Where Do We Find Assurance Of Salvation?

Broken Heart CrossIf you’re like me, you’ve probably experienced serious doubts about your salvation. Such doubts generally arise in response to falling back into familiar patterns of sin. As you see yourself committing the same ugly sin, even decades after your conversion, you have to ask yourself whether or not you were ever  really saved in the first place.

In one respect, you and I definitely should ask ourselves this question when we find ourselves committing the same sin habitually. Children of God at some point start to resemble the Father’s holiness (1 Peter 1:14-21, 1 John 3:4-10). Sadly, many people who claim to be Christians do persist in unrepentant sin, often rationalizing their rebellion and sometimes even believing that God approves of what they do. I know: I’ve done it.

Seeker-sensitive churches compound the problem by producing false converts who embrace an idealized concept of Jesus without submitting to the true Christ’s authority. These false converts see no need to repent and have no concern for personal holiness.

So yes, sometimes our sin should cause us to wonder if the Lord has truly done a work of regeneration in us. If we live without regard to His holy standards, some honest self-examination is most likely necessary.

But others of us, despite genuinely loving the Lord and wanting to obey Him, manage to get sucked back into sin on occasion. From our perspective, it seems like a habitual pattern because we repeat the same old sins time after time. We grieve every time we do it, fully aware that we’ve dishonored Him. Even if nobody else ever finds out what we’ve done, we know that we’ve violated His commands.

Like the apostle Paul in Romans 7:13-21, we hate our sin. We yearn to please the Lord, knowing that our sin put Him on the cross. How can we be so ungrateful? Why did we act like children of the devil, dragging our glorious Lord through the mud while we selfishly gratified our flesh?

As we fixate on the horrors of our sin, we accept Satan’s accusations that we’re nothing more than hypocrites. Because those accusations carry an element of truth, we believe his lie that we never really had salvation. We despair.

Sisters, we forget that assurance of salvation can never come from us. Paul wrote Romans 7 precisely to demonstrate that we don’t have any righteousness in and of ourselves. Looking at ourselves can never give us assurance!

Ah, but look at Paul’s  concluding paragraph in Romans 7:

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. ~~Romans 7:21-24 (ESV)

Paul doesn’t deny his wretched condition, but he ultimately clings to Jesus Christ as his deliverer. He remembers that Christ paid for all his sin (every ounce of it) by shedding His blood on the cross. Of course, Paul’s not excusing sin or implying that God’s grace gives Christians permission to indulge in sin. Rather, he’s encouraging us to rest in what the Lord has done for us.

Sin should trouble a Christian’s conscience. We should live lives of repentance, earnestly desiring to reflect our Heavenly Father’s holiness as we declare the Gospel to a dying world. But, when our sin breaks our hearts, let’s shift our gaze to Jesus, finding assurance in Him.

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After Two Years, The TULIP Maintains Its Mission

cropped-cropped-tulip-header12.jpgYesterday marked the second anniversary of The Outspoken TULIP. I’d blogged for nine years prior at the now deleted The Things That Come Out Of My Head on Blogspot.com, but the Obergefell decision legalizing same sex marriage left me wondering when Google would pull the plug in retaliation for my politically incorrect views. I figured paying for a WordPress blog might prolong the time I’d have before censorship silenced me.

Additionally, I wanted a more focused blog that would consistently draw attention to the Lord Jesus Christ rather than to my aimless musings or my digital art skills. Time to proclaim the Gospel and disciple younger women through the Internet is growing desperately short, making me less willing to blog for the sake of blogging.

The discipline of producing almost daily articles with solid doctrinal content (as opposed to narratives of my excursions into Boston, childhood memories and progressive views of my digital art projects interspersed with essays about Christianity) has proved more demanding than I anticipated. The demands surprised me because I’d been blogging on a similar schedule for three or four years with my previous blog. Until I started The Outspoken TULIP, I hadn’t realized how much of my blogging was mere fluff.

But if The Outspoken TULIP is more demanding, it’s also more gratifying. Although I’m not as erudite as many other bloggers in my niche, and my readership remains comparatively small, I love knowing that the Lord is the central Person of this blog. If my audience remains small, He still sovereignly reaches the ladies He wants to reach through my writing. I don’t get much feedback, which is probably just as well, but I trust that my investment in blogging honors Him.

I believe evangelicals of the 21st Century have by and large lost the sense that God has saved us for His honor and glory. As we’ve incorporated Charismatic teaching and psychological principles into our weakened version of Christianity, we’ve accepted the mistaken idea that God exists to heal our bodies, expand our bank accounts, make our marriages satisfying and remove all temptation from us. We conveniently forget why He calls us to Him in the first place.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. ~~1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)

Anyone can blog about the wonderful history of Boston. Plenty of digital artists can blog about their creations and explain the various techniques they use. But since the Lord has called me out of darkness into His marvelous light, shouldn’t I praise Him by using this blog to proclaim His excellencies? Sure, it demands a lot more thought and prayer, as well as the physical work of typing with a headstick and researching the Protestant Reformation, but if Christ allows me to honor Him through this little blog, I welcome this third year of The Outspoken TULIP! To God be the glory!

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Was It Really Worth All That?

John Reading Tyndale Bible
Photo taken by Julie Garber of John reading a 2nd edition Tyndale Bible

Anyone can access the story of William Tyndale by doing a simple Google search or by reading Stephen J. Lawson’s book, The Daring Mission of William Tyndale. I’m quite confident that others can narrate his contribution to the Protestant Reformation more accurately, and certainly more eloquently, than I could.

Nevertheless, I want to offer a brief outline of Tyndale’s exploits, simply for the sake of showing you what the Reformers sacrificed in order to restore God’s Word to Christians.

Tyndale (b. 1494 – d. 1536) was an accomplished linguist, with impeccable credentials for any sort of translation work. As he grew in his exposure to the writings of Erasmus (a Roman Catholic who made the Greek New Testament available) and Martin Luther, he developed a desire to translate the Bible from its original Greek and Hebrew into English.

Although such a translation would have been technically legal in England in the 16th Century, Catholic condemnation of the practice stemming from the struggle with Wycliffe two-and-a-half centuries earlier resulted in a law that such translation work could only take place under a bishop’s patronage. Obediently, Tyndale approached Bishop Cuthbert Turnstall, who had actually worked with Erasmus on his Greek New Testament. Turnstall flatly refused Tyndale’s request.

Tyndale believed that Scripture should be available to common Englishmen, rather than left to a Roman Catholic clergy that added their own doctrines to it and therefore amassed enormous political and ecclesiastical power. So he fled to Europe, where he lived incognito while he produced the forbidden translation.

Living in Brussels, Tyndale and his supporters smuggled English translations of the New Testament in bales of cotton that were shipped to England. Of course, this activity definitely violated English law. Tyndale knew that, if he was captured, he would face the death penalty. But he willingly took that risk, continuing to translate the Old Testament as he smuggled copies of the New Testament back to England.

In 1530, Tyndale wrote a pamphlet opposing King Henry VIII’s plan to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. While Tyndale most assuredly was correct in denouncing the king’s actions as unbiblical, I’m baffled as to why he would do something that would obviously intensify England’s resolve to capture and execute him. As a result of the pamphlet, someone high in the king’s   court engaged a profligate named Henry Philips  to befriend Tyndale and ultimately deliver him to English authorities.

After an 18-month imprisonment, Tyndale was executed by strangulation (because his executioners respected him and wanted to spare him the  30-minute agony of being burned alive) and then burned at the stake. His last words were “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes!”

Was God’s Word worth such suffering and sacrifice? The indifference many professing Christians show it today makes it seem like William Tyndale would have done better to pursue an academic career, privately studying the Bible for himself. But he loved God’s Word and gave his life. As he once said to a prestigious clergyman, “I defy the Pope, and all his laws; and if God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost!”

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Eugene Peterson’s Predicament: The Unintended Consequences Of Compromise

Two facedSo Eugene Peterson, author of The Message paraphrase of the Bible, finally admitted his support of same sex marriage, only to backpeddle the following day after LifeWay announced they would no longer sell The Message. There are so many directions we could go with this story, most of which my fellow bloggers have already covered. I’ve come late to the party, it seems, and therefore have nothing new to bring to the table.

Yes and no. Agreed: The Message already betrayed Peterson’s sympathies toward LBGTQ concerns years ago, softening key passages on homosexuality so much that people in the Gay Christian Movement have embraced this version  as a legitimate translation. But look at his rendering of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 as just one example:

9-11 Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom. A number of you know from experience what I’m talking about, for not so long ago you were on that list. Since then, you’ve been cleaned up and given a fresh start by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah, and by our God present in us, the Spirit.

Compare that to the English Standard Version, which is an actual word-for-word translation done by a board of Biblical scholars:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Again, many other bloggers have pointed out how Peterson’s watered down rendition leaves wiggle room for committed same sex relationships. Peterson can assure us that he believes marriage should be heterosexual and monogamous all he wants, but clearly he has no intention of condemning homosexuality as sinful. He needs to straddle between appealing to his ultra liberal denomination (PCUSA) and keeping LifeWay happy so they will sell The Message.

Compromise does catch up with people, doesn’t it? And in Peterson’s case, he’s now lost credibility on both sides. As LifeWay pulls his books, gay Christian Matthew Vines tweets:

Matthew Vines tweet

Either way, Eugene Peterson’s attempts to placate both sides has indeed cost him plenty. Admittedly, taking a  firm stand on either side of the issue would also have drawn criticism, but at least he would have retained some allies. Of course, his liberal theology and his shabby misrepresentation of God’s Word still would have given him much to answer for on Judgment Day, but now he faces judgment from both liberal and conservative Christians.

We must view Eugene Peterson’s predicament with fear and trembling rather than with self-righteous glee. Whether we admit it or not, each of us faces the temptation to compromise the truth. As time progresses,  each of us will have to take a stand specifically on homosexuality and transsexuality. Any attempts we make to please both camps will ultimately result in displeasing everyone. Just ask Eugene Peterson.

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Saturday Sampler: July 9 — July 15

Heart Sampler 02Let’s begin this week’s edition of Saturday Sampler with An explanation of Martin Luther and the Reformation for children (and adults can watch, too!) courtesy of Tom and his excatholic4christ blog. Tom features a charming (and surprisingly accurate) animated video using Playmobile figurines to tell the story of Luther. Even if you think history is boring, I guarantee you’ll enjoy this video and Tom’s remarks.

Studying the Bible should change us as we apply what we’ve learned. Sometimes, though, we don’t  quite know how to make the application. Ryan Higginbottom of Knowable Word writes Make Your Bible Application Stick to provide helpful tips.

Celebrating a milestone in his blogging career, Tim Challies offers advice to his fellow bloggers in 5,000 Days. Whether you’re just starting to blog or you’ve blogged for several years, you will definitely learn something from Tim’s wealth of experience. And Tim, if you read this paragraph via pingback, congratulations on having produced 5,000 blog posts!

Prayer is difficult, especially when we don’t see immediate results. Praise the Lord for Elizabeth Prata’s encouraging article, Heaven is a busy place in The End Time. I appreciate the wonderful glimpse of the heavenly realm in reference to prayer that Elizabeth opens to us in her essay. I think you might also find it exciting.

Five “Fake News” Stories That People Believe about Early Christianity by Michael J. Krueger of Canon Fodder corrects common arguments refuting the authority and inerrancy of the Bible. I hope people who dismiss the importance of church history will read this piece and consider that knowing the past can help us correct flawed thinking in unbelievers.

The doctrine of the Trinity fascinates me. Sadly, I seldom write about it. While I certainly should change my silence on this wonderful topic, Jeanie Layne introduces it brilliantly in The Mysterious Trinity and Why It Matters, which appears in For The Church. Her work challenges me to devote more blog time to writing about God’s triune nature.

Readers of The Message paraphrase should read Denny Burk’s informative post, Eugene Peterson will always exist. I’m not totally surprised by this revelation about Peterson, but it intensifies my belief that Christians should not read The Message as their Bible. You’ll also want to read Burk’s follow-up article On Eugene Peterson’s Retraction.

In his piece for Parking Space 23, Jason Vaughn writes Sex as a Biblical overview of the Lord’s intention for this special activity between husband and wife. It’s a lengthy read, but well worth the time.

For those who believe that Calvinists don’t support evangelism and/or missions, please go to 5 Minutes in Church History and read Calvin & Missions. This transcript of Stephen Nichols’ interview with Michael Haykin dispels the widespread characterization of Reformed Christians by explaining John Calvin’s passion to bring the Gospel to lost people.

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My Messy Life Isn’t The Point (Even If It Means You’ll Have Cheesecake With Me)

44cb0-cross2bof2bgloryAuthenticity is apparently the latest evangelical craze, especially among women. When a blogger or teacher lets us see her “messy” life, she appears more approachable. Just like us, she has struggles with sin. What a relief!

The Bible unabashedly records the flaws of men and women commended as heroes of the faith. From Sarah and Abraham exploiting Hagar to the apostle Peter hypocritically reverting to Jewish legalism, otherwise strong believers in Sacred Text demonstrate the propensity toward sin that all humans possess. The most poignant example comes from none other than the apostle Paul:

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. ~~Romans 7:13-20 (ESV)

Certainly, no teacher or blogger should give the impression that they’ve somehow risen above the temptations that “normal” Christians face. Doing so undermines the Gospel by insinuating that we can reach a point of trusting in our own righteousness!

At the same time, we can use “authenticity” as an excuse to showcase ourselves, rather than directing attention to the Lord Jesus Christ. An overemphasis on revealing our sins and weaknesses may really be a calculated attempt to attract followers. And certainly it denotes a preoccupation with self in place of adoring God and proclaiming His excellencies.

Two years ago, I discontinued a blog that, while it referred to Christ in almost every post, basically revolved around me. The Lord convicted me of my narcissism, leading me to start The Outspoken TULIP to focus women on Christ.

As our country moves toward persecution against Bible-believing Christians, we need less encouragement to feel better about our shortcomings. When bloggers and teachers prattle on and on about their “messy” lives, they subtly lull us into feeling better about ourselves instead of helping us recognize our need for Christ. He recedes into the background while the teacher or blogger assures us that we could have a gabfest with her over coffee and (if I’m involved) cheesecake.

As much as I want to make myself approachable, however, I’m more concerned with drawing my readers to Christ. Even more, I want this blog to honor Him, regardless of how readers feel about me.  I’ll gladly confess my sins when appropriate, and I definitely don’t want anyone thinking I’ve got it all together. But if this blog degenerates into something about me, it wastes my time and yours. Jesus Christ is the Person Who matters.

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Sweet Apples Rot Quickly, And Other Consequences Of Promoting My Blog

Rainbow HeartMy vanity got the better of me yesterday. For months, I’ve been praying about whether or not I should try to promote this blog. Part of me knew I needed to be content with a small readership base. In fact, earlier this week, I finally decided not to pursue any more avenues of publicizing it. I would trust God’s sovereignty to bring my articles to the women He wanted them to reach.

Then yesterday morning I received a message from a woman who administrates a website for writers. She’d read my article, Transforming America, and claimed to “love” it. Further, she asked my permission to cross-post it on her site, explaining that she desires a diversity of viewpoints.

Glancing at the articles already posted on her site, I noticed that they overwhelmingly represented liberal perspectives. “Maybe,” I told myself, “she wants my article in order to bring balance to her site.” Her complements on my writing skills felt so good! And I thrilled at the thought of more people finding The Outspoken TULIP!

So, like Eve in the garden, I bit into the fruit. I allowed her to cross-post my article. All afternoon, I savored the sweet taste of drawing readers to my blog, of course convincing myself that I wanted more people to read the Gospel.

I finished yesterday’s blog post late yesterday, so I couldn’t check email until late. But my in-box had several notifications of comments on my article. Obviously, I expected some negative comments, but surely they would engage intelligently with my content.

Instead, I encountered an onslaught of personal attacks including a very hurtful remark regarding my profile picture. Honestly, the experience reminded me of 7th Grade. I’ll spare you further details, except to say that the administrator (who so eagerly answered my emails yesterday) now seems a lot less happy to send responses today.

I wonder if she wanted my article in order to take me down a peg. I realize that’s only speculation, and that only the Lord can judge her motives. Even John, who normally sees the best in everyone, has expressed some cynicism, though.

Although the Lord used this unpleasant episode to convict me of my vanity, He also used it to encourage me. Yes, I know that seems odd. But consider the message of the blog post she put on her website. That article focused on the fact that Christians should expect animosity from the world. The more I’ve thought about the vitriolic reactions of the commenters on that website, the more amused I am that they inadvertently proved the very point I wanted to make.

Being human, I don’t particularly enjoy people making fun of me. But the humiliation I’ve endured, besides confronting me with my pride and selfish ambition, gives me an opportunity to rejoice.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. ~~Matthew 5:11-12 (ESV)

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Knowing The Real Thing

Counterfeit BibleThe elder, teaching an adult Sunday School class, gave the popular analogy of bank tellers handling real money so often that they can easily spot a counterfeit bill. Similarly, the analogy goes, Christians who spend a lot of time and effort studying Scripture will consequently detect theological error quite readily.

Having heard leaders in the Charismatic church use that same analogy, I wanted to voice my objection. But I wanted to trust this elder. I wanted to trust this new church. Perhaps, I assured myself, the leadership of this church really did know God’s Word better than the leadership of the Charismatic church had. Maybe they couldn’t be deceived so easily. So, despite nagging reservations, I decided to trust that this man had ample discernment because he spent time reading and teaching the Bible.

A few years later, largely due to the influence of that very elder, the church drifted into weak, seeker-sensitive theology. Lately it has also embraced the Social Gospel, and it allows women to hold positions of authority over men. Clearly, all that elder’s Bible knowledge has failed to inoculate him (or that church) against faulty doctrine.

The problem wasn’t a lack of knowing the Word of God, however. Rather, it was that this man, along with other leaders in the church, didn’t apply proper hermeneutics in their study of Sacred Text.

This article isn’t a diatribe against my former church, however. I use it only as an example of why Christians must not suppose that mere familiarity with the Bible protects us against deception. Along with reading it, we need to understand how it fits together.

For instance, we need to see Jeremiah 29:11, not as a promise to give 21st Century Christians a rosy future on earth, but as a word to the Jewish exiles during the Babylonian Captivity. Even in its its immediate context, Jeremiah 29:11 obviously doesn’t speak to present-day Christians, as you can see from this excerpt:

10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. ~~Jeremiah 29:10-14 (ESV)

If you read the whole chapter, the prophecy is even less appealing. It’s not something I want to claim as a promise!

Scripture can’t be broken into fragments that we then interpret according to our personal circumstances and preferences. We may read it daily, but if we latch on to isolated verses instead of understanding those verses as they relate to the rest of the Bible, we end up with a distorted theology that can eventually lead to doctrinal error. Conversely, if we use good hermeneutics we can understand what the Holy Spirit intended when He inspired the prophets and apostles to record His Word.

Amassing a collection of go-to Bible verses that you can apply with just a little cutting and stretching may give us the illusion of Bible literacy, but it sure won’t prevent us from accepting counterfeit theology.

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It’s To Die For!

Open Bible 03On November 1, 2016, I set out to write weekly blog posts on various aspects of the Protestant Reformation. Originally I envisioned writing about the cost the Reformers paid to restore access to the Word of God.

I’m troubled, you see, by the vast Biblical illiteracy among evangelicals in the 21st Century. The very fact that I attended a Charismatic church that allowed people to continue giving prophecies even when their prophecies obviously didn’t come true, and then a church that turned to seeker-sensitive methodologies in order to fill its pews, convinces me that present-day evangelicals simply don’t know how to rightly divide God’s Word. For the most part, even those who read the Bible daily fail to read it in context or apply proper hermeneutics. In short, I believe that professing Christians in our day and age don’t understand the incomparable value of Scripture.

We take it for granted.

And because we take Scripture for granted, we twist it, misapply it and/or make it more about us than about the Lord Jesus Christ. I’d love to cite examples of how we do so, but there are just too many to fit into a single blog post. If you’ll look through my categories list, you’ll find numerous posts I’ve written about various false teachers and movements within evangelicalism that deviate from Biblical Christianity.

Of course, part of the deviation from sound doctrine happens because Satan aggressively works to distract Christians from the truth. In Scripture, both Jesus and the apostle Paul repeatedly warn us, “Do not be deceived.” Christians must constantly wage spiritual warfare by using the Word of God, which Paul and the writer of Hebrews call the Sword of the Spirit.

Additionally, human beings are just plain obstinate. Like Old Testament Israel, we’ll follow the Lord in the excitement of revival, but when the enthusiasm wears off we look for ways to enhance the Gospel. We deceive ourselves into thinking that our little additions give us better worship experiences and/or enable us to appropriate God’s grace more accurately.

But also, we (and yes, I include myself in this indictment) fall into error so easily because we forget to cherish the Bible.

In this digital age, Christians (and non-Christians, for that matter) have access to the Bible that would have astounded the Reformers! Yet Bible illiteracy hasn’t been this high since the Middle Ages. I read one survey of teens raised in Christian homes who thought Sodom and Gomorrah were a married couple.

Studying the Protestant Reformation has taught me how precious the Bible really is. Next time I write an installment in this Tuesday series on the Reformation, I intend to write about William Tyndale, an English contemporary of Martin Luther who spent years as a fugitive before being captured and executed by strangulation and burning at the stake. His crime. Translating the Bible into English. I will share his story for the same reason I’ve been blogging almost every Tuesday about the Reformation: to plead with you to recognize that God’s Word is worth our very lives!

 

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