Mortification of Sin Chapter 1 – Part 1

John OwenDid I mention that Owen is hard to read?  Well, in all actuality, he is very easy to read, but to understand, that is a much different thing.  After reading, re-reading and then reading again, quite a few times, I feel like my head is about to explode.  I can remember back in the early 1990’s getting my hands on a copy of A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.  That was  my first experience reading something that literally made me feel like my mind had grown 3 sizes.  The thoughts, the concepts, the ideas that Hawking presented gave me new insight into time and space like I had never thought of before.  Likewise, Owen is a giant in the Theological world.  The only problem is that he is a giant from another planet.  I keep looking for the Rosetta Stone so I can better make sense of what Owen is saying.  So, it seemed best to me to take up reading chapter 1 multiple times, spending much time in prayer, as well as reading others views (here, here and here) on what he had written, then go through the process again and just meditate on what he is conveying.

Let me say that even though we are saved by grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone, mortification is not an option that we can decide to take or leave.  Paul makes it abundantly clear that it is a required thing in the Christian life in Romans 8:13.  Ahhhhh, the tension, can’t you just feel it?

“But sir,” I hear you say, “We live under grace and Christ said ‘It is finished,’ (John 19:30).  So hasn’t he done everything that needed to be done to secure the believers salvation?”

“Why yes, yes He has,” I would reply.

“Well then, sir, if we do something, isn’t that adding to the work of Christ?  Isn’t that adding our works to the work of Christ which would mean that what Christ did is incomplete?”

Again I would have to respond, “Yes it would.”

TENSION!  Don’t you just love it?

So how are we to deal with this?  Lets turn to the 5 issues that Owen brings up in chapter 1:

  1. A duty prescribed, “Mortify the deeds of the body.”
  2. The persons to whom the duty is prescribed, “If you mortify.”
  3. The promise or reward attached to the duty, “You shall live.”
  4. What is the cause or means of the performance of this duty, “If you through the Spirit.”
  5. The promise attached to those who endeavor to put to death the deeds of the body, “Life.”

Once Owen calls out these 5 points, he then turns to the the condition of, “But if…”  As Romans 8:13 declares, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”  This brings up two things, an uncertain condition and an absolutely certain condition.  As someone who cannot stand heights, I could climb a tall building and look out from the observation deck and say, “If I get down off of this building, I will never put myself in a position like that again.”  Now, that may or may not be true.  It could come to a point in the future were I do the same thing again, or not.  Owen, expounding on Romans 8:13, is not saying it could or could not happen.

What Owen says is something more along the lines of this, “Oh, you are allergic to bee stings, use this Epi-pen and the swelling you are experiencing will go away and you WILL be well.” It is an absolute certainty that if you “put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

Now, lets deal with that tension.  Romans 6:23 tells us, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:1 also tells us that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” So how do we square this “free gift” and “no condemnation” issue?  Owen states that God has appointed ‘means’ to attain this mortification.  The free gift of eternal life is absolutely freely given.  We begin to pursue the mortification of the deeds of the body, “by the Spirit.” The gift of eternal life is free, and the Holy Spirit,which is given to us when we are saved, is the means by which we obtain the mortification of the deeds of the body.

Owen the goes on to state:

“The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin.”

This is a life long battle.  One that will go on every day of our life.  This is something we do, something we fight, something we endure and struggle with every second we live as a Christian.  But the blessed hope, the good news, the confident joy we can look to and claim is that “if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”  This life is not an existence like we now have and comprehend.  This is life eternal, life free from the struggle we now fight against.  An existence, a freedom that we will never even remotely understand or imagine until “that” day, the day when we are glorified.  Sin has so clouded, shaped and warped our bodies, our minds, that even C. S. Lewis’ quote about the “…ignorant child making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea,” does not even scratch the surface of the gulf that the bondage of sin has created in us compared to the freedom that will be experienced by a Christians when we are transformed.

Oh, we don’t want to hear the word, “strive,” yet me must.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, we must strive every second of our Christian existence to mortify the deeds of the body and become more Christlike.  As Paul says, “And I am sure of this, that he (God the Father) who began a good work in you will bring it to completion (by the Holy Spirit) at the day of Jesus Christ.” It will be done.

As always, please feel free to comment, critique, question, and voice cares or concerns.

Until next time:

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”

 

 

On The Depravity Of Man

Charles Haddon Spurgeon once said, “As the salt flavors every drop in the Atlantic, so does sin affect every atom of our nature. It is so sadly there, so abundantly there, that if you cannot detect it, you are deceived.” The great works of Christians down through the centuries are filled with the same testimony: man is the slave of sin, utterly undone outside of Christ. Even those whose theology did not measure up to the biblical standard could not help, in their prayers, to confess what they knew to be true: the fallen sons of Adam are dead in sin, incapable of even the first move toward God. Even more, they are filled with the effect of depravity and alienation from God: enmity and hatred toward His holy standards. This was a common element of Spurgeon’s preaching:

Now, the calling of the Holy Spirit is without any regard to any merit in us. If this day the Holy Spirit shall call out of this congregation a hundred men, and bring them out of their estate of sin into a state of righteousness, you shall bring these hundred men, and let them march in review, and if you could read their hearts, you would be compelled to say, “I see no reason why the Spirit of God should have operated upon these. I see nothing whatever that could have merited such grace as this – nothing that could have caused the operations and motions of the Spirit to work in these men.” For, look ye here. By nature, men are said to be dead in sin. If the Holy Spirit quickens, it cannot be because of any power in the dead men, or any merit in them, for they are dead, corrupt and rotten in the grave of their sin. If then, the Holy Spirit says, “Come forth and live,” it is not because of anything in the dry bones, it must be for some reason in His own mind, but not in us. Therefore, know ye this, men and brethren, that we all stand upon a level. We have none of us anything that can recommend us to God; and if the Spirit shall choose to operate in our hearts unto salvation, He must be moved to do it by His own supreme love, for He cannot be moved to do it by any good will, good desire, or good deed, that dwells in us by nature.

The “flip-side” of divine freedom is the fact that man, the great image-bearer of God, is a fallen creature, a slave to sin, spiritually dead, incapable of doing what is pleasing to God. Just as the great freedom of the Potter offends rebellious pots, so too does the Bible’s teaching on the inabilities of man due to sin. The fallen sons and daughters of Adam are most adept at finding ways to promote creaturely freedom at the cost of God’s freedom, while at the same time promoting the servitude of God to the whims and will of man. It would be humorous if it were not so serious: the pots gathering together and assuring each other that the Potter either doesn’t exist, or, at worst, will sit idly by while they take control and “run the show” themselves. Yet this is the impact of sin upon the thinking of man. Man suppresses the truth of his createdness and invariably attempts to find a means to “control” God. One wisely put it this way:

Again, it is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face, and then descends from contemplating him to scrutinize himself….So it happens in estimating our spiritual goods. As long as we do not look beyond the earth, being quite content with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue, we flatter ourselves most sweetly, and fancy ourselves all but demigods. Suppose we but once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and to ponder his nature, and how completely perfect are his righteousness, wisdom, and power-the straightedge to which we must be shaped. Then, what masquerading earlier as righteousness was pleasing in us will soon grow filthy in its consummate wickedness. What wonderfully impressed us under the name of wisdom will stink in its very foolishness. What wore the face of power will prove itself the most miserable weakness. That is, what in us seems perfection itself corresponds ill to the purity of God.

Truly recognizing one’s spiritual state is a gift of grace. Outside of God opening the eyes of the heart man thinks himself wonderfully pure, or at least acceptable in God’s sight. That is why the unregenerate person cannot understand the urgency of the gospel message: until they see the depth of their sin and the holiness of God, they find no reason to seek remedy for their condition.

Man’s religions consistently promote the myth of man’s autonomy: his absolute freedom to act outside of any eternal decree of God. “Man is the master of his destiny” seems to be the watchword of the religions of men, and even of many in Christendom today. How many times have you heard a preacher say, “In the matter of election, God has cast his vote for you, Satan has cast his against you, and now the final vote is up to you”? Such an assertion not only makes man’s choice equal with God’s, but it likewise places the final decision for what takes place in time squarely in the hands of man, not of God.
The Potter’s Freedom, pp. 75-77. – James White

Round Up

God’s Word Sanctifies, Not Private Revelation – “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” — John 17:17

Has ‘Authenticity’ Trumped Holiness – Has authenticity become a higher calling than, say, holiness?

The Doctrine of Hell:  Apologetic Problems – For many people, the doctrine of hell presents an apologetic problem for Christians. Skeptics say that believing in hell is “morally reprehensible” and that the doctrine of hell makes God a “barbaric, moral monster, the worst being ever to exist.”

John MacArthur: The Infographic – Tim Challies has been releasing infographics for various topics which he calls Visual Theology.  This one is an interesting one on the accomplishments of a servant of God.

Quote:

The chief and principal ends for which the Holy Spirit is promised and received may be reduced to these four heads:—(1.) Regeneration; (2.) Sanctification; (3.) Consolation; (4.) Edification. There are, indeed, very many distinct operations and distributions of the Spirit, as I have in part already discovered, and shall yet farther go over them in particular instances; but they may be reduced unto these general heads, or at least they will suffice to exemplify the different manner and ends of the receiving of the Spirit. And this is the plain order and method of these things, as the Scripture both plainly and plentifully testifies: — (1.) He is promised and received as to the work of regeneration unto the elect; (2.) As to the work of sanctification unto the regenerate; (3.) As to the work of consolation unto the sanctified; and, (4.) As unto gifts for edification unto professors, according to his sovereign will and pleasure. – John Owen

Quenching The Spirit

quench the spiritI spent 26 years of my life associating and considering myself a Pentecostal and regularly attended either the Assemblies of God or the Church of God (Cleveland, TN).  I have also at times attended Foursquare and Pentecostal Holiness churches, so I would say that I am very familiar with the beliefs and practices of these denominations.  What is funny is that i never took the time to really read and study the Bible for myself during these years.  I never used the Word of God as it’s own interpreter, I just accepted what was preached.  That all changed about 4 years ago.  Since then, I have started leaning way towards the Cessasionist camp.  The following link, which I read this morning, really made me stop and think about my views.  Please read on:

The Charismatic Art of Quenching the Spirit

The Fruit of The Spirit

This is an excerpt from The Fruit of the Spirit, Part 1 by Brian Borgman:

The Fruit (of the Spirit), has its root in God’s Character.  That leads me to believe, that ultimately, what God is doing in redemption is He is restoring and then fulfilling the original commission that He gave to Adam, that commission that Adam failed to accomplish. 

So, if, in the age to come, the abundance of the Spirit is manifest by conforming us more and more to the image of God, why is that part of the future age?  Well, it’s because when God created Adam and Eve and put them in the garden, God actually gave them this mandate which was to be fruitful, to multiply and fill the earth.  So, as image bearers, Adam and Eve were supposed to image God in the creation.  When we think of the image of God we think of something that is almost exclusively intrinsic, or internal to us; what I am as a human being. That is part of it, but there is a sense in which the image of God is a functional reality so that God actually created Adam and Eve and all of their posterity to image Him throughout the whole earth so that the whole earth would be filled with His Glory. Adam and Eve, of course, didn’t do that. They fell into sin. They marred the image of God.  Therefore they didn’t image God in the creation. They imaged sin, self, and Satan far more than they imaged God.

So, what is happening?  God actually promises that He is going to take this fallen humanity that was supposed to image Him and He is going to restore them so that they end up doing what they were originally supposed to do.

There is one glorious piece that is now so clearly expressed in the New Testament and that is, that the second Adam is Jesus Christ.  He came into this world and imaged God perfectly because He is the image of the invisible God.  Jesus could say, “When you have seen me, you have seen the Father,” (John 14:9). So, those whom He Foreknew, He predestined, and those He predestined, he predestined to do what?  To be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

God is taking this rag-tag collection of fallen human beings who follow sin and self and who are filled with filth and their own idols and He is saying, “I’m taking a people for myself.” That original purpose for which He created us will not be thwarted. It will not be thwarted because He will accomplish His purpose.  He is going to accomplish His purpose because He sent His Son to redeem us and then sent His Spirit to conform us to the image in which we were originally created so that we can do what we were supposed to do.

What is happening is that God is doing the ultimate Adamic urban renewal project!

So, right now, in this “all-ready, not yet” tension, what’s happening is that we are being increasingly, progressively, conformed to the image of Christ by the Holy Spirit.  When the consummation of all things happens, what will occur will be our perfect conformity to the image of Christ.  The whole cosmos will be reconciled to the Father, and the whole New Heavens and New Earth will be filled with image bearers that glorify and reflect the glory of the Creator. 

For Paul to talk about the fruit of the Spirit is no small thing.  The Fruit of the Spirit has cosmic implications because God is renewing His character, Christ’s image, in us.

Half a Christ

This past weekend I attended a local church and ended up in a Sunday School class that was new to me, but had been recommended as one I might find interesting because, I was told, the teacher was extremely knowledgeable and knew his doctrine and theology.  To say that I was disappointed is an understatement.  I was mortified at the doctrine he was teaching.  While I agree that we live under the covenant of grace and not the covenant of law, I had to disagree that all we have to do is “let go and let God” in our Christian walk.  While justification is a one time pronouncement upon the truly regenerate heart, sanctification is an on going process whereby we learn to strive for holiness by the help and leading of the Holy Spirit.  This particular teacher did not agree with that assessment and basically taught the class that all one needed to do was “ask Jesus into their heart” and they were good to go.  Basically, without saying it, he was teaching and encouraging a 3rd class of people, the carnal Christian.  Yet, he said that there were only two classes, the lost and the saved.  The following quote by Walter Marshall makes it clear that there is a work of sanctification that we are involved with.  Read on and let me know what you think.

“What a strange salvation it is, if people who are saved do not care about holiness! In this case, people want to be saved, but they want to stay dead in sin, alien from the life of God, without the image of God, deformed by the image of satan, and in slavery to satan and to their own filthy lusts. They seem to prefer to stay totally unfit to enjoy God in glory. Christ never purchased such a salvation as this by His own blood. Those who think they have received a salvation such as this abuse the grace of God in Christ, and turn it into license for sin. They want to be saved by Christ, but apart from Christ, so to speak. They want to be saved, but they also want to remain in a fleshly state, with a fleshly lifestyle. This is simply not how salvation works! The only people Christ frees from condemnation are those who are ‘in Christ’ who do not walk according to the flesh but according the Spirit’ (Rom. 8:1-4). If this were not the case, people would divide Christ. They would take one part of his salvation, and leave out the rest. However, ‘Christ is not divided’ (1 Corinthians 1:13). You cannot have half a Christ!”

Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification (1692)

Spurgeon Thursday

First off, let me apologize for not posting Spurgeon on a regular basis lately.  My work schedule has been extremely rough for the past month, but hopefully that is past and this feature of my blog will get back on track.  Now, on to the feature…

LACKING MOISTURE

NO. 2845

A SERMON

PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, AUGUST 29, 1903.

DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,

AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON THURSDAY EVENING, SEPTEMBER 20, 1888.

And some fell upon a rock, and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away because it lacked moisture.” Luke 8:6.

spurgeon5IN this parable of the sower, there is great discrimination of character, not only between those who bring forth fruit and those who bring forth none, but also between those who bring forth fruit in different degrees—not only between the fruitful and the fruitless—but  also between various forms of fruitlessness. The reasons are given, not in bulk, but in detail—why this failed, and that failed, and the other failed. All this points to discrimination in hearing. When there is discrimination  in the preacher, as there should always be, there should be an equal discrimination  in the hearer, and each one should try to take to himself that special part of the Word which is intended for him.

The true preacher, especially our great Lord and Master, resembles a portrait  painted by a real artist which always looks at you, no matter where you are in the room—to the right, or to the left of it, its eyes seem to be fixed upon you. So does our Lord, whenever He preaches, look at us. May He look at us in that way just now and may we catch His eyes as He gazes upon us—and  may the preacher also seem to be looking straight at you, because you are on the watch for that particular part of the Truth  which especially concerns you! If there is anything hopeful and cheering in the sermon, may it come to you who are mourning and doubtful! If there is anything awakening, may it come to those of you who happen to be tinged with self-confidence!

Coming to our text, I think it suggests to us three observations.  First,  let us note well that there is a reception of the Word of God which fails to be effectual. Secondly, we shall enquire why it fails in these cases. And, thirdly, we shall consider how this failure is to be avoided.

I. First,  THERE IS A SOWING THAT COMES TO NOTHING. There is even a reception of the Seed into the soil which disappoints the sower.

This failure was not because the Seed was bad. It was the same Seed which, in the good soil, produced thirty,  sixty, or a hundredfold. You know that, sometimes, when we do not succeed in impressing our hearers, we condemn ourselves, perhaps very justly. If men are not saved, the preacher must not put the blame upon Divine Sovereignty—he must blame himself. He must also ask himself, “Have I really preached the Truth?  Have I preached it in a right spirit? Have I preached different Truths in due proportion?  Have I given the most weight to that which is of primary importance and have I put that which is secondary in its proper position?” We poor sowers often chastise ourselves for our failures, or, if we do not, we ought to do so—otherwise  we shall never improve. God help us to preach better, to love men’s souls more and to be more earnest in seeking to bring them to Christ! I mean this wish for myself and for all of you who love the Lord.

But there was no fault to be found with the Seed that fell on the rock, although it did not result in a harvest. The Seed was good, thoroughly good. The sower got it from his Master and his Master’s granary contains no Seed which will not grow. True preachers can say with the Apostle Peter, “We have not followed cunningly devised fables.” We have preached to you the Word of God, so that whenever we put our head upon our pillow, we can truly say that we have not preached what we thought,  or what we imagined, but we have declared what we believe to be revealed in this blessed Book of God. That is the Good Seed that we sow and if it does not grow in you, it is not the fault of the Seed, it is your own fault. There is something about you that hinders it. Will you think of that, dear Hearer, if you are unconverted?

But, in the next place, the failure was not from lack of receptiveness. Those hearers who are like the Seed sown on the rock, do receive the Seed. We are expressly told that by our Lord, Himself—“They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the Word with joy.” We have hearers who take in all we say, perhaps too readily. They hear indiscriminately. There are some hearers who are like a sponge—they suck up all—good,  bad and indifferent. If they hear of a clever, oratorical preacher, they speedily run after him. What he preaches, or whether he preaches with the Holy Spirit sent down from Heaven, is not a matter about which they enquire. They have not much depth of earth, but what little earth there is takes in the Seed. There is not enough depth of earth for the Seed to really bear fruit, yet they do, in some sort of fashion, receive it. I am not going to pile up indiscriminate censure upon this receptiveness. It is a briar upon which a rose may grow but, still, it is a briar until it is properly grafted. Receptiveness may easily be carried too far and men may even ruin themselves by being too ready to receive what they hear—not  by being too ready to rightly receive the real Word of Truth, but by receiving it in the wrong fashion. Do they disbelieve what you say? No, they are not earnest enough to do that! Do they doubt what you preach? No, they have not gone so far aside as that. Do they argue against the Gospel? Oh, no—they have not fallen into that form of depravity! They take in what they hear. They do not do much with it. There is not Grace enough in their heart, after they have nominally received the Word, to cause it to grow. There is a lack somewhere—not a lack of receptiveness, but a lack in another direction.

The failure, also, was not caused through  lack of heat. There was a hard rock with a little soil upon it, just enough to take in the Seed. That rock needed to be broken up, ground to powder and made into good soil, but as it was not broken up—when the sun shone, the rock refracted and reflected all the heat and gave great warmth to the soil in which the seed was lying—so that it grew very fast, for it was in a kind of hothouse. We have many hearers who, if enthusiasm could save them, would have been saved long ago. On Sundays they are very soon warmed up, and there is so little of them that the heat of the sun soon penetrates to their rocky nature. The heat is refracted and straightway they are all in a blaze. I know them, they are very nice people to preach to. How excited they grow! They are ready enough to shout, “Hallelujah!” They speedily receive the Word, but there is no depth about them, so they do not retain it. They will do anything that we want them to do. They are not only enthusiastic, but they soon grow fanatical. I am not blaming them for this. If there were something  else to go with it, it would be a good thing.

The gardener or florist likes a good bottom heat to make his plants grow rapidly, but if it is all heat—if it is a dry heat and nothing else, very soon they are scorched to death. The little moisture that was in them at first, makes them grow rapidly, but when that is exhausted, they are soon withered. I do not deny that it is quite a pleasure to meet with a warm-hearted man. We have plenty of people about who are either cold or only lukewarm. If they give you their hand, you feel as if you had laid hold of a fish, it is so cold. We like to meet with hearers who respond to our appeals with kindly friendliness and who, when the Word is brought  before them, display a warmth of feeling towards it. These are very hopeful people. I cannot say more about them. Their name is Hopeful, but they do not always grow into Faithful.  They give us great encouragement,  but, alas, they often cause us great discouragement.

Then, again, this failure was not caused through  lack of joy, for we are told by our Savior that they received the Word with joy. Oh, they are so happy! They feel that they are saved and they are full of joy! And the main reason why they believe that they are saved is that they are so happy. Well, there is something in being joyful. I do not like to see people who seem to have a religion that disagrees with them. True religion does, indeed, make us glad. But then, my dear Friends, if your only evidence of the possession of Grace is that you are so happy, you may be unhappy tomorrow—and what will be your state then? Our human nature is so constructed and our body has so much influence upon our mind and soul, that we can soon become very low in spirit and scarcely know why we are in such a condition! That joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit, I cheerfully acknowledge, but there are many joys that are not fruits of the Spirit at all, for they are earth-born and carnal. And there is often a so-called religious joy which is the fruit of carnal excitement and supposed conversion—not the result of a real saving knowledge of God.

Perhaps if these people had received the Word with sorrow—if  they had received it with a broken heart and a contrite spirit—if  they had received it tremblingly, in the very depth of their souls. If they had gone home to cry to God in secret prayer instead of rejoicing in open exultation, there might have been evidences in them of a deeper, surer, truer  and more abiding work. These people had joy and plenty of it. I am not saying anything against their joy—it was not the point in which they failed. They failed somewhere else, as I shall try to show you presently.

And, once more, they did not fail from lack of eagerness and speed in receiving the Truth.  They received it at once and the Seed sprang up at once. Just because they had no depth of earth, it sprang up all the faster. The Seed that fell upon the shallow soil covering the rock grew quickly—it sprang up because of the very absence of the element that was necessary to bring it to perfection! I believe in instantaneous  conversion. I believe that the new birth must be instantaneous, that there is a moment in which a man is dead and another moment in which he is alive and that, just as there is a certain instant in which a child is born, so there is an instant in which we become the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ. But there is also a supposed conversion which is undone as quickly as it is done. There are to be found, in some churches, men who have grown wonderfully fast. They were drunks a fortnight ago and they are taking the lead among experienced Christians today! Well, it may rightly be so. God acts according to His own Sovereign will and He can work such wonders of Grace and miracles of mercy. But it may turn out that a thing that grows very fast does so because it will not stand fast and will not last long. We have to deal with so many who are always procrastinating  and putting off and, therefore, it seems a good fault when men are hasty about these things—it  is a blessed fault, if a fault at all! Yet it did so happen that while these people were excellent in that direction, they failed in another, and failed in a fatal way, of which I have now to speak.

II. That brings me to ENQUIRE WHY THESE PEOPLE MADE SUCH A SAD FAILURE?

The seed that fell on the trodden  path,  while they were lost to the farmer, did feed the birds, at any rate. But these on the rock did not. They quickly sprang up, and were soon withered and good for nothing. They promised much, but it came to nothing at all. And, in this way, some of those who appear to be the most hopeful, may cause us most grief by being our greatest disappointments.

Now why was this? Luke tells us, and no other Evangelist tells us, that it was because they “lacked moisture.”

Does not this mean, first of all, that they lacked the influences of the Divine Spirit? When we speak of spiritual dew, we refer to the operation of the Holy Spirit. When we talk of the river of the Water of Life, we mean those sacred things which come streaming down to us from the Throne of God through the working  of the Spirit of God. These people lacked that moisture. They were converted, so far as they were converted at all, through  the eloquence of the preacher— and a man who is converted by eloquence, can be unconverted by eloquence! Or they were converted by the zeal and earnestness of Christian  people. But if you were converted by one man, another  man can unconvert you. All that is of man is sure to be unraveled as all the spinning and the weaving of earthly machinery can be pulled to pieces. But the work of God’s Grace endures forever. Have you, my dear Hearer, felt the power of the Holy Spirit first withering you up? “The grass withers, the flower fades because the Spirit of the Lord blows upon it.” Has He ever dried up, in you, all that was of yourself and turned the verdant meadow into a barren wilderness? It must be so with you at first—there  is no sure work which does not begin with emptying and pulling down. Was the Spirit of God ever so worked in you as a spirit of bondage, shutting you up in prison under the Law, fixing your hands in handcuffs and your feet in fetters, putting  you in the stocks and leaving you there? If you have never known anything about that experience, I am afraid you have, up to now, “lacked moisture.”

Then, when the Spirit of God comes to a soul that is thus broken down, He reveals Christ as a Savior for that sinner, a full Savior for the empty sinner! And oh, how sweetly does the soul rejoice as it perceives the suitability,  fullness and freeness of Christ—and looks to Jesus and trusts Him! Have you ever felt that sacred moisture which softens the heart so that it sweetly yields to Christ, that moisture which refreshes the heart and makes it bloom again with a holy hopefulness and delight in Christ? O my dear Hearers, what we say about the Holy Spirit is no mere talk—it is a matter of fact! “You must be born-again,”  born from above! You must be partakers of the Spirit of God, or else all your religion, however beautiful it may appear to be, will wither when the sun has risen with burning heat.

Now, my Brothers and Sisters in Christ, you find that everything goes ill with you when you lack moisture. One of our Brothers  sometimes says to me, after a service, “Oh, Sir, there will be good done today, for there was dew about!” I know what he means and hope you also do. You have a little flower at home which you keep in the window, a geranium, or perhaps a fuchsia. You set great store by it because of its associations. But perhaps you have been out for a week and when you come back it looks so drooping that it seems as if it must die—and you soon discovered the reason why. It was quite dry—“it  lacked moisture.” You gave it some water and it soon began to revive. These plants are kept alive by moisture. But when they lack moisture, the more the sun shines upon them, or the warmer the room is, the worse it is for them. They need moisture and so do we, poor plants that we are. We need the Holy Spirit and if the Lord does not water us daily from the living springs on the hilltops of Glory, we shall certainly die! So take heed, Brothers and Sisters, that you do not lack the moisture of the Holy Spirit’s gracious influence.

Why did these people lack it? There was moisture in the air. It is evident that the other Seed which brought forth thirty, sixty, or a hundred-fold,  had moisture. Yet this, which was in the same air as the other,  “lacked moisture.”  There were morning dews and there were mists and rains, yet these Seeds on the rock “lacked moisture.”  The reason was that there was a lack of power to retain the moisture in the soil. When it came down, it ran off again, or speedily evaporated because there was a rock and only a very little earth on the top of it to hold the moisture, and all that came there soon disappeared.  There are many persons who seem to be like this rocky soil—they  have no receptiveness for the Divine Spirit—they seem to manage to do without Him.

Now let me warn you of certain things that indicate a lack of moisture. The first is Doctrine without  feeling. You believe the Bible Doctrine concerning Christ. I am glad that you do, but dry Doctrine, without the bedewing influence of the Spirit of God, is just a granite rock out of which you will get nothing whatever. You say that you believe the Doctrine of Human Depravity, but have you ever really felt it and mourned over it? You say that you believe the Doctrine of Redemption,  but have you ever proved the power of the precious blood of Jesus? Have you ever been melted at the sight of the Cross? You say that you believe the Doctrine of Effectual Calling, but have you been effectually called by Grace? You say that you believe the Doctrine of Regeneration,  but have you been born-again?  If not, you lack moisture. I have known some Brothers and Sisters who have been so “sound” that they have been nothing but sound. “Sixteen ounces to the pound,” they said they were. I thought that they were 17 ounces to the pound and that the last bad ounce spoilt the other sixteen! You may be wonderfully orthodox  and yet be lost! That hard pan of rock must be broken up and ground to powder, that the moisture may get to the Seed. Of what use is Doctrine without  feeling?

It is equally worthless where there is experience without  humiliation.  I mean that some talk about having felt this, and having felt that—and  they boast of it. Some of them have even thought that they have become perfect—and  they glory in it. Well, they lack moisture! As soon as you get side by side with them, you feel a need of something, you do not quite know what it is. It is dry experience. Perhaps it is boiling hot, but it is very dry. There is no bowing before the Lord in a humble confession of unworthiness. There is no understanding  of what it is to feel the sentence of death in our- selves, that we should loathe ourselves, as condemned criminals ought to do. I pray the Lord to save us from an experience, however perfect it seems, which is not moist, which has not a living tenderness worked into it by the power of the Spirit of God. Avoid, then, experience without  humiliation.

Also shun practice without heart-love. I have known some Brothers and Sisters who have been most exact and precise in all their conduct. I have thought  that they scarcely ever sinned and I have not wondered that they did not because there did not seem to be enough juice in them to sin. They did not appear to have any human nature in them. They were just like dry pieces of leather—never  excited, never getting  into a bad temper—they have not seemed to have any temper, either bad or good. They never say a word too hastily. They always measure things out very exactly, yet a lack of love is a fatal lack. I knew one whom I greatly esteemed as a minister of the Word for many years. I esteemed him for his regularity of conduct. I believe that he got up to the tick of the clock, that he had family prayer to the tick of the clock and that he did everything in the same methodical manner. I remarked to him once, “There are many people, round about your Chapel, who are living in the depths of sin. Do you ever get any of them into your place of worship?” “No,” he replied, “I do not want to get them in.” I asked, “Why?” “Well,” he answered, “they are mostly harlots and thieves. What could I do with such people?”

Then I saw that it was possible to be regular, precise and good up to a certain point, and yet to have no moisture. And as the moisture was not there, of course no thief or harlot would go to hear him—he was too dry for them. It is an awful thing to have a Pharisaic practice—perfect when looked at by the casual eye, yet without  the life and light of love—and, therefore, lacking moisture.

Beware, dear Friends, of a belief that never had any repentance connected with it, for that is another way in which the lack of moisture is manifested. There are some people who are willing to believe a great deal, but you never hear of them groaning  because of sin, or confessing it with a broken heart in true humility before God. To trust in repentance without faith would be ruinous to the soul—but to have a kind of faith without repentance, would also be ruinous. If faith never has tears in its eyes, it is a dead faith. He who has never wept because of his sin, has never really had his sin washed away. If your heart has never been broken on account of sin, I will not believe that it was ever broken from sin. And if your heart is not broken from your sin, you are still at a distance from your God and you will never see His face with acceptance.

Beware, also, of a confidence that is never associated with self-diffidence. Yes, my dear Sir, speak as boldly as you will, be as brave as you may for your Master, but, at the same time, be very lowly in spirit.  Let your own weakness be seen, as well as your Master’s strength. While you glory in Christ’s merits, confess your own sinfulness and admit that in yourself, you are nothing.  We can never have too much confidence in God, but, unless it is associated with deep self- distrust, it will lack moisture and it will never produce any real harvest unto God.

Beware, also, of action without spirituality.  We have many people of that kind. They are very active in serving God in one way and another. Would that all were—if it were in a right spirit! They are busy from morning to night, but there is no prayer and no dependence upon God mingled with their efforts—that will not do. That is all wasted activity. However busy we may be, we shall effect nothing  unless we receive from the Holy Spirit  all the power with which we work and are dependent upon Him for the success of every word  we say. Beware of having  so much to do that you really do nothing at all because you do not wait upon God for the power to do it right.

Then there is another dry thing, namely, zeal without communion with God. Zeal for extending the Kingdom of Christ, zeal for spreading the denomination, zeal for the advance of a particular  sect, zeal that is intolerant,  probably, but, all the while, no careful walking according to God’s Word, no observing what God would have us to be zealous about, no humbling of ourselves in the Presence of the great Lord of all, and no bathing of ourselves in the river of the Water of Life by fellowship with God.

Thus I might keep on showing you various ways in which people may have a great deal that is very good, yet it will all come to nothing  because they lack moisture. But the seed cannot assimilate the dry earth until it is mixed with water and held in solution, and spiritual life can only be fed by Truth held in solution by the Holy Spirit. When He softens and prepares us, then our roots and rootlets  take up the true nutriment  and we grow.

In the case of the seed upon the rocky ground,  there was, also, a deficiency of sensitive vitality. The seed grew for a time, and then became dry—and  are there not multitudes of people, in our Churches now, who are just like that? They are as dry as old hay, they have withered away. We cannot turn them out, but, oh, that we could turn life into them! Oh, that the Water of Life might flow all about them, so that they might live and bring forth fruit unto God!

I have said enough, if God shall bless it, to set many people searching their hearts to see whether  this sacred moisture is there.

III. Now, to close, we are to CONSIDER HOW THE EVIL IS TO BE AVOIDED.

Well, first, let us one and all cry to God to break up the rock. Rock, rock, rock, will you never break? We may scat- ter the Seed upon you, but nothing  will come of it till that rock is broken. The great steam-plow needs to be driven right through  men’s hearts till they are torn in sunder and the old rock of nature is ground to powder, made soft and turned into good soil. Dear Friend, do pray to God to make sure work of you. As far as you are concerned, the one thing you have to do is to believe in Christ Jesus, that you may be saved. But a part of the process of your salvation is the taking out of you the heart of stone and the giving to you of a heart of flesh. There is no true growing unless this takes place.

The next thing is, look well to spirituality. This moisture was a very subtle thing. Men might easily overlook that dampness in the atmosphere and in the soil which was all-essential. Who can tell you what unction is? Yet a sermon with- out unction is a poor, worthless thing. There is a certain secret something which distinguishes a true Christian from a worldling or a mere professor—see that you have it. Do not be content with the Creed, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, or anything  else that is visible, but say, “Lord,  give me the moisture that I need. Give me that secret something without which I shall be lacking the very thing which I most need.” You cannot see your soul. You cannot  fully tell what it is. Yet you know that it is a something that keeps your body alive and when that something is gone, the body becomes dead—so is all religion dead until it receives the life which comes from the moisture that so many lack.

That leads me further to say, look to the Holy Spirit. Be very tender towards the Holy Spirit. We preach Christ to you, as we are commanded to do, but we do not want you ever to forget the blessed Spirit, without whom nothing saving can ever be worked in you! You cannot make yourself to be born-again. Even the faith that saves is the work of the Spirit of God, if it is the faith of God’s elect. Be zealous and tender, therefore, and walk carefully in reference to the Spirit of God lest you grieve Him.

Then I would say, next, try to avoid all dry heat. Do not work yourself up into a frenzy and think that there is any- thing saving in it. The heat of excitement may be necessary, just as dust flies from the wheels of a chariot when it moves swiftly, but, as the dust does not help the chariot, but is a nuisance to those who are riding in it, so is it with excitement. It does not help the true movement and it is a nuisance to those who are living near to God.

Lastly,  be constantly looking for that Divine mystery of secret vitality  which is called in the text, “moisture.” I commend to you this prayer, “Lord,  give me this blessed moisture. Saturate  me through  and through  with the heavenly dew, the Divine rain, that I may grow and bring forth fruit to the Glory of Your holy name.” God bless you, for Jesus’ sake! Amen.