Martin Luther, as God’s chosen instrument, changed the course of history in 1517. Luther is credited for starting the Protestant Reformation, but many joined the cause. Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley were compelled to return the gospel of Christ to a matter of the heart and away from a practice of ceremony. Both of these men served as bishops in England during the mid-1500’s. Latimer and Ridley longed for the Church to return to a true worship of Christ, and they felt that in order for this to happen, the Bible needed to be translated into English so the “common” man could read the Scriptures for himself.
These men walked with the Lord and were diligent ministers of the gospel. It was said of Latimer that “his diligence was so great, his preaching so mighty, the manner of his teaching so zealous, that there, in like sort, he could not escape without enemies.” These men were viciously attacked by fellow bishops and friars. They were repeatedly called into question by their peers, and they were eventually arrested (mostly because they refused to adhere to the Six Articles which primarily had to do with transubstantiation – which these men vehemently opposed), and they were eventually sentenced to death by Queen Mary.
And in October of 1555, they were to be burned at the stake. Latimer and Ridley fixed their eyes on Jesus. They had some understanding that their deaths would produce the results they had longed to see in England. While both were being tied to their respective stakes and the wood was being piled around them, Latimer spoke to his friend, “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” Moments later, both men would be dead, and their martyrdom would spark their fellow Protestants to greater faithfulness.
October 31, 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of Luther’s initial act of the Reformation. The question is this: what has happened to the Reformers? Or rather, why does the American church seem to have lost the kind of faith the Reformers possessed?
The answer: compromise. This is a word that Luther, Latimer, and Ridley would have never considered. They sensed that there was much at stake, and they were right. Yet, for the past few decades, the American church has done exactly this – compromised. Our corporate compromise is the sum of our individual compromise. We want the world to listen to our Truth about homosexuality, yet we are devouring pornography and divorcing our spouses at the same rate as unbelievers. We want to speak out about racism, yet our pews are monotone. We have compromised God’s glory for temporal ease and comfort.
Where is Latimer in 2017?
Where is Ridley in the American church?
The solution is not to consider the waywardness of our culture, but rather, consider the wickedness in our own hearts. We need to ask these questions: am I repenting of my racism? Am I repenting of my sexual immorality? Where do I seek comfort rather than conforming to God’s word? Am I willing to die, take up my cross, and follow Jesus?
It is Christ in you, the hope of glory, that is able to give you faith to overcome compromise. It is the Holy Spirit who gives courage to stand and strength to persevere. Being enamored with Jesus is the only way we will kill our compromise. Go to Christ, repent, and be faithful. Stoke the fire that Latimer and Ridley started over 460 years ago.