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Tag Archives: D. Martyn Lloyd Jones

The Immense Importance of Talking to Yourself During these Coronavirus Days

woman in black shirt facing mirror

Photo by Ivan Oboleninov on Pexels.com

Walking through these days of Covid-19, we are wise to follow the example of David in Psalm 116:7. He wrote…

Return, O my soul, to your rest;
for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. (ESV)

In this beautiful moment recorded for all history, the shepherd-King David…is talking to himself. And his message to himself (his soul) is powerful: “God has dealt bountifully with you, soul, in the past, and so you can rest now. You need not be anxious now, soul! Look at God’s record of faithfulness to you. He has taken care of you in the past, and he will do so in the future.”

This verse alone is worthy of our meditation – it’s one I’ve got in my memory verse pack – trying to get it deep into my heart. I hope you will do the same.

But my point here today is broader than the hopeful truth in Psalm 116:7. We often struggle in life because we are our own worst enemy – we don’t talk to ourselves, instead we let “ourselves” talk to us.

It wasn’t just David who practiced the spiritual discipline of talking to himself – the Sons of Korah did as well:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God. Psalm 42:5, 6 (ESV)

In one of the greatest Christian books ever written (that’s a recommendation if you didn’t notice), Spiritual Depression, Martyn Lloyd Jones wrote this applying the truth in Psalm 42…

“I say that we must talk to ourselves instead of allowing ‘ourselves’ to talk to us! Do you realize what that means? I suggest that the main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self. Am I just trying to be deliberately paradoxical? Far from it. This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter. Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you.”

Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures (pp. 20-21). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

I have told the story a few times, but briefly, it was years ago in college that I struggled greatly with anxiety and obsessive thoughts. And it was this biblical truth of talking to myself which God used to transform me.

Many of us are struggling with fear and anxiety in these days. We have the promises of God. We have reason for great hope. Let’s begin to remind ourselves of God’s faithful provision in times past. Let’s begin to talk to ourselves instead of letting ourselves talk to us.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Ten Books I’m Reading (or Recently Read)

libraryWe’re redoing our church library and the pastoral staff was asked to compile a list of books we’re reading to make a nice section of recommendations for the church. Here’s what I came up with…

Knowing God by J.I. Packer

I read this for a Sunday school class back in my college days and recently started it over. It’s a classic for a reason, as Packer, an Anglican, provides a glorious overview of the Christian faith. The back cover is full of recommendations from a who’s who of 20th century Christianity. If you’ve never been exposed to this gem, don’t wait any longer.

Eat Move Sleep by Tom Rath

I “read” (listened to) this on our recent 6,100 mile road trip. Rath, the bestselling author of Strengthfinders 2.0, packs his book full of research based facts to motivate you to eat better, exercise more, and sleep well. It’s amazing how your quality of life improves as you put all three together. Each of the 30 chapters has a tip based on research regarding each of the three areas to help you be the best you can be.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

This Pulitzer-prize-winning book tells the tale of a father and son traveling south together in a post-apocalyptic world. So far, it is a lesson in loving a child, and McCarthy’s writing deserves the praise it receives.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi

Diane and I listened to this testimonial whenever Annie was otherwise engaged on our big trip. It’s one of those books that manages to be informative and delightful all at once. Qureshi was raised in the west but in a devout Muslim family. The book takes a nice tone as he honors his parents and his childhood faith, giving us all reason to pause and wonder whether we are taking Christianity as seriously as his parents took Islam. If you want to understand what it means to leave the life of a Muslim to embrace Christ, start here.

Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss

Do you see a pattern? Yes, I’m thinking about health (which doesn’t necessarily mean I’m doing anything about it!) This book tells the story of how Americans have gained on average (I forget the statistic exactly) 25 lbs. over the last few decades. How? Two words: processed foods. If you are looking for motivation to put down the Cheetos and turn away from the lunchables, pop-tarts, and cold cuts, pick this one up.

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

Another “listen” on the road trip, but this one we played for all of us. And we loved it! It’s a novel for everyone, telling four different stories of four children and the various injustices they encounter and seek to overcome in life…and the music that helps them through. The author ties the stories together beautifully at the end. I had a serious lump in my throat. Read this one (or listen to it – a lovely musical score goes along with the audio version) with the whole family.

What is an Evangelical? by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Along with Seeking Allah…, I read this book in light of the recent controversy at Wheaton College (where Josh and Elisabeth attend). It was at this august Evangelical institution that a Political Science Professor said in December 2015 that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. They don’t…but that question has never received more attention than it did in the last few months. This is a short read, and Lloyd-Jones defines an evangelical in three chapters, recognizing that true Christianity exists outside of evangelicalism, but wisely pointing out that if you reject evangelicalism, you may be going to heaven, but you probably won’t take anyone with you. After all, the “Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) In Lloyd-Jones’ words, apart from an evangelical faith, Christianity loses its “converting influence.” I doubt he would consider the (now former) Wheaton professor to fill the bill.

Generous Justice by Timothy Keller

Redeemer church in Manhattan, pastored by Keller, is known not only as a church that proclaims the gospel, but as a fellowship that is “for the city”, caring for the “least of these”. Keller lays out the strong biblical case to be a people who live for the poor and needy and spread “shalom” wherever we go.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

The sport of crew (a.k.a. rowing) takes center stage in this engrossing true tale of 9 college kids going for gold against Hitler’s best in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I’m a sucker for a World War 2 story, and though this isn’t quite that, it’s close, and I delighted in the story. I’m not the only one. Though it was only published in 2013, it is one of the all time top twenty best-selling non-fiction books at Amazon.

Prayer by Timothy Keller

Those who know me well are not surprised to find two Keller books on this list. He’s a modern day C.S. Lewis, and if my layman predictions are right, he will still be read 100 years from now. If you want to give your prayer life a shot in the arm, apparently Timothy Keller practices what he preaches, and he is an faithful guide. His spirit throughout is humble and yet informative.

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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“That Old Witch, Lady Reason!” Part 2

The quote in the headline is from that great and glad saint, Martin Luther, who knew that reason and philosophy (in particular, Aristotelian philosophy) had gotten the church into the predicament it was in at the time of the Reformation. Last week I wrote an article on the problem with reason inspired by the work of another Martyn, D. Martyn Lloyd Jones in his book, What is an Evangelical?

There is nothing wrong with man’s reason, of course, except when it is raised above God’s Reason, as the LORD Himself indicated…

Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:7-9 (ESV)

In all of his writings on this, though, it’s important to say that Lloyd Jones was not anti-intellectual…

Not Anti-intellectual

Of course, Jones himself was a medical doctor before becoming a pastor, and he himself was surely one of the brightest men of his generation, but he had seen foolish reasoning and philosophy turn many against Christ, and such was true, not only of philosophy, but also academia and scholasticism…

“…the evangelical is not only distrustful of reason, but he is also distrustful of scholarship. Here we are, belonging to IFES, students and members of universities, and I am saying that the evangelical is distrustful of scholarship, and I maintain that! What do I mean? Let me try to make it plain. The evangelical starts from the Scriptures. He also reads the history of the church, and there he finds that the history proves what has been emphasized in the Scripture, that when men trust to reason and to understanding they go astray. He also finds that the men whom God has had to raise up and to use to call back people to the faith have often been very simple men. Not always, of course – I mentioned Luther and others, and I could have mentioned Calvin – but so often this has happened, that the revival in the church and the calling back of the people to the true faith has been done through the medium of someone quite unknown.

“(This) does not mean he is anti-intellectual; it does not mean that he becomes obscurantist; but it does mean that he keeps reason and scholarship in their place. They are servants and not masters.”

Note: the “evangelical starts from the Scriptures”. We always start there! How then, does reason serve us? Like this…

The business of reason is to teach us how to believe. It is an instrument, and the trouble always arises when people allow reason to determine what they believe. In other words, instead of submitting themselves to the Scripture, they turn to science, to philosophy, or to one of a number of other disciplines, and their position is determined by these things.

“Not what you think, but how you think, that is the place of reason, and I would say exactly the same of scholarship.” Lloyd Jones says.

Nor is the good doctor asking us to stay away from University study of these matters…

I recall one well-known evangelical leader who always used to tell such men, ‘Whatever else you study at Oxford or Cambridge, don’t study theology or you’ll lose your faith.’ That is something which I do not commend…That is the spirit of fear, and it leads to an obscurantism where you bury your head in the sand, and you are not aware of what is happening…There is no need for us to be afraid of scholars if they are not Christians because they base their position on reason, and it is a simple matter to debate with them because they do not know the Scriptures. You can easily show them that what they have been saying they have spun out of their own minds.

In all this, the great question we must ask in all manners of study is this – What does the Bible say? The Scriptures are our authority. They are not reason – they are revelation, revelation from God. And here is the result…

Men who have felt called to ministry…have gone into the seminaries as evangelicals and true evangelists…have come out denying everything, and sometimes even departing from the faith altogether. If that has not happened, they have come out dead, trying to be scholars and having lost the edge of their zeal and their enthusiasm…Therefore, if an evangelical is not distrustful of reason and of scholarship; he is blind to this clear testimony of the history of the Christian church throughout the centuries.

How many times was the Apostle Paul called the “fool”? Yet today he is the wisest of all, for his attention and concern was not on the “debater of the age” but on the Lord of the Ages. May it be so with us as well.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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“That Old Witch, Lady Reason!”

If you want me to read a blog or pick up a book, just tell me that it has book recommendations in it. I just read a blog this morning, for instance, which offered the 5 top books which a pastor whom I appreciate would take on a deserted island. And then, only last week, I picked up a book called You Must Read, which had the favorite book from 32 current Christian leaders, one of whom was another pastor I like named Alistair Begg. Begg’s recommendation? – a classic which I can now highly recommend: Martyn Lloyd Jones’, What is an Evangelical?

Lloyd Jones’ book is short, a collection of three lectures he gave in 1971 at the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES), sort of a British Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.

And it seems that the second of the three lectures (I haven’t gotten to the third yet) is the heart of the work, where Lloyd Jones goes to pains to give the various characteristics of an evangelical. In Jones’ mind, there are surely true Christians outside of evangelicalism, but when Christianity loses its evangelical emphasis, well…

You can be a Christian and yet defective in your doctrine, but our concern and our endeavor is to have the true doctrine presented in its fullness because we believe that it is only as this is believed and preached and propagated that men and women are going to be converted and added to the church. When the church has gone wrong in doctrine, she has ceased to be a converting influence.

In short, when you meet a Christian unconcerned about the plight of the lost, you are meeting someone who though perhaps truly saved, is nevertheless sorely confused about biblical truth.

Distrust Reason – The Message of 1 Corinthians 1 – 4

And one of the characteristics of an evangelical really resonated with me –

“…the evangelical distrusts reason and particularly reason in the form of philosophy.”

I have personally seen this again and again. It happens when someone raises up their own reasoning or the reasoning of another above the Bible. I spoke on this in my sermon three weeks ago, when we looked at the end of Luke 10 where Martha was frustrated that Mary was not doing her share of the housework, opting instead to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to His teaching. In response to out-of-sorts Martha, Jesus said, “…one thing is necessary”, and it wasn’t making sandwiches for guests. He continued, “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42 (ESV) Logic and reason dictate that housework and cooking are priority – time with God is therefore nice but unnecessary – and most people live by such reasoning. However, Jesus said that sitting at his feet was the true priority.

The classic place where reason is raised above Scripture is in regard to Scripture itself. “It has so many errors and contradictions in it,” critics say. Yet Jesus Himself was content to trust all of Scripture as coming from the mouth of God. He said, “Scripture cannot be broken.” John 10:35 (ESV)

If not the death-knell of faith itself, such elevation of reason is almost always the death-knell of zeal. Jones makes this point by appealing to Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians…

Philosophy has always been the cause of the church going astray, for philosophy means, ultimately, a trusting to human reason and human understanding. The philosopher wants to encompass all truth; he wants to categorize and explain everything, and that is why there are no more important passages in the Scripture for us at the present time than the First Epistle to the Corinthians, starting in chapter 1, at verse 17, and going right the way through to the end of chapter 4, with especial reference to chapter 2.The apostle’s whole contention in those chapters is that things were going wrong in Corinth because they were beginning to bring back faith in human wisdom, philosophy; and his point is to show that this is diametrically opposed to the preaching of the gospel.

Jones quotes 1 Corinthians in at least two different places, showing that the Apostle Paul was the original distruster of reason and philosophy…

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” – 1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV), or,

“If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness,’ and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.'” – 1 Corinthians 3:18-20 (ESV)

Continued next week…

Click here for John MacArthur’s top five books on a desert island…

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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The Prayer of Faith

And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. Matthew 21:21 (ESV)

There are a few places in the Bible where God promises great things will happen if we will only have “mountain moving faith,” or if we “believe that we have received it” (Mark 11:24). It’s important that we get our understanding of this right, because a wrong interpretation will cause us problems.

For instance, I read one writer who said that, “Faith takes the handcuffs off God.” Nice idea – it just doesn’t strike me as an accurate picture of the power and character of God. The true God wears no handcuffs, though He may carry them around to place on the wrists of lawbreakers.

So, is answered prayer dependent on you and me working up faith to such a degree that God answers our prayers? Is it ultimately up to us?

James seems to echo this thinking…

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  James 5:14-15 (ESV)

Again, here we read about a particular kind of prayer – a prayer of faith. What is this prayer, and how do we get it?

Martyn Lloyd Jones speaks to it…

People have often taken those texts and have tried to work themselves up into a kind of certainty – “When you pray, believe you have received it” – and have tried to persuade themselves that this is true. But then the prayer is not answered or at any rate not answered in the way that they asked or expected, and they are cast down and begin to doubt God and his promises. But all that is due to a misunderstanding of the meaning of this “prayer of faith.” It seems to me that the only adequate explanation of these passages is that they are a typical example and illustration of praying in the Spirit. Praying in the Spirit is a prayer that is given to us by the Holy Spirit himself, created within us by Him, and as he does this he gives us an absolute certainly with respect to it.

Martyn Lloyd Jones, Living Water, Studies in John 4

That rings true, doesn’t it? When we read these texts, “Believe that you have received it…” we falsely tend to think that we need to scrunch up our faces and get on our knees and convince ourselves that we believe by saying over and over again, “I believe, I believe, I believe…” But that can’t be right.

Instead this kind of faith is a gift, and we are right to ask for the gift, and not feel like we have to manufacture it ourselves. But there is a balance to this, as Lloyd Jones also points out – we should not “just sit down until we are moved…That is to misunderstand the work of the Spirit because we are commanded to pray.” Amen. And in our praying itself, we show whether or not we have faith to begin with.

So there is a special gift of God for certain prayers, and there is just simple obedience, exercising the faith we do have, and asking God to do what only He can do.

For Tuesday, November 10th: 1 Peter 1

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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This Is Not What A Christian Is

The Roger Williams Inn at Green Lake Conference Center

The Roger Williams Inn at Green Lake Conference Center

The Edgewood staff just returned this afternoon from the fall district conference of our denomination, and as usual, it was held at the beautiful Green Lake Conference Center. It’s a fine place to spend a day or two, and we all had a great time, finishing up with lunch at nearby Christianos, meaning some of the best pizza in Wisconsin.

Now, anyone who has ever been to Green Lake or the aforementioned conference center knows about a historic building on the grounds known as the Roger Williams Inn. Originally named the Lawsonia Country Club Hotel, the Inn was constructed by the H.O. Stone Development Company of Chicago in 1930. Situated right on the water, almost all of its 81 guest rooms have a view of lovely Green Lake. And you may not know that today, a major project is going on to restore the exterior and renovate the interior of this historic building. It should be wonderful to behold when the project is finished.

I’m bringing up the Roger Williams Inn renovation project because a lot of people think it is a fine example of what Christianity is – a renovation project. But actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Quite the opposite, Jesus said, Instead…”You must be born again.” John 3:7 (ESV)

Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd Jones explains what this means in a chapter entitled “Born Again” from his book, The Kingdom of God. Some excerpts:

“We have a curious notion that to be a Christian is to just be a little bit better than we are now. We think that if we stop doing one or two things, and take up two or three others, then we are Christians. Is not that it? Knock off one bit, add on another! Put on a new suit, Brighten up a bit, clean yourself a little bit…, And then you are all right. But that is not Christianity; that is morality if you like; ethical behavior or philosophy. It is all right, but it is not Christianity. It is as far removed from it as it can possibly be.”

“Christianity is not just an addition to something you have already got…when people become Christians, it is not a little bit of improvement on what they were before.

“Before we can become Christians, we need an entirely new start.”

“This is the New Testament teaching; sometimes it is called “a new creation”, “regeneration” – you are generated anew and afresh. And, of course, by that He means that what you are by nature is useless and hopeless, that you need to be a “new man”. So you need life, a new nature. God does not renovate us; he does not improve us or make us a little bit better. No, he puts new life into us. He works an operation on the soul and He infuses a principle of life, a new disposition – we are made “partakers of the divine nature.”

Glory to God, this is the new birth – and according to Jesus, it is the only way to see the Kingdom of God.

For tomorrow, Thursday, October 8th: John 4

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2015 in born again, Uncategorized

 

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The Deepest Book in the New Testament

Hebrews, that is.

Don’t you think so? The writer, Mr. Anonymous, is not exactly skimming the surface. After all, there’s the question of “Sabbath rest” and Moses and angels. There are high priests and losing your salvation (or not losing your salvation!) and solid food.

And don’t get me started about Melchizedek.

But what is Hebrews really about…really?

When you get right down to it, isn’t it about the Gospel? I mentioned in a previous post that the theme of this letter is, “Jesus is better.” And in the end, that means He is a better way of salvation. And long about chapter 10, this starts to become really clear…

  • the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near…    Hebrews 10:1 (ESV)
  • For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins…    Hebrews 10:4 (ESV)
  • But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins…    Hebrews 10:12 (ESV)

Here’s what I’m driving at – there are those who say that the gospel is only for beginners in the Christian life. That’s what I always used to think. You get the gospel, that Christ died for your sins, and salvation is by grace alone through faith, and then you move on to the deeper stuff, the important stuff, you know, the discipleship type stuff. Grace would therefore only be for entry into the Christian life…doing would be for disciples.

But if Hebrews is really one of the most challenging books in the New Testament, and if Hebrews is really all about the Gospel, then maybe it doesn’t get any deeper than the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Maybe the Gospel of Grace is the ultimate discipleship curriculum.

And as someone has said, maybe the Gospel is not the ABC’s of the Christian life, but the A to Z’s. Maybe the Gospel is really what life is all about.

Consider, as a last thought, Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones on the Apostle Paul:

“Here is a man writing at the full height of his maturity as a Christian, the great apostle to the Gentiles. At the very height of his experience he says, ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.’ He has not left it to go on to some higher reaches. The cross is still everything to him. Why? Because, he has found that everything proceeds from the cross. It is the source and the fount of everything that he has as a Christian, everything that he has become, everything that he can ever hope for.”

For tomorrow, Wednesday, September 30: Hebrews 11

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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