Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Atheists Who Inspire

The life of C.T. Studd stands as one of the great stories of sacrifice and service in modern Christian history. Charles Thomas Studd was from a wealthy English family and was an all English-Cricketer. He had everything a young man could desire; he had enough money to last a lifetime and he had fame. Although C.T. enjoyed all of these things he gave them all up to become one of the greatest missionary leaders of his day.
His life stands as a sign to all succeeding generations that it is worth while to lose all this world can offer and stake everything on the world to come. His life will be an eternal rebuke to easygoing Christianity. He has demonstrated what it means to follow Christ without counting the cost and without looking back.[1]
So what was it that caused this wealthy athletic Brit to turn from a life of fame and comfort to a life of relative anonymity and sacrifice? God certainly used many circumstances to transform the life of this young man. But perhaps the most defining and catalytic moments of C.T. Studd's life came in the form of a tract. Not a gospel tract mind you, but an Atheistic tract intended to insult weak-minded Christians. The tract read:

"Did I firmly believe, as millions say they do, that the knowledge and practice of religion in this life influences destiny in another, religion would mean everything to me. I would cast away earthly enjoyments as dross, earthly cares as follies, and earthly thoughts and feelings as vanity. Religion would be my first waking thought and my last image before sleep sank me into unconsciousness. I should labour in its cause alone. I would take thought for the morrow of Eternity alone. I would esteem one soul gained for heaven worth a life of suffering. Earthly consequences should never stay my hand nor seal my lips. Earth—its joys and its griefs—would occupy no moment of my thoughts. I would strive to look upon Eternity alone and on the immortal souls around me soon to be everlastingly happy or everlastingly miserable. I would go forth to the world and preach to it in season and out of season, and my text would be, ‘What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul?"
He was never the same again.

Penn Jillette, comedian/illusionist/juggler/writer best known for his work with fellow illusionist Teller in the team Penn & Teller, is also an outspoken atheist. He has on many public occasions in Carlin-esque fashion picked apart and ridiculed the faith of millions. He is an enemy of God and no friend of the faithful. Nevertheless, Penn Gillette said something recently that sounds very much like the atheistic tract that landed in C.T. Studd's hands. Penn's words should stand as a rebuke to the "easygoing christian" and a charge to the faithful.

[1] C.T. Studd: Cricketer & Pioneer by Norman Grubb
Read more ...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ten Indictments

Ten Indictments was delivered by Paul Washer at the 2008 Revival Conference, October 21st - 23rd in Lilburn, GA.

Audio can be downloaded here.

Read more ...

Monday, December 8, 2008

Has Jesus Ever Accepted You Into His Heart?

John Piper tells the story about the first time he was offered an opportunity to speak at his alma mater, Wheaton College.
“It was my first chance in this big, chandeliered, blue, beautiful chapel. And I stood up and said, 'The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.' And all my friends who were up in the balcony just went, 'Oh no, he blew it on his first chance at his own alma mater to speak to these students, coming back after 20 years, and he misquotes the Westminster Catechism right off the bat and says, 'The chief end of God' instead of 'The chief end of man.' And to their great relief I went on to say, 'I really meant that.'"
Well I really meant what I said in the title of this article too. Has Jesus ever accepted you into His heart? You see we get it backward when we ask people this cliché in its original form, “Have you ever accepted Jesus into your heart?” First of all we do not accept Jesus, as if the Almighty needed a review of His worthiness to be accepted by us. Unfortunately this is often the gospel that has been pitched to the unbeliever. “Give Jesus a 60 day trial. If Jesus doesn't change your life then you can get your money back". No, we can only receive the gift of Jesus Christ, and it may only be obtained on His terms.
Secondly, “accepting Jesus into your heart” implies the idea that Christ has come merely to supplement the sinner’s life. We know this to be false. God did not descend from His throne on high to take on the likeness of sinful flesh and lay it down on a Roman cross to one day compliment an already okay life. Jesus Christ had to brake into human history to save sinners that were otherwise hopeless. Without the purchasing power of Christ’s blood there would be no repentance and no faith given to the sinner. And without the imposition and power of the Holy Spirit, no sinner whose heart is desperately wicked would ever choose Him. Jesus did not conquer death so that He could conform to our lives. He has come so that we may be conformed to His. There is only one reason for God needing you and that's to bring you to the place where, in repentance, you've been pardoned for His glory. And in victory you've been brought to the place of death that He might reign.

Finally, while I understand the sentiment and implied theology behind Jesus being invited into the sinner’s heart, it would perhaps be better to cast off all unbiblical evangelical jargon all together. Let us be so consumed with the heart of the Father that the Gospel of the Kingdom of God would flow uninhibited from our hearts upon the ears of the unbelieving.
Oh God accept me into your Kingdom and let me be conformed to your heart!
Read more ...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Preach the Gospel Always, and if Necessary Use Words?

I recently found myself in a sparring match with some friends of a friend on Facebook. My friend had written a note wanting some encouragement about a rather insensitive email that she had received about the “lie” of Christmas. She has good friends because they all were ready to give her the support she needed. However, during the course of the dialogue there was some language that I was not entirely comfortable with. One well meaning friend, I believe, gave some ill-informed advice.
The best way to show you are a Christian is to not argue. Show them through your loving example what being a Christian really means... Actions speak louder then words. Love people to Christ. :)
To which I replied:

Great post Anonymous but I want to take exception on a couple of points. You are correct we should not argue, except when an assault comes against the faith. In which case we are commanded to defend it with great vigor. (Jude 3-4)

Actions can lend credence to your words but they do not speak louder. The best way to love people to Christ is to tell them the truth. That is why Jesus told us to go into all the world and PREACH the Gospel.

This was soon rebutted by another person on the thread who claimed that “Actions will always speak louder than words.” And,
“Arguing and constant defense only continues to perpetuate the negative stigmas christians are viewed with in this day and age. It's not about you're wrong I'm right...it's about loving God and people.”
He later revealed that he chooses not to argue the merits of the Gospel with unbelievers because he does not want to alienate them. I will leave this one alone except to say that the Gospel is an offense to the unbeliever and Jesus tells us this. He says that the Gospel is a sword and that it will turn family and friends against us. The Savior also warns us that unless we love Him more than we love our earthly relationships we are not worthy of the Kingdom of God. So we are to anticipate persecution and we are to expect that we will alienate people. That is the nature of the Gospel.

The following is an unabridged version of my response to these arguments. I trust that the following will be an encouragement to some and a catalyst for others.

I never said that we should not live out the Gospel. Not in the least. 1 John 3:18 says that very thing, "…let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." It is similar to what we see James arguing when he says that faith without works is dead faith. So, in this case it could be said, that preaching without a lifestyle that supports the message may cause the message to be irrelevant to the hearer. We can stand together on that all day long. But deeds without the words are completely worthless. “Loving people to Christ” by doing unendorsed deeds can never convey the Gospel. People who feed the hungry, care for the sick, and build houses for the poor and never share the Gospel have ultimately failed. Sure they offer temporary comfort but in the end these poor hungry people who have been served die in their sin. I can help the proverbial woman across the street a million times but if I fail to tell her about the Gospel what good have I done? It would do her as much good as giving a guy in the electric chair a hand tailored Kiton suit and a $200 haircut.

So again my point is not for apologetic argument and preaching devoid of caring for people. Quite to the contrary, in fact I would say that the most loving thing a person could ever do is preach the Gospel. Sometimes this preaching takes place over a cup of coffee or in an email, sometimes it happens from a soap-box in the middle of the city, and sometimes it is manifest in the defense of the faith. My primary point of contention is this, that actions alone are never enough. It is a mistake to put a cliché like "Actions speak louder than words" above the authority of Scripture. I challenge anyone to find me a single scripture that support such a notion. I can guarantee that I will find you a score of admonitions to preach the Gospel, and preach it using actual words. The idea that we can be defenders of the faith and heralds of the Gospel without opening our mouths is ludicrous. Jesus certainly did not disciple His followers this way. He stood up against the self-righteous people of His day and He did it by proclaiming the Word of God with great authority in the public arena. Peter did this, as did Paul, John, Stephen and a thousand others that were killed for their public defense and proclamation of the Gospel. And we as Christians are called to nothing less than this.

It is my belief that people fall into a "let me show them Christ through my actions" lifestyle because of one of three reasons. The first, which I believe to be the most common, is that ultimately this person is ashamed of the Gospel. The end result of this shame is that the person attempts to pacify their guilt for their shame by doing random acts of kindness. And if we examine this a little further we see what this is in truth, self-righteousness. This person manages to suppress the truth of God and attempts to appease His God by “doing” good things.

The second reason, which I fear most of all, is that the person who fails to be obedient to the Lord’s command to preach the Gospel is self deceived and not truly saved. It has been said that there are only two types of people who truly believe in Hell; those who have been saved from it and those who are suffering in it. And if we as believers truly believed in a place where God’s omnipotent wrath is being poured out continually and eternally on the unrepentant sinner how could we not proclaim the Gospel? What would you say of a fireman who sat idly by and watched as a family burned in their house because he was too busy helping an old lady get her cat out of a tree? You would scream that their blood was on his hands. Sure it was nice of him to help the old lady with her cat but his priorities were completely wrong. And so are our priorities when we choose “do” without the “tell”.

Listen to the Word of the Lord in Ezekiel:
"Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you will surely die,' and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself.”
These words should terrify the passive Christian. Do you hear what this text is saying? It is saying that if you fail to open your mouth about the judgment that is going to be poured out upon humanity that God will hold you accountable. God goes onto say that you will have saved yourself only if you have warned the perishing. I think Spurgeon captured the heart of this text perfectly when he said, “Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that.”

The third reason I think Christians trade the proclamation of the Gospel for social action or “loving them to Christ” may be ignorance to the command of Scripture. But listen, the Great Commission was not upon those alone who stood at the Mount of Olives, it is upon you and upon me. We are all called as ambassadors of Christ and ministers of reconciliation. We are a unique people because we are a kingdom of priests to the Most High GOD.

If you happen to find that you have been living in this third category of ignorance let me serve you notice. You have now just been evicted by truth.

If you find that you are in the first or second category let me plead with you to examine the validity of your salvation. Matthew 7 paints a very grim picture of the judgment of Christ. Jesus tells us that many will come to Him on that day proclaiming Him as Lord and professing the many works that they did in His name. But He will say to them, “Depart from me you worker of iniquity, I never knew you.” Calling Jesus Lord is not enough to enter into the Kingdom of God; it is only he that does the will of the Father that will gain entrance.

You know what is absolutely terrifying? That most of the people that we work with, most of the people we see at the grocery store, and perhaps some of you that are reading this right now will one day hear those very words from the Lamb of God.
I am certain that on that day we will care little about the alienation we may have risked or the offense that we might have caused. And for those whom have we failed to warn, who are even now being cast into everlasting darkness, they will have an eternity to wonder why we did not care enough to open your mouth.
"If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms around their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for." - C.H. Spurgeon.
Read more ...