Reading has always been an “on-off” thing for me. I will go stretches of time where I LOVE reading. I want to read everything I get my hands on. Then, I will go other stretches of time where I don’t even want to look at a book. I am currently in the midst of one of those I-don’t-want-to-even-see-a-book times. It might have something to do with the fact that I just graduated last May from the rigors of seminary in which some semesters I would be reading over 4,000 pages. My final project for my degree was writing a paper/thesis that was 159pgs. In the back of that thesis, I have a bibliography of all that books I read; the list is 23 pages long. So, I feel unmotivated to read at the moment.
Now, that does not mean I have stopped reading completely. I read my Bible daily, which is a joy to my soul and mind. I have read a few books, like “Taking God At His Word,” “Things That Go Bump In The Church,” “Pathway To Freedom,” “The Conviction To Lead,” “The Doctrines of Grace: Student Edition,” “What is the Meaning of Sex?,” “Finally Free,” and other titles. I regularly read the bi-monthly Expositors Magazine and Acts and Facts. I also read commentaries each week as I prepare for teaching, as well as read various blogs including Parkingspace23. Although each of these were great reads, and I learned much, I have felt lethargic through each of them. It became a discipline to read them.
So, why am I making this blog a personal journal today? Because I think I am coming out of this funk. How? By reading a book of church history.
As I mentioned in Monday’s post, I am reading “The Daring Mission of William Tyndale.” This book has reignited my reading because I am reading about how God used one man in actual history to impact my own personal life. I have found a genre (church history) that has made me excited to read again.
This got me thinking: why would this book reignite my passion to read? Is it because I am far enough away from seminary now that reading is fun again? Or is it the subject matter? Ding! Ding! Ding! It must be the subject matter: church history. Which then further got me thinking: why does the reading or study of church history matter? Why is this so exciting to my soul? I came up with a few and would like to share them:
- History is God’s Work.
Scripture says that everything is working according to God’s plan because God is the Lord of history:
Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’ (Isa 46:9–10)
Studying church history reminds us that our God is reigning on His throne and He is continually accomplishing His purposes and preserving His people and his truth in every generation. No matter how immoral the world becomes, God has already set out the end of history and everything is working toward that end. And that end is for our good and His glory!
Ultimately church history teaches us to rest in the sovereignty of God. The Bible is filled with examples of men and women who trusted God and acted upon their faith in Him (more on that in a minute). Church history, likewise, consists of wonderful examples of faithful Christians whose lives are testimonies to the providential care of their heavenly Father.
- Studying the past causes us be thankful for the present.
Often we take for granted the blessings that we enjoy living in the age we live in. The study of church history reminds us of the great sacrifices made and challenges faced by previous generations of believers. It increases our thankfulness for what we have, and it motivates us to be good stewards of the incredible opportunities that God has afforded us.
As I am reading about William Tyndale, I am reminded to be abundantly grateful to God that I have a personal copy of God’s Word in my own language. Not only that, but due to the invention of electricity, the computer, and the internet, I can enjoy the Bible online, as well as have access to godly men who write blogs everyday giving practical, helpful advice in my daily walking by the Spirit.
- We have much to learn from those who have walked with God
Simply, we have not arrived! And, although the men and women from church history admitted they hadn’t in their time either, their lives teach us how to grow up spiritually. In Hebrews 12:1, we read of “a great cloud of witnesses.” These are believers in generations past whose lives give testimony to the faithfulness of God. While the author of Hebrews was specifically referring to Old Testament saints (cf. Heb 11), the testimonies of all who have come before us provide a powerful encouragement to remain faithful ourselves.
Faithfulness to the Lord, to His Word, and to His people is what defines a hero of the faith. Church history offers us many such faithful men and women to choose from, like Clemet of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, John Wycliffe, John Hus, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, D. L. Moody, Amy Carmichael, Martyn-Lloyd Jones, etc., etc. Their lives should inspire, motivate, and encourage us as we run the race with endurance. Their life of faith reminds us to keep our eyes on Christ, the Author and Perfecter of faith.
And, the best reason…
- Jesus said He would build His church.
Jesus said to His disciples, “ I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” (Matt 16:15–18)
Clearly put: the church is the only institution that Jesus ever established and claimed it will never pass away, even if the gates of Hell work overtime to overpower it. That alone is reason enough to study/read church history. At times, the current evangelical landscape gives us reason to grow discouraged. But Christ’s promise keeps us optimistic, because our hope is in Him and not in the things of this world.
When we study church history we are reminded of those times when the gates of hell appeared threatening, and yet the church prevailed because of Jesus’ promise and power. When courageous Christians were severely persecuted to the point of death for the sake of the truth (like Tyndale), or heresy threatened to overrun the church, or the Catholic Church tried to engulf justification by grace through faith in Christ, Jesus continued to build. These and countless other examples embolden us to face today’s challenges and persecutions with the confidence of knowing that we belong to a cause that Jesus will never allow to fail.
So read church history. Finish whatever book you are currently in and pick up a biography of a person in church history and get to know them and learn from them, all the while praising God for His faithfulness then and now.
- Christopher Catherwood, Church History: A Crash Course for the Curious.
- Steven Lawson, Pillars of Grace
- Gregg Allison, Historical Theology
- Bruce Shelley, Church History in Plain Language
- Anything by Iain Murray
- Anything by Steven Lawson
- Warren Wiersbe, 50 People Every Christian Should Know
- Gracia Burnham, In the Presence of My Enemies
- Take a seminary level class on church history for free.