I have been thinking and praying for weeks (maybe months now?), trying to find an easy way to write what is in my heart. This is a sensitive post, I know. I know many will agree and many will not, but it is burning deep within me, and I have decided to click the "publish button".
I will use a few examples of one of the men who has been a very important and strong influence not only in my life, but in the lives of many of us, to try to explain what is in my heart, the man is Charles Spurgeon.
What would you think of a preacher today whose chief project at a certain time in his ministry would be raising money for a new church building? Well, Spurgeon did this. The estimated cost to build the new Tabernacle was very high, so he started to accept more invitations to preach in many different places to receive more offerings.(1)
"Just before the building was ready to be opened, since the entire costs had not yet been met, a great bazaar was held to raise the remaining amount. This action caused questioning in many evangelical minds then, and it will do the same today." (2)
I am sure, that if this were happening today, the next day we would see many, many bloggers pointing harshly at him.
The Tabernacle was a huge building with seating for about 3,600 people.(3) Yes, that is the number; a big one, right? Please, just imagine what many of us (and me too, probably) would be thinking of this today. We love the local church and most of us do not believe in mega-churches. Spurgeon, the man we all love to quote, however, pastored one.
OK, if by now you are surprised, read the next:
"People who wished to attend regularly paid for a seat on a three-months' basis and were admitted by ticket. Others remained outside till five minutes before the beginning of the service, at which time the restriction was removed and the crowd rushed in and filled the rest of the building." (4)
I dare to say I don't agree at all with Spurgeon on these practices. However, I must also admit that he has been a man that through his written word has influenced my life tremendously. I have learned so much from him, his teachings have been, without a doubt, a blessing to the Church of Christ.
So what is it that is in my heart?
I want to be free in this space to say, for example, that John Piper's teachings have been (and still are) a strong pillar in my faith. Do I agree with everything he does and with all the friends he has? No. But I would never dare to say that he is not a godly man. God forbid.
Mac Arthur, Carson, Horton, Tim Challies, The Pyro-Team, The Gospel Coalition, The Resurgence, my beautiful friends on the blogsphere, the Puritans, my dearest friends in another country, my sister, all of them have taught me something, and no, I don't always agree with every one of their words; but I am willing to learn from them, and even change my points of view when Truth demands so.
My family has been blessed greatly by Douglas and Nancy Wilson, by their ministry, their books, and the Church he pastors. We have not seen, anywhere, a church that practices the gospel in such a vivid way as theirs. They are an example to us on how to live the Christian life in obedience to the Word, with joy, practicing hospitality and living in community. Do we agree then with every single word we have read in their books/blogs? No, not necessarily; but we count it as a wonderful gift of the Divine Providence that our son is a member of their church.
I love Ann Voskamp, she is my friend, and has been a blessing to me many times; I always give thanks to God for her. I don't agree with some of the things she has written, but again, I cannot, no matter what, dare to say that she is not a child of God. Each one of us is still short-sighted; each one of us is still in the process of Sanctification, and each one of us will give account of our own words before the Lord.
I have a few friends who are passionate about contending for the truth, and I love them and respect them very much. I too was in the wrong church under false teaching for many years, but I do not always agree with their tone of voice. Does that mean that I love them less? Not at all; I need them as part of the body of Christ in which we belong together.
Let me come back to our dear Spurgeon again. He knew that none of us in infallible, and he dared to say,
"I am a great lover of John Bunyan, but I do not believe him infallible..." (you may read the rest here)
Note please, that I am NOT, NOT, NOT (yes, I want to make this clear) advocating for pluralism or relativism. Certainly not. I love doctrine very much and I believe in contending for the faith. At the same time, I pray I will grow in discernment every day, because the Bible says that the days in which we are living are evil. I read the Word, study it, memorize it in order to have the Truth well planted in my heart; I long to live by it and be obedient to it. Borrowing the words of Erik Raymond I say: "While I believe that in some cases controversy is not only helpful but essential (see the recent Rob Bell firestorm), I don’t believe a steady diet of it is." (emphasis mine)
Friends, I, too, once read the wrong books. I, too, listened wrong teachings for many years, but God had mercy on me when I did not expect it. His grace reached my stubborn and prideful heart and granted me the gift of repentance. It is my prayer that God will reach deep into my heart even now, and change me more and more. I pray I will always have a teachable heart, humble enough to say, “I am still learning, I do not have it all right.”
We are still of this fallen world, and that is one of the reasons I long for Jesus to come. I long for the New Creation, because on that day, the children of God will be sharing one table. We will be able to see clearly, and we will feast and rejoice in the One who is the Author of our Faith. And those wolves who have deceived many while hiding among the sheep will be judged by the Only One worthy to open the seal of the Book, and He will cast them out into the eternal fire.
Meanwhile, let us be ready, abiding in the Word, spending more time in the Word than anywhere else; the only book that is infallible is God's Word.
"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." I Timothy 3:16- 17
God help us,
(1) Spurgeon, A New Biography by Arnold Dallimore, Banner of Truth p.94
(2) ibid. p.97
(3) ibid. p.98
(4) ibid p.98