Archive for 'Historical Theology'

Presence Of God

Am I Saved?

I can’t think of a more important question than this one. I hope that this article might be of some assistance to you in answering it.

The correct answer to each question in this list should not be hard to figure out but that is not the point. Instead, use them to search your soul for honest answers. If you put in this effort, I think what you get in return will be well worth the effort.

Lastly, if you need any help understanding what is intended in these questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.


  1. Do you see Christ as your only hope for salvation from sins?
    Saving faith is having “believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son” (1 John 5:10b). True and saving faith not only accepts God’s way of salvation but utterly rejects all other ways. Faith despises the notion that we might somehow work our way into God’s favor. Faith delights that it must rest and trust in God alone. A good way to remember this is to use FAITH as an acronym for: Forsaking All I Take Him.

    An example of this type of faith—one that delights in God’s way of saving and rejects all others—can be seen in Brainerd’s conversion story:

    My soul rejoiced with joy unspeakable, to see such a God, such a glorious Divine Being; and I was inwardly pleased and satisfied that he should be God over all for ever and ever. My soul was so captivated and delighted with the excellency, loveliness, greatness, and other perfections of God, that I was even swallowed up in him; at least to that degree, that I had no thought (as I remember) at first about my own salvation, and scarce reflected there was such a creature as myself.
    Thus God, I trust, brought me to a hearty disposition to exalt him, and set him on the throne, and principally and ultimately to aim at his honor and glory, as King of the universe. I continued in this state of inward joy, peace, and astonishment, till near dark, without any sensible abatement; and then began to think and examine what I had seen; and felt sweetly composed in my mind all the evening following. I felt myself in a new world, and every thing about me appeared with a different aspect from what it was wont to do. At this time, the way of salvation opened to me with such infinite wisdom, suitableness, and excellency, that I wondered I should ever think of any other way of salvation; was amazed that I had not dropped my own contrivances, and complied with this lovely, blessed, and excellent way before. If I could have been saved by my own duties, or any other way that I had formerly contrived, my whole soul would now have refused it. I wondered that all the world did not see and comply with this way of salvation, entirely by the righteousness of Christ. (Source)

  2. Do you sin? Are you a sinner?

    If so,

    Rejoice! To know that you are a sinner is a small miracle. In some very real way, the Holy Spirit has already started a work in you.

    If not,

    The Bible says that; “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and that; “if we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” Sin is being less holy than God is. Are you as righteous as God? As loving as God? As patient as God? If not, you have a problem because God cannot accept anything less than perfect holiness. No matter how small these shortcoming might seem to you, they are huge to God and soon they will separate you from him entirely.

  3. Do you hate all of your sins and wish fervently that you could quit them?

    If so,

    Let your soul be comforted. Do you think it is possible to universally hate sin but by the acting of God in your life? As the Psalmist, you have begun to love God’s standard for righteousness. This is a great sign of conversion. A small caution: do not place all of your assurance herein. Many who know not God will say that they hate sin (yet not with a full view of sin and with full honesty).

    If not,

    Without sincerity and diligence in a universality of obedience, there is no hope for holiness at all. You are like Saul who lost his inheritance in keeping the best possessions of the Amalekites for himself. Without an absolute hatred of sin as sin, what business do you have cleaning up some particular part of your life? Do you hold onto some sin in tenderness, calling it sweet names? Remember, the sin that you are holding onto, Christ bled and died for the sake of it, so set yourself against it as the Father set himself against his Son as a result of it.

  4. Is there any sin that you are not willing to forsake if God would grant you the power to forsake it?
    This is another way of asking the last question. Say there was a big red button which when pressed would completely eradicate the possibility of you ever sinning again. Is there anything that would make you hesitate to press such a button?

    Do you believe God grants saints that power in Christ? Verse List

    Have you been making use of it?

    If so, you should often be gaining great victories over your sin, which should help provide you with great assurance that you are born of God.
  5. Do you feel that everlasting misery is due to you for the sake of your many sins?
    Those that would be free of the filth of sin must labor to feel the shame of it. Ezra (Ezr 9:6) and Jeremiah (Jer 3:25) knew to be ashamed before God. Fill yourself with a due regard for the just penalties of your sin. Do you realize that every moment you are not in hell is a charitable gift from God? This ought fill your soul with all manner of remorse and gratitude. This is true regardless of whether you are a Christian or not. God requires us to abide in this state to the furtherance of his grace in our lives (Eze 16:63). Paul assumes that this shame is a part of the Christian experience (Rom 6:21). How can you expect to achieve victory over sin if you purposely forget what you are commanded to remember (Eph 2:12)? Paul calls himself the chief of sinners and a debtor to all. This is what the Spirit taught Paul and what the Spirit will teach you if indeed you are sealed with him.
  6. Do you now live in the willful practice of any known sin?

    If so,

    First rejoice that God has revealed this sin to you. Your heart is not so hardened as to have been completely handed over to your own lusts. Second, confess your sin and your inability to stop. Set faith to work in the promises of God. He knows your sin. He knows you do not have any power over it in yourself. He is a gracious God and will condescend to help you if you turn your plight over to him. Yet for all the hope offered here there is also a warning. 1John 3:9 “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.” One of the greatest mistakes men make is to think it is possible to be born again and to continue willfully sinning. These two are incompatible.

    If not,

    Either you are living in great power or in great ignorance. This can be a hard area: keep a watchful eye on your soul.

  7. Are you able to turn to God and call him Father even in your sinful state?
    It is easy for all humanity to imagine a smiling deity when life is going well. Yet those who dwell in Christ have something more: in the midst of sinning, a Christian can feel the pleasure of God—for he knows that God’s pleasure does not result from sinlessness but from imputation.
  8. Do you serve God merely (or primarily) to save yourself from damnation?
    One born again sees godliness as a high reward in itself. Oh to be holy, oh to be like God, oh to be able to keep his commandments: these are the pinings of a softened heart. Were there no hell and no heaven, a Christian’s desire for righteousness would not be slackened in the least. Think of Christ who we are called to be like. Did he act righteously merely to avoid the wrath of God? If you are not like Christ in this way, be cautioned, it is very unlikely that your heart has been knit to his.

    This is one great difference between believers and those that have not faith. Fear of the consequents of sin, with an apprehension of some advantages which are to be obtained by a sober life and the profession of religion, do steer and regulate the minds of unbelievers, in all they do towards God or for eternity; but the minds of believers are influenced by a view of the glory of the image and likeness of God in that holiness, and all the parts of it, which they are called unto. This gives them love unto it, delight and complacency in it, enabling them to look upon it as its own reward. And without these affections none will ever abide in the ways of obedience unto the end. —John Owen

  9. Do you have a radical habitual holiness so that often you find the work of following God’s law easy when once it was hard for you?

    This may be hard to understand. Those who pretend to be Christians try to act like God and through practice eventually find themselves developing habits that seem consistent with righteousness. Christians on the other hand are given a habit with which they are able to act a holiness not of their own making. Pretenders desire some favor with God and so try on moral uprightness to get what they desire. Christians desire holiness itself. This is very related to hating sin as sin. The sinfulness itself is what the Christian hates. Likewise, the holiness itself is what a Christian loves.

    As an example: It is not so hard for a Christian to keep the Sabbath because he loves keeping it—it is a joy. That it leads to good results is only icing on the cake, for even if it led to bad results, the Christian would still enjoy keeping it.

    Another way to describe it is in connection with original sin, which is also called indwelling sin. Just like indwelling sin whispers sweet calls to the sinner to come and taste of its fruits and drives a man to distraction with various lusts, so too does this habit (aka indwelling grace) prompt a Christian towards righteousness. It gives holiness a sweetness and an appeal. Where many men can spend time day-dreaming about cars or women, a Christian might find himself daydreaming about helping the poor. The mind starts mulling over the things of God. Hence David says that he meditates on God’s law both day and night and that he is consumed with a desire for it.

    Owen explains it this way:

    There is wrought and preserved in the minds and souls of all believers, by the Spirit of God, a supernatural principle or habit of grace and holiness, whereby they are made meet for and enabled to live unto God, and perform that obedience which he requireth and accepteth through Christ in the covenant of grace; essentially or specifically distinct from all natural habits, intellectual and moral, however or by what means soever acquired or improved.

  10. Can you say, as David, that you delight in God’s law?
    The Hebrews have several words for the roaring of a lion:

    • Sha’ag is the lion’s roar in seeking prey (Psa 104:21)
    • Naham his cry when seizing it (Pro 19:12)
    • Hagah his growl defying any effort to snatch from him his prey (Isa 31:4)

    The point is that in Psa 1:2, David compares righteous men to lions who hagah (meditate) on the word of God. The image is that they fiercely guard it while the gnaw on it. Not so the wicked. In Psa 2:1, the wicked hagah (plot) on vanities. Which are you more possesive of, the things of God or the things of this world? What is your default state? What do you spend most of your time thinking about?

    If you ask him to, God will help you change from one kind of man to the other. However, if you are like most peope, instead of throwing yourself to God alone for help, you will feel convicted to use your own willpower to try to be more Godly. This seldom works. Only the Holy Spirit can change you from one type of man to the other. Learn to set faith at work in Christ for the conversion process and you will begin to become such a man.

  11. Can you turn to the fountain that has been opened unto all holiness?
    “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness (Zec 13.1).”

    We defile ourselves every day, and if we go not every day to the “fountain that is open for sin and for uncleanness,” we shall quickly be all over leprous. Our consciences will be filled with dead works, so that we shall no way be able to serve the living God, unless they are daily purged out. … When a soul, filled with self-abasement under a sense of its own defilements, applies itself unto Christ by faith for cleansing, and that constantly and continually, with a fervency answering its sense and convictions, it is in its way and proper course. I am persuaded no true believer in the world is a stranger unto this duty; and the more any one abounds therein, the more genuine is his faith evidenced to be, and the more humble is his walk before the Lord. —John Owen

  12. Do you despise all this world has to offer as dross and dung in comparison to the riches offered in communion with Christ?

    Would you be certain whether you are converted or not? Now let your soul and all that is within you attend. Have you taken God for your happiness? Where does the desire of your heart lie? What is the source of your greatest satisfaction? Come, then, and with Abraham lift up your eyes eastward, and westward, and northward, and southward, and look around you; what is it that you would have in heaven or on earth to make you happy? If God should give you your choice, as He did to Solomon, or should say to you, as Ahasuerus to Esther, ‘What is thy petition, and what is thy request, and it shall be granted thee?’ what would you ask? Go into the gardens of pleasure, and gather all the fragrant flowers there, would these satisfy you? Go to the treasures of mammon; suppose you may carry away as much as you desire. Go to the towers, to the trophies of honour. What do you think of being a man of renown, and having a name like the name of the great men of the earth? Would any of these, would all of these satisfy you, and make you to count yourself happy? If so, then certainly you are carnal and unconverted.”
    —Joseph Alleine, A Sure Guide to Heaven

  13. Will you be content for all eternity to dwell on the holiness of God?

    Where there is true grace, there is an insatiable desire of more. —Andrew Bromhall

    Some wonder if they will be bored in heaven. It is impossible for those who know what Christ tastes like to ask such a question. Some evidence a similar type of ignorance of Christ by being bored here on earth. If you find yourself with nothing to do for several hours, is it possible for you to commune with God during that time and thus be more happy than if you were distracting yourself with games or entertainment? If you willfully refuse to enjoy Christ now, how do you hope to enter into heaven which will be the perfecting of that experience (Joh 17:3)?

  14. Is there any duty you are unwilling to perform for the sake of Christ?
    Is there anything God is not allowed to ask of you? Is there anything he could ask that you would not do? Abraham demonstrated his faith with his willingness to sacrafice his own son. Our faith must be of the same type as his.
  15. Have you taken the everlasting joy of God for your chief happiness in this life and the next?

    Can you truly say, that you have so far taken the everlasting enjoyment of God for your happiness, that it hath the most of your heart, of your love, desire, and care; and that you are resolved, by the strength of Divine grace, to let go all that you have in the world, rather than hazard it; and that it is your daily, and your principal business to seek it? Can you truly say, that though you have your failings and sins, yet your main care, and the bent of your whole life, is to please God, and to enjoy him for ever; and that you give the world God’s leavings, as it were, and not God the world’s leavings; and that your worldly business is but as a traveller’s seeking for provision in his journey, and heaven is the place that you take for your home?

    …[If not]…

    I much fear that you are yet a stranger to the Christian life. For if you we’re a Christian indeed, and truly converted, your very heart would be set on God and the life to come, and you would make it your chief business to prepare for everlasting happiness; and you durst not, you would not, live in any wilful sin, nor in the neglect of any known duty.
    Alas! what have you done? how have you spent your time till now Did you not know that you had a soul to be saved or lost; and that you must live in heaven or in hell for ever; and that you had your life and time in this world chiefly for the purpose of preparing for another? Alas! what have you been doing all your days that you are so ignorant, or so unprepared for death, if it should now find you? If you had but as much mind of heaven as of earth, you would have known more of it, and done more for it, and inquired more diligently after it, than you have done. You can learn how to do your business in the world; and why could you not learn more of the will of God, if you had but attended to it? You have neighbors that could learn more, that have had as much to do in the world as you, and who have had as little time. Do you think that heaven is not worth your labor? —Richard Baxter

  16. Do you feel more loved by God because he makes much of you, or because, at great cost to himself, he frees you to enjoy making much of him forever?
    From John Piper:

    Is the deepest basis of our joy God’s greatness or our greatness?
    Am I more satisfied praising him or being praised?
    Am I God-centered because of his surpassing value, or am I God-centered because he highlights my surpassing value?
    Would it be heaven to me to see God or to be God?

    The love of God is not God’s making much of us, but God’s saving us from self-centeredness so that we can enjoy making much of him forever. And our love to others is not our making much of them, but helping them to find satisfaction in making much of God. True love aims at satisfying people in the glory of God. Any love that terminates on man is eventually destructive. It does not lead people to the only lasting joy, namely, God. Love must be God-centered, or it is not true love; it leaves people without their final hope of joy.

Hopfully, as you have been working though these, one of two things has been happening: 1- Either you have found great comfort and assurance that the God of heaven has implanted in you his Holy Spirit as a seal of your salvation, or 2- you have begun to realize that you have no solid evidence for believing that you have been converted. If this second thing has been happening, please don’t give up hope. Turn to God for mercy. Seek him with all that is in you and he will reveal himself to you (Jer 29:13). If one soul is rescued from presumption into genuine faith as a result of this article, all the work and prayer will be well worth it.

Lay Pastors: Uneducated Implements of God

I have a theory that God delights to use uneducated men as shepherds in situations where we turn the pursuit of God into the empty traditions of religion. Here are some examples of such men:

  1. A.W. Tozer
    • Highest education: a few weeks of high school
  2. John Bunyan
    • Learned only to read and write – no formal higher education of any kind
    • Never learned Greek or Hebrew
    • “The Pilgrim’s Progress – ‘next to the Bible, perhaps the world’s best-selling book . . . translated into over 200 languages.'” -Piper
  3. Dwight Moody
    • without higher education, founded three schools;
    • without theological training, reshaped Victorian Christianity;
    • without radio or television reached 100 million people.
  4. Charles Spurgeon
    • Little formal education (some college)
    • Began preaching at 16
  5. William Carey
    • No formal education – self taught
  6. Andrew Fuller
    • Farm raised
    • “He had no formal theological training but became the leading theological spokesman for the Particular Baptists in his day.” -Piper
  7. Hudson Taylor
    • No theological education
    • Some medical education
    • Gathered missionaries which other mission societies rejected as too uneducated
  8. John Newton
    • 2 years of boarding school, after which he went to sea with his father
    • Self educated in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew
  9. David Brainerd
    • Expelled from seminary in his third year
  10. Leonard Ravenhill
    • Educated at Cliff College in England
    • Said it was advantageous for pastors to not attend Bible school
    • Yet taught himself for a time at Bethany College of Missions

John Owen (who not only attended but taught seminary) believed that the first and main purpose of all of a student’s studies and meditations is to cultivate communion with God. He says that the study of scriptures, “should always be conducted in order to learn from them our duty and, understanding that, let it proceed to practice holy communion with God as we experience to the depths of our souls the power of the Spirit mightily manifesting in us His grace and light.” Without this, he says, “our studies are useless.”

If there were seminaries which taught God-besottedness (such as Owen desired of all theological learning), I wonder if Christ’s Church would so often stand in need of uneducated lay-ministers. Regardless of my speculations, we can be confident of this: that if seminaries will not produce such men, then God will supply his Church with them out of his own stores. As Richard Baxter puts it;

As to supply of pastors, Christ will take care of that. … He who himself undertook the work of our redemption, and bore our transgressions, and hath been faithful as the chief Shepherd of the Church, will not lose all his labor and suffering for want of instruments to carry on his work … he will provide men to be his servants and ushers in his school, who shall willingly take the labor on them, and rejoice to be so emplyed, and account that the happiest life in the world which you account so great a toil, and would not exchange it for all your ease and carnal pleasure; but for the saving of souls, and the propagating of the gospel of Christ, will be content to bear the burden and heat of the day; and to fill up the measure of the sufferings of Christ in their bodies; and to work while it is day; and to do what they do with all their might; and to be the servants of all, and not to please themselves, but others, for their edification; and to become all things to all men, that they may save some; and to endure all things for the elect’s sake; and to spend and be spent for their fellow-creatures; though the more they love, the less they should be beloved, and should be accounted their enemies for telling them the truth. Such pastors will Christ provide his people, after his own heart.

Or if you prefer, consider John’s teaching to the religious teachers of his day;

And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Perhaps best of all is the teaching of Jeremiah:

Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord. Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.

God promises to raise up the men he needs in order for his church to succeed. Sometimes he raised them through seminaries, sometimes he doesn’t. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

A.W. Tozer on The Pursuit of God

In this hour of all-but-universal darkness one cheering gleam appears: within the fold of conservative Christianity there are to be found increasing numbers of persons whose religious lives are marked by a growing hunger after God Himself. They are eager for spiritual realities and will not be put off with words, nor will they be content with correct “interpretations” of truth. They are athirst for God, and they will not be satisfied till they have drunk deep at the Fountain of Living Water.

This is the only real harbinger of revival which I have been able to detect anywhere on the religious horizon. It may be the cloud the size of a man’s hand for which a few saints here and there have been looking. It can result in a resurrection of life for many souls and a recapture of that radiant wonder which should accompany faith in Christ, that wonder which has all but fled the Church of God in our day.

But this hunger must be recognized by our religious leaders. Current evangelicalism has (to change the figure) laid the altar and divided the sacrifice into parts, but now seems satisfied to count the stones and rearrange the pieces with never a care that there is not a sign of fire upon the top of lofty Carmel. But God be thanked that there are a few who care. They are those who, while they love the altar and delight in the sacrifice, are yet unable to reconcile themselves to the continued absence of fire. They desire God above all. They are athirst to taste for themselves the “piercing sweetness” of the love of Christ about Whom all the holy prophets did write and the psalmists did sing.

There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives. They minister constantly to believers who feel within their breasts a longing which their teaching simply does not satisfy.

I trust I speak in charity, but the lack in our pulpits is real. Milton’s terrible sentence applies to our day as accurately as it did to his: “The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed.” It is a solemn thing, and no small scandal in the Kingdom, to see God’s children starving while actually seated at the Father’s table. The truth of Wesley’s words is established before our eyes: “Orthodoxy, or right opinion, is, at best, a very slender part of religion. Though right tempers cannot subsist without right opinions, yet right opinions may subsist without right tempers. There may be a right opinion of God without either love or one right temper toward Him. Satan is a proof of this.”

Thanks to our splendid Bible societies and to other effective agencies for the dissemination of the Word, there are today many millions of people who hold “right opinions,” probably more than ever before in the history of the Church. Yet I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was at a lower ebb. To great sections of the Church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the “program.” This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us.

Sound Bible exposition is an imperative must in the Church of the Living God. Without it no church can be a New Testament church in any strict meaning of that term. But exposition may be carried on in such way as to leave the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment whatever. For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.

This book is a modest attempt to aid God’s hungry children so to find Him. Nothing here is new except in the sense that it is a discovery which my own heart has made of spiritual realities most delightful and wonderful to me. Others before me have gone much farther into these holy mysteries than I have done, but if my fire is not large it is yet real, and there may be those who can light their candle at its flame.


Taken from the preface of The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozer.

A Slave for Christ

Leonard Dober wondered if Jesus had thought the cross too much; then he remembered Jesus’ prayer in the garden ended, “Not my will, but yours, Father.” Leonard’s task seemed impossible, but he was pursuing God’s will and not his own.

Leonard Dober determined that God’s call to him was to reach slaves in the Virgin Islands. He planned to reach these men and women by selling himself as a slave and working alongside others each day while sharing Jesus’ love with them. The thought of being a slave frightened and sickened him. He dreaded the treatment he would receive. “But Christ was willing to die on the cross for me,” he thought. “No price is too high to serve him.”

It wasn’t the slave masters who were Dober’s harshest persecutors, but rather fellow Christians. They questioned his call to minister to slaves and ridiculed him as a fool for his plan. But Dober would not be dissuaded. He arrived in the Virgin Islands late in the 1730s.

When he became a servant in the governor’s house, he feared that this position was too far removed from the slaves to whom he had come to minister. So he left and moved from the governor’s house to a mud hut where he could work one-on-one with slaves.

In just three years, Dober’s ministry included more than thirteen thousand new converts.

Jesus freaks. That’s what the world calls those whose faith seems a bit radical. Odd. Extreme. Dober was an eighteenth century “Jesus freak”—a free man who chose to live as a slave in order to win them to Jesus. He was willing to do whatever it took to squeeze the last ounce of devotion from his heart in service to Christ. For Dober, that meant a specific plan that made sense to no one but him. Have you been written off because of your freakish refusal to go along with the majority rule? If God has called you to do something radical for him in your family, church, or community, you must obey. Let others call you crazy, but may Jesus find you committed.


The preceeding was taken from the VotM blog and can be found in the book: Extreme Devotion. As to why Dober desired to live this way, here is the man explaining his own reasoning:

Since it is desired of me to make known my reason, I can say that my disposition was never to travel during this time, but only to ground myself more steadfastly in my Savior; that when the gracious count came back from his trip to Denmark and told me about the slaves, it gripped me so that I could not get free of it. I vowed to myself that if one other brother would go with me, I would become a slave, and would tell him so, and what I had experienced from our Savior: that the word of the cross in its lowliness shows a special strength to souls. As for me, I thought: even if helpful to no one in it I could still give witness through it of obedience to our Savior! I leave it to the good judgment of the congregation and have no other ground than this I thought: that on the island there still are souls who cannot believe because they have not heard.

The Wounded Soul

It takes a wound. This wounding must be done by God. He has a way of striping our souls bare and exposing the depths of what we are. We all fear—deep down—that we are failures. The wounding comes when we see the truth of these things. The one wounded freely acknowledges that everyone ought hate him. Until now, he has feared that his family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers would discover unspeakable shame in himself. He has hidden this fear, but now the full force of it comes and he is undone. All of his hopes and dreams are for nothing. All of his desires are for things that he either wont get, or that aren’t worth getting anyway. He falls into utter despair. He is cut to the quick. From this wound, there is no recovery.

Such despair is essential to the conversion process. Heretofore, the source of a man’s dreams, joys, hopes, and delights has not been God. He has always feared, “maybe I am of no use to anyone.” Now he knows that this is completely correct. When God speaks, you can’t say nice things back to him. You lay as one slain. This is the gospel: we can’t save ourselves, only God can.

John Bunyan said:

Conversion is not the smooth, easy-going process some men seem to think … It is wounding work, of course, this breaking of the hearts, but without wounding there is no saving. … Where there is grafting there is a cutting, the scion must be let in with a wound; to stick it on to the outside or to tie it on with a string would be of no use. Heart must be set to heart and back to back, or there will be no sap from root to branch, and this I say, must be done by a wound.

The Christian life not only starts in this manner, but it continues in the same. God hands the knife over to us and tells us to keep cutting. We are to put ourselves utterly to death in order that he might live in us. Yet our sinful hearts do not die easily. We strive for success in ministry. We want everyone to see how Godly we are. We are willing to do many things for God but there are things that we hold back, things we believe we will care for better than he would.

Instead, toss everything on the alter, and watch while God destroys it all.

Christians, when they are acting as Christians are untouchable. What will you say to a man that freely abides in such despair. Will you turn his friends against him? Will you destroy his property? Will you attack him physically? He already gave up on all of these things long ago. Christ is now his rock. He cares not what man can do.

Most people will spend their entire lives running from such an experience as this. The unconverted are not alone in avoiding God, we who know God spend much of our time in the same pursuit.

Some verses

The Faith of George Müller

What did the faith of George Müller look like? Here is a story I found browsing around the internet:

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I went to America some years ago with the captain of a steamer, who was a very devoted Christian. When off the coast of Newfoundland he said to me, “The last time I crossed here, five weeks ago, something happened which revolutionized the whole of my Christian life. We had George Müller of Bristol on board. I had been on the bridge twenty-four hours and never left it. George Müller came to me, and said, “Captain I have come to tell you that I must be in Quebec Saturday afternoon.” “It’s impossible,” I said. “Very well, if your ship cannot take me, God will find some other way. I have never broken an engagement in fifty-seven years. Let us go down into the chart-room and pray.”

I looked at that man of God, and thought to myself, what lunatic asylum can that man have come from? I never heard of such a thing as this. “Mr. Müller,” I said, “do you know how dense the fog is?” “No,” he replied, “my eye is not on the density of the fog, but on the living God, who controls every circumstance of my life.”

He knelt down and prayed one of the most simple prayers, and when he had finished I was going to pray; but he put his hand on my shoulder, and told me not to pray. “First, you do not believe He will answer; and second I believe he has, and there is no need whatever for you to pray about it.”

I looked at him, and he said, “Captain, I have known my Lord for fifty-seven years, and there has never been a single day that I have failed to get audience with the King. Get up, Captain and open the door, and you will find the fog gone.” I got up, and the fog was indeed gone. On Saturday afternoon, George Müller was in Quebec for his engagement.

Müller dedicated his life to demonstrating God as faithful. What a tragedy it is that history remembers him as a man of mighty faith. Don’t come away from this story with awe of Müller but let Müller point you towards awe of God. Müller’s great faith did not make him mighty, but Müller’s weak faith showed God mighty. Towards such people as would think of Müller as a mighty man, beyond what is normally possible for God’s people, Müller says this:

I affectionately warn against being led away by the device of Satan, to think that these things are peculiar to me, and cannot be enjoyed by all the children of God; for though, as has been stated before, every believer is not called upon to establish Orphan-Houses, Charity Schools, etc., and trust in the Lord for means, yet all believers are called upon, in the simple confidence of faith, to cast all their burdens upon Him, to trust in him for every thing, and not only to make every thing a subject of prayer, but to expect answers to their petitions which they have asked according to His will, and in the name of the Lord Jesus.— Think not, dear reader, that I have the gift of faith, that is, that gift of which we read in 1 Cor. 12:9, and which is mentioned along with ” the gifts of healing,” “the working of miracles,” “prophecy,” and that on that account I am able to trust in the Lord. It is true that the faith, which I am enabled to exercise, is altogether God’s own gift; it is true that He alone supports it, and that He alone can increase it; it is true that, moment by moment, I depend upon Him for it, and that, if I were only one moment left to myself, my faith would utterly fail; but it is not true that my faith is that gift of faith which is spoken of in 1 Cor. 12:9 …

Once more, let not Satan deceive you in making you think that you could not have the same faith, but that it is only for persons who are situated as I am. When I lose such a thing as a key, I ask the Lord to direct me to it, and I look for an answer to my prayer; when a person with whom I have made an appointment does not come, according to the fixed time, and I begin to be inconvenienced by it, I ask the Lord to be pleased to hasten him to me, and I look for an answer; when I do not understand a passage of the word of God, I lift up my heart to the Lord, that He would be pleased, by His holy Spirit, to instruct me, and I expect to be taught, though I do not fix the time when, and the manner how it should be; when I am going to minister in the Word, I seek help from the Lord, and while I in the consciousness of natural inability as well as utter unworthiness, begin this His service, I am not cast down, but of good cheer, because I look for His assistance, and believe that He, for His dear Son’s sake, will help me. And thus in other of my temporal and spiritual concerns I pray to the Lord, and expect an answer to my requests; and may not you do the same, dear believing reader? Oh! I beseech you, do not think me an extraordinary believer, having privileges above other of God’s dear children, which they cannot have; nor look on my way of acting as something that would not do for other believers. Make but trial! Do but stand still in the hour of trial, and you will see the help of God, if you trust in Him.
-George Müller

When you read and hear about Müller. Know that he was a humble, poor, often full-of-doubt sinner. Yet God used him in mighty ways. Why? Because he opened his mouth. Here is Müller looking back over many years at the start of his endeavors towards the orphans:

It is now 68 years ago that my heart was greatly tried, when again and again I saw dear children losing both parents, and there was no one to take a real deep interest in their well-being.

I felt deeply for such bereaved children, and I said again and again to myself, “O I wish I had a little Orphan institution, into which I could take these children.” But the desire remained for years only a desire, though I had much prayer in connection with it. In the November of the year 1835, a particular circumstance occurred, through the instrumentality of which I was made to know how to be able to do some­thing for destitute orphans, and I began to pray more earnestly than ever I had done before that God would be pleased to guide and direct me whether I should make a beginning of a little Orphan institution. Thus I prayed month after month, and at last I came to the decision that I would do something in this way; and though it might have never so small a beginning, I would make a beginning.

Now, just reading through the whole Bible, I came, at that time, to this 81st Psalm and to this 10th verse, “I am Jehovah thy God, Who brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” When I read this verse, I shut the Bible, went to the door of my room and locked it, and then I cast myself on the floor and began to pray. I said to my Heavenly Father, “I have only asked Thee, Heavenly Father, that Thou shouldest show me whether I shall begin the Orphan work or not. Thou hast been pleased to make that plain to me, and now ‘I will open my mouth wide.’ Be pleased to ‘fill it.’ Give me, my Heavenly Father, a suitable house to begin the work; give me suitable helpers to take care of the children; and give me a thousand pounds sterling to make a beginning.

And in all God has been pleased to give me, simply in answer to prayer, £1,416,000 sterling! One million, four hundred and sixteen thousand pounds sterling, without asking a single human being! !

There is none, in this whole city, who can say that I ever asked them for a penny; there is none, in the whole of England, who can say that I ever asked them for a penny; there is none under heaven, in the whole wide world, who can say that I ever asked them for a penny. To God, and to God alone, I went; and I did this because I knew ever since my conversion that one of the greatest necessities for the Church of God at large was an increase of faith. Therefore, I deter­mined to dedicate my whole life to this one great lesson, for the Church of God to learn, and the world at large to learn: real, true, lasting dependence on God.
-George Müller

George Müller opened his mouth, and God filled it to overflowing. He will do the same to you.

An Ulster Revival Story

Though the origin of a movement of God cannot be fixed by man, many attribute the beginnings of Ireland’s 1859 Ulster Revival to a humble prayer group of four Christians. These men dedicated themselves to pray for their own edification and the salvation of others around them. Once the revival was underway, over 10,000 converts were made in the first few weeks, and by the end of the year 100,000 converts were brought into churches.

One minister said of this time:

From contact with this ‘wonderful work of God,’ and being honoured to take some little part in carrying it on, my spirit has been literally overwhelmed with a sense of my own deep unworthiness, and yet that God should ‘count me worthy, putting me into the ministry’ at such a precious time of abounding mercy to perishing men; and I have felt that all earthly honours pale into insignificance when compared with the highest God could confer on man, being a ‘fellow-worker with God, and with His Christ.’ It were worth living ten thousand ages in obscurity and reproach to be permitted to creep forth at the expiration of that time, and engage in the glorious work of the last six months of 1859. (Source)

What follows is one particular Ulster Revival story told by William Gibson, in his work The Year of Grace (paragraphing added).
[…]

Three Dollars Worth of God

I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.

Not enough to explode my soul
    or disturb my sleep,
        but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk
            or a snooze in the sunshine.

I don’t want enough of God
    to make me love a black man
        or pick beets with a migrant.

I want ecstasy,
    not transformation.

I want warmth of the womb,
    not a new birth.

I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.

I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.

—Wilbur Reese

John Paton's Spiritual Upbringing

If you have never heard of John Paton, missionary to the New Hebrides, I think you will really enjoy Piper’s presentation of him, it takes about an hour, and is well worth the time.

Piper on John Paton (64 minutes):

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Almost all of Piper’s materials are freely available here.

38 minutes into this talk, Piper claims the following about the origin of Paton’s spiritual character:

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His courage came from his father … And his father—I tell you after the first eighty pages of this, if you had taken it from me and ripped it to shreds and said; “See, you’ve wasted your $25.00,” I would have said; “I didn’t waste a nickel.” Five pages in this book are worth $25.00 to me. I have four sons and one daughter and I wept over these pages, and I wept last night as I read them again because I want to be a daddy like this daddy was. To produce a John Patton—he did not come out of know where—he came from a daddy and a mommy.

I also found those early pages to be exceptionally inspirational to me as a father and so I am going to post the first twenty pages of Paton’s autobiography after the jump. But first, here are some excerpts to whet your appetite:
[…]

The Conversion of David Brainerd

What follows is an account of the conversion of David Brainerd in his own words, as taken from the Life and Diary of David Brainerd which is published in Vol. 2 of The works of Jonathan Edwards.

“I was from my youth somewhat sober, and inclined rather to melancholy than the contrary extreme; but do not remember any thing of conviction of sin, worthy of remark, till I was, I believe, about seven or eight years of age. Then I became concerned for my soul, and terrified at the thoughts of death, and was driven to the performance of duties: but it appeared a melancholy business, that destroyed my eagerness for play. And though, alas! this religious concern was but short-lived, I sometimes attended secret prayer; and thus lived at “ease in Zion, without God in the world,” and without much concern, as I remember, till I was above thirteen years of age. But some time in the winter 1732, I was roused out of carnal security, by I scarce know what means at first; but was much excited by the prevailing of a mortal sickness in Haddam. I was frequent, constant, and somewhat fervent in duties; and took delight in reading, especially Mr. Janeway’s Token for Children. I felt sometimes much melted in duties, and took great delight in the performance of them; and I sometimes hoped that I was converted, or at least in a good and hopeful way for heaven and happiness, not knowing what conversion was. The Spirit of God at this time proceeded far with me; I was remarkably dead to the world, and my thoughts were almost wholly employed about my soul’s concerns; and I may indeed say, “Almost I was persuaded to be a Christian” I was also exceedingly distressed and melancholy at the death of my mother, in March, 1732. But afterwards my religious concern began to decline, and by degrees I fell back into a considerable degree of security, though I still attended secret prayer.
[…]

A Seeker's Prayer

I was ministering to someone and wrote this prayer for her. I had hoped to write it as a prayer that someone who was seeking God could pray as a non-Christian (what her state seemed to be) but would also be appropriate for her if she already knew God.

Oh God most high and holy, I understand
    that you are worthy to be praised with my every breath,
    and loved with all the love that I am able to offer
        and more besides.

Occupy the throne of my heart,
Take full possession of my life
    and reign supreme in me.
Tear aside every sin in my life
    and make yourself my highest love.
Don't allow my vile passions and lusts
    to resist your Spirit in this work
Show me your mighty power in this way
    and make me yours forever.

I am learning what it means,
    that I am dead in my sins and iniquities.
I have done so many things that I know are grievous to you.
    More than that, I have not loved you as I should:
        with all of my heart, soul, and mind.
I confess all of these sins before you.
I come to you knowing
    that I have no right, of myself, to do so;
    but that you have purchased my right
        to make this request to you
    you welcome poor sinners
        to come to you and find rest and freedom.
So I ask:
    please free me from my sins,
    please give me rest in you.

I understand that your son, Jesus Christ,
    has died to save wicked people, like me, from their sins.
He took on the sins of the world,
    that hopeless sinners might be declared righteous and holy.
Help me to understand,
    that righteousness is hid with Christ on high;
    that I am not more righteous when I am living rightly
    nor am I less righteous when I am living sinfully;
    but if I trust in my own good behavior,
        I am completely wicked before you;
    but if I trust in Christ,
        I am as righteous as you are
            because I trust in your holiness
                applied to me on the cross.
            and this righteousness is the same
                yesterday, today, and forever.

Then teach me to live on you
    and to live for you.
Guide me down paths of righteousness
    that I might live all of life for your namesake.
Teach me how to live as Christ lived,
    that I might resemble you.

I throw myself to your care.
I know that I cannot save myself,
    I have tried and only found failure.
Great God in heaven, save me.