Charles Spurgeon on Pagan Evangelism

Charles Spurgeon

From a sermon on 1 Timothy 3:16

It is a most noteworthy fact in the history of our faith, that Jesus is still preached among the nations, and the church labors to make Him known everywhere. What other religion spends so much energy in seeking converts?

If any of you were foolish enough to wish to become Jews, you would not be welcomed among the Jewish fraternity. No Israelite ever attempts to proselyte us to his opinions. It would be a novelty indeed to hear of Jewish missionaries sent out to convert the heathen from their superstitions, or to recover Christians from their errors. No; the Jew does not want us, he prefers to keep his heritage for himself and his heirs. How far different is it with the followers of Jesus, whose very watchword is “preach the gospel to every creature!” In the case of all other religions, the preaching to the Gentiles is absent.

I am not aware of any Muslim society for the conversion of the world to the prophet. I never saw in the streets of London a Buddhist, come from far, to convert the crowds of London to their doctrines; nor have I ever seen a Buddhist thrusting himself into the midst of peril to win the savage to his creed. Can any other faith than the Christian show me a man traversing alone the center of Africa, like Living- stone, or dwelling alone with Bushmen, as Moffat has done? The fact is that the spirit of false creeds is rather monopoly than extension; but as for the religion of Christ, it is expansive as the arch of heaven!

If I could, I would have all men saved. If it were possible, I would have every one of you partakers of Christ Jesus this very morning; and we would cheerfully lay down our lives if we could extend the kingdom of Jesus Christ to the utmost bounds of the earth. What is it that keeps up this incessant preaching of Christ? Nothing but the real force of our faith! O you heathens, if your religions are true, why do you not promulgate them? Gods of the heathen, if you are gods, why do you not command your worshippers to convert the nations to your allegiance? But, no, they confess the worthlessness of their system, in that these systems are not preached among the Gentiles, and have no vitality to secure their spread. When these religions do attempt to spread themselves, which is rare enough, how do they do it? Mohammed put a scimitar into the hand of each one of his followers, and said, “That is the strength of Islamism: use that sharp argument upon the nations.” But Christ refused all carnal weapons, and chose the simple preaching of the Word. What other faith can dare to depend upon preaching—upon one man’s testimony to other men about truth precious to himself? Surely this goes to show that the things which we believe are powerful, and worthy to be considered with attentive respect.

Word to the Wise (Part 18) – Proverbs 23:29-35

18th Century Drinking Party in England by Hogarth

18th Century Drinking Party in England by Hogarth

Proverbs 23:29-35 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things. You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast. “They struck me,” you will say, “but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink.”

This is the longest of the thirty wise sayings. It starts with questions. Each is something we’re trying to avoid. If you can identify a source of woe, strife, complaining, wounds, and sickness, then it would wise to avoid it. This is precisely what Solomon aims to do in this section.

Each of the seven verses instructs the simple regarding the potential dangers of alcohol, and by extension, any substance that has the potential to intoxicate. Solomon’s son must realize that living the low life starts with a drive to unwind.

You can’t “tarry long” over something if it’s just part of a meal. It has to become the meal. The word in the original language (aw-khar’) is translated elsewhere – delay. It carries with it the idea that leaving earlier was an option, but the subject chose to linger. In this case he says yes to the invitation for a second round, which often becomes a third.

Consuming enough wine, or seeking out the mixed wine (wine mixed with spices or honey to enhance the flavor) will only bring disaster. To clarify, there is a difference between wine and mixed wine. The first is the common drink, where indulgence can lead to dissipation. The second is different, and linked to a specific purpose. The only other use of the word is in Isaiah 65:11 “But you who forsake the LORD, who forget my holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny”. Its primary use was in connection to demonic fortune telling and divination.

So both excess and ecstasy are in view here. In one case an otherwise good thing is abused, in the other an inherently bad thing is indulged. In both cases the results are not what the person was hoping for when the party started.

The sparkling smoothness that makes the heart glad (Psalm 104:15) can also warp the mind if taken in excess. Interestingly enough, Solomon does not appear to have struggled with this particular vice. Even at the height of his experimentation he was able to remain sober, or at least sober minded (Ecclesiastes 2:3), likely because as a king he had been warned that intoxication leads to foolish decisions (Proverbs 31:4).

Despite having the best that money can buy, wine receives mixed reviews from Solomon. In general the wisdom literature attaches warnings (20:1). Wine was common, and served as both a metaphor and a staple of everyday life. It was a safe alternative to water (1 Timothy 5:23), an essential at every celebration (John 2:1-11), an element of sacrificial worship (Numbers 28:7), and even a painkiller administered at the end of life (Proverbs 31:6).

The ubiquity of wine and its mention in Scripture requires commentary. So to answer the questions that might arise, Solomon concludes that wise men perceive danger. You don’t handle deadly snakes, so why flirt with intoxication? Both can strike. Both can poison. Both can kill.

Wine has the power to distort reality and allow all manner of nonsense to escape your mouth. You’ll find yourself in a stupor that leaves you incapable of assessing your true condition. You’ll stumble from one disaster to another. You’ll double down on the very thing that put you in the spiral to begin with.

Caution is key.

Reckless behavior with respect to alcohol puts a fool on the rocks.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8)

Every week at our church we have something transitional in the order of service. It’s a short exhortation that helps us transition from our occupation with the secular, and focus our thoughts on the sacred. Various elders and aspiring leaders are given the opportunity to present these, and I’ve included one below.

By Blake La Grange

King Solomon says that every man’s heart is full of evil and madness. In fact, the heart is what inclines people, by nature, to be deceitful and wicked. The heart of the human problem, is the problem of the human heart.

The heart is what reveals our true spiritual condition. If you govern your heart, you govern your life. If you neglect your heart, you neglect your life. You’re not right with God unless your heart is right with God. And in order for us to be right with God, Jesus’ mandate is for our heart to be pure.

How do we make our heart pure? It doesn’t mean that we turn over a new leaf, or create new habits; it means that God must regenerate and purify us by giving us a new heart.

Jesus tells us that the impurity of our heart is the cause of our spiritual blindness. He says in Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” There is a profound connection between hearts and eyes. A man who has the stains of sin on his soul cannot see God. But those who are purified in heart are purified in vision…“they shall see God.”

If our filthy hearts were revealed, the stench would rise as high as the heavens. And yet God in His mercy, chose to give us Christ’s perfect heart, in order that we would be washed in His Word, bathed in His blood, and cleansed of all unrighteousness. Let us then come to the throne of grace with confidence, knowing that our stains have been washed clean, and boldly approach Him clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

 

Word to the Wise (Part 17) – Proverbs 23:26-28

Proverbs 23:26-28 My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways. For a prostitute is a deep pit; an adulteress is a narrow well. She lies in wait like a robber and increases the traitors among mankind.

This subject is always and rarely addressed today. Always in the sense that we living in a pervasively hyper sexualized culture, and rarely in the sense that few know how to engage the subject biblically.

Thankfully, there are a few notable exceptions who are speaking up; For example, “The Ugly American” or this helpful book review on the economics of sex by Tim Challies, or this interview with John MacArthur as it relates directly to men in ministry.

But take note, the wisdom literature of the Bible is determined to address it. The subject features prominently in several of our inspired texts. Why?

God wants to capture the mind of young men before someone else does.

Solomon’s focus is women who are off limits, and he recommends observing his own behavior in this area. When it came to collecting wives and concubines he was a runaway success and colossal failure at the same time. However, note it well, there is no evidence Solomon ever took a prostitute or the wife of another man. The same cannot be said of his father. At least in this respect he was worthy of imitation.

In Proverbs a prostitute was a sex worker. She had distinctive clothing (7:10), companions (29:3), territory (a street or temple), and even a market price (6:26). She was less threatening because her snare was in the open. The foreigner (translated adulteress) however uses smooth words.

Once seduced, foolish victims awake to inescapable consequences. Her premeditated immorality leads to an increase of treacherous men ensnared by sexual immorality.

The take away is that sexual purity requires avoidance of temptation, and awareness of seduction.

The ball and the horsemen

George J. W. Goodman (aka “Adam Smith”) was a writer who knew how to explain the economy in ways common folks could understand. He wrote the following in The Money Game as a way of depicting the temptation let the good times roll:

“We know at some moment the black horsemen will come shattering through the terrace doors wreaking vengeance and scattering the survivors. Those who leave early are saved, but the ball is so splendid no one wants to leave while there is still time. So everybody keeps asking — what time is it? But none of the clocks have hands.”

That oft quoted metaphor transcends anything the author originally intended. When I heard it I had a fleeting recollection of housing in 2005-2006, commodities in 2010, but almost as quickly as those thoughts came, they faded.

What lingered was the unsettling reality that the whole world is the ball. It’s more splendid for some than for other, but everyone is here and trapped until death finds them. You can’t leave. The apocalyptic horsemen are coming. And the only escape is to be covered by someone more powerful than they.

 

 

Low Expectations

512980316_26662769-1Today I’ll be addressing the High School students at Tri-City Christian School. On a bookshelf in front of me is a copy of Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris. It was written by a couple of teenager. It was written for teenagers. It understands know what teenagers are faced with and makes it clear with these opening words: “Most people don’t expect you to understand what we’re going to tell you in this book. And even if you understand, they don’t expect you to care. And even if you care, they don’t expect you to do anything about it. And even if you do something about it, they don’t expect it to last.”

We live a culture, both secular and ecclesiastical, that has very low expectations. This applies across the board, but is especially evident in how we treat high school students and teenagers in general.

In his fascinating book The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager, Thomas Hine writes this from a secular perspective, “Teenagers occupy a special place in the society. They are envied and sold to, studied and deplored. They are expected to break some rules, but there are other restrictions that apply only to them. They are at a golden moment in life–and not to be trusted.”

Again he writes: “We love the idea of youth, but are prone to panic about the young. The very qualities that adults find exciting and attractive about teenagers are entangled with those we find terrifying. Their energy threatens anarchy. Their physical beauty and budding sexuality menaces moral standards. Their assertion of physical and intellectual power makes their parents at once proud and painfully aware of their own mortality.”

If both these statements are true, then we have our work cut our for us. We need to reconstruct a proper set of exceptions for the most energetic, attractive, powerful, and potentially world changing generation currently roaming the earth. This starts in the home, is reenforced in the church, and sets the tone in a school. Lord willing, this years theme verse will be a start.

1 Timothy 4:12

Let no one despise you for your youth,

but set the believers an example

in speech,

in conduct,

in love,

in faith,

in purity.

Word to the Wise (Part 16) – Proverbs 23:22-25

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Proverbs 23:22-25 Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old. Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding. The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice.

Parents delight in children that listen more than children who are successful. Thankfully there has been a growing trend among thought leaders, both religious (Don’t Waste Your Life) and secular (Ego Is The Enemy), to emphasize the importance of seeking wisdom over wealth. In the second book I came across one of the most startling quotes I’ve ever read. It’s from Napoleon, a man of unbridled ambition and self aggrandizement. He says, “Men of great ambition have sought happiness… and have found fame”. That made me stop and do some very serious thinking. If you go after happiness thinking it’s obtained through wealth and power, than sometimes all you get is fame, and that can be a huge inconvenience.

Instead of making wealth, power, or education the goal, strive to instill greater virtues in your kids like wisdom, honesty, kindness, perseverance, tenacity, and innovation. Develop these core disciplines and the rest will fall in place.

We should give our children something worth listening to. They are the ones addressed in these verses. Children must decide at some point to listen to their parents, and normally this is the best choice. But verse 23 extends the circle of influence. You also need to be willing to exchange money for truth, wisdom, instruction, and understanding.

This means you need an education. It can be formal or informal. It can be a degree in chemical engineering or a license in solar panel installation. The mandate is to (buy) invest so that you can do something useful and earn it back many times over. Then as you maintain your integrity and make good decisions, your dad will be proud of you. If you grow up to be man or woman of character then mom will rejoice. A rich but dishonest son is a disgrace. But parents of righteous and wise children are proud to be related.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7)

Every week at our church we have something transitional in the order of service. It’s a short exhortation that helps us transition from our occupation with the secular, and focus our thoughts on the sacred. Various elders and aspiring leaders are given the opportunity to present these, and I’ve included one below.

By Stephan Landers

If asked, many people would say they are Christians. If you specified how they can be sure, they would say, “I prayed the prayer” or “I asked Jesus into my heart”, but what does a true follower of Jesus Christ really look like? How do we know if we have a genuine relationship with Him?

Over the past 4 weeks we have been looking at the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus gives us the answer. His children are poor in spirit. When they look at His holiness, they see themselves as the wicked sinners that they really are. His disciples mourn. Their hearts are broken because their sin grieves the heart of God. His followers are meek. Their spiritual pride has been shattered by the hopelessness of earning their salvation. When a person is born again they develop a hunger and thirst for righteousness. They joyfully embrace their calling to be salt and light in a fallen world.

The 5th beatitude is on the cover of the bulletin, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Mercy is God’s voluntary loving-kindness poured out on the undeserving sinner. It’s put on display because instead of immediate judgment, God has shown us mercy through the hope we have in the death of His only Son. So he is saying that we can show mercy now, in the small things of this mortal life because in the final judgment, true believers will receive mercy for the enormous sins committed against a holy God.

We’ve received infinite mercy, so how can we fail to show mercy to others? I pray that we will be merciful so that our heavenly Father will continue to lavish us with His mercy every day. Our Heavenly father is “rich in mercy” according to Ephesians 2:4, and he cares for us so much that even though, as Paul put it, “we were dead in our trespasses”, but he still showed us mercy.

You can only be happy in showing mercy if you truly believe in a just and all powerful God. The joy we experience in showing mercy is directly linked to our faith in God’s justice. We worship him this morning because our joy is amplified by our confidence that we can show mercy, and can leave the justice to him.