We met at around 6pm. Ramin, Mohammed, Arman, Kourosh, Hosein, Derek, and David. We finished at around 7:40 pm and prayed around at the end.
The question of Christians and alcoholic drinks was suggested by Arman.
Dr Masters’ book, ‘Should Christians Drink?’ is very good. There are at least two reasons why Christians should not drink alcoholic drinks.
Hypocrisy was a new word – saying something is wrong when you do it yourself or even judge others for doing it yourself. Alcoholic drinking is an example of this where in Iran, it is common to say you do not drink (and getting caught leads to bad punishment whether you drink less or lots) but drinking in a private party may happen. Religion is full of hypocrisy – praying is a good example. Many religions focus on the body, perhaps using beads, or a mat but God is very interested in our heart (1 Sam 16:7, Joel 2:13, 2 Tim 3:5).
One reason we must not drink alcohol is because it is a great evil in the world. We want to have nothing to do with the world. Lives and families are destroyed every day by alcohol. Big money is made out of people who can not even afford to buy food. Alcohol makes fools and slaves out of people. Even one drink can make someone lose control of their mind and lead to more sin.
Some churches will only have strong wine in their communion service but this is not helpful to anyone, least of all the recovered alcoholic in the congregation.
The other main reason is ‘the weaker brother’ argument. Read Romans 14 and 15 and 1 Corinthians 10. Paul says he would rather give up eating meat than to make his brother fall into sin. Thinking you are ‘strong’ to carry on drinking alcohol shows that you have already fallen (1 Corinthians 10:12).
But we must not focus just on one kind of drunkenness and condemn it loudly. There a many ‘small’ people who just go to a public house to relax with friends after a hard week or drink a bottle of wine watching TV at night – they are just as guilty of hating God as someone who gets very drunk in a night club all weekend.
Then we also mentioned perhaps the worst kind of drunkenness. This is a curse from God for our godlessness. In Jeremiah 25:27 and 51:57 we read that God sends ‘drunkenness’ to his people. We see many things in church that shows that this has happened: overconfidence, staggering, lying, sleeping, not feeling natural pain, wallowing in filth instead of getting cleaned up, going back to sin. This is a terrible punishment.
We think that God does not notice if we sin. We think that if he really cared about our sin he would kill us (e.g. send a piano out of the sky to hit us). We forget that the goodness of God should lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4). This is how wicked we are. Instead of thinking that we should repent, we sin more! We very much need the grace of God to save us!!
We ended the ‘academic year’ of our doctrine classes by taking two sessions to look at ‘heart religion’. This was intended to link with and examine the ethos of the Summer Conference. Before the conference we examined the concept, and after the conference we tried to consider how the various aspects and messages we’d had exemplified ‘heart religion’. This is a vital issue because we can too easily mistake ‘true religion’ for ‘mind’ or ‘affect’ religion. In the case of ‘mind’ religion you evacuate the feelings and vital saving faith is exchanged for agreeing with the gospel. This is close to a known heresy called Sandemanianism, which even the great preacher Christmas Evans fell into. A kind of arid mentalism which decries any show of emotion as extreme and even dangerous. As Dr Lloyd-Jones has said, there is a tendency, especially in our backslidden times, to interpret scripture in the light of our own limited and insipid experience. We are even too arrogant to allow ourselves to be put to shame by the clear expressions and terms used in the scriptures and in the lives and language of our forefathers.
The following lines are often quoted by Rev WV Higham:
True religion is more than notion, something must be known and felt (Joseph Hart)
Make no mistake, heart religion is a crucial matter.
On the 22nd July, we began by reading the Conference Ethos (link).
I asked the Pastor for the best verses or passages about heart religion and he said that any verse or passage in the bible could be applied to this topic under the influence of the Holy Spirit
What is the ‘heart’ in scripture ?
Prov 23:26 ‘My son, give me thine heart’
The Heart as the ‘seat of religion’ (Berkhof)
Also well worth reading Vine on how ‘heart’ is defined in the scriptures.
Prov 4:23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
Matt 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God
Ps 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Ps 51:27 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Clearly the heart is vital. The scriptures are very clear that without the ‘heart’, you do not have Christianity, you have mere religion.
11To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.
12When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?
13Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.
14Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.
15And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.
16Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
17Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
2 Tim 3:5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
Ezek 33:31 And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.
Ps 78:36-7 Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues. For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant.
Considering the conference themes, the following week we considered how the conference speakers exemplify heart religion in their messages.
- The Gospel – with Jonathan Munday and Neil Pfieffer
- Godly living – John J Murray
- Waiting for the Dawning – Richard Brooks
- Song of Songs – Vernon Higham
22/7/2012 John J Murray in his gospel address spoke of how we must be ‘looking unto Jesus’ (Heb 12) because there is no-one else. Looking unto Him in earnest importunity. It is the only true way, for the world can only offer ‘broken cisterns’.
23/7/2012 In John J Murray’s first sermon, he spoke of the central importance of experimental Calvinism. Warfield said that the ‘True Calvinist’ is ‘a man who has seen God in his Glory: in terror, in salvation. Al Martin spoke of apprehending God, a realisation more than mere understanding, adoring wonder, ‘feeling thinking’. A purely ‘academic Calvinist’ is a misnomer, like saying, ‘a living corpse’.
In WV Higham’s Tuesday evening sermon he spoke of the great sense of sin, that we turn from what we are and turn to God. This happens in the heart, or soul. The believer then delights to hear His voice. On Wednesday morning he spoke of how the believer finds Christ ‘altogether lovely’. How can we turn away from such love?! He has given us the gifts of repentance and love. We know that he gave this life for us and shed his blood for us at Calvary.
On Thursday morning, John J Murray spoke of living to the glory of God and to the honour of Christ, finding true happiness through the conviction of sin, salvation and pursuing a holy life. Living selflessly – die to self and live to Christ and for others. Living a contented life – knowing that God, in His providence, knows best. On Thursday evening, Richard Brooks spoke of keeping the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ on our spiritual horizon. He continued on Friday morning saying that we must believe that he will come again as he has promised, indeed we must pray, ‘Come quickly’. He urged us to keep the second coming daily in our prayers and meditations, remembering that our truest and richest possessions are in glory.
On Friday evening, Neil Pfeiffer preached that we should come with our spiritual ‘feet’ to Christ. It had to be a move of the heart.
(I am indebted to Bethan Lewington for her notes on these sermons)
I included a useful quote from John Kennedy’s book on ‘Work and Conflict’ by Henry Melville. Images of the pages are available from this link.