We need heroes in the faith. Someone to inspire us, someone with whom we sense a connection of purpose and spirit, someone who coaxes us beyond our fears and out from our selves – we need a few of these along the way. The man that led me to Jesus, Scott Johnson, will forever be heroic to me for reaching down with great patience to ensure I heard the Gospel of Christ. My own father, Doug Lyle, becomes more and more wise in my eyes as I get older – there’s still a little boy in me who adores his daddy. Ministry heroes are embedded in my heart also and one of them is a man named Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Many of you who frequent my blog would know of Lloyd-Jones because you would share my tastes for his ministry. For some of you he is an unknown name. All of us would be bettered to know his story, read his books and hear his sermons. I do not have enough space for even a snippet of communicating his meaningful life but you may read enough of him here to get a basic understanding that he was a man of deep convictions and commitments to the Kingdom of Christ. I would want you to know that his testimony has been so important to me in the last half-decade as I have searched my heart to learn whether or not I could survive in ministry as a man committed to the depths of personal spiritual experience coupled with an unwavering pursuit of objective scriptural truth. So often over the last 20+ years of following Christ, I have sensed an uncomfortable pressure to choose a singular trail of thought and philosophy about the Kingdom. There were cultural and denominational pressures seeking to define what I should and should not believe about God and His Kingdom. Expectations from those whom I respected and loved always seem to hover over my mind with whispered warnings to never consider anything which might disappoint them. In the process, I realized that much of what I said I believed had never really been placed up against the Scripture for validation. I was occasionally operating under lesser expectations of man and I decided to purposefully assess all of my beliefs against the Bible, even those beliefs I knew would not and could not change. At times it was very intimidating but I knew that some of those expectations that cultivated some of what I had believed were not sourcing themselves in God. Let me say that the vast majority of what I was taught did not need any adjustment because I was influenced by those who loved the Word and rightly divided it. Yet good and godly men and women do not always get it all right so I found that there were places that the King wanted to take me that I had been told no longer existed. The Shepherd of my soul would allow me to follow Him in His truth along new and beautiful pathways.
“I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths.” – Proverbs 4:11
“…He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” – Psalm 23:3
So back to Martyn Lloyd-Jones: He was arguably the most influential proponent of historic Calvinism in Britain in the 20th-century. He was meticulous in his exposition of the Scriptures. Dr. Lloyd-Jones had zero appetite for anything that smacked of unbiblical influence in the Church. On top of this, he was an excellent communicator of truth, anointed with wisdom and power and wrapped in a blameless personal testimony which held the respect of nearly everyone. It would be very difficult to find any legitimate word spoken against him. When it came to his position on the Holy Spirt, His gifts and the nature of the Spirit’s ongoing work in the Church today, Lloyd-Jones was hard to pin down. Some insist that he was a cessationist (one who believes the supernatural giftings of the Holy Spirit have ceased) until his death. Others believe that, whether or not he was once a cessationist, Lloyd-Jones did not die as one but embraced a continuationist’s doctrine (one who believes that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still operative as they were in the first century). Here is a quote that he placed in his commentary of 1st John that resonates with me. He is speaking of the stereotypical tendency of “people of the Holy Spirit” to ignore the need for sound doctrine and the stereotypical tendency of “people of the Word” to dismiss the reality of personal interaction with the Holy Spirit:
“It seems to me that we have a right to be fairly happy about ourselves as long as we have criticism from both sides, but if the criticism should ever stop on one side, then it is time to be careful. For myself, as long as I am charged by certain people with being nothing but a Pentecostalist and on the other hand charged by others with being an intellectual, a man who is always preaching doctrine, as long as the two criticisms come, I am very happy. But if one or the other of the two criticisms should ever cease, then, I say, is the time to be careful and to begin to examine the very foundations. The position of the Scripture, as I am trying to show you, is one which is facing two extremes: the Spirit is essential, and experience is vital; however, truth and definition and doctrine and dogma are equally vital and essential.”
Amen and amen. Can you imagine the pressure placed upon this highly respected man of God who left the medical field as a doctor and committed his life to pastoral ministry? As a reformed theologian could he ever risk the appearance of lending credence to anything that sounded affirming of subjective experience with the invisible Holy Spirit? Yet his understudy and successor at Westminster Chapel in London, R.T. Kendall, claims in his book “Holy Fire” that Lloyd-Jones was most certainly not one who believed that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased. Personal letters written by Lloyd-Jones shortly before his death clearly reveal this to be true. Interestingly to me, Martyn Lloyd-Jones served Britain in those years when the churches were declining – much like America today. He knew and preached that true revival could only come to England through an allegiance to the Word of God and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. His sermons regularly call the listeners to abandon lesser loyalties and hold fast to these two pillars of Spirit & Truth. His writings and preaching reveal a man who did not merely shoot arrows of doctrinal truth…but flaming arrows. It is likely this reason above all others that his life and ministry has so blessed me. He answers young David’s question from 1st Samuel 17:29, “Is there not a cause?” with an emphatic ‘Yes!’ He lived out his years as a servant of God, expositor of the Word and pastor of God’s beloved lambs. He lived with the understanding that nowhere in Scripture are we asked of God to choose between Spirit and Truth. Here was a life that shouted that we need both and are commanded by Jesus Christ to worship the Father in both. Many people pick one of these and allow the other to fall into theory. May God raise up a hundred dozen more of this Martyn Lloyd-Jones type of Christian in our generation in America. If God enables, I intend to endeavor to be one of them.
“You must have light and heat. What is preaching? Logic on fire!” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones