True Religion

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
James 1:26-27

The religion toward which every man’s heart is prone is characterized by a boasting in his own spirituality through the outward show of lofty words, and even lovely deeds, while inwardly there dwells secret depravity unchecked. But true religion in the sight of God is characterized by the golden harmony of authentic selflessness and personal holiness.

There is a sureity of tongue which is not born of holy confidence, but of arrogance; and yet there is also a self-deprication that is not born of humility, but of pride.
The spiritual worship that is to be the very walk of every child of God is a daily offering of life to receive Life; it is the fragrance of holy conduct born of the fear of the Lord’s mercy. For he in whom the demerrited mercy of God does not invoke a reverence unto obedience has not known God.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Romans 12:1

To “worship in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:24) is directly equivocal to living a selfless and holy life. For to be authentically selfless only flows from the shattering recognition of the mercy of God; and to be truly holy is to be true – which is to be without mixture in one’s dealings with He who is all-knowing.

How, therefore, does the selfish man walk humbly, and the sinner live holy? By the application of the cross to every facet of his life and being, spirit soul and body. For he to whom the cross of Christ truly applies shall bear his own cross also. And it is this bearing of the cross which promises the abundant entrance into the heavenly kingdom. In the urgency of such a life in God, there is found the foretaste of eternal rest; and in the overcoming obedience of such a faith, there runs a trust which takes hold of a purely God-ward contentment.

“The truly religious man does everything as if everything depends on himself, and then leaves everything as if everything depended on God.”
– Joseph Parker

Finney – A Lesson From History

When we sanitize the long and sorted history of God’s people by filtering it through our personal traditions, we miss out on a greater appreciation for the saying, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

On to the subject matter…

Now to him who works, the reward is not counted as grace, but as something owed. But to him who doesn’t work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.

Even as David also pronounces blessing on the man to whom God counts righteousness apart from works, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whom the Lord will by no means charge with sin.”

Is this blessing then pronounced on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. How then was it counted? When he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision?

Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. He received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while he was in uncircumcision, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they might be in uncircumcision, that righteousness might also be accounted to them.

Romans 4:4-11 (WEB)

Now consider this quote:

“There can be NO justification in a legal or forensic sense, but upon the ground of universal, perfect, and uninterrupted obedience to law. This is of course denied by those who hold that gospel justification, or the justification of penitent sinners, is of the nature of a forensic or judicial justification. They hold to the legal maxim, that what a man does by another he does by himself, and therefore the law regards Christ’s obedience as ours, on the ground that He obeyed for us.”
– Charles G. Finney, Systematic Theology, 362

Why not instead say that faith without works is dead, as say the scriptures? The claim of justification without any sanctification is self-deception; but this does not permit us to throw out the former because we do not see enough of the latter. They are both part-and-parcel of the grace of God in salvation. This conflation of the two leads to a denial of what both are. For there is judicial righteousness, and there is experiential righteousness – and the two are not at odds (except in the minds of some). They are both present in true salvation, yet they are distinct in function; for the one is the begining and underpinning of the other. It is not without purpose that the apostle Paul frequently structured his letters according to this principle. Peter then shakes awake our sleepy hearts from interpreting Paul carnally, and puts in us the fear of God, convicting us of God’s holiness; and James with John clarify the synthesis: that the righteous will practice what has been given to them, and the rest are evidently not of His sheep.

It is not a question of too much or too little grace; it is a question of authentic grace. It is not a question of to much or too little law; it is a question of authentic law. Now the authentic article of faith is the divine law being written upon the heart of a man by the finger of God, and it is the giving of empowerment to obey such by the indwelling Holy Spirit – and this is all of grace. For no man has this inherently: he must be granted it from heaven. To deny this justification by faith in order to begin sanctification is to remove a foundation before building a house.

Who could bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is GOD who justifies.
Romans 8:33 (WEB)

To set out upon a sanctified walk without being justified by faith is to set out across a bridge with no beams supporting it. It is doomed to fail, for it has no basis. It has no preexsisting grace by which to affirm that the way is sure and the goal attainable; and it has no ever-present grace to remind us that even what we have attained is all by God’s mighty power.

The man Finney often preached well against the tyranny of the self; but at times offered little more than the pitiful power of the fallen human will as its antidote – which only can perpetuate the cycle of said tyranny. (Rom 7). It is a sad truth that a great wealth of spiritual excitement and conviction can dwell alongside a ghastly lack of staying power.

Now this may be objected to by those who are aware of Finney’s teachings on the Holy Spirit, which are numerous and in many aspects quite excellent. But the Holy Spirit, were He bound by the choices of the human will or limited to man’s “uninterrupted obedience to law,” would have no power to sanctify us. For the will of man is the very first and primary matter that the Spirit comes to set right in us. For the law of God is not written on our hearts until the Lawgiver by the Spirit does so; and if He cannot do so without a sinner’s permission, then it will most assuredly never happen. But if we accept such teaching, we are left quite to ourselves, and we deny much of God’s help, however unwittingly.

For the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace; because the mind of the flesh is hostile towards God; for it is not subject to God’s law, neither indeed can it be. Those who are in the flesh can’t please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if it is so that the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any man doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
Romans 8:6-9 (WEB)

And how is the Holy Spirit obtained?

I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another Counselor, that He may be with you forever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world can’t receive; for it doesn’t see Him, neither knows Him. You know Him, for He lives with you, and will be in you.
John 14:16-17 (WEB)

The more true obedience to His maker that a man walks in, the more he ought to behold the gracious preordination of God in every step along the way, and all the more quickly should he therefore yield himself unto the doing of that same will of God. But the man who becomes proud of his own obedience sees it only as the doing of his own will, and mocks the grace of the God who had soveriegnly worked it all in him. This man takes little delight in being humbled; and rather than simply surrendering to the will God, he constantly makes treaties with his Creator, thinking it to be the Lord’s method. Man’s desire to “be like the most high” of his own accord and by his own means is insatiable; and it must be crushed by the overbearing power of the Spirit of Grace, who is the mouth of the fount of true sanctification.

Do I hereby condemn Charles Finney? No! Based on many other things he said, I actually believe that he himself had a real and powerful walk with God. For by God’s grace, many who are attracted to vain philosophy may yet be constrained by His power to truly know and walk with Him despite their most carnal notions; and they are herein most blessedly inconsistent. Finney also lived in a day of great spiritual slumber – and despite the shear reactionism behind such of his teachings as those here quoted, he was apparently not without a good measure of real fruit. I dare any one of us to presume that we were the better man for that hour. God knew what He was doing.

The legacy of those things which we call the movings of Christ throughout the ages is one often beset with the mixture of man’s disasterous religious recipes and earthly philosophy.

O Lord, give us eyes to see that which is pure, holy, and becoming of You; that we may test all things, and hold fast to what is good!

Scripture & Thought – James 2:21

Was not our father Abraham justified by works offering up his son Isaac on the altar?
James 2:21

The heart of the book of James might be summed up in these two words: true faith. In the same way that wisdom is “justified by her children,” true obedience is likewise the vindication of true faith.

The Confession of Holy Men

The confession of holy men is this:

By the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
1 Corinthians 15:10

The grace of God is always without measure upon His own so that they might labour abundantly in that which pleases the Lord. There is no man truly knowing the grace of God who will not labour to some degree; and when he has laboured, he will ascribe the good only to the glory of the grace of his Maker. And the greater he labours by faith in what is hoped for, the more grace yet unseen he discovers; according to which grace he may continue proving by obedience what is the will of God, his sanctification.

Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
Psalm 29:1-2

Thought & Scripture – God’s Sovereignty

I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity. I am the Lord, who does all these things.
Isaiah 45:7 (ESV)

It is easy for us to say that God is sovereign over all things; but it is another matter entirely for us to say that He is also sovereign in all things. Few are they that love God for the latter, for He leaves them nothing to boast in, not even their own will.

…for it is God who is working in you both to will and to work for the sake of His good pleasure.
Philippians 2:13

The one saying, “I have known Him,” and not keeping His commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that one. But whoever keeps His word, truly in this one the love of God has been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him.
1 John 2:4-5

Soli Deo Gloria

More on Reason & Revelation

(Consider this an add-on to the previous post.)

To the lost man, earthly (including demonic) reasoning is his revelation. But to the found man, heavenly revelation must evermore become his reasoning – and not merely his reasoning in the mind; but that upon which he acts in faith, which is the substantiation of things hoped for. Revelation bearing no fruit in action has been received in vain. It is those who honor the gift of God through obedience that continue receiving more of His fullness; for those who truly know Him desire nothing less than that He be glorified in the fruit of His labors within them.

And we are His witnesses of these things, and also the Holy Spirit, whom God gave to those obeying Him.
Acts 5:32 (LITV)

A witness is one who has heard, seen, looked upon and touched the Word of Life.

Forgotten Gospel – A Testimony

What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light.
And what you hear in the ear, proclaim on the housetops.
Matthew 10:27

Long have I inwardly burned against the self-deception of the liars and the unfaithful, who fell proudly from the grace of God into works of the flesh, boasting not in Christ but rather in themselves – though they do not admit to be guilty of it, nor have they even comprehended that this is their sin.

Hear this thing which I have seen; behold this treachery that has reached my ears.

In the day that the Lord redeemed my life from the pit, setting me upon the Rock of my salvation; others He also gathered. Repentance rang out, and many approached the throne of grace for true strength, as the kindness of God in Christ was being made known. The traditions of men were losing some ground, and the Spirit was moving very directly in the midst of some.

Then just as discernment was being given among a few and spoken by them to judge between dead works and a faith which gives way to the mighty power of the Spirit – the Devil injected his details among the many.

Many who at one time had found much deliverance from sin’s power began measuring themselves by themselves and so walked again after the powerlessness of the flesh. Where once the judgement seat of Christ was rightly considered unto the gathering of heavenly reward, now it became seen as eternal damnation upon those who yet gather little. The assurance in Christ they once possessed gave way to doubt in light of their stumbling; and so they would not approach Christ in the humble confidence that once had claimed them deliverance. The Spirit became quenched by their lack of faith; for as they obsessed over their own filthy rags, they no longer reckoned themselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus unto His fruitful work in them.

Few have continued into much excellence after the Spirit; for by forgetting that they were once-for-all purged of their sins by the blood of Christ, they refuse to lift their heads unto Him: preferring not to to be assured in what is hoped for, but rather in what is seen of themselves according to the law of works.

Now to the one working, the reward is not counted according to grace, but according to debt. But to the one not working, but believing on Him justifying the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as also David says of the blessedness of the man to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawlessnesses are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not charge sin.”
Romans 4:4-8 (LITV)

The same temptation to fall into much unbelief has incessantly knocked at my own door; but I refuse to be so unmindful of the gospel which I received, in which alone can I stand, and by which alone am I kept safe. The truth of the wickedness of my own flesh leads me only to throw myself all the more upon the mighty strength of He whose life I choose to dwell in by this faith.

But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart the form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you were enslaved to righteousness.
Romans 6:17-18

We present ourselves as instruments of righteousness only by presenting ourselves as we are in Christ Jesus according to His promise. We present ourselves to Him by faith as those who are the living out from among the dead; for in Him we are indeed that (Romans 6:8-14). Only then shall the Spirit find much room wherein to work, for the heart is at rest in His labors. Only then can we ourselves possibly learn to labor IN HIM. Only in this rest is known the ease of His yoke and the lightness of His burden.

If we seek to keep God’s commandments for any reason other than that He in Christ has already loved us, then we are walking after the flesh. For it is by the power of the very Spirit of Christ through the faith of HIM that more-than-conquerers are made. It is those who keep themselves in His unfailing love that will be kept by Him from stumbling.

…you who are justified by law are deprived of all effect from Christ, you fell from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness out of faith. For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any strength, but faith working through love. You were running well; who held you back that you do not obey the truth? The persuasion is not from Him calling you.
A little leaven leavens all the lump. I trust as to you in the Lord that you will think nothing else, but that the one troubling you shall bear the judgment, whoever he may be.
Galatians 5:4-10 (LITV)