Wycliffe & Hus - The Importance of Courageous Ministry Pioneers

Steve Viars March 12, 2017 Numbers 13:-14

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1 Corinthians 10:11 - Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

Numbers 13:2 - …the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel…

3 characteristics of people God uses to lead the accomplishment of His plan

I. Passionate Commitment to the Word of God

A. In the twelve spies

Deuteronomy 1:23-33 - The thing pleased me and I took twelve of your men, one man for each tribe. They turned and went up into the hill country, and came to the valley of Eshcol and spied it out. Then they took some of the fruit of the land in their hands and brought it down to us; and they brought us back a report and said, ‘It is a good land which the Lord our God is about to give us.’ Yet you were not willing to go up, but rebelled against the command of the Lord your God; and you grumbled in your tents and said, ‘Because the Lord hates us, He has brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites to destroy us. ‘Where can we go up? Our brethren have made our hearts melt, saying, “The people are bigger and taller than we; the cities are large and fortified to heaven. And besides, we saw the sons of the Anakim there.” ’ Then I said to you, ‘Do not be shocked, nor fear them. The Lord your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place.’ But for all this, you did not trust the Lord your God, who goes before you on your way, to seek out a place for you to encamp, in fire by night and cloud by day, to show you the way in which you should go.

B. In John Wycliffe (1330 – 1384)

  • Leading pastor and professor in Oxford, England
  • Taught that church leaders who live and rule unjustly are in breach under the terms under which God delegates authority.
  • Suggested that “rather than looking to the pope of his emissaries, one just needed to study the Bible to learn all that was necessary for the Christian life.”
  •  “Wycliffe’s greatest contribution to reform was to popularize the Bible.  In those days, for the most part only Latin translations were available, which was inaccessible to most people; they were kept in churches and read by the clergy, who were supposed to translate the text and teach people its contents.”
  •  “Wycliffe believed that the Scripture was complete—it contained the whole of God’s revelation.  Thus canon law, church tradition, and even the papacy had to be judged by Scripture.”

C. In John Hus (1369 – 1415)

“Like Wycliffe, Hus argued that the Bible alone was the basis for spiritual authority—not the church, not councils, not traditions—and if the Bible is sufficient for spiritual guidance, it should be available to everyone.”

D. In you and me

II. Willingness to Stand Up and Stand Out

A. On the twelve spies

Numbers 14:1-3 - Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! “Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?”

Numbers 14:6 - Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes…

B. John Wycliffe

  • Condemned as a heretic by Pope Gregory XI with 18 bulls (papal decrees)
  • Followers called “Lollards” (mumblers who talked non-sense)
  • Followers cast out of Oxford because of their insistence that “all the church’s teaching and institutions should be tested rigorously against the record of God’s purposes in Scripture.”

C. John Hus

 “I have said that I would not, for a chapel full of gold, recede from the truth…I know that the truth stands and is mighty forever, and abides eternally, with whom there is no respect of persons.”

III. Prepared to Pay Whatever Price is Necessary

A. 12 spies

Numbers 14:10 - But all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Then the glory of the Lord appeared in the tent of meeting to all the sons of Israel.

B. John Wycliffe

  • Condemned to death
  • Because he died of natural causes, the church decided at the Council of Constance thirty years later to exhume his bones and burn them.

C. John Hus

  • Burned at the stake by the church on July 6, 1415

Outlined Manuscript

- thank the Lord for men like Joshua and Caleb, huh?...and please remember what Paul said…”these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come...”…

- and what I’d like to suggest to you now is – God used John Wycliffe and John Hus over 2500 years later to be just like Joshua and Caleb…

- so let’s talk about The Importance of Courageous Ministry Pioneers…and with the time we have remaining...please think with me about 3 characteristics of people God Uses to lead the accomplishment of His plan.

I. Passionate Commitment to the Word of God

- 40 years later, Moses retold this story to the descendants of the 10 spies and those who had not been adults when this sin was committed…along with Joshua and Caleb who were allowed to live to see this day because of their faithfulness…

- and why was that…because Moses was preparing that generation to now enter the promised land and he didn’t want them to repeat the same sin of unbelief as their forefathers…so here’s what he said…

A. In the twelve spies

- Deuteronomy 1:23–33 - The thing pleased me and I took twelve of your men, one man for each tribe. They turned and went up into the hill country, and came to the valley of Eshcol and spied it out. Then they took some of the fruit of the land in their hands and brought it down to us; and they brought us back a report and said, ‘It is a good land which the Lord our God is about to give us.’ Yet you were not willing to go up, but rebelled against the command of the Lord your God; and you grumbled in your tents and said, ‘Because the Lord hates us, He has brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites to destroy us.    ‘Where can we go up? Our brethren have made our hearts melt, saying, “The people are bigger and taller than we; the cities are large and fortified to heaven. And besides, we saw the sons of the Anakim there.” ’ Then I said to you, ‘Do not be shocked, nor fear them. The Lord your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place.’ But for all this, you did not trust the Lord your God, who goes before you on your way, to seek out a place for you to encamp, in fire by night and cloud by day, to show you the way in which you should go.

- did you notice the keys that we underlined?...

- they rebelled against the command of the Lord…

- they did not trust the Lord their God…

- they did not let His Word grip their heart the way it was intended to…

- let’s advance the story 2500 plus years…now it’s the mid-14th century AD…

- you could call the two men we’re talking about this morning – Wycliffe and Hus “pre-reformers”…they lived before Martin Luther…but in many ways set the stage for how God later used Luther…

- and it revolved around this same issue…

B. In John Wycliffe (1330 – 1384)

- at several points this am, I’m going to quickly listing several historical facts – this comes from the five books I recommended at the beginning of the year, especially Erwin Lutzer’s book Rescuing the Gospel…

  • Leading pastor and professor in Oxford, England
  • Taught that church leaders who live and rule unjustly are in breach under the terms under which God delegates authority.
  • Suggested that “rather than looking to the pope of his emissaries, one just needed to study the Bible to learn all that was necessary for the Christian life.”

- it’s hard for us to understand the level of courage it took to take positions like this…

- the clergy were viewed as having a special connection to God which is why they were the only ones who had copies of the Bible…they were the only ones who drank from the cup during the Lord’s Table…they were the ones who had the power to mystically transform the bread and the wine to the body and blood of Christ…

- in others words, they held the key to your salvation…whether what they said and did was a violation of the Word of God or not…

  • “Wycliffe’s greatest contribution to reform was to popularize the Bible.  In those days, for the most part only Latin translations were available, which was inaccessible to most people; they were kept in churches and read by the clergy, who were supposed to translate the text and teach people its contents.”

- remember that all of this was before the invention of the printing press – yet he led people to make hand copies of the Bible in their own language…I mentioned several weeks ago that it took 10 months for a scribe to make one copy of the Bible…yet that’s exactly what they did…

- Lutzer also made this observation…

  • “Wycliffe believed that the Scripture was complete—it contained the whole of God’s revelation.  Thus canon law, church tradition, and even the papacy had to be judged by Scripture.”

- and you and I might say – and that’s what we believe…it’s one thing for us to believe that today…but what about the courage of this ministry pioneer to risk everything because of his commitment to the Word of God…

- that sounds an awful lot like what Caleb and Joshua would have done – our fidelity is to the commands of the Lord our God…we are going to trust what He has said…”

- the same was true of…

C. In John Hus (1369 – 1415)

- what’s amazing about this part of the story is that Hus was from Bohemia…what is essentially modern day Czech Republic

- the connection was that because of political alliances, Czech students were invited to study at Oxford, and they learned about the writings of Wycliffe and carried them back to their country…

- so I’m skipping  lot for sake of time…but Hus began preaching about reformation of the church in Bohemia just like Wycliffe had in England…and it all came down to the Scriptures…

- “Like Wycliffe, Hus argued that the Bible alone was the basis for spiritual authority—not the church, not councils, not traditions—and if the Bible is sufficient for spiritual guidance, it should be available to everyone.”

- that’s what motivates Courageous Ministry Pioneers…a passionate commitment to the Word of God…

D. In you and me.

- can I ask you this – If the Lord wanted to use you to provide leadership in the accomplishment of some aspect of His plan in your family, your neighborhood, your workplace, our church, our community…

- would your habits regarding the Word of God make it more or less likely that you would be prepared for the task?...

- and what specific steps would need to be taken to make that more true in the days ahead?...

- Last Sunday night we began our work on crafting our next 5 year ministry plan…

- we kid about this from time to time – but the truth is, humanly speaking, many of us around here would say that careful, thoughtful, prayer-saturated strategic planning has been one of the keys, humanly speaking, to what the Lord has chosen to do through our church family…

- if you study our current plan, and then compare it to the previous ones…what ties them together in many ways is exactly what we are seeing in Caleb and Joshua and in people like Wycliffe and Hus…

- even in a culture that is moving further and further away from any respect for biblical truth – our church family has said – we want to find as many creative ways as we possibly can to proclaim Christ and His Word whatever the cost…whatever the sacrifice…

- and I would encourage you to make it a matter of daily, regular prayer that in this new plan…we do not deviate from that commitment in any way, shape, or form…

- yes, it will be harder than ever…we’re being told by church growth experts that such an emphasis is practically a death sentence in this culture…

- or course that’s exactly what the ten spies said nearly 3500 years ago…and nobody even remembers their names…

II. Willingness to Stand Up and Stand Out

A. On the twelve spies

- it’s not easy to be one of the two when you’re up against not just the other ten…but against the entire nation who are throwing a full-blown hissy fit…

- remember what we read…Numbers 14:1–3 - Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! “Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?”

- that’s a lot of pressure to stand up to…but that’s what they did…

- Numbers 14:6 - Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes…

- that’s courageous ministry leadership right there…

B. John Wycliffe

  • Condemned as a heretic by Pope Gregory XI with 18 bulls (papal decrees).
  • Followers called “Lollards” (mumblers who talked non-sense)
  • Followers cast out of Oxford because of their insistence that “all the church’s teaching and institutions should be tested rigorously against the record of God’s purposes in Scripture.”

- Wycliffe refused to cave in…and he led his followers to translate God’s Word into the language of the common man anyway…they stood up and they stood out – that’s what courageous ministry leaders do…the same was true of…

C. John Hus

- Hus was eventually charged as a heretic at the Council of Constance

- he was then imprisoned with little water or food in an attempt to break him down so he would recant what he had taught…

- Hus wrote – “I have said that I would not, for a chapel full of gold, recede from the truth…I know that the truth stands and is mighty forever, and abides eternally, with whom there is no respect of persons.”

- on July 6th, 1415, they brought Hus into the cathedral and forced him to stand on a table…they put a tall paper crown on his head with three devils who were supposedly fighting for his soul…they wrote the words “Chief of the Heretics” on it in an attempt to make him recant his views on the centrality of the Word of God…

- humanly speaking – we believe the kinds of things we believe fully and freely because of men and women like John Wycliffe and John Hus who were willing to pay whatever price was necessary to stand up and stand out…

- can I ask you again – are you like that?...

- if it means being different than the people at work…different than the people at school…different than your extended family or friends…are you willing to stand up and stand out in order to make a difference for God…

- let me update you a bit on the development of our third campus…and maybe I should give the bottom line first – we’re going to be asking everyone at our 2 current campuses to consider whether the Lord might be directing you to become part of this new church plant in the north end…

- but it’s really marvelous the way these options are setting up…

- because for those who would like to worship and serve in a suburban setting with an emphasis on community ministry, and a Christian school, and community athletics, and special ministries to senior citizens and at-risk girls…then Faith East is the place for you…

- if you feel called to campus ministry or service on the west side of town…there’s Faith West…

- and if you think the Lord may be leading you into worship and ministry in more of an urban setting, we’re going to have Faith North at the Northend Community Center…

- of course there’s also the option of worshipping at one place and then service across all three ministry platforms or even out at Bethany Farms…

- we’ve decided that because it appears that we’re going to be able to break ground on the NCC this summer and open it in the summer of 2018, we’re going to wait until that point for the formal launch of the church plant down there…that gives us 16-18 months to finalize our organization and get all of our leadership teams and small groups in place…

- if you think you might be interested in making that transition, would you please send  me, or the church office, or Joey Wright or Stefan Nitzschke an e-mail because we plan to get started on the back-room planning and organization right away…

- but we all know this – regardless of the campus – we want to stand up and stand out for Christ and His Word…

- last week I mentioned the book Moore Than a Bird by Liz Huntley…

- Liz grew up in Clanton, Alabama in a very poor family and was the victim of terrible sexual abuse at the hands of extended family members…

- but here’s a part of her story…

There was a new church in our neighborhood that everyone was buzzing about as being a different kind of church. My Aunt Liz began to attend, and I noticed a difference in her. She seemed happier. She invited me to a service with her one Wednesday night...When the service began, the minister, Pastor Elijah Good, asked the congregation to take out their Bibles. I had never attended a church where you were asked to follow along with the sermon by looking at your own Bible. I did not even own a Bible. The minister then asked for those who did not have a Bible to raise their hands so that one could be provided to them. He said that it was very important to him for us to see the Word of God for ourselves as he taught.

I eagerly raised my hand for a Bible. Reading the Bible and then comprehending what was being said reminded me of school and what I liked doing the most. I will never forget the sermon. It was about Joseph and how God used his life in spite of all of its tragic events. I sat and read along and thought, “If God can use Joseph’s life for a good purpose even though all of those bad things happened to him, maybe He can use my life.” What I thought were feelings of inspiration at the time were really feelings of conviction. When I walked into that church, I felt like a used rag doll. I was so depressed that I was on the verge of being suicidal. When I left that church, for the first time in my young life, I felt hope for my future. It was all that I could think about.

I could not wait to get back to the church the following Wednesday night to see what Pastor Good would teach. The sermon that night came from the scripture Matthew 6:26 which reads: Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

Pastor Good discussed how if God takes care of the birds and other things in nature, He will certainly take care of His children. He stressed that no matter what we are going through, we must be more than a bird and that God will see His children through any circumstance. As he kept saying, “you are more than a bird,” my faith grew. At the end of service, I went up and professed my sins, and God saved my soul. I thank God for His mercy. When I left the church that night, I no longer felt like a used rag doll. I knew that no matter what happened, I was more than a bird and that God would take care of me.

From that night forward, I was at church every time I had the opportunity. For the first time in my life, someone taught me about life. Pastor Good and his wife were not just the leaders of our church, they became surrogate parents to me. They were examples of how to take care of a family and how to be contributing members of society.

- aren’t you glad for an urban pastor like Pastor Elijah Goode?...whose ministry stood up and stood out because he faithfully taught the Word…

- that’s what we intend to continue to do at FE, and continue to do at FW, and begin doing at Faith North…

- and the question we’d like to ask you to begin considering is – at which location would you like to stand up…and stand out?

III. Prepared to Pay Whatever Price is Necessary

A. 12 spies

- so where did Joshua and Caleb’s courage get them in the short term?...

- Numbers 14:10 - But all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Then the glory of the Lord appeared in the tent of meeting to all the sons of Israel.

- how about…

B. John Wycliffe

  • Condemned to death
  • Because he died of natural causes, the church decided at the Council of Constance thirty years later to exhume his bones and burn them.

- then there’s…

C. John Hus

  • Burned at the stake by the church on July 6, 1415

- those are the kind of people who are theological forbearers…

- and as we said earlier, we freely and joyfully believe doctrines like that men and women in the past have been willing to give their lives for if necessary…

- because that’s what courageous ministry pioneers do…

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video