"In Church" or "In Christ"? (

In Church or In Christ? (Lessons from John Wesley’s Aldersgate experience)
Robert Wurtz II

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. (2 Corinthians 13:5 NKJV)

The renowned Evangelical theologian J.I. Packer, in his book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, reminds us that “Aspiration, resolution, and religiosity are no substitutes for faith. Martin Luther and John Wesley had all these long before they had faith.” This is a sobering consideration, but a true one.  

One of the primary strategies of evangelists in the era leading up to the 20th century was to call into question the hearer’s assurance of salvation. We do not hear preaching like this in the main stream, so it is necessary to experience it for ourselves in order to understand the effect it would have on the hearer. George Whitefield (1714-1770) began his soul-searching sermon with this standard type of enquiry:

And, I think, if I know anything of mine own heart, my heart’s desire, as well as my prayer to God, for you all, is, that I may see you sitting down in the kingdom of our heavenly Father. But then, though we all hope to go to heaven when we die, yet, if we may judge by people’s lives, and our Lord says, “that by their fruits we may know them,” I am afraid it will be found, that thousands, and ten thousands, who hope to go to this blessed place after death, are not now in the way to it while they live. Though we call ourselves Christians, and would consider it as an affront put upon us for anyone to doubt whether we were Christians or not; yet there are a great many, who bear the name of Christ, that yet do not so much as know what real Christianity is. Hence it is, that if you ask a great many, upon what their hopes of heaven are founded, they will tell you that they belong to this, or that, or the other denomination, and part of Christians, into which Christendom is now unhappily divided. If you ask others, upon what foundation they have built their hope of heaven, they will tell you, that they have been baptized, that their fathers and mothers, presented them to the Lord Jesus Christ in their infancy; and though, instead of fighting under Christ’s banner, they have been fighting against Him, almost ever since they were baptized, yet because they have been admitted to church, and their names are in the register book of the parish, therefore they will make us believe, that their names are also written in the book of life. But a great many, who will not build their hopes of salvation upon such a sorry rotten foundation as this, yet if they are, what we generally call, negatively good people; if they live so as their neighbors cannot say that they do anybody harm, they do not doubt but they shall be happy when they die; nay, I have found many such die, as the Scripture speaks, “without any hands in their death.” And if a person is what the world calls an honest moral man, if he does justly, and, what the world calls, love a little mercy, is now and then good-natured, reaches out his hand to the poor, receives the sacrament once or twice a year, and is outwardly sober and honest; the world looks upon such an one as a Christian indeed, and doubtless we are to judge charitably of every such person. There are many likewise, who go on in a round of duties, a model of performances, that think they shall go to heaven; but if you examine them, though they have a Christ in their heads, they have no Christ in their hearts.

This opening statement was designed to call to question whether or not one was truly converted. It asks the question, “On what is your hope built?” This was akin to John the Baptist saying, “God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now the axe is laid to the root of the tree; every tree that does not bring forth good fruit will be hewn down and cast into the fire.” It matters not your affiliation or pedigree, but whether or not you have truly repented and trusted Christ. Have you begun in the Spirit? Does your life yield the fruit of the Holy Spirit? This is the true evidence that one has passed from death unto life.[1]

John Wesley

            George Whitefield had a dear friend named John Wesley (1703-1791). As a child Wesley had been saved from a fiery building and true to form he was indeed a man “plucked from the burning.” He became an Anglican priest in England that had studied at Christ Church, Oxford. There he helped found the “Holy Club” along with his brother Charles and George Whitefield. This was the beginning of the Methodists. He traveled to the Colonies to do a work for God, only to realize on the ship and in a raging storm that he was not truly converted himself. As shocking as that may seem, this man at the age of 35, that was raised to know the Word of God at his mother’s knee, had all his life trusted in his own righteousness for salvation. He wrote in his journal:

All the time I was at Savannah, Georgia I was thus beating the air. Being ignorant of the righteousness of Christ, which by a living faith in him brings salvation “to everyone that believeth,” I sought to establish my own righteousness, and so labored in the fire all my days. I was now, properly under the Law; I knew that the Law of God was spiritual; I consented to it, that it was good. Yea, I delighted in it, after the inner man. Yet was I carnal, sold under sin. Every day was I constrained to cry out, “What I do, I allow not; for what I would, I do not; but what I hate, that I do. To will is indeed present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not. For the good which I would, I do not, but the evil which I would not, that I do.[2]

He admitted that he was neither freed from sin, nor did he have the witness of the Holy Spirit. His own diagnosis was that he had sought these things by the works of the Law and not the hearing of faith. All the while, the ministry went on. He wrote, “And I continued preaching and following after and trusting in that righteousness, whereby no flesh can be justified.” Returning home, he diligently sought the Lord. He renounced his own righteousness. He added:

During this whole struggle between nature and grace, (which had now continued above ten years,) I had many remarkable returns to prayer; especially when I was in trouble. I had many sensible comforts, which are indeed no other than short anticipations of the life of faith. But I was still under the law, not under grace: (the state most who are called Christians are content to live and die in).[3]

Wesley struggled for a while coming to a place of complete trust in the finished work of Christ. Herein is the Reformers position of man’s estate before God validated—in that man is helpless in his own strength to reform himself sufficiently to become a child of God. Repentance? Wesley had much of it. Sorrow for sin? Wesley had it in superabundance. A desire to do what was right in the sight of the Lord? Indeed, Wesley burned with a desire for righteousness but he was going about it his own way. God had to arrest his attention and bring a great light upon the subject. It was on that ship somewhere in the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean that God brought him into reality. As the Roman soldiers and prisoners in Acts 27, Wesley experienced the fear of imminent death by drowning in darkness. The whole experience must have been a foretaste of hell. He didn’t want to die like this—in fear rather than faith. As the Moravians prayed and sang peacefully in the ship Wesley’s nerves were frayed like no other time. All of his life he had done as the shipmaster in Acts 27, doing everything he could to get rid of things that offend. He bolstered his “ship” with all kinds of earthly disciplines, but in the midst of the sea, the chords that held his soul secure were melted before this flame. When it seemed that all of his life was destined for one massive shipwreck, he arrived in the place where God could really save him. John Wesley continues his testimony:

God prepared Peter Border for me as soon as I came to London, affirmed of true faith in Christ, (which is but one,) that it had those two fruits inseparably attending it, “Do minion over sin, and constant peace from a sense of forgiveness.” I was quite amazed and looked upon it as a new Gospel. If this was so, it was clear, I did not have faith. But I was not willing to be convinced of this. Therefore I disputed with all my might and labored to prove that faith might be where these were not; especially where the sense of forgiveness was not: for all the Scriptures relating to this I had been long since taught to construe away and to call all “Presbyterians” who spoke otherwise. Besides, I well saw, no one could (in the nature of things) have such a sense of forgiveness, and not feel it. But I felt it not. If then there was no faith without this, all my pretensions to faith dropped at once.[4](emphasis added)

One morning Wesley woke up and opened his Bible to the passage, There are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, even that you should be partakers of the divine nature(2 Peter 1:4). Returning later he opened to another verse, you are not far from the Kingdom of God. In the evening, he went to hear a message. The experience he describes would mark a radical change in his life:

In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change that God works in the heart through faith in Christ, 1 felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me, that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death. I began to pray with all my might for those who had in a more especial manner despitefully used me and persecuted me. I then testified openly to all there what I now first felt in my heart.[5]

This marked John Wesley’s conversion. It is commonly referred to as his Aldersgate experience. He was 35 years old. It is instructional for those who may have been involved in Christianity all of their lives and yet have not truly been born of the Spirit. Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. (2 Corinthians 13:5 NKJV)

[1]The Apostle John deals with this subject in 1 John 3. Here we have a list of qualities that we may “know” if we are passed from death to life or not. The means by which we pass from death to live are given in John 5:24. The question becomes, have you believed in such a way that you have passed from death unto life? This is not a mental assent to doctrinal points but the placing of ones faith in trust completely in Christ in such a way that He can believe us.  
[2]John Wesley, The Journal of the Rev. John Wesley Volume I, January, 1738, 1827, P. 94-96 See also Romans 7. 
[3]Ibid, Wesley.
[4]Ibid, Wesley.
[5]Ibid, Wesley, P.98

The "Ancient" Inquiry Room (Enquiry Room and Praying Through)

The “Ancient” Inquiry Room
Robert Wurtz II

The inquiry room is an example of a once novel measure that has come and gone from mainstream Christian practice. It began prior to the ministry of Charles Finney (1800s) and continued on until early in Billy Sunday’s ministry (early 1900s). This was a room or church sanctuary set apart for the sole purpose of counseling and praying with anxious sinners in an attempt to help lead them to genuine conversion. “Anxious sinner” is a term that used to describe people who had heard the Gospel and came under great conviction of sin. We don’t use this term any more mainly because we rarely encounter anyone who is anxious for their soul. Nevertheless, we have an account of the use of such a room taken from the May 1834 edition of The Religious Intelligencer:

In all of our protracted meetings we have had the “anxious seat,” and the meeting for inquiry, and have desired those who had submitted to God to manifest it. The same measures have been adapted at this meeting, and only one new measure has been added; viz: giving liberty in the public assembly to ask prayers. And very numerous requests have been preferred, and many gracious answers have been obtained, and the influence of this measure, both upon saint and sinner, has been happy. Our measures have been those, viz: In the forenoon, meetings for prayer in different parts of the congregation, and a meeting for inquirers in the anxious room (inquiry room). At 2 o’ clock P.M. and in the evening—public preaching. At the close of the evening sermon, the impenitent were invited to present themselves on the front seats as subjects for prayer. 

Then they were sometimes addressed in a few words of instruction, and at the close, they were affectionately urged to be present the next day, at the inquiry room. This same course was pursued during the whole meeting. The inquiry room was the place for the most heavy and successful labor, because here the attention could be fixed. We did not invite into this room visitors, lest the attention should be diverted. Here the character and the claims of God were presented, and each one singly conversed with, and urged to an immediate and honest submission to God

After this interview with individuals, the whole were instructed by presenting divine truth under a variety of illustrations. These measures, whether new or old is immaterial, have been signally blessed. They are pre-eminently calculated to lead sinners into the kingdom of Christ; and to fit and to prepare souls for heaven. Any church with a minister who loves and who faithfully preaches divine truth, with a believing reliance upon the Holy Spirit, which will adopt and pursue these or similar measures, may expect certain and blessed success.[1] (emphasis added)

The Inquiry Room Experience

The use of the inquiry room became so popular, that it became necessary to provide those who labored with the anxious sinners a guide on how to conduct themselves. In 1884 George Soltau (1847-1909) of England wrote a handbook on the subject entitled, Enquiry Room: Hints for dealing with the anxious. He moves first giving basic directions.

As a company of workers desiring to engage in the solemn and important work of dealing with the anxious in the enquiry room, we all are agreed at the very outset that the Holy Spirit alone can lead a sinner to the Savior; that each of us must look to Him for the right word, the fitting text, the wise counsel; and that we are to be but the mouthpieces through whom He will speak. Our constant attitude must be one of communion with God; our memories and minds must be well stored with Scripture, that we may be ready for the Master’s use. Before entering into the details of our subject, the following general suggestions will be found worthy of consideration:

1.     Do not be too eager to lead a soul into peace. In Jeremiah 6:14, and 8:11, we find the words, “They have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace; when there is no peace.’” It is not desirable to use the expression, “Have you found peace?” seeing that the anxious soul needs a Person, rather than a blessing.

2.     Avoid the expression, “You have only to believe, to be saved,” until you have very fully stated and explained the facts and promises to be believed; and then point out that it is a person in whom the soul’s trust is to be placed, and not your statements about Him.

3.     Always read your quotations from the Bible, turning to the passage; so that the Enquirer may be able to distinguish between your statements and the Word of God. The latter has an authority that your statements can never possess.

4.     Avoid telling your own experience or that of others; as the Enquirer must lean on the Word of God, and not on any one’s experience of it.

5.     Do not try to apply to the need of the Enquirer any text, the truth of which you have not yourself experienced.

6.     Make it clear that at conversion the Lord Jesus claims possession and control of the entire being. Show that it is not merely the salvation of the soul that is needed, but also deliverance for mind and body from all the power of sin in every direction.

7.     If an enquirer baffles you with difficult questions, hand such an one over at once to a more experienced Christian.

8.     As far as possible converse only with persons of your own age or younger; of your own sex and walk in life.

9.     Do not tell a person he is saved. Let the Holy Spirit be the witness in the heart of the believer, telling him that he is delivered from sin and its penalty.[2]
        George Soltau then gives directions as to the importance of making sure the anxious person recognizes their sinfulness. He continues:
An inexperienced worker, having a few favorite texts, would probably speak to each person in this way, “You must just believe that the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses from all sin. You know He said, ‘Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out.’ Cannot you believe that ‘Now is the accepted time,’ that ‘Now is the day of salvation’? ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.’ Just kneel down, and say from your heart, ‘Take me as I am’” We would not say that none of those thus addressed would get any blessing through such treatment: but what we ought to do is to – First ascertain the cause of this blindness; and lameness; and numbness, etc.; and then by God’s help apply the right remedy.

Our first questions then should be, “What brings you into the Inquiry Room?” “What do you think you need?” The answer may be, “I want to be saved,” or “I want to become a Christian,” or “I don’t feel I am quite right,” or, “I think I ought to turn.” In none of these replies is there any very definite statement concerning sin, or any apparent consciousness of sin. Therefore the first thing to be arrived at is to convict deeply of sin. The Gospel is not designed primarily to make people happy, and give them peace; but to deliver them from sin, its presence, power, and penalty; and to bring them into communion with a Holy God. Sin is not an accident or a misfortune, but a disease. Active in its principle, permeating every fiber and tissue of mind and body; hideous and loathsome as a foul leprosy; abominable and irremediable; not to be dealt with piece-meal, but to be attacked at this root. All the restlessness of soul, the craving for excitement, the love of the world, the dislike of holy things, the reluctance to come forward for Christ, are the effect of sin dwelling in the heart. What, then, is the state of the heart of a sinner?”[3]
    We will not continue to quote from this book as the reader may acquire it free since it is now in the public domain. Nevertheless, I have shown the approach to leading an anxious sinner to Christ in an inquiry room type environment as late as 1884. This method was similar to D.L. Moody, Charles H. Spurgeon, and many others. As we already read in the Religious Intelligencer

The inquiry room was the place for the most heavy and successful labor, because here the attention could be fixed.” Indeed it is “heavy labor” working with God to lead souls to a genuine conversion experience in Christ. There is nothing haphazard or slapdash about it. These counselors pressed the anxious to make a decision for Christ, as had been being done for almost 100 years.
As with Finney, and then with D.L. Moody, we there was an up tick of the notion that a person just needs to make a “decision for Christ” and a down tick of the New Covenant necessity of being born again of the Holy Spirit. These things happened so slowly over the course of time that they would have been almost imperceptible to anyone living in that day. New Measures serve as inflection points, but emphasis on regeneration (new birth) steadily dies out. The emphasis was shifting totally towards man and the minister. Indeed, there is a sense in which God does the work; the Word of God does the work; the minister does the work; and the anxious does the work. When this reality is forgotten the whole process is thwarted, and the result is often a spurious conversion.

[1]N. Whiting, Religious Intelligencer XVIII, 1833, P. 220 emphasis added
[2]George Soltau, The Enquiry Room: Hints For The Anxious, 1884, P. 8-10
[3]Ibid, P. 13

You Shall Be Perfect (Christian Perfection)

You Shall Be Perfect
Robert Wurtz II

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:44–48 NKJV)

Our passage is a powerful revelation that the basis upon which God expresses love for all people is His own nature–not the behavior of the recipient. Verse 44 clearly shows that God loves (expressively) people who curse Him, hate Him, and spitefully use Him. The Greek word translated “spitefully use” can be translated revile, or falsely accuse. These are the type of things that God tolerates and yet continues to express love by providing the necessary elements for human life. On this basic level of expressing love God does not discriminate between people who are friendly with Him and others who hate Him. He provides sun and rain on the just and the unjust. This “perfect love” is an active and verifiable concern for all people everywhere, regardless of their relationship to Him.

Jesus then adds, And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? The word for greet literally signifies “to draw to oneself;” hence, “to greet, salute, welcome,” as the ordinary meaning.(Vines) It could be translated embrace. In street language we would say that God is not snooty. He doesn’t look down a long nose with contempt for people that are beneath Him. He is compassionate and desires to reconcile with all people. 

Born of God

Jesus stated plainly, Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. This is a simple statement of fact. It is not necessarily a command. At the time it was a future reality. When the cross event was complete and the New Covenant instituted, people who believe, repent, and receive the Holy Spirit shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. If a person does not come into this “perfect love” then they are not born of God. This is the plain teaching of John in his first epistle. It sounds scathing to our sensitive ears, but he wrote plainly:

“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 John 4:20 KJV)

On the contrary, if we are born of God we have the nature of God. We will imitate God and demonstrate that we are His children (v. 45) by our actions. We will display a family likeness to God by our behavior. This is more than dead religion, it is a transformation of the person from a child of the Devil to a child of God. In the beginning God said, “let us make man in our image and likeness.” This purpose has not changed; it is God’s design: to bring many sons unto glory and to perfect them in such a way that Jesus would not be ashamed to call them brethren. (Hebrews 2:10-11) Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. “The Greek work teleios (“perfect”) means “having attained the end/purpose.” Since human beings were made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26), they are “perfect” when they demonstrate in their lives those characteristics that reflect the nature of God.” (Robert H. Mounce, NIBC on Matthew 5:44-48) This is not done by trial and error; but by new birth.

Excuses and Imperfection

Our passage is one of a long list that labels standard fallen behaviors for what they are—characteristics of the wrong father. Jesus called the religious leaders “hypocrites” because he wanted them to know what they were. We have to come to reality and face it for what it is. He told the people that they were of their father the devil and the desires of their father they do. (John 8:44) This is the natural progression of life; things behave and exhibit characteristics after their own kind. 

Sometimes people will excuse their rude, unloving, uncompassionate behavior on their ethnicity (I’m Irish, I’m  German, Native American Indian, et al.), but this does not fly with God. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? Jesus used tax-collectors as a reference because they were in reputation for being the lowest of the low—traitors of the Jewish People. They took hard-earned money from the Jews, kept some back, and gave the rest to the Romans. (Luke 3:12-13) Many Jews (especially the Zealots) would rather kill one as look at them. Nevertheless, even a tax-collector knows how to love people they want to love; but what good is that? If that’s all we are doing we can rest assured that from God’s perspective we are no better than the “lowest of the low” in our culture and society. 

The solution is for the “Irish, German, Native American Indian, and every other ethnicity and cultural heritage on earth” to be born from above. In other words, no matter where on earth we are from we are born “of our father the Devil” and doing his hateful and uncompassionate deeds. That will not change in one trillion years until a person is born again of the Holy Spirit. God’s will is that we all may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. This is the prime litmus test. Is a person born again? How do they love? Like a tax-collector or like Jesus? If we are the real deal, Jesus words mark the answer: you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. It will be our nature. 

The Greatest Pink Elephant of All

The Greatest Pink Elephant of All
Robert Wurtz II

Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. For these reasons the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. (Acts 26:19–21 NKJV)

“Elephant in the room” or “Elephant in the living room” is an English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed. The idiomatic expression also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the first recorded use of the phrase, as a simile, as The New York Times on June 20, 1959: “Financing schools has become a problem about equal to having an elephant in the living room. It’s so big you just can’t ignore it.” (wiki) Nevertheless, for over 100 years the reality of Acts 26:19-21 has been largely, if not completely, ignored. When it’s not being ignored the passage is being wrested by those who cannot handle its implications. Why did Paul preach John the Baptist “type” repentance? Stephen gives the answer in Acts 7 when he concluded his sermon with, “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.” (Acts 7:51 NKJV)

When we read Stephen’s word ” resist ” it is natural to conclude that this is a simple non-compliance. However, this is not the case. Stephen employs a rare Greek word (antipiptō) used once in the New Testament. It means to “run against” or “to fall upon.” This is an allusion to Numbers 23 and Isaiah 63 in which God had done everything in His power to bring about His purposes for His people — nevertheless; they  provoked (vexedHis Holy Spirit — who is not easily provoked (1 Cor. 13:5). This phenomenon could also be seen in the fact that the prophets’ words could not be resisted, but the prophets themselves could be, so they “ran upon” them as they soon did with Stephen. 

Repentance is vital to the Gospel because it addresses the issues of resisting the Holy Spirit head-on. There is no way to get by on some lesser thing. The resistance and rebellion against God must be brought to an end and the person come into a right attitude towards their Creator. The old timers used to say that people need to “get right with God.” This language is from Acts 8 when Peter told Simon that his heart was not “right” with the Lord. Nevertheless, multitudes of ministers and Christians search for ways to avoid this. In fact, the subject is rarely even brought up in discussion it is so detested. However, it is folly to invent doctrines and theologies that sidestep this need. The tragedy is that theologians and Bible teachers are often better at teaching people what a verse does not mean than what it truly means. In modern times clever theologians have tried to reduce repentance to a mere change of mind towards sin; but in practice the teaching is a dead forgery. Their is no expectation that the person with actually demonstrate a change of mind. The strategy is to address the passages in question so as to appear theologically correct; however, the verses are made of no effect. This is what happens when men become theologians who themselves are resisting the Holy Spirit.

It is interesting to consider just how long man has been actively resisting God’s authority. Our passage in Genesis 6:3 is a subtle commentary on the days of Noah; this would have been roughly 2800 BC, or nearly 5000 years ago. When we arrive at Acts 7:51 we have the same diagnoses, You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. In the 21st Century we have the same pattern of behavior. God is trying to establish His authority in the hearts of men and women and they do always “strive” or “resist.” I suggest that “always resisting the Holy Spirit” is the single greatest problem in mankind, and summarizes the relationship between God and unbelievers. Unfortunately, it is also the case in the lives of many professed believers.

In Genesis 6:3 we have the word “strive.” The context is found with Noah a preacher of righteousness, bringing forth a message of salvation. This is God striving with people outwardly. In this way, God had used men as His means of striving with man since the prophet Abel in Genesis 4:8 (compare Luke 11:50-51). Just as Cain rose up to snuff-out his witness to the truth of obedience to God, the response of the masses has rarely altered course. Inwardly, the people would feel the sting of their conscience, and the many strong impressions made upon them by the Spirit of God. The scripture is replete with men who quenched, grieved, resisted, vexed, and even blasphemed God’s Holy Spirit (Isaiah 63:101 Thess. 5:19Ephesians 4:30Matthew 12:24-32). This is the message of Stephen to the religious leaders, “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.” (Acts 7:51 NKJV

The very people who prided themselves as instructors of the foolish, and teachers of babes — men who had the form of knowledge and truth in the law (Romans 2:20 NKJV) — did always resist the Holy Spirit. In fact, Stephen added, as your fathers did, so do you. It had been a tradition in families for generations. Stephen went on to ask them which of the prophets did their fathers not persecute? He then went on to show that Jesus Christ, the anti type of all who had gone before Him, was given the most hideous treatment of all. The one who was the greatest representation of God was the one most persecuted by the rebellious. The treatment of a man was proportional to His capacity to represent God in striving with men. In other words, the more godly he or she was, the worse they were treated. This is the record. 

Pink Elephant

I once attended a meeting where several men were speaking on the topic of the end-times. One man took the pulpit and opened his address with this unforgettable question, “How are we going to talk about 666 when we can’t even turn off HBO?” It was his way of saying that we love to speak about all kinds of topics that divert our attention away from unpleasant issues. In the late 19th and early 20th century a methodology for “getting saved” was invented that allowed people to continue to resist the Holy Spirit and anyone who preached a “book of Acts” type Gospel and still call themselves “saved.” This is the pink elephant in modern evangelicalism. A person can be actively resisting the Holy Spirit and be told “you are saved and don’t let the devil lie to you and tell you anything different!” And if they go on and try to receive the Holy Spirit they can say a few unintelligible sentences and be told “You got it! You got the Holy Ghost!” Wow. A thousand times, wow! 

If obstetricians were as reckless with childbirth as many ministers are with new birth we would have an infant mortality rate in the land that is unprecedented in world history. People have to be born of the Spirit and there is a right way to preach in order to see that reality come about. Becoming a Christian means we align ourselves with God and His holy word.The Holy Spirit and the word of God agree. If a person does not agree with God’s word — in reality — they are resisting Him no matter what they profess. Jesus asked the simple question , “and why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do the things I say?” As if He would ask, “why do you make my word of no effect by your traditions? Why do you keep doing things that are contrary to God’s word, just as your fathers did?” Answer, because once someone is bold enough to trample on a precept others are emboldened to follow. Soon everyone is doing it (well, not everyone). This is how we have veered off course so bad in the last 100 years. None now live that even remember how repentance and receiving the Holy Spirit is supposed to be.

Ours is the generation that can change all this. A person may have preached a soft Gospel for 75 years, but if they are sensitive to God they can still change. Others will go to their graves doing the same old thing that is not working. Meanwhile the churches fill up with people who have no real desire to comply with God’s will. it’s as if a whole new religion has been created to serve the people who never stopped resisting the Holy Spirit. Environments use music to forge the presence of God while the people keep on resisting. These and many type elixirs numb the conscience enabling people to read their bible and just skip past the verses they don’t like or agree with. This is the tragedy of our times. Nevertheless, there is hope for anyone who will hear the voice of God and truly repent. They can leave of resisting the Holy Spirit and finally receive the Holy Spirit in the genuine article. They can become the real thing — not a forgery. They can begin in the Spirit and live a life that agrees with God and longs to do His will. 

Started in the Spirit (Begin in the Spirit)

Started in the Spirit
Robert Wurtz II

Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:3 KJV)

In the winter months in the central United States we have our fair share of cold weather. Many places are colder, but we still endure temperatures that can make life challenging. One of those challenges is the simple process of starting an automobile. Generally a car is “started” by rotating the ignition key to the start position and when it starts the key is released and a spring rotates it back to its default position. Other cars have a either a push button or toggle type switch that is pressed until the car starts and then it is released. 

With this in mind I would like to draw a simple analogy from our passage that says, “…having begun in the Spirit.” All analogies break down at some point so we have to be careful how we use them. However, I just want to draw an illustration to help understand “starting.” First, the Galatian letter was written to people who had truly received the Holy Spirit. If you were to ask them, as Paul did the Ephesians, “Did you receive when you believed?” they would have answered “yes.” They would not have given proof-texts or anything like that. They would have answered according to their conscience experience. Secondly, Paul remind them that they have begun in the Spirit. This word suggests the start of their Christian life. This does not mean that they “began” when the Spirit came. They already existed long before that. It means that they started in the Spirit, whereas before they had been in the flesh (carnality and sin). 

By way of analogy, we can see in a sense how this plays out. When I go to start my automobile I switch it to turn the engine over. A small electric motor rotates the engine so it will fire and start running. If the engine does not start right away there is generally a reason why. Some people, especially in the winter months, turn their car over until the battery runs down because it does not start. Nevertheless, if the engine does not start, the button defaults back to the run position. It is dead. Unless your engine has started, the default state is “dead.” However, if the engine does start, then it defaults back to the run position and keeps running. The whole process is determined by whether or not the engine has started. 

Nobody ever yet held down the start button and then attempted to put the car in gear and take off. If they did, they would not get far. And nobody ever yet tried to help the engine out by turning it to the start position after it was already running. Likewise, if a person does not “start” in the Spirit, they will default back to “dead” in trespasses and sins. In the automotive world we call this a “no start.” There is a reason why they did not “start” in the Spirit. The best thing to do is go to God and have Him raise the hood and point out the problem. He will even fix it if we let him. The trouble is that most people refuse to raise the hood so God can get in there and do the work. When He does get in there they refuse to agree with Him concerning the problem. Hence, they keep running the battery down trying to start. Some even go to meeting to get a “jump start” and still can’t get started. Why? There is a problem under the hood and they refuse to have it fixed. In the words of Jesus… For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God. (John 3:20–21 ESV)

God is the ultimate mechanic. He can fix anything if we will allow Him. But we got to let Him under the hood. We have to believe the diagnosis and then approve the repairs. Best of all it’s free. The tow, diagnosis, and repair… no charge. The only thing you will be giving up is the old dead life. 

Evolutionistic Evangelism

Evolutionistic Evangelism
Robert Wurtz II

For they have healed the wound of the daughter of My people slightly, Saying, “Peace, peace!’ When there is no peace. (Jeremiah 8:11)

It is an awful thing to pronounce a matter finished when it has only begun. To claim that a person is “healed,” when, in fact,  they are not, is to end their pursuit of the remedy. This is the  danger in our text. The people were in a state of perpetual backsliding. Their ongoing iniquity was like a festering leprous sore — designed to kill them. In fact, they were so hardened in their sins that they were unable to blush. They were past feeling. All the while, from the prophet to the priest — they were all given to covetousness. All they could think about was more money and more stuff. They lusted after all kinds of things. From these backslidden hearts issued the words, “Peace, peace!” However, it was a cruel pitiless lie. 

False Prognosis

God told them that they had preached, literally, “shalom, shalom.” In Hebrew, words are doubled-up for emphasis. This is “absolute peace.” Keep in mind that the word shalom means more than an absence of conflict, it denotes well being. This answers to the Hebrew word for wound. In other words, they are being told “it is utterly well” with them when in fact, there is no wellness at all. Their words had only “slightly” healed their festering wound. This word slightly in Hebrew denotes a flippancy towards the seriousness of the problem. 

Modern Application

In modern times, we often have a similar situation as played out in Israel. Because so many who preach the Gospel are given to covetousness, they are unwilling to preach a message that will bring true healing to peoples’ sin-problem. Why? Because repentance does not sell. In fact, it will empty the offering basket in many cases. What happens? They heal the wound “slightly” by preaching messages that do little more than serve as a numbing agent to stop the “pain” (conviction). In place of repentance and faith, their message is more along the lines of (you are) “well, well;” “healed, healed;” or “forgiven, forgiven.” Nothing is said about the deadly wound that is ready to destroy the soul. In fact, people are made to feel good about their condition, when God is trying to bring conviction and Godly sorrow. 

An Inadequate Beginning

God’s unaltering plan is to bring many sons (and daughters) unto glory. (Hebrews 2:10) To accomplish this, people have to be born of God. (John 3:3; 1 John 3:9; 1 John 4:7) This is not a “slight” healing: it is a radical change of the inward man. In fact, the change is so thorough and profound that afterwards Christ is not ashamed to call us brethren. (Hebrews 2:11) This is a new creature in Christ. The old passes away and all becomes new. God gives us a new heart and a new spirit with all new desires. Nevertheless, multitudes are cooming to Christ who were never born again. Ministers led them in a prayer or had them sign a church membership card; but they were never genuinely changed.

Most Christians are hostile to the teachings of Darwinian Evolution; however, the doctrine itself is thoroughly embeded in their thinking process. When most Christians think of Christianity, they think of a person starting out with a simple confession of faith and then slowly evolving into a child of God. In other words, with each passing month or year, they become more like Christ and less like the Devil. This is false. 

True Christianity begins with a crisis event in which a person passes from death unto life — from the power of Satan to the power of God. This crisis event is known theologically as regeneration. The person is ” born ” of the Spirit (See the illustration above). Once they are ” born ” again, they can begin growing in grace. This is what Jesus was referring to in John 3:3 when He said,You must be born again.” This is a transformation by the Holy Spirit that renders a person a child of God. They were of their father the devil — performing his lusts; however, now they are born from above and God is working in them both to will and to do His good pleasure. Anything less than this result and we are back in Jeremiah 8:11 having been “healed slightly.”

Another Tragic Mindset

Sometimes false teachings go together like cause and effect. We get one thing wrong and generally some other error is close by. In addition to our subject “Evolutionistic Evangelism,”  we also have to deal with “Industrial Innovations.” That is, we have many innovations that have come into evangelism since the industrial revolution that place the emphasis on speed and quantity, rather than birth and quality. What is the goal of an assembly line? Speed. Obviously, there is a desire to maintain a standard, but everything is systematic. This is light years from, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8 NKJV) For over a hundred years society has been conditioned to want to speed things up. Nevertheless, we can’t speed up New Birth.   

Since so few are willing to preach a message that will bring about New Birth; and even fewer are willing to pray patiently with people to see them pass from death to life; we have a deficiency in new births and an abundance of folks that are trying to “evolve” into being a child of God. It is impossible. 

For they have healed the wound of the daughter of My people slightly, Saying, “Peace, peace!’ When there is no peace. (Jeremiah 8:11)


We Must Begin With Born Again

We Must Begin With Born Again
Robert Wurtz II

This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? (Galatians 3:2–4 NKJV)

The book of Galatians is unique among Paul’s epistles as the only one written in his own handwriting. In his other epistles, he employed an amanuensis to do the writing — book ending the text with a greeting at the front and a closing salutation at the end. For Paul to take up the pen, and write himself, we know this signaled a very serious urgency. Teachers had come into the church preaching a different Gospel. 

Ministers generally preach their own experiences. If they struggle with sin, they preach that Christians struggle with sin. Few have the mind to let God be true in spite of their personal experience. This was likely the case at Galatia. The born again experience was not working in these ministers, so they were teaching and preaching the people back under the Old Covenant system of laws. They did not understand that “one cannot do with institutional law was can only be accomplished by a constitutional change of ones’ nature.” (R. Bailey) 

In our passage above, Paul appeals to the experience of the Galatians. He knew that these saints had been truly born again. They repented, believed and received the Holy Spirit. This is not salvation by logical deductions and proof texts as is often the case today; Paul knew they had truly believed and received. Regardless of what these new teachers were saying, the Galatians had an experience far beyond what they were being taught. 

Did You Receive?

Paul asked the Ephesians if they had received the Holy Spirit when they believed. Paul asked the Galatians if they received the Holy Spirit by the works of the Law or by the hearing if faith. In both cases, receiving the Holy Spirit is in view. Receiving the Holy Spirit is essential to new Covenant Christianity. How the Spirit is received is the question Paul asks the Galatians. This is important because they already received the Holy Spirit in the beginning; now they are being taught that they need to come under the law. Why? So they can continue to be filled with the Spirit? It could never happen. The two approaches to receiving the Spirit are incompatible. One is either in the flesh and under the Law, or they are in the Spirit and not under the Law. (Galatians 5:18) 

Having Begun In the Spirit

Coming under the Law cannot facilitate Spirit filled living. However, this may not have been the teaching at all. They could have been told that receiving the Holy Spirit gets things started, but afterward we come to perfection by keeping the Law of Moses (or some legalistic system). This is completely false. Nevertheless, it is often how Christians live and teach. I suggest it happens most often because the teacher has not received the Spirit in the genuine article and are struggling to live a life as outlined in the New Testament. Many doctrines have been invented to compensate for an inadequate Born Again experience. 

The late Leonard Ravenhill, author of Why Revival Tarries,  stated in his final interview in ca. 1988, “I guarantee that not five percent of people in America and England are genuinely born again of the Spirit. They are born again of a decision. They give up a few lousy habits some of them and some of them don’t. They go right back.” This is a sobering comment. He had lived long enough to see a transition in how people are brought along into Christ. Decisionism, as it is sometimes called, has left us with a multitude of people that have “believed on Christ” and show no fruit afterwards. 

Since roughly the time of D.L. Moody, the emphasis in preaching has been on getting sins forgiven. This has morphed into a humanistic “gospel” that leaves multitudes believing they are saved, but they have not truly repented, believed, or received the Holy Spirit. In other words, they have not been Born Again. Everything is done from proof texts and logical deductions. The dealing of the Holy Spirit is left out. The churches are loaded with these type people. Sins forgiven is essential, obviously; however, this is only a portion of the starting point. 

The End Before the Beginning

I wish to end this entry with a provoking thought that summarizes the whole of our subject: 

The old must end before the new can begin. 

Paul asked the Galatians, Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Because the Galatians had obviously been living many years before beginning in the Spirit, the implication is that the old life had to come to an abrupt end. Paul said it this way, I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I  live. Crucifixion implies death. I died, but nevertheless, I live. This is the effect of repenting, believing, and receiving the Holy Spirit. God baptized us into Jesus Christ so we can share in His death on the cross — bringing an end, to “I” or “me.” We cannot begin a life in the Spirit until our life in the flesh is ended. This is the force of Calvary — it brings an end to a person. 

Many people want to be a Christian, but they don’t want to be crucified (with Christ). They believe they can get on with something less than the death of them. They want reformation or a few changes here and there. They are even willing to go under a system of rules, so long as they don’t have to be crucified (with Christ). This is why Paul spoke to the Galatians of the things they suffered. He was concerned that they were about to undo all that God had done in their lives making the sufferings they went through in the beginning all in vain. 

Some of those people were so radically changed that they were not recognizable to friends and family. For Paul, his transformation resulted in the loss of everything. Some people have lost mothers and fathers, wives or husbands, or even children to the alienation experienced when others will not accept their having been changed. Paul reminded these people at Galatia of their ” beginning ” as if to say, “are these new teachers promoting an experience at that level? Or are they preaching something so inferior that you might as well have lost everything for nothing. Because what you’re doing right now — the substandard pretentious forgery of a Christian life — doesn’t have the power to offend anybody like that.” In other words, if you had begun the way you are trying to continue — you would not have lost any family or friends. 

God wants to bring an end to the old that He can make all things new. We have to be willing. We can’t be joined to the Spirit and the flesh at the same time. We cannot be married to both the Law and Christ. We have to die to the Law and the flesh, so we can be raised in Christ to live in the Spirit. These are light-years beyond the imposition of laws and rules. The Law was tailored for the man of the flesh. Nevertheless, when we truly begin in the Spirit, we walk in a changed constitutional nature that no man in the flesh following a Law could ever rise to. This is the reality of truly having begun the road to perfection in the Spirit. 

Accepting the Diagnosis

Accepting the Diagnosis
Robert Wurtz II

Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. (Ephesians 2:3)

As Germany was near to falling during WWII, POW Lieutenant general Karl-Wilhelm von Schlieben was compelled to watch a video documentary of Nazi war crimes. General Eisenhower was filmed seeing with his own eyes the atrocities at Nazi Germany prison camps after they were captured by the allied forces. Eisenhower ordered German civilians to come and view the shocking evidence for themselves. Among the civilians was a Nazi officer who was a commander of one of the death camps. Having witnessed this officer being forced to look over the ghastly sight of death and distress, Schlieben made this comment, “That’s the only thing about the ‘thousand year Reich’ which will last for a thousand years.” Fellow POW VonFelbert added to the statement, “Yes, we are disgraced for all time.”

This is one of many examples of inhumanity that could be cited in this entry, not the least of which was the mass death of Native Indians in the Americas in the 18th an 19th century. There have many “trails of tears” throughout the ages and all have occurred under the watchful eye of God almighty. Nothing escapes His piercing gaze. Surely He will avenge all of these things in His own time. Nevertheless, multitudes have asked how human beings could be capable of acting in such an inhumane — even diabolical ways. The answer to that question is the subject of this entry. 

Born Into Sin

One of the fundamental elements of the subject of man’s sin and salvation (soteriology) biblically is what came to be known as “Original Sin.” There are various ways this doctrine is described, but typically it is understood to mean that men and women are born into this life as sinners’ with a sinful nature. People are not sinners because they sin — they sin because they are constitutionally sinful as a consequence of Adam’s fall. When we speak of Original Sin we are dealing with what is sometimes known as original guilt and original pollution. As David said, “…in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5) Some more radical ideas suggest that the will of man is in complete bondage to the sinful nature. Simply put this is known as Total Depravity. This essentially means that man in his fallen state cannot rightly obey God. Some suggest that men and women are dead in trespasses and sins in such a way that they cannot respond to God without God’s direct intervention. These subjects have been the cause of much debate in the churches over the centuries. The sad thing is that folks that discuss these topics typically straw-man the other sides views until there is little fruit in the conversation. I hope to help change that in this entry. 

Constitutional Sin

I affirm that though man is born constituted a sinner (because of the choice of Adam), this by no means relieves man of his free choice. (Joshua 24:15) Sin reigns in the heart of a sinner, but not in such a way that he or she cannot do otherwise. In a matter of saying, men are not “sin possessed.” They are bent towards sinning, but not in such a way that Sin is in complete control. Moreover, God is just in condemning man for his sin because man could have chosen not to sin. (Romans 2:1) This is the essential message of Romans chapters 1-3. 

However, we must bear in mind that Romans goes on to tell us that man has been constituted a sinner in Adam. (Romans 5:19 YLT) The KJV uses the phrase “were made sinners.” Notice we were not created sinners, we were “made” sinners as a consequence of Adam’s transgression. Paul goes on to say that by the obedience of one many will be made righteous. That “one” is Jesus Christ, the last Adam. Keep your eye on the word “made.” As an aside, Finney and neo-Finney-ites balk at the notion of imputed righteousness; nevertheless, there is only one other way to see this passage. It has to mean that we are made righteous in Christ, positionally or actually (or both). If we say actually then it proves the need for genuine regeneration. 

God made man good and upright; however, by the one man Adam the Sin (the dynamic) entered the world and the Death (the dynamic) by the Sin. This is not sin the fruit (deeds) this is Sin (the root or the dynamic). It should go without saying that all people everywhere have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is none righteous, no not one. There is none that seeks after God and there is none that does good- no not one, etc. People generally know they are sinners; albeit, the have to be reminded of it. We were all born into this world constituted sinners. Only God can heal this problem. However, getting people to understand and to accept the diagnosis is the hardest thing of all. 

Jesus told Nicodemas that he must be born from above. He mildly chided him for being a teacher in Israel and not knowing this basic fact. Why did he not believe it or teach it? Because the diagnosis is far beyond the realm of most peoples’ ability to accept it. Consider what John says about man’s condition.

He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. 

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 

In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. (1 John 3:8-10)

This is the diagnosis. A person who lives in sin is a child of the Devil. Jesus came to destroy the works of the Devil. This simply means that Jesus came to provide a new birth for those who receive Him. understand that a person cannot become a child of God simply by turning over a new leaf or getting rid of a few lousy habits (as L. Ravenhill would say). A person must be born of God. This is the John 3:3 reality that Nicodemas, the teacher in Israel, had no clue about. It is a supernatural transformation of the person that takes place when they are Baptized into Jesus Christ by the Holy spirit. 

Look around in the world. What is the pattern of most peoples’ lives? Do you see people sinning and hating one another? Or do you see people living righteously and loving one another? Some would dismiss these passages or explain them away and say, “It is their choice,” etc. and this is true. It is their choice, but it is also their nature. It’s what they do in the same sense that producing thorns is what a thorn bush does. Notice John did not call the sinners “disciples of the Devil.” He did not call them “followers of the Devil.” He called them children of the Devil. Why? Because the Devil is their father. A father does not make followers and disciples; a father makes sons and daughters. This is one of the oldest truths in the Bible — living things bring forth fruit after their own kind. Look at the fruit and you will know the parent.  

Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? So can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. (James 3)
The answer to James’ question is a resounding no, it cannot. If you are going to change the fruit of something you have to change its essential nature. Moreover, we have this Old Testament question; Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil. (Jeremiah 13:23) This motif continues to play out when we read in Hebrews:

For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. (Hebrews 6:7-8) 
Notice there is no such thing in this passage as a fruitless or thornless tree — a tree is one or the other. Trees are used figuratively in scripture for men. God is pouring out grace by His Spirit; nevertheless, many people continue to yield thorns and briars. The axe is laid to the root of the trees and those that do not bring forth good fruit are cast into the fire. However, a thorn tree cannot arbitrarily decide one day it will bring forth fruit. People try it all the time. Many try (as it were) to cut the thorns off of their limbs and hang the fruit of the Spirit on like Christmas ornaments. When the trial comes the real nature of the tree comes out again. In other words, give it time and you will know if the person is really changed. A thorn tree will always be a thorn tree until God changes it’s essential nature. This is the finger of God effecting regeneration (palengenesis). What did Jesus say?

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (John 15:4-5) 
If there is no fruit, then the person is not In Christ. It doesn’t matter how many times they said the sinners prayer or signed a card. The test is in the fruit. 

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 7:16-21)

If a person is not bearing fruit — they are not partaking of the Holy Spirit. This is because they are not grafted into the vine. This is what Paul was talking about when he told the Gentiles not to boast against the branches. They had been “grafted in” to the olive tree (Christ). Let’s turn this around. What is a person ‘grafted in to’ that bears thorns, briers, thistles, etc.? Why do they have to be burned? Because they are bringing forth from their essential nature that is drawing from a totally different spirit. Nobody on earth lives without drawing from some well — either of Satan or of God. This is not a casual dropping by to get some advice from the Devil; it is a drawing forth of the very life (death) of Satan himself. Jesus told them, “You are of your father the devil.” The fruit of the life demonstrates the source of their strength. Paul said it plainly in Ephesians:

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 

Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 

Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. 

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 

Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved; (Ephesians 2:1-5)

So we were dead towards God and alive (quickened) towards the Prince of the Power of the Air — walking in the Spirit of Disobedience — and were by nature children of wrath. This is almost parallel to walking in the Holy Spirit (born of the Spirit) except it is the spirit of the Devil himself. As surely as a thorn tree is naturally such, a sinner is a sinner by nature. I know it sounds simple, but this is why John had to keep coming back to the subject over and over again. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. (1 John 3:8-10) 

There is no middle ground where people are just neutral. Some live their whole lives in denial that this is their true condition. This is a horrific truth given the fact that God has the power to regenerate us. No need to fear the Dr. report when yours is the Great Physician. He can heal our sin problem.  


One is either a child of God or a child of the devil. They are either in Adam or in Christ. They are either grafted into Christ bearing the fruit of His vine — or they are grafted into the Prince of the Power of the Air and moving in the spirit of disobedience yielding thorns and briers. If a person wants to switch from being a thorn yielding child of the Devil, they have to agree with God in what He has said about them and their condition. You must be born from Above. (John 3:3) It is a simple statement of fact. We must be transformed into new creatures. We must have God as our Father. 

Healed of Backsliding

Healed of Backsliding
Robert Wurtz II

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Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness, by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:24-25 NKJV)

Peter here takes up a standard passage for the 1st century saints from Isaiah 53, and he expounds upon the great wonder of the finished work of the cross of Christ. He gives the condition of man in the middle of the verse, For you were like sheep going astray…” This agrees with Isaiah 53:6a, All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way…” This was a perpetual problem for the children of Israel. God had established them as a unique people upon the earth in one sense as a microcosm of humanity. So when Isaiah writes, “all we like sheep have gone astray” he is referring to the entire human race. Peter then gives God’s solution, by whose stripes you were healed. This is a very curious thing to say. Could it be that what man needs is to be ‘healed’ from going astray?

I Will Heal Their Backsliding

When we think of healing, it is usually on a physical level. We know this is right because Matthew 8:16-17 quotes Isaiah 53:4 as being fulfilled in our Lord healing the people and casting out their devils. But we have a fuller picture that is often overlooked and it is found in Jeremiah 3:4a Return, you backsliding children, And I will heal your backslidings.” Here the Hebrew verb raf (rDpDa) is translated as ‘heal’. You will know this verb in the noun form as the LORD is known as Jehovah Rafa in Exodus 15:26 (the LORD that healeth thee). We find this same “heal your backsliding” theme in Hosea when God stated, I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.” (Hosea 14:4) The noun meéshuvatah (backsliding) can be translated as “waywardness”, “apostasy” or “faithlessness”. The KJV renders it “backsliding”. This is from the same root as shuvah (“return!”) that is used in Hosea14:1. This repetition of shuv creates a wordplay which emphasizes reciprocity: if Israel will return (shuvah) to the LORD, He will cure her of the tendency to turn away (meéshuvatah) from Him. This is a powerful truth. 

Heal Their “Going Astray”

When we think about repentance and conversion we are thinking about changing our minds so as to turn back to God. This repentance is something that God can effect by His goodness (Romans 2:4) or through a process of Godly sorrow that leads to a repentance not to be repented of. (2 Corinthians 7:10) In other words, a change that does not tend to change back. But again, there is this different level where God has effected a change in a person’s heart to which He can say, “… by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. So we see then that God can do this, but how?  

Dying to sin(s)

Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness. We see here that we, somehow, “have died to sin(s)”. Keep this in mind. This is both death towards the dynamic of sin and its outworking. You will know that the context in which Peter is speaking is dealing with house servants or house slaves. (see 1 Peter 2:18). We were slaves to sin before we were in Christ. We yielded our members to sin as a consequence of the sinful disposition that we inherited from Adam– making us slaves to sin. The question becomes, “How are slaves ultimately free from slavery?” Answer: either emancipation or death. At death all contracts are off. God chose death to destroy him that had the power of death (the devil) and to deliver them that through fear of death were all their lifetime subject unto bondage. But it was not our death He would use, but Christ’s death. In that He (Christ) died, He died unto sin once and in that He lives, He lives unto God. 

Christ Dead to Sin

So if we can only be free from Sin, that is to say “healed of our backsliding” through the stripes of Christ and His subsequent death; how is that possible? Paul expounds on this in Romans 6: Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. (Romans 6:1-7) We that are baptized into Jesus Christ by the Spirit are dead to and freed from the power of sin. This is the great healing that we needed. Like a cancer that was eating away at every attempt to maintain a walk with God, Sin(s) was a disease of our very nature that needed to be healed. It is the ultimate healing

Get into Christ and Stay in Christ

All that Christ accomplished on the cross is available to those that are in Him. He died to sin and we are to be dead to sin. God wants us healed of our backsliding, and to achieve that we have to be baptized into Christ. We get into Christ as Paul reminds us: For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:13) and again… Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? (Romans 6:1) This is a powerful truth. In order to receive the Spirit we have to leave off resisting Him. This is the message of Stephen in Acts 7. When the Holy Spirit truly comes in we are baptized into Jesus Christ and made free from “wandering”. Not as the songwriter said it…

Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it

Prone to leave the God I love 

… but rather, healed of our backsliding. As Peter said it, by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. Amen. 

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