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Friday
Oct152010

The "narrow way" and evangelism

Martyn Lloyd-Jones discusses the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14. After having provided His listeners with a description of what a Christian is supposed to look like, Jesus talks about the "narrow way."  Lloyd-Jones discusses some of the characteristics of this narrow way:

The first thing we notice is that it is a life which is narrow or strait at the very beginning.  Immediately it is narrow.  It is not a life which at first is fairly broad, and which as you go on becomes narrower and narrower.  No!  The gate itself, the very way of entering into this life, is a narrow one.  It is important to stress and impress that point because, from the standpoint of evangelism, it is essential.  When worldly wisdom and carnal motives enter into evangelism you will find that there is no 'strait gate.'  Too often the impression is given that to be a Christian is after all very little different from being a non-Christian, that you must not think of Christianity as a narrow life, but as something most attractive and wonderful and exciting, and that you come in in crowds.  It is not so according to our Lord.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is too honest to invite anybody in that way.  It does not try to persuade us that it is something very easy, and that it is only later on that we shall begin to discover it is hard.  The gospel of Jesus Christ openly and uncompromisingy announces itself as being something which starts with a narrow entrance, a strait gate.  At the very beginning it is absolutely essential that we should realize that.

Thursday
Oct142010

Thankful Thursday

I'm thankful that we had a nice Thanksgiving weekend.  It's nice to have everyone home.  With all the driving we had to do with picking up kids, I'm also thankful for safe travels.

I'm thankful for an opportunity coming my way in January.

I'm thankful that when I'm having a bad day, I know that God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Wednesday
Oct132010

Warfield Wednesday

Warfield on the necessity of the Trinity:

Every redeemed soul, knowing himself reconciled with God through His Son, and quickened into newness of life by His Spirit, turns alike to Father, Son and Spirit with the exclamation of reverent gratitude upon his lips, "My Lord and my God!"  If he could not construct the doctrine of the Trinity out of his conciousness of salvation, yet the elements of his consciousness of salvation are interpreted to him and reduced to order only by the doctrine of the Trinity which he finds underlying and giving their significance and consistency to the teaching of Scripture as to the processes of salvation.  By means of this doctrine he is able to think clearly and consequently of his threefold relation to the saving God, experienced by Him as Fatherly love sending a Redeemer, as redeeming love executing redemption, as saving love applying redemption:  all manifestations in distinct methods and by distinct agencies of the one seeking and saving love of God.  Witout the doctrine of the Trinity, his conscious Christian life would be thrown into confusion and left in disorganization if not, indeed, given an air of unreality; with the doctrine of the Trinity, order, significance and reality are brougt to every element of it.  Accordingly, the doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrine of redemption, historically, stand or fall together.

Tuesday
Oct122010

Revival and Emotionalism

Last Tuesday, I posted about the revival in Kentucky in the early 19th century.  To those who witnessed it, the lasting impression left with them was of the changed lives of the converted.  That is what truly marks a revival, the change in people's lives.

There is another side to the revival which took place in Kentucky, and one which would have its own long-lasting effects.  That was the emergence of emotion-driven physical outbursts during times of revival.  Iain Murray points out that all revival is accompanied - indeed, must be accompanied - by conviction of sin.  This naturally will cause emotion in individuals.  The most common type of physical response was that of falling down, as if one had been shot.  Individual occurrences of this was not the problem; rather, the problem was the potential for chaos to ensue when this occurred; I'm sure we can all appreciate what the effect of people falling down as if shot would product in a large group of people.  The atmosphere of camp revival meetings, with large groups necessitating that the speaker basically shout his messages, was one where emotionalism could flourish, and some ministers did express concern at this.  It was determined that the level of emotion during a meeting was often toned down when a speaker began with the encouragement for a calmer atmosphere.

Some ministers who witnessed this tried to temper it, and some encouraged it to the point that one of them, Richard M'Nemar, was entirely uncritical of it.  M'Nemar began as a Presbyterian, but ultimately joined The Shakers.  The tension over the issue occupied the minds of those involved in the revivals of the time, and there was a concern about the effects of the emotion.  Certainly, many true converts came out of this time despite occasions of unbridled emotional outbursts, but this type of revival meeting, with its accompanying emotion, shaped the nature of revival.

Archibald Alexander assessed the situation, and made some conclusions about the effects of the hysteria:

Some disastrous results of this religious excitement were, - 1st. A spirit of error, which led many, among whom were some Presbyterian ministers, who had before maintained a good characer, far astray.

2ndly. A spirit of schism; a considerable number f the subjects and friends of the revival, separated from the Prebyterian Church, and formed a new body, which preached and published a very loose and erroneous system of theology...

3dly. A spirit of wild enthusiasm was enkindled, under the influence of which, at least three pastors of Presbyterian churches in Kentucky, and some in Ohio, went off and joined the Shakers.  Husbands and wives who had lived happily together were separated, and their children given up to be educated in this most enthusiastic society.  I forbear to mention names, for the sake of the friends of these deluded men and women.  And the truth is - and it should not be concealed - that the general result of this grat excitement, was an almost total desolation of the Presbyterian churches in Kentucky and part of Tennessee.

Error, schism and wild enthusiasm; doesn't sound like a good environment for solid doctrine to be promoted.  As I read this, I could not help but think of the opening chapter of Titus, which I have been studying.  Paul asks Titus to set things "in order," and to establish elders so that sound doctrine could be preached.  It sounds as if this environment would have benefitted greatly from those words.

Monday
Oct112010

The battle for Scripture

I started reading Truths We Confess, by R.C. Sproul.  I have wanted to read it for a while, because my friend read through it already, and really liked it.  I am borrowing the first two volumes from her.  I love Sproul's writing, and even after only a brief look into it, I can see that I am going to learn quite a bit from it.

The first chapter of the Westminster Confession talks about Scripture.  Section 4 states:

The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testionony of any man, or church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the authority thereof:  and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.

Sproul mentions a bumper sticker which says "God said it; I believe it; that settles it" and asserts that what the bumper stick ought to say is "God said it; that settles it," his point being that God's Word does not need our belief in it in order to be the true Word of God.  It is God's Word with our without our belief in it.

The challenge of authority to God begins with questioning His Word.  Sproul continues:

Satan beguiled Eve with the question, "Has God indeed said ...?"  (Gen. 3:1), calling God's authority into question.  When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, all three temptations centered on whether Christ would trust and live by every word that proceed from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:-11).  Throughout church history, the supreme attack of the world, the flesh, and the devil against godliness has been an attack on the authority of God's Word.  Fierce assaults on the authority of Scripture, which came out of the Enlightenment, made their way into the universities and seminaries.  They also came from within the church, in the name of biblical criticism or higher criticism.

I don't think this has gone away.  When local governments try to render the Bible as "hate literature" because of its stand on moral issues, that reality is clearly evident.  Even within the church, moral failings, sin and false teaching arise from not wanting to follow what the Word of God says.  We can see it all of the time; stepping away from the Word of God can lead one on a slippery slope to all kinds of problems.