The Man Who Saved a City

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All Historical Facts taken from Bond and McComas’ Biography of Girolamo Savonarola

Life isn’t fair. This is pointed out to us by Solomon In Ecclesiastes 9, and one example of this is found in the story of a man saving a city in verses 13-15 of that chapter. As it states:

13 I also saw under the sun this example of wisdom that greatly impressed me: 14 There was once a small city with only a few people in it. And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it and built huge siege works against it. 15 Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom. But nobody remembered that poor man. (NIV)

Unfortunately the man in the story isn’t given the respect that he deserved. He disarmed a mighty king using not a weapon of war, but rather a weapon of logic. Unfortunately, the people of the city did not remember the man that saved their city, possibly learning from him, or putting him in a position to bring more positive change to the city. Rather, the city left him to be forgotten in the annals of history, which I think you would agree, is not very fair. What you may find interesting is that this actually occurred in history many years later. Let me introduce you to Girolamo Savonarola.

Girolamo Savonarola (I like to call him G.S.) was a Dominican friar in the 1400’s and was actually the most published author of the century. You may be asking why bring up a Catholic in light of our Protestant viewpoints. G.S. actually rebelled against the Pope and boldly claimed that he “was no Christian”. In the following century, Martin Luther said that G.S. definitely clung to justification by faith. The friar even said himself that:

No one can glory in himself; all the saints say, not of us but of The Lord is glory. They were not saved by their merit, nor by their work, but by the goodness and grace of God, that nobody may glory in himself.
— Girolamo Savonarola

This certainly sounds like something Luther or Calvin could have written. He may have had some theological ideas wrong, but G.S. undoubtedly understood The Gospel correctly. For all of this, he was eventually killed by the Catholic church.

To set the stage, G.S. lived in Florence. The area was ruled by the powerful de Medici clan, and headship of the family just changed hands to the young and naive Piero de Medici. The people did not care for the family, since they ruled as tyrants, often forgetting the common man. At the time, King Charles VIII was having a squabble with the Pope about the territory of Naples. Charles decided to march his seemingly invincible army to Naples and try to take possession of it. Unfortunately, Florence was was right in the path to Naples. Charles left a path of destruction behind him as he headed right for Florence, destroying everything in his path.

Piero de Medici tried to strike up a bargain with Charles’ representatives and succeeded. Unfortunately, the deal was so awful the people of the city ran him out of town. Without his demands met, Charles continued to march to Florence. Without any other hope, the town decided to have their spiritual guide to try to talk some sense into the King. And somehow it worked. G.S. Thanked the king for ridding the town of the de Medici family, calling him “an instrument sent by The Lord”. He then told him among other things that, “God elected you in the interest of the church. You must obey The Lord.”. Though it seemed to be a miracle, Charles relented.

The people then turned to G.S. to set up a democracy, free from the tyranny of the de Medici family. Unfortunately, this was shorted lived. Due to outside circumstances which was out of the control of the government, economic hardship fell upon Florence. The friar was blamed, the city turned on him, and he was removed from the pulpit and eventually killed by The Pope. G.S. was treated unfairly, and was abandoned by his city and the church (or at least by the Catholic church).

This was a real example of solomon’s scenario playing out in the life of Savonarola. He saved his city from destruction from a king who was preparing to siege the city. Using wisdom to change the mind of the king, he was initially loved, but was ultimately forgotten, abandoned, and persecuted.

Where does this leave us? The friar of Florence was persecuted and treated unfairly. All of us can expect unfair outcomes in our lives. In reality, we don’t actually want things to be fair. If they were, God would instantly condemn us to Hell, as that is what we truly deserve. Christ came to earth, and was treated unfairly, for us, so we don’t have to face God’s wrath. Savonarola didn’t put his hope in getting treated fairly in this life, but looked forward to his life to come. Therefore, do not look for fairness in this life, but set your hope in our inheritance to come, which is eternal peace in Heaven with Christ.

-Richard Miller


500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation

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As you may know, many will be celebrating a holiday on Tuesday. I’m not referring to Halloween, but rather a different day. This day is known as Reformation Day. This day celebrates when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis on the door in Wittenberg. His theses consisted of objections to various practices of the Catholic Church which were intended to be discussion points among scholarly men, but it eventually sparked what we know in history as The Protestant Reformation. For a great resource on this, I would recommend Erwin Lutzer’s Rescuing The Gospel.

This moment was important, as some of the truths that are foundational to our Christian beliefs were being distorted. While many points of doctrine were affirmed through this movement, there were five critical beliefs that were attested to by the reformers. We call these the Five Solas (Sola is Latin for Alone). To summarize, we believe that we are saved by Christ alone, by His grace alone, through faith in Him alone, according to what scripture says alone, all of this to the glory of God alone.

Luther wasn’t the only person who believed these things. In 1415, a Bohemian man named John Huss was burned at the stake by the Catholic Church for sharing similar views that Luther later adopted. The name “Huss”, in his language means goose, and why I’m telling you this will make sense shortly.

Just like Luther would later would believe, Huss felt that it was scripture only which governs our lives, not human authority. It is reported, that while being burned at the stake, Huss said something to the effect of, “You may cook this Goose, but in 100 years there will come a Swan you will not be able to silence.” 102 years later, Martin Luther nailed his thesis to the door in Wittenburg.

Today, we do not celebrate Martin Luther to exalt him, but rather remember these three things. Firstly, we remember that God’s purpose cannot be thwarted. His message of reconciliation to fallen mankind, through His Son, will not be forgotten. Secondly, the truths that came out of the Protestant Reformation were not developed in the 16th century, but were the doctrines that came from the mouth of God. Thirdly, we do not celebrate Martin Luther as the swan that ushered in a new era of spirituality, but rather we celebrate the Holy Spirit of God who was the wind beneath Luther’s wings. The Lord changed Luther’s heart, and allowed him to fly to seemingly new theological heights.

Read more articles about the 5 Solas from here.


Preparing for Sunday - October 29, 2017

Hey Shoreliners!

I’m looking forward to this Sunday! We’ll be highlighting and celebrating the 500th anniversary of the reformation. We’ll be looking at the importance of what Martin Luther and other reformers stood for, many even gave their lives for the truth of the gospel. At Shoreline, we affirm and stand on the Five Solas - Faith Alone, Scripture Alone, through Christ Alone, by Grace Alone, to the Glory of God Alone! Our songs this week reflect this theme - check them out!

1.   My Hope is Built on Nothing Less - Traditional

This great hymn focuses on Solus Christus (through Christ alone). Our hope is built on Christ and the great work that he accomplished on the cross for us! Like we’ve been learning in our study in Ecclesiastes, everything else is vanity or “sinking sand”. He is the rock on which we stand!

2.   A Mighty Fortress is Our God - Martin Luther (arrangement by Matt Boswell)

What better way to remember the reformation, then by singing this hymn, written by the man who was the spark of it all. This hymn walks us through our relationship with God, while all the way praising him for his attributes, his victory over Satan, and how he equips us to live for him. 

3.   O Praise the Name (Anastasis) - Hillsong

This is one of my favorite songs that has been written by Hillsong. It helps us “cast our minds to calvary” and praise Jesus for the great work of redemption that was accomplished for us. Let’s praise his name together, for endless days!

4.   Give Me Faith - Elevation Worship

We’ll close the service by singing a song that focuses on Sola Fide (faith alone). We know from scripture that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” Through this song, we ask the Lord to increase our faith and to increase our dependence upon him. He is the one who does all the work, we have no merit, nothing to offer - may we be faithful to trust in is word and allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives as we grow closer to him!