Tuesday, October 4, 2016

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

And the beat goes on.  Evangelicals en masse believe they will inherit eternal life because they have “asked Jesus into their heart”,  even though many know nothing of  what it means to test themselves to see if their faith is genuine.

In the past the practice of carefully examining ourselves was considered normal and necessary in order to expose self-deceived professors and hypocrites,  rebuke worldly Christians, and assure genuine believers.  

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 were held in high esteem and 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 real McCoy.  

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.

Passages like Hebrews 6:4-5 can be difficult for some of us to understand and this study will help to clarify their meaning.

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, an then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance.” Heb. 6:4-5

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 be 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.”

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.”

This book has challenged me on several points.   Could it be possible that I am among the multitudes of religious self deceived  professors who will say on the Day of Judgement “Lord, Lord”?    However,  Meade 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.  “Is it I?” was the sorrowful reaction of the disciples when Christ declared that one of them would betray Him.   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 - A free eBook is available HERE

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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I have fallen into a plethora of grievous sin for a very, very, VERY long time. I have strayed so far and I fear that I may not be saved, that I probably was never saved. I don't know. I fear that I may be one of those on the last day in which the Lord will say to me "Depart from me, I never knew you" I have been depressed by this and by my sin and yet I keep giving into it and yet I hate it. My life is not even the same anymore. I'm depressed all the time and I fear that I'm a reprobate in God's sight. I never felt accepted by other people and now, for years actually, I never felt accepted by the Lord either. I fear there is nothing anyone can say to shake off the depression, fear, and doubts, shame and self-condemnation that plagues me day to day, week to week, and month to month.

    1. Janet – though it is impossible for me know whether you have been born again, I hope I can offer some helpful observations and suggestions. First, the fact that God is sovereign and has led you to read these kinds of blogposts indicates He is doing something in you. Second, the people that Meade speaks of are usually not as concerned about their offenses toward God as they are about keeping up an outward appearance of righteousness. The Psalmist said, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” (51:17) False professors may perform many outward acts of righteousness and even express remorse for sinful behavior when they are caught, but they do not possess a truly broken and contrite spirit. See also Is. 66:2

      Habitual sin is something every Christian should be concerned about and if we have something that we can’t get victory over on our own, then we need to reach out to a mature believer or believers who can help us. ALL Christians need to have accountability to others because even the strongest believer can fall into temptation without it. Remember also that we will never be entirely free sin this side of Heaven because we have an old nature that is continually at war with our new nature.

      If you do not have a good Bible teaching church to help you work through these things and need some help finding one, please contact me and I will see what I can do to locate one in your area.

      It is not too late for you. Keep praying and reading your Bible even if you don’t feel like God is listening. Call upon Him and ask Him to help you.

      I would also encourage you to speak to your general physician about your depression—perhaps if that could be treated you might be able to think more clearly about the other issues.

      I will pray for you too. God bless you. Diane - theology4girls@att.net

      What sin is there, which grace cannot pardon?
      What heart is there, which grace cannot soften?
      What soul is there, which grace cannot save?