Being Thoughtful and Deliberate

On occasion I'll look through a devotional entitled Day By Day With the Early Church Fathers. Often their comments are challenging, and it is interesting to see how people of a different time sought to apply Scripture to their own situations.

Yesterday's reading was a quotation from Clement of Alexandria:

The Savior teaches nothing in a merely human way, but teaches His own with Divine and mystic wisdom. Therefore, we must not listen to His words with worldly ears. We must search out and learn the meaning hidden in them. For what the Lord seems to have simplified for the disciples requires even more attention than puzzling statements because of its overabundance of wisdom. In addition, the things He explained to His children require even more consideration than the things which seem to have been simply stated. Those who heard such explanations did not ask questions, because the Lord's words pertaining to the entire design of salvation were meant to be contemplated with awe and a deep spiritual mind. We must not receive these words superficially with our ears, but must apply our minds to understanding the Spirit of the Savior and the unspoken meaning of His Words.

I don't think that Clement is suggesting that there are hidden meanings that need to be discovered in place of or in addition to the normal meaning of what is said, but that we need to contemplate, meditate, think through what we read. Scripture is amazing in its simplicity, yet profound in its depth. In our fast-paced world, we may get the general meaning by a fast reading, but only by thoughtful contemplation can we see the implications. For me, this was a reminder to slow down in my study and meditation, and I've actually decided to start my prep a day earlier so that I have time to think more about the passage than I have.

Milton Stanley posted something yesterday about letting the text speak to us over time. Some guys can work on sermons months in advance. I have found that doesn't work for me. I do my best when I am focusing my energies on what I am going to communicate on the coming Sunday. Of course, in a situation where one is preaching through a book of the Bible, one can increase a broader perspective by continuing to look at the context of what is being preached on a given week. But the point of what Milton blogged is right - we need to do a thorough job of preparing the meal we intend to feed to our flock.

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Bob at Mr. Standfast recommends two CD's he has been listening to. If you like Celtic-type music, you will probably like these. As a long-term listener to country music (to be distinguished from the bad rock and roll that often plays on contemporary country radio), it is interesting to hear the Celtic roots in so much of American music. Now if Bob would just buy several of us the CD's to "review."

Tim Challies has a fantastic post: Making Christianity Better or Rock and Roll Worse. Right on. The authors - regardless of their spiritual orientation - have captured what we look like to people on the outside and it isn't pretty.

Slice of Laodicea points to an article entitled The Gospel According to Rick Warren. What was particularly interesting to me in the story was this quote:

John Macarthur is on target when he writes, "Listening to a seeker-sensitive evangelical preacher today, we're likely to think it's easy to be a Christian. Just say these little words, pray this little prayer, and you're in the club."

The article's author goes on to say that "Admittedly, salvation is received by faith alone in Christ alone, but it is not received by mouthing a little prayer lacking in biblical content and understanding, with the hopes that you will find purpose in life."

Macarthur warns, "People are breezing through those wide, comfortable, inviting gates with all their baggage, their self-needs, their self-esteem, and their desire for fulfillment and self-satisfaction. And he most horrible thing about it is they think they're going to heaven. "






10 comments:

Bumble said...

I am not a Warren's fan, so hear me out on this.

The other day when preaching on Samson, I had to change the way I talked about "mixed-marriage". Realizing the significant percentage of seekers in the audience made me explaining to THEM why Christians are so "strict" in that regard. Without them there, I would exhort the same point differently to the church kids.

I think Warren's message might be misunderstood because the lack of the surrounding context. Like instructions given to 3-years-old would be different to 17-years-old.

Peter Bogert said...

Bumble: Thanks for your comment. The point of quoting the article about Warren was not to bash him, but to point out two very common aspects of evangelicalism's approach to evangelism. The first is that Christ solves your problems and that's why you need Him. Dealing with sinfulness becomes incidental to that larger point. The second is that repeating a prayer nets eternal life.

Milton Stanley said...

Glad you found something to respond to at TS, Peter. I read Stronger Church every day, and it's delightful to see my name there every once in a while. Peace.

Bumble said...

You are right. The "sinner prayer" is not very biblical. And you didn't bash Warren in your posr at all.

I should have direct my comment to Slice of Laodicea instead. I guess I was chicken to do that and posted my comment here instead...

Peter Bogert said...

Milton - I read your blog each day as well and appreciate your contributions. Hopefuly we can do lunch this fall.

And Bumble - (I'm making chicken noises)

Bill said...

I say this carefully. . .

am growing more and more concerned about a certain knee-jerk atmosphere in the Godblogosphere these days. I don't know Rick Warren and have never been to Saddleback, but I believe the example MacArthur gave of how easy it is to become a member of Saddleback is misguided. In my understanding, they place high accountability on their members (including the requirement that they serve in some capacity).

It's easy to go from "I disagree with Rick Warren" to saying "Rick Warren is deceiving people". I share your concerns about the state of the churches in this country - and I very, very much appreciate your blog. But I am becoming just as concerned at the memes that are exploding in the blogosphere regarding churches such as Saddleback. And I fear that we are speaking of stereotypes rather than the reality.

We don't need to be blind to the unsound doctrine that some churches (well, all churches to a degree, if you want to be exact about it) teach. We must contend for the faith, of course. But we must have, as Bumble states, context. And kindness.

And I too should probably direct this to Slice rather than you :-)

(note: preceding rant somewhat inspired by Dan's excellent post on Cerulean Sanctum: http://www.dedelen.com/2005/08/has-christian-blogosphere-lost-its.html)

Love your blog, Peter. If I've offended you with this comment please let me know.

Peter Bogert said...

Bill:

No offense at all. I do think that there is valid criticism of the "Jesus as life-fixer" approach to evangelism, but frankly this has been around since Warren was in diapers. My quote of Slice's article was to point out what Macarther said (and I think rightly so) about people who think that praying a prayer or saying some words makes them right with God. But as I said, this pre-dates Warren by a long time.

Peter

Bill said...

I would agree, Peter. However, many Biblical examples of salvation involved a very simple profession of faith. The Philippian jailor, for instance.

I completely agree that a Biblical understanding of Christ, His work, atoning death, and resurrection are vital. Otherwise, who are we putting our faith in?

But I would need to have examples of how Saddleback (or any other seeker-sensitive church) is offering easy-believism. From my understanding, they put those who are interested in receiving Christ through a class (their 101 class) where the gospel is fully explained. It is not the "just walk down the aisle" opportunity that many churches all across the spectrum often offer, with no follow-up, no discipleship.

Members at Saddleback are then encouraged to attend 201, which explains having a deeper walk with Christ and spiritual disciplines. 301, which helps them discover their gifts (not that I want to get into a conversation about that :-) - I realize spiritual gifts seminars are open for criticism - and I say that as one who has taught them), and 401, which is about finding opportunities for missions.

My point in all this, offered humbly, is that the picture painted by MacArthur regarding Saddleback or other seeker-sensitive churches may not be accurate. And that troubles me a lot.

Is there plenty to criticise in the seeker-sensitive and/or church growth movements? Absolutely! Your blog plays an important role in this, for instance.

But truth must be key in our criticisms. As Luther said, we tend to fall off the donkey on the other side. I'm becoming more and more concerned that falsehoods regarding certain Christian leaders are being propegated across the blogosphere by well-meaning and no so well-meaning bloggers. MacArthur makes a serious charge - that those evangelized in seeker-sensitive churches are often deceived. I would like to have comfort that he is doing his homework. My experience is that churches like Saddleback do much better follow-up with their members who have received Christ than many churches do.

Again, I'm not a member of Saddleback or a fan of Rick Warren. And I don't disagree with the concerns presented here.

Thanks for listening.

Peter Bogert said...

Bill:

I think Macarthur is writing out of the experience of dealing with people in pastoral ministry for decades. I'd also have to say that I have come across numerous people who have made professions of faith, yet have failed to show even a hint of life, but consider themselves believers because of something that they did (invite Jesus into their hearts, pray a prayer, go forward, etc.)

The Jesus as Therapist and Life-Fixer predates the seeker-senstive church, as I said. If you look at even Campus Crusade's 4 Laws, the premise is that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, but you have to admit you're a sinner, accept Christ, etc. before you can get there. The whole thing is backwards. The Gospel is not the means to the end of a better life. Yet there are a lot of people who have been "led to the Lord" that way. How real their conversion is or not I don't know. There are millions in our country who claim to be born again, but the question is always whether they really are.

Bill said...

Well said, Peter. I appreciate what you're saying, and hope that we can see a day where more and more our churches are preaching the gospel as it was intended.

Thanks for the conversation. And God bless your ministry. Your blog is a daily read for me.