“Principles for Lyrics”

I’ve been working my way through The Pastor’s Book, and I am currently in the section addressing music. In the chapter ‘Hymns and Songs,’ Douglas Sean O’Donnell offers four principles for the selection of lyrics. I found them very helpful, and so I am passing them along:

  1. Our lyrics should reflect God’s lyrics
  2. Our lyrics should edify others and exalt God
  3. Our lyrics should raise religious affections, not ridiculous emotionalism
  4. Our lyrics should be theologically comprehensive and balanced

From R Kent Hughes, The Pastor’s Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry, published by Crossway.

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God’s Decree and the Westminster Divines

Some times brevity can be an incredible tool. I am not a brief person. I usually find myself apologizing for speaking too long, writing too much, and for exceeding the normal ramifications for conversation.

I keep a small copy of The Westminster Confession of Faith in my car to read during times when I did not bring another book.

Chapter three addresses Of God’s Eternal Decree. The Westminster divines wrote,

God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”

This is a profoundly brief and theologically accurate statement. It is weighty. It is worth your time of meditation. Our God is sovereign. What a comforting thought! What a spring of refreshment for our parched souls! Delve into the depth of the wonders of God’s sovereignty. Look at current events as tools in the hands of the Master. Marvel at the mysteries of grace.

Guided by Gurnall

I wanted to share a few gems in my reading of Gurnall. In this section, Gurnall is working through the doctrine that we should “strongly believe that this almighty power of God is theirs, that is, [is] engaged for their defence and help, so as to make use of it in all straits and temptations.” (Gurnall, 28) It is based on the verse, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” (Ephesians 6:10, KJV)

Enjoy these challenging thoughts:

“This goodly fabric of heaven and earth had not been built, but as a stage whereon he would in time act what he decreed in heaven of old, concerning the saving of thee, and a few more of his elect.” (Gurnall, 29)

I love the phrase “this goodly fabric of heaven and earth” and how Gurnall uses it as a display to the magnificent grace of God in salvation.

Here’s another one:

He that was willing to expend his Son’s blood to gain them, will not deny his power to keep them. (Gurnall, 29)

Perhaps you are struggling with assurance. You may be battling temptation after temptation, wondering how a Christian could struggle so mightily with such wickedness. Yet, if you have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ then you are securely kept by the blood of Jesus Christ. Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.

The final quote is a prayer offered to God. Use it to draw your heart closer to the glorious God:

“How much less will God yield up a soul unto its enemy when it takes sanctuary in his name, saying, ‘Lord, I am hunted with such a temptation, dogged with such a lust, either thou must pardon it, or I am damned; mortify it, or I shall be a slave to it; take me into the bosom of thy love, for Christ’s sake; castle me in the arms of thy everlasting strength, it is in thy power to save me from, or give me up into, the hands of my enemy. I have no confidence in myself or any other: into they hands I commit my cause, my life, and rely on thee.'” (Gurnall, 30)

“Conscience”: A Review

I recently attended a Pastors’ Conference at Virginia Beach Theological Seminary. This is the second conference I have attended, and I have thoroughly enjoyed both times. The faculty and staff are sweet people. They are focused on the right preaching and teaching of the Word of God.

In addition to hosting guests who are gifted (Heath Lambert at the first conference; Dave Doran and J. D. Crowley at the second), the seminary offers a free gift to a certain number of guests. The gift for this conference was Andrew David Naselli and J. D. Crowley’s Conscience: What It Is, How to Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ, published by Crossway.

The book is divided into 7 chapters:

  1. What is Conscience?
  2. How Do We Define Conscience from the New Testament?
  3. What Should You Do When Your conscience Condemns You?
  4. How Should You Calibrate Your Conscience?
  5. How Should You Relate to Fellow Christians When Your Consciences Disagree?
  6. How Should You Relate to People in Other Cultures When Your Consciences Disagree?
  7. A Closing Prayer

The book is relatively short (149 pages, which includes two appendices).  However, its brevity does not demean its treatment of the subject.

I will admit, I was not altogether eager to read this book. Sure, the title sounded interesting, but it’s not a textual criticism book, or commentary. However, one page in and I was extremely thankful to have received this book.

As a student pastor, I interact with students and families with a wide range of consciences. This book has been a tremendous help in changing the way I view my own conscience and that of others. Pastors, you will be helped by digesting this work.

The strength of the work lies in its focus on Scripture. Every chapter (with the exception of the chapter on prayer) quotes Scripture. Thus, Naselli and Crowley anchor their work in the safety and security of Sacred Scripture. More than this, they provide a biblical treatment (at least from the New Testament) of conscience. They walk through each verse that addresses the conscience and then extrapolates its meaning and usage. Additionally, they treat both the positive and negative aspects of the conscience and what it does. Finally, they end the chapter (chapter two) with several conclusions, based on Scripture, which form the framework for the remainder of the book.

They spend the next few chapters covering how one’s conscience affects oneself, how to tune one’s conscience with God’s Will, and then how to handle disagreements between one’s own church members and members of different cultures.

I want to end with how I think this could benefit the church.

  1. For the conservative (possibly fundamentalist) Christian:

    This book can help you understand the Scriptures better. It will help bring certain passages to your mind, and should you be open to the teachings of the Sacred Text, your knowledge of how our consciences work and what is a matter of conscience and what is unbiblical. Specifically, I recommend chapters four and five. Even if it does not change your convictions (which, if they change, were they truly convictions?), it will help understand the struggles between the strong and the weak brothers found in Romans chapter 14. Thus, you will be better equipped to shepherd those who are both strong and weak in the faith.

  2. For the liberal (possibly antinomianism) Christian:

    Freedom seems to be the word summarizing evangelicals today. Is alcoholic consumption wrong? We are free. Can we listen to secular music? We are free.

    Of course, this is an oversimplified. However, the desire for freedom (which is quite biblical, and its abuse unbiblical) should never outweigh the spiritual growth of a fellow believer. Conscience implores the strong (which, contextually is the freer of the two) to consider the weak and limit freedom for their spiritual growth.

    This book will help anchor the discussion of freedom in the body of Christ. Our goal, whether weak or strong, is God’s glory and our good.

 

Brothers and sisters, read and meditate on this work and the Scriptures referenced, and you will be better equipped to handle: 1) your own conscience, 2) interacting with other consciences, 3) avoid conflict by limiting freedom for the sake of Christ.

Tolle lege!

The Unpardonable Sin: An Exposition of Hebrews 6:1-8

 

(Photo by Ben White on Unsplash)

This passage yields a variety of interpretations. The following is an edited version of a two-part sermon I gave recently. I am lightly editing it. I hope that it blesses your heart.

Doctrine: When blessed with full revelation, if you fail to accept Jesus as Messiah, you damn yourself to eternal hell.

This doctrine, as such as revealed in this passage, is unrepeatable today. By this I mean, the Jewish people to whom the author is writing had received as much revelation as humanly possible and were still unsure about the Messiahship of Jesus. As John MacArthur notes addresses a similar situation in Matthew 12:31, where he writes, “The sin He was confronting was the Pharisees’ deliberate rejection of that which they knew to be of God (cf. John 11:48; Acts 4:16).” (The MacArthur Study Bible NKJV, 1414)

The topic of the unpardonable sin is a weighty topic. It is a deep doctrine, for its implication is that a sin cannot be pardoned. That is a heavy thought. Which leaves us to ask the questions: Is there a sin that God cannot forgive? Is there a state that man can reach that is beyond the reach of the mercy of God? Men and women have discussed this, argued about it, and contemplated it for centuries. With that knowledge, this is my humble attempt to faithful exegete this passage, comparing Scripture with Scripture, and seeking to apply it to our present lives.

Let us remember the context in which our author is writing. He is writing to Jewish people. Within this larger group of Jewish people are two sects, if you will. One group accepted Jesus as the Messiah. They are, in the words of one author, “completed Jews.” (Gartenhaus, 163) 1516305939 (1)This same author, a Jewish man who accepted Jesus as the Messiah, writes, “Christianity not only does not oppose basic Judaism but it is Judaism itself fulfilled.” (Gartenhaus, 163) The Jewish men and women who accepted Jesus as the Messiah were not leaving Judaism behind, rather they were embracing its biblical essence. However, there was another group, a group that rejected Jesus as the Messiah. Whether blatant rebellion or simple apathy, these individuals reject Jesus.

Our author has spent five chapters developing the doctrines of Jesus. He is God, greater than Moses and Abraham, He is the high priest and faithful minister of the true people of God. It is this thought, the high priesthood of Christ, that creates a switch in the author’s mind. The readers were immature in their understanding and unable to bear deep thoughts on Melchizedek (see chapter 5, specifically verses 12-14). Our author could not speak on the deep things of God due to their immaturity.

This immaturity leads to two assumptions: immaturity due to a failure to grow, and immaturity due to a failure to be reborn (whatever terminology is used, salvation is the point). It is this thought, a failure to be reborn, that is the focus of Hebrews 6:1-8. We will notice several points:

  1. The basis of Jewish faith- Hebrews 6:1-3
  2. The danger of rejecting revelation- Hebrews 6:4-6
  3. The illustration of damnation- Hebrews 6:7-8

We note, first:

  1. The basis of Jewish faith- Hebrews 6:1-3

    Now, as we begin this discussion, it is vital to remember the context. Many individuals who read the first few verses take this as basic Christian doctrine because of the word Christ, but this is referring to the Jewish faith. Our author, who is Jewish, is writing to Jewish people, about the Jewish Messiah. It is inherently Jewish. So why would our author use the word Christ? Simply because this was the Greek version of the Hebrew term Messiah. There are many connections to Hellenistic influence in this letter. The writer frequently uses the Septuagint (commonly abbreviated as LXX). This is the Greek version of the Tanakh. One of the possible authors of this letter is a Hellenistic Jew, meaning he was a Grecian Jew. This follows the logic that he was familiar with the word Christ (anointed one in the Greek) rather than the Hebrew term Messiah (anointed one in the Hebrew). I belabor this point because it must be anchored within that Jewish context to properly interpret this passage. Otherwise, as many people have done, it will be misinterpreted and misapplied.

    We will discuss the basis of the Jewish faith by understanding the thoughts behind each concept.

    1. Repentance from dead works and of faith toward God

      The idea behind this concept is repentance and faith. Now, you may immediately think, “Repentance and faith is in the Gospel!” And you are partially correct, for there is an absence of the essential individual. The absence of Jesus leaves this teaching (or doctrine) within the framework of the Tanakh, thus an incomplete picture of repentance and faith. John the Baptist, in introducing the Messiah, preached this same message in Matthew 3:2. He is the last of the prophets (Luke 16:16), still preaching repentance but not yet in the person of Jesus. You see, they repented and had faith but failed to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Messiah, the only Name given under heaven whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12). Repentance from dead works and faith toward God points to salvific faith in Messiah Jesus.

    2. Instructions about washings (or baptisms)

      The idea here is the washings in the Torah. One need only look at the book of Leviticus. The word wash appears 36 times (in the ESV). Washing was an essential aspect of remaining pure, clean. If you look to the Gospels we are given a wonderful example in Mark 7:1-23. Washing was an aspect that would point to the holiness of God and the necessity for purity among God’s people. It is something that was repeated, many times. However, it was a shadow of the washing by the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:5. Also, if you simply search for “Jewish washings” you will still see the influences to present day Judaism.

    3. The Laying on of hands

      Here we may be tempted to place the act of laying hands from the book of Acts in this passage. The apostles and elders of the church were seen throughout the establishment and development of the churches as laying hands on people. However, remember, this is a Jewish book, to Jewish people. What, in the Tanakh, do we see involving laying hands? When you look to Leviticus 1:4; 3:8 and 13 you see a completely different purpose for laying on of hands. This action represented the transference of guilt from the individual to the animal. It is the act whereby the sinner imputes his sin into the innocent victim. This action points to the act whereby Jesus becomes sin for us (Isaiah 53:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

    4. The resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment

      This sounds like Christian doctrine, right? I mean of all the phrases mentioned surely this is Christian. I am afraid not. Resurrection and judgment were doctrines of the Jewish faith. Now, if you were to pick up a handful of books on the Jewish faith you will see a variety of opinions on this subject. Some deny that the Tanakh even addresses life after death. Others see it as essential to the Jewish faith. The Jewish people of Jesus’s day, and even Orthodox Jewish people of today, held this biblical truth. I encourage you to look through Isaiah 35, a passage that develops the teaching on the world to come. You can also check out Ecclesiastes 12:14 as well. Both of these passages illustrate belief in an afterlife and judgment to come.

      We see, then, that the framework of Judaism springs one into the presence of the Messiah. We are to repent from dead works and place our faith in Messiah. We are to be washed by the Holy Spirit. We are to accept the substitutionary atonement of Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God. Additionally, we are to look to the time when Messiah will come and make all things new. Judaism points directly to Jesus Messiah.

    5. The desire for growth

      Our author makes one final note for this section, that he desires to move beyond this elementary doctrines on to maturity, and for the readers to move on to maturity. But he adds one phrase, “if God permits.” Please remember that God is sovereign, as we can see in Ephesians 1 and 2.

      Because of all of this, our author then moves on to the dangerous, precarious situation of these Jewish readers:

  2. The danger of rejecting full revelation- Hebrews 6:4-6

    After this brief review of the “elementary doctrine of Christ (or Messiah)”, our author then brings the point to a stark point: rejecting full revelation brings damnation.

    1. The finality of rejection- it is impossible

      The very first point the author makes it that renewal after rejection of full revelation is impossible. I asked, at the beginning, are there sins that God will not, or cannot, forgive? The biblical answer is yes. Now, before we get too far into this passage let me paint you a broad picture. This rejection of full revelation is not repeatable. That is, this situation was specific to this generation. While we breathe a sigh of relief, please understand that rejection of God’s truth today is no less serious. After looking at our passage in Hebrews, we will turn to Matthew 12:22-32 to see this played out in a narrative fashion.

    2. The specifics of this rejection:
      1. Those who have once been enlightened

        This phrase seems to suggest salvation. That is how many throughout church history have taken this passage. However, I believe when we examine the context and compare Scripture with Scripture, it refers to Jewish people who had access to full revelation. In other words, these Jewish people had received as much truth as humanly possible without bringing about conversion. Let us look at what this enlightenment entails. Remember the Jewish context. Turn to Isaiah 9:1-2 where the same idea can be found. This divine light shined on all who saw it, but not all who saw it rejoiced in the Messiah. As with the other phrases, this does not imply nor is it used to refer to salvation in a specific way. And since our author has placed every warning within the context of the Tanakh, this passage is no different. You will notice in your sermon notes additional references. I encourage you to look these up as you work your way through this rather difficult passage. There is also an interesting connection to Exodus 13:21 and Nehemiah 9:12.

      2. Tasted of the heavenly gift

        There are two allusions to this idea of tasting a heavenly gift. For one, those that ate of the manna from heaven in Exodus 16:4. They tasted that heavenly gift (a similar word used by our author in Hebrews). Nehemiah 9:15 gives the same idea, as well as Psalm 78:24. Think, as well, of Jesus. In John 6:22-59 where Jesus is the Bread of Heaven, and Jesus graphically states, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.” (John 6:47-47) These individuals had tasted of the heavenly gift.

      3. Shared in the Holy Spirit

        Can one share in the Holy Spirit and not be saved? Indeed, I believe Scripture clearly communicates this. Nehemiah 9:20 speaks about this giving of the Holy Spirit. If you can run through your minds all the accounts where “the Holy Spirit came upon” so and so, you get the idea. Numbers 11:16-29 also speaks of this. Unfortunately, we do not have the time to present a full treatment of pneumatology (the doctrine/study of the Holy Spirit). But you can briefly see that the Holy Spirit operated differently in the Old Covenant than in the New Covenant. Think about the life of Jesus, who by the power of the Holy Spirit completed some amazing miracles!

      4. Tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the age to come

        The Israelites (and the people in Hebrews) have tasted the goodness of the Word of God. They experienced God’s goodness through the Tanakh, what we call the Old Testament. They also experienced incredible miracles. This is referenced in Hebrews 2:4. It is an allusion to Exodus 7:3 and the wonders of the plagues against Israel. The powers of the age to come is a reference to the miracles wrought by Jesus on earth (and in the Tanakh by Moses and the prophets), a breakthrough-look to the future kingdom of God in which all wrongs are righted and all sickness, pain, and tears and done away with. In the second sermon in this series we discussed the phrase found in Hebrews 1:2 where the author writes, “…in these last days…”. We discussed the implications of the phrase in regards to the Messianic promises and kingdom to come.

    3. The Implication of rejection- Crucify Him!

      We turn our attention, now, to the verse six. The thought of impossibility begins in verse four. Our author, then, takes the time to discuss the specifics of this rejection. Now we see the implication. What does it mean to reject Messiah? For this, our author describes in a graphic way what happens. He states, “It is impossible….to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” (Heb. 6:4, 6) When they reject all the revelation presented, all the truth preached, the miracles wrought, and they have fallen away, shout with the crowds: Crucify Him! Crucify Him! By their actions they are claiming Jesus is guilty as charged. The seriousness of this verse cannot be overstated.

      One more thought before moving to the illustration of damnation. The idea behind “have fallen away” gives the same ideas found in the other warning passages. Hebrews 2:1 says we must pay attention, lest like a boat, we drift away. Hebrews 3:12 mentions the danger of unbelief leading us to “fall away” (a different Greek word). Hebrews 4:11 states that we must strive to enter the rest of God lest we “may fall”. All the ideas are of gradual, slow, and steady rejection. I used the illustration of Bart Ehrman, a brilliant New Testament scholar who, after witnessing the evil of the world, slowly rejected the idea that God existed. It is a process. Imagine the individuals of whom our author is speaking. They had seen everything, and still rejected Messiah Jesus.

      David Klinghoffer’s Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point in Western History, discusses the precariousness of rejecting Messiah Jesus. He writes,

      If Jesus was the Messiah, then the Jews today are in big trouble, as all their ancestors have been for the past two millennia, along with a lot of gentiles who haven;t grasped what a vital truth the Christian idea is. Even setting aside the belief that the disposition of one’s immortal soul depends on recognizing him in this role, if Christians are right about Jesus, then many generations of Jews and other peoples have missed out on the very climax of history, the ministry and death of Jesus Christ. It happened, but we weren’t paying attention.

      Brothers and sisters, we are in the same danger if we reject the truth of God in our lives.

  • The illustration of damnation- Hebrews 6:7-8

    The author takes the remaining two verses to provide a natural illustration of this biblical truth. We will break it down to the positive response and negative response. Keep in mind, however, the statement made by our author in 6:3, “And this we will do if God permits.” God is sovereign over all.

    1. The Useful Crop- Heb. 6:7

      The rain falls on both types of plants. Just as God’s word, power, miracles, and everything accompanying them did on the hearers and readers of this letter. However, the response is quite different. The useful crop cultivates (the word we get geography from) to the rain and earth to produce food. That is, it takes the enlightenment, the heavenly gifts, the Holy Spirit, the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the age to come and cultivates it with belief and action. This is where we need, must be! We must take the truths of God’s Word and believe and act on it.

    2. The Worthless Crop- Hebrews 6:8

      The same rain falls on this plant as it did with the useful crop. Again, God’s Word, power, miracles, and everything accompanying them did on their hearers and readers of this letter. The worthless crop bears “thorns and thistles”. I am certainly not a farmer, but I do know that if you are growing food (or flowers for that matter) you do not want thorns and thistles. What is the difference? Why did one yield a useful crop and the other yield thorns and thistles?

      There are several clues, both from this passage as well as other Scripture, which give us the difference. In our own letter of Hebrews we have seen that our response is to be filled with faith (belief) and action. These two are proper responses to the wonderful revelation given to us by God. However, the language is found in the Tanakh as well. For one, in God’s judgment on Adam and Eve he speaks of thorns and thistles. Genesis 3:14-19 speaks of God’s judgment on the earth. However, all of these aspects of the judgment can be summed up with the words from Genesis 2:17. It is death! From which we know from Ephesians 2:1-8 that it is only by God’s grace that we are brought back to life (If God permit, remember?).

      There is one other passage that I think is particularly pertinent for our passage this morning. Deuteronomy 28 is the chapter which presents the blessings for obeying the covenant and the curses for disobedience. At the heart of both obedience and disobedience is belief, whether positive or negative. If they believed the Torah they would obey and be blessed; if they failed to believe the Torah they would disobey and be cursed. As with the Torah, so with the belief in the Messiah, belief and action are essential to holding fast, of true biblical conversion. Failure to respond in biblical faith and action is impossible to repent from. This is the danger that these Jewish people faced. They had been presented the full source of revelation that no one before nor since has had the privilege, and they failed to believe. It is staggering. However, lest we think that we are not able to experience damnation we must take heed. For, while we do not see physical miracles take place, we do not witness the resurrection of dead men and women, we do not taste the powers of the Word of God, we have, as Abraham reminded the rich man in hell, “Moses and the Prophets.” (Luke 16:29) We have something that no one before us had, the Sacred Scriptures. If we reject, constantly, slowly, gradually, the Word of God then we are illustrating that we are the worthless crop that is doomed to be burned.

    3. The Blasphemous Pharisees- Matthew 12:22-32

      This narrative illustrates, in a narrative fashion, what Hebrews 6:1-8 discusses. The Pharisees witness a miracle. Jesus casts a demon out and heals a man. The crowds, witnessing this wonderful event respond, “Could this be the Son of David?” (Matthew 12:23, NKJV) How did the Pharisees respond? “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of demons.” (Matthew 12:24, NKJV) They maintain that the only way Jesus did miracles was through demonic power.

      The Pharisees were privileged to see incredible miracles, hear powerful preaching, and witness God in the flesh (see John 1:1, 14; Hebrews 1:1-3). They enjoyed revelation in a way no other human beings did. What was their response? Unbelief. They remained dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1).

Applications:

How are we to apply this, if this passage is time-specific? While the actual passage may not be repeatable, the act of unbelief is. Rejection of revealed truth is dangerous. One is reminded of Paul’s address to the saints at Rome. In Romans 1:18-32 discusses, in graphic detail, what the rejection of truth brings.

Brothers and sisters, do not reject truth. If you are not a Christian, please consider the truth of Scripture, repent of your sins and believe in the Messiah Jesus.

“The Gospel of Self: How Jesus Joined the GOP”: A Review

The Gospel of Self: How Jesus Joined the GOP by Terry Heaton is an interesting, self-reflective book. To be honest, upon seeing the title I was not sure what to expect from Mr. Heaton’s work. In a short summary, it is the walkthrough of Mr. Heaton’s time working with Pat Robertson and CBN, covering how the motives of Mr. Robertson and CBN eschewed the lines between legality and truth, adherence to love for neighbors and the pushing of an agenda. Ultimately, it is a memoir of Mr. Heaton’s journey to a more open, emergent faith.

Rather than walking through the book, I want to present my thoughts on different aspects of the work. It may be confusing, but as this is the way I digested the book, I wish to be consistent.

At times, it is difficult to follow the book. It roughly follows a timeline of Mr. Heaton’s time with CBN and Mr. Robertson. However, interwoven throughout the work are “soapbox” stands, political views, and personal issues with both Mr. Robertson and CBN. Unfortunately, Mr. Heaton confuses conservative politics with the actions of a few, presents his arguments as the best, and then leaves the reader with the only conclusion that anything less than a leftist, liberal politic is following a gospel of self.

For example, Mr. Heaton opens his first chapter with these words, “The evangelist’s message has always been self-centered, for it preaches the gospel as a means to saving one’s own ass from eternal hellfire and damnation in the afterlife. Evangelical Christianity has refined the message over the years and turned it today into the means for blessings in this life as well.” (Heaton, 2017) Mr. Heaton is illustrating a failure to grasp the biblical Gospel. It is not a means of “saving one’s own ass” but of God intervening to deliver individuals from death in trespasses and sins to life (see Ephesians 2:1-10). Later in the book his asks, “Was I naïve, because I was such a novice in the faith?” (Heaton, 2017) Yes Mr. Heaton, you were, for the views you present in your work are not biblical Christianity. Furthermore, Mr. Heaton attaches his hatred for conservative views (politically, economically, etc.) by attempting to apply the “blessings in this life” with those views and stances of conservatism.

Let me say that Terry Heaton has a point. This aspect of his book should be eye opening to those who claim to be Christians but do not go to church, do not believe the Gospel, and fail to live the Christian life. Instead, they find an avenue that furthers their greed and personal comfort and cloaks it with the name Christian. Mr. Heaton’s book does an excellent job of this. He acknowledges, “We presented as Biblical mandates or “laws” economic views that catered to the haves of culture, teaching that being one of the haves was available for everybody.” (Heaton, 2017) The problem with Mr. Heaton’s work, however, is a failure to distinguish individuals who proclaim a prosperity gospel rather than the true Gospel. Additionally, his hatred for conservatism belies an ignorance of how the economy works, basic constitutionalism, and how balanced Christianity is in light of both conservative and liberal views. He laments, “There is no zeal quite like that of religious zeal, for it comes with blinders to alternative views of reality.” (Heaton, 2017) Is this not what Mr. Heaton is doing? If you read the book, I believe you will come to that conclusion.

In his condemnation of the politics of Mr. Trump (see pages 7-13) he fails to exhibit grace in reaching out to others (see pages 38-39). He refers to the viewers of his programs as “ignorant, polyester-wearing, Bible-thumping morons.” (Heaton, 2017)

The chapter on The Shadow Government, 1984-1985 was highly interesting. I would like to say I am shocked about the accusations, but Christians, particularly those who are most likely not Christians, it is no surprise.

Finally, the last chapter is an appeal to an emergent view of Christianity. The emergent church movement is a joke. The absence of biblical basis is ridiculous. The movement saps the foundation and material of Christianity from the faith and leaves nothing but a blubbery mess of confusion and damnation.

Who should read this book? I think it would be helpful for individuals claiming to be Christians and hyper-conservative. It may help open your eyes to your own consistencies. For those on the left, I recommend reading this to see the spirit in which some of your own arguments come. Both sides have much to learn from each other. One last recommendation: do not read this book for any information about the Scriptures, God, or the Gospel. It is a failure for this.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

Guided by Gurnall

It has been a while since last we visited Gurnall’s exposition on Ephesians 6:10-20.

You can check out the previous posts here and here.

We pick up in verse ten, where Paul writes, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”

We are now on page 25 of Gurnall’s work, and an incredible thought came from his pen. He is working with “An amplification of the direction, ‘and in the power of his might’”. (Gurnall, 24) His goal is to present several doctrinal implications and their respective outflow in the life of the believer. It is wonderful. In his exposition, however, he develops an idea that I shall reproduce in its entirety:

As a father in rugged way gives his child his arm to lay old by, so doth God usually reach forth his almighty power for his saints to exercise their faith on, [as He did for] Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whose faith God tried above most of his saints before or since, for not one of those great things which were promised to them did they live to see performed in their days. And how doth God make known himself to them for their support, but by displaying this attribute? ‘I appeared unto Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, by the name of God Almighty,’ Ex. vi. 3.This was all they had to keep house with all their days: with which they lived comfortably, and died triumphantly, bequeathing the promise to their children, not doubting, because God Almighty had promised, of the performance. (Gurnall, 25)

Whoa! I suggest you read and reread that again. Though the language is archaic, its point is nonetheless potent. These men lived incredible lives of faith on the Word of God. How wonderfully limited this Word was! And yet, the faith was not in the amount or clarity of words, but in the One Who is the Word. I was gripped by two thoughts:

  1. If these men were able to accept the revelation given by God, though limited in comparison to today, how can I speak otherwise.By this I mean, how can I question God with the vast amount of revelation we have in the Scriptures? Though by human nature I may seek more knowledge, greater clarification, or understanding to God’s work in the world, this should never leave me frustrated or angry with God. I must rejoice in the vast amount of revelation that I so often take for granted.
  2. Secondly, do I enjoy the blessings of God more than the God of the blessings? I think this happens to everyone. It is easy to enjoy the creaturely blessings with which God blesses us. While working through Gurnall’s work I have also been reading Ephesians almost daily. The opening paragraph speaks of the spiritual blessings believers have in Christ. Paul, however, opens with the focus on God. He writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Ephesians 1:3, ESV) God, let my focus remain on You and You alone!

I close with the words of a prayer titled Longings After God, from Banner of Truth’s Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions.

My Dear Lord,

I can but tell thee that thou knowest

               I long for nothing by thyself

               Nothing but holiness

               Nothing but union with thy will.

Thou has given me these desires,

               And thou alone canst give me the thing desired.

My soul longs for communion with thee,

               For mortification of indwelling corruption,

                              Especially spiritual pride.

How precious it is

               To have a tender sense and clear apprehension

                              Of the mystery of godliness,

                              Of true holiness!

What a blessedness to be like thee

               As much as it is possible for a creature to be like its creator!

Lord, give me more of thy likeness;

Enlarge my soul to contain fullness of holiness:

Engage me to live more for thee.

Help me to be less pleased with my spiritual experiences,

               And when I feel at ease after sweet communings,

               Teach me it is far too little I know and do.

Blessed Lord,

               Let me climb up near to thee,

               And love, and long, and plead, and wrestle with them

               And pant for deliverance from the body of sin,

               For my heart is wandering and lifeless,

               And my soul mourns to think

                              It should ever lose sight of its beloved.

Wrap my life in divine love,

               And keep me ever desiring thee,

Always humble and resigned to thy will,

               More fixed on thyself,

               That I may be more fitted for doing and suffering.