Provoking Thoughts

"Consider your ways..." - Hag 1:7

Vol. 2 No. 5 Tuesday,

October 8, 1996


Preach the Word!


A.W. Tozier on "The Cross"

Anxious Sinners

Is God to Blame?

A Wilderness University


Who are we?

Preach The Word!

(2 Tim 4:2) Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

Paul told Timothy to "preach the Word." To be instant in season and out. To preach faithfully the whole counsel of God, no matter what the reaction of the people was. He was also warning Timothy that there would come a time when the appetites of the people would change toward preaching. There would come a day when people would want to be entertained instead of preached to. He must be faithful and preach the Word, no matter what the people want to hear.

What is the kind of preaching that people want to avoid? Here it is in Isaiah 30:9-11:

That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: {10} Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: {11} Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.

They don't want God brought before them. They don't want to have to face God and be confronted with their sin. It is much less burdensome, for the present at least, to listen to some storytelling preacher who doesn't bring you into a confrontation with God. "Reprove, rebuke, and exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." Don't be a preacher who preaches against "sin" in the general sense, or on the sins of those who are not there, so as not to offend anyone. These preachers claim to preach against sin, but they miss the people entirely with their messages and God is not brought before them.

(1 Tim 1:4) Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.

Websters 1828 Dictionary: Fable - a feigned story or tale intended to instruct or amuse; a fictitious narration intended to enforce some useful truth or precept. An idle story, vicious or vulgar. A plot or connected series of events in epic or dramatic poem; to feign or invent, to advise, to speak as true or real.

Strongs Concordance gives the first definition for fable as "tale." He goes to explain it's meaning this way: to tell stories; a story, a narrative, the rehearsal of a series of events or adventures.

Storytelling preachers rehearse historical events or dramatic stories. They are professional storytellers. Their messages are meant to entertain, to amuse, to arouse, to teach people things, but they are never meant to CONVICT people of sin, and bring them into a confrontation with God. Paul is warning Timothy that the day will come when this type of preaching will be what people want, and what most all the preachers will seem to be preaching. But Timothy is charged to keep on preaching the Word and not to have a part in this kind of preaching.

People will always remember an illustration from a message, even though they may not remember the subject, or the Scripture. If it is a moving story, or a funny story, they will retain that story, but the message doesn't find a place to lodge in their hearts. We have seen this over the years by having the kids in the Christian school to do reports on the messages of guest preachers. They will almost always remember the story, but not the message. Illustrations are only right when the message is retained and the illustration doesn't overshadow the Truth being presented. Jesus used illustrations, but He used them in this manner. People didn't rejoice and remain preoccupied with his illustrations, but they were overwhelmed by the Truth He preached to them.

If we are not careful, we will use "Bible stories" and present them as fables. Hollywood has found out they can hold people's attention long enough to make some money from them telling "Bible stories." If a preacher makes them dramatic, picturesque, or poetic, people will be amazed with simple "Bible stories." They will listen with great attention and be entertained by them, and enjoy the message very much, but won't be brought into a confrontation with God. God will not be brought before them with dramatic, or dynamic "Bible stories."

It is common for people to want to hear things that do not condemn them. All of us are that way. We all want to hear compliments about ourselves. We don't want to hear about our faults or sins. We want to hear about how spiritual we are and the right things we are doing in our walk with God and our testimony before others. Right, strong preaching will comfort those that are living right, while it condemns those who aren't. But storytelling preaching comforts those who aren't living right. They can come and enjoy the service and the message and go home unchanged, unconvicted, and continue in their sin.

Jesus was not a storytelling preacher. He preached that "... except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." His messages always brought people into a confrontation with God which demanded a verdict. His illustrations caused people to look at God, at themselves and be enlightened by the Truth. They weren't emotional, or dramatic, or picturesque, and they never overshadowed the Truth until it was forgotten and the illustration remembered.

It is not popular to preach to people in our day about THEIR sin, or their stagnation in their walk with God. They don't want to hear that their Christianity is just a "form" of religion. Confrontation is not as pleasant as entertaining stories. All the forces of evil are against the preaching of the Truth, and everything in a preacher will be pressuring him NOT to preach so hard to the people. But they MUST have the truth about themselves. Entertainment will not help them when the trials come. It will not make them holy. They must be dealt with where they are NOW. They don't need to hear about "walking in the wilderness," or living in "Egypt." They don't need to hear about David's sin, and Abraham's sin, and how all the great men of the Bible sinned. They need to be dealt with about THEIR sin and brought before God with THEIR sin. They need to be preached to about how to deal with temptation HERE and NOW. Don't tell them stories! Stories won't help them! PREACH THE WORD! BRING THEM BEFORE GOD! 


This is an area where we are sure to get branded as preaching "works" or "adding to" salvation, but it is an area that needs to be challenged. This is a purely Calvinistic doctrine which is freely accepted by many Baptists, as well as most other denominations. It is accepted on the grounds of that wonderful-sounding, but misunderstood word - GRACE. "All of grace" just sounds so good! Just to say it makes us sound so humble and submissive. The problem is that, like everything else man gets involved in, he takes it to an extreme and ends up distorting the Truth.

Any person that knows anything about the Bible and the Gospel knows that men cannot do anything to EARN salvation. Our salvation is based upon the sinless life of Christ, that He died for our sins, and his resurrection from the dead. At the same time, anyone who claims they are not a Calvinist, yet clings to this doctrine of man's total inability to come to God, is completely deceived and confused in his doctrine. This is one of the basic doctrines of Calvinism. Election, predestination, and all the other Calvinistic doctrines which are so offensive and unacceptable to the Bible-believer hang on this doctrine. You can't believe in man's inability and not eventually come to the conclusion that God chooses who will be saved and who won't.

"Dead in trespasses and sins." That is the phrase upon which this false doctrine has been based. Now we hear that a lost man is so "dead" that he can't even repent! He is so dead that all he can do is sit and wait until God calls his name, and even then he is so "dead" that he can only sit back and wait to see how God does everything necessary to save him. We hear this being preached by people who say they hate Calvinistic doctrine and don't believe a word of it. That is pretty preposterous! In Luke 15, in the story of the Prodigal, the father said twice that his son was "dead," but it is very obvious that he wasn't "dead" in the sense that many want to believe. If he were dead in the sense we are hearing about he would have stayed in the hog pen. The father didn't send after him while he sat with the hogs in the far country, or while he was wasting his substance in riotous living. Nor did his brother or any of the servants of his father. He "came to himself," and he said, "I will arise, and go to my father."

It is an outrage to teach that lost men are "dead" men who are absolutely unable to do anything good while they are fully alive to do all evil! Lost men are not partly dead or completely dead in the sense of being unable. They are dead in the same sense that the Prodigal was dead in the eyes of his father. He was unacceptable to his father with his riotous living and selfish, rebellious heart. As long as he was determined to live that way, he was to be separated from his father. As far as his father was concerned, he was dead. But he wasn't so "dead" that he couldn't "come to himself" and say "I will arise and go to my father." Neither is any sinner that ever lived on God's earth! Jesus is the light that "lighteth every man that cometh into the world" and as soon as a man will regard that light, and come to God in repentance, realizing in his heart and confessing something like, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and against thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son, make me as one of thy hired servants," the Heavenly Father will arise, just as the Prodigal's father arose, even while he is yet afar off, and come to meet him. But no sinner ever has, or ever will be saved until he does what the Prodigal did.

"Spiritually dead?" "The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly." (Prov 20:27) Man is not an animal, but created in the image and likeness of God. He differs from the animals in that he is God-conscious. The FOOL says in his heart "there is no God." He only says that because he is corrupt and has done abominable works, and he must deceive himself in order to justify himself in his heart. It isn't that he is "dead" and NOT ABLE to come to God - he just WILL NOT come to God because he is wicked and selfish. Whosoever WILL may come. Every sinner is included, and he isn't to wait until he "feels" called, or led, or whatever of God. Preach to them the Word of God, which enlightens their soul, and then demand of them that they COME to God! Don't leave them waiting in the hog pen for something that will never happen. Full provision for salvation has been made, but man has a responsibility to respond. It is a watered-down, puny Gospel indeed that preaches man's total inability to come to God, when that is what God himself commands.

(John 7:37) ). . . Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.

(Mat 11:28) )Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

(John 5:40) )And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.

(Rev 22:17) )And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

The obvious message of the Gospel is "come." There are only two answers; "I will," or "I won't." Anyone who believes man is totally unable to come has a problem then. He is a Calvinist and might as well go ahead and put on the whole uniform. He might as well preach all the rest of their heresies because he believes the Bible and words of Christ and start telling men to COME to the Saviour or perish in their sins. 

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. - Jesus

A.W. Tozer said this about the cross . . .

"The cross is the most revolutionary thing ever to appear among men. The cross of Roman times knew no compromise, it never made concessions. It won all its arguments by killing its opponent and silencing him for good. It spared not Christ, but slew Him the same as the rest. He was alive when they hung Him on that cross, and completely dead when they took Him off of it. That was the cross the first time it appeared in Christian history.

"With perfect knowledge of all this, Christ said, 'If any men will come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me. 'So the cross not only brought Christ's life to an end, it also ends the first life, the old life of every one of His true followers . . . this and nothing less is true Christianity. We must do something about the cross, and there's only one of two things we can do - flee it or die upon it!"

"If the benevolence manifested in the atonement does not subdue the selfishness of sinners, their case is hopeless."- Charles G. Finney

Anxious Sinners

- Charles Finney (Lectures on Revival)

Anxious sinners are to be regarded as being in a very solemn and critical state. They have, in fact, come to a turning-point. It is a time when their destiny is likely to be settled for ever. Christians ought to feel deeply for them. In many respects their circumstances are more solemn than those of the Judgment. Here their destiny is settled. The Judgment Day reveals it. And the particular time when It is done is when the Spirit is striving with them. Christians should remember their awful responsibility at such times. The physician, if he knows anything of his duty, sometimes feels himself under a very solemn responsibility. His patient is in a critical state, where a little error will destroy life, and hangs quivering between life and death. If such responsibility should be felt in relation to the body, what awful responsibility should be felt in relation to the soul, when it is seen to hang trembling on a point, and its destiny is now to be decided. One false impression, one indiscreet remark, one sentence misunderstood, a slight diversion of mind, may wear him the wrong way, and his soul be lost. Never was an angel employed in a more solemn work, than that of dealing with sinners who are under conviction. How solemnly and carefully then should Christians walk, how wisely and skillfully work, if they do not wish to be the means of the loss of a soul!

Is God To Blame?

Men blame God for injustice suffered at the hands of wicked men. If you have dealt with sinners at all, you have surely encountered some accusations against God. They are quick to lay to God's charge the injustices that abound in the world. Men who have been in battle and experienced the awfulness of war have said to me more than once that they couldn't believe in a God who would let such things happen. People watch television and read newspapers where all the worst of the world is put on display daily and they either conclude that there is no God, or if there is, He is an unjust and cruel God. They come to this conclusion based on the fact that God "lets" these things happen. God "lets" cruel men mistreat and abuse innocent people, therefore the guilt belongs to Him and not to the wicked, cruel men. This is an example of the madness that is in their hearts, as the Bible says in Ecclesiastes. This person is a rebel himself, and refuses to let God control any part of his life, but he blames God for not controlling the lives of others. His complaint against God is based on what he sees as injustice being done to others, but he practices the same thing in his own life, just on a smaller, less offensive scale (that is, in the sight of men.) We can be sure of this because sin is the gratifying of one's own desires at the sacrifice and expense of God and others. It is the opposite of loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself. This man is as guilty of this as those whose sin he is laying to God's charge.

God is NOT GUILTY! God DID NOT kill the six million Jews in Europe during World War II - Hitler and the Nazis did! The massacre that took place in Cambodia in the '70's was not carried out by God, but by the evil leaders in that country at the time. God is not to blame for the crime in the cities and the drive-by shootings that take place every day now - the gangs and the criminals that perpetrate these evil deeds are responsible. God is not to blame for the millions of babies that have been, and are being aborted in the United States since 1973 - the wicked doctors who do it for the profit they can make are! So are the judges who sit on the Supreme Court who continue to sanction this form of murder! So are the Congressmen and Senators who refuse to pass laws banning the wickedness! And so are the preachers who won't preach against sin! There are lots of people to blame, but God IS NOT TO BLAME!

Men blame and accuse God because He says they must be saved while He is calling or run the risk of never being called again. God is not to be blamed here either. God is not the one who hardens his heart, it is man who does that. God's desire to save a man doesn't lessen because the man refuses to hear his voice the first time He calls. What happens is the man's heart gets hard and it is harder for him to hear God's voice the next time he calls. So it isn't that God is giving an ultimatum when He says, "Today, if you hear his voice . . .," it is simply a warning for man's own good. Some men have perceived this as God changing his mind toward men. If He calls and they refuse, then He no longer wants to save them, but in fact will delight when they are cast off into hell, and mock them and roll with laughter. I have actually heard this preached many times. But the truth is that God is NEVER willing that ANY should perish. God didn't want Nero Caesar or Adolf Hitler to perish. Jesus died in their place as much as He did for anyone else, but they refused until it was too late for them.

Men blame God for the death of loved ones. This is something that happens very commonly. Death is so cruel and unmerciful. When we suffer the lose of a close loved one we quickly come to the fork in the road. As we try to come to grips with the reality of the death and separation from this person we loved, we must either become bitter at God or we must trust Him and experience His comfort through the Holy Ghost and the Word of God. Because of the madness in a lost person's heart he will look at the graveyard and curse God because his loved one died. However, the person who knows anything about God knows that God is not the author or cause of death - SIN is. And it is MAN'S OWN SIN that has brought death into the world. God never intended for men to die, and it was never his will for death to reign as it does now. God didn't mean for there to be any graveyards in the world, they are MAN'S doings. So when you want to hate someone, or blame someone for the death of a loved one, blame sin and hate the devil, but don't cast the blame on God, for He is NOT TO BLAME.

Men blame God for their own sin, saying He created them with a sinful nature that makes them sinners from the day they are born. But it was not God who put the desire for tobacco in a person - they did that themselves. You were not born with an evil eye - you got that from indulging yourself in unrestrained lust. It becomes your nature, all right, but God didn't give it to you, and you weren't born with it. You developed it yourself by abusing the natural desires that God DID give you. No sex pervert is born that way! No drunkard is born that way! No one is born with a filthy mouth uttering profanities! These are all learned and acquired by self-indulgence with no regard for God or other men. They quickly become habit, rule of life, and the nature of the man. According to Webster's 1828 Dictionary, a nature is: "The essence, essential qualities or attributes of a thing, which constitute it what it is;" (Rom 6:19) ". . . for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness." Men are servants to sin because they have yielded themselves to be servants to sin - not because God gave them a sinful nature. Then men have the gall to turn around and blame it on God! What an outrageous blasphemy against the person of God!

After all the evil had come upon Job, and it looked like the rest of his life would be spent in loneliness and poverty, this was Job's attitude:

Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly. - Job 1:20-22

That is the difference between faith and foolishness That is the difference between the wicked and the righteous. . That is the difference between the blind and those who can see. God is NOT TO BLAME! 


This is a day of schools, universities and training institutes of every kind. Knowledge has increased and in the making of books, and the conferring of degrees there seems to be no end. We are thankful for learning of every proper kind. We believe in the storing of the mind and in the developing of the intellect. We are glad to see church colleges springing up, and rejoice when we hear of schools founded for the training of young men and women for home and foreign missionary work. And yet we cannot but know that unless a certain famous "Upper Room" with its divine light and fire, its supernatural transformation, impartation and education, finds not only a place, but a prominent and pre-eminent one in the place of learning, that God's work will never be done as he desires it, salvation will not roll like a flood, and the world never be brought under the power and to the feet of the Son of God.

We have only to look at the Past, and turn our eyes on the Present, to see that the greatest reformers and revivalists, the mightiest rebukers of sin, and most tremendous movers on spiritual lines, were never made so by our scholastic institutes, no matter how great the extent of ground, or how venerable with age were the buildings of these same state, nation, or world famous universities. God's marvelous mouthpieces seem all to come up from what we call the Wilderness. They appear unheralded. They were not dreamed of. Nobody knew them or anything about them, when suddenly they burst forth from obscurity upon an astonished and convicted community, country, and even the nations of the world. The astounding fact to the thoughtful mind is that these men, when they do appear before the public, seem to be thoroughly prepared, fitted, filled and furnished for their work! Their faces, lives, messages, courage, readiness, steadfastness, character poise, fullness of mind and heart on living and everlasting issues, and the unmistakable spiritual force dwelling in and proceeding from them, show without doubt that they are not accidents, but have been thoroughly prepared for their life work somewhere in the deep unknown privacy, out of which they suddenly came.

They were getting ready for great battles in life before men ever heard of them. They were studying hard the text books of sin and salvation, poring diligently over the mysteries of the heart and heaven, and getting filled with the knowledge of God and the wisdom of the skies, while the people to whom they were to come later, were dozing, dreaming, idling and sinning their hours, years and lives away. They were faithful student in the Wilderness College, of God, Truth and Everlasting things, while hundreds of millions of their fellow beings were absorbed in pleasure, amusement, fashion and the business of the world; or if in the schools, taken up with the enjoyment of athletic games or the securing of evanescent accomplishments, or the understanding of languages as dead as the people who once spoke them and have passed away. No wonder these graduates of the Wilderness College move and stir the cities and confound the schools and universities. What they say is so new, fresh, spiritual, startling, quickening, powerful and overwhelming, that men go down before such a truth charged, heaven filled instrument. The people muse in their hearts, and are pricked in their souls, and bringing forth fruits meet for repentance turn from the idols of time and earth to serve the living God.

Then how full and ready such scholars of the Wilderness are. They never seem to be confused and upset by questions, no matter who asks them. They know what to say, and how to say it, whether it be to a soldier or citizen, to Pharisee or Sadducee, to Herodian or Essene, and have a message for King Herod himself and his infuriated wife. There is something in the high, vaulted, star-frescoed chambers and solemn corridors of the Wilderness College that brings a corresponding seriousness of manner and loftiness of thought. Having been face to face with the sublime so long, such individuals cannot consent to trifle. Away from men's ideas, ideals, ritualisms, formalisms and superficialisms, they bring back at once to the people, in language, bearing and life the forgotten heaven and the unknown God. They have been so much alone with the Creator in nature that they bring him in their prayers and preaching, in their rebukes and warnings, as they felt and beheld him in the heart of his own works. So their words distill as the dew, emit fragrance like a wild flower, charm like the song of the woodland bird, and yet on the other hand will suddenly change and the speech of the God-filled graduate of the Wilderness leaps and flashes like the lightning, strikes like a thunderbolt and rushes like a storm upon the awestruck ears and over the trembling consciences of the solemnized and frightened congregation. The graduated students of the Wilderness University all seem to have the Upper Room experience. All speak of the holy fire. All seem to have looked in the deep sense of the word, upon the face of God. And all are fearless, for he who comes from the presence of Jehovah, is never afraid of the countenance of man. The Bible teaches this, and life proves it to be true.

When in the Holy Land a few years ago, we stood one morning on the top of a building crowning the summit of Mt. Olivet, and looked southward, eastward and northeastward at the wilderness which stretches today in those directions. We could but think what that particular rocky, sandy, mountainous waste had been to the world in the way of warning, instruction and spiritual benefit; and what the wilderness in general and in particular has always been to the human family. Its greatest friends and mightiest helpers have come literally and figuratively from the desert. Moses was a student of high distinction in the Wilderness School. He took a forty years' course. What he learned there not only enabled him to stand before kings in palaces and lay down the law to them, but elevated him to the leadership of a great nation. Having talked with God, it was a small matter to come into the audience chamber of Pharaoh and speak to him with steady voice and unflinching eye. More than that, with his countenance luminous from the glory of his protracted interview in the mountain with the Almighty, he towered in moral and spiritual greatness over two hundred and fifty thousand men, and subdued a great rebellious camp of over a million people in a single morning.

Elijah came out of the Wilderness that lay to the northeast. He seemed to love his Alma Mater after his graduation, and would return again and again to the desert for post graduate courses. In one of these trips he took up a special study called "The Ravens and the Brook." This was followed by immediately increased activity and usefulness. On another occasion he visited the University where Moses had gone to school, and there took the degree of "The Cave and the Still Small Voice." It was after this new communion with God in the Wilderness that he secured Elisha for the prophetic office, rebuked King Ahab for his crime against Naboth, and pulled fire down from heaven twice to the overthrow and death of his enemies.

John the Baptist was a graduate of the Wilderness College of Judea. He undoubtedly took first honors. His salutatory to the people around about Jordan will never be forgotten. Jerusalem and numerous other towns and cities turned out en masse to hear later addresses of the man clothed in a shaggy skin and eating wild locusts. As he talked, he presented life-sized pictures and portraits free of charge to everybody who attended his meetings. These photographs that he struck off with his burning mind remain unfaded to this day. The Publican found his likeness was that of a robber. The Pharisee to his surprise and indignation, as well as the anger of his church friends, discovered that his picture was that of a viper. Soldiers, citizens, indeed everybody, beheld themselves perfectly understood and most thoroughly described. And so it is not to be wondered at that "all men mused in their hearts of John." It does not appear that he ever received a call to become the pastor of any Jerusalem Synagogue, or the head of their school for the prophets, or to take any kind of position as teacher or ruler in the Temple. His sermons on Repentance were bad enough; but his additional teaching that there was a Baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire to be given by Christ was even worse; while his free gift to every hearer in his audience of an accurate character likeness of the listener himself was simply disgusting and unbearable. Moreover, his habit of telling the truth was very embarrassing to many in his congregation. Then instead of confining his rebukes to common people, and persons who were not present but at a great distance, he reproved very prominent individuals like King Herod and his wife, and that, too, when they had done him the great honor of coming to listen to him. For these reasons as well as others we have not time to mention, our first honor man of the Wilderness of Judea never received a city call. It was well that he did not, as no church in the land could ever have seated his regular congregation. So he continued to hold services in the Desert until the time of his imprisonment and death. The Savior preached his funeral sermon, taking for his text the words,

"Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist."

- By an old Methodist Preacher of the last century named Beverly Caradine (funny name, but he was a man!)


We have these and other materials on the some of the most "controversial" issues, If you are a seeker of truth, and you are interested in having your thoughts "provoked" you will enjoy this material. However, if you are one who turns his ear from the truth because you are afraid of your preacher friends you will be offended. You have been warned. We will send them to you by regular mail or e-mail if you will simply contact us and let us know what you would like to read.

"The Carnal Christian"

"The Myth Of Original Sin"

"The Atonement"

If you are enjoy the articles above, we would recommend a book called

"Are Men Born Sinners?" available from the author for $11.00 at:

Gospel Truth Ministries, P.O. Box 6322, Orange, CA 92863

Provoking Thoughts is a publication of

Midway Bible Baptist Church, P.O. Box 419, Fishersville, VA 22939.

Midway Bible Baptist Church

Pastor: 540-943-3064
Church: 540-943-1678

Pastor Owen
OR Bro. Mike Miller


Midway Bible Baptist Church
P.O. Box 419
Fishersville, Virginia 22939

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