Closing the loop ...

I’ve Figured Out What My Problem Is

Dr. David Stone    

Read the Bible and learn something about what God wants you to do.  Then DO it.

May 15, 2014

You shouldn’t read this essay.  You’re not going to like it.  I don’t even like it.  I’m not writing it for you, anyway, but rather to analyze my own failures and my own quite unfavorable prognosis.  I’ve written a good bit on the tragic condition of American Christendom, focusing neither on the cults (JWs, Mormons, Roman Catholics), nor the flakes, like the “Word-Faith” Pentecostals, but rather analyzing the horrific state of the most conservative of the fundamentalists (fundies) and evangelicals (gellies).  But this essay is about my own tragic state.  I’m 62 years old now and I don’t see a favorable trend ... for me!

You’re still reading?  That’s foolish.  You’re going to be part of the collateral damage.  Instead, read one of my educational, lighter-hearted essays, like “DNA and Information,” or “Human Consciousness – Mind and/or Brain.”

This essay is a lament.  However ... if you like Jeremiah, maybe you should read it after all.  Jeremiah was in touch with reality, especially where he and others around him stood with God.

Be warned that this is an ADVANCED TOPIC.  If you’re not SERIOUS about growing in grace and wisdom and SERIOUS about serving God, this essay has nothing to do with you ... and you won’t even ‘get it.’  If you are SERIOUS, then you won’t agree with it.  So stop reading before you get angry ... anger is a sin, you know.

Oh, you think that you are SERIOUS?  And that you know quite a number of SERIOUS Christians?  Ok, here’s a little test.  You (or your friends) fail if just one of these items is true about you:

  1. You’re not in your Bible every day with a desire to get something from God to know Him and serve Him.
  2. You have been a Christian for 10 years or more and have less than, let’s say ... 1,000 verses memorized, not caring that the Sword of the Spirit, the word of God, simply MUST be hidden in your heart, ready to assist you in the spiritual battle.
  3. A week goes by and you haven’t made multiple, significant efforts to share the Gospel with lost people, verbally, eyeball-to-eyeball, with a sound Scriptural presentation, plus ... you’re not getting out as many of the most outstanding tracts that you can find – daily, as you go from errand to errand.
  4. You don’t yearn for substantive discipleship opportunities, but are content listening to a hireling preacher tell you what he learned in his seminary (it’s not likely he learned it this week!).  You don’t care that you don’t have or don’t take the opportunity to share with other believers what you have learned, and you don’t hunger to hear from other believers what they have learned – every week!.  You apparently don’t have enough discernment to know that the conventional, facility-based, pulpit-pew or ‘Sunday School’ system is hopelessly deficient to help prepare you for the Bema.
  5. You don’t yearn for the kind of fellowship that enables John 13:35 and Hebrews 10:23-25 and Colossians 3:16, and don’t have the wisdom to realize that the conventional church system is DESIGNED to prevent it.  You’re content with your church program, which doesn’t interfere much with your life at all!
  6. I could add more, of course, about how little you work to love your spouse, to raise your children, to do business in the world with integrity, etc., but you’ve already flunked the test, so why should I beat you up anymore?

Still reading?  OK, then let’s travel this journey together, if you dare.  This essay derives from struggling the last 30 years of my life to figure out what the problem is with me, and everyone else in America who wants to serve God, what it really means to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and how to reconcile Biblical passages that seem to promise spiritual fruit, especially the continual production of new converts to love and disciple.  (Real converts, that is, not just churchgoers.)

If you don’t think this is an advanced topic, you don’t get it.  If you think that it’s just me that’s immature, weak, and you are past all this, you’re wrong and I can’t help you.  If you are a gracious and kind fellow who would reassure me that I’m actually doing pretty well and shouldn’t beat myself up, then you’re certainly trying to justify your own condition.

The “Open Loop Problem”

In my professional career, particularly when I was an Air Force officer, I received an annual “Officer Effectiveness Report,” a painstakingly written review of my job performance.  The OER was a key tool in determining whether and when I might get promoted to the next rank.  It was VERY IMPORTANT.  But I never had to wait for a year to find out how I was doing.  My boss would tell me quite often whether he liked what I was doing, or didn’t.  In fact, I had the liberty at any time to walk into his office and ask him to tell me!  Namely, I enjoyed a “closed loop system,” with regular feedback so that I could easily make adjustments to get ready for the next OER.  (In electronics and control circuitry, closed loop systems are routinely designed to make sure a system doesn’t go haywire.  Open loop systems can be dangerous!)

I find my Christian life to be an extremely frustrating “open loop system.”  There is only one “official OER,” the Bema – the Judgment Seat of Christ for the believer.  I have often marveled at how some wonderfully devoted Christians can get some fundamental issues SO WRONG and never acquire the wisdom to get on track.  Many spend their entire lives trying to serve the Lord and yet will be severely disappointed at the Bema.

Examples?  Sure, I’ll be bold to give you some, since you aren’t supposed to be reading this anyway ...

  1. There are many “pastors” and “evangelists” who are convinced that they have led multitudes to Christ, yet will find out that many of their “converts” are false.  Why?  Because their Gospel presentation avoided repentance, and / or manipulated the sinner into a “sinner’s prayer,” and/or downplayed issues of sin and judgment in favor of pleas to “have a relationship with Jesus,” or “come forward and pray to receive Christ now!”
  2. There are multitudes of paid clergy, both fundie and gelly, who have studied hard and spent countless hours in sermon preparation, 1-2-1 counseling, Christian school management, and facility development ... and are therefore convinced that they have served God faithfully.  Yet they have missed the whole point of Biblical discipleship, which is to help believers to grow spiritually, to exercise their gifts, to exhort one another, to pray for and love one another, and for EVERYONE to be an evangelist to the lost.  The pulpit / facility / clergy based program has PREVENTED Biblical discipleship.  Woe to such PREVENTERS at the Bema.
  3. Regarding you “laity” out there ... Expecting rewards for being faithful to the “Senior Pastor” and the “Program,” you might rather be rebuked for not joining or starting a simple house church in which you would have grown and served the Lord.
  4. How many Christians go through life, faithful to “attend church,” but rarely share the Gospel with the lost?  How can you read the Bible and take part in so many “Bible studies” and not obey the commands of the Lord Jesus to preach the Gospel?  You don’t really believe the Bible much at all, do you?

I’ll resist going on, which I could do for quite a while.  The “open loop problem” is that quite sincere Christians ... yes, really born again Christians ... can spend a lifetime in coldness and disobedience and yet be smug about their supposed faithfulness, expecting to hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Well, here’s the answer to the “open loop problem.”  God’s will is for the loop to be closed, with feedback!  Here’s how it’s supposed to work, in two parts:

Part 1.  God expects us to take His Bible seriously

No, I mean really seriously!  I don’t know anyone in America who actually does.  (If you think you do even at the “knowledge level,” take my basic Bible quiz in Blog #4 of my 2013 archive.)  Some of the most respected Bible expositors are Calvinists, for example ... and therefore must be false converts themselves.  How can anyone who actually repents and trusts Christ get the message of salvation so wrong!?!  Yes, I know that genuine Christians can get fooled after conversion by false teachers.  Which will severely hinder spiritual growth and service.  But the teachers?  No, God promises chastisement on those who sin so severely that it harms the work of the Gospel.  And the most famous false teachers, whether Calvinist or Pentecostal or fundie, can be quite prosperous for many years; ergo, no chastisement; ergo, “bastards, and not sons.”  (That’s God’s terminology, not mine – Hebrews 12:8.)

I did say that “quite sincere Christians” fool themselves.  Well, perhaps sincere, but not so “good.”  I’ve met sincere Muslims, Hindus, JWs, etc.  Sincerity on the broad road to destruction is not a virtue, but rather reflects corruption of the heart and mind.  One of the most apparently sincere, dedicated, and holy (in his personal life) evangelists I have ever met ... a far “better Christian” than I have ever been or ever expect to be ... became corrupt in his Gospel presentation (repentance-less) and hopelessly enamored with the cult of the “man of God” clergy system in fundie churches.

This is all quite scary to me.  I promise you that I do not exult in any way, as if I have “got it together.”  Rather, I can see how easy it is to fool oneself.  I must understand my Bible better.  I must examine my own doctrine, my own practice, and my own heart (2 Cor 13:5).  I’ve got to stay in touch with reality.  We lie to ourselves more than to anyone else.

The rest of the answer to the “open loop problem” is ...

Part 2.  Feedback

The believer is to be led by the Holy Spirit, filled with the Holy Spirit, and have the mind of Christ.  Now, everyone out there, especially in American pulpits, claims to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Baloney.  Within just a few miles of where I live, I have visited many conventional churches and heard such claims from “Got-a-new-revelation!” Pentecostals, from “Have-we-got-a-great-show-for-you-today!” mega-church CEOs, from “We’re-so-lucky-to-be-elect!” Calvinists, and from “Quick!-Pray-a-sinner’s-prayer!” fundies.  Hey, they can’t all be filled with and led by the same Spirit, can they?

If you get ecclesiology wrong, it’s not a small thing.  If you’re clergy you are crippling the saints you claim to “shepherd.”  Or “under-shepherd.”  Such terminology is blasphemous all by itself.  There is only one Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ.  “The Lord is my Shepherd” (Psalm 23 and John 10:11), not a seminary trained hireling, who often leaps into a “pastorate” or an “assistant pastorate” fresh out of “Bible College.”  Not a seasoned elder at all.  Yet the Bible is explicit about elders (plural) who are to lead by Scriptural experience and by example.  If you’re not clergy, but rather a “layman,” then you have wickedly outsourced your own God-given responsibility for spiritual growth to someone who claims to be a “man of God,” interposed between you and God ... in other words, a priest.  I got saved out of Roman Catholicism.  Are you still in some form of it?

So the problem with the churches is the problem with the Christians, individually.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I haven’t run into any American Christian who is filled with the Spirit.  Including myself, of course.



The “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” the “filling of the Holy Spirit,” the “power of the Holy Spirit” ... there are many examples in the Bible, notably the events at Pentecost and in the weeks to follow.  I’m not going to do an exhaustive study for you.  Please do so on your own.  But note, for example, Acts 4:31-33.  We see the power of the Holy Spirit manifested specifically for the preaching of the Gospel ... they gave witness with “great power.”  Concurrently, we see unity and sacrificial love among the brethren, with intimate fellowship – something foreign to the modern church “program.”

The rest of the book of Acts and countless examples from history over the last 2,000 years give evidence of believers led by and filled with the Holy Spirit as lost sinners are converted, lives are transformed, evangelism multiplies, and churches grow ... even and especially under persecution.  We don’t see that in America today.  In China, in Vietnam, in Iran?  Yes, the Gospel is multiplying by the power of the Holy Spirit in the darkest places in this world.  But here?  No.  Megachurches do grow, fundie pulpits do get thumped, Bible conferences do abound, and “Christian media” do generate billions of dollars every year.  But real converts?  Real power?  No.

For many years I’ve tried to sort out just what the conditions are that correlate with the power of the Holy Spirit in evangelism and whether it gets sustained in discipleship over the long term.  I’ll summarize briefly what I’ve learned through a few examples:

Baptist Revival

America experienced a tremendous revival in the late 18th century.  Converts multiplied and thousands of Baptist churches were established in the Carolinas, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and beyond.  It is obvious that countless Spirit-filled Christians were key to this work.  Some of the historically preserved names include Shubal Stearns, Samuel Harriss, James Ireland, Daniel Marshall, and John Taylor.  Not familiar names?  Oh, but EVERYONE has heard about the arch-Calvinist Jonathan Edwards and the tiny little revival ostentatiously called “The Great Awakening,” earlier in the century.

What seems to have characterized the Baptist revival was the utterly selfless dedication of those that preached the Gospel, not caring for their own comforts or safety or even their very lives.  Additionally, their whole-hearted care for souls produced a simple personal holiness that never scandalized God’s work.  What is interesting to me is that God worked with these men (and their women) DESPITE various doctrinal defects.  For example, many of those Baptist preachers were infected by Calvinist doctrines to some degree.  But it seems that they were “schizoid Calvinists.”  Namely, they buried that false theology learned in their youth when it came to reaching out for souls.

Spurgeon and McCoy

A century later, Spurgeon’s Spirit-filled ministry bore fruit despite the Calvinist theology he learned from his father’s library, and despite his errors in ecclesiology.  Read Spurgeon’s sermons as he pleads with men to repent and trust Christ.  His doctrine of election has been safely hidden in a closet.  A similar split in doctrinal personality is seen in Isaac McCoy, who reached out to the American Indians in the 19th century.  His message and his dedication and his sufferings – which included seeing the deaths of many of his children – were wholly divorced from his “official theology.”

Cartwright and the Methodists

Peter Cartwright and many other circuit-riding Methodist preachers saw God’s work multiply in the early 19th century, despite doctrinal errors involving infant baptism, eternal insecurity, and sinless perfectionism.  In practice, though, they preached against sin, demanded repentance, and begged sinners to trust Christ and be born again.  God blessed.  The Gospel was preached and the seminary training often and fortunately neglected.

Charles Finney

Charles Finney was an interesting case.  There is no historic figure more vilified – unjustly – by Calvinist preachers, even today.  Finney is held up as the “poster boy” for manipulative altar calls that produce false converts.  There is no basis for this accusation!  The reason that Calvinists despise Finney so much is that his evangelistic work was done primarily among Calvinist congregations, including Presbyterians and Congregationalists, although Reformed Baptists weren’t immune.

Finney was hyper-sensitive on the issue of false conversion.  He abhorred manipulation.  Yes, he did have public invitations, but they often involved hours of counseling and prayer ... sometimes even days.  As he grew older, Finney was almost obsessed as he checked back to see whether the converts of his early revivals were still “going on.”  He discovered that most were, indeed, going on.  Where Finney erred doctrinally was not his anti-Calvinism.  He was right about that, of course.  His concern for false conversion was so intense that he came close to sinless perfectionism as a test for true conversion.  He didn’t quite get there, but he did go in that direction to a degree.  Nevertheless, God blessed.

Minnesota Logging Revivals

John Sornberger* had “the baptism” in the Minnesota logging revivals of the late 19th century.  John was a professional boxer, a brawler, a feared criminal ... before his conversion.  God providentially kept him away from seminary training, and so he was able to maintain his testosterone level as he reached out to the roughest segment of American society.  Yes, he still knocked a few heads around during his evangelistic campaigns.  (I’d like to write about this fellow in a blog within the next few months.)  His “inner experience” wasn’t the same as many others in the evangelistic Hall of Fame, but his fruit abounded.  His message was pure and his heart totally captured by the Holy Spirit.

The “staying power” in revival is intimately connected with the purity of Biblical discipleship.  A prime reason that there have been many historic revivals, but they have not endured beyond a fraction of a generation, is that Biblical discipleship was neglected.  The Baptist revivals, in particular, ultimately produced buildings, pulpits, and a seminary-trained “man of God” to lord it over each flock.  This is death.  Believers fail to develop their God-given spiritual gifts, and unity and love among the brethren are shoe-horned unsuccessfully into regularly scheduled “services.”

The Methodist revivals seemed to do better.  The circuit-riding system depended on believers in each locale to encourage each other and grow together.  Eventually, though, the Methodists went “up-town” and built steepled church buildings to compete with other denominations.

Holiness, Selflessness, and a Consuming Passion for Souls

The common positive elements in these and many other historic cases are men and women with holiness, selflessness, and a consuming passion for souls.  I’m tempted to go on to discuss Amy Carmichael, Gladys Aylward, Adoniram and Nancy Judson, and even the Welsh revival of the early 1900s and the many Spirit-filled Christians who were used in that.  I would love to recount some of the relatively few stories that have come out of the most awesome evangelistic movement of the last thousand years – the house church movement in Communist China – which does exhibit staying power because they get ecclesiology right!

Ironically, the Communist takeover of China was a huge blessing.  When the Commies kicked out the Western church-building-planters, persecution necessitated networks of secret house churches, which persist and multiply to this day.  Just like the New Testament prescribes.  Missionaries sent by Chinese house churches now work to spread the Gospel into Muslim countries, ostensibly closed to missionaries ... but not closed to missionaries who are willing to die for the Gospel’s sake.  Would that we in the West were so blessed by purifying persecution.

But I’m mostly interested in the often misunderstood scarlet thread of evangelistic power common to both Scripture and history.  What I conclude is that the Lord will put up with quite a bit of error and frailty in order to propagate the Gospel.  Not too much error, of course.  Miss the deity of Jesus Christ and you get a cult with zero true converts.  Preach unconditional election or sinless perfection up front, or neglect repentance, or add works to faith ... and you may build a megachurch, but it will be filled with the lost.

But preach the Gospel Biblically, calling men and women to repentance and faith, extolling the new birth and a transformed life, and God will connect a Spirit-filled evangelist with lost hearts and minds who are open to hear the truth.

So why do I feel like I’m target shooting with a blindfold on?  And not just me, but everyone I know who actually preaches a Biblical Gospel?  The simple reason is that I’m not filled with the Spirit.  Yes, the Holy Spirit indwells me.  Yes, I do get answers to prayer ... what I call “easy prayers.”  But the hard prayers are of a different order.  A “hard prayer” involves the change of a heart and a mind.  The Lord draws “all men” toward repentance (John 12:32;  2 Peter 3:9).  What I want to do is to go and preach to the guy who is responding to the Lord’s work on his heart.  I want the Holy Spirit to cross my path with that fellow.

Have I seen some real converts over the years?  Yes, a few.  Too few.  I do hope that there are others out there who have gotten saved, or will get saved, where I was helpful along their path, but I just never heard about it.  I have a bit of evidence that this indeed has happened, because of a few who did eventually get back to me.  I also hope that we’re close to the Rapture, followed by the Tribulation, wherein multitudes will be saved.  Perhaps some of those will have been helped by my witness and / or by a tract I gave them.

But an actual revival, like right here, right now?  I’m not seeing it and at this point in my life, I have no expectation to see it.  I consider that to be a personal tragedy.  I can’t think of anything in this world over my entire lifetime that I would rather experience.

The Bible is clear that the Lord expects His disciples to bear fruit ... the fruit of born again converts.  I won’t prove that to you.  Read your Bible and you’ll see it again and again.  But the Bible also teaches proportionality in faithfulness and rewards.  More faithful, more reward.  More seed sown faithfully, more evangelistic fruit.  More power of the Holy Spirit, much more fruit.  Just consider a couple of examples: Jeremiah 17:5-10.  We all see ourselves as the “good guy” in this passage, don’t we?  But we’re not.  We’re not the fellow in verse 8.  We’re in verse 9.  Look up Matthew 5:6.  That’s a promise for every believer.  And Matthew 13:23 and the associated parable.  The typical believer is to bear fruit 30-fold, 60-fold, or 100-fold.  The other 3 guys in the story are not weak Christians.  They are LOST!

We love Psalm 1, don’t we?  Of course, the Psalmist is contrasting lost vs. saved.  But the believer in this picture delights in the law of the Lord, in which he meditates day and night.  Is that you?  Is that me?  If so, the promise is clear: spiritual fruit and spiritual prosperity.  How about Psalm 19?  Do we exhibit wisdom, joy, purity, enlightenment, cleanliness?  Do we truly desire God’s word more than gold?  Do we find Him sweeter than honey?  Daily?  Do we, like the Psalmist beg God to cleanse us from our sins that we keep secret even from ourselves?  Or are we such skilled rationalizers that verse 12 is for the “other guy,” who also ought to watch out for presumption, as in verse 13?  And so, the “great reward” of verse 11 escapes us.

Me?  I’m too weak.  Not serious enough.  Not caring enough.  Not prayerful enough.  Not sacrificial enough.  Not holy enough ... in thoughts, words, and deeds.  In short, too pitiful to be entrusted with power.  If I got some converts I might do a pitiful job in discipleship.  We all love to quote Romans 12:1-2.  When preached from a pulpit on Sunday morning, the entire congregation feels warm and fuzzy because that’s our testimony, right?  Apparently not.  Just watch how you work it out from Monday through Saturday.

Consider Matthew 5:3-12.  That’s what we should be, today, tomorrow, and every day.  But we’re the bad guy in Matthew 7:1-5.  Like the Pharisees, we ‘know’ such teachings and disdain others who sin.  We can see sin in others, but oh so poorly in ourselves.  Every time I get aggravated at another, including my wife, I cover my own sins and self-righteously clobber hers.  And if I speak my frustration, to vent, to do harm, I’ve just added ANOTHER BEAM to my eye.  I’m not talking about compassionate correction: there is a Biblical way to see a problem and address it.  Consider the little comment in John 20:9.  They knew the Scripture, having been told many times, but they didn’t KNOW IT!

Mind you, I want to fix me!  Really, I do!  But as I get more in touch with reality, examining myself from a Biblical perspective, as opposed to comparing myself with my woeful neighbors and peers, I find myself far short of the qualifying standard for power.

My wife offered a vehement objection to these thoughts.  (Bless her for thinking that she married a “good” Christian.  Well, sometimes she thinks so ... I think.)  “You’re making God too tough, too demanding!”

“No,” I responded.  “God is long-suffering, gracious, kind, we can’t get kicked out of the family, BUT HE’S NOT AN EASY ‘A’!!”  And we’re in an easy ‘A’ culture.  The worldly “easy ‘A’” culture tempts each of us, including us Christians, toward high self-esteem.  In the world, that’s good.  In reality, that’s pride and self-righteousness.

My evangelistic efforts are Biblical in content and fervent in delivery.  Sincerely fervent!  However, if I were Spirit-filled, I believe that the Holy Spirit would quite frequently lead me from one divine appointment to another.  Instead, I thrash about randomly ... like you do, too ... unless you’re such a spiritual slug that you don’t even try!  (Remember, I told you not to read this.)

I know you disagree.  You’re in denial.  I know, because I’ve been there.  In John chapter 20, we look down, disdainfully, at Thomas’ skepticism (John 20:25).  To the world, he had a reasonable excuse for his skepticism.  The Lord concluded otherwise.  Thomas already had a huge foundation on which to exercise faith in the reported Resurrection.  God expects us to recognize truth when it is revealed, because the Biblical worldview should make perfect sense to the believer in every detail.  Thomas knew the Lord.  He knew his fellow disciples.  He knew the promise.  Yet he said, “I will not believe.”  Will not.  A stubborn will in league with corruption in the heart.  Now, the Lord was gracious to Thomas, wasn’t He?  But Jesus did say that those who believe without seeing will be particularly blessed.

We see Thomas as “the other guy,” don’t we?  Thomas is me.  Thomas is you.

Virtually all modern fundie and gelly preachers speak glowingly of having a “relationship with Jesus.”  When they do, the pew-sitters nod and say, “Amen!”  The unbeliever is expected to feel left out from whatever mystical thing is going on.  Now, there is a Biblical precedent for the “relationship thing.”  John 17:3 and John 15:14, for example.  Yet the prerequisite condition for friendship with the Lord of Hosts in John 15:14 is obedience.  Most grievously, lost sinners are encouraged to leap into a relationship with Jesus without any concern for sin, judgment, and repentance.

I talked at length with a Pentecostal preacher who, in my opinion, was certainly born again, having a testimony of repentance, faith, and fruits of conversion in his youth.  He yearned for sinners who visited his church to come into a relationship with Jesus.  Yet he wanted to skip over the bad news, somehow deceiving himself that others could get the “relationship” without coming the same way he had come ... the Biblical way.

Most Christians in most churches delude themselves that they are “friends with Jesus,” while demonstrably in disobedience to the Great Commission, and showing no real holiness in their lives.  It seems there is hardly anyone in America who is in touch with reality.  We’re not in good shape, people!

Specifically on being “filled,” Pentecostals are so deluded that they insist that they continually get extra-Biblical revelations.  They are sure that they are filled because they can pray in nonsensical gibberish — not the Biblical tongues ... languages ... used to preach the Gospel to lost foreigners.  Emergents and mega-church “worship leaders” work themselves into an altered state of consciousness which they define as being filled.  Fundies like evangelists John Rice and Shelton Smith fool themselves by producing false converts through manipulative methods.

There are some fundies ... I have one author / missionary in mind in particular ... who take a ‘nuts and bolts’ approach, insisting that if you read your Bible, go to church, avoid grievous sins, pray diligently, do some evangelism, etc., namely, do your duty diligently ... then by definition!...  you are filled with the Spirit.  This position also tends to opine, “It’s not how much of the Holy Spirit you have.  It’s how much He has of you!”  This implies a linearity, a simple proportionality.  No, clearly the filling of the Holy Spirit is a non-linearity, an exponential game-changing experience.  Ok, you ask, where are the Scriptural examples?  Look ‘em up.  Find them in the lives of Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, David, Solomon, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Josiah, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, the apostle John, and the Lord Jesus Himself!

So it’s not nuts and bolts.  It’s not linear.  No, it’s more than that.  It’s not mysticism, either, but there is an experiential side to this.  The outward evidence is clear, as we have discussed.  But there’s an inner thing going on, too.  And it is obvious that it is SO EASY to fool yourself on this!  Almost every week I meet a professing Christian (almost always a Pentecostal) who responds to my evangelistic inquiry with, “Yes, I’m a Christian, filled with the Holy Ghost!”  Right.  Almost every pulpiteer has a “word from the Lord,” whether gelly or fundie.  And faithful tithers / attenders are reassured weekly that they are among the “in crowd.”

But with some it is demonstrably REAL.  D.L. Moody had “the baptism,” with both inward and outward evidence.  A number of workers in the Welsh revival had it, but with different experiences.  Many revivals burned out or got corrupted because “the baptism” was claimed, but corrupted by Satan into weird emotional or physical demonstrations, like the modern “slaying in the Spirit” rampant in Pentecostalism.  I’m confident some in China have it, but it’s hard for me to figure out what’s going on over there on the ground because accounts get filtered through Westerners.

I have some personal experience with the “inner thing,” but I won’t speak of it in detail, other than to say that what I’ve had has been rare and correlated perfectly with particular evangelistic experiences.  Too rare.  But enough to give me a taste when I really crave a steak dinner.

So what’s the solution?

I’m not going to leave you hanging.  The Biblical solutions are clear.  They are not even complicated.  But simple doesn’t mean easy, especially if the heart, mind, and will have been bent by carrying baggage through most of a lifetime.  Baggage ... the scars of sins ... sins of the flesh, sins of neglect, sins of complacency, sins of self-righteousness, sins of willful ignorance, sins of love-lessness.

Just because I want to have maturity, joy, evangelistic fruit, and blessed fellowship with the Lord and with other believers does not get me there.  The goal is not the process.  Praying for the goal while despising the process is futile.

Here’s a summary of the process: DO – BE – DO – BE – DO – BE ...

Here’s what I mean:  Read the Bible and learn something about what God wants you to do.  Then DO it.  The Holy Spirit will affirm this in your conscience and you will BE a little more mature.  Which motivates you to learn something else to DO.  DO that and you will BE a little stronger.  Your fellowship with the Lord Jesus grows.  You’ll want to DO more.  And BE more.

Don’t quit.  Along that path is maturity and eventually, the power of the Holy Spirit to be His fruitful instrument and worthy co-laborer.  Your conscience gets more sensitive along the way so that you can leave rationalization behind, your spiritual heart gets healthier, and your will grows in strength to follow a more Christ-like heart.

By the way, a strong will is a liability unless your heart is pure.  A corrupt conscience, a wicked heart, and a strong will is the worst possible combination.  Far better for the wicked to have a weak will.

Scripture: Look at 2 Peter 1:5-10, for example.  Add those elements by DO-ing and you will BE fruitful as promised in verse 8.  As you DO and BE, grab the many relevant promises as in Matthew 7:7-12.  Ask, seek, knock.  Tightly bound to this promise is that of Luke 11:13.  God wants to fill you with the Holy Spirit.

You will find these simple patterns throughout Scripture, in the experiences of the prophets and apostles, and in their teachings.  Like I said, it’s not complicated:  DO – BE – DO – BE ...

What Makes it Difficult?

Sin.  Weak heart.  Weak will.  I double-dog-dare you to try this.  Here’s what will happen, even if you make the greatest effort of your life:  Some local devil in your community will quickly take notice and start throwing bricks at you.  Circumstances, health, finances, a grumpy spouse, a snarky boss, meddling relatives ... hey, watch out!  They’re gonna come after you, buddy.  Expect it.  And it is Scriptural that the Lord will allow you to be tested, tried.  To see if you really want it.  To see if you care.

Now, here’s the temptation that will arise.  You start to rationalize, wondering just how “good” you have to be in order to be blessed with fruitfulness.  As if you can qualify by reaching some minimum standard, negotiating with the Lord so you don’t have to truly subscribe to Romans 12:1-2.  Nope.  There is no negotiation here.  You actually have to AGREE with the Lord about holiness, love, righteousness, and compassion for the souls of men.  You have to want to “BE GOOD” whether or not anything ever happens to produce fruit in your life.  You must be truly conformed to Jesus Christ, dying to this life (Phil 3:10) and constrained by His love (2 Cor 5:14-15).

If you get into the DO – BE loop and stay there, the Holy Spirit will join you, illuminate you, grow you, empower you.  He enables us to DO more, which makes us to BE more like Him, which provokes Him to lead more, etc.

Oh, how many times, countless times, I have jumped into the loop with all sincerity.  Oh, how many times I’ve stumbled out, sometimes by the Enemy’s provocation, sometimes just because I’m such a mess.

It’s not like I’ve ever quit altogether.  And “degrees” do count.  Even if you’re in despair, it’s far better to hand a tract to that lost fellow outside the grocery store than to wallow in self and let him go to Hell without a warning.  At least DO something today and give God a chance to help you BE a little better.  Even if you’re discouraged, it’s far better to pray for others, even if you don’t “feel” that your prayers are heard.

With some trepidation I’ll give you a little perspective on my tiny efforts.  I read my Bible every day and every year, on schedule this year to read the OT once and the NT twice.  I continue to work on Scripture memory, which I started about 36 years ago.  I won’t tell you how much Scripture I have memorized.  But I haven’t missed a day of review in about 13 years.  I’ve shared the Gospel verbally with multitudes (and that’s the right word).  And I’ve given out many multitudes of tracts, the best ones I can possibly find, including many I’ve designed myself.  I keep adding to this web site, praying and trusting the Lord to connect someone occasionally to a helpful item.

Also, I have worked so very hard to love my wife and to lead her spiritually, I have agonized often in prayer for my children and love them more than my life (especially when they don’t think so), and I have exercised high standards of integrity and self-sacrifice throughout my professional career, often making decisions that serve the mission and my co-workers far more than what would have served me.

But I know I’m short in everything and have been for a long time.  I’m 62.  The trend is not good.  When I get in touch with reality, I am far short of loving my Bible enough, I am short on evangelistic passion, and there is far too much self in my relationships.  I want more but I don’t want to do more.  My will is weak.  And that’s no excuse because my will is as strong as I want it to be.

A Metaphor ...

If you stay in the loop and don’t quit, God promises to put a fusion power core in the center of your being, to fuel the will, to work the cycle.  You’ve got to want it.  For oh so many years, I have yearned for an internal nuclear power plant, so to speak, but I haven’t worked the cycle to completion.  I need the power plant, but I also need the transformers, the transmission lines, and the power tools to turn that core energy into useful work.  If God gives me a fusion core while I have built some crude construct of plastic and glass piping around me, I will melt down.  My “whole man” must be equipped for the work.  Evangelism is intertwined with discipleship and fellowship and church growth and the very work of God Almighty in this present generation.  My “whole man” must be designed to employ Spirit power, and that design is my responsibility, based on the clear teachings of God’s word.  God won’t equip me with the power plant if I simply can’t use it safely.  So, work the cycle to build the plant, while the Holy Spirit gives the core appropriate to your plant design.

As I do the self-eval, I detect some finite power energizing the modest little work I do.  Yet I have tasted of a “fission core,” if not a “fusion core,” on several occasions, so I know experientially whereof I speak.  Tragically, I don’t sustain it.  And I’ve tasted of joy unspeakable ... rarely ... associated with those parts of the DO – BE cycle I have inconsistently explored.

Supposedly successful pastors and media ministers and fundie evangelists don’t get it.  They don’t even get church right and willfully so.  A successful missionary / evangelist admitted to me personally that he agrees with me on the New Testament pattern for a local house church network, but will not say so or write so publicly because he will lose the ‘friends’ he has, his peers in ‘ministry.’  Nicolaitan ministry, that is.

If I’m in sync with the Holy Spirit, then I can be led by Him.  He knows how to reach the lost in the optimal way and with optimal timing.  I don’t.  I recall meeting a new convert on the street, saved several months previously, in an area that I was hitting heavily.  The fellow had joined a goofy Pentecostal church – he didn’t know any better.  I complained to the Lord, “Why didn’t I cross that fellow’s path a few months ago?”  My fault.  I was out doing the work.  That’s a good thing, but I wasn’t in sync enough to be led by the Holy Spirit to that particular fellow at the particular time when he was open to Gospel truth.

Yet on occasion I have experienced divine appointments that bore fruit.  But why so rarely?  Well, now that I’m (almost) completely honest with myself, I understand.  Some make the excuse, “Oh, but this is a wicked and Gospel-hating generation.”  Please.  Which generation wasn’t?

Final, practical recommendations

Don’t seek experience or happiness or success or even spiritual fruit.  Seek righteousness (Matt 5:6).  Seek holiness (Heb 12:14).  Know and love God’s word (Psalm 119).  Seek wisdom (Proverbs chapters 1-31).  Seek souls and walk with Jesus in His work (Matt 28:18-20).

Go DO it poorly and hope to BE a little stronger.  DO – BE – DO – BE ... Don’t quit!  Your heart is so deceitful, so tempted to self-righteousness and self-delusion, that you can easily think you’re completely in the will of God, but you’re out of touch with reality and going your own way.  Should you “go and preach the Gospel” even if you’re an out-of-sync klutz?  Yes, God can and does use His word, even when employing such poor instruments as you and me.  In fact, if you aspire to “work the cycle,” you must be obedient and go.  You can’t sit around waiting for the rushing wind and tongues of fire.  That happened once.  And the disciples weren’t just “waiting” either, like we would.  They had been praying for 10 days already, obedient to the Lord’s command to do just that.

It is no coincidence, I believe, that the Lord Jesus led off His first publicly recorded sermon with BE-attitudes ... We’ve got to BE while we go and DO. 


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Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing,
Whether it be good, or whether it be evil.


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