Cauterizing the Conscience (Revisited)

Cauterizing the Conscience

Robert Wurtz II

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron. (1 Timothy 4:1, 2)

Our passage deals with events that would take place after the writing of the text, in latter times. The words could be translated “latter seasons.” These times will go on until the coming of Christ at the second advent; times of great deception that are characterized by some departing the faith as a result of demons animating false teachers with both power and doctrine. Paul warns Timothy and then adds, If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. (1 Timothy 4:6 KJV) We need to be aware of the fact that the enemy seeks opportunities to introduce falsehood into the churches of God to get folk to “depart from the faith.” That is his primary objective and standard operating procedure (modus operandi).

Seared Conscience

When the conscience is seared the mind is no longer summonsed to consider the truth of an action or idea. The Greek word is the root for our word cauterize. This makes the person dangerous to the churches because they normalize sin. When a person refuses to agree with God’s word they are searing their conscience. If there is no repentance the conscience will lose its influence upon the behavior. Where once the sinful behavior wore on the mind, now the person can sin without any pain of conscience. This is a dreadful state of being. They go on sinning and rebelling against God and have no sense that they need to confess and repent. They are given over to their sin. 

Synchronized Knowledge

Some refer to an aspect of the conscience as sequent; that is to say, it follows action. God placed in all human beings the ability to measure right from wrong. This allows man to have a faculty of judgment. The effects of conscience are first seen when Adam and Eve had sinned and then clothed themselves with fig leaves and hid themselves from the Face of Jehovah (Genesis 3:8). They knew God’s will and that they had transgressed God’s will. It was before their minds. The pain of conscience followed their action. Knowledge of God’s will informs the conscience to function properly. This is why it is important to rightly divide the word of truth. The conscience is being programmed.

All human beings are born with this moral sense because they are created by God in His image. (Romans 1) The conscience may be buried under years of rebellion and darkness, but everyone started out with a sense of what is “fair.” Unless the conscience is completely seared, people know how others ought to behave and how they ought to behave. This is as simple fact, but it is amazing how easy it is for some people to dismiss the golden rule. They treat others in ways they would not want to be treated. This is evidence of a seared conscience.

Conscience and the Nervous System

Everyone is born with a basic sense of right and wrong. The conscience simply weighs our actions against what we sincerely believe is right. It is like an umpire in our heart making judgment calls. It is unaffiliated with our own desires. Some have said that God placed the conscience in man to give Himself a voice in our heart. 

The faculty of conscience is tied directly to our hard wiring as human beings. As it has been said, “Lie detector tests are based on the science that although we may be very proficient at telling lies, whenever we do so we trigger a kind of spiritual smoke alarm which alters the rhythms of our bodies. This universal sense of right and wrong was sharpened in the Ten Words given to Israel and it had a God-wards factor too in making God the centre of our affections and allegiances.” (R. Bailey) When we go against our conscience it can be detected electrically — if we are attached to the right type of equipment. What then is a seared conscience? When the “smoke alarm” has been transgressed to the point that it no longer functions properly. In a figure the room is full of smoke — but the detector remains silent.

Refusing to Agree

When a person refuses to agree with God they are not allowing Him be true. They are calling Him a liar. (1 John 1:10) They then substitute their own false religious views for His. Paul gives an example of this when he writes of those who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (1 Timothy 4:3) These are man-made laws such as the Gnostic’s would adhere to. They have nothing to do with God, but are an example of how paganism can gain entrance into Christianity under the guise of being “spiritual.” This is an ancient lie. Understand that it is impossible to improve upon the Spirit-filled life. No amount of rules can improve on someone walking in the Spirit and thereby establishing the law. 

As we have seen in the so-called Catholic priesthood, celibacy may give a show of wisdom in will worship, but it actually opens the door to much greater sins and evil. Why? Because God did not place these restraints on man, Satan has done it in order to give himself an occasion to tempt men for their lack of self control. (1 Corinthians 7:5, Colossians 2:20-23) “A concomitant of legalism and mysticism is asceticism. It is the pseudo-spiritual position that revels in rules of physical self-denial. Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch! These prohibitions increase from not handling to not even touching. This same legalism was manifest in Eve’s carnal exaggeration, ‘You must not touch it, or you will die.’” (BK Comm. Genesis 3:3; cf. Genesis 2:16-17) This is not what God said. To say more or to say less than what God said is to lie against the truth; the one path leads to legalism and the other to license.

Modern Application

A few years ago, Dr. Carl F. Henry, founder and editor of Christianity Today, sent out a questionnaire to what he called, “Twenty of the leading intellectual preachers in the country.” And the question that he sent out was this: “What do you see for the church of Jesus Christ by the year 2000.” I remember only one of the replies, it was given by Elton Trueblood, the Quaker philosopher. He said this amazing thing: “By the year 2000 the church will be a conscious minority surrounded by an arrogant, militant paganism.” (Leonard Ravenhill)

One only need look at the plethora of posts on social media lauding the fining and jailing of Christians who refuse to support the gay agenda to see that Elton Trueblood was speaking prophetically. One lady wrote concerning the jailing of the clerk in Kentucky, “now lets go after those cake people!” For her, fining the folks that refused to bake the gay wedding cake was not harsh enough. These militant pagans not only want the right to marry as homosexuals, they want to force that view on everyone else “jailing” the opposition. What is worse is that some Christians have depatred from the faith and joined the ranks of those who agree with practicing homosexuals. Some may have been grievous wolves all along just waiting to come out of the closet themselves. Listening to some of the things I hear Christians saying it’s hard to know who is on what team these days. Do they agree with God or the gay agenda? Do they support God’s people or this present evil world? Do they think they can straddle the fence? 

Deadly Decisionism Comes Home to Roost

The evangelistic methods of the last 100 years are now coming home to roost. In modern times we are suffering terribly from the effects of decisionism. Multitudes have prayed a prayer, raised their hand, signed a card, etc., but have not been regenerated. Their conscience is still seared even though they have made a profession of faith. Had they been regenerated (in the biblical sense) they would feel differently about sin. The unregenerate have a carnal mind that sees God’s word as foolishness. The carnal mind is at enmity with God. It’s a simple question, but “if a person refuses to agree with God’s word, how can the Spirit that inspired the word be living inside of them?” This is common sense. 

If a persons’ attitude towards sin has not changed they cannot possibly be born again. For it is written, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them (…) Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations. (Ezekiel 36:26–27, 31 NKJV) Focus on the words Then you will remember…” The born again experience that comes in the New Covenant radically alters a person’s attitude towards sin. They may have been proud of their sinful life before, but once the new heart and spirit come in they view their sin completely different. 

In these latter times we don’t need another healing revival. We don’t need another smooth-talking inspirational speaker spouting out platitudes and hopes for financial prosperity. We need the Gospel to be preached as it was once delivered to the Saints. We need the Gospel that changed the world in the book of Acts. We need to strip-off the doctrinal grave clothes of generations that are binding the minds of multitudes — preventing them from being born of the Spirit. Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in latter times some shall depart from the faith. What faith? The faith as it has been preached for the last 100 years? No! Multitudes have departed from the faith that was once delivered to the saints. They have forsaken the faith that we are supposed to be contending for (Jude 3). This is the faith that can reverse the effects of a seared conscience. Nothing else will do it. Nevertheless, many will continue giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron. The Spirit has expressly spoken this and it is happening. Our only hope is to make sure we don’t fall prey to it.  

Industrialized Salvation (Understanding Decisionism, Easy-Believism, and Shallow Conversion)

Industrialized Salvation

Robert Wurtz II

And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 
But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.” (Acts 8:18–24 NKJV)

Simon the Sorcerer is a New Testament example of how a person can profess to believe in Jesus Christ; submit to water baptism; demonstrate a desire for the Holy Spirit; and their heart still is not right towards God. 

The Greek word for “right” in this verse is translated “straight” in the John the Baptist narrative where he is said to “make His paths straight.” This is a way of saying, “get peoples’ heart right with God.” Simon had not yet gone through this process. He never repented of his sorcery or the underlying issues that drove him to want to be a sorcerer and manipulate people. 

In fact, Simon was bound up in wickedness and in a state of perishing. “Your money perish with you…” said Peter. Clearly he never repented in such a way that his heart became “right” with God and he exercised saving faith. Yet he is continuing in fellowship with others who had repented and truly believed. This is very sobering. He was going through the motions and had almost everyone fooled. But God is never fooled. Men may have failed to see his true heart condition, but God sees all peoples’ hearts and at all times. 

If man had the power to baptize with the Holy Spirit as easy as man can baptize another man in water — Simon would have went into the church and caused untold destruction. He was baptized in water and had made a profession of some kind, but he still was a wicked man in need of forgiveness and regeneration. This reveals for all times that we must never place too much emphasis on outward things. Man looks on the outward appearance of things, but God looks on the heart. 

Unlike in Peter’s time, in the 21st century a person can actually pass into the churches under the guise of having received the Holy Spirit when in fact they have not. Sound shocking? Consider that in many full-gospel circles a person is considered to have received the Spirit if they can move in the prophetic or perform miracles. In Classical Pentecostal circles “speaking in tongues” has been made the supreme evidence for Spirit baptism. Doctrinally, they will affirm that speaking in tongues is “the initial evidence;” however, over the last 100 years it has become the evidence on a practical level. If a person gives ecstatic speech they are said to have the Holy Ghost. Holy living and the fruit of the Spirit are marginalized if not secondary in many circles. Therefore, we are wide open to “Simon the Sorcerer” types in our day. Jesus said you will know them by their fruits not “spiritual gifts,” talents, education, etc.

Because this is a blog post I kindly refer you to my book Televangelicalism by Robert Wurtz II available on amazon in paperback and Kindle for an in depth look at this topic. However I will share some useful history for your consideration. In evangelical circles in the 1900s Evangelicalism went through a time when salvation basically became industrialized. People were being brought to Christ like cars rolling off an assembly line at the first Ford Motor plant. Moreover, people started being told they were “saved” for the first time. Prior to that nobody dared using that kind of language. It was believed that that salvation and assurance was God’s domain and few if any dared intrude into it. Sadly, telling a person they are saved is as normal today as anything. This was not the case prior to Billy Sunday. 

Prior to Sunday people were said to be Hopefully Converted. This means that their conversion was “hopeful” and suggested that the person go on seeking the Lord. Today, people are told they are “saved” and generally stop seeking the Lord in any real and meaningful way. God’s dealings with the person grind to a screeching halt. Why? They already have their ticket to heaven. Why go on seeking? There are few things more dangerous than telling a person they “are saved.”

Below is an image I captured in 2009 back when Google allowed searchers to analyze the distribution of words over time. The feature placed the relevant distribution data on a nice little chart and sorted it by year. Take a close look at the distribution of the words “hopefully converted.” You will see that in early 1900 that phrase stopped being used in publications almost completely — though there was a high amount of usage since the advent of mass publication in the early 1700s. We need to ask, how and why did this happen?


The Inquiry Room

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. (end of quote)

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 Enquiry 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? (end of quote)

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. According to 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.

Decisionism in Infancy
Beginning with Finney, and later D.L. Moody, we experienced an up-tick of the notion that a person just needs to make a “decision” and a down-tick of the New Covenant necessity of being born again of the Holy Spirit. As I explain in Televangelicalism, in Finney’s case this is due in part to his lack of belief in Original Sin. If a person does not agree with the diagnosis — their remedy is sure to be off. Nevertheless, these changes in approach to salvation and New Birth happened so slowly over the course of time that they would have been almost imperceptible to anyone living in that day. However, they did not go fully unnoticed. Some theologians and preachers denounced the new measures and their effect on Christianity. 

What happens? 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.

Billy Sunday

Fast forward to the ministry of Billy Sunday. Most serious-minded evangelists knew that Billy Sunday’s methods produced spurious conversions. This led to the derisive term “Sunday Convert.” A fellow student at Wheaton College kidded Torrey Johnson, founder of Youth For Christ, “Got religion, have you? I suppose it’s the Billy Sunday type. It’ll last about six months.” What an awful comment, but it was all too true. People would go through Sunday’s scheme and “backslide” in about six months. This is exactly what Finney’s contemporaries feared, and now it came to pass. Although Finney was not the originator of the measures he was rebuked for using, he popularized them and brought them to the mainstream. He made them acceptable. Once something is made acceptable by a famous figure, it is almost impossible to stop it. Finney influenced Moody who influenced Chapman, who mentored Billy Sunday. Each minister compromised the measure more than the person who taught it to them. The compromises added up until Christianity went from a repent, believe and “wait and see” to “walk this trail and you’re saved.” In fairness to Finney, he knew it was impossible to fully know who was saved. Again, upon seeing fruits of repentance, verifiable faith, and seeing a compelling change of lifestyle—Finney would consider the person hopefully converted. Unlike Billy Sunday, he never allowed people to rest in any assurance that man could give.

The End of “Hopeful Conversion” Terminology

God and His Word doesn’t change; only the definition of what it meant to be “saved” slowly changed. By 1918, a newspaper headline reported:

“CONVERTS RUSHED TO GRASP HANDS OF BILLY SUNDAY.” According to the media, “Publicly acknowledging their belief in Jesus Christ as their savior, and expressing their repentance for sin, 425 men, women and children of all ages and types, surged down the sawdust trail to the platform at the tabernacle last night to grasp the hand of Billy Sunday and to be enrolled as professing Christians.

It is almost inconceivable that 100% of the people who went forward were considered “saved” because of this “singular act” and “supposed mindset.” Lost in the frenzy was the Biblical teaching of the sovereignty of God and the born-again experience. The terminology “hopeful conversion” was lost by the end of Billy Sunday’s career. Within a 39-year span, “hopeful conversions” were replaced with “x number of people got saved.”

The Roman Road Back to Rome (How Jack Hyles Changed Evangelism)

The Roman Road Back to Rome
Robert Wurtz II

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. (Exodus 19:5 NKJV)

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:19–20 KJV)

In the middle part of the 20th century discerning preachers and writers sounded an alarm that evangelical Christianity was being assaulted by a combination of humanism and what we now know as decisionism. Humanism is an outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Decisionism in Christianity is the belief that a person is saved by coming forward, raising the hand, saying a prayer, believing a doctrine, making a lordship commitment, or some other external, human act, which is taken as the equivalent to, and proof of, the miracle of inward conversion. (Theopedia) Decisionism is sometimes referred to as Sandemanianism (Robert Sandeman (1718-1781)  Proponents of this doctrine suggest that justifying faith is a simple assent to the divine testimony concerning Jesus Christ, differing in no way in its character from belief in any ordinary testimony.

Paris Reidhead (1919-1992) pointed out that humanism had basically married decisionism to give us modern day Evangelicalism. A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), who some have called a prophet to his generation, made similar observations that people were making decisions for Christ based on logical deductions drawn from proof texts. This observation was made in the 1960s. Fast forward to 2015. We have untold numbers of people who claim the name of Christ and have very little understanding or interest in what Jesus talked about in Matthew 28:19-20 where He commanded us to teach all things whatsoever I have commanded you. Not a few verses from Romans; not enough passages and sad stories to secure a “decision;” but  all things whatsoever I have commanded you.

When God got ready to make a covenant agreement with the children of Israel He had the words of the law read to the Israelites no less than three times to insure they were prepared to agree to what God had said. Think about that. Nobody came into that covenant using the methods of what Bill Bright’s wife called a “crackerjack used car salesman.” That’s who Bright used to help train his soul-winners to give a “pitch.” Evangelists are not sales people. When they function and think like sales people they error. God does not want a quick “sign on the bottom line” before you change your mind. God deals with His people little by little just as plays out in the synoptic Gospels. By the end of three years everyone knew if they wanted to be a member of the kingdom of God or not. Jesus never treated anyone as if He had to hurry up and get them saved lest they drop dead unexpectedly. This false notion is one of the reasons why we have so many shallow decisions. Christians think they can make disciples microwave oven style. It doesn’t work and until we get back doing what Jesus told us to do we are going to have almost exclusively carnal, shallow, goats that believe they are sheep.  

God wants His “prospective people” to know what they are getting into. I say prospective because everyone should take time to know the agreement (covenant) before agreeing to it. God is not interested in people agreeing to a few verses, believing their sins are forgiven, and going about their way. God wants His will to be carried out in the lives of His people as His will is carried out in Heaven. Sadly, a man-centered “gospel” has been being preached for over 100 years. The Gospel is all about the happiness of man. Make man happy while he is alive and keep on making him happy in heaven. As Reidhead has so rightly said, this is an appeal to man’s selfishness and it is sin. 

The greatest of all miracles is the new birth, which comes through a supernatural experience. Yet how can people rightly value something they don’t understand? Moreover, how can people understand what they refuse to study? Thanks to a shift in evangelistic emphasis in the second half of the 1800s, multitudes of people grew more concerned with having their sins forgiven than with a true born-again experience. This trend accelerated in the tent revivals of the early 1900s, largely as a consequence of high-speed evangelistic techniques. This is a million miles from go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. 

The Roman Road That Leads Back to Rome

Take the so-called “Roman Road to Salvation” for example. The unsuspecting Christian will receive this teaching as if it was used by Peter and Paul to wins souls. After taking a college level evangelism class, and completing the Billy Graham evangelistic training, I was completely shocked to begin finding out how unbiblical such an approach is. In fact, with each passing day I see the error and destruction of it more clearly. 

America took shape as a nation in the fires of the First Great Awakening, which swept the colonies in the 1730s and ’40s, thanks to the preaching of men like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, and John Wesley (all theologians). Those helping to shape modern evangelism included Charles Finney (a lawyer), Dwight L. Moody (a shoe salesman), and Billy Sunday (a professional baseball player). Ignorance of the New Covenant especially came into vogue through Sunday, who loved to exclaim, “I don’t know any more about theology than a jack-rabbit does about ping-pong, but I’m on the way to glory.” This attitude came to a head in 1948, when east Texas pastor Jack Hyles devised the “Roman Road to Salvation.” Hyles simplified salvation by reducing the entire book of Romans to five verses, teaching generations to come how to “lead someone to faith in Christ through a simple system of proof texts.” 
It is sobering to say, but if obstetricians were as reckless with childbirth as many ministers have been with the new birth, we would likely see unprecedented infant mortality rates. People must be born of the Spirit; there is a right way to preach in order to see that reality take place. Spiritual stillbirth is the primary reason why many supposed believers in Christ have no appetite for the Word of God. They remain in a carnal, or unregenerate, state. To paraphrase Paul, spiritual things remain foolishness to them (see 1 Cor. 2:14). What is the solution? Two verses come to mind:

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. (Exodus 19:5 NKJV)

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:19–20 KJV)

Jack Hyles, Let’s Go Soul Winning (Mufreesboro, TN: Sword of the Lord Foundation, 1962), 32. In Mr. Hyles’ own words, 
“By the way, you folks who don’t come on Wednesday
night don’t know this, but about twenty-two years ago, in
a little East Texas Church, I came up with a little plan of presenting the plan of salvation called ‘The Roman Road’ whereby you take Verses contained in Romans and show people how to be saved using Romans 3:10, and Romans 3:23, and Romans 5:12, and Romans 5:8, and on and on. I termed it, ‘The Roman Road,’ and from the ‘Roman Road’
I wrote the little book, ‘Let’s Go Soul Winning.’ Over one hundred and thirty-five thousand copies of that book have been printed. It has been translated into several foreign lan- guages: Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese, French, and others, and has literally gone around the world.” From Jack Hyles, 
“There Remaineth Yet Very Much Land to Be Possessed,” (accessed July 18, 2015). 


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. 

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