. . . If we compare what we ought to be and could be with what we are, and we don't see that we are in a rut and we are not concerned, then one of three things may be wrong. First, we may not be converted at all. I am convinced that many evangelicals are not truly and soundly converted. Among the evangelicals it is entirely possible to come into membership, to ooze in by osmosis, to leak through the cells of the church and never know what it means to be born of the Spirit and washed in the blood. A great deal that passes for the deeper life is nothing more or less than basic Christianity. There is nothing deeper about it, and it is where we should have been from the start. We should have been happy, joyous, victorious Christians walking in the Holy Spirit and not fulfilling the lusts of the flesh. Instead we have been chasing each other around the perpetual mountain. What we need is what the old Methodists called a sound conversion. There is a difference between conversion and a sound conversion. People who have never been soundly converted do not have the Spirit to enlighten them. When they read the Sermon on the Mount or the teaching passages of the epistles that tell them how to live or the doctrinal passages that tell how they can live, they are unaffected. The Spirit who wrote them is not witnessing in their hearts because they have not been born of the Spirit. That often happens.
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A lifetime of observation, Bible reading and prayer has led to the conclusion that the only thing that can hinder a Christian's progress is the Christian himself.
The true child of God can live and grow in circumstances that are wholly unfavorable to such life and growth. Outward circumstances can help little or none in a Christian's spiritual life. The whole philosophy of the spiritual way requires us to believe this.
For this reason, it is always bad to blame anyone or anything for our spiritual or moral failures. God has so ordered things that His children may grow as successfully in the middle of a desert as in the most fruitful land. It is necessary that this should be so, seeing that the very world itself is a field where nothing good can grow except by some kind of miracle. The old hymn asks the rhetorical question, "Is this vile world a friend to grace, to help me on to God"" And the implied answer is no. Grace operates without the help of the world.
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