This is part three in a series of seven, the material is taken from the Free Grace Broadcaster distributed by Mt. Zion Online. I have added additional commentary on the topic from Spurgeon that helps demonstrate the slippery slope of backsliding churches and the similarity to the current Emergent movement.
- 3. Unbelief leads the church to backslide further into a hardened condition of indifference. It leads us to lose all concern for truth. How many are truly concerned to hear true doctrine from the pulpit, to hear about death in Adam and life of Christ? Are we concerned about guarding the foundational doctrines of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility? Do we delight to hear of them preached fully as they flow out of the biblical text being expounded?
We should desire to hear all the rich doctrines of Scripture preached in their fullness, all of which are grounded in the heart of the Gospel, Jesus Christ and Him crucified, as spokes are ground in the hub of the wheel. Are we interested in the doctrines of God’s never-ending love and full redemption through the blood of Christ? Do we care to understand the necessity of the Holy Spirit, justification, sanctification, and perseverance?
We need to cherish experimental doctrine rather than being indifferent to it. Does it concern us whether we hear about the necessity of saving grace, the fullness of it, and its fruit?
Finally, we must not be indifferent to hearing about the marks of grace – marks that separate the work of God from the work of man, saving faith from temporary faith, true trembling (Phi 2:12) from devilish trembling (Jam 2:19), and abiding convictions from common convictions.
We live in a fearfully indifferent and careless time. We must acknowledge that true doctrine is fading more and more in our world and in our hearts. Concern for the truth is disappearing, and most of the distinctions mentioned above are becoming increasingly unknown, even in the minds of church members….Some can no longer see the difference between biblically experiential and outwardly historical marks of grace. They do not take the time to read the works of our forefathers and study the differences; they hear not differences, being indifferent.
By nature, we care for none of these things. We live on the same level as beasts. Our lives seem to be little more than work, eating, sleeping, and dying. We are bent toward backsliding for our own names’ sake and our own lives. We place self above true doctrine, and this is why we can go on living unconverted.
God’s people love preaching that is searching, experimental, and discriminatory, no matter how difficult or stressful it may be. By nature, we prefer a false assurance or a presumptuous claim, but God’s people would rather be killed than deceived. They know by experience that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). They know, too, that it is far easier to be deceived than to know truth. Therefore, no flood of tears, no nights of prayer along with God, and not counterfeit message (no matter how close it is to the genuine) will satisfy them. God’s people need more than tears, prayers, repentance, unworthiness, and humility. They need something and someone outside of themselves. The need Christ. The need Christ and His real doctrine burned into their souls by the Holy Spirit. God’s people can never experience it enough. They cry, “Lord, seal it home with Thy Divine stamp of approval that I may know it is Thy doctrine inscribed on the walls of my soul, not my own doctrine – not my own inscriptions, tears, and works.”
Their lives are characterized by seeking more and more doctrine worked by the Spirit, experienced by the soul, and blessed by heaven. The yearn for the truth that will set them free and drive away doubt with its overwhelming power – a truth that will soften and bless their souls. Such truth comes down from God and leads back up to Him. Is this your desire also, or is your religion nothing but tradition mixed with the common convictions now and then? Does a little religion, a little knowledge, satisfy your conscience, and then do you set your soul aside? Are you content with the scaffolding of religion without knowledge of the heart?
If you honestly must answer yes, then you are backsliding further every day, every sermon, every Sabbath. It is a hard but real truth: by nature, we are asking the Lord for the shortest way to condemnation. We are bent toward backsliding ourselves directly into hell. May the Lord open our eyes before it is too late!
[Note: The quotes from Spurgeon that follow were put together at least a week before Phil Johnson over at PyroManiacs stole my thunder with his "Weekly Dose of Spurgeon" post, ...the Danger of an Uncertain Trumpet. Oh well, what am I gonna' do? Phil always hogs the best Spurgeon quotes.]
I have little to add that Spurgeon has not already said far more eloquently and impactfully, therefore here are his words:
[Referring to Zephaniah 3:16-18] The solemn assembly had fallen under reproach. The solemn assemblies of Israel were her glory: her great days of festival and sacrifice were the gladness of the land. To the faithful their holy days were their holidays. But a reproach had fallen upon the solemn assembly, and I believe it is so now at this present moment. It is a sad affliction when in our solemn assemblies the brilliance of the gospel light is dimmed by error. The clearness of the testimony is spoiled when doubtful voices are scattered among the people, and those who ought to preach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, are telling out for doctrines the imaginations of men, and the inventions of the age. Instead of revelation, we have philosophy, falsely so-called; instead of divine infallibility, we have surmises and larger hopes. The gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, is taught as the production of progress, a growth, a thing to be amended and corrected year by year. It is an ill day, both for the church and the world, when the trumpet does not give a certain sound; for who shall prepare himself for the battle?
If added to this we should see creeping over the solemn assembly of the church a lifelessness, an indifference, and a lack of spiritual power, it is painful to a high degree. When the vitality of religion is despised, and gatherings for prayer are neglected, what are we coming to? The present period of church history is well portrayed by the church of Laodicea, which was neither cold nor hot, and therefore to be spewed out of Christ's mouth. That church gloried that she was rich and increased in goods, and had need of nothing, while all the while her Lord was outside, knocking at the door, a door closed against him. That passage is constantly applied to the unconverted, with whom it has nothing to do: it has to do with a lukewarm church, with a church that thought itself to be in an eminently prosperous condition, while her living Lord, in the doctrine of his atoning sacrifice, was denied an entrance. Oh, if he had found admission— and he was eager to find it— she would soon have flung away her imaginary wealth, and he would have given her gold tried in the furnace, and white raiment with which she might be clothed. Alas! she is content without her Lord, for she has education, oratory, science, and a thousand other baubles. Zion's solemn assembly is under a cloud indeed, when the teaching of Jesus and hisapostles is of small account with her. (1887 - MTP)
There is no room for indifference where the gospel is concerned--it is either the most astounding of impostures, or the most amazing of revelations; no man can safely remain undecided about it, it is too weighty, too solemn to be snuffed at as a matter of no concern. (1866 - MTP)