Category Archives: World Changers

John Calvin

Lesson Eighteen | Devotion #6: John Calvin
Dr. Randy T. Johnson | Growth Pastor

Often when people think of John Calvin, they only speak of the TULIP. This is an acronym used to summarize five of his key theological (and maybe controversial) points: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints. Although you may not agree with him, he has had a huge affect on the church today.

Not much is written of his testimony, but Christianity Today records, “With his brother and sister and two friends, John Calvin fled Catholic France and headed to the free city of Strasbourg. It was the summer of 1536; Calvin had recently converted to the ‘evangelical’ faith and had just published The Institutes of the Christian Religion, which articulated his Protestant views. He was a wanted man.”

The Institutes of the Christian Religion was written as a basic guide to the Christian faith. Calvin described it, “The whole sum of godliness and whatever it is necessary to know about saving doctrine. I labored at the task especially for our own Frenchmen, for I saw that many were hungering and thirsting after Christ and yet that only a very few had any real knowledge of him.” His work is still read and respected today.

Calvin’s journey was unique. He started off studying for the priesthood, but then switched to the study of law. In studying to be a lawyer, his reading became quite diverse, and he was jolted by reading the Bible in its original languages.

Calvin’s final days were very active. Christianity Today reports, “Calvin drove himself beyond his body’s limits. When he could not walk the couple of hundred yards to church, he was carried in a chair to preach. When the doctor forbade him to go out in the winter air to the lecture room, he crowded the audience into his bedroom and gave lectures there. To those who would urge him to rest, he asked, ‘What? Would you have the Lord find me idle when he comes?’” Calvin made a huge impact for the Lord right up to his death.

John Calvin made other noteworthy statements:

“A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.”

“Seeing that a Pilot steers the ship in which we sail, who will never allow us to perish even in the midst of shipwrecks, there is no reason why our minds should be overwhelmed with fear and overcome with weariness.”

“There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.”

“However many blessings we expect from God, His infinite liberality will always exceed all our wishes and our thoughts.”

“I gave up all for Christ, and what have I found? Everything in Christ.”

Charles Finney

Lesson Eighteen | Devotion #5: Charles Finney
Dr. Randy T. Johnson | Growth Pastor

Charles Grandison Finney was a lawyer, evangelist, theologian, author, and college president. He was also the most famous revivalist of the Second Great Awakening. While most preachers ‘waited’ for the right timing for a revival, Finney believed the time was always right. He said, “More than five thousand millions have gone down to hell, while the church has been dreaming, and waiting for God to save them without the use of means.” While others studied approaches, Finney preached.

Not much is said about Finney’s childhood. Apparently, he was well-educated and became a lawyer. Christianity Today records his salvation moment, “The 29-year-old lawyer Charles Grandison Finney had decided he must settle the question of his soul’s salvation. So on October 10, 1821, he headed out into the woods near his Adams, New York, home to find God. ‘I will give my heart to God, or I never will come down from there,’ he said. After several hours, he returned to his office, where he experienced such forceful emotion that he questioned those who could not testify to a similar encounter.” Finney walked into the woods lost and came out found.

His salvation was radical and life-changing. The next day he went to his law office as normal, but it was different. He met with his next client and said, “I have a retainer from the Lord Jesus Christ to plead his cause and cannot plead yours.” Finney felt the immediate call to leave law and become a preacher.

Although he became a preacher, his style was very analytical as that of a lawyer. He used logic and expected people to make an open and public confession to follow Jesus. He knew he was saved miraculously and expected the same for others. We need a faith like that.

Finney, ‘the father of modern revivalism,’ said many valuable things:

“A state of mind that sees God in everything is evidence of growth in grace and a thankful heart.”

“Nothing tends more to cement the hearts of Christians than praying together.”

“It is the great business of every Christian to save souls.”

“If the presence of God is in the church, the church will draw the world in. If the presence of God is not in the church, the world will draw the church out.”

“Revival is a renewed conviction of sin and repentance, followed by an intense desire to live in obedience to God. It is giving up one’s will to God in deep humility.”

Billy Sunday

Lesson Eighteen | Devotion #4: Billy Sunday
Dr. Randy T. Johnson | Growth Pastor

William Ashley Sunday, better known as ‘Billy Sunday,’ was a promising professional baseball player who left the ball diamond for the pulpit. He went from centerfield to center stage. He became, “The most celebrated and influential evangelist in America during the first two decades of the twentieth century” (New World Encyclopedia).

Sunday’s father died when he was just five weeks old. “His early childhood in an Iowa log cabin was enveloped by death—ten deaths before he reached the age of 10. His mother was so impoverished, she sent her children away to the Soldier’s Orphans Home” (Christian History Magazine). His early childhood does not record any highlights. There does not seem to be any spiritual influence. It appears to be more about survival.

When Sunday was about 26 years old, he had been out drinking with some other ball players. He wandered by the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago and heard a preacher. He walked in and started listening. He became a follower of Jesus Christ. He quit drinking alcohol and baseball. He took a substantial pay cut, started speaking at the YMCA, and became an evangelist. His goal was to be so basic that anyone could understand him.

He was known for being a volatile preacher. “Sunday was a whirling dervish that pranced and cavorted and strode and bounded and pounded all over his platform and left them thrilled and bewildered as they have never been before” (Christianity Today). His emotions took him to the point that he became so passionate that he would even use course language to get their attention and make his point. His fighting and firing spirit can be seen in his quote, “I’m against sin. I’ll kick it as long as I have a foot. I’ll fight it as long as I have a fist. I’ll butt it as long as I have a head. I’ll bite it as long as I’ve got a tooth. And when I’m old and fistless and footless and toothless, I’ll gum it till I go home to Glory and it goes home to perdition.”

The Encyclopedia Britannica States, “He conducted more than 300 revivals with an estimated attendance of 100,000,000.” His message was salvation through Jesus Christ, and he ended every message with a call to conversion (or as he said ‘hit the saw dust trail’ – walk the aisle, come to the altar).

There are several sayings from Billy Sunday:

“Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.”

“Temptation is the devil looking through the keyhole. Yielding is opening the door and inviting him in.”

“They tell me a revival is only temporary; so is a bath, but it does you good.”

“The fellow that has no money is poor. The fellow that has nothing but money is poorer still.”

“What have you given the world it never possessed before you came?”

George Whitefield

Lesson Eighteen | Devotion #3: George Whitefield
Dr. Randy T. Johnson | Growth Pastor

George Whitefield has been called, “marvel of the age” (Church History Magazine), “boy wonder” (Warren Wiersbe), “the greatest preacher that England has ever produced” (Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones), the “Grand Itinerant” (Christianity Today), and the one who “ignited the Great Awakening” (PBS Detroit). You may not have heard of Whitefield since his life and ministry cover the 1700’s, but he is one of the greatest preachers of all time.

“In one year, Whitefield traveled 5,000 miles through America, preaching more than 350 times as he traversed the nation North to South. An estimated 25,000 people gathered on Boston Common to hear him speak. Another 12,000 heard him in Philadelphia and 8,000 in New York City. In 15 months, as much as a quarter of the country had heard his message” (PBS Detroit). “Whitefield preached from forty to sixty hours a week, a total of more than eighteen thousand sermons during thirty-four years of public ministry. He crossed the Atlantic thirteen times” (Warren Wiersbe). He was known for saying, “I had rather wear out than rust out.”

This crying, dancing, singing, dramatic preacher did not become a follower of Christ until later in life. His father died when he was two. His childhood was known to have the usual sins of youthfulness which he entitled ‘childhood corruption.’ It was not until he went off to Oxford that, “He fell in with a group of pious ‘methodists’—who called themselves ‘the Holy Club’—led by the Wesley brothers, John and Charles. Under their influence, he experienced a ‘new birth’ and decided to become a missionary to the new Georgia colony on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean” (Christianity Today). This ‘new birth’ stirred Whitefield’s heart. He began traveling and open air preaching or field preaching. He became so popular that someone was always sent ahead to announce his arrival. “In his lifetime, he preached at least 18,000 times to perhaps 10 million hearers” (Christianity Today).

George Whitefield had a lot of valuable things to say about the ‘new birth’:

“The great and important duty which is incumbent on Christians, is to guard against all appearance of evil; to watch against the first risings in the heart to evil; and to have a guard upon our actions, that they may not be sinful, or so much as seem to be so.”

“Take care of your life and the Lord will take care of your death.”

“Press forward. Do not stop, do not linger in your journey, but strive for the mark set before you.”

“For in Jesus Christ there is neither male nor female, bond nor free; even you may be the children of God, if you believe in Jesus.”

“God forbid that I should travel with anybody a quarter of an hour without speaking of Christ to them.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Lesson Eighteen | Devotion #2: Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dr. Randy T. Johnson | Growth Pastor

“If there was ever a Christian who practiced what he preached, it was Dietrich Bonhoeffer” (Ryan Stewart). He was a Lutheran pastor, professor, guest lecturer, double agent, author, potential assassin, and martyr.

Christianity Today writes of his childhood, “All eight children were raised in a liberal, nominally religious environment and were encouraged to dabble in great literature and the fine arts. Bonhoeffer’s skill at the piano, in fact, led some in his family to believe he was headed for a career in music. When at age 14, Dietrich announced he intended to become a minister and theologian, the family was not pleased.” It was expected that young Bonhoeffer would follow in the footsteps of his father who was a professor of psychiatry at the University of Berlin. This gifted young man accepted Christ and went forth to make a difference in the world.

One pastor summarized the view of Germany at the time of Bonhoeffer, “Christ has come to us through Adolph Hitler.” The German people were depressed, confused, and lost. Bonhoeffer could not stand around and watch. His non-action would have been a negative action. After much schooling, he pastored several churches. He studied and lectured in the United States, but felt the need to change Germany for Christ. He came back and even trained pastors at an underground Seminary. They could not be open and in the public as their views were against Hitler and his regime. Christian History Magazine writes, “He signed up with the German secret service (to serve as a double agent—while traveling to church conferences over Europe, he was supposed to be collecting information about the places he visited, but he was, instead, trying to help Jews escape Nazi oppression).” He had even become part of a plot to overthrow and assassinate Hitler.

He was caught, arrested, put in jail for two years, moved to an extermination camp, and hung. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was killed for standing up to evil. He had always spoken of how your faith should cost you something. He even wrote a book entitled The Cost of Discipleship. Stewart was right, “If there was ever a Christian who practiced what he preached, it was Dietrich Bonhoeffer.”

Bonhoeffer was very direct in his statements:

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”

“The entire day receives order and discipline when it acquires unity. This unity must be sought and found in morning prayer. The morning prayer determines the day.”

“You can only learn what obedience is by obeying.”

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

“Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.”

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