Each week I get an email from the Kairos Journal which has various articles on contemporary issues and articles drawn from older works. I was struck by one of the pieces this week because it touched on an issue that John MacArthur had been speaking on. (LINK)
This is the piece from the Kairos Journal:
William Wilberforce is famous not only for his persistent efforts to see the slave trade abolished in England, but as the author of Real Christianity, in which he makes the radical distinction between nominal and real Christians.
Less well-known is the fact that Wilberforce regularly heard this distinction made in the sermons of his pastor and colleague, John Venn, rector of the Clapham Church and Chaplain of the so-called Clapham Sect.
In this excerpt from one of John Venn’s sermons, real Christianity is distinguished from nominal Christianity in vivid terms:
Religion is not merely an act of homage paid upon our bended knees to God; it is not confined to the closet and the church, nor is it restrained to the hours of the sabbath; it is a general principle extending to a man’s whole conduct in every transaction and in every place. I know no mistake which is more dangerous than that which lays down devotional feelings alone as the test of true religion . . . Let us be convinced that all prayer, all preaching, all knowledge, are but means to attain a superior end; and that end the sanctification of the heart and of all the principles on which we are daily acting. Till our Christianity appears in our conversation, in our business, in our pleasures, in the aims and objects of our life, we have not attained a conformity to the image of our Saviour, nor have we learned His Gospel aright.
Now here is the thing; I have no desire to wade into things that don’t concern me but given the public nature of the criticism levelled by JMac at Mark Driscoll it seems odd to me that one of the key works of Mars Hill is to work hard to get the Word into people’s lives that brings real ongoing transformation. I think in general the church has been weak at helping people to work through what is taught on a Sunday into the life of Monday through Saturday. In other words we do what John Venn says is so dangerous; we make people enjoy Sunday and forget that excitement about what we do together in singing, preaching, praying is not the same as a life changed and changing by grace. Isn’t that dangerously close to hypocrisy?
Don’t misunderstand me. I am committed to honesty before God, recognising that we are not the people we should be, and ongoing heartfelt repentance. But… that is not the same as saying that behaviour doesn’t matter. So much of the New Testament urges transformed living not only as the right way to respond to grace but actually as the sign of it. If I am not living the gospel then there is something seriously wrong.
John Venn seems to thinks so, John MacArthur seems to think so, Mark Driscoll seems to think so and Jesus lays before me instructions for a changed life that won’t let me just live as I want, not now that I am His.
24 z “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”