Sermon Sunday – C.H. Spurgeon – Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?

September 29, 2013 at 1:51 pm | Posted in Sermon Sunday | Leave a comment
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Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats

C.H. Spurgeon

An evil is in the professed camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence that the most shortsighted can hardly fail to notice it. During the past few years it has developed at an abnormal rate, even for the evil. 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 her mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view of winning them. From speaking out as the Puritans did, 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 ye….” into all the world and speak the Gospel to every creature. That is clear enough. So it would have been if He had added, “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. Then again, “He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers…for the work of the ministry.” Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them. Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people or because they refused? The concert has no honor roll.

Again, providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all of His apostles. What was the attitude of the Church to the world? “Ye are the salt,” not the sugar candy….something the world will spit out, not swallow. Short and sharp was the utterance: “Let the dead bury the dead.” He was in awful earnestness!

Had Christ introduced more of the bright and pleasant elements into His mission, He would have been more popular when He and His disciples went back, because of the searching nature of His teaching. I do not hear Him say, “Run after these people, Peter, and tell them we will have a new kind 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!” 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, “Come out, keep out, keep clean out!” Anything approaching fooling is conspicuous of 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 Thy servants that by a wise and discriminating use of innocent recreation we may show these people how happy we are.” If they had ceased not for preaching Christ, they had not time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution, they went everywhere preaching the Gospel.

They “turned the world upside down.” That is the only difference! Lord, clear the Church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her, and bring us back to apostolic methods.

Lastly, the mission of amusement fails to effect the end desired. It works havoc among the young converts. Let the careless and scoffers, who thank God because the Church met them halfway, speak and testify. Let the heavy-laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment has been God’s link in the chain of his conversation, stand up! There are none to answer. The mission of amusement produces no converts. The need of the hour for today’s ministry is believing scholarship joined with earnest spirituality, the one springing from the other as fruit from the root. The need is Biblical doctrine, so understood and felt that it sets men on fire.

 

Worthy of Christ?

September 25, 2013 at 7:15 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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I haven’t studied every single bit of church history (yet), nor have I listened to/read every sermon ever preached or every heresy explained. However, having said that, it seems to me that the majority (if not all) of the heresies and false doctrines stem from a misunderstanding of either God, man, or both.

God is sovereign. He is completely sovereign. There is nothing that happens that is outside His rule or control. Not one electron from one atom spins around its nucleus without His permission. Not one planet light years away rotates around it’s star without His allowing it to happen. No choices, actions, or events can take place without Him either allowing them or causing them. He is sovereign.

Man is not sovereign, although many seem to think they are. Man’s default position is selfish arrogance. When scripture describes man it is never in good terms. Man is a sinner (Romans 3:23). He is a son of disobedience and the wrath of God abides on him (Eph. 5:6). Contrary to popular belief, he doesn’t have free will. Scripture says that man is either a slave of sin (John 8:34) or a slave of Christ (Romans 6:14-22). He does not desire to come to Christ (John 3:19-20) nor does he have the ability to do so (John 6:44). The wickedness and evil of men is so heinous that God has declared that men who die in their sins will spend eternity in hell.

And yet, in many churches, people are taught that they’re not that bad. They’re not really dead in sin, they’re just sorta dead. They’re depraved, but not enough for them to be hindered from freely choosing God without His influence. There are others who try to build up and encourage without the backing of scripture (think Joel Osteen and Robert Schuller). They talk about how people are beautiful, how people are good, how they are worth dying for.

The problem is, that’s not what scripture says! We AREN’T worth dying for! That’s the whole point of the gospel! While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)! While we shook our fists in rebellion against Him, while we spent the very breath He gave us to blaspheme His name, while we had evil thoughts and broke His Law, HE STILL DIED FOR US! How much more glorious a Savior who dies for those who are severely unworthy? How much more forgiving and loving is a Savior who laid aside His glory, poured Himself into human flesh, and then died on a cross in the place of those who were so wicked that they cheered His death?

If we are worthy of Christ’s death, then God owed us something in Christ’s death on the cross. The glory no longer belongs to the Lamb of God. It belongs to the one who was worthy of His death. The majesty of Christ is diminished in the face of the outstanding individual who somehow merited Christ’s death.

Praise God for a Savior who loved me in spite of myself and who died for my sins even when I hated Him. God knows that I would have hit the nails harder than the soldiers ever could, and yet….

Duty of Pastors (excerpts)

September 22, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Posted in Sermon Sunday | Leave a comment
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The first and principal duty of a pastor is to feed the flock by diligent preaching of the word.

This is by teaching or preaching the word, and not otherwise. This feeding is the essence of the office of a pastor, as to its exercise; so that he who does not, or cannot, or will not feed the flock is no pastor, whatever outward call or work he may have in the church. The care of preaching the gospel was committed to Peter, and through him to all true pastors of the church, under the name of “feeding.” (John 5:21:15-17) According to the example of the apostles, they are to free themselves from all encumbrances, so that they may give themselves wholly to the word and prayer. (Acts 6:1-4) Their work is “to labor in the word and doctrine,” (1Tim 5:17); and thereby to “feed the flock over which the Holy Ghost has made them overseers,” (Acts 20:28) and it is what is given everywhere to those in charge.

But for men to pretend to be pastors of the church, and to be unable for, or negligent of, this work and duty, is to live in open defiance of the commands of Christ. We have lived to see and hear of reproachful scorn and contempt thrown upon “laboring in the word and doctrine.” (1Tim 5.17) All manner of discouragements are given, endeavoring to suppress it in a number of instances. Indeed, some have gone so far as to declare that the work of preaching is unnecessary in the church. That would reduce religion to the reading and rule of the liturgy. The next attempt, I suspect, might be to exclude Christ himself from their religion. That is what denying the necessity of preaching the gospel lead s to; indeed it makes good progress toward it.

A number of things are required for this work and duty of pastoral preaching, such as,

(1.) Spiritual wisdom and understanding in the mysteries of the gospel, so that they may declare to the church “all the counsel of God” and “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” (Acts 20:27) The majority of the church, especially those who are grown in knowledge and experience, have a spiritual insight into these things. The apostle prays that all believers might have it. (Eph. 3:8-11) But if those who instruct them, or were to do so, do not have some degree of eminence in it, they cannot be useful to lead others on to perfection. The little care or concern for this, has rendered the ministry of many a preacher both fruitless and useless in our days.

(2.) Experience of the power of the truth which they preach, in and upon their own souls. Without this, they will be lifeless and heartless in their own work; and their labor for the most part will be unprofitable to others. It is attended to by such men, as a task for their advantage, or as something that carries some satisfaction from the ostentation and supposed reputation that accompany it. But a man preaches only that sermon well to others which preaches itself in his own soul. The man who does not feed on and thrive by digesting the food which he provides for others, will hardly make it savory to them. Indeed, he does not know if the food he has provided may be poison, unless he has really tasted it himself. If the word does not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us. No man lives in a more woeful condition than those who do not really believe themselves what they persuade others to believe continually. The lack of this experience of the power of gospel truth on their own souls is what gives us so many lifeless, sapless orations, quaint in words, and dead in power – instead of preaching the gospel in the demonstration of the Spirit. Let anyone say what they please, it is evident that some men’s preaching, as well as others’ not-preaching, has lost the credit of their ministry.

(3.) Skill to divide the word rightly; (2Tim 2:15) this consists in a practical wisdom, by diligent attendance to the word of truth, to discover what is real, substantial, and fit food for the souls of the hearers – to give to all sorts of persons in the church their proper portion. And this requires,

(4.) A prudent and diligent consideration of the state of the flock over which any man is set, as to their strength or weakness, their growth or defect in knowledge (the measure of their attainments requiring either milk or strong meat), their temptations and duties, their spiritual decay or thriving – not only generally but, as near as possible, with respect to all the individual members of the church. Without a due regard for these things, men preach randomly, fighting uncertainly, like those who beat the air. (1Cor 9.26) Preaching sermons that are not designed to benefit those to whom they are preached; insisting on general doctrines that are not adjusted to the condition of the hearers; speaking words without considering whether those words ought to be said – are all things that will make those whose minds do not have obvious advantages, weary of preaching; and they will make others weary simply by hearing them.

(5.) All of these, in the whole discharge of their duty, are to be constantly accompanied with the evidence of their zeal for the glory of God and compassion for the souls of men. If these are not vigorously exercised in the minds and souls of those who preach the word, demonstrating themselves to the consciences of those who hear them, then the quickening form, the life and soul of preaching, is lost. When men undertake the pastoral office, and either judge that it not their duty to preach, or are not able to do so, or they attempt it only on solemn occasions, or attend to it as a task required of them, but they lack that wisdom, skill, diligence, care, prudence, zeal, and compassion which are required for it, the glory and usefulness of the ministry will be utterly destroyed.

When men undertake the pastoral office, and either judge that it not their duty to preach, or are not able to do so, or they attempt it only on solemn occasions, or attend to it as a task required of them, but they lack that wisdom, skill, diligence, care, prudence, zeal, and compassion which are required for it, the glory and usefulness of the ministry will be utterly destroyed. It belongs to their charge and their office to diligently labor for the conversion of souls to God. The ordinary means of conversion is left to the church, and the church’s duty it is to attend to it. Indeed, one of the principal ends of the institution and preservation of churches is the conversion of souls. When there are no more to be converted, there shall be no more church on the earth. To enlarge the kingdom of Christ, to diffuse the light and savor of the gospel, to be subservient to the calling of the elect, and to gather all the sheep of Christ into his fold, are things that God designs by his churches in this world. Now, the principal and instrumental cause of all these things is the preaching of the word; and this is committed to the pastors of the churches. It is true, men may be (and often are) converted to God through the occasional dispensation of the word by those who are not called to office. For it is the gospel itself that is the “power of God for salvation,” (Rom 1.16) whoever it is administered by.

The ministers who have been most celebrated, and deservedly so in the last ages, in this and in neighboring nations, have been such that God made their ministry eminently successful for the conversion of souls.

Thoughts on 9/11

September 11, 2013 at 6:52 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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12 years ago today, our nation was rocked to it’s foundation by the actions of a few (although more could have been unknowingly thwarted) Muslims who hijacked planes and flew them into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center (WTC). Many of us have heard stories throughout the day remembering that tragic day. Many will watch documentaries and dramas tonight recounting the harrowing tales of those who survived the death and destruction. It is good to do these things. We must remember the tragedies that we’ve suffered else we get too full of ourselves. But, having done some of these things today, I have to ask a question that I think is very important.

What have we learned?

Is today just another quasi-holiday where we go through the motions of mourning and remembering? Is it another day where we hold special events to “honor” those who were killed? Is it a day where we give a reassuring hug to those who survived and then move on with the rest of our day? If that’s all that September 11th has become, then I have to say that I’m both sad and concerned.

I think it may be safe to say that September 11th, 2001 was the largest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor took place. No one would dare attack Americans on their home turf, right? No country would be stupid enough to bring the fight to us, would they? No group, organization, or faction would actually consider harming us in our own cities and towns, would they? You know the answer: Yes, they would. And they did. The safety of the American shorelines had been broken and Muslims had brought their hatred for the West to the very place they could do the most damage. We were complacent. We believed that we had done all that was needed to remain safe and that bubble of protection couldn’t be breached.

We were wrong.

The attack was quick and deadly, just like Pearl Harbor. But, I have to go back to my question. What have we learned? What about Pearl Harbor or 9/11 have we learned that will allow us to be safer? What have we learned about life? What have we learned about God? What have we learned about ourselves? 12 years later, I would have to say that we’ve learned almost nothing. What makes matters worse is that it seems that we’ve ignored some of the easiest lessons we SHOULD have learned. Nowadays, Islam is a protected religion. If anyone says anything about the Muslim faith or what it means practically, they’re labelled Islamophobes. It doesn’t matter if what they say is true. the Quran makes it clear that there is a war going on between Muslims and non-Muslims and it won’t end until the non-Muslims are converted or killed. But, that’s not tolerant, is it? Instead, our nation has turned a blind eye to the truth of Islam in an effort to appease those who follow it while Christians are having their liberties stripped from them on a daily basis by Muslims, homosexuals, and other anti-Christian groups. I wonder if that’s because they know that Christians won’t kill them because of it?

After the attacks, life was precious to us. The loss of life was seen for what it was and the 2,974 people who lost their lives were respected and honored. Their lives were valuable. But now? They are names on a monument. They are blips on the periphery of our tunnel vision and we hardly hold them in our minds and hearts. We’re too busy googling Miley Cyrus’ new music (porn) video. Just as our fear and humility was raised to a new level immediately after the attacks, so too was our value of life. And a dodecade later (yes, I made that word up), we gasp and weep at the children killed by chemical weapons in Syria while we murder 3,000 children every day in the name of choice. I think our double standard is showing.

Are we safer now? I think the words “Boston Marathon bomber” should be enough of an answer. We had information on the bombers and we did nothing with it. In the last 12 years, we’ve become numb to the pain we all experienced on 9/11. It’s been forgotten and replaced by a shallow, superficial tweaking of our emotions (except for those who were in it). We feel differently as the images dances before us taking us back to that day, but it’s a fleeting wisp of emotion that does nothing to motivate us. How do I know this to be true? Simple. Right after the attacks, large numbers of people flocked to churches across the nation. Politicians “prayed” in public. God’s name was invoked (in vain) as we worked through this tragedy. And within 3 weeks, church attendance had dropped to almost where it had been before the attacks. Are we so fickle and self-centered? Are we so sin-hardened that we think that we can run to God when we face troubles and then go back to our “normal” lives once the danger has passed? Has God become our genie in a bottle that grants us what we wish on our command and who is otherwise kept in his small decorative bottle until we need something from Him again? Are we so arrogant?

I think over the time since the attacks, what we have learned about ourselves is most apparent. We have increased our rebellion against God. We have elevated ourselves to the point that we’re entitled to everything that we think will make us happy without having to lift a finger to earn it. We have put entertainment and sports above all else and have forgone all knowledge and shame. Our lusts and passions have consumed us to the point that common sense and conscience are ignored.

The saddest part of all of this is the fact that it’s really hard to tell the church apart from the rest of the world. We’ve increased our rebellion against God. We’ve rejected His truth and His Word for our own idolatrous images. They may not be wood or stone, but they’re idols nonetheless. We’ve elevated ourselves to the height of arrogance. We think that we’re little gods and that we can command God to act on our behalf. We think that our way of preaching, teaching, singing, or “doing church” is the best way; even though God has laid out in His Word the way things are to be done. We think that we’re entitled to God’s blessing without having to be changed. We can sin against God and others with no repercussions. There’s no honesty or humility anymore. It’s all about image. We’ve replaced expositional preaching and sound Biblical doctrine with business methods, catchy message titles, games, entertainment, sports, and pastors who dress as Batman, Spiderman, Elvis, or a Transformer. We spend much time being busy in the church, but what do we have to show for it? Have our lives glorified God? We think we’re invincible. We’ve come to the “altar”, said the prayer, shed some tears, signed a card, and said “Jesus is Lord”; so we’re good, right? That’s all that’s necessary, isn’t it? There doesn’t have to be any life change. There isn’t any true fellowship necessary. There isn’t any honest look at our words or actions. As long as our facade is without spot and no one knows the truth about us, we’re good.

Is this really how things are supposed to be? Are we supposed to be about cliques, seekers, health, wealth, denomination, church membership, or any of the other myriad things that have become milestones for the modern Christian? Have the words of the Lord just become a soft echo in the back of our mind? Have we learned nothing in the last 12 years? 2,974 people died on 9/11. How many were born again? How many had repented of their sins and put their faith in Christ alone to save them? How many knew without a doubt that, as their life passed out of their grasp that day, they would stand before the glorious Savior who shed His precious blood for their sins and made them whole? How many sad goodbye that day knowing that they would one day be reunited around the throne of God worshipping the Lamb forever? How many entered eternity to stand before the holy, just Judge of the earth? How many heard the thundering voice of many waters condemn them for their sins? How many watched as the eyes of fire searched their soul and saw every hidden sin? How many felt their knees weaken as the weight of the wrath of God weighed them down? How many listened as the Lord of all proclaimed that He never knew them?

Today, our nation is filled with people who seem more concerned with what people say (including themselves), regarless of whether it is true. Many claim to be Christians, and yet they live in sin. They commit fornication, adultery, idolatry, covetousness, and numerous other sins. As we remember the tragedy of the 12 years ago, we must remember that the truth still remains. All will die. No one will be exempt from this truth. As we watch the videos and hear the stories of those who survived, let’s remember the truth of the One who died that sinners might survive the wrath of God. Let’s live our lives so that people will know us as Christians, not only by what we say, but because of our character. Let’s preach the gospel to those we come in contact with. Let’s preach sound doctrine, teach the truth of God unerringly, and hate sin. Let’s remember that the harvest is white, and that many will not have tomorrow. Let’s forgive and be reconciled to those around us. Let us love like Christ in truth, justice, mercy, and humility.


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