Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?

11:12PM, Monday, March 3, 2008

What follows was written in the 1800s by a man named Charles Haddon Spurgeon. You may know of him. Oh dear brother Charles, if only you knew how timely, relevant, and accurate an indictment your words to the Church are more than 100 years after your slumber. Would that we would repent of our offerings of strange fire and incline our ear to the sound teaching of the Word which gives life and peace. Would that we would see that to continue in the way of our perverse and adulterous generation is to tread the path to death and Hell.

An evil is in the professed camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most short-sighted can hardly fail to notice it. During the past few years it has developed at an abnormal rate, even for evil. It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments. The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the Church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them. From speaking out as the Puritans did, the Church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses.

My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the Church. If it is a Christian work why did not Christ speak of it? ‘Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.’ That is clear enough. So it would have been if he had added, ‘and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel.’ No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to him. Then again, ‘He gave some apostles, some prophets, some pastors and teachers, for the work of the ministry.’ Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them. Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people or because they refused? The concert has no martyr roll.

Again, providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all his apostles. What was the attitude of the Church to the world? ‘Ye are the salt,’ not the sugar candy—something the world will spit out, not swallow. Short and sharp was the utterance, ‘Let the dead bury their dead.’ He was in awful earnestness!

Had Christ introduced more of the bright and pleasant elements into his mission, he would have been more popular when they went back, because of the searching nature of his teaching. I do not hear him say, ‘Run after these people, Peter, and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow, something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it. Be quick, Peter, we must get the people somehow!’ Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them, but never sought to amuse them. In vain will the Epistles be searched to find any trace of the gospel of amusement. Their message is, ‘Come out, keep out, keep clean out!’ Anything approaching fooling is conspicuous by its absence. They had boundless confidence in the gospel and employed no other weapon. After Peter and John were locked up for preaching, the Church had a prayer meeting, but they did not pray, ‘Lord, grant unto thy servants that by a wise and discriminating use of innocent recreation we may show these people how happy we are.’ If they ceased not for preaching Christ, they had not time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution, they went everywhere preaching the gospel. ‘They turned the world upside down’. That is the only difference! Lord, clear the Church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her and bring us back to apostolic methods.

Lastly, the mission of amusement fails to effect the end desired. It works havoc among young converts. Let the careless and scoffers, who thank God because the Church met them half-way, speak and testify. Let the heavy laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment had been God’s link in the chain of their conversion, stand up! There are none to answer. The mission of amusement produces no converts. The need of the hour for today’s ministry is believing scholarship joined with earnest spirituality, the one springing from the other as fruit from the root. The need is biblical doctrine, so understood and felt, that it sets men on fire.


Problems and Solutions

2:08PM, Monday, January 28, 2008

What is noticeably wrong with the Church visible:

1. We have departed from the very foundation of our faith: the Bible. It is not held in high esteem. It is not revered as the very Word of God. It is not presented as the highest and sole authority in all matters, moral and spiritual. Instead, we follow after every wind of doctrine, becoming the fanboys of whoever claims they’ve got a “new way” to do the Jesus thing and writes a book about how the entire faith should change so the world will want to be friends with Jesus. We’re so concerned with the world liking us and liking our message that we’ll dress up God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit as anything but what the Bible teaches them to be. This we do all in the name of not offending anyone. We are content to repaint the beautiful Gospel of Jesus Christ until we have arrived at a blasphemous caricature of the thrice holy God of the universe.

2. In our relationships and our personal lives, we do not consult the Bible for instruction. And if we happen to be confronted with the Truth, chapter and verse, we dismiss it as not applicable to us because it doesn’t feel right to our deceitful, sin-soaked hearts. Our feelings and our desires hold more weight in our rebellious minds than God’s commands. We quarrel with those who rightly rebuke and correct us with God’s Word, refusing to acknowledge the sin dwelling in our hearts. One almost wonders if such a person whose mind is in such a rebellious state can rightly be called saved. How can one who is truly reborn despise the counsel of God and refuse to repent of sin which is plainly revealed by the light of the Word?

3. We bring the world’s music, the world’s media, and the world’s way of ordering things into the house of God and call it holy and good. We bring to the house of God songs which are qualitatively bankrupt and utterly man-centered and we dare to call it “worship” with a straight face. We sing songs about how we do this and we do that, as if extolling the virtues of man’s deeds were praise of the Creator and not praise of man’s response. We have all but abandoned the regulative principle, opting instead for whatever pleases the flesh and makes people feel good about themselves. We do not fear God. We do not revere His name nor do we revere His Word. We offer strange fire to God and expect that He will accept this as true worship.

I propose the following as solutions to these issues:

1. Reaffirm the Bible’s place as our only standard and the highest authority. Both the Westminster and 1689 London Baptist confessions begin with the same topic: the Holy Scriptures. And this for good reason, because “[t]he whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men.” Given the serious nature of the current state of the church, I would recommend that we make formal declaration of such a principle, whether by affirming a confession or otherwise making formal recognition of such a principle. We ought to formally draw the battle lines. Let those who call themselves Christians and yet deny Scripture its proper place of authority over our beliefs and actions be lovingly brought to repentance or else let them be put out from among our congregations if they refuse. Let us preach the whole counsel of God from the pulpit. Let us rebuke, reproof, correct, and encourage one another with the whole counsel of God.

2. Bend the knee and submit to the Bible in all areas of our lives, personal and public. When we are confronted with what Scripture says and our words, actions, and thoughts are not in line with God’s Word, we must humble our hearts and submit to God’s Word as corrective and right. When it says that we are always to forgive, we don’t make excuses about why we “can’t” forgive some wrong against us (look to the Amish in Pennsylvania circa 2006 for an example of what biblical forgiveness looks like). When it says that we are to always pursue reconciliation with all, even before coming to worship God, we obey and do not make excuses about how deeply someone has offended us or how deeply we have offended a person with whom we should seek reconciliation. When it says that we are to correct and rebuke those who are in error, we are to do so without hemming and hawing about how uncomfortable confrontation is. When it says that we are to discipline those in the church who refuse to repent of grievous sins, we are to do so without hesitation after it has been reasonably ascertained that biblical disciplinary proceedings have occurred and the person in question is in sin and unrepentant.

3. Rid ourselves of this love affair with the world (and consequently, enmity with God) and return order and reverence to the house of God and the services of worship therein. The house of God is to be a place of dignity and humility before God. A rock concert atmosphere and songs which lift up the “I” instead of the King are out of the question. If a given congregation does not have leadership capable of providing these things due to a lack of time or lack of ability, then I would contend that this warrants a return to more formal liturgical pursuits. At the very least, all singing should be congregational and focused on exalting God and His works as holy and good and humiliating man and his works as unholy and evil. After examining Scripture and understanding the instructions and principles it gives for the right worship of God, I am wholly convinced that the insertion of “special” music and disharmonious breaks for greetings and announcements into a service which is ostensibly set aside for the worship of God and the preaching of His Word is wholly inappropriate and unacceptable. If you wish to announce things to the congregation because they happen to be gathered on a Sunday together, let it be through a bulletin or else a newsletter. If it’s not worth preaching about or singing about, it’s not worth time spent talking about during a worship service. A worship service is for the worship of God through psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, and the preaching of the Word. It is not a place for dramas, community announcements, or dancing around like fools. Church is not where you go to have fun and indulge the flesh by doing what feels good. It is where you go to worship the true and living God the way He commands us to worship Him and to be instructed by His Word. God demands love and adoration. He also demands reverence, awe, and fear. Do not mock Him by offering strange fire — that which He has not commanded.


Just What’s On My Mind

10:39PM, Friday, January 11, 2008

Redeemer:

I do not deserve the love of God. I do not deserve to be able to love God. And yet He graces me with both. God has given to me, a man once His enemy, forgiveness for even my most grievous sins, many though they be. How I long for the sweet embrace of death which would cause this mortal coil of flesh to once and for all cease its struggle against its Maker! In my soul I bear the exhilarating joy of salvation and the peace of a reconciled commune with God. But I also bear a grief of which words cannot speak over coming to grips with the depths of my own depraved and fallen nature. Recognizing that I deserve death, I cry out to God, broken: “Have mercy on me Lord! Save me!”

The Lord hears my cry. He comes to my deathbed and rescues me. Gentle hands has He. Yet mighty are His arms. He is my Eternal Father, strong to save. I find comfort in His arms. I find rest upon his shoulder. I find shelter beneath His wings. For this reason will I tell of His goodness. For this reason will I proclaim to all that He is merciful and mighty. I owe to Him everything I am, all I have, and then some.


Precious Words:

On my heart have been the serious considerations of seminary schooling. If provided the opportunity, I will go without hesitation. I desire to know God more intimately and to love His word more intensely. For me, education is the clearest and most direct route to this. I don’t yet know where I’d go. RTS is probably the most prominent in my thoughts at the moment, but I haven’t pursued it very far. Honestly, finances are the only thing I would say is holding me back from pursuing it.

A good number of people at my church have been extremely discouraging, even disparaging in their remarks about me. No one has really urged me to pursue ministry vocationally or otherwise, nor have I been encouraged to be formally educated. Is it odd that when I pursue what I know is right in the eyes of God (including making right the wrongs I have done) that I am met with strong opposition, even in the church?

I suppose if I had to put into a word what I am feeling right now after over 6 months of thought into these matters, I would use the word discouraged. I really could use some encouragement, and I’m not talking an attaboy. I don’t want someone to lavish vain compliments that would tempt me to puff up in pride. I want a couple brothers and sisters to spur me on to love and good deeds. I desire a best friend, a mentor, and perhaps a woman in whom I can confide. Something just feels. . . I don’t know. . . like it’s missing — like there’s one or two keys that will unlock this gate holding me back and start the engine of the vehicle which will take me down the road to where I’m supposed to be traveling. I can’t see the future, but I feel it there. My heart aches for action. My legs twitch in anticipation.

It’s your show God. If these things on my heart were put there by You, then Your timing and Your plan for bringing them to fruition are in my best interest and Your greater glory. I submit myself to Your good pleasure and loving, providential care. Glorify Yourself in my words, in my deeds, and in my relationships. So let it be.


Defending Against the Invasion

1:56AM, Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Post-modernity has found a welcome home in Western culture and its tentacles have wrapped even around the church. It is evident in the utter aversion that even some of my most beloved, soundly orthodox, and biblically grounded brothers have to the exposing of and separation from significant departure from the Scriptures in the teachings of some of our contemporaries. The great sin today is not calling God a liar or treating His revealed Word carelessly, but even disagreeing with someone or challenging their views!

How foolish of us! Why should the exposing of the wolves among the sheep be sad for us? To say that it accomplishes nothing is rather silly in my opinion. We desire that Truth might be preached and held in high esteem. How else is error revealed except by contrasting it with Truth? There are certainly spiritual matters which are of little importance in comparison to the core of the message of the Gospel: that God is holy, that we are sinful and in need of a redeemer, that Christ has given Himself as a sufficient and effective substitutionary sacrifice on our behalf, and that we must repent and are saved by grace through faith in Christ.

How long we cut our hair or what style of music we listen to may well be important issues to tackle, but they are vastly inferior to issues of doctrines of salvation and of the Scriptures themselves, and I think that the vast majority of us would agree that hair and music are not issues which give us anything close to reasonably justifiable grounds for excommunication or disassociation.

Epistemological, hermeneutical, and soteriological issues, however, are another matter entirely. When someone starts preaching that Jesus name is not the only name under heaven by which we must be saved they have departed from the Truth. When someone starts preaching that the Bible is not clear and that we need to have a “conversation” to figure out what God really said (“Indeed, has God said. . .”) they have departed from the Truth. When someone preaches that we cannot really know Truth and that all truth is relative, they have departed from the Truth.

The only grief we ought bear when men such as these are exposed for what they really are is that they have departed from the Truth in the first place. It is indeed sad that they have rejected the Gospel that was handed down to the saints, once for all. We cannot remain faithful to the Gospel while we continue to entertain the intimacy of fellowship with ones such as these. They lead men astray. We, on the other hand, must strive to preach to the world the absolute truth of Christ crucified which alone has the power to save.

I’m not looking to pick a fight, but neither am I going to back down from the robber who assaults the church with clubs of extrabiblical doctrine and humanist idolatry.

Mark Driscoll recently named names at the Convergent Conference. You can listen to the podcast in its entirety here. It’s the podcast entitled “Convergent Conference – Session 3” and it’s a rather in-depth exposition on the theologies of some of the Emergent Church’s leaders. About 14 minutes in is where the topic turns specifically toward them and (even primarily I would say) their ideas. A lot of people are upset that Mark would essentially call these men out as heretics. They wring their hands and cry “Division! Division! He’s being divisive and isn’t unifying!” To which I would respond with God’s command to the Corinthians:

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. “Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you.
(2Co 6:14-17)

We are to unify with believers and in Truth, not error! We are not to unify with those who reject even the very basic tenets of our faith and embrace such lawlessness as post-modernism as the basis for their worldviews. We are, in fact, called to separation from such men.

Our methods may change, for we live in a world where the most effective “language” of preaching Christ crucified may change with the cultural language of a given people (Paul on Mars Hill, for example). But the immutable Word of God remains forever the same. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is still the only thing that saves the fallen sons of Adam, and it is the only message we ought ever preach to the lost. It is the power of God for those who are being saved.

My dear brothers and sisters, I implore you: preach Christ or else do not waste your breath. Preach Christ or nothing at all.


Do You Really Love Me? Do I Really Love You?

10:46PM, Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Were I walking down a path filled with pitfalls and snares, and at the end there lay a thick mist concealing a cliff with a drop sure to lead to death, and you did nothing to warn me, tell me friend, can you really say that you love me? If you did not make every effort to see that I did not go down this path, knowing where it led, can you speak honestly and say that you care for me as for your own brother?

On the contrary, true love would compel one to go even so far as to be a physical barrier between his brother and a path of destruction. Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but in truth. Love does not sit idly by while a brother walks the way which seems right unto a man but whose end is death. Love exhorts the brethren to holiness and righteousness.

And what is the path in which we should walk?

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
(Php 4:8-9)

And what ought we not to love?

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
(1Jn 2:15-17)


Savage Wolves Among the Flock

8:30PM, Monday, September 10, 2007

Paul addresses the brethren at Ephesus before journeying to Jerusalem:

And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face. Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
(Act 20:25-32)

Some criticize those who seek to discern truth from falsity as “troublemakers” or “dividers” or “unloving” toward the brethren. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is because of our deep love for the flock of God that we guard it jealously.

Paul addresses the Corinthians:

For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.
(2Co 11:2-3)

There is but one husband for the church of Jesus Christ, and that is Jesus Christ himself. The husband of the church is not social activism. It is not supernatural experiences or feeling good about ourselves. Thus it is that we who fight jealously for the purity of Christ’s church against false teachers and the doctrines of demons are as those who are escorting a bride to her husband, striking down thugs who come up to her along the journey that they might have their way with her. I know this imagery may be strong, but it is accurate. Those who teach false doctrines and prophesy falsely are rapists of Christ’s bride. They are wolves among the flock of God, and if we do not make every effort to purge them from our midst the flock will be ravaged all the more.

May God grant us wisdom and discernment that we might purge the apostates from our midst. Here in North America it is either going to take another Reformation or else serious persecution of the church for us to more readily rid ourselves of these liars and false teachers. May God bring about whatever pleases Him that He might be glorified and that His church might be pure and undefiled.


Secular Humanism Wrapped in Churchy Language

11:56AM, Monday, September 10, 2007

I couldn’t figure out a way to embed this, so I’ll just provide a link:

http://www.current.tv/studio/media/21674856

If you’re not familiar with the emergent/emerging movement(s), you need to be, because it’s the kind of stuff youth groups all across the nation are being indoctrinated with. It’s the new cool spirituality+social activism for the 20 and 30-something crowd.

Who are some of the proponents of it? Folks like Rob Bell (nooma), Tony Jones (emergent village), Rick Warren (purpose driven), and many others who I’ll not list in the interests of brevity. Be as wise as serpents friends, and as innocent as doves. May the Spirit give you eyes to see through the lies of this movement away from Scripture and toward humanism.