Sunday, July 31

M. Lloyd-Jones on Evangelical Unity

John Stott just passed away 3 days ago at the age of 90. An important and largely positive figure in the church for over half a century, he was also unfortunately part of an attempt to tear down necessary theological walls. At the risk of not being read, I am quoting in it's entirety a December 2005 POST from Guy Davies' blog, Exiled Preacher. The true church has suffered for too long from far too much accommodation. The message of the cross was never meant to "appeal" to the masses. But to hear so many today, one would think that's exactly the point toward which we Christians should be pressing. The opposite it true. Here is one voice presenting a clarion call to resist such compromise. I hope you will take the time to read this entire post. It explains a critical attitude which has prevailed since WW2, one about which all believers in Jesus Christ must be aware. Guy writes: 

2006 Will be the 25th anniversary of the death of Welsh Evangelical leader Martyn Lloyd-Jones. The great preacher has left a controversial legacy behind him. Next year also marks the 40th anniversary of his famous 1966 address to the Evangelical Alliance on "Evangelical Unity". Ironically, that address was the cause of great division in UK Evangelicalism. Much has been written about the events of this period and it is essential to get our facts right.
A Call for Evangelical Unity 

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones had long been concerned about the position of Evangelicals within the mixed denominations. He has been involved in Ecumenical discussions in the 1950’s, and he did not like what he saw. But most Evangelicals were content to remain in their theologically mixed denominations, having fellowship with other Evangelicals through the Evangelical Alliance and other agencies. 

In October 1966 the Evangelical Alliance convened a conference to discuss the issue of Christian Unity. Lloyd-Jones had already expressed his views to leaders of the EA in private. He was given opportunity to speak his mind in public. 

Lloyd-Jones argued that the setting up of the World Council of Churches in 1948 and the whole Ecumenical Movement had created an entirely new situation. The ambition of this movement, he argued is to create “territorial, comprehensive national churches” in which all the denominations could unite. He asked, “Are we content with just being an evangelical wing in a territorial church that will eventually include, and must, if it is to be a truly national and ecumenical church, the Roman Catholic Church?

Lloyd-Jones suggested that it was quite wrong for Evangelicals to be divided from each other by remaining in their denominations. 
You and I are evangelicals. We are agreed about these essentials of the faith and yet we are divided from one another…we spend most of our time apart from one another, and joined to and united with the people who deny and are opposed to the essential matters of salvation. We have our visible unity with them. Now, I say, that is sinful. 
Finally, “the Doctor” urged evangelicals to seize the historic opportunity to come out of their denominations and come together “as a fellowship, or an association, of evangelical churches”. 

Lloyd-Jones’ argument sounded so persuasive that the chairman John Stott was genuinely concerned that Evangelical ministers would leave the Church of England the next morning. He used his position as chairman to flatly contradict what “the Doctor” had said. 
I believe history is against what Dr Lloyd-Jones has said…Scripture is against him, the remnant was within the church not outside it. I hope no one will act precipitately… 
Alister McGrath, in his biography of J. I. Packer, wrote that, “‘the shadow of 1966’ has lingered over English evangelicalism ever since.” He is right, Lloyd-Jones made Evangelicals face up to the challenge of the Ecumenical Movement. Are we only to be a “wing” within this great Movement, or shall we stand together united in the gospel? These matters have become even more urgent with the advent of “Churches Together” - (A UK-wide ecumenical body). We are now in the position of Churches being affiliated to the Evangelical Alliance, the Baptist Union ( a theologically mixed denomination) and Churches Together. Evangelicalism has become just one theological option that is no more or less valid then Catholicism or Liberalism. This is what happens when we fail to think through the challenge of the Ecumenical Movement. 

Lloyd-Jones subsequently withdrew from the Evangelical Alliance and threw his weight behind the BEC. The BEC was founded in 1952 as an Evangelical response to the founding of the WCC in 1948. The founders were T. H. Bendor-Samuel and E. J. Poole-Connor of the FIEC and representatives of Evangelical Presbyterian Churches in Scotland and Ireland. The BEC was robustly anti-ecumenical, but also stood for Evangelical unity. The BEC was re-launched as Affinity in 2004. 

A Call for Separation 

A call to secede from the denominations was implicit in Lloyd-Jones’ 1966 call for Evangelical unity. In 1967, the Doctor gave the main address at the BEC Conference on “Martin Luther and his message for today.” He challenged Evangelicals who had wavered over their involvement in the denominations to consider their position. 
So I close with an appeal. The position round and about us is developing rapidly. The ecumenical movement is advancing day by day, and it is traveling in the direction of Rome. But it is not only heading to Rome, it is heading towards an amalgamation of so-called world religions, and will undoubtedly end as a great World Congress of faiths… 

What then are evangelicals to do in this situation? I reply by saying that we must heed a great injunction in Revelation 18:4: ‘Come out of her my people!’ ‘Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.’ Come out of it! But also come together into an association such as the BEC that stands for the truth and against compromise, hesitation, neutrality and everything that ministers to the success and plans of Rome and the ecumenical movement. Come out; come in! 
But Lloyd-Jones’ call was not heeded by all evangelicals. 

A Policy of Evangelical Integration 

In 1967 the first National Evangelical Anglican Congress met in Keele. John Stott was conference chairman. Stott, who, as we have seen, publicly disagreed with Lloyd-Jones in 1966, was determined that Evangelical Anglicans be fully involved in their denomination. Prior to the conference he set out his agenda: 
It is a tragic thing, however, that Evangelicals have a very poor image in the Church as a whole. We have acquired a reputation for narrow partisanship and obstructionism. We have to acknowledge this and for the most part we have no one but ourselves to blame. We need to repent and change. 
The Liberal, Anglo-Catholic Archbishop Ramsey was invited to address the conference. He told these Evangelicals that they should put experience before doctrine and that they should turn their backs on their old exclusive stance. The Archbishop stated that, “We are all called as Christians and as Anglicans we should be learning from one another.” 

The Conference responded to this call and accepted that all who were involved in ecumenical dialogue “have the right to be treated as Christians.” John Lawrence, who had long worked for a change of attitude among Evangelical Anglicans was well satisfied with the result: 
Now this wall is down Evangelicals will be heard in a new way, but this would not have happened if they had not shown that they are now ready to listen to others. 
As Lloyd-Jones had warned, this policy meant that Evangelicals had reduced themselves to being a mere wing in the great ecumenical project. Can we be content with that? Is it right to assume that Liberals who deny the virgin birth and resurrection of Christ “have the right to be treated as Christians?” 

We Stand alone Together! 

The attitude of Evangelicals to the ecumenical project is one of the pressing issues that we have to face in the 21st Century. Our stance should be that of the US 101st Airbourn Division, immortalised in the Band of Brothers TV series, "We stand alone together".

Saturday, July 30

The Church & the World--No Compromise!

When will the true Church ever get it through her head, there can be no coming together with the world? The message of the cross is foolishness to the world, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1. That hasn't changed one bit. When the Church proclaims the truth as she ought, it intersects the world, and runs contrary to her. It condemns, it does not condone. The Gospel does not have to be spoken in an ugly manner for this to happen. It is simply the nature of the truth that it exposes lies. And people will not like that. Until the Spirit opens the eyes of any human, they will always view the truth in such a light. Let the Spirit open the eyes and all things change! We who love Jesus Christ, love the cross of Jesus Christ, also love the message of the cross. It is such a message the world must hear if she is to be saved from total destruction. It the message we had to hear as well. Listen to Tozer's take on this:

Therefore "Come out from among them and be separate," says the Lord. "Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you." --2 Corinthians 6:17

The church's mightiest influence is felt when she is different from the world in which she lives. Her power lies in her being different, rises with the degree in which she differs and sinks as the difference diminishes.

This is so fully and clearly taught in the Scriptures and so well illustrated in Church history that it is hard to see how we can miss it. But miss it we do, for we hear constantly that the Church must try to be as much like the world as possible, excepting, of course, where the world is too, too sinful....

Let us plant ourselves on the hill of Zion and invite the world to come over to us, but never under any circumstances will we go over to them. The cross is the symbol of Christianity, and the cross speaks of death and separation, never of compromise. No one ever compromised with a cross. The cross separated between the dead and the living. The timid and the fearful will cry "Extreme!" and they will be right. The cross is the essence of all that is extreme and final. The message of Christ is a call across a gulf from death to life, from sin to righteousness and from Satan to God.

The Set of the Sail, 35,36.

Friday, July 29

John Piper, How to Recognize a Wolf-In-The-Making

The following is from John Piper via Adrian Warnock's BLOG. Thanks to Adrian for selecting this quotation. It is indeed appropriate for these days! We had better listen to the wisdom in these words.
Adrian wrote:

This quote might be old, but it is bang up to date!
Let me just mention one feature to watch out for in the recognition of wolves. As I have watched the movement from biblical faithfulness to liberalism in persons and institutions that I have known over the years, this feature stands out: An emotional disenchantment with faithfulness to what is old and fixed, and an emotional preoccupation with what is new or fashionable or relevant in the eyes of the world.
Let’s try to say it another way: when this feature is prevalent, you don’t get the impression that a person really longs to bring his mind and heart into conformity to fixed biblical truth. Instead you see the desire to picture biblical truth as unfixed, fluid, indefinable, distant, inaccessible, and so open to the trends of the day.
So what marks a possible wolf-in-the-making is not simply that he rejects or accepts any particular biblical truth, but that he isn’t deeply oriented on the Bible. He is more oriented on experience. He isn’t captured by the great old faith once for all delivered to the saints. Instead he’s enamored by what is new and innovative.
A good elder can be creative. But the indispensable mark when it comes to doctrinal fitness is faithfulness to what is fixed in Scripture—disciplined, humble submission to the particular affirmations of the Bible—carefully and reverently studied and explained and cherished. When that spirit begins to go, there’s a wolf-in-the-making.
via Pastors, How to Recognize a Wolf-In-The-Making – Desiring God.

Wednesday, July 20

A Word for the Downcast

So many hurting souls within the bounds of Christianity. This is normal. And it is varied. That is, some may bring trouble on themselves by habitually living outside the bounds of God's will. There are consequences for that. Others, however, may be trying to walk the pilgrim life and still feel aches in their soul, depressions, rejections, etc. What are we to do with these? Sometimes we need an encouraging word. That's all. We're not going to abandon the faith or give up on God. No, we just need once in a while to hear a word of affirmation from the Savior. Alas, I hope that His word is enough for us! Hear this very helpful word from Charles Spurgeon. I simply love this text. If you're not familiar with it, I hope you'll fall in love with it as well.        
“A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench.”
         — Matthew 12:20

What is weaker than the bruised reed or the smoking flax? A reed that groweth in the fen or marsh, let but the wild duck light upon it, and it snaps; let but the foot of man brush against it, and it is bruised and broken; every wind that flits across the river moves it to and fro. You can conceive of nothing more frail or brittle, or whose existence is more in jeopardy, than a bruised reed. Then look at the smoking flax—what is it? It has a spark within it, it is true, but it is almost smothered; an infant’s breath might blow it out; nothing has a more precarious existence than its flame. Weak things are here described, yet Jesus says of them, “The smoking flax I will not quench; the bruised reed I will not break.” Some of God’s children are made strong to do mighty works for him; God has his Samsons here and there who can pull up Gaza’s gates, and carry them to the top of the hill; he has a few mighties who are lion-like men, but the majority of his people are a timid, trembling race. They are like starlings, frightened at every passer by; a little fearful flock. If temptation comes, they are taken like birds in a snare; if trial threatens, they are ready to faint; their frail skiff is tossed up and down by every wave, they are drifted along like a sea bird on the crest of the billows—weak things, without strength, without wisdom, without foresight. Yet, weak as they are, and because they are so weak, they have this promise made specially to them. Herein is grace and graciousness! Herein is love and lovingkindness! How it opens to us the compassion of Jesus—so gentle, tender, considerate! We need never shrink back from his touch. We need never fear a harsh word from him; though he might well chide us for our weakness, he rebuketh not. Bruised reeds shall have no blows from him, and the smoking flax no damping frowns.

Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening : Daily Readings, Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006).

Friday, July 15

Suffocated by Generalities

With a doff of my cap to those who read Tozer's daily devotional, I am compelled to quote today's entry in it's entirety. It is simply too appropriate to overlook. It is way too easy for us (Pastors included) to sink in the mire of generalities when it comes to living the Christian life. We may be able to answer many biblical questions, but that does not mean that we understand or love the Lord Jesus. Knowledge is no doubt vital, but never was it meant to die in the pit of objectivity. Each truth is meant to introduce us to God in a more exact, might I say, intimate manner? See what Tozer says and ask if this does not apply to you. 

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  --Hebrews 11:1

The voice of unbelief says, "Yes, I'm a believer. I believe the Bible. I don't like those modernists, liberals and modern scientists who deny the Bible. I would not do that for the world. I believe in God, and I believe that God will bless." That is, He will bless at some other time, in some other place and some other people. Those are three sleepers that bring the work of God to a halt. We are believers and we can quote the creed with approval. We believe it, but we believe that God will bless some other people, some other place, some other time-- but not now, not here and not us....

If we allow the gloomy voice of unbelief to whisper to us that God will bless some other time but not now, some other place but not here, some other people but not us, we might as well turn off the lights because nobody will get anywhere....

The average evangelical church lies under a shadow of quiet doubting. The doubt is not the unbelief that argues against Scripture, but worse than that. It is the chronic unbelief that does not know what faith means.

Rut, Rot or Revival: The Condition of the Church, 152,157.

Tuesday, July 12

Are Our Church Leaders Pray-ers?

We in our church were concerned about the very thing that Tozer addresses below, even going so far as to moving the prayer meeting from Wednesday evening to Sunday . . . PRIME TIME! It was vital that we have our Elders, as well as others at prayer. Let me tell you my justification for moving the meeting. It dawned on me that prayer in Scripture was never considered a "program" of the church; it was what churches did. It's part of their DNA. Thus, I submitted to the church in a sermon that we must not view it thusly. Those who do see prayer (in effect) as yet another program of the church may treat it like they may a program and opt out of it. Prayer, we often repeat, is the engine that drives the church. Sadly, this must mean that many churches are barely able to get out of their driveway! This much I knew, whatever else we do as a church--WE MUST PRAY. Wherever we fail, it must not be in prayer--WE MUST PRAY! So, if at all possible (jobs, emergencies, etc.) we must see it not as our forced duty but as our nature, our privilege to pray as a church. WE MUST PRAY!

Please read this entry from A. W. Tozer for a possible scenario in (I hope not, but am afraid is true) many churches.  
But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word. --Acts 6:4
Well, we have great churches and we have beautiful sanctuaries and we join in the chorus, "We have need of nothing." But there is every indication that we are in need of worshipers.

We have a lot of men willing to sit on our church boards who have no desire for spiritual joy and radiance and who never show up for the church prayer meeting. These are the men who often make the decisions about the church budget and the church expenses and where the frills will go in the new edifice.

They are the fellows who run the church, but you cannot get them to the prayer meeting because they are not worshipers....

It seems to me that it has always been a frightful incongruity that men who do not pray and do not worship are nevertheless actually running many of the churches and ultimately determining the direction they will take.

It hits very close to our own situations, perhaps, but we should confess that in many "good" churches, we let the women do the praying and let the men do the voting.

Because we are not truly worshipers, we spend a lot of time in the churches just spinning our wheels, burning the gasoline, making a noise but not getting anywhere.

Whatever Happened to Worship?, 16-17.

Saturday, July 9

Of Famine, Painting, and Soul Profit

Those used to reading my blog will have noticed that . . . well . . . there's been a famine in the land!! On a bit of an unexpected leave. Nothing big. Painting our house--the exterior--has taken up much of my creative juices. They were somewhat diverted into ladder climbing, scraping, brush cleaning, did I say scraping? And, oh, yes, painting too. Well, it served a useful purpose. It kept me from learning too much which according to the following words of Thomas 'A Kempis is a good thing! Imagine that!? Don't learn too much. OK, here's what he says:
Rest from inordinate [there's a clue] desire of knowledge, for therein is found much distraction and deceit. Those who have knowledge desire to appear learned, and to be called wise. Many things there are to know which profiteth little or nothing to the soul. And foolish out of measure is he who attendeth upon other things rather than those which serve to his soul's health. Many words satisfy not the soul, but a good life refresheth the mind, and a pure conscience giveth great confidence towards God. Many words satisfy not the soul, but a good life refresheth the mind, and a pure conscience giveth great confidence towards God.
Did I repeat that last sentence? OK, well, if we are not to learn, then repetition is that much more vital. Right? So, the house is not quite completed, but at least it doesn't appear half done. That's good. My wife's and my bodies are feeling the exercise. My nearly 6 decade-old flesh feels it, but I'm thankful for being able to do such. Words alone do not refresh, but the living WORD does always meet us however and wherever we are.

What "diversion" has helped to ground your soul recently? Oddly, in a culture besot with distractions, strategic diversions might just be the ticket to soul health. Go, and climb a ladder and see what happens to you!