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Spurgeon on the Church’s Mission and Entertainment

04/02/2014

Check out what Charles Spurgeon had to say about entertainment in the modern day… I mean… 19th-century church:

 An evil is in the ‘professed’ camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most shortsighted Christian can hardly fail to notice it. During the past few years this evil has developed at an alarming rate. It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments!

The devil has seldom done a more clever thing, than hinting to the Church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them. From speaking out the gospel, the Church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses!

My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the Church. If it is a Christian work why did not Christ speak of it? ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel’.

No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to Him. Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them. Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people, or because they confronted them? The ‘concert’ has no martyr roll.

Again, providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all His apostles. What was the attitude of the apostolic Church to the world? “You are the salt of the world”, not the sugar candy; something the world will spit out, not swallow.

Had Jesus introduced more of the bright and pleasant elements into His teaching, He would have been more popular. When “many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him,” I do not hear Him say, ‘Run after these people, Peter, and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow; something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it! Be quick, Peter, we must get the people somehow!’

No! Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them, but never sought to amuse them!

In vain will the epistles be searched to find any trace of the ‘gospel of amusement’. Their message is, “Therefore, come out from them and separate yourselves from them… Don’t touch their filthy things…” Anything approaching amusement is conspicuous by its absence. They had boundless confidence in the gospel and employed no other weapon.

After Peter and John were locked up for preaching, the Church had a prayer meeting, but they did not pray, ‘Lord, grant unto your servants that by a wise and discriminating use of innocent recreation we may show these people how happy we are’.

No! They did not cease from preaching Christ. They had no time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution they went everywhere preaching the gospel. They turned the world upside down; that is the only difference from today’s church.

Lastly, amusement fails to effect the end desired. Let the heavy laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment had been God’s link in the chain of their conversion, stand up! There are none to answer! The mission of amusement produces no converts!

The need of the hour for today’s ministry is earnest spirituality joined with Biblical doctrine, so understood and felt, that it sets men on fire.

-C.H. Spurgeon

Media-based Convictions.

12/17/2013

Our generation of Christians is in deep trouble if we continue to develop our theology from videos on the Internet, Christian music, and blog posts. This blog post included. We seem to be willing to nod our heads in agreement with anything that has the right amount of pathos. You see, if others have ‘liked’ it, we should too. It’s the herd mentality. We do this without even thinking through things like we should, because we are too lazy, unwilling, or worldly to develop biblical convictions. It may very well be that we’re not aware that we need to. Well, now’s the time to start.

Instead, Christians, we need to depend on the infallible and unchanging Word of God as our sole source and standard of truth. Then, we’ll be able to watch, listen, and read these other things with biblical discernment and use them to help us be molded into the image of His Son.

A Call to Christian Discernment: On “Marriage Isn’t For You” and “A Response to ‘Marriage Isn’t For You'”

11/05/2013

Recently, a blog post entitled “Marriage Isn’t For You” went viral in the blogosphere. In response to that, another post entitled “A Response to ‘Marriage Isn’t For You’” surfaced, which offers a nuanced take on the contents of the original post.

A quote may be appropriate, before we go further: “Now before you start making assumptions, keep reading.” The same I beg of you.

Christians, at least many of those within my social networking circles, have taken a liking to both of these posts. I admit, they present helpful ideas (give them a quick read if you haven’t). Now, in no way am I an expert on marriage– I’m not even married (happily dating, though!). But while reading through and thinking about these two posts, some thoughts have come to mind. These are in no way my form of one-up-manship, but simply a plea with fellow Christians to discernment:

1. Christian marriage certainly involves selflessness. As does the entirety of the Christian life.

The author in the original post sets forth the groundbreaking idea that marriage isn’t for you, it’s “for a family,” “for your future children,” and ultimately “about the person you married.” True. Certainly true.

The Bible calls Christians to “not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil 2:3-4)– not just in the context of marriage, but in all of life. The Bible is full of such instruction toward an attitude of selfless, humble service to others. We’re supposed to be selfless, just like our Lord Jesus Christ.

I’m not trying to supplant the ideas of the original article, because I’m sure many Christians were helped by it. And maybe it’s that his post became so popular because selflessness in today’s world is so unpopular. Regardless, that author’s attitude in the original article is certainly refreshing.

2. Christian marriage is certainly the most intimate human relationship built for the glory of God, but more specifically a picture of Christ and the church.

The author of the “response” post poses somewhat of a correction to the original post– he ends his article by stating, “So, the author had it right: marriage isn’t for you, but it’s not only for your spouse either. Marriage is meant to symbolize the beauty of the human soul espoused to Christ. Marriage is ultimately to bring glory to God” (italics added for emphasis). Again, true.

The Bible calls Christians to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31), and to “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom 12:1). All of life–whatever we do– is for the glory of God. That certainly includes marriage. And page after page in Scripture brings us to the conclusion that we are to humbly love and serve others for the glory of God.

Amen and amen. More specifically, though, than “symbolizing the beauty of the human soul espoused to Christ,” Christian marriage is a picture of Christ and the church. In Ephesians 5, Paul instructs the believing husbands at the church in Ephesus:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

It’s what Christ did for the church. He loved her and gave Himself up for her. He died for the church to sanctify her for Himself. This is what Christian marriage is modeled after. Not simply one human soul loving another human soul, but instead the man loving the woman as Christ loved the church.

According to Scripture, then, husbands are indeed to love their wives selflessly (original article) by intimately participating in their sanctification as fellow believers to the glory of God (“response” article). Bad paraphrasing, I know. The point is though, these two posts do indeed put forth some good ideas. Biblical indeed, and helpful to the Christian IF reasoned from the Scriptures and correctly understood.

3. Pay attention to who writes what you read.

Here’s where I start to take issue. Somewhat to my surprise, the original article was written by a Mormon. It’s clear from his “About” page. The “response” article was written by a Roman Catholic. That’s also clear from his biographical page. I could try to go through their posts and point out where the theology of their religions comes out in their thinking and in their posts, but I won’t. It would be mildly entertaining (at least for me), but it wouldn’t be productive.

I don’t take much issue with the content of either of the posts. In fact, I hope you’ve seen that in some basic ways I affirm what they have to say. I’m sure that to some Christians these posts might even be helpful in similar basic ways.

But you see, beyond those basic ways, the similarity of thinking ends there. Unless it’s Scripture, which finds its divine authorship in God Himself who used human instruments to produce the inspired Scriptures (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:21), we as Christians must consider the source of the things we read and espouse. Even if by a Christian author, we must discern if something is worth reading based on the author’s background, his or her past work, by whom the material was recommended, and maybe even if the topic itself is important (or urgent) enough to spend the time on. This is all somewhat subjective criteria, which makes for some murky water to wade through at times. In such cases (and granted the material is worth the read), we would do well to ultimately hold the ideas, principles, and truth claims in everything we read against the standard of God’s Word. We must be discerning. Ant that’s with a Christian author!

In the case of these two posts, however, this is not the case. The authors are not Christians. Whether or not they would agree with such a statement would be up in the air. Granted, whether or not the authors themselves were posting to be seen as from a “Christian” worldview I am not sure. Clearly, though, the effect has been such– Christians have swallowed the content of these posts whole.

These posts certainly provide some attention-grabbing and convicting counter-cultural advice, but I would plead with Christians to read, principlize, and apply such posts with extremely cautious discernment. Even though these posts present some good ideas, ultimately they are written by the hands of men who preach a different Christ and hold to a different Gospel. Their advice may point you in a good direction, but not in a solid Christian direction. As Christians, we can certainly read these types of posts, and we can even like (and “like” and “share!” and “tweet” them), but in our minds they must not fall in the category of biblical wisdom.

So, whether it be a blog post, a news article from a “Christian” “news source,” or a book: Christians, this is a call to “take up and read” with discernment.

7 Books We’re All ‘Supposed’ to Have Read But Maybe Haven’t

06/04/2013

There are certain books that many Christians ‘assume’ everyone has read, even though that may not actually be the case (I use ‘assume’ loosely here). We may not even have read them ourselves! This assumption is based on the fact that these are great books– ones that have helped confirm and crystallize certain biblical principles or ideas in our faith. They are referenced in conversation, quoted, and can be considered staple reading for Christians. Let’s call them should-reads (as opposed to must-reads). Here are just 7 of them that I could think of:

  1. Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. A hallmark book concerning Christian living on a big-picture/lifetime level. Vivid illustrations and memorable anecdotes are used by Piper to address the true singular meaning of life for the Christian.
  2. Desiring God by John Piper. One of the books that represents Piper’s life work, detailing his theology of Christian Hedonism. Shows heavy influence of Jonathan Edwards in pointing out the reality of affections and desire in the Christian life.
  3. The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur. MacArthur’s exposition against ‘easy-believism.’ Fantastic work on the true, biblical Gospel that perhaps makes it a ‘must-read’ more than a ‘should-read.’
  4. Disciplines of a Godly Man by R. Kent Hughes. Foundational principles presented in this great (and easy) read regarding biblical manhood. Book of a complementary title for women is purportedly just as helpful.
  5. Trusting God by Jerry Bridges. One of Bridges’ best books, which is saying a lot. Great read on how ‘faith works’ amidst life’s trials and blessings by truly trusting Him.
  6. Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper. Highly recommended read for a biblical view of missions and God’s global plan through the Gospel. It’s a worldview-changer.
  7. The Attributes of God by A.W. Pink. An awe-inspiring read on the character and nature of God. Debunks commonly mistaken views of God and works toward a biblical view.

These have been formative in my life and thinking, and I know they have been the same for others as well. What others would you add to this list? Comment below!

“Fun, Joy, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” A GOC Bulletin Devo

03/10/2013

I got the chance to write another bulletin devotional for Grace on Campus this past week.  Here it is:

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory…” (1 Peter 1:8)

As college students in an environment like UCLA, one of the most difficult distinctions to make is that of the difference between fun and joy. The two are often hard to distinguish from one another, since they both generate some level of “happiness” in our lives. While the immediate thought may be that fun is temporary happiness and joy is a longer lasting, even-if-I-don’t-get-good-grades version of that same happiness, the difference between the two is far greater.

The difference is the source. Fun finds its roots in the offerings of this present world. True Christian joy, on the other hand, is anchored in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. It is manifested in the certain gladness and hope we have in Christ’s imminent return, though we do not now see Him.

The implications for the life of the discerning Christian are crucial. While fun often is a result of enjoying the common graces extended to us by God in this life, we must pay careful attention to practice discipline and moderation in all things. If left unchecked, an addiction to fun develops, most likely indicating that the sin of worldliness has taken up residence in one’s life.

Additionally, we must be intentional to cultivate true Christian joy. This is something that is neither automatic nor easy; it requires discipline and humility. We must not try harder and do more to obtain it, but instead prayerfully approach God, ready to willingly submit to God’s Word and remember true joy’s source—our Lord Jesus Christ. In and through this, we will find true joy.

The author of Hebrews describes Moses as a faithful man of God who “consider[ed] the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.” May we be as such!

Movieology

12/26/2012

Christian, don’t let a movie rock your world more than your Bible.

“The Same Old Things,” a GOC bulletin devo

10/20/2012

Here’s the bulletin devo I wrote for Grace on Campus this past Friday:

Our Christian faith is all about the same really old things.  We read our fake-leather-bound copies of a really old book.  We sing age-old hymns with words that make our brains hurt.  We hear sermon after sermon about truths rooted in the history of an ancient people.

The world we live in, on the other hand, is constantly masterminding the next best thing.  It’s in love with anything faster, catchier, and shinier.  Our generation is addicted to the never-ending pursuit of novelty.

So, understandably, a faith that operates on the same centuries-old certainties is utterly ridiculous to the world.  Indeed, the core truths of our faith are contrary to the principles by which the world operates.  In 1 Corinthians 1:18, Paul affirms the contrarian nature of the gospel:

“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

In the verses following, Paul explains and exalts the infinite wisdom of God in sovereignly designing a plan of salvation that shames the supposed wisdom of the world.

The difficulty of the Christian life in our day and age lies in the fact that we too often try to hold onto these conflicting worldviews at the same time.  We rightly embrace the truth of the gospel of Christ, yet we also hold on tight-fistedly to the attractive ways of the world.  Our love for the world competes with our affections for Christ.

In verse 26, Paul instructs the Corinthians to consider their calling in light of the all-wise God’s plan of redemption, which is exactly what we must do.  We must set our wills against this sinful tendency to love the world, and replace worldly influences with things that draw our hearts to a purity of worship and devotion to Christ.  We must regularly sanctify time to consider our calling and set our hearts and minds to pursue Christ wholeheartedly—to pray, read, worship, fellowship, and repeat.  We must faithfully do the same old things.

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