Saturday, 15 December 2012

A Powerful Personal Experience of Jesus - DML-J

Here is a powerful quotation from an early sermon of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones about the importance of having church life centred around a powerful personal experience of Jesus.  The sermon was preached on Heb.13:14.
“Our Christianity has the appearance of being an adjunct or an appendix to the rest of our lives instead of being the main theme and the moving force in our existence….We seem to have a real horror of being different. Hence all our attempts and endeavours to popularise the church and make it appeal to people. We seem to be trying to tell people that their joining a church will not make them so very different after all. ‘We are no longer Puritans,’ we say, ‘we believe that they over-did things and made Christianity too difficult for people. They frightened people with their strictness and their unnecessarily high standards. We are not so foolish as to do that,’ we say, and indeed we do not do so. Instead, however, we provide so called ‘sporting parsons’, men of whom the world can say that they are ‘good sports’ – whatever that may mean. And what it does so often mean is that they are men who believe that you can get men to come to chapel and church by playing football and other games with them. ‘I’ll fraternise with these men,’ says such a minister. ‘I’ll get them to like me and to see that I’m not so different from them after all, and then they’ll come to listen to my sermons.’ And he tries it, but thank God, he almost invariably fails, as he richly deserves. The man who only comes to church or chapel because he likes the minister as a man is of no value at all, and the minister who attempts to get men there by means of that subterfuge is for the time being guilty of lowering the standard of the truth which he claims to believe. For this gospel is the gospel of salvation propounded by the Son of God himself. We must not hawk it about in the world, or offer special inducements and attractions, as if we were shopkeepers announcing an exceptional bargain sale…. 
‘The world expects the Christian to be different and looks to him for something different, and therein it often shows an insight into life that regular church-goers often lack. The churches organise whist-drives, fetes, dramas, bazaars, and things of that sort, so as to attract people. We are becoming almost as wily as the devil himself, but we are really bad at it; all our attempts are hopeless failures and the world laughs at us….And the world today is laughing at the church, laughing at her attempts to be nice and to make people feel at home. My friends, if you feel at home in any church without believing in Christ as your personal Savior, then that church is no church at all, but a place of entertainment or a social club. For the truth of Christianity and the preaching of the gospel should make a church intolerable and uncomfortable to all except those who believe, and even then they should go away feeling chastened and humble.” 
(From Iain H. Murray, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The First Years 1899-1939, pp. 141-142)

Friday, 14 December 2012

God Hears Prayer.

The big thing that has impressed itself upon us throughout this challenging time is the sheer undeserved goodness of God to sinful people like us.  Had He not been gracious to us, we could never have come through this ordeal as well as we have.  Never forget that He is the gracious God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the whole world.  He deals in grace with rebels like us, and in that alone is our security and hope.

Pray on, dear prayer partners, pray on.  God hears your prayers; and He answers them.

Think on this: the fact that you have been earnest in prayer for **** should encourage you to go on praying for those for whom you are concerned.  Your have entered the holy place these past few weeks; stay there and bring all your concerns to Him.  The Lord has blessed you as you have spent time with Him, and the more time we spend with Him, the more we have the capacity for divine blessing.  Bring your concerns for loved-ones who are not saved to the same prayer answering God, and then “Stand back and see the salvation of the Lord.” 

Thank you once again for your prayers for ****.  Paul’s command is still valid – to “pray without ceasing.”

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Our Never-failing Friend

The amazing thing is that people are wondering why **** is still so joyful and enjoys so much peace as she does. We know why – God in Christ lives in her heart and His life is overflowing through her.  The circumstances would depress anyone, so the reason for her joy and peace lies elsewhere.  How wonderful it is to face the unknown and uncertain future confident that God has already been there and He will take her by the hand and led her on.

God is good – I never tire of saying this.  He is our never-failing Friend, the One Who promised through His Son that He would “never leave us nor forsake us.” With Him, we can take it one day at a time, and leave everything in His loving hands.  It is truly amazing what He can do in and for those who have surrendered their lives to Him.

Now is not the time to ease up in your prayers.  There is still “more land to be taken,” and by God’s grace we will come through triumphantly.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Applying the Gospel to the Church

Why do ministers only apply the message of the Bible - if they even do that today - to outsiders and to unbelievers, but not to the church as church?  Why is the church excused from the application of the Gospel?  Does the Gospel have no message for the church?

That seems to be the case.  Presumably the reason why this is not done is because it is the church that pays a minister his salary and you don't want to lose that.  In any case, to do that would be to show yourself as not being 'a good churchman,' or a faithful and loyal "firm's man."  Churches have no place for any but "firm's men," so to risk your future ministry by applying the Gospel to everything the church does is to invite termination of your ministry.  Hence the silence from virtually every pulpit.

What has the Gospel to say to the church today?  Well, it asks if the Gospel is being preached faithfully and passionately in her and what effect the Gospel is having in the church?  It inquires whether those who hold office in the church are Gospel men?  Do church officers believe the Gospel and have they personally trusted the Gospel for their salvation?  Do church members actually believe the Gospel or is their profession simply 'from the lips out'?  Are there recognisable outward signs that their profession of faith in Christ is genuine?  Does the life of church members demonstrate that love for Christ and the Gospel are uppermost in their lives?  What has the Gospel to say about these situations?

Does the Gospel have anything to say about the shocking way churches treat their ministers?  Are there any guidelines in Scripture as to how this to be done?  Or is this merely an ecclesiastical legal matter?  Does the Gospel have anything to say about how Gospel ministers are ejected from their congregations on the whims of a few disgruntled professing Church elders who reject the Gospel and who are supported by inexperienced Presbyters?

What about church involvement in unbiblical ecumenism?  Has the Gospel a view point on this kind of thing? Is it right today for believers and unbelievers to be joined together, but not for Paul's in his day?

These are issues that are glaringly absent from many church sermons and actions.  The only explanation I can give is that many ministers are "firm's men" who will protect their establishment bodies come what may.  There are no Luthers or Calvins left in the church today.  Therefore the church is asleep, sleep-walking into perdition.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Preaching - Theology on Fire!

DML-J gave the church what is perhaps the best definition of preaching to be found anywhere.  He defined it thus: "Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire."

This definition highlights several important characteristics of true preaching.  First, it has to be theological.  That does not mean that preaching can be reduced to a theological lecture masquerading as a sermon - far from it.  But it does require that all true preaching must be theological, biblically theological not scholastically theological.  It must be based on what the Word teaches us about God.

Second, preaching is done by a man, and not just any man.  It is done by a redeemed man, by a man who has felt the power of true preaching and been brought to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  How can an unredeemed man preach Christ and Him crucified?  He cannot.

Third, it is to be done by a man who is on fire for God and His Gospel.  True preaching can only be done by a man to whom and in whom something revolutionary has happened, a changed and transformed man who, when he comes to the Word, is deeply affected by its power.  It can only be done by a man who is consumed by the truth of God, by the Gospel, by love for Christ and love for the perishing souls of men.  Preaching is only possible for a man driven with zeal for the glory of God, and who believes that God is glorified in the salvation of sinners.  Apart from this, no man can preach.

This is where a true understanding of the Gospel is essential.  If a man believes and is convinced that only the elect will be saved and that they will be infallibly saved because they have been predestined to eternal life, then such a man will have no zeal for God because his belief is a form of determinism that removes the need for consecrated human effort in the work of evangelism.  It does not matter what a man 'preaches,' God will save His elect.

Of course it is true that it is God Who saves sinners; but He has ordained the means whereby they will enter personally into that salvation.  And it is not by determining beforehand whether or not he is one of the elect.  It is by realising that he is a lost and condemned sinner who has no hope of eternal life apart from Christ Jesus, and by casting himself at His mercy and trusting Him to save him.  Remember, it is faith and not predestination that lies at the very heart of the Christian Gospel.  And it is faith in Christ alone that brings salvation.

So true preaching, preaching worthy of the name, can only be done by a redeemed man who is theologically aware and taught and who is on fire for the Lord.  If a man is not burning for Christ, then he will set no one else on fire for Him.

Pray that God will raise up men who are on fire for Christ and the Gospel, and whose desire it that sinners might be saved.  Only such a man will have passion in his preaching, and be a burning and shining light for Christ in this dark world of sin.  And let me say this: no intelligent and informed Christian will sit under any other kind of preaching, because such a man places the church far above the Gospel.
Are you such a man?

Monday, 10 December 2012

Prohibited Prayer

Satan will use anything and anyone to keep a man off his knees.  R. M. McCheyne said, "What a man is on his knees before God, that he is and no more."  We're not much, are we?  Someone also said, "If you want to humiliate a minister, ask him about his prayer life."  How truly devoted is he to the Christ whom he preaches and offers to the lost?  How much does he love the Saviour (Jn.21:15-19)?  What are his real priorities in ministry?

Perhaps we are much too full of our own importance for God to use us.  Perhaps self-righteousness has taken a hold of us that we would not be prepared to admit.  Perhaps we imagine that by performing well in the pulpit, our own or someone else's, we are pleasing the Lord.  Are we?  Is ministry just about performance?  How much do we really depend upon God's anointing when we preach, and how much on ourselves? 

We need to dedicate ourselves to doing serious business with God if we are see any move of His Spirit.  But we are not prepared to do what it takes to make this a reality.  We're too busy at other things.  We need to de-clutter our lives of all that does not allow us to do that very thing.

This is surely enough to be going on with for now.  We will continue this dialogue with a view to making the necessary changes in our lives so that we reflect more closely the pattern set out in Scripture.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Anointed Gospel Preaching

I agree that regardless of the theological camp a man belongs to, there is an absence of divine unction in much of today's preaching.  The evidence from Jonathan Edwards and DML-J is as clear as could be that these men experienced the divine unction on their ministries and numerous conversions followed.  Sadly, the same cannot be said of Dr John Owen, who had no known conversions, though, of course, that does not mean there were none.  He did say, mind you, that he would give up all his learning to be able to preach like John Bunyan, the tinker and evangelist.  Wouldn't we all!

I also think we are fooling ourselves when we convince ourselves that no conversions equate to faithfulness to the Gospel.  Spiritual pride and arrogance drives us when we think like that.  McCheyne used to preach and pray with his face buried in his hands and the tears running down his cheeks.  My biggest fault as a preacher is that I cannot preach in that attitude, so hard is my poor heart.  Perhaps we need to read McCheyne's sermons and study them closely to see how to preach the Gospel with power sent down from heaven.  We need that sense of God in our services, and not "glorified Bible studies," as DML-J so rightly described them.  Orthodoxy is important, but if a preacher studies more to be orthodox than he does to know the Spirit's power upon him, he has no right to ascend any pulpit.  

The Cross When Dying

When cancer enters a family and loved-one, it has a wonderful way of concentrating the mind on eternal matters – a bit like hanging.  Cancer is closely associated with death in the minds of many, and in many cases this is what follows cancer.  Thankfully, today, God in His love and providence has given men wisdom and skill to deal with many cancer types, and do so successfully.

The ugly thought of the possibility of death seems to hang over you throughout this process of living, so it is important that we realise some facts about this “last enemy” that shall be “destroyed” (1 Cor.15:26).  Death is the ugly reality of life that was not part of God’s original creation.  It entered by one man’s sin – Adam (Rom.5:12-21).  Now, one out of one dies – not an impressive or encouraging statistic. Everyone dies when they reach the end of their lives – but we do not know when that will be - one of life’s certainties. But death is an appointment we all have to keep (Heb.9:27).  “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Cor.15:22).

The Christian has only one prayer when it comes to departing this world and going to be with Christ forever – which is far better. Allow Henry Francis Lyte explain in the words of his lovely and widely appreciated hymn:

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Or, in the words of the apostle Paul “an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11).  Have you ever prayed for that?  Is that your desire – to enter heaven abundantly?  Christians, by God’s grace alone, are going to enter heaven where Christ lives and reigns; but how do you want to enter it?  Do you want the Saviour of the world’s Cross held before your closing eyes?  Why this?  Because in the Cross of Christ alone is life – real, eternal and everlasting.  

This should be the prayer of everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord.  Why do we not do that?  Because this sinful world has such a hold on us that we just do not want to leave it.  And on top of that, we are not really sure whether there be any life with Christ after death!  Doubts invade our thinking, so we hold on to this life with much too tight a grip.  Our assurance of God’s grace takes a back seat when we think about this world and ponder the next.