Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Recently, it has been my privilege to read another convicting and growth-provoking book from one of the most piercingly insightful and most beloved writer/pastors of the English Puritan era; Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646). In his "A Treatise on Earthly-Mindedness", Burroughs accurately diagnoses what remains a blight on Christianity today. We have often heard the cliche that someone can be so "heavenly-minded that they are no earthly-good". I think that it is safe to say that much of Christianity, especially that sector that subscribes to "word-faith" theology (oxymoron), need not have any fear of that because the lion share of the popular preaching and teaching in the American church is firmly rooted and grounded in the dust of the earth.

In the foreword, Dr. R. C. Sproul (founder of Ligonier Ministries) is quite forthright about his low expectations for the reception of this venerated book by today's Christians. He states, "My guess is that few people will ever pick up this book and read it. Its theme and content are too alien to modern Christianity. Twentieth-century Christians have been seduced by a world-view that makes the thrust of this book seem archaic. It simply doesn't fit our times . . . Our thinking is earth-bound . . . Gone is the Biblical doctrine of the soul. There is much concern about self-image, self-esteem, and self-gratification. Yet, in all this, the 'self' itself has become a philosophical conundrum."

In focusing on only a portion of one verse of Scripture, " . . . who minds earthly things . . ." (Phil. 3:19), Burroughs sets out to defend his doctrinal statement: "The great difference between a wicked man and a godly man is that one minds earthly things and the other has his conversation in heaven". Burroughs explains that in the preceding 17th verse, the Apostle Paul argues that the earthly-minded are " . . . enemies of the cross of Christ, and they make their belly their god, and they mind earthly things". His defense of this point is irrefutably expounded throughout the remainder of the treatise. For the purposes of this post, I wish to focus on that part of this treatise that, I believe, is particularly contradictory of the far too popular "word-faith" teaching that is infesting the minds of far too many professed Christians today.

In chapter six of his treatise, Burroughs presents "Seven Reasons of Men's Earthly-Mindedness". Reason #4 gives us the first ingredient of the antidote for "word-faith" teaching, " . . . these things of the earth have a fair show in the flesh. Under this head, Burroughs directly addresses what drives false teachers. Quoting Galatians 6:12, Burroughs explains that there will be men who dress themselves luxuriously and having handsome features will be splendid to the eyes of all who behold them. These, he says , are false teachers who desire to make a "fair show in the flesh". They take satisfaction in having fine estates and appealing apparel and all creature comforts. They, according to Burroughs, are here enemies of the cross of Christ. They think suffering for Christ, poverty, or disgrace looks bad. But those who would make a fair show in the flesh and be somebody in this world, forsake the truths of God and seek to provide for themselves in the things of the flesh (pp. 70-71). This was first published in 1649 people! Same dog, same tricks!

What do the false teachers of our day, (the Dollars, the Harrison-Bryants, the Jakeses) all have in common? Among other things, is it not a virtual deluge of temporal and material goods. The very things that Jesus warned us would make entering His kingdom all the more difficult. I guess these guys are willing to take the risk after all they are spiritual giants; so they must be able to handle it.
Of course, they always frame they're riches as a means to demonstrate what Jesus can do for His people. Yeah, so that whole fulfilling the law, being savagely beaten, being nailed to a cross and dying thing was just so we could have the wealth of the world! Which is going to be destroyed anyway. How could I have missed that? Talk about rearranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic!

In chapter seven,"Eleven Considerations to Take the Mind of Earthly-mindedness" (pp.73-75),Burroughs deals another death-blow to "word-faith" teaching. He says, "First consider this: if you could possess all the thing of the earth that your mind and heart are upon, there is still not enough good in them as to undo the evil of the least sin, not the least sin of thought . . . if you had but one sinful thought, there is more evil in that than there is good in all that you shall get all the days of your life". He further explains that if this is so it concerns us rather to have our minds on how to avoid sin, how to get the evil of sin removed, and how to mortify (kill) our sin. In other words we much too concerned with the wrong problem. It's not about to get back the stuff that "satan" has stolen from us (which usually translates to material things in "word-faith" circles); it's about dealing with our all too present and persistent sin.

A second consideration under this heading is this: "the chief things that are in the earth have been the portion of reprobates (the unsaved) heretofore and are to this day, and shall be the portion of multitudes whom God hates and has set apart to glorify His infinite justice eternally". The reprobate has his reward now, in finite time. Our treasures in Heaven are eternal and without regret. God has made man for higher things than the things of this earth. Consider, these earthly treasures are the treasures of a fallen creation. Of how much greater worth are eternal treasures. Here's a four-letter word for you: delayed gratification.

Consider what Jesus had done, he took man's nature and died for man. As Burroughs exclaims, "Surely there must be some other manner of things that are the fruit of the purchase of the blood of Christ than the things of the earth". He says, of all the creatures God has made on earth we are the only ones capable of knowing Him. God has given us a nature that is capable of conversing with Him. therefore there are infinitely higher things that God has made us for than to have meat, drink, and clothes just to live here for awhile and enjoy creature features. Doubtless meat drink and clothes are necessary but when we live for the material, the eternal suffers greatly. Ask the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:1-30).

I would ask my "word-faith" believing friends to consider who is truly the focus of this atheology. Is it truly Yahweh, or is it Yourway. Yahweh is eternal. Yourway leads to death. "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death" (Proverbs 14:12).

Be Like the Bereans, Baby!

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