|Posted by John Suttles on October 26, 2014 at 10:30 PM||comments (0)|
Justin the Martyr was a Christian who died for his faith about A.D. 165. He is most commonly known for being an apologist – a defender of his faith. As he grew up, he had no Christian instruction. At a young age he purposed to find the truth.
Justin the Martyr chose four schools, with four different religions, to begin his search for the truth. He liked the last of the four schools the best. This school taught Plato’s philosophy. Justin became a Platonist (one who believes like the Greek philosopher Plato). He became a highly esteemed Platonist philosopher.
An old man questioned Justin one day about his beliefs. In the course of conversation, the old man advised him to search the Scriptures for the truth. Justin did so and became a Christian. He was very faithful in the Christian beliefs, this being why he was martyred.
Justin the Martyr was, as formerly mentioned, an apologist. In his well-known Apology written to Antoninus Pius the emperor, he defended the Christians, claiming they were atheist only by the Roman standards, because they did not worship their many gods. They instead believed in the one true God. He went on to ask the sense in persecuting them only because they bore the name of Christian instead of persecuting them for their character as Christians. This apology was successful because, as a result, the Christians were not persecuted anymore under this emperor.
Persecution of Christians was not ceased for long because the emperor Antoninus Pius died and his son came to the throne. Under the new emperor, persecution for Christians was resumed. Justin became the courageous martyr that he is known to be under this emperor’s rule. He was first scourged then beheaded. Six other Christian friends of Justin, who were arrested with him, were martyred in the same fashion. Justin the Martyr’s last words on this earth were, “We desire nothing more than to suffer for our Lord Jesus Christ; for this gives us salvation and joyfulness before His dreadful judgment seat…”
I believe Justin went to be with his Savior; therefore, because I am a Christian, I will someday meet Justin the Martyr as well as his Savior and mine. I hope, dear reader, you will be able to meet Justin the Martyr; but most importantly, I hope you can truthfully say his Savior is also yours because to lose heaven is to gain hell.
E. Suttles, Age 11
|Posted by John Suttles on March 20, 2014 at 10:25 PM||comments (0)|
Once again, I have heard the sorrowful testimony of Christian parents estranged from their child. Such heartache is inconsolable, and only those whose hearts are breaking in such a way can understand the paralyzing grief. Some of us may be able to put our finger square on the fault in our own bosoms that alienated such a child. Others of us may be genuinely perplexed. Whatever the cause, the consequence is the same.
To add to such misery, some in the religious community would stoically pronounce judgment on our Christian credentials and sew upon our bosoms the condemnation of the scarlet A. We may as well pack our few possessions and move down to the forlorn, wind-swept, and isolated cabin with Hester Prynne. (The Scarlet Letter) Our presence encumbers those who are still qualified to “serve the Lord.” We have sinned the unpardonable sin, and it is known by the behavior of our children. Whatever knowledge energized us, whatever wisdom convicted us, whatever prudence emboldened us to remain stalwart to Truth in those early days of parenting is now stricken from the books as evidence, either no longer relevant, or worse yet, evidence used against us.
“Why is it so?” we cry out in the darkness that enshrouds our hearts. “Why my children? This was what I wanted to avoid!” Of course, that’s so; and it’s so for the countless languishing in the same parental boat. And truly, it is puzzling, when we muse without Providential oversight, that a sizable portion of the “twenty-somethings to forty-somethings” brought up in Christian homeschools and Christian day schools have not just turned aside from their parents’ teaching, but have done so with a vengeance that remains unexplainable in most cases. It even seems that the more sacrificial the parents’ service, the more contemptuous the response of the children.
There is no cure for this malady in our lives apart from the healing and regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Why He chose to allow such fruit from among a generation sincerely trying to prepare a godly generation to follow, in the only way they understood at the time, is now a mystery. Could we garner any comfort in remembering that the very grandchildren of our godly Puritan forefathers turned to Unitarianism with their catechisms ringing in their ears? Perhaps some light can be shed in our Lord’s own confession: “…if the mighty works…had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented…” (Matthew 11:21). The turning of nations is the work of the Lord, as is the giving of faith and repentance. Whether it has been His pleasure to grant our children that faith and repentance rests solely in His sovereign will, but that neither negates our faithful administration nor excuses our unfaithful administration of His Word as parents in our homes. Until we parents can both understand and accept this, we can never hope to move up from our abyss.
So, truthfully, does this leave us as failures? That’s a legitimate question that can only be effectually answered and remedied by the healing work of the Holy Spirit in the application of the Word. But perhaps someone acting in the capacity of the Evangelist (The Pilgrim’s Progress) pointing to “yonder light,” will lift our heads from the Slough of Despond and turn our eyes toward the Light and the hope of healing. Just maybe by the painful articulation of those thoughts that have so held us captive, we will be brought to enough release to reveal to us that our ears are those who still have hearing.
First, let’s articulate some of the grievances that have wet our pillows. These are the children who now hand down their ruling on our law with the smugness of a county judge. But remember, our adjudication is on the federal level and our tenure is for life; and all judges owe their rulings and their regard to the Supreme Judge whose Law it is we have feebly attempted to administer.
Of course, we don’t want them to like ways we believe are wrong; but gone are the days when we could make them eat their broccoli because we believed it was good for them. We live in a democratic time in which peer opinion out-ranks anything senior. All the counsel of their brief acquaintances given without the price of sacrifice outweighs our knee-worn counsel pressed under by the burden of parental love.
We can no longer garrison ourselves in a spiritual cloister and refuse to acknowledge the spirit of the age that has permeated now even our own homes. It is the Nietzsche spirit of “super-will” that scorns “servant-hood” in any flavor. Our children’s generation is the ripe fruit of the “we did it our way and these boots were made for walking” generation. We may have taught our children the Christian values of self-denial and loving our enemies, and they may have watched from their childhood sidelines as we endured scorn from friends and family and suffered the loneliness of no church family or lack of Christian friends. But for many of them, this will not be their lifestyle. Some will “mis”-appropriate the very Scriptures we taught them in order to justify a life from which we sought to protect them. Some will deny the validity of the Scriptures altogether and embrace the forbidden and indulge in the fruit. Some will “correct” us in our “misunderstandings.” This correction won’t be wrapped in the tearful softness of a loving, grateful child; but rather it will find its expression in a scornful pride that ranks its brief, focused study as weightier than our years of submitted, all-encompassing study reflected in painful experience and lowly wisdom. It’s the attitude with which their vigilante justice toward us is administered and the contempt with which their actions seem to mock us that presses us under as God said Israel’s sin had pressed Him. (Amos 2:13) “You only have I known of all the families of the earth…” (Amos 3:2) And even as our God grieved for the love spurned, He promised a full measure of return. To whom much is given, much will be required. (Luke 12:48)
It seems we are forced to stand by and watch their “victories” in their new lives as if we are vanquished foes and condemned slaves until we, at last, succumb to the anguish and humiliation in a capitulation that will never really re-establish our parenthood. We will always be the vanquished; we will always be the “bank of you owe it to me”; we will always be the scullery maid who stole the lovely trinkets of a spoiled childhood. In their estimation, we just need to get used to the new way of things. They will set up housekeeping the way they believe is right in spite of the hindrances we have caused them or the fact that we don’t approve. They haven’t liked our wheel because they have a better one.
But here is the key to our recovery. Our failings do not remove us from office. Cain’s murder of Abel rendered Cain the outcast from God, not his father Abel. Isaac had sinned in favoring Esau in spite of God’s choice of Jacob. But Esau’s marriages to Canaanite wives proved his true heart, and the revelation of his true heart did not remove his father Isaac as the patriarchal heir of the covenant promises. Samuel was not driven from the prophet’s chamber because his sons were dishonest. David retained his authority to crown the next king, even after his sin and in spite of Absalom’s treachery. We will always be the parents who are to be honored by the commandment with promise.
Then what do we do? As in all things, we confess our sin. Surely, if we think all day, every day for the rest of our lives, we will not understand all the wrong we have done nor which wrong specifically sealed the attitudes of our children toward us. We’re not asked to do so. We are told to repent and promised that He will heal. He forgives our sin and places it behind His back. We may have trouble putting it behind our own backs, but we must still move forward in spite of it. This repentance is a final action; it is not accomplished one evening with the sin laid aside to be retrieved the next morning. It is a scar that may remain tender, not an oozing sore that cannot heal. It is a wet pillow, but a smiling face. It is a mouth of wisdom, and a tongue of praise. It is a servant submitted, and a child leaning on His bosom. It is the marching step of a soldier in the flickering light of a candle. It is service to the worthiest of Kings.
We are not failures. We have failed; but if we are redeemed, we are no longer failures. But we must keep ever before us that our children are just that—they are our children, the recipients of our own personal, sinful propensities. Perhaps that will help us to put into right perspective our downtrodden spirits that it is our children who are behaving in such a way. We must submit to the purposes of God in their lives—even if it means His rejecting them.
And we must look for “spiritual orphans” put in our paths who need our spiritual teaching. Our Lord told us that the fields were “white unto harvest.” (John 4:35) It is so, if we will but look. Our fellowship may no longer find peace and spiritual intercourse with our “blood” children; but others may be given to us for our experienced care and nurture. We must leave the monastic cell of our self-flagellation, and return to the battlefield. We have the armor. We have the call. God equips repentant failures.
Dr. Teresa Suttles
|Posted by John Suttles on March 6, 2014 at 11:40 PM||comments (0)|
Rev. 22:7: “Behold, I come quickly...”
Rev. 22:12: “And, behold, I come quickly...”
Rev. 22:20: “Surely, I come quickly...”
These words are nearly the last words of the last book of God's inspired and infallible Scripture. They are the final words spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself to us and they are spoken to us three times as He closes His revelation.
Many take a great interest in the last words of men. They listen with great care to hear what men, especially the famous and great ones of the earth, have to say when they come to the door of death. They read with great interest the records of the final words of those of ages past in their dying hour.
But here, we have the last words of Him “that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, is alive for evermore” (Rev. 1: 1). He who holds the keys of death and hell. If there were ever words to which we should give our complete, undivided, and most serious attention, it is to these words of “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth” (Rev. 1:5).
If any earthly king should express but once his intent to do something, that is enough to cause the entirety of that country's government to make immediate preparation for the fulfillment of that intention. By how much more then should we give earnest heed to the King of kings and Lord of lords when He speaks not once – not twice – but three times over, His final word to the church and the world – “Behold, I come quickly.”
If some great person should send word directly to us saying that he was coming – and coming quickly – we would instantly and thoroughly prepare ourselves and all our possessions for his arrival. And then how careful and anxious would we be to keep watch, constantly looking out and looking for the moment when he would appear at our door.
Oh, but sadly, the King of glory has sent word to you, to all, that He is coming and that quickly, yet how few have heeded His announcement, how few have made preparation, how few are anxiously watching, expecting that, at the next moment, He comes quickly?
The most part of mankind conduct themselves as though the Lord had never spoken these words even once, forgetting altogether that He said them thrice over. And many among that vast multitude – are you one such? – many among that vast multitude of the careless have gone beyond mere carelessness and become mockers of this promise.
They are like those in the days of the Apostle Peter who said “Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Pet 3:4). They scoff and jeer and mock saying, where is this Jesus? What's become of Him? It's been twice a thousand years since he departed and there's no sign of him.
Dear reader, make not yourselves the companion of such fools. For these mockers have forgotten that further inspired word of the Apostle Peter – “be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pet. 3:4). By this eternal accounting of time the Lord Jesus has been gone but TWO DAYS!
That man is a fool who measures according to earthly time this brief pause between our Lord's first coming and His return. To those who scoff the words of Mr. Matthew Henry are most appropriate when he wrote that for such the Lord's coming “will be sooner than they are aware, sooner than they are prepared, and sooner than they desire.”
Let the mockers mock, that day is yet fixed and appointed in the court of heaven when the Father shall say, “DONE!”, and the Lord Jesus Christ will rise from His throne at the right hand of the Father and shall gather the souls of all His people that inhabit the heavenly realms and for the first time since their creation heaven shall be emptied of all its angels (Matt. 25:31-32). Then all the souls of the redeemed who died in the Lord and all the angels shall follow Him as He returns once more to earth, this time in the full glory and splendor that is His as the Son of God. And this He will do just as He said - “Behold, I come quickly!”
And this is no bare re-appearance. He comes for this reason, to judge the earth, every man and woman, boy and girl. In that day when He returns “every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him” (Rev. 1:7). Yes, every eye shall behold Him – kings' eyes and beggars', those of the rich and the poor, your eye and mine. The dead in their graves shall be raised, and together with the living, shall look up and see Him coming, as Jude has written, “with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed” (v. 14, 15).
The Scriptures refer to this day as the great and terrible day of the Lord. Exactly so shall be that day for every sinner, every scoffer at the Lord's return. Everyone who bowed not their knee to Christ while in this mortal body, shall, in that resurrected body, bow their knee and confess with their tongue that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Listen to the description of the scene of that great day when He comes quickly – Rev. 20:11–15:
“And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
Oh, reader, what a dreadful day that day shall be for everyone – for you – if you have not repented and believed, if you have not laid hold of Christ by faith as your Redeemer before that day. Consider carefully this solemn word – if you have not known the Lord Jesus as your Redeemer and Savior in this present hour, then you shall know Him as your Judge in that hour when He comes quickly, and He will pronounce your condemnation in that hour before the assembled universe of men and angels.
Think for a moment what it shall be when the Lord of hosts sits upon His seat of judgment. His all seeing eye shall pierce every heart and make every sinner to know every sin that he or she ever committed. Then they shall confess before Him and that vast assembly that their sentence is just and right when He declares to them - “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt 25:41).
And who are these cursed? From this same last book of the inspired Scripture we have this description: they are “the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” Rev. 21:8.
Think you that you are not there listed? Do you say, these are not my sins? They ARE, for the Scripture clearly declares “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10)! If you are yet outside of the safety of forgiveness of sins through the blood of Christ the Redeemer, you are at this moment within the just condemnation of Christ the Judge who is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29) and all that awaits is the execution of your sentence.
Reader, do not count these words foolish tales or myths for the feeble-minded. You have the witness of the prophets and apostles, the testimony of angels, and the word of Jesus Christ Himself, not once nor twice, but three times over to the truth of it – “Behold, I come quickly.”
We write plainly and directly and perhaps some are offended, but should we not so plead when matters of eternity are before us? If the building you are now in were on fire, would you not speak plainly and directly to all urging them to flee and escape the danger? How much more then should we be clear and direct when not just our bodies but our souls are in eternal danger!
I urge you, let these words – behold, I come quickly – consume your thoughts, and may they be an unceasing cry in your ears to flee to Jesus Christ repenting of your sins and believing on His shed blood as your only hope of cleansing from them. Fail to take timely heed and it shall be for you as the Lord said of another, “the last state of that man is worse than the first” (Matt. 12:45). For the sinner that day when the Lord comes quickly will be as the prophet Zephaniah describes it “a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess” (Zeph. 1:15).
But there is another scene on that day that deserves notice. Vastly, eternally different will be the character of that day for those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. For that day when He comes quickly will be a day of joy and delight for the believer. Oh, you who are the believing ones, “lift up your heads for your redemption draweth nigh” for Behold, He comes quickly!
Saints of God, “now is our salvation nearer than when we believed,” (Romans 13:11) and in that day when He comes quickly, our salvation shall be complete and there shall be fulness of joy and pleasures forevermore at His right hand. In that day every redeemed one will be like Him for we shall seem Him as He is, and who can conceive even the least part of it, for eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath entered into the heart of man what God hath prepared for them that love Him.
We shall indeed see Him with immortal, incorruptible eyes on that day. We shall see the fullness of His glory and what shall that be like? He Who is the brightness of His Father's glory and the express image of His person we will see with our own eyes. Even Moses could not bear the sight of God's glory while on earth, but in that day when the Lord Jesus comes quickly, our vile bodies will be changed, and we shall behold the King in all His glory. Who can tell what that sight shall be with mere human words?
We shall see His glory, yes, and we shall see His wounds. Those wounds He received at Calvary, now made all the more glorious by the fullness of that glory which He had with the Father before the world began. We shall look upon His pierced hands and His wounded feet and His riven side, and we shall worship the Lamb of God forever and sing “a new song, saying...thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests” (Rev. 5:9–10a).
We shall indeed see His glory and we shall see His wounds, but more than that we shall see His face. For the very first time numberless multitudes of the redeemed will look upon the face of their dear Redeemer with eyes made able to bear the glory! Haven't we wondered from time to time what He will look like? In that day, when He comes quickly, we shall know!
We shall look into the eyes of Him Who saw us in eternity past, and who loved us with an everlasting love and who drew us in lovingkindness to Himself. His eyes will surely beam with delight when He looks upon His bride, the Church, which He Himself has adorned in white, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, and we, in turn, shall look upon Him with an admiration unspotted and unstained by sin and frailty any longer. It shall be as the hymnwriter has gloriously put it:
The bride eyes not her garment, but her dear bridegroom's face
I will not gaze at glory, but on my King of grace
Not at the crown He giveth, but on His pierced hand
The Lamb is all the glory of Immanuel's land.
Then again we shall see His smile as He rejoices over us with joy, and we shall hear His voice for the very first time with our ears, and it shall cause our hearts to leap within us as He speaks those wondrous words – “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
Sinner, fear and tremble for “Behold, I come quickly!” Flee to Christ as the Savior while you have this moment or you shall meet Him as your Judge in that day. And saint, rejoice for this word – “Surely, I come quickly!”
|Posted by John Suttles on February 4, 2014 at 10:45 PM||comments (0)|
(The author of the following blog is an eleven year old boy, a member of our church, and the oldest of four siblings. While much of his time is given to his classical, Christian studies, he always finds time to enjoy the wonders of God's creation, like mud and tractors. He hopes to be a preacher when he is grown. He has written from his heart to encourage other children - and adults as well.)
I am a young Christian whom God saved about a year ago. I feel the need of telling you about the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only Son of God. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” The Lord Jesus Christ paid the wages of sin for all who turn from their sin and believe on Him. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” So, I would beg you to “seek Him while He may be found”, in the words of Scripture. I would beg you to think about your future – eternity. Where will you be; heaven or hell? If you are a professing Christian, then I would encourage you to “make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10).
|Posted by John Suttles on January 14, 2014 at 10:45 PM||comments (0)|
Often our skepticism is based not on fact, but on something rather flimsy such as personal taste or unfamiliarity with the proposed option. Such is the case with much of modern education and its skeptical adherents. “The classics are of no value to modern children, and certainly not to Christian children,” they say. “Time can be better spent on something else.” It is without argument that time will be spent on something else; but the value accrued from that “something else” may be negligible. Classics are not the recently-published paper-back “tritisms.” A true classic has stood the test of time and generations of readers, captivating imaginations and teaching lofty lessons of character. So it is from a proponent’s perspective for studying the classics, that I am grateful to be able to share a portion from a classic.
Many teachers, including this one, are indebted to Rosemary Sutcliff for bringing the adventures of the Trojan War to younger children not yet capable of reading Homer’s classics in the more difficult text. Even our young children are wise enough to understand the frailty of human nature and the futility of hoping in gods whose characters have all the same flaws as humans. Yet, these same children are enriched by the personification of honor, value, respect, loyalty, and integrity in the Greek and Trojan heroes. They see also the consequences of pride, arrogance, insolence, and dishonesty in the villain Paris and even in the gods themselves.
We have been reading aloud Miss Sutcliff’s Black Ships Before Troy; and with rapture, we reached the awesome battle when Hector the Trojan hero and his mighty army pushed through the Greek defenses and nearly reached their black ships anchored on the shore below the great city of Troy. Heroes, in these days of classics, were god-like men whose strength and courage knew no bounds. Their troops rallied behind them, trusting not only in their bravery but in their military genius as well. Hector, was the hero of the heroes.
Two days before this formidable battle-day, Hector had been called out in single combat with the Greek hero Ajax. Their strength being evenly matched, the combat remained breath-taking, but without notable incident until they were reduced to short blades. Ajax’s blade gashed Hector’s neck, and Hector retaliated with a spear-jab on the shield of Ajax. His spear-point bent on the boss of the shield, and Hector tossed it aside. Catching a huge stone from the ground, he flung it at Ajax. Ajax caught up a larger stone and “hurled it with all his strength against Hector, smashing the shield in on him, taking the strength from his knees and flinging him over onto his back. Hector’s world darkened and swam, but he scrambled, gasping, to his feet, his hand going for his sword. Ajax’s sword was also out, and in a moment more they would have been close locked, blade to blade, but heralds from both armies came running and thrust their staves between them and bade them cease, for both had proved themselves worthy champions, and the night was coming on.” (1)
The day following was a truce day. Both heroes had only the one day to recuperate and make ready for the next battle. We know from the story, that their days and nights were spent in planning strategies and reconnoitering the enemy. At first light on that fateful battle day, the two war-hosts clashed on the plain below Troy, the Trojans pushing the Greeks down to the sea. Mid-day had passed, and Hector rallied his men, rushing ahead of them into the midst of the Greeks. It was in the rushing of this engagement that the Greek Diomedes struck a hard blow on the helmet of Hector, sending Hector crashing to the ground. But listen to what happened next. “His warriors closed about him with their shields, and in a few heartbeats of time he was up, the light coming back into his eyes. He sprang into his chariot, and…headed away for the left-wing of the Greek war-host.” (2)
Then the Greek hero Diomedes was struck by a Trojan arrow that pierced his foot and pinned it to the ground. But when Odysseus, his battle comrade, had pulled the arrow from his foot, he covered Diomedes with his great shield until Diomedes could climb into his chariot and be driven back to the ships.
Zeus, the greatest of the Olympian gods, had helped the Trojans reach the middle of the Greek camp but then turned his thoughts elsewhere. Taking advantage of his inattention, his brother Poseidon, god of the sea, realized the desperate situation with the Greeks. He harnessed his chariot horses and came driving ashore attended by huge sea monsters to energize the Greeks. In this surge by the Greeks, Ajax and Hector are once again face-to-face. Ajax caught up a great stone used to chock a ship and holding it aloft, heaved it with all his strength down on Hector, “catching him over the shield arm and below the helmet strap, so that he dropped like a bull under the ax of sacrifice, with all his armor clanging upon him.” (3) What now of the fate of Hector? Let us read on.
“Instantly his companions sprang close about him, and while some guarded their rear and flanks, others bore him off out of the fighting.” The Greeks rallied, thinking Hector to be dead, and pushed the Trojans back to the plain. Meanwhile, Zeus realized that the Trojans were in trouble and that Hector lay beside the river spitting up black blood. Zeus could not undo the work of his brother Poseidon, so he dispatched his own son Apollo, the sun-god, to go to Hector and breathe life and battle power into him “such as he had never known before.” So in obedience to his father, Apollo swooped down to “where Hector lay, with his companions dashing cold water over him, and breathed fresh life and the strength of his own godhood into him. And Hector rose and called for his armor and turned back to the battle.”
It was here that the story time ended for the day; but what a lesson I could teach from this battle. Yet, the most poignant aspects belonged to me. How many battle wounds have brought the blood and taken me to my knees with my head swimming. These were the times when the herald came and drove a stave in the ground for the truce. I had fought well, but now it was time to rest. Those heralds are marked all through the pages of my Bible, times and trials, suspended by the herald sent from the King. I thought again of Hector engaged in battle, already wounded from the day before, receiving a fierce blow from the enemy that sent him to his knees. Surely this was the mortal wound—the one that removed him from the battle, rallied his enemies, and brought the black blood of death. Is not this the testimony of many Christians, already wounded, yet struck by the enemy’s blow that reels them to the ground? But it was the faithfulness of Hector’s friends, guarding him, carrying him to safety, laying him by the water of life where the son of Zeus came in his light and breathed life into Hector’s fading body. And so, it has been the family of God that has cared for these wounded Christians, “partakers of the sufferings” yet “also helping together by prayer for us…” (II Corinthians 1:7, 11).
In reading this classic to the children, it has not just been lessons of bravery and character that have presented themselves. The recollection of many Scripture parallels have come forward, and thoughts of the battle with the enemy of this world loomed large in my mind. As Hector’s rallying cry must have pierced the air on that Trojan plain, so the Apostle Paul’s sounded in my ears, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). I was reminded again that only the whole armor of God will make me able to stand. And I must be strengthened by the promises of God’s Word to be able, as battle-weary Hector was strengthened to do, to rise up, pick up my sword and turn back to the battle. And in the battle, I must be faithful to close about my brothers and sisters in the Lord with my own shield of faith to cover them while they are carried to safety. These are the lessons I most want to bring to the children’s minds.
Of course, these lessons can be taught to children without incorporating the classics. And of course, even with the incorporation of the classics, the Bible is not only precedent but the Perfect Rule. The classics reveal the growing up of Western Civilization, the gods of the nations and the God of the Bible, wrapped in the beauty of our language and delivered through the medium of storytelling. This is the rich heritage of our children.
I am so thankful that my God is not the Zeus-god whose attention can be diverted! And when I read how poor Hector suffered because of Zeus’ distraction, I am brought to worship when I contemplate yet again how that the true God is never distracted. His own Son, the Light of the world, came in His covenantal love from the Father to breathe life when I lay dying in my sin. He washed me clean by the water of His Word. He is my strong tower where I can find safety and rest. His armor girds me for the battle, and the fellowship and prayers of His saints guard my sides and carry me to safety when I fall. Certainly, I am engaged in a fierce battle with the enemy; but, hallelujah, the enemy is already defeated.
Is it possible that all of this could come to mind just reading about a battle of long, long ago? Yes! What rich lessons can be pressed upon the minds of our children when classic stories can bring these lessons to life!
Dr. Teresa Suttles
1 Rosemary Sutcliff, Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of The Illiad, (New York: Laurel-Leaf, Random House, Inc., 1993), 42.
2 Ibid., 59.
3 Ibid., 65-66.
|Posted by John Suttles on December 24, 2013 at 4:00 PM||comments (0)|
How to Sacrifice Your Children
What an interesting concept—a “how-to” on sacrificing our children. Actually, parents in antiquity followed prescribed procedures for passing their children through the fire to Moloch. They were probably not unlike parents of all generations who simply follow the “norms” for bringing up their children. But these same parents fail to account for the shifting “norms” that change almost as frequently as the months on a calendar. Today this one thing is in vogue; tomorrow it is absolutely forbidden. Civilizations, with their way of life, rose and fell. Our own way of life is drastically different from two generations past. Just consider the opening statement. This is a “how-to.” But a “how-to” what? A book—a manual—a CD—a DVD—or just an “e-how” of one or two brief paragraphs?
Ah—but Christians have a Book that has never fluctuated, never been affected by generational dysfunction, never changed. But that’s the problem for many modern Christians. We have a Book. This Book is the Logos, the Word of God—all of which requires reading. Our Book is not given for simply a cursory reading, nor an “e-how” instruction for a specific problem. Our Book is to be read and understood and “straightly cut” for instruction and application. (II Timothy 2:15) The problem is that many modern Christians can’t read well and don’t really see the need. Consequently, they parent their children with the same standard. “I never liked to read.” “I hated history.” I wasn’t good in math.” These excuses form the working educational foundation in many homes; yet, they also chip away at the very foundation of our Christian churches.
In 1647, the Puritans of the Massachusetts colony passed the Old Deluder Satan Law that required all parents to teach their children how to read. Their intention was to guarantee that succeeding generations could read the Bible for themselves, and in doing so, to maintain the foundation of their own religious freedom. Whether we agree with making this a civil law or not, we must recognize the intention of these Puritans. They understood the dangers of their society and the necessity for their children to excel—even beyond themselves—in understanding and obedience to God’s Word.
These Puritan parents wholly embraced the requirement that, as Christians, we are to love the Lord our God with all of our minds. (Matthew 22:37) This was their paradigm that motivated them in the education of their children. They understood that the greatest enemy was the enemy who would steal the words that fed the minds of their children. These were parents whose education had been based in the Bible, languages, and the classics. They knew the enemy and how to fight him.
But modern ignorance of the enemy has deluded Christians, just as our forefathers warned. Feeble attempts have been made to remedy our situation, but too many churches are failing to reap any benefits. Many homeschooled children have been vacuum-sealed in a perpetual infancy of their minds in the name of “sheltering.” Their “unschooled” environment may be a sort of Great Protectorate from detrimental external influences; but the real enemy of the children has been overlooked.
Who or what is this enemy? Our enemy is the Old Deluder himself. His war has always been waged against the Logos; and his most effective weapon is the destruction of His followers by devaluing His Word. (Consider Genesis 3) It follows that something of little value is also little considered. Then what will direct the paths of our children, or correct their ways, or fill their minds? We may have all the external fortifications for their safe-keeping, but what will fortify their minds and provoke them to good works and provide for a godly continuum of generations to follow? Or—have we shipwrecked the next generation?
We must be teaching our children to read; yet not just to read, but what they must read. We must be connecting the dots to show them the wiles of the enemy. We’re so easily impressed by modern religious rebuttals against evolution; but we’ve stopped there as if that was the greatest of all debates. Rather, we should be considering the Great Conversation that spawned such ugly children as Evolution and Atheism and the poisoned venom that nourished them.
Consider how few children are taught to read Shakespeare; and consider how few who read the words with some meaning understand any of the underlying references of Shakespeare to the Bible and to writings of antiquity or contemporary writers of his day. Consider his play Henry V. He showed how the powerful words of King Henry rallied his bedraggled and spent army to overcome the mighty French army. Shakespeare rebuked those whose intention was to demean words and replace them with “sensory images.”
Consider how few children read Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress; and consider again how few modern Christian children are required to study it. Yet, the self-educated tinker knew well his Bible and the psychology of man and events of the religious world of his day. Consider in the words of his Christian how he described the enemy as the Leviathan, referencing Job 41:26-29. Pilgrim’s Progress was published in 1678. Thomas Hobbes’ work the Leviathan was published in 1651, invoking the text from Job 41:33 to support his teaching. Mr. Hobbes cloaked his “doctrine” in Christian terminology while he dug up and discarded the foundation of Divine Revelation and rendered our Bibles less authoritative than the Laws of Nature. But Mr. Bunyan’s Christian warned that when “we hear that such robberies are done on the King’s highway,” we must go out in our armor with our shield of faith. (Ephesians 6:16) How many students of Bunyan would have recognized that admonition?
We know that Paul referred to “secular” things and to Greek writers to evangelize and to fortify the early churches. But can we as modern Christian parents accept that the same broad classical knowledge is necessary for our children? Perhaps, we have failed to realize that Ignorance is such a powerful deterrent to classical education; rather Ignorance often breeds contempt of such knowledge. But the contempt of classical knowledge then spills over into contempt of all knowledge, including knowledge of the Bible as Paul admonished Timothy to have. (II Timothy 2:15)
Perhaps when we realize just how little our children understand that the Bibles we cherish are Divinely Inspired, we will be motivated to abide by our own Old Deluder Satan Law to teach them to read. But if we also realize how little our children really care that they don’t understand, we may be motivated to act quickly. But then, if we begin to study ourselves and realize how much the Laws of Nature and “touchy-feely” Science has replaced the Word in the our own minds, we will realize as Mr. Bunyan taught us that unless we go out with our armor and our shield, we will not make the Leviathan yield, for “he fears us not at all.”
Dr. Teresa Suttles
|Posted by John Suttles on July 17, 2012 at 10:25 PM||comments (0)|
Christian...and Faithful, The Legacy of John Harper
If you were told that you had about 2 hours, 40 minutes left to live, what would you do with your remaining time? Surely, this is not a scenario in which you would like to find yourself, and yet, for one man in 1912, this was exactly the dilemma he faced. That man’s name was John Harper.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. While stories, movies, books, and songs abound related to the fateful voyage of the Titanic, one is hard pressed to find records of explicitly Christian conduct the night of the Titanic’s sinking. Indeed, there were many acts of bravery – many acts of courage and selflessness. And these are worthy of noting. But even pagan Rome honored these virtues! Where, we might ask, are the last testaments and dying proclamations of real Christians? Where are those who glorified God and served Christ to the very end in the face of a horrible and frightening death? Where are the accounts of men or women spending their last moments to save more than just bodies – to save souls? Sadly, these are not things one hears of when hearing of the Titanic. You won’t find gospel witnesses heralded in Hollywood! All you'll find there are stories of drunken irresponsibility and fornication that is praised as love. In light of these things, John Harper’s story needs repeating.
John Harper was a Scotsman and a Baptist pastor of some renown. He was a passenger on the RMS Titanic when it struck an iceberg. But, most importantly, Harper was a Christian with a burning zeal to see lost souls come to Christ. Those who knew him universally testified of this fact. He beautifully demonstrated this love for Christ and for lost souls on the night of April 14th, 1912.
Little did Harper know, when he departed for the U.S.A. what he was to face! He had been invited to speak at the Moody Church in Chicago and was traveling along with his six year old daughter, “Nan”, and her aunt, Miss Leitch (both survived). He eagerly looked forward to being there in the coming weeks. But God intended instead that the deck of the Titanic and the frigid waters of the North Atlantic would be Harper’s last pulpit experience.
By all accounts, Harper spent his final moments energetically evangelizing the lost and comforting the believers. Almost from the moment that news was sent below, a little after 11:40 p.m., about the Titanic having been damaged by ice, Harper went to work as a dying missionary. We may never know how many lives God touched or souls He saved by the preaching of this one man as he bravely looked death in the face on that frozen night. But one moving testimony will serve to present your mind with a view of the nature of his dying service.
After hurrying about the deck of the sinking ship for some time encouraging hearers to repent and believe on the name of Jesus Christ, Harper took a step of great self-sacrifice. Seeing scores of people already in the frigid ocean screaming and crying, and knowing that he too would not escape death, Harper threw himself into the ocean and began swimming to those still alive to give the gospel to as many as possible before they perished. Apparently, he would swim from one to another inquiring whether they were saved. If the reply was "no", he would admonish them to look to Christ for salvation.
One person Harper encountered was a young man who later testified that he had managed to cling to a drifting piece of wreckage. Harper appeared to him, panting and freezing, and inquired about his salvation. He said he was not saved, to which Harper shouted, “Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved!” The currents took Harper away, but some time later Harper came within sight of the same young man again and shouted, “Are you saved?” Again, the young man said, “No”. Harper was again carried away.
Four years after the sinking, at a reunion of survivors in Ontario, Canada, this young man, thought to have been a steward on the ship, recounted this event and testified to those present that he had finally come to salvation in Christ and owed it to John Harper, the messenger sent by God on that horrible night.
Shortly after his last meeting with this young man in the early hours of April 15th, Harper, hopelessly exhausted in his final service to Christ, slipped into the dark waters to rest until the Lord’s coming. His body was never found. How many others were similarly touched by this dying missionary, only eternity will tell.
Harper is little remembered now. His name is not associated with all the rich and famous for which the Titanic is most known. Yet, his service to Christ is nobler than fame or fortune. Ought we not all to be so impressed with the great need of lost souls? Ought we not to respond to this one witness in the “great cloud of witnesses” before us with a renewed zeal to labor for Christ while the vanishing moments draw to an end? For they surely do! They surely are!
What will our legacy be? Will it be one of service to Christ for the cause of the Gospel –to the very end?
(The reader is referred to The Titanic’s Last Hero by Moody Adams, originally published as John Harper: A Man of God, in 1912, for further information.)
|Posted by John Suttles on July 16, 2012 at 9:15 PM||comments (0)|
Mothers, Talk to Your Sons!
The old adage, “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,” may be time-worn and faded; but the truth it contains was never more new. We find ourselves today in a culture that has managed to achieve an almost complete sexual amalgamation among our youth—indeed, to a level unparalleled in history.
Old men, like myself, can well remember that “oft replayed” newsreel of the Beatles when they landed on American soil for the first time—the so-called “second British invasion.” The clip showed them disembarking from their airplane and waving at the crowds.
Most Americans were shocked! “These boys look like girls!” was the nearly universal cry. Well, we’ve come a long way since that sad day in the 1960s—a long way down.
We’ve degenerated into a “culture” (or the absence thereof) in which gender distinction is almost illegal. It is, to say the least, socially distasteful.
God made Adam.
God made Eve.
God made male and female.
Since that day of Creation, indeed, because of that act, God has established the roles and responsibilities for all subsequent “Adam's” and “Eve's” time immortal. The pages of God’s Word delineate His purposes in both genders and their roles in the home, in the culture, in society.
While volumes could be written (and some already have) addressing the many facets of this crisis in American life, it is my intent to open only one component, namely, the relationship of mothers to their sons at one specific stage in their maturity—young manhood. It is especially at this stage that their further maturity demands a mother’s strength of character in ways never before needed.
Openness, honesty, and firmness are always virtues in a mother’s dealings with her sons; but that period of time in which the flower of youth begins to ripen into the fruit of manhood is a critical time in their relationship. This is not a time for the mush and fluff of Hollywood’s fantasies. This is the time for her to face the “little man” with all the strength, firmness, and force that godliness demands and faithfulness requires. Our modern lingo has furnished us with a term for what’s needed here—“tough love.” This is the hour for tough love in a son’s life. His need now is no longer the sweet coddling of an infant or the soft preening of a child; but the firm guiding of a youth.
Nothing teaches truth better than example; so it is that I turn now to a glorious example to illustrate my point.
The famous Baptist scholar Dr. Patrick Hues Mell was born in Liberty County, Georgia, in July 1814. In his lifetime he became the professor of Ancient Languages at Mercer University, pastored two churches simultaneously for over twenty-five years, served as a colonel in the Army for Southern Independence, served as chancellor of the University of Georgia, and president of the Southern Baptist Convention for many years until his death in 1888.
Early in life, his family had lost their fortune through certain financial reversals. Nevertheless, he had several opportunities for education. His mother’s influence on young Mell was profound. Long after her death, Dr. John Jones (an eminent Presbyterian minister of the day) described Mell’s mother in these words:
His mother (Cynthia Sumner) was a woman of marked individuality of character, intellectual, and a truly godly woman, brought up in the strictest mode of Congregationalism, and no doubt, perfectly familiar with the Westminster Shorter Catechism…Dr. Mell was all Sumner, a perfect reproduction of his mother, in form, in features, in character, and in mind, proving the old saying ‘that men of mark are chiefly indebted to their mothers for their superiority.' 1
It was later in his life, as a youth of fifteen, that Mrs. Mell found occasion to exercise the “tough love” her son so urgently needed in his life. Just before her death, his mother wrote to him while he was away at school at Sands Hill. In that letter she said:
It is high time that you and I should communicate frequently and confidentially. If this is not to be expected by the time you have arrived at fifteen, when is it to be looked for? On one account I have more anxiety, and even dread on your behalf than for any of my children. Earnestly as I wish a son of mine to be a minister, yet I tremble at the idea of educating and devoting a son to that sacred profession without…satisfactory evidence that his own soul was right with God…My heart burns to see you, in every sense of the word, a true Christian…I have loved you from your birth, and have watched over you until now with the tenderest affection, but feel my own deficiency in not communing more with you on the state of your mind. You should exercise a jealousy over yourself lest the trifles of this world should deaden your feelings about the grand question: What are the hopes of my salvation? What have I done—what must I do to be saved? Important questions. Other studies are very commendable and right, but let those which tend directly to religious subjects have the first place in your thoughts and affections. Let these pages, my dear boy, be a testimony before God and keep them as a sign between you and me, that I am in earnest. I have long been studying your character in respect to your common life and particularly in reference to this point: Remember, they that are Christ’s have crucified their lusts—crucify yours. 2
Strong words indeed! Strong and painful, no doubt, but words pouring out of a mother’s heart who had no time for trifles nor patience with neglect. Her burden was crystal clear, and her design unambiguous. So great was her burden for her son, and so determined her purpose to deliver it, that the very next day she sat down and wrote him again. Among other things she said:
I will not conceal from you any longer my anxiety for you to become a minister, yet I dare not decide on such a plan without much more clear evidence than I have yet seen that your actual state, feeling, conduct, temper and conversation, habitual and fixed thoughts, are such as will justify me in doing so. I say this with anxiety, and write with fear, but I say it with earnest prayer for the real conversion of your soul to God, and with some hope that He will hear the petition that I have endeavored to offer up for you many years back. I will repeat: I can never consent for you to study for the ministry until I have some satisfactory proof of your heart turned to God in holy consistency…of character. 3
Tough words! Tough love! Exactly what a son must hear from a mother whose aim is, above all else, the glory of God.
I am glad to report that God “put her tears in a bottle and recorded them in a book” (Psalm 56:6). Well after Mrs. Mell was dead, God sent out His Sheriff to arrest P. H. Mell. Hear him tell it in his own words in a letter to the Rev. Josiah Samuel Law dated February 1839:
The Lord has dealt mercifully with me and has been pleased to bring me from the most awful lengths of unbelief and to humiliate me at the foot of the Cross. And I think I can say that I have the firmest belief relying humbly upon His promises that He has for Christ’s sake pardoned all my sins. It is almost more than I can realize, and when I consider who I am and what I have been and how I have trifled with this subject, I am filled with astonishment that I can by possibility arrive at such a state of mind as to believe that I have passed from death unto life…and by steps that were imperceptible to me at the time and cannot be traced now, I was brought to relinquish all my doubts and to feel that even for me the subject had an interest…I would often retire to a private place and try to pray, and because I did not receive a miraculous manifestation of God’s presence in my heart, I would give up in despair and perhaps the next moment with a zeal that would astonish myself, would join with the thoughtless in throwing ridicule on the Bible and religion. But not to multiply words, in this awful state did I continue until about three weeks ago when God was pleased to bring me like a little child to the foot of the Cross, and I was led to pray Him to save me in His own way…Pray for me that I may not again deceive myself, but that I may build on the Rock Christ Jesus. 4
Oh, that more sons had this testimony that “Mama told me the truth—even when it hurt.” As Mrs. Mell’s grandson wrote in his biography of his father:
God answered her prayers by giving to the country a noble life, the influence of which was felt for more than fifty years through the length and breadth of this Southern land. 5
Maybe we, in the grace of God, may produce again a Dr. P. H. Mell. “He was all Sumner.”
Mothers, talk to your sons.
Dr. John Suttles
1 Mell, P.H., Jr. The Life of Patrick Hues Mell. Harrisonburg, Virginia: Gano Books, 1991. pg. 11.
2 Ibid., pg. 13.
3 Ibid., pg. 14.
4 Ibid., pg. 34, 38.
5 Ibid., pg. 15.
|Posted by John Suttles on April 2, 2012 at 6:40 PM||comments (0)|
As our congregation has prepared itself for our constituting as a church, we have been reflecting much on the history and significance of those who have gone before us and upon whose shoulders we stand. Especially have we thought about our spiritual forefathers who were the founders and early leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention.
To borrow a Biblical phrase, there truly were “giants in the land” in those days, spiritual giants who stood unflinchingly in the “old paths” of sound doctrine, but to whom (unlike so many who came after them) Truth was not some cold, lifeless, formal system disconnected from the daily reality of Christian experience. These men – men such as Johnson, Dagg, Howell, Mell, Boyce, Furman, and Mercer, to name but a few – were consumed by passion for Christ and His Church. By the example of their lives they demonstrated that doctrine was the “throne upon which Christ is seated” and to them it was in Christ that every doctrine found its meaning and significance.
This carried over into their concern for their churches. These were men who were not content with simply preaching a homiletically perfect and finely illustrated sermon, yet having their hearers go away as dead as when they came in. Above all, they desired that Christ be glorified in their preaching and that the churches be roused to greater love and zeal for Him who was their life.
This is no more graphically illustrated than in an incident related in a forgotten old book recently acquired by our pastor. This brief account from the early days of the Flint River Baptist Association, which he read to us one recent Lord's Day, involved Jesse Mercer, founder of Mercer University. It draws a clear contrast between the zeal of our Southern Baptist founders and those who claim to be their spiritual descendants today.
The record begins, “In 1833, while a leaden lethargy was settled on the churches, [Jesse] Mercer and [Adiel] Sherwood in a preaching tour came to Walnut Creek Church in Jones County, of which the venerable Edmund Talbot was the pastor. There was a large week-day congregation, and it was Sherwood's lot to preach first. Mercer followed, but was not warm in his discourse, yet there was some feeling manifested among the older members, and especially by the pastor himself. When Mercer sat down, Talbot rose to say a few words, but his feelings overpowered his utterance, and he was about to take his seat when Mercer caught hold of him by the lapels of his coat, and held him in this position, saying, 'If you can't talk, stand and cry! That is the loudest kind of preaching you can do!' The aged man tried again, but in vain. Utterance was choked. And he did stand and weep over his congregation, but not alone, for nearly all in the house were affected to tears, and were weeping in sympathy. Mr. Mercer led in prayer, deeply affected. Those only who have heard him pray under such circumstances know how he was an importunate beggar at the footstool of mercy.”
How we ought also to weep – under deep conviction for the “leaden lethargy” in the churches of our day! Where are the men today who will come to the pulpit with such burden over the coldness of heart and absence of zeal for the things of God within their churches, that they can only “stand and cry!”? Where are the pastors in our day who will, like Nehemiah, weep when they hear the reports of the desolate condition of our Jerusalem? Or, are they so many Samsons, who “knew not that the LORD had departed?”
Mercer and Talbot's example should serve as a stinging rebuke to all of us who can continue in the same course day after day, year upon year believing all is well and never experiencing a moment's concern that the Lord's Church is “groveling here below, fond of these trifling toys” yet having “our love so faint, so cold to Thee,” as the hymwriter Isaac Watts so aptly phrased it.
May we yet have grace to pull the blinders from our eyes and see the great need of our day – not more programs, better advertising, more “relevant” activities, or more impressive facilities. The great need of our day (and every generation) is that, again to quote Mr. Watts, we would cry out: “Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove, with all Thy quickening powers; kindle a flame of sacred love, in these cold hearts of ours.”
May the Lord again be gracious to His Church to give us men who will encourage their fellow servants “if you can't talk, Stand and Cry! That is the loudest kind of preaching you can do!”
|Posted by John Suttles on January 23, 2012 at 7:25 PM||comments (0)|
O, Grow Up! We all remember hearing those words at some point in our childhood, don't we? Usually it was the annoyed response of an older brother or sister, or the older sibling of a playmate, after we had pulled some particularly childish prank (hey, we were kids, what else would you expect!) that targeted the aforementioned sibling. The words were always accompanied by a scowl that was a mixture of scorn and pity. Our typical reaction generally consisted of snickers and giggles, then off we went to plot our next, equally juvenile, prank.
While such antics provided some passing amusement at the time, most of us did indeed eventually fulfill the exasperated exhortation of our “elders” and we “grew up.” We outgrew (at least most of us) the childishness of our childhood and became mature, responsible adults. Sadly, however, it seems that this admonition has been singularly neglected in the one place where “growing up” should be both the supreme focus and natural result of our participation – the church.
The modern church has made perpetual infancy in spiritual things not just a tragic reality but has positively embraced and exalted the condition to a place of honor. Most churches (to use the term in its social context rather than strictly Biblically) in our day no longer seek to build up in the faith those under their care, but are content to offer a bewildering array of programs and activities designed to keep their members in perpetual motion.
In this model, doctrine and truth become secondary to, and in some cases directly at odds with, the goal of keeping everyone constantly busy in the endless round of go-here, do-this, what's-the-next-activity brand of church life that has become the trademark of our modern day. Add to this the rise and current popularity of the “seeker-sensitive church” in which the lost are consulted as to how worship and church matters are to be conducted, and you have a toxic recipe for permanently immature believers and malnourished sheep. Consider but a few examples...
A large and numerically growing church in the north metropolitan Atlanta area recently advertised on a highway billboard that it could boast of more than 160 different “programs” that it offered to its members and the community. A bit of research identified such programs as musical training, an on-site coffee shop, a comprehensive sports program, and a web page for young adults that includes a variety of online video games for amusement, just to name a few.
Nor is this unique to one or even a handful of churches. Countless thousands, small and large, are nearly identical copies of this model of “doing church.” Another aspiring mega-church in north Georgia proudly informed potential visitors that it offered go-kart rides on its property after its Sunday morning worship services. Just the thing to help firmly ground believers in the “faith once delivered to the saints.”
Yet another true mega-church provides an advance warning to those who are attending that flashing lights are used during the "event" (we dare not call it worship) that may pose difficulties for those with epileptic conditions. Do you suppose it might ever have occurred to them that dispensing with the light show and simply preaching the Gospel could be a more effective means of maturing believers, especially in consideration of those with that specific medical condition? Probably not.
So we have come to this in the church –light shows, go-karts, sports programs, and video game web sites. We have substituted amusement for teaching and entertainment for declaring the whole counsel of God. Is it any wonder that members of these “religious organizations” are suffering from spiritual starvation? As one pastor put it (and this was more than thirty years ago), churches have become the poor man's country club where for an extremely nominal membership fee you can enjoy all sorts of pleasant pastimes and recreations.
We should not be surprised, then, that most church members of our day cannot define even the basic doctrinesof the faith nor defend them in the presence of opposition. Nor should we scratch our heads when vast multitudes leave these “churches” to affiliate with blatant heresy in the form of Jehovah's Witness, Mormon, or countless other false prophets. They have not been taught the truth, they have been left spiritual infants. No great wonder then that so many soon shrivel like the plant that was scorched by the sun in the Lord's parable of the sower.
How different is this from the description of believers, and of the church as a body, given to us in Scripture. While we all enter the kingdom as infants, being born again (to use our Lord's own description from John chapter three), there is no commendation in the Word of God for remaining immature in spiritual matters. Scripture's constant and and consistent exhortation to believers is, to use our opening words, “Grow Up!” Just as we manifest natural life by physical health and growth, we display spiritual life by healthy growth in the things of God.
What saith the Scripture?
“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” Ephesians 4:13-15.
“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18
And the apostle Peter, using the very metaphor of infancy to describe believers, instructs us that we should “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word..” But why? For just this reason - “that ye may grow thereby” 1 Peter 2:2. Yes, spiritual growth and eventual maturity is expected and required of those to whom God has given new birth.
This is but a small sampling of all that God's Word has to say on the subject of Christians becoming mature in the faith. You see, the Bible knows nothing of saints in a condition of unending infancy. Either we are growing – in our understanding, our affections, and our desire for spiritual things - or the inescapable alternative is that we are dying. And that is the sad description of vast numbers who are fed a steady diet of the “baby food” that is the activity- and entertainment-driven churches of our day. Such things make for weak, sickly, infantile Christians (if they are really Christians at all) and we may well ask what shall be the condemnation pronounced by the Lord in that Day on the promoters and purveyors of such foolishness when He stands to render final judgment upon all the works of men.
We may rightly wonder and tremble...