Tag Archives: Power

Lay Pastors: Uneducated Implements of God

I have a theory that God delights to use uneducated men as shepherds in situations where we turn the pursuit of God into the empty traditions of religion. Here are some examples of such men:

  1. A.W. Tozer
    • Highest education: a few weeks of high school
  2. John Bunyan
    • Learned only to read and write – no formal higher education of any kind
    • Never learned Greek or Hebrew
    • “The Pilgrim’s Progress – ‘next to the Bible, perhaps the world’s best-selling book . . . translated into over 200 languages.’” -Piper
  3. Dwight Moody
    • without higher education, founded three schools;
    • without theological training, reshaped Victorian Christianity;
    • without radio or television reached 100 million people.
  4. Charles Spurgeon
    • Little formal education (some college)
    • Began preaching at 16
  5. William Carey
    • No formal education – self taught
  6. Andrew Fuller
    • Farm raised
    • “He had no formal theological training but became the leading theological spokesman for the Particular Baptists in his day.” -Piper
  7. Hudson Taylor
    • No theological education
    • Some medical education
    • Gathered missionaries which other mission societies rejected as too uneducated
  8. John Newton
    • 2 years of boarding school, after which he went to sea with his father
    • Self educated in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew
  9. David Brainerd
    • Expelled from seminary in his third year
  10. Leonard Ravenhill
    • Educated at Cliff College in England
    • Said it was advantageous for pastors to not attend Bible school
    • Yet taught himself for a time at Bethany College of Missions

John Owen (who not only attended but taught seminary) believed that the first and main purpose of all of a student’s studies and meditations is to cultivate communion with God. He says that the study of scriptures, “should always be conducted in order to learn from them our duty and, understanding that, let it proceed to practice holy communion with God as we experience to the depths of our souls the power of the Spirit mightily manifesting in us His grace and light.” Without this, he says, “our studies are useless.”

If there were seminaries which taught God-besottedness (such as Owen desired of all theological learning), I wonder if Christ’s Church would so often stand in need of uneducated lay-ministers. Regardless of my speculations, we can be confident of this: that if seminaries will not produce such men, then God will supply his Church with them out of his own stores. As Richard Baxter puts it;

As to supply of pastors, Christ will take care of that. … He who himself undertook the work of our redemption, and bore our transgressions, and hath been faithful as the chief Shepherd of the Church, will not lose all his labor and suffering for want of instruments to carry on his work … he will provide men to be his servants and ushers in his school, who shall willingly take the labor on them, and rejoice to be so emplyed, and account that the happiest life in the world which you account so great a toil, and would not exchange it for all your ease and carnal pleasure; but for the saving of souls, and the propagating of the gospel of Christ, will be content to bear the burden and heat of the day; and to fill up the measure of the sufferings of Christ in their bodies; and to work while it is day; and to do what they do with all their might; and to be the servants of all, and not to please themselves, but others, for their edification; and to become all things to all men, that they may save some; and to endure all things for the elect’s sake; and to spend and be spent for their fellow-creatures; though the more they love, the less they should be beloved, and should be accounted their enemies for telling them the truth. Such pastors will Christ provide his people, after his own heart.

Or if you prefer, consider John’s teaching to the religious teachers of his day;

And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Perhaps best of all is the teaching of Jeremiah:

Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord. Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.

God promises to raise up the men he needs in order for his church to succeed. Sometimes he raised them through seminaries, sometimes he doesn’t. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

A Story of Regeneration

Who doesn’t like a good conversion story?
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFGDDfGGTDE[/youtube]
Besides being heart-warming, this video is a good example to those struggling with their view of regeneration of what it looks like in reality.

If you like Paul Washer, here are a couple of longer videos that I like of him:

Self-Discipline

When you think of self-discipline, what type of person comes to mind?

I think of a career marine officer. The type that gets up before dawn, even if there is no particular need to, and goes for a run. His bed is made, his pantry is organized, his diet is fixed. His whole life is regimented.

Perhaps you think of someone else. Perhaps an Olympic athlete or a self-help guru.

Don’t we know that self-discipline is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). The very first thing that ought come to our minds should be, “Christian.” Christians ought be models of self-control and discipline. What is more powerful and effective at building self-control, the world or heaven? Yet athletes and soldiers, by exceeding above us, demonstrate the opposite of what is the truth. What is more powerful for building self-control, the law or the gospel(Rom. 6:14, 2Cor. 3:3)? Yet, who in our religious movements are more self controlled, the sects that focus primarily on the gospel or the sects that focus primarily on the law? Look at the Mennonites and the Quakers and be amazed at the power of the law for life transformation. Then look at yourself and feel ashamed that the gospel, infinitely more efficacious than the law, doesn’t have the same affect on your life (Rom. 1:16).

We, who claim to have God over world and gospel over law, all too often have neither God nor gospel. The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power (1Cor. 4:20). If American Christianity has God and His gospel, where is the power? We might as well take the world’s power or law’s power, for apparently they are more effective. And that is what many people are doing. Because of us, God is mocked (Rom. 2:24). Why? Because we are in bondage. Like the Israelites of old (Isa. 52:4-5), the whole world, though us, can see that God is not powerful enough to free His people from their self-inflicted bondage.

Yet there is another way!

Read history. Do you know who it records as some of the most disciplined people who ever lived? Men like Jonathon Edwards, David Brainerd, and David Livingstone. These men could match any Olympic athlete in self-control. Beyond that, they could do it while being mocked, loosing children, being tortured, and even while being put to death. And yet, they were filled with joy for God and love for those that persecuted them. What athlete or soldier has trained themselves so well as this?

Is this not what we should expect? After all the Scriptures say that the world trains and competes for what is perishing but we for what is imperishable (1Cor. 9:25). Therefore, we should run the better. Let us then remember the men who ran well, and set them before us as an example (Php. 3:17, 2Th. 3:9, Heb. 6:11-12, Heb. 12:1), remembering that Him who empowered them to do so abides in us as well.

Rise up Christian. Look to the glory and do not quit the race until it is finished (1Cor. 9:27, Heb. 4:11, Luke 13:24). “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way … For to this end we toil and strive” (1Tim. 4:8-10). Do not be content with reading your Bible every day, staying the course in marriage, or getting to work on time. Yes, do those things, but know that the gospel is more powerful than that. Therefore, excel! Excel far beyond what you ever imagined you could. Live a life that says, “In me, ‘all will see how great, how great is our God.’”

God has ordained that the world would see His greatness and glory through His Church (Psa. 50:2) and through His saints (1Cor. 11:7, 2Cor. 8:23, 2Cor. 3:18). We are to be a city on a hill, a beacon of light to the world (Matt 5:14). And we are to do this, not by our own strength, but by His (Col. 1:29, John 15:5, John 5:19, Phil. 4:13, Prov 3:5).

An Ulster Revival Story

Though the origin of a movement of God cannot be fixed by man, many attribute the beginnings of Ireland’s 1859 Ulster Revival to a humble prayer group of four Christians. These men dedicated themselves to pray for their own edification and the salvation of others around them. Once the revival was underway, over 10,000 converts were made in the first few weeks, and by the end of the year 100,000 converts were brought into churches.

One minister said of this time:

From contact with this ‘wonderful work of God,’ and being honoured to take some little part in carrying it on, my spirit has been literally overwhelmed with a sense of my own deep unworthiness, and yet that God should ‘count me worthy, putting me into the ministry’ at such a precious time of abounding mercy to perishing men; and I have felt that all earthly honours pale into insignificance when compared with the highest God could confer on man, being a ‘fellow-worker with God, and with His Christ.’ It were worth living ten thousand ages in obscurity and reproach to be permitted to creep forth at the expiration of that time, and engage in the glorious work of the last six months of 1859. (Source)

What follows is one particular Ulster Revival story told by William Gibson, in his work The Year of Grace (paragraphing added).
[...]

The Conversion of David Brainerd

What follows is an account of the conversion of David Brainerd in his own words, as taken from the Life and Diary of David Brainerd which is published in Vol. 2 of The works of Jonathan Edwards.

“I was from my youth somewhat sober, and inclined rather to melancholy than the contrary extreme; but do not remember any thing of conviction of sin, worthy of remark, till I was, I believe, about seven or eight years of age. Then I became concerned for my soul, and terrified at the thoughts of death, and was driven to the performance of duties: but it appeared a melancholy business, that destroyed my eagerness for play. And though, alas! this religious concern was but short-lived, I sometimes attended secret prayer; and thus lived at “ease in Zion, without God in the world,” and without much concern, as I remember, till I was above thirteen years of age. But some time in the winter 1732, I was roused out of carnal security, by I scarce know what means at first; but was much excited by the prevailing of a mortal sickness in Haddam. I was frequent, constant, and somewhat fervent in duties; and took delight in reading, especially Mr. Janeway’s Token for Children. I felt sometimes much melted in duties, and took great delight in the performance of them; and I sometimes hoped that I was converted, or at least in a good and hopeful way for heaven and happiness, not knowing what conversion was. The Spirit of God at this time proceeded far with me; I was remarkably dead to the world, and my thoughts were almost wholly employed about my soul’s concerns; and I may indeed say, “Almost I was persuaded to be a Christian” I was also exceedingly distressed and melancholy at the death of my mother, in March, 1732. But afterwards my religious concern began to decline, and by degrees I fell back into a considerable degree of security, though I still attended secret prayer.
[...]

What Can We Expect From God?

Matthew 21:21-22

21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (ESV)

I believe if we have enough faith we can literally expect God to move mountains. Yet we don’t see this power in our own prayer-lives … why? The problem of God not moving very much in our lives is not to be solved by an expectation that this is an age where God does not powerfully act but is to be solved by our lack of faith.

Sadly, we take the exact wrong approach and say that we cannot expect God to do enormously great things in the life of His Church. This yields a man-centric view of the Church. The specific outcome of this I’d like to focus on right now is a man-centric view of the Church’s fruit.

When we judge the fruit of our church, we do it in view of what man is able to accomplish. It is hard for men, on their own, to go to church every Sunday, to stay married, to get involved with non-profit groups and donate their time, to witness for God, &c. If we judge our local churches by this standard, then some of them will look bad and some of them will look good. Some will have very little fruit, and some will have much fruit.

However, if we judge things by God’s standard, things look quite a bit different. If we were acting by His power, we would expect our lives to be transformed into holy, righteous living sacrafices. We would expect much power in our witnessing, so that souls were saved. We would expect much power in overcoming sin, so that our sins would be peeling back like layers off an onion. We would expect church fellowship to be a miraculous event so that church would last all week in love and that Sunday morning would be the colossal crescendo of that week lived in love and fellowship with the brethren. We would expect men to give freely of all of their time, talents, and treasure, limiting their giving only with what love required them to hold back. If we judge our local churches and ourselves by this standard, things look much different. We become a people that have almost no fruit.

So which should it be? Should we judge ourselves and our churches by the fruit that man is able to produce, or by the fruit that only God almighty is able to produce? John 15:5 should make the answer to that question obvious.

John 15:5-10

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. (ESV)

Suffer for God Not for Vanity

1 Peter 3:17

17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (ESV)

We will all suffer in this world. The rich along with the poor, the old along with the young, the healthy along with the sick. Some have more suffering and some have less but we all have a portion of that cup. But what good is your suffering?

If you were to pay eighty thousand dollars for a car, would you be happy with an old rusty car on cinder blocks? Doesn’t paying a high price establish the expectation of a good return? Instead, you would expect a fast, sleek, well-oiled machine. In a like manner I ask, what do you expect to get in return for your suffering?

Spend your suffering wisely. Be a good steward of it in the same way you strive to be a good steward of your money. None of you I would expect, would pay such a sum for a rusty car, much less would any of you toss the money to the wind spending it for nothing at all. Yet this is how we spend much of our suffering. Do you not know that the suffering of the saints is good tender towards the redemption of souls? Do you not understand that your suffering can purchase a crown of glory not only for you, but for your family, friends, and neighbors? What is more, suffering can purchase the glory of our Lord, Jesus Christ and buy interest in His kingdom, the kingdom he has put the down payment on with His suffering. Shall we not do likewise and pave the streets of that kingdom with our sufferings?

When we could buy such glorious things, we instead spend it on toys, on jobs, and on comforts. Men often complain because they have worked so hard at their job and they did not get the promotion they were expecting or even worse, they got fired. It is grievous indeed that men suffer such injustices and I do not wish to take away from such, but there is a still greater wrong: that these men are willing to waste their sufferings on such petty, worthless things when their sufferings could be buying priceless things. Men pray for health, for wealth, for family, for all sorts of things not because we would make those things slaves of Christ—using them up for His good and His kingdom—but we would put them all towards our own selfish interests.

These things should not be so! This is not conduct becoming bond-slaves of God most high.

Take Not Thy Holy Spirit from Me

Psalm 51:11

11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me. (ESV)

David’s cry to not have the Holy Spirit taken from him is a confusing psalm to us. How can a man after God’s own heart be in such doubt over losing the Holy Spirit? We interpret such psalms as spiritual weakness, we say to ourselves, “see even the best of us get down.” Surely, there is a truth to seeing such in these psalms, but I’ve been learning to see them in a different way as well.

When you live past the edge of your comfort zone in Christ you learn how dependent on the Holy Spirit’s work you really are. I’ve learned lately that without God’s help, I’d fall away from the faith very quickly. I find myself having crises where I want to leave the faith, where I want to stop loving God. I’ve been finding that these crises aren’t a mark of unchristian behavior as much as they are a mark of a healthy spiritual weakness. In a life heated by the fires of suffering, which is the fruit of faith, our shortcomings and our dependence upon God rise quickly to the surface. Such utterances are the cry of the poor in spirit as our weaknesses are smelted out of us.

If your Christianity and your walk are of the sort that you can mostly do it on your own power, it is not much of a Christian walk. However if you are living so far past your own comfort zone that there is no way you can get through a moment without His sustaining grace, you are probably walking by the Spirit much more fully. David was one such man of God. Without God’s grace, David knew he would fall, he would trip, he would go headlong, he would drown. Say it however you want, but David needed God in a way we typically do not.

Live such lives! Let God craft for you such a lifestyle as forces you to pray these psalms regularly. Lord Jesus, how can I encourage men to live this type of life: the type that cannot be lived according to our own strength?