Posts Tagged ‘John MacArthur’

What is the Christian faith to you? What does it actually mean in your life? Is Christianity integral to your living, a moment-by-moment recognition that you are Christ’s possession and your life is to be lived for God’s glory, or is Christianity relegated to the “religious” compartment of your life, something that keeps you somewhat tied to a church but really doesn’t impact your daily living?

How you answer this, it seems to me, goes a long way in determining how serious you are about the faith you profess to hold. In reality, it goes to the heart of the gospel. Is Christ simply your Savior who gets you out of an eternal jam so you can avoid hell and go to heaven, or is Christ your Savior and Lord, your master who not only will take you to heaven but who determines how you will live during this life?

The “Savior-only” perspective is characterized by those who like the idea of being religiously minded. After all, a lot of blessings come from religion. It’s the mind-set that sees prayer as a good-luck charm to keep bad things from happening. For many in the South, it’s sort of a good-ole-boy “thing: “mom, God, apple pie, football, and NASCAR,” all being pretty much synonymous.

Speaking of NASCAR (I’m really not picking on racing fans—really!), this all-too-flippant-view of the faith was vividly illustrated in the “invocation” offered by Joe Nelms at the Nashville Superspeedway a couple of weeks ago. Pastor of the independent Family Baptist Church in Lebanon, Tennessee, Nelms made Christianity the religion of buffoons as he thanked God “for Roush and Yates partnering to give us the power that we see before us tonight, . . . for Sonoco racing fuel and Goodyear tires that bring performance and power to the track.” When you thought he couldn’t get lower with his “all-about-me” prayer, he said, “Lord, I want to thank you for my smokin’ hot wife tonight, Lisa, and my two children, Eli and Emma, or as we like to call the ‘The Little E’s.’” Nelms’ buffoonery became blasphemy as he ended his prayer with “in Jesus’ name, boogity boogity boogity, amen.”

Many loved Nelms’ display, laughing that it was “the greatest prayer ever.” That is not surprising when you see how little Christianity really affects folks’ living. The words of Jesus are haunting: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV).

Contrast Nelms’ silliness with this perspective from John MacArthur: “Over the years I have ministered quite a lot in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and other parts of the former Soviet Union. The church in those countries, repressed by Communism for so many decades, is nonetheless vibrant and dynamic today.One of the significant things that struck me when I first began to minister there was the terminology that virtually all Russian-speaking believers use to describe conversion. They do not speak of accepting Christ as one’s personal Saviour. They would never say merely that someone ‘made a decision for Christ’ or that the person ‘invited Jesus into his or her life.’ The language they use is simple and entirely biblical: the new believer is someone who has repented. If a person shows no evidence of repentance, he or she would not be embraced as a Christian, no matter what sort of verbal profession of faith was made . . . . By contrast, we live in a culture of such shallow religion that most of what goes by the name of ‘Christian’ in Western society has little or no emphasis on repentance of any kind. The call to repentance has been deliberately omitted from the most popular gospel presentations of our generation” (cited in Iain H. Murray, John MacArthur: Servant of the Word and Flock [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2011], 152.)

Those who have truly followed Christ have paid a price for their journey. They understand the gravity of declaring allegiance to Christ. Instead of using Christ to promote themselves or merely to escape a place of eternal punishment, they count the cost, repent of their sin, and trust in the crucified and resurrected Lord.


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I doubt any person has influenced my understanding of Christianity and preaching more than John MacArthur. A series of MacArthur’s audio cassette tapes loaned to me by a former missionary to Brazil opened my mind and heart and understanding to the concept that the glory of God is central to everything. That must have been about 1980, and I’ve followed Dr. MacArthur’s ministry since and am thankful to God for it.

Tim Chailles recently posted a two-part series entitled “10 Questions with John MacArthur.” I encourage you to read and think carefully through Dr. MacArthur’s responses. The first five questions are here, and the latter five are here.

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During the 2007 Shepherds Conference at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, John MacArthur delivered a lecture entitled “Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist Should Be a Premillennialist.” It created quite a stir among Reformed pastors and theologians. I remember reading Tom Ascol’s “Founders Ministries Blog” and the dust-up MacArthur’s lecture created in the comments there.

Probably no one has done more for the resurgence of expository preaching in our generation than John MacArthur. In a few personal encounters, I have found Dr. MacArthur to be gracious, modest, thoughtful, and kind, and I have learned much from him and almost always consult his commentaries when I’m working with a New Testament passage. I still have a first edition copy of The Gospel According to Jesus, published in 1988 and bought and read in 1988. MacArthur clearly stated and defended the biblical gospel against the “easy believism” of twentieth-century evangelicals (and of too many Southern Baptists, my own denomination, even today).

And yet, as a former dispensational premillennialist, I have for years regarded Dr. MacArthur’s eschatological views regrettable and find his lecture on Calvinism and premillennialism disappointing. There have been several very good responses to the assertions in MacArthur’s lecture, and one of the best I have read is by Kim Riddlebarger, senior pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim, California, and visiting professor of systematic theology at Westminster Seminary California. I encourage you to read it on Riddlebarger’s “Riddleblog: Devoted to Reformed Theology and Eschatology.” Riddlebarger helpfully clears up a lot of mischaracterizations of Amillennialism, in particular the bogus charge of replacement theology.

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Taking a look at the typical program on “Christian” television makes one understand why so many people charge Christianity with being a religion for those who refuse to think. The latest huckster filling buildings with claims of healing folks of all sorts of maladies (none documented, of course) or some charlatan claiming that God has given him a plan to bless those who send him $100 a month for the next twelve months reduces the Christian faith to a contemptible self-gratification society.

Unfortunately, such egregious displays of carnality are not the only ones which cash in on man’s inherent passion for self. Folks flock to hear how they can fix their problems and have more happiness in life. “Don’t worry about sin and repentance; God’s on your side. Stop preventing him from blessing you with your continued self-rejection. Love yourself, and love God. After all, he’s here for you.”

Unfortunately, we Baptists are not much better. When I was much younger (yes, much younger!), I was a member of a church which then purportedly had the largest Sunday school in the world. I was a “bus captain” for one of the over-200 buses which weekly invaded the Chicago area to bring mostly children to Sunday school. How did we fill so many buses? We had all kinds of contests and and gave all sorts of gifts. We swallowed goldfish and made “the world’s largest sundaes.” It was a veritable three-ring circus, and multitudes loved it.

Not too many years after that time, a friend loaned me a set of audio tapes of sermons preached by John MacArthur. I had never heard of Dr. MacArthur (this was about 1980), but the series title was intriguing: “The Glory of God.” The type of Christianity which I had experienced had been creating quite a bit of angst, and somehow I knew there had to be much more to Christianity than bribing folks to come to church where they would then hear a message about “asking Jesus into their hearts” so they could avoid hell. MacArthur’s messages articulated what I had been thinking and completely changed my understanding of the faith. No longer was Christianity about man’s comfort and man’s hopes; Christianity, biblical Christianity, was about the glory of God.

And yet the beat goes on. I received an invitation this past week to attend a two-day seminar promising to increase the attendance of my church. A local Baptist association is advertising the drawing of a $100 Wal-Mart gift card in order to increase the number of young people attending a particular night of its annual evangelistic crusade. Well intentioned, perhaps, but trivializing the faith for certain.

Such is not the faith for which disciples of Christ have been persecuted throughout the ages. Unfortunately, what goes on in the name of Christianity is little more than appealing to our inherent depravity. It’s a man-centered religion.

Fortunately, there is a better way, a more biblical way, and that is to see God as the center of our existence and the Scriptures as the directive for our methods. Indeed, the English and Scottish divines of the mid-seventeenth century provide us with clear direction with the first question and answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647):

What is the chief end of man?

The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

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