The Great Watershed

Every year, Desiring God holds two conferences in Minneapolis — the national conference in the fall, and a conference for pastors and other church leaders at the end of January. Every year they give their attendees and exhibitors a bag full of books, and as an exhibitor at both conferences, I usually rake in about 10 books a year from the conferences.

I always have good intentions to read at least some of them, but what really happens is that they go in the bookcase (or, in the case of the most recent conference, in a pile beside my recliner) and every now and then I’ll pick one up and read the first chapter.

But sometimes I really do read a whole book, and keep up with it. The one I’ve just picked up and am supplementing my scripture reading with is a book called Setting Our Affections Upon Glorywhich is a compilation of nine sermons by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I had never read anything of his, and still don’t know much about him, but so far I have really enjoyed his sermon style and have been helped by the content of the messages I’ve read. I thought this last one was especially helpful, and thought I might share some nuggets. These quotes are from his sermon entitled, “The Great Watershed,” a title which comes from what he believes is the watershed “that divides Christian people today.” He says that this watershed is that “We are on one side or another. We either believe in God’s wisdom and revelation or else we submit to the wisdom and philosophy of man.”

“The scientific method is based on human ability – man’s brain, man’s understanding, man’s power to experiment. It is based entirely on man’s capacity, and it really believes that there is virtually nothing that is impossible to human beings…Now modern people are controlled by that outlook. That determines their attitude toward everything. And that is why they reject the gospel. For here we have something that, as I want to show you, is the exact opposite of the approach I have just been describing to you.” (p. 33)

Much of this sermon is Lloyd-Jones taking the hearer verse-by-verse through I Cor 2. Listen to what he says regarding  vs. 6-10:

“‘Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect..yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: but’ — but, oh, the contrast, the absolute contrast — ‘we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory.’ It is altogether different. And then, to make absolutely certain that everybody has grasped this, Paul says, ‘which none of the princes of this world knew.’ Remember, when he says ‘princes,’ he is not thinking so much of members of royal houses…as of the great men…the great philosophers, the great thinkers, the great religious leaders, all of them. These are the princes who did not know God’s wisdom…

…Observation is the first rule in the scientific approach. But the apostle tells us here that it is no good. ‘Eye has not seen.’ Man is very proud of his seeing, is he not?…But concerning the truth of the gospel, our [seeing is] useless. ‘Eye hath not seen,’ and never can see…The truth is entirely different. The things you rely on in the realm of science are already ruled out of court here. They are useless.

..Then Paul caps it all off in this mighty statement: ‘but God hath revealed them unto us…’ This is not about seeking or searching. It is not research. It is not trial and error…It is revelation – ‘by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.'” (p 34-35)

He just keeps it coming!

“Men and women believe they can arrive at any knowledge…but they cannot, by definition. As a dog can never really know a man, so a man can never know God in and of himself. The Spirit of God is essential.”

“Verse 12:…’Now we [Christians] have received, not the spirit of the world’ – that is no good – ‘but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things’ – that we arrive at as the result of research? No – ‘that are freely given to us of God.’ You do not do anything about them. You just receive them in your utter helplessness.” (p. 36)

You want more, you say? Oh, alright.

“Every discipline has it’s appropriate language. The scientist speaks in his scientific terminology. The poet speaks in his particular way. And these cannot be mixed…You do not express love in scientific jargon. You do it in words that convey love and that can be understood by the object of your love…People will handle spiritual things in scientific and philosophical terms, in terms of human wisdom. But spiritual understanding requires God’s wisdom, and this wisdom can only be spoken in the words, ‘which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.'” (p 37)

“Some Christians are troubled that these great men with their great brains should not believe the Christian truth. My dear friend, you should not be surprised. ‘The natural man receivith not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him.’ …It does not matter how great we may be, nor how great our brains: if we are lacking the Spirit of God, we cannot understand the things of God and of necessity find them foolish. The modern scientist who denies the gospel is confirming the gospel.” (p 37)

And there is more! But this post is going to be ages long, if I keep this up. Keep an eye out for a follow-up post or posts soon!

2 thoughts on “The Great Watershed

  1. Lloyd-Jones was highly influential in Piper’s ministry, especially in his understanding of the Holy Spirit. Piper said about Lloyd-Jones at the 1994 Pastor’s Conference:

    “Piper: That’s somewhat comforting. Even the criticism I got from Iain, when I spoke on Lloyd-Jones here that I had not been completely just to him, was a grief to me because for the news to go out from this conference that Martyn Lloyd-Jones is anything other than almost a god, little “g,” would make me very sad, because I don’t have many heroes in the world, especially not many in this century, and for me to have my reputation go to Wales and elsewhere that I am mainly critical of Martyn Lloyd-Jones is sad.”

    • I’ll have to go back and watch that. I’ve heard him quote MLJ before, but I haven’t heard that particular quote. I’ve been enjoying the book of sermons a lot and would love to hear Piper’s words about him.

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