Examining the Heart 74

I may be ashamed to think in the midst of so much profession, that I have known so little of the blood of Christ, which is the main thing of the gospel. A Christless, formal religion, will be the blackest sight next to hell, that can be. You may have many good things, and yet one thing may be wanting, that may make you go away sorrowful from Christ. You have never sold all; you have never parted with all your own righteousness, and so on. You may be high in duty, and yet a perfect enemy and adversary to Christ, in every prayer, in every ordinance. Labor after sanctification to your utmost; but make not a Christ of it to save yourself; if so, it must come down one way or another. Christ’s infinite satisfaction, not your sanctification, must be your justification before God. When the Lord shall appear terrible out of His holy place, fire shall consume that as hay and stubble.   Thomas Willcox

According to the paragraph above, knowing the blood of Christ is far different than knowing about the blood of Christ. Knowing about the blood of Christ is consistent with a mere profession, but knowing Christ Himself and the blood of Christ is to be in fellowship with Christ and to receive the grace of Christ. The Gospel does not just tell you that if you believe the facts you will be forgiven, but instead it promises that you will have eternal life which is the life of God that comes in the Person of Christ. In the Gospel we have the promise of the forgiveness of sins, but when sin is gone the presence of God comes to that person. In the modern day we have confused the message of the Gospel and the deliverance from hell with the Gospel of the glory of God dwelling in His people. True believers don’t just believe things, but they have God Himself dwelling in them.

It seems as if Christianity is full of formal religion, and despite using the name of Christ in the religious service (especially at the end of a prayer), it is essentially a Christless religion. A religion without the presence and power of Christ, even though His name is used often, is a Christless religion. A religion without the love of Christ, even though that may be mentioned often, is a Christless religion. A religion without the life of Christ as its very life, even though that life may be mentioned, is a Christless religion. It should be quite clear that a local professing church may indeed have an orthodox creed and be conservative and yet be nothing more than a Christless, formal professing church.

Christ and Christ alone is what determines if a professing church is real or a Christless, formal one. Sinners may have some grip and even a great grip on theology and knowledge of the Bible and yet they may not know Christ at all. Can it really be that a professing church that has an orthodox creed and a conservative morality is the blackest sight next to hell that there can be? What a shock it is to the system to think that those who hold to the truth in an external way and live a moral life in an external way are the blackest sight a person can have next to hell itself. But, if one thinks about it, this is precisely what the Bible teaches us about the Pharisees. They were very rigorous in their adherence to doctrine and to morality, but Jesus spoke to them far more harshly than with anyone else.

If nothing else will shake a person up to examine his or her heart, this should. While it seems many people (in one sense) flock to Christianity for morality, that very morality apart from Christ is a thing that is close to hell. While there are many who attend Bible schools and seminaries to learn things about the Bible, yet that may make them the blackest thing next to hell. The proud heart of man will strive for religion and morality and yet use those things to buttress his proud heart and make him and his practice of religion the blackest thing next to hell. While the Scriptures do teach us that faith without works is dead, we must also know that works apart from Christ makes us the blackest thing next to hell. While the Scriptures teach us that justification is by grace alone through faith alone, yet without Christ Himself those doctrines can be held by those who are the blackest things next to hell.

How we should listen to Paul who told us to examine ourselves: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you– unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5). If Christ is not in us, then our beliefs and our practices are nothing but shams making us far worse than we can imagine. The external (and to some degree, internal) doctrines and morality of Christianity will do nothing but make us proud and harden our hearts unless we have Christ Himself

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