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A Dark Night And Two Morning Stars Part 3

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
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June 5, 2023 1:00 am

A Dark Night And Two Morning Stars Part 3

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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June 5, 2023 1:00 am

The corruption of the Roman Catholic Church was spreading. The efforts of John Wycliff, Jan Hus, Erasmus, and Savonarola laid crucial groundwork for a major breakaway yet to come. In this message, Pastor Lutzer draws two lessons from the early Reformers. These men prepared the way for the Gospel to be unearthed from Medieval traditions.

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.

While the Reformation is seen as beginning in 1517 in Martin Luther's Germany, it was built on the earlier efforts of pre-reformers, including John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, Erasmus and Savanna Rolla. Today, the contribution each made in laying crucial groundwork for the major breakaway yet to come. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, the history is complex and we appreciate how you're making the timeline clear for all of us who listen.

You know, Dave, you're absolutely right. There were pre-reformers and Martin Luther, of course, whom we'll talk about later, he stood on the shoulders of those who had gone before him. Of the names that you have mentioned, I want to say a word about John Wycliffe. He lived in England. He spent time translating the Bible into English and then he taught his disciples how to transcribe the Scriptures. This, of course, was before the printing press. And if you go to St. Paul's Cathedral today in London, nearby is the spot where the Bibles were brought and burned.

Fascinating story. And eventually, Wycliffe's bones will be dug up and thrown into a river. All that to mention, I've written a book entitled Rescuing the Gospel. I very briefly lay the groundwork for the Reformation and for a gift of any amount it can be yours.

I want you to listen carefully to this message and at the end, I'm going to be giving you some contact info and why it is that I think it's so necessary for us to understand these events. Huss and his followers defended Wycliffe on many points. Eventually, Huss was condemned by the church and the city of Prague was put under an interdict. Finally, on July 6th, 1415, the day of his burning came.

He was brought into the cathedral where King Sigismund was dressed in full regalia sitting on the throne. The charges against Huss were summarized. He asked if he could defend himself and to clarify, he was told to be quiet. He was asked to stand on a table. He was mocked and cursed. They placed on his head a tall paper crown on which were painted three devils fighting for the possession of his soul. The bishops committed his soul to the devil, he replied, and I committed to the most merciful Jesus Christ. Thereupon, Sigismund asked that he be turned over to the executioners.

On the way to the place of execution, he saw a bonfire of his books. He laughed and told the bystanders not to believe the lies that were being told about him. When he arrived at the place, he knelt and prayed. He, for the last time, was asked whether he would recant and he replied, God is my witness that the evidence against me is false.

I have never thought or preached except with one intention of winning men if possible from their sins. In the truth of the gospel, I have written, taught, and preached and today I will gladly die. They disrobed him, tied his hands behind his back. They bound his neck to the stake with a rusty chain. He commented with a smile that his savior had been bound by a heavier chain. When the fire was lit, Huss began to sing, Christ, thou son of the living God, have mercy on us. Then Christ, thou son of the living God, have mercy on me. He began a prayer he did not finish, for the wind blew the flame into his face and Huss was burned. As many of you know, I have more than simply a passing interest in the Reformation.

And one day my wife and I were actually able to drive to Constance. We went to Europe before the tour group came and we saw the stone upon which Huss is burned. It is there as a memorial on this stone, Huss was burned.

I assume that it is a legitimate identification of the place. Now, that's the end of Huss. In the Czech language, Huss means goose. So before he died, he said, you can cook this goose or you can kill this goose and in a hundred years a swan shall arise. Did you know that a swan is actually a symbol of the Reformation? I have been in the room in which Martin Luther died and on the table there is a swan.

In a hundred years a swan shall arise. Now just think 1415, Huss dies at the stake. A hundred and two years later, 1517, Martin Luther nails his 95 theses at the door of the castle church in Wittenberg. Luther goes to a debate in Leipzig and they accuse him of being a Hussite.

He said no. But during the lunch hour he was able to go to the library there in Leipzig and check out what Huss wrote. They had some of his books. And after checking them out over a period of hours, he said I am an Hussite indeed. Huss spoke against indulgences. He spoke about justification by faith. Luther admitted that he was a Hussite. He also said regarding Huss, they cooked that goose.

And today we still have the expression, don't we? We say, you know, they really cooked his goose. You have Martin Luther to thank for that and John Huss, the goose that was cooked. Oh, the impact of his death. The impact of his death was great and what happened is people began to follow him and then you think about the fact that the reform movements, especially in Bohemia, especially began to gather steam because after all they had a martyr and people were angry with the church putting John Huss to death and burning him at the stake. Well, those are the two morning stars of the Reformation, but I'm not done yet.

I have two more to tell you about. One was Erasmus. Erasmus was the product of a relationship between a nun and a priest. His parents were not married. Brilliant.

Brilliant. He was a humanist, but in a good sense. He remained in the Catholic Church, but he made a great deal of fun about the abuses by fun. I mean, that was his means of ridiculing the church to point out abuses.

He also gave the world a new edition of the Greek New Testament and that Greek New Testament showed that the Latin translations that had been used were wrong. You know, the Latin said do penance for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Do penance for the kingdom of heaven is at hand?

Ah, they looked at the Greek. Repent. Have a penitent heart for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. What a difference that is. So he gave the New Testament a new addition to the world. In fact, you know what historians say? Erasmus laid the egg and Luther hatched it. Now, Luther and Erasmus did not get along.

They never did meet each other. Erasmus wrote a book on the freedom of the will and Luther thundered back by what he believed to be his best book, The Bondage of the Will. I've had the privilege of reading both of those books and writing about that issue. Very interesting indeed. In fact, if you want to know what Erasmus believed, it's a little difficult to find out because he said some weird things along with all of his brilliance.

In fact, Luther said regarding Erasmus, he is an eel. Only God can catch him, he said, and a lot of very uncomplimentary things. One more reformer, Savanarola. We were in Florence a few years ago and we're in the great cathedrals there, but what I wanted to do is to stand where Savanarola was hung. So there in the town square, right beside the fountain, step back about 20 to 30 feet and there's a plaque right in the, where you walk, the town square, it says here Savanarola died. Nobody in Italy wants to remember Savanarola.

Nobody. They say, could we please forget him? Savanarola was an interesting guy, as were all the reformers. He attended and attacked the abuses of corruption. And what he did is they would have carnivals there with all kinds of lewd things.

Don't ask me what those things were, I have no idea. But he began to send boys, he trained boys to run and to find lewd books and all kinds of things that were improper. And then he had a big bonfire, which he called the burning, the bonfire of the vanities.

Now years ago I understand that there was a movie by that title, I never did see the movie, but the bonfire of the vanities, that's Savanarola. And he would make piles of this stuff and burn it and he would preach with such power that 10,000 people would come to hear him at a time. And he preached against the papacy and the corruption and so forth, got in trouble and then claimed to be a prophet, made some predictions that didn't come true and had a really, really bad ending.

You want to hear about it? Okay, here's the deal. The idea arose that in order to prove that he's a true prophet and that he's of God, he should be able to walk through fire and not get burned.

Sort of a crazy idea, but we're living in a day of superstition, okay. So he decides that he's going to take the challenge. He's going to walk through fire. Well, the problem was that people said, oh, you're too important, you're a famous reformer, you shouldn't walk through fire. Here's somebody, here's a Franciscan over here, he's volunteering to walk through the fire for you. So Savanarola agreed that he'd have somebody else walk through the fire for him.

Seemed to be a nice arrangement for him. Then they piled all of this wood together and the crowd was just growing by the moment. The burning was supposed to take place at about noon and people were just crowding.

I mean, it was theater at its best. And here a big argument arose as to whether or not the man who was going to represent Savanarola in walking through the fire, whether or not he could wear the vestments of the clergy, whether or not he could have a cross and so forth to help him. And a huge argument erupted and it wasn't resolved and wouldn't you know it, rain started.

And the whole thing got rained out. People were so angry, after all they had come to see Savanarola burn or become the asbestos kid, one or the other. And they became so angry and they were angry with him because the Pope wanted to have an interdict on their city because of him, that he was later taken and he along with two or three of his friends was beheaded in the town square, right where you can see today, a monument to him on the pavement. Savanarola was hung here.

So many lessons that Savanarola teaches us. For example, he was against the Renaissance. He preached against it. He preached against Michelangelo. He and Michelangelo knew each other.

And Savanarola believed that the Renaissance was essentially sensual because of its nude paintings and the art and so forth. So he took all of that on. He was a great social reformer. Unfortunately, though he understood the gospel with clarity, he did not preach the gospel. It was more of a social reform.

There's maybe a lesson to be learned there. We can clean up America, but if we don't have a gospel that transforms people's hearts, maybe our efforts are going to be wrongheaded because the impact of Savanarola simply did not last. It was not at all like the Reformation under Luther.

A couple of observations. First of all, what these four reformers show us is this, that the church, the medieval church really could not be reformed. And the reason is that whenever you have a reform movement, the church stepped in and squelched it, gave an interdict, put people under pressure, and as a result, you have a situation in which it was so corrupt and so entrenched with power, it was beyond repair. That's why next time we're going to talk about Martin Luther because Martin Luther was willing to do what Savanarola did not, what Erasmus did not. Those two did not want to break with the church at all. Huss is more, he would have been willing to break from the church, but he of course was put to death.

And you have people even like John Wycliffe not really beginning a reform movement independently of the existing church. Luther is going to come along and everything's going to break. Luther is such an interesting guy.

Oh, don't even think about not coming next time. Luther, if you had Luther for lunch, that is to say, if you ate with him, you understand. He would be so delightful. All of the witty things that he would say, I may tell you some of them next time. One other lesson. It's interesting to see that these reformers all had their special emphasis. If you think about Wycliffe, it was on the sufficiency of scripture. If you think about Huss, it was on his doctrine of the church, which I didn't have time to explain tonight. But he basically believed that the church was not just everybody who was baptized and grew up in a certain geographical area, that the church was the elect.

The church belonged to the people of God. And then you have Erasmus, his emphasis was more on the intellectual humanist side of things. And then you think of Savanarola, his was social reform. So you have here, and there were other pre-reformers to Peter Waldo and so forth.

We won't talk about that. But the thing is that what you have is these streams flowing already and cracks were appearing in the medieval church and its monopoly on people's souls. So when Luther comes to nail his 95 theses to the castle church door, you've already got all of these movements underground that are just ready for reform, that I'll tell you about next time. Well, do we have any questions?

Sorry that I didn't give you a more ample warning. Did Wycliffe's work lead to Bibles in non-English languages? His translations only dealt with English. But did he inspire others that the Bible might be put in the vernacular?

Absolutely. That's why you have Wycliffe Bible translations. What happened to King Wenceslas guarantee for Hus?

Here's the deal I didn't tell you. It was the Emperor Ziggusmund who told Hus that he would have safe conduct to the council and back. But once Hus came to the council, Ziggusmund argued that he had no reason to keep his word to a heretic. And so as a result, that promise was broken and that's why Luther didn't go to Rome. You know, Luther was promised safe conduct to Rome and Luther said, oh yeah, remember John Hus. And so he did not trust a safe conduct. By the way, I admire anybody who died like a man like John Hus. These guys, their faith was unbelievable. Did you know in France when persecution broke out against the Huguenots, some of those people went to their death singing choruses and songs so loudly that the officials hired drums to drown out the singing of people who went to their death.

Could you die like that? Was Martin Luther anti-Semitic? And by the way, have any of you read my book Hitler's Cross where I deal with that issue?

How could you expect God to bless you if you didn't read Hitler's Cross? In Hitler's Cross, I deal with Hitler but I also have to deal with Luther because Shire in his rise and fall of the Third Reich said that there would not be a Hitler if there had not first been a Luther. Because Luther said some terrible things about the Jews, let us burn their synagogues, let us confiscate their books, let us do these things. So it was Luther anti-Semitic. I quote in my book earlier quotations from Luther which were very kind toward the Jews. He said, how can we expect them to believe our gospel unless we are kind to them? But Luther was very naive. He believed that now that he had uncovered the gospel, he expected the Jews to believe and near the end of his life he became a very bitter angry man and did and said things that are very terrible.

It would have been better frankly if he had died a few years earlier. So that's part of the answer. The other part of the answer is this, Shire is wrong. Luther's antagonism toward the Jews is based on theological reasons. They are the Christ killers. Hitler's was not based on theology at all. It had everything to do with bloodlines. They were not Aryans. And so you have an entirely different basis upon which to persecute the Jews. Some of the things he said about the Jews which Jewish friends always asked me about is terrible and inexcusable.

But let's at least put it in the context of understanding that he did say wonderful things about them, kind things. I'll tell you one more story. In Wittenberg in the church where Luther preached, not the castle church, but the one where he preached to 2000 people and preached the reformation. You go to the back of the church and there where the roof and the wall meets is a Judenzau. In German a Jewish pig.

It's a sandstone pig about this long. And it was put up there in 1306 to commemorate the expulsion of the Jews from Wittenberg in 1306. And then what you have in 1888 is an apology that is there on the surface where you walk.

It says that that thing up there and I'm of course paraphrasing should not have been up there. And it's an apology from the Psalms. Please forgive us for our hatred of the Jews.

Hatred of the Jews was rampant. And Luther of course picked up on that and unfortunately wrote those terrible, terrible things. Thank you so much for being here. I'm going to close in prayer in a few moments, but come next time and we will study the man that I love to study, even though I have some strong disagreements with him, none other than Martin Luther. Let's all stand, shall we? Our father, as we think about those who have gone before us and we think of the sense of deep conviction and tranquility with which they died for the faith, we ask Lord God that you might invigorate us and know that there are some things worth dying for. We think of John Huss. Lord, we admire him today because of his deep, deep conviction.

They said, we're committing your soul to the devil and he said, I'm committing my soul into the hands of God. Give us that confidence, we pray, and may we die well for the sake of Jesus and for the sake of the gospel. In his name we pray. Amen.

Amen. Well, my friend, this is Pastor Luther. When you study the history of the reformation, you realize that there are many who qualify as heroes. At the introduction of this message, I referred to John Wycliffe, who was in England.

He died a natural death, but actually later on his bones were dug up and thrown into the river. Wycliffe taught his followers how to die for the faith because in those days there was no freedom of religion. They had to have their convictions and be willing to die for them. And John Huss, I have to say that I admire him as well, talk about him going to the stake for his faith. Now all that to set the stage eventually for Martin Luther, a story that impacts you today even if you don't realize it. That's why I've written a book entitled Rescuing the Gospel, the Story and the Significance of the Reformation. You might not realize this, but many of the controversies that surrounded the reformation are our controversies too.

What a difference it makes when theology begins to impact people's lives, when they begin to understand the gospel and even such teaching as the priesthood of the believer. Now for a gift of any amount, this book can be yours. Simply go to That's or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. This 200-page book comes with pictures.

It will give you the history of the reformation in a very readable form, but also you'll understand the transformation that we are involved in today because of what happened back then. Have us a call at 1-888-218-9337 or go to You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Next time on Running to Win, more on the early days of Martin Luther, days that laid the groundwork for his monumental rediscovery of the gospel.

It was lying in plain sight in the Old and New Testaments. Make plans to join us as the reformation then and now continues. Thanks for listening. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-05 02:25:30 / 2023-06-05 02:34:08 / 9

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