Lloyd-Jones, Cultural Problems, and the Power of the Gospel

The following article was published on the Credo Magazine Blog. If you have not visited the Credo website or listened to their podcast, I encourage you explore both!

The explosion of the German V1 rocket shook the spine of the historic Westminster Chapel, jolting the congregation to its feet. Seconds earlier, the rumble of the rocket’s engine had forced the pastor, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, to pause his prayer. But as the plaster dust from the ceiling settled on top of his pulpit and black robe, Lloyd-Jones returned to his conversation with God.

At its conclusion, he allowed Mrs. Marsh to dust off both his robe and the pulpit. He also encouraged those perturbed by the blast to sit underneath the gallery for protection. He then proceeded on with the service with no more regard for the rockets. This brief picture of the Doctor’s preaching ministry encapsulated the Welsh Pastor’s understanding of how ministers should relate to the world of politics and culture. Lloyd-Jones believed God had commissioned pastors within the context of the local church to preach the gospel. It alone could cure sin and deliver men and women from the fear of death.

The Difference Between Sin and Sins

Throughout his career, Lloyd-Jones faced calls to address the political and social concerns of his day which encompassed everything from birth control to nuclear warfare. Though he carried around many firm political opinions within the folds of his black suits, he resolutely refused to share his political perspective on Sunday because he thought the fundamental problem facing humanity was ‘sin’ and not ‘sins.’

Though he carried around many firm political opinions, he resolutely refused to share his political perspective on Sunday because he thought the fundamental problem facing humanity was ‘sin’ and not ‘sins.’

The Doctor understood the term “sin” to encompass the effects of the fall, men and women’s separation from God and the ensuing pollution of their souls. Though restrained somewhat by God’s common grace, unredeemed men and women walked about the world in spiritual ignorance, lacking the ability to understand God and to do good. Because of the fall, men and women committed ‘sins,’ particular expressions of evil in time and space.

In the Doctor’s mind, political and social institutions such as the U.N, the English Parliament, and the trade unions dealt with sins as they sought to end wars, pass just laws, and advocate for fair wages. Though such endeavors were not inherently bad and deserved the support of individual Christians, the Doctor believed they would always prove inadequate. They treated only the symptoms of the sin and not sin itself. Despite the efforts of the philosophers and the politicians, sin remained fully entrenched in the human heart, pumping out sins that would continue to wreck both the individual and the institutions he or she occupied. To make matters worse, the Devil also avidly stirred humans towards sins and blinded them to truth. Humanity faced a spiritual pandemic it could not cure.

The Doctor concluded, “If any man could have saved us, the incarnation would not have taken place.”

Sin’s Antidote: The Gospel of Jesus

To save the world from sins, pastors had to move past sins and deal with the root problem, sin. Thankfully, God had designed the Church to proclaim the gospel specifically for this purpose. The Doctor noted:

That is the business of the gospel, not to be spending its time in treating the symptoms but to tell the world about the one and only remedy that can cure the disease which is the cause of all our local and particular problems.

When men and women responded to the good news of salvation, they gained liberation from sin and could overcome the sins in their hearts through the power of the gospel. The Doctor regularly witnessed transformation as he preached the Word. Drunks abandoned their liquor bottles, young widows found comfort in the midst of tears, and discouraged pastors found the hope needed to reascend their pulpit stairs. Lloyd-Jones believed such responses were normal because every human event from the death of Winston Churchill to the Cold War could be explained through the Bible’s redemptive narrative that chronicled the creation, fall, redemption, and new creation of humanity. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the “unique message of the Church,” transformed the human heart which could in-turn transform political and social institutions.

To change the world, pastors did not have to march in protests or speak at political rallies. In fact, the Doctor disliked the “pastor politician.” Lloyd-Jones believed the pastor politician’s constant denunciation of communism and other groups resulted in the “shutting of the evangelistic door upon that section.” Rather to improve the world, pastors needed only to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and the apostles and preach the gospel. The Word of God changed lives.

A Word of Caution

Despite the efforts of the philosophers and the politicians, sin remained fully entrenched in the human heart, pumping out sins that would continue to wreck both the individual and the institutions he or she occupied.

But even at this juncture, the Doctor’s optimism remained muted. Though he believed in, advocated for, and dreamed of revival, the Welsh pastor did not believe any pastor, denomination, or revivalist could usher in an era of perfect social harmony or world peace. Lloyd-Jones believed humanity would devolve until Christ returned. He wrote, “The Apocalypse alone can cure the world’s ills.” For this reason, even the inspiring movements of faith that came out of the First and Second Great Awakenings proved fleeting. The local church could not Christianize the world. The recreation of the world was the special purview of Jesus.

Until Christ returned to judge the living and the dead, the world would continue to know of divorce, wars, and every other social ill. Christians could expect to be marginalized and to experience persecution. But even in this world of gloom, Christians did not have to fear their neighbors, society, political institutions, or anything else under heaven. Their salvation and eternal destiny remained secure. The Doctor said,

Let your hurricanes come one after the other, and all together it will make no difference. Let men set off all their bombs in the whole universe at the same time, this inheritance remains solid, durable, everlasting, eternal.

Though tomorrow might fail the Christian, eternity would far surpass the believer’s expectations.

Conclusion

Prudence demands that historians, pastors, and the average reader should not attempt to insert Lloyd-Jones into twenty-first century discussions about the Black Lives Matter movement, the Coronavirus pandemic, or the storming of the U.S. Capital by rioters. We have no special insights into what the Doctor would have thought about such things.

But of this we can be sure. The man who preached Christ while bombs fell out of the sky would never abandon the gospel and devote his pulpit to the advancement of social causes. The Scriptures spoke to the needs of every age. As the Doctor noted, the gospel, “alone deals with our fundamental need.” Jesus saves.

What Do We Tell Our Kids After The Election?

flag-1Are you ready for tomorrow?  The hours of yucky campaign commercials, snarky Facebook posts, and embarrassing debates will be at an end! Hallelujah! On November 9, 2016, the United States of America will have a new president elect. But once all the dust settles, we will have to face a new question, “What do we do now?” How do we help our kids (who must certainly have heard us discuss politics over the last few days) process the electoral votes and the state of the nation?

America Is Not Our Hope

Many evangelical Christian including yours truly have been rightly dismayed and discouraged by this election. Not only have we lost the power or the moral majority, we have lost the power to significant influence the primary process. Today’s politicians do not even have to pretend to be devoutly religious. They can get away with their lack of zeal because America is no longer a Christian nation. According to a new study by George Barna, only 36% of Americans attended a church service this week and just 2% read their Bibles. And the projections do not have those numbers going up anytime soon. We cannot expect our neighbors to support our Christian worldview or to vote according to our values. Most Americans do not even know what we Christians believe. The Americang government will not be our main agent of change. But then again it was never meant to be. We are called to be ambassadors on earth. We belong to the heavenly kingdom and appeal to the king who changes hearts.

At the end of the day, we are not supposed to boast about America. We are to boast in the goodness of our God who redeems and sanctifies the lost. As Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” Its good and proper to thank God for our nation. But it is even better to thank God for being God. Tomorrow morning, remind your kids that God is your hope. Remind them that life is ok because our boast, our hope, our comfort is the Lord of heaven. America is not our hope.

 

We Will Stand For Truth

Regardless of who you voted for and who wins the presidency, Christians will need to have a prophetic voice. We must continue to speak for the unborn, to champion justice for all, and to protect the innocent and weak. We must show our kids that more money in our bank account does mean when can ignore discrimination and innocent children being murdered. Where the gospel speaks to social and political issues, we must speak to them even if that will put us sideways from our candidate of choice. We cannot condone sin because our politic parties calls evil good (Isa. 5:20).  If we want our kids to value our Biblical values, we must remain consistent. We must avoid the temptation to be a hypocrite for political gain. We speak boldly for the gospel at all times.

 And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. – Luke 12:8

We must stand for the truth of the Bible regardless of the earthly cost.

 

We Trust God

Regardless who gets the most votes tomorrow, God picked them. God in his sovereign plan, appointed our next president. We may not like him or her. We may have grave reservations about their platform. But we know God reigns. And we know that only the presidents, kings, and dictators God picks come to power. And even more importantly, we know, “that all things work together for good to them that love God” (Rom. 8:28).

Regardless what are next president does, it will be good for God’s people. I am not saying that bad economic policies that lead to poverty or rash decisions that lead to world war are a good thing. They most certainly are not. But whatever happens over the next four years, God will be working to grow our faith and his church.
And if we are trusting God, we have no votereason to attack our opponents. Those who voted for Hillary, Trump, or that wonderful third party candidate are not the devil. We do not need to tear down, lambast, or cascate our brothers and sisters in Christ for contributing to an outcome that we disapprove of. If we trust God, we can handle both defeat and victory knowing that God rules and directs heart. Our anger over the vote totals do not reflect a concern, they reflect pride. We thought we knew what outcome is best and we are mad that God did not give it to us. So instead of trusting God, we lash out at our oppoents. Avoid this pitfall. Speak well of your brothers and sisters in Christ.

If we trust God, we will come to 2020 with an even closer relationship with Jesus. Brothers and Sisters, let’s not cry in front of our kids or predict doom because of this year’s election results. Let’s point our hearts and the hearts of our kids to the God who is worthy of our trust. Let’s boast in the fact that God reigns and will one-day return and rule the world.  As Jesus said in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Do not fret over President Trump or President Hillary. They cannot do lasting harm to our souls. Rather pray for them, asking God to use them in such a way that his church grows (I Timothy 2:2). Trust God!

 

Ok, now its your turn. What will you tell your kids tomorrow?

Love Politics? Love Humility More!

Nothing that follows comes easy to me. I struggle with pride every day I talk politics.  Just ask my wife. But if there was ever a time for humility in the church it is today. And so I venture forth with you as one who daily needs to be reminded to address political issues with humility.white-house-754766_1280

 I know the political stakes are high. Everyone thinks our country is at a tipping point. We fear that electing the wrong president will tip our country over into the abyss. Understandably, denominational leaders, pastors, Sunday school teachers, and the average church goer are all in a tizzy over this election cycle. Most of us are proclaiming this candidate or that candidate to be our country’s savior. And if people disagree with our divine conclusions, we join with Robert Jefress (Pastor of First Dallas) and denounce our opponents as “fools.” I think things in Christendom are starting to get a little nuts! We need to once again inject some humility into our political discussions.

The Need For Grace

The biblical doctrine of humility demands that we should treat our opponents with grace. Yes, we may all disagree over which candidate to support. We may disagree with each other concerning what role government should play in our society. And these things are important. But at the end of the day, governments do not save us. As Augustine pointed out many years ago, men were never called to subdue and rule each other. Human governments exist to provide order until the King of King returns. They are not eternal.

The gospel is.  When we all affirm the same gospel, we have the freedom to lovingly disagree over politics. And as far as I know, being a Cruz, Trump, Rubio, or Kasich supporter does not imply that one serves a different gospel. As weird as this cycle has gotten, there has yet to be a gospel of Trump, Rubio, or Sanders released in LifeWay. Lord willing, there never will be! We can support all these candidates and more and believe that God reigns, that man is fallen, that Christ died to pay for our sins, and that men and women need to respond to Jesus with faith and repentance.  capital blog

We should not be calling our brothers and sisters in Christ fools, bigots, or any other derogatory term simply because they disagree with us politically. Such attacks are not motivated by Christians charity or by a desire to see God’s glory defended. Such attacks are motived pride. We assume we know God’s plan for the world and are mad that other people fail to recognize our genius. And, we lash out to punish them for their ignorance. There is no way around it. Such verbal assaults are sin.

Need For Humility

In reality, we do not know God’s unrevealed will. And his revealed will? The Bible declares that we are to count others more important than ourselves. Instead of calling our political opponents fools, we need to cook them dinners, send them encouraging notes, and offer to take the kids to the next game. As Thom Rainer says,

This cantankerous and ornery church member is one of those you have pledged to serve

We may have good opinions; we may have good an understanding of what is happening in our nation; and, we may have good ideas how to move the nation forward. But we are not God. We do not know what is best. We do not know what political outcome will bring God the most glory. So as we advocate for our candidate, let’s do so with humility and kindness of heart. We need to advocate for what is best, realizing our opinions are just that, finite opinions!  At the end of the day, we are all sinners saved by grace. We all owe everything to Christ even our intellect. God rules! Are we ready to act like it?