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God's Glory in Parking Lot 23

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Chris Preaching
“O God, give me Scotland or I die.”  Those are the immortal words of John Knox.  His desire to see Scotland know Jesus and so know the Father was intense.  His passion in life was to proclaim the glory of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ no matter who may be in power or what may happen to him physically.  Knox’s life was filled with adventure and sorrow.  Yet through it all and in it all his eye was like a laser focused on God’s magnanimous beauty.  All he could think about was and all he wanted to do was to lift up the name and lead others to exalt in God. Thomas Carlyle said about Knox that he was,
a most surprising individual to have kindled all Scotland, within a few years, almost within a few months, into perhaps the noblest flame of sacred human zeal and brave determination to believe only what is found completely unbelievable, and to defy the whole world and the devil at its back, in unsubduable defense of the same.[1]
There is no question that the Scripture that epitomizes John Knox is .  So we are going to dive into this passage showing that like Knox our every move must be about the glory of God.
Knox’s Early Life
John Knox was nothing special.  He was a regular guy.  When we think of the other reformers, we find that they may have had family who were aristocrats or lawyers.  They tended to be well to do.  Not John Knox.  John Knox was born into poverty.  He had nothing going for him.  In fact, we aren’t quite sure when he was born.  Originally it was thought that he was born around 1505, but it would seem that he was actually born just before the Reformation got under way, maybe 2 years prior to Luther’s nailing of the 95 Theses.
If anyone saw how Knox was born and how he grew up there would have been little hope that he would amount to anything special at all.  But as Paul wrote, “Brothers, consider your calling: Not many are wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth,” (, HCSB).  Knox wasn’t born into nobility.  As a boy he went to school, but no one is quite sure where it was.  At some point he entered into the University of St. Andrews.  While Knox was definitely scrappy, he wasn’t very big or very tall.  He was a towering 5 feet 2 inches tall.  Later one we will show how he went up against Mary, Queen of Scots face to face, though it wasn’t quite face to face when he was 5’2” and Mary was 6 feet tall!
Paul wanted the people of Corinth to see that they do not need to be “someone” to be someone.  God uses the “nobodies” to be somebodies.  Abraham was a pagan in a land of pagans.  No one had heard of him until God called him.  Moses was a shepherd out in Midian when God called him. He actually made him a nobody before making him a somebody.  David was a shepherd boy and not even considered kingly.  The rule is that God uses people who are not what we would consider anyone special to do his work.  He uses the ordinary rather than the extraordinary.
It is often that people look at their lives and think that God could never use them.  The truth is that you are the very one that God desires to use.  He wants the poor.  He wants the uneducated.  He wants the trampled.  He want those who have thoroughly messed up their lives.  John Knox was willing and desirous to be used by God and so God used him.  But that doesn’t mean that Knox was always comfortable doing what God had called him to do.  Wouldn’t you say, Matt?
Matt Preaching

Absolutely. He was not what the world would want to listen to. It is exactly as says:
1 Corinthians 1:27 HCSB
Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong.

The foolish Knox

Unfinished degree

Unfinished degree
During the 16th century, people only wanted to listen to three groups: the rich, the famous, and the smart. If you weren’t born in nobility, if you didn’t have a lot of money, if you didn’t have a high formal education, you were seen as foolish. A commoner. John Knox was none of these things. Not only was he part of no nobility, but we don’t know when he was born! He had a meager upbringing. He never even finished his education. From the world’s perspective, nothing important could come from him.

Hesitant preacher

He did not rush into preaching, either. Early in his life, he taught young children as a tutor in a castle. Soon he began to lecture on the gospel of John. Before long these lectures became sermons. But when people began to call on him to preach to the entire castle, he refused. Refusing to take no for an answer, one of the men told Knox:
“In the name of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ, and in the name of these that presently call you by my mouth, I charge you that you refuse not this holy vocation, but that you have regard to the glory of God, the increase of Christ’s kingdom, and the edification of your brethren . . . that you take upon you the public office and charge of preaching, even as you look to avoid God’s heavy displeasure, and desire that he should multiply his graces with you.”
John Knox responded by breaking out into tears and running away. Not a high measure of confidence. But eventually John did accept the call.
Excerpt From: Douglas Bond. “The Mighty Weakness of John Knox.” iBooks.

Untimely letter

Another situation where John Knox acted foolishly was concerning a letter that he sent. So, during the reign of the woman we know today as Bloody Mary, John Knox wrote a letter to the Queen, telling her that women shouldn’t be rulers. Knox was a bit brash, so he sent this letter to her as an attack, after Mary killed many of John’s friends. Problem is, shortly after John Knox sends the letter, Catholic Bloody Mary dies. In her place comes her Protestant half-sister, Elizabeth I. It was not Mary, but Elizabeth who receives the angry letter. Let’s just say that John Knox and Queen Elizabeth I do not hit it off on the right foot. In the world’s eyes, John Knox is foolish. He is weak.

The strong God

And yet, what does Paul say? “God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” Scotland did not think much of a man of humble beginnings, who literally ran from the call to preach. Who wrote foolish letters. And yet, God made John Knox something. God working in people’s lives is not just a “Bible-times” thing. It happened with William Tyndale. It happened with Ulrich Zwingli. It happened with John Knox. It can happen with us.

Revival in Perth and beyond

What God did with John Knox was an extraordinary revival. It was incredible. Douglas Bond, who wrote The Mighty Weakness of John Knox, said of the revival occasioned by Knox’s preaching:
“Perhaps never before in one country were there so many converts to Christ in so short a time. ”
John Calvin wrote of the revival saying that he was “astonished at such incredible progress in so brief a space of time”. The spread of the Reformation went from Perth to Edinburgh, all around the country. The result was the writing of the Scots Confession of Faith, and the beginning of a new denomination, today called the Presbyterian Church. The confession that John Knox wrote was the official Presbyterian confession until 1646 when the Westminster Confession of Faith was written. Millions of people from Scotland and around the world have been brought to Christ by means of the work of John Knox. Just like in Paul’s time, God chose what was foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.
But Chris, going back to his early days, things didn’t always go well with Knox, right?
Excerpt From: Douglas Bond. “The Mighty Weakness of John Knox.” iBooks.
Chris Preaching
Knox, the Galley Slave
Knox was reared in the Roman Church, but while in those studies he came to believe that Sola Scriptura was the way to go, and that councils and popes were wrong to dictate tradition over Scripture.  His first job as a Protestant wasn’t to preach though.  He was the body guard of a man name George Wishart.  However, Wishart soon believed his time had come to meet the Lord and discharged Knox from his duties.  Sure enough, within a few days, Wishart was burned at the stake, mercifully strangled during the burning.  In retaliation, the about 12 protestants stormed the Cardinal’s castle a few months later, taking it rather easily, but killing the Cardinal.  Knox was not part of this group, but he didn’t condemn the act either.  Like Deitrich Bonhoeffer who conspired to have Hitler killed because of his evil, or like Ehud the Judge who stabbed the King of Moab because of his evil, Knox believe the killing justified.  As Douglas Wilson described, “The wickedness of this particular cardinal was notorious.  He was not simply corrupt, but bloodthirsty as well.”[2]  He then gave an account of the cardinal having four men hanged because they at a goose on Friday.  He had a young woman and her new born infant drowned because she refused to pray to “our Lady” during her birth.
So while Knox wasn’t part of the storming of the castle or the assassination of the cardinal, he went to live in the castle with those who did.  It was there that he was appointed to the ministry.  It was inevitable, and everyone knew it, that the castle couldn’t be held forever or even for very long.  The French were on their way as allies and would take back the property.  Those in side, including John Knox were then made galley slaves on French boats.
This was one of the worst places a person could be.  It was hard work, despised work.  C. S. Lewis stated
Life on board when the galley was at sea was a sort of Hell’s picnic, for there was no accommodation for anyone.  For the convicts, there was, of course, no question of sleep.  Cooking facilities were primitive, and no one ever washed, the ship crawled with vermin from stem to stern.  From below came the constant clank of chains, the crack of whips on bare flesh, screams of pain and savage growls.[3]
To be a galley slave usually meant death.  It was disgusting and wretched work.  Only the lowest of the lows were made galley slaves.  Knox, by God’s mercy, suffered on the ships for nearly two years before being released.  But while in the bowels of one of those horrid vessels the ship docked on the coast of Scotland.  A fellow rower asked Knox if he knew what building was in the distance.  He stated he did. It was St. Andrews Church.  “Yes, I know it well; for I see the steeple of that place where God first opened my mouth in public to his glory; and I am fully persuaded, how weak so ever I now appear, that I shall not depart this life, till that my tongue shall glorify his godly name in the same place.”[4]
Knox was desperate to speak of God’s glory and the salvation in Jesus alone.  He didn’t care how weak and insignificant he seemed at the moment.  He didn’t care what people thought of him—if they loved him or despised him.  He only cared about the proclamation of Christ and the glory of God.  “God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world—what is viewed as nothing—to bring to nothing what is viewed as something,” (, HCSB).
This was a man who was born into poverty, probably didn’t finish his education, made a galley slave, who turned Scotland upside down.  The Roman Church went from controlling Scotland and martyring anyone who even looked protestant to becoming a Protestant nation that outlawed the Mass outside the presence of Mary Queen of Scots.  In fact, Mary—who was a Roman Catholic—had to prosecute some of her own priests because they had Mass without her being present.  God took a man of insignifance and one who is despised and made Scotland one of the greatest protestant forces during and even after the Reformation.  Thomas Carlyle, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones,[5] and Douglas Wilson[6] would all consider Knox to be the father of Puritanism.
The Corinthians apparently had been arguing about who it was better to be baptized by.  Some liked that Paul led them to Christ, while others like Apollos and some still like Peter.  Paul’s argument was that any person who led them to Christ and subsequently baptized them were really nothing.  They were insignificant and hated by the world.  In America we like to brag about our wifi.  I have 150 mbps. I have 30.  I have 12.  We get bent out of shape when it takes more than 2 seconds do get Facebook on our screens.  As they say “first world problems.”  In Sudan and Syria people don’t care about wifi.  They care about their living another day.  The church arguing about who led them to Christ was like us arguing about wifi.  Only the people in the church cared about such things.  The rest of the world couldn’t care less.  Paul thought it was great to be seen as insignificant. That’s who God uses.
So let’s not be bent out of shape when we Tweet or post something on social media and no one gives us a like.  Let us not worry about how people make fun of us for what we say we believe.  Let us now worry about the neighbor who looks at us sideways or give grotesque gestures our way because we are Christians.  Instead, pray that God would use you, a man or woman who is despised, who no one really even gives a shot in life.  But just as it was not Paul, but God through Christ in Paul, so it is not us, but God through Christ in us.  Would that be how you would describe Knox’s stance in his own life, Matt?
Matt Preaching

Yeah, John Knox knew 1 Corinthians well. says,
1 Corinthians 1:29 HCSB
so that no one can boast in His presence.
Paul doesn’t say some can boast. He doesn’t say a few can boast. Nobody can boast in his presence. We see in the life of John Knox that many tried to boast. Many thought very highly of themselves. Yet, these enemies of Knox were all thwarted. Let’s look at some of those who opposed Knox, both religious and political.

Bishops cannot boast

Paul doesn’t say some can boast. He doesn’t say a few can boast. Nobody can boast in his presence. We see in the life of John Knox that many tried to boast. Many thought very highly of themselves. Yet, these enemies of Knox were all thwarted. Let’s look at some of those who opposed Knox.

David Cardinal Beaton

First, we’ll take another look at David Cardinal Beaton. Beaton harbored a grudge against the mentor of John Knox, George Wishart. Despite John Knox being Wishart’s broadsword-wielding bodyguard, Cardinal Beaton arrested Wishart, and had Knox’s mentor burned at the stake. Beaton then turned his attention to Wishart’s protege, John Knox. However, within a couple months, Beaton was murdered in his own castle in 1546.

Cuthbert Tunstall

Also harassing Knox was a guy named Cuthbert Tunstall. Now, we’ve seen this guy before. When we looked at William Tyndale, Cuthbert Tunstall took a bunch of Tyndale’s English Bibles and burned them publically. When Knox was in England, he earned Tunstall’s displeasure. I am confident that Tunstall would have sought Knox’s execution had he stayed in England. But when Mary Tudor ascended to the throne, John Knox left for Geneva to stay with John Calvin.

Queens cannot boast

Mary Tudor (Bloody Mary)

Speaking of Mary Tudor, we should talk about her. She was considered one of the worst villains of the Protestant Reformation. During her reign as Queen of England, almost 300 Protestants were executed, earning her the nickname, Bloody Mary. She put to death many of Knox’s closest friends and coworkers. She was evil in the truest sense of the word. During her reign John Knox returned to Scotland, and preached openly. He was able to stay ahead of Mary’s henchmen, and preached the gospel to many. The effect was great, and many notable Scotsmen supported John Knox. One I’ll mention for personal reasons is James Stewart, friend of John Knox and Earl of Moray. Along with James was a ruler just under him, William Robertson, Lord of Muirton and my great, great, great, add nine more greats, grandfather. While Bloody Mary was more concerned about England than Scotland, Knox proved to be a thorn in her side.

Mary, Queen of Scots

Last, we will look at Mary, Queen of Scots. We would know her as the mother of the King James who authorized the King James Bible. After Mary took the throne over Scotland, she had the opportunity to meet John Knox. Now, here’s the thing about Mary: She was extremely attractive and very much knew how to use her looks to get what she wanted. She easily charmed and men, and fully expected to have Knox under her thumb. Douglas Bond said it well:
“she was counting on her feminine charm to pacify Knox, as it had other males, a monumental miscalculation that no doubt perplexed her in the struggles ahead.”
Excerpt From: Douglas Bond. “The Mighty Weakness of John Knox.” iBooks.
Knox had no tolerance for that nonsense. He was a kingdom man, and biologically susceptible as he was to feminine charm, he kept God’s mission in mind. Mary Queen of Scots, like the others, could not stop Knox. As highly as they viewed themselves, they could not stop the work of God in John Knox’s life and ministry.
As highly as they viewed themselves, they could not stop the work of God in John Knox’s life and ministry.

Knox cannot boast

Feeble in health

But it was not only Knox’s enemies who are unable to boast. Paul is clear; nobody can boast. God has frequently tempered people’s boasting with physical health issues. Paul had a thorn in his flesh so that he wouldn’t boast. John Knox suffered from feeble health and frequent illness. It is hard to feel like the king of the world when youre bowled over in pain. Thomas Smeaton, a contemporary of Knox, said this about him:
“I know not if God ever placed a more godly and great spirit in a body so little and frail.”
Excerpt From: Douglas Bond. “The Mighty Weakness of John Knox.” iBooks.
Nobody can boast in themselves, they have nothing worthy of boasting in.
So Chris, if John Knox didn’t get his strength from himself, where did he get it from?
Chris Preaching
Knox’s Christ
John Knox had no delusions as to where his strength came from.  He knew exactly the source of all he was.  George Grant stated that Knox was a man, “Living by faith, walking in steadfastness, and partaking of resurrection power,” and that he was “completely and entirely dependent on righteous humility.”[7]  Many would take Knox’s stances and refusal to compromise as a sign of pride and hubris, but it was nothing of the sort.  He was a man who humbly submitted to the very Word of God that had saved his soul.  “But it is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became God-given wisdom for us—our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,” (, HCSB).
Christ was this Reformer’s Lord.  He sought to be obedient throughout his saved life.  He wanted more than anything for Jesus to be seen rightly and to see God glorified by all.  Knox knew that he was not righteous on his own, but a sinner saved by grace.  He knew that he could not live life without God’s guidance through His Word and Spirit.  He knew that He was redeemed, set free from the penalty and guilt of his sin.
This made him neither a braggart nor a naval-gazer.  So often people go to extremes with our understanding of redemption.  Some will utilize their new-found freedom to live life in what they would describe freedom, but Paul would describe as slavery to sin.  Paul wrote, “For you were called to be free, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh,” (, HCSB).  John Knox was not one who said, “I’m free from guilt and shame and have no condemnation so now let me go tell off those kings and queens.  He was humbler than that.
But often people see the redemption of Christ as a reminder of their sin.  Though they are free from their guilt and have no condemnation in Christ Jesus, they begin navel-gazing.  They become paralyzed by their sin, refusing to do anything because they are sinful, sinful people.  This is known as “worm theology.”[8]  I once knew a man who having been introduced to Calvinism was so intrigued by it and grasped onto it in a way I’d never seen before.  Soon all he could talk about was not just the depravity of man in general, but in his own depravity.  It was almost as if he relished the thought of being depraved, not that he enjoyed depravity, but that all he could see was his depravity.
Christ set us free from the depravity.  We are still fallen in this life, but once we receive Christ we have been set free.  “But it is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became God-given wisdom for us—our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.”  Notice Paul no longer referred to the Corinthians as unwise, or not powerful, etc.  He now refers to them as they are in Christ.  Christ is our God-given wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and redemption.  This is no occasion to brag because it comes from God and God alone.  We neither did anything for it, nor deserve it.  But it is who we are now in Christ.  No longer as we used to be.  So there is no sulking and wallowing in our depravity either. 
So Knox would not boast in his own goodness because there was none, but neither would he boast in his depravity, because that was redeemed.  So Matt, what would he boast in?
Matt Preaching

John Knox boasted in the only One we can boast in. We have looked at Knox’s enemies, and Knox himself. None of these can boast in themselves. So in whom do we boast? gives us the answer.
1 Corinthians 1:31 HCSB
in order that, as it is written: The one who boasts must boast in the Lord.
We have looked at Knox’s enemies, and Knox himself. None of these can boast in themselves. So in whom do we boast? gives us the answer.
1 Corinthians 1:31 HCSB
in order that, as it is written: The one who boasts must boast in the Lord.
It is in the Lord that we boast in. It is in the Lord that Paul boasted in. And it is in the Lord that John Knox boasted in.

Soli Deo Gloria

The past couple months we have been looking at one of the most important Solas of the Reformation: Soli Deo Gloria. Glory to God Alone. John Knox lived and died by this truth. John Knox did not live for his own glory. He lived for God’s. We should be no different. It has been said of Knox:
“Like the prophets of old, Knox was hated and feared by some, and honored and respected by others. But Knox was unmoved by either reaction.”
Excerpt From: Douglas Bond. “The Mighty Weakness of John Knox.” iBooks.

God’s Glory in Knox’s Life

Surrounding by the Queen’s Army, Knox said this:
“My life is in the hand of him whose glory I seek, and, therefore, I fear not their threats. I desire the hand and weapon of no man to defend me.”
John Knox was spared death that day, and his life was marked by the glory of God, and God alone.
Excerpt From: Douglas Bond. “The Mighty Weakness of John Knox.” iBooks.

God’s Glory in Knox’s death

Even when it came time to die, John Knox sought God’s glory. Many of the Protestant Reformers were martyrs for the faith. Knox was allowed a simple quiet death. On November 9, 1572, John Knox had to be carried to and from the pulpit as he preached his last sermon. 15 days later, he was on his deathbed. I cannot say it more poignantly than Douglas Bond:
“At last he sighed deeply and said: “Now it is come. Come, Lord Jesus, sweet Jesus; into thy hand I commend my spirit.” In the silence that followed, he was asked to give some sign that he was dying in the promises of the gospel. Knox lifted a hand heavenward, sighed again, and “without any struggle, as one falling asleep, departed this life.”
Excerpt From: Douglas Bond. “The Mighty Weakness of John Knox.” iBooks.

God’s Glory in Lot 23

450 years later, and Scotland has not been kind to Knox. Luther’s Germany has for him an ornate tomb, with gold everywhere. Switzerland has reserved for John Calvin a much simpler tomb. But where does John Knox’s body lay? In a parking lot, under Lot 23. Scotland never gave Knox any glory. Knox wouldn’t have a problem with that.
For all of the excitement around Knox’s life, he didn’t do anything spectacular. He was faithful to his calling from God. He preached, because he was a preacher. Tomorrow, we won’t be in this room. For some of us, we will be working in a building. I’ll be stocking fruits and vegetables. For others, we will be at our homes, taking care of young children. Do not see the life of John Knox as an irrelevant notch in history. Rather, see him as a living illustration of . See him as a man faithful to his calling, and boasting not in himself but in the Lord. Take Knox as a man worth imitating. As Knox was faithful where God put him, let us all be faithful where God puts us. God does the extraordinary by means of the ordinary living of His people.
Today we will be partaking of the ordinary means of grace in the Lord’s Supper. Ordinary bread, ordinary juice, and yet God uses them in an extraordinary way to make us holier, and to conform us, as it did Knox, to the image of Jesus Christ. Let’s pray.
“In the worship of God, and especially the administration of the the Sacraments, the rule prescribed by Holy Scripture is to be observed without addition or diminution.”
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