Friday, February 26, 2010

Faith Enough

"...and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."
(1 John 5:4)

"...God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith."
(Romans 12:3b)

Part 12: Preparations for Sufferings

Sadly, many Christians have only heard about God's gift of faith as a "name it and claim it" method of attaining more wealth and health. They have been taught that faith is a tool to gain more money, power, influence and status. This sugar-candied faith doctrine services their fleshly lusts, carnal desires, worldly ambitions and personal status.

But biblical faith is much different than this, especially when a believer is undergoing persecution. Faith, according to John Flavel* in his classic work "Preparation for Sufferings,"[1] "is the grace that must do the main service" in an hour of trial and suffering and "hath the principal hand in supporting the Christian under every burden. This is the grace that crowns our heads with victory in the day of battle, Ephesians 6:16: 'Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.'"

Flavel reminds us that faith is an act of God's special grace. This faith

  • enabled Paul to state: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).
  • is described by Peter: " them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:1).
  • is admired by Christ when evidenced by the Centurian: "When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel."
  • overcomes all difficulties: "Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth" (Mark 9:23).
  • is in Christ, without which we can do nothing: "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5).
  • is "that sword that hath obtained so many victories over the world" in our lives: "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:4).
  • is "that trusty shield that hath quenched so many deadly darts of temptation, which have been leveled at the very heart of a Christian in the day of battle." (Eph. 6:16, quoted above)
  • is how a Christian lives, when all outward, sensible comforts die: "...but the just shall live by his faith" (Habakkuk 2:4b).
  • is "the ground upon which the Christian fixes his foot, and never fails under him: "...for by faith ye stand" (1 Cor 1:24).

Flavel tells us that "there are two things that sink a man's spirit when under sufferings" which are 1) the "greatness of the troubles, and 2) the weakness of the soul to bear them." But, he says, faith can make a weak soul strong, and heavy troubles light." How? "By purging out of the soul those enfeebling and weakening distempers," which include both guilt and fear. Flavel's older form of English here is both provocative and intriguing. "Distempers" in our modern vernacular would mean "out of sorts" mentally or physically.[2] In other words, guilt and fear can enfeeble, weaken and debilitate us under trial.[3]

Is our guilt a real guilt, as a result of sin in our lives? God's Word promises us that the "goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance" (Romans 2:4) and that "godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation" (2 Cor. 7:9).
Is our guilt a false guilt, an experience of being "tossed with tempest" (Isaiah 54:11)? We must remember that Satan is called "the accuser of our brethren" (Rev. 12:10) and that he seeks to have a heyday with our feelings and emotions by accusing us in time of trial. The antidote to being overwhelmed by fear and guilt is being grounded in Scripture, and believing God's promises to us. Flavel lists several examples:

  • "Doth darkness, like the shadow of death overspread the earth, and all the lights of earthly comforts disappear? Then faith supports the heart by looking to the Lord, Micah 7:7-8.[4] And this look of faith exceedingly revives the heart, Psalm 34:4-5."[5]
  • "Doth God pluck away all earthly props from under your feet, and leave you nothing visible to rest upon? In that exigence faith puts forth a suitable act,... Resting or staying upon God, Isaiah 26:3."[6]
  • "Do temptations strive to put off the soul from Christ, and discourage it from leaning upon the promise? Then [faith] puts forth an act of resolution, Job 13:15."[7]
  • Faith can be an "act of waiting, Isaiah 49:23"[8] as opposed to sinful haste, Isaiah 28:16."[9] This is a particularly convicting reminder in our modern era filled with impatience, short fuses, sound bytes and tweets, rushing, competing, running roughshod, and always trying to be the first.
  • "Doth God at any time call the soul forth to some difficult service, against which the flesh and carnal reason dispute and plead? Now faith helps the soul by putting forth an act of obedience,... Romans 16:26."[10]
  • "Doth a poor believer find himself overmatched by troubles and temptations, and his own inherent strength begin to fail under the burden? Then faith leads him to an omnipotent God, and so secures him from fainting under his trouble, Psalm 61:2."[11]

Flavel remarks that this gracious gift of faith paradoxically "lightens the Christians burdens, as well as strengthens his back to bear." It is encouraging to learn that "this grace of faith doth strangely alter the very nature of sufferings, taking away both the heaviness and horror of them." How can this be?

  • "By committing the business to Christ, and leaving the matter with Him; and so quitting the soul of all these anxieties and perturbations, which are the very burden and weight of affliction, Psalm 37."[12] What are those things that trouble us most but our own "unruly, seditious, and clamorous thoughts"!
  • "By discovering much present good in our troubles,... Heb. 12:10, Isaiah 27:9."[13]
  • By foreseeing the end and final removal of [our troubles], and that near at hand, 2 Cor. 4:17[14]... "yet a little while." This is a phrase that is found eleven times in Scripture,[15] especially the hope in Hebrews 10:37: "For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry."
  • "By comparing our sufferings with the sufferings of Christ and "sufferings of others of the saints in former ages," and especially "with the sufferings of the damned. O what is this to everlasting burnings! What is a prison to hell?"

Flavel exhorts the believer to "attend diligently upon the ministration of the Gospel, 1 Peter 2:2: 'As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.' Here he emphasizes the doctrine of faith found in Scripture. He also encourages the believer to frequently act on faith as a "special means of improving it" - "rouse it up out of the dull habit, and live in the daily exercise of it," 1 Thess. 3:10, 2 Thess. 1:11, 1 Peter 1:7.[16]

Flavel even recommends keeping a journal. But this isn't the same as modern journaling which is full of fanciful feelings, or worse. Rather he tells us to keep "catalogues of all your remarkable experiences; treasure them up as food to your faith in time to come" so you can say as Joshua did "Not one thing hath failed," Joshua 23:14, and "as Elizabeth said to Mary, Luke 1:45: 'And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.'" In other words, keep track of the many times that God has blessed you, delivered you, protected you, and given you faith enough for the trials at hand. Flavel observes, "We often find Christ charging the people's unbelief on a bad memory, Matthew 16:8-9.[17]

He warns against focusing or trusting on our feelings. He refers to this as "sense, which is the supplanter of faith...."

If you live upon things earthly, you put your faith out of its office: Things earthly have an enmity to faith.... Oh you that live so much by sight and sense on things visible, what will you do when in David's or Paul's case, Psalm 142:4, 2 Tim. 4:16,[18] when all outward encouragements and stays shall utterly fail?

Reader, I advise and charge thee in the name of the Lord, and as thou hopest to live when visible comforts die, that thou be diligent in the improvement and preparation of this excellent grace of faith: if it fail, though failest with it; and as thy faith is, so art thou. Consult also the cloud of witnesses,[19] and see if thou canst find a man amongst them that did not achieve the victory by his faith.

The Truth:

"And He saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm." (Matthew 8:26)

1. Works of John Flavel (6 vol set), Banner of Truth Trust (1820, 1968), ISBN 0-85151-060-4. Flavel's dissertation titled "Preparations for Suffering, or The Best Work in the Worst Times" appears in Volume 6, pages 3-83.
2. See obsolete definition of distemper at
3. See definition of enfeeble at
4. We included verse 8. These verses are precious promises indeed: "Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me. Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me."
5. We included verse 4, which is a wonderful encouragement and worth memorizing: "I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked unto Him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed."
6. This is the familiar verse that is also worthy of memorization: "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee." Note that this verse has nothing in common with the modern perversions of "peace," especially the neoevangelical emphases on affluence and global governance.
7. Job 13:15a is the familiar declaration of Job, in the midst of his troubles, that "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him:...."
8. Isaiah 49:23b promises us: "... and thou shalt know that I am the LORD: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for Me."
9. Flavel is emphasizing the last section of Isaiah 28:16, which states: "Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste."
10. Romans 16:26 states: "But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith."
11. Psalm 61:2 states: "From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I."
12. Psalm 37:5 states: "Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass."
13. Hebrews 12:10 reminds us of the reason for trials: "For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness." Isaiah 27:9 says: "By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin;..."
14. 2 Cor. 4:17 encourages us with a heavenly worldview: "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
15. See this webpage for other instances of this phrase:
16. 1 Thess. 3:10 says: "Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?" and 2 Thess 1:11 says: "Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power." 1 Peter 1:7 says: "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ."
17. Matthew 17:8-9 says: "Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?"
18. Both verses speak of being alone during trial, except for the presence of the Lord. Psalm 142:4 states: "I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul." 2 Timothy 4:16 says: "At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge."
19. A reference to Hebrews 12:1: "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."

*ED. NOTE: Italics in original, bold added. We have taken minor liberties to reformat some of the published text by altering some of the punctuation, Roman numerals, and other obsolete forms.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sufficient Grace

"For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."
(2 Timothy 4:6,7)

Part 11: Preparations for Sufferings

Do you have what it takes to finish the course? What if the course becomes rocky, full of sufferings, pain and persecution? Will you have what it takes to fight the fight and keep the faith? Will you be able to endure actual suffering? These are pressing questions which every serious Christian asks at various times in their life, particularly when facing a time of trial and tribulation.

John Flavel's classic writing* on the topic of "Preparation for Sufferings,"[1] provides some guidance to believers whose hearts are troubled about how they might endure persecution. Flavel contends that there is a necessity for a special work of grace upon the heart of a believer to ready them for actual suffering. This concept is completely foreign to the modern evangelical mindset, which views any special work of God as a means of some higher form of spirituality in the Gnostic sense.[2] In contrast to this heresy, Flavel's discussion of a special work of grace in the life of a believer, as the Lord prepares him for suffering and persecution, is based on Scripture.

Flavel notes how God specially equips a believer for perilous times. The Holy Spirit works "in the hearts of believers, thereby enabling them sensibly to see and feel" this work. Note that the word "sensibly" here means "of the senses," implying that a believer can actually know, feel and experience God's special grace at times. Flavel cites 1 Cor. 2:12: "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God." He says that God's special mercy in this situation is "the sweetest thing in the world. It swallows up all troubles, and doubles all other comforts: it puts more gladness into the heart than the increase of corn and wine, Psalm 4:7."

Flavel explains this special work of grace as the "shedding abroad of the love of God in the heart" (Romans 5:5), "the lifting up of the light of God's countenance" upon the believer (Psalm 4:6), and Christ's "manifesting Himself to the soul (John 14:21)."[3] In this special work of grace, God illumines our darkness.[4]

Both in the continuation and removal of it the Spirit acts arbitrarily. No man can say how long he shall walk in this pleasant light, Psalm 30:7, "LORD, by Thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: Thou didst hide Thy face, and I was troubled." And when in darkness, none can say how long it will be ere that sweet light break forth again. God can scatter the cloud unexpectedly in a moment, Cant. [Song of Solomon] 3:4, "It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth...." There is such an observable difference in David's spirit in some Psalms, as if one man had written the beginning and another the end of them.

Though God can quickly remove the darkness and doubts of a soul, yet ordinarily the saints find it a very hard and difficult thing to obtain and preserve the evidences of their graces. Such is the darkness, deadness, and deceitfulness of the heart; so much unevenness and inconstancy in their practice, so many counterfeits of grace, and so many wiles and devices of Satan to rob them of their peace, that few (in comparison) live in a constant and quiet fruition of it.

Despite our human frailties, God has made special provision for saints who must undergo actual suffering and persecution. Among the most important provisions of God's grace include:

Scripture: A believer is prepared best by going to Scripture: "Scripture-light... is able to discover the secrets of a man's heart to him; and is therefore compared to the Anatomizer's knife, Hebrews 4:12."[5]

Holy Spirit: It is also a work of the Holy Spirit in the heart, which "doth but plant the habits, excite and draw forth the acts, and also shine upon His own work, that the soul may see it; and that... begets peace, and quiets the heart, though it doth not fully conquer all of the doubts of it."

Love: There is also the grace of "the Christian's love to God" which "hath a mighty influence into all his sufferings for God. This grace of love enables him victoriously to break through all difficulties and discouragements," which "Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it" (Song of Solomon 8:7).

Joy: And there is "a fountain of joy and comfort in the darkest and saddest hour" that gives "the glorious triumphs of saints in their afflictions." Flavel writes that to "suffer with joyfulness for Christ is a qualification that God's eye is much upon in his suffering servants, Col. 1:11" -- "Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness."

Common Pitfalls

Flavel cautions about several pitfalls that believers encounter under trial, some of which should be quite familiar to those dedicated to serving the Lord. Several of these pitfalls are the result of an improper focus on self or others. The reader is exhorted: "Oh! take heed of these mistakes; they have been very prejudicial to the peace of many Christians!"

  • "Call not your condition into question upon every failing and involuntary lapse into sin," but rather lean upon God's promises, Psalm 65:3: 'Iniquities prevail against me: as for our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away.'"
  • "Question not the truth of thy grace, because it was not wrought in the same way and manner in thee, as in others."
  • "Conclude not that you have no grace, because you feel not those transports and ravishing joys that other Christians speak of." A good prayer is found in Mark 9:24, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."
  • "Say not thou hast no grace, because of the high attainments of some hypocrites, who in some things may excel thee. When some persons read the sixth chapter of Hebrews, they are startled to see to what a glorious height the hypocrite may soar; not considering that ...1) self was never dethroned,... 2) the hypocrite never hated every sin,... 3) the hypocrite never acted in duty" from a new nature but rather "some external motives and advantages."
  • Do not "conclude you have no grace, because you grow not so sensibly as other Christians do," by comparing yourselves and measuring yourselves to others gifts and graces; or "by thinking that all growth is upward in joy, peace, and comfort; whereas you may grow in mortification and humility, which is as true a growth as the former."
  • Finally, "decline not sufferings when God gives you a fair call to them!"

The Truth:

"For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." (2 Timothy 2:12)

1. Works of John Flavel (6 vol set), Banner of Truth Trust (1820, 1968), ISBN 0-85151-060-4. Flavel's dissertation titled "Preparations for Suffering, or The Best Work in the Worst Times" appears in Volume 6, pages 3-83.
2. For many illustrations on this point see Travers and Jewel van der Merwe's classic work Strange Fire: The Rise of Gnosticism in the Church (1995)
3. John 14:21 states: "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him."
5. Flavel refers to Isaiah 50:10: "Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God."
5. "Anatomizer" is an archaic term, meaning one who cuts apart the anatomy, i.e., dissects. See Hebrews 4:12 explains this process spiritually: "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

NOTE: The title of this post is based on 2 Corinthians 12:9: "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

*ED. NOTE: Italics in original, bold added. We have taken minor liberties to reformat some of the published text by altering some of the punctuation, Roman numerals, and other obsolete forms.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Fool's Gold & Fairweather Faith

"He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me."
(Mark 7:6)

Part 10: Preparations for Sufferings

In John Flavel's writings,* especially his time-honored work "Preparation for Sufferings,"[1] we find a sharp demarcation between traditional beliefs about salvation and God's grace, and the easy-believism, cheap grace gospel of today's postmodern churches. Have we become so watered down, so drenched in post-modernism's syrupy pap, that we cannot remember what Scripture actually says about the way of salvation? Perhaps we have never been taught.

Today's excerpts come from a chapter inserted in between Flavel's instructions for general preparations for suffering (see Part 9 of this series) and his writings about enduring actual suffering. Flavel apparently felt it necessary, before proceeding to describe how to prepare for actual persecution, to make sure that the reader knew fully well beforehand what it means to be a true believer of Christ. Note: this lesson may come as a hard one to those who haven't heard it before, and we even considered omitting it. Yet it is apparent that without this chapter the rest of Flavel's writings might seem formulaic or prescriptive. And unless the reader grasps the spiritual implications of this chapter in his heart it would be fruitless to proceed.

A Palpably Evident Change

Flavel outlines "God's work of grace" which "consists in the real change of the whole man by the Spirit of God, whereby he is prepared for every good work." This work of grace is accompanied by a "palpably evident change" in the life of a true believer, which Flavel describes as "old things are passed away, behold all things are become new,"[2] and "a turning from darkness to light."[3] Flavel emphasizes this point -- that a believer is a "new creature,"[4] a concept that is foreign to the man-centered, psychology-infused false gospels of today. He isn't just a re-made old man. He isn't simply patched up, equipped with various fadish appendages, reshifted, reshaped and remolded. He is a new creature!

Flavel takes pains to distinguish God's "work of grace" that consists "in a real change of the whole man" from other changes that men may manifest -- superficial, partial, insincere or incomplete changes which can easily be mistaken for true salvation. Indeed, in our day, when discernment is greatly denigrated, it is easy for men to act like believers, go through the outward motions, say the right words, perform the correct activities, and fool everyone. This is especially true in the ecumenical realm of church or mission organizations, where one can get by a good long time by playing the game, without ever experiencing genuine salvation. This is also true in the Christian Right, where common political causes have helped to create a climate of false religiosity. One doesn't even need to profess the Christian faith to make huge inroads into the faith. In fact, people are routinely permitted to get by with the outer trappings of being morally "right," and possessing good character and values, but in reality evidencing no true conversion in the inner man. There are many who call themselves believers, but are really fairweather friends professing a fool's gold faith. At the moment their external profession of faith is no longer popular, expedient, politically or monetarily advantageous, or a suitable means to obtaining more power, they will abandon it.

Flavel helps us discriminate between true and the false faith, as evidenced by substantial changes in the life of the professing believer. Note what true faith is NOT:
  1. "It is not a mere change of the judgment from error to truth, from Paganism to Christianity. Such a change Simon Magus had, yet still remained in the gall of bitterness, and fast bound in the bonds of iniquity, Acts. 8:23."[5]
  2. It is not merely a change of a "man's practice, from profaneness to civility: This is common among such as live under the light of the Gospel, which breaking into men's consciences, thwarts their lusts, and over-awes them with the fears of hell: Which is no more than what the Gentiles had, Rom. 2:15."[6]
  3. "Nor is it a change from mere morality to mere formality in religion. Thus hypocrites are changed by the common gifts of the Spirit, illuminating their minds, and slightly touching their affections, Heb 4:4,5."[7]
  4. "Nor is it such a change as justification makes, which is relative, and only alters the state and condition, Rom. 5:1,2."[8]

Not Fool's Gold

What then is this profound change that Flavel speaks of so earnestly? He says,

But this change consists in the infusion of new habits of grace into the old faculties; which immediately depose sin from its dominion over the soul, and deliver up the soul into the hands and government of Christ, so that it lives no more to itself, but to Christ. This is that change whereof we speak.

It is very interesting that at this very point of distinction Flavel asserts such a believer is so radically transformed by God's grace that he will be "presently branded for a fanatic." This new creature, i.e., regenerate man, has been so substantially altered that this change cannot be dismissed as merely conceits, whimsies or fancies of faith. Putting it in our modern lingo, Flavel is basically stating that faith cannot be a "fad." Flavel describes how true faith is devoid of such superficiality:

  1. This new man "is called a creature, Gal. 6:15; a man, 1 Pet 3:4; a new birth, John 3:3. Christ formed in us, Gal. 4:12."[9]
  2. This faith "appears to be real by the marvellous effects it hath upon a man, turning him both in judgment, will, affections, and practice, quite counter to what he was before. This is evident in the famous instance of Paul, Gal. 1:23."[10]
  3. "A divine and Almighty power goes forth to produce and work it; and hence faith is said to be of the operation of God, Col. 2:12.[11] Yea, that the same power which raised Jesus Christ from the dead, goes to the production of it, Eph. 1:19,20."[12]
  4. "Conceits and whimsies abound most in men of weak reason: Children, and such as are cracked in their understandings, have [conceits and whimsies]: Strength of reason banishes them, as the sun doth mists and vapours: But now the more rational any gracious person is, by so much the more he is fixed, settled, and satisfied in the grounds of religion: Yea, there is the highest and purest reason in religion; and when this change is wrought upon men, it is carried on in a rational way, Isaiah 1:13,[13] John 16:9.[14] The Spirit overpowers the understanding with clear demonstrations, and silences all objections, pleas, and pretences to the contrary."
  5. True faith is much more than a matter of fancy or conceit. Flavel notes, "It is a real thing, and gracious souls know it to be so; else so many thousands of the saints would never have suffered so many cruel torments and miseries, rather than forsake a fancy, and so save all.... [T]hey have chosen rather to embrace the stake [i.e. burning at the stake] than deny [Christ]. Surely no wise man would sacrifice his liberty, estate, life, and all that is dear, for a conceit."
  6. The reality of faith "appears in its uniformity in all those in whom it is wrought: They have all obtained like precious faith, 2 Pet. 1:1.[15] They are all changed into the same image, 2 Cor. 3:18.[16] Three thousand persons affected in one and the same manner at one sermon, Acts 2:37.[17] Could one and the same conceit possess them altogether?"
  7. "It is manifest, it is a reality, and puts a real difference betwixt one and another, because God carries Himself so differently towards them after their conversion; now He smiles, before He frowned; now they are under the promises, before they were under the threats and curses; and what a vast difference will He put betwixt the one and the other in that Great Day? See Matt 25."
Evidence of the change in a man can be seen in his changed "soul, body, and practice: all things are become new." These evidences include substantial changes of heart, inclination, affection and meditation. These changes are both observable and mystical. But not in the postmodern sense of being pragmatically measurable (purpose-driven) nor esoteric. In fact, compare this biblical list below to both the postmodern mystical (contemplative) mindset and its ultra-pragmatic business-oriented counterpart. It will quickly become evident that the mass-marketed, pop culture evangelicalism is barren when it comes to genuine attributes of the faith! A true believer evidences the following profound changes, which in today's worldly church might even be ridiculed or mocked:
  1. His understanding is "strangely altered." Formerly he "admired riches and honour, whilst Christ and glory were overlooked and despised. But now all these temporals are esteemed dung, dross, vanity, Phil 3:8,11; Rom 8:18."[18]
  2. "Jesus Christ is now esteemed the wisdom and the power of God, 1 Cor. 1:23,24."[19]
  3. Saints are no longer looked on "as despicable persons, but now as the excellent of the earth, Psalm 16:3."[20]
  4. "Strictness and duty was once esteemed as a needless thing, but now the only thing desirable, Psal 119:14."[21]
  5. The "stronghold" of the will "is taken and delivered up to Christ. It did rebel against God, and could not be subject, but now it submits, Acts 9:6."[22]
  6. Love "changeth its object: It seizeth not so greedily on earthly objects as before, but is strangely cooled and deadened to them, by the appearance of a far greater glory in Jesus Christ; which hath so captivated the soul, and strongly attracted the affection, that it now becomes very remiss in all its actings towards [earthly things].... Now Jesus Christ (Cant. 1:3), His ordinances (Psalm 119:97), and His saints (1 John 3:14) are the only delights and sweetest companions; he could sit from morning till night, to hear discourses of Christ his beloved, and could live and die in the company of His people, whose company is now most delightful and sweet, Psalm 119:63."[23]
  7. "The desires are altered, they pant no more after the dust of the earth, Psal 4:6, but pant for God,... Psalm 42:1... Psalm 119:20."[24]
  8. "The thoughts are changed (Psalm 119:113) and the thoughts of God are now most precious (Psalm 139:17), musing when alone of Him; and in its solitudes the soul entertains itself with a delightful feast, which its thoughts of God bring in to refresh it, Psalm 63:5,6."[25]
  9. "The designs and projects of the soul are changed; all are now swallowed up in one grand design, even to approve himself to God, and be accepted of Him, 2 Cor. 5:9[26].... and it will not much trouble him if all his other designs should be dashed."
  10. "When the sabbath comes (that golden spot of the week,) oh how he longs to see the beauty of the Lord in his ordinances. Psalm 73."
Flavel concludes his observations with a heartrending section describing the precious relationship between a believer whose will is in conformance with God's, who rejoices and delights to do God's will, who seeks the Lord's face, and who loves to meditate on God's law in his heart. Flavel observes, "The command to such a soul is not grievous, 1 John 5:3."[27] All this distinguishes a true believer from the false:

"O there is a vast difference betwixt a man that works for wages, and one whose work is wages to him. And here you may at once see wherein the principal difference betwixt the hypocrite and real Christian lies in the performance of duty; and also have a true account of the reason why one perseveres in his work to the end, when the other flags. Why, here is the true account of both; the one is moved to duty from a natural inclination to it, and the other is forced upon it by some external motives: For the hypocrite takes not delight in the spiritual and inward part of duty, but is secretly weary of it, Mal 1:13,[28] only his ambition and self-ends put him upon it is as a task. But now the upright heart goes to God as his joy, Psalm 63:4."[29]

The Truth:

"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness." (Matthew 23:27)

1. Works of John Flavel (6 vol set), Banner of Truth Trust (1820, 1968), ISBN 0-85151-060-4. Flavel's dissertation titled "Preparations for Suffering, or The Best Work in the Worst Times" appears in Volume 6, pages 3-83.
2. 1 Corinthians 5:17 states: "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
3. Acts 26:18 describes salvation most fully: "To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me."
4. I Cor. 5:17, Ibid.
5. The full account of this story can be found in Acts 8:9-24. Scripture tells us that Simon Magus "believed" and "was baptized," but offered Peter and Philip money in order to obtain more spiritual "power." But Peter told him that "thy heart is not right in the sight of God" and advised him to repent of "this thy wickedness... For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity" (vs. 22-23).
6. Romans 2:15 explains of these types of men that: "Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another."
7. This is an interesting view of Hebrews 6:4,5 (and we have included verse 6), which says: "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."
8. Romans 5:1,2 states: "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." We do not believe that Flavel is denigrating justification here, but rather, in the context of all of his remarks, he is pointing out that this is not an ending point, but rather a place from which to grow in the faith.
9. Galatians 6:15 states: "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature." 1 Peter 3:4 describes it as "But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible,even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price." In Galatians 4:12, Paul exhorts believers to model him as he has modeled Christ for them, "Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all."
10. Galatians 1:24 tells of Paul's miraculous testimony that "But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed."
11. Colossians 2:12 state this profound change: "Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead."
12. Ephesians 1:19-20 explains, "And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places," and this sentence continues on with several more amazing verses, 21-24, which should also be read in this context.
13. Isaiah 1:18 is the well-known verse where the Lord states to us, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."
14. There are many unfortunate copy errors in the Bible references in Flavel's writings. We believe Flavel is referring to John 16:13, which makes more sense in his subsequent statement, "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come."
15. 2 Peter 1:1 states: "Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:"
16. 2 Corinthians 3:18 explains the miraculous nature of this substantial change: "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
17. Acts 2:37 testifies to this miracle that: "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
18. Philippians 3:8 is where Paul proclaims, "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ," and in verse 11 he reveals his focus, "If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead." Romans 8:18 also reveals the eternal focus: "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."
19. I Corinthians 1:23-24 explains, "But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God."
20. Psalm 16:3 encourages us with, "But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight."
21. Psalm 119:14 says, "I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches." Is this focus true for you today?
22. In Acts 9:6 we read of Saul's immediate obedience to the Lord on the Road to Damascus. "And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do."
23. Are these sayings true for you today, dear reader? Are these your priorities? Song of Solomon 1:3a proclaims love of the Lord: "Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth...." Psalm 119:97 proclaims love of His ordinances, which are meditated on continually: "O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day." Verse 63 in the same Psalm announces, "I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts." And 1 John 3:14 also proclaims love of the brethren, "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death."
24. Psalm 4:6 expresses the need and desire for the Lord, "There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us." Psalm 42:1 is a familiar verse of longing for the Lord, "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God." And Psalm 119:20 expresses a longing for God's judgments: "My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times."
25. Psalm 119:113 confesses, "I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love." Psalm 139:17 (the error in the original text has been corrected here) reads: "How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!" And Psalm 63:5-6 explains what biblical meditation really is all about: "My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches."
26. 2 Corinthians 5:9 professes the desire, "Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him."
27. 1 John 5:3 promises us that, "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous."
28. Malachi 1:13 warns of a false-hearted faith, "Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the LORD."
29. Psalm 63:4 expresses this joy with "Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name."

*ED. NOTE: Italics in original, bold added. We have taken minor liberties to reformat some of the published text by altering some of the punctuation, Roman numerals, and other obsolete forms.