Category Archives: Devotions

Church Memberships and Mass Baptisms=Soul Winning?

Recently I’ve been reading a book entitled The Soul Winner, by Charles Spurgeon and have so far been amazed by the truths written by a preacher that was born over 170 years ago.  It’s been so applicable to the modern day church that it’s almost as though it were written this year.  I want to share some insights from Mr. Spurgeon here today.  First off, from what I understand, this book is a collection of speeches or lectures that he intended to combine into sort of a text or manual for those at Pastor’s College.  I’m only partly through the second chapter, but the words literally seem to jump off of the page.  Here’s one example from his first chapter entitled, “What is it to Win a Soul”:

“In the next place, we do not consider soul-winning to be accomplished by hurriedly inscribing more names upon our church-roll, in order to show a good increase at the end of the year.” 

Wow, now I don’t know about you, but the first thoughts that hit me when I read that were the mega-churches and more recently the massive event at Saddleback Church.  Let me make clear, I’m not writing this in condemnation, but merely to create a dialogue of thought and to let you decide what is truly going on.  If you’re not aware of what happened two weeks ago, I’ll fill you in.  On March 28th, Saddleback had plans to baptize more than 3000 people, in what Pastor Rick Warren described as a “repeat of Pentecost” that occurred over 2000 years ago.  The results of this were actually 800 baptized and 2400 new church members.  To me, this sends up red flags on two fronts, the first is that the Day of Pentecost was a day of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit of the Lord descended on the apostles and filled them, such that they spoke in tongues.  Acts 2:4 Upon Peter’s sermon of conviction and repentance, 3000 souls received the Word and were baptized.  Acts 2:41 Now I know Mr. Warren is intelligent and no doubt a shrewd business man, but surely his intentions were not to compete with the Holy Spirit.  The Day of Pentecost was essentially the birthday and foundation of the early Christian church.  How can man compare with that? 

The second red flag is from what Charles Spurgeon is teaching, in what I referenced above.  “By hurriedly inscribing more names upon our church roll” sounds so impersonal and disingenuous.  Mr. Spurgeon continues in this same light by saying this measure of membership increase, “is easily done, and there are brethren who use great pains, not to say arts, to effect it” and that if this is what their ministry is all about, “the result will be deplorable.”  Again, I’m not writing this to condemn, but to teach and to “test everything.” I Thessalonians 5:21  To conclude with an additional thought from Charles Spurgeon, “Do not, therefore, consider that soul-winning is or can be secured by the multiplication of baptisms, and the swelling of the size of your church.”  But rather, “men need to be told that, except divine grace shall bring them out of their enmity [hate] to God, they must be reminded of the sovereignty of God, that He is not obliged to bring them out of this state, that He would be right and just if He left them in such a condition, that they have no merit to plead before Him, but that if they are to be saved, it must be by grace and by grace alone.  The preacher’s work is to throw sinners down in utter helplessness, that they may be compelled to look up to Him who alone can help them.”

The lesson here is that no amount of “hype”, news coverage, or desires to break records can “lure” people to faith in Jesus Christ or affirmation of this through baptism.  Our role is to plant seeds in hearts of men through preaching the Gospel that they might know the truth.  The Holy Spirit can then water that seed and help it to take a solid root and grow within the heart.  John 14:16-17, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”

I Corinthians 3:10-15 10By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

For the Love of Money

…is the root of all evil.  That’s what the Apostle Paul was teaching to Timothy in I Timothy 6:10 KJV.  In context, his message is in direct response to the church at Ephesus and their leaders’ desire for financial gain.  Not only is this message one of conviction for that church, but it’s also equally applicable to today’s society, as the focus on money seems greater than ever. 

Turn on the evening news these days and what’s the major topic?  Money.  It’s all about money, in the form of bailouts, stimulus, greed, corporate corruption, financial advisors stealing, the housing bubble collapse, bank failures, the stock market…money, money, money.    I would argue that the majority of the current problems our country is facing are the direct result of the love of money, rooted heavily in a lack of Godliness.  We’ve become so obsessed with money on a global scale that it is literally undoing countries left and right. 

Case in point: I began following the news, via the cable news channels, after the presidential election of 2000.  It was such a contested event, that I wanted to tune in daily for new updates.  Since then, I’ve made it a point to monitor world news and current events, though more so from a Biblical perspective, in the past year.  In this time, I’ve never seen such an obsession with the stock market as I’ve seen within the last year.  Rather than searching for the latest Dow Jones index in the morning paper or on the old CNN Headline News, you now see it everywhere; it’s a ticker on every channel.  It’s even a category on my new iPhone (yeah, guilty as charged).  People seem to bow to the market as though it’s an idol, a beast capable of controlling a person’s destiny, when in fact it’s nothing more than man-made instrument used by many to measure self-worth.  One of my biggest pet peeves regarding the stock market is the daily office discussions.  I remember the stock market taking nose dive last year and the monitoring fixation that took place several times a day.  It became such an annoyance that I would jump into the conversation just to offer up an opinion like, “You can’t watch that every day, it’ll drive you crazy”, in an attempt to discourage the exchange.  These examples are just microcosms of the passion, or love, of money that’s captured our society.

So what’s the Christian’s role in these discussions?  How are we to live in a society so obsessed with money?  Our role is to let Christ’s love and Light shine through us.  We can do this, not through negative comments, like I made above, but through sharing the truth of the Gospel.  Paul enforces this very action in I Timothy 6:17-18, “Command [warn] those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command [charge] them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”  When we use Christian love to point out the dangers of the love of money it will open up the door for us to share the Gospel.  Instead of saying, “You can’t watch the market every day, it’ll make you go crazy”, maybe something more along the lines of “That market is just so unreliable and unpredictable isn’t it?  I used to follow it pretty regularly too, but after reading a passage in Mark 10, it changed my whole perspective on money.”  Then just kindly tell of Jesus’ parable on the Rich Young man.  That’s just one example, but hopefully it will make you think of opportunities to share the gospel when conversations, such as those on money, come up.

It’s easy for any of us, believers and non-believers to get caught up in race for money, but ultimately as Christians, we need to avoid the trap of trying to get money and focus on how we can give more.  It’s times like these when Christians need to step up their giving, not only through tithing more, but through giving to local shelters and food banks.  In doing so, we’ll show that our true Master is not money, but God. Matthew 6:24

Hebrews 13:5 “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Heaviness of Soul

I was flipping through a collection of readings by John Wesley early this morning, and came across a message that fits in perfectly with the post I made yesterday.  His sermon is based on I Peter 1, in which Peter discusses various trials and temptations that befall us.

I Peter 1:3-9 3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Here is the message from Wesley on that passage:

There is a near relationship between the darkness of mind in the wilderness state and heaviness of soul, which is more common among believers.  The resemblance is so great that they are frequently confounded together.  But they are not equivalent terms; far, far, from it.  The difference is so wide and essential, as all the children of God need to understand, to prevent them sliding out of heaviness into darkness.

The manner of persons to whom the apostle Peter wrote the above words were believers at that time.  He expressly says (I Peter 1:5) you are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.  Again (I Peter 1:7), he mentions the trial of their faith; and yet again (I Peter 1:9), he speaks of their receiving the end of their faith, the salvation of their souls.  So, though they were in heaviness, they were possessed of living faith.  The apostle prays (I Peter 1:2) not that grace and peace may be given them, but that it may be multiplied. 

They were also full of a living hope.  For he speaks (I Peter 1:3) of their living hope of their inheritance that fadeth not away. In spite of their heaviness, they still retained a hope full of immortality.  And they still rejoiced (I Peter 1:8) with joy unspeakable and full of glory.  Their heaviness, then, was also consistent both with living hope and inexpressible joy!

Our God is good.  It’s through this message by Peter that God tells us we are kept by His power through our faith unto salvation.  No matter the burden, trials, temptations, or sins, Christ died for us once, for all. I Peter 3:18 Satan wants the burden of our sin to cast doubt with our faith to lead us into darkness, but we are given the living hope through Jesus and as such we should be rejoiceful, not disheartened.