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Contemplative Prayer Movement and Its Origin
Published in the Christian Chronicle – By S. E. Ray – 06/18/06

There is a prayer practice that is becoming popular within the evangelical church. It is primarily known as Contemplative Prayer. It is also known as centering prayer, listening prayer, breath prayer, and prayer of the heart. The practice is now widely embraced and taught in secular and professed Christian seminaries, colleges, universities, organizations, ministries and seminars throughout the United States. Academic promoters have introduced these practices into the fields of medicine; business and law while countless secular and Christian books, magazines, seminars, and retreats are teaching lay people how to incorporate them into their daily lives. Promoters promise physical, mental and spiritual benefits desiring to bring about positive social change.

The essential function of contemplative prayer is to enter an altered state of consciousness in order to find one’s true self, thus striving to find God. Proponents of contemplative prayer teach that all human beings have a divine center and that all, not just born again believers, should practice contemplative prayer. To achieve the state of emptiness, one uses a “mantra,” a word repeated over and over to focus the mind while striving to go deep within oneself. The effects are a hypnotic-like state: concentration upon one thing, disengagement from other stimuli, a high degree of openness to suggestion, a psychological and physiological condition that externally resembles sleep but in which consciousness is interiorized and the mind subject to suggestion.

In the early Middle Ages during the 4th through 6th centuries, there lived a group of hermits in the wilderness areas of the Middle East. They were known to history as the Desert Fathers. They dwelt in small isolated communities for the purpose of devoting their lives completely to God without distraction. The contemplative movement traces its roots back to these monks. They were the ones who first promoted the mantra as a prayer tool. “The meditation practices and rules for living of these earliest Christian monks bear strong similarity to those of their Hindu and Buddhist enunciate brethren several kingdoms to the East… the meditative techniques they adopted for finding their God suggest either a borrowing from the East or a spontaneous rediscovery.'” From A Time of Departing, p. 42, 2nd ed. (Ray Yungen)

[See photo of Thomas Keating and Thomas Merton below.]

Most New Agers, occultist and Eastern Mystics teach this type of praying, along with certain individuals within Christianity. Two influential writers who have popularized “contemplative prayer” in the evangelical church are Richard Foster and Brennan Manning. Both these men have written popular “Christian” books about contemplative prayer. And, both quote the Catholic mystics such as Thomas Merton and Thomas Keating. Through the late 1960s and early 1970s, Father Keating and two other monks met with Buddhist and Hindu teachers in an effort to understand the mass defection of young Catholics at the time, people drawn in part to the East’s meditation practices. Their research led Keating, then an abbot at a Massachusetts monastery, to begin unearthing a similar meditative method based on the Christian tradition. The East was mixed with Catholicism to yield new appeal to the defecting younger generation of that time.

Contemplative Prayer differs from Christian prayer in that the intent of the technique is to bring the practitioner to the center of his own being. There he is, supposedly, to experience the presence of the God who indwells him. Christian prayer, on the contrary, centers upon God in a relational way, as an independent power apart from oneself but realized intimately through the Holy Spirit. The confusion of this technique with Christian practitioners arises from a misunderstanding of the indwelling of God. The fact that God indwells us does not mean that we can capture his presence by mental techniques. Nor does it mean that we are identical with him in our deepest self as gods. Rather, the Creator God indwells us by grace that does not blend human effort and His divine presence.

Contemplative prayer claims for itself the experience of God, while setting aside external realities and overcoming the “otherness” of God. It takes these characteristics not from Christian tradition but from Hinduism, through the medium of Transcendental Meditation. The practice of TM is Hinduism adapted by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a Hindu guru, for use in a Western cultural setting. Fr. Pennington, one of the authors of centering prayer and an ardent supporter of TM, says, “Mahesh Yogi, employing the terminology of the ancient Vedic tradition, speaks of this ‘to plunge into deep, deep rest for fifteen or twenty minutes twice a day’ as experiencing the Absolute.” The prayer technique may also incorporate the Buddhist Zen practice of Zazen, or sitting meditation, which involves the detached observation of the thoughts.

Paul writes in scripture, “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.” (I Corinthians 14:15 NIV). He does not say that he will pray with the spirit and clear the mind, but with the spirit and the mind. Clearing ones mind as to be vacant, and trusting God to fill it with whatever He desires, not only has no biblical grounding but also is an open invitation to spiritual invasion of unfriendly familiars. Buddhists call this state Nirvana or Satori, the New Age calls it “at-one-ness”, and Christian mystics perceive they have experienced some kind of ecstatic union with God. Former practitioners have reported insomnia, new fears and paranoia’s, unusual emotional outbursts without restraint, swirling emotions with confusion among others. There is a complete vulnerability in the psychological state of one who practices contemplative prayer, a state that may allow unwelcome visitation without resistance. Contemplative prayer, TM and such practices drop the physiological and psychological boundaries that, in our fallen state, are a fail-safe protection for the human mind and spirit.

The meditation of occultists is identical with the prayer of Christian mystics: it is no accident that both traditions use the same method for the highest reaches of their respective pursuits. Occultism is defined as the science of mystical evolution; it is the employment of the hidden mystical faculties of man to discern the hidden reality of nature, and to experience God as the all in all. In New Age meditation, human efforts are relied upon to realize God. The goal is not to seek God as an Other, but to achieve an altered state of consciousness. Where a Christian seeks dialogue and interaction with God and, with his help, the “restoration of all things in Christ,” by a certain “participation in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4 NIV), the Mystic seeks God in the inner self and escape from the distractions of the outer world.

Richard Foster in his book, Prayer: Finding the heart’s True Home, he speaks of the practice of “breath prayer,” in which a Christian-sounding word or phrase is repeated over and over again like a mantra. Foster wrote “Christian meditation is an attempt to empty the mind in order to fill it” (pg. 72). This “breath prayer” idea has gained popularity in charismatic circles that frequently sing of “breathing in Jesus” or variations thereof. Jesus instructed his followers NOT to use vain repetitions as the heathen do (Matthew 6:7). Mantra meditation was practiced by pagan religions (including Hinduism and Buddhism), centuries before Christ was born. Jesus knew about this form of prayer and most scholars agree he was referring to it directly in his teaching.

“Silence, appropriate body posture and above all, emptying the mind through repetition of prayer—have been the practices of mystics in all the great world religions. And they form the basis on which most modern spiritual directors guide those who want to draw closer to God.… Silence is the language God speaks … says Thomas Keating who taught “centering prayer” to more than 31,000 people last year. Keating suggests that those who pray repeat some “sacred word,” like God or Jesus.” Newsweek, January 6, 1992, article called, “Talking to God,” p. 44.

“In advising against being carried away by artificial practices such as Transcendental Meditation I am but repeating the age-old message of the Church…. The way of the Fathers requires firm faith and long patience, whereas our contemporaries want to seize every spiritual gift, including even direct contemplation of the Absolute God, by force and speedily, and will often draw a parallel between prayer in the Name of Jesus and yoga or Transcendental Meditation and the like. I must stress the danger of such errors…. He is deluded who endeavors to divest himself mentally of all that is transitory and relative in order to cross some invisible threshold, to realize his eternal origin, his identity with the Source of all that exists, in order to return and merge with him, the nameless transpersonal Absolute. Such exercises have enabled many to rise to supernatural contemplation of being, to experience a certain mystical trepidation, to know the state of silence of mind, when mind goes beyond the boundaries of time and space. In such like states man may feel the peacefulness of being withdrawn from the continually changing phenomena of the visible world, may even have a certain experience of eternity. But the God of Truth, the Living God, is not in all this.”Archimandrite Sophrony of Mount Athos, former Eastern mystic converted to Christ.

“The mystical “spirituality” that is so popular in evangelical and charismatic circles today is a yearning for an experiential relationship with God that downplays the role of faith and Scripture and that exalts “transcendental” experiences that lift the individual from the earthly mundane into a higher “spiritual” plane. Biblical prayer is talking with God; mystical spirituality prayer is meditation and “centering” and other such things. Biblical Christianity is a patient walk of faith; mystical spirituality is more a flight of fancy. Biblical study is analyzing and meditating upon the literal truth of the Scripture; mystical spirituality focuses on a “deeper meaning”; it is more allegorical and “transcendental” than literal.” Way of Life, David W. Cloud.

What would the martyrs of the faith say to us if they could speak of our current Western practice of intermingling Christianity with Eastern religion and the occult? Those who were put to death for their faith in Jesus Christ after departed from Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Paul words ring true today and is a strong exhortation to those who try to mix the ways of darkness with the light. “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils; you cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table and of the table of devils.” (I Cor. 10:21 NIV, II Tim 3:5). With extreme prejudice, examine everything against scripture and be cautious about receiving the popular “new” teachings being promoted today in the Church by trusted leaders who are entrenched.

Are There Prophets and Prophecy Today? — Martyn Lloyd-JonesPosted: 27 Jan 2014 04:19 AM PST

Lloyd-Jones,

A prophet was a person to whom truth was imparted by the Holy Spirit. . . . A revelation or message or some insight into truth came to them, and, filled with the Spirit, they were able to make utterances which were of benefit and profit to the Church. Surely it is clear that this again was temporary, and for this good reason, that in those early days of the Church there were no New Testament Scriptures, the Truth had not yet been expounded in written words.

Try to imagine our position if we did not possess these New Testament Epistles, but the Old Testament only. That was the position of the early Church. Truth was imparted to it primarily by the teaching and preaching of the apostles, but that was supplemented by the teaching of the prophets to whom truth was given and also the ability to speak it with clarity and power in the demonstration and authority of the Spirit.

But once these New Testament documents were written the office of a prophet was no longer necessary. Hence in the Pastoral Epistles which apply to a later stage in the history of the Church, when things had become more settled and fixed, there is no mention of the prophets. It is clear that even by then the office of the prophet was no longer necessary, and the call was for teachers and pastors and others to expound the Scriptures and to convey the knowledge of the truth.

Again, we must note that often in the history of the Church trouble has arisen because people thought that they were prophets in the New Testament sense, and that they had received special revelations of truth. The answer to that is that in view of the New Testament Scriptures there is no need of further truth. That is an absolute proposition. We have all truth in the New Testament, and we have no need of any further revelations. All has been given, everything that is necessary for us is available. Therefore if a man claims to have received a revelation of some fresh truth we should suspect him immediately. . . .

The answer to all this is that the need for prophets ends once we have the canon of the New Testament. We no longer need direct revelations of truth; the truth is in the Bible. We must never separate the Spirit and the Word. The Spirit speaks to us through the Word; so we should always doubt and query any supposed revelation that is not entirely consistent with the Word of God. Indeed the essence of wisdom is to reject altogether the term ‘revelation’ as far as we are concerned, and speak only of ‘illumination’. The revelation has been given once and for all, and what we need and what by the grace of God we can have, and do have, is illumination by the Spirit to understand the Word.

taken from: Martyn Lloyd-Jones on the Gift of Prophecy by Nathan Busenitz

5 Principles for Christian Growth — J.C. Ryle

Posted: 20 Jan 2014 05:21 AM PST

 

J.C. Ryle,

J.C. Ryle_1

J.C. Ryle (1816-1900)

The words of James must never be forgotten: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). This is no doubt as true of growth in grace, as it is of everything else. It is the “gift of God.” But still it must always be kept in mind that God is pleased to work by means. God has ordained means as well as ends. He that would grow in grace must use the means of growth.

This is a point, I fear, which is too much overlooked by believers. Many admire growth in grace in others and wish that they themselves were like them. But they seem to suppose that those who grow are what they are by some special gift or grant from God and that, as this gift is not bestowed on themselves, they must be content to sit still. This is a grievous delusion and one against which I desire to testify with all my might. I wish it to be distinctly understood that growth in grace is bound up with the use of means within the reach of all believers and that, as a general rule, growing souls are what they are because they use these means.

Let me ask the special attention of my readers while I try to set forth in order the means of growth. Cast away forever the vain thought that if a believer does not grow in grace it is not his fault. Settle it in your mind that a believer, a man quickened by the Spirit, is not a mere dead creature, but a being of mighty capacities and responsibilities. Let the words of Solomon sink down into your heart: “The soul of the diligent shall be made fat” (Prov. 13:4).

a. One thing essential to growth in grace is diligence in the use of private means of grace. By these I understand such means as a man must use by himself alone, and no one can use for him. I include under this head private prayer, private reading of the Scriptures, and private meditation and self–examination. The man who does not take pains about these three things must never expect to grow. Here are the roots of true Christianity. Wrong here, a man is wrong all the way through! Here is the whole reason why many professing Christians never seem to get on. They are careless and slovenly about their private prayers. They read their Bibles but little and with very little heartiness of spirit. They give themselves no time for self–inquiry and quiet thought about the state of their souls.

It is useless to conceal from ourselves that the age we live in is full of peculiar dangers. It is an age of great activity and of much hurry, bustle and excitement in religion. Many are “running to and fro,” no doubt, and “knowledge is increased” (Dan. 12:4). Thousands are ready enough for public meetings, sermon hearing, or anything else in which there is “sensation.” Few appear to remember the absolute necessity of making time to “commune with our own hearts, and be still” (Ps. 4:4). But without this, there is seldom any deep spiritual prosperity. Let us remember this point! Private religion must receive our first attention, if we wish our souls to grow.

b. Another thing which is essential to growth in grace is carefulness in the use of public means of grace. By these I understand such means as a man has within his reach as a member of Christ’s visible church. Under this head I include the ordinances of regular Sunday worship, the uniting with God’s people in common prayer and praise, the preaching of the Word, and the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. I firmly believe that the manner in which these public means of grace are used has much to say to the prosperity of a believer’s soul. It is easy to use them in a cold and heartless way. The very familiarity of them is apt to make us careless. The regular return of the same voice, and the same kind of words, and the same ceremonies, is likely to make us sleepy and callous and unfeeling. Here is a snare into which too many professing Christians fall. If we would grow, we must be on our guard here. Here is a matter in which the Spirit is often grieved and saints take great damage. Let us strive to use the old prayers, and sing the old hymns, and kneel at the old communion rail, and hear the old truths preached, with as much freshness and appetite as in the year we first believed. It is a sign of bad health when a person loses relish for his food; and it is a sign of spiritual decline when we lose our appetite for means of grace. Whatever we do about public means, let us always do it “with our might” (Eccl. 9:10). This is the way to grow!

c. Another thing essential to growth in grace is watchfulness over our conduct in the little matters of everyday life. Our tempers, our tongues, the discharge of our several relations of life, our employment of time—each and all must be vigilantly attended to if we wish our souls to prosper. Life is made up of days, and days of hours, and the little things of every hour are never so little as to be beneath the care of a Christian. When a tree begins to decay at root or heart, the mischief is first seen at the extreme end of the little branches. “He that despises little things,” says an uninspired writer, “shall fall by little and little.” That witness is true. Let others despise us, if they like, and call us precise and over careful. Let us patiently hold on our way, remembering that “we serve a precise God,” that our Lord’s example is to be copied in the least things as well as the greatest, and that we must “take up our cross daily” and hourly, rather than sin. We must aim to have a Christianity which, like the sap of a tree, runs through every twig and leaf of our character, and sanctifies all. This is one way to grow!

d. Another thing which is essential to growth in grace is caution about the company we keep and the friendships we form. Nothing perhaps affects man’s character more than the company he keeps. We catch the ways and tone of those we live and talk with, and unhappily get harm far more easily than good. Disease is infectious, but health is not. Now if a professing Christian deliberately chooses to be intimate with those who are not friends of God and who cling to the world, his soul is sure to take harm. It is hard enough to serve Christ under any circumstances in such a world as this. But it is doubly hard to do it if we are friends of the thoughtless and ungodly. Mistakes in friendship or marriage engagements are the whole reason why some have entirely ceased to grow. “Evil communications corrupt good manners.” “The friendship of the world is enmity with God” (1 Cor. 15:33; James 4:4). Let us seek friends who will stir us up about our prayers, our Bible reading, and our employment of time, about our souls, our salvation, and a world to come. Who can tell the good that a friend’s word in season may do, or the harm that it may stop? This is one way to grow.

e. There is one more thing which is absolutely essential to growth in grace, and that is regular and habitual communion with the Lord Jesus. In saying this, let no one suppose for a minute that I am referring to the Lord’s Supper. I mean nothing of the kind. I mean that daily habit of communion between the believer and his Savior, which can only be carried on by faith, prayer and meditation. It is a habit, I fear, of which many believers know little. A man may be a believer and have his feet on the rock, and yet live far below his privileges. It is possible to have “union” with Christ, and yet to have little if any “communion” with Him. But, for all that, there is such a thing.

The names and offices of Christ, as laid down in Scripture, appear to me to show unmistakably that this communion between the saint and his Savior is not a mere fancy, but a real true thing. Between the Bridegroom and His bride, between the Head and His members, between the Physician and His patients, between the Advocate and His clients, between the Shepherd and His sheep, between the Master and His scholars, there is evidently implied a habit of familiar communion, of daily application for things needed, of daily pouring out and unburdening our hearts and minds. Such a habit of dealing with Christ is clearly something more than a vague general trust in the work that Christ did for sinners. It is getting close to Him and laying hold on Him with confidence, as a loving, personal Friend. This is what I mean by communion.

Now I believe that no man will ever grow in grace who does not know something experimentally of the habit of communion. We must not be content with a general orthodox knowledge that Christ is the Mediator between God and man, and that justification is by faith and not by works, and that we put our trust in Christ. We must go further than this. We must seek to have personal intimacy with the Lord Jesus and to deal with Him as a man deals with a loving friend. We must realize what it is to turn to Him first in every need, to talk to Him about every difficulty, to consult Him about every step, to spread before Him all our sorrows, to get Him to share in all our joys, to do all as in His sight, and to go through every day leaning on and looking to Him. This is the way that Paul lived “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.” “To me to live is Christ” (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 1:21). It is ignorance of this way of living that makes so many see no beauty in the book of Canticles. But it is the man who lives in this way, who keeps up constant communion with Christ—this is the man, I say emphatically, whose soul will grow.

– J.C. Ryle (1816-1900)
taken from: Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots.

I have watched Dyer on PBS. He intermingles a bit of the Bible and Jesus into his new-age teachings. He is a snake .

Process: 2018

 

To make your dreams come true, you must go to the unseen world–the world of Spirit, or inspiration. It is this world that will guide you to anything you’d like to have in your life. – Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

 

This fluffy-sounding yet insidious trope is one of my favorite flower-hat New Age-isms to refute, and I thank Dr. Dyer for placing it so elegantly.

Making one’s “dreams come true,” aka, ” the “pursuit of happiness,” has been hardwired into our collective brainpan for so long, we have failed to noticed how unconsciously driven we are to seek the pleasures of comfort. As I briefly recounted in my blog entry, “The Soft Domination,” our perceived need to dominate our environment with creature comforts has produced a dysfunctional, lopsided world where affluence and poverty seemingly exist in unrelated, parallel worlds. The fact that one world feeds off…

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If you truly believe a man, you believe all that he says. He who does not believe that God will punish sin, will not believe that God will pardon it through the atoning blood. He who does not believe that God will cast unbelievers into hell, will not be sure that he will take believers into heaven. If we doubt God’s Word about one thing, we shall have small confidence in it upon another thing. Sincere faith in God must treat all God’s Word alike; for the faith which accepts one word of God and rejects another is evidently not faith in God, but faith in our own judgment, faith in our own taste. Only that is true faith which believes everything that is revealed by the Holy Spirit, whether it be joyous or distressing…I charge you who profess to be the Lord’s not to be unbelieving with regard to the terrible threatenings of God to the ungodly. Believe the threat, even though it should chill your blood; believe, though nature shrinks from the overwhelming doom; for, if you do not believe, the act of disbelieving God about one point will drive you to disbelieve him upon the other parts of revealed truth, and you will never come to that true, child-like faith which God will accept and honour. . .

At times you and I are assailed as to our faith in the Bible, by people who say, “How do you make that out? It is in the Scriptures, certainly, but how do you reconcile it with science?” Let your reply be—We no longer live in the region of argument as to the Word of the Lord; but we dwell in the realm of faith. We are not squabblers, itching to prove our superiority in reasoning, but we are children of light, worshipping our God by bowing our whole minds to the obedience of faith. We would be humble, and learn to believe what we cannot altogether comprehend, and to expect what we should never have looked for, had not the Lord declared it. It is our ambition to be great believers, rather than great thinkers; to be child-like in faith, rather than subtle in intellect. We are sure that God is true!…We stagger not at the Word of God, because of evident improbability and apparent impossibility. What the Lord has spoken he is able to make good; and none of his words shall fall to the ground.

taken from: Noah’s Faith, Fear, Obedience, and Salvation, Sermon No. 2147, Delivered on Lord’s-day Morning, June 1st, 1890, by C. H. Spurgeon.

Except Ye Repent
By Dr. Harry Ironside

Pastor Harry A. Ironside

Chapter 12 – IMPOSSIBLE TO RENEW UNTO REPENTANCE

In Peter’s second letter he, I believe, identifies for us the author, under God, of the Epistle to the Hebrews. He mentions a letter written to Jewish believers by “our beloved brother Paul,” “in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2 Pet. 3:15-16). As we know, Peter’s special ministry was to the circumcision, and he addresses his letters to Christian Jews of the Diaspora, that is, those dispersed among the Gentiles. The letter to the Hebrews therefore must be that referred to in the verses quoted, as no other of Paul’s Epistles is addressed to Hebrew believers. And surely there is no other letter in the New Testament which contains more difficult statements than this one. How frequently have ignorant and poorly instructed saints misunderstood such passages as the first part of chapter 6 and the last half of chapter 10. Terrified by what was only intended as a warning against apostasy, true lovers of Christ have fancied that they have committed the unpardonable sin and by crucifying the Son of God afresh have put themselves beyond the pale of mercy. Reason has tottered on the throne as the terrible thought has gripped their consciousness that for them there is now no hope, for so grave is their sin, they fear, it is impossible “to renew them again unto repentance.”

Various explanations, or attempted explanations have been given of the passages in question, and godly men have differed greatly as to their proper application. Without going into the subject extensively, it nevertheless seems desirable that we should, in this connection, try to get a real understanding of what is involved in both these solemn warnings. Note carefully the exact words of Hebrews 6:1-13. The paragraph is somewhat lengthy, but it seems necessary to have it all in view if we are to grasp its import properly.

“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself.”

In a previous chapter we have already glanced at verses 1-3. There we saw that “the first principles of the doctrine of Christ,” or as the marginal rendering reads, “the word of the beginning of Christ,” refers to the preparatory or foundation teaching of the former dispensation, apart from which it is next to impossible really to understand the true Christian doctrine. “Perfection” as used here has no reference to experience, but rather to the body of New Testament teaching which for the well instructed believer supersedes the foundation teaching of that past age. The tendency of these converted Hebrews, or of those among them who professed to be converted through the Gospel message, was to look back longingly to the ritual practices and the partial revelation of the Old Testament, in place of going on to a full understanding and appreciation of the present truth. The Epistle is throughout a warning against possible apostasy where there was unreality, and an exhortation to “go on” to the better things of the New Covenant as contrasted with the lesser things of the Old.

Before examining the solemn statements of verses 4-6, let us consider the closing part of this section, verses 9-13. The writer of Hebrews has no question concerning the ultimate fate of those truly saved though he warns them of the danger involved in spiritual sloth and indifference. But after setting forth the hopeless condition of the apostates depicted in verses 4-8 he says, “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation though we thus speak.” This is most important. If these words mean anything at all, they surely tell us that people might pass through all that is mentioned in verses 4 and 5 without being saved at all. Note this carefully; it will save from confusion of mind: Whatever else the five statements that are enumerated in these verses mean, they do not necessarily accompany salvation. All of them might be true, and yet the soul remain out of Christ.

The evidences of divine life are given in the following verses. There was real devotion to the Lord Himself and unselfish care for His suffering people, seen in these converted Hebrews. Not merely the acceptance of certain doctrines, however true, but real trust in a living Saviour, had made them new creatures, and so their outward walk evidenced the inward change that had taken place. God, the righteous One, would not overlook all this in the day when He would have to judge the nation to which these believers belonged by natural birth. He would not leave a doubt in the minds of any who truly rested in Christ as to the genuineness of their conversion, even when He warned of the possibility of any unreal professors who had gotten in among them eventually apostatizing. But he would have all carefully examine the foundations of their hope of salvation.

If this is clear now go back and read again the warning: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” Who were the people here contemplated? According to verse 9 they were not saved people. In other words, they had never been born again of the Word and Spirit of God.

Who, then, were they? The answer is plain. They were professed converts to Christianity who had witnessed much of the supernatural character of the new and gracious movement, but they had never actually known Christ. They were like those in our Lord’s day who believed in the miracles, but did not know the One who wrought them. What is said of their past? There are five statements.

First, they had been enlightened. This is true of every one who listens thoughtfully to the preaching of the Gospel. Light is thereby imparted to him to which he was a stranger before. “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” But unhappily many have been thus enlightened who refuse to walk in the light. And we learn in 1st John 1:7 that, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Notice it is where you walk, not how. “Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.” The man who walks in the light the revealing power of God’s truth, does not shun its manifestations or turn from its fierce revealing blaze. “God is light and in him is no darkness at all.” Facing the light, walking in it, he learns that the blood is sprinkled on the mercy seat from which the light shines. He no longer dreads its brightness but allows it to search him to the depths of his being knowing that the blood meets every evil thing that is thus exposed. This is a very different thing from being simply enlightened.

In the second place, they had tasted of the heavenly gift. Now whether we think of this gift being the Lord Jesus Himself, whom God the Father gave to be the propitiation for our sins, or whether we think of it as that eternal life which is definitely called “the gift of God,” it is quite evident that there are many who are for a time greatly impressed by the amazing fact that God has so loved the world as to send His Son into the world that He might give eternal life to all who trust Him; and yet they never truly feed upon the Living Bread that came down from heaven to give life to all who believe on His Name. To taste is one thing; to eat is quite another. There are vast numbers of persons who once seemed to appreciate Christ but have since proven that they never really knew Him, whom to know is life eternal.

Third, they “were made partakers of the Holy Spirit.” Surely this implies reality. How could anyone be a partaker of the Spirit of God, and not be saved? I answer, Balaam was; and so was Judas. Yet both are lost. The Spirit of God is sovereign in His working. Yet He compels no one to surrender to Christ, though none would do so apart from His gracious brooding over their hearts. But men may experience much of His convicting power and be deeply stirred as He portrays the preciousness of Christ, and yet may resist His wooing and refuse to heed His message.

Note carefully we are not told that those apostates had ever been regenerated by the Spirit, or sealed, or anointed, or baptized, or filled. They simply became partakers of His power; but did not go on to know truly the Lord. Balaam is a sad example of this, he who felt the power of the Spirit upon him, but “loved the wages of unrighteousness” and never repented of his base intentions, even though not permitted to carry them out. Did not Judas work miracles with the rest in the energy of the Spirit? Apparently he did, for all the Twelve told how the demons were subject unto them, but our Lord declared he was a devil; and we are told he died a suicide and went to his own place.

Fourth, they “tasted the good word of God.” This is closely allied to the first statement made by the inspired writer concerning them, yet it is not exactly repetition. They heard the Word preached. It appealed to them. They felt it to be what they needed. But, though they tasted its preciousness, they did not feed on it with a living faith.

And lastly, they had known something of the “powers of the world [or age] to come.” The reference is to the miraculous signs that were given by the Lord to authenticate the early Christian message. In the coming age miracles will be the ordinary thing. At the beginning of this dispensation of grace, they were given by our merciful God in order that men might be without excuse for rejecting His Word. And these Hebrews had seen many signs and wonders, so that they were, for a time at least, intellectually convinced of the truth of the new doctrine. But that truth had not been received into the heart. They knew much about Jesus, the Prophet, mighty in word and deed, but they did not know Him as Saviour and Lord by yielding themselves to His authority. While our Lord was on earth there were numbers of temporary followers who believed on Him when they saw the miracles that He wrought, but afterwards went back and walked no more with Him. Continuance is a proof of reality.

We may well challenge our own hearts as to whether we are in any better case than they. Formalists and hypocrites abound on every hand. If we profess to trust Him, do we love Him and seek to glorify Him in our lives? An empty profession saves no one.

In the hour of testing these Hebrews turned back to Judaism. Apparently they were not prepared for the suffering that Christians were called upon to pass through for the Name of the Lord Jesus. So they turned their backs upon Christianity and relapsed into Judaism. In so doing they rejected every testimony that even God could give them. He had nothing hidden in reserve. He had told out all His heart when He spake in His Son. For those who deliberately and definitely refused to accept that testimony, God had nothing more to say. It was impossible to renew them again unto repentance. They positively and defiantly sided with His murderers, and so they crucified the Son of God afresh and put Him to an open shame.

We are not told that God would refuse to save them if at the last they owned their guilt, bad as it was, and sought His forgiveness. We are told that they had so sinned against all light and all knowledge that God had nothing further to put before them. The Spirit of God had given them up, and the day for repentance had gone by. It was not that He would refuse to heed their cry, if they did repent; but He knew they would not. They were given over to hardness of heart and to a seared conscience.

A little parable follows in verses 7 and 8 before the reassuring words of the close of the passage at which we have already looked. Two plots of ground are seen side by side. The soil is alike in each field; the same sun shines upon them both; they are refreshed by the same showers. But at harvest time one produces a fine crop that is a delight to the farmer’s heart; the other bears only thorns and briars fit for the fire. What makes the difference? In the one the good seed had found lodgment, but not in the other. The application is easy. Two boys grow up side by side. They attend the same synagogue; later both come under Christian influence; they go to the same meetings; they hear the same preaching; they see the same signs and wonders wrought by the Spirit of God; they both feel His convicting power; they alike profess to believe in His Name; both are baptized; both sit at the Table of the Lord. But when fiery persecution breaks out against the infant church, one basely deserts the cause, while the other stands firm as a rock. The reason is easy to discern. One has received the good seed into an honest heart. The other has only made a lip profession, based upon a mere intellectual and emotional acquaintance with Christian truth.

It is the same in Hebrews 10, verses 26-35: “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, said the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; and partly, whilst ye were made a gazing stock, both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. Cast not away therefore your confidence which hath great recompense of reward.”

Here too, in the closing part of the passage, those to whom the author of Hebrews writes are assured of the reality of their faith. He does not use such strong language to stumble any. Even the weakest babe in Christ is safe in Him. Divinely illumined these Hebrews had suffered and endured, not only individually, but they had strengthened the hands of others. Their reward was sure if they pressed firmly onward, knowing that they had a home in heaven that was eternally secure. Read carefully again verses 32-36, and remember that salvation is by grace, and reward is for service.

Then note the warning of the previous verses. The willful sin is, of course, apostasy. It is turning from Christ after having made definite acquaintance with His truth. Such deliberately trod the Son of God beneath their feet and counted His precious blood, on the basis of which God could look upon them as set aside for blessing, as a common or unholy thing, of no more value than the blood of beasts of old. What can God do with, or for, those who thus spurn His grace? They refuse His loving kindness. Therefore they must know His wrath.

These Hebrews might reason thus: ‘Even if Christianity is from heaven, ye the same is true of Judaism. If we turn away from Jesus, we do not turn from God. If we reject Calvary, we can go back to the sacrifice at the Temple.’ But no, “there remaineth no more [that is, no other] sacrifice for sins.” God cannot own now the sacrifices of bulls and of goats since His own Son has fulfilled all the types by offering Himself without spot, a ransom for all who trust in Him. To refuse Him and to turn from His one sacrifice for sins was to expose oneself to a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which must destroy His enemies.

Though the majority of the company who professed to know Jesus as Saviour and Messiah were real, there was always, as today, the possibility that some were not genuine. So in chapter 12 the warning is repeated, but from a somewhat different standpoint. Note verses 15-17: “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.”

Esau is the outstanding example of one who had full knowledge of the covenant of grace, but who in the hour of stress put a higher value upon personal comfort than upon the blessing of the Lord. When awakened at last to see his folly in some measure, he wept and pleaded for the blessing he had once bargained away; but it was too late. His father had given the blessing to Jacob, and could not repent. This, as I understand it, is what is meant by the solemn words, “he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.” It is not that he himself could not repent of his former levity and profaneness; but he could not find a place of repentance in the mind of his father. However badly Jacob had acted, Isaac now knew it was the will of God that the blessing of Abraham should be given to the younger son. The lesson is a serious one. Divine things are not to be trifled with. Mercies despised at one time may be sought in vain later on. It behooves us all to be real, to be in earnest while it is called today.

“Time is earnest, passing by,
Death is earnest, drawing nigh.
Sinner, wilt thou trifling be?
Time and death appeal to thee.”

[Dr. Harry Ironside (1876-1951), a godly Fundamentalist author and teacher for many years, served as pastor of Chicago’s Moody Memorial Church from 1930-1948]

An important video about IHOP and the sad fact that Francis Chan is endorsing this cult.

REVIVAL COULD COME

(Friday Church News Notes, January 3, 2014, http://www.wayoflife.org fbns@wayoflife.org, 866-295-4143) –

The previous articles describe the difference between America in the 1940s and America today. The America that exists today simply could not do what it did 70 years ago. What’s missing today? The answer is God’s blessing. This is the answer that secular libertarians and unregenerate political conservatives don’t understand. Though America was not a godly nation in the 1940s when measured by the perfect standards of God’s Word, she was a nation that loved Israel, and she was a nation filled with churches that were much more faithful to God’s Word than they are today, and she was a nation of people that were much more God-fearing than they are today. The unchurched generally believed in God and feared Him and respected the Bible and respected churches and pastors, which was the salty influence of God’s people. Even Hollywood was bound by a moral code. The military chaplaincy program was robust and nearly universally respected. What was true in my mom’s Baptist church in Florida during the war, was true across the land. The church was open every day and every day people knelt before God and confessed their sins and begged His help. American’s victory in WWII was not a foregone conclusion. Had Hitler developed the atomic bomb first, he would doubtless have used it first on Russia and then on America, and it could have been America surrendering rather than the Axis Powers.

America’s root problems are spiritual, and the only real solution is spiritual. The only thing that will help America out of her terrible plight is a true revival, and there could be revival. Though the time on God’s prophetic calendar is late, there is no reason to believe that genuine revivals can no longer occur. But revival in America or Canada or England or other lands with anything like a biblical heritage will happen only on the basis of 2 Chronicles 7:14. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14). This is a promise for Israel, but it has application to the church age. See Romans 15:4 and 1 Corinthians 10:11.

Nothing like a revival and lasting change will happen through Moral Majority programs or Tea Parties or Chick Fill-A Days or Duck Dynasty support campaigns. As these have been tried repeatedly and enthusiastically over the past few decades, the moral depravity has only increased and the power of the forces for right and liberty has only decreased, because these are carnal weapons that only deal with symptoms and cannot affect the foundational spiritual issues. These are bandaids on cancer. They can win socio-political skirmishes but not spiritual wars. Keeping Duck Dynasty on the air is not a sign of moral victory at a fundamental level; it is a sign of the power of the almighty dollar. At the very same time that A&E was being pressured into keeping Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson on the air by an outpouring of support via social networking and “new media” sites, federal judges were ruling against biblical marriage in Utah and Ohio and the Supreme Court ruled against biblical marriage laws in New Mexico. Which of these events will have the most far-reaching and lasting consequences? The heart of the tree is being eaten away even as the watchers are rejoicing at keeping a few leaves alive.

Revival could happen if individual Christians and individual churches repent before God at a deep level, repent of their adulterous love for this God-hating world, repent of their lukewarmness, and beseech His help. If even 100 Bible-believing churches took 2 Chronicles 7:14 seriously, who knows what would happen? If they started a weekly prayer meeting specifically for revival, specifically to beseech God’s help for the nation, if they called for fasting and prayer, and if the members of those churches would spend time seeking God’s face in a persistent manner, who knows how far the forces of evil could be driven back? God has never needed a majority. Gideon’s brave and vigilant few are enough.

The very fact that it is unlikely that even 100 Bible-believing churches would call for such prayer meetings, and that the majority of the members would not attend such meetings even if the pastors exhorted them to do so, is evidence that what I am saying is true about the root problem being the churches themselves. Even the best, for the most part, are lukewarm, settled down and comfortable in the world, not pilgrims but dwellers, mighty for pot luck and parties but weak for spiritual warfare.

CONCLUSION: The Friday Church News Notes is designed for use in churches and is published by Way of Life Literature’s Fundamental Baptist Information Service. Unless otherwise stated, the Notes are written by David Cloud. Of necessity we quote from a wide variety of sources, but this obviously does not imply an endorsement. We trust that our readers will not be discouraged. It is God’s will that we know the times (1 Ch. 12:32; Mat. 16:3) and that we be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves. The News Notes remind us that the hour is very late, and we need to be ready for the Lord’s coming. Are you sure that you are born again? Are you living for Christ? “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Rom. 13:11-14).

Sharing Policy:  You may freely copy and share and/or use excerpts from this article. You should mention the full name of the article and credit David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, www.wayoflife.org.  More information is at:  www.wayoflife.org/sharing/
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