Pastor L.R. Shelton, March 5, 1967, www.radiomissions.org
Listen to Isaiah 1:4-6, "Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward, Why should ye be stricken any more? Ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment."
Every preacher you talk with today of any denomination, who has any spiritual discernment at all, will tell you there is something wrong in the pulpit and the pew, but he is not able to put his finger on it and point it out and tell you exactly what it is. Now, my friend, that's the situation we face all over the world today. That's right. There are a few who can, but they are in the vast minority, and their voices are cried down, because man is trying to figure the Way out himself instead of submitting himself to the Lord, The ministry Will plow on and preach and struggle and wrestle with the unknown problem, trying this method and that method, this plan and that plan, to try to remedy the thing that is wrong in the pulpit and the pew, but in the end they find that all their plans and methods have failed. Why? They are SPIRITUALLY BLINDED. They are sincere, honest, zealous, and many of them are giving their very lives trying to remedy the situation but they cannot bring us out of the mud and mire in Which we are stalled today. That's exactly where we are - we are bogged down in the mud of materialism and rationalism and infidelity and the mud of sin and religious profession.
Now what is the trouble? You may ask me the question, "Brother Shelton, do you known?" Yes, I do know - and that's not being smart either. It's all because one day GOD OPENED MY EYES to let me see my own condition, my own spiritually bankrupt, totally-depraved condition; and having seen my own condition, I know the condition of every other individual who is in the same rut. If I were a doctor brought in on a case to analyze or diagnose that patient's condition, and I told you exactly what was wrong, Would you call me smart? No, you would say, "He just knew."
I remember an incident that happened some years ago in the western part of this state. A man lay dying, and they called in doctor after doctor, but no one could find the cause. Finally this group of doctors turned to the family and said, "We are at our road's end. We do not know the cause nor the remedy. Do you have any suggestions to make?" The wife said, "Yes, about 10 miles from here, in the country, is an old-time doctor. Will you kindly call him in? " They laughed, but said, "Well, there's nothing We can do, We may as well call him." They stood silently around the bed as an old stoop-shouldered, gray-haired doctor came in, sat down by the bedside and looked at the patient. After he examined him, they asked, "Doctor, do you know the trouble?" He said, "Yes, he has What We termed in my younger days a case of old 'swamp fever.' You doctors missed it because you didn't recognize the type of germ you found under your microscope, it looked like a cocklebur, didn't it?" They said, "Yes." Then he said, "That's the germ of the extreme type of malaria called old 'swamp fever'." The doctors had missed it! "Well, what's the remedy?" He answered, "Liquid quinine in the veins." "But doctor," they said, "that's dangerous!" "Yes, it's a life and death proposition; it will either kill or cure." They had to have that quinine [medicine used especially for treating malaria] brought in by plane from a distant city. He injected it in the veins of the dying man and sat up with him all night - and that man recovered. Now did they cell that doctor smart? No, he just knew!
The trouble With our religious situation today is that our preachers see and acknowledge one side of the Gospel, but reject the other, They see that Christ died for sinners; they see that salvation is by grace; they see that there is no redemption apart from shedding of blood; they see that you must believe on Christ to be saved, but the thing they don't see (and will not admit) is man's TOTALLY-DEPRAVED CONDITION, because they have never been awakened by the Holy Spirit. They have religion without life; profession without possession, and church membership without Christ. They grope in the dark, but never find the door that leads to the light, That door is REPENTANCE, and repentance is the missing note in present day preaching. Some of them will talk about repentance and try to give a description of repentance, which they have read out of books but they have never EXPERIENCED repentance.
The reason they have never experienced repentance is because they have never known HOLY SPIRIT CONVICTION. Much that is passed off as Holy Spirit conviction today is nothing more or less than a psychological, emotional moving upon am old dead corpse by high pressure evangelism that has moved him intellectually, but cannot awaken him spiritually. Only the Holy Spirit can awaken a dead sinner. "You hath he quickened (or made alive), Who were dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1). All your organization cannot take the place of Holy Spirit conviction. Organization is all right and needful - there's nothing wrong with that; there has to be a certain amount of organization in anything you do; there has to be the shell to hold the kernel. Prayer meetings, cottage prayer meetings, etc., are all right, but all your organizations, no matter how perfectly they run, no matter how many prayer meetings you have - and they ought to be - will not awaken sinners if Holy Spirit conviction is missing. All your preaching, and so on, will never awaken a Sinner!
From the study of the Bible and old Puritan writings, an individual can learn depravity, and he can talk about depravity, but it never registers with him that his will is depraved. Now, brother, I did that for three years before God ever awakened me to the fact that I was a lost sinner. That's right; such individuals don't know that their wills are depraved, and governed by their depraved hearts until they EXPERIENCE it under Holy Spirit conviction, Until a preacher experiences Holy Spirit conviction and is made to see that his will is totally depraved and is governed and controlled by a totally-depraved heart, he Will preach and teach that man has the ability to believe and receive Christ, and that salvation hinges upon man's believing, which is equivalent to making FAITH salvation, making faith your god. When once a sinner has been brought under Holy Spirit conviction and is convicted of the sin of unbelief, and comes to see that his whole depraved heart is one of unbelief, that his old depraved, unbelieving heart controls his depraved will, and that he can't believe until the Holy Spirit breaks the power of sin, the power of Satan, and gives him faith to believe, it is then and only then that he can receive Christ and trust Him as his own personal Lord and Savior. Salvation is wholly of grace and is wrought within the he art by the Holy Spirit. Faith is wrought in the heart by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, the faith of God's elect, the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ by which a man receives Christ. When a sinner is awakened, I send him to the Word of God because Christ is revealed to his heart through the Word. The Holy Spirit first reveals the sinner to himself through the Word. Now, you put that down and hold it. Then the Holy Spirit reveals Christ to that sinner's heart through the Word - the way out. Christ doesn't come from above or from beneath; He's lifted up out of the Word, and you are lifted up out of the Word, that is, He lifts your condition up out of the Word. You make much of the Word, sinner.