Friday, January 28, 2011

He Will Look for You to Deal With You

As Christians left on earth, awaiting the second coming of our Savior, what we're after is that God would sovereignly overcome the blindness to glory that is the universal problem of the human race (2Cor 4:4), and save them from their suicidal love affair with themselves.

A problem arises, though, when well-meaning Christians, who have a genuine desire to see people come to Christ to be saved from God's wrath and to enjoy the relationship with their glorious Creator, employ methods and means that are contradictory to the message we have to give them. In the video below, Paul Washer decries the "carnal means" that church leaders are using to (a) keep worldly members in the pews and (b) attract new ones with an eye to numerical growth. And it illustrates what it means that pastors be "preaching themselves" (2Cor 4:5), and "peddling the Word of God" (2Cor 2:17) rather than the Gospel: Christ Jesus as Lord.

It is a legitimate question to ask what he means by "carnal means." I would say that carnal means are any means that appeal to people on the basis of what they want as natural people. If your church's draw to the unbelieving world is giving them something that they don't need to be converted to be attracted by, you're using carnal means. You're appealing to the worldliness of the unbeliever.

And in order to do that, you must preach yourself (2Cor 4:5). Yesterday in chapel at TMS, John MacArthur called that very thing "prostituting your calling" as a pastor. The examples of this are legion, and we mentioned some of them last time. Theatrical lighting and high-tech multimedia in church services designed to attract and entertain. Shorter "talks" about people's emotional problems, full of anecdotes and light on Scripture because people don't listen to theology for an hour. Coffee shops and art galleries in the church foyer to appeal to that demographic. Adopting a particular music style because you think it will bring a bigger, or a particular, audience.

And the reason that all of that (a) ultimately fails and (b) is grossly offensive to God is because that never solves the problem of blindness to glory, and implies that the message of Christ's cross is insufficient to do so. None of those things is how anyone gets born again. Because the agent of the new birth is not the "will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13). The means of the enlightening of minds is the preaching of the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes (Rom 1:16). And the Gospel has, is, and always will be necessarily and radically opposed to the unbeliever’s worldview.

As I said earlier, we're not called to attract and entertain the goats but to call Christ's sheep into His fold. And His sheep know His voice, and when they hear it, by grace, they come (Jn 10:27). Therefore, our appeal in Gospel ministry is to the spiritual, not the fleshly.

And so what is our responsibility? First, it is to repudiate all carnal means of attempting to do Christian ministry. It is to forsake the business of preaching yourself, and devote yourself wholly to the preaching of the Gospel of Christ's Lordship (2Cor 4:5) as the means of the opening of the world's blinded minds (2Cor 4:4, 6).

But once we have done that -- once we have cleansed ourselves from such peddling (2Cor 2:17) and adulterating (2Cor 4:2) of the word of God, such prostitution of our calling, our responsibility is to refuse to stand idly by while Christ's Bride is being assailed. It is to bring the truth of Scripture to bear on both the message and the methodology of all those who claim to be doing Christian ministry, and to lovingly instruct them away from preaching themselves by employing carnal means. For if you do not -- if you fail to live up to this responsibility in the name of being irenic and for fear of being labeled divisive -- after dealing with His Bride's assailants, Christ will look for you to deal with you, too, for failing to protect the honor of His Beloved, the Church.

Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock,
among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers,
to shepherd the church of God
which He purchased with His own blood.

- Acts 20:28 -

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