Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Fourth of July!-- America's Reformation and Revival History

Hope you have a great Fourth of July!  While most of us are busy enjoying fireworks or a barbeque or something of that sort, it is important to pause a moment afterwards, hopefully you take a moment to reflect and read a bit here, and think a little bit about what exactly led up to the birth of one of the most unique nations in history.

One angle not talked about much regarding this topic is just how much the Protestant Reformation is tied into the birth of America. The secular "History Channel" recently did a program that declared: “without Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation there would be no America!”  Pretty startling but true words from a secular institution, words that we should take a look at and see the reality of what happened:

At the signing of the declaration of Independence, according to renowned historian Sydney Alhstrom, 75% of the signers of that history-making and trailblazing declaration were of Puritan background, the others were mostly Separatists and Quakers.

All of them: Puritans, Separatists, and Quakers, are products of the Protestant Reformation.  This points to the enormous impact and influence the Protestant Reformation—a movement that Martin Luther unintentionally started when he refused to bow down to men’s traditions, instead choosing to stand firm on the Word of God alone—had upon the very formation of the American Nation.   

The roots can be traced back to the enormous influence of the Word of God.  It was the Bible's very words of grace and mercy in the books of Romans and Galatians that brought Luther into his born-again experience.  This in turn led him to stand against the false teachings of penance and dead works for forgiveness that were taught by the Catholic church which was wedded to the state at that time. 

Luther's struggle with the condemnation he felt under the man-made system of rituals and dead works in the Catholic system led him to throw off the yoke that had been pushing his face down into the mud of condemnation for far to long.   When he finally came into the revelation of God’s grace he threw off that oppressive and tyrannical yoke of medieval Catholicism.  

A great throng throughout Europe who had had enough as well began to do the same.  This revelation of grace found in Scripture was so freeing and life-giving that Luther was thus willing to stand up against the tyranny of his day and speak the truth and he inspired others to do likewise.  He became more than willing to suffer the reproach of men and even face certain death and martyrdom that came with doing so (he was pronounced as a heretic and the church sought to have him put to death but the prince of his region abducted and hid him in a castle to spare his life.) 

In the process of standing up he directly influenced many others to do the same and to stand up for the truth, no matter what the cost, and a great Reformation began to spread throughout Europe. 

This willingness to throw off the yoke of tyrannical oppression followed suit later in the American colonies when they grew tired of the oppression and tyranny of the English monarchy, who wouldn’t even allow them to print a Bible in their own English language.  The first American English language Bible was printed in 1782 by the Congress of the United States after independence had been established.

When Luther took his stand  there was a ripple effect throughout Europe, including in Great Britain.  People like Thomas Cramner (archbishop of Canterbury) who were influenced by Luther began to turn back to the truth of the word of Scripture.  Though Cramner was later martyred for his faith, the Reformation spread throughout Great Britain and other like the Puritans adopted its principles.  In Scotland reformer John Knox also had come into the truth and he directly influenced the thinking of many early American revolutionaries. 

The Reformation in Great Britain spread in many ways and groups like Puritans who wanted to Purify the church were spawned.  The Puritans saw the need to have a life filled with the Spirit and felt tradition bound forms of worship just didn’t cut it.  They were pushed to the fringes of English society.   In time it led to this Protestant group coming to the New World seeking, amongst other things, freedom to worship as they saw fit.

America was discovered by an Italian who was underwritten by the Spanish, with many others like the Dutch and French finding their way here long before the English.  However, it would nevertheless be the English, and more specifically this unlikely group of English Christians known as the Puritans, that would have such an important influence on the formation of the emerging nation.

Though not the first on the scene by any means, it was in fact this large movement of English Puritans that began to come in more and more numbers and form colonies that would have the biggest impact with their Christian ideals, and would eventually have the greatest influence in the creation of a new independent nation.

Early Puritans were unique amongst Protestants in that they saw as essential the need for the work of the Holy Spirit in one’s heart and not just mere Bible knowledge for the head; they were thus known as some of the first “Protestant-Mystics.”

They came, willingly facing starvation, hardship, privation and even death. Why were these English Puritans so ready to suffer in this primitive and undeveloped land where other colonizers had given up and fled for their lives? According to historian Alhstrom it was for a very specific and yet simple reason:  They saw it as their duty to the Great Commission to come and establish the Gospel in this new land.  They saw it as a place they not only wanted to influence, but also where they would have the freedom to worship as they saw fit without the bounds, traditions, controls, and persecution of the Established Church.  

The moniker "Puritan" came from their desire not to be purer or holier than others—popular misconception notwithstanding—but rather it developed from their roots in the Reformation and their desire “to see the church purified from papal pollution of false doctrines and teachings and be brought back to New Testament foundations.”

Indeed their allegiance to the Great Commission caused them to see the New World as their mission field, and so they came and willingly suffered for the establishment of the Gospel in this land. 

America’s foundations have so much of the Christian faith running through them, much more than we have been told by the deceptive institutions of our day, like public schools, whose favorite activity seems to be to rewrite and redact history.   Rewriting history was one of the control tactics of the Communists, by the way, and especially Stalin, who actually said: “If we rewrite history we can control the people.”  Scary to think this what is going on in American public schools and universities in our day.  Stalin’s values have become the status quo as history is re-written in such a way as to expunge the reality of the Christian impact and influence on the history of the American nation.   Can anyone detect Satan’s hand in all this revisionism?

The awesome thing though is that when you just know a bit of what took place you see that “The Kingdom of God”, and “God's Word of Truth”, has impacted the US’s history far more for the good than we could ever imagine.

America not only had those like the Puritans come here early on in direct response to The Great Commission but it also had many revivals in its early days and through its history that set the tone for the foundation of faith that was laid.  These revivals made a huge mark on the early American frontier and set a tone of faith and belief in the truth that shaped the landscape of the early American experience.

Revivals like The Great Awakening and the Cane Ridge Revival shook and shaped things in a massive way.  Revivals have kept sweeping on throughout different periods as well, bringing salvation and the power of God to untold multitudes in the process.  Revivalist Charles Finney experienced a conversion and baptism in the Holy Spirit that led him to go throughout America and see great revival fire spread all over.

We owe a debt of gratitude to the great cloud of witnesses who went before us suffering to establish God's truth and influencing history to do the same.

Have a look at some of these video and audio programs we’ve done when you get a chance, doesn’t all need to be done in one day. In the meantime when you see, or have seen some fireworks, remember God’s fire made it all available.