There is no finality to the Christian LIfe this side of eternity. Leonard Ravenhill

Friday, April 29, 2011

Learning From the Faithful: Charles G. Finney

I want to begin posting a classic article from great preachers of the past, hopefully weekly. Our day is a day of forgetting our fathers of the faith, and I want to be sure that we don't. I believe we need more people in our churches who read the writings of men of the past, for within these storehouses are great treasures. Those who have come before us, have wisdom they would impart to us through their books and articles if we would stop and take the time to listen and understand. Don't give up on these classic Christian writings just because they may sometimes be a little difficult to understand. Apply yourself and learn from men and women who knew God. Though they were not perfect in all that they did, just remember that neither are we. We have inconsistencies and shortcomings ourselves. God uses frail, weak men, and then and only then will He get all of the glory. Take some time, stretch your mind, and learn from the faithful.




PREACHING SO AS TO CONVERT NOBODY.

BY PRESIDENT CHAS. G. FINNEY.
THE INDEPENDENT.
NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 7, 1871


The design of this article is to propound several rules by a steady conformity to any one of which a man may preach so as not to convert anybody. It is generally conceded at the present day that the Holy Spirit converts souls to Christ by means of truth adapted to that end. It follows that a selfish preacher will not skillfully adapt means to convert souls to Christ, for this is not his end.

Rule 1st. Let your supreme motive be to secure your own popularity; then, of course, your preaching will be adapted to that end, and not to convert souls to Christ.
2d. Aim at pleasing, rather than at converting your hearers.
3d. Aim at securing for yourself the reputation of a beautiful writer.
4th. Let your sermons be written with a high degree of literary finish.
5th. Let them be short, occupying in the reading not to exceed from twenty to thirty minutes.
6th. Let your style be flowery, ornate, and quite above the comprehension of the common people.
7th. Be sparing of thought, lest your* sermon contain truth enough to convert a soul.
8th. Lest your sermon should make a saving impression, announce no distinct propositions or heads, that will be remembered, to disturb the consciences of your hearers.
9th. Make no distinct points, and take no disturbing issues with the consciences of your hearers, lest they remember these issues, and become alarmed about their souls.
10th. Avoid a logical division and subdivision of your subject, lest you should too thoroughly instruct your people.
11th. Give your sermon the form and substance of a flowing, beautifully written, but never-to-be-remembered essay; so that your hearers will say "it was a beautiful sermon," but can give no further account of it.
12th. Avoid preaching doctrines that are offensive to the carnal mind, lest they should say of you, as they did of Christ, "This is a hard saying. Who can hear it?" and that you are injuring your influence.
13th. Denounce sin in the abstract, but make no allusion to the sins of your present audience.
14th. Keep the spirituality of God's holy law, by which is the knowledge of sin, out of sight, lest the sinner should see his lost condition and flee from the wrath to come.
15th. Preach the Gospel as a remedy, but conceal or ignore the fatal disease of the sinner.
16th. Preach salvation by grace; but ignore the condemned and lost condition of the sinner, lest he should understand what you mean by grace, and feel his need of it.
17th. Preach Christ as an infinitely amiable and good-natured being; but ignore those scathing rebukes of sinners and hypocrites which so often made his hearers tremble.
18th. Avoid especially preaching to those who are present. Preach about sinners, and not to them. Say they, and not you, lest any one should make a personal and saving application of your subject.
19th. Aim to make your hearers pleased with themselves and pleased with you, and be careful not to wound the feelings of any one.
20th. Preach no searching sermons, lest you convict and convert the worldly members of your church.
21st. Avoid awakening uncomfortable memories by reminding your hearers of their past sins.
22d. Do not make the impression that God commands your hearers now and here to obey the truth.
23d. Do not make the impression that you expect your hearers to commit themselves upon the spot and give their hearts to God.
24th. Leave the impression that they are expected to go away in their sins, and to consider the matter at their convenience.
25th. Dwell much upon their inability to obey, and leave the impression that they must wait for God to change their natures.
26th. Make no appeals to the fears of sinners; but leave the impression that they have no reason to fear.
27th. Say so little of Hell that your people will infer that you do not believe in its existence.
28th. Make the impression that, if God is as good as you are, He will send no one to Hell.
29th. Preach the love of God, but ignore the holiness of His love, that will by no means clear the impenitent sinner.
30th. Often present God in his parental love and relations; but ignore His governmental and legal relations to His subjects, lest the sinner should find himself condemned already and the wrath of God abiding on him.
31st. Preach God as all mercy, lest a fuller representation of His character should alarm the consciences of your hearers.
32d. Try to convert sinners to Christ without producing any uncomfortable convictions of sin.
33d. Flatter the rich, so as to repel the poor, and you will convert none of either class.
34th. Make no disagreeable allusions to the doctrines of self-denial, cross-bearing, and crucifixion to the world, lest you should convict and convert some of your churchmembers.
35th. Admit, either expressly or impliedly, that all men have some moral goodness in them; lest sinners should understand that they need a radical change of heart, from sin to holiness.
36th. Avoid pressing the doctrine of total moral depravity; lest you should offend, or even convict and convert, the moralist.
37th. Do not rebuke the worldly tendencies of the church, lest you should hurt their feelings, and finally convert some of them.
38th. Should any express anxiety about their souls, do not probe them by any uncomfortable allusion to their sin and ill-desert; but encourage them to join the church at once, and exhort them to assume their perfect safety within the fold.
39th. Preach the love of Christ not as enlightened benevolence, that is holy, just, and sin-hating; but as a sentiment, an involuntary and undiscriminating fondness.
40th. Be sure not to represent religion as a state of loving self-sacrifice for God and souls; but rather as a free and easy state of self-indulgence. By thus doing you will prevent sound conversions to Christ, and convert your hearers to yourself.
41st. So select your themes and so present them as to attract and flatter the wealthy, aristocratic, self-indulgent extravagant, pleasure-seeking classes, and you will not convert any of them to the cross-bearing religion of Christ.
42d. Be time-serving, or you will endanger your salary; and, besides, if you speak out and are faithful, you may convert somebody.
43d. Do not preach with a divine unction, lest your preaching make a saving impression.
44th. To avoid this, do not maintain a close walk with God, but rely upon your learning and study.
45th. Lest you should pray too much, engage in light reading and worldly amusements.
46th. That your people may not think you in earnest to save their souls, and, as a consequence, heed your preaching, encourage church-fairs, lotteries, and other gambling and worldly expedients to raise money for church purposes.
47th. If you do not approve of such things, make no public mention of your disapprobation, lest your church should give them up, and turn their attention to saving souls and be saved themselves.
48th. Do not rebuke extravagance in dress, lest you should uncomfortably impress your vain and worldly churchmembers.
49th. Lest you should be troubled with revival scenes and labors, encourage parties, pic-nics, excursions, and worldly amusements, so as to divert attention from the serious work of saving souls.
50th. Ridicule solemn earnestness in pulling sinners out of the fire, and recommend, by precept and example, it jovial, fun-loving religion, and sinners will have little respect for your serious preaching.
51st. Cultivate a fastidious taste in your people, by avoiding all disagreeable allusions to the last judgment and final retribution.
52d. Treat such uncomfortable doctrines as obsolete and out of place in these days of Christian refinement.
53d. Do not commit yourself to much-needed reforms, lest you should compromise your popularity and injure your influence. Or you may make some branch of outward reform a hobby, and dwell so much upon it as to divert attention from the great work of converting souls to Christ.
54th. So exhibit religion as to encourage the selfish pursuit of it. Make the impression upon sinners that their own safety and happiness is the supreme motive for being religious.
55th. Do not lay much stress upon the efficacy and necessity of prayer, lest the Holy Spirit should be poured out upon you and the congregation, and sinners should be converted.
56th. Make little or no impression upon your hearers, so that you can repeat your old sermons often without its being noticed.
57th. If your text suggest any alarming thought, pass lightly over it, and by no means dwell upon and enforce it.
58th. Avoid all illustrations, repetitions, and emphatic sentences, that may compel your people to remember what you say.
59th. Avoid all heat and earnestness in your delivery, lest you make the impression that you really believe what you say.
60th. Address the imagination, and not the conscience, of your hearers.
61st. Make it your great aim to be personally popular with all classes of your hearers.
62d. Be tame and timid in presenting the claims of God, as would become you in presenting your own claims,
63d. Be careful not to testify from your own personal experience of the power of the Gospel, lest you should produce the conviction upon your hearers that you have something which they need.
64th. See that you say nothing that will appear to any of your hearers to mean him or her, unless it be something flattering.
65th. Encourage church sociables, and attend them yourself, because they tend so strongly to levity as to compromise Christian dignity and sobriety, and thus paralyze the power of your preaching.
66th. Encourage the cultivation of the social in so many ways as to divert the attention of yourself and your churchmembers from the infinite guilt and danger of the unconverted among you.
67th. In those sociables talk a little about religion, but avoid any serious appeal to the heart and conscience of those who attend, lest you should discourage their attendance, always remembering that they do not go to socials to be earnestly dealt with in regard to their relations to God. In this way you will effectually so employ yourself and churchmembers as that your preaching will not convert anybody.
The experience of ministers who have steadily adhered to any of the above rules will attest the soul-destroying efficacy of such a course, and churches whose ministers have steadily conformed to any of these rules can testify that such preaching does not convert souls to Christ.
*original had two "your your" by mistake

Monday, April 25, 2011

Boldly Pure: Being Christlike In A Polluted Society

Look around at the world that surrounds you, and you will quickly perceive that purity is not in vogue. If you were to go to the average clothing store today you would probably not be able to describe most of the apparel their as pure. If you were to pick up a magazine at the checkout of your local store you would be unable to describe the images as chaste. If you were able to go inside the mind of the average American male you would find that many of his thoughts are anything but pure. Our world is brazenly impure; men, women and even children. Purity is old-fashioned these days. Talk of purity and decency today and you will be labelled a legalist, a puritan, and a bigot.

But as Christians our way of life should be drastically different from the pagan, antichrist culture we are surrounded by. But to often I am afraid that we Christians choose to synthesize our Christianity and the world. But this sort of assimilation is never supported by the Word of God. The Scriptures never tell us to take the Bible and the world and create a hybrid model. Instead the Word says, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father is... To keep oneself unstained from the world." The way I see it, is that this leaves absolutely no room for syncretism.

Pure, was defined by Noah Webster like this,

Pure- 1. Separate from all heterogeneous or extraneous matter; clear; free from mixture...

2. Free from moral defilement; without spot, not sullied or tarnished; incorrupt, undebased by moral turpitude; holy.

We see by these helpful descriptions of Mr. Websters, that to be pure is essentially to be sanctified or separate, from all things that would defile. Purity is really just holiness, and holiness is Jesus Christ. So in essence to be pure is to be Christlike. Christ was always pure in all of His actions and all of His thoughts.
Christ was without any spot or defilement, and He is beckoning to you and I to follow Him.

Purity is not about rules, it's about a person and that person is Jesus Christ. This is not about a list to follow, but a life to follow; the life that Christ lived while on earth. Purity and holiness are what Christ is. It wasn't something He learned to be, these are attributes of His, and the attributes of God are unchangeable.

Before we do anything we must ask ourselves, "Is this Christlike?" Are your thoughts pure, are they Christlike? Are your relationships pure, are they Christlike? Is your dress pure, is it Christlike? Purity is a decision. We must make the choice to be Christlike and not how our flesh and the world would have us to be.

In the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5:8 Christ says, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Notice that Jesus didn't say the pure on the outside, but that the pure on the inside were the blessed ones. He didn't say, "Wear this and you will be pure". Outward facades can be deceiving. Jesus always went to the heart first, and then when one has a pure heart that will in turn affect his outward lifestyle.

There is much I would like to say but for now I will leave at this. What do you think about these things?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Those Little Moments

"Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31

Last month I made a post called "The Monumental Mundane Moments of Life", recently I was listening to a sermon by Paul David Tripp which reminded me of the subject I covered there. He said,
"The character and direction of a life is not set in one or two big moments. The character of a life is set in ten thousand little moments. It's what you have lived in those little moments that shape how you will deal with the big moments of life."
Remember life is in the details.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Seeing Past Christian "Celebrities"

" A system of literature has grown up around the notion that Christianity may be proven by the fact that great men believe in Christ. If we can just get the story of a politician who believes in Christ, we spread it all over our magazines, "Senator So-and-so believes in Christ." The implication is that if he believes in Christ, then Christ must be all right. When did Jesus Christ have to ride on the coattail of a senator?

No, no my brother! Jesus Christ stands alone, unique and supreme, self-validating, and the Holy Spirit declares Him to be God's eternal Son. Let all the presidents and all the kings and queens, the senators, and the lords and ladies of the world, along with the great athletes and great actors-let them kneel at His feet and cry, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty!"   A.W. Tozer

These words of Tozer's written well over half a century ago I believe are as timely as they were in his day. We live, just as he did, in a culture governed by celebrities. Whether it is athletes, movie stars, musicians, intellectuals, or politicians we are told how to live based on the elites opinions. They tell us what clothing we should where, the shoes that should be on our feet, the cars we should drive, the soda we should drink, the tools we should buy, and a host of other things. We gullible Americans then bite their bait and then are yanked around  by our cultures nasty hook.

While it should not surprise us that the world is filled with celebrity worshippers, it should come as somewhat of a shock that "idols" also exist in the world of Christendom. This is a shame to the name of Christ. When we idolize leaders we create an environment of disunity. The Church is supposed to be a community of believers collectively and individually working to advance the Kingdom of God. Be sure to note that, it is God's Kingdom we are to be advancing, not our own.

The Apostle Paul dealt with this very issue in the first chapter of 1 Corinthians. This church was divided and fighting amongst itself. What was the issue? They were quarreling over who it was they were to be following. One said, "I follow Paul", another "I follow Apollos", some said, "I follow Peter" and still others said, "I follow Christ." Paul then stresses rhetorically, "Is Christ divided?" There should not be this continually contentious party spirit within our ranks, the body should be one.

One of the greatest dangers of celebrity worship is graphically recounted again and again in the book of Judges. In this book we have God placing individuals in positions of leadership to guide and direct the nation of Israel. But the reoccurring problem in Judges is that the people only lived a certain way because their current leader commanded it. When the judge would die the people would return to their wickedness. When a new judge would rise up the people would "return to God."

This is the great danger of following after men and not being as the Bereans, searching the Word of God and heeding that Word. When we follow men we do what they do, we wear what they wear, we talk like they talk and essentially become clones of them. And when these men crumble so do we.

Now by way of clarification, I am not saying that we should not honor and respect men and women of God. We just must be sure  that we do not idolize them. When you look at men and women whom you admire, respect them and give them the honor they are due; but take a moment and look over their shoulder for behind them is a big God, to big for definition.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Francis Schaeffer and the Flaming Truth

"Historic Christianity, Biblical Christianity, believes that Christianity is not just doctrinal truth, but flaming truth."  Francis Schaeffer

In light of our recent discussions concerning Peter Enns and the growing concern about Rob Bell's aberrant theology, I found some insights from Francis Schaeffer very interesting. Forty years ago Schaeffer wrote a tiny book called "The Church Before the Watching World", what is intriguing about the small book is that the issues he discusses are identical to the challenges we still face today. Schaeffer spoke of the liberal theology that sprang up in Germany over two hundred years ago, and then evolved over time to give us liberal theologians such as Karl Barth. But the controversies of his day in many ways are still the controversies of our day. We have the same old liberalism just a new package. Read these comments of Schaeffer's written in 1971.

"The real difference between liberalism and Biblical Christianity is not a matter of scholarship but a matter of presuppositions."

"As Christians we say we believe in truth and in the practice of truth, and yet we face much untruth in the visible church. The problem is not new; error was present in the early church when councils were held to combat it. It was present in the medieval church until the Reformation reaffirmed the Biblical faith. And it is present today."

"Men today often take truth to be relative and thus look on Christian doctrine as quite unimportant, it is essential to remind ourselves that God does not look on the situation in the same way."

"In church history a cycle seems to recur: Living orthodoxy moves to dead orthodoxy and then to heterodoxy."

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Square Pegs

Recently Texas Congressman Ron Paul spoke to a group of homeschool advocates in Iowa. He spoke of our governments Department of education officials and their goal of indoctrinating our young people. He said speaking of our public schools, “They don’t educate our kids, they indoctrinate our kids.” He described the government education system as a "propaganda machine.” He praised home educators saying, “What I’ve seen from you is an effort to counteract the propaganda machine...In public education they’re intimidated to be conformists and individuals taught at home are very adapted to expressing what they believe.” He also added his praise for the homeschool movements concern about law and faithfulness to our founding principles, Congressman Paul said, “The best thing that has come out of the home school movement is the respect you’re teaching about the rule of law and our Constitution.”

Homeschool grads can think outside of the box. We are different from our peers in the sense that we have not been reared by the system, that has spoon fed generations of American citizens with godlessness, atheism, humanism and secularism. We were taught that the beginning of all knowledge is the fear of God. We were taught that morals matter and that there is a standard to keep. We were taught that we are not random accidents of evolution,  but were created by a loving God. We were taught that history is not up for interpretation. That America was founded on Christian principles and in many cases by Christian men. Our education as homeschooled students was very different from those who attended the propaganda machine cleverly called a school.

We have been given much, we must not waste it. When our Lord told the parable of the talents there were two  who were faithful and one who was not. Interestingly the unfaithful servant did not squander his talent, he simply did nothing with it. We must not be an unfaithful steward. We must not consider ourselves better than those around us. Don't walk with your nose in the air. Instead take what you have been given and make good use of it. Don't look down on others, use the blessings that you have inherited to bless others.

In a world of round holes be a square peg.

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." 1 Peter 2:9

Ham and Enns: A Case of Biblical Truth and Scrambled Theology

By now most all of the world has probably heard of the controversy concerning Ken Ham being disinvited from the Great Homeschool Convention's Ohio and Pennsylvania conferences. The reason for this decision was Mr.Ham's comments about another speaker, Peter Enns. Ham merely gave the convention attendees a warning about some of Enn's curriculum and the dangerous things that it teaches. Enn's theology has been discussed by many others so I do not wish to give a critique here. But a brief study of Enn's beliefs clearly reveal that he holds to some rather heretical doctrine.

I am not here to defend Ken Ham, he doesn't need it, the Bible does this for him. His views on Genesis are Biblical, historical, and consistent. He has been accused of a wrong spirit and making nasty comments at the South Carolina convention, but I have a hard time believing this. I have seen Ken around half a dozen times at various AiG conferences, homeschool conventions, and the Creation Museum, and he is always gracious to those who differ from him in their beliefs. If some think that it is "nasty" to warn others of unorthodox doctrine,  I believe they would have to correct the Apostle Paul. Paul wasn't afraid to name name's when the situation called for it.

I believe this controversy is a defining crisis for the homeschooling movement. This is really not about a couple of speakers at a conference, this is about a much bigger issue. I see this as a debate not about creation and evolution, or young-earth and old-earth, this is essentially a debate of Biblical authority. Whose word are we going to trust? The clear, obvious, consistent words of Scripture; or the faulty, inconsistent views of man?

We need to take the Word of God and apply it to every single area of our lives. We must apply Biblical principles to our views not only of science, but also history, education, dress, church, gender roles, politics, economics and every other issue that we face.

The homeschool movement is at a crossroads. We stand with two roads before us, the way of man, and the ways of God. Will we make homeschooling merely an admirable educational avenue, or a Biblical one? Will we follow God's Word or our own? I see the need to focus not on homeschooling per se, but on the broader issue of Christian worldview. Within a Biblical framework public school is not really an option, but even further a truly consistent Christian worldview doesn't have room for Enn's style aberrant theology.

This is not about Ken Ham or Peter Enn's, this is about the dependability of God's Word. This is about truth and error. This is about right and wrong. I would encourage all Christian homeschoolers to evaluate their thinking and be very careful to be Biblically consistent in all areas of life. Build on the rock, not on the sand. The rock is not Ken Ham or Answers in Genesis, the rock is Jesus Christ, build on Him.