The Reformation wasn’t led by celebrities surrounded by groupies. Yet this is what the Reformation has become today. We have big name stars who hire the largest venues and charge admission to sheep who want to watch them rightly handling the Word of Truth on larger-than-life video screens to the side of their stage.
Luther, Calvin, and Knox didn’t stand in the spotlight telling people how great they were and how great the people watching them were for knowing how great they were and what great men they hang with. When Martin Luther went into the spotlight, his life hung in the balance and his most famous words ended with the plea “God help me!”
John Calvin got himself booted from his church twice because his pastoral care was so tenacious and faithful and God-fearing that his people fired him. John Knox wrote a book saying it was unbiblical for a queen to rule a nation and even John Calvin wished he would chill out about it and be quiet.
Their preaching and writing? The Reformed celebrities of our day lack any authority, and this is their principle. They say “aw shucks” and suggest and wonder and hint and hedge as they trim God’s truth. If they say anything true, they deck it out in verbal bling. It has to be gaudy to attract the eyes of groupies. Adjectives. Adverbs. “Unashamedly.” “Overflowing.” “Gladhearted.”
No. They never bling up the sinfulness of sin or the horrors of Hell. As a matter of fact, they don’t even mention them. When their holy spirit comes on them, he never convicts the world of sin and righteousness and judgment.
Watching the last gasp of Reformed American triumphalism is the very opposite of watching Luther, Calvin, and Knox. The Reformers couldn’t stop making things weighty whereas the men laying garlands on their tombs today can’t stop making things light. Calvin sent men off to the pastorate to die. Literally. Their widows and children would show up at Calvin’s doorstep late at night after fleeing the men who killed their husbands and fathers.
Gospel Coalition sends men off to sell their books and build their conference registrations.
Luther, Calvin, and Knox made disciples of Jesus and those disciples went and took up their crosses and died.
These men today make groupies for themselves who take up their name, fame, vocabulary, and Keds. The unbearable lightness of their being.
I remember reading my hero Martyn Lloyd-Jones talking to the leaders of a campus ministry over in the UK on maybe their fortieth anniversary. He pointed out to them that, in time, every institution becomes the very thing it was founded to oppose. This is the Reformed church in America today. It is rich and famous and fat and sleek. It poses no threat to rebellion, the Devil, and Hell.
Those sitting under the ministry of the Reformers never stopped growing in their fear and love of God.
Those sitting under the ministry of their successors in America today never stop growing in their presumption.
If you think you and your church have escaped this diagnosis, stop and consider. Do you fear God? Does your wife fear God? Do your children fear God? Do the souls in your church fear God?
If not, ask your pastor to begin using the words Calvin and Knox used when they administered the Lord’s Supper:
Dearely beloved in the Lord, forasmoch as we be nowe assembled, to celebrate the holy communion of the body and bloud of our saviour Christ, let us consider these woordes of S. Paule, how he exhorteth all persons diligently to try and examine themselves, before they presume to eate of that bread, ad drinke of that cuppe.
For as the benefite is great, if with a truly penitent heart, and lively faith, we receive that holy sacrament (for then we spiritually eate the fleshe of Christ, and drinke his bloode, then we dwell in Christ, and Christ in us, we be one with Christ, and Christ with us) so is the danger great, if we receive the same unworthily, for then we be guilty of the bodye, and bloud of Christ our saviour, we eat and drink our own damnation, not considering the lordes bodye: we kindle god’s wrath against us, and provoke him to plague us with diverse diseases and sundry kindes of death.
Therefore if any of you be a blasphemer of God, an hinderer or slanderer of his worde, an adulterer, or be in malice or envy, or in any other grievous crime, bewail your sins, and come not to this holy table: lest after the taking of this holy sacrament, the devil enter into you as he entered into Judas, and fill you full of all iniquities, and bring you, to destruction, both of bodye and soule. Judge therefore yourselves brethern, that ye be not judged of the lorde: repent you truly for your sins past, and have a lively and steadfast faith, in Christ our saviour, seekinge only your salvation in the merits of his death, and passion, from hensforth refusinge, and forgettinge all malice and debate, with full purpose to live in brotherly amity, and godlye conversation, all the days of your life.