Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A New Kind of Pastor?
Critiquing again the market-driven churches, Dr. David Wells describes the type of pastors who emerge out of these churches. If one compares Dr. Wells' description of these pastors with passages like I Timothy 3:1-8, II Timothy 3:15-4:2, and Titus 1:6-9 - it should be very clear that the market-driven pastor is not modeled after what God sets forth to be the kind of man He calls to shepherd His sheep:
"Across much of evangelicalism, especially in the market-driven churches, one...sees a new kind of leadership among pastors now. Gone is the older model of the scholar-saint, one who was as comfortable with books and learning as with the aches of the soul. This was the shepherd who knew the flock, knew how to tend it, and Sunday by Sunday took that flock into the treasures of God's Word. This has changed. In its place is the new 'celebrity' style. What we typically see the leader who works by manipulating the feelings of the audience, enhancing his own image with personal anecdotes, modeling himself after the CEO, and adopting a domineering management style. He (usually) is completely results-oriented, pragmatic, happy to employ any technique from the secular world that will produce the desired results. And this leader has to be magnetic, entertaining, and light on the screen up front" [from The Courage to be Protestant: published by Eerdmans; 2008: pg. 40].
Catering to the Customer
What is the driving force behind the market-driven churches? Dr. David Wells offers keen insight in answer to this question from his excellent book, The Courage to be Protestant. Dr. Wells' observations clearly imply the fact that market-driven, seeker-sensitive church models are sadly motivated by what attracts the flesh, rather than exalting Christ and spreading His fame:
"If we are going to market the church and its gospel, where are we going to start? We start, of course, with our customer. What does the customer want? The conventional wisdom is that seriousness is the death knell of successful churches. In an age of entertainment, such as our age is in the West, we have to be funny, engaging, likable, and light to succeed. So, seriousness must be banished. Preserve the taste but the cut the calories.
That is the recipe seeker-sensitive strategists and pastors are following. It is their response to their perception of this changing public, and it matches the change Miller Brewing Company made from regular beer to Miller Lite when Americans became more weight conscious. If Miller can follow the changing habits of American consumers, so can our leading evangelical pastors!
Regular Christianity, many now think, does not go down easy and smooth; Christianity Lite does. A church that is serious, that is still regular...well, what can one say? It will stand out like an organ stop, if that still makes sense now that organs are becoming as rare as dodo birds. And how better to signal the change than by replacing the old-fashioned sermon with a personal chat from a barstool, or by replacing the serious discourse from the pastor with a drama whose very format carries with it a sense of entertainment?
There really is no end to the innovations that are possible as churches think of different ways to attract and accommodate consumers. Some churches, for example, allow those who attend to express themselves on walls devoted to sacred graffiti. Those who come can draw, paint, and sloganize their feelings into life. And how about a table laden with Play-Doh from which to build shapes that express how they are feeling that day? These are the tricks of marketing du jour. This is probably not what Jesus had in mind when he said his Father had hidden truth from the "wise" and revealed it to "little children" (Matt. 11:25)!
One of the ways of making the experience of going to church more pleasant is to offer choice. Consumers want to be able to choose the style of music they hear, the kind of worship they participate in, and to have a say in what they hear from the barstool up front. (The barstool, by the way, is what replaced the Plexiglas stand in many avant-garde churches, which, in turn, had replaced the pulpit.) Having a wide array of choices, after all, is the way the world is going" [pgs. 28-29].

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Taking Time To Dig Deep
Writing in light of Matthew 7:24-27 concerning the wise and foolish builder, John MacArthur observed:
"You can't dig deep if you're in a hurry. You just barely have time for a quickie conversion or lightweight confession. Some people say they are saved before they have any sense that they're even lost. Those who claim Christ legitimately as their own are willing to take time to dig deep. They've thought it through, they've counted the cost. Their profession of faith will not be rejected at the final judgment...Those who come rushing in, but who want out again as soon as you start to lay down the standard for following Christ, are not fit for the kingdom.
Those who dig deep show a desire to give a maximum effort. The easy path always tempts us. Sometimes we make the gospel so easy that it's no gospel at all. We Christians stew about how hard it is to follow up with new converts. One large church in America reported it had 28,000 conversions in a year, baptized 9,600 people, and had 123 join the church. The fact is that 28,000 people weren't saved if only 123 joined the church. The problem is not the difficulty of follow-up; the problem is the difficulty of conversion. We're trying to follow up with people who never were redeemed.
Another characteristic of the man who digs deep is that he's teachable. The Pharisees weren't teachable; you couldn't tell them anything. So many people are like that; they profess Christ but don't want to hear all that true Christianity demands. The call to self-denial, they reject. They hold high their own ideas, goals, and designs. They want to go their way, and when you try to teach the right way instead, they don't want to hear it. It's not because they're unteachable Christians; it's because they're sham Christians.
The one who digs deep empties himself of self-righteousness and self-sufficiency, casts aside his own visions and experiences, and builds on the Word of God for God's glory and not his own" [from Hard to Believe : Thomas Nelson publishers; 2003: pgs. 114-116].

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How do we mortify sin? part four
One of the first great lessons that every Christian should learn about their new life in Christ is that while they are now redeemed they are not yet without sin. In other words, the grace of God has not eradicated every remnant of sin's corruption and effects in their life. With Paul the apostle, we all can say:
"So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members" (Rom.7:21-23).
Here is the Christian life in daily experience. Our reach exceeds our grasp. We strive to follow the desires of our new nature (which is consistent faithfulness to Christ) but we find a roadblock in our way each time. And that roadblock is "the law of sin" housed in our members which works like a gravitational pull on our affections, thoughts, words, and deeds.
So, what are we to do? Are we helpless victims to the downdrag of indwelling sin? Thankfully we're not. For our face off with remaining sin is in God's strength through means of grace He has provided, whereby we can deal sin a mortal blow. This exercise is called "mortification." And for my past three posts I have been unpacking from Scripture the "how to" of mortifying or putting sin to death.
In this present study, we will look at the final means of grace for mortifying sin: it is by fixing our hearts on Jesus Christ. In Hebrews 12:1-2, the writer of Hebrews calls on his fellow Christians to "run with endurance the race that is set before us" - which is the race of Christian perseverance. Or as A.W. Pink (1886-1952) describes it: " is a call to constancy in the Christian profession; it is an exhortation unto steadfastness in the Christian life; it is a pressing appeal for making personal holiness our supreme business and quest." And in this strong call to "run with endurance the race that is set before us," the writer of Hebrews urges us to do two things: first, we are "to lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely" (12:1). This is a call to mortify sin. But the word-imagery used here is powerful. It is that of a runner who would remove anything that would hinder him from winning the race - whether it would be clothing or extra physical weight. Thus, in the Christian race there is nothing that hinders us most than "sin which clings so closely" to us. Hence, we are called to "lay aside" that sin!
But how do we do this? The answer to this question is the second call issued from Hebrews 12:1-2. We "lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely" by "looking to Jesus...the founder and perfecter of our faith." This is another way God gives us to kill sin. We fix our gaze on Christ, who is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
When Hebrews 12:2 says, "looking to Jesus", the verb translated "looking" means "to look away from one thing and to concentrate on another." So, rather than gazing and concentrating on sin and all its allurements - we fix our hearts and minds on Christ, treasuring Him, not only above sin - but above life itself (Phil.3:7-14). He is the goal, the aim, the sustainer, and the keeper of all that we are as His people (Rom.8:29).
In his classic book on the subject of mortification, John Owen (1616-1683) explained the practical outworking and effect of fixing our eyes on Christ as a means for putting sin to death. He noted four applications: First, by faith fill your heart with a right consideration of the provision that God has made in the work of Christ for the mortification of sins. Second, raise up your heart in faith with an expectation of relief from Christ. Third, place your faith particularly upon the death, blood, and cross of Christ; that is, on Christ crucified and slain. Finally, when you meditate upon the death of Christ, keep in mind the power available to us, and your desire to be conformed to Christ.
How often do we really think hard about all that Jesus did by His suffering and dying to save us from our sins? Whenever we are tempted to sin, do we fight to fix our gaze on Christ and remember what He did to kill this sin for us? Do we also remember that by His death we are forever set free from sin's enslaving power, therefore, through Him we have the grace to "lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely to us?" To kill sin is to "look to Jesus." It is to be satisfied in all that He is for us and cast ourselves on all that He has done to liberate us from sin's power.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

How do we mortify sin? part three
When it comes to living the Christian life, God has not left us to figure it out on our own or attempt to make it work by our mere strength. Instead, the Lord has amply supplied His saints with the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, a new nature, and means of grace (like prayer, the Word of God, Christian fellowship, etc.) to sufficiently enable them to live for His glory in all things. And thankfully, such rich supplies for Christian living include what every believer needs to fight, subdue, weaken, and kill the "works of the flesh" (Gal.5:19-21; cf. Rom.7:14-24). In my last two posts we have been considering what "means of grace" God has specifically given us to effectively put sin to death, or "mortify sin" as the old divines would call it. We have observed three specific things: first, we mortify sin by remembering the truth of our death to sin's dominion and our new life in Christ (see Rom.6:1-11; Gal.2:20). Second, we mortify sin by abstaining from fleshly lusts (I Pet.2:11). And third, we mortify sin by making no provision for the flesh (Rom.13:14).
But in addition to these provisions God has made for us to carry out a proficient warfare on sin, we also mortify sin in this way: by saturating our hearts and minds in the Word of God. This can never be said enough: if we are going to kill sin, then we must employ with faithfulness and constancy the Word of God. But what this means practically, is that we must be diligent in the reading, study, meditation, and application of God's Word. We must be what Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) exhorted his own congregation to be: "Walking Bibles!" This means that God's Word must be what governs and rules and shapes our thinking, feeling, conservation, and conduct. Thus when it comes to sin - God's Word must be the final authority to determine for every Christian what sin is and how to deal with it.
So then, we need to be like the psalmist, in Psalm 119:11, "I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." The verb translated "stored up" literally means to "hoard" or "to reserve." The idea in this context of Psalm 119:11, is that we read the Word of God so that we remember and keep close at hand all that it says regarding sin and holiness. We read the Scriptures to remember the Scriptures. Therefore, if we are reading the Bible every once in a while, then it will not be a safeguard against sin. If we read the Scriptures casually, like some cheap novel, then we are setting ourselves up for sin's invasion. To store the Word of God in our hearts, we must be in the Word daily - and we must commit to memory what God's Word says regarding the nature and danger of sin.
But in addition to memorization, there also needs to be meditation on the Word. Again, consider the godly example of the psalmist. In Psalm 1:1-2, we read: "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night." What keeps the godly man from "the counsel of the wicked", "the way of sinners", and "the seat of scoffers"? It is his meditation on "the law of the Lord." He meditates "day and night" on God's Word.
What does it mean to "meditate?" Its basic meaning is to "murmur", "mutter", or "muse" and hence, to speak to one's self. It was used to describe the low growling of a lion after he had trapped his prey (Isa.31:4) or even the cow chewing the cud. Both images capture something that takes a slow and methodical concentration. In the context of the believer meditating on the Bible, he is literally taking selected passages of Scripture, and mulling over them in his mind, vocally repeating them to himself. Moreover, he is asking those passages specific questions.
Of course, to be at the discipline of memorizing and meditating on the Bible takes time, planning, prayer, and strategy in our war on sin. We have to be deliberate and intentional to employ God's Word in the killing of sin. Thus we have to make the time to be in the Word. We also must pray as we come to the Word. We need the Holy Spirit to illuminate our understanding so that we see clearly what the Bible says about sin and how to conquer it. The end result will be developing a firm and godly conviction regarding any particular sin we're fighting. A conviction that goes beyond merely admitting sin is wrong, but actually controlling how we think and feel about the sin in accordance with God's Word.

  © Blogger template 'BrickedWall' by 2008

Jump to TOP