Martin Luther learned a powerful lesson that, when power-hungry, religious people are threatened, they will even use the Scriptures (in his case the Psalms) to assail and assault you.
This should not be a novel insight since the Devil misquoted Psalm 91 in tempting Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:5-6). It is interesting to note that a verse from the Psalms was used to excommunicate Luther from the Roman Catholic Church – Psalm 80:13. This Psalm refers to God’s people as a vineyard that He planted. It grew and became expansive in the earth. Then, people began to take advantage of and abuse His vineyard. The text says, “The boar from the forest ravages it, and all that moves in the field feed on it.”
Pope Leo X prayed “Arise, O Lord, and judge your own cause….Listen to our prayers, for foxes have arisen seeking to destroy the vineyard whose winepress you alone have trod….THE WILD BOAR from the forest seeks to destroy it and every wild beast feeds upon it.”
It is essential that we acknowledge that even those who care and cultivate the Lord’s vineyard are misunderstood and can be vilified. For those in leadership in Christ’s church, we must recognize that sometimes we may be maligned, slandered, and abused in our efforts to bring reformation and revival to Christ’s church. Luther’s life serves as a clear illustration of this reality. Yet for Luther, the Psalms served as a vital source for perseverance in fulfilling his calling and God-ordained mission in life.
Today is the anniversary of John Newton’s conversion. His story demonstrates the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. For, at the helm of that storm-tossed boat on March 21, 1748 was a day Newton remembered for the rest of his life, because:
“On that day the Lord sent from on high and delivered me out of deep waters.”
Many years later, as an old man, Newton wrote in his diary of March 21, 1805:
“Not well able to write; but I endeavor to observe the return of this day with humiliation, prayer, and praise.” Only God’s amazing grace could and would take a rude, profane, slave-trading sailor and transform him into a child of God.”
Newton never ceased to stand in awe of God’s work in his life.
What an unforgettable encounter Pontius Pilate had with Jesus. Do you remember Pilate’s poignant words “Behold the Man” (in Latin, they are translated Ecce Homo). Those words still ring out today. This villainous moment in redemptive history has inspired numerous painters to graphically portray this scene from John 19:5. Furthermore, God has used Pilate’s words for His own redemptive purposing in launching His world-wide missionary endeavor. Here’s one example.
One of these paintings by Domenico Feti was used to convert a young teenager by the name of Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf. He was touring an art museum in Düsseldorf, Germany where he became enthralled with Feti’s painting entitled “Ecce Homo.” It portrayed Jesus with the crown of thorns on his brow with the inscription: “All this have I done for you – Now what will you do for me?” Ludwig was profoundly moved as he sensed Christ himself speaking those words to his heart. He vowed that day to dedicate his life to serve Christ. Count Zinzendorf became the father of one of the greatest missionary movements in Christian history – the Moravians.
“The greatest sin and the deepest despair together cannot baffle the power of Jesus.” These words were spoken by a woman who for a season of her life lived in a suburb of hell… a place of spiritual darkness, rife with all manner of disease, horrendous oppression and death, and all instigated by the one who came and continues to come to kill, steal and destroy.
Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who, along with her family, saved the lives of over 800 Jews by hiding them from the Nazi occupiers in Holland during World War II. She endured her imprisonment at the Ravensbruck concentration camp of the Nazis. Her father, brother, sister, and nephew didn’t survive.
For much of my childhood, I thought there was one missionary…Charlotte (Lottie) Diggs Moon (1840-1912). Much later in my life I learned of her incredible impact in the country of China. Her words that follow highlight her love for the Chinese people: “If I had a thousand lives, I would give them all for the women of China.”
She used her knitting and sewing skills to interest Chinese women in the gospel. She worked tirelessly during her forty years in China and took only three furloughs. She actually died of starvation because she would not eat because the people that she was attempting to reach with the gospel did not have any food to eat.
Her husband died shortly after Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf was born. In her Bible, where she recorded his birth, she wrote:
‘May the Father of mercies rule the heart of this child, so that he may walk honestly and uprightly. May sin never rule over him, and may his feet be steadfast in the Word, then he will be happy for time and eternity.’
He formed the Order of the Grain of Mustard Seed. Their purpose was fourfold: To witness to the power of Jesus Christ, to draw other Christians together in fellowship regardless of their ecclesiastical connections, to help those who were suffering for their faith, and to carry the gospel of Christ to those overseas who had not yet heard. He became the father of the modern Moravian Church.
Count Zinzendorf is best remembered for his beloved hymn, translated into English by John Wesley. Its two most memorable stanzas are mentioned below:
“Jesus, thy blood and righteousness; My beauty are, my glorious dress;
‘Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed, with joy shall I lift up my head.
Oh, let the dead now hear thy voice! Now bid thy banished ones rejoice!
Their beauty this, their glorious dress, Jesus, the Lord our righteousness.
What incredible blessing and good came to God’s church and His world through the ministry of a praying mother!
You may be familiar with the name William Carey (1761-1834), the father of our modern missionary movement. He was the man who said: “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.” This saying was more than a life motto. He did both of these things throughout his life… expecting and attempting great things for God.
Carey was a man whom God used in a mighty way to draw many in India to saving faith in Christ. Most of us are less familiar with his sister, Polly, who touched the world for Christ in a mighty way. She was an invalid and for 52 years she could only do two things apart from eating and sleeping. One was writing. The other was praying.
Friends propped her up and she wrote loving, inspiring, illuminating, encouraging letters to her brother in India. She also prayed daily for him. She prayed for his fellow missionaries. She prayed for the translation of the Word. She prayed for the new converts. She prayed they would grow in favor with God and men. She prayed they would learn how to rejoice in everything. She prayed they would live in forgiveness. She prayed they would be rooted and grounded in love. She prayed all of the prayers God taught her to pray for William and his associates in ministry. As a result of her prayers, great things were done around the world.