Saturday, February 23, 2008

Hall of Faith and Spiritual Depression

Another of my "Hall of Faith" is David Martyn Lloyd-Jones. After leaving medicine in 1927, Dr. Lloyd-Jones became the minister of a Welsh Presbyterian Church in Aberavon, South Wales. He was there until 1938, when he moved to London to share the ministry of Westminster Chapel in Buckingham Gate with Dr. G. Campbell Morgan, who retired in 1943. His ministry lasted for thirty years until He retired in August 1968. He then engaged in a wider preaching ministry and in writing until shortly before his death in 1981.

Dr. Morgan and Dr. Lloyd-Jones' association was a fitting example of how Christians can work together even when they differ on secondary issues.

Dr. G. Campbell Morgan was an Arminian and his Bible exposition, though famous, did not deal in the great doctrines of the Reformation.

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was in the tradition of Spurgeon, Whitefield, the Puritans and the Reformers.

Yet the two men respected each other's positions and talents and their brief partnership, until Campbell Morgan died at the end of the war, was peaceful and much furthered the work of Christ in London.

From reading his books, I have learned that Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who did not approach the Bible from a dispensational perspective, states in his book, Revival, "Let us not forget that the camp of Israel was the, then, church of God. In the Old Testament the nation of Israel was the church in the wilderness." (Page 166)

One of his famous quotes:
"If I may say so in passing, the thing that has given me greatest pleasure, and greatest encouragement of all the things I have ever been told that people say about my ministry, is this. It was said by a lady, who remonstrated, and said, 'This man preaches to us as if we were sinners!' Quite so. You see, you must not be searched, you must not be examined, you are all right. Of course, denounce those sinners who are outside, or those liberals, but, why, we are the people who are orthodox! We do not need that, we need instruction. We want these general lectures, these addresses, these character studies. How interesting, how nice. But we must not be disturbed. There is nothing wrong with us. And so such people, as you see everywhere in the Bible and in the history of the Church, have always disliked anything that searches them, or makes them feel uncomfortable, or probes them."
Dr. Lloyd-Jones was brought up in Welsh Calvinistic Methodism, first as a boy in Wales and then as a teenager and student in London, when the Charing Cross Chapel, which his family attended. If you have never heard of the Calvinistic Methodists the very term may seem contradictory. Because of his spiritual foundations in that movement it would be wise to take some time to hear an explanation of that denomination from Martyn Lloyd-Jones himself. Though he did not truly found it, Welsh Calvinistic Methodism finds its roots in George Whitefield. During the mid 1700's the churches of Great Britain could be divided into two main camps. The Methodist branch (under John Wesley) was Arminian meaning they emphasized man's free will. The Presbyterian and Congregationalist were Calvinistic meaning they emphasized the sovereignty of God in salvation. Both of these camps had their problems. The Methodist ignored the nature of the doctrines of Grace and the need for depraved man to be regenerated by the effectual call of God. On the other hand the Calvinists (including many Baptists) had become hyper-Calvinistic meaning they began to deny the free offer of the gospel to all men and the need for evangelism and missions. In many ways Calvinistic Methodism sought the best of both sides. These Welsh Christians were thorough believers in the doctrines of Grace. Unlike their English counterparts, however, they did not believe that being Calvinistic means ignoring one's heart and emotions. They were aware of what George Whitefield called a "felt Christ."

Lloyd-Jones rightly notes that right doctrine apart from this "felt" Christ had inherent problems. The Welsh church saw a need to return to Bible preaching rather preaching of doctrinal statements, Catechism and Confessions. One other great concern of the Calvinistic Methodist Church was revival. For that reason Lloyd-Jones observed that he believed that Jonathan Edwards was in his heart a Calvinistic Methodist.

While the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Church had itself grown cold by the time of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, it history played an important part in formulating his life and ministry.

"The Doctor" reintroduced in his preaching ministry the need for careful, expository preaching. He restored to Great Britain what it had known under Spurgeon and that was a hungering for the unfettered Word of God itself over liturgy and religious form. The British expositor Martyn Lloyd-Jones have said ''In a sense, a depressed Christian is a contradiction in terms'' Dr. Jones does a marvelous job of breaking down each of these traits found in those in the doldrums and sheds the light of Scripture on each as he takes a solely Christian look at the root of these problems and how to deal with them biblically. Dr. Jones explains that by living according to God's pattern, by thinking according to God's pattern and by feeling according to God's pattern, right attitudes, right thoughts, right actions. You have to police your life and your action ultimately will control your stability. That means you have to be disciplined.

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in writing his book on Spiritual Depression, of course he was a medical doctor, he was a physician to the queen before he felt the call of God to preach and teach the Word of God. And he suggested that this matter of looking at God's power coming into action at the end of our resources was similar to the issue of health. He put it this way, he said, "Health is something that results from right living. Health cannot be obtained directly or immediately or in and of itself. There is a sense in which I am prepared to say that a man should not think of his health as such at all. Health is the result of right living. And I say exactly the same thing about this question of power in our Christian lives."

"I suggest that the main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression is this, that we allow ourself to talk to us instead of talking to ourself. . . . Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?" ([Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965], p. 20).

"Now we believe that God extends His Kingdom partly through His people and we know that He has often times done some of the most notable things in the history of the church through the simple Christian living of some quite ordinary people. Nothing is more important, therefore, than that we should be delivered from a condition which gives other people looking at us the impression that to be a Christian means to be unhappy, to be sad, to be morbid and that the Christian is one who scorns delights and lives laborious days"

"I defy you to read the life of any saint that has ever adorned the life of the church without seeing at once that the greatest characteristic in the life of that saint was discipline and order. Invariably it is the universal characteristic of all the outstanding men and women. Read about Henry Martin, David Brainerd, Jonathan Edwards, the brothers Wesley and Whitfield, read their journals. It does not matter what branch of the church they belong to, they have all disciplined their lives and have insisted upon the need for this and obviously it is something that is thoroughly scriptural and absolutely essential"

But what's a Christian to do to effectively combat spiritual depression (but not get bogged down with the guilt of it all)?

Believing that Christian joy was one of the most potent factors in the spread of Christianity in the early centuries, Lloyd-Jones reveals the causes that have robbed you of your spiritual vitality and shows you how to find complete joy through the mind and spirit of Christ. Based on 21 sermons that the author preached at the Westminster Chapel in London. 300 pages, softcover from Eerdmans.

Lloyd-Jones addressing the following issues that many who are downcast find themselves afflicted by:
* Lack of a foundation in Christ
* Lack of clarity
* Poor spiritual balance between the mind, heart, and will
* Inability to receive forgiveness for all their sins
* Inability to move beyond past failures
* Fear of the future
* Placing too much confidence in emotions
* Faulty love of oneself and a general contempt for others
* Lack of faith
* Seeing only bad and not good
* Bondage to dead legalism
* Failing to recognize false teachings
* Weariness
* Lack of discipline
* Failure to handle trials appropriately
* Failure to respond correctly to chastening
* Bitterness

"Faith, having refused to be controlled by circumstances, reminds itself of what it believes and what it knows.... Whatever your circumstances at this moment, bring all you know to be true of your relationship to God to bear upon it. Then you will know full well that He will never allow anything to happen to you that is harmful. 'All things work together for good to them that love God'.... I do not suggest that you will be able to understand everything that is happening. You may not have a full explanation of it; but you will know for certain that God is not unconcerned. That is impossible. The One who has done the greatest thing of all for you, must be concerned about you in everything, and though the clouds are thick and you cannot see His face, you know He is there" (Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), p. 145).

This is one of my favorite quotes by Dr. Jones. We cannot change circumstances, but we can triumph in them. We can be 'more than conquerors'; and we become so as we are found 'looking unto Jesus'. Look at Him! Look at the nights He spent in prayer, look at His knowledge of the Word of God, look at the way in which He 'exercised His senses'. . . . We must become imitators of Him. We must look beyond men, we must look to the Son of God and what He has done in order 'to save us out of this present evil world', and to introduce us to the glory that awaits us with God" (The Christian Soldier [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977], pp. 93-94).

Anyway, I need to read this book again because I need a good reminder of my faith. I wonder if I still have it or did I loaned it to someone? I will find out soon enough.


Merelyme said...

i am so impressed with your knowledge of these matters. how do you know so many things? you must read voraciously.

whimsicalnbrainpan said...

Interesting list...