The Little Foxes that Ruin the Vineyard

Respectable Sins that Quench the Anointing of the Holy Spirit (Chapter Two)

Catch all the foxes, those little foxes, before they ruin the vineyard of love, for the grapevines are blossoming!

Song of Songs 2:15 NLT

In Chapter Two of The Calvary Road by Roy Hession, Hession furthers his discussion of personal revival by examining the “little or respectable” sins (i.e., foxes) that inhibit the Holy Spirit from blessing our lives and ministries (i.e., vineyard).

Self-pity in trials or difficulties, self-seeking in business or Christian work, self-indulgence in one’s spare time, sensitiveness, touchiness, resentment and self-defense when we are hurt or injured by others, self-consciousness, reserve, worry, fear, all spring from self and all are sin and make our cups unclean (pg. 29).

Jerry Bridges calls these sins, “respectable sins” in that there is no law against them. In fact, many believers would consider these sins harmless. Our friends will not shun us for committing them, and in many instances, no one ever knows that we failed the Lord. However, the sins of self-centeredness: pride, fear, worry, anger, anxiety, discontentment, pride, etc. steal our joy in God and inhibit the Holy Spirit from blessing our work for his kingdom. Instead of a sweetness of spirit, we minister to others a hardness of heart and an emptiness of soul. These “little” sins keep us from enjoying the continual on-going presence of the Holy Spirit: the Lord cannot bless us with his constant, conscious presence because our attitude does not honor his character or his Word. Our failure causes our Christian lives to feel empty and our ministries to lack power and authority.

However, there is hope:

If we are to know continuous Revival, we must learn the way to keep our cups clean. It is never God’s will that a Revival should cease, and be known in history as the Revival of this or that year. When that happens it is due to only one thing – sin, just those little sins that the devil drops into our cup. But if we will go back to Calvary and learn afresh the power of the Blood of Jesus to cleanse moment by moment from the beginnings of sin, then we have learnt the secret of cups constantly cleansed and constantly overflowing. The moment you are conscious of that touch of envy, criticism, irritability, whatever it is -ask Jesus to cover it with His precious Blood and cleanse it away and you will find the reaction gone, your joy and peace restored and your cup running over. And the more you trust the Blood of Jesus in this way, the less will you even have these reactions (pg. 30).

The Word of God reminds us that the blood of Jesus is constantly and continually available to not only cleanse us from sin and cancel the guilt of sin, but also to free us from the power of that same sin (Heb. 9:14, 1 Peter 2:24, 1 John 1:9-10).

God wants to show us our reactions, and only when we are willing to be cleansed there, will we have His peace. Oh, what a simple but searching thing it is to be ruled by the peace of God, none other than the Holy Spirit Himself! Former selfish ways, which we never bothered about, are now shown to us and we cannot walk in them without the referee blowing his whistle. Grumbling, bossiness, carelessness, down to the smallest thing are all revealed as sins, when we are prepared to let our days be ruled by the peace of God. Many times a day and over the smallest things we shall have to avail ourselves of the cleansing Blood of Jesus, and we shall find ourselves walking the way of brokenness as never before. But Jesus will be manifested in all His loveliness and grace in that brokenness (pg. 32).

Lord, we pray, continually bring us to the Cross that fountain filled with blood where sins are forgiven and our relationship with you is restored.

Sin is Paralysis

Sin’s Disabling Power

Sin has precisely the same effect (i.e., paralysis) on our souls. Though there is spiritual life, there may be lack of spiritual vigor. The effects of sin may be traced in the impairment of voluntary power, and in the enfeebling of all moral energy, as well as in the hardening and deadening of the spiritual sense. And the result is the whole tone of the spiritual life is lowered. Sin thus robs us of the power by which alone we are able to perform the functions that belong to our renewed being. And it not only undermines our strength, it hinders our growth. The child may have all the parts of its body complete, every organ, every faculty, and yet it will fail to grow if struck down with paralysis. So with the soul. The new birth may have taken place, the great change of conversion to God may have been clear and unmistakable, and yet sin may have been allowed to come in and produce its paralyzing effects. It not only robs us of all spiritual energy, it retards our progress, it hinders our growth.

Evan Hopkins, The Law of Liberty in the Spiritual Life (Philadelphia: Sunday School Times, 1952), 20.

Brokenness: A Heart Yielded to God

Brokenness is the Beginning of Personal Revival (Chapter One)

“My way or the highway” is what I say to myself since I do not have the audacity to say these stubborn words to God. My fallen nature wants to be first, go first, and to be thought of as first. My selfishness is my biggest problem: I want it my way. Everyone should center their lives around my needs and desires. What I want, what I need, and what I like: all my demands should be everyone’s concern.  However, Christ died to change my motivation from self-centeredness to Christ-centeredness. Christ changed my heart and made me a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised (2 Cor 5:14-15 ESV).

After my conversion, when I yielded my life to Christ at the foot of the Cross, the Holy Spirit changed my motivation. When my Lord Jesus Christ became God incarnate in human flesh (Phil. 2:3-11): my Lord became a servant, my Lord laid down his rights, my Lord did not retaliate, my Lord became my substitute, and my Lord took my punishment (Mark 10:45). Christ lives in me, therefore, he will live the same selfless life in me that he lived on earth (Col. 1:27). Christ has conquered the root of my selfishness, but self-centeredness can still pervade avenues of my thinking and control areas of my heart. Sanctification, Christian growth, is the Holy Spirit working through people, circumstances, and the Word to address the selfishness still resident in my life. Therefore, the Lord sovereignly puts me in places of weakness that I would depend solely on him (Heb. 12:5-11).

By nature we are so strong, so able to think and plan and do, and God must bring us to the place of weakness, the place where we cannot think or plan or do apart from him.

[Watchman Nee, Changed Into His Likeness (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1987), 128.]

The Lord works in my heart making it pliable and open to his will. Brokenness is a heart yielded to God; ready and willing to obey the Holy Spirit whenever and wherever He directs. When I yield my heart’s desires to him, a sweetness of the Holy Spirit begins to pervade my life.

The breaking of the alabaster box and the anointing of the Lord filled the house with the odor, with the sweetest odor (John 12:1-8). Everyone could smell it. Whenever you meet someone who has really suffered; been limited, gone through things for the Lord, willing to be imprisoned by the Lord, just being satisfied with Him and nothing else, immediately you scent the fragrance. There is a savor of the Lord. Something has been crushed, something has been broken, and there is a resulting odor of sweetness.

[Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life (Fort Washington, Penn.: CLC, 1985), 281.]

If I want an anointed ministry, then saying “yes” to the Resident Boss, the Holy Spirit, is a requirement.

Emptiness, yieldedness, brokenness-these are the conditions of the Spirit’s outflow.  Such was the path taken by the Prince of Life to set free the flood-tide of Pentecost.

[Lilias Trotter cited in They Knew Their God, Vol. 1 by E. Harvey and L. Hey (Shoals, Ind.: Kingsley Press, 1974). ]

In chapter one of The Calvary Road, Hession calls on us to yield everything to Christ:

If, however, we are to come into this right relationship with Him, the first thing we learn is that our wills must be broken to His will. To be broken is the beginning of Revival. It is painful, humiliating, but it is the only way. It is being “Not I, but Christ” (Gal 2:20), and a “C” is a bent “I.” The Lord Jesus cannot live in us fully and reveal Himself through until the proud self within us is broken. This simply means that the hard unyielding self, which justifies itself, wants its own way, stands up for its rights, and seeks its own glory, at last bows its head to God’s will, admits its wrong, gives up its own way to Jesus, surrenders its rights and discards its own glory – that the Lord Jesus might have all and be all. In other words it is dying to self and self-attitudes.

[Roy Hession, The Calvary Road (Fort Washington, Penn,: Christian Literature Crusade, 1950), 21.]

The path to joy, fulfillment, and freedom in Christ is brokenness.

And whoever does not take his cross and  follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matt. 10:38-39).

Lord, we pray, change our hearts and transform our lives that we might reflect the selflessness of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Saints Who Struggle Just Like Us

Seeing Ourselves in Peter
‘Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’
Luke 22:31-32, KJV

For some strange reason, we seem to love people more when they are not too perfect.

In the presence of a faultless saint, the average one of us feels ill at ease. We are likely to be discouraged rather than inspired by the sight of a character too impeccable to be human. We draw more help from a man if we know that he is going through the fire along with the rest of us, and we may even take courage from the fact that he does not enjoy it any more than we do.

This may be the reason Christians have always felt a special affection for Simon Peter. We speak of Paul with solemn respect but of Peter with an understanding smile. When the doughty old fisherman is mentioned, the face of the ordinary struggling Christian lights up. Here is a man who is one of us, we say to ourselves. He had faults, but he conquered them and went on to become great in spite of them. He was no alabaster saint, faintly redolent of incense, gazing absently over our heads as we labor onward through the storm. He too knew the sting of the wind and the fury of the waves and, what is more to our comfort, he did not always acquit himself like a hero when he was in a tight spot. And that helps a lot when we are not doing too well ourselves.

Peter contained or has been accidentally associated with more contradictions than almost any other Bible character. He appeared to be a combination of courage and cowardice, reverence and disrespect, selfless devotion and dangerous self-love. Only Peter could solemnly swear that he would never desert Christ and then turn around and deny Him the first time he got in a tight place. Only Peter could fall at Jesus’ feet and acknowledge his own sinfulness and then rebuke his Lord for suggesting something with which he did not agree. The two natures that strove within him made him say and do things that appeared to be in direct contradiction to each other–and all within a matter of hours. Peter was a “rock,” yet he wavered, and so, I suppose, managed to become the only wavering rock in history. And he surely was the only man in the world who had faith enough to walk on water but not enough faith to continue to do so when the wind blew.

A. W. Tozer, We Travel an Appointed Way (Harrisburg, Penn.:Christian Publications, 1988).
Prayer: Lord, may I learn from my failures the lessons You seek to teach me.

The Inward Content of Revival

Revival Begins on the Inside of Each of Us (Preface)

Over the next several weeks, I will be blogging my thoughts on the book, The Calvary Road, written by noted speaker and author, Roy Hession. The Calvary Road was written over fifty years ago, but the book’s sales never diminish. Why the lasting impact? Hession speaks to the great need of every believer’s heart–personal revival. Sin darkens my spirit. My selfishness steals away my joy in God and stifles my on-going experience of the presence of the Lord. I need healing, restoration, forgiveness, and renewal. Hession’s book brings me to the foot of the Cross, where Christ’s blood is ready and available for cleansing and heart-change.

I read Hession’s book many years ago (July 1979 to be exact) at Crystal Springs Institute, the training school for Agape Force ministries, Lindale, Texas. However, I have been asked to read the book again. Bishop Chuck Jones, Diocesan Bishop, Central Gulf States Diocese, C.E.C., has directed the presbyters and deacons of our diocese to read The Calvary Road as preparation for our up-coming clergy Lenten retreat. The retreat is scheduled for the first week of March, so I thought I would get started reading Hession’s book now.  I am excited about what God will do in my heart, as well as, the change that the Holy Spirit will bring in all our clergy’s lives.

I begin this series with Hession’s definition of revival. Hession’s definition is important because we often confuse revival with excitement, falling out, dramatic healings, and/or powerful worship. All these outward manifestations can and do occur during a genuine revival, but these outward signs are not necessarily a sign of revival. Revival is personal heart change: confession, repentance, joy, Spirit-baptism, and gospel-driven evangelism. Revival is the restoration of God’s glory in his church. Revival is the manifested presence of the kingdom of God in and among his people actively bringing the lost to salvation and the lukewarm to renewed passionate devotion in Christ.

The outward forms of such revivals do, of course, differ considerably, but the inward and permanent content of them all is always the same: a new experience of conviction of sin among the saints; a new vision of the Cross of Jesus and of redemption; a new willingness on man’s part for brokenness, repentance, confession, and restitution; a joyful experience of the power of the blood of Jesus to cleanse fully from sin and restore and heal all that that sin has lost and broken; a new entering into the fullness of the Holy Spirit and His power to do His own work through His people; and a new gathering in of the lost ones to Jesus.

[Roy Hession, The Calvary Road (Fort Washington, Penn., Christian Literature Crusade, 1950), 11.]

John Piper has a similar definition of revival that is also helpful:

Revival is the sovereign work of God to awaken his people with fresh intensity to the truth and glory of God, the ugliness of sin, the horror of hell, the preciousness of Christ’s atoning work, the wonder of salvation by grace through faith, the urgency of holiness and witness, and the sweetness of worship with God’s people.

[John Piper, A Godward Life: Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life (Sisters, Ore: Multnomah Books, 1997), 111.]

Dear Lord,

We ask that you would change our hearts: convict us of our sins, forgive our many transgressions, and renew your Holy Spirit in us. We beg you to use The Calvary Road to bring us into personal revival.


Mary in the Mind of the Early Church Fathers

My communion is the Charismatic Episcopal Church (C.E.C.), a convergence movement denomination that attracts clergy and lay people from various Evangelical, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox backgrounds. We love one another and have as a common goal the knowledge and love of Christ. However, our different backgrounds bring differing perspectives about various theological truths. Mainly truths and issues that have been debated since the Reformation. (Please note that the Historic Church has been in substantial agreement on major doctrines like the Trinity since its beginning.) Therefore, when I attended seminary at Beeson Divinity School, I choose essay topics that would examine these various “problems.” One of my goals in studying at this fine institution was to research and examine these “controversial” theological questions: questions that came up during our many clergy gatherings and friendly poolside debates. One such discussion involved the Blessed Virgin Mary: Was she sinless? Was she assumed into heaven? Did she contribute to our salvation? Was she a model of the church?

My essay, “What Did the Church Fathers Believe About the Blessed Virgin Mary?”, examines these questions in light of the literature of the first six hundred years of church history. I tackle these questions and attempt to draw conclusions about the Patristic period’s understanding of Mary: Did they believe the same as present day Evangelicals, or Roman Catholics, or did the Fathers hold to a different understanding that neither group possesses? Check out my essay and conclude for yourself.

What Did the Church Fathers Believe About the Blessed Virgin Mary?

Rev. Canon Glenn E. Davis


No subject stirs passionate emotion between members of the Roman Catholic Church and adherents of Evangelical Protestantism then a discussion about Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Recently, this theological controversy was brought to the forefront again by an article featured in Newsweek magazine. This essay pointed out the vast amount of lay support in the Roman Catholic Church for declaring Mary co-Redemptrix and co-Mediatrix with the Lord Jesus Christ:

This week a large box shipped from California and addressed to “His Holiness, John Paul II” will arrive at the Vatican. The shipping label lists a dozen countries–from every continent but Antarctica–plus a number, 40,383, indicating the quantity of signatures inside. Each signature is attached to a petition asking the pope to exercise the power of papal infallibility to proclaim a new dogma of the Roman Catholic faith: that the Virgin Mary is “Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces and Advocate for the People of God.[1]

The Evangelical world was aghast for it had hoped that the Roman Catholic Church was moderating its position about Mary. Recent ecumenical dialogues with the Roman Catholic theologians had resulted in warm and responsive discussions; Evangelicals looked forward to continued rapprochement. However, Evangelicals were not only grieved that Mary would be elevated to a redeemer status, but also that the doctrine of Papal Infallibility could be invoked in order to establish Mary as a co-Redemptrix and co-Mediatrix with Christ. The mere mention of the concept of infallible Papal authority renewed many old theological anxieties for Evangelicals: tensions, debates, and antagonisms of the Reformation period were renewed. The reaction was immediate and strong from the Billy Graham founded magazine, Christianity Today.

The possibility, however remote, of the pope’s responding to the grassroots groundswell by giving Mary titles that blur the New Testament’s clear vision of Jesus’ unique role in our salvation endangers this uncompromising achievement of clarity [the Evangelicals and Catholics Together Joint Statement on Salvation]. All of which prompts us to say, Don’t. Don’t give to Mary that which belongs to Jesus. Do keep on the road established at Vatican II. [2]

The Roman Catholic Church already has such an official high view of Mary that many Evangelicals feel such that a belief diminishes the centrality of Christ. The Roman Catholic Church presents Mary as the ever-virgin, sinless handmaid, and heavenly intercessor. Rome encourages the faithful in their devotion to Mary:

Mary is the perfect Orans (prayer), a figure of the Church. When we pray to her, we are adhering with her to the plan of the Father, who sends his Son to save all men. Like the beloved disciple we welcome Jesus’ mother into our homes, for she has become the mother of all the living. We can pray with and to her. The prayer of the Church is sustained by the prayer of Mary and united with it in hope.[3]

This statement, and others like it, upset many Evangelicals fearing that the Roman Catholic understanding of Mary distracts from the Lord Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross, his unique mediatorial position, and his ministry of heavenly intercession. Therefore, the question needs to be asked, “What did the Fathers of the Church believe about Mary, the Mother of Jesus? Did they lay the groundwork for present Roman Catholic doctrine? On the other hand, did the Fathers simply affirm what modern Evangelicals believe today? The purpose of this essay is to answer that question.

[1] Kenneth L. Woodward, “Mary: A Growing Movement in the Roman Catholic Church Wants the Pope to Proclaim a New, Controversial Dogma: That Mary is a Co-Redeemer. Will He Do It, Maybe in Time for the Millennium? Should He?” Newsweek, July 25, 1997 [article-on-line].

[2] David Neff, “Let Mary Be: Why the Pope Shouldn’t Give Mary that which Belongs to Her Son.” Christianity Today, Vol.41, No.14 (December 8, 1997), 14.

[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church, St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church web site, ( 2679.

Read the entire document on Scribd: Mariology in the Early Church

How Should Protestants Understand Mary?

Mary, a Role Model for All the Faithful

Below is an excerpt from an interview conducted in 2002 by Christianity Today magazine with theologians, Thomas Oden and J. I. Packer, on the issue of the early church, Evangelicalism, and devotion to Mary. Both theologians are respected by Evangelicals worldwide and by the bishops and clergy of the Charismatic Episcopal Church (C.E.C.).

How did official church thinking about Mary change?

Thomas Oden responds:

In 431 A.D., there was the ecumenical Council of Ephesus, which raised the question as to whether the liturgy is right or wrong in calling Mary, theotokos. That Greek word means “Bearer of God.” There was a certain party that said, “We should not say theotokos, we should say only christotokos.” They were saying, “No, Mary didn’t bear God, she just bore Jesus Christ.”

The council affirmed that the liturgy is right—not that Mary is the source of God but rather that Mary is the bearer of the Incarnation. She is the one through whom the fleshly incarnate Lord becomes living history for us. That was a key point of doctrine that Protestants later took. Both Calvin and Luther affirmed the term theotokos.

Why should evangelicals pay attention to Mary?

J. I. Packer summarizes:

I think we (i.e., Protestants) lose by not focusing on Mary. On the one hand, she is a magnificent model of total trustful devotion. She’s being told she is to fulfill the public role of an unmarried mother. Yet she says, “Be it to me according to your will.” We evangelicals ought to remember Mary for that.

Secondly, we ought to take the theology of the Magnificat seriously and celebrate Mary, the mother of the Lord, as head of the line of those who are blessed to be saved sinners.

Read entire interview.

“Our Sins Are Many–But His Mercies Are More”

Christ is Greater Than Our Discouragement

I hope what you find in yourself by daily experience, will humble you—but not discourage you.

For if our Physician is almighty—our disease cannot be desperate. Our sins are many—but His mercies are more. Our sins are great—but His righteousness is greater. When our sins prevail, remember that we have an Advocate with the Father, who is able to pity, to pardon, and to save to the uttermost!

It is better to be admiring the compassion and fullness of grace which is in our Savior—than to dwell and pore too much upon our own poverty and vileness.

John Newton, Letters of John Newton (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth: 2007)

HT: Of First Importance

Spurgeon, the R.C. Church & the Gospel

Charles Spurgeon

Famous Baptist preacher, Charles H. Spurgeon, comments on his visit to a Roman Catholic Church in Belgium during the year 1860. Spurgeon maintained strong negative opinions of the Roman Catholic Church, but here he finds much that he admires:

In Brussels, I heard a good sermon in a Romish church. The place was crowded with people, many of them standing, though they might have had a seat for a halfpenny or a farthing; and I stood, too; and the good priest — for I believe he is a good man, — preached the Lord Jesus with all his might. He spoke of the love of Christ, so that I, a very poor hand at the French language, could fully understand him, and my heart kept beating within me as he told of the beauties of Christ, and the preciousness of His blood, and of His power to save the chief of sinners. He did not say, ‘justification by faith,’ but he did say, ‘efficacy of the blood,’ which comes to very much the same thing. He did not tell us we were saved by grace, and not by our works; but he did say that all the works of men were less than nothing when brought into competition with the blood of Christ, and that the blood of Jesus alone could save. True, there were objectionable sentences, as naturally there must be in a discourse delivered under such circumstances; but I could have gone to the preacher, and have said to him, ‘Brother, you have spoken the truth;’ and if I had been handling the text, I must have treated it in the same way that he did, if I could have done it as well. I was pleased to find my own opinion verified, in his case, that there are, even in the apostate church, some who cleave unto the Lord, — some sparks of Heavenly fire that flicker amidst the rubbish of old superstition, some lights that are not blown out, even by the strong wind of Popery, but still cast a feeble gleam across the waters sufficient to guide the soul to the rock Christ Jesus.

Lewis Drummond, Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel, 1992), 343-344.

BTW, Dr. Drummond’s book is an enjoyable read. Definitely, his book is the most thorough of all the published biographies of Spurgeon. I took Dr. Drummond’s seminary course, “Spurgeon on Leadership,” while attending Beeson Divinity School.  I greatly enjoyed the book, the class, and Dr. Drummond’s love of Spurgeon and his passion for evangelism. “Louie” Drummond is greatly missed.

HT: Richard Mouw