Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Faith Heroes

This past Sunday I began a three week series for Highland's "Early Birds" class -- those in their later years. What a sweet bunch of senior saints. The series is titled, "Heroes of the Faith," and it deals with biographies of three different Christ-followers who have had a profound impact on my life. The first lesson was on Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a man I've mentioned before. He preached for 30 years at the Westminster Chapel, just down the road from Buckingham Palace. We even heard an excerpt on tape of one of his sermons, where he preached passionately from Galatians on the power of the gospel.

This Sunday I'm going to tell the story of William Willberforce, whose story was portrayed so beautifully in the recent film, "Amazing Grace." I've probably mentioned this before, but I've been reading his biography, which was also released this year and has the same name as the movie. A man named Bruce Metaxas wrote it and did a tremendous job (although his British vocabulary is so beyond my knowledge -- where did he come up with all those words?)

Of course, Willberforce is most known for his courageous battle in the Parliament against slavery. It took 20 years from the time he first put forth a bill for abolition to the triumphant day in 1807 when the House of Lords overwhelmingly voted for the wicked slave trade to be abolished in the British Empire.

In reading this book, I came to realize that this deeply committed Christian man, whom God strategically placed in a position of power as a member of the Parliament, championed several other causes for the oppressed. He personally supported many efforts of the poor. And as I read last night, he fought against a horrendous law that kept missionaries out of India. The East Indian British Company had outlawed missionaries, saying that it would be cruel to force these people to give up their religious traditions. But Willberforce couldn't tolerate such a law, especially when he heard of the horror of one particular tradition in India.

In those days, when a woman in India was widowed, her husband's body was burned as part of his funeral ceremony. As hard as it is to imagine, the other part of this ritual was that the widow was thrown on the fire with him. Willberforce recognized how sin leads to such atrocities in people's lives and how their only hope was the gospel. Therefore, he strongly pushed for this law against missionaries in India to be repealed.

Late last night as I read an eye witness account of this practice of burning alive widows in India (which Willberforce read in a meeting of the British Parliament) I was deeply disturbed and once more convicted by the courage of this man. And it made me realize the urgency of evangelism and mission work. Because when an individual, family or entire culture have not been redeemed by the blood, the pain they experience from the oppression of the devil is at times unspeakable.

No wonder that God so loved the world that He sent Jesus to suffer on that cross in order to deliver us from the penalty of sin. More than any of us realizes, the Lord God knows how awful and destructive sin is to a human life and how desperately all of us need a Savior.

Reading about one of my heroes of the faith reminded me of this eternal truth.



At 11:47 AM, Blogger Susan Clark said...

Wow! What a story, what a man, and what a God we serve! Thanks for this inspiring post.

At 9:07 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

Jim, powerful story about God's power working in these men's lives.

You know, of course, that you're one of my Heroes of the Faith! As a result, I've nominated for an award. You can read about it on my blog.

In His love, grace and mercy


At 10:02 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

btw-I nominated you for an award. You can read about it on my wee blog.

In His love, grace and mercy

At 8:00 AM, Blogger Jim Clark said...

You're too kind, Kathy.


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