Pastor Scallion’s Pen
April 5th, 2019
“Do It Again”
In a recent Barna survey it was determined that 83% of Americans identify themselves as Christians, 13% identify with no religion, and 4% identify as non-Christian – Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. Of the 83% identifying as Christians less than one-half attend church even sporadically. Of those who attend any type of church, an even smaller percentage believe the Bible is absolute truth and that Jesus is the sole and only way to Heaven. The average young person today either grows up in a non-Christian home or a nominal Christian home. It has been stated that America is but one generation away from not being a Christian nation. In reviewing the fact that hundreds of millions of people have some type of religious affiliation, one wonders what percentage are true believers in Biblical salvation. Factoring in the social deterioration, lifestyles of unrighteous or lethargic mindsets overpowered by worldly pursuits, the conclusion is bleak.
The classic truth is that the greatest advertisement for any product is a satisfied customer. One dedicated Christian walking out his faith and sharing his testimony of personal salvation is worth more than all church programs, slick public relations, and databases.
Some years ago, Charles Bradlaugh was the outstanding atheist of England. He was ever challenging the validity of the claims of Christianity. Down in one of the slums of London was a minister by the name of Hugh Price Hughes. He was a real personality and all London was aware of the miracles of grace accomplished at his mission. Charles Bradlaugh challenged Mr. Hughes to debate the validity of the claims of Christianity. Mr. Hughes immediately accepted the challenge and countered with one of his own. He proposed to the atheist, Charles Bradlaugh, “Since we know that a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still; and since this debate will not likely result in anyone’s conversion, I propose that we bring some concrete evidence of the validity of Christianity in the form of men and women who have been redeemed from lives of sin and shame by the influence of Christianity and you do the same with your converts of Atheism. I will bring one hundred such men and women and I challenge you to do the same. If you cannot bring one hundred, Mr. Bradlaugh, to match my one hundred, I will be satisfied if you will bring fifty who will testify that they have been lifted from lives of sin and shame by the influence of your teaching of Atheism. If you cannot bring fifty, I challenge you to bring twenty people who will testify with shining faces as my one hundred will that they have a great new joy in life of self-respect as a result of your atheistic teaching. If you cannot bring twenty, I will be satisfied if you bring ten. Nay, Mr. Bradlaugh, I challenge you to bring one, just one man or woman who will make such a testimony regarding the uplifting of your atheistic teaching. My redeemed men and women will bring an unanswerable proof to the saving power of Jesus Christ in the lives of those who have been redeemed from the slavery of sin and shame. Perhaps, Mr. Bradlaugh, this will be the real demonstration of the validity of the claims of Christianity.” London was stirred. What would the atheist do? Simply given, he withdrew his public challenge for there were none he could produce, and London smiled.
In my humble opinion, instead of promoting church programs, we need a genuine heart revival to take place in the lives of true believers. God’s answer to His outpouring of blessings rests in His people. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (II Chronicles 7:14).
R.A. Torrey followed in the footsteps of D.L. Moody. He was pastor of the Church of the Open Door in California and had what he called, “perennial revival.” Torrey’s plan was to first let a few Christians get thoroughly right with God themselves. This is the prime essential. If this is not done, nothing else will happen. Second, let them bind themselves together in a prayer group to pray earnestly until God answers. Third, let them put themselves at the disposal of God for Him to use as He sees fit in winning others to Christ. That is all. It cannot fail. A great challenge for any believer is to study the history of revival. Each stirring of the church always started with a few.
Jeremiah Lanphier started a noon prayer time September 23, 1857. The first day six men came, the following week twenty, then forty, and soon a hundred. By March 1858, the New York Times reported that Burton’s Theater on Chambers Street in downtown Manhattan was packed with crowds exceeding 3,000 praying. Some estimate that up to a million people became Christians in the 1857-58 revival.
History records similar situations and outcomes with George Whitfield, William Tenement, James McGreevy, and dozens like them. Samuel Mills and five friends who were William’s college students in western Massachusetts in 1806 started a movement called the Haystack Revival. After 150 years, nearly 5,000 missionaries to thirty-four different fields had been sent out. Colleges and schools were established and the Gospel spread throughout the world – and it all began with five young men praying near a haystack.
The Great Welsh Revival in Wales took place at the turn of the century. A newspaperman went down from London to report firsthand. On arrival in Wales, he asked a policeman where the revival was. Drawing himself to his full height, the policeman laid his hand over his heart and proudly proclaimed, “Gentlemen, the Welsh revival is inside this uniform.”
Gypsy Smith was once asked how to start a revival. He answered, “Go home, lock yourself in your room, and kneel down in the middle of your floor. Draw a chalk mark all around yourself and ask God to start the revival inside that chalk mark. When He has answered your prayer, the revival will be on.
There have been periods of stirring spiritually across the world. God’s promise has always been that He would “pour water on him that is thirsty” (Isaiah 44:3). Prosperity is often the enemy of genuine, spiritual hunger. I recall a period in the last 60’s and early 70’s in the southeast when the breath of revival blew gently over the land. I remember being part of that time.
The story is told of General William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, converted in a Methodist church in Nottingham. Hundreds visit the church every year. One day a local minister found an old colored gentleman standing below the tablet on the wall that commemorates General Booth’s conversion. When the minister approached him, the old man asked, “Can a man say his prayer here?” “Of course,” said the minister. The old man knelt and bowed his head and then raised it toward Heaven. His eyes full of tears, “Oh, God,” he said quietly. “Do it again! Do it again!”
Over a fifty-year span, I have seen God touch His people a precious few times. I add my voice to this heartfelt prayer. “Do it again!”
March 29th, 2019
“Profession Without Possession”
At the 2004 Olympic games, Matt Emmons participated on the American Air Rifle Team. The event was a three-position shoot in which each participant shot from the upright, knee, and stomach or prone position. Going into his final shot, Emmons was in first place and only needed a mediocre last shot to win the gold. His final shot was a perfect bulls eye but the tragedy was that he shot at the wrong target one lane over and received no score at all. This illustration reminds all of us that sincerity is not as important as obedience to truth and faith is no better than its object.
I was 23 years old before I placed my faith and trust in Christ. This was chiefly due to misplaced trust in all the wrong things. From the time I was a toddler, I attended church occasionally on Sunday mornings. When I was approximately 15 or 16, I joined a Baptist church and was baptized. Around age 20, I joined a second Baptist church and then a third when I was 22. All the while thinking my religious affiliations made me safe, when in reality, my faith was in the wrong object and I was shooting at a target that was in the wrong lane. This was not unique to me. Our religious world is filled with church members; many relying on their baptism, name on a church roll, or some religious experience to settle their soul’s eternal destination. I once heard a noted evangelist state that one of the greatest mission fields was the membership of established churches.
We live in the buckle of the Bible belt. Churches are on every corner. Radio and T.V. programs carry a host of programming catering to every religious group. The question is, “Has all of this religious fervor changed our society toward holiness, love of Biblical truth, or exaltation of Christ Who is the self-proclaimed only way to Heaven?” What, then, is the root of the problem? In my case, for 23 years those who knew the Truth did not share it with me or guide me to understand. As the Ethiopian eunuch said to Phillips when asked if he understand the scripture, “How can I except some man guide me?” Too many are silent on the issue while way too many are promoting a mongrel works-based religion that leaves Christ out.
Ask the next ten people you meet on the streets of Athens, “What is necessary to be 100% sure you are going to Heaven when you die?” You, most likely, will receive ten different answers. Some will say:
Be baptized (some even say in a particular church)
Go to church (many stipulating when and where)
Come from a Christian family (extra points if a relative was in the ministry)
Do good works (especially to the less fortunate)
Give more money to charity or social causes
Confess your sins to a priest and do penance
Be a good citizen (a marked advantage for military service)
Give your life in the service of the church
Disfigure your face and give up something for a week
Have a religious experience that involves visions, dreams, or trances
Once in a blue moon, even in Athens, Tennessee, you will run across someone who will give the correct answer: Repent of your sin and by faith receive Christ as your personal Savior, realizing you cannot do anything to earn or work for salvation. Christ has paid my debt. I realize this sounds so familiar and so simple. Yet, the profundity is in its simplicity.
After 50 years in the pastorate, I have watched this play out over and over. Church members being converted, rededication-giving way to genuine conversion, and professors instead of possessors. It is very possible, like Judas Iscariot, to be constantly around the work of the Savior and not know the Savior of the work.
I have to believe that the unsaved world with all of its excesses is not where Satan spends the majority of his time. After all, why should He? He has a lock on the pop culture crowd. The liquor drinking, entertainment crazed world is already in his corner. Agnostic and atheistic evolution proponents ruled God out years ago. What scares Satan the most is the religious world. He understands that man has an innate consciousness of his Creator. This is why, from all points of this earth, humanity worships something. Satan is busiest convincing mankind to worship something, anything other than the true God and Christ the Savior. Satan’s task is complete if he can get an unsaved person safely enshrined in any religious organization. He is even more content if that person participates in ritual religious activities. He doesn’t mind if we dress up and look the part. There is no threat if we have an external life change that makes us walk, talk, and act just like the real thing as long as there has never been a new birth experience and an internal transformation.
Jesus made it clearest to religious imposters in Matthew 7:1-23. The prerequisite to entrance in God‘s Kingdom is to do the will of the Father. In John 6:40 the definition of His will is belief on Christ that guarantees eternal life. Many, not a few, will come and boast of all their wonderful works to which Christ declares, “I never knew you depart from me ye that work iniquity.” Ten articles, no a hundred could quote Scriptural anathema on those who seek to come any other way. To seek entrance into the sheepfold without going through the Door, which is Christ, counts the invader as a thief and a robber. “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (I John 5:12). It’s that simple.
The night of January 2, 1966 at the Mountain Terrance Baptist Church in the Frazier Community of Memphis, Tennessee, when I knelt and opened my heart asking Christ to be my Lord and Savior, that voided all religious achievements. Previous church memberships, baptisms, and good works were not on the table. I was a deacon, Sunday school teacher, and active worker, but all that still left my heart empty because Christ had been left out of the equation.
The word of the day is “inclusivism.” “All roads lead to Heaven,” we are told. “There is no absolute truth. All beliefs are relative. Just be sincere.” All this sounds great and provides license to tip our hats to God occasionally while we live our lives leaving Christ standing outside and knocking to gain entrance. In reality, the world has become so churchy and the church has become so worldly it is difficult to know the difference. The Devil’s plan has always been imitation and infiltration. The Bible is plain. When Christ becomes Lord of a life, there is a definite change with delightful discoveries. “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away: behold all things are become new” (I Corinthians 5:17).
Examine yourself, your lifestyle, your spiritual hunger, and your attitude toward God’s Word, the church, and God’s will. The question is far too important to be ignored. Are you 100% sure, if you died today, Heaven would be your home?