A Profession Not Worth a Button

“The doctrine of the Trinity! That is the substance, that is the ground and fundamental of all, for by this doctrine and this only the man is made a Christian and he that has not this doctrine, his profession is not worth a button.” —John Bunyan

Objection: “Everyone’s profession has worth.”

Argument #1: Self-Defeating

Without any qualifications being made, the objection is self-defeating. If Bunyan’s profession has worth, then you cannot speak against it. If you do speak against it, then not everyone’s profession has worth.

Argument #2: What Is Really Being Said

What such an objection is really saying though is that everyone else’s profession has worth. All other professions are true. The historic Christian profession claiming the exclusivity of Christ is not. 

Or, put another way, it is to say that all professions that do not claim to be exclusive have value. The problem is that Christianity is not the only exclusive religion. Judaism and Islam are also exclusivistic, as well as many expressions of Hinduism and Buddhism. This means the statement that “everyone’s profession has worth,” speaks contrary to the majority report of at least three of the world’s major religions. This cuts a huge chunk out of “everyone.” So what is really being said turns out to be not much of anything.

Argument #3: Pluralism is Exclusive

Again, making the claim that all professions have value, the religious pluralist not only stands contrary to historic Christianity, but against Judaism, Islam, and many expressions of Buddhism and Hinduism. Religious pluralism fails in its aim. Rather than welcoming in, it too excludes most other world religions and judges them for their exclusivity claims.

Argument #4: Both Statements Are Judgment Statements

An implication, and more often an outspoken accusation, is that in claiming the exclusivity Christ, Christians are being judgmental. But the objection itself is a judgmental statement. 

“You’re being judgmental!”

“Hmm…didn’t you just judge me?”

Again, the objection cuts off its own legs. Both Bunyan’s claim and the objection are judgment statements. The Christian is perfectly fine with others making judgment statements. The question is, which judgment is true? What standard is being used? This is a conversation I welcome. It is the one I’m trying to have.

Argument #5: Which Is Really More Arrogant?

An implication of the former implication is the charge of arrogance. “You’re being judgmental, ergo, you’re arrogant.” But consider that Christians make their profession in subjecting themselves to a standard outside themselves. Those who say all professions have value do so based on their own subjective thoughts and observations. The stance of a Christian is one of submission to an outside authority. The stance of a religious pluralist is to act like a god declaring truth, namely, the truth that all professions have value, save those that make exclusivity claims. Religious pluralism is judgmental, and it makes this judgment as a judge. It assumes a position of authority.

Argument #6: Argument, Truth, and Tolerance

G.K. Chesterton once said that we quarrel because we have forgotten how to argue. There was a time when two men who disagree could sit down at a table and argue, knowing that the other guy had their best interest in mind. This was because both of them came to the table believing that truth was something outside themselves. Because this was so, at best, the two men could admit that the other guy, in arguing for truth, was seeking what was best for the other and for humanity. This is true tolerance.

But today, many say all professions have worth. Truth is thought to be subjective. “If it makes you happy… If you believe it…” So if ever there is an argument, I’m no longer attacking ideas. I am attacking you. It is not that we are both going after truth. Instead, we are going after one another. Counterintuitively we must then say that all opinions have value. We must never object. This is the tyranny of pluralism. It silences all other voices. All debate and argument is ended. This is the intolerance of those who preach tolerance.

Argument #7: All Professions?

But, no one really believes that all professions have value.

Did Hitler’s professions concerning the Aryan race and the Jews have value?

Did Jim Jones’ profession have value?

Did the profession of the Jihadists who slammed jets into the Twin Towers have value?

Did the profession of worshippers of Molech who sacrificed their children have value?

Did the profession of Stalin’s communist Russia and Mao’s communist China have value?

Does the profession of your bank have value when they fail to register your last deposit?

Argument #8: Why?

“If they want to believe it, if it makes them happy, why speak against it?” 

When your child wants to put a toy in the light socket, why stop them? The answer is love. If the child says they believe that electricity won’t kill them because they’re Thor, the parent still insists. Lies harm.

To allow a soul to walk through this world believing a lie isn’t kind. If Christianity is true, to be indifferent to people’s profession isn’t kind. You may argue that Christianity’s claims are false. You can claim that all souls will go to heaven. But when you do so, you are making a truth claim. And then you must answer upon what standard you make such a claim? At this point we are in agreement. Not all professions are of equal value. True ones are. Which are true?

What one cannot say is that all professions have value, because that statement is self-refuting. Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” As Lewis famously observed, “You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”*

Of course you could argue that Jesus never said that. But should you do so, you’ve discounted many a profession as not being worth a button. You’ve made a truth claim. And upon what standard?


*Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. HarperOne, 2001.

The Doctor: Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

“For particularly sensitive issues ML-J [Martyn-Lloyd-Jones] was usually sought out by the Graduates Fellowship of the IVF. At their London Reunion on October 4, 1947 he was given the subject, ‘The Position of Evangelicals in their Churches’, and asked to make reference to the whole question of secession. At the conclusion of this address and the discussion which followed, he listed these questions: 

Those who are contemplating withdrawal or secession should ask themselves continually:

  1. Am I absolutely certain that Christ’s honour is really involved, or that my basic Christian liberties are threatened?
  2. Am I going out because it is easier, and am I following the line of least resistance? 
  3. Am I going out because I am impatient? 
  4. Am I going out because I am an egotist and cannot endure being a ‘Brother of the common lot’ with its disadvantages as well as its spiritual advantages? 

Those who are staying in their Church should ask themselves:

  1. Am I staying in and not joining others who may be fighting the Lord’s battle because I am a coward?
  2. Am I staying in because I am trying to persuade myself that I am a man of peace and because peace seems to be worth any price? 
  3. Am I staying in because I am just a vacillator or at a very low spiritual ebb?
  4. Am I swayed by some self-interest or any monetary considerations?”

—Iain Murray, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Fight of Faith (Banner of Truth, 2004) p. 184

Praise Goes Out Hoping to Pull In (Psalm 34)

1I will bless the LORD at all times; 
     his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 
2 My soul makes its boast in the LORD; 
     let the humble hear and be glad. 
3 Oh, magnify the LORD with me, 
     and let us exalt his name together!

8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! 
     Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

—Psalm 34:1–3, 8

Praise is invitational. Praise is joy come into bloom ready to pollinate. Praise is unselfish joy. Praise is a shared joy that wants others to share in that joy. 

C.S. Lewis, in answering what he calls the “problem of praise” (that is the seeming problem of God being selfish in demanding our praise) gives several answers. The following one is highly pertinent to our meditation.

“The most obvious fact about praise—whether of God or anything—strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honour. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise…I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?” The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what we indeed can’t help doing, about everything else we value.”

Praise goes out hoping to bring others in and David wants to bring the saints all the way in. When David invites us to praise Yahweh with him, he doesn’t do so like a husband praising his wife asking “Isn’t she amazing?” There is a distance between a husband’s enjoyment of his wife and thus his praise of her and another’s enjoyment of her and praising her. David invites you to praise Yahweh with him the way one man will praise a slice of pizza. “This is the best. Have some!”

I almost hesitate to use this illustration because we have stepped down from something greater to something lesser to make the point. The greater joy, a wife, cannot be fully shared. The lesser one can. For the saints though, God is the greatest joy and fully shareable.

Do you leap at the invitation extended by David? If not, have you really tasted? Do you really fear? Have you cried out? Have you sought?

If you did answer “Yes!”, then isn’t it your longing not simply to join in praise with David but to extend his invitation to praise further? Don’t you not only long to praise, but long for others to praise God? Oh for a thousand tongues to sing! I cannot have a thousand tongues of my own, but I may be used by God to grow the choir. If praise is the consummation of joy, and my joy is God, my own voice is not enough. There must be more. The longing to praise is inseparable from the longing for others to praise.

The Doctor: Have You Been Made Nigh?

“I want to ask you a question. Have you been made nigh? I can tell you, very simply, how to know whether you have or not. If you are still talking about being good enough, you have not been made nigh. If you are still relying on yourself in any shape or form, you are still afar off. If you are still talking of not being good enough, you also have not been made nigh. Because as long as you keep on talking of not being good enough, what you really are saying is that you think you can make yourself good enough. But you never can. You will never be nearer than you are now. Never! If you lived a thousand years you would be no nearer. You will never be good enough to come into the presence of God. So if you are still saying: Ah, that is wonderful, but I am not good enough, I am a sinner, that means you are not made nigh. The one who is made nigh is one who says: I know that I am a sinner, I know the sins of the past, I know that I still have a sinful nature within me; but though I know that, I know that I am in the presence of God, because I am in Christ. I have listened to the voice of the blood of Christ and it has spoken to me of forgiveness, of reconciliation, ofexpiation, of God being satisfied, of God being ‘just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus’. The blood is sprinkled on my conscience. Let hell try to denounce me, that God accepts me; I am relying only, utterly, entirely, upon Jesus Christ and Him crucified. ‘His blood can make the foulest clean. His blood avails for me.’ In His merits alone I know that I have access to God and that God receives me, that I have been ‘made nigh by the blood of Christ.’” —D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God’s Way of Reconciliation, (Baker Book House, 1987) p. 11

Sin Has an Echo (Psalm 32)

1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, 
     whose sin is covered. 
2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, 
     and in whose spirit there is no deceit. 

3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away 
     through my groaning all day long. 
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; 
     my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah 

5 I acknowledged my sin to you, 
     and I did not cover my iniquity; 
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” 
     and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
—Psalm 32:1-5

While David keeps silent about his sin, his sin is loud. Sin has an echo and that echo reverberates louder the more you try to stifle it. David’s silence is an attempt at “deceit” (cf. v. 2). It is an attempt to “cover” (cf. v. 5). But our coverings of fig leaves don’t hide nuthin’.

When God’s children are silent, something is wrong. Silence is an attempt to muffle the echo of sin. John Goldingay comments, “Keeping quiet is not a mark of OT piety. OT piety makes noise, either in lament and prayer or in thanksgiving and praise. There is something suspicious about a person keeping quiet. It gives the impression that something is being concealed.” When the kids are silent, parents suspect. When God’s children are silent, God knows. Our silence doesn’t keep God in ignorance. It shouts to our own knowledge of our guilt.

Worse still, our silence is blasphemous. Our silence says we think God is a fool. We play mute thinking we’ve made God blind and deaf. We think ourselves more sly than God is wise. By silently denying our sin, we call God a liar. 1 John 1:10 – “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” Silence on sin is sin doubled down. We dishonor God by our rebellion and then we blaspheme Him with our ridiculing silence.

The only way to silence the echo of our sin is to let it reverberate to heaven with confession. The only way to cover sin, is to uncover it. Try to cover your sin, and it will be exposed by judgment or chastisement. Expose it, and it will be covered by mercy and grace. When you stop trying to cover your own sin, God will cover it. He will cleanse you by the shed blood of Christ and cover you with the robe of His righteousness.

The Doctor: The Height of Sin

“The fatal mistake is to think of sin always in terms of acts and of actions rather than in terms of nature, and of disposition. The mistake is to think of it in terms of particular things instead of thinking of it, as we should, in terms of our relationship to God. Do you want to know what sin is? I will tell you. Sin is the exact opposite of the attitude and the life which conform to, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.’ If you are not doing that you are a sinner. It does not matter how respectable you are; if you are not living entirely to the glory of God you are a sinner. And the more you imagine that you are perfect in and of yourself and apart from your relationship to God, the greater is your sin. That is why anyone who reads the New Testament objectively can see clearly that the Pharisees of our Lord’s time were greater sinners (if you can use such terms) than were the publicans and open sinners. Why? Because they were self-satisfied, because they were self-sufficient. The height of sin is not to feel any need of the grace of God. There is no greater sin than that. Infinitely worse than committing some sin of the flesh is to feel that you are independent of God, or that Christ need never have died on the cross of Calvary. There is no greater sin than that. That final self-sufficiency, and self-satisfaction, and self righteousness is the sin of sins; it is sin at its height, because it is a spiritual sin.” —D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God’s Way of Reconciliation, (Baker Book House, 1987) p. 11

Argue God to God (Psalm 31)

"In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; 
     let me never be put to shame; 
     in your righteousness deliver me! 
Incline your ear to me; 
     rescue me speedily! 
Be a rock of refuge for me, 
     a strong fortress to save me! 
For you are my rock and my fortress; 
     and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me..."

—Psalm 31:1–3

Before David prays “be a rock of refuge for me,” he confesses and declares “in you, O LORD, do I take refuge.” The prayers of the psalms, we may even say the prayers of the Bible, are full of confessions and declarations. Such declarations often verge on praise, and no doubt this one is an expression of praise, but on the face it, it is just a statement. A confession.

Such confessions and declarations in prayer are a way of thinking on God with God. This is how we should think on God—prayerfully. Say your prayers with confessions of truth, but also, say your confessions prayerfully. As John Owen put it this way:

“Meditate of [upon] God with God; that is, when we would undertake thoughts and meditations of God, his excellencies, his properties, his glory, his majesty, his love, his goodness, let it be done in a way of speaking unto God, in a deep humiliation and abasement of our souls before him. This will fix the mind, and draw it forth from one thing to another, to give glory unto God in a due manner, and affect the soul until it be brought into that holy admiration of God and delight in him which is acceptable unto him. My meaning is, that it be done in a way of prayer and praise,—speaking unto God.”

Because we don’t declare truth in our prayers, we petition lies in our prayers. Because we don’t confess truth, we pray lies. When you fill your prayers with more declarations and confessions of truth, you will petition your God better in those prayers. Such declarations have a way of pulling us out of our little kingdoms and reorienting our prayers around the kingdom of God.

What David first declares, he then pleas, and then he offers as the grounds for that plea what he has declared. “In you, O LORD, do I take refuge… Be a rock of refuge for me… for you are my rock and fortress” (Psalm 31:1, 2, 3; emphasis mine). Prayer is asking God to be for us what He has said He will be for us because He has said He will be that for us. In your prayers, argue God to God. I believe it was another Puritan author who said something like “God is fond of his own handwriting. Show it to Him.”

The Doctor: Ignorance of Our Impotence

“The trouble with all false evangelism is that it does not start with doctrine, it does not start by realising man’s condition. All fleshly, carnal, manmade evangelism is the result of inadequate understanding of what the apostle teaches us in the first ten verses of this second chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians. If you and I but realised that every man who is yet a sinner is absolutely dominated by ‘the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience,” if we only understood that he is really a child of wrath and dead in trespasses and sins, we would realise that only one power can deal with such an individual, and that is the power of God, the power of the Holy Ghost. And so we would put our confidence, not in man-made organisations, but in the power of God, in the prayer that holds on to God and asks for revival and a descent of the Spirit. We would realise that nothing else can do it. We can change men superficially, we can win men to our side and to our party, we can persuade them to join a church, but we can never raise the spiritually dead; God alone can do that. The realisation of these truths would of necessity determine and control all our evangelism.” —D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God’s Way of Reconciliation, (Baker Book House, 1987) p. 11,

The Secret of Contentment (Philippians 4:1–23)

If the athlete wants to plaster Philippians 4:13 on their person or proclaim it during an interview, let him then speak of having learned to accept both defeat and victory with joy and peace and contentment in Christ. Let him speak of being strengthened to play in his prime with humility and also strengthened to fade from the spotlight with dignity. If he does so, then I might think that he’s actually read a few verses other than 4:13.

Philippians 4:13 unveils the “secret” of Philippians 4:12. The secret Paul speaks of is not one for “success” but contentment in the face of success or failure, a promotion or the loss of a job, life or death, sickness or health. The secret of this verse isn’t how you can achieve your goals. It is how you may accept with heavenly poise God’s holy, wise, and good providence wether it stings or is sweet. The strength Paul speaks of is grace to receive whatever comes your way as a heavenly citizen living worthy of the gospel of Christ.

The Greek word for “contentment” here,  all by itself, suggests the pagan Stoic notion of self-sufficiency and independence. But the word is not by itself. Paul flips its natural meaning upside down. Paul’s contentment is independent from states of either abundance or need, but it is not independent. It is Christ-dependent. Paul finds contentment through Christ in Christ.

Lloyd-Jones, preaching on theses verses said, “It is a statement that is characterized at one and the same time by a sense of triumph and humility. Paul sounds at first as if he is boasting, and yet, when you look at this statement again, you find that it is one of the most glorious and striking tributes that he has ever paid anywhere to his Lord and Master.” But too many, when they quote this verse, are boasting. It is all triumph with no humility. It is the same stoic notion found in Henley’s Invictus.

“Out of the night that covers me,
      Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
      For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
      Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
      Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.

No, Paul says, “Christ is the master of my life. To live is Christ and to die is gain. Christ is the captain of my soul. I am sure that He who began a good work in me will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” This is the secret of contentment: finding joy in Christ through Christ; Christ-dependence certain of Christ-sufficiency; desperately needed grace and utterly certain grace; recognizing a need as vast as the ocean and knowing there is a supply as vast as the cosmos. Forget Henley. Sing with Wesley instead.

Thou hidden source of calm repose,
Thou all sufficient love divine,
My help and refuge from my foes,
Secure I am if Thou art mine;
And lo! from sin, and grief, and shame
I hide me, Jesus, in Thy name.

Thy mighty name salvation is,
And keeps my happy soul above.
Comfort it brings, and power, and peace,
And joy, and everlasting love.
To me, with Thy great name, are given
Pardon, and holiness and heaven.

Jesus, my all in all Thou art;
My rest in toil, my ease in pain;
The healing of my broken heart,
In war my peace, in loss my gain;
My smile beneath the tyrant’s frown;
In shame my glory and my crown.

In want my plentiful supply,
In weakness my almighty power;
In bonds my perfect liberty,
My light in Satan’s darkest hour;
In grief my joy unspeakable,
My life in death, my all-in-all.

The Doctor: All Self Made Sinners, No Self Made Saints

“Our starting point must always be, ‘I am what I am by the grace of God,’ and by the power of God. A Christian is the result of the operation of God, nothing less, nothing else. No man can make himself a Christian; God alone makes Christians.” —D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God’s Ultimate Purpose, (Baker Book House, 1979) p. 395