Good Article by Kyle Vaughn from "The Resurgence" website

“The Digital Age–A New Dark Age? A Look At How Christianity Can Speak To Those Lost In A Storm of Information”

Great article with information on the Enlightenment, postmodern, and post-literate movements, how these movements have impacted the Church and how Christianity masters the reason – faith paradigm, the highest knowledge being that of God, the understanding of ourselves being in Him, as well as our salvation. Truth as it is revealed by God in Christ reigns preeminently.

Agreeableness Not Synonymous With Regeneration

I have observed that the general and secular culture of the South is noticeably, and often frustratingly, aligned with the “churchy” culture of the Southern states. The secular culture is quite agreeable to the church culture and the church culture seems to be quite content with reflecting that culture and quite indifferent towards molding it. The Gospel is met with much agreement, but little conversion. As with most dichotomies, this is simultaneously advantageous for the church provided the church is appropriately opportunistic, while being an eternal threat both to the accountability of the church’s evangelical identity and to the immortal souls of those deceived by their agreeable nature to the things of Christ when we do not make use of the opportunity so given.

With regards to the Church of the living God, we need to mortify our “churchiness” and become the Church. Contentment in the way of things current will ultimately lead to the condemnation of souls, not the salvation of them. We ought not to be content with the agreeableness of the lost, and we should not rest at ease until their eyes are spiritually opened and they are given the Divine breath of life accompanied by the evidence of spiritual sneezes removing the clog of spiritual and agreeable deception. Being agreeable to the Gospel is not synonymous with being regenerate of God, although we ought to be thankful for what agreeableness exists, for though it serves too deceive a soul, yet the reality of it is often the impression of God upon the same soul, and we ought to, therefore, be encouraged and emboldened to move forward with the Gospel in hopes of true conversion to Christ. We must push forward upon this soul, not settling until the habit of sin and the ritual of agreeableness has been broken, thrown down to the ground in contrition, and lifted back up through a real and genuine faith in Jesus Christ. The Gospel is relevant, the word of the cross is the power of God to those who are being saved, who are called of God, and we must persist and persuade and be in earnest with agreeable souls until God swallows them up, drowns them in the spittle of His holy Law, and revives them by the CPR of the Gospel, imputing to them His holy breath of life through faith in Christ.

We are thankful for those churches who are bringing in the people in groves and we hope that God will make salvific use of whatever is imparted that honors Him, but the fear is that in many of these there may not be much imparted to those souls that truly honors God or converts anyone to Christ – perhaps they are converted to the creation of human atmospheres which masquerade as the presence of God, or perhaps they are converted to a man who speaks with great charisma about the “God within a box”, and that is quite comfortable to both the preacher and the lost soul; it just doesn’t do much to seed and water and convert souls to Christ!

It is the earnestness and passion of the Church that will be the means of true conversion. Our aim is not to make converts to an agreeable nature, a cushy and comfortable nature over against the warnings and threatenings and punishment of just and eternal torments; our aim is to win souls to Christ for the sake of His name among all the nations. This is the exhortation of Spurgeon from the text of 2 Kings 4:29-37, when Elisha came to the Shunamite women’s house and found her son lying dead on the bed, he stretched himself over the child and the child’s flesh became warm – this, I would say, is that good kind of agreeable nature, but it is not enough to satisfy us – for Elisha got up and stretched himself out again over the child and then the child sneezed seven times and opened his eyes – ah, then he was alive, the breath of life causing him to sneeze, and when he has so spiritually sneezed and had eyes opened, then we shall rest in regeneration. Spurgeon writes more ably, “The result of the prophet’s work soon appeared: ‘the flesh of the child waxed warm.’ How pleased Elisha must have been; but I do not find that his pleasure and satisfaction caused him to relax his exertions. Never be satisfied…with finding your children in a barely hopeful state. Did a girl come to you, and cry, ‘Teacher, pray for me’? Be glad, for this is a fair token; but look for more. Did you observe tears in a boy’s eyes when you were speaking of the love of Christ? Be thankful for it that the flesh is waxing warm, but do not stop there. Can you relax your exertions now? Bethink you, you have not yet gained your end! It is life you want, not warmth alone…not mere conviction, but conversion…not only impression, but regeneration, – life, life from God, the life of Jesus…nothing less must content you.” (from “The Soul Winner”; pages 157-158.)

The Church must be just that; the Christian must be just that; and when they are, Christ will be just that in the conversion of the lost soul. If our petitions with the Gospel are met with agreeableness, do not be fooled into thinking them saved, lest with that agreeableness comes the agreeable fruit of faith. If you observe them and their life stands in stark opposition to their agreeable nature, then thank God that at least their flesh is perhaps “waxed warm”, but do not cease in our holy endeavor and end of seeing the soul saved, brought to God through faith in Christ. Watch them “sneeze”, and “open their eyes”, then we shall recognize new life. Again, agreeableness is not synonymous with regeneration, with being born of God. Work up a sweat in earnestness, plead with the lost soul until they see through their agreeableness into the deadness of the testimony of their lives, and when they presume themselves dead, then with more zeal, stretch out over them the Gospel of Christ.

And this is not the south only, but a great percentage of America is agreeable to the notion of Christianity and of “believing in God”, and that is well and good, and ought to be a thing very hopeful for us so long as we then walk through the open door of that statistic with the Gospel of Christ in heart and hand to see them converted. But until the end is met by the grace of God the cultural agreeableness to the belief in a God is insufficient, for even the demons “believe in God” and they shutter, but it avails nothing to believe what demons and the devil, himself, believes, when God believes in God rightly, if one does not believe rightly in Christ exclusively through whom God is truly revealed and known. Again, agreeableness is not synonymous with regeneration, but it is hopeful for those who aim to see the lost soul saved and reunited to God.

In conclusion, an agreeable nature to the things of God can be both damning and the advantageous hope of conversion, the finger print of God on a life, the great chasm between the two possibilities being bridged only by the zeal of Christians to share the full Gospel of Christ with an earnestness that transcends agreement and confronts the culturally deceived with sin, righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment (Acts 24:25). Only then, like Felix, will the agreeable become “alarmed.” We must seek to alarm the agreeable, to sound off in the soul, that culture, heritage, positive thinking, self-improvement projects, regular church attendance, or singing in the choir, and the like, does not save anybody. And only when they become alarmed, having their agreeableness set against spiritual deadness, are they set to be comforted with Christ. We do not seek an agreeableness in the lost soul, dear Christians, we seek the life of God imputed, we seek conversion, we seek true righteousness. May this be our passion and earnest plea to God in Jesus’ name.

Is Evangelism the Means of Contagious Joy?

I believe it is! I would not make it exclusive, but perhaps, preeminently important, as Paul addressed it, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received…” (1 Cor. 15: 3). Many of those people who now live outside of Christ would so deny Him because of the depravity of joy in those who profess to know Him. While many professing Christians sneer at the thought of sharing the Gospel with the lost, it is this means, this sharing of faith in Christ for righteousness and the observance of God working in and through those means in that moment of testimony to bring about regeneration and conversion in a human soul that, then, comes back to us and radiates with in our souls and overflows out from our hearts and tongues a zealous joy in God and in His sovereign kindness.

I am aware of many Christians who vouch that they experience a joyless relationship with Christ, which is a great tragedy and worthy of wonder. Could it be that the Christian who keeps to his or herself, that remains quite smug, irritable, agitated, unhappy, joyless, and complaining, is so depraved of Christian joy because he or she does not share the Christian joy, i.e., the Gospel of Christ for righteousness, eternal life, and reconciliation with God?

By the measure of our withholding the good news, shall we miss out on God’s will, God’s purpose and plan, God’s means of salvation, God’s heart and desire, God’s exaltation as Sovereign Joy, the assurance that God hears our prayers and works by them by which we are made glad and assured that we were in agreement with God’s passion, and the happiness and rejoicing that comes with the salvation of one lost soul – indeed, we join with the host of heaven to praise God and rejoice at the salvation of one – unless we keep silent and hide God’s salvific balm.

How shall we expect an unbeliever to be favorable to our Gospel propagation but by the grace and mercy of God on us and them, when with our lives we give evidence of believing the worst news and not the greatest news? Will we complain incessantly and then speak of Christ? Will we grumble and sigh and then share the good news? Shall we never laugh, never smile, never love and expect the lost to be regenerated at our mention of the law of God which in the moment shines more brightly upon us who know the truth but do not practice it with joy?

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it,” Psalm 118:22-23. This is more than the well-known children’s song! It is the Christian’s daily joy – to rejoice and be glad in the LORD’s day of salvation in Christ!

If this is the case, not only are Christians not sharing the Gospel with words, but we are being a hindrance to the Gospel that we would share by our joylessness. But the joy that testifies is found in the sharing of the Gospel with words.

Perhaps it is because one so seldom shares the Gospel that one has so little evangelical happiness to bear and witness of in the ebb and flow of one’s typical day and conversation. For I find that to pray expectantly that God would come down in your place of work, school, etc. with regenerative power, and then to have the prayer answered when the opportunity to share the Gospel comes, and to have your fear converted to boldness, and to see the miracle of God’s grace working a favorable impression, providing the hope of conversion, and yet more, God sovereignly brings another at that moment to invest in the Gospel discussion, and to find that the two are in the same family and that they actually become earnest for more conversation, and agree to meet again, so that when they leave, my soul desires nothing more but to praise God to Whom salvation belongs and to rejoice with great gladness at the hope of conversion and the awesome mercy and benignity and power of God; and I find myself, then, as it were regenerated again, converted to joy and it transforms my countenance towards all things and everybody to one of contagious and evangelical happiness. And so now my happiness also testifies of God, rather than my banal bitterness.

Dear Christian, do you desire joy, then do not withhold it, that is, the Gospel of joy! The new language of the Christian is Christ-ian, it is the Gospel, and the endeavor is to take all things captive to Christ. If you swallow the Gospel and speak of it not, it will become bitter to you and not sweet. Have you truly tasted and seen that God is good? That the Gospel is great? That the enjoyment of God is the chief end of man? Speak up! For the sake of the name of Christ and the obedience of faith, speak up! And you will find, as I did today, and hope to always find, that to share the Gospel with the lost will go beyond the witness of words to that of a joyful and satisfied life in God. When you share the Gospel, the Spirit of God will lavish you with a joy that transforms your attitude, your day, your life because you will be doing that which is both the source and appropriation of true joy in Him.

Dear Christian, do you yearn for joy and happiness, then share the Gospel with others and observe your God work in it; aim preeminently at the salvation of souls, and when one is saved, the joy of spiritual child-bearing will overwhelm you, and that joy will serve to witness as well to the glory of God. Could the absence of evangelism in your daily practice be the root of your joylessness – Scripture, logic, and experience affirm me in exclaiming, “Yes!” When we share our joy with others, we are made joyful in their joy and in God’s amazing grace. Therefore, speak up, watch God work, and observe the contagious joy of the person set ablaze with daily evangelical prowess and passion.

Panel Discussions

Concerning the Resurrection…

From the ‘On Faith’ panel at the Washington Post. Panelists include Charles Colson, Al Mohler, Kathleen Flake, N.T. Wright, Willis Elliott, Cal Thomas, Deepak Chopra, and Michael Otterson, and from them, a myriad of perspectives, some biblical and right, others culturally adapted, spiritually compromising, and reflective of the new age spirituality.

Spurgeon on "The Soul Winner" and His "One Business"

“It is a grand thing to see a man thoroughly possessed with one master-passion. Such a man is sure to be strong, and if the master-principle be excellent, he is sure to be excellent, too. The man of one object is a man indeed. Lives with many aims are like water trickling through innumerable streams, none of which are wide enough or deep enough to float the merest cockleshell of a boat; but a life with one object is like a mighty river flowing between its banks, bearing to the ocean a multitude of ships, and spreading fertility on either side. Give me a man not only with a great object in his soul, but thoroughly possessed by it, his powers all concentrated, and himself on fire with vehement zeal for his supreme object, and you have put before me one of the greatest sources of power which the world can produce. Give me a man engrossed with holy love as to his heart, and filled with some masterly celestial thought as to his brain, and such a man will be known wherever his lot may be cast, and I venture to prophesy that his name will be remembered long after the place of his sepulchre shall be forgotten.”

-pg. 249 of “The Soul Winner”

“Now observe, brethren, if I, or you, or any of us, or all of us, shall have spent our lives merely in amusing men, or educating men, or moralizing men, when we shall come to give in our account at the last great day, we shall be in a very sorry condition, and we shall have but a very sorry record to render; for of what avail will it be to a man to be educated when he comes to be damned? Of what service will it be to him to have been amused when the trumpet sounds, and heaven and earth are shaking, and the pit opens wide her jaws of fire, and swallows up the soul unsaved? Or what avail even to have moralized a man if still he is on the left hand of the Judge, and if still, ‘Depart, ye cursed,’ shall be his portion? Blood-red with the murder of men’s souls will be the skirts of professing Christians, unless the drift, and end, and aim of all their work has been to ‘save some.'”

-pg. 254 of “The Soul Winner”

The Goal of Winning Souls

5:15 a.m. came quickly this morning; the internal clock is an awful thing sometimes; nevertheless, I was up for some early morning exercise. So, I trickled my way into the trailblazer and felt blindly for my ipod. I have been working my way through a series of sermons by John Piper on evangelism from the mid-1990’s. This morning’s sermon was from the text, “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish,” from Luke 13:1-5.

And it was quite good and edifying, as he moved upon each word of the text, whereupon he hit upon the relevancy of the text – our passion for seeing souls saved from perishing wherever we are, whenever the opportunity arises and the earnestness with which we ought to contend for them.

To emphasize this he used a quote from C.S. Lewis to emphasize what many of us, myself included, often overlook about Lewis, in short, he had a passion for evangelism! The quote that Piper uses comes from Lewis’ book The Weight of Glory and the focus of the quote is the confrontation of two eternal realities that the Christian must acknowledge preeminently – the view of the human soul through the lens of eternity, through which lens we see two conditions: one, the infinite horror of the immortal soul lost in hell, and the second, the infinite beauty and splendor of the immortal soul saved in glory; the first he points out we would only imagine the sight of in our worst nightmares, while the second, if we saw that glorious soul we would be much inclined to worship it. The consideration of the Christian is the immortality of the humans with which they interact on a moment by moment basis. Lewis argues rightly that the life of nations, and cultures are like that of a gnat in comparison to the immortality of the people surrounding us even now. And yet how much of ourselves do we poor into those gnat-like aspects of reality, all the while neglecting the immortal beings whose destination and eternal makeup depend solely on the very thing that now exists within us by faith in Christ?

When Lewis was criticized for simplifying the Trinity by the use of geometric figure, he retorted with great angst and passion stating that the books that he writes, he writes for the salvation of souls! No other end did he carry in mind or heart but to in every word bring souls to Jesus Christ. And he wondered, to what end did his critic criticize?

At 5:30 in the morning, this was a wonderful word to wake up to – better than any coffee I’ve had recently (my Magic Stars cereal has been lacking too). It awakened my soul to a reevaluation of my goal in all things – to see the soul saved. Human beings are immortal – we will all spend eternity somewhere, either heaven or hell. This consideration alone is sufficient food for spiritual nourishment.

When we study, do we study with the immortal souls of men in mind? When we prepare sermons, do we prepare them in such ways that the souls of men might be saved, or are we more considerate of our contemporary literary style? When we enter conversation do we give thought to the entrances of the immortal soul that we might take opportunity to speak of the Gospel, that Jesus might bust in upon them? When we blog, is salvation in mind? Are we saturated with the mortality of this postmodern culture (which is necessary but only in so far as it is studied for the salvation of immortal souls) or are we saturated with the immortality of every immediate person?

In all that we do we ought to aim at the salvation of men, for it is inseparably linked to the biblical injunction to do all things to the glory of God. Lewis understood this; but more importantly, he shot live ammunition towards this goal of winning souls; and so ought we imitate this passion. God’s grace be upon us in this endeavor. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

"Lord, Make Me Pure But Not Yet"

This quote from Augustine’s Confessions tends to be quite relevant to the state of the Christian Church today. We pray, “Lord, make me pure…but not yet.” This is the honest cry of the redeemed soul pit against the wiles of the flesh. There exists a very real sense in which the Christian desires holiness, for the principle of new life is in the soul bringing the faculties into a glad submission to the Word and will of God. When one undergoes the spiritual operation of the new birth, they are given and called to live a new life – which is why many reject the notion.

But there exists in a very real sense the flesh and its correspondent desires too. We are conflicted at every point. We are like the apostle Paul when he wrote to the Romans, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate,” 7:15. Who that belongs to Christ cannot associate with this battle?

It is a great desire that I have to promote the pursuit of the prize of Christ and eternal life in Him, to converse and teach and love in such a way that the Church’s heavenly citizenship will become what it is, namely, more real and more immediate than our citizenship in this world. With the grasping of this truth, this world would be turned upside down for the glory of Christ. We would pray, “Lord, make me pure…and hedge me in by Your Spirit and Your Word,” and then we might boldly guard ourselves against impurity…or sloth or worldliness or discontent or anxiety or any manner of sin. The true appropriation of the Spirit is that moment when we practice what we pray, do what we hear; we go beyond a mere profession and enter into obedience.

The problem is that we too often love the world, and neglect Christ; we take great pride in our earthly citizenship, and set aside as a light and far off thing that heavenly citizenship, and so it is easier, and a thing more appealing, to go with our flesh rather than with God’s Spirit. But the Bible teaches us that our heavenly citizenship is the place of our heart, and that we ought to be growing up into it.

Read Paul’s comparison of the two (Philippians 3:17-20), one who has his mind set on earthly things, the other that greatest citizenship and example:

“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…”

When a youth refuses to share the Gospel for fear of confrontation, although it is a common fear, the earthly mentality is yet revealed and doubled when the parent becomes a friend rather than the spiritual leader and instead of encouraging the child and teaching the child about joy and obedience, agrees with the child and places a smothering pillow over what could have become the flames of evangelical passion. The deception is evidenced everywhere: in the marketplace, in the home, at the dinner table, in the stadium, on a date, on the couch, and it infiltrates the sanctuary of God. We are lawyers and teachers who happen to be Christians instead of Christian lawyers and teachers. We advocate the sports and hobbies and clubs of our spouses and children, and this is good, but horrible when they are advocated to the negation of the worship of God on Wednesday nights or at any time. When was the last time you or I forsook the dinner table for prayer or meditation or evangelism? In the athletic arena we cheer and shout for and uplift our gladiators, but do we uplift the Son of Man with such passion? Will you argue for your favorite team and not for Christ? Student, will you perceive the passing fancy of lust a greater satisfaction than holiness, respect, and love for God and the necessary love of what is good and hatred of what is sin? And what of television? Our minds and souls are starved for the eternally Sovereign King and Almighty God but we sear the conscience with the most damnable shows that the world has to offer. And then we wake up on Sunday, late enough to powder our faces and comb our hair but not to plead with God for mercy and grace, and after the service wonder, “What is missing?” “Lord, make me pure…but not yet.”

This will not do brothers and sisters – it will not do for me, nor you! The Gospel is at stake within the witness of our lives. I would rather you not profess Christ, than to profess His name and not practice it. We must take hold of what is already ours, given to us by grace – a preeminent citizenship in heaven. We are a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light,” (1 Peter 2:9). This is our truest identity and calling…and you may be a doctor as well! We ought to take everything in our path and convert it to Christ, to the Bible, to theology, to Gospel, to God’s glory. If we stumble in one place, we may lose our witness forever(Matthew 5:13).

Have you ever considered why, having been plucked from the fire as it were, God kept us on earth for a season? To bear witness of God’s Word through our joy in that Word; Jesus gave us the Word, and the Word (by the Spirit) sanctifies us and separates us in a sense from the world so that Christ could say of us, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world,” (John 17:16). And we are sent of Christ to share the Word of Christ. So long as we follow the enemy, enamored with the world, how is it that we can be what Christ says we are in Him?

Understand that when I say, “must”, I do not intend to bring you under law again, for you are under grace as a believer, nor is it my aim to bring to you a legalistic system. No, rather, the must that I speak of is the must of grace, not of the law, and true grace is not without law; that is, we have a new desire, a new principle of grace in us, a new leader in the soul that compels us to love holiness and set aside the desires of the flesh. Grace is the motivation of true godliness. Remember, the Gospel is not a new set of commands for you to obey, but rather the news that none of your obedience merits a claim for you upon God or His glory, and that Christ has done what the law could not do. Therefore, the “must” that I write of, I write of with the intent of grace.

1. We must be wielded by the Holy Spirit; that is, we must follow His leadership, His Word, and in so doing, mortify and crucify the flesh with its desires. In our glad submission to Him, we are distinct from the world who is not possessed of Him. And to be possessed of Him is to be passionate for the souls of the world.
2. Quite simply, we must be drenched with Jesus Christ. Fellowship with Christ now is time spent in heaven on earth.
3. We must appropriate our heavenly citizenship. We have no reservations about appropriating our earthly citizenship in order to get what we desire. Our desires must change, or at least be raised to Christ and the glory of God. And if these things be our greatest desires, then we will appropriate that citizenship and its privileges for the attainment of those greater purposes.
4. Lastly, we must have a great earnestness about us in the pursuit of God’s glory in all things. By our earnestness for heavenly things, we might win others to a like passion and the reality of our heavenly citizenship.

May God grant us the grace of awakening to the realities of His kingdom, that our praise would be that we have, indeed, prayed, “Lord, make us pure. Thank You for we have been pure!” In Christ’s name. Amen.