Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Crook in the Lot

Thomas Boston is remembered as one of the great Puritan pastors in 16th century Scotland. He was a champion of sound doctrine at a time when it was under attack. His book The Fourfold State of Man is still one of the most important books ever on the doctrine of man. But in 1737 a smaller book was published from the pen of the pastor from Ettrick. The Crook in the Lot was the fruit of Boston’s deep reflection on Ecclesiastes 7:13: “Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which He has made crooked?” The title of Boston’s book was his way of describing the God-wrought crookedness in one’s life. In other words, Boston understood from Scripture that the “crooks” or difficulties in our circumstances are there by the sovereignty and, yes, goodness of God.

Boston had his own thorns to deal with. His wife struggled with crippling depression and Thomas suffered for years from what were probably kidney stones. This gives The Crook in the Lot the ring of authenticity and empathy. Boston wrote that crook came from “the groaning part of my life.” Reflecting on Boston’s life, J.I. Packer writes, “In addition to ongoing battles for the gospel against the non-evangelical leadership in the Church of Scotland and the continuance of his wife’s paralyzing depression, he was a martyr to some form of the stone (gravel, as he called it) and saw himself become a physical wreck. When he wrote and spoke of life’s troubles he knew what he was talking about, and the sense that this was so comes through strongly…”

I encourage you to add The Crook in the Lot to your morning or evening devotions. Here is a brief sampling:

A just view of afflicting incidents is altogether necessary to a Christian deportment under them; and that view is to be obtained only by faith, not by sense; for, it is the light of the Word alone that represents them justly, discovering in them the work of God, and, consequently, designs becoming the divine perfections. When these are perceived by the eye of faith, and duly considered, we have a just view of afflicting incidents, fitted to quell the turbulent motions of corrupt affections under dismal outward appearances…

As to the crook in thy lot, God hath made it; and it must continue while He will have it so. Should you ply your utmost force to even it, or make it straight, your attempt will be vain: it will not alter for all thou canst do; only he who made it can mend it, or make it straight. This consideration, this view of the matter, is a proper means, at once, to silence and to satisfy men, and so to bring them unto a dutiful submission to their Maker and Governor, under the crook in their lot.


Blessings,

todd

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Boys Should Be Boys



When I first saw The Dangerous Book for Boys at Barnes and Noble I assumed it would be another experiment in turning little boys into little girls. After all we live in a day when feminists like Gloria Steinem have advised that “we badly need to raise boys more like we raise girls.” It seems that many Americans have followed that advice. There is a generation of young men who are now more adept at sharing their feelings than they are at thinking logically. If you don’t believe me then watch a little MTV and see the silly excuses that are held forth as “men”. They are as likely to shed a tear as their female counterparts.

If I sound sexist then please forgive. My rhetoric may sound harsh only because the male culture in America has been so feminized. In her essential book The War Against Boys, Christina Hoff Sommers documents these disturbing trends. She observes that in the modern school classroom, teachers view the budding masculinity of boys as a disorder to be overcome rather than a gift to be cultivated. Of course most boys are likely to go through school and never have a male teacher except for the occasional health class or P.E. Games such as tag and dodge ball have been banned for encouraging competition and aggression. Adventure stories have been scrubbed from the reading lists. History classes spend little or no time studying the great battles of history and the men who led their troops in victory. No wonder so many boys hate going to school.

Thank God for Mr. Rogers who taught my English Literature class during my senior year in high school. The year began with a two week study of Beowulf, the oldest known story in the English language. It is full of courage, valor, and, yes, violence. It even has a terrible beast named Grendel who, in the end, gets what was coming to him. For two weeks Mr. Rogers helped us sink our teeth, as it were, into the meat of that ancient story. I was hooked. I knew then that reading great stories didn’t have to be “soft.” There were indeed stories full of risk and danger and honor and blood.

That brings me back to The Dangerous Book for Boys by brothers Conn and Hal Iggulden. After a few weeks of seeing it there on the shelf at the book store I finally picked it up. I was delighted by the feel of the thing. It is oversized and has the look of an older addition of Treasure Island. It even has the old-fashioned “swirly” liner paper on the inside cover. It is full of illustrations, maps, diagrams, and photographs. It includes information that every boy wonders about from time-to-time. On page two there are instructions on crafting “the greatest paper airplane in the world.” On page 35 boys are taught how to make a bow and arrow. There are two sections on famous battles. The book has instructions on everything from how to make a tree house to fishing to making a go-cart and first aid.

This is no one dimensional book however. In addition to the building and survival skills The Dangerous Book for Boys also operates as a guide for growing well-rounded young gentlemen. There are sections on astronomy, grammar, the seven wonders of the ancient world, and even how to appreciate Shakespeare. It also provides as list of “books every boy should read.”

The authors include a quote from Sir Frederick Treves from 1903 that captures well the spirit of the book:
“Don’t worry about genius and don’t worry about not being clever. Trust rather to hard work, perseverance, and determination. The best motto for a long march is ‘Don’t grumble. Plug on.’ You hold your future in your own hands. Never waver in this belief. Don’t swagger. The boy who swaggers – like the man who swaggers – has little else that he can do. He is a cheap-Jack crying his own paltry wares. It is the empty tin that rattles most. Be honest. Be loyal. Be kind. Remember that the hardest thing to acquire is the faculty of being unselfish. As a quality it is one of the finest attributes of manliness.
“Love the sea, the ringing beach and the open downs.
“Keep clean, body and mind.”

Get The Dangerous Book for Boys. Better yet, read it to your sons. Let them read it. Let them play with it. It’s tough. It can take it.


blessings,


todd

Monday, June 25, 2007

How will they know unless someone tells them?

The following is a message recorded by the actor Kirk Cameron and played to the pastors gathered for the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention last week. It bears repeating:


Can I speak to you from my heart for a moment? I realize that, theologically, I’m not worthy to wash your socks. But imagine this scenario with me, if you will: Imagine I’m a “seeker”- I’m a non-Christian, sitting in your church week after week after week listening to you. Am I ever going to hear the message that will save my soul from Hell? Will you ever tell me the truth clearly enough so that I realize that my sin has made me an enemy of God: that I am currently on the path that leads to destruction, with the wrath of God dwelling upon me, and that unless I repent and put my faith in the Savior, I will perish? Or have you decided that it’s better to simply entertain me, and on Sundays I can come to have my “felt needs” met with good music and good advice? Pastor, while I would appreciate that, it’s the ultimate betrayal of my trust in you if you don’t tell me the truth. Will I ever hear the words “repent,” “surrender,” “turn to the Savior,” “be born again”? If you don’t tell me those things, how will I ever know to do it? Please don’t leave it up to the Wednesday night small-group leader. They’re taking their cues from you. You’re leading the flock.And now I speak to you as a Christian. If you and I fail to teach the whole counsel of God, and we don’t warn sinners to flee from the wrath to come, and run to the love of Christ on the Cross to save their soul, we make a terrible mistake. It doesn’t matter how happy a person is- how much a sinner is enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season- without the righteousness of Christ, he’ll perish on the Day of Judgment. The Bible says, “Riches profit not on the Day of Wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.” You see, that’s how Kirk Cameron realized he needed a Savior. I had riches, but I knew that it was the righteousness of God that I needed in order to be saved from my sin.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Southern Baptists and Integrity

Last week the Southern Baptist Convention convened in San Antonio, Texas. On the final day Dr. Tom Ascol, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida stood to offer the following resolution that had previously been submitted to the resolutions committee:

Resolution on Integrity in Church Membership
Submitted by Tom Ascol
May 1, 2007

· Whereas the Baptist Faith and Message states that the Scriptures are “the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried” (article 1); and
· Whereas life in a local church should be characterized by loving discipline as the Bible teaches in passages like Matthew 18:15-18, I Corinthians 5, and Titus 3:10-11 and
· Whereas the 2006 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Church Profiles indicate that there are 16,306,246 members in Southern Baptist churches; and
· Whereas those same profiles indicate that only 6,138,776 of those members attend a primary worship service of their church in a typical week; and
· Whereas the ideal of a regenerate church membership has long been and remains a cherished Baptist principle as described in Article VI of the Baptist Faith and Message; now, therefore, be it
· RESOLVED that the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in San Antonio, Texas, June 12-13, 2007, urge Southern Baptists to repent of our failure to maintain responsible church membership, and be it further
· RESOLVED that we urge the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention to repent of the widespread failure among us to obey Jesus Christ in the practice of lovingly correcting wayward church members (Matthew 18:15-18), and be it further
· RESOLVED that we plead with pastors and church leaders to lead their churches to study and implement our Lord’s teachings on this essential church practice, and be it further
· RESOLVED that we encourage denominational servants to support and encourage churches that seek to recover and implement our Savior’s teachings on church discipline, especially when such efforts result in the reduction in the number of members that are reported in those churches, and be it finally
· RESOLVED that we commit to pray for our churches as they seek to honor the Lord Jesus Christ through reestablishing integrity to church membership and to the reporting of statistics in the Annual Church Profile.

At the risk of sounding na├»ve, I believe that most Southern Baptists would say “Amen!” to those words. When I read the resolution, as I have done multiple times, I am humbled and challenged. Who would deny the timeliness and propriety of such a resolution? But some among our denominational leadership have a habit of making the obvious, doubtful and the clear, complicated.

The Resolutions Committee refused to bring this resolution to the gathered messengers for a vote. Pastor Ascol then read the resolution from the floor where it was opened to a very brief discussion. A vote was taken to override the Resolutions Committee and bring the resolution on integrity in church membership to a vote. The vote failed. This was the second year in a row that Dr. Ascol sought approval for his resolution.

The reasons the Resolution Committee gave for rejecting the resolution on integrity in church membership were varied and, to my mind, nonsensical. Some said it would interfere with church autonomy, although it was never made clear how. Others had the strange idea that having unregenerate church members could be a positive thing. After all, they could serve as sort of “in-house prospects.” I’m not making this up.

Astonishingly, while the resolution on integrity in church membership was rejected, a flimsy resolution on, of all things, global warming was adopted.

And the band played on.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

An Unregenerate Denomination?

In May, John Hammett, professor of theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina made a special plea to the students gathered for chapel to take the issue of regenerate church membership seriously. Each semester a faculty member at Southeastern is asked to speak in a chapel service on a topic of particular interest to them. Dr. Hammett chose well.

The long Southern Baptist tradition of a “pray the prayer” or “walk the aisle” understanding of conversion has left our church rolls full of unregenerate church members. Professor Hammett told the students that the greatest problem facing Southern Baptists is not the surrounding secular culture but a Southern Baptist culture that seems to have lost sight of the necessity of regeneration in church membership. He decried the common practice of allowing people to join Southern Baptist churches without any interview process or means of accountability.

If you doubt the problem is pervasive then consider that Southern Baptists report some 16.5 million members. We often boast in the fact that we are the largest protestant denomination in the world. However, by our churches own reporting, the actual weekly attendance in Southern Baptist Churches is between 35 and 40% of the 16.5 million. This begs the question, “Where have all the Baptists gone?” In our fervency to up the attendance of our churches and inflate the number of baptisms that we report each year, we have too often looked the other way as our churches have received into membership people who show no evidence of genuine conversion. Why is it that some of our largest churches increase in attendance by only a fraction of the total number of the multiple hundreds they report to have baptized each year?

This summer, Southern Baptist churches will baptize God knows how many youth after camp and children after VBS without any genuine attempt to confirm the genuineness of their profession. It would be hard for me to quantify the number of adults I have spoken to who have reported their own spurious childhood conversions. They raised a hand at VBS or walked an aisle at camp and were quickly assured by a well-meaning pastor that they need never question the assurance of their salvation. Only in adulthood have they realized that there never was evidence of a truly changed heart.

Dr. Hammett suggested four reasons why a regenerate church membership is a “battle worth fighting”: It maintains a corporate witness; it insures a corporate health; it produces a love for unregenerate church members; and it honors and glorifies Christ. Further, Hammett proposed that churches compose covenants outlining the responsibilities of church membership that incoming members must sign. He also urged that churches reform their requirements for baptism and restore the practice of biblical church discipline. Wise counsel indeed.

I am astounded that the denomination that often refers to itself as “people of the Book” can get it so wrong in the most fundamental issue of all – regeneration. Contradicting Scripture, some of our most prominent pastors have preached and written that spiritual fruitfulness has no bearing on one’s salvation (Matt 24:13; II Cor 13:5; II Peter 1:10). Rather, they rely on unbiblical slogans like “once saved always saved” and assert that so long as someone prays the prayer they are “in” regardless of the contradictory evidence of an unchanged heart. If you don’t believe me then read Charles Stanley’s irresponsible book Eternal Security.

I am frightened by the notion of ever giving false assurance of salvation to someone who is not truly regenerate. Don’t misunderstand. Christians should not go through life doubting their salvation. Full assurance of salvation is a wonderful, Spirit wrought blessing. I fully affirm perseverance of the saints or the eternal security of genuine converts. But I wholly reject the eternal presumption of spurious converts.


I owe the details of Dr. Hammett’s speech to a May 8, 2007 Baptist Press article by Joy Rancatore.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The More Things Change

Okay, so I’ve been re-reading a lot of Lloyd-Jones while on vacation! But what he said and wrote on almost any topic bears repeating in our own time. As I read The Doctor’s thoughts on preaching and the church I cannot help but observe how relevant he still is.

Observing the “feel good preaching” that was so prominent in the church of his day Lloyd-Jones wrote:
“It is made perfectly clear in the pages of the New Testament that no man can be saved until, at some time or other, he has felt desperate about himself…Present day preaching does not save men, the churches are not getting converts. There is something even worse than that about the situation as I see it, and that is that present-day preaching does not even annoy men, but leaves them precisely where they were, without a ruffle and without the slightest disturbance…The church is regarded as a sort of dispensary where drugs and soothing mixtures are distributed and in which everyone should be eased and comforted. And the one theme of the church must be ‘the love of God.’ Anyone who happens to break these rules and who produces a disturbing effect upon members of his congregation is regarded as an objectionable person.”

Of Lloyd-Jones’ preaching, Iain Murray writes:
“Modern preaching, Dr. Lloyd-Jones believed, had gone fundamentally wrong. He saw the main proof of that fact in the failure of the pulpit to recognize that he first work of the Holy Spirit is to convict of sin and to humble men in the presence of God. He knew that any preaching which soothes, comforts and pleases those who have never been brought to fear God, nor to seek his mercy, is not preaching which the Spirit of God will own. The truth is that he was going back to a principle once regarded as imperative for powerful evangelistic preaching, namely, that before men can be converted they must be convinced of sin.”

Finally, this from the good reverend Spurgeon:
“In the beginning, the preacher’s business is not to convert men, but the very reverse. It is idle to attempt to heal those who are not wounded, to attempt to clothe those who have never been stripped, and to make those rich who have never realized their poverty.”

The more things change the more they stay the same. In our own city we see the pastors of evangelical churches buying into the notion that if men and women are going to come to Christ then he must be made more palatable than the writers of Scripture were able to manage. Jesus is presented, if he is presented at all, as the one who will fix marriages, fix kids, and may even provide a job promotion. This is far from the Jesus of Scripture who is pleased to save those who turn to Him in desperation. Rather, this is the Jesus of man’s own undisciplined felt needs. He is the Jesus who offers many gifts but makes no demands. He is the Jesus who makes no exclusive claims to Lordship and would never offend the sensibilities of modern people by calling attention to their sinfulness. Unfortunately, while this Jesus is certainly palatable, the popular Jesus simply cannot save.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Good Medicine from the Good Doctor

In 1927 the 27 year old David Martyn Lloyd-Jones left a prestigious career in medicine to follow God’s call to pastor a small impoverished church in rural Wales. The churches in Wales were not even a shadow of what they had been at the turn of the century during the great Welsh revival. Now the churches were empty, powerless, and increasingly pastor-less. But something extraordinary began to happen in the little church in Sandfields Aberavon where the former physician ministered. God lit a fire in the heart of their young pastor and brought forth from him a new kind of preaching that had not been heard in years. It was the preaching of God’s Word with total conviction but conspicuously absent of the worldly trappings and entertaining flourishes that had come to characterize the church in those days.

When I read some of the things written by Lloyd-Jones on revival and read reports of what God did in Wales during his ministry there my heart leaps to see God move the way he saw God move:

“Pray for revival? Yes, go on, but do not try to create it, do not attempt to produce it, it is only given by Christ himself. The last church to be visited by a revival is the church trying to make it.”

“We say we are concerned for the sin of the town! How much prayer do we offer for the sin of the town? When we pass a drunkard it is not our business to say, ‘What an awful man, what a beast!’ No! judge not, but pray without ceasing. Christ came not to destroy – sin does that – but to save and release men from their sin. Will you as a church pray for the sinners of Aberavon and pray for God to save them through His Spirit? That is the meaning of a church…May God give us this power to pray for a visitation of His Spirit! God give power to all doing this in all places!”

In 1930 a reporter named J. C. Griffith-Jones, the South Wales correspondent for the News Chronicle wrote these words in an article he titled “A Physician of Souls”:

“Seven years ago Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., M.R.C.P., was on the threshold of a brilliantly promising career in Harley Street. He renounced it to labor in one of the most difficult fields of Forward Movement evangelism in Wales. The Sandfields district of Aberavon is a dead end. Even when the sun shines, sandy wastes and dreary, crowded houses convey a sense of desolation, almost hopelessness. What could a man denied work, disillusioned by social callousness, do here but live for a day, deteriorate, drift and die?

“Into this desperate little world came the young physician-minister, preaching, living the gospel of old-new hope. He shocked the locality out of its despair. This world had failed them; there was another world.

“Men listened amazed. Here was one who practiced the gospel that he preached with such tremendous conviction. He had given up a great career – fame, money, leisure – to live and work among the poor and hopeless.

“Not only in Port Talbot, but all around the district, the word went forth that surprising things were happening at the ‘mission hall’ on the sand dunes. Curious, skeptical, doubting, hoping, believing, people flocked to the church.

“It was no passing wonder. Today, years after the first revelation of new power, the congregations still overflow the church. Every meeting is a ‘big meeting.’

“A working-class (and unemployed) membership raising 1,000 pounds a year for church work. Crowded prayer meetings, a crowded church meeting in mid-week, a crowded brotherhood meeting on Saturday, of all nights, when men discuss the problems of spiritual salvation and the pastor sums up the discussion. Sandfields now shares the glad tidings with all Wales.”

So the little church in Sandfields could not chalk up their influence to money, impressive facilities, a seasoned pastor, or a ‘strategic location.’ The church was poor in every sense of the word. But they became rich in the things of God. And now, almost 100 years later, people still read and write about what happened there.

blessings,

todd

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Killing for Convenience

In a recent article on the Henry Institute’s web page (www.henryinstitute.org) Russell Moore calls attention to the tortured morality of Donna Schaper, the pastor of Judson Memorial Church. Judson is an historic American Baptist church in New York. In an article written for Tikkun, a liberal magazine, Schaper reflects on the abortion she had nineteen years ago. Schaper justifies her abortion on the grounds that she and her husband already had twins and an additional child would only be a hardship. She calls abortion a “positive moral force.” It allows “sex to be both procreational and recreational for both men and women…The drama of the abortion battle is not about unborn babies at all. Instead it is about women and sex.”

But Schaper’s own words betray her. Indeed, she spends a good portion of the article referring to the baby she had killed in her womb. She went so far as to name the aborted baby, “Alma.” Astonishingly, Schaper even calls the abortion an act of murder:
“I did what was right for me, for my family, for my work, for my husband, and for my three children. I happen to agree that abortion is a form of murder. I think the quarrel about when life begins is disrespectful to the fetus. I know I murdered the life within me. I could have loved that life but chose not to. I did what men do all the time when they take us to war: they choose violence because, while they believe it is bad, it is still better than the alternatives.”

It is morally obtuse to compare the decision to kill a baby in the womb with the sobering but sometimes necessary decision that Commanders-in-Chief face to send men into battle. The Scriptures teach that God uses human governments as instruments to exercise justice even to the point of using violence. The apostle Paul writes, “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Rom. 13:3-4).

Something tells me that pastor Schaper would not give credence to large portions of the Bible, particularly much of Romans. She writes, “When I made my choice to end Alma’s life, I was behaving as an adult…It was a human life. That’s why we named her, wanted her, but also knew we did not want her enough.” She concludes that abortion is not only a necessary policy but a good and moral one. It is, she writes, “the best policy conceivable for men and women and for mature, moral sexuality.”

Call me old fashioned but I prefer the bra burning feminists of the early 1970’s that knew the only way to win broader approval for abortion was to convince people that unborn babies were not human and therefore abortion was not the taking of a human life. Some of you are old enough to remember leading liberals actually advancing that notion, leaving us to wonder if unborn babies were actually squirrels or tad poles. But with the passage of time and advances in technology the pro-abortion crowd has found it increasingly difficult to deny the obvious. But this has led to an even more disturbing turn. As the words of pastor Schaper demonstrate, pro-abortionists now justify the appalling procedure not by denying the humanity of the unborn but by asserting the right of the mother to kill it. The late Francis Schaeffer once observed that if we can justify taking life in the womb it will not be long until we justify taking life outside the womb.

todd

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Men of the Word


In his great book Christian Leaders of the Last Century J.C. Ryle, writing in 19th century England makes this observation of the men used by God to help usher in revival in the generations that preceded his own:
“They taught one set of truths. They taught them in the same way, with fire, reality, earnestness, as men fully convinced of what they taught. They taught them in the same spirit, always loving, compassionate, and, like Paul even weeping, but always bold, unflinching, and not fearing the face of man…The instrumentality by which the spiritual reformers of the last century carried on their operations was of the simplest description. It was neither more nor less than the old apostolic weapon of preaching. The sword which St. Paul wielded with such mighty effect, when he assaulted the strongholds of heathenism eighteen hundred years ago, was the same sword by which they won their victories.”

There is a spiritual famine in our land because the Word of God is absent in too many of America’s pulpits. Don’t misunderstand. I am not talking about liberal churches that have always been skeptical of the authority and reliability of the Bible. We can expect the Bible to be absent in a meaningful way from their pulpits. It seems to me, the great irony is the absence of the Bible in the pulpits of “conservative, Bible-believing” churches. In an effort to see their church grow numerically, these pastors take pains not to “bore people” with the Bible. They use Bible verses, to be sure, but they shy away from careful exposition of the Scriptures. Is there any wonder why Christians in America today know more about “slaying the giants in your life” or “rolling away the stones in your life” than they do about practical holiness, the doctrine of the atonement, or the doctrinal flow of the book of Romans? Do these things even matter to Christians any more?

At a recent children’s ministry conference, a prominent young mega-church pastor from Atlanta, Georgia instructed the gathered pastors that preaching through books of the Bible was “lazy.” How appallingly arrogant to dismiss such men as Martin Luther, John Owen, Thomas Watson, Thomas Boston, Matthew Henry, Johnathan Edwards, Robert Murray McCheyne, Charles Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John MacArthur, John Piper, Alister Begg (need I go on?) as lazy because they preach(ed) through books of the Bible. True, these men apparently were not “creative” enough to use stage props and video clips from the latest television shows. All they had was the passion to take their congregations on deep diving missions into God’s precious Word. If that is “lazy” then I will take it over “creative” every day of the week.

If you think I am being too critical let me remind you of what Scripture has to say about the shepherds of God’s people who fail to proclaim God’s Word faithfully and clearly. Speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, who lived during a spiritual famine, God proclaimed:
"Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’…Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord. Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?"
- Jeremiah 23:16-17, 28-29

Preachers have been called into battle but instead of wielding the sword of the Spirit too many play around with trendy sociological theories and baptized versions of pop psychology. Dr Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary rightly observes that one of the problems in many churches today is that the Gospel is proclaimed in therapeutic terms. In other words the Gospel is often not proclaimed as the good news that by His sacrificial death Jesus delivers sinners from the justified wrath of God. Instead the gospel is promoted as a means to psychological or mental wholeness and material blessing.

It is odd that preachers who play fast and loose with the Scriptures are often given a pass because they are nice or they have good hearts. It is reasoned, “He may not get it right when it comes to the Bible but he sure is a good man.” But what is interesting about this perspective is that is exactly opposite of how the Bible evaluates the same kind of situation. Paul writes in Philippians 1:15-18:
"Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here [in prison] for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice."
If Paul had to choose between a decent man who did not proclaim the gospel well and a poorly motivated man who did justice to the gospel in his preaching he would always choose the later. The man matters but the message matters more. O that God would give to His people more men of the Word!
Blessings,
todd