11 November 2018

“Is it I?"


Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon


The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Gospel of the Kingdom, page 234, Pilgrim Publications.

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And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I? Matthew 26:22

That short sentence fell like a bombshell among the Saviour’s body-guard. It startled them; they had all made great professions of affection for him, and, for the most part, those professions were true. 

And they were exceeding sorrowful: and well they might be. 

Such a revelation was enough to produce the deepest emotions of sorrow and sadness. It is a beautiful trait in the character of the disciples that they did not suspect one another, but every one of them enquired, almost incredulously, as the form of the question implies, "Lord, is it I?" 

No one said, "Lord, is it Judas?" Perhaps no one of the eleven thought that Judas was base enough to betray the Lord who had given him an honourable place among his apostles.

We cannot do any good by suspecting our brethren; but we may do great service by suspecting ourselves. Self-suspicion is near akin to humility.

04 November 2018

Charles Spurgeon: Parson Killer

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The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from C.H. Spurgeons Autobiography, volume three, pages 143-144.



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"Certain of our charitable neighbours accuse me of having 'a parson manufactory,' but the charge is not true at all. I never tried to make a minister, and should fail if I did; I receive none into the College but those who profess to be ministers already. It would be nearer the truth if they called me 'a parson-killer,' for a goodly number of beginners have received their quietus from me; and I have the fullest ease of conscience in reflecting upon what I have so done."

One brother I have encountered—one did I say?—I have met ten, twenty, a hundred brethren, who have pleaded that they were quite sure that they were called to the ministry—because they had failed in everything else! 

This is a sort of model story:—“Sir, I was put into a lawyer’s office, but I never could bear the confinement, and I could not feel at home in studying law. Providence clearly stopped up my road, for I lost my situation.” 

“And what did you do then? Why, sir, I was induced to open a grocer’s shop.” “And did you prosper? Well, I do not think, sir, I was ever meant for trade; and the Lord seemed quite to shut up my way there, for I failed, and was in great difficulties.

Since then, I have done a little in a life-assurance agency, and tried to get up a school, beside selling tea; but my path is hedged up, and something within me makes me feel that I ought to be a minister.” 

My answer generally is, “Yes, I see; you have failed in everything else, and therefore you think the Lord has especially endowed you for His service; but I fear you have forgotten that the ministry needs the very best of men, and not those who cannot do anything else.” 

A man who would succeed as a preacher would probably do right well either as a grocer, or a lawyer, or anything else. A really valuable minister would have excelled in any occupation. There is scarcely anything impossible to a man who can keep a congregation together for years, and be the means of edifying them for hundreds of consecutive Sabbaths; he must be possessed of some abilities, and be by no means a fool or a ne’er-do-well. 

Jesus Christ deserves the best men to preach His gospel, and not the empty-headed and the shiftless.

28 October 2018

Duped assistants

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon


The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The New Park Street Pulpit, volume 5, sermon number 264, "How saints may help the devil."


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"One way in which sinners frequently excuse themselves is by endeavouring to get some apology for their own iniquities from the inconsistencies of God's people." 

Nay, is it not possible that some of you Christians have helped to confirm men in their sins and to destroy their souls? It is a master-piece of the devil, when he can use Christ’s own soldiers against Christ. But this he has often done. I have known many a case. 

Let me tell a story of a minister—one which I believe to be true and which convicts myself, and therefore I tell it with the hope that it may also waken your consciences and convict you too. 

There was a young minister once preaching very earnestly in a certain chapel, and he had to walk some four or five miles to his home along a country road after service. A young man, who had been deeply impressed under the sermon, requested the privilege of walking with the minister, with an earnest hope that he might get an opportunity of telling out his feelings to him, and obtaining some word of guidance or comfort. 

Instead of that, the young minister all the way along told the most singular tales to those who were with him, causing loud roars of laughter, and even relating tales which bordered upon the indecorous. He stopped at a certain house, and this young man with him, and the whole evening was spent in frivolity and foolish talking. 

Some years after, when the minister had grown old, he was sent for to the bedside of a dying man. He hastened thither with a heart desirous to do good. He was requested to sit down at the bedside and the dying man, looking at him, and regarding him most closely, said to him, “Do you remember preaching in such-and such a village on such an occasion?” “I do,” said the minister. “I was one of your hearers,” said the man, “and I was deeply impressed by the sermon.” “Thank God for that,”
said the minister. “Stop!” said the man, “don’t thank God till you have heard the whole story; you will have reason to alter your tone before I have done.” 

The minister changed countenance, but he little guessed what would be the full extent of that man’s testimony. Said he, “Sir, do you remember, after you had finished that earnest sermon, I with some others walked home with you? I was sincerely desirous of being led in the right path that night; but I heard you speak in such a strain of levity, and with so much coarseness too, that I went outside the house, while you were sitting down to your evening meal; I stamped my foot upon the ground; I said that you were a liar, that Christianity was a falsehood; that it you could pretend to be so in earnest about it in the pulpit, and then come down and talk like that, the whole thing must be a sham; and I have been an infidel,” said he, “a confirmed infidel, from that day to this.  

But I am not an infidel at this moment; I know better; I am dying, and I am about to be damned; and at the bar of God I will lay my damnation to your charge; my blood is on your head;”—and with a dreadful shriek, and one demoniacal glance at the trembling minister, he shut his eyes and died. Is it not possible that we may have been guilty thus? 

The bare idea would make the flesh creep on our bones; and yet I think there are few among us who must not say, “That has been my fault, after all.” But are there not enough traps, in which to catch souls, without your being made Satan’s fowlers to do mischief? Hath not Satan legions enough of devils to murder men, without employing you? Are there no hands that may be red with the blood of souls beside yours? 

followers of Christ! O believers in Jesus! Will ye serve under the black prince? Will ye fight against your Master? Will ye drag sinners down to hell? Shall we—(I take myself in here, more truly than any of you)—shall we, who profess to preach the gospel of Christ, by our conversation injure and destroy men’s souls?

21 October 2018

“Jesus wept"



Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon


The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 35, sermon number 2,091, "Jesus wept." 



There is infinitely more in these two words than any sermonizer, or student of the Word, will ever be able to bring out of them, even though he should apply the microscope of the most attentive consideration. "Jesus wept." 



Instructive fact; simple but amazing; full of consolation; worthy of our earnest heed. Note, too, that his pure body and his sinless soul were originally constituted as ours are. When his body was formed according to that Scripture, “A body hast thou prepared me,” that holy thing had in it the full apparatus of grief: the lachrymal gland was in his eye. 

Where there is no sin, one would say there should be no sorrow; but in the formation of that blessed body, all the arrangements for the expression of grief were as fully prepared as in the case of any one of us. His eyes were made to be fountains of tears, even as are ours. He had about his soul also all the capacity for mental grief. 

As I said aforetime, so say I yet again, it would seem that there should be no tears where there are no transgressions; and yet the Saviour’s heart was made to hold sorrow, even as an amphora was made for wine. Yea, more, his heart was made capacious enough to be a reservoir wherein should be gathered up great floods of grief. 

See how the sorrow bursts forth in a mighty flood! Mark the record of that flood in these amazing words, “Jesus wept.” Beloved, have a clear faith in the humanity of him whom you rightly worship as your Lord and your God. Holding his divinity without doubt, hold his manhood without mistake. Realize the actual manhood of Jesus in all lights. 

Three times we read he wept. Doubtless he sorrowed full often when he was not seen; but thrice he was known to weep. The instance in our text was the weeping of a Friend over the grave of a friend. 

A little further on, after a day of triumph, our Lord beheld the city and wept over it: that was the weeping of a Prophet concerning judgments which he foresaw. 

It is not recorded by any evangelist, but Paul tells us, in the Epistle to Hebrews, that with strong crying and tears, he made appeal to him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared. This third record sets forth the weeping of our Substitute, a sacrificial weeping, a pouring out of himself as an oblation before God. 

Treasure up in your mind these three memories, the weeping of the friend in sympathy with bereavement, the weeping of the Judge lamenting the sentence which he must deliver, and the weeping of the Surety as he smarts for us, bearing griefs which were not his own, for sins in which he had no share. Thus thrice was it true that “Jesus wept.”


19 October 2018

Loneliness and the Church

by Hohn Cho

Ben Sasse sells Runzas at a Cornhuskers game.
Ben Sasse sells Runzas at a Cornhuskers game.

enator Ben Sasse (R-Neb) is a solid Christian brother who was an "elder in the United Reformed Churches in North America and served on the board of trustees for Westminster Seminary California" and is currently "a member of Grace Church, a Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) congregation" located in Fremont, Nebraska. He has been outspoken about his faith and his values while avoiding a blindly loyal Republican party line and maintaining a healthy (and I believe appropriate) amount of nuance, including in this recent speech on Justice Brett Kavanaugh. And whether or not one might agree with him on everything—he has been quite plain with his concerns about President Donald Trump, for example—it has been encouraging to see a Christian brother navigating with integrity the dirty field of politics.

He's just written a book entitled, "Them: Why We Hate Each Other—and How to Heal" and an adapted excerpt of it is available here. Longtime conservative columnist George Will has covered it briefly but well, with a powerful pair of paragraphs here:

Loneliness in "epidemic proportions" is producing a "loneliness literature" of sociological and medical findings about the effect of loneliness on individuals' brains and bodies, and on communities. Sasse says "there is a growing consensus" that loneliness—not obesity, cancer or heart disease—is the nation's "No. 1 health crisis." "Persistent loneliness" reduces average longevity more than twice as much as does heavy drinking and more than three times as much as obesity, which often is a consequence of loneliness. Research demonstrates that loneliness is as physically dangerous as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and contributes to cognitive decline, including more rapid advance of Alzheimer's disease. Sasse says, "We're literally dying of despair," of the failure "to fill the hole millions of Americans feel in their lives."

...

Work, which Sasse calls "arguably the most fundamental anchor of human identity," is at the beginning of "a staggering level of cultural disruption" swifter and more radical than even America's transformation from a rural and agricultural to an urban and industrial nation. At that time, one response to social disruption was alcoholism, which begat Prohibition. Today, one reason the average American life span has declined for three consecutive years is that many more are dying of drug overdoses—one of the "diseases of despair"—annually than died during the entire Vietnam War. People "need to be needed," but McKinsey & Co. analysts calculate that, globally, 50 percent of paid activities—jobs—could be automated by currently demonstrated technologies. America's largest job category is "driver" and, with self-driving vehicles coming, two-thirds of such jobs could disappear in a decade.

I've always appreciated whenever science and statistical studies confirm basic truths which have been set forth in the Word of God for millennia. The emerging data regarding loneliness are no exception. Starting from Genesis 2:18, when God declared, "It is not good for the man to be alone," the entire sweep of human history has focused on relationships, whether vertical or horizontal. And our great God has always cared deeply about those relationships, even exemplifying them perfectly in the awesome three-in-one mystery of the Trinity. In the Old Testament, we see the history of the covenant people of Israel, and their relationships both inside and outside of that group. Likewise, in the New Testament, we see the history of the covenant people of the church, and their relationships both inside and outside of that group.

Outside the church, we see the imperative of evangelism, of "Go therefore" from the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, to all nations, with the joyful truth of the Gospel and discipleship in the Word of God. In Romans 10:14-15, we read how preachers of the Gospel are to be sent to unbelievers, with even the preachers' feet being praised as beautiful. And in the second Great Commandment in Mark 12:31, we know that we are to love our neighbors even as we love our own selves. All of these verses and concepts demonstrate the critical importance of relationships with the outside world.

Meanwhile, inside the church, we see the glorious beauty of the one anothers, those commands which believers can only fulfill in Christian fellowship and the corporate assembly. It's a truth reinforced by the image of the church as the Body of Christ in Romans 12:5, Ephesians 3:6, Colossians 1:24, and perhaps most extensively in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, where we see that each member has a diverse role and function, and that only when working together as an organic whole is the Body truly operating as God has arranged and intended. Ideally, the Body of Christ ought never be a place where any member suffers chronic loneliness born from the negligence or apathy (much less hatred) of the brothers and sisters in his or her local church.



And yet as an elder in a relatively large church with approximately 5,000 members and many more regular attenders, concerns like these are the ones that really tie up my stomach into knots and drive me to my knees in prayer. How many of our members struggle with loneliness and alienation? How many people "slip through the cracks" and depart, feeling uncared for and unloved? We've had a homebound ministry for as long as I can remember, and several years ago, a godly, hypercompetent man named Justin Harris greatly improved and streamlined our membership and attendance processes before becoming the senior pastor at another blessed congregation, and it's both a joy and a relief to the elders to know that our members can be contacted regularly if certain needs or challenges might be resulting in extended absences.

But what about the rest of the Body of Christ, such as newer folks, or those who attend only sporadically, or perhaps even people used to participating only on the fringe? I know and understand that members themselves have a responsibility to be faithful and avail themselves of the ordinary means of grace, but what about my own role as a fellow member of the congregation and even more, as a servant-leader of my own particular local body? How can we better serve these beloved brothers and sisters, especially in a culture and age where singleness has become the norm for much longer periods of time, thus delaying or removing the traditionally and biblically normative alleviation for loneliness, specifically marriage and, Lord willing, family?

I have only two suggestions in this regard. First, strive on and remain diligent in your efforts (Proverbs 13:4). Do not weary of doing good (Galatians 6:9-10), be devoted to one another with brotherly love and preferring one another in honor (Romans 12:10), even regarding one another as more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). And when you're tired, pray for God to supply you with strength (1 Peter 4:11), knowing that the power of Christ is perfected in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), and that when we are weary and heavy-laden, our Savior will give us rest (Matthew 11:28).



Second, and far more importantly, the Scriptural truth is that God is the only one who will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). He is the one we must turn to when we are lonely and afflicted (Psalm 25:16). Even if our own parents were to forsake us, God will receive us (Psalm 27:10). And Jesus Christ is with us to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20), nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:35), and indeed, He is even dwelling inside of us in perfect union (Romans 8:10, Galatians 2:20)! Not only that, but He has sent His Holy Spirit to dwell inside of us (Romans 8:11, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 2 Timothy 1:14)! And as I reflect on the many missionaries and martyrs who have been imprisoned for years and even died physically all alone, I believe that conveying and reinforcing these incredible truths from the Word of God to every member of the Body of Christ can only serve to help them in the area of loneliness.

When we see well-formulated scientific studies showing the gravely detrimental effects of loneliness, it offers yet another reason why I believe the increasing obsession over ethnicity in the church today is such an unfortunate distraction. Among broader societal ills, I've written previously about why I believe abortion is arguably more than 5,000 times as important of an issue as, say, police shootings of unarmed people of all ethnicities. But even within the church itself, as someone who has a righteous hatred of ethnic partiality and believes actual sin in this area ought to be confronted and purged from the visible Body as much as possible, I still have to wonder whether issues such as loneliness might be an even more dire—if perhaps less stylish—concern than ethnic partiality, just as issues relating to adultery, divorce, and pornography might be an even greater corruption of our visible Christian witness. And as I strive to shepherd the portion of God's flock that He has placed under my care, I pray that I will always strive to be sensitive enough to reach out proactively to those brothers and sisters who seem perhaps a little bit out of place, out of sorts, or even out of hope, no matter what their ethnicity might be.

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17 October 2018

What Did Jesus Say about "Social Justice?"

by Colin Eakin



As the "social justice" juggernaut continues to batter the breastwork of the Church, it would seem to be a propitious moment to look deeper into what the Head of the Church thinks about the issue. Scripture actually gives considerable insight into the thoughts of Jesus regarding the "social justice" movement. And—to the likely surprise of those pushing the movement forward—His words should give them considerable pause.

Let's start with the obvious: Jesus does not oppose justice. On the contrary, Jesus is the Originator, Definer, Overseer and Executor of justice (Mt. 12:18, 20). With regard to human interactions, the Bible uses the term "justice" to denote the condition of being impartial, even-handed, and scrupulous, and Jesus explicitly supports such an ethic (Luke 11:42; 18:7-8; John 7:24). Another manner by which justice is understood is moral perfection, and on that score, Jesus is the supreme example (Ps. 145:17). Further, the biblical concept of justice ultimately contends that all its supplicants will get exactly what they are promised, and Jesus guarantees that He will be there at the end, making it so (John 5:27-29).

So if Jesus is the author, champion, and living exemplar of all justice, He must be in favor of "social justice"—right? To get an accurate biblical answer to that question we must understand how the modifier compromises and corrupts the virtue. The Bible actually never uses any modifiers for "justice," let alone "social," which in itself should deter those who would speak and reason biblically from use of this term (for this reason, throughout this article the term "social justice" is set off in quotations to indicate its illegitimacy as a biblical term and notion). But because the culture has conjured this idea which the undiscerning Church seemingly cannot resist, it is incumbent upon those who would claim to represent Jesus to understand and discuss its full portent.

For our purposes, we will use the following definition for "social justice": "A philosophical and political concept holding that, because all people in this world should have equal access to wealth, health, opportunity and well-being, all people of this world are thus obliged to make it so."

You may ask, what's wrong with that? All for one and one for all in striving for equality? Why wouldn't the One who is ultimately bringing "justice to victory" (Isa. 42:1-3; Matt. 12:20) support this effort? The Bible gives us four compelling reasons why He does not:

1. "Social justice" misapprehends the eschaton
One text in Scripture giving particular insight into Christ's perspective on the matter of "social justice" is found in Luke 12:13-15. It reads: "Someone in the crowd said to Him, 'Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.' But He said to him, 'Man, who made Me a judge or arbiter over you?' And He said to them, 'Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

Here, Jesus is confronted by a man who has been (in his opinion) deprived of his fair share of an inheritance. From a "social justice" perspective, the man has been wronged, in that he believes he is owed wealth that has not been forthcoming. The man thus appeals to Jesus as an authority figure to find in his favor and correct the perceived injustice. This is a quintessential "social justice" scenario: resources have been appropriated in an asymmetric (therefore, unfair) manner, and the one deprived thus seeks redress.

But does Jesus give empathy and succor to the plaintiff? Does He commiserate with the aggrieved brother and come to his aid? Quite the opposite. In fact, Jesus gives the man a curt rebuke. He begins by asking the man why He should be a judge or arbiter in this situation. This response should arouse our curiosity, because as the Bible makes clear, Jesus knows His Father has handed all judgment over to Him (John 5:22, 27; 9:39). His response to the man is therefore puzzling. After all, with all judgment handed over to Him, why wouldn't Jesus be the perfect judge in this, as in all, matters?

The answer is twofold. The first has to do with the ordo eschaton, the order of last things. Jesus is here giving a revealing (if indirect) eschatological lesson. Jesus knows full well that His time for judgment is coming, when He will judge the entire world with perfect justice based upon the Word God has given (John 12:48). But He also knows that the time from the fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian Captivity (605 BC-586 BC) through His time upon the earth and right up to the present is described by God as "the times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24; Rom. 11:25). During this period of history, Jesus understands that God's plan is not judgment but salvation. Yes, Jesus is the final Judge of this world, but that comes later. For now, God is still graciously saving sinners through the narrow door of repentance and faith. In His rhetorical query, then, Jesus is deferring present judgment of earthly matters. His desire is that the man might forego the redress of an alleged earthly injustice, and instead prepare his heart through repentance and faith in anticipation of the judgment that is to come.

Many evangelicals who pander to ideas of "social justice" operate from an erroneous postmillennial eschatology. To their way of thinking, the earthly kingdom Jesus is promised to bring (2 Sam. 7:12) has already been inaugurated with His first appearance, and it is thus up to His followers to implement its form. And when one convolutes the Bible's prophecies regarding the present and future ages in this manner, the fallout is naturally erroneous fixation on the redress and reparation of inequalities in the here and now. But that is not what the Bible says about God's intent in the present, nor in the future. God will indeed bring to fruition the promised earthly kingdom of Christ (Rev. 20:1-6), but He will do it without need of any human partnership (Acts 17:25), and only when the sum of those who are appointed to eternal life believe (Acts 13:48). For now, Jesus as Judge and Arbiter of the world is on hold, being mercifully delayed, "until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in" (Rom. 11:25). Jesus' just judgment of the world is coming, but—in God's inexplicable and extraordinary love, mercy and grace—He continues to delay that day, such that "now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2).

2. "Social justice" often arises from sinful impulse
The second reason why Jesus defers to judge in this man's case is found in the continuation of Jesus' remarks to the crowd (v. 15): "And He said to them, 'Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.'" Here, Jesus unequivocally ties concern over earthly inequalities with the potential for sin—the sin of covetousness. And His implication is blunt: the focus upon earthly inequalities, even with the intent of their amelioration, by its nature introduces the possibility of covetousness. Jesus is saying that those obsessed with rectifying worldly inequalities as they pertain to themselves should first reflect about a possible covetous impulse.

The Holy Spirit (through James) then elaborates on this idea (James 4:1-2, 4-5): "What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel . . . You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy with God."

So, Jesus claims that those obsessing over their unfair or unequal treatment in this world must guard against covetousness, and the Spirit through James says covetousness lies at the core of fights and quarrels as to who has what and who does not. This link is no mere coincidence. The rancor and invective that so often attend plaintiff demands for "social justice" lie in stark contrast to the fruits of the Spirit-led life, as laid out in Galatians 5:22-23, and this passage in James identifies the core reason for this. The Bible is clear: whenever there is a focus upon remediation of earthly inequality, covetousness may very well lie at the source, and when it does, acrimony and outrage often result.

Notice, too, how the Spirit through James goes on to associate covetousness with friendship with the world. This also is no coincidence. Not only do the evangelical champions of "social justice" often carry with them a misguided eschatology, but also quite commonly a penchant for the favor of the world. In fact, when one looks out over the sea of modern evangelicalism to those at the helm of the S.S. Social Justice, one finds a remarkably common deference to culture and desire for its approval. Today's most prominent evangelical crusaders for "social justice" almost always seem to be those most eager to be received well by the secular docents of modern-day politics, academia, business and social media, and this passage from James helps to explain why.

3. "Social justice" misapprehends human nature and its fundamental need
There is a third reason Jesus opposes "social justice", and that is its failure to apprehend the Bible's description of human nature. In Luke 19:10, Jesus declares, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." And who are the lost? Jesus' answer is clear: they are the spiritually "harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Mt. 9:36; Mark 6:34). They are the spiritually poor prisoners, blind and oppressed (Matt. 5:3; Luke 4:18). And from the days of the early Church until recently, it has been understood that the manner by which Jesus saves the spiritually lost is through gospel evangelism by those whom He has already spiritually saved.

But all this is now being challenged on the evangelical "social justice" front. No longer are the "lost" being defined on a spiritual basis, but on economic and/or sociological terms. And no longer is the manner by which Jesus saves the "lost" through a call to "repentance and the forgiveness of sins" (Luke 24:47), but rather through His purported desire that earthly injustices be remedied, including (and perhaps preferably) through governmental policies and programs. This is exactly how neo-Marxist dogma is now being foisted upon an unsuspecting Church under the guise of "social justice."



A natural corollary of this development is that those to be involved in "evangelism" no longer must be "born again" in a "saved from sin" sense, but merely must exhibit interest in bettering the material and social conditions of the disadvantaged around them. Whereas in the past, people were required to "believe in order to belong," it is somehow suggested that they might now "belong" regardless of belief. But Jesus knows that the heart of the unredeemed is "deceitful above all things and desperately sick" (Jer. 17:9), that the mind of the unredeemed is "darkened in [its] understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them" (Eph. 4:18), and that the will of the unredeemed is to "do their father's [the devil's] desires" (John 8:44). Given all that, Jesus knows that the real need of the unregenerate sinner—regardless of race, wealth, or any other earthly designation—is heart, mind and will transformation via (Luke 24:47) "repentance and the forgiveness of sins"; in a word—salvation. Not only that, given that salvation only comes from belief, under no circumstances could an unbeliever ever contribute in a positive sense to the saving work God is doing in the world today.

One passage plainly detailing the above is John 7:38-39, where Jesus declares: "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'" Now this He said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified."

Here, "rivers of living water" is participation in God's work in the world, about which Jesus stipulates the following: penitent belief yields the indwelling Spirit, which in turn yields power for the spiritual work God is doing. Only in that order. As Pastor John MacArthur has phrased it, one's position in Christ establishes one's practice for Christ, and never the reverse. Given this, how then could Jesus back a movement that obsesses over the material and/or sociological condition of the sinner but cares little for how that sinner might be forgiven and granted eternal life?

The condition of the unredeemed is described in the Bible (Rom. 8:5-12) as living "in the flesh," about which it makes the following clear and unmistakable designation (Rom. 8:8): "Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Ever. It is a travesty of Christ's teaching that a church could leads its members in works of "social justice" without telling them of their need to be redeemed, and how this might be accomplished. It is a travesty of Christ's teaching that a collection of earnest but unredeemed "Jesus-followers" might pursue good works to assist the disadvantaged, while at the same time having no clue as to how both they and those whom they serve might be saved from their sin.

4. "Social justice" conflicts with the Church's true task
A final and related reason Jesus opposes "social justice" is that it directly undermines the primary task of the Church. To see this, one must understand the primary purpose of the Church is to declare God's Word, and that the summary purpose of all biblical instruction is the following: to present God's righteous standard to all sinners (Matt. 5:48), to drive those sinners to despair at their inability to attain the righteousness demanded of them by a holy God (Lev. 11:44-45; Gal. 3:10-11, 19-24), to have those sinners cry out for mercy to that same gracious God for a pardon from their sin (Luke 18:13-14), and to have faith that God will, as promised, apply to them the righteousness of Christ, who lovingly bore their sins upon the cross (Isa. 53:10-11; 2 Cor. 5:21). That is the crux of the gospel, the one and only message of the Church, and notice it hinges upon a requisite contrite spirit (Isa. 57:15).

But when the Church reorients its focus to concerns regarding "social justice," it short-circuits and inverts this entire process. No longer is the sinner a perpetrator; now he or she is a victim. No longer does the sinner plead for mercy to a gracious and forgiving God; now he or she is owed something from Him, or at least from the world He oversees. No longer are sinners "poor in spirit" and thus eligible for the kingdom of God (Matt. 5:3). Now they are casualties of tyrannical forces that exploit and subjugate them in a bondage of oppression, against which they must rage until scores are settled. The upshot? Instead of sinners acknowledging and repenting of their sinful condition, they are now emboldened to seek recourse against as many injustices as they can identify. Gone is the meek and humble spirit that ultimately inherits the earth (Ps. 37:5; Mt. 5:5). In its place is a spirit of victimization, rebellion and retribution.

It is for this reason that, across the landscape of modern-day evangelicalism, one tends to find an inverse relationship between interest in "social justice" and interest in evangelism in its historic understanding. In a very real sense, the entire mission of the Church is being hijacked. Among those on the evangelical forefront of the "social justice" movement, the talk is no longer about how sinners might avoid eternal damnation in hell, but how they might gain temporal reparation for past and present injustices.

"Social justice" carries with it the implicit idea the sinner in this world is owed something by someone, but that idea is completely foreign to Jesus. Even among His redeemed, Jesus claims they are owed nothing in this world (Luke 17:7-10): "Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come at once and recline at table'? Will he not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink'? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'"

Jesus' point is clear: if even those who are a part of His kingdom are mere "servants," with no rights nor entitlements other than to consider themselves as ever-unworthy and thus duty-bound to their Master, how much more so would this apply to those on the outside looking in? It has been written elsewhere that if the parable of the Prodigal Son had been set in the age of "social justice," the son would have never returned home to his father. And why should he have? Once apprised that he was not an ungrateful, impudent, hedonistic fool in need of repentance and humble submission to his Father, but rather a victim of external, impersonal, malevolent forces stemming from unfair societal arrangements, his path would have led not to the true home of his Father's embrace and promise of eternal life, but rather to the false embrace of "social justice" promising entitlements to dampen his fall. Gone would be any notion of regret or remorse at his sin. In its place, as result of his "social justice" reeducation? Only indignation, resentment, and perpetual rebellion.

Conclusion: What Does Jesus Offer?
With the biblical record so consistently opposed to the zeitgeist of "social justice," it should appall the Church that it could be so easily and so harmfully beguiled as it has been. Jesus offers the sinner not a list of earthly entitlements to be pursued and defended at all costs, but rather inexplicable love and mercies despite that same sinner's enmity (Lam. 3:22-23; Rom. 5:8,10; 8:8). Jesus doesn't offer the sinner the right to claim victimhood and redress against earthly injustices, but only the right to claim eternal unworthiness for His promise of eternal life. The Church is called not to a mission of political and economic lobbying for the betterment of this world, but a mission calling sinners to repentance for their betterment in the next (Luke 5:32). As to worldly arrangements and the goals of "social justice" devotees, Jesus wondered (Matt. 16:26), "What does will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?" May God raise up within His Church those who know the answer to this question, and from that answer might clarify the true gospel from its "social justice" corruption.

Dr. Colin L. Eakin
Pyromaniac

Dr. Eakin is a sports medicine orthopædic surgeon in the Bay Area and part time teacher at Grace Bible Fellowship Church's Stanford campus ministry. He is the author of God's Glorious Story.

14 October 2018

Wanted: Saucy, barking dogs


Image result for charles spurgeon

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon




The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from C.H. Spurgeon's Autobiography, volume one, pages 271-272, Pilgrim Publications.

Another singular character with whom I became acquainted early in my ministry, was old Mr. Sutton, of Cottenham. He had never seen me, but he heard that I was a popular young minister, so he invited me over to preach his anniversary sermons. 

I was in the vestry of the chapel before the morning service, and when the aged man came in, and saw me, he seemed greatly surprised to find that I was so young. After gruffly exchanging the usual greetings, he remarked, “I shouldn’t have asked you here, had I known you were such a bit of a boy. Why, the people have been pouring into the place all the morning in waggons, and dickey-carts, and all kinds of vehicles! More fools they!” he added. 

I said, “Well, sir, I suppose it will be so much the better for your anniversary; still, I can go back as easily as I came, and my people at Waterbeach will be very glad to see me.” “No, no,” said the old pastor; “now you are here, you must do the best you can. There is a young fellow over from Cambridge, who will help you; and we shan’t expect much from you;” and thereupon he paced the room, moaning out, “Oh, dear! what a pass the world is coming to when we get as preachers a parcel of boys who have not got their mother’s milk out of their mouths!”

I was in due time conducted to the pulpit, and the old minister sat upon the stairs,—I suppose, ready to go on with the service in case I should break down. After prayer and singing, I read, from the Book of Proverbs, the chapter containing the words, “The hoary head is a crown of glory.” 

When I had gone so far, I stopped, and remarked, “I doubt it, for, this very morning, I met with a man who has a hoary head, yet he has not learnt common civility to his fellow-men.” Proceeding with the reading, I finished the verse,—“if it be found in the way of righteousness.” “Ah!” I said, “that’s another thing; a hoary head would then be a crown of glory, and, for the matter of that, so would a red head, or a head of any other colour.” 

I went on with the service, and preached as best I could, and as I came down from the pulpit, Mr. Sutton slapped me on the back, and exclaimed, “Bless your heart! I have been a minister nearly forty years, and I was never better pleased with a sermon in all my life; but you are the sauciest dog that ever barked in a pulpit.” 

All the way home from the chapel, he kept on going across the road to speak to little groups of people who were discussing the service. I heard him say, “I never knew anything like it in all my life; and to think that I should have talked to him as I did!” We had a good time for the rest of the day, the Lord blessed the Word, and Mr. Sutton and I were ever afterwards the best of friends.