The Only Attraction is God

A. W. Tozer writes in Man: The Dwelling Place of God:

It is now common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God’s professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments.

This has influenced the whole pattern of church life, and even brought into being a new type of church architecture designed to house the golden calf.

So we have the strange anomaly of orthodoxy in creed and heterodoxy in practice. The striped-candy technique has been so fully integrated into our present religious thinking that it is simply taken for granted. Its victims never dream that it is not a part of the teachings of Christ and His apostles.

Any objection to the carryings-on of our present golden calf Christianity is met with the triumphant reply, ‘But we are winning them!’ And winning them to what? To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the world’s treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love for God? To total commitment to Christ? Of course, the answer to all these questions is ‘no.’

I Can’t Believe How Wicked Ahaz Is…(2 Kings 16:1-4)

Ahaz is a wicked king.

He begins his reign at an early age, being only 20 years old (v. 2).

He reigns for 16 years.

16 years of sheer wickedness.

Listen to how he is described:

  • “And he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God, as his father David had done” (v. 2)
  • “He walked in the way of the kings of Israel” (v. 3)
  • “He even burned his son as an offering, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel” (v. 3)
    • This is disturbing. If Ahaz shares in those abominations, will he not share in their judgment?
  • “He sacrificed and made offering on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree” (v. 4)
    • Notice the third person singular pronoun “He.”

This leads to what is perhaps most alarming about Ahaz – there is no mention of the Davidic covenant. In fact, it has been quite some time since we have read of the Davidic promise in regards to Judah.

Recall Abijah in 1 Kings 15 with me.

Here is another wicked king but there we are told, “Nevertheless, for David’s sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem by raising up a son to succeed him and by making Jerusalem strong” (v. 4).

Recall Jehoram in 2 kings 8.

He was wicked but we read “Nevertheless, for the sake of his servant David, the Lord was not willing to destroy Judah. He had promised to maintain a lamp for David and his descendents forever” (v. 19).

For Ahaz, instead of being reminded of the Lord’s promise to David we are reminded of the Lord’s driving out of the nations before the Israelites.

Things do not bode well for Judah.

There is a great gathering of darkness in Judah.

At this point we are tempted to wag our heads and put on our “angry, scornful, self-righteous” eyes and glare at Ahaz in disbelief.

But beware!

Thomas Watson, a Puritan minister of many years ago had this to say:

Take every word as spoken to yourselves. When the word thunders against sin, think thus: ‘God means my sins;’ when it presseth any duty, ‘God intends me in this.’ Many put off Scripture from themselves, as if it only concerned those who lived in the time when it was written; but if you intend to profit by the word, bring it home to yourselves: a medicine will do no good, unless it be applied.

When you read of Ahaz and his sinfulness remember the sovereign God’s description of you:

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath” Ephesians 2:1-3

The same evil heart that is in Ahaz is in you.

Given the right circumstances, you are just as capable of doing what Ahaz did.

If you fail to realize that then great is your pride.

When you read of how sinful Ahaz was, remember the words of Paul, “But by the grace of God I am what I am…” (1 Corinthians 15:10).

There is a great darkness gathering in Judah. There is a great darkness gathering in your heart “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

Did you hear how wicked Ahaz is?

Did you hear how wicked Andrew Manwarren is?

Did you hear how wicked you are?

BUT GOD!

“We are more wicked than we ever feared yet more loved than we ever hoped.”

 

 

God’s Counter-offensive

“The Bible is the story of God’s counteroffensive against sin. It is the grand narrative of how God made it right, how he is making it right, and how he will one day make it right finally and forever.”

– Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel? (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2010), 61.

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed By A Relentless God

I picked up a copy of Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love yesterday and I am very impressed with it. Here is the blurb on the back of the book:

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed By A Relentless God
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed By A Relentless God

God is love: crazy, relentless, all-powerful love.

Have you ever wondered if we’re missing it?

It’s crazy, if you think about it. The God of the universe – the Creator of nitrogen and pine needles, galaxies and E-minor – loves us with a radical, unconditional, self-sacrificing love. And what is our typical response? We go to church, sing songs, and try not to cuss.

Whether you’ve verbalized it yet or not…we all know something’s wrong.

Does something deep inside your heart long to break free from the status quo? Are you hungry for an authentic faith that addresses the problems of our world with tangible, even radical, solutions? God is calling you to a passionate love relationship with Himself. Because the answer to religious complacency isn’t working harder at a list of do’s and don’ts – its falling in love with God. And once you encounter His love, as Francis describe it, you will never be the same.

Because when you’re wildly in love with someone, it changes everything.

Here is Francis Chan’s own stated reason for writing this book:

I hope reading this book will convince you of something: that by surrendering yourself totally to God’s purposes, He will bring you the most pleasure in this life and the next. I hope it affirms your desire for “more God” – even if you’re surrounded by people who feel they have “enough God.” I hope it inspires confidence if you have questioned and doubted the commitment of the American church [Don’t get to alarmed by this statement, Chan loves and affirms the value of the church]. I want to affirm your questioning, even while assuring you there is hope (Preface, 21).

Later Francis Chan nails the fundamental problem with many Christians and churches today right on the head when he says:

But before we look at what is wrong and address it, we need to understand something. The core problem isn’t the fact that we’re lukewarm, halfhearted, or stagnant Christians. The crux of it all is why we are this way, and it is because we have an inaccurate view of God. We see Him as a benevolent Being who is satisfied when people manage to fit Him into their lives in some small way. We forget that God never had an identity crisis. He knows that He’s great and deserves to be the center of our lives. Jesus came humbly as a servant, but he never begs us to give Him some small part of ourselves. He commands everything from His followers (Preface, 22).

Here is a video of Francis Chan introducing his book:

 

Want to know more about it? Here is a helpful review over at challies.com. Or, go straight to the source at www.crazylovebook.com.

Want to buy it? Click here.

Brussel Sprouts, Arthropods, and Sin

Brussel Sprouts, Arthropods, and Sin – OH MY! Believe it or not, these three seemingly unrelated things have something in common. What is it, you ask? They all look wonderful but in the end taste terrible. 

I can still recall the first time my parents made me eat brussel sprouts and it is not a happy memory – yuck! Even when one dresses them up and smothers them in cheese or butter and salt they still do not happily pass down my gullet. Brussel sprouts must be one of the worst tasting vegetables known to man! When I see brussel sprouts for dinner, my first reaction is to grab the phone and “order-out” (sorry to all the brussel sprout lovers I just offended)!

Arthropods, a broad category of animals that includes spiders and insects, also have a terrible taste to their predators. According to an article titled, “”Divinely Designed Defenses” in Answers, Gordon Wilson says, “God appears to have bestowed nasty tasting or poisonous chemicals on countless insects and other arthropods to protect them from hungry predators. Common examples are stinging bees and wasps.” Let us imagine then an animal that is hungry and on the hunt for some good food, it happens upon some  yellow bees and decides to take a taste, the result – a mouthful of yuck and an unsavory reminder never to eat those again! Brussel sprouts and arthropods will not be a delectable desert anytime soon if I have anything to say about it!

So what does this all have to do with sin? Simple, just as those brussel sprouts all dressed up in cheese and those arthropods with the pretty colors make the tastebuds water but in the end give you a mouthful of regret, so sin can be pleasing to our eyes and desires but in the end, we get a mouthful of yuck. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the case of Eve choosing to eat the “forbidden fruit.” Genesis 3:6 says, “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.” The result: an entire world full of pain and suffering and curses. Sin isn’t so great after all.

Now contrast all of this talk of sour, nasty, disgusting tastes lingering in our mouths with Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Unlike brussel sprouts, arthropods, and sin the Lord not only promises goodness, but is goodness! Only he can wash away the lingering taste of sin in your mouth through the life giving water of his Son, Jesus Christ! Have you tasted of his goodness? Are you daily tasting of his goodness or are you filling your mouth with unsavory sin?

So next time you see brussel sprouts or arthropods let them be reminders to you of the terrible taste of sin and may they create in you an appetite for the goodness of the Lord!

Foolishness of Preaching

The Apostle Paul was committed to “the foolishness of preaching” (1 Cor. 1:21). But what is preaching anyways? What is its purpose? Murray Capill in Preaching with Spiritual Vigour puts it this way:

Preaching…is not merely intended to entertain, help or inform. it is intended to produce, by the grace of God, a deep impression on the hearts and souls of the hearers. it is a divinely ordained means of drawing people to God and compelling them to respond to him. it is intended to grip, thrill, move and change lives, well after the excitement of the meeting has worn off.”

Rob Smith says in an article entitled “Borers in the Pulpit” in The Briefing:

“Too many sermons are like a chef’s description of what’s on the menu, replete with explanations of how each dish is made. However, little actually arrives on the table or enters the stomachs of hungry people. Such preaching may have its uses, but it’s unlikely to strengthen believers to fight the good fight of today, or cause unbelievers to be cut to the heart and to exclaim that God is really among us.”

May God fill his churches with preachers who faithfully expound his word and compel others to respond to him!

God help me!