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.


You, However

6:30AM, Sunday, January 13, 2008

On the counsel of a close friend and brother whom I love dearly and the counsel of scripture, I decided to edit my paper on Rob Bell slightly to reflect what I believe to be a more appropriate attitude. I do not believe I was as charitable as I should have been toward Rob Bell himself. I do not speak of my views regarding his teaching; they remain unchanged. The original post has been edited and the edited Word document re-uploaded.

I do not suppose to sit as judge over Rob Bell the man. Only God is in the position to rightfully condemn a man’s soul to hell or else to commend Him to heaven by grace through faith in Christ alone. But that does not mean I will not tell you to stay far, far away from Rob Bell and his teachings until further notice. I do not condemn the man, but I do condemn his teachings as false because I am wholly convinced by scripture that they are in grievous error, at the very best severely lacking or else ignorant.

If given the chance to have dinner with Rob Bell, I would welcome him with a firm handshake, a genuine smile, and an ice cold glass of sweet tea (Southern style, because Yankees don’t know how to make it, ha ha). I would welcome the opportunity for him to clarify and/or be changed in his mind regarding those teachings of his which my understanding of scripture leads me to believe are in error. But until and unless that happens and Rob Bell and I come into contact and relationship with one another, conscience dictates that I warn you against his teachings. If you are looking to learn and grow (as you ought to be), I recommend to you more sound teachers such as John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Ravi Zacharias, and also the men of old who were raised up to preach the Gospel and feed the flock of God: Charles Spurgeon, John Calvin, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, Matthew Henry, and others. Walk in the old paths not because they are old, but because they are good and will bring your soul rest.

As for me, I simply want to know the truth and for you to know it as well. To know the truth is to know the word of God. To intimately know the word of God brings knowledge of God. To know God is life. Brothers and sisters pray for me as I struggle to walk humbly before my God. Pray that God will cause me to be faithful to that which Paul called Timothy:

Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

Peace be with you, friends.


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.


Who Are We Striving to Please?

11:05AM, Thursday, September 6, 2007

I recently listened and listened again to a message by Alistair Begg on the importance of Transparency, Integrity, and Urgency in church leadership. It is yet another solid confirmation that truth, righteousness, and the consistent exhortation to both are far more important than not stepping on toes or offending people who have made traditions of men their idols, more important to them than the Word of God.

The people whom God has sent to a church are there for a purpose, and those who have been sent to lead ought to lead courageously as the Spirit has moved. Neither the zeal of youth nor fifty years of membership in a particular body gives us the right to usurp God’s Word or His Spirit’s leading for our traditions, whatever they may be. If traditions and personal preferences are of higher priority to the majority of a given body than sound doctrine and submitting to the appointed leadership of the church, then perhaps we might ought to reconsider our membership in a given body, whether a church, a small group, a ministry, or some para-church organization.

Now I’m not saying traditions aren’t important. They do help us to identify culturally with those in the local body. But they are not even half as important as the Truth being proclaimed boldly and accurately — that is to say the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and not some counterfeit. However, when a people elevates the traditions of men over the truth of the Gospel, they have missed the point entirely and are focusing on man rather than on God. Their minds are set on the flesh and not on the Spirit.

Accordingly, godly leadership ought not to acquiesce to this nonsense and in fact ought to expose it and call it what it is. Now I know that doesn’t make people comfortable, nor will it win me a lot of friends among my peers or my elders. But that’s not the point. You see, so often we play politics in God’s church so as not to upset anyone over how the Spirit has led the leadership of the church to move, and we’ll string them along deceptively, slowly taking them somewhere their stony hearts were never willing to go in the first place.

They are no more willing participants in the end than at the beginning because their hearts never changed, and they never will because we fail to acknowledge and address the source of the problem: the attitudes of their hearts toward God and their love of man’s traditions over God’s Word. We tiptoe around them and call it “patience” or “tolerance” or “understanding.” What we ought to be doing is speaking firmly, transparently, and honestly with regard to all matters, including conflicts. Gentleness does not require secrecy, deception, or walking on egg shells to please stiff-necked idolaters. It is shameful that we would even consider doing these things.

We are more concerned with pleasing men and not being judged by them than we are of being obedient to God’s calling and being judged by Him! How utterly foolish of us! Should not our primary concern be with He who will one day judge us and our works? Only those works which have been crafted with the precious metals and gemstones of the directing of the Spirit shall stand. All our worthless man-centered works shall be burned as hay and stubble.

I, for one, care very little whether I am judged by men. I care very much for how my God and King will judge my stewardship of this His abundant grace to me: the Truth in His Word. May God grant that to my dying breath I defend His Word and proclaim its Truth without timidity. The power of God to save men is not in my ability or inability to preach the Word, but in His Word itself! The Word of God, plainly spoken without intricately woven tapestries of language to dress it up is still the Word of God, and it is powerful! Christ crucified will always be a stumbling block and foolishness to those who will die in their transgressions. But it is the power of God to those who will be saved.

Now that is not to say that I am above guidance, teaching, or correction. But it is to say that my primary concern is with God and His approval and not man and his approval. Would that all whom God has appointed to lead His church and Christ’s body gave no heed to either the undue praise or the undue criticism of men and led with transparency, integrity, and urgency, just as Paul is described as having done in Acts 20.

I’ll close with an quote from our friend and brother Charles Spurgeon.

A certain man placed a fountain by the wayside, and he hung up a cup near to it by a little chain. He was told some time after that a great art-critic had found much fault with its design. “But,” said he, “do many thirsty persons drink at it?” Then they told him that thousands of poor people, men, women, and children, slaked their thirst at this fountain; and he smiled and said, that he was little troubled by the critic’s observation, only he hoped that on some sultry summer’s day the critic himself might fill the cup, and be refreshed, and praise the name of the Lord.

Here is my fountain, and here is my cup: find fault if you please; but do drink of the water of life. I only care for this. I had rather bless the soul of the poorest crossing-sweeper, or rag-gatherer, than please a prince of the blood, and fail to convert him to God.