Precious Jesus

"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Ye MUST be born again!

My Dear Friends,

It is a fairly accepted fact that until we find the cause of an ailment it is unlikely that we will ever come near to finding a cure. "Wrong notions about a disease always bring with them wrong notions about a cure," as Bishop Ryle put it. As we examine the ineffectiveness of the Church's work today in the light of the small number of men and women and young people who are added "permanently" to the Church of Christ we must, surely, conclude that somewhere along the line we have lost the "cure" for saving souls and healing the wounds of sin in the lives of the sinners. And yet, would it not be more correct to say that, first and foremost, we appear to have lost the "cause?" In other words, we have failed to appreciate the nature of the one who is going to be saved and so, have ceased to appreciate the nature of the gospel that is going to be necessary to save him. You see, when Charles Darwin began to expound his theory of the evolution of man it was embraced by many within the churches as the answer to the true nature of man. Man was, in fact, evolving and was getting "better" with every passing year. This teaching, sad to say, didn't pass by the evangelical church, or leave its ranks unscarred, but a new interpretation of man's nature entered into the evangelical church and along with it, a new type of gospel remedy to suit that new interpretation. Of Course, the new evangelicalism wouldn't have agreed with the evolutionists that man was "getting better," but, perhaps – the new thought began to run – perhaps man wasn't really as bad by nature as the old hard line Calvinists had made him appear. His Will was "free", after all, and, surely, he could choose salvation of his own free will if only it was set before him with sufficient zeal and enticement. So began the era of "decisionism" Christianity – a gospel to suit the new doctrine of man's sinnership which had become accepted orthodoxy in the evangelical church. Today's situation, we say, less than a hundred years after this Darwinistic fundamentalism, is a sad and sobering indictment, both of our views of salvation, and of our views of sin.
 Now, where have we gone wrong? Well, for one thing, we have ignored the Word of God and what the Holy Spirit of God has to say to us about this sinner on whom salvation must work its perfect work. We have conducted our gospel preaching and teaching as thought the Lord had never painted the nature of the natural man for all to see. Permit one analogy alone, but one of the most vivid that the Apostle Paul by the Holy Spirit ever set before us. "And you hath he quickened," it says in the first verse of Ephesians chapter two, "who were dead in trespasses and sins. Wherein in time past ye walked," It says, "according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air … and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." And those last two statements alone regarding man's nature should be proof enough of the supernatural work that is going to be necessary to save his soul and reconcile him to God. He is, by nature, under the devil's control and under God's wrath. But it is the first statement that conjures up the most vivid picture of all when we enquire regarding the status of men and women outside of grace. "And you hath he quickened (made alive)," says the Lord's Holy Spirit, "who were dead in trespasses and sins…" What a staggering statement that is, my friends, and if you for one moment doubt it, then here is what you must do – you must stand in a pulpit and preach, or speak to an unconverted man or woman about their soul's salvation, and you will immediately find this: you will find that you are preaching or speaking in a "graveyard" – a spiritual graveyard! You are speaking to a corpse – a man, or a woman, or a young person "dead in trespasses and sins." May as well hope to raise the physically dead by the power of human persuasion than raise the spiritually dead to do themselves spiritually good. Now, this is the one basic truth that modern-day evangelicalism has ignored. "Oh yes," many will say, "we believe that men are sinners, but they must take the first step in their salvation and then, Christ will do the rest." But, let us look at that dead man – the physically dead man. Supposing he could take the "first step" out of his grave so that a doctor by the graveside could apply his skills and make him whole again; where would the miracle lie? With the doctor? Or with the corpse? Surely, with the corpse, for it performed the miracle, did it not, of making itself alive again? Ah, my friends, here is the blight on our gospel today, it has enthroned the "corpse", and the Great Physician of men's souls has been relegated to an accessory after the fact of salvation.
Don't you see that old mummified figure of the corpse of human nature? There it sits, exalted on the throne of modern-day gospel preaching where the blessed Prince of Life alone should reign. Herein lies the root of the problem of our day; herein lies the answer to our superficial cures for sinners; we have forgotten what the sinner is and that he "must be born again." Good George Whitefield was once asked why he preached so much on that blessed verse. "Mr. Whitefield," he was asked, "Why do you preach so much on 'Ye must be born again'? "Because," said he, "Ye must be born again." Yet, scarcely is there a more neglected and misunderstood text in the whole of the Bible today. You see, our Lord wasn't telling Nicodemus, in those words, that the way to enter the Kingdom of heaven was by making a decision to be "born again." Of course not! What our Lord was telling Nicodemus about was the necessary process that must take place in a sinner's soul before he can be a fit subject for the everlasting Kingdom of Jehovah. The sinner must receive a "new nature," as it says in another place – he MUST be "born again." He is born with the "old" nature that lies "dead in trespasses and sin," and this old nature, as the Bible says, "cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God," and so, there must be a "new birth" – a "new creation" – a "quickening" from the grave to life eternal in Christ. And this isn't the corpse's work! This is the work of the Sovereign Spirit of the Sovereign God. Can't you hear our Lord rebuking evangelicalism today as He rebuked old Nicodemus in the darkness of that night so long ago? "Art thou a teacher in Israel and knowest not these things?" And then, that irrevocable word of instruction that settles for us once and for all whose is the power in salvation and therefore, whose should be the glory: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again." No man ever became his own father in his natural birth – when he was born "of the flesh." No more will any sinner ever become his own "spiritual" father, for to be "born of the spirit" requires the Spirit's regenerating power and that truth lays the "corpse" where it belongs – in the dust, beneath the Sovereign's feet. How we need to see the King upon His Throne in our preaching and witnessing and thinking again. How we need to see our sin – and the sin of all men as "exceeding sinful," for once we begin to see the depth and depravity of the iniquity of the natural man towards his God, then we will, once more, begin to see the glories of the work of Christ that saves his soul.

 Yours sincerely, W.J. Seaton (Pastors Letter June 1970)

2 comments:

Darrel said...

Another of the 'forgotten doctrines' indeed! Sin has become "no big deal" to the occupant of the pulpit and the trickle down effect lands squarely in the pew. From there it proceeds on to excusing the sins of our "teachers" because for years they "have faithfully served the Lord" (who did they serve?) and claimed salvation is theirs and was gained on their own terms. Those who think that gained "salvation" by making a "decision for Christ" are in for a very rude awakening: Matt. 7:21-23.

May the Lord help us to FAITHFULLY proclaim His Word.

lyn said...

Amen and amen Darrel!