd Jones would call Knox the first English Puritan as Knox desired for the church to be pure and would pave the way for puritanism.
This remarkable man may have been somewhat forgotten through the ages as his gravesite is in parking stall #23 of St. Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland.
This defender of truth who fought against religious idolatry in Scotland and England was born in 1514. Knox went to school and was part of Roman Catholicism. It was through his study of John 17, Jesus’ high priestly prayer, that Knox was converted. He was like a sponge absorbing the water of God’s Word. He couldn’t get enough and he devoted himself for over two years to meticulously studying the Bible.
A. W. Tozer (1897-1963)
Every generation seems to have that person who stands out more than the rest. For the early twentieth century, it would seem that person is A. W. Tozer. The Bible gives us a brief story about a man named Enoch. Not much is known about him other than a few verses in the Bible. His life is summed up this way: “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). Though Tozer did not leave this earth like Enoch, we can summarize his life the same way. Tozer walked with God, pursued after God, and then went home to be with God.
Tozer was a pastor, author, editor of The Alliance Witness Magazine, conference speaker, and one who walked with God and knew Him intimately.
A Passion for the Lost
Dwight Lyman Moody has been described by Warren Wiersbe as possibly the most remarkable Christian layman America has produced. He was a pioneer in evangelism and thought outside the box when it came to reaching the lost. His legacy and vision can be seen through history in the lives of evangelists such as Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, and now today Greg Laurie.
He never was ordained nor did he ever have any formal pastoral training. Yet, he was willing to learn and seek counsel from men who were formally trained. God would use a man with very little education to become an administrator over an educational facility, Moody Bible Institute. God would use a man who was not formally ordained or trained to reach a whole generation. God would use a man who came from an unknown family to leave a legacy in so many lives of other men.
I was first introduced to C.S. Lewis not by reading the Chronicles of Narnia, but by reading Mere Christianity as a college student. I received a copy of Mere Christianity from a friend who loved Lewis and was flabbergasted that I was ignorant of this great literary giant. You may be thinking how I could go so long without reading Lewis. I know, I can’t believe it myself either! I didn’t know the riches that would come through reading Lewis. Yes, there are some of his writings that I must take great pains to read and re-read and contemplate over and honestly some still goes over my head. I believe this shows the vastness of Lewis’ abilities as a writer. Though Lewis and his intellect far surpassed anything that I was familiar with at the time, I was intrigued with his use of words to convey deep truths. Lewis, who is so influential today, has had many people look to him for insight and inspiration. His accomplishments cover children’s literature, satire, poetry, apologetics, and Christian living. He is probably one of the most quoted authors today. He is well-read and well-known in so many circles that even secular universities have C. S. Lewis classes where they discuss his writings.
The Gate is Narrow and the Road is Hard
Pastor and spy. One who walked by faith and was part of a conspiracy. A theologian and a martyr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who lived during one of the darkest periods in history, was influential to many and is a world changer.
I first was introduced to Bonhoeffer in my “Jesus and the Gospels” class. One of the books used in that class was The Cost of Discipleship, written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A quote that I remember from that book still is, “Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”
A Life Pursuing Holiness
What our world needs today is not to see more gimmicks or even a good production to appease the masses. They need to see a sincere desire of the pursuit of God. This is the pursuit of holiness and it is attractive when it is genuine. We need more men and women who desire to please God and let that be their example instead of something flashy or what looks good on the screen, such as celebrity Christianity. We need the example of men and women who desire purity and who are displaying what it looks like to be the bride of Christ, to be set apart from the world. We need the example of what it looks like to hate sin and to love God.