Thursday, August 31, 2006

Watch Out For The Wolves!

17From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church.
18And when they had come to him, he said to them, "You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time,
19serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews;
20how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house,
21solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
22"And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there,
23except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me.
24"But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.
25"And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face.
26"Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men.
27"For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.
28"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.
29"I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;
30and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.
31"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.
(Acts 20:17-31, NASB)

Paul in what he perceived would be the last meeting that he would have with the Ephesian elders, addresses them with a solemn warning about those who would threaten the flock with their false teaching. He spent three years ministering to those people and warning them of impending danger of those who come into the church “speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them”. The fact that Paul had a close bond and love for those people and they also loved and respected him is clearly evident. (Acts 20:36-38) Paul took great care to thoroughly teach God’s Truth to these people. He was not interested in “seeker-sensitivity” or cultural relevancy, avoiding certain truth because it was deemed as being irrelevant to the current culture. Scripture teaches us that he “did not shrink from declaring” anything that was “profitable” (Acts 20:20), declaring the “whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27). He preached the truth without shame or fear, regardless of what people desired and gave similar advice to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2-4.

Paul’s advice to the leadership of the church in Ephesus was to be on guard first for themselves and for all the flock, and to “shepherd” the flock. This is crucial if the pastor is going to be of any benefit to his congregation. If the pastor is being influenced by false teachers, then he will be in no position to warn and protect the flock.

What is the first step in guarding themselves? Clinging tightly to the Word of God is crucial. Paul admonished Timothy to be diligent in accurately handling the Word of God. I like the NKJV rendering here, “rightly dividing the word of truth”, since that more strongly conveys the meaning of the Greek text, emphasizing precision in interpreting the Biblical text.

15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15; NKJV)

This is why I get upset when I see pastors that are sloppy or take a casual attitude in teaching the Bible. This is the pinnacle of emphasis in the ministry of someone in pastoral ministry. If a man has no passion for the truth, he has absolutely no business being in pastoral ministry. And yet it amazes me how many pastors have little understanding of the text of Scripture. I was once told by a youth pastor that he felt I knew more about the Bible than he did. Things like that infuriate me. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 5:17 that those who labor in the word of God were worthy of “double honor”. The term labor comes from the Greek word, kopiao, which means to work to the point of exhaustion. Pastors are to labor with intensity over Scripture, not merely skim the surface. This why I so much appreciate the work of men like John MacArthur, John Piper and others who labor so intensely in the Word of God.

It is also crucial to follow other men who have proven themselves sound in the faith, following a pattern of fidelity to the text of Scripture. What grieves me is that I have noticed that many are more enamored with those who devise pragmatic fads and methods, and minimize the importance of solid biblical teaching. The more visible success these men garner, the more pastors feel compelled to follow them. It just seems to be the spirit of this age, where our culture esteems the visible results over anything else. People are given to reckless abandonment to the latest fads of the moment.

Even more disturbing is the fact that God has blessed us with incredibly easy access to obtain a copy of the Bible practically anywhere. We have ready access to an incredible myriad of study helps and resources to understand the Word of God and apply it to our lives. Like Israel in the book of Numbers 11, God has provided us with plenty of His manna, but instead we are dissatisfied with it and want what the world has to offer. What was God’s judgment for Israel? God obliged their request and let them have what they wanted. An overabundance of what they desired, to the point that it would become loathsome to them! Perhaps we are suffering a similar fate today in the church.

Paul was concerned since the wolves that he describes as “savage”, would be those who would enter the flock in their midst and even seduce those from among themselves to follow their error. The wolves are not always easy to initially spot and enter the congregation “dressed” as one of the sheep, hence the term used, “wolves in sheep’s clothing”. The message was heavy on Paul’s heart, knowing the severe error that would be introduced by these teachers. The best way to describe these false teachers is the term “terrorists” that Dan Phillips used in his post this week. They enter the flock as one of us and carry out their plan secretly as one of us, recruiting followers from among ourselves.

This warning that Paul provides should provide a clarion call to the church today. If there is ever a time where this needs to be emphasized, it is now. We cannot afford to take for granted the need for keeping diligent watch even in good Bible teaching churches. The drift from truth can even occur there. I don’t believe there is ever a church that deliberately one day decided that they were going to throw out the Bible and teach heresy. The drift is usually subtle as we become lax in our handling of the truth. Once we become indifferent toward the truth, the slide accelerates. John MacArthur shares the thoughts of Robert Schindler who anonymously wrote the series, “The Down Grade” in Spurgeon’s publication, “The Sword and the Trowel”.

‘Tracing the state of evangelicalism from the Puritan age to his own era, Shindler noted that every revival of true evangelical faith had been followed within a generation or two by a drift away from sound doctrine, ultimately leading to wholesale apostasy. He likened this drifting from truth to a downhill slope, and thus labeled it "the down-grade."’

-John MacArthur, “Spurgeon and the Down-Grade Controversy”

There are numerous individuals within the ranks of evangelicalism who pose as leaders, but are teaching contrary to Scripture. I plan on writing some follow up posts on the subject of handling false teachers soon.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Another Unexpected Repair.

I was hoping to finish up a couple of posts this weekend, but unfortunately all of my time since Friday was spent looking for another vehicle to replace our Ford Windstar mini-van. If you recall in my post before I left for vacation, I got hit with several expensive repairs. Well we got hit with another VERY expensive repair estimate this last Thursday. My wife called me at work and reported that the van suddenly started misfiring and the check engine light came on while she was driving down the freeway with the kids. The engine actually cut out and lost power for a moment making steering very difficult. The engine kicked in again and she managed to keep the vehicle running long enough to get the vehicle off the freeway at the next exit, which conveniently led right to the road where the Lincoln-Mercury dealer was located. They were able to get the vehicle in the shop right away to diagnose the issue. We thought that it was likely another fuel injector, but unfortunately the engine lost all compression in one cylinder. Estimate to replace the engine was approximately $5,000! We had already spent nearly $1600 on repairs before vacation. Given the recent barrage of repairs and the Windstar’s less than stellar reputation for mechanical reliability, we were not too keen on putting any more money into the vehicle. In all likelihood, the next major repair would be the transmission which has been known to be a major issue on the Windstar. In my mind, it was more a matter of when, rather than if. That would likely be another $2,000. Since the cost of the repairs would exceed the market value of the vehicle (Windstars do not hold their value very well), we decided that we should just cut our losses and acquire another vehicle. So the venture for another vehicle began. I really hate shopping for a car, especially when you need to find another one as soon as possible and have a limited budget. We had hoped to put off purchasing another vehicle for another year. What is really irritating is that I take great effort to maintain my vehicles (regular oil changes, etc.).

After much research into the reliability ratings of other mini-vans, I came to the conclusion that I really did not want to take a chance on another American made mini-van. We finally found a good used Honda Odyssey a few years old within our budget. Even with a few miles on it, this vehicle runs smoother, rides better and has more comfortable seats than our Windstar did when it was only a couple of years old.

I don’t know why American manufacturers can’t build decent cars that can hold together. They seem to be able to build solid trucks, especially Ford. I have an older Ford F-150 with over 145,000 miles on it that I drive to work. It has proven itself extremely dependable and the reliability ratings are stellar. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the Ford cars. And they wonder why they are in trouble and the imports are pulling ahead.

Maybe it is just a sign that postmodernism has infiltrated the field of automotive engineering. You know, the text in those physics and science books really does not have any inherent meaning and must be deconstructed within a postmodern context :)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Newsweek Article on Billy Graham

The John Meacham article in Newsweek (August 14, 2006), “Pilgrims Progress”, has been discussed elsewhere in the blogosphere, so I am not sure what else I can really add to the discussion that has not already been said, but here it goes. For a couple of excellent postings on this subject, I will point you to TeamPyro (“The ‘It’s not for me to say’ dodge”) and Provocations and Pantings (“The Billy Graham School of Ecumenism”).

I find the statements that Billy Graham has made in the Newsweek article very disheartening. Some could argue that it is partially due to his age and failing health. But that argument will not stand since Graham has been making these kinds of statements for many years now. While it could be argued that he is just trying not to be offensive or controversial in hopes that people may be won to Christ, compromise never produces the fruit that we desire. Compromising or withholding the truth is never taught in the Bible. The truth was always proclaimed without compromise, even in the face of hostility. Compromise ultimately creates confusion concerning the truth of the Gospel. The confusion concerning where those outside of the Christian faith stand is extremely dangerous, and does nothing to point those people to the message of saving faith. The Bible is crystal clear on the fact that Jesus is the only way of salvation.

The following quote outlining the “spirit of moderation” captures the essence of the propensity towards compromise.

'“… Graham's spirit of moderation, of concern for both sides, is welcome not only overseas but at home, for Americans seem hungry for a ceasefire in the culture wars. In a Pew Research Center survey released last week, 66 percent of all Americans want a "middle ground" on abortion. Six out of 10 white evangelicals also support compromise; meanwhile, 44 percent of white evangelicals—the highest figure recorded in five years of polling—back stem-cell research.”'

Since when does it matter what the majority want? This so-called ceasefire that Americans seem to long for is simply a desire to wallow in their sin and believe whatever they want to believe. Spirituality is popular today with multitudes of “seekers” desiring some sort of “experience”, often veiled in a thin veneer of Christianity. But proclaim that embracing the gospel requires repentance and adopting a biblical worldview is simply intolerable. Consequently, there are multitudes that adapt the title of Christian, but bear virtually little if any resemblance to the biblical portrait of what a Christian is supposed to be. I am not one that is keen on Christians embarking on a quest for political activism, leveraging political means to bring in the kingdom of God. But avoiding the extreme of political activism does not mean we need to avoid voicing our views on things that oppose biblical teaching, which includes moral issues facing our society. I still believe that Christians as individual citizens need to speak out and act responsibly at the voting booth, casting their vote according to their conscience molded by a biblical world view. Compromise in these areas under the banner of tolerance and diversity makes us just as guilty as the world. The message that Graham and others who embrace a strategy of compromise are actually sending the message that one supposedly can believe in the gospel and act contrary to biblical principle. This simply allows people to walk in self deception. Perhaps some of the desire for compromise on the part of evangelicals may be more driven by disenchantment with the harshness of political activism, and a desire to soften the view of evangelicalism as a rigid and heartless. But compromising the truth is never the answer. Embracing tolerance is a gross overreaction and will undermine the clarity of the gospel message. We must also remember that it is inevitable that the world will not respond positively to the gospel. (Matthew 5:11; 10:22, John 17:14, 1 Corinthians 2:14) Any attempt to make it palatable to people’s tastes will nullify the power of the message of saving faith. Too much of evangelicalism has bought into the notion that it is imperative that everyone like us.

Billy Graham claims that he is led to spend more time on the love of God, in contrast to others who are more “politically active”. But embracing the love of God includes embracing the truth of God’s Word and proclaiming it to others. 2 John is pretty clear on this point.

1The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not only I, but also all who know the truth,
2for the sake of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever:
3Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
4I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father.
5Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another.
6And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.

(2 John 1:1-6; NASB)

I would agree that becoming too wrapped up in political causes distracts the church from the mission to proclaim the message of saving faith and making disciples. Making people simply comply with law does not bring them any closer to God. However, people need to be made aware of the error of sin. This awareness should drive them to seek the forgiveness made available through the work of Christ on the cross. Avoiding confronting the culture with a biblical perspective on crucial social issues does little to produce awareness of man’s sinful nature.

'A lot of things that I commented on years ago would not have been of the Lord, I'm sure, but I think you have some—like communism, or segregation, on which I think you have a responsibility to speak out." Such proclamations, however, should not be "the main thing," and he admits he has no perfect formula: "I don't know the total answer to that."'

So does this mean that only the evils of communism and segregation are worth speaking out against, but issues such as abortion and gay marriage are less evil?

The comment that Billy Graham does not feel it is his calling to confront the culture is a weak excuse for compromising the truth. On the other hand, his son Franklin has been outspoken on certain issues in our day. Most notable is his bold proclamation concerning Islam. This is despite the fact that he too, does not make it the primary focus of his ministry.

'Asked whether he thinks such observations are helpful, the younger Graham said: "It's not the calling of my life to preach against Islam. You're a reporter; you ask me, and I answer the question. I don't go on television or into stadiums and make Islam or gay marriage or the right to life my theme. But in the work that I do I come up against belief systems all over the world. I see much of the damage that is done in the name of religion. In the Balkans, Milosevic would have Orthodox priests bless the troops before they would rape and kill. Man's heart is evil and wicked until it is changed by Christ."'

I think that Franklin’s response is fair. While he does not make issues the primary theme that he preaches about, he is not afraid to strive to be truthful concerning issues in our day either. But observe the comments from his father and his sister.

'"I'm sure there are many things that he and I are not in total agreement about," Graham says. "I'm an old man, he's a young man in the prime of life." Anne Graham Lotz, after expressing her deep respect for her brother's life and work, said: "When Daddy was my brother's age, he was saying some pretty strong things, too, so you have to remember that experience and the living of a life can soften your perspective."'

So does that mean that Franklin will soften and compromise with age? Let’s hope not!

I am not criticizing the basic message of the gospel that Graham has preached at the crusades over the years. But the compromising, careless statements made outside of the crusades has a tendency to send a confusing, mixed message that distorts the clear message of the gospel.

But the following comment toward the end of the article I think points to the root of the problem.

'If he had his life to live over again, Graham says he would spend more time immersed in Scripture and theology. He never went to seminary, and his lack of a graduate education is something that still gives him a twinge. "The greatest regret that I have is that I didn't study more and read more," he says. "I regret it, because now I feel at times I am empty of what I would like to have been. I have friends that have memorized great portions of the Bible. They can quote [so much], and that would mean a lot to me now."'

Graham regrets not having spent more time studying Scripture and theology. We could all wish that he had. But this should also serve as an admonition to all of us, not to neglect the study of Scripture and sound biblical theology.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Existentialism and Postmodernism - John Piper

Existentialism Was the Air We Breathed

"The passion not to miss the essence of life, not to waste it, intensified
in college—the tumultuous late sixties. There were strong
reasons for this, reasons that go well beyond the inner turmoil of
one boy coming of age. “Essence” was under assault almost
everywhere. Existentialism was the air we breathed. And the
meaning of existentialism was that “existence precedes essence.”
That is, first you exist and then, by existing, you create your
essence. You make your essence by freely choosing to be what you
will be. There is no essence outside you to pursue or conform to.
Call it “God” or “Meaning” or “Purpose”—it is not there until
you create it by your own courageous existence.
(If you furrow
your brow and think, “This sounds strangely like our own day
and what we call postmodernism,” don’t be surprised. There is
nothing new under the sun. There are only endless repackagings.)"
(Emphasis Added)

John Piper
"Don’t Waste Your Life" , pg. 14 & 15

Monday, August 14, 2006

Who Needs Biblical Theology?

A commenter left in response to my post (back in January) about Don Miller’s book, “Blue Like Jazz”, a statement that Miller “was not opposing reformed theology, but was just not thinking of it.” What?! How can one set out to write a book discussing the Christian faith and not think about theology? Yes, I know that he was supposedly setting out to write a book, taking a “non-religious” approach to describe the Christian faith. But in the process of writing a book under the auspice of a “non-religious” approach, the tendency is to carelessly present a particular view of God and our relationship with Him. It is utterly impossible to accurately describe the Christian faith without expounding the knowledge of God based upon the truth of Scripture. I am all for removing any man-made “baggage” that may muddy the message, but you cannot minimize the use of Scripture (which is apparently Miller’s approach with this book), and with any degree of precision, tell people how to have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. I am not talking about one being an expert theologian, but at least have a good grasp of the theological implications of the subject matter they are addressing. Perhaps Miller has good intentions, but to ignore sound biblical theology in an apparent attempt to appeal to the masses is extremely dangerous. It is this attitude that causes the greatest concern with the emerging “church”. To leave out Scripture in an attempt to keep from offending people is an erroneous premise for evangelism. People can only be saved as a result of hearing the truth. If people are offended by the truth, then it is obvious that God has not opened their eyes to the truth. To water down or avoid the truth does nothing more than present a skewed view of the Gospel.

When someone sets out to write or speak, and whose audience is the general public, they have identified themselves as a teacher of sorts. Like it or not. This carries with it a certain level of responsibility. And that responsibility is to accurately teach, to the best of one’s ability, whatever the subject being addressed. To do otherwise is to engage in a recklessness that does great disservice to the hearers and grieves God. It is this mentality that creates an environment ripe for heresy.

Regardless of whether one is officially in a teaching position or not, all believers should gain a solid grasp of basic theology. Theology by its very definition is the study of God and all believers should be seeking a deeper knowledge of God. This is how we develop intimacy with God and ultimately directs our thoughts and how we conduct our life. In a sense, everyone embraces a theological view whether they realize it or not. The question is whether it is true biblical theology or if it is a false, erroneous theology. A proper understanding of God is crucial in the life of a believer.

I came across these notes on the “9 Marks” website on the importance of theology. Here is an excerpt from this document highlighting some important points concerning biblical theology.

  • The operating assumptions for biblical theology are therefore that the main theological linesof Scripture's story are discernable, and that we are called by God to learn, teach, and apply them in our churches.
  • These assumptions are so essential to the fabric of Christianity that, if we refuse to grant them, we call into question the functional validity of God's self-revelation, and we replace the authority of God's Word with our own finite and fallen reason.
  • Some of the more unpopular biblical doctrines (divine sovereignty, election) are often either explained away so as to remove all inherent offensiveness, or ignored all together by many pastors, thus obscuring the Bible’s clarity in the eyes of God’s people.
  • When we obscure the Bible’s clarity in this way, we erode the confidence of budding
    Christians in their own Spirit-given capability to profit from Scripture by themselves.
  • This corporate erosion of the confidence of God’s people in the clarity of God’s Word
    weakens the local church by weakening the community’s faith in the life-giving, sanctifying power of God’s Word.
  • Obscuring Scripture’s clarity through the attempted removal of its inherent offensiveness also blurs the intentionally distinct lines between the theology of the evangelical church and the various theologies of the world.
  • So in asking whether our theology is biblical, we’re really asking whether the theology we teach either clarifies or obscures the plain meaning of Scripture for the people of God.
  • We’re also asking whether the theology we teach helps distinguish the true gospel from
    other popular but less faithful teaching (cf. Gal 1:6-9).
  • When pastors explain away or ignore some of the Bible's less popular doctrines, the
    church's fidelity to Scripture is at least partially compromised.
  • So in asking whether our theology is biblical, we’re also asking whether or not our
    perception and proclamation of the main lines of the biblical story are faithful to what the Bible actually and objectively teaches, especially on unpopular doctrines.
  • Martin Luther said that if we preach everything but that one point of doctrine which in our time and culture are unpopular, we flee from the very battle we are called to fight.

    Here is a link to the whole section on biblical theology at 9 Marks with some sermons that you can listen to. This is a great resource.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Importance of Being “Truth-Driven”

“Our concern with truth is an inevitable expression of our concern with God. If God exists then he is the measure of all things, and what he thinks about all things is the measure of what we should think. Not to care about truth is not to care about God. To love God passionately is to love truth passionately. Being God-centered in life means being truth-driven in ministry. What is not true is not of God. What is false is anti-God. Indifference to the truth is indifference to the mind of God. Pretense is rebellion against reality and what makes reality is God. Our concern with truth is simply an echo of our concern with God.”

John Piper
Baptist General Conference Annual Meeting

July 1 & 2, 1993
Des Moines, Iowa

Friday, August 04, 2006

A Church for “Goths”

These days it seems that it is getting harder and harder to parody the church. Phil Johnson did this parody below of a “Biblezine” for Goth girls awhile back.

But I came across something that is definitely not a laughing matter at all. On the “Emergent Village” website, I discovered an affiliated Emergent church, The Church of the Apostles in Seattle, WA, that sponsors a Gothic Mass catering to those in the Gothic culture. There is an interview between the pastor, Karen Ward and Tony Jones posted there discussing the history of the church and their form of worship (this discussion of their worship is about half way through the interview). Karen Ward is on the Emergent Village Board of Directors.

This Gothic mass is called “Sanctorum Mass” (Sanctorum being Latin for “holy place”). The whole thing takes place using a gothic theme that brings to mind something of more satanic origins that anything holy. There is a link provided to the “Sanctorum My Space”; yes, THAT infamous MySpace that has come under fire in the news for becoming a venue for sexual predators, and leaving objectionable content open to be viewed by anyone. The initial page after clicking on the link is bad enough, with images that give an eerie feeling of something of more satanic origins. But when you click on some of the personal “spaces” of the people who are participants in this so-called “dark beautiful mass”, it really reveals the true nature of those who are regularly involved. The content is shocking and disgusting with extremely sinister images. A part of me wanted to provide the direct links to the "Sanctorum My Space" here, but given the content of the material posted there, I simply could not do it. Yes, it is that bad! Be forewarned; the link to MySpace contains material that is very offensive and really inappropriate for young viewers.

These personal spaces on MySpace are littered with sexually suggestive (often explicit) graphic images, laced with profanity, music playing in the background containing vile profanity and themes with satanic overtones. The content is disturbing and outright perverse.

What is frightening is that people may stumble across this site, especially young people who could even be given the link from someone in the church youth group. Many popular books written by those in the emerging church movement even contain advertisements and endorsements for the Emergent Village website, including Donald Miller’s book, “Blue Like Jazz”. Pay close attention to what is being handed out in your church, and be particularly watchful of material that may be given to your kids even from someone in your church’s youth group. Closely monitor what your kids may be accessing on the internet. Most important, make sure they understand what they believe and develop discernment between truth and error. Instill in them a love and reverence for God and His Word and a desire for holiness.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Emergent’s Influence on the Broader “emerging” Movement

There are those who claim that the broader “emerging church” is distinctly different from the official organization “Emergent”, and not heavily influenced by Emergent. However, the quote below reveals how influential they really are. I realize that there may be some in the broader emerging movement who may not follow the radical extreme and theological error of McLaren and company, but for the most part, it is HEAVILY influenced by the theological thought of Emergent, the organization.

“By 2001, we had formed an organization around our friendship, known as Emergent, as a means of inviting more people into the conversation. Along with us, the “emerging church” movement has been growing, and we in Emergent Village endeavor to fund the theological imaginations and spiritual lives of all who consider themselves a part of this broader movement.”(Emphasis Added)

- Quote from the Emergent Village website on the “About” page, under "Organization".

It is also interesting to note the list of “Affiliates” that support Emergent Village. These are the organizations that stand in partnership with and support Emergent.

From the Emergent Village website from their informational page under "support":

“Below is a list of organizations who have voiced their support of Emergent Village and supported us financially in 2006. They are our “organizational friends,” if you will.”

  • Abingdon Press
  • Amahoro
  • Baker Publishing House
  • Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
  • Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
  • InterVarsity Press
  • Jossey-Bass Publishers
  • The Journal of Student Ministries
  • Journey Community Church, Dallas
  • NCCUSA Faith & Order Commission
  • Wesley Theological Seminary
  • Zondervan Publishing House

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Warning Concerning Lukewarmness

Excerpt from:

"An Earnest Warning about Lukewarmness"
Delivered on July 26th, 1874 by C. H. SPURGEON

"Unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and [that] the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne."
--Rev. 3:14-21

I. My first point will be THE STATE INTO WHICH CHURCHES ARE VERY APT TO FALL. A church may fall into a condition far other than that for which it has a repute. It may be famous for zeal and yet be lethargic. The address of our Lord begins, "I know thy works," as much as to say, "Nobody else knows you. Men think better of you than you deserve. You do not know yourselves, you think your works to be excellent; but I know them to be very different." Jesus views with searching eyes all the works of his church. The public can only read reports, but Jesus sees for himself. He knows what is done, and how it is done, and why it is done. He judges a church not merely by her external activities, but by her internal pieties; he searches the heart, and tries the reins of the children of men. He is not deceived by glitter; he tests all things, and values only that gold which will endure the fire. Our opinion of ourselves and Christ's opinion of us may be very different, and it is a very sad thing when it is so. It will be melancholy indeed if we stand out as a church notable for earnestness and distinguished for success, and yet are not really fervent in spirit, or eager in soul-winning. A lack of vital energy where there seems to be most strength put forth, a lack of real love to Jesus where apparently there is the greatest devotedness to him, are sad signs of fearful degeneracy. Churches are very apt to put the best goods into the window, very apt to make a fair show in the flesh, and like men of the world, they try to make a fine figure upon a very slender estate. Great reputations have often but slender foundations, and lovers of the truth lament that it should be so. Not only is it true of churches, but of every one of us as individuals, that often our reputation is in advance of our deserts. Men often live on their former credit, and trade upon their past characters, having still a name to live, though they are indeed dead. To be slandered is a dire affliction, but it is, upon the whole, a less evil than to be thought better than we are; in the one case we have a promise to comfort us, in the second we are in danger of self-conceit. I speak as unto wise men, judge ye how far this may apply to us.

The condition described in our text is, secondly, one of mournful indifference and carelessness. They were not cold, but they were not hot; they were not infidels, yet they were not earnest believers; they did not oppose the gospel, neither did they defend it; they were not working mischief, neither were they doing any great good; they were not disreputable in moral character, but they were not distinguished for holiness; they were not irreligious, but they were not enthusiastic in piety nor eminent for zeal: they were what the world calls "Moderates," they were of the Broad-church school, they were neither bigots nor Puritans, they were prudent and avoided fanaticism, respectable and averse to excitement.

I’m Back!

I am back and ready to resume blogging! We had a great time on vacation, though it always seems to be too short. Beach vacations are generally relaxing. The only bad thing was the drive down to Myrtle Beach, taking a whopping 23 hours total due to the high volume of traffic. We took a different route down to South Carolina than we normally take, passing through Washington D.C. and stopping off at Richmond Va. to visit with some friends. We anticipated arriving in Richmond by 3 or 4 PM the day we left home, but due to getting caught in extremely heavy traffic around Washington D.C., we did not arrive until around 7:30 that evening, making our visit rather short. I do not recommend going anywhere near D.C., especially anytime after 3 PM on a Friday when rush hour starts if you can avoid it. It took a total of 13 hours to arrive at Richmond, VA. We got on the road the next day headed for Myrtle Beach and ran into heavy traffic on I-95. After sitting for quite some time in bumper to bumper traffic, we finally got off at the nearest exit and took some back roads to get to the coast and made our way to finally arrive at Myrtle Beach around 7:30 PM. The trip from Richmond to Myrtle Beach was an additional 10 hours and who knows how much longer the trip would have been had we not gotten off of I-95. Not sure if traffic is always that heavy on I-95, but after that experience, I would recommend an alternate route and avoid I-95 if possible. The trip back went much smoother, taking an alternate route, and although it seemed to slow us down a bit passing through some small towns, we still made the trip back from Myrtle Beach in only 13 hours. Although we would have liked to stay longer, it is always nice to be home again.