Friday, February 01, 2008

THE ALMOST CHRISTIAN
...discerning the state of your soul

Many claim to know Christ; but does Christ know them?



“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
On that day many will say to me,
‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name,
and cast out demons in your name,
and do many mighty works in your name?’
And then will I declare to them,
‘I never knew you;
depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

-Matthew 7:21-23


"Tell me, you vain professor, 
when did you shed a tear for the deadness, 
hardness, unbelief, or earthliness of your heart? 
Do you think that such an easy religion can save you? 
If so, we may invert Christ's words and say, 
'Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, 
that leadeth to life, and may there be that go in there.'" 
-JOHN FLAVEL 




part two
By George Whitefield

An almost Christian,
if we consider him in respect to his duty to God, is one that halts between two opinions; that wavers between Christ and the world; that would reconcile God and Mammon, light and darkness, Christ and Belial. It is true, he has an inclination to religion, but then he is very cautious how he goes too far in it: his false heart is always crying out, Spare thyself, do thyself no harm. He prays indeed, that "God's will may be done on earth, as it is in heaven." But notwithstanding, he is very partial in his obedience, and fondly hopes that God will not be extreme to mark every thing that he willfully does amiss; though an inspired apostle has told him, that "he who offends in one point is guilty of all." But chiefly, he is one that depends much on outward ordinances, and on that account looks upon himself as righteous, and despises others; though at the same time he is as great a stranger to the divine life as any other person whatsoever. In short, he is fond of the form, but never experiences the power of godliness in his heart. He goes on year after year, attending on the means of grace, but then, like Pharaoh's lean kine [cow?], he is never the better, but rather the worse for them.

If you consider him in respect to his neighbor,
he is one that is strictly just to all; but then this does not proceed from any love to God or regard to man, but only through a principle of self-love: because he knows dishonesty will spoil his reputation, and consequently hinder his thriving in the world.

He is one that depends much upon being negatively good, and contents himself with the consciousness of having done no one any harm; though he reads in the gospel, that "the unprofitable servant was cast into outer darkness," and the barren fig-tree was cursed and dried up from the roots, not for bearing bad, but no fruit.

He is no enemy to charitable contributions in public,
if not too frequently recommended: but then he is unacquainted with the kind offices of visiting the sick and imprisoned, clothing the naked, and relieving the hungry in a private manner. He thinks that these things belong only to the clergy, though his own false heart tells him, that nothing but pride keeps him from exercising these acts of humility; and that Jesus Christ, in the 25th chapter of St. Matthew, condemns persons to everlasting punishment, not merely for being fornicators, drunkards, or extortioners, but for neglecting these charitable offices,
"When the Son of man shall come in his glory, he shall set the sheep on his right-hand, and the goats on his left. And then shall he say unto them on his left hand, depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also say, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or a-thirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have not done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it not unto me: and these shall go away into everlasting punishment unto me: and these shall go away into everlasting punishment."
I thought proper to give you this whole passage of scripture at large, because our Savior lays such a particular stress upon it; and yet it is so little regarded, that were we to judge by the practice of Christians, one should be tempted to think there were no such verses in the Bible.





By Matthew Mead
There are two questions of very great importance which we should every one of us put to our selves: "What am I?" and "Where am I?" Am I a child of God or not? Am I sincere in religion, or am I only a hypocrite under a profession? Am I yet in a natural state, or in a state of grace? Am I yet in the old root, in old Adam, or am I in the Root, Christ Jesus? Am I in the covenant of works that ministers only wrath and death, or am I in the covenant of grace that ministers life and peace? I press this upon you that are professors, because many rest in a notion of godliness and an outward show of religion, and yet remain in their natural condition. Many are hearers of the Word and not doers of it, and so deceive their own souls (James 1:22). He that slights the ordinances cannot be a true Christian, but yet it is possible a man may own them and yet be no true Christian.

Errors in the first foundation are very dangerous.
If we be not right in the main, the fundamental work, if the foundation be not laid in grace in the heart, all our following profession comes to nothing. The house built upon a sandy foundation, though it may stand for a while, yet when the floods come and the winds blow and beat upon it, great will be the fall of it. There are many things like grace that are not grace. Now it is the likeness of things that deceives. Many take gifts for grace; common knowledge for saving knowledge; whereas a man may have great gifts and no grace, great knowledge and yet not know Jesus Christ. Some take common faith for saving; whereas a man may believe all the truths of the gospel, all the promises, all the threatenings, all the articles of the creed to be true, and yet perish for want of saving faith. Some take morality and restraining grace for renewing grace; whereas it is common to have sin much restrained where the heart is not at all renewed. Some are deceived with a half-work, making many mermaid Christians, or like Nebuchadnezzar's image, head of gold and feet of clay. Endless are the delusions that Satan fastens upon souls for want of this self-search. Satan will try us at one time or other. He will winnow us and sift us to the bottom, and if we now rest in a groundless confidence, it will then end in a comfortless despair. Nay, God Himself will search and try us, at the day of judgment especially, and who can abide that trial, that never tries his own heart?

Whatsoever a man's state be, whether he be altogether a Christian or not, yet it is good to examine his own heart.
If he finds his heart good, his principles right and sound, this will be a matter of rejoicing. If he finds his heart rotten, his principles false and unsound, the discovery may be in order to a renewing. If a man have a disease upon him and know it, he may send to the physician in time, but what a sad vexation it will be not to see the disease till it be past cure! So for a man to be graceless and not see till it be too late, to think himself a Christian when he is not; that he is in the right way to heaven when he is in the ready way to hell, and yet not know it till a death bed or a judgment day confute his confidence, this is the most irrecoverable misery. These are the grounds upon which I press this duty of examining our state. Oh, that God would help us in doing this necessary duty! You will say: But how shall I come to know whether I am almost or altogether a Christian? If a man may go so far and yet miscarry, how shall I know when my foundation is right, when I am a Christian indeed?

Christ is a King, Priest, Prophet, and all as Mediator.
Without any one of those offices, the work of salvation could not have been completed. As Priest He redeems us, as Prophet He instructs us, as King He sanctifies and saves us. Therefore the apostle says He is made of God unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Righteousness and redemption flow from Him as Priest, wisdom as a Prophet, sanctification as a King. Now many embrace Christ as a Priest, but yet they own Him not as a King and Prophet. They like to share in His righteousness, but not to partake of His holiness. They would be redeemed by Him, but they would not submit to Him. They would be saved by His blood, but not submit to His power. Many love the privileges of the gospel, but not the duties of the gospel. Now these are but almost Christians, notwithstanding their close with Christ; for it is upon their own terms, but not upon God's. The offices of Christ may be distinguished, but they can never be divided. But the true Christian owns Christ in all His offices. He does not only close with Him as Jesus, but as Lord Jesus. He says with Thomas: "My Lord, and my God." He does not only believe in the merit of His death, but also conforms to the manner of His life. As he believes in Him, so he lives in Him.

The altogether Christian has a thorough work of grace and sanctification wrought in the heart, as a spring of obedience.
Regeneration is a whole change. All old things are done away, all things become new. It is a perfect work as to parts, though not as to degrees. Carnal men do duties but from an unsanctified heart, and that spoils all. A new piece of cloth never does well in an old garment, for the rent is made worse (Matt. 9:16). When a man's heart is thoroughly renewed by grace, the mind savingly enlightened, the conscience thoroughly convinced, the will truly humbled and subdued, the affections spiritually raised and sanctified, and when the mind and will and conscience and affections all join issue to help on and with the performance of the duties commanded, then is a man altogether a Christian. Here the almost Christian fails. He does the same duties, but he does them not in the same manner. If he pray, he regards not faith and fervency in prayer; if he hears, he does not mind Christ's rule: "Take heed how ye hear." If he obey, he looks not to the frame of his heart in obedience; therefore miscarries in all he does. These defects spoil all.

The altogether Christian is much in duty and yet much above duty in regard of dependence.
He lives in his obedience, but not upon his obedience. He lives upon Christ and His righteousness. The almost Christian fails in this: He is much in duty, but not above it, but rests in it. He works for rest, and he rests in his works. He cannot come to believe and obey too. If he believes, then he thinks there is no need of obedience, and so casts off that; if he be much in obedience, then he casts off believing, and thinks there is no need of that. He cannot say with David: "I have hoped for thy salvation, and done thy com­mandments" (Psa 119:166). The altogether Christian is universal in his obedience. He does not obey one command and neglect another, do one duty and cast off another; but he has respect to all the command ments. He endeavors to leave every sin, and love every duty. The almost Christian fails in this. His obe dience is partial and piece-meal. If he obeys one com mand, he breaks another. The duties that least cross his lust, he is much in; but those that do, he lays aside. The Pharisees fasted, paid tithes etc., but they did not lay aside their covetousness, their oppression; they "devoured widows' houses;" they were unnatural to parents.

The altogether Christian makes God the chief end of all his performances.
Now the almost Christian fails in this. For he that was never truly cast out of himself, can have no higher end than himself. It is dangerous to be almost a Christian, in that it stills and serves to quiet conscience. Now it is very dangerous to quiet conscience with anything but the blood of Christ. It is bad being at peace till Christ speaks peace. Nothing can truly pacify conscience less than that which pacifies God, and that is the blood of Christ (Heb 9:14). Now the almost Christian quiets conscience but not with the blood of Christ; it is not a peace flowing from Christ's propitiation, but a peace rising from a formal profession; not a peace of Christ's giving, but a peace of his own making. He silences and bridles conscience with a form of godli­ness and so makes it give way to an undoing soul-destroying peace. He rocks it asleep in the cradle of duties, and probably never wakes more till death or judgment. Ah, my brethren, it is better to have a con science never quiet than quieted any way but by the blood of sprinkling. A good conscience is the greatest affliction to the saints, and an evil conscience, quiet, is the greatest judgment to sinners.

6 comments:

andy said...

Hi i'm going to post two quotes,both refer to Gospel hardened..Now if a person is gospel hardened i guess hes still totally depraved..So what can he do about it,if totally depraved implies nothing ?

I think this is my situation,but i'm confused how can i be totally depraved, but alternatively so obsessed by Jesus?

Advice please



Thomas Watson wrote, "Ministers knock at the door of men's hearts, the Spirit comes with a key and opens the door."

And Joseph Alleine said: "Never think you can convert yourself. If ever you would be savingly converted, you must despair of doing it in your own strength. It is a resurrection from the dead (Eph 2:1), a new creation (Gal 6:15; Eph 2:10), a work of absolute omnipotence (Eph 1:19)."


I got "saved" at 15,i didn't know i was a sinner wellll not quite true,i wasn't convicted of being one,i knew it in theroy...

Detoured By Travel said...

Andy...where there's life and conscience there's hope.

The thieves beside Christ on the Cross demonstrate this. On His one hand one thief (1) recognizes his lost state and the sentence for that lost state, (2) recognizes who Jesus is, and (3) recognizes and acknowledges that Jesus is the only Way out of his lost state. He then asks Jesus to save him.

One the other hand, the second thief may not even be able to recognize (or at the very least, won't acknowledge) his own lost state. But either way, he looks only for a way out of the punishment through a quick fix (and BTW one that costs him nothing). He does not (or cannot) recognize Christ.

If you're asking us where you stand -- it stands to reason that you are concerned for your own state -- which is why my question to you is why not ask Jesus instead?

As difficult theologians sometimes make things out to be, the bottom line is that we ALL need Jesus. If you (1) recognize what you are (a sinner) and where your sinful life leads to, and (2) if you recognize who Jesus is, and (3) if acknowledge that He is the only Way out of your mess, and you ask Him for forgiveness from your current state and for salvation...He will NOT fail to give it to you.

He didn't fail me when I asked Him the first time. He doesn't fail me when I continue to confess my sins to Him. In fact, He has never failed me. Even though I fall and fail him DAILY, He never fails me.

My life has never become perfect...but I do have a perfect Savior who listens, understands, and forgives.

The Spirit of God continues to woo and pursue us. It calls us to salvation. It leads us in all righteousness. You're not obsessed or possessed. God is pursuing you. He loves you so much He will not give up. That's the tug you feel.

andy said...

Hi i guess i'm in a dead end Detoured,i first found out about Salvation at 15,but Jesus was alway there, even as a child through films and the gospels a RE teacher would read to us,i was always intrigued by it (non christian family)..

But it just never clicked for me,ive asked plenty trust me,ive pleaded,banged my head against the wall asking,but also spat my dummy out and wandered..

But the bottom line is you can't make yourself convicted,and if your not convicted i don't think your ever truly saved..Sure ive felt bad about stuff,maybe even ashamed of some things, but ive never deeply inside felt anyones sins deserved hell,in fact the older i got the more argumentative i become :-(

andy said...

I'm being truly frank here,this is a million miles away from the swagger of my normal post..

littlegal_66 said...

andy:

Praying for you....

Detoured By Travel said...

Andy - Me too.

I cannot convict you of your sin. That's not my job, that's up to the Holy Spirit.

Keep yourself available...don't ignore the tug on your heart. It's God calling to you.

Remember too that God is holy. The Bible says that because He is holy He cannot abide ANY sin in His presence. Therefore, regardless of whether we might deem a sin big or small the net result is that any and all SIN is SIN and is repulsive and contrary to a holy God and makes us guilty.

We as sinners are now forever banished from His presence. However, God made a way of escape through the sacrifice of His Son. The sins of the whole world were cast on Him. My sins, your sins, everyone's sins...Jesus saw them all, bore them all, and died for them all. His forgiveness is available to all who call on His name and choose to acknowledge and repent of their sin.

Don't forget the tug on your heart and remember that God is calling out to you. He loves you with an everlasting love..even if you don't accept it, He still loves you.

Andy...I pray you will listen to the Holy Spirit and receive. It's not about what you feel, it's what you believe about Him.