Hell, the Modern Mind, and the Gospel

The quote below is taken from Martyn Lloyd-Jones Romans series (Romans 7:1 – 8:4) published by Banner of Truth (pg. 159-160).

“Hell is just unthinkable to the modern mind. No intelligent person ever talks about hell, we are told; no decent person talks about hell. It is ridiculed and dismissed as being totally incompatible with a God of love. That is how sin speaks. Sin, as an angel of light, talks much about the love of God. It will talk about anything in order to get you to close your eyes to the consequences of your actions, and the end to which they lead, and especially to the death, the eternal death, in which they are going to issue.”

“To see the deceivableness and deceitfulness of sin at its very zenith, listen to what it says about the Cross of Christ on Calvary’s hill. Alas! How often is false doctrine heard in so-called Christian pulpits! Preachers say, ‘What is the meaning of that death, that Cross? It is nothing but a great exhibition, a tableau, of the love of God. Do not talk about substitutionary atonement. Do not talk about the righteousness and justice of God. Do not say that God was there punishing His Son in order that we might be freely forgiven. Do not talk about the wrath of God, do not talk about propitiation. It is all love; there is no punishment. God is a God of love; so live as you like; all will go to heaven at the end.’ That is how sin talks in its deceivableness and deceitfulness. Universalism! All are going to be saved; there is no division of mankind into the ‘saved’ and the ‘lost’. Even out of the Cross of Christ – the most glorious event the world has ever seen, where God was revealing His eternal justice and righteousness by punishing His own Son, and not sparing Him anything – even out of that they take the glory in order to deceive us about the whole function of the Law, and the very character of God Himself. That is how sin deceives us by giving us one side of the picture only.”

For more resources by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, please check out the MLJ Trust. Here is a link to MLJ’s sermon on Romans 7.

Romans 1 and the Mind

By Landon Jones

Romans 1:18-32 are some of the most profound verses in all of Scripture. In it the wrath of God as it relates to the unbelieving world is underscored. God’s justice in his dealings with incessant disobedience is part of the glory of God. The justice of God is a picture of the divine nature itself, and it is what causes God’s love and grace to shine brighter. In other words, divine justice is part of God’s essential being. Justice and righteousness go hand in hand, and if God lacked either, he would not be God.

In these verses, Paul places special emphasis on God dealing with disobedience. As a just God, He hates sin. But how exactly is God’s hatred of sin made manifest? Paul makes plain that God’s holy revulsion against both the sinner and his sin expresses itself within the man’s mind. First, I would make the case that verses 18-32 refer to the unbelieving world as a whole and not only to pre-law or post-law gentiles. Verse 18 implies that God’s wrath is an ever-present, all-pervasive reality that is revealing itself against “all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom. 1:18). Wrath is a right-now reality, not something that is merely eschatological. Since unbelievers from all times and places are, by definition, unrighteous and ungodly (“none is righteous, no, not one” Rom. 3:10), it follows naturally that those described in verses 18-32 are characteristic of unbelievers everywhere. The Holy Spirit inspired these words that we as believers may know more of the nature of unbelievers as a whole, not merely the nature of unbelievers of a particular time. Therefore, we may also know more of this dreadful, faithless condition which God has graciously freed us from through his own Son’s blood. By these words we may know more of the greatness of God and our own salvation. We see that while God has given some over to their sin (Rom. 1:24; 26; 28), yet He has given us over to the Savior (John. 10:29). In both of these “givings” God remains entirely righteous. God may before their conversion give His elect over to sin for a time, but He certainly will not leave them there. They are foreknown, loved, and treasured by a God who, like His love, has neither beginning or end. They will most certainly receive and embrace Christ by faith at the exact moment that the Father has ordained for them to do so.

The first instance of God’s judgment on man is in the first verse of this unit: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Rom. 1:18). Sinners suppress the truth in unrighteousness as a result of God’s wrath against them. Truth is what is being shunned and suppressed. God’s wrath is immediately and particularly targeted at the mind, the intellect of the unrepentant. Truth is understood in the mind before it is felt in the heart. Therefore, God’s judgment on the mind in turn prevents truth’s ability to affect the heart. Man’s heart is why he is in trouble with his Creator. The lost persons deepest and most serious problem is his own rebellion against and hatred of the holy God that made him. Or as Paul says, it is this lack of honoring and giving thanks to God despite having received a God-given, crystal clear picture of His own nature as perceived through the creation (Rom. 1:20). Verse 21 confirms this same idea of how the head leads the heart. Because they did not honor the God they knew, “they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom. 1:21). The pattern is the same. Their mind, their “thinking” is corrupted, and this inevitably leads to the corruption and darkening of the heart. A bad heart is always the product of a bad mind. The overflow of the heart dictates the course of the mouth (Matt. 12:34), and it is surely true that from the overflow of the mind and what it believes and understands will determine the condition of the heart.  

The last and most severe manifestation of God’s wrath lashed out upon man and his mind is found in verse 28: “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Rom. 1:28). Here they are guilty of ignoring and neglecting the true God and preferring various idols in exchange for both the glory of God and the truth about Him. By constant disobedience and suppression of God’s clear revelation, they have made themselves doubly undeserving. They have provoked one of the most awful judgments of God that can be experienced on earth: his abandonment. What really makes Hell so dreadful is not the pain of the flames, but the absence of God’s gracious presence alongside the presence of His wrath. That is what’s going on here. Although not Hell itself, they are given a foretaste of Hell whenever God on earth withdraws even more of His restraining grace from them. God’s response to this disobedience is another mind-targeted judgment. They are given over by God to a debased mind to do the things that God hates. The pattern remains: first the mind is influenced, then the heart. God only has to judge the already-evil mind of man to set him on a dark course of a sin-saturated existence apart from the life and goodness of God. Without sinning himself, God judges them by giving them over to commit their desired sins more frequently and freely. It’s important to note that God is passive, not active in this whole interchange. That is to say, God does not actively place evil in their hearts to make them sin more. Their hearts are already evil. Instead, God passively loosens His sin-restraining grip over their lives. This is all He needs to do to complete His judgment. 

The simple antidote to a corrupt mind is the power of the Holy Spirit as it works in one’s mind and heart through the Word of God. The Word of God is the instrument by which God has caused our rebirth. It carries within itself regenerating and sanctifying power. It is the sole and sufficient remedy to every sin problem Romans 1 presents. We are called, therefore, to a “renewing of our minds” and to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”(Rom. 12:2; 2nd Pet. 3:18). We are to think and meditate regularly about God and Christ and the glory of our salvation which is the essence of what is lovely, commendable, excellent, and praise-worthy (Phil. 4:8). And to the end that our hearts would be awakened with strong affections for God, we are exhorted, “Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2). God knows that more than anything that we need a biblically-saturated mind, which produces a heart that magnifies God. The God-breathed and Holy Spirit-inspired Word is God’s gift to us as the only sufficient antidote that can cure man’s natural enmity against God (Rom. 8:7). With the Scriptures always in our hearts and minds, we will be made more like Him. And that is the believers one true goal.

Landon Jones is a student at ULM with interests in Theological Studies. He has plans to go seminary upon graduation. Follow him on Instagram @_landonjones_.

Who rules Christ’s Church?

From Martin Bucer’s Concerning the True Care of Souls,

“It is He Himself (Christ) who rules His church, He feeds it, He cares for it, He brings to it those wandering sheep which are still astray; and those which are already in His church He watches over, leads and provides for them, so that they may be daily purified more and more from sins and all the sadness which is brought about by sins, that they may be saved and continually led on and encouraged to grow in piety and blessedness. And the Lord conducts and exercises this rule in the house of Jacob, that is, in the church, eternally; He is and dwells with His people until the end of the world – although not in a tangible sense or in the way of this world, which He has left behind, but nonetheless truly and actually. He acts as a King in His kingdom, a Master with His disciples, a faithful Shepherd with His flock, a Bridegroom with His bride, a Doctor with those who are ill, One who bestows discipline on those who need it.” (pg.13)

David Platt – “Shepherd the Flock of God”

1. Do you love your ministry more than you love Jesus?

2. Are you content to care for the congregation that God has entrusted to you?

3. Is pastoring a job for you to perform or a passion for you to fulfill?

4. Are you pridefully concerned about what others think about you or humbly consumed by what God has called you to?

5. Are you driven by what you get in ministry or by what you give in ministry?

6. Is your leadership based on intimidation of others?

7. Is your life worthy of imitation of others?

8. Does the way you pastor make no sense on this earth and total sense in eternity?

Q&A with Dave Jenkins (The Word Explored)

Dave’s new book The Word Explored is published by H&E Publishing. Purchase a copy here. Follow Dave on Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. He also started Servants of Grace Ministries.

Evan: Tell us about yourself to our audience?

Dave: Hi everybody at Deep South Reformation! My name is Dave Jenkins, and I’m honored to be with you today. Thank you, Evan, for the kind invitation. I’m happily married to my beautiful wife Sarah, who is also my best friend. We’ve been married fourteen and a half years and live in beautiful Southern Oregon near the county seat of Douglas Country—Roseburg! 

I was saved by the grace of God at the age of five and first felt a call to ministry at the age of six. At the age of nineteen, I started Servants of Grace Ministries on August 2, 2000. We began as a small blog that I had started in high school as an email list to encourage my fellow high schoolers. Now twenty-one years later, we are a multi-media ministry with a digital magazine, over three hundred writers all over the world, and have many podcasts and resources. These resources are all aimed at helping the local church and Christians be grounded in the Word of God and serve in the local church.

I have a Bachelor of Science in Religion with an emphasis in biblical studies, a Masters of Arts in Religion with an emphasis in biblical studies, and a Masters of Divinity in Ministry from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.

Evan: What led to you writing this book?

Dave: Over the last twenty years, I’ve had many opportunities to write and speak about the Bible. It’s no small thing to say, but even back then, coming out of high school in 2000 and getting first involved in leading ministries as a college student, I saw biblical illiteracy, which was one reason I started Servants of Grace. It’s safe to say that The Word Explored is the culmination of twenty years of thinking and teaching the Bible in various contexts. 

Over those years, I’ve realized that one big thing for Christians is that they may understand how to read the Bible, but they don’t know why they read the Bible or why we do life in the local church. In The Word Explored, I aim to help people discover how to read the Bible and why they read the Bible and do life with fellow Christians in the local church.

The heart of the book aims to help people love the Lord who has given His people a book in the Scriptures. So, I’m aiming at three things to help people: To love the Word, to love His Church, and to love His people. These three things are vital because what they do is help the Christian see that reading the Bible is more than something to check off their daily spiritual to-do list, but something they get to enjoy and delight in because God loves His Word, His people, and His Church. So, I wrote the book to help people discover why we read, study, memorize, meditate, apply the Bible, and why and how we do life with God’s people in the local church. 

My hope with the book is that the average Christian up to the mature Christian will find help for their walk with God and discover that God delights in His Word and that His Word is the means that the Spirit uses to help the people of God grow in the grace of God.

Evan: What were some things that shaped you through your study?

Dave: Reading and studying God’s Word myself and ministering to people. I know that sounds simple, but it’s just the truth. The best books are written over many years of studying the topic and then ministering those truths that you’ve learned to other people in the local church. Then you have enough knowledge, and life experience to perhaps Lord-willing write a helpful book that will be helpful to others.

Evan: How do you think that we got here with Biblical Illiteracy?

Dave: In the 1970s through the ’90s (and continuing), you had the seeker-sensitive movement, which was a good movement that focused on evangelism. The problem became that so many people were getting saved in churches that focused on this approach to ministry, but they weren’t discipled. So, people left the church because they didn’t know what they believed and why it was important. Then the Emerging Church happened in the ’90s as a response to the Seeker Sensitive movement. The Emerging Church started as a conversation about making disciples. The problem with the Emerging Church was that that conversation quickly became divorced from God’s Word as they denied essential doctrines that define and give shape to biblical orthodoxy.

I bring those two examples up because of what they show. A desire to reach the lost in evangelism and to disciple Christians are two good things. The problem is that the Seeker Sensitive movement focused on evangelism apart from discipleship and the Emerging Church divorced itself from biblical Christianity. 

What both show us in regards to biblical illiteracy is that we are far too often in the Church swinging from one theological trend to another rather than grounding our lives and ministries in God’s Word. God’s Word is the fountain for the Christian life. God uses the Word in the life of the Christian to teach them the truth because God the Holy Spirit indwells the Christian and empowers them to make disciples who make disciples from the Word.

Evan: What troubled you most with the statistics of Biblical Illiteracy?

Dave: They reveal that Christians have very little understanding of the major themes and events of the Bible. When we talk about biblical illiteracy, what we are talking about isn’t knowing all the details of the Bible. That is important also and can take time. What I’m talking about concerning biblical literacy is knowing the major events and themes of the Bible. The statistics show us that people don’t understand creation, salvation, and more or think that the purpose of life is marriage. This shows us that we need to stop being swayed to and fro by everything, but instead, ground our lives in the Word of God and be learners of God’s Word. Every Christian is to be a disciple of God’s Word, so every Christian is to continue to read, study, memorize, meditate, and apply God’s Word so they can be useful to God.

I don’t know a single Christian who doesn’t want to be useful to the Lord. The evangelical world has focused for so long on our witness (what we do with our faith) rather than on character development. Again, this is an example of biblical illiteracy because the New Testament holds in tension our character and witness. Our character and our witness are held in tension in the New Testament, which is why it’s not first our witness, nor is it our character, but our character informs our fuels our witness. We have to get in the Word so the Holy Spirit will use the Word as a sword to help us grow and change to be effective servants of Christ who display the fruits of the Spirit in our lives and ministries.

Evan: You did a helpful job at pointing out the life of the local church. What has encouraged you most in some of the responses to your book from readers?

Dave: Thank you, that means a lot. I’ve been very blessed by the response and deeply encouraged. It’s a scary thing to put a book out into the world and for everyone to be able to read it. That said, I’ve been encouraged by the response and humbled by it. I’m thankful that people are reading it and finding it to be helpful.

In particular, I’ve been encouraged by pastors’ responses who have said that they will get copies for the people in their congregations. That means a lot to me because I wrote this book for the average person in the pew who needs to understand how to read the Bible and do life in the local church and why we read Scripture and do life in the local church.

Evan: Any other thoughts?

Dave: One of the last things I’d say is that I’m aiming to help readers of my book read the Bible 5-10 minutes a day. I’m not looking for you to start at one hour or several hours. I’m advocating 5-10 minutes, whether that’s reading or listening to the Bible. Please get in the Word, discover who God is and what He is like, and His redemptive plan from Genesis to Revelation.

If you get a chance, buy his book! It is a great work. He is a kind brother and a good friend. Dave also appeared on the BAR podcast recently. Take a listen here.

We only get one life and it will soon pass. Only what is done for Christ will last!