En Gedi: Finding rest in the wilderness!

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Archive for October, 2008

A Halloween that changed the world!

Posted by Scott on October 31, 2008

On October 31, 1517, something happened that changed the world. No, it had little to do with Halloween. Do you know what it was? Even the man who did it didn’t know the effect it would have. On October 31, 1517, a Roman Catholic Augustinian monk and priest by the name of Martin Luther (1483-1546) nailed a notice on the door at Wittenberg Castle church in Germany. To Luther, it was a relatively small act. This was the common way of scheduling a debate in those days. But the world has not been the same since.

Martin Luther is one of my favorite historical characters. This is not because he was perfect. He certainly had flaws (don’t we all?). It is because he so bravely stood for what he believed to be right and, by doing so, certainly helped to pierce the veil of darkness that then shrouded the world. Four hundred ninety years ago this month he nailed his famous “ninety-five theses” to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany.

Martin was the firstborn son of Roman Catholic parents. His father Hans was a miner who scraped up enough money to send his brilliant son to university; there Martin studied the law. He earned his bachelor of arts in 1503 and his master of arts degree in 1505 at the age of twenty-three.

One July day, a thunderstorm frightened Martin as he walked along. He begged Saint Anne, the miner’s saint, for help, and vowed to become a monk. A few days later, Martin joined the Augustinian monastery at Erfurt.

In those days, almost everyone in Europe was a Roman Catholic. Martin Luther hoped to find salvation for himself by being a perfect monk. He did all the prayers and works and confessions required of him. He venerated the relics. But he still felt unworthy of God. He believed he could never please God; he knew his sins and his sinful nature remained and that he was worthy only of eternal punishment.

He talked to one of the supervisors in his monastery about his troubled thoughts but found no peace in the solutions offered by the Roman Catholic teaching. Luther was given the jobs of teaching and preaching, so he spent a lot of time studying the Scriptures. Finally, God showed him the answer to his doubts. “The just shall live by faith,” wrote the apostle Paul in Romans 1:17. This meant that Martin could be justified (declared not guilty and seen as righteous) before God only by faith (putting his trust in Jesus Christ as His Savior), not by any works he could do. In Scripture, he had found the truth, and the truth had set him free!

Luther began to teach this doctrine to others. But he found himself in conflict with many of the Roman Catholic doctrines. He felt certain that the wrong doctrines could be straightened out by study and debate. He felt sure that the pope and the leading men of the Roman Catholic Church sincerely wanted to teach right doctrine from the Bible. He believed the church leadership had merely slipped into error, and they would readily correct themselves when the errors were exposed. This is why he nailed ninety-five points for debate to the church door on 31 October 1517. He wanted to initiate a scholarly debate.

But the reaction he received was vastly different than he expected, in two ways. First, the pope and leaders of the church did not want to debate. They did not want to change anything. They did not believe they were wrong! They firmly believed the authority to interpret Scripture lay with the pope and the church’s traditional teachings. They had no intention of listening to a German monk!

Second, the citizens of Wittenberg and many other areas began reading what Luther had written, and were in great agreement with it. (It had been originally written in Latin, the language of scholars and of the church, but it was very soon translated into the common German language.) Luther’s ideas and teaching spread like wildfire throughout Germany and soon to distant parts of Europe.

Luther continued to write about the doctrines he was finding in the Bible. He began teaching many things that were contrary to the official Roman Catholic teachings. He wrote several tracts and booklets. He was sincerely attempting to wake up and clean up the Roman Catholic Church. He was truly trying to educate the people in Scripture, for up until this time, people only knew and believed what the church leaders told them. Most people could not read Latin, or even get their hands on a Bible. Now, they were hearing the words of Scripture, which had been kept hidden from them by their leaders. They were astonished and edified by what they were now reading.

The pope was trying to raise money, by various methods, to build St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. One of the methods was to sell indulgences. A friar named Tetzel came into the neighborhood hawking these slips of paper. He taught the common people a jingle that said something like, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.” Many people still assumed the Roman Catholic Church and the pope had authority over them. The only way to have forgiveness of sins, they believed, was to get it from the pope. The people were eagerly buying these indulgences to free their loved-ones from purgatory and to give themselves license to sin. Martin Luther spoke out against this practice saying it is not in line with the teachings of the Bible. The pope and other church leaders found their sales dropping off and decided to put a stop to this Martin Luther!

Luther was summoned to a religious court hearing before the Emperor Charles V, church leaders, and civil leaders in the city of Worms, Germany. They asked him to retract his writings. They commanded him to stop teaching contrary to the Roman Catholic Church. He replied, “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason, for my conscience is captive to the Word of God, I cannot and I will not recant for it is neither right nor safe for a Christian to go against his conscience. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”

Charles V pronounced Luther an outlaw. He declared, “We want him to be apprehended and punished as a notorious heretic.” He also made giving food or shelter to Luther a crime and gave permission for anyone to kill Luther. Luther escaped death because of the daring, undercover operation of Frederick III, Elector of Saxony (the part of Germany where Luther lived). Frederick had Luther “kidnapped” by masked men and whisked off to Wartburg Castle, where Luther grew a beard and, for about eleven months, pretended to be a knight. During his stay at Wartburg, Luther continued to write. He also translated the New Testament from Greek into German so his countrymen could read it for themselves in their own language.

Many began to look to Scripture alone as the authority for their beliefs. They began to reject the authority of the pope and the Roman Catholic Church. The people questioned Roman Catholic doctrines. Most importantly, many began to rely on faith in Christ’s atonement and righteousness for their salvation, instead of upon works, penance, and indulgences.

But while at Wartburg, the Reformation began to get out of Luther’s control. He returned to Wittenberg to try to stop people who wanted to make extreme changes beyond what he had taught. Luther considered these people (who included Anabaptists) to be radicals and troublemakers because they were preaching the equality of man, the separation of church and state, and believer’s baptism. To Luther, this was going too far.

We might wonder how Luther could think this. But it might help if we try putting ourselves in his place. He was born into an extremely dark time in history. He was a monk and priest in a church that claimed to be the only way to salvation, yet it did not understand the Gospel. And, unlike today, Luther could not just read the writings of ministers in other churches or walk out of the Catholic Church and into a Bible-believing church to get help. Any churches outside of the Roman Catholic Church were small, persecuted, scattered in the wilderness, and secretive. Luther was brought up in, educated in, and totally surrounded by a worldview that contradicted the Gospel. But despite this handicap, God, by His grace, opened Luther’s mind to the Gospel and used him to light a light in that dark world.

True, his doctrines and practices were not perfect. But would any one of us, coming from the same background, living in the same circumstances, have done any better? Not only did God use him to directly preach the Gospel, but his influence resulted in many others preaching the Gospel. In fact, Luther was probably the most influential man to have lived from the time of the apostles to now. The Protestantism that sprang from his movement has helped to mold our civilization.

It is also true that some of the radicals did go too far and introduce violence. Luther wrote, “Do you know what the Devil thinks when he sees men use violence to propagate the gospel? He sits with folded arms behind the fire of hell, and says with malignant looks and frightful grin: ‘Ah, how wise these madmen are to play my game! Let them go on; I shall reap the benefit. I delight in it.’ But when he sees the Word running and contending alone on the battle-field, then he shudders and shakes for fear.”

One of the most controversial events in Luther’s life was his connection to the Peasants’ War that started in 1524. At first, Luther expressed sympathy for the peasants’ complaints. But when the peasants became violent, Luther himself instigated violence by telling the nobility to treat the peasants without pity and put them down like mad dogs: “Whosoever can, should smite, strangle, and stab, secretly or publicly.”

So, Martin Luther was a complex person. He made great strides in some areas, especially in promoting the authority of the Bible alone, justification by faith alone, and freedom of the conscience. Yet, odd as it may seem to us today, Luther could not see that these teachings opened the door to more civil and religious freedom than he was willing to allow in his time. But these freedoms would inevitably come as people, including the Anabaptists and other radicals whom Luther tried to suppress, took these ideals to their natural conclusions, resulting in the religious freedoms and open society we have today.

© Copyright 2007 Peter and Mary Ditzel wordofhisgrace.org

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Martin Luther’s 95 Theses-Happy Reformation Day!

Posted by Scott on October 31, 2008

To honor and remember the beginning of the great Reformation 490 plus years ago please take time to read the 95 These Luther posted to the door to the castle at Wittenburg, Germany.

Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences
by Dr. Martin Luther
31 October 1509
 or 1517 (?)

Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.

In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.

2. This word cannot be understood to mean sacramental penance, i.e., confession and satisfaction, which is administered by the priests.

3. Yet it means not inward repentance only; nay, there is no inward repentance which does not outwardly work divers
mortifications of the flesh.

4. The penalty [of sin], therefore, continues so long as hatred of self continues; for this is the true inward repentance, and continues until our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

5. The pope does not intend to remit, and cannot remit any penalties other than those which he has imposed either by his own authority or by that of the Canons.

6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring that it has been remitted by God and by assenting to God’s remission; though, to be sure, he may grant remission in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in such cases were despised, the guilt would remain entirely unforgiven.

7. God remits guilt to no one whom He does not, at the same time, humble in all things and bring into subjection to His vicar, the priest.

8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to them, nothing should be imposed on the dying.

9. Therefore the Holy Spirit in the pope is kind to us, because in his decrees he always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity.

10. Ignorant and wicked are the doings of those priests who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penances for purgatory.

11. This changing of the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory is quite evidently one of the tares that were sown while the bishops slept.

12. In former times the canonical penalties were imposed not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.

13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties; they are already dead to canonical rules, and have a right to be released from them.

14. The imperfect health [of soul], that is to say, the imperfect love, of the dying brings with it, of necessity, great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater is the fear.

15. This fear and horror is sufficient of itself alone (to say nothing of other things) to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the horror of despair.

16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ as do despair, almost-despair, and the assurance of safety.

17. With souls in purgatory it seems necessary that horror should grow less and love increase.

18. It seems unproved, either by reason or Scripture, that they are outside the state of merit, that is to say, of increasing love.

19. Again, it seems unproved that they, or at least that all of them, are certain or assured of their own blessedness, though we may be quite certain of it.

20. Therefore by “full remission of all penalties” the pope means not actually “of all,” but only of those imposed by himself.

21. Therefore those preachers of indulgences are in error, who say that by the pope’s indulgences a man is freed from every penalty, and saved;

22. Whereas he remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to the canons, they would have had to pay in this life.

23. If it is at all possible to grant to any one the remission of all penalties whatsoever, it is certain that this remission can be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to the very fewest.

24. It must needs be, therefore, that the greater part of the people are deceived by that indiscriminate and highsounding promise of release from penalty.

25. The power which the pope has, in a general way, over purgatory, is just like the power which any bishop or curate has, in a special way, within his own diocese or parish.

26. The pope does well when he grants remission to souls [in purgatory], not by the power of the keys (which he does not possess), but by way of intercession.

27. They preach man who say that so soon as the penny jingles into the money-box, the soul flies out [of purgatory].

28. It is certain that when the penny jingles into the money-box, gain and avarice can be increased, but the result of the intercession of the Church is in the power of God alone.

29. Who knows whether all the souls in purgatory wish to be bought out of it, as in the legend of Sts. Severinus and Paschal.

30. No one is sure that his own contrition is sincere; much less that he has attained full remission.

31. Rare as is the man that is truly penitent, so rare is also the man who truly buys indulgences, i.e., such men are most rare.

32. They will be condemned eternally, together with their teachers, who believe themselves sure of their salvation because they have letters of pardon.

33. Men must be on their guard against those who say that the pope’s pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to Him;

34. For these “graces of pardon” concern only the penalties of sacramental satisfaction, and these are appointed by man.

35. They preach no Christian doctrine who teach that contrition is not necessary in those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessionalia.

36. Every truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without letters of pardon.

37. Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has part in all the blessings of Christ and the Church; and this is granted him by God, even without letters of pardon.

38. Nevertheless, the remission and participation [in the blessings of the Church] which are granted by the pope are in no way to be despised, for they are, as I have said, the declaration of divine remission.

39. It is most difficult, even for the very keenest theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people the abundance of pardons and [the need of] true contrition.

40. True contrition seeks and loves penalties, but liberal pardons only relax penalties and cause them to be hated, or at least, furnish an occasion [for hating them].

41. Apostolic pardons are to be preached with caution, lest the people may falsely think them preferable to other good works of love.

42. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend the buying of pardons to be compared in any way to works of mercy.

43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better work than buying pardons;

44. Because love grows by works of love, and man becomes better; but by pardons man does not grow better, only more free from penalty.

45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in need, and passes him by, and gives [his money] for pardons, purchases not the indulgences of the pope, but the indignation of God.

46. Christians are to be taught that unless they have more than they need, they are bound to keep back what is necessary for their own families, and by no means to squander it on pardons.

47. Christians are to be taught that the buying of pardons is a matter of free will, and not of commandment.

48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting pardons, needs, and therefore desires, their devout prayer for him more than the money they bring.

49. Christians are to be taught that the pope’s pardons are useful, if they do not put their trust in them; but altogether harmful, if through them they lose their fear of God.

50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the pardon-preachers, he would rather that St. Peter’s church should go to ashes, than that it should be built up with the skin, flesh and bones of his sheep.

51. Christians are to be taught that it would be the pope’s wish, as it is his duty, to give of his own money to very many of those from whom certain hawkers of pardons cajole money, even though the church of St. Peter might have to be sold.

52. The assurance of salvation by letters of pardon is vain, even though the commissary, nay, even though the pope himself, were to stake his soul upon it.

53. They are enemies of Christ and of the pope, who bid the Word of God be altogether silent in some Churches, in order that pardons may be preached in others.

54. Injury is done the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or a longer time is spent on pardons than on this Word.

55. It must be the intention of the pope that if pardons, which are a very small thing, are celebrated with one bell, with single processions and ceremonies, then the Gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.

56. The “treasures of the Church,” out of which the pope grants indulgences, are not sufficiently named or known among the people of Christ.

57. That they are not temporal treasures is certainly evident, for many of the vendors do not pour out such treasures so easily, but only gather them.

58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the Saints, for even without the pope, these always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outward man.

59. St. Lawrence said that the treasures of the Church were the Church’s poor, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.

60. Without rashness we say that the keys of the Church, given by Christ’s merit, are that treasure;

61. For it is clear that for the remission of penalties and of reserved cases, the power of the pope is of itself sufficient.

62. The true treasure of the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of God.

63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last.

64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.

65. Therefore the treasures of the Gospel are nets with which they formerly were wont to fish for men of riches.

66. The treasures of the indulgences are nets with which they now fish for the riches of men.

67. The indulgences which the preachers cry as the “greatest graces” are known to be truly such, in so far as they promote gain.

68. Yet they are in truth the very smallest graces compared with the grace of God and the piety of the Cross.

69. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of apostolic pardons, with all reverence.

70. But still more are they bound to strain all their eyes and attend with all their ears, lest these men preach their own dreams instead of the commission of the pope.

71 . He who speaks against the truth of apostolic pardons, let him be anathema and accursed!

72. But he who guards against the lust and license of the pardon-preachers, let him be blessed!

73. The pope justly thunders against those who, by any art, contrive the injury of the traffic in pardons.

74. But much more does he intend to thunder against those who use the pretext of pardons to contrive the injury of holy love and truth.

75. To think the papal pardons so great that they could absolve a man even if he had committed an impossible sin and violated the Mother of God — this is madness.

76. We say, on the contrary, that the papal pardons are not able to remove the very least of venial sins, so far as its guilt is concerned.

77. It is said that even St. Peter, if he were now Pope, could not bestow greater graces; this is blasphemy against St. Peter and against the pope.

78. We say, on the contrary, that even the present pope, and any pope at all, has greater graces at his disposal; to wit, the Gospel, powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written in I. Corinthians xii.

79. To say that the cross, emblazoned with the papal arms, which is set up [by the preachers of indulgences], is of equal worth with the Cross of Christ, is blasphemy.

80. The bishops, curates and theologians who allow such talk to be spread among the people, will have an account to render.

81. This unbridled preaching of pardons makes it no easy matter, even for learned men, to rescue the reverence due to the pope from slander, or even from the shrewd questionings of the laity.

82. To wit: — “Why does not the pope empty purgatory, for the sake of holy love and of the dire need of the souls that are there, if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a Church? The former reasons would be most just; the latter is most trivial.”

83. Again: — “Why are mortuary and anniversary masses for the dead continued, and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded on their behalf, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?”

84. Again: — “What is this new piety of God and the pope, that for money they allow a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God, and do not rather, because of that pious and beloved soul’s own need, free it for pure love’s sake?”

85. Again: — “Why are the penitential canons long since in actual fact and through disuse abrogated and dead, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences, as though they were still alive and in force?”

86. Again: — “Why does not the pope, whose wealth is to-day greater than the riches of the richest, build just this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of poor believers?”

87. Again: — “What is it that the pope remits, and what participation does he grant to those who, by perfect contrition, have a right to full remission and participation?”

88. Again: — “What greater blessing could come to the Church than if the pope were to do a hundred times a day what he now does once, and bestow on every believer these remissions and participations?”

89. “Since the pope, by his pardons, seeks the salvation of souls rather than money, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons granted heretofore, since these have equal efficacy?”

90. To repress these arguments and scruples of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the Church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christians unhappy.

91. If, therefore, pardons were preached according to the spirit and mind of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved; nay, they would not exist.

92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Peace, peace,” and there is no peace!

93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Cross, cross,” and there is no cross!

94. Christians are to be exhorted that they be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hell;

95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven rather through many tribulations, than through the assurance of peace.

Published in:  Works of Martin Luther, Adolph Spaeth, L.D. Reed, Henry Eyster Jacobs, et Al., Trans. & Eds. (Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Company, 1915), Vol. 1, pp. 29-38.

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Does God Predestine Some to Hell? Great Video by Mark Kielar

Posted by Scott on October 29, 2008

Romans 9:17-18

17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”[a] 18Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

Exodus 7:2-5

2 You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, 4 he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. 5 And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.”

Exodus 9:12

12 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses.


So, God either actively or passively intervenes in peoples lives.  The same opportunities to accept the gospel are present, but the intervention of God is different.  Remember also, God’s common grace that all men enjoy whether deserved or not.  Without the hand of God restraining this vile evil that exist in man, the world would not be tolerable by any human being or beast.  God is Sovereignly at work in the lives of His people for our greater good and ultimately His greater glory.   Praise the Lord He first loved me and sought me out like the hound on the trail of a rabbit…nothing will deter the will of God.


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Happy Reformation Day! 499th Anniversary of the Great Reformation Beginning!

Posted by Scott on October 28, 2008

This October 31st, 2008 marks the 499th Anniversary of the day that Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Catholic Church in Germany. Through his sacrifice and courage to challenge the church at that time he made known that we can go before God without any human “go between”. Jesus Christ is our “go between” now. Please, enjoy the short article below as we celebrate another year this great reformation has survived.

Martin Luther

Luther Brings Faith and Grace to Everyday Life. Martin Luther’s great evangelism tool was the written word. Though Luther was famous as a preacher and teacher, he believed that everyone needed to build his or her own personal relationship with God through God’s word.

He translated the entire Bible into German (his native language), believing that every single person should be able to read well enough to read the Bible on his or her own. He also wrote the explanations in the Small Catechism, so that parents would have an simple way to teach their children the basics of their faith.

Luther had a complex and interesting life. The definitive biography is Here I Stand, by Roland Bainton (New American Library). John Osborne’s Luther (a play published by Criterion Books) was filmed in a version starring Stacey Keach, which is still available. But the important part of Luther’s life is the legacy he left to us of his overwhelming fascination with the study of God and God’s relationship to us. He based his view of God on a thorough rereading of the New Testament, from which come the key Lutheran beliefs of priesthood of believers (Hebrews 7, 9 , and 10) and justification by faith (Romans 3: 23).

The priesthood of believers includes all of us who are believers, and it means that each of us has the right to approach God directly through prayer and study without go-betweens and without wondering which of us is the most important to God: each of us is equally important to God. And in Christian community, we serve as priests to one another.

Justification by faith means that God loves us and saves us not because of who we are or what we do, but because he created us and we are his. Luther wrote, “In baptism, our sinful selves are drowned, and day by day a new self arises.” He encouraged us to remember our baptism every time we take a shower or wash our faces; God’s removal of our sins is that close and that constant. The knowledge of the closeness of God to us in every thing we say and do every day of our lives is Luther’s great gift to Christian life.

During Luther’s lifetime, he was the best-selling writer in Europe. What would our lives be like if Luther’s Small Catechism was at the top of the list of best selling books week-in and week-out?

More resources can be found at SundaySchool Lessons.

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“O Lord, God of Our Fathers!”

Posted by Scott on October 17, 2008

New Hymn I wrote the other day…based on the Scriptures found in 2 Chronicles 20…maybe it you will like it….this is amateur writing of course.

1. O Lord, God of our fathers,

You rule over all the kingdoms

Both in heaven and on earth

For power and might are in Your hand,

No one can withstand

Give thanks to the Lord, He endures forever!

2. O Lord, God of our fathers,

We cry out to you on earth,

for our salvation and deliverence

We know You will hear us,

and we know You will save us.

Give thanks to the Lord, He endures forever!

3. O Lord, God of our fathers,

We are powerless to win alone

and we know not what to do,

But our eyes are fixed on You, Father

Please, fight for us today, O Lord.

Give thanks to the Lord, He endures forever!

4. O Lord, God of our fathers,

We will not be afraid of the enemy

the battle is not ours to win

But the victory is sure,

You, O Lord, will deliver us today.

Give thanks to the Lord, He endures forever!”

(c) Scott Bailey 2008

 

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Does Truth Matter Anymore?

Posted by Scott on October 15, 2008

A great 5 part series by John MacArthur on Truth. Excellence in preaching does not mean being creative. Simply preach and teach the entire Word of God. Watch and listen.

PART ONE

PART TWO

PART THREE

PART FOUR

PART FIVE

Your comments and questions are welcome. Scott Bailey 2008

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Quiet Heroes!

Posted by Scott on October 7, 2008

Quiet Heroes by A.W. Tozer

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth…. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. –Matthew 5:5-8

We have but to become acquainted with, or even listen to, the big names of our times to discover how wretchedly inferior most of them are. Many appear to have arrived at their present eminence by pull, brass, nerve, gall and lucky accident. We turn away from them sick to our stomach and wonder for a discouraged moment if this is the best the human race can produce. But we gain our self-possession again by the simple expedient of recalling some of the plain men we know, who live unheralded and unsung, and who are made of stuff infinitely finer than the hoarse-voiced braggarts who occupy too many of the highest offices in the land. . . .

. . . the church also suffers from this evil notion. Christians have fallen into the habit of accepting the noisiest and most notorious among them as the best and the greatest. They too have learned to equate popularity with excellence, and in open defiance of the Sermon on the Mount they have given their approval not to the meek but to the self-assertive; not to the mourner but to the self-assured; not to the pure in heart who see God but to the publicity hunter who seeks headlines. Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 96-97.

“Lord, I thank You this morning for all the unknown but faithful pastors serving churches in quiet places. We do place a lot of emphasis on the ‘personalities’ and big-church leaders. Thank You for the ‘quiet heroes‘ and their faithful service; give them great encouragement today. Amen.”

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The End of the Nation? Russia Chooses Death Over Life

Posted by Scott on October 7, 2008

Reports out of Russia indicate that the recent military clash with Georgia may have represented something more like desperation than opportunism.  Murray Feshbach of The Washington Post reports that, all things considered, Russia is actually close to a national collapse.

“Predictions that Russia will again become powerful, rich and influential ignore some simply devastating problems at home that block any march to power,” Feshbach reports.  “Sure, Russia’s army could take tiny Georgia. But Putin’s military is still in tatters, armed with rusting weaponry and staffed with indifferent recruits. Meanwhile, a declining population is robbing the military of a new generation of soldiers. Russia’s economy is almost totally dependent on the price of oil. And, worst of all, it’s facing a public health crisis that verges on the catastrophic.”

The health crisis turns out to be a barometer of sorts — and a warning of a far greater disaster that looms.  Russia is falling into the rank of nations with the lowest life expectancy and highest rates of early death.  No one appears concerned enough to do anything.

As Feshbach reports:

Recent decades, most notably since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, have seen an appalling deterioration in the health of the Russian population, anchoring Russia not in the forefront of developed countries but among the most backward of nations.

This is a tragedy of huge proportions — but not a particularly surprising one, at least to me. I followed population, health and environmental issues in the Soviet Union for decades, and more recently, I have reported on diseases such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic ravaging the Russian population. I’ve visited Russia more than 50 times over the years, so I can say from firsthand experience that this national calamity isn’t happening suddenly. It’s happening inexorably.

According to U.N. figures, the average life expectancy for a Russian man is 59 years — putting the country at about 166th place in the world longevity sweepstakes, one notch above Gambia. For women, the picture is somewhat rosier: They can expect to live, on average, 73 years, barely beating out the Moldovans. But there are still some 126 countries where they could expect to live longer. And the gap between expected longevity for men and for women — 14 years — is the largest in the developed world.

The recent military incursion into Georgia, brutal as it was, may represent a futile attempt to show force while Russia still has force.  The number of young men of military age in the population is crashing — as is the number of young women who could give birth to future soldiers.

In order to understand this, consider this shocking headline from the St. Peterburg Times [Russia]:  “Experts — 64 Percent of Russian Pregnancies End in Abortion.”

As the paper reports:

The low birth rate remains one of the key reasons behind Russia’s ongoing demographic crisis. According to official statistics, every fourth teenage girl in Russia has some form of gynecological ailment or reproductive health disorder.

Each year in Russia, more than 64 percent of all pregnancies end in abortion, while in Western European countries the level is below 25 percent. By comparison, there are 10 to 15 abortions per 100 pregnancies in the U.K. and 5 or 6 per 100 in the Netherlands.

One in ten women who undergo an abortion in Russia is below 18 years of age, doctors say. Gynecological disease rates for teenage girls in 15-17 age group, have jumped by an alarming 30 percent in the last five years.

In a twist only Fyodor Dostoevsky might understand, Russian authorities, alarmed by the population collapse, declared 2008 as the ‘Year of the Family.’  Government campaigns to encourage bearing children were launched, but with no apparent impact.  In a stunning disconnect, the government still offers free abortions.

What country can live with aborting 64 percent of its babies?  How can such a nation survive?  It has brought death into its own wombs.  The babies who are born are the lucky few.  The vast majority never see life outside the womb.

In recent days The Los Angeles Times has reported that a small pro-life movement has begun in Russia, but without much influence as of yet:

A fledgling antiabortion movement is beginning to stir in Russia. Driven by a growing discussion of abortion as a moral issue and, most of all, by a government worried about demographics, doctors and politicians are quietly struggling to lower what is believed to be one of the world’s highest abortion rates..”

 

“The attitude has changed,” abortion practitioner Alexander Medvedev said. “Even in community clinics, doctors are trying to dissuade patients from abortion. Now teenagers come to see us with already two or three abortions, and it’s horrible.

The report indicates that some medical authorities and social observers are truly concerned, and exceptions for late-term abortions are harder to obtain. Nevertheless, the sheer number of abortions defies comprehension and appears unlikely to fall.  A reluctance to define the issue in moral terms means that authorities try to argue from the grounds of public health and population needs.  But once the moral ground is abandoned, so is the hope of any recovery.

Lincoln Steffens, an American apologist for the Bolshevik Revolution and the early Soviet regime, once infamously declared of the Soviets:  “I have been over to the future, and it works!”  Well, the current crisis in Russia may well be a warning of the future collapse of civilization.  Once a nation takes the Culture of Death into its heart, what rescue is possible?

________________________

The more familiar form of the quotation from Lincoln Steffens (“I have seen the future and it works!”) was not made known until after his death and may be a misquotation supplied by his widow.

 

 

For more on the article go to Al Mohler  and other articles by Dr. Al Mohler Jr.

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Altar Calls, Invitations are Dangerous!

Posted by Scott on October 3, 2008

The Dangers of the Invitation System!

Reposted on 10-3-2008 by Scott Bailey

by Jim Ehrhard


As a young minister, I once made the “mistake” of closing a Wednesday evening service without extending a public invitation.1 Early the next morning, an irate husband came to my office. For the first time in years, his unsaved wife had come with him to church. “If you had only given an invitation,” he angrily explained, “she would have gone down the aisle.”I explained that if the seed of God’s Word had been planted in her, then she would come to faith. Then she could “go down the aisle” on Sunday and share what God had done. My explanation fell on deaf ears. I had missed the opportune time, and if she never came to Christ, I would have to bear her damnation on my conscience for eternity, he retorted. 

In the ensuing months, God granted me many opportunities to speak personally with this lady about her spiritual condition. Not only was it obvious that she was not under conviction of sin; but she had little real understanding of the gospel. Through our conversations, she came to see her sin and real conviction made her life miserable. One morning she called and said, “I’ve finally come to Jesus. Now I understand what you’ve been talking about.”

This experience, and many similar that followed, led me to reexamine my views of the invitation system that I had always assumed were as much a part of the gospel as the death and resurrection of Jesus. My involvement with a Christian college ministry, attendance at a number of schools of evangelism, and my denominational traditions had led me to see the public invitation as vital to evangelism. Studying the Scriptures and the history of preaching and revivals began to lead me to a different conclusion. But the process of laying aside something that was so “normal” to me was a great emotional struggle. I needed to know that the dangers of such a system outweighed the benefits that everyone claimed.

2 I needed to know that I could still be evangelistic without extending a public altar call. I needed to see a better way.It is my hope that this article will help you in these areas. To do a thorough analysis of the system and its history is far beyond the scope of this undertaking. But perhaps as we examine this issue, we can see the dangers inherent in this system and chart a course for a better way.As we begin, one thing must be made thoroughly clear. I am not advocating that we not invite people to come to Christ. The invitation to come to Christ is one that we are called to make. Should we shrink back from such a call, we would be rightly accused of being “ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” Thus we should do everything possible to be more proficient in extending God’s great invitation to come to Christ.

However, God’s invitation that must be extended to all is not synonymous with man’s invitation system. Only since the 1800s has this system been employed to bring men to Christ.3 Since that time, this system has been refined and employed to such an extent that many today equate “coming to faith” with “coming down the aisle.” Such an equation is not only inaccurate; it is dangerous because it deceives many into resting their faith on a “profession” rather than on Christ, who alone is “able to save to the uttermost” (cf. Heb. 7:25).

 

The Dangers

 

Evangelists often seek biblical support for this practice in a number of passages. One evangelist says, “Christ always called people publicly, and this statement is confirmed by texts such as ‘Follow Me,’ or ‘Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess before My Father which is in heaven.’”4 But to conclude that Jesus gave altar calls on the basis of those passages is to fail to be honest with the text. No doubt Jesus called men to Himself. But do we see any example where He (or the apostles, for that matter) appealed for people to “come forward” as either a testimony to their decision or as an act of accepting Him?

1) The danger of promoting a method not promoted in Scripture

 

Furthermore, what is Jesus calling these to? Is it merely to make a “one time” decision about Him, or to follow Him all their lives? The invitation system gives the impression that the former is Jesus’ intent. And what about “confessing Him before men”? Is Jesus saying that by a single act of confession one becomes a believer? Or is He teaching that one mark of true faith is a life that continually confesses Him? Again, the invitation system leads many to trust their eternal destination to confidence in a “confession,” though they openly live in rebellion to Him throughout their lives.

In summary, many passages show that Jesus and the apostles called men to repentance and faith. But no passage indicates that either used any form of “invitation system” in bringing them to faith or in confirming their faith.5

2) The danger of eliciting an emotional response based upon the personality of the speaker or the persuasion of the appealIn Mark 4, Jesus portrays four types of hearers of God’s Word by using the parable of the soils. In the second soil, Jesus describes those who, “when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness.” But, Jesus cautions, “they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time.” Jesus knew the reality of being heard by crowds who had no desire to truly follow Him.

 

While this psychological element ought to be reason for concern and caution in using the invitation system, proponents actually argue that this element is all the more reason to extend an appeal for a public decision. Billy Graham teaches that the pressure brought upon the human soul is so great that an emotional outlet must be given. He argues:

Many psychologists would say it is psychologically sound. One of the reasons why our films and dramas usually have such a bad effect is that they stir the emotion to such a high pitch and do not offer any practical outlet for action.6

Evangelist George Sweazey agrees: “To stir people religiously without giving them anything they can do about it leaves them far worse off than they were before.”7In reality, most psychologists would agree with Graham’s assessment of the psychological pressure of the appeal, but would conclude that the response to his call is largely the result of this psychological pressure. One psychologist, George Target, gives such an assessment:

 

 

All present are told to pray, instructed to close their eyes and bow the head, and the form of the words is the auto-suggestive one that hundreds of others are already going forward, finding happiness, peace, love, God. … The counselors planted all over the audience make the first few moves, create the sense that the statement is true even when it very often is not. … It might all be true, there might be some nameless peace down there with all the others. The tension screws to the breaking point and beyond. The wonder is that so few actually obey.8In his book, Preaching and Preachers. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones cites an example in which the invitation appeal given by an evangelist was, by program necessity, separated from the message by a half-hour of hymn singing. In explanation of the disappointingly small response to his appeal, the evangelist stated that the effect of his appeal was diminished by the half-hour of hymn singing. Lloyd-Jones observes that the evangelist’s “admitting that half an hour of hymn singing can do away with the effect of a sermon… is a striking illustration of the fact that direct pressure on the will can produce ‘results.’”9

Lewis Sperry Chafer, a well-known evangelist and one of the founders of Dallas Theological Seminary, used the invitation system until he saw the inherent dangers:

 

 

Because of satanic blindness to the gospel of grace (2 Cor. 4:34), unregenerate man cannot comprehend the true basis of salvation, and is therefore ever prone to do the best he knows. This is to attempt to work out his own standing before God by his own efforts. It is this natural tendency to do something of merit that prompts many to respond to the evangelist’s appeal. … A leader with a commanding personality (and every successful evangelist must possess that characteristic in the extreme) may secure the public action of many, when the issue is made one of religious merit through some public act.10 

 

To make matters worse, many go away from the “altar,” told that they are now Christians, knowing that they are not changed one bit. As a result, their unbelief may harden into skepticism toward anything Christian. R. L. Dabney notes:

They feel that a cruel trick has been played upon their inexperience by the ministers and friends of Christianity in thus thrusting them, in the hour of their confusion, into false positions…. How natural to conclude that those [experiences of conversion] of all others are delusions also? They say: “The only difference between myself and these earnest Christians is that they have not yet detected the cheat as I have.”11 The extension of an appeal for public decision may result in a purely psychological response that provides a catharsis for the emotional pressure of the sermon. Such persons falsely assume that their action has made them right with God. In others, it may drive them further into skepticism and doubt about the reality of the conversion of anyone. Such dangers ought to alarm every person sincerely concerned about the salvation of lost souls.

3) The danger of confusing the “coming forward” with salvation 

 

 

There’s nothing about the mechanics of coming forward that saves anybody’s soul. Coming forward is an open acknowledgment and a testimony of an inward experience that you have had with Christ. But this inward experience with Christ, this encounter, is the most important thing.12 

 

But examination of the invitation used by Graham shows just how confusing the system is. Keep in mind that Graham has already noted that the coming forward is a “testimony of an inward experience that you have had with Christ.” When is the person converted? Why are they coming? 

 

I’m going to ask you to come forward. Up there – down there – I want you to come. You come right now – quickly. If you are here with friends or relatives, they will wait for you. Don’t let distance keep you from Christ. It’s a long way, but Christ went all the way to the cross because He loved you. Certainly you can come these few steps and give your life to Him. …13At the “altar,” the confusion continues as he addresses those who have come: “You have come tonight to Jesus Christ, you have come to receive Him into your heart. …” Which is it? Have they already come to Jesus, or are they coming now to receive Him? Graham continues: “He receives you; He died for you; He says, ‘Thy sins are forgiven.’ You accept that. The past is forgiven, God forgets…. He cannot even see your sins.”14 Then he leads them to repeat a prayer known as “the sinner’s prayer.” The question again is obvious: have they been forgiven, or will they be when they pray the prayer?

To make matters worse, many often add so many things to the invitation that one cannot be certain what he is being asked to do. This was especially true in the invitations of Billy Sunday who often exhorted people to “Come on down and take my hand against booze, for Jesus Christ, for your flag.”15

Even Spurgeon warned about the potential for confusing any system16 with salvation:

 

 

Sometimes shut up that enquiry-room. I have my fears about that institution if it be used in permanence, and as an inevitable part of the services…. If you should ever see that a notion is fashioning itself that there is something to be got in the private room which is not to be had at once in the assembly, or that God is more at that penitent form than elsewhere, aim a blow at that notion at once.17 

 

Who can observe the invitation system today and not see that many are in danger of confusing this practice with coming to faith in Christ?4) The danger of counting great numbers who only discredit their profession by their lives 

 

 

I am convinced that the giving of some kind of public invitation to come to Christ is not only theologically correct, but also emotionally sound. Men need this opportunity for expression. The inner decision for Christ is like driving a nail through a board. The open declaration of it is like clinching the nail on the other side, so that it cannot easily be pulled out.18 

 

In other words, the giving of an invitation ought to result in an even higher percentage of “converts” living out their profession. Yet the very opposite seems to be true. 

 

Even the statistics compiled using the invitation system show that only a very small percentage of “professors” show any signs of conversion even a few weeks after the decision. According to Sterling Huston, a survey after a crusade in the Pacific Northwest indicated that only 16 percent of the inquirers became new additions to the churches. While one should be appalled at the low rate of retention, Huston actually considers this a significant fact showing the value of the crusade!19While pastoring in New England, our church participated in two Graham crusades. We received the names of 10 converts from one crusade and six from the other. In our follow up, not one was interested in church, the Bible, or even talking about their “new-found faith in Christ.” Other pastors reported the same results.

Ernest Reisinger notes: “This unbiblical system has produced the greatest record of statistics ever compiled by church or business.”20 But such an observation is not new to our times. A century ago, Dabney observed, “The thing is so well-known that in many regions the public coolly expect about forty-five out of fifty, or even a higher ratio, to apostatize ultimately.”21

Such was not the common experience before the use of the invitation system. Those who were converted were so thoroughly changed that there was no need of a system to encourage decisions or record them before there was fruit. False conversions were the exception rather than the rule in the ministry of Finney’s contemporary, Asahel Nettleton. For example, of the 84 converts in an 1818 revival in Rocky Hill, Conn., all 84 had remained faithful according to their pastor’s report 26 years later! Similarly, only three spurious conversions out of 82 professions were noted in a similar pastor’s report on a revival in Ashford, Conn.22

Toward the end of his life, Charles Finney, after reflecting on the many who claimed conversion but had since fallen away, had mixed thoughts about the genuineness of his work. In fact, his development of a doctrine of perfectionism (”entire sanctification” was the term preferred by Finney) came out of his attempt to answer the question as to why so many of his “converts” lived such godless lives. The use of an invitation system eventually leads to a two-tiered approach to the Christian life to explain the difference between those few who have been changed by their “decision” and the multitudes who have not.23

5) The danger of giving assurance to those who are unconverted 

That is exactly what the invitation system does. It encourages people to make a response that “settles things” and, through subsequent counseling, to never doubt that decision. Anyone who is involved in personal evangelism can share countless examples of persons who, though presently living in gross sin, will nonetheless tell the evangelist that they are fine because they “made a decision for Christ” a certain number of years ago. They have never had any change in their life; they have no interest in church, the Bible, or even God. But they have made their “decision.” Can we not see how dangerous such a system is to the souls of men?

Two centuries ago, evangelist George Whitefield warned about this danger:

 

 

I am glad you know when persons are justified. It is a lesson I have not yet learnt. There are so many stony ground hearers, who receive the Word with joy, that I have determined to suspend my judgment till I know the tree by its fruits. That makes me so cautious now, which I was not thirty years ago, of dubbing converts so soon. I love now to wait a little, and see if people bring forth fruit; for there are so many blossoms which March winds you know blow away, that I cannot believe they are converts till I see fruit brought back; it will never do a sincere soul any harm.24 

 

Likewise Spurgeon warned: 

 

Sometimes we are inclined to think that a very great portion of modern revivalism has been more a curse than a blessing, because it has led thousands to a kind of peace before they have known their misery; restoring the prodigal to the Father’s house, and never making him say, Father, I have sinned.”25In The Soul Winner. Spurgeon cautions against using pressure to secure quick decisions:

It very often happens that the converts that are born in excitement die when the excitement is over…. Some of the most glaring sinners known to me were once members of a church; and were, as I believe, led to make a profession by undue pressure, well-meant but ill-judged.26

For years, we have heard about the values of the invitation system. It is even widely intimated

(often plainly stated) that one who failed to give public invitations could not be concerned for the souls of men. Yet could it be that the very opposite is true: that the very extension of such an appeal might be the means for deluding many into a false state of assurance ultimately resulting in their damnation?

 

 

A Better Way

 

But some will ask, “What other way is there to bring people to Christ?” I would respond: “The way that was used by Jesus and the apostles, the Reformers, the Puritans, and most others until the 1830s.” That way is simply to proclaim the truth, to call men to repent and believe, and to leave the results in the hands of the Spirit who alone can bring people to faith (cf. John 3; 6:44, 65; etc.).To explain a little more fully, let me give you two “musts” for those who would be evangelistic apart from using the invitation system.

 

 

1) We must learn to trust the power of God’s Word to convince, convert, and change lives 

Paul said: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). In I Corinthians 1:18, he contended: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Peter was likewise convinced that the Word of God has power to convert. He reminded believers that they had been “born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:23).To be evangelistic, we must be convinced of the power that God’s Word has in converting men without the help of our man-made systems. Remember the evangelist whose appeal was separated from his message by a half-hour of hymn singing? It is obvious that he was not convinced of the power of God’s Word apart from the addition of his appeal. We must be, or we will be tempted to add things to the preaching of the Word to secure greater commitments.

Those who ministered before the development of the invitation system saw the awesome power of the Word to work in men’s hearts. David Brainerd testifies to the:

preaching God made use offer the awakening of sinners, and the propagation of this “work of grace among the Indians.” … There was then the greatest appearance of divine power, in awakening numbers of secure souls, promoting convictions begun, and comforting the distressed.” 27

Accounts from the ministry of Nettleton show the deep and penetrating work of the Word of God on hearers:

 

 

 

As he was speaking, a youth sitting near a window cried out like one shot with an arrow. The people were so engrossed in the evangelist’s message that it hardly caused a diversion. Several in one family were aroused at this meeting and went home weeping. The head of the house had gone to bed when they arrived. He listened as their carriage drove up and was startled by a wail of distress coming from without. He leaped from his bed, rushed outside and was met by his daughter-in-law who threw her arms around his neck and exclaimed, “My father, what shall I do? What shall I do?” It was a miserable night for this young woman, but before morning all was well. She received Christ as Saviour and peace came.28 

 

Such occurrences while ministering in the power of God’s Word were not uncommon. In letters to his friend. Philander Parmele, Nettleton described many similar conversions. After a meeting in New Haven, Nettleton wrote: 

 

One young man seized my hand exclaiming “I am a sinner. I am a sinner. What shall I do?” They [people at the meeting] left the house and went home sighing, & sobbing in every direction. I came home & found a number around the door of Mr. Williams’ house, in the most awful distress, Some were standing, some sitting on the ground, & some on the door steps exclaiming “What shall I do?” I shall die. I shall die. “I Can’t live.” This alarmed the neighbors who called to witness the awful scene. With much ado I got them into the house, about eight or ten in number. The fact was, the young man aforementioned, who left the meeting house in such distress, was walking in company with them, when all at once he found relief and exclaimed, “I have found the Saviour.” He was now very joyful. He sat clothed and in his right mind: and they were afraid. My first business now was to warn them against a false hope. Prayed with them and enjoined it particularly on them not to go home together, but to go alone, & be alone, for the business must be settled between God and their souls. Maria (a young woman living in this family) was one of the number. She retired to her chamber, sighing and sobbing, and crying for mercy, and exclaiming ‘I shall die, I shall die.” She came down and went out doors, and returned in the same awful distress to her chamber. And suddenly all was still and hushed to silence. I sat still below and said nothing. I soon heard the sound of her footsteps descending the chamber stairs. She opened the door and with a joyful countenance exclaimed O, Sir, I have found the Saviour. I continued to warn her of the danger of a false hope. She exclaimed “I love Christ. I do love him. O how sweet.” In the morning, early, she called to see one of her anxious mates, who was so distressed the night before; and Lo: Barsheba exclaimed “I have found the Saviour.” That was a happy meeting. The young man aforementioned resided in the same family (this was John Towner’s house). On Saturday evening about midnight another, equally distressed, found relief. Within a few days 8 or 10 are rejoicing in hope. What will be the end. I know not. Do pray for us, and your friend, A. Nettleton.” 29 

 

Such was often the nature of conversion in the days before the invitation system when the Word was boldly preached and left to do its work in souls. Many modern examples of conversions could also be given, such as that of C. S. Lewis, who, after being confronted with the truth, struggled with it until one day he was strangely converted riding in his sidecar.

The real question is: How powerful is the Word of God? Can it change men from sinners into saints without an extension of an altar call? Will it convict and convert (as God promises),or will we need to add something that helps men “settle it”? You will never be able to do without the invitation system until you are thoroughly convinced of the power of God’s Word.

2) We must urgently appeal to all men to come to Christ nowAfter reading this far, one may be tempted to avoid giving any appeal for people to come to Christ. Please do not misunderstand: we are under divine command to call “all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Erroll Hulse reminds us: “The preacher is free to exhort and command, to plead and implore, to reason and invite. He is an ambassador who speaks on behalf of the great King and whose purpose is to bring about reconciliation.”30

 

Allow me to note a few particulars about this responsibility.

First, our invitation must be universal. It matters not (for the purposes of this article) whether you view the atonement as limited or unlimited or whether you accept the doctrine of election or not: the scope of our appeal must be universal. Charles Spurgeon, one of the greatest evangelistic preachers, was a thorough-going Calvinist. Yet he understood that our appeal must be universal.In one of his sermons, Spurgeon reminded his congregation about the doctrine of God’s electing some from the foundation of the world. But he noted that our task is to “preach the gospel to every creature,” not to find the elect. Spurgeon said that if God had painted a yellow stripe down the back of each of the elect, he would run up and down the streets of London, lifting up shirttails, and preaching the gospel to the elect. But, Spurgeon reminds us, God has not done so. Instead He has commanded us to “preach the gospel to every creature.” We must urgently appeal to everyone to come to Christ.

 

Second, our invitation must be urgent. When preaching or counseling about salvation, we must never give men the idea that repenting is something they can put off. Some who have dropped the invitation system because of its dangers have also dropped the urgent call to believe. We must say to men, “You must repent and believe the gospel.” Should they say, “But I cannot,” we must say, “But you must. God has commanded all men everywhere to repent. Your failure to do so only shows the wicked state of your heart. If you saw your sin as God sees it, you would flee to Him as the only salvation for your soul.”John Kennedy, a nineteenth-century British minister, provides some additional instruction concerning counseling inquirers. Notice that he puts the focus of counseling inquirers on the object of their faith:

 

Faith [by those using the invitation system] is represented as something to be done, in order to [gain] salvation; and pains are taken to show that it is an easy thing. Better far than this would it be to see it, that those with whom they deal are truly convinced of sin, and to labour to set forth Christ before them, in his glorious completeness as a Saviour. To explain faith to them, that they may do it, is to set them still to work, though setting an easier task before them. I know well the tendency there is, at a certain stage of anxious inquiry, to ask, “What is faith, that I may do it?” It is a legalist’s work to satisfy that craving; but this is what is done in the “inquiry-room.” “Who is He, that I may believe in Him?” was the question asked by one who approached the dawning of a day of salvation. Explanations of what faith is are but trifling with souls. How different is the Scripture way! The great aim there is to “set forth” the object, not to explain the act, of faith. Let there be conviction, illumination and renewal, and faith becomes the instinctive response of the quickened soul to the presentation by God of His Christ; and, without these, no explanation of faith can be helpful to any one. The labour to explain it is too often the legal spirit. It were wiser to take pains in removing ignorance and error regarding God, and sin, and Christ. Help them know these, if you would not build them up with “untempered mortar” in a false peace. If you would be wise, as well as kind, work in that direction, rather than hurrying them to belief.31

We must be patient to allow the Holy Spirit to work conviction in the heart. That may happen in a few moments, a few hours, days, or even years. But we must remain imperative in our appeal. Our message and our urgency must not change – people must repent and believe today. 

Finally, our invitation must call them to Christ. The focus of all the evangelistic appeals in Scripture is the same. Jesus said, “Come to Me … and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Our appeal must be to come to Christ, not to follow any prescribed method that might cause some to equate their “coming” as coming to Him. 

Conclusion

 

An examination of the invitation system is not an easy one. It is an emotional one. “To reduce sense of shock that some may feel, I would remind them that for well over 1800 years the Holy Spirit completed successfully all His work of saving sinners without this method. It was only with the advent of Charles Finney (1792-1875) that the ‘appeal’ as an organized method really got under way.”32 Even then, it met with much resistance until near the end of the nineteenth century. Today it is accepted as if it was used by Jesus and Paul. Be warned – many will consider you non-evangelistic if you even question the validity of this system, much less consider no longer using it as a method to bring people to Christ.33But we must be honest about the dangers that we have examined in this article. Is it not clear that the Scriptures “provide an invitation to sinners which is perfect and does not need addition?’”34 Are you concerned about asking people to do something for salvation that was never promoted in the Bible or in early church history?

Do you wish to eliminate possibilities that persons might respond to an emotional appeal or your persuasion rather than to the gospel? Do you wish to reduce the confusion that many have in equating “coming forward” with being saved?

Are you tired of seeing great numbers coming forward only to discredit the name of Christ by professing something that has no reality in their lives? Are you really concerned to see people converted – truly converted – instead of falsely assured? Then please examine this system carefully and honestly.

On the other hand, we must not confuse the invitation system with inviting people to Christ. This we must do with all urgency. “The Great Invitation of the gospel is an awesome and glorious subject. While we are in this world we should never cease making ourselves more proficient and winsome in the employment of invitations.”35

Still, the dangers of this system are serious. The souls of men are at stake. To be biblically evangelistic, we must be certain that what we do leads men to faith, not just to decisions.

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 1999
CHRISTIAN
COMMUNICATORS WORLDWIDE
Scripture quotations taken from
The New King James Bible, Copyright © 1991 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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Christian Persecution Update in India!

Posted by Scott on October 2, 2008

 

Three More Christians Killed in Orissa; Opposition Reported in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar

Thousands of Christians, like this woman, were made homeless by attacks led by Hindu extremists in Orissa, India.

Three more believers were martyred and twelve others were severely wounded in a fresh wave of violence in Orissa, India, on September 30. The latest attacks occurred in villages near Kandhamal, which has been the epicenter of violence against Christians since August 22.

The violence in Orissa came as attacks in two other Indian states targeted a Christian pastor and a Bridge of Hope center.

An estimated 30 Christians have been killed and thousands of others have lost their homes since Hindu extremists went on a rampage after their leader, Swami Laxmananda Saraswati was murdered. His followers are seeking revenge for his death, for which Christians have been blamed. However, Maoists have claimed responsibility for the murder.

A Gospel for Asia correspondent in Orissa said Tuesday’s attacks came at 4:30 a.m. when mobs of as many as 5,000 Hindu extremists attacked three separate villages. The extremists burned down about 150 homes and three churches. The Indian media reports that police opened fire in an attempt to disperse the violent forces.

The mob also reportedly attacked the local police station, demanding that two people arrested in connection with the ongoing riots be released. Media reports from within the country also indicate that the extremists have blocked all roads in and out of the area of the attack with rocks and boulders to prevent police from bringing in additional forces.

Since the violence began August 22, six people who attended GFA-related churches in Orissa have been killed by the Hindu extremists, who have personally attacked more than 2,000 believers from these churches. The extremists have also burned down 630 homes belonging to believers who attend GFA-related churches and destroyed 22 churches where GFA missionaries serve as pastors.

Many Christians are still hiding out in the dense jungles surrounding their villages. They are suffering from the effects of starvation, disease and monsoon flooding that wrecked the state in September.

With the continued violence and the roads blocked, it is impossible for GFA Compassion Services teams to get into Orissa to distribute aid.

Missionary Beaten in Uttar Pradesh

Gospel for Asia missionaries are also dealing with persecution in Uttar Pradesh, where Hindu extremists have attacked a pastor and have set their sights on a Bridge of Hope center.

On October 1, the extremists attacked a Bridge of Hope center and a church in Magapatti, Uttar Pradesh. The pastor of the church, who is a GFA missionary, was badly beaten in the attacks.

Hindu extremists continue their campaign to obliterate Christians in Orissa, India. On Tuesday, they destroyed another 150 homes like this one, along with three churches.

The extremists have been systematically threatening the parents of the children in the Bridge of Hope center for the past few weeks. The center was closed as a precaution and no children were on site when the extremists attacked the missionary.

Christian Aid Workers Forced Out of Bihar

Another gang of anti-Christian extremists forced out Christian aid workers attempting to help survivors of flooding in Bihar. The incident occurred on September 25 in the state’s Purnia district where aid workers were assessing needs and handing out cards for people to exchange for supplies. The group was planning to help at least 2,500 families.

The extremists accused the group of taking advantage of the situation to lure the people into Christianity by offering relief materials.

The aid workers, who have been in Bihar since September 1, were able to move their base to another area and continue operations.

GFA missionaries in the affected areas shared the following prayer requests:

  • Please pray for the families of those killed in Orissa, that they would be comforted by the Word of God and that they would remain strong in the midst of intense persecution.
  • Pray for those wounded in Tuesday’s attacks. Several of them have life-threatening injuries and are not expected to live. Pray for their healing and that it would be a testimony of God’s glory.
  • Pray for the people hiding in the jungles and those living in relief camps. Pray especially that God would provide a way for Compassion Services teams to reach them.
  • Pray for healing for the missionary in Uttar Pradesh.
  • Pray that the Bridge of Hope center in that community would be able to reopen and that the children could go to school without fear.
  • Pray for the many Christian organizations attempting to distribute relief supplies in Bihar.
  • Pray for the extremist and militant groups who are opposing the Gospel to come to know Jesus as their Savior.

Orissa News and Media Updates


PhotoShow: Orissa in Ruins

PhotoShow: Persecution In Pictures

Persecution Update: September 15, 2008

Video Update: August 28, 2008

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Message from Orissa: “God is in Control”

posted: 09/05/2008

Juria Bardhan, Gospel for Asia’s Orissa State Leader

Juria Bardhan, Gospel for Asia’s state leader in Orissa, India, knows what it’s like to be hunted by anti-Christian extremists bent on killing him. During the past two weeks, he has seen dozens of churches burned to the ground. He has seen missionaries and Christians beaten and killed. But during all these horrific attacks, Juria has had one thought.

“We know the Lord is in control,” Juria said in an interview Thursday.

Juria’s comments may sound naïve to Western ears, but to Christians in volatile parts of Asia, they ring true. They expect persecution rather than peace. They know that to follow Christ means choosing to bring more trouble into their lives. They also know that Christians standing strong in the face of such trials encourages others to follow Christ.

“The encouraging thing is that the attackers themselves acknowledge that Orissa used to be only 2 percent Christian, and now it’s 28 percent Christian,” Juria said. “They don’t understand that by doing this, the church will grow by leaps and bounds, and this will cause thousands to come to Christ.”

Juria said his pastors are not complaining about the abuse heaped upon them. Instead they are glorifying God for the opportunity to share in His sufferings.

“Many of our pastors have said, ‘Even if they kill us, no problem. This will cause thousands to come to Christ,’ ” he reported.

Juria said that things are improving somewhat in the cities, but the persecution continues unabated in more remote areas. Orissan Christians are accustomed to harassment, but Juria noted that this wave of attacks, which began August 22 after the murder of a popular Hindu leader, is different.

“Last time, the persecution was restricted to only one district. During the last six months, they planned this out, and now nine districts are under attack,” he noted.

Juria reports that six people have been killed, and 27 GFA-related churches and more than 800 homes of Christians have been ransacked and destroyed since the violence began.

At least 24 Gospel for Asia missionaries have been attacked, some joining the thousands of Christians who are seeking refuge in the forests, where they remain without adequate food or shelter.

Juria said that the Hindu extremists have made a list of demands, including:

  • Stop conversions … They accuse Christian missionaries of forcing people to convert to Christianity or using false allurements, such as money or jobs, to get them to follow Christ.
  • No more slaughtering of cows … Cows are considered holy in the Hindu religion.
  • All church buildings should be verified … The extremists want to place additional restrictions on Christian churches that do no exist for Hindu temples.
  • Christian churches and related non-governmental (charitable) organizations should be banned … This would prevent any Christian work that helps the poor.
  • Anyone occupying tribal land must vacate it … Most Orissan Christians are from low castes and live on tribal land that was settled generations ago. This would essentially force all Christians to move out of the area.

The extremists are also on a campaign to “reconvert” Christians back to Hinduism. They are threatening people at knifepoint, saying they will die if they do not agree to offer pujas (prayers and ceremonial acts) to Hindu gods and goddesses.

One missionary was attacked and threatened unless he performed a puja. He refused to turn his back on Christ, so they beat him again and told him to stay away from the village where he had been working, but he would not agree to do this.

“Even if you kill me, I will not make a vow that I will never come back; that depends not on me but on the Lord. If he wants to send me here, then I will come,” he told his attackers.

He was discouraged when he saw some of the same people he had prayed for and helped in the past now ready to kill him. But his life was spared when an elderly villager, seeing his strong commitment, convinced the mob to let him go.

One Christian who attends a GFA-related church gave his life rather than turn his back on Christ. The extremists were trying to get him to participate in a Hindu ceremony that involved shaving his head, putting cow dung on it and then sacrificing a goat. When he refused, he was killed and his body hacked into pieces.

Juria reports that the extremists are now using women to lead the Hindu mobs. They believe that if a woman is in front, the government will not take action against them. Several of these mobs of women have even caused disruptions in some of the relief camps.

Juria does not expect the volatile situation in Orissa to change anytime soon. He theorizes that the extremists will continue the campaign of terror and religious emotion until the next general election. There are several powerful Hindu political parties in the country. Juria says they may be trying to exploit the fear of the people to get into power. There is also a rumor that the extremists are planning to carry the ashes of the murdered leader, along with his photo, to villages throughout the country. They hope that the emotional response will cause another round of unrest.

He asks that Christians would continue praying for Orissa. Here are some of the specific requests.

  • Pray for peace and harmony in Orissa and that families will be able to return to their villages.
  • Pray for relief work to go on unhindered.
  • Pray for the health, safety and security of the people living in the forests.
  • Ask the Lord for mercy in providing new homes for the people who have lost theirs.
  • Continue to lift up the missionaries who are obvious targets of the persecutors. The extremists are looking for what they consider to be a high-ranking Christian leader to kill in revenge for the death of their leader.
  • Pray that the Christians will remain firm in their faith and that their commitment to Jesus will remain stronger than any fear they have.

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