A Modern Reformation (Part 1)
Robert Wurtz II
TEXT. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. (Acts 26:16-18)
Leonard Ravenhill stated in an 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 folks 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 nearly no fruit for the effort. Today the greatest fear seems to be that multiplied millions of people around the world will not have their sins forgiven so the whole Gospel is spun to get man’s sins forgiven. But this was only ever a starting point. None now live that remember what Ravenhill was even talking about. It sounds heretical and false. Why? Because we have been sleep walking for decades going along with concepts that have no parallel in previous centuries.
Genuine salvation is the process by which a person is gloriously transformed from being a child of disobedience to being a child of God. The children of disobedience are born ‘in Adam’; that is to say, they are under a different head than those that are born again ‘in Christ’. As Jesus said, you are of your father the Devil and the lusts (strong desires) of the Devil you WILL do. When we are born we have a different spirit than after we have been born again. As the old timers used to say, with full salvation comes a whole new desire. We could use many words to describe the children of disobedience; unsaved, without Christ, the lost, unbeliever, etc. The lost live according to the ways of this world and according to the Prince of the Power of the Air and the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience. They are by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:1ff). Those who have been born of water only are fleshly (carnal); but those who have been born of the Holy Spirit are spiritual. God’s plan is to take lost man out of old Adam and place him/her into Jesus Christ. This is the work of the Holy Spirit as a person yields to the leadership of Jesus Christ. If we will surrender God will do a work in us to transform us into His children. If we resist and rebel we will remain unchanged no matter how religious we may become. In this lesson I propose,
I. To examine first the three states of unrepentant sinners.
II. To explore the methods of dealing with each ‘state’ of unrepentant sinner.
III. To explore the initial evidence of the born again experience.
I. The three states of unrepentant sinners.
A. The Careless Sinner
B. The Awakened Sinner
C. The Convicted Sinner
A. The “careless sinner” can simply “care-less” about their soul’s salvation and need for God. They are opposed to their own salvation. Some will get hostile or even violent at the proposal of being saved. Upon hearing about God their mind and conscience is stirred which is very troubling. They will most often avoid this state. Sinners are very creative in finding ways to ignore their need for God and press Him as far back in their minds as possible. They do not like to retain God in their knowledge and prefer to sin unabated (unrestrained and unhindered). These people are enemies of both God and themselves. Some people are subtle about it and simply ignore God and believe they are ‘good people.’ Yet others may be in some form of false religion. No matter which category they fall into- they are quite careless about their souls. They are deceived by Satan, taken captive at his will and are fearlessly confident in their sinful condition. They feel no need to consider the vast number of ways in which God is trying to gain their attention at any given moment. They ignore the sight of a church. They skip past Christian TV and radio when skimming channels. They ignore Christian related billboards and bumper-stickers. More than that, they do always resist the Holy Ghost that is using these and many other means to arrest their attention. As Jesus told Saul on the road to Damascus, they do always kick against the goads (pricks). God uses means to alter their direction in live towards Himself- but they resist to their own hurt. They beat the drums as in Tophet to drown the screams; that is, they surround themselves with worldly distractions that bolster their deception and hasten their damnation. God often has to use radical measures to snap a sinner out of a careless state.
B. The “awakened sinner” is someone that has been shocked into at least ‘considering’ their need for God. This happens at times when tragedy strikes such as a loved one passing away or being suddenly killed. It happens when the individual themselves suffer some calamity such as being diagnosed with cancer or falling into financial crisis. It can happen at times of great distress and fear such as the events of 9-11 or the Great Tsunami Disaster. It may also happen at times when sudden danger is upon them such as a Tornado Warning. The job of the minister is to awaken sinners by the truth of the Gospel. The Gospel message pours light into the darkness so that the lost can feel their condition. The Holy Spirit works to convince the person of sin, righteousness and judgment to come. Occasionally God sovereignly shakes a sinner from slumber with prophetic dreams or supernatural dealings (Genesis 41:8, Daniel 4:5, etc.).
C. The “convicted sinner” is a person who after hearing a Gospel message and having been dealt with greatly by the Holy Spirit is convinced of their need for God and the Gospel. They are convinced they are a sinner and need to repent. They are convinced that they need to trust in Christ and turn everything completely over Him. To a lesser or greater degree they understand the Gospel. They are familiar more or less with God and His word- at least enough to be born again. The Holy Spirit has brought them to that place where they are trembling in awe of God and are halting between two opinions (will I serve God or will I serve sin). They are at the crossroads- and must choose whom they will serve. At this time the Holy Spirit is in the role of Jesus Christ. Just as Jesus dealt with the rich young ruler- the Holy Spirit, in the same fashion, is dealing with this person. He is showing them in their ‘minds-eye’ what they must submit to Him in order to be saved and “have treasure in Heaven.” This is a “one-on-one” with the Holy Ghost. This is where the great striving and wrestling happens. The Holy Spirit knows what is standing between Him and them and He is showing it to them. The convicted sinner is made to know exactly what he/she is trading for their immortal soul.
II. The method of dealing with each ‘state’ of unrepentance.
A. Careless sinners require great wisdom to deal with. Proverbs 11:30 teaches us that “He that winneth souls is wise.” Since the careless sinners are opposed to themselves, they are like dealing with someone ‘suicidal.’ Careless sinners are ready at a moment’s notice to turn on themselves and harden even further. Dealing with them requires the wisdom of God. This is why prayer and the leading of the Spirit is important. Sometimes preaching will arrest their attention. Sometimes personal witnessing will do it. Awakening them with the Gospel or waiting for an opportunity to minister to them is a matter of great wisdom and timing. Sometimes as the Lord leads there will seem to be no real opportunity and you must witness knowing there will be great resistance or worse. Awakening sinners is not for the faint of heart and has been the cause of much abuse to ministers from the days of the Apostles.
B. Awakened sinners also require great wisdom in dealing with as not to miss the opportunity to share the Gospel when they are in an awakened state. The enemy is working double-time to stop their conversion when he sees them in this condition. He will distract them and fill their minds with all sorts of rhetoric and lies. He will give them a multitude of excuses as to why they should not listen to God and yield to the Holy Ghost. He will make all Christians into hypocrites in their eyes. The enemy is a master at this. Yet, this is the time to take them through the scriptures leaving nothing out- nor selling the Gospel short of its requirements. A person needs to understand their condition and what salvation is as much as possible. Nothing is more important than this time. Spend the time required to bring them to genuine conversion. This is not a ‘drive-thru’ process; it can take hours, days or even weeks. The tragedy of our day is that we do not take time for reflection in the service and at the altar. This is a very serious and solemn time. Birth is a process. This is the time where they decide their eternal fate. Either heaven or hell will rejoice when it’s all said and done. Don’t yield to the temptation to take shortcuts for any reason. The enemy will fill your mind with thoughts such as “hurry-up” or “this is taking too long.” He will keep you looking at the time. Stay until you know for certain that their blood has been washed from your hands.
C. Convicted sinners are convinced of their sin and know they need to repent. This is a most serious time. The enemy will not give up. He will try to get them to make a compromise with God- short of full surrender. They understand what is required of them. The Holy Spirit is showing them what ‘thing they lackest’ and they are striving with Him. God is trying to establish His Lordship over their life. The old timers would advise, do not give them a place of refuge if they start rationalizing and minimizing their sins. Flush them out until you know why it is that they will not submit to God. Give them time and they will tell you what it is. Maybe it’s a pet sin or bitterness. Maybe they don’t want to reconcile old enmities or make restitution to those they harmed. Maybe they just love their life and don’t want to change. It could be a number of things that we have no idea about. If the Holy Ghost is telling them to do something or to lay something down, don’t dare tell them differently. He knows what is holding them back and so do they; that is to say, He points out what god they want to serve other than Him.
What if they go away sorrowful as did the rich young ruler? Do what Christ did and let them go. Don’t fight against the Holy Ghost by comforting them. Let them feel the full weight of what they are doing; it is their only hope. Let them dwell on it. Do not give them a false assurance. The devil will use your comforting words to fortify them in their sin and eventually damn their soul. Salvation is not a process at this stage. They have been through the process and they know what they must do! They are in rebellion. Be ye not partakers of that rebellion no matter how much the Devil tempts you to do it. God once overlooked ignorance, but now He commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day that He will judge the world in righteousness. Jesus died for them. What more can He do? Reconciliation requires repentance. We can receive and resist at the same time. We must throw down our weapons of resistance and surrender fully to Christ.