It's been a while since the last thought I sent your way! My vacation was great. I spent the first two weeks fixing and painting my mother's house in Massachusetts, and the last week in the beautiful state of Maine. And since I've begun to catch up on things here at the church, I'll resume sending these out on a regular basis!
This weeks 'thought' comes from Iain Murray's book entitled "Heroes." The "hero" he writes about today is Jonathan Edwards and the excerpt deals with the struggle of trying (during the First Great Awakening that swept down the entire east coast of America during his time - approx. 1735-1745) to discern true converts from those who simply had some type of mystical/spiritual/
physical experience or got caught up in the emotion and religious fervor of the moment, yet showed no signs of any lasting heart-change. As a pastor I found it to be insightful - I trust you will as well. It's a good thought to use for self-examination. Let me know what you think. Enjoy!
"What is the evidence of a saving conversion? It is not, he says, a prior conviction of sin -- men can have that and never be regenerate (or born again). It is not the speed at which the supposed conversion occurs -- the stony-ground hearer of Christ's parable 'immediately' received the word with joy (yet withered away - Matt. 13:20). It is not whether conversion is attended by physical signs... (or) whether texts of Scripture come wonderfully into the mind -- the devil is able to quote Scripture. Positively, the (true) test is whether or not conversion has been the result of regeneration. That is to say, has the individual known a change of nature, has there been the introduction of a new principle.
'There are many that think themselves born again,' he writes, 'that have never experienced any change of nature at all; that haven't had one new principle added, nor one sinful disposition mortified; that never saw one glimpse of divine light, never saw the least of God's or Christ's glory..."
Again he says: 'They that are truly converted are new men, new creatures; new not only within, but without; they are sanctified throughout, in spirit, soul and body; old things have passed away, all things have become new. They have new hearts, and new eyes, new ears, new tongues, new feet... they walk in newness of life and continue to do so to the end of life.'
Because this new life is the restoration of the life of God in the human soul, the chief characteristic of its possessor is God-centeredness. The true convert is aware of God, admires God, loves God, lives for God. The false convert, whatever his language or experiences, remains self-centered. Self is the one abiding interest of the unregenerate life...
The natural man is governed by what Edwards calls 'false affections.' He may think he has love for God but that is only because he thinks of God as profitable to him - self-interest is (still) in control. But the regenerate person loves God for His moral excellence, that is His holiness. It is his holiness that appeals to the true believer and attracts the believer... he loves the way of salvation because it is a holy way; loves the commands of God because they are holy; loves heaven as a world of holiness.
Holy love, as we have already noted, is the 'chief of affections' in the Christian, and this grace , Edwards shows, has one inseperable companion, namely, a humble spirit. A person who is satisfied with his spiritual attainment, who has no longing for more grace, is not yet Christian at all."
In my church in Honduras there was a young lady who had been involved in different churches most of her life. She had even attended a Bible School. As a result of some personal struggles and sermons from the book of Acts she came to me questioning whether she was really a Christian. I did not reassure her that she was (that's not my place, since I can never really know for sure, and it could be disasterous for me to tell her she was if she was not). I simply handed her one of Edwards' books, "Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God" and told her as I handed it to her, "If you can read this book and still think you're a Christian, you probably are." (I had read it wondering the same thing after 4-5 years as a pastor!). Pick up a copy if you have similar questions. It's not something we can afford being mistaken about.