By Charles G. Finney

"Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled.

This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.  Isaiah 50:11


We can see from this verse that the prophet was speaking to those who claimed to be religious, and who flattered themselves with the idea that they were in a state of salvation. But in fact, their hope was just a fire of their own indling - torches created by themselves. Before I go any further in discussing the subject of true and false conversion, I want to say that it will only be of use to those who will be honest in applying it to themselves. If you hope to gain anything at all from what I'm going to say, you must decide to make a faithful application of it personally. Be just as honest as if you thought you were now going to stand before the Lord. If you will do this, then I hope to help you discover your true state with the Lord. If you are now deceived, I hope to direct you to the true path of salvation. But if you will not be honest, my preaching will be useless, and you will hear in vain.


I plan to show the difference between true and false conversion in the following order:

  1. Show that the natural state of man is a state of pure selfishness.

  2. Show that the character of the Christian is that of benevolence -that is, choosing the happiness of others.

  3. Show that the new birth in Christ Jesus consists in a change from selfishness to benevolence.

  4. Point out some areas where saints and sinners, or true and false converts, are the same - and some areas where they are different.

  5. Answer some questions.

  6. Conclude with some remarks.




Selfishness is putting your own happiness first, and seeking your own good because it is to your benefit. Whoever is selfish places his own happiness above other things of greater value, such as the glory of God and the good of the whole universe. It is obvious that all people before conversion are in this state. Almost everyone knows that people deal with each other on the principle of selfishness. if anyone overlooks this, and tries to deal with others as if they are not selfish, he would be considered a fool.




Benevolence is loving the happiness of others, or rather choosing the happiness of others. This is God's state of mind. We are told that God is love; that is, He is benevolent. Benevolence makes up His whole character. All of His qualities are only different expressions of His benevolence. Any individual who is converted is in this respect like God. I don't mean that no one is converted unless he is as purely and perfectly benevolent as God is - but that his prevailing choice is benevolent. He sincerely seeks the good of others for their own sake, and not because it will make him happy in the end.


God is purely and unselfishly benevolent. He doesn't make people happy for the sake of promoting His own happiness, but because He loves their happiness. It's not that He doesn't rejoice to bless them, but His own happiness is not His goal. The man who is unselfish finds joy in doing good. If he didn't love to do good, then doing good would be of no virtue to him.


Benevolence is holiness. It is what the law of God requires. ".... Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
" and ".... Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
(Matt. 22:37,39) Just as certainly as the converted man obeys the law of God, he is benevolent like God.




True conversion is a change in the goal you are seeking, and not a mere change in the way you reach that goal. It's not true that the converted and the unconverted have the same goal, but differ only in the methods they use to get there. That would be like saying the angel Gabriel and the devil himself are both striving for their own happiness, only just trying to get there in two different ways. Gabriel does not obey God for the sake of his own happiness.


A man may change his methods, and yet still have his own happiness as his goal. He may not believe in Jesus, or in eternity, and yet he may see that doing good will be to his advantage in this world and bring him many (temporary) benefits.

Now suppose this man finally does see the reality of eternity and takes up religion as a way to find happiness there. Now, everyone knows that there is no virtue in this. It is not his service to the Lord that blesses Him, but his reasons for serving God that are important.


The true convert chooses as his goal the glory of God and the good of His Kingdom. He chooses this for its own sake, because he views this as a greater good than his own individual happiness. Not that he doesn't care about his own happiness, but he prefers God's glory, because it is a greater good. He looks on the happiness of every individual according to its real importance (as far as he is capable of valuing it), and he chooses the greatest good as his highest goal.




1. They may agree in leading a strictly moral life. The difference is in their motives. The true saint leads a moral life because he loves holiness - the deceived person because of selfish considerations. He uses morality as a means to an end, to bring about his own happiness.


2. They may be equally prayerful, as far as the outward form is concerned. The difference is in their motives. The true saint loves to pray - the person who is deceived prays because he hopes to obtain some benefit for himself from praying. The true saint expects a benefit from praying, but that is not his leading motive. The false convert prays from no other motive.


3. They may be equally zealous in religion. One may have great zeal because his zeal is according to knowledge, and he sincerely desires to serve the Lord for His sake. The false convert may show equal zeal, but for the sake of having his own salvation more assured, and because he is afraid of going to hell if he does not work for the Lord. He may also serve God to quiet his conscience, and not because he truly loves the Lord.


4. They may both love God's law - the true saint because it is so excellent, holy, just, and good; the other because he thinks it will make him happy if he loves it.


5. Both may agree on the penalty of the law. The true saint consents to it in his own case, because he feels it to be just in itself for God to send him to hell. The deceived person feels a respect for it, because he knows that it is right, but he thinks he is in no danger from it.


6. They may be equally self-denying in many things. Self-denial is not confined to true saints. Look at the sacrifices and self-denials of the Muslims, going on their pilgrimage to Mecca. Look at the discipline and self-denial of those lost in the cults and eastern religions. The true saint denies himself for the sake of doing more good to others. His sacrifices are not centered around his own gratification or his own interests. The deceived person may go to equal lengths, but from purely selfish motives.


7. They may both be willing to suffer martyrdom. Read the lives of the martyrs, and you will have no doubt that some were willing to suffer from a wrong idea of the rewards of martyrdom. Many would rush to their own destruction because they were convinced that it was the sure road to eternal life.


8. Both may pay equal regard to what is right - the true convert because he loves what is right, and the false convert because he knows he cannot be saved unless he does right. He may be honest in his common business transactions, but if he has no higher motive, he will have no reward from God.


9. They may agree in their desires in many respects.

They may agree in their desires to be useful - the true convert desiring usefulness for its own sake, the deceived person because he knows that's the way to obtain the favor of God.


They may both desire the conversion of souls - the true saint because it will glorify God, the deceived person to gain the favor of God. He will be motivated by this, just as he is in giving money. Everyone knows that a person can give his money to the Bible Society or the Missionary Society from selfish motives alone-to gain happiness, praise from men, or obtain the favor of God. In the same way, he may desire the conversion of souls, and labor to promote it, from purely selfish motives.


They may both desire to glorify God - the true saint because he loves to see God glorified, and the deceived person because he knows that is the way to be saved. The true convert has his heart set on the glory of God for His sake. The other desires it as a benefit to himself.


They may both desire to repent. The true convert hates sin because it hurts and dishonors God, and therefore he desires to repent of it. The false convert desires to repent because he knows that unless he does, he will be damned.


They may both want to obey God. The true saint obeys so he may increase in holiness. The false convert obeys because he wants the rewards of obedience.


10. They may also agree on the things they love.

They may both love the Bible - the true saint because it is God's truth. He delights in it, and feasts his soul on it. The deceived person loves the Bible because he thinks it is in his own favor, and sees it as the plan for fulfilling his own hopes.


They may both love God -the one because he sees God's character to be beautiful and lovely in itself, and he loves Him for His own sake. The other, because he thinks God is his special friend who is going to make him happy forever, and he connects the idea of God with his own selfish interests.


They may both love Christ. The true convert loves His character. The deceived person thinks He will save him from hell, and give him eternal life ... so why shouldn't he love Him?


They may both love Christians - the true convert because he sees in them the image of Christ, and enjoys their spiritual conversation. The deceived person loves Christians because they belong to his own denomination, or because they are on his side. He also loves to talk about the interest he has in Christianity and the hope he has of going to heaven.


Both may love to attend religious meetings - the true saint because his hear' delights in acts of worship, prayer, praise and in hearing the Word of God - the false convert because he thinks a religious meeting is a good place to prop up his hope.


Both may find pleasures in private prayer - the true saint, because he draws near to God, and finds delight in communion with Him. The deceived person finds a self-righteous kind of satisfaction in it, because it is his duty to pray in secret.


They may both love the doctrines of grace - the true saint because they are so glorious to God, the other because he think they are a guarantee of his own salvation.


11. They may also agree in hating the same things.

They may both hate sexual immorality and oppose it strenuously. The true saint hates it because it is detestable in itself and contrary to God, and the other because it goes against his views and opinions.


They may both hate sin -the true convert because it is repulsive to God, and the deceived person because it hurts him personally It's common for people to hate their own sins, and yet no forsake them.


They may both be opposed to sinners. The opposition of true saints is a loving opposition. They see that the character an conduct of sinners is calculated to ruin the Kingdom of God. False converts are opposed to sinners because they are against their religion, and because they are not on their side.


In all of these cases, the motives of one class go directly again the other. The difference lies in their choice of goals. One choose his own interest, the other chooses God's interest as his ultimate goal.




1. If these two classes of people are alike in so many things how are we to know our own real character, or know which class we belong to?  We know that the heart is deceitful above all thing; and desperately wicked (Jer.17:9), so how are we to know whether we love God and holiness for their own sake, or whether we are seeking the favour of God, and aiming at heaven for our own benefit?


If we are truly benevolent, it will appear in our daily transactions. If in our   dealings with men we are selfish, we will also be selfish in our dealings with God.   If anyone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar. For if he does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1John 4:20) Being a Christian is not only loving God, but also loving man. And if our daily business shows us to be selfish, we are unconverted-or else a man can be a Christian without loving his neighbour as himself.


If you are unselfish, your spiritual responsibilities will not be a chore to you. Some people do what God says with the same attitude that a sick man takes his medicine, because he desires its good effects, and he knows he must have it or perish. It is something that he would never do for its own sake.


If you are selfish, your joy will depend mainly on the strength of your hopes of heaven. When you feel very certain of going to heaven, then you enjoy being a Christian, a great deal. Your joy depends on your hope, and not on your love for the things you are hoping for. I do not say that true saints don't enjoy their hope, but it's not the most important thing to them. They think very little about their own hopes because their thoughts are taken up with other things of greater value.


If you are selfish, your enjoyments will be chiefly from anticipation. The true saint already enjoys the peace of God and has heaven begun in his soul. He doesn't have to wait until he dies to taste the joys of eternal life. His enjoyment is in proportion to his holiness, and not in proportion to his hope.


The deceived person has only a purpose of obedience, while the saint has a preference of obedience. This is an important distinction, and I'm afraid few people make it. The true saint really prefers, and in his heart chooses obedience -therefore he finds it easy to obey. The false convert is determined to be holy, because he knows that it's the only way to be happy. The true saint chooses holiness for its own sake, and he is holy.


The true convert and the deceived person also differ in their faith. The true saint has a confidence in the character of Cod that leads him into wholehearted submission to Him. True confidence in the Lord's special promises depends on a trust in God's character. There are only two principles on which any government, human or divine, is obeyed -fear and trust. All obedience springs from one of these two principles. In the one case, individuals obey from hope of reward and fear of punishment. In the other case, submission comes from a confidence in the character of the government, which is run by love. One child obeys his parents because he loves and trusts them. The other gives an outward obedience motivated from hopes and fears. The true convert has a faith, or confidence in God, that leads him to obey God from love. This is the obedience of faith.


The deceived person has only a partial faith, and only a partial submission. The devil has a partial faith too. He believes and trembles. A person may believe that Christ came to save sinners, and on that ground may submit to Him to be saved. But he does not submit wholly to His sovereign authority, or give Him control of his life. His submission is only on the condition that he will be saved.

It is never with that unreserved confidence in God's whole character that leads him to say, "Thy will be done." His religion is the religion of law. The other has Gospel faith. One is selfish, the other benevolent. Here lies the true difference between the two classes. The religion of one is outward and hypocritical. The other is that of the heart-holy and acceptable to God.


If you are selfish, you will only rejoice in the conversion of sinners when you have a part in it. You will have very little satisfaction when it is through others that people are saved. The selfish person rejoices when he is active and successful in converting sinners, because he thinks he will have a great reward. But he will be envious when others lead someone to Christ. The true saint sincerely delights to see others useful, and rejoices when sinners are converted through others as much as if he had a part in it himself.


2. "Shouldn't I have any regard for my own happiness?"

It is all right to be concerned about your own happiness according to its relative value. Measure it against the glory of God and the good of the universe, and then decide -giving it the value which properly belongs to it. This is exactly what God does. And this is what He means when He commands you to love your neighbour as yourself.

Interestingly enough, the less concerned you are about your own happiness -the happier you will be. True happiness consists mainly in the fulfilment of unselfish desires. If you aim at doing good for its own sake, then you will be happy in proportion as you do good. But if you do good simply to secure your own happiness, you will fail. You will be like the child pursuing his own shadow; he can never overtake it, because it's always just so far ahead of him.


3. "Didn't Christ regard the joy set before Him?"

It is true that Christ despised the shame and endured the cross, and had regard to the joy set before Him. But what was the joy set before Him? Not His own salvation, not His own happiness, but the great good He would do in the salvation of the world. The happiness of others was what He aimed at. This was the joy set before Him ... and this is what He obtained.


4. "Didn't Moses look to the reward?"

Yes, Moses was looking to the reward. But was that reward to his own profit? Far from it. The reward was the salvation of the people of Israel. At one point God proposed to destroy Israel and make a great nation of Moses. If Moses had been selfish he would have said, "Yes, Lord. Let it be done to Your servant according to Your word." But what does he say? Why, his heart was so set on the salvation of his people, and the glory of God, that he wouldn't think of it for a moment. But instead he said, "Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written." (Ex.32:32) This is not the response of a selfish man.


5. "Doesn't the Bible say we love God because He first loved us?"

Where it says, "We love Him because He first loved us," (1John 4:19) the language implies two different meanings: 1) His love for us has made it possible for us to love Him back; or 2) We love Him for the kindness and favour He has shown to us. The second meaning is obviously not correct because Jesus Christ has so clearly given the principle in His sermon on the mount: “For if you love those who love you, what thanks do you have? For sinners also love those who love them." (Luke 6:32) If we love God, not for His character but for His favors to us, we are no different than the unconverted.


6. "Doesn't the Bible offer happiness as the reward of virtue?"

The Bible speaks of happiness as the result of virtue, but nowhere is your own happiness given as a reason for doing what is right.


7. "Why does the Bible appeal continually to the hopes and fears of men, if a concern for our own happiness is not the right motive for our actions?"

Man naturally dreads harm, and it is not wrong to avoid it. We may have a concern for our own happiness, but only according to its value.

Also, men are so drunk with sin that God cannot get their attention to consider His true character and the reasons for loving Him, unless He appeals to their hopes and fears. But once they are awakened, He presents the Gospel to them. When a minister has preached the terrors of the Lord until he has his hearers alarmed and aroused, then he should spread out the character of God before them, to draw their hearts to love Him for His own excellence.


8. "Doesn't the Gospel offer forgiveness as a motive for submission?"

If you mean that the sinner is to repent on the condition that he will be forgiven, then I say that the Bible says no such thing. It never authorizes a sinner to say, "I will repent if you will forgive," and nowhere offers forgiveness as a motive for repentance.




1. Some people are more anxious to convert sinners than they are to see the Church sanctified and God glorified by the good works of His people.

Many want to see people saved, not because their lives and deeds hurt and dishonour God, but because they feel sorry for them and don't want to see them go to hell. True saints are upset by sin because it is so dishonouring to God. But they are most distressed when they see Christians sin, because it dishonours God even more. Some people seem to care very little about the state of the Church, as long as they can see the work of conversion go forward. To them, "successful" evangelistic efforts equal a "successful" church, but they are not really anxious to have God honoured. This shows that they are not motivated by a genuine love for God and holiness, but by their own human feelings and emotions for sinners.


2. From all I have just said, it's easy to see why so many professing Christians have such different views on what the Gospel really is.

Some view the Gospel as a mere convenience to mankind, where God is not as strict as He was under the law. They think that they can be as worldly as they want to be, and the Gospel will come in and make up what they lack and save them. Others view the Gospel as a divine provision from God, having as its main purpose the destruction of sin and the promotion of holiness. Therefore, far from making it acceptable for them to be less holy than they should be under the law, its whole value consists in its power to make them holy.


Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you - unless you fail the test?" (2Cor. 13:5 - NASB)



Charlie Coulson

The Christian Drummer Boy


The following story is a true account, taken from an old, out-of-print book called "Touching Incidents And Remarkable Answers To Prayer, " It was compiled by S.B. Shaw and published in 1894. Grab a cup of hot chocolate, gather the family together, and read this one out loud to everyone. We believe it will touch your hearts as much as it has touched ours. We serve a truly faithful God!


I was a surgeon in the United States Army during the Civil War. After the battle of Gettysburg, there were hundreds of wounded soldiers in my hospital. Many were wounded so severely that a leg or an arm, or sometimes both, needed to be amputated.


One of these was a boy who had only been in the service for three months. Since he was too young to be a soldier, he had enlisted as a drummer. When my assistants came to give him chloroform before the amputation, he turned his head and refused it. When they told him that it was the doctor's orders, he said, "Send the doctor to me." I came to his bedside and said, "Young man, why do you refuse the chloroform? When I found you on the battlefield, you were so far gone that I almost didn't bother to pick you up. But when you opened those large blue eyes, it occurred to me that you had a mother somewhere who might be thinking of you at that very moment. I didn't want you to die on the field, so I had you brought here. But you've lost so much blood that you're just too weak to live through an opera­tion without chloroform. You'd better let me give you some."


He laid his hand on mine, looked me in the face and said, "Doctor, one Sunday afternoon, when I was nine and a half years old, I gave my heart to Christ. I learned to trust Him then, and I've been trusting Him ever since. I know I can trust Him now. He is my strength. He will support me while you amputate my arm and leg." I asked him if he would at least let me give him a little brandy. Again he looked at me and said, "Doctor, when I was about five years old, my mother knelt by my side with her arms around me, and said: `Charlie, I am praying to Jesus that you will never take even one drink of alcohol. Your father died a drunkard, and I've asked God to use you to warn people against the dangers of drinking, and to encourage them to love and serve the Lord.' I am now 17 years old, and I have never had anything stronger than tea or coffee. There is a very good chance that I am about to die and to go into the presence of my God. Would you send me there with brandy on my breath?"


I will never forget the look that boy gave me. At that time I hated Jesus, but I respected that boy's loyalty to his Savior. And when I saw how he loved and trusted Him to the very end, something deeply touched my heart. I did for that boy what I had never done for any other soldier - I asked him if he wanted to see his chaplain.


Chaplain R. knew the boy well from having seen him frequently at the tent prayer meetings. Taking his hand, he said, "Charlie, I'm really sorry to see you like this." "Oh, I'm all right, sir," Charlie answered. "The doctor offered me chloroform, but I told him I didn't want any. Then he wanted to give me brandy, which I didn't want either.


So now, if my Savior calls me, I can go to Him in my right mind."


"You might not die, Charlie," said the chaplain, "but if the Lord does call you home, is there anything I can do for you after you're gone?" "Chaplain, please reach under my pillow and take my little Bible. My mother's address is inside. Please send it to her, and write a letter for me. Tell her that since I left home, I have never let a single day pass - no matter if we were on the march, on the battlefield, or in the hospital - without reading a portion of God's Word, and daily praying that He would bless her."

"Is there anything else I can do for you, my lad?" asked the chap­lain. "Yes - please write a letter to the Sunday School teacher of the Sands Street Church in Brooklyn, New York. Tell him that I've never forgotten his encouragement, good advice, and many prayers for me. They have helped and comforted me through all the dangers of battle. And now, in my dying hour, I thank the Lord for my dear old teacher, and ask Him to bless and strengthen him. That is all." 

Then turning to me, he said, "I'm ready, doctor. I promise I won't even groan while you take off my arm and leg, if you don't offer me chloroform." I promised, but I didn't have the courage to take the knife in my hand without first going into the next room and taking a little brandy myself.

While cutting through the flesh, Charlie Coulson never groaned. But when I took the saw to separate the bone, the lad took the corner of his pillow in his mouth, and all I could hear him whisper was, " O Jesus, blessed Jesus! Stand by me now." He kept his promise. He never groaned.

I couldn't sleep that night. Whichever way I tossed and turned, I saw those soft blue eyes, and when I closed my own eyes, the words, "Blessed Jesus, stand by me now," kept ringing in my ears. A little after midnight, I finally left my bed and visited the hospital - a thing I had never done before unless there was an emergency. I had such a strange and strong desire to see that boy. When I got there, an orderly told me that 16 of the badly wounded soldiers had died. "Was Charlie Coulson one of them?" I asked. "No, sir," he answered, "he's sleeping as sweetly as a babe."

When I came to his bed, one of the nurses said that at about nine o'clock, two members of the Y.M.C.A. came through the hospital to read and sing a hymn. Chaplain R. was with them, and he knelt by Charlie's bed and offered up a fervent and soul-stirring prayer. Then, while still on their knees, they sang one of the sweetest of all hymns, "Jesus, Lover Of My Soul." Charlie sang along with them, too.


I couldn't understand how that boy, who was in such horrible pain, could sing.

Five days after I performed the operation, Charlie sent for me, and it was from him that I heard my first Gospel sermon. "Doctor," he said, "my time has come. I don't expect to see another sunrise. I want to thank you with all my heart for your kindness to me. I know you are Jewish, and that you don't believe in Jesus, but I want you to stay with me, and see me die trusting my Savior to the last moment of my life." I tried to stay, but I just couldn't. I didn't have the courage to stand by and see a Christian boy die rejoicing in the love of that Jesus who I hated. So I hurriedly left the room.


About 20 minutes later an orderly came and found me sitting in my office with my hands covering my face. He told me that Charlie wanted to see me. "I've just seen him," I answered, "and I can't see him again." "But, Doctor, he says he must see you once more before he dies."

So I made up my mind to go and see Charlie, say an endearing word, and let him die. However, I was determined that nothing he could say would influence me in the least bit, so far as his Jesus was concerned.


When I entered the hospital I saw he was sinking fast, so I sat down by his bed. Asking me to take his hand, he said, "Doctor, I love you because you are a Jew. The best friend I have found in this world was a Jew." I asked him who that was, and he answered, "Jesus Christ, and I want to introduce you to Him before I die. Will you promise me, Doctor, that what I am about to say to you, you will never forget?" I promised, and he said, "Five days ago, while you amputated my arm and leg, I prayed to the Lord Jesus Christ and asked Him to make His love known to you."


Those words went deep into my heart. I couldn't understand how, when I was causing him the most intense pain, he could forget all about himself and think of nothing but his Savior and my unconverted soul. All I could say to him was, "Well, my dear boy, you will soon be all right." With these words I left him, and 12 minutes later he fell asleep, "safe in the arms of Jesus."

Hundreds of soldiers died in my hospital during the war, but I only followed one to the grave, and that was Charlie Coulson. I rode three miles to see him buried. I had him dressed in a new uniform, and placed in an officer's coffin, with a United States flag over it.


That boy's dying words made a deep impression upon me. I was rich at that time so far as money was concerned, but I would have given every penny I possessed if I could have felt towards Christ as Charlie did. But that feeling cannot be bought with money. Alas, I soon forgot all about my Christian soldier's little sermon, but I could not forget the boy himself. Looking back, I now know that I was under deep conviction of sin at that time. But for nearly ten years I fought against Christ with all the hatred I had, until finally the dear boy's prayer was answered, and I surrendered my life to the love of Jesus.


About a year-and-a-half after my conversion, I went to a prayer meeting one evening in Brooklyn. It was one of those meetings where Christians testify about the loving-kindness of God. After several had spoken, an elderly lady stood up and said, "Dear friends, this may be the last time I have a chance to publicly share how good the Lord has been to me. My doctor told me yesterday that my right lung is nearly gone, and my left lung is failing fast, so at the best I only have a short time to be with you. But what is left of me belongs to Jesus. It's a great joy to know that I shall soon meet my son with Jesus in heaven.


"Charlie was not only a soldier for his country, but also a soldier for Christ. He was wounded at the battle of Gettysburg, and was cared for by a Jewish doctor, who amputated his arm and leg. He died five days after the operation. The chaplain of the regiment wrote me a letter, and sent me my boy's Bible. I was told that in his dying hour, my Charlie sent for that Jewish doctor, and said to him, `Doctor, before I die I wish to tell you that five days ago, while you amputated my arm and leg, I prayed to the Lord Jesus Christ for you."'


As I heard this lady speak, I just couldn't sit still! I left my seat, ran across the room, and taking her hand said, "God bless you, my dear sister. Your boy's prayer has been heard and answered! I am the Jewish doctor that Charlie prayed for, and his Savior is now my Savior! The love of Jesus has won my soul!"  


ZEAL – Love Ablaze

By Leonard Ravenhill

Enoch had prophesied, saying, "... Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, .." Jud 1:14. If Jesus had entered history like that, or had come on a dark night over Jerusalem in a blazing chariot of fire (like Elijah went up to heaven), then the clamouring crowds would have accepted and adored Him. But as the poet once said, "They were looking for a king, to bring salvation nigh, He came a little infant thing, that made a woman cry."




The local folk knew Jesus well. He was the best carpenter in the nation. But now He had stepped out of bounds, He accepted the nomination of that wild preacher John the Baptist as the Lamb of God. He had agreed to let the people mount Him on an ass and enter the city amid cries of "Hosanna." Now He had stirred the city by routing the moneychangers and cattle dealers from the temple. For almost thirty years He had watched men desecrate the place. He was outraged at their insolence and greed. He was disgusted that they had carpeted the temple courts with animal excrement, and polluted the place with the stench of urine.


Each of the Gospels tells of the whipping Christ. But Luke makes a very valuable difference as he records the events in the life of Jesus. He says that before Jesus had entered the temple, while He was still entering Jerusalem, He had stopped to weep over the great city. So we have the weeping Christ before we had the whipping Christ. Since He was about His Father's business at twelve years of age, Jesus had trod the temple courts and had always been grieved and outraged that they were defiled not just with animal dung, but with red-eyed extortioners, cheating moneychangers, and cattle dealers. For thirty years He had been growing in grace and in the knowledge of His Father -now He knew His mission! And His explanation for this one-man attack on the sacrilege and defilement of the house of God is summed up in these words: "Zeal for Thy house will consume me."


Zeal! What a baptism of this same zeal the weak and wilting Church of this day needs. Zeal in this context is love ablaze. Zeal without reason becomes fanaticism. Jesus was not a fanatic. Yes, His love was blind to all the possible dangers of His mission. This love ignores personal safety, disregards the odds against it, drops "sacrifice" from its vocabulary, requires no crutches, ignores all danger, is intolerant of sin, but not fanatical.


His was no sudden burst of anger; He had contemplated it all His life, but now the hour had come and men fled before His whip and holy anger.




"Pollution! Pollution!" cry the ecologists about our food, air, waters, and our auto emissions. But where, o where are the preachers crying out against the pollution in the churches? The heart of Jesus was broken over a nation that had the elect prophets of the Lord as its advisors. But who had heeded these prophets? They had not dined at kings' tables; they, like their Master, were despised and rejected of men. Some were men with scorching tongues, but they were also men with weeping eyes. Ah! but tell me if you can, where are the weeping preachers today?


The cattle dealers in the temple were more interested in selling sacrifices than in offering them. And so today there are Christians at this very hour fighting feverishly for some political cause, and yet they are never heated over the wretched filth in their own church.

Will we crusade against uncleanness in the "Church"? If not, better tell the sleepy saints again to eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we shall be raptured. But Jesus will not rapture a ruptured Church!




There are some frightful tragedies in the world at this moment. When "wise" men swept aside the Bible, they told us that we would move into a new freedom for men. These wise men have proved that they are otherwise. Other smart men put their brains together to make a bomb so that we can turn a living city crisp in seconds. Then think of the implication of Afghanistan and Iran, the daily bleeding of millions in Kampuchea, and the masses waiting to leave Cuba. These are horrible things to contemplate, and yet I think there is one thing infinitely worse. It is a sick Church in a dying world.


Never has the great U.S. ever been more broken than today. Broken marriages, leaving millions of broken homes. Thousands and thousands of teenagers whose minds are broken with drugs. The people's confidence and trust in the government is broken. The economy is broken -the once-mighty dollar is broken. All is broken except the hearts of the believers.

We need broken hearts to face this colossal mess. Weeping is not only in order in the pulpit, it is commanded! "Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, ...." (Joel 2:17, 1:13) Jeremiah wept over the sin of Israel. David wept. Paul wept. John wept. Shall we remain dry-eyed in the most crucial chapter in world history and in our own?




The present lethargy in the Church is almost unpardonable. The Jehovah's Witnesses have zeal. The Mormons claim they are gaining more people from the evangelicals than we are gaining from them. The cultists zealously persist in getting a hearing in the streets.

Saul of Tarsus had fanatical zeal. He threw men and women in prison and broke up their families, persecuting them from city to city. Miraculously God cleansed him, baptized him with fire, and made him a model zealot for His Kingdom.

It is not enough in these days of such vast world­liness in the Church to say that we are fundamental or uncompromising in "doctrine." We must be ablaze with Holy Spirit-born anger. ("Be angry, and yet do not sin." Eph. 4:26) We must feel the hurt of God over the devil's domination of this age. We must apologize to the Almighty that we have turned to our own way, and have been more loyal to a man­made theology than to the exceedingly sober words of our Master. Like Paul, we must be able to say in His holy presence, "This one thing I do. .. "I bear a broken heart over the coldness in the Church (including my own!). True, the zealous man of God lives for one thing only: to please God. He is imper­vious to the opinions of others about his zeal. He cares not what it costs him to burn out for God. In sickness or in health, in poverty or in wealth, whether he is esteemed or despised, flattered or flattened, considered a fool or a philosopher, through evil report or good report, kisses or curses, he is set to do the will of God!


This man sees the Church today fouled with showmanship, bingo and bake sales, dances, tinsel and trivia, "holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power." (2Tim. 3:5) He sees the ministers condoning divorce in high places. Maybe his minister is divorced and remarried himself.


Jesus today sees His Church unclean with disobedience by a watered-down gospel. We do not obey His commandments to "love one another," or rejoice to act out Matthew 23:11 `But the greatest among you shall be your servant." If there comes a man into the assembly with a gold ring, we do give him honor (James 2:2). If he has great wealth but little spirituality, he is still welcomed as a member of the board. We do not insist that our young preacher boys tarry (until they get a seminary diploma? No!) until they are endued with power from on high!




The Pharisee who prayed in the temple said, "God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers." There are many so-called Spirit-filled men today, who cannot even pray that prayer! Unjust they are for sure, they pay low wages and tell their workers that they are "doing this sacrifice for Jesus." Adulterers ­there are famous preachers in this awful category. They, of course, have an explanation for their infidelity, yet many are accepted at con­ferences as keynote speakers. Extortioners­ - the radio preachers almost have this as a monopoly. A $25 Bible (God's Holy Word) is offered for a $100 gift! Other books are offered at five times their cost. "You are judging!" someone will say. Correct, I am told to judge (John 7:24). Jesus says, "Judge with righteous judgment." Also I, along with other true preachers of the Gospel, am a watchman and so have to warn others. Also, "judgment must begin at the house of the Lord." This bait to get money is an abomination. Preachers whine for money over the radio and television. "For this ministry" they say, and yet much of it is to sustain their extravagant lifestyle, costly airplanes, and fixing up luxury Bible conference grounds. And now they have joined the Pharisees who "rob widows' houses." After emptying your pockets while you live, they ask for your house and estate after you die. What next?




This is a day of the personality cult. Men on T.V. gospel shows are presented as having given up so much for the Lord. All they gave up with their retirement from stardom was hell and eternal punishment. Let it be shouted from the housetops that no man does God a favor. Elegant living, etc. for the rich evangelists proves nothing except that they have not left all to follow Him. The Spirit-filled need no status symbols.

The flattering introduction for gospel preachers is another great piece of blockage to revival. John 5:41 and 44 need soul-searching consideration. My heart is burdened and burning. God's house is polluted. The sinners scoff and say of the rich preachers, "Their creed is greed and their god is gold." We need a baptism of holy zeal to get us back to holy indignation that the money grabbers are back in the temple, and that God's heart is hurting.

The Church began in the Spirit, now She is operating in the flesh. There is no pillar of fire over the sanctuary. There are no preachers who can hold the hell-bound spell-bound. I am not sure that it can be proved that Nero fiddled while Rome burned. It can be proved that the Church is fiddling while the world is burning! The one reason that we do not have revival today is that we are content to live without it.


0 for a generation of believers who can honestly say, "Zeal for Thy house will consume Me." 





By Leonard Ravenhill

What percentage of responsibility for my spiritual maturity is the Lord's, and how much of it is mine? To say that I alone am responsible for my soul's development is conceit. To say that all the responsibility is the Lord's is impudence.

I find it humbling, inspiring, and challenging to recognize that the greatest saints who ever lived did not have a bigger Bible than I have, they just knew it better. Indeed, they had far less of the divine Revelation. Today we have the complete message of God to man. He has nothing more to say to us. As the old hymn says, "What more can He say than to you He hath said?" God has no "P.S." to add to the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

For years the Holy Scriptures were wrapped up in tongues that only the scholars could read. ".... There was no open vision in those days." (1Sam. 3:1) Then, blessed day, the whole counsel of God was released in our mother tongue. With this unveiling came the glad news of the priesthood of the believers -  Hallelujah

Do you wonder that Bishop Walsham How bursts into song about the Holy Word:

"It is a golden casket,
where gems of Truth are stored.
It is the Heaven-drawn picture
of Christ, the Living Word."

Trees are fascinating to most of us. I like to see the burdened fruit trees showing off their labor. The English like their mighty oaks and the Americans their redwood trees. At the moment, in the area where I write, the peach trees are richly endowed with fruit; but, it does not grow already canned. No! God gave us the fruit, we do the canning. Trees do not grow furniture, even in this scientific age. We have the trees, from them we make the chairs, etc. So it is with the spiritual life. Here is a stunning truth from Second Peter, Chapter one, verse three: "His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain TO LIFE AND GODLINESS." Paul backs up Peter in this area when he says, "How shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Rom. 8:32) And to top these precious words, here comes Paul again with a staggering statement: "The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; HEIRS OF GOD, AND JOINT-HEIRS WITH CHRIST." Stop there? NO, add the remainder: "...If so he that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together:" (Rom. 8:16-17)

With all this limitless resource to inherit in this life, why then, O why, do we settle for minimum spirituality?

These Scriptures just quoted shatter all our excuses for carnal Christianity and explode all our feeble excuses on bumper-sticker evangelism: "Christians are not perfect, just forgiven." (Some backslider must have written that one.)

Sinning is not permitted to believers. "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; ... " (1John 3:9) Not that it is impossible to sin; but it is, by the blood of Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit, possible not to sin. John again shouts the triumphant note, "..... because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world." (1John 4:4)

God, then, has made it possible for you and me to have victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil!

Here are the Master's commandments to His own. These are not options but imperatives. With His enabling and our striving, we can explore what Lowrey called "the possibilities of Grace." We can leave the playpen in the Spiritual Nursery and "go on unto perfection." (Heb. 6:1) Here are His commands: 

"Little children, keep yourselves from idols." (1 John 5:21)

"Building up yourselves on your most holy faith..." (Jude 20; Rom. 10:17)

"Keep yourselves in the love of God..." (by obedience to His Word) (Jude 21)

"Put on the whole armor of God..." (equipment for beating Satan) (Eph. 6:11)

The Scripture is very clear here: "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7)


Christian maturity is not a weekend operation. On the other hand, remember there is no finality to the Christian life this side of eternity. While we are in the flesh, we "press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 3:14)


We hear continually about "Weight Watchers." O that we watched our spiritual growth as carefully!


I believe in instant purity: "The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin." (1John 1:7)  I do not believe in instant maturity. Faith in the finished work of Christ is one thing. To add to your faith, as Peter says in 2 Peter 1:5-7, is something else. As a tree must be pruned regularly to bring it to maturity, so we need pruning. It is easy to sing, "And pour contempt on all my pride." If I do that at all, I will do it conveniently protecting myself from any "bleeding." It is when the Lord does it - or worse still when He uses some other human being (less spiritual than I am) to do the pruning - then can I kiss the rod? This is a process in spiritual growth. Can I take it cheerfully when I am slighted, when my name is cast out as an evil thing (though I am totally innocent)? Can I joyfully help to promote another to a position that I would like and which I am more capable of handling?


I heard a preacher asking another if folks came to the altar at his last meeting. He replied, "Yes, but most of them are altar tramps." It's easier to go to the altar than to get on the cross. There is no magic in a trip to the altar. You will not grow an inch by walking a few yards to the altar, unless there is a total repentance and a holy vow to God that you will not fall into the same hole again.


That holy band of "Heroes of Faith" in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews staggers me. They had no Bibles, no millions of cassettes as we have, no Bible seminars, no daily radio Bible teaching, and (fortunate souls) no Gospel T.V. preachers whining about lack of funds (when did the Lord run out of supplies?). Yet what things these folks in Hebrews 11 accomplished: subdued whole kingdoms (o that some person rich in faith could subdue the worldwide kingdom of the drug trade), wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions. What miracles, what men, what faith!


These "pattern" folks of our faith did not get to the heights in one leap:


"They climbed the steep ascent to Heaven
Through peril, toil, and pain.
O God, may grace to us he given,
To follow in their train."


Asked why he was used of the Lord so greatly in China, Hudson Taylor replied, "God had looked long for a man weak enough, and He found me." He takes the weak things of the world to confound the mighty. Spiritual wisdom does not come with years, neither does maturity. The key to both is obedience. Whatsoever He saith unto YOU, do it.


An insatiable thirst for God will produce an unquenchable love for holiness (as He is Holy), resulting in a passion for the lost.


Remember, friend, you are just as spir­itual as you want to be.