Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Hardened Indifference: Backsliding Part 3 of 7

This is part three in a series of seven, the material is taken from the Free Grace Broadcaster distributed by Mt. Zion Online. I have added additional commentary on the topic from Spurgeon that helps demonstrate the slippery slope of backsliding churches and the similarity to the current Emergent movement.
    3. Unbelief leads the church to backslide further into a hardened condition of indifference. It leads us to lose all concern for truth. How many are truly concerned to hear true doctrine from the pulpit, to hear about death in Adam and life of Christ? Are we concerned about guarding the foundational doctrines of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility? Do we delight to hear of them preached fully as they flow out of the biblical text being expounded?

       We should desire to hear all the rich doctrines of Scripture preached in their fullness, all of which are grounded in the heart of the Gospel, Jesus Christ and Him crucified, as spokes are ground in the hub of the wheel. Are we interested in the doctrines of God’s never-ending love and full redemption through the blood of Christ? Do we care to understand the necessity of the Holy Spirit, justification, sanctification, and perseverance?

       We need to cherish experimental doctrine rather than being indifferent to it. Does it concern us whether we hear about the necessity of saving grace, the fullness of it, and its fruit?

       Finally, we must not be indifferent to hearing about the marks of grace – marks that separate the work of God from the work of man, saving faith from temporary faith, true trembling (Phi 2:12) from devilish trembling (Jam 2:19), and abiding convictions from common convictions.

       We live in a fearfully indifferent and careless time. We must acknowledge that true doctrine is fading more and more in our world and in our hearts. Concern for the truth is disappearing, and most of the distinctions mentioned above are becoming increasingly unknown, even in the minds of church members….Some can no longer see the difference between biblically experiential and outwardly historical marks of grace. They do not take the time to read the works of our forefathers and study the differences; they hear not differences, being indifferent.

       By nature, we care for none of these things. We live on the same level as beasts. Our lives seem to be little more than work, eating, sleeping, and dying. We are bent toward backsliding for our own names’ sake and our own lives. We place self above true doctrine, and this is why we can go on living unconverted.

       God’s people love preaching that is searching, experimental, and discriminatory, no matter how difficult or stressful it may be. By nature, we prefer a false assurance or a presumptuous claim, but God’s people would rather be killed than deceived. They know by experience that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). They know, too, that it is far easier to be deceived than to know truth. Therefore, no flood of tears, no nights of prayer along with God, and not counterfeit message (no matter how close it is to the genuine) will satisfy them. God’s people need more than tears, prayers, repentance, unworthiness, and humility. They need something and someone outside of themselves. The need Christ. The need Christ and His real doctrine burned into their souls by the Holy Spirit. God’s people can never experience it enough. They cry, “Lord, seal it home with Thy Divine stamp of approval that I may know it is Thy doctrine inscribed on the walls of my soul, not my own doctrine – not my own inscriptions, tears, and works.”

       Their lives are characterized by seeking more and more doctrine worked by the Spirit, experienced by the soul, and blessed by heaven. The yearn for the truth that will set them free and drive away doubt with its overwhelming power – a truth that will soften and bless their souls. Such truth comes down from God and leads back up to Him. Is this your desire also, or is your religion nothing but tradition mixed with the common convictions now and then? Does a little religion, a little knowledge, satisfy your conscience, and then do you set your soul aside? Are you content with the scaffolding of religion without knowledge of the heart?

       If you honestly must answer yes, then you are backsliding further every day, every sermon, every Sabbath. It is a hard but real truth: by nature, we are asking the Lord for the shortest way to condemnation. We are bent toward backsliding ourselves directly into hell. May the Lord open our eyes before it is too late!

[Note: The quotes from Spurgeon that follow were put together at least a week before Phil Johnson over at PyroManiacs stole my thunder with his "Weekly Dose of Spurgeon" post, ...the Danger of an Uncertain Trumpet. Oh well, what am I gonna' do? Phil always hogs the best Spurgeon quotes.]

I have little to add that Spurgeon has not already said far more eloquently and impactfully, therefore here are his words:

    [Referring to Zephaniah 3:16-18] The solemn assembly had fallen under reproach. The solemn assemblies of Israel were her glory: her great days of festival and sacrifice were the gladness of the land. To the faithful their holy days were their holidays. But a reproach had fallen upon the solemn assembly, and I believe it is so now at this present moment. It is a sad affliction when in our solemn assemblies the brilliance of the gospel light is dimmed by error. The clearness of the testimony is spoiled when doubtful voices are scattered among the people, and those who ought to preach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, are telling out for doctrines the imaginations of men, and the inventions of the age. Instead of revelation, we have philosophy, falsely so-called; instead of divine infallibility, we have surmises and larger hopes. The gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, is taught as the production of progress, a growth, a thing to be amended and corrected year by year. It is an ill day, both for the church and the world, when the trumpet does not give a certain sound; for who shall prepare himself for the battle?

    If added to this we should see creeping over the solemn assembly of the church a lifelessness, an indifference, and a lack of spiritual power, it is painful to a high degree. When the vitality of religion is despised, and gatherings for prayer are neglected, what are we coming to? The present period of church history is well portrayed by the church of Laodicea, which was neither cold nor hot, and therefore to be spewed out of Christ's mouth. That church gloried that she was rich and increased in goods, and had need of nothing, while all the while her Lord was outside, knocking at the door, a door closed against him. That passage is constantly applied to the unconverted, with whom it has nothing to do: it has to do with a lukewarm church, with a church that thought itself to be in an eminently prosperous condition, while her living Lord, in the doctrine of his atoning sacrifice, was denied an entrance. Oh, if he had found admission— and he was eager to find it— she would soon have flung away her imaginary wealth, and he would have given her gold tried in the furnace, and white raiment with which she might be clothed. Alas! she is content without her Lord, for she has education, oratory, science, and a thousand other baubles. Zion's solemn assembly is under a cloud indeed, when the teaching of Jesus and hisapostles is of small account with her. (1887 - MTP)

    There is no room for indifference where the gospel is concerned--it is either the most astounding of impostures, or the most amazing of revelations; no man can safely remain undecided about it, it is too weighty, too solemn to be snuffed at as a matter of no concern. (1866 - MTP)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Hardening Unbelief: Backsliding Part 2 of 7

Acts 19:8-9
8And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus.

2 Thessalonians 2:13
13But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits[a] to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.

     The Matthew Henry Commentary has this to say, "When we hear of the apostasy of many, it is a great comfort and joy, that there is a remnant according to the election of grace, which does and shall persevere; especially we should rejoice, if we have reason to hope that we are of that number. The preservation of the saints is because God loved them with an everlasting love, from the beginning of the world. The end and the means must not be separated. Faith and holiness must be joined together as well as holiness and happiness. The outward call of God is by the gospel; and this is rendered effectual by the inward working of the Spirit. The belief of the truth brings the sinner to rely on Christ, and so to love and obey him; it is sealed by the Holy Spirit upon his heart. We have no certain proof of any thing having been delivered by the apostles, more than what we find contained in the Holy Scriptures. Let us then stand fast in the doctrines taught by the apostles, and reject all additions, and vain traditions."

We cannot be more sure of anything than the TRUTH contained in the Holy Scriptures.

         2. Worldliness bends the church towards further backsliding and into a hardening condition of unbelief. Jesus Himself complained of His generation. “But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented” (Matt 11:16-17).

         Is this not a picture of the church today? If the funeral tune of the Law is preached, how many sinners are mourning? If the wedding tune of the Gospel is proclaimed, how many mourning sinners are brought to rejoicing? In general, we can say that the Law no longer seems to cause trembling, and the Gospel no longer seems to provoke jealousy….Could we confess, “I have become hardened to the Law and to the Gospel – I fear even to hell itself”?

         Even the preaching of hellish damnation is making less and less impression. And heaven? By nature, we do not what that either. An atheist once said, “You can keep your heaven and your hell. Only give me this earth.” We may not dare to voice that, but do we live it with our lives? Unbelief makes us practical atheist. Hell is no longer hell, heaven is no longer heaven, grace is no longer grace, sin is no longer sin, Christ is no longer Christ, God is no longer God, an the Bible is no longer the everlasting Word of God.

         Unbelief also makes us hardened to the truth. We may know the truth in our minds, but it will burn us eternally if it does not become engrafted into our hearts…

"Unbelief" at this stage starts out rather subtlety, but almost always begins by discounting the truth of the scriptures or by denying truth itself. To be a scriptural Christian, how can we deny that there is truth or deny that it can be known, if we are called to and responsible for knowing and believing it? Especially the truth of the scripture... It seems that part of our salvation, the consequences of election, is belief in the truth.

The Emergent Church very clearly stepped upon a slippery slope at worldliness and quickly and predictably "backslid" down the slippery slope to unbelief. After all, belief in uncertainty is really just unbelief all dressed up. It is just a "smile on a dog."

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Increasing Worldliness: Backsliding Part 1 of 7

Worldliness seeps into a church and begins it's backslide because the PURPOSE of the church is forgotten or ignored. Somehow we have gotten the mistaken idea that the purpose of the church is a place where cravings can be met, deviancies accepted, and boredom can be entertained instead of a place where God is exalted, man humbled, doctrine taught, others served, and the body of Christ strenthened by every saint serving somewhere. The difference, as Al Mohler has put it, is clear that when you ask if you are building a church, or are you building a crowd. Satan can easily build a crowd, and does so with regularity. Only God and His elect build a church.

       1. When the church begins to backslide, the first visible sign is usually an increase in worldliness. In everyday lives, in conversation, an even in dress and fashion, the spirit of the world begins to infest church circles. What crept ashamedly into the church before begins to walk freely, often covered or overlooked instead of exposed and admonished. The black and white line separating godliness and worldliness becomes increasingly grayer.

       Instead of walking in opposite directions, the world and the church begin to have more in common with each other, much to the church’s detriment. Some of its members begin going to worldly places, taking part in its entertainment, and befriending its people. Some take all kinds of modern media into their homes without even considering what controls they should exercise; consequently, the quickly become addicted to today’s worldly mentality.

       Worldly people, worldly entertainment, worldly customs, worldly places – is this not what Hosea warned against when the Spirit directed him to write, “Ephraim hath mixed himself among the people” (Hosea 7:8)? The sin of increasing worldliness is the church’s first downward and tragic step in the spiral of backsliding.

Phil Johnson in the "Weekly Dose of Spurgeon" on the PyroManiacs blog highlighted Spurgeon's thoughts on how The church should be separate from the world. It is worthy of repeating:

    Great attempts have been made of late to make the church receive the world, and wherever it has succeeded it has come to this result, the world has swallowed up the church. It must be so. The greater is sure to swamp the less.

    They say, "Do not let us draw any hard-and-fast lines. A great many good people attend our services who may not be quite decided, but still their opinion should be consulted, and their vote should be taken upon the choice of a minister, and there should be entertainments and amusements, in which they can assist."

    The theory seems to be, that it is well to have a broad gangway from the church to the world: if this be carried out, the result will be that the nominal church will use that gangway to go over to the world, but it will not be used in the other direction.

Click HERE for more resources on worldliness.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Backsliding Down the Slippery Slope

BackslidingThere are a number of small periodicals that I consistently look forward to and have made an integral part of my personal devotions. Among these are Table Talk, The Founders Journal, and a quarterly jewel that seems to regularly meet and exceed their stated purpose. "To humble the pride of man, to exalt the grace of God in salvation, and to promote real holiness in heart and life."   I am talking about the Free Grace Broadcaster.

     When this issue of the FGB arrived, still fresh in my mind was the discussion of about slippery slopes and a statement that Centuri0n made in the comments. He said, "My point in posting both kinds of slippery slopes (valid and invalid) is that you can make the slippery slope argument if your cause-and-effect chain is solid." I had been mulling those thoughts over and wondered how it applied to the "Emergent Church" debate.

     The theme of the Fall 2006 issue of FGB is "Backsliding" and one of the articles (written by Joel R. Beeke and taking from his book Backsliding: Its Disease and Cure) was titled "Signs of Backsliding Churches". It seems to me that this article very clearly lays out a solid chain of cause-and-effect that bolsters a valid slippery slope argument against the "Emergent Church."

     The content of the article will be posted in a seven part series. See if you agree that "Emergent" doesn’t start to seem an awful lot like "Backsliding." - Isaiah 5:20


    And my people are bent to backsliding from me - Hosea 11:7

         IS THE PRESENT-DAY CHURCH following the Word and ways of the Lord and abhorring all that is otherwise? Is the fear of God, the love for truth and for God’s glory, and the desire to walk according to all God’s commandments prospering among God’s church? Before God and men, we must confess that, honestly, the answer is no. True, there may still be some outward truth, outward growth, and even outward spiritual privileges to an extent that the church of former ages scarcely possessed. But Israel could claim the same things- outward truth, outward growth, outward privileges- and yet they were backsliding...

         A church tends to slide from a strong foundation. Therefore, God calls His church to be aware of how backsliding begins, how it thrives, and how it ends. We must be acquainted with Satan’s devices and methodical plans to bring the church into an abominable, backsliding condition. Under the light of the Holy Spirit, the history of Israel and the church reveals a clear pattern of step-by-step backsliding, a pattern we will consider in closer detail.

    1. When the church begins to backslide, the first visible sign is usually an increase in worldliness.

    2. Worldliness bend the church towards further backsliding and into a hardening condition of unbelief.

    3. Unbelief leads the church to backslide further into a hardened condition of indifference.

    4. Indifference produces its close companion on the road of backsliding: ignorance.

    5. Spiritual and intellectual ignorance of the truth leads to the fatal plague of spiritual deadness in the church.

    6. Spiritual deadness bends backsliding into man-centeredness.

    7. This brings us to the last step of a backsliding church: man-centeredness yields the fruits of an unholy or no holy expectation from God.