Sunday, August 9, 2009

Classical Vs Model Christianity?

By J. Lee Grady

We need voices from the past—like Andrew Murray, Corrie Ten Boom and Charles Spurgeon—to help us find our way to the future.

During a visit with my parents in Georgia, two of my daughters asked if they could listen to a tape recording my father made in 1962 when I was only 4 years old. So my dad rummaged through some drawers and found the old reel-to-reel tape, which was amazingly still intact. Then he went to the garage and found the old Realistic tape player that no one in the family had used since the Nixon administration.

To our surprise the scratchy tape actually played without breaking, and my girls laughed when they heard mein a babyish Southern drawldescribing a Florida vacation and a fishing trip with my grandfather. After my "interview," it switched to an older recording made in 1956. It included a conversation with my dad's mother, who died before I was born.

It was eerie to hear her voice. I'd never heard it before yet it sounded hauntingly familiar. After that brief segment of the tape ended we listened to comments from my other three grandparentsall of whom died in the 1960s or 1970s. Their voices unearthed long-buried but fond memories.

These sounds from the past reminded me of some other distant voices I have been listening to recently. They are the voices of dead Christianswriters of classic books and songs that we are close to forgetting today.

Their names are probably somewhat familiar to you. Jonathan Edwards. John Wesley. Charles Finney. Catherine Booth. Andrew Murray. Evans Roberts. Charles Spurgeon. Fanny Crosby. E.M. Bounds. Watchman Nee. A.W. Tozer. William Seymour. A.B. Simpson. Corrie Ten Boom. Leonard Ravenhill. Fuchsia Pickett.

All of them could be labeled revivalists. All challenged the Christians of their generation to embrace repentance and humility. They understood a realm of spiritual maturity and a depth of character that few of us today even aspire to obtain.

When I read their words I feel much the same way I did after hearing my grandparents' voices on that old tape. I feel as if I am tapping into a realm of spirituality that is on the verge of extinction.

What was the secret of these great Christians who left their legacies buried in their books? They considered humility, selflessness and sacrifice the crowning virtues of the Christian journey. They called the church to die to selfishness, greed and ambition. They knew what it means to carry a "burden" for lost souls. They saw the glories of the kingdom and demanded total surrender. They challenged God's people to pursue obedienceeven if obedience hurts.

Even their hymns reflected a level of consecration that is foreign in worship today. They sang often of the cross and its wonder. Their worship focused on the blood and its power. They sang words of heart-piercing conviction: "My richest gain I count but loss / And pour contempt on all my pride / Forbid it Lord that I should boast / Save in the death of Christ, My God."

In so many churches today the cross is not mentioned. The blood is avoided because we don't want to offend visitors. And worship is often a canned performance that involves plenty of rhythm and orchestration but little or no substance. We can produce noise, but often there is no heart ... and certainly no tears.

In the books Christians buy today you will find little mention of brokenness. We are not interested in a life that might require suffering, patience, purging or the discipline of the Lord. We want our blessings ... and we want them now! So we look for the Christian brand of spiritualized self-help that is quick and painless.

We're running on empty. We think we are sophisticated, but like the Laodiceans we are actually poor, blind and naked. We need to return to our first love but we don't know where to begin the journey.

These voices from the past will help point the way. I've found myself drawn to reading books by Ravenhill, Ten Boom, Murray and Spurgeon in recent days. I've even pulled out an old hymnal and rediscovered the richness of songs that I had thrown out years agobecause I thought anything old couldn't possibly maintain a fresh anointing.

I realize now that I must dig for this buried treasure. We will never effectively reach our generation if we don't reclaim the humility, the brokenness, the consecration and the travail that our spiritual forefathers considered normal Christianity.

J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma. He is sharing some of his favorite quotes from these classic books on Twitter. You can find him at leegrady.

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Temi said...

Our sophisticated and corporate-like approach to Christianity is indeed a hinderance to our spiritual vibrancy.

Anonymous said...

I read this and it reflected what has been on my spirit man for some time now. I believe we all need to go back to the faith of our fathers. As the bible put it lets return back to our individual Bethel's it's so easy to get so caught up in our day to day living trying to make ends meet that we may actually forget the things that are really important.


Anonymous said...

Very True.......I resolved that we start singing Hymns at our daily family morning devotions as i suddenly realised the children could grow up without knowing it ever existed........I must say its been a very rich experience especially when you ponder on the lyrics and the truth and the power that lies therein.......the kids love it too (its like where has this been all this while).......this whole thing is a decision we have to make for be the Christians we are called to be.


Lagos, Nigeria

Akin said...

Some of those hymns were borne out of tragic life experiences and while some were composed as a result of deep personal conviction in the saving grace of our Lord and Savior. Take for instance a few of the hymns:

It is Well With My Soul:
Horatio G. Spafford was an attorney in Chicago during the year of 1874. He and his family were members of the Fullerton Avenue Presbyterian Church. Spafford and his wife had learned what it meant to completely trust God in every situation. First their only son died and then in 1871 most of their personal property were burned in the great Chicago fire. But their greatest testing came in 1874. Mrs. Spafford and their four daughters boarded the French ship "Villa de Havre" on their way to England. But just off the coast of Ireland the ship sank with 226 persons losing their lives. Horatio finally received a cable sent by his wife. It read "saved alone." As he traveled to England to comfort his wife, he was able again to gain his strength from God with the verse, "All things work together for good to them that love the Lord" (Rom 8:28) He then penned the words to our hymn "It Is Well with My Soul." (The tune was written by Phillip Bliss.)

I Surrender All:
Van De Venter was involved in his church through counseling and personal work when his friends urged him to give up teaching and become an evangelist. For five years he wavered in his decision. He wrote: "At last the pivotal hour of my life came and I surrendered all. A new day was ushered into my life. I became an evangelist and discovered down deep in my soul a talent hitherto unknown to me. God had hidden a song in my heart, and a touching chord He caused me to sing songs I had never sung before." Shortly after this time J. W. Van De Venter wrote the hymn, "I Surrender All."

Amazing Grace:
Imagine back to the year 1746. A ship is docking on the coast of West Africa. Its purpose is to snatch unsuspecting people and sell them as slaves in the far off countries. The captain of this ship is known far and wide for his debauchery, vulgarity and blasphemy. But one day in 1748, while reading the book "The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas a Kempis, our captain comes face to face with his sin and turns his life over to Jesus, the Savior of sinners. Our captain is John Newton. After his conversion and dedication to Christ, he became a pastor and hymn writer. His most famous of hymns, "Amazing Grace", is a testimonial of his conversion to Christ.

Abide With Me:
Henry F. Lyte was a man who greatly loved the Lord with his whole being. He came up with the saying, “It is better to wear out than to rust out,” and it perfectly described his life.
During the last 23 years of his life he pastored a poor church in England. His always suffered from poor health but during this time his health started to decline even more. Finally on September 4, 1847 he preached his last sermon to his congregation. He was in need of the warmer climate of Italy. His final sermon made a deep impression to his congregation. It has been described that he had to practically crawl up to the pulpit that day. He said during his sermon that it was his desire to “induce you to prepare for the solemn hour which must come to all by a timely appreciation and dependence on the death of Christ.” He never was able to make his trip to Italy, he died on the journey. Shortly before preaching his last sermon he wrote the words and tune to the hymn, “Abide With Me.” He based his hymn on the text which tells the story of Christ on the way to Emmaus and the disciples statement, “Abide with us: for it is toward evening and the day is far spent.” Later William Monk wrote a new tune for the hymn. During a time of personal sorrow, he was inspired by the beauty of the magnificent sunset.

These folks did not compose these hymns to either make money, top the charts, or win a Grammy. They did it simply because they were moved by the Lord to do so.

May God revive, and rekindle His fire in, us all.