Remember This If You Are Ever Challenged to a Debate

Harry A. Ironside tells this remarkable story about being challenged to a debate.

Early in his ministry Ironside was living in the San Francisco Bay area, working with some Christians called Brethren. One evening as he was walking through he city he came upon a group of Salvation Army workers holding a meeting on the corner of Market and Grant Avenues. When they recognized Ironside they asked if he would give his testimony. So he did, giving a word about how God had saved him through faith in the bodily death and literal resurrection of Jesus.

As he was speaking, Ironside noticed that on the edge of the crowd was a well-dressed man who had taken a card from his pocket and had written something on it. As Ironside finished his talk the man came forward, lifted his hat, and very politely handed Ironside the card. On one side was his name, which Ironside recognized immediately. The man was one of the early socialists who had made a name for himself lecturing against Christianity. As Ironside turned the card over he read, “Sir, I challenge you to debate with me the question ‘Agnosticism versus Christianity’ in the Academy of Science Hall next Sunday afternoon at four o’clock. I will pay all expenses.”

Ironside reread the card aloud and then replied:

I am very much interested in this challenge. Frankly, I am already scheduled for another meeting next Lord’s Day afternoon at three o’clock, but I think it will be possible for me to get through with that in time to reach the Academy of Science by four, or if necessary I could arrange to have another speaker substitute for me at the meeting already advertised. Therefore I will be glad to agree to this debate on the following conditions: namely, that in order to prove that this gentleman has something worth debating about, he will promise to bring with him to the Hall next Sunday two people, whose qualifications I will give in a moment, as proof that agnosticism is of real value in changing human lives and building true character.

First, he must promise to bring with him one man who was for years what we commonly call a “down-and-outer.” I am not particular as to the exact nature of the sins that had wrecked his life and made him an outcast from society–whether a drunkard, or a criminal of some kind, or a victim of his sensual appetite–but a man who for years was under the power of evil habits from which he could not deliver himself, but who on some occasion entered one of this man’s meetings and heard his glorification of agnosticism and his denunciations of the Bible and Christianity, and whose heart and mind as he listened to such an address were so deeply stirred that he went away from that meeting saying, “Henceforth, I too am an agnostic!” and as a result of imbibing that particular philosophy found that a new power had come into his life. The sins he once loved he now hates, and righteousness and goodness are now the ideals of his life. He is now an entirely new man, a credit to himself and an asset to society–all because he is an agnostic.

Secondly, I would like my opponent to promise to bring with him one woman–I think he may have more difficulty in finding the woman than the man–who was once a poor, wrecked, characterless outcast, the slave of evil passions and the victim of man’s corrupt living, perhaps one who had lived for years in some evil resort, utterly lost, ruined and wretched because of her life of sin.
… But this woman also entered a hall where this man was loudly proclaiming his agnosticism and ridiculing the message of the Holy Scriptures. As she listened, hope was born in her heart, and she said, “This is just what I need to deliver me from the slavery of sin!” She followed the teaching until she became an intelligent agnostic or infidel. As a result, her whole being revolted against the degradation of the life she had been living. She fled from the den of iniquity where she had been held captive so long; and today, rehabilitated, she has won her way back to an honored position in society and is living a clean, virtuous, happy life–all because she is an agnostic.

“Now.” he said, addressing the gentleman who had presented him with his card and the challenge, “if you will promise to bring these to people with you as examples of what agnosticism can do, I will promise to meet you at the Hall of Science at four o’clock next Sunday, and I will bring with me at the very least one hundred men and women who for years lived in just such sinful degradation as I have tried to depict, but who have been gloriously saved through believing the gospel which you ridicule. I will have these men and women with me on the platform as witnesses to the miraculous saving power of Jesus Christ and as present-day proof of the truth of the Bible.”

Dr. Ironside then turned to the Salvation Army captain, a woman, and said, “Captain, have you any who could go with me to such a meeting?”

She exclaimed with enthusiasm, “We can give you forty at least, just from this one corps, and we will give you a brass band to lead the procession!”

“Fine,” Dr. Ironside answered. “Now, sir, I will have no difficulty picking up sixty others from the various missions, gospel halls, and evangelical churches of the city. So if you will promise to bring two such exhibits as I have described, I will come marching in at the head of such a procession, with the band playing Onward, Christian Soldiers,’ and I will be ready for the debate.”

Apparently the man who had made the challenge had some sense of humor, for he smiled wryly and waved his hand in a deprecating kind of way as if to say, “Nothing doing!” and then edged out of the crowd while the bystanders applauded Ironside and the others.

H.A. Ironside, Random Reminiscences from Fifty Years of Ministry, 99-109

Easter Reading: Jesus in the Darkness

In his book The Cross He Bore, Frederick Leahy writes powerfully about the darkness Christ endured on the cross.

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. (Matt. 27:45)

At high noon, when the sun was at its zenith, Christ and those who stayed to mock found themselves in thick darkness that was to last for three hours. A hand from on high had veiled the sun. Cowed but not convinced, the scoffers grew silent and slunk away. As Calvin says, they were bewitched by the enchantments of Satan’

At Bethlehem, when the Saviour was born, the night was changed to day as the glory of the Lord shone around the shepherds. On Golgotha the day gave way to night as Christ sank deeper and deeper into the abyss of damnation. At Bethlehem there were countless angels praising God; on Golgotha legions of darkness filled the impenetrable gloom, hoping that darkness would finally triumph over light.

Golgotha was so different from the mount of transfiguration where the Lord conversed with Moses, representing the law, and Elijah, representing the prophets (Mark 9:2-4). There, for a brief moment, the glory of deity broke through the veil of flesh, a fleeting glimpse of the radiant splendour of Christ when he comes at the end of this age ‘in the glory of his Father with the holy angels’ (Mark 8:38).

Between the shining forth of glory at the transfiguration and the glory of the second coming, however, lies the heavy darkness of Golgotha.

At the creation, God, at an early stage, introduced light. Yet now he leaves his Son suspended in darkness at midday. Why must the light of the world be placed in darkness? Why is there this startling contrast between Bethlehem and Golgotha, between the transfiguration and Golgotha, between the dawn of creation and that of the new creation?

Not only did this darkness at noonday hide the awful spectacle of the Sufferer from the contemptuous gaze of the scoffers, silencing their ribaldry, but also it mercifully concealed Christ when he experienced his darkest moment on the cross. No human eye must see him then. This darkness coincided with Christ’s descent into hell. Now he felt the unmitigated wrath of a holy God against sin. That darkness was a symbol of God’s wrath. Hendriksen says that God’s wrath was burning itself out in the heart of Jesus’, adding, ‘Hell came to Calvary that day, and the Saviour descended into it and bore its horrors in our stead.’ This was the Passover season. Just before the first Passover a plague of darkness betokened the curse of God upon his enemies (Exod. 10:21-23). The darkness that enveloped the Saviour at Calvary was clearly a visible expression of the inner darkness that wrung that dread cry of dereliction from his lips: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matt. 27:46). To be forsaken by God is hell.

This was the moment when the prophecy of Daniel 9:26 was fulfilled: “An anointed one shall be cut off, and shall have nothing’ (see also Isa. 53:8). E. J. Young sees the expression “shall have nothing’ (literally and there is not to him’) as a very forceful way of setting forth His utter rejection, both by God and man… In that hour of blackness He had nothing, nothing but the guilt of sin of all those for whom He died. Utterly forsaken, He was cut off. Frans Bakker has this in mind when he thinks of Christ on the cross, poor and naked as the day he was born, while the soldiers gambled for his clothing. Not only did He lose all His gifts; He also lost the Giver. But He didn’t cry about His condition, only that God had forsaken Him. Christ cried to God, but for Him there was no mercy; He had to bear the curse; He had no rights. This is the stunning truth, yet, paradoxically, in the very moment that he lost all, he won all. As the Apostle Paul considered Christ’s death on the cross, the thought suddenly struck him, He did it because he loved me’ – another stunning truth.

Darkness also symbolizes mystery. There is much mystery at Calvary. A great deal has been revealed: substitution, conflict with the evil one, reconciliation and more – God’s holiness, justice and love. But how much of any of these can the human mind grasp? Is not Calvary a place veiled in darkness, even as God himself dwells in thick darkness (1 Kings 8:12, Psa. 18:11), a place so holy and so awful that the wisest thing to do is to remove one’s shoes and bow in penitent, grateful silence?

THE PORTENT OF THIS DARKNESS

This darkness, charged as it was with divine judgment, signalled the final judgment. And again darkness is used as a symbol of God’s wrath. The Apostle Peter, quoting from the prophet Joel, declared, The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day’ (Acts 2:20; see Isa. 13:10; 50:3, Joel 2:30, 31, Amos 8:9). Barely two months previously the people of Jerusalem had seen the sun turned into darkness, and, as F. F. Bruce points out, ‘The paschal moon may well have appeared blood-red in the sky in consequence of that preternatural gloom. These signs were tokens of the day of judgment, and so the prophecy of Joel forms the background to the description of the day of wrath in Revelation 6:12, “And the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood… There we see the doom of the godless as this day of grace comes to an end, and all is for ever dark.

Did the light begin to return when Christ uttered his awful cry of God-forsakenness? Certainly it was then that they could see to dip a sponge in vinegar and give it to him to drink (Matt. 27:48). Then was fulfilled the Lord’s own prophecy, For my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink’ (Psa. 69:21) – a cheap, sour wine to quench his burning thirst. That darkness had held eternity in every minute that passed. It has been urged that because Christ’s sufferings were temporal and not eternal they could not be an equivalent for the eternal punishment of the lost. It is further asked how the death of one man could possibly be a satisfaction for the sins of an incalculable multitude. Such objections do not sufficiently take into account the fact that while Christ suffered in his human nature, he was a divine Person. Because of the infinite dignity of the One who suffered, there was infinite value attached to his work.

If the darkness through which the Saviour passed was so dreadful, how great must be the darkness of the sin he bore. This, says Calvin, should ‘excite in us deeper horror at our sins’. Those who live and die in unforgiven sin, live and die in darkness. There is no light for anyone except in Christ. Earthly wisdom is darkness in the sight of God. Christ exclaimed, If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!’ (Matt. 6:23). Calvin comments, Christ has good grounds for declaring that thick and appalling darkness must of necessity reign in the life of men, when they choose to be blind.’ It is Christ who by his cross turns man’s night into day. Spurgeon says, ‘The cross is the lighthouse which guides poor weather-beaten humanity into the harbour of peace.’

When the Covenanter, John Welsh, was imprisoned in a dungeon in Blackness, on the Firth of Forth, he received a letter from Lady Melville, of Culross, addressed to him and his fellow-captives, bidding them to be thankful that they were only in the darkness of Blackness, and not in the blackness of darkness’. Christ spoke solemnly of ‘outer darkness’ associating it with unspeakable anguish (Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30). To redeem his people he entered and endured that darkness. Now he calls us out of darkness into his marvellous light’. He is the true light and those who follow him will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (1 Pet. 2:9, John 8:12).

(Frederick Leahy, The Cross He Bore, 91-98)

Easter Reading: Moving from Judgment to Forgiveness

A devotional writing from Jack Miller

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34a

We’re not called to judge or condemn people; we’re called to forgive and bless them. Through his death on the cross, Jesus has ushered in a time of mercy and love, forgiveness and intercession-a time of repentance. When he was crucified, the hearts of people were revealed in all their rebellion and sin.

“He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11). God the Father has appointed Jesus to be judge. But that’s in the future. Jesus is not judging humankind in that final sense yet; rather he is now their intercessor and seeks to bring them to himself. Look at Jesus on the cross. He’s not standing over you in judgment; he’s taken your judgment day on the cross. In a real sense, the judgment day is over for the believer. We know with confidence that we’ll get through it because of Jesus’s work. You and I are not judges, either. Are you enthusiastically giving up your right to judge? Are you praying for people with compassion, perceiving their ignorance?

C. John Miller, Saving Grace, p. 105

Piercing Heaven: Prayers for the Comfort of the Holy Spirit

I’ve been working my way through Piercing Heaven, a beautiful collection of Puritan prayers. Here are a series of prayers for the comforting work of the Holy Spirit from Robert Hawker.

Blessed promise! Holy Spirit, make it happen in and upon my soul, day by day.

Bring me under the continued baptisms of your sovereign influence, and cause me to feel all the sweet anointings of the Spirit sent down upon the hearts and minds of your redeemed. These are the fruits and effects of Jesus, the promise of God the Father.

Yes, blessed Spirit, cause me to know you in your person, work, and power.

I need you day by day as my Comforter.

I need you as the Spirit of truth, to guide me into all truth.

I need you as the one who reminds me of the Lord Jesus, to bring to my forgetful heart all the blessed things he has revealed to me.

I need you, as the witness of my Jesus, to testify of my wants, and of his fullness to supply.

I need you as my advocate and helper, in all my infirmities in prayer.

I need you as the deposit of the promised inheritance, that

I may not faint or lack faith to hold on and hold out in every dark season.

I need you, Lord. I cannot do a moment without you, nor act in faith, nor believe a promise, nor exercise a grace, without your constant hand on my poor soul.

Come then, Lord, I beg you, and let me be brought under your unceasing baptisms. Shed abroad the love of God my Father in my heart, and direct me into the patient waiting for Jesus Christ. Amen.

Practical Advice to Those Suffering Demonic Attack

In 1994, Jack Miller wrote a letter to a missionary serving in Uganda who had been discouraged after facing many demonic attacks. Jack’s advice in this letter is wise, pastoral, and practical. The whole letter can be found here (pp. 154-162).

“In my own life, He [Christ] has sent me through much suffering in order to move me from self-confidence to Christ-confidence.” (154)

“don’t permit these things to move you from your foundation in Christ.” (155)

“…the Spirit has been leading you to confess need and weakness in a God-glorifying way. But in all do not lose sight of the goodness of God and the sovereign power of God.” (155)

“Humble yourself, and the devil will have no power over you (James 4:6-7).” (156)

“Timothy Warner says that the bottom-line issue is always one of control. In his view, each of us has many wonderful potentialities within us. Our problem is that we want these potentialities to be realized under our own control and on our own terms, but God wants them to come to fruition by our deepening submission to His rule, His control.” (157)

“Don’t assume automatically that we are relying exclusively on God and His grace. Read Psalm 62 and Hebrews 11, esp. v. 6, and let the Scriptures do a job of unmasking our self-dependence and reliance on our instruments of “magic”: education, finances, organization, etc.” (157)

“Recruit others to pray for you in any demonic encounter. Could you get a group of about 50 people who would pray for you constantly and have special intercession at times of crisis? I am thinking of people who would agree to pray for you 3 times a day.” (158)

“Make the whole ministry center on private and corporate prayer. Do not expect bigger victories in tough areas until corporate praying becomes the complete center of the ministry. It is in prayer together that we find grace to give up control to the Father, rely exclusively on the Spirit, and see the demons subdued. It is here we get our life, vigor, zest, and authority for the battle.” (158)

“Without constant adoration, thanksgiving, intercession, and confession together, we are going to teach people to rely on our traditions, plans, technologies, and methods rather than on grace. Such converts will simply be switching their idols from witchcraft stuff to the tools of modernism.” (158)

“…have prayer for the cleansing of the home from all demonic powers. I would also ask the Lord to rebuke all demon power over the family as a whole.” (159)

To deal with it [spiritual attack] in Bundibugyo, you should consider the following.

1. Take two days to fast and pray to rid yourself by grace of these things. Usually, after about four hours of praying, I detect aspects and elements of self-exaltation, negative attitudes in myself that were concealed from me. Sin and self-deception go together.

2. Have group prayer (team and church leaders) for the same purpose of self-humbling and cleansing moving into reliance on God alone, repenting of all secularism too.

3. Then move into a period of praise, following the pattern of Jehoshaphat.

4. Next, look for ways outwardly to humble yourselves together, confessing sins, affirming one another, etc.

5. Come to one-mindedness as in Acts 1:13-14; 2:1, 42; 4:23-31, and then together claim Bundibugyo for Christ, rebuking the demon powers, or better, asking the Lord to rebuke them.

6. Finally, pray for wisdom to work along the line of James 1, especially the prayer for wisdom, but also get to the end of the chapter where it speaks of tongue control and care for the widows and orphans. Especially ask God to show you as Christians how to fight on a practical level the dark powers in this town.

“I am deeply concerned that all of us as a mission should move from self-dependence and rather casual approach to prayer to a full mobilization for battle.” (p. 162)

(Jack Miller, The Heart of a Servant Leader, pp. 154-162)

Recommended Devotionals for 2022

A roundup of resources that would make a could accompaniment to your Bible reading.

The Heart of a Servant Leader by Jack Miller

Jack Miller was a servant-hearted leader who consistently pointed others to the strength of Christ. A seminary professor, pastor, missionary, he was no stranger to hardships, which made him an excellent companion to walk his readers through their own trials of faith. These letters are a spiritual feast.

Voices From the Past Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 compiled by Richard Rushing

Scholar Richard Rushing spent more than a decade compiling these devotional writings from great Puritan thinkers like Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, Steven Charnock, Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, Samuel Rutherford, Richard Sibbes and many others. I’ve worked through each volume a few times and always find fresh, deep, provocative reflections.

The Promises of God and Morning and Evening by C.H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon was a master at balancing his sophisticated knowledge of the Scriptures with a warm pastoral heart. His daily readings from various verses throughout the Scriptures are always practical and gospel-saturated. The Promises of God were previously published as The Checkbook of Faith and encourage readers to trust more fully in the promises of God.

God’s Wisdom for Navigating Your Life and The Songs of Jesus by Tim Keller

Keller is one of the great thinkers and writers of the our time. In these devotional resoruces, he takes us through the Proverbs and Psalms and teaches readers to both meditate on the Scriptures and properly apply them to our lives. Time with these will proved to be time well spent.

The Letters of Samuel Rutherford

Samuel Rutherford was a Scottish pastor who lived in the 17th century. A significant part of his ministry included writing letters to those under his care. In these letters, Rutherford encouraged his people by calling them to take comfort in Christ. Rutherford was uniquely qualified to comfort the afflicted as he lost his beloved wife only two years into their marriage. Spurgeon wrote of these letters, “When we are dead and gone let the world know that Spurgeon held Rutherford’s Letters to be the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men.”

Memoir & Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne

Robert Murray M’Cheyne was a Scottish minister in the 19th century. He ministered faithfully for eight years and then died of typhus at age 29. His memoirs were published by his close friend and college companion, Andrew Bonar. Spurgeon said of this volume “This is one of the best and most profitable volumes ever published. The memoir of such a man ought surely to be in the hands of every Christian, and certainly every preacher of the Gospel.”

Select Letters of John Newton

I discovered the letters of John Newton when Tim Keller put them on his 2008 Summer Reading List. As Keller put it, “These letters are classics of spirituality and devotion.”  This famous slave trader upon his conversion, became a poweful minister of the gospel who would write the beloved hymn, “Amazing Grace.” These letters are worth reading and rereading.

The Valley of Vision

An excellent collection of Puritan prayers which capture the tenacity with which these pastors and thinkers pursued their personal faith and stired hearts. Similar to the Psalms, these prayers will add vocabulary to your prayer life.  If growing in prayer is your aim, then The Valley of Vision must become regular part of your repertoire.

See more book recommendatrions here.

Tim Keller’s 2021 Advent Video Series

Also, don’t miss Tim Keller’s excellent advent book, Hidden Christmas.

Tim and Kathy Keller have released four excellent advent videos this year.

The Christian’s Expectation of the Future

Cornelius Venema writes about how Christians should anticiplate the future with hope:

This is the pattern of the believer’s expectation for the future: it is characterized by a hope nurtured by the Word. It is marked out by a lively expectation of the accomplishment of God’s purpose in Christ. The future does not loom darkly on the horizon as something to be feared. It is something eagerly expected and anticipated, something which the believer is convinced is bright with the promise of the completion and perfection of God’s saving work. It is true that many of the biblical exhortations relating to the future call God’s people to watchfulness and sobriety, warning them against being found unprepared at Christ’s coming (1 Pet. 4:7, 1 Thess. 5:6, Matt. 24:42-45). They often warn the church to remain faithful and steadfast in holding to the apostolic teachings and Word of God (2 Thess. 2:15, Heb. 10:23). In addition, the biblical descriptions of Christ’s coming starkly describe its frightening and terrible consequences for the wicked (2 Thess. 2:8, 2 Pet. 3:12, Rev. 18:10).

But the chief note sounded in God’s revelation regarding the future is one of hope. God’s people eagerly await Christ’s return because it promises the completion of God’s work of redemption for them and for the whole creation. The Christian’s approach to the future is always one of hope nurtured by the Word. The future is bright because it is full of promise, the promise of God’s Word.

(The Promise of the Future, Venema, p. 11)

The Secret to Changing Our Bad Habits

Jack Miller writing on John 21:15, “Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.'”

How do people change and become fit to live with? Habits are really hard to change. At least I’ve noticed that my wife’s are. And she has probably noticed the same thing about me! Only God’s love for us and our love for God brings deep down change. So Jesus’s questions are emphasizing what he really wants from Peter – his love. He is asking him: Do you truly love me? And is your love for me changing you at the deepest level? Does it cause you to pray? Does it help you say no to your desires? Is it teaching you patience? Peter had been boastful in promising Jesus he would lay down his life for him. He had also been fearful when he denied knowing Jesus. Jesus wants Peter to see that these struggles, at their heart, are about whom he loves. When you give your heart to Jesus, to him who laid down his life for you, you will change. The love of Christ will control your mind, your will, your choices, and your words. It’s going to get right down to the way you live, the way you are when you get up in the morning, even before you have coffee. Jesus is asking you today, “Do you love me?” How will you answer?

Saving Grace, p. 350

Jack Miller: Don’t Seek Repentance; Seek Christ

I’ve been getting to know the teachings of Jack Miller thanks to the recent biography by Michael Graham titled, Cheer Up! The Life and Ministry of Jack Miller. As I’ve read some of Jack’s writings, I’ve been particularly helped by The Heart of a Servant Leader, a compilation of his letters to pastors, missionaries, friends, and family. It is one of the wisest books on humble leadership that calls leaders to learn to rely on Christ for strength that I’ve ever read.

Here’s a letter that Jack wrote to a woman questioning whether she is really a Christian.

April, 1983

Dear Elise,

Thank you for your recent letter concerning your desire to know whether you have had a God-centered repentance. So set aside any fears that I might be unwilling to take time to help you. Perhaps I can help you if you will recognize that all I can do is be a small finger pointing to a large Christ. But if you trust yourself to Him be confident He is not only willing to help you but has the power to help you.

What do you need to know? First, repentance and faith are not like a sidewalk that you must travel on to get to the house of salvation. They are the door or, perhaps better, God’s ways for being near Him. When you turn to Christ, you don’t have a repentance apart from Christ you just have Christ. Therefore don’t seek repentance or faith as such but seek Christ. When you have Christ you have repentance and faith. Beware of seeking an experience of repentance; just seek an experience of Christ.

The Devil can be pretty tricky: He doesn’t mind you thinking much about repentance and faith if you do not chink about Jesus Christ. He wants you to worry a great deal about whether you have really repented. Examining yourself is fine–if you relate it to the cross and Christ’s love for you. But the point of my little book is that any surrow for sin apart from Christ is not going to help you. So don’t even seek sorrow for sin or to see whether your repentance is genuine. Seek Christ, and relate to Christ as a loving Savior and Lord who wants to invite you to know Him.

You raise the question whether or not you are saved, and rightly suggest that maybe what counts for you right now is not that question so much as getting to know Christ. You are definitely on target. Get to know Christ and you will be sure of your relationship to Him.

But how do you get to know Christ? Keep two things in view: first, you cannot know Him unless you are sure He loves you and died personally for Elise’s sins, your sins. To give you faith that redeems you, Jesus gives you a promise. He promises to save you. The gospel is not only a fact, but a promise that Christ who died for sins and rose again lives to welcome you. That is the whole point of John 3:16 and the many promises in the Gospel of John. You trust God and His Son because God loves you and gave His Son for you (fact) and then commits Himself by way of promise to receive you (John 1:12). It’s sometimes cheapened by evangelical Christians but it’s breathtaking in its simplicity and awesome wonder. God loves you very much.

Secondly, Christ calls us to abandon trust in our own strength and righteousness. We do not have the strength to improve ourselves morally or the righteousness with which to justify ourselves. “At the right time when we were without strength, Christ died for the ungodly.” Faulty, blind, degraded, we can do nothing but depend on Christ alone to give us assurance of salvation. So repentance and faith entail coming down from our thrones of self-dependence and pride and simply giving ourselves in surrender to Christ. Still, the devil may say to you: “You do not yet have sufficient conviction of sin to come to Christ.” Tell the devil to get away from you. Do you have a sense of shame over your sins? I think you do. That is a conviction of sin, not a feeling depressed or whatever. If you are ashamed of living a life independently of God, then the Holy Spirit has already convicted you of sin. Simply claim Christ as your Lord and Savior. Base your simple prayer of acceptance on His promise. Claim John 3:16-17.

Back to the question whether you are already saved. Don’t spend much time on this one, but spend your time getting to Christ. Speak to Him simply in prayer and ask Him to show Himself to you. He loves to reveal Himself to people. Then make sure you are cultivating a forgiving spirit toward others. Bitterness, condemnation of others, will rob a genuine believer of his or her fellowship with Jesus, and raise questions about assurance. Jesus does expect you to see what a forgiveness you have received and then to forgive others and keep on forgiving others. Put on forgiveness as your whole new life.

I would especially commend to you the study of Romans 10 to see how faith works. I would like to hear from you again.

Most cordially,

Jack Miller

The Heart of a Servant Leader, pp. 244-246