En Gedi: Finding rest in the wilderness!

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Posts Tagged ‘reformer’

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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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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Elected! John MacArthur

Posted by Scott on June 11, 2008

Considering Election (Not Politics)

John MacArthur
 

Election is the act of God whereby in eternity past He chose those who will be saved. Election is unconditional, because it does not depend on anything outside of God, such as good works or foreseen faith (Romans 9:16). This doctrine is repeatedly taught in the Bible, and is also demanded by our knowledge of God. To begin with, let’s look at the biblical evidence.

The Bible says prior to salvation, all people are dead in sin — spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-3). In this state of death, the sinner is utterly unable to respond to any spiritual stimulus and therefore unable to love God, obey Him, or please Him in any way. Scripture says the mind of every unbeliever “is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8, emphasis added). That describes a state of total hopelessness: spiritual death.

The effect of all this is that no sinner can ever make the first move in the salvation process. This is what Jesus meant in John 6:44, when He said, “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” 

This is also why the Bible repeatedly stresses that salvation is wholly God’s work. In Acts 13:48 we read, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”

Acts 16 tells us that Lydia was saved when, “the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.”

Romans 8:29-30 states, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”

Ephesians 1:4-5,11 reads, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will . . . also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.”

Ephesians 2:8 suggests that even our faith is a gift from God.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, the apostle Paul tells his readers, “God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation.”

Second Timothy 1:9 informs us that God “has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”

Occasionally someone will suggest that God’s election is based on His foreknowledge of certain events. This argument suggests that God simply looks into the future to see who will believe, and He chooses those whom He sees choosing Him. Notice that 1 Peter 1:2 says the elect are chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,” and Romans 8:29 says, “whom He foreknew, He also predestined.” And if divine foreknowledge simply means God’s knowledge of what will happen in advance, then these arguments may appear to have some weight behind them.

But that is not the biblical meaning of “foreknowledge.” When the Bible speaks of God’s foreknowledge, it refers to God’s establishment of a love relationship with that person. The word “know,” in both the Old and New Testament, refers to much more than mere cognitive knowledge of a person. Such passages as Hosea 13:4-5; Amos 3:2 (KJV); and Romans 11:2 clearly indicate this. For example, 1 Peter 1:20 says Christ was “foreknown before the foundation of the world.” Surely this means more than that God the Father looked into the future to behold Christ! It means He had an eternal, loving relationship with Him. The same is true of the elect, whom we are told God “foreknew” (Romans 8:29). That means He knew them — He loved them — before the foundation of the world.

If God’s choice of the elect is unconditional, does this rule out human responsibility? Paul asks and answers that very question in Romans 9:19-20. He says God’s choice of the elect is an act of mercy. Left to themselves, even the elect would persist in sin and be lost, because they are taken from the same fallen lump of clay as the rest of humanity. God alone is responsible for their salvation, but that does not eradicate the responsibility of those who persist in sin and are lost — because they do it willfully, and not under compulsion. They are responsible for their sin, not God.

The Bible affirms human responsibility right alongside the doctrine of divine sovereignty. Moreover, the offer of mercy in the gospel is extended to all alike. Isaiah 55:1 and Revelation 22:17 call “whosoever will” to be saved. Isaiah 45:22 and Acts 17:30 command all men to turn to God, repent and be saved. First Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 tell us that God is not willing that any should perish, but desires that all should be saved. Finally, the Lord Jesus said that, “the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37).

In summary, we can say that God has had a special love relationship with the elect from all eternity, and on the basis of that love relationship chosen them for salvation. The ultimate question of why God chose some for salvation and left others in their sinful state is one that we, with our finite knowledge, cannot answer. We do know that God’s attributes always are in perfect harmony with each other, so that God’s sovereignty will always operate in perfect harmony with His goodness, love, wisdom, and justice.

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Are You Saved or Just Deceived? Dig Deep!

Posted by Scott on June 7, 2008

John MacArthur presents a magnificent sermon on the subject of being saved or deceived.  Those of us in the camp must dig deep.  Digging deep is not quick.  We must take time to explain salvation to those listening to the gospel.  They must know the difficulty of salvation.  Salvation is not a 3 minute presentation and two line prayer with a feeling at the end.  Listen to this two part presentation.

PART ONE

 

 

PART TWO

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Decisionism vs Repentance!

Posted by Scott on June 2, 2008

The church must wake up to the fact that about 95% of those setting in the church pews or seats today are lost and hell bound.  Most of these have made a “decision” for Christ in their past, but live as though they have never known of Jesus before.  Paul Washer gives a great talk on this very subject.

 

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Salvation Not By Asking Jesus Into Your Heart!

Posted by Scott on June 2, 2008

“There are so many people, especially in my own denomination (Southern Baptist). . . because of the pathetic theology and pathetic preaching . . . the people on our church membership rolls—are as lost as they can be. Because we have forgotten that salvation does not come by praying and asking Jesus to come into your heart; salvation does not come by going through four spiritual laws and saying a prayer at the end; salvation does not come by all these silly little mechanisms we’ve developed (that are unbiblical). It comes as a supernatural work of God through which God regenerates, makes the heart alive (Born Again), He gives the man repentance, He gives the man faith, the man repents, man then believes and is saved. And it is a supernatural work of God that manifests as much if not more of the power of God than when God stood on the first day and said, ‘Let there be light’.”

Comment by Paul Washer and agreed to by me.

&

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-Fierce Warriors in the Hands of God!

Posted by Scott on January 5, 2008

“Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth”
–Psalm 127:4

You may be thinking right now that I am crazy for using Spartan Warrior within Christianity, but read the entire piece before passing judgment.  Spartan Warriors were fierce fighters.  They would fight to the death for their family, king, and kingdom.  They were ruthless and unconventional in their process and training.  However, my research on Spartan Warriors turned up better qualities for these fighters that many of us as Christian men need to pay attention to. These warriors were trained from the very young age of 7 to be fierce in battle.  The meaning of Spartan is to be “totally devoted to one cause, self-deprived or stripped down to nothing, but the bare essentials, undoubting and courageous”.  They were trained to give their lives without hesitation.  These warriors did not think anything about danger and always expected to win or die trying to win.  These were dreaded men in battle. 

 Gentlemen, I am here to inform you that if you did not know this before now, we are in the battle of our lives and the lives of our families…time to wake-up!  I am afraid that unless we as Christian fathers do not began to train our young men to be like these Spartan Warriors, the future looks very dim.  We need to be training up our boys to be fierce when in battle and this battle takes place daily.  Young men that will not back down from authority that makes rulings in direct conflict with the scriptures.  We need young men that do not mind being ridiculed when they stand up for the under-dog or under-privileged or as they share the gospel to a neighbor or friend.  In some cases this may mean taking up arms to defend our nation and our families from the enemies abroad or even within our midst.  On a daily basis, we need to equip these young fighters with the Truth of God’s Holy Word above all else… God’s Holy Word is not found in the Koran! 

Within the pages of the Bible are many fierce warriors who fought bravely like King David as one example.  The Lord helped him fight with full control of himself and bravely.  David fought mightily with the hand of God on his life…”And David became greater and greater, for the Lord God of hosts was with him.”  2 Samuel 5:10 (NAS)  He as a warrior for the Kingdom of God and Spartan Warriors in ancient Greece were courageous and self-sacrificing.  The crusade I am speaking of today is for the minds and hearts of our young people.  Many Christians have already given up this crusade long ago and have decided to just blend in with the rest of the world in order to have peace.  They may go to church and bible study, but nothing  is different in their lives or the lives of their kids.  We have bought into the society belief that we can be immersed in the life style of the world and still maintain an effective evangelical witness. 

 Titus 2:12(NIV) says, “It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…”  In John 15:9(NIV)  it states, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”   

Just hoping our kids will turn out alright is not the answer.  Our adversary, Satan, would like nothing else than for parents to take this approach.  Of course by the grace of God some do turn out alright and frankly that is how we all turn out alright. However, these kids are placed in our hands for a short time for training and preparation for the future and we do not want to let them down if at all possible.  The battle for the heart and mind of our children today include homosexuality, pornography, drunkenness, illegal drug usage, over eating, moral relativism, unfaithfulness, theft, lying, and so on.  This corruptness is being taught in nearly every public forum and institution in America as being “right”.  Our children are being taught that there is no sin and there is no right or wrong.  Their cry is that we all need to be more tolerant of each other.  They are taught that Adam can marry Robert and Eve can marry Laura and it is “ok”.  The truth is that homosexuality is sin and it is not “ok”.  This sin is as forgivable as over eating, as is drunkenness and so on. Glory to God that they are forgivable, but I do not want this deviant trash taught to my children and grandchildren as being “ok”.  Pornography is down played as just a natural thing that men and women desire and it is “ok”.  Christian men are not immune to this.  Men it is not “ok” even in the privacy of your own home.  What we put in our minds has a direct impact on what comes out of our life each day.  Much of the violence against women today stems from pornography.  If this kind of trash goes into the mind then I can guarantee you that vile trash will come out in some form of your life.  Drunkenness is very accepted these days as well, although it is nothing new to the ages.  Drunkenness is mind altering and you will do and say things that will not honor God in any way and will bring shame upon your family. 

Psalm 23:33 says about too much wine, “Your eyes will see strange things, and your mind will utter perverse things.” 

God has always spoken out against drunkenness in His Word.  I said here, “drunkenness”, not a glass of wine at dinner…I just wanted to clarify that.  A trendy activity nowadays is to go to church on Sunday and raise your hands and sing in what is perceived to be praising and worshipping God.  Then the rest of the week live as you wish and on the weekend get stumbling drunk with your buddies and come to church on Sunday to be holy again.  Is this truly grace in action?  What a mockery to the glory of Jesus Christ!  Does this show a deep love for our Savior?  Does raising our hands to the “bouncy” music in the churches today that stirs up the emotions really make us spiritual and holy?  I am not attacking praise worship music entirely, but in observing the true impact of this movement that has forgotten the testimony of the hymns of old, I have witnessed people actually growing more vile in their lives rather than a closeness to the Lord as the music stirs up emotions rather than a deep seeded devotion to worshipping Christ in the music and message of the pastor. 

Men, take a hard look into your heart….is that burning desire to know Jesus and love Jesus really there?  What is your reason for going to church or reading your Bible?  Another hot trend within the world today is embracing the Muslim or Hindu or Buddhism religion as another way to heaven…that we should be tolerant.  We are told that there are many ways to God. 

 Matthew 7:13-14 speaks of those broad roads and narrow gates, “Enter by the narrow gate, for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it.  For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.” 

We are taught to believe they should have equal access to the minds of our children, our culture, and we should move over for their ways and embrace their teachings.  I will make this statement as clear as I can, men, NO ONE has the right to access the mind and heart of my children other than God Himself.  God gave those children to me and my wife to love, nurture, train and protect.  The liberal left does not have the right to them, the Communist left wingers do not have a right to them, the Muslims, Hindu’s, or Buddhist do not have rights to them, the homosexuals do not have rights to them or the legalist within the church today do not have the rights to them, or any other kind of evil that permeates this dark world we live in today.  If I sound a bit combative in this, I am combative.  This is no powder puff football game we are in, people. 

So, I am declaring today that we must start raising our sons ,as the Spartan Warriors of the 21st century, that will carry on these truths that are in God’s Word and do it unashamedly.  We need a crusade where young men will give their lives so that our future generations can survive without having to bow to the vile images that are so prevalent in our culture today or be subject to the horrific views and taunting by the homosexual leftist agenda.  A desire must exist for young men to train themselves to be satisfied with only the bare essentials as Spartan Warriors were disciplined to be and not raised under pampered lives like so many of the Christian and worldly kids of today.  These young men need training to buffet their bodies and keep their actions under control regarding women, children, money, alcohol, politics, and the things of this world.  Our world is groaning for young men who have a deep seeded desire to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ.

   Can we train up young men that will carry as their motto, “Give me Christ and Christ alone”?  We long for young men who are willing to die for the cause of Christ.  This does not come naturally…it comes as we battle forward immersing ourselves in God’s word and let Him develop in our hearts and minds a “biblical world view”.  God is sovereign!  He has never moved or changed His mind.  He is not surprised by the darkness that envelops the world we live in today.  He created this universe and every living or non-living being in it.  He is not bashful about war, battle, death or even love.  So, our challenge today as fathers of sons is to bring up a new generation of young men that will fit the image of God, like a warrior for truth, justice and become a loving family man.  Steve Farrar put it very plainly with this quote from his book, “Standing Tall”:

“Gentlemen, we are raising our kids in this sewer of moral relativism.

If your kids buy into this philosophy, it will ruin their lives.

Here’s the deal, guys.  Our kids won’t know anything unless they see it in our lives.  Our kids won’t know that there are moral absolutes unless they absolutely see those truths lived out in our lives.”

-Steve Farrar, “Standing Tall” 1994

 

This is what I am talking about.  The training is about walking and talking God’s truth daily.  It does not mean we are perfect, but that we are able to show our weaknesses as well as our strengths.  We need to show our kids that God creates strength from our weaknesses.  There is a loud voice trying to wake up our countries Christian fathers.  I am afraid though we have ear plugs in or are ignoring this loud call.

“The Christian world is in a deep sleep. 

Nothing but a loud voice can waken them out of it.”

-George Whitefield, 1739

 

Guys, I cannot tell you what to do or how to raise your kids.  I cannot make you do anything you are not entirely willing to do from your heart.  This is not a legalistic set of rules or point of view even though it is my opinion.  I abhor legalism in all of its form when it comes to the scriptures and the life God would have each of us live.  However, I am simply challenging you to rethink how you are training your children, especially the boys and how you are living as an example for them today.  Is it with sacrifice or from a life of pure luxury?  At the age of 7, are you training warriors to do battle for their future wives, children, countrymen, and ancestry or just over educated athletes in hopes of landing that multi-million dollar contract so they can buy more boats, larger houses, more jewelry and filthier women?  What is their view of supporting the ministries that abound in their area today?  Do they have a worldly view or a biblical world view?  Can you see a servant’s heart or a future adult that will be demanding and hard to live with?  Think about what is important in this life that enhances your eternal life and the eternal life of others.  Out of your actions and training which of those give glory to the Lord?  Does baseball, football, basketball, the finest schools, dances, an exotic vacation, or other activities like these have an eternal purpose?  They could have, but just think for a moment how it is coming across to the kids.  Does giving them every single toy they ask for prepare them for the battles ahead in life?  Does saying yes to their every plea really give them a proper outlook on the future?  Does taking their side in every argument truly help them in preparation for debating the liberal left wing of this world?  Do they see you react to a problem with prayer and digging into your Bible or do they observe you speaking harshly of that person or problem and vow your revenge? 

Men, I am not bringing this message from an attitude of having all the answers or that I always do it right, because that would be a bold face lie.  I battle the same sins and problems you do.  I battle the same pride and ego that every man fights.  But the truth is what it is, guys.  I cannot speak totally from example, but simply from God’s truth.  We need fighters, warriors, kids that grow up knowing the Bible and believing that the Bible is completely true as the inspired word of God and fall in love with their Lord Jesus Christ.  Our world can stand young men that will be devoted to their wives, children, and country and see them as a blessing upon their lives rather than a curse. 

 Today, I encourage you to pray sincerely about all that you have read here.  Reach down deep into the pit of your heart to find that which God placed in your heart years ago.  Lift up your family, co-workers, in-laws, and enemies in prayer.  Dress down spiritually and put it all on the table, guys.  Leave it with the Lord…all of it…the hurt, the pain, the tears, the stress, the financial problems, sexual problems, weaknesses, family problems…all of it.  Leave nothing behind to carry on with you.  Then take a long deep breath and set there for a while in silence to listen to hear if God will speak to you.  It may take Him days, weeks, months or years to speak, but He will speak to you.  See if He speaks, not audibly, but spiritually, through His word, through His people, and through the circumstances.  It is better to not move a muscle until you hear God speak then to do anything that would be in direct disobedience to His calling upon your life. 

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.

The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you.”    Philippians 4:8-9 (NAS)

 

Guys think on a few questions this very day:

-Would the Lord have you change anything about your life, the treatment of your wife and children and then the training of your children?

-What change can you make today that would be positively noticeable to your family when you got home from work that would inspire them to want to follow you and serve the Lord more? 

What changes would bring glory to Christ today?

-Do you have a servant’s heart like Christ or is pride and ego in the way?

-Why do you go to church, bible studies, and other “religious” functions?

-What kind of men do you hang around with everyday?

-Most importantly, do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ or are you just playing church or religion because it is the cultural thing to do? 

This is serious guys…your life and the lives of our children and grand-children depend on the decisions we make today….tomorrow may be too late.

Scott Bailey 2007 ©  

*Disclaimer:  In no way am I against sports, athletes, vacations, or money.  Joe Lewis, the late great boxer, once said that “no, money isn’t everything, but it sure ranks right up there with air…try to live without for a day.”  Each of us have a God given purpose in life and is according to what God’s desire for our lives are and we should be obedient to Him in that purpose if we want to live a successful life.  That could mean a pro baseball career for example or using your income to provide for families in need that live around you.  So, please reread this with an open heart and mind and look at it from God’s side as to what He might be seeing in us right now.  He wants us to be completely devoted to Him in all things and my heart felt belief is that we have missed this as dads on nearly all accounts…I am as convicted of this in my heart as anyone else. 

May God bless you as you go out each day to provide for your family and as you work hard to make that much needed time to spend with your wife and children.

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-From A Dad: What Does the Holy Spirit Do?

Posted by Scott on November 13, 2007

 2″Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. 3 Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. 4And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.”  -Acts 2:2-4 NLT

-Convicts:  The Holy Spirit is there to prick at our hearts when we have sinned…He will try to draw us away from that sinful situation.  If we are to mortify sin we must know that we are sinning.  Today’s emerging church movement speaks nothing of sin.  I have heard numerous church leaders state that everyone knows they sin so we do not need to be reminded of sin.  Well, without this reminder we will drive a huge wedge between us and God with our sin.  We need to know when an area of our life needs to be changed…if it is stifling our relationship with God we need to change it.  Our goal should be to buffet ourselves in order to remain holy before our God.  Our purposes should be that God be glorified even it means tremendous suffering for ourselves.  This is hard to do, but we are created to glorify our heavenly Father.  Whatever we do in this life that is dishonoring must go if we are seeking the deepest relationship with Christ possible on earth.  So, the Holy Spirit plays the part in the relationship to take the word of God and give it power within us as we read it and digest it.  The conviction is a good thing although looked upon as something embarrassing and bad.  The conviction is what keeps us from straying away from God to a point of dishonoring and shaming God. 

John 16:8 And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.”  NLT

-Converts:  Our salvation is of the work of the Holy Spirit working within us.  He draws us to Christ by our chosen status before a holy God.  It is the Holy Spirit’s job to take the word of God deep within the cracks of our minds and hearts in order to draw us into a loving saved relationship with our Lord.  It is not just say a simply prayer and you will be saved.  The words you speak to God may be simple, but much work by the Spirit has been done prior to that salvation moment.  I believe many people on this earth that have said a simple prayer, but life never changed for them…their way of thinking and acting never changed is an example of a false salvation.  The Holy Spirit was not in that transaction just because they said a prayer.  Many will say “Lord Lord, but Christ will say ‘Get away, I never knew you'”.   Do not fall for the false teaching that has permeated our churches with this easy say a few words salvation.  It is the Holy Spirit that takes the word of God to the person that is to be saved.  We are to deliver the gospel and the Holy Spirit does the work from that point on.  In this way man cannot boast of saving anyone…it is all for the glory of Christ.

Acts 2:38  Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  NLT 

-Cleanses:  We can visualize from the words to purifying their hearts by faith, that justification by faith, and sanctification by the Holy Spirit, cannot be separated and both are the gift of God. We have reason to bless God that we have heard the gospel. May we have that same faith which the great Searcher of hearts approves.  May we also attests by the stamp of the Holy Spirit. At this point our hearts and minds will be purified from the guilt of sin, and we shall be freed from the burdens of sin that is tempted upon us.

Acts 15:9  He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith.”

-Comforts:  In all our life we are drawn into trials and temptations.  God has placed the Holy Spirit for a specific role of comforting us during those times.  He knows that we go through these times in our lives with great difficulty and He has provided our great comforter.  I came remember a time when my dad was having a stressful time in his life.  Life just seemed to be falling apart around him and he was very upset one day out on the farm.  As his temper flared in a moments notice two men appeared and begin to comfort my dad and quote scripture to him.  These two men we used by the Holy Spirit to breath spiritual life back into my dad.  As dad calmed down and began to get his composure the two men vanished without a trace.  God knows our human limits to the trials we are going through.  He does not pull back on His plan, but He will provide the need comfort to assist us with getting beyond that terrible pain.   Click here for a great old message by Spurgeon for the year 1855 called “The Comforter”. 

It is interesting as the amplified bible puts it the Comforter equals Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby.  The Holy Spirit provides that great counsel we need every day when facing grave difficult decisions.  He helps us get through each day and bring glory to God our Father.  The Holy Spirit Intercedes on our behalf before God as we really do not know what we are trying say when speaking to God.  He is advocate who cheers us on to succeed in this life and to bring Him ultimate glory.  The Lord uses the weak to bring about glory.  He will strengthen us in anytime we need to be strong.  The Spirit is always there standing by when we need Him.  This need is almost hourly in many of our lives and mine included.

John 14:16  “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby), that He may remain with you forever–”  AMP

-Controls:  The Holy Spirit will not loose control of our lives or us.  He provides the truth that we hear and place deep within our hearts.  He guides us into all truth.  One thing you will not see the Holy Spirit do is to act upon his only skill.  However, He is prepared to carry out God’s work.  He controls what we hear from the Lord so that we are not swept away by the wrong movement.  Many of us fail to allow the Holy Spirit to control our lives.

Controlling our lives makes some us cringe…especially us high “D” personality types.  But when we are really seeking to live an obedient life unto the Lord then many areas of our life that we have a hard time leaving to God must be turned over to Him.  This is most likely the most difficult area that us “D” types struggle with is obedience and control.  One area is the number of kids one bares.  God calls children a blessing.  why don’t we see it that way.  Many will say that God can have every area of life, but the number of kids is our determination.  This is tragic the number of blessings many parents have missed out on over the years do to our selfish desires.  Another area of struggle is financial matters.  We are merely stewards of Gods provisions not the owners, however, strong-willed people want to take ownership of it all.  So, many times we strut around as though we made the money or own it when in reality God is the one that provides.  We have made nothing on our own.  God in His vast wisdom knows best and draws us into each moment of our life.  For us to experience the absolute blessings of God we must relinquish control to Him.

John 16:13 “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”   NAMS

-Scott Bailey (c) 2007

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-From A Dad: Devoted to Christ!

Posted by Scott on November 5, 2007

Years ago a reformation started in the church.  For those of us that hold to the fact that the bible is the inspired infallible word of God, that God is sovereign over all things, and we must take God seriously see the reformation as a great blessing.  This may not be the view of others, but it happens to be my belief.

In my growing devotion to Christ I have found the reading of the messages by many of the great theologians of the past refreshing and challenging.  Especially in light of the fact that many of today’s churches receive no such theology or doctrine from their pulpits.  I have enjoyed getting to know B.B. Warfield, Charles Spurgeon, John Owen, Thomas Bouston, Thomas Watson, Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones, Hugh Binning, Martin Luther, A.W. Tozer, Warren Weirsbe, John Calvin, and Ray Stedman.  I have also enjoyed setting under the education and ministry of Dr. Charles Swindoll and Dr. Steve Farrar.  That enjoyment has not stopped there, but has expanded to several other men that are keeping the torch of the true church alive such as R.C. Sproul, John Piper, John MacArthur, the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, and John Stott.   These men have had a huge impact on my self-education (God directed) in the scriptures. 

Never have I experienced in the course my Christian life a love and devotion for Christ as I do now.  I am experiencing the hymns of old like I have never before.  Many of these hymns make sense to me now after digging deeply into God’s word and I can recognize the theology that is written there for our singing praise to God.   This may be one of the many issues that Christians and church goers that have fallen into the emerging church movement so ardently.  The scriptures and the love of the scriptures is where you development the interest in the things of God.  The hymns are dripping rich with the theology of God to the point that truly amazing worship can take place each time they are presented when the words are read and understood.  I understand it is difficult to know the meaning of these hymns if you cannot understand their meaning.  The challenge is to get involved in the study of God’s word to help you grasp the rich theology and doctrine that is presented as inspiration by God in these hymns. 

Many of the old hymns are personal testimonies that are presented to us in song.  One such hymn is by Martin Rinkart written in the 1600’s:

“Now thank we all our God,

with heart and hands and voices,

Who wondrous things hath done,

in Whom this world rejoices;

Who from our mother’s arms

hath blessed us on our way

with countless gifts of love,

and still is ours today.”

Martin Rinkart had lived out a rough period in his life when in the end this particular trial the Lord inspired within him this hymn.  Much of the hymn writers experiences are of suffering.  Amazingly they all have nothing but praise for our God.  His mercies new each morning and His grace abounds forever more.  Many of the hymns are a far cry from the prosperity and good feeling worship services seen today.  Christians will experience suffering if they are living for the Lord.  Charles Spurgeon gave a wonderful little bit of advice for each day:

“Wash your face every morning in a bath of praise.”  -C.H. Spurgeon

Each day we are breathing here on this earth is worthy of praise.  Yes, I know heaven would be far better, but God has an appointed time for each us in regard to death, so for now we are to enjoy living here to be to the praise of God’s glory.

Another great hymn written in our historical past was by William Cowper:

“God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform;

He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.

You fearful saints, fresh courage take; the clouds you so much dread

Are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace,

Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.

Blind unbelief is sure to err and scan His work is vain;

God is His own interpreter, and He will make it plain.”

-William Cowper 1774

You understand that God in His providential power pulls us into each crisis we find ourselves in.  The order of the day is to follow Him into the canyon and as He lead you in He will certainly lead you out.  As Psalm 34:19 tells us that “Many are the afflictions of the righteous; But the Lord delivers them out of them all.”  We can prepare our hearts that afflictions are coming, but can also set our hearts on the fact that God made a promise her to deliver us from them all.  The deliverance may not be as we would have chosen, but it will work directly into the plan God has for us.  

In my devotion to Christ I take it very seriously.  After years of playing the part of a Christian…playing at church I found my Lord patiently preparing me for a love of Him that I never knew could be found.  “He is the first and the last and we are gathered up between, as in great arms of eternal loving-kindness” by Amy Carmichael.  This devotion has increased over time and with the daily help of my wife and kids who challenge me to grow and grow deeply.  As our ministry to husbands and wives grow this devotion to Christ grows as well. 

Would you like to be devoted beyond your current level?  I challenge you to go beyond the norm in your relationship to Christ Jesus.  This does not come easy or over night.  Reading the bible daily, meditating on it, and prayer are the major keys to this growing devotion.  Challenge anyone that preaches a different message other than what the bible tells us.  Read about the past theologians, their messages, and be encouraged…these guys have gone on before us and have traveled down the same paths we are now experiencing.  God’s sovereign will is already ahead of us and He knows what this heart really needs. 

Challenge yourself to study more heart-felt, pray God’s word, listen to God’s word, sing the hymns prayerfully, read the hymns, study the testimony of the hymns, read and study the great theologians of the past, and be obedient to the calling no matter where that takes you.

-Scott Bailey (c) 2007

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