On Not Avoiding the Dark Haunts

“A man who wore no clothes, lived in the tombs among the dead, and had a long rap sheet hardly seems like a good candidate to be the first to preach the news in this territory awash in paganism. He was a multiple offender whom the authorities had at long last given up trying even to restrain. But like Mary Magdalene, who had been delivered from seven demons (8:2), he was redeemed from his condition by Jesus’ powerful word and restored to wholeness.

It has happened to many whose condition is not quite so obvious or public. C. S. Lewis describes his condition before his conversion as ‘a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds. My name was legion.’ Using the imagery of the parable of the soils in the previous unit would seem to suggest that persons such as these are hardened, unproductive soil to hear the Word of God and not worth wasting seed by sowing it among them. But the power of God’s Word can transform even this kind of soil. It can bring salvation, deliverance from the legion of personal demons that assail individuals, and transform the person into a productive proclaimer of the gospel.

The problem is that Christians might tend to avoid the dark haunts where these lost and desperate people may gather. Their scary behavior, as a result of years of maltreatment at the hands of others and their own self-abuse, may make them seem irredeemable, and so they never hear the message of salvation. Jesus is prepared not only to use anyone committed to him to proclaim the gospel, but he is also ready to go anywhere to proclaim it. The whole world, not a small portion of it, needs to be restored to wholeness.

Garland, David E. Luke. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012.

Neither to the Top nor the Side

TalbertLuke1

“Jesus did not go to the top (to Caesar or Pilate) to get things changed; nor did he go to the left (to the Zealots). He went instead to the poor and sinners, offering forgiveness and deliverance and calling them into a community whose life was to embody God’s will.”

Charles H. Talbert, Reading Luke: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Third Gospel, Rev. ed., Reading the New Testament Series (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 2002), 27–28.

Luke the Historian

“Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy; he is possessed of the true historic sense; he fixes his mind on the idea and plan that rules in the evolution of history; and proportions the scale of his treatment to the importance of each incident. He seizes the important and critical events and shows their true nature at greater length, while he touches lightly or omits entirely much that was valueless for his purpose. In short, this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”

W. M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (London; New York; Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton, 1915), 222.

.Ramsay 1

“I set out to look for truth on the borderland where Greece and Asia meet, and found it here. You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian’s, and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment, provided always that the critic knows the subject and does not go beyond the limits of science and of justice.”

W. M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (London; New York; Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton, 1915), 89.

Ramsay 2

Do Not Judge?

Baxter on Judging

‘Be much therefore at home in searching and watching, and amending your own hearts:’ And then you will find so much to do about yourselves, that you will have no mind or leisure to be censuring others; whereas the superficial hypocrite whose religion is in externals, and is unacquainted with his heart and heaven, is so little employed in the true work of a Christian, that he hath leisure for the work of a censorious Pharisee.

Richard Baxter, William Orme, The Practical Works of the Rev. Richard Baxter, vol. 6 (London: James Duncan, 1830), 403.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” (Matthew 7:1–6, ESV)

Church is Boring?

Tozer

Religious Boredom

THAT THERE IS SOMETHING gravely wrong with evangelical Christianity today is not likely to be denied by any serious minded person acquainted with the facts. Just what is wrong is not so easy to determine.

In examining the situation myself I find nature and reason in conflict within me, for I tend by temperament to want to settle everything with a sweep of the pen. But reason advises caution; nothing is that simple, and we must be careful to distinguish cause from effect. As every doctor knows there is a wide difference between the disease and the symptoms; and every Christian knows that there is a big difference between cause and effect in the sphere of religion.

At the root of our spiritual trouble lie a number of causes and these causes have effects, but which is cause and which effect is not always known. I suspect that many things currently under attack by our evangelists and pastors (and editors, for that matter) are not the causes of our troubles but the effects of causes that lie deeper. We treat the symptoms and wonder why the patient does not get well. Or, to change the figure, we lay down a heavy fire against nothing more substantial than the cloud of dust raised by marching enemy troops long gone by.

One mark of the low state of affairs among us is religious boredom. Whether this is a thing in itself or merely a symptom of the thing, I do not know for sure, though I suspect that it is the latter. And that it is found to some degree almost everywhere among Christians is too evident to be denied.

Boredom is, of course, a state of mind resulting from trying to maintain an interest in something that holds no trace of interest for us (the boss’s jokes, say, or that lecture on the care and nurture of dahlias to which we went because we could not resist the enthusiastic urging of a friend). No one is bored by what he can in good conscience walk away from. Boredom comes when a man must try to hear with relish what for want of relish he hardly hears at all.

By this definition there is certainly much boredom in religion these days. The businessman on a Sunday morning whose mind is on golf can scarcely disguise his lack of interest in the sermon he is compelled to hear. The housewife who is unacquainted with the learned theological or philosophical jargon of the speaker; the young couple who feel a tingle of love for each other but who neither love nor know the One about whom the choir is singing-these cannot escape the low-grade mental pain we call boredom while they struggle to keep their attention focused upon the service. All these are too courteous to admit to others that they are bored and possibly too timid to admit it even to themselves, but I believe that a bit of candid confession would do us all good.

When Moses tarried in the mount, Israel became bored with the faith that sees the invisible and clamored for a god they could see and touch. And they displayed a great deal more enthusiasm for the golden calf than they did over the Lord God of Abraham. Later they tired of manna and complained against the monotony of their diet. On their petulant insistence they finally got flesh to eat, and that to their own undoing.

Those Christians who belong to the evangelical wing of the church (which I firmly believe is the only one that even approximates New Testament Christianity) have over the last half-century shown an increasing impatience with things invisible and eternal and have demanded and got a host of things visible and temporal to satisfy their fleshly appetites. Without Biblical authority, or any other right under the sun, carnal religious leaders have introduced a host of attractions that serve no purpose except to provide entertainment for the retarded saints.

It is now common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God’s professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments.

This has influenced the whole pattern of church life, and even brought into being a new type of church architecture, designed to house the golden calf.

So we have the strange anomaly of orthodoxy in creed and heterodoxy in practice. The striped-candy technique has been so fully integrated into our present religious thinking that it is simply taken for granted. Its victims never dream that it is not a part of the teachings of Christ and His apostles.

Any objection to the carryings on of our present golden-calf Christianity is met with the triumphant reply, “But we are winning them!” And winning them to what? To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the world’s treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love for God? To total committal to Christ? Of course the answer to all these questions is no.

We are paying a frightful price for our religious boredom. And that at the moment of the world’s mortal peril. Continue reading

It’s of Faith

Luther on Rom 1,17

The Reformation’s emphasis on faith alone was the result of Luther’s tortured struggles to resolve the issue of how a fallen sinner may be saved. “My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and had no confidence that my character would satisfy Him. Night and day I pondered,” Luther said. The breakthrough came when Luther was given insight into Romans 1:17: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Luther later wrote: “Then I grasped that the justice of God is the righteousness by which, through grace and sheer mercy, He justifies us through faith. Immediately I felt myself to have gone through open doors into paradise.”

Joel R. Beeke, Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2008), 138.

Christ’s Work for the Believer

Newton, though

2 Corinthians 5:14–21 (ESV)

14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.