Don’t be a ‘lost’ celebrity

A recent news feed came through with a heading that said something like ‘Year in Review 2017: Remembering those we lost this year’. Roger Moore and Hugh Hefner were mentioned specifically. It’s always surprising how many celebrities have died each year and how many I’ve not heard of and also how many I didn’t realise had died. It struck me that they used the word lost. It made me think.

I’ve written previously that I’m unhappy about using the phrase ‘lost’ for those that have died in Christ. I’m not happy about those that have died outside of Christ either. But the terrible reality for those that have died without Christ is they are truly lost in every sense of that word. How many of those celebrities are truly lost I have no idea. I’m glad I don’t know but with some (as with non-celebrities) we fear the worst.

There’s a lovely verse in the Bible that says ‘For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost’ (Luke 19:10 ESV). We don’t need Christmas to remind us, that Jesus came, and that He came to seek and to save the lost. There is no specific season to remember the grace of God – we can remember that every day.

Death and sin are the great levelers. The great and the good as well as the poor and the not so good will know these realities. It doesn’t matter how large or small a person’s ‘send-off’ is. Or whether in poor simplicity or with great pomp; they are equally dead just the same. The real question isn’t whether they are lost or not as we simply do not know. The real question is whether you are lost or not. If everyone were to be saved there would be no need for the Son of God to do any seeking. But He came, not only to seek, but to save. The wonder is by the Holy Spirit He is still seeking and saving. That doesn’t sit very well with our modern ‘can do’ independent sensibilities. But it’s something we are familiar with. Recruitment agencies ‘Headhunt’ the best candidates, usually for high-end positions. The Son of God is seeking sinners. That’s the only qualification He’s looking for – a realisation of sinfulness and of lostness.

Thankfully our lostness can be turned into foundness by the saving power of The Lord Christ. Many will know the first verse of John Newton’s hymn ‘Amazing Grace’. But if not, here it is:

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch; like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

One of the most well known stories Jesus told is the Prodigal (wasteful) son and how this son went into the far country. But his father looked for his son and eventually embraced him exclaiming, ‘For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate’ (Luke 15:24).

The theme of being lost and being found is a wonderful redemptive theme. Its wonder is found in the reality of what The Lord Jesus Christ has done for sinners. The Prodigal son was aware of his great unworthiness as he fell at the feet of his Father. It’s a great picture of poor lost unworthy sinners coming to Christ for salvation. And it’s to Him, and only to Him, we must come. As the Bible says ‘… there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). No one else has done what Christ has done to redeem sinners, and no one else is mighty to save.

It’s unlikely a celebrity will be reading this, but if you are one, then you too along with the poorest most unlikely sinners may and must flee to Christ. Then trusting only in His great Redeeming work upon the Cross like John Newton, and every other Christian through the ages, you may also be found instead of being lost.

Logic on Fire – Review by Carl Trueman

Today I was pointed to this review (Link Below) of the ‘Logic on Fire’ Documentary of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones. A really excellent review – and I agree with every single word. I didn’t realise it until Dr Trueman pointed it out, but it is done very well in the style of a Ken Burns documentary. I too will be watching this many times and will be encouraging others to watch it. The lessons are timeless.

This weekend I spent an afternoon watching the new DVD from Media Gratiae which is being promoted by Banner of Truth, Logic on Fire.  With this, and the Bannerman volume, in the space of two weeks, the Banner is at the top of its game.

Source: Logic on Fire

It’s available to buy in the UK HERE or HERE.

Logic on Fire – Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones Documentary

Lloyd-JonesLast evening we watched Logic on Fire – A documentary film about Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Just incredible! It showed very powerfully what is lacking today. If you haven’t you seen it, you need to see it! Especially if you are a preacher. It was a privilege and a blessing to watch it. I need to watch it again.
(Watch trailer below)

Almost everything that was said is antithetical to the direction of the Church today. I dread where it will be in 20 years. It always seems to be looking for something new, something relevant that will be attractive to people today. When will we understand that people are DEAD in trespasses and sins. Nothing, NOTHING but the power of God can give a sinner life. That is message that is reiterated over and over and over again in the Documentary and is what Dr Lloyd-Jones emphasised through his ministry because it is the message of the Bible itself.

We (my wife and I) came to faith on the coat-tails of that period. MLJ was still alive when I became a believer and his influence was still very powerful in the Church. In fact the Church I attended was heavily influenced by him. One of the founding members and his wife were personal friends of The Dr. I think he preached the opening sermon. The first minister of the Church (REFC) was Rev Kenneth Howard (more of him another time) and came highly recommended by Dr Lloyd-Jones. And I believe Peter Jeffery was also recommended or at least known by him – one of ‘Lloyd-Jones boys’ (will check facts for this).

There are some great contributions by many that knew him. And it was encouraging to see younger preachers being blessed and encouraged through his life and ministry.

If you have never heard him preach go to The MLJ Trust and download some of his sermons. They are timeless because The Gospel is timeless and still very powerful. I listened to one of the sermons recently and it could have been preached today even though it was preached 50 years ago.

Using Film as an Evangelistic Tool

I wrote a piece a few years ago for my own interest on the ‘evangelistic’ video ‘Who is this Jesus?’. I am in the process of listening to a series of podcasts by Dr Scott Clark on The Ten Commandments – the latest one I listened to is on Worshipping the Right God in the Right Way. Some of the discussion was on the ‘image’ of Jesus and it made me think of evangelistic films and this film in particular.

So here my scattered thoughts on the video. Hope you find it thought-provoking and helpful.

I sat and watched this video with a member of a church, where the church was intent on using it as a tool for evangelism. While watching I made a few notes, and typed the following scattered thoughts.

The principle behind the use of this video is this, ‘if it works it must be right’. It is my belief that this thinking is to say the least, unhelpful, particularly as you just cannot argue that because something works (i.e., people are converted) it is good or right. We are back again to the regulative principle, a principle that sections of the church would like to hold, but is unable to practice it in a media controlled world. We have to use only those means that God has given to the Church, regardless of – as far as we can tell – whether they ‘work’ or not. If they do not seem to work, then we should call upon the Lord to honour the means of His own appointing.

Some general comments on Video Use

1. Non-objective. It is a subjective use of images and editing.

2. Centred on man. What happens if the subject (the ‘celebrity’ star) i.e. the central character backslides or falls into serious sin? The charge then becomes the opposite of the original premise. That is, ‘look it works’ becomes ‘look it doesn’t work’. Man first, God second. Because of the way it is presented.

3. Relativism. It works for you, or the subject of the film. (See ‘Truth Decay’ p.163 The Hidden Dangers of Relevance) Subjective truth & Absolute truth.

4. Competing images. It tries to play the world at its own game. It will lose.

5. Manipulation. The (any) presentation will be highly scripted, not only this, but lighting, location, clothing, items in the room or ‘set’ etc. The whole presentation will be designed to manipulate the viewer. This is not the view of the apostle Paul and it shouldn’t be ours either.

6. Preaching is the presentation of objective truth. As Paul Cook recently (when I originally made the notes) said at a history lecture ‘we need to get back to preaching, and to believe in preaching’.

7. Many (not all) Media writers, I feel, would urge caution in the use of media where images are edited, scripted, and manipulated.

8. Theology. What is the theology (if any) of the Director and the Producer? This will influence the presentation.

9. Some Christians will argue for it because of the ‘well he uses it at school’ argument. So what has that to do with it?

10. Who is the intended audience? Again, this will greatly influence the production.

11. Is it really glorifying to God and his salvation.

12. ‘Documentary’ tends to give an authority that is probably not warranted.

13. Even if the video is very good, this is still no reason to use this type of method in evangelism.

14. The presenter is alive and likely to change. The presenter has been chosen, not for his spirituality, not for his gifts in exposition or preaching, but for his media personality, that he has a well-known face. In other words, media marketing is the name of the game.

The Video itself

Is it a documentary? Strictly speaking it is a ‘Docu-Drama’ as it utilises actors in playing a role, including playing the role of Jesus. It is a documentary in so much as it is attempting to communicate a series of propositions.

It may be worth noting that if this video presented the case for evolution, I suspect there would be stringent criticism of it.

The Use of Testimony.

You will notice that there is a housewife (a homemaker in these liberating days), a musician, a Rugby player, a care worker and a former gang member. Many differing faiths give the ‘convert’ a testimony. The whole use of testimony, to me is fraught with difficulty. It seems to be the opposite of ‘let me declare unto you this Jesus’. Instead we have ‘let me tell you what happened to me’. It very subtly shifts the centre of attention, from God to man.

Images and music used in the video.

Emotive use of music combined with images, or when talking of the cross.
If this were a ‘Billy Graham’ crusade, many churches would have nothing to do with it, as using emotive techniques to create a response. This video does exactly the same thing. This is particularly striking when Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane with use of emotive music and images. As Neil Postman states that the music is there to inform the viewer what emotions they should be feeling at the time.

Content of the video.

As far as I know, the geographical information is correct. However, it is worth mentioning that the Romans flattened Jerusalem in AD 70 putting the exact location of many places in doubt. I would however be more concerned about the message or should I say the lack of message. The gospel as far as I could tell was absent. The question then, is, what is the gospel? Some might say this video is nothing but a tool, a way to open people up, to make them willing to talk about spiritual truths. I commend the desire, but is this video really necessary in that case? Surely as we get to know people, opportunities will come, a word here, a word there, maybe an extended conversation that gives you a real God-given opportunity to ‘preach’ the gospel to them. Maybe they asked the question, what made you become a Christian? Then you can tell them. They will listen. Although the presenter talks of sin, we are never (as far as I could tell) told in necessary detail what it is. Nowhere is sin explained, or judgement (so as not to put people off presumably) or the nature of man. More seriously, the cross is only ever explained in terms of physical suffering and never in its spiritual sense. The physicality of it is far more emotive (making for good TV) than the spiritual aspect. This is quite deliberate. This is the serious point of the video. Any aspect of a filmed production has within it only those items that are meant to be there. It will be highly scripted, which I suppose explains the deliberate need for a professional actor (and actors).
The costumes were pretty poor, it has to be said, the hessian headgear looked brand new which to my mind made it pretty laughable.

We are told that many millions round the world believe. Is this really a valid argument, millions around the world are Catholics or Muslims, or Hindu’s, or Sikhs, or atheists for that matter! We have to stick to a propositional truth because it is truth, not because millions of others think it is true.

I can see what they are attempting in the video, and they are to be commended for their desire, but it is debatable as to what it is that they actually achieve. As for me, I think it is just another way of side-lining or denigrating preaching and further making us less likely to speak of The Lord Jesus Christ without the aid of a prop.

What says the scripture?

2 Corinthians 4:2-5

2 But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.

2 Corinthians 2:17 (also 2:14-17)

14 Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.
15 For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:
16 To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?
17 For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.

The following quotations are from ‘Amusing ourselves to death’ by Neil Postman.

P90 ‘…all television programmes are embedded in music, which helps to tell the audience what emotions are to be called forth’

P119 ‘…not all forms of discourse can be converted from one medium to another. It is naïve to suppose that something that has been expressed in one form can be expressed in another without significantly changing its meaning,…’

P124 ‘I believe I am not mistaken in saying that Christianity is a demanding and serious religion. When it is delivered as easy and amusing, it is another kind of religion altogether.’

Spurgeon Documentary – Free to watch online

There’s a Free to Watch (Streamed) documentary on C. H. Spurgeon, the great 19th Century preacher. Here’s the Blurb from the website.

The lives of millions of Christians around the world have been changed through the ministry of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. But how much do those of us who esteem him so highly really know about Charles Spurgeon, the man?

What were the events that shaped his life and made him the man who would be known as the Prince of Preachers? Through the Eyes of Spurgeon invites you to explore with us where and how Spurgeon lived, to follow his steps, to embrace the legacy he has left us.

Join us in seeing the world of Charles Spurgeon through his eyes.

You can watch the documentary HERE. Hat Tip to Jeremy Walker – one of the contributors.