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Thursday morning dawned bright and beautiful as the congregation gathered in the Amphitheater for morning worship. The day’s presentations came under the heading of “The Great Reformers and Themes of the Sixteenth Century."
Like Wednesday, there were many meetings, with people choosing between two options as concurrent sessions were held in two different locations. There was a lot of beautiful special music, and the congregational singing was very wonderful.
Speaking to the congregation for morning worship in the Amphitheater, Elder Masahiko Matsumoto referred to Proverbs 14:12: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” He told a story of violinist whose son told him, “When you die, I will put your violin in your grave with you.”
The father became very angry at this idea, explaining that the violin had been made with the very best technology 100 years before and that others needed to inherit the instrument after his death. It cost several hundred thousand dollars. The son then agreed that he would not put it in the grave.
To some people in Japan this is a beautiful story, as if the father could play the instrument in heaven. This is because there people worship spirits; they even make a meal for the dead, believing that the spirits return.
Foolish thinking leads to death, as the wise man said. But there are other foolish ideas. Democracy–rule by the majority–seems to have benefits, and even the church decides many things in this way. But history shows that this has also produced a lot of evil, as in Pilate’s case in Matthew 27:24. The majority is not always right, and great intelligence is not always just. In fact, very intelligent people made the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. Anything that is done that is not God’s will is evil.
God’s people are always in the minority, and church and Adventist history show that. God will be His people’s refuge. And let us be reminded that on the universal scale, His people actually have a huge majority. They are willing to suffer persecution and disappointment so they can be part of the heavenly kingdom through their walk with Jesus.
CASIODORO DE REINA–THE GREAT REFORMER OF SPAIN
As presented by Pastor Danilo Lopez Monterroso, Casiodoro de Reina followed behind Martin Luther in Germany. The question was asked, “Why were there such great reformers at this time in history?” Amos 3:7 says, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets.” It was time for the darkness to be dispelled, and the light that would bring that about was the translation of the sacred Scriptures into the languages of the people.
Everything is under God’s control and part of prophecy, and the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century related to the prophecy of Revelation 11:3, concerning the two olive trees. God has a special truth for His people in every age, and light comes from His word. The darkness became more intense, and the holy Scriptures were almost unknown by both clergy and people. At the same time, science, art, and civilization made very little advance progress. But God did not allow His word to be destroyed. In different countries, He led men to find, open, and study the Scriptures. Then they were compelled by God’s Spirit to translate them into the languages of the people.
This was the case in Spain. Casiodoro de Reina, a monk in a monastery, who came in contact with the Lutherans and was part of Jerome’s movement. His translation, known because of its cover as the Bear Bible, was the first in the Castilian language. He was ordained in 1562 in England and also wrote a book against the Inquisition.
Where did these faithful men get their faith? Above all, they taught faith in Jesus, the marvelous center of the Holy Scriptures. When the Bible was being persecuted, people were eager to have it; but Satan changed his tactics. Now there are many Bible and many versions, and often it stays on the shelf unread. We must each take responsibility for our own experience and walk with Christ by studying His word diligently.
SOLA SCRIPTURA (BY SCRIPTURE ALONE)
The first of the five "solas" that came from the time of the Protestant Reformation–Sola Scriptura–was the topic presented by Brother Timo Martin. He gave the examples of Nadab and Abihu, Achan, and Satan to explain that there is no such thing as a small disobedience or a small sin that God regards as unimportant. After all, small things grow to be very big things.
In the case of Achan, even though it was only one man who had gone against what God commanded, His words were: "Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff." Joshua 7:11. The entire Jewish nation was held accountable for what one man had done. No one should think that what he does is of no consequence, no matter how small. Everything has an effect–even an eternal effect–not only on the person but also on all of society and God Himself.
The Bible is full of instructions; indeed, it contains everything necessary for eternal life. All who love it and follow it will receive great blessings. Matthew 6:9-13. After our responsibilities have been carried out, Jesus tells us to go the extra mile. The moral principles encompassed in the ten commandments are required from everyone, but Christ’s righteousness is not only about keeping the commandments. They are also about going the extra mile–loving Him with the entire body, soul, and spirit. That is what Jesus did, and He did it for every person.
God will multiply every loving effort. When Jesus blessed the 5,000 people with food, what did He ask for? He requested everything that the little boy had, and it was enough for the whole multitude. When we give all that we have, God's blessings will follow. Think of the Bible as His love letter to each person. Eternal life is offered and waiting. With faith we can move mountains, and nothing is impossible with God. Let everyone give everything he has and reap everlasting life.
MARTIN LUTHER–THE GREAT REFORMER OF GERMANY
Pastor Daniel Serban brought greetings from Germany, the country of Martin Luther, whose message went around the world. The presentation focused on the turning points and principles in the great reformer’s life. Luther wrote, “The whole being of any Christian is faith and love. Faith brings the person to God; love brings the person to people.” The practical application of faith and love includes three action verbs: Pray, study, and work.
When Luther appeared before the Imperial Diet and the emperor (representatives of church and state) on April 17, 18, 1521, he was calm, peaceful, brave, and noble as he witnessed to the great ones of the nation. He was both spiritual and well educated. The Bible, and the Bible only, was the principle that he and other reformers followed. He unlocked the door from the Dark Ages to a new era, and others helped, including Johann Gutenberg, who developed the first printing press. The first book to be printed on the press was the Luther Bible.
Earlier, his mentor, Staupitz, had urged him to stop tormenting himself and to cast himself into the loving arms of Jesus, his Redeemer. This, and his trip to Rome, where he was struck by the words, “The just shall live by faith,” were powerful experiences that inspired his work.
SOLA FIDE (BY FAITH ALONE)
Many people can give a definition for faith, said Pastor Jose Vicente Giner. But that is not enough. We must study the Bible and believe its words, even if it means giving up the way we’ve believed all our lives. Sometimes the things one holds on to and the way one thinks are actually a sentimental type of faith–only feelings that make a person feel good.
Faith must be based on God's will. Marriages fail because the partners have not consulted God. Christians fail because they do not call on God. Jesus said, "Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven." Matthew 7:21. True, active faith is founded on something solid, so it is sure of things that are to come. This means to believe in things that are not visible. This is not something complicated, but it is based on what is revealed.
If you lose your passport, you have lost your identity. The same is true for the church. What is our identity? Who are we? What are the church's beliefs based on? If we don’t know the answer to these questions, we are in danger of losing our identity. God needs men, women, and children who know who they are in Christ and are willing to defend that identity.
Martin Luther was a man who was used to paying for salvation. But he became a man of joy when he realized that salvation was a gift from God. True faith in God will not allow us to be happy in sin. True faith requires complete obedience to all of God’s commandments, including the fourth. In the last days, many will lose their faith because they did not connect with Jesus Christ and were not interested enough in their salvation to put their heart and soul into it. Let us remain faithful to the end no matter what the cost. Faith is a gift from God. Let us value it, accept the gift of faith that He gives, and develop it for His honor and glory.
JULIANILLO–THE GREAT CANVASSER OF SPAIN
Pastor Alfredo Fisicaro told about Julián Hernandez (nicknamed Julianillo because he was so short), a little man with a hunched back. He wasn’t particularly attractive, strong, or wealthy. He is not even well known among the reformers, but he did a great work for God by secretly distributing Bibles throughout Spain.
Still today, the publishing work requires the dedication and talents of many. Writers, editors, translators, and printers all play important parts in creating literature. But none of this work benefits anyone unless canvassers share these publications far and wide. This is what Julianillo did. Against many odds, he traveled between Switzerland and Spain to smuggle in Bibles right under the noses of the Catholic authorities.
Eventually he was arrested and delivered into the hands of the the Spanish Inquisitors. He was imprisoned and tortured for three years. Many of his bones were broken when his interrogators tried to force him to reveal where he had hidden his Bibles. Finally, he was condemned to burn at the stake. On the day of his execution, Julianillo, the little canvasser, sang hymns to God, grateful for the opportunity to live and die for Him.
SOLA GRATIA (BY GRACE ALONE)
One of the great principles that came out of the Protestant Reformation was the concept of salvation by grace alone. God’s grace is great, as presented by Pastor Anton Tanucsev. This is what was taught as the darkness gave way to the light of the Reformation. There is no everlasting life without God’s grace. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection showed that through faith in Him all can be saved. Never should one deviate from the truth, and all should how to read the holy word.
Everyone lives in an ocean of sin, but the Saviour will forgive all who come to Him and grant them everlasting life. The church is the channel of grace; it is responsible to impart the light to everyone. This is possible as each believer is one with Christ.
We are nearing the end of this world’s history, and there are warning signs all around. If we plead with God to cleanse us, we will not be toxic to anyone but give light and blessing. We are thankful that we still live in the time of grace. Jesus is coming soon as King of kings to claim His own, who will exclaim with joy, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” Isaiah 25:9.
Pastor Arnolfo Cortez presented a summary of the man who was the companion to Martin Luther’s side. Born in 1497, Melanchthon was the first systematic theologian of the Reformation. As such he played a very important role in the religious life of Germany. He was only 12 years old when he entered the University of Heidelberg, studying philosophy, rhetoric, and astronomy/astrology, and became known as a scholar of Greek. Denied the master's degree in 1512 on the grounds of his youth, he went to Tübingen, where he studied jurisprudence, mathematics, and medicine.
After gaining a master's degree in 1516, he began studying theology. He was quick to discern the difference between the law and the gospel. Along with Martin Luther, he called the believers to accept justification by faith and denounced transubstantiation–the idea that the body of Christ is recreated from the bread and wine during the mass–the idea of the immaculate conception, and the church’s assertion that the sacraments have value in one's salvation. They believed that every Christian should know what he believes directly from the Scriptures and hold them above the teachings of men.
Melanchthon formulated the Augsburg Confession of June 25, 1530–a central definitive document of the Reformation. He died in 1560, having been used mightily by the Lord in placing a strong intellectual and Scriptural foundation of faith under the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century.
SOLO CHRISTO (CHRIST ALONE)
Another principle from the Reformation, as presented by Pastor Luis Mestanza, was salvation by Christ alone. God made man in His own image–dignified, intelligent, holy, righteous, and perfect, with love and possessing conditional eternal life. Perfect obedience was expected of the first pair, and they were able to obey; but they lost this ability when they chose to transgress God’s command.
However, Genesis 3:15 showed that the Messiah would step in and make it possible for the first pair to overcome and regain the lost paradise. The system established immediately for man to seek redemption was the sanctuary with all its ceremonies and sacrifices, pointing to Jesus as the Saviour of the world. He would accomplish everything that was necessary not just to forgive man but to remove sin from him, the world, and the entire universe. Then the kingdom of God would be secure forever.
Jesus is man’s Example and Substitute. He is the reserve of perfect obedience, which is required of man. Indeed, each of us has a reserve in heaven of perfect obedience–Jesus Christ. When we surrender to Him and please for His indwelling presence, the Father sees us as if we had never sinned; we are covered with Christ’s righteousness. Our prayers receive the fragrance of His obedience.
First, we have to be forgiven. Then, Jesus’ obedience and death make it possible for us to obey His holy law through His indwelling presence; faith leads to perfect, lasting obedience. There is no merit in anything that man does on his own, but the gospel shows that Jesus is active in us through the Holy Spirit. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12.
THE REFORMATION IN AFRICA
Pastor Parmenas Shirima told what he called “an interesting but sad story” about Africa. In the beginning, this continent was very blessed countries. The Bible records that it received the light of truth. In Ethiopia and all across to the west, the light shone brightly at the beginning.
There was light from heaven during the time of Abraham, and Simon of Cyrene, who was compelled to carry the cross of Jesus, that came from North Africa. After Jesus had ascended, the people in this area were the first to receive the gospel. It is said that King Solomon commissioned the use of wood from Madagascar in building the temple.
Despite such advantages, problems arose. In a Seventh-day Adventist textbook, we read that Africa suffered much, and that must bring sorrow to the heart of God. From a land once favored with the learning and culture of the Pharaohs and the gospel truth from Abraham, Joseph, and the Israelites, it bceame a symbol of spiritual darkness. Christian missions face appalling conditions–animism, fetishism, voodooism, witchcraft, social unjustice…. At the same time. it is a land of many cultures. –The Story of Our Church, p. 289.
The Protestant Reformation propelled Christianity into Africa through European and American missionaries, many of whom gave their lives, including Dr. David Livingstone. What they encountered was heart rending, especially the horrendous slave trade. Adventists entered Africa in the 19th Century, and the Reform Movement pushed into the continent from South Africa in the 20th century. Today, we have a presence in 50 countries, but 15 are still to be entered. Regardless of the country one lives in, the message is the same: True reformation begins with soul cleansing, and now is the time for reformation.
SOLI DEO GLORIA (GLORY TO GOD ALONE)
Pastor German Aldana read Ephesians 3:12 to open his presentation: “Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.” Because of man’s sinful nature, everyone is off balance, seeking to attract people to oneself. Everything in the universe was created by and is for God. No one has anything by himself. Therefore, everything is rightfully for Him; it all belongs to Him.
God understands the sinful human being’s tendency to glorify himself, even when God is the one who has done the work and won the victory. He explained this in Judges 7:2: “And the Lord said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against Me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.” God won the victory with just 300 righteous, humble, brave men.
Jesus said, “I receive not honour from men.” John 5:41. Every time a person is lifted up in pride in himself, he is stealing glory from God, who is higher in power, thought, spirituality, and purity than any created human being can imagine. Everyone who takes glory to himself is making a huge mistake, even taking upon himself the image of the great adversary. As King Nebuchadnezzar learned, “Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and His ways judgment: and those that walk in pride He is able to abase.” Daniel 4:37.
Glory for man’s salvation belongs to God alone; man’s duty is to obey, in which case he will be a blessing to God, to himself, and to everyone around him.
JOHN CALVIN–THE GREAT FRENCH REFORMER
In presenting the life of John Calvin, Pastor Alfredo Ngwenya drew direct parallels between this and other reformers’ lives and what God needs His people to be and do today. Born in 1509, Calvin was educated primarily in law and philosophy. He died of illness in 1564 Concerning his conversion in about 1533, Calvin wrote: “God by a sudden conversion subdued and brought my mind to a teachable frame, which was more hardened in such matters than might have been expected from one at my early period of life. Having thus received some taste and knowledge of true godliness, I was immediately inflamed with so intense a desire to make progress therein, that although I did not altogether leave off other studies, yet I pursued them with less ardor.”
Although circumstances drove him to different places, his efforts were centered in Geneva, Switzerland, where he ministered especially to French refugees. He communicated with other Reformers, such as Philip Melanchthon, Theodore Beza, and William Farel. A very committed preacher, from 1541 onward he conducted services every day, devoting attention to the Old Testament, and then on Sundays he preached from the New Testament in the morning and the Psalms in the afternoon.
He believed that man was created in God’s image, which has been marred by the fall, although not totally destroyed, and that man is totally unable to seek or choose God unless God chooses him first. Indeed, no man can come to God on his own. All who believe in Jesus and follow His guidance will do that which pleases God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH
Pastor Lauro Vasconcelos read Philippians 2:12 as he began his presentation of this fundamental truth of Scripture: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” And the next verse shows how that is done: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.
God invites every human being to raise his sights and look on high. What is justification? It is the grace that makes man a friend of God. Man tries to obtain peace through his own efforts; but Martin Luther made it clear that if heaven could be attained by works, he would most certainly would have attained it. But his works only made him more desperate.
Adam was created in God’s image. But choosing to sin, Adam could give his offspring only that which he had–a sinful nature. We are all born with this and can do nothing about it by ourselves. Brother Vasconcelos gave the example that, no matter what, a pig will always be a pig–never be a dog, even if it is treated like one. Man naturally is without God, does not understand God, and has no knowledge of God. In fact, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. Mark 7:21, 22.
But man can hear the voice of Jesus and fall into His loving arms, accepting the righteousness that He will give. Jesus in man’s works gives them value, so they are His works, not man’s.
THEODORE BEZA–HERO OF THE FAITH
Pastor Yapci Trujillo provided a glimpse of this reformer’s life, particularly his spiritual side. It is clear that today the world needs men and women like him.
Born into the upper class of Sixteenth Century France in 1519, Beza died in 1605. He was renowned as a poet and had a degree in law that was granted August 11, 1539. The reformers of the Sixteenth Century were virtually all well educated and had a great deal of influence, especially when they were people of means. Beza came from a family of governors–and means.
An illness triggered his search for meaning in life that led him to God. Around this time, John Calvin came into his life, and eventually Beza became Calvin’s right hand. Beza took an interest in the persecuted Waldenses, Huguenots, and other reformers. Furthermore, he prepared what is known as the Beza Codex in Greek. When Calvin died, he became his successor.
Beza understood that the church of God is like an anvil that has worn out many hammers. Founded on Christ, the church needs heroes of faith and men and women who are truly the salt of the earth and ready to reach all different classes of people.
Pastor Sevith Moyo presented the definition of an indulgence: Remission of punishment for sin, granted by the pope or church, from some or all transgression.
Martin Luther fought against the church promising forgiveness of sin through the payment of money or performance of some action mandated by the clergy. The apostle Paul wrote: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17. Salvation is not granted on the basis of one’s works.
Indulgences destroyed souls. Why? Because payment of money to a church for any purpose at all does not change the sinful nature. That change is a miracle performed by God as a free gift when one responds to Heaven's call, recognizes that he is separated from God, repents of the sin that brought about the separation, and under the influence and through the power of the Holy Spirit turns away from sin with abhorrence.
Let God’s people be clear on this point, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.
“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” These words of Jesus are found in Matthew 11:12. Pastor James Mbaka thanked the Lord for the topics that had been presented in the last two days. Whoever pays close attention will receive new thoughts and blessings from these presentations.
What can we do to inherit the kingdom of heaven and have eternal life? This is not a group work but an individual work. Everyone has to pass through many trials, and such trials are not easy. They are guided by God Himself and His Spirit. There are many temptations that must faced–just as Jesus did–and no one will make it without God. The kingdom is gained by force, but Heaven working in many, bringing about repentance, a changed life, and reform. God’s means of purification are trials and persecution, through which the character of God is revealed. The church is purified in the furnace of affliction. It must pass through such trials, through which the patience of the saints is implanted in the soul.
“I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” Jeremiah 17:10. Angels will protect all who trust in God. Right now almost every country is permeated by the spirit of war. We need to want to be separated from sin–to be pure before God. Only through a personal connection with God will anyone endure the time of trouble. “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8.