One of the great failures of modern evangelicalism (even of the Reformed variety) is a practical failure to understand the condition of men. I will write more about this shortly, but for now I want to ask you a simple question….What do you see when you lay eyes on your fellow man? Jesus saw people as scattered sheep without a shepherd. He saw them as bound and blind and deaf and diseased. Paul saw them furthermore as dead people. Do you see people in regard to outer appearance? Happy, sad, slim, fat, short, tall, successful, educated, proud, loser, black, white, urban, rural, square, hip, gay, straight, etc. We need eyes to see the living dead around us. Only when we see people as dead will we understand what men really need. Power. Resurrection power. Divine power displayed through the gospel. When we focus overmuch on the package and the presentation and our appearance thinking it will somehow do what only divine power can achieve we are failing to understand what God has called us to be and to do.
Monthly Archives: October 2011
The other day I happened to see a bit of a documentary about The Beatles and, in particular, George Harrison (I realize our younger readers actually may not know who I am talking about–look it up!). What I saw was profoundly sad. It was a painful reminder of those who gain the whole world and yet forfeit their souls. But what has stuck with me since then is not that lesson, but another. I realized while watching the documentary, which included many songs which I knew and loved as a young man, that though I was sad, I was neither grieved nor shocked. Let me explain what I mean. My 1964 “Reformed and Baptistic” counterpart who loved God and treasured holiness could not have listened to the music I happily submitted myself to. Songs which now seem quaint and catchy were at that time viewed by the Christian community as a moral outrage and threat to the very fabric our society. Imagine how my 1957 counterpart felt knowing that church members were watching Elvis “The Pelvis” thrusting (though largely hidden by clever camera angles) on national television. He may have wept with the thought of what it was doing to the young people of his church and bewailed such from the pulpit. I, on the other hand, find it somewhat funny. Was there something wrong with my counterpart or with me? Was he simply a man of his time trapped with a temporary view of morality or am I the one whose conscience has been rubbed raw?
Let’s go back a few more years to 1946, the year that one of my favorite films was released, “It’s A Wonderful Life”. Great movie, right? I own it. I’ve show it to my kids. But what did the God-fearing preacher of 1946 feel about 1) his people seeing a movie 2) one with such bad theology 3) some rather ‘scandalous’ for its time views of men leering at women.
Why don’t I weep? Why did he?
The Beatles once mused about what their lives would be like when they were 64. I am some fifteen years away from reaching that age. I wonder what my 2027 counterpart will gladly embrace that I grieve over.
I have long felt that the Christian community is bound to the world by a “ten year” tether. We simply follow behind and embrace what they once left behind. Is that a honorable way of determining how to please God and fear Him? I fear that the tether is shrinking, we are no longer ten years behind the times, but right up there with our secular counterparts. Some of us want to surpass them. Is Christian ‘morality’ anchored to anything or is it a beachball on the waves? Here one moment and gone the next. The world in which we live is not as neutral as many of our contemporaries are proclaiming. Christ came to deliver us not only from our sins and the wrath of God, but from ‘this present evil age’. He died in order to create for Himself a people who are distinct and different in ways that could actually be observed. Am I too much a man of my time? Am I too caught up with the present form of evil or am I too compromised?
This is a good word to all of us…whether we are pastors or not. My mind runs along these lines…are we gate agents, calling people to places we are not going. Are we flight attendents helping to make the journey more comfortable and there in case of emergency, or are we pilots, guiding the plane along a pathway that has wisely been laid out in the past?
And I will make thee unto this people a fenced brazen wall: and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee, saith the Lord. (Jeremiah 15:20)
Stability in the fear and faith of God will make a man like a wall of brass, which no one can batter down or break. Only the Lord can make such; but we need such men in the church, and in the world, but specially in the pulpit. Against uncompromising men of truth this age of shams will fight tooth and nail. Nothing seems to offend Satan and his seed like decision. They attack holy firmness even as the Assyrians besieged fenced cities. The joy is that they cannot prevail against those whom God has made strong in His strength. Carried about with every wind of doctrine, others only need to be blown upon and away they go; but those who love the doctrines of grace, because they possess the grace of the doctrines, stand like rocks in the midst of raging seas. Whence this stability? “I am with thee, saith the Lord”: that is the true answer. Jehovah will save and deliver faithful souls from all the assaults of the adversary. Hosts are against us, but the Lord of hosts is with us. We dare not budge an inch; for the Lord Himself holds us in our place, and there we will abide forever.
Spurgeon’s Faith’s Checkbook
This blog is not intended to be the Octavius Winslow blog…but I am finding a lot of rich truth in using him along with my morning Bible reading. Today’s selection deals with the Throne of Grace. The text is 1 Peter 4:7, being watchful unto prayer:
Behold then the throne of grace! Was ever resting-place so sacred and so sweet? Could God himself invest it with richer, with greater attraction? There are dispensed all the blessings of sovereign grace-pardon, justification, adoption, sanctification, and all that connects the present state of the believer with eternal glory. There is dispensed grace itself-grace to guide, to support, to comfort, and to help in time of need. There sits the God of grace, proclaiming Himself “the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth; keep mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin.” There is extended the scepter of grace, bidding welcome the sons of daughters of want, the weary and the heavy laden, the guilty, the broken in heart, the poor, the friendless, the bereaved. There stands Jesus the High Priest and Mediator, full of grace and truth, waving to and fro His golden censer, from which pours forth the fragrant incense of His atoning merits, wreathing in one offering, as it ascends, the name, the needs, and the prayer of the lowly worshiper. And there, too, is the Spirit of grace, breathing in the soul, discovering the want, inditing the petition, and making intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Behold, then, the throne of grace, and draw near! You are welcome. Come with your cross, come with your infirmity, come with your guilt, come with your want, come with your wounded spirit, come with your broken heart, come and welcome to the throne of grace! Come without price, come without worthiness, come without preparation, come without fitness, come with your hard heart, come and welcome to the throne of grace! God, your Father, bids you welcome. Jesus, your Advocate, bids you welcome. The Spirit, the Author of prayer, bids you welcome. All the happy and the blessed who cluster around it, bid you welcome. The spirits of just men made perfect in glory, bid you welcome. The ministering spirits, “sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation,” bid you welcome. All the holy below, and all the glorified above, all, all bid you, poor trembling soul, welcome, thrice welcome, to the throne of grace!
Recently I had to take one of my daughters to the local Hobby Lobby to pick up some supplies for an art class that she is taking. While she was looking for her supplies, I wondered off a bit and found myself in the aisle where they stock the Paint By Numbers kits. For those not familiar with the Paint By Numbers kits, they contain a canvas with a drawing etched upon it. Within the lines of the drawing are numbers corresponding to a variety of containers of paint. The goal is to apply the paint within the lines according to the number. By the end, you will have a painting that looks exactly like the one on the box and exactly like those who follow the same basic rules. Painting by numbers is regarded as a bit of joke by anyone in the art community. There are no “paint by numbers” specialist or art shows. They do not hang the results of a paint by numbers kit in any museum! Art is about originality, doing something new.
As I stood looking at the kits, my mind was drawn to the thought that I want to be a paint by numbers preacher. What do I mean by that? I mean that God has called me to be a steward and that in that stewardship there are no rewards for originality, only for faithfulness.
In his last letter before facing death, the Apostle Paul seems quite anxious to pass on his heart to Timothy who will follow in his stead. He writes, 2 Timothy 1:13-14 13 Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 14 That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.
Timothy, there is a pattern already laid out. This is a rich deposit of truth which I have given to you. Your job is to hold fast to it. Not to add to it, not to dilute it, not to make it more palatable, but to hold it fast, never let it go. Timothy, these sound words are a good thing which has been entrusted to you–guard it! This is what you must teach to others, this is what must be handed down from generation to generation.
There are many temptations to make a name for ourselves, to stand out as “original artists”, to be the man who is not simply repeating the same old truths which people have heard for thousands of years. This temptation must be resisted with all our being. The lines have been drawn, the numbers have been given, the paint has been provided. Let us paint, within the lines, to the glory of God!
Gardiner Spring in his book, The Distinguishing Traits of Christian Character writes, “The spirit of the world is incompatible with the spirit of the Gospel. It is the spirit of pride and not of humility; of self-indulgence rather than self-denial. Riches, honors, and pleasure form the grand object of pursuit with men of the world…Indifferent to everything but that which is calculated to gratify the carnal mind, they lift up their souls unto vanity and pant after the dust of the earth. Their thoughts and their affections are chained down to the things of time and sense. And in these they seem irrecoverably immersed. They seldom think but they think of the world; they seldom converse but they converse of the world. The world is the cause of their perplexity and the source of their enjoyment…The disciple of Jesus, as he has nobler affections than the worldling, has a higher object and more elevated joys. While the wise man glories in his wisdom, the mighty man glories in his might, and the rich man glories in his riches, it is the Christian’s privilege to glory in nothing save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto him and he unto the world. The character and cause of the blessed Redeemer lie so near to his heart that in comparison with these everything else vanishes into nothing. He views the world by the eyes of faith and light of that reflects its intrinsic importance–the light of eternity. There the world shrinks to a point and the fashion of it passeth away.”
Have you asked the question, “If I am saved by grace and kept by Divine Power, why does my conduct matter?” Let my old friend Octavius Winslow answer for you!
But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. – Jude 20-21
THE believer is nowhere in the Bible spoken of or addressed as a lifeless machine, a mere automaton; but as one “alive unto God,”-as “created in Christ Jesus,”-as a “partaker of the Divine nature.” As such he is commanded to “work out his own salvation with fear and trembling,”-to “give diligence to make his calling and election sure,”-to “watch and pray, lest he enter into temptation.” Thus does God throw a measure of the responsibility of his own standing upon the believer himself, that he might not be slothful, unwatchful, and prayerless, but be ever sensible to his solemn obligations to “deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world,” remembering that he is “not his own, but is bought with a price.”
If the power of God is the efficient cause of the eternal security of the believer, yet, as auxiliaries which God has appointed, and by which He instrumentally works, the believer is to use diligently all holy means of keeping himself from falling; as a temple of the Holy Spirit, as the subject of the divine life, as a pardoned, justified man, he is called to labor perseveringly, to pray ceaselessly, and to watch vigilantly. He is not to run willfully into temptation, to expose himself needlessly to the power of the enemy, to surround himself with unholy and hostile influences, and then take refuge in the truth, that the Lord will keep him from falling. God forbid! This were most awfully to abuse the “doctrine that is after godliness,” to “hold the truth in unrighteousness,” and to make “Christ the minister of sin.” Dear reader, watch and pray against this!
Let the cheering prospect of that glory unto which you are kept stimulate you to all diligent perseverance in holy duty, and constrain you to all patient endurance of suffering. In all your conflicts with indwelling sin, under the pressure of all outward trial, let this precious truth comfort you-that your heavenly Father has “begotten you again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven for you who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation;” that soon-oh, how soon!-all that now loads the heart with care, and wrings it with sorrow-all that dims the eye with tears, and renders the day anxious and the night sleepless, will be as though it had never been. Emerging from the entanglement, the dreariness, the solitude, the loneliness and the temptations of the wilderness, you shall enter upon your everlasting rest, your unfading inheritance, where there is no sorrow, no declension, no sin; where there is no sunset, no twilight, no evening shades, no midnight darkness, but all is one perfect, cloudless, eternal day; for Jesus is the joy, the light, and the glory thereof.