Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ashamed of the Gospel Chapter One: "Christianity on the Down-Grade"

In this chapter MacArthur compares the market driven approach to ministry in our time to the modernist approach to ministry during the down grade controversy of Charles H. Spurgeon's time.  Spurgeon withdrew from the baptist union because they were adopting a worldly methodology that he felt would soon be followed by false teaching.  He compared introducing worldly philosophy in to the church to some step of the peak of a mountain (the peak representing faithfulness to God's word).  Once you step off it is a slippery slope and you are on the downgrade heading towards apostasy.  100 years later, MacArthur points out, his concerns are validated.  The mainline denominations have rejected the authority of scripture.  

In our day the worldly philosophy that has bled into many churches is the idea that we package and market Christianity to the unchurched in such a way that we will reach more for Christ.  We can simply down play the not so palatable parts of scripture and focus on the things people want.  MacArthur shows us that this is the opposite of what Paul the apostle instructed Timothy  in his letter (1 Tim.) to do when the people of his church were crying out to have their ears tickled with what they wanted.  He gives an extensive summary of Paul's challenge to Timothy and then boils it dow to this:

To sum it all up in five categories, Paul commanded Timothy: 1) to be faithful in his preaching of biblical truth; 2) to be bold in exposing and refuting error; 3) to be an example of godliness to the flock; 4) to be diligent and work
hard in the ministry; and 5) to be willing to suffer hardship and persecution in his service for the Lord.

This is the same calling that any pastor has today or in any day no matter what people want from the church.  

MacArthur points out that most books on philosophy of ministry today having nothing to do with these things.  When he wrote this book preaching was out of vogue and it is even more so now.  Some postmodernist think that preaching is an act of violence against people because you are forcing your opinion on another.  

As he summarizes the message that Paul gave to Timothy at the end of his second letter to Timothy ( 2 Timothy), MacArthur reminds us that we really have one job to do:  "Preach the Word" (2 Tim. 4:2).  We are to do this because God has called us to do this and we report to Him.  We must rebuke, reprove and exhort with great patience.  We are to do this when it is in style and when it is out of style.  We are to be willing to suffer for this and not be ashamed because we represent Christ.  It will take self control and steadiness of mind because we will be tempted to please men and not God.  We are not only to proclaim Christ's word to the church, but also to the world: we are to "do the work of an evangelist."  

MacArthur points out that though Timothy had been wavering, due to heeding Paul's challenged, he did stand unashamed of the gospel and preached the word.  It landed him in prison (Heb. 13:23).  

He ends the chapter with an excerpt from a sermon that Surgeon preached in the middle of the controversy entiled "Holding Fast the Faith."  Spurgeon reminds his people that all of God's faithful messengers have had to suffer and encourages them not to expect anything different.  Her are some of my favorite quotes:

Brethren, we must be willing to bear ridicule for Christ’s sake, even that peculiarly envenomed ridicule which “the cultured” are so apt to pour upon us. We must be willing to be thought great fools for Jesus’ sake.… For my part, I am willing to be ten thousand fools in one for my dear Lord and Master, and count it to be the highest honour that can be put upon me to be stripped of every honour, and loaded with every censure for the sake of the grand old truth which is written on my very heart.… 

Before I could quit my faith … I should have to be ground to powder, and every separate atom transformed.

It is to-day as it was in the Reformers’ days. Decision is needed. Here is the day for the man, where is the man for the day? We who have had the gospel passed to us by martyr hands dare not trifle with it, nor sit by and hear it denied by traitors, who pretend to love it, but inwardly abhor every line of it. The faith I hold bears upon it marks of the blood of my ancestors. Shall I deny their faith, for which they left their native land to sojourn here? Shall we cast away the treasure which was handed to us through the bars of prisons, or came to us charred with the flames of Smithfield?

Stand fast, my beloved, in the name of God! I, your brother in Christ, entreat You to abide in the truth. Quit yourselves like men, be strong. The Lord sustain you for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

MacArhur challenges us:  Spurgeon handed down the baton--what will we do with it?  

I am duly challenged.  Are you?  

Posted via email from Caleb's posterous

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