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July 3, 2020 12:01 am
What does the modern church need not only to survive, but thrive in the generations to come? Today, W. Robert Godfrey delivers the concluding message to his survey of church history.
Get Your Copy of W. Robert Godfrey's DVD Teaching Series A Survey of Church History, Part 6 A.D. 1900-2000 for Your Gift of Any Amount: https://gift.renewingyourmind.org/1343/survey-church-history-part-6
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Preaching has become happy clapping stories. The preacher's personality or clever illustrations. There's a difference between instruction and carrying the message of God to the lives and hearts and minds of God's people, volume 1, 21st century American values, relativity, overregulation, pragmatism over principle of individual liberty over discipline today on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. Robert Godfrey will diagnose the problems he sees in today's church and will provide a prescription that he believes will bring the cure will hear our last lecture we want to take a little more look at what I was trying to talk about in the penultimate lecture about reforms as contrasted with evangelical and of course, in some ways I was overstating things I was trying not to ideal representations in life is never ideal, so we can just think of reformed and evangelical. We need to also think about kind of a curve and evangelicals who are not reformed over on this side of the curve and crazy reformed people like me who want to describe themselves as not evangelical way over here but there are many places on this curve to be you can be reforms but influenced by evangelicals or you can be evangelical but somewhat influenced by reformed so that there is a continuing and we would all maybe be on slightly different place on this continuum.
Some of you would be way over here and I've tried to nudge you in the sound direction I'd like you all to be over here but that will only happen in heaven, probably so. But it it it reminds us that while we can have an ideal of what we think the church could be the church hardly ever corresponds to the ideal and we need to see that. Nonetheless, I would want to argue passionately and I think it's a big part of what leg and your ministry is about is that the more we approach the reformed ideal.
I think the more biblical we are and therefore the more stable we are, the stronger will be again. I don't want to reformed triumphalism, even though I sound very triumphalist ticket but I am so passionate about believing that the reformed heritage has such insights into the word of God that will strengthen Christians for the difficult time in which we live. I made a list for some light students at seminary where I think reformed Christianity stands at odds with our culture stands at odds with what's going on in a lot of churches that helps us see where we have our strengths but also to see why it is hard to be reformed in America why there is this constant pressure America is pragmatic where the reformed or principled not going to go through this quickly we can spend a lot of time trying to unpack all of this but I just want you to have some sense America tends to be anti-intellectual. Only America could probably have a political party called the know nothing party, where as reformed Christianity is confessional and doctrinal and committed to the whole counsel of God.
American culture tends to be very individualistic and reformed Christianity at its best is very communal were connected were not just on her own American culture today tends to be rather undisciplined and reformed Christianity is disciplined and boring. If you try to have church discipline.
You'll find out how quickly people don't like it. American culture is focused on the extraordinary what's new what's exciting.
What's different and reformed Christianity focuses on the ordinary. Michael Horton is a new little book out on the ordinary and important theme.
American culture tends to be democratic and reformed church life has structure and authority and office American culture tends to be emotional and reformed Christianity tries to surgically remove all emotions. Now that's doctrine.
It only appears to be reformed Christian wants to control emotions. I have a sense that emotions can run amok American culture is guided by relativism today farm one where as reformed Christianity is controlled by revelation American cultures seems irresistibly optimistic.
Even Jerry Falwell that great Baptist dispensational stew should have been committed to cultural decline on every hand was so American. He couldn't stop forming a moral majority no dispensational can really believe in a moral majority, but I'm glad for Jerry Falwell allowing a little American optimism to come through This are realists doesn't mean were never optimistic, but were not always optimistic and a Calvinistic church is a place you can grieve a place where you can be sad as well as happy where there's a realism in the approach to life and so a reformed church is I believe what were going to need progressively because I think it's not too much to say that we seem in the midst of the third American Revolution. We talked about the 19th century I talked about how the first American Revolution was really a revolution of patricians to maintain their rights as Englishmen and then in the 1820s we really had a second American Revolution where a more democratic spirit. Remember, I quoted the historian who said we had moved from rule by the snobs to rule by the mobs.
I think we're seeing now what may turn out to be 1/3 American Revolution which will be radically secular in its individualism and I think some of the moral issues that are going on in the country right now illustrate that it it's not enough apparently for the left in this country that homosexuality be declared to be normal and homosexuality to be protected in law it now must be true that no one may criticize homosexual now. I thought there was embodied in the American Constitution, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and freedom of religion, but apparently were not allowed hate speech which any criticism of homosexuality on the part of some is called hate speech and recently have all new sorts of rights coming out of the Constitution that are not explicitly in the Constitution, but are apparently allowed to contradict rights that are explicitly in the Constitution. You're the Gordon College could lose its accreditation because the president of Gordon college wrote a letter to the president of the United States are urging him to defend traditional marriage wasn't even a position of the college but because the president said that the accreditors in New England are now investigating the college and they remove their accreditation. If those things began to happen, then we will really be seeing 1/3 American Revolution in the name of radical secular individuals, and we as Christians have to be prepared to lift the world like, which may mean we have to suffer.
Things have changed dramatically. 1960 homosexual activity was illegal almost everywhere in the United States and the American psychological Association, said homosexuality was a mental disorder 55 years later homosexuality is fully legalized and critics are being silenced for and what now I'm not try to go back to the 1960s, there may well have been things about that era relative to homosexuality that were unfair all sorts of things, but are Christians going to be silenced in this country.
Interestingly, there was an article in the paper that the Archbishop the Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco have said that anyone who defends homosexuality in any of the Roman Catholic institutions in San Francisco could lose their job. I see that the liberals are prepared to pick off a small evangelical college in New England will they dare take on the Roman Catholic church yet maybe not. If it be terrible if were all saved by the Roman Catholics and I'm just kidding. Now, not just blood to know where we're headed towards what may be 1/3 American Revolution and in the question is what is that mean for us as Christians. Now, as citizens, it may be something very different, as citizens, it may mean political organization remain in all sorts of things, but is Christians. What is it me, because as I said before we can live in any culture may be persecuted. But we can live in any culture because we've lived in any culture. But what are the strengths we need to survive in a hostile culture. One of the strengths we need a course comes from the book of Revelation. I'm always intrigued with the way the book of Revelation begins the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the things that must soon take place. That's the first verse and then the third verse is blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy. For the time is near and the next-to-last verse is, I am coming soon.
What is that mean I think it means that when Jesus appears in glory.
We won't say what kept you. We won't say why is it been so long will say boy of come right away and all the way all the suffering. All the inpatients will just disappear and will say he came soon. The time was short. You know what when you look at time in the book of the Revelation. It's all short. Often it's three and half years in chapter 8 it's only half an hour only in the 20th chapters of the thousand years. Then the message I think of time in the book of the Revelation is coming soon. The time is short. Don't you worry, hold on, it won't be long. He will abandon you.
You can make it, but when it comes to the work he has for you to do 11,000 years. Plenty of time.
Just as Mary Slusser said Christ was never in her unity in her that that's one of the great messages of the book of Revelation we don't need to lose heart because is coming soon and although it may seem like a long time. What's up 2000 years among friends a thousand years, for God is like a day and that's what will be when it comes. So we we have to strengthen one another without without confidence.
We have to be reassured of that type I read a very interesting book that I found profoundly encouraging in the way that only weird historians can be encouraged. It was a book published by Harvard University press and it was entitled from shame to sin by Kyle Harper is a very scholarly book on changing sexual ethics in the late Roman Empire. No one rush right out getting in and what he studies there is how over the course of two centuries dominant attitudes towards sexual ethics in late Roman Empire moved from being pagan to being Christian the Christian ethics wasn't a perfectly biblical African guide 10 romanticize this are overstated, but what I found so intriguing was that Christians came along as a persecuted minority, challenging a profoundly perverse pagan sexual ethic, and in the course of about two 300 years they were largely able to turn ethical thinking about sex all around.
I think sometimes today work get so discouraged. As Christians we think the whole thing is hopeless. What's going to be in speaking up, and you know why they were able to do that, they were able to figure out the ways in which pagan sexual ethics undermine the image of God and man pagan sexual ethics said were all just determined by the stars as to what were like sexually. There's no point fighting against it was profoundly deterministic and the Christians came along, so we are not controlled by the stars, by the grace of God we can have freedom to be different. Maybe we need to adopt some message of freedom in a world which is increasingly deterministic about sex and then the pagans believe certain people had no control over their own bodies. Slaves had no control over their bodies had to do whatever their master said sexual prostitutes, widespread had no control over their bodies and Christians came along to. That's terrible that individuals should be treated like that have no control over their own bodies, and Christianity became the message of liberation of human dignity of respect and lo and behold slaves and prostitutes and then others began to say that Christianity is for me and I think we may well find that not only is the determinism of sexual ethics in secular society going to become unappealing to people, but it seems to me were already seeing the new pagan sexual ethics is a war on women who are the victims of this very often women were forced into abortions who are forced into premarital sex because it's what's expected in the day may come when people will say this really don't sound so good anymore. It's not a liberation. It's a bondage doodle didn't happen overnight in the Roman Empire.
It took time and sometimes we as Christians in particular American Christians very impatient if you don't happen today or tomorrow. It is never going to happen. Took 200 years for those changes to take place in late Roman Empire. The interesting things to me in this book is that he doesn't really go into the question, how did this change come about, how did it happen.
The people were convinced it wasn't for TV what was in for radio was through books. It was through preaching and I think we need to be renewed and this is another great witness of reformed Christianity, we have to be renewed in the centrality and the importance of preaching to the people of God. Now reading books is important and educated laity is a great thing. But God has appointed preaching as a means of grace is appointed preaching as a way in which he operates amongst his people and and we need to again exalt preaching and the problem is preaching has really been debased in many places in our time of preaching has become happy. Copy stories or preaching has become the preacher's personality or preaching has become clever illustrations. What preaching is with power is opening the word of God and applying the word of God to the minds and hearts of people preaching even that appears to be fairly good can descend into just instruction.
One historian said the besetting reformed sin is to turn the sanctuary into a school there's a difference between instruction and carrying the message of God for the lives and hearts and minds of God's people. Where is God in reformed service.
He's in the reading and the preaching of the word of God and we need to have that confidence renewed within us so that we look into the word of God and we treasure the passages of the word of God for what they are. Will try to just reduce them to the cross or to some other minimal truth, but but we really treasure the whole word of God. Want to know the word of God. We wanted to live into our hearts. That's why I believe it so important to build reformed churches where the word of God will be opened with with confidence with with eagerness I say seminary students that does not mean that faithful reformed preaching means wow I go out and I said I never knew that Hebrew word meant that that's not faithful reformed preaching. I mean, it's not bad. Refer to Hebrew once in a while but that's not the plaintiff's not a school room. It speaking to the heart. It saying God has a message for you. Here it is today.
God is speaking today people need to hear that eagerly the laity have a huge responsibility for what you want from a minister you want somebody's clever you want somebody who will be in your house having coffee all the time or you want somebody who's spending a lot of his time in the study so they can learn the word, and so they can bring the word to the whole congregation. You have to encourage that they don't happen automatically and and then we really need the, the fullness of what are reformed heritage has provided for us.
That's why confessions and catechisms are so crucial why reformed churches really need to be well grounded in a great confession like oh let's say the Westminster confession and a great catechism. Well, obviously the Heidelberg catechism. These are these are summaries of the faith that mortars often gave us they are summaries of the faith that represent decades and sometimes centuries of Bible study by some of the best minds in the history of the church and we'd be really foolish just to bypass all of that just to say on the will discovered all on her own. We are by large not as smart as they were, and we need to profit from the communion of the saints that is not to spread around the world, but also back through the centuries and the more difficult the times become the stronger Christians we need and the only way were going to have strong Christians as if we have strong churches where the word of God is ministered and fed on and believed and belted to the heart and soul. I think this can be an exciting day.
I think in the last 20 or 30 years we've seen a significant renewal of interest in reformed theology and and certainly the work of Lincoln here has been phenomenal in providing resources for churches to advance the cause of knowing reformed theology. What we need to do is to take that reformed theology and be sure were using it to build reformed churches because theology is only a step to the Christian life is only I help in the Christian life. But it's not the whole Christian life. We need that community that congregation where brothers and sisters support us and encourage us pray for us provide for us are with us through the joys and the sorrows of life and in a world that may more and more turn against us more and more the church is going to have to be our family and no Jesus turned to Peter after he had spoken to the one we usually call the rich young ruler Jesus said to her how difficult it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. I think the original text of rich American Standard, but that may be just a variation and of the disciples were amazed and Jesus said well what is impossible with man as possible with God. And then Peter and what initially sounds like just another dumb computer is says well we left everything and followed you always expect Shirley Jesus is going to slam it.
That would be the appropriate response and instead, Jesus says, truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake. It's not the leaving that's important. It's the leaving for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions and in the age to come eternal life where we get the lands in the family now attend church into the fellowship of God's people is why churches are so important and why we have to work at building the most faithful churches to God's will and May God bless us all.
And with that admonition to build healthy churches. We conclude Dr. Robert Guthrie series of survey of church history this week on Renewing Your Mind.
We've heard the just a few highlights of the events that took place in the 20th century and the church.
Throughout this series Dr. Godfrey explores the joys the sorrows the victories and the disappointments the church has experienced, and we would like for you to have the part six of the series. It covers the years from 1900 to 2000. New contact us today with a gift of any amount will be glad to send you the two DVD set. Our offices are closed today but you can make your donation at our website, Renewing Your Mind.board if you been meaning to request this series this week. Today is your last opportunity to do so. Request this bundled resource by going to our email@example.com Monday will feature Dr. RC's Pro series.
The promise keeper throughout history God has fulfilled his promise to redeem his people is a series of hope and joy as we look to the God of the covenants we hope you'll join us all next week here on Renewing Your Mind