While George Whitefield was doing menial tasks for the richer students at Oxford University, his own interests became intensely focussed.
He discovered that his experience in the ‘public house was now of service to me’, in that he was able to serve others diligently and humbly. Yet he could not throw in his lot with the other servitors, whom he felt would become a bad influence on him.
He was aiming for higher things.
Religion vs. Being Born Again
He began to read the books that Charles Wesley, his new friend, lent him. One small volume had a real impact on him, Henry Scougal’s ‘The Life of God in the Soul of Man.’ (see Piper on Scougal)
Whitefield realised that, to get right with God, he needed to be born again, not merely to increase his religious efforts.
‘At my first reading it, I wondered what the author meant by saying, ‘That some falsely placed religion in going to church, doing hurt to no one, being constant in the duties of the closet [ie. private prayer], and now and then reaching out their hands to give alms to their poor neighbours.’
‘Alas!’ though I, ‘if this be not true religion, what is?’
An inward change of heart was needed. What Scougal called, the ‘union of the soul with God, and Christ formed within us.’ Whitefield writes, ‘a ray of Divine light was instantaneously darted in upon my soul, and from that moment…did I know that I must be a new creature.’ (GW Journals, Banner of Truth, p.47)
A pre-evangelistic flurry!
At last he’d seen it! Not religious duty, but the life of God coming and changing us! And he immediately began communicating it to others even though he had not yet experienced it himself!
Whitefield realised that the New Birth was absolutely central for an individual’s relationship to God and for any hope of getting to heaven. It was a clear-as-day revelation to him – and it was to become the pivotal emphasis in his preaching.
The New Birth not a New Teaching
This doctrine of the New Birth didn’t begin with Whitefield, of course, nor with Henry Scougal.
In John’s Gospel we’re told that a highly religious man, Nicodemus visited Jesus one evening to ask him questions. Nicodemus was a well known teacher, and was a respected authority on Scripture.
Yet Jesus cuts across Nicodemus’ expectations by telling him, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
Faith Comes to Life
The new birth is, as Whitefield discovered, an inner work of God. As you learn more about Jesus Christ, on hearing about His perfect life, His sacrificial death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead – faith is aroused! Faith that perhaps wasn’t there before!
As it begins to dawn on you that Jesus truly and specifically died on the cross for your sins, to forgive you of every one, and present you before God as holy – faith is aroused, and springs up!
This faith, as it comes alive causes a desire for Christ and for His forgiveness. We find ourselves being drawn to God! We long for His forgiveness and for His purposes in our lives. We are willing to turn from sin and live for Him.
My friend, you can discover right now what George Whitefield discovered hundreds of years ago: that God loves you deeply, that He is willing to forgive your sins, and bring you home to Himself. You can have a brand new start and come into a right relationship with God today.
Why don’t you ask God to turn you around and make you into a follower of Jesus Christ?
You’ll need to find a church. You can begin by looking here.
To read more about Whitefield click here
To read the first part of the life of Whitefield click here
© 2009 Lex Loizides