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Loving God: The Cost of Being a Christian

Loving God: The Cost of Being a Christian

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Loving God: The Cost of Being a Christian

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405 Seiten
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Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
13. März 2018
ISBN:
9780310352631
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” But how many of us know what this looks like in daily life? Does loving God mean going to church, tithing, having regular prayer times? Is it a feeling in our hearts?

A few years after Chuck Colson became a Christian, he realized that the more he learned about God’s love for him, the more he wanted to know how to love God. This book is the masterpiece Colson wrote after searching Scripture, history, and his own difficult experiences to answer his deepest question. He discovered that loving God is obeying God—rarely easy, sometimes inconvenient, often painful, and entirely satisfying. When we love God, we know the pleasure of living out our true calling.

Billy Graham considers Loving God “one of the most spiritually satisfying books I have ever read.” Joni Eareckson Tada refers to it as “the complete volume on Christian living.” With fascinating stories and engaging theological insights, Loving God has been bringing people closer to Jesus for over thirty years. In this hour of opportunity for the church and for our own spiritual lives, Loving God will inspire you to love God with your whole being. It’s what you were created to do.

Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
13. März 2018
ISBN:
9780310352631
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

Chuck Colson was a popular and widely known author, speaker, and radio commentator. A former presidential aide to Richard Nixon and founder of the international ministry Prison Fellowship, he wrote several books that have shaped Christian thinking on a variety of subjects, including Born Again, Loving God, How Now Shall We Live?, The Good Life, and The Faith. His radio broadcast, BreakPoint, at one point aired to two million listeners. Chuck Colson donated all of his royalties, awards, and speaking fees to Prison Fellowship Ministries.


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Loving God - Charles W. Colson

Powerful, prophetic, persuasive, personal—here’s a Christian classic that every follower of Jesus should read and absorb!

Lee Strobel, author of The Case for Christ and Professor of Christian Thought, Houston Baptist University

Loving God preserves the best of Chuck Colson’s legacy. Its thrilling stories and revealing personal vignettes capture Colson’s deep faith in the power of a loving God to transform lives.

Philip Yancey

Charles Colson may have passed away, but his influence on our lives and culture never will. Few men have impacted me more personally and powerfully than this wonderful man of authentic faith.

Governor Mike Huckabee

Looking for the complete volume on Christian living? This is it. And the title sums it up. If you desire life deep, rich, and meaningful, then it is simply Loving God.

Joni Eareckson Tada, president, Joni and Friends

Chuck Colson’s voice is sorely needed today, and I deeply miss him. He was at once a shrewd Christian statesman and true gentleman, ever able to discern the real need at hand and offer perspective and hope.

Ravi Zacharias, author and speaker

One of the most spiritually satisfying books I have read.

Billy Graham

ALSO BY CHARLES COLSON

The Faith: What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It, and Why It Matters (Charles Colson and Harold Fickett)

God and Government: An Insider’s View on the Boundary Between Faith and Politics

My Final Word: Holding Tight to the Issues That Matter Most (with Anne Morse)

Doing the Right Thing Video Study: Making Moral Choices in a World Full of Options (DVD)

Charles Colson on Politics and the Christian Faith: Four Sessions on Why Christians Must Live Out Their Faith, Promote Freedom, and Be Good Citizens (DVD)

ZONDERVAN

Loving God

Copyright © 1987, 1996, 2018 by Charles W. Colson

Loving God

Text Copyright © 1983 by Charles W. Colson

Loving God Study Guide

Copyright © 1983 by Prison Fellowship Communications, Box 17500, Washington, D.C.

Requests for information should be addressed to:

Zondervan, 3900 Sparks Dr. SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49546

Epub Edition February 2018 9780310352631

ISBN 978-0-310-35262-4 (softcover)

ISBN 978-0-310-35266-2 (audio edition)

ISBN 978-0-310-35263-1 (ebook)

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.Zondervan.com. The NIV and New International Version are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.®

Scripture quotations marked NASB are taken from the New American Standard Bible®. Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org).

Scripture quotations marked KJV are taken from the King James Version. Public domain.

Any Internet addresses (websites, blogs, etc.) and telephone numbers in this book are offered as a resource. They are not intended in any way to be or imply an endorsement by Zondervan, nor does Zondervan vouch for the content of these sites and numbers for the life of this book.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher.

Study Guide by Art Lindsley and Anita Moreland (with contributions from Dr. Carl F. H. Henry, Charles W. Colson, Ellen Santilli, and Whitney Kuniholm)

Art direction: Curt Diepenhorst

Interior design: Kait Lamphere

Edited by Judith Markham

First printing January 2018/Printed in the United States of America

To those who introduced me to the love of God,

to those who demonstrated it in their love for me,

and to those who challenged me to love Him in return.

And especially to my coworkers in Prison Fellowship,

who share with me the daily pilgrimage of loving God.

Editor’s Note

All the stories in this book are true. In some, names have been changed; in others, editorial liberties have been taken to combine certain events for purposes of clarity or illustration. In one case, the use of allegory proved the most effective literary device to make the point. But in all instances the events underlying the stories are true. Background details have been researched as thoroughly as possible, although at times inferences were drawn from the limited facts available. Where that is the case, it is made evident in the text.

Contents

Foreword by Eric Metaxas

Preface

How It All Began: An Introduction

OBEDIENCE

1. Prologue: Paradox

2. A Russian Doctor

3. Faith and Obedience

THE WORD OF GOD

4. Take Up and Read

5. Just Another Book?

6. Watergate and the Resurrection

7. Believing God

SIN AND REPENTANCE

8. A Christian Gangster?

9. Whatever Became of Sin?

10. It Is in Us

11. Remember Me

12. We Were There

THE HUNGER FOR HOLINESS

13. Be Holy Because I Am Holy

14. The Everyday Business of Holiness

15. And His Righteousness

16. Contra Mundum

17. The Radical Christian

THE HOLY NATION

18. The Holy Nation

19. Shared Suffering

20. The Church on the Front Lines

21. This Is My Body

LOVING GOD

22. Life and Death

In the Arena: An Allegory

Epilogue: Where Are They Now? . . .

With Gratitude

Special Acknowledgments

Notes

STUDY GUIDE

Introduction

Study Guide

Foreword

Sometimes the experience of reading a book is so vivid it becomes branded onto one’s memory, which is precisely the searing tale of my experience with the book you are about to read.

As I tell in my own book Miracles, I had come to faith literally overnight in the summer of 1988. In fact, it had all been so dramatic and sudden that many of my Yale college friends thought I’d flipped my everlasting wig, while others simply regarded me as a pariah nonpareil.

Part of the reason for the dissonance between my friends and me had to do with the cultural milieu of that decade. A series of ugly televangelist scandals had only just erupted across American culture the year before, and the media mandarins reveled in it with unbounded Schadenfreude. How wonderful to be able to tag those right-wing Christians as proven hypocrites. Thus grainy images of a repentant Jimmy Swaggart weeping to God for his sins was played and played—and goggled at and goggled at—as though it were some kind of newfound Zapruder footage.

Did it never occur to those reveling in these things that this man was a human being, one who had made mistakes and was deeply sorry for them? Had they never themselves made mistakes? Or were they so bitter toward outspoken Christians that they could happily kick away any hints of their own shortcomings and take unmitigated joy in this hypocritical rube’s comeuppance? Alas, it was the latter, and then some.

But we mustn’t pretend this phenomenon was unique to the Eighties. It continues today and it’s been happening since at least the 1920s, when the Scopes Monkey Trial bitterly divided the nation into progressive secularists and backward fundamentalists. During that time the acerbic H. L. Mencken took aim at what he derisively called the booboisie, those hicks who believe in God and cling to their guns and bibles.

So yes, the supposed hypocrisy of backward Christians has been the bête noir of the glittering and chattering classes for nearly a century.

But until the summer of 1988 I had always been safely on the correct side of this divide. And suddenly now I’d gone off the reservation and joined the knuckle-dragging enemy! Of course, in order to join them I first had to see that these enemies were not enemies at all. Many of these Christians were as bright and educated as the friends I had left behind. And many of them seemed emotionally healthy and even happy. It was a revelation. Where had these wonderful people of faith been hiding? There was no evidence of them in the media and pop culture portrayals of people of faith.

As a result of all this, my eyes were always peeled for such books and persons as one might deem intellectually respectable. I didn’t disdain humble things—on the contrary, I had found many people with little education whose wisdom and common sense spectacularly surpassed that of the supposed intellectuals I had known at Yale—but I knew that if I wanted to reach those I had left behind, I needed to get my hands on things of some intellectual substance. After all, if what I believed were true, one ought to be able to discuss it from all angles and with some intelligence, no?

That’s when my new friend Ken Scribner mentioned Chuck Colson. Chuck Colson! I remembered his name from the Watergate scandal when I was ten or eleven. Was that Chuck Colson now a born-again Christian? As I looked into him, I half remembered how the press had mocked him when he had come to faith. He was the infamous White House Hatchetman who once boasted he’d run over his grandmother to get President Nixon re-elected! And now he was one of those Holy Rollers! Needless to say, the media had fun with it.

About a year after I had found God someone told me that Chuck Colson had written some books, including a wonderful book titled Loving God. I knew I had to get a copy as soon as possible. So I found the latest Christian Book Distributors catalog, and there it was. I ordered a copy, and before you could say Alexander Solzhenitsyn, it arrived in my mail box and I promptly tore into it.

One of the memories I will treasure for the rest of my life is the feeling I got when I read the end of the first chapter—which I hope you will soon read—about the Jewish doctor in the Stalinist labor camp and the patient to whom he told his outrageous story. The feeling of reading the ultimate words of that chapter will be with me for the rest of my life.

There is so much in it that it is destined to become a classic of the faith. It is at least a must-read. In my opinion, it is the best of all Colson’s books. Little did I know when I devoured it in my mid-twenties that I would myself go on to write books—and that I would have the privilege of meeting and then working for and then even befriending the towering hero of mine who had written it.

But with God, all things are possible. That much I’ve learned.

May this book help lead you to the glorious destiny God has prepared for you. Amen.

Eric Metaxas

New York City

November 2017

Preface

Twenty-one years ago on January 31, 1975, I walked out of prison gates, free after seven months inside. But as a new Christian, I was unsure of the future, groping for God’s will, trying to understand the tumultuous events that had brought me to this place.

I had surely known the heights and depths of life: from power, wealth, prestige, and an office next to the president of the United States to the confining walls of a dreary prison. But along the way I had made the most important discovery anyone can make.

That came about on a hot, sultry night in August 1973. As the Watergate scandal was rocking the Nixon presidency and the nation, I—proud and self-assured on the outside, fearful and trembling within—visited a close friend, Tom Phillips, at his home. Phillips was a successful business executive and client who, I had learned, had had some kind of religious experience. That evening Tom told me of his encounter with Jesus Christ, how his life had been dramatically changed. I listened intently. I had never heard anyone talk this way. Though something stirred within me, I kept my emotions in check, too proud to let him know how I felt inside. I left my friend that night, promising only to read a little book which he gave me, Mere Christianity.

But in his driveway that night, the dam burst. I could not drive the car; I was crying too hard, calling out to God with the first honest prayer of my life. I sat there alone for a long time—but not alone at all.

From that day on, nothing about my life has been the same. It can never be again. I have given my life to Jesus Christ.

In that first year out of prison I published my autobiography, Born Again, which God used mightily. But I also wrestled with Him. I knew what had happened to me had been for a purpose. What was it? I longed to return to a quiet life with family. Business and law beckoned, but Patty and I dreamed of long walks in the woods, more time with the children, and above all, being out of the glare of the public spotlight.

But I couldn’t. I knew my call was ministry to prisoners, and in the summer of 1976, six of us gathered for prayer, launching Prison Fellowship. Little did I dream that this ministry would spread around the globe—75 countries, 2,000 prisons in the U.S. alone, thousands of volunteers—to become the most massive outreach of the gospel to the least of these, prisoners and their families.

In those early years I yearned to grow, to know the fullness of the Christian life. I studied under the guidance of godly scholars such as Professor Richard Lovelace and Dr. Carl Henry. I read voraciously. But I was perplexed that Christianity seemed to be having so little impact on modern life. What was it, I asked, that God really wanted from His people? How should we live? And it was out of this struggle, as I’ve explained in the following introduction, that I wrote the book you are about to read, Loving God.

Few things God has done in my life have surprised me as much as this book. At the outset I had modest ambitions: It might reach some serious believers, maybe stir them to a more disciplined life, I hoped. But instead the book went through 26 printings, was translated into twenty languages, over a half-million copies have been sold in the U.S., hundreds of thousands more distributed by the Billy Graham Association, and countless hundreds of thousands more overseas, reaching Europe, China, Korea, much of Africa, all of Latin America, and even behind the former iron curtain.

Over the thirteen years since this book was published, I have been humbled by the thousands of letters it has prompted from people in every station of life—from prime ministers to prisoners. The message is always the same: The writers’ lives had been deeply affected. Some became believers; others discovered the true meaning of being a Christian—to love God and to love one another.

No letter touched me more deeply than one smuggled out of the then Soviet Union in 1990 and sent to the minister who had translated the book into Russian:

You sent your book, Loving God to us, but for a whole month the prison authorities would not release it to us. When we found out about its existence, we complained to Moscow, and finally we were allowed to read this book. In our camp there are about 3,000 prisoners, and everyone has read your book. In actuality, every evening someone would read aloud while 15 to 20 others listened. It’s good that you wrote about the author, Colson. When we learned that he too had been in prison, we understood that he knew the meaning of freedom. In other words, we who hated and thought that such feelings were experienced by all people, learned that it was possible to learn to love God and other people. . . .

Semyon Gorokhov, Valentin Sukonin,

and the other 3,000 prisoners

Magadan, Siberia

12 June 1990

Still burned in my consciousness is the picture of Russian prisoners huddled around a single candle in a cold, barren prison camp, reading the words of this book. I couldn’t help but think back on my years in the White House, when every effort was engaged in trying to affect Soviet policy. What I accomplished was nothing compared to what God had done through the pages of this manuscript, delivering one copy into a Russian prison.

So I am overjoyed at Zondervan’s decision to reprint this book. The need for its message is as great today, maybe greater, than when it was first published thirteen years ago. Then the forces of secularism were on the ascendancy, American culture was in the grips of selfish individualism and empty consumerism; Christian values were in retreat. Since then, however, the culture war has only intensified; postmodernism—the belief that there is no truth and no God—is dominant among secular elites. Christianity has been driven to the margins of society. So never has the need for Christians to be serious about their faith been greater, and never has the message of this book been more urgent.

I pray that as you read through the pages that follow, God will touch your life and you will discover what those Russian prisoners did—that even in the ugliest of times and in the ugliest of circumstances, it is possible to love God and other people.

Chuck Colson

1996

The most pleasurable journey you take is through yourself . . . the only sustaining love involvement is with yourself. . . . When you look back on your life and try to figure out where you’ve been and where you’re going, when you look at your work, your love affairs, your marriages, your children, your pain, your happiness—when you examine all that closely, what you really find out is that the only person you really go to bed with is yourself.  . . . The only thing you have is working to the consummation of your own identity. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do all my life.

Shirley MacLaine¹

It is vain, O men, that you seek within yourselves the cure for your miseries. All your insight only leads you to the knowledge that it is not in yourselves that you will discover the true and the good.

Blaise Pascal

How It All Began: An Introduction

Two strong forces—one external, one internal—came together to forge my decision and determination to write this book. The external force was the result of what I saw happening in the culture around me over a period of years. The internal force had to do with my own spiritual life. Let me explain.

For a generation, Western society has been obsessed with the search for self. We have turned the age-old philosophical question about the meaning and purpose of life into a modern growth industry. Like Heinz, there are fifty-seven varieties, and then some: biofeedback, Yoga, creative consciousness, EST, awareness workshops, TA—each fad with an avid following until something new comes along. The New Age Movement is growing like Topsy.

Popular literature rides this wave with best-selling titles that guarantee success with everything from making money to firming flabby thighs. This not-so-magnificent obsession to find ourselves has spawned a whole set of counterfeit values; we worship fame, success, materialism, and celebrity. We want to live for success as we look out for number one, and we don’t mind winning through intimidation.

However, this self conscious world is in desperate straits. Each new promise leads only to a frustrating paradox. The 1970s self-fulfillment fads led to self-absorption and isolation, rather than the fuller, liberated lives they predicted. The technology created to lead humanity to this new promised land cast across our planet the haunting shadow of a giant mushroom cloud. Computers replace community. Three decades of seemingly limitless affluence have succeeded only in sucking our culture dry, leaving it spiritually empty and economically weakened. Our world is filled with self-absorbed, frightened, hollow people.

Amid these debilitating paradoxes of modern life, men and women search for some shred of meaning, some understanding of self. But the obsessive search for self leads only to the narcissistic destruction of what is so avidly sought. Consider the young woman cited in a Psychology Today article: her nerves were shot from too many all-night parties and discos, her life an endless round of pot, booze, and sex. When asked, Why don’t you stop? by her therapist, her startled reply was, You mean I really don’t have to do what I want to do?

And in the midst of all this we have the church—those who follow Christ. For the church, this ought to be an hour of opportunity. The church alone can provide a moral vision to a wandering people; the church alone can step into the vacuum and demonstrate that there is a sovereign, living God who is the source of Truth.

BUT, the church is in almost as much trouble as the culture, for the church has bought into the same value system: fame, success, materialism, and celebrity. We watch the leading churches and the leading Christians for our cues. We want to emulate the best-known preachers with the biggest sanctuaries and the grandest edifices.

Preoccupation with these values has also perverted the church’s message. The assistant to one renowned media pastor, when asked the key to his man’s success, replied without hesitation, We give the people what they want. This heresy is at the root of the most dangerous message preached today: the what’s-in-it-for-me gospel.

The victorious Christian life has become man’s victorious life, not God’s. A popular daily devotional quotes Psalm 65:9, The streams of God are filled with water, and paraphrases it, I fill my mind to overflowing with thoughts of prosperity and success. I affirm that God is my source and God is unlimited.¹ This is not just a religious adaptation of the look-out-for-number-one, winner-take-all, God-helps-those-who-help-themselves gospel of our culture; it is heresy.

Thus, both the world and the church are groping for answers.

• • •

As I saw what was happening around me, I also became aware of something happening inside me. This surfaced a few years ago when I was experiencing one of those periods of spiritual dryness we all encounter. When I told a friend, he suggested I watch a videocassette lecture series by Dr. R. C. Sproul on the holiness of God.

All I knew about Sproul was that he was a theologian, so I expected a heavy dose of theology. After all, I reasoned, theology was for people who had time to study, locked in ivory towers far from the battlefields of human need. However, at my friend’s urging I finally agreed to watch Sproul’s series.

By the end of the sixth lecture I was on my knees, deep in prayer, in awe of God’s absolute holiness. It was a life-changing experience as I gained a completely new understanding of the holy God I believe in and worship.

My spiritual drought ended, but this taste of the majesty of God only made me thirst for more of Him. So I gathered up contemporary books on the subject of discipleship—by the armload. Many were excellent, in particular, Jerry Bridges’ book Pursuit of Holiness, which I have come to regard as a classic. But many others dealt more with evangelism than discipleship; and most seemed concerned with how to get more out of the Christian life. I wanted to know how to put more into it.

One thing all the books dealt with, of course, was God’s love for humanity and how He showed that love by the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. The more I read about this, the more I wanted to know about what I had begun to see as the corollary—how I show my love for Him. Somehow that seemed to be the key to putting more into the Christian life.

The greatest commandment of all, Jesus said, is Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.² I’d memorized those words but had never really thought about what they meant in practical terms; that is, how to fulfill that command. I wondered if others felt the same way. So I asked a number of more experienced Christians how they loved God.

Well . . . by loving Him, one stammered, then added by way of explanation, . . . with all my heart, soul, and mind.

By maintaining a worshipful heart, offering myself as an acceptable sacrifice, another answered quickly. When I pressed for specifics, he began detailing his devotional reading schedule and prayer life. Halfway through his discourse, he stopped and shrugged. Let me think about it some more.

Faithful church attendance was a frequent response, and tithing ranked high on the list. Several recited favorite sins they no longer pursued while many tried to explain loving God as a feeling in their hearts, as if it were something akin to a romantic encounter. Others looked at me suspiciously, perhaps thinking my query some kind of trick question.

That did it. The cumulative effect of my survey convinced me that most of us, as professing Christians, do not really know how to love God. Not only have we not given thought to what the greatest commandment means in our day-to-day existence, we have not obeyed it. And if this was true for individual believers, what were the ramifications for the church? Perhaps the reason the church was so ineffective in the world was that it had the same needs I did.

• • •

Seeing the desperate hunger in the culture, and realizing how much we as the people of God need to love God, the message of this book was urgently pressed upon me.

My question then, for individual believers and thus the church, is this: do we view our faith as a magnificent philosophy or a living truth; as an abstract, sometimes academic theory or a living Person for whom we are prepared to lay down our lives? The most destructive and tyrannical movements of the twentieth century, Communism and Nazism, have resulted from fanatics single-mindedly applying fallible philosophies. What would happen if we were actually to apply God’s truth for the glory of His kingdom?

The result would be a world turned upside down, revolutionized by the power of God working through individual Christians and the church as a whole.

But we will only be weak and stumbling believers and a crippled church unless and until we truly apply God’s Word—that is, until we truly love Him and act on that love.

Thus, forces internal and external have compelled me to write this book. As mentioned, the search leading to the discoveries recounted herein was sparked by teachings on the holiness of God and my desire to live as a disciple, to love God. But my decision to begin writing came as the result of a visit to one of the squalid places where I spend so much of my life.

Delaware Prison, Easter morning 1980 . . . one of the most important mornings of my life . . .

OBEDIENCE

Only he who believes is obedient;

only he who is obedient believes.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

CHAPTER 1

Prologue: Paradox

It was a glorious Easter Sunday, the spring sun sparkling and warm, the air fresh and sweet. Too nice a day to spend in prison, but that’s where I was bound.

As I approached the sprawling complex of brick buildings surrounded by barbed wire fences, I remembered my first visit here nine months earlier. As in most states, Delaware’s institutions were dangerously overcrowded. The legislature, though unwilling to allocate needed funds, was carping mercilessly at corrections officials. To help make his own assessment of the situation, Governor DuPont had asked me to report on conditions at Delaware State Prison.

On that steamy August day I had visited every corner of the complex. I had walked through dormitories so jammed with sweaty bodies that the air was difficult to breathe. I had seen the psycho ward where a man writhed convulsively against the chains around his bloodied wrists and ankles. Immune to sedation, without restraints he would have destroyed himself. I had continued on

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  • (4/5)
    A treatise on how we can love God. Colson devotes the first part of the book to how we develop a relationship with him and the second to showing how we can carry out that relationship in the world. Colson was fond of the referring to this as "making the invisible kingdom visible" There's nothing new here, but the examples, mostly drawn from Prison Fellowship, are great examples of creative ways to work out faith in life.
  • (3/5)
    Duplicates what he has said in oter books. Devotional reading.
  • (5/5)
    A marvelous book! It got me thinking about what it really means to be a Christian. Colson expounds, with the aid of strikingly illustrative stories,on key doctrines of the Christian worldview such as: the authority of the Bible, the meaning and nature of sin, the necessity of conversion,and a life of holiness. And he powerfully applies these to the conscience, thus compelling anyone who confesses the name of Christ to get up and be a Christian.