Saturday, 14 July 2012

Which Are The Dangerous Churches?

Which is the more dangerous church of the two - the mixed church or the apostate church?  Obviously the first because with the apostate church you know exactly what you are dealing with, but with mixed churches you do not always know what they believe.  One minister preaches a clear Gospel yet his neighbour tells nothing but man-made stories, reads well-constructed essays or delivers application-free Bible studies.  One man believes it is wrong to baptise the children of unbelieving church members, but his colleague in the same denomination will baptise anything that passes mirror test.  You what the mirror test is, don't you?  You place a mirror underneath the nostrils of a baby and if mist appears on the mirror, you baptise it.

The mixed church gives the impression that it holds to Biblical faith and religion, and makes no bones about it; but when you assess what is being taught, you discover something quite different.  You will find theological compromise and unfaithfulness to the Gospel; virtually no standards for church membership; accept people who show no interest whatever in the Gospel or in spiritual things; and on and on the list could go.

Churches that are theologically and spiritually mixed will find willing defenders within its orthodox ministers and elders.  To them the Gospel of salvation is at best secondary to the church itself.  They glory in the fact that their church is a "broad church" that accepts unbelievers into membership and also into the eldership, including the ministry.

Denominational people see the church as being confined to their "own kind," hence the resentment when a member leaves their church and goes elsewhere.  They need their churches to be thoroughly mixed in membership because they know they could not depend on Christian members giving well enough to keep the doors open.

The greatest challenge to the true church of Christ on earth are those churches that defend the right of unbelievers, some of whom are notoriously godless, being given the right of full church membership and their infants being given the full privileges of church membership.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Dr J. Edwin Orr and Revival

Dr J. Edwin Orr taught that if revival is to flower, certain things must happen:

"Little by little, the church loses its grip on essential things, becomes a social club, goes to sleep or flies off at a tangent. All over the world we find sleeping churches, and all round them are the gospel-starved masses. Instead of performing the first thing of importance, evangelising the masses, they are engaged in a bewildering variety of pastimes--anything but the real thing."

Let me take these points in order: Has the church today lost "its grip on essential things"?  Is the Gospel of God being proclaimed every Lord's day from every pulpit established for the preaching of the Gospel?  Is there passion and a sense of urgency in the preaching that marked a previous generation of preachers?  

Or has the church degenerated into "a social club"?  Is it now the kind of organisation that is only interested in men's well-being in this world, and not so much in their eternal souls?  Does it try to cater for every 'special interest group' within its jurisdiction?  Does it break up its congregations into ages and gender groups, rather than having the entire church involved in all church activities?

Has the church today gone to "sleep"?  I don't think there can be any doubt that this is a fair description of many churches today - they are asleep while their members and community goes to hell without the only Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ.  Is she so inebriated by notions of her own self-importance and by her seeking to be applauded and honoured by the godless world that she sees no dangers anywhere that should cause concern to the Church of Christ?

Is it true that the church in many of her manifestations worldwide has flown "off at a tangent" and has become involved in politics, social action, an organiser of charitable activities; has she been taken down the road paved by godless philosophers without even realising it?

Dr Orr is correct: "All over the world we find sleeping churches."  How utterly sad!  And how unacceptable!  Who has cast the spell upon them that has created this situation?  Satan.  The church has allowed Satan to become a church member!  He is welcome in very many churches around the globe.  He presents himself as "an angel of light," and very often has a good 'profession of faith' which the church elders accept without question.  Preachers who have been brought under his power and influence are lulling their congregations to sleep with empty sermons, pious platitudes and sloppy sentimentalism.  The churches are asleep.

So intent are ministers and churches to keep strictly within their pre-determined parish boundaries that evangelism of the masses is a non-starter.  As Dr Orr rightly asserts,"all around them are gospel-starved masses."  Multitudes are on the broad road that leads to destruction.  Why?  Because they have not been told the Gospel in a way that grips them and 'nails them to their pews' as they listen.  They might have listened to carefully Bible studies, but these are not, I repeat, are not sermons. The masses are not being evangelised and the sheep are not being fed because the church is intent in and dedicated to amusing the goats.  They are happier to have loads of good, and not so good, pagans, in their membership because that keeps the money rolling in, than to tell them the unadulterated truth of the Gospel. 

Churches today have programmes of all kinds to entertain the goats, but not so much activity that will turn goats into sheep, as William Still of Aberdeen once said.  She has lost her vocation and Ichabod has been written over her.  Even the so-called pure churches are facing the same problems today.  Their members do not want the Gospel preached in their church - that's for mission halls and street corners, not the church.

Dr Edwin Orr is totally correct.  There must be immediate and radical change in every church if they are to meet the challenges of "this present evil age," (Gal.1:4).

But the biggest question of all is, Is she up to it?


Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Ministerial Sleeplessness - Is There a Remedy?

On a practical and pastoral matter, is there anyone reading this post who is suffering from sleep problems?  Christian ministers under pressure of work or from people know what it is to suffer from sleep deprivation.  If this is your experience, or you know of someone who is in this position, then visit here.

Trying to carry on in your work or with life can be very challenging when you feel you are carrying the world on your shoulders is a near impossibility.  Thankfully God's amazing grace supports and upholds us in such times.

But how many know what it is to sit up in the early hours of the morning, unable to sleep, drinking tea or coffee and wondering what it is you were supposed to have done to attract such unchristian behaviour against you?  Then you need to visit this site

Gospel ministers do not get the support they need from ministerial colleagues when they are being persecuted for righteousness' sake; they are simply dumped, thrown on the scarp heap and left to die.  This fact and reality, on top of the hassle they receive, causes sleep to flee and leave them totally exhausted the next day.

Whilst a remedy for such unpropitious circumstances will take longer than a blog posting to describe, it is important to rule out all the obvious causes of sleeplessness - this book, which was written by Nelville Amis, will help you do that. 

Enjoy your read and let me know through the blog comment box how you get on.

Dr LLoyd-Jones and Hypothetical Universalism

There's another manifestation of dishonesty within reformed evangelicalism and that is where it shows itself in not being totally honest about what you believe the Scriptures to teach on the way of salvation.  So long as a preacher can say the right words and use the right terms, it matters little what he means by them.  "Dishonesty is the best policy" in this regard. 

Because Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones never said he was Amyraldian, yet preached a Gospel message consistent with the Amyraldian view, reformed men held him to be a "five point Calvinist" as usually understood.  Which he wasn't.  Because he believed in and preached the universality and the universal sufficiency and design of the atonement to save the whole world, dishonest people ignore that this was in reality the case.  Just read his evangelistic sermons and references to this doctrine abound in every sermon and almost on every page.

But, and here's the point; he never said, to the best of my knowledge, that he was an Amyraldian; therefore he must be an Owenite theologically.  Others have said he was an Amyraldian, and there are more than sufficient data to establish this beyond doubt.  He knew and declared that Christ died for the whole world, that He does to take away the sin of the world, that He shed His blood for humanity and for the human race.  Yet our reformed brethren do not seem to take this on board, primarily because it will bring tremendous and irreconcilable distress upon them.  What if they admit the truth?  What will their ultra-reformed brethren think of them?  Will preaching invitations be withdrawn?  Will they be written off an unorthodox or sub-orthodox?

The lesson: don't admit to what you really believe and don't put a name to it, and you'll be accepted by your peers as a totally orthodox theologian.  The high orthodox men appear to be happy in a world of no definition, because the moment you define as precisely as possible the meaning of a thing, you are in for trouble. 

It appears that the church today does not want men who follow faithfully to the biblical Gospel as expounded by Calvin and his faithful followers.  Calvin's Gospel is too wide for them, for to adopt and preach it, you will end up possibly diluting your small and pure church membership, thus making ministerial life difficult for yourself.

However, what the church needs most of all is a Gospel that is as wide as God's mercy to mankind allows and as particular as His sovereign grace operates.  Christ's death on Calvary is sufficient enough to save the whole world and it is also efficient and effective enough to infallibly save the elect of God.

As George Whitefield so rightly said, "Take sinners to the primary school of repentance and faith before taking them to the university of election and predestination."

Whatever Happened To Scientific Method?

A strange question on a theological blog, you might think.  But think again.  My initial academic training was in science, and this taught me how sound conclusions must be drawn from observable facts.

True scientific method requires that all the available data are considered before drawing any conclusions.  For example, if the supervisor of a scientific experiment were to tell a researcher that the only results to be recorded were those that he expected to discover, that would not be true scientific method.  What is required is that ALL available and discoverable data are collected, and on that basis alone are conclusions to be drawn.  Valid conclusions may only be arrived at when all available data are 'placed on the table.' 

The same thing applies to those who have knowledge of and worked in the legal industry, either as lawyers or policemen, etc.  Their duty is to gather all the available and discoverable facts, and out of these compose their case for the prosecution to be presented at court.  When the police created 'evidence' that was then presented to a court and this fact was discovered, not only were the police left with massive embarrassment but the potentially guilty criminal got off scot free.  Tampering with evidence is a crime of gigantic proportions, but not, it seems, when this has been done by the police.

In the study of theology, we can find the same kind of unscientific method being used by those who hold the highest view of Scripture - its authority, inspiration, God-breathed nature.  Like the researcher mentioned in the second paragraph, many theologians do their work by listening first to what their 'supervisor' tells them - and I'm not referring to the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scriptures.  I'm referring to those scholastic philosophers who have so influenced the minds and thinking of many reformed theologians that they have first of all to discover what they have said about a matter, and then look for evidence that will back up that philosophy.

Aristotle (384-322 BC), the great medieval scholastic philosopher, has left his mark on the thinking of succeeding generations of thinkers.  John Owen confessed that he did not believe that Aristotle was a believer; yet Owen appears to have imbibed Aristotle's philosophical method, which can hardly be described as scientific, in his theological formulations.  His method appears to be that you start off with what you want to arrive at and then use the data, not all of it, to ensure that your logic is impeccable and unanswerable.

Aristotle's influence on Owen's thinking is seen most clearly in Owen's formulation of his doctrine of the atonement.  Under his 'tutoring,' Owen wanted to arrive at a doctrine of limited atonement, that is, atonement that was limited in its design for the elect only, so he did one of two things; he either jettisoned all the Scriptural data that did not support his theological contention, or else he explained those terms away.  Such was his influence that when the theologians of Britain met at Westminster to draw up its well-known Confession of Faith, Owen's influence was paramount when it came to dealing with Christ as Mediator.  Not all those present accepted this theological development, with theologians like Edmund Calamy objecting to this interpretation of the atonement. 

How can this kind of re-interpretation of the Death of Christ occur?  Only when an unscientific method is used in the pursuit of knowledge.  When a system is to be imposed on the understanding of the clear teaching of Scripture, data no longer matter.  When the evidence is tampered with, a false result is guaranteed.

How careful we all need to be when interpreting Scripture, and how wary we must be of imposing other men's thinking on to our understanding of the Bible's central message.

We must get back to a true scientific method when approaching Scripture, and get back immediately.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

New Blog Appearance

I have decided to re-design my blog to give it a new appearance and hopefully make it easier to read and follow.

The blog has been going in its old format since May 2008, so I though a change in appearance is needed.  I hope you like this new page, and that you continue to get much benefit from reading my posts.

Honesty on the Church Scaffold

"Ministers are placing themselves at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to getting a church if they are too honest at the interview stage," a minister told me recently.  This was the advice he was given when he was seeking God's will for his life.

"Being economical with the truth" is the best policy, it appears, within the church today.  The minister who told me this was appalled at such advice.

But this seems to be the way church life is being conducted - always try and pull the wool over the other man's eyes.  I can understand that for an evangelical to get into an anti-Gospel congregation can be very difficult, though it happens at times.  But to advise a ministerial candidate not to be too truthful says much about both the minister who proffers such advice and the church into which he is seeking a call.  To what degree can either of them be called 'Christian'?  Indeed, it also says a lot about a denomination that operates in this way - though of course this will be vociferously denied by evangelical ministers.

What makes this painfully worse is that very often this is precisely the advice given by evangelical ministers to their younger colleagues.  Evangelical, nay, reformed, ministers encourage younger colleagues to be 'economical with the truth' when seeking a call.

Does that tell us something of how these same men exercise their ministries in the church?  Is that why what could be called 'sharp practice' is systemic within churches today?  Is there a particular way of behaving when with church members and others, and an altogether contrary way of behaving when dealing with ministerial colleagues? 

I think this goes a long way to explaining why some ministers get up to ecclesiastical politicking within their denominations.  Consistency of treatment finds no place in their thinking and behaving within various scenarios.  Because these men hold the church, that is, their denomination, in such high regard, they will 'do whatever it takes' to get the desired goal.  If, for example, an undesirable minister is to be got rid of or pulled into line - such a minister is almost exclusively and evangelical Gospel man - these church politicians will do whatever is needed to neuter that man, and thereby destroy him.  'Dead wood' ministers, regardless of their theology, are much more welcome in the churches of these men than are true evangelicals.

The fact is that these 'purveyors of dishonesty' are involved in 'playing church,' a game I used to play at home as a child.  This game has no concern whatever for the eternal destinies of the people to whom they preach, so long as they can present a church that is at peace - with the devil.  I find it very difficult to view such men as sincere servants of Christ who do not have or maintain an eschatological perspective to their ministries.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Let Us Flatter God.

I wonder is this a much more fitting opening statement for modern services of worship than the customary "Let us worship God"?  Is our worship, both public and private, rather an exercise in divine flattery than an occasion to lift high from our hearts the ever living God and Saviour?

To worship God acceptably is mandatory for all Christians.  To do it globally is also necessary.  To do it wholeheartedly is essential if it is to be pleasing to the God Who is being worshipped. 

I am exercised about this because of what Jesus said, quoting the OT prophet, Isaiah, who said, "These people worship me with their lips but their hearts are far from Me," (Mt. 15:8; cf Isa.29:13).

In our striving for theological correctness, which usually means mere confessional correctness, we feel we must use the well-trodden words of long ago.  No harm in that, and indeed there is much good in that.  But if our worship is no more than choosing and using the religiously and theologically correct words, where does it differ from what Jesus condemns?  Does this not then degenerate into an exercise in flattery of the Almighty God in a bid to exact some favours from Him? 

Is this what prayer is for - exacting spiritual and/or material blessings from an unwilling God?  Is it a kind of evangelical magic that we're practicing - if we used the right words often enough, God will listen and answer and bless.  But is this worship?  And can it be described as prayer?

The preoccupation of many within the evangelical church with theological correctness has contributed to empty worship and the offering up of "strange fire" to the living God.  It is the worship of the lips while the heart is left untouched by the grace of God.

It reminds me of words put into the mouth of HenryVIII when he desiored to have Anne Bolyn for his wife, while she was interested in another man.  Henry ordered Cardinal Wolsey to "get rid of the other man, but do it legally."  It is possible to do what is considered 'right' in the worship of God but to do it in a way that is unacceptable to Him. 

To say the right things to God without the heart being engaged is a fruitless attempt to flatter Him.  But "Do not be deceived; God is not mocked," (Gal.6:7).  God knows when we are worshipping Him acceptably; He knows when our hearts are engaged in His praise.  For hearts that are not caught up in the loving worship of God are hearts that are trying to flatter Him.  Hearts that are not enlarged when they enter His awesome presence are flattering hearts.

But God sees through it all.  Let us be careful not to fall into the trap of offering God worship with out lips only while our hearts are far from Him.

Baxter's Kidderminster Updated

May I draw your attention to a newly updated book on Richard Baxter's Kidderminster in the Twenty-First Century.  This new edition now has photographs that will be of particular interest to those who cherish the Puritans. 

See his pulpit (1621), his chair, the four leather-bound volumes of his complete works, and the plague on which he is listed as the 'lecturer' in St Mary and All Saints Parish Church in Kidderminster.

This will thrill the hearts of everyone who loves the authentic Gospel that Baxter preached. 

Get your copy at this website.  This will be well worth your while.