Archive for the ‘The Almost Christian’ Category

The Almost Christian 8

June 7, 2016

Acts 26:28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits.

Luke 13:24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.

Look upon things to come as the greatest realities; for things that are not believed work no more upon the affections than if they had no being; and this is the grand reason why the generality of men suffer their affections to go after the world, setting the creature in the place of God in their hearts. Most men judge of the reality of things by their visibility and proximity to sense; and, therefore, the choice of that wretched cardinal becomes their option, who would not leave his part in Paris for his part in Paradise. Sure, whatever his interest might be in the former, he had little enough in the latter. Well may covetousness be called idolatry, when it thus chooses the world for its god. O! consider—eternity is not dream; hell and the worm that never dies, is no melancholy conceit. Heaven is no reigned Elysium, there is the greatest reality imaginable in these things; though they are spiritual, and out of the ken of sense, yet they are real, and within the view of faith. “Look not therefore at the things which are seen, but look at the things which are not seen; for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (The Almost Christian Discovered, International Outreach, Inc.)

It is a very, very important point here by Mead that the grand reason why most men have their affections go after the world is that they don’t see eternal things as the greatest reality. If it is true that our hearts go after the things we think of as the greatest good for us, then it is clear that most people seek worldly things or even religious things that have to do with this world and do not see eternal things as the greatest reality. The world is what takes the hearts of men and the world is what men chase after with the greatest and highest of their affections.

Mead then sets out for us a reality that should be quite striking to us. Most men, which in our day seems to be virtually all men, judge the reality of things by their visibility and proximity to the senses or sense. This is quite a profound and telling position. Men go by what they hear, see, and taste rather than what is best for them. Men want what they want right now rather than seeking God for eternal things. This is a terrible result of the fall. Regardless of how obvious it is that eternal things are best for men, the eyes and hearts of men are on their present pleasures.

The Scriptures are clear that greed and/or covetousness is idolatry, but most likely it is rare for people to think of themselves as idolatrous or as being guilty of coveting. As Mead points out, however, a covetous heart chooses this world as its god. This shows us the terrifying reality of a covetous heart. God beholds a covetous heart as a person that has a god in that heart. This shows us what a person looks like to God that has a pursuit of the world that is greater than eternal things, which is to say greater than God. This is not just some little desire; it is a full-blown wickedness that is having other gods before God.

How can a covetous person strive to enter the kingdom at the narrow gate? How can a covetous person be so deceived as to think that s/he is truly striving to enter? The Scriptures speak of our deceptive hearts and how deceptive riches are. How deceptive the covetous heart must be to be deceived by riches and blinded to eternal things! The mouth of hell gapes open and each person stands upon the precipice of eternity each moment, yet the desire for things of this world blinds people to eternal things. Men and women appear to be so blinded that they pursue the things of this world with great intensity and yet they will say that they are living for the things of eternity. How close these people may appear to be Christians, but how far they are from the reality of it. These people do not have changed hearts, but instead they have hearts trained in greed and trained in deception of themselves and others. It is only the free-grace of God that can open blinded eyes and grant contrition for the wickedness of greed and idolatry.

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The Almost Christian 7

June 6, 2016

Acts 26:28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits.

Luke 13:24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.

Look upon things to come as the greatest realities; for things that are not believed work no more upon the affections than if they had no being; and this is the grand reason why the generality of men suffer their affections to go after the world, setting the creature in the place of God in their hearts. Most men judge of the reality of things by their visibility and proximity to sense; and, therefore, the choice of that wretched cardinal becomes their option, who would not leave his part in Paris for his part in Paradise. Sure, whateve his interest might be in the former, he had little enough in the latter. Well may covetousness be called idolatry, when it thus chooses the world for its god. O! consider—eternity is not dream; hell and the worm that never dies, is no melancholy conceit. Heaven is no reigned Elysium, there is the greatest reality imaginable in these things; though they are spiritual, and out of the ken of sense, yet they are real, and within the view of faith. “Look not therefore at the things which are seen, but look at the things which are not seen; for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (The Almost Christian Discovered, International Outreach, Inc.)

The title or phrase “almost Christian” is something of a terrifying one. In one sense there is the idea that the elect cannot fail to be a Christian, yet when one looks at the words of Christ in terms of the efforts of men it should shock us and make us think. We should be careful to note that it was the words of Agrippa to Paul and how Paul had almost persuaded him to be a Christian. No one can be almost persuaded to actually become a Christian in reality as that is the work of God, but it is telling in terms of the human side.

It is also quite telling that Jesus, who knew all about sovereign grace, told people to strive to enter at the narrow gate. He did not tell them to take it easy since God had determined who would enter, though indeed God has to regenerate a heart for a person to enter the kingdom, yet He still told them to strive. We should also take this to heart in how we speak to people. It may seem to them that they just need a little more persuasion or a few more works to get over the edge, but that is simply not true. However, they are to strive to enter.

It may be the case that we cannot have a perfect fit between men striving and the sovereign grace of God, but we can know that both are taught. I would argue that there is no real tension between the two but that men should strive against their sinful selves and strive while seeking the Lord to give them grace and praying for a new heart. Men should strive in their seeking of the Lord and in seeking by the means which He may show them grace. God uses preaching to bring men to Himself, so men should apply themselves diligently to hearing Christ preached. God uses the Word by His Spirit to work on the hearts of men, so men should apply themselves to reading the Scriptures. No, the Scriptures do not regenerate a man, but the Holy Spirit does while men listen to them. This may be a mystery to us, but men should seek the Lord according to the ways He has set out.

When men are under the true preaching of the Word God may convict them of sin, of righteousness, and of the judgment to come. When men are under the true preaching of the Word of God, men may have a sense of the terrible reality of eternal things opened to them. Men come to a sense of the reality of eternity through more than just bare words, but God has to give them a sense of the reality of eternity. When men only hear with the ears, the affections of their hearts are not really moved from worldly things. It is God who must give men something of a sense of eternal things before they are moved to seek Him and plead with Him to change their hearts. Indeed it is a huge problem when men have the creature set up in their hearts, but only grace can deliver them from that. Yes, men must strive against themselves and in prayer to the Lord, but only grace can make them really strive and only grace can deliver them from the creature.

The Almost Christian 6

June 5, 2016

Acts 26:28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits.

Luke 13:24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.

Look upon things to come as the greatest realities; for things that are not believed work no more upon the affections than if they had no being; and this is the grand reason why the generality of men suffer their affections to go after the world, setting the creature in the place of God in their hearts. Most men judge of the reality of things by their visibility and proximity to sense; and, therefore, the choice of that wretched cardinal becomes their option, who would not leave his part in Paris for his part in Paradise. Sure, whateve his interest might be in the former, he had little enough in the latter. Well may covetousness be called idolatry, when it thus chooses the world for its god. O! consider—eternity is not dream; hell and the worm that never dies, is no melancholy conceit. Heaven is no reigned Elysium, there is the greatest reality imaginable in these things; though they are spiritual, and out of the ken of sense, yet they are real, and within the view of faith. “Look not therefore at the things which are seen, but look at the things which are not seen; for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (The Almost Christian Discovered, International Outreach, Inc.)

What will it take to get men to strive to enter through the narrow gate and to follow on the narrow way? Whatever else it will take is that they must look upon eternal things as the greatest realities. Satan brings temptations to men and wants them to focus on how wonderful those things are to the senses and how pleasurable those things will be to the flesh. He also does not want them to think of eternal realities and tries to dull them to anything like that. However, the blindness of fallen hearts and the deceptive work of the devil do not do anything to the reality of eternity, but they do blind us to that reality. In a sense they work to lessen how eternity appears to us.

While men say that they believe in eternity, and in some way they do as God has written these things on their hearts, unless these things become a deeply held belief they have no real effect upon the actions and thinking of men. When men only have a surface belief and not one that has sunk into the depths of the soul, they will have no affections for eternity at all. They will have a surface belief and yet not have one that absorbs their whole being, which is to say that they will be guided and tempted by things that appear more real to them. This must be driven into our hearts. A simple belief or a surface belief is not enough.

Men do not really think that God should have the greatest part of their hearts when in fact the things of the world provide them with security and pleasure much more in line with their sinful hearts. Their superficial beliefs about eternity are passed over quite lightly and they may even give a nod to them as they follow their sinful hearts. It is not only people who are obviously of the world that do this; however, it is also the practice of those who fill the churches. People are religious for the things they can obtain in the world as well. One can obtain much honor from others and glowing statements from other for religious devotion or knowledge of the Bible. However, being religious for the present things of this world is no better and perhaps more deceptive than those who have just a little religion. We must look at our own hearts in this matter.

Have I truly sought for God at the narrow gate? Am I really following hard after Christ on the narrow way? Do I truly know that all my seeking and following hard cannot earn grace for me? Do I truly know that the things of eternity are so pressing on men and that even now that my heart and mind are guided by those things rather than the things of the world? Do I truly look to Christ and hold to Christ alone as opposed to just believing with some relatively superficial belief that Christ alone saves? The free-grace of God in Christ will break a person’s heart and that will lead to a person seeing eternal things as the real reality.

The Almost Christian 5

June 4, 2016

Acts 26:28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits.

Luke 13:24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.

Take heed of resting in a form of godliness; as if duties could confer grace. A lifeless formality is advanced to a very high esteem in the world, as a cab of dove’s dung was sold in the famine of Samaria at a very dear rate. Alas! The profession of godliness is but a sandy foundation to build the hope of an immortal soul upon for eternity. Remember, the Lord Jesus Christ called him a foolish builder, “that founded his house upon the sand,” and the sad event proved him so, “for it fell, and great was the fall of it.” O therefore lay thy foundation by faith upon the rock Christ Jesus; look to Christ through all, and rest upon Christ in all. (The Almost Christian Discovered, International Outreach, Inc.)

Matthew Mead wrote his book in the 1600’s, but his words should pierce hearts in all times. The Pharisees, though they had many problems and many false teachings, did indeed rest in a form of godliness. It would appear that this is a great deception in our day as well. What duty can we do that will bring us grace? What duty can we do that will bring God into our debt or bring and obligation upon Him to save us or do what we want? The New Testament looks at the formality of the Pharisees with utter disdain, but it is perhaps even more clear in the Old Testament.

Isaiah 1:10 Hear the word of the LORD, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the instruction of our God, You people of Gomorrah. 11 “What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?” Says the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle; And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. 12 “When you come to appear before Me, Who requires of you this trampling of My courts? 13 “Bring your worthless offerings no longer, Incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies– I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. 14 “I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, They have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.

Revelation 3:16 ‘So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.

What did God think of the duties that the Israelites performed in the Old Testament? What did Jesus think of the duties the people of the church of Laodicea? Duties, or forms of godliness, are simply reprehensible to God because they have no life in them and no love for Him and His glory. They are actions that men do that are the forms of godly actions but they are worse than nothing in the sight of God.

You can almost hear the shocked voices of the Israelites. “But Lord, these are good cattle and good rams. These are the best I have. You have commanded us to do this and we are doing it, so why are these such an abomination to you? How can you hate our very works that you commanded us to do?” We might also words like those in Matthew 7:”Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’”

How solemn we should be when we read these words and how solemn and reverent we should be as we approach the throne of the living God. Could it be that my heart is not right as I do my duties before the Lord? Could it be that my works are not pleasing to God? Do I think that my works and duties are pleasing to Him just because I do them? Could it be that my prayers are not heard by God and He intentionally does not hear them? Could it be that I am lukewarm, though I may be the warmest person I know in the things of religion, and that Jesus would spew me out of His mouth? Are my sacrifices and deeds nothing more than a trampling upon holy things? Oh how we need to search our hearts and pray that God would open our eyes to what truly pleases Him. We must not merely rest in our duties, but our hearts need grace to open our eye and rest in Christ alone.

The Almost Christian 4

May 27, 2016

Acts 26:28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits.

Luke 13:24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.

Take heed of resting in a form of godliness; as if duties could confer grace. A lifeless formality is advanced to a very high esteem in the world, as a cab of dove’s dung was sold in the famine of Samaria at a very dear rate. Alas! The profession of godliness is but a sandy foundation to build the hope of an immortal soul upon for eternity. Remember, the Lord Jesus Christ called him a foolish builder, “that founded his house upon the sand,” and the sad event proved him so, “for it fell, and great was the fall of it.” O therefore lay thy foundation by faith upon the rock Christ Jesus; look to Christ through all, and rest upon Christ in all. (The Almost Christian Discovered, International Outreach, Inc.)

It is important to have a solid foundation for the soul to rest on in terms of eternity. The soul that rests upon self is a soul that has no solid foundation at all. The soul that rests upon anything but Christ and His grace alone has nothing to rest on that will last. The Scriptures above teach us quite clearly that the way of salvation is quite narrow and that while many are on the broad road, there are but comparatively few on the narrow road. While all believe that they are on the road to heaven, the majority are simply wrong. This is jolting and yet something we must not cast away, but instead take this very seriously. Those who take the salvation of their soul seriously and therefore a close examination of it, just may find out that s/he is unconverted. However, it can also be the case that those who doubt their salvation may in fact find solid ground to rest upon.

It seems as if the whole world rests in duties for their salvation. There are some who simply trust in the doing of some externals as proof that they are a Christian. Others have better theology and can repeat the right words about Christ and His Gospel, but down deep they are also trusting in self to be saved. There are still others who trust in their orthodox views to save them, though they will not voice that to themselves or others. There is nothing in the soul and nothing that the soul can do that will qualify the soul for free-grace. All the means of grace that people use do not automatically confer grace as so many seem to think, but instead grace is always sovereign and as such always in the hand of God to show as He pleases. When we read the Scriptures, pray, or take the Supper we are not putting God under obligation to give us grace, but we are simply using the things that He normally uses to give grace. Giving grace is always His option to give at His good pleasure.

The foundation of all assurance is Christ and His free-grace. We must not rest in duties or forms of anything or formality, regardless of what we call those things. The almost Christian will rest in duties and in all types of outward things. The Christian, however, does have duties and does use outward things, but s/he does not rest in them. This distinction is very hard to make and in fact only Christ Himself can teach the soul this. The soul is always looking at itself to trust self in its duties and trust self in the means of grace. What we must never forget or give up is that it is not possible to merit grace in any way. No duty and no work can possibly move God to show grace. No means of grace obligates God to show grace. We are utterly dependent upon God and we must never confuse our dependence upon Him for anything He gives us.

Yes, we are told that faith without works is dead, but we must know that unbelievers can do great works. In other words, a true faith will work but the soul must not look to the works for assurance but instead is to look only to Christ and free-grace. Christ Himself is the only One we can rest upon and the Only One who has righteousness that pleases the Father. Our works can obtain no righteousness before God and we have no need of righteousness for justification if we have Christ. Christ is our all and He gives a perfect righteousness freely by grace to all that He has. This must be held onto firmly and without giving up in the world which trusts in self and its duties. Oh how the soul must have Christ and His free-grace, yet the soul cannot work enough to obtain any part of that grace. This is entering through the narrow gate as the soul must have grace and grace alone. There is no room for anything else, but men want to carry their baggage with them as well. They are not willing to take the journey on the broad road without something of self and pride.

The Almost Christian 3

May 25, 2016

Acts 26:28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

It is said of the truly righteous, that he shall “scarcely be saved;” and it is said of the seemingly righteous, he shall be almost saved; “Thou are not far from the kingdom of God.” The righteous shall be saved with a scarcely, that is, though much difficulty; he shall go to heaven through many sad fears of hell. The hypocrite shall be saved with an almost, that is, he shall go to hell through many fair hopes of heaven. There are two things which arise from hence of very serious meditation. The one is, how often a believer may miscarry, how low he may fall, and yet have true grace. The other is, how far a hypocrite may go in the way to heaven, how high, he may attain, and yet have no grace. (The Almost Christian Discovered, International Outreach, Inc)

We need to look at the chilling reality that it may be the case that there are very few true Christians (compared to the number of those who profess it) in our nation today. It may be the case that the vast majority are deceived by various things as to whether they are Christians or not. If the Scriptures are true (and they are), then the fact that they teach that the righteous are scarcely saved should cause us to think and to think deeply and then to cry out to the Lord. It may be that “I” am the one deceived and it may be that if I died now I would lift up my eyes in hell. It appears that all think of themselves as rather special and have a hard time thinking that God will send them to hell, but understand and know that all those other people without Christ will perish and that regardless of how special the other people think that they really and truly are.

We must always stand for the glorious doctrine of God’s free-grace in saving sinners, but we must also know that there will always be an inner fight and struggle. There will be striving and afflictions, though none of those contribute to God’s motives in saving sinners and to the work of Christ. However, even when there are those who struggle and seek a little, those struggles and seeking a little can be a deceptive thing. On the one hand we must know that God saves by grace alone, yet we know that His grace shines in saving sinners and part of the narrow way is to struggle.

Those who have Christ must grow in their learning to rest in Christ and His free-grace alone despite many failures, many inward struggles, seeing their many sins, and many doubts brought to them by the fiery darts of the evil one. These things are not inconsistent with free-grace, but instead can be evidences of it. The heart of those with free-grace, though inconsistent, will long to be free of sin and the doubts. The Lord in His sovereignty brings inward and outward trials to those whom He loves and through suffering He causes them to grow. It seems as if they are holding on by the smallest of threads, and at times it may appear to them that they are not holding on, but the reality of the matter is that it is the hand of God and His free-grace holding on to them. God is stripping these people of themselves and of their hope in themselves and the strength that they have in themselves though it is hidden to them before their trial. Yes, it will seem that they are scarcely saved.

The religious person who is an unbeliever is one with a lot more confidence in his faith than the true believer. The true believer will struggle as s/he loses hope in self and looks more and more to grace, yet the religious person will continue confident in his faith because he trusts in himself to trust in Christ. This means that the unbeliever has never really lost his faith in himself and so he has unbounded confidence in his own faith in Christ, which really means that he is trusting in himself and not Christ. This person’s religious life may go quite well and this person may gain a lot of the esteem of others in how far s/he goes in the things of religion. This person does not struggle with the fiery doubts of the evil one as the evil one wants this person to be confident. This person does not struggle with the hand of God bringing hard things to strip him or her of self, and so this person goes on in the confidence that self and pride bring. This person goes far in outward religion and far in the strength of pride and self, so it will certainly appear that this person is a believer or at the very worse ever so close.

What we must see is that a person that pursues salvation in and by the strength of self and pride may appear to be so close to the kingdom (or even high up in the kingdom). It is also clear that some who doubt and cannot believe that someone with so many doubts and sins are true lovers of Christ and are held up by Christ. What is seen is temporal and what is not seen is eternal. Despite the glowing externals of many, they don’t have eternal things in them and upholding them. Despite the struggles of others regarding the externals, they do have eternal things and their inward person is growing. Beware of glowing externals in the things of religion, even when they are seen in the evangelical stars of the day.

The Almost Christian 2

May 24, 2016

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits.

Luke 13:24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.

Why should people examine their hearts? Why should they want to know how far a person may go and still not be a Christian? It is because “many will seek to enter and will not be able.” Again, notice carefully the language that Jesus uses. People should “strive” to enter through the narrow door. The word for “strive” means to agonize, struggle, and labor earnestly. Now, we must be careful to set out clearly that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is by free-grace alone. There is nothing we can do that will bring God into some form of obligation to us. However, that is not contradictory to the message of Scripture that we are to strive and seek.

Where are we to seek and strive? We are to strive and labor earnestly at the narrow door. Why are we told to strive there? It is because it is the only entrance. It appears that there are many others entering through the wide gates, but the narrow gate is where we are to put forth our labors. The reason that Jesus tells us to strive is because man will only seek to enter and will not be able. The word for “seek” in this passage (Luke 13:24) is a lot weaker than the word for “strive.” Striving includes labor and even agony, but seeking is more of an inquiry, a deliberating, though perhaps with some effort made. Again, this must not be seen as negating the glorious Gospel of free-grace, but rather it teaches us that our striving must come as a result of being under the grace of God. It also teaches us that grace will strengthen us in ways that the flesh cannot. We can only enter the gate by grace alone.

We must take notice of this Scripture and not try to water it down. The reason that we must strive is because many will just seek to enter and not be able to do so. Those who seek to enter (in contrast to strive) will not have the strength or ability to enter. It takes striving to enter. Now while this sounds like works to most people in our day, the text is not saying that our works qualify us to enter at the gate. The striving that is done is not an effort to earn something, but it is a great effort to recognize who we really are and the war that God works in us against our self and pride. It is the crucifying of self and the dying to self that is the striving and agonizing that we do.

This explains why people are almost Christians, at least to some degree. They deceive themselves into thinking that they are doing what a Christian does and so they think that they are converted. However, the outward acts that we usually attribute to Christians can be done by unbelievers as well. In another context, Jesus asked what we do more than others. Even unbelievers love those who love them, but believers are to love beyond that. In takes self-denial and at times an excruciating pain to the inner man in order to love those who hate us and abuse us. The inner man will agonize and feel inner pain as that sinful heart is in a fight to seek the Lord for grace that he may love those who are abusing him. That is striving in a way that can only be done by grace.

The almost Christian will be satisfied with a humility that is put on and perhaps may mistake a mellowing with age for true humility. The almost Christian is satisfied with outward morality rather than a broken heart that looks to grace alone for all things. The almost Christian is satisfied with looking to Christ for some things rather than all things. The almost Christian is satisfied with church attendance and outward faithfulness rather than seeking the glory of God in those things. The almost Christian is satisfied with saying prayers rather than seeking the living God in and by prayer. The almost Christian is satisfied with reading the Bible or perhaps even with serious Bible study, but the almost Christian does not pant after Christ in the reading and study of the Bible.

It is possible for the almost Christian to be thought of in church circles today as a spiritually mature person. It may be the case that there are many almost Christians (so to speak) filling the pulpits in our land and as leaders in the churches. We are so devoid of true Christianity today that almost Christianity is far ahead of the lukewarmness that passes for truth and reality in our day. It may be that a person that is going to strive to enter by true grace will have to leave the world and its pleasures. It may be that a person that is going to strive to enter by true grace will not have time for all the social things of the day and that even in the professing churches. It may be that a person that is going to strive to enter by true grace will be called many things by the accepted religious people of the day. It may be that a person that is going to strive to enter by true grace will be thought of as opposite of orthodoxy and as one who is antisocial. It may be, but perhaps it will have to be. Jesus said that striving was necessary. This means that we must strive regardless of what the easygoing folks want or say.

The Almost Christian 1

May 23, 2016

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

Anyone who even has a moderate respect for Scripture should be chilled by the words of Jesus above. While the modern day does not think deeply on things like this, since we know that if we have prayed a prayer or been born into a Christian home we are a Christian and can remain at ease in Zion. However, in the past when Christianity was taken more seriously, men spent years devoting themselves to writing books and giving sermons on the difference between false conversions and true conversions. While men and women struggle with doubt in their souls, pastors and conference speakers strive to give them assurance of salvation. It may be that in our day a greater number have arrived at the assurance of salvation before they are saved than in other time. This speaks of a terrible situation in the modern professing Church.

For some it is nothing more than a trip down the aisle, saying a prayer, or perhaps making some form of commitment. For others it is simply a matter of being moral and taking the sacraments. Still others think that as long as you believe that there is a God and you are somewhat moral God will take care of the rest. The apostle John spent a long letter in writing to people in order that they could discern whether they had eternal life or not. Jesus, who was quite aware of the false teaching in His day and in ours, said this: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14)

The power of the words of Jesus is nullified by the voices of seemingly the whole world. The various pagans (whether they claim to believe or not) tell us that God loves everybody and all will be saved. Various Arminians (whether they profess to be Arminian or Calvinistic or not) urge people to believe as if they can do so in their own power. Various ministers and theologians among the “Reformed” tell us things that are little different (if at all) than the Arminians. We must go back and back some more to find that the older Reformed writers (Presbyterian, Congregationalists, and Baptists) stressed the fact that proud sinners cannot be saved. While this is a hard way to put it, the point is that God must save sinners and when He does He humbles them from their pride and gives them a humble heart by His grace.

The question that Matthew Mead dealt with, however, is one that should grab the attention of every professing Christian. He wanted to know just how far a person could go in the things of religion and yet be unconverted. In our day they make men elders, ministers, and leaders as long as they are successful in business or have a modicum of religious interest. The ministers of our day preach (so-called) more like energetic car salesmen who are trying to talk a person into buying a car out of nothing but self-interest. In other words, Mead’s question has no place in the world of today. No one thinks you have to go very far at all. In the words of William Williams who wrote a prefatory note to the 1850 edition of this book, “In proportion as the possession of a religious hope becomes common, facile, and lucrative, in that same degree does self-delusion become more easy; and, in that same proportion, should this thorough scrutiny of our own motives and way, this sub-soil ploughing of the heart, be regarded as the more necessary.” (From a Modern Reprint, International Outreach, Inc).

With the words of Jesus, then, it would behoove men and women today to get a reprint of this book and search their own souls. There is but a narrow gate and a narrow path that leads to life, yet there is a wide gate and a broad road that leads to destruction. Not only that, there are false prophets who are everywhere preaching and teaching about how wide the gate is and how broad the road is. Let the words of Jesus (from Matthew 7) ring in our ears and move our hearts. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

Note that Jesus said that many would say to Him that they prophesied in His name, cast out demons in His name, and in His name performed many miracles. They were shocked and surprised that they were not going to enter. Despite their preaching and the supernatural power that they thought they had, they were unconverted people. They thought that they were following God and serving God, but they were told to depart from Him. They were also told that they practiced lawlessness. Are we sure (as in really sure) that we are truly following God in love? Are we sure that we have eternal life and that our religious life is not based on pride and self-interest? Maybe, just maybe it might be important to cry out to the Lord to show us who we are. Perhaps we should use this book by Mead to examine our hearts to see if we are under the delusion of false religion (even if orthodox) or under Christ and free-grace.