Monday, March 10, 2008
Friday, March 07, 2008
The most damaging idea inherited in the wake of the Enlightenment is this… man is good. In this course of thinking, it only takes education to rid the heart of the evils it possesses. The teacher entrapped by this philosophy believes that, deep down, the child wants to learn and wants to get better. The administrator believes if they can create the perfect learning environment, the correct strategies, and differentiated instruction… the student will soar.
This is nowhere near what the Bible teaches.
Dr. Archibald Alexander of Princeton in 1844 wrote very clearly:
The education of children should proceed on the principle that they are in an unregenerate state, until evidences of piety clearly appear, in which case they should be sedulously cherished and nurtured. These are Christ's lambs—"little ones, who believe in Him" (Matt 18:6; Mark 9:42)—whom none should offend or mislead upon the peril of a terrible punishment. But though the religious education of children should proceed on the ground that they are destitute of grace, it ought ever to be used as a means of grace. Every lesson, therefore, should be accompanied with the lifting up of the heart of the instructor to God for a blessing on the means. "Sanctify them through your truth; your word is truth." (John 17:17)
I challenge all of us to continue to search and test whether these evidences of grace are visible.
Again I admire Dr. Alexander’s questions:
Let the most moral and amiable of mankind, who are in this natural state, be asked such questions as these: Do you take real pleasure in perusing the sacred Scriptures, especially those parts which are most spiritual? Do you take delight in secret prayer, and find your heart drawn out to God in strong desires? Do you spend much time in contemplating the divine attributes? Are you in the habit of communing with your own hearts, and examining the true temper of your souls? No unregenerate people can truly answer these, and suchlike questions, in the affirmative.
Test us O Lord and see where we are. May all of our efforts be in praying the Holy Spirit in to do what no educational theory can.
Thoughts Taken from Archibald Alexander’s “Thoughts on Religious Experience” 1844
When we speak of Christ and the gospel to children, we get clear evidence of man’s original sin when we see some who react so negatively to the message. Even as a high school Bible teacher, I see physical evidence of real animosity to the things of God. I can’t count the constant references to cries from our student body about “shoving it down our throats”.
This is echoed back to 1844 when Archibald Alexander lamented, “From this cause it proceeds, that many children who have the opportunity of a good pious education learn scarcely anything of the most important truths of Christianity. If they are compelled to commit the catechism to memory, they are accustomed to do this without ever thinking of the doctrines contained in the words which they recite; so that, when the attention is at any time awakened to the subject of religion as a personal concern, they feel themselves to be completely ignorant of the system of divine truth taught in the Bible.”
Dr. Alexander goes on, however, to make a most important point. He said that these truths that seem to be a source of great contention, are hidden treasures that actually have wonderful benefits.
He says it this way: “Of two people under conviction of sin, one of whom has had sound religious instruction and the other none, the former will have an unspeakable advantage over the latter in many respects.”
No doubt that some children of Christian parents experience God’s love in a variety of ways. They may be awakened early to stories of Christ and His sacrifice or God and His mercy. But these early experiences do not always manifest themselves in immediate conversion.
It is hard to know sometimes, if a child is truly converted. The Puritans were very careful in their use of the term. To them, “faith that fizzles was faulty from the first”. They instructed their children in the catechisms, but took no hope in externals and misleading ‘juvenile exercises’.
We must never take lightly the enemies of our souls: the world, the flesh, and the devil. Could it be that the great deceiver would use childhood practice with piety as a veil for true conversion? What if the appearance of salvation prevented true confessions of no faith as the child finally becomes aware of his sin?
Dr. Alexander was not fearful of this line of reasoning. He clearly states:
“While I would not deny that Satan may take advantage of these transient exercises to induce a false hope, I cannot be persuaded that he produces these impressions; for often the people, before experiencing them, were as careless and stupid as he could wish them to be, and because the tendency of these impressions is beneficial. The youth thus affected becomes more tender in conscience, forsakes known sin before indulged, has recourse to prayer, and feels strong desires after eternal happiness. These are not what Satan would effect, if he could, unless we could suppose that he was operating against himself, which our Savior has taught us to be impossible.”
If we understand the work of God’s spirit in a less than immediate or linear experience, we are more able to see that even these transient times of experiencing God are beneficial to conversion- even if it is many years down the road.
I love Dr. Alexander’s point here:
“So, when a revival occurs under the awakening discourses of some evangelist, people are ready to think that he only is the successful preacher whose labors God owns and blesses; whereas he does but bring forward to maturity, feelings and convictions which have been long secretly forming and growing within the soul—but so imperceptibly that the person himself was little sensible of any change.”
And what of those who do not receive adequate religious instruction or have these early impressions? No doubt they can be converted, but the soil is much less ready for the good seed of the word.
So I continue to say to parents and Bible teachers of the young- preach on! You don’t think you are making an impact, but you are! You never know what conditioning is taking place in the depths of the heart.
This doesn’t mean that we not try to find creative, encouraging, and loving attempts to share the good news. But every prayer and every attempt may be having fruit that we know nothing of, until we see it in eternity!
God bless those who labor among the young!
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
How often I forget one of the most important prayer requests. How can I forget to cry out as the Psalmist here does? “Restore us please!”
As I pray this, I am reminded of God’s glory and His sovereignty. “Revival is a work of God where He enlivens His people by accelerating and intensifying His work in individual’s lives” (Jonathan Edwards). If enough people have this personal renewal at any one time and in any one place, then the reality of God’s presence is demonstrated in spiritual sensitivity and a community pursuit of holiness.
So as I pray this, I am reminded that revival begins in me.
Isaiah 64:1 Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains might quake at your presence—
2 as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
and that the nations might tremble at your presence!
3 When you did awesome things that we did not look for,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
4 From of old no one has heard
or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
who acts for those who wait for him.
5 You meet him who joyfully works righteousness,
those who remember you in your ways.
Behold, you were angry, and we sinned;
in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?
Do I really desire this? Is there not a sense of fear that God would actually do this? Is there not a subtle secret doubt that God actually can or will do this anymore?
J.I. Packer gave a lecture at a “Desiring God Conference” in 2003. He made some interesting points about the nature of revival that come from his study of the theology and thoughts of Jonathan Edwards.
#1 Revival is more about holy living than new conversions
#2 We cannot pray revival down – we cannot force God’s hand. It happens in His timing.
#3 Revival will not solve all of the churches problems. It can even create more!
#4 Revival is tied up in a deep desire to glorify God.
#5 Revival causes a deep repentance, responding in holy living, which draws outsiders in.
I ask that Saints everywhere join me in keeping this a regular request- Soli Deo Gloria!
In all the technical jockeying about what the reformation means and endless echoing of the great “solas”- the heartbeat of the movement is still the true gospel.
The reformation was a re-discovery of the good news of salvation to all who believe. It was a new realization to living by faith in Christ’s death. It was a childlike, simple allegiance to Christ’s righteousness and confession of man’s sinfulness.
Have you heard the good news lately?
Salvation is based on the existence of God. He has been revealed as owner and Lord of all creation. Because of our total inability to acknowledge or follow God, we are destined to be obliterated by His wrath. All of my apathy, all of my waywardness, all of my selfishness- is facing a judgment day that has been largely ignored in my shallow and superficial life.
Left to my own merit- I would be in desperate trouble when faced with the Holy God.
Now the good part- Jesus stood in my place. He took my pain. He experienced my shame. He suffered for all the judgment due to me, the sinner.
In a simple matter of trust in His sacrifice, I am delivered from darkness and the reign of terror and placed in God’s family. My record is completely changed. Christ took my sin and gave me His righteousness.
On top of all that- He even granted me faith. He chose to purchase me. He chose to love me. He chose to forgive me! HOW CAN THIS BE?
It is the gospel my friend. I am still baffled by it.
But when you see me, you see a free man. There is no condemnation because I am in Christ Jesus.
My peace….my joy….. my life…. Has been secured in Jesus. What can man do to me?
All of this…. to God Alone be the GLORY!