Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Most Unlikely Recruits

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

The Most Unlikely Recruits

     Men and women have come in simply out of curiosity—a curiosity often created by some unfounded story or malicious slander of prejudiced minds. Yet Jesus Christ has called them and they have become both His disciples and our warmhearted friends. Some of the most unlikely recruits has been, in after days, our most valuable soldiers. They began with aversion and ended with enthusiasm. They came to scoff but remained to pray. Such cases are not at all uncommon.

     They were not unusual in the days of Whitefield and Wesley. They tell us in their journals of persons who came with stones in their pockets to throw at the Methodists, but whose enmity was slain by a stone from the sling of the Son of David. Others came to create disturbances, but a disturbance was created in their hearts that could never be quelled till they came to Jesus Christ and found peace in Him. The history of the church of God is studded with the remarkable conversions of persons who did not wish to be converted, who were not looking for grace but were even opposed to it, and yet, by the interposing arm of eternal mercy, were struck down and transformed into earnest and devoted followers of the Lamb. 

From The Autobiography of Charles Spurgeon

It is true that “the history of the church of God is studded with the remarkable conversions.” Think of the murderous persecutor Saul of Tarsus who encountered Jesus on a road near Damascus. This unlikely recruit to Christianity spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ far and wide. 

Think of an atheistic college professor named C.S. Lewis who eventually surrendered to the truth in the Bible, calling himself the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England. Lewis went on to write some of the most influential Christian apologetic books of the 20th century. 

And most personally, think of yourself. Paul reminds us, “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth” (1 Corinthians 1:26). Yet God is using you right now to build His Church.

Keep on loving Jesus. Keep on sharing Jesus with your unsaved friends—no matter how antagonistic they may seem to your message. You never know what God may do with those “reluctant recruits.” 

Interrupted But Not Discouraged

…I will…if the Lord permits… (1 Corinthians 16:5-7). 

Paul had a desire to visit certain cities to share the Gospel, so he made his plans. But he was careful to add, “if the Lord permits.” He knew from personal experience that God knows best the where and the when.

In fact, the first time Paul came to Macedonia, it was only after he had been blocked from his original plans—

They tried to go to certain regions of Asia, but they were prevented by the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:6).

They headed toward Bythinia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there (Acts 16:7).

While at Troas, Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia, so they concluded that God was calling them to preach there (Acts 16:9-10).

We must know that we know that God has green-lighted an opportunity for us. Where God opens opportunities, satan is sure to attack (1 Corinthians 16:9). We don’t want to then assume that the attack means that we are in the wrong place at the wrong time, or even in the right place at the wrong time.

Paul made his plans, but he also remained interruptible.

When God said, “Go!” Paul could endure any opposition because he was assured that God had called. And when God said, “No” Paul could rest peacefully because he was assured that God knew the best place at the best time.

The same principle is true for godly leaders today—

A mark of a godly leader is one who is interruptible without becoming discouraged.

This is part 39 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

The Devil Isn’t Scared Of You

This is part 2 in our series looking at phrases that sound biblical and then asking, “Is that in the Bible?” 

Statement #2—Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Is that in the Bible? Yes, those words are there, but we need some perspective. 

First of all, demons are real and they are dangerous. No, the devil and his henchmen are not behind every calamity we face. C.S. Lewis explained it well—

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” —C.S. Lewis 

Some people think there is a struggle between Jesus and satan that has an uncertain outcome, almost like Jesus and satan are locked in an epic arm wrestling duel. But the victory is already assured—Jesus has already won (Acts 10:38; 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54-58)!  

But while we are on Earth, we are living in a battle zone. Jesus said the devil’s agenda was pretty straightforward—steal, kill, destroy. He tries to accomplish this in a number of ways: everything from lying to us, to intimidation, to misquoting Scripture. 

And that’s where we need to be aware. Yes, the words “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” are in the Bible, but they are only valid when spoken in light of the first part of the verse—“Submit yourself to God.” 

“satan is not scared of your show of force toward him, but of your show of submission to God.” —Craig T. Owens 

There were some guys who tried to invoke the name of Jesus in a spiritual battle, and they ended up running out of the house bleeding and naked (Acts 19:11-16)! 

Last time I said that God helps those who cannot help themselves. The prayer He loves to respond to is, “God, help!” If ever we face a situation that we cannot help ourselves, it’s dealing with demons. We can’t, but God can! 

So before anything else submit yourself to God. Hide under the shadow of His wings, let Him be your shield and your defender. Only then will the devil flee from you (see Psalm 91). 

Remember: the devil lies. He can even use Scripture to lie. His lie is getting you to believe you can resist him on your own. The truth is he’s not afraid of who you are, but he flees when he sees Whose you are!

Am I The Genuine Article?

Examine and test and evaluate your own selves to see whether you are holding to your faith and showing the proper fruits of it. Test and prove yourselves… (2 Corinthians 13:5). 

The root word for discern in the New Testament Greek is dokimazō. This word means to examine something—scrutinize it closely—to see if it is genuine. We’re instructed to take a close, scrutinizing look at…

  • …our beliefs about God (Romans 1:28)
  • …our understanding of God’s will for our lives (Romans 12:2)
  • …our relationship with God and others (1 Corinthians 11:28) 
  • …our faith (2 Corinthians 13:5)
  • …our motives (2 Thessalonians 2:4)
  • …the teaching we are listening to (1 John 4:1) 

In his book Romans: God’s Glory, Donald Grey Barnhouse discussed the root word for discern (the Greek word dokimos). He said, 

“In the ancient world there was no banking system as we know it today, and no paper money. All money was made from metal, heated until liquid, poured into moulds and allowed to cool. When the coins were cooled, it was necessary to smooth off the uneven edges. The coins were comparatively soft, and of course many people shaved them closely. In one century, more than eighty laws were passed in Athens to stop the practice of whittling down the coins then in circulation. But some money-changers were men of integrity, who would accept no counterfeit money; they were men of honour who put only genuine, full-weight money into circulation. Such men were called dokimos, and this word is used here for the Christian as he is to be seen by the world.” (emphasis mine)

This should be said of every Christian: “They are dokimos—men and women who are honorable and are the real deal. They don’t shave anything off; they don’t water anything down. They can be scrutinized closely and found to be the genuine article.” 

The Bible makes it clear that before the world can call us dokimos, the Holy Spirit first has to stamp that word on us. It’s only after we have allowed Him to scrutinize (and correct) our beliefs, relationships, faith, and motives that we can be labeled dokimos. When we are the real deal in His presence, the world cannot help but see the genuine article when they examine us. 

Let’s live this way! May both God and the watching world be able to call us dokimos! 

4 Holy Spirit-Enhanced Habits

According to Paul, there are only two ways people can live: in the flesh or in the Spirit. That is—(1) operating separate from God, or (2) with a soul/body that is operating with God’s full involvement. 

The trouble is: we’re always—as long as we’re alive—still in the flesh because we need these bodies to carry around our soul and spirit. But changes begin to occur first at salvation (when the connection of our spirit to God’s Spirit is reestablished), and even more so after being baptized in the Holy Spirit (when we are not trying to work out things on our own). 

As a result, we have the same brain, but a mind that is being renewed; the same eyes, but insight that is being expanded; the same ears, but learning new ways to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying. 

Remember that Jesus promised that the baptism in the Holy Spirit would empower us TO BE His witnesses (Acts 1:8). Not just to do things differently, but to have our spirit so enlivened by the Holy Spirit that we are living, breathing, walking, talking witnesses of a life transformed.

Have you noticed that there wasn’t a steep “learning curve” for the disciples of Jesus following Pentecost? Part of that is due to four key habits that the Holy Spirit helped form in their lives. 

  1. Correct biblical application—We immediately see people going from “They didn’t understand from the Scriptures” to quickly applying biblical texts to their current situations. This is exactly what Jesus promised would happen (John 20:6-9; Acts 2:16, 25, 34; John 14:26). 
  1. Intercessory prayer—To intercede is to take someone else’s needs to God on their behalf. The Holy Spirit can help us apply Scripture to our prayers, and can even help us without words at all (Acts 4:24-26; Romans 8:26-27). 
  1. Creative thinking—Christians should be the most creative thinkers in the world (Psalm 119:99; Jeremiah 33:3; 1 Corinthians 2:10). 
  1. Healthy conflict resolution—We’re all different, so not seeing eye-to-eye is bound to happen, but Spirit-empowered Christians will be able to resolve conflicts faster and with better results (Acts 6:1-8; Acts 15:1-31). 

“Your life as a Christian should make unbelievers question their disbelief in God.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Amen! Your life as a Christian that is living out daily habits that have been empowered by the Spirit should make everyone around you want to go deeper and deeper into all that the Holy Spirit has in store for them too. 

Join me next Sunday as we take another look at what it means when we say We Are: Pentecostal. 

My Conscience

…my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit (Romans 9:1). 

Conscience is that God-implanted part of a human soul that can distinguish between…

  • …the morally good and the morally bad 
  • …the things that attract God’s presence and the things that repel God’s presence
  • …commending things and condemning things
  • …the things that please the Holy Spirit and the things that grieve the Holy Spirit

Sin corrupts a conscience. Sin tries to blur the lines between good and evil. Sin looks for loopholes. 

Paul said his conscience was aligned with the Holy Spirit—my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit. 

The word for witness is the Greek word martyreo. Martyreo helps me distinguish because of personal experience OR divine revelation. In the case of a Holy Spirit-baptized Christian, it isn’t OR, it’s AND. Jesus used the same word when He said the baptism in the Spirit would empower His followers to be martyreo (Acts 1:8). 

The Holy Spirit aligns my conscience with God’s righteousness. The Spirit grieves when I fall short, and He rejoices when I obey. 

Following the other uses of martyreo in the New Testament, we can see that a Spirit-aligned conscience…

Can you say with Paul, “My conscience is aligned with the Holy Spirit”? You can if you make it a daily habit to listen for the Spirit’s voice and then obey His promptings. 

Don’t let sin corrupt your conscience, but let the Holy Spirit align your conscience with God’s righteousness. 

Supernatural Interference

The foundational claim of Christianity is Jesus died AND rose to life again. The Apostle Paul says that if the resurrection didn’t happen, anyone who claims to be a Christian is in a world of hurt (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 14, 17-20).  

“But resurrected from the dead?! Really? I believe in facts. I believe in the laws of science.” Me too! But I also believe that the supernatural is not the opposite of belief in the natural. Just like Paul said, “Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8). 

Noted astronomer Allan Rex Sandage said, “It is my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated than can be explained by science. It was only through the supernatural that I can understand the mystery of existence.”

And C.S. Lewis added, “How can anything be seen to be an exception till the rules are known? … Nothing can seem extraordinary until you have discovered what is ordinary. Belief in miracles, far from depending on an ignorance of the laws of nature, is only possible in so far as those laws are known.”  

Let me give you a simple example. Suppose I divide $5 evenly between two of my buddies. The laws of mathematics dictate that both of them will have $2.50. But what if one of my friends, through some sleight of hand, steals some of my other friend’s money? The fact that one of them now has more than half doesn’t change that mathematical law that $5 divided evenly is two sets of $2.50. 

The mathematician as a mathematician doesn’t know how likely one friend is to steal some of the other friend’s money. For that answer, he has to ask someone else. The changing of the outcome does not negate the laws. In fact, the more certain we are of the laws of mathematics the more clearly we know that something outside of them “interfered.” 

Concerning Jesus, there are three undeniable facts—

  1. Jesus died (John 19:28-34, 38-42; Mark 15:44-45; Matthew 27:62-66) 
  2. Death is irreversible
  3. Jesus is alive (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

It appears the laws of biology have been interfered with, that a supernatural miracle has occurred. The supernatural fact that Jesus was resurrected does not change the biological fact that death is irreversible. We just didn’t expect the outside influence. Just like we didn’t expect one friend to steal money from another friend.

What does this mean for you and me? It means that you can trust God’s word. All of it! Jesus told us that He would die by crucifixion and that He would be resurrected three days later (John 10:18; Matthew 20:19). 

If that word came true, we can also trust this word: We can have our sins forgiven and receive God’s gift of eternal life—just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Romans 6:4). 

The law of sin says: All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard. The unbreakable law of sin is that the penalty for unforgiven sin is eternal death. That law cannot be broken, unless there is a Supernatural interference—a miracle!

Jesus interfered. He took our sins upon Himself. He supernaturally switched places with us and let the death penalty fall on Himself. And if we believe in that, we can have our sins forgiven and receive what we didn’t expect—eternal life with God! 

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have Him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay (1 Peter 1:3-4 MSG & NLT)

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