A Voice in the Wilderness - Observations and Excursions of a Christian Zealot

Terry Walker's Weblog --- Occasional articles on the Christian Ethic

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Be satisfied with nothing less than raising the dead!

Dear reader, I normally struggle for weeks on a single article, but this month I struggled with two, and this article is neither of those. During my studies, as I wrote of one article the Scriptures led me only to the other. And when I wrote of the second, the Scriptures led me only to the first. In frustration I thought, perhaps, to print one of Paul’s articles in my stead. But then God put me in the most unusual of circumstances, and just hours ago I found myself in the cavernous halls of one of those mega churches. I had heard many rumors concerning this church’s sermons, based solely on drawing huge heathen crowds for “feel good” messages. I could not image why God would bring me here. But then I wasn’t really here for me. A lost soul, who I will call Lost Tom, who I have evangelized at great lengths with no evidence of change, had invited me to meet “the new counselor.” Lost Tom made all the arrangements, but at the last moment he cancelled our meeting. In recent years I have had several opportunities to stand before pastors as a witness for the Word, and sensing another opportunity, to once again, sit before a man of great influence on the souls of others, I called the counselor to recommit to a little one on one time. My goal as always was to glorify Jesus and to spread His message, to learn what can be learned, edify the edifyable, rebuke the sins that require such and to see what else the Lord might have me do. I shall call the counselor, “Dr. Bob”.

I had prepared a list of 25 questions that I thought would quickly determine Dr. Bob’s spiritual understanding so as to judge his ability to help Lost Tom. It soon became apparent that Dr. Bob had a decent grasp of scripture even though he was not a certified biblical counselor, a degreed doctor, or even a psychiatrist. Dr. Bob was just a regular Joe, just like me.

In response to my questions Dr. Bob said that every human was born spiritually dead, and as such, did not seek after God, could not repent, nor even please God. As we all are born dead, if we remain that way, our heathen lives serve “not much” purpose. Dr. Bob said that Christians have no business judging the actions of heathen sinners, but yet are commanded to judge the actions of confessing brothers. Dr. Bob went on to say that if a person confesses to be Christian but has no fruit, then a true brother has reason to think that this person is likely no brother at all, as there is no such thing as a carnal Christian.

Beginning to get excited about Bob’s discernment, I went on to question him further and Dr. Bob gleefully indicated that, Christians cannot accept Jesus as Savior but not Lord over their lives, and when we unrepentantly sin against our Lord, our brother is commanded to tell us of our sin. On the subjects of wives and marriage, Dr. Bob said that wives are to submit to their husbands in all that they do, unless to do so would be sin, and that husbands have two allowable reasons to divorce their wives, but even those reasons are only allowed due to the hardness of human hearts. I disagreed on one portion of his point, but Bob was undeterred and told me that the Bible was the very mind of God and to understand it, is to understand God.

I was on the edge of my seat! Well, actually I was sunk so deep into his overstuffed leather couch that I couldn’t move, but if I could have moved, I would have been on the edge of my seat. Never the less, aside from my own church’s biblical counselors, I had never met a counselor with such a grasp of Scripture. So I asked him my last question, “Does a Christian have the ability to get angry without sinning?” Dr. Bob thought for a moment and said, “Of course, as long as he forgives the person who caused his anger before nightfall.”

It was like watching Jeopardy as the champ answers incorrectly and the big buzzer goes off. But Bob had made it so far, that I thought it only fair to give him a chance to redeem himself, so I explained how the context of Ephesians 4:31 must regulate the meaning of Ephesians 4:26. We agreed to disagree and got down to the business of discussing the intended goal for our meeting.

Dr. Bob told me that he was a member of an organization called “Elijah House”, and my heart jumped for joy. I knew nothing of this organization but certainly Bob, as a member of an organization named after this great prophet, would understand my goal for Lost Tom. Like both Elijah and his successor Elisha, I desired nothing less than to “raise the dead,” that is to raise Lost Tom’s soul from the dead. But Dr. Bob looked at me puzzled, and said, “Are you speaking of salvation? My ultimate goal is not the salvation of souls; we do not do that here!” I was stunned as he went on to tell me how he would take Lost Tom back in time, to the point in his life where he exchanged the truth for a lie, perhaps even back to his childhood, and once there, Tom might understand how the acceptance of this lie as truth, had caused the undoing of his adult life. Once Lost Tom had exchanged this lie for the truth, then and only then, would Lost Tom be able to possibly meet God and accept Him. Dr. Bob said that Lost Tom cannot come to God unless his heart is free from this original lie.

I had heard this dung heap of useless jargon before. 5 years I spent listening to A.C.O.A. and A.L.A.N.O.N. 12 step group leaders telling me that it was my mom’s fault, that I was such a pathetic, worthless person. And throughout that time I had “professional help,” and actually paid psychiatrists to tell me to beat pillows with bats while thinking of my dad. My rage did more than think it, I actually dreamed of it. You will never find a cure for sin and relief from its consequences, when those who seek to “help” you, do everything to encourage the very sin that enslaves you.

Dr. Bob sounded just like one of the psycho-babble shrinks, like John Bradshaw of the “Inner Child” movement, years ago. Dr. Bob made it sound as if even reborn Christians are slaves to their emotions and unresolved events in their childhood, and unsaved heathens have no choice but to make the rearward journey to discover their historic errors. Years ago I went through the whole “retro trip down memory lane” in an effort to find my “inner child”, and when I met him I smacked his little behind and told him to “grow up, get over it and repent you spoiled brat!” So, I asked Dr. Bob about rebirth, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the “new man”, sanctification, dying to the flesh and striving for the prize, but I had lost Dr. Bob to his Freudian whims. Dr. Bob knew nothing of how to raise the dead through Christ.

Fellow Christians, I think of the Shunammite woman who had received her heart’s desire, a son, her heritage and family heir, only to loose him in death. The bereaved, but surely believing mother rushed to the man of God, Elisha, through whom his Divine Master originally delivered unto the woman her promise of a son. Elisha’s response is recorded in 2 Kings 4:29-37:

Then he said to Gehazi, “Get yourself ready, and take my staff in your hand, and be on your way. If you meet anyone, do not greet him; and if anyone greets you, do not answer him; but lay my staff on the face of the child.” And the mother of the child said, “As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you.” So he arose and followed her. Now Gehazi went on ahead of them, and laid the staff on the face of the child; but there was neither voice nor hearing. Therefore he went back to meet him, and told him, saying, “The child has not awakened.” When Elisha came into the house, there was the child, lying dead on his bed. He went in therefore, shut the door behind the two of them, and prayed to the Lord. And he went up and lay on the child, and put his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands; and he stretched himself out on the child, and the flesh of the child became warm. He returned and walked back and forth in the house, and again went up and stretched himself out on him; then the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. And he called Gehazi and said, “Call this Shunammite woman.” So he called her. And when she came in to him, he said, “Pick up your son.” So she went in, fell at his feet, and bowed to the ground; then she picked up her son and went out.

Now while Elisha was dealing with the natural death of a child, we too are no less dealing with a matter of the same significance and magnitude; that is the natural spiritual condition of the adults and children round about us. The natural man, as surely as the natural child, is dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1). If we do not concern ourselves to understand the shear magnitude and inevitable destruction of the lost little ones around us, then we do them nothing but harm. Dr. Bob seeks the lessening of Lost Tom’s feelings of misery and insecurity, while I seek no such secondary benefits for Tom. I seek nothing less than the salvation of his immortal soul. Resurrection is my ultimate and only goal, it is my mission and my only aim, nothing less will do anything for Tom but send him to an eternity of damnation.

I can practically smell his damned soul burning in brimstone. Do you think we should take such, so lightly, that we would rather go to the ball game and exercise yet another Christian liberty? Did Elisha dawdle when there was the Lord’s work to be done? No! He went straightaway to raise the child! Did Elisha settle for merely cleaning the boy’s body and preparing him for burial? No! He sought nothing less than to raise the dead! So too is our high calling, not of our own feeble power, but without unbelief, we are to administer that which we were made capable of doing through Him who sent us to do it. Not even the prophets and apostles raised the dead in their own power, yet the same God is within us today that empowered them.

Are we any less capable of exercising faith in regard to our own children, having been, by faith, empowered into the service of our great God to pray down mighty salvific wonders? I do not shorten the arm of my God, and if Lost Tom is to be saved, then by God, He will do it through my witness, if not my witness, then by another likewise purposeful Christian’s witness.

Perhaps you think this is not your calling, that God should not put any souls in your care. Oh, how this reminds me of another who, for a time, thought the same. Ester, having been warned of Haman’s plot and resulting decree of Jewish genocide, feared another decree of sure death if she went to see the King without being called. She had not been called to see the King for 30 days. But Mordecai reminded her of her Jewish heritage and the fact that she was not safe from Haman’s plot, not even in the palace and not even if she remained silent. Mordecai said “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:11)

Seemingly, Ester was going to die one way of the other, either in silence or when she went to see the King. She had no idea whether seeing the King would result in saving the Jews or not, and she never would if she never tried. However someone will surely be blessed with the task, because God will save whoever God wishes to save and if Ester was not up to the task, then God’s will, will come to pass through someone else or some other means.

Likewise, unless Jesus comes back soon, you and I will die. There are a fixed number of elect round about us and Jesus will save them all, the only question is who gets blessed with the task of being used by God in the process. If you never try to win a soul for Christ, you are the only loser. The Lambs Book of Life is not modified by your neglect; deliverance simply arises from another place.

But how does one raise a person from the dead? Why even Elisha was not successful on his first attempt. Perhaps he did not follow the example set before him by his mentor Elijah. In 1 Kings 17 we see the example of Elijah raising a dead child and it was not until Elisha followed this example that this second child’s life was restored. So too do we so often fail when trying to imitate our Master’s examples, yet like Elisha, do we continue in belief and assurance of success, or do we quit in unbelief, soothing our conscience with thoughts that “it’s not our calling anyway?”

Look at Elisha, first he gives Gehazi his staff to send him on his way, as if the raising of this boy need not even require Elisha’s effort, as if this staff itself had within it the faith to dispense God’s divine power. Do we not do the same to the lost round about us when we leave it up to others to witness to the lost in our charge? Or maybe we think the Holy Spirit, without us separating our lips in an effort to spew forth the Gospel, will magically testify to saving grace. Make no mistake Christian, God expects you to stretch out yourself onto the lost souls around you. And when you find that after you have applied your best effort and “the child has not awakened,” then you try another method and another and then still another, improving each time, each time studying the ways and methods of our Master to learn the art of winning souls. With loving compassion for the lost, in humble service to His Father, with deep sympathy and sorrowful condition, Jesus yearned to see the lost come to Him as little children.

Seeing mans grave condition.
Poor Gehazi, do you sense as I, that Gehazi is not convinced that the child is really dead? He speaks as if the child needs only to be awakened. To him the child is not dead, only asleep. I believe he does not grasp the child’s grave condition. And what if the staff had awakened the child, would Gehazi have thought that the child was simply startled out of a deep sleep or would he have perceived that a glorious miracle had taken place?

Similarly if we do not perceive the grave condition of the unsaved around us, then we too may be blind to their need of salvation. In truth they are spiritually dead, but if we, like Dr. Bob, are satisfied to only provide emotional relief, rather than seeking the ultimate spiritual rebirth and a complete new nature for the lost around us, then we do them a disservice, likely leaving them in their natural condition. If you foolishly think that the lost, even the little children are not depraved, then you should not be surprised when your ministry remains unfruitful as was Gehazi’s efforts.

God works, but can you see it?
Now, I am not saying that God can not or does not use the weak Christian or even the lost man, to draw souls to His Son. But why should God work a glorious work through you if you do not grasp the total depravity of man? Why should He, when the weak Christian or the lost man can not fully appreciate or glorify Jesus for miraculously raising the spiritually dead? How can such a man truly praise God for undeserved, unmerited grace, when in his eyes the lost are pre-deserving? A person who does not see the grave condition of the natural man, will not bless and magnify the regenerating grace from God, Who makes all things new. This person’s ministry may be used by God, but the weak and the lost will likely be incapable of perceiving its glorious nature. Rather this man’s eyes are blurred by his high view of human dignity and innate self-worth. How can grace be perceived as grace if it is thought that God is obligated to give it? And is glory seen through such a limited eye, nearly as glorious? How much more can a Christian free from a sense of self worth glorify God when he sees the full panorama of God’s grace and power when He raises dead sinners to life!

Do you see their need for salvation and your calling to be its means?
Also, how can you be a blessing to those around you if you do not have a clear sense of their spiritual ruin? If we think our duty as Christians is merely to preach the Bible to instill morality, then our preaching will have been a failure when those around us remain dead. Is not our calling to be the means, in the hands of God, to bring life from Heaven to dead souls?

But we so often fail as Gehazi did. But after the initial failure what does Elisha do? He comes into the room and shuts the door; he gets serious and separates himself from distractions, and isolates himself from a world filled with unbelief and prays. Dear Christian, supplication is the means by which your Lord chooses to oft hear your voice, but not just prayer, but meaningful, true and powerful supplication. In 1 Kings 17:19-22 Elijah cried out to the Lord and the Lord heard his voice. Do you cry out for the sake of the unsaved in supplication?

But is prayer alone enough? In the words of C.H. Spurgeon, “Prayer and means must go together. Means without prayer --- presumption! Prayer without means --- hypocrisy!” Elisha laid atop the boy and member for member matched the form of the cold lifeless child. Strangely enough the words say that this full grown man stretched himself out upon the smaller child yet met him eye to eye, mouth to mouth and hand to hand. I see this as a picture that we must go to great lengths to wax warm the heart of the unsaved. If we must endlessly study, then study with urgency. If we must pray, then pray fervently. We must stretch out and truly feel the lifeless cold condition of the lost soul. Is his ruin your concern, as if your life were dependant on his? If he remains dead, do you feel your life slipping? Do you feel the heat of your soul warming his lifeless body? Look at Elisha again pacing back and forth, contemplating every facet of his patient’s condition. His heart is moved, he is restless, troubled, and unlike Gehazi, who simply carried a staff and announced that there was no change, Elisha expected more and was unwilling to give up.

Likewise, I do not want Lost Tom to be merely warmed, coming only to taste of the Lord, become chilled again and walking away. I won’t be satisfied until his ultimate end is assured, until his cold stony heart beats with new flesh. Is it warmth that we seek for the lost, or life? We must reach beyond the length of our relaxed frame in order to see the working of the Holy Spirit wax warm the souls of the lost around us. Do not be satisfied, but restless, always walking to and fro, stretching out again and again until the warmed flesh sneezes out the impurities of an unregenerate soul.

But Dr. Bob seeks to aid the lost by raising them into a position of warm death. Sitting up, but not yet standing, warmed heart but not yet beating. Dr. Bob carries the staff, but everyone around him is never the less, DEAD. My hope and prayer is that you are not satisfied with walking around with a worthless staff, thinking it alone is capable of doing anything more than leaving a shadow on a lost child’s face. Be satisfied with nothing less than raising the dead! Amen.

Brother Terry Walker
Providence Baptist Church
Greer, South Carolina