I can remember over the years attending sporting events with my father and passing by street preachers on the street corner as we exited the stadium. For the most part, I have come to view street preaching through a negative lens. The main reason for my negative position has been largely based upon the improper methods of groups such as Westboro Baptist and others like them. Several years ago, I actually crossed paths with WBC at the annual Southern Baptist Convention in Indiana. I was very disturbed by their tactics as I passed by them on the way to lunch. I eventually stood beside them on the sidewalk and shared the gospel with them. That meeting culminated in an interview with Shirley Phelps-Roper which was published on this blog. Needless to say, I have not been very impressed with the models of street preaching that I have experienced through the years.
In a strange twist of God’s providence, I crossed paths with a street preacher named Bobby McCreery. He is a full-time street preacher evangelist who proclaims the gospel at the University of Georgia several days per week. He has a massive beard. He loves Jesus and is a humble servant of King Jesus. Hear his story:
About a year later, I was invited by Bill Adams to speak to a group of street preachers (open-air preachers) for the 2013 April gathering of Revival-USA last year. They asked me to teach on the subject of expository preaching. I was intimidated in going to the conference to speak simply because I have remained skeptical of street preachers through the years. As I began my lecture, I heavily encouraged them to use their spiritual gifts within their local church and to preach in open-air settings under the authority of their church as opposed to merely roaming around as rogue preachers. This year, they invited me back again and after I taught on expository preaching, I accompanied them to Piedmont Park in Atlanta to preach and share the gospel in the open-air setting in conjunction with the Dogwood Festival. I wanted to see these men in action. Truth be told, I wanted to examine them and see if they used proper tactics.
It was a blessing to watch these men preach the gospel to thousands of people as they entered and exited Piedmont Park in midtown Atlanta over the course of several hours. I must say, they preached boldly the gospel of Christ with passion and love. They likewise demonstrated patience with skeptics and haters of the gospel. I was impressed by how they stood firmly upon the Word and refrained from being distracted by those who opposed their message. I have been invited to challenge these men on the subject of expository preaching and they have impacted me in regards to open-air proclamation of the gospel. In short, my position has shifted. I believe that open-air preaching (aka – street preaching) is profitable and it reaches people! Below I will share why I have changed my mind about open-air preaching as a means of proclaiming the gospel of King Jesus.
The Pattern of the Early Preachers
There is no denying the fact that the early preachers such as the apostles – including the apostle Paul – preached the gospel in an open-air manner. This pattern served as a catalyst for church planting in non-evangelized cities and nations. As the gospel moved from Jerusalem around the world by boat, it continued to be spread through the years by open-air proclamation. Jesus was an open-air preacher. Paul was an open-air preacher. Peter was an open-air preacher. Through the years, others have followed in their footsteps. George Whitefield was an open-air preacher who used his voice to thunder the gospel to thousands in fields on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Dr. Steven Lawson described George Whitefield as “a preaching phenomenon.” John Piper reminds us of one of the many unbelievable moments of Whitefield’s open-air preaching:
He recounts that in Philadelphia that same year on Wednesday, April 6, he preached on Society Hill twice in the morning to about 6,000, and in the evening to near 8,000. On Thursday, he spoke to “upwards of ten thousand,” and it was reported at one of these events the words, “‘He opened His mouth and taught them saying,’ were distinctly heard at Gloucester point, a distance of two miles by water down the Delaware River.
God used the open-air preaching of George Whitefield in a way that changed hearts and history. David Hume, a Scottish skeptic in philosophy and deist, would travel 20 miles at 5am to hear Whitefield preach. Someone once asked, “I thought you didn’t believe what he preaches?” Hume responded, “I don’t, but he does.” He was a man who proclaimed boldly and loudly the gospel of Jesus Christ. James Lockington was present in London to hear a sermon by Whitefield. Lockington recorded the following paragraph verbatim. Whitefield said:
I’ll tell you a story. The Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 1675 was acquainted with Mr. Butterton the [actor]. One day the Archbishop . . . said to Butterton . . . ‘pray inform me Mr. Butterton, what is the reason you actors on stage can affect your congregations with speaking of things imaginary, as if they were real, while we in church speak of things real, which our congregations only receive as if they were imaginary?’ “Why my Lord,” says Butterton, “the reason is very plain. We actors on stage speak of things imaginary, as if they were real and you in the pulpit speak of things real as if they were imaginary.” Whitefield added, “I will bawl [shout loudly], I will not be a velvet-mouthed preacher.”
*This picture appeared in a newspaper as a criticism or satire of George Whitefield’s preaching in Pennsylvania in 1763.
The unescapable point of Christian history is that God has chosen to use open-air preaching to save sinners and establish churches in remote regions of darkness.
I’m not an open-air preaching advocate or champion by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I’m still intimidated by open-air preaching if the truth were known. However, I want to answer some objections that I have held onto through the years. Perhaps you have these same concerns or criticisms of open-air proclamation.
1. People today don’t respect street preaching.
It has been often remarked that the times have changed and that people no longer respect the street preacher. We must be honest, people have always hated street preachers and we can’t expect that in our modern times those sentiments will change. If anything, the hatred and animosity will likely increase. Therefore, we can’t reject the model of street preaching simply because of the hatred of the lost world. We must expect people to hate the preaching of the gospel. Jesus warned in John 15:18-19, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
2. It’s not effective.
Who is the judge of effectiveness? Oftentimes through history, the church has embraced a faulty model of success. Just because a church has large numbers doesn’t mean it’s successful or biblical. Likewise, just because the majority of the people who pass the street preacher on the sidewalk reject his message, it doesn’t mean he is unsuccessful. The true judge of success is Jesus Christ. We must remember this in all areas of ministry. Furthermore, we must remember that our labor is never in vain in the gospel ministry (1 Corinthians 15:58). God’s Word never returns void and it always accomplishes a purpose. Sometimes that purpose is indictment. At other times, it’s a message to save sinners. We must trust God to do His work through the preaching of the gospel. As Paul reminds us, it is the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). Many people are being saved in our present day through street preaching. Countless babies have been saved from murder through street preachers (see the Babies Are Murdered Here project). God is the judge of effectiveness and success.
3. People don’t go to sporting events to hear a preacher, they go to enjoy a game. It’s rude to intrude on an event as an uninvited preacher.
In the great majority of the times in the New Testament, we see Jesus, Peter, and Paul going into new cities and countries preaching without being invited as the keynote speaker. In fact, the majority of the time, when Paul went into a new location and entered a synagogue he was doing so without a letter of invitation on the local synagogue’s letterhead. He was basically preaching without invitation and boldly standing upon the foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the argument that opposes street preaching based on the fact that they don’t have an invitation to stand in the park or at the stadium and preach is a weak point to say the least.
4. It gives the gospel a bad name.
I will be the first to say, the street preacher is often not standing in a dignified pulpit to address ready listeners in a calm and prepared atmosphere. He is often maligned. It’s not uncommon for the street preacher to receive loud rebuke and criticism. George Whitefield was often greeted by having dead cats thrown upon him as he entered the fields. Therefore, because of the railing accusations and opposition to the preaching, it can cast a shadow upon the cross as the man stands there to publicly proclaim the gospel. In short, it can be quite humiliating. However, didn’t that same thing happen as Jesus preached? What about Peter? When he stood in that famous Christian sermon at Pentecost, they accused the Christians of being drunk! In other words, they viewed them as talking out of their heads. What about Paul? They called his message a message of foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18). The intellectuals of Rome and Corinth rejected the message of the cross. Is that a reason to quit preaching the gospel publicly? What about in our present day? Should we abandon it because people don’t “respect” it?
While my position has clearly changed, I do still have concerns about open-air preaching. Anytime we speak in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, it must be done with order and with a commitment to the local church.
1. Commitment to the local church
As we examine the pattern in the New Testament, Paul was not preaching in the streets as an alternative to the church. It was for the church that he labored in the streets. God’s plan is the church and we must keep that focus in all areas of our ministry – from street preaching and beyond. Therefore, I would not support a man who desires to preach on the street but is unwilling to use his gifts in the life of the local church. If a man has a calling to the street preaching evangelism, he should be using his gifts in his local church. Otherwise, it’s a rogue attempt to bypass the church to exercise spiritual gifts.
Beyond being useful to the local church, the street preacher must be under the authority of the local church. Who would desire an evangelist to speak in your church who wasn’t connected and under the authority of a local church and a pastoral staff? The same thing is true for those who preach as evangelists on the street. If an elder body doesn’t see a gift of preaching in a specific man and would not allow him to preach in the pulpit or teach a small group in the church, that man should not be commissioned to stand on the street corner and preach the gospel. Authority in the church and oversight is given for a specific reason. If a man is not submissive to his pastors, he should not be preaching the Word.
2. Making Disciples
One of the great challenges in street preaching evangelism is making lasting contacts with people and connecting them to a solid church. For instance, if a street preacher is preaching at a Super Bowl in a major city and hands out gospel tracts while preaching to thousands of people as they pass by on the street, he has limited availability to point them to a good church in their town. However, if the tract has a connection point online, it may allow for the street preacher to make contact with those who are impacted by his preaching. This will enable him to make disciples and influence people in a far greater way than merely preaching without any aim of additional connection with his audience.
Therefore, what I see is a need to be really organized with a plan to make connections on the street that may lead to connections online. This organization is helpful and with modern technology it’s much easier than in the days of George Whitefield.
I am convinced that it pleases God to save sinners through open-air proclamation. Not only is it a good thing for preachers to do it for the sake of evangelism but likewise for the sake of humility. It’s a humbling thing to proclaim the gospel to a group of people who reject God and His gospel message as utter foolishness. May God be pleased to use open-air preaching to reach multitudes with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Be warned if you go and preach publicly – you will look foolish. You will look crazy. You will be called names. You will be looked upon as non-respectable members of society. Will you go? May God raise up another Whitefield to thunder the gospel publicly without shame!
Soli Deo Gloria,
Pastor Josh Buice
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, February 17, 1856, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.
“There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both the of the just and unjust.”—Acts 24:15.
Reflecting the other day upon the sad state of the churches at the present moment, I was led to look back to apostolic times, and to consider wherein the preaching of the present day differed from the preaching of the apostles. I remarked the vast difference in their style from the set and formal oratory of the present age. I remarked that the apostles did not take a text when they preached, nor did they confine themselves to one subject, much less to any place of worship, but I find that they stood up in any place and declared from the fulness of their heart what they knew of Jesus Christ. But the main difference I observed was in the subjects of their preaching. Surprised I was when I discovered that the very staple of the preaching of the apostles was the resurrection of the dead. I found myself to have been preaching the doctrine of the grace of God, to have been upholding free election, to have been leading the people of God as well as I was enabled into the deep things of his word; but I was surprised to find that I had not been copying the apostolic fashion half as nearly as I might have done. The apostles when they preached always testified concerning the resurrection of Jesus, and the consequent resurrection of the dead. It appears that the Alpha and the Omega of their gospel was the testimony that Jesus Christ died and rose again from the dead according to the Scriptures. When they chose another apostle in the room of Judas, who had become apostate, Acts I.22, they said, “One must be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection;” so that the very office of an apostle was to be a witness of the resurrection. And well did they fulfil their office. When Peter stood up before the multitude, he declared unto them that “David spoke of the resurrection of Christ.” When Peter and John were taken before the council, the great cause of their arrest was that the rulers were grieved :because they taught the people and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” Acts iv. 2. When they were set free, after having been examined, it is said, “With great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.” Acts iv. 33. It was this which stirred the curiosity of the Athenians when Paul preached among them, “They said, he seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods, because he preached unto them Jesus and the resurrection of the dead.” And this moved the laughter of the Areopagites, for when he spoke of the resurrection of the dead, “Some mocked, and others said, we will hear thee again of this matter.” Truly did Paul say, when he stood before the council of the Pharisees and Sadducees, “Concerning the resurrection of the dead I am called in question.” And equally truly did he constantly assert, “IF Christ be not risen from the dead, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is vain, and ye are yet in your sins.” The resurrection of Jesus and the resurrection of the righteous is a doctrine which we believe, but which we too seldom preach or care to read about. Though I have inquired of several booksellers for a book specially upon the subject of the resurrection, I have not yet been able to purchase one of any sort whatever; and when I turned to Dr. Owen’s works, which are a most invaluable storehouse of divine knowledge, containing much that is valuable on almost every subject; I could find, even there, scarcely more than the slightest mention of the resurrection. It has been set down as a well known truth, and therefore has never been discussed. Heresies have not risen up respecting it; it would almost have been a mercy if there had been, for whenever a truth is contested by heretics, the orthodox fight strongly for it, and the pulpit resounds with it every day. I am persuaded, however, that there is much power in this doctrine; and if I preach it this morning you will see that God will own the apostolic preaching, and there will be conversions. I intend putting it to the test now, to see whether there be not something which we cannot perceive at present in the resurrection of the dead, which is capable of moving the hearts of men and bringing them into subjection to the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
There are very few Christians who believe the resurrection of the dead. You may be surprised to hear that, but I should not wonder if I discovered that you yourself have doubts on the subject. By the resurrection of the dead is meant something very different from the immortality of the soul: that, every Christian believes, and therein is only on a level with the heathen, who believes it too. The light of nature is sufficient to tell us that the soul is immortal, so that the infidel who doubts it is a worse fool even than a heathen, for he, before Revelation was given, had discovered it—there are some faint glimmerings in men of reason which teach that the soul is something so wonderful that it must endure forever. But the resurrection of the dead is quite another doctrine, dealing not with the soul, but with the body. The doctrine is that this actual body in which I now exist is to live with my soul; that not only is the “vital spark of heavenly flame” to burn in heaven, but the very censer in which the incense of my life doth smoke is holy unto the Lord, and is to be preserved for ever. The spirit, every one confesses, is eternal; but how many there are who deny that the bodies of men will actually start up from their graves at the great day? Many of you believe you will have a body in heaven, but you think it will be an airy fantastic body, instead of believing that it will be a body like to this—flesh and blood (although not the same kind of flesh, for all flesh is not the same flesh), a solid, substantial body, even such as we have here. And there are yet fewer of you who believe that the wicked will have bodies in hell; for it is gaining ground everywhere that there are to be no positive torments for the damned in hell to affect their bodies, but that it is to be metaphorical fire, metaphorical brimstone, metaphorical chains, metaphorical torture. But if ye were Christians as ye profess to be, ye would believe that every mortal man who ever existed shall not only live by the immortality of his soul, but his bodyshall live again, that the very flesh in which he now walks the earth is as eternal as the soul, and shall exist for ever. That is the peculiar doctrine of Christianity. The heathens never guessed or imagined such a thing; and consequently when Paul spoke of the resurrection of the dead, “Some mocked,” which proves that they understood him to speak of the resurrection of the body, for they would not have mocked had he only spoken of the immortality of the soul, that having been already proclaimed by Plato and Socrates, and received with reverence.
We are now about to preach that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. We shall consider first the resurrection of the just; and secondly, the resurrection of the unjust.
I. There shall be A RESURRECTION OF THE JUST.
The first proof I will offer of this, is, that it has been the constant and unvarying faith of the saints from the earliest periods of time. Abraham believed the resurrection of the dead, for it is said in the Epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 11 verse 19, that he “accounted that God was able to raise up Isaac even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.” I have no doubt that Joseph believed in the resurrection, for he gave commandment concerning his bones; and surely he would not have been so careful of his body if he had not believed that it should be raised from the dead. The Patriarch Job was a firm believer in it, for he said in that oft repeated text, Job. xix. 25, 26: “For I know that my Redeemer liveth; and that he shall stand at the latter-day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” David believed it beyond the shadow of a doubt, for he sang of Christ, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine holy one to see corruption.” Daniel believed it, for he said, that “Many who sleep in the dust shall rise, some to everlasting life, and some to everlasting contempt.” Souls do not sleep in the dust; bodies do. It will do you good to turn to one or two passages and see what these holy men thought. For instance, in Isaiah, ch. xxvi. 19, you read: “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake, and sing, ye that dwell in the dust; for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.” We will offer no explanation. The text is positive and sure. Let another prophet speak—Hosea, ch. vi. verses 1 and 2: “Come and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.” Although this does not declare the resurrection, yet it uses it as a figure which it would not do were it not regarded as a settled truth. It is declared by Paul, also, in Hebrews xi. 35, that such was the constant faith of the martyrs; for he says, “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.” All those holy men and women, who, during the time of the Maccabees, stood fast by their faith, and endured the fire and sword, and tortures unutterable, believed in the resurrection, and that resurrection stimulated them to give their bodies to the flames, not caring even for death, but believing that thereby they should attain to a blessed resurrection. But our Saviour brought the resurrection to light in the most excellent manner, for he explicitly and frequently declared it. “Marvel not,” said he, “at what I have said unto you. Behold the hour cometh when they that are in their graves shall hear the voice of God.” “The hour is coming when he will call the dead to judgment, and they shall stand before his throne.” Indeed, throughout his preaching, there was one continued flow of firm belief, and a public and positive declaration of the resurrection of the dead. I will not trouble you with any passages from the writings of the Apostles; they abound therewith. In fact, Holy Scripture is so full of this doctrine that I marvel, brethren, that we should so soon have departed from the stedfastness of our faith, and that it should be believed in many churches that the actual bodies of the saints will not live again, and especially that the bodies of the wicked will not have a future existence. We maintain as our text doth, that “there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.”
A second proof, we think, we find in the translation of Enoch and Elijah to heaven. We read of two men who went to heaven in their bodies. Enoch “was not; for God took him;” and Elijah was carried to heaven in a chariot of fire. Neither of these men left his ashes in the grave: neither left his body to be consumed by the worm, but both of them in their mortal frames (changed and glorified doubtless) ascended up on high. Now, those two were the pledge to us that all of us shall rise in the same manner. Would it be likely that two bright spirits would sit in heaven clothed in flesh, while the rest of us were unclothed? Would it be at all reasonable that Enoch and Elijah should be the only saints who should have their bodies in heaven, and that we should be there only in our souls—poor souls! longing to have our bodies again. No; our faith tells us that these two men having safely gone to heaven, as John Bunyan hath it, by a bridge that no one else trod, by which they were not under the necessity to wade the river, we shall also rise from the flood, and our flesh shall not for ever dwell with corruption.
There is a remarkable passage in Jude, where it speaks of Michael the Archangel contending with the devil about the body of Moses, and using no “railing accusation.” Now, this refers to the great doctrine of angels watching over the bones of the saints. Certainly, it tells us that the body of Moses was watched over by a great archangel; the devil thought to disturb that body, but Michael contended with him about it. Now would there be a contention about that body if it had been of no value? Would Michael contend for that which was only to be the food of worms? Would he wrestle with the enemy for that which was to be scattered to the four winds of heaven, never to be united again into a new and goodlier fabric? No; assuredly not. From this we learn that an angel watches over every tomb. It is no fiction, when on the marble we carve the cherubs with their wings. There are cherubs with outstretched wings over the head of the grave-stones of all the righteous; ay, and where “the rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep,” in some nook o’ergrown by nettles, there an angel standeth night and day to watch each bone and guard each atom, that at the resurrection those bodies, with more glory than they had on earth, may start up to dwell for ever with the Lord. The guardianship of the bodies of the saints by angels proves that they shall rise again from the dead.
Yet, further, the resurrections that have already taken place give us hope and confidence that there shall be a resurrection of all saints. Do you not remember that it is written, when Jesus rose from the dead many of the saints that were in their graves arose, and came into the city, and appeared unto many? Have ye not heard that Lazarus, though he had been dead three days, came from the grave at the word of Jesus? Have you never read how the daughter of Jarius awoke from the sleep of death when he said, “Talitha cumi?” Have you never seen him at the gates of Nain, bidding that widow’s son rise from the bier? Have you forgotten that Dorcas who made garments for the poor, sat up and saw Peter after she had been dead? And do you not remember Eutychus who fell from the third loft and was taken up dead, but who, at the prayer of Paul, was raised again? Or, does not your memory roll back to the time when hoary Elijah stretched himself upon the dead child, and the child breathed, and sneezed seven times, and his soul came to him? Or have you not read that when they buried a man, as soon as he touched the prophet’s bones he rose again to life? These are pledges of the resurrection; a few specimens, a few chance gems flung into the world to tell us how full God’s hand is of resurrection jewels. He hath given us proof that he is able to raise the dead by the resurrection of a few, who afterwards were seen on earth by infallible witnesses.
We must now, however, leave these things, and refer you once more to the Holy Spirit by way of confirming the doctrine that the saints’ bodies shall rise again. The chapter in which you will find one great proof is in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, vi. 13: “Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.” The body, then, is the Lord’s. Christ died not only to save my soul, but to save my body. It is said he “came to seek and to save that which was lost.” When Adam sinned he lost his body, and he lost his soul too; he was a lost man, lost altogether. And when Christ came to save his people, he came to save their bodies and their souls. “Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord.” Is this body for the Lord, and shall death devour it? Is this body for the Lord, and shall winds scatter its particles far away where they never shall discover their fellows? No! the body is for the Lord, and the Lord shall have it. “And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise us by his own power.” Now look at the next verse: “Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ.” Not merely is the soul a part of Christ—united to Christ, but the body is also. These hands, these feet, these eyes, are members of Christ, if I be a child of God. I am one with him, not merely as to my mind, but one with him as to this outward frame. The very body is taken into union. The golden chain which binds Christ to his people goes round the body and soul too. Did not the apostle say “they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the Church?”—Ephesians v. 31, 32. “They are one flesh;” and Christ’s people are not only one with him in spirit, but they are “one flesh” too. The flesh of man is united with the flesh of the God-man; and our bodies are members of Jesus Christ. Well, while the head lives the body cannot die; and while Jesus lives the members cannot perish. Further the Apostle says, in the 19th verse, “Know yet not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghostwhich is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price.” This body he says, is the temple of the Holy Ghost; and where the Holy Ghost dwells in a body, he not only sanctifies it, but renders it eternal. The temple of the Holy Ghost is as eternal as the Holy Ghost. You may demolish other temples and their gods too, but the Holy Ghost cannot die, nor “can his temple perish.” Shall this body which has once had the Holy Ghost in it be always food for worms? Shall it never be seen more, but be like the dry bones of the valley? No; the dry bones shall live, and the temple of the Holy Ghost shall be built up again. Though the legs, the pillars, of that temple fall—though the eyes, the windows of it be darkened, and those that look out of them see no more, yet God shall re-build this fabric, re-light the eyes, and restore its pillars and regild it with beauty, yea, “this mortal shall put on immortality, and this corruptible put on incorruption.
But the master argument with which we close our proof is that Christ rose from the dead, and verily his people shall. The chapter which we read at the commencement of the service is proof to a demonstration that if Christ rose from the dead all his people must; that if there be no resurrection, then is Christ not risen. But I will not long dwell on this proof, because I know you all feel its power, and there is no need for me to bring it out clearly. As Christ actually rose from the dead—flesh and blood, so shall we. Christ was not a spirit when he rose from the dead; his body could be touched. Did not Thomas put his hand into his side? and did not Christ say, “Handle me, and see. A spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have.” And if we are to rise as Christ did—and we are taught so—then we shall rise in our bodies—not spirits, not fine aerial things, made of I know not what—some very refined and elastic substance; but “as the Lord our Saviour rose, so all his followers must.” We shall rise in our flesh, “though all flesh is not the same flesh;” we shall rise in our bodies, though all bodies are not the same bodies; and we shall rise in glory, though all glories are not the same glories. “There is one flesh of man and another of beasts;” and there is one flesh of this body, and another flesh of the heavenly body. There is one body for the soul here, and another body for the spirit up there; and yet it shall be the same body that will rise again from the grave—the same I say in identity, though not in glory or in adaptation.
I come now to some practical thoughts from this doctrine before I go to the other. My brethren, what thoughts of comfort there are in this doctrine, that the dead shall rise again. Some of us have this week been standing by the grave; and one of our brethren, who long served his Master in our midst, was placed in the tomb. He was a man valiant for truth, indefatigable in labour, self-denying in duty, and always prepared to follow his Lord (Mr. Turner, of Lamb and Flag School), and to the utmost of his ability, serviceable to the church. Now, there were tears shed there: do you know what they were about? There was not a solitary tear shed about his soul. The doctrine of the immortality of the soul was not required to give us comfort, for we knew it well, we were perfectly assured that he had ascended to heaven. The burial service used in the Church of England most wisely offers us no comfort concerning the soul of the departed believer, since that is in bliss, but it cheers us by reminding us of the promised resurrection for the body; and when I speak concerning the dead, it is not to give comfort as to the soul, but as to the body. And this doctrine of the resurrection has comfort for the mourners in regard to the buried mortality. You do not weep because your father, brother, wife, husband, has ascended to heaven—you would be cruel to weep about that. None of you weep because your dear mother is before the throne; but you weep because her body is in the grave, because those eyes can no more smile on you, because those hands cannot caress you, because those sweet lips cannot speak melodious notes of affection. You weep because the body is cold, and dead, and clay-like; for the soul you do not weep. But I have comfort for you. That very body will rise again; that eye will flash with genius again; that hand will be held out in affection once more. Believe me, I am speaking no fiction. That very hand, that positive hand, those cold, clay-like arms that hung down by the side and fell when you uplifted them, shall hold a harp one day; and those poor fingers, now icy and hard, shall be swept along the living strings of golden harps in heaven. Yea, you shall see that body once more.
“Their inbred sins require
Their flesh to see the dust,
But as the Lord their Saviour rose,
So all his followers must.”
Will not that remove your tears. “He is not dead, but sleepeth.” He is not lost, he is “seed sown against harvest time to ripen.” His body is resting a little while, bathing itself in spices, that it may be fit for the embraces of its Lord.
And here is comfort for you too, you poor sufferers, who suffer in your bodies. Some of you are almost martyrs with aches of one kind and another—lumbagoes, gouts, rheumatisms, and all sorts of sad afflictions that flesh is heir to. Scarcely a day passes but you are tormented with some suffering or other; and if you were silly enough to be always doctoring yourselves, you might always be having the doctor in your home. Here is comfort for you. That poor old rickety body of yours will live again without its pains, without its agonies; that poor shaky frame will be repaid all it has suffered. Ah! poor negro slave, every scar upon your back shall have a stripe of honor in heaven. Ah! poor martyr, the crackling of thy bones in the fire shall earn thee sonnets in glory; all thy sufferings shall be well repaid by the happiness thou shalt experience there. Don’t fear to suffer in your frame, because your frame will one day share in your delights. Every nerve will thrill with delight, every muscle move with bliss; your eyes will flash with the fire of eternity; your heart will beat and pulsate with immortal blessedness; your frame shall be the channel of beatitude; the body which is now often a cup of wormwood will be a vessel of honey; this body which is often a comb out of which gall distilleth, shall be a honeycomb of blessedness to you. Comfort yourselves then, ye sufferers, weary languishers upon the bed: fear not, your bodies shall live.
But I want to draw a word of instruction from the text, concerning the doctrine of recognition. Many have puzzled themselves a to whether they will know their friends in heaven. Well now, if the bodies are to rise from the dead, I see no reason why we should not know them. I think I should know some of my brethren, even by their spirits, for I know their character so well, having talked with them of the things of Jesus, and being well acquainted with the most prominent parts of their character. But I shall see their bodies too. I always thought that a quietus to the question, which the wife of old John Ryland asked. “Do you think,” she said, “you will know me in heaven?” “Why,” said he, “I know you here; and do you think I shall be a bigger fool in heaven than I am on earth?” The question is beyond dispute. We shall live in heaven with bodies, and that decides the matter. We shall know each other in heaven; you may take that as a positive fact, and not mere fancy.
But now a word of warning, and then I have done with this part of the subject. If your bodies are to dwell in heaven, I beseech you take care of them. I do not mean, take care of what you eat and rink, and wherewithal you shall be clothed; but I mean, take care that you do not let your bodies be polluted by sin. If this throat is to warble for ever with songs of glory, let not words of lust defile it. If these eyes are to see the king in his beauty, even let this be your prayer, “Turn off my eyes from beholding vanities.” If these hands are to hold a palm branch, oh, let them never take a bribe, let them never seek after evil. If these feet are to walk the golden streets, let them not be swift after mischief. If this tongue is for ever to talk of all he said and did, ah! let it not utter light and frothy things. And if this heart is to pulsate for ever with bliss, I beseech you give it not unto strangers; neither let it wander after evil. If this body is to live for ever, what care we ought to take of it; for our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost, and they are members of the Lord Jesus.
Now, will you believe this doctrine or not? If you will not, you are excommunicate from the faith. This is the faith of the Gospel; and if you do not believe it you have not yet received the Gospel. “For if the dead rise not, then your faith is vain, and ye are yet in your sins.” The dead in Christ shall rise, and they shall rise first.
II. But now we come to the RESURRECTION OF THE WICKED.
Will the wicked rise too? Here is a point of controversy. I shall have some hard things to say now: I may detain you long, but I beg you, nevertheless, hearken to me. Yea, the wicked shall rise.
The first proof is given in the 2nd Epistle to the Corinthians, ch. v. 10. “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” Now, since we are all to appear, the wicked must appear, and they will receive the deeds done in the body. Since the body sins, it is only natural that the body should be punished. It would be unjust to punish the soul and not the body, for the body has had as much to do with sin as ever the soul has had. But wherever I go now, I hear it said, “The ministers in old times were wont to say there was fire in hell for our bodies, but it is not so; it is metaphorical fire, fancied fire.” Ah! it is not so. Ye shall receive the things done in your body. Though your souls shall be punished, your bodies will be punished as well. Ye who are sensual and devilish, do not care about your souls being punished, because you never think about your souls; but if I tell you of bodily punishment you will think of it far more. Christ may have said that the soul should be punished; but he far more frequently described the body in misery in order to impress his hearers, for he knew that they were sensual and devilish, and that nothing that did not affect the body would touch them in the least. “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, to receive the things done in the body according to what we have done, whether it be good or evil.”
But this is not the only text to prove the doctrine, I will give you a better one—Matt. v. 29. “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”—not “thy whole soul,” but “thy whole body.” Man, this does not say that thy soul shall be in hell—that is affirmed many times—but it positively declares that thy body shall. That same body which is now standing in the aisle, or sitting in the pew, if thou diest without Christ, shall burn for ever in the flames of hell. It is not a fancy of man, but a truth that thy actual flesh and blood, and those very bones shall suffer: “thy whole body shall be cast into hell.”
But lest that one proof should not suffice thee, hear another out of the same gospel—chapter 10:28. “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul andbody in hell.” Hell will be the place for bodies as well as for souls. As I have remarked, wherever Christ speaks of hell and of the lost state of the wicked, he always speaks of their bodies; you scarcely find him saying anything about their souls. He says, “Where their worm dieth not,” which is a figure of physical suffering—the worm torturing for ever the inmost heart, like a cancer within the very soul. He speaks of the “fire that never shall be quenched.” Now, do not begin telling me that this is metaphorical fire: who cares for that? If a man were to threaten to give me a metaphorical blow on the head, I should care very little about it; he would be welcome to give me as many as he pleased. And what say the wicked? “We do not care about metaphorical fires.” But they are real, sir—yes, as real as yourself. There is a real fire in hell, as truly as you have now a real body—a fire exactly like that which we have on earth in everything except this—that it will not consume, though it will torture you. You have seen the asbestos lying in the fire red hot, but when you take it out it is unconsumed. So your body will be prepared by God in such a way that it will burn for ever without being consumed; it will lie, not as you consider, in a metaphorical fire, but in actual flame. Did our Saviour mean fictions when he said he would cast body and soul into hell? What should there be a pit for if there were no bodies? Why fire, why chains, if there were to be no bodies? Can fire touch the soul? Can pits shut in spirits? Can chains fetter souls? No; pits and fire and chains are for bodies, and bodies shall be there. Thou wilt sleep in the dust a little while. When thou diest thy soul will be tormented alone—that will be a hell for it—but at the day of judgment thy body will join thy soul, and then thou wilt have twin hells, body and soul shall be together, each brimfull of pain, thy soul sweating in its inmost pore drops of blood, and thy body from head to foot suffused with agony; conscience, judgment, memory, all tortured, but more—thy head tormented with racking pains, thine eyes starting from their sockets with sights of blood and woe; thine ears tormented with
“Sullen moans and hollow groans.
And shrieks of tortured ghosts.”
Thine heart beating high with fever; thy pulse rattling at an enormous rate in agony; thy limbs crackling like the martyrs in the fire, and yet unburnt; thyself, put in a vessel of hot oil, pained, yet coming out undestroyed; all thy veins becoming a road for the hot feet of pain to travel on; every nerve a string on which the devil shall ever play his diabolical tune of Hell’s Unutterable Lament; thy soul for ever and ever aching, and thy body palpitating in unison with thy soul. Fictions, sir! Again, I say, they are no fictions, and as God liveth, but solid, stern truth. If God be true, and this Bible be true, what I have said is the truth, and you will find it one day to be so.
But now I must have a little reasoning with the ungodly on one or two points. First, I will reason with such of you as are very proud of your comely bodies, and array yourselves in goodly ornaments, and make yourselves glorious in your apparel. There are some of you who have no time for prayer, but you have time enough for your toilet; you have no time for the prayer-meeting, but you have time enough to be brushing your hair to all eternity; you have no time to bend your knee, but plenty of time to make yourselves look smart and grand. Ah! fine lady, thou who takest care of thy goodly fashioned face, remember what was said by one of old when he held up the skull:
“Tell her, though she paint herself an inch thick,
To this complexion she must come at last.”
And something more than that: that fair face shall be scarred with the claws of fiends, and that fine body shall be only the medium for torment. Ah! dress thyself proud gentleman for the worm; anoint thyself for the crawling creatures of the grave; and worse, come thou to hell with powdered hair—a gentleman in hell; come thou down to the pit in goodly apparel; my lord, come there, to find yourself no higher than others, except it be higher in torture, and plunged deeper in flames. Ay, it ill becomes us to waste so much time upon the trifling things here, when there is so much to be done, and so little time for doing it, in the saving of men’s souls. O God, our God, deliver men from feasting and pampering their bodies when they are only fattening them for the slaughter, and feeding them to be devoured in the flame.
Again, hear me when I say to you who are gratifying your lusts-do you know that those bodies, the lusts of which you gratify here, will be in hell, and that you will have the same lusts in hell that you have here? The debauchee hastes to indulge his body in what he desires—can he do that in hell? Can he find a place there where he shall gratify his lust and find indulgence for his foul desire? The drunkard here can pour down his throat the intoxicating and deadly draught; but where will he find the liquor to drink in hell, when his drunkenness will be as hot upon him as it is here! Ay, where will he find so much as a drop of water to cool his parched tongue? The man who loves gluttony here will be a glutton there; but where will be the food to satisfy him, when he may hold his finger up and see the loaves go away from him, and the fruits refuse his grasp. Oh! to have your passions and yet not to satisfy them! To shut a drunkard up in his cell, and give him nothing to drink! He would dash himself against the wall to get the liquor, but there is none for him. What wilt thou do in hell, O drunkard, with that thirst in thy throat, and having nought but flames to swallow, which increase thy woe? And what wilt thou do, O rake, when still thou wouldst be seducing others, but there are none with whom thou canst sin? Do I speak plainly? Did not Christ do so? If men will sin, they shall find men who are not ashamed to reprove them. Ah! to have a body in hell, with all its lusts, but not the power to satisfy them! How horrible that hell will be!
But hear me yet again. Oh! poor sinner, if I saw thee going into the inquisitor’s den to be tormented, would I not beg of thee to stop ere thou shouldst put thy foot upon the threshold? And now I am talking to you of things that are real. If I were standing on a stage this morning, and were acting these things as fancies, I would make you weep: I would make the godly weep to think that so many should be damned, and I would make the ungodly weep to think that they should be damned. But when I speak of realities, they do not move you half as much as fictions would, and ye sit just as ye did ere the service had commenced. But hear me while I again affirm God’s truth. I tell thee sinner, that those eyes that now look on lust shall look on miseries that shall vex and torment thee. Those ears which now thou lendest to hear the song of blasphemy, shall hear moans, and groans, and horrid sounds, such as only the damned know. That very throat down which thou pourest drink shall be filled with fire. Those very lips and arms of thine will be tortured all at once. Why, if thou hast a headache thou wilt run to thy physician; but what wilt thou do when thy head, and heart, and hands, and feet ache all at once? If thou hast but a pain in thy reins, thou wilt search out medicines to heal thee; but what wilt thou do when gout, and rheum, and vertigo, and all else that is vile attack thy body at once? How wilt thou bear thyself when thou shalt be loathsome with every kind of disease, leprous, palsied, black, rotten, thy bones aching, thy marrow quivering, every limb thou hast filled with pain; thy body a temple of demons, and a channel of miseries. And will ye march blindly on? As the ox goeth to the slaughter, and the sheep licketh the butcher’s knife, so is it with many of you. Sirs, you are living without Christ, many of you; you are self-righteous and ungodly. One of you is going out this afternoon to take his day’s pleasure; another is a fornicator in secret; another can cheat his neighbour; another can now and then curse God; another comes to this chapel, but in secret he is a drunkard; another prates about godliness, and God wots he is a wretched hypocrite. What will ye do in that day when ye stand before your Maker? It is a little thing to have your minister upbraid you know; it is a small thing to be judged of man’s judgment; what will ye do when God shall thunder out not your accusation, but your condemnation, “Depart ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels?” Ah! sensual ones, I knew I should never move you will I spoke about torments for your souls. Do I move you now? Ah no! Many of you will go away and laugh, and call me, as I remember once being called before, “a hell-fire parson.” Well, go; but you will see the hell-fire preacher one day in heaven, perhaps, and you yourselves will be cast out; and looking down thence with reproving glance, it may be, I shall remind you that you heard the word, and listened not to it. Ah! men, it is a light thing to hear it; it will be hard enough to bear it. You listen to me now unmoved; it will be harder work when death gets hold of you and you lie roasting in the fire. Now you despise Christ; you will not despise him them. Now ye can waste your Sabbaths; then ye would give a thousand worlds for a Sabbath if ye could but have it in hell. Now ye can scoff and jeer; there will be no scoffing or jeering then: you will be shrieking, howling, wailing for mercy; but—
“There are no acts of pardon passed
In the cold grave to which we haste;
But darkness, death, and long despair,
Reign in eternal silence there.”
“O my hearers! the wrath to come! the wrath to come! the wrath to come. Who among you can dwell with devouring fire? Who among you can dwell with everlasting burnings? Can you, sir? can you? Can you abide the flame for ever? “Oh, no,” sayest thou, “what can I do to be saved?” Hear thou what Christ hath to say, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” “He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned.” “Come, now let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
It doesn’t take a long and strenuous evaluation of the evangelical church to render the conclusion that we are living in the midst of a high definition entertainment “Jesus” culture. If there was ever a need for growing discernment it’s our present day. In recent days, we have seen the release of a movie titled Son of God. Additionally, a movie titled Noah stirred up much controversy by skewing the storyline of Noah’s story as revealed in the Bible. We have also seen the release of another movie titled, God’s Not Dead which has been largely embraced by the evangelical community. In a day where we are seeing many religious films released and eschatological books written about “blood moons” – what should we learn from this pattern? Someone once remarked, “sex sells” and they were right, but so does religion!
A new movie has just been released titled, Heaven Is For Real. This movie is taken from the book Heaven Is For Real that was released back in 2011. The book was written by a man named Todd Burpo who happens to be a pastor. The book tells the story about his son Colton, who allegedly visited heaven at age 4 while being operated on following a ruptured appendix. One thing is for sure, people are talking about these films and books at work. Pastors are being asked about these movies and popular books. Christians in general will be asked about these “blood moons” and heavenly visitations, and we must be prepared to give an answer.
As we think through these movies and best selling books, it would be wise to ask God for growing discernment and remain fully committed to the sufficiency of Scripture.
Increased Religious Conversations
As we think through the popularity of these movies and books, it clearly opens up opportunities to discuss the details with non-believers. When non-believers want to focus on the flood and the wrath of God, we have a wonderful open door to talk about the covenant of grace that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. If we are prepared, we can move a conversation with a skeptical co-worker from the flood of Genesis 6 to the love of God as revealed in John 3:16.
Opportunities for Spiritual Maturity
Within the church, certainly many of the members of our church will view these movies and it’s probable that they will have mixed reviews. If we use these opportunities wisely, we can take these movies and books as opportunities to educate our people on the main point of Noah, biblical eschatological boundaries, Christian discernment, and biblical sufficiency. As a church, we must be progressing in our sanctification and spiritual maturity.
Lack of Discernment
There is really no way around it. The popularity of movies on Noah, Jesus, blood moons, and a heavenly visit by a 4 year old boy point to the lack of spiritual discernment prevalent within the evangelical church. We hear it in songs on the radio, “Just Say Jesus” and when someone claims to be a Christian – we in the American evangelical church often give them a free pass to say many outlandish things in books and movies that don’t square with God’s Word. Are we afraid of hurting people’s feelings? Are we as Christians called to be “nice” to people even when they violate the Word of God?
Decline in Commitment to the Sufficiency of Scripture
The American evangelical community has long suffered on the battlefield of the sufficiency of Scripture. The largest denomination of evangelicals (The Southern Baptist Convention) once went to battle on the inerrancy of God’s Word. By God’s grace, they won that battle. However, as we take a closer examination of the issues, it’s quite clear that we are losing the battle on the sufficiency of Scripture.
About the Movies
The main thing to remember when movies are made is that they are designed to make money rather than to honor the sacred text of God’s Word. If we were to ask most Christians about their position on the cults of Mormonism or the Jehovah’s Witnesses, in many cases the conversation would move toward the publications of these cultic groups. For instance, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society and the Book of Mormon are both extra-biblical literature that add to God’s Word. We as Christians deny that any other word is necessary since the Word of God is sufficient. However, when it comes to books written about a 4 year old little boy that went to heaven and had a conversation with God and then came back to tell his story – we seem to have mixed reviews. Did God leave something out of His Bible? Do we need another special revelation? The answer is simply – no. Therefore, on the basis of the sufficiency of Scripture, we must reject the validity and necessity of Heaven Is For Real. After all, we know it’s for real because God has already sufficiently communicated that in a book – the Bible.
Regarding Heaven Is For Real, I agree with Tim Challies’ remarks from his review of this book:
If you struggle believing what the Bible says, but learn to find security in the testimony of a toddler, well, I feel sorry for you. And I do not mean this in a condescending way. If God’s Word is not sufficient for you, if the testimony of his Spirit, given to believers, is not enough for you, you will not find any true hope in the unproven tales of a child. This hope may last for a moment, but it will not sustain you, it will not bless you, in those times when hope is waning and times are hard. So reject this book. Do not read it. Do not believe it. And do not feel guilty doing so.
We must remember that God inspired a book to be preached rather than a movie to be watched. One thing that I’m constantly aware of with the growing technological world is that high definition images can compete for the attention of people in a far greater way than black print on white paper. In short, books have become boring while images and graphics have become popular. Is God’s Word not enough? We must be called to remembrance that God inspired a book and desires to reveal Himself in printed words rather than exquisite graphics and high definition films.
About the Blood Moon Craze
John Hagee has led the charge up the best seller’s list with his book titled, Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change. The main premise of his book is based on the big historical events that have taken place in Israel’s history during the cyclical blood moon phases. The problem with his book is twofold. First, Hagee is right to point out some of Israel’s historical moments have taken place during these blood moon phases. However, it’s also clear as we survey history, the overwhelming majority of these blood moons have not been connected to any major historical event in Israel’s history. In fact, far more blood moon cycles have resulted in more normative than abnormal events in Israel’s history.
Secondly, Hagee and all of the other prophecy preachers seem to be leading people to look to the sky and the signs of our changing world for Jesus’ return. That is a clear violation of Scripture. Rather than looking to the sky for Jesus’ return, we should be carrying out the Great Commission and doing the work of our Father until Jesus’ return. Remember the disciples who viewed the ascension of Jesus into heaven? They were gazing into the sky! According to Acts 1:10-11, two angels appeared next to them and gave them this command: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” The point is clear, as Christians and Christian preachers, we are to be doing the work of our Lord until He returns rather than studying blood moon cycles.
We are living in a culture that emphasizes experience over the exposition of God’s Word. The real issue at stake in all of the religious movies and blood moon books is the sufficiency of Scripture. Is God’s Word enough or must we depend on a movie to do our evangelism? Does faith come by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ? Should we be exploring astronomy and charting cycles of blood moons or should we be preaching the good news and doing the work of the Lord? Is the Bible sufficient? Are the prophecies of Daniel and Joel enough? Is the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John enough? Must we add to it?
As we think critically about these matters, we must be balanced and discerning Christians. We must use open doors to share the truth of the Bible with an ever growing secular society. However, as Hollywood and celebrity pastors continue to compete for our attention, we must exercise our discernment wisely and stand firm upon the holy, infallible, inerrant, and completely sufficient Word of the living God.
Pastor Josh Buice
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You may find David Platt’s words from Secret Church helpful.
Today, multitudes of teenagers are walking through life in the shadows. They wear dark clothing, paint their fingernails different shades of darkness, dye their hair dark colors, and seem to always have their faces toward the ground. I refer to this pattern as the “Wilted Flower Syndrome.” There are even Barbie-like dolls with an appearance of darkness currently on the shelves of major retail big box stores being marketed to your daughter. Statistics inform us that a large number of teenagers are seeking medical help for depression and anxiety issues with suicide as one of the top five causes of death for teenagers.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “About 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18 according to the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). Girls are more likely than boys to experience depression. The risk for depression increases as a child gets older. According to the World Health Organization, major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability among Americans age 15 to 44.”
In many cases, these teenagers come from stable homes with caring parents who seek to show them attention and provide a good home for them. What is the cause for the great numbers of teenagers who seem to be wilted rather than blooming? While I am not scientist or medical professional, I do think the link may be related to the information teenagers are consuming each day through a variety of media outlets.
The Garden of Eden and Modern Society
The book of Genesis begins with the beauty of God’s expansive creation. The commentary of God’s creation was that God saw that it was good. It was paradise on earth. Yet, in the midst of the Garden, the devil approached Eve in the form of a serpent and tempted her. If you take a close look at his attack, it was truly brilliant. Satan attacked Eve through the “eye gate” and the “ear gate.” He attacked Eve through the eyes by causing her to look at the forbidden tree. He didn’t want her to look at it in the same way. He was twisting her perspective. Satan also attacked Eve through her ears. Not only did he direct her eyes, but he lied to her through her ears. He spoke a lie and twisted God’s word about the forbidden fruit. Eve at the fruit and gave it to her husband and he likewise disobeyed God.
As we read Romans 5:12, we see the New Testament commentary on that horrible event of sin. As we go back and revisit Genesis, we see that what started off as good in the eyes of God ended badly! The book of Genesis started with creation and ended with a curse. It began with divine blessing and ended with decadence, depravity, defiance, and death. All of this was the result of a massive attack of Satan that came to Eve through her eyes and ears. As we consider the “wilted flowers” of our society, could it be that Satan is attacking the teenagers through the eyes and ears as he once did Eve in the Garden?
Modernity is both a blessing and a curse. We can be thankful for comfortable automobiles, medical advancement, heating and air, and a multitude of other blessings that we can attribute to modern technology. However, like anything good, Satan will attack it. We see that through the information technology that we have come to use on a normative basis. Consider the following statistics of media intake in America.
|Child Television Statistics|
|Number of minutes per week that the average child watches television||1,480|
|4-6 year olds were asked to choose TV or fathers – this % chose TV||54 %|
|Hours per year the average American youth spends in school||900 hours|
|Hours per year the average American youth watches television||1,200|
|Number of violent acts seen on TV by age 18||150,000|
|Number of 30 second TV commercials seen in a year by an average child||16,000|
|Source: BLS American Time Use Survey, A.C. Nielsen Co.|
These statistics and others among similar studies point to the potential source of depression, anxiety, and discouragement among the children of our culture. After all, why would teenagers who don’t buy their own food, clothes, transportation, furniture, television (and other media devices), or pay rent – fall into a massive depression? Could it be that they have been listening to Satan? And how would they be communicating with the devil? No, it isn’t through Ouija boards or a cultic séance. The medium of this contact could very well be the technology that has become commonplace in our lives – television, iPad, iPhone, iPod, and other screen devices. Before you think this is an article written by some angry alarmist, keep reading and consider the connection between the attack of Eve in the Garden and the way our culture uses technology.
Through devices such as an iPad or an iPhone, teenagers can receive many images through the eyes. Some of these images can be good, but as we are honest with ourselves, many of the images the teenagers are receiving in rapid fire succession are not for their good. They show them images of success that they are to live up to. They provide them role models to follow. These images provide standards of waist sizes and skin tone. The image is a powerful tool, and Satan knows it. Remember, he pointed out the image of the forbidden fruit to Eve many years ago.
These devices also have long surpassed the Walkman and Gameboy devices from the 90′s. The point is, these HD devices provide stunning imagery alongside great sound at the touch of a button. While Satan provides images to view, he also speaks lies into their ears. Satan hates the truth and is known as the “father of lies” (John 8:44). Our generation is a connected generation with wires coming out of ears and fingers on screens the majority of an average day. Satan carefully weaves his lies into popular music and it he delivers his message with power, privacy, and proficiency. Before long, like Eve in the Garden of Eden, teenagers have the forbidden fruit in their hands and soon thereafter they feel entrapped by their sin. This pattern causes their beautiful minds which are gifts from God to become a dark wilted flower.
The Responsibility of Parents
Deuteronomy 6 provides us as parents with the responsibility of caring for our children. It is our duty to protect our children from culture. It’s time for us to realize that we must protect the eyes and ears of our children from this present evil age. We must address this issue and place boundaries on who can and cannot speak into the lives of our children. Rather than just providing tablet devices with open Internet capabilities to children, we must create filters and actively manage their intake of movies, music, and written forms of media.
Furthermore, it is our duty as fathers and mothers to teach our children to know God through His Word. In times of distress, doubt, discouragement, and defeat – we should teach our children to find their hope in God through Jesus Christ. As the Psalmist rightly declares, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). As statistics tell us that 70-88% of all college students by the end of their freshman year walk away from the faith of their parents, we must take our role seriously. It must be known to our children before they leave our homes that Jesus is more than a suit and a tie on Sunday to us. We must live out our theology in the home and provide substantial evidence to corroborate our faith in Jesus. If our children see a disconnect between our doctrine and duty – they will likely grow disconnected from the church.
I can’t promise that media management will cause all wilted flowers to bloom. What I can promise is that consistent media management will honor God and seek to accomplish Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Satan will use media intake to accomplish 2 Corinthians 4:4 – to blind the minds of children to the gospel. It is our duty as parents to shine the light of the glorious gospel of Christ into the darkness that our teenagers often dwell in. As we think about media and the influence it has on children, we must ask ourselves a really important question. Who has the right to influence my child? Remember, if we neglect to influence our children, Satan is waiting at the curbside. He is interested in connecting your child to other teachers of neopaganism, secular humanism, atheism, and most of these teachers are found through the door of postmodernism.
Don’t just sit back, stand up! Don’t remain silent, speak up! Don’t surrender, move up! Your child is worth it. God has entrusted you with your child and you must honor Him.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Pastor Josh Buice
Through the years, I have been forced to think through my positions as a pastor. I was not called from a long line of pastors in my family. Although my grandfather was a pastor, he died before I was born. I was never able to have a good cup of coffee with him and ask him his opinions on specific things in pastoral ministry. My father was a fireman for 36 years, and I can get advice from him on many things in life, but not pastoral advice. Therefore, much of the practical things related to pastoral ministry must be learned and developed on the job rather than in the classroom. In a few weeks, I will complete my 10th year as a lead pastor. During these 10 years, I have made mistakes, adjusted practical positions, adjusted theological positions, and hopefully gained wisdom along the journey. Being a pastor is not as simple as it may seem, and learning to make the right decisions is not always easy.
Several years ago, I recall having breakfast with a group of older pastors. They were talking about ministry and practical aspects of the office of a pastor. I recall the topic of “sheep swapping” among churches came up in our conversation over coffee. The question was posed, “What is your policy for visitors who attend your church from another congregation?” I recall hearing about the “unwritten code” over the meal. Similarly, a couple of weeks ago, I attended a monthly pastors’ lunch where that exact same topic was announced for discussion. Once again, I enjoyed hearing the pastors describe their positions. It was both helpful and insightful.
The “unwritten pastoral code” as I have termed it, is a simple position followed by many pastors through the years. This unpublished rule of pastoral ethics suggests that if a visiting family attends your church from another church family and you have their information on a visitor’s form, you should contact their pastor to let him know of their visit and inform him that you have no desire to steal away his sheep. While this is not a mandate among autonomous congregations, I do follow it for the reasons stated below.
1. Thou Shalt Not Steal Sheep
Not long ago, I was made aware that a specific church not far from our campus took in 40 families (approximately 100 members) from another church across town where this pastor had previously served. Among most pastoral circles, methods like this will cause you to be labeled as a sheep thief. When visiting families attend our church services, I make an initial contact with them through a generic letter. If they continue to visit, I will usually call their pastor to let him know of their perpetual visits so that he will know what is going on (and where his sheep are). If unresolved problems are lingering between the family and their home church, the pastor can seek restoration before they officially sever ties with the church. This is healthy for the pastor, the church, and the visiting family. It also prevents me and our congregation from becoming sheep thieves. In fact, it may result in restoration and the visiting family returning to their church. I know – that method completely violates the church growth manuals of our day.
2. Avoiding Evangelical Competition
Within the evangelical church today, there is a very unhealthy spirit of competition. Pastors are often afraid to pray for one another or work together because they feel threatened. Often pastors seem to be competing for the same sheep rather than looking at the multitudes of lost people who often live within the shadow of their steeple (supposing they have a steeple). This spirit of competition is prevalent in so many forms, even Christian radio. It’s not an uncommon thing to hear a commercial of a pastor from one church on the Christian radio station inviting other Christians to his church. An honest assessment will tell us that the target audience of a Christian radio station is primarily believers who are currently members within a local church. Therefore, it goes without saying, we have a massive competition problem in the evangelical church today. Encouraging visiting families to go back to their church and resolve problems with their pastor and their church is a lost art and an unwritten code of pastoral ethics, but it will lay to rest a spirit of competition among churches.
It may seem like a crazy thought, but if a family is seeking membership in the church where I serve for no apparent reason other than they just like our playground or the style of music, I will likely ask them to return to their church. As pastors, we must create a culture of robust church membership and teach the true reasons for leaving a church. A better playground, praise band, or bigger church is not a good reason to “swap churches.”
3. Embracing a High View of Pastoral Ministry
When people join a church, they likewise submit themselves under the leadership of pastoral authority. To suggest that today’s evangelical church is weak in this area is an understatement to say the least. We are living in times of greater autonomy and privacy. However, the very nature of the church stands against the world of private Christian decisions and lifestyle. If a visiting family attends more than one service with our congregation, it is my duty to talk to their pastor. He is the one responsible for their spiritual wellbeing. He is the shepherd who has lost his sheep and may not know where they are currently attending! A high view of pastoral authority and leadership will attempt to keep church members rightly connected with their pastors. Unless the church is heretical or outside of the evangelical boundaries, the visiting family should be seeking guidance and prayer from their pastoral leaders before leaving their church.
4. Protecting the Flock of God from Wolves
The present day church is drunk on church growth. Almost any tactic you can imagine today is being employed in order to attract new sheep from other churches. If a church takes in members without counseling with their former pastoral leaders, it could be a dangerous thing for the entire church family. Why? Because wolves often dress in sheep’s clothing. More than one congregation has been hurt and confused by wolves who came into the flock looking like and speaking like sheep. The job of the shepherd is to protect the flock. Pastors are not CEO business men who are somehow separated from the people in the church until Sunday morning at 11am. The shepherd is called to feed and care for the flock, and this involves protecting them from the wolves (Titus 1). A simple conversation with the pastoral staff of the visiting family could save the entire church a great deal of pain. There are false sheep and false shepherds, and churches should be cautious of these problems.
5. Toward a High View of Church Membership
As we examine the Bible, we see a clear calling for the pastors who oversee and the church members who submit. While the pastors are to act as spiritual shepherds, the members are to act as spiritual sheep. Sheep are not to just wander off into another pasture for grazing. Shepherds shouldn’t allow sheep to just disappear. There should be a mutual desire for oversight and submission within the life of the church. As pastors feed the sheep of God’s flock, the members are to receive the food and submit to their spiritual authority.
As we consider the need for regenerate church membership, we must also pursue a truly submissive church membership. The word “submit” is often abused and rejected based on faulty definitions. However, a pastor should not just come in on a Tuesday morning and find a letter on his desk indicating that a family from the church has visited and pursued membership in another church down the road. Members should seek pastoral advice, counsel, and prayer before making such moves. Unless the members are leaving because of gross heresy or other abusive sinful actions that require more immediate action, the members should be under the guidance of their pastors prior to making such big decisions.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
As a pastor, I have seen and experienced the good, bad, and the ugly in church membership moves. I have seen families leave without the first request for prayer as they seek God’s will about a possible move. I have had pastors take in members from the church that I serve without the first phone call. I have also experienced good situations where families have approached me or a member of our pastoral staff for prayer regarding a possible business relocation, issues related to distance in travel, and other understandable concerns. Most recently, a man approached me about membership in our church. We had come to know one another and had met for coffee a few different times, but I had not expected that he and his family would come and join our church. However, before they made up their mind to leave their church family (which was in another town from where we are located), he sought counsel from the elders of his church. Through prayer and a season of counsel, the elders of his congregation gave his family their blessing in their desired move. This was perhaps the most biblical and prayerful move that I have witnessed in my 10 years as a lead pastor. I was greatly encouraged.
In conclusion, I believe that this “unwritten pastoral code” serves as a means to a more biblical church membership, the protection of God’s flock, and provides pastors a way to fulfill their calling to provide guidance and oversight to the members of the congregation.
We are more than talking heads in the pulpit. Members are more than nickels and noses on Sunday mornings. We must function as a genuine church for God’s glory!
Soli Deo Gloria,
Pastor Josh Buice
Albert Mohler Responds to Matthew Vines
Dr. Mohler’s article titled, “God, the Gospel, and the Gay Challenge — A Response to Matthew Vines” is found here and the e-book is found here: God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines.
Thabiti Anyabwile Christian Muslim Dialog
In 2013, Thabiti Anyabwile was able to take part in a Christian Muslim Dialog that addressed the main issues of the gospel verses the teaching of Islam. You can view the lectures here.
- Albert Mohler Responds to Matthew Vines
- Street Preaching
- Thabiti Anyabwile Christian Muslim Dialog
- Charles Spurgeon’s Sermon on 1 Corinthians 15
- The Battleground of Sufficiency
- Is Church Membership Really Required?
- Albert Mohler on Aronofsky’s “Noah”
- The Wilted Flower Syndrome
- World Vision Repents
- Ray Ortlund Provides a Biblical Definition of Marriage
- Albert Mohler on the Flawed Moral Vision of World Vision
- The Unwritten Pastoral Code