I received a powerful email from Jerry:
Thank you for your ministry. I read an August 9  article on the Desiring God website. Here are two examples of what struck fear in me: “I shudder to think of the missionaries, pastors, [and] spiritual mentors who live as drowning men, helping others grip the heavenly shore they themselves will never reach” and “Desiring salvation, while a good sign, is no surety of possessing salvation. Many want to be saved—believe themselves saved—wait with true Christians for Christ, trim their lamps, ready (in some measure) for the bridegroom, and yet shall perish on the wrong side of heaven’s door.” I read the balance of the article hoping to find some solace, only to be met with these words from John Newton: “Tis a point I long to know, oft it causes anxious thought; Do I love the Lord, or no? Am I his, or am I not?” I would love to hear your thoughts on this article if you have time.
As a result of that question, I recorded a thirteen-minute YouTube video discussing that article. See here.
In this blog, I will hit the highlights of the article, which you can find here, and my response.
The author is Greg Morse, a staff writer with desiringGod.org. He not only wrote the article but also gave an audio recording of it that is excellent since it provides a professional vocal presentation.
Morse’s article is based on a seventeenth-century (1661) book by Matthew Mead entitled, The Almost Christian Discovered. The book was republished in 1989 with a foreword by John MacArthur.
Mead was an English Puritan preacher. His concern in The Almost Christian Discovered was that he believed there were many devout people in conservative Calvinist churches who were not born again, though they thought they were. His desire was to help unregenerate Calvinists discover that they are almost, but not quite, Christians so that they might become genuine Christians before they die.
Morse is a Bethlehem College and Seminary graduate and is on its board of trustees. John Piper is the chancellor.
Morse has four major points. We will consider points one and two in Part one.
“To show how near the forgery comes, to warn us from building our houses upon sand, to burst false hopes or biased examinations, let us look carefully at a few pictures of The Almost Christian to see what, on their own, are no sure signs of salvation.” Morse does not select bad works to show that you may not be saved. He does the opposite. He selects good works to show you may not be saved. That is what bothered Jerry.
What is a sure sign of salvation according to Puritanism? There is no sure sign!
Point 1: “Obeying God.” Morse uses as an example the rich young ruler. He assumes that the rich young ruler was very obedient to God. He concludes: “While obedience to Christ is essential evidence of saving faith (James 2:17), external conformity alone is no sure sign. This man, invited to follow Eternal Life himself, turned from Christ and his promises of heavenly treasure out of love for this present world and his stuff (Mark 10:21–22).”
My response: The Lord did not evangelize the rich young ruler. He practiced pre-evangelism. He led him to see that he would not get into the kingdom based on his flawed works. He needed faith in Christ (John 3:16), though the conversation did not go there. However, Morse thinks that what he needed was to stop loving the world and to give away his possessions.
Point 2: “Blessing Others.” He uses Judas as an example. He thinks it is a good sign if you bless others in Christian ministry. But that is no sure sign. See the first quote Jerry provided in his question about missionaries and pastors who lead others to be saved yet are themselves bound for hell.
My response: He is right that many pastors and missionaries are not born again. But the reason is not because they love this world, cling to their stuff, or are not obedient enough. The reason is that they do not believe in Jesus for the gift of God, everlasting life (John 4:10-26).
In Part two we will consider points three and four and the conclusion.