The Francis Asbury Society

Founder’s Message

Dr. Kinlaw describes the primary message of FAS

by Dr. Dennis F. Kinlaw

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Message transcription (edited):

First of all, I want to say the Francis Asbury Society has nothing to do with Asbury College or Asbury Theological Seminary. Now I was at the college for a number of years and taught also at the Seminary, and have had that association, but those are institutions, and Francis Asbury Society was founded, not to build an institution, but to promote a message. And there’s a great deal of difference in a program to build an institution, and a program to promote a message. In fact, sometimes it’s harder to tell people what you’re about when what you’re after is to promote a message.

Now what is that message? It’s a very simple biblical one. But it is an incredibly important one. Let me say the thing we want to let the world know is that the blood of Christ can cleanse a human heart so that the heart of a person can be clean from self-interest, from his own desire to keep his thumb on his life, and have some control over his life, that the blood of Christ can cleanse the inner heart of a person enough that he can love God with all of his heart, as Christ said we were supposed to do, with all of his mind, with all of his soul, and love his neighbor as himself.

Now the scripture uses a number of expressions to describe that. One of them is just simply the expression, “pure in heart.” And so in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” And if it’s a pure heart, it is a single heart, it is an undivided heart. Now that’s what Paul’s friend was expressing, and there’s not a one of us who hasn’t experienced it where we’ve had our own thumbs on our own lives, and our lives, our devotion to Christ has been mingled. There’s been a division within us. But the scripture speaks about the possibility that God can take a person’s heart and unite it. The psalmist cried out, “Unite my heart, O God, make it one.” Another expression is, “An eye single to the glory of God.” That as you live, the one purpose in your life is the glory of God, and you have let God take such total control of you that all you are, all you have, all there is about you, is devoted to that end, the glory of God. And as we said, loving Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.

I think this is what Jesus was getting at with the rich young ruler. And this is something that we don’t usually connect with salvation. But you will remember that this young man came to Jesus and said, “What do I have to do to be saved? What do I have to do to have eternal life?” And Jesus said, “Keep the commandments.” And the young man looked back at Jesus and said, “Master, I’ve kept those.” And Jesus said, “OK. One thing thou lackest. Go sell all that you have, give it to the poor, and come take up your cross and follow me.” Now Jesus wasn’t after his wealth, because Jesus didn’t need his wealth. What He wanted was that young man. And when Jesus said, “One thing you lack,” That young man turned and walked away. And Jesus’ heart was broken because he had lost a young person whom He wanted, and wanted totally for Himself.

I think we in America are masters of stepping down the requirements for being a disciple of Jesus, and a follower of Him. We talk about it, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. And so we make a mental response to that and think we are saved. But if you will follow the teachings of Christ, you will find that Christ said there ought to be a cross in every person’s life, just as there’s a cross in His, a cross in every person who claims to be a Christian’s life where a person dies to his own interest, that’s His terminology for getting your thumb off your life, so that Christ controls it. Die to your own interest and your own way and come alive wholly and fully and completely for Christ.

Now somebody will say, “But doesn’t everybody who is a Bible believer believe that? Now unfortunately they don’t. Now I’m going to talk about some people who tar some positions taken by people that are my brothers and sisters in Christ, many of whom I have learned from and profited from. But, you know, my responsibility and yours, is to take the Word of God and follow it as God opens it to you. In our day, for instance, there has been a remarkable reformation in recent years of the Reformation position that Luther took that a person is at the same time both justified and a sinner. And so a person will live all his life without ever being free from sin, but at the same time he can be justified. Now you know, I read in the scripture to save us from our sins, not to save us in our sins. I don’t want to play down the sinfulness and the sinful potential of the human heart, but I would like to address the question of the power of the blood of Christ to cleanse the heart, and to unite a hearts, the power of the Spirit to unite a heart to where a person loves God with all of his heart, loves Him more than he loves anything else in his life, or those things that are related to him.

I’m fascinated by the way in the last fifty years, seventy years in the United States, we’ve had the sweeping movement that we speak of the charismatic movement. Now I have some dear friends that are in that. When I was pastoring in New York, one of the closest friends that I had had, he was the best preacher I could find was an Assembly of God pastor, a Britisher. I had him preach for me numbers of time. But, you know, one of the things that interested me about the charismatic movement is that it talks a great deal about the Holy Spirit and talks about the gifts that the Spirit can give; it talks about the signs and wonders that the Spirit can perform, but the interesting thing is, I can hardly find a charismatic theologian in the United States or in the English speaking world that believes that the baptism of the Holy Spirit really cleanses the human heart. The emphasis is on the power, not on the heart purity. But I notice that Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”

I received the other day a book from a major evangelical press in this country. It was an author’s copy, and was sent to me as a gift. So I opened it. It was on spiritual power and spiritual gifts. And I read a very interesting appeal in it by a man who has nine books on the market, in the Christian bookstores, and he talked about the fact that the thing we need to recognize and let be discovered again the church is the signs and wonders of the Spirit, the power of the Spirit. He went on to explain that you can be filled with the Spirit. Some people are filled 25 percent, some people are filled 50 percent, some people are filled 90 percent, but at no point did he say it was possible for a person to be filled fully, completely. In other words, filled. And then he went on to say, now this has nothing to do with your getting to the place where there is real victory in your life over sin, because, you see, God knows that we are twisted and perverted enough that we will never be able to get away from the contamination of our own carnal self-interest. So he says, “The wonderful thing is that God has stepped down the requirements of grace to meet the condition of our heart.”

Now what intrigued me is that that book will be in every Christian bookstore in a matter of a few days, if it isn’t already there. And you know one of the things that troubles me about much of the preaching on the radio and on TV in our day is the concept that salvation can be separated from the presence of Christ. You know, if you’ve been born again, then you’re in, and you’re fixed forever, and your sins past, present and future are taken care of. And so you don’t have to worry about those. So it doesn’t matter whether you’re in fellowship with Christ or not, it’s whether you’ve had that one-time experience that fixes you.

Now I remember the story in the gospels about Jesus in the boat when the storm came up, and when the disciples were terrified, they turned to Him and said, “Don’t you care whether we perish?” It was the presence of Christ in that boat that saved them in that storm. I do not believe that there is any salvation apart from the presence of Christ. It is when He comes into my life, and I keep Him there, live with Him and walk with Him, let Him keep me through His Spirit, that there is deliverance and freedom and the power of His Spirit. And that is one of the things that troubles me so about the end result being to be born again, Bill Clinton’s born again. And so anybody born again, simply means to be forgiven. It doesn’t mean to be saved from your sins.

I notice that some of the best theological minds in our day say that’s what is the normal Christian life. I have a friend, worked with him on a board for a number of years, he has two articles that are very powerful on Romans 7 and his conclusion is that when Paul said, “The good which I would, I can’t do, and the evil which I would not, that is what I do.” He said that is the normal Christian life because we can never be free from that permeation of sin within us and its control, until the resurrection comes. If I were to name him, he would be known by 90 percent of the people in this crowd. But you know, there is something about me that when I pick up the Bible and read it, I find that there is a different picture there.

And I want to tell you about something else that happened to me that has affected my looking at scripture. In 1970, Elsie and I had just gone to the college and had been there about 16 or 17 months. I came to Louisville to catch an eight o’clock one Tuesday morning, and was headed for Alberta. At five o’clock that afternoon, I landed in the hotel. And as I registered in the hotel, the hotel clerk said, “Mr. Kinlaw, you have an emergency phone call, and I looked to see who it was from, and it was from the dean at the college. And those were the days when we were having riots on the college campuses and university campuses all over the country. And I thought, “Emergency? Wonder what’s happened?” So I went right across the lobby to a telephone, and I called my dean. I caught him fortunately at home. He was home for just a few minutes for supper. And when I got him, I said, “Custer, what’s the problem?’ “Well” he said, “it’s chapel.” And I said, “Chapel? What do you mean, chapel?” “Well,” he said, “it isn’t over yet.” And I said, “Custer, chapel was at ten o’clock this morning. What do you mean, chapel isn’t over?” “Well,” he said, “Dr. Kinlaw (he always called me that, he was an old military guy) Hughes Auditorium has more people in it now than it had at 10 o’clock this morning.” And so that’s the way I learned about the revival. I remember he would call me every day and tell me what was taking place. I had never experienced anything quite like it. I think if not the greatest, certainly one of the two or three greatest senses for me for the Presence of the Holy Spirit descending in a telephone booth was when Custer was telling me what was taking place at Asbury.

So I was due back. I landed in Louisville on Thursday night about midnight. I got in my car and drove to Wilmore. It’s interesting, the closer I got to Wilmore, the slower I drove, because I didn’t know whether I was ready to walk into the Presence of God that was there. And so I probably took longer than I have ever taken to drive from Louisville to Wilmore. I walked into the back of the auditorium and sat down in the back corner seat as far away from the pulpit as I could get, and tried to look as un-presidential as I could look. I sat for about an hour and a half, and a student came back and knelt next to me, a girl. She was probably the best witness team on our campus. She looked up at me and said, “Dr. Kinlaw, would you pray with me?” I said, “Yes. What’s the problem?” She said, “I’m a liar.” I said, “What do you mean, you are a liar?” She said, “I lie so much I don’t know when I lie.” I said, “Let’s go downstairs where we can be alone and talk and pray.” She said to me, “What do I do?” I have never been in that spot, so I said, “Well, why don’t you start back with the last person you lied to, and go to everybody you can remember that you lied to, and ask them to forgive you for lying to them.” She said, “Oh that would kill me.” I said, “No, I don’t think so. I think it might liberate you.” Three days later that girl came to me, aglow. And I said, “Did something happen?” “Oh,” she said, “I’m free.” I said, “How’d you get free?” She said, “Well, I just hit my 34th person.”

Now I had a seminary student come to me. He was halfway through seminary. Deeply distressed, and he said, “What do I do? I had a required course for my graduation, and I cheated on the final exam in college. If I go and confess that and lose that credit, then I’ve lost all my seminary work, because you can’t get into seminary without an A.B. degree. What do I do?” I said, “Well, do you want to live all the rest of your life knowing that you’re a cheat?” He said, “No, I don’t like the thought of that.” I said, “Now why don’t you go, and I named the professor for him to go to.” And so he went to him, the professor of the class where he had cheated, and he confessed. And the guy worked out something for him. He graduated from seminary, and is in the ministry at the present time. Now he was a seminary student studying for the ministry when he was in college, but he was cheating on an exam.

On Saturday night I walked into the auditorium and looked for a seat, and the only seat I could find was on the second row, down on the left, almost on the left aisle, left wall. And as I walked in and sat down, I found myself sitting beside a staff person in Wilmore, and we sat for a little while, and finally he reached over and took my arm, and I thought he was going to break it, squeezing it. And I looked at him, and his face was crimson. And he said to me, “Dennis, (we knew each other well) he said, “I’ve got to tell somebody. Let me tell you.” He said, “My wife, she and I were missionaries overseas with the Methodist Church for a number of years. When the bishop appointed us to this appointment here, he said my wife did not want to come. She said, “I hate the college. I hate the seminary. I hate the Methodist Church.” She hated everything about Wilmore.” He said, “This week a student came to my wife and said, “I need help. Will you pray with me?” He said, “My wife was terrified.” So he said, “As she sat with the girl, suddenly she spotted me. So she called me, and I went over and prayed with the girl. And tonight we were at supper. My son was sitting here and my daughter here and my wife was sitting across from me.” His wife was the daughter of a Methodist preacher. Had been a missionary. In Christian service all her life. In the middle of the meal, she said, “David, I have something I need to say to you. And to my son and my daughter.” And he said, “What’s this?” She said, “You know this week when you were praying with that girl that I got you together with.” He said, “Yes.” She said, “While she was getting into the kingdom, I got in. And I want to tell you that for the first time in our married life, I’m on your team.” He was convulsed with weeping, joyous weeping.

Now I lived through a number of experiences like that. Do you know what the bottom line of conclusion I came to was? That there are stacks of Christians with defeat in their lives at the point of sin. And there’s guilt and impotence, unhappiness, frustration, but there is the power in the Spirit of God that can set a person free, clean his heart, clean him up, make him free, and as the girl who said she was a liar, said to me, “For the first time in my life, I’m free.” You notice she was on a gospel team.

Then we had something else happen in that same general period. It was in 1771 that Francis Asbury came to the United States. He was 26 years of age. He lived, died in 1816, and during 44 years of that time during the Revolutionary War, he was under house arrest for awhile, and so he had a room and a bed. The rest of his life, he never owned a bed, never slept at home because his home was the saddle, and he covered America. He did more to lay the spiritual foundation for America than any other single figure, and the Methodist Church does not even provide a biography for him, because he had only one passion. I went through his journal looking for Christmas devotional notes, because we’d send out a Christmas card every Christmas. So I thought if I could get a good Christmas thought from Francis Asbury then I’ve have the perfect Asbury Christmas card. So I searched, and do you know what I found? The typical one, “I rose at four, preached at five, and at seven was on my way to my next preaching appointment.” Only one passion!

And let me tell you what kind of a man he was. He was riding, I think it was in Wilmington, North Carolina, he was going into the city on his horse. He passed a slave. He spoke, “Good day, Sir.” The slave responded. He was very interested in slaves. And for years he had a black preacher travel with him, Black Harry. He went on his way, and the Spirit spoke to him and said, “You should have witnessed to that person.” So he turned his horse around and went back, and the black was still there. And so he got off his horse and came to him, and said, “Sir, what is your name?” And the guy said, “I don’t know. I’ve never known my name. I’m a slave.” Isn’t that incredible the degradation that we put human beings through our sinfulness. He said, “They all call me Punch, because I fight so much.” So Asbury opened the scripture, told him about Christ, about the power of God to save, prayed with him, and went on his way. Twenty years later, Asbury was back in that community. So as he was preaching in the church, at the end of the service, a black came up to him, looked at him, and said, “Bishop, I’m Punch.” And Bishop Asbury said, “Tell me the story.” He said, “Well, you know, you talked to me about Jesus, prayed with me. “ He said, “I went to my room, got down on my knees, confessed my sins, asked Him to forgive me, and my room was filled with an incredible light. And, you know, I’ve never fought or cursed or played cards since. And I’ve got 300 people out here that call me their pastor.” Now that’s the kind of guy Francis Asbury was.

So I got interested in that kind of gospel. And do you know what I found? It had incredible power in it. In 1771, there were 2000 Methodists in the United States, and by 1860 one out of every three church members in the United States was a Methodist. Now that’s power, isn’t it? But the interesting thing is, what was the essence of the gospel that he preached? If you will read his journal, you will find that he was saying at one point, he had been sick and had to stop ministry briefly, and he said, “God spoke to me I have not put enough emphasis on entire sanctification and personal holiness. That is what will make this nation, change this nation.” And so he preached it.

Do you know the interesting thing is, it had enough power in it that it broke across denominational lines. Henry Clay Morrison was the president of Asbury College, but before that he was a pastor in Danville, Kentucky. His heart was hungry as a pastor. He talked with the Presbyterian preacher. The Presbyterian preacher said, “Henry what you need is what Wesley called entire sanctification, and what we Presbyterians call the deeper life. You need to know the victory that God can give you with a clean heart.” And so the man who became president of Asbury College was helped by a Presbyterian. It’s interesting that it jumped across all lines to where there was a Unitarian pastor in New England that preached and witnessed to entire sanctification. Total surrender. Being possessed by God. Getting your thumb off your life. Simply letting God possess you.

One of the greatest outbursts of Christian influence and effectiveness in human history came in the latter part of the 19th century that came out of that message that jumped across the Baptists and Congregationalists, and Presbyterians, and even as we said others, all the denominations. The Keswick movement developed out of that. And so the modern missionary movement came out of that. Christian colleges were formed. Gordon. Interesting, the main street in front of Wheaton is John Wesley Street. Gordon was founded by a Baptist who had a deeper experience. Biola was founded by a man, Moody would send for him and he said, “I want you to preach two sermons, ten reasons why you believe the Bible to be the Word of God, and your sermon on the baptism of the Holy Spirit” which he meant, not tongues, but to be filled with the Holy Spirit. R. A. Torrey who was a Yale graduate. It had incredible power. It changed the American landscape. It was a major factor in defeating the forces that wanted to hold onto slavery. It was the kind of force that George Will said about Wesley and the women, “In England, they saved England from gin.” I love that line. But incredible moral power!

But what about the 20th century? It’s a very interesting story, so different. When I first was converted as a teenager, I looked for a Christian bookstore. I finally found one in the state of North Carolina. It was in the capitol Raleigh. I got books there to nurture my soul. There was not a Christian radio station in North Carolina. I didn’t know one in the country. Do you know that now there is a Christian bookstore in every town in the United States practically. You can’t get out of hearing distance of a Christian radio station in most of the sections of the country. They’re everywhere. Christian TV goes around the world now. And the more Christian bookstores we get and the more radio stations we get, the more the moral life of the country collapses. Now are you going to tell me there isn’t something wrong with the message that we’re preaching?

I go back to 1970, and think of Christians that were in Christian service, in Christian work, but in their inner hearts, there was enough pollution and defilement to keep them from knowing the power of God and the freedom of God. Now I believe that God can make Christians real Christians. And that’s what our business is, to preach that gospel of an undivided heart, of an eye single, of a heart filled with love for God where the person’s got his hands off, and Christ possesses him. And when it happens, it’s a different product and it has a different impact.

One of the stories that has its roots in that last century and in that message came home to me in a very real way. I had the privilege of serving on the board of a missionary society in this country for a number of years. At that time we had a rule that when a person reached a 72, he had to retire from the board. We had on the board a man who was very special. A business man. He had been saved as a door to door salesman by a lady who led him to Christ. At that time he was giving about two million dollars a year to the missionary society that I was on the board of. So his retirement came. And I was assigned the duty of giving him a gift, and thanking him and telling him goodbye. I’d never felt more stupid in my life. Giving a book to a guy who was giving two million dollars a year. He was retiring from our board; he wasn’t retiring from work. This past year I think he gave something like four million to Christian missions around the world. So I gave him the book. And he looked at me and said, “May I say something?” Well, what do you do with a guy who gives you two million dollars. You say, “Yes, Sir.” So he said, “I want to tell you why I got interested in this mission.” He said, “I became a Christian as a door to door salesman. Found a buddy, and we prayed together every Thursday night. God began to deal with my heart, and I wanted my life to count. An evangelist came to our church, and he said to me, “Stanley, you need to see a mission field. Go with me to Korea. So,” he said, “I found myself in Los Angeles overnight, in the old days before flying onto Korea.” He said, “My evangelist friend said to me. “There’s a lady here I’d like for you to meet. So,” he said, “he took me to meet a lady by the name of Lettie B. Cowman.” She’s the one who put together the book, Streams in the Desert. I suspect the second most influential devotional book that’s ever been published. He said, “We spent some time with this very regal lady.” He said, “We came to the end of the conversation, and she said, “Mr. Tam, may I tell you a story before you go?” And he said, “Yes, certainly.” She said, “My husband and I were young people in Chicago. He was a young executive with Western Union. Had a 110 telegraphers under him.” She said, “I attended a Methodist Church revival and was converted, and I came home and tried to witness to my husband, but he would have nothing to do with it. And then one night he agreed to go with me to church, and when he came home, he got down on his knees by our bed, and my husband found Christ.” And she said, “When he found Christ, a great hunger developed within him to serve Him.” She said, “One Friday we were on the street car and we passed Moody Memorial Church. Said there was a sign out front – Missionary Conference, A. B. Simpson, speaking.” Now, she said, neither one of us had ever been to a missionary conference. It was the first time we had ever heard of one. But,” he said, “Lettie, let’s go.” So that night they went to the missionary conference. A. B. Simpson, who interestingly enough pastored a Presbyterian Church in Louisville, had gotten a hunger in his heart for something he didn’t have, and he had a profound experience of being with the Spirit, and it transformed his life. And missions became his passion. And so that night, he preached, and they had never heard a message like that. When he got through, he said, “Now, we must take an offering. Now,” he said, “the offering is going to be different, because when the collection plates comes you’ll notice they’re full of instead of empty. They’re full of watches. Now they’re not gold watches, but they’re good watches. And if you have a gold watch, if you’ll put yours in the plate, you can take one of the others out, and we’ll sell those gold watches so that the gospel can be carried around the world.” She said, “We’d never seen anything like this.” She said, “Here came the plate, and it was full of watches. A person handed it to me, and I handed it to Charley. And,” she said, “he took it with his left hand, and with his right hand he reached into his watch pocket and pulled out the gold watch that I had scrimped and saved for months to buy him. And he dropped it in the plate. I turned and looked at him and said, “I gave that to you. But” she said, “the plate was gone.” She said, “A. B. Simpson came back to the pulpit and said, “Now we must take another offering. This time you will notice the plates are empty. There are a lot of us who wear more jewelry than is necessary for good grooming. And if you’ll just take that jewelry that you don’t need for good grooming and put it in the plate, we’ll sell it all, and send the gospel of Christ across the world.” She said, “Here came the plate.” She said, “I handed it to Charley, he took it with his left hand and with his right hand he reached over and took my left hand, and he pulled my engagement ring off and he dropped it in the plate. And I turned to him and said, “You gave that to me. But, “she said, “the plate was gone.” She said A. B. Simpson came back to the pulpit and said, “We must take another offering. This time we must take a money offering.” She said, “It was Friday. It was pay day. My husband had in his pocket the pay for two weeks.” She said, “When the plate came, he reached in his pocket and pulled it out and dropped it in the plate. And I said, “What are we going to live on for the next two weeks?,” she said, but it was gone. Then Simpson came and said, “Now we must take the real offering. We must take the offering of life, because there are people here who need to give themselves wholly to God, so He can do with them as He pleases. Send them where He will, and if that’s you, we want you to stand.” And she said, “To my horror, Charley stood up.” She said, “The most decisive moment in my life came then. I knew Charley well enough that if he said he was going to do anything, he’d do it whether I went with him or not, and I didn’t want to live alone. So I stood up too. So, “she said, “Mr. Tam, our whole lives have been different because of that moment.”

Do you know what Stanley Tam did? He came home, got his lawyer and said, “How do I give my business to God.” And the lawyer said, “What did you say?” He said, “How do I give my business to God?” And the lawyer said, “That’s impossible.” Stanley said, “Well, I guess I need another lawyer,” and he got one. Last year he was involved with, I think, probably 100,000 conversions around the world.

Now let me ask you, is the world perishing the way it is because we still have hearts that are full of self, self-interest, divided, unclean, so that everything we do has the defilement of self-interest on it somewhere when there’s a power in the blood of Christ that can clean us up, and make our lives count. Now that’s what we are about. And do you know? What we are finding is that there are a people hungry for just that kind of thing. That girl who said, “I’m a liar,” wanted to be free. And Christ set her free. That seminary fellow who was studying for the ministry wanted the guilt gone. And God took it away, and he was free. And that fellow who sat next to me in Hughes Auditorium on that Saturday night, his family has never been the same since. His marriage has never been the same since, because two became one in Christ.

Now that’s what The Francis Asbury Society is about. It’s a message. So we try to find evangelists who will preach it, literature that will express it, retreats that will give people an opportunity to enter into that kind of experience, support anything moving in this country or across the world that will bring the church to the place where Christ died to bring it. That’s what we are about. Thank you for listening.

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