Saturday, 5 November 2011

What's Wrong NOW?

Have you ever wondered why Gospel ministers in the 'Christian' denominations that have departed from the faith "once and for all delivered to the saints" have been able to survive?  Has the thought ever struck you why churches that have embraced theological liberalism as a legitimate understanding of the Christian Gospel and its offspring, unbiblical ecumenism, have been able to 'stay in' their churches?

One just has to read the history of the reformers in England, the Huguenots in France, the Covenanters in Scotland, and the Puritans in England, etc, to understand, before too many pages of this sacred history are read, why these men have been burned at the stake, persecuted for their faith, tortured and exiled: it was because they consistently put Gospel before Church - and the church authorities simply did not like it.  To these high-minded individuals, to place anything before them and their authority is inconvenient (to put it mildly).  Anything that challenges their ecclesiastical authority cannot be tolerated. 

Why did Bishop John Hopper cherish the Gospel before the church?  Because he loved Christ more than the church - a very inadvisable thing to do in today's decadent church.  Why was Bishop Hugh Latimer burned at the stake?  Because he loved Christ and His Gospel more than he loved the church.  Why was Bishop Nicholas Ridley reduced to ashes in England's evil soil?  Because he obeyed the Gospel before he obeyed the church.

Yes, the church was corrupt in the 15th and 16th centuries; but so is the church today.  The church was unfaithful to her sole King and head then; but she is most unfaithful to Him today.  The Reformers saw their faithfulness to the gospel as a matter of life and death; but minsters do not so see it thus today.  For most of them, the priority is to keep a clean copy book so far as the church is concerned even if this means 'changing' the Gospel message to suit the situation.  Whatever the church says and teaches is the last word on matters religious, theological , ecclesiastical and spiritual.  If the church imagines herself to be the nearest thing to perfect in this world, then ministers must see it in that way, too; and woe betide the minister who says otherwise!  If the church sees herself as being faithful to the Scriptures, then ministers must agree with this assessment.  If the church is prepared to be dishonest, her ministers must cover-up such dishonesty, if they are to remain within her ranks.  If the church agrees to break the rules it has set for its ministers to keep, and then punishes a minister for not going down that road, then he is ejected from his pulpit.  This has happened in a few cases in Northern Ireland, but given the lack of true spirituality within the church's ranks, it is utterly amazing how many more have not been made to 'walk the plank' too.

Or is it?  What if these ministers all agree in consort to relegate the Gospel to a secondary place - at best - and to decide to "do what the church wants you to do and to say what the church wants you to say," then you have a job for life.  But that is precisely what it has been reduced to - a job.  No longer is it a divine calling that has to be lived out; it is now your career, your profession.  And you have to watch your career! At all costs!

Given that this seems to be the mentality residing in the minds of many ministers, including reformed evangelical minsters, it should not surprise anyone that liberal and ecumenical churches have not ejected many of these ministers from their ranks.  These men 'play the game,' the religious and church game.

Yet some of them walk behind banners that display the faith of men like Latimer and Ridley depicting them tied to the stake and the flames of death rising up around them.  They like to see cloth pictures of Daniel in the lion's den, and glory in what this teaches us.  But they will never place themselves at variance with what their church expects of them, not even their stand for the Gospel.  They can work harmoniously with theological liberals - alias deniers of the faith - yet pretend that they stand for Gospel principles.  They play the church game with faith deniers, in order to retain their pulpits and manses and salaries and pensions.  They compromise the Gospel daily, but have convinced themselves that they are true to it! And they do this by believing that it is the theological liberals who have compromised and denied the Gospel.  As evangelicals, they have been true to it at all times, and cautiously criticise those who deny it.  If the liberals have denied the Gospel, why have these defenders of the Gospel tolerated their continued presence within their churches?

But the Gospel? What Gospel?

USA Preaching Tour 2013

I know that many of my readers are from the USA, and I was wondering if there was a possibility of arranging a series of preaching meetings for me in 2013.  My heart's desire is to proclaim the glorious Gospel to all and sundry, and to do so with "demonstration of the Spirit and of power," as Paul puts it.  There is great need today for an authentic voice within the churches, and an authentic message that will grip sinner's hearts, and draw them to the only Saviour of the world.

I know that many in the USA appreciate these postings, and to have an opportunity to preach to live congregations would be an inestimable privilege.

Coming as I do from terrorist-stricken Northern Ireland, and being under death threat from republican terorists, I have proved the grace of God in numerous ways.  This Gospel works, because it is the Gospel of God (Rom.1:1).

Speak this over with your minister or with other ministers, and see what comes of it.  I am willing, if you are!


Although we are full of disobedience, yet God’s Spirit rules over us to hold down the passions and to keep them in subjection. Therefore it is said that we have risen with him (Christ), as Paul declares in … Colossians. But this was not yet made manifest under the Law. Therefore, it was necessary that the fathers who lived at that time should have some help, such as the sacrifices, to nourish them in the hope of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that they might know that their sins were washed away by the blood of the mediator. Similarly, they had the Sabbath day as a warrant for the grace that was purchased for us in order to put to death our thoughts and passions, so that God might live in us by the power of his Holy Spirit (Gal 2.19,20).

What an encouragement it is to know that God’s Spirit is given to rule in our hearts so that our passions may be subdued and held in check.  Don’t think that you are worse than others just because you are plagued by lusts and passions.  God knows you, and has made provision for these very eventualities.  He has given us His Spirit to do this sanctifying work in our hearts and prepare us for our home in heaven.  Remember, our sins have been washed away in the blood of Christ so go to Him when you sin, and plead for His free mercy and forgiveness.  The Sabbath day is the guarantee that God will yet be gracious to us, that He cares for us, and that He will keep us close to Himself.  Take yourself to Him afresh today, confessing your sins; come with grief and hatred of those sins, and accept His free pardon from His hand.  He is waiting to be gracious to you.

The Missing Ingredient in Preaching

Dr D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, at the end of his Westminster Chapel ministry, was disturbed at the extent to which ministers were beginning to act as though giving ‘a running commentary’ on a passage was the same as preaching.

"People say it is biblical.  It is not.  It is biblical to bring out a message.  A mechanical explanation of the meaning of words, etc. is not preaching.  Scripture has to be fused into a message, with point and power—a sermon has to be something that is moving and which sends people away glorying in God.  We have got to bring a  message and deliver it ‘in demonstration of the Spirit and of power’.  M’Cheyne did not just prepare sermons.  He had the burden of the people on his soul and he came from God with a message.  This was the glory of a man like C. H. Spurgeon.  His sermons had form and thrust and made an impact.  This whole notion of a message needs to be recaptured.  The hardest part of a minister’s work is the preparation of sermons.  It is a trying process.  There is an agony in it, an act of creation.  That is why I feel so well at the moment,  I do not prepare three sermons a week."

Such effective preaching is bound up with experience of the Holy Spirit.  "The main trouble of evangelicalism today, apart from its slipping away from truth, is its lack of power.  What do our people know of ‘joy in the Holy Ghost?’"

Prospective Ministers?

Are you considering, or training for, the preaching ministry?  Then, get to know as much as you can about this balanced biblical understanding of the Gospel message.  Let that understanding dwell richly in your heart, and it will proceed faithfully from your lips.  See this as the most liberating understanding of the Gospel to be found in Christendom.  For this is the authentic Gospel for a lost and needy world.  When you go out to preach, be convinced that you have something real and genuine to tell them, and to offer them and that is there for them, a message that promises eternal salvation to ALL who believe. 

To all present, I say this: pray that God will own and bless his own Gospel mightily, as it goes out week by week.  Pray that in your church, there will be at least one clear evangelistic sermon each week – I think it was Lloyd-Jones who advocated that.  Make it your responsibility to bring those you have befriended in under the sound of this life-changing Gospel, dare I say it - destiny-changing Gospel message.  Because all are lost and perishing, all need to be found and saved.  Because God’s wrath burns incessantly against every sinner, every sinner needs the protection and covering of the precious blood of Christ.  The really goodnews is that God has done enough in the death of his Son to save every sinner, and he will save everyone who comes to him.  So there is now no excuse for anyone not to become a Christian.  The door of mercy is wide open.  The Saviour’s arms are wide open.  He calls everyone to come to him, and whoever comes to him in faith believing, he will accept and save.

That’s our message.  And what a message that is, men and women!  And what a Saviour you and I have!  He has commissioned us to take that message to the ends of the earth.  And what a privilege it is to be called by God to preach a message of that nature, and a message of that dynamic that can save souls, that can change lives, and that can guarantee the safe arrival of everyone who has embraced that message, to heaven.  It can take them there, because it is God’s way of reconciliation. 

Preaching With Passion.

Lack of passion in our evangelistic preaching conveys the very clear message to our hearers, that (1) we don’t care – no compassion for the people we are preaching to; (2) God doesn’t care – because we are supposed to be his representatives, in a sense; and (3) the church does not care – that’s the message we are putting across!  Now this says a lot about us and about the church, but it says nothing about God, and it says nothing about my Saviour!  It says that we have lost a heart of compassion for perishing sinners.  It says that we are unlike our Saviour and his apostles!  It’s saying that the church has moved away from Christ and from the kind of person that he was, and from showing the love that he showed to the world when he was here.  Do you remember (and this was also alluded to earlier) the passion and emotion that arose in Jesus when he viewed unrepentant Jerusalem?[1]  John tells us that he wept over that city.  The Son of God wept!  Just imagine the eternal Son of God crying over what he sees before his eyes.  The Saviour of the world was broken-hearted at what he saw.  “’Tis mystery all, the immortal dies,” wrote Charles Wesley;[2] and it is also a great mystery when the Son of God cried when he saw men lost in their sins.  He wept over those who would eventually be lost because they rejected him and his Gospel, and the eternal salvation procured for them and offered therein.

Let me ask you this question, and I ask myself the same question:  When were you as preachers last broken to tears over the impenitence of your people?  When were you last moved so profoundly in your soul when you saw the world in which you live and for which our Lord Jesus Christ died, heading at breath-taking speed to a Christless eternity?  When did that last grip you and move you?

[1]    Lk.19:41.
[2]   C. Wesley’s hymn entitled, “And can it be.”

R. M. McCheyne's Amyraldianism

Think of that young Scottish preacher who died at 29 years of age, Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne, under whose faithful ministry multitudes were saving converted to Christ in Dundee.  His doctrine can be summarised in his own words:  “Christ offers Himself as a Saviour to all of the human race.”[1]  Listen to a point he makes at the end of one of his sermons:  Referring to the Lord Jesus Christ,

He cries to all. – had he cried to the old, then the young would have said, “We are safe, we do not need a Saviour.”  Had he cried to the young, the old men among you would have said, “He is not for us.”  Had he cried to the good or to the bad, still some would have felt themselves excused.  But he cries to you all.  There is not one person hearing, but Jesus cries to you.  Then all are lost, - old and young, rich and poor.  Whatever you think of yourselves, Jesus knows you to be in a lost condition; therefore this piercing cry: “Unto you, O men, I call.”[2]

Brothers and sisters, let us follow the noble example of those whom God has used mightily to bring in his harvest.  Let us not any longer be hide-bound by theological systems that do not reflect the true biblical balance of the New Testament.  Keep in mind the dangers of hyper-Calvinism, for they are so obvious, they are so real, they are so apparent; and eschew that system at every sight or sound of it.  Lloyd-Jones warned his hearers in a most stern way “against the ‘abomination’ of hyper-Calvinism.”[3]  There is a world out there that is perishing without Christ, millions dying without hope.  We have been given the wonderful privilege of standing between the living and the dead.  What a place to stand!  Remember, Baxter’s confession:  “I preach as never sure to preach again, as a dying man to dying men.”  The world that you and I live in and in which we serve must be told that there is a Saviour who is ready and able and willing to save to the uttermost all who come to God through him.[4]  We must be sure and convinced in our own minds that the door of mercy has been flung wide open by the God who loves the world; and none need perish in God’s hell for want of a Deliverer.

[1]    R. M. McCheyne, in his sermon on Prov.viii:4.
[2]    A. Bonar (1996:367).
[3]    Brian G. Hedges in the opening article in the Banner of Truth issue which
       commemorated the 25th anniversary of the death of D. M. Lloyd-Jones,
       March 2006.
[4]    Heb.7:25.