After making a few references to it before, we are finally starting our discussion of the book Power Religion: The Selling out of the Evangelical Church? The book is actually a collection of essays from various authors, edited by Michael Horton. The book is from 1992 so some of the specific references in the book are a little dated, but the issues they discuss are very much applicable today.
We are starting with part 1, made up of essays by Charles Colson and Kenneth A. Myers. The topic is one that is perennially hot amongst American Christians especially in years like this one, where a presidential election is looming and in the midst of ongoing strife. For many years Christians have been trying to make headway in “the culture war” politically, and have been feeling defeated as they see the nation trending away from Judeo-Christian values and towards secular humanism and a more hedonistic view of pleasure and self-seeking.
But this is not what Jesus has called the church to devote its resources towards. We aren’t to take up the same methods used by the world to try to change the world. Jesus didn’t come to raise up an army and drive out the Romans, so He could establish an earthly kingdom. Rather, He defeated death itself by dying on the cross, the king becoming a humiliated and executed servant for the sake of His people. We are called to live and work like Him, while the world looks on in confusion that someone so great would give up His position for such lowly people. Our testimony of the blood of Christ is our greatest weapon of conquest.
We must never dream of terms or truce with evil. To suppose that we can let him alone, and all will be well, is a deadly error. We must fight or perish: evil will slay us if we do not slay it. Our only safety will lie in a determined, vigorous opposition to sin, whatever shape it assumes, whatever it may threaten, whatever it may promise. The Holy Ghost alone can maintain in us this enmity to sin.
Brothers and sisters, fear weighs upon all our minds. The news continues its cycle of drumming out the advancement of this unseen but deadly villain. There is good reason to feel the weight of this on us, because so much mystery surrounds it, both natural and man-made due to the lack of testing.
It is my goal with choosing this sermon to point our minds, hearts, and eyes to the focal point of our faith, to the cross of Jesus. The weight of glory waiting for Him drove Jesus to endure all the suffering and death that He did, and we place our eternal and temporal hope in that truth. Jesus promised his disciples that in following Him, they were not avoiding the sufferings of this life–they were in fact going to walk in their own sufferings, because of the hatred of this sinful world for its holy and just God. The scent of the gospel to those being saved is life, but to those who are not, it is a scent of death, a warning of the wrath to come.
Rest in the midst of anxiety – in His blood
We’ve talked about the fear and anxiety gripping the world as we continue to pass through the ongoing crisis surrounding the coronavirus. The number of cases, and the number of deaths, continue to climb. As an American I don’t always know how this kind of thing weighs on the minds of my brothers and sisters in other nations (though I would love to hear the testimonies of those who are engaging with this, and Jarod and I would like to talk about that on an upcoming Kings Highway Radio episode). But it seems that a lot of my American brethren are struggling with this especially because it’s clear that this threatens not just life, but way of life. I certainly don’t disagree with that. After all, having so many businesses forced to shutter and social interactions ranging from movie theaters to that most crucial to our lives as believers, church services, being disrupted could hardly be more troubling to our hearts. And beyond that, the looming threat of global recession, job loss, and whatever may come beyond it that we cannot see.
The Lord knows all this, and more than that, He rules over it in ways and to ends we cannot know at this time. We don’t long for pain and suffering, but neither should we allow ourselves to buck against it in anger and ingratitude. Jesus knows, and though His rod of discipline may fall, His love is not less for His children. Don’t forget the reminder of the writer of Hebrews that God disciplines those whom He loves, and this time as all other hardships and evils that have befallen us and those who came before us will obey the words of Paul in Romans 8:28: all things work together for the good of those who love God, and are called according to His purpose.
That should encourage peace in our hearts. I don’t write this as one who sits above the fray with no fears weighing on his own heart, but as one preaching this to himself as well. The blood of Christ preached in this sermon is sufficient for all the evils of my life, and by that blood I go before the Father and ask daily for strength, for peace of heart and mind, and for encouragement when I see the black unknown of this world looming before me. I pray the same encouragement for all of you, and I especially pray for those of you who do not know God in Jesus Christ who He sent, that you would feel the weight of His call on your hearts, and turn, and rest in Him.
If you feel so led and can do so without disrupting your own support for your local church, please consider joining the Patreon we have created! My goal is to be able to set more time aside to continue creating content, and as I figure out exactly what I can do with this, I hope to be able to find new and creative ways to serve and minister to my listeners as well.
Jarod and I got together for what may be our last time to hang out in a public place for at least a few weeks, at the new Denton Cigar Company. We spent some time talking about our thoughts on the ever-present fear and anxiety surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Our county along with many others has announced the closure of all public places and called for gatherings to not exceed 10 people.
This has caused a lot of anxiety and frustration among many, especially Christians missing the closeness of worshiping with the body of Christ. We spent some time talking about the issue and going over the reality of what it may look like to navigate this as believers in the coming weeks and months.
Jeremy Young’s Twitter thread breaking down the Imperial College report can be found here.
We also talked about the topic that will be discussed over the next few episodes. We will be going through the book Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church? The title may seem a bit clickbaity, but it is actually a very insightful series of essays from many teachers and leaders within the church on various elements tied together by one element: the effect of seeking after power in one form or another while also trying to be a leader in Christ’s kingdom. If you want to read along with us, it is still available on Amazon.
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I think I shall be quite safe in concluding this morning, that there are some here who are full of doubting and fearing. Sure I am that all true Christians have their times of anxious questioning. The heart that hath never doubted has not yet learned to believe. As the farmers say, “The land that will not grow a thistle, will not grow wheat;” and the heart that cannot produce a doubt has not yet understood the meaning of believing. He that never doubted of his state—he may, perhaps he may, too late. Yes, there may be timid ones here, those who are always of little faith, and there may be also great hearts, those who are valiant for truth, who are now enduring seasons of despondency and hours of darkness of heart.
This episode features the straight audio recorded while livestreaming on the Facebook page Sunday afternoon. So that means all the little pauses and puppy interruptions are still intact. Nevertheless I wanted to read this sermon in hopes of making my position on the fears surrounding the ongoing pandemic clear.
The way a Christian faces difficulties and hardship is important. The Bible does not promise that believers will not face these, but rather promises that God is faithful to provide for His children in the midst of such hardships the faith required to endure. We glorify Him by placing a greater value on the pleasure of knowing Him and by our faith in His provision. Paul teaches in Romans 8:28 that for those who are in Christ, everything serves for God’s pleasure and for our good. This is a tremendous promise which we can hold fast onto in every situation.
Christ is on the throne. His sovereignty over all things does not stop at the border of a disease, of financial strain and recession, or anything else. But I want to remind us all that Christ’s rule does not remove the possibility of suffering. I’ve encountered a lot of American believers especially who think that this is not a big deal and will pass away in a matter of a couple weeks. While I certainly hope that is the case, we need to prepare our hearts for the fact that this may not be the case. If we spend our time in this frustrating moment grinding our teeth and just trying to gut it out, we are not testifying to our faith in God’s great grace and mercy in the midst of all things, nor to our hope in an eternity that makes times such as these look like nothing in comparison to the glory and joy that awaits.
Let us not fear and hide, neither let us act rashly or arrogantly. In all things, I would say that we must stand together in faith, knowing that even if the worst fears come to pass and many suffer or even die, that we have served and loved those around us, and that we have been faithful with the time He has given us.
I have spent a long time debating if I should venture into this, but after talking it over with trusted brothers and sisters I have decided to create a Patreon account to help support this podcast. I have always struggled with the best way to keep this place rolling along, but I’ve been having to put in extra hours to get ahead on certain financial issues, which puts a strain on how much time and energy I can devote. My desire is to reduce the need for overtime and increase my work here. If you enjoy this and find it edifying, I hope you will consider visiting my Patreon and donating, even a small amount. Also, if you have ideas for what the donor levels could receive in exchange, please feel free to drop me a line as the concept for me is still a bit of a work in progress.
As I said in the podcast, please DO NOT donate if it will interfere with your giving to your local church. That needs to be your first financial giving priority and I do not want to interfere. But if you are able and willing, I hope you will join me as I and Jarod try to build this podcast out into something we can all enjoy and grow from.
Let the gospel be preached and the Spirit poured out, and you will see that it has such power to change the conscience, to ameliorate the conduct, to raise the debased, to chastise and to curb the wickedness of the race, that you must glory in it. I say, there is naught like the power of the Spirit. Only let that come, and, indeed, everything can be accomplished.
Charles Spurgeon, sermon no. 30: “The Power of the Holy Ghost”
Just taking a break from the Soul Winner series to visit one of Spurgeon’s earliest sermons, and on a subject that engenders a lot of discussion and confusion. The Holy Spirit is seen in different ways and many Christians struggle with who He is as a person. There is a lot of controversy that’s come from teachings that portray Him as a sort of avenue to God’s power that we can access if we just have enough faith. I’ve written about this kind of thing before, and we’ve talked about it on Kings Highway Radio.
Such teachings do not glorify God, but diminish Him. The Holy Spirit glorifies Christ, and convicts the world about Him. Dare we to assign him the post of genie, or of a faint and distant voice? The Spirit burns in the hearts of the people of Christ, driving them forward, urging them to serve and love and walk in faith. This is no small thing, but it is the sign of new life in Christ.
In the case of certain men, whom I could name, I feel a great mistake was made. As soon as they were converted, they were taken right out of their former associations and set before the public as popular preachers. It’s a great pity that many made little kings of these preachers and, in so doing, prepared the way for their fall. You see, they couldn’t bear the sudden change. It would have been better for them if everybody had bucked and abused them for ten or twenty years. It would probably have saved them from much misery later.
Many apologies for my long absence and much thanks for your prayers and support. I didn’t intend to take all October off of podcasting, but it began with extreme busyness and ended on a very high and low point. The low being getting sick, and the high being getting engaged to my wonderful girlfriend. Please continue to pray for both!
This chapter presses in hard on what the character of a preacher must be, but all the moreso it presses in on what every believer must strive after as he walks as a disciple of Christ. Take a moment, think about the sins in your life that you struggle to even see as sins, the ones that plague you daily and persist in tripping you up either because you actually kind of like them or because you find yourself bound to run to them for comfort in hard times.
This chapter is not saying, “if you don’t get those areas cleaned up, you can’t be a Christian.” On the contrary, the fact that we struggle and fight against them rather than walk in them without fear and make regular practice of them mark our lives in Christ. Every day we have to drag these evils to the cross and it seems like they come crawling right back. But by the grace of God, we have the joy and duty to drag them right back to that cross again, to crucify the flesh.
If we hide our sins, if we make practice of them without fear and without concern about their effects on our hearts and on our walk with Christ, that’s what should really bring about fear. There cannot be any such thing as peace between holiness and sin. You cannot be a Christian who holds sin close to his heart in any way. The Holy Spirit will not let us walk in such ways in peace.
I pray this reading is a blessing to you, and that I will walk in this diligently as well. Please feel free to reach out to me with prayer requests, and please do continue to pray for me as well.
What is the real winning of a soul for God? Since this is done by a means to an end approach, what are the processes by which a soul is led to God and to salvation? I take it that one of the main actions consists in instructing a man that he may know the truth of God (2 Timothy 2:25). Instruction in the gospel is the beginning of all real work upon men’s minds. Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and, behold, I am with you always even unto the end of the age. Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20). Teaching begins the work and crowns it too.
As I mentioned in the last episode, the next few episodes will be from Charles Spurgeon’s Book The Soul Winner. I wanted to take a little break from the regular format, so I thought I would switch over to this.
You can follow the link above to find your own copy of the book on Amazon, with slightly updated language. It’s an interesting book that definitely shows his forthright approach to preaching. Like with everything else here, I hope it is helpful and a blessing.
Let me know in the comments below or by email if you have a favorite Spurgeon sermon you’d like to hear in a future episode.
That returning evil for evil looks like rough and ready justice, I have confessed, but then is any man prepared to follow out for himself and in his own case this rule of justice? Is he prepared to stand before God and receive evil for his evil? “He shall have justice without mercy that shows no mercy.”
Is he willing to stand before God on the same terms as he would have the offending one stand before himself? No, our best and, indeed, our only hope must lie in the mercy of God who freely forgives offenses!
We’ve come quite a ways in the last few months, as I have worked my way towards this goal. I want to again thank my good brother Ed Romine for helping me to select the sermons that made up the bulk of this series. I started this series after I felt a conviction that the subject of unity in the church was a crucial one to discuss. My conviction has not changed since I began, though my reasons and my thoughts have broadened considerably since then.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I wanted to conclude this series. For a while I thought that it would wind up in a long conclusion of my own where I would take each point and tie them all together in painstaking detail, driving home a final grand point about the need for unity and the foundation of that unity in Christ and in His gospel. But it seems to me that the book of Romans as a whole, and especially chapter 12, serve as a marvelous display of what I’m trying to say.
So I won’t belabor this with long paragraphs, but I want simply to point to what Paul accomplishes in his text. He begins in chapter one by pointing to man’s need for God’s grace. He demonstrates man’s innate sinfulness and the fact that everyone, whether gentile or Jew, needs to trust to the sacrifice of Christ alone as the basis of their salvation and of their relationship with God as a beloved child.
Christians will sometimes lose the realization of Jesus. The connection between themselves and Christ will be, at times, severed as to their own conscious enjoyment of it, but they will always groan and cry when they lose that Presence. What? Is Christ your Brother and does He live in your house and yet you have not spoken to Him for a month? I hear there is little love between you and your Brother if you have had no conversation with Him for so long.
Charles Spurgeon, sermon 2598, “Spiritual Revival, the Need of the Church”
Just one more episode after this and our series on unity in Christ for the church will be finished. Certainly, this sermon of Spurgeon’s has perhaps more…directness to it. In our day and age, a preacher going up and basically putting a finger directly in the face of his audience and delivering a message a la the prophet Nathan saying to David, “You are the man!” is not going to win that preacher very many friends.
But that points, in many ways, directly to the issue of our day that this century-old sermon still speaks to. The title itself draws out the comparison between a faithful pursuit of Christ and what is seen in many churches–after all, what is a “revival” in many places but a period, however long, where the faith is turned into a grand entertainment and distraction? How often is the concept of “revival” equated, not with life given by the Holy Spirit to live life in Christ, but with brief seasons of great emotion?
But what Charles Spurgeon points to in his sermon is a reminder that the kind of spiritual revival needed in all of us, the kind that God’s people need to call for, is not emotional excitement, though it may and often can contain that. It shouldn’t end with that, however. The kind of revival he is calling us to seek after is the kind that requires everything that we’ve talked about in the previous episodes. The revival is not an upswelling of feeling, but a trusting of our day to day life to a strength that is not our own. And it requires a unity in the body that is not static or intellectual by any means, but is constantly moving even as it rests fully in Christ. I am talking about unity in striving after holiness.
Do you want to join a perfect Church? You must die. You will not do it otherwise. And if you were to join a perfect Church, I am sure it would not be perfect after you had been admitted into it. You had better give up that idea and just believe what God says about His own Church, “You are my flock, the flock of my pasture, you are men.” Come, then, with us, and we will do you good.
I’ve talked about the unity the church has in the most central issue of the gospel of Jesus. I’ve talked about the unity we have in crucial areas of love, humility, and suffering. This time my desire is to talk to you all about the unity we have in the central and primary practice of the church, as a group and individually: unity in worship.
Now, I want to set the boundaries of this idea first: this is not about music, though music and singing are inexorably part of the church’s worship of God. Likewise, this isn’t going to be a rant about musical styles or certain groups and churches, though inevitably that will be a point to discuss later on as a fruit of this. I invite that discussion, in fact, either here in the comments, on Facebook or Twitter, or through email if you’d prefer to discuss your thoughts privately. There are practices that even my own church uses, like instruments, that Spurgeon himself would not have approved of.
What I want to do is define worship, its purpose, and its ends in the body of Christ. As one body and as individual churches, we join together weekly to bare our hearts before our Lord. We cry out praises to Him for who He is, and our need for Him to strengthen us to obey His Word, to die to ourselves and to live to Christ.
When the church worships together, it declares its confidence that God will fulfill His promises and remembers how He has already done exactly that. We confess our faith that lies in the cross, we instruct the weaker brother to pursue God boldly, and we correct the erring brother who may fear that the Lord’s mercies are not sufficient to cover him. We confess our sins and weaknesses to God and we embrace His great and glorious grace, and remember that His love and patience will long outlast our sin.
Worship is not just music. To be honest, I’ve never liked the phrases “worship team” or “worship minister” to refer to those who are involved in music for a worship service. That’s just it: all of a service is worship. We worship through raising our voices in song; we worship through hearing the Word preached faithfully; we worship through sacrificial giving to strengthen our own body and for the needs of others; and we worship through observing the ordinances of the church. When a brother or sister is baptized, we rejoice and cry out in worship of God for the faith demonstrated both in the finished work of Christ and in the promise of the day when we will see Jesus face to face, free from sinful weights and made totally new. And I cannot think of a more worshipful time than for a church to take communion together, to take part in a physical remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ.
The psalms display so many facets of what the worshiping believer’s heart cries out. We join our voices with David in Psalm 27 when we declare our complete confidence and faith in God’s work for our salvation:
The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— whom should I dread? When evildoers came against me to devour my flesh, my foes and my enemies stumbled and fell. Though an army deploys against me, my heart will not be afraid; though a war breaks out against me, I will still be confident.
Psalm 27:1-3, CSB
When our hearts ache for intimacy for God, when He feels far and when fear presses in, we can let the light of the Word drive back the darkness alongside the sons of Korah:
I will say to God, my rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about in sorrow because of the enemy’s oppression?” My adversaries taunt me, as if crushing my bones, while all day long they say to me, “Where is your God?” Why, my soul, are you so dejected? Why are you in such turmoil? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him, my Savior and my God.
Psalm 42:9-11 CSB
And when sin wounds, when we stumble and fall and need His restoring hands to heal us, David again comes to aid us:
God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious your ways, and sinners will return to you. Save me from the guilt of bloodshed, God— God of my salvation— and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; you are not pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, God.
Psalm 51:10-17 CSB
While worship serves to bring our hearts before God, and seeks His ministry (as it should!), worship is not about us. So often worship becomes a thing where men seek to bring glory to themselves. I won’t belabor this with many examples, except to say, this is an area where we all must guard our own hearts. We are going before the holy God who made you and who bought you for the price of His Son’s precious blood. It should not be a light and easy thing, nor should worship be simply an emotional high. That is not to say that it should be emotionally dead; I think a lot of times this becomes something of a false dichotomy for churches, where we feel we either have to be this over-the-top rock concert for Jesus, or a dour congregation that goes through the motions with Vulcan-like self-control.
Overwhelming joy in Christ is a wonderful thing! I can think of many beautiful times where joining in the body of Christ brought me to joyful tears or overflowing happiness. But we need to be careful that worship does not simply become the method by which we seek our next “hit” of an emotional high. If worship is designed simply to seek this over and over, I think it is wise to ask the question: is this worship about Jesus, or about me?
I am looking forward to joining the body again and again to seek the Lord’s face, and I hope that the same desire is in you. Above all, I want the unity in worship that the church shares to drive us to greater heights of unity in the areas I mentioned in previous episodes: in love, in humility, and serving and suffering. Worship should never terminate on ourselves, and it should never conclude with the final chord or the benediction. It should be a refreshing draught that lets us rejoin the outside world ready to display the love of Jesus to those around us, full of faith and peace.