597:  Salvation and the Deception of Non-Saving Faith

597: Salvation and the Deception of Non-Saving Faith

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“Faith or No Faith, That is the Question”

All throughout Scripture, we see examples of people who have faith, but it’s non-saving faith.  After all, every one of us has some type of faith, and we exercise faith every day.  We have faith a car will stop while we cross the street, we have faith our prescriptions will do what our doctor told us they would do, we have faith a chair will hold us up when we sit down in a crowded restaurant, and we have faith the sun will come up in the morning as we prepare to go to the job we have faith we still have.  We all have faith— but we have faith at different levels and in different things.  And not all faith is the same.

For example, we have a certain type of faith in our government, our economic system, or the media.  But that faith is not as strong, nor of the same substance, as the faith we have in the sanctity of our marriage, or the trustworthiness of our best friend, or in our ability to keep a promise to those we love.  Each of these kinds of faith is as varied as the objects of that faith.  And none of these reach the level of faith or trust or dependence we would expect to have in Christ.  Hence, we would call these examples non-saving faith.

But what happens when a seeking person, just like you or me, comes to Jesus for salvation with nothing more than non-saving faith?  Would that person be saved?  Or would they be deceived into thinking what faith they had, bordering on intellectual curiosity, was sufficient for salvation?

The Deception of Non-Saving Faith

The Scriptures repeatedly warn about the deception of non-saving faith.  In the Parable of the Sower, seventy-five percent of the seeds sown did not lead to salvation (Matt. 13:3-9).  Those who sowed in the shallow and thorny soil were deceived into thinking that mere growth, without corresponding fruit, equates to salvation.  Or, to put it another way, faith, without corresponding fruit, leads to salvation.  And the Scriptures clearly state they don’t.

The Scriptures also talk about having a “form of godliness but denying its power.  And from such people turn away!” (2 Tim. 3:5).  We see people like Hymenaeus and Alexander, both lost, serving as prominent members of the church (1 Tim. 1:20).  There are those who come to the wedding feast dressed in clothes of their own righteousness.  The result?  They were bound, hand and foot, and “cast into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 22:13).  We have the warning from the Lord about the wide road that leads to destruction and the narrow gate that leads to life (Matt. 7:13-14).  And, in the book of Hebrews, some were “once enlightened and have tasted the heavenly gift” but never fully drank of the living waters of salvation (Heb. 6:4).

Remember, Jesus said He “did not come to bring peace on the earth, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34) and “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Matt. 10:36).  How?  Because our commitment to Christ must be greater than our love and devotion for those we hold most dear, even our own family. When asked, “Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?”— Jesus  said of His own family, “For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother” (Matt. 12:48-50).

The sad truth is many people come to Christ but never fully partake, or drink, of Him (John 7:37) and are deceived into believing they are truly saved.  Many people, most in fact, go part of the way towards Christ and end up short of true salvation.  They feel and recognize their need for Christ and acknowledge He is the only One that can satisfy their deepest longings, yet they fail to appropriate Him into their lives on His terms.  They thirst, they come— but they fail to drink.  They create their own gospel, their own way of salvation, and their own standards of righteousness, holiness, and sanctification.  Yet they are deceived— because a man-made Gospel does not lead to Christ.

Thirst, Come, and Drink

On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, approximately six months before Jesus was to celebrate His last Passover in Jerusalem and was later betrayed and crucified (John 13:1), He stood amid the crowd and gave the following invitation: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38).  Jesus gives His gospel presentation to a group of people who have very different views about who He is.  And whenever Jesus presents us with Himself— He always forces us to choose.  We are forced to either accept Him on His terms or reject Him outright.  There’s no middle ground, no gray area, and it’s not open to personal interpretation.  It happened to the crowd at the Feast of Tabernacles and it happens today every time we proclaim the Gospel of Christ.

The questions are always the same:  Who is Jesus?  What is truth? (John 18:38).  Is Jesus who He says He is?  And, if He is, what does that mean for me?  Is it possible to have my sins forgiven?  How can I be reconciled with God?  Tell me, what must I do to be saved? (Acts 2:37).

In this passage, three key words describe the path to true salvation:  thirst, come, and drink.  And the promise, of course, to those who thirst, come and drink is eternal life with God and the filling of the Holy Spirit, the living water Jesus talked about (John 7:39).

Thirst – Those who thirst recognize a deep longing, an intense craving, an unsatisfied need in their life.  It’s those who come to grips with the reality that their life has no eternal purpose or meaning and they are “dead in their trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1).  They instinctively perceive there’s more to life than what they’re experiencing and, therefore, they try to fill the void they feel with all sorts of carnal sensations— sex, drugs, food, false religions and philosophies, immoral relationships, pride, selfishness, arrogance— until they finally admit only Jesus can bring light into their darkness.

Come – When the personal longings become unbearable, and the promise of redemption seems so alluring, captivating, and enticing, many come to Jesus for what He promises to offer.  These understand who Jesus claims to be, the exalted Son of God, the Messiah, the Christ, the Lord— and they understand what He has done for them, redeeming them from the penalty and power of sin by dying for them on the cross.  What they know and understand about Jesus is true.  The problem, however, is what they do with that truth.

In other words, there’s more to salvation than simply coming to Jesus.  You can’t just come and receive Him on your terms as some sort of trade or barter transaction.  You must enter through the narrow gate (Matt. 7:13), on His terms, and His terms are not open to negotiation.  His terms are all or nothing, total commitment, His life for yours.  He doesn’t come to make us better or to enhance certain aspects of our lives.  No, He comes to put us to death and raise us to life again in His image, as His child, to do His will and not our own (Rom. 6:3; 1 Peter 3:18).  He is the Lord, the Sovereign One, God Almighty (Phil. 2:10-11), and we are now voluntary slaves, bondslaves, of His.  Remember the words from Romans 10:9: “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Note, it’s Jesus as Lord and nothing else.  You cannot come to Jesus as Savior only.  He is Savior, because He is Lord.

Most people never make it this far.  They never move past simply coming to Jesus, and they never progress to true salvation.  Most view Jesus as an enlightened master or great teacher or the supreme moral example for all mankind, but never as Lord.  They fail to take Him at His Word, or count the costs of salvation (Matt. 8:19-22), and give their lives to Him in abject submission and humility.  They want what He can do for them to make their life better, but they do not want Him as their Lord.  So they say a prayer and try to incorporate some behavior modification or moral changes into their life and maybe even experience a deceptive sense of salvation, like a sensation of peace or contentment, but they never yield or surrender their life to Him nor submit to His Lordship.  And, as sad as it may seem, they’re still lost.  Why?  Because their nature has not been changed (2 Cor. 5:17), redemption and regeneration have not taken place, and the Holy Spirit does not indwell them as their deposit, the guarantee of their future inheritance in Christ (Eph. 1:14).  And then Jesus will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matt. 7:23).

Drink – This is where true salvation takes place.  You have a thirst, and you come to Christ to quench and satisfy it.  Yet simply coming to where the Living Water flows does not, in itself, quench your thirst.  You must drink.  You must partake.  You must be engulfed, enveloped, saturated in Christ, the Living Water.  He must be everything to you if you are to receive anything from Him.  Salvation, being a joint heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17), requires more than reciting some prayer as a nine-year-old at VBS.  It’s a radical, unconditional, total and complete, without reservation and with reckless abandonment, pledge, vow, promise, commitment, and allegiance to Christ as Lord.  You are no longer your own to do what you wish with your life (1 Cor. 6:19).  You have been bought with a price, you now belong to Him, and you are to live to bring Him honor (1 Cor. 6:20).  You are now pilgrims and strangers on the earth (Heb. 11:13; 1 Pet. 2:11) because this world is not your home (Heb. 13:14).

This kind of all-or-nothing relationship marked the disciples, the early church, and every true believer from Pentecost until today.  And if you truly know Christ and are known by Him, it will mark your life as well.

Those Who Believed Jesus… Kinda

The Scriptures tell us when Jesus finished His invitation to the unbelieving crowd to come and drink of Him and those who would come and drink would receive, in themselves, the flowing rivers of eternal life in the person of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39), the crowd was divided.  Some believed His words, but only partially.  Some didn’t believe at all, and wanted to destroy Him (John 7:44).

Nothing much has changed.  As it was back then, so it is today.

“Truly, this is the Prophet”

John 7:40-41 states:  Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, “Truly this is the Prophet.”  Others said, “This is the Christ.”  Note, they said He was the Prophet, capitalized, and not just a prophet.  This first group asserted that Jesus was the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18:15, in which Moses said, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren.  Him you shall hear.”  For centuries, this passage had been interpreted to prophetically speak of the coming Messiah, the Christ.  However, by the time of Jesus, the Jewish scholars, from their understanding of Malachi 3, believed the passage spoke more of the forerunner of the Messiah (Mal. 4:5-6), and not the Messiah Himself.  Now the Prophet was someone who would show men their need for a Redeemer, for Christ, and then faithfully point them to the only One who could satisfy their need.  But the Prophet was not the Messiah and could not, in himself, satisfy their thirst, need, or longing.  He could just point the way or be a path or channel, but He had no power or authority to grant salvation.

Unfortunately, many people still believe this about Jesus.

They believed Jesus came to point men towards the truth, but they would fervently deny He was the Truth (John 14:6).  They would declare Jesus came to point men to someone or something coming to satisfy all their needs, but He was not that Someone and did not possess the something they were looking for.  The men who said, “Truly this is the Prophet” (John 7:40), recognized and affirmed the special status Jesus had as a one-of-a-kind religious leader who did things and taught things unlike any religious figure before (John 7:46).  He was in a class all by Himself.  They would even go so far as to say Jesus was sent by God and had a special relationship with God (John 3:2).  But they would not receive Him as God or serve Him as Lord.  They wanted Jesus and something else, anything else.  These were those who thirsted and came, but never drank.

“This is the Christ”

The second group said, “This is the Christ” (John 7:41).  This group recognized and believed Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior of Israel, the One prophesied from the Old Testament (Luke 2:11).  Yes, they knew these facts about Him to be true, but they defiantly refused, like the first group, to bend their knee to Him as Lord (Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10).  They refused to commit their lives and future to Him as the Sovereign One.  The Scriptures do not indicate this group followed Jesus as Lord.  They simply said, “Yes, I believe He is the Son of God and, yes, I believe He is the Messiah and the Christ.  So what?  What does that mean to me?  Now, pass me the butter and biscuits.  I’m hungry.”

This group confessed Jesus as something, but not as Lord (Rom. 10:9).  They had non-saving faith in Jesus as the Christ.

“This is the Christ… uh, but…”

Then there’s the group that fully confessed Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matt. 16:16), but would rather argue and bicker and debate over trivial matters of their own theology and reject Jesus because, in their mind, He didn’t meet every jot or tittle they thought He should (Matt. 5:18).  These are the ones who argue, saying, “He can’t be the Christ because He came from Galilee and the Christ is supposed to come from Bethlehem.  Plus, the Scriptures teach the Messiah must come from the line of David, and I’m not sure where this guy comes from” (John 7:40-42).  So they compared what little they knew about Jesus with their own limited and incomplete knowledge of the prophetic Scriptures and concluded He could not possibly be the Messiah because He failed to meet all their sincerely held convictions of what the Messiah would be.  We have many in the church today who operate the same way.  They smugly elevate their own statement of beliefs or denominational creeds or preferences to the level of infallible Scripture and use them as a litmus test for fellowship or, sadly, salvation— and even truth.

But if this group had investigated further, they would’ve discovered Jesus was from the line of David (Matt. 22:42) and did come from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) and fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies regarding the Messiah (John 5:39).  But they were more concerned with being right in the eyes of each other and promoting their own theological brand or position than in knowing the truth.  Because of their apathy and laziness, they failed to look for the truth because they arrogantly assumed they’d already found it.  And in their pride and hypocrisy, they missed their Messiah.

Again, just like the first two groups, they also missed out on eternal life.

Those Who Did Not Believe Jesus

The final group was those who hated the Lord Jesus and wanted to destroy Him.  These were the ones who wanted to take Him by force (John 7:44) but were prevented because, from God’s perspective, it was not yet His time and His hour had not come (John 7:30).  Needless to say, the people in this group did not understand Christ nor receive the gift of salvation He offered (John 7:37-39).

To What Group Do You Belong?

So where do you fit in?  What is your response to Christ?  Do you believe partially, somewhat, kinda, in Him?  Do you say, “Yes, He was a good man, and yes, He was sent from God, and yes, He’s a great moral teacher and example, and yes, He’s a path or a way of some sort to God?”  If so, that’s not enough.  Your confession of Him or your profession of faith is severely lacking.  Fatally lacking.  For Jesus, He is all or nothing.  There is no partial with Him.  There’s no halfway, no honorable mention, no consolation prize, and no kudos for trying.  He’s all or nothing, totally in or totally out, through the narrow gate only, and on His terms without negotiation or compromise.

Remember His words,

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed” (John 6:53-55).

In other words, Jesus gives eternal life to those who ingest Him into the core of their very being, as their strength, source of daily nourishment, and sustenance.  Jesus did not come to make us better or to enhance or improve our fallen lives.  No, He came to make us new, to put the old man to death, and to raise the new man to live with Him.  And what kind of life does He promise?  It’s beyond anything we can ask or think (Eph. 3:20-21).  He offers a peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7).  And He promises we will be children of God, and if children, then heirs, and if heirs, then joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).  Just think, all that Christ is and all He possesses becomes ours as a joint heir with Him— when, and here is the requirement, we give all that we are to Him.  This promise belongs to those who exercise real, genuine, saving faith in the completed work of Christ.

One final thought, the seeds that fell on the path, in shallow soil, and in the soil infested with weeds and thorns, did not produce fruit (Matt. 13:3-9).  They did not lead to eternal life.  Why?  Because Jesus never said you’ll know My disciples by their profession, church membership, civic good works, non-profit activities, or from the applause of men— you will know them by their fruits (Matt. 7:16-20).

Fruits.  And nothing else.

Do your fruits show you belong to Him?

Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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596:  The Dependent Relationship of Jesus With His Father

596: The Dependent Relationship of Jesus With His Father

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Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery

Jesus did something that seems so out of place for us today, living in a culture that exalts pride, ambition, and independence— He voluntarily lived in a dependent relationship with His Father and deferred all glory to Him.  But He didn’t have to live this way.  This was His voluntary choice between equals.  And remember, Jesus is God Himself, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father.  He is the Second Person in the Trinity, and not some innately subservient, second-class God.

To set the scene, Jesus is in the midst of a brutal attack by the Jewish religious elites because He said, “My Father,” showing a family relationship with God Himself.  And the Jews responded with rage and death threats.  His statement about being God’s Son seriously enraged them.

So Jesus clarified His statement and His relationship with God the Father by stating this about His dependence on the Father.  You would do well to note the implications of what He is saying.

Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly (truly, truly), I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, (why) but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He (the Father) does, the Son also does in like manner” – John 5:19.

It appears the Son has chosen to live in a dependent relationship with His Father, much like a slave (doúlos) does to their Master.  Yet, being fully God, Jesus chose this posture to ensure, as an example to each of us, the importance of seeking the will of the Father and not our own will.  And if it was good enough for the Son of God to live that way, surely it is good enough for us.

Jesus Speaks His Father’s Words

Next, Jesus reveals the importance of seeking only the will of the Father and not His own will.  And again, you would do well to note the implications of this subservient posture of our Lord.

I can (dúnamai – to be able, to have power by virtue of one’s own ability and resources) of Myself do (to carry out or perform an action or course of action) nothing (no one, none at all, not even one, not in the least).  As I hear (from the Father who sent Him), I judge; and My judgment is righteous (just, correct, right), (why) because I do not (the voluntary choice of Jesus) seek (to strive for, wish, require, demand) My own will (desire, inclination, plan of action, purpose) but (in contrast) the will (desire, inclination, plan of action, purpose) of the Father who sent Me” – John 5:30.

This passage does not say Jesus was something less than the Father or had to appeal to a power or authority greater than Himself to perform miracles.  Quite the opposite. Jesus states He is choosing, as an equal with God, to put aside His personal desire and agenda and give glory to His Father by living in a dependent relationship with Him.  And His judgment is righteous because it came directly from the Father.  So, to His Jewish detractors, Jesus was saying, “If you’ve got a problem with Me or with what I am saying, take it up with the Father.  For I am only doing what the Father commands me to say and do.”

But it continues.

His Purpose Was to Do His Father’s Will

In the next chapter, Jesus teaches the troubled masses that He is the bread of life the Father sent from heaven for them, using the imagery of Moses and manna in the wilderness (the first of seven “I Am” statements in John).¹  And in revealing this aspect of His ministry and purpose to them (using a familiar Old Testament testimony), Jesus says:

For I have come down from heaven, (why) not to do My own will, but the will of Him (Father) who sent Me” – John 6:30.

Again, this is another explicit statement about the dependent relationship Jesus assumed and maintained with the Father while on earth to teach us, among other reasons, how to relate to the Father as His child and slave (doúlos), all at the same time.  Jesus was the perfect picture of a voluntary slave, or bond slave (doúlos), that Paul used to describe himself in many of his letters to the church. (See Exodus 21:5-6 for more about being a voluntary slave).

Jesus is God, Yet Remains Dependent

Note what Jesus said about the revelation they would receive when He was crucified for their sins and how He, even to the cross, remained faithful to the will of His Father.

Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know (ginṓskō) that I am He (I AM), and that I do nothing of Myself; but (contrast) as My Father taught Me, I speak these things” – John 8:28.

Besides showing His total dependence on the Father, Jesus states He is not something less than the Father, but also the God of the burning bush, the “I AM that I AM” (Exodus 3:14).  The italicized He in this verse shows our translators added it to make it flow smoother in our English translation.  But, in Greek, Jesus actually said, “then you will know that I AM,” indicating He was just as much God as the Father Himself.  And as co-equal with God, He nevertheless assumed a posture of dependence on the Father, His equal.

Jesus may have been living out for us this truth, so we could have an example to follow:

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross – Philippians 2:5-8.

Authority and Miracles?  The Father Calls the Shots

Jesus also spoke about having His Father’s authority to speak, not His own, and that the Father “dwells in Me and does the works” that we see Jesus doing.

Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in MeThe words that I speak to you I do not speak on My authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works” – John 14:10.

So even with His profound teachings, like the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), or His indescribable miracles, like raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11), Jesus depends upon His Father for everything.  And again, if that posture of a dependent relationship with the Father worked for our Lord and was what He willingly assumed, then it should also work for us.

But does it?  Have you truly given it a try?

Final Few Questions

Are you ready to assume the role of a slave to the Lord?  Are you ready to quit striving to have things your own way and simply trust and abide in Him (John 15)?  And are you ready to have the Lord use you in ways you cannot even comprehend when you completely surrender your will to the One who gives you life?

If so, good.  Welcome to the Higher Christian Life.


1.  The Seven “I AM” statements are:

•   “I am the bread of life” – John 6:35, 48.
•   “I am the light of the world” – John 8:12, 9:5.
•   “I am the door of the sheep” – John 10:7, 9.
•   “I am the good shepherd” – John 10:11, 14.
•   “I am the resurrection and the life” – John 11:25.
•   “I am the way, the truth, and the life” – John 14:6.
•   “I am the true vine” – John 15:1, 5.

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595:  D.L. Moody and the Higher Christian Life

595: D.L. Moody and the Higher Christian Life

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“What Am I Missing?”

As believers living in the Laodicean church age (Rev. 3:14-22), we often look back and marvel at the extraordinary lives of our Biblical heroes and spiritual giants who have gone before us.  We see them in Scripture, read their biographies, watch movies about their lives, study their teachings, and aspire to experience the intimacy and devotion they had with God that allowed them to do great things.  Yet, for many of us, there seems to be a sad disconnect between the vibrant, Spirit-filled experiences we admire in these heroes of the faith and the comparatively subdued, lackluster, and lukewarm reality of our own spiritual lives.  And try as we may, we can’t seem to put our finger on why.

We find ourselves wondering, “Why does my spiritual life feel so different from theirs?  Where is the promised power they exhibited that is so lacking in my own life?”  Or, in essence, “Is this what Jesus meant when He talked about the abundant life in Him?  I sure hope not.  And if so, is there something I’m missing?”  These questions are not uncommon, and they point to a deeper longing within our hearts— a desire to experience the fullness of life in Christ we see so graphically portrayed in the lives of these spiritual giants that is clearly missing in most of the church today.

This brings us to the encouraging part of our dilemma, which is finally recognizing this longing comes from Him.  It is a God-given desire to know Him more and to experience the closeness and intimacy with God that is our promised birthright as one of His children.  This unfilled longing is your invitation to pursue what has been referred to as the “Higher Christian life”— a life characterized by a profound, transformative relationship with Christ through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.  And the door to this “abundant life” (John 10:10) Jesus promised is opened by your surrender to Him.  It is really that simple.

Time For Self-Reflection

As you begin this journey of embracing the Higher Christian life, take a moment to ask yourself a few questions about your own spiritual experience:

   Have you ever felt a deep desire for more of God’s presence in your life?
   Do you long to experience the joy, peace, and power that seem to characterize the lives of the spiritual heroes you admire?
   And have you ever wondered what it would be like to live a life fully surrendered to and empowered by the Holy Spirit?

If you can relate to these questions, great— you’re in good company.  The desire for a deeper, more intimate relationship with God is a common thread woven throughout the lives of countless believers throughout the ages.

Glimpses of the Higher Christian Life

To better understand what the Higher Christian life entails, over the next few days, we will look at the lives of a few well-known spiritual giants who exemplified this way of living and their personal experiences with surrendering to the Holy Spirit that marked a dramatic change in their lives.  I think these should prove to be not only instructive, but also encouraging.

We shall begin with Dwight L. Moody, more commonly known as D.L. Moody.

D.L. Moody

For those of you who may not be familiar with D.L. Moody, he was an American evangelist who founded the Moody Church in Chicago, the Moody Bible Institute (which still functions today), and the Pacific Garden Mission (I listen to their radio broadcasts weekly, and have for over thirty years).  It is estimated that over a million people came to Christ under his powerful and passionate preaching in both the United Kingdom and across America.  And, on a personal note, he is also one of my spiritual heroes.

Moody’s life-altering encounter with the Holy Spirit came in 1871, years after his transition to full-time evangelism, and it marked a significant turning point in his ministry.  It seems in Chicago, there were two godly women, Mrs. Sara Cooke, and her friend Mrs. Hawxhurst, who attended Moody’s meetings and had a burden on their hearts for the Holy Spirit to fill D.L. Moody.  And so, faithfully, they prayed to that end.  The lesson for us is never to underestimate the truth found in James 5:16 about the power of prayer.  Read it for yourself.

In his own words, Moody described the impact these two women had on his life:

“I can myself go back almost twelve years and remember two holy women who used to come to my meetings.  It was delightful to see them there, for when I began to preach I could tell by the expression of their faces they were praying for me.  At the close of the Sabbath evening services they would say to me, ‘We have been praying for you.’  I said, ‘Why don’t you pray for the people?’  They answered, ‘You need power.’  ‘I need power,’ I said to myself, ‘Why, I thought I had power.’  I had a large Sabbath school, and the largest congregation in Chicago.

“There were some conversions at that time, and I was in a sense satisfied.  But right along these two godly women kept praying for me, and their earnest talk about ‘the anointing for special service’ set me thinking.  I asked them to come and talk with me, and we got down on our knees.  They poured out their hearts, that I might receive the anointing of the Holy Ghost.  And there came a great hunger in my soul.  I knew not what it was. I began to cry as never before.  The hunger increased.  I really felt that I did not want to live any longer if I could not have this power for service.  I kept on crying all the time that God would fill me with His Spirit.”1

Then, in 1871, came the Chicago fire, in which one-third of the city was destroyed, and over 100,000 were left homeless.  With his preaching hall in ruins and so much of the city in need, Moody traveled east to solicit funds.  It was in New York that God finally answered the prayer that changed Moody’s life— the same prayer that can change yours.

We’ll let Moody describe it in his own words:

“My heart was not in the work of begging. I could not appeal (for funds to help the hurting in Chicago) I was crying all the time that God would fill me with His Spirit.  Well, one day, in the city of New York— oh, what a day!— I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it; it is almost too sacred an experience to name.  Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for fourteen years.  I can only say that God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand.

“I went to preaching again.  The sermons were not different; I did not present any new truths, and yet hundreds were converted.  I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world— it would be as the small dust of the balance.”2

This powerful encounter with God’s love and the infilling of the Holy Spirit completely transformed Moody’s ministry.  Instead of relying on natural charisma and a determined work ethic, Moody began to preach, yielding and surrendering to the Holy Spirit.  His ministry became characterized by a deep reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit, and he often emphasized the necessity of being filled with the Spirit when we spoke.  Here are just a few examples:

“I believe firmly that the moment our hearts are emptied of pride and selfishness and ambition and everything that is contrary to God’s law, the Holy Spirit will fill every corner of our hearts.  But if we are full of pride and conceit and ambition and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God.  We must be emptied before we can be filled.”3

And just how important was this experience with the Holy Spirit?  Moody is pretty clear:

“I would rather have the Spirit of God rest upon me for five minutes than to have the assurance that I would get to be with Him when I die.”4

Moody also spoke of the importance of surrender, but he did so in typical Moody fashion:

“I believe many a man is praying to God to fill him, when he is full already with something else.  Before we pray that God would fill us, I believe we ought to pray that He would empty us.”5

And finally, Moody revealed the desire and motivation that drove him to seek more than what the church of his day deemed satisfactory and to never settle for something less.  Moody was driven to love more, know more, experience more, be used more by Christ, leave nothing on the table, and make his life count.  And we would do well to emulate this same conviction in our own lives.  This is also one of my favorite quotes:

“The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him.  With God’s help, I aim to be that man.”6

This, in the words of D.L. Moody, is the essence of total surrender to Him.

“I Aim to be That Man”

As we consider Moody’s testimony, may we be encouraged to earnestly seek the fullness of the Holy Spirit in our own lives by trusting that God desires to reveal Himself to us and empower us for His service, just as He did for D.L. Moody and countless other spiritual giants throughout history.  When it comes to seeking the Higher Christian Life, let us “aim to be that man.”

If it is true there may be more to this life with Christ than what we are currently experiencing, then join me as we “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).

He is calling and waiting.  How will you respond?

Next:  We will look at the life of Andrew Murray and how God has blessed untold thousands through a simple man surrendered to Him.


1. Edman, V. Raymond. They Found the Secret: Twenty Lives That Reveal a Touch of Eternity (Clarion Classic) (p. 101). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

2. W.R. Moody, The Life of D.L. Moody (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1900), 149.

3. D.L. Moody, Secret Power, or the Secret of Success in Christian Life and Work (Chicago: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1881), 28.

4. D.L. Moody, quoted in A.T. Pierson, The Life and Labors of D.L. Moody (Chicago: The Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1900), 92.

5. D.L. Moody, quoted in R.A. Torrey, Why God Used D.L. Moody (Chicago: The Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1923), 44.

6. W.R. Moody, The Life of D.L. Moody, 441.

Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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594:  How Should We Live in the Face of Persecution?

594: How Should We Live in the Face of Persecution?

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Persecution: An Inconvenient Truth

As followers of Jesus, we are promised that trials, tribulations, and persecution will come to all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:12).  It simply comes with the territory.  After all, Jesus warned, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:18).  And so, what they did to Jesus, they will do to those who call Him Lord (Matt. 15:18-20).  But don’t take my word for it.  Read it for yourself.

So rather than responding with fear, doubt, blame-shifting, or finger-pointing (which is often our natural reaction to mistreatment and persecution), we can look to the example of the early church in Acts 4 to see how they faced opposition with faith, prayer, unity, and incredible boldness.  Their response holds valuable lessons for the church today as we try to navigate our increasingly hostile culture while being the light in this present darkness Jesus ordained us to be.

The First Wave of Persecution (Acts 3-4)

Acts 4 opens with Peter and John boldly proclaiming the Gospel and performing the miraculous healing of a lame man at the temple gate (Acts 3:2).  This act of faith, however, attracts the attention of the religious authorities, who arrest and interrogate the apostles, even while the crowds are filled with “wonder and amazement” at what they had just witnessed (Acts 3:10).  Plus, Peter preached a rather pointed sermon to the people, clearly exalting the crucified and risen Jesus as the Messiah which, no doubt, had the Jewish religious establishment filled with rage and indignation. It was a rather amazing day for the infant church.

So, threatened by their bold message, the religious leaders arrested them and commanded them to stop speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:18).  This is a pivotal moment for the church, revealing not only the apostles’ unwavering faith and commitment, but also setting the stage for the church’s response to future governmental intrusions, demands, and subsequent persecutions.

Civil Disobedience: A Bold Response

But rather than cower in fear and scurry away with their tail tucked between their legs, Peter and John responded with firm, but respectful defiance, appealing to a higher authority than the Jewish politburo: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.  For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (4:19-20).  In essence, “We say ‘No’ to you and ‘Yes’ to God.”  For, despite further threats and a future of beatings, imprisonments, cancellations, removal of tax-exempt status, lockdowns, and death— the church will not be silenced.

As Christians, we are called to stand firm in our faith, regardless of the circumstances we face.  We must remember that our ultimate loyalty is to God and His Word, and not to the pressures or expectations of this world which is soon to pass away (1 John 2:17).

Unified in “One Accord” in Prayer

After their release, Peter and John returned to the church to report all that had happened, including the severe threats from the authorities and their response (Acts 4:23).   But instead of panicking or becoming divided (which is a common church response today), they came together in unity, what the Scriptures call “one accord,” and raised their voices to God in prayer.

This “one accord” type of unity is vital when facing persecution.  As Jesus said, “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mark 3:25).  Likewise, a church united in faith, purpose, and prayer, under His Lordship, will not be shaken by opposition, no matter how severe.  But a church splintered by divisions, factions, and discord will struggle to stand, even on a good day.

When faced with challenges, we must stand together as a body of believers, seeking God’s guidance and strength through prayer.  As Philippians 1:27 reminds us, we are called to “stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

Acknowledging and Embracing God’s Sovereignty

Their unified prayer began by recognizing God’s sovereign power as Creator (Acts 4:24), which is a critical starting point.  Likewise, when we face unsettling circumstances, we must remember our God is still on His throne, unmovable, unshakeable, and supreme Lord over all.  He hasn’t changed, nor will He ever (Heb. 13:8).  And we must also realize our current situation, as bad as it may seem, is not a surprise to God— because He is fully aware and in control of all events, everywhere, at all times, even the persecution we may face.

Today, we can take great comfort in embracing that simple fact because it brings profound peace, knowing that even during trials and difficulties, God has a plan and purpose for everything He allows to come our way.  As Romans 8:28 reminds us, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”  And that promise (“all things”) holds true for trials, tribulations, and even persecutions.

Praying for Boldness, Not Deliverance

Notice that the church did not pray for God to remove the persecution or rain down fire and brimstone on their persecutors.  Instead, they prayed for boldness to continue speaking God’s Word in the face of threats, no matter how severe: “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word” (Acts 4:29).  Their focus was not on escaping persecution, but on remaining faithful to their mission in spite of their suffering.  This is a mark of spiritual maturity and graduate-level faith that is so lacking today.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with asking God to deliver us from trials (Matt. 6:13), the greater need for His church is strength and courage to remain faithful in the midst of them, should God choose not to remove them.  Like the apostles and many others throughout church history, our primary concern should be boldly fulfilling the mission Christ has given us, and not avoiding hardship along the way.

Embracing Our Identity and Purpose in Him

The apostles prayed, not as free agents or independent contractors, but as servants (literally “slaves” or “doúlos”) of God (Acts 4:29).  This speaks to their clear understanding of their true identity and purpose in Him.  They recognized and accepted the fact they belonged wholly to God and existed to do His will. They lived for an audience of One.

In our Western world, with our emphasis on personal freedom, independence, and autonomy, this slave mentality is foreign and even offensive, especially in our racially weaponized culture.  But from a Biblical perspective, it is the proper posture for believers to take.  Remember, “We are not our own; we were bought at a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).  So like the apostles and the early church, we must learn to embrace our identity as slaves of Christ and find our purpose in pleasing and glorifying Him alone.

Stepping Out in Faith and Expecting the Supernatural

Note also that the apostles prayed for God to move in a specific way and expected God to stretch out His hand to heal and perform signs and wonders (Acts 4:30).  They understood the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (whom they had just received two chapters earlier) and believed God could (He can) and would (He will) work supernaturally through them as they stepped out in faith.  They truly believed what we claim to believe, that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8), and that He is no respecter of persons and does not show partiality for one church age over another (Acts 10:34).  For what He did for His church back then, He can and will also do for us today.

This embracing of the supernatural nature of the Holy Spirit challenges our anemic expectations and “play it safe” mentality.  Just think: Do we really believe the same Spirit who worked mightily through the early church lives in us?  And if so, do our prayers reflect that confidence? God’s power has not diminished over the centuries.  What He did in Acts, He can still do today through a church that dares to believe and step out in faith.

When God Answers, He Really Answers!

God’s response to the church’s prayer was swift and powerful— actually earth-shaking.  “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31) — and their first request was answered immediately.

But what about their second request for signs and wonders?  Acts 5:12 records, “And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people.”  Note, if you keep reading, you will discover this powerful working of the Spirit was accompanied by the believers living and ministering in “one accord” unity (Acts 5:12).  Amazing.

Finally, this event also showcases the power of united prayer and the importance of expectant faith (Heb. 11:1) from those who didn’t even own a Bible.  When they back then, and we today, cry out to God in one accord, believing He is not only able but willing to answer our prayers, we best position ourselves to see Him move in incredible ways.

Some Lessons for His Church Today

So what does this mean for us today?  Simply this: As followers of Jesus, we should expect opposition and persecution as we live out our faith in an increasingly hostile world.  And when it comes (and it will), we should embrace it and “rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).

And like the early church, our response to persecution must be rooted in:

   Unity:  Striving side by side for the gospel in “one accord,” not allowing petty divisions to weaken us.
   Prayer:  Crying out to God together for boldness and power, not just deliverance.
   Faith:  Trusting in God’s sovereign purposes, even in our suffering.
   Obedience:  Faithfully serving Christ and speaking His truth, regardless of the consequences.
   Expectancy:  Believing God for the supernatural as we step out in faith to do His will.

So let us face the challenges of our day not with fear, but with expectant faith.  Let us link arms as the body of Christ, united in prayer and purpose, and let us boldly shine the light of the gospel, confidently knowing that the gates of hell will not prevail against His church (Matt. 16:18).

Remember, our God is still on the throne.  His power has not diminished, His purposes will always be accomplished, and He is keenly aware of the trials of His children.  So may we, like the early church, be found faithful in our generation, come what may.

Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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593:  How to Hear God’s Voice When He Speaks

593: How to Hear God’s Voice When He Speaks

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“Follow Me, and I Will Make You… Whatever I Want”

In the Gospels, we encounter a radical figure who issues a bold invitation to those He calls unto Himself: “Follow Me.”  These words, spoken by Jesus, are not merely a suggestion but a summons, a mandate to leave life as we have always known it and embark on a journey that has no end— at least on this side of heaven.  His invitation is to die to self, to follow Him wholeheartedly, and to imitate Him in all aspects of life.

Or, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him to come and die.”  But what does it really mean to follow Jesus, especially in the context of the 21st-century woke Christian culture we find ourselves in?  How can we be faithful disciples of our Lord?

What Does it Mean to Follow Jesus?

The essence of Jesus’ call to “Follow Me” is about more than just physically moving from where you are to where He is.  It’s an invitation to a new way of life.  It’s about leaving behind old priorities and identities (like nets or tax booths in the Gospels) and embracing a new identity rooted in faith and obedience to Christ.  And this call is marked by a willingness to let go of personal ambitions and possessions, or to take up one’s cross (Matt. 16:24), and to enter a life of service and mission with Him, by following Him.  It’s about embracing all that Christ offers: His teachings, His lifestyle, His ambition, His mission, His sacrifice, and the purpose of His life.

Ok, got that.

I’ve heard sermons about giving all to Christ for as long as I can remember.  But ‌every time I try to truly follow Him wholeheartedly, I seem to fail.  Sometimes miserably.  There has to be something I’m missing— maybe some key ingredient I have somehow overlooked.

And, to be honest, there is.

The Importance of Hearing His Voice When He Speaks

But there is also one vital aspect of following Jesus that is often neglected in our preaching and church practices— and that is being able, or acquiring the ability, to hear His voice when He speaks to you.  Otherwise, how can you follow Him?  For without His direction, you’re basically flying blind.  I mean, how can you know what He wants you to do?  How can He encourage you, instruct you, or even rebuke you?  And how can you have fellowship with Him or grow in the likeness of Him if you can’t hear Him when He speaks?

Remember, one vital and essential key to following Jesus is to speak to Him and have Him speak back to you.  This is the essence of a relationship with the Lord.  All relationships, with God or with someone else, are built on two-way communication and not a single monologue from only one partner.  And without a relationship… well, we’re just talking about religion.  And nobody wants religion.

Some FAQs About Hearing His Voice

So let me ask you, are you a follower of Jesus?  Do you hear His voice when He speaks to you?  And if you’re not sure, let me answer just a few questions you may have.

Q:  How do I know if it’s God speaking to me?
A:  God’s voice will never contradict Scripture.  Never.  And His voice brings peace and clarity in confusing situations, often challenges us to grow spiritually, and is always consistent with His character of love.  Plus, and I know this may sound mystical, but when God speaks, you will recognize His voice like His sheep do their Shepherd (John 10:3-4).  Or, to put it another way, there is no way you cannot hear His voice if you belong to Him as one of His sheep.  Read the chapter yourself.

Q:  What if I don’t hear anything?
A:  God can even speak in silence.  These times of silence may be opportunities for you to grow in trust and faith in Him, or in what He last spoke to you.  So keep listening, keep praying, and remain open.  Remember, God can speak to you any way He chooses.  He can even guide you with just the look in His eye (Psalm 32:8).  Sometimes, God’s silence is preparing you for what’s next— and that’s a good thing.  A really good thing.

Q:  Can God speak through other means, like circumstances or other people?
A:  Absolutely.  See above.  God can speak to you in any way He chooses.  It’s one of the prerogatives of being God.  He can communicate with us in any number of ways, including through other people, circumstances, dreams and visions, a bolt of lightning, a blinding light on the way to Damascus, while riding a donkey, and even through the quiet nudging of our spirits.  But it is essential that you discern these extra-Biblical messages of God in light of Scripture and prayer.

Q:  How can I be sure it’s really Jesus speaking to me and not just my own thoughts?
A:  Remember, learning to discern the voice of Jesus takes time and practice.  The more we immerse ourselves in Scripture and spend time with Him in prayer, the more familiar we become with how God speaks and what His voice sounds like.  Practice makes perfect, especially when discerning the difference between our thoughts and the voice of the Lord.  Jesus’ voice will always align with His Word and character.  So, if you’re unsure, seek the counsel of mature believers and wait until you know for certain it is the Lord speaking before acting on what you have heard.

Q:  Do I need to hear Jesus’ voice audibly to follow Him?
A:  Absolutely not.  Hearing Jesus speak audibly is not a requirement for following Him.  Throughout church history, countless believers have followed Christ faithfully without ever hearing His audible voice.  Jesus speaks in many ways, and how He chooses to communicate with you is sufficient.  Psalm 115:3 says, “Our God is in the heavens, and He does what He pleases”— including how He chooses to speak to you.  So don’t put Him in a box of your own expectations.

Q:  What should I do when following Jesus feels difficult or costly?
A:  Following Jesus is not always easy, but He promises to be with us every step of the way.  When the path is difficult (and it usually is), you simply must cling to His promises, lean on His strength, and keep your eyes fixed on the eternal joy set before you (Heb. 12:1-2).  And remember, the heroes in Hebrews 11 all faced trials and difficulties, far more difficult than we usually face, yet they remained steadfast, resolute, and unmovable.  How?  Because they understood “that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).  So when following Jesus seems scary, just follow Him closer.  Believe me, it works every time.


Wherever you are on the journey of learning how to hear His voice, remember that following Jesus is a lifelong process.  We will never arrive, at least not on this side of eternity.  But day by day, step by step, as we keep our eyes fixed on Him, He is faithful to lead us, to mold us, and to use us for His purposes and His glory.

May we continually hear and heed the Savior’s call: “Follow Me.”

Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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