The Peril of Fickle Religion
Luke 11:24-26 When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.
Here our Lord is talking about a well known religious phenomenon, that of a temporary reformation of behaviour, a brief infatuation with Christianity, a change of lifestyle that doesn’t last very long and then the awful consequences when the moral phase comes to an end. Jesus has spoken of this elsewhere, for example in the parable of the sower in Luke chapter eight. He compared some people who became disciples to seeds that had fallen into rocky ground and other people to seeds that had fallen among thorns. Nothing lasting came of all those seeds. Jesus explained these two similar groups of people in this way, that they were, ‘the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature’ (Luke 8:13-14). There were the hundreds who had been baptized by John the Baptist in the river Jordan and you’d think that they’d be zealous to follow Christ when he appeared, and that a great awakening would spread through the land, but many of them were soon crying, ‘Away with him! Crucify him! Release unto us Barabbas!’ Their religion was temporary.
Jesus Christ himself had witnessed a similar experience among his own disciples. There was a time when many who used to sit at his feet gave it up and they didn’t come back. There was an occasion on which Jesus had told them very plainly that men and women couldn’t come to him unless God his Father drew them to him. True conversion didn’t all hang on their free wills. Only the personal and effectual grace of God could draw a person to entrust himself to Christ. You can find an account of this saying, and the hostile response it received, in John chapter 6, ‘”no-one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You don’t want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God”‘ (John 6:65-69).
They had followed him for a while. They had become very religious. Their wives or parents were saying to them, ‘You’re getting too religious,’ and then they stopped. I am saying that our Lord himself had once known eager faces and words of deep appreciation from these very people who later left him. ‘That’s the religion for me . . . that is what people need to hear,’ they’d once said, but when Jesus showed them other truths that they needed to hear they were offended and turned away from him. His congregations shrank, and Christ was hurt and he even turned and asked his core group if they were thinking of leaving him too. You will remember that he suffered one loss in a very personal way when Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve apostles, turned against him and betrayed him. There had been extraordinary early zeal, and reformation, and moral transformation in Judas as much as in any of the others. You’d never guess that this man would go on to sell Jesus to his enemies so cheaply. There had been the preaching and the mighty works which Judas had done, and yet he turned against Christ.
The history of the church subsequently shows this. There was a man called Demas who was a great supporter of Paul, one of his top co-workers, and yet one day Paul learned that he had said good-bye to all of them; he had given up following Christ. There is not a Christian here who does not know of at least one person who professed to be a believer seeming to possess strong faith, who prayed like an angel, but who later fell away. We know of students who were leaders in the Christian Union, who never failed to attend Friday night C.U. meetings or both services on a Sunday who today have abandoned their profession of faith. Some of them we admired very highly, and never suspected for a moment that they would be people who’d have only a temporary profession.
1. SUPERFICIAL RELIGIOUS CHANGE IS POSSIBLE
The Lord Jesus uses this vivid picture of an evil spirit walking out of a man’s life and abandoning him. So this man changes; he stops drinking to excess; he stops swearing; he resists his addiction to nicotine; he is no longer the bully he used to be in his home; he is more patient with his wife; he respects the Sabbath day; he no longer slumps down on the sofa all night, his eyes fixed on the television set; he starts to go to church; he is generous to charities; he is a better neighbour; he seeks to help his aged parents; he’s not down the pub three or four nights a week. That selfish self-centred man has changed. In the language of Jesus here, the evil spirit has gone out of him. The god of this world no longer totally dominates him as once he did. The man is not as blind as he was; he can see that virtue is better than vice and truth is better than error.
That does not mean that he loves Jesus Christ and is happy to be in his presence and determined to follow him for ever. That does not mean that all his hopes of eternal life are grounded on the fact that Jesus Christ lived a blameless life on his behalf, that when our Lord died he made an atonement for his sin as the Lamb of God – but there has been a pervasive moral change in the man. But you know that a Christian isn’t simply a person who turns over a new leaf and cuts many evil things out of his life.
Do not misunderstand me. If you are a new creation in Christ then there are bound to be changes in your life. Old sinful patterns of behaviour are going to be done away with. I insist on that, but this new lifestyle of yours comes from a new relationship with Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, your prophet, priest and king. That is the motivational energy for the resultant change. Think of a mother and her old friend sitting down in the kitchen having a cup of tea one evening when into the room comes her student son. He’s wearing a suit, his shoes are polished, his hair is cut fashionably, and his face is shining. ‘Bye Mum,’ he said, ‘I’ll see you later.’ He was off on a date. Her friend said to her as the boy left the room, ‘He looks smart tonight.’ ‘It makes you sick,’ said his mother, ‘One blue-eyed blonde could do in a month what I’ve failed to do in twenty years.’ She was always urging him to wash and comb his hair and look smart, but he didn’t pay her much attention. However, once he fell in love then from his heart he wanted to change and smarten up to please the girl whose affections he sought.
I am saying that the true change in the Christian is accomplished because in our hearts we want to please the one who loved us and gave his life for us. We say, ‘Love so amazing, so divine demands my soul, my life, my all.’ The old patterns of slovenly and selfish behaviour have ended because the Lord Jesus gave his life for us. The ten commandments had told us how we should behave, but they were weak because of the hardness of our hearts, but when our hearts were changed we freely desired to please the one who saved us on Calvary and keep his commandments. Without the constraining love of Christ in our souls, men’s changes will be superficial and temporary.
2. SUPERFICAL CHANGE COMES FROM THE OUTSIDE: TRUE CHANGE COMES FROM WITHIN
A little girl was looking at a vase of roses. Some of the flowers were open while others were closed, and so she pulled out of the vase a rose bud and she began to open it, pulling away at the green leaves around it and then pulling open its red petals. Of course she made a terrible mess of the bud. It was nothing like a rose, and she was sulking when her mother came into the room. ‘What’s wrong?’ her mother asked. ‘I’ve tried to open this rose but I can’t do it.’ Her mother smiled; ‘it has to be opened from the inside,’ she said. Our lives have to change from the inside.
Forty years ago I heard a visiting Elim minister from Caerffili speaking here in the Elim church. He told us an incident that I have never forgotten, of going to a park in Caerffili one February morning. He noticed a circle of 12 sycamore trees. All were without their leaves except one which was still covered in dead leaves. He asked one of the gardeners what was the explanation of this. ‘It was struck by lightning last summer and it is dead,’ he told him. Live trees shed their foliage in the autumn. A layer of cells called the ‘separation layer,’ develops at the base of the leaf’s stem, and when that layer is complete the leaf falls off. In a dead tree the separation layer is also dead and the tree retains its leaves. Imagine that gardener getting exasperated by the number of inquiries he was getting about the one tree covered in dead leaves, and so the next morning when the gardeners arrived for work he issued them with pruning scissors and aluminium ladders and told them that they were going to de-leaf that one tree that day so that it became indistinguishable from the other eleven. So after a day of toil they’d cut every leaf off the sycamore so that all twelve trees then looked the same. Was it now a living tree? It looked like a living tree, but in fact it was still dead; there was no life within it; it just had the outward appearance of life.
A person who has an inner assurance that Jesus Christ has come into the world and loved him and died in his place will want to please him from his heart in everything he does. There will be things he will give up; places he will no longer visit; practices in which he can no longer play any part with a good conscience. He cuts such things out of his life, but those are not cosmetic outward changes. From within him there is now a desire to please his Lord and Saviour.
However, Christianity is not about cutting bad things out of your life, and it is not about adding religious things to your life. A couple can be going through a rocky time in their marriage and they want to save their marriage and they think that adding church-going might have that effect, and so they go along to church on Sunday mornings to strengthen their marriage union. That does not make them Christians, it simply makes them church-goers. People can add a range of practices to their lives, working in a charity shop, pushing a trolley around a hospital for the WVS, selling flags for the blind on a Saturday in the middle of town, becoming blood donors, supporting a coffee morning for a home for those with learning difficulties, reading for the partially-sighted for the Talking Newspaper. All of those practices and many more are admirable actions, and there is much satisfaction in doing them, but inside you there can be the same distant, unloving relationship with God that you’ve always had. Your hearts must change.
Think of a man looking down his garden and seeing the crab apple tree with its fruit – as small, hard and useless to eat as pebbles. What if he cuts them all off and then buys 144 Cox’s Orange Pippin apples, ties little pieces of string to the stems and attaches them all neatly to the old crab apple tree? Now when he sits in his rocking chair and looks down the garden his eyes fall on a tree covered in delicious, superior eating apples. But what he has done has not changed the tree itself; it is still a crab apple tree. Its appearance has radically altered, but the tree itself is what it always was. The tree itself needs to change, to have a new fruitful branch grafted in.
True religion is not discovered in taking bad things away from your life or adding good practices to your life. That is the very action that this person took of whom Jesus is speaking here. Here is a man who did not prevent the evil spirit leaving his life. The spirit became an evacuee, but the man himself is still the same person that he’s always been – with a bit of cosmetic adjustment. Do you see the error? He is misunderstanding the problem the whole world is facing. The problem lies not in his actions; the problem is in his nature; it is a corrupt nature; it is a depraved nature; it is a proud nature. We are by nature the children of wrath. We do not become the children of wrath because we do bad things. We do bad things because we have a nature that prefers to do bad things rather than good things. We prefer to ignore God than trust and follow God. We have a nature that loves ourselves more than it loves our neighbours.
Why does a child have the marks of chicken pox on its skin? Because it has the disease of chicken pox in its system. The spots are the sign of having the pox. The spots are not the cause of the pox. So we sin because we have a bias to sin. When a child has a high temperature we know that that is a symptom of a sickness, some virus, or bacteria, or it may be because of some infection. That is what needs to be attacked, maybe with a course of antibiotics. I am saying that the main problem with your life is not that there are certain things that you need to cut out. That may be the case, but cigarette smoking is not the main problem, nor is it that evil spirit which needs to be shown the door and waved goodbye. No, the problem is you yourself, your nature, your heart, your inmost being; that needs to be changed. In other words, you are sinning because you are a sinner. You are not a sinner because you sin. My grandchildren are not taught by their mothers and fathers how to sin. They have no need of any such instruction. They do it naturally and expertly. They defy they parents and want their own way from the very earliest age. They sin because they are sinners. You are no different. You are a sinner and your chief need is a new heart, and a new record, and a new Lord, not resolutions to improve.
3. SUPERFICIAL CHANGE IS MADE WITHOUT A STRUGGLE: TRUE CHANGE REQUIRES A SPIRITUAL EFFORT
How can you tell whether the change that has taken place in your own life is from within your heart or whether it is a superficial and cosmetic change? Look at this passage. What is significant in the words of Jesus is how quickly and easily the evil spirit leaves the man. It simply goes away just like the meter reader departs once she’s read your electricity meter. She feeds into her computer your meter reading, she says thank you and off she goes. She doesn’t want to stay a minute longer. The sooner she has visited all the houses in your street and in the adjoining streets, so soon her work will be over and she can go home. She pops in and out without lingering in any home at all. You don’t have to ask your husband to come and escort her out of the premises. ‘See her to the door!’ There is no battle with her at all. She’s very anxious to leave and be about her business. So it is here; the evil spirit quits the house, one moment it’s there and the next moment it’s gone.
There are people who profess they’ve left their old unbelieving ways and are now walking with God just as rapidly as that. They may take a brief course; they may repeat the formula of a prayer; they may walk to the front in an evangelistic meeting; they may raise their hand. Whatever they’ve done they’re immediately given assurance that they’re now bona fide Christians, and if they can be encouraged to speak in tongues they are told that they’ve become ‘Spirit-baptized Christians.’ It is all done in a moment. Of course there will be some obvious initial changes in their lives. Now we’ll meet them at meetings. They enjoy being with other Christians and singing hymns with them. They behave as they see other religious people behaving. They pick up their phrases. Quite easily they have slipped into becoming ‘a Christian.’ The unclean spirit has gone out from them and they’re now different persons. My concern is the absence of any struggle at all. They took one step, and then ‘Jack was free!’ There was no repentance, no godly sorrow for the past. There was no conviction. There was no struggle with remaining sin. No looking to the cross; no finding pardon in the wounds of Jesus; no putting on the gospel armour; no agonizing; no putting to death remaining sin; no hunger and thirst for righteousness. It was all so easy. It cost them nothing, so it will not be costly to give it all up.
I am not saying that all those things have to occur at the very start of everyone’s Christian life. I don’t believe that, but I am saying that it has to be a part of everyone’s Christian life. Consider the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. There was a time, we are told, when he was kicking against the goads of conviction. There was a voice saying to him, ‘You are a sinner, Saul.’ He kicked indignantly against that goad. There was a voice saying to him, ‘Jesus Christ is Jehovah, your Judge, and your Saviour. Ask him for forgiveness and eternal life; obey him,’ and Saul was kicking against that goad. ‘It is hard to kick against the goads,’ the Lord said to him. Shouldn’t it be hard to abandon lordship over your own life and from that time on be living under the lordship of Jesus Christ? When he says go, you go, and when he says stop, you stop. Does that come easily to anyone?
Paul describes the tensions of the Christian life in a vivid and unforgettable way at the end of Romans chapter 7.
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (Rom. 7:15-25).
You understand that I am not saying that every person experiencing true conversion has first of all to pass through a fierce struggle like that. Some children are born into Christian families and from the earliest age they have an affection for the Lord Jesus and an awareness of their sin. They might not know confidently the year that they became Christians but such a battle as Paul speaks of in Romans chapter seven they are going to be fighting all their lives. On their death beds they will still be fighting it. There are others who never knew the Saviour’s name except as a blasphemy and they lived for years in wickedness and ignorance. They too will come to the same Christ but they will come in a different way through conviction, and struggle, and repentance, and cries to God for mercy. I can compare the different ways of coming to Christ to the birth of children. Some natural births are so easy and rapid that the baby is born in the family car as the husband drives his wife to the hospital. Other natural births might take a couple of days in the labour ward, but both are true births and the result is a living child.
My point is this, that every true Christian must inevitably make the discovery of the power of remaining sin in his life, and that he has to do battle with it. The flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit lusts against the flesh. He desires always to do good, but he can’t carry it out. Always he sees another law at work in the members of his body that declares war on his mind. When he would do good, evil is right there with him. He is torn. He often feels a failure. He cries out, ‘What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?’ Then he does not say, ‘Ha! Easy! I’ll just show remaining sin to the door and off he’ll go. It will be as simple as that.’ No. He says in fact, ‘Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord I am rescued. It’s God the Saviour who comes to me every day of my life, and he is my Shepherd and Deliverer.’
Look at our text and see that this is not the picture of the change that the Lord Jesus describes in this parable. This man shared his life with a spirit of evil yesterday, but today he appears to be a saint, and nobody knows how. You talk to him about the work of the Spirit coming and convicting him of sin, and righteousness and judgment and he shakes his head in ignorance. He knows nothing of that. You talk to him of the power of the cross, that the blood of Jesus cleans him up and the righteousness of Christ covers all his filthy rags, but he doesn’t understand you. The unclean spirit has slipped out of the man, and that’s all. He has become ‘religious,’ that’s all.
Why does the evil spirit leave, without a fight? Why does he just move away? He can’t be up to anything good. I think he goes gently because it serves his purpose. He reckons that if he stays longer there will be a fight breaking out, which the man will never forget and that the devil cannot win. He thinks that by giving way for a time he will satisfy the man’s conscience, and the man will be able to sleep better. The evil spirit leaves; he stoops in order to conquer the man. He allows his demonic throne to shake and be empty for a while in order that after a time he can return and permanently set up his reign over that life. He thinks, ‘I will let that man indulge in religion for a time, because he is going to find how heavy is the weight of the cross he has to take up to follow Christ. He will be disappointed in Christians who let him down. He may find that a person whom he longs for as his life partner doesn’t long for him, or perhaps death will come to some people he loves. All those events might make him grow bitter and sceptical. He will find that life is not as full as he thought it would be when he became religious. There’s an emptiness again in his life. Then I’ll return to him. I’ll visit him again. I will introduce resentment into his heart, and coldness. I will tie iron chains of hostility to Christianity around his heart. I will put a hook through his jaw and I’ll drag him off to hell.’
4. SUPERFICIAL CHANGE WILL NOT LAST FOR VERY LONG
We see that in the world. Suddenly a teenager will pick up a hobby – he is gong to collect comics; he will enthuse over it for a time but then as suddenly as he picked it up he’ll drop it, and then there’s something else. Little wonder parents of teenagers who’ve become religious say to one another, ‘Wait and see,’ and they remind one another of those earlier interests the child had which sprang up like mushrooms but didn’t last. Will he be a stony ground hearer? Will he be like Demas and have temporary faith?
After a time the evil spirit who had moved out moved back in. Have you heard the grim phrase, ‘The cancer has returned’? Isn’t it a fearful phrase, because now the illness is more perilous. It returns stronger. So it was here with this evil spirit; it had found no rest anywhere else; that man was still interested in religion, and to the demon that was not good, but now it could see that the man had a new questioning spirit. So after a judicious time the spirit returned. There was no opposition to his entrance; the door wasn’t locked or maybe he’d kept the key. He came in and nobody challenged him. There seemed to be no one about.
J. C. Ryle said, ‘Whatever we are in religion, let us be thorough. Let us not be houses swept and put in order but uninhabited by the Spirit of God.’ How useless to expel the old evil power and not replace it with the reality of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Have you thought of Paul’s praying for the Ephesians and how relevant that is to this situation? He prays that out of God’s ‘glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith’ (Eph. 3:16-17). Not just evil power evacuated from your life but Christ entering in and being welcomed and made to feel at home in every part of your life. How vulnerable you are without him! The devil returns and looks around; ‘Here is my old home. I left it when I went walkabout but I’ve come back and it’s all ready for me.’ The evil spirit returns to that person who’d become religious but was not regenerate; he’d been changed but he’d not been made a new creation. He looks around and what does he see? No one! There is no one who is resisting him. If it had been full of the ‘Joy of heaven to earth come down’ the evil spirit would never have got his toe in the door. If the Lord Jesus were there then the Saviour would have been everywhere, in the living room, in the kitchen, in the bedrooms, in the bathroom, under the stairs, in the yard, in the garage. There wouldn’t have been a Christ-free spot in that man’s life. Jesus comes in as Lord and so he is Lord of all, but he’s not in this house. The evil spirit shouts out, ‘Hello!’ but there’s no answer downstairs or upstairs. The demon cautiously searches the entire house but there is nothing and nobody there. There is no Son of God in that house at all. If there had been then there’d have been conflict, a ferocious struggle for lordship, and Jesus would have driven him out because greater is our Lord than all the powers of hell.
The devil wanders around an empty house. He even goes outside and checks whether there is blood on the doorposts and lintel. ‘No mark of blood. Christ is not here. It is empty I will sit down and make myself at home,’ because if Christ is there he will make his presence felt. ‘Get thee behind me Satan. This is a blood bought child of mine. He is mine for ever. You have no claims over him,’ Christ will declare, but this is a hollow house, an empty house, an echoing house. No divine presence warms this house.
The next thing the spirit notices is that it is ‘swept clean’ (v.25). A preacher commented, ‘Swept . . . but never washed.’ Sweeping takes away the loose dirt; washing removes all the filth. Christ has purged away all the sins of his people, but this man’s house has had a decent brushing. This man is not a drunkard; he’s not immoral; he doesn’t blaspheme; he’s not a thief; he fills in his tax forms honestly. Compared to what he used to be he lives a tidy, cleaned up life. He could stand in the temple and pray aloud saying, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evil doers, adulterers . . . I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get’ (Luke 18:11-12). This was a house swept clean.
It was also a house ‘put in order (v.25). It was not untidy, litter everywhere, every flat surface covered with dirty dishes and last month’s Radio Times and newspapers. It was not like that; it was in order. This house might have had a crucifix on one wall, and a Holman Hunt painting on another. There was a handsome fireplace and a cabinet full of CDs, lots of good music all in order. There was a bookcase and many books of local history all in order. The dishes were washed and drying in a dish rack. The house smelt sweet. The various recycled bags and bins were outside all in order ready to be disposed of on the appropriate day. The house is swept clean and put in order. Walk up, walk in and inspect it; it is all tastefully done, elegant and attractive. It’s had a make-over. There’s no good Jesus present, but there is plenty of good taste.
So what does the evil spirit do? He cases the joint and he likes what he has seen. This is the sort of home for him, and so he calls his friends, seven others just as bad as he is, and tells them what he has found. So they come along and they examine the place and they nod and smile and say, ‘Very nice indeed!’ Can you imagine their shadowy forms coming out of the twilight and pushing the door open and in they enter unchallenged. They have a ball in this man’s life. Like parents who have gone off for 48 hours and the teenagers have a rave in the house and all the people of the town turn up with their drugs and liquor. That man had deteriorated and hardened and become more cynical about Jesus Christ than ever he’d been in his entire life. He’s now tried ‘religion’ and it doesn’t work. His language gets fouler; his scorn about religion gets greater; his indulgence in the world and the flesh is more abandoned. When Satan wants a servant who will do anything and ask no questions, who will swallow camels as well as gnats, he’ll find such a man in the one who once ‘tried religion’ and now will tell anyone that he’s found it wanting. He will find a man who knows the language of religion, and the songs of religion, and the values of religion. He will get a Judas who served Christ and preached for Christ and did mighty works in Christ’s name. He will use such a man to betray him – men and women ‘who’ve once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age’ (Heb. 6:4-5); men and women who are now firmly set against their hollow religion; they are trees twice dead, plucked up by their roots, wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.
Are any such here? Surely there are. Then what does Jesus say of you? ‘The final condition of that man is worse than the first’ (v.26). Seven times worse. How is it worse?
i] Your guilt is greater. ‘Did you meet true Christians?’ God will ask you. Yes. ‘Did you read the Bible? . . . did you hear it preached? . . . were you a part of a worshipping community? . . . did you hear of the love of God in Jesus Christ? Yes to every question. Then you have much more to answer for when you turned away from the Saviour.
ii] Your misery is greater. That naturally follows doesn’t it? The greater the guilt the greater the judgment. Parking for five minutes around 5.45 p.m. on a yellow line is not as serious a crime as driving in a drunken state and killing a mother and her children on a zebra crossing. Both are road crimes, but one is far more serious and the punishment will be far more severe.
iii] Your danger is greater. Seven demons are now living where once there was one. The number seven means you’re in many times more dangerous a state than you’d once been in, and yet this man may still be restored. There was once a man in whom a legion of demons lived and Christ delivered him from them all. How many of us have been restored from times of inner deadness that no one knew about except ourselves? ‘I was lost but Jesus found me, found the sheep that went astray,’ is your testimony. Don’t despair of men and women who once made a profession and then fell away. That is not the unforgivable sin. That one may still by grace come to himself and say, ‘I must arise and go to my Father’s house and say, “Father I have sinned against heaven and in your sight and am not worthy to be called you son. Forgive me. Deliver me. Restore me.”‘ What a welcome he will receive. What delight! What kisses of joy for the lost one now found. Let him cry mightily to God for the gift of repentance, and the gift of saving faith, for the blood of Jesus Christ to wash away his sins. Let him give God no rest until he knows he has a new heart and a new spirit, that the evil spirits have all been expelled from his life.
Thank God for this! Be sure that you are not a stony-ground hearer, that you’ve had temporary faith, reformation of life without regeneration. Sermons of warning like this are so helpful to awaken us when we have started to take our faith for granted. ‘Be certain . . . make sure,’ such sermons are saying, or as Peter says, ‘Be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure’ (2 Pet. 1:11). Come into my heart Lord Jesus. Come in! Give him no rest until you know he is there.
Intellectual Excercises November 19, 2019
The idea that the Christian faith is better felt than thought and believed is a widespread one. Its roots are widespread as well. In Protestantism since the time of Kant it has been axiomatic that God cannot be known, only ‘postulated’ or ‘projected’. This by-now traditional agnosticism has been reinforced by challenges to the meaningfulness […]
A Few Characteristics of the Gospel of Mark November 15, 2019
According to tradition this Gospel was composed to satisfy the urgent request of the people of Rome for a written summary of Peter’s preaching in that city. However, this cannot mean that the information found in this book must be withheld from everybody living outside of the city limits of the capital. As is clear […]