Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Opportunity Before Christians in this Postmodern Generation

John MacArthur explains in his book “The Truth War”, that we do have a “wonderful window of opportunity” before us in this postmodern climate to proclaim the truth of the Christian faith. Following the failure of the rationalism of the modern age, the people of the world are disillusioned and confused being overwhelmed with uncertainty, wondering how they can ever arrive at the truth. Sadly, the Emerging Church is following the worst possible strategy for ministering to those in this generation. By merely exacerbating the situation through encouraging disbelief, the Emerging Church is sending multitudes further down the path of despair, with little hope for experiencing true comfort and assurance. MacArthur explains on pages 24-25 of “The Truth War”:

“ The absolute worst strategy for ministering the gospel in a climate like this is for Christians to imitate the uncertainty or echo the cynicism of the postmodern perspective – and in effect drag the Bible and the gospel into it. Instead, we need to affirm against the spirit of this age that God has spoken with the utmost clarity, authority, and finality through His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2). And we have the infallible record of that message in Scripture (2 Peter 1:19-21).

Postmodernism is simply the latest expression of worldly unbelief. Its core value – a dubious ambivalence toward truth – is merely skepticism distilled to its pure essence. There is nothing virtuous or genuinely humble about it. It is proud rebellion against divine revelation.

In fact, postmodernism’s hesitancy about truth is antithetical to the bold confidence Scripture says is the birthright of every believer (Ephesians 3:12). Such assurance is wrought by the Spirit of God Himself in those who believe (1 Thessalonians 1:5). We need to make the most of that assurance and not fear to confront the world with it."

(John MacArthur, “The Truth War”, Pg. 24-25)

We need to be vigilant in proclaiming the truth without compromise. We need to remember that it is God speaking to people through the truth of His Word that will provide hope for a lost world. We need to also remember that salvation is a sovereign work of God, and is not brought about through man's clever strategies. Our duty before God is to proclaim the message of the gospel with boldness. This is how the gospel was proclaimed by the apostles despite open opposition to the message by the people (Acts 13:45-47). We need to pray, just as Paul requested, that we would also have the courage to speak the truth with boldness (Ephesians 6:19-20).

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Are You Really Good Enough?

The church that we left promoted this idea that we really do not need to emphasize that people are sinners, because they already know that they are sinners. So the philosophy became “we should not ‘camp out’ on sin” because it is not necessary. While it may be true that some may error in only telling people of the bad news of their sin and little time telling them of the solution – salvation through Jesus Christ – we must be careful not to error in the opposite direction. It is also absolutely necessary to explain to people and illustrate the reason they are lost so that they fully understand the gravity of their lost condition. They need to understand how lost and separated they are and that they are under the condemnation and judgment of God. And evangelicalism is failing to do much of this today.

While people will generally admit that they are sinners, they also have a tendency to minimize the seriousness of their sin. They tend to rationalize that “isn’t everyone a sinner?”, and that they are a basically a good person. After all, won’t God look more to our good deeds? Isn’t God all about love and forgiveness? Won’t He look at my heart and see that I am sincere?

The fact is that human nature resists the acknowledgement of the seriousness of sin. It is not enough to merely tell people they are sinners, we need to go into detail and explain how their sin has separated them from God and that it is not merely a minor infraction. People need to understand this in order to come under the full conviction of their sinful state.

This tendency of avoiding discussion of the depravity of man and his sin has become the bane of contemporary evangelicalism.

These video clips from CrossTV discuss this issue. Listen how people tend to avoid and dismiss their lost condition, including prison inmates, and actually claim that they have a basically good heart.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Spiritual Delight

Excerpt from:

The Saint's Spiritual Delight by Thomas Watson (1620-1686)

"But his delight is in the law of the LORD." [Psalm 1:2]

What is meant by the Law of God, what by Delight in the Law, and the Proposition resulting.

THE words give a twofold description of a godly man.

First, He delights in God's law.

Secondly, He meditates in God's law.

I begin with the first, 'His delight is in the law of the Lord:' The great God hath grafted the affection of delight in every creature; it hath by the instinct of nature something to delight itself in. Now the true saint, not by intuition, but divine inspiration makes the law of God his delight. This is the badge of a christian, 'His delight is in the law of the Lord.' A man may work in his trade, and not delight in it, either in regard of the difficulty of the work, or the smallness of the income; but a godly man serves God with delight; it is his meat and drink to do his will.

For the explication of the words, it will be inquired,

1. What is meant by 'the law of the Lord.' This word, Law, may be taken either more strictly or more largely. (1.) More strictly, for the Decalogue or ten commandments. (2.) More largely. [1.] For the whole written word of God. [2.] For those truths which are deducted from the word, and do concenter in it. [3.] For the whole business of religion which is the counterpart of God's law, and agrees with it as the transcript with the original. The word is a setting forth, and religion is a shewing forth of God's law. I shall take this word in its full latitude and extent.

2. What is meant by delight in God's law. The Hebrew and Septuagint both render it, His will is in the law of the Lord; and that which is voluntary is delightful; a gracious heart serves God from a principle of ingenuity; he makes God's law not only his task, but his recreation; upon this scripture-stock I shall graft this proposition.

Doctrine. That a child of God, though he cannot serve the Lord perfectly, yet he serves him willingly; his will is in the law of the Lord; he is not a pressed soldier, but a volunteer; by the beating of this pulse we may judge whether there be spiritual life in us, or no. David professeth God's law was his delight, Psalm 119.77, he had his crown to delight in, he had his music to cheer him, but the love he had to God's law did drown all other delights; as the joy of harvest and vintage exceeds the joy of gleaning. 'I delight in the law of God,' saith Paul, 'in the inner man.' Rom. 7.22, the Greek word is, I take pleasure; the law of God is my recreation, and it was an heart delight, it was in the inner man; a wicked man may have joy in the face, 2 Cor. 5.12, like honey-dew, that wets the leaf; but the wine of God's Spirit cheers the heart; Paul delighted in the law in the inner man.

This article originally appeared here at Bible Bulletin Board.

Monday, September 10, 2007

When Will the Church Learn?

I was alerted to this article at Justin Taylor’s blog, Between Two Worlds. It seems that Sally Morgenthaler has changed her views on the so-called worship evangelism she pioneered. Her book, “Worship Evangelism” was very influential and enticed many churches to adopt her philosophy. In hindsight, she now admits that despite all the effort that the contemporary church has placed on cultural relevancy, it has not yielded the intended outcome. Despite the multiplication of mega churches utilizing strategies including her worship evangelism, the church has failed to significantly reach the unchurched.

But while I appreciate Morgenthaler’s honesty, I wonder if she has really changed her pragmatic thinking. In her article she points out that in the early days of the Worship Evangelism strategy, the unchurched were actually responding to the pragmatic strategy; that is until the novelty grew wearisome. Eventually, only the well-established seeker megachurches survived. Ultimately, these meagachurches became nothing more than one more choice on the menu for church-goers shopping for the next thrill. But I also noticed in her article that she is a contributor to the book, “An Emergent Manifesto of Hope”, edited by emerging gurus Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones. Given the emerging church's aversion to propositional truth, tragically, she may be just trading one error for another. Yes, I know, the emerging church denies any claims that they are simply adopting another pragmatic strategy, but that is essentially what they are doing. Pandering to what the postmodern society desires. I wrote a post some time ago pointing this out.

She comments on the observations by an “unchurched journalist”. “No sad songs. No angry songs. Songs about desperation, but none about despair. Worship for the perfect. The already arrived. The good-looking, inoffensive, and nice. No wonder the unchurched aren’t interested.” A little further and she advocates that that we “worship well and deeply”, including songs containing anger, despair and sadness, returning more to the Psalms, where David expressed these emotions. I agree that we should return to a more genuine heartfelt worship. Not as a tool to appeal to the lost, but for our expression of worship toward God. To be fair, I don’t think she was necessarily advocating using that as an attempt to appeal to the lost. The main thrust of her statement was directed at the focus of our worship being the “overflow of what God does through us beyond our walls.” And I agree, but with one caveat. I also agree with something that Jim Hamilton wrote in a post addressing this same article by Morganthaller; there should really not be a dichotomy between our corporate worship and our overall worship reflected in our daily life. Both are vitally important.

Singing and music in Scripture is never intended to be used as an evangelism tool. The Scriptural exhortation to sing songs, hymns and spiritual songs are meant to focus our thoughts on God and edification of one another. (Ephesians 5:19) They are not meant to be used as just one more tool in our arsenal of clever pragmatism to supposedly spread the gospel.

God chose the preaching of the simple message of the cross to be the vehicle by which to reach the lost with the gospel. Not eloquent, clever speeches or fanciful methodologies, appealing to the desires of the culture. (1 Corinthians 1:17-29; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5) This is to be done regardless of what the culture wants. (2 Timothy 4:2) If the culture resists and refuses to listen, we are to do it anyway. The measure of our success should not rest in numbers, but on the change in the hearts of those who believe, whether it is one or 1,000. If one were to judge the ministry of Jeremiah, according to the standards of contemporary evangelicalism, he would be deemed a failure. The man steadfastly preached the unadulterated message that God commanded him for over forty years, yet his message was continually rejected by the people. We must be willing to exercise the same steadfast faith and commitment.

In a vain attempt to supposedly reach the lost, churches have so watered down the truth in order to produce a lowest common denominator faith to get people in the church, and now are inept at providing any help in equipping believers in the faith. And this equipping is necessary if believers are going to be able to go into the world, being strengthened in their faith, brought to spiritual maturity and be an effective witness and testimony to the gospel of Christ.

While I certainly believe that churches should engage in outreach outside of the church, unless this effort is under girded by the proclamation of Scriptural truth, churches will come to the same dead-end that the liberal churches met; a hollow message that really offers no long-term hope to the spiritually needy.

It is time for the church get back to the basics of what the church should be doing instead of be driven by the latest pragmatic approaches devised through the clever schemes of man. It is time for the church to look to the teaching of Scripture to find out how we should be carrying out the ministry of the church, rather than the ideologies of man. Inevitably, man's ideas will lead to eventual failure, while providing a temporal illusion of success.