• Do you love Doctrine more than you love Jesus?

    I’ve been reading Iain Murray’s great book Spurgeon Vs. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching. The book is about Spurgeon and his battles with pastors who said that a pastor should not offer salvation to everyone because God has only given salvation to the elect; therefore you offer salvation only to those who have either great knowledge of who God is and what he has done or great sorrow as a result of their sin. In other words you only call those who are pretty much already Christians. Spurgeon argued that even though few may be saved it is everyone’s duty to believe in Jesus and therefore the gospel should be offered freely to all. He also showed from the scriptures that the apostles and Jesus called all to repent and believe in Jesus. This is how Spurgeon argued his case for a universal call to repent in one of his sermons:

    “Repent and be baptized every one of you,” said Peter. As John Bunyan put it, one man might have stood in the crowd and said, “But I helped to hound Him to the Cross!” “Repent and be baptized every one of you.” “But I drove the nails into His hands!” says one. “Every one of you,” says Peter. “But I pierced His side!” says another. “Every one of you,” says Peter. “But I put my tongue into my cheek, and stared at His nakedness, and said, ‘If He is the Son of God, let Him come down from the Cross!” “Every one of you,” says Peter. “Repent and be baptized every one of you.”

    I do feel so grieved at many of our Calvinistic Brothers and Sisters—they know nothing about Calvinism, I am sorry to say—for never was any man more caricatured by his professed followers than John Calvin. Many of them are afraid to preach from Peter’s text, “Repent and be baptized every one of you.” When I do it, they say, “He is unsound.” Well, if I am unsound on this point, I have all the Puritans with me—the whole of them almost without a single exception! John Bunyan first and foremost preaches to Jerusalem sinners, and Charnock, you know, has written a book, ” The Chief of Sinners, Objects of the Choicest Mercy'” But I do not care for that. I know the Lord has blessed my appeals to all sorts of sinners, and none shall stop me in giving free invitations as long as I find them in this Book!”[1]

    One of the problems of the Hyper-Calvinists is that they seemed to love their doctrine more than Jesus. They seemed to want to protect their doctrine and preach against others who didn’t hold to sound doctrine more than they wanted to commend Jesus to a dying world. I think growing up as a reformed Christian I have a tendency to do this too. I have a tendency to fill my head with knowledge about Jesus rather than fill my heart with love for Jesus. I have a tendency to want to know doctrine about Jesus rather than Jesus himself. I find it easier to critique bad doctrine than commend Jesus to a dying world. Now I know we need both head and heart, we need to defend the truth and proclaim the truth, but I am not sure I have always got this balance right. I need to keep preaching to myself that Jesus is the one I love and serve and sound doctrine helps me do this. In this I need to hear Spurgeon’s words:

    There is a tendency, however, on the other hand in certain quarters, to make doctrinal knowledge everything. I have seen, to my inexpressible grief, the Doctrines of Grace made a huge stone to be rolled at the mouth of the sepulchre of a dead Christ. And I have seen sound doctrine, so called, made as a very seal to seal in the dead Christ, lest by any means the energy of His Grace should come out for the salvation of sinners. Oh, what is doctrine, after all, but a throne whereon Christ sits? And when that throne is vacant, what is the throne to us? It is the Monarch and not the throne that we reverence and esteem.

    Doctrines are but as the shovel and the tongs of the altar, while Christ is the smoking sacrifice. Doctrines are Christ’s garments—verily they all smell of myrrh and cassia and aloes out of ivory palaces, whereby they make us glad—but it is not the garments we care for so much as for the Person, the very Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. [2]

    What about you? Do you love doctrine more than you love Jesus?

     

  • Every church must do social justice part 4: The witness of History

    The early church in Greco roman world were notorious for bring stingy with how they gave their bodies away sexually and promiscuous about how they gave their money away. The Pagan Emperor Julian said this about Christians and their charity “Whilst the pagan priests neglect the poor, the hated Galileans devote themselves to works of charity . . . These impious Galileans not only feed their own poor, but ours also; welcoming them into their agape . . .”[1] Did you see what has happened because of Christians attitude to the poor the emperor is proclaiming the merits of the Christians!

    This kind of promiscuity with money and possessions was preached in the puritan era of the church. Jonathan Edwards, a man whose preaching was notable in its orthodoxy and whose theology is a passionate and yet extremely balanced and carefully weighted exposition of biblical truth nevertheless can say this “Tis the most absolute and indispensable duty of a people of God to give bountifully and willingly for the supply of the wants of the needy.”[2] For Edwards, one of the ways the church (notice the language of a people of God) displays the gospel is in its attitude to the poor. For Edwards it is the riches we behave been given in Christ which forms the basis of why we give generously to the poor. Speaking of Jesus Edwards says: “Consider that silver, and gold, and earthly crowns, were in his esteem but mean things to give us, and he hath therefore given us his own Son. Christ loved and pitied us, when we were poor, and he laid out himself to help, and even did shed his own blood for us without grudging. He did not think much to deny himself, and to be at great cost for us vile wretches, in order to make us rich, and to clothe us with kingly robes, when we were naked; to feast us at his own table with dainties infinitely costly, when we were starving; to advance us from the dunghill, and set us among princes, and make us to inherit the throne of his glory, and so to give us the enjoyment of the greatest wealth and plenty to all eternity. Agreeably to 2 Cor. 8:9, “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” Considering all these things, what a poor business will it be that those who hope to share these benefits yet cannot give something for the relief of a poor neighbour without grudging! That it should grieve them to part with a small matter, to help a fellow servant in calamity, when Christ did not grudge to shed his own blood for them!”[3]For Edwards, as well as for us, the basis for social Justice is the Gospel it is not in competition with the Gospel!

    The last person from the history of the church I want to look at is the great Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  Spurgeon was known as the prince of preachers by many who heard him and yet he was no mere orator. He was a man who was possessed by the gospel so much so that he not only preached it with passion and compassion but he defended the truth of the gospel like a young lioness defends her cubs.[4] This is significant because here is a man of very strong reformed theology who defends the truth but when found in the midst of the squalor of inner city London in the 19th century Spurgeon not only preached the gospel but he also did many started many organisations that cared for the poor and needy. Here is a list of the works Spurgeon started:

    • An almshouse for needy Widows[5]
    • A free school for poor children[6]
    • A theological college to train young men who couldn’t afford to go to university
    • In 1867 an orphanage for young boys[7]
    • In 1879 An orphanage for girls[8]
    • A fund for the poor [9]
    • A Sunday school for the blind[10]

    So alongside his preaching and defending of the gospel Spurgeon showed a deep concern for the poor which overflowed in social justice.

    This all too brief survey of church history shows that Social justice and the gospel go hand in hand and therefore we cannot say that if we do social justice we will neglect the gospel because that statement is historically unfounded. We have also seen that the church throughout the ages has cared for the poor as an outworking of its adherence to the gospel


    [1] Quoted in Keller, Ministries, 108

    [2] Edwards, Jonathan, Christian Charity: or, The Duty of Charity of the Poor, Explained and Enforced. In The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 2 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1974), 163

    [3] Edwards, Christian Charity, in Works,

    [4] See Murray, Iain. The Forgotten Spurgeon. (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1966),

    [5] Dallimore, Arnold, C. H. Spurgeon: A New Biography [Moody Press: Chicago, 1984)],125

    [6] Dallimore , C. H. Spurgeon,125

    [7] Dallimore , C. H. Spurgeon, 126

    [8] Dallimore, C. H. Spurgeon, 129

    [9] Drummond, Lewis A. Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1992),437

    [10] Drummond, Spurgeon, 438

     

  • Will you be disqualified from ministry?

    I remember sitting there as a 15 year old absolutely enthralled as this man taught the bible. He was clear, funny and winsome. As years went on I saw this man lead brilliantly, heard of the stories of people his ministry had touched, saw the people who were trained under him for fulltime ministry.

    And now his life is ruined.

    This man, like many others I know, disqualified himself from ministry.

    Every time I hear of a brother or sister disqualifying themselves from ministry I feel like God is slapping me upside the head and saying “Don’t get cocky, this could happen to you! Watch your life and doctrine closely!”

    Brothers and sisters let’s make sure we are not disqualified.

    I once heard a very famous preacher be asked “Why in 40 years of ministry has your name never been associated with a scandal?” His reply was shocking to a certain extent. He said “I never forget that it could be me and I am scared of disqualification and so I do everything within my power to guard against it!”

    Brothers and sisters are we doing everything to guard against disqualification?

    What I am doing to guard against disqualification:

    1. Reinstalling Xwatch. My computer’s hard drive was wiped a few months ago and I haven’t got around to reinstalling Xwatch. This is stupid and just lazy and shows my pride and cockiness.
    2. I am going to reread “The Ministers Self Watch” by Spurgeon. This is always a challenging read. It challenges me to watch my life as much as my doctrine.
    3. I am going remind my elders when we meet next Tuesday about watching our lives and doctrines closely and I am going to ask some hard questions of myself and of them. I will also remind them (and therefore myself) that we are meant to be open books so let’s ask each other hard uncomfortable questions out of love for each other.
    4. I am going to buy a big bunch of flowers for my wife to remind her and myself of how much I love her and how much she means to me.
    5. I am going to pray that God would show me where I am cocky and arrogant and where I am on trajectories that would lead me into disqualification.
    6. I will get busy with what I need to be doing. Work tends to focus the mind and it causes me to focus on what is good and not things that could lead me into being sinful.

    Brothers and sisters, we all know people who have been disqualified from ministry. Let us guard against this with all our might for the glory of God and our joy!