ďPRETENDERS, PARTAKERS & POSSESSORSĒ

Second Corinthians 13.5

 

SERMON:

1.   This morning I will read a sermon I have edited by Anthony Burgess that was originally printed in 1652.  And though we are 350 years removed from his time in England , the message he delivered is an urgent one that needs a good hearing today.

2.   My friends, look at what is happening in the middle east.  Consider the developments in our own country, where on university campuses students are beginning to side with the terrorists against the tiny little state of Israel .  Do we not see these and other signs that increasingly point to the return of Christ?

3.   So, what better time is there for people everywhere to consider the message Paul sent to those in the Corinthian congregation, in Second Corinthians 13.5, to ďExamine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.Ē

4.   I shall show the importance of you being examined to see whether you are in the faith by addressing one very practical matter:  Is it possible for a hypocrite to become familiar with Christianity without becoming a Christian?  Cannot unsaved men go farther than superficial knowledge and illumination?  Is it not possible for an unconverted personís will and affections to be convinced without him actually being converted?

5.   If we admit that unconverted sinners may acquire some imperfect knowledge of spiritual truths, may they not also have some type of affections about spiritual things, as well?  And if it is possible for an unsaved person to have feelings about Christianity and therefore ďfeelĒ saved without being saved, is there not some way of distinguishing between the Christianís feelings and the unconverted personís feelings?

6.   This matter is very important, beloved, and it is reality to build upon, and we are therefore able to point out distinguishable differences and to show the limits that exist between the knowledge of the saved and the knowledge of the unsaved, between the feelings of the saved and the feelings of the unsaved, so that there may be a distinguishing between the saved and the lost.

7.   We will consider this subject under three headings this morning:

 

1A.   First, CONSIDER THOSE WHO CALL THEMSELVES CHRISTIANS

What kind of people go under the name and title of Christian, each kind supposing to know Christ and claiming to have the rights and privileges of a child of God?

1B.    First, Are Those I Choose To Label Pretender

1C.   This the fellow who has only the name and outward appearance of the Christian religion, but has not the least influence of Christ in his life, and in works actually denies Him, Titus 1.16.

2C.   This type of fellow is like a box that is labeled to be a box of candy, but inside the box is actually deadly poison.  He is in name a Christian, but in actions a heathen.  He looks sweet on the outside, but inside is only death.

3C.   A so-called Christian like this has no real and saving benefit by Christ.  He is, rather, like a dead corpse, having fragrant flowers strewn upon it, but those flowers do not in the least degree make the corpse any less smelly by their fragrance.

4C.   Is it not a terrible shame that some men can make use of moral philosophy and the principles of reason to cure their external ungodliness and thereby seem to be so refined, while others who claim to know Christ, Who they claim has regenerated them and given them a new nature, donít measure up to the lifestyles and personal standards of these moral non-Christians?

5C.   Yet if you look around and observe those who claim to be born again Christians, will you not find many of those who have only the name Christian?  Is it not true that you will see in them nothing else?  Is it not obvious that they derive not the least efficacy or power from Christ, but are as a dead weed or a withered branch?  And are not their lives a continual blasphemy to the gospel of Christ?  These I call the pretenders.

2B.    Second, There Are Those I Label Partaker

1C.   This the man who, besides the name Christian, also has some influence and effect of the Spirit of God upon him.  You might liken him to an unborn embryo of a child who has only proved to be aborted before birth.

2C.   You would find this type of so-called Christian illustrated in the parable of the sower, in Matthew 13.  He is like the second hearer, who heard the Word with joy, but there was no place for a root to take hold in his stony ground heart.  Or perhaps he is like the third hearer, who heard the Word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choked the Word, and he never bore any fruit.

3C.   In the past such a person as a pretender, who I first described to you, was referred to as having a mere historical faith, such as the devils have.  That is, he believed the facts of the Gospel, he believed in God, and he believed in Jesus, but not in a saving way, not in a trusting way, not for the deliverance of his soul from sin.

4C.   But this fellow weíre dealing with now, who I call the partaker, has something akin to a temporary faith.  He has a religion that is accompanied by certain affections and some genuine feelings, so he is different from the pretender, who has only a historical basis for his so-called Christianity.

5C.   Though this second type, this partaker, is far superior to the pretender, in that he has real feelings and real emotions connected to his religion, he is still unsaved.  But what works in him to have these feelings and these emotions, which are comparable to those felt by a godly and truly converted man, even though they are counterfeit and false?

6C.   Such a person as this partaker has been touched by the Holy Spiritís ministry.  He has benefit of the effect of Godís truth impressed upon him, though the Holy Spirit does not indwell him.  He has been affected by the Holy Spiritís ministry, so that he is properly called a partaker of the Holy Ghost by the writer of Hebrews in 6.4.

7C.   This second type of person, this partaker, is beyond the pretender, yet he falls far short of real Christianity.  You see, he has never actually, he has never truly, come to Christ.

3B.    The Third Type Who Is Labeled ďChristianĒ Really Is A Possessor Of New Life In Christ

1C.   This is the fellow who is in Christ, who is as a living branch in the Vine.  This is the one who is miraculously born of God, who has the immortal seed in him, who shall never perish, because Christ will not lose any who have been given to Him.

2C.   It is this fellow, the real Christian, who has a proper, clear and fully experimental knowledge of Christís sufferings and resurrection upon his soul.  This fellow is a completely different order of person, owing to the regenerating ministry of the Holy Spirit.

3C.   This man, this converted fellow, does not differ from the pretender and from the partaker in a general way, as though he is only farther down a certain path or as though he has accumulated more facts.  He is different in a specific way.  You see, the lowest kind of possessor differs from the pretender and from the partaker, even if he is the highest of his kind, as much as the heavens from the earth.  Why so?  Because this man is a possessor of eternal life, a possessor of Jesus Christ.

4C.   And the works of Godís Spirit upon unconverted people who are not possessors, no matter how powerfully the Spiritís works are felt by them, no matter how strong His influence is on them, cannot measure up to saving grace, just as copper will never be gold.

 

2A.   Second, CONSIDER THAT EVEN THOUGH THESE HYPOCRITES WHO CLAIM TO BE CHRISTIANS ARE NOT TRULY CONVERTED, THE HOLY SPIRIT HAS WORKED ON THEM AND THEY DO HAVE SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCES

Though this is somewhat familiar territory from last week, it is of benefit for someone who is not converted to realize that not all religious impressions and feelings, no matter how valid and genuine they are, necessarily means a person is truly converted.  My desire is that these considerations will awaken you and will make you tremble.  Consider these experiences felt by people who are unconverted and ask yourself if your experiences even measure up to these counterfeits.

1B.    First, Even An Unconverted Man Can Have An Experimental Knowledge Of The Common Gifts Of Godís Spirit

1C.   He feels what it is to have assistance from God in the Spiritís administrations.  Thus, in Matthew 7.22, he and others like him ask, ďLord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?Ē  He did what he did by the power of Christ.  It was no false exorcism and no fraudulent work that he did.  But though it was the Spiritís assistance it was not saving assistance that he received.

2C.   Remember king Saul, who had benefit of Godís Spirit.  Not in the way of salvation, but for the purpose of political administration and kingly rule, whereby he had an experimental knowledge of Godís power and assistance as Israel ís first king.  But was he a converted man?  No.

3C.   In this way may a professing Christian find great assistance in the duties he discharges, in the abilities that he displays, and may even find the power of the Lord going along with him for the benefit of the Church and the cause of Christ.  But this work of the Holy Spirit is not for the purpose of his personal growth as a Christian, since he is not a Christian.

4C.   Did not that prophet, Balaam, enjoy the benefit of the Holy Spiritís help in the discharge of his prophetic duties?  Yet that man was wicked and obviously unconverted.  Thus, the Holy Spirit provided through that man influence and a type of work, but not the variety of influence and work that led to his own salvation.

5C.   My great concern in these last days is that such work of the Holy Spirit is the only practical experience of Godís help that some people have.  And it explains how a man can be a marvelous preacher on the platform and an adulterer in private.  The gracious ministry of the Holy Spirit for others in blessing his efforts, all the while benefiting the unconverted preacher in a personal way not at all.

5C.   Think of it, beloved.  Why is there so little victory over sin?  Why is there so little demonstration of real life in Christ?  Why is there so little fruit?  Does not the first Corinthian letter show us that men are naturally more prone to desire the gifts of Godís Spirit that result in public recognition and adulation than they are to desire the graces of Godís Spirit that result in personal holiness and consecration?

6C.   You see, to be a good preacher, to be able to make impressive public prayers, you do not need to be genuinely saved.  All you need is for the Spirit of God to breathe on you, not dwell in you.  And God does not thereby bless a man when He so enables him, but does it for the benefit of His cause, for the benefit of His people, for the benefit of His Church.  Much like nannies in a rich manís house eating fine food, not for their own sake, but for the childrenís sake of the rich man they take care of.

7C.   So it is that these preachers deliver a Gospel, a faith, a Christ, to others, which they do not partake of themselves, and so are like those signs on the freeway and surface streets, directing people this way and that way, but they never follow their directions themselves.

8C.   Oh, if only preachers would learn from the illustration of the sons of thunder in this matter, who had the experience of God enabling, enlarging, and increasing in their ministries the common gifts of His Spirit, but had not experienced the Spirit of Godís renewing, sanctifying, and healing of their lusts.  If that happened in our country the United States would be turned to God in repentance in very short order, indeed.

2B.    Second, Even An Unconverted Man Can Experience The Bitterness Of Sin And The Terrors That Are Associated With An Awareness Of Sin

1C.   Consider the terror to his soul that was experienced by Cain after he murdered his brother Abel.  And ponder the terrors experienced by Judas after he betrayed the Savior for 30 pieces of silver.  Those menís feelings about their sins did not come from the natural light of a troubled conscience only, because such a natural conscience can be quickly extinguished and seared.

2C.   In the lives of both men there was also the Spirit of God convincing them and strongly impressing upon their consciences the seriousness of their sins.  This is why in Romans 8.15 the Spirit of God is called ďthe spirit of bondage to fear.Ē  Itís because He works fear and trouble in the hearts of some sinners.  Understand that this is not the same as convicting a man of the sinfulness of his sins, that Jesus referred to in John 16, but something else entirely.  It is a troubling of his soul and disturbing him about the unpleasant consequences of his sins.

3C.   Thus, when king Ahab in his humiliation cried out to God because of his sins, it was not by the mere power of his natural free-will, but by the work of the Spirit of God on him.  As well, many of the gripes and wounds of a personís heart which are inflicted by the preaching of the Word, and whereby the memory of his sins grates on him, are not necessarily the convicting work of the Holy Spirit to prepare his heart for Christ.  Sometimes it is for the purpose of simply showing sinners that it is a bitter thing to sin against God.

4C.   Therefore, the experiences of men in the Bible clearly shows that concluding that because you have once felt terrible because of your sins or because that bitter feeling for sins came under Bible preaching you are necessarily a Christian, is unwarranted.  Many have felt inward feelings of Godís displeasure for sin, maybe even resulting in times when you were unable to eat or sleep, and even cried out to God for relief.  Yet this does not demonstrate for sure that such a person is really a Christian.

3B.    Thirdly, Even An Unconverted Man Can Experience Desires And Longings For Things That Are Good

1C.   A man or woman has a sudden awareness of the goodness of spiritual things, may even have some such general affection for and desire after those spiritual things, and yet be lost.  Lots of young men have thought they were Christians, have convinced themselves they wanted the Christian life and personal holiness, only to find out that what they wanted was one of the young women in the Church.

2C.   Remember Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration?  ďMaster, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said,Ē Luke 9.33. 

3C.   In like manner a lost man can see the things of God, can overview the blessings of the Christian life, can imagine what life in the Church with the people of God is like, and will convince himself that he wants God and Christ and personal consecration.  But what he really wants are the benefits, the fruit of the vine if you will, without a real desire to be engrafted into the Vine.

4C.   Understand, there is nothing wrong with attracting the lost to the fig tree by putting its fruit on display.  There is nothing wrong with attracting the lost to the vine branch by putting on display the ripe grapes.  But it is wrong for the lost to think that by tasting some of the fruit he has thereby been engrafted into the Vine.  Such is not the case.

4B.    Fourth, Even An Unconverted Man Can Enjoy The Sweetness And Joy Of Christian Ministry And Service

1C.   Remember, in the parable of the sower, Matthew 13, the illustration was of a lost man receiving the Word with joy.  And in John 5.35 the Lord Jesus declared that His hearers were willing for a while to rejoice in John the Baptistís light.

2C.   And in Hebrews 6.5, those who are not saved are said to have tasted of the Word of God.  And they did taste it, as Jonathan tasted a little honey, but had not his fill of it.  But tasting the Word of God does not make a sinner a saint.

3C.   And has it not been our own experience in this Church that the unconverted can enjoy the sweetness and joy of the ministry and service to God?  Do you remember all those teenagers who used to travel every summer to witness and to preach and to minister in other Churches?  But where are those teenagers now?  Do you remember those who used to serve in this capacity and in that capacity in this Church and in others?  Yet where are they now?

4C.   Yes, an unconverted man can enjoy the sweetness and joy of Christian ministry and service . . . for a while.  Itís no indication that he is truly converted, is it?

5B.    Fifth, Even An Unconverted Person Can Experience Some Changes To His Lifestyle And Behavior

1C.   Second Peter 2.20:  ďFor if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.Ē  This refers to those who returned to their own vomit, and so were never truly converted, though Peter indicates they had escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of Christ.  Note that Peter reveals that it is the knowledge of Christ, not knowing Christ.  Thus, changes in life and lifestyle, escaping pollutions of the world, without salvation.

2C.   In Matthew 25, the parable of the ten virgins, though the foolish ones are obviously unconverted, having no oil in their lamps, unprepared for the coming of the bride groom, they are still properly called virgins.  Thus, they were kept from the profaneness of others who were more obviously lost.

3C.   Now, you might think this is enough, since what more would you want?  Those that stole steal no more, those that were drunk drink no more, those that were once fornicators get married and are faithful to their spouses.

4C.   Yet, as the swine are swine in their natures, though washed from their filth, thus are the unconverted unregenerate and filthy still, though you may outwardly appear to be cleansed.

5C.   Yes, my friend, even a man who is not genuinely converted, who does not know Jesus in a saving way, may yet have many apparent works of grace on his soul, may seem to himself and to others to be a Christian, and yet from the examples we have seen in Godís Word, be lost still.

 

3A.   Finally, CONSIDER THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE LOST AND THE SAVED, BETWEEN THE PRETENDER AND THE PARTAKER AND THAT ONE WHO IS A POSSESSOR OF CHRIST

What differences exist between the genuine and the counterfeit, between the hypocrite and the one who truly knows Jesus in a saving way?

1B.    In The First Place , There Is A Difference In The Very Nature Of Them

1C.   That man or woman who is godly differs from the most refined hypocrite, as much as gold differs from lead, or as much as true pearls differ from plastic beads.

2C.   Remember, in Matthew 13, the fourth kind of hearer, the only one who is truly converted, is the only one  said to have ďgoodĒ ground, referring to a good heart.  So you see, the soil of one ground is qualitatively different from the others.

3C.   Thus, justification and eternal life do not come to just any kind of faith that a hypocrite may have.  But justification and eternal life does come to the real faith of a man who, though he may have such a small amount of faith, it is a faith which receives Christ, while a hypocrite with much faith cannot take hold of Christ.

2B.    In The Second Place , There Is This Matter Of Clearness And Evidence

1C.   That which the pretender and the partaker knows about the things of God is in a more confused manner, because that light of illumination in them is but a flash, a sudden enlightening, and not a permanent and abiding light in them.

2C.   You see, a little sip or taste of heavenly things cannot enable a man exactly to comprehend the

         excellency and value of them.  Therefore a lost man sees these things as the man who is not perfectly cured of his blindness, like the blind man in Mark 8.24 who saw men walking by like trees.  He was not yet converted.  And so it is with the pretender and the partaker.

3C.   Now, let us recognize that the holiest and most consecrated of Christians only see in part.  David prayed, ďOpen thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law,Ē Psalm 119.18.  And Paul also prayed for the Ephesians, who were converted and a spiritual people, that God would give to them ď the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him,Ē Ephesians 1.17.

4C.   But this is altogether different than the lost manís poor and limited insight into spiritual truths.

3B.    In The Third Place , There Is The Matter Of Spirituality And Personal Holiness

1C.   The experience of the genuinely converted man inclines him to spirituality.  It makes him more holy.  The whole process of striving and conviction that culminates in genuine faith in Christ and real conversion carries him out of himself.

2C.   But the unconverted manís efforts tend always to carnality, result in him being puffed up, ending in a vain confidence in himself.  A great example of this was the Pharisees.  Although they abounded in the duties of the Law, their greatest corruptions also showed in that direction.  Thus, we have a Pharisee praying, or a Pharisee giving alms, being a Pharisee in all the power of his corruption.  As Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3, that which is not born of the Spirit is flesh.  And this fleshliness extends not only to sins and corruptions, but also to duties.

3C.   What does this lead to?  It leads to spiritual duties done by a spiritual man leaving that man more spiritual, more humble, more emptied of himself, more dependent upon Christ and the grace of God,  more dead to the world and to its temptations.  But as in the case of the Pharisees, who did all that they did so they might be seen of men, they used the platform of their religion to commit sins and to fulfill their lusts.

CONCLUSION:

1.   This message from Godís Word may be profoundly discouraging to you, so that you feel like giving up, throwing in the towel, saying to yourself ďWhatís the use?Ē

2.   Or you may be angered and feel within yourself, ďItís not supposed to be this complicated.  This man is creating confusion instead of bringing clarity.Ē

3.   Just remember that Godís Word says that ďThe heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked,Ē Jeremiah 17.9.  Thus, the complications are brought in, not by Godís Word rightly understood, but by the workings of your sinful heart seeking to deceive.

4.   But we have Godís Word.  Amen?  And we have the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Amen?  And we have the means used by God to bring sinners to Christ.  Amen?

5.   Therefore, lean not to your own understanding.  Trust fully in Godís Word to be the lamp unto your feet and the light unto your pathway.  Do not trust your heart, or your feelings, or your own judgment.  Make your calling and election sure . . . after the manner that God has prescribed.

6.   All thatís required of you, poor sinner, is that you come to Christ, really come to Christ, truly come to Christ, only come to Christ.  Did you come to Christ?  Make sure you did.  Will you come to Christ?  Make sure you do.

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