Posted by Gary on January 21, 2009
The model for every pastor’s preaching, teaching and praying is the Prophets, Apostles and the Lord Jesus Christ. We are only truthful and faithful to the degree that our preaching, teaching and praying resembles theirs.
Concerning Rick Warren’s prayer today I want us to use imagination rooted in Scripture and ask the following: "Would Moses have prayed a prayer similar to Warren’s?" "What would Jeremiah have prayed if he were offering the invocation?" "Leave the words but remove Rick Warren and insert John the Baptist instead. Would, could, John the Baptist have approached God as Rick Warren did?
When the ecstasy wears off we have some serious thinking to do about the events of this day and what they portend for the future. But for now I would take hold of us and hand us the spectacles of Scripture. I ask you, I gently shake you as I ask you. Stop and think. Would the Prophets, Apostles or the Lord Jesus Christ have prayed in the way that Rick Warren did today?
For weeks I have tempered myself and called myself to be as gracious as possible, fearing what Warren might do today. I must say it was worse than I feared.
Can you imagine the Apostle Paul asking God to help us remember that what unites us is "not religion" but "our commitment to freedom, and justice for all"?
The God who commands all His creatures to love and serve Him only is to overlook our false gods and idolatry and remind us that our greatest commitment is to give freedom and justice to other men? Our greatest duty is not to other men, not even in bringing them freedom and justice. Our first and greatest duty is to worship, revere and serve God and Him alone:
Exodus 20:2-6 "I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments."
How can a servant of the jealous God bring our idolatry right into His presence and far from confessing it ask Him to remind us of some duty that in our idolatrous hearts we think is higher than honoring the one, true, God alone?
I defy you to tell me that any of the Prophets or Apostles would have prayed something like this.
Christians, we must be discerning.
Posted by Gary on May 28, 2008
Luke 4:16-30 “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down.
And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.”
And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.”
As I read this passage recently I was taken by the way of the Savior Jesus and how intent He was (and is) to do the will of God which always includes exalting God and humbling sinful man by speaking the truth.
Up until this point in Jesus’ public life all is well, could not be better. Jesus has performed miracles, the people are following and then this amazing set of circumstances.
The setting is the synagogue and Jesus is handed a role of Scripture. He reads from Isaiah a section of Scripture that is prophetic concerning the Messiah. Now understand what is happening, Jesus reads the passage, sits down and tells the people that the prophecy has been fulfilled in their hearing. We might think at this point they would say, “You’ve gone too far Jesus, you may be doing some amazing things but we are not going to tolerate this claim to be the Messiah.”
Instead we are told that after Jesus claims the fulfillment of prophecy in Himself the eyes of everyone are fixed on Him and they are all speaking well of Him and marveling at the gracious words that are coming out of His mouth. We would say that Jesus “has them”. In the realm of oration Jesus has them eating out of His hand, He is well thought of and has the favor of the people.
Now watch carefully…Does Jesus revel in the adoration and approval of the people? What a temptation this is for God’s servants. We are sinful and want to be well thought of, we want the people speaking well of us and eating out of our hands. We are loathe to do or say anything that will cause us to fall out of the people’s favor.
Bring yourself to this point in the scene: they eyes of all on Him, His praises in the mouths of all, “What a preacher”! What does Jesus do next? He goes for the jugular, He forsakes the approval of sinful man and instead proclaims to man his sin: “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” Jesus looks into the hearts of the people and sees their sin, they are not interested in God or righteousness, they want to see miracles.
If this were not enough Jesus calls them to the time of Elijah and reminds them that there were many Hebrew widows during that time who received no miracle from God but instead it was the gentile, heathen woman from Zarephath whom God favored. Likewise there were many Hebrew lepers but it was the Syrian Naaman whom God healed.
Jesus knows full well what He is doing. He is showing the people their sinfulness, He is convicting them and in so doing He is forsaking all the favor and adoration that were His a few moments before. In a few moments Jesus is going to be hustled out of the synagogue and to the brow of a cliff to be thrown down all by His deliberate choice to speak the truth.
Are we as Christians (especially elders and pastors) willing to forsake the approval of man so that we may have the favor of God? If we are not careful we will have the favor of the people now only to have them curse us later when they face the truth in eternity. Better to have them hate us now and love us later. Better yet to have God pleased with us at all times.
John 5:44 “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?”
Lord give us the grace to love you more than ourselves and the favor of man. Give us the faithfulness that we always see in Your Son Jesus.
Posted by Gary on June 28, 2007
Some years ago when at a Banner of Truth conference we who attended received as a gift a book entitled, “The Letters of William Still” (Banner of Truth Trust). I must confess I have given little attention to this book though I have had it for some years. I decided to pick it up today with thoughts on my mind for my own congregation. William Still was pastor of Gilcomston South Church of Scotland, Aberdeen from 1945 into the early 1980’s (what a rarity such a lifelong ministry is in our day). As I leafed through some of the letters I noted that they were of various tones, some joyful and encouraging, others concerned and firm. It was Still’s practice to publish a monthly letter to his congregation and so they came to expect and look forward to their monthly letter from their pastor. These letters were also shared and read widely within the community which claimed a large evangelical representation as you will see below.
As I read one particular letter entitled, “Questions for an Absent Congregation” I was reminded of the great responsibility the pastor has to hold before the people their calling and duty and the need there is at times to point out unfaithfulness on the part of the congregation. Here a man is making a decision, a decision to be a shepherd. The great temptation that pastors face is treasuring security above their calling. This is especially the case if he has a family, your household is established, there are bills to pay, and angering the people can be a dangerous thing strictly in a human sense. Here is where the pastor must believe that his “employer” ultimately is God.
Let me share with you this lengthy quote from Still’s letter written in May 1954:
On Tuesday, 20th April, we gathered to give an official welcome home to Miss Irene Davidson, after five years of missionary teaching and battling against Romanism in Arequipa, inland Peru. I say ‘we’, for we cannot say ‘the congregation': It was conspicuous by its absence. Granted Miss Davidson was a stranger to most of us, but she worked in Church of Scotland circles in Aberdeen until she went abroad, and since we had already welcomed her parents into our fellowship, we thought it not too much to expect a goodly company of our congregation to ‘spare’ an evening to meet and hear one who with professional qualifications had given up all to follow Christ. But no!
The Minister has often been charged with perpetuating and even widening the gap between old and new Gilcomston. He has not done so, but only exposed it. But it makes him tremble to think that people who have seen what God can do before their very eyes should turn such a deliberately blind eye to God’s work, and he can hardly be sorry that they will have to answer for it (if they do not repent) to the God whom they have slighted in His servants.
But the (professedly!) evangelical element was almost as conspicuous by its absence. Where were you, hundreds who profess to be converted and to have the interests of God’s kingdom at heart? Many of you had not intention of coming. Why not? There was no tea; there were no jokes; there was no sentimental singing; just an account of the astounding workings of God in South America. It is quite clear that there is a considerable company of so-called evangelicals in our city, as in others, whose interest in Christian work largely depends upon its ‘Christian’ entertainment value, and who idolize Christian personalities in much the same way as the world does its actors and sportsmen.
Even in gatherings for the deepening of spiritual life one can sense and see people hanging on a speaker’s words, waiting for his first joke. They wait long sometimes, with sinking hearts, and if eventually they see that like Nehemiah he is too busy to ‘come down’ (Nehemiah 6:3), they settle themselves to endure it, and hope that the next speaker will be ‘better’, or they don’t go back!…Away then, with all this silly theatrical display of human personality in Christian work, and let us rather wait to weep than laugh.
The responsibility of God’s servants is that we are to speak the truth in love and be faithful to our Master. The continual call is to be faithful to God and not to court the favor of men; a calling that by God’s grace Pastor Still embraced. I’m looking forward to reading other letters within the book in the hope that I will gain more insight into being a faithful shepherd. Reading Still’s letter brought to mind the following from Scripture:
Luke 6:26 “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.”