Monthly Archives: October 2011
IN the name of God, be it known to all men by these presents that in the year 1564, and the 25th day of the month of April, I Peter Chenelat, citizen and sworn Notary of Geneva, have been sent for by Spectable John Calvin, minister of the word of God in the Church of Geneva, and burgess of the said Geneva, who, being sick and indisposed in body alone, has declared to me his intention to make his testament and declaration of his last will, begging me to write it according as it should be by him dictated and pronounced, which, at his said request, I have done, and have written it under him, and according as he hath dictated and pronounced it, word for word, without omitting or adding anything—in form as follows:
In the name of God, I John Calvin, minister of the word of God in the Church of Geneva, feeling myself reduced so low by diverse maladies, that I cannot but think that it is the will of God to withdraw me shortly from this world, have advised to make and set down in writing my testament and declaration of my last will in form, as follows:
In the first place, I render thanks to God, not only because he has had compassion on me, his poor creature, to draw me out of the abyss of idolatry in which I was plunged, in order to bring me to the light of his gospel and make me a …
“World, death, devil, hell, away and leave me in peace! You have no hold on me. If you will not let me live, then I will die. But you won’t succeed in that. Chop my head off, and it won’t harm me. I have One who will give me a new one.”– Martin Luther
His story of his conversion sounds like gospel wakefulness to me:
I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair until now had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm, one Sunday morning, while I was going to a certain place of worship. When I could go no further, I turned down a side street, and came to a little Primitive Methodist chapel. In that chapel there may have been a dozen or fifteen people. . . . The minister did not come that morning; he was snowed up, I suppose. At last, a very thin-looking man, a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach. . . . He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had little else to say. The text was “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth [Isaiah 45:22].”
He did not even pronounce the words rightly, but that did not matter. There was, I thought, a glimpse of hope for me in that text. The preacher began thus: “My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says, ‘Look.’ Now lookin’ don’t take a deal of pain. It ain’t liftin’ your foot or your finger; it is just, ‘Look.’ Well, a man needn’t go to college to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A man needn’t be worth a thousand …
Nobody ever stood at the base of the Rocky Mountains, looking up, and said, “Remember that time in high school when I could bench 300 pounds?”– Matt Chandler
I have a theory — just a guess, mind you — as to why hippy-dippy New Agers predominate in places like the Pacific Northwest, New England, and the American Southwest. It’s because the environment is so overwhelmingly beautiful.
This thought was triggered in my mind last Sunday when one of youth was presenting his testimony of a solo trek in the mountains of upstate New York over the summer. He said to the congregation, “When you’re in the mountains you realize, ‘Yeah, I’m insignificant’.” That reminded me of the Chandler quote at the top of the post and it made me think about how for many people — not all, of course — living in naturally beautiful places heightens the spiritual senses.
So I wonder if the reason we see so many pantheists and New Agers and what-not in these specific areas has something to do with the way the largeness of God’s creation has triggered in them a sense of the numinous — “Yes,” they reason, struck small by the majesty of the mountains or the roaring of the oceans or the mystery of the desert, “there is something larger, more meaningful, more spiritual than me in the world” — while the rebellion of their heart has triggered in them a spiritual knee-jerk response of self-assertion. Perhaps New Agey-ness is a way of offsetting …
‘Would I know the fullness and completeness of the salvation God has provided for sinners? Where shall I see it most distinctly? Shall I go to the general declarations in the Bible about God’s mercy? Shall I rest in the general truth that God is a God of love?
Oh, no! I will look at the crucifixion at Calvary. I find no evidence like that: I find no balm for a sore conscience and a troubled heart like the sight of Jesus dying for me on the accursed tree. There I see that a full payment has been made for all my enormous debts. The curse of that law which I have broken, has come down on One who there suffered in my stead; the demands of that law are all satisfied: payment has been made for me even to the uttermost farthing. It will not be required twice over.
Ah, I might sometimes imagine I was too bad to be forgiven; my own heart sometimes whispers that I am too wicked to be saved. But I know in my better moments this is all my foolish unbelief; I read an answer to my doubts in the blood shed on Calvary. I feel sure that there is a way to heaven for the very vilest of men, when I look at the cross.”
– J.C. Ryle, “Calvary”
I liked this piece from Barnabas Piper a lot.
When I receive proposals for books or book ideas from pastors I often get something like this as an accompanying comment: “I am the pastor of a X,000-person church, and based on their response to this message I think there is a large demand for this material.” This seems like a reasonable assertion. 80% of the congregation loved the messages, therefore a large percentage of like-minded Christians will also like the message. Unfortunately there is almost no correlation between what a pastor’s congregation thinks of his sermons and the audience size when that is turned into a book.
There are a few reasons for this.
1) Pastors have a relationship with their congregations. There is trust, familiarity, and warmth that allows for a sort of impact that doesn’t carry over to a “cold” audience like book readers. An average or unskilled preacher can still be an enormously effective one because he loves and is loved by Christ and his congregation, but a good book requires skill to create.
2) There is often an enormous difference in the dynamism or effectiveness of the spoken word versus the written word. Many Pastors use scant outlines or basic notes to preach powerful sermons. Many pastors are skilled story tellers and can weave a verbal tapestry or paint a verbal picture with ease. Others have the talents of an orator and can use verbal variance to engage an audience. And for others it is the sheer …
A few weeks back a fellow in our church shared his testimony with me. He said he’d been taking his young family to church once upon a time because he figured it was a good thing to do, and he’d attended there for two years, sitting week in and week out under gospel preaching, before finally one Sunday it occurred to him: “I’m a sinner! I need this gospel!”
I imagine the internal struggle of his pastor for those two years. I know it well myself. Ever preached the gospel dickens out of a text in front of a crowd of stoic rural New Englanders? My lands, it can keep a preacher humble. (The assorted experiences of gospel wakefulness can keep a preacher hopeful.)
What are we doing when we commit to gospel-centered preaching and teaching in the face of non-apparent results? Every chance we get we hold up Jesus Christ as preeminent and precious, we exult in his glorious excellencies, and we present the gospel boldly, clearly, and with unction. Still nary a crack in the surface of reception. It is like preaching, as they say, to a brick wall.
Should we switch things up? Try another tack? Testable non-results is one of the reasons so many churches tuck the gospel behind fog and lasers or adjust their teaching to the 7 Steps busywork of moralistic therapeutic deism. I mean, isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?
Brothers, let us be “out …
Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.– Isaiah 55:1
I have accomplishments galore, religious and otherwise. I am good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like me. I am brimming with excellence!
Don’t bring it. Don’t do it.
The deal is all Christ is for all your nothing. Don’t cheapen the treasure with your currency.
Come buy the unsearchable riches of grace with your poverty of spirit. That’s all he’ll accept.
There are two shades, one more subtle than the other, but just as deadly.
The first and more obvious resents another pastor’s apparent success, begrudges his exposure or appeal, criticizes his approach to mission, questions his legitimacy and impugns his motives. He is infringing on your mission field, your territory. He is receiving the attention you ought to be receiving, garnering the opportunities that rightly belong to you. You’ve been at it longer and are doing it “righter.” Plus, he’s dumber than you.
Then there’s the other side that sounds like this:That guy’s just jealous of me.
We ought to beware both postures.
I commend the following 20 minutes to you. It is the late great E.V. Hill preaching the eulogy at the funeral for his wife Jane (Baby) in 1987. It is a very moving tribute and love letter, but also a stirring exultation in Job 1:21: “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”