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Watson’s 17 ways for glorifying God

Often we speak of glorifying God as the goal of our Christian lives – but what does it actually mean to do it? How can we test whether we are increasingly bringing God glory or if we need to repent for a decline?

Thomas Watson thought seriously about these questions and came up with 17 specific ways that a Christian can glorify God. Here they are below (excerpted from his Body of Divinity available online at Grace Gems).

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In how many WAYS may we glorify God?

[1] It is glorifying God when we AIM purely at his glory. It is one thing to advance God’s glory, another thing to aim at it. God must be the ultimate end of all actions. Thus Christ says, “I seek not my own glory—but the glory of him who sent me.” A hypocrite has a squint eye, for he looks more to his own glory than God’s. Our Savior deciphers such, and gives a caveat against them in Matthew 6:2, “When you give alms, do not sound a trumpet.” A stranger would ask, “What means the noise of this trumpet?” It was answered, “They are going to give to the poor.” And so they did not give alms—but sell them for honor and applause, that they might have glory of men. The breath of men was the wind which blew the sails of their charity! “Truly they have their reward.” The hypocrite may take his bill and write, “received in full payment.” Chrysostom calls vain-glory one of the devil’s great nets to catch men. And Cyprian says, “Whom Satan cannot prevail against by intemperance, those he prevails against by pride and vainglory.” Oh let us take heed of self-worshiping! Aim purely at God’s glory. We do this,

(1.) When we prefer God’s glory above all other things; above credit, estate, relations; when the glory of God comes in competition with them—we must prefer his glory before them. If relations lie in our way to heaven, we must either leap over them, or tread upon them. “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me!” Matthew 10:37. A child must unchild himself, and forget he is a child; he must know neither father nor mother in God’s cause. “Who said unto his father and mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren.” This is to aim at God’s glory.

(2.) We aim at God’s glory, when we are content that God’s will should take place, though it may cross ours. “Lord, I am content to be a loser—if you be a gainer. I am content to have less health—if I have more grace, and you more glory. Let it be food or bitter medicine—if only you give it me. Lord, I desire that which may be most for your glory!” Our blessed Savior said, “Not as I will—but as you will.” Matt 26:69. If God might have more glory by his sufferings, he was content to suffer. “Father, glorify your name.”

(3.) We aim at God’s glory when we are content to be outshined by others in gifts and esteem—so that his glory may be increased. A man who has God in his heart, and God’s glory in his eye, desires that God should be exalted; and if this be effected, let whoever will be the instrument, he rejoices. “Some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely. But whether or not their motives are pure, the fact remains that the message about Christ is being preached, so I rejoice.” They preached Christ out of envy, they envied Paul that throng of people, and they preached that they might outshine him in gifts, and get away some of his hearers. “Well,” says Paul, “So long as Christ is preached, and God is likely to have the glory, I will rejoice. Let my candle go out, if the Sun of Righteousness may but shine!”

[2] We glorify God by a sincere CONFESSION of sin. The thief on the cross had dishonored God in his life—but at his death he brought glory to God by confession of sin. Luke 23:3I. “We indeed suffer justly.” He acknowledged he deserved not only crucifixion—but damnation. “My son, give, I beg you, give glory to God, and make confession unto him.” A humble confession exalts God. How is God’s free grace magnified, in crowning those who deserve to be condemned! The excusing and mincing of sin casts a reproach upon God. Adam denied not that he tasted the forbidden fruit—but, instead of a full confession, he blamed God. Gen 3:32. “The woman whom you gave me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” “If you had not given me the woman to be a tempter—I would not have sinned.” Confession glorifies God, because it clears him; it acknowledges that he is holy and righteous, whatever he does. Nehemiah vindicates God’s righteousness; chap 9:93. “You are just in all that is brought upon us.” A confession is sincere, when it is free, not forced. Luke 15:58. “I have sinned against heaven and before you.” The prodigal charged himself with sin, before his father charged him with it.

[3] We glorify God by BELIEVING. “Abraham was strong in faith, giving glory to God.” Unbelief affronts God, it gives him the lie; “he who believes not, makes God a liar.” But faith brings glory to God; it sets its seal, that God is true. He who believes flies to God’s mercy and truth, as to an altar of refuge; he engarrisons himself in the promises, and trusts all he has with God. “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” This is a great way of bringing glory to God. God honors faith—because faith honors him. It is a great honor we do to a man when we trust him with all we have; when we put our lives and estates into his hand—it is a sign we have a good opinion of him. The three Hebrew children glorified God by believing. “The God whom we serve is able to deliver us, and will deliver us.” Faith knows there are no impossibilities with God, and will trust his loving heart, where it cannot trace his mysterious providential hand.

[4] We glorify God, by being tender of his glory. God’s glory is as dear to him as the pupil of his eye. An sincere child weeps to see a disgrace done to his father. Psalm 69:9. “The reproaches of those who reproached you are fallen upon me.” When we hear God reproached, it is as if we were reproached; when God’s glory suffers, it is as if we suffered. This is to be tender of God’s glory.

[5] We glorify God by FRUITFULNESS. “Hereby is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit.” As it is dishonoring God to be barren, so fruitfulness honors him. “Filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are to the praise of his glory.” We must not be like the fig tree in the gospel, which had nothing but leaves—but like the pomecitron, which is continually either ripening or blossoming, and is never without fruit. It is not mere profession—but fruit which glorifies God. God expects to have his glory from us in this way. “Who plants a vineyard, and does not eat the fruit of it?” Trees in the forest may be barren—but trees in the garden are fruitful. We must bring forth the fruits of love and good works. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Faith sanctifies our works, and works testify our faith. To be doing good to others, to be eyes to the blind, feet to the lame—much glorifies God. Thus Christ glorified his Father; “he went about doing good.” Acts 10:08. By being fruitful, we are beautiful in God’s eyes. “The Lord called you a thriving olive tree, beautiful to see and full of good fruit.” And we must bear much fruit. It is muchness of fruit which glorifies God: “if you bear much fruit.” The spouse’s breasts are compared to clusters of grapes, to show how fertile she was. Though the lowest degree of grace may bring salvation to you, yet it will not bring much glory to God. It was not a spark of love, which Christ commended in Mary—but much love; “she loved much.”

[6] We glorify God, by being CONTENTED in that state in which Providence has placed us. We give God the glory of his wisdom, when we rest satisfied with whatever portion he carves out to us. Thus Paul glorified God. The Lord cast him into as great variety of conditions as any man, “I have worked harder, been put in jail more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jews gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled many weary miles. I have faced danger from flooded rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the stormy seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be Christians but are not.” 2 Corinthians 11:23-26. Yet he had learned to be content. Paul could sail either in a storm or a calm; he could be anything that God would have him; he could either lack or abound.

A good Christian argues thus: “It is God who has put me in this condition; he could have raised me higher, if he pleased—but that might have been a snare to me. He has done it in wisdom and love; therefore I will sit down satisfied with my condition.” Surely this glorifies God much; God counts himself much honored by such a Christian. “Here,” says God, “is one after my own heart; let me do whatever I will with him—I hear no murmuring—he is content!” This shows abundance of grace. When grace is crowning, it is not so much to be content; but when grace is conflicting with inconveniences, then to be content is a glorious thing indeed. For one to be content when he is in heaven is no wonder; but to be content under severe trials, greatly glorifies God. This man must needs bring glory to God; for he shows to all the world, that though he has little meal in his barrel, yet he has enough in God to make him content! He says, as David, “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance; the lines have fallen to me in pleasant places.”

[7] We glorify God by working out our own salvation. God has twisted together, his glory and our good. We glorify him by promoting our own salvation. It is a glory to God to have multitudes of converts; his design of free grace takes effect, and God has the glory of his mercy; so that, while we are endeavoring our salvation, we are honoring God. What an encouragement is this to the service of God, to think, “while I am hearing and praying, I am glorifying God; while I am furthering my own glory in heaven, I am increasing God’s glory!” Would it not be an encouragement to a subject, to hear his prince say to him, “You will honor and please me very much, if you will go to yonder mime of gold, and dig as much gold for yourself as you can carry away”? So, for God to say, “Go to the ordinances, get as much grace as you can, dig out as much salvation as you can; and the more happiness you have, the more I shall count myself glorified!”

[8] We glorify God by living for God. “Those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them.” “Whether we live, we live unto the Lord.” The Mammonist lives for his money. The Epicure lives for his belly. The design of a sinner’s life is to gratify lust—but we glorify God when we live for God. We live to God when we live to his service, and lay ourselves out wholly for God. The Lord has sent us into the world, as a merchant sends his ambassador beyond the seas to trade for him. We live to God when we trade for his interest, and propagate his gospel. God has given every man a talent; and when a man does not hide it in a napkin—but improves it for God, he lives to God. When a master in a family, by counsel and good example, labors to bring his servants to Christ; when a minister spends himself, and is spent, that he may win souls to Christ, and make the crown flourish upon Christ’s head; when the magistrate does not wear the sword in vain—but labors to cut down sin, and to suppress vice; this is to live to God, and this is glorifying God. “That Christ might be magnified, whether by life or by death.” Paul had three wishes, and they were all about Christ; that he might be found in Christ, be with Christ, and magnify Christ.

[9] We glorify God by walking cheerfully. It brings glory to God, when the world sees a Christian has that within him, which can make him cheerful in the worst times; which can enable him, with the nightingale, to sing with a thorn at his bosom. The people of God have ground for cheerfulness. They are justified and adopted, and this creates inward peace; it makes music within, whatever storms are without. If we consider what Christ has wrought for us by his blood, and wrought in us by his Spirit, it is a ground of great cheerfulness, and this cheerfulness glorifies God. It reflects poorly upon a master when the servant is always drooping and sad; surely—he is kept to hard commons, his master does not give him what is fitting. Just so, when God’s people hang their heads, it looks as if they did not serve a good master, or repented of their choice, which reflects dishonor on God. The uncheerful lives of the godly bring a scandal on the gospel. “Serve the Lord with gladness.” Your serving him does not glorify him, unless it is with gladness. A Christian’s cheerful looks glorify God. True religion does not take away our joy—but refines it; it does not break our violin—but tunes it, and makes the music sweeter.

[10] We glorify God, by standing up for his truths. Much of God’s glory lies in his truth. God has entrusted us with his truth, as a master entrusts his servant with his purse to keep. We have not a richer jewel to trust God with—than our souls; nor has God a richer jewel to trust us with—than his truth. Truth is a beam which shines from God. Much of his glory lies in his truth. When we are advocates for truth we glorify God. “That you should contend earnestly for the truth.” The Greek word to contend signifies great contending, as one would contend for his land, and not allow his right to be taken from him; so we should contend for the truth. Were there more of this holy contention, God would have more glory. Some contend earnestly for trifles and ceremonies—but not for the truth. We should count him indiscreet that would contend more for a picture—than for his inheritance; more for a box of pennies—than for his box of title deeds.

[11] We glorify God, by praising him. Doxology, or praise, is a God-exalting work. “Whoever offers praise, glorifies me.” The Hebrew word Bara, to create; and Barak, to praise; are little different, because the end of creation is to praise God. David was called the sweet singer of Israel, and his praising God was called glorifying God. “I will praise you, O Lord my God, and I will glorify your name.” Though nothing can add to God’s essential glory, yet praise exalts him in the eyes of others. When we praise God, we spread his fame and renown, we display the trophies of his excellency. In this manner the angels glorify him; they are the choristers of heaven, and trumpet forth his praise. Praising God is one of the highest and purest acts of true religion. In prayer we act like men; but in praise we act like angels! Believers are called “temples of God.” When our tongues praise, then the organs in God’s spiritual temple are sounding. How sad is it that God has no more glory from us in this way! Many are full of murmuring and discontent—but seldom bring glory to God, by giving him the praise due to his name. We read of the saints having harps in their hands, the emblems of praise. Many have tears in their eyes, and complaints in their mouth—but few have harps in their hand, blessing and glorifying God. Let us honor God this way. Praise is the rent we pay to God; while God renews our lease, we must renew our rent.

[12] We glorify God, by being zealous for his name. “Phinehas has turned my wrath away, while he was zealous for my sake.” Zeal is a mixed affection, a compound of love and anger; it carries forth our love to God, and our anger against sin in an intense degree. Zeal is impatient of God’s dishonor; a Christian fired with zeal, takes a dishonor done to God, worse than an injury done to himself! “You cannot bear those who are evil.” Our Savior Christ thus glorified his Father; he, being baptized with a spirit of zeal, drove the money-changers out of the temple. “Zeal for your house has consumed me.”

[13] We glorify God, when we have an eye to God in our natural and in our civil actions. In our natural actions; in eating and drinking. “Whether therefore you eat or drink—do all to the glory of God.” A gracious person holds the golden bridle of temperance; he takes his food as a medicine to heal the decays of nature, that he may be the fitter, by the strength he receives, for the service of God; he makes his food, not fuel for lust—but help to duty.

In buying and selling, we do all to the glory of God. The wicked live upon unjust gain, by falsifying the balances, “The balances of deceit are in his hands;” and thus while men make their weights lighter, they make their sins heavier, when by exacting more than the commodity is worth. We buy and sell to the glory of God, when we observe that golden maxim, “To do to others as we would have them do to us;” so that when we sell our commodities, we do not sell our consciences also. “Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence towards God, and towards men.” We glorify God, when we have an eye to God in all our civil and natural actions, and do nothing that may reflect any blemish on true religion.

[14] We glorify God by laboring to draw others to God. By seeking to convert others, and so make them instruments of glorifying God. We should be both diamonds and magnets; diamonds for the luster of grace, and magnets for attractive virtue in drawing others to Christ. Gal 4:19. “My little children, of whom I travail,” It is a great way of glorifying God, when we break open the devil’s prison, and turn men from the power of Satan to God.

[15] We glorify God in a high degree when we suffer for God, and seal the gospel with our blood. “When you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go. Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.” God’s glory shines in the ashes of his martyrs. “Glorify the Lord in the fires.” Micaiah was in the prison, Isaiah was sawn asunder, Paul was beheaded, Luke was hanged on an olive tree; thus did they, by their death, glorify God. The sufferings of the primitive saints did honor to God, and made the gospel famous in the world. What would others say? See what a good master they serve, and how they love him, that they will venture the loss of all, in his service. The glory of Christ’s kingdom does not stand in worldly pomp and grandeur, as other kings”; but it is seen in the cheerful sufferings of his people. The saints of old “loved not their lives to the death.” They embraced torments as so many crowns. God grant we may thus glorify him—if he calls us to it. Many pray, “Let this cup of suffering pass away!” Few pray, “May your will be done!”

[16] We glorify God, when we give God the glory of all that we do. When Herod had made an oration, and the people gave a shout, saying, “It is the voice of a God, and not of a man,” he took the glory to himself. “Immediately, because Herod did not give glory to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.” We glorify God, when we sacrifice the praise and glory of all we do—to God. “I have worked harder than all the other apostles,” is a speech, one would think, which savored of pride. But the apostle pulls the crown from his own head, and sets it upon the head of free grace! “Yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.” As Joab, when he fought against Rabbah, sent for King David, that David might carry away the crown of the victory; so a Christian, when he has gotten power over any corruption or temptation, sends for Christ, that he may carry away the crown of the victory. As the silkworm, when she weaves her curious work, hides herself under the silk, and is not seen; so when we have done anything praiseworthy, we must hide ourselves under the veil of humility, and transfer the glory of all we have done to God. As one used to write the name of Christ over his door—so should we write the name of Christ over our duties. Let him wear the garland of praise!

[17] We glorify God by a holy life. A bad life dishonors God. “You are a holy nation, that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you.” The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you.” Epiphanius says, “That the looseness of some Christians in his time made many of the heathens shun their company, and would not be drawn to hear their sermons.” By our exact Bible-lives, we glorify God. Though the main work of true religion lies in the heart, yet our light must so shine that others may behold it. The safety of a building is the foundation—but the glory of it is in the frontispiece. Just so, the beauty of faith is in the godly life. When the saints, who are called jewels, cast a sparkling luster of holiness in the eyes of the world, then they “walk as Christ walked.” When they live as if they had seen the Lord with bodily eyes, and been with him upon the mount—they adorn true religion, and bring revenues of glory to the crown of heaven!

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Protestant Profiles #31: Ayako Miura

Ayako Miura (1922-1999)

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Born: Asahikawa, Japan
Role: author/novelist
Emphases: original sin, deception, shame, grace and forgiveness, the sacrifice of Christ, Christian love
Protested Against: national sins related to Japanese militarism

Ayako Hotta became a junior teacher at age 17, during the years of Japan’s involvement in World War II. Two main factors brought about a personal crisis for Ayako during the post-war years. For one, she was confronted with the reality of her nation’s imperial might being defeated and coming under American occupation. She had faithfully indoctrinated her students in the hyper-militaristic worldview that dominated Japanese society during the early-mid 20th century, but Japan’s loss made her realise she had been promoting a lie.

Then, shortly after her engagement to be married, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1947. The combination of these events drove her deep into depression and a nihilistic outlook on life. Being forced to call off her engagement due to her debilitating sickness drove her to attempt suicide in 1950 (she was prevented by her former fiancé).

The gentle persistence of a Christian friend named Tadashi Maekawa (who himself had tuberculosis and had lost his younger sister to the disease earlier) led to Ayako reconsidering her nihilism. Reading the Book of Ecclesiastes challenged her misconceptions about the simplistic nature of Christianity and spoke directly to her sense of meaninglessness in life. In her autobiography The Wind is Howling, Ayako recounts that the ending of the book “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth” struck her powerfully and “From that time on my search steadily became more serious.”

Several years later, while convalescing in hospital, Ayako had an epiphany about sin. “I began wondering whether it was not the greatest sin of all to be unaware of one’s sin. And then I felt I had begun to understand the significance of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.” A severe diagnosis of tuberculosis in her spine solidified this sense of her sinfulness.

“Although my spine was being eaten away by tuberculosis and I stumbled as I walked, we had been blind to its presence simply because it had not appeared on the X-ray. If this ignorance had continued, might not all my bones have been affected? I certainly would have died. And then I thought, ‘The same could be true of my soul.’ Maybe I did not realise my heart was being eaten away or how infected I was, simply because I was unaware of my sin.”

She became a believer in Christ and was baptised shortly afterwards.

Ayako was a fine poetess and frequently had her work published in Araragi, a top Japanese literary magazine. Her close Christian friend Tadashi, whom she had fallen in love with, was also a keen poet and great source of encouragement to her writing. His death from TB in 1954 rocked her greatly, but during her season of grieving she busied herself with connecting seriously ill Japanese patients with Christian publications. She was soon getting inquiries about the faith from patients across the country.

She married Matsuyo Miura in 1960, who was also a great encouragement to Ayako in her faith and the use of her gift of writing. Her first novel, Hyoten (‘Freezing Point’) was serialised in Asahi Shimbun (one of Japan’s main, national, daily newspapers) from 1964-65 and won the newspaper’s literary award that year – earning her nationwide recognition as an emerging author. Hyoten details the intrigues of a couple with a strained marriage, murdered daughter and adopted child with a dark past. It seeks to explore the theme of original sin in a manner that would be accessible to non-Christian Japanese readers.

Perhaps her most famous novel came a few years later. Shiokari Pass is a love story interwoven with the characters’ attraction and antipathy towards Christianity and thinly veiled autobiographical connections to Miura’s own tuberculosis. It culminates in a great episode of personal sacrifice that powerfully depicts the substitutionary death of Christ to readers. Miura also produced works such as A Heart of Winter, which is stylised as the baptismal testimony and confessions of a young Japanese woman who has long personal journey of shame, revenge and redemption.

Miura continued to use her platform as a nationally recognised author to pen novels with an evangelistic thrust such as these – in the hopes that more of her fellow Japanese would begin to share her understanding and appreciation of the Christian gospel. In addition to these stories, Miura sought to produce resources that would help Japanese seekers understand the Christian faith which often seemed so foreign and perplexing. She wrote an introductory overview of the Christian faith (‘While there is still light’), and separate Introductions to the Old and New Testaments. She described her approach to writing as follows, “Directly or indirectly I write to transmit the gospel of Jesus Christ. Whether the work is literary or not, I write standing on this foundation of faith.”

Philip Gabriel, author of Spirit Matters: The Transcendent in Modern Japanese Literature,  summarised her significance as thus,

…no Japanese writer before Miura so openly declared that the point of writing is to transmit the gospel…her dozens of books in many genres, all testaments to her faith, established her as a unique  “missionary writer”, attracting great numbers of readers who may have had little initial interest in the faith under-girding her work.”

Ayako Miura died in her late seventies in 1999 and remains well-loved by Japanese Christians and widely known by the wider Japanese public. Her life and ministry brings our Protestant Profiles series to the end of the 20th Century and to the present frontiers of the ongoing Protestant Reformation.

Miura does not hold her place among the preceding 30 figures for rigorous, systematic theology or outspokenness against the errors of Catholicism or theological liberalism (both of which are real problems in Japan). But together with the other women featured in this series – Queen Jane of England, Selina Hastings, Fanny Crosby and Amy Carmichael – she was a notable figure in Protestant history in her own right, rather than being known for who she married or mothered. She embodies the evangelistic heart of the Protestant movement and the positive use of God-given gifts for communicating the message of Jesus far and wide to those who may otherwise never be reached by it. And uniquely among those featured previously, she represents the Asian future of Protestantism in distinction to the very European past reflected in our other profiles.

Ayako Miura shows us what it looks like to be a faithful evangelical Christian with a heart for people to know Jesus in a nation that has few of the resources possessed by Western churches and yet manages to have many of the same problems. Japan and Asia need to be reached for Christ and the churches in Asia must continually be reformed by the Word of God, lest they fall into errors that compromise the faith. For these things to happen, we will need to see God raise up more women and men with the heart and dedication of Ayako Miura, who are prepared to use their talents and indigenous knowledge of their culture to help their people encounter Jesus and become firmly grounded in His teachings.

Sources

Ayako Miura, The Wind is Howling 

Philip Gabriel, Spirit Matters

 

 

 

 

Protestant Profiles #1-31 Index

 

Lion & Phoenix has been celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation with a series of Protestant Profiles, spanning the five centuries.

If you missed any of the profiles in our series and would like to catch up on reading about the lives of any of these significant figures from our theological and spiritual heritage, you can find a list of those we’ve published below.

Prequels

0 Faithful Fightin’ Fathers: Irenaeus, Athanasius and Augustine
00 “Protestant before it was Cool”: Peter Waldo, John Wycliffe and Jan Hus.

Protestant Profiles

1 Martin Luther (1483 – 1546)
2 Ulrich Zwingli (1484 – 1531)
3 Jean Calvin (1509 – 1564)
4 Philip Melancthon (1497 – 1560)
5 Heinrich Bullinger (1504 – 1575)
6 Theodore Beza (1519 – 1605)
7 William Tyndale (1494-1536)
8 John Knox (1513 – 1572)
9 John Bradford (1510–1555)
10 Queen Jane of England (c. 1537 – 1554)
11 William Perkins (1558–1602)
12 John Owen (1616–1683)
13 Thomas Watson (1620-1686)
14 John Bunyan (1628 – 1688)
15 Jonathan Edwards (1703 – 1758)
16 John Wesley (1703 – 1791)
17 Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon (1707 – 1791)
18 George Whitefield (1714 – 1770)
19 Granville Sharp & co. (1735 – 1813)
20 William Carey (1761–1834)
21 Adoniram Judson (1788 – 1850)
22 David Livingstone (1813 – 1873)
23 J.C. Ryle (1815-1900)
24 Fanny J. Crosby (1820 – 1915)
25 Hudson Taylor (1832 – 1905)
26 Charles Spurgeon (1834 – 1892)
27 Abraham Kuyper (1837 – 1920)
28 Amy Carmichael (1867 – 1951)
29 J. Gresham Machen (1881 – 1937)
30 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899 – 1981)
31 Ayako Miura (1922-1999)

We hope you enjoyed these profiles and they encouraged you in your faith. Please let us know if you had a personal favourite and why they stuck out to you!

Protestant Profiles #25: Hudson Taylor

Hudson Taylor (1832 – 1905)

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Born: Barnsley, Yorkshire, England
Role: pioneer inland missionary; founder of China Inland Mission (later OMF International); author & speaker
Emphases: the faithfulness and sovereign provision of God; reaching unreached and neglected people groups with the gospel; contextual mission and close identification with indigenous people through their customs and culture
Protested against: culturally inflexible approaches to Christian ministry

That we know James Hudson Taylor today as one of history’s most notable missionaries is a remarkable fact in itself when we consider the very rough start to his ministry. Taylor arrived in China as a 21 year old and would remain there until illness forced his return to England in 1860, aged 28. This period was invaluable for his personal formation as a missionary and he was able to share the gospel with many Chinese during this stint. He also met and married his wife Maria during this time – which naturally had a great impact upon the rest of his life and ministry.

But Taylor had a series of difficulties with his original sending agency, the Chinese Evangelistic Society and this led to him resigning midway through his first term of service and operating more independently for the remainder of the period until his return to England. Difficulties with one’s sending agency, operating independently and returning home due to illness are all factors with the potential to render a missionary ineffective or see them permanently leave the field. But this was not to be the case with Taylor.

While back in England he became increasingly determined to found a new kind of missions organisation that would operate on the principles of trusting in God’s provision (rather than borrowing money and going into debt); focus on reaching the neglected inland population of China with the gospel and approach mission in a different way to many of the existing European sending agencies.

In 1866, Hudson and his family, along with sixteen other missionaries, travelled to China aboard the Lammermuir. This was the beginning of the China Inland Mission’s operations within the country. The early days were not rosy. There was conflict amongst the CIM team, dangers and difficulties connected to travelling where Europeans were not previously present and the constant threat of disease – which claimed the lives of 3 of the Taylor’s children between 1867 and 1870, with Maria herself succumbing to cholera in 1870. But the mission did continue to grow and Chinese were being steadily reached with the gospel.

Hudson returned to England in 1871 and remarried before returning the following year. His second wife Jennie would live and work with him until her death, which occurred less than twelve months before Hudson’s own. They did however spend extended periods of time apart on occasions when Hudson travelled to China from England without her.

A decade after the Taylors and CIM missionaries arrived on the Lammermuir, the organisation had grown to have 52 missionaries. John Piper relates how incredible the growth was in the subsequent three decades until Taylor’s death in 1905.

At the time of Hudson Taylor’s death, the China Inland Mission was an international body with 825 missionaries living in all eighteen provinces of China with more than 300 mission stations, more than 500 local Chinese helpers, and 25,000 Christian converts.

This is a demonstration of how Taylor’s vision to see the inland regions of China reached with gospel was used by God to mobilise many believers into action. In turn, God used the labours of these hundreds of faithful men and women to bring rural and regional Chinese to Himself through the gospel of Jesus.

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Taylor later in his life in Chinese dress

Hudson Taylor’s approach to missions was always bold and often controversial. Many other missionaries and their agencies disagreed with his policies of operating by faith without guaranteed salaries for workers; sending single women into the interior to evangelise and adopting Chinese dress and customs to the greatest extent possible (as summed up in his famous saying “Let us in everything not sinful become like the Chinese, that by all means we may save some”). His headstrong personality could be perceived as either tenacity essential for the role he was carrying out, or overpowering stubbornness – depending on who was giving the assessment. He was without a doubt the strong leader the CIM needed to be effective and grow in the early stages of its existence, but his insistence on some of his personal perspectives was jarring to some of his co-workers who found it difficult to operate under his leadership.

But it can be stated with certainty that whatever his flaws, God used Taylor – directly and indirectly – to bring the gospel to countless Chinese who otherwise may have never had a chance to hear it. One of the mottoes of the Protestant Reformation is Post tenebras lux – “after darkness – light.” Our commitment to the treasures of the gospel recovered from the darkness of perverted medieval Catholicism by Luther, Calvin and others is only as good as our desire to see that same light come to places that have lain in the darkness of paganism for centuries on end.

Taylor is one of history’s greatest models of someone who was not content for that light to remain on show in the comfortable Christian existence of the English parish church, nor even in the European trading settlements along the Chinese coastline. He saw a vast region full of millions of souls lying in undisturbed darkness and he never stopped pushing himself and others to take the light of the gospel deeper and deeper into the unreached country. 150 years on from Taylor and 500 since the Reformation, those with evangelical convictions cannot afford to hide them under a basket when there remains millions around the world that need the gospel clearly presented to them – that they too may have salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

Below is a great video overview of OMF International’s history – detailing Hudson Taylor’s founding of the CIM through to the organisation’s activities in the present day.

 

Sources

“James Hudson Taylor” Wikipedia

John Piper, “The Ministry of Hudson Taylor as Life in Christ”

http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-ministry-of-hudson-taylor-as-life-in-christ

“Hudson Taylor: Faith Missionary to China”
http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/missionaries/hudson-taylor.html

 

 

Is it (really) OK to vote YES? (Pt. 2)

Is it really OK to vote YES in the government’s same-sex marriage postal survey? Do the motivations some Christians have for ticking YES stack up? And are they good enough to justify a YES when the proposed legal changes could have some drastic consequences for marriage, families and our freedoms of speech, conscience and religion in Australia?

Previously, I looked at one reason Aussies who identify as Christians might be inclined to support the proposed changes to the Marriage Act. My aim in this post is to tackle another…

Motivation #2.

Christians should promote a vision of society where people are free to pursue whatever they understand to be necessary to living “the good life,” without being constrained, compelled or coerced by Christian beliefs about virtue and morality.

While our previous motivation/justification was concerned with the issues of how we understand law and human rights, this one is more about the intersection between theology, philosophy and politics (with our approach to changing or maintaining laws, like the Marriage Act, being determined by these considerations).

Understanding this motivation for voting YES

Christians who adopt the above stance are positively saying that God’s people should seek a society where every citizen has maximal freedom to pursue what they believe to be essential for happiness and human flourishing (the usual proviso being that this pursuit does not cause significant harm to others or infringe their rights to do the same). Freedom to define and practice marriage in accordance with one’s personal convictions falls within this framework.

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This motivation is driven by a commitment to liberty…

Negatively, Christians who hold this position are saying that it is not our role to engage in politics in such a way that restricts our fellow citizens from pursuing their understanding of “the good life,” if our desire to restrict is based on Christian notions of morality, rather than concerns over harm being caused to others.

Some concrete examples of this position

Creek Road Presbyterian Church in Brisbane is intentionally refraining from telling Christians how (or even whether) to vote, but they have suggested the following reasoning a Christian might use to vote YES:

A believer in the Gospel of Jesus might vote yes in the survey because we enjoy the freedom to practice our faith, and uphold our own Christian definition of marriage within the broader community, and we believe it is right to extend that freedom to others. This might keep preserving our freedom, and it does treat others as we would have them treat us.

Lee Herridge, an Australian political libertarian and self-identifying “conservative, evangelical, Protestant” has written in the Spectator Australia that Christians cannot be consistent if we refuse to tolerate same-sex marriage, while tolerating the legality of others things we think are harmful to society.  If we are willing to extend freedom of speech and religion to heresy and non-Christian religions – when these things are harmful to people’s souls – why not accept that our gay and lesbian neighbours are free to have their understanding of marriage legally recognised?

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If we tolerate “false religions” why not other understandings of marriage?[1]

It is important to recognise that both examples I’ve cited equate the freedom of same-sex marriage advocates to change the definition of marriage with religious freedom.

In the first example, the freedom of our gay neighbours (and their “straight allies”) to legally redefine marriage to match their convictions about the goodness of committed, long-term male-male and female-female relationships is the same kind of freedom Christians currently have to define and practice marriage according to the Bible.

In the second example, extending the freedom to gay and lesbian couples to practice “marriage” on their terms is the same kind of freedom as allowing our Muslim and Hindu neighbours to practice “worship” on their terms.

In sum, to adopt this kind of motivation for voting YES, it would seem that it is necessary to understand the freedom to marry according to your convictions as being analogous to the freedom to worship according to your convictions. Christians shouldn’t legally interfere with the former, because we don’t legally interfere with the latter. And because we wouldn’t want someone who disagreed with our understanding of marriage/sexuality or worship to prevent us from practicing our convictions freely, we shouldn’t restrict those who we disagree with.

 

Responding to this motivation

There are a few reasons that I believe this motivation/justification doesn’t really make it OK for Christians to vote YES in the survey.

1. The equation of the right to define marriage according to one’s personal convictions with the right to freely practice one’s religion is dubious. 

Religious freedom allows Australians of all faiths to worship God according to their understanding, freely practice the tenets of their religion (to the extent that it does not harm others, cause public disorder or infringe upon others’ right to religious freedom) and teach/propagate the doctrines they hold to be true. This is a precious freedom in and of itself and those who enjoy it should be wary of anything that might muddy the waters concerning the nature of this fundamental liberty. This would include treating the rights being claimed in the SSM debate as analogous or equivalent to freedom of religion.

Even if we grant that unbiblical sexual practices and understandings of marriage are by-products of idolatry (i.e. they proceed out of absolutising/worshipping something other than God/Jesus), saying YES to the legal recognition of marriage is less like an acknowledgement of the freedom to be idolatrous and more like an acknowledgement of an idol as true.

Christians have the freedom to practice their religion, but not the entitlement to compel others to treat our religion as though it is true. You can’t stop me from proclaiming “Jesus is Lord,” but I can’t force you to acknowledge that he is. A Catholic can call their priest “Father,” but a Protestant isn’t legally obliged to do so.

Nor can we force others to redefine their religious institutions to accommodate our convictions or demands. A Pentecostal church that ordains women as ministers can’t force a Presbyterian church to recognise Pastor Sue as a pastor or elder. And an atheist can’t demand a Muslim recognise a pork sandwich as halal. 

Marriage under Australian law is not about freedom to do whatever you believe with the person you love and leave others to do what they want. It comes with the expectation that all Australians will recognise anyone married under the Marriage Act as validly married. Religious freedom does not (and indeed cannot) compel the citizen who says “Jesus is Lord” to also confess “Muhammed is the Prophet” (or vice versa). But people who believe marriage is a divinely-instituted union between one man and one woman will be expected to acknowledge SSM with declarations that gay and lesbian couples are validly married.

2. Endorsing a change to the legal status of marriage that is incompatible with one’s own biblical beliefs is not necessary for the promotion of maximal freedom of religion/worship.

Some Christian groups (notably Baptists & other Independent/Free church movements) have had a theological commitment to freedom of religion and separation of church and state from the early days of their movement. Western societies adopted this kind of approach as part of a recognition that while most people in their society had a religion – there were significant disagreements over a range of issues. The religious toleration we now take for granted only gained universal acceptance in the West after ugly conflicts and oppression arising from religious intolerance.

While many Christians who believe in the principle of religious freedom are averse to the idea of coercing non-Christians to live like Christians, through legislative measures – it does not follow that one must promote alterations to the law where it reflects what one sincerely believes to be the best for society.

Many, perhaps most, Christians who have been deeply committed to religious freedom in the period since the seventeenth century have not adopted a neutral or indifferent stance to public shifts away from values or institutions that are biblically attested to as good. Seeking to preserve God’s good and gracious gifts to our society is not the same as seeking to impose our morality on an unwilling populace.

As brighter Christian minds than mine have pointed out, all laws are coercive to some degree (the legal consequences for illegal activity compel obedience) and all certainly proceed from and promote a real moral framework (i.e. every law reflects a belief about what is good/bad or right/wrong and commends this understanding to the public). It is not a stretch to see the proposed changes to the Marriage Act as the state declaring that it is wrong to withhold recognition from some gay relationships as “marriages,” because such unions are a recognised public good with full equivalency to that of heterosexual marriages. And it is not unreasonable to anticipate wide-ranging legal penalties for those who disagree with the “goodness” or “rightness” of these “marriages.”

It seems paradoxical for Christians to vote YES in the name of principled non-coercion, when doing so will hand the government and sexual revolutionaries a means to coerce dissenting Christians and non-Christians alike to accept an unbiblical view of marriage and sexuality.

Which brings us to the next point.

3. It is unloving and irresponsible to grant a legal freedom to one group in society that will be feasibly claimed as an inherent right and used to interfere with the genuine rights of others. 

Our previous post established that SSM is not a human right, nor is denying it to people an act of legal discrimination. The key verb in the postal survey is “allow.” In this case “allow” means granting a freedom and legal entitlement to citizens that do not have an inalienable right to what is being granted. Australian law may grant such a freedom/entitlement, but there is no violation of rights if this does not occur.

International evidence strongly suggests that if SSM is granted as a legal entitlement in Australia, it will be used by some members of the political faction lobbying for marriage redefinition to infringe upon actual, fundamental rights belonging to citizens who conscientiously object to the “truth” of SSM. A Christian who votes YES for the sake of extending freedom to their gay neighbours must recognise that they are gambling the rights to freedom of speech and religion of a wide range of other neighbours by taking such action.

Evangelical Christians may be willing to suffer persecution for their fidelity to biblical beliefs about marriage if faced with legal coercion to go against our consciences. But is it really loving our neighbours if we are inviting legal ramifications or violation of conscience upon Australians from outside our religion? Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Jews, Muslims, members of smaller religious minorities and even people with traditional cultural beliefs about marriage that aren’t terribly religious – will all face potential problems if the law compels them to recognise gay partnerships as marriage, against their beliefs.

4. This approach removes any grounds for Christians to seek to preserve any other aspects of the present, legal definition of marriage in the future. 

If Christians should not oppose marriage being redefined to change the gender requirement of one man and one woman – we have no basis to oppose the abolition of any of the other requirements that determine what a marriage is. By the above reasoning, as long as we can continue to practice marriage according to our own convictions, we should not express opposition to marriage being redefined to include an indefinite number of people or an incestuous union between consenting adults.

If we are to positively “vote in” the freedom of same-sex couples to “marry,” we in effect admit that it is something we should have been advocating for all along. Therefore, Christians should be at the forefront of encouraging those Muslims whose vision of the “good life” includes polygamous marriage to push for their rights in society – even though we don’t agree with their understanding of marriage.

Further, we all know people whose life seems to revolve around a pet or an inanimate possession. Are we so detached from the general, societal definition of marriage that we should hypothetically support the right of Australians who idolise their cat or absolutise their sports car to redefine marriage according to what they regard as the most meaningful “relationship” in their lives?

There are of course real differences between the above examples and same-sex relationships and it may be unlikely that these hypothetical marriage redefinitions ever receive the same kind of public push as SSM. I’m merely seeking to point out that Christians who adopt the above position don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to opposing any such redefinitions.

 

At the time of publication it is unclear to the author as to whether online communications shared on personal blogs fall under the legal purview of the Marriage Law Survey (Additional Safeguards) Act 2017. Should that prove to be the case, the author acknowledges that this piece attempts to persuade Australians entitled to vote in the survey to do so in a certain manner and that this has been done in good faith without any intention to vilify, intimidate or threaten to cause harm. Should the Act require it, this communication is authorised by Y. Johnston, Brisbane. 

 

[1] Michael Coghlan Adelaide Mosque flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)