That we may be one

“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:34-35 CSB

We’ve spent a lot of time on various podcasts talking about the ongoing COVID19 pandemic. Jarod and I have discussed it from perspectives of big-picture government responses, doctors and researchers exploring the spread of the virus and how it may be stopped or treated, and of course, the ways churches have tried to respond to this in a way that balances respect for local government authority and safety of their congregants with the need to gather and worship the Lord. It has produced for so many of us an intense time of longing for a return of the community we’ve been denied for several weeks now.

As all this has progressed, I’ve also watched individual responses and interactions, both close friends as well as far, laymen as well as leaders. I have wrestled a lot with how to speak to what I’ve seen. I’ve started writing many times on different platforms and deleted it, left it alone, rather than speak in anger and frustration or without trying to be fair in considering different viewpoints. Where I’ve landed is honestly not about where one falls on the spectrum of “open it all now” to “not until there’s a vaccine and even then I’m gonna wait a couple weeks.” Rather, my heart has been heavy with frustration more about the way I’ve seen us, believers in Christ, interacting over this.

I’ll be real honest with you people. I am very disappointed with how we as Christians have dealt with this. This experience should be a time for us to shine. Christians everywhere who have any kind of means should be out searching for any neighbors who are just hurting right now whether from lost work or illness or something else and pouring themselves out. They ought to be devoting themselves to service, to prayer, to crying out to the Lord to protect the sick around us and to provide for the poor.

But what I have seen has not looked like that, at least not from so many who have a high degree of visibility. I have seen leaders, godly men who I have looked to for wisdom and truth on so many issues and circumstances, arrogantly reacting unlovingly to everything from gentle correction to news stories. I’ve seen good brothers and sisters who previously had been gentle and sweet to each other now turning against one another in bitterness and division. And it has me deeply saddened and hurt to see so many not walking even remotely in a way that demonstrates the truth of Jesus’ words above: His desire that we would be recognized as His disciples by our love for one another.

Love one another

I’m not going to screenshot stuff. I’m not going to “get receipts” or whatever it is that the gossip-mongers and drama channels say when they dig up the latest dirt on someone with even the smallest amount of clout. Instead, I want to speak directly to each person who takes the time to read this: it is time for us as people who profess to love Jesus Christ to put up or shut up. It is time for us to stop regarding the Scriptures as a series of technicalities that allow us to disobey one thing in order to obey another. It is time, in short, for us to feel the weight of the Lord’s discipline on our hearts and to look to His example in giving up ourselves for the sake of love.

If you are new to this blog and podcast, you may not know that I spent the better part of last year working through the concept of unity in the Christ for the church. If God is willing, I am not done doing that either; Jarod and I are making plans for other projects that will involve this central and critical topic. If there is one thing that I hope is clear from all that, it is this: unity involves both a definition of what we are unified around, as well as a clear view of what walking in that unity looks like.

I’ll tell you what it doesn’t look like: it doesn’t look like “owning the libs.” It doesn’t look like your favorite TV or radio host Snarky McSmartAleck who cracks wise in precisely the right way that lets us look at those who disagree with us and go “Yeah, ya big idiots!” It doesn’t look like screaming like a lunatic about the president, no matter who it is. It doesn’t look like circular logic that begins with the conclusion you desired in the first place. And it doesn’t look like assuming the worst about your brothers and sisters.

“Aren’t you kind of doing that now?” you might ask. But I don’t want to assume anything. I just said: many of the people (on both sides of this fight) are men and women I respect and love. They aren’t people who are normally across the ideological or evangelical divide from me, but those who I have always regarded joyfully as fellow servants of Christ and brethren in the faith. And it is my desire that all of us in Christ, no matter where we fall within that aforementioned spectrum, would recall to mind that the one with whom they are speaking is like themselves: human firstly, saved by grace secondly, an heir of a greater gift by the blood and the Spirit.

No excuses

Firstly: are you serving? Are you giving, and asking, and looking for those around you who are hurting? Or, are you so busy thinking about the fear of government takeover that it prevents you from seeing the hurting before you? Are you so driven to argue that it prevents you from listening and considering?

In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul speaks of the truth that even thought he had the right to the same kind of life that others in the church had, he desired to surrender those rights for the sake of those who he so diligently sought after for the sake of Christ. And he was willing to follow the path of Jesus in giving up all of himself for the sake of Christ’s people. He knew what he needed in order to live. He knew that God was aware of that fact as well, and he trusted fully to the Lord for those things. Yet he was willing to sacrifice it all if it meant Christ would be glorified and hearts would be transformed.

So at the end of this frustrated and frustrating exercise in responding to a whole myriad of arguments, the question I want to put before you the reader and myself is: how are you dying to yourself for the sake of Christ in the midst of this? Is the way you speak to and of others during this time showing a heart that trusts that God is a better provider, or do you cling to His gifts even as He tugs them away? Are you more fearful about losing your freedoms than you are about dishonoring the name of Christ before unbelievers?

I’m not saying I’m flawless in this. But this is certainly weighing deeply on me, and I hope more people will stop bickering and complaining and start thoughtfully considering the best way we can live in these deeply uncertain times with the only certainty that matters. We have an eternal weight of glory before us that ought to press in heavily on the way we consider these things.

Don’t mishear me: I am not saying it’s bad to disagree. I think that disagreements had properly, with love and gentleness, and with our hope fixed squarely on the eternal, are a reality of this world. Even if we agree in faith, we are going to disagree over earthly matters that the Bible doesn’t speak to. You can’t flip to a page and see “Oh, well, it says right here how to handle this outbreak” except perhaps in the sense that Levitical law speaks to quarantining in certain situations.

But you can see how to disagree, and my desire is that those who actually take the time to read this post will perhaps slow down and think about the questions I’ve raised. Brothers and sisters, it is my hope that we can disagree in love and unity, and serve our neighbors faithfully. Let us turn our efforts to love, service, prayer, and repentance, as we ought to, and seek to give glory to Jesus as the one who stands in the way of life, even when death and fear lurk.

The Kings Way Move

As you may have noticed, the website has changed a bit. More than that, the name has changed. This website and podcast began as Spurgeon Audio almost 5 years ago as a desire to make the sermons of Charles Spurgeon as easy to listen to as those of modern preachers. Along the way it has served as a place for me to work through the various issues that have weighed on my heart, and to express the concerns that have come up.

I’ve developed friendships, written thousands of words, had the opportunity to preach my own sermons, and more over the last five years. But I feel that the time has come to make a few changes to this podcast and blog, and after spending time seeking wisdom in prayer and in advice from good brothers, I want to present to you what will be changing.

  • The name of the website and the podcast feed will be changing to Kings Way Talk. Within Kings Way Talk are (currently) 3 podcasts: Spurgeon Audio, Kings Highway Radio, and Scripture Sunday.
  • The names of the various social media pages related to this podcast will also be changing to Kings Way Talk. As I’ve tried to expand the reach we have while also expanding our content, it’s wound up creating a confusing situation both in having multiple Twitter feeds while also having to explain my podcast in a rather complex way to people. This will help streamline that quite a bit. The Kings Highway Radio Twitter feed will be going away, and the Spurgeon Audio feed will be renamed to Kings Way Talk.
  • I’m creating a Patreon, for those who wish to support the efforts Jarod and I are making through the podcast. I have wrestled since the very beginning with the notion of accepting money from people, and my desire here is to expand the amount of time I have available both to create podcasts as well as to continue work on the book I’ve started writing an outline for. If I’m able to gain support this way, that means not having to put in as much overtime at work in order to pay bills, as well as improving the technology used to create podcasts and other content.

Changing the name and essentially rebranding the entire podcast is a big decision, and not one I’ve entered into lightly. But my hope is that in doing this, I can provide a more cohesive platform not just for myself, but for Jarod and others who want to minister online in a way that isn’t limited just to Charles Spurgeon’s influence, but more broadly to point to our great and glorious King Jesus. We long for the day He returns, and until then we will continue to pour out our praise and hope here.

Episode 26: The Old Man Crucified

Listen here or subscribe via iTunes, Soundcloud, or your favorite podcast catcher

Sermon text here

This week’s song: In Him There Is No Darkness by the Loverlies

The danger in this modern age of preaching sermons on making war on sin, is that to so many who listen, it becomes interpreted as a call to a legalistic view of salvation.  But I think listening to Spurgeon’s words it is clear: seeking after holiness is not what is required in order to be saved, it is a result of being saved. Jesus’ own words, after all, were “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.”  The Gospel is our redemption from sin—and now that we are redeemed?  We are free!  To steal a Matt Chandler line: we do not have to say yes to our sin.  Moreover, we must actively and constantly be seeking to say no to it, and to murder the desire to perform it as it sneaks up on us as we sit passively, unaware and off guard.

So the warning to Christians is one of constantly testing yourself against the holiness of Christ, and of running to the cross constantly, over and over again, to bring that dead old self, those wicked desires that governed us before, to the place where Jesus died to pay the price they bring on the heads of all mankind.

The great theologian John Owen famously wrote in his book The Mortification of Sin, “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.”  It is dangerous to take the words of a man as deeply written and thought-out as Owen and try to pry out one phrase apart from its context, but I believe there are two ways we might take such an idea.  The first is in the sense that if a believer is not making active war on his own sin, then he will find that sin instead slowly poisons his spiritual life, until it is all gone but for a flicker that may serve as a nagging ache, a spark that God will hopefully, in His abundant mercy, one day blow into a raging fire in the heart of this wayward believer, and through which all things, even the believer’s backsliding, will indeed work for the good of this one who loves God and has been called according to His purpose, even though he ran.

The second way, may be taken as a marker between the life of a believer who is in Christ, and an unbeliever, maybe who even with his mouth claims to know Jesus, but in his heart pays Christ no service.  If we see someone who claims to know Jesus and believe in Him, but who makes no effort whatsoever to kill the sin that fills his life, who rejects calls to seek holiness and instead believes that he’s had his ticket punched so he doesn’t have to worry about all that, we should be bringing the truth of the Gospel all the more to bear on this person because the truth is, they are showing signs that they do not know Jesus.  If you love your sin, if you believe that you can both love Jesus and still serve that which His Word clearly calls wicked, then you are deceived.  You could take Jesus’ words from Luke 16 and His declaration that a servant who tries to serve two masters will only end up seeing one as wicked and the other as lovely, and extend it from money to all forms of sinfulness.

Does this mean that a Christian white-knuckles his way through life, trying not to do anything wrong?  Of course not—this is why we have the Gospel!  The truth is that Jesus has paid for our sins and therefore, we can feel that urge to do whatever it is that leads us into selfish, fleshly actions, whatever those may be, and instead do exactly what we talked about in the last episode: Look!  We can look to the cross, and know that on that cross the real work that sets us free has been done, and we can walk away from sin.  We can endure all other consequences knowing that we are covered by the blood of Jesus.  And we can make war on sin, even the most besetting ones, the ones that society believes are just normal and natural and you shouldn’t even try to get rid of them—those most of all, we can drag to the cross and let them be nailed there to die, and we can love Jesus with all of our beings.  We can let that love grow, and rest fully in His goodness, grace and mercy.

A call to action: Winter clothing donations needed

I wanted to post today to ask my wonderful audience to please consider contributing to an important need my church is working to meet in the next few weeks.  Winter is on its way, and promises to be a rather brutal one even by my Northerner standards in terms of cold weather.  There are a lot of families in our area who are in need and we are organizing an effort to help those who need coats and other winter clothes for themselves and their families to get what they need.

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If you are in the North Texas area, I would ask you to consider giving of your time and resources to donate clothing for this effort.  If you are not, there are still ways you can support this, and I would ask you to email me at spurgeonaudio@gmail.com to see how you can help meet the needs of so many down here.  I love my city and its people, and I am very gratified for the chance to show that love at any opportunity.  Please consider giving of your own time and funds to support those in need this winter.