TRUE WEALTH – By A.W. Tozer
Many of us are forgetting the caution of the Lord Jesus that we ought not to set our hearts on earthly things. He warned that there is a very real danger involved and He said plenty about it in the New Testament. Jesus said that when wealth becomes our heart’s treasure, our very beings may well be imprisoned within our wealth. This is the danger: the same heart of man that was made to commune with God and hold fellowship with the Divine Trinity, to soar away to worlds unknown and behold God upon His throne, that same heart may be locked up in a bank vault or in a jewelry box or somewhere else here on earth! The fashionable woman longing to make the list of the “Ten Best Dressed”—she lives for her jewelry and glamour. And when she puts those jewels into a box at night, she surely imprisons her heart in the same box as she snaps the lid. So, too, the businessman who doesn’t know how to use the money God allows him to get, and who makes an idol out of it. When he snaps the door of his box in the bank vault, he puts his heart there and locks it up. It is little wonder that Jesus has had to warn us against the mere accumulation of lower forms of treasure. He gave the example of the man who accumulated corn, and then naively told his soul to rest, because he had many barns, and lots and lots of corn. Someone has said that the man thought his soul could eat corn. But Jesus called him a fool, and reminded him that he had to die, and his store of corn, which had a legitimate and proper value on earth, could do him no further good because he had neglected the higher values. He had no store of eternal treasures laid up above. Actually, that foolish man’s heart was locked up in his barns and granaries! If you are wise, you will transmute any unit of goods or wealth upwards to another level of value. And the same for your talents, and gifts and abilities, and brain and strength and nervous energy. For instance, our missionaries go to the end of the earth with the message of Christ’s love and salvation. These are the ultimate values they are seeking—the heathen, headhunters, pagans turning to Jesus Christ, putting away their idols and their sins and believing in Jesus with bright, shining faces; singing the gospel and going to heaven, one by one. These are the values! You do this, and when you get to heaven, you’ll find all your wealth again, but not in dollars or gold or silver or pearls. It will be the wealth of human beings made in the image of God, and translated and changed and purified by the grace of God!
THE LORD’S STANDARD OF JUDGMENT – By Austin Sparks
One inclusive thing arises from this survey of the churches [Revelation chapters 2 and 3]. It is that the Lord deals with every life or vessel in the light of His specific purpose for it, and not of its general usefulness. These chapters would never have been written if the Lord were simply taking this view: ‘Well, this vessel is not wholly bad; there is much yet of value here; it has not altogether gone away from Me; therefore I must look after it and support it, preserve it, and commit Myself wholly to it’; but the Lord is not doing that. We may be thankful to the Lord for anything that there is in this world which is good and is of Himself, and as we ourselves go into it we are grateful that the Lord should have any witness in a world like this; but, oh, so far as His own people are concerned, so far as the Church is concerned, that never satisfies Him. Of that we may be quite sure. Why are we saying this? Because so many people say: ‘Well, you know, you are trying to get something so perfect! Why not be satisfied with what is commendable about the Church today? Take it as it is! Accept it and be thankful that there are so many who belong to the Lord and bear His name in a world like this!’ I find that this record does not allow of that. God knows that we are grateful that there are believers in this world, be they but poor ones. You cannot go abroad in a world like this and see its state, its Godlessness, its sinfulness, without being thankful to find even a very poor specimen of a believer who has some love in his heart for the Lord. You are thankful for the smallest thing that speaks of Him. Oh, but when you come to see God’s purpose, when you see that what He has designed for His Church is the occasion of His call, His choosing in Christ, you can never be satisfied with nominalism, or with general goodness. When you come to a word like this you find it taking you right on – if you like to call it ‘extreme’ you may – right on to the end. It tells you quite plainly that whether there be a great past, a great history of Divine blessing and usefulness, a great reputation for good works, and many good things still obtaining, none of these things is an adequate justification for the Lord to commit Himself wholly to that vessel, for He has some reservations. He must have questions unless the purpose for which that vessel was raised up is being fulfilled. None of the New Testament Letters would have been written if the Lord was satisfied with the merely nominal. There has never been anything perfect but the serious matter is that of our attitude to “not having yet attained”. Paul said: “I am not yet perfect, but…”, and very much hung upon that “but”. These churches in Revelation had accepted their imperfect condition.
HOPE, JOY, LOVE, AND BEING FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT – By John Piper
Just like water is made for the gills of a fish, and wind is made for the wings of a bird, so the gospel of Christ is made for the soul of man. It gives the full assurance of hope (Hebrews 6:11), and from that the fullness of joy (Romans 5:2), and from that the freedom to love (Colossians 1:4-5). And from that the God who supplies it all is glorified (1 Peter 4:11). What more could anyone ask or imagine?
Now if we pause and ask what this has to do with the work of the Holy Spirit, the answer is plain. Being filled with joy by the river of hope that overflows in the freedom to love, all to the glory of God—this is what the New Testament means by being filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). There are passages which make this very plain. For example, Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, in order that by the power of the Holy Spirit you might abound in hope.” How can we abound in hope? Answer: by the power of the Holy Spirit. When Paul says in Romans 5:5, “Hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us,” he means that the work of the Holy Spirit is to open our eyes to the staggering implications of the love of God for our future and thereby fill us with hope.
And since joy (Romans 15:13) and love (Colossians 1:4-5) flow from hope, which abounds by the power of the Holy Spirit, therefore it’s not surprising to hear Paul say (in Galatians 5:22) that love and joy are the fruit of the Spirit. So there are two ways to describe the key to the treasures of the Christian life. One way is to say that the key is to abound in hope which gives fullness of joy which overflows in the freedom of love to the glory of God. And the other way is to say that the key is to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
FILLED WITH THE FULLNESS OF GOD – By John Piper
One crucial question we need to ask is whether the power promised in Acts 1:8 and Luke 24:49 was only for the first generation of Christians or whether it is something we should seek from Jesus today?
Before I answer that, let me emphasize that this power, this experience of the “coming upon” or “being clothed” by the Holy Spirit was something beyond ordinary, happy Christian living. In the Old Testament “being clothed” with the Spirit referred to extraordinary times of empowerment and prophecy as in the lives of Gideon and Amasai and Zechariah (Judges 6:34; 1 Chronicles 12:18; 2 Chronicles 24:20). But it is most obvious from what happened on the day of Pentecost—wind and sound and tongues of fire and miraculous languages and prophecy and exuberant praise and 3,000 conversions.
Let me use an illustration from Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his book Joy Unspeakable to describe the difference between common Christian living and what happens when the Holy Spirit “clothes” a person with power or “comes upon” a person with this unusual power.
He says it is like a child walking along holding his father’s hand. All is well. The child is happy. He feels secure. His father loves him. He believes that his father loves him but there is no unusual urge to talk about this or sing about it. It is true and it is pleasant.
Then suddenly the father startles the child by reaching down and sweeping him up into his arms and hugging him tightly and kissing him on the neck and whispering, “I love you so much!” And then holding the stunned child back so that he can look into his face and saying with all his heart, “I am so glad you are mine.” Then hugging him once more with unspeakable warmth and affection. Then he puts the child down and they continue their walk.
This, Lloyd-Jones says, is what happens when a person is baptized with the Holy Spirit. A pleasant and happy walk with God is swept up into an unspeakable new level of joy and love and assurance and reality that leaves the Christian so utterly certain of the immediate reality of Jesus that he is overflowing in praise and more free and bold in witness than he ever imagined he could be.
The child is simply stunned. He doesn’t know whether to cry or shout or fall down or run, he is so happy. The fuses of love are so overloaded they almost blow out. The subconscious doubts—that he wasn’t thinking about at the time, but that pop up every now and then—are gone! And in their place is utter and indestructible assurance, so that you know that you know that you know that God is real and that Jesus lives and that you are loved, and that to be saved is the greatest thing in the world. And as you walk on down the street you can scarcely contain yourself, and you want to cry out, “My father loves me! My father loves me! O, what a great father I have! What a father! What a father!”
I think this is basically what happened at Pentecost. And has happened again and again in the life of the church. They were so filled with the fullness of God—they were overwhelmed with the length and breadth and height and depth of the love of Christ—that they began (as Acts 2:11 says) to speak “the greatnesses of God.” Their mind was full of a fresh, new, breathtaking vision of God and their mouth overflowed with prophetic praise—sons and daughters, old and young, slave and free.
I believe that this kind of experience is what Jesus meant by the “witnessing” in Acts 1:8 that will be able to extend the gospel to the end of the earth. “You will receive this power . . . and you will be my witnesses.” You will no longer be merely advocates who can prove like a good lawyer that Jesus rose from the dead. But under the influence of this power—this experience of the Spirit of the risen Christ—you will speak with the unwavering assurance of one who has tasted and knows the reality so immediately that all doubt is gone. You move from being an advocate of Christianity to being a witness of the living Christ. You move from simply deducing Christian truths from valid premises to proclaiming them boldly as experienced realities. This is the power and the witness that will take Christ to the end of the earth.
FACE TO FACE WITH JESUS CHRIST – By Francis Schaeffer
You have surely encountered people, Jewish and Gentile alike, who say, “I believe in God, I just don’t believe in Jesus Christ.” But the terrible truth is, when unsaved men and women stand before God for judgment and look Him in the face, they will see only one person of the Trinity as judge, and that will be Jesus Christ. One of the most sobering phrases in the whole Bible is “the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:16). In Romans Paul talks of the wrath of God, but in Revelation John talks of the wrath of the Lamb. The person of the Trinity who came and suffered so much so that people would not have to be judged, will be their judge. The person who tries to come to God without coming through Jesus Christ, will, at the judgment, come face to face with Jesus Christ. Certainly Jesus was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15); so He understands temptation and He understands our humanity. Yet that does not lessen the awful truth that he will judge us. Jesus, the Saviour of the world, will also be its judge. “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ”, says Paul. But now he adds, Christ is also the judge. Not only is there no way to come to God except through Jesus Christ, as Christ Himself declares (John 14:6), but when one tries to jump this barrier, one cannot, for Jesus Christ stands there as judge. Jesus says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28). But when someone says, “I’ll have nothing to do with you; I’ll come to God directly for myself without the mediator, without the suffering Messiah“, it is as if he is trying to plow right into heaven, getting by this Jesus Christ. But he can’t, because there stands Jesus Christ the judge. No one who ever lived can avoid a relationship with Jesus Christ. It will be one of two possible relationships: It will be the relationship of salvation that Paul describes in Rom. 1:16, or else it will be the relationship he describes in Rom. 2:16 – the relationship of a condemned person to a judge.
GOSPEL-CENTERED PRAYERS – By D.A. Carson
It takes only a moment’s reflection to see that all of these petitions [Phil. 1:9-11] are gospel-centered. These are gospel prayers, that is they are prayers offered to advance the work of the gospel in the lives of the Philippian believers. And, by asking for gospel fruit in their lives, the ultimate purpose of these petitions is to bring glory to the God who redeemed them. How much do such petitions feature in our praying? When was the last time you prayed that the brothers and sisters in Christ in your congregation would abound in love more and more, in knowledge and depth of insight so that they might discern the best things and prove them in their own experience, being filled with the fruit of righteousness, to the glory and praise of God? What do you pray for? Thank God that some do pray along these lines. But many of us devote most of our praying, in private and in public, to personal matters largely removed from gospel interest: our mortgages, physical safety, good health, employment for ourselves or someone else. Doubtless these and countless other concerns are legitimate subjects for prayer: after all, we serve a God who invites us to cast all our cares on him because he cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7). But where is our gospel focus? Read through the letters of Paul and copy out his prayers. Ask yourself what it is he asks for. Observe how consistently most of his petitions are gospel-related. Are we being faithful to Scripture if most of our petitions are not? Put the gospel first. And that means you must put the priorities of the gospel at the centre of your prayer life.
THE RETURN OF CHRIST – By D.A. Carson
IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN EASY to get things wrong about the return of Jesus. Sometimes this springs from ignorance, sometimes from a distorted emphasis. Judging from 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, such dangers have been present since the early church.
We maintain plenty of our own skewed interpretations about these matters today. For example, because in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 Paul writes, “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air,” many contemporary scholars hold that Paul thought the Lord’s return would take place during his own lifetime, and of course he was wrong.
In reality, 1 Thessalonians 4:17 no more proves Paul believed Christ would return during his lifetime than 1 Corinthians 6:14 proves he thought Christ would not return in his lifetime. There Paul writes, “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.” Although he uses the first person in both places, Paul is simply identifying himself with the Christians who will enjoy these experiences — whether meeting the Lord and thus escaping death, or dying and ultimately rising from the dead. Yet the contemporary misconception on this point is widespread.
The misconception behind 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 is not entirely clear, but apparently the Thessalonians had received a letter falsely purporting to be from Paul but lacking his well-known handwriting and signature at the end (which is why Paul draws the attention of his readers to these features in 3:17).
That deceptive letter somehow convinced some Thessalonians that “the day of the Lord” had already come (2:1-2); either they had in some way been abandoned, or else they were being taught some sort of “over-realized” eschatology that tried to reserve all the blessings of salvation for the present. Perhaps there is immortality beyond death, but under this vision there is no need for a personal return of Jesus Christ, or a crisis of judgment and triumphant reign.
So Paul gives some reasons for saying that the day of the Lord has not come. In this he is following the example of the Lord Jesus, who also gave some instruction about those who would falsely identify someone as the Christ (Matt. 24:23-27). Certain things must take place before the Lord Jesus returns, and then he will decisively and unambiguously destroy the opposition “with the breath of his mouth” and “by the splendor of his coming” (2:8). The lies may even be surrounded and supported by “counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders” (2:9); at heart, however, people perish because they refuse to love the truth (2:10). Sooner or later God pronounces judgment by sending the delusion they much prefer.
KNOWING GOD BY THE SPIRIT – By A.W. Tozer
We can hold the creed and not know God in His person at all. We can know the doctrine and not know spiritual things at all. The fearful consequence is that many people know about God but don’t know God Himself. There is a vast difference between knowing about God and knowing God—a vast difference! I can know about your relative—and still not know him in person. If I have never met him, I do not know the touch of his hand, or the look of his eye, or the smile of his face, or the sound of his voice. I only know about him. You can show me his picture and describe him to me, but I still don’t know him. I just know about the man. A scientist knows bugs. He may write books on bees or worms or other bugs of various kinds and yet never know a bug—never! He could never get through to him! If you have a dog, you can know all about him and his habits, but you will never really know him. He may smile at you, stick out his red tongue and pant. He seems to be intelligent, but he is a dog, and as a human, you have no facility, no organs, no techniques for getting into his dog world. You can comb him, wash him, feed him, trim his ears and you can know him externally, but you never can know your dog in this sense in which we are considering. Your dog can never know you. He can know about you, he can know when you are glad and when you are angry with him. He can know when he has done the right thing or the wrong thing. Sometimes I think dogs have a conscience almost as good as people, but still the dog dies and never knows the man, because he does not have the capacity given him to apprehend and perceive and understand as a human. So it is that the human being can know about God, he can know about Christ’s dying for him, he can even write songs and books, be the head of religious organizations and hold important church offices—and still never have come to the vital, personal knowledge of God at all. Only by the Holy Spirit can he know God. Again, it is my contention that as a consequence of this kind of error, we really have two Christs. We have the Christ of history, the Christ of the creeds. On the other hand, there is the Christ whom only the Spirit can reveal. Now, you can never piece Jesus together out of historic knowledge—it is impossible. It is possible to read your New Testament and still never find the living Christ in it. You may be convinced that He is the Son of God and still never find Him as the living Person He is. Jesus Christ must be revealed by the Holy Spirit — no man knows the things of God but by the Holy Spirit. I would like to make an emphasis here and make it clearly: A revelation of the Holy Spirit in one glorious flash of inward illumination would teach you more of Jesus than five years in a theological seminary—and I believe in the seminary! You can learn about Jesus in the seminary. You can learn a great deal about Him, and we ought to learn everything we can about Him. We ought to read everything we can read about Him, for reading about Him is legitimate and good—a part of Christianity. But the final flash that introduces your heart to Jesus must be by the illumination of the Holy Spirit Himself, or it isn’t done at all. I am convinced that we only know Jesus Christ as well as the Holy Spirit is pleased to reveal Him unto us, for He cannot be revealed in any other way. Even Paul said, “Now know we Christ no longer after the flesh.” The church cannot know Christ except as the Spirit reveals Him.
KNOWLEDGE OF GOD IN THE HOLY SPIRIT – By Andrew Murray
When He [Jesus] was exalted to the Throne of Glory, it was that He might send down into our hearts the Holy Spirit, in whom the Father and the Son have their own blessed life in heaven, to maintain in us, in Divine power, the blessed life of fellowship with God. It was to be one of the marks of the New Covenant that each member of it should walk in personal communion with God. ‘ They shall teach no more every man his neighbour, Know the Lord; for they shall all know me, from the least to the greatest of them, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity! ‘The personal fellowship and knowledge of God in the Holy Spirit was to be the fruit of the pardon of sin. The Spirit of God’s own Son, sent into our hearts to do each moment a work as Divine as the work of the Son in redeeming us, to displace our life and replace it by the life of Christ in power, to make the Son of God divinely and consciously present with us always–this was what the Father had promised as the distinctive blessing of the New Testament. The fellowship of God as the Three-One was now to be within us; the Spirit revealing the Son in us, and through Him the Father. That there are but few believers who realize this walk with God, this life in God, such as their Father has prepared for them, no one will deny. Nor will it admit of dispute what the cause of this failure is, It is acknowledged on all hands that the Holy Spirit, through whose Divine Omnipotence this inner revelation of the Son and the Father in the life and the likeness of the believer is to take place is not known or acknowledged in the Church as He should be. In our preaching and in our practice He does not hold that place of prominence which He has in God’s plan and in His promises. While our creed on the Holy Spirit is orthodox and scriptural, His presence and power in the life of believers, in the ministry of the word, in the witness of the Church to the world, is not what the word promises or God’s plan requires. There are not a few who are conscious of this great need, and earnestly ask to know God’s mind concerning it, and the way of deliverance out of it. Some feel that their own life is not what it should and might be. Many of them can look back to some special season of spiritual revival, when their whole life was apparently lifted to a higher level. The experience of the joy and strength of the Saviour’s presence, as they learned that He would keep them trusting, was, for a time, most real and blessed. But it did not last: there was a very gradual decline to a lower stage, with much of vain effort and sad failure. They would fain know where the evil lies. There can be little doubt that the answer must be this: they did not know or honour the Indwelling Spirit as the strength of their life, as the power of their faith, to keep them always looking to Jesus and trusting in Him. They knew not what it was, day by day, to wait in lowly reverence for the Holy Spirit to deliver from the power of the flesh, and to maintain the wonderful presence of the Father and the Son within them.
NOT FORSAKING THE ASSEMBLY – By Albert Theron
PROVERBS 18:1 ‘He that separates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound wisdom.’
HEBREWS 10:25 ‘not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.’
The context of our verse in Hebrews is that the Jewish Christians were under pressure to forsake the Christian assembly and return to Judaism. The warning and command to not forsake the meetings of the saints apply to all believers in all times and places, however. In this regard we have to be careful and on the watch against two extremes. On the one hand there are those who consider the ‘assembling of ourselves’ to be restricted to the specific meetings of their own denomination. This is an error that relates to an erroneous or insufficient view of what constitutes the New Testament church. To these believers there can be no Christian meeting without a special building (this building is then called ‘the church’), special clothes (the Sunday best), a preacher (in some cases only those ordained in that denomination) and a program (very specific liturgy). Even a cursory reading of the New Testament gives us an entirely different picture, however. According to the New Testament the church consists of all those who have been truly born again and these believers are called the ‘temple of God’ (1 Cor. 3:16, Eph. 2:21). Furthermore, the believers generally assembled in homes (Rom. 16:5, Phil. 1:2) and there is no mention of a specific dress code or narrow liturgy and even our peculiar focus on the preacher or pastor is conspicuously absent in the pages of the New Testament. If we were to look for the origin of these traditions a study of Roman Catholic traditions and its ongoing effect on Protestant ecclesiastical customs might be especially fruitful. Do not look for them in the New Testament unless you are predisposed to a serious twisting of facts. Please note that this does not mean that there is no leadership or order in Christian assemblies. If we try to justify our insistence on adherence to all these extra-biblical traditions, however, we are at best ill informed or intellectually dishonest and at worse religious bigots.
The other extreme is to put such an emphasis on the organic aspect of the church that we eventually really do neglect the ‘assembling together’ of the saints. To be sure, Jesus did say ‘where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’, and it is true that two or three believers fellowshipping or praying together constitute in a certain sense a church meeting according to New Testament standards. There is, however, also a specific ‘coming together’ spoken of in the New Testament (1 Cor. 14), where a specific order prevails, where God-appointed leadership functions and where we may exercise our gifts and practice and receive mutual exhortation. The phrase ‘if the whole church has come together’, used in 1 Corinthians 14 verse 23 is significant in this regard. Let us not use our freedom in the Lord as an excuse for what is in truth a carnal negligence of Christian assembly and a pervasive and paralyzing secular form of individualism (Prov. 18:1).
To those who have a very narrow view of what church life is all about we would pose the question, ‘have you really checked all the facts in the New Testament concerning church life or do you merely echo the stale traditions of your denomination?’ To those who have seen the true character of church meetings in the New Testament we would pose the question, ‘are you in reaction to the traditional view of church meetings and consequently disobedient to the New Testament imperatives concerning regular fellowship, accountability and mutual submission in the fear of the Lord?’ Let us answer these questions honestly before God and take into account the fact that we have it to do with the all-seeing, almighty Creator and not just with mere men. Our obedience is firstly toward Him.
Quote of the Day: “The Body of Christ is too precious and significant in the eyes of God for us to either desecrate it with our unscriptural traditions or marginalize it with our casual and careless approach.”
THE DEATH SENTENCE MUST BE EXECUTED – By A.B. Simpson
“The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them” (Isaiah 40:7). The death sentence must be executed against the beauty and the blossom, as well as against the grossness and the sensuality of the natural life. Even the very best things become a curse to us so long as we hold them with our natural hands and hearts and self-centered spirits. That sweet and innocent child whom God has taught you to love can be only an idol until he ceases to be your child and becomes God’s child, and the death stroke passes upon your love, and you learn in the resurrection life to hold him for God and love him not as a selfish pleasure but as a sacred trust. Even the husband into whose strong hand God may have put your trusting little hand may become but a substitute for your God, and a separating influence from Him, until you die to your own selfish affection and learn to love him not for your own gratification or his, but in God and to God and for his own highest good. Money cannot hurt you if you do not love it for its own sake. It is not your fortune that hurts you, but your clinging fondness for it; and so long as that fondness is alive, your little world of five hundred dollars a year is as much hindrance to you as would be a millionaire’s palaces and vast investments. It is not the size of your world that God sees, but the extent to which it fills your heart. Even your Christian influence, your reputation as a worker for God and your standing among your brethren may be to you an idol that must die before you can be free to live for Him alone. If you have ever noticed the type on a printed page, you must have seen that little “i” has always a dot over it, and that this dot elevates it above the other letters in the line. Now, each of us is a little i; and over every one of us there is a little dot of self-importance, self-will, self-interest, self-confidence, self-complacency or something to which we cling and for which we contend, which just as surely reveals self-life as if it were a mountain of real importance. This i is a rival of Jesus Christ, an enemy of the Holy Spirit and of our peace and life.
WHERE IS YOUR HEART? – By John MacArthur
I think you can always tell a person, at least their true character, by what they seek to gain and what they really love. It really never fails as a test. In fact you could easily evaluate your own character by approaching yourself that way. Ask yourself this question. What are the three things I am currently seeking most earnestly? You don’t have to answer out loud and you don’t have to write it down and turn it in, but think about it. What are the three things you currently are most seeking? That’ll be a good monitor on whether your preoccupation is heavenly or earthly. God‑ward or self‑ward. If that doesn’t work, ask yourself this. What are the three things I love the most? And if you can’t figure out how to answer that question ask yourself this one. What are the three things I think about the most? And that’ll get to it. What’s on your mind most of all? You see Jesus put it like this: where your treasure is there will your heart be also. You can always tell a man’s true character by his mind preoccupation, what he thinks about or what she thinks about reveals where their treasure is. Where is your heart? Where is your life? Where is your concentration? Where is your thinking most of the time? What do you think about most of the time? Now Paul’s purpose in Colossians 3:1‑4 is to help us to see where our concentration ought to be. Where we ought to be thinking and the key to the little passage is in verse 2. “Set your mind or your thinking on things above and not on things on the earth.” Now what Paul says in this passage is very simple and very clear. The believer is to be heavenly minded. It’s the same thing that Jesus said when he said, “put your treasure in heaven, because where your treasure is, is where your heart will be.” It’s the same thing that Paul said when he said, “whatever is pure and just and holy and honest and so forth, think on those things.” What is your preoccupation? Paul says your preoccupation is to be on things above and not on things on the earth.
THE WORD AND THE SPIRIT – By Ray Stedman
In him [Christ] you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Eph. 1:13-14 RSV
Notice two things which are emphasized here which are always found together in Scripture — the Word, and the Spirit. Both are absolutely essential. There is no salvation without both of these. These are the instruments by which God performs his work. It is always a mistake to emphasize one of these to the exclusion of the other. There are groups today who are doing this: Some say, “No, we don’t need the Word. All we need is the Spirit’s guidance within. All we need is simply to trust the feelings we have. God the Spirit is dwelling in us and he will lead us.” But whenever a group does that, they follow the pattern of similar groups in the past, and it invariably results in impractical ideas, in mysticism, in fanaticism, in rigid, hard-eyed determinism, and in individualism — everybody going his own way and doing his own thing. Utter confusion results if you set aside the Word and try to follow only the Spirit.
On the other hand there are those who try to follow the Word alone. On my recent trip around the country I visited several churches in which it was evident that they had lost all the freshness and vitality of the Spirit and had been reduced to mechanical, orthodox, perfunctory performance of the Word. They were orthodox to the core, but there was no life. They were sterile and dull and lifeless. This is what results when you try to adhere to the Word without the Spirit. It results in dry, mechanical services which only go through a certain form, a ritual observance, and the people go home deadened and dried up. It results in a kind of clenched-teeth piety in which the people resolve that they are going to “do their duty” as Christians, but there is no motivation, no hunger, no satisfaction, no love, no warmth, no joy, no life. But in Scripture you always find the two together. The Word is interpreted by the Spirit, and the Word becomes fresh and vital as you look to the Holy Spirit to make Jesus Christ step out of the pages and stand in your presence in living flesh. You feel the heartbeat of the human Lord who walked here on earth. It is the job of the Spirit to do that, and you never should come to the Bible without asking him to take these words and make them come alive.
Remember how Jesus, on the road to Emmaus, appeared to his two disciples and he took the Scriptures, the account says, and beginning with Moses and the prophets he expounded to them all the things there concerning himself. As they reported the experience later they said, “Did not our hearts burn within us,” (Luke 24:27-32). That burning of heart as you read the Word is the work of the Spirit of God, taking the Word and making it alive and vital.
But on the other hand the Spirit is identified by the Word. There are many spirits abroad today, many voices talking to us, many sources from which we are getting information and ideas and attitudes thrown at us and approaches to the solution of problems proposed. How do you know which is right? How do you know that it is not the voice of the enemy cleverly concealed, seeming as if it is the voice of God, sounding as if it is going to offer you blessing? How can you tell? Only by the Word. It is the Word that identifies the Holy Spirit. And all false spirits are detected by this Word. So we must have together the Word and the Spirit for balance and sanity in our Christian lives.
THE LORD IS MY CHOSEN PORTION – By John Piper
J. C. Ryle once preached a sermon called “Christ Is All” based on Colossians 3:11. In it he said: “But alas, how little fit for heaven are many who talk of ‘going to heaven’ when they die, while they manifestly have no saving faith, and no real acquaintance with Christ. You give Christ no honor here. You have no communion with Him. You do not love Him. Alas! what could you do in heaven? It would be no place for you. Its joys would be no joys for you. Its happiness would be a happiness into which you could not enter. Its employments would be a weariness and burden to your heart. Oh, repent and change before it be too late!”
Nothing fits a person to be more useful on earth than to be more ready for heaven. This is true because readiness for heaven means taking pleasure in beholding the Lord Jesus, and beholding the glory of the Lord means being changed into his likeness (2 Cor. 3:18). Nothing would bless this world more than more people who are more like Christ. For in likeness to Christ the world might see Christ. When we celebrate the gospel of Christ and the love of God, and when we lift up the gift of salvation, let us do it in such a way that people will see through it to God himself. May those who hear the gospel from our lips know that salvation is the blood-bought gift of seeing and savoring the glory of Christ. May they believe and say, “Christ is all!” Or, to use the words of the psalmist, “May those who love your salvation say evermore, ‘God is great!’” (Ps. 70:4). Not mainly, “Salvation is great,” but “God is great!” May the church of Jesus Christ say with increasing intensity, “The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup” (Ps. 16:5). “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps. 42:1). “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Phil. 1:23). The world needs nothing more than to see the worth of Christ in the work and words of his God-besotted people. This will come to pass when the church awakens to the truth that the saving love of God is the gift of himself, and that God himself is the gospel.
THAT GOD MIGHT BE ALL – By Andrew Murray
In the Gospel of John we have the inner life of our Lord laid open to us. Jesus speaks frequently of His relation to the Father, of the motives by which He is guided, of His consciousness of the power and spirit in which He acts. Though the word humble does not occur, we shall nowhere in Scripture see so clearly wherein His humility consisted. We have already said that this grace is in truth nothing but that simple consent of the creature to let God be all, in virtue of which it surrenders itself to His working alone. In Jesus we shall see how both as the Son of God in heaven, and as man upon earth, He took the place of entire subordination, and gave God the honor and the glory which is due to Him- And what He taught so often was made true to Himself: “He that humbles himself: shall be exalted.” As it is written, “He humbled Himself, therefore God highly exalted Him.” Listen to the words in which our Lord speaks of His relation to the Father, and how unceasingly He uses the words not, and nothing, of Himself. The not I, in which Paul expresses his relation to Christ, is the very spirit of what Christ says of His relation the Father.
“The Son can do nothing of Himself” (John 5: 19).
“I can of My own self do nothing; My judgment is just, because I seek not Mine own will” (John 5: 30).
“I receive not glory from men” (John 5: 41).
“I am come not to do Mine own will” (John 6:38).
“My teaching is not Mine” (John 7:16)
“I am not come of Myself” (John 7:28)
“I do nothing of Myself” (John 8:28)
“I have not come of Myself, but He sent Me” (John 8: 42).
“I seek not Mine own glory” (John 8:50)
“The words that I say, I speak not from Myself” (John 14: 10).
“The word which you hear is not Mine” (John 14: 24).
These words open to us the deepest roots of Christ’s life and work. They tell us how it was that the Almighty God was able to work His mighty redemptive work through Him. They show what Christ counted the state of heart which became Him as the Son of the Father. They teach us what the essential nature and life is of that redemption which Christ accomplished and now communicates. It is this: He was nothing, that God might be all. He resigned Himself with His will and His powers entirely for the Father to work in Him. Of His own power, His own will, and His own glory, of His whole mission with all His works and His teaching, of all this He said, It is not I; I am nothing; I have given Myself to the Father to work; I am nothing, the Father is all. This life of entire self-abnegation, of absolute submission and dependence upon the Father’s will, Christ found to be one of perfect peace and joy. He lost nothing by giving all to God. God honored His trust, and did all for Him, and then exalted Him to His own right hand in glory. And because Christ had thus humbled Himself before God, and God was ever before Him, He found it possible to humble Himself before men too, and to be the Servant of all. His humility was simply the surrender of Himself to God, to allow Him to do in Him what He pleased, whatever men around might say of Him, or do to Him. It is in this state of mind, in this spirit and disposition, that the redemption of Christ has its virtue and efficacy. It is to bring us to this disposition that we are made partakers of Christ. This is the true self-denial to which our Saviour calls us, the acknowledgment that self has nothing good in it, except as an empty vessel which God must fill, and that its claim to be or do anything may not for a moment be allowed. It is in this, above and before everything, in which the conformity to Jesus consists, the being and doing nothing of ourselves, that God may be all.
MAN’S INSTINCT FOR IMMORTALITY – By George Morrison
Deep and ineradicable is the instinct of man for immortality, witnessed in every age, in every country, in every religion. Even when men deny it with their lips, still do they confess it with their lives, for life has its arguments no less than intellect. By the powerlessness of the whole world to satisfy the poorest heart; by the cargoes we all have on board of things that are not wanted for the voyage; by the passion for truth, the craving for perfection, the glimmering of ideals we never reach, man stretches out his hands to immortality. Whoever loved without longing for forever? Deep affection postulates eternity. Love does not want a year or a millennium. Love cries for immortality. And now comes Christ and looks upon mankind and sees the secret hunger of their souls and says, “If it were not so, I would have told you.”
There are beliefs that influence life but little, like the old belief that the sun went round the earth. We may cling to them, or we may give them up, with little difference to conduct. But there are other beliefs that touch and mold and color every action of the common day, and among these is the belief in immortality. In the light of it everything is altered. Altered is our outlook on the world. Altered is the discipline of life, and the import of the chastisements of heaven. Love is different, and hope is different; duty gains august and awful sanction if that instinct of immortality be true. Changed is the face of suffering, of infirmity, of weakness, and of pain. Changed is the loneliness of dying; changed the horrid darkness of the grave. And Christ says, “Children, do you think one instant that if that were an error I would let you keep it? If it were not so, I would have told you. Believe if you like that the sun goes round the earth. That does not matter. I shall not interfere. You may be Mine; you may be washed and sanctified though you believe that the sun goes round the earth. But that deep instinct for immortal life affects profoundly everything you do, and if it were a deception I would have told you.”
THE MYSTERY OF GOD – By Arthur Katz
I would still be grasping for answers in darkness today, or might have already perished, had it not been for the mercy of God and the revelation by His Spirit. Great hotshot Art Katz was one of the “princes of this world”: Marxist, communist, atheist, pragmatist, existentialist, conversant in philosophy, able to speak on any subject. All you had to do was touch him and he would regale you with information, opinions, and every kind of notion of how to change the world. But he could not change his own life. As a man who had lived all his life in the power of intellect, and had worshiped at its Jewish shrine, I tell you that intellect, human endowment, and human cleverness have not a thing to do with the revelation of God’s mysteries. “But God has revealed them unto us by His Spirit.” God does not will that we abandon the intellect, but only that we sweep it off our altars and use it in the service of our Creator. I began learning this lesson some decades ago, in the depths of my own crisis, aboard the deck of a Greek ship. A little book came into my hands that I would have scorned to read ever before; I thought of it as a “gentile” book. It is called the New Testament. In the first reading of that book, things of unspeakable profundity began to break upon my heart. What shattering exclamations came at me from the mouth of Jesus. Jesus. I was not even able to pronounce His name, so much was He a bone in my throat, yet I knew that no Jew ever spoke as this Jew spoke. There had never before been such an immense response in my soul as there was then to the statements that issued from Him, the magnitude of His being, the impeccable quality of His life and character, and, to my astonishment, the Jewishness of all of the men whom I had thought to be Gentiles, Jewish kinfolk like John and Peter. In my ignorance, I had previously thought that Jesus Himself was not a Jew, but I was reading of the greatest One who ever walked in a body of Jewish flesh and blood. When I came to the line where Jesus says that He came not to destroy the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17), I thought, “How does He dare speak this way? What kind of chutzpa and arrogance is this? Who does He think He is? He speaks more than any rabbi or prophet would dare to speak. Forgiving men their sins! Letting men fall to His feet to worship Him! Who is this man?” The Spirit had begun to break ground in my soul. Then that woman was taken in the act of adultery in the eighth chapter of John. My heart was pounding because I saw myself as one with her, caught in the sinful act, and I knew that I deserved what she deserved: the judgment of God-stoning, death. My heart was crying out for something I could not even identify. I did not know what to ask for or whom to ask for it. I was such an atheist and a cynic that I did not know what the word “mercy” meant. The sinner stood near my newly found hero in the midst of the accusing scribes and Pharisees, and I thought: “what is Jesus going to say now? He said that He came to fulfill the law and the law clearly prescribed ‘death by stoning’ for this offense.” I closed the book and was afraid to read on, trying to think of some clever thing to bail Him out. My intellect ran up one side of the dilemma and down the other, thinking of every kind of answer, but it was all hopeless; there was no human answer at all to His predicament. I re-opened the book with trembling hands as I waited for the answer of my new Jewish hero, who was greater than a Karl Marx, a Sigmund Freud, or an Albert Einstein – heroes who had disappointed me, gods who had failed. The Scriptures described Jesus, He who had not a place to lay His head, bent over and poking His finger in the dirt. I pictured the face of the One who had never sinned contrasted with the faces of His accusers: self-righteous religious types, spittle running from the corners of their mouths, just waiting for an opportunity to do in this nuisance whose very presence was a living accusation against them. He looked up, with the woman shaking with fear at His feet, and said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7b). When that line floated up off the page and passed through my eyes into my brain, my body began trembling violently. It did not stop in my head, where I thought my life was, but moved down to where the true seat of life is, in the heart. I was cleaved in two by the power of God; the word that had issued out of the mouth of Jesus had divided my soul and spirit asunder. No merely human mind could have produced that divine wisdom. At that moment I knew with complete certitude, atheist that I was a moment before, that this was the Word of God. “There is, therefore, a God in heaven, and Jesus, therefore, must be Who He claims to be.” I had received a revelation of the mystery of God.
COMPLETE FORGIVENESS – By John MacDuff
“How precious also are Your thoughts unto me, O God!”
For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. Hebrews 8:12
No thought can be morel precious than this—God’s thought of mercy to the unrighteous and undeserving. The consciousness of past sin lies like a cold avalanche on many a heart. “How can man be just with God?” “If you, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” “What then shall I do when God rises up? and when he confronts me, what shall I answer him?” These are the solemn questions which, despite of all efforts to silence or evade them, are ever and anon confronting the most indifferent and unconcerned. Blessed be God, He has not left them unanswered. He can bestow pardon on the unrighteous, and bury the remembrance of sin in the depths of oblivion.
“There is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.” “With the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption.” By a precious, peerless thought of infinite love, He has “devised ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from Him.” He “spared not his own Son, but delivered Him up for us all.” The true anti-typical scape-goat has borne away the burden of imputed sin into a land of forgetfulness—so that on that Great day “when God rises up,” “the iniquity of Judah shall be sought for, and shall not be found.”
May I be enabled joyfully to accept this glorious method of salvation, by which, in strict accordance with every attribute of the Divine nature, and every requirement of the Divine law, forgiveness may be dispensed to the chief of sinners. Nothing I could do, or that others could do for me, would prove in any way availing to purchase that salvation. Lebanon itself, with all its cedars piled up for altar and for fuel, and all its flocks for the sacrifice and burned-offering, would have been an insufficient propitiation.
But this ‘precious thought’ comes winged with love from the Cross of Calvary—”God is in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing unto men their trespasses.” He is as able as He is willing, and as willing as He is able, to save “unto the uttermost.” Is it crimson and scarlet sins—some deep, dark, foul blots on the tablet of memory—their terrible remembrance haunting me like specters from the abyss?—God says, ‘I will make even these like the spotless snow and the stainless wool.’ What is that great mountain of transgression before the true Zerubbabel, the storms of judgment brooding over it? It has become a plain—the work of Jesus has leveled it.
What is that great cloud, the aggregate of bypast sin, charged with condemnation, spreading itself overhead? Lo! it has melted away—”I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, your transgressions; and, as a cloud, your sins.” The Sun of righteousness has shone upon it. His rays, like burning arrows, have dispersed the elements of wrath. There is nothing now seen but the bright azure of a radiant heaven; and a voice is heard, amid the glorious sunshine, uttering the words, “Return unto Me, for I have redeemed you!”
Who is a God like You, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. Micah 7:18
THE SACRED NAME MOVEMENT
Question: I’ve come across something that’s been called the “Sacred Name Movement,” and I’m curious if any of you have heard of it. They disparage Jesus’ name as a pagan conglomeration of Zeus and a Greek healing goddess named Ieso and say that salvation is only achieved by calling upon the (varying) properly pronounced name of God, the Tetragrammaton, YHWH (or YHVH). They deny the Trinity and claim that the name of the Messiah also had to be YHWH or some variation. They seem to treat Hebrew as the original perfect language and also seem to deny the validity of the Greek NT and choose to believe that it was first written in Hebrew or Aramaic. I’d appreciate your thoughts or observations on this.
Response: We haven’t yet particularly addressed groups in the Sacred Name Movement such as the Assembly of Yahweh. To know that “Yahweh” (the closest to the four letters YHWH) is correct, and that Jesus could and can correctly be called Yahshua–or, even more correctly, Yahweh-shua, or “God” (Yah) “the Savior” (Shua)–is wonderful, but we do not recommend fellowshipping with any group that establishes this as their basis for separating from other believers. Their apparent intent is to help Christians better understand the Scriptures through Hebrew eyes and culture.
If any group, however, places extreme emphasis upon these aspects, it can be quite easy to begin to have a cultic mindset; i.e., that they are the only ones who have the truth and everyone else is anathema. From there, it’s only a short distance to legalism and presenting error that often goes undetected by followers. The Jews regarded the name of God as so holy that they would not dare even to write or pronounce it, instead using Adonai or Elohim. To make this a main teaching, or to say that it is “suppressed” information (as some groups do), can easily lead the unsuspecting to feel unsafe with any version of the Bible, any teacher of the Scriptures, or any group other than the one promoting this teaching.
Legalism is discussed in the article “Jews, Gentiles, and the Church” (see September 1989 TBC). We’ve been freed from the law (of sin and death) and from the penalty that we would otherwise have to pay if we were under the law. But we are to abide in Christ, who came to fulfill the law and in whom we’re enabled to live lives in obedience to His will and in accordance with His purpose. Galatians 3 explains this. We are now under the “law” of love (Jn 14:15).
Do we not think that when we refer to our Lord as “Jesus” that God knows exactly whom we mean–and men as well? Further, this “understanding” didn’t compel the writers of the New Testament to adhere to the sole use of “Yahweh” and “Yahshua. On the contrary, Kurios (Iēsous), is used by Paul when quoting Psalm 117:1. Instead of “O Praise the LORD (Yahweh), all ye nations…”, the apostle Paul writes, “Praise the Lord (Kurios ), all ye Gentiles…” (Rom 15:11). That is one reason why some in the “Sacred Name Movement” deny the validity of the Greek text of the New Testament. The Scriptures do not support their preconceived ideas.
Nevertheless, in the Old Testament, the inspired Jewish writers of Scripture used “Elohim,” as in Psalm 59 (see vv. 1,5,9,10,13,17). David does record “Yahweh” in verses 3 and 8, but why not in the others, if the premise of these folks is correct? It isn’t.
The idea that “Jesus” (Iesous) is derived from “a pagan conglomeration of Zeus and a Greek healing goddess named ‘Ieso'” is unsupportable. The name “Iesous” is found in the Greek Septuagint. Regarding the derivation or origin of the name, it is easy to find the following: “Jesus, (je’zus) [Latin from Gr. Iesous, which is for Heb. Jeshua, a late form of Jehoshua or Joshua…]” (John D. Davis, The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, Philadelphia, The Westminster Press, 1944).
In Scripture, the term elohim is used as a generic term for “god” as when speaking of the Philistine god Dagon (“elohim”-1 Sm 5:7); Chemosh, the god (“elohim”) of Ammon and Moab (Jdgs 11:24; 1 Kgs 11:33); Ashtarte (or Ashtoreth), the Sidonian goddess (I Kgs 11:33); and Milcom, another god of the Ammonites (1 Kgs 11:33). For that matter, in Exodus 7:1 we read, “And the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god [elohim] to Pharaoh….” Yet, no one paying attention to context and usage imagines that “Elohim” in Genesis 1:26 refers to anyone other than the Almighty God.
WE WALK THE CALVARY ROAD – By John Piper
In our day, just as in Paul’s day, there are peddlers of the gospel who seem to have forgotten that at the heart of our faith is “an old rugged cross, an emblem of suffering and shame,” and that to trust Christ crucified is to be identified with him in the humiliation of his death, and that only in the age to come will we be glorified with him, and that while this age lasts we walk the Calvary road. Oh, to be sure, not without joy—indescribable joy and full of the hope of glory—but always joy in weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, calamities.
Watch out for the slick preachers who never mention these things, for whom the cross is a mere token symbol, for whom the exceeding sinfulness of all our hearts is scarcely mentioned, who use power, wisdom, fame, and luxury to beckon the self-centered middle-class American to consider himself Christian at no cost to his pride and self-sufficiency.
Contrast the apostle Paul: 1 Corinthians 2:3, “I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling.” Paul would have never made it on the major networks. You remember what his enemies said of him in 2 Corinthians 10:10, “They say, ‘His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak and his speech of no account.'” There is a brand of Christianity today that would have asked of Paul, “What good can he do for Christ? Why, he’ll just turn everybody off. What Christ needs is shiny people, people with education, power, status, flair. Otherwise, how are we going to be able to sell Jesus to the public and get America Christianized?”
Paul’s question was not so much, “What good can I do for Christ?” but rather, “What good can Christ do for the world through unworthy me?” It was not, “How much power can I muster for Jesus?” but, “How much power can Jesus show through my weakness?” Remember 2 Corinthians 12:8 and following? Paul said about some special infirmity that he had: “Three times I besought the Lord about this that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Paul knew that, if he was to be an agent of the crucified Christ to win people to faith in him, then he had to follow the way of Calvary. That is, he had to draw people’s attention not to his own power, wisdom, status or flair, but to the power of God made perfect in weakness. He knew that if human power or beauty or intelligence or class got center stage, whatever conversions happened would not be conversions to the crucified Christ.
If it is the power of God manifest in the weakness and death of Christ that kindles and sustains saving faith (as 1 Cor. 2:5 says), then the way to reflect that power in our lives for the sake of others is to carry the death of Jesus in our own bodies. This is how Paul described the power of his own ministry. He said in 2 Corinthians 4:7–11: “We have this treasure (of the gospel) in earthen vessels (our weak bodies) to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed, perplexed but not driven to despair, persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed, always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”
A KINGDOM OF REALITY – By Arthur Katz
There is a ‘Kingdom of reality’ that needs to be demonstrated by God’s people. And if we need to be anything as the Church, it is foremost to be eminently real, eminently loving, eminently living in the truth, speaking the truth, walking in the truth, doing the truth, being true. It is much more than merely “being correct,” or scripturally and doctrinally sound. It is something that should be suffused right into the marrow and the knit of our makeup. It needs to be in our eyes, in our speech, in the inflection of our voice, our posture and our talk. God has triggered something in my heart to raise the questions of authenticity before the Body of Christ. Are we willing for authenticity’s sake and for truth’s sake not to grasp at the first straw that floats our way, and which seems to present the possibility of solving our problems? Are we willing to refrain from simulating something out of our own humanity that has the appearance of love, but is not? I want that which comes down from above, however long I have got to bear the terrible agony and reputation of ‘lovelessness.’ I do not want a saccharine counterfeit. Authentic things do not come cheap. They never have. It is we, as believers, who have been inducted into the spirit of glib, unctuous and facile kinds of doings. We are quick to reconcile that which is not reconciled in God, and thereby suffer the surfacing again and again of problems, issues, and habits that will neither dissolve nor go away. We want a pseudo-resurrection without the ignominy and pain of the Cross. But it is only out of the ultimate agony and devastation of the Cross that ultimate glory comes. Are we lovers of the Cross? * Do we love the splinters and the blood and the gore? Do we recognize that there is a cross for us to bear, and it is to this suffering that we are called, and that the resolution of the issue will not be far from us if we seek the things that are authentic and true? Do we have the discernment to distinguish the authentic from the counterfeit? Are we so habituated to success, and so desirous of seeing some visible effect of power that we are not too discriminating so long as we ‘get it,’ somehow? We want the excitement; we want the titillation; we want the appearance of power; we want to succeed, because the possibility of failure is a form of death we are not willing to bear, thus avoiding the Cross. We ought rather to ask ourselves what is success as God defines it?
LOVE IS NEEDED FOR THE PERFECTING OF GIFTS – By George Morrison
How true this is of spiritual gifts we learn from the first epistle to the Corinthians. That church at Corinth was very rich in gifts; so rich, that there was trouble over them. One had the gift of prophecy and one of prayer; one had the gift of tongues and one of healing; and every man in the ardor of the spirit was claiming for his own gift a proud preeminence until at last the danger grew so great and the scandal of bickering so soul-destroying that the Corinthian Christians wrote to Paul begging him for his advice and guidance. What was the counsel which the apostle gave? First, he said, covet earnestly the best gifts. Remember, he means, that though all gifts are of God, yet all are not equal in spiritual value. But then immediately he turns from that as though it were too hard for these Corinthians, and he says “and yet I show you a more excellent way”—and that more excellent way is love. It is thus that Paul introduces that great chapter in which he glorifies the powers of love. There will be no more trouble about spiritual gifts if love is the girdle which includes them all. Without love, the graces of the spirit will irritate like flowing garments in the gale. Love is the perfect bond which makes them serviceable, keeping each in its peculiar place.
Not only is this true of spiritual gifts; it is true of artistic and intellectual gifts. Over them all a man must put on love, for love is the final touch that perfects them. Take for example the happy gift of song which God has bestowed so freely on His children. We have all listened, I take it, to some singers who have set us wondering at their perfect art. Artistically there was not a flaw to find; there was consummate mastery and perfect execution, and yet the song somehow failed to move us or to strike a responsive chord within our breast. The gift was there—that no one would deny—and it had been trained with splendid perseverance, but there was one thing lacking to complete it and that was the perfecting impress of the heart. You can arrest and dazzle without love, but without love you cannot charm or win. You cannot open these ivory and golden gates that lead to the secret places of the soul. Hence a poor gift, if there be love behind it, will set the eye glistening with tears while the most brilliant gift, if it be loveless, will leave us wondering and leave us cold. I have heard preachers whose intellectual gifts were such that any man might covet them. Yet they never moved me to abhor the wrong or kindled me to joy in what was fair. But I have heard others whose gifts were not remarkable but who were on fire with love to God and man, and there was a power about their simplest word that made a man ashamed of his poor life. My brother and sister, whatever be your gift, over that gift put on the belt of love. Covet earnestly the best gifts, but covet love to beautify them all. Study is noble, and discipline is good, and perseverance is a heroic virtue; but in all the range of gifts there is not one that does not call for love to perfect it.
GIFTS AND GRACES – By Andrew Murray
There is a difference between gifts and graces. The graces of the Spirit are humility and love, like the humility and love of Christ. The graces of the Spirit are to make a man free from self; the gifts of the Spirit are to fit a man for work. We see this illustrated among the Corinthians. In the first chapter Paul says, “I thank God that you are enriched unto all utterance, and all knowledge, and all wisdom.” In the 12th and 14th chapters we see that the gifts of prophecy and of working miracles were in great power among them; but the graces of the Spirit were noticeably absent. And this may be in our days as well as in the time of the Corinthians. I may be a minister of the Gospel; I may teach God’s Word beautifully; I may have influence, and gather a large congregation, and yet, alas! I may be a carnal man; a man who may be used by God, and may be a blessing to others, and yet the carnal life may still mark me. You all know the law that a thing is named according to what is its most prominent characteristic. Now, in these carnal Corinthians there was a little of God’s Spirit, but the flesh predominated; the Spirit had not the rule of their whole life. And the spiritual men are not called so because there is no flesh in them, but because the Spirit in them has obtained dominance, and when you meet them and have intercourse with them, you feel that the Spirit of God has sanctified them. Ah, let us beware lest the blessing God gives us in our work deceive us and lead us to think that because he has blessed us, we must be spiritual men. God may give us gifts that we use, and yet our lives may not be wholly in the power of the Holy Spirit.
TO LIVE IS CHRIST – By Watchman Nee
There are many Christians who have greatly misunderstood Philippians 1:21. When Paul said, “For to me, to live is Christ,” he was stating a fact. They think for to me, to live is Christ is a goal or a hope. But Paul did not say that his goal was to live Christ. Paul was saying, “I live because I have Christ; I cannot live without Him.” This was a fact in him, not a goal he was seeking. It was the secret to his living, not the hope he was cherishing. His living was Christ. For him to live was for Christ to live.
Galatians 2:20 is a very familiar verse to many Christians. But many misunderstand it more than they misunderstand Philippians 1:21. They have made Galatians 2:20 their goal, praying with aspiration and hoping they will reach the state when “it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” Each time this verse is read, they are full of aspiration. Many people pray, fast, and hope that one day they will be crucified with Christ and reach the state when “it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” Galatians 2:20 has become their goal and their hope.
According to our experience, no one with such a hope ever reaches his goal. If you make it your goal and hope to attain such a state, if you aspire to be crucified, that is, to no longer be the one who lives but instead to have Christ living in you, you will wait forever before seeing your aspiration fulfilled, because you are hoping for something that is impossible to achieve.
God has given us a wonderful gift of grace. There is a way. Those who fail can overcome; those who are unclean can be clean; those who are worldly can be holy; those who are earthly can be heavenly; and those who are carnal can be spiritual. This is not a goal, but a way. This way lies in the life of substitution. Just as we found a vicarious death in the Lord’s grace, we also can find a vicarious living in Him. On the cross the Lord bore our sins. Through His death we were spared death. Our sins were forgiven, and we were spared judgment. Similarly, Paul tells us that we are spared of our living through the Lord living in us. The implication is simple: Since He lives in us, we no longer need to live. Just as He died once for us on the cross, today He is living for us and in us. Paul did not say, “I hope that I will not live. I hope that I will allow Him to live.” Instead, he was saying, “I no longer live anymore. He is the One who is living.” “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” This is the secret to victory. This is the way to be victorious.
The day we heard that we did not need to die, we embraced that word as the gospel. Similarly, it should also be a day of the gospel to us when we hear that we do not need to live. I hope that the new believers will pray much for God’s enlightenment and will see that Christ lives in us and that we no longer need to live by ourselves.
CHRIST RISEN AND VICTORIOUS IN US – By Andrew Murray
Jesus got this divine life by depending absolutely upon the Father all His life long, depending upon Him even down into death. Jesus got that life in the full glory of the Spirit to be poured out, by giving Himself up in obedience and surrender to God alone, and leaving God even in the grave to work out His mighty power; and that very Christ will live out His life in you and me. Oh, the mystery! Oh, the glory! And oh, the Divine certainty. Jesus Christ means to live out that life in you and me. What think you, ought we not to humble ourselves before God? Have we been Christians so many years, and realized so little what we are? I am a vessel set apart, cleansed, emptied, consecrated; just standing, waiting every moment for God, in Christ, by the Holy Spirit, to work out in me as much of the holiness and the life of His Son as pleases Him. And until the Church of Christ comes to go down into the grave of humiliation, and confession, and shame; until the Church of Christ comes to lay itself in the very dust before God, and to wait upon God to do something new, and something wonderful, something supernatural, in lifting it up, it will remain feeble in all its efforts to overcome the world. Within the Church what lukewarmness, what worldliness, what disobedience, what sin! How can we ever fight this battle, or meet these difficulties? The answer is: Christ, the risen One, the crowned One, the almighty One, must come, and live in the individual members. But we can not expect this except as we die with Him. I referred to the tree grown so high and beautiful, with its roots every day for a hundred years in the grave in which the acorn died. Children of God, we must go down deeper into the grave of Jesus. We must cultivate the sense of impotence, and dependence, and nothingness, until our souls walk before God every day in a deep and holy trembling. God keep us from being anything. God teach us to wait on Him, that He may work in us all He wrought in His Son, till Christ Jesus may live out His life in us! For this may God help us!
THE FOOLISHNESS OF COMPARISON – By Albert Theron
ROMANS 12:6a “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us.”
2 CORINTHIANS 10:12 “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”
Our life in the church is directly dependent on the life of Christ in us. Our salvation is in Christ, our fellowship is in Christ, our ministry is in Christ, and so we may carry on to designate the entire range of essential qualities and activities in the church. Every single activity and ministry in the church has its right of existence only in so far as it complies with the life of the indwelling Christ Whom we have been grafted into. Everything we have in common is there only because of the shared life that we have in Christ Jesus. There is, however, an area where we differ markedly one from another, and that is in the area of gifts. Even though we have in a certain sense all received only one gift, namely Christ, the way in which we express Him in the church differs according to God’s sovereign arrangement.
Right here we find that things often go askew in the church. These varieties of gifts and personalities in the church have been given to us to demonstrate the many facets of God’s grace and His Person. Instead of working together and encouraging each other towards one goal, however, we often compete with each other and feel threatened by the gifts of others. Paul says in our text in 2 Corinthians that this is ‘not wise’. To compare ourselves with others is to use the wrong measure for our lives. Our worth lies not in the way that we express Christ, that is in our gift or personality, our worth lies in the fact that Christ lives in us and that He is our real life. Moreover it is even foolish on the human level to compare yourself with others, for God has made you absolutely unique and no one else on this planet can do what God has called you to do in the place and time in which you live. Let us, therefore, endeavour earnestly to take our eyes off people and fix our eyes on our Lord and Master in order that we may receive instructions towards greater servanthood.
Quote of the Day: “Comparing yourself with others will always breed either pride or a feeling of inferiority, but evaluating your life in Christ Jesus will inevitably bring true contentment and a sober view of yourself and your gifts.”
HE LOVED ME AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME – By John Piper
Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:2
Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ephesians 5:25
[He] loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
The death of Christ is not only the demonstration of God’s love (John 3:16), it is also the supreme expression of Christ’s own love for all who receive it as their treasure. The early witnesses who suffered most for being Christians were captured by this fact: Christ “loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). They took the self-giving act of Christ’s sacrifice very personally. They said, “He loved me. He gave himself for me.” Surely this is the way we should understand the sufferings and death of Christ. They have to do with me. They are about Christ’s love for me personally. It is my sin that cuts me off from God, not sin in general. It is my hard-heartedness and spiritual numbness that demean the worth of Christ. I am lost and perishing. When it comes to salvation, I have forfeited all claim on justice. All I can do is plead for mercy. Then I see Christ suffering and dying. For whom? It says, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). And I ask, Am I among the “many”? Can I be one of his “friends”? May I belong to the “church”? And I hear the answer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43). “To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). “Whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). My heart is swayed, and I embrace the beauty and bounty of Christ as my treasure. And there flows into my heart this great reality—the love of Christ for me. So I say with those early witnesses, “He loved me and gave himself for me.” And what do I mean? I mean that he paid the highest price possible to give me the greatest gift possible. And what is that? It is the gift he prayed for at the end of his life: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory” (John 17:24). In his suffering and death “we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). We have seen enough to capture us for his cause. But the best is yet to come. He died to secure this for us. That is the love of Christ.
THE MARKS OF A CRUCIFIED MAN – By Andrew Murray
What are the marks of a crucified man? The first is, deep, absolute humility. Christ humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. When the death to sin begins to work mightily, that is one of its chief and most blessed proofs. It breaks a man down, down, and the great longing of his heart is, “Oh, that I could get deeper down before my God, and be nothing at all, that the life of Christ might be exalted. I deserve nothing but the cursed cross; I give myself over to it.” Humility is one of the great marks of a crucified man. Another mark is impotence, helplessness. When a man hangs on the cross, he is utterly helpless, he can do nothing. As long as we Christians are strong, and can work, or struggle, we do not get into the blessed life of Christ; but when a man says, “I am a crucified man, I am utterly helpless, every breath of life and strength must come from my Jesus,” then we learn what it is to sink into our own impotence, and say, “I am nothing.” Still another mark of crucifixion is restfulness. Yes. Christ was crucified, and went down into the grave, and we are crucified and buried with Him. There is no place of rest like the grave; a man can do nothing there, “My flesh shall rest in hope,” said David, and said the Messiah. Yes, and when a man goes down into the grave of Jesus, it means this: that he just cries out, “I have nothing but God, I trust God; I am waiting upon God; my flesh rests in Him; I have given up everything, that I may rest, waiting upon what God is to do to me.” Remember, the crucifixion, and the death, and the burial are inseparably one. And remember the grave is the place where the mighty resurrection power of God will be manifested. And remember those precious words in the 11th of John: “Said I not unto you”—when did Christ say that? It was at the grave of Lazarus—”that if you believe, you shall see the glory of God?” Where shall I see the glory of God most brightly? Beside the grave. Go down into death believing, and the glory of God will come upon you, and fill your heart.
BACK TO THE CROSS – By Austin Sparks
We have daily to recognize that our lives must be subject to the Holy Spirit, and when we are aware that there has been something of our own will, we have to be faithful before God about it. I believe that slowly and surely we shall come to the place where we live with that certain pause in our hearts which is a check on our impulsiveness, a check on rashness, a check on acting under excitement, a check on our own way of reasoning about things. That is a thing for the Holy Spirit to set up in us. Our business is to recognize that from centre to circumference our lives must be handed over to His control. The result will be that the Holy Spirit will all the time work back to the Cross. The Cross, once for all, settled that position in a comprehensive and detailed way. It stands for ever as God’s judicial ban upon man by nature, in his unregenerate state. The Holy Spirit will work back to that with us. Do recognize that the Cross is the end of the risen life, and not only the beginning. If you forget everything else, remember that. The Cross is the end of the risen life, as well as the beginning: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed unto his death.” People have been to me with Philippians 3 and have asked: ‘Why did Paul put death at the end? Surely it ought to be right the other way round – “That I may be conformed to His death, and know Him in the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings”!’ No, there is no mistake. The order is of the Holy Spirit. The power of His resurrection presupposes that there has been a death, but the very resurrection-life leads to the Cross. The Holy Spirit in the power of the risen life is always leading you back to the Cross, to conformity to His death. It is the very property of life to rule out all that belongs to death. It is the very power of resurrection to bring us back to the place where death is constantly overcome. That place is none other than the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ where the natural life is put aside. So Paul says: “…becoming conformed unto his death…”, which means: to have the ground of death continuously and progressively removed; and that, again, as we have said, is the fruit of living union with Him. It would be a poor look-out for you and for me were we to be conformed to His death in entirety apart from the power of resurrection in us, apart from our already knowing the life of the Lord. Where would be our hope? What is it that is the power of our survival when the Cross is made more real in our experience? There would be no survival were it not that His risen life is in us. So Paul prays: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection…”, and that means conformity to His death without utter destruction. The end of the risen life is the Cross. The Holy Spirit is always working in relation to the Cross, in order that the power of His resurrection may be increasingly manifested in us. This is the background of the whole question of life. I am sure, with a greater certainty today than ever, that the basis in us for life triumphant is the working of the Cross in the setting aside of all that which is natural. There is nothing more hated by the enemy than the Cross. Let us seek to free our minds from all false conceptions of the Cross! So often there has been this kind of reaction: ‘Oh, it is the Cross; it is death, death, death! This working of the Cross in a subjective way is all the time leading to death!’ That is why we have already mentioned that it is so important for us to recognize that it is not that death destroys us, but that it makes the way for a greater fullness of life. It is the positive side that we have to keep in mind; not the fact that we are constantly being ruled out, and ruled out, but rather that of necessity that is being done in order that He may come in, and come in, and come in. It is the life side which has to be kept uppermost, even in the working of the Cross with reference to what was set aside by God at Calvary.
THE MOMENT OF DECISION – By Arthur Katz
The world spirit will come to us more and more during these end times, and whisper, cry, sing, squeal, and shout, “Lie with me.” The invitation may offer literal fornication, or a respectable-looking substitution of religious appearances for the vitality of a committed service to the living God. It will offer whatever might have the greatest potential to shift our eyes from His purpose to our desires. The result of saying yes is the same in every case: the forfeiture of our usefulness as an instrument for His revelation at the end of the ages. That lowly Hebrew did not know that the entire world would be critically affected by his response to the seductive invitation of Potiphar’s wife. Joseph’s loving obedience to the Lord and his resistance to temptation resulted in God having a man through whom He could minister life to all nations in a time of great want. And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph said: and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he says to you, do. And the famine was over all the face of the earth: And Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. And all the countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so severe in all lands (Genesis 41:54-57). If Joseph was a man who had lived for himself, he would have embraced the devil’s visible offer, and turned his back on his unseen Lord. Countless lives, history, hung in the balance at the moment of decision. God did not offer any deal to His man: He did not say, “If you refuse this woman, I will make you lord and ruler of Pharaoh’s house and of all his possessions.” All Joseph knew at the time was that to hearken to, lie by, or even be with his temptress would have constituted a great wickedness and a revolt against the very Spirit within him. God is calling His people to simple obedience and a trusting walk with Him by the Spirit. We need not receive any immediate explanations or forecasts of consequences at the moment that He points the direction and, in His great faithfulness, says to us, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” (Isaiah 30:21a).
HUMILITY AND FAITH – By Andrew Murray
In an address I lately heard, the speaker said that the blessings of the higher Christian life were often like the objects exposed in a shop window,-one could see them clearly and yet could not reach them. If told to stretch out his hand and take, a man would answer, I cannot; there is a thick pane of plate-glass between me and them. And even so Christians may see clearly the blessed promises of perfect peace and rest, of overflowing love and joy, of abiding communion and fruitfulness, and yet feel that there was something between hindering the true possession. And what might that be? Nothing but pride. The promises made to faith are so free and sure; the invitations and encouragements so strong; the mighty power of God on which it may count is so near and free,-that it can only be something that hinders faith that hinders the blessing being ours. In our text Jesus discovers to us that it is indeed pride that makes faith impossible. “How can you believe, who receive glory from one another?” As we see how in their very nature pride and faith are irreconcilably at variance, we shall learn that faith and humility are at root one, and that we never can have more of true faith than we have of true humility; we shall see that we may indeed have strong intellectual conviction and assurance of the truth while pride is kept in the heart, but that it makes the living faith, which has power with God, an impossibility. We need only think for a moment what faith is. Is it not the confession of nothingness and helplessness, the surrender and the waiting to let God work? Is it not in itself the most humbling thing there can be, the acceptance of our place as dependents, who can claim or get or do nothing but what grace bestows?! Humility is ‘simply the disposition which prepares the soul for living on trust. And every, even the most secret breathing of pride, in self-seeking, self-will, self-confidence, or self exaltation, is just the strengthening of that self which cannot enter the kingdom, or possess the things of the kingdom, because it refuses to allow God to be what He is and must be there– the All in All. Faith is the organ or sense for the perception and apprehension of the heavenly world and its blessings. Faith seeks the glory that comes from God, that only comes where God is All. As long as we take glory from one another, as long as ever we seek and love and jealously guard the glory of this life, the honor and reputation that comes from men, we do not seek, and cannot receive the glory that comes from God. Pride renders faith impossible. Salvation comes through a cross and a crucified Christ. Salvation is the fellowship with the crucified Christ in the Spirit of His cross. Salvation is union with and delight in, salvation is participation in, the humility of Jesus. Is it wonder that our faith is so feeble when pride still reigns so much, and we have scarce learnt even to long or pray for humility as the most needful and blessed part of salvation? Humility and faith are more nearly allied in Scripture than many know. See it in the life of Christ. There are two cases in which He spoke of a great faith. Had not the centurion, at whose faith He marvelled, saying, “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel!” spoken, “I am not worthy that You should come under my roof”? And had not the mother to whom He spoke, “O woman, great is your faith!” accepted the name of dog, and said, “Yes, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs’? It is the humility that brings a soul to be nothing before God, that also removes every hindrance to faith, and makes it only fear lest it should dishonor Him by not trusting Him wholly.