Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Afraid of our emotions, lacking any passion for worship or missions?

Chatting with a friend over lunch at the weekend I realising afresh that there are two parts of preparation for teaching the Bible. First to get it accurately. That's essential because without accuracy and understanding we don't have truth, we just have imaginations which will tend toward idols. But, secondly there is a need to feel it. To have the word of God detonate the heart. To have the word of God shine in our hearts to see Jesus. To have the word of God warm our hearts, revive the soul and awaken our affections in proportion to the truth being considered, as Jonathan Edwards put it.

Less than that would be idolatrous like lacking understanding. Less than that would be worse that lacking understanding, because it would be to see the glory of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ and to remain unmoved. That's to treat him with contempt, that's to mock God. I'm not saying it has to overflow absurdly. Being (in this sense) charismatic is not the personality disorder otherwise known as being an extrovert. But, what comes out of the mouth is the overflow of the heart, the fruit borne depends on the tree. The visible signs are normally signs of nothing, but if there is no heart-beat you have to wonder if someone is alive.

The church doesn't encounter new problems. This has happened before, over 200 years ago and it got called Sandemanianism. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes on this: And the result was that the Church became entirely lifeless, and it really was not delivered from that condition until those great revivals took place under William Chalmers Burns and Robert Murray M’Cheyne, and people like them, in the 1830s and the early 1840s. For almost a hundred years, the Church of Scotland was in a parlous and lifeless condition, very largely owing to this kind of barren intellectualism.”

Andrew Fuller faced this down over 200 years ago from his church in Kettering. His other great gift to the church was to undo the anti-missional hyper-calvinism of his day and see it replaced with the kind of God-glorifying Carey-to-India sending missions that has got us moving toward seeing the whole earth filled with the glory of God.

John Piper's biography of Fuller shows... how his engagement with Sandemanianism recovered and preserved a kind of vital faith that is essential for missions, and his engagement with Hyper-Calvinism (or what he more often called High Calvinism) recovered and preserved a kind of preaching that is essential for missions. And in both cases, the battle was distinctly exegetical and doctrinal even though the all-important outcomes were deeply experiential and globally practical.

Observing that... To sever the roots of faith in regeneration, and to strip faith of its holiness, and to deny its active impulse to produce the fruit of love (Galatians 5:6) was to turn the church into an intellectualistic gathering of passive people who are afraid of their emotions and who lack any passion for worship or missions.Therefore, Fuller, the lover of God and missions, waged another battle against Sandemanianism for the sake of the church and the nations.

Piper concludes: Therefore, devote yourself to experiencing Christ in the gospel biblically and authentically. And devote yourself to understanding Christ in the gospel biblically and authentically. And may God ignite that experience and that understanding in such a way that your life will count like Andrew Fuller’s for the cause of world evangelization to the glory of Christ.

Mere understanding is not going to be enough when I come to study the Bible. Not enough by far.