The Legacy of George Whitefield

“Whitefield wrote no book for the million, of world-wide fame, like Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. He headed no crusade against an apostate Church, with a nation at his back, and princes on his side, like Martin Luther. He founded no religious denomination, which pinned its faith on his writings and carefully embalmed his best acts and words, like John Wesley. There are Lutherans and Wesleyans in the present day, but there are no Whitefieldites. No! The great evangelist of the 18th century was a simple, guileless man, who lived for one thing only, and that was to preach Christ. If he did that, he cared for northing else.”

–Bishop J.C. Ryle, 1868

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A Three-Hundred Year Old Response to Pastors who Neglect Church Discipline

Take note that this key has been entrusted to you by the Lord Jesus. You are, as it were, the porters of a city. Such porters are most unfaithful who permit the entrance of an approaching enemy coming to destroy the city. You would likewise be unfaithful porters if you permit those enemies to enter and to remain within, and thus destroy the congregation which puts her trust in your faithfulness.

You are the cause that the church is becoming degenerate to the core. You are responsible for all the consequences of this. As a result, God’s Name is dishonored, many people are kept from joining the church who otherwise would do so, souls are destroyed who by the use of the keys of God’s kingdom would repent, and the flouring of godliness is obstructed. You will be the cause that one member imitates the other in the commission of evil, and that the godly are oppressed and secretly must sigh over the wretched condition of the church.

Know that the Lord will bring you into judgment for all these things, and that there you will have to give an account of the manner in which you have ruled the church entrusted to you and concerning the souls over whom the Lord appointed you as an overseer. The Lord will demand blood of all those souls who will perish due to the neglect of the use of this key. Oh, what a weighty responsibility this is, and how dreadful will God’s judgment be upon all unfaithful elders! Oh, that many would never have been elders!

–Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, vol. 2, (p. 185).

From The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love (pp. 322-323).

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A Gospel that is All About Me

In this new gospel, the great “evils” to be redressed do not call for any fundamental change of direction in the human heart. Instead, the problem lies in my sense of rejection from others; in my corrosive experience of life’s vanity; in my nervous sense of self-condemnation and difference; in the imminent threat of boredom if my music is turned off; in my fussy complaints when a long, hard road lies ahead. These are today’s significant felt needs that the gospel is bent to serve. Jesus and the church exist to make you feel loved, significant, validated, entertained, and charged up. This gospel ameliorates distressing symptoms. It makes you feel better. The logic of this therapeutic gospel is a jesus-for-Me who meets individual desires and assuages psychic aches.

–David Powlison, “Therapeutic Gospel,” in Journal of Biblical Counseling 25 (Summer 2007): 3.

Why Submit to a Local Church?

Submitting to a local church:

  1. Identifies us with Christ.
  2. Distinguishes us from the world.
  3. Guides us into the righteousness of Christ by presenting a standard of personal and corporate righteousness.
  4. Acts as a witness to non-Christians.
  5. Glorifies God and enables us to enjoy his glory.
  6. Identifies us with Christ’s people.
  7. Assists us in living the Christian life through the accountability of brothers and sisters in the faith.
  8. Makes us responsible for specific believers.
  9. Protects us from the world, the flesh, and the Devil.

–Jonathan Leeman, The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love (p. 267).

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Worse Than Division in the Church?

“False doctrine and heresy are even worse than schism. If people separate themselves from teaching which is positively false and unscriptural, they ought to be praised rather than reproved. In such cases separation is a virtue and not a sin… there is one thing which is even worse than controversy, and that is false doctrine, allowed, and permitted without protest or molestation.”

–Bishop J.C. Ryle

From Evangelicalism Divided by Iain Murray

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Faith Without Works is Hot Air

A man who claims to be righteous in Christ yet makes no effort to pursue a life of righteousness is, at best, self-deceived. Likewise, a woman who claims to love all Christians everywhere but does not love her Christian sister is likewise self-deceived. Both are hypocrites. They are nominal Christians––Christians in name only––because their profession does not translate into action or reality. They claim a positional status before the throne of God, but nothing in their lives commends the reality of that status, as if God were a fool who could be mocked (Gal. 6:7). Their faith is without works, which, James tells us, is a dead faith. It’s meaningless. It’s hot air, even if they think that they really, really mean it. The kingdom of Christ is about reality––a new reality, not the illusory old one.

So too with one who claims to belong to the church without belonging to a church. I fear that he looks very much like a nominal Christian and a hypocrite.

–Jonathan Leeman, The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love (p. 214).

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Will your Spirituality Survive?

In our pragmatic, materialistic society, where each of us seeks comfort and “fulfillment” and respect, it is hard to follow a despised, crucified Messiah— unless we fix our eyes on the end. If we do not aim for the new heaven and the new earth, many of our values and decisions in this world will be myopic, unworthy, tarnished, fundamentally wrongheaded. To put the matter bluntly: Can biblical spirituality long survive where Christians are not oriented to the world to come?

–D.A. Carson, Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation (p. 31).

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Book Review: What is a Healthy Church Member?

 

What is a Healthy Church Member?

by Thabiti Anyabwile

There are many books out there talking about the importance of Christians living “in community,” but what does that actually look like? Thabiti Anyabwile unpacks the vital office of church member with biblical insight and practical advice.

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In the introduction, Thabiti starts with the question he is trying to answer; “What exactly am I supposed to be doing as a member of this local church?” Thabiti’s goal in writing the book is, “that you might discover or rediscover what it means to be a healthy member of a local church, and what it means to contribute to the overall health of the church.” This goal may sound foreign to Christians that are focused on what the church can do for them. Instead, Thabiti exhorts the church member to consider what the Bible commands them to do for one another. Thabiti divides the book into ten marks of a healthy church member. I’ve listed them below with helpful advice from each chapter.

1. A healthy church member is an expositional listener

  • Meditate on the sermon passage during your quiet time
  • Talk and pray with friends about the sermon after church

2. A healthy church member is a biblical theologian

  • Know and agree to support your church’s statement of faith
  • Seek doctrinal unity and avoid needless disputes

3. A healthy church member is gospel saturated

  • Know the gospel (Sadly this is often overlooked)
  • Share the gospel
  • Guard the gospel (The responsibility to guard the gospel does not ultimately fall on pastors alone, but on the congregation)

4. A healthy church member is genuinely converted

  • Some helpful questions to ask:
    • Do we walk in the light or the darkness?
    • Do we love God the Father?
    • Do we love other Christians?
    • Do we have the testimony of the Spirit that we are children of God?
    • Are we persevering in the Faith?

5. A healthy church member is a biblical evangelist (Much of this chapter is taken from Mark Dever and Michael P. Andrus)

  • Tell people with honesty that if they repent and believe they will be saved–but it will be costly
  • Remember to pray
  • Realize that the local church as a whole is a central part of evangelism… it should give credibility to the gospel we proclaim

6. A healthy church member is a committed member

  • Regularly attend gatherings
  • Seek peace
  • Edify others
  • Pursue reconciliation
  • Bear with others

7. A healthy church member seeks discipline

  • Humbly accept correction from others
  • Take seriously your responsibility to discipline others in love

8. A healthy church member is a growing disciple

9. A healthy church member is a humble follower

  • Obey and submit to leaders
  • Follow the leaders’ example
  • Pray for leaders

10. A healthy church member is a prayer warrior

  • Pray for laborers and shepherds
  • Pray for all the saints (Pray through your membership directory!)
  • Pray for those in authority

What is a Healthy Church Member? does not offer anything new or profound. What you will find are basic responsibilities for those who are members of local churches. It seems Thabiti is responding to years of books on an individualistic approach to the Christian life. So many Christians are concerned with their own growth, their own holiness, their own evangelismThabiti book offers a helpful turn from individual to family.

By God’s grace, I have seen a lot of what Thabiti talked about in my own church. I commend this short book to you for the benefit of your Christian life and the life of your church. Maybe even consider getting two copies to read one with a fellow church member.