The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Friday, April 20, 2012

James MacDonald, Preaching, The Elephant Room, the Use of Discernment, and True Wisdom

I was flipping through the radio stations as I drove over to McDonald's. On 107.3 I heard a booming, vaguely familiar voice, speaking about holy living. I turned back to the station and quickly realized this was none other than James MacDonald, of The Elephant Room fame.

I never heard of MacDonald until I heard about the Elephant Room controversy. So he started off on the wrong foot with me. But after hearing him preach for about five minutes, it is evident the man is a great preacher. I mean, he actually preaches. He brings one under the Word. By that I mean, he isn't merely teaching (though he is doing that too) but within the teaching is integrated a pastoral care, a shepherding. He sounds like he has authority over me and is trying to lead me into the way of righteousness, into the way that Scripture calls us. Not simply right doctrine, but right practice. A holy living, not merely a holy thinking. My disgust with non-Calvinist churches was their general neglect of theology and doctrine in favor of mindless action. But I am also finding it true that the reformed have a tendency to neglect application and exhortation in favor of simply trying to discern what the Bible says. True, right living starts with right thinking, but right thinking is thinking that takes what you learn about God from His Word and realizing that you don't match up to it. You are still a horrible sinner, saved to be sure, but a sinner nonetheless. And this life is primarily to be characterized by obedience, to a ceasing of sin, and then to a life that does what God says. 

MacDonald was talking about resisting the temptations of the flesh. And really, that's where our sin lies. So our preaching should be characterized by this, unless of course you happen to be so delusional that you think you do not sin very much, or perhaps you do know you sin much but don't think it matters since Christ paid for it and you are secure anyways. Both ways of thinking are characteristic of unbelievers, not believers. 

What puzzles me is that MacDonald can preach so well yet do something so stupid, like invite T.D. Jakes to The Elephant Room, and then adamantly defend him. And then, take shots at reformed folk. It's nigh unto Steve Furtick saying he enjoys reading both Jonathan Edwards (or was it John Piper?) and Joel Osteen. It's like affirming both ends of a contradiction. Then there is the whole matter of John Piper and Rick Warren...

The takeaway point is this: use discernment! Which is to say, get wisdom. Wisdom is rightly using the knowledge you have gathered. Ditches are everywhere, sin lies within us and all around us, and often times, we don't even see it. And worse yet, sometimes we do and we don't really care. But let us remember that if we are moving in the direction of greater indifference to sin, we are moving toward hell, and are proving to not be regenerate. We don't fight sin to keep salvation, we fight sin because we possess salvation. So if you are saved and remain indifferent to sin, rather than mad as hell at it, at yourself, then you need to realize that attitude itself is a sin, a lifestyle sin. I need to remember this. Preachers need to remember this and remember that their shepherding very much includes bringing the sheep under the purifying, double-edged sword of the Word of God. Convict, rebuke, and exhort us, please! I need to feel guilty and wretched and cold-hearted when I leave church, because I am. I always am. And the corrective is true wisdom, which takes orthodoxy and then brings the self under the orthodoxy, up near the white hot light that is the holiness of God, and sees all the filth that we still are. We are positionally pure, being in Christ, but practically we are still so dirty. And the Christian life is getting rid of this filth that still invades our flesh, that still entices even our regenerate hearts. Get wisdom!  Hear Proverbs 4:1-9, 

Hear, my children, the instruction of a father,
And give attention to know understanding;
For I give you good doctrine:
Do not forsake my law.
When I was my father’s son,
Tender and the only one in the sight of my mother,
He also taught me, and said to me:
“Let your heart retain my words;
Keep my commands, and live.
Get wisdom! Get understanding!
Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you;
Love her, and she will keep you.
Wisdom is the principal thing;
Therefore get wisdom.
And in all your getting, get understanding.
Exalt her, and she will promote you;
She will bring you honor, when you embrace her.
She will place on your head an ornament of grace;
A crown of glory she will deliver to you.”

1 comment:

  1. Came across your site looking for any updates on a possible ER3. I too am reformed, and had huge reservations about TD Jakes speaking on the ER panel. But once I came to know the wisdom, character, and Biblical accuracy by which James MacDonald speaks and lives by, I gave Jakes a chance. I can honestly say that after watching Jakes speak at the entire ER2 event, I have repented of my thinking and attitude. I watched a man who once walked in error (modalism) be brought into loving conversation with men of God, and in doing so change his position substantially towards one of orthodoxy. Some may say Jakes has not gone far enough, but after hearing him speak myself in the context of the entire conversation, I don't see how he could be labeled a "heretic" any longer, at least on the issue of the Trinity. He may have a ways to go and other errors that need attention, but I am fully convinced it is the gracious approach that MacDonald and others model that will lead those who love Jesus but are confused theologically to a right place of understanding. Those who want to shut anyone out who doesn't instantly think like them or have impeccable theological positions are not only acting like rude and foolish pharisees, but will never see anyone change their minds/thinking. It's the truth displayed in love and kindness, not just truth, that the Spirit works through to change hearts.