Saturday, January 30, 2010

“Into” the Mystery

On Musical Mediatrixes

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us . . . seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus . . ."
(Ephesians 2:4-6)

The Matrix: Though defying rational explanation, it is what it is. Foremost, music is spiritual. In whatever venue, whether a rock concert, a national anthem before a sporting event, a funeral, a military parade, or a church worship service, etc.—music delivers powerful experiences to its hearers. Music’s subliminal message can prove mind-altering. One newspaper columnist accounts for its popularity for reason that, “Music is a vehicle that propels [the disc jockey]—and me and so many others—toward the place we might call enlightenment, or God, or the higher consciousness, or Grace."[1]

But not only is music spiritual, it is also mystical. Like hand in glove, the spiritual and the mystical work together with an interconnectedness that defies rational explanation because however else it might be understood, music is an experience. “Feel the music,” ran an advertisement for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra a few years ago. It may be deduced that the “language” of music is universal because it is neither conceptual nor verbal, but rather experiential and mystical. It’s a language without language. People from different nations and tongues can experience it. Subject to the individual impulses, tastes, and delights of composers and consumers, there is much about music that is ethereal.

The Mysticism: In his book The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James (1842-1910), a theosophical philosopher-psychologist who lived a century ago, pointed out that in their attempt to express the inexpressible, mystics often employ self-contradictory phrases—“shoreless lake,” “mute language,” “whispering silence,” and “dazzling obscurity”—to explain their esoteric spiritual experiences. But unlike conceptual speech, James wrote that music is exempt from contradictory descriptions. This, he stated, demonstrates music to be “the element through which we are best spoken to by mystic truth.” James then adds, “Many mystical scriptures are indeed little more than musical compositions.”[2] As a bumper sticker phrased it, “When words fail, music speaks.”

In his book Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy, Robert Jourdain wrote of the ecstasy music provides. He states:

Ecstasy melts the boundaries of our being . . . engulfs us in feelings that are “oceanic.” A defining trait of ecstasy is its immediacy . . . Ecstasy happens to our selves. It is a momentary transformation of the knower . . . Music seems to be the most immediate of all the arts, and so the most ecstatic . . . Nonetheless, once we are engulfed in music, we must exert effort to resist its influence. It really is as if some “other” has entered not just our bodies, but our intentions, taking us over.[3]

Though incapable of rational description, ecstatic experiences provided by music have a way of possessing us. Perhaps this describes why music, even with its various styles and lyrics, has risen to become a common liturgy amongst evangelicals. While the pan-evangelical movement possesses no common confessional standard—which is why some historians question whether evangelicalism is a definite movement—evangelicals do take their music seriously (Ever hear of the “worship wars”?), music that can be designated as traditional, contemporary Christian, or praise and worship.[4] The rise in popularity of certain talented performers and bands within evangelicalism—Christian bookstores are loaded with their CDs—begs this question: Why has music grown to become such a powerful influence over and within the movement?

The Music: Part of the answer lies in the culture. Like a bunch of conformist teenagers kowtowing to “peer pressure,” churches have adapted their musical style to whatever is hip in the culture. Self-centeredly, Christians want what they want (Of course, they refer to wants as “felt needs.”). So as the line between the church and the culture blurs, the church becomes more worldly (See 1 John 2:15-17.). "Pliable church,” to use Bunyan’s description, adapts and incorporates. The culture creates the musical appetite, and as they hop on the musical bandwagon, church leadership attempts to feed it.

There may be however, another, perhaps more subtle reason which helps explain music’s influence over the church. Innately, music possesses the ability to stimulate spiritual experience, to lift people out of themselves and allow their soul to journey to a realm where they encounter life in a transcendent dimension (As an aside, to a dimension where they might feel vibrant and young again). Allow it to be stated that there’s nothing wrong with this as long as my experience (What I want) is not equated to be worship. Christians are to allow "the word of Christ richly dwell within" them, and "with all wisdom," teach and admonish "one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness" in their hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).

In a chapter titled “Worship in Rhythm and Tune,” in his book Deconstructing Evangelicalism, and after noting how the rock ’n’ roll medium grew to be the dominant musical expression amongst the youth culture of the 1960s and 70s, historian D.G. Hart relates that, "Part of its [soft rock's] new status [in the church] stemmed directly from the music’s ability to generate feelings and emotions that worshippers and their pastors often associated with the movement or work of the Holy Spirit."[5] Then adds Hart, "Indeed, one of the primary engines driving the charismatic movement of the second half of the twentieth century was music."[6]

Like a secular rock concert, contemporary churches employ music as a means by which to generate spiritual, and/or "mystical," experience. In sync with a steady drumming beat supplied by the praise band, worshippers—with eyes closed and faces alternately contorting in grimaces of ecstasy and agony—collectively lift their palms toward heaven, mouth the repetitive lyrics, and sway from side to side. From outward appearances, this phenomenon—looking like any other rock concert—indicates the role of music in causing experiences of cathartic emotional release to happen, moments that can masquerade as spiritual encounters with God. To engender such experiences, facilitators may prove helpful.

The Mediatrixes: In this musical wonderland, a new caste of high priests and priestesses has arisen, an order of musicians claiming to be able usher worshippers into the mystery of the divine presence through their music. In most contemporary churches, singers, worship leaders, and worship teams stake a claim to be able to mediate access to God. Kevin Reeves states that attendees at the church where he once led worship were classified as “inner court, outer court, or holy of holies Christians,” and that it was his and the worship team’s responsibility via the subtlety of the musical medium to move the whole audience into a deeper experience with God, from the outer court into the holy of holies.[7] As Reeves notes:

Leading worship has come to be one of the factors in establishing appropriate congregational mood, with the stated intent that the Holy Spirit may not be hindered in His ministry.[8]

Human agency therefore, assumes responsibility for contriving a worship aura in which the Holy Spirit can minister, and lead worshippers "into dizzying realms of ‘intimacy with God’."[9] Reeves, himself a former worship leader, notes that, according to their ability to manipulate and control the emotional atmosphere of an audience, some worship leaders have, “attained charismatic stardom by voice and vivacity.”[10] Let’s look at the claim of a couple of those starlets.

A promo of one worship leader’s CD advertises her as, “Fresh, energetic and anointed . . .” The CD jacket goes on to state that she is “an accomplished singer/songwriter, keyboardist and speaker.” The promo concludes by stating that the recording, her second musical project, “takes you through the door of worship, right into the heart and presence of God.”[11] Note those last words: her music project “takes you through the door of worship, right into the heart and presence of God.”

Yet another singer informs that her recording is more than a CD; that “it is an experience of the Lord, saturated with His presence, His glory, and His heart.” The promo goes on to say, “Her passion is the Kingdom coming on the earth, and her heart is to facilitate the corporate bride into the deep mysteries of God, opening atmospheres and Glory encounters, releasing destinies, and healings.”[12] Of her CD the website further promises:

The Door Is Open is a journey through the open door of Revelation 4:1, into the high and the deep; a cross-genre prophetic soaking and worship experience flowing through psalmist and worship leader Kathryn Marquis. With a voice like golden honey, and lyrics that resonate within the soul and spirit-man, the listener is transported to both the depths of the human condition and unseen realms of mystery and grace.[13]

That’s a pretty “high” guarantee isn’t it—that she will escort listeners into the “unseen realms of mystery and grace”? But according to their promos, that’s exactly what these female singers can do for you! So assuming that Scripture is the authority over our experiences, what might we believe about these mediatrixes of music who like Mother Mary of Roman Catholicism, can transport us “through the door of worship, right into the heart and presence of God,” or who can escort us “through the open door of Revelation 4:1, into the high and the deep; a cross-genre prophetic soaking and worship experience”? According to Scripture, can we believe the promos of promise for these songstresses?

Our Mediator: The New Testament knows nothing of musicians who possess either the position and authority to escort Christians into God’s “soaking” presence. No matter how talented, singers and worship leaders who make claim to being mediators between God in heaven and Christians on earth can do so only by usurping the role of Christ for us and the ministry of the Holy Spirit in us.

According to Holy Scripture, Christians already have a Mediator positioned in heaven, the abode of God. Christ Jesus is His name. “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus . . .” (Emphasis Mine, 2 Timothy 2:5). There is heaven, Jesus is our Intercessor. Hebrews states that, “He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Emphasis Mine, Hebrews 7:25).

According to Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit also makes intercession in heaven for us. Paul explained:

And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Emphasis Mine, Romans 8:26-27)

The Mystery: The new musical mediators claim to possess the ability to introduce Christian listeners to “the divine mystery.” Interesting . . . very interesting—the Apostle Paul wrote that he and other of the apostles were “stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1). Furthermore, in difference to the mystery religions that shrouded their beliefs in secret, the New Testament declares that any so-called mystery is no longer concealed, but revealed (Romans 16:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:51; Ephesians 3:3-4, 9; 6:19; Colossians 1:25-27; 2:2-3; 1 Timothy 3:16; Revelation 1:20). As W.E. Vine states regarding biblical mysteries:

In the N.T. it denotes, not the mysterious (as with the Eng. word), but that which, being outside the range of unassisted natural apprehension, can be made known only by Divine revelation, and is made known in a manner and at a time appointed by God, and to those only who are illumined by His Spirit.[14]

We ask then, in light of all God has revealed to us in Christ and the Scriptures, what further need is there for anyone else to lead on a wild goose chase to explore the mystery of divinity? Will we accept by faith that in Jesus Christ (“in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” Colossians 2:3) and through His apostles God has already revealed to us all we need to know, or are we craving something more?

This phantastic claim is incredible in light of Paul’s statement to Timothy, when he wrote:

And by common confession great is the mystery of godliness:
He who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,
Beheld by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory.
(1 Timothy 2:16, NASB)

Conclusion: There is a great difference between singing "unto" or "before" the Lord (Psalms 95:1-2; 98:6) and attempting to sing "into" the Lord. The Bible knows much about the former, and nothing of the latter. Performers who make a claim to be able to take listeners into the “soaking” presence of God, seem to be mindless of the truth that in Christ believers are already there, “seated . . . with Him in the heavenly places (i.e., realms, NIV)” (Ephesians 2:6). Mediatrixes who claim to be able to usher listeners into the “soaking” presence of God through their singing do absent any endorsement of such a function in the New Testament, and this they also do without having to meet any of the spiritual or moral qualifications for leading worship (See 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9.).

In reality, these intermediaries attempt to manipulate their audience’s mood through their music thereby inducing members to “feel” as if they are in God’s presence. In contrast, we can note the “feeling” of one prophet who entered God’s presence. When he saw the Lord, his immediate consciousness of sin caused him to declare of himself and the people around him, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5, KJV). I wonder how the musical CDs might sell if they brought their listeners under deep conviction of sin when listeners experienced God’s soaking presence, when agony replaced ecstasy . . . (See 1 Timothy 6:5.). It wouldn’t be a very good marketing technique, would it?

Amidst all the musical huckstering going on in these the last days, I can only note that by faith believers in Christ already reside in God’s presence. Think about it . . . while we’re here we’re as good as there! Why then do we need mediatrixes? We do not need singers to enter into God’s presence. Christ Jesus Himself is "God’s mystery . . . in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," the One who "was made flesh, and dwelt among us . . . full of grace and truth" (Colossians 2:2-4; John 1:14). Through Christ believers already have access to the realm of "mystery and grace"!

[1] Cathleen Falsani, “The Rev. of rock ‘n’ roll” June 25, 2006. Online at 25.html.
[2] William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1902): 420-421.
[3] Robert Jourdain, Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy (New York: Avon Books, 1997): 327-328.
[4] See D. G. Hart, Deconstructing Evangelicalism, Conservative Protestantism in the Age of Billy Graham (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House Co., 2004). In symphony with theologians and historians Wells, Noll, and Sweeney, Hart too questions “whether evangelicalism is a Christian identity sufficient to sustain serious faith.” (p. 10). I might suggest that “worship” driven by music reflecting the style of the culture has become a rallying point for pan-evangelicalism, the "tie that binds" for an otherwise polymorphous movement. While there may be others, family values as wedded to a Christian dominionist agenda appears to be another.
[5] Ibid. 163. This is a similar conclusion to which I came in 2006-07 while writing chapters 5 (Contemporary Music and Evangelicalism, Suffocating the Word) and 6 (Contemplative Mysticism and Evangelicalism, Subverting the Word) in my book Church on the Rise, Why I am not a “Purpose-Driven” Pastor (Indianapolis: Moeller Printing Company, Inc., 2007): 87-150, and in writing my booklet, Drumming Up Deception, Whether in celebration or in contemplation—“feeling” the beat! (Indianapolis: Moeller Printing Company, Inc., 2008). [Ed note: both of these excellent books are available from Discernment Ministries 903-567-6423.]
[6] Ibid.
[7] Kevin Reeves, The Other Side of the River (Silverton, Oregon: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2007): 159.
[8] Ibid. 156.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Mary Alessi. Online at
[12] Emphasis mine. Kathryn Marquis, The Door Is Open, Musical CD, The ElijahList Store, One pastor even states: “Kathryn reminds me of the kind of minstrel who Elijah was calling for when he wanted the hand of the Lord to come upon him. ‘Bring me a minstrel and I will hear from heaven’ (2 Kings 3:15). As you listen to Kathryn’s soothing and profound worship, you will experience ‘the hand of the Lord coming upon you!’” I note that 2 Kings 3:15 does not say what the pastor says it does. No version translates it as he implies. They read: “‘But now bring me a minstrel.’ And it came about, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him (i.e., Elisha).” The hand of the Lord was not God’s presence that came upon the prophet, but God’s power. In every instance where it is stated in the Old Testament that “the hand of the Lord” came upon anyone, whether prophet, priest, king or people, it is with a view toward God’s "empowering," not His “presence-ing.” One has to wonder how any human can, through music, usher us into the presence of the God who is everywhere present anyway (Psalm 139:7-10).
[13] Ibid., Emphasis mine.
[14] W.E. Vine, “MYSTERY,” Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Old Testament Edited by F.F. Bruce , Volume 3 (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1981): 97.

This article is used by permission. The original is posted at Pastor Larry DeBruyn's new website Guarding His Flock. See:

Pastor Larry DeBruyn is the author of the new book exposing the "quantum spirituality" emergent movement, UNSHACKLED: Breaking Away From Seductive Spirituality, available from Discernment Ministries 903-567-6423.

NOTE: This theme of mediatrix was actually introduced to evangelicalism in the mid 1990s.We predict that it will soon become a key component of the emerging evangelicalism. See the following 3-part article, beginning with the second in the series --

[Note: We interrupted the series on "Preparations for Sufferings" to bring you yet another pertinent article written by Pastor Larry DeBruyn.]

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The 6 Habits of Readiness

"How many would have heaven if they might have it upon their own terms! How few are willing to come up to God's terms! How false and deceitful are our hearts! They will persuade us we have done all, when indeed we have done nothing, nor are prepared to do any thing in truth and sincerity. We are not perfect, something is wanting in us till to will to do whatsoever God requireth of us be present with us, though, when it comes to, we may want strength to perform."
--Matthew Poole[1]

"Self may make you the devil's martyrs, but grace only can make you Christ's martyrs."
--John Flavel[2]

Part 9: Preparations for Sufferings

John Flavel* asserts that there is a "twofold preparation or readiness for suffering; the one is habitual, the other actual." He defines "habitual readiness" as the "inclination of a soul to suffer any thing for Christ," an amazing trait which solely "ariseth from the principles of grace infused into the soul." There are six principles that Flavel identifies from Scripture as necessary to maintaining a state of habitual readiness:

  1. No man can suffer for Christ until he be able to deny himself. Matthew 16:24.[3] Self-denial goes in order of nature before sufferings. Beloved, in a suffering hour the interest of Christ and self meet like two men upon a narrow bridge, one must of necessity go back, or the other cannot pass on: If you cannot now deny self you must deny Christ. The yoke and dominion of self must be cast off, or else Christ's yoke and burden cannot be taken on.
  2. "[A] man can never be fit to suffer hard things for Christ until his spirit be enlarged, raised, and ennobled, so that he be able to despise dangers, and look all difficulties in the face. That low and private spirit must be removed, and a public spirit must possess him. If a man be of a feeble and effeminate spirit, every petty danger will daunt and sink him; delicacy and tenderness is as unsuitable to a Christian as to a soldier; 2 Timothy 2:3.[4]
  3. A man can never suffer as a Christian till his will be subjected to the will of God. He that suffers involuntarily, and out of necessity, not out of choice, shall neither have acceptance nor reward from God. Of necessity, the will must be subjected; a man can never say, Thy will be done, till he can first say, Not my will.
  4. A man can never suffer as a Christian until his heart be composed, fixed, and determined to follow the Lord through all hazards and difficulties. As long as a man is hesitating and unresolved what to do, whether to go forward, or return back again to the prosperous world, when a man is at such a pause, and stand in his way, he is very unfit for sufferings. All such divisions do both weaken the soul, and strengthen the temptation; The devil's work is more than half done to his hand in such a soul.... James 1:8.[5]
  5. The necessity of saving grace in all sufferers for Christ,... he who will run all hazards for Christ, had need of a continual supply of strength and refreshment from time to time. He must not depend on any thing that is failable; for what shall he do when that stock is spent, and he hath no provision left to live upon?... But now grace is an everlasting principle, it hath springs in the bottom that will never fail.... John 4:14.[6] The Spirit of God supplies it from time to time as need requires.
  6. [T]here is an absolute necessity of a real change by grace on all that will suffer for Christ; because although we may engage ourselves in sufferings without it, yet we can never manage our sufferings like Christians without it.

The nitty-gritty of dying to self in the Christian's daily walk in this life foretells the possibility of actually suffering for Christ at some time or another. 2 Timothy 3:12 reminds us that "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." John Flavel identifies God's grace as the only way to develop these habits of readiness to suffer. The technical term for this is "sanctification."

[S]anctification is nothing else but the dethroning of exalted self, and the setting up of Christ's interest above it in the soul.... Thenceforth a man looks at himself as none of his own, but passed into another's right, 1 Cor. 6:19[7]; and that he must neither live, nor act ultimately for himself, but for Christ, Rom. 14:7... Phil. 1:20.[8]

What does this mean? That we are "no more as a proprietor, but a steward" of all that we have. And that "by grace" we are "subordinated to Christ" and able to say, "I care not what becomes of me" as long as Christ "may be glorified." In real life this means that we die daily to things desired by our flesh such as outward beauty, affluence, comforts, pleasures, ambitions, positions, reputations, praise of men, etc. It starts in small things, the grace to be humbled in the sight of worldly allurements. Readiness to suffer believes a different worldview, one that holds taking up the cross and following Jesus to be more precious than health and wealth, political power, prestige, lusts, and leadership influence.

In our modern psychobabble era, people who exhibit a willingness to be beaten down, degraded, and humbled are considered unstable, unbalanced and mentally unfit. But the Bible esteems such people! Even when we know from God's Word that this is the "normal" Christian life, it is easy to be discouraged, disheartened and in despair when we find that dying to self is definitively counter to the modern culture, and realize that our righteous behavior is considered ODD, especially by compromising modern evangelical standards. How many have been rejected by friends and family for courageously standing strong under persecution? It feels like a double-whammy!

However, there is an act of God's grace that enables us to rise above despair to boldly stand. This is what Flavel means by not being excessively "meek" or "feeble." Persecution, especially when there are public witnesses, requires a "heroic and brave spirit," not a downtrodden and discouraged spirit. Flavel therefore urges believers to

look over all the sacred and human histories, and see if you can find a man that ever honoured Christ by suffering, that was not of a raised and noble spirit, and in some measure able to condemn both the allurements and threats of men. So those three noble Jews, Dan 3:16-17.[9] So Moses, Heb. 11:27.[10] And so our apostle, Acts 20:24.[11] And the same heroic and brave spirit was found in the succeeding ages amongst the witnesses of Christ.

This special grace of God is beyond the "natural stoutness" that brave men in history have exhibited. Our modern Hollywood-ized culture has desensitized us to heroes of all varieties, glamorizing and glorifying them, turning them into action figures and supermen. Yet (with a few notable exceptions) these movie heroes are not believers indwelt by God's Holy Spirit. And therein lies the serious difference. Flavel asserts that it is God's special grace that "raises men much higher" during times of persecution, especially when we are "forsaken of all creatures and visible support," such as Paul's experience described in 2 Tim 4:10-11.[12]

Flavel lists three special acts of God's grace upon the believer's heart as part of the process of habitual readiness, which literally transform the worldview of the believer and equip him to endure persecution:

  • By giving him... a view of far greater things, which shrinks up all temporary things, and makes them appear but trifles and small matters, Rom. 8:18,[13] 2 Cor. 4:18.[14] By grace a man rises with Christ, Col. 3:1.[15] It sets him upon his high places, and thence he looks down upon things below as very poor and inconsiderable.
  • By teaching him to value and measure all things by another thing than he was wont to do. He did once measure, life, liberty, riches, honours by sense and time; and then they seemed great things, and it was hard to deny them, or thus to slight them; but now he values and measures all by faith and eternity; and esteems nothing great and excellent but what hath a reference to the glory of God, and an influence into eternity.
  • Grace raises and ennobles the spirit,... it is the Spirit of Christ infused into a poor worm, which makes a strange alteration on him, transforms him into another manner of person.

This grace also changes a man's will, says Flavel, to conform and transform him to the will of God.

It is grace only that... conquers and subjects the will of man to God's.... No sooner was grace entered into the soul of Paul, but presently he cries out, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" The will is to the soul what the wheels are to the chariot; and grace is to the will what oil is to those wheels.

As a key part of habitual readiness, Flavel encourages the believer to fix his heart on following the Lord:

It is grace, and nothing besides, that brings the heart to a fixed resolution and settlement to follow the Lord, it is grace that establishes the heart, Heb. 13:9,[16] and unites it to fear the name of God, Psalm 86:11.[17] This gathers all the streams into one channel, and then it runs with much strength, and sweeps away all obstacles before it.... If the heart be composed, fixed, and fully resolved for God, nothing shall then stand before him. And herein lies much of a Christian's habitual fitness and ability to suffer.

There is a caveat, however, a warning to the believer about the seriousness of being ready to follow the Lord into suffering and persecution. It has to do with the utter necessity of depending on God's grace and the condition of a man's heart. Flavel writes, "I do not deny but a man that is graceless may suffer many hard things upon the account of his profession," but he warns that there are Scriptures that indicate this could be all in vain, especially 1 Corinthians 13:3[18] and Galatians 3:4.[19] He writes, "And, although you may find many sweet promises made to those that suffer for Christ," it isn't the "external action" that is important. Citing 1 Peter 4:16, "Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf," Flavel says that "to suffer as a Christian is to suffer from pure Christian principles, and in a Christian manner, with meekness, patience, self-denial, etc., and this grace only can enable you do to."

The Truth:

"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

1. Matthew Poole, A Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. 3: Matthew-Revelation (Hendrickson Publishers, ISBN 0-918006-28-3), commenting on the parable of the young ruler, Matthew 19:22.
Works of John Flavel (6 vol set), Banner of Truth Trust (1820, 1968), ISBN 0-85151-060-4. Flavel's dissertation titled "Preparations for Suffering, or The Best Work in the Worst Times" appears in Volume 6, pages 3-83.
3. Matthew 16:24 is the well-known verse:
"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."
4. 2 Timothy 2:3 states simply:
"Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ."
5. James 1: 8 says:
"A double minded man is unstable in all his ways."
6. John 4:14 says,
"But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."
7. 1 Cor. 6:19 states:
"What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?"
8. These verses pack a wallop! Romans 14:7 says:
"For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself." Philippians 1:20 says: "According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death."
9. Daniel 3:16-17 testifies that even youth can be so emboldened:
"Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king."
10. Hebrews 11:27 testifies that Moses eschewed the material rewards of leadership in Egypt:
"By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible."
11. Paul, in Acts 20:24, said for our example that
"But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God."
12. In 2 Timothy 4:10-11a Paul describes his own isolation and alienation, even from fellow believers, while imprisoned:
"For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me...."
13. Romans 8:18 reminds us of a heavenly focus:
"For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."
14. 2 Corinthians 4:18, especially when verse 17 is added, gives us the added encouragement:
"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."
15. Colossians 3:1, including verses 2 and 3, give the believer his proper biblical worldview:
"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."
16. The context of this phrase Flavel refers to,
"the heart be established with grace," is concerning discernment. The full verse in Hebrews 13:9 reads: "Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein."
17. Psalm 86:11 reads:
"Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name."
18. 1 Corinthians in verse 3 warns:
"And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing."
19. Galatians 3 warns, in verses 3-4, that:
"Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain."

*ED. NOTE: Italics in original, bold added. We have taken minor liberties to reformat some of the published text by altering some of the punctuation, Roman numerals, and other obsolete forms.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What Is Faith?

A Case Study of Rahab the Harlot

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

[Note: We interrupt this series on "Preparations for Sufferings" to bring you this timely article just written by Pastor Larry DeBruyn. This article does a good job of setting the stage for the next article in our series.]

Just believe! The faith of many within the contemporary pan-evangelical church is misplaced. For many, faith has become “faith in feelings.” As a friend of mine used to say, Christians these days seem to get all excited over excitements. But if individual and inner feelings are left to become the standard of faith, then such faith is placed ultimately within one’s feelings, and that is a miserable place for faith to reside. Faith may be “personal,” but that’s all it is. With an excess emphasis on internal emotionalism, faith is reduced to a romanticism. To encourage personal faith, one might as well read feel-good books, watch feel-good movies, or listen to feel-good songs.

One such song extols the magic of believing. The lyrics read: “I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows.” [1] While the lyrics sound upbeat and positive–words that positivity and possibility preachers might extol–they are essentially false. One drop of rain does not produce one equivalent flower. Flower lovers may wish it to be were so, but it is not. This is one example of a romantic but vacuous faith. But ultimate faith will rise no higher than the object into which it is placed, and biblical faith demands a subject who believes, and an object that is believed in. For an example, we turn to Rahab the Harlot.

Hebrews states: “By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace” (Hebrews 11:31). In light of the current confusion about faith, it behooves us to look at what characterized Rahab’s faith.

First, from the polytheism of her pagan Canaanite culture, Rahab came to believe in the one God of Israel, the Lord God Yahweh. As she confessed to the two spies, "the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath" (Joshua 2:11). Rahab renounced faith in the pagan territorial deities of the Canaanites and trusted in the solitary God of Israel, Yahweh (Deuteronomy 6:4). Rahab rejected polytheism and embraced monotheism. Putting all other religious options aside, Rahab put her faith in the one God of Israel. "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is" (Hebrews 11:6). The faith the Father extols is belief that begins not with faith in faith, but with faith in the "God in heaven above and on earth beneath." Implicitly, faith believes in God’s PERSON.

Virtuous faith also believes in God’s PROMISES, or his Word. Rahab admitted to the spies, "I know that the Lord has given you the land" (Joshua 2:9). Whose land was she talking about? Answer: Her own. Imagine, she believed that God could give her land to someone else, to another nation of people (See Genesis 12:7; 13:14-18; 15:18-21; 17:6-8; 26:1-5; 28:1-4.). In a way of speaking, Rahab’s faith in the Lord’s Word caused her to waive her own property rights!

Even though the reports filtered down to her by word of mouth, Rahab also believed in the greatness of God’s POWER by which he redeemed Israel from Egypt. "For we have heard" she related to the spies, "how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea . . ." (Joshua 2:10). Some Christians think they can possess a faith stripped of the miraculous. But such a faith cannot save. For example, Christianity minus the miraculous time-matter-space resurrection of Jesus Christ is futile faith (See 1 Corinthians 15:12-19.). Saving faith confesses "Jesus as Lord" and heartily believes "that God raised Him from the dead" (Romans 10:9; Compare Romans 1:4.).

Finally, true faith demands PENITENCE. Matthew records that she repented of her harlotries (She is no longer named a harlot!), married Salmon, and together via their son’s birth (Boaz) became the great, great grandparents of King David, the royal family out of which Jesus the Messiah descended (Matthew 1:5). True faith renounces a former sinful lifestyle (See 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 5:5.). In that many evangelicals reflect no change in lifestyle–according to researchers there is no difference in behavior between born-agains and non-born-agains–we can only deduce there is an absence of genuine faith.

True faith is not “faith in faith,” but believes in the person, promises and power of the one and only biblical God all the while exhibiting real change-of-life penitence for sin in the face of His holiness and righteousness.

[1] "I Believe!" Though performed by a number of artists, the author is unknown. Lyrics at:

This article is used by permission. The original is posted at Pastor Larry DeBruyn's new website Guarding His Flock. See:

Pastor Larry DeBruyn is the author of the new book exposing the "quantum spirituality" emergent movement, UNSHACKLED: Breaking Away From Seductive Spirituality, available from Discernment Ministries 903-567-6423.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Necessity of Foresight

"Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man's heart discerneth both time and judgment." (Ecclesiastes 8:5)

Part 8: Preparations for Sufferings

John Flavel[1]* emphasizes the need for believers to exercise biblical discernment, an attribute which he calls "foresight." This is not to be confused with the postmodern heresies of false prophets, seers, or "name it and claim it" positivism. Rather, this is an ability to discern the times based on a study of Scriptures. Flavel emphasizes the need for believers to discern, "Beloved, there are signs of the times, as well as of the weather, Matthew 16:3."[2] Flavel explains,

"[F]oresight and preparation must needs be an excellent thing, because the Spirit of God every where sets an honourable character upon it, and always mentions such persons with some singular commendation and respect. These only were wise men in the judgment of God, and all the rest... are accounted fools, Proverbs 22:3,[3] Ecclesiastes 2:14: "The wise man's eyes are in his head;" that is, he is a fore-seeing man; "but the fool goes on and is punished:"[4] i.e., rushes on without consideration, suspecting no danger that he at present sees not, and so smarts for his folly.

Just because one doesn't SEE danger doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. Just because one is asleep, doesn't mean that there is no danger afoot. Just because pastors and leaders are changing doctrines, eschatology, and using strange Bible versions, doesn't mean that there isn't a time of great tribulation coming. How often people in the pews today have their hands over their eyes and stoppers in their ears! How often they reject warnings from the watchmen on the wall, just like in the days of Jeremiah (6:17): "Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken." Granted, it is not easy to hear that troublesome times are ahead, but it is a fact of Scripture. Jesus Christ warned his disciples that in latter days there would be difficult days, especially warning that we should "take heed that no man deceive" us (Matthew 24:4).

Flavel insists it is the duty of believers to be both discerners of the times and watchmen, citing Ecclesiastes 8:5b: "a wise man's heart discerneth both time and judgment," and Ezekiel 3:17: "Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me." Discerners should especially watch for and ponder the significance of "those Scripture-prophecies that yet remain to be fulfilled." Flavel suggests that believers exercising foresight should pay attention to

considering what God hath done in like cases in former ages, when nations have been guilty of the same sins as now they are: For God is as just now as then, and hates sin as much as ever He did; and partly by attending to things present, to what fulness and maturity the sins of the nation are grown, Joel 3:16,[5] or what the beginnings of judgment are already upon a people, as harbingers and forerunners of more at hand... 1 Samuel 2:12.[6]

There is a "singular advantage" in exercising discernment, says Flavel, and that is that it can either be used as a means to prevent "approaching calamities," citing Zephaniah 2:1-3,[7] or a way to "take sanctuary in Christ..., to run to the promises and attributes, Isaiah 24:21,[8] and so have a good roof over [one's] head while the storm falls and the weather is tempestuous."

Flavel claims that exercising foresight and discernment gives believers stability in times of temptation and persecution, an attribute which is "a choice and singular mercy" in helping a believer to stand, referring to Revelation 21:7-8[9] and Romans 2:6-7.[10] Believers are encouraged to "respect the enemy that engages you," Ephesians 6:12,[11] and to put on the "whole armour of God."[12] Flavel calls on believers to honestly recognize our own "weakness, who have been so often foiled in lesser trials, Jeremiah 12:5."[13]

Flavel states that "our ability to stand" under trials and persecutions "is not from our own inherent grace," quoting a beautiful verse in 1 Samuel 2:0: "He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail." Only God's grace will give us that ability to stand and withstand in times of trouble. Flavel encourages us that, in addition to God's special strengthening in times of trial, there is a grace which is a direct result of our exercised foresight, which is "excited and prepared for a storm," without which "we cannot expect to stand."

Finally, Flavel links foresight to an act of our will, saying we should be "subdued to the will of God; for till this be done, in a good measure, you cannot stand ready to suffer for Him." He writes that when our wills are conformed to God's will, this is another great act of God's grace in our lives:

Now to have Christ and grace rule that which rules and commands your inner and outer man too, is no small mercy; and a better evidence... that you stand ready, or do seriously prepare yourself to suffer the hardest things for Christ: If your will can like that work, it is an argument grace hath conquered and subdued your wills indeed.

The Truth:

"His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber." (Isaiah 56:10)

1. Works of John Flavel (6 vol set), Banner of Truth Trust (1820, 1968), ISBN 0-85151-060-4. Flavel's dissertation titled "Preparations for Suffering, or The Best Work in the Worst Times" appears in Volume 6, pages 3-83.
2. In Matthew 16:3 Jesus asks:
"And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?"
3. Proverbs 22:3 says,
"A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished."
4. Flavel is taking the liberty of paraphrasing the verse, combining it with Proverbs 22:3 cited above. Ecclesiastes 2:14 in full reads:
"The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all."
5. Joel 3:16 says,
"The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel."
6. This verse notices leaders who are disobedient to Scripture: "Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD."
7. Zephaniah 2:1-3 reads:
"Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired; Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD come upon you, before the day of the LORD'S anger come upon you. Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD'S anger."
8. We include the two verses leading up to Isaiah 24:21 so that the reader will grasp the context of judgment: Isaiah 24: 19-21 reads,
"The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth."
9. Note the qualifications of those who do not overcome. Revelation 21:7-8 states,
"He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death."
10. Romans 2:6-7 encourages believers with this promise:
"Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life."
11. Flavel is reminding the reader that this familiar passage pertains to times of persecution and tribulation as well as everyday walking with the Lord:
"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
12. Flavel continues with Ephesians 6:13,
"Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."
13. Jeremiah 12:5 asks the important question,
"If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, [they wearied thee], then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?"

*ED. NOTE: Emphasis added. We have taken minor liberties to reformat some of the published text by altering some of the punctuation, Roman numerals, and other obsolete forms.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

People-Lovers or God-Pleasers?

[I]t is very remarkable that Christ dates the offence that men shall take at Him, from the first appearance of suffering, Mat. 24:8,10: "All these are the beginning of sorrows.... And then shall many be offended." Sorrows and apostasies commence together.
- John Flavel*

"And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me."
(Matthew 11:6)[1]

Part 7: Preparations for Sufferings

John Flavel, in his classic work Preparations for Suffering,[2] writes that among the multitudes of those professing faith in Jesus Christ, "few are found that are in no way offended at suffering" for Him. People may have "expected much peace, honour, and prosperity in the ways of religion, but finding their expectations frustrated, and their carnal interest rather exposed.... they go back like those [of] John 6:66,[3] and walk no more with Him." Quoting this verse, "Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them" (Psalm 119:165), Flavel expounds,

O happy soul! whom no troubles, reproaches or sufferings, are able to offend! thou mayest meet with prisons, death, banishments, yea, but none of these things shall offend, or stumble thee, but thou shalt peaceably and safely pass over them, because they are no more than thou expectedst, and providest for.

Preparing for suffering is an anomaly in our modern era, particularly since we are so offended at suffering. If we can't handle the minor stigmas, scorn, rejections, psycho-social and peer-driven mechanisms that cause others to reproach us for the cause of Christ, how can we possibly handle the rougher waters of outright persecution? If we are so readily charmed, schmoozed, persuaded and cajoled into compromises of our faith, how shall we endure? And if we fear and avoid the little darts of name-calling, ostracizing, ridiculing, and other socially punitive pressures, then how shall we stand when the real arrows start flying? Each must answer honestly: How am I seeking to avoid personal suffering? How am I offended by the Gospel? How am I seeking to distance myself from the stumbling block of the Cross?

In our era we also have to contend against systemic peer-driven, psycho-social and marketing methods, which often are quite sophisticated. Some tactics might even be considered brainwashing. See Berit Kjos's key article "Mysticism & Global Mind Change" and follow the links, for example, or her series "Reinventing the World." How can believers resist these intensive pressures, structural shifts, reinventions and mind-manipulations? Today's results-driven (outcome-based, purpose-driven) world is intent on rewarding those who are compliant and penalizing those who aren't. Again, answer honestly: How am I seeking to fit in with the group?

Those who wilt under persecution harm the cause of Christ and are a "rock of offense" to others, says Flavel: "It is a sad, and dangerous thing to be an occasion of stumbling, either to the weak or to the wicked.... 'Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!' (Matthew 18:7)." He warns of ungodly compromises and apostasies during times of temptation, saying that these are the "woeful occasions of prejudicing others against religion, and shedding the blood of souls." Our compromises, in other words, can cause our brothers and sisters in Christ to stumble or even die, a sobering thought indeed. 1 John 2:10 reminds us that "He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling [i.e., "offense," Gk. skandalon] in him."


On the positive side, however, Flavel informs us that our preparation for sufferings "hath a tendency to convince [i.e., convict] and awaken the drowsy world." In other words, people may wake up when persecution begins. They may begin to "live as people that are providing for a storm, and resolve, in the strength of God, to run all hazards and hardships for Christ." Sometimes when God gives US courage to stand, it encourages OTHERS to stand. What a blessing indeed!

Following the Lord into danger is a "very high testification of our love to Jesus Christ, when we thus shew our willingness to take our lot with Him, and follow Him wherever He goes." Flavel explains,

What an high expression of love was that of Ruth to her mother Naomi? "I will not go back, 'for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge'"[5] It is excellent when a soul can say to Christ, as Ittai to David, 2 Samuel 15:21, "Surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be."[6] This is love indeed, to cleave to Him in a time of such distresses and dangers. This is "love which the waters cannot quench, nor the floods drown."[7]... If you love Christ indeed, shew your love by some fruits of it.... There are many that profess a great deal of love to Christ, but when it comes to this touch-stone, it appears false and counterfeit.... But that soul which buckles on the shoe of preparation, to follow Him through thorns and briers, and over the rocks and mountains of difficulties and troubles, loves Him indeed, Jeremiah 2:2-3.[8]

Berit Kjos, in her "Reinventing the World" series mentioned above, encourages believers that

the true "body of Christ" doesn't fit the world's pattern. Our God doesn't need the strong and proficient to accomplish His work. Instead, He "has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and... the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty... that no flesh should glory in His presence." 1 Corinthians 1:27-29

No matter how narrow the way or inadequate our strength, those who trust Him and follow His ways can count on His sufficiency. When we conform to His unchanging truth, instead of the world's shifting standards, we may face the wrath of today's "quality" managers. We may face exclusion and loss in a world that shows zero tolerance for non-compliance.
But it won't matter, for He has shown us the better way.

As He promised the apostle Paul long ago, He now assures us:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

The Truth:

"And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved." (Matthew 10:22)

"The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe." (Proverbs 29:25)

1. Works of John Flavel (6 vol set), Banner of Truth Trust (1820, 1968), ISBN 0-85151-060-4. Flavel's dissertation titled "Preparations for Suffering, or The Best Work in the Worst Times" appears in Volume 6, pages 3-83.
2. In the Greek
skandalon, "offence, stumbling block, occasion of stumbling, occasion to fall, thing that offends."
3. John 6:66 says,
"From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him."
4. The complete verses from Zephaniah 2:1-2 read:
"Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired; Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD come upon you, before the day of the LORD'S anger come upon you."
5. The full verse in Ruth 1:16 reads:
"And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God."
6. The full verse in 2 Samuel 15:21 reads:
"And Ittai answered the king, and said, As the LORD liveth, and as my lord the king liveth, surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be."
7. This is a slight paraphrase of Song of Solomon 8:7:
"Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned."
8. Jeremiah 2:2-3 says:
"Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned."

*ED. NOTE: Emphasis added. We have taken minor liberties to reformat some of the published text by altering some of the punctuation, Roman numerals, and other obsolete forms.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Rest in the Day of Evil

It was a pleasantly cool Fall evening in 1976, just after dusk, the faint smell of burning leaves in the air. The young man and Pastor Rollie Leeman had just finished a wonderful meal and were sitting in the living room of the parsonage talking. Pastor Leeman began sharing the Gospel with the fellow, who was not a believer. This young man had been dating a sister new in the Lord who had been attending the small independent Baptist church Pastor Leeman pastored, and Pastor was duly concerned with his salvation.

"Before you decide to become a Christian," Pastor warned, "you need to know about this story from Scripture." He proceeded to read from Acts 6, the testimony of Stephen, and how certain leaders "suborned men" as "false witnesses" against him. and how they "stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon [him], and caught him, and brought him to the council." Pastor concluded with Acts 7:59, "And they stoned Stephen...."

Pastor paused a moment and looked earnestly into the eyes of the young man. "Before you become a believer you must count the cost," he said soberly. He repeated it with emphasis, "It is a serious matter to become a Christian and you must know what you are getting into. Count the cost."

A year later the young man would become a Christian, never forgetting Pastor Leeman's strong admonition. But in all of the years he has been a believer he has never heard a Gospel presentation quite like it, and has often wondered, why not?

Part 6: Preparations for Sufferings

We live in the day of psychobabble, where everything we read and think is tinged with the leaven of this unbiblical worldview. Take the word "martyr," for example. This word, which in the Greek means "a witness,"[2] in English became the honorable term describing "a person who willingly suffers death rather than renounce his or her religion."[3] But this word in our era now carries the extra psychological baggage of meaning "a person who seeks sympathy or attention by feigning or exaggerating pain, deprivation, etc."[4]

Indeed, we have heard pastors refer disparagingly to believers exercising discernment as people who have a "martyr complex," i.e., "seeking out suffering or persecution because it feeds a psychological need."[5] It is no wonder that those who prepare their hearts and minds for suffering, trials and tribulations are looked upon with disfavor and outright suspicion. And those who seek to remind others of their duty to prepare are often said to be negative, fear-mongers and kooks "crying wolf."

It is therefore disconcerting to the modern mind to read the 350- year-old words of John Flavel* in his classic work, Preparations for Suffering.[6] He actually proposes that a believer should be always READY and PREPARED for persecution, citing Paul's words in Acts , "I am ready...."[7] Furthermore, Flavel claims, "Readiness for sufferings will bring the heart of a Christian to an holy rest and tranquillity, in a suffering hour, and prevent that anxiety, perturbation, and distraction of mind, which puts the sinking weight into afflictions." He cites several biblical characters as exemplary in being prepared.

  • JOB - Flavel observes, "It is admirable to consider with what peace and patience Job entertained his troubles, which, considering the kinds, degrees, and manner in which they befell him, one would think they should at least have started and amazed him, and put his soul... into great disorder and confusion; but you find the contrary: never did the patience of a man triumph at that rate over adversity; he worships God, owns his hand, and resigns himself up to His pleasure, Job 1:20-21."[8] Flavel contends that Job was prepared for this day, citing Job 3:25-26: "For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me. I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came," and remarking, "He laid it to heart before it came, and therefore it neither distracted, nor brake the heart when it came."
  • HABAKKUK - "In like manner," says Flavel, "the prophet Habakkuk stood upon his watch-tower, i.e. he made his observations by the Word upon the probable events of providence, whereby he got a clear foresight of those troublesome days that were at hand; which though it made him tremble in himself, yet it gave him rest in the day of evil, Hab. 3:16-18."[9]

Worse-Case Scenarios

The way to obtain rest in the coming day of evil, contends Flavel, is to "foresee, count upon, and make due preparation for troublous times before-hand." He cites several Scriptures to back up this point: Ecclesiastes 9:12, which states, "For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them," and the case of Noah, who prepared his family for the Flood while others "were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage" (Matthew 24:38).

How can one possibly prepare ahead of time? Flavel says we must be "deliberately closed with Christ upon His own terms" and already "daily at work" with our "own hearts, mortifying" our "corruptions, weaning" ourselves of... worldly affections,... resolving in the strength of God" to take our "lot with Christ." One doesn't easily prepare for sudden persecution unless they have learned to daily die to self, to "mortify the deeds of the body" as described in Romans 8:13 and Col. 3:5.[10]

Persecution, he says, separates the hypocrites, whom he refers to as "Christ's summer friends," from true believers. Many "rush inconsiderately into the profession of Christ, never debating the terms which He proposes to all that will follow Him, Mark 8:34."[11] Knowing these terms means that we have to objectively consider worst-case scenarios, an activity certain to cause others to look askance at us in our modern age. Flavel contends that "if we really intend to go through with the business of religion, we must sit down, and compute the cost and charges of Christianity, think upon the worst, as well as the best, reckon upon reproaches, prisons, and death for his sake, as well as the easier and more pleasant parts of active obedience." This, he says, will "clear ourselves from the danger of hypocrisy." Those who do not prepare are wanting "depth of earth," as in the parable of the sower, and are "quickly withered away, when the sun of persecution" begins to "shine upon them."[12] In other words, hypocrites are Christ's fair-weather friends.

It seems like a contradiction to prepare for persecution and expect that God will, by His grace, give us rest and peace in our spirits. Yet Flavel urges,

O Christians! look out for days of visitation; prepare for a storm, and provide you an ark, an hiding-place in Christ, and the promises, as ever you expect rest, and peace in your own spirits, when the earth shall be full of tumults, uproars, and desolations.

The Truth:

"And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." (Romans 5:3-5)

1. From Acts 6:8-15 and Acts 7.
3. See
4. Ibid.
5. From definition at: Note the theological discussion here.
6. Works of John Flavel (6 vol set), Banner of Truth Trust (1820, 1968), ISBN 0-85151-060-4. Flavel's dissertation titled "Preparations for Suffering, or The Best Work in the Worst Times" appears in Volume 6, pages 3-83.
7. Acts 21:13 is the text upon which Flavel's Preparations for Sufferings is based. It reads: "Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." See Part 1 for further discussion on this text.
8. Job 1:20-21 reads: "Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." Verse 22 further testifies, "In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly."
9. Habakkuk 3:16-18 gives believers great hope: "When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops. Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation."
10. "Mortify" is our English word that comes from a Latin word meaning "death." Synonyms include "humble, abase, subjugate the body, self-discipline, subdue, restrain." See: Similarly, the Greek words translated "mortify" mean to "put to death" or "to kill." See Romans 8:13 warns: "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." Colossians 3:5-6 urges: "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:" If these listed sins are not mortified in your flesh today, dear friend, please return to the Lord in repentance. Do not seek to justify these sins, but rather mortify them.
11. Mark 8:34 states Christ's terms, "And when He had called the people unto Him with His disciples also, He said unto them, Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."
12. Flavel here refers to the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:5-6: "Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away."

**ED. NOTE: We have taken minor liberties to reformat some of the published text by altering some of the punctuation, Roman numerals, and other obsolete forms.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Why God Warns

Our Mother who is within us
we celebrate your many names.
Your wisdom come.
Your will be done,....

Re-imaging God is very Lutheran...
...Images of the Goddess help to break the hold of “male control” that has shaped our images not only of God, but of all significant power in the universe.

--Quotations found on the main webpage of Ebenezer/herchurch ELCA Lutheran

...[I]f you still think the Emergent Church movement poses no danger to your youth then you seriously need to have your spiritual head examined…
--Pastor Ken Silva, commenting on Ebenezer/herchurch*

Part 5: Preparations for Sufferings

Idolatry in our generation is rapidly on the rise -- IN the churches! Idolatry is not only tolerated, but it is being accepted, patronized, mainstreamed, marketed, and set up as a hip model for the new-style Emerging Evangelicals. Christian believers have allowed themselves to be lured into soft-core idolatry, which delights the senses, charms the mind and, ultimately, corrupts the heart. God will not tolerate such idolatry, but He is gracious to warn those who are engaged in it.

Why does God warn? John Flavel, in his classic work** Preparations for Sufferings,[1] outlines three reasons why God warns before His judgments:

1. To prevent the execution. Why does God warn, but to help his people prepare in such a way that it might prevent the execution of judgments? Flavel cites Amos 4:12: "Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel." When the modern church no longer believes in Hell or God's judgments, they will not likely heed God's warnings. Nevertheless, God warns them. Warning of the wrath to come may lead people to humiliation, repentance and prevent the execution of judgment, such as Jonah's warning to Ninevah:

This Jonah knew to be the Lord's meaning,... knowing, that if upon warning given they repented, the gracious nature of God would soon melt into compassion over them, and free grace would make him appear as a liar;... Jonah 4:2.[2]

2. To make the judgments more tolerable. Christ graciously forewarned his disciples of the persecution to come and "gave them fair warning... John 16:4."[3] Flavel notes that

expected evils are nothing so heavy as those that come by surprisal;... so the expectation of judgments before they befal us, make them less bitter and burdensome than else they would be, the soul having inured[4] and accustomed itself to them, by frequent thoughts, and prepared and made ready itself to entertain them, as Paul did in my text [Acts 21:13].[5]

3. To leave the incorrigible inexcusable. One cannot flirt long with idolatry before becoming captivated. Once ensnared they become incorrigible. Incorrigible people are "bad beyond correction or reform, impervious to constraints or punishment, willful, unruly, uncontrollable."[6] They have "no sense of sin, nor care to prevent ruin... no cloke[7] for their folly when judgments overtake them," says Flavel, quoting the first part of Jeremiah 13:21: "What wilt thou say when he shall punish thee?"[8] Paraphrasing this Scripture, Flavel says that God is asking

What plea, or apology is left thee, after so many fair warnings and timely premonitions? Thou canst not say, I have surprised thee, or that thou was ruined before thou wast warned. Thy destruction therefore is of thyself.

The Truth:

It is a sober message to realize that God is clearly sounding warnings to our generation. Will we repent? Repentance begins in each individual heart, the same place where idolatry can lodge and fester and grow. Ezekiel 14 warns that:

Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me. And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them?

Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the LORD will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols; That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols.

Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations. For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to enquire of him concerning me; I the LORD will answer him by Myself: And I will set My face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of My people; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
(Ezekiel 14: 1-8)

1. Works of John Flavel (6 vol set), Banner of Truth Trust (1820, 1968), ISBN 0-85151-060-4. Flavel's dissertation titled "Preparations for Suffering, or The Best Work in the Worst Times" appears in Volume 6, pages 3-83.
2. Jonah 4:2 states: "And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that Thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest Thee of the evil."
3. John 16:4 reads: "But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you."
4. "Inured" means "to accustom to hardship, difficulty, pain, etc.; toughen or harden; habituate." From
5. Acts 21:13 is the text upon which Flavel's Preparations for Sufferings is based. It reads: "Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." See Part 1 for further discussion on this text.
6. Definition from
7. "Cloke" is an obsolete form of the word "cloak." In this sense it means they have no cover, rationale or pretense for their sin that could protect them from the Lord's judgment. See:
8. Flavel cites two verses here, Jeremiah 13:21-22: "What wilt thou say when He shall punish thee? for thou hast taught them to be captains, and as chief over thee: shall not sorrows take thee, as a woman in travail? And if thou say in thine heart, 'Wherefore come these things upon me?' For the greatness of thine iniquity are thy skirts discovered, and thy heels made bare." The context of these verses is the episode when the Lord asked Jeremiah to travel to the river Euphrates and bury a linen girdle, which when it was retrieved some time later was found to be "marred" and "profitable for nothing" (verse 7). The Lord then told Jeremiah that "This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for nothing" (verse 10).


**ED. NOTE: We have taken minor liberties to reformat some of the published text by altering some of the punctuation, Roman numerals, and other obsolete forms.