MLJ Monday – The Effects of Good Doctrine

MLJ Monday – The Effects of Good Doctrine September 16, 2007

Some Christians do not appreciate the value of doctrine. They do not understand why we need to learn so much about God. I fear that the reason for this is that we do not always explain the effects that doctrine can have on our lives. The Doctor was not so foolish. Indeed, he is one of the masters of spiritual diagnostics, and of applying spiritual medicine to us. This example from his work on the book of Ephesians stood out to me. He is speaking about the message of Ephesians 1 and 2, and applies it to our cold hearts and our lack of missional thinking.

Are you worried about the coldness of your heart? I am sure you are, as we all ought to be. Is it not appalling that we can come and eat the bread and drink the wine at the communion table and be so unmoved, that our hearts are not overflowing with love to God? Why are they not overflowing with love? It is because we do not realise the greatness of His love. If you want to love God do not try to work up something inside yourself: realise His love, and pray that the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened, that you may realise the pit out of which you have been hauled up, the depths to which you had sunk, your former terrible, precarious, perilous position, and what God has done for you, by His grace, in Christ. That is the way to realise it. ‘We love him because he first loved us’, says John, and it is the same argument. The understanding of these things is essential to a sense of wonder, love and praise.

But come to something still more practical. It is because we do not realise these things as we ought that we do not feel the burden of the souls of others as we ought. Christian people are but a handful in the world today. The masses are outside Christ, outside the Church, in godlessness and irreligion, and in a terrible state of sin. Are we concerned about them? Does their condition burden us? Have we a missionary sense with regard to our fellow citizens in this country? Does the condition of the benighted masses in other lands weigh upon us at all? Are we concerned about the missionary enterprise? Do we think about these things, do they burden us, do we pray to God about them? Are we asking, ‘What can I do, how can I help, what contribution can I make?’ If we are not, there is only one explanation—we have never realised the truth about people who are in a state of sin. We are just irritated by them, we are just annoyed. But that is not enough; we must be concerned about souls, we must be concerned about sin. We must see them as they are, the children of wrath, hell-bound, in this degradation, in this pollution that the apostle here describes. If we only saw it, our hearts would go out to them; we would see them as our Lord saw them, and He had a great heart of compassion for them. The poorness of our missionary and evangelistic zeal is entirely due to this. We have not seen the position of those outside truly—what they are, what they might be, and what Christ has done.

The third thing that it brings home to us is that if we but saw these things truly it would also control our evangelism. The trouble with all false evangelism is that it does not start with doctrine, it does not start by realising man’s condition. All fleshly, carnal, man-made evangelism is the result of inadequate understanding of what the apostle teaches us in the first ten verses of this second chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians. If you and I but realised that every man who is yet a sinner is absolutely dominated by ‘the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience,’ if we only understood that he is really a child of wrath and dead in trespasses and sins, we would realise that only one power can deal with such an individual, and that is the power of God, the power of the Holy Ghost. And so we would put our confidence, not in man-made organisations, but in the power of God, in the prayer that holds on to God and asks for revival and a descent of the Spirit. We would realise that nothing else can do it. We can change men superficially, we can win men to our side and to our party, we can persuade them to join a church, but we can never raise the spiritually dead; God alone can do that. The realisation of these truths would of necessity determine and control all our evangelism.

Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (1972). God’s Way of Reconciliation (Studies in Ephesians, chapter 2) (10). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

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