Ministerial Meanderings

God centered theology in a man centered world.

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Location: Springfield, Missouri, United States

I was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Laurel, Maryland. I served in the United States Air Force for 20 years then retired. Then God led me to become a pastor. I was converted to Christ in the summer of 1966. I enjoy the company of my wife, children and grandchildren. I live with my three cats Hobbs, Taz, and Chloe.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Downgrade is Alive and Well

In the latter part of his ministry, Charles Spurgeon wrote a lot about the "downgrade" of the Church (collectively). His chief focus was churches within the Baptist Union of Great Britain, and other churches more generally. His writings, and those of his opponents came to be known as the "Downgrade Controversy." It was a controversy that eventually took Spurgeon's life.

Spurgeon came to understand that when the Church begins to use the ways of the world to reach and teach believers that compromise with truth was inevitable. Churches began to use entertainers to draw people in. They were substituting plays and skits for preaching. They came to believe that worldliness could be turned to good and used for Christian ends. Spurgeon believed that eventually such churches would have to begin to compromise the truth to continue. He knew very well that when you compromise once, it becomes easier to do it again ... and again and so on. His opponents called him an alarmist. Ultimately, he was censured and expelled from the Baptist Union for being a troublemaker. However, it seems history has vindicated Spurgeon.

What Spurgeon saw happening in England has been repeated in the United States. This is very well documented by such scholars as Dr. John MacArthur (Ashamed of the Gospel), and Dr. David Wells (No Place for Truth). Writer Steve Camp seems to have an almost prophetic insight into the decay of the modern American Church.

What they are all saying, and what ought to be concerning us, is how far American Evangelical Christianity has fallen from the biblical ideal. I recall a quote by J. Vernon McGee in which he said "Today's Christians would have been considered backslidden 25 years ago. And 50 years ago they would have been considered lost!" We have come to accept a weak and anemic Christianity as the "norm." By and large, the Christian Church in North America (and I am not talking about outright liberals) are worldly churches. It used to be we flirted with the world, to see how close we could get to the world and still be walking in holiness. Now we don't even care. One pastor I know quipped "It used to be when you went to a person's house, if they were drinking a beer, when they saw you, they would try to hide it. Now, they offer you one." We have lost a sense, I think, of the holiness of God, and so, we have lost our sense of what God has called us to be.

In Isaiah 6, the prophet sees God high and lifted up, seated on his throne. The vision throws him to the ground in agony. He says of himself "I am undone." That word "undone" in the Hebrew means to be shredded or torn apart. As Isaiah sees God, he is thrown to the ground feeling as though his skin is being shredded off his body. He is screaming in agony and only when the angel touches his lips with the burning coal and his sins are forgiven is he able to stand in God's holy Presence. Think. When was the last time you have heard a sermon on holiness? Or worldliness? Or God's transcendent holiness? These are not common themes in today's churches, by and large.

Friends, we need to remember who God is and who we are. We need to be pressing towards the high calling of Christ Jesus. We are supposed to be growing every day more and more holy. Every day we are supposed to be conformed a little bit more to the image of Jesus Christ. We are salt and light in this world. We are Kings and Priests in the Kingdom of Heaven and Ambassadors of Jesus Christ to the people of this sinful world. We are a peculiar (different) people. We are a holy nation. We are to stand out in the world as disciples of Jesus Christ. We are supposed to be marked with such a quality of love (for our fellow believers) that even lost people note it and mark us as followers of Jesus. We are sons of the Living God. We are heralds of truth. All these things are true. Ultimately, we are slaves of Jesus Christ. Our will does not matter. Only His.

Once theology used to be the "Queen of the sciences." The highest thing a person could study was the study of God. The highest calling on earth was to full time Christian ministry. It is not that way anymore. And it will not be again until Christians begin to act like Christians. Until people can tell the saved from the lost, the Church will continue to look just like the world around us. And God has said that friendship with the world is enmity with God.

Until we get that through our heads we are going to blindly go forward, mediocre, sub-biblical, sub-standard, weak, anemic, listless, pathetic, world loving, sin loving, Christians. We will fulfill that passage of scripture that says "There was no fear of God before their eyes." Oh beloved, Paul indicted the Jews with the words "The Gentiles blaspheme God because of you." (Romans 2). I pray that is never, ever said of us. Let us repent of our worldliness and be such Christians that when we die in the flesh, Satan and the world will remember that we were here.

It is something worth meditating on.

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