Monday, October 31, 2005

A Task Unfinished ...

This is my last post of the night shift before I retire gratefully home to my bed. I think at some point C J Mahaney preached on "Sleep" and the fact that it is a pure gift from God designed to humble us. I couldn't agree more and working nights makes it more so. Anyway ...

Luke's excellent expose of my recent post on "Biblical Equality": - reminded me that I have been side-tracked from my thoughts and musings on the question of biblical manhood and womanhood. Being side-tracked is something I do very easily, so I am grateful for that reminder.

Luke's point that my writing seemed to suggest that trusting one's leaders is a weakness was correct and I do apologise for leaving that impression. I think "blindly" trusting one's leader IS a weakness because surely that leaves the way wide open for the formation of cults, but yes - trusting a leader anointed by God is actually correct and godly. Yet at the same time, I still insist that we should be like the Bereans and "search the Scriptures daily to see if these things are so". If the Bereans did it with the teaching of the apostles, then so should we with our leaders today surely?

So as he pointed out, my musings are interesting because I come from the Newfrontiers family, and lest any suspect me of mutiny, I have found an excellent review (the work done for me!) of the egalitarian's answer to Gruem and Piper and it was in the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood's own journal. It is excellent and throughly comprehensive with articles by Tom Schriener and Justin Taylor ( among others. It can be found at:

Having said that, I still do think some questions are left unanswered that "Biblical Equality" raises and I hope to address those soon.
C H Spurgeon on Grieving the Holy Spirit.

My friend Peter Day preached on the danger of grieving the Holy Spirit last Sunday and it sparked a whole chain of thought with me. In this day and age, we hear much about the Spirit. We indulge in controversies about His gifts, how one receives Him primarily etc etc - but little is spoken on how He is upset or grieved. So I turned to my volumes of C H Spurgeon and found this most insightful, and indeed most convicting sermon on this topic. As I have done before I will present the structure of the sermon with key points - then will post some comments and thoughts of my own at the end, on the issues it has raised in my own mind.

Grieving the Holy Spirit

Ref: Sermon(No. 278) Delivered on Sabbath Morning, October 9th, 1859, by the Rev C H Spurgeon at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.

Text: "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption."—Ephesians 4:30.

"Grief is a sweet combination of anger and of love".

"Now, the purport of my sermon, this morning, will be to exhort you not to grieve the Spirit; but I shall divide it thus:—first, I shall discourse upon the love of the Spirit; secondly, upon the seal of the Spirit; and then, thirdly, upon the grieving of the Spirit".

1. Upon the love of the Spirit.

"Ah, then, in that blest hour, to memory dear, was it not the Holy Spirit who guided you to Jesus? Do you remember the love of the Spirit, when, after having quickened you, he took you aside, and showed you Jesus on the tree? Who was it that opened our blind eye to see a dying Saviour? Who was it that opened your deaf ear to hear the voice of pardoning love? Who opened your clasped and palsied hand to receive the tokens of a Saviour's grace Who was it that brake your hard heart and made a way for the Saviour to enter and dwell therein? Oh! it was that precious Spirit that self-same Spirit, to whom you had done so much despite, whom in the days of your flesh you had resisted!"

"I am afraid, dear friends, we are too much in the habit of talking of the love of Jesus, without thinking of the love of the Holy Spirit".

"We do not forget Christ's cross, let us not forget the Spirit's operations. We do not forget what Jesus has done for us, let us always remember what the Spirit does in us".

"Why you talk of the love, and grace, and tenderness, and faithfulness of Christ, why do you not say the like of the Spirit? Was ever love like his, that he should visit us? Was ever mercy like his, that he should bear with our ill manners, though constantly repeated by us? Was ever faithfulness like his, that multitudes of sins cannot drive him away? Was ever power like his, that overcometh all our iniquities, and yet leads us safely on, though hosts of foes within and without would rob us of our Christian life?"

2. It is BY the Spirit that we are sealed.

"Never be content, my dear hearers, unless you are sealed, unless you are sure, by the inward witness and testimony of the Holy Ghost, that you have been begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead".

"It is possible for a man to know infallibly that he is secure of heaven. He may not only hope so, but he may know it beyond a doubt, and he may know it thus,—by being able with the eye of faith to see the seal, the broad stamp of the Holy Spirit set upon his own character and experience. It is a seal of attestation".

3. The Grieving of the Spirit.

"Oh, I wish the Spirit had an advocate here this morning, that could speak in better terms than I can. I have a theme that overmasters me, I seem to grieve for him; but I cannot make you grieve, nor tell out the grief I feel".

"Now suppose the Holy Spirit is grieved, what is the effect produced upon us? When the Spirit is grieved first, he bears with us. He is grieved again and again, and again and again, and still he bears with it all. But at last, his grief becomes so excessive, that he says, "I will suspend my operations; I will begone; I will leave life behind me, but my own actual presence I will take away".

"And when the Spirit of God goes away from the soul and suspends all his operations what a miserable state we are in. He suspends his instructions; we read the word, we cannot understand it; we go to our commentaries, they cannot tell us the meaning; we fall on our knees and ask to be taught, but we get no answer, we learn nothing. He suspends his comfort; we used to dance, like David before the ark, and now we sit like Job in the ash-pit, and scrape our ulcers with a potsherd".

"There was a time when his candle shone round about us, but now he is gone; he has left us in the blackness of darkness. Now, he takes from us all spiritual power. Once we could do all things; now we can do nothing. We could slay the Philistines, and lay them heaps upon heaps, but now Delilah can deceive us, and our eyes are put out and we are made to grind in the mill. We go preaching, and there is no pleasure in preaching, and no good follows it. We go to our tract distributing, and our Sunday-school, we might almost as well be at home. There is the machinery there, but there is no love. There is the intention to do good, or perhaps not even that, but alas! there is no power to accomplish the intention. The Lord has withdrawn himself, his light, his joy, his comfort, his spiritual power, all are gone".

"The churches of the present day are very much in the position of those who have grieved the Spirit of God; for the Spirit deals with churches just as it does with individuals".

"You know right well that this is the case with many London churches to this day; and there be some that do not mourn about it. They go up to their accustomed place, and the minister prays, and the people either sleep with their eyes or else with their hearts, and they go out, and there is never a soul saved. The pool of baptism is seldom stirred; but the saddest part of all is this, the churches are willing to have it so. They are not earnest to get a revival of religion".

"He is grieved, and he is gone".

"Let us cry aloud to the Holy Spirit, who is certainly grieved with his church, and let us purge our churches of everything that is contrary to his Word and to sound doctrine, and then the Spirit will return, and his power shall be manifest".

"It is a mercy for you to know that the Spirit of God never leaves his people finally; he leaves them for chastisement, but not for damnation. He sometimes leaves them that they may get good by knowing their own weakness, but be will not leave them finally to perish. Are you in a state of backsliding, declension, and coldness? Hearken to me for a moment, and God bless the words. Brother, stay not a moment in a condition so perilous; be not easy for a single second in the absence of the Holy Ghost. I beseech you use every means by which that Spirit may be brought back to you".

* End of Sermon Extract*

The first matter to grip and claim my attention was the point that Spurgeon made in his first section on the "Love of the Spirit". He said; "I am afraid, dear friends, we are too much in the habit of talking of the love of Jesus, without thinking of the love of the Holy Spirit". And again; "We do not forget Christ's cross, let us not forget the Spirit's operations". That simply struck a chord with me, because that has been my unfortunate experience these last two and a half years in Sovereign Grace Ministries. And the question posed in my mind is - how? How can it be possible to not forget Christ's cross - indeed have it remembered every time the church ever met together, and yet forget the working and operation of the Holy Spirit. I have no particular answer other than that I am seriously grieved that I have been guilty of such error, for surely Spurgeon would not have mentioned such a point unless that too grieved the Spirit.

The second matter of interest was his clear theology on the sealing of the Spirit. He said; "Never be content, my dear hearers, unless you are sealed, unless you are sure, by the inward witness and testimony of the Holy Ghost, that you have been begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead". It seems certain to me from this point that C H Spurgeon clearly held a similar view on the sealing of the Spirit to that of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones. "Never be content". Why would he say such a thing if we received such a sealing automatically and unconciously upon conversion? "Unless you are sure". How can we be sure unless such a sealing was vibrantly experiential?

The third matter concerns a few blog entries I made regarding an issue my friend Mark Heath raised on "Inviting the Spirit" to meetings. He stated that he was concerned with this because it seemed to contradict the Spirit's omnipresence and I wrote a reply stating that Scripture itself seems to suggest that the Spirit can be both present, and yet "More or Less" present in an active sense.

C H Spurgeon would seem to verify those observations of Scripture by making comments such as; "But at last, his grief becomes so excessive, that he says, "I will suspend my operations; I will begone; I will leave life behind me, but my own actual presence I will take away" and again; "And when the Spirit of God goes away from the soul and suspends all his operations what a miserable state we are in. He suspends his instructions; we read the word, we cannot understand it; we go to our commentaries, they cannot tell us the meaning; we fall on our knees and ask to be taught, but we get no answer, we learn nothing."

He mentioned of course that there is a very clear similarity between what happens in an individual and what happens in a church setting; "The churches of the present day are very much in the position of those who have grieved the Spirit of God; for the Spirit deals with churches just as it does with individuals". And then of course ended the sermon powerfully with an empassioned plea that if we were guilty of grieving the Spirit, to repent and pray and beesech God for His return.

I do not mention these points to endlessly raise controversy but because it is a matter of very real concern to me. It seems to me that there is huge danger in the common evangelical view that the Spirit is omnipresent, that we will therefore take His Presence for granted, and not notice if He actually goes and departs. Even more so, such a view will surely also begin to erode the clear teaching and need to pray for and expect a mighty revival of religion. Therefore I am tremendously encouraged by finding this sermon of C H Spurgeon's and unashamedly reproduce it here.

May God light urgent fires in the hearts of people who read his words and may we see an increasing urgent prayer rising up that God will visit this nation again in mercy and pour out His Spirit in an overwhealming flood of Pentecostal power.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Diotrophes, The Pastor and The Glorious End-Time Church.

The great preacher, C H Spurgeon once said;

“Here is a warning to the careless. Many are to the church what weeds are to a garden. They are not planted by God, they are not growing under His nurture, they are bringing forth no fruit to His glory. My dear friend I have tried often to get at you, to impress you but I cannot”[1].

Such a warning may find an ‘Amen’ in many the weary pastor’s heart. It is not the repentant sinner that you fear, but the haughty Pharisee. Not the clumsy messy child that irritates you, but the rebellious, angry teenager. Such a spirit is illustrated in the Bible by the character Diotrophes. (3 John 1:9-11). As ever with the mighty apostle Paul, we are told much in just a few words. So understand Diotrophes we may and indeed we must.

The great British military leader Montgomery showed that the best military strategy of all is to defeat an opponent by understanding him. He took great pains to read the great Field Marshall Rommel’s book during the war in North Africa and as the Germans were being routed from El Alamein (so the story goes) Montgomery shouted to Rommel; “Rommel, you devilish fiend! I have read your book!”. Hence, church pastors, we must sit with Diotrophes and learn of him – for he is in your church.

1. His Character: “Reach for the Skies”. – (v9)

We can be certain that the key under girding characteristic to absolutely everything that Diotrophes does and is, is pride. “I will be like God, I will raise myself …”. It is irrelevant as to whether Diotrophes was a fellow apostle with Paul, a pastor of a local church of Paul’s, or a layman who knew about Paul. The apostle did not see fit to inform us of those secondary details. What we are told was that he had a proud haughty arrogant spirit that frequently examined Paul and found him wanting. What is pride? C J Mahaney defines that dreadful sin as; “Pride is an attitude of self sufficiency in relation to God and self righteousness in relation to others”[2]. We will indeed find that, as we get to know Diotrophes, self-sufficiency marks everything he does.

2. His Commitment: “Disagree with Absolutely Everything”. – (v9)

Fuelled, driven and spurred by pride, Diotrophes will resent you. He will resent absolutely everything about you and, as it is a humbling thing to agree with your enemy, we cannot expect much in the way of agreement or affirmation from this man. What is key to understand this rigid commitment is a realisation of the fact that negotiation is not an option. Indeed – a God-driven campaign to win him over through love will be addressed later, but at this stage it is utterly pointless trying to attempt an armistice through compromise and agreement about the trivialities and concerns he will be “sharing”. The subject he is disagreeing with you on, is not important to Diotrophes. The principle is the key. He must disagree with you and do so vehemently.

3. His Modus Operandi: Five stage Melee Attack – (v10).

The text tells us that there are five strategies employed by the cunning Diotrophes. The rationale is that he won’t confess freely to having to resort to such ‘dirty tricks’. He knows that you are passionately orthodox being committed to the sufficiency of the Word of God. He is not – because the Word of God attacks the most precious thing that he holds dear – the status quo. This cannot be allowed to happen.

Unjust and Wicked Accusations.

This method is nigh perfect. It is so brilliant because it and he strikes a killing blow at the essence of what the church aims to be; “the pure and spotless Bride”. Therefore our esteemed Diotrophes, by smearing you will achieve virtually everything he wants to. Why is this so? Because just HOW do you counter a vicious character assasination coming from this respectable and gently smiling, suit-wearing Diotrophes who will offer his assasination “in love” and “out of concern”? If you stand upto him he will accuse you of bullying and being factious. If you don’t, he has won by default.

Never Give Up; “Not satisfied with this”.

Appeals to unity will not work with Diotrophes because his goal is not restoration to fellowship. Nothing could be further from his mind. Quite frankly he feels nauseous at the thought of becoming part of the “pastor’s crowd”, all-singing, all-dancing. His goal and his accurate guess is that you will eventually shut up, worn down by the wave of determined viciousness coming from him. Diotrophes is something like a Rockweiler and will not let go until you are dead.

Refuse to Receive the Brethren.

If you attempt to instigate various biblical steps like Titus 3 for example in a sincere effort to restore unity, it is most likely that he will find many various and cunning ways to refuse them, rebut them and avoid them. The deep and dark reason is that it stings him that you will not stop using the Word of God which is powerful, dividing bone and sinew. However even the devil can quote Scripture and he knows that Paul condemns factiousness so you will most likely be accused of this and he will maintain a dignified distance from you. The most popular form of correspondance and confrontation will be through letters.

Control the Weak.

You will notice that Diotrophes will have something of a following – yet the marker to this particular fan club is that they are all weak in character. They will be easily persuaded that it is far more profitable and indeed spiritual to “pray rather than read Scripture”. Why? Because the prayer meetings are classic times to “share … in love … through concern”. Or in other words – gossip and indulge in yet more character assination.

Don’t hesitate to exit.

If you eventually pull out the heavy guns and get firm, Diotrophes won’t think twice about leaving the church before you can throw him out. Remember – he is proud and extremely so and will not hesitate to allow any of your expressions of love to reach him, especially loving him enough to excommunicate him. Do not underestimate this final move – he would prefer to stay and continue the work he has begun, but if pushed a dignified exit may be calculated to cause you the most damage of all.

4. How to Defeat Diotrophes: Be a Spiritual Leader.

Through all of this, Diotrophes has a notable and definite Achilles heel. If you are a true spiritual leader, drenched in the Holy Spirit, he will lose the day and rapidly. Dr John Piper defined a true spiritual leader as:

“Knowing where God wants people to be and taking the initative to use God’s methods to get them there in reliance on God’s power”[3].

This excellent definition can be broken down into three parts.

Divine Vision.

It has been said that every true Christian spiritual leader must have their own power enounter with God where He will meet you and comission you. Note that it is famously promised in Joel 2:28 that “old men will dream dreams and your young men will see visions”. Dr Piper said that; “leaders can see the power of God in the most overwhealming opposition”. If you have met God in your own personal Pentecost, you will have the clearest answer to those who ask; “Where are you going?”. During the Charismatic Renewal, many used the verse; “Come with us and we will do you good”. Well, if we must come with you – where are you going? Sadly many Christian leaders do not have their own vision and comission. Where are you going? Diotrophes is not going anywhere. Status quo is the name of his game. If you are a spiritual leader fired with a spirit-drenched vision, that is set on fire by the prophetic comissioning then rest assured, the winds of change will begin to blow. When that happens, Diotrophes will get fearful of his own accord.

Definite Strategies.

“Use God’s methods”, Dr Piper said. Do not get angry or bitter or resentful. Do not above all get disillusioned. There is indeed nothing new under the sun, and you – church pastor – are not unique in having the spirit of Diotrophes possessing one of your church members. God knew exactly what He was doing when He wrote and inspired His Holy Word and you can rest in the comfort and knowledge that there is absolutely everything there to help you defeat this particular man.

Desperate Reliance.

The crucial secret to your success is that you do not try and fight fire with fire. Do not tell yourself that you are just as capable and able as Diotrophes. You are not. He is demonically inspired and you are not. John Piper said; “All true spiritual leadership has its roots in desperation”[4]. Terry Virgo spent his two keynote sessions at the Brighton Leadership Conference 2005 showing that Gideon’s power came from his weakness. God had no use for a strong man! But a weak man he could use. You will not succeed if you try and fight this battle in your own strength, but you will be guaranteed victory if you rely totally and wholly on God. C H Spurgeon said:

“If Jesus be the Master and Lord in all things, it is not mine to keep the church in order. I am not responsible for the growth of every Christian, nor for every backsliders error. This burden must not lie on me. “Supposing him to be the gardener” then all must go well in the long run. He that keepeth Israel doth neither slumber nor sleep”[5].

You will find that if you can apply this principle, one by one the strategies of Diotrophes will begin to fail. If the Spirit of God truly floods you, then the character assasinations that are brought against you will indeed hurt and sting but you will triumph here by agreeing with any truth in them. This will disarm your flabbergasted attacker in the most mighty way. (Galatians 1:10) Set your heart totally and fully on serving the people of God for God Himself.

Above all equip yourself with a quiet triumphalism. Victory is assured. If you indeed have a divine vision given by a Pentecostal encounter with God, He will have told you where you are going and the future and plans He has for you are good and exciting. The stratgies for reaching that vision are laid down in His mighty Word. Finally rely on Him. He is the Good Shepherd and the paths He leads you in are beautiful. Your life is hid with Christ on high! Diotrophes is a beaten weed that will soon be pulled up and discarded.

[1] C H Spurgeon – “Supposing Him to Be the Gardener” – Sermon 1662 – Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit - 31st December 1887
[2] C J Mahaney; “Interview with Justin Taylor” - - downloaded 05:10, 25/10/05
[3] John Piper – “The Marks of a Spiritual Leader” – Downloaded 25/10/05 0600
[4] John Piper – “The Marks of a Spiritual Leader” – Downloaded 25/10/05 0600
[5] C H Spurgeon – “Supposing Him to Be the Gardener” – Sermon 1662 – Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit - 31st December 1887
He is Risen!!

Can't write much tonight even though I've got some things in the pipeline, I am so so busy at work. So sorry to bang the same old drum, but I found this fantastic great awesome quote by Dr Ern Baxter:

"A commitment in heart and mind to the revelation of the Word of God concerning 'resurrection' is essential to a sound foundation. Error or weakness here will affect the whole structure of Christian life."

How utterly true ...

Saturday, October 22, 2005

What's Wrong With the Christian Church Today? Dr Lloyd-Jones has the answer.

I found this quote in his commentary on Ephesians 1:

"If I were asked to give a diagnosis as to what is wrong with the Christian church today, and as to what has been her chief trouble for a number of years, I would suggest that it is her failure to understand this statement".

What statement is that?

Ephesians 1:13: "In whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise".

What does Dr Lloyd-Jones understand by the "Sealing of the Spirit"?

"I am suggesting therefore that the baptism with the Spirit is the same as the 'sealing with the Spirit'. But someone may well ask, why use two different terms then? If baptism is meant, why does it not say baptism? The answer it seems to me is that in the first and second chapters of Acts we are being taught the doctrine of the Spirit directly. The object there was to emphasise the giving of the Spirit, the fulfilment of God's promise; and it is called a baptism because the Spirit was poured out on men and women.

But here in Ephesians Paul is talking about inheritance. He desires us as Christians to realise that we are inheritors and his concern is that we should be absolutely sure of the fact that we are inheritors".

So is this baptism or sealing with the Spirit an experience?

"How slavish we can become in our use of terms! And how we rob ourselves of the blessings of God as a result! We are so afraid of excesses, we are so afraid of being labelled in a certain way, that we claim the baptism of the Spirit to be something unconcious, non-experimental, a happening that does not affect a man's feelings.

Such an arguement is utterly unscriptural. Not concious! The Apostles were as men who appeared to be filled with new wine! They were in a state of ecstasy! They were rejoicing and praising God; they were moved, their hearts were ravished; they experienced things which they had never felt or known before. They were transformed and were so different that you can scarcely recognise them as the same Peter, James and John and the rest as they once were.

Not experimental! Nothing can be more experimental. It is the height of Christian experience.

It is the highest, the greatest experience which a Christian can have in this world".

Fair enough ... but is this just Dr Ll0yd-Jones losing the plot? Was it just an unfortunate whim of his alone.

Apparantly not ...

"Here is the experience as described by John Flavel, the great Puritan; "Thus going on his way his thoughts began to swell and rise higher and higher like the waters in Ezekiel's vision till at last they became an overflowing flood. Such was the intention of his mind, such the ravishing tastes of heavenly joys, and such the full assurance of his interest therein, that he utterly lost a sight and sense of this world and all the concerns thereof. For some hours he knew no more where he was than if he had been in a deep sleep upon his bed. Arriving in great exhaustion at a certain spring, he sat down and washed - earnestly desiring that if it were God's pleasure that it might be his parting place from this world. Death had the most amiable face in his eye that ever he beheld execpt the face of Jesus Christ which made it so.

On reaching the Inn the influence still continued banishing sleep. Still the joy of the Lord overflowed him and he seemed to be an inhabitant of the other world. He many years after called that day one of the days of heaven, and he said he understood more of the light of heaven by it than all the books he ever read or discoveries he had entertained about it".

Anyone else?

"Thomas Goodwin says again; "There is only one thing beyond that (the sealing of the Spirit) namely heaven itself".

If Doctor Lloyd-Jones says that is the problem with the Christian church at the moment, then that surely ought to at least interest us.

Friday, October 14, 2005

My Heresies Are On-Line!!

They always say you can rely on your friends to bring you down to earth with a crash!! I've been spending my last night shift this week on Intensive Care pondering the Holy Spirit, His baptism and His gifts with Dr L-J as my guide and its just ..... heavenly.

Then I came across these few pages:

The bottom photo is me ... dancing exuberently with the rest of my apostolic team with the church that we lead. Yep, we even have our own website:

Signs, wonders and manifestations follow us. The first two pix are me preaching my first ever sermon. It was my own doing (I don't believe in plagarism of Americans) and I preached on Ezekiel 37 and the valley of dry bones. See I'm a true charismatic.

And as you see there is clearly a restoration of money in the mouth coming from photo 5.

And for those who have followed the links and are still wondering and need some reassurance before they go calling Morrison, MacArthur, Masters or any other heresy hunter ... these webpages are most definately tongue-in-cheek and I'm mortified that my picture is on the net in this manner!!

Time to go bury my head in a cup of Earl Grey to recover ...
Addendum to "Boxing in the Spirit?".

I have been reading and studying a great deal of Dr Lloyd-Jones' tomes at the mo, still deep in my subject of the "gifts of the Spirit" and the correct context in which they should be viewed. While reading the Doctor's commentary on Romans 12, I found the following insightful quote, that I think would buttress what I was arguing - namely that we should be most careful of seeing the Spirit's omnipresence to the neglect of the Biblical truth that He can be "more or less" present.

Dr Lloyd-Jones said:

"We know that is true because Scripture itself teaches that; if a church backslides or falls from the truth or limits the truth of God (and I would say an individual also) then she will lose her power".

Then again commenting on the account of John on the Isle of Patmos:

"Sometimes I think that one of the most wonderful statements on this subject, one which clinches this matter is given by the Apostle John in Revelation 1:10 ... "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day and heard behind me a great voice as of a trumpet.

What does he mean? Was he not always in the Spirit? Was he not a man who had been baptised with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost and filled again many times over as the Book of Acts tells us? ...

The Spirit was always in John, but he became "in the Spirit" which means he was taken up into the Spirit. He was given a special experience by the Spirit. He was lifted up into this realm and there he began to see things".

These words just thrill my heart!! And awake such a hunger in me!! I am well aware of the excesses and problems that eager but unwise charismatics have caused, but here we have one of the greatest and most respected Reformed evangelical teachers of the last century simply opening up the Word of God and explaining what is there!! As Dr L-J said, to me that clinches the matter. Yes indeed the Spirit is in all true believers, but there is SO much more of the Spirit to receive!! How much more?? How deep can we go??

To end with Dr L-J again: "We were never meant to be content with a little!".

Thursday, October 13, 2005

"You Can't Speak In Tongues At Will!".

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones brings a fresh perspective to consider.

I've been listening on and off to various sermons of the Doctor's and came across this fascinating one on the gift of tongues some time ago from his series on John 1:22, 33. I dismissed it then as the Doctor being over-cautious at charismatic excess. However a re-visit has actually made me think very seriously about the quite thrilling implications if we accept that his argument is true.

I've tried to re-present the context and logical progression of his argument with his conclusions and a few key quotes from him, along with some annotations of my own.


1. There are two aspects to the filling of the Holy Spirit:

- Continous (Ephesians) - Sanctification.
- Aorist Imperative (Acts Post-Pentecost) - A particular event for a particular occasion.

2. Dr Lloyd-Jones: "A man may receive this witness, this sealing, this baptism (of the Holy Spirit) with no such phenomena (the gifts of the Spirit)".

3. Dr Lloyd-Jones: "The dominant factor is the sovereignity of the Spirit".

Logical Progression of Arguement that One Cannot Speak in Tongues at Will:

1. On 1 Corinthians 14:18 - quoting Dr L-J:

"If it is true to say that a man can speak in tongues whenever he likes, what is the point of the apostle's statement? ("I thank my God I speak in tongues more than you all"). It would simply mean he decides to do so more frequently than they do".

2. 1 Corinthians 14:30 implies the same. A message is given to a prophet; he cannot speak at will in a prophetic manner.

3. Same with the gift of miracles. Acts 3 - the apostles passed the beggar at Gate Beautiful regularly but on one particular day they were given an aorist imperative commission and anointing to heal.

4. Same with exorcism. Acts 14, 16 - The demon possessed woman troubled the apostles for "many days" before the commission and anointing to exorcise her came.

A Warning from the Doctor:

"I am here to suggest that if a man tells me he can speak in tongues whenever he likes, it is probably something psychological and not spiritual".

So What? - Conclusions:

Does this viewpoint quench the Spirit? Does it dampen our charismatic zeal if we accept the truth of the Doctor's words? Is this a legalism on our charismatic freedom that we fought so hard for? Does this view deny the truths we have always held that tongues are our "prayer language" to God?


Rather to me it heightens the weight, depth and glory of the gift of tongues.

Consider Dr Lloyd-Jones' understanding of what truly happens when we truly speak in tongues:

"The apostle says; I think I know more than any of you what it is to be taken up by the Spirit ... the Spirit comes upon me more frequently than any of you".

If we apply the same logical principles to the gift of tongues that we subconciously do to the other gifts of the Holy Spirit, we will realise that the Spirit is eager and willing to come upon us to anoint us to speak in a heavenly prayer language, just as much as He is eager and willing to come upon us and for example speak to the gathered assembly through prophecy, or heal the sick, or drive out demons, or empower preaching through the word of faith. Dr Lloyd-Jones was not wanting to quench the Spirit by arguing away the freedom to speak in tongues whenever we like ... rather he was pointing out that when we truly speak in tongues we are being taken up by the Spirit ... the Spirit has come upon us.

Let us not fall into the trap of demanding our "rights" to speak in tongues whenever we like! God the Holy Spirit is not stingy! This is about pursuing a relationship with Him!! What would we rather ... speak in tongues whenever we like (that are 60% psychological or worse demonic) or devote our attention to pursuing a love relationship with the Spirit of God; "My dearest friend" (Mahesh Chavda) and crying out to Him that we need this prayer language to express the weight of love and affection that is on our hearts for God. Would the Spirit truly refuse a request like that and deny an anointing of tongues?

Here is the most concise, accurate and powerful summing up of Dr Lloyd-Jones' position on the gift of tongues. It is from his commentary on Romans 12.

"Now if speaking in tongues is something that people can do whenever they like, then I see no point whatsoever in that statement of the apostle ("I thank my God I speak in tongues more than you all") because all he is saying is that he decides to speak in tongues more frequently than anbody else.

But if he means that he finds himself taken up by the Spirit and speaking in tongues, if it is a kind of spiritual ecstasy into which he has been lifted - not something he decided to do, but something that has been given - then there is point in his claiming that he knows more about it, and does it more frequently thant anybody else.

And this applies to all the gifts, everyone of them. It applies to miracles, healings, tongues and prophecy. They are always given, always initiated by the Spirit".

My Hero Speaks Out!

I was thrilled to find the following interview with Terry Virgo with a guy in the Newfrontiers church in Cambridge. It takes a more in-depth look at Terry's private devotional life that I found INCREDIBLY stirring. God is really on my case at the moment about quiet times (I'm trying to get up before the dawn to meet Him ... ouch!) and to read this is so exciting and stirring.


Are your Bible reading and prayer times systematic or free form?

I think it would be fair to say that they are very deliberate now and have been for many years. I sometimes change the format, but my style tends to be that when I get up in the morning, I get a cup of tea for my wife, Wendy, then go to my study and spend some time in the Word. After a breakfast break I get down to prayer.

Most of the time I use my own meditation system in Bible study. This varies according to the book I set myself, so that if I am going through an epistle it will tend to be much more detailed on a phrase or a verse, but if I’m going through an Old Testament book, I might go through a whole chapter. If I find a phrase or a verse that just seems to stir me, I’ll use a concordance and go off on all sorts of angles – a lot of light gets shed through that. I will occasionally break out and use a commentary. The first time I did that was working through Alec Motyer’s The Prophecy of Isaiah (IVP, 1993). It seemed strange to turn away from my own meditating, but I got so captivated by it that I worked my way right through and I’ve occasionally done that since with other commentaries, but most of the time I have an exercise book and a concordance and my Bible.When you pray, is it noisy or reflective, or a mixture of both?
I guess it’s fairly mixed, but it’s usually noisy. I find that giving thanks to God for things that have happened to me in the last 24 hours helps to bring my life into his presence, reminding me afresh of the loving hand that has done these things. I have found myself more and more drawn in recent years to reflect on the cross in terms of the mercy and kindness God has shown us, and I will often sing about that. I find myself singing a mixture of the modern songs we sing and some old hymns. I love to sing and sometimes I give a lot of time to it, and sing in tongues as well. Then out of this I’ll begin to intercede in terms of wherever God directs me. I try to bear in mind the Lord’s Prayer as a kind of structure to my praying.

What proportion of your prayer times are worship compared with the amount given over to intercession?

Well, strangely, in more recent years, the time spent in worship and real fellowship with God has grown, so that although there is more to pray about, because one’s world always seems to get bigger, the reality is I find renewal, for me, on a daily basis comes from enjoying God for who he is.What’s the most inspiring thing you have learned or relearned in your reading of the Bible recently?

Yesterday I was reading through John chapter 11 and the phrase that really gripped me was what Martha says to Jesus: ‘I know that God will give you whatever you ask.’ And later, as he raises Lazarus from the dead, Jesus says: ‘Father, thank you [that] you always hear me …’ These phrases really stirred me about the certainty of Jesus getting his prayers answered. I thought of his own devotion to the Father, despite knowing that this was going to cost him everything because this miracle was going to be the one to convince the Jews to say, ‘We’ve got to kill him.’ It also struck me that we have an advocate with the Father who always gets what he asks for and that there’s great assurance to be gained from this. As I was meditating on this I remembered John 15:7 which says if we abide in him and let his words abide in us we can ask whatever we wish and it will be given to us. So I found those passages quite a stimulus to my own praying.

How much do you need to come at your ministry responsibilities with a freshness found in your relationship with God in private, or is it that you get built up and renewed while working for the church?

I think that it all works together. We have just been going through a week of prayer in the church here in Brighton, which we do once a month. I’ve been in three prayer meetings in three days, and that, inevitably, is very refreshing. I do a lot of flying around and one of the things they say on aeroplanes is that if there is an oxygen problem, you will find these little masks will fall down from above you. The advice always given is, if you have a child next to you, make sure you put your own oxygen mask on first before you try and help the child, which sounds a little bit selfish, but, actually, if you think of a child that starts fighting back, or being unresponsive, you’ll gradually endanger yourself. I’m sure it’s very wise counsel to make sure you’re all right, you’re full of oxygen, if you like, before you try to help anyone else, and I think that’s my principle. I want to be serving people all the time, but if I’m not in a good place myself, I’ll start running on empty, so I’m quite disciplined in keeping my own experience of God alive.

What do you think God is saying to the church in the UK at the moment?

We gather all our pastors on a regular basis, and when we were last together, God impressed on us a prophecy that there has been a cold wind that has been blowing through the church in our nation, killing many things off. We know that it’s been a dire time, with many churches closing and the church getting a pretty bad press. We felt that God was saying to us that this cold wind has been necessary, like the frosts of winter. Some things have had to die off, but there’s a fresh warm breeze coming, a life-imparting breeze. So I’ve felt more and more full of expectation. For us in Brighton, we’ve got unprecedented numbers on our student work. We visit 500 homes every week on our kids’ club visitations – and we’re seeing breakthroughs like never before. I believe that God wants to bless us, in evangelism and in other ways, too.Is it more important to be known as an evangelical than a charismatic?
I don’t know how helpful labels are.

However, I believe the good news as reported in the Bible and, therefore, I’m fundamentally evangelical. In fact, it’s out of my commitment to biblical truth that I became persuaded about charismatic experience.

Do you see it as part of Newfrontiers’ mission to generate renewal in more traditional denominations or is that a bonus?

I am absolutely delighted where people, within traditional denominations, have drawn on things that we have shared, like the Stoneleigh Bible Week or our teaching materials on themes like grace and the work of the Holy Spirit. I’m of a certain persuasion concerning foundations being very fundamental and important. If they are not dealt with thoroughly they will always frustrate progress, and so it is because of foundational issues we have had to start afresh and do something new.

Is that why you’ve put church planting to the fore?

I would think so. In Brighton and Hove, where I live, 14 churches are earmarked for closure, so if we planted 14 we would only be keeping level. We need to see many, many churches planted. I was at a conference recently where in the question time someone asked, ‘Can you not help failing churches rather than plant new ones?’ I answered by saying, we have to question why they are failing. If the church is failing, there is a reason for it and if the issues causing the failure are not dealt with, to try and help doesn’t help! I have spoken at events like Spring Harvest and people have come to me at the end and thanked me for the ministry and then, quite openly, said, ‘Now we go back to our dead church.’ And I’ve asked, ‘What does that mean?’, and they’ve said, ‘Well, the minister isn’t converted yet. He won’t let us have Alpha’, or something. I’ve had that kind of conversation too often. So I think, why would anyone expect there to be blessing in a church if its leader is not even a Christian? If we do not deal with fundamental issues, we cannot expect much to happen.

Do you think that one of the keys to Newfrontiers’ success is consistency of message, from the highest level of leadership down to local churches, and that this is what brings people to maturity?

Paul says in Acts 20:32, ‘I commend you to God and to the Word of his grace, which is able to build you up and give you the inheritance’. The Bible is pretty clear that there is a body of doctrine that builds the church up and I think that if you are neglectful of that, you are neglectful at your own cost. So we would urge all the pastors that we work with to be very biblical in their approach and to give a good amount of time to teaching the Word. We cling to the more traditional perspective of seeing the Word as fundamental and central, as in Acts 2:42: ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching’. We want to build churches that are very biblical.

It is hugely important to help individual Christians know that it’s the Bible’s truths that set them free and I think that it’s when churches begin to lose confidence in the Bible and the eagerness to understand what it teaches, that they become vulnerable. If biblical truth is taught systematically, with life and vitality, people would be wonderfully built up, set free and equipped.

Do you think it’s essential that local churches preach grace continuously?

I think that foundations of grace need to be laid in a church from its inception and hopefully, therefore, in the individual, as they get added to it. Then grace, hopefully, touches everything we say and do and the way we conduct ourselves. Tomorrow, here in Brighton, for instance, we’re hosting a worship training day. I’m doing a session and part of my approach to that involves people’s knowledge of God’s grace towards them, which releases worship, so although I won’t be doing a session on grace, by talking about worship, I will be showing that, without understanding grace, worship is an external thing – it lacks heart. Grace should touch everything we are saying and doing.

What one thing would you say motivates you to get you out of bed in the morning?

It is a wonderful thing to know that God has called you. That is the mainspring of my life. I am deeply grateful to God for his kindness and mercy to me, it genuinely stirs and motivates me. I want to finish the work he has given me to do. The awareness that we are called into fellowship with God and to do things that he has given us to do is what stirs my heart the most.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Men and Women ... But Don't Forget the Men!

It was a great relief reading the Spring 2003 issue of CBMW. I've been really concerned for some time that the great focus of complementarians world-wide spearheaded by Grudem, Piper and friends has been to combat feminism. And what has worried me is that male chavinism seems to be a forgotten topic. The impression that comes across to me - a so-far "open but cautious" in this issue, is that women should and must be dealt with but men can behave how they like.

And to me, that is like a red rag to a bull to the feminists. Oh yes, they will say - the men can behave how they like because we're just told to submit! And what a valid point. The favourite verse of all time for complementarians; "Wives submit to your husbands" is in the context of; "Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church". If we take those two together, the man definately has the bigger deal!

So in the CBMW Journal 2003, Steven Tracy, the VP from Phoenix Seminary wrote an excellent article called; "1 Corinthians 11:3 - A Correction to Distortions and Abuses of Male Headship". Some key quotes:

"If feminists have legitimate concerns, they must be fiercly addressed".

"Sadly while biblical complementarians oppose the abuse of male headship, they have been extremely slow to address specific issues of male abuse in a detailed fashion".

Footnoted: "For example, exceedingly few book length treatments of the abuse of male power seen in child abuse, sexual violence or domestic violence have been written by biblical complementarians whereas evangelical egalitarians and theologically liberal feminists have written hundreds of such books".

And quoting Donald Bloesch; "In opposing militant feminism however we must not make the mistake of enthroning patriarchial values that have often held women and children in bondage and oppression".

"He shall rule over you" (Gen 3:16) is no divine proscription but a tragic prediction of sin's effects on the human race".

"Male headship defined as harsh authoritarian domination of an inferior is a destructive heresy that may lead to sinful and immoral actions".

"Feminists rightly criticise the church for failing to protect women".

I am sincerely grateful for this article that goes a long way to restoring something of a balance in the complementarian view. Grudem may protest that biblically defined headship is assumed in his arguments, but in my experience nothing can be "assumed" in teaching, preaching and leadership in a church context. In medical terminology if something is not written down, then it did not happen - I believe the same principle can apply in theology - if something is not said, then it is not necessarily believed.

Praise God for example for C J Mahaney's book; "Sex, Romanance and the Glory of God" that calls men to "touch a woman's mind before he touches her body". More of this material is severely needed.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Forgotten Resurrection!

It is exceedingly commonplace to hear talk of the "Cross", the "Cross-centered Life", the "Passion" (aka Mel Gibson) etc etc. Quite often C H Spurgeon is used as a historical backup for this perspective as he took a cross-centered perspective in much of his famous expository preaching.

It is my deep concern that to emphasise the Cross to the neglect of the Resurrection leads to an imbalance in our view of the finished work of Christ and may have devastating effects including legalism, negativism and a poor eschatology. Indeed Christ did die, and yes we must never forget that, but He ROSE AGAIN! Not only that He ascended to glory and is seated at the right hand of the Father from where the Holy Spirit was poured out "as coronation oil" as Ern Baxter called it.

The neglect of the resurrection is not a new error. The same Spurgeon himself knew this and said the following:

"The resurrection of Jesus and the resurrection of the righteous is a doctrine which we believe, but which we too seldom preach or care to read about ... when I turned to Dr. Owen's works, which are a most invaluable storehouse of divine knowledge, containing much that is valuable on almost every subject; I could find, even there, scarcely more than the slightest mention of the resurrection.

It has been set down as a well known truth, and therefore has never been discussed. Heresies have not risen up respecting it; it would almost have been a mercy if there had been, for whenever a truth is contested by heretics, the orthodox fight strongly for it, and the pulpit resounds with it every day. I am persuaded, however, that there is much power in this doctrine" - NPSP Sermon 66 - Feb 17th - 1856

I found the following sermon in the Metropolitan Tabernacle tomes and it seems to me to be a powerful reminder that yes, Spurgeon saw all from the Cross, yet he did not forget that Christ rose as will we and it is a powerful doctrine that should not and must not be forgotten. As before I have reproduced the headings and pertinent quotes but included the reference so any interested can find the volume and read the whole thing.

Christ's Resurrection and Our Newness of Life.

Sermon 2197 - Delivered on Lord's-day Morning, March 29th, 1891 - At the Metropolitan Tabernacle.

Text: "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."—Romans 6:4.

1. The Resurrection of our Lord was attended with glory.

- In itself it was a great marvel.

- The resurrection of our Lord is glorious in contrast with His humiliation.

"The blaze of resurrection lights up the whole length of the Valley of the Shadow. His death wears no dishonor on its brow, for his rising again hath set a diadem thereon. We celebrate Gethsemane and Calvary, and find no bitterness in all their grief, because death is swallowed up in the victory of resurrection".

- His resurrection is glorious in it's effects.

"What a glory there is in our Lord's resurrection, when we further remember that he ever liveth to make intercession for us, and, therefore, he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him! The fullness of salvation comes to us because he has risen from the dead, and is now making intercession for the transgressors. O brethren, the resurrection of Jesus is bright as the sun with glory! Faith in it thrills our hearts. Well might each line of our hymn end with a Hallelujah. When we say one to another, "The Lord is risen indeed", we feel like singing all the time, for now our faith is not vain, we are not in our sins, and those who have fallen asleep have not perished".

- Our Lord's resurrection was glorious as to it's cause.

"If you ask where God's glory most is seen, I will not point to creation, nor to providence, but to the raising of Jesus from the dead".

- That resurrection is glorious, because of its sequel in reference to our Lord.

2. The Parallel in our experience is also full of glory.

- It is a blessed thing that we should be made alive in Christ.

- Quickening is a needful part of the process of sanctification.

- You are partakers of a new life.

- We have a pre-eminent security for future perfection.

3. The Life that is given is emphatically new.

- A life which we never before possessed.

- New in it's principles.

- Swayed by new motives.

- New objects.

- New emotions.

- New hopes.

"We have a hope of immortality; a hope so glorious, that it causes us to purify ourselves in preparation for its realization. We wait for the glorious appearing of our Lord. We look for new heavens and a new earth. We have a lively hope which defies death".

- New possessions.

- We have come into a new world altogether.

4. The Walk which comes out of this life is new.

- The new life that God gives us is exceedingly active.

"God's children are not of a sluggish race. There is vigor and fervency about them. They cannot sleep, as do others. The new life is akin to the life of angels, and angels do not spend the day in slumber or sloth. I never heard of sluggish angels. They are as flames of fire. The new life in a Christian is quick, energetic, forceful.

The new life produces a holy walk as soon as it is created. If you have been born unto God, you have cast off your lethargy, and are ready to run the race set before you. You may happen to be dull and sleepy occasionally through disease; but you will not choose this. When in spiritual health, you will glow with divine ardor, and burn with holy fervency, delighting yourself in serving the Lord".

- This activity of life induces progress.

"It is true we have the new life in us, but we have not yet obtained everything: we must climb higher, and go further. The new life grows".

- This walk is to be in newness of life.

"Let us have higher cares and diviner aspirations. Let us seek to live the life of heaven on earth. We are called unto righteousness; let us not follow after mammon. We are new creatures; may the Lord renew us day by day! Let us quit the old; for the time we have spent in it may well suffice. Now to a nobler destiny our soul aspires!".

- A life of joyful vivacity.

"The Christian man, living in newness of life, should find life fresh about him. Our inner man is renewed day by day. A healthy Christian is one of the liveliest creatures on earth. When he is at work you may hear him sing. He cannot help it; do not blame him for a little noise. Let him sing, and laugh till he cries. Sometimes he cannot help it; he will burst if his soul may not have vent. When he begins to talk about his Lord his eyes flash fire.

Some people hint that he is out of his mind; but those who know best assure us that he was never before so sane as now. Of course, the world thinks religion is such poor stuff that nobody could grow excited about it.

To my mind, cold religion is the nastiest dish ever brought to table. True godliness is served up hot. Newness of life means a soul aglow with love to God, and therefore earnest, zealous, happy. Let the believing man have space for his larger life, swing for his grander joy. Nay, do not gag him; let him sing his new song. If any man out of heaven has a right to be happy, it is the man who lives in newness of life. Come, beloved, I want you to go home to-day with the resolve that the newness of life shall be more apparent in your walk. Do not live the old life over again. Why should you? What good would come of it?"

Let me finish by a picture, which will show you what I mean by whole-heartedness. I have seen boys bathing in a river in the morning. One of them has just dipped his toes in the water, and he cries out, as he shivers, "Oh, it's so cold!" Another has gone in up to his ankles, and he also declares that it is fearfully chilly. But see! another runs to the bank, and takes a header. He rises all in a glow. All his blood is circulating, and he cries "Delicious! What a beautiful morning! I am all in a glow. The water is splendid!" That is the boy for enjoying a bath! You Christian people who are paddling about in the shallows of religion, and just dipping your toes into it—you stand shivering in the cold air of the world which you are afraid to leave. Oh, that you would plunge into the river of life! How it would brace you! What tone it would give you! In for it, young man! In for it!

Be a Christian, out and out. Serve the Lord with your whole being. Give yourself wholly to him who bought you with his blood. Plunge into the sacred flood by grace, and you will exclaim—

Oh, this is life! Oh, this is joy,My God, to find thee so!Thy face to see, thy voice to hear,And all thy love to know."

May we thus walk in newness of life! Amen.
Jesus Christ: Our Great Type and Role Model ... Or Uniquely Singular?

In my scope of reading through the great matters of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, a common question seems to reoccur as to whether the experience of our Lord Jesus Christ can be used as a type and model for us today. A common stereotype seems to be that those who argue that the baptism of the Spirit is one and the same with conversion-regeneration would say that Jesus Christ must stand alone in redemptive history and His experience was unique (James D G Dunn is an example of such and surprisingly Dr Ern Baxter would join him although Dr Baxter held firmly to the fact that the BHS was distinct from conversion and definately experiential). Those would would argue that the baptism or sealing with the Spirit is distinct from conversion would say that His life can be mirrored, copied and learnt from (Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a proponent of this as was the great Puritan Thomas Goodwin).

It seems to me that:

i) Events in the New Testament are commonly used as a model of the Christian life: - Ephesians 5:2, 2 Corinthians 4:10 and Mark 10:43-45.

ii) The humanity of Jesus and the centrality of faith and the Holy Spirit in His life is a model for us: Hebrews 2:13 - Jesus our "brother". Why should His experience of the Spirit be singled out as unique when He suffered "like as we yet without sin" for example?

iii) To allow salvation-history to swallow up the significance of Jesus' experience is the high road to denying significance to anything experiential at all.

iv) It is a definite enabling by the Spirit - no matter what significance is attached to it. A true man was receiving a supernatural encounter with a true Spirit. Period.

(Michael Eaton with some comments by me - Ref: "Baptism with the Spirit; the teaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones" - footnotes from chapter 4).

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Doctor on Word and Spirit

I've had Dr Lloyd-Jones's sermons on Acts on my reading list for sometime and I was inspired to get reading them when I heard Terry Virgo mention enthusiastically what it was actually like to be "there" in the chapel when he was preaching through Acts. And what an amazing jewel of a quote I found! Consider the following - Doctor Lloyd-Jones on what HE thought about Word and Spirit:

"Now that is the balance in these matters. There may be signs, there may not be signs. And the power of the Spirit is as manifest in authoratative, converting preaching such as you get in great revivals as in the most spectacular miracles It is the same authority, the same Holy Spirit at work in both.

These two; the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. We must never seperate them, and if we ever do we shall go astray.

Some people put their emphasis only on the Word; these are the intellectuals. "Ah" they say, "nothing matters but the Word". They spend their time reading and studying and they become authorities on theology and doctrine. As a result they may become proud of their own great knowledge and they may get the admiration of others who join in with them, but this is nothing but a little mutual admiration society. Nobody is converted; nobody is convicted. Heads packed with knowledge and understanding - useless! Word only - you see.

And there are people who put the whole of their emphasis on the Holy Spirit. They are not interested in the Word. They say; "It doesn't matter what a person believes". I heard of a man recently who shouted out in a great meeting - "Let yourselves go! Let yourselves go!". And they did let themselves go, I am told. But the New Testament has never told anybody to let themselves go. Never! The Holy Spirit does not merely produce an experience, the Holy Spirit uses the Word. He is the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of enlightenment. He is the Spirit who leads to understanding. We must never jettison the intellect that God has given us. There is no need to do that. The Holy Spirit can deal with our brains as well as with any other part of us. It is a false teaching that urges people to let themselves go. If you do that, you are letting yourselves go to a riot of the imagination and of the feelings, you are letting yourselves go to evil spirits and powers that are around and about you and ever ready to possess you and fool you.

The Spirit and the Word! "They spake the Word of God!". I repeat these things must never be seperated".

Reference: D M Lloyd-Jones. "Authentic Christianity - Volume 2 - Acts 4-5". Published by Banner of Truth, 2001. (pp208-209).

Sunday, October 09, 2005

A Word about Worship

One of the subjects very dear to my heart is that of worshipping God. Especially in a corporate setting. Once you have experienced the touch of the Spirit's power in a church or conference setting and then had it forciably removed, one grows extremely protective when it is attacked. I hear on the grapevine that yet again lines are being drawn and people are being forced to make decisions between "intimate" and "lingering" worship and theological mighty hymns.

Why should we?

One of my favourite choruses of all time is the beautiful song sang at Stoneleigh 1998 so powerfully led by Kate Simmonds;

"Draw me close to You, never let me go. I lay it all down again, to hear You say that I'm Your friend. You are my desire. No one else will do. For nothing else can take Your place, to feel the warmth of Your embrace. Help me find the way - bring me back to You.

You're all I want. You're all I've ever needed. You're all I want - help me know You are near".

Yet just as similiarly I am passionately stirred by Kate Simmond's latest hymn; "In Him I have believed";

In Him I have believed, on this my hope now rests
That Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!
The all-surpassing joy of knowing Christ my Lord
The former things, I count them all as loss
Called out of darkness into Your goodness
We are Your children, chosen in Christ!
Now in Your family, heirs of the promise
To Your purpose on the earth I give my life

A people born of God, united by Your call
One faith, one Lord, one Father of us all
Joined with bonds of love, and planted in Your house
We worship You with hearts and lives poured out
Let us go on in the power of Your Spirit
Taking Your gospel to all the world!
Declaring Your wisdom, our great commission,
That Jesus Christ has come to save the lost!

Whatever trials may come, in faith, Lord, help us stand
For righteousness and justice in our land What fear can hold us now?
We run toward the prize
Our lives already crucified with Christ
Through every nation, Your kingdom advances
Who can extinguish this spreading flame?
Through tribulations, we’ll stand on Your promise:
‘I will build My Church and hell will not prevail!’

And on that final day, the citizens of heaven
Called out to be the new Jerusalem
In multitudes will bow before the throne of God:
One nation called from every tribe and tongue
Great celebration! The glorious union: The Lion of Judah and the pure, spotless Bride!
All of creation waits for this moment All your promises fulfilled in Jesus Christ!

So I ask again, why does it have to be one or the other?

At the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors in 1999, Dr James Boice and Dr John Piper had a fascinating interaction during the Panel Discussion that closes the conference. Boice (as would be expected) was suspicious of choruses and slightly mocked what he called "Alleluia Mantras". Piper's response on the other hand was outstanding and marked what I passionately cling to:

(By the way I have taken blatent and unashamed overuse of the bold and underline key)

Questioner: For Dr Boice. Concerning the “Alleluia Mantra” that you mentioned Monday night. (*laughter*).

Dr Boice: I retract all that (*laughter*).

Questioner: I believe that you said then, that it might stir up some emotion but it wouldn’t be worship. So my question for you, especially in light of the fact that it’s “Desiring God” Ministries that has brought you here (laughter), what place does emotion have in worship if any place at all, and John you can respond to that too.

Dr Boice: Yes, I will probably never be invited back so I can say anything at all. No, the only thing that I am concerned about is that worship does not exclude emotion, but worship is not worship if it doesn’t engage the mind. I think I would say, along those lines, the same kind of thing that John Stott does in “Your Mind Matters”. And worship is ascribing praise to God. Which means we are praising God for being God, and unless that has content, it’s meaningless.

So emotion without that kind of substance is meaningless - it’s just an emotion. However to understand the greatness of God in various attributes should be an emotional thing. So my objection to the kind of music that is mearly repeating words (and I use ‘Alleluia’ as an example because it’s just one word being repeated over and over again). I think that bypasses the mind, I don’t really think that is worship in most cases, unless people are bringing more to it than is there in the song. So, I say that is the advantage of the hymns - the hymns have the theology in them, when you say them you are actually saying something that has meaning, and it has to do with God and it should evoke emotion, if it doesn’t, it’s falling flat.

Dr Piper: One of the ways to put the two together, is that what’s missing in the hymns is the opportunity to linger, once the emotion has been illicited. So you either preach, or you read the Scriptures or you sing a magnificent hymn, and God begins to manifest Himself through that Biblical truth and at that moment I think most of us take an offering. (laughter). If you want to bring forth an expression to God of the other side - Edwards says God gave man two faculties, the faculty of the volition and the faculty of the mind or the reason - and that when they both are active in their highest intensity, you have affections in the one, and you have right thinking in the other, and you don’t have worship without (I would say) both.

Right thinking is not worship. Worship is right thinking making it’s way into that other faculty, and bringing forth from it right affections and when the two meet, and find proper expression, that that’s worship.

The simple little repetetive choruses can be used as a mantra, or you can use them as a response to something so magnificent that you’ve got to linger a little bit over this truth. You just said this magnificent truth, are you just going to switch off and quick go to another magnificent truth and quick, go to another magnificent truth? You never have the opportunity to let it sink in and soak in and then express, so that’s the function of these simplier things.

*end of transcript section*

I think that is an excellent and fascinating point. Why are we as evangelicals so afraid of emotion? Why are we so afraid of to use Piper's beatuiful phrase; "lingering"?? I don't think we're at all in danger in the United Kingdom at any rate of getting over familiar with God. Our danger surely is that we are in danger of quenching the Holy Spirit and not allowing Him to move and stir those very biblical affections (to cite Jonathan Edwards) towards God. To re-quote one of my favourite citations of Terry Virgo: "This is no age to advocate restraint".

Worship must be in truth - of course. Yet the Lord Jesus also said it must be "in Spirit". Oh for a church that honours both! That honours the Word yet passionately welcomes the Holy Spirit!
"Singing the Same Old Hymns?" - Reviewing Wayne Grudem

I mentioned a few days ago that I am reading and throughly enjoying the rebuttal to Grudem and Piper's "Biblical Manhood and Womanhood" tome which is partly edited by Gordon Fee. I have a few more chapters to go before I have finished it, and then it is to the drawing board to thrash through what I really think on this issue. My brother-in-law asked me over Sunday lunch whether I approached this book with a predisposing prejudice. Indeed I did! My entire background in church life has been geared towards the view that "Leadership is Male". My home church in Dunstable was totally this way, as was my Newfrontiers church in Birmingham. So studying "Biblical Equality" has brought a refreshing wind of change - whether I am persuaded by their arguments or remain unconvinced.

I thought I would write a review of one of Wayne Grudem's recent books just as an aside before I finish reading;

Singing the Same Old Hymns??

A Review of Professor Wayne Grudem’s book, “Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood”.

Yes – that’s correct, yet ANOTHER tome to add to the ever-growing library on this never-ending controversy. By his own admission Professor Grudem sees the situation as, “an on-going debate” (p13). However his apologetic is that this volume provides a “more scholarly focus” (p13). So what titbits are we, the weary readers offered as a good reason to buy and more importantly read this addition?

1. Contributors.

Professor Grudem has gathered an impressive array of theologians and pastors to each contribute papers to this book. They range from Bruce Ware (Dean at the Southern Baptist Seminary) to Peter Jones (Professor in New Testament at Westminster in California). Of course no book on Manhood and Womanhood would be complete without John Piper, Senior Pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church, and Grudem himself offers 3 chapters of his own.

2. Content.

Lest any of us remain unimpressed by ‘personalities’, Grudem has edited a varied and interesting content to the book. In comparison to its voluminous predecessor – “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” – Grudem is careful to take an exegetical standpoint, but not neglecting to address key issues such as the object of marriage, Trinity as well as ensuring the egalitarian viewpoint is countered on all fronts – including the meaning of “head” (Gal 3:28) and interpretations of submission in Ephesians 5:21-22.

This review will be slightly more lengthy than usual as there are a larger number of issues to address. Not all chapters will be reviewed in the same depth as say, Dr Grudem’s key overview paper in Chapter 1.

1. Overview – “Chapter 1: The Key Issues in the Manhood-Womanhood Controversy and the Way Forward” – Wayne Grudem.

The author opens cautiously, carefully and courteously (as well he should) by establishing the framework for Key Issue No. 1 (of which there are 6). Namely that, “men and women are equal in value and dignity” (p19). He asserts that any discussion must start from here – our equality in the image of God (p19). With that in mind we are moved to the inevitable issue of differences and takes a great deal of time in establishing why male headship existed pre-fall. While this list is comprehensive, his apologetic for taking 13 pages to detail this is simply that this was God’s purpose in creation – that of difference (p37). The review imagines that his underlying purpose was to make an attempt to use the case study of the first man and the first woman to support his case – as well as showing that his framework was biblical before the resurgence of feminism!

From that theological beginning, Grudem then moves to speak very practically on the errors of passivity and aggression and the need for balance in home life (p42). He swiftly confronts the egalitarian arguments detailing 3 objections to their claims – Gal 3:28, Eph 5:21 – “mutual” submission and finally the meaning of “head”. These points are answered in typical eloquence.

His next move is to state Key Issues 3 to 6 and each “issue” seems to dramatise and lift the whole matter onto a higher level. Issue 3 draws a serious parallel between men and women and the Trinity. Issue 5 is the most blatant; “This is a matter of obedience to the Bible”. I found this issue the most disappointing, for rather than interacting seriously with general texts to show this, Dr Grudem seems to deal with anecdotes on organisational statements of belief rather than on sound, biblical exegesis as to why this is a matter of such severity! I would suggest that either the title is toned down or he re-write this section for any serious reader will not be persuaded on anecdotal evidence.

Pages 62-63 detail a stimulating and interesting chart showing “how a biblical view of men and women stand in contrast to the opponent No Differences on the far left and the opponent on the far right” (p60). His conclusions remain strong – this controversy is “really about God and His character” (p68). When one reads this chapter, it is clear why SGM “apostle” C J Mahaney would state that Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is a “hill we will die on”. The conclusion to this review will assess this matter of “primary” or “secondary” importance and to which this matter fits into.

2. “The Glory of Man and Woman as Created by God” – Bruce A Ware.

Ware commences this slightly shorter chapter on a similar view to Grudem using Genesis 1:24-31, “Created in the image of God”. The aims of the chapter were:

1. What the image of God is. Traditional images are examined including Irenaeus, Augustine, Aquinas and Calvin. Relational views are examined – Barth and Brunner and functional views are assessed – Verduin and Clines. Ware is careful to assess these objectively.

2. Male and Female “as the image of God”. He is careful to note that egalitarians and complementarians are united on the fact that the image of God “indicates equal value of women with men” (p80).

3. Male and Female Complementarity as the Image of God. Ware speaks much of the “functional” role – both must have responsibilities. Interestingly enough he notes;

Concepts of inferiority or superiority have no place in the God-ordained nature of male and female in the image of God” (p89).

He then takes some time to include a discourse on singles and their role in the church concluding our goal is to “fulfil His will and obey His word” and suggests we do this in relationship. It is a useful contribution to the book.

3. “The Surpassing Goal: Marriage Lived For the Glory of God” – John Piper.

Dr Piper begins in typical form – summed up in the sentence; “God is ultimate and marriage is not” (p93). He then spends much of the chapter speaking on the Person and Glory of God. It is therefore truly an excellent chapter in the book soaking in God-centred theology. His thesis is simply:

Marriage exists to magnify the truth and worth and beauty and greatness of God. God does not exist to magnify marriage. Until this order is vivid and valued – until it is seen and savoured (a favourite phrase of Dr Pipers) marriage will not be experienced as a revelation of God’s glory but as a rival of God’s glory” (p93).

His vision is clear – to see the glory of God shining forth from marriage and he suggests that it may happen at two levels. 1. Structural. Both spouses are essentially fulfilling their roles in the relationship. 2. Deeper Sustained Hope Giving Superior Satisfaction in God. This is the ultimate goal in any marriage. We must see the glory of God as more precious, more fulfilling, more deep – indeed the ultimate goal of life – than marriage. He ends his paper by reproducing a poem he wrote for his son at his wedding day. “Love Her More and Love Her Less”. The essence of the poem is that Piper’s son will love his wife more, by loving her less. It is a powerful alternative to the written prose – of which the rest of the book is made up of. Yet the reader does not feel cheated out of Dr Piper’s theological writings! The message is almost even more powerful than many of the other chapters. “Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness”. Many young couples would do well to mediate on this chapter before hastily rushing into marriage as seems to be the trend nowadays.

Practical Matters:

There are seven further chapters in the tome – seeming to make up the other half of the book. Five are classified for the purposes of this review as; “Disputed Matters”, the other three are known as “Cultural Matters”.

“Disputed Matters”.

§ Chapter 4 – Galatians 3:28 – Gender Specific Roles – Richard Hove

§ Chapter 5 – The Meaning of “Head” – Wayne Grudem

§ Chapter 6 – Novelty of Egalitarian Interpretations of Ephesians 5:21-22 – Daniel Doriani

§ Chapter 7 – The Myth of Mutual Submission – Ephesians 5:21-22 – Wayne Grudem

§ Chapter 8 – Tampering with the Trinity – Does the Son submit to the Father? – Bruce Ware

“Cultural Matters”.

§ Chapter 9 – Sexual Perversion – Peter Jones

§ Chapter 10 – Plastic Sexuality – Daniel Heimball

The reviewer would take issue with these two final chapters in this tome. While one may appreciate the value of such issues being raised and discussed in a frank and honest way, it would seem that these men have written from the standpoint of academics rather than with a pastoral touch. While this may be their purpose, one is left with the feeling that there is very little hope for any who may stray from their narrow path. From the standpoint of one who has had some practical experience of “Plastic Sexuality”, the reviewer would query whether the matter is as hard and fast as Mr Heimball would make out. I am well aware of the distrust and disinterest in psychology, and would agree that there are inherent dangers in such approaches. C J Mahaney is correct in his excellent series on the therapeutic movement, in suggesting that the danger is to blame circumstances rather than sin. However I do not think that these men have replaced Christian psychology with a viable alternative. A Christian struggling with such issues is left with the distinct impression that they are a deviant. End of story. The challenge is to replace the psychologists with pastors; the clinics with churches, the couches with fellowship groups – if this is done, then much healing and change may be seen.


The reader may benefit much from investing in this tome. However I would question whether the lay reader need purchase this, if they have the monumental tome “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood”. While I remain fully persuaded of Dr Grudem’s thesis – namely that church eldership is a male role, I am not convinced of the importance that his disciples put on the matter.

As I said at a recent SGM Leadership Conference, C J Mahaney was noted to have said, “This (the Manhood and Womanhood issue) is a hill we will die upon”. This would seem to suggest that such ‘Grudemites’ are and should be exalting the matter to a place of primary importance – i.e. essential to the gospel. At the same time, the same SGM have rapidly removed issues such as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as being fundamental to membership of that movement so churches such as from the Third Wave may join. I would question whether that is the correct organising of priorities – coming from the influence (it would seem) of Dr Grudem.

Despite this, I would not dream of seeing this issue as one in which I have fixed my opinions. I benefit much from reading Wayne Grudem’s writings – appreciating his passion, his devotion to the Word of God, and his high value of the biblical text and would continue to recommend this and all his other books to those that have the time and the interest in reading them. It is an investment worthy of the effort.

Friday, October 07, 2005

By What Authority?

I've been reading "Discovering Biblical Equality" of which Gordon Fee is a consulting editor. It's a fascinating book designed as an egalitarian rebuttal to Piper and Grudem. (Yes I'm aware of the horror stories from the Evangelical Now magazine by the way! ) When I finish it I will review it properly because it highlights some important discrepancies in the Piper/Grudem view of manhood and womanhood.

But I was gripped by one chapter that Fee contributed on "Hermaneutics". He raised the whole question of where do we get our authority from?

This question has been buzzing around my head for some time; my previous blog entry touched on it. My home church totally changed their pneumatology because of it. I received a letter yesterday from the SGM hierarchy ignoring the serious pastoral implications in their ranks but accusing me of not being "biblical" in my concerns about their ecclesiology. And so on and so on... It touches all aspects of Christian life.

Fee sketched out the following model as to where and by what authority we operate both corporately and personally:

Religious Authority - External.

1. A Sacred Book.

2. An Authoratative Person.

3. A Community of Persons.

Religious Authority - Internal.

1. Reason.

2. Experience.

I found this model quite comprehensive. Fee notes problems with both standards of authority. If you lay claim to external authority in your life, then the obvious question is why one particular one and not another. If you lay claim to the internal - the issue clearly is of absoluteness. Who can critique personal experience?

I found this model quite illuminating. It is possible to see various evangelicals laying claim to both, and in particular to different aspects within those groups. Yet the disturbing thing to me is that not all evangelicals de facto would stand on the authority of Scripture. I submit that the "authoratative person" still holds sway in many churches today. Why is this? Is it because much of the congregation does not have the time or patience to get into the Word of God and find out what God has to say? Similiarly for the congregations.

Therefore I am asking - by WHAT authority do we stand? Are we going to stand firmly and soley on the Word of God? Or are we going to allow trust in our pastor or minister to begin to replace that? Should that replace that? Should the views and standards and expressions of the congregation where we fellowship have some authority in our lives?

It seems to me that if we move away even one iota from holding the Word of God as soley sufficient for all, then there is a gradual slide where we will take authority from all influences in our lives.

A quote of Gordon Fee's to close:

"On such matters, evangelical Christians are deeply divided because the theological positions are derived by implication not by explicit Scriptural instruction".

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Boxing In The Spirit? - A Response to Mark Heath.

My friend Mark wrote an article at the beginning of last week entitled: "Welcoming the Spirit": -

While I can appreciate the motivation behind it and the valid concerns it raised, I was quite concerned at a number of possible implications and maybe a few aspects in Scripture that were missed or not picked up on. This is a matter extremely dear to my heart. After spending the last 2 years in an "open but cautious" environment (i.e practicing cessationist) I am desperately passionate that the Holy Spirit has free reign to move in my church and in my life. Here are just a few points I wonder if Mark could meditate on.

It seems to me that there is a definite dichotomy in Scripture. While on the one hand we all agree and applaud the omnipresence of the Holy Spirit, it seems to me that there is definite room and place for Him to be "More or Less" present. Consider the following:

1. A Personal Presence.

In the individual life of the believer 1 Corinthians 12:13 is quite clear; "For by ONE SPIRIT were WE ALL baptised into one body". Scripture seems clear that there is no way we can enter into an active relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ or His church without a work and de facto the Presence of the Spirit. He must be at work in us to lead us to any interest in Christ. Then after conversion itself Scripture says again that it is the Spirit at work in us that produces His fruits and therefore evidences of conversion - the kind that Jonathan Edwards looked for in those who wanted to partake of the Lord's Table. Yes indeed - the Spirit is omnipresent in the life of ALL true believers.

But ...

Anyone who takes the book of Acts seriously and the Epistles must admit that the Spirit could be "More or Less" present in those same believers He was with. Jesus Himself said; "He has been WITH you and will be IN you". It must have been the Spirit that led Simon Peter to exclaim; "You are the Christ!". Yet on the Day of Pentecost the Apostles received a baptism of power and the Spirit came upon them. This would be the understanding of any who believe in a distinct experience called the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Even those who do not must admit that the Spirit can be "More or Less" present. Conservative evangelicals are very fond of quoting Ephesians "Be filled with the Spirit". Well, if we all have the Spirit as Mark said then why do we need to be filled with Him?

2. A Corporate Presence.

This seemed to be the particular area of interest in Mark's article. And yes, we all agree that the Lord said; "Where two or three are gathered together, there I Am in the midst". How is He present? By His Spirit. Applying this principle we would all be committed to the fact that WHEREVER His church meet in spirit and in truth, then indeed God by His Spirit is present.

But ...

There are countless Scriptures that suggest that the Presence of God can be "More or Less" present. Gordon Fee wrote of the "broad work of the Spirit" in New Testament times yet Wayne Grudem wrote; "I think what believers want is to experience the active Presence of God".

How can He be "More" Present?

Any account of revival is widely acclaimed to be a perculiar intensification of the Presence of God. Surely no one can say that a church in a time of revival is exactly the same as a church that is not?! In Ezekiel there is a gloriously thrilling precursor to New Testament revival when the prophet saw the glory of God returning to the city like the sound of mighty rushing wind. Again the more famous account of the valley of dry bones speaks very powerfully of the fact that that the prophet actually had to "prophesy" to the wind (or the Spirit) before He would come. This had to be done a number of times before the scattered useless bones came together and rose to become a mighty army.

How can He be "Less" Present?

The chilling accounts in the book of Ezekiel talk of the gradual yet definite withdrawing of the Presence of God. Israel were still His people, yet His Presence had departed. In the Old Testament the term "Ichabod" was used to denote the fact that the "glory had departed. We can grieve or quench the Spirit and R T Kendall wrote a book devoted to the fact that the Spirit when grieved will withdraw like a dove.

So ...

Should we welcome or invite the Holy Spirit to a meeting? Of course He does not need our permission to come! He is God and we meet because of Him. Is He reluctant to come? Maybe in some instances particularly as I have said where He is being actively quenched. I don't think it is enough to "cultivate an attitude of expectancy and openness". To do this and this alone seems to me to culture the "Open but cautious" category that Mark has mentioned before. I do think that this prayer; "Come Holy Spirit" is very useful and while it may benefit us, surely the primary aim is not our benefit but the hopeful increasing of the Spirit's Presence in our meetings. One of the comments talking of "invoking the Spirit" - this is a term I find nigh-on blasphemous. The Spirit is a Person, not a spell or a charm

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones said that; "The greatness sin of the evangelical world is to put the Spirit in a box and tell Him what He can and cannot do". We are surely wrong to presume that He is present just because. Let us take nothing for granted! As I have quoted before Terry Virgo said; "I hate church that isn't church! Let us never be satisfied with another meeting where God is not present".

Let us be careful in our attitude to the Spirit to remain aware of the 'whole counsel of God' and be faithful to His Word. If there is a dichotomy in Scripture, let us admit it and not simply form a theology or an opinion based on our comfort zone. Dr Ll0yd-Jones said again that most of the warnings concerning charismatic excess in Corinthians virtually need not apply to us because "there is no problem of excess in a graveyard". When was the last time we saw the dead raised? Or the unbeliever fall in repentance before the prophetic? Whatever the terminology - that is my desperate desire - to see THAT sort of intensity of the Spirit's joyful Christ-exalting powerful work.

To end with C H Spurgeon; "The Spirit is most powerful beloved!".