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Lowell Brueckner

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Pepper and Salt 6


Friday, I received the following message on Skype: “We were invited to a round-table meeting, in which, we were told, there would be a study. We went to receive something from God. We went with our Bibles, but what we discovered was a discussion about marketing and planting churches. It was sad, cold, professional and intelectual. They put everything in today’s context, assuming that everything has changed since Bible times.

At the end, the chairman said that we should think about something we would do from now on and what we shouldn’t do. A young man, who came with us, raised his hand and said, ‘What I am going to do is to seek the old paths and pray for God’s guidance.’ He was immediately cut off. I wanted to say, ‘I think what we need is revival.’ What a shame! I wish I would have said it! What would Jesus have said, if He were there?”

I wrote back: “Welcome to 21st Century evangelicalism! What you experienced is the work of man that does not permit anything from God’s part to enter in. I’m going to post you an article on revival, in which God does not permit anything from man to enter in!”

That will serve as an introduction to our sixth document of the writings of a man of God, contradicting what he found in the church before he died in 1986. Has the spiritual life of the church improved since then? I also suggest you listen to this man's voice as he delivers a sermon, Getting Used to the Dark...

Vance Havner 1901-1986
Pepper and Salt 6

Concentrating on the dedicated minority

I have read of a battle where the flag got far ahead of the soldiers. An officer called back to his superior and asked, “Shall we bring the flag back to the regiment?” “No,” came the reply, “make the regiment catch up with the flag!” The New Testament standard is far ahead of most of the church today. It is true that we have all kinds of people at various stages of spiritual development in our fellowships. But we must not lower the standard to the poorest level of our membership. When Gideon’s three hundred won their battle the larger numbers who had not joined them in the conflict fell in at last and shared in the victory. We must major on our dedicated minority these days and not accommodate our program to the host who are not ready for spiritual warfare. But we can hope that in the triumph of the faithful few, many of these laggards will change their minds and join us.

Scaring people into heaven

My father was converted by the preaching of a hair-raising sermon on the text, “He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” (Proverbs 29:1). It scared him into the Kingdom of God. Such preaching is discouraged these days but it is better to scare men into heaven than to lull them into hell. Better shocked than stupefied!

Marrying the church and the world

Charles H. Spurgeon dared to say, “Many would unite church and stage, cards and prayer, dancing and sacraments. If we are powerless to stem this torrent, we can at least warn men of its existence and entreat them to stay out of it.” A. J. Gordon dared to say, “The notion having grown up that we must entertain men in order to win them to Christ, every invention for world-pleasing which human ingenuity can devise has been brought forward till the churches have been turned into play-houses and there is hardly a carnal amusement that can be named from billiards to dancing which does not find a nesting place in Christian sanctuaries. Is it then Pharisaism or pessimism… to predict that at the present fearful rate of progress, the close of this century may see the Protestant church as completely assimilated to nineteenth-century secularism as the Roman Catholic Church was assimilated to fourth-century paganism? We smile at that today, but we are not overstocked with Spurgeons and Gordons.

Augustine told us long ago how this marriage of the professing church and the world came about. “It seemed good to our leaders,” he declared, to favor the weakness of pagan converts so that heathen festivals were joined with Christian holy days “which they might celebrate with similar luxury though not with the same impiety.” The same strategy prevails to this day on the old argument that the end justifies the means. This, of course, fits into the program of a modernized Catholicism and an apostate Protestantism in the world church of the last days.

Spiritual segregation

God’s chosen people in the Old Testament were a segregated people and His purchased people in the New Testament were bidden not to integrate with this world. This is not physical separation, for we must live among the souls we are to evangelize. We are to be utterly distinct in spirit. Our approach, our motives and objectives and attitudes toward everything must be totally different, for we have the mind of Christ. This goes deeper than non-participation in dancing, card-playing, social drinking. Paul lists the incompatibles that take in everything. Righteousness and unrighteousness: Today these have become not merely relative but nonexistent in the modern mind… “the new morality” proves that! Light and darkness: When light comes in, darkness goes out… today a twilight has been created, neither day nor night, and men creep around in conditions of low visibility. Christ and Belial: No “concord” there… today some thinkers would include the world in the church but the world’s friend is God’s enemy. The temple of God and idols: We have let Jezebel set up her altar to Baal beside the altar of Jehovah, mix the mystery of iniquity with the mystery of godliness. We need a new segregation of the church but the swing is entirely in the other direction of integration with the age. Thereby the church loses her identity and merges into the society she was meant to change. Of course it is part of the program of Antichrist, but God will have His faithful few in Sardis who shall walk with Him in white, for they are worthy.

Building sepulchers

The prophet’s greatest enemy is usually the top brass in his field. Billy Mitchell was court-martialed in his day because he saw beyond his contemporaries in aviation. He was granted a posthumous award. That reminds us of our Lord’s biting words to the Pharisees who built tombs for the prophets and garnished the sepulchers of the righteous whom their forefathers slew) Matthew 23:29-31). Amos had his Amaziah and the early church had to cont4nd with the religious hierarchy. And our Lord had His greatest controversy continually with scribes and Pharisees. Whether in the world or in the church, look out for the swivel-chair authorities who murder prophets in one generation and memorialize them in the next!

Getting under people’s skin

Years ago, when I was pastor of the old First Baptist Church in Charleston, South Carolina, I preached the commencement sermon once and conducted chapel several times at the Citadel, the military college. The Commandant was General Summerall, once Chief of Staff, a fine old soldier. I remember that he turned to me after one of the services and said simply, “You get under these boys’ skins.” I have wished many times since to be the kind of preacher who would always do just that. Too much preaching nowadays pats the back and tickles the ear, but does not get under the skin. There is no conviction and therefore no conversion. I am thinking not only of the ministry of reproof and rebuke but also of the message of inspiration, of encouragement, of comfort. People go out of church at noon with the depths unstirred, the heart untouched, the conscience unpricked. Of course, it is dangerous preaching at times. When Stephen preached, the people were cut to the heart and he died for it. He got under the skin. Paul was good at getting under the skin and the world gave him no plaques or dinner in his honor. And the Greatest of all got under so many skins that the crowds crucified Him. He set the example and His gospel does no good until it gets under the skin.

Not the ways of modern publicity

Our Lord would have been the despair of any modern publicity agent. The first thirty years of His life are hidden in almost complete silence. Often, when He performed a miracle, He requested that it not be publicized. The private instruction of His disciples was largely in the mystery teaching of parables… not heavenly stories with an earthly meaning, as they are often described, but a form of teaching designed to hide the truth from those for whom it was not intended, while revealing it to those for whom it was meant. Our Lord’s brothers wanted Him to go up to Jerusalem where He would be noticed, but He went up secretly. The transfiguration was not revealed to a crowd and the Last Supper was hidden from the public. What a time the high-pressure image-makers would have had getting my Lord into the spotlight!

And what shall we say of the greatest event of all, the resurrection? That would have made the greatest publicity extravaganza of all time. Why didn’t the risen Savior appear before Herod and Caiaphas and Pilate and preach in Jerusalem? Josephus could have written it up. It would have accomplished in an instant what we have labored for centuries to prove… and the world doesn’t believe it yet. But He appeared only to His Disciples. Nobody but believers saw Him. This world never had a glimpse of Him. To this day true Christians are a secret order in a blatant, noisy world. The greatest secret of all time has been confided to us. We have paganized Easter as though anybody could crash in on the resurrection. And yet it is not a secret to be hidden, but a story to be heralded. We can enter into the experience of it, live in the power of it, anticipate the complete fulfillment of it, and in the meantime spread the good news of it. Festus described Paul’s ministry as being concerned with “one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive” (Acts 25:19). That is it! A secret to possess, a story to proclaim, and above all, Someone to present. For He is the Resurrection and the Life.


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