"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Lessons from Herman Cain: The Blood of Christ Cleanses My Conscience to Serve God

I have enjoyed the recent articles by Cal Thomas and Al Mohler regarding Herman Cain's suspension of his Presidential campaign. Both men make excellent points. In my readings yesterday, however, I was most moved by the words of a dead preacher named Charles Spurgeon. In a message he preached in 1857 from the book of Hebrews, he described three fools. The first is the wounded soldier on the battlefield who queries the medic about the weapon that wounded him rather than the physician's ability to save him. The second fool is the ship's captain in the midst of a horrible storm who goes below deck to read the encyoclopedia about the source and nature of Atlantic winds rather than working feverishly on deck to save his ship. The third fool is the immoral man who spends his time blaming others for his predicament rather than looking to God for his healing. Spurgeon, in his beautiful and eloquent way, points out that people who think themselves sophisticated will argue about the origins of the universe, the sources of evil, and other intricate questions, while neglecting the certain truth that we are all sinners in need of healing. Jesus Christ shed His blood to heal us. The Bible says emphatically and certainly that "without the shedding of (Christ's) blood, there is no forgiveness of sins" (Hebrews 9:22), which stated positively means "through the shedding of (Christ's) blood there is forgiveness of sins."  We all have the nature of Herman Cain. We all have the nature of Jerry Sandusky. We all have a natural tendency toward sin. We all have suffered and caused wounds as the result of our words, our actions, our lifestyles, our decisions, our lusts--our sins. The problem is we "trifle with subtleties while we neglect certainties."  We argue with others over why we are the way we are, why we have done what we have done, why we find ourselves in the position we are in. We argue about the source of the winds rather fight to their dissipation. We analyze the weapons that have shot us rather than look for the cure for our wounds. The promise of God is profound: "The blood of Christ shall cleanse your consience from dead works to serve the living God" (Hebrews 9:14). One of these days I would love to hear someone humiliated by public exposure of their sin say something like the following:

"I am guilty. I have been inappropriate with women. I have broken the vows of my marriage. I have sinned against God and my wife. The only healing I can find is in the shed blood of Jesus Christ who died for me. This much is certain: My conscience can only be cleansed by Christ's shed blood. By faith I have turned to Him, and I am now beginning to experience that cleansing within my conscience. That does not mean I will not bear the consequences of my sin in this life or that I (or others) will not bear scars brought by my sins. What my faith in Christ means is that He alone can cleanse my conscience. I must not live my life trying to atone for my mistakes by making you promises. I have no claim on God's future goodness and forgiveness (or yours) by my commitment to reform. I am only cleansed and guaranteed God's forgiveness by the sacrifice of Christ who died for sinners like me. The humiliation brought me by the public exposure of my sin is healthy, for it has reminded me why Christ died. Now, in an ever increasing gratefulness for His cleansing, I am growing in my desire to serve Him. I am a man being changed by the grace of God from the inside out, and if you will be patient with me, I think you will see in the future I will not be the same man tomorrow that I was yesterday. If you find you cannot place your trust in a man whose conduct has been like mine, I will understand, and simply remind you, that one's faith is always misplaced when found in men and not in God."


21 comments:

Christiane said...

"We analyze the weapons that have shot us rather than look for the cure for our wounds."



". . . Unfold for us the mystery of grace
And make a womb of all this wounded world.
O heart of heaven beating in the earth,
O tiny hope within our hopelessness
Come to be born, to bear us to our birth,
To touch a dying world with new-made hands
And make these rags of time our swaddling bands."

(Malcolm Guite)

Steven Stark said...

Hi Wade - I agree that it would be refreshing to see a public figure admit a mistake and pledge to do better. Amen to that.

"We all have a natural tendency toward sin"

But don't we also have a natural tendency towards good? We work together. We share. We sacrifice for our family and for our friends. We ultimately care more for our place in the community, and the community itself, than we do for ourselves alone.

And this is around the world in every culture. Humans are sinful, yes. Terrible at times. But also wonderful. A Hindu family I work with gives me a cake every holiday. Generosity resides deep within their culture.

We even organize sounds and images in certain ways just for the sake of beauty.

So yes, we have sin. But we also have good.

Steven Stark said...

I like Spurgeon's parables. Here is one from the Buddhist tradition right along those lines - the parable of the arrow.

"It is as if a man had been wounded by an arrow thickly smeared with poison, and his friends, companions relatives were to get a surgeon to heal him, and he were to say, 'I will not have this arrow pulled out until I know who wounded me, of what caste he is, what his name is, whether he is tall, short or of medium height, what colour his skin is, where he comes from, what kind of bow I was wounded with, what it was made of, whether the arrow was feathered with a vulture's wing or a heron's or a hawk's…..' Surely the man would die before he knew all this."

wadeburleson.org said...

Steven,

I agree that every human being will at times reflect the goodness of God, for we were created in His image. Occasional, even extraordinary goodness does not mask the fact that within the breast of every human beats a heart that is but one step away from evil. If a man says he is without this, he is a man deceived. I don't deny the glimpses of goodness--I am addressing the stain of sin that paints the soul of each of us.

Those who argue they are without this stain have no need of a Savior--and a tendency to deny, deny, deny when exposed for the fraud they are.

:)

wadeburleson.org said...

Steven,

One other thing: You write: "I agree that it would be refreshing to see a public figure admit a mistake and pledge to do better. Amen to that."

I think I was saying just the opposite.

"I have no claim on God's future goodness and forgiveness (or yours) by my commitment to reform."

I believe the Scripture teaches that a man will only truly change when he comes to an understanding of his inability to change and God's ability to transform a sinner who willingly admits his need of God's grace in Christ.

Bob Cleveland said...

Whatsoever is not of faith, is sin. So the best deed a lost person can do is simply doing what they want to do, which begets no righteousness at all.

I heard a story about a mother whose son had committed some crime; she pled before the judge that he'd had such a hard life, that he deserved mercy. Said the judge:

"If he deserved mercy, it wouldn't be mercy".

Rex Ray said...

“Attorneys for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who faces up to 20 years in prison for corruption, said Tuesday the possible penalty is excessive and asked the judge to show mercy.”

Bob,
Your "If he deserved mercy, it wouldn't be mercy" would prove the attorneys should have asked the judge for justice.

Good thought.

Rex Ray said...

I mean asking for mercy proves the attorneys didn’t believe the penalty was excessive.

Tom Kelley said...

Just a few thoughts:
- Last time I checked, Herman Cain denied all allegations against him.
- Those who know him well claim that the actions he is accused of are totally out of character.
- His accusers lack credibility and appear to have both financial and political motivations.
- The media was eager to jump all over the accusations, in ways they decline to do when the one accused is a liberal Democrat.

The number of people who make negative claims about a person is no indicator of the truthfulness of their claims, nor does the vehemence of their insistence. I'm sure your own experience, Wade, bears that out.

I found Mohler's article to be moralizing and legalistic, reflecting an ivory tower mentality that is typical of those in paid professional ministry who don't live and work in the same world that the typical business person does.

It's inappropriate to assume that Cain has anything for which he needs to appeal to the blood of Christ in these particular matters, other than in the same sense that we must all rely on His grace in all things.

Rex Ray said...

I mean the attorneys might as well told the judge the penalty was fair, so they shot themselves in the foot (along with Blagojevich).

It’s good I’m not a lawyer; the judge would say—stop all the ‘after thoughts.’

Life is funny if you look at it right—tonight we looked everywhere for my glasses, but only found my wife’s. Discovered she was wearing mine. This getting old is not made for sissies.

Rex Ray said...

I agree with Tom Kelly saying, “I found Mohler’s article to be moralizing and legalistic.”

Mohler’s thoughts are still the same as ten years ago when he defended the BFM 2000 changing ‘priesthood of the BELIEVER’ to ‘priesthood of BELIEVERS’ because it gave too much freedom for the individual.

Does Mohler not know the Holy Spirit is with a Christian every minute? He does NOT need his church etc “as a bulwark against sin”.

His article said, “The Christian man must depend upon his church, the congregation that is so essential to his Christian vitality and faithfulness as a bulwark against sin.”

A Christian with a bulwark of people and rules to keep sin out is a prisoner within.

With his ideology my wife (in a wheelchair) and I would not have the freedom to hire a woman to help care for her.

Steven Stark said...

Wade,

I am sorry I misrepresented what you said!

“I believe the Scripture teaches that a man will only truly change when he comes to an understanding of his inability to change and God's ability to transform a sinner who willingly admits his need of God's grace in Christ.”

I think there is a lot to say for admitting to our limitations - for sure. But I also believe in trying to be better, in working towards a greater awareness and developing compassion. Just like a musician must hone her craft, we get better at what we practice. And we will always be in need of more practice! :)

And luckily for us all, Christians do not have a monopoly on improvement in this world. Many people of many stripes change for the better everyday.

Bob,

“So the best deed a lost person can do is simply doing what they want to do”

I think the best we can all hope for is to actually do what we want to do - which would be the course of action that leads to the greatest well-being. However we are limited by our perspective. We lose our sense of self and our judgement is clouded. We are confused by competing desires, and sometimes we are just plain wrong.

But I believe what is right is actually right, on its own, regardless of punishment or authority. What that means is that what is right is what leads to the greatest overall well-being. But we have competing desires - the desire of a certain immediate gratification vs. a more overall successful outcome. And at times, we are weak and clouded and can succumb to the immediate, easy way.

But other times we make the best decisions day to day, in fact, most of the time I would argue.

Paul Burleson said...

Wade,

The point of your post, which is quite good IMHO, is not changed because of one's guilt or innocence of something with which one has been charged.

I would love to see someone accused of something that they DIDN'T do say...."I'm guilty of many things and even capable of what I've been accused of doing, and, were it to have been done, I would certainly need to admit it because..." this would ONLY replace the first sentence with the rest of your statement to follow.

wadeburleson.org said...

Well said, Paul.

Well said.

B Nettles said...

Rex Ray,
You said: Does Mohler not know the Holy Spirit is with a Christian every minute? He does NOT need his church etc “as a bulwark against sin”.

His article said, “The Christian man must depend upon his church, the congregation that is so essential to his Christian vitality and faithfulness as a bulwark against sin.”

A Christian with a bulwark of people and rules to keep sin out is a prisoner within.


I strongly disagree with (1) your straw man of using the phrase "rules to keep sin out", and (2) your argument that we do NOT need the church.

I suggest you read and meditate on Colossians 3, Galatians 6, Ephesians 4, and all of Titus (just to name a few). We do need the church, not as "rules to keep sin out" but rather as people who are "kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." The individual Christian who frequents no church has no such encouragement to honor Christ as they walk in a fallen world. We all need to hear about the work of Christ Jesus often, and we need to see it at work in others lives. THAT is the bulwark against sin.

If you're in a church that sees the Gospel as rules, get out. Find a church that encourages you to rejoice in the work of Christ and live a life which reflects the work of God. Also, remember that "forgiving" means that somewhere along the line somebody messed up. Telling someone they messed up isn't judging. But failure to encourage them to see the work of Christ is worse than judging.

Rex Ray said...

B Nettles,
Thanks for quoting me correctly, but how did you get the impression I said ‘we do not need the church’?

“Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her…” (Ephesians 5:25)

Of course we know the ‘church’ is not a building, but today we usually don’t have a church without one.

To that end, and being son of a Baptist preacher, I’ve worked all my life on churches. I’ve been on building trips to Japan (13), Israel, Kazakhstan, and Mexico to Alaska. I’m in a church where I was a charter member in 1944 and have worked countless days. When we built our retirement home 10 years ago, my wife was told there would have to be a steeple on it for me to finish it.

My implication was NOT that we don’t need a church, but ‘we do not need a church to keep from sinning’.

I believe me saying: “A Christian with a bulwark of people and rules to keep sin out is a prisoner within”; is the same as you saying we need the church “not as rules to keep sin out.”

Hebrews 10:24 agrees with the Scripture you mentioned:

“Let us be concerned about one another in order to promote LOVE and GOOD WORKS…ENCOURAGING each other…”

Now if you want to say this “is the bulwark against sin”, that is your privilege, but I don’t like to ‘read in’ something to Scriptures that is not there. I believe one of the duties of the Holy Spirit is to let us know when we sin.

Jesus said the Holy Spirit would teach us, but Mohler makes no mention of the Holy Spirit guiding Christians.

This same attitude of control with rules is what made missionaries sign a creed or be fired. One missionary complained, “They tell us how to breathe”. (Baptist Standard)

Mohler also said, “Conservatives are the party of truth while the moderates are the party of freedom.”

Without freedom, a person is a prisoner.

And since Jesus said the truth will set us free, any party without freedom is not a party of truth.

“…false brothers…spy on our freedom that we have in Christ…” (2 Corinthians 2:4)

Rather than judge, I’d prefer—fruit inspector.

Rex Ray said...

My cousin, Dan Ray died several months ago, but we said our farewells today. He was a missionary to Korea for 39 years.

As a life guard and football player he was a hero to this third grader.

B Nettles, I thought of Mohler as the visiting preacher called for prayer: “…and with every eye closed…”

WHAT? Nearly everyone was over 50. Why rules? Just for meanness, I opened one eye and figured the age of some person’s headstone. Also I could see the name of my parents. I thought of my cousin’s sister buried a few feet away, and his other sister buried in China when she was five. Her last words were: “Mama, which one is our house?”

I met two men and their families. They were among a group of babies Dan's father had brought to be adopted from Korea. Others, I hadn’t seen in 60 years.

I’ve never been to a funeral where so many strangers met. Makes me wonder what it will be like at the feet of Jesus.

Hey! We might even remember Wade’s blog!

Gene S said...

What is amazing me most these days is the lack of taking responsibility for our mis-deeds.

In addition, we are expecting candidates now to be perfect when none of us voters are---anymore than church members making rediculous expectations of their minister.

When we reach the point we worry more about others and their shortcomings than about our own integrity----we are living in a soap opera rather than the real world!

Anonymous said...

Gene,
Whose responsibility is it to ‘judge’ when the real world turns into a soap opera?

Do we forgive seventy times seven if a Dr. Jekyll preacher becomes Mr. Hide when he’s depressed, angry, or if something affects his pocketbook?

Are these “ridiculous charges”?

Put a gun in his mouth just to see if the ‘time ever came’ he’d have the nerve to do ‘it’.

Got his money back on a watch that went through the washer, and told the congregation: “You all do it.”

Took fish to stock his pool from a non-member without asking permission to fish.

Returned borrowed property that he broke without offering to pay or even saying he was sorry.

Went through the congregation and put a microphone in faces and had them answer three questions: “Have you ever: lied? Have you ever stolen? Have you ever had immoral thoughts?” Then from the pulpit while laughing: “Well we can see we are all just a bunch of liars, thieves, and adulteries.” Two thirds of those are in other churches…one was a woman whose husband had just died.

Won’t fix the church van he carelessly damaged.

In an argument, raised his mother-in-law’s antique chair to the ceiling and crashed it to pieces on the floor.

Wrote an email apologizing he’d lied to the congregation.

“LOOK AT ME! I’M APOLOGIZING TO YOU!”

“GET OUT OF HERE, AND SHUT THE DOOR!”, but denies he said it to his secretary.

Wrote on a blog the church had adopted bylaws three years before they did.

Challenged a church member to make a motion for his removal, and if it failed he would make a motion for the member to be removed.

Told congregation while he was a pastor that he’d watched pornography at home until it nearly led to a divorce.

Changed the usually ‘Jesus manger story’ sermon to a vivid blow-by-blow screaming, bloody, miss-sharpened head by birth canal etc. Mothers said they hoped their children weren’t listening.

Church attendance (40’s and 50’s) is about half what it used to be, and not because of facilities…has room for ten times the number of people with state of the art gym, library, nursery, kitchen, four ‘screens’ and $30,000 sound equipment…mainly due to one man (not me) who has a love for the lost.

Most emotion I’ve ever seen in a pulpit was him crying with his hands over his face. Said none of the congregation had said ‘amen’.

So Gene, since the church bylaws say the pastor is to lead by example, what do you think?

Anonymous #1

Anonymous said...

Gene,
Two more things:

Out of respect and love for his mother, a lost man installed the acoustic ceilings for free on her 16 thousand square foot ‘additional’ church. He told a church member that was helping him, “I’ve been here many times but your pastor has never spoken to me in five years.”
Within five minutes the pastor walked under the scaffold and back again and only asked the church member a question.
At the church ‘dedication day’, he was there with his family and mother. The pastor recognized and thanked many people for their work, but he was not mentioned.

What makes a pastor say, “My deacons…My ushers…I have a candidate for baptism…”, have his feet on his desk during deacon’s meetings and counseling, wear a bathing suit to baptize, or sign an email to a church member with “Dr.”?

What do you think Gene? Are these just ridiculous expectations?

Anonymous #1

Gene S said...

Holy Cow!!!! This guy has personal and emotional issues which don't need your support nor tolerence.

I'm amazed anyone is left listening to his stuff!


Tell me, why do guys like him get your continued support and others with sincere biblical preaching and living get fired??????

I would not avise putting up with this for one more week. Get him committed to a mental instutution before he really hurts himself or someone else!