Thursday, August 2, 2018

20 Surprising Ways a “Believer” Can Be Self-Deceived

In 1937 Arthur Pink wrote, 
“The "Gospel" which is now being proclaimed is,  in nine cases out of every ten, but a perversion of the Truth, and tens of thousands, assured they are bound for Heaven, are now hastening to Hell, as fast as time can take them!” 1
For decades Evangelical churches have been peddling a watered down, man centered, “Just as I am” Gospel message.    To question one’s salvation today is viewed as heresy in many churches, leaving untold thousands who prayed and “asked Jesus into their heart” at a crusade or summer camp with a false assurance of eternal life.    
The idea of examining ourselves to see if we are truly born again has been reduced to a simple verbal affirmation of the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith. 
But in times past this was not so.    It was necessary that doctrinal confessions were accompanied by deep soul searching in order to rebuke lazy Christians, expose self-deceived professors, and assure genuine believers.
Almost a Christian
Matthew Meade (1629– 1699), was a Puritan and contemporary of John Owen,  Bunyan,  and Richard Baxter, who lived in a time when Protestantism had spread quickly and hypocrisy was rampant.   But the diligent Puritans had no “lack of fidelity in applying to the churches tests of fearless thoroughness.” 2  
Appointed by Oliver Cromwell to the New Chapel at Shadwell, England,  Meade’s works are still considered to be some of the greatest writings on Christian living.   “The Almost Christian Discovered” was written as a wake-up call to devout parishioners who believed themselves to be Christians but were not born again.   
The book poses four questions giving the most attention to the first—“How far may a man go in the way to heaven, and be almost a Christian?”  Twenty ways an unregenerate person can appear to be a Christian are explained using Biblical examples, raising objections, and comparing the counterfeit to the genuine. 
1. He may have much knowledge. 
2. He may have great gifts. 
3. He may have a high profession. 
4. He may do much against sin. 
5. He may desire grace. 
6. He may tremble at the word. 
7. He may delight in the word. 
8. He may be a member of the church of Christ. 
9. He may have great hopes of heaven. 
10. He may be under great and visible changes. 
11. He may be very zealous in the matters of religion. 
12. He may be much in prayer. 
13. He may suffer for Christ. 
14. He may be called of God. 
15. He may, in some sense, have the Spirit if God. 
16. He may have some kind of faith. 
17. He may love the people of God. 
18. He may go far in obeying the commands of God. 
19. He may be, in some sense, sanctified. 
20. He may do all, as to external duties, that a true Christian can, and          yet be no better than almost a Christian. 
For example,  #15 explains how “A man may have the spirit of God, and yet be but almost a Christian." 
"Balaam had the Spirit of God given him when he blessed Israel: “Balaam saw Israel abiding in tents, and the Spirit of the Lord came upon him.” Judas had;  for by the Spirit he cast out devils; he was one of them that came to Christ, and said, “Lord, even the devils are subject to us.” Saul had—“Behold, a company of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them.” 
Objection.   But you will say, “Can a man have the Spirit of God, and yet not be a Christian?” Indeed, the Scripture saith, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his;” but surely if any man have the Spirit of Christ, he is His! 
Answer.    There is a having the Spirit, which is a sure mark of saintship. Where the Spirit is an effectual prevailing principle of grace and sanctification, renewing and regenerating the heart: where the Spirit is a potent worker, helping the soul’s infirmities: where the Spirit is so as to “abide forever.” But now every man that hath the Spirit, hath not the Spirit in this manner.”
The Unpardonable Sin 
The fact that some can have the Spirit working in them, as was the case with Balaam, Saul, and Judas, and yet remain unregenerate,  helps us to understand difficult passages like Hebrews 6:4-5. 
“For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance.”
Meade goes on to prove how this moving of the Holy Spirit in the life of an unbeliever relates to those who commit the unpardonable sin (Mark 3:22-30;  Matt. 12:22-32) 
 “A man may have the Spirit of God working in him, and yet it may be resisted by him….  
A man may have the Spirit, and yet sin that unpardonable sin: he may have the Holy Ghost, and yet sin the sin against the Holy Ghost;—nay, no man can sin this sin against it, but he that hath some degree of it. 
The true believer hath so much of the Spirit, such a work of it in him, that he cannot sin that sin: “He that is born of God, sins not:” to wit, that “sin unto death,” for that is meant.   The carnal professing sinner, he cannot sin that sin, because he is carnal and sensual, having not the Spirit. 
A man must have some measure of the Spirit that sins this sin: so hath the hypocrite: he is said to be “partaker of the Holy Ghost,” and he only is capable of sinning the sin against the Holy Ghost.” 
Blessed Assurance 
However,  Meade also makes it clear that he has no intention of discouraging the true child of God and it is those who will respond to such questioning with the deepest concern for their soul. 
When Christ declared that one of His disciples would betray Him,  their reaction was “Is it I?”.   God doesn’t want His children to be burdened with doubt but desires that we have full confidence and joy in our salvation.  Furthermore, it is this kind of scrutiny that will produce that assurance.   The Scriptures themselves make it very clear that it is possible to know that we have been born again. 
“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”  I Jn. 5:13 
Meade concludes,
“Now therefore, hath the spirit of the Lord been at work in your souls?  Have you ever been convinced of the evil of sin, of the misery of a natural state, of the insufficiency of all things under heaven to help, of the fullness and righteousness of Jesus Christ, of the necessity of resting upon him for pardon and peace, for sanctification and salvation?   Have you ever been really convinced of these things?   O then, as you love your own souls, as ever you hope to be saved at last, and enjoy God for ever, improve these convictions, and be sure you rest not in them till they rise up to a thorough close with the Lord Jesus Christ, and so end in a sound and perfect conversion. Thus shall you be not only almost, but altogether a Christian.”

1. Signs of the Times – Studies in the Scriptures,  December 1937
2. Prefatory note by William R. Williams (1850) to The Almost Christian Discovered or the False Professor Tried and Cast,  by Matthew Meade – public domain 

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