Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Together For The Gospel: Preaching the Cross

I have just read the TFTG's, Preaching the Cross, this book came out of their conference last year. I am familiar with most of the authors and contributors with the exception of C. J. Mahaney. Yet it was C.J's contribution that blew me away. What I do know about C.J. Mahaney is that he is a bible centred bald preacher, sounds good to me! :) He is a charismatic but is passionate about the word, he is also a Calvinist which probably means he is a mild charismatic.
Anyway, his chapter is called 'The Pastor's Priorities: Watch your Life and Doctrine'
He majors on life because doctrine is dealt with by the other contributors. The chapter has a feel of C. H Spurgeon's The ministers self watch, this is deliberate as Mahaney acknowledges Spurgeon's influence. He points out that many ministers of conservative evangelical churches do love doctrine and love to read, he tells the amusing story of a stampede as ministers rush to get their hands on free material. He argues that ministers (and Theology students, often watch their doctrine but are less likely to watch their life. C. J warns of the dangers of not watching our life at this point I was enjoying the chapter but started to ask the question, how do we watch our life?? Mahaney then went in to self deception, how we can deceive ourselves regarding our sin. He points out that as Calvinists we can acknowledge in general that we along with everyone else on the planet are utterly sinful and needs our sins forgiven in Christ. What is harder and embarrassing to us is our own personal sin. He meets up with elders/other pastors to confess his sins on a regular basis, they all hold each other accountable questioning one another. He acknowledges that this is difficult, that brothers who you hold to be wise and discerning, when they see something in you that you don't will suddenly become fools in your eyes as you try to deceive yourself. He also said to give your wife a gift ask her what three areas she would like to see you grow in, in your relationship with Christ because no-body knows your sinfulness better than her. When I finished reading this chapter I started to pray, saying I knew that I do sin in general but I didn't know what specifics. Very quickly several specifics came into my mind as the Lord laid them on me. I was then able to confess them to God and later to tell Joy my wife about them. This was a refreshing exercise and I would encourage everyone to watch their life!
God Bless
Stephen <><

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

live life to the full

I recently read John Pollock's biography of D L Moody, Pollock writes in such a way that you are transported to the time, and following the great evangelist around. It was interesting to read that John Kennedy the local Free Church Minister in Dingwall at the time was opposed to Moody. This was because Moody wasn't a Calvinist, well so what, Moody was a man who sought to serve Christ with an all consuming passion, he loved Jesus and he loved people and he wanted to live a life that was well lived for the glory of God. It is really easy to disagree with people's Theology and then dismiss the work that God is doing through them. There are some Theological debates worth fighting, at the moment the debate over Penal Substitution is a worth while debate, as those that are opposed to it are in danger of losing the gospel. There are other debates that are not such as dividing over the gifts, I am a secessionist by persuasion but that doesn't mean I need to bite the heads of people who believe in the Gospel, preach the word and believe in the gifts. We are called as Christians to share the good news of God, and we are also called to love another. Moody did both well and got slated by some areas of the church because of it. My Pastor frequently reminds people that Moody lived in such a way that when he was criticized he "kept sweet" and that is what we are to do, yes we can disagree and have theological discussion but don't close your eyes to the work of God when someone doesn't cross your Theological T's.
Keep sweet

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Testimony of a Defrosted Calvinist

Reformed Theology shares its heritage with the reformers and the puritans, it is vital Christianity. It should lead to orthopraxis as well as orthodoxy, right living as well as right doctrine. However a lot of older reformed congregations are stilted, having a tradition that you need to buy into. I found this when I was a young convert, I joined a reformed Church. I was saved and had a passion for Jesus and reaching the lost but I found as a working class guy I didn't fit in with the congregation. I started to conform, not to be transformed to become like Christ but to conform to the churches expectations. Thankfully the church moved buildings and changed. I didn't, I enjoyed the preaching but as I was into Theology I found I started to sit in judgement of everyone's Theology and to sit over the preaching. I had lost my passion for Jesus and was losing my passion for the lost, I had become a Pharisee. In spite of being converted from a non-Christian background, in spite of experiencing grace (unmerited favour), I was starting to count my own orthodoxy as the standard by which everything should be judged.
Praise God a few things happened to move me from my frozen chosen position:
Firstly the book Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper, made me realise that worship was more than singing songs to God. Rather it was having a changed life, a life lived for the glory of God.
Secondly we sang at church; "I'm coming back to the heart of worship" I enjoyed the song but I thought that's great Matt Redman has realised worship isn't just music, its all about Jesus. However it dawned on me that I had done the same thing with Theology, I had replaced Jesus with Theology. Theology is a great tool to learn about Jesus and can aid your relationship with him, like everything else we need to guard against it taking the place of Jesus. I was doing my Theology degree long distance at the time and I prayed that I would give it up and give up the books, it was after all about Jesus. The morning after I read in Acts 17 about Apollos who was a man mighty in the scriptures whom God used to win souls for him. I felt a strong sense that God was giving me back Theology, that I now understood it was all about Jesus. If your heart has grown cold to God, call out to him and he will change you, press the defrost button. John Flavel said, do not look for warm fire underneath cold ice, let God melt the ice and set the flame burning once again.
God Bless
Stephen <><

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Christ soaked Puritianism

I am rediscovering the Puritans. I have just started reading the works of John Flavel, when you think of the word Puritan do you think, dry as dust dour theology? Well that is the image but it is far from the reality. Hear John Flavel:
'What shall I say of Christ? the excelling glory of that object dazzles all apprehension, swallows up all expression.When we have borrowed metaphors from every creature that hath excellency or lovely property in it, till we have striped the whole of creation bare of all its ornaments, and clothed Christ with all that glory; when we have worn out our tongues, in ascribing praises to him, alas! We have done nothing,when all is done. '

Flavel reveals that even the best human ability has to offer in praise to Christ is unworthy to capture Christ's true worth.

I am also currently reading the autobiography of John Bunyan, called Grace Abounding to the chief of Sinners. In this Bunyan tells of his early life, how he lived with little regard for God until he came under conviction of sin. He then tells how he struggled to know that he had indeed found mercy from the hand of God. This is very different to today as we no longer talk about conviction of sin, repentance and obtaining mercy. Bonhoffer called this cheap grace, we have sold our birth right for a bowl of porridge. Evangelicals need to be clear on the worth of Christ and on the Gospel of Christ.

God Bless