Category Archives: School

Thoughts on Jonathan Edwards and Witnessing

So, in my American Literature class the last week we’ve been looking at Jonathan Edwards and the inevitable Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Something the (very atheistic) prof mentioned was that when Edwards delivered this sermon, it was done in almost a monotone. He likely read it directly from his notes and hardly made eye-contact with his audience at all. It’s a little mind-blowing that it had that effect it did when you consider that. Then again, there was another factor he mentioned that might help explain it.

To the modern reader, Sinners is filled antiquated language and illustrations and obscure Biblical references. To the congregation Edwards preached to, it was completely different. That was their everyday English, slang and all in one or two places. The illustrations of arrows and rotten coverings over deep pits would have hit very close to home for an American congregation in 1741. And the way the Puritans, even at that point when they were (in Edwards’ mind) backslidden, puts this Bible college graduate to shame. The audience was familiar with what Edwards had to say. He was speaking their language right at their level.

Then it hit me that the same thing probably answered something that had confused me about my classmates. You see, despite how the professor was teaching it- basically analyzing the style and surface meaning and breaking down the concepts of the sermon- it had a far deeper impact on me. From prayer and self-examination to intense conviction about the need to be witnessing, the study affected me like a sermon. For my classmates, they were just bored with it. I couldn’t understand at all how they could miss the significance of what Edwards was saying to us from hundreds of years ago. And then it hit me. They were totally unfamiliar with the ideas being discussed.
I may not be a Puritan, but I have enough of a background in the church that Edwards’ preaching impacted me much as it did them. It was at a level that I could understand and grasp easily and that effected me because of that. But for my classmates, it went right over their heads. They didn’t have the tools they would need to really understand it.

Which brings me back to my own conviction in the whole thing. Witnessing isn’t as simple as it sounds. I remember one of my teachers back at CCBC saying that if you can’t explain the Gospel in terms that someone with absolutely no religious background could understand, you probably weren’t being much of a witness at all. Telling people the truth in a way that I feel is powerful isn’t good enough. If it doesn’t reach them at a level that they can truly grab onto and understand, then they’re no better off than my classmates: people who can have an educated conversation about the idea that we could die and go to hell and any moment without ever wondering if they should do something about it.

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 1 Corinthians 9:19-22

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Just an excerpt from the paper I’m working on today…

Philips Brooks said in the Yale Lectures that the preparation of the ministry must be nothing less than the making of a man. He said to prepare a man for ministry was not to teach him certain tricks and fill him with knowledge, but to knead and temper the man’s very nature until it was “of such a consistency and quality to be capable of transmission.” He even went so far as to say in one sermon that the great purpose of any life should be “the shaping of character by truth.” 

But what is character? It is the basis of reputation, the true man behind what people see and think. It can be described as who a man is not only in public, but when he is alone in the dark. True character is what Jesus described in the Beatitudes as He began the Sermon on the Mount, and what He demonstrated to perfection in His own life and ministry. Character is manifested in the beautiful qualities that the Apostle Paul described as the Fruit of the Spirit. It gives rise to integrity, to inner wholeness. A man of character is not guilty of hypocrisy, fooling others as to his nature and motives, or of duplicity, fooling himself. Character is Joseph going to prison for being honest and chaste. It is Moses giving up luxury as the prince of Egypt for the life of a Jewish prophet and a sacrificial leader of an ungrateful people. It is Jeremiah spending a lifetime pleading with Israel to repent while watching the nation die. It is Martin Luther declaring, “Here stand I. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”  This is character.

This kind of character demonstrates itself not only on the grand scale of public ministry, but in the hidden duties and services of everyday life. It is always willing to go the extra mile. It will not cut corners on a job that no one will inspect. It will give freely expecting no recompense or recognition. It is simply a life lived before God, seeking to please Him and Him alone in even the smallest of thoughts and actions, regardless of what others may say or do. True godly character of this nature is not built overnight. It takes time and is often a painful process involving the most hurtful experiences of life. It is developed through making God’s Word a part of our inner being, of meditating on it and obeying it wholeheartedly. It is built through faithfulness in worship and prayer. It is strengthened through suffering and weakness as we learn to depend on God’s grace to bring us through and to bring Him glory. This depth of character is a product of discipline and devotion, of courage and commitment.

Character can be compared to a grand and beautiful cathedral. It is slowly built, one stone at a time, following careful and specific guidelines. But it can be quietly destroyed, little by little, by hidden interior decay. Decay that can for a long time go unnoticed by those closest to us or even by ourselves, but is never unnoticed by God. The deterioration of godly character is always an inside job, possibly only as we allow ourselves to drift into sin and compromise. Character is built by the decisions we make. Life is built on character and every decision of daily life, however small or insignificant it may seem, is either placing another stone in the great structure of our character or whittling away at its support from the inside. This is why Proverbs 4:23 sternly warns, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”

 When character is damaged by neglect and ministry is broken, can it be restored? Not if the offender makes excuses instead of confessing and resists authority, seeking second and third and fourth opinions that please him better. But yes, if the offender will humbly confess. If he will turn from sin completely and willingly submit himself to the Potter and His tools as they reshape the vessel to be honorable again. May these offenders then be restored to a position of service in the ministry? Yes! If they have repented and been Biblically brought back into fellowship, they may serve again as humbled and careful ministers of God. Character is difficult to build, and often far more difficult to rebuild, but God is a God of restoration and second chances.


Never Alone

I sit alone, the cold darkness of night pressing in around me. My family and my friends have all been asleep for hours and I find myself completely alone again. As I sit, mentally exhausted and surrounded by the silence, my mind begins to wander. Images of everything I have ever hoped to do in this life begin to come into my mind, but something is wrong. Every image that passes before my mind’s eye is one of some wonderful thing I have never done, and every great accomplishment is carried out not by me, but by another girl who, although similar to me, is overwhelmingly prettier, smarter, more outgoing, closer to God, and in every way better than I am. “Of course,” the subtle voice coolly whispers to my mind, “Of course she can do all of those things. But you know that is not you at all. You know how ugly you are, how stupid, how worthless, you’re just that pastor’s kid who has spent her entire life pretending to be a true follower of God. You may be able to fool all of them, but you cannot fool yourself, and you cannot fool God.” I begin to frantically argue, “No!” I mentally shout, “That isn’t true! I’m not like that anymore! That’s over, I’m truly God’s daughter now.” I try to argue, to reason with the voice, but it is so persistent. It calmly reminds me of everything I have ever failed in. It coolly brings to mind every wrong or dirty thought I had throughout the day. It rationally points out the many flaws in my character and my witness. It keeps repeating the same words with the same cold, hard logic- Stupid. Worthless. Filthy. Fraud.

I am not strong enough to fight for long by myself. Soon my mental walls begin to crack and crumble. Yes, it is all true. Everything it says is right. I am so stupid, ugly, and worthless. I have failed over and over and my sin is so filthy. How could I really think that God had saved me? I spent so many years fooling people into thinking I was a Christian, now I had finally just managed to fool myself. “Yes,” the voice whispers reassuringly, “it really is foolish to try to lie to yourself. The wise thing to do is to simply admit who you are. It’s alright, not everyone can be great. It really isn’t your fault at all. If God really loved you, if He really wanted to use you, He would have made you pretty, and talented, and smart, and loveable. You’ve done your best with what He gave you. It’s completely understandable not to serve a God who would make you this way.” With that the voice goes silent, leaving me to consider what it has said. So there I sit alone, with the cold darkness of the night pressing around me, wondering why I bother to go on. There is nothing I could ever do to make my life worthwhile. No more than a waste of space… I am the one mistake God made.

I have found myself wallowing in this pit of despair far more often than I would care to admit. It always comes when I am alone in the dark, away from the comfort of daylight and the accountability of friends. It seems like it is always after a long day, when I am exhausted and long only for the sleep that evades me, that the calm, seemingly rational voice of the enemy begins to whisper and I seem always to lose the fight and begin to believe it. Over the past few weeks especially, God has been continually reminding me of some things, just simple truths that I have “known” since before I could read but that I seem to have a hard time transferring from head-knowledge to heartfelt assurance. Near the end of Romans chapter eight, Paul writes: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”[1]

Right there in those few short verses are the answers to every lie that was thrown at me. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” I do not need to be anyone special to serve God, all the power comes from Him. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” My gracious, generous Lord has not held anything back from me. How foolish to imagine that He would be willing to kill His own Son for the sake of saving me, and yet did a poor job in creating me! He has made me exactly as He intended, and He freely bestowed upon me everything I needed to be beautiful and perfectly complete in His eyes. “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” In Christ, I am pure, clean, and perfectly sinless. What happened in my past does not matter, God has justified me. Even the sins I commit today have been paid for, and my precious Savior is standing beside the throne of God, constantly countering every accusation the enemy brings against me with the irrefutable argument of His righteous blood. Everything that the cool, calculating voice had told me was true about me by myself, but was completely wrong about me in Christ. The truth is that I am never alone.

Paul goes on to say in Romans, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”[2] I said earlier that the enemy always seems to come to me when I am alone, but perhaps it would be better to say the he always comes when I seem to be alone. The truth is that no matter what I may go through, whether “…tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword,” none of it can separate me from the love of Jesus Christ. I am truly never alone.

I sit alone, the cold darkness of night pressing in around me. My family and my friends have all been asleep for hours and I find myself completely alone again. As I sit, mentally exhausted and surrounded by the silence, my mind begins to wander. The same images of a girl so much better than I could ever be and of her accomplishments begin to pass before my mind’s eye and the cruel voice again begins to whisper to my mind. At first I try to argue, using my own reasoning and quickly seeing how everything the voice says is so much clearer and more rational than my own thoughts. I desperately wish for a friend to come alongside me and help me defend myself. Then, as if out of nowhere, a still, small voice pierces my thoughts. “I am here. Don’t you remember what I’ve been telling you?” Yes! My Jesus is still with me! Drawing on His great strength, I answer the voice firmly, “‘Neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate [me] from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus [my] Lord.’[3] In Him, I am everything I need to be.” The voice falls silent for a few minutes, and by the time it begins to speak again, I don’t even hear it. I am busy resting the arms of my precious Jesus, and His loving voice drowns out the lies.


[1] Romans 8:31-34, NKJV

[2] Romans 8:35-39, NKJV

[3] Romans 8:38-39, NKJV

EDIT: Well, I wasn’t planning to tell you all this, but I feel like I should confess… I still haven’t taken the time to think about blogging since the semester started. This is actually just my term paper for my Romans class, so yeah… hence the random footnotes and absurdly long length for a blog post. Anyhow… I thought you guys might enjoy it.