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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Saturday Evening, December 6, 2008
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:35).

Dr. Henry M. Morris said, “real life is found only in dying to self and living for Christ. This divine paradox is repeatedly emphasized in the New Testament” (Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Defender’s Study Bible, World Publishing, 1995, p. 1067; note on Mark 8:35). “This same life or death devotion to Christ is repeated in [Matthew 10:38] 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:28; 14:27” (The MacArthur Study Bible, Word Bibles, 1997, p. 1411; note on Matthew 10:38). Matthew Henry said,

We must not dread the loss of our lives, provided it be in the cause of Christ (v. 35); “Whosoever shall save his life,” by declining Christ, and refusing to come to him, or by disowning and denying him…he shall “lose” it…all the hopes of eternal life: such a bad bargain will he make for himself. But “Whosoever shall lose his life,” shall be truly willing to lose it, shall venture it [risk it], shall lay it down…he shall “save” it, he shall be an unspeakable gainer (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Hendrickson Publishers, 1996 edition, volume 5, p. 409; note on Mark 8:35).

Or, as missionary Jim Elliot put it, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:35).

John Huss (1369-1415) was a man who took those words of Christ seriously. He was born in a poor family in Bohemia, but managed to earn a bachelor’s, a master’s degree and a doctoral degree at the University of Prague. By 1398 he was lecturing on theology at the University. In 1401 he was ordained to the priesthood. The next year he became the rector of the University of Prague, in what is now Czechoslovakia. He was a powerful preacher in the most influential pulpit there.

Huss saw the corruption of the Catholic Church. He read the writings of the English Reformer John Wycliffe (1320-1384) who has been called “The morning star of the Reformation.” Huss translated Wycliffe’s books into Bohemian, and preached Wycliffe’s doctrines, that the Bible is the only rule in matters of religion and faith. He also taught that salvation is by faith in Christ alone. He said,

It is to Christ, wretched though I am, that I flee, in the sure hope that He will guide me with life and help. I trust that he will deliver me from my sins and from my existing wretched life and give me the reward of infinite joy.

Huss was put in prison for his teachings, which were called “heresy” by the Catholic Church. While he was in prison, the Catholic Church condemned the teachings of Wycliffe and ordered his skeleton to be dug up and burned to ashes, which was carried out.

Huss was brought before the Council of Constance and accused of twenty-six heresies. The Council pronounced him a heretic and condemned him to be burned at the stake unless he recanted. He was held in a filthy prison, where he was so covered with chains that he could hardly move. Finally he was taken to the place of execution. As he stood before the stake where he would be burned, he prayed, “Lord Jesus Christ, it is for the sake of the gospel and the preaching of the word that I patiently undergo this ignominious death.”

He was tied to the stake, and wood was piled around him. The Duke of Bavaria asked him one last time to recant. Huss said,

No. I never preached any doctrine of an evil tendency; and what I taught with my lips I now seal with my blood.

The name “Huss” means “goose” in Bohemian. Huss then said to the executioner,

You are now going to burn a goose, but a century from now you will have a swan whom you can neither roast nor boil.

This prophecy was fulfilled 102 years later when Martin Luther nailed the Ninety-Five Theses on the door of his church in Wittenberg and the Reformation began. Luther’s coast of arms had a swan on it!

As the fire was lit, Huss sang a hymn. His ashes were collected and, by order of the council, thrown into the Rhine River.

But the followers of Huss never died out. They went underground, and are traced to the Moravians, one of whom led John Wesley to seek real conversion. It was in a Moravian meeting that Wesley found salvation in Christ. Thus, the teachings of Wycliffe and Huss were used by God in the First Great Awakening, which led to the world-wide missionary movement of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The living Christianity of the Reformation and the Great Awakenings can thus be linked to the writings, sermons and martyrdom of Dr. John Huss.

May some young man or woman in our church follow his example,

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:35).

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