I am tremendously excited to have obtained a new car from a friend of mine in Bristol - one of it's bonus features is that it has an audio cassette stereo system. This may not be a bonus to many who enjoy iPods and MP3s and so on but I have a massive library of audio sermon cassettes which are becoming increasingly antiques!
So while driving the new car back from Bristol, I decided to select one of the great Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones's sermons from his wonderful "Revival" series. What a preacher! What truth! The sermon in question was entitled; "Dead Orthodoxy" and I was so challenged again. I think the challenges not only still apply to reformed evangelical churches such as I referred to in this post - but also to so-called charismatic churches that take the Spirit for granted.
I remember a tremendous fear of excess among the eldership in my home church in Dunstable around the time of the Toronto Blessing. Stanley, the senior pastor, would pray against the "enthusiasm of youth" and an emphasis on routine in the services was paramount. As seen in the quotes below - Dr Lloyd-Jones would not have supported this;
"Quench not the Spirit" - what does this mean? I am not sure that this isn't the text of all text that the church of God generally needs to consider at the present time. We are very clear - are we not - on that first one? "Let everything be done decently and in order". Why we are experts on it! The trouble is that we are so clear on that, that we are guilty of quenching the Spirit. In our reaction to the false, we have gone to another position that is equally false. What do I mean? Our position is that everything must be perfectly controlled, nice, orderly, correct, formal and above all - respectable".
The Doctor then goes on to compare our modern experience of church to the New Testament - and I submit that nothing much has changed.
"I am just asking you to take the New Testament church as we know it and consider it in light of the New Testament epistles. You see the difference? You don't need whole heaps of the New Testament! Why? Because the church is in this formal, dead and utterly respectable position! Now it is very interesting to observe certain things from a historical standpoint. You always observe that when forms of service become popular - the Spirit is less in evidence and we move further away from the New Testament. The very characteristic of the New Testament was this spontaneity! This life! This vivacity!".
As you fall away from the Spirit and His influence - everything becomes formal.
And then again, take this question of the fear of artificial excitement and false joy. Again we can be so afraid of these things that we can become guilty of quenching the Spirit. There are churches that are orthodox but absolutely dead, because they are so afraid of false excitement and the excesses of certain spiritual movements, that they quench and hinder the Spirit and deny the true".
I think the Doctor's next point is particularly key in the trendy "Restless, reformed" movement that men such as Mark Driscoll are fronting. Conference hopping and seeing what free books can be seized is the discussion on blogs. Dr Lloyd-Jones would call this; "Pseudo-intellectualism".
"What is this all due to? I believe it is due to a pseudo-intellectualism, a false sense of what is respectable and I am profoundly convinced that this may be one of the greatest hindrances to revival. You see, we pride ourselves on our learning. God have mercy on us. One of the greatest intellects that this world has ever known was the Apostle Paul. But look at him as he is moved by a grand sweep of emotion".
Dr Lloyd-Jones concludes with a prayer we should all echo!
"This is not a plea for emotionalism, which I have denounced but it is a plea for emotion. God save us from becoming so afraid of the false that we quench the Spirit of God and become so respectable and so pseudo-intellectual that the Spirit of God is kept back and we go on in our dryness and aridity".