05 May 2016

The Importance of Seeing Ourselves as Disciples

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 October 2012. Dan addressed common misconceptions about it means to be a disciple.


As usual, the comments are closed.
Decades back, I used to ask groups I came to teach whether anyone could define the word "disciple." As a rule, folks were fairly confident, and completely wrong. They'd never been taught about it. Probably the most common answer was "follower." After that came "apostle," or "disciplined person." None of which is true.

The Greek word translated disciple is perfectly straightforward and uncontroversial. It is μαθητὴς (mathētēs), and it means "student, pupil, learner."

That's it.

What, you're waiting for some deeply-spiritual, mystical sense? There isn't one. And I think that in itself is really terribly important.

The way I've seen many folks approach Christianity in general, and church-selection and church-involvement in particular, has convinced me that they have no clue about this element. They do not see themselves as disciples, which is to say they do not see themselves as students, learners, pupils of Jesus Christ.

Christians simply do not see themselves as students who are expected (by God!) constantly to learn and grow, and never to graduate. So when it comes to picking a church, the thought of selecting a church which above all teach them the Word of God simply is not a priority, or perhaps not even a factor. When they evaluate a church, its music or furnishings or programs or a thousand other elements are central, but its effectiveness in teaching them God's Word is not.

But once they have selected a Bible-teaching church, even then this concept seems to fall by the wayside. They sit and stand, sing and pray; they watch the pastor. They go home, they have lunch. They've already forgotten what happened. So how were they disciples? Surely, if they seriously saw themselves as disciples, they would have taken some steps to make sure that the service contributed to their growth as disciples?

Perhaps someone is thinking, "I don't see the Bible making the big deal about this that you're making." No? How about this?
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
"Make disciples" (mathēteusate) is the lone imperative verb in the Greek text, so it is the anchor-thought. The rest supports this activity. The presence of Jesus is guaranteed to the church as it engages in this activity — making disciples, pupils, students, learners.

"Oh, huh," you say. "I always thought that was about evangelism." Evangelism is included, but it's just the introduction to the whole enchilada, the discipleship enchilada.

But did you know that Jesus defined, in so many words, what it meant to be a genuine disciple? He did in a number of ways, but in our connection one passage stands out: John 8:31-32
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Break it down:
  • The path to freedom lies in knowing the truth.
  • The path to knowing the truth lies in being a genuine disciple/student.
  • The path to being a genuine student is in continuing in Jesus' word.
Straightforward, eh?

Spread the word. Make it loud, plain, and inescapable: if you're a real Christian, you're a student. Your priority is to get taught, and to learn. It is to learn the words of God.

And if you're not being a student, you're not being a Christian.

It's definitional.

Not optional.

And it should affect how we approach church selection, organization, and involvement.

01 May 2016

Stir, song, and swagger?

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 "Only a prayer meeting!" page 18, Pilgrim Publications.
"See how the families of many professors are as dressy, as gay, as godless as the children of the non-religious! How can we hope to see the Kingdom of our Lord advance when His own disciples do not teach His Gospel to their own sons and daughters?"

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I would sooner have the doctrines of grace revived, individual piety deepened, and family religion increased, than I would watch a frantic crowd parading the street with noisy music, and harsh clamour. I see no special virtue in drums and tambourines.

Make what noise you will to attract the careless if you afterwards give them sound instruction in the truth, and make them to know the meaning of the Word of the Lord; but if it be mere stir, and song, and swagger, what is the good of it?

If Gospel truth is not taught, your work will be a building of wood, hay, and stubble, soon to be consumed. Quick building is seldom permanent. Gold, silver, and precious stones are scarce material, not easily found; but then they endure the fire.

What is the use of religion which comes up in a night, and perishes as soon? Ah, me! what empty bragging we have heard!

The thing was done, but then it was never worth doing; soon things were as if it never had been done; and, moreover, this sham way of doing it made it all the harder toil for the real worker.

O Christian men and women, be thorough in what you do, and know, and teach! Hold truth as with an iron grip; let your families be trained in the fear of God, and be yourselves “holiness unto the Lord;" so shall you stand like rocks amid the surging waves of error and ungodliness which rage around you.



28 April 2016

More than "just the facts"

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 October 2012. Frank contrasted Jonah and the Apostle John to show how to properly understand the statement "God is Love."


As usual, the comments are closed.
We've been reading Jonah to better understand what it means to say that God is Love in the same way that God is Holy or God is Just. When the Apostle John wants to talk about this,  he says, “God is love.”  He actually says a lot more than that in 1 John 4:7-11.

God is Love, and we know what love is because of God loves through a person – through his own Person.  This is what we mean when we say, “[the love of God] may be defined as that perfection of God by which he is eternally moved to self-communication.”  We mean:  God wants to tell us about himself, and while the telling is important, and gracious, good in a moral sense, it turns out that it is also something more.  It is the way God is made personal to us and for us – initially by words and stories, but finally, and perfectly in Jesus Christ.

For John, the only way to know God, and to know love, is to know what Christ has done.  That is: God loved us, and sent Christ to be the propitiation of our sin.  That’s a perfectly fine theological word there, “propitiation.”  But what John means is that God sent Jesus to deal with our sins because he loves us, and in order to make God content with us – to overcome wrath for the sake of God’s contentment with us.

What is at stake in the question of God’s love, then, is not merely factual information.  What is at stake is whether or not we actually know God, whether or not we actually can relate to God, and whether or not we have any hope in God.

Jonah, unfortunately, doesn’t get it. (Jonah 4:5-11)

In God’s view of this, what’s at stake here is that Jonah not just know the words.  Jonah can say the words, “you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”  Jonah can understand them well enough to run away from what they mean. What is at stake here is that God self-communicates to Jonah so that Jonah will know who God is. What is unfortunate for Jonah is that when he meets this God in the salvation of his enemies, he is angry at God.  He would rather die than know this God.

Think about what a different book the book of Jonah would have been if, rather than the Chapter 4 we receive it instead said, “and when Jonah looked upon the city, and upon his own salvation from death in the belly of the fish, he worshipped God and gave praise to him for his lovingkindness.  And God was with him.”  It could have been a story utterly foreshadowing the New Testament, utterly proof of the kind of faith Abraham had, in which God is both trusted and loved and believed for the best. Jonah could have been a friend of God.  Instead it is a book which spells out for us in detail the difference between the kind of love Men as capable of contrasted with the kind of Love God brings into the world.

There is nothing unorthodox about Jonah’s confession – but when he finds God actually being full of Love, Loving with patience, Loving to the point of forgiveness, he is enraged.  He thinks he has himself been wronged even though he is also himself a benefactor of such things.  When John sees the love of God, his reaction is different.  What John knows about God is superior to what Jonah knows about God – even though they have the same words for it.

Jonah has seen what God has done – and would die for both shame and anger.  John has seen it, and he is overcome by it for joy.  Jonah wants to repudiate God’s work to sake the lost, and John sees it as his only hope – the only way to even know what love is.

I think both men would know all the words to the children’s song about this rudimentary doctrine. “Jesus Loves Me.  This I know, for the Bible Tells me so.  Little ones to Him belong – they are weak, but He is strong.  Yes!  Jesus loves me!  The Bible tells me so!”  The question, it seems, is which one believes it.

24 April 2016

“Thy Kingdom Come"


Image result for charles spurgeon

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 Gospel of the Kingdom, page 34, Pilgrim Publications.

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10. 

"Oh, that thou mayest reign over all hearts and lands!" 

Men have thrown off their allegiance to our Father, God; and we pray with all our might that he may, by his almighty grace, subdue them to loyal obedience. We long for the coming of King Jesus; but meanwhile we cry to our Father, “Thy kingdom come.”

We desire for the supreme will to be done in earth, with a cheerful, constant, universal obedience like that of “heaven.” We would have the Lord’s will carried out, not only by the great physical forces which never fail to be obedient to God, but by lovingly active spirits; by men, once rebellious, but graciously renewed.

Oh, that all who say this prayer may display on earth the holy alacrity of obedience which is seen in the happy, hearty, united, and unquestioning service of perfect saints and angels before the throne. Our heart’s highest wish is for God’s honour, dominion, and glory.

21 April 2016

The Healing of the Man Born Blind

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 April 2007. He offered his thoughts regarding the means that Jesus used to heal the man born blind (John 9:6-7).


As usual, the comments are closed.
Here's a curious means of healing! Jesus spits on the ground. And I'm assuming He spat several times, because if you have ever tried to make clay with your own spit (and I have) it takes a lot of spit to make even a little ball of clay.

Then he takes this mud made from spit and rubs it into the eyes of the blind man.

It's remarkable that the blind guy submitted to such a remedy.

Why did Jesus use that method?

Well, for one thing, it makes a good picture of the gospel. It's offensive. It goes against propriety and common sense. It offends our sense of good taste. It is crude. In the judgment of worldly wisdom, it seems foolish. It is a stumbling-block and an offense to our sense of decorum and refinement. It is probably the last method you would expect God to employ.

And yet it was perfectly suitable to Christ's purpose. Underneath the crass and uncouth outward appearance of this act is a tremendous amount of divine wisdom.

Suppose Jesus had used a more refined means of healing the man. Suppose he had reached into his bag and taken out an alabaster vial of glycerin or oil and delicately put drops in the man's eyes, and the man received sight from that.

What would have been the result?

Everyone would have said, "What a wonderful medicine! What is that stuff? Where can I get some?" The focus would have been on the elixir. The cure would have been ascribed to the eye-drops rather than to the power of God.

But the way Jesus healed this man, no one would ever say, "The mud did it!" Or, "It was the spit." Instead, it was clear to everyone that Jesus possessed divine power, and the glory went to Him, where it rightfully belongs.

He deliberately chose means that were commonplace and menial. He purposely did something unconventional. Instead of an elaborate ceremony or a cultured and polished ritual, He chose means that people might think unsanitary, messy—perhaps even indecent.

Again, that perfectly illustrates how God works through the gospel. "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence" (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).

The atonement itself is regarded by many in this world as an ugly, appalling, embarrassing thing—a blood sacrifice, involving the death of God's own Son on a cross of shame, to pay the price of sin in such a public and inglorious way.

But the wisdom of God is foolishness to this world. "The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18).

What's more, the means by which Jesus healed this guy almost seems counterproductive. Who would ever think that putting mud in a man's eyes would help him see? The clay is actually an impediment to the light and an irritant to the eye. This is no way to heal blindness! Besides, clay is inert. It has no healing power or efficacy!

And you know what? That's right. The healing power was not in the dirt. It was not even in the spittle. The efficacy came from the power of Christ.

18 April 2016

Unsung Heroes

by F.X. Turk

I have no idea if you people know this or not, but this blog doesn't write itself.  The main contribution to this blog for the last few years has been by two men who are, largely and by design, anonymous and invisible.  They are the ones who have been tirelessly providing the Sunday Dose of Spurgeon and the Thursday "Best Of" posts.


Because they choose to remain nameless, I am going to leave them as such, but it is worth saying that this blog would be Mostly Dead without them.  Thanks Guys -- please keep up the good work.








17 April 2016

Crown Him Lord of all...maybe?


Image result for charles spurgeon

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 23, sermon number 1,375, "Now then do it."



"To admit a thing to be right is but a small part of the matter, if you practically deny it by your indifference."

Note the business on hand—it is that Jesus should be king over you. It was needful that David should become king, or else he could not rescue Israel from the Philistines, and in your case Jesus must be king or he cannot be your Saviour.

Thousands of people are quite willing to be saved by Christ, but when it comes to the first step, namely, that Jesus must be accepted as ruler, lawgiver, master, king and Lord, then they start back and reject eternal life.

“Yet know (nor of the terms complain), 
Where Jesus comes, he comes to reign; 
To reign, and with no partial sway; 
Thoughts must be slain that disobey.”

The whole question of your being saved or lost will turn on this: if Jesus be not your king, then the devil will remain enthroned in your heart, and you will remain a lost soul: but if your heart will yield itself up to the supreme authority of King Jesus, then the work of salvation has already commenced, and Jesus will take care to purge your nature of all his enemies, until you shall be an empire in which he alone shall reign in holiness and peace.

Jesus must be king! What say you, sir, shall it be so? Do you hesitate about it? He must be your Lord and Master, his will must be your will, his commands must be law to you, and his example must henceforth be the model of your life. Do you demur, or will you yield at once?

Next, notice that if Christ is to be your king, it must be by your own act and deed. So saith the text concerning King David—“Now then, do it.” David would not be king over Israel unless Israel was willing that he should be king; and our Lord Jesus Christ is no forced monarch over one single human heart; the promise is, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.”

The kingdom of Christ over men’s hearts is a kingdom of love, not a kingdom of force, so that there must be the full assent and consent of the will to the reigning power of Christ in the soul, or else he does not reign at all.

What sayest thou, yes or no? Are you willing that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, should henceforth rule and reign over thine entire nature as thy heart’s supreme Lord? There is the question. Let it be settled once for all. You have sometimes sought to have it so,  “now then do it.”