More from Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ “Watershed”

I just couldn’t leave it at that last post – there’s just so much more! Here are some of the remaining best parts:

“Oh, what a fool the modern man is! What a baby he is, even in the realm of thought. Fancy bringing his abilities and his methods into a subject that, by definition, excludes it all! If people could understand God, they would be equal to God. God, by definition, is altogether ‘other.’ He is the absolute and the eternal, the everlasting God. That is the subject matter of the gospel.” (p 40)

“This is the subject matter of Christianity – the mystery of Christ, God and man, two natures in one person, the incarnation. Here is our theme. It is so entirely different from everything that man is interested in and is competent to deal with.” (p 40)

He says about the death of Christ:

“All this happened that we might be redeemed. The Son of God died that we might be forgiven, that we might be reconciled unto him. And the Spirit is sent, and he comes and does his amazing work of regeneration. God puts his Spirit into us and give us an understanding that we never had before. And so we have the mind of Christ. This is what the gospel is about. And the moment you realize the essential character of this gospel, you see how utterly monstrous and ridiculous and foolish it is for men and women to come with their wisdom and learning and understanding and apply it to this…”

“When you come into the Christian church and listen to this gospel as it is in truth, you must realize that everything you are in the world is of no value…It is all useless to you…It is the failure to see this basic, elementary truth that the very character of the gospel makes it impossible for human truth that the very character of the gospel makes it impossible for human wisdom ever to understand it or to be competent with respect to it” (p 41-42)

I’ll end with my favorite:

“Thank God that his way of salvation is so utterly and entirely different from ours. Human wisdom and science postulate ability in our effort and seeking and searching and striving. But what does the gospel demand of us? Simply that we know that we are paupers, simply that we repent and admit and confess that we have nothing at all, that we are blind and lost and damned and hopeless and helpless. Oh, the tragedy that men and women should object to the most glorious thing about the gospel, that it is ‘the power of God unto salvation’ (Rom. 1:16) and not the power of man. Because it is the power of God, there is hope for all of us.

I’m praising God for his perfect plan of salvation. His thoughts are too wonderful for me.

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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!

A Hole in My Heart

This is me tonight:

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Again. I did it to myself — I read the The Fault In Our Stars on vacation in December on a train and had to put it down several times because I didn’t want to cry in public in a foreign country. But it was such a good book that when I saw it on Audible for less than $5.00 right when I was about to start a big data entry project at work I bought it – against my better judgement.

You see those contradictions right? It was a wonderful book, but I bought against my better judgment.

But really, it’s a great book. Wonderful, smart, funny, writing. Writing with real depth. Characters that are worth crying for. It has it all, and oh boy will it traumatize you. In a good way, I think.

This book asks all of the right questions, being a book about teenagers and cancer. It’s thought provoking, challenging, and insightful. I have great respect for John Green, the man who created Hazel and Augustus — it’s amazing to see the product of such God-given imagination, writing talent and emotional depth in literature.

The reason this book leaves a hole in my heart is that it is so real. The whole book just rings of emotional and experiential truth. It’s just raw. In a good way. But it’s also incomplete. John Green writes Young Adult fiction because he wants to write to teenagers. He counts it a privilege to be an influence in a time when teenagers are beginning to determine their worldview (he talks about this in an interview at the end of the audio version of the book that I just listened to). He also left the path to ministry in the Episcopal church because of what he felt were insufficient answers to the questions that must be confronted when children suffer from terminal diseases.

In light of that experience, I would have expected more satisfying answers in his book. But they weren’t there! The questions are all there, and none of the answers except that cancer and dying are a side-effect of evolution – a failed mutation. There is probably some sort of after-life, but there can’t be a God who knows us and cares about suffering.

Instead of giving answers, he leaves the characters and readers alike in ambiguity. But maybe that’s his point. Maybe he is just trying to say, “I don’t know the answers.” He seems to have given up on “God-with-us” idea when he saw the cruel outworking the Fall in the lives of children.

But I think his answers are the easy way out of dealing with hard questions.  Suffering exists to bring glory to an infinitely worthy God (here and here are good articles about this, and here‘s a book I’d recommend). Our sovereign God is out for our ultimate good – which includes a whole eternity beyond this earthly life. Suffering may rip our heart and body to pieces on earth, but it won’t last forever. And do we, the  prized possessions of a God who sent his own son to die for us, really have cause to question his methods of bringing about our ultimate joy in the eternity to come? I don’t think so.

I hope that one day he finds the true answers to his questions. I hope that one day the teenagers that he’s influencing hear the truth and believe it too. I hope that one day his creativity will teach his teenage audience about a sovereign, loving God who is working all things for our good and his glory.

But until then, let’s use his wonderful talent as a springboard for discussion about hard issues. Let’s be cut to the quick by the suffering he so brilliantly displays in his book. God can use even misguided talent for his glory. Let’s not let John Green waste his.

[photo credit: I tried to find it, but this photo is all over the place, so I’m not sure where it started. I first saw it on Pinterest.]

Silence Isn’t All It’s Quacked Up to Be

No matter if you’ve heard of Duck Dynasty or not, if you love it or hate it, if you’re a Christian or not — if you’re an American you no doubt have heard of the firestorm brought on by Phil Robertson’s comments to GQ magazine.

There are varied responses – love, hate, and almost everything in-between. Most reactions don’t surprise me (and quite honestly almost everything I’ve seen or read so far has annoyed me), but I have to say that the response that rankles me the most is the public “silence” that certain Christians are exuding. I’ve seen several posts either giving a hipster-esque “I don’t care about Duck Dynasty” that brings to mind a picture of Anne Shirley’s nose-in-the-air disregard, and some criticizing other Christians for getting upset about a cable TV show.

One article in particular was posted by one of my favorite websites – Desiring God. The author, who is an elder at my church and whom I have some amount of respect for, basically tells people off for being upset and wasting energy on such a silly issue and encourages people rouse that energy to fight in the polls and votes. He’s advocating a strategic use of our collective voice.

On one hand I agree with him. Yes, it’s just a cable TV show, and yes, we should definitely be caring about and using energy to engage with culture on a different level. There’s a big “but” in there, though, I think. I usually get my news from Facebook, even though I would consider myself to have a relatively healthy interest in current events and politics. I don’t think I’m alone, and, in fact, I think the truth is that I’m fairly typical. My entire generation uses social media to notify us of important events. There is no doubt in my mind that elections are swayed by social media and celebrity tweets.

So what better way to engage our celebrity-loving culture than to respond publicly and loudly when their very own stars draw attention to issues that would otherwise be considered topics that “you just don’t talk about.” I do not think it’s right to say that what our culture at large is clamoring about is not worth our time – especially when it so directly interacts with an issue that we claim is so important to us.

For something that is such a divisive issue, when would be better to discuss homosexuality than when it is connected to a star of pop culture instead issues within the church or the political process? One would think that today might just be the best time to talk about it.

Homosexuality has become so politicized and divisive that the mere mention of it brings up a “oh not that again” response that we all used to give our parents when they told us what “we already knew.” But maybe, just maybe, interacting with culture on a different level – yes, maybe even the frivolous, celebrity-crazed level – we might do a better job of relating to people that need to hear Gospel truth. Today they’re coming to us, asking for a response (demanding is probably a better term). Now does not seem like a good time for silence.