Monday, May 26, 2008
Friday, May 16, 2008
Albert Benjamin Simpson (1843-1919) the founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance was a leader of the church during the early days of the Pentecostal movement. As a result many of the big debates in the church were around the topics of holiness, sanctification, and the charismatic gifts of the Spirit like speaking in tongues or healing. In the middle of those debates he spoke very clearly. The Christian journey is not about seeking after new experiences, it is about seeking Christ "Himself". Simpson wrote both a sermon and a hymn on the topic. Both are reproduced in their entirety below.
I wish to speak to you about Jesus, and Jesus only.
I often hear people say, "I wish I could get hold of Divine Healing, but I cannot."
Sometimes they say, "I have got it."
If I ask them, "What have you got?" the answer is sometimes, "I have got the blessing", sometimes it is, "I have got the theory"; sometimes it is, "I have got the healing"; sometimes, "I have got the sanctification."
But I thank God we have been taught that it is not the blessing, it is not the healing, it is not the sanctification, it is not the thing, it is not the it that you want, but it is something better. It is "the Christ"; it is Himself.
How often that comes out in His Word - "Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses", Himself "bare our sins in his own body on the tree"! It is the person of Jesus Christ we want.
Plenty of people get the idea and do not get anything out of it. They get it into their head, and it into their conscience, and it into their will; but somehow they do not get Him into their life and spirit, because they have only that which is the outward expression and symbol of the spiritual reality.
I once saw a picture of the Constitution of the United States, very skillfully engraved in copper plate, so that when you looked at it closely it was nothing more than a piece of writing, but when you looked at it at a distance, it was the face of George Washington. The face shone out in the shading of the letters at a little distance, and I saw the person, not the words, nor the ideas; and I thought, "'That is the way to look at the Scriptures and understand the thoughts of God, to see in them the face of love, shining through and through; not ideas, nor doctrines, but Jesus Himself as the Life and Source and sustaining Presence of all our life."
I prayed a long time to get sanctified, and sometimes I thought I had it.
On one occasion I felt something, and I held on with a desperate grip for fear I should lose it, and kept awake the whole night fearing it would go, and, of course, it went with the next sensation and the next mood. Of course, I lost it because I did not hold on to Him. I had been taking a little water from the reservoir, when I might have all the time received from Him fullness through the open channels.
I went to meetings and heard people speak of joy. I even thought I had the joy, but I did not keep it because I had not Himself as my joy.
At last He said to me - Oh so tenderly - "My child, just take Me, and let Me be in you the constant supply of all this, Myself."
And when at last I got my eyes off my sanctification, and my experience of it, and just placed them on the Christ in me, I found, instead of an experience, the Christ larger than the moment's need, the Christ that had all that I should ever need who was given to me at once, and for ever! And when I thus saw Him, it was such rest; it was all right, and right for ever. For I had not only what I could hold that little hour, but also in Him, all that I should need the next and the next and so on, until sometimes I get a glimpse of what it will be a million years afterwards, when we shall "shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of our Father" (Matt. 13: 43), and have "all the fullness of God."
And so I thought the healing would be an it too, that the Lord would take me like the old run-down clock, wind me up, and set me going like a machine.
It is not thus at all. I found it was Himself coming in instead and giving me what I needed at the moment. I wanted to have a great stock, so that I could feel rich; a great store laid up for many years, so that I would not be dependent upon Him the next day; but He never gave me such a store. I never had more holiness or healing at one time than I needed for that hour. He said: "My child, you must come to Me for the next breath because I love you so dearly I want you to come all the time. If I gave you a great supply, you would do without Me and would not come to Me so often; now you have to come to Me every second, and lie on My breast every moment."
He gave me a great fortune, placed thousands and millions at credit, but He gave a cheque-book with this one condition, "You never can draw more than you need at the time." Every time a cheque was wanted, however, there was the name of Jesus upon it, and so it brought more glory to Him, kept His name before the heavenly world and God was glorified in His Son.
I had to learn to take from Him my spiritual life every second, to breathe Himself in as I breathed, and breathe myself out. So, moment by moment for the spirit, and moment by moment for the body, we must receive.
You say, "Is not that a terrible bondage, to be always on the strain ?" What, on the strain with one you love, your dearest Friend ? Oh, no! It comes so naturally, so spontaneously, so like a fountain, without consciousness, without effort, for true life is always easy, and overflowing.
And now, thank God, I have Him, not only what I have room for, but that which I have not room for, but for which I shall have room, moment by moment, as I go on into the eternity before me. I am like the little bottle in the sea, as full as it will hold. The bottle is in the sea, and the sea is in the bottle; so I am in Christ, and Christ is in me. But, besides that bottleful in the sea, there is a whole ocean beyond; the difference is, that the bottle has to be filled over again, every day, evermore.
Now the question for each of us is not "What think you of Bethshan, and what think you of divine healing?" but "What think you of Christ?"
There came a time when there was a little thing between me and Christ. I express it by a little conversation with a friend who said, "You were healed by faith." "Oh, no," I said, "I was healed by Christ."
What is the difference? There is a great difference. There came a time when even faith seemed to come between me and Jesus. I thought I should have to work up the faith, so I labored to get the faith. At last I thought I had it; that if I put my whole weight upon it, it would hold. I said, when I thought I had got the faith, "Heal me." I was trusting in myself, in my own heart, in my own faith. I was asking the Lord to do something for me because of something in me, not because of something in Him.
So the Lord allowed the devil to try my faith, and the devil devoured it like a roaring lion, and I found myself so broken down that I did not think I had any faith. God allowed it to be taken away until I felt I had none. And then God seemed to speak to me so sweetly, saying, "Never mind, my child, you have nothing. But I am perfect Power, I am perfect Love, I am Faith, I am your Life, I am the preparation for the blessing, and then I am the Blessing, too. I am all within and all without, and all for ever."
It is just having "Faith in God" (Mark 11: 22). "And the life I now live in the flesh, I live," not by faith on the Son of God, but "by the faith of the Son of God" (Gal. 2 20). That is it. It is not your faith. You have no faith in you, any more than you have life or anything else in you. You have nothing but emptiness and vacuity, and you must be just openness and readiness to take Him to do all. You have to take His faith as well as His life and healing, and have simply to say, "I live by the faith of the Son of God." My faith is not worth anything. If I had to pray for anyone, I would not depend upon my faith at all. I would say, "Here, Lord, am I. If you want me to be the channel of blessing to this one just breathe into me all that I need." It is simply Christ, Christ alone.
Now, is your body yielded to Christ for Him thus to dwell and work in you? The Lord Jesus Christ has a body as well as you only it is perfect; it is the body, not of a man, but of the Son of man. Have you considered why He is called the Son of man? The Son of man means that Jesus Christ is the one typical, comprehensive, universal, all-inclusive Man. Jesus is the one man that contains in Himself all that man ought to be all that man needs to have. It is all in Christ. All the fullness of the Godhead and the fullness of a perfect manhood has been embodied in Christ, and He stands now as the summing-up of all that man needs. His spirit is all that your spirit needs, and He just gives us Himself. His body possesses all that your body needs. He has a heart beating with the strength that your heart needs. He has organs and functions redundant with life, not for Himself, but for humanity. He does not need strength for Himself. The energy which enabled Him to rise and ascend from the tomb, above all the forces of nature, was not for Himself. That marvellous body belongs to your body. You are a member of His body. Your heart has a right to draw from His heart all that it needs. Your physical life has a right to draw from His physical life its support and strength, and so it is not you, but it is just the precious life of the Son of God. Will you take Him thus today, and then you will not be merely healed, but you will have a new life for all you need, a flood of life that will sweep disease away, and then remain a fountain of life for all your future need. Oh, take Him in His fullness.
It seems to me as if I might just bring you a little talisman today, as if God had given me a little secret for every one here and said to me, "Go and tell them, if they will take it, it will be a talisman of power wherever they go, and it will carry them through difficulty, danger, fear, life, death, eternity." If I could stand on this platform and say, "I have received from heaven a secret of wealth and success which God will give freely, through my hand, to everybody who will take it," I am sure you would need a larger hall for the people who would come. But, dear friends, I show you in His Word a truth which is more precious. The Apostle Paul tells us that there is a secret, a great secret which was hidden from ages and from generations (Col. 1: 26), which the world was seeking after in vain, which wise men from the East hoped they might find, and God says it "is now made manifest to his saints"; and Paul went through the world just to tell it to those that were able to receive it; and that simple secret is just this "Christ in you the hope of glory."
The word "mystery" means secret; this is the great secret. And I tell you today, nay, I can give you, if you will take it from Him, not from me-I can give you a secret which has been to me, oh, so wonderful! Years ago I came to Him burdened with guilt and fear; I tried that simple secret, and it took away all my fear and sin. Years passed on, and I found sin overcoming me and my temptations too strong for me. I came to Him a second time, and He whispered to me, "Christ in you," and I had victory, rest and blessing.
Then the body broke away in every sort of way. I had always worked hard, and from the age of fourteen I studied and labored and spared no strength. I took charge of a large congregation at the age of twenty-one; I broke down utterly half a dozen times and at my last constitution was worn out. Many times I feared I should drop dead in my pulpit. I could not ascend any height without a sense of suffocation, because of a broken-down heart and exhausted nervous system. I heard of the Lord's healing, but I struggled against it. I was afraid of it. I had been taught in theological seminaries that the age of the supernatural was past, and I could not go back from my early training. My head was in my way, but at last when I was brought to attend "the funeral of my dogmatics," as Mr. Schrenck says, "the Lord whispered to me the little secret, 'Christ in you'; and from that hour I received Him for my body as I had done for my soul. I was made so strong and well that work has been a perfect delight. For years I have spent my summer holiday in the hot city of New York, preaching and working amongst the masses, as I never did before; besides the work of our Home and College and an immense mass of library work and much besides. But the Lord did not merely remove my sufferings. It was more than simple healing. He so gave me Himself that I lost the painful consciousness of physical organs. That is the best of the health He gives. I thank the Lord that He keeps me from all morbid, physical consciousness and a body that is the object of anxious care, and gives a simple life that is a delight and a service for the Master, that is a rest and joy.
Then, again, I had a poor sort of a mind, heavy and cumbrous, that did not think or work quickly. I wanted to write and speak for Christ and to have a ready memory, so as to have the little knowledge I had gained always under command. I went to Christ about it, and asked if He had anything for me in this way. He replied, "Yes, my child, I am made unto you Wisdom." I was always making mistakes, which I regretted, and then thinking I would not make them again; but when He said that He would be my wisdom, that we may have the mind of Christ, that He could cast down imaginations and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ, that He could make the brain and head right, then I took Him for all that. And since then I have been kept free from this mental disability, and work has been rest. I used to write two sermons a week, and it took me three days to complete one. But now, in connection with my literary work, I have numberless pages of matter to write constantly besides the conduct of very many meetings a week, and all is delightfully easy to me. The Lord has helped me mentally, and I know He is the Saviour of our mind as well as our spirit.
Well, then, I had an irresolute will. I asked, ' Cannot you be a will to me?" He said, "Yes, my child, it is God who worketh in you to will and to do." Then He made me to learn how and when to be firm, and how and when to yield. Many people have a decided will, but they do not know how to hold on just at the proper moment. So, too, I came to Him for power for His work and all the resources for His service, and He has not failed me.
And so I would say, if this precious little secret of "Christ in you," will help you, you may have it. May you make better use of it than I! I feel I have only begun to learn how well it works. Take it and go on working it out, through time and eternity-Christ for all, grace for grace, from strength to strength, from glory to glory, from this time forth and even for evermore.
by A. B. Simpson
Once it was the blessing, Now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling, Now it is His Word.
Once His gifts I wanted, Now the Giver own;
Once I sought for healing, Now Himself alone.
Once 'twas painful trying, Now 'tis perfect trust;
Once a half salvation, Now the uttermost.
Once 'twas ceaseless holding, Now He holds me fast;
Once 'twas constant drifting, Now my anchor's cast.
Once 'twas busy planning, Now 'tis trustful prayer;
Once 'twas anxious caring, Now He has the care.
Once 'twas what I wanted, Now what Jesus says;
Once 'twas constant asking, Now 'tis ceaseless praise.
Once it was my working, His it hence shall be;
Once I tried to use Him, Now He uses me.
Once the power I wanted, Now the Mighty One;
Once for self I labored, Now for Him alone.
Once I hoped in Jesus, Now I know He's mine;
Once my lamps were dying, Now they brightly shine.
Once for death I waited, Now His coming hail;
And my hopes are anchored, Safe within the veil.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Although the Baptist cry is "sola scriptura" (the bible only), the fact remains that many Baptists are interested in the Church Fathers because they have an interest in what the church looked like in the early days.
Historically, because of persecution, there has been a distrust of the state sponsored church, so when a Baptist looks at the early church, the role of the emperor Constantine appears to be a dividing line for what they will accept as uncorrupted theology.
So for a Baptist, scripture plus the first 300 years of the church largely defines what we have in common with other types of churches. What the church believed is summarized by the Apostles creed and the Nicene creed (both the 325 and 381 versions), all of which I have heard recited in Baptist, or baptistic churches.
I should note that at the Council of Ephesus (431) it was determined that "it is unlawful for any man to bring forward, or to write, or to compose a different (ἑτέραν) Faith as a rival to that established by the holy Fathers assembled with the Holy Ghost in Nicæa." It is important to note that this third council affirmed the creed established in the first two councils as being the core of what Christians believed.
So how then would I define heresy? Heresy is that which runs contrary to these early creedal beliefs. Sure we may disagree about many things, and have different interpretations of many things, but we have together a basic set of core beliefs that we hold together.
So things that I would hold to be heresy would be things like:
- Denying the deity of Christ
- Denying the incarnation
- Denying God as creator
- Denying the resurrection
For reference, here are the early creeds.
The apostles creed:
1. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
2. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
3. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
4. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
5. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again.
6. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
7. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
8. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
9. the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
10. the forgiveness of sins,
11. the resurrection of the body,
12. and the life everlasting.
Here is the Nicene creed of 325:
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;
by whom all things were made [both in heaven and on earth];
who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man;
he suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
And in the Holy Ghost.
Here is the revised Nicene creed of 381:
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;
by whom all things were made;
who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man;
he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father;
from thence he shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead;
whose kingdom shall have no end.
And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.
In one holy catholic and apostolic Church
we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins;
we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.
Monday, May 12, 2008
All Christians are united with Christ by the sovereign, gracious work of God himself. All the benefits of salvation come to us because of union with Christ. So how does union with Christ relate to your understanding of the sacrament of
the Lord’s Supper?
Growing up that I had been taught that one of the differences between Roman Catholics and Protestants was whether Christ was physically present in the bread and the wine, or whether he was just spiritually present. I also knew that there were a variety of opinions on the topic. As I discovered in reading the comments to Michael Spencer's post, these opinions were quite varied, and held quite fervently. So fervently in fact that I found two things happening.
- People were less than charitable in describing each others positions.
- A number of people would not take communion with you unless you shared their opinion.
In response to the comments I was reading, (and I would encourage you to read the thread), I made the following comment:
I realize that this is an important topic to many by the impassioned comments on this blog, but the comments are really over the top. I am tired of people who proclaim that my (take your pick) denomination/mode of baptism/communion/union with Christ/experience of the holy spirit/version of the bible/understanding of the scriptures/understanding of truth - is better than yours.
If you want to know why young people today are being turned off of organized religion, denominationalism and the church, then just reread some of the comments posted above. As for me, I cherish my union with Christ, which has been deepened through many different experiences. My table and fellowship is open to all those who have also expressed a union with Christ, no matter what their background.
I know that there is such divergent Christian thought about so many topics that I can’t possibly get it all right. But I can try to earnestly follow Christ with all my “heart, soul, mind, and strength.”
When we get to Heaven someone may point at me and say to Christ, “He believed incorrectly about topic X”. Christ will say something like, “I died for him, and he has chosen to follow me as best as he knows how. He belongs to me. Why did you exclude him from my table/my church’s membership? He is welcome at my table and in my church.”
Bror Erickson responded:
Quite frankly I haven’t heard anyone here say you or anyone else won’t be in heaven, where all sins will be forgiven even sins of the mind.But that doesn’t mean false doctrine should be tolerated, or doctrinal divisions should be glossed over here in the church militant. God has given us his word. If we love him with all our heart and with all our mind we will take that quite seriously. And those that are teaching things contrary to the word of God should be told as much, warned, marked, rebuked and avoided, it really is the only charitable thing to do. It is infact what the New Testament tells us to do in many places. It may not be nice by worldly standards, it may not be politically correct, it may even come off as unloving. But we don’t get to choose what parts of the Bible to believe, and what parts to ignore.If I was to take what you said to heart, I would have no choice but set aside my ordination, forsake all my Lutheran distinctives, and swim either the Tiber or the Bosphurous. If doctrine doesn’t matter, than none of us had any reason to break with Rome, or Constantinople for that matter. Nor do we have any reason to split from a creedal Church chanting the mantra “only the Bible.”I’d much rather be open about our differences and discuss them candidly. No one is served by anything less.
Feeling as if I was being understood, I made the following comment back to Bror:
I think you have misunderstood my post on a number of fronts.
I agree with you that false doctrine should not be tolerated and doctrinal division should not be glossed over. I agree that “those that are teaching things contrary to the word of God should be told as much, warned, marked, rebuked and avoided…”
My point is that I am a member of Christ’s church. I believe, like the creeds, in the “holy catholic (universal) church.”
When we disagree on secondary doctrinal matters, I say, let us agree to disagree, but as long as we both hold to a classic Christian faith as expressed in the creeds, you are welcome at my church and at my communion table. Because it is not my church, and not my Communion table, but Christ’s, and if he has accepted you into his family, then I call you brother and accept you into mine.
It saddens me that I would not be welcomed into your church and allowed to participate in your communion in the same way I would welcome you into mine.
You state that you would “rather be open about our differences and discuss them candidly. No one is served by anything less.” I am totally in agreement with that, as long as it is done with a spirit of gentleness and generosity. I have felt like that gentleness and generosity has been sadly lacking in many of the posts above.
Thats just it. I think if you agreed with me, then you wouldn’t see Lord’s Supper as a secondary issue. It’s not, not for Lutherans. It is the “New Testament” Christ’s Last will and Testament, in his blood. How serious does it have to be before it is not a secondary doctrine? Your messing with God’s Testament here. For us Lutherans it is quite simply the gospel itself we are consuming. As I have said before it is at the heart of everything we believe, teach and confess. What you confess about the Lord’s Supper colors everything you confess about Christ and who he is.
And for this reason I would not want to join you in what I can only see as a profanation of the Lord’s Supper. And for that reason I would ask that you wait until you are thoroughly instructed as to what us Lutheran’s believe teach and confess, before you make a common confession of faith with us at the Lord’s Table, so that you understand what it is you are receiving and why.It may be a secondary issue for you. But understand for us it isn’t, we ask that you respect that.
So that was the start of our discussion. What do you think? I will be adding some further thoughts a little later.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
The Criswell Theological Journal (Volume 5, Issue 2) has devoted their latest issue to that of Christians and Alcohol. Three of the articles are available online. Together they are an amazing resource for what the bible says about alcohol.
Ken Gentry argues for the moderation approach, while Richard Land and Barrett Duke along with Norman Geisler argure for abstaining.
I think that both sides have some good points. It seems to be more of a North American debate, with a strong cultural element. My own German Baptist church is made up of members who would definitely be on the moderation side of the argument.
From my own experience, and the experience of others that I have witnessed, I have seen the value of setting guidelines for our children. One of these guidelines is the principal of moderation. God has made many good things for us, but these things whether food or alcohol, if abused can lead to many poor outcomes. If I only say to my child, "Don't drink alcohol", and my child disagrees, have I taught them any good lessons about how to handle it safely?
I encourage you to read the articles and formulate your own opinions on the topics.