Book of Oppositions | Pocket Full of Mumbles |

 

This world is one big game of "Go"-- Black against White, Light against Darkness --and we all have a choice to make: Do we war FOR the Light?

...or against it?




Ichabod, The Glory Has Departed

--by Rev. Allen M. Baker
August 7,2008


John Winthrop, while standing on the bow of the Arbella in 1630, prior to his departure to the new world, gave the most important sermon in the second millennium, A City on a Hill. In it Winthrop laid out the Puritan vision for the new world which has clearly served as the foundation for so much of what is good in our country, including our Protestant work ethic, the importance of education, and treating all people with honor and respect. The next generation provided us with Cotton Mather of Boston, a great preacher and theologian who was fluent in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew by the time he was ten and who is the youngest to enter Harvard, having done so at the age of eleven. The next generation gave us the greatest philosopher and theologian in our history, Jonathan Edwards, one whose writings are now more popular than ever. But then we began to see a change in the fabric of American Christianity. Charles Finney, a Presbyterian who dismissed the Westminster Confession of Faith, denied the doctrine of total inability, and consequently developed “new measures’ by which to urge conversions to Christ. Asahel Nettleton, also a Presbyterian (both were born in Connecticut), stood against Finney and his new measures but Finney won a more popular following than Nettleton and Finney’s theology has generally held sway over Nettleton’s Old School Presbyterianism ever since. By the middle of the 19th century we have the most famous man of the day, the son of Lyman Beecher, the brother of Harriett Beecher Stowe. I am referring to Henry Ward Beecher, a pastor from Brooklyn who became incredibly rich by pulpit, print, and platform (preaching, publishing novels, sermons, and newspapers, and lecturing all over the country); one who seemed to deny the most basic doctrines of the faith, one who was said to look out any given Sunday on his congregation and find ten of his mistresses sitting there. But we have fallen further in our day with the most popular Christian book being Your Best Life Now. We have fallen from a God-centered, Christ exalting, Spirit anointed, man debasing theology to one which dethrones God and places man at the center of everything. The glory has departed. Only 17 % of Americans (whether they are Roman Catholics, main line Protestants, or Evangelicals) are in church on any given weekend. Only 8 % are evangelical in our nation and only 1 % is evangelical in Connecticut.

What are we to do? We must begin with God. More specifically I have in mind the necessity of beginning with the doctrine of God. He is holy, righteous, just, and will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. We must recapture the biblical doctrine of hell and eternal judgment. Most, even within evangelical churches, get nervous about this doctrine. They fear people will reject Christ if we speak too directly on the doctrine of hell. People have always rejected this doctrine. This is nothing new. God’s judgment on the wicked is unavoidable and intolerable. Jesus spoke of hell as a place where the fire is never quenched and the worm never dies. He spoke of a lake of fire. He spoke of outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. We need to be clear on when this judgment will come. Paul says that due to our stubbornness and unrepentant heart we are storing up for ourselves wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of God who will render to every man according to his deeds, Romans 2:4ff. He told the Jews who were abusing the Thessalonians that they were filling up the measure or container of their sins, that God’s wrath would come upon them to the utmost, I Thessalonians 2:16. God is patient with the impenitent, but there is a limit to it. When the measure of any sinner’s sins reaches the top of the container, then death and judgment are soon to follow. And why does God promise an unavoidable and intolerable judgment? To refuse would be to deny His character. He is holy, just, sovereign, good, wise, and gracious, see Isaiah 6, Psalm 103, Psalm 145. The punishment must fit the crime. A poor woman who steals bread from a rich man to feed her starving children is not as guilty as one who steals from his rich father to feed his drug habit. Both are wrong, though the latter is more wrong. Why? Because the crime of stealing from one’s father to feed a drug habit is far worse than the first scenario. Your sin is against the great, holy, and sovereign God. You have committed high treason against the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. God, therefore, is perfectly just in punishing all unredeemed sinners with eternal hell.

Here’s my question to you- do you really believe all this? Most of you will say you believe it, but do you really? If these things are true, then should we not be all about warning people to flee from the wrath of God to come and to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? Can there be anything more important than to offer people the only means of reconciliation, the only means of escaping a fiery, eternal hell? I trace the problems in our country- whether they are related to race, materialism, family disintegration, or debauchery to the decline of biblical preaching in our churches. This is not a problem which has recently come upon us. It has been with us as early as the 1750’s when preachers began moving away from a God-centered, Christ-exalting, man-debasing theology to one increasingly pregnant with man’s transcendence and self-reliance. Because preachers have gone soft on the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, instead embracing a false gospel of man’s autonomy; because preachers have embraced Arminianism which teaches that man holds the last card, that he decides whether or not he will become a Christian; because preachers have forgotten the basic truth that Christ will build His church and have thus moved toward manipulation and persuasion to draw a crowd, slowly but surely moving away from the S(in) and H(ell) words, the church therefore is weak, tepid, worldly, powerless to stand against the onslaught of post-modernity. We are like a de-fanged lion.

I am deeply grieved over the condition of the church in America . What are we to do? We must pray, asking God the Holy Spirit to come upon preachers, granting them boldness to preach the doctrines of God’s holiness, Christ’s atoning death, and the necessity of the new birth. These same preachers must turn away from sin, all the while abiding in Christ, never forgetting their dependence upon the Spirit for everything. They must be sensitive to the Spirit’s indwelling and leading, keeping short accounts with God, repenting quickly and humbly when their sin is revealed to them. They must remember they will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and be judged according to their deeds. They will give an account of their labors for Christ. And they must daily surrender everything to Jesus, not holding back like Achan did with the spoil. They must be willing to spend and be spent for the sake of the gospel. They must be willing to be fools for Christ’s sake. They must be willing to suffer reproach and false accusations. They must die to self.


posted by Eric @ 10:55 PM,

1 Comments:

On August 13, 2008 at 3:53 PM, Blogger Marshall Art said...

A fantastic sermon! When you think about it, ANY reference to NOT measuring up to God's terms would be marvelous to behold. I would think that the mention of consequences to be the rest of the story. Some will say that they give no heed to thoughts of hell. Never crosses their minds. Does that sound a bit prideful to you? It does to me, and self worship counts against you.

Consider sharing the Good News. The listener is listening, but not committing to anything. Without mentioning the consequences, the listener may see no difference likely between the choice of believing over not believing. "I'm cool as I am without having to get up Sunday morning." It's natural that thought of "what's in it for me" would be foremost in the mind of the listener. Eternal damnation IS a reason to believe. Why do we need a savior? From what will he be saving us? A Supreme Holy ass-whuppin' for being schmucks all our lives. We're born schmucks. We're not good enough to change that. If we get help, we'll literally pay holy hell for it.

 

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