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Curtis Pugh

Poteau, Oklahoma


“I thank thee Lord that I am not like those poor presumptuous people that believe in election. Lord, I was born with a glorious free will; I was born with power by which I can turn to thee of myself; I have improved my grace.  If everybody had done the same with their grace that I have done, they might all have been saved.  Lord, I know thou dost not make us willing if we are not willing ourselves.  Thou givest grace to everybody; some do not improve it, but I did.  There are many that will go to Hell who were as much bought with the blood of Christ as I was.  They had as much of the Holy Ghost given to them.  They had as good a chance, and were as much blessed as I am.  It was not thy grace that made us to differ.  I know it did a great deal, still I turned the point.  I made the decision for Christ.  I made use of what was given me, and others did not - that is the difference between me and them." 

I did not compose the prayer above.  It seems to be anonymous.  I have only edited it a bit.  I have left it substantially the same and present it here for your consideration.  It agrees with the ideas of many today, viz. that the will of men was unaffected by the fall of Adam.  They think they have complete freedom of the will and therefore have the ability to come to Christ if properly persuaded by someone.  This is the belief-system of those who oppose God’s sovereignty in choosing whom He will save.  It is the belief-system of the vast majority of professing Christendom today.  I will be so bold to say that if you can from your heart pray the prayer above, you do not understand how God saves sinners.  More than that, I fear that in all likelihood you lack a heart understanding of God’s holiness and your sinfulness.  You may know of your sins and God’s holiness intellectually, but your heart is revealed by your speech for Jesus said, “…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” (Matthew 12:34)  From that verse comes the title to this article.  Our speech betrays the innermost thoughts of our hearts, and especially do our prayers.  You can often tell more about what a man believes by listening to him pray rather than listening to him preach!  And the words of the prayer above reveal that one who prays in that manner thinks himself capable of coming to Christ by his own ability.  God’s Word tells us that Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44)  And again Jesus said, “Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.” (John 6:55)  Anyone who can from his heart pray the above prayer does not believe those last two verses – or most certainly does not understand them!  Man certainly has a will.  That will is free to act according to man’s nature.  But the problem is that man inherited from father Adam a fallen or depraved nature.  Because of this, man can only choose to do evil, but since man’s depraved heart loves sin, men think that they have free will.  In Jeremiah 17:9 the Lord tells us “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”  And again the Lord says, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 16:25)  Do not rely upon what you feel or think is right!  What God says is right and true!  The mind of an unregenerate person “…is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Romans 8:7)  How can a natural son of Adam of himself, with unchanged heart and disposition, come in a saving way to Christ?  He cannot!

Some people do choose to live a life of refined evil as their sensitivities are repulsed by gross sins.  Some even choose a life of religious evil.  Some of the motives of men are selfishness, greed, and desire for money and possessions.  Some people think ahead and consider eternity, but their motives are still selfish ones.  They are not motivated by a concern for the glory of Jesus Christ.  They are concerned with securing themselves eternal bliss by their good works.  Such people as these may choose a refined, religious life full of good deeds, church activities, and positive thinking.  Jesus was visited one night by one such very religious individual whose name was Nicodemus.  Jesus told him, “Ye must be born again.” (John 3:7)  This new birth or as the translators gave as an alternative reading in the margin, to be “born from above” is also called regeneration.   Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ wrote concerning regeneration these words: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.” (Titus 3:5, 6)  Here, as in other places, the Bible clearly states that salvation is not by works or good deeds.  It is not by religious rituals and observances.  Salvation is only by the mercy or grace of God.  That means that salvation is a gift and comes to the elect of God as do many other gifts.  Such gifts as genius, musical abilities, artistic talents, etc., are all gifts.  Some people are endowed with these gifts from birth.  They received these gifts without having done anything to deserve them.  Neither did they reach out and take them.  They received them in a passive and unconscious manner.  So it is with regeneration.  It is all a work of free and sovereignly dispensed grace.  That is what the phrase salvation by grace means.  

This new birth or regeneration is truly a matter of being born from above.  It is God’s work, not a man’s.  We notice another thing in the last quoted passage above.  This regeneration or new birth washes the recipient.  Notice the words, “the washing of regeneration.”  This does not mean that some kind of washing regenerates.  Washing in water or any other liquid cannot bring about regeneration.  The Bible says here that it is the regeneration that washes.  One thus regenerated is cleansed from sins.  Furthermore, this passage says that this new birth is the “renewing of the Holy Ghost.”  All that a baby faces in life is new to him.  He has no previous “record” of sins and so it is with the sinner who has experienced “the washing of regeneration.”  And all this “He (God) shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.”  All that God does to, for, and in His elect ones comes “abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.”  “Abundantly” means amply supplied or without any lack or need.  We do not bring this abundance of the Holy Spirit down upon us by praying, seeking, making vows or by doing anything.  Jesus Christ has done all required by the Father.  He paid the price required.  He met the demands of divine justice so that in regeneration God shed His Holy Spirit upon us “through Jesus Christ our Saviour.”  God is not a piker who gives stingily.  Neither does He lack anything.  His gift when He washes His elect by regeneration is abundantly sufficient.  And when regeneration or the new birth comes to one of Christ’s lost sheep, that sheep is taught by the Word that there is nothing good or worthy of this new birth.  How can such a regenerated sheep pray such a prayer as the one above?

In the days of the apostles there were many Jews who perverted the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They said, ‘It is fine to believe in Christ, but you must also keep the law (do good works) in order to stay saved.’  Paul wrote to counteract this by saying that such men were not true or spiritual Jews – that they lacked spiritual or inner circumcision of the heart.  He wrote instead, “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:3)  Whenever you find someone who is content to worship with outward show, whether stilted rituals and ceremonies or other outward, perhaps spontaneous physical activities and bodily show, they are not worshipping God in the Spirit.  When you find folk whose rejoicing is in worldly activities which have been brought into the churches in order to keep attendance high, neither are these rejoicing in Christ Jesus.  And whenever anyone has “confidence in the flesh” neither have these experienced this spiritual “circumcision” about which Paul wrote.  Those who think themselves able to take the first step in coming to Christ – whatever they think that step may be – have confidence in the flesh.  Therefore fear for those who pray according to the belief-system of the prayer above!

In the matter of salvation, confidence in the flesh is an acid-test as to whether or not a person has been regenerated.  People who are confident of salvation because they prayed a prayer, made a decision, accepted the Lord, went down to the front, joined the church, were baptized to wash away their sins or whatever else that may have been required by some religious group, have confidence in the flesh.  Regenerated sons of God “have no confidence in the flesh.”  Like Paul, they say, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing…” (Romans 7:18)   This because when the Holy Spirit regenerates a person they see themselves, not in contrast with other people, but in contrast with the Holy One, the God revealed in the Bible.  They cry out, like did Isaiah, “…Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5)  Having godly sorrow worked in them, they cry out like Job, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.  Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5, 6)  Have you experienced this godly sorrow?  This godly sorrow cannot be manufactured by a preacher telling sad stories or by a sinner wanting to go to heaven.  You cannot break your own heart over your sin nature and your acts of sin!  The Bible says, “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)  Again the Psalmist wrote, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)  God says in Isaiah 66:2 “…but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”  Do you abhor yourself?  Do you have a broken heart and a contrite spirit over your sin and before God?  Have you been brought to see that you deserve eternal punishment because of your sin?  Do you see that if you receive justice you would be cast into the lake of fire?  Only such God-wrought broken hearted sorrow will work repentance in anyone.  Paul said so when he wrote, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)  Do not be fooled into thinking that temporary emotions stirred up by some preacher, the death of a loved one, or some other catastrophe is godly sorrow!  Broken heartedness and awareness that you cannot please God in your flesh are the mainsprings by which God works repentance and then gives faith to His elect.  Have you sorrowed after a godly sort?  Has this caused you to turn to God in unfeigned repentance and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ?  Are you still experiencing repentance daily as God makes you aware of your sins even as a regenerated child of God?  Do you continue walking humbly before the Lord knowing that if He should withdraw His hand of grace you would plunge into the depths of sin?  Or, do you have confidence in your flesh thinking that you can continue living for the Lord on you own?

Earlier in this peace it was pointed out that the mouth speaks what is in the heart.  Because of and in connection with that, Jesus stated, “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” (Matthew 12:37)  What do the words you speak in prayer reveal about your heart?  Do you have confidence in the flesh?  Are you trusting in having gone down to an altar or having made a public profession?  Do you think you are regenerate because you made a decision for Christ?   Are you able to pray the prayer that composes the first paragraph of this article?  May God give you grace to see the utter foolish wickedness of that prayer.  May He show you that without Christ’s imputed righteousness you are a stench in the nostrils of our Holy God!  May godly sorrow be your experience and may you be given “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:21)


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Denham Springs, LA 70726

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