Posted in theology

John Bunyan’s conversion: Words of grace overheard

By Elizabeth Prata

Two Sundays ago I came across a wonderful sermon by Charles Spurgeon. It was titled “Christian Conversation.” It’s based on Psalm 145,

They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power;

One of the reasons Spurgeon gave for the fact we believers must speak of Christ more often, is that conversions happen when we speak of him more. He said,

Souls are often converted through godly conversation. Simple words frequently do more good than long sermons. Disjointed, unconnected sentences are often of more use than the most finely polished periods or rounded sentences.

Continue reading “John Bunyan’s conversion: Words of grace overheard”
Posted in theology

Christian Conversation, part 7

By Elizabeth Prata

Part 1 here
Part 2 here
Part 3 here
Part 4 here
Part 5 here
Part 6 here

In my ongoing series of reproducing a convicting and wonderful Charles Spurgeon Sermon, here is part 7, the last part. We need to speak of Jesus often, more than we do, really. Spurgeon said that was true in his day and it holds true today.

Yesterday Spurgeon had been exploring the effects of our speaking of Jesus, His Kingdom and His power more often. We finish with that same thought today. His sermon is based on Psalm 145:11

“They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power.”—Psalm 145:11

Continue reading “Christian Conversation, part 7”
Posted in theology

Christian Conversation, part 6

By Elizabeth Prata

Part 1 here
Part 2 here
Part 3 here
Part 4 here
Part 5 here
Part 6 here
Part 7 here

In my ongoing series of reproducing a convicting and wonderful Charles Spurgeon Sermon, here is part 6. We need to speak of Jesus often, more than we do, really. Spurgeon said that was true in his day and it holds true today.

Yesterday’s installment ended with Spurgeon speaking of the things we can say about our King’s kingdom and the different types of His power. Today, the second-to last installment, he speaks of the causes which will make Christians talk of the glory of Christ’s kingdom and his power. There will be one more part after this.

Continue reading “Christian Conversation, part 6”
Posted in theology

Christian Conversation, part 5

By Elizabeth Prata

Part 1 here
Part 2 here
Part 3 here
Part 4 here
Part 5 here
Part 6 here
Part 7 here

In my ongoing series of reproducing a convicting and wonderful Charles Spurgeon Sermon, here is part 5. We need to speak of Jesus often, more than we do, really. Spurgeon said that was true in his day and it holds true today.

Yesterday’s installment ended with Spurgeon saying he wished people spoke more of the duration of the Christ’s kingdom till now. We often attribute honor to those kingdoms that have lasted long, but Christ’s was founded in eternity past! It has been the longest existing kingdom in the universe!

Spurgeon goes on to urge us to speak of the future duration of His eternal kingdom, then of God’s sustaining power, His exalting power, and His providing power.

Christian Conversation

A Sermon (No. 2695) Delivered by C. H. SPURGEON, At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, On a Lord’s-day Evening in the autumn of 1858.

“They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power.”—Psalm 145:11.

Then you may speak concerning the future duration of your Master’s kingdom. I suppose, if you were to talk much about the second coming of Christ, you would be laughed at, you would be thought diseased in your brain; for there are so few nowadays who receive that great truth, that, if we speak of it with much enthusiasm, people turn away, and say, “Ah! we do not know much about that subject, but Mr. So-and-so has turned his brain through thinking so much about it.”

Men are, therefore, half-afraid to speak of such a subject; but, beloved, we are not afraid to talk of it, for Christ’s kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and we may talk of the glory of the future as well as of the past.

Some say that Christ’s Church is in danger. There are many churches that are in danger; and the sooner they tumble down, the better; but the Church of Christ has a future that shall never end; it has a future that shall never become dim; it has a future which shall eternally progress in glory. Her glory now is the glory of the morning twilight; it soon shall be the glory of the blazing noon. Her riches now are but the riches of the newly-opened mine; soon she shall have riches much more abundant and far more valuable than any she has at present. She is now young; by-and-by, she will come, not to her dotage, but to her maturity. She is like a fruit that is ripening, a star that is rising, a sun that is shining more and more unto the perfect day; and soon she will blaze forth in all her glory, “fair as the moon, clear as the sun and terrible as an army with banners.”

EPrata photo

O Christian, here is a topic worthy of thy conversation! Talk of the glory of thy Master’s kingdom. Often speak of it while others amuse themselves with stories of sieges and battles; while they are speaking of this or that or the other event in history, tell them the history of the monarchy of the King of kings; speak to them concerning the great monarchy in which Jesus Christ shall reign for ever and ever.

    But I must not forget briefly to hint at the other subject of the saints’ conversation: “and shall talk of thy power.” It is not simply of Christ’s kingdom of which we are to speak, but also of his power. Here, again, the psalmist gives us something which will help us to a division of our subject. In the 14th and 15th verses, mention is made of three kinds of power of which we ought to speak: “The Lord upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down. The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season.”

    First, the Christian should speak of Christ’s upholding power. What a strange expression this is, “The Lord upholdeth all that fall”! Yet remember John Bunyan’s quaint old saying,—

“He that is down needs fear no fall; He that is low, no pride; He that is humble, ever shall Have God to be his guide.”

So David says, “The Lord upholdeth all that fall.” What a singular expression! How can he hold up those that fall? Yet those that fall, in this sense, are the only persons that stand. It is a remarkable paradox; but it is true. The man who stands on his feet, and says, “I am mighty,—I am strong enough to stand alone;”—down he will go; but he who falls into Christ’s arms, he who says,—

“But, oh! for this no power have I, My strength is at thy feet to lie;”—

that man shall not fall. We may well talk, then, of Christ’s upholding power. Tell it to Christians; tell how he kept you when your feet were going swift to hell; how, when fierce temptations did beset you, your Master drove them all away; how, when the enemy was watching, he compassed you with his mighty strength; how, when the arrows fell thickly around you, his mighty arm did hold the shield before you, and so preserved you from them all. Tell how he saved you from death, and delivered your feet from falling by making you, first of all, fall down prostrate before him.

    Next, talk of his exalting power: “He raiseth up all those that be bowed down.” Oh, how sweet it is, beloved, sometimes to talk of God’s exalting power after we have been hewed down! I love to come into this pulpit, and talk to you as I would in my own room. I make no pretensions to preaching at all, but simply tell you what I happen to feel just now. Oh, how sweet it is to feel the praisings of God’s grace when you have been bowed down! Cannot some of us tell that, when we have been bowed down beneath a load of affliction, so that we could not even move, the everlasting arms have been around us, and have lifted us up? When Satan has put his foot on our back, and we have said, “We shall never be raised up any more,” the Lord has come to our rescue. If we were only to talk on that subject in our conversation with one another, no Christian need have spiritless conversation in his parlour. But, nowadays, you are so afraid to speak of your own experience, and the mercy of God to you, that you will talk any stuff and nonsense rather than that. But, I beseech you, if you would do good in the world, rehearse God’s deeds of raising up those that be bowed down.

    Moreover, talk of God’s providing power: “The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season.” We ought often to speak of how God provides for his creatures in providence. Why should we not tell how God has taken us out of poverty, and made us rich; or, if he has not done that for us, how he has supplied our wants day by day in an almost miraculous manner! Some persons object to such a book as Huntington’s ” Bank of Faith,” and I have heard some respectable people call it “The Bank of Nonsense.” Ah! if they had ever been brought into Huntington’s condition, they would see that it was indeed a bank of faith, and not a bank of nonsense; the nonsense was in those who read it, in their unbelieving hearts, not in the book itself. And he who has been brought into many straits and trials, and has been divinely delivered out of them, would find that he could write a “Bank of Faith” as good as Huntington’s if he liked to do so; for he has had as many deliverances, and he could rehearse the mighty acts of God, who has opened his hands, and supplied the wants of his needy child. Many of you have been out of a situation, and you have cried to God to furnish you with one, and you have had it. Have you not sometimes been brought so low, through painful affliction, that you could not rest? And could you not afterwards say, “I was brought low, and he helped me”? Yes; “I was brought low, and he helped me out of my distress”? Yes; I see some of you nodding your heads, as much as to say, “We are the men who have passed through that experience; we have been brought into great straits, but the Lord has delivered us out of them all.” Then do not be ashamed to tell the story. Let the world hear that God provides for his people. Go, speak of your Father. Do as the child does, who, when he has a little cake given to him, will take it out, and say, “Father gave me this.” Do so with all your mercies; go and tell all the world that you have a good Father, a gracious Father, a heavenly Provider; and though he gives you a hand-basket portion, and you only live from hand to mouth, yet tell how graciously he gives it, and that you would not change your blest estate for all the world calls good or great.

Posted in theology

Christian Conversation, part 4

By Elizabeth Prata

Part 1 here
Part 2 here
Part 3 here
Part 4 here
Part 5 here
Part 6 here
Part 7 here

We are inundated with hate language all day long from rebellious pagans, and many of us are also treated to the snark, anger, or hateful speech of people claiming to be fellow Christians, too (surely blotting their witness.) I don’t want to fall into the same trap. The Bible says “Your speech must always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (Colossians 4:6).

How do I do that? How do I develop the habit of speaking of the glories of Jesus and have edifying conversations?

I found a Spurgeon sermon that fills the bill. I am posting it in parts till it’s done.

Continue reading “Christian Conversation, part 4”
Posted in theology

Christian Conversation, Part 3

By Elizabeth Prata

We are inundated with hate language all day long from rebellious pagans, and many of us are also treated to the snark, anger, or hateful speech of people claiming to be fellow Christians, too (surely blotting their witness.) I don’t want to fall into the same trap. The Bible says “Your speech must always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (Colossians 4:6).

How do I do that? How do I develop the habit of speaking of the glories of Jesus and have edifying conversations?

I found a Spurgeon sermon that fills the bill.

Part 1 here
Part 2 here
Part 3 here
Part 4 here
Part 5 here
Part 6 here
Part 7 here

Continue reading “Christian Conversation, Part 3”
Posted in theology

Christian Conversation, Part 2

By Elizabeth Prata

Part 1 here
Part 2 here
Part 3 here
Part 4 here
Part 5 here
Part 6 here
Part 7 here

We are inundated with hate language all day long from rebellious pagans, and many of us are also treated to the snark, anger, or hateful speech of people claiming to be fellow Christians, too (surely blotting their witness.) I don’t want to fall into the same trap. The Bible says “Your speech must always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (Colossians 4:6).

How do I do that? How do I develop the habit of speaking of the glories of Jesus and have edifying conversations?

Continue reading “Christian Conversation, Part 2”
Posted in theology

Christian Conversation, part 1

By Elizabeth Prata

Part 1 here
Part 2 here
Part 3 here
Part 4 here
Part 5 here
Part 6 here
Part 7 here

We talk all day long. We speak of husbands, plans for the weekend, our physical state, our kids. But do we talk of Jesus? If we do, do we speak of Him often enough?

I am online a lot. I also spend time at work during lunch with colleagues, who are also Christians. I have opportunity to speak of Jesus all day long. But do I? And if I do, is it often enough?

EPrata photo

But of what exactly do I speak? I may ask. How do I bring up the topic? I wondered. So I had gone searching for tips on how to better have a Christian conversation. Lo and behold, Charles Haddon Spurgeon had preached on this very topic in 1858. I read the sermon and it simply brought tears to my eyes. They were both tears of conviction for my poor conversation, and tears of joy reading of His excellencies.

Continue reading “Christian Conversation, part 1”
Posted in theology

Will God send over 90% of all humans who ever lived to hell?

By Elizabeth Prata

I received this question from a reader. That’s all he wrote. Not ‘I’m struggling with this doctrine, can you help?’ or ‘I need some clarification on why God would do this…” Just the question, no context or even a hello.

Will God send over 90% of all humans who ever lived to hell?

Oh, boy. I knew what was coming. I welcome questions and I love to point people to scriptures and to credible ministries that offer solid answers related to a person’s question. But a question that starts out with truculent phrasing is almost always from an atheist or purposeful provoker and never ends well. But, in good faith, I answered in the following way:

Prata: No… Our default condition upon conception is sinner at enmity with God. So God doesn’t “send” anyone to hell, since ALL PEOPLE since the Fall of Adam ever born (except Jesus) would go there just by being totally depraved sinners. It’s the just punishment for sinners against a holy God. What God does and did was send Jesus to rescue sinners and save them by His grace.

Prata: He justifiably judges sinners who rebel against Him, who is thrice holy. But He also chooses to save some through no merit of our own. This is grace, and we are grateful to a savior who saves wretched enemies who do not deserve it. What we ALL deserve is hell.

With my first reply, I tested the waters with going straight to the doctrine of total depravity to see how he would respond. If it was, I’d expect the person to sincerely ask for clarification, and then I’d begin teaching from scripture. If not, I’d reply once more to see if they were genuinely responding to the actual conversation, or just whipping up more scenarios simply to be vexing for their own entertainment. Here is his response:

Reader: If everyone is hell-bound by default, then people, especially Christians, should stop having kids. Because all we are doing is adding to God’s expanding no-fly list of billions of unsaved names. And if the vast majority of mankind is going to eternal conscious punishment in hell according to the end times prophecies of Revelations, then that means for the majority of mankind, life had absolutely no meaning in the end. Let’s say your car overturned and pinned you. There’s a fuel leak. I happened to be nearby. I’m a non-Christian. I am the only person around. I rush to your car and pull you to safety but the car bursts into flames and I burn to death while saving you.

Reader: But since I died a non-Christian, I would suddenly find myself in hell even though I ended my life doing a selfless, heroic act saving one of God’s elect. But if regardless of how I live and end my life, if the result is the same for non-Christians, I may as well have not saved you. I should’ve walked away and let you save yourself.

OK, one reply and then I’ll bow out. Scripture this time. Lots of them. It doesn’t seem like he cares about God but only about arguing his point. Going to the doctrine of total depravity and seeing peoples’ response to it shows me where they’re coming from. A low view of sin in ourselves means the person has a low view of God and a high view of man (and his deeds).

Prata: You have a man-centric point of view. You need to expand that and submit to God’s point of view and His plan. All lives had meaning in the end, those in heaven glorify God by being a display of His mercy. Those in hell glorify God by being a display of His justice.

Isaiah 64:6, “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”

So what you saved me from a burning car but died yourself? We all die sometime. All your works are as filthy rags if you’re not in Christ, whether you’re Hitler or an unsaved fireman saving someone from a burning car and died “selflessly.” The ONLY true selfless act in the universe was Jesus dying on the cross to save sinners like you and me.

I encourage you to read the article below about how hell glorifies God. The only meaning in life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. It’s the chief end of man. (Westminster Shorter Catechism)

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, [a] and to enjoy him for ever. [b]

[a]. Ps. 86:9; Isa. 60:21; Rom. 11:36; 1 Cor. 6:20; 10:31; Rev. 4:11
[b]. Ps. 16:5-11; 144:15; Isa. 12:2; Luke 2:10; Phil. 4:4; Rev. 21:3-4

Your argument is with God.

Romans 9:21, Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on Rom 9:21–
Hath not the potter power over the clay; of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another to dishonour?—”The objection is founded on ignorance or misapprehension of the relation between God and His sinful creatures; supposing that He is under obligation to extend His grace to all, whereas He is under obligation to none.

How Does Hell Glorify God?

We will end our discussion here, your tendency for mockery against God only digs you deeper into a hellish hole. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15).

(I hadn’t liked his characterization of God making a ‘no-fly’ list).

Well, as expected, he did not respect my note to end here. He came back with another email splattered with different scenarios on different topics, not really replying to the one we started with. It’s a key indicator that I’m dealing with a truculent person out for his own entertainment. I replied asking him to please respect my wish for him to meditate on the scriptures provided, to read the article suggested, and to think about what was already discussed, which was substantial (if one is truly seeking and not just arguing). I’d said that if he replied right away again, I’d block him, sadly. He did reply, not with one email but two, which I did not read. And I did block, without engaging again, as promised. So he went to comment on the blog, which I blocked him there too.

When you’re in a public ministry, expect questions, challenges, and even linguistic booby traps in the guise of sincerity. It’s OK to make decisions based on your experience of how long to go on in conversation with a person. There are two scriptures which apply:

but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, but with gentleness and respect; (1 Peter 3:15)

and-

Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. (Matthew 7:6).

I’d said at the start that engaging with people who are obviously out for a fight doesn’t end well. It doesn’t end well for two reasons. Either I become vexed myself and speak ungraciously, blotting my witness; or they dig themselves deeper into a hole as Matthew 12:36 indicates-

But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

I do not want to be the vehicle he uses to dig himself deeper. In not throwing pearls before pigs or in shaking the dust off my feet by not hearing my words (Matthew 10:14) and closing down discussion, it’s an art to keep that fine line. It’s an individual decision based on scripture and experience. I give one or two replies and cut it off from there, especially if they mock or use curse words.

Maybe I should give more time to a conversation or maybe my timing is just right. It’s a personal decision. Don’t feel guilty about cutting off endless replies and not engaging in a circling the drain conversation. I give a reply (hopefully graciously as 1 Peter 3:15 says to) but I also make decisions to cease engaging as per Matthew 7:6 says to. There are only so many hours in the day. I owe my time, metal energy, and emotional equilibrium to Jesus first, then to those closest to me in real life and my church family, and then to the anonymous public who contact me in this ministry.

It’s OK to bow out of a conversation that has run its course, or to block or mute people who have demonstrated ill-will. And I don’t feel guilty about it, either. Though I do feel bad for the person, so lost in his logic he is blinded from seeing the supernatural- which is God and His glory. I pray for that person. Then I shake the dust off my feet and go on to the next thing, ready with a reply for the hope that is within me…