Honesty and Courage Needed

If all preachers had honesty enough and courage enough to preach the truth–then the tide of worldliness that is overwhelming such a multitude of souls and sweeping them into perdition, would be somewhat stayed. As long as preachers allow their sermons to be dictated by public sentiment or the worldly desires of their hearers–they will cater to fashions, and souls by the million will drift on into Hell. Oh, what a reaping such preachers will have at the judgment! The full measure of God’s wrath will fall on those preachers who fail to be true to souls and to God, in preaching those truths the Bible clearly teaches against sin and worldliness.

– Charles Naylor, 1920

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. – 2 Timothy 4:2

For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. – Acts 20:27

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears. – 2 Timothy 4:3 

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Formalism or Heart Religion

“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” – 2 Timothy 3:5 

There are places of worship in our country today where all the outward things of religion are done to perfection. The building is beautiful. The service is beautiful. The singing is beautiful. The forms of devotion are beautiful. There is everything to gratify the senses. Eye, and ear, and natural sentimentality are all pleased. But all this time God is not pleased. One thing is lacking, and the want of that one thing spoils everything. What is that one thing? It is heart! God sees under all this outward show, the form of religion, put in the place of substance, and when He sees that He is displeased. He sees nothing with an eye of favor in the building, the service, the minister, or the people. If He does not see converted, renewed, broken, penitent hearts, then He is not pleased! Bowed heads, bended knees, loud amens, eyes lifted to heaven, all, all are nothing in God’s sight without right hearts.

There are many assemblies of Christian worshippers on earth this very day in which there is literally nothing to attract the natural man. They meet in miserable dirty so-called chapels, or in wretched upper-rooms and cellars. They sing off tune. They have feeble prayers and feeble sermons. And yet the Holy Spirit is often in the midst of them! Sinners are often converted in them, and the Kingdom of God prospers far more than in any Roman Catholic Cathedral, or than in any gorgeous Protestant Churches. How is this? How can it be explained? The cause is simply this, that in these humble assemblies heart-religion is taught and held. Heart-work is aimed at. Heart-work is honored. And the consequence is that God is pleased and grants His blessing.

I leave this part of my subject here. I ask my readers to consider carefully the things that I have been saying. I believe that they will bear examination, and are all true. Resolve this day, whatever Church you belong to, to be a Christian in “heart.” Do not be content with a mere form of godliness, without the power. Settle it down firmly in your mind that formal religion is not saving religion, and that heart-religion is the only religion that leads to heaven.

God’s truth and Scriptural Christianity are never really popular. They never have been. They never will be as long as the world stands. No one can calmly consider what human nature is, as described in the Bible, and reasonably expect anything else. As long as man is what man is, the majority of mankind will always like a religion of form far better than a religion of heart.

Is heart-religion popular in our country today? I answer sorrowfully that I do not believe it is. Look at the followers of it among the congregations. They are always comparatively few in number. They stand alone in their respective congregations. They have put up with many difficult things, harsh words, censure, harsh treatment, laughter, ridicule, slander, and petty persecution. This is not popularity! Look at the teachers of heart-religion in the pulpit. They are loved and liked, no doubt, by the few hearers who agree with them. They are sometimes admired for their talents and eloquence by the many who do not agree with them. They are even called “popular preachers,” because of the crowds who listen to their preaching. But none know so well as the faithful teachers of heart-religion that few really like them. Few really help them. Few sympathize with them. Few stand by them in any time of need. They find, like their Divine Master, that they must work almost alone. I write these things with sorrow, but I believe they are true. Real heart-religion today, no less than in days gone by, does not have “the praise of’ man.”

But after all it is not important what man thinks, and what man praises. He that judges us is the Lord. Man will not judge us at the last day. Man will not sit on the great white throne, examine our religion, and pronounce our eternal sentence. Those only whom God commends will be commended at the judgment seat of Christ. Here lies the value and glory of heart-religion. It may not have the praise of man, but it has “the praise of God.”

God will proclaim His approval of heart-religion before the assembled world at the last day. He will command His angels to gather together His saints, from every part of the globe, into one glorious company. He will raise the dead and change the living, and place them at the right hand of His beloved Son’s throne. Then all that have served Christ with the heart shall hear Him say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness! You acknowledged me before men, and I will also acknowledge you before my Father and His angels. You are those who have stood by me in my trials, and I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me” (Matthew 25:21-34; Luke 22:8, 28-29; Revelation 3:5). These words will be addressed to none but those who have given Christ their hearts! They will not be addressed to the formalist, the hypocrite, the wicked, and the ungodly. They will, indeed, see the fruits of heart-religion, but they will not eat of them. We will never know the full value of heart-religion until the last day. Then, and only then, will we fully understand how much better it is to have the praise of God than the praise of man.

If you take up heart-religion I cannot promise you the praise of man. Pardon, peace, hope, guidance, comfort, consolation, grace according to your need, strength according to your day, joy which the world can neither give nor take away–all this I can boldly promise to the man who comes to Christ, and serves Him with his heart. But I cannot promise him that his religion will be popular with man. I would rather warn him to expect mockery and ridicule, slander and unkindness, opposition and persecution. There is a cross belonging to heart-religion, and we must be content to carry it. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,”–“Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 3:12). But if the world hates you, God will love you. If the world forsakes you, Christ has promised that He will never forsake and never fail. Whatever you may lose by heart-religion, be sure that the praise of God will make up for it.

– J.C. Ryle, 1816-1900, Formalism

 

A Bible and a Hymnbook

“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the LORD Almighty! – Zechariah 4:6

You know, the Church started out with a Bible, then it got a hymnbook, and for years that was it–a Bible and a hymnbook. The average church now certainly wouldn’t be able to operate on just a hymnbook and the Bible. Now we have to have all kinds of religious bunk. A lot of people couldn’t serve God at all without at least a truck load of equipment to keep them happy.

Some of these attractions that we have to win people and keep them coming may be fine, or they may be cheap. They may be elevated, or they may be degrading. They may be artistic, or they may be coarse–it all depends upon who is running the show! But the Holy Spirit is not the center of attraction, and the Lord is not the one who is in charge. We bring in all sorts of anti-Scriptural and unscriptural claptrap to keep the people happy and keep them coming.

As I see it, the great woe is not the presence of these religious toys and trifles–but the fact that they have become a necessity, and the presence of the Eternal Spirit is not in our midst!

– A.W. Tozer, 1897-1963

What the Church needs today!

“They all joined together constantly in prayer” Acts 1:14

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42

The church is looking for better methods–God is looking for holier men.

What the Church needs today is not more or better machinery, not new organizations or more and novel methods–but men mighty in prayer.

The Holy Spirit does not flow through methods–but through men.
He does not come on machinery–but on men.
He does not anoint plans–but men, men of prayer.

Prayer is our most formidable weapon, the thing which makes all else we do efficient.

E.M. Bounds – 1835-1913

Every Christian is a Missionary

Every Christian is commissioned, for every Christian is a missionary. It has been said that the Gospel is not merely something to come to come to church to hear, but something to go from the church to tell — and we are all appointed to tell it. It has also been said, ‘Christianity began as a company of lay witnesses; it has become a professional pulpitism, financed by lay spectators!’ Nowadays we hire a church staff to do ‘full-time Christian work’ and we sit in church on Sunday to watch them do it. Every Christian is meant to be in full-time Christian service…There is indeed a special ministry of pastors, teachers, and evangelists–but for what?…For the perfecting of the saints for their ministry.

– Vance Havner, 1901-1986

Amusements or Worship?

Religion, if you please, is now big business. A countless number of amusements flourish everywhere, paid for by the consecrated tithes of people who ought to know better.

Christianity has seen a steady rise of religious entertainment as a source of mental pleasure. God’s people have turned to the amusements of the world to try to squeeze a bit of juice out of them for the relief of their dry and joyless hearts.

I want to tell you something. If I want to see a show–I know where I can see a good one put on by top flight actors who know what they are doing. If I want a show–I’ll go down to a theater and see a show hot out of Hollywood by men and women who are artists in their field. I will not go to a church and see a lot of ham actors putting on a home talent show. And yet, that’s where we are in evangelical circles. We’ve got more show in evangelical circles than anywhere else. I would not give a plug nickel for the whole business of it!

The church is not a religious theater to provide a place for amateur entertainers to display their talents.

– A.W. Tozer, 1897-1963

God’s professed children are bored with Him

“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Acts 2:42 

Without Biblical authority, or any other right under the sun–carnal religious leaders have introduced a host of attractions that serve no purpose except to provide entertainment for the retarded saints! 

It is now common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God’s professed children are bored with Him–for they must be wooed to meetings with a stick of striped candy, in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments.

This has influenced the whole pattern of church life, and even brought into being a new type of church architecture, designed to house the golden calf. So we have the strange anomaly of orthodoxy in creed–and heterodoxy in practice. The striped-candy technique has been so fully integrated into our present religious thinking, that it is simply taken for granted. Its victims never dream that it is not a part of the teachings of Christ and His apostles!

A church fed on worldly excitement is no New Testament church at all. The desire for surface stimulation is a sure mark of the fallen nature–the very thing Christ died to deliver us from. A curious crowd of baptized worldlings waiting each Sunday for the quasi-religious stimulant to give them a lift–bears no relation whatever to a true assembly of Christian believers. And that its members protest their undying faith in the Bible, does not change anything.

– A.W. Tozer, 1897-1963