August 16, 2017

Looking for a Substitute for God

John C. Vaughn

One of our FBFI Chaplains recently told me the story of a young soldier who came to him and shared that he was so discouraged that he spent every evening getting drunk to drown his emotional pain. The Chaplain had asked him, “How is that working out for you?” The soldier had to admit, “Well, it’s not helping, and I think it might be making things worse.” That simple exchange expresses the reality of the most common approach man takes to his problem. His own unbelief deceives him into thinking there must be something better that he can still control. But whatever he feeds a selfish appetite only increases it.

There is a better way. The articles in our publications bring appeals for integrity, morality, and ethics— articles that offer real hope by focusing on the problem in the heart. We publish words here that will bring conviction and, we pray, genuine repentance. Some of these articles present the words of the ancients as they struggled. Other appeals come from preachers long since gone to Heaven who we often assume were above temptation. Men who walk among us today appeal for us to arm ourselves with modern weapons against the ancient foe. The long war against the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life must still be waged as long as we walk this earth.

As a young man, I heard a sermon that still speaks to my heart today. Dr. Guenther Salter was speaking in chapel during a summer college session. His title was “Doing Right with the Wrong Heart.” His point was that we must never forget the difference between an outward performance for Christ and a heart relationship with Christ. All human religion demands a performance; the Bible offers a relationship. God would have us focus on what He has done for us more than on what we presume to do for Him. Doing right with the wrong heart means a man can spend his ministry out of fellowship with God. Why are we so surprised when a man who gratifies his lust for praise in public gratifies his other lusts in private?

A powerful new resource to help us understand this deception, taught by Dr. Jim Berg, will soon be released. In Purity: Winning the Battle in a Perverse World, Dr. Berg explains the “anatomy of lust” and cuts to its root: unbelief. As in Changed into His Image and Quieting a Noisy Soul, he exposes the lie that God Himself is not enough. How can those of us in the ministry ever hope to help others see that He is enough for them, if He is not enough for us? Do we preach deliverance while practicing indulgence? Do we offer “sin management” or salvation?

Spurgeon called us away from the “bumbling administration of the healing balm,” and Solomon warned us that “dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour” (Eccles. 10:1). Folly finds a home in the heart that lack integrity. It is spread through the virus of a silly story told in spite of the Holy Spirit’s check. Its roots are sent down by the delay that dulls the cutting edge of conviction. It seems like such a “little folly,” this longing for human appreciation that supplants divine blessing. The reputation for wisdom and honor become the cloak of the wicked ethic that draws attention to ourselves—attention that rightly belongs to our Savior.

At a recent Men’s Conference where Dr. Berg presented this material on purity, over 600 men humbly came to find the spiritual resources to live and help others live with spiritual victory over their lusts. The near unanimous testimony of those who came was the realization of a shockingly simple truth: the perversity that all fallen men have in common is the demand of “self” to rule the life. The outward expressions of that self-rule cover the spectrum from celebrated success to humiliating defeat, but they are the symptoms of a life-destroying deception. The central point of the Humanist Manifesto is that “no God will save us; we must save ourselves.” That statement has become a prevailing worldview, not because of the success of the Humanists, but because it expresses the fallen nature of man. Every man who indulges his sinful lusts is looking for a substitute for God.


John Vaughn is the President of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International.

(Originally published in FrontLine • March/April 2007. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)


Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

Submit other comments here.