Saturday, 17 September 2011

The most popular game in town!

No, its not football or rugby or tennis or snooker.  If only it were,things would not be so bad.  But the most popular game in town today, within religious society, the game called 'Playing Church.'

Away back in the eighties, I spoke to the children in my church, and asked what the most game was.  All kinds of answers were proffered but no one got the answer that I wanted to speak upon.  When I mentioned that 'Playing Church' was a most popular game, played mostly by adults. there was tremendous silence in the service.  I never professed to very good at giving childrens' talks, but this one really caught people's attention.

Sometime later, an elder accused me of being quite cynical about the religious situation, but I argued that I believe this to be close to reality.  'Playing Church' is a most popular game.

Do you agree with me?  Is church just a game for most people who attend a place of worship?  So long as they keep the rules, all is fine.  So long as they last the 60 minutes, well.  They can then go home and return to their normal way of living, with no change in their lives apparent.  Do you like 'Playing Church'?  Are you good at it?  Have you been it long? Do you practice 'playing church' every week, or just on the set occasions?

Are you like the politicians, prime ministers and other VIPs who like to be at the front of the church and in view of the TV cameras?  Do you like to be seen at church?  Do you go to church just to 'put in an appearance'?  Just why do you go to church at all?  Is there any reality in this practice?  When you hear what Christian or non-Christian people have to listen to each week, you give them credit for not entering a church building at all! 

It is time to stop 'playing church' and to start being real Christians who are dedicated to the worship of the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and get back to being people of the Book.  Will you start today?

The Victims of Religion Without Power

There is such a thing as 'religion without power.'  It is not a nice thing to see, but it pleases most church goers and ministers today.  Religion is the big thing in town, despite the fact that only about 6% attend any place of worship in the UK once a month.  The real percentage is probably much lower.

Religion without power suits most church people today. Thankfully, there are those who know the difference between mechanical worship and Spirit-filled and Spirit-led worship.  But most do not.  I visited what used to be one of the best evangelical churches in Belfast, NI, quite recently, imagining, in my naivety, that it would still be along the same evangelical and reformed lines that I had known it to be.  What I discovered on entering the church sanctuary was to see at the front of the church building a drum kit, surrounded by all the usual paraphernalia of worldly worship within 21st century evangelicalism.

But this suits church people well.  It attracts the younger people, so we are told, and keeps them within the church.  It offers 'religion without power.'  It keeps people in a dwindling church-attending society, on board - at least temporarily.  But it is 'religion without power.'

Paul 'complained' about powerless religion and powerless preaching when he visited Corinth, and conceded that you can have such a thing a Spiritless preaching.  Preaching that is devoid of spiritual power.  Genuine Spirit-filled Christians are aware that this is the norm within many churches today, and loathe it.  They know that there is no point in bringing this unacceptable situation to the eldership because they will be told that this is how it is being done, and that's that!  The leadership does not give a toss about how God is worshipped, or about the presence of powerless religion in their midst.  They have forgotten that this is being done under their watch, and one day they will give account to the Lord of how they exercised their ministries.

Why does 'religion without power' suit most church people today?  Well, the answer is not hard to find.  It does not face them up with their spiritual responsibilities to God and before God.  It does not challenge the way they live their lives, nor does it challenge the way the church conducts her affairs.  It allows people to live as they please, to worship in a way that imitates the world, to speak blasphemously if that is how they were brought up by their parents to speak, to curse and to swear to their heart's content, to use the coarsest language imaginable, and to do as much harm to genuine believers and to the cause of the Gospel of which they are capable.  They can enjoy their positions within the church, because there is no power of God present to convict them of their godlessness.  And so on the list could go.  But I think you get the general picture. 

'Religion without power.'  The only alternative to such an ecclesiastical perversion is religion that is infused with Spiritual power and presence.  Unless the Spirit of God comes upon the churches very soon, there will be nothing but a hint of biblical Christianity left.  God's people have been crying out for the revival of genuine religion in our land, but God does not seem to hear their cries!  Why not?  because despite their orthodox cries for God to pour put His blessings upon the church, in their heart of hearts they do not want anything to change.  They want God to come, but without bringing changes to their comfortable religious lifestyle.  This is not going to happen!  The church needs to 'waken up and smell the coffee,' to coin a phrase,because time is running out.  She must put in lace whatever changes are needed, and that right early. For until she sees the depth of the need and how offensive she is to Almighty God, He will continue to turn His face from her, and let her wallow in the mire.

Until this happens, many poor deluded church people will continue to be the willing victims of 'religion without power.'

Donald Macleod: Striking the wrong note on psalm singing

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Published Date: 06 May 2010
THIS has nothing to do with attracting dissidents from the Church of Scotland, and even less with any financial problems facing the Church. I've been arguing for this change for 20 years.
If there is any element of pragmatism to the discussion it is that many talented people in the Free Church feel unable to accept office under the current rules. The problem is that the vows Free Church ministers take on ordination can be interpreted to mean that exclusive, unaccompanied psalmody is the only "pure" way of worshipping God. Many of us don't believe that; and we don't even believe that that is what our ordination vows bind us to.

What worries us even more is the claim that exclusive psalmody is so much part of the church that it cannot be discussed. Those of us in favour of change argue, first of all, that it is no small thing to be out of step with the rest of Christendom. Is it we alone who have the Holy Spirit? We argue, secondly, that the New Testament requires us to sing, not only psalms, but "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs". And we argue, above all, that, magnificent though the psalms are, they belong to the Old Testament, and we are now living in the age of the New.

The big fear is discord and fragmentation. Let there be no threats to secede nor to expel.

• Professor Donald Macleod is Principal of the Free Church of Scotland College, Edinburgh

Friday, 16 September 2011

The Latimer Syndrome

The innocent victims of IRA terrorism are livid and deeply hurt over the appearance of Rev Dr David Latimer at the Sinn Fein conference last weekend. The plaudits he heaped on Martin McGuinness were nauseating in the extreme. The fact that a Presbyterian minister would even contemplate accepting an invitation to speak at such a conference beggars belief. Had he gone there with the purpose of holding SF/IRA to account for its bloody past (and current) activities, its murderous campaign against decent, hard-working, law-abiding people - and some of those activities not too far into the past - was clearly not his intention. Many of those murdered by McGuinness' 'death squads' were members of Dr Latimer's denomination, a fact of which he would have been well aware, only adds insult to injury. Had Dr Latimer gone there as a Gospel minister and called on IRA/SF to acknowledge the wrong it had done, and to repent of that wrong, then it might have been worthwhile; but he went there and paid tribute to this killing machine and to one of its senior officers. Utterly shameful.

Does he not care how the innocent victims of IRA terrorism in his own area and throughout the country feel? Is their hurt of no account to him whatever? Was the loss of young men's lives in the service of their country a matter of no concern to this part-time army officer? It appears not. Indeed, I have not heard a word of condemnation of his actions from his own denomination, leading one to believe that they supported his involvement with IRA/SF last weekend. This is something that members of that denomination ought to consider very seriously. One Presbyterian victim of terrorism said he was disgusted, though not surprised, at his church's lack of support at this time.

Victims of terrorism are still reeling over Dr Latimer's involvement at this conference. I had a representative of the Claudy families in contact with me, very angry that a minister from his denomination should insult him and his family in such a callous manner; and we remember, of course, that McGuinness was in charge of the 'Derry' brigade of the IRA at that time (1972) when the three bombs were exploded in the Co. Londonderry village. Indeed, very recently, the IRA's partners in terrorist crime planted a bomb at a GP's home in that same village. McGuinness' refusal to name those known to him to have been involved in the 1972 atrocity demonstrated that he was not remotely interested in helping these victims get the justice they deserve. The member suggested that Dr Latimer, as a soldier, is working for the government, hence his decision to act in such a way as to inflict further hurt on IRA victims. It is so disappointing that there are those whose purpose in life is to inflict as much pain on the victims of terrorism as possible. And Dr Latimer's delusional action indicates that those trying to further hurt the victims of terrorism come from very surprising quarters.

My youngest brother, Ken, was murdered by the IRA in 1977, the organisation headed up by McGuinness; and to hear him being regaled by David Latimer as one of the great leaders of modern times, was profoundly hurtful. Obviously Dr Latimer is working to a totally different agenda to that appreciated by terrorist victims.

It is surely time for our country and our politicians to waken up and see that it is being led by the nose down IRA/SF's republican track, and, as McGuinness said, they are working to an eventual united Ireland. And it would now be most opportune for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland to issue a statement telling the country, and its own members, what its view of Dr Latimer's action is. They surely deserve no less than that!

They experienced God.

Brother Lawrence wrote a book, called, Practicing the Presence of God.  It is a devotional book that warms and challenges the heart.  It helps Christians live in the conscious presence of God. 

It is this that alone explains the prophets and saints of God in past times.  They experienced God.  It was this that accounts for their amazing power that has impacted over many generations. These believers walked in conscious communion with Christ, and felt His real presence close to them.  When they prayed, they were addressing Someone Who was actually there.

The church today could not be more different from those olden days.  Without doubt, she has experienced, not God, but the loss of God from her midst.  She has tried all the mod cons there are to try to keep the young people especially within her doors, but to no avail.  She has tried to woo the world by being increasingly like the world, but has failed here too. She thought that by modernising the Scriptures and making them easier to understand, the multitudes would respond positively; but they haven't.  In fact, the church in the wealthy west is poorer today than at any time in the past 2000 years.  There is a real dearth of true spirituality within her doors that is impossible to miss.

Yet, there are few who seem to notice the blindingly obvious, and who want to put matters right. Few see the need to come to the Fountainhead, and drink from there.  Few know what it means to prevail with God in prayer, but multitudes know how to say their prayers.  The church has forgotten that knowing God is eternal life.  Not knowing about God, but knowing God.  Experiencing God.  Nothing but this explains the powerful progress of the Gospel in the early days of the Christian Church - the apostles knew God.

We are stumbling about from one ecclesiastical crisis to another, not knowing where to turn or what to do.  But is it just possible that the church's rejection of God's Word has resulted in His rejection of her, and His withdrawal from her? Yes, we can theologise all we like, but realities must be faced!  God is not in the midst of her, therefore she is being rocketed by every circumstance.  The only discipline she exercises is against Gospel ministers, the liberals and ecumenicals getting away with murder.

If, as Ps. 46:5 says, "God is in the midst of her," why is she doing what she is doing?  Why is she being tossed about by every wind of doctrine?  Just because she has a confessional standard means nothing, because this is flouted at will by ministers.  There is no defence against careless indifference to the truth of the Gospel by saying that those who flout the church's teaching will have only themselves to answer for on the last day. But when large tracts of the church no longer believe in a Day of reckoning, this will count for nothing with them.

The God who is THERE!

"We cannot think rightly of God until we begin to think of Him as always being there, and there first."  So wrote A. W. Tozer in hs book, The Divine Conquest. The God whom Christians worship and serve has always been, and always will be. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and End, the First and Last, the All in All, and in whom we are complete. This is our God!  God dwells in timeless existence which is permanent.  If we look back into the furthest limits of the past, away back in our imaginations to the pre-creation void, there is God.  Look into the future, all of it yet to be, and there is God.  But so often we stop there! What about the present?  Is God the God of the present, too?  Of course, He is.  But we have to wait for Him and seek Him and wait for Him.  So often we skip though the corridors of the kingdom of God like little children playing their games, without as much as one moment's contemplation of the God ho is there.  But
THE MAN WHO WOULD KNOW GOD MUST GIVE TIME TO HIM!  This is Dr Tozer's message to the world; and it's mine also.  "We must count no time wasted which is spent in the cultivation of His acquaintance."

Do you, Christian, spend time getting to know God? Is His acquaintance importance to you?  Do you really know God, or just know about Him?  Do you just know the Bible's facts and stories and teachings, but not their Author?  Intimacy with the Lord takes time and effort; but so often we are too busy with what we regard as the really important things - what to eat for breakfast, what to wear, what to have our next holiday, which car to buy, where to live, etc.  But time for God?  Well, there just isn't any.  Poor you!

Now, where are you seeking God?  In books?  CDs?  DVDs?  In church?  Well, there's an interesting point.  This is where Christians ought to expect to meet with God, but do they?  Do you meet with God when you go to Church?  Or, do you merely meet with other people, who are just as needy as you are.  When you enter your church, do you do so with the consciousness that there you will meet personally with the living God?  Is this what you want when you go to Church?  Do you experience God in the worship service?  Are you disappointed when you don't meet God?

The frightening thing is that for many Christian people today, the church is the last place where they can meet with God.  The Church's Lord and King and Head has been pushed outside the church doors, and we can see Him today knocking to get in (Rev.3:20); but no one seems to hear Him. They are all too busy running their organisations, and promoting their church, that her Lord is nowhere to be seen.  Nor can His voice be heard in the humdrum of modern church life!  He has been pushed outside, unwanted, unheeded, and certainly unwelcome! Many are saying in their hearts, 'He's better outside the church, because if He comes in, He will only mess up our programmes.'The church today does not want a God who is there.

If the church is to survive, there has to be, not only a new type of preacher, but a new type of preaching.  There has also to be a new reformation of the church according to God's Word. Such a reformation will bring God back into His church, and He will be there!  The one thing the church needs more than bigger numbers, bigger and better buildings, more sophisticated organisations for everyone in the church,  to be experienced in the services of worship.  Christ's holy Bride needs a man who will give worshippers a sense of God.  God is looking for such a man.  Are you that man?

The Dove - Symbol of “peace” and “innocence.”

The Bible has much to teach us about life in all its complexity.  One of the truths it teaches is found in Hos.7:11, where reference is made to the “silly dove.”  This is a strange description of the bird that, for many, represents true peace. 

But there is another side to the dove that we do well to remember.  This feathered friend displays its madness, its lack of wisdom, its innocence, its naivety, and lack of concern for others, in a remarkable way.  How?  By not clinging to what it knows to be its duty, and that it to put others before self.  Like Israel of old, and God’s people of today, the dove illustrates peace and concord, but it wants these at any price.  Even if a predator attacks its nest and eats its young, what does it do to maintain its personal peace?  It simply flies off, builds another nest, produces more young, and when another predator comes, flees in the face of danger or challenge – anything for a quiet, peaceful life. 

As the dove betrays its foolishness by fleeing in alarm from its nest, so mermerised by keeping its own peace is it that it falls into the net of the fowler.  Likewise Israel, and God’s professing people of today, even though warned that foreign alliances would be their ruin, rushes into such alliances with their known and sworn enemies.

The dove, then, is a picture of the “peace at any price” brigade.  It represents, in picture form, what is essentially a selfish type of person, the person who will not allow anything, no matter how bad or distressful it might be, to upset his personal peace.  Such a person will not take a stand for what is right, but will melt away into the background, keeping his head down.  This is a very apt picture of the self-centred individual who pretends to care about others, but in reality is concerned only to maintain his own ‘peace’ at all costs. 

Next time you look at, or think about, the dove, this symbol of ‘peace,’ think also about what it will do to preserve its peace, and keep a great distance between you and that "silly" attitude.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is described in the Scriptures as the Prince of Peace.  True peace means thinking as He thought, and living as He lived.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

What is faith in Jesus Christ?

Reading the stimulating books of Rev. Prin. Donald Macleod of Edinburgh is always a delight.  His knowledge of theology is unsurpassed, and his ability to put it across simply is admirable.  That means, of course, that we are able to detect when he might be in error, or at least, engaging in internal theological contradictions, and one such case is when he says on one page in his otherwise excellent book, A Faith to Live By, that faith in Jesus Christ involves two things - belief, or assent; and trust (pp.140, 141). Then on p.143, he declares, more accurately, I believe, that "faith responds differently to each of the three mediatorial offices of Christ as Prophet, Priest and King."

If this is so, and I believe it is, how can there be only two aspects to faith, when faith in Jesus Christ involves the whole person - Prophet, Priest and King?  Surely if our faith is in a whole Christ, then we must believe in Him as Prophet, trust Him as Priest, and submit to His authority as King.  We cannot have faith in two parts of Christ, and ignore the third!

Macleod corrects his thinking on this, and this is to be welcomed. In so doing, he is following Calvin and his great Amyraldian followers (Moise Amyraut, theological professor at the Huguenot Academy at Saumur, France), and departing from the theology of Westminster.  But this is not the only lace where the great Scottish theologian does this.  His Amyraldianism shines through in the following statements:

"There is a love on God's part for the whole of mankind.  God loves all men.  But there is also a love that is special, which secures for the elect not simply the blessings of common grace but something more. ... This really is the basic idea of election, that beyond the general love of God for mankind there is a special love of God for the those who are His own choice people.  ... God's general love for the human race confers upon mankind a vast array of special blessings."  (45).

"No human imagination was really able to grasp what it was going to mean to be the Sin of the world in the presence of God."  (130).

"...He experienced the agony of being forsaken by God His Father and becoming, as the Bearer of the world's sin, the Great Outsider."  (130).

"He [God] did not spare His own Son but delivered Him up for us all (Romans 8:32)."  (132).

"But when God saved the world, the process did not stop at Bethlehem, or at Gethsemane."  (134).

"The glory of it is , it wasn't His sin.  It was our sin.  He bore the sin of the world (john 1:29)."  (135).

"The gospel invitation is to all men, but the assurance of salvation is only for those who are in Christ."  (139).

"The requirement God imposes on all of these is the same: 'Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ!'  Paul and Silas knew nothing of the jailor's past, nor of his inward condition.  They didn't know whether he was convicted of sin, whether he was a seeker, whether he was born again or whether he was elect.  Yet they confronted him at once with the imperative, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ!'  (Acts 16:31)"  (140).

"We have heard that God is, that God became incarnate in Christ, that Christ is able to save us, that Christ offers to save us, that Christ pleads with us to come to Him for salvation, that He died for our sins, that He rose again and that we are justified by faith in His name and in His sacrifice."  (141).

"We have thought of it [the priestly activity of Christ] only in terms of forgiveness and justification."  (144).

"Who has the right to come to Christ?  That question has been discussed very thoroughly in reformed theology and the answer has been unambiguous: every human being, without exception whatsoever, is entitled to come to Christ and to take Him as his own Saviour.  Every man as a man, every sinner as a sinner, the foulest, the vilest, the most vicious - it was put in the strongest possible terms - had the right to come." (145).

"The offer [to come to Christ} was absolutely universal. ...if we believe, we shall be saved.  That is God's promise.  Now it is a conditional promise.  the reward is conditional upon our believing.  But God's promise is made categorically: if we turn to God in Christ, we shall be saved."  (146).

"The Bible and reformed faith have taught us to come - just as we are."  (146).

"God ... doesn't want anyone to perish.  He wants all men to be saved."  (283).

"But surely the most important fact about hell is that none of us need ever experience it.  All the persons of the Trinity are seeking your salvation.  

Let me make it as personal as I can.  They are seeking your salvation.  God the Father gave His own Son.  God the Son laid down His life.  God the Holy Spirit loves us.  How then can we go to hell?  Not when there is such love in God!  Not when there is such salvation in Christ!  Not when all the persons of the Trinity are seeking your salvation!  That will be the most terrible thing of all: the moment when God calmly asks, 'Did you hear of my love?  Did anyone ever tell you that I sought your salvation?  Did anyone ever tell you that My Son and My Spirit also sought your salvation?  Did anyone ever tell you how I gave My Son to be your Saviour?  Did anyone ever tell you how it would pain and grieve Me to condemn you?  Did no one warn you not to put Me to that grief and poain?'
What will your answer be?"  (287).  

"Never forget ... that Christians are first and foremost bearers of good news.  They are evangelists.  'Go,' said Jesus, 'preach the gospel to every creature' (Mk16:15).  Tell every man, 'I have good news for you.'"  (288).

What an evangelical delight it is to read these heart-warming words from such a distinguished theologian.  However strongly he may object to being labelled an Amyraldian, Macleod is entitled to this appellation.  This is to be linked so closely to the teaching of John Calvin (1509-1564) as to be indistinguishable from it, a linkage that Macleod would be proud to own!. 

Arrogant Churches are Rebellious Churches.

Churches tend to see themselves as possessing an authority that is higher than the Word of God.  Indeed, most major churches see themselves first as religious denominations or systems or institutions, and only secondly as Christian churches.  They admire and relish their power and authority, their position and prestige.  They enjoying disobeying the clear command of Christ, and ‘lord it over the flock,’ including Gospel ministers, and holding them in a kind of servile fear.  This is disguised in very spiritual language as “submission in the Lord to the courts of the Church.”  They demand submission to their authority, regardless of whether or not it has Scriptural warrant.  They expect ministers to submit conscience, not to the Word of God, but to their dictates, and when the minister refuses to submit conscience to any authority but the Word of God – as his ordination vows require – he is sacked. 

The Christian faith is defined in their terms, and at their will and pleasure, and not by the Word of God.  So to submit to such “scurrilous authority,” as Calvin describes it, can only be done if “we are prepared willingly and knowingly to deny Christ.”   Hence, there is no reason for any thinking person to object that some are prepared to distrust these ecclesiastical authorities. 

But why is it that so many ministers will give their agreement either willingly or gladly according to their inclinations, or from ambition, or out of fear, to the ecclesiastical dictators?  Because keeping in with the church authorities is more important to them than keeping in with Christ.  As Calvin said of the church authorities in his day, “they are so enamoured with their own depraved state, that they cannot bear any reformation,” (Comm. 1st Peter, 1551:222).

Let me give two or three examples of where this is seen.  First, when a minister is convinced that there is no place in the public worship of God revealed in Scripture for the modern innovation of the giving of children’s addresses, or indeed in the reformed liturgy of Geneva – where traditional Presbyterianism finds its roots; and when he submits his conscience to no other authority but the Word of God, but is required by Presbytery to violate his conscience, and to break the most solemn holy vow not to do this, he is then introduced to an ecclesiastical process that will lead inevitably to his dismissal.  

From a personal perspective, and from painful personal experience which still burns sorely, when I found myself in this situation, not one ministerial colleague was prepared to stand with me or defend me and go against the Presbytery and only one spoke in my favour against the decision of the powerful Judicial Commission of the General Assembly, why?  Because those who hung me out to dry had already willingly and knowingly denied Christ.  As a result, I have had “to drink the cup of perpetual silence,” (Calvin).

Second, where unregenerate lawyers within the local congregation bring such pressure upon a Gospel minister and upon their Presbytery, to remove Gospel preaching from their congregation, the Presbytery caves in, surrenders to legal blackmail, and accommodates these godless lawyers.  Why was this done by Presbytery?  Because the elders there – both teaching and ruling – had already denied Christ in their hearts!

Third, examples could be given of the difficulties of ministers who oppose the ordination of women to the eldership being pressurised to say nothing, or to withdraw from services where such unbiblical ordinations take place.  Opposition to unbiblical ecumenism by reformed ministers – which is non-existent in today’s decadent church – is met with secret plans to effect their removal from the ministry, and facilitated by evangelical, ‘reformed’ colleagues. 

This is where the church in Ireland is at today.  There is not one minister known to me who is working for reformation within the churches; they are all content with how things are.  Admittedly there are a few good ministers in these churches, but none who desire the reformation of the church according to the Word of God. 

You can draw your own conclusions!

Spiritual pride!

Dr A. W. Tozer penned the following wise and challenging words:  “God may use people whom you think are not worthy to shine your shoes and in a given situation He will expect you to humble yourself meekly and take from them whatever it is they are pouring on you.  In that spirit of meekness you are humbling yourself under the mighty hand of God.”

Not to do so is to resist what God has ordained.  To refuse to accept God’s grace just because you do not like the hand that offers it, is blasphemous.  It is to despise God, and shows a lack of humility.  Spiritual pride always refuses to accept whom God has accepted.

Here, the irreconcilable conflict between pride and humility reveals itself.  ‘Must the Christian believer always humble himself and accept every situation with meekness?’  Answer: ‘Yes.  As Christians, we must never violate morals or truth.’  If in humbling ourselves we violate or compromise morals or truth, then we must not do it.  God has never asked a man to degrade himself either morally or in truth.

But Tozer is not referring primarily to these issues.  He is focusing our minds on our duty to accept those whom God has accepted and to submit to their teaching, provided it conforms to the Word of God.  If a beggar brings the truth of the Gospel to our hearts, we are bound to accept it.  If an unlearned man brings us the true Gospel, we must accept it and glory in it.  We might not care much for him, or for his lack of a “sound theological education,” or for the fact that he was trained in a suspect college or university; but if he brings us “the unsearchable riches of Christ,“ we must receive it as God’s provision for our souls, and rejoice!

How the Christian Church Creates Atheists!

The title for this post is bound to strike you very forcefully – the Christian Church creating atheists!  Well, sadly, it is only too true.  The one obvious example of this is the current spiritual state of the good people in Russia who now believe in atheistic communism.  Why and how did this come about?  Well, the answer is well stated in the history books.  These poor people’s only understanding of Christianity was that given by the Russian Orthodox Church, and especially in the life of a man like the Siberian Eastern Orthodox mystic, Rasputin. (1871-1916).  He had acquired such terrible power and influence over the last Czar of Russia, Nicholas II, and particularly over his wife, Alexandra, that he was able to make political and ecclesiastical appointments.   His abuse of power and notorious debauchery led to his murder by a group of nobles who shot him and dumped his body in the River Neva.

It was this that the poor Russian people saw and thought was genuine Christianity.  And what they saw, they decided they did not want!  Why?  Because it was such a horrible thing that they felt they would be much better off without it.  So they opted instead for atheism, and got rid of Christianity altogether. 
What a tragedy this is for the Russian people over all those years ????.  They were quite correct in rejecting Rasputin and his horrors, but they reacted him so extremely that they threw out ‘the baby with the bath water.’  What they did not realise, of course, was that they were not rejecting true Christianity but a perversion of the true faith, as represented by Rasputin and his like.  In their ignorance of the Scriptures and spiritual blindness, they rejected authentic Christianity and expelled every belief in God. 

Why have the majority of the people in these British Isles and much of the western world rejected authentic Christianity?  Is it not for precisely the same reason?  They have been exposed to a perversion of true Christianity by the professing churches, so have rejected what was presented to them, imagining that to be real Christianity.  The population has heard church dignitaries expostulating on matters that are of no interest to the Christian church, such as their involvement in politics; they have listened to them undermining the truth of the Gospel through their highly esteemed scholars; they have witnessed church leaders being ambivalent about moral issues, such as, homosexuality, gay marriages, and especially amongst the clergy – as in one infamous and current Church of Ireland case where a senior cleric has entered into a same-sex marriage under the term ‘civic partnership’; people have seen the support they have given to political arrangements in 

Northern Ireland in which notorious terrorists are now ruling our Province; and the list could go on. 
So people conclude that if that is Christianity, they want nothing to do with it!  In one sense, one can sympathise with them and agree with their rejection of that sort of religion; but on another, they have done exactly what the Russians did all those years ago, and are well on their way to creating a religious system not unlike that of the orthodox church of Russia, Greece, the Balkans, Egypt, etc. 

Is this why you have no time for organised religion?  You have been given such a bad experience of church-based religion that you have had enough and to spare that will do you a life-time.  But don’t make the same mistake as the Russians did, and as many are doing in the western world today.  Why not have a fresh look at the real thing, the true and authentic Christian faith that is presented in the Scriptures?  This Gospel tells you that you were made in the image of God, and that you owe your life to God.  But you have lived a life of rebellion against him, and would prefer if he were out of your life altogether.  You are a sinner, and lost, and heading for eternal damnation.  But that is not the whole story; for the God against whom you have sinned is not in the business of condemning people, but of saving them.  And He wants you to take a fresh look at His Son, Jesus Christ, and see in Him the One who bore your sins in His own body on the cross.  He is now offering to forgive you totally on condition of repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.  He wants to make you His child, and take you to be with Him forever in Heaven.

Will you come to Christ NOW?  Will you put your trust in this wonderful Saviour and live your life for His pleasure?  Give the authentic Christian faith a new look, and embrace God’s Son as your own Saviour, and see the difference this makes to your life.

Dr D Martyn Lloyd-Jones

May I urge all Christians who want to deepen their understanding of the nature of the Christian Church and of the Christian Gospel, to read Dr D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ six volumes of Authentic Christianity, published by the Banner of Truth.  I have just finished reading, and studying, these volumes, and they are a treat.  The beloved Doctor, as he was affectionately known, expounds the first eight chapters of the book of Acts, and does so in such an expert way that readers are enabled to see what the Christian church really is, what she ought to be, and how different what now passes for the Christian church is from that described in Acts.

This is not for the faint-hearted; when you come to understand what the church is, and you then compare that with what you see in your church, you could be excused for concluding that you do not belong to a true Christian church at all.  The problem this poses is this: but where else can you go to?  This was the response I got from a very active worker within one of our ‘purest’ churches, when we spoke how pathetic organised religion is in Northern Ireland.  When I suggested to him that if he was so annoyed at the state of his own ‘pure’ church/denomination, why doesn’t he leave.  His response to this was, “But where could I go to?”  A fair point!

These six volumes will teach you what you need to know about the church; but it will also teach you how one highly revered servant of Christ, the man who was probably the best preacher in the UK last century, understood the Gospel, and what he saw its central content was.  Unless one is totally blinded by theological prejudice, the honest reader will come to see that the Doctor believed the same about the Gospel as Calvin did.  What was that, you might ask?  That Christ died for all men; that he died for the whole world, for mankind, and for the human race; that he was the Redeemer of the whole universe, and that all are summoned to come to Him and trust Him as their Lord and Saviour.

This was the mighty Gospel that ‘rocked’ Aberavan when Lloyd-Jones arrived as minister of that Welsh Presbyterian congregation in 1927.  His preaching was with authority, and addressed the issues that faced the common man at that time.  His preaching was direct, and allowed no one to hide from the all-seeing eye of the Almighty.  The search-light of the Word was focused on the members there, and under the blessing of God, many were savingly converted to Christ.

Why did his ministry know the seal of God upon it?  Because he knew from the Scriptures what the church was, what the Gospel was, and that this was the message that was so vitally and urgently needed in the church of that time.  And God blessed that ministry.  And if we are to see a similar measure of the divine favour on our labours today, we, too, must return to the Scriptural principles that God has given us.  When His people live in obedient submission to Christ the Lord of the church, we will then experience the blessing that He is waiting to shower upon us.  When the life of the church is ordered according to God’s revealed will in Scripture, God will own its work.  But if the church refuses to bow to the Lordship of Christ over His Church, then she can expect God to turn away from her, and allow her to continue without Him, and few will realise that He has left!

True Religion Expounded!

Dr D Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains that true religion is the very opposite of false religion.  It is, first, based entirely and exclusively on God’s revelation and teaching.  God has spoken, and the church must “Listen to Him!”  Woe betide her if she refuses to listen obediently to Him who speaks.  But she is promised the fullness of divine blessing if she submits herself to His self-revelation and teaching.  This is the very essence of Christianity.  This is true religion.  This is what Christianity is all about – joyful submission to the will of the Sovereign God.  They conduct their religious affairs and their church worship, not on the basis of our ideas, but on what God has made known.  

Secondly, there is honesty and sincerity.  True religion is most careful about this.  A man does not do as David did when he murdered Uriah the Hittite and committed adultery with his wife, Bathsheba, but went on worshipping God as usual.  You do not stop presenting yourself at worship even when you know you have done wrong.  You keep up the practice so that no one will realise just what you have been at!  It is all a balancing act – between wrong-doing and right-doing.  You pretend that all is well and hope that you will end up with a zero balance, or better still, something on the ‘plus’ side.  True religion is about ensuring that what goes on in the life and heart are synchronised – that the hands on the face of the clock are reflecting what is going on inside.  It is a united life.  This does not mean that we cannot and do not make mistakes - we do; and we sin.  But it means that we recognise our sins, repent of them before God with a broken heart, and seek His gracious forgiveness.  It is about congruence.

Third, true religion is “of the heart, not of the letter.”  It is intensely spiritual because “God is spirit” (Jn.4:24).  It is deeply inward, an inward change showing itself in outward expression.  God never had a house – he dwelt in a tent in the wilderness.  He is a spirit and those who worship Him must do so in spirit and in truth. 

Fourth, the most vital aspect of true religion is truth itself.  The Christian faith is nothing if it is not the religion of the Book.  Truth directs us how we must worship and serve Him, glorify and enjoy Him forever.  He is the God of truth, and His Son, Jesus Christ, described Himself as the Truth (Jn.14:6).  Do you know Him?  Have you out your trust in Him?  Are you a real Christian, or a sham Christian? Be sure, and come to Christ and trust Him NOW!

The Characteristics of False Religion

This is not a comfortable issue for many church people because much of what they do falls into this category.  Dr D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones analyses this aberration with his usual astuteness and precision.
The first characteristic, he says, of false religion, is its hypocrisy.  It majors on saying one thing, and doing something quite different.  But this is not always the case with hypocrisy.  Like the Jews in Stephen’s day in the first century, and the Sanhedrin in particular, they were involved in a cynical game of pretence – they, outwardly, claimed to do their religion for God, but in fact were doing it for themselves.  This is true of all false religion.  It supposes to be worshipping and serving God, but is rather an exercise in self-worship and self-aggrandizement.  There are honest and consistent enough to actually do what they say they are doing – good works, church attendance, supporting charitable causes, being a good neighbour, as well as having all the right language for the right occasion.  But because this is all supposed to be directed to the living and true God, it turns into indisputable hypocrisy.  

The second feature of false religion is that it is very keen on what we must call institutionalism.  What is meant here is the actual worship of the church, just as the Jews worshipped the Temple.  Hypocrites put the worship of the church up against the Christian faith.  The church is their idol (which is always a mark of false religion), idol worship; they would do anything for the church; nothing would be too much trouble for the church.  But would they do anything for Christ?  That’s a different question, for to do anything for Christ would make you a bit too extreme in religion.  And what if the church departs from Christ?  What do you do then?  Who do you follow?  The hypocrite will always opt to follow the church, and walk away from Christ and His Gospel.   Like the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which teaches that, left to itself, mater tends to deteriorate and decompose, etc; so likewise the church, when left to itself after having been given up by God,  always tends to institutionalise, and therefore become utterly ineffective, because maintaining the institution takes precedence over everything else.  What is central to every form of false religion is the building.  This becomes the number one interest – a nice building, nice decor, soft comfortable seats, and the right temperature.  But the building soon takes the place of Christ and the preaching of the Gospel.  Everything is controlled by the building.  But, as Rev. Dick Lucas so famously remarked, “the building is only for sheltering us from the rain” 

The third characteristic of false religion is the emphasis on tradition - the tradition of men.  How easily we become unthinking copy-cats of what went before, good or bad. To follow good tradition, that is, Gospel tradition, is good and acceptable and mandatory for the Christian Church; but to follow the traditions of men, of the church in the past, of past or present church leaders, is the height of folly.  Today, the trend is to follow the practice of the modern-day gurus who are experts in worship.  Churches, their ministers and elders, ape the world with the best imitation they can muster.  The worship in many evangelical churches today is nothing but sheer unadulterated worldliness dressed up to look like contemporary worship, when it is nothing of the kind.  As Paul tells us in Rom.1, we, like him, must be “separated unto the Gospel of God,” unto Christ, and away from the world in all its forms and expressions.

The last mark of false religion is self-righteousness.  Hypocrites, like the Pharisees of old, “trusted in themselves that they were righteous” (Lk.18:9).  There is this pride in what they have achieved or accomplished, and in what they are and where they belong. There is pride in their particular tradition, glad that they belong to a church where every preacher is a good one, where there is no theological pluralism within its bounds, where every elder is a devoted servant of Christ (or the church!), and where every member is a true Christian.  Self-righteousness – repugnant, insulting, nauseating.  But, as Jesus taught his disciples, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, you will, by no means, enter the Kingdom of heaven” (Mt.6).   He also said that “That which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” 

So false religion is essentially hypocritical, and hypocritical religion is essentially false.  So beware!

A Minister for Ministers

The fact that denominations are thinking about how they can provide spiritual, emotional and mental support to colleagues, especially in theologically mixed denominations, but not limited to them, is surely proof that those churches have failed lamentably to support Gospel ministers, because it has failed to embrace the purity of the Gospel.  I know that some denominations have considered appointing ministers who would be pastor pastorum to colleagues who are being persecuted for righteousness sake, IN and BY their congregations and denominations.  I also know that a church denomination that treats its ministers horrendously has decided against providing such needed pastoral support for those Gospel ministers who are being persecuted by their elders and members, as well as by colleagues. 
But the very fact that denominations have to seriously consider making such an appointment at all is evidence that something serious is wrong within those denominations.  Indeed, when you have elders who are notorious womanisers, those whose blasphemous language is frightening, whose mind and heart are as filthy as cesspools, is there any reason why major problems should not occur?  Rather, the question ought to be asked that, given this totally unsatisfactory and grossly offensive state of religious affairs, why this is not happening more frequently in many congregations!  How can such depraved people, many of whom hold office within the church, sit under faithful, applicatory Gospel preaching, without being convicted of their ungodly lifestyle?  Especially where the Gospel minister is setting forth God’s requirements for Christian faith and living is this most likely to happen; where it doesn’t, major questions must be asked as to what exactly is being preached in many congregations.  And if it is being preached, it is not being applied to the lives of their members.

But to return to my opening issue, the sad reality of many painful church situations is that they have failed so miserably that they need to put in place pastoral support for those ministers who need it.  The parity of the office of eldership where ministerial support ought to be forthcoming, has failed – principally because it is the elders who cause the most hurt and anguish to Gospel ministers!  This is a confession that no such support exists currently, and that even those who have a pastoral responsibility for colleagues do not know how to provide it. 

I would go further and affirm that a minister who is too closely linked to the establishment within the institution is unsuitable for this role.  Such a man would be vulnerable to the actions that such an establishment could, and would, take.   The candidate would have to be someone who exercises a healthy scepticism towards institutionalism and establishments, and who is not afraid, on behalf of beleaguered colleagues, to oppose the establishment, whatever ‘form’ it takes, tooth and nail, where necessary.  He would also need to be courageous and strong enough to oppose establishment people with the same determination. 

Further, such a pastoral support officer would be better placed if he were outwith the institution altogether, but with access to the relevant people, and information, where necessary.  Ministers of the Gospel need a champion who will fearlessly support them against all comers.  They need someone to whom they can turn in confidence and in the knowledge that they will be believed and taken seriously.  A minister’s wife who has ‘been there’ would also be an essential asset for the Manse family.

What a blessing it would be for many Manse families to know that there is a professional and confidential and sensitive and supportive and spiritually attuned service that they could access at any time for support and help.  Remember, only follow a wounded colonel!  For he has “been there, and done it.”

Is the Gospel Worth It?

The desire to preach the everlasting Gospel is irrepressible in the ‘called’ servant.   Paul was ‘a called apostle’ (Rom.1:1) and his desire above all else was to see his fellow-countrymen saved (Rom.10:1).  He met frustrations galore in his ministry, not to mention hostility and opposition, but by divine grace overcame them all.  For the ‘called’ servant of Christ, obstacles become stepping-stones for the furtherance of the Gospel.   God always finds a way for the progress of His own work.  

However, in today’s church, there is so much vindictiveness and petty jealousies, so much career development and personal empire building, that finding openings for preaching the Gospel are diminishing by the day.  Nepotism is also in evidence at times.  Churches want to maintain the peace of the institution, and not be bothered with preachers who are preaching challenging Gospel messages.  They believe that God has answered the prayer that Jerusalem might be at peace (Ps.122), by pretending that it is God’s peace that is being experienced, when, in fact, it is not.  There is peace in a graveyard, you know! 

But keeping Gospel people and Gospel enemies at peace with one another is the big thing.  And ministers know that, too.  Keep all the troops on board at all costs, and to pot with truth and righteousness.  Treat every member as a Christian, and preach to them as if they are Christians, and you’ll have no serious difficulties in your church.  Don’t emphasise the distinctive of being a Christian because that might upset the Gospel enemies who are church members – and you can’t have that now, can you?

Now, no minister wants difficulties in his congregation; but many minsters will do all they can to prevent problems arising even when these problems concern the Gospel itself.  The irrelevant explanation as to why difficulties arise makes them square with ‘personality clashes’ only; but nothing to do with the message of the Gospel.  They have robbed the Gospel of the offense of the cross, in a bid to ensure peace in the congregation. 

Had the prophets, our Lord Jesus Christ, His apostles, the Reformers, the Huguenots, the Puritans, the Covenanters, and their faithful students right up into today’s times, adopted the same attitude to the truth of the Gospel, would there even have been be a Gospel to preach?  Had the higher critical ‘scholars’ won the day in every Christian denomination, as they have done in many churches, we would not have a Gospel to proclaim at all. 

But the big question is, ‘Is the Gospel worth it?  Is it worth all this hassle, this discomfort, the annoyance?  Surely not, if having a quite life of noiseless meditation is what it’s all about.  If faithfulness to this Gospel will mean losing your job, your income and your pension, then forget it!  If it means losing your home, and your position in modern society, then the cost is too high.  How many can sing with utter honesty, “Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise, Thou my inheritance now and always”?  How many really do have the courage of their convictions and are not only prepared to challenge every contender to the truth, but actually do so?  I am wondering if there are many ministers who have done this calculation, have counted the cost, and have concluded that maintaining a good lifestyle is more important than being faithful to Christ and His Word.  

But there you go. That’s modern day religion.  But it is a religion that does not please God!

The Modern Clergyman!

Recently, I purchased a second hand copy of Arther Fawcett's book on the Cambuslang Revival (Edinburgh, 1971), which the author signed. In relating this little known work of God's Spirit in Scotland, he came across The Patron's ABC; This 'catechism for clergymen' was published in Glasgow in 1771 (page 198).

Question 5 asks: What is the chief end of a modern clergyman? The answer it gives is: A modern clergyman's chief end is, to serve the Patron, and his friends, that he may in due time be found worthy to receive and enjoy a benefice, or be advanced to a better place through his favour.

The first thing that struck me about this answer was the absence of any accountability to God for the way in which he exercised his ministry. His first duty was to the man who appointed him to his pastoral care. This was obviously an important man in society, and with clout, a man well connected in high places, and a man who could do you either great good or great harm. A clergyman's preferment within the church would be decided by the Patron, who had the power to accelerate a clergyman's promotion to high office within the church.

Now those of us who are non-conformists can recognise that this was a particular trait within Anglicanism; but it would be wrong to assume that non-conformity does not face a very similar and destructive danger. The modern minister is expected, by the congregation AND by the church authorities, to make sure that he, too,  keeps in with the people who called him to his charge, and endeavour to keep them with him at all times, or at least as many of them as he can. He must keep his eye fixed on "the people that count" within the congregation and denomination, and ensure that he pleases them. As one theological college Principal in Northern Ireland taught a younger colleague a few years ago, "Say what the people want you to say, and do what they want you to do!" In other words, keep in with the people who pay your salary, and who could make it difficult for you to remain.

Churches don't change much, do they?  That means that they do even change much by way of Christlikeness and fidelity to the Supreme Standard of the church - the Holy Scriptures.  They appear to be left to themselves; and just as the boy, Jesus', parents did not know that he was not with them on the journey back from Jerusalem, so, too,the churches do not even realise that God may have withdrawn Himself from them, and the work goes on as usual.  The church, denomination, or individual that does not live in willing and glad submission to the Word of God will be rejected by God, just as He rejected Saul as King of Israel after he rejected God's Word to him.  People trifle with God to their own undoing.  And they can go so far from Him that they do not even know that this is what they have done.

When the modern clergyman follows the Patron's ABC, he can be sure that he has departed from the only King and Head of the church; and when they have departed from Him, it follows logically and necessarily that He has also departed from them.

What a dire and timely warning to every time-server within the church! What a call this is to return to the God whom you claimed has saved you and called you into the church's ministry!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The Church – an Abusive Mother!

Augustine rightly said that “no one can have God as his Father who does not also have the church as his mother.” The principle is sound. The Church, which He purchased with the blood of Christ, is His treasured possession. Christ loves her, and gave Himself for her. His purpose: to present her as a spotless Bride to the Father. And her role on earth: to bring glory to her Husband, to nurture, feed, encourage, strengthen, discipline, care for, those to whom the Father has given new life. She is to be tender with her children, discipline them when necessary, always love and care for them, and act in their best interests.

So far so good. But when that ‘mother’ turns out to be abusive, uncaring, unloving; when she becomes unfaithful to her Husband and flirts with other gods, when she becomes drunk with notions of her own self-importance, blinded by power and pounds, when she becomes the end of all things, she then has departed from her high calling – to be the Bride of Christ, and to submit to His will in all things. When that mother turns from and against the very children her Husband gave to her, and treats them in a most abusive manner, the entire scenario has changed drastically. The sad reality is that it is the blood-bought church of Christ that behaves in this despicable way!

Yet when preachers, who are big on ‘theory,’ tell their congregations that it is their Christian duty to commit to ‘mother church’ as a covenant obligation, regardless of her track record, then they have gone too far. (I wonder how this approach differs from that used by the Baptists to convince new converts to undergo their particular form of baptism? If they are to demonstrate their obedience to Christ, then they have to be baptised in our way). In the outside world, if anyone suggested that children commit to a mother who has proved to be abusive towards her children, they would be roundly turned upon, and let know what reasonable people think about such a suggestion.  In fact, her children would be taken from her - and rightly so!

Further, before they agree to becoming church members, Christians must be told who and what the leaders, the elders, are. Before they join such a church, they must make it their business to discover what example the leaders set, how diligent they are at church services, prayer meetings, etc, whether or not they are truly spiritually men who are well-versed in the theology of the Scriptures and of the church, whether or not they have true pastoral hearts, what their record on church discipline is, whether they do lead in the affairs of the church or is their leadership a form of laizes faire leadership (if it brings the people in and keeps the church coffers filled, then who cares what God expects of His church), whether they are first and foremost ‘firm’s men,’ whether they possess the discernment that is desired in holders of this office; whether in their everyday talk they blaspheme the Saviour's Name, curse and swear like troopers, engage in sexually explicit language, and so on. These and related questions must be asked and answered satisfactorily before any commitment is given to any church.

Christians must also be told in great detail what submission to the leadership in the local church entails. Do the leaders (elders) to which submission is to be given have the confidence of the people who are expected to submit to them? Are the elders worthy of the submission of thinking Christian people? Are they true to traditional theological values and modes of worship, or have they ‘sold the pass’ and gone the way of almost all flesh within evangelicalism in all its forms?

It has been said that one of the reasons for membership of local fellowships is to show who the true Christians are. And church members and other Christians are expected to take this seriously! The truth is that all who are members of churches are not Christians, and many who attend worship regularly but who are Christians are not members. In my experience, my best Christian people were not officially church members – best attendees at worship, Bible studies, prayer meetings, etc, the best givers to church funds, and the most supportive of my ministry. On the other hand, the people who gave me least support, the worst attendees at ordinances – except the Lord’s Supper and insistent on the baptism of unbeliever’s infants – the poorest givers to church work, the people who made most demands, were most critical of my ministry, and yet who had a say in the direction of the church, and had filled the church with unconverted members. Even some of the elders were not Christians, and some of those who were did not possess the qualifications for this high office.

Given that type of ‘mother’ church, plus her track record as an unrepentant abusive mother towards her children – a track record that is current, is it unreasonable to expect, especially those who have been abused by her, to commit to being members? Add to this the fact that she is truculently unrepentant of her evil actions, and committing to her is out of the question. Indeed, her ‘faithful servants’ give their tacit support to church abuse, by refusing to identify the problem and deal Christianly with it.

For the church to regain credibility - if in deed this is even possible - there must be a root and branch examination of every aspect of church life, starting with the membership.  But don't hold your breath that this will be done.  We don't want mutiny in the ranks, and end up with a bad reputation in the eyes of men!

These ‘firm’s men’ are not good for the church or the Kingdom of God, and are, at the end of the day, merely playing at church. As for motherly care of her children? Well, that’s the biggest joke of all!

Burdens lifted at Calvary, but imposed by the church!

In the New Testament, we read of how the Pharisees went about laying on the people burdens they were quite unable to bear. They added rules to numerous rules, promising that, by doing this, they would be better people, and more acceptable to God. And it is generally the poor who are burdened with these religious loads, the very people who are most unable to carry them. "Lay in on them," seems to be the rallying cry of the spiritually ambitious; "let us test their faith to see how real it is."

Burden after intolerable burden. Keep the people down. Keep the poor people poor, while the rich hardly notice the burdens that are being imposed upon them.

But is it not the case that churches are supposed to be the instrument in God's gracious hand that lifts burdens off the shoulders of those who are weighed down by them, rather than the means of increasing their burdens? I imagined this to be the case!

But then I have been wrong on many things in the past, and this seems to be yet another of them. How are these burdens imposed on church people? By demanding that they pay their tithe each Lord's day - to the church, of course, not to other Christian causes; then they are to give their freewill offerings; then they are to support the property fund; then foreign mission; then youth work; then mission at home; then evangelistic outreaches run by interdenominational organisations, not by other local churches (you don't want to lose members to the other churches, do you?). Then if there is to be a massive building project, we are then expected to give over the top, just to satisfy the fleshly desires of a chosen few.

The church was established to remove burdens from the people, the biggest and most eternally significant one being their sins.  The church is charged by the risen Lord Jesus Christ to proclaim this liberating message to all and sundry, because if the people cannot bear this burden now, what will become of them when they stand before God the judge and answer for these sins? They will be eternally damned - and the churches stood back and watch it happen!  Shame on them, everyone.

The church must direct sinners to Calvary, where alone burdens are lifted.  Failure to do this, is FAILURE.  Period.

Prostitution in Ulster

One of the most devastating facts that I heard this week was that up to £500,000 is paid each week to prostitutes in Northern Ireland - that's more than £70,000 each day! To service this perverted industry, Northern Ireland has some 88 brothels. Police know about this scurrilous industry.

In recent times, Belfast hosted the annual Gay Pride Parade, an event partly funded by the Northern Ireland Executive, which includes evangelicals belonging to theologically and spiritually 'pure' churches. There was a dignified protest in front of the City Hall setting forth the biblical standards of morality.

Given that right at the very top of our country this sort of disgusting behaviour is not only tolerated but actively supported politically and financially, is it any wonder that morals in our country are plummeting?


Listen to these stirring and challenging words from Aiden W. Tozer:
"If the Church in the second half of this century is to recover from the injuries which she suffered in the first half, there must appear a new type of preacher.  The proper ruler of the synagogue type will never do.  Neither will the priestly type of man who carries out his duties, takes his pay and asks no questions, nor the smooth talking pastoral type who knows how to make the Christian religion acceptable to everyone.  All these have been tried and found wanting.  Another kind of religious leader must arise among us.  He must be of the old prophet type, a man who has seen visions of God and has heard a voice from the throne."   (The Divine Conquest,  OM Publishing, Carlisle, UK, 1979), 9).

Those who will protect and defend their own establishment at all costs will find Tozer's words offensive, no doubt, and will want nothing to do with them.  They will regard him as a 'sour' and 'bitter' old man who gripes about everything that goes on within the visible church.  His implication that many ministers are 'rulers of the synagogue' types will not gain him many new friends, nor will they 'cut the ice' so far as ecclesiastical recovery is concerned.  Yet there are far too many who fit this description within the churches today.  They are the church managers who oversee what is going on, and so long as all things proceed smoothly, with no hiccups, then all is fine.   
The priestly type - within the reformed churches?  Never.  Oh, yes, they are there, too.  Who are they?  well, they are the ministers who do what is required of them by their bosses - the elders - receives his pay every month (thank you very much), and who asks no questions as to what is going on within the wider denomination.  To do that would bring trouble down upon your head, and we don't want that, do we?  This type accepts without question what his denomination accepts, e.g, theological liberalism as an authentic expression of biblical Christianity, along with its legitimate child - the ecumenical movement.  These are accepted because, after all, we are a broad church, and we have room for everyone.
That brings me to the third type that Tozer mentions - the smooth talker who is 'hail fellow well met' to everyone, accepts everyone in membership as a Christian, and then supplements the membership by accepting other unconverted sinners.  His aenemic preaching suits everyone admirably, and all say how wonderful he is.  The entry standards for church membership set by the Bible are jettisoned, because these are too austere, too restrictive, too limiting, and we don't want that in our church!
But this is precisely what the church wants!  And it is also what those good men in the ministry also accept, without question.  They rationalise it by saying that because they cannot read men's hearts to see if they are real Christians, we have to let them into membership.  What they are unable or unwilling to see are the glaring public defects that characterise the lives of those who seek full communicant membership of the local congregation.
Will status-quo promoters and defenders make any real difference to the spirituality of the church of Jesus Christ on earth?  Will they drive back the forces of darkness and raise a standard for righteousness in the church?  Will they dare to preach a felt Christ who gave the church the mightiest weapon in existence to drive back Satan and his minions - the Gospel?
Sadly, the answer has to be 'HARDLY.'  The church of the 21st century just does not have the men of 'true grit' who will take on the wrong within the church, and seek to put it right.  They will just sally along as if all in the church garden is rosy.  "Then cometh the end!"  And what those servants do when the Lord calls for an account?  They will call on the mountains and hills to fall on them and cover them from the wrath of the Lamb.  They will be utterly ashamed and disgraced, and shut out of the Kingdom forever.  Do you want that?

Sadly, the answer has to be hrdly.'