Friday, 18 October 2013

Preaching Helps With Counselling

Preaching is by far the most important of the minister's public duties. More will be done for more people in that concentrated preaching session that at any other moment. Patterson says, "If preaching is do one properly, it will alleviate the need for a large percent of counselling necessities."Lloyd-Jones, drawing on his vast medical and pastoral experience, argues that the task of the church is not to alleviate the symptoms of a man's spiritual condition until the cause of those symptoms has been isolated and dealt with properly. Counselling generally sees to help people who have problems of various kinds, and this is good so far as it goes; but sometimes the 'successful' counsellor is seen to be the one who can make people feel 'good' after a session. But this is nothing short of criminal, because it removes the only indicator that something is wrong.

But when the word is truly and pastorally preached, needy people will find their problems being sorted out as they attend to that word. Sometimes the charge can be levelled against preacher's, especially in the Reformed Church, that their preaching is too cerebral at times, and not experiential enough. I think there is truth in this charge. The result is that people are driven to look for someone, possibly even their minister, who will help them sort out their difficulties. This is very time consuming, and in itself is not guaranteed to be successful. Well prepared and faithfully proclaimed sermons will do more to counsel people than is often imagined. Preaching is still God's chief way of sharing His Word with His people.                                                                               

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Institutional Maintenance

The 'firm's men' are not interested in truth or in the Gospel; all they are interested in is "institutional maintenance," to use the unforgettable term used by Dr Jonathan Lamb at a convention in July 2013 in Northern Ireland. This is all they know and this is all they do. And anyone who stands in the way of "institutional maintenance," is to be removed by whatever means, moral or otherwise.

Do such men care about preaching the Gospel with conviction and passion? Do they want to see sinners saved and brought into the Kingdom of God? No. Do they want to see their church live on for many years? Of course they do. Do they want anything else? Yes. They want to see the money flowing in, for it is from the hard-earned money of church members that they hold their well-paid jobs. What else do they want? They want the removal of all those, whoever they might be, from the church because they might make their church an endangered species.

But there whole aim to "institutional maintenance." How pathetic! Why maintain an institution that is no longer (to use civil service speak) "fit for purpose"? If the churches today are not preaching the everlasting Gospel of redeeming grace, they are surplus to requirements. They are promoting the eternal damnation of those who sit and listen to them speaking utter irrelevancies. God is offended by their very existence. Remember what He said to and about Israel in Amos' day? “I hate, I despise your feast days, And I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings." (Amos 5:21, 22). That is serious talk, is it not? For the Almighty God to utter such damning words is fearful.

Yet for the institutional maintainers, this is what the LORD is saying. May He have mercy on us for our unfaithfulness to Him.

Monday, 14 October 2013

The Firm's Men.

Why is it that the 'firm's men' within the churches do not want to face up to the challenge of reforming the church to which they belong? One answer: their church is so perfect that it does not need further reformation, or reforming. A perfect church does not need to be brought into line with Christ and His will for His people, because such a church is already there.

One question to ask the 'firm's men' within your denomination is this: what must be done to conform our church to the likeness of Christ? What changes does she need to make? Are they fundamental changes, or are they peripheral? Does your church base its activities, beliefs and practices around your preferences, or are they biblically based? If they are biblically-based, why do so many other sound evangelicals believe and practice differently?

Is your church the kind of church that you could, with confidence, bring an unsaved friend along to and be sure he would hear the Gospel being preached by the preacher? Does your man preach the Gospel clearly and with passion? Can you sense that he is heart and soul committed to what he is telling you? Or is it just a lecture, a 'glorified bible study,' as Dr Lloyd-Jones describes such performances? When you listen to him praying, reading the Scripture and preaching, do you get a sense of God, an awareness that God is in the midst?

These are the questions that Christians within the churches need to ask their leadership and address with urgency. Too many professing Christians seem content to be part of a denomination that opposes and rejects the Gospel and that has a clear alliance with theological liberalism. They don't mind evangelicals and liberals cooperating and exchanging pulpits and sharing 'fellowship.' They, by their actions (or inactions) are sending out a very clear message that liberalism is not wrong, that it has an understanding of the Gospel that differs from theirs, but it is not that bad at all because we believe that if God wants a sinner saved, He will do it anyway. Now thank God that He is sovereign in salvation as in all other matters; but how wicked a thing it is to use this precious doctrine to excuse the error and falsehood of liberalism and also to excuse their refusal to deal with this evil and to remove it from their midst!

Do evangelicals in theologically corrupt denominations not realise that liberalism is as different from Christianity as Islam and Hinduism and Buddhism are from Christianity? Now here's the irony: evangelicals in these denominations would be up in arms if they were to join with these other world religions, but seem to be blissfully ignorant of the strange bed-fellows they are sharing with right now. To accept error as just another and different way of understanding the Scriptures is to damn countless souls in hell and to love what God hates.