Tag Archives: John MacArthur
Man on telephone: Pastor, I know I am an old & grumpy man who has been in the ministry for 45 years and I know that you being 35 years old and in the ministry for 3 years obviously know much more than I, but do you really think it is wise to plant tares in this field along side the wheat?
Moral: Young people know so little but are convinced they know it all! Hurry, cure all of the world’s ills, young people, while you still know everything because in a few years you will mature enough to realize you never really knew anywhere near as much as you thought…
Cultural Relevance Under the Microscope: Beer & Bible… Relevant Approach or Indication of Being on the Downgrade?
If everything you know about Christian living came from blogs and websites in the young-and-restless district of the Reformed community, you might have the impression that beer is the principal symbol of Christian liberty.
For some who self-identify as “Young, Restless, and Reformed,” it seems beer is a more popular topic for study and discussion than the doctrine of predestination. They devote whole websites to the celebration of brewed beverages.They earnestly assure one another “that most good theological discussion has historically been done in pubs and drinking places.”
They therefore love to meet for “open dialog on faith and culture” wherever beer is served—or better yet, right at the brewery. The connoisseurs among them serve their own brands and even offer lessons in how to make home brew.
It’s clear that beer-loving passion is a prominent badge of identity for many in the YRR movement. Apparently beer is also an essential element in the missional strategy.Mixing booze with ministry is often touted as a necessary means of penetrating western youth culture, and conversely, abstinence is deemed a “sin” to be repented of.
After all, in a culture where cool is everything, what could be a better lubricant for one’s testimony than a frosty pint?
Of course, beer is by no means the only token of cultural savvy frequently associated with young-and-restless religion. All kinds of activities deemed vices by mothers everywhere have been adopted as badges of Calvinist identity and thus “redeemed”: tobacco, tattoos, gambling, mixed martial arts, profane language, and lots of explicit talk about sex.
Cast a disapproving eye at any of those activities, and you are likely to be swarmed by restless reformers denouncing legalism and wanting to debate whether it’s a “sin” to drink wine or smoke a cigar. But without even raising the question of whether this or that specific activity is acceptable, indifferent, or out-and-out evil, we surely ought to be able to say that controlled substances and other symbols of secular society’s seamy side are not what the church of Jesus Christ ought to wish to be known for. In fact, until fairly recently, no credible believer in the entire church age would ever have suggested that so many features evoking the ambiance of a pool hall or a casino could also be suitable insignia for the people of God.
It is puerile and irresponsible for any pastor to encourage the recreational use of intoxicants—especially in church-sponsored activities. The ravages of alcoholism and drug abuse in our culture are too well known, and no symbol of sin’s bondage is more seductive or more oppressive than booze. I have ministered to hundreds of people over the years who have been delivered from alcohol addiction. Many of them wage a daily battle with fleshly desires made a thousand times more potent because of that addiction. The last thing I would ever want to do is be the cause of stumbling for one of them.
Besides, deliberately cultivating an appetite for beer or a reputation for loving liquor is not merely bad missional strategy and a bad testimony; it is fraught with deadly spiritual dangers. The damage is clearly evident in places where the strategy has been touted. Darrin Patrick, who helped pioneer “Theology at the Bottleworks,” acknowledges the gravity of the problem:
As I coach and mentor church planters and pastors, I am shocked at the number of them who are either addicted or headed toward addiction to alcohol. Increasingly, the same is true with prescription drugs. One pastor I know could not relax without several beers after work and could not sleep without the aid of a sleeping pill. [Church Planter (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 51]
In biblical times, wine was necessary for health reasons. The risk of amoebae and parasites in drinking water could be significantly reduced or eliminated by mixing the water with a little wine (1 Timothy 5:23). The result was a greatly diluted wine that had virtually no potential for making anyone drunk. Purified tap water and refrigeration make even that use of wine unnecessary today.
Contrary to the current mythology, abstinence is no sin—least of all for someone devoted to ministry (Leviticus 10:9; Proverbs 31:4; Luke 1:15). It is, of course, a sin to give one’s mind over to the influence of alcohol or to bedeck one’s reputation with deliberate symbols of debauchery. As a matter of fact, drunkenness and debauchery are the very antithesis of Spirit-filled sanctification (Ephesians 5:18)—and men who indulge in them are not qualified to be spiritual leaders.
Yes, I realize Jesus Himself was referred to by His enemies as “a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 11:19). But He was none of the things that expression implied—nor did He seek such a reputation.
He was indeed “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” in the sense that He specialized in lifting them up out of the miry clay and setting their feet on a rock. But He did not adopt or encourage their lifestyle. He did not embrace their values or employ expletives borrowed from their vocabulary in order to win their admiration or gain membership in their fraternity. He confronted their wickedness and rebuked their sins as boldly as He preached against the errors of the Pharisees (Matthew 18:7-9).
Note, too, that He ate and drank with Pharisees (Luke 7:36) as readily as He ate and drank with publicans. The only significant difference was that the typical tax collector was more inclined to confess his own desperate need for divine forgiveness than the average self-righteous Pharisee (Mark 2:16-17; Luke 18:1-14).
But there is no suggestion in Scripture that Jesus purposely assumed the look and lifestyle of a publican in order to gain acceptance in a godless subculture. He didn’t.
This tendency to emblazon oneself with symbols of carnal indulgence as if they were valid badges of spiritual identity is one of the more troubling aspects of the YRR movement’s trademark restlessness. It is wrong-headed, carnal, and immature to imagine that bad-boy behavior makes good missional strategy. The image of beer-drinking Bohemianism does nothing to advance the cause of Christ’s kingdom.
Slapping the label “incarnational” on strategies such as this doesn’t alter their true nature. They have more in common with Lot, who pitched his tent toward Sodom, than with Jesus, who is “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26).
Real Christian liberty is not about flouting taboos and offending conventional notions of propriety. The liberty in which we stand begins with full indemnity from the law’s threats and condemnation—meaning we are at peace with God (Romans 5:1; 8:1). Christian liberty also removes the restrictions of the law’s ceremonial commandments (Colossians 2:16-17)—freeing us from asceticism, superstition, sensuality, and “human precepts and teachings” (vv. 18-23).
But sober-minded self-control and maturity are virtues commanded and commended by Scripture; these are not manmade rules or legalistic standards. As a matter of fact, one of the main qualifications for both deacons and elders in the church is that they cannot be given to much wine. In other words, they are to be known for their sobriety, not for their consumption of beer.
It should not take a doctor of divinity to notice that Scripture consistently celebrates virtues such as self-control, sober-mindedness, purity of heart, the restraint of our fleshly lusts, and similar fruits of the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work in our lives. Surely these are what we ought hold in highest esteem, model in our daily lives, and honor on our websites, rather than trying so hard to impress the world with unfettered indulgence in the very things that hold so many unbelievers in bondage.
This bit of timely truth comes to you from John MacArthur via Ken at www.apprising.org .
Many Christians today are greatly concerned about the rising influences of communism, humanism, secularism, and social injustice. Yet those evils, great as they are, do not together pose the threat to Christianity that false shepherds and pastors do. Throughout the history of redemption, the greatest threat to God’s truth and God’s work has been false prophets and teachers, because they propose to speak in His name. That is why the Lord’s most scathing denunciations were reserved for the false teachers of Israel, who claimed to speak and act for God but were liars.
Yet for some reason, evangelical Christianity is often hesitant to confront false teachers with the seriousness and severity that Jesus and the apostles did, and that the godly prophets before them had done. Today, more than at any time in modern history and perhaps more than at any time in the history of the church, pagan religions and cults are seriously encroaching on societies that for centuries have been nominally Christian. Even within the church, many ideas, teachings, and philosophies that are little more than thinly veiled paganism have become popular and influential.
As in ancient Israel, the further God’s people move away from the foundation of His Word, the more false religion flourishes in the world and even in their own midst. At no time have Christians had greater need to be discerning. They need to recognize and respect true godly shepherds who feed them God’s Word and build them up in the faith, and they also must recognize and denounce those who twist and undermine God’s Word, who corrupt the church and who lead lost people still further away from God’s truth and from salvation.
In Matthew 23:13–33 Jesus relentlessly condemned the false spiritual leaders of Israel, in particular the scribes and Pharisees, who then held the dominant power and influence in Judaism. Jesus warned about them in His first sermon, the Sermon on the Mount (see, e.g., 5:20; 7:15), and His last sermon (Matt. 23) consists almost entirely of warnings about them and to them. In this final public message, the Lord wanted to draw the people away from those false leaders and turn them to the true teaching and the godly examples of His apostles, who would become His uniquely commissioned and endowed representatives on earth during the early years of the church. He also gave the apostles themselves a final example of the confrontational stance they would soon find it necessary to take in their proclamation and defense of the gospel.
The unbelieving scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus addressed in the Temple stood alone in their sin and were condemned alone in their guilt for misappropriating and perverting God’s law and for leading Israel into heresy, just as the false prophets among their forefathers had done (vv. 30–32). But they also stood as models of all false spiritual leaders who would come after them. Therefore what Jesus said about them and to them is of much more than historical significance. It is essential instruction for dealing with the false leaders who abound in our own day.
In the first twelve verses of chapter 23, Jesus had declared that the scribes and Pharisees, typical of all false spiritual leaders, were without authority, without integrity, without sympathy, without spirituality, without humility, and therefore without God’s approval or blessing. Now speaking to them directly, He asserts they are under God’s harshest condemnation. In verses 13–33 Jesus pronounces seven curses, or woes, on those wicked leaders.
The scene in the Temple that day had become volatile in the extreme, in some ways more volatile than when Jesus had cast out the merchants and money-changers the day before. At that time Jesus’ anger was vented against what the religious leaders were doing outwardly, and that attack had outraged them (21:16, 23). Now, however, He attacked what they were inwardly, and that infuriated them even more.
In our day of tolerance and eclecticism, the kind of confrontation Jesus had with the scribes and Pharisees seems foreign and uncharitable. A person who speaks too harshly against a false religion or unbiblical teaching or movement is considered unkind, ungracious, and judgmental. Jesus’ indictments in Matthew 23, as well as in other parts of the gospels, are so inconsistent with the idea of Christian love held by some liberal theologians and Bible scholars, for example, that they conclude He could not have spoken them. What Jesus really said, they maintain, was modified and intensified either by the gospel writers or the sources from whom they received their information.
But the nature of Jesus’ condemnation of those corrupt religious leaders is perfectly consistent with the rest of Scripture, both the Old Testament and the New Not only that, but Jesus’ words in this passage fly from His lips, as someone has said, like claps of thunder and spears of lightning. Out of His mouth on this occasion came the most fearful and dreadful statements that Jesus uttered on earth. They do not give the least impression of being the afterthought of an overzealous writer or copyist.
Matthew 23 is one of the most serious passages in Scripture. Jesus here makes the word hypocrite a synonym for scribe and for Pharisee. He calls them sons of hell, blind guides, fools, robbers, self-indulgent, whitewashed tombs, full of hypocrisy and lawlessness, serpents, vipers, and persecutors and murderers of God’s people. He uttered every syllable with absolute self-control but with devastating intensity.
Yet Jesus was never cold or indifferent, even toward His enemies, and on this occasion His judgment is mingled with sorrow and deep pathos. It is not the Son’s will any more than the Father’s that a single person perish, because it is the gracious divine desire that everyone would come to repentance and salvation (2 Pet. 3:9). At the end of His denunciation, Jesus extended by implication another last invitation for belief, suggesting that He would still gladly gather any unbelievers under His wings as a mother hen gathers her chicks, if only they would be willing (Matt. 23:37). (Online source)
The 13th chapter marks a change from being focused upon Peter and what was occurring in Jerusalem to being focused upon Paul and his taking of the Gospel to the Gentiles. Paul, Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, and Manaen are mentioned as being prophets and teachers in Antioch.
Of notable importance, followers of Jesus were first called Christians in Antioch. It was a derisive term used by those who were not sympathetic to the calling of the people who followed Jesus but the Christians of Antioch wore the name proudly as it identified them with their Savior.
Now, when the scripture says of the men previously mentioned that they were prophets and teachers, it means exactly that. The terms prophet and teacher get thrown around rather loosely today. The men mentioned in verse 1 of chapter 13 fit the Biblical definitions. Prophets received and proclaimed direction from God and teachers rightly schooled others in God’s revelation of scripture.
Another thing notable about the 13th chapter is that Saul becomes known by his Roman name Paul. He would lead the charge of taking God’s word to the Gentiles. Now, let’s take the remainder of today’s lesson to discuss why and how Paul became the leader to take God’s word to the Gentiles. This is of great importance.
Modern day workings differ from Biblical workings many times. Today, we see people being chosen to lead organizations and ministries for all sorts of reasons. MBA education, leadership-oriented and/or experience, popularity as a former athlete or entertainer, ability to generate a following, ability to separate people from their money… all serve as reasons for people to be selected to head some types of ‘ministries’ in modern times. What do we see in the book of Acts?
Verse 2 says, ” As they ministered to the Lord and fasted…” which implies that these men diligently sought God and ministered to Him through worship and correct handling of God’s truth. They had a correct understanding of who God is. They apparently were not devising techniques and methods in order to sell books to those who did not want to spend time reading God’s word but wanted a Reader’s Digest version instead. These men were diligently serving God.
Verse 2 continues by saying that the Holy Spirit told them to separate Barnabus and Saul/Paul for a special work to which He was calling them. Notice the response of those who were not selected. They fasted, prayed, and laid hands on the chosen ones and sent them on their way. The implication is that the ones not chosen for this specific duty served those who were and supported them as they began their journey.
Notice there were no difficulties with the selection of God’s chosen. The others did not have a tantrum for not being selected. The church did not split. People did not withhold their offering money in protest. Everyone did their part according to their calling. Why must things be so hard today? I think the answer lies in the activities of these early church people. These people were devoutly seeking to serve God. There was no room for them to worry about their image, prestige, notoriety, reputation in the world or any of that type of nonsense.
When people focus upon God and do His work, God is honored. There is not room on a throne except for one. Either God is on the throne of a person’s life or they are on it themselves. God chose Barnabus and Paul for a special purpose and they obeyed. We will contiue this study next time.
I thank the John MacArthur Commentary on the Book of Acts for notes and insights for this study.
Op-Ed: I would say that MacArthur makes a good point. Why should apostates leave church when they can change it instead to make it what they want it to be… devoid of God? Look at the huge, institutional churches that defy much if not most of what the Bible teaches. And then there is the Emergent group who do the same just with louder music and bright, flashing lights… Or you could go the seeker/cultural/worldly route and spin what the Bible says until you change its meaning so that no one is convicted of sin. At the end of the day it is all symptomatic of apostasy.
Apprising Ministries notes that as Anne Rice “quits Christianity,” and apostasy continues slithering its way through increasingly squishy evanjellyfish, more and more people have become surprised by this sad state of affairs in the visible church.
Below is a section of John MacArthur’s message Apostates, Be Warned, Part 2, which was actually part of the series he preached on the Book of Jude that would become his book The Truth War. Dr. MacArthur reminds us that we really shouldn’t be surprised when apostates don’t always leave the church.
What better place for Satan’s minions, e.g. within the sinfully ecumenical neo-liberal cult of the Emerging Church like EC guru Brian McLaren and heretical quasi-universalist EC pastor Doug Pagitt, to “propagate their corrupting heresies to destroy the church and its message and its impact.”
And yeah, you in the Emergent Church be sure and quote me on that; McLaren and Pagitt are no brothers of mine:
[W]e are called to arms in regard to protecting the faith and fighting for the truth is because certain persons have crept in, verse 4, unnoticed and they intend because of their ungodliness to turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ. And we learn here that the great battle for the truth is waged within the framework of the visible church, that our enemy is within, the enemy has infiltrated the church.
The tares have been sown amidst the wheat. Satan has disguised himself as an angel of light. His ministers are also disguised as angels of light. They have infiltrated successfully into the church always and no different today and they sow damning lies at the very heart of the Christian church. The visible church and the invisible church are two different entities. The visible church is that which bears the name of Christianity in the name of Christ. The invisible church is Christ’s true and redeemed people. And so we have to be discerning and we have to battle for the truth inside the very realm called Christendom. So we’ve been calling our study the long war on the truth, the truth war. And we have noted that this is one form of apostasy and one very, very dangerous deadly, penetrating subtle deception and effective form of apostasy. That apostasy which occurs inside the church and remains there to pollute the church and to diminish people’s confidence in the true gospel.
So we’ve been talking about this matter of defectors from the faith, those who apostatize from the faith. Some leave the church, others remain. And all of us, I think, who have been Christians for any length of time have experienced this matter of defection, this matter of rebellion, this matter of people exposed to the truth, even confessing or professing the truth who abandon the truth and turn away from Christ. We have all known people who have professed to be Christians and profess to believe in Jesus Christ, who have appeared to love the Lord and love the church and to respond to His truth, who had at some point in their lives have utterly and completely abandoned that. And now are living as none of the Scripture were true and as if the gospel was a lie and Christ was not the Savior and hell is either a fabrication or a more desirable place than heaven. Those people fall into the category of apostates, defectors from the faith. You have to know it to defect from it, to reject it.
And as I said, however, not all apostates leave the church. Some remain in it. Some remain in it for a time and eventually leave. But many remain in the church to propagate their corrupting heresies to destroy the church and its message and its impact. This is precisely what Satan desires to do. I think this is his priority operation. That’s why Satan himself is disguised as an angel of light. And as I said earlier, from 2 Corinthians 11, his ministers also are disguised as angels of light. And when you mention Christianity today, just the word conjures up everything that is true and everything that is not true all in the same breath.
For us who know Christ, for us who know the gospel, for us who know our Redeemer, for us who have experienced the goodness of God, His transforming grace, it is always difficult for us to understand how people who are to any degree familiar with the gospel can reject it. I find that almost impossible to believe. Apart from understanding the human heart, the gospel is so appealing, the gospel is so wonderful that it seems something that we should grasp and hold to as tightly as we can, given its immense and eternal promises. But Scripture clearly tells us that there will always be defectors.
And as you look in the gospels, for example, in the New Testament, you’re going to see some of the reasons why. Ignorance is one reason why people defect from the gospel. There’s never really any penetrating of the truth, that’s the hard ground. It just sort of bounces off them. They don’t comprehend it. Persecution is another reason…people who are exposed to the gospel but do not want to pay the price of naming the name of Christ and bearing the reproach of Christ. The worries of this life, Jesus said, are another reason why the seed has a very short life and produces no fruit. And Jesus also said the deceitfulness of riches, people love wealth and materialism and prosperity in this life more than heavenly promises.
It is also true that there is another reason why people defect and that is because the teaching of Jesus is hard. John 6:60, “Many therefore of His disciples when they heard this said, ‘This is a hard statement, who can listen to it?’” A few verses later as a result of this, “Many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” The demands of Jesus were hard, that’s really what I was driving at in the book Hard to Believe, which reflects the teaching we did, particularly on Luke 9, “If any man come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.” The message is hard, hard teaching. It was too hard for the rich young ruler. It was too hard for Judas Iscariot. When you come to the epistles in the New Testament, you’re going to find some more reasons why people defect. One is Satan’s devices. Paul says he’s very concerned that people will be led away from the simplicity of devotion to Christ, Satan will come in and confuse people as to the priority and the person of Christ. There are some people who defect from the gospel because they don’t want to be alienated from the people around them. They love the world too much. And John said, “If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you.” Demas is an illustration of a defector. Second Timothy 4:10, “Who loved this present world.” It doesn’t mean that he loved…he wasn’t an environmentalist in particular, but he loved the whole society that made up his sinful world. There are others who defect from the faith, according to 1 Timothy 6, because they love riches. The desire for riches has corrupted and destroyed many.
But most notably in the New Testament, the book of Hebrews features the longest list of why people defect from the faith. And we could spend literally weeks going through this, I’m not going to do that, I’m going to just spend minutes going through it. But you might want to just listen carefully. Some people defect from the faith because, I’m not being self-serving here, but they just don’t pay careful enough attention to the teaching of Scripture. Their approach to the Word of God is superficial and that’s why in Hebrews 2:1 it says, “For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” It is a very dangerous thing to pay only a superficial amount of attention to the profound realities of divine truth. And there are some people who defect from the faith according to the book of Hebrews because it somehow slips their mind, slips their grasp. Actually in Hebrews 3:6 it says, “Christ was faithful as a son over his house whose house we are if we hold fast our assurance.” How could you ever let something so wonderful as the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ slip down your priority list, or slip out of your conscious memory? And, of course, there are people who defect from the faith because of an unbelieving heart, no matter how they might listen, no matter how they might remember, Hebrews 3:12 says, “Take care, brethren, lest there be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart in falling away from the living God.” And really, all of these things sort of go together. It’s sort of a packaged deal, I think.
Also there in the third chapter of Hebrews, we are warned, “Do not harden your heart as when they provoked me as in the day of trial in the wilderness.” This is another thing that caused people to defect from the faith, to rebel from the gospel that they have heard, and it is because they have a hardened heart and perhaps an increasingly hardened heart. Hebrews 4:7, “Today,” David after so long a time, “Just as has been said before said again, ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart.’” Later in that same third chapter of Hebrews, rebellion is added to the list. That’s another problem, people who are just flatly, openly, overtly rebellious, like those Israelites we looked at last time. And there are some people, according to Hebrews 4:2, who do not combine faith with the hearing of the Word. They train themselves and this is really another way to say the same thing, they train themselves to hear the Word without ever really making a commitment to it. Hebrews 4:2 says, “They heard it but it didn’t profit them because it was never mixed with faith in those who heard it. Very dangerous to keep on hearing the Word and not believing it.
And then there are some people, according to Hebrews 4:6, who are just flatly disobedient. And then there are some people, according to chapter 6, who are just lazy. And then there are some, according to Hebrews chapter 10, who are just not interested in coming to the church and therefore they just distance themselves from it and they forsake the assembling of themselves together. There are some who are deliberately flagrantly anti-Christ, we see that in chapter 10 as well. They trample under foot the blood of the Covenant. There are some, we find, in chapter 10 at the end of the chapter, verses 38 and 39, who get close but shrink back, some because of bitterness, some because of sexual immorality, some because of disrespect of leaders and it just goes on and on all the way through this epistle to the Hebrews.
There’s just so much potential for apostasy, that’s what I’m trying to tell you. Is it any wonder that many get on the broad road and few find the narrow way? Is it any wonder that many, many say, “Lord, Lord,” but really don’t know the truth and few really find the door? There are just so many potential ways to apostatize and it’s so normal and so natural to the human heart. I would go so far as to say that it is not a surprise to me that the majority of people exposed to the gospel turn away from it. Is that not obvious? The majority of people exposed to the gospel turn away from it. And it seems to me that clearly there are far more people in the visible church than in the invisible church, many, many more. But some of these people that defect and some of these people that turn away remain in the church as the instruments of Satan to teach their demon doctrines and to build the visible church with its corrupt theology. (Apostates, Be Warned, Part 2)
Dr. John MacArthur