The Magic Pill

magicpill.jpegWhat cures all, solves all, heals all, comforts all, is free for the taking, and most people have a huge supply sitting on their shelves?

“I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.” “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” 1 John 2:21; 5:13, NKJV.

The Bible.

bible.jpegThe most neglected and/or abused magic pill in world history. I love the Bible. I love the beauty of a good argument, a well-crafted story, the extended story structure that coheres in spite of all odds. It is the greatest masterpiece of all times.

It is also the power of God. When a followers of Jesus takes in the Word of God, they don’t just get information, they get power. The orthopraxy (right practice) that Brian McLaren and others so urgently presses on the church IS UTTERLY IMPOSSIBLE without a foundation of orthodoxy (right belief), which is disdained, redefined, and distorted beyond recognition by them.

The biggest tragedy in the church today is its half-hearted devotion to the Word. Pastors and teachers make casual references to it.  Too many sermonettes for Christianettes.


Give me a plateful of Spurgeon anyday. Or JC Ryle. Or Bonar, McCheyne, the Puritans. Lutzer, Boice. Expositors. That means taking a verse or paragraph of Scripture and extracting its nutrients… and setting forth a feast for the Scripture-starved people of God. Week after week.

spurgeon3.jpegOh how I wish that Spurgeon’s lectures to young pastors would take hold of our emerging soul-patched pastors:

Sermons should have real teaching in them, and their doctrine should be solid, substantial, and abundant. We do not enter the pulpit to talk for talk’s sake; we have instructions to convey important to the last degree, and we cannot afford to utter pretty nothings. . . The entire gospel must be presented from the pulpit; the whole faith once delivered to the saints must be proclaimed by us. The truth as it is in Jesus must be instructively declared, so that the people may not merely hear but know the joyful sound. We serve not at the altar of “the Unknown God,” but we speak to the worshipers of him of whom it is written, “They that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee.” . . . Nothing can compensate for the absence of teaching; all the rhetoric in the world is but as chaff to the wheat in contrast to the gospel of our salvation. . . .

Rousing appeals to the affection [emotion] are excellent, but if they are not backed up by instruction they are a mere flash in the pan, powder consumed and no shot sent home. . . .

…[S]ound teaching is the best protection from the heresies which ravish right and left among us.

biblestudy.jpegSound information on Scriptural subjects your hearers crave for, and must have. Accurate explanations of Holy Scripture they are entitled to, and if you are “an interpreter, one of a thousand,” a real messenger of heaven, you will yield them plenteously. Whatever else may be present, the absence of edifying, instructive truth, like the absence of flour from bread, will be fatal. Estimated by their solid contents rather than by their superficial area, many sermons are very poor specimens of godly discourse.

I do know that many heed this exhortation–look at Mark Driscoll’s Resurgence if you want to understand what I’m all for. He’s repackaging the old Westminster Catechism for the emerging church today. This is why we cannot dismiss the emerging church with a broad brush as so many urge me to do. I love its practices and stress out at its “emerging untheology.” Driscoll, by the way, is influenced by John Piper, an infinitely better influence than the McLarens, Burkes, or Smith Jrs any day.

blur.jpegScripture is not a blur.  No generation has considered it to be a blur until ours.  It is clear.  It is understandable.  It is not ambiguous except to those who want it to be to suit their purposes.

I have tried, however imperfectly, to follow Spurgeon’s advice in my preaching. I value the Word and I trust that God’s true people appreciate it its fullness. No dumbing down. No watering down. No skipping stuff. No glory in ambiguity. No apologies. No falsely humble uncertainties. No baby food.

Just piping-hot, juicy, slabs of blood-red meat to build muscle for the humanly impossible task of living like Jesus in such a way that the world takes notice and comes to him.

redmeat.jpegMakes me salivate just thinking about it.

“The Bible is an anvil that has worn out many hammers.”


13 thoughts on “The Magic Pill

  1. I hate to think of where I’d be right now if it weren’t for your preaching the Word of God to me through the years. And although it took a few years for it all to sink in; it all came back to me in God’s timing.

    Thankyou for your passion for God’s Word….it has blessed and encouraged me more than words could ever describe.

  2. Merry Christmas, Dr. G! ‘Tis the season to get quite busy! So, greetings a little early.

    Thanks, too, for your solid teaching/preaching to us Word-starved listeners! I love the Bible, too, and don’t know what any of us could do without it! Without its solid foundation under us, we’d be a bunch of brainless, scattered sheep! Sorry sight indeed.

    I appreciate your love for the calling of God on your life and the benefit we all receive because of it!

  3. No offense Dr., but for how much you pick on McLaren, you sure do quote him sparsely…

    I wouldn’t have gotten away with that in any of your classes I am sure…


  4. HI Steve,
    Thanks for commenting, and you’re right. I’ll grant you that I do quote him sparsely. The reason is that he is so purposefully ambiguous that to really get what he’s saying I’d have to quote pages and give lots of context.

    But here’s one… what do you think?

    Brian McLaren, interviewed in Christianity Today:
    “I don’t think we’ve got the gospel right yet. . . . I don’t think the liberals have it right. But I don’t think we have it right either. None of us has arrived at orthodoxy.” (Nov 04)

    Brian McLaren in A Generous Orthodoxy:
    “Although I don’t hope all Buddhists will become (cultural) Christians, I do hope all who feel so called will become Buddhist followers of Jesus; I believe they should be given that opportunity and invitation. I don’t hope all Jews or Hindus will become members of the Christian religion. But I do hope all who feel so called will become Jewish or Hindu followers of Jesus.
    “Ultimately, i hope that Jesus will save Buddhism, Islam and every other religion, including the Christian religion, which often seems to need saving about as much as any other religion does. (In this context, I do wish all Christians would become followers of Jesus, but perhaps this is too much to ask. After all, I’m not doing such a hot job of it myself.) (p. 264)

    Brian McLaren in A Generous Orthodoxy:
    “Many orthodoxies have always and everywhere assumed that orthodoxy (right thinking and opinion about the gospel) and orthopraxy (right practice of the gospel) could and should be separated, so that one could at least be proud of getting an A in orthodoxy even when on earned a D in orthopraxy, which is only an elective class anyway.” (p. 30).

    Really Brian? Name one single legitimate Christian group that makes that disjunction. It’s a straw man argument, and all it does is needlessly perpetuate cynicism about the church. If he’s talking about Medieval scholasticism, then he should at least have the decency to point out that the church has repudiated that position and moved away from it. When he says, “always and everywhere” what does that even mean?

    The difficulty is in pinning him down on anything… he has a slippery way with truth, and that makes him hard to quote… to him the unpardonable sin is arriving at a dogmatic truth claim.

    Contrast Luther:
    “Peace if possible; truth at all costs.”

    Or Spurgeon, writing to pastors:
    Let us be thoroughly well acquainted
    with the great doctrines of the Word of God, and let us be mighty in
    expounding the Scriptures. I am sure that no preaching will last so long, or
    build up a church so well, as the expository. To renounce altogether the
    hortatory discourse for the expository, would be running to a preposterous
    extreme; but I cannot too earnestly assure you that, if your ministries are to
    be lastingly useful, you must be expositors. For this purpose, you must
    understand the Word yourselves, and be able so to comment upon it that
    the people may be built up by the Word. Be masters of your Bibles,
    brethren; whatever other works you have not searched, be at home with
    the writings of the prophets and apostles. “Let the Word of God dwell in
    you richly.”

    See the difference between McLaren and the old timers? That difference is what bugs me.

    Steve, have you read D.A. Carson’s Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church? It would help you know where I’m coming from.

    Again, thanks for commenting.


  5. Personally, Dr. G. I’m thrilled to death you DON’T quote him! I’m totally confused how a Buddhist or a Hindu can be a follower of Jesus – what happens to Buddha and all the many Hindu gods? Doesn’t make sense to me at all. How could one be a true Christian and NOT be a follower of Christ? Who are they “following” if not Christ? I thought it was our job to make salvation and the good news VERY clear, not so open ended to confuse everyone.

  6. how can one be a true christian and not be a follower of christ? the key i guess is in the word ‘true’……….or do we ascertain only in hindsight, as in the ‘eternal security’ argument looking back and saying, ‘well i guess he never really was a christian to begin with’.

    i have found that some, many, most? who call themselves christian, then will de-emphasize the ‘following’ of christ……they dwell on the salvation, the prayer life, etc and the sermon on the mount (eyes glazed over yet?) is sometimes considered optional or ‘since we can’t follow him, can’t be perfect’ he was just showing us the way, not that we have to actually do these things…..just dwell on the glory of salvation…. give me a buddhist follower of christ anyday over, the ‘saved’ christian who doesn’t follow him.

  7. I guess I’m speaking experientially, so not sure if it will hold any weight, but I will tell my story. I was that Christian who was saved, but not a good follower of Christ. I’m amazed that God never left me. But after a long while of dwelling on the “glory of salvation” I found Jesus more and more beautiful. I gradually started to understand He loved me and I started to fall in love with HIm. Yes, I should obey Him because He is LORD…He deserves all my being. I found however, that love was now my motivating factor as His grace was completely mind-blowing.

    I’m not sure you can embrace buddhism and yet be a follower of Christ. You may help the poor, feed the sick, visit orphans and widows and say it’s because you are following Christ’s commands….buy why?? Does it bring you inner pleasure or do you feel perhaps God now has to be happy with you (God owes you His favor?)
    God loves us and is way too jealous for us to allow us that attitude. No, I think He wants us to serve Him out of love (because He is beautiful and His grace is everlasting).

    there are so many bible verses I’m thinking of to back this up, just don’t have time to write them now (OT and NT).
    like even the plowing of the plower is sin;
    and depart from Me, I never knew you……

    sorry, must run,

    thanks guys.

  8. Hi Goodhand,

    You wrote, “give me a buddhist follower of Christ over a “saved” Christian who doesn’t follow him anyday…”

    You also wrote that “the sermon on the mount becomes optional.”

    Some brief responses (I studied brevity, remember?)…

    To speak of a buddhist follower of Christ is to engage in a word fallacy. The word buddhist conveys both a religious meaning and a cultural meaning. Can a person adopt cultural accoutrement of a buddhist and still follow Christ? Yes. You can dress, eat, shop, and speak like a buddhist and follow Christ.

    Can a person adopt the religion of buddha and follow Christ? No. Paul spoke to sincerely religious people of his day and told them: “and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them,” Acts 14:15, NKJV. He was referring to idols. Salvation entails turning away from idols–like the buddha–and in 1 Cor 15:11 he tells us not to keep company or even eat with a person who claims to be a Christian yet engages an idol.

    You cannot be (religiously) buddhist and a Christian at the same time. This is the kind of verbal sleight of hand McLaren plays all the time.

    In regards to the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord’s beattitudes begin with “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” That is the prerequisite for the entire sermon on the mount. It is the admission THAT WE CANNOT LIVE OUT HIS DEMANDS WITHOUT BEING BORN AGAIN.

    And that is the reason for evangelism and the Great Commission.

    To say that we can live the Christian life, and that a good buddhist who does what Jesus says is a Christian is to distort and actually invert the clear teaching of Scripture, and the unwavering stance of the church for 2,000 years. It violates historic Christianity. It violates the Word of God.

    Now, as to Christians not living up to their standing in Christ, I’m with you. We need to grow up and grow into Christ-likeness. The immaturity of the church at large can be appalling. It will not be solved with more exhortations to do the works of the Sermon on the Mount. It will only be solved with a full-orbed instruction in the whole counsel of God in the context of a living, serving, worshipping community called “church.”

    Every single Bible-based church that I’ve ever known is trying in their own ways–however imperfect–to accomplish that.

    There can be no orthopraxy (right practice) without orthodoxy (right believing).

    There can be no Christian life without Christ living within. It’s not imitation… it’s habitation.


  9. Merry CHRISTmas Dr. G & family! I wanted to thank you for preaching God’s Word with such clarity. His Word is the truth to the world He so loves. We must never stray from that. Thanks for the meat 🙂

  10. bill………yes, word fallacy, i was not being literal! i was exaggerating in order to make a point………mixing in the topic of what is a ‘true’ christian, what value or necessity it is to ‘follow’ his teachings, i suppose you could mix in the debate about faith and works, faith alone vs a proved faith by virtue of the works produced…….also, as i understand it, buddhism is not a religion, ‘they’ would say it is a philosophy…..for what that is worth.

    christian life is also imitation as well as habitation, is it not? “do as i do”…?

    i wish i could agree with you about “…Every single Bible-based church that I’ve ever known is trying in their own ways–however imperfect–to accomplish that.” i say this because i have seen such denials of christs teachings…..some put off the sermon on the mount into the millenium and/or for jews only……..or, as i said, some (people, maybe even whole churches too) are content to concentrate (and basically, by virtue of emphasis, deny the applicability) on salvation, right church worship, prayer life, missionary support, pro life, anti gay, patriotism and dance around the ‘tough stuff’ in that famous sermon.

  11. Rick: It seems these past months you have spent far too much more time criticizing the “imperfecf” human within the context and body of a bunch of committed Christians attempting to be Spirit filled and obedient to the will of God than to the anti-Creator and pro-satan people all around us. I’m not sensing much “love” there from you because of your distaste for your definition of “Christian.” Where is the unity among believers? Yeah, we’re imperfect and have continually proclaimed that imperfection. It some how doesn’t seem to satisfy your dissatisfaction. I’m not thrilled over the lack of maturiy I observe within the Body either. Even with your definition of Christian, just how much “following” is necessary to meet your requirements? (I’m actually glad I don’t have to meet your requirements!!)

    I understand your “church” background was terribly legalistic, but we all must get beyond that and reach the fulfilling JOY of the Lord and maturity to be useful for Him. Bashing Christians just doesn’t seem to fit that picture very well.

  12. Hey Pastor,

    Yes I have read Carson’s book, I appreciated his thoughtful critique, however, he seemed to misunderstand McLaren for the most part…

    I think McLaren would probably find it odd that you contrasted him with Luther and Spurgeon and called them ‘old timers’ when they are both much closer to him than the rest of church history; he seems to find sources of inspiration well outside of the narrow band of thinking found in the past few centuries of Western Christianity…

    As to the orthodoxy/orthopraxy issue, I must confess (while I don’t have any quotes available…) that it does seem like an accurate description of much of the Western Church. IT is certainly what I hear taught on the radio, and what I was taught growing up in church… although, I am aware that not everyone explicitly teaches that, I do recall having heard many teach exactly that… I’ll check for some sources for you.

    …and it seems like the obvious cause for the state of the Church in America where 90% self-identify as Christians, yet only 4% tithe!

  13. Steve… You gotta be the first guy in America to compare Brian McLaren with Luther or Spurgeon. I’m baffled that you don’t see how he undermines historic evangelical theology at every turn. Truly baffled. I don’t think Carson misunderstood him at all. Carson quoted his words verbatim… and that’s hard to do! McLaren is sly like a fox, but Carson flushed him out.


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