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 consists 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 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 effects 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 faculties. 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 still may arise in you. A true Christian is ready to mistake what belongs to him, and take that to be his, that belongs to an 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. – Benjamin Keach

Taken from The Counterfeit Christian or the Danger of Hypocrisy by Benjamin Keach, (London: John Pike, 1691). Some archaic words have been modernized.

Do not quickly read these questions and forget about them. Many professing Christians today are simply outwardly religious, but their hearts have not been changed by the regenerating power of God. Christ demands the supreme place in your heart and affections. If you love anything more than Christ; if you love anything equal to Christ (though you may have a wealth of biblical knowledge); you are not a child of God. “Do not be deceived” (Galatians 6:7).

Navigating Through Life

A couple of words have been rattling around in my head the past few days.  This all started with all the hype over the new “i” device from Apple Computer – the iPhone.  People have gone mad over this $500 phone, just as they have gone mad over the latest game systems.  We’ve had the iPod, iPhone, and the iPad – and several iterations of each.  Is your life marked by the madness we’ve seen over these things?  Perhaps you’re like me – I don’t like cell phones and I access the Internet the old fashioned way, with a computer.  Whatever our particular likes and dislikes, each of us – I dare say – have things of this world that have attached themselves to our affections in ways that reduce our effectiveness as disciples of Christ.

The two words that have been rattling around in my head are “indifferent” and “intentional”: opposite ends on the scale of attitude of the first person – “I”.  Here’s my theory: the degree of intentionality we have towards the world increases the indifference we have towards God.  I hold that the corollary is true as well: the degree of intentionality we have towards the Lord increases the indifference we have towards the world.  I call this the “I continuum” – you heard it here first!  You cannot be intentional towards God and indifferent to Him at the same time.  Nor can you be intentional towards God and the world at the same time.  I’m not saying we should be unconcerned about the world – we are told to be good stewards of the planet and to be proclaiming Christ to the human creatures.  But the value system of the world is another matter – that’s an evil that we all too often provide open access into our soul.

The Bible tells us “Ye Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”  (James 4:4) and in 1 John 2:15 – 17 “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”  The world is not our friend and it is not the standard of what is right and good.  When the world tells you to acquire stuff to satisfy your deepest longings, you’re being told to buy bread that leaves you poor and hungry, you’ll be led down paths of regret and defeat.

We also read in the Bible “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other” and “the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like “ (Gal 5:17 & 19 – 21).  Our flesh is not our friend and it is not the standard of what is right and good.  Our flesh is in league with the world!  This is why the world’s methods work so well on us.  We cannot trust our flesh – the Bible tells we cannot even know our own heart (Jer 17:9).

Thirdly, we see in Scripture another enemy of the cross – Satan.  The Lord Jesus was having a coffee talk with the local church leaders of the day.  John records the discourse in chapter 8 of his gospel: “I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.  I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.  They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.  But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.  Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.  Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.  Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.  Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.  And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.”  (John 8:37 – 45)  Satan is not our friend and he is not the standard of what is right and good.  He wants to kill and destroy you and me.

So we see from God’s Word that there are three powerful forces aligned against us: the world, our flesh, and Satan.  They work in near perfect harmony to lure us aside from righteousness and into sin – however small the departure and slight the sin; it’s a foothold that can quickly grow into a stronghold.  Every time you and I sin, we befriend the world, esteem the flesh, and honor Satan – and we dishonor holy God and His sacrifice.  Do we see sin in such a way?  Or is it merely a bad habit that needs to be replaced with a good one?

Since we are opposed by this “Axis of evil”, to coin a phrase, how can we navigate through life without making a mess of everything?  Fortunately for the Christian, there are three who are on our side and they are more powerful than the “Axis of evil.”  The God of Heaven and Earth has given us all we need (2 Peter 1:2 – 3 “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue”); all we need do is move from indifferent to intentional towards the Lord and follow the One who called us to new life and holds us in His grip of grace.

To navigate through life, we need a guide, a map and a compass.  All must be credible.  There is only one trustworthy guide – Christ Jesus.  There is only one trustworthy map – the Bible.  There is only one trustworthy compass – the Holy Spirit.  The Guide God sent to us is not charismatic or interested in anything beyond leading and carrying us to the proper destination.  He will not pander your flesh nor entice you with worldly things.  The map God provides is not flashy in appearance and does not contain tips on cheap hotels or entertaining stops along the way.  The Bible is only intended to show one how lost he is and show him the way home once he is found.  The Compass God gives us is not like the one held by Captain Jack Sparrow – always pointing to what he wants the most.  The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and points us to repentance and obedience.

But if you want none of that, if you wish to be indifferent towards God and intentional towards the world, here’s a quick “top-10” list to guide you along the way to perdition:

 Ten Steps to Carnal Living*

(from pages 171 & 172 of At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry by Steve Gallagher)

  1. Spend as much time watching secular television as possible.  You owe it to yourself.
  1. Eat sweets as often as you possibly can and give in to every craving for food immediately.
  1. Worry about loving yourself more, and God and other less.
  1. Fill your life with fun things and avoid adversity at all cost.
  1. Be a taker, not a a giver; after all, you already paid taxes!
  1. Never do anything that anyone would construe as fanaticism; you do have an image to uphold!
  1. You need not worry about having daily devotions; you do not have time!
  1. When you are confronted with sin in your life, go directly into delusion.
  1. Anytime you have a problem, always refer to a psychology book; psychologists know much more about life than God.
  1. Give in to every sexual urge; after all, God created them in you.

From the opposite end of the “I Continuum”:

Instructions for daily conduct (John Mason)

For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.” 1 Thessal. 4:2

1. Make the word of God the rule of all you do.

2. Whatever you do, do it in the strength of Christ. Without Christ, you can do nothing. Of yourself, you cannot even think a good thought; but you may do all things, through Christ strengthening you. Nature is a dry root–no gracious actions spring from it. Grace depends on continual supplies from Christ–as of sap from the root. Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might, and then nothing shall be too hard for you. All things are possible to him who believes and relies upon Christ’s power.

3. As we are to act by the power of Christ, so we are to present our services for acceptance in the name of Christ. The best we can do–needs His intercession, blood, and merits–to render it acceptable to God. In the Lord alone–we have righteousness and strength.

4. Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Selfishness is the natural idolatry of the human heart. The design and tendency of piety is to take the heart off self–and set it upon God. That duty which does not begin and end with God is no part of godliness. Self must be cast down–and God alone exalted.

5. To spend every day well, let your waking thoughts be with God;  let your fervent prayers ascend in the name of Christ; let the Word of God be your counselor; let the fear of God be always before your eyes. In all your actions, let integrity and uprightness preserve you. Set a watch over your lips, and a guard upon your spirit, that you be not provoked to anger, nor speak unadvisedly with your lips.

6. At night, review the actions of the day. Give to God the glory of what has been good; take shame to yourself for what has been evil. Review the dispensations of God’s providences–and consider their special meaning and application. Acknowledge the mercies of God received through the day. Submit to the afflictions laid upon you. Commit yourselves afresh to the mercy and protection of God, through Jesus Christ–that you may be preserved through the slumbers of the night, and be permitted to wake in peace–whether it be in earth or heaven.

By these points let every action be examined–
By whose rule have I acted?
In whose strength have I acted?
In whose name have I acted?
For whose glory have I acted?
What faith, humility, self-denial, love to God
and Christ, have there been in my actions?

Parting thoughts:

For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Romans 8:6

(John Owen) Let a man profess what he will–if his thoughts are generally conversant about earthly and worldly things–he has an earthly and worldly mind. And if his thoughts are generally conversant about sensual things–he has a sensual and carnal mind. “For as he thinks in his heart–so is he.” Proverbs 23:7