Individual Freedom

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Going against the Dictates of Conscience Is neither Right nor Safe…

500 Years of Reformation 1517 – 2017

Liberty of Conscience Threatened – An Important Lesson in History

It was October 1517 when the priest and scholar Martin Luther, concerned about the non biblical teachings that crept into the church and out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, wrote his famous 95 Theses (http://www.luther.de/en/95thesen.html) and thus heated up the Protestant Reformation.

Though Luther was not shown from the scriptures where he was wrong, Pope Leo X excommunicated him from the church and later that year, because Luther refused to recant his writings, he was declared an outlaw and a heretic and the permission was given for anyone to kill him without consequence. Why was this man outlawed? Where did he err? And why is this still relevant today?

Luther compared the teachings of the church to the Bible, a copy of which he discovered in the university library. He was astonished to find truths that were not taught by the church. And he was equally alarmed to discover that many practices of the church were in complete contradiction with the Word of God. Because the Bible was not available people were ignorant of its precious teachings and many lived in despair. Meanwhile the popes and priests took advantage of the abounding ignorance and abused their powers. Luther had the call to expose the excesses and the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church and so through him God accomplished a great work for the reformation of the church and the enlightenment of the world.

Sola Scriptura – Bible alone is the rule of faith and conduct for a Christian. Martin Luther understood this full well and declared his conscience captive to the Word of God alone. The Bible is the ultimate standard for truth. Though he never intended to rise against the church or the authority of the king, Luther was forced to take a stand and this he did, choosing to side with the truth as it is written in the Bible at the expense of his reputation and almost losing his own life. Our real safety is in acting and believing in accordance with the Holy Writ and demanding a “thus saith the Lord” for every doctrine or practice of the church.

Below is the speech Luther offered in his defense to the charges of heresy brought against him by the Roman Catholic Church. I could not help but note the respectful tone and the eloquence in which he expresses himself.

“Most Serene Emperor, Illustrious Princes, Gracious Lords: I this day appear before you in all humility, according to your command, and I implore your majesty and your august highnesses, by the mercies of God, to listen with favor to the defense of a cause which I am well assured is just and right. I ask pardon, if by reason of my ignorance, I am wanting in the manners that befit a court; for I have not been brought up in king’s palaces, but in the seclusion of a cloister; and I claim no other merit than that of having spoken and written with the simplicity of mind which regards nothing but the glory of God and the pure instruction of the people of Christ.

Two questions were yesterday put to me by his imperial majesty; the first, whether I was the author of the books whose titles were read; the second, whether I wished to revoke or defend the doctrine I have taught. I answered the first directly, and I adhere to that answer: that these books are mine and published by me, except so far as they may have been altered or interpolated by the craft or officiousness of opponents.

As for the second question, I am now about to reply to it; and I must first entreat you Majesty and your Highnesses to deign to consider that I have composed writings on very different subjects. In some I have discussed Faith and Good Works, in a spirit at once so pure, clear, and Christian, that even my adversaries themselves, far from finding anything to censure, confess that these writings are profitable, and deserve to be perused by devout persons. The pope’s bull, violent as it is, acknowledges this. What, then, should I be doing if I were now to retract these writings? Wretched man! I alone, of all men living, should be abandoning truths approved by the unanimous voice of friends and enemies, and should be opposing doctrines that the whole world glories in confessing!

I have composed, secondly, certain works against the papacy, wherein I have attacked such as by false doctrines, irregular lives, and scandalous examples, afflict the Christian world, and ruin the bodies and souls of men. And is not this confirmed by the grief of all who fear God? Is it not manifest that the laws and human doctrines of the popes entangle, vex, and distress the consciences of the faithful, while the crying and endless extortions of Rome engulf the property and wealth of Christendom, and more particularly of this illustrious nation? Yet it is a perpetual statute that the laws and doctrines of the pope be held erroneous and reprobate when they are contrary to the Gospel and the opinions of the church fathers.

If I were to revoke what I have written on that subject, what should I do but strengthen this tyranny, and open a wider door to so many and flagrant impieties? Bearing down all resistance with fresh fury, we should behold these proud men swell, foam, and rage more than ever! And not merely would the yoke which now weighs down Christians be made more grinding by my retractation it would thereby become, so to speak, lawful, for, by my retractation, it would receive confirmation from your most serene majesty, and all the States of the Empire. Great God! I should thus be like to an infamous cloak, used to hide and cover over every kind of malice and tyranny.

In the third and last place, I have written some books against private individuals, who had undertaken to defend the tyranny of Rome by destroying the faith. I freely confess that I may have attacked such persons with more violence than was consistent with my profession as an ecclesiastic: I do not think of myself as a saint; but neither can I retract these books. Because I should, by so doing, sanction the impieties of my opponents, and they would thence take occasion to crush God’s people with still more cruelty.

Yet, as I am a mere man, and not God, I will defend myself after the example of Jesus Christ, who said: “If I have spoken evil, bear witness against me; but if well, why doest thou strike me?” (John 18:23). How much more should I, who am but dust and ashes, and so prone to error, desire that everyone should bring forward what he can against my doctrine. Therefore, most serene emperor, and you illustrious princes, and all, whether high or low, who hear me, I implore you by the mercies of God to prove to me by the writings of the prophets and apostles that I am in error. As soon as I shall be convinced, I will instantly retract all my errors, and will myself be the first to seize my writings, and commit them to the flames.

What I have just said will, I think, clearly show that I have well considered and weighed, not only the dangers to which I am exposing myself, but also the parties and dissensions excited in the world by means of my doctrine, of which I was yesterday so gravely admonished. But far from being dismayed by them, I rejoice exceedingly to see the Gospel this day, as of old, a cause of disturbance and disagreement; for such is the character and destiny of God’s word. “I came not to send peace unto the earth, but a sword,” said Jesus Christ. “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes shall be those of his own household.” (Matthew 10:34-36)

God is wonderful and terrible in His counsels. Let us have a care, lest in our endeavors to arrest discords, we be bound to fight against the holy word of God and bring down upon our heads a frightful deluge of inextricable dangers, present disaster, and everlasting desolations. Let us have a care that the reign of the young and noble prince, the Emperor Charles, on whom, next to God, we build so many hopes, should not only commence, but continue and terminate its course, under the most favorable auspices.

I might cite examples drawn from the oracles of God. I might speak of Pharaohs, of kings of Babylon, or of Israel, who were never more contributing to their own ruin than when, by measures in appearances most prudent, they thought to establish their authority! God removeth the mountains and they know not (Job 9:5). In speaking thus, I do not suppose that such noble princes have need of my poor judgment; but I wish to acquit myself of a duty whose fulfillment my native Germany has a right to expect from her children. And so commending myself to your august majesty, and your most serene highnesses, I beseech you in all humility, not to permit the hatred of my enemies to rain upon me an indignation I have not deserved. I have done.

[Having delivered this speech in German, Luther was now asked to repeat it in Latin. After some hesitation, he did so. He was then reminded that he should answer a simple question: whether he would retract or not. Thus he continued:]

Since your most serene majesty and your high mightinesses require of me a simple, clear and direct answer, I will give one, and it is this: I cannot submit my faith either to the pope or to the council, because it is as clear as noonday that they have fallen into error and even into glaring inconsistency with themselves. If, then, I am not convinced by proof from Holy Scripture, or by cogent reasons, if I am not satisfied by the very text I have cited, and if my judgment is not in this way brought into subjection to God’s word, I neither can nor will retract anything; for it cannot be either safe or honest for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise; God help me! Amen.” Martin Luther’s Speech at the Imperial Diet in Worms, Germany (18 April 1521)

Zealous, ardent, and devoted, knowing no fear but the fear of God and acknowledging no foundation for religious faith but the Holy Scriptures, Luther was the man for his time; through him God accomplished a great work for the reformation of the church and the enlightenment of the world. – E. G. White

The Constitution is our final defense against threats to liberty of conscience. What once was seen as established law is now viewed as a customizable tool to violate the very rights it was written to protect. (http://www.lightbearers.org/freedom-of-conscience-threatened/)  May we know our history well that we many not repeat the same mistakes or commit the same atrocities that had not needed to ever happen.

Character

“The greatest want of the world is the want of men—men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.”  E. G. White

The Power of Influence

Every day of life is freighted with responsibilities which we must bear. Every day, our words and acts are making impressions upon those with whom we associate. How great the need that we set a watch upon our lips and guard carefully our steps! One reckless movement, one imprudent step, and the surging waves of some strong temptation may sweep a soul into the downward path. We cannot gather up the thoughts we have planted in human minds. If they have been evil, we may have set in motion a train of circumstances, a tide of evil, which we are powerless to stay.

On the other hand, if by our example we aid others in the development of good principles, we give them power to do good. In their turn they exert the same beneficial influence over others. Thus hundreds and thousands are helped by our unconscious influence. The true follower of Christ strengthens the good purposes of all with whom he comes in contact. Before an unbelieving, sin-loving world he reveals the power of God’s grace and the perfection of His character.

Prophets and Kings p. 347-348

Education and Character

True education does not ignore the value of scientific knowledge or literary acquirements; but above information it values power; above power, goodness; above intellectual acquirements, character. The world does not so much need men of great intellect as of noble character. It needs men in whom ability is controlled by steadfast principle.

“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom.” “The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright.” Proverbs 4:7; 15:2. True education imparts this wisdom. It teaches the best use not only of one but of all our powers and acquirements. Thus it covers the whole circle of obligation–to ourselves, to the world, and to God.

Character building is the most important work ever entrusted to human beings; and never before was its diligent study so important as now. Never was any previous generation called to meet issues so momentous; never before were young men and young women confronted by perils so great as confront them today.

At such a time as this, what is the trend of the education given? To what motive is appeal most often made? To self-seeking. Much of the education given is a perversion of the name. In true education the selfish ambition, the greed for power, the disregard for the rights and needs of humanity, that are the curse of our world, find a counterinfluence. God’s plan of life has a place for every human being. Each is to improve his talents to the utmost; and faithfulness in doing this, be the gifts few or many, entitles one to honor. In God’s plan there is no place for selfish rivalry. Those who measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves among themselves, are not wise. 2 Corinthians 10:12. Whatever we do is to be done “as of the ability which God giveth.” 1 Peter 4:11. It is to be done “heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23, 24. Precious the service done and the education gained in carrying out these principles. But how widely different is much of the education now given! From the child’s earliest years it is an appeal to emulation and rivalry; it fosters selfishness, the root of all evil.

Thus is created strife for supremacy; and there is encouraged the system of “cramming,” which in so many cases destroys health and unfits for usefulness. In many others, emulation leads to dishonesty; and by fostering ambition and discontent, it embitters the life and helps to fill the world with those restless, turbulent spirits that are a continual menace to society.

Nor does danger pertain to methods only. It is found also in the subject matter of the studies.

What are the works on which, throughout the most susceptible years of life, the minds of the youth are led to dwell? In the study of language and literature, from what fountains are the youth taught to drink?–From the wells of paganism; from springs fed by the corruptions of ancient heathendom. They are bidden to study authors, of whom, without dispute, it is declared that they have no regard for the principles of morality.

And of how many modern authors also might the same be said! With how many are grace and beauty of language but a disguise for principles that in their real deformity would repel the reader!

Besides these there is a multitude of fiction writers, luring to pleasant dreams in palaces of ease. These writers may not be open to the charge of immorality, yet their work is no less really fraught with evil. It is robbing thousands upon thousands of the time and energy and self-discipline demanded by the stern problems of life.

In the study of science, as generally pursued, there are dangers equally great. Evolution and its kindred errors are taught in schools of every grade, from the kindergarten to the college. Thus the study of science, which should impart a knowledge of God, is so mingled with the speculations and theories of men that it tends to infidelity.

Even Bible study, as too often conducted in the schools, is robbing the world of the priceless treasure of the word of God. The work of “higher criticism,” in dissecting, conjecturing, reconstructing, is destroying faith in the Bible as a divine revelation; it is robbing God’s word of power to control, uplift, and inspire human lives.

As the youth go out into the world to encounter its allurements to sin,–the passion for money getting, for amusement and indulgence, for display, luxury, and extravagance, the overreaching, fraud, robbery, and ruin, –what are the teachings there to be met?

Spiritualism asserts that men are unfallen demigods; that “each mind will judge itself;” that “true knowledge places men above all law;” that “all sins committed are innocent;” for “whatever is, is right,” and “God doth not condemn.” The basest of human beings it represents as in heaven, and highly exalted there. Thus it declares to all men, “It matters not what you do; live as you please, heaven is your home.” Multitudes are thus led to believe that desire is the highest law, that license is liberty, and that man is accountable only to himself. .6}

With such teaching given at the very outset of life, when impulse is strongest, and the demand for self-restraint and purity is most urgent, where are the safeguards of virtue? what is to prevent the world from becoming a second Sodom?

At the same time anarchy is seeking to sweep away all law, not only divine, but human. The centralizing of wealth and power; the vast combinations for the enriching of the few at the expense of the many; the combinations of the poorer classes for the defense of their interests and claims; the spirit of unrest, of riot and bloodshed; the world-wide dissemination of the same teachings that led to the French Revolution–all are tending to involve the whole world in a struggle similar to that which convulsed France.

Such are the influences to be met by the youth of today. To stand amidst such upheavals they are now to lay the foundations of character.

In every generation and in every land the true foundation and pattern for character building have been the same. The divine law, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart; . . . and thy neighbor as thyself” (Luke 10:27), the great principle made manifest in the character and life of our Saviour, is the only secure foundation and the only sure guide.

“The stability of thy times and the strength of thy happiness shall be wisdom and knowledge” (Isaiah 33:6, Leeser’s translation)–that wisdom and knowledge which God’s word alone can impart.

It is as true now as when the words were spoken to Israel of obedience to His commandments: “This is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations.” Deuteronomy 4:6.

Here is the only safeguard for individual integrity, for the purity of the home, the well-being of society, or the stability of the nation. Amidst all life’s perplexities and dangers and conflicting claims the one safe and sure rule is to do what God says. “The statutes of the Lord are right,” and “he that doeth these things shall never be moved.” Psalms 19:8; 15:5.

From the book “Education” by E. G. White

7 Steps to Inspire and Empower Young Minds

In this post I would like to address seven practical steps that will inspire and empower young people for success. The resources needed are usually within our reach. Often times a little inspiration and a little extra motivation is what we need to help us get started and to send us on our way.

  1. Take inventory of your personal arsenal

You’ve heard the phrase “If you want to change the world, start with yourself”. I suggest a similar philosophy applies to personal success. If you want to succeed, start where you are and with the abilities, the talents, and the resources that are available to you. Do not be discouraged by what you lack but take notice of the things you have and put that which you have to good use. Make a list of the resources that lie at your fingertips and count them as your arsenal. Make sure it is ready for use when you need it to tackle a situation or a project or when that moment comes where talent meets opportunity.

  1. Define your purpose

What are your intentions for the future? What are your goals? What are you trying to accomplish short-term and also long-term? When we have a vision of what we desire to accomplish and when we combine it with the determination to reach that goal we gain strength and success becomes reality. It is true that your abilities will be tested and stretched. The path will not always be smooth and easy. We should expect obstacles and detours along the way but that is not to discourage us. We deal with the road blocks and we continue on with the goal we set to accomplish.

  1. Put your abilities to work

What is your skill? What do you do best? What do you enjoy doing most? What are your talents? These questions should help you determine the area or the field you can be most successful in and most happy as well. A wise man once said “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Even if our abilities appear small in our eyes and the opportunities insignificant we are to do ourselves a favor and exercise them anyway. People with ordinary talents often achieve more than those with greater physical and intellectual abilities because they work harder and they are prepared to meet the opportunities.

  1. Be determined to do your best

You may think you are just an ordinary person with no extraordinary abilities. But if you think again you will agree that there is only one of you in the entire universe and that makes you not so ordinary. In fact what you could contribute to humanity in your own sphere of influence might prove irreplaceable. The well-known old story of the hare and the tortoise reminds us that the tortoise won the race not because he had great ability but because he used his ability to the utmost.  Be determined to do your best! King Solomon advises us in Ecclesiastes 9:10 “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…”

  1. Embrace the struggle

There is scarcely any success without struggle. For our own sake, we must scorn the easy way outs and the shortcuts in life. Only when you match your abilities against something challenging you will obtain strength and you will experience growth. As you master difficult tasks you will gain the courage to handle still harder assignments. Nature teaches us important lessons in this regard. Take for example the process of ecdysis. The cicada suffers a great deal of struggle when molting its old exoskeleton. But this he must do in order to survive and grow. So “Embrace the struggle and let it make you stronger…” Tony Gaskin.

  1. Use the power of your imagination

Imagination is an amazing and a powerful thing that opens the door to a world once believed to be beyond reach. Napoleon Hill wrote, “The imagination is literally the workshop wherein are fashioned all plans created by man.” Imagination, indeed, is responsible for all the achievements of humanity. From the tallest skyscrapers to the little light bulb most everything manufactured was first produced in the inventor’s imagination. Imagination is truly a powerful tool in the arsenal of a wise person.

  1. Add a good measure of enthusiasm

The following quote explains this very well. “Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

As much as we try to avoid difficulties and shield ourselves and our children from hardships and disappointments, these are part of life and sooner or later everyone encounters them. We should not pretend that they do not exist or fool ourselves into thinking that they will never come our way, because they will and we need to be prepared to face them. For “Success is not [only] measured by what you accomplish, but [also] by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.” Orison Swett Marden

Each one of us is born with great potential and significant abilities. We are intrusted with these for personal growth, for personal success and also for the bettering of humanity. Take courage! Do your best! You are bound to succeed!