[b][revival] TOZER - "PREACHING that HINDERS"[/b]
To any casual observer of the religious scene today, two things will
at once be evident: one, that there is very little sense of sin among
the unsaved, and two, that the average professed Christian lives a
life so worldly and careless that it is difficult to distinguish him from
the unconverted man. The power that brings conviction to the
sinner and enables the Christian to overcome in daily living is being
hindered somewhere. It would be oversimplification to name any
one thing as the alone cause, for many things stand in the way of
the full realization of our New Testament privileges. There is one
class of hindrances, however, which, tends out so conspicuously
that we are safe in attributing to it a very large part of our trouble. I
mean wrong doctrines or overemphasis on right ones. I want to
paint out some of these doctrines, and I do it with the earnest hope
that it may not excite controversy, but bring us rather to a reverent
examination of our position.
Fundamental Christianity in our times is deeply influenced by that
ancient enemy of righteousness, antinomianism,
The creed of the antinomian is easily stated:
"We are saved by faith alone;
Works have no place in salvation;
Conduct is works, and is therefore of no importance.
What we do cannot matter as long as we believe rightly.
The divorce between creed and conduct is absolute and final.
The question of sin is settled by the Cross; conduct is outside the
circle of faith and cannot come between the believer and God."
Such, in brief, is the teaching of the antinomian, And so fully has it
permeated the Fundamental element in modern Christianity that it
is accepted by the religious masses as the very truth of God.
Antinomianism is the doctrine of grace carried by uncorrected logic
to the point of absurdity. It takes the teaching of justification by
faith and twists it into deformity. It plagued the Apostle Paul in the
early Church and called out some of his most picturesque
denunciations. When the question is asked, "Shall we continue in
sin that grace may abound?" he answers no with that terrific
argument in the sixth chapter of Romans.
The advocates of antinomianism in our times deserve our respect
for at least one thing: their motive is good. Their error springs from
their very eagerness to magnify grace and exalt the freedom of the
gospel. They start right, but allow themselves to be carried beyond
what is written by a slavish adherence to undisciplined logic. It is
always dangerous to isolate a truth and then press it to its limit
without regard to other truths. It is not the teaching of the
Scriptures that grace makes us free to do evil. Rather, it sets us
free to do good. Between these two conceptions of grace there is
a great gulf fixed. It may be stated as an axiom of the Christian
system that whatever makes sin permissible is a foe of God and
an enemy of the souls of men.
Right after the first World War there broke out an epidemic of
popular (NEWor NEO) evangelism with the emphasis upon what
was called the "positive" gospel. The catch-words were "believe,"
"program,?? "vision. " The outlook was wholly objective. Men
fulminated against duty, commandments and what they called
scornfully "a decalogue of don'ts." They talked about a "big,"
"lovely" Jesus who had come to help us poor but well-meaning
sinners to get the victory. Christ was presented as a powerful but
not too particular Answerer of prayer.
The message was so presented as to encourage a loaves-and
fishes attitude toward Christ. That part of the New Testament which
acts as an incentive toward holy living was carefully edited out. It
was said to be "negative" and was not tolerated. Thousands sought
help who had no desire to leave all and follow the Lord. The will of
God was interpreted as "Come and get it." Christ thus became a
useful convenience, but His indisputable claim to Lordship Over the
believer was tacitly canceled out.
Much of the stream of gospel thought has been fouled, and its
waters are still muddy. One thing that remains as a dangerous
hangover is the comfortable habit of blaming everything on the devil.
No one was supposed to feel any personal guilt; the devil had done
it, so why blame the sinner for the devil's misdeeds? He became
the universal scapegoat, to take the blame for every bit of human
devilry from Adam to the present day. One gathered that we genial
and lovable sinners are not really bad; we are merely led astray by
the blandishments of that mischievous old Puck of the heavenly
places. Our sins are not the expression of our rebellious wills; they
are only bruises where the devil has been kicking us around. Of
course sinners can feel no guilt, seeing they are merely the victims
of another's wickedness.
Under that kind of teaching there can be no self-condemnation, but
there can be, and is, plenty of self-pity over the raw deal we
innocent sinners got at the hand of the devil. Now, no Bible student
will underestimate the sinister work of Satan, but to make him
responsible for our sins is to practice deadly deception upon
ourselves. And the hardest deception to cure is that which is self-imposed.
Another doctrine which hinders God's work, and one which is heard
almost everywhere, is that sinners are not lost because they have
sinned, but because they have not accepted Jesus. "Men are not
lost because they murder; they are not sent to hell because they
lie and steal and blaspheme; they are sent to hell because they
reject a Saviour." This short-sighted preachment is thundered at us
constantly, and is seldom challenged by the hearers. A parallel
argument would be hooted down as silly, but apparently no one
notices it: "That man with a cancer is dying, but it is not the
cancer that is killing him; it is his failure to accept a cure." Is it not
plain that the only reason the man would need a cure is that he is
already marked for death by the cancer? The only reason I need a
Saviour, in His capacity as Saviour, is that I am already marked for
hell by the sins I have committed. Refusing to believe in Christ is a
symptom of deeper evil in the life, of sins unconfessed and wicked
ways unforsaken. The guilt lies in acts of sin; the proof of that guilt
is seen in the rejection of the Saviour.
If anyone should feel like brushing this aside as mere verbal
sparring, let him first pause: the doctrine that the only damning sin
is the rejection of Jesus is definitely a contributing cause of our
present weakness and lack of moral grip. It is nothing but a neat
theological sophism which has become identified with orthodoxy in
the mind of the modern Christian and is for that reason very difficult
to correct. It is, for all its harmless seeming, a most injurious belief,
for it destroys our sense of responsibility for our moral conduct. It
robs all sin of its frightfulness and makes evil to consist in a mere
technicality. And where sin is not cured power cannot flow.
Another doctrinal hindrance is the teaching that men are so weak
by nature that they are unable to keep the law of God. Our moral
helplessness is hammered into us in sermon and song until we
wilt under it and give up in despair. And on top of this we are told
that we must accept Jesus in order that we may be saved from the
wrath of the broken law! No matter what the intellect may say, the
human heart can never accept the idea that we are to be held
responsible for breaking a law that we cannot keep. Would a father
lay upon the back of his three year-old son a sack of grain
weighing five-hundred pounds and then beat the child because he
could not carry it? Either men can or they cannot please God. If
they cannot, they are not morally responsible, and have nothing to
fear. If they can, and will not, then they are guilty, and as guilty
sinners they will be sent to hell at last. The latter is undoubtedly
the fact. If the Bible is allowed to speak for itself it will teach loudly
the doctrine of man's personal responsibility for sins committed.
Men sin because they want to sin. God's quarrel with men is that
they will not do even that part of the will of God which they
understand and could do if they would.
From Paul's testimony in the seventh chapter of Romans some
teachers have drawn the doctrine of moral inability. But however
Paul's inner struggle may be interpreted, it is contrary to the whole
known truth to believe that he had been a consistent law-breaker
and violator of the Ten Commandments. He specifically testified
that he had lived in all good conscience before God, which to a
Jew could only mean that he had observed the legal requirements
of the law. Paul's cry in Romans is not after power to fulfill the
simple morality of the Ten Commandments, but after inward
holiness which the law could not impart.
It is time we get straightened out in our thinking about the law. The
weakness of the law was three-fold: (1) It could not cancel past
sins - that is, it could not justify; (2) it could not make dead men
live - that is, it could not regenerate; (3)it could not make bad
hearts good - that is, it could not sanctify. To teach that the
insufficiency of the law lay in man's moral inability to meet its
simple demands on human behaviour is to err most radically. If the
law could not be kept, God is in the position of laying upon
mankind an impossible moral burden and then punishing them for
failure to do the impossible. I will believe anything I find in the
Bible, but I do not feel under obligation to believe a teaching which
is obviously a mistaken inference and one, furthermore, which both
contradicts the Scriptures and outrages human reason.
The Bible everywhere takes for granted Israel's ability to obey the
law. Condemnation fell because Israel, having that ability, refused
to obey. They sinned not out of amiable weakness, but out of
deliberate rebellion against the will of God. That is the inner nature
of sin always, willful refusal to obey God. But still men go on trying
to get conviction upon sinners by telling them they sinned because
they could not help it.
The vogue of excusing sin, of seeking theological justification for it
instead of treating it as an affront to God, is having its terrible
effect among us. Deep searching of heart and a resolute turning
from evil will go far to bring back power to the Church of Christ.
Tender, tear-stained preaching on this subject must be heard again
before revival can come.
The contradictions observed in the teachings which we have
examined here are another cause of weakness. Christians do not,
as a rule, enjoy great power until they begin to think straight.
Whether or not the Methodists were right on every point they held
is an open question; but their leaders had thought things out so
clearly that they were not leading the people around in circles. As
far as they could see there were no contradictions in their
philosophy of faith, and this was a source of real strength to them.
The same was true in the Finney revivals. God used Finney to get
people thinking straight about religion. He may not have been
correct in all his conclusions, but he did remove the doctrinal
stalemates and start the people moving toward God. He placed
before his hearers a moral either/or, so they could always know
just where they stood. The inner confusion caused by hidden
contradictions was absent from his preaching. We could use
another Finney today.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon