03 September 2015

"Go and make disciples"

by Frank Turk


From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.


The following excerpt was written by Frank back in July 2012. It was the first of a 3-part series on the subject of Biblical Evangelism. The entire series was a transcript of a talk that Frank gave at the 2012 Call to Discernment Conference in Tulsa OK.


As usual, the comments are closed.
You are all familiar with the Great Commission from the last chapter of Matthew. That statement from Jesus is foundational in our understanding of what exactly believers are supposed to do while we wait for Jesus to return.

Consider it: according to Matthew, Jesus was crucified, and then 3 days later the tomb was found empty, and the angel gave the disciples instructions on where to find Jesus. And when they showed up there, Jesus was there. But while they worshipped him, some of them doubted. The context of the Great Commission, in Matthew’s account, is Jesus addressing his followers who, after the greatest miracle of all time, doubted.

These people were looking at the resurrected Christ who just defeated death, and they doubted. And that’s actually our problem, right? The death of death in the resurrection of Christ somehow is not enough. The idea that the problem is diagnosed by God, and then the solution is decreed by God, and then worked out by God – and then all we have to do is repent of our diagnoses and our solutions and turn to Him and worship Him – that seems somehow anticlimactic.

But Christ’s solution to that doubt is plain: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The first thing this means for us is that what we are supposed to do is not by our own authority. You know: in Revelation, John says this by having all manner of created beings cry out, “Worthy is the Lamb!” This is the Jesus for whom the scroll in the hand of the Father – the deed to all creation – has been given, and he’s the only one who is worthy to take it. So when Jesus begins to address doubt about this plan, he starts by saying that confidence in this plan is not a matter of tactics, or of our star power: it is a matter of authority. He is saying something that is important for those of us who feel impressed with the work of evangelism to remember: we do not go to this task because we think it’s just a good idea.

You don’t become an evangelist, or declare the Gospel, because you’re convinced it’s true.

You don’t do this simply because you like Jesus, or you like other people.

You do this because this message is God’s message, and it only makes sense if it comes from God. You see: Jesus is not saying, “in order to renew all things, and to renovate culture, and to give people their best life now, here is my suggestion.” He is instead saying, “Look: a few days ago, you thought I was defeated by human priests and human empires, and left for dead in the grave. You thought that human authorities could overcome me and my purpose in this world because I was dead. But now? I’m alive. Because I am alive, you should see that there are no authorities greater than me. All authority in Heaven belongs to me – so you have a source of hope. But look: all authority on Earth belongs to me. You have nothing to fear.”

Jesus says, “Go and make Disciples.” The blessed King James translation says, “Go and teach all nations.” That word doesn’t mean you cause people to wear a t-shirt, or get a plastic fish on their cars, or hand them a card to fill out, or to write a date down in the front cover of their Bible. It means you cause them to sit under the teaching. In the days of Christ, it meant that you gave up something in order to follow your teacher around – or at least to be available when he is in town to teach.

30 August 2015

A detective story

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from We Endeavour, pages 54-56, Pilgrim Publications.
"With what gusto some would undertake the task if they had to give in a report upon other people’s characters! How easily each of us can play the detective upon our fellows!" 

How ready we are to say of this man, “Oh, yes! he gives away a good deal of money, but it is only out of ostentation,” or of that woman, “Yes, she appears to be a Christian, but you do not know her private life,” or of that minister of the gospel, “Yes, he is very zealous; but he makes a good thing out of his ministry.”

We like thus to reckon up our fellow-creatures, and our arithmetic is wonderfully accurate — at least, so we think; but when other people cast us up according to the same rule, the arithmetic seems terribly out of order, and we cannot believe it to be right.

Ah! but at the great judgment we shall not be asked to give an account for others, neither will I ask any of you now to be thinking about the conduct of others. What if others are worse than you are, does that make you the better, or the less guilty? What if others are not all they seem to be, perhaps neither are you; at any rate, their hypocrisy shall not make your pretence to be true.

Judge yourselves, that ye be not judged. Let each thrust the lancet into his own wound, and see to the affairs of his own soul, for each one must give account of himself to God. Remember, too, that you are not called upon to give an account to others,

Alas! there are many who seem to live only that they may win the esteem of their fellows. There is somebody to whom we look up; if we do but have that somebody’s smile, we think all is well. Perhaps some here are brokenhearted because that smile has vanished, and they have been misjudged and unjustly condemned.

It is a small matter to be judged of man’s judgment; and who is he that judges another man’s servant? To his own master the servant shall stand or fall, and not to this interloping judge.

Remember, also, that the account to be rendered will be from every man, personally concerning himself; and whatever another man’s account may be, it will not affect him.

It was a maxim of Pythagoras that each of his disciples should, every eventide, give in a record of the actions of the day. I think it is well to do so; for we cannot too often take a retrospect. Sit down a while, pilgrim; sit down a while. Here is the milestone marked with the end of another year; sit down upon it, put thine hand to thy brow and think, and lay thine hand upon thy heart, and search and see what is there.

There are no persons who so dislike to look into their account-books as those who are insolvent. Those who keep no books, when they come before the court, are understood to be rogues of the first water; and men who keep no mental memoranda of the past, and bring up no recollections with regard to their sins, having tried to forget them all, may depend upon it that they are deceiving themselves.

If you dare not search your hearts, I am afraid there is a reason for that fear, and that above all others you ought to be diligent in this search.

27 August 2015

Lessons from Zarepheth

by Phil Johnson


From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.


The following excerpt was written by Phil back in August 2007. It was the last in a series of posts about the life of Elijah. Phil summarized the lessons we should take away from the account of the widow at Zarepheth.


As usual, the comments are closed.
Last week I promised to draw out some practical lessons and underscore a few other things to remember from Elijah's experiences in Zarephath. Here are some that stood out to me as I read over that episode:

1. Providence is characterized by many unexpected twists and turns. This reminds us that God's ways are mysterious and beyond human scrutiny—so that all we can know for sure about God's sovereign dealings with us is that His purposes are always righteous.
     Often He intervenes in our lives in ways that don't instantly appear good to us. Elijah was a prophet, but even he did not see the death of the widow's son coming. When the boy died, Elijah was clearly as shocked and dismayed as anyone about it.
     Those are the times when we need to remind ourselves that God's thoughts are higher than ours, and His ways are not like ours (Isaiah 55:8). But He is still working all things together for our good. His purposes and His strategies are better than the way we would do things. And He hasn't lost control—even if at the moment our whole world might seem to be in complete disarray.

2. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away—and we should praise Him in either case. This woman had benefited from God's generous provision in the time of drought, but she had no right to interpret that as a guarantee that her life would be free from calamity from then on. God has as much right to afflict us as He does to bless us. And we should glorify Him in either case.
    God doesn't promise that all His dealings with us will always be pleasant and easy. On the contrary, He assures us that trials and afflictions will be our lot and our portion. But He promises grace to endure, and He commands us to trust that His purpose for us is ultimately good. We must learn to trust in the dark times as well as in the times of good fortune.

3. Temporal blessings are nothing compared to Spiritual blessings. Consider this: the time eventually came when that boy died again. He may have lived to adulthood. Tradition says he became a lifelong servant of Elijah. One ancient rabbinical tradition even held that he became the prophet we know as Jonah. (It's pretty hard to see how that's possible, because Jonah was Jewish, and this boy was the son of a Phoenician woman. Also, Jonah is identified as the son of Amittai [2 Kings 14:25; Jonah 1:1]; nothing suggests he was an orphan like this boy.)
     In any case, it is safe to assume that this boy died at the end of his life, just like everyone in Scripture except Enoch and Elijah. It is appointed unto men to die once (Hebrews 9:27). In this boy's case, he was appointed to die twice.

And so the one enduring aspect of this miracle is seen in the faith of the widow. That was the greatest miracle of all—not that the boy was given his life back. (That was merely a temporal blessing.) But that a heart once dead to the things of God could be established in unshakable faith, with a rock-solid pre-modern conviction that the Word of God is absolute truth.

Real faith is to be able to trust Him in the midst of the tragedy—before we see the final outcome—and rest in the assurance that He does all things well.

23 August 2015

The mystery of Gospel seed

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The teachings of nature in the kingdom of grace, pages 234-35, Pilgrim Publications.
"There is a great difference between a mustard seed and a piece of wax of the same size. Life slumbers in that seed. What life is we cannot tell." 

Even if you take a microscope you cannot spy it out. It is a mystery: but it is essential to a seed. The Gospel has a something in it not readily discoverable by the philosophical inquirer, if, indeed, he can perceive it at all.

Take a maxim of Socrates or of Plato, and inquire whether a nation or a tribe has ever been transformed by it from barbarism to culture. A maxim of a philosopher may have measurably influenced a man in some right direction; but who has ever heard of a man's whole character being transformed by any observation of Confucius or Socrates? I confess I never have.

Human teachings are barren. But within the Gospel, with all its triteness and simplicity, there is; a divine life, and that life makes all the difference. The human can never rival the divine, for it lacks the life-fire.

It is better to preach five words of God's Word than five million words of man's wisdom. Men's words may seem to be the wiser and the more attractive, but there is no heavenly life in them. Within God's Word, however simple it may be, there dwells an omnipotence like that of God, from whose lips it came.

A seed is a very comprehensive thing. Within the mustard seed what is to be found? Why, there is all in it that ever comes out of it. It must be so. Every branch, and every leaf, and every flower, and every seed that is to be, is, in its essence, all within the seed: it needs to be developed; but it is all there.

And so, within the simple Gospel, how much lies concentrated? Look at it! Within that truth lie regeneration, repentance, faith, holiness, zeal, consecration, perfection. Heaven hides itself away within the Gospel. Like a young bird in its nest, glory dwells in grace. We may not at first see all its results, nor, indeed, shall we see them at all, till we sow the seed and it grows; but yet it is all there.

21 August 2015

Good buys (not good byes)

by Dan Phillips

Briefly: Kress Biblical Resources is having quite a sale this weekend — fifty percent off of everything. That includes books by John MacArthur, John Kitchen, Rick Holland, and your servant.


If you'll forgive my specific suggestion, folks are finding that God's Wisdom in Proverbs reaches quite an age-range. Might now be a great time to get a copy for your newly-minted high-school senior, college student, or youth leader?

Use the coupon code PLXUF10LALPY6.

Tell a friend. I just did!

Dan Phillips's signature


20 August 2015

Forgive yourself of sins?

by Dan Phillips


From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.


The following excerpt was written by Dan back in November 2010. Dan made the case that forgiving one's self of sins is not a Biblical idea.


As usual, the comments are closed.
Sin is a word for which we should keep as strictly-defined a definition as possible, straying only under duress. The apostolic definition is lawlessness (1 John 3:4; cf. Romans 5:13). The definition from Piper's Baptist catechism also works: "Sin is transgression of the revealed will of God which teaches that we are to act in perfect holiness from a heart of faith to the glory of God."

The Bible is really serious about this. How serious?  Well, think of someone who really, really sinned badly against people — sexually used one, had another killed, betrayed the trust of scores and hundreds. Of course, you know I am thinking of King David. And you know right where I'm going, to his head-scratching confession in Psalm 51:4 — "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight." On the face of it, this is simply an absurd statement. "You only"? What of Bathsheba? What of his own wife/wives? What of Uriah?

Yet David knew the truth that most deeply offends atheists, humanists, everyone who's bought the big lie: sin is only sin because God defines it as sin. Sin is sin because God says it is sin. Spouse betraying spouse, children failing to honor parents, neighbor slandering or robbing neighbor — all these are sins because God says they are sins.

Apart from God, there would be no sin. All sin is, in the final analysis, against God; for without God there would be no sin. And so, as I have heard D. A. Carson say well more than once, in all sin, God is the primary offended party.

Back to the notion of forgiving yourself. It simply is faddish, man-exalting nonsense to speak of forgiving yourself. In your sin, you aren't the wronged party. If you (or I) really think that it is meaningful to speak of forgiving ourselves for our sins, then I don't think we've got that whole repentance thing straight. It isn't our own forgiveness which we need. It is, of course, God's forgiveness, a forgiveness that cost the Son of God His lifeblood (Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:13-14, 22; 10:4).

It is only meaningful to speak of forgiveness of ourselves, then (A) by God, (B) of sin (C) against God, extended to us only (D) because of the shed blood of Christ, through whom alone we can find forgiveness. Secondarily, it is meaningful to speak of horizontal forgiveness of people upon repentance (that is not the focus of this post; but I can recommend a great book on the subject). But we know that God does command us to repent of our wrongs against others, to pursue restitution for those wrongs. We do those things because God calls us to do them. He defines my sin against my brother, He calls me to repent and pursue restitution and reconciliation (and commands me to forgive those who repent of sins against me). It's still all about God, and it's a subject of direct Biblical teaching.

Forgiving myself, however? Never. Biblically meaningless at best.

16 August 2015

A top rated dishwasher review

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 48, sermon number 2,792, "A Psalmist's question and answer."
"When you have lived nearest to God, it is then that you have mourned most your distance from Him."

There is a dear brother,—not present now, or else I might not tell the story,—an earnest and useful member of this church. Many years ago, I recollect his writing to tell me of his conversion. He was then a butler in a noble family, and I rejoiced with him over his conversion.

Some months after, he came and brought me two guineas as an offering to God; and, as he laid them on my vestry table, he said, “This is how I came by them. I am employed as butler to Lady So-and-so. When I became a Christian, I cleaned my plate so much better than I had ever done before, that her Ladyship took notice of what I did; and, on one occasion, when she had company, she brought a number of distinguished individuals into the butler’s pantry to see how beautiful her plate looked.

One of them said to me, ‘You do this work thoroughly well, young man, there are a couple of guineas for you.’ So I said to him, ‘It is very kind of your lordship, but I shall take that money, next Sunday, to Mr. Spurgeon.’

He made some jesting remark and then asked, ‘Why are you going to do that?’ I replied, ‘It is because I love the Lord Jesus Christ that I have become a better servant to her ladyship than I used to be; I hope I am not careless now about any of my duties and I want my Saviour to have the credit of all I do.’”

 So, dear friends, you see that you can glorify Jesus Christ in cleaning plate, or digging in a garden, or selling potatoes, or anything else that is right, so long as you do it unto him and to his praise; doing the best you can because you feel that a Christian man ought never to do anything badly.

Even the most common thing that he turns out should be done by him as a servant of Christ to the very best of his ability. If you act so, I shall not care what profession or occupation you choose, so long as it is a lawful one, nor in what line of life you may be called to move, so long as this is your firm and fixed resolve, “I will not seek the glory of self; I will not seek my own honour; but I will seek the glory of God alone.”