BECAUSE HE IS WORTHY – By Watchman Nee
As you learn to praise, you will find that there are days in which you cannot gather yourself to praise. Perhaps you praised God seven times today, yesterday, and the day before. Perhaps you praised Him a week or a month ago. But one day you will find that you cannot utter a praise. On such days you are in pain, total darkness, or dire trouble. On such days you suffer misunderstanding and slander. You are busy shedding tears of self-pity. How can you praise God on such days? You cannot praise because you are wounded, suffering pain, and in difficulty. You feel that the most obvious response would be complaint rather than praise. You feel that the most obvious thing to do would be to murmur rather than give thanks. You do not feel like praising, and you have no intention to praise. You feel that praise is not suitable under this kind of circumstance and mood. At that very moment, you should remember that Jehovah’s throne has not changed, His name has not changed, and His glory has not changed. You should praise Him simply because He is worthy of praise. You should bless Him simply because He is worthy of all blessings. Although you are in the midst of difficulties, He is still worthy to be praised. Although you are in distress, you still have to praise Him. At that moment, your praise becomes a sacrifice of praise. Your praise is like the slaughter of your fattest calf. It is like putting your dear Isaac on the altar. Your praise in tears is a sacrifice of praise. What is an offering? An offering implies wounds, death, loss, and sacrifice. You are wounded before God. You die before God. You suffer loss, and you sacrifice before God. But you realize that God’s throne is established in the heavens and cannot be shaken, and you do not hold back your praise. This is the sacrifice of praise. God desires His children to praise Him in everything and through every situation.
HUDSON TAYLOR’S SPIRITUAL SECRET – This is excerpted from the chapter on “The Exchanged Life” in Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor
I knew that if only I could abide in Christ all would be well, but I could not. I would begin the day with prayer, determined not to take my eye off Him for a moment, but pressure of duties, sometimes very trying, and constant interruptions apt to be so wearing, caused me to forget Him. Then one’s nerves get so fretted in this climate that temptations to irritability, bad thoughts and sometimes unkind words are all the more difficult to control. Each day brought its register of sin and failure, of lack of power. To will was indeed “present with me,” but how to perform I found not. Then came the questions, is there no rescue? Must it be thus to the end–constant conflict, and too often defeat? . . . . Instead of growing stronger, I seemed to be getting weaker and to have less power against sin; and no longer, for faith and even hope were getting low. I hated myself, I hated my sin, yet gained no strength against it. I felt I was a child of God. His Spirit in my heart would cry, in spite of all, “Abba, Father.” But to rise to my privileges as a child, I was utterly powerless. . . . I knew I was powerless. I told the Lord so, and asked Him to give me help and strength. Sometimes I almost believed that He would keep and uphold me; but on looking back in the evening–alas! There was but sin and failure to confess and mourn before God. . . And yet, never did Christ seem more precious; a Savior who could and would save such a sinner! . . . And sometimes there were seasons not only of peace but of joy in the Lord; but they were transitory, and at best there was a sad lack of power. All the time I felt assured that there was in Christ all I needed, but the practical question was–how to get it out. He was rich truly, but I was poor; He was strong, but I weak. I knew full well that there was in the root, the stem, abundant fatness, but how to get it into my puny little branch was the question. As gradually light dawned, I saw that faith was the only requisite–was the hand to lay hold on His fullness and make it mine. But I had not this faith. I strove for faith, but it would not come; I tried to exercise it, but in vain. Seeing more and more the wondrous supply of grace laid up in Jesus, the fullness of our precious Savior, my guilt and helplessness seemed to increase. Sins committed appeared but as trifles compared with the sin of unbelief which was their cause, which could not or would not take God at His word. . . . I prayed for faith, but it came not. What was I to do? When my agony of soul was at its height, a sentence in a letter from dear McCarthy was used to remove the scales from my eyes, and the Spirit of God revealed to me the truth of our oneness with Jesus as I had never known it before. “But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One.” As I read, I saw it all! “If we believe not, he abides faithful.” I looked to Jesus and saw (and when I saw, oh, how joy flowed)! That He had said, “I will never leave thee.” “Ah, there is rest!” I thought. “I have striven in vain to rest in Him. I’ll strive no more. For has not He promised to abide with me–never to leave me, never to fail me?” And, . . . He never will. . . As I thought of the Vine and the branches, what light the blessed Spirit poured direct into my soul! How great seemed my mistake in wishing to get the sap, the fullness out of Him! I saw not only that Jesus will ever leave me, but that I am a member of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. The vine is not the root merely, but all–root, stem, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit. And Jesus is not that alone–He is soil and sunshine, air and showers, and ten thousand times more than we have ever dreamed, wished for or needed. Oh, the joy of seeing this truth! I do pray that the eyes of your understanding too may be enlightened, that you may know and enjoy the riches freely given us in Christ. . . It is a wonderful thing to be really one with a risen and exalted Savior, to be a member of Christ! Think what it involves. Can Christ be rich and I poor? Can your right hand be rich and your left poor? Or your head be well fed while your body starves? . . . . No more can your prayers or mine be discredited if offered in the name of Jesus (i.e., not for the sake of Jesus merely, but on the ground that we are His, His members) so long as we keep within the limits of Christ’s credit–a tolerably wide limit! The sweetest part, . . . is the rest which full identification with Christ brings. I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize this; for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest position He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult His grace is sufficient. . . . So, if God should place me in serious perplexity, must He not give me much guidance; in positions of great difficulty, much grace; in circumstances of great pressure and trials, much strength? No fear that His resources will prove unequal to the emergency! And His resources are mine, for He is mine, and is with me and dwells in me.
GOD’S FACT – By Watchman Nee
The Lord Jesus in going to the cross took with Him not only our sins but also our beings. Paul enunciates this fact by proclaiming “that our old man has been crucified with him.” The verb “crucified” in the original is in the aorist tense, connoting that our old man was once and forever crucified with Him. As the cross of Christ is a fact accomplished, so our being crucified with Him is additionally an accomplished fact. Whoever questions the reality of the crucifixion of Christ? Why, then, should we doubt the reality of the crucifixion of our old man? Many saints, upon hearing the truth of co-death, immediately assume that they ought to die, and so they try their best to crucify themselves. Either lack of God’s revelation or lack of faith accounts for this attitude. They not only do this themselves; they teach others so to do as well. The results are too obvious: no power is theirs to be freed from sin and their old man they feel will not die. This is a grievous misjudgment. The Bible never instructs us to crucify ourselves. Precisely the opposite are we told. We are taught that when Christ went to Calvary He took us there and had us crucified. We are not instructed to begin crucifying ourselves now; instead the Scriptures assure us that our old man was dealt with at the time Christ went to the cross. Romans 6.6 alone is sufficient to substantiate this. There is not the remotest idea conveyed of desiring to crucify ourselves, nor does the Word in the slightest sense imply that our crucifixion awaits realization. The verse in Romans 6 permits no room for doubt when it categorically pronounces that we were crucified with Christ, a fact already accomplished. This is truly the effect of the most precious phrase in the Bible-“in Christ.” It is because we are in Him and are united with Him that we can say that when Christ went to the cross we went there in Him, that when Christ was crucified we too were crucified in Him. What a wonderful reality that we are in Christ! Mere mental assimilation of these truths cannot withstand temptation, however. The revelation of God is positively essential. The Spirit of God must reveal how we are in Christ and how we are united with Him in one. He must also show us distinctly how our old man was crucified with Christ for the simple reason that we are in Christ. This cannot be simply a mental comprehension; it must be a disclosure of the Holy Spirit. When a truth is unfolded by God it most naturally becomes a power in man, who then finds himself able to believe. Faith comes through revelation. Without the latter the former is impossible. This explains why many do not have faith, for though they mentally understand they do not have God’s revelation. Therefore, brethren, pray until God gives us revelation so that “knowing this” in our spirit we may truly confess “that our old man has been crucified with him.”
THE FOLLY OF A ROUTINE CHRISTIANITY – By Martyn Lloyd-Jones
There is nothing which is so fatal to successful progress as a sluggish, lifeless Christian. Ask the average man in the street why he does not come to a place of worship, why he is not a Christian, and you will find that the answer he is most likely to give you is that it is all so dull, and so dead. He says there is nothing in it, no life. And of course there is much to justify what he says. You have but to compare and contrast a typical sample of worldly people with a typical sample of Christian people to see the basis on which he makes his statement. Look at the enthusiasm and the excitement of people who watch the football on Saturday afternoon in the winter, or the people who go to the races. Listen to the shouting and the excitement! Look at those people who go after their sports or whatever they are interested in! They want to be there in time, they want the best seats, and they want the sport to go on and on, and are disappointed when it finishes. Contrast that with Christian people who seem to think they are doing something wonderful by going to a place of worship on a Sunday morning. They are not quite sure whether they will go or not when they wake up in the morning, but at last, as a matter of duty, they decide they will go – hoping the service will not be too long. Is not that the position? Do we give the impression when we come to our places of worship that we are doing the most wonderful and thrilling thing in the world? Are we alive, are we rejoicing? How do we compare with these other people? A staid, lifeless Christian is a denial, in many respects, of the Gospel at its most glorious point. To be heavy-footed, slow-moving, lethargic, having to be whipped up and roused constantly, and urged to do this and that instead of running to it, and rejoicing in it, is a sad misrepresentation of Christianity. ‘Let every man examine himself.’ Or look at the matter in the following way. Many of us simply follow a routine in a thoughtless, unintelligent manner. It sounds a strange thing to say at a time like this in the history of the Christian Church, but there are many people in the Church who have no idea why they are there except for the fact that they were brought up to attend services. They would not be there otherwise. They have never even thought about these matters sufficiently to break the habit; they are following a routine. There are thoughtless, unintelligent Christians who have no idea of the spiritual conflict, no idea of the crucial importance of the Christian Church at an hour such as this. They take the same journey and do the same thing Sunday after Sunday simply as a part of the routine of life. But they are without understanding.
REMAINING A BABY – By A.W. Tozer
Let’s first explore the metaphor about a baby and milk. It is possible to be frozen in your babyhood state, to have your growth suspended and stay right there. Notice the marks of a baby—beautiful in a baby, but terrible in a person when they get to be eighteen or twenty years old. First, a baby can’t concentrate on anything very long. A baby loses interest about as fast as it’s possible to lose interest. It’ll scream and yell and grab for something delightedly and get it, and ninety seconds later, throw it down and look for something else. That is typical of a baby and it’s the way God meant a baby to be. But He didn’t mean the baby’s father to be like that, nor the baby’s mother—nor even the baby’s seven-year-old sister. That is characteristic of a baby and it is also characteristic of Christians who became Christians, fundamental Christians, and then froze and stopped developing. They’re unable to stick to spiritual exercises. They can’t pray very long and can’t meditate. In fact, they smile at the whole idea of meditation. They think that was for Thomas Aquinas. As for Bible reading, they don’t do it very much—nor very much else that takes discipline and maturity. A second thing about a baby is that it is preoccupied with simple things, with foundational things. You never talk to a baby about existentialism or the cold war. The baby is satisfied with a half a dozen little things; it is enough to eat and to keep warm and dry and to keep its mother within yelling distance. That is about all a baby cares about. There are Christians who grow up and have no relish for anything spiritually advanced. They’re preoccupied with their first lessons. The average church is a school with only one grade and that is the first one. These Christians never expect to get beyond that and they don’t want to hear a man very long who wants to take them beyond that. If their pastor insists they do their homework and get ready for the next grade, they begin to pray that the Lord will call “our dear brother” somewhere else. The more they hate him the more they bear down on the words “our dear brother.” All he’s trying to do is prepare them for another grade, but that church is dedicated to the first grade, and the first grade is where it’s going to remain. Paul said some of them went up into the second grade and gave it up, and said, “It’s too hard here,” and they went back to the first. “How long have you been in the first grade, Junior?” “Twelve years.” Well, how long have you been listening to the same truth and hearing the same doctrine? You must be born again and there’s a judgment and so on. While that is true and we must not leave that, we must use that to advance. But we don’t do it. Whole generations of Christians grow up in the first grade. They learn to read their Bible in the light of this. To them, nothing in the Bible ever means anything beyond this elementary stage. They have Bible conferences dedicated to the first grade in the Christian life, Bible schools dedicated to the continuance of the first grade. For my part, I feel that I want a little ambition, a little spiritual ambition. Paul said, “Forgetting those things which are behind… I press toward the mark” (Philippians 3:13b-14a). There was a man not satisfied with the first grade.
MORE ON REMAINING A BABY – By A.W. Tozer
Another thing about a baby is its cry for amusement. It loves to be amused. When I’m on a bus somewhere I’m delighted to see a baby looking over a mother’s shoulder. If the mother sees me, I just sit there dignified as can be. But if I can see the baby, I begin to do things that invariably rouse the baby and we have a good time. Finally, the mother notices him and pulls him down and wonders who that old fellow is back there. Well, I won’t harm the baby; it loves to be amused. It doesn’t take $100 to do it. You can do it by wiggling your finger or looking through your fingers at it. Just as babies love to be amused, so the cry for amusement in religion is evidence that we are frozen in the first grade. We’re still children and we’re going to remain that way. Children have to have toys and they have to have novelties and they have to have new playmates every once in a while. And the Church is like that. Religious entertainment has so corrupted the Church of Christ that millions don’t know that it’s a heresy. Millions of evangelicals throughout the world have devoted themselves to religious entertainment. They don’t know that it’s as much a heresy as the counting of beads or the splashing of holy water or something else. To expose this, of course, raises a storm of angry protest among the people. A Christian businessman once said to me, “Brother Tozer, I don’t make a god out of you; but I follow you and believe you. What I’d like to know is why so many people like you but don’t know what you’re talking about.” And I said, “Brother, I give up, I have no idea why it is.” But it’s true. As soon as they think you’re exposing the love of religious entertainment, you’re finished in a minute. One man wrote an article as an expose of me. He said that I claimed that religious entertainment was wrong and he said, “Don’t you know that every time you sing a hymn, it’s entertainment?” Every time you sing a hymn? I don’t know how that fellow ever finds his way home at night. He ought to have a seeing eye dog and a man with a white cane to take him home! When you raise your eyes to God and sing, “Break Thou the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,” is that entertainment—or is it worship? Isn’t there a difference between worship and entertainment? The church that can’t worship must be entertained. And men who can’t lead a church to worship must provide the entertainment. That is why we have the great evangelical heresy here today—the heresy of religious entertainment. And then there is another characteristic of immaturity—a child can neither read nor enjoy advanced literature, even when they get to be five or six years old. He’ll come and make you sit, he’ll read the book through, but all it says is, “I saw a cat and the cat was white.” You know, there’s nothing much to it. It’s nothing profound. If he never went beyond that, you’d feel very bad for your child. When he first comes home and says, “Mommy, Daddy, listen to me read,” no matter what you are doing or what’s burning on the stove, he grabs you and pulls you down and reads. He can read! How proud you are! He can read, wonderful! You never thought he’d make it, but he did; now he can read the whole book. We never knew how much our kids memorized and fooled us! But anyhow, they were reading. Suppose ten years from now he comes in—now he’s seventeen—and says, “Mommy, Daddy, I can read—’The cat is red.'” You’d say to your husband or wife, “I think we ought to do something for this boy. I think we ought to take him somewhere.” That is exactly why the Holy Spirit wrote the book of Hebrews. He said, “Let’s leave this.” Why stay where you are and remain forever engrossed in the fundamentals of religion? We excuse anything by repeating, “You’ve got to be born again.” We can have any kind of show and say, “Now, you ought to be born again”—first principles all over. The Holy Spirit says, “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works” (6:1), and so on, “But let us go on unto perfection.
WHY THE CROSS MATTERS – By Chris Tomlinson
Is it possible to talk too much about the cross?
I ask this question only because some preachers and writers and teachers seem to talk about the cross a lot. Some do so almost continually. We can understand why they might carry on in this way because we know the primacy and weight of Calvary. But there are still times this thought crosses many of our minds: “Great, so I understand the cross is important. But can’t we move on to the next topic?”
We say this sort of thing when we feel our faith is about more than Jesus. And in one sense, we can say this is true. Our faith is about God’s glory, and our joy, and loving others, and meeting the needs of the oppressed, and being made holy, and sojourning through life, and laying up treasures in heaven, and all sorts of other things. In this way, we are saying the expression of our faith is about many things.
But in another sense, the entirety of our faith is about Jesus. God’s grand, redemptive story begins with a foretelling of the coming Seed. His chosen servants foreshadow His mission. His prophets herald His arrival. As history progresses onward, we begin to see the entirety of God’s revelation to humanity as pointing towards the advent of the Messiah. This is perhaps why Paul says, “All the promises of God find their Yes in Him” (2 Cor 1:20). In this second kind of way, we are saying the purpose of our faith is about one thing: Jesus.
So when we find the purpose of our faith is about Jesus, we have to ask ourselves the question: why is this so? What is it about the person of Jesus, the mission of Jesus, the work of Jesus, which makes Him the reason for our faith? And this is what leads us to the cross.
Here’s why the cross matters: It is at the cross that we see God most clearly. If history were the vastness of space, the cross would be its brightest star. We see the fullness of God’s being most clearly at the cross. We see the fullness of His active purposes most clearly at the cross.
At the cross…
…We see God’s sovereignty—reigning with absolute control over humanity’s greatest sin.
…We see God’s purpose—making known the mystery of His will prepared before time.
…We see God’s plan—to unite all things, on heaven and on earth, in Him.
…We see God’s judgment—requiring recompense for guilt.
…We see God’s holiness—demanding the perfect sacrifice.
…We see God’s power—crushing the Son of God according to the purpose of His will.
…We see God’s wrath—punishing the wretchedness of sin.
…We see God’s sorrow—wailing as only a forsaken son can.
…We see God’s mystery—the Son, as God, separated from the Father, committing His Spirit to God.
…We see God’s compassion—pleading to the Father to forgive the ignorant.
…We see God’s gift—His one and only Son, bruised and broken on our behalf.
…We see God’s mercy—making unrighteous sinners righteous.
…We see God’s love—Christ dying for sinners.
…We see God’s rescue operation—delivering us from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of His Son.
…We see God’s proposal—pledging Himself to His bride forever.
…We see God’s revelation—the Word of God speaking His last so He might speak on behalf of many.
…We see God’s victory—disarming His enemies, putting them to shame, and triumphing over them.
…We see God’s glory—the name of the Father being magnified for the sake of all peoples.
But seeing God most clearly is not an end to itself. If it were, then the point of all history would be our own clarity of sight. But that is not history’s purpose. Everything exists for Jesus, so that in everything He might be preeminent. We study the Scriptures to know more of God. We look forward with great hope to the day we will see Him face to face. But in the here and now, we know God most fully when we look upon the person and work of Jesus on the cross.
It is only when we behold the Son of God most clearly that we can magnify Him most fully, acknowledging His preeminence in all things, which reflects more brightly the reality of His glory. This is why one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, because on that day, all will see Him as He is, either toward our greatest joy or our greatest sorrow.
So if you preach and teach about the cross, remember that we, as your people, need the lens of your preaching to continually focus our hearts on the crucified Son of God. And if we hear or read about the cross and wonder what is next, that we’re ready to move beyond it, let us remember that the cross matters for our yesterday, and our today, and our tomorrow.
And let us always hold the best of our hearts, the fullness of our hearts, for the One whose scars will testify for eternity to the glory and horror of that day that made possible the one day we will enjoy with Him forever.
OCCUPIED WITH CHRIST IN GLORY – By J.B. Stoney
Saints have to be thrown into circumstances where the things of God can be made good to them. For the circumstances we are in conduce [lead] largely to the carrying out in us of the truth God has committed to us. John had to go to Patmos to get his line of things, and Paul to a prison to be able to teach his fully. I am united to Christ in glory, but He is to be manifest through me on earth, and I get that by being in concert with Him who is out of it. Although united to Him, I may be practically defective in manifesting Him on earth. If I am not in concert with Him in glory, I will not be what He was on earth. I believe many a person is earnestly trying to be like Him on earth, who has not the enablement for it, because he has not to do with Him in glory (Col. 3:1–3). The more you are in communion with Christ the more you will find out how He sympathizes with you, and how in the smallest things He is thinking of you. The more His interests occupy your heart, the more He will surprise you as to the manner in which He thinks of yours. I find there are three classes of Christians in the present day. The first is marked by affection. They are marked by their affections, and are never at rest – they are self-occupied though devoted. The second class is occupied with association with Christ; they are like people scaling heaven. They, too, are never satisfied; one day up, another down; they never get to the height they desire. The third class is occupied with Christ in glory, and His interests on earth, the true mark and simple consequence of union with Him. There is no effort about it, they do not even make the thing prominent. We as members of the Body of Christ are made for heaven, we are heavenly; not of the earth, though on it. When the truth first came out, we tried to carry it out in the wrong way, turning away from this thing and that thing in order to be heavenly. That is legality. I remember the effect it had on me when someone said, “We are heavenly.” We do not like to say it, because we so little manifest it. It is a most important thing to get clear about this great fact-where Christ is, and why He is where He is. He is at the “right hand of the majesty on high,” and God’s eye rests on the believer there, because Christ has removed everything according to the will of His Father. God says, “I have removed everything from My own eye in the most perfect way.” If you do not believe this you cannot enjoy what He has done. Do our souls grasp the fullness of that wondrous fact, that God has a glorified Man in heaven, on whom His eye ever rests; and not only on Him only, but on every believer in Him now? Woe betide us if we seek earthly blessings. The truth is that the more thoroughly we are for Christ the more thoroughly He will preserve us from the power of earthly blessings. I used to pity those who are alone in the world. I pity no one now who has a room where he can find himself isolated from every one, to be with the Lord, where he can have his feathers oiled to come out, and face the roughness here.
YOUR LOVE IN THE SPIRIT – By A.B. Simpson
Your love in the Spirit. (Colossians 1:8). This Is The Only Reference to the Holy Spirit in the epistle to the Colossians. The theme of this beautiful letter is the fullness and glory of Jesus. But Jesus cannot be glorified without recognizing the Holy Spirit; and so we have this brief reference to the blessed Spirit. But brief as it is, it shines like a heavenly pearl, reflecting the deepest and most important truths concerning the blessed Comforter. The apostle had just been visited by Epaphras, one of the ministers of the Colossian Church, and he had reported to him the condition of that Church, it was all summed up in one sentence, “and who also told us of your love in the Spirit” (1:8). This seems to have been the one characteristic of this Colossian Church; it was full of love, its fellowship was perfect, its union unbroken; its members were filled with charity, unselfishness and consideration for one another. There were no gossiping tongues; there were no slanderous rumors; there were no misunderstandings and quarrels; there were no criticisms, murmurings or bad feelings, but all were joined together in harmonious love and beautiful cooperation in the testimony, work and worship of the Church. And this was manifestly a divine unity, it was “love in the Spirit” (1:8). It was not mere partisanship, nor personal friendship, it was not because they were clannish, and united in little cliques of personal favoritism, but it was all so heavenly, so holy, so Christlike that it was evidently the prompting of the Holy Spirit. And so, as the apostle hears of it, he exclaims with thanksgiving and deep joy, We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints—the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven (Col. 1:3-5). Would to God that this beautiful picture might be more frequently repeated. Let us look at it as a pattern of true Christian love and an illustration of the choicest and noblest work of the Holy Spirit. There is plenty of love in the world and always will be, it is the secret of every romance, the theme of every poem, and the center of every play that has ever touched the heart of humanity or charmed the ears of men, it lies back of all that is heroic in national history, it gilds every record of patriotism and glorifies every home altar and fireside. But there is a great difference between the love of nature and “love in the Spirit” (1:8).
JARS OF CLAY – By Warren Wiersbe
2 Cor. 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
The believer is simply a “jar of clay”; it is the treasure within the vessel that gives the vessel its value. The image of the vessel is a recurring one in Scripture, and from it we can learn many lessons. To begin with, God has made us the way we are so that we can do the work He wants us to do. God said of Paul, “He is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles” (Acts 9:15). No Christian should ever complain to God because of his lack of gifts or abilities, or because of his limitations or handicaps. Psalm 139:13–16 indicates that our very genetic structure is in the hands of God. ach of us must accept himself and be himself. The important thing about a vessel is that it be clean, empty, and available for service. Each of us must seek to become “a vessel unto honor, sanctified [set apart], and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2 Tim. 2:21). We are vessels so that God might use us. We are earthen vessels so that we might depend on God’s power and not our own. We must focus on the treasure and not on the vessel. Paul was not afraid of suffering or trial, because he knew that God would guard the vessel so long as Paul was guarding the treasure (see 1 Tim. 1:11; 6:20). God permits trials, God controls trials, and God uses trials for His own glory. God is glorified through weak vessels. The missionary who opened inland China to the Gospel, J. Hudson Taylor, used to say, “All God’s giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on Him being with them.” Sometimes God permits our vessels to be jarred so that some of the treasure will spill out and enrich others. Suffering reveals not only the weakness of man but also the glory of God. Paul presented a series of paradoxes in this paragraph: earthen vessels—power of God; the dying of Jesus—the life of Jesus; death working—life working. The natural mind cannot understand this kind of spiritual truth and therefore cannot understand why Christians triumph over suffering. Not only must we focus on the treasure and not on the vessel, but we must also focus on the Master and not on the servant. If we suffer, it is for Jesus’ sake. If we die to self, it is so that the life of Christ might be revealed in us. If we go through trials, it is so that Christ might be glorified. And all of this is for the sake of others. As we serve Christ, death works in us—but life works in those to whom we minister.
THE SPIRITUAL GLOW – By George Morrison
The Spiritual Glow Is Not a Luxury but a Necessity
For what we must always bear in mind is this, that the spiritual glow is not a luxury. If it were that and nothing else than that, it would never reach us as a divine command. There are tasks that no man will accomplish unless he be gifted with a glowing spirit. There are victories that call for radiance. They never can be accomplished in cold blood. To come victorious out of this present life, unembittered by its tears and tragedies, is beyond the compass of the stoic heart. “No virtue is pure that is not passionate.” The song of the Lord must sound above the sacrifice. For the campaign of life we need the song just as surely as we need the sword. Those who have conquered and are robed in white do not flash the glittering sword in heaven. They sing the song of Moses and the Lamb. That is why the inspired volume bids us to maintain the spiritual glow. It is not that we may be happy all the time. It is that we may be triumphant all the time. There are valleys we shall never cross unscathed, and there are temptations we shall never master without a certain glow within the soul.
To Love the Lord Gives the Glow
Now it is just there that we thank God afresh for the unspeakable gift of the Lord Jesus. To love Him gives the glow. Nobody ever has a glowing heart because he is ordered to do certain things. Paul never found that his big heart was glowing when he struggled to obey the ten commandments. But when the ten commandments are incarnate in a living Lord whom we can love, then obedience is set to music. Love is the fulfilling of the law. Love is law translated into melody. Love laughs at difficulties, just as it is said to laugh at locksmiths. And when, right at the center of our being, there is real love for Him who died for us, cold and heavy obedience is gone — it is replaced by the spiritual glow. Thus to continue glowing is to continue in the love of Christ. It is to live in the experience of His great love for us and in continual response to that experience. The one way to maintain the spiritual glow is to maintain fellowship with Christ, and that is possible for everybody. * Every day we may open our hearts anew to receive anew the Holy Spirit. We may begin each day, however dark and dreary, by saying, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” So maintaining, through heavenly supply, our loving personal fellowship with Him, we maintain (and yet not we) the glowing heart.
THE PROMISE IS FOR YOU – By C. H. Spurgeon
“I will never leave you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
No promise is of private interpretation. Whatever God has said to any one saint, He has said to all. When He opens a well for one, it is that all may drink. When He opens a granary-door to give out food, there may be some one starving man who is the occasion of its being opened, but all hungry saints may come and feed too. Whether He gave the word to Abraham or to Moses, matters not, O believer; He has given it to you as one of the covenanted seed. There is not a high blessing too lofty for you, nor a wide mercy too extensive for you. Lift up now your eyes to the north and to the south, to the east and to the west, for all this is yours. Climb to Pisgah’s top, and view the utmost limit of the divine promise, for the land is all your own. There is not a brook of living water of which you may not drink. If the land flows with milk and honey, eat the honey and drink the milk, for both are yours. Be bold to believe, for He has said, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” In this promise, God gives to His people everything. “I will never leave you.” Then no attribute of God can cease to be engaged for us.
Is He mighty? He will show Himself strong on the behalf of them that trust Him. Is He love? Then with lovingkindness will He have mercy upon us. Whatever attributes may compose the character of Deity, every one of them to its fullest extent shall be engaged on our side. To put everything in one, there is nothing you can want, there is nothing you can ask for, there is nothing you can need in time or in eternity, there is nothing living, nothing dying, there is nothing in this world, nothing in the next world, there is nothing now, nothing at the resurrection-morning, nothing in heaven which is not contained in this text–“I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”
SIN, RIGHTEOUSNESS AND JUDGMENT – By Warren Wiersbe
John 16:8-11 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and
righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;
10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer;
11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
The key word here is reprove (John 16:8). It is a legal word that means “to bring to light, to expose, to refute, to convict and convince.” It could be translated “pronounce the verdict.” The world may think that it is judging Christians, but it is the Christians who are passing judgment on the world as they witness to Jesus Christ! Believers are the witnesses, the Holy Spirit is the “prosecuting attorney,” and the unsaved are the guilty prisoners. However, the purpose of this indictment is not to condemn but to bring salvation. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of one particular sin, the sin of unbelief. The law of God and the conscience of man will convict the sinner of his sins (plural) specifically; but it is the work of the Spirit, through the witness of the believers, to expose the unbelief of the lost world. After all, it is unbelief that condemns the lost sinner (John 3:18–21), not the committing of individual sins. A person could “clean up his life” and quit his or her bad habits and still be lost and go to hell. The Spirit also convicts the sinner of righteousness, not unrighteousness. Whose righteousness? The righteousness of Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God. The world would not receive the Son of God (John 1:10), so He has returned to the Father. When He was here on earth, He was accused by men of being a blasphemer, a lawbreaker, a deceiver, and even a demoniac. The Spirit of God reveals the Saviour in the Word and in this way glorifies Him (John 16:13–14). The Spirit also reveals Christ in the lives of believers. The world cannot receive or see the Spirit of God, but they can see what He does as they watch the lives of dedicated believers. The Spirit convicts the lost sinner of judgment. Do not confuse this statement with Acts 24:25 (“of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come”). Jesus was referring to His judgment of Satan that was effected by His death on the cross (John 12:31). Satan is the prince of this world, but he is a defeated prince. Satan has already been judged and the verdict announced. All that must take place is the executing of the sentence, and that will occur when Jesus returns. When a lost sinner is truly under conviction, he will see the folly and evil of unbelief; he will confess that he does not measure up to the righteousness of Christ; and he will realize that he is under condemnation because he belongs to the world and the devil (Eph. 2:1–3). The only person who can rescue him from such a horrible situation is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. There can be no conversion without conviction, and there can be no conviction apart from the Spirit of God using the Word of God and the witness of the child of God. Witnessing is a great privilege, but it is also a serious responsibility. It is a matter of life or death! How we need to depend on the Holy Spirit to guide us to the right persons, give us the right words, and enable us patiently to glorify Jesus Christ.
TELEVISION, THE GREAT LIFE-WASTER – By John Piper
Television is one of the greatest life-wasters of the modern age. And, of course, the Internet is running to catch up, and may have caught up. You can be more selective on the Internet, but you can also select worse things with only the Judge of the universe watching. TV still reigns as the great life-waster. The main problem with TV is not how much smut is available, though that is a problem. Just the ads are enough to sow fertile seeds of greed and lust, no matter what program you’re watching. The greater problem is banality. A mind fed daily on TV diminishes. Your mind was made to know and love God. Its facility for this great calling is ruined by excessive TV. The content is so trivial and so shallow that the capacity of the mind to think worthy thoughts withers, and the capacity of the heart to feel deep emotions shrivels. Neil Postman shows why. What is happening in America is that television is transforming all serious public business into junk…. Television disdains exposition, which is serious, sequential, rational, and complex. It offers instead a mode of discourse in which everything is accessible, simplistic, concrete, and above all, entertaining. As a result, America is the world’s first culture in jeopardy of amusing itself to death. Since we all live in a world created by television, it is almost impossible to see what has happened to us. The only hope is to read what people were like in previous centuries. Biographies are a great antidote to cultural myopia and chronological snobbery. We have become almost incapable of handling any great truth reverently and deeply. Magnificent things, especially the glory of God, as David Wells says, rest with a kind of “weightlessness” even on the church. It is one of the defining marks of uur time that God is now weightless. I do not mean by this that he is ethereal but rather that he has become unimportant. He rests upon the world so inconsequentially as not to be noticeable. He has lost his saliency for human life. Those who assure the pollsters of their belief in God’s existence may nonetheless consider him less interesting than television, his commands less authoritative than their appetites for affluence and influence, his judgment no more awe-inspiring than the evening news, and his truth less compelling than the advertisers’ sweet fog of flattery and lies. That is weightlessness. It is a condition we have assigned him after having nudged him out to the periphery of our secularized life. . . . Weightlessness tells us nothing about God but everything about ourselves, about our condition, about our psychological disposition to exclude God from our reality.
THE BURDEN OF ARTIFICIALITY – By A.W. Tozer
I am sure that most people live in secret fear that some day they will be careless and by chance an enemy or friend will be allowed to peep into their poor empty souls. So they are never relaxed. Bright people are tense and alert in fear that they may be trapped into saying something common or stupid. Traveled people are afraid that they may meet some Marco Polo who is able to describe some remote place where they have never been. This unnatural condition is part of our sad heritage of sin, but in our day it is aggravated by our whole way of life. Advertising is largely based upon this habit of pretense. “Courses” are offered in this or that field of human learning frankly appealing to the victim’s desire to shine at a party. Books are sold, clothes and cosmetics are peddled, by playing continually upon this desire to appear what we are not. Artificiality is one curse that will drop away the moment we kneel at Jesus’ feet and surrender ourselves to His meekness. Then we will not care what people think of us so long as God is pleased. Then what we are will be everything; what we appear will take its place far down the scale of interest for us. Apart from sin we have nothing of which to be ashamed. Only an evil desire to shine makes us want to appear other than we are. The heart of the world is breaking under this load of pride and pretense. There is no release from our burden apart from the meekness of Christ. Good, keen reasoning may help slightly, but so strong is this vice that if we push it down one place it will come up somewhere else. To men and women everywhere Jesus says, “Come unto me, and I will give you rest.” The rest He offers is the rest of meekness, the blessed relief which comes when we accept ourselves for what we are and cease to pretend. It will take some courage at first, but the needed grace will come as we learn that we are sharing this new and easy yoke with the strong Son of God Himself. He calls it “my yoke,” and He walks at one end while we walk at the other.
Lord, make me childlike. Deliver me from the urge to compete with another for place or prestige or position. I would be simple and artless as a little child. Deliver me from pose and pretense. Forgive me for thinking of myself. Help me to forget myself and find my true peace in beholding You. That You may answer this prayer, I humble myself before You. Lay upon me Your easy yoke of self-forgetfulness that through it I may find rest. Amen.
THE RELATION BETWEEN FAITH AND GRACE – By C.H. Spurgeon
Faith occupies the position of a channel or conduit pipe. Grace is the fountain and the stream; faith is the aqueduct along which the flood of mercy flows down to refresh the thirsty sons of men. It is a great pity when the aqueduct is broken. It is a sad sight to see around Rome the many noble aqueducts which no longer convey water into the city, because the arches are broken and the marvelous structures are in ruins. The aqueduct must be kept entire [whole] to convey the current; and, even so, faith must be true and sound, leading right up to God and coming right down to ourselves, that it may become a serviceable channel of mercy to our souls.
Still, I again remind you that faith is only the channel or aqueduct, and not the fountainhead, and we must not look so much to it as to exalt it above the divine source of all blessing which lies in the grace of God. Never make a Christ out of your faith, nor think of as if it were the independent source of your salvation. Our life is found in “looking unto Jesus,” not in looking to our own faith. By faith all things become possible to us; yet the power is not in the faith, but in the God upon whom faith relies. Grace is the powerful engine, and faith is the chain by which the carriage of the soul is attached to the great motive power. The righteousness of faith is not the moral excellence of faith, but the righteousness of Jesus Christ which faith grasps and appropriates. The peace within the soul is not derived from the contemplation of our own faith; but it comes to us from Him who is our peace, the hem of whose garment faith touches, and virtue comes out of Him into the soul.
See then, dear friend, that the weakness of your faith will not destroy you. A trembling hand may receive a golden gift. The Lord’s salvation can come to us though we have only faith as a grain of mustard seed. The power lies in the grace of God, and not in our faith. Great messages can be sent along slender wires, and the peace-giving witness of the Holy Spirit can reach the heart by means of a thread-like faith which seems almost unable to sustain its own weight. Think more of Him to whom you look than of the look itself. You must look away even from your own looking, and see nothing but Jesus, and the grace of God revealed in Him.
REJECT THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL – By John Piper
We must reject the prosperity gospel. It’s just dead wrong. The world is not impressed by the prosperity of Christians. What the prosperity of Christians says to the world is nothing redemptive. I’m not saying that all prosperity is necessarily wrong. I’m just making the point that the prosperity of a Christian says absolutely zero about Christ to the world. Christians who simply follow the American trend of “moving up” financially and materially causes the world to simply say, “They’re just like us! They love the same things we love and do the same things we do.” This has zero witness to the world. The person who follows the prosperity track must find other ways to testify to the world about Jesus, because their wealth, health, and prosperity are not saying anything redemptive. My way of remedying this lack of witness is to identify that the prosperity gospel is wrong. Don’t go that direction! Don’t believe that prosperity is our evidence to the world that we belong to the King. It doesn’t work that way. In fact, if you look in the New Testament you’ll see that the things that bear the clearest witness to our faith are the occasions when we’re willing to suffer for him. A little child can understand that. Something is valuable to you to the degree that you’re willing to suffer in order to have it, not to the degree that it gives you other things that you really like. God is not shown to be valuable because he gives us other things that we like more than God. God is shown to be valuable when we’re willing, for God’s sake, to let certain things go which we wouldn’t let go if he wasn’t so precious to us. Our testimony to the world works precisely opposite to what the prosperity gospel says. When Christians are willing to suffer for the cause of the unborn, for racial justice, and for spreading the gospel, then the world is going to say-just like it does in 1 Peter 3:15-“Where is your hope?” Our answer will not be, “In houses, cars, and lands.” Rather, we will say, “My hope is in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is going to take me to himself. To live is Christ and to die is gain. I’m here on earth to spread the gospel. I’m going to keep my life as wartime as I can in order to maximize my effect for showing Jesus as valuable, not things as valuable.”
TABERNACLE LIGHT APPLIED – By A.B. Simpson
Now let us gather some of the lessons that come from these lines of truth. The light that God gives to us is all divine and in no sense human. This oil, as we noted, was not manufactured by any ordinary process or obtained from any apothecary’s dispensary. It was made from materials divinely specified. It teaches us that the light we need does not come from man—not from the reasonings of the wise or even from our own soundest judgment. It comes to us from Jesus Christ and His precious Word. And all the light that God gives us in our heavenly journey must be divine. Again, there was no light in the ancient Tabernacle but from this. There were no windows; the candlestick was the sole illumination of God’s sanctuary. So with us: we have no other light but God. When we trust Him, we must wholly trust Him. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). Have you this light? Have you taken all your ideas of things from the Bible and from the Spirit? Is your Tabernacle partly lighted by the golden lights and partly by the murky light of the world? Let us see that we have the light after the pattern on the mount. A great many Christians go astray here; they are not careful to have all their light from above. Still further, we learn from the ancient candlestick that the light God gives us is a perfect light. It was a sevenfold light, and seven stands for completeness. There was not just one flame but seven flames, and they afforded all the light that was required. So God gives us light that has no darkness in it. When He leads us, we will find at last that it is always in the right path. And when He teaches us, we can lean our whole weight on Him, for He cannot fail. ” God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” Thus the Holy Spirit is called “the seven Spirits which are before [God’s] throne” (Revelation 1:4). There is the spirit of peace, the spirit of sonship, the spirit of joy, the spirit of love, the spirit of trust, the spirit of prayer, the spirit of holiness, the spirit of power. These are all different forms of light, but they are all the same divine light. God has a great many kinds of light. He has the light by day and the light by night. He is the light that guides and the light that glorifies. He is the light that shines with awful power upon our sins and makes us weep. He is the light that shines upon His own sweet face, His own precious cross and blood and lifts us out of our sin and makes our hearts happy in His joy. Sometimes the light shines from His truth, and sometimes it shines from the Spirit’s presence in our lives:
Sometimes this light surprises
The Christian while he sings,
It is the Lord who rises
With healing in His wings.
And sometimes we cannot keep it in, but it shines out and sheds its glory on others—the sevenfold light of God in the heart.
THE BLESSINGS OF A NEW COVENANT – By C.H. Spurgeon
You see, dear friends, the first covenant was in these terms,—”You do right, and God will reward you for it. If you deserve life, God will give it to you.” Now, as you all know right well, that covenant was broken all to pieces; it was unable to stand by reason of the weakness of our flesh and the corruptness of our nature. So God set aside that first covenant, he put it away as an outworn and useless thing; and he brought in a new covenant,—the covenant of grace; and in our text we see what is the tenor of it: “I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts.” This is one of the most glorious promises that ever fell from the lips of infinite love. God said not, “I will come again, as I came on Sinai, and thunder at them. ” No, but, “I will come in gentleness and mercy, and find a way into their hearts.” He said not, “I will take two great tables of stone, and with my finger write out my law before their eyes.” No, but, “I will put my finger upon their hearts, and there will I write my law.” He said not, “I will give promises and threatenings that shall be the safeguard of this new covenant;” but, “I will with my Spirit graciously operate upon their minds and their hearts, and so I will sweetly influence them to serve me,—not for reward, nor from any servile motive, but because they know me, and they love me, and they feel it to be their delight to walk in the way of my commandments.” O dear sirs may you all be shares in the blessings of that new covenant! May God say this of you, and do this to you; and if so, we shall meet in the glory-land, to sing unto the grace of that eternal God who has wrought so wondrously with us, and in us, and for us!
SPIRITUAL ADVENTURERS – By A.W. Tozer
Oh my brothers and sisters! Are we not stirred by the expanse of this great sea of glory in which we Christians find ourselves? “He would not suffer thee to be so far from him.” He just wouldn’t allow it. He just couldn’t stand it. This same God who made us when we were nothing and redeemed us when we were sinners “kindled desire so graciously.” How many of us does that describe? Have any of you ever had a gracious, sudden kindling of desire, when everyone else seemed contented with panel discussions and the usual routine of the church which has to do with externals? How many of us go to church regularly and never feel an extra heartbeat, never any kindling of godly desire? We live like that! So this kind of desire is not something that can be whipped up—God Himself must put it there. We could never have created ourselves and we could never have redeemed ourselves. We cannot talk ourselves into getting a longing for God. It has to come from God. When I was a young fellow I spent a little time working as “butcher boy” on the train—riding the old Vicksburg and Pacific and selling peanuts, popcorn, chewing gum and candy, as well as books. I really had to quit because I didn’t sell enough—I would often sit and read the books from Vicksburg to the end of the line! But I remember that we did try to stir up some desire for peanuts and popcorn among those passengers. We would go through the coaches and give each person just four or five salted peanuts. No one wanted any when we went through but when we came back, nearly everyone was ready to buy. They had gotten a taste and now they had a desire for peanuts. It was a common trick on the trains. But we cannot do that for you in spiritual matters. It is not possible! If you have accepted a common state of spiritual living and you have no deep desire for Him, no man can give it to you. Unless you are willing for God to move in and have His way, you are never going to have spiritual adventures like those who have been explorers in the kingdom of God. We don’t think often enough about all those who have been the prospectors among the hills of God—the spiritual adventurers, the explorers of the kingdom. God wrote in the Bible about them because they were seeking a better land. Why did Abraham leave Ur of the Chaldees? God promised him spiritual adventures, and he moved out at God’s bidding, but it didn’t make him a hero at that point. Think of what the contented people must have said. “Look at that fool,” they said. “What’s the matter with him? Everyone else is satisfied to go to the temple once a week and make an offering, but Abraham talks about hearing a voice that said ‘get thee into the land which I will show thee.” They said, “Abraham, you are a fool!” But Abraham said, “I heard the Voice, plain and clear. I’m moving out!” At that point Abraham was no hero. They thought he had lost his mind, that he was at least semi-demented. But you know the rest of the story. Then there was Moses who could have lived on in the house of his supposed mother in Egypt and perhaps could have become the emperor. But he refused to do it. He got up and left. You know the story and the great list of his spiritual adventures and his favor with God. Think of the apostles and all of the great souls who have been adventurers. They were not the heroes of the crowd, but they have entered into God’s great hall of fame. But something had to happen within each one, an internal fire before it became external. This desire to prospect the hills of God for new lodes of gold had to be inward before it could be outward. These adventurers for God knew the happening on the inside before there was any evidence on the outside.
THE WILLING SAVIOUR – By J.C. Ryle
Forever let us bear in mind that all Christ’s sufferings on our behalf were endured willingly, voluntarily, and of His own free choice. They were not submitted to patiently merely because He could not avoid them. They were not borne without a murmur merely because He could not escape them. He lived a humble life for thirty-three years merely because He loved to do so. He died a death of agony with a willing and a ready mind. Both in life and death He was carrying out the eternal counsel whereby God was to be glorified and sinners were to be saved. He carried it out with all His heart, mighty as the struggle was which it entailed upon His flesh and blood. He delighted to do God’s will. He was straitened until it was accomplished. Let us not doubt that the heart of Christ in heaven is the same that it was when He was upon earth. He feels as deep an interest now about the salvation of sinners as He did formerly about dying in their stead. Jesus never changes. He is the same yesterday, and today, and forever. There is in Him an infinite willingness to receive, pardon, justify, and deliver the souls of men from hell. Let us strive to realize that willingness, and learn to believe it without doubting, and repose on it without fear. It is a certain fact, if men would only believe it, that Christ is far more willing to save us than we are to be saved. Let the zeal of our Lord and Master be an example to all His people. Let the recollection of His burning readiness to die for us be like a glowing coal in our memories, and constrain us to live to Him, and not to ourselves. Surely the thought of it should waken our sleeping hearts, and warm our cold affections, and make us anxious to redeem the time, and do something for His Praise. A zealous Savior ought to have zealous disciples.
BEWARE OF UNSCRIPTURAL EXPECTATIONS – By J.C. Ryle
The disciples, like most Jews of their day, were probably expecting Messiah’s kingdom immediately to appear. They thought the time was at hand when the wolf would lie down with the lamb, and men would not hurt or destroy any more (Isaiah 11:9.). Our Lord saw what was in their hearts, and checked their untimely expectations with a striking saying–“do you think that I have come to send peace on earth? I tell you, No, but rather division.” There is something at first sight very startling in this saying. It seems hard to reconcile it with the song of angels, which spoke of “peace on earth” as the companion of Christ’s Gospel (Luke 2:14.). Yet startling as the saying sounds, it is one which facts have proved to be literally true. Peace is undoubtedly the result of the Gospel wherever it is believed and received. But wherever there are hearers of the Gospel who are hardened, impenitent, and determined to have their sins, the very message of peace becomes the cause of division. Those who live after the flesh will hate those that live after the Spirit. Those who are resolved to live for the world will always be wickedly affected towards those that are resolved to serve Christ. We may lament this state of things, but we cannot prevent it. Grace and nature can no more amalgamate than oil and water. So long as men are disagreed upon first principles in religion, there can be no real cordiality between them. So long as some men are converted and some are unconverted, there can be no true peace. Let us beware of unscriptural expectations. If we expect to see people of one heart and one mind, before they are converted, we shall continually be disappointed. Thousands of well-meaning people now-a-days are continually crying out for more “unity” among Christians. To attain this they are ready to sacrifice almost anything, and to throw overboard even sound doctrine, if, by so doing, they can secure peace. Such people would do well to remember that even gold may be bought too dear, and that peace is useless if purchased at the expense of truth. Surely they have forgotten the words of Christ, “I came not to send peace but division.” Let us never be moved by those who charge the Gospel with being the cause of strife and divisions upon earth. Such men only show their ignorance when they talk in this way. It is not the Gospel which is to blame, but the corrupt heart of man. It is not God’s glorious remedy which is in fault, but the diseased nature of Adam’s race, which, like a self-willed child, refuses the medicine provided for its cure. So long as some men and women will not repent and believe, and some will, there must needs be division. To be surprised at it is the height of folly. The very existence of division is one proof of Christ’s foresight, and of the truth of Christianity. Let us thank God that a time is coming when there shall be no more divisions on earth, but all shall be of one mind. That time shall be when Jesus, the Prince of Peace, comes again in person, and puts down every enemy under His feet. When Satan is bound, when the wicked are separated from the righteous, and cast down to their own place, then, and not until then, will be perfect peace. For that blessed time let us wait, and watch, and pray. The night is far spent. The day is at hand. Our divisions are but for a little season. Our peace shall endure to eternity.
ONE UNIQUE RELATIONSHIP – By Bill Freeman
“All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and he to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” Matthew 11:27
We do not have a separate relationship with God apart from the Father and Son’s own relationship. God is not establishing new relationships with others. He has established one relationship, and that is with His Son. Then He gives that relationship away as a gift. This is the meaning of the gift of eternal life in the New Testament. Eternal life is receiving the Son of God into us and participating in His relationship with the Father. John 17:3 says, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Also, 1 John 5:20 says, “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” When we receive eternal life, we receive the Father and Son’s very own relationship. Now Christ Himself is my relationship with the Father. You and I do not have a different relationship with God from the one Christ has with the Father. This is why, after the Lord revealed the one unique relationship in the universe between Himself and the Father, He immediately said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:27-28). This means that there is no longer any need to labor and struggle in our souls, trying to establish our own relationship with God (Rom. 10:3-4). We only need to come to Jesus and learn from Him. When we do, we become one with Him and discover that our relationship with the Father is actually His relationship. We are merging with His relationship with the Father, and this brings rest to our souls.
LABOUR TO ENTER HIS REST – By A.B. Simpson
Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest… Heb. 4:11a
There is such a thing as labouring for rest. The struggle of war is necessary to bring the victory of peace. The toil of busy years is the prelude to affluence, retirement, and repose. The full surrender in which we die to some strong self-will is the pathway through which we rise to a new and better life. There are some things that we must let go in order to keep. There are crisis moments through which a soul must pass in the throes of a great conflict ere it can find lasting peace. And so there is a moment in every life when we meet God, and by a supreme surrender enter into His sovereign will and His perfect peace. John Bunyan tells us of his significant dream when his soul was struggling to enter into the better life. He saw a company of happy women dwelling in a region of celestial light, and bearing upon their faces the expression of infinite rest and blessedness. Many of them were faces that he knew among the saints of God. But he was not among them. But a great wall rose between, shutting him out in the cold and cheerless darkness. He wept and struggled to find some entrance, until at last he discovered the secret passage under the wall, but so narrow that he could not get through with all his belongings. But then he heard their voices calling him and telling him that if he was willing to part with all, he, too, could pass within the narrow gate and enter in. At length after a painful struggle he was able to leave his impediments and possessions, and slowly pressing through the narrow passage he awoke to find himself in this Land of Light. “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest.” God has been leading you up to it all your days. There is some decisive act, some supreme surrender, some great letting go or taking hold which He will show you, which probably He has shown you, and in which you will find the problem solved, the die cast, the door opened, and the land possessed. So may He help you to labour to enter into His rest.
IN REMEMBRANCE OF CHRIST – By C.H. Spurgeon
It seems then, that Christians may forget Christ! There could be no need for this loving exhortation, if there were not a fearful supposition that our memories might prove treacherous. Nor is this a bare supposition: it is, alas! too well confirmed in our experience, not as a possibility, but as a lamentable fact. It appears almost impossible that those who have been redeemed by the blood of the dying Lamb, and loved with an everlasting love by the eternal Son of God, should forget that gracious Saviour; but, if startling to the ear, it is, alas! too apparent to the eye to allow us to deny the crime. Forget him who never forgot us! Forget him who poured his blood forth for our sins! Forget him who loved us even to the death! Can it be possible? Yes, it is not only possible, but conscience confesses that it is too sadly a fault with all of us, that we suffer him to be as a wayfaring man tarrying but for a night. He whom we should make the abiding tenant of our memories is but a visitor therein. The cross where one would think that memory would linger, and unmindfulness would be an unknown intruder, is desecrated by the feet of forgetfulness. Does not your conscience say that this is true? Do you not find yourselves forgetful of Jesus? Some creature steals away your heart, and you are unmindful of him upon whom your affection ought to be set. Some earthly business engrosses your attention when you should fix your eye steadily upon the cross. It is the incessant turmoil of the world, the constant attraction of earthly things which takes away the soul from Christ. While memory too well preserves a poisonous weed, it suffers the rose of Sharon to wither. Let us charge ourselves to bind a heavenly forget-me-not about our hearts for Jesus our Beloved, and, whatever else we let slip, let us hold fast to him.
GOOD UNITY AND BAD UNITY – By D.A. Carson
Neither God’s intra-Trinitarian love nor the love of Christians for other Christians is ever permitted in Scripture to dilute or diminish the fundamental truths of the gospel. When 1 John excludes certain people from the fellowship of the church, it is not because of personal animus but because of stances that, in the New Testament, must face discipline if the church is to continue to be the church. The people this epistle excludes deny that Jesus is the Son of God, certainly do not think that men and women may be reconciled to God exclusively on the basis of Jesus as the “atoning sacrifice” for our sins (2:2), and flagrantly fly in the face of Jesus’ commands. It is not that John is venting against people whose personalities clash with his own. The gospel itself is at stake, and John sees no incompatibility between, on the one hand, the love of Christians for Christians, and, on the other, church discipline. To malign this as “fierce intolerance” presupposes, without warrant, that a liberal, sentimental view of “love” must prevail. But that is not even true of God: the God of the Bible, for all the diversity of ways in which his love may be displayed and extolled, is invariably the God whose wrath remains on those who reject the Son (John 3:36). Another way of putting this is to recognize that the Bible itself recognizes that unity is not an intrinsic good. There is good unity, and there is bad unity. Bad unity occurs in Genesis 11 when rebellious humankind unites to build a tower to heaven to defy God. God’s response is to introduce disunity, viz. the multiplication of languages and the carving up of the race, precisely to foil the evil purposes of this godless unity. Bad unity occurs when the two “beasts” of Revelation 13 seek to impose a uniform authority, in defiance of God, over “every tribe, people, language and nation” (13:7). Good unity occurs around the throne of God, which is surrounded by people bought by the blood of the Lamb of God, people drawn “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9). Good unity is found among the disciples of Jesus, those for whom he prays (John 17:20ff.): “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (17:23). Correspondingly, there is both good and bad division. The same Jesus who prayed that his disciples might be one also said, rather shockingly, “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three” (Luke 12:51-52). But there can be evil division, the subject of apostolic warning: “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions” (Rom. 16:17).
JESUS STANDS ALONE AS UNIQUE IN HISTORY – By George Morrison
Now when you study Jesus Christ in Scripture, one impression becomes overwhelming. It grows upon you that He stands alone, in incommunicable, solitary grandeur. The one thing you can never do with Christ is to regard Him as belonging to a class. The one thing that is utterly incredible is that of Him there should be less or more. You may talk of the goodly fellowship of the martyrs, and of the glorious company of the apostles, but over against us all— confronting us— there stands, alone, the person of our Lord. No man comes to the Father but by Me— no man knows the Father but the Son. I am the way— I am the truth— I am the life— he that believes on Me shall never die. That is not a case of less or more, my brother, that is absolute truth or it is falsehood, and to say that other men can share in that is to say what is irreverent and ridiculous. You may find shadowing of the virgin birth in many a story of the old mythologies. You may find parallels to every word of Jesus in the literatures of India or of Rome. But the inexplicable thing is this, that, when every religion has been ransacked, the deepest impression made by Christ on men is that of an incommunicable grandeur. In the unconditional obedience He demands— in His unparalleled and stupendous claims— in His immediate knowledge of the Father— in the absence of the least consciousness of sin in Him— I say that there is a historic fact which is not only different in degree, but is absolutely different in kind from anything that the world has ever seen. Now we are not discussing what we shall call it; we are simply discussing what we shall not call it. And I suggest that if words have any meaning, whatever we call it we shall not call it genius. And we shall not speak of Shakespeare and Christ again as if they stood upon a common platform. Over against us all, including Shakespeare, there stands forever the figure of our Lord.
THE SIGN OF TRUE DISCIPLESHIP – By Andrew Murray
The Church of God, and every child of God, as well as the world, has an unspeakable need of love, of the manifestation of Christ’s love. The Christian who really takes the Lord’s word, “Love one another, even as I have loved you,” as a command that must be obeyed, carries about a power for blessing and life for all with whom he comes in contact. Love is the explanation of the whole wonderful life of Christ, and of the wonder of His death: Divine Love in God’s children will still work its mighty wonders.
“Behold what manner of love!” “Behold how He loved!” These words are the superscription over the love of the Father and of the Son. They must yet become the keywords to the life of every Christian. They will be so where in living faith and true consecration the command of Christ to love, even as He loved, is accepted as the law of life. As early as the call of Abraham this principle was deposited as a living seed in God’s kingdom, that what God is for us, we must be for others. “I will bless you,” “and you shall be a blessing.” If “I have loved you” is the highest manifestation of what God is for us, then “Even so love ye” must be the first and highest expression of what the child of God must be. In preaching, as in the life, of the Church, it must be understood: The love which loves like Christ is the sign of true discipleship.
Beloved Christians! Christ Jesus longs for you in order to make you, amid those who surround you, a very fountain of love. The love of Heaven would fain take possession of you, in order that, in and through you, it may work its blessed work on earth. Yield to its rule. Offer yourself unreservedly to its indwelling. Honour it by the confident assurance that it can teach you to love as Jesus loved. As conformity to the Lord Jesus must be the chief mark of your Christian walk, so love must be the chief mark of that conformity. Be not disheartened if you do not attain it at once. Only keep fast hold of the command, “Love, even as I have loved you.” It takes time to grow into it. Take time in secret to gaze on that image of love. Take time in prayer and meditation, to fan the desire for it into a burning flame. Take time to survey all around you, whoever they be, and whatever may happen, with this one thought, “I must love them.” Take time to become conscious of your union with your Lord, that every fear as to the possibility of thus loving, may be met with the word: “Have not I commanded you: Love as I have loved”? Christian, take time in loving communion with Jesus your loving example, and you will joyfully fulfill this command, too, to love even as He did.
Lord Jesus, who has loved me so wonderfully, and now commands me to love even as You, behold me at Your feet. Joyfully would I accept Your commands, and now go out in Your strength to manifest Your love to all.
THE FIRST LESSON – By F.B. Meyer
“When you pray, say ‘Father’.” Luke 11:2.
HEAVEN IS “the Father’s House.” It is our Home. We are strangers and sojourners here, and on our way home. What fascination is in the word! Home will draw the sailor, soldier, explorer, prodigal from the ends of the earth. God has given to most of us the dear memory of what Home is, that we may guess at what awaits us and be smitten with home-sickness. “Blessed are the home-sick, for they shall reach home!”
But the charm of Heaven will be the manifested presence of our Father. All doubts and misunderstandings will be dissipated. We shall know and see, as we are seen and known. In the closing verses of Jude we are told that we shall be set before the presence of His glory, without blemish and in exceeding joy. It is as though our Saviour will introduce us to the manifested presence of the Father.
But we need not wait till then. If we know our Lord, we know the Father. It troubled Christ that His disciples had been so long with Him in familiar intercourse and yet had not realised that the beauty and holiness which shone from His nature were beams of the Father’s character. To have Jesus is to have the Father. To know Jesus is to know the Father. To pray to Him is to pray to God, for He is God manifest in the flesh. He is not simply an incarnation of God, in the sense of the old Greek mythology, adopting a cloak or disguise which was afterwards east off. God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.
There must be reverence in our prayer. God is in heaven and we upon the earth. We must not rush unceremoniously into His presence, as though it were a common and too-familiar room, where ceremony and respect are laid aside. There should be the constant remembrance that in prayer we stand in the presence-chamber of the great Creator, Preserver, and Ruler of the Universe. We wipe our shoes and remove our hats when we enter the home of our friend; let us not forget our manners in the opening sentences of prayer. Angels veil their faces and cry “Holy!”
But there may be a blessed faith and trust when we pray. The Father of Jesus awaits us. He ascended to His Father and our Father. We pray to One who loves us in His Beloved Son with an everlasting love, and holds out the golden sceptre towards us.
I adore Thee, Heavenly Father! There is no limit to Thy power, or to Thy love. Thou art greatly to be praised! Thou art greatly to be loved! Accept the homage of my soul and life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
THE HEAVENLY-MINDED AND THE WORLDLY-MINDED – By John Piper
The problem with the church today is not that there are too many people who are passionately in love with heaven. Name three! The problem is not that professing Christians are retreating from the world, spending half their days reading Scripture and the other half singing about their pleasures in God all the while indifferent to the needs of the world. The problem is that professing Christians are spending ten minutes reading Scripture and then half their day making money and the other half enjoying and repairing what they spend it on.
It is not heavenly-mindedness that hinders love. It is worldly-mindedness that hinders love, even when it is disguised by a religious routine on the weekend. Where is the person whose heart is so passionately in love with the promised glory of heaven that he feels like an exile and a sojourner on the earth? Where is the person who has so tasted the beauty of the age to come that the diamonds of the world look like baubles, and the entertainment of the world is empty, and the moral causes of the world are too small because they have no view to eternity? Where is this person?
He is not in bondage to TV-watching or eating or sleeping or drinking or partying or fishing or sailing or putzing around. He is a free man in a foreign land. And his one question is this: How can I maximize my enjoyment of God for all eternity while I am an exile on this earth? And his answer is always the same: by doing the labors of love.
Only one thing satisfies the heart whose treasure is in heaven: doing the works of heaven. And heaven is a world of love! It is not the cords of heaven that bind the hands of love. It is the love of money and leisure and comfort and praise—these are the cords that bind the hands of love. And the power to sever these cords is Christian hope.
I say it again with all the conviction that lies within me: it is not heavenly-mindedness that hinders love on this earth. It is worldly-mindedness. And therefore the great fountain of love is the powerful, freeing confidence of Christian hope!
REDEEMED FROM HELLISH PRIDE – By Andrew Murray
When the Old Serpent, he who had been cast out from heaven for his pride, whose whole nature as devil was pride, spoke his words of temptation into the ear of Eve, these words carried with them the very poison of hell. And when she listened, and yielded her desire and her will to the prospect of being as God, knowing good and evil, the poison entered into her soul and blood and life, destroying forever that blessed humility and dependence upon God which would have been our everlasting happiness. And instead of this, her life and the life of the race that sprang from her became corrupted to its very root with that most terrible of all sins and all curses, the poison of Satan’s own pride. All the wretchedness of which this world has been the scene, all its wars and bloodshed among the nations, all its selfishness and suffering, all its ambitions and jealousies, all its broken hearts and embittered lives, with all its daily unhappiness, have their origin in what this cursed, hellish pride, either our own, or that of others, has brought us. It is pride that made redemption needful; it is from our pride we need above everything to be redeemed. And our insight into the need of redemption will largely depend upon our knowledge of the terrible nature of the power that has entered our being. No tree can grow except on the root from which it sprang. The power that Satan brought from hell, and cast into man’s life, is working daily, hourly, with mighty power throughout the world. Men suffer from it; they fear and fight and flee it; and yet they know not whence it comes, whence it has its terrible supremacy. No wonder they do not know where or how it is to be overcome. Pride has its root and strength in a terrible spiritual power, outside of us as well as within us; as needful as it is that we confess and deplore it as our very own, is to know it in its Satanic origin. If this leads us to utter despair of ever conquering or casting it out, it will lead us all the sooner to that supernatural power in which alone our deliverance is to be found-the redemption of the Lamb of God. The hopeless struggle against the workings of self and pride within us may indeed become still more hopeless as we think of the power of darkness behind it all; the utter despair will fit us the better for realizing and accepting a power and a life outside of ourselves too, even the humility of heaven as brought down and brought nigh by the Lamb of God, to cast out Satan and his pride.