Johann Arndt (1555-1621), teacher and minister in Braunschweig and Niedersachsen in Germany, led untold numbers of German seekers to new life in Christ, through prayer, contemplation, and down-to-earth instructions on how to walk on the narrow way. With quaint little wood cuts and homey stories — the first spiritual writing of its kind — nobody could forget the points, once they had read them.
My Great-grandfather, Peter Hoover of the Rainham Mennonite settlement on the North Shore of Lake Erie, considered Johann Arndt’s book the most important writing outside of the Bible and Martyrs Mirror. The Hutterites almost died out in the 1700s but a group of Catholics, reading Johann Arndt, found new life in Christ, joined the movement and an amazing revival followed. Spiritually-minded Amish settlers in America have continued to use and publish Johann Arndt’s books to this day.
What was Johann Arndt’s simple recipe to spiritual success?
If you want to read it in English, using English names and places, you now have a beautiful new opportunity. Read David Bercot’s last book, Secrets of the Kingdom Life.
David sent me a copy, right after it was printed. It took a while to arrive here in Australia, but the following day we began to read it out loud in our family devotions. “That is amazing,” I declared, after the first chapter. “It sounds just like Johann Arndt!” And the more I heard of it, the more like Johann Arndt it became.
Here are a few examples:
Another important secret to living the Kingdom Life is nightly examination and repentance. I schedule my devotional hour at night, so I make this examination part of my devotional time. If your devotional time is in the morning, then make this nightly examination a part of your bedtime prayers.
Ironically, I have come to love this nightly examination and repentance. At first I thought I must be odd in this respect. So I was encouraged when I came across the following statement from Henry Scougal, “Repentance itself is a delightful exercise when it flows from love.” Why would a surrendered Christian find examination and repentance delightful? Because if we’ve had a victorious day, it is extremely encouraging to review the day’s events with God and lay before Him those victories. If we’ve had a day of sin and failure, it’s like laying down a heavy burden to confess these transgressions and failures to God and seek His forgiveness. So either way, nightly examination and repentance is something we should look forward to.
The following is my particular method of examination. You may find it helpful as a model. First, while in prayer before God, I think back to the very beginning of that day’s events, when I woke up that morning. From there I go chronologically through the day’s events one by one. If I overcame a temptation or handled a situation in a godly manner, I thank God for giving me the victory.
When I come to areas of failures or wrong attitudes, I confess and repent of them. But more than that I analyze what the particular circumstances were that led to those failings. I’ve found that my daily failings typically come when I’m responding to other people’s actions or to unexpected negative events. As a result, I’m learning to be particularly vigilant at such times, for that is when I’m most likely to sin. In addition to confessing and repenting, I also ask God to give me victory the next time I’m faced with a similar test.
When I speak of repentance, I’m referring to something more than a quick “I’m sorry.” Genuine repentance means to have profound remorse for sin. It means to feel deep sorrow and regret for rebelling against God. Those living the Kingdom Life don’t just admit to general wrongdoing, but they also acknowledge that they’ve committed crimes against God Himself. William Law writes, “A confession that is without this sorrow and compunction of heart has nothing in it either to make amends for past sins or to produce in us any true reform and amendment of life.” Part of making amends is to apologize to any persons we may have hurt, and ask for their forgiveness.
The benefits from such nightly examination are threefold:
- It enables us to confess and repent of particular sins, not just sins in general. It makes us that much more aware of our conduct throughout each day, knowing we’re going to be giving an account to God at the end of the day.
- Having gone to bed with a fresh recollection of that day’s failings, they should still be fresh on our minds the next morning. So the next morning we can prepare our armor and weapons to vanquish those foes if they arise.
Although I’ve emphasized our sins and failings, it’s good to mull over all of the day’s activities with God— the victories and incidentals, as well as the failures. Go through the events of the day one by one and talk to God about them. Don’t worry that you are leaving God waiting as you mentally peruse the day’s events. He has endless patience and endless time. You never have to worry that He will hang up on you. By reviewing the day with God, you can receive His help in remembering its events. He delights in your conversing with Him in this way, just as a mother would delight in sitting down with her child and hearing her child talk about that day’s events.
If you’ve followed the suggestions in this chapter, you’re on your way to a strong prayer life. But there is still another decisive step you need to take. . . . Chapter 10, pages 51 to 53
When I came to know Brother David (pictured above) years ago, I did not think of him as the Johann Arndt type. He had been trained as a lawyer and linear, totally logic, thought was his strong point. His first books reflected that training.
Now, somewhat amazed, I hear this book and praise God.
David writes about three kinds of obedience to God — Fear Obedience, Dutiful Servant Obedience, and Love Obedience. Amongst this he tells the story of Sammy Slick:
For a moment imagine that you’ve just started work at Grimm’s Hardware Store. The owner, Malcolm Grimm, introduces you to Sammy Slick, with whom you’ll be working closely. “Sammy will teach you the ropes,” Mr. Grimm explains. “He’s a pleasant fellow, and you’ll enjoy working with him.”
And sure enough, you find Sammy a very congenial fellow. You have many good conversations with him, and the two of you laugh a lot. However, you soon notice that Sammy doesn’t follow all the workplace rules.
“Sammy, I hate to say anything,” you mention discretely late one afternoon, “but I notice that you nearly always quit work around 4:50 or 4:55. Mr. Grimm told me that we don’t get off until 5:00. Aren’t you afraid you’re going to get into trouble?”
“Oh, I’m sure old man Grimm doesn’t like me leaving early, but I can guarantee you he’s not going to fire me over it,” Sammy asserts confidently. He then puts away his tools and heads for his car—five minutes early.
You’ve also noticed that Sammy takes about seventy to seventy-five minutes each day for lunch. You remember quite distinctly Mr. Grimm telling you that employees are allowed one hour for lunch. “Say, Sammy,” you finally mention, “I’m sure Mr. Grimm told me that we get an hour lunch break. But you always take nearly an hour and a quarter. Aren’t you afraid you’ll get caught one of these days and get into trouble?”“Oh, I’m sure old man Grimm knows what I’m doing,” Sammy replies dismissively. “But he’s not going to fire me over it. So I don’t worry about it.”
As the weeks pass, you notice that Sammy frequently takes personal calls and texts on his cell phone during work. Often when you need his help with something, you have to wait until he gets off the phone. “Listen, Sammy,” you finally say, “don’t you think you’re going to get in trouble one of these days for spending so much time on your cell phone?”
Shaking his head impatiently, Sammy replies, “What are you—a Boy Scout or something? Yeah, I imagine they don’t like me talking and texting on my cell phone. But believe me, they’re not going to fire me over it. So quit worrying.”
Over time, you notice more and more company rules that Sammy violates. By now, you’ve quit bringing such matters up to him, for you know what his reply will be: “Yeah, I’m not supposed to do it, but they’re not going to fire me over it.”
Sammy Slick Syndrome
So what do you think about Sammy Slick? If you were an employer, would you like to have someone like him working for you? Would you think that Sammy cherishes the relationship he has with you as his employer? Obviously not.
To be sure, Sammy obeys every rule he thinks he’d be fired for breaking. But he stretches or breaks most of the rules he thinks he can get away with. As Sammy has shrewdly calculated, the owner is probably not going to fire him over any single one of these infractions. However, the owner may eventually tire of the attitude that Sammy’s actions reveal. Sammy obviously doesn’t have the company’s best interests at heart.Type 1 Christians typically play the “salvation issue” game. They obey all the big commandments—they don’t commit adultery, fornication, murder, blasphemy, robbery, etc. However, they feel comfortable ignoring the smaller commandments. As we’ve said before, their primary motivation is fear of eternal punishment—not love of God and His commandments.
A primary problem with Type 1 Christians is their heart condition. Jesus talked a lot about the heart when He was on earth. In the parable of the sower, this is how He described the ones who would faithfully bear fruit on the Vine: “The ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15).
Chapter 19, Pg. 96
The new book, Secrets of the Kingdom Life, includes many similar stories and simple instructions. I do not know what you do in your family worship times, or in group Bible studies, but if this book fits in to your schedule, I highly recommend it.
You might write to Scroll Publishers at firstname.lastname@example.org, or else contact the office at:
We pray that the Lord in Heaven will receive many more sincere prayers during the days and years to come as this book is read and applied.
Peter and Susan Hoover
— 19509 Bass Highway Detention River, Tasmania AUSTRALIA 7321 www.thecommonlife.com.au
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