Monday, September 5, 2016

The Holy Spirit's Work In Our Lives

This material on the Holy Spirit is from my book "The Foundations Of Godly Living."

The Practical Implications of Being Filled 
with the Holy Spirit

When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will be conformed to the image of Christ, and we will develop personal godliness. I have been privileged to have known some of the most godly servants of the Lord over the years. Some of these men and women have been such outstanding Christians and have lived lives that are truly astonishing in their zeal and devotion to Christ. Some of these believers have had to overcome great hardships and handicaps, yet they lived in such a way as to be an amazing testimony and credit to the Lord they loved and adored. What was the secret behind their great devotion to Christ? I can say that without a doubt it has been their deep spirituality that came from the filling and anointing of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual people are like Christ. When the Holy Spirit is working in our lives, He goes to great lengths to conform us into the image and likeness of Christ. British scholar and author C. S. Lewis, in his book Screw Tape Letters, allows the Devil to make the point of how God is making His children replicas of Jesus Christ His Son. The Devil sarcastically says:

“One must face the fact…an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself—creatures, whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own.”7

One of the joys of my own life over the years has been at those times that I have been approached by people outside of the faith who asked me what was it that made me different? What was the secret or the reason for the joy in my life? How thrilling to tell them that the life they see in me is a result of my being born again and having been indwelled by God’s Holy Spirit. Every true Christian should be able to share similar stories of how their life touched the lives of others by their example of love and joy in Christ. If this has never happened to you-ask yourself, “why?”

The reason Paul commands his readers to be filled with the Spirit on a daily and continual basis is that we need God’s strength in order to live spiritual lives. No one is filled with joy, peace, love, kindness, etc. all the time. When we fail to obey this command, we can quickly slip back into the flesh and begin to live lives that are unspiritual. A life dominated by the flesh is a life that is doomed to destruction. You remember what Paul said concerning those who practice the works of the flesh, “… those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:21. Listen carefully, those who live in the flesh will die.

Two verses that speak to the need of living a spiritual life are Romans 15:13, and Psalm 42:1-2. Romans 15:13 says, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” The Apostle Paul makes it clear to the church at Rome that joy, hope and peace come from the filling of the Holy Spirit. The Psalmist also gives us his testimony in Psalms 42:1-2, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God When shall I come and appear before God?” This spiritual longing for God comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit. Do you have such a longing for God? Would you describe your spiritual life as one of intense and passionate longing for the reality of God in your life? May you search you heart and see if these things are a reality in your life. If you have no     passion for Christ in your life, you should consider whether or not you have really been born again.

Let me summarize the implications of the filling of the Holy Spirit. If we are filled with the Spirit and are under His control, we should be the best husbands, wives, friends, workers, citizens, and people that others  ever meet. The Christian testimony of those who truly know the Lord is that they are characterized by these spiritual fruits that Paul mentions in Galatians 5:22-23. If our lives were characterized by love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control would not the world be amazed by the difference they would see in each of us? The fact that there is so little difference between the professing Christian and the person of the world who is not professing the Christian faith should alarm us. Pastors must realize that perhaps many of the people in their churches may be unsaved believers or they may be living very sub-par lives even though they profess to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ. In every generation the world needs to see a genuine and consistent Christian testimony from those who are followers of Jesus Christ. When Christian profession and Christian living do not measure up, the result will be a lack of credibility before the watching world. Each professing believer should grieve if they are a part of this problem. 

Steps to Being Filled with the Holy Spirit

  First, what we need to do is realize that being filled with the Holy Spirit is a command. This is not just a suggestion. We are commanded to be filled by the Holy Spirit every day of our lives. 

Second, we must have a desire to live a holy and godly life. Jesus taught us in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled

Third, we need to humbly ask the Holy Spirit Who indwells us to fill us and take control of our lives. This means yielding to Him and allowing His presence to empower us.  Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you, to take control of your life, and to enable you to live a godly life. Romans 12:1-2 tells us, “I beseech you  therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” C. H. Spurgeon had this to say about asking God to fill us with His Holy Spirit:

“I want to remind you of those blessed words of the Master, "Every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" You see, there is a distinct promise to the children of God, that their heavenly Father will give them the Holy Spirit if they ask for His power; and that promise is made to be exceedingly strong by the instances joined to it. But he says, "How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" He makes it a stronger case than that of an ordinary parent.”8

Fourth, yield your life moment by moment to the Lord and walk in the Spirit. Obedience to the commandments of God and a desire to live in holiness is essential to a Spirit-filled life.

  Fifth, you must confess any known sin in your life and ask the Holy Spirit to give you the desire and the power to live the Christian life. When you sin, immediately confess it to the Lord and yield to the Holy Spirit to enable you to walk with God. 

Sixth, and finally, you must receive the Spirit by faith. Jesus told His disciples that if we ask anything according to His will, He will grant it to us. We know it is the will of God that we are filled, controlled, and empowered by the Holy Spirit to live a godly life. Therefore, we can have full assurance that the Lord is delighted to grant us this filling with His Spirit, for this is His will for our lives.
One Christian leader pleaded with his people to be filled with the Holy Spirit. 

“…be filled with the Spirit. Seek to be more and more under His blessed influence. Strive to have every thought, and word, and action, and habit, brought under obedience to the leadings of the Holy Spirit. Grieve Him not by inconsistencies and conformity to the world. Quench Him not by trifling with little infirmities and small besetting sins. Seek rather to have Him ruling and reigning more completely over you every week that you live. Pray that you may yearly grow in grace, and in the knowledge of Christ. This is the way to do good to the world. An eminent Christian is a light-house—seen far and wide by others, and doing good to myriads, whom he never knows. This is the way to enjoy much inward comfort in this world, to have bright assurance in death, to leave broad evidences behind us, and at last to receive a great crown.”9

Let us all strive to be filled with the Holy Spirit every day of our lives. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is one of the foundational truths of godly living. Without the filling of the Holy Spirit, we cannot live a godly life.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Robert Murray M'Cheyne of Dundee, Scotland

The life of Robert Murray M'Cheyne of Scotland is one of the most precious stories of a godly pastor who lived for the glory of God and who pursued holiness and likeness to Christ with a passion. Here are a number of his quotes that will give you a good sense of the heart of this man of God. You can get a free e-book on his life if you go to Amazon. The biography of M'Cheyne by Anrew Bonar is a superb read. 

In the more recent history of the Christian church there has not been a man so noted for personal holiness quite like the saintly Scottish pastor Robert Murray McCheyne of Dundee, Scotland. When he died the secular papers said of this man that “Jesus has walked among us.” 

I want to share with you tonight some thoughts on this special man of God that I trust will be a blessing to all of you.

Quotes by M'Cheyne

"Pray for me, that I may be made holier and wiser--less like myself, and more like my heavenly Master; that I may not regard my life, if so be I may finish my course with joy. This day eleven years ago, I lost my loved and loving brother, and began to seek a Brother who cannot die."

"Read part of the life of Jonathan Edwards. How feeble does my spark of Christianity appear beside such a sun! But even his was a borrowed light, and the same source is still open to enlighten me."

"If nothing else will do to sever me from my sins, Lord, send me such sore and trying calamities as shall awake me from earthly slumbers. It must always be best to be alive to thee, whatever be the quickening instrument."

"Life itself is vanishing fast. Make haste for eternity."

"Do everything in earnest--if it is worth doing, then do it with all your might. Above all, keep much in the presence of God. Never see the face of man till you have seen his face who is our Life, our All."

"Take heed to thyself. Your own soul is your first and greatest care."

"Keep up close communion with God. Study likeness to him in all things..."

"I know well that when Christ is nearest, Satan also is busiest."

"I feel there are two things it is impossible to desire with sufficient ardour--personal holiness, and the honour of Christ in the salvation of souls."

"It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God."

"Live near to God, and so all things will appear to you little in comparison with eternal realities."

"Even those that are most deeply concerned about their souls do not see the millionth part of the blackness of their hearts and lives."

"Every wave of trouble has been wafting you to the sunny shores of a sinless eternity."

" not think any sin trivial; remember it will have everlasting consequences."

"Go on, dear brother; but an inch of time remains, and then eternal ages roll on for ever--but an inch on which we can stand and preach the way of salvation to a perishing world."

"One smile from Jesus sustains my soul amid all the storms and frowns of this passing world. Pray to know Jesus better."

"Do not fear the face of man. Remember how small their anger will appear in eternity."

~Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843),

Friday, August 12, 2016

"Rivers of Water run down from my eyes, because men do not keep Your law."
Psalm 119:136

Do you know the Ten Commandments? The problem with modern day America is that most people do not know these commandments. Because of this, there is no fear of God before the eyes of millions of our fellow citizens. Before the gospel will be loved, cherished, and received, there must be a knowledge of sin.

Today, God's laws have been replaced with the laws of secular man. 

The Ten Commandments Of Humanism
And Secularism

  1. Thou shalt have no other god but the government.
  2. Thou shalt not take the name of the government in vain.
  3. Thou shalt believe everything the news tells you.
  4. Thou shalt not be negative.
  5. Thou shalt not offend anyone.
  6. Thou shalt not be critical of other religions.
  7. Thou shalt not impose thy views on others.
  8. Thou shalt keep thy faith out of the public square.
  9. Thou shalt fear man.
  10. Thou shalt not count the cost of serving Jesus.

"And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them saying, 'Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man's blood on us!; But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: 'We ought to obey God rather them men.'" Acts 5:27-28.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Are Open Borders And Mass Islamic Immigration Good For Western Civilization?

I was asked recently by several people what I thought about the mass immigration crisis that is taking place in Europe. This same crisis is also taking place in the US. It has been suggested that migration is a human right. The argument for this idea is that those who are seeking asylum in Europe have a right to do so and the population of Europe has a moral obligation to receive them. This is fallacious reasoning.  This is reasoning that is contrary to the teachings of the Word of God. This is reasoning that is not only absurd, it is suicidal nonsense. That many professing Christians cannot see this is beyond shocking. That professing Christians cannot discern these things is evidence that many of those who profess faith in Christ follow the wisdom of man rather than the wisdom of God.

Those who are seeking entrance into Europe, for the most part, are not coming to assimilate. They are not coming to embrace the western values and cultural standards of their host countries. If the people coming to Europe posed no serious threat to the native population, a case could be made for taking in some of these refugees. But many of these people from the Middle East and Africa come with an agenda. They will change our culture,  harass our citizens, mock our values, impose sharia law, demand the dismantling of Christian traditions, vandalize Christian symbols, bring in potential terrorists, and use our freedoms to destroy our freedoms. My wife once sat on a plane next to an Arab educator who was coming to our town to lecture at a local university on Islam. He told my wife, without batting an eye, that he and other Muslims were using our freedoms to further their Islamic agenda in America. This man was not hiding anything. Similar ideas are being publicly made by many Islamic leaders.

Europe is committing cultural suicide by allowing open borders, mass migrations, and welcoming a strange and deadly religion into its heartland. Welcoming Muslims into Europe in massive numbers is like taking poison into a body. It will eventually bring death.  

       Someone who has studied at Harvard University relayed to me an interesting lecture they heard. The lecture discussed how the ruling elite in Europe are needing the massive waves of immigrants to support their dying economy because of a greying population and a  native population that is not replacing itself by child birth. Every year European nations need hundreds of thousands of new workers and potential tax payers to keep their economic systems functioning. The problem with this scenario is that these massive waves of migrants have, for the most part, no intention of assimilating. Germany, which is the wealthiest nation in Europe, is the only country in Europe that has the potential to financially pay for this massive welfare program. Other countries will soon be bankrupt and in the same condition as Greece and Italy. Because of this ongoing migration, European nations are now facing an exploding increase in crime, harassment of its citizens, rape, violence, and civil unrest. The native Europeans are under siege. There is a growing backlash from many people. But most experts believe that it is too late to make any significant change. There is a general opinion that the Europe of the Reformation and Christian worldview is finished. It is only a matter of time before Europe becomes Eurabia. How an entire continent lost its Christian faith and the values that made it great  and committed cultural suicide will go down as one of the greatest tragedies in all of human history.

Those who favor this massive wave of migration from Muslim countries must explain how this is a right. On what authority do they support such a suicidal policy? Those who support this must ask themselves, “Does Europe have a culture, a history, a legacy and a faith worth keeping?” If it does, then allowing millions of Muslim migrants into the heartland of Europe is committing cultural, political, and religious suicide. If there is something about the history, culture, and religion of Europe that is unworthy of perpetuating, then have at it—open borders, mass migration, and multiculturalism will bury Europe, and it will eventually cease to exist. 

Do those in Europe and America who favor this massive influx of refugees imagine that there will be some sort of utopia such as what Muslims have called “The Golden Age of Spain and Bagdad” in the ninth and tenth centuries? During this so-called golden age, the Jews, Christians and Muslims supposedly lived together in harmony and peace. Was this really the case or is it just more propaganda to hide the truth about Islam? Let’s examine the Islamic Golden Age in Spain and Baghdad. Islam invaded Baghdad and Spain with the sword in hand. These countries, like all other countries that were subjugated by Islam, did not invite this religion into its heartland, nor did they willingly convert to this false religion. Islam invaded them, and killed so many people that the remainder surrendered. Those who surrendered and did not convert to Islam were raped, robbed and made dhimmis, (Dhimmis are second class citizens who had to pay a tax for being non-Muslim) except for those who were made slaves and shipped to another part of the Islamic empire. Is this the kind of golden age that we would wish to embrace?

Europe is facing an unimaginable problem. Africa and the Middle East have exploding populations. Recent surveys show that over 80% of the populations of these nations want to migrate to Europe (a continent that has bought into the lie that having children is a bad thing because of so-called overpopulation—which is a myth). Unless European governments do something to halt this wave of migration, millions of these people will eventually come and settle in Europe. If most of these refugees came to assimilate and were no existential threat to the prevailing culture that would be one thing. But the overwhelming majority of those who come to Europe from Muslim countries have no intention of embracing the European way of life, let alone its Christian faith. In a recent poll in the United States a large number of Muslims were asked, “Do you think Sharia law should replace the laws of the land?” In every single instance they said yes! Should we be shocked? This is also true in Europe. Muslims are coming, and they have a goal of dismantling every rival law and religion and replacing it with Sharia law and Islam.

The Christian worldview compels us to be compassionate to those in need. But the Christian worldview does not compel us to commit suicide in the act of being kind. Those who really need our assistance are the millions of Christians in the Middle East who are systematically being killed, tortured, raped and driven out of their homes by Isis and other Islamic groups. These Christians include the Chaldeans, the Coptic Egyptians, the many Christians in Lebanon and Palestine, and in other parts of the Middle East. Besides these Christians, if other refugees are allowed to enter Europe, there must be a way of vetting those who have a sincere reason to come and not just allowing those to come who wish to reap the benefits of a socialistic society and who see themselves as soldiers of Allah to wage jihad on Western civilization.

  So there is a need for Christian compassion, but taking in the massive numbers who want to come to Europe to receive the benefits of a social welfare state will overwhelm the continent and destroy it. Immigration should be controlled, and it should not be viewed as a way to dismantle centuries of Western civilization for the sake of pseudo-Christian sympathy and compassion. But then again, if living in Pakistan, Africa and the Middle East is high on one’s priority list, then by all means open your borders. If living under Sharia law, losing one’s Christian heritage, forgetting the God of your father’s and destroying the legacy of the great revivals and the Reformation is ok with Europeans, then welcome as many migrants as you can. Europe is rapidly becoming a second Middle East. Western civilization is being replaced by the repressive and repulsive ideas of a false religion. 

There has never been a time in modern history where such massive waves of migration have the potential to wipe out an entire civilization and with it the Christian worldview. I see this not just as a socio-political concern but as a existential threat to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Forget about the great revivals of our past. Forget about the Christian heroes and the great preachers that the West produced. Forget about the Reformation. Don’t you know that all of this is going to be erased and forgotten? Don’t you know that if the status quo is maintained much longer, all that you have held dear is going to be obliterated by the influx of a people who come with an alien worldview and a religion that is the most oppressive and anti-Christian that the world has ever known? Some day, not far from now, our children and our children’s children will ask, “Whatever happened to that wonderful place we once called Christian Europe?” “How did that worldview disappear?” Dr. Bill Warner from the Center For The Study Of Political Islam said, 

“Islam has expanded since its first inception. We have decided to not oppose its growth, since that would be bigoted. In our present mind-set, there is nothing to stop Islam from prevailing. Europe is rapidly being overtaken by Muslim immigration and high birth rates. The problem is that Europe’s elites and governments are fully accommodated to the end of European civilization and the beginning of Eurabia. European media, intellectuals and government officials only want to help the process of the death of Europe by assisting Islam and yielding to all of Political Islam’s demands, including ever more welfare and immigration.” 

The Apostle Paul said, “For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound who will prepare himself for battle.” I Corinthians 14:8. I believe that many Christians have been fighting battles that are trivial and inconsequential compared to the real war that is raging all around them. Many Christian pastors and leaders are remaining silent as their Christian heritage and worldview is being systematically dismantled and replaced.

Preach the gospel fearlessly—we must. Be faithful to our high calling—indeed! But this does not mean that we neglect the fight in the arena of culture, ideas, multiculturalism, and whose law will guide and influence society. Study the Reformers, the leaders of the ancient church in Anatolia, and even the Roman Catholics and you will find that they left us with a great amount of material on their concerns with Islam. Calvin and the Reformers knew the tremendous dangers of this false religion. They preached against it, they warned their people about it, and they were aware of the deadly threat to their gospel that it posed. Over the years as I have read Luther, Calvin, Matthew Henry, Matthew Poole and other commentaries, I have repeatedly come across  statements and references to what these men termed “Mohammedism.” How is it that preachers today, for the most part, have let this false religion come in among them and have done so little to educate the population of its true nature and history? We have allowed the narrative to be totally controlled by those who have a vicious desire to destroy the Christian worldview. These ruling elites have duped the masses of our citizens and the church has not risen to the occasion to clarify the facts and set forth the truth.  Again I cite material from the Center For The Study Of Political Islam:

“There is an enormous gap in our knowledge about Islam. Look at these simple facts. North Africa and Egypt used to be Christian. North Africa was European. Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and the rest of the Middle East were Christian. Turkey used to be Greek Anatolia. Afghanistan and all of the rest of the Silk Route countries were Buddhist. Pakistan and Bangladesh used to be Buddhist and Hindu. Today all of those nations are Islamic. Did Islam “just happen” or was there a process that took centuries? How did Greek Christian Anatolia become Islamic Turkey? The history of Islamification is a non-history… There is no way to live with Islam. Life with Islam is a succession of demands. Mohammed never stopped until 100% of his demands were met. That was life with Mohammed…Islam is a civilization that is designed to extinguish all Kafir civilizations down to their last cultural vestige. Annihilation is Sunna. Mohammed did not stop until the Kafirs surrendered to his demands to change the smallest details of their lives into his way of doing. The last 1400 years of history is proof of the brutal efficiency of Islamic politics. There has never been a culture where Islam and Kafirs existed in long-term peace. After a long enough time period, Islam takes over the civilization. This is the goal of Islam…”

(A Kafir is a non-Muslim who is considered an infidel and by Quranic teaching is to be either converted, made a dhimmi or killed.)

If this battle is not fought, there will be no opportunity to preach the gospel at all. Many Christians are guilty of straining at gnats and swallowing camels. While we slept, an enemy came in among us. When we awoke, it was too late. My answer and response to this migration of people from the Middle East to Europe and America is that this is going to be the death of Western Civilization. If not curtailed, the end will come. Perhaps it’s already here.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The High Cost Of Being A Disciple Of Jesus

The Cost Of Discipleship

The following material was taken from a recent message that I preached at Berean.

 We must not forget that there is a tremendous cost to be a follower of Jesus Christ. 

Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His Name?

Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas?

Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To help me on to God?

Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord.
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.
Isaac Watts

There is a great cost to being a disciple of Christ. A recent Gallup poll concluded that less than 10% of professing evangelicals were deeply committed to their faith. This is disturbing. Around the world Muslims are rampaging, rioting, raping and ready to die for their faith. While true Christians deplore the violence and viscousness of Islam we also are disturbed by the lack of passionate dedication among those who claim to be followers of Christ. There is little counterpart to Islamic passion and dedication among Christians. The Christian faith has nearly been extinguished in the West and what ever faith is left is weak, effeminate, and cowardly.

The problem with Christianity today in America is that so many professing Christians are following Christ with a superficial, lukewarm, and anemic faith. Where is the strong, courageous, bold and vibrant faith of our forefathers? Sadly it hardly exists any more. The Unfeigned faith of our forefathers has been neutered by lukewarmness, worldliness, unbelief, compromise, unconfessed sin, and  the distractions of a multitude of rival interests.

The problem with Christianity today is that so many professing Christians have never counted the cost of following Christ. Christians have  been preaching what Dietrich Bonhoffer called “cheap grace.” Bonhoffer defined cheap grace with these words:

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ…”

So we have today people being brought into the church by cheap grace, they are living by cheap grace, they worship in churches that preach cheap grace, so it’s not surprising that the church does not resemble in any way the church of the New Testament.

Coming back to our text we ask then, “What is the cost of discipleship?” It is very high indeed. It will cost you everything. It will cost you your life. It will demand full allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ. It will demand full surrender, complete obedience, and the utter abandonment of your soul to God. 

Our text in Luke’s gospel will spell out the cost of discipleship for us. Jesus begins with this statement, “…if anyone desires to come after Me…” What does this statement mean? It clearly means to become one of His disciples. It means to be a follower of Christ and one who sits at His feet to learn the principles of the Christian faith. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Wonderful Article on Worship

Dear Berean Family, this article on contemporary worship is very relevant to our current culture as it relates to how we approach God in our churches today. As you know, I have emphasized the need to worship God based on biblical regulations and not based on the opinions and ideas of man. I trust that you will be encouraged by this article and that you will be a defender and champion of passionate, biblical and the serious worship of God. Perhaps the Lord is beginning to speak to His people and is showing them the need to return to Him in serious and reverent worship that has expository preaching as the center piece of the worship service. 

I have written something on the crisis that is sweeping Europe with the massive waves of Muslims migrants that are arriving in the millions. I will post this article soon. The terrible tragedy that happened in Orlando, Florida this past week should remind us that this terrible war with Islam is not going to go away any time soon. Islam has been waging war against the rest of the world ever since it swept out of the desert 1400 years ago. Most Americans have been fed a steady stream of propaganda and because of this they know almost nothing of the true nature of this false religion.  

The Imminent Decline of Contemporary 
Worship Music: Eight Reasons

T. David Gordan

By imminent decline of contemporary worship music, I do not mean imminent disappearance. Commercial forces have too substantial an interest to permit contemporary worship music to disappear entirely; and human beings are creatures of habit who do not adapt to change quickly. I do not predict, therefore, a disappearance of contemporary worship music, sooner or later. Already, however, I observe its decline. Several years ago (2011) Mark Moring interviewed me for Christianity Today, and in our follow-up communications, he indicated that he thought the zenith of contemporary worship music had already happened, and that the movement was already in the direction of traditional hymnody. He did not make any claims about the ratio of contemporary worship music to traditional hymns; he merely observed that whatever the ratio was, the see-saw was now moving, albeit slowly, towards traditional hymnody. If the ratio of contemporary-to-traditional was rising twenty years ago, it is falling now; the ratio is now in decline, and I suspect that decline will continue for the foreseeable future. What follows is a painfully abbreviated list of eight reasons why I think this change is happening.

1 Contemporary worship music hymns not only were/are comparatively poor; they had to be. One generation cannot successfully “compete” with 50 generations of hymn-writers; such a generation would need to be fifty times as talented as all previous generations to do so. If only one-half of one percent (42 out of over 6,500) of Charles Wesley’s hymns made it even into the Methodist hymnal, it would be hubristic/arrogant to think that any contemporary hymnist is substantially better than he. Most hymnals are constituted of hymns written by people with Wesley’s unusual talent; the editors had the “pick of the litter” of almost two thousand years of hymn-writing. In English hymnals, for instance, we rarely find even ten of Paul Gerhardt’s 140 hymns, even though many musicologists regard him as one of Germany’s finest hymnwriters. Good hymnals contain, essentially, “the best of the best,” the best hymns of the best hymnwriters of all time; how could any single generation compete with that?

Just speaking arithmetically, one would expect that, at best, each generation could represent itself as well as other generations, permitting hymnal editors to continue to select “the best of the best” from each generation. Were this the case, then one of every fifty hymns we sing should be from one of the fifty generations since the apostles, and, therefore, one of every fifty should be contemporary, the best of the current generation of hymnwriters. Perhaps this is what John Frame meant when, in the second paragraph of his book on CWM, he indicated that he had two goals for his book: to explain some aspects of CWM and to defend its “limited use” in public worship. Perhaps Prof. Frame thought one out of fifty constituted “limited use,” or perhaps he might have permitted as much as one out of ten, I don’t know. But our generation of hymnwriters, while talented and devout, are not more talented or more devout than all other generations, and are surely not so by a ratio of fifty-to-one.

2. Early on in the contemporary worship music movement, many groups began setting traditional hymn-lyrics to contemporary melodies and/or instrumentation. Sovereign Grace Music, Indelible Grace, Red Mountain Music, Reformed Praise all recognized how difficult/demanding it is to write lyrics that are not only theologically sound, but significant, profound, appropriate, memorable, and edifying (not to mention metrical). If the canonical Psalms are our model, few hymn-writers could hope to write with such remarkable insight (into God and His creatures, who are only dust) and remarkable craftsmanship (e.g. the first three words of the first Psalm begin with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, aleph (א), each also has a shin (ש), and two of the three also have a resh (ר), even though each is only a 3-letter word. Even those unfamiliar with Hebrew cannot miss the remarkable assonance and alliteration in those opening three words: “ashre ha-ish asher”).

3. As a result, the better contemporary hymns (e.g. “How Deep the Father’s Love,” “In Christ Alone”) have been over-used to the point that we have become weary of them. These two of the better contemporary worship music hymns are sung a half-dozen times or a even a dozen times annually in many contemporary worship music churches; whereas “A Mighty Fortress” may get sung once or twice (if at all); but neither of the two is as good as Luther’s hymn. What is “intrinsically good” (to employ Luther’s expression about music) will always last; what is merely novel will not. Beethoven will outlast 50 Cent, The Black Eyed Peas, and Christina Aguilera. His music will be enjoyed three hundred years from now; theirs will be gone inside of fifty years.

4. It is no longer a competitive advantage to have part or all of a service in a contemporary idiom; probably well over half the churches now do so, so we have reached what Malcolm Gladwell calls the “Tipping Point.” Contemporary worship music no longer marks a church as emerging, hip, edgy, or forward-looking, because many/most churches now do it. Churches that do not do other aspects of church-life well can no longer compensate via contemporary worship music; they must compete with other churches that employ contemporary worship music. Once a thing is commonplace, it is no longer a draw. And contemporary worship music is now so commonplace that it is no longer a competitive advantage; to the contrary, smaller churches with smaller budgets have difficulty competing with the larger-budgeted churches in this area.

5. As with all novelties, once the novelty wears off, what is left often seems somewhat empty. In a culture that celebrates what is new (and commercial culture always does so in order to sell what is new), most people will pine for what is new. But what is new does not remain so forever; and once it is no longer novel, it must compete by the ordinary canons of musical and lyrical art, and very little contemporary worship music can do so (again, because its authors face a fifty-to-one ratio of competition from other generations). Even promoters of contemporary worship music prefer some of it to the rest of it; indicating that they, too, recognize aesthetic criteria beyond mere novelty. Even those who regard novelty as a virtue, in other words, do not regard it as the only virtue. And some, such as myself, regard novelty as a liturgical vice, not a virtue because of its tendency to dis-associate us from the rest of our common race, heritage, and liturgy.

6. Thankfully, my own generation is beginning to die. While ostensibly created “for the young people,” the driving force behind contemporary worship music was always my own Sixties generation of anti-adult, anti-establishment, rebellious Woodstockers and Jesus freaks. Once my generation became elders and deacons (and therefore those who ran the churches), we could not escape our sense of being part of the “My Generation” that The Who’s Pete Townsend had sung about when we were young; so we (not the young people) wanted a brand of Christianity that did not look like our parents’ brand. Fortunately for the human race, we are dying off now, and much of the impetus for contemporary worship music will die with us (though the commercial interests will “not go gentle into that good night,” and fulfill Dylan Thomas’s wish).

7. Contemporary worship music is ordinarily accompanied by Praise Teams, and these have frequently (but by no means always) been problematic. It has been difficult to provide direction to them, due to the inherent confusion between whether they are participants in the congregation or performers for the congregation. In most circumstances, the members of the Praise Team do the kinds of things performers do: they vary the instrumental or harmonious parts between stanzas, they rehearse, etc. In fact, if one were to watch a video of the typical Praise Team without any audio, they ordinarily look like performers; their bodily actions and contrived emotional expressions mimic those of the entertainment industry.

Theologically and liturgically, however, it is the congregation that is to sing God’s praise, and what we call the Praise Team is merely an accompanist. But there is a frequent and ongoing tension in many contemporary worship music churches between the performers feeling as though they are being held back from performing for the congregation, and the liturgists thinking they’ve already gone too far in distinguishing themselves from the congregation. Many pastors have told me privately that they have no principial disagreements with contemporary worship music, but that they wish the whole Praise Team thing “would go away,” because it is a frequent source of tension. I have elsewhere suggested that the Praise Team is not biblical, that it actually obscures or obliterates what the Scriptures command. I won’t repeat any of those concerns here; here I merely acknowledge that many of those who disagree with my understanding of Scripure agree with my observation that the Praise Team is an ongoing source of difficulty in the church.

8. We cannot evade or avoid the “holy catholic church” of the Apostles’ Creed forever. Even people who are untrained theologically have some intuitive sense that a local contemporary church is part of a global and many-generational (indeed eschatological and endless) assembly of followers of Christ; cutting ourselves off from that broader catholic body may appear cool for a while, but we ultimately wish to commune with the rest of the global/catholic church. Indeed, for many mature Christians, this wish grows as we age; we become aware that this particular moment, and our own personal life therein, will pass away soon, and what is timeless will nonetheless continue. Our affection for and interest in the timeless trumps our interest in the recent and fading. We intuitively identify with Henry F. Lyte, whose hymn said, “Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou who changest not, abide with me.” We instinctively wish to “join the everlasting song, and crown Him Lord of all” (to use Edward Perronet’s language). Note, in fact, the opening lines alone of each stanza of Perronet’s hymn, and observe how, as the stanzas move, our worship is connected to both earthly and heavenly worship, past and future worship:

All hail the power of Jesus’ Name! Let angels prostrate fall;…
Let highborn seraphs tune the lyre, and as they tune it, fall…
Crown Him, ye morning stars of light, who fixed this floating ball;…
Crown Him, ye martyrs of your God, who from His altar call;…
Ye seed of Israel’s chosen race, ye ransomed from the fall,…
Hail Him, ye heirs of David’s line, whom David Lord did call,…
Sinners, whose love can ne’er forget the wormwood and the gall,…
Let every tribe and every tongue before Him prostrate fall…
O that, with yonder sacred throng, we at His feet may fall,
Join in the everlasting song, and crown Him Lord of all!

It is not merely that some churches do not sing Perronet’s hymn; they can not do so, without a little dissonance. Everything that they do intentionally cuts themselves off from the past and future; liturgically, if not theologically, they know nothing of martyrs, of Israel’s chosen race, of David’s lineage. Liturgically, if not theologically, everything is here-and-now, without much room for angels or seraphs, nor every tribe and tongue (just those who share our particular cultural moment). To sing Perronet’s hymn in such a setting would fit about as well as reading Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at a Ku Klux Klan gathering.

“Contemporary worship” to me is an oxymoron. Biblically, worship is what angels and morning stars did before creation; what Abraham, Moses and the Levites, and the many-tongued Jewish diaspora at Pentecost did. It is what the martyrs, now ascended, do, and what all believers since the apostles have done. More importantly, it is what we will do eternally; worship is essentially (not accidentally) eschatological. And nothing could celebrate the eschatological forever less than something that celebrates the contemporary now. So ultimately, I think the Apostles’ Creed will stick its camel’s nose into the liturgical tent, and assert again our celebration of the “holy catholic church, the communion of the saints.” The sooner the better.