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

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Do you know God?

Many claim to know God (or a "god") but do they really know Him---the Creator of heaven and earth? The Scriptures are plain in their teaching, yet too many have taken it upon themselves to alter their meaning, change the text to suit their fantasy god, or simply ignore the Scriptures all together. Most people say that all religions ultimately worship the same god whether Hindu, Muslim, Roman Catholic, or whatever flavor of man-made nonsense is presented as authentic "worship of God". Yet the Scriptures as found in the sixty six books of the Bible tell an entirely different story.

Today we find a new excuse for our sins: "we were born that way." But what does the Bible say that every person was born with, a proclivity and love for sin predisposing them to a life of uncontrollable rebellion (old sin nature), and a certain albeit limited knowledge of God? Rom. 1:19 & 20 gives the clear, unambiguous answer: a knowledge of God where we see His "invisible attributes" by the Creation. Going further we find this knowledge is expanded to include "even His eternal power and Godhead" or His being the only all powerful God (and as such, precludes even the existence of "other gods") who is totally sovereign and just and holy in all His actions toward the object of His will. But man, in his assumed wisdom, has decided to suppress this truth---that God is the Creator, the All-Powerful, the only and Sovereign God of all that is---Rom. 1:17. "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools" (Rom. 1:22) and will suffer the consequences of their rebellion as God righteously 'gives them over' to the lust of their heart. So there are no "atheists", only those who through arrogant pride and a stubborn, deceitful heart claim to be one so as impress their fellow rebels.

Is this knowledge of God that all are born with sufficient for a man to attain eternal life? NO! If it were then all men would be "saved" simply by being born of a woman. The Scriptures say "You must be born again" John 3:3-8. This fact---the necessity of the second birth---is not found in any of the man-made religions and has been mutilated to the point of being unrecognizable in so-called "evangelical churches" the world over.

"I am the way, the truth, the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." John 14:6. Yet EVERY man-made religion and most of the "evangelical" crowd of today go out of their way to circumvent these words of the Lord Jesus and offer "another way" (read "another gospel" as seen in Gal 1:6-9). The "evangelical other way" includes a simple mental ascent to the historical Jesus, a cursory (and meaningless) statement to the fact of their former sins, and an "acceptance of Jesus into their heart", none of which is mandated in the Scriptures (Mark 1:15 is clear). All of these little exercises are actually an insult to the Spirit of God, for it is His task to "convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" John 16:8 and He does not fail---ever! So did the 'repentance' you think you displayed "at the altar" produce anything in you but a smug self-satisfaction? The evidence of real God-wrought repentance is found in 2 Cor. 7:10 & 11. Is your former and present sin repugnant to you or do you still find pleasure in your sins? The most egregious, presumptive, and arrogant statement a man can make is to "invite Jesus into your heart." No such "command" is found, hinted at, or displayed in the Scriptures, but it's done thousands of times over. It is completely void of humility. It puts the one doing the "inviting" in a superior position to Almighty God (literally making man a "god"). It totally negates the necessity of grace on any level to be given a man. It puts the Lord in a position to be obliged to give what is demanded (again, no humility). It does away with gratitude to the Lord, because somehow they feel that He owes them "salvation", or whatever their demand may be. "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith..." 2 Cor.13:5

Do you know God?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Gospel Distinctives

I know that the things we believe and preach, place us in direct conflict with the religious world around us. That really shouldn't surprise us. When our Lord Jesus told the religious leaders of his day the things I am about to tell you, they started grabbing rocks to stone him to death. So we must never be surprised when lost religionists get upset with us for preaching the gospel.
Here are four things which place us in direct conflict with the entire religious world--
1. What we believe and preach about GOD himself is the primary, basic difference between us and those who do not believe the gospel. We believe, according to the plain statements of Holy Scripture that the one true and living God, the God of the Bible, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is the ABSOLUTE SOVEREIGN of the universe (Ps. 115:3; 135:6). That simply means that God is God. He does, he always does, exactly what he will everywhere, with everyone and everything! God always has his way. God always does all his pleasure. None can stay his hand. None can resist his will. In heaven, earth, and hell GOD RULES!
This great, sovereign God is absolutely, perfectly, immaculately HOLY. Everything he does is holy. Everything he requires is holy. He is so perfectly, absolutely, inviolably holy that he cannot and will not accept anything or anyone who is not perfectly holy.
Our great, sovereign, holy Lord God is immutably JUST. God our Savior declares himself to be both "a just God and a Savior." His justice is unbending and unbendable. He will not forgive sin, except upon the grounds of strict justice. The just God must and shall punish all sin. He cannot forgive sin until full satisfaction for sin has been made. And this gloriously just God cannot charge any sin upon any sinner for whom atonement has been made. Justice, once satisfied, demands the release of all for whom satisfaction has been made.
2. That which we believe about MAN also separates us from the entire religious world around us. We believe, according to the plain statements of Holy Scripture, that all men and women are sinners, born in spiritual death, corrupt at heart, inclined toward every evil, incapable of doing good, and totally incapable of changing their condition. In a word, fallen man is "dead in trespasses and sins," lost, justly condemned, under the wrath of God, doomed, damned, willfully ignorant of all things spiritual; without Christ, and without hope, apart from God's sovereign mercy.
3. Everything we believe about the LORD JESUS CHRIST sets us apart from the religious world in which we live. Unlike most religious people, we actually believe the Bible. We believe all that the Bible reveals about the Son of God. We really do believe that Jesus Christ is God, God in human flesh.
-That he is the eternal Surety.
-That he brought in everlasting righteousness for his elect by his obedience to God as our Representative.
-That he fully satisfied the justice of God for the sins of his people, which were imputed to him, when he died as our Substitute at Calvary.
-We believe that all for whom the Lord Jesus Christ died must and shall be saved, because he cannot fail. He is an almighty, effectual Redeemer, an omnipotent Savior, an unfailing Advocate, and an all-prevailing High Priest!
4. Believing what the Bible teaches about SALVATION also separates us from the lost religionists of this world, who foolishly imagine that God's salvation depends in some way, or to some degree, at some point upon the will, work, or worth of man. It does not! "Salvation is of the LORD!" Salvation is accomplished, in its entirety, by the free, sovereign, irresistible grace and power of God Almighty, through the person and work of his dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the omnipotent operations of his Holy Spirit, who alone can raise sinners from death to life, reveal Christ in them, and give them the gift of faith in him.
Every aspect of God's salvation is by GRACE alone.
Are we 'chosen' of God? We were chosen unto salvation by the election of grace.
Are we 'redeemed' by the blood of Christ? We were redeemed because God the Father gave us to God the Son in the covenant of grace before the world began.
Are we 'called', 'born again'? We are born again by the Spirit of God, who called us from death to life in Christ by the power of his omnipotent grace.
Are we 'justified'? We are justified by grace.
Are we 'sanctified'? We are sanctified by grace.
Are we 'kept'? We are kept by the power of God's grace.
There is no place between the pit of hell and the gates of pearl, where salvation depends on us. It is written in the Book of God in bold, capital letters-- "BY GRACE YOU ARE SAVED!" That is the message written upon every page of the Bible. Any religion, any doctrine, any preacher, any religious teacher, anything or anyone who contradicts that message contradicts the Word of God. Salvation is by the grace of God, entirely by the grace of God. Human works, human effort, and the will of man has absolutely nothing to do with it. "Salvation is of the LORD!"
I know that men object to these things. I know preachers everywhere deny them. I know that proud men are offended by them. But I am not running for political office. I am here to proclaim the truth to eternity bound sinners for the glory of God. That which we have heard and learned of the Father, we must declare. I must be true to God, true to the Scriptures, and true to your souls.

Don Fortner

Sunday, April 24, 2016

What I want

"Enoch WALKED with God...." Genesis 5:24

My heart is motivated, driven and governed by four great concerns.
Here are four things I want more than anything in this world.
I am not an ambitious man. But I am ambitious for these
four things. For the attainment of these four things I am
prepared, by the grace of God, to sacrifice everything else.
I count all other things to be but rubbish by comparison.

1. I want to know Christ (Phil. 3:10).

Yes, I believe that in measure I do know him. God has revealed
his grace and glory to me in the Person of his dear Son.
Still, I want a growing, spiritual, experimental knowledge of the
Lord Jesus Christ. I want to know all that he has done for me.
I want to know him. I want to know him fully.

2. I want to be totally committed to Christ.
I want to totally lose my life to Christ and in Christ, so that I
can truthfully say with the Apostle Paul, "For me to live is Christ."
I want to be committed to Christ as he was to the Father, so that
my heart says to him in all things, "Not my will, thy will be done"
It is my continual prayer that God will give me a heart--
committed to the Lord Jesus Christ,
committed to his will,
committed to his gospel,
committed to his people,
committed to the cause of his glory in this world.

3. I want to be like Christ.
My heart longs to be like him, conformed to him, made into
his likeness. I want to be like him love, tenderness, and
thoughtfulness, in zeal, dedication, and devotion, purity,
holiness, and righteousness.

4. I want to live in communion with Christ.

Like Enoch of old, I want to walk with God.

I know these goals are not attainable in this life. Yet, they are
the things for which my soul hungers and my heart thirsts. I cannot
be satisfied with less. "I count not myself to have apprehended:
but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind,
and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press
toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ
Jesus" (Phil. 3:13-14). "I shall be satisfied when I awake with
Christ's likeness" (Psa. 17:15), but not until then.

"Enoch WALKED with God...." Genesis 5:24

Don Fortner

God's servants do not promote themselves

"For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake." 2 Corinthians 4:5
No work is so great, no labor is so noble, no burden is so heavy, no honor is so humbling — as preaching the gospel of the grace of God to eternity bound sinners!

Let every man called of God to preach the Gospel, disentangle himself from the affairs of this world with determined consecration to Christ and His Gospel and His Church, addicting himself to prayer, study and preaching.

God's servants do not promote themselves
, their ministry, or their church. They promote Christ, His Gospel, and His Kingdom. The man who promotes himself — serves no one but himself!

Don Fortner

Broken people

"The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit." Psalm 34:18

broken heart, a contrite spirit, and a subdued will are rare things, especially in this age in which men everywhere are taught to demand their rights; and the church has become a place where man is exalted and enshrined as though he were God. Self-esteem, self-worth, and self-promotion is the cry of the day. Every man does that which is right in his own eyes. All men by nature are exceedingly proud, selfish people.

Preachers today, knowing man's natural pride, have capitalized upon it. They have developed a flesh-pleasing theology of pride. Our forefathers exalted the dignity, the majesty, and the supremacy of the eternal God. But the smooth-tongued preachers of deceit in our day have set themselves to exalt the dignity, majesty, and supremacy of puny man! It seems that religion today is dedicated not to the honor of God, but to the honor of man. Its purpose is to make man feel good about himself. Therefore we hear little about . . .
  brokenness of heart, 
  contrition of the soul, and
  the subduing of man's will.

The Lord God declares, "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at My Word!" (Isaiah 66:2). God will have broken hearts with which to build His kingdom. Sooner or later, the Lord God will bring us to nothingness before His presence. God's people, all of God's people are a broken people.

No man has ever experienced the grace of God in salvation, until his heart is thoroughly broken before the holy Lord God, revealed in the crucified Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. If ever a man finds out:
  who he is,
  who God is,
  who the Lord Jesus Christ is,
  and what He has done for sinners
 — he will be a broken man!

When Job saw himself in the presence of his three miserable friends, he vindicated himself. But when he stood in the presence of God, he was a broken man; and he spoke as a broken man. He saw himself in all the hideousness of his sin; and he saw God in all the holiness of His glorious majesty. Then he said, "Behold I am vile! I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes!" There is no pride and egotism here, no haughtiness, no self-vindication. Once Job had seen the Lord — he was broken, he loathed himself and blamed himself. Once Job saw the Lord — he honored God and vindicated Him. The truly broken heart will always vindicate God, no matter the cost.

This brokenness can be produced in proud, stubborn, sinful men and women — only by the saving revelation of Christ in our hearts. Brokenness is found at the cross — only at the cross. Have you been to the cross? Have you had the crucified Christ revealed in your heart? Has your heart been broken by the knowledge of the Lord? O Lord, evermore break our hearts before You!

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise." Psalm 51:17

Don Fortner

Market driven Christianity

by Don Fortner

"Am I now trying to win the approval of men — or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to pleasemen — I would not be a servant of Christ." Galatians 1:10

Religion in America is big business. Scads of money, powerful personalities, huge egos, and positions of prominence, influence, and recognition are at stake in the business of religion, just as they are in any other business. There was a time when the concern of churches and preachers in this country was the glory of God and the truth of God. Today, like any business, the concern is for success.

Christianity today is market-driven. The goal of all marketing is to make both the buyer and the seller satisfied. Consequently, market-driven churches, in utter abandonment of God’s glory and God’s truth, in their insatiable quest for success and recognition — do whatever it takes to win customers and keep them. 

Be warned! False doctrine and worldliness always go hand in hand. Worldliness usually leads the way. The early modernists did not aim at destroying biblical Christianity. They simply tried to make Christianity palatable to an unbelieving world. It cannot be done. When Christianity becomes acceptable to unregenerate people — it has ceased to be Christianity!

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing!" 1 Corinthians 1:18

Choice blessings in disguise

"I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering!" Isaiah 48:10 

The love of Jesus will not preserve His people from trials--but rather, assures them of trials! All whom He loves--He chastens! He has a furnace to purge our dross, and refine our souls. His Word and the Spirit reveal to us our defilement and impurity--and His grace and providence co-operate toremove them. "I am the Lord God, who sanctifiesyou." 

It is divine love which . . .
  prepares the furnace, 
  kindles the flame, 
  brings the Christian into it, 
  superintends the whole process, and 
  brings him out as gold, seven times purified!

"From all your filthiness and from all your idols, I will cleanse you!" He cleanses them in the laver of the Word by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit. But He also cleanses them by a variety of afflictive dispensations, through which He causes them to pass. 

Our sin calls for trials--His love sends them!

Our nature repines at trials--but grace submits to them!

Our flesh is enraged at trials--but the Spirit sanctifies them to our good, and our Savior's glory.

He makes His people choice ones--in the "furnace of affliction!" He says, "I will put you into the fire--and will purely purge away your dross." 

Believer, never repine at your trials, nor be over-anxious for their removal. They are appointed by Jesus as your Purifier--and are choice blessings in disguise! 

Seek their sanctification, 
wrestle with God that you may see His love in every stroke, and 
look to Jesus that you may enjoy His presence when passing through the flame! 

Nothing can hurt you--while Jesus is near you; and He is never nearer to you--than when you are in the furnace! For He sits right there as the Refiner . . .
  watching the process, 
  regulating the heat, and 
  waiting to effect a gracious deliverance--when theends of His love are answered. 

He is only preparing you for fresh manifestations of His glory--and fitting you for larger communications of His love.

In the furnace, you will lose nothing that is worth keeping--but you will obtain what is truly valuable!

The flesh and the soul need constant cleansings--for corruption is so deeply rooted in our nature, that it takes a long and painful process to purge it out! But in reference to the furnace, your Lord says, "The Lord did this to purge Israel's wickedness, to take away all her sin!"

James Smith

Saturday, April 23, 2016

'Christ plus anything is not salvation'

“By Grace are Ye Saved”
Ephesians 2:8

Almost all professing Christians profess to believe that salvation is by grace. The Bible states the fact of salvation by grace alone so often and so clearly that you can hardly find any who claim to be Christians who openly deny it.
      The trouble is that the vast majority of men and women, and the vast majority of preachers talk about grace in such a way that they frustrate the grace of God. The grace they talk about is not grace at all, but works and freewillism, presented in the name of grace!
      It is therefore needful that we be constantly and clearly instructed in the doctrine of the grace of God. Grace comes from God who sits upon, and sovereignly rules this universe from his lofty “throne of grace.” Again and again, God the Holy Ghost inspired the apostle Paul to tell us that salvation is by the grace of God. Obviously, this is a matter of great importance. It cannot be overstated or stated too often, or stated too dogmatically. — “By grace are ye saved

Boasting Excluded
Salvation by grace destroys all room for human boasting (1 Corinthians 4:7).

“Boasting excluded, pride I abase;
I’m only a sinner saved by grace!”

If your idea of salvation allows you to boast that the difference between you and other people is something you are, something you have done, something you decided, or something you willed, you do not yet know the gospel of the grace of God. You have not yet been taught of God. You do not yet know God. No man, no flesh, can glory before God! God’s people know better than to boast even of their repentance and faith. We know that even these things are the gifts of God and the operations of his grace in us (Acts 5:31; 11:17; Romans 2:4; 1 Corinthians 3:5; Ephesians 1:19; 2:8; Philippians 1:29; Colossians 2:12). All the graces that are in God’s saints are the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

God Glorified
Salvation by grace alone means that God gets all the praise, honor, and glory for it. God the Father gets all praise for planning it. God the Son gets all praise for purchasing it. And God the Holy Ghost gets all praise for performing it (Ephesians 1:3-14). — “As it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord!”
Here is a litmus test for all doctrine. If it makes you swell with pride, if it causes you to look to yourself and say, with regard to any aspect of salvation, “There, I did that,” it is heresy. It is not the doctrine of the grace of God. However, if it causes you to bow humbly before God, blush with shame, and say, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory,” then you can be sure it is according to the doctrine of the grace of God.

Damning Doctrine
Any mixture of works with grace, any mixture of merit with mercy, any mixture of what you do with what God does is not only a terribly evil thing, but utterly damning to your soul.
We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Grace plus anything is not salvation, but damnation. Faith plus anything is not salvation, but damnation. Christ plus anything is not salvation, but damnation (Romans 11:6; Galatians 5:2, 4).

Don Fortner

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Contentment is....

A remedy against all our troubles!
(Thomas Watson, "The Art of Divine Contentment")
"I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content--whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need." Philippians 4:11-12
Contentment sweetens every condition.
Christ turned the water into wine. Just so, contentment turns the bitter waters of Marah, into spiritual wine.
Contentment is a flower which does not grow in every garden.
You would think it were excellent, if I could prescribe a remedy or antidote against poverty. Behold, here is that which is more excellent--for a man to be poor, and yet have enough! Contentment teaches a man how to abound--in the midst of poverty!
Have I but little? Yet it is more than I deserve.
Do I meet with some crosses? My comfort is, if they are heavy--I have not far to go!
My cross is light--in comparison with the weight of glory.
Has God taken away my comforts from me? It is well--the Comforter still abides with me.
Thus contentment, as a honeycomb, dropssweetness into every condition.
Discontent is a leaven which sours every comfort; it puts vinegar into every mercy; it doubles every cross. But the contented spirit sucks sweetness from every flower of providence. Contentment is full of consolation.

Contentment is . . .
  a remedy against all our troubles,
  an alleviation to all our burdens,
  the cure of to every worry. 
As medicine works disease out of the body--so contentment works trouble out of the heart. Holy contentment keeps the heart from fainting. Contentment is the golden shield, which beats back all discouragements.

Contentment, though it is  not properly a grace (it is rather, a disposition of mind,) yet in it there is a happy mixture of all the graces. Contentment is a most precious compound! The ingredients put into it are faith, patience, meekness, humility, etc.
Wicked men are often disquieted in the enjoymentof all things.
But the contented Christian is joyful in the lack of all things! He may have little in the world--yet be perfectly content.
O the rare art, or rather--miracle of contentment!
A Christian finds contentment distilled out of the breasts of the promises. He is poor in purse--but rich in promise. There is one promise which brings much sweet contentment into the soul: "Those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing." (Psalm 34:10) If the thing we desire is good for us--we shall have it. If it is not good--then the not having is good for us. The resting satisfied with the promise, gives contentment.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Because of the woman

“And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. And many more believed because of his own word; And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.” (John 4:39-42)

Have you ever paused to consider the things revealed in the Book of God that have come to pass because of a woman? Adam, of course, blamed the fall on the woman God gave him. And the Scriptures tell us about many Jezebels and Salomes, by whom Satan has attempted to thwart the gracious purposes of God. But have you ever thought about the fact that there would be no such thing as eternal salvation, were it not for women? — God forbids women to speak in the church. The New Testament strictly prohibits female preachers, deaconesses, and such. Women are not to teach or usurp authority over men in the house of God. But that does not mean God does not use women for the furtherance of the gospel and the salvation of his elect.

            The fact is, no one would be saved, were it not for the many things God has done by the use of women. Our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the Seed of woman, the Seed promised to Eve in the Garden. The Lion of the tribe of Judah came into this world because Judah’s daughter-in-law, Tamar, believed God. It was a woman by the name of Rahab who brought God’s Israel into the land of promise and preserved the elect nation. The Lord God raised up a woman named Deborah (a prophetess, a worshipper of God) to deliver Israel from the hand of Jabin, the King of Canaan. It was another woman, Jael, the wife of Heber, who nailed Sisera’s head to the ground. It was by the faith of Ruth the Moabitess that the seed royal was preserved in a day when few believed God. And, of course, the Son of God came in the flesh through Mary’s virgin womb.

            Here, in the 4th chapter of John’s gospel, God the Holy Ghost tells us how God saved a great multitude of Samaritans because of the testimony of a woman. He tells us that “many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.

God’s Gift

Faith in Christ is both the requirement of God and the gift of God. Wherever faith exists, it is the gift of God. Faith is not a plant that grows spontaneously in the soil of corrupt human nature. It matters not whether we are talking about little faith or great faith, it is the gift of God. If we find faith in one who was raised under the sound of the gospel by godly parents, with loving care and discipline, it is the gift of God. If faith is found in one who was raised in infidelity as an educated barbarian and has lived all the former part of his life in the most vile profligacy, his faith, too, is the gift of God. Faith is the gift of grace, the operation of God, the work of the Holy Spirit, in no way dependent upon man (Ephesians 1:19-20; 2:8-9; Philippians 1:29; Colossians 1:12).

            I take great encouragement from this fact. If faith in Christ is, in all cases, God’s gift, we should never be selective in the work of the ministry[1]. Our Lord gave us no such example and no such commission. He told us plainly, to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, beginning in Jerusalem and Samaria. Had our Savior carefully studied a map of Palestine, he probably could not have found a more unlikely place in the entire country from which he might expect to find men and women who would believe the gospel and become his disciples.

            Samaria was as unlikely a place as any in which we might expect to find people chosen of God to be made followers of the Lord Jesus. When the Lord Jesus first came there, he found the great evil of racial prejudice against him. The Samaritans despised and would never trust a Jew. They would not even listen to a Jew. Yes, it is true, the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans. Yet, the Samaritans reciprocated the feeling, and had no dealings with the Jews.

            Still, it was from among the Samaritans, a race of mongrels whose faith was a mongrel faith, that the Lord Jesus gathered his elect in larger numbers than anywhere else. Judging by the events of John 4, we would always be wise to go the opposite way of the world. We ought always go first to those places and those people where there seems to be the least likelihood of conversions. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. God’s ways are not our ways. But his thoughts are always right and his ways always best. When Paul wanted to go preach the gospel in Bithynia, God would not allow it. He had planned and purposed the salvation of some folks down in a place called Philippi (Acts 16).

            If we ever truly learn that faith in Christ is the gift, work, and operation of God, a supernatural thing, it will have a profound effect. It will alter everything. We will stop trying to figure out how to make the gospel effectual, and just preach it. We will quit trying to determine where God is likely to work, and serve him where we are. We will cease trying to determine who is likely to be saved, and preach the gospel to anyone whose ear we can get. We will quit trying to make the gospel politically correct, socially palatable, and culturally relative, and just preach it.

            I say to the preachers of this generation, who seem hell-bent on compromising the gospel in the name of seeing sinners converted, compromise accomplishes nothing! Any converts gained by compromise are twofold more the children of hell than they were before. Faith is God’s gift, God’s work, God’s operation. And it is an operation performed, a work accomplished, and a gift bestowed through the preaching of the gospel (Romans 10:17).

            You and I may and must go, feeble as we are, useless as we are, and tell sinners about the sinners’ Savior. We may and must scatter the precious seed of the gospel. The hand that sows the seed is meaningless. Life is in the seed, not in the hand that sows it. In spiritual matters, not even the soil matters, for it is the grace of God that makes the soil rich and fertile. Until grace comes, all is alike barren, empty and desolate. But God can make the seed sown fruitful anywhere.

            He can cause it to spring up in everlasting life anywhere. He can make it spring up like a root out of a dry ground. As of old, he brought water out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock, so can he bring a harvest to his glory where everything is utterly barren. If this is God’s work, let us have no doubts regarding it, let us have no despondency concerning it. Let us, rather, continually put ourselves into his hands, praying that he will use us anywhere he pleases. He knows what is best and always does it. So let him do what he will.

God’s Instrument

First, in verse 39, the Holy Spirit shows us the instrument God used to save his elect in Samaria. We are specifically told that God used an old harlot, a harlot saved by free-grace, to carry the gospel to the men of Samaria. — Many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.”

            How I love and rejoice in God’s great, condescending goodness and grace! The objects of his grace were Samaritans. These Samaritans were not just sinners. They were the most despised sinners, a mixed breed with a mixed religion. The only thing in the world that ranked lower than dogs, publicans, and women in the minds of Jewish people in that day was a Samaritan. The fact is God’s elect are always those whom we are least likely to choose (1 Samuel 16:12). Not only is it true that God’s elect are the most unlikely, it is also a demonstrated fact that God uses the most unlikely instruments for the saving of his elect and the building of his kingdom (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

            The message of grace was carried to Samaria by a harlot. The word she spoke was the instrument God used to bring many of his elect to life and faith in Christ. God almighty can make the weakest of instruments mighty to pull down the strong holds of Satan. That simply means that God almighty can use such things as you and me for the salvation of sinners.

            The message this old harlot delivered was no more and no less than the testimony of her experience. She told her neighbors what she knew, and urged them to see for themselves whether or not she knew what she was talking about. — “The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4:28-29)

            We see a clear display of God’s great and glorious sovereignty here, as well. Wherever you see grace exercised, you see sovereignty manifested. You do not have to look for it. You just have to open your eyes to see it. Many were converted, but not all (Acts 13:48; Matthew 22:14). Those converted were idolatrous Samaritans, not enlightened Jews. And they were converted, not by seeing miracles performed, but by the mere word of grace.

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Clinging to Christ

Second, in verse 40, we see this fact demonstrated — Needy sinners hang on to Christ. Those who experience God’s saving grace in Christ will be found clinging to Christ until they are with him in Glory. — “The righteous shall hold on his way” (Job 17:9).

      “So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days.” — That one sentence contains volumes of practical, spiritual instruction for our souls. The desire of the Samaritans and our Lord’s compliance with it shows the willingness of Christ to abide with and meet the needs of those who want him. The Gergesenes prayed for the Lord to depart from them (Matthew 8:34). The Samaritans prayed him to tarry with them. Both got what they wanted! What blessings those two disciples would have missed on the Emmaus road had they not said to the Lord Jesus, as he was about to leave them, — “Abide with us” (Luke 24:29). If we do not have Christ abiding with us, it is because we do not ask him, because we are willing to be without him (Song of Songs 3:5).

Experiences Differ

Third, I remind you, once more, that we do not all experience grace the same way. The needs are the same in us all. And the grace we experience is the same. The salvation is the same. But the experiences of God’s elect in grace and salvation vary greatly. We read in verse 41 — “And many more believed because of his own word.”

            Some of the Samaritans were converted by the woman’s witness. Others were converted by the preaching of Christ himself. Some appear to have been converted immediately. Others were converted gradually, over the course of the two days of our Lord’s ministry in Sychar.

            I call your attention to this to remind you that we must never try to put God in our little box. He just won’t fit! God saves his people as he sees fit; and he always does it in such a way that no man can say, “There, I did that. I am responsible for the grace this or that person enjoys.”

            All hell must hoot with laughter while men who profess to be gospel preachers bloviate about theological trivia to immortal souls living but a breath from eternity! — While preachers and churches choose up and take sides, fussing and fighting about how a person must come to Christ, sinners are going to hell! What folly! What madness! I do not care how you come, when you came, or where you were at the time. I am concerned for only this one thing – Do you trust Christ?

            Having said that, let no one mistake my meaning. I do not mean to suggest or imply in any way that it does not matter who you trust or what you believe.

Same Faith

Fourth, we see that every believer’s faith is the same. All who are born of God believe the same thing. We all have the same faith. In all matters of “the faith once delivered to the saints,” we all see “eye to eye.” Every gospel preacher has the same message. And every saved sinner has the same faith. Is that not what verse 42 tells us?

“And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

            “Now we believe.” – Sooner or later, every saved sinner confesses his/her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It may take some, like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethea, a while to openly do so, but all who trust Christ will confess him before men. Believers identify themselves with the Savior (Romans 10:9-10).

            Those men of Samaria, once they were converted, said, “Now we believe.” In those words they acknowledged that before this, they were unbelievers. Religious? Yes, but unbelievers. Bible believers? Yes. They believed the same Bible the Jews did. But they did not know God. Moral? Yes, very moral. But lost unbelievers, nonetheless. These men here repented of their former religion and abandoned it forever. They came out of Babylon!

            “Now we believe, not because of thy saying.” — The Samaritans here acknowledged that their faith was not based upon and did not arise from the words and arguments of a mere mortal. Our faith does not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

            “Now we believe, not because of thy saying for we have heard him ourselves.” Faith in Christ is the result of divine revelation. It is a matter of personal experience (1 John 1:1-3; Galatians 1:11-12).

             “Now we believe, not because of thy saying for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ.” — Those words might better be translated, “We know that this is truly the Christ,” or, “We know that this is the true Christ.” — Both the Jews and the Samaritans looked for and believed in a “christ,” a messiah; but both looked for a political savior, a moral reformer, a false “christ.” All God’s people know, own, acknowledge, trust, love, and worship the true Christ.

            These two things are always joined together. — When God the Holy Ghost humbles the soul for sin, he graciously makes the sinner know his need of a Savior. So that self-abhorrence and Christ exalted always go together. What did Job say, when he saw God in Christ? — Behold I am vile, what shall I answer thee: I will lay my hand upon my mouth! (Job 40:4; 42:5, 6). What did Isaiah say when he saw the glory of Christ? — Woe is me, I am undone; for I am a man of unclean lips; mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts (Isaiah 6:5; John 12:41). What did David say? —Enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified” (Psalm 143:2). What did Paul say? — “O wretched man that I am (Romans 7:24). If ever God the Holy Spiriopens to you your own vileness and Christ’s fulness, you will respond the same way!

            This one and only true Christ is “the Savior of the world!” He is the only Savior of the world and the effectual Savior of the world, the Savior of God’s elect in all the world. Do you know him? Have you met the Lord God of the Hebrews, as this woman and these Samaritans did? Have you seen your sin exceeding sinful? Have you seen Christ exceeding precious? If you have met the Lord Jesus Christ by the saving revelation of his Spirit, in the saving experience of his grace, then you know him as he is: the Christ of God, the Sent One of God, and One with God. Now, you can truly say with holy men of old, “We believe and are sure that thou art Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:69).

            Nothing short of this knowledge of yourself and of the Lord Jesus Christ can enable you, as this woman and these Samaritans did, to believe on him unto life everlasting. Oh, may God the Holy Ghost give you life in his Christ! Oh, may he give you grace, in this Christ-despising day and generation, to know the Lord Jesus and to believe on him for life and salvation, as he did this woman and these Samaritans!

            If he has given us such knowledge and such faith, let us, like the Samaritan harlot, call others from heart-felt joy to come and see the Christ of God for themselves. And like the Samaritansunder the same heart-felt conviction, let us confess and say to all who will hear us, — “Now we believe, not because of the saying of another, but because we have heard him ourselves; and we know that he is indeed the Christ of God, the Savior of the world!

Don Fortner

I know thy works

Revelation 2:2
            If I profess faith in Christ, but by my works deny him, my profession is an abomination to God, and I am reprobate (Tit. 1:16). The same is true of you. Those who profess faith in Christ but by their works deny him are reprobate. This is not a debatable issue. True believers glorify God before men by their good works. “Faith worketh by love.” Faith always works, not by law, but by love. However, faith always works! In the light of these facts, let all who profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ hear the words of Christ - “I know thy works!”
For the religious hypocrite, these words are terrifying - "I know thy works." "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good" (Pro. 15:3). His eyes are a flaming fire and darkness is light before him. A man may deceive his pastor, his family, and even himself; but the Son of God is not deceived. All things are naked and open before him (Heb. 4:13).
He sees through the facade. All your “righteous” deeds, those things by which you hope to appear righteous before God, are filthy rags in his sight. Your self-righteousness is an abomination before God. He looks upon your prayers as blasphemy, your sacrifices as sacrilege, and your works of religion as evil works. In the end, our Lord will expose every hypocrite (Luke 16:15). That makes hypocrisy a losing game. "The hypocrite's hope shall perish" (Job 8:13).
For the believer, these words are full of comfort and cheer - "I know thy works." What a delight! Our dear Savior looks not at our works themselves, but at the motive behind them. He looks into the heart and sees why we do the things we do. And he is well-pleased with the most feeble efforts of sincere, believing hearts. By the merits of his blood and righteousness, he makes our works a sweet smelling sacrifice to God, acceptable and well-pleasing in his sight (1 Pet. 2:5).
Imagine that, God is well-pleased with the faltering steps of believing sinners for Christ's sake, because they are steps toward him! A father’s face beams with joy, approval, and delight as his child takes its first steps, not because they are perfect steps, but because the child is his child and it is walking to him. So, too, our heavenly Father delights in our faltering steps to him. He washes our feeble works in the blood of Christ, robes them in his righteousness, and declares, “They have wrought a good work on me…They have done what they could” (Mark 14:6-8)
            Believer, God will not forget your works of faith and labors of love (Heb. 6:10). The works of those who die in the Lord "shall follow them" into glory (Rev. 14:3). And they shall be named by Christ himself in the day of judgment (Matt. 25:37-39). The Son of God, our Savior, says, "I know thy works." What could be more comforting?
Don Fortner

Three warnings from the Master

Revelation 2:1-17
Here are three dangerous conditions about which the Lord Jesus Christ gives plain warning. Let all who have ears to hear heed the Master’s warnings.
The Lord Jesus Christ says, "I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love" (2:4). Does the Son of God speak these words to me? Are they addressed to you? The Ephesians were zealous in good works, patient in the trials and afflictions of life, and thoroughly orthodox in doctrine. But there was a dreadful decay in the matter of love to Christ! Are we like the Ephesians? Does our love for Christ decline? Do we find ourselves more and more concerned about the cares of this world and less and less concerned about Christ? Repent! Turn anew to Christ! Renounce all but him and set your affection on him alone (Col. 3:1-3).
2.       THE DOCTRINE OF BALAAM (2:14)
When Balak called for Balaam to curse Israel, God restrained him. Much to Balak's disgust, God forced Balaam to bless his people (Num. 22-24). Yet, Israel became involved in the worship of Baal (Num. 25:1-3) as the result of Balaam’s counsel (Num. 31:16). Balaam’s doctrine is compromise with the religion of the world. He did not advise Israel to give up the worship of Jehovah. He simply told them it would be wise to accept the worship of Baal and go along with the religious customs, traditions, and practices of their pagan neighbors (Num. 25:1-9). Be warned! Compromise with false religion is damning to the souls of men. Compromise is the way of least resistance, the way approved of by the world, the way that is easiest on the flesh. But any compromise of God's truth is an outright denial of Christ (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1). We must never give any credibility to the religion of this world. The only way to remove the offense of the gospel is to deny the gospel. Those who preach man’s free will deny God’s sovereignty. Those who preach salvation by the will, works, or worth of the sinner deny salvation by grace. Those who preach universal atonement deny the efficacy of Christ's blood. Those who preach universal grace deny the efficacy of God's saving grace. Such people may talk about grace, redemption, and salvation; but their doctrine is free will and works, and results in damnation to all who follow them in the way of Balaam. We must never seek agreement with such men, even in the name of peace, unity, and brotherly love. The only way we who believe the gospel can get along with those who do not is for us to deny the gospel. That we must not do!
The Nicolaitanes were a group of heretics in John's day who taught that it was alright for believers to engage in the sexual immoralities of pagan religions. They "committed fornication, adultery, and all uncleanness, and had their wives in common, and also ate things offered to idols" (John Gill). They were antinomians. They were lawless, licentious rebels who wore the name of Christianity. These people really were antinomian, opposed the law of God. Their doctrine was, "Let us sin that grace may abound. Since we are saved by grace, it does not matter how we live." I know that any man who preaches salvation by grace alone will be accused of antinomianism (Rom. 3:8). It is not possible to preach redemption, justification, and sanctification by grace alone, through the merits of Christ alone, without some legalist crying, "That is antinomianism! That will lead to licentiousness!" Yet, the fact remains that anyone who really is an antinomian is lost. God's elect seek holiness and righteousness. They are not self-willed, licentious rebels. Their hearts and lives are ruled by the love of Christ.; and that prevents lawlessness.
Don Fortner