I have fallen in love with the writings of Martyn Lloyd-Jones. His Studies in the Sermon on the Mount have proved to be very prophetic to the Church today. A recurring theme in these studies is Lloyd-Jones’ heart for the weak and ineffective church of his day. When I read the reasons he gave for the weakness of the church, I realized that not much has changed:
‘I have no hesitation in asserting that the failure of the Church to have a greater impact upon the life of men and women in the world today is due entirely to the fact that her own life is not in order.’
‘Every revival proves clearly that men who are outside the Church always become attracted when the Church herself begins to function truly as the Christian Church, and as individual Christians approximate to the description here given in the Beatitudes.’
When I read the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, one word comes to mind: countercultural.
The world tells us to be proud and haughty. Christ tells us to be poor in Spirit. The world tells us to always be glib and jovial. Christ tells us to mourn. Meekness, hungering after God, mercy, purity of heart, peace… these Christian characteristics are in opposition to our world.
Do these characteristics define us?
Lloyd-Jones goes on to give 5 Characteristics of Ineffective Christians. Use these to test your walk with Christ:
2. Legalism: Christianity is dumbed down to a list of do’s and dont’s. The world looks at this and thinks, “Is that all there is to this Jesus thing? How boring! I want no part of it.”
Lloyd-Jones called this a False Puritanism: “It almost gave the impression that to be religious was to be miserable; it turned its back upon many things that are perfectly natural and legitimate. In that way a picture was given of the Christian man that was not attractive…”
2. License: In reaction to this legalism, many go to the other extreme. Sin is pursued under the banner of grace and these so-called ‘believers‘ look just like the world. The world looks at this and thinks, “This person does the exact same things that I do. Why should I change? He’s the hypocrite.”
NOTE: See Ken’s entry- Legalism V. License
3. Superficiality: “The idea… that if we as Christians are to attract those who are not Christian we must deliberately affect and appearance of brightness and joviality. Thus many try to assume a kind of joy and happiness which is not something that rises from within, but is something which is put on.”
We don’t want to send a false message: “Come to Christ and never be sad.” That’s not the Jesus of the Gospels. In fact, Lloyd-Jones points out that there is no record of Jesus ever laughing (though he likely did, it was never written); but a number of times he wept and mourned (John 11:35, Luke 19:41-44). This is significant.
4. A Defective Sense of Sin and the Doctrine of Sin: All are deserving of death because of sin (Romans 3:23, 6:23). We must constantly acknowledge this as Christians. When we do superficiality ceases. We have nothing to show on our own! We are wretched creatures apart from the free grace of Jesus Christ.
This is a difficult message to hear and share. It’s no wonder that some have sought to remove it from the Gospel message. No one like telling their neighbor they deserve eternal punishment. But to remove the doctrine of sin from the Gospel is to remove the Gospel.
5. A Failure to Understand the True Nature of Christian Joy: Our joy is rooted in Christ’s removal of our sin on the cross. As Tyler said last week, “when you recognize the reality that you are a sinner, recognize the reality that Christ is your savior even more.”
Lloyd-Jones comments, “…the defective doctrine of sin and the shallow idea of joy, working together, of necessity produce a superficial kind of person and a very inadequate kind of Christian life.”
Superficial joy should not exist for the Christian. We have been redeemed from sin and death and made new in Christ. When the world sees this type of joy: a joy from a poor spirit, a joy that mourns sin, a joy rooted in God- they will see Christ.