A Call to Self-Examination
And the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Son of man, say to her, ‘You are a land that is not cleansed or rained on in the day of indignation.’ There is a conspiracy of her prophets in her midst, like a roaring lion tearing the prey. They have devoured lives; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in the midst of her. Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they hide their eyes from My sabbaths and I am profaned among them. Her princes within her are like wolves tearing the prey, by shedding blood and destroying lives in order to get dishonest gain. And her prophets have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ when the Lord has not spoken." (Ezekiel 22:23-28).
"But the Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept charge of my sanctuary when the sons of Israel went astray from Me, shall come near to Me to minister to Me; and they shall stand before Me to offer the fat and the blood, declares the Lord God. They shall enter My sanctuary; they shall come near to My table to minister to Me and keep My charge. …Moreover, they shall teach MY people the difference between the holy and the profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean." (Ezekiel 44: 15-16,23).
The history of the nation of Israel is an abysmal one. Almost from its very inception as a nation the seeds of apostasy began springing up in its midst. No sooner had they received the Ten Commandments at Sinai and been instituted as a theocracy, than they fell away to idolatry in the form of a golden calf. A harbinger of things to come, the nation eventually was to plunge itself into such gross idolatry centuries later that ultimately the whole lot of them were hurled out of the land of promise and carried away exile into both Assyria and Babylon.
The nature of fallen man being what it is, it is not hard to understand how this could happen. The worship of the false gods of the nations that surrounded them were more often than not characterized by bouts of revelry and sexual immorality and therefore would greatly appeal to the fleshly lusts of the sons of Israel. However, it should also be noted that among the various causes for the idolatry and subsequent apostasy of the nation as a whole, the failure of both the priests and prophets to correct the abuses of those who were allotted to their charge ranks among the foremost. As the above mentioned Scriptures testify, these ministers, to their eternal shame and condemnation, simply did not clearly set forth the difference between that which was sacred and that which was profane. In other words, unlike Moses, their predecessor, they drew no clear line in the sand by which the people could measure themselves to see "who was on the Lord’s side". Rather, they blurred the distinctions, either through cowardliness and the fear of men’s faces or through their own sheer ignorance of these matters themselves.
Now, the Scriptures categorically state that:
"These things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore, let him who thins he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor 10:11-12).
"For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Romans 14:4).
One extremely important lesson we can learn from the failure of the nation of Israel and its ministers is that a people will inevitably stand or fall according to the tenor and character of the ministry in its midst. A faithful ministry will produce a faithful people - A faithless ministry will produce a faithless people. This principle is clearly stated by our Lord Jesus in the gospel of Luke:
"A disciple is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher" (Luke 6:40).
It is obvious, therefore, that the blame for both the guilt and subsequent failure of the nation of Israel can be laid directly at the feet of the ministry of its day. Indeed the Scriptures testify so clearly concerning this as to make it beyond all doubt whatsoever.
"My people have become lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray." (Jer 50:6).
In much the same manner as ancient Israel was plagued by these faithless ministers, so too is the church of today plagued. The same charge that held true then hold trues now:
"You have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean". (Ezek 22: 26).
Far too many of those who occupy the modern pulpits of our land are following in the footsteps of these false shepherds of old by failing to draw a clear line of demarcation between those who are in the kingdom of God and those who are not. They do not preach in such a fashion as to enable their hearers to distinguish the genuineness of their faith or lack thereof. Whether this is due to fear of men’s faces and an itching desire to make a name for themselves or through a sinful ignorance on their own part is not within the scope of this brief article. Suffice it to say that this condition is the primary reason for the low level of spirituality and rampant carnality that now inundates the modern-day American church and has given rise to a brand of Christianity that is reminiscent of the lukewarm church at Laodicea that our Lord Christ threatened to spew forth out of His mouth.
That this is so today is as clear as the noonday sun for all those who are troubled by these things and take the time to lay it to heart. Yet, such has not always been the condition of the church throughout its history. In every generation the Lord has not left Himself without a witness. Faithful men of God have stood in their pulpits and sounded abroad to their hearers the clear sound of the gospel trumpet. No uncertain note was heard by their listeners as they were enabled to judge accurately of their true spiritual condition. For it is certain that these faithful witnesses understood the deceitfulness of the unregenerate human heart and how it is always prone to think more highly of itself than is prudent. Hence, the one thing that all of these faithful servants of Christ had in common was that their ministries were discriminating ones. By that I mean to say that they were careful to distinguish between genuine faith and counterfeit faith. They took great and detailed pains to explain the differences between genuine conversion and pseudo conversions. They were not content to let those who sat before them to assume all was well with their souls simply because they had adopted a new religious vocabulary and had shed a few sinful habits.
Such a man is one who penned the following excerpt taken from a treatise he wrote several centuries ago. Benjamin Keach was an early Baptist preacher of England who lived in the mid to late 17th century. Like many faithful preachers of his era, he was careful to articulate the evidences that accompany a genuine work of salvation that has been wrought by the Holy Spirit of God. As you read this "son of Zadok’s" words, examine yourself closely. I promise you that just like Keach’s readers so many years ago must have been challenged, you too will be brought face to face with a "spiritual" line drawn in the sand that speaks aloud saying:
"Whosoever is on the Lord’s side, let him come unto me".
Yours in Christ Jesus,
Pastor Dan Norcini
A Call to Self-Examination
By: Benjamin Keach
What can render the state of a person worse than to be an enemy of God, Jesus Christ, and the power of godliness; and yet to think he is holy and a good Christian? Nay, because his conscience is blind in the matter, it acquits him since it lacks saving light, while he keeps up in a zealous performance of the external acts of duty and religion; by which means he is deprived of that help which some openly profane gain from the rebukes and lashes of their own consciences, which often proves a means of their conversion. But the hypocritical professor, not knowing he lacks a changed heart, nor understanding that he is without those Sacred Principles from whence should flow all he acts and does, but contrariwise he is stirred up by false Principles, and acts only by the power of natural conscience and affections, having no clear judgment to discern his own danger, nor what a state he is still in. His condition is deplorable, and this unclean spirit is worse and more dangerous than that which he was in before.
Their blindness and ignorance consiseth in that they cannot discern nor distinguish between a changed heart and a changed life, or between legal reformation and true regeneration. They think, because their behavior seems so much better than it was before, in their own apprehension, and in the apprehension of others also, their condition is good enough. They comparing themselves with themselves, beholding what a vast difference there is, or seems to be in respect of what they once were, when swearers, drunkards, whoremongers, etc., cannot but commend themselves to themselves. Once they saw themselves sinners, and called themselves so, and were ashamed of their own sinful and wicked lives; but now they are righteous in their own eyes, and so have no need of any further work, being arrived to that state of holiness (so they think), to that degree of piety, to that change, to that conversion, that they conclude they need not seek for further change and yet they are deceived…
The state of the self-righteous and Pharisaical persons is far worse than the state of the gross and profane sinners. These are sick and know it not; wounded, but see no need of a physician…they may conclude they are converted, and therefore seek not after conversion.
It is a hard and difficult thing to bring a Pharisaical person, one that looks upon himself to be a religious man, to see his woeful state and condition.
Men may be civilized, and make a great profession of religion, and pass for saints on the earth, that are not such in the sight of God in heaven.
It is a most dangerous thing to make a profession of religion without true regeneration being first wrought in the soul; better to be no professors at all, than not so as to be sincere…
This may inform us of the cause and reason there is so great reproach brought upon religion, and on the ways of God, and on the people of God, by some who profess the gospel. Alas, many of them who are called saints, we may fear are but counterfeit Christians, such as who never experienced a true work of grace; they may have knowing heads, but unsanctified hearts…
Moreover, it sharply reproves those preachers whose great business is to bring men into visible profession, and make them members of churches, whose preaching tends more to bring persons to baptism, and to subject to external ordinances, than to show them the necessity of regeneration, faith, or a changed heart. For the Lord’s sake take heed what you do, if you would be pure from the blood of all men. We too often see when people are got into churches, they conclude all is well; and when conversion is preached, they do not think it concerns them, but other people who are openly profane; and thus they come to be blinded, maybe to their own destruction…
It may also put us all upon a strict examination of our own hearts, lest we should be found to be some of these false and counterfeit Christians. And that we may clear ourselves in this matter, consider:
1. Were you ever thoroughly convinced of your sinful and lost condition by nature, and of that horrid evil there is in sin? Did you ever see sin as the greatest evil, most hateful to God, not only of the evil effect of sin, but also of the evil nature of sin, not only as it has made a breach between God and man, but has also defaced the Image of God in man, and made us like the devil, filling our minds with enmity against God, godliness, and good men?
2. Is there no secret sin lived in and favored, the evil habit never being broke? Is not the world more in your affections, desires, and thoughts, than Jesus Christ?
3. Are you willing to suffer and part with all that you have, rather than sin against God? Do you see more evil in the least sin, than in the greatest suffering?
4. Do you as much desire to have your sins mortified as pardoned, to be made holy as well as to be made happy? Do you love the work of holiness as well as the reward of holiness? Do you love the Word of God for that purity which is in it, as well as the advantage that comes by it?
5. Have you seen your own righteousness as filthy rags, and have you been made poor in spirit?
6. Have you received a whole Christ with a whole heart? A whole Christ comprehends all His offices (prophet, priest, and king), and a whole heart includes all our facilities. Is not your heart divided?
7. Is Christ precious to you, even the chiefest among ten thousand? Are you the same in private as in public? Do you love Christ above son or daughter? Do you love the person of Christ?
8. Can you bear reproof kindly to your faults, and look upon him your best friend, that deals most plainly with you?
9. Do you more pry into your own faults, than the miscarriages of others? Are you universal in your obedience? Do you obey Christ’s Word, His commands, because you love Him?
10. Have you been the same in a day of adversity, as now you are in a day of prosperity?
11. Can you say you hate sin as sin? Is your mind spiritual, and set upon heavenly things? Do you love the saints, all the saints, though some of them are not of your sentiments in some points of religion?
12. Can you go comfortably on in the ways of Christ, though you meet with little esteem among the saints? Can you stay your souls upon God, though in darkness having no light? Is all the stress of your justification and salvation built upon Jesus Christ?
Consider these few questions, and do not doubt but that your hearts are sincere, when you can give a comfortable answer to them, though it be with some fear and doubts that may still arise in you. A true Christian is ready to mistake what belongs to him, and take that to be his, that belongs to a hypocrite; while, on the other hand, an hypocrite mistakes that which belongs to him, and applies that to himself, which is the portion of sincere Christians.
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