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January 2008

January 31, 2008

This morning we continue with our reading of John Owen’s classic Overcoming Sin and Temptation. If you’d like to know more about this reading project, you can read about it right here: Reading Classics Together. We’re into the real heart of the book now and are looking at specific instructions on how to put sin to death.

In the past few chapters we have been in the book’s second section—a section that focuses on “the nature of mortification.” In the past chapters and those to come Owen approaches the subject this way:

  1. Show what it is to mortify any sin, and that both negatively and positively, that we be not mistaken in the foundation.
  2. Give general directions for such things as without which it will be utterly impossible for anyone to get any sin truly and spiritually mortified.
  3. Draw out the particulars whereby this is to be done.

He has already shown both negatively and positively what it is to mortify a sin and has given the general directions. He is now providing a list of instructions about how to actually do the business of mortifying sin.

Summary

  1. Load your conscience with the guilt of sin
    1. Begin with generals and descend to particulars
      1. Charge your conscience with that guilt which appears in it from the rectitude and holiness of the law
      2. Bring your lust to the gospel

    2. Descend to particulars

      1. Consider the infinite patience and forbearance of God toward you in particular
      2. Consider the infinitely rich grace of God whereby you have been recovered to communion with him again
      3. Consider all of God’s gracious dealings with you

  2. Constantly long and breathe after deliverance from the power of it
  3. Consider whether the distemper is rooted in your nature and increased by your constitution

    1. Particular sinful inclinations are an outbreak of original lust in your nature
    2. Without extraordinary watchfulness, your nature will prevail against your soul
    3. For the mortification of any distemper rooted in the nature of a man, there is one expedient peculiarly suited: bringing the body into subjection
      1. The outward weakening and impairing of the body should not be looked upon as a thing good in itself
      2. The means whereby this is done should not be looked on as things that in themselves can produce true mortification of any sin

Discussion

I continue to enjoy and to profit from reading this book. When faced with sin this past week I really felt my heart stirred by some of what I learned in reading the last chapter. How could I do this sin when I know how serious it is for me to ignore the work of the Spirit as He turns my heart from it? With an awareness of how serious sin is for a believer, how could I recklessly push forward and sin against God? It is always a delight to see a book impact my life. This is especially true when the book is as infused with Scripture as this one is.

I enjoyed this week’s chapter as well. I’ll admit, though, that I was quite confused by much of the first direction—load your conscience with the guilt of sin. Despite several readings I just could not get my mind around what Owen was trying to communicate. There were parts I understood: “Persuade your conscience to hearken diligently to what the law speaks, in the name of the Lord, unto you about your lust and corruption.” And I understand his direction about looking to the gospel for further conviction of sin. But I feel like I was only scratching the surface here rather than really digging in. Hopefully your comments will bring some clarity.

Thankfully, I gained more from the rest of the chapter. I enjoyed Owen’s exhortation to “get a constant longing, breathing after deliverance from the power of sin.” “Longing, breathing, and panting after deliverance is a grace in itself, that has a mighty power to conform the soul into the likeness of the thing longed after.” And I can see from my life when I began to long after deliverance from sin. There was a time when I really was not so troubled by my sin. I may have felt some guilt from it and may have dreaded its consequences, but I did not long after deliverance. But when God, in His grace, helped me to truly desire to see my sin put away, it made such a difference to my life. “Unless you long for deliverance you shall not have it.” Those words have proven true in my life.

I also appreciated Owen’s charge that we need to rise against the first actings and conceptions of sin. His illustration was a good one. When water is restrained by dikes or levees or walls or canals it follows the course we have set for it. But when those walls crumble, the water follows its own destructive course. It overflows the banks and runs to its inevitable conclusion. And sin is much the same. We need to restrain sin and to “nip it in the bud” before it comes to full bloom in our lives (I think I’m mixing metaphors now). And this it will inevitably do if we allow it. “Rise up with all your strength against it, with no less indignation than if it had been fully accomplished what it aims at.” We do this with our help, taking measures to avoid sickness or reacting immediately at the first signs of the onset of illness. Why should we not do this with our sin?

And finally, a brief note. Is it just my lack of understanding a strange sentence structure, or is there a rather important not missing from this sentence: “The means whereby this is done—namely, by fasting and watching, and the like—should be looked on as things that in themselves, and by virtue of their own power, can produce true mortification of any sin.”

Next Week

Next Thursday we will continue by reading chapter twelve (the end is in sight!).

Your Turn

As always, I would like to know what you gained from this chapter. Please post your comments below or to write about this on your own blog (and then post a comment linking us to your thoughts). Do not feel that you need to say something exceedingly clever or profound. Simply share what stirred your heart or what gave you pause. You can also post any questions that came up. Let’s be certain that we are reading this book together. The comments on previous chapters have been very helpful and have aided my enjoyment of the book. I have every reason to believe that this week will prove the same.

January 31, 2008
Thursday January 31, 2008 What Year Is It Again?
“Toronto District School Board trustees approved creating the province’s first publicly funded Africentric school.” That’s right—segregated schooling.
Grace Quotes
Here’s a site with a great collection of Christian quotes.
Free from Max McLean
Max McLean has released a free MP3 recording called “Perfect Love.” It has biblical reflections on true love.
Where’s My Protestantism
Here is a short but profound post from “Rodney Trotter” at Reformation21.
January 30, 2008

Yesterday I posted the first portion of an interview with Devin Brown, author of Inside Prince Caspian and Inside Narnia. Today we continue with the second and final piece, and look at mistakes people make when reading the Narnia books and the film adaptations of Lewis’s works.

TC: What are some of the most common mistakes people make when reading and interpreting the Narnia books?

In my opinion, the two biggest mistakes people make about the Narnia books are 1) reading them in the wrong order and 2) labeling them as Christian allegory.

During Lewis’s life, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was always the first book and The Magician’s Nephew was always sixth. A number of years after Lewis passed away, the series was renumbered by the publisher and put in chronological order with The Magician’s Nephew first. While this reordering may seem to have a certain common sense appropriateness, I think the stories are best enjoyed in their original order.

If we read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe first, we know only what the children do, and this allows us to journey with them. In addition, if we read The Magician’s Nephew later, it is much more satisfying. We get to say, “Oh, so that’s where the lamp-post came from!”

When the film Susan steps into Narnia, she is filled with awe and stammers, “Impossible.” If we know only what she knows, we share her wonder. But if we already know about Narnia, we say, “Oh no, Susan, it’s not impossible.”

I used to think the renumbering issue was just something Lewis scholars worried about—among Lewis experts there is a strong preference for the original order. But recently I have been talking to young people who say they had a hard time getting into the Narnia stories. I couldn’t understand the problem until I realized that because of the new numbering, they had started with The Magician’s Nephew. It is interesting to note that the filmmakers have decided to go back to the original order.

An allegory is a story whose surface elements have a clear one-to-one relationship with a second deeper story. In an allegory it is this second story, not the first, which is the real focus. A good example of an allegory is Pharaoh’s dream of the seven fat and seven thin cattle.

People often say that the Narnia books are allegorical, but technically they are not. Aslan, for example is a Christ-figure but not the same as Jesus in our world. Here’s one way they don’t line up. People sometimes say that in the same way that Jesus died for our sins, so too Aslan dies for Edmund’s sins. But in our world, we have to accept Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. In the story, Edmund is reconciled with Aslan before the death occurs. In fact, in the first book Edmund is never told that Aslan died in his place, so there is no way he could accept it.

If we try to say that Peter Pevensie is Peter the apostle, not only are we going have problems finding parallels, we do an injustice to the story. If Lewis had wanted to write a Christian allegory, he certainly could have. His earlier work The Pilgrim’s Regress is one, and was modeled after The Pilgrim’s Progress—the most famous allegory in English literature. I usually talk about the Biblical parallels that can be found in the Narnia stories, rather than allegories.

By the way, some people approach the Narnia books as if they were sermons. Again, if Lewis had wanted to write a sermon, he certainly could have done so. His sermon “The Weight of Glory,” which he preached at St. Mary’s in Oxford, is one of his most famous works. Lewis himself tells us that he wrote a fairy tale because “sometimes fairy stories may say best what’s to be said.”

TC: In your books you often compare and contrast the worlds or characters of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. How valuable is it to consider the works of these men in relation to each other?

I think it is very helpful to compare elements in the Narnia stories with similar elements found elsewhere—in one of the other Chronicles, somewhere else in Lewis’s writings, or in another author’s work. Putting a scene, a character, an event, or a theme from Narnia side-by-side with a similar aspect from another book allows us to see things we might not have seen before.

A number of scholars have emphasized the differences between Lewis and Tolkien and the fact that Tolkien did not like the way Lewis mixed mythologies in Narnia. But I see these two authors as far more alike than different and sharing a deep common ground. Knowing and studying one author helps us better understand the work of the other.

TC: Did you find that the film adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe helped or hindered people’s understanding of Lewis’s story and world?

I really think Walden Media’s film of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe did a great job of capturing the magic, the message, and the spirit of Lewis’s original.

Everyone who loves these books was worried before the film came out because this was the one and only chance for our generation to see this story translated to the big screen. (I am thinking that, as with other great works such as Hamlet or Pride and Prejudice, each generation will produce a new version.) With the first film it became clear that not only does Andrew Adamson understand these stories, he also has a profound and genuine love for them.

Besides providing the world with an inspiring and lovingly-made movie, Walden has also encouraged many theater-goers, young and old, to go back and read or reread Lewis’s original.

TC: What was your single biggest disappointment with the film adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe?

For me, the film did not quite reach either the highs or the lows that the book does, and I think this is a significant loss. In addition, I found the film Aslan to lack the awe that was always present in Lewis’s original. When the children finally meet Aslan in chapter twelve, Lewis’s narrator says, “People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time.” The movie Aslan was good enough, but his terrible side was not as present as it needed to be.

When the children and Trumpkin meet Aslan in Prince Caspian, we are told, “They felt as glad as anyone can who feels afraid, and as afraid as anyone can who feels glad.” This will be a high mark for the second film to aim for.

If Aslan is a Christ-figure, what are we to make of this? I think Lewis was suggesting that our proper response to an encounter with Christ will be a mixture of great gladness and great awe. Some Christians may be too fearful of Jesus and so need more gladness added to their feelings. Others may have too familiar an image of Christ and may need a bit more awe.

TC: What was the one element that you felt best translated to the screen in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe?

There were a number of elements that, for me, worked perfectly in the film adaptation. I thought the bombing scenes in London added greatly to the story. The Professor’s house was just the right blend of homey and spooky. Narnia in winter was as enchanted as I had hoped. And Mr. Tumnus was even better than expected. In addition, I thought that the casting was nearly perfect—especially the four children.

TC: What do you anticipate being your single biggest disappointment with Price Caspian and what is the one thing you are most looking forward to seeing on the screen?

I don’t really like to go into a film thinking I am going to be disappointed, but I wonder if the second film will get Lewis’s ending right. Lewis ends the book with the children having a newfound sense of what I call “the sacramental ordinary.” They begin the story on a “flat and dreary” train platform, but in the end they find it “unexpectedly nice is its own way.”

Lewis does not want the four children or his readers to despise their own world because they have been to Narnia. He wants them and us to better see the enchantment that has always been there. He wants our rereading of the Narnia stories to help re-enchant our lives and the world around us.

I am really looking forward to the scene in Prince Caspian where laughter and merriment returns to Narnia after having been banished or driven underground for years by Miraz. If Narnia in the first book is always winter and never Christmas, in the second book it is summertime but never the Fourth of July.

If I had to pick the greatest contribution that Lewis has made to my life, it would be his constant reminder that the Christian life should be full and overflowing with joy, laughter, celebration, and good times—not just during vacations or holidays and not just when we get to Heaven, but every day right now.

TC: Assuming that there is a movie made for each of the books, which are you most eagerly anticipating? And are you planning on writing an “Inside” book for each of the seven books and movies?

In a way this first question is really asking if I have a favorite among the Chronicles. I do, but it keeps changing—maybe this is true for everyone. While there is not a book among the seven that I don’t like, my current favorite is The Horse and His Boy, a book which I know many readers often list as their least favorite. (I wonder what this says about my taste.)

I plan to continue to write “Inside” books as long as I feel I have something to say, and so far that has not been a problem. I am currently working on Inside the Voyage of the Dawn Treader which will come out in January 2010 in advance of the third film.


Devin Brown is a Lilly Scholar and a Professor of English at Asbury College. This summer he is teaching a week-long seminar at The Kilns, where participants will get to eat, sleep, and take classes in Lewis’s home in Oxford.

January 30, 2008
Wednesday January 30, 2008 Ligonier Streaming T4G ‘06
Ligonier Ministries are streaming the T4G’06 messages and panels on the Ligonier site.
C.J. Mahaney Blog
C.J. Mahaney now has a blog of his own.
True Male Friendship
The CBMW blog is featuring a series on true male friendship, encouraging men to pursue true biblical friendship.
Global Church Advancement Conference
Alex Chediak is blogging from the Global Church Advancement conference.
January 29, 2008

Last week I posted a review of Inside Prince Caspian, a new book by Devin Brown and a follow-up to his earlier work Inside Narnia. These books provide literary analysis of the Narnia books and have greatly enhanced my understanding of and enjoyment of C.S. Lewis’s imaginary world. I thought it would be interesting to follow the reviews with an interview and Brown was kind enough to spare some time. I asked him not only about his books, but about C.S. Lewis, the Narnia series, Harry Potter, J.R.R. Tolkien, and a variety of other subjects. I hope you find the interview as interesting as I did!

TC: Why C.S. Lewis? Why do you have such a fascination with the man and his work?

I suppose most people have their own special set of writers, musicians, or artists that are an important part of their life. As I get older, it is remarkable to see how much richer the work of my particular set has made my life.

While I have a number of favorite authors whose lives and thinking interest me, C.S. Lewis has been at the top of the list since I was around 16. I think his overall appeal for me lies in the fact that he was such a man of letters in the old fashioned sense. He was a poet, philosopher, literary scholar, college professor, Christian apologist, and fiction writer all in one, and his profound faith permeated all of these roles.

TC: The Narnia books are among the select few that children and adults seem to equally enjoy. Why do you think this is? Why the wide appeal?

It is only relatively recently in terms of human history, that myths and fairy tales have become viewed as something to be relegated to children’s bookshelves. From the times of the ancient Greeks to as recently as the collections by the Brothers Grimm, there has been a certain kind of story that tells us who we are and why we are here. Lewis, in his Chronicles of Narnia, provides us—young and old—with this special kind of story.

Lewis himself spoke about this special story that appeals to all ages. He wrote, “I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story.” He claimed that “the good ones last,” meaning that their appeal lasts far beyond our childhood and that they continue to speak to us as we grow and develop.

Of course, in using a simple story as a vehicle for deepest truth, Lewis was following Christ’s example. When Jesus wanted to tell his disciples about God’s love, he did not write them a long, philosophical essay. He gathered them around them and began like this: “Once there was a man who had two sons, and the youngest said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the inheritance.’” He went on to tell the story of the Prodigal son.

TC: Have you read the Harry Potter books? If so, do you think they will have the lasting popularity of the Narnia books? Why or why not? How are they similar to the Chronicles of Narnia and how do they differ?

I have read the first two Harry Potter books, and enjoyed them—though not as much as the Narnia stories (and obviously not enough to finish all seven).

I see two ways to read these books. On one hand, they can be seen as simply a modern day version of what Lewis called the “Boys’ Book,” our culture’s story of “the immensely popular and successful schoolboy who discovers the spy’s plot or rides the horse that none of the cowboys can manage.” The previous generation had the Hardy Boys, before that there was Tom Swift.

According to Lewis, the problem with this kind of story is that it is “all flattery to the ego.” We identify with the protagonist and so picture ourselves as the “object of admiration.” Lewis argues that we run to this kind of book to escape the “disappointments and humiliations of the real world,” but in the end, we return to our own world and our own lives “undivinely discontented.”

But the Harry Potter stories are more than this. In his very last speech in Sorcerer’s Stone, Dumbledore states, “There are all kinds of courage.” And thus Rowling’s deeper message is that there are all kinds of heroes—Harry is one kind, Ron is another, so is Hermione, and so is Neville Longbottom. These stories remind us that each of us is a wizard, though we may not realize it. When read this way, the Harry Potter books are like the Narnia stories, in that they don’t make us look down on real woods because we have read of enchanted ones. As Lewis notes, reading this special kind of book “makes all real woods a little enchanted.”

Having said this, I predict that fifty years from now, we will find that the Chronicles of Narnia are still being bought and read by young and old. I am not as confident about the Harry Potter books.

TC: How can the literary analysis you provide enhance the reader’s understanding of the books?

I am not sure people need convincing that the literary analysis I provide in my books will enhance their understanding of the Narnia stories. Sometimes they may doubt that studying these stories in a serious way will increase their enjoyment of them.

Certainly the Narnia books can be read and enjoyed on a number of levels. But just as knowing more about a piece of music or a painting makes our appreciation and enjoyment of them richer, I believe that careful reading and careful thinking about these books will also add to our delight.

Taking a different tack, I am a firm believer that God wants us all to use our divinely-given intellect more than we typically do, that we are all called to think more deeply and more carefully about all sorts of things. I hope the ideas I present in my books will help, in a small way, to encourage the life of the mind. Perhaps talking and thinking about the Narnia books, for some, may be the start of talking and thinking about other topics.

Check back tomorrow for the conclusion to the interview


Devin Brown is a Lilly Scholar and a Professor of English at Asbury College. This summer he is teaching a week-long seminar at The Kilns, where participants will get to eat, sleep, and take classes in Lewis’s home in Oxford.

January 29, 2008

John AdamsI am a little bit late to the party with this book. Released in hardcover in 2001 and paperback in 2002, John Adams is regarded as one of David McCullough’s greatest achievements. This is no little praise for a man who had previously won a Pulitzer prize (for his biography of Harry Truman)—a reward he was to receive again for John Adams. The precursor to 2005’s 1776, this is a stirring biography and one of the best I’ve ever read. Like McCullough’s other titles, this book is not hard to read and never bogs down in detail. Instead it is fast-moving and gripping, reading almost like a novel.

I am no scholar and am unequipped to comment on the accuracy of McCullough’s portrait of Adams. I will leave that to the historians. So rather than provide a blow-by-blow account of Adams’s life, let me simply suggest a few of the lessons and observations I drew from this book.

January 29, 2008
Tuesday January 29, 2008 Chinese Reformed Bookstore
The people behind Monergism Books have just opened a new store, this one selling Reformed resources in Chinese.
Scientology
If you’ve been hearing about all the furor regarding Scientology the past couple of weeks, you may find this a good article to get oriented with this cult/religion.
A380 Cockpit
This has no real value beyond entertainment. It’s an amazing view of the inside of the cockpit for the new Airbus A380 super jumbo.
January 28, 2008

Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’”

The twenty-third chapter of Jeremiah falls near the halfway point of the book, in the midst of a section where the prophet is foretelling the end of the Davidic dynasty and the coming captivity of God’s people. In this particular chapter, Jeremiah pronounces judgments against the false prophets who had become a plague within the nation. While these words were spoken some 600 years before Christ and in a particular context, his words ring as true today as they did then. “They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you’” (16, 17).

How can these words fail to remind us of the false prophets who plague the church even in the twenty-first century? So many men and women today speak visions of their own minds, and teach what has so evidently not come from the mouth of the Lord. So many say that it shall be well with people who in reality are destined to suffer eternal torment for their hatred of God. They seek to show from Scripture that Christ will save those even who have never heard His Word, and who have never humbled themselves before the Lord. They say, “It shall be well with you” to those who sit in the pews but have never had their hearts of ice melted by the Lord. They speak lies and blasphemies, all the while pretending to the speak for the Lord.

The next verse, verse eighteen, teaches us how to choose good and noble teachers of the Word. If only we could master this simple piece of wisdom the church would be revitalized!

“For who among them has stood in the council of the Lord
to see and to hear his word,
or who has paid attention to his word and listened?”

What wisdom there is in this verse! It cuts to the heart of the difference between leaders who are godly and leaders who are only godly in pretense. A godly leader is one who has not only stood in the council of the Lord, and has thus seen and heard His Word, but one who has paid attention and listened. He has listened not just with his ears, but with his heart. Many of the most popular leaders can appear godly, for they can quote the Bible at will and can discuss Christian doctrine with the best of them. Yet what lacks is humility—true humility. True humility, the humility we learn about in the Bible and the humility God requires of us, is a submission to God and a submission to the Scriptures as He has given them to us. Leaders that honor God are those who are humble before God, not only hearing, but listening and applying. They are leaders who humble themselves before this book, knowing and believing that it is perfect and good and sufficient. They know that all they can offer is this book. No wisdom arising from their own minds can truly bring help to a needy soul. They know that all they can offer is what God provides.

Hear the Word of the Lord as he provides an indictment of the false prophets, who claimed to speak for Him, but in reality, spoke only their own folly (verses 21 and 22):

“I did not send the prophets,
yet they ran;
I did not speak to them,
yet they prophesied.
But if they had stood in my council,
then they would have proclaimed my words to my people,
and they would have turned them from their evil way,
and from the evil of their deeds.”

Here we see another mark of false teachers. The false prophets ran to prophecy with boldness and that was not characteristic of the difficulty and gravity that accompanied true prophecy. And as we saw in the previous verses, these false prophets had not listened to the Word of the Lord. Had they been attentive to the Lord, they would have proclaimed the Truth of God to the people, who would have turned from their evil ways. But instead the prophets tickled the peoples’ ears, telling them only what they wanted to hear. They told the people that God was not angry with them, and that it would go well with them. They told them this despite open rebellion against God.

Does this not sound suspiciously similar to the warning Paul gave Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:3-4? “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

The time is coming and has clearly now come. In fact, it seems that this has been the refuge of sinners since the dawn of time. When people are in rebellion against God, they gather for themselves teachers who will condone their sinful lifestyles instead of condemn them in the name of the Lord. We might think back to the false prophets and even to Aaron, the brother of Moses, who constructed the golden calf. We might think of so many teachers in our day who say little more than what the people in the pews demand to hear. This is not preaching that condemns ungodly lifestyles and pleads with men to turn from their selfish ways. Instead, it is preaching to the choir—preaching that may stir the mind or the emotions, but preaching that is devoid of the Spirit and His power to truly pierce the heart and the conscience. Even when in rebellion against God people wish to feel like they have heard from Him and they wish to know that He still loves and supports them. So in their rebellion they find rebellious teachers to condone rather than condemn.

Look now to verses 23-32. It is a natural temptation to pass over the words of Scripture and read only the commentary. Please do not do that. Read the Word of God.

Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord. Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who steal my words from one another. Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the Lord.’ Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the Lord.

The Word of the Lord is powerful. It is the most powerful tool in the Christian’s arsenal. The Lord, through the mouth of his prophet, compares it to fire that consumes and to a hammer that can smash great rocks into pieces. Later on in Scripture we see that the Word of the Lord can do more than break rocks; God’s Word can soften a hardened heart and breathe life into death. False teachers pretend to speak forth this all-powerful Word, yet they speak only their own dreams and the interpretations of their sinful hearts. God hates these words. He hates those who blaspheme His name saying “declares the Lord” or “This is the Word of the Lord” or “The Bible says” or “God says” when in reality they are declaring nothing more than their own depravity and their own hatred of their Maker. God is against these people for they do not profit His children. They lead them astray, they confuse them, and they make a mockery of God.

“Let him who has my word speak my word faithfully.” And here is the charge for those who would speak for the Lord. What an awesome responsibility it is to have the Word of God. We have it in a way that is unprecedented in history. What wouldn’t the men and women of the Bible give to have the complete revelation of God as we do today? Let those who study this word and who step into the pulpits of our churches speak that word faithfully. Let them declare only what the Lord declares and to do so boldly, powerfully, but always humbly.

In his book The Roman Catholic Controversy, James White recounts the first time he had the privilege of filling the pulpit at his church.

My pastor takes preaching seriously. He views it as a privilege and a high calling to stand before the people of God to open the Word of God. I well remember the first time I filled the pulpit in our congregation. When we met in the pastor’s office prior to the service he asked, “Are you scared?” “Yes, a bit,” I replied. “Good,” he said. “It is an awesome thing to preach the Word of God to God’s people.” Then, as we went into the service, he said to me, “Play the man, Mr. Ridley.”

The pastor’s words were a reference to the words Hugh Latimer spoke to Nicholas Ridley, bishop of London, as they went to the stake to be martyred under the reign of Queen Mary. Such is the gravity that ought to accompany the Word of God. Few in our day have such a sense of gravity. But oh, what a great thing it is to approach the task of speaking for the Lord with such an attitude of gravity and humble dependence.

Turn back to the first verse of this chapter. “’Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!’ declares the Lord.” Surely the Lord will hold those in positions of teaching and authority doubly-responsible for being true to His Word. To the false prophets of Jeremiah’s day, and surely to the false teachers of our day, God says, “I am against [those] who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the Lord.’ Behold I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the Lord.”

And so I challenge you to choose your teachers with the utmost of care! Examine those who stand in the pulpit and those whose books you read. Choose to place yourself under the teaching of those who are humble before the Word of God and who treat it with gravity and respect. Give your attention to those who have stood in the council of the Lord to see and to hear His Word, and who have paid attention to the Word and listened—truly listened.