For tonight, I want to just kind of wrap up the things we’ve been talking about for several weeks on this theme of spiritual AIDS. As I have been noting to you, I from time to time am prompted to sort of let you in on what I’m thinking. I think it’s important for you to know that, to be able to assess the things that are going on around you, and I noted a Scripture passage that I would like to remind you of, found in Isaiah 27:11, where God says, “They are not a people of discernment, Therefore their Maker will not have compassion on them. And their Creator will not be gracious to them.”
That is a frightening statement; because the people were not a people of discernment, they would not experience the compassion and the grace of God. That’s a negative perspective on this matter of discerning. Let me show you a positive one.
Look at Philippians chapter 1 verse 9 - you’ll remember this in our study of Philippians - but in Philippians 1:9, the apostle Paul, expressing the prayer of his heart, says, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
He says, “I’m praying for you, that you will abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent.” And as I noted for you a couple of weeks ago, discernment seems to be in short supply these days. Do you remember back in 1 Kings chapter 3 and verse 11, that Solomon was commended? He was commended by God, because he had asked for, it says in that verse, discernment in matters of justice. When God said to him, “What is your request?” he chose the most noble thing of all: wisdom, discernment. I believe that in the New Testament, God even by the ministry of His Holy Spirit grants to some in the body of Christ discernment, so that they can assess what’s going on, and they can warn, and they can keep the church on track.
This matter of discernment in Scripture can be viewed in the analogy of AIDS. AIDS is Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. For the most part, it is acquired - that’s why they say that - by choices you make in life. It attacks your immune system and renders it deficient. People with AIDS, as I have been noting, do not die of AIDS; they die of diseases that their immune system can no longer fight. And so, where you have a deficient immune system, you become vulnerable to all manner of diseases.
And we’ve been saying that the church parallels that in many ways because the church has a deficiency in its immune system. It lacks discernment, it lacks clear judgment, it lacks a clear understanding of doctrine. As a result of that, it is susceptible to a myriad of diseases. I suggested to you originally that there are probably three dominating elements in the contemporary church that have primarily contributed to the acquiring of this immune deficiency syndrome that we have in the church.
I suggested to you that they are the charismatic movement, the psychological movement and the pragmatic movement. Over the last number of years, the church has been charismaticized, psychologized and pragmatized to death. The church in responding to this growing charismatic movement - which is still growing at a rapid rate even in our own country - has literally set doctrine aside, because the fallout of the charismatic movement has been not to make doctrine an issue. Don’t be dogmatic, be loving. Don’t be divisive.
The primary emphasis of the charismatic movement has been to teach their theories and their viewpoints. The secondary - and of course that would be bad enough in many cases - the secondary and fallout of that is that they have created a climate in which doctrine is not tolerated, in which dogmatism is not tolerated, in which we are to accept all views as much as possible and not wrangle over theology. And that leaves the church in a very undiscerning position.
The second is psychology, which has encroached upon the church far more than you or I perhaps can even understand at this particular point. And I have been spending the last number of weeks reading everything I can get my hands on in this particular field, in order that I might understand better how psychology has encroached upon the church. It has come in a myriad of forms; a number of things I could illustrate that to you with, but I think of one thing - some of you probably through your life time have been exposed to personality types.
I remember reading years and years ago a study of personality types that said everybody is either a sanguine, a choleric, a melancholy or a phlegmatic. And that was originated from a man named Ole Hallesby and it passed through several evangelical sources, and that or some other form of that is pretty common today. You have a very popular Christian radio clinic always talking about the hysteric personality, and the obsessive-compulsive kind of personality, and several other kinds of personality types.
You need to understand that none of that is biblical; none of that comes out of the Bible, none of that is remotely related to the Bible. All of that basically has its roots in Sigmund Freud. It is further interesting to note - and this is usually taken for granted - you hear very often that children have basically been formed for the rest of their life by the time they reach age six. That, too, was a postulate from Sigmund Freud, who was an atheistic Jew who made it his goal to attack Christianity.
Freud said children are totally patterned by the time they reach age six of their life. That is – that is typical of most of the counseling you’ll hear today. People will say, “Well, your teenager is in a pattern that was established before age six.” You hear this all the time from those who are involved in psychology - by the way, that too doesn’t come from Scripture. In fact, Scripture would say the very opposite: that anybody at any point in time by the power of God can have a total transformation of their personality.
But you see, that stuff is so deeply rooted in evangelical thinking that even things like that, which on the surface appear to be harmless, were really the origination of the opening of the door to what is now a wholesale psychological invasion. That too has turned the hearts of the church away from the Word of God to psychology, whether witting or unwitting. The third thing that has encroached upon the life of the church - and I’m just reviewing - is pragmatism; the idea that we want to do whatever works.
This too is very fast-moving. It is very, very popular today to conduct your church ministries and your church services along the lines of what is popular, and what is desirable, and what people really want, and what fits the time, and it’s all sort of under the name of relevance. This too makes little issue out of doctrine, theology; does not deal with the deep things of the Word of God, but rather endeavors to somehow make oneself palpable to an otherwise indifferent society. Through these means - and maybe others - the church has managed to acquire this immune deficiency syndrome.
As a result of that, we have a lack of discernment in the church. Endeavoring to set the church right is not easy. It’s not easy, and it’s a little dangerous. I was reading, last night and again today - and I hope to finish it in the next day or so - a book by Iain Murray called The Forgotten Spurgeon. When you think back to the name Charles Hadden Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher in England, you perhaps think of Spurgeon as a popular man - and that he was; literally millions read his sermons. He went really into a very, very dark time in England.
When he was 22 years old he took his first church, The Park Street Church, which was deader than the proverbial doornail, and it wasn’t long until the place was so packed out that you had to have tickets to get in. And it seated at most 1,500, and they allowed 3,000 inside, and turned away as many or more. That was very early in his ministry, and at the very outset of that ministry he became immediately unpopular.
While he was the instrument of God to bring about a revival - which in his later life he said was the greatest revival he ever saw in his life, and it happened the first year of his ministry - while he was very much the instrument of God, he was very unpopular with the religious establishment. And his life was embroiled in endless controversy because he would not tolerate the status quo in the church. He was absolutely intolerant.
He was absolutely reformed in his theology, to the core; and that irritated the life out of many people, who didn’t want him to be nearly so theologically dogmatic as he was. Spurgeon, then in the middle of his life, had a booming period of popularity, and then at the end of his life, another time period of great controversy. For some reason, evangelical church history has chosen to focus on the middle; that’s what caused Iain Murray to write The Forgotten Spurgeon to fill us in on the beginning and the end, where he was extremely unpopular.
Because he confronted the diseases that were attacking an also deficient church that was not discerning; so this is really nothing new. It’s just another cycle in the church, losing its discernment. Now, because of this, the church doesn’t think critically, it doesn’t think theologically, it doesn’t think biblically. In fact, in many ways, I guess we would say it doesn’t think. I am continually amazed to talk to people in spiritual leadership who don’t think; who aren’t studying the Word of God; who are confused, even as leaders, not because the facts are confusing, but because they don’t know the facts.
They don’t know the Word of God; and that is tragic. This is not uncommon. But when you try to step in and bring some kind of clarity to the confusion, it is not welcomed in all cases - or in most. Now, because the church has spiritual AIDS, what are the diseases that are attacking it - successfully? I suggested a few of them to you. First was the love of the creature more than the love of the Creator. One of the diseases that has encroached upon the church is a man-centered theology; self-fulfillment, creature comfort, all of that kind of thing, and we talked about that in some detail. I won’t belabor the point.
A second point that I mentioned to you is the church is falling victim to the pursuit of things over relationships. The problem with the first one - love of the creature more than the Creator - is that it debilitates worship. The problem with the second one - pursuit of things over relationships - is it debilitates fellowship. So, you have a church that is crippled in its ability to worship, and a church that is crippled in its ability to fellowship.
And then thirdly, we noted for you that the church also is suffering from a disease that puts entertainment over truth; that is more concerned with the feeling engendered than with the fact; a church that wants to be entertained, rather than to be made to think deeply and clearly about the great truths of God. We went into this in some detail last time. We see it throughout the culture, and I suggested you to get that little book, Amusing Ourselves to Death and read it.
It’s written by a secular man - not a Christian book - but it is loaded with information that will be of great help to you. And it assesses the time in which we live as a time when people want to be entertained. As I mentioned in the sermon this morning, the quote from Sorokin, who said that we are living in a sensate culture, where people are more into pleasant feeling than they are in to productive accomplishment. That’s really true.
I believe that that’s what makes, in many ways, the charismatic experience so popular, because it is an experience, it is a feeling, it is a kind of corporate euphoria that people fall into. I mean, if you turn on television and you watch a typical charismatic meeting you can see the emotion that is carried on there. Now, let me take you to a couple more, and we’ll sort of wrap this up. A fourth disease that I see attacking the church - and it fits with the rest - is a failure to learn humble submission; a failure to learn humble submission.
A church - a church that loves the creature more than the Creator can’t worship; a church that is more concerned with things than relationships can’t fellowship; a church that is more committed to entertainment than truth can’t learn, can’t grow; and a church that fails to learn humble submission can’t really serve. But I believe that’s a real problem: the failure to understand the roles of submission in life. I was reading an article today - it was put out by the Royal Bank of Canada - strange.
In fact, somebody said they picked it up in a bank - and it talked about how the breakdown of the family has resulted in total irresponsibility in the generation of young people facing the world. There is a sense of irresponsibility, but more than that, I think we’re raising a generation of young people who primarily are driven by ego, and this article went on basically to say that. You have people whose only concern in life is the fulfillment of their own ego. There is a heartlessness in this society - egoism breeds that.
I suppose some of you can remember - I don’t know, 20, 25 years, 30, 35 years ago - when it meant something to be a good neighbor. Whoever talks about that anymore? When it meant something to sacrifice for someone, when it meant something to serve someone - that’s all changed. And if you want to look to see the selfishness of our society, and the failure to learn humble submission and the tremendous egoism, just look at the heartlessness of our society. People live for their own satisfaction and their own gratification, to any extent.
I look at the press, and I watch them literally tear to shreds anybody who’s a public figure. There is an amazing heartlessness in our society. There is a spirit of criticism that just pervades this culture. I remember the Rotary used to have a little series of things that they made as sort of their motto, you know; is it true, is it necessary, were two of them. If it isn’t true, and it isn’t necessary - if you don’t know it’s true, don’t say it. It was sort of a call for kindness in speech. That is long past, and the media have set the pace; they will do everything they can to destroy anybody in the public eye.
This filters all the way down into churches, and if I could identify one single characteristic that I see in pastors across America, it is a broken-heartedness over the negative attitudes they consistently have to deal with. It’s – it’s epidemic. Pastors are a grieving lot, because people have become heartless and become critical, and that kind of mentality that’s in the culture has filtered down to the church, and there’s a certain indifference to start with, and an actual almost aggressive heartlessness to end with.
I know Patricia has had conversations with weeping wives of pastors, whose hearts are literally shattered by the kind of treatment their faithful husbands must endure at the hands of certain cruel people. I remember not too many years ago when a pastor came to see me with dry heaves - sat in my office in his chair, and about every five minutes, convulsed in dry heaves before my very eyes. He was coming out of a church where they had been so destructive, and so critical, and so merciless in the way they treated him that he had reached that point.
We spent some time and were able to get him some earphones and get him reprogrammed in listening to the Word of God, and the Lord is using him in a great way now. But this kind of cold-heartedness has found its way into the church. There’s an interesting contributor to this - and I just share this with you. I mentioned it in a message long ago, but it feeds into this whole thing. Some sociologists believe that the primary contributor to the egoism, the pride, the self-centeredness of our society are small families.
You remember when we talked about that? Small families. And as families are small, or children are spread apart - and they are getting smaller, as you know. In fact, the average family in America is 1.7 children. As one little boy said to his sister, “I’m the one, you’re the point seven.” But families are small, and small families create a completely different kind of environment. For example, if you are raised in a family where you are the only child today, and your mother and father work in the typical scenario today, your life might go something like this.
You are awakened in the morning by your clock radio, stereo, CD player, and you jump out of bed and feed your exotic tropical fish, and go to your closet and get your designer clothes on, and you hop out and your mother meets you in the hall, and - and she says, “Well, what would you like for breakfast?” She’s always asking you what you want, because she wants to minimize conflict; and you say, “Well, I’d like pancakes and some sausage.” “Well, okay, I’ll get that for you.” So, you go in and you sit down - this is the one-child family.
Then he eats his little breakfast, and then she says, “What would you like for lunch?” And he says, “Well, I think I would like a ham and cheese sandwich, and some chips and a candy bar.” “Fine.” And she gets it all together, and she gives it to him in a little purple-pink bag with bears on it; and as he goes to the door, she says, “Well, what time will you be home?” “Well, I’m going to stop at Jimmy’s house and we’re going to fix his bicycle, but I’ll be home at 6:00.” “Okay now, 6:00.” “Yeah, I’ll be home at 6:00.” And “Fine,” and off he goes to school.
The whole world is simply set up to do whatever he wants done the way he wants it done, because that minimizes the conflict. He comes home from school at 6:00, and she has decided to prepare something special for her husband and for him, and it’s kind of different. And she puts it in front of him, he says, “I don’t want this.” “Oh, well, what would you like?” “Well, I’d like to have a hamburger.” “Okay, well, I’ll just feed this to the dog, and I’ll have your hamburger.” That’s life.
Now, that produces a warped child, who believes that all society bends to meet his needs; that the whole system in the world is to meet his needs, to accommodate him. Now, if you were raised in my family, it wasn’t like that. I woke up early, because there was so much noise. We all woke up early, and if we didn’t wake up, Mom said, “Get up, breakfast in 15 minutes.” And I jumped out of my bed, and my grandmother jumped out of the bed next to mine - we had the same room. That’s right, I grew up sharing twin beds with my grandmother.
And my three sisters, and Mom and Dad, and grandmother and I all headed for one bathroom, and when we got in there, it was, you know, a fight, basically, to see who could get their face in front of the mirror. I threw water on my hair and zap, and I was out of there. You say, “Well, what” - I went right back into the clothes laying in a heap from the night before; I dropped them, I went right back into them again the next day. I didn’t know designer from what. I went into the breakfast room - we all had to arrive at a certain time - and you ate what was there; there were no requests.
And when you went out the door, you got a brown bag with lunch, and you checked it halfway to school to see what was in it - and usually you didn’t get enough for breakfast, so you ate half of it. And as you were going down the road, mother said, “Dinner at 5:30 - if you’re here, you eat.” And when you came at 5:30 and the dinner was there, if one kid said, “I don’t like it,” the next kid said, “Good,” and took it. I mean, there was no messing around in my family. And we grew up realizing the whole world doesn’t accommodate us; you learn to defer.
I never - I never remember my mother taking me shopping to buy an outfit - whatever an outfit was. I never - all I know is there would be days when we would come home from school, and Mother would say, “This is yours, this is yours, this is yours, I went shopping.” I never went to a store and had her say, when I was a little kid, “What would you like?” The only store she ever went to was Sears, in those days; it’s a different world. And so, we grew up with the idea that you have to get along with a lot of folks, and you’ve got to fit the system.
We’re raising a generation of young people who figure the whole system owes them something; and that finds its way into the church, and how do you get people who don’t know what it is to humbly defer and submit - how do you get those kinds of people to come into the church and learn how to wash each other’s feet? It was good for me to grow up in the same room with my grandmother; I didn’t even think about it, at the time. You hear the psychologists’ issue: “Well, every kid needs his space.” What do you mean?
And people buy huge homes with mammoth bedrooms, so they can make sure every kid has his own private space. What are you - what are you - what are they going to do in there? I couldn’t do anything in my room that my grandmother wouldn’t approve of, and she wouldn’t approve of hardly anything anyway. I mean, her generation was a pretty short fuse, you know? But you understand the difference in the kinds of culture you have today. Kids demand privacy. They want what they want, when they want it, how they want it. They want their space, and they are being programmed to demand, not to serve; not to serve. That’s a tough disease for the church to deal with. How can we get people to wash each other’s feet?
Let me give you a fifth disease that I think is attacking the church. Let’s call it a misplaced or a counter-productive family emphasis; a counter-productive family emphasis. I have to be real honest with you. We live in a time when there’s an awful lot of stuff emphasizing the family, right? Can I be so bold to tell you that an awful lot of it is counter-productive? An awful lot of it is negative - bad, not good - and much of it is very fine. But let me give you a couple of illustrations.
We have this big emphasis on marriage - how to have a happy marriage, how to have a happy home. Most of it is built on selfishness; most of it is built on the wrong perspective. For example, the typical marriage seminar. The typical marriage seminar, they tell the husband this: “You want a happy marriage? Listen to your wife. Want a happy marriage? Be kind to your wife, be sensitive to your wife, be gentle with your wife, bring her flowers, take her out for dinner. If you want to really have a happy marriage, meet her” - what? “Her needs.”
We’re back to that need mentality again. Meet her needs - she’s got a lot of needs, and you need to meet her needs - very important. And so, here’s this husband, and he’s doing everything he can think of to try to meet her needs. “Well, I’ve got to stay home because that’s my - I just have to meet my needs right. Well, I need to get this for her, and take this - I want to really meet her needs.” And what he’s telling her is this: you know what marriage is? Marriage is where you get all your needs met.
Marriage is where I knock myself silly trying to meet all your needs all the time. That’s what marriage is. That’s what she’s programmed to believe. Same thing on the flip-flop. They tell the wife, “Now, if you want to really have a happy marriage, meet your husband’s needs. Look pretty when he comes home, don’t have your hair done up in coils like an explosion in a mattress family, be dressed, put your makeup on, look nice. You know, once in a while have a candlelight dinner and the kids down the street.”
I mean, you’ve got to meet his needs, and when he comes in the house don’t say, “I’m sick of going out the back door. I went out the back door five times today, and I walked by the same weeds that have been there eight years. Would you please pull the weeds?” Don’t, don’t - be more sensitive than that. He’s had a hard day. Meet his needs, be sensitive, listen to him. Make a haven for him. I mean, you just begin to play manipulation games.
The most popular book out now on this has an interesting suggestion. It suggests that a husband who really wants to - really wants to touch his wife significantly should go to the store and buy a Teddy bear, stuffed Teddy bear. Bring it home, wrap it in tin foil, and freeze it. Now, before you do that, you write a love note and stick it under the little ribbon at the Teddy bear’s neck.
And then wrap it in tin foil, freeze it, and stick it back in the back of the refrigerator where the old lasagna goes, you know? Or the old spaghetti, or the old whatever – leftovers; and you just leave it there. Now, she doesn’t know it’s there, but some night when she’s got to quickly prepare dinner, and she reaches back for the old lasagna and unwraps this deal, here is a frozen Teddy bear with a love note. Now honestly, folks - I mean, we’re all adults here, right?
My response to that is if you have a good marriage, you don’t need the Teddy bear; save the money. If you have a bad one, she’ll hit you with it, so you better be careful. It would be better if it wasn’t frozen. But the bottom line here is you’ve got manipulation. The most popular book - that same book - has a section called, “Pillars that support a fulfilling marriage: security, communication, emotion, romance, touch and intimacy.” “The pillars that support a marriage: security, communication, emotion, touch and intimacy.”
Those are nice things. It’s nice to have security, it’s nice to have communication, it’s nice to have emotion, a romance, nice to touch each other, it’s nice to have some kind of intimacy, but those things aren’t going to keep a marriage together. They aren’t going to do it. This same book says, “The best way we know to bond in a family is by going camping.” You know how many times I’ve taken my family camping? Zero. “The best way to bond in a family is by going camping?” What does that mean? Pretty shallow stuff.
And then the book says, “If a woman truly wants to have a meaningful communication with her husband, she must activate the right side of his brain.” Now, there it is, lady, in black and white. If your marriage isn’t working, you’ve got to activate the right side of his brain. We’re back to this manipulation. We’re back to this needs mentality, which is such a counter- productive focus, where everybody is concerned about having their needs met. You know the problem with that?
If that woman is programmed to believe marriage is where all her needs are met, the truth of the matter is there isn’t a man on earth who can meet them all. And so, as soon as she finds that they’re not getting met, she feels justified in the fact that she’s noticed somebody else who might be able to do it better, and divorce is an option. And the same with a guy - if he thinks marriage is supposed to be where all his needs are met, it’s obvious that she’s not going to meet them all.
She isn’t even going to understand them all, and he’s going to be justified in the fact that his needs aren’t being met. “She is not what I need,” you hear them say, and off he goes and justifies another relationship; and it works that way even with the children. You know, they say, “Well, make sure you’re sensitive and listen to your children, and give them some space and meet their needs.” You can really alienate yourself from everybody in your house by programming them to believe that you are this incessant need-meeter.
How do you keep a marriage together? By focusing on something completely outside those relationships. It’s a given that you’re married. Somebody said, you know, to me one time, “Well, I married the wrong woman.” My response was, “Well, she’s the right one now. And now that we’ve got that established, how we going to make this thing work?” But you’ve got to transcend that relationship. Some relationships are better than others. Some are more fulfilling than others, on a human plane.
But none of them will be all that God designed them to be unless people are living outside themselves for a greater cause; and that is particularly true in the spiritual dimension. Divorce is no option for me; why? Not because my wife meets all my needs all the time; I don’t even tell her all my needs. There isn’t anybody in the world who is going to always know all the needs of someone else. Our marriage doesn’t work because I all the time meet all her needs. I don’t think she even expects that; I don’t expect that.
But our marriage works, and divorce is no option for us because we have a cause beyond ourselves for which we live. What is that? We live to the glory of God. We live to the exaltation of Jesus Christ. Divorce is not an option; why? Because we have a testimony before the community in which we live, to show them the power of Christ in a home. Divorce is not an option, because our home is to be a haven for Christian people to come and to see the work of the Spirit of God.
Conflict isn’t even an option; selfishness isn’t even an option because our home is exposed to so many people, and we want Christ to be seen. So, the agenda for us is not “make sure I meet all your needs,” but the agenda for us is “make sure I walk in the Spirit.” And I find that if I live to the glory of Christ, walking in the Spirit, I have a wonderful marriage and a wonderful family life.
It’s been a very, very significant curiosity to me that, in the same 20 years that the divorce rate in the church has gone from something like 500 to 1, to the same as the divorce rate in the world - in that same time of decline in marriage has been an escalation of material on marriage. The only thing that I can conclude is some of this stuff is putting gasoline on a fire because the focus is wrong - get outside yourself. That’s not popular in the day in which we live.
If somebody comes in and says, “I have this problem, I have that problem, I have this problem, our marriage isn’t working out,” the first question you might want to ask them is, “Well, tell me about your spiritual life. Tell me about your spiritual service. Are the two of you walking in the Spirit, and are you serving Christ with all your heart?” Because, you see, if you’re lost in the spiritual issues, and you’re lost in the advancement of the kingdom, it seems to me that God would grant you the grace of joy in your marriage.
Let me give you a sixth disease - just briefly, because we’ve touched on this. Another disease that I believe has infected the church is what I’ll call the new psychological sanctification without the Holy Spirit; the new psychological sanctification without the Holy Spirit. In Galatians 3 - we just did a series on this, so I won’t belabor the point; you need to get that series if you didn’t listen to it, called “The sufficiency of the Spirit.” But Paul says in Galatians, “Who bewitched you? Having begun in the Spirit, are you made perfect in the flesh?”
We all were saved by the power of the Holy Spirit, we all received justification by the power of the Holy Spirit, but many Christians are trying to receive sanctification through psychology. They’ve literally bought into psychology as the new means of sanctification. But it can’t work - it’s impossible - and yet, the church has bought into it. Did you know that psychology is simply - it’s all started with Freud, and it moves from Freud through Anna Freud, through Adler, Maslow, Carl Rogers, and on and on and on it goes - but it’s all humanism.
Psychology, then, is a humanistic solution; how in the world could you ever invade the area of sanctification, which is totally a divine work on a supernatural plane? Psychology can’t deal with depravity, it can’t deal with sin. On the surface, psychology can modify behavior; I would agree with that. You can go to some kind of psychological process, and it can modify your outward behavior, but it cannot affect your heart. It is equally valid - listen to this carefully - psychology is equally valid on the unsaved and the saved in modifying behavior.
Therefore, it’s obvious it never deals with the heart, because if it works in those whose spirits are dead, then it doesn’t touch the spirit at all. It masks the disease of sin, denies it, then treats the symptoms. It may alter some thinking patterns, it may establish some more acceptable behavior socially, but that’s as far as it goes. It generates a diminished interest in the Holy Spirit, a diminished interest in holiness, a diminished interest in prayer, and it assumes that some kind of technique can accomplish what only God’s Spirit and God’s Word can accomplish.
Psychological sanctification is really epidemic in the church. I’m telling you, it is so epidemic that it just breaks my heart. It’s everywhere, and its seeds and roots are so deep in the church that most people can’t even see it for what it is. But I can tell you this: all across America, pastors are frightened at the prospect of trying to counsel people, because they have been intimidated to believe that the only people who can really help are clinical psychologists, psychiatrists. That’s tragic, absolutely tragic.
I brought along a letter that I thought might be worth reading to you, just briefly, then I want to make one final point, and take just a few minutes if you have a question. “I’m a 27-year-old female” - I just got this the other day – “I’m a 27-year-old female. When I was fourteen years old, I began to experience depression frequently in my life. I was not a Christian, nor was I raised by Christian parents, although they were good parents; they adopted me as a newborn baby, so I never knew anything different.” So, here’s an adopted girl with depression since the age of 14.
“I always believed in God and wanted to know about Him. I learned about Jesus for the first time when I was 15; I wanted Him. I wasn’t taught anything more than just the simple incomplete fact that all I needed to do was ask Jesus in my heart and I’d be saved. I did that, but there was no change in my life. My depression continued as I grew older; as a result, became worse as time passed. I became a chronic suicide case, many times just wanted to end my life. However, I still had this God-consciousness that kept me somehow from carrying out suicidal thoughts.
“When I was 20 years of age, I went to a psychiatrist, who diagnosed me as having a depressive illness called manic depression, which they claim to be a hereditary problem. I was put on lithium and told that I would be this way for the rest of my life. As a person ignorant of God’s Word and principles for living, I believed this was my problem; I went out trying to cope with it. The drug therapy used only kept me from going into severe suicidal depression; however, the deep feelings of depression and despair were still a reality. I became an alcoholic.
“I finally came so low that there was nowhere to turn but to the Lord. I knew God was real, the Christian life was supposed to be the only way to live. In my life, God was not real to me, though. I came to the conclusion that I was going to seek God with my whole heart, as Jeremiah 29:13 says. Then if I found this to be nothing but an empty endeavor, I would take my life. Indeed, God wants true seekers. We must search for Him with a whole heart, looking for Him as a hidden treasure. I began to buy your tapes.
“I had a very godly woman - now a close friend - from my church, who began to teach me about digging into God’s Word. She would also give me Scripture to memorize, instructing me to lock it in my brain. I was never taught these absolutely necessary exercises. I began feeding on the tapes. It was a long hard journey of just trying to find out everything I could about God’s Word, and the Lord began His work in me. Through hearing the Word taught, the Holy Spirit showed me just exactly what my problem was, and what I needed to do about it.
“No doctor, no counselor, no psychoanalyst can know the heart and mind of man, nor can he forgive him of his sin. They have no cure for man’s emotional sickness. People spend thousands of dollars, countless hours of talking about their problems, and still leave the office with the same feelings of despair they went in with. The only thing they may have is a sense of false hope, somehow hoping the doctor will give them the proper drug and wisdom that will change their minds. They do not have answers, but God’s Word does.
“My problem was sin. I had resentment and bitterness toward my parents, my birth mother, toward the God who made me. I didn’t accept Romans 8:28 in my life, all things working together for good; that meant even the bad things in my life had an eternal purpose. I needed to accept God’s sovereignty in my life. He knew what was best for me, even though I thought differently. I needed to forgive my parents for their offenses toward me, which were not intentional. And as a short time passed, I continued in the Word diligently, and the transformation took place.
“The Lord delivered me from this depressive illness caused by the sin of bitterness. The Lord made us, and if we do not follow His Word, there will be physical and psychological effects; I know this is true in my case and many others. And if we follow His Word, we will be free from these types of bondage. The memorizing of Scripture has and is renewing my mind. This is the only key for anyone suffering emotional problems, because it is the living Word of God. It is the supernatural power to transform your life. It alone - no doctor, no drugs - can do what the Bible has done for me in changing my life.
“P.S. By the way, I’ve been off all medication for three years. Obedience is the key.” Now, I don’t want to generalize off of one particular, but I just want to tell you, folks, that I believe in that testimony. I believe in the power of God and His Spirit through His Word, and I grieve at the diversion of people into psychology, which does not give answers. Now, I’m not saying that Christian counselors who use the Bible are wrong - they’re right - God bless Christians who use the Bible. But psychology, no. It has no answers, and yet the church has bought into it.
I just read a book in which the leading exponents of this across America are saying the Bible doesn’t cover everything, you need psychology. One last disease - and I’ll just mention this – it’ll be very obvious to you: a preoccupation with sex or pornographic thinking. Surely, we are the most pornographic culture in history; surely, that is true. We must be the most pornographic culture because we have pornography exposed to us in such vast volumes.
There is no way that anybody in the past could ever have been exposed to so much filth - even to the point now where people think little of it. Most people - perhaps many of you - would go to see a PG movie or an R movie and justify the fact that somehow it doesn’t bother you to see pornographic things, to hear filthy talk, innuendo, if not explicit sex. We have been so overexposed that our imagination is corrupted; and if all the imagination of the heart of man was evil continually back in Genesis, what must the imagination be like now, when you don’t have to leave much to the imagination?
Television is worsening. In fact, television is so mild now that the broadcast medium of television is losing money rapidly to the video market, and you and I all know that the video stores are popping up all over the place; instant pornography in the house. I believe there are contributors to the tremendous collapse of Christian leaders, the tremendous moral morass in the church, and nothing contributes more to that than overexposure to the pornographic culture in which we live. It’s a battle to guard your mind, isn’t it?
We live in a pornographic society, and that pornographic overexposure has filtered right into the church. Young people in the church don’t view things the way they used to at all. I’m sure most of the high school kids, if not many of the junior high kids, and college kids, have been exposed to pornography that in my lifetime as a young person I never would have dreamed to see or experience. A pastor of a large church in the Midwest said he was preaching on pornography, and so in order to know what he was preaching on, he went out and bought a whole stack of pornographic magazines.
And then after that, he had one of his staff members go out and rent triple-X-rated porno videos, so they could watch them together. And then he said, “Don’t do that because it leaves indelible impressions in your mind.” Well, what are you, impervious to that? I gave a speech about that at the last board meeting. I said, “Is that the model that we want to put out before the young pastors of America?” I said, “I hate to think of what he’d do if he was going to preach on murder.” I’m talking frankly with you because I am concerned about the pervasiveness of this.
When the pastor goes out to rent the triple-X-rated videos, because he is not literally appalled by them but sees them as information, we’ve come a long, long way. This is a pornographic culture. These are some of the diseases that have infiltrated the church, and we’ve got to be very discerning. These are some of the things that I’m going to be talking about in the future. I think we have to take a stand in these areas, and as I said to you a couple of weeks ago, it may get us in a little hot water in the process, but we’ve got to do what’s right.
And I feel that for the time that God gives us as a church, we want to hold the standard as high as we possibly can, amen? Maybe you have a few questions; we have 15 minutes. If you have a question, just pop up there, make it brief, to the point, and just let me use this point to clarify, okay? Yes, sir.
QUESTION: I’m one of those people who have been writing you letters for the last couple years about psychology. I want to thank you for your recent messages, and I perceive that you’re a man with a mission, and I want to thank God for that. I want you to know that I - if you get in hot water, there are probably a lot of people here who would be willing to get in the hot water with you, okay? I have two practical questions –
QUESTION: Dealing with this. First of all, I went to the men’s seminar last weekend, and it was a good seminar. There were two speakers; they were outstanding, and there was nothing that I could criticize about the speakers, okay? But there’s one question I have regarding that. “Tremendous” Jones put out a book list that he has - he has written three volumes, a book in three volumes - it gives a lot of reading material, recommendations.
QUESTION: I want to read some of these to you.
JOHN: Well, we want to ask as many questions – we’ve only got 15 minutes. Can you –
QUESTION: I just want to tell you who these books are written by; they’re –
JOHN: Let me just say this – let me save you the time, Joe. I don’t necessarily affirm all that are on that list.
QUESTION: Okay, that’s one of the questions I have.
JOHN: I don’t even know what that list is.
QUESTION: It’s terrible.
QUESTION: Well, not altogether; I’ll give him some credit. He’s got some –
JOHN: Yeah, but you have to realize this, that there are going to be people that you run into all the time who haven’t thought all these issues through as clearly as we have; who are not maybe theologically or biblically as involved in processes. And so, maybe they’re taking recommendations from people, maybe they’ve been helped through some of this, and we don’t want to get to the point – ever – where we begin to isolate ourselves from good people, faithful people.
We want to come alongside those kinds of people and encourage them, so we’re going to take a positive approach with people who maybe would suggest something that we wouldn’t adhere to, and say, “Let me show you why I think that’s a problem.” But rather than label them, let’s assume that from the standpoint of what they know, they assume those things are helpful; but from the standpoint of what we might be able to help then with, maybe they would change.
QUESTION: Yeah. Well, these are books written by psychologists, some of them; some of them, false teachers.
JOHN: Yeah. It doesn’t surprise me a bit, because the stuff is so pervasive, most people accept it. It’s just there, and most people don’t really critically evaluate it. That’s what we’re trying to help you do.
QUESTION: Okay, well, my other question related to that, then. It was, you have stated at the last board meeting that you were going to – you and John Stead were going to review the books in the bookstore.
QUESTION: I assume that means to censor and weed out what shouldn’t be there. Is there someone who’s going to evaluate and review things like this where we have seminars –
QUESTION: Or when we have teaching –
JOHN: Sure. Sure.
QUESTION: So that all this psychology and stuff is weeded out of that?
JOHN: Sure. Well, we’re in the process of doing that. Let me affirm Charlie Jones, a good, faithful guy – he’s a layman. He’s not a pastor, he’s not a theologian, he’s not a preacher, he’s just a good, godly, faithful layman. But let me say this: we are doing – John Stead is chairing a committee – our chairman of our elders – to evaluate what’s in the bookstore. I don’t ever want to get to the point where we are burning books.
I don’t ever want to get to the point where we are not exposing you to things that you could understand, or you could read and could be helpful. Our seminary men need to do some critical reading and things, so they know how to evaluate that. So, we’re trying to find that balance between saying, “Look, here’s where we stand – that’s clear. Here’s good material, it may have some problems we don’t agree with – you’ve got to be somewhat discerning.
And here’s some stuff we definitely don’t agree with, but we want you seminary men or college students to think critically and learn how to evaluate.” So, we have several purposes in the bookstore. We don’t want to make it a John MacArthur propaganda store, so we’re going to be a little careful about not getting too narrow. We don’t want to be another, you know, legalistic, narrow-minded outfit, here. We do want to be discerning.
If I can teach you to be discerning, then I can give you any book I want, and know you’re going to know how to handle it; and that’s the issue, okay?
QUESTION: Thank you, John.
QUESTION: Hello, John. I want to know if you think any of the poems, poetry, parables, or any other type of accounts in the Bible, is a precedent for drama in ministry? And based on your feeling of that, what place does drama have at Grace?
JOHN: I’m not sure I understood, I got the first part; you said what about poems, and –
QUESTION: Poetry or parables or any other portion of Scripture that you think might be a precedent for drama in ministry.
JOHN: Oh, I see; what place does drama have in the church? I said the other night that whenever the church declines in its spiritual life, dance and drama escalate. I didn’t want to make an unclear statement, or an unbalanced statement. That is true historically – at least from the standpoint of this book, Shall We Dance, which I read and found very, very interesting – written in England. It is also true that when the church is healthy, and when the church, you know, is experiencing the blessing of God, there certainly should still be forms of art to express that.
None of us want to deny poems, or we’d be denying music, right? Because music is a combination of music and lyric, so the Psalms are poetic; there are numerous other portions of the Old Testament that – the poetical books, Job, Psalms, Proverbs – numerous other parts of the Old Testament and even the New Testament which seem to be hymns. So, I would affirm that there’s a place for the poetic, there’s a place for the artistic in terms of the expressions of worship, and the expressions of God’s truth.
I would even say that it’s certainly not wrong to do drama, and to portray spiritual truth through a play; that’s another form of art. It’s only a problem when that becomes the substitute for reality - when the church becomes theatrical because it has no reality.
QUESTION: Thank you.
JOHN: You can go back to the Old Testament, and you’ll see some of the prophets doing very dramatic things in the street before the whole population of people, in order to dramatize spiritual truth. Jesus dramatized spiritual truth through a parable. Very often, a play could be a parabolic dramatization of a spiritual truth, so I think there’s a place for that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
JOHN: As long as the theatrical isn’t replacing the real, okay?
QUESTION: About four years ago, my wife fell prey to The Way International, and –
JOHN: Your wife did what?
QUESTION: She fell prey to The Way International –
QUESTION: After being a member here for six years.
JOHN: Oh my.
QUESTION: And I then in turn got sucked into The Way International, and I came to know the Lord by reading the Bible, of course, and finding the error in their own material. And I’m finding now that the best way to reach like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons is to read their material, to find the errors, of course, using my spiritual gift of discernment.
JOHN: Yeah, but that’s only true in your case because you know the Word of God.
QUESTION: But shouldn’t some of us be watching charismatic TV and reading this literature so that we can help the others? Or should we just leave it alone altogether?
JOHN: Yeah. Again, if you’re a discerning person, and you’re a mature person – I mean, I do. I mean, I can assess what’s going on, because I’m listening to what’s going on, I’m reading what’s going on. I feel that’s part of my responsibility. I don’t – you know, it says in 1 John 2 – let me read you the verse. This is a very important verse, by the way – 1 John 2, where John says in verse 12, “I’m writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven. I’m writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who was from the beginning. I’m writing to you, young men, because you’ve overcome the evil one.”
Then in verse 14, he says, “I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you’ve overcome the evil one.” A spiritual baby doesn’t overcome the evil one in this sense. The evil one is primarily disguised as an angel of light; he comes in false religion. That’s where Satan spends his time. He doesn’t spend his time in dirty movies and bars. The flesh takes care of that. Satan is orchestrating false religion. He’s in the Victor Paul Wierwelles who start The Way International, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and all that. He’s working through false religion.
But John says you can become a young man strong in the Word and overcome the wicked one. What does that mean? That means spiritually, when you’ve matured to the place where you’re strong in the Word, then you can deal with that kind of material. If you’re a spiritual baby, you’ll get tossed to and fro and carried about by the winds of doctrine, but when you reach a spiritual strength point, you can do that. I know in my own life, I feel it’s one of my responsibilities to warn you about what’s going on, and I think for you, many of you need to be in the same position.
Some of you are mature enough to take on some of that false material and show the error of it. But you’ve got to have that foundation.
QUESTION: Thank you.
JOHN: Thank you.
QUESTION: Mine is really kind of an example. A few years ago, my parents moved to live in northern Oregon, and they set up a business, and they were selling triple-X videos, and I was just really opposed to that and I let them know I really - they were just really fascinated with that. And so, I told them - I told my parents - in their business, and they were selling these videos - there was a church near their business. And the pastor at that church saw what was happening, and my parents noticed him watching and coming over to them.
He came into their business, and he said “hello” and talked to them about what was going on. And my mother was watching and said the pastor said to them, “I really think you should get rid of the triple-X videos.” And he showed the gospel with my parents, and they accepted Christ and got saved, and what are they going to do with all these triple-X videos that was in their business? And the pastor told them that they ought to really just burn them and destroy them, and my mom decided to do that.
And her business really went down, and she’s moved back to this area now; but my parents have become Christians, and they’ve been able to share the gospel now.
JOHN: Amen. Praise the Lord. That is great.
QUESTION: My question – well, I’ve been thinking through your messages these last few weeks, three weeks on this - and at the end of the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18 - and I’ve often wondered about this - where it says, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” And I used to, years ago, thought, “Well, this must mean, you know, people that are lost; they’re not.”
But then the more I see people who claim to be Christians - even the different churches I’ve been in - and they, you know, they have evidence they are. And yet they seem to be compromising or getting into some – well, even charismatic movement or something like that, and I have never been able to quite understand what He meant here about faith, will He find faith here on earth?
JOHN: Well, I’d have to dig into it, you know, and thoroughly, to really give you an extensive answer, Ted. But I think the bottom line can be easily understood. I think what our Lord is simply saying is that that’s a rare thing; to find someone whose faith was so persistent, and whose trust in God was so great, that they continually, continually, continually pleaded with the Lord to hear and answer their prayer. And I think that what the Scripture is simply saying is, if that was so rare in the day in which Christ was here, what’s it going to be like several thousand years later, when He comes back? Will there be any who still believe like that? That’s the idea.
JOHN: And it seems to me that we are living in a time of decline. I started with the illustration about Spurgeon, and I - I really think that that’s a good model for us. He came into a time of apathy in the church, a time of coldness in the church, and God used him to bring a revival. I think - and Dick Mayhue and I were talking about this the other day, and he shared his thought with me - that looking back about ten years, I think we really did see a revival of sorts in America, 15 years, 10 years ago. But it seems as though that’s all kind of gone, and now there’s sort of an apathetic church.
And we need to pray that God will restore again the kind of faith that we saw exhibited even 15 years ago, 20 years ago. But I think what the Lord is saying is that if it’s that bad when the Lord’s still there, what’s it going to be like thousands of years later, when He comes back? It’s almost a musing kind of thing. But we know the confidence that God will find faith on the earth. I just - I just think He’s saying, will it be this kind of faith, that really believes God and really holds firmly to His Word?
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