One Sabbath morning, I preached from the text, `My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ and though I did not say so, yet I preached my own experience. I heard my own chains clank while I tried to preach to my fellow-prisoners in the dark; but I could not tell why I was brought into such an awful horror of darkness, for which I condemned myself. On the following Monday evening, a man came to see me who bore all the marks of despair upon his countenance. His hair seemed to stand up right, and his eyes were ready to start from their sockets. He said to me, after a little parleying, “I never before, in my life, heard any man speak who seemed to know my heart. Mine is a terrible case; but on Sunday morning you painted me to the life, and preached as if you had been inside my soul.” By God’s grace I saved that man from suicide, and led him into gospel light and liberty; but I know I could not have done it if I had not myself been confined in the dungeon in which he lay. I tell you the story, brethren, because you sometimes may not understand your own experience, and the perfect people may condemn you for having it; but what know they of God’s servants? You and I have to suffer much for the sake of the people of our charge….You may be in Egyptian darkness, and you may wonder why such a horror chills your marrow; but you may be altogether in the pursuit of your calling, and be led of the Spirit to a position of sympathy with desponding minds.
In my studies of Scripture and theology, I occasionally run across someone who sees me reading a systematic theology or commentary, who says to me, “I don’t need all those other books, I only need the Bible.” This statement is troublesome because, in one sense, it is arrogant. Does this person really think they have enough brain power and spiritual fortitude to gain as much understanding and wisdom as the whole community of faith combined, without their assistance. I realize they do not mean it this way because they have not thought through the logical implications of their statement so grace needs to be extended, but the statement is dangerous.
There is one sense, however, that the statement is true, and it is this sense that causes them to make the statement in the first place. If we did not have access to any other books and only had the Bible, it would be enough. We could still be saved and experience growth in the Lord, but the Lord never intended us to live our lives shunning the wisdom of other believers. Building each other up is one of the reasons He calls us to be part of a local church.
The Lord has given us many books, which are simply the written thoughts of the community of faith, to help us to grow in the grace and knowledge of His word. Wayne Grudem, in his systematic theology says, “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers (1Cor. 12:28). We should allow those gifts of teaching to help us understand Scripture.” To think that we, somehow, do not need these God ordained teachers, or that none of the books they have written could be any help to us, rejects God’s word which tells us he has given us these teachers.
They also seem to be using a double standard when it come to books. I was once told I should not read commentaries because they were all fallible, and I should only read the Bible. When I asked the if he went to church to listen to sermons, he said, “of course I do.” He began to stumble when I asked him if his pastor was fallible. A good commentary and good pastor often do similar things, they explain and proclaim the meaning of the text. If you are going to reject one, you will have to reject the other. I suggest embracing both as gifts from God.
I do realize that some neglect the scriptures in order to read all these other books and that is equally dangerous, but we should utilize what the Lord has given us through men and women who have been given the gift of teaching. Though, unlike the Bible, they are fallible, just like the the teaching of the man who says we do not need other books, there is truth in there from which we should benefit.
And let us not forget Spurgeon who said: “The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own.”
Post Script: I realize that someone who refuses to read Christian writings other than the Bible will not be reading this blog, which means I am preaching to the choir. However, if you run into one of them, maybe you can pass the message along.
“For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” – Hebrews 10:26-27 (KJV).
This verse has caused many people undue anxiety. J. Vernon McGee says, that this verse should cause the hair on the back of our necks to stand up, but not in the way it does for many who read it out of context. If we were to look at this verse by itself we might assume that if we deliberately sin after we are saved, we are without hope and should simply await judgment, but does the author of Hebrews mean any sin, or does he have a specific sin in mind?
The first thing we need to do with this scripture is to check the context in which we find it. First, according to Henry Virkler in his book on hermeneutics, we need to find out some basic information about the book in which we find the statement. We should start by asking, “to whom is this book written?” When studying scripture, the best place to start looking for answers to questions like these is scripture itself because it is infallible unlike external sources. Without much effort we will find that it is written to people familiar with the Jewish sacrificial system, and who have converted to Christianity or at least have made some commitment to it. This is quickly apparent because according to Albert Barnes, in his Notes on the Bible, the author of Hebrews speaks about Jewish customs without any explanation. It is apparent that the audience was Jewish or at least had practiced the customs and knew what they were and what they represented.
Another question we should ask is, “why is this book being written?” As we study the book we find that it has a general purpose, first, the author describes what Christ has done for them as the only true sacrifice for sin and then warns them against falling away. The concern about falling away was not due to persecution but due to the many who were tempted to go back to the old sacrifices which were only symbols of the true sacrifice which is Christ (Heb. 10:14).
After we have the overall argument of the book, the next question we should ask is, “how do these verses of scripture fit into the overall argument of the book?” As we read the book we see that chapter 10 seems to bring the first and major section of the book to a close. Chapter 10 starts by showing that Christ is and was the only sacrifice by which any person will ever be saved. The author in verses 19-25 lays out the “new and living way”, which indicates that the old method of sacrifices are no longer of any value and to continue in them is sin.
It is in this context that we find our text. When the author says, “if we willingly sin” he is clearly speaking of willfully rejecting the sacrifice of Christ and going back to the old symbols which never actually cleansed anyone from sin. If a believer does this, then there is no sacrifice for their sins and they can only await judgment. In a broader sense, the sin that the author is speaking of is apostasy, which is when a member of the visible church walks away from Christ, and as John indicates “were never really of us.” Therefore as J. Vernon McGee said, it should cause the hair on our neck to stand up, because this is a strong warning to keep us from ever letting anyone lead us away from trusting in the only true sacrifice that can cleanse us from our sins; Jesus Christ.
If the book of Hebrews’ internal evidence is not enough to comfort a trembling soul who thinks they are forever lost because they have willfully sinned, then we must always remember that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” In them we will find no contradictions. If we ever have trouble with a difficult verse that is not immediately clear to us, then we need to go check the scriptures that are clear, for Scripture is it best interpreter. In doing this we will find a verse like 1 John 2:1, which is crystal clear and says, “and if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” In a quick study of the context we see that John is speaking to believers. We also have the story of David being a man after God’s own heart even after committing adultery with Bathsheba and having Uriah killed. There is also the encouragement found in the account of Peter’s three denials and the forgiveness he receives from Christ, or of Paul in Romans 7 struggling with the flesh and committing sins that he hates. All of these are ample evidence that the two verses in Hebrews 10 are not saying that if you willfully commit a sin, you are lost and no longer have hope. It is saying that if you reject the sacrifice of Christ you have no hope.J
The imputed righteousness of Christ will answer all of the fears, doubts, and objections of your soul. How shall I look up to God?–In the righteousness of Christ. How shall I have communion with a holy God?–In the righteousness of Christ? How shall I find acceptance with God?–In the righteousness of Christ. How shall I die?–In the righteousness of Christ. How shall I stand before the judgment seat?–In the righteousness of Christ. The only sure way under all the temptations, fears, conflicts, doubts, and disputes, is by faith to remember Christ and the sufferings of Christ your mediator and surety.
Oh Christ, I am your sin, but you are my righteousness; I am your curse, but you are my blessing; I am your death, but you are my life; I am the wrath of God to you, but you are the love of God to me; I’m your hell, but you are my heaven. His righteousness answers all objections, though there may be a million of them made against a good estate of a believer. This is a precious truth, worth more than a world, that all our sins are pardoned. In Christ, justice and mercy kiss each other, yea justice says, ‘I am pleased.’
We own a Kingdom that will not shake, one eternal in the heavens. We have a certificate of guarantee for all the happiness and blessedness of the world to come. The righteousness of Christ is your life, your joy, your comfort, your crown, your confidence, your heaven, and your all. In righteousness you may safely and comfortably live, and happily and quietly die. Ah, that believers would dwell much upon this truth. The righteousness of Christ cannot be lost; it is from everlasting to everlasting. When once this white raiment is put on a believer, it can never fall off. Interest in his righteousness guarantees all the glory of the Heavenly Kingdom!
“He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”—Mal. 3:3
My soul! your Refiner and Purifier is Jesus. Jesus shapes all your trials; Jesus sends all your afflictions; Jesus mingles all your sorrows; Jesus shapes and balances all the clouds of your pilgrimage; Jesus prepares and heats the furnace that refines you as silver and purifies you as gold. Then, O my soul, tremble not at the knife that wounds you, at the flame that scorches you, at the cloud that shades you, at the billows that surge above you–Jesus is in it all, and you are as safe as though you had reached the blissful climate where the vine needs no pruning, and the ore no purifying, where the sky is never darkened, and upon whose golden sands no storms of adversity ever blow or waves of sorrow ever break.
And, O my soul, what deep need is there for this refining and purifying of your Lord. What inward corruption, what carnality, what worldliness, what self-seeking, what creature idolatry, what God-dishonoring unbelief, imperatively demand the searching, burning, purifying fires of Christ’s furnace! And this is the end of all–to take away your sin, and to make you a partaker of the Divine holiness.
And mark the Refiner’s position. “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” It would be fatal to his purpose did the smelter and refiner leave his post while the liquid mass was fusing and seething in the furnace. But there he patiently sits, watching and tempering the flame, and removing the refuse and the dross as it floats upon the surface of the molten ore. So Christ sits as a Refiner; and with an eye that never slumbers, and with a patience that never wearies, and with a love that never chills, and with a faithfulness that never falters, watches and controls the process that purifies our hearts, burnishes our graces, sanctifies our nature, and impresses more vividly His own image of loveliness upon our soul. If He places you in the fire, He will bring you through the fire, “that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”
Sweet and soothing is the truth that the believer is not alone in the fire. The Refiner is with us as with the three children passing through the burning furnace kindled by the king. The Lord will have us polished stones; and as some believers are more rusty and some more alloyed than others, they need a rougher file and a hotter furnace. This may account for the great severity of trial through which some of the Lord’s precious jewels are called to pass. Not less dear to His heart are they for this; it is said God had one Son without corruption, but no son without correction; for “though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.” Look up, my soul, your Portion is your Refiner. Be still, humble, submissive. The knife is in a Father’s hand, the flame is under a Savior’s control.
Fear is an excellent provision of God to guard us from many dangers when fixed on a proper object and proper degree. When God is the object of our fear, we are able to maintain a holy awe of his majesty, and it awakens a constant desire in us to please him. But when fear ruffles the spirit, throws the soul into unrest, and turns us from a steady course of duty, it becomes a sinful and forbidden passion.
For some, fear is a constant tyrant over them. This ought to stir them up as far as possible to shake off this bondage that robs them of comfort. May the Spirit help the following methods to be happily successful.
1. Keep your faith awake and living.
Remember you are under the special eye and protection of your God and Savior! Brighten your faith and hope daily by a frequent examination of your hearts, and walking before God. Commit your souls into the hands of Jesus and his Spirit for pardoning and renewing grace. A living faith gives divine courage. Faith is a noble shield to ward off fear, and our helmet is the hope of our salvation.
2. Take heed of defiling your souls with sensuality.
Guilt will create fear and fill the soul with perplexing tumult of thoughts.
3. Consider the covenant of grace as a blessed treasury.
Here is an armor of defense found for every assault and danger! Get a large acquaintance with the promises of the gospel, that in every special time of need you may have a suitable word of refuge and support. In special seasons of trial keep your mind fixed upon some single promise that is most suited to the present danger or suffering, and to the present taste and relish of your soul. Fixing and living on a particular word of grace for the whole day will let it abide on your heart and whisper to your soul the divine sweetness in the dark and solitary watches of the night. In a fresh assault, fly to the word you have chosen for your refuge and meditation.
4. Pursue the spirit of prayer, and moral strength and courage will descend upon you!
Address the throne of God with earnestness and faith, and cry to the God of your salvation without ceasing. He gives renewed strength for the battle, courage in the midst of tears, and he can preserve and secure us in the most extreme peril. He may repel the most imminent danger, and rebukes the spirit of fear to gain moral courage. While at the mercy seat, keep an eye on Christ Jesus your mediator, advocate, and the captain of your salvation. He is engaged to see you brought safely home to heaven. Many a feeble Christian, in coming to the mercy seat with overwhelming fears, has risen from his knees with a heavenly calmness and composure! The army of fears has vanished, and he has gone out to face the most formidable of his adversaries with divine resolution and courage.
5. Wean yourself more from the flesh and the delights belonging to the mortal life.
Learn to put off a little of that sinful tenderness for self which we brought into the world with us. One of the first lessons in the school of Christ is self-denial (Matthew 16:24). We must subdue this self-love and softness if we would be good soldiers of Jesus Christ and gain a spirit of sacred courage and resolution. We must be dead to the things of the flesh and sense if we would gain a victory over the complaints and groanings of nature.
6. Endeavor to keep yourselves always employed in some proper work, that your fears may be diverted.
If our thoughts and hands are idle and empty, we lie open to the invasion of our fears from every side. The imagination at leisure can sit and brood over its own terrors. Lack of occupation exposes the mind to frightful images that fancy can furnish.
7. Keep your eye on the hand of God in all the affairs of men.
View his powerful and overruling providence in all things, including your most troubling fears. Learn to see God in all things, and behold him as your God, and the distressing fears within you will have little influence to awaken the passions of your soul. Do thunder and lightning frightening you? In whose hands is the thunder? Who directs its flashes and every sweeping blast of wind or fire to its appointed place? Do political upheavals awaken your fears? Rejoice and stand firm amidst the tumult and the shaking of the nations (Psalm 46).
Perhaps personal dangers threaten your good name, estate, flesh, or your life. The presence of God is a universal spring of comfort and courage, and a wide-spreading shield against every mischief. Does slander, poverty, or sickness frighten you? Remember that diseases are your servants of our Lord Jesus, and he can bid pains and anguish of body go or come as he pleases. None will tarry with you beyond his appointed moment. He is a wise physician and he will deal tenderly with you. Are you afraid of persecuting enemies? These are but instruments to execute his divine purposes and are chained under the sovereign dominion of Christ. They cannot move or act beyond his permission! We are all immortal till our work is done!
8. Recollect your own experiences of the goodness of God in carrying you through former seasons of danger and sorrow.
Remember how high the tempest of your fears has sometimes risen, and how God has sunk them at once into silence. Remember how extreme your danger has been, but the eye of God has found a path of safety for you! He has led you as one blind by the way you didn’t know, and has made darkness light before you, and the crooked straight!
9. Consider the divine command to put aside fear.
Remember that exercising faith and showing courage are duties as well as blessings! “Fear not” is often repeated because God knows very well how prone our feeble natures are to become frightened at every appearance of danger (Matthew 10:28). The Lord of hosts alone is the proper object of our supreme fear. He will overrule and abolish all other fears. The fear of the Lord is an effectual cure for sinful fear. Christ chided his disciples when they were afraid in the storm. For a Christian to give himself up to the wild tyranny of his fears is contrary to the very spirit and design of the gospel (2 Timothy 1:7). Remember that you are the sons and daughters of God. It is below your dignity to yield to this slavery. Your Father himself reproves, and your Redeemer forbids it.
10. Consider the many advantages that arise from a courageous spirit in the midst of dangers.
It establishes your feet on a solid rock in the midst of the storms; it motivates you to practice every duty; it prevents many of the mischiefs you fear; it will preserve the soul and serenity and calmness under painful events of providence; it will make sorrows lighter, and the heaviest afflictions become more tolerable.
If we give in to fear, it throws the whole frame of our nature into tumult and confusion. Fear is a dreadful bondage of the soul, and holds the man in chains. It feels the smart of those very evils that frighten us at a distance that may never come near to us. When afraid, the very sufferings which are prevented by the mercy of God we must endure in our thoughts we must feel the pain of them by indulgence and excessive fear. But always remember, Jesus can support me in the heaviest distressed. He can bear me on the wings of faith and hope, high above the turmoils of life.
“I will give you the treasures of darkness.” Isaiah 45:3
Is not this a strange expression? “Treasures of darkness!” How can there be darkness in the City of Salvation of which the Lord the Lamb is the eternal light? The expression does not mean that the treasures themselves are darkness, but that they were hidden in darkness until they were brought to light. The treasures of Belshazzar, like the Bank bullion, were buried in darkness until they were broken up and given to Cyrus.
It is so in a spiritual sense. Are there not treasures in the Lord Jesus? Oh! what treasures of grace in his glorious Person! What treasures of pardon in his precious blood! What treasures of righteousness in his perfect obedience! What treasures of salvation in all that he is and has as the great High Priest over the house of God! Yet, all these treasures are “treasures of darkness,” so far as they are hidden from our eyes and hearts, until we are brought by his special power into the City of Salvation. Then these treasures are not only brought to light, revealed, and made known, but the soul is at once put into possession of them. They are not only seen, as the Bank of England clerk sees notes and sovereigns, but are by a special deed of gift from the Court of Heaven made over to him who by faith in the Lord Jesus receives him into his heart. No one has the least conception of the treasures of grace that are in the Lord Jesus until he is brought out of darkness into God’s marvelous light, and knows him and the power of his resurrection by the sweet manifestations of his presence and love.
But the word “treasures” signifies not only something laid up and hidden from general view, but, being in the plural number, expresses an infinite, incalculable amount–an amount which can never be expended, but suffices, and suffices, and suffices again for all needs and for all believing comers. When we get a view by faith of the Person and work of the Lord Jesus and see the everflowing and overflowing fullness of his grace, and how it superabounds over all the aboundings of sin, it may well fill our minds with holy wonder and admiration. When we get a glimpse of the virtue and efficacy of his atoning blood, that precious blood which “cleanses from all sin,” and that divine righteousness which is “unto all and upon all those who believe,” what treasures of mercy, pardon, and peace are seen laid up in him! To see this by the eye of faith, and enter into its beauty and blessedness, is indeed to comprehend with all saints the length, and breadth, and depth, and height, and to know something of the love of Christ which passes knowledge. The sun will cease to give his light, and the earth to yield her increase; but these treasures will still be unexhausted, for they are in themselves infinite and inexhaustible.
This Saturday, February 9, I lost a friend to a motorcycle accident. I met Henry just over 16 years ago working in admissions at Trinity Law School. He came to talk to me because he was interested in attending law school. The day I met him he walked in with the same exuberant smile that you see in the picture above, and his countenance never changed in all the years I knew him. Anyone who knew him can attest that Henry was glad to see everyone who crossed his path, and he was an encouragement to me whenever we spent time together.
When it comes to memories of Henry, there are too many to mention so I will only tell you of one here. One of my favorite recollections is when Henry, myself, and our good friend Ryan Theule represented the law school at a three-day music festival in Monterey CA called Spirit West Coast. The best part was that we decided, instead of getting a hotel, to sleep in a tent at a campground for three nights. Henry was exuberant in all aspects of life and this aspect carried over to the noises he made while sleeping. Ryan and I did not get an hour sleep that night because Henry sawed enough logs to devastate an entire forest. As we began stirring in the morning, standing in the cleared land that was now our campground, a couple neighbor campers came by to tell us that they too could not sleep thanks to Henry. Why would I tell you this? Because Henry’s response to all this is a perfect picture of who he was. Henry was slightly embarrassed, apologetic, and yet tickled pink at the entire scenario. His grin went ear to ear each time we brought it up as if he saw it as some kind of accomplishment. His thumbs would go up, his head would begin to nod slightly, and he would let out a slow and satisfied “YYYYEEEAAAAHHHH!”
One of the things Henry and I used to do when he worked with me full-time, is we would go to the used theology bookstore on lunch to find treasures. There are many things I could tell you about Henry, but there is one thing I can not leave out because it was the basis of so many of our conversations, and that was his love for the theological writings of the Puritans. I can still picture the day he returned, arms full, with all eight volumes of John Owen’s commentary on Hebrews. Henry was glowing.
What was it he loved so much about the Puritans? I believe it was their ability to speak to his spiritual condition. Like every Christian, Henry was a sinner saved by grace. The Lord called him out of a background of drugs, and other sinful choices. He knew what he deserved for his iniquities, and he knew, thanks to Jesus, he would not have to face that recompense. This is what bonded Henry and me. We also knew that even though we have been justified by the blood of Jesus, we were still fighting a daily battle with indwelling sin, and this is where the Puritans, the physicians of the soul, had their most profound effect on us.
Often, the Christian life is portrayed as one of constant victory, “if you have enough faith,” but this is not what is presented in scripture. Being a believer in a fallen world is one fraught with difficulties and disappointments, and that is on top of the daily battle with our own sinfulness. The Puritans understood this and this is why I believe they resonated with Henry so much. The joy that flowed from Henry was not contrived, it was real and it was deep, but this did not mean that Henry did not feel the weight of the world on a daily basis. Like the Puritans, he desired to grow into a holiness that he did not yet entirely possess in practice, but he did not place his hope in himself, or his ability to conform himself into the image Christ. He had laid that at the feet of Jesus.
Upon coming to Christ, Henry’s sins were forgiven. Any regrets he may have had from his past were wiped away, and the justice that those sins deserved, Jesus bore on the cross in his place. Henry was counted righteous in Christ because his sins were imputed to Jesus, and Christ’s righteousness was counted as his. This is justification. From there, the Lord begins the sanctification process. This is where we begin to actually become more holy in our daily living. The desire to be conformed to the image of Christ was something Henry pursued; though, like every other Christian, he did not pursue it perfectly. As Henry strove to grow in godliness, he kept his confidence in Jesus who promised to “complete the work he started in him.” (Phillipians. 1:6). It is with this foundation that any other obstacle can be endured, and this is what kept Henry smiling.
Henry has fought the good fight, he has finished his race (2 Tim. 4:7-8). He lived a life of hope and heartbreak, of discouragement and delight. In the midst of all of his successes and failures, the Lord never let go of his child. The last enemy that Henry had to face was death, and death will be the last enemy to be destroyed (1. Cor. 15:26). Jesus was not only delivered over to death for Henry and all who will place their trust in Him, but He rose for our justification (Romans 4:25). Anyone who believes in the name of the Son of God may know that they have eternal life (1 John 5:13), and Henry has taken hold of the eternal life to which he was called (1 Tim. 6:12).
I can remember the day I was married to my wife, Julie. I am the youngest of five and all my siblings had already been wed. As I stood there, I remember thinking, “this is actually happening to me. It is my turn to do what so many have already done.” Beforehand, it always seemed so far in the future, but there I was in the midst of it. The same could be said for so many other events in our lives, and the same could be said about the day we will die. Henry never would have thought that it would come so soon, but it was his time, and it will be our time soon enough. To paraphrase John Donne, there is a sense we need not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. Every death is a reminder that our time is coming.
Are you ready? Have you placed your faith in the atoning work of the only mediator between God and man; Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5)? Are you living for the things that matter? As Henry found himself on his death bed, I am sure he would have told us, that so many of the anxieties he had held while living were driven by the pursuit of things that hold no ultimate value. I can say this because of my many conversations with him, and my own experience chasing the things of the world. Knowing Henry, if he could tell us anything now, he would tell us to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Any pursuit that does not have this as its ultimate aim is chasing the wind.”
I believe with all my heart that right now Henry is in the presence of Jesus. Henry has been conformed to the image of Christ now that he has seen Him face to face, and his hunger and thirst after holiness have been filled. I imagine soon, he will be sitting down with John Owen to discuss and the glory of Jesus. For those who believe, we will see Henry again, and at that moment his thumbs will go up, his head will begin to nod slightly, and he will let out a slow and satisfied “YYYEEEEAAAAAHHH!
“Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.” -Lamentations 3:41
Prayer is the spiritual pulse of the renewed soul; its beat indicates the healthy or unhealthy state of the believer. Just as the physician would decide upon the health of the body from the action of the pulse, so would we decide upon the spiritual health of the soul before God, by the estimation in which prayer is held by the believer. If the soul is in a spiritually healthy, growing state, prayer will be vigorous, lively, spiritual, and constant; if, on the contrary, the heart is wandering, and love waxes cold, and faith is decaying, the spirit and the habit of prayer will immediately betray it.
The spirit of prayer may decline in the believer, and he may not at once be sensible of it. The form and the habit of prayer may for a while continue—but the spirit of prayer has evaporated, and all is coldness and dullness—the very torpor and frigidity of death! But of what real worth is the habit of prayer, apart from the spirit of prayer? Just what this planet would be without the sun, or the body without the living, animating, breathing soul—what but a cold, lifeless form? Yes, and a believer may be beguiled into this lamentable state, and not a suspicion of its existence be awakened; he may observe his accustomed habit, and use his empty form, and not suspect that all is cold and breathless as death itself. Oh, it is not the rigidly-observed form that God looks at; nor is it great volubility, and eloquent fluency, and rich sentiment, and splendid imagery, and rounded periods, that God regards: far from this; a man may not be able to give expression to his deep emotion in prayer, his thoughts may find no vehicle of utterance, language may entirely fail him; and yet the spirit of prayer may glow in his breast—and this—the true language of prayer—finds its way to the ear and to the heart of God. Reader, look well to the state of your soul; examine your prayers; see that you have not substituted the cold form for the glowing spirit—the mere body for the soul. Real prayer is the breathing of God’s own Spirit in the heart: have you this? It is communion and fellowship with God: know you what this is? It is brokenness, contrition, confession, and that often springing from an overwhelming sense of His goodness and His love shed abroad in the heart: is this your experience? Again, we repeat it, look well to your prayers; test them, not by the natural or acquired gift which you may possess—this is nothing with God; but test them by the real communion you have with God—the returns they make to your soul.
There should be the searching out and the removal of that which hinders prayer. Many things weaken true prayer: unsubdued sin—unrepented sin—unpardoned sin (we mean the secret sense of it upon the conscience)—worldly-mindedness—light and trifling conversation, vain disputations—much and frequent communion either with unconverted individuals, or cold and formal professors—all these combined, or any single one, will, if suffered to prevail, unfit the mind for converse with God, and cause a decay of the spirit of prayer in the soul. Regard that as injurious which touches the devotional frame of your mind, which abridges the hour of prayer, and removes the fine edge of its holy enjoyment.
“This is the best clarifying juxtaposition of truth and prosperity preaching I know of. I pray millions of people around the world will watch this for the glory of Christ and his Good News.” -John Piper
American Gospel will stir even the most devout Christian to repent of not resting entirely in Jesus. For even the most sanctified among us, indwelling sin is working to turn our eyes from Christ and toward the lust of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life, and the gospel is the only answer.
American Gospel is masterfully crafted and lays out the gospel with such clarity that everyone should take note. From the interviews to the beautiful artwork and graphics, all of it is calculated to communicate the truth of the word of God. The first part of the documentary focuses on accomplishing this goal, then it moves into exposing the counterfeit gospel of the prosperity movement.
Anyone who has been told that if you are suffering, it is because you do not have enough faith, needs to hear the message of the film. Several stories of people whose lives have been harmed by such a theology appear in the documentary, but not merely to expose the errors and the harm that it caused, but, more importantly, to point people to our true hope in Jesus Christ.
I have spoken against the dangerous heresies of the prosperity preachers for quite some time, so the information presented in the film was not new to me, but what I was not expecting, was how much the Holy Spirit used the film to stir my heart to repentance. Christ is our everything, yet too often, the American Gospel of health, wealth, notoriety, and prosperity seeps into the hearts of us all. American Gospel is indeed a must-see film.