Tried and True
Scripture Reading — Matthew 7:15-23
"By their fruit will you recognize them." Matthew 7:20 —
Jonathan Edwards wrote his Treatise on the Religious Affections partly as a response to people who criticized the excesses of the Great Awakening: uncontrolled emotionalism, visions, trances, raucous worship services in which everyone did their own thing at the same time. Many recent converts often ridiculed and resisted church authority; too many, it seemed, based their conversion on religious experiences, showing little of the finer graces of rebirth. Edwards was concerned about these problems but saw that many good things came from the revival as well. He wrote to explain the difference between real and false conversion.
True faith is defined not by a past decision but by a present discipleship. As Jesus put it, some people honor God with their lips, "but their hearts are far from" the Lord (Matthew 15:8).
"In turning from sin to God," says Edwards, a converted person experiences a great change that affects everything he or she does. "If, therefore, there is little evidence of any change in bad habits and dispositions," a person might well question whether a conversion is real.
Edwards wrote not to make true believers doubtful about their faith or salvation, but to encourage the habit of self-examination. Each of us should ask, "Is the grace of Christ displayed in Christlikeness in my life?"
"Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; here's my heart, O take and seal it; seal it for thy courts above." In the name of the Savior I pray. Amen.