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Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 25 - October/November 2008 > A History of the Christian Church - Part Fifteen

A History of the Christian Church

Part Fifteen, by Denis Jenkins

compiled by Denis Jenkins

Title      A History of the Christian Church
Part       Fifteen
Theme   The Christian Reform Church Expands Despite Relentless Persecution In Holland.

This is Part 15 in the series. Parts 1 to 14 can be found at the following links -->  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13 & Part 14.

Menno Simmons, a young Dutchman who was preparing for the priesthood in the Roman Church, believed that studying the Bible brought huge risks of leading a person's mind into heretical doctrines.  Menno Simmons even believed that to study the Bible was a temptation from Satan Himself.

As Christ has endeavoured to reach mankind in the Great War or controversy between good and evil, Satan has used the most sophisticated delusions and part truth to seduce and woo those seriously trying to find the truth of God.  Satan will take the very truths and logic of God and twist it so that it is mostly true but the end conclusion directs away from God's very purpose.  Menno Simmons correctly viewed the truth about Bible study.  It is true that Satan does tempt us to study scripture for the purpose of justifying particular human points of view.  It is true that those who do study the scripture in the spirit of this world or Satan will end up creating viewpoints that are ungodly or heretical.  It is also true that man-made doctrine influenced by the spirit of this world has long-lasting and devastating results.  But what Menno Simmons did not know was that to study the scripture in surrender to the author of the word of God, through the Holy Spirit, was to accept the mind of Christ that can lead us clearly to understanding what the will of God is for us.

But God also had a plan to impress Menno and to lead him in his search for the will of God.  While God does not bring evil on people to serve his purposes, as Satan will have us believe, God does use the horrific results of evil to teach us His lessons.  The Roman Church became particularly oppressive towards reformers in Holland, thus, persecuted many of them to death for seemingly minor reasons.  Infant baptism was held by the Roman Church as the very means through which a person was saved.  The reformers demonstrated from the Bible that baptism was an expression and a witness of a personal choice to follow God.  They also taught that infants were not able to make that decision.  The Roman Church violently disagreed with this interpretation of scripture so therefore made adult rebaptism a crime punishable by death. 

Menno witnessed such a punishment of one who had accepted the belief of rebaptism and had accepted his Lord as a public witness of having made a personal adult decision.  This was a man who was rebaptised by the reformers; beheaded for his will to follow Biblical truth. Menno found it so disturbing that the Roman authorities would take such violent action against a matter so minor in his view.  This drove Menno to scripture for a verification of the Roman church's actions  and to help him understand why a person would lay down their life  for what Menno considered to be such a minor difference in belief.  What Menno discovered in his search of scripture was how Satan takes the Truth of scripture and makes a minor difference that leads completely away from our personal chance of understanding God's real plan for our salvation from the deceptions of this world.  Satan hijacks our minds, placing in it principles that seem right to a man but do not lead to eternal life.  Satan creates counterfeit principles that could almost deceive those who truly desire to follow the real will of God.

Menno Simmons discovered from his scriptural search that repentance and faith are everywhere in scripture required by God as a condition for receiving baptism.  He could see that infant baptism was of little benefit to the individual.  Infant baptism did not witness to those observing the ritual that choice is a part of our salvation.  It does not demonstrate a turning from one life-style to another.  Infant baptism demonstrates the enforcement of the will of another person on the individual; the very character of Satan who imposes his will on mankind continually.  So, Menno Simmons could see that Satan was working through the Roman Church a deception that led people to believe "we do not need to make a personal commitment to be saved", but purely born into the Kingdom of God by the actions of another.  The deception is that as a result of sin entering this world through the actions of Adam and Eve, we are all born into sin.  To move from this condition of sin it is our decision to reach out to the power of God through the Holy Spirit that leads us to repent or change from the way we are and think to receive a new life through accepting the mind of Christ given to us by the comforter, the Holy Spirit.

When Menno Simmons joined the reformers, he could see how the deceptions of Satan were not reserved for the Roman Church alone.  Satan was also using his craft of twisting God's truth amongst the reformers.  He could see that Satan was working hard to discredit the reform movement by raising up fanatics claiming to support the reform movement but promoting seditious and outrageous doctrines recommending violence and insurrection.  Menno could forsee the horrible results which these counterfeit movements would eventually lead.  He opposed the wild schemes of the fanatics.  The result would be that such activity had the potential for Rome to seize onto the activity as lawlessness and therefore give good reason for Rome to regain political, religious and social power.  God tells us that as Christians we are to submit to the civic powers but purely stand in a non violent way against those actions that God will not have us follow.  We are not to fight evil but to model that which is right and good from on high even being faithful to death from modelling that stand. Christ is love and Satan so wants us to show the opposite by tempting us as believers to use violence to support God's principles.

While persecution of the reformers was felt more in Holland than other places in the world, people joined the reformers by the thousands, even though to read the Bible, to speak concerning it, to pray either in secret or publicly, to refrain from bowing to images, or to sing a psalm were all punishable by death at the stake in Holland.  Some died by the sword but most were burnt alive an agonising and slow inhumane death.

Monarchs and authorities could see that no matter how much persecution the people faced, the stronger the reform movement became.  Under the leadership of the Noble William of Orange, he brought freedom of worship to Holland.  William's actions allowed the reformation to enter countries to the North such as Scandinavia peacefully where the people turned from the pomp and ceremony of Rome to the simple worship of God through prayer, surrender to God's spirit and the study of God's word.

We must watch out ourselves, against the diversions of Satan today.  Satan's diversions in the church, today, take many different forms, compared to what was experienced amongst the reformers. Satan does this to disguise his past stamp of involvement.  We are dealing with the arch deceiver who can use seemingly harmless paths of activity that lead in the end to our separation from God.  Deception today could revolve around worship focus that appeals to the basis of human indulgence. We must be on guard when focusing on worship style and the proliferation of musical and theatrical emphasis of our worship, that we do not dilute true worship of God by human inventions to divert from our seeking the Holy Spirit to lead our minds in reflection of his will.  By following down this track of religious entertainment, modern worship can once again be nothing more than the worthless euphoria of the entertainment world replacing the pomp and ceremony of Rome.  Today, fanaticism has been replaced by liberalism.  This has brought worldly and ungodly practices of personal arrogance into  many congregations that has caused many, who struggle in their faith, to believe that religion is hypocritical and leave off serving God altogether.  While Satan's attacks on God's people are different, today, his end purpose is the same and that is to lead people away from God's love or character.

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