Many years ago, a young man in distress for his soul revealed the state of his mind to an eminent minister, and then said, “If I should die tonight, do you think I should be saved?” The minister replied, “I have no sufficient reason for supposing that you love Christ; and if you do not, then you cannot be saved.” “Then,” said the young man, “I will sleep no more this night;” and he went out and spent the whole night in prayer. As the day began to break, he returned to the house where the minister was, rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God, and saying, “I have found Christ precious to my soul.” Oh that all men were in good earnest in seeking their own salvation!
IF ‘YOU’ DIED TONIGHT, WHERE WOULD SPEND ETERNITY?
“SEEK THE LORD WHILE HE MAY BE FOUND” (Isaiah 55:6).
The Scripture, or the written word of God, being in itself every way absolutely right and perfect, and appointed by him (God) to be the rule or canon of the church’s faith and obedience, requiring, trying, regulating, judging wholly and absolutely of them, is come by way of eminence, to be called “canonical” or regular: as the book wherein it is called “The Bible”, though in itself that be the common name of all books. Thus Aquinas himself confesseth the Scripture is called canonical because it is the rule of our understanding in the things of God; and such a rule it is as hath authority over the consciences of men, to bind them unto faith and obedience, because of its being given of God by inspiration for that purpose. When unto the original of divine inspiration this end also is added, that it is designed by the Holy Ghost for the catholic, standing use and instruction of the church.
The Authority of Scripture:
They defile themselves with the impiety of sacrilege who endeavour to bring in, as it were, divers degrees into the body of the Scriptures; for by the impious discretion of human folly, they would cast the one voice of the Holy Ghost into various forms of unequal authority. As, then, whatever difference there may be as to the subject-matter, manner of writing, and present usefulness, between any of the books that, being written by divine inspiration, are given out for the church’s rule, they are all equal as to the canonical authority.
The Depth of Scripture:
In answer to those who alleged that the authority of some portions of Scripture was dubious: How vain, unjust, arrogant, and presumptuous, this supposition is, needs little labour to demonstrate. The understandings of men are a very sorry measure of the truth, with the whole sense and intendment of the Holy Ghost in every place of Scripture. Nay, it may much more rationally be supposed, that though we all know enough of the mind and will of God in the whole Scripture to guide and regulate our faith and obedience, yet that we are rather ignorant of his utmost intention in any place than that we know it in all. There is a depth and breadth in every word of God, because his, which we are not able to fathom and compass to the utmost; it being enough for us that we may infallibly apprehend so much of his mind and will as is indispensably necessary for us to the obedience that he requires at our hands. A humble, reverential consideration of all, indeed almost any, of the testimonies alleged in the New Testament out of the Old, is sufficient to evince the truth of this consideration. “We know but in part, and we prophesy in part” (1Corithians 13:9). How much is it that we know not! Or, as Job speaks, “How small is the word that we understand of God” (Job 26:14)!
The Distinctiveness of Scripture:
The whole Scripture…a revelation of the will of God as to the faith and obedience of the church; and this holy, heavenly, and divine, answering the wisdom, truth, and sovereignty, of him from whom it doth proceed. Hence they are called “the oracles of God” (Romans 3:2), or the infallible revelation of his will; and “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68), for that, in the name of God, they treat about. And Paul tells us that the argument of the gospel is “wisdom”, but “not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of it”, who are destroyed, done away, and made useless by it, that is, the chief leaders of human wisdom and science (1.Corithians 2:6), but it is, “the mysterious wisdom of God, that was hidden from them” (verse 7); Things of his own mere revelation from his sovereign will and pleasure, with a stamp and impress of his goodness and wisdom upon them, quite of another nature than anything that the choicest wisdom of the princes of this world can reach or attain unto….it treats of things which “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor have they”, by any natural means, ever “entered into the heart of man”, and that in absolute harmony with all other unquestionable revelations of the will of God.
The Design, End and Aim of Scripture:
The whole Scripture hath an especial end….This end, supremely and absolutely, is the glory of that God who is the author of it…..It is the revelation of himself that is intended, of his mind and will, that he may be glorified…..Particularly, the demonstration of this glory of God in and by Jesus Christ is aimed at……The end of the Scripture is the glory of God in Christ.
The Power of the Scripture:
This efficacy and power is in the whole word of God “is not my word like as a fire? Saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces” (Jeremiah 23:29)? That is, “living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). As it hath an ‘authority’ over men (Matthew 7:29), so it hath a “powerful efficacy” in and towards them (Acts 20:32; James 1:21); yea, it is the “power of God” himself for its proper end (Romans 1.16); and therefore said to be accompanied by the “demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1Corinthians 2:4), a demonstration, drawing the soul to consent beyond the efficacy of rational or logical arguments.
All knowledge which is unfelt and inoperative puffs up the mind and hardens the heart. We must not perceive only, but we must feel; and feeling, of course we experience. The head may be strengthened till the heart is starved.
A gracious experience arises from operations and influences which are spiritual, from an inward principle which is divine, a communication of God, a participation of the divine nature: Christ living in the heart, the Holy Spirit dwelling there in union with the faculties of the soul as an internal vital principle, exerting his own proper nature in the exercise of those faculties. Now it is no wonder that that which is divine is powerful and effectual, for it has omnipotence on its side.
Four Narrow Gates All Must Pass Through to Get to Heaven:
1. The Narrow Gate of Humiliation:
God saves none but first, he humbles them. Now, it is hard to pass through the gates and flames of hell; for a heart as stiff as a stake to bow; as hard as a stone to bleed for the least prick; not to mourn for one sin, but all sins; and not for a fit, but all a man’s lifetime. O, it is hard for a man to suffer himself to be laden with sin, and pressed to death for sin, so as never to love sin more, but to spit in the face of that which he once loved as dearly as his life. It is easy to drop a tear or two, and be sermon sick; but to have a heart rent for sin and from sin, this is true humiliation; and this is hard.
2. The Narrow Gate of Faith:
(Ephesians 1:19) It is an easy matter to presume, but hard to believe in Christ. It is easy for a man who was never humbled to believe and say, it is but believing; but it is a hard matter for a man humbled, when he sees all his sins in order before him, the devil and conscience roaring upon him, now to call God Father, is a hard work. Judas had rather be hanged than believe. It is hard to see a Christ as a rock to stand upon when we are overwhelmed with sorrow of heart for sin. It is hard to prize Christ above ten thousand worlds of pearl; it is hard to desire Christ, and nothing but Christ; hard to follow Christ all the day long, and never to be quiet till he is got in thine arms, and then with Simeon to say, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace”.
3. The Narrow Gate of Repentance:
It is an easy matter for a man to confess himself to be a sinner, and to cry to God for forgiveness until the next time; but to have a bitter sorrow, and so to turn from all sin, and to return to God, and all the ways of God, which is true repentance indeed, this is hard.
4. The Narrow Gate of Opposition:
Of devils, the world, and a man’s own self, who knock a man down when he begins to look toward Christ and heaven.
So learn, that every easy way to heaven is a false way, although ministers should preach it out of their pulpits, and angels should publish it out of heaven.
From, ‘The Sincere Convert and Sound Believer, by Thomas Sheppard)
Lance was an exuberant participant amidst the days festivities in a Gay Pride Parade in Houston, Texas, raucous revelry, perverse promiscuity, orgiastic opulence, he cavorted in the ethos of liberated excess. A member of an evangelistic team, inviting people to a Bible study conducted for people interested in deliverance from such excesses, found Lance cocky, idealistic, and tragically self-assured. He, Lance that is, wasn’t long out of the closet. The two men were as different as chalk and cheese. The Christian was only recently married. Lance was appalled at his mission and the Christian evangelist no less appalled at Lance’s. They quickly became friends. The tensions of likes and dislikes, similarities and differences, comparisons and contrasts had to be delicately balanced for plain comradeship to become genuine, sincere openness. The relationship grew in fits and starts.
Lance periodically attended Bible study, but always left infuriated. Bringing to bear second-hand arguments from wishful thinking like-minded folk. He railed against the plain teaching of Scripture on sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular. He tried first of all to destroy, by argument, the authority of the Bible. That not working, he tried some twisting of the meaning of the Bible, with some creative interpretation. This all failing he turned then to some onerous periods in Church history, to some of the gross inconsistencies in Church practice. His tortuous contortions became convincing evidence that all too often a man’s theology is shaped by his morality, not the other way round. He simply would not give up a fancy under the shock of fact.
Even so, Lance seriously sought for a substantive justification for his sexual orientation and practice. He had first yielded to his homosexual urges while serving a hitch in the army. In the beginning he thought he had come to the end of a lifelong search for meaning and significance. It turned out to be just another false start. Because of the then strictly enforced ban on homosexual activity in the armed forces, he and his lovers felt more than a little inhibited. So, he opted out of the military at the first opportunity and joined Houston’s ribald homosexual community. But even that failed to satisfy him. His unhappiness continued to gnaw at him, mind, body, and spirit. He yearned for something more than what the gay bars offered. He yearned for something more than what the gay parades offered. Working night and day like a factory, he poured through every scrap of literature he could find on the subject, both what his Christian friend had given him and what he could dredge up on his own.
I had become desperate he later said. I knew that I was so lost I didn’t know which way was up. I was so lonely, and the anonymous sex I had at the bars and bath houses only intensified that loneliness. The only place that I found any kind of authenticity was at the Bible study. But that grated on me terribly. I can remember sitting outside my friend’s apartment in my car debating whether or not I should go in. I felt damned if I did and damned if I didn’t. Now I know that I was simply under conviction, but at the time I just knew I was miserable.
For a few months Lance tried to assuage his anguish by going to the services of a local pro-homosexual congregation. I thought that might relieve the pressure I was feeling, he explained. But it only made things worse. The inconsistency of that kind of pick-and-choose Christianity was obvious to me right away. I determined that I had only two choices: accept Christianity as a whole or reject it as a whole. The option of winnowing out the parts I liked and trashing the rest, cafeteria style, just seemed like the height of hypocrisy.
Indeed, hypocrisy is the tribute error pays to truth, and inconsistency is the tribute iniquity renders to integrity. For several years Lance struggled with the enigmas of grace and truth. He watched as several of his former friends and lovers were alternately rescued by the gospel or consumed by AIDS.
Meanwhile, the downward spiral of his promiscuity accelerated alarmingly. There were times when he would cut off all contact with his Christian friend, for months on end. Then he would show up at his front door for desperation counselling. Finally, late one Friday night, he yielded and trusted Christ for the very first time. There was no instant flash of revelation, he said. No fireworks. No bells and whistles. I had just come to the end of myself.
For the longest time, he had resisted the inexorable tug of grace in his life. But all the while he knew that he did not have an opposing theory so much as a desperate thirst. Ultimately that thirst drove him to drink at the sure and eternal Fountain. Lance has been a different person ever since. I had become convinced that I was born a homosexual. Now I know that I was just born a sinner. I never could find a cure for the former. Thankfully, the cure for the latter found me.
As a result, his life has become and emblem of hope to anyone trapped in the vicious downward spiral of licentiousness. He is happily married and the proud father of four beautiful children. People can change. Sexual orientation is not cruelly predestined by some freak genetic code. There is hope. I’m living proof.
“For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness” (1 Thessalonians 4:7).
From, ‘Legalising Immorality’, by George Grant and Mark A. Horne, 1993 Mariposa Ltd, Moody Press used with permission.
Are we visiting in a home, sitting at the fireside, ministering at a hospital bed? Wherever we are, we are there as Ministers of the Word of God with the aim of bowing under the truth the Word declares. Like a doctor who pays a house-call with his “bag of tricks” in his hand, so we go into people’s houses Bible in hand. This is what we have come to bring; that is what we are for. How well I remember my early days in ministry, before I learned the importance of ‘the Bible in the hand’, desperately trying to ‘bring the conversation round’ to the point where it would be natural to fetch my pocket Bible out of my pocket! Bible in hand, the situation is reversed: those we visit are waiting for the moment when the book will be opened! But the material point is, that is what we are for: to ‘open the Book’. A lady said to me, speaking of the Minister at her church who had just moved on: “I don’t know what we will do without Mr. X. He used to explain the Bible to us.” An epitaph to be coveted!
“A sermon without Christ, it is an awful, a horrible thing. It is an empty well; it is a cloud without rain; it is a tree twice dead, plucked up by the roots. It is a an abominable thing to give men stones for bread and scorpions for eggs, yet they do so who preach not Jesus. A sermon without Christ! As well talk of a loaf of bread without any flour in it. How can it feed the soul? Men die and perish because Christ is not there.”