Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…
The lives of dedicated men and women of the past inspire us to courageous faith and obedience in our day. We need not only their example, but also their wisdom, because issues of life tend to re-circulate through every generation.
Such a beacon of light and wisdom was Savonarola, a Dominican Friar in Florence, Italy, who lived from 1452 to 1498. Savonarola was the greatest revivalist of the fifteenth century and some church historians believe that he was the last chance given by God for the Roman Catholic Church to repent and purify itself before the Reformation.
His preaching was biblical and his emphases were on personal faith in Christ and obedience to His commands. He returned to the simplicity of the New Testament faith, and God used him to bring a great revival of the faith in Florence. In the brief ten years that he had to serve in that city, before his torture and execution by the Pope’s representatives, not only was his church filled, but churches throughout the city were filled, brothels were closed, other dens of iniquity were shut down, and there was a rejuvenated spiritual life of the city. Savonarola could not imagine that a city would exist with just laws without a spiritually alive people in Christ influencing the city.
In one sermon he preached during Advent, December 14, 1494, he said:
In the first place, I urge you to do those two things of which I have spoken on other occasions: let everyone confess and be purged of his sins, and let all attend to the common good of the city. And if you do this, your city will be glorious, because by this means it will be reformed both spiritually and temporally, that is, in respect of its people; and from you will arise the reformation of all Italy, and Florence will become more rich and powerful than it has ever been, and its empire will spread into many places. But if you do not do what I say, God will promote those I have told you of who wish to see your division; and this will be your ultimate destruction. Understand what I have said to you: This is the fire, that is the water; now act! I have told you before, and you must know and firmly hold that God wishes to renew His Church, and that He will do this with his sword of tribulation, and that soon.
We could do with a Savonarola today in America, in every nation, for that matter, for among Bible believing Christians there is much complaining about the left swings of the government, but there is little said about the need for repentance in our lives. We cannot have one without the other.
Currently the issue of building an Islamic cultural center in New York near ground zero of 9/11 has been championed by many, including President Obama. But let us understand that America as a great and moral nation did not come about because of some idealistic commitment to the idea of the equality of all religions – such a thought is ridiculous – it came about because of the moral faith and teaching of Christians. If America will return to its greatness then every Christian should take it upon himself and herself to repent before God and live for Christ.
The ideal of the freedom of religion is based upon the Judaic-Christian heritage, not upon the values of all religions for many, such as Islam, are clearly non-accepting of the faith and existence of others. That fact cannot be “nobly” placed aside as though it is a “religion of peace” like Christianity. The church in the past had become militant upon different occasions, but it was always an aberration of the faith that gave them a doctrinal and moral excuse to become as such – a twisting of the truth, not a simple proclamation of the teachings of Christ. Many Christians are complete pacifists, but most others, such as myself, see war as a last alternative, after every other avenue has been exhausted. The Christian faith is propagated through the preaching of the gospel and leaving people the freedom to make a decision whether to believe or not. The Islamic faith is propagated by force, and by forcibly removing competing religious views and messages. The Christian faith believes in the open forum as the best method for conversion, Islam believes in the sword.
We may make peace with Islam, and feel noble and freedom-loving for having done so, but Islam makes peace with other religions only so long as it has to and then it turns on them with a vengeance to end their existence. Just how many churches exist in Saudi Arabia? None.
Lord, show us our sins and lead us to repent and turn from them and to You. Then give us the wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it. Amen.
 Website: http://www.history.ox.ac.uk/currentunder/honours/history/special/ss-pol-art-cul_savonarola_sermon.pdf