Paul Madson

THOUGHTS, QUOTES & REFLECTIONS

Month: February 2020

Faithful Unto Death: Do you know the story of Polycarp?

Biography, history, documentaries – true stories have always captivated me, whether it was studying an individual in school or reading in my free time.

I was reminded of this again over the last few days, as I prepared to teach Church History for a group of indigenous pastors on an upcoming trip.

There is a wealth of wisdom to be found in the biographical stories of people who lived in previous centuries.

Modern man tends to live with a very short attention span and lacks an appreciation for the hundreds (if not thousands) of years that have gone before us (30, 60, or 90 years seems like ancient history to many people).

Do you know the story of Polycarp, the aged Bishop of Smyrna?

Here’s a brief overview of his life:

Polycarp lived in the first and second centuries (69 – 156 AD).

He lived during the most formative era of the church, at the end of the age of the apostles, when the church was making the critical transition to the second generation of believers.

Tradition has it that Polycarp was personally discipled by the apostle John and he was appointed as bishop of Smyrna (what is now modern-day Izmir, Turkey). He served as Bishop for 50 years.

His only existing writing is “The Letter of Polycarp to the Philippians.” (110 AD)

In this letter we see a deep pastoral concern for the Philippian believers, as well as great familiarity with the New Testament documents. He urged faithfulness in the face of persecution.

His Letter to the Philippians was a significant foundation of early Christian literature, establishing the role of the Apostle Paul and referencing the existence of other texts of the New Testament.

When Polycarp was 86, the proconsul tried to get him to renounce Christ by saying,

“I have wild animals here; I will throw you to them if you do not repent.”

“Call them,” Polycarp replied. “It is unthinkable for me to repent from what is good to turn to what is evil.”

The proconsul then said, “If you despise the animals, I will have you burned.”

To which Polycarp said, “You threaten me with fire which burns for an hour, and is then extinguished, but you know nothing of the fire of the coming judgment and eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. Why are you waiting? Bring on whatever you want.”

Finally, the proconsul said,

“Take the oath [i.e. worship Caesar alone and renounce Christ], and I shall release you. Curse Christ!”

Polycarp responded,

“Eighty and six years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”

Tradition has it that Polycarp died by being bound and burned at the stake, then stabbed when the fire failed to consume his body.

Polycarp was martyred for his faith. His execution was recorded by eyewitnesses.

“There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword.

They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:35-40 NIV)

For Further Reference:
https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/study/module/polycarp
https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/incontext/article/polycarp-testimony

Discipline and Grace: The Path Toward Christlikeness

At Global Training Network’s annual All-Staff Leadership Gathering last week, I shared about one particular author whose writing has profoundly shaped my understanding of what it looks like to live out the Christian life.

That author is the late Jerry Bridges, who served with the Navigators ministry for over 50 years.

In 1980, I read my first book by Bridges, entitled The Pursuit of Holiness.

Over a decade later, I read Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love.

In 1994, Bridges released a blend of the two above-mentioned books entitled The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness.

This particular book received the ECPA Christian Book Award in 1995.

Here are a few quotes from the book on the role discipline and grace play in our growth toward Christlikeness…

“The Holy Spirit’s work in transforming us more and more into the likeness of Christ is called sanctification. Our involvement and cooperation with Him in His work is what I call the pursuit of holiness. That expression is not original with me. Rather, it is taken from Hebrews 12:14 – ‘Make every effort [literally: pursue] . . . to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.’

The pursuit of holiness requires sustained and vigorous effort. It allows for no indolence, no lethargy, no halfhearted commitment, and no laissez-faire attitude toward even the smallest sins.”

Then Bridges goes on to link the concept of grace with our growth in godliness…

“At the same time, however, the pursuit of holiness must be anchored in the grace of God; otherwise it is doomed to failure. That statement probably strikes many people as strange. A lot of Christians seem to think that the grace of God and the vigorous pursuit of holiness are antithetical – that is, in direct and unequivocal opposition to one another. . .. Grace and the personal discipline required to pursue holiness, however, are not opposed to one another. In fact, they go hand in hand.”

All of us need God’s grace and mercy every moment of every day.

Bridges wrote…

“I have read that every time the great nineteenth-century preacher Charles Spurgeon stepped into the pulpit, he did so with the silent prayer, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner’ (Luke 18:13 KJV).”

“Regardless of our performance, we are always dependent on God’s grace, His undeserved favor to those who deserve His wrath. . .. Does the fact that God has forgiven us all our sins mean that He no longer cares whether we obey or disobey? Not at all.”

“If God’s blessings were dependent on our performance, they would be meager indeed. Even our best works are shot through with sin – with varying degrees of impure motives and lots of imperfect performance. We are always, to some degree, looking out for ourselves, guarding our flanks, protecting our egos. It is because we do not realize the utter depravity of the principle of sin that remains in us and stains everything we do, that we entertain any notion of earning God’s blessings [apart from His grace] through our obedience.”

Then Bridges writes this brief statement that has become one of his most popular quotes…

“Your worst days are never so bad that you are
beyond the reach of God’s grace.

And your best days are never so good that you are
beyond the need of God’s grace.”

© 2020 Paul Madson

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑