Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Sword of the Spirit…..God’s Holy Word

I suppose it was inevitable that computerised robotic technology would be applied to warfare in the 21st century. The US government is now using drones…unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with missiles as part of its offensive against the Islamist Al Qaeda terrorist organisation and its affiliates in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Horn of Africa. These vehicles are piloted remotely by technicians operating from desks in mainland America, who from afar, conduct a variety of operations from surveillance to identification to the launch of air to ground missiles against targets on the other side of the world.

These hugely effective weapons enable states such as the USA and the UK to take the offensive against their enemies without putting their own personnel directly in harm’s way.

Unlike the ever evolving and varied offensive weaponry available to the 21st century military, true believers engaged in the daily spiritual battle have only one offensive weapon which has remained unchanged but totally effective for thousands of years………..the Bible, God’s Holy and inerrant Word.

The great evangelist, Charles Hadden Spurgeon speaking in 1891 put the spiritual battle in perspective: “Our warfare is not child's play: we mean business. We have to deal with fierce foes, who are only to be met with keen weapons. Buffets will not suffice in this contest; we must come to sword-cuts. You may be of a very quiet spirit, but your adversaries are not so. If you attempt to play at Christian warfare, they will not. To meet the powers of darkness is no sham battle. They mean mischief. Nothing but your eternal damnation will satisfy the fiendish hearts of Satan and his crew.”

The Apostle Paul in his discourse on the Armour of God is quite clear that believers need to take up, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” This is a mandate for the offensive: true believers must pick up God’s word, read and study it daily; commit it to memory and put it into practice.   

The great theologian and writer John MacArthur affirms the primacy of the ‘sword of the spirit’ in the life of every true believer: “Because in all that it affirms it is without error, because in every single thing it says it is without error, because it is complete and there is no more to be added to it, nor is there anything to be taken away from it, it is therefore……. the authoritative Word of God. It is precisely what God wanted to say. And that is why Isaiah 1:2 says, “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord has spoken.”

Since this is the infallible, inerrant complete authoritative Word of God, it is sufficient. We don’t need anything else. We do not need anything else. Psalm 19 lays that out a number of ways. It is sufficient not only for our salvation, converting the soul, but it is sufficient to make the simple, or the ignorant wise, fully skilled in all matters of holy living, is what that means.”

Jesus himself was directly attacked by Satan at the beginning of his ministry. When tempted in the wilderness by the evil one, Jesus responded using his knowledge of the scriptures, quoting from the Psalms and the book of Deuteronomy.

If the scriptures as they existed two thousand years ago were good enough for Jesus, they should certainly be good enough for all true believers in 21st century Scotland.  So let’s encourage and cultivate the habit of daily Bible reading and study.    


Friday, 21 February 2014

The Helmet of Salvation

As a keen cyclist, I never get on my bike without first putting on my protective helmet. Avoiding the narrow and dangerous West Highland main roads, I use the cycle track built on the former Oban to Ballachulish railway line. Here, other hazards such as highland cattle, sheep and horses with all of their attendant unpredictability present themselves. In such an environment where injury through collision or evasive action is a real possibility, a helmet to protect the skull is an essential piece of equipment which could literally save your life.

In the Apostle Paul’s discourse on the ‘Armour of God’, the fifth piece of armour is the ‘helmet of salvation’. The Roman soldier’s helmet, without which he would never enter battle, was made of thick leather covered with metal plates including cheek pieces to protect the face.

All legionnaires wore a helmet to protect the head from injury caused by a blow from the commonly used two handed broadsword or ‘rhomphaia’ measuring around three foot six inches in length. Popular in Europe in Roman times, this vicious weapon was used by enemies to split or decapitate Roman skulls.

The Apostle Paul was well aware that Satan attacks the mind of the believer with doubt and discouragement. Thus the helmet of salvation gives assurance, protecting the mind from enemy attacks suggesting doubts about salvation, the heavenly destination and the love of God.

Believers need the protection of the helmet because a wounded mind can be seriously damaging to the individual’s life and witness. Writing to the church at Colossae, the Apostle Paul asked believers to "set your mind on things above" in order to ensure that they had a right focus in their lives.

The Bible is very clear about the functions of the helmet of salvation.

Firstly when believers wear it they are justified before God. This means that the moment a person trusts in Christ they can no longer be condemned by their sin. The Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans assures all believers that they are secure in their Heavenly Father’s hands: “…. there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Secondly, believers wearing the helmet of salvation are progressively sanctified. This means that as we live under God’s grace, sin no longer dominates our lives. Again this is illustrated by the Apostle in the Epistle to the Romans: “….. count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”

Thirdly, a key aspect of the believer’s salvation is their future glorification when we will be wholly saved from the presence of sin. Looking forward to this time the Apostle John in his first Epistle wrote: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure”.

True believers who wear the helmet of salvation every day can stand strong in the face of all doubt and discouragement. In the difficult spiritual environment of 21st century Scotland, that’s great news worth shouting about!


Thursday, 20 February 2014

The Shield of Faith…..Vital Protection

Continuing with our focus on the Armour of God, it is interesting to note that when asking true believers to ‘take up the shield of faith’ the Apostle Paul prefaces his instruction with the words “above all”. In doing so he is emphasising the importance of this piece of armour to believers living out their faith in a hostile environment.

The Roman army used different shields at different times for different tasks. Cavalry carried a light oblong shield while legionaries carried the small, round buckler or ‘parma’ whose design incorporated iron and was about 36 inches in diameter. The Apostle is however alluding to the ‘scutum’ a much larger and more effective weapon which eventually became the standard shield in the Roman army.

Measuring 4' x 2 ' and curved to the shape of the body, these shields were made of wood and were covered on the outside with thick leather. This design minimised the impact of any rough missile and also protected the legionary from the fire-tipped darts used in the artillery of Roman times.

Roman legionaries used their shields expertly in different formations the most famous of which is the ‘testudo’.  In this formation, legionaries formed a packed square for either attack or defence which was protected on all sides and overhead by their scutums.

Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia, quotes the Roman historian Cassius Dio’s description of the formation from Mark Antony’s campaign of 36 BC: "This testudo and the way in which it is formed are as follows…..The heavy-armed troops who use the oblong, curved, and cylindrical shields are drawn up around the outside, making a rectangular figure, and, facing outward and holding their arms at the ready, they enclose the rest. The others, who have flat shields, form a compact body in the centre and raise their shields over the heads of all the others, so that nothing but shields can be seen in every part of the phalanx alike and all the men by the density of the formation are under shelter from missiles."

The Apostle Paul is very specific about the function of this shield. It is to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

The Apostle was no fool. He recognised the reality of Satan and the fact that he would constantly be on the lookout for chinks in the believer’s armour to attack with his main weapon which is doubt. Satan’s strategy is to cause believers to doubt every aspect of their faith in Christ, their salvation, the presence of the Holy Spirit and even the reliability of God’s word.

The great 19th century evangelist Charles Hadden Spurgeon in a sermon delivered in 1861 called upon believers to take up the shield of faith and become offensive as well as defensive warriors in the spiritual battle:

 “Like the Spartans, every Christian is born a warrior. It is his destiny to be assaulted; it is his duty to attack. Part of his life will be occupied with defensive warfare. He will have to defend earnestly the faith once delivered to the saints; he will have to resist the devil; he will have to stand against all his wiles; and having done all, still to stand! He will, however, be but a sorry Christian if he acts only on the defensive. He must be one who goes against his foes, as well as stand still to receive their advance. He must be able to say with David, “I come against you in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have defied.” He must wrestle not with flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers. He must have weapons for his warfare—not carnal—but “mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.”

Knowing God’s word inside out both individually and corporately as church fellowships and putting it into practice are vital aspects of the shield of faith. Where 21st century Scottish evangelicals are genuinely prepared to take up the shield of faith, they can truly begin to push back the powers of darkness in the land.


Thursday, 13 February 2014

The Shoes of Peace

Today we come to the third item in the ‘Armour of God’ as described by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Church at Ephesus…. “Stand firm then……………….with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”

As a historian with a keen interest in military history, I am well aware of the prowess of the Roman army and its great leaders whose strategies, tactics and exploits are still taught to 21st century officers in military academies across the world. Well trained, disciplined and led, the sheer professionalism of its legions enabled Rome to conquer and hold most of the known world 2,000 years ago.

Roman soldiers were well armed and equipped from head to toe. While most Roman civilians wore thin sandals, soldiers had special footwear which time after time proved to be a decisive factor on the battlefield. Indeed some historians credit the military successes of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar to their soldiers’ feet being well enough shod to enable them to undertake long marches over seemingly difficult terrain at speed.

The soldier wore the caliga, a thick-soled, hob-nailed, half-boot with leather straps tightly tied round the ankle. Studding with metal nails gave him stability in all forms of terrain. Good footwear ensured a firm footing when charging forward in battle and helped him to hold his ground and make quick moves without slipping, sliding and falling.

What then does the Apostle Paul mean when he says that believers should “Stand firm then……………….with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”

The author John Piper writing on his website at www.desiringgod.org sheds some light on the ‘gospel of peace’: “Sometimes commentators point out how strange it is that Paul should mention a gospel of peace right in the middle of a passage dealing with spiritual warfare and conflict and armour. But it isn't strange is it? The aim of our warfare is that people would accept the terms of peace that God holds out, namely, faith in Jesus. And the only reason there is any conflict at all is because the power of sin and the powers of Satan are dead set against making peace with God.”

The Apostle Paul’s analogy here is one of having our feet shod so that we can resist Satan and stand firm when we are attacked. In ‘military-speak’ believers are to stand firm, hold their position and not run away. In order to do that their feet need to be both protected and equipped to keep from slipping.

In his Epistle to the Romans the Apostle gives this wonderful assurance to believers under pressure: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.  Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written:“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Standing firm with, ‘feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace’, true believers in 21st century Scotland are more than conquerors.




The Breastplate of Righteousness

Continuing our series of posts on the ‘Believer’s Armour’ we come to the second of the Apostle Paul’s list of defensive items…..the ‘breastplate of righteousness’.

In the Apostle Paul’s day, this piece of armour was designed to protect the heart and lungs or ‘vital organs’ of the Roman soldier. Initially made of leather and strengthened with pieces of horn sewn in, the breastplate was improved over time. Later more sophisticated versions were manufactured from metals such as copper and were highly polished with elaborate designs on the visible frontal segment.

What then does the Apostle Paul mean when he talks about believers protecting themselves with the ‘breastplate of righteousness’?

The answer to this question lies in the holy nature of the Living God, a characteristic which some believers find hard to understand.

Blogger Tim Challies has recently attempted to clarify the issue: “Holiness is a difficult term to define. Most Christians know that a dimension of holiness is God’s set-apartness, his being essentially different from everyone and everything else, but there is far more to it than that……  If holiness is very near the heart of what it means for God to be God, it would make sense that it will be difficult for finite minds to understand and to distil to just a few words.

What does it mean that God is holy? Entire books would not come close to exhausting it. It means that God is different from everything else that exists in the universe. God is unique and set apart. Everything God is, everything God has, everything God does is saturated with holiness and flows out of his holiness. He is pure and good and perfect in all his works and all his ways. God’s goodness is good because he is holy; God’s justice is just because he is holy. Whatever God is, his holiness is right at the very heart.”
The great theologian Charles Ryrie wrote, “…holiness in the Bible means separation from all that is common or unclean.  In respect to God, holiness means not only that He is separate from all that is unclean and evil but also that He is positively pure and thus distinct from all others”.

This fact alone, abundantly clear in the Bible, places all human beings in a quandary: we are separated from God, the very source of life by something which we cannot fix by our own efforts…our sinfulness.

Today many people continue to put their faith in their own righteous deeds. Jesus however was very clear that self-righteousness cut no ice with His Father:
“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

As every born again believer knows, God sacrificed His Son on a cross for their sin, and because of this every true believer is righteous in the sight of God. They stand justified and free of condemnation. This is God’s great gift to all who believe.
Blogger Dele Oke explains two key aspects of righteousness: “Firstly, it is imputed to us: this means something we are given free of charge without effort. This gives us the right to stand before God and speak to him as if we were sinless. Secondly righteousness is imparted into us: this means something that Christ works in us and with our cooperation. This grants us the inner strength to live and conduct ourselves in a manner that is pleasing to God.”
Despite the challenging spiritual environment of 21st century Scotland, God still wants His people to live holy lives, not walking in sin or compromising their faith.

This means being properly equipped inside and out with the power of Christ by wearing the breastplate of righteousness 24/7.



Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The Belt of Truth

There are new levels of hostility to born again Christians in 21st century Scotland. Enmity and opposition to the Gospel is increasing daily in society at large. Even within what can be loosely described as the church, orthodox Bible believing evangelicals are increasingly assailed on the one hand by liberals who deny the foundations of the faith. On the other hand, they are faced with the covert infiltration of the church by a new breed of self-appointed church and ministry leaders who promote their own pronouncements over the veracity of scripture.

Orthodox true believers have two options in such a situation……curl up and withdraw from life, or do what the Bible says: recognise they are in a spiritual battle taking their stand for Christ while wearing the armour of God for protection.

The Apostle Paul describes this armour in terms of 6 items that a Roman soldier of his day would have worn: “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Interestingly, the Apostle begins with the ‘belt of truth’. The belt was a very important item of the Roman Soldier's armour. Worn round the waist the belt was very wide to give it the strength to hold a variety of items….at least one sword, a rations sack, a rope and other specialist pieces of equipment. The belt was tied in several places so that it would stay in place no matter how the soldier moved about.

It’s no coincidence that the belt the Apostle Paul talks about is the ‘belt of truth’. In an article entitled, ‘The Battle for Truth’, the late Dave Hunt wrote: “There is a battle raging for man's soul and for control of the universe. It is a very real war between the "God of truth" and Satan, "the father of lies" in whom there "is no truth". One either believes God's truth or Satan's lie. There is no neutral ground. The cosmic battle of the ages is the battle for truth. But what is truth?

An editorial entitled "Truth" in the Los Angeles Times noted that "in a contemporary eight-volume encyclopaedia of philosophy, 'Truth' has only three lines……. Yet in the King James Bible the word "truth" occurs 235 times in 222 verses. …….It is to God's Word, then, that we must turn to learn of truth.”

A Christian's survival in the world requires a firm grounding in the absolute truth of the Bible.  The power of truth is that it sets us free by breaking the power of Satan’s lies. In the Genesis account of Eve in the Garden of Eden, Satan downplays the consequences of sin and promotes its pleasures.  When true believers are firmly rooted in the truth, they are best equipped to recognise lies, stand up to Satan and do God's will.

In modern warfare, Intelligence data and its interpretation plays a vital role in the outcome of conflict.  The Bible as God's word reveals the truth which enables believers to recognise and decisively defeat Satan’s lies.  The writer to the Hebrews sums up the role that the Bible should play in the life of a true believer: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” 

When we put on the ‘belt of truth’ every day, we arm ourselves with the power and truth of God’s word. Absolutely trustworthy and applicable to every situation…it’s ‘gold standard’ protection.       


Monday, 10 February 2014

Battlefield Protection

Given the events of the last five years or so, born again Christians in Scotland could be forgiven for feeling that their faith and way of life is under attack. Assailed on all sides by a variety of aggressive, unholy forces, 21st century Scotland has become a hostile environment for true believers. 

On the one hand there is a seemingly unstoppable rising tide of humanism, secularism and militant atheism. These ‘politically savvy’ forces are supported by a mass media with an agenda that is determined to ridicule, satirise and relegate Bible-believing Christians to the margins of society.

On the other hand Christians, particularly evangelicals have done themselves no favours. Decades of inept, self absorbed leadership simply ignored the far reaching changes taking place in society. Recent frantic activity by those who have wakened up to what was happening was ‘too little too late’ to prevent same-sex marriage becoming enshrined in law. The failure of Christians to prevent this measure reaching the statute book has simply opened the way to future discrimination against those who take a stand for Christ in the workplace and in other settings.  Already branded as irrational, bigoted, practisers of a faith that is out of date and out of step with contemporary Scotland, mature true believers are now under no illusion of the magnitude and intensity of the spiritual battle that they are now in.

Tragically many of those who are part of Scotland’s varied evangelical community have no idea that they are even in a spiritual battle. Weak and selective Bible teaching designed to appeal to the ‘felt needs’ of the unbeliever has undermined the authority of the scriptures. In some of our ‘happy-clappy’ evangelical churches the realities of sin, confession, repentance and holiness have been consigned to the back burner. Many Christians rarely read their Bibles, preferring the books of ‘pseudo-Christian’ psychologists and dream interpreters which on close examination are ‘more Harry Potter’ than Holy Spirit. 

The Apostle Paul knew a thing or two about standing for Christ in a hostile environment, ultimately laying down his life. In his letter to the believers in the city of Ephesus he said: “Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

If the world was perfect, we wouldn’t need any armour, but Paul wrote about being a Christian in a hostile, non-Christian world. Like it or not, we can’t live our whole lives surrounded by Christians.

The next series of posts will consider in detail how true believers can take practical steps to arm themselves for the battle. In the meantime we can take heart from the Apostle’s uplifting and motivating words to these early believers:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Those Who Can’t……..Teach!!!!

A simple way of assessing the competence of a Scottish secondary teacher is to ask what they teach. Should the answer be couched in terms of subject specialism rather than on the pedagogy of engaging students, pupils, young people, or adults, experience tells me that the teacher has a narrow view of the process of education. The best teachers know that good teaching and learning is first and foremost based on the teacher’s ability to develop positive relationships with the class.
Teaching does involve the conveying of subject material or course content. In Scottish schools there are examinations of skills and content to be passed by the students. Teachers and schools are now rightly held accountable for their exam pass rates.

The best teachers have a clear understanding of the prescribed skills and content to be taught. Their courses are coherent and well structured. However, they do more than simply convey information; they motivate by developing a voracious appetite for learning amongst their students.  

The mark of a well-taught student is not limited to the mastery of skills and content ……the well-taught student will have become a self motivated learner.  
Philip Jensen, Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral, writes that: “Usually the teachers we remember and love the most did more than impart information to us. They were the ones who opened the world to us, taking us to places and ideas, understanding and critical thinking that we did not know even existed prior, to them taking an interest in us.”

Pastors, priests, ministers and other church leaders have the role the role of teacher in the local church. This is a vital role in the 21st century requiring knowledge, understanding, structure and high level pedagogical skills.

Sadly many 21st century Scottish Christians have an incomplete or distorted understanding of the faith that they profess due to a lack of systematic Bible teaching. Many evangelical churches do not publish a statement of faith, leaving members and attendees ignorant of the basic beliefs of the church which they attend. (A statement of faith is a summary of the key beliefs of a church/denomination……Like an educational ‘course outline’ teaching/preaching would expand, add depth, analysis and life application to the statement of faith)   

In our churches, preaching is a particular form of teaching. There is a huge responsibility on the shoulders of those who are therefore ‘called to preach’. The Bible is very clear about the need for sound doctrine (Biblical teachings that are based on the Bible rightly-divided and not on the traditions of man) to be taught in the church for the following reasons:

*      It is necessary for establishing biblical truth and for refuting error

*      Christian ministry and Bible teaching go hand in hand.

*      It is the very heart of Christian faith. 

*      It is both relevant to and practical for Christian living

*      It allows for no compromise.

*      Its neglect brings grave danger and confusion to the church and individual believers.

In his second letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul emphasises: “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” Many Christians believe that this time is now here.
The impact of Scotland’s secondary school teachers is assessed in many different ways from the performance of their pupils in national exams, to performance evaluation by the Head Teacher, local authority Quality Improvement Officers and Her Majesty’s Inspectors from Education Scotland. Who assesses the impact of Scotland’s preachers/teachers?

Christians should pray for those who feel ‘called to preach’ that they may do so from humble hearts, inspired and empowered by the Living God. Like the excellent school teachers, their impact will be to produce generations of believers who are learners and followers of the true Living God as revealed in His Word.  



Monday, 3 February 2014

Cheap Grace?….No Thanks!!!!

As a Christian historian and blogger, I have recently been studying prominent individuals who we might consider to be ‘heroes of the faith’. These people can truly be considered as spiritual giants because of the impact that their life and witness for Christ has had across the world. Their legacy can often be found in the eternal truths which they professed, taught and promoted. Such unique individuals continue to instruct and inspire believers today. 

Sadly there are few if any 21st century individuals of any prominence who measure up. The true spiritual giants of this era are those who while unrecognised by the comfortable media conscious western church, stand for Christ in the most difficult of circumstances in godless states such as North Korea, Iran and Pakistan.

The revolutionary turbulence and violence of the 20th century produced a number of individuals who could be considered to be ‘heroes of the faith’, not least the German Pastor who resisted the forces of Nazism, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Born into an aristocratic, academic family his parents were shocked and displeased when at the age of 14, Dietrich announced he intended to become a pastor and theologian. Graduating from the University of Berlin in 1927, he initially spent some months in Spain as an assistant pastor to a German congregation. Further study followed including some time in the USA before Bonhoeffer took up a post of theology lecturer at the University of Berlin.

When Hitler and the Nazis came to power in 1933, the young Bonhoeffer along with a small number of evangelicals quickly came to realise the great evil of the anti-semitism being promoted by the Nazi Party and the pitiful capitulation of many German Christians to the Nazi view of the world.  Alongside other pastors and theologians, Bonhoeffer involved himself in organising the Confessing Church. In making the Barmen Declaration of 1934, this church publically declared its allegiance to Jesus Christ first: "We repudiate the false teaching that the church can and must recognize yet other happenings and powers, personalities and truths as divine revelation alongside this one Word of God."

In the late 1930s Bonhoeffer travelled to America to become a guest lecturer, but returned to his homeland within months, confessing to fellow theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, "I have made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period in our national history with the Christian people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people."

In April 1943, Bonhoeffer was arrested and incarcerated in Tegel prison as a result of his opposition to the Nazis. He spent two years in prison, writing to family and friends and pastoring fellow prisoners. Eventually he was transferred from Tegel to Buchenwald concentration camp and then to the extermination camp at Flossenb├╝rg. On April 9, 1945, one month before Germany surrendered, he was hanged with six other resisters.

A true hero of the faith, Dietrich Bonhoeffer continues to inspire and instruct Christians to this day. In 1937 he wrote a book entitled ‘The Cost of Discipleship’ in which he called for a more faithful, radical obedience to Christ. His timeless description of ‘cheap grace’ stands as a severe rebuke to the comfortable, sanitised faith being promoted by many 21st century Christians.

"Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession. … Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer ‘walked the talk’ living with grace, courage and without compromise: a true believer who put his trust in these words from the Bible: “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Now that’s the ‘real deal’.