No Longer Communication; It is only Communion

I am beginning to get caught up on the pile of books that sit on the table beside my chair. I completed The Shack, as well as The Young, Restless and Reformed. I don’t know if I will post anything on either of these, but, if you want my opinion feel free to ask. If anyone would like to borrow either of these books I would be glad to share them. Each would come with warnings and disclaimers.

I am now reading The Anatomy of Preaching. In chapter 2: “What is Biblical Preaching: The Issue of Authority” the author, David L. Larsen writes:

This whittling away of our heritage has left some preachers holding a Bible which is for them only a human record of man’s response to God. Hendrik W. Van Look spoke of the Old Testament as a national Jewish scrapbook, a king of Reader’s Digest anthology. Such a Bible is no longer communication; it is only communion.

Do you believe this to be true? How prevalent is this attitude in your church? How do you see this attitude manifested?

I find this heart wrenching.

The heart of Brainerd

Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides this blessed portion. Oh, I feel it is heaven to please Him, and to be just what He would have me to be! Oh, that my soul were holy as He is holy! Oh, that it were pure, even as Christ is pure; and perfect, as my Father in heaven is perfect! These, I feel are the sweetest commands in God’s Book, comprising all others. And shall I break them? Must I break them? Am I under a necessity of it as long as I live in the world? O my soul, woe, woe is me that I am a sinner, because I now necessarily grieve and offend this blessed God, who is infinite in goodness and grace!

Oh, methinks if He would punish me for my sins, it would not wound my heart so deep to offend Him; but though I sin continually, yet He continually repeats His kindness to me! Oh methings I could bear any sufferings; but how can I bear to grieve and dishonor this blessed God? How shall I yield ten thousand tiems more honor to Him? What shall I do to glorify and worship this Best of beings? Oh, that I could consecrate myself, soul and body, to His service forever! Oh, that I could give up myself to Him, so as never more to attempt to be my own, or to have any will or affection that are not perfectly conformed to Him!

But alas, alas! I find I cannot be thus entirely devoted to God; I cannot live and not sin. O ye angels, do ye glorify Him incessantly; and if possible, prostrate yourselves lower before the blessed King of heaven? I long to bear a part with you; and, if it were possible, to help you. Oh, when we have done all that we can, to all eternity, we shall not be able to offer the ten thousandth part of the homage that the glorious God deserves! – Rev. David Brainerd

J.C. Ryle: Zeal in religion is . . .

Zeal in religion is a burning desire to please God, to do His will, and to advance His glory in the world in every possible way. It is a desire which no man feels by nature which the Spirit puts in the heart of every believer when he is converted ߝbut which some believers feel so much more strongly than others that they alone deserve to be called ‘zealous’ men…
A zealous man in religion is pre-eminently a man of one thing. It is not enough to say that he is earnest, hearty, uncompromising, thorough-going, whole-hearted, fervent in spirit. He only sees one thing, he cares for one thing, he lives for one thing, he is swallowed up on one thing; and that one thing is to please God. Whether he lives, or whether he diesߞhether he has health, or whether he has sickness, whether he is rich, or whether he is poor, wether he pleases man, or whether he gives offence, whether he is thought wise, or whether he is thought foolish, whether he gets blame, or whether he gets praiseߞhether he gets honour, or whether he gets shame, for all this the zealous man cares nothing at all. He burns for one thing; and that one thing is to please God, and to advance God’s glory. If he is consumed in the very burning, he cares not for it he is content. He feels that, like a lamp he is made to burn; and if consumed in burning, he has but done the work for which God appointed him. Such a one will always find a sphere for his zeal. If he cannot preach, work, and give money, he will cry, and sigh, and pray…. If he cannot fight in the valley with Joshua, he will do the work of Moses, Aaron, and Hur, on the hill(ex 17:9-13). If he is cut off from working himself, he will give the Lord no rest till help is raised up from another quarter, and the work is done. This is what I mean when I speak of ‘zeal’ in religion.

J.C. Ryle (Practical Religion, 1959 ed., p. 130)

The Cross Is a Radical Thing

The following excerpt is a chapter from the book titled The Best of A.W. Tozer (Book 1). It was originally published in the book The Root of the Righteous.

The cross of Christ is the most revolutionary thing ever to appear among men.

The cross of old Roman times knew no compromise; it never made concessions. It won all its arguments by killing its opponents and silencing him for good. It spared not Christ, but slew Him the same as the rest. He was alive when they hung Him on that cross and completely dead when they took Him down six hours later. That was the cross the first time it appeared in Christian history.

After Christ was risen from the dead the apostles went out to preach His message, and what they preached was the cross. And wherever they went into the wide world they carried the cross, and the same revolutionary power went with them. The radical message of the cross transformed Saul of Tarsus and changed him from a persecutor of Christians to a tender believer and an apostle of the faith. Its power changed bad men into good ones. It shook off the long bondage of paganism and altered completely the whole moral and mental outlook of the Western world. All this it did and continued to do as long as it was permitted to remain what it had been originally, a cross. Its power departed when it was changed from a thing of death to a thing of beauty. When men made of it a symbol, hung it around their necks as an ornament or made its outline before their faces as a magic sign to ward off evil, then it became at best a weak emblem, at worst a postive fetish. As such it is revered today by millions who know absolutely nothing about its power.

The cross effects its ends by destroying one established pattern, the victim’s, and creating another pattern, its own. Thus it always has its way. It wins by defeating its opponent and imposing its will upon him. It always dominates. It never compromises, never dickers nor confers, never surrenders a point for the sake of peace. it cares not for peace; it cares only to end its opposition as fast as possible.

With perfect knowledge of all this Christ said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” So the cross not only brings Christ’s life to an end, it ends also the first life, the old life, of every one  of His true followers. It destroys the old pattern, the Adam pattern, in the believer’s life, and brings it to an end. Then the God who raised Christ from the dead raises the believer and a new life begins.

This, and nothing less, is true Christianity, though we cannot but recognize the sharp divergence of this conception from that held by the rank and file of evangelicals today. But we dare not qualify our position. The cros stands hight above the opinions of men and to that cross all opinions must come at last for judgment. A shallow and worldly leadership would modify the cross to please the entertainment-mad saintlings who will have their fun weven within the very sanctuary; but to do so is to court spiritual disaster and risk the anger of the Lamb turned Lion.

We must do something about the cross, and one of two things only we can do–flee it or die upon it. And if we should be so foolhardy as to flee we shall by that act put away the faith of our fathers and make of Christianity something other than it is. Then we shall have lfet only the empty language of salvation; the power will depart with our departure from the true cross.

If we are wise we will do what Jesus did: endure the cross and despise the shame for the joy that is set before us. Tod do this is to submit the whole pattern of our lives to be destroyed and built again in the power of an endless life. And we shall find that it is more than poetry, more than sweet hymnody and elevated feeling. The cross will cut into our lives where it hurts worst, sparing neither us nor our carefully cultivated reputations. It will defeat us and bring our selfish lives to an end. Only then can we rise in fullness of life to establish a pattern of living wholly new and free and full of good works.

The changed attitude toward the cross that we see in modern orthodoxy proves not that God has changed, nor that Christ has eased up on His demand that we carry the cross; it means rather that current Christianity has moved away from the standards of the New Testament. So far heave we moved indeed that it may take nothing short of a new reformation to restore the cross to its right place in the theology and life of the Church.

Henry Scougal – The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by…

This weekend the suggestion was made to me that I start a book club. In this club the members would read and blog on a single work. Though I have never attempted such an enterprise I can see the spiritual value in this. I still have a bit more thought to invest before commencing such a thing but I believe a good book to consider as part of such a club is The Life and Writings of Henry Scougal.

Scougal was an puritan (1650-1678), a professor of philosophy and divinity as well as a Pastor. He is described as a “careful Calvinist. And though Scougal was an Episcopalian in a Presbyterian land, the Scottish church has claimed him as one of its most radiant lights.”

If you would be interested in participating in this “book club” please drop me an email or respond to the this post. I have only shared this blog with those who are in full time service or those who believe God is directing them there. I am not looking for a large readership, I am looking for the opportunity to encourage and be encouraged by a godly man’s gaze on the glory of God and godly men’s response to that gaze.

Here is a brief excerpt from the overview of Scougal’s works:

Scougal conteds that true religion is a “union of the soul with God,” where the Christian actively participates in the divine life. Thus the life of God in man’s soul is permanent and lasting. Those who believe the gospel in their minds, but do not practice it from their hearts, are deceived. . . [The Christian should be driven] because he shares in Christ’s life, he is motivated by new desire. His ultimate happiness rests in contemplating the perfections of God, and in resignation to His will. . . Paramount to the excellence of religion is love’s object “Love is that powerful and  prevalent passion by which all the faculties and inclinations of the soul are determined, and on which both its perfections and happiness depends.” Thus Scougal could add, “The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love.

Whatever attracts one’s affections ultimately conforms him (at least in some sense) to the object attracted to. . . It is of chief importance where one’s desires lay, and Scougal would contend it has eternal consequences.

In the review of such passages I would expect the group to evaluate the theology the propositional statements as well as the historic and contemporary applications. If you would be interested in this “club” and/or you have some words of wisdom on such an endeavor please let me know. I will correspond personally with all those that express an interest.