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Archive for May, 2010

Want fresh joy?

The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD

Isaiah 29:19

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Revelation 4 shows the 24 elders casting their crowns before the throne (Rev 4:10).  Though these have been given by the Almighty Father Himself, all the elders can think to do with them is throw them to the ground in His presence.  We can almost hear them singing Psalm 115 as they do it: “Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.”

The love and faithfulness of the LORD has raised them to incalculable honour – robes and thrones and crowns.  Yet they gladly abandon all back to Him. Verse 10 is like a freeze-frame of the life of heaven.  All honour given and all honour returned.  It’s an everlasting circle of deference and praise.

On Trinity Sunday we remember that this is not simply the life of the future.  And it’s not simply the dynamic of the creature and its Creator.  This eternal deferral to the Other is the everlasting life of God.  The Father commits everything into the hands of His Beloved.  The Son casts His crown before the Father, desperate that all honour be ascribed to His Name.  The Father lifts Him up and establishes Him as King over all.  The Son hands all power and authority back to the Father.  And the Spirit inspires and empowers this loving reciprocity.  Heaven is nothing but a participation in this other-centred glory.

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A sermon on Hebrews 10:19-39.

Audio of 30 minute versionAudio of 15 minute version.

Drawing Near

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God.

Here’s the picture that Hebrews has been building up for us for the last ten chapters.  The Most Holy Place was the dwelling of God Himself.  It was the centre of the OT tabernacle and in it was the ark of the covenant – the LORD’s very throne.

But of course the whole Old Covenant system kept the people away from God’s presence.  One thing in particular – the curtain, mentioned in v20 – it had guardian cherubim embroidered into it to remind people of the guards protecting the way back to Eden.  You are a sinner and God is holy, holy, holy.  There’s no entry through here.  Not unless you’ve got a great sacrifice and a great priest.

Well then v19 speaks into this whole system and says “Come on in!”  It’s extraordinary.  Hebrews says, walk with CONFIDENCE into the presence of the Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord Almighty.  You could imagine the Old Testament priests appalled, running along behind us in their robes saying “You can’t go in there!  Are you even Jewish?”  “Nope” we say.

“And where’s your sacrifice, I don’t see a sacrifice.  And where’s your priest, you need a priest.”  And we say the blood of the LORD Jesus has been shed, is that a good enough sacrifice.  And He is our great High Priest, appearing for us in heaven right now, is that a good enough priest?  Yes it is and so we DRAW NEAR to God.

This command to draw near is repeated seven times in Hebrews.  It’s a major theme.  It says “draw near, draw near, draw near, draw near, draw near, draw near, draw near.”  Christ’s sacrifice is the perfect sacrifice, His priesthood is the perfect priesthood, draw near with confidence.

And you think, well I can’t, can I?  I get tongue tied in the presence of earthly authorities.  I make a fool of myself in the presence of minor celebrities.  I feel small and awkward and ashamed in the presence of human greatness.  Can I really draw near?

Yes, v22 goes on:

draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

There is a FULL assurance that comes from faith.  When we see Jesus, arms open on the cross, we see just how approachable He really is.  He assures we can draw near and we trust Him.  Not only that He sprinkles our hearts with His blood.  The blood of the OT sacrifices were sprinkled on external things to say “This sacrifice has outwardly cleansed these things.”  Christ’s sacrifice goes deep – it cleanses even our wayward and sinful hearts.  No more guilt – it’s all been laid on Jesus:  He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities.  The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him.  And by His wounds we are healed.  No need for guilt.  Christ has paid for it all, cleansed it all, removed it all.

And our bodies are washed with pure water.  In between the altar and the holy place of the tabernacle there was a massive basin where the priests washed before entering the holy places.  Jesus has taken us through that washing into God’s presence.  And for our part, baptism is the symbol of this deeper washing.  But as we stand before God no need to feel out of place, no need to feel uncertain, no need to feel guilty, no need to feel impure – Christ has cleansed us.  Draw near.

But what does that actually mean?  What does it look like to ‘draw near to God’?

In Hebrews 10 there are three important contexts we need to bear in mind as we draw near:

The holiness of God

The suffering of the Christian life, and

The need for community

(more…)

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Been talking marriage stuff with other couples recently.  Some thoughts on spouse-speak:

  • Husbands are called particularly to love.  Wives called particularly to respect (Ephesians 5:33)
  • In sin, spouses will speak the opposite of what their spouses need.
  • Therefore in anger a husband’s words will kill and a wife’s will emasculate.
  • The damage of harsh words is like thrusting a sword (Prov 12:18) – fast, sharp, devastating, wound-making
  • The good of healing words is like planting a tree (Prov 15:4) – slow, deep, seemingly ineffectual but incredibly fruitful

When you add all this up you get husbands who fail to plant seeds in their wives because it looks so ineffectual.  Wives then feel untouched by their husbands and in turn cool from them.  Here you have a breeding ground for resentment that will build until the knives come out.

Instead we need to engage in the ongoing work of seed planting – “I love you.”  “I’m proud of you.”

For more on men, women, words and planting seeds – these thoughts are always bouncing around my head on the issue.

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Finally!  JW’s knocked on my door this morning.  First time ever.  An older guy and a younger Polish woman.

So I threw some Gen 19:24 shapes their way. “To which Jehovah are you witnessing, the LORD out of the heavens or the LORD on the earth?”

The woman seemed quite interested.  The man said “Trinity?  Rubbish.  Paul refutes the trinity in 1 Corinthians 11:3.”  So we went to 1 Corinthians 11:3

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

“How does this refute the trinity?” I ask.

“Well,” he explains, “God is the head over Christ which means Christ is less than God.”

I say “So the Father is the head of Christ the way I’m the head of my wife?”

“That’s right”

“Let me ask you, Is my wife less of a human being than me?”

“Yes” said the man.  “N..” said the woman and then changed it to a faltering yes.

I check I’ve heard them right.  “So my wife is less of a human being than me?”

“Well,” reasons the man, “you make the decisions.  You’re in charge.”

“Mmmm and so I’m a greater being than my wife?”

“That’s right” said the man.  The woman frowns.

I turn to her and say “You realise you’re in a cult don’t you.”

The man grabs her by the arm and they start to make their escape.

“Keep reading the bible and keep thinking about marriage,” I call to her as they move down the street.  “You know women are equal to men… AND JESUS IS EQUAL TO GOD!”

Don’t think they’ll be back any time soon.

But it goes to show that Arians are misogynists whatever the PC gloss.  And of course misogynists are Arians, whatever the Christian gloss.

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Happy Friday

“You some day”

“No choice”

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If you ever say Amen it’s usually a response to what someone else has said or prayed, right?

And it’s usually after what they’ve said, right?

And only if it’s really good do you repeat it: ‘Amen, Amen!’, right?

So it’s an affirmation that someone else has just spoken truth (Amen is straight from the Hebrew for truth).

But when Jesus comes along, what does He do?  He gives Amens to His own sayings: 30 times in Matthew alone!  And in John’s Gospel He gives a double-Amen to 25 of His own teachings!

e.g. Amen, Amen I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life (John 5:24)

What’s Jesus doing by prefacing His teaching with ‘Amen, Amen’?  Well let me put words to what this means.  Jesus is basically saying:

“You don’t stand in judgement on my word.  I won’t even wait for your Amen.  Your Amen could only ever be the faint echo of my own Amen!  You do not and cannot stand in judgement on my word.  Before you’ve even heard a syllable of it, I tell you on my own authority that this is truth.  This is the only authentication or approval these words ever could or should have – my own.  This is true because I say it, not because you have some vantage point from which to assess these words.  Let my Amen recalibrate everything you consider to be truth.  You must simply accept my words as the gold standard of truth because it is I who speak them.  In short: It doesn’t matter what you think – this is the truth, deal with it!”

Who speaks like this?  Only God’s Faithful and True Amen (Rev 3:14).

Imagine if our bible reading, our theology, our apologetics, our Christian obedience was shaped, not by whether we thought in all good conscience we could give our Amen to Christ?  What if we stopped trying to assess Christ’s word with our Amens and instead simply received His Amen in glad submission?

May we hear His word in the Spirit in which it was spoken – as truth itself. (John 17:17)

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Somewhere in God Delusion Dawkins says something about how if God existed and were moral he should be interested in what we do, not in what we happen to believe.

Something like that.  I don’t have the book and I can’t find it online.  Anyone know the quote?

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It’s just a question of which armageddon

btw it’s a spoof!

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Do you have EMA tickets but know you can’t make it to certain days/sessions?  Love to hear from you.

Comment or email: glenscrivener at gmail dot com

And if Adrian Reynolds is reading – W I L L   B L O G   F O R   T I C K E T S !

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Today I heard one more story of a keen young gospel soldier recently married.  From what I can tell the wife is feeling abandoned, isolated and increasingly desperate.  And the husband is pressing on in his ministry service for the Lord!

If I had a minute with the young gun I’d ask him to read about John Wesley’s disastrous marriage. Just after John married Molly he wrote to her from the road to inform her of his views on marriage and ministry: “I cannot understand how a Methodist preacher can answer it to God to preach one sermon or travel one day less, in a married than in a single state.”  (Read more here).  It should be a cautionary tale for every young gospel soldier.

But the Wesley model is not dead.  I still remember the ringing endorsement our own marriage union gained from a leading UK evangelical while we were still engaged.  “You’re marrying well there Glen,” he said, “She’s a doubler.”  He was referring to a calculation that there are (apparently) ministry doublers and ministry halvers.  Thus the question to be asked about every prospective bride is, “Is she a doubler?”

Now that might be a question you ask a prospective PA or church worker.  But if that’s the first question you want to ask your bride-to-be then, seriously, that’s the proof right there.  It’s not meant to be.  And you’re the problem!  If the prospect of being fruitful and multiplying with this woman inspires a ten year business plan, call it off now.  The kind of multiplication God has in mind is multiplication in which you commit to each other for their sakes.  And, fellas, the more you want to use her for other ends, the less multiplication’s gonna happen!

And I’m not just trying to make a cheap gag here.  The Lord has designed marriage to be a multiplying union.  But in His economy it turns out to be fruitful as and when you are brought to commit to each other in deep oneness.  I mean this physically but I mean it in every other way.  The way to ministry multiplication can only be through marriage multiplication which can only happen in and through the union and communion of husband and wife. That’s got to be the beating heart of it all.

Single people should definitely seek the Lord’s wisdom about who to marry.  Wesley should definitely not have married Molly.  If two people have massively different expectations of what Christian service will entail then that’s a real warning sign.  But what first needs to be sorted out in our thinking is the very nature of marriage itself.  It is not a ministry multiplication venture.  It is a covenant union, joined by God, reflecting Christ to the world.  And out of this union comes a multiplication of spiritual and physical children.  Under God it cannot help but be fruitful and multiply.  But under God He will bring fruitfulness in very unexpected ways.  It will not be a multiplication one spouse’s prior ministry plans.  The old individual plans must die.  This will be a new union with a totally new kind of fruitfulness – much of which simply cannot be predicted.

But an understanding of marriage that is anything like a contractual business partnership will strike at the very heart of the covenant union.

I pray for this young couple, that there would be a death to the old individualist/contractual understanding.  And that out of that death would come new life in their union and communion.  And, yes, that out of that there may even come a wonderful fruitfulness.  But it will be His fruitfulness His way.

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Mike Reeves on a theology of music:

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

ht Dave Bish – click for more resources and good comments.

His basic point is that Christians are generally pretty atheistic when they think about the world around us.  We readily think that Christian truth is a gloss that we apply to the blank sheet of ‘nature’.  But no, this is the Lord’s world.  Therefore we should be looking to all things (music included) to tell us the gospel of Christ.

After these mp3s, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I listened to a sermon in which the preacher tried a bit of a theology of everything himself.  He remarked, “I’m not sure why we sleep.  I think it’s to do with God teaching us humility.  Keeping us inactive for 8 hours a day teaches us who’s boss.”

Really?  Is that the best he can do?

Which made me think – everyone has a theology of everything.  It’s just that they don’t often have a gospel theology of everything.  For this preacher, the natural world preaches the bigness of God and the smallness of man – which featured in his preaching much more than the actual gospel.  Strange to think that ‘death and resurrection’ didn’t occur to him…

Anyway, that’s by the by.

Enjoy the mp3s!

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A sermon on Hebrews 10:1-18. 

Audio here (recording failed at church, re-recorded at home).

Out, damned spot! out, I say!

Lady Macbeth’s line is one of Shakespeare’s most famous.  In the first act of Macbeth she helps her husband to murder the King and by the end of the play she is in mental torment and eventually takes her own life.  In her final scene she is before a doctor and cannot cleanse her conscience.

Out, damned spot! out, I say!… who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?   What, will these hands ne’er be clean?…Here’s the smell of the blood still; all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh!

The Doctor says

What a sigh is there! The heart is sorely charg’d. …This disease is beyond my practice.

Shame and guilt is a disease.  And it’s a disease beyond the practice of 17th century doctors.  It’s beyond the practice of 21st century doctors.  Cleansing away our guilt and shame is beyond every power on earth.

But it’s what this chapter is all about.  Verse 2 – it’s about being cleansed and no longer feeling guilty for our sins.  Verse 3 – it’s about not being reminded of our sins.

Instead, v10, it’s about being made holy.  Verse 11, having our sins taken away.  Verse 14, being made perfect.  Verse 17 – our sins and lawless acts remembered no more.  Verse 18 – it’s about forgiveness.

It’s a passage all about sin and shame, cleansing and forgiveness.  It’s a passage about whether your sins are forever remembered, or forever forgotten.  It’s a passage about guilt.

Do you feel guilty?

Now as I ask that question there’s a big danger.  Those who should feel guilty, often don’t.  And those who shouldn’t, often do.  So as I ask “Do you feel guilty?” there will be some of you who, personality wise, are virtually impervious to feeling ashamed.  You’re just you and that’s the way you are.  And there’ll be some of you who, personality wise, almost never feel anything but guilty.  Our feelings about guilt are so unreliable, which is why this chapter is so helpful.  Because this chapter will help us to make sure our feelings are anchored in reality, and not just in personality.

But so long as we’re aware that there’s such a thing as false guilt – and that’s wrong – what about true guilt.  Do you feel guilty?

You know there’s a trick that preachers can pull to make you feel guilty.  We can confess to one or two old sins of ours that are embarrassing and we can say – “I’m sure you’ve got embarrassing sins that you keep locked in your basement too, don’t you?”  And I could make you dwell on your past right now and there’d be a handful of things in your past for which you felt shame.  And it would usually be that misuse of alcohol, or that misuse of sex, or that misuse of a friend, or those words you said that you would immediately bring to mind.  Now if you are wracked with guilt about individual sins listen in to this chapter because there is liberation from all guilt here in Hebrews 10.  But the guilt we’re mainly talking about in this chapter is not about that one sin or those half-dozen sins, or even those wilderness years of back-sliding.  The guilt we’re talking about is the all-pervading knowledge that in myself, I am utterly unfit for God’s presence.

Because the context for these 18 verses is all about “drawing near” to God.  It’s not the guilt that comes when you’re doing the washing up and you remember that awful thing you did.  It’s the dread feeling of being summoned, not just into the Headmaster’s office, not just summoned before a magistrate, but summoned before the Judge of all the world.  This is about the problem of guilt not just because it causes unpleasant feelings, but it’s about the problem of guilt because we are summoned into God’s presence.

Look at the last six words of verse 1 – we’re talking about “those who draw near to worship”.  And in v22 he tells us the outcome of all this teaching: “[therefore]… let us draw near to God.”

Drawing near to God is mentioned 7 times in Hebrews.  And at the same time, chapter 10 verse 31:

It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Draw near – but if you happen to be His enemy it’s a dreadful thing.  Draw near – but, chapter 12 verse 29 – our God is a consuming fire.  Draw near – but He is a furnace of goodness, beauty, truth and holiness.  But draw near.

The kind of guilt we’re talking about in Hebrews 10 is the knowledge that when we’re summoned into the presence of the consuming Fire, we’re not up to it.

(more…)

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From the very first verse, Job is presented as a blameless and upright man.

The LORD is proud of Job’s matchless virtue (1:8; 2:3).  Job fears God and shuns evil.  And even when calamity falls he does not sin by cursing God (1:22; 2:10).  Instead, through all his laments and complaints, the LORD is still able to conclude in chapter 42 and verse 7 that His servant Job has spoken what is right.

And yet, in the verse immediately preceeding this Job has just said:

I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:6)

Uh-oh, we think.  Someone’s got self-esteem issues!

But no.  In fact Job hasn’t been esteeming himself at all.  He hasn’t been contemplating himself.  This is not the fruit of meditating on his sins or even on his sufferings.  He hasn’t been berating himself because he’s a stupid, fat, ugly, unpopular, awkward, friendless failure.  He hasn’t had a thought about himself for four solid chapters.

Because for four solid chapters he has borne the brunt of the LORD speaking out of the tornado.  Job’s eyes have been dramatically lifted from himself and fixed on this Warrior Creator Commander called Yahweh.  He has experienced the LORD’s unanswerable wisdom in surround sound.  And so in verse 5 Job summarizes exactly where his self-appraisal has come from:

5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”  (Job 42:5)

“I despise myself” says Job.  By comparison with the LORD – upright Job falls flat on his face, confesses himself to be a sinner and says “I despise myself”. And that’s a good and right and true and psychologically healthy thing to do.  Not that Job wondered to himself “What would be the correct response to meeting my Maker?” It just came out.  But as it came out it was extremely healthy.

Now there is a wrong despising of self.  There is someone who is not looking at the LORD at all.  Instead they look at themselves.  They are self-absorbed and with their gaze fixed firmly on their belly-button they are despising themselves.  We’ve all been there to some degree or another.  And it’s wrong.  But mainly it’s wrong for where the self-hater is looking.  The object of their gaze is the issue – they must get their eyes off themselves.  Then, when looking to Christ, a true appraisal of self will follow – they are (in Tim Keller’s words) more wicked than they had ever realised but more loved than they had ever dreamed.

So there is a wrong despising of self – it’s when you’re focussed on yourself.

But… there is a right despising of self – when you’re focussed on the LORD.

Isaiah has a similar experience.  In Isaiah 6, he sees Jesus in the temple seated on the throne (cf John 12:30f), high and lifted up, the angels are calling out ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’, the temple is shaking, smoke is everywhere and Isaiah cries out:

5 “Woe to me!  I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

Isaiah wasn’t feeling particularly sinful that morning.  He wasn’t running through a list of his prior misdemeanors.  No-one was reminding him of past sins.  Isaiah felt no guilt at all that morning… until he saw the King.  Then he said “Woe to me, I’m ruined!”

Or think of Peter fishing with Jesus in Luke chapter 5.  He’s in the boat with the LORD of Isaiah chapter 6.  And they have a miraculous catch of fish. And Luke 5 verse 5 says:

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”

Peter confesses to being a sinner when he sees the glory of Jesus.  Peter hasn’t just remembered some sins from his murky past.  He’s not even thinking about his sins, he is simply looking at Jesus and saying “I do not match up.”

Of course the ultimate place to look to find a true estimation of yourself is to Christ crucified.  That’s the sinner’s fate.  And that was your death – you died with Christ, the old man crucified.  You will never be able to feel your way towards this verdict.  Preachers, no matter how keenly they focus on individual sins you’ve committed, can’t whip up this sentiment.  And turning to yourself in order to work it up is itself sinful.  Instead I look to the LORD high and lifted up (Isaiah 6:1 <=> 52:13).  I allow the cross to be God’s verdict on me.  I am co-crucified with Christ and therefore reject the old self completely.  And yet

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)

The true and right self-hatred is fundamentally to allow the cross to be God’s verdict on the old you.  And your true and right self-appreciation is not gained by trusting in the new you.  No, the life you live in the flesh you live by faith in the Son of God.  Trust His love for you shown decisively right when you were most hateful.

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Happy Friday

http://vimeo.com/11501569

Tim Cairns also wants you to waste your afternoon on this addictive little cricket game.  If you have deadlines this afternoon don’t click.  Seriously, if you’re a cricketer you won’t be able to resist trying to score a hundred.  And you’ll never get that hour of your life back.  So, seriously, my advice, don’t.

Just resist.

Kay?

Nuff said

(link here).

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The means of grace (things like preaching and sacraments) are meant to be just that.  Means by which the grace of God reaches down to us.  I’ve been reflecting recently that often we try to absolutize the means of grace so that they become not means but ends in themselves, and not grace (i.e. His initiative) but works (i.e. ours!).

And then we divide over whatever our chosen ‘means of grace’ might be.

So the danger for the catholic is to see the eucharist not as a means of God’s encounter with man but rather the moment in which they make God manifest (ex opere operato – by doing it, it is done). When the ritual is performed well/reverently/at all, Christ’s presence is enjoyed. Christ is not present through the sacrament but rather the performance of the mass is Christ’s presence. The mass becomes the point.

The danger for the charismatic is to view the singing of spiritual songs in the midst of the congregation not as a means of grace but as the time when ‘God’s in the house’. When the band are playing well, God shows up – ex opere operato. In that case God is not present in and through ‘worship’ but ‘worship’ is equated with the divine presence.  Worship becomes the point.

The danger for the evangelical is to see preaching not as a means of grace but as the action we perform whereby we guarantee a divine speech act.  The Proclamation Trust states ‘When the bible is taught, God himself speaks.’  Now I totally believe that the preaching of the word of God is the word of God (see Theology Network paper here) but let’s get the order right.  He graciously speaks through our preaching, we cannot bring Him down through our correct exposition.   The danger is that simple exposition of a biblical passage or theme is itself the encounter with God – ex opere operato.  Preaching becomes the point.

Yet surely, Christ is the point. And the Lord’s supper and worship and preaching are ways that Jesus can and does make Himself known to us, among us and in us.  Yet He will not be brought down by our performance of these acts. They are His means (note means) of grace (note: grace!). He always remains free in His self-giving – in the bread and wine, in our corporate life, in His word.

That’s why it’s often great to hear a catholic preaching well, or an evangelical leading ‘worship’ or a charismatic presiding at the Lord’s table.  For then, they are less tempted to see the simple operation of this act as the point but as a means of making Christ known – He is the point.

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Harry Moorehouse was an English evangelist known as “the Boy Preacher” on account of his youthful looks.  Moody wasn’t particularly keen, but Moorehouse invited himself to Moody’s church in Chicago to preach.

Moorehouse was to have a massive impact on Moody’s preaching, but Moody wasn’t even present for his first sermon.  However his wife, Emma, was.

The following is an extract from the biography D.L. Moody by William R. Moody:

“When I got back Saturday morning I was anxious, to know how he got on. The first thing I said to my wife, when I got into the house, was, ‘How is the young Englishman coming along? How do the people like him?’

“’They like him very much.’ ‘

“’Did you hear him’?’

“‘Yes.”

“’Well, did you like him?’

“’Yes, I liked him very much. He has preached two sermons from that verse of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” and I think you will like him, although he preaches a little differently from you.’

“’How is that?’

“’Well, he tells the worst sinners that God loves them.’

“’Then,’ said I, ‘HE IS WRONG.’

“’I think you will agree with him when you hear him,’ said she, ‘because he backs up everything he says with the Bible.’

“Sunday came, and as I went to the church I noticed that everyone brought a Bible. The morning address was to Christians. I had never heard anything quite like it. He gave chapter and verse to prove every statement he made. When night came the church was packed. ‘Now, beloved friends,’ said the preacher, ‘if you will turn to the third chapter of John and the sixteenth verse, you will find my text.’ He preached the most extraordinary sermon from that verse. He did not divide the text into ‘ secondly’ and ‘ thirdly’ and ‘ fourthly’; he just took the whole verse, and then went through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation to prove that in all ages God loved the world. God had sent prophets and patriarchs and holy men to warn us, and then He sent His Son, and after they killed Him, He sent the Holy Ghost. I never knew up to that time that God loved us so much. This heart of mine began to thaw out; I could not keep back the tears. It was like news from a far country; I just drank it in. So did the crowded congregation.

I tell you there is one thing that draws above everything else in this world, and that is love. A man that has no one to love him, no mother, no wife, no children, no brother, no sister, belongs to the class that commits suicide.

“It’s pretty hard to get a crowd out in Chicago on a Monday night, but the people came. They brought their Bibles, and Moorhouse began, ‘Beloved friends, if you will turn to the third chapter of John and the sixteenth verse, you will find my text, and again he showed on another line from Genesis to Revelation, that God loved us. He could turn to almost any part of the Bible and prove this great fact. Well, I thought that was better than the other one; he struck a higher note than ever, and it was sweet to my soul to hear it.

He just beat that truth down into my heart, and I have never doubted it since. I used to preach that God was behind the sinner with a double-edged sword ready to hew him down. I have done with that. I preach now that God is behind him with love, and he is running away from the God of love.

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We often think of evangelism and pastoral care as very different practices pulling in very different directions.  “She’s a born evangelist but he’s pastorally sensitive” we say.  And the thought of a “pastorally sensitive evangelist” sounds as likely as a “compassionate traffic warden.”

But speaking as someone with a heart for both let me outline four ways I think these giftings belong together and help each other:

1) Evangelism must be an overflow of the heart or else it’s a dead work.  The evangelist should at least be able to pastor his or her own heart.  And as they equip the saints for their evangelistic works (Ephesians 4:11-12) it mustn’t be an appeal to simply redouble outreach efforts.  It needs to be the stoking of gospel fires.  If an evangelist doesn’t know how to stir hearts for these works of service they can’t be an evangelist.

2) Pastoral care must aim for an outwardly focussed definition of spiritual health.  Comfort in affliction is for the sake of passing on that comfort (2 Cor 1).  The goal of pastoral care cannot be individual happiness or a smoother functioning lifestyle.  The goal is to declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness (1 Pet 2:9) such that we say along with the man of John 9, “I once was blind but now I see.”  Pastoral care that stops short of evangelism fails to be true pastoral care because true flourishing as a disciple involves disciple-making.

3)  There’s nothing like evangelism for experiencing the wonders of the gospel in your own soul.  Many’s the time I’ve spoken gospel truth to an unbeliever and been struck forcibly by the beauty of the gospel.  Paul wrote to Philemon: “Be active in sharing your faith so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” (v6)  The nature of the gospel – as the overflow of the triune God’s abundant life – means that this gospel will not have its full effect in our hearts until we find it spilling over to others.

4) When the church is nurturing thousands upon thousands who find freedom from depression, self-harm, eating disorders, addictions, etc, etc, it demonstrates the power of the gospel to a broken world.  If we proclaim and live out gospel solutions to the pressing problems of the day the world will see the grace  of Jesus in action.  I believe that pursuing gospel care in these areas will have profound evangelistic impact.

Can you think of other areas where evangelism and pastoral care can help each other?

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