En Gedi: Finding rest in the wilderness!

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Posts Tagged ‘reformed’

Asahel Nettleton: The Great Evangelist Forgotten!

Posted by Scott on March 14, 2009

By Jim Ehrhard

The year was 1812.  America had just declared war on Great Britain in June and lost its first battle in October.  In the midst of that climate, a young, unimpressive minister on his way to an assignment in New York stopped at a church in the community of South Britain, Connecticut.[1]  When he was invited to preach, no one could have anticipated the impact his ministry would have, not only on this small church, but also on all the East Coast over the next three decades.

 

As this visiting preacher spoke, the congregation became aware that something unusual was happening.  His probing questions seemed to penetrate each heart, peeling back layer after layer, showing the reality of their sin.  Many in the congregation wondered how he knew them so well.  As he continued, he warned the audience of their desperate need for repentance and the danger of any delay.  Many in the congregation were brought to a deep conviction of sin.

 

After the message, the congregation dismissed without any formal invitation.  They returned home to deal with God regarding their sin.  During the week, conversion came mightily to many.[2]  The revival that began that week spread throughout New England, spilled over into New York, and resulted in a deep work of regeneration that lasted until the mid-1800s.  During that span of time, God graciously used this man to bring more people to Christ than any man since George Whitefield came to America a half century earlier.  Who was this man?

 

Mention the names of Finney, Moody, Sunday, or Graham and visions of great evangelistic ministries are brought to mind.  But mention Asahel Nettleton and few will have any idea who are talking about.  Except for being remembered as the one who opposed Finney at the New Lebanon Conferences, even most histories fail to tell of the work of revival under Nettleton.

 

Asahel Nettleton is a significant figure in the history of revivals who has been sadly forgotten.  Yet his ministry might have been one of the most effective ever.  Though he never pastored a church, never wrote a book, or led an evangelistic organization, Nettleton’s preaching led directly to the conversion of well over 30,000 people[3] at a time when the entire nation’s population  was only nine million.  Those figures, though large by comparison to most evangelists, are even more startling when one considers that his ministry encompassed little more than Connecticut and its bordering states.  According to John Thornbury, the number of conversions in modern times “proportionate to the success of Asahel Nettleton” would be well over 600,000![4]

 

Thornbury is not alone in his assessment of Nettleton’s significance in history.  His own contemporaries, who had heard such giants as Edwards, Whitefield, Finney, and Moody, counted Nettleton’s ministry as unusually successful.  In 1844, The New York Observer said that Nettleton was “one of the most extraordinary preachers of the gospel with whom God has ever blessed this country.”  The New York Evangelist agreed saying, “Few men, since the apostolic days, have been honoured with such a signal success in preaching the word, and in the conversion of sinners as he. . . .”[5]  Bennett Tyler said of him, “We do not claim for Dr. Nettleton the rank of Whitefield; but he stands very high among those who have ‘converted sinners from the very error of their ways, saved souls from death, and hidden a multitude of sins.’”[6]  Even Lyman Beecher, who had both Nettleton and Finney in his pulpits, said of Nettleton, “Considering the extent of his influence, I regard him as beyond comparison, the greatest benefactor which God has given to this nation.”[7]

 

Perhaps what is most significant about Nettleton’s ministry is not the shear number of conversions but the number who remained faithful to Christ many years later.  Most evangelists today would be delighted to “find” even a small percentage of their converts,  much less to see them living for the Lord.[8]  Nettleton’s converts were surprisingly solid.  For example, of the eighty-four converts in an 1818 revival at Rocky Hill, Connecticut, all eighty-four had remained faithful according to their pastor’s report twenty-six years later.  Similarly, only three spurious conversions out of eighty-two professors were noted in another pastor’s report on a revival in Ashford, Connecticut.[9]

 

In contrast, toward the end of his life, “after reflecting on the many who had claimed conversion [under his ministry] but had since fallen away,” the great evangelist Charles Finney “had mixed thoughts on the genuine results of his work.”[10]  He was not alone.  In a letter to Finney, one of his co-workers raised some interesting questions about their work:

 

Let us look over the fields where you and I have laboured as ministers and what is now their normal state?  What was their state within three months after we left them?  I have visited and revisited many of these fields and groaned in spirit to see the sad, frigid, carnal, contentious state into which the churches have fallen and fallen very soon after we first departed from among them.[11]

 

B. B. Warfield also tells of the testimony of Asa Mahan, Finney’s closest friend and long-time co-worker:

 

No more powerful testimony is borne … than that of Asa Mahan, who tells us — to put it briefly — that everyone who was concerned in these revivals suffered a sad subsequent lapse: the people were left like a dead coal which could not be reignited ….[12]

 

Nettleton’s ministry was decidedly different from that of Finney, not only with regard to conversions, but also with regard to the lasting impact upon the communities which he visited.  One contemporary pastor, Bennett Tyler, noted the differences between the revivals of Finney and Nettleton:

 

These revivals were not temporary excitements, which like a tornado, sweep through a community, and leave desolations behind them; but they were like showers of rain, which refresh the dry and thirsty earth, and cause it to bring forth “herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed.”  These fruits were permanent.  By them the churches were  not only enlarged, but beautified and strengthened; and a benign influence was exerted upon the community around.[13]

 

Although Nettleton and Finney were contemporaries, Finney has eclipsed Nettleton completely.  Today, these questions must be asked: Who was this man so specially used by God in the conversion of many souls?  Why has one of such significance been sadly forgotten in our generation?  And what makes his ministry so different from the evangelistic ministries seen today?  Such questions form the focus of this paper.

 

His Early Years and Conversion

 

Born on April 21,1783, on a farm in North Killingworth, Connecticut, Asahel was the second of six children.  Baptized as an infant, his parents taught him morality , the Westminster catechism, and farming skills.  He attended the village school and participated in community parties, outings, and dances.  As a youth, he had an unusual experience during a sunset where the falling darkness brought him his first serious thoughts about the reality of death.  But these thoughts were fleeting, and no permanent fruits came from this momentary reflection.[14]

 

In the fall of 1800, at age eighteen, Asahel began to come under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit.  After an evening of merrymaking at the annual Thanksgiving celebration, thoughts of death returned to haunt his conscience.  These thoughts led him to religious pursuits.  Instead of relieving his troubled heart, his zeal to pray, read the Scriptures, and do good works only produced greater doubts and dissatisfaction.[15]

 

These failures led Nettleton to all sorts of doubts.  He began to question whether the Bible was true.  When he came to the conclusion that the Bible could not be trusted, he concluded that there was no God.  However, such conclusions refused to comfort his heart for he thought, “What if the Bible should prove to be true!  Then I am lost forever.”[16]  The writings of Edwards and the Memoir of David Brainerd deepened his conviction of lostness.  After ten months of anguishing conviction, Nettleton came to the end of himself:

 

All self-righteousness failed me; and, having no confidence in God, I was left in deep despondency. . . . After awhile, a surprising tremor seized all my limbs, and death appeared to have taken hold upon me.  Eternity–the word Eternity–sounded louder than any voice I ever heard; and every moment of time seemed more valuable than all the wealth of the world.  Not long after this, an unusual calmness pervaded my soul, which I thought little of at first, except that I was freed from my awful convictions. . . .[17]

Nettleton had been converted.  The character of God became more lovely, the work of Jesus more precious, and the doctrines of grace more delightful:

 

The character of God, and the doctrines of the Bible, which I could not meditate upon before without hatred, especially those of election and free grace, now appear delightful, and the only means by which, through grace, dead sinners can be made the living sons of God.[18]

 

His conversion came during a period of revival in Killingworth under the ministry of Josiah Andrews.  By March 1802, ninty-one new converts were received into the church.  The effects of the revival gave Asahel new aspirations.  While working in the fields, he often thought, “If I might be the means of saving one soul, I should prefer it to all the riches and honours of this world.”[19]  An epidemic swept through Killingworth during the spring and summer of 1802 killing his father and youngest brother.  For the next three years, he cared for the farm and the family, taught in the village school, and studied under the tutelage of Josiah Andrews.

 

By 1805, Nettleton had committed himself to pursue missionary service.  He enrolled at Yale and completed his academic training in an undistinguished fashion.[20] Still the potential of Nettleton did not escape the notice of President Timothy Dwight, the grandson of Jonathan Edwards, who remarked: “He will make one of the most useful men this country has ever seen.”[21]  Upon his graduation in 1809, he remained at the college to work and repay some debts.  Nettleton was ordained in 1811; and, while waiting for a call from one of the missionary societies, he ministered as pastor for a brief period in the “waste places” of southeastern Connecticut.[22]  In the autumn of 1812, Nettleton received an invitation to preach in South Salem, New York.  On his way to New York, he stopped over to spend a week in South Britain, Connecticut where his fame as an evangelist began.[23]

 

Years of Revival

 

The years from 1812 until 1822 can be accurately characterized as the years of revival for the ministry of Nettleton.  Although God continued to use this preacher in revival until his death in 1844, these years provided the most remarkable movements of the Spirit of God under his ministry.

 

Following the revival at South Britain, Nettleton continued on to his appointment in South Salem, New York.  This community was considered another of the “waste places,” not open to spiritual revival.[24]  In a short time, the preaching of Nettleton began to take hold of the hearts and minds of the people.  “The seriousness soon spread through the place, and the subject of religion became the engrossing topic of conversation.”[25]  In a few weeks, a great number had been surprisingly converted.  Asahel was so well-liked that the church tried to call him as their pastor.  However, he still considered himself bound for missionary service, and, after two months at South Salem, moved on to other preaching opportunities back in Connecticut.   The results of his ministry were remarkably similar.  In Danbury, Monroe, North Lyme, Hadlyme, and Bloomfield, “his labours were greatly blessed to the quickening of God’s people, and to the awakening and conversion of sinners.”[26]

 

In the autumn of 1813, Nettleton went to preach in a church in Litchfield known as Milton.  The church had dismissed its pastor under “strained circumstances,” and the congregation was full of internal divisions.  Again, the preaching of Nettleton brought many under great conviction.  At one meeting, several experienced such horror of mind that they began to cry out in the services.  Nettleton had them removed to a neighboring house to be counseled personally, while he continued with the meeting.  In a few months, a large number had been converted.  In just over one month, more than eighty people were converted from every age group, ranging from a twelve year old to a widow of seventy.[27]  Best of all, the breach in this once divided church had been healed.  It was during his time at Milton that Nettleton became acquainted with Lyman Beecher who served as pastor in Litchfield.[28]

 

Revival seemed to follow Nettleton in each of the towns he visited.  By 1815, it seemed that everyone desired his labors among them.  In the spring of 1815, the ministers of New Haven invited him to come to their community.  His work of revival there began when he visited a local school for girls.  In a personal letter to his friend, Philander Parmele, Nettleton recounted the progress of revival in this school:A number have been alarmed.  How many it is impossible to tell.  It was just a week from the time I came to this place to the day on which the great inquiry openly and solemnly began.  What must I do to be saved?  For three days the distress of some was overwhelming.  On the fourth day four were rejoicing.  On the fifth day eleven more were rejoicing.  From that time the work has been gradually spreading through the town.  The prospect is still brightening.  This morning I have found 2 more rejoicing in hope.  Within about four weeks upwards of 50 have entertained hope in this place.[29]

 

Similar experiences were recorded during Nettleton’s time ministering in Middleton, Connecticut in 1817:


 

There has been an increasing solemnity for some time past.  Meeting were crowded and solemn. . . .  One young man seized my hand exclaiming “I am a sinner.  I am a sinner.  What shall I do?”  They [the 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 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 mid-night 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.[30]


In the summer of 1819, Nettleton’s ministry shifted from Connecticut to the area near Saratoga Springs, New York.  Although he went there for a period of rest, local ministers pressed him into service once they learned of his presence.  In Saratoga Springs, forty professed salvation, including some of the most respectable people of the community.  In nearby Malta, crowds as large as fourteen hundred came to hear him.  He remained in the area until February 1820, reporting over six hundred converts during that period.[31]

 

From there, his work touched the students of Union College in Schenectady, New York.  Nettleton gives one account of the awakening that took place among the students there:

 

The room was so crowed that we were obliged to request all who had recently found relief to retire below, and spend time in prayer for those above.  This evening will never be forgotten.  The scene is beyond description.  Did you ever witness two hundred sinners, with one accord in one place, weeping for their sins?  Until you have seen this, you have no adequate conceptions of the solemn scene.[32]

 

One student particularly impacted by Nettleton’s ministry was Francis Wayland, the future president of Brown University.  Wayland’s interests before the revival were almost entirely academic and religion was “a matter of small and distant reality.”[33]  Nettleton’s preaching changed the direction of Wayland’s life.  Wayland stated, “I became intimately acquainted with Mr. Nettleton, and my conversations with him were of great use to me.”  His children also noted Nettleton’s impact on the ministry of their father: “He gained lessons never to be forgotten in the mode of addressing men on religious subjects.”[34]  Wayland, though familiar with many of the great preachers of his era, said of Nettleton, “I suppose no minister of his time was the means of so many conversions.”[35]

 

Nettleton stayed in the area until the fall of 1820.  During that time, he was the instrument of revival in many congregations.  In Nassau, New York, alone, over one hundred people were converted in the period from the end of April to the end of June.[36]  In one area, Nettleton himself estimated the impact of the revival: “Within a circle whose diameter would be less than twenty-four miles, not less than eight hundred souls have been hopefully born into the kingdom of Christ, since last September.”[37]

 

Shortly after Nettleton returned to Connecticut, he began to preach in the church of Noah Porter in Framingham.  Within three months, two hundred and fifty were converted.  Not only this, the revival transformed the entire town.[38]  But the grueling schedule that Nettleton kept was beginning to affect his health.  He retired to the community of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, for a period of rest.  Once again, the local pastor requested that he preach.  Within weeks, revival broke out and within a few months more than eighty persons (half of them “heads of families”) had been converted.[39]  In 1821 and 1822, Nettleton also labored in Connecticut and saw similar works of revival in such places as Litchfield (in Lyman Beecher’s church), Somers, Mansfield, Goshen, and other communities.

 

In early October, 1822, Nettleton visited a family in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, where there was a case of typhus fever.  By the middle of the month, he began to have the tell-tale symptoms and retired to the home of his friend Philander Parmele in Bolton, Connecticut.   By mid-November, he was so sick that he dictated his will.  Shortly thereafter, he began to recover only to discover that his gracious hosts, the Parmeles had contracted the disease themselves.  Mrs. Parmele recovered but Nettleton’s closest friend, Philander, succumbed to the disease on December 27.  This news broke his heart, and he described that time as the “most trying” of his life.  While he continued to recover from the disease and the loss of his friend, Nettleton was encouraged by reports of the continuing effects of revivals that had been initiated under his preaching.[40]

Years of Conflict

For nearly two years after the attack of typhus, Nettleton preached only occasionally.  His weakness prevented any regular ministry, and he sometimes had relapses that would force him to be bedridden for weeks.  During that time, Nettleton put together a contemporary hymnal that met the need of churches in revival.   Since Watts was so revered in the churches of his day, he wisely considered his publication as supplement to be used alongside of Watts rather than replacing it.  In 1824, Nettleton’s Village Hymns for Social Worship, Selected and Original, Designed as a Supplement to the Psalms and Hymns of Dr. Watts was published and was extremely popular among the churches that had experienced revival.[41]

 

In the final years of Nettleton’s life, the focus of his ministry changed from that of the prominent promoter of revival to the theological defender of true revival.  While his preaching continued to be used by God as a instrument for revival in Virginia (1827-28)[42], North Carolina (1829)[43], New York (1830-31)[44] and England (1831-32)[45], his latter years are remembered most for two major controversies.

 

By the autumn of 1824, Asahel’s health had sufficiently improved to allow him to return to some preaching.  He first went to Bethelehem, Connecticut, to preach in the former pulpit of Joseph Bellamy.  Forty came to faith during his short stay there.[46]  From there, he preached in Brooklyn, New York, and Taunton, Massachusetts, with  similar results.[47] 

 

In February 1826, he attended a congregation in Jamacia, New York, that was pastorless and full of strife.  When the people learned of his identity, they asked him to preach; and an awakening ensued that lasted into the autumn.  It was during his stay in Jamacia that Nettleton first received reports of problems arising from revivals in Oneida County, New York.  It seemed the use of some “new measures” in revival was causing great division and confusion in the churches of that area.  An increasing flow of people came to him to complain about what was going on in these revivals and to plead with him to help set matter right.[48]  Still, Nettleton hesitated:

Heretofore his battles had been with infidels and out and out enemines of the gospel.  Although he had been engaged in minor theological debates with other preachers about the various points of theology, these discussions had taken little of his time and energy.  Nothing had interfered with his concentration on the winning of souls.[49]

 

In November, he went to Albany, New York, to talk with some pastors in that area.  Charles G. Finney, the leading proponent of these “new measures,” was preaching across the river in Troy.  He even met with Finney on at least two occasions during his time there, though little information about those meetings remains.[50]  In a letter to John Frost, one of Finney’s supporters in the area, Nettleton recounted that he was “already worn out with conversation”[51] and that the first meeting  contained little discussion of the new measures.  In another letter to Frost, Nettleton is more specific about his concerns.  There he cites a number of examples where the new measures and those using them were disrupting the churches of the area and “breaking down” the “settled ministers” of the churches.[52]  Finney initiated the second meeting by visiting the home where Nettleton was staying in Albany.  According to Finney’s account of the meeting, he offered to accompany Nettleton to the service Asahel would be preaching.  According to Finney, Nettleton “manifested uneasiness, and
remarked that I must be seen with him.”[53]  According to Thornbury, “The uneasiness which Nettleton may have felt at this time would have been based upon the fact that a public appearance of the two men together would have been used to advantage by the new measures advocates.”[54] 

 

Following his second visit with Finney, Nettleton wrote a letter to “the Rev. Mr. Aikin of Utica” in which he outlined his objections to the new measures.  In beginning, however, Nettleton is careful to acknowledge the hand of God in the revivals of Finney: “There is, doubtless, a work of grace in Troy.”[55]  He further noted:

We do not call into question the genuineness of those revivals, or the purity of the motives of those who have been most active in them. . . . But the evils to which I allude are felt by the churches abroad; members which have gone out to catch the spirit, and have returned, some grieved, others soured, and denouncing ministers, colleges, theological seminaries, and have set whole churches by the ears, and kept them in turmoil for months together.  Some students of divinity have done more mischief in this way than they can ever repair. . . .

 

The evil is running in all directions.  A number of churches have experienced a revival of anger, wrath, malice, envy, and evil-speaking, (without the knowledge of a single conversion,) merely in consequence of a desperate attempt to introduce these new measures.  Those ministers and Christians who have heretofore been most and longest acquainted with revivals, are most alarmed at the spirit which has grown out of the revivals of the west. . . . The friends of brother Finney are certainly doing him and the cause of Christ great mischief.  They seem more anxious to convert ministers and Christians to the peculiarities, than to convert souls to Christ.[56]

 

Some of the peculiarities he mentioned included the use of the anxious
bench, praying openly for sinners in the meeting by name, appointing new converts to lead revivals, and denouncing ministers who did not use their methods.  Nettleton was especially concerned about the unwillingness of Finney and his co-laborers to have any of their methods examined.  Futhermore, anyone who questioned the new measures was denounced as being “enemies of revival.”[57]

 

Although Nettleton did not wish to be cast into a role of confrontation, his observations of the work in Oneida County convinced him that he could do no less:

 

Irregularities are prevailing so fast, and assuming such a character, in our churches, as infinitely to overbalance the good that is left.  These evils, sooner or later, must be corrected.  Somebody must speak, or silence will prove our ruin.  Fire is an excellent thing in its place, and I am not afraid to see it blaze among the briers and thorns; but when I see it kindling where it will ruin fences, and gardens, and houses, and burn up my friends, I cannot be silent.[58]

 

Thus the stage was set for what came to be known as the New Lebanon Conference on July 18, 1826, in New Lebanon, New York.  Before the meeting, Finney printed a sermon he had preached on Amos 3:3: “How can two walk together except they be agreed?”  In his sermon, Finney contended that all who opposed his new measures were opposed only because of  “their frosty hearts.”  Since they were not right with God, Finney reasoned, these could not appreciate “white-hot revivalism.”[59]

 

Nettleton responded with a letter to Gardner Spring which was printed in the New York Observer .  In it, he noted that Finney never really dealt with the
distinction between true and false zeal, calling all zeal a mark of religious affection.

 

The sermon in question entirely overlooks the nature of true religion.  It says not one word by which we can distinguish between true and false zeal, true and false religion.  If the tone of feeling can only be raised to a certain pitch, then all is well.  The self-righteous, the hypocrite, and all who are inflated with pride, will certainly be flattered and pleased with such an exhibition, especially if they are very self-righteous and very proud.  False affections often rise higher than those that are genuine; and this every preacher, in seasons of revival, has had ocassion to observe and correct …. If the preacher is not extremely careful to distinguish between true and false affections, the devil will certainly come in and overset the work, and bring it into disgrace.[60]

 

Nettleton’s letter attacked both the logical and scriptural foundations to which  Finney had appealed.   He pointed out that one cannot dismiss all evaluation as “unchristian”:  “Without great care and close discrimination, the preacher will unwittingly justify all the quarrels and divisions in our churches.”[61]   He reminded readers that Paul would not even allow men to be teachers unless they were of “full age, who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” and that Paul would not allow young converts to preach: “Not being a novice, lest he fall into condemnation, reproach, and the snare of the devil.”[62]  Finally, Nettleton listed Edwards’ observations about the marks of spiritual pride, concluding:

 

It is a mark of spiritual pride to refuse to enter into discourse or reasoning with such as are considered carnal men, when they make objections and inquiries.  Humility would lead ministers to condescend to carnal men, as Christ has condescended to us, to bear with our unteachableness and stupidity, and follow us with instructions, line upon line, precept upon precept, saying:  “Come, let us reason together;” it would lead to a compliance with the precept: “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh of you a reason of the hope that is in
you with meekness and fear.”[63]

 

With these two great salvos fired, the conference was already in deep water when it convened.  Little was accomplished, and both parties departed with no agreement about any issues.  Finney felt vindicated as churches in the large cities of the East coast began to invite him to their pulpits.  In fact, this conference was the last time the two leading preachers of New England, Asahel Nettleton and Lyman Beecher, stood together.[64]  The second crisis in Nettleton’s life, the debate over the theology of Nathaniel Taylor, would divide them forever and thrust Beecher into Finney’s camp.

 

During 1827, Asahel Nettleton experienced spells of fainting which prompted his doctors to encourage him to try a warmer climate as a remedy.  Nettleton decided to spend the winter in the mountains of Virginia near Hampton-Sydney College. He preached in the surrounding towns with his usual effectiveness. While there, several students from Yale visited the college and created a stir by advocating the teachings of their president, Nathaniel W. Taylor.[65]

 

Most alarming was Taylor’s denial of the complete depravity of man, the imputation of original sin, and the inability of man.[66]  Apart from any special work of the Holy Spirit, man could refrain from sinning simply by choosing to do so.  Likewise, no special work of God was needed to bring the sinner to Himself.   Not only was this theology doctrinally unsound, Nettleton knew that it would serve to undermine true conversion by placing the focus on what man can do rather than on what God does in salvation.   All that an evangelist needed was to present the truths in such a way as to persuade men toward a decision:

 

Dr. T. speaks as if the only difficulty in the way of a sinner loving God lay is their want of  clear & distinct views of divine things. . . .  Dr. T. takes it for granted that if the sinner only had clear views of God, he would love him.  But the facts prove the contrary.[67]

 

Nettleton also recognized that such a theology would support the very methods he sought to oppose in Finney’s ministry.  The publication of Finney’s Autobiography confirmed any suspisions that Nettleton might have had.  In it, Finney openly opposed any doctrine of original sin, referring to it as “anti-scriptural and nonsensical dogma.”[68]  Finney contended against the belief that the new birth was in any way a divine gift.  He insisted that

 

regeneration consists in the sinner changing his ultimate choice, intention, preference. . . . when mankind becomes truly religious, they are not enabled to put forth exertions which they were unable before to put forth.  They only exert powers which they had before, in a different way, and use them for the glory of God.[69]

 

When such a theology is applied to revival, the revivalist may use any
means necessary to bring the church to a state of revival.   Finney himself said of revival:  “A revival is not a miracle, nor dependent on a miracle, in any sense.  It is a purely philosophical result of the right use of the constituted means — as much so as any other effect produced by the application of means.”[70]

 

Nettleton’s stance against the New Haven Theology eventually led to the break in his relationship with Lyman Beecher.  Beecher felt that the issue of theology was indeed the primary one that caused Nettleton to oppose both Finney and Taylor:  “He wanted the battle to go on.  He was one of those that never can give up their own will.  He had the notion that the New Haven brethern were currying favor with Finney. . . . That was the origin of all his bitterness against Taylor.”[71]  The letters of Nettleton indicate no such bitterness on his part toward Taylor.  Indeed, he remained Taylor’s friend until his death.  In a letter to Taylor in the last year of his life, Nettleton mentioned the doctrinal debate and assurred Taylor that, although they had disagreed for many years, their personal friendship had not been affected:

 

I need not tell you that I love you.  You know that I have ever loved you. . . .  I impeach not your motives.  I judge not your heart.  I would cherish the hope that your own religious experience is at variance with some of the things which you have published — I say this with the kindest of feelings, and with eternity in view.  Receive it as my dying testimony, and as an expression of my sincere love.  Farewell, my brother.  We shall soon meet at the judgement seat of Christ.  God grant that we may meet in heaven.[72]

 

In his final years, Nettleton gave his time and energy to the students of the Theological Seminary of Connecticut in Hartford founded in response to the continued teaching of the New Haven Theology at Yale.  Bennett Tyler became president, but Nettleton was the “father confessor to the campus” according to George Briney.[73]  Evangelism was his field, and the preaching of doctrines “emminently useful in winning souls” formed the theme of most of his lectures.[74]

 

Nettleton became seriously ill in 1841 with what was diagnosed as gall-stones.  Two surgeries proved unsuccessful, and Nettleton continued to weaken.  He died the morning of May 16, 1844.  He left behind a considerable estate mostly from income from the sale of his hymnal.  Even his will indicated a man sold out to the cause of Christ:  He willed small portions to his brother and sister and some friends; the balance he willed to the Seminary and to the American Board for Foreign Missions, the institutions “which represented the causes closest to his heart.”[75]

Conclusions

One cannot overestimate the importance of the ministry of Asahel Nettleton.  Francis Wayland, founder of Brown University, said of Nettleton, “I suppose no minister of his time was the means of so many conversions.”[76]  Most surprising to modern readers is the discovery that Nettleton’s tremendous effectiveness occurred without any of the methods that modern evangelicals think are so essential in evangelism.  For example, in all his ministry, thousands came to a solid, lasting faith in Christ though Nettleton never once gave an “altar call.”  In fact, one of the greatest struggles in Nettleton’s life occurred as he led the stand against such “new measures” employed by Charles Finney.

 

Without a doubt, Finney’s methods were effective in attracting large crowds and in securing large numbers of “professions.”  But they involved many questionable aspects that Nettleton and other ministers could not accept.   In one of his letters, Nettleton wrote of his great concern for future generations. Asahel recognized that the greatest danger might not be to his generation but to succeeding ones who would assume that all revivals were dependent upon such measures:

 

If the evil be not soon prevented, a generation will arise, inheriting all the obliquities of their leaders, not knowing that a revival ever did or can exist without all those evils.  And these evils are destined to be propagated from generation to generation, waxing worse and worse.[77]

 

Indeed, the fears of Nettleton have come to pass.  Not only is Nettleton forgotten,[78]the idea of revival apart from certain methods has also passed from memory.  Nettleton has been forgotten because this present generation, like the followers of Finney, has become obsessed with results and statistics to the neglect of theology.  Finney himself said,

 

The success of any measure designed to promote a revival of religion, demonstrates its wisdom. . . . When the blessing evidently follows the introduction of the measure itself, the proof is unanswerable, that the measure is wise.  It is profane to say that such a measure will do more harm than good.[79]

Every new church growth idea that works is deemed to be of God.  “After all the results speak for themselves,” most argue.  Nettleton refused to accept any new measure simply on the basis of effectiveness.  Likewise, he knew that allowing any method to go untested by the truth of Scripture would ultimately lead to the ruin and discredit of any revival:

 

And all of those ministers who do not discriminate between true and false zeal, true and false affection, in their preaching and conversation, and make that difference, and hold it up to the view of the world, if possible as clear as the sun, heartily approving of one, and as heartily and publicly condemning the other, will turn out to be the greatest traitors to the cause of revivals.[80]

 

Nettleton’s ministry also teaches about the importance of preaching in revival.  Few men have ever preached with the power and effectiveness of Nettleton.  Francis Wayland said he “would sway an audience as the trees of the forest are moved.”[81]  Thornbury summarized Nettleton’s preaching:

 

In the accounts and descriptions of the great revivals in which Nettleton laboured, one thing comes across very powerfully, and that is that he was able to bring home the awesome realities of the eternal world home to the souls of men.  When he talked about the heinousness of sin, they felt its sting.  When he portrayed the sufferings of Christ, they felt the trauma of Calvary.  When he proclaimed the holy character of God, they trembled at the vision.  When he thundered forth the judgements of hell, men were moved to escape that place.[82]

 

While most modern preaching seeks to avoid doctrinal topics, Nettleton, like Whitefield and Edwards before him, preached the great doctrines of the faith.  One pastor in East Granby, Connecticut described his preaching during the revival in his congregation:

 

Doctrinal sermons were frequent; but these had a practical turn.  They were eminently scriptural and plain, and made men feel that they were the men addressed, and not their neighbors.  He sometimes preached on the severer doctrines with great power, and apparent good effect.[83]

 

Nettleton’s ministry reminds that all the great doctrines of the faith can be preached with great effect in awakening people to God.

 

The need for revival today is as great as it has ever been.  But it is not just any kind of revival that is needed.  The need is for a revival clearly based upon the work of the Holy Spirit rather than on the methods of man.  Nettleton’s ministry, when compared with that of Finney, shows that real revival was not always dependent upon certain “laws of revival” popularized by Finney.  It came simply  upon the faithful and fearless preaching of God’s Word.  Nettleton’s ministry testifies to the power of God’s Word in bringing sinners to faith.  Most of all, it reminds all that revival, like conversion is truly a work of a sovereign God among His people.

 

Copyright © 1999 Christian Communicators Worldwide

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The Divine Foundation of Authority!

Posted by Scott on March 13, 2009

 
“You’re out!” “I’m safe!” “Out!” “Safe!” “Out!” “It’s my ball, and it’s my bat, and I say that I’m safe.” This is how we settled disputes over plays in our pickup baseball games played without the benefit of a referee or umpire. When a disputed play could not be resolved through reason or through yelling, the one who possessed the equipment usually determined the outcome. It was a child’s game in which might made right. It was the nascent expression of the cynical statement: “He who owns the gold, rules.”

These illustrations indicate that at some level ownership is involved in authority. The very word authority has within it the word author. An author is someone who creates and possesses a particular work. Insofar as God is the foundation of all authority, He exercises that foundation because He is the author and the owner of His creation. He is the foundation upon which all other authority stands or falls.

We use the term foundation with respect to the imagery of a building. Houses and commercial buildings are erected upon a foundation. As Jesus indicated in His parables, if the foundation is not solid, the structure will not stand. The house that is built upon the sand will crumble at the first sign of a windstorm.Instead, Jesus commended the building of the house upon a rock. The foundation has to be firm in order for the house to stand.

In the sixteenth century, the critical dispute that arose in the Protestant Reformation focused on two central issues. Historians speak of one as being the material cause, that is, the matter around which the dispute centered. That material cause was the doctrine of justification. The battle was fought over the issue of what is required for a person to be justified in the sight of God. The other issue, the formal one, lurked only slightly under the surface of the external debate about justification: the question of authority. When Luther defended his doctrine in his disputes with Cardinal Cajetan and with the theologian Johann Eck, the Roman Catholic experts called attention to the decrees of earlier church councils and of papal encyclicals to refute Luther’s arguments. Luther in response argued that the edicts of church councils and even the encyclicals of popes can err and often do err. The only final authority Luther would recognize, upon which the controversy could be resolved, was the authority of Scripture, because that authority carried the weight of God’s authority itself.

As a result, the Diet of Worms culminated with Luther’s expression: “Unless I am convinced by sacred Scripture or by evident reason, I cannot recant because my conscience is held captive by the Word of God, and to act against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. God help me. I can do no other.” In that statement, Luther was affirming publicly his commitment to the principle of sola Scriptura, that the Bible alone is the only authority that can bind the conscience of a person absolutely because it is the only authority that carries with it the intrinsic authority of God Himself.

In the Scriptures we see that God creates the universe and owns the universe. It is His possession, and He governs it by His own authority. The authority by which God governs all things is His autonomous authority. To say that God’s authority is autonomous is to say that God is a law unto Himself. He is not bound by some abstract system of law that exists outside of Himself or independent from Him (ex lex). Nor is God under some external law (sub lego); rather, He is a law unto Himself. This does not mean that He acts or behaves in an arbitrary manner. Rather, God’s activity is directed by God’s own character. And His character is completely righteous. All that He does flows out of His own internal righteousness. His external authority comes from His internal righteousness. In this sense God’s authority is intrinsic. It is found within Himself. It is not borrowed, delegated, or assigned from any other source.

In the same manner, all lesser authorities on heaven and on earth are only as valid as they are delegated by God’s authority. Whatever authority we possess is extrinsic rather than intrinsic. It exists only by delegation. This was the issue in the garden of Eden. The primal sin of Adam and Eve could be described as the grasping for autonomy. They sought to take for themselves the authority that belonged only to God. To act on one’s own authority against the authority of God is the essence of disobedience and of sin. When we grasp authority ourselves and do what is right in our own minds, we are attacking the very foundation of life and of the welfare of human beings.

“You’re out!” “I’m safe!” This question has to be determined by some foundation other than the possession of bats and balls. Justice must reign if we are to escape a life and a world without foundations. Any authority that rules without divine foundation is tyranny.

by R.C. Sproul

www.ligonier.org/tabletalk

Dr. R.C. Sproul is founder and president of Ligonier Ministries, and he is author of the books What’s in the Bible? and Getting the Gospel Right.
For more than thirty years, Dr. R.C. Sproul has thoroughly and concisely analyzed weighty theological, philosophical, and biblical topics in Right Now Counts Forever, drawing out practical applications for the Christian in his own engaging style.
© Tabletalk magazine

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117 Scriptural Names for Christ!

Posted by Scott on December 30, 2008

1. Adam (the last Adam)

1 Cor. 15:45

2. Advocate

1 John 2:1

3. Almighty

Rev. 1:8

4. Alpha

Rev. 1:8; 21:6

5. Amen

Rev. 3:14

6. Angel of the Lord

Gen. 16:9-14; Judg. 6:11-14

7. Anointed

Ps. 2:2

8. Apostle

Heb. 3:1

9. Author

Heb. 12:2

10. Babe

Luke 2:16

11. Beginning of creation

Rev. 3:14

12. Begotten of the Father

John 1:14

13. Beloved

Eph. 1:6

14. Bishop

1 Pet. 2:25

15. Blessed

1 Tim. 6:15

16. Branch

Zech. 3:8

17. Brazen serpent

John 3:14

18. Bread of life

John 6:35

19. Bridegroom

Matt. 9:15

20. Bright morning star

Rev. 22:16

21. Captain

Josh. 5:4

22. Carpenter

Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3

23. Chief Shepherd

1 Pet. 5:4

24. Child

Isa. 9:6

25. Christ

Matt. 1:16; 2:4

26. Commander

Isa. 55:4

27. Consolation of Israel

Luke 2:25.

28. Cornerstone

Eph. 2:20

29. Dayspring from on high

Luke 1:78

30. Day star

2 Pet. 1:19

31. Deliverer

Rom. 11:26

32. Desire of nations

Hag. 2:7

33. Door

John 10:9

34. Door of the sheepfold

John 10:7

35. Emmanuel

Matt. 1:23

36. Everlasting Father

Isa. 9:6

37. Express image of God

Heb. 1:3

38. Faithful witness

Rev. 1:5; 3:14; 19:11

39. First fruits

1 Cor. 15:23

40. Forerunner

Heb. 6:20

41. Foundation

Isa. 28:16

42. Fountain

Zech. 13:1

43. Friend of sinners

Matt. 11:19

44. Gift of God

2 Cor. 9:15

45. Glory of God

Isa. 60:1

46. God

John 1:1; Rom. 9:5; 1 Tim. 3:16

47. Good Samaritan

Luke 10:33

48. Good Shepherd

John 10:11, 14

49. Governor

Matt. 2:6

50. Great Shepherd

Heb. 13:20

51. Guide

Ps. 48:14

52. Head of the Church

Col. 1:18

53. Heir of all things

Heb. 1:2

54. High Priest

Heb. 3:1; 7:1

55. Holy child

Acts 4:30

56. Holy One of God

Mark 1:24

57. Holy One of Israel

Isa. 41:14

58. Horn of salvation

Ps. 18:2

59. Jehovah

Isa. 26:4; 40:3

60. Jesus

Matt. 1:21

61. Judge

Mic. 5:1; Acts 10:42

62. King of Israel

Matt. 27:42; John 1:49

63. Lamb of God

John 1:29, 36

64. Lawgiver

Isa. 33:22

65. Light of the world

John 9:5

66. Lion of the tribe of Judah

Rev. 5:5

67. Lord of lords

Rev. 19:16

68. Man

Acts 17:31; 1 Tim. 2:5

69. Master

Matt. 8:19

70. Mediator

1 Tim. 2:5

71. Messiah

Dan. 9:25; John 1:41

72. Mighty God

Isa. 9:6; 63:1

73. Minister

Heb. 8:2

74. Nazarene

Mark 1:24

75. Only begotten Son

John 1:18

76. Passover

1 Cor. 5:7

77. Physician

Matt. 9:12

78. Potentate

1 Tim. 6:15

79. Power of God

1 Cor. 1:24

80. Prince

Acts 3:15; 5:31

81. Prophet

Acts 3:22

82. Propitiation

1 John 2:2; 4:10

83. Purifier

Mal. 3:3

84. Priest

Heb. 4:14

85. Rabbi

John 3:2; 20:16

86. Ransom

1 Tim. 2:6

87. Reaper

Rev. 14:15

88. Redeemer

Isa. 59:20; 60:16

89. Refiner

Mal. 3:3

90. Refuge

Isa. 25:4

91. Resurrection

John 11:25

92. Righteousness

Jer. 23:6; 33:16

93. Rock

Deut. 32:15

94. Rod

Isa. 11:1

95. Root of David

Rev. 22:16

96. Rose of Sharon

Song of Sol. 2:1

97. Sacrifice

Eph. 5:2

98. Savior

Luke 1:47; 2:11

99. Second Adam

1 Cor. 15:47

100. Seed of Abraham

Gal. 3:16, 19

101. Seed of David

2 Tim. 2:8

102. Seed of the woman

Gen. 3:15

103. Servant

Isa. 42:1; 49:5-7

104. Shepherd

Ps. 23:1

105. Shiloh

Gen. 49:10

106. Son of David

Matt. 15:22; 20:30; 21:9

107. Son of God

Luke 1:35; Matt. 16:16

108. Son of Man (his favorite name for himself)

Matt. 18:11

109. Son of Mary

Mark 6:3

110. Son of the Most High

Luke 1:32

111. Stone

Matt. 21:42; Mark 12:10; Acts 4:11; Rom. 9:32-33; Eph. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:6-7

112. Sun of Righteousness

Mal. 4:2

113. Teacher (Master)

Matt. 26:18; John 3:2

114. True vine

John 15:1

115. Way

John 14:6

116. Wonderful

Isa. 9:6

117. Word

John 1:1; Rev. 19:13

Willmington, H.L.: Willmington’s Book of Bible Lists. Wheaton, IL : Tyndale, 1987, S. 160

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Is It Real? By John MacArthur

Posted by Scott on December 30, 2008

Is It Real?
11 Biblical Tests of Genuine Salvation

John MacArthur

Is it Real? In 1746, about six years after the Great Awakening, in which Jonathan Edwards was the primary instrument of God to preach the gospel and bring about the greatest revival in American history thus far, Edwards wrote A Treatise Concerning the Religious Affections. He wrote it to deal with a problem not unlike one we face today: the matter of evidence for true conversion. Many people want the blessings of salvation, especially eternal security, but no more.

In the explosive drama of the Great Awakening, it seemed as though conversions were occurring in great numbers. However, it didn’t take long to realize that some people claimed conversions that were not real. While various excesses and heightened emotional experiences were common, scores of people didn’t demonstrate any evidence in their lives to verify their claim to know and love Jesus Christ, which led critics to attack the Great Awakening, contending it was nothing but a big emotional bath without any true conversions.

Thus, partly in defense of true conversion and partly to ex­pose false conversion, Jonathan Edwards took up his pen. He came to this simple conclusion. The supreme proof of a true conversion is what he called “holy affections,” which are a zeal for holy things and a longing after God and personal holiness. He made a careful distinction between saving versus common operations of the Holy Spirit. Saving operations obviously produce salvation. Common operations of the Holy Spirit, he said, “may sober, arrest and convict men, and may even bring them to what at first appears to be repentance and faith, yet these influences fall short of inward saving renewal” (lain H. Murray, Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography [Carlisle, Pa.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1987], p. 255).

How can you tell whether the Holy Spirit has performed a saving operation? As the principle evidence of life is motion, Edwards wrote, so the principle evidence of saving grace is holy practice (pp. 262-63). He said true salvation always produces an abiding change of nature in a true convert. Therefore, whenever holiness of life does not accompany a confession of conversion, it must be understood that this individual is not a Christian.

In the very year Edwards’ treatise was published, popular teaching asserted that, to the contrary, the only real evidence of true salvation is a feeling based on an experience–usually the experience at the moment of the alleged conversion. That teaching introduces the prevalent but erroneous concept that a person’s true spiritual state is known by a past experience rather than a present pursuit of holiness. Edwards flatly contradicted that notion: “Assurance is never to be enjoyed on the basis of a past experience. There is need of the present and continuing work of the Holy Spirit … [in] giving assurance” (p. 265). This is no esoteric theological debate: the substance of your assurance is at stake.

A number of New Testament writers, of course, were very concerned about this matter of true salvation, as was our Lord Jesus Himself. The apostle John dedicated his first letter to the subject, stating his theme at the end: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). Throughout the letter is a series of tests to determine whether you possess eternal life. If you don’t pass these tests, you’ll know where you stand and what you need to do. If you do, you’ll have reason to enjoy your eternal salvation with great assurance.


Have You Enjoyed Fellowship with Christ and the Father?


This is an essential element in true salvation and the first test John presented. Look with me at chapter 1, which begins: “We [John and his fellow apostles] have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us–what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (vv. 2-3). Obviously he was going beyond just the earthly acquaintance he had with Jesus because he had no such earthly acquaintance with the Father. Rather, he was presently enjoying communion with the living God and the living Christ.

Now at first you might be tempted to think, Well, good for John, but his was not an isolated experience. In 1 John 5:1, he says, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him” (emphasis added). It is characteristic of any believer to love God and Christ. It is a sign of the holy affections Jonathan Edwards spoke of. A relationship with God is basic to salvation. It is what we as believers were called to. “God is faithful,” Paul says, “through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9).

Paul described what that fellowship meant to him personally: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). There’s something very experiential about that truth–it’s not just a cold fact that we as believers have divine life living in us; there’s an experience to be enjoyed in knowing God intimately.

Jesus implied as much when He said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10: 10 ). If He had just said, “I came that you may have life,” we could conclude He was talking only about His gracious provision of eternal life. By adding that life could be abundant, Jesus was moving into the dimension of experience. The Christian life is a rich life. We’re meant to experience joy, peace, love, and purpose. When someone who’s about to be baptized testifies about coming to Christ, you won’t hear, “The fact is, folks, I’m saved, and I’m just here to announce that.” Invariably the person will describe to you the feeling–the overwhelming sense of forgiveness and purpose in his or her life.

Here’s a taste of the abundant life Scripture describes in terms of our fellowship with the Lord. The “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3); “the God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10); the God who supplies all [our] needs according to His riches in Christ (Phil. 4:19); the God who leads us to speak to one another in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our hearts to Him (Eph. 5:19); the God to whom we cry “Abba! Father!” (Rom. 8:15 ) like little children to the daddy we adore; the God we draw near to in time of trouble (Heb. 4:16 )–He Himself so greatly enriches us. Our fellowship with Him is the abundant life we experience.

Have you experienced communion with God and Christ? Have you sensed Their presence? Do you have a love for Them that draws you to Their presence? Have you experienced the sweet communion of prayer–the exhilarating joy of talking to the living God? Have you experienced the refreshing, almost overwhelming sense of grace that comes upon you when you discover a new truth in His Word? If you have, then you have experienced the fellowship of salvation.


Are You Sensitive to Sin?


Let’s go back to chapter 1 of John’s first epistle, to this declaration in verse 5: “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” John was saying that the message the Lord sent to us is about Himself, specifically that He is absolutely sinless. The Greek text literally says there’s not a single bit of darkness in Him. Therefore, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do notpractice the truth” (v. 6).

Light and darkness do not coexist. One drives the other away. John went on to develop that theme: “If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (vv. 7-10).

Some people make some pretty amazing claims that hold no water. They claim to have fellowship with God–to be Christians (v. 6), to have no sin (v. 8), and even to have never sinned (v. 10). They think they are walking in the light when actually they are walking in darkness. It is characteristic of unbelievers to be oblivious to the sins in their lives. The individuals mentioned in verse 8 are not dealing with their sins because they think they’ve reached a state where they have no sin. But they are deceiving themselves. Those mentioned in verse 10 have never even confessed or acknowledged sin. With that attitude they are in fact denigrating God because God says “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23, emphasis added). Since unbelievers are so insensitive to the reality of their condition, human sinfulness is the right starting point in sharing the gospel.

Believers, on the other hand, “walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light” (v. 7). We walk a virtuous walk, and what’s more, “we confess our sins” (v. 9). True believers have a right sense of sin. They know if they’re going to commune with God they have to be holy. When sin occurs in their lives, they know it must be confessed.

John takes this teaching a step further in the next chapter. “My little children,” he explained, “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (v. 1). True believers realize they don’t have to sin. But when they do, they know whom to go to–Jesus Christ, the believer’s advocate. The intercessory work of Christ is one of the great trinitarian securers of our salvation. That’s an encouraging reality to hang onto when confronted with personal sin.

The person who is truly saved is sensitive to the sinful realities in his or her life. That’s the example Paul left us in speaking of his heightened awareness of sin’s work in his own life (Rom. 7:14-25). Consider how that applies to you. Are you very much aware of the spiritual battle raging within you? Do you realize that to have true communion with God, you have to live a holy life–that you can’t walk in darkness and claim to have fellowship with Him? Are you willing to confess and forsake any sin in your life as you become aware of it? Do you realize you can choose not to sin–that you’re not fighting a battle you’re obliged to lose? But when you do fail, do you go to your divine advocate? Do you sometimes cry out with Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24 ) because you’re so weary of the burden of sin in your flesh? If so, you are obviously a Christian. And since salvation is secure, you might as well enjoy it and be fully assured.


Do You Obey God’s Word?


First John 2:3 couldn’t be clearer: “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” If you want to know whether you’re a true Christian, ask yourself whether you obey the commandments of Scripture. That’s how Jesus described a true disciple when giving His Great Commission to go into all the world and make disciples (Matt. 28:20). Obedience to the commands of God produces assurance–the confidence of knowing for sure “that we have come to know Him.” The Greek word translated “keep” in verse 3 speaks of watchful, careful, thoughtful obedience. It involves not only the act of obedience, but also the spirit of obedience–a willing, habitual safeguarding of the Word, not just in letter but in spirit. That’s supported by the word translated “commandments,” which refers specifically to the precepts of Christ rather than laws in general. Legal obedience demands perfection or penalty, whereas 1 John 2:3 is a call to gracious obedience because of the penalty Christ has already paid.

Verse 4 presents a logical contrast: “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” That person is making a false claim. “But whoever keeps His Word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected” (v. 5). How can you determine if you are a true Christian? Not by sentiment but by obedience.

If you desire to obey the Word out of gratitude for all Christ has done for you, and if you see that desire producing an overall pattern of obedience, you have passed an important test indicating the presence of saving faith.


Do You Reject This Evil World?


We now come to John’s fourth test of what characterizes the true Christian: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15 ). This love speaks of our deepest constraints, our most compelling emotions and goals. Christians won’t feel that way toward anything in this world because they know that until Christ returns, this world is dominated by God’s enemy. John said, “We know that we are the children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19 , niv). Satan, for now, is “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4).

The evil one has designed a system that the Bible simply calls “the world.” The Greek term (kosmos) speaks of a system encompassing false religion, errant philosophy, crime, immorality, materialism, and the like. When you become a Christian, such things repel you, not attract you. Sometimes you may be lured into worldly things, but it isn’t what you love; it’s what you hate. That’s the way Paul felt when he fell into sin (Rom. 7:15 ). As frustrating as it is to fall like that from time to time, we who are believers can be grateful that sin is something we hate and not love. That’s because our new life in Christ plants within us love for God and the things of God.

“All that is in the world,” John specified, “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:16-17). The world and its fleshly preoccupations are but temporary realities. The true believer, in contrast, has eternal life and will abide forever.

Jesus said those who follow Him are not of the world just as He was not of the world. We still move about in it to do His will as long as we are alive, but we are not of it. That’s why Jesus prayed specifically for the Father to keep us from the evil one (John 17:14 -16). We’re vulnerable to being sucked into this evil world’s system now and then, but our love is toward God. That love is what will draw us out and redirect our focus toward heavenly priorities.

Do you reject the world? Do you reject its false religions, damning ideologies, godless living, and vain pursuits? Instead, do you love God, His truth, His kingdom, and all that He stands for? That doesn’t come naturally to any man or woman because the human tendency is to love darkness rather than light to mask evil deeds (John 3:19-20). Unbelievers are of their father the devil, and want to do the desires of their father (John 8:44). If you reject the world and its devilish desires, that is an indication of new life in Christ. And since that new life is forever,


Do You Eagerly Await Christ’s Return?


Further along in 1 John, we come across a fifth test of salvation: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And every one who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (3:2-3). If you’re a true Christian, you will have hope in your heart, and your hope will be focused on Christ’s return. That hope will purify your life.

Do you love Christ so much that you eagerly await to see Him face-to-face at His return and be made like Him? Scripture tells us that is the Christian’s blessed hope and supreme joy. Romans 8 declares that the whole creation groans in anticipation of the glorious manifestation of the children of God. First John 3 says that it involves three things: Christ appears, we see Him, and we’re instantly made like Him.

“Our citizenship is in heaven,” Paul said, “from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:20-21). Are you waiting for that? Do you despise the sin in your fallen flesh and long to be like Christ? Can you feel the thrill of Paul’s saying, “Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly”? (1 Cor. 15:49)

Such a hope has ethical power, for John said it purifies the one possessing it. Paul implied as much to Titus: “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:11-13). This is a sensible hope leading to sensible living. It is not an inordinate kind of anticipation in which you are irresponsible with your earthly responsibilities. Being so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good is a contradiction in terms. The hope of Christlikeness will compel you to act more like Christ in reaching out to others and fulfilling all that God has set out for you to do.

If you find yourself longing for the return of Jesus Christ, that’s evidence of salvation. It’s an indication of a new nature within, which longs to be delivered from a body of sin while becoming like the perfect Christ. If you have such holy longings and affections, you’ve passed an important test indicating the reality of your eternal salvation.


Do You See a Decreasing Pattern of Sin in Your Life?


Another manifestation of holy affections is a decreasing pattern of sin. First John 3:4-10 spells out this sixth test:

Every one who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that [Christ] appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God.

Unbroken patterns of sin are characteristic of the unregenerate. No matter what a person claims about being a Christian, if he or she continues in sin, it is only a claim and not a reality. When you became a Christian, the pattern of sin was broken and a new pattern came into existence. Holy affections took over. Does that mean there’s no sin in your life? No, because your unredeemed flesh is still there. But the more you pursue those religious affections, the less you will sin.

Sin as a life pattern is incompatible with salvation. That’s because to experience salvation is to be saved from something, and that something is sin. If a person could continue in sin after being saved from sin, that would mean salvation is ineffective. John therefore discussed the work of Christ to demonstrate just how effective it is.

He began by noting that there are people who practice sin and lawlessness (v. 4). Then Christ “appeared in order to take away sins” (v. 5). To say someone had the work of Christ applied to him or her, yet continues in the same pattern of sin is to deny the very purpose Christ came for, which was to take away sins. Continuing in sin is not consistent with Christ’s work on the cross. If a saved person could keep on sinning, that would mean Christ’s death–while having some efficacy in eternity–is in fact useless in time. Perish the thought! Christ’s death served the very useful purpose of taking away not only the penalty of sin, but also the pattern of sin in the believer’s life.

John went on to talk about Christ’s work through the believer’s union with Him: “No one who abides in Him sins” (v. 6). That cannot mean true Christians never sin because John just said, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1:8). Rather, the next two verses in chapter 3 explain, “The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil” (vv. 7-8). John’s first epistle is consistent in warning against a pattern of sin.

Now let me clarify something here. I frequently receive letters from anguished Christians who doubt their salvation because they can’t seem to break a sinful or unwise habit. They most often write about smoking, overeating, and masturbation. They fear their struggle with such things means they are locked into a pattern of sin. But John is not saying that the frequent occurrence of one particular sin in a person’s life means that person is lost. Rather, he clarifies his meaning in saying that a true believer cannot practice lawlessness (1 John 3:4). The Greek term used there (anomia) literally means living as if there were no law. A person who rejects God’s authority doesn’t care what God thinks about his habits, and is obviously not a Christian.

A Christian, however, has a drastically different way of relating to God. He or she is no longer a slave to sin, but has offered himself or herself as a servant to the Lord (Rom. 6:14, 17-18). A true Christian can still sin, and may even do so frequently, but sinning frequently is not the same as practicing sin. In 1 John we see that a true believer can do the first, but not the second.

Why is that the case? Because the true believer “abides in Him” (1 John 3:6). Not only does Christ’s death take away our sin, but also His ongoing life in us breaks the sin pattern. No longer are we perpetual sinners in thought, word, and deed–as we were before we were saved. We now have the option to do good. If we find ourselves sinning, contrary to the good we desire to do inside, we are much like the apostle Paul in Romans 7–and he’s a great person to be associated with! Yet because of the abiding presence of Christ, our struggle will decrease as time goes on. We will always be acutely sensitive to sin, for as we have seen, that’s one of John’s tests of saving faith, but sin will be less of a pattern in our lives. Christ lives in union with us to provide a new pattern–a pattern of righteousness.

A pattern of sin, however, signals a union with the devil: “The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil” (v. 8). The devil is a sinner and nothing but. Everyone who is associated with the devil is a sinner and nothing but. Christ came to destroy the works of the devil by rescuing people who are in bondage to sin. That means those who’ve really been rescued will not continue in the state they’ve been rescued from. A habitual pattern of sin indicates that a rescue has never taken place. To claim otherwise is to denigrate Christ by implying His death didn’t accomplish what He set out to do–destroy the works of the devil by rescuing people from sin.

In addition, “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: any one who does not practice righteousness is not of God” (vv. 9-10). The believer has been born anew by the Holy Spirit. The seed He plants is a new nature, a new life principle, a new disposition. just as a seed planted in the ground produces a distinct kind of life, God’s seed produces a righteous life in us that breaks the pattern of sin. And don’t worry: that seed cannot die, for the Word of God tells us it’s imperishable (1 Peter 1:23). Born of the Spirit of God, the believer cannot continually sin.

John just provided us with four viewpoints in analyzing the sin in our life: the work Christ accomplished in His death, His ongoing life in the believer, His destruction of the devil’s works, and the regenerating work of the Spirit. Every way you look at it, the pattern of habitual sin is broken. What does that mean to you personally? If you see a decreasing pattern of sin in your life, that’s evidence of holy affections. The difference between the children of God and the children of the devil is, as John said, “obvious” (v. 10). If you practice righteousness, you’re of God. If you don’t, you’re not. Plain and simple. If you see victory over sin in your life, if you see righteous motives, righteous desires, righteous words, righteous deeds, and if you’re not all you ought to be but certainly not what you used to be, then you have eternal life, so enjoy it.


Do You Love Other Christians?


In 1 John 3:10, John mentions two obvious facts. One, as we just saw, is that “anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God.” The other is that neither is anyone “who does not love his brother.” To amplify that point, let’s go back to a key section we missed in our progressive study of John’s letter: “The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (2:9-11).

To say you’re in the light–or you’ve seen the light–is to claim to be a Christian. If so, your life would certainly show some of the life patterns of Christ. Loving fellow Christians is one very basic pattern. To be in fellowship with Christ is to experience and express love. If you claim to be a Christian but do not even like Christians, your claim is a sham. You are in fact walking in darkness, not in the light.

Loving fellow Christians comes naturally to the believer. As Paul said to the Thessalonian church, “[Regarding] the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another” (1 Thess. 4:9). Nevertheless, he went on to encourage them to “excel still more” in their love for one another (v. 10). As believers, we haven’t loved as fully as we ought to love, but we have loved. And we don’t need to be taught to love because it’s instinctive, implicit, and inherent within our new nature. As we learned in Romans 5:5, “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts.”

Jesus went so far as to say, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). It is basic to our Christian life that we have the capacity to “fervently love one another from the heart,” as Peter expressed it (1 Peter 1:22). And it’s a love that goes beyond mere feeling to encompass dutiful responsibility, sacrificial service, and sensitive concern.

So here comes the test: Do you characteristically love other believers? If you claim to be a Christian but have no love in your heart for those in the church or any track record of meeting their needs, then the apostle John says this to you: You’re in the dark in spite of your claim to be in the light. Love is a test of divine life. It signifies you have crossed over from darkness to light. This is how 1 John 3:14-15 putsit: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”

Do you honestly care about other believers or are you cold, uncaring, and indifferent? Do you have a desire to reach out and meet their needs? Those who don’t care are spiritually dead, characterized by an ongoing hatred. In our sophisticated age, that is manifested not so much in vitriolic hostility as in an utterly self-centered approach to life. People who continually focus on themselves and couldn’t care less what happens to anyone else are of their father the devil, who “was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). As believers, however, “we know love by this, that [Christ] laid down His life for us” quite the opposite of the devil’s murderous character. Therefore, “We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).

John defined love as making sacrifices for others, perhaps even to the point of martyrdom. How do you respond to the opportunities you typically have to sacrifice your time, treasures, and talents? Are you happy when you come across a person or ministry in need, and you’re able to provide money, time, prayer, a commodity, a skill, or a sympathetic ear?

What about enjoying the privilege of fellowship in general? Do you look forward to being with fellow Christians and talking with them, sharing with them, discussing the things of God with them, studying the Word with them, and praying with them? Do you have a desire to take the resources God has given you and apply them to someone else in the family of God? That’s evidence of love, as John went on to explain: “Whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (vv. 17-18).

Note the result of such a practical approach to love: “We will know by this that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before Him in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God” (vv. 19-21). The assurance that you are a Christian–that your faith is the real thing–will come by your love. The Greek word translated “assure” (peitho) means to pacify, tranquilize, soothe, or persuade. You can soothe yourself as you stand before God that you’re a true Christian if you see love in your life.

Now your love won’t be perfect, but it will be there. Let that bolster your assurance, for John warned that your heart or conscience may try to incriminate you and make you doubt. The fallen flesh has the capability to play games with your mind. Satan, the accuser of the brethren, may seek to exploit that tendency. In whatever your heart condemns you, you can be assured if you see love in your life. You may doubt your salvation, but God never does because He is greater than your heart and knows all things.

Perhaps you’re going through doubt and struggling with your assurance. Do as John said and go back to the love of your life: Examine whether you love other Christians as evidenced by deeds of kindness and sacrifice. If that’s characteristic of your life, be soothed, be pacified–for no matter what your heart may do to condemn you, you can be sure of your salvation. A condemning conscience can rob you of your assurance because it looks only at failure. But God is greater than your conscience; He looks at your faith in Christ.

The apostle Peter, after denying Christ three times, had a worse time than any of us can imagine with a condemning heart. Jesus came personally to assure him. Three times in a row He inquired gently about Peter’s devotion. In desperation, Peter replied, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You” (John 21:17). We too can appeal to the love God sees in our hearts. It’s not perfect but, again, it’s there. And it will express itself through deeds of kindness and sacrifice to others. Jesus told Peter to reveal his love by taking care of the church. It’s natural for the Christian to “do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:10). Your love for fellow Christians is a benchmark of the Christian faith, and solid grounds for assurance. Refuse to let your heart condemn what God does not.


Do You Experience Answered Prayer?


Another source of confidence and assurance is this: Whatever we ask of God “we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22). You can know you’re a believer if God answers your prayers. The only way that can happen is if you keep His commandments, and the only way you can do that is if you belong to Him. As John says in verse 24, “The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him.”

In a similar passage John said, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him” (5:13-15). God always answers prayers that are according to His will. Obedient believers know His will as stated in His Word, and tailor their prayers accordingly. The answers that result bring about confidence and assurance.

God is more eager to answer the prayers of His children than they are to ask. I suspect there’s a certain disappointment in God’s heart because He would do so much more than we ever ask Him to do. Think of the blessings and assurance we miss out on!

Now there are many people who pray to God, but don’t even know the God they’re praying to or what His will is. God is under no obligation to answer such prayers. We learn from the Psalms that He doesn’t even hear them (cf. Ps. 66:18). But those of us who see answers to our prayers can know we have eternal life. One of the many good reasons to pray fervently and faithfully is to enjoy the assurance that answered prayer brings.

Some believers struggle with being assured of their salvation because they have scant experience concerning answered prayers. That comes from a skimpy prayer life. What a tragedy! If you’re in that situation, reverse it immediately. I don’t want you to miss out on the blessing and comfort that answered prayer brings. Looking back on my life, one of my greatest sources of assurance is seeing that God has answered many of my prayers through the years. That He answered is evidence that He hears me, which is evi­dence that I abide in Him and He in me.

Have you had your prayers answered? Is that a pattern of life for you? If so, you have eternal life. Have you prayed for an unbeliever and seen that person come to Christ? Have you prayed for someone in great distress and seen God turn the situation around into blessing and joy? Have you sought God about a void in your life and seen Him fill it? Have you prayed for forgiveness in a clear conscience and received it? Have you asked God to enable you to present His truth to an individual or group and experienced His grace to do so with great clarity? Have you sought power in proclaiming the gospel and experienced it? Have you asked that God would help you lead someone to the Savior, and He did? Have you sought contentment amidst trying circumstances and experienced God’s peace as a result? Have you asked the Lord to help you know Him better and experienced greater intimacy with Him after going through some hard lessons? Those are all indications that you belong to Him and He to you.


Do You Experience the Ministry of the Holy Spirit?


First John 4:13 develops that theme of belonging to God: “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” The first thing the Spirit did was “testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world” (v. 14). If you confess that Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and have committed your life to Him, that was the Spirit’s doing. Apart from the Holy Spirit, you wouldn’t know who Christ is and you certainly wouldn’t confess Him as Savior and Lord. Have you experienced that ministry of the Holy Spirit? If so, that’s evidence of being a true child of God.

Another vital work of the Spirit is His illuminating your understanding of Scripture. John, speaking of the Spirit, said, “The anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and … teaches you about all things” (2:27). Paul explained that “the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God … that we may know the things freely given to us by God” (1 Cor. 2:10, 12). When you read the Word of God, is its meaning illuminated to you? Do you understand what it says? In fact, do you sometimes understand it so well you wish you didn’t understand quite that well because of the obvious implications? Is it relatively clear overall? Now I’m not talking about obscure passages that we all struggle with, but consider the effect that reading the Word has on you. Ask yourself, Does it convict me when I’m sinful? Does it make me rejoice when I’m worshiping God and seeking to advance His kingdom? Those are signs of the Spirit’s illuminating work in your life.

Let’s look at other ministries of the Spirit. What about fellowship with God? It is the Spirit who leads you to cry out “Abba! Father!” (Gal. 4:6) as a sign of your intimacy and communion with God. What about praise? Who is it that lifts your heart to praise and adore God? Who is it that compels you to sing with meaning and devotion? In Ephesians 5:19, Paul explains that the filling of the Spirit leads to “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” What about the fruit of the Spirit, which Paul describes as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control”? (Gal. 5:22-23) Those attitudes are spiritual graces. Have they graced your life as a whole?

Have you ever ministered in a spiritual way through helping someone, giving to someone, or speaking to someone about Christ? Those are evidences of the Spirit of God. Do you actually experience His ministry in your life? In Romans 8:16, Paul explains that “the Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.” Now don’t expect Him to whisper into your ear, “You’re a Christian, you’re a Christian, believe Me you’re a Christian!” There’s no audible voice, nothing esoteric or mystical, but something very concrete. He bears witness by providing you with evidence of His presence in your life–by illuminating Scripture to you, drawing you into fellowship with God through prayer and praise, producing spiritual fruit to grace your life, and enabling you to minister effectively to others.

If the Spirit is in your life, that’s evidence that you abide in God and He in you (1 John 4:13). So be assured. Don’t let your heart condemn you, damn you, tell you you’re not a believer. Recognize the Spirit’s work in you. There’s no reason to doubt and be unstable.


Can You Discern between Spiritual Truth and Error?


So far we’ve taken nine tests for determining the presence of saving faith. In the tenth is the one time John actually used the word test: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God” (1 John 4:1-3).

Every false religious system in the world violates that test. Adherents of such systems consistently attempt to undermine the biblical truth about who Jesus Christ is and what He accomplished–that He is Savior and Lord, who came in human flesh to be “delivered over because of our transgressions, and … raised because of our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Can you tell when someone is presenting false teaching about the person and work of Christ? That is the watershed issue of the Christian faith.

False teachers “are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:5-6). John was saying a true believer will listen to the truth and not deviate into error about Christ’s glorious person and work. Suppose someone says, “I used to believe in Jesus Christ, but now I’ve seen the light: Christ really was an angelic being–or an emanation from God, a divine spirit without the human element, or just a man and not divine.” Any such heresies reflect an unregenerate heart.

From the moment of your salvation, there’s one thing you’re clear about and that’s who Christ is and what He did, or you wouldn’t be saved. It’s the Holy Spirit who made that clear to you. This test is not moral or experiential but doctrinal. True believers know truth from error because the Spirit of Truth indwells them. “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ,” John says, “is born of God” (1 John 5:1). That’s the same doctrinal test again. When you believe the right thing about Christ, you’re born of God.

It’s good to be a believer, but it’s also good to be skeptical. As John says, “Do not believe every spirit” (4:1, emphasis added). For the sake of your spiritual life and health, don’t believe everything you hear, see, and read. Instead, “Test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” That requires the ability to think biblically. The Greek text implies conducting a rigorous, ongoing examination of whatever and whomever you expose yourself to. Why go to all that trouble? “Because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

The conquering of the city of Troy is one of the most famous stories of antiquity. Greek soldiers had laid siege to the city for over ten years, but were unable to conquer it. In exasperation Ulysses, a brilliant strategist, decided to have a large wooden horse built and left outside the city walls as a supposed gift to the unconquerable Trojans. The Greeks then sailed away in apparent defeat. The curious and proud Trojans brought the wooden horse inside their fortified walls. That night Greek soldiers hidden inside the horse crept out and opened the city gates to let their fellow soldiers into the city. The soldiers massacred the inhabitants, looted the city, and burned it to the ground. Ever since, the Trojan horse has been a symbol of infiltration and deception. Throughout its history, the church has embraced many Trojan horses filled with false prophets.

Satan has effectively used enemies disguised as gifts to lure people away from the truth of God and into destructive error. Today’s church is in a particularly severe state of confusion because of its weak doctrine, relativistic thinking, worldly methodology, inaccurate interpretation of Scripture, lax internal discipline, and spiritual immaturity. What is sorely needed is spiritual discernment–the skill of separating divine truth from error (1 Thess. 5:21).

Perhaps you are discerning in the everyday affairs of life. You read nutritional labels because you want to be healthy. You read the fine print of the stock market report before making financial investments. If you need surgery, you carefully select the right doctor. Maybe you’re highly analytical about politics and can accurately assess a plethora of domestic and foreign issues. Or maybe you’re an armchair quarterback who evaluates offensive and defensive strategies. All that is fine, but can you discern between divine truth and error?

To do that, John said to test for two things: confession of the divine Lord (1 John 4:2-3) and commitment to the divine Word (vv. 4-6). If you study the cults, you’ll detect a pattern. Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, and the like attack the person of Christ and then postulate a substitute or addition to the Bible, such as Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, The Book of Mormon, or The Pearl of Great Price. True believers won’t believe such lies. They have a resident truth teacher in the person of the Holy Spirit (I John 2:27).

I listened to a radio program recently where a man was propagating a religion I never heard of before. It didn’t take me long to discover he was not representing the truth. I was immediately put on guard by the way he skewed one brief biblical statement at the beginning of his message. I continued to listen rather intently until he was finished, whereupon he declared the existence of a great prophet who is the instrument of God to bring great truth to humanity. What he said did not square with Scripture. I knew it was error because the Spirit of God has convinced me about salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone and the veracity of Scripture. I knew I didn’t need some prophet of modem times to give me the truth.

You don’t have to be a seminary graduate or an expert on cults and world religions to distinguish truth from error. If you aren’t swayed from the basic truths of Christ’s divine person, work, and Word, that’s evidence of genuine saving faith.


Have You Suffered Rejection Because of Your Faith?


This eleventh and last test is painful: “Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you” (1 John 3:13). Cain hated Abel and murdered him. Why did Cain do that? “Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous” (v. 12). Have you experienced animosity, hostility, rejection, bitterness, alienation, ostracism, prejudice, or outright persecution from representing and advocating what is right? If so, that’s a sign that you belong to One who suffered the same way for the same reason.

The fact is, to the worldly, you as a Christian “have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things” (1 Cor. 4:13). You’re a threat to their belief that this world is all that’s worth living for.“They are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you” (1 Peter 4:4). However, Scripture says, “[Be] in no way alarmed by your opponents–which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you” (Phil. 1:28). When suffering on account of your faith, don’t say, “Can I really be a Christian? Things are going so badly–I wonder if God cares.” Rather, if the world is persecuting you, say, “Isn’t this truly wonderful! It’s pretty clear who I am.”

I’ll never forget one night many years ago when I was called to the church office to deal with an emergency. I arrived to find one of our elders struggling with a girl who was obviously demon possessed. She was evidencing supernatural strength. She flipped a heavy steel desk over onto its top and the two of us together were unable to restrain her physically. Voices that were not her own were speaking out of her. The first thing they said when I arrived was, “Not him! Get him out! Get him out! We don’t want him here.” It encouraged me to know that the demons knew I was not on their side.

That was a very confirming night for me. When the world and the spirit of Satan behind it come after you, you too have the right to be confirmed if you’re hated because of righteousness. Now, if you’re hated because you’re obnoxious, there’s no virtue in that! “But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God” (1 Peter 2:20). Part of that favor is being assured of your salvation.

The apostle John gave all the tests that he did to give the true believer a biblical basis for confidence. Let’s review his spiritual inventory: Do you enjoy fellowship with God and Christ? Are you sensitive to sin in your life? Do you obey the Scriptures? Do you reject this evil world? Do you love Christ and eagerly await His return? Do you see a decreasing pattern of sin in your life? Do you love other Christians? Do you receive answers to your prayers? Do you experience the ministry of the Holy Spirit? Can you discern between spiritual truth and error? Have you suffered on account of your faith in Christ?

If you pass those tests, you can have confidence before God. After all, John wrote what he did so “you may know that you have eternal life” (5:13). There’s no reason for you to go through your spiritual experience in the dumps, yet thousands of Christians do. Please don’t be one of them.


Copyright 2004 by John MacArthur. All rights reserved. All Scripture quotations, unless noted otherwise, are from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, and are used by permission. Adapted from Saved Without a Doubt, by John MacArthur (Victor Books, 1992).

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39 Lessons, 20 Tips and 10 “Don’ts” for Parenting by the Schmuckers

Posted by Scott on December 13, 2008

39 Lessons, 20 Tips and 10 “Don’ts” For Parenting


By Matt & Elizabeth Schmucker


39 LESSONS WE’VE LEARNED

Lessons About Ourselves

  1. To be a faithful steward of your children you must abide in Christ (John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”).
  2. “Trickle down theory” – Mom’s daily devotion naturally trickles down to encouragement and instruction in the Lord for the children.
  3. Not listening to your children causes you to misjudge them (James 1:19-20: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires”).
  4. Our task list is not as important as our children’s thought life.
  5. Preach the gospel of grace, not self-discipline.
  6. Being parented is defining; Parenting is refining.
  7. You will parent the way you were parented unless you think things through.
  8. Parents should become “smaller” as their children become bigger. In other words, a parent should become more transparent in confessing one’s sin and in sharing past struggles as children mature. Your children should hear more about your fight for faith as they grow older. Don’t be a plastic Christian!
  9. Ordinary times make for extraordinary memories.
  10. To have children is to need margin in your life.
  11. A disreputable life will undermine the gospel. An exemplary life will commend it.

Lessons About Children

  1. Little kids need the strength of your youth; older kids need your wisdom (i.e. have children while you’re young!).
  2. Pack in truth while your children are little and trust the Lord to unpack it in his time.
  3. Study your children. Know their “love language.”
  4. Consistent, loving, faithful discipline brings peace to the home. Inconsistency brings chaos.
  5. Do not let your child see their value in light of the world’s standards. The world rewards the 3 R’s. God delights in the heart that is tuned toward his (Deuteronomy 30:8-10: “You will again obey the Lord and follow all his commands I am giving you today. Then the Lord your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your fathers, if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul“).
  6. God hands out “talents” to our children. The child with two talents who exercises both may in fact be more pleasing in the eyes of God than the one with five talents who exercises three (Matt. 25). Faithful stewardship is the goal!
  7. On some days, it’s just fine to accomplish nothing more than keeping your kids fed and safe.
  8. Older children need to learn how to care for the weaker among them; doing so smells like Jesus. Matthew 18 reads, “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.” By contrast, Psalm 10:2 reads, “In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises.”
  9. Do not presume you will be able to speak into the lives of your older children if you do not live in their world when they are younger. Play with your children. There is a reap/sow principle at work here (2 Cor. 9:6: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously”).
  10. There’s nothing wrong with boredom for your children. It causes them to be creative.
  11. Send your kids to bed well (and school!) (Eph. 4:26: “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry”).
  12. Make sure your kids keep short accounts with each other. Create a culture of care and forgiveness in your home (1 Cor. 13:5: “Love…keeps no record of wrongs”).
  13. Teach your kids to be shock absorbers, not wave makers (Matt. 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God”).
  14. Kids can memorize scripture very quickly.
  15. Teach your children to notice needs. Teach them to ask, “What can I do to help?” (Phil. 2:3: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves”).
  16. Teach your children to look adults in the eyes. It shows respect and recognizes authority.
  17. Fight materialism by teaching your children to have a thankful heart (1 Thes. 5:18: “…give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”).
  18. Teach your children to receive reproof, correction, and instruction (Prov. 12:15 “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice”).
  19. Let kids be kids. Let them dabble in various areas of extra-curricular activities (sports, art, drama, etc) rather than build a resume.

Lessons About Satan

  1. It seems Satan comes into our homes on Sunday mornings in order to make the Lord’s Day one of struggle.
  2. Do not feel outside pressure to baptize your children. Look for and test for a credible profession of faith in your child (Prov 22:15 “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child…”).
  3. Satan is a divider and always attacks authority: husband/wife and parent/child. In your home fight for unity around the gospel.
  4. For mothers, the “I-can-do-it-all-superwoman” mindset is at best a myth and at worst a lie from hell (Matt. 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money”; Luke 10:40 “But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made; verse 41: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her”).
  5. Beware of sports…on Sundays! Decide while your children are young that you will not allow the growing all-weekend sports phenomenon to usurp your worship (Ex. 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God”).
  6. Arm your children for the world, not (necessarily) shield them from it. Consider getting your high-school-aged children out of the Christian bubble.

Lessons About God

  1. Prayer is a mighty weapon to use in the life of your children:
    1. It changes the parent’s approach to the child
    2. It softens the hard-hearted child
  2. God uses children as a mirror to your own heart to expose your sin and hypocrisy.
  3. God elects. God saves. Parents cannot do this heart-changing work. At best we can pray and point to the One who can cause our children to be born again.

20 MORE TIPS FOR RAISING GOD-HONORING CHILDREN

  1. The saying goes, “When mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” We believe daddy is actually the problem. From a complementarian’s viewpoint one needs to conclude the above saying with, “And if daddy ain’t happy in the Lord, ain’t nobody happy.”
  2. In a stay-at-home-mom scenario, dad tends to back away from discipline when mom has been with the children all day. In one sense this is wise as he has not observed the rhythm and rhyme of the day. However, dad needs to catch up and jump in.
  3. Talk to both good and not-so-good parents; you’ll learn lessons from both.
  4. Talking to really old parents may not prove to be fruitful as their memories fade and they’ll remember raising kids as either a nightmare or a glorious experience. Talking to parents 5-10 years ahead of where you are seems most fruitful (Prov. 15:22: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed”).
  5. Though you may think this premature, have a vision for being involved spiritually with your grandchildren. This will shape even your parenting.
    • Positive example: Paul writing to Timothy said, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in your also” (2 Tim. 1:5).
    • Negative example: “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel” (Judg. 2:10).
  6. Let your children see you practicing hospitality and let them participate. This breaks down the selfish tendencies all kids have (Rom. 12:13: “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality”).
  7. Unbelievers set up their home for the benefit of themselves. Christians should set up and use their homes for the benefit of their family, the church community, and outsiders (notice the order of this list).

    Supporting verses:

    • “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8).
    • “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal. 6:10).
  8. If we could do it again, we would not have a television in our home. The television competes with more important things going on in the home. It competes for right thinking in the mind of the child. If you have a television, then watch it with your children (when you can) and play “catch the lies.”
  9. Our generation of parents encourages children to express themselves and vent all that’s on their minds. My parents’ generation grew up under the instruction that “Children are to be seen and not heard.” Both appear to be out of balance. Proverbs 10:8 says, “The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin.” Ephesians 4:29 suggests that the purpose of speech is to the benefit of the listener.
  10. You cannot expect younger children to obey if their older siblings do not. Proverbs 10:17 says, “He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.”
  11. One’s conscience is not the same as the Law of the Lord. If conscience is defined as “That inner-voice that acts as a guide as to the rightness or wrongness of a behavior,” then your conscience is only as good as your knowledge of God’s Word. An informed conscience can be a trustworthy thing if it is drawing from God’s Word, God’s Law. An uninformed conscience is incredibly dangerous. Inform your child’s conscience by pouring in God’s Word. 
  12. We often speak of a home with the aroma of Christ (peace, hope, forgiveness and love—all for God’s glory). Alternatives are homes with the aroma of
    • a bus station—people just passing through
    • a war zone—people fighting all the time

    What does your home smell like?

  13. “Moral children” does not equal “Christian children.”
  14. Do a “sermon review” with your children sometime on Sunday. Have each child recap what he or she learned in Sunday School or “big church” and then help them apply it to their own hearts and trials. Then spend time praying for each other’s coming week.
  15. Martin Luther said he had the responsibility to be the worship leading pastor in his own home. His home was to be both a school and a church. Fathers, do you have this mindset?
  16. The unstated implication of Luther’s charge (above) is that fathers need to be present to lead in worship. Being in the house with a Blackberry in hands doesn’t count!
  17. Don Whitney encourages “brevity, regularity and flexibility” in family worship.
  18. Build in your children a global vision of God’s work in the world and thereby build a Great commission Mindset. We have found that having a map near to where we eat most of our meals is helpful. Reading from Operation World can inform the entire family of God’s work in the world.
  19. When children ask for permission to do something, their request can fall into one of several categories:

    Not Wise / Permissible
    E.g. out with friends on Sat night

    Not Wise / Not Permissible
    E.g. underage drinking and driving

    Wise / Permissible
    E.g. excused from family chores to prepare for next day’s test

    Wise / Not Permissible
    This problem rarely presents itself. Wants to save money for college but is not working age.

    The Not Wise / Permissible category is the hardest to deal with. Try to break down the request and sort out in your own mind why you think the request is unwise. Is it your own preference or is it truly unwise? Then encourage them to think through the wisdom of the matter, so that, even if you permit them to do it, they will remember the lesson when things go poorly.

  20. Build Godward children.

TOP 10 WAYS TO (WRONGLY) PROVOKE YOUR CHILDREN

  • Colossians 3:21: “Fathers [and mothers], do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”
  • Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers [and mothers], do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
  1. Make it a habit to discipline your child while angry.
  2. Make it a point to scold your child – especially in public. Mockery and ridicule work well.
  3. Deliberately embarrass your child in front of his/her friends. Name calling really gets their attention.
  4. Create double standards so that the child never knows who or what to follow.
  5. Preach and hold the child to a gospel of self-discipline instead of a gospel of grace. (Note: the Bible presents Pharisees as very unhappy people.)
  6. Never admit you’re wrong and never ask your children for forgiveness.
  7. Inspect your child until you find something wrong. Holding them to an unreachable standard makes this task easier.
  8. Judge a fight between your children before you’ve listened to them.
  9. Compare your child to others.
  10. Promise your children things early in the day and then don’t fulfill the promise.

Parents should provoke their children…in good ways: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on [provoke!] toward love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24).

Matt & Elizabeth Schmucker are the parents of five children who presently range in ages from 3 to 19. Matt is the executive director of 9Marks and an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC.

© 9Marks

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SBC and Calvinism: Three Events that widened the divide by Tom Ascol

Posted by Scott on December 13, 2008

SBC and Calvinism: Three events that widened the divide

Three events over the last few weeks have called fresh attention to one of the serious doctrinal issues currently brewing in the SBC. There are others, and they are not unimportant, but the one that looms large on the horizon is the debate over Calvinism or reformed theology. Terminology matters, so let me quickly assert that what I mean by “Calvinism” is exactly what the great Southern Baptist statesman, John Broadus, meant when he wrote,

The people who sneer at what is called Calvinism might as well sneer at Mont Blanc. We are not in the least bound to defend all of Calvin’s opinions or actions, but I do not see how any one who really understands the Greek of the Apostle Paul or the Latin of Calvin and Turretin can fail to see that these latter did but interpret and formulate substantially what the former teaches.

What we are talking about is the sovereignty of God in salvation including unconditional election, total depravity of sinful nature, definite atonement of particular sinners by the death of Christ, the monergistic work of the Spirit in regeneration and the preserving grace of God operating in the life of every believer. We are not talking about sprinkling babies.

The three events that have put the spotlight on this issue recently have come from those who are not merely non-Calvinists, but are more accurately described as anti-Calvinists. They profess to have no axe to grind against Calvinism but their tone and treatment are unhelpful to the kind of fraternal dialogue that Southern Baptists desperately need to be cultivating at this point in our history.

To read further click Founders Ministries Blog
Scott Bailey

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Revival and Reform: Where is it? What is it?

Posted by Scott on December 6, 2008

At the time of this writing I have been watching, listening, and studying this very topic on Revivals and Reforms of the past and what is to come.  The great Reformation of Luthers day really changed the direction the Christian church was going and is still in effect today. 

In the past there have been what I believe to be false revivals instituted by such men as Charles Finney and others.  As you can tell, I am no advacate of Finneyism at all…personally believe it has done tremendous damage to the Church as a whole, but that is another topic all together.

Today, across our country and many other countries we are seeing young men being drawn back to the foundations of our Christian faith…Reform Theology (Calvinism as some call it)…true Reformed Theology, not that which has been misrepresented for decades as hyperCalvinsim.  These young men are being drawn to read and study on the likes of Spurgeon, Watson, Buroughs, Ravenhill, Tozer, Whitefield, Edwards, Calvin, Knox, Flavel, Boston, Martin Lloyd Jones, Stott, MacArthur, Piper, Sproul, Packer, Warfield, and many others that fall into this camp.  Stott, MacArthur, Packer, Sproul, and Piper are still alive and well, but the rest have been forgotten by many in the Evangelical movement of the 20th and 21st century.  These great mens lives and testimonies are resurfacing in full power to proclaim the real gospel of Jesus Christ not the watered down version people are flocking to today.

Why are young men returning to this theology, to this biblical doctrinal truth?  It is a deep seated desire to know God in His fullness, to know Christ without mans inhabitions, to serve God with all their being, and a response to God’s call back to holiness and righteousness…they have a deep seated desire of God…the Holy Trinity.  This has been missing in the Evangelical movement or revival movement for the past 60 years or more.   Contrary to belief our life is not all about getting saved and then getting others saved…not as our first response.  Others coming to the saving knowledge of Christ through our testimony is a by product of our own living testimony in Christ and the greater work of the Church as the Holy Spirit moves them…salvation is a total work of God and Him alone.  Our first priority is to know God personally, fulfill His commands, to serve God personally unabashedly, and bring our lives into line with Him.  Striving for a holy life like that of Christ unto righteousness.  We are to work out our salvation…not as salvation by works..that is not what I am saying here, but to show or prove our salvation in how we live, how obdeient we are to the commands of God, how we react to circumstances in our lives, how we respond to our neighbors needs and actions, in how we love others and treat others, how we serve our employer, how we treat our taxes to the government, to serve the Lord with gladness of heart regardless of our life circumstances, to be found in deep study with the Word of God daily, to be found in communication with our God at all times, to share the true authentic gospel of Christ as the Holy Spirit provides that opportunity to whom He provides that opportunity, and so on.  This will be misunderstood by many, but that is ok…to be taught correctly sometimes means to be misunderstood by some.

The Church in America or western civilization has not experienced a real reform or revival in probably 200 years it seems.  Sure there have been little emotionally stirred up events in the past 200 years, but I am talking about a revival of the saints where the Word of God is preached bringing the Believers to their knees in repentance of their sins as the power of the Holy Spirit falls upon them, an engathering of hundreds and thousands of lost people to their knees in total shame of their sinful depraved enemy status with God, calling out to God for His mighty forgiveness and turning to walk in a new direction with God.  These were revivals without invitation systems…these were revivals preached by godly men until the Spirit of God fell upon the people of these communities.  A point to which the Holy Spirit came in such power that the mere prescense of a man of God would cause people to fall to their knees in repentance.  This is revival…this is how reformations get started. “My heart says of You, Seek Your face! Your face, Lord, I will seek.” Psalm 27:8

We are not in need of a new Reformation….we are in need of a return to the old Reformation.  The Church has left the love the early reformers had for God and the delicate caring and exposition of His Word.  We have fallen in love with the thought of being involved in some great revival somewhere.  We have fallen in love with surveying the lost to see how they would do church, to surveying communities to get their opinions of church direction and such.  We have fallen in love with fads, with systems, with trends and all sorts of humanistic hog wash, and have failed to fall deeply in love with our sovereign God.  We have fallen in love with an idea of God that we have created and love, but not what Scripture teaches about the true God.   The Reformation of the past had nothing do with mans “free will” left to man alone…if salvation was left to man to decide none would be saved…we would all perish in hell for all eternity…we are depraved, sinful, evil hearted people.  God has told us we cannot trust our hearts.  The reformation of the past had everything to do with returning to trusting in God’s sovereign will over man’s depraved will.  Understanding that man has a will, but God’s will is always in control of it…not as robots, but as people under the influence of God.  God is our creator and He fully intends to keep in control His creation…the restraining hand of God has been on evil men since the beginning otherwise the world would be unbearable and someday it will be that way.

Today, God is raising up men from all over the world that will return to preaching God’s Word in its entirety.  They will move the church from a wimpy Christ that just wants us all to get along with each other, to “coexist” as all religions leading to one God, a fill good Santa Claus or Geni in a bottle…they are bringing back the preaching with power.  These young men are not bashful to claim how lost a person is, how sinful man is, how totally depraved a man is, how much in need of a savior we are.  These guys will sacrifice their lives in order to advance the kingdom of God.

I encourage anyone reading this to seek the face of God now about sin in your life.  Ask God to renew your heart, to purify your life, to move you in a direction of His choosing not yours.  Get rid of the chains of a false religion that has you captured thinking you have to pursuade people to be saved, that you have to be eliquent in your message, that you must go out and do what the lost do in order to get them saved…all we as Believers must do is live a holy and righteous (not self-righteous) life before God and man, teach and preach the Word of God from Genesis to Revelation not just a few minor sections of the New Testiment, and as the Holy Spirit prompts us to share with someone about our life in Christ do it without hesitation.  Get rid of the notion that we are to go door to door, use a man made system, share a two sentence tract with someone…we are to live and breath our God in all that we are and do.  Salvation is not a matter of a 3 minute conversation, a 30 second prayer, and boom you are in.  Salvation is total transformation of the heart and mind turning from sin, depravity, evilness, worldliness, selfishness…to a life committed to furthering the kingdom of God, to living a holy and sanctified life, to being controlled by the Holy Spirit of God, desiring God above all things, spending our lives in the service of Christ whenever and wherever He leads us.

God’s Stubborn People
48 “Listen to me, O family of Jacob,
you who are called by the name of Israel
and born into the family of Judah.
Listen, you who take oaths in the name of the Lord
and call on the God of Israel.
You don’t keep your promises,
     even though you call yourself the holy city
and talk about depending on the God of Israel,
whose name is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
     Long ago I told you what was going to happen.
Then suddenly I took action,
and all my predictions came true.
     For I know how stubborn and obstinate you are.
Your necks are as unbending as iron.
Your heads are as hard as bronze.
     That is why I told you what would happen;
I told you beforehand what I was going to do.
Then you could never say, ‘My idols did it.
My wooden image and metal god commanded it to happen!’
     You have heard my predictions and seen them fulfilled,
but you refuse to admit it.
Now I will tell you new things,
secrets you have not yet heard.
     They are brand new, not things from the past.
So you cannot say, ‘We knew that all the time!’
     “Yes, I will tell you of things that are entirely new,
things you never heard of before.
For I know so well what traitors you are.
You have been rebels from birth.
     Yet for my own sake and for the honor of my name,
I will hold back my anger and not wipe you out.
10      I have refined you, but not as silver is refined.
Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.
11      I will rescue you for my sake—
yes, for my own sake!
I will not let my reputation be tarnished,
and I will not share my glory with idols!

Tyndale House Publishers: Holy Bible : New Living Translation. 2nd ed. Wheaton, Ill. : Tyndale House Publishers, 2004, S. Is 48:1-11
God will not be mocked, His name tarnished by the Emergent or Seeker religions.  He is not interested in our philosophy, our eastern mysticism, our best life now, our prosperity on earth…He is intersted in a people that are obedient to His call, to His commands.  He is interested in our obedience regardless of the cost.  As authentic Believers we need to return to loving our neighbors, serving others, feeding others, taking care of others.  Also, we are to speak of God’s Word totally relying on the results from God.  Preach and teach and live out the Word of God, but get out of His way so we may see the mighty results God will bring forth.
Concluding:  Where is the revival or reformation of the 21st century?  It is starting in the mind and hearts of young men and some older men all over the world.  It cannot be prayed into being.  It cannot be stirred up by the words of men.  This revival or reformation will come at the time of God’s own choosing and place of His own choosing, but I can see some sparks starting to flare up in these guys.  We could certainly witness one final great revival in this century.  We simply need to have our minds, hearts, and ears to the Word of God, listening to His calling and returning to preaching and teaching expositionally what He has to say.  His word has always been relivent to every generation and does not need some new system in order for people to get it.  God will plant His Word in the hearts and minds of His chosen peolpe…we are called to deliver it.
I know what you might be thinking…where is the zeal for others to come to know Christ?  It is there, biblically not man made.  My number one priority is obedience to God, service to Christ, and allowing myself to be used in anyway possible by my heavenly Father.  This will result in some evangelism, some mentoring other younger Believers, witnessing to a neighbor, feeding the hungry, clothing the very poor, fixing a flat tire for single mom stranded on the road, watching an older person while their kids do some shopping, and so on.  The zeal for others to accept Christ is always there biblically….not the way the we have been taught from little kids up that all of life revolves around witnessing and evangalising in a concerted effort, all the time which is wrong.  Think about it.  Amen!
(c) Scott Bailey 2008

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Ten Indictments for the Modern Church-Paul Washer

Posted by Scott on December 1, 2008

Paul Washer delivers a timely message on the plight of the church today.  I have witnessed as Paul has said here younger men all over the world that are digging deep in the Word of God, studying and reading the old theologians like Spurgeon, Tozer, Ravenhill, Lloyd Jones, Whitefield, Edwards, Owens, Boston, Augustine, Campbell, Flavel, and more.  Young men are being drawn back by God to the core foundations of the faith.  Many young men all over the world proclaiming authentic Christianity are not pulled into the humanistic lie of the Emergent and Seeker friendly philosophies.  They are pulled into a God centered biblical theological doctrine sometimes called Reformed Theology or 5 Point Calvinism…either way, it is the truth of God’s Word.  Watch and listen carefully.  Come back to see it over and over.  Personally, I will watch and listen many times as well.  I need the constant reminder of the direction God is taking us and what His Scriptures are telling us.  Search, dig, and act accordingly.

 

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What is faith and salvation to you? All to Jesus….

Posted by Scott on November 7, 2008

Watch this 3 part video from great preachers of old:  Tozer, Ravenhill, & Reidhead.  The lettering is hard to read, but the messages from these men are timely and just as relevant as they were the day they were spoken as God’s Word is still relevant today as it was 2000 plus years ago.  Let the messages with God’s Holy Word pierce you deep.


PART 1

PART 2

PART 3

We should have no other plans or purposes in this life other than to glorify our Almighty God!

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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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