I have and will rarely post anything on my blog [website] that is seemingly irrelevant to the purposes and ultimate goal of my writing.  Much of it has to do with the risk and temptation of being slanderous and sounding like a gossip. However, since I care about the reputation of John Piper and his ministry, I will address this issue that has seemed to permeate the reformed blogosphere in a more negative than positive way.  Namely, John Piper has invited Mr. Rick Warren to speak at the 2010 Desiring God Conference.

            At first, I responded the same way that many people did that are, “Piper fans.” Since I have at least read both of Piper and Warren, I have always typically considered them to be in two different categories doctrinally and theologically.  One of the reasons this is true is that I started my Christian life with reading books like, “The Purpose Driven life.”  If I were to read that book now, I would probably not find as much spiritual edification from it is as I thought I did when I was first converted.  I have been introduced by God’s spirit to reformed theology or Calvinism, i.e., the systematic biblical view of soteriology and the doctrine of God.  Now, I find much encouragement from reading the Puritans like Owen and Edwards, among others, like John Piper.  Through John Piper’s ministry, I have been revealed to understand God’s wisdom and purposes of theology and doctrine in the Christian life. 

            One of the things that I have learned over the last six years or so of my Christian life is that your “theology” or “doctrine” is not something that is an option if you are a Christian.  Some professing Christians thrive on the, “What can God do for me?” attitude that never seems to place much emphasis on the importance of theology or the “moving on to deeper things.”  In other words, the emphasis of this effort is on the self and not on God himself.  Since everything we believe about God, Jesus Christ and sin is considered our “theology,” and therefore either true or not; therein, I believe, lays the seeming divulgence between John Piper and Rick Warren.  However, there are five basic reasons why I believe Dr. Piper should invite Rick Warren to the DG 2010 Conference.

1.)    Although John Piper believes that Rick Warren is, “doctrinal and theological,” according to his statement about him, I still believe that Warren will be far more affected by Piper’s preaching than vice versa (whether Piper’s statement is true or not).

2.)    Since John Piper is a Calvinist, hopefully those who follow his ministry and teaching believe in the Sovereignty of God as he teaches.  Therefore, they should trust that God is infinitely wiser in His sovereign decisions, regardless of what man sees at face value. Therefore, it is God who invited Rick Warren to the 2010 Desiring God Conference. 

3.)    Neither John Piper nor Rick Warren wrote the Scriptures.  They are merely two teachers of what was already written infallibly throughout the generations by the holy spirit.  Both men are fallible and both are sinners.  Therefore, both will be accountable to God for what they teach and not to man (ultimately).

4.)    Rick Warren’s invitation will be a great tool in the testing of hearts and character of those who “follow” John Piper.  If we worship the Christ that Piper preaches, then we are humbled at the request of Piper’s invitation of Rick Warren.  However, if John Piper is viewed as in idol or “celebrity preacher” if you will, then these are the people that are most tempted to slander or immediately consider Dr. Piper an apostate or heretic.  We may be proven to actually worship or have worshiped John Piper.

5.)    Rick Warren’s invitation does not prevent truth from being spoken, the gospel from being preached and Jesus Christ from being glorified.

But I am very curious to see what happens.  I am pretty sure John Piper is too.

Revival in the land

December 31, 2009

Evangelicalism or historical [classical] Christianity as known in the fifteenth through nineteenth century at least, the term “revival” was not likely understood as much as it was experienced.  With clearly and incredibly gifted preachers, teachers and evangelists such as Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield and Charles Spurgeon [among many at the time], one could not escape the knowledge of the true gospel.   In light of pioneer-like expository preaching and teaching that men exemplified at such a masterful level, it is no surprise that hundreds if not thousands of souls were drawn to the foot of the cross of Christ by merely expositing the Scriptures and directing the teachings of Christ and the inerrant Word to grip the soul of the troubled sinner.  That is you and me.  These days, it seems that it is difficult to define what a revival is. 

One may or may not be surprised that I would continue this excerpt with Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones.  To many, he is simply someone that an evangelical has heard of or respects as a preacher.  To other professing Reformed Christians as of late, it seems that he is virtually unheard of.  Most of these people would say that they know of John Piper, but Martin Lloyd-Jones is a faint memory of a familiar name.  But, to one who is very familiar with the doctrine of the Puritans and Puritan names in general, Dr. Jones is a jewel.  Most notably, he is seemingly the most recent [20th Century] vessel of Jesus Christ in the kindling or “re-kindling” of a revival in the evangelical church.

“There was another debate occurring during that time but it was private and known only within Martyn Lloyd-Jones himself. Martyn and his brothers had all joined their church back in Llangeitho in 1914 at the encouragement of their minister but Martyn was now beginning to take a hard look at the reality of his spiritual condition. He later wrote, “For many years I thought I was a Christian when in fact I was not. It was only later that I came to see that I had never been a Christian and became one. “3 As he struggled with his salvation a grace truth came into focus. Martyn had not really heard sound preaching of the gospel in his early life. As he said, “What I needed was preaching that would convict me of sin and … bring me to repentance and tell me something about regeneration. But I never heard that. The preaching we had was always based on the assumption that we were all Christians …”4 As the young doctor read for himself he slowly but surely saw the logic and the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Like the waves of the incoming tide, the reality of God’s grace swept over Martyn’s heart until trusting Christ was all he could do. As surely as that reality overwhelmed him personally it overwhelmed him professionally. Soon it became apparent that God was calling Martyn Lloyd-Jones to preach and for that the world would never be the same!”

I would like to note Martyn’s quote, “The preaching we had was always based on the assumption that we were all Christians.”  This was stated probably somewhere around 1920 or 1930.  The theological understanding of this fact in his modern day preaching sparked a conviction within his soul.  The preaching he had been sitting under was apparently an inoffensive gospel and clearly liberal.  Because of this conviction instilled by the Holy Spirit and realization of the condition of  the church in general at the time that was subjugated to such liberal theology, he by God’s Grace molded and shaped it by expositing the pure Word that eventually provoked a new revival in England. 

There are many other things that Dr. Martyn-Lloyd Jones has contributed to the church that books have been written about.  The truth is that it is only the efficacy and empowerment of the Holy Spirit alone that enabled Dr. Jones and any other believer to speak or preach the truth of God’s Word.  If theology was liberal then, it is more liberal now.  If the church were in need of a revival then, we are more in need of a revival now.  So, what is the definition of a revival?  I would define it as an urgently desperate effort and realization of one or more pastors or teachers of God’s word to simply restore the “pure Gospel” where it had been lost and perverted into man-pleasing doctrines [as the church has combated since the first century].  It is a particular effort to preach, in utter despair, about the dreadfully lost and radically depraved sinful condition of all man-kind that we are in need of regeneration and to be saved.  I do not believe that specific Scriptures are required for this, but the entirety of the Scriptures or any one Scripture can suffice to be exposited and expounded upon to teach sinners of their lost condition apart from the substitionary death of Jesus Christ on the cross in their stead.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones had an incredible grasp of this truth and consistently and thoroughly presented the radical nature of the true Gospel and what it requires of man.

Since only the Holy Spirit can be given credit to the provocation and initiation of an eternally blessed revival, only a true and humble student of the word of God will be enabled to speak the words that will cause sinners to grip the pews in conviction.  For example, Martyn Lloyd-Jones was known to read the entire bible at least once a year and he would take many months or even years to expound a single chapter of the bible verse by verse in his sermons.  He was a student of the Word.  This means that He was a student of Jesus Christ.  This is what the church is lacking today.  We are no longer interested in church history or how we are able to hold the bibles we have.  We are no longer interested in theology and the deep things of God.  We have indeed developed itchy ears and man-made doctrines as we have all turned aside from the truth and into myths (2 Tim.4:3-4).  This is what already naturally happens in each depraved sinner.  That is why it takes a special work and power of the Holy Spirit to cause a revival to sweep the land, convert souls and make disciples.   

Apart from what we deduce from the Holy Scriptures and interpret using correct hermeneutics in light of sound doctrine empowered by the Holy Spirit, we cannot have a revival.  In other words, a revival cannot and will not happen using a “half- gospel.”  To define half-gospel in my terms, I believe it is just enough gospel truth preached to be calculably inoffensive and to seemingly purposefully “quench the Spirit” in terms of not starting a fire when one needs to be started.  In other words, it allows unconverted sinners to remain comfortable in the pew and indeed active in the church while they have no idea of the fire that awaits them if they should die in their sins.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones always started fires with his charismatic “Holy Spirit fire” doctrine and his understanding of the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.”  He was bold about this doctrine contributing to and in fact being a part of regeneration, the bringing to life of a soul or being born-again.  However, he balanced this doctrine by not exalting the gifts above Christ and His Sovereign distribution of them.

A tongue that is able to speak of the sweet promises of the Savior Himself as well as divulge and despise error and sin where need be is one who may be used in a revival.  One who is an expert on the doctrine of sin may be used in a revival.  One who holds the Scriptures to be the inerrant and infallible Word of God may be used in a revival.  That is, one who is able to grasp and understand the eternal significance of the soul and the practicality of the gospel through grace as the only true source of strength, sanctification, regeneration and overcoming sin and temptation, may be used in a revival.  Lastly, one who acknowledges the reality of Satan, human depravity, spiritual warfare and daily need for repentance through the spirit’s work in communing with God may be used in a revival.

According to Scriptures [Acts 2 in particular], God uses revivals to not only convert souls, but to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  In other words, false converts are weeded out.  In a true revival, a false convert who attends a local congregation will either come to true repentance and will realize that he was never a follower of Christ, or he will leave because of the impact of such truth and the true power of the Holy Spirit in the Gospel.  Peter preaches to the masses, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.’  Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’  Then Peter said to them, Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is to you and your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.’” Acts 2:36-38

Many do not think the same gospel message that saved souls in the apostolic age is applicable today.  Many pastors today would not exclaim the above Scripture with the same urgency that repentance is just as much required today that was then.  Because of our sin and rebellion, we have all equally crucified the Son of God.  Since time does not forgive sin but only the blood of Jesus Christ, the same repentance is required of me that is required of the Philippian jailer.  Just as Paul states regarding the Holy Spirit in the obtainment of spiritual gifts, “There are diversities of gifts, but the same spirit.  There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.  And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6.  So it is the same with the salvation of the soul.  It is the same mediator that passes over sins.  It is the same blood that was shed two-thousand years ago that justifies sinners today.  So on and so forth.

             Preacher, take the word and, as Dr. Martyn-Lloyd Jones did, diagnose the condition within each human soul.  “What purpose then does the law serve?  It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.  Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one.” Galatians 3:19-20

Gaze into the congregation with the urgency that Peter had to convert souls.  It is not strictly an evangelistic effort, but an effort to revive the church!  It is to awaken the congregation to righteousness!  May we not be lulled to sleep and deceived by Satan into thinking that minimal effort is enough for the kingdom.  May we use the true power of the Holy Spirit, and let it change our lives to provoke practical communion and worship with Jesus Christ.  May we not denounce the utter importance of theology and what we believe about God, according to the Scriptures.  Yelling from the pulpit is not enough because what is said may not be true, or true enough.  We need men and preachers that do not care that the congregation is offended at gospel truth.  That is the very purpose of preaching the gospel!  Hearts must be broken over sin to be converted.  There is no other way to be saved.  As one who understands that it is far easier to write about the need of a revival than to actually start one, it doesn’t make it any less true to write about the decline of doctrine, theology and serious undermining of the power of the Holy Spirit in contemporary preaching.  It is gospel truth that actually converts souls.  May we raise up another Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  May we long for a revival.  Pray for that.

The seemingly common difficulty about being a pastor or theologian in a generation where sound doctrine has subsided into circus-like myths is the inevitable truth of being compared to others. Few pastors can withhold the unleashing at others; yet many also prove themselves unfit by being unable to defend the Gospel from the pulpit. This is an age where the Gospel should be most heard and recognized than ever before, but itchy ears seem to have won the majority vote, pleasurably avoiding the responsibility of breaking hearts and killing sin (this is the Sovereignty revealed). The situation puts even more pressure, higher focus and amplifies the ridicule on the very few faithful stewards of God’s inerrant and infallible Word. The more error that is seen and discerned within the church and culture, the more precious and treasurable the truth is when it is heard and revealed. Namely, this is preaching the Scriptures. One of faithful stewards who does not plaster his credentials and resume in the foyer, nor waste the precious moments to redeem the time by speaking of the shortcomings of particular pastors, but streamlines the infinite worth of the Glory of God and the Supremacy of Christ over all creation with passionate conviction to the winning of souls and the making of disciples of that, oh so little preached truth, is Dr. John Piper.

Something this depraved world, particularly the United States needs to hear about “Christianity” and what the true costs of being a Christian is (humility, sacrifice,giving,dying). Piper brings to life the scenarios with strong conviction that streamlines focus on the Glory of God when we are truly resting in Him instead of believing the, oh so many, lies.