Not So Random Thoughts 57

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Romans 9:15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

“God has surely promised His grace to the humbled: that is, to those who mourn over and despair of themselves. But a man cannot be thoroughly humbled till he realizes that salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsels, efforts, will and works, and depends absolutely on the will, counsel, pleasure and work of Another—God alone. As long as he is persuaded that he can make even the smallest contribution to his salvation, he remains self-confident and does not utterly despair of himself, and so is not humbled before God; but plans out for himself (or at least hopes and longs for) a position, an occasion, a work, which shall bring him final salvation. But he who is out of doubt that his destiny depends entirely on the will of God despairs entirely of himself, chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work in him; and such a man is very near to grace for his salvation. (Martin Luther, Bondage of the Will)

The stark difference between a God-centered view of the Gospel, the whole of Christianity, and the whole of life with a man-centered view is enormous. Our hearts tend toward the man-centered view and in fact will be taken with that view apart from the work of Divine grace in the heart. It is hard and perhaps impossible to accept from the depths of the soul the fact that God must humble the soul so that He may give it grace. We much prefer to think that we have the ability to humble ourselves so that we can receive grace. However, the nature of the human heart is such that it prefers to think that it can receive grace simply by an act of the human will. When people teach that, Biblical Christianity has disappeared. When it is the majority view of those in the pulpit and the pew (even a vast majority), we can know that we are under the judgment of God.

The paragraph just above would be described as uncharitable and perhaps as divisive and judgmental. On the other hand, if it is true then those who say those things about the previous paragraph would be opposing the Gospel of the grace of God. I would prefer to be branded uncharitable and judgmental than to be a person opposing the Gospel of the grace of God. The Gospel is not just some message that opens the hearts of people to the messengers of it, but instead the preaching of Christ crucified brings derision and mockery. The preaching of Christ brings persecution in some form. This is not something we should ignore and breezily dismiss it as divisive and something less than winsome. There are many winsome people who are utter heretics and yet we are able to be around them easier than some who preach the harsh truths of the character and nature of God. This should awaken us to something going on in our society and professing churches. We want to be popular at all costs and will not preach the truth if it is going to bring us some level of discomfort. That is far different than the life of Christ.

The gate is narrow and the path is narrow. That does not correlate with preaching smooth things and being winsome all the time. Jesus was hard and some would say harsh with the religious people of His day. Luther was hard and harsh on the acceptable religion in his day. Luther was encouraged by Erasmus to tone his message down and not be so divisive and troublesome to the Church. It took a Luther to stand up to the professing Church in his day and strike at the heart of it. In doing so he followed His Lord who struck at the heart of the professing Church in His own day with strength and strong words. Jesus Christ set out the truth of who God was and the truth of who man was. The truths of these things and their necessary applications are not something that men who are afraid of their own reputations will risk.

We live in a day were we need to hear strong words and we need men who are less concerned with winsomeness than they are with speaking the truth. Yes, the truth needs to be spoken in love and yet a biblical love rather than the sappy niceness which passes for love in our day. Did Luther speak with more love than the Pope and Erasmus? I will argue that he did. Did he go too far at times? Most likely he did. But for the Reformation to occur it needed a man like Luther who was strengthened by God and was indeed abrasive to those in the professing Church. The preaching of Christ cuts to the core of false religion even if it is masquerading as orthodox and historical Christianity. The preaching of Christ requires men who are willing to be thought of as uncouth, divisive, and as less than winsome. A new and real Reformation will require the true Christ to be preached and this will require something other than winsomeness and sticky sweet niceness. It will require a deep brokenness in the hearts of some men who have to be broken from self-love, ease, and reputation within their denomination. Men must learn to speak the truth of God and that without watering it down or smoothing off the rough points (as they see it).

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