BEWARE THE SPIRIT OF THE WORLD – Philip Mauro
If we would understand the actions and behavior of a man, we must know his spirit. So, if the world has a spirit, the character and motives which actuate that spirit would explain the characteristics of the world. We often hear, as an ordinary figure of speech, of the “spirit of the age”; and that spirit is always mentioned in terms of respect and admiration. To say that one is imbued with the spirit of the age is to pay him a high compliment. If we turn to 1 Corinthians 2:12 we find the spirit of the world distinctly named and again mentioned in direct opposition to the Spirit of God. The apostle there says: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” Put this Scripture with John 14:17: “The Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive!” We, believers, have received the Spirit of Truth. Him the world cannot receive. It is an impossibility. The spirit of the world we have not received; the Spirit of Truth the world cannot receive. We have properly nothing whatever to do with the world and its spirit. We have no part or place in any of its aims, enterprises, pursuits, plans, or projects — none at all. On the other hand, the world cannot receive the Spirit of God, and hence cannot have any conception of or any interest whatever, in His plans and purposes. Here, then, there is of necessity a conflict. Those who have received the Spirit of God, and who submit to His guidance, find themselves in direct opposition to the entire course of the age. The world has not received the Holy Spirit, and indeed cannot receive Him; hence, even were it possible for the leaders of the age to maintain good works, the believer would none the less be bound to shun them. The only wish he can entertain with respect to an age whereof Satan is the god is that it may speedily come to an end. This Scripture also gives us one of the purposes for which we (believers) have received the Holy Spirit. It is in order “that we may know the things which are fully given us of God.” The presence of this clause in a verse which speaks of “the spirit of the world” is highly significant. We have seen that the spirit of the world has filled the world with a multitude of “things” (and is contriving new ones every day), the purposes of which are to keep people occupied with “what is going on in the world”; to keep up and stimulate their interest; to excite their admiration; and to arouse, if possible, their enthusiasm. But God has His things also. Every verse of this chapter (1 Corinthians 2) from verse 9 to verse 15 makes reference to “things,” “the things of God,” “the things of the Spirit,” “the deep things of God,” “the things which God has prepared for them that love Him,” and which He has revealed unto us by His Spirit. These things include all the possessions of God, which He has given to Christ, who is “the heir of all things”(Hebrews 2), by whom and for whom“ all things were created” (Colossians 1:16), and who has said “all things that the Father has are Mine” (John 16:15). All these things the Father has freely given to us in Christ. “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” How shall He not? But the Father has done something more for us. How should we get acquainted with the things which He has freely given to us unless we had the One “who searches all things, yea, the deep things of God,” to show them to us? This is in accordance with our Lord’s promise when, speaking of the Spirit who was to come, He said: “He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you” (John 16:14, 15). Now the spirit of the world desires by every possible means to prevent us from getting acquainted with and interested in the precious things that are freely given to us of God. Nothing so effectually separates the believer from the world and its things and doings and turns his affections away from them, as to get acquainted with the things of Christ. On the other hand, nothing so interferes with the believer’s progress in the knowledge of the things of Christ as to be taken up with the affairs and enterprises of the world, and to be in accord with their aims. It matters not what is the character of the things of the world in which the believer becomes interested, whether it be its politics, its business, or its pleasures, or its vices, or its philanthropies. Whether it be one class of things or another, the purpose of the spirit of the world will be equally well accomplished.
DO WHAT YOUR HAND FINDS TO DO – C.H. Spurgeon
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might. Ecclesiastes 9:10
“Whatever your hand finds to do,” refers to works that are possible. There are many things which our heart finds to do which we never shall do. It is well it is in our heart; but if we would be eminently useful, we must not be content with forming schemes in our heart, and talking of them; we must practically carry out “whatsoever our hand finds to do.” One good deed is more worth than a thousand brilliant theories. Let us not wait for large opportunities, or for a different kind of work, but do just the things we “find to do” day by day. We have no other time in which to live. The past is gone; the future has not arrived; we never shall have any time but time present. Then do not wait until your experience has ripened into maturity before you attempt to serve God. Endeavour now to bring forth fruit. Serve God now, but be careful as to the way in which you perform what you find to do-“do it with your might.” Do it promptly; do not fritter away your life in thinking of what you intend to do to-morrow as if that could recompense for the idleness of to-day. No man ever served God by doing things to-morrow. If we honour Christ and are blessed, it is by the things which we do to-day. Whatever you do for Christ throw your whole soul into it. Do not give Christ a little slurred labour, done as a matter of course now and then; but when you do serve Him, do it with heart, and soul, and strength. But where is the might of a Christian? It is not in himself, for he is perfect weakness. His might lies in the Lord of Hosts. Then let us seek His help; let us proceed with prayer and faith, and when we have done what our “hand finds to do,” let us wait upon the Lord for His blessing. What we do thus will be well done, and will not fail in its effect.
A SINGLE PASSION – John Piper
If we would make much of God, we must make much of Christ. His bloody death is the blazing center of the glory of God. If God is to be our boast, what he did and what he is in Christ must be our boast. In this regard, few verses in the Bible are more radical and sweeping and Christ-exalting than Galatians 6:14: “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Or to state it positively: Only boast in the cross of Jesus Christ. This is a single idea. A single goal for life. A single passion. Only boast in the cross. The word “boast” can be translated “exult in” or “rejoice in.” Only exult in the cross of Christ. Only rejoice in the cross of Christ. Paul says, Let this be your single passion, your single boast and joy and exultation….For Paul to say that we should boast only in the cross of Christ is shocking for two reasons. One is that it’s like saying: Boast only in the electric chair. Only exult in the gas chamber. Only rejoice in the lethal injection. Let your one boast and one joy and one exultation be the lynching rope. “May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” No manner of execution that has ever been devised was more cruel and agonizing than to be nailed to a cross and hung up to die like a piece of meat. It was horrible. You would not have been able to watch it—not without screaming and pulling at your hair and tearing your clothes. You probably would have vomited. Let this, Paul says, be the one passion of your life. That is one thing that is shocking about his words. The other is that he says this is to be the only boast of your life. The only joy. The only exultation. “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” What does he mean by this? Can he be serious? No other boast? No other exultation? No other joy except the cross of Jesus? What about the places where Paul himself uses the same word to talk about boasting or exulting in other things? For example, Romans 5:2: “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:3-4: “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” Second Corinthians 12:9: “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” First Thessalonians 2:19: “What is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?” “Boast only in this” means “Let all boasting be boasting in this” So, if Paul can boast and exult and rejoice in all these things, what does Paul mean—that he would not “boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”? Is that just double-talk? You exult in one thing, but say that you are exulting in another thing? No. There is a very profound reason for saying that all exultation, all rejoicing, all boasting in anything should be a rejoicing in the cross of Jesus Christ. Paul means something that will change every part of your life. He means that, for the Christian, all other boasting should also be a boasting in the cross. All exultation in anything else should be exultation in the cross. If you exult in the hope of glory, you should be exulting in the cross of Christ. If you exult in tribulation because tribulation works hope, you should be exulting in the cross of Christ. If you exult in your weaknesses, or in the people of God, you should be exulting in the cross of Christ….Apart from the cross of Christ, there is only condemnation. Therefore everything that you enjoy in Christ—as a Christian, as a person who trusts Christ—is owing to the death of Christ. And all your rejoicing in all things should therefore be a rejoicing in the cross where all your blessings were purchased for you at the cost of the death of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. One of the reasons we are not as Christ-centered and cross-saturated as we should be is that we have not realized that everything—everything good, and everything bad that God turns for the good of his redeemed children—was purchased by the death of Christ for us. We simply take life and breath and health and friends and everything for granted. We think it is ours by right. But the fact is that it is not ours by right.
MAINTAINING CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP – A.W. Pink
The exercise of Christian charity [love] is an essential duty, yet it is not to override everything else. God has not exercised love at the expense of righteousness. The exercising of love does not mean that the Christian himself is to become a nonentity, a mere straw blown hither and thither by every current of wind he encounters. He is never to please his brethren at the expense of displeasing God. Love is not to oust liberty. The exercise of love does not require the Christian to yield principle, to wound his own conscience, or to become the slave of every fanatic he meets. Love does enjoin the curbing of his own desires and seeking the good, the profit, the edification, of his brethren; but it does not call for subscribing to their errors and depriving himself of the right of personal judgment. There is a balance to be preserved here: a happy medium between cultivating unselfishness and becoming the victim of the selfishness of others. Under the new covenant there is no longer any distinction in the sight of God between different kinds of “meat” or sacred “days” set apart for religious exercise which obtained under the Jewish economy. Some of the early Christians perceived this clearly; others either did not or would not acknowledge such liberty. This difference of opinion bred dissensions and disrupted fellowship. To remove this evil and to promote good, the apostle laid down certain rules which may be summed up thus. First, “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5) and not blindly swayed by the opinions or customs of others. Second, Be not censorious and condemn not those who differ from you (Rom. 14:13). Third, Be not occupied with mere trifles, but concentrate on the essentials (Rom. 14:17). Fourth, Follow after those things which make for peace and mutual edification (Rom. 14:19) and quibble not over matters which are to no profit. Fifth, Make not an ostentatious display of your liberty, nor exercise the same to the injury of others (Rom. 14:19-21).
There is great variety and diversity among the saints. This is true of their natural makeup, temperament, manner, and thus in their likeableness or unlikeableness. This fact also holds good spiritually: Christians have received varying degrees of light, measures of grace, and different gifts. One reason why God has ordered things thus is to try their patience, give opportunity for the exercise of love, and provide occasion to display meekness and forbearance. All have their blemishes and infirmities. Some are proud, others peevish; some are censorious, and others backboneless, or in various ways difficult to get on with. Opinions differ and customs are by no means uniform. Much grace is needed if fellowship is to be maintained. If the rules above had been rightly interpreted and genuinely acted upon through the centuries, many dissensions would have been prevented, and much that has marred the Christian testimony in public would have been avoided.
THE EXPRESSION OF LIFE – Austin Sparks
The difference between imitation and what is conceived is the difference between what is dead and what is alive. One is made, the other is born; and the constitution of the Church is the result of the activity and energy of a Life, the Lord’s own risen Life… being transmitted, passed on. Whatever you may develop, you will never get a development of the true Church unless the risen Life of Christ is operative and is there in sufficient measure to be transmitted by the Spirit.
The same law holds good as to the order of the Church. It is the result of His Life. Again, two kinds of things are possible. You can appoint to office and set apart with certain titles and names which represent certain spheres of activity or kinds of work and responsibility. You can elect or vote into such office or position and proceed along that line, setting up the Church order.
Or you can follow another line and be ruled by the law of life, whereby account is taken of the working and expression of the Lord’s Life in the members of the Church – of the way in which the members, by that Life, begin to show marks of certain spiritual ability. Ability is coming out and manifesting itself in this way or in that way; and in due course, by a spontaneous expression and by the result of the Life of the Lord having its way in such members, the Church is compelled to take account of the fact that such-and-such in its midst are spiritually qualified… and that as spiritually qualified they are already, by the very operation of this Divine Life, the fit and proper persons for such-and-such ministry.
The expression of Life comes out perhaps in a ministry of teaching, or in a ministry of administration. It is not just natural ability. It is not the result of natural advantages – of training and so on – but there is the spiritual mark about it. Then the Lord’s people take account of it and say: Well, evidently the Lord has gifted so-and-so in this way, and we must take account of it and allow that to have its expression. Thus the Church comes into its order along the line of Life.
A question may present itself to us in connection with the familiar passage in Ephesians: “He gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints unto the work of ministering…” When the Lord did that, did He announce to the Church what He had done? Did He say, Now I have definitely given into your midst so-and-so as your apostle, as your prophet, as your evangelist, as your pastor and teacher? Did He say, Now so-and-so is a teacher in your midst? Or was His gift in the first place secret, only manifesting itself as these believers respectively went on with Him… and it became noticed that they were developing in certain ways? Was it like that? I think that is the truth, speaking generally. As the fruit of obedience, the perpetuation of His heavenly order was not mechanical, not official, not ecclesiastical… but vital, living, spiritual. True order is the expression of Life.
That is tremendously important. The Lord does not leave it in our hands to appoint our ministers – to make either the ministry or the minister. The Lord develops ministry by Life, and where the Lord develops ministry the church has to take notice. It may be perfectly true that the appointment has been made by God, but it may be equally true that it has to be made manifest by Life before it comes to function.
ABSOLUTELY DIFFERENT – Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Don’t let the world squeeze you into its own mould. Romans 12:2 (J. B. Phillips)
[The Beatitudes] indicate clearly . . . the essential, utter difference between the Christian and the non-Christian. The New Testament regards [this difference] as something absolutely basic and fundamental; and … the first need in the Church is a clear understanding of this essential difference. It has become blurred; the world has come into the Church and the Church has become worldly. The line is not as distinct as it was. There were times when the distinction was clear cut, and those have always been the greatest eras in the history of the Church. We know, however, the arguments that have been put forward. We have been told that we have to make the Church attractive to the man outside, and the idea is to become as much like him as we can. There were certain popular padres during the first world war who mixed with their men, and smoked with them, and did this, that, and the other with them, in order to encourage them. Some people thought that, as a result, when the war was over, the ex-servicemen would be crowding into the churches. Yet it did not happen, and it never has happened that way. The glory of the gospel is that when the Church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first. That is how revival comes. That must also be true of us as individuals. It should not be our ambition to be as much like everybody else as we can, though we happen to be Christian, but rather to be as different from everybody who is not a Christian as we can possibly be. Our ambition should be to be like Christ, the more like Him the better, and the more like Him we become, the more we shall be unlike everybody who is not a Christian.
APOSTOLIC WARNING AGAINST FALSE TEACHING – J.C. Ryle
False doctrines will arise as long as the world lasts, in number many, in minor details varying, in one point alone always the same, – strange, new, foreign, and departing from the Gospel of Christ. They do exist now. They will always be found within the visible Church. Remember this, and be not carried away.’ Such is Paul’s warning. The Apostle’s warning does not stand alone. Even in the midst of the Sermon on the Mount there fell from the loving lips of our Savior a solemn caution: ‘Beware of false prophets, which come unto you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.’ (Matthew 7: 15.) Even in Paul’s last address to the Ephesian elders, though he finds no time to speak about the Sacraments, he does find time to warn his friends against false doctrine: ‘Of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them.’ (Acts 20:30.) What says the Second Epistle to the Corinthians: ‘I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.’ (2 Corinthians. 11:3.) What says the Epistle to the Galatians: ‘I marvel that you are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another Gospel.’ – ‘Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth?’ – ‘Having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?’ –‘Why do you turn again to weak and beggarly elements?’ –‘You observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you.’ – ‘Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again in the yoke of bondage.’ (Galatians 1:6; 3:1-3; 4:9-11;5:1) What says the Epistle to the Ephesians: ‘Be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.’ (Ephesians 4:14) What says the Epistle to the Colossians: ‘Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men.’ (Colossians 2:8) What says the First Epistle to Timothy: ‘The Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith.’ (1 Timothy 4:1) What says the Second Epistle of Peter: ‘There shall be false teachers among you, who secretly shall bring in damnable heresies.’ (2 Peter 2:1) What says the First Epistle of John : ‘Believe not every spirit. Many false prophets are gone out into the world.’ (1 John 4:1) What says the Epistle of Jude: ‘Contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares.’ (Jude 3-4) Let us mark well these texts. These things were written for our learning.
THE SCANDALOUS GOSPEL – Paul Washer
“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16). Paul’s flesh had every reason to be ashamed of the Gospel he preached because it contradicted absolutely everything that was held to be true and sacred among his contemporaries. To the Jew, the Gospel was the worst sort of blasphemy because it claimed that the Nazarene who died accursed on Calvary was the Messiah. To the Greeks, it was the worst sort of absurdity because it claimed that this Jewish Messiah was God in the flesh. Thus Paul knew that whenever he opened his mouth to speak the Gospel he would be utterly rejected and ridiculed to scorn unless the Holy Spirit intervened and moved upon the hearts and minds of his hearers. In our day, the primitive Gospel is no less offensive, for it still contradicts every tenet or “ism” of contemporary culture – relativism, pluralism, and humanism. We live in an age of Relativism – a belief system based upon the absolute certainty that there are no absolutes. We hypocritically applaud men for seeking the truth, but call for the public execution of anyone arrogant enough to believe he has found it. We live in a self-imposed Dark Age, the reason for which is clear. Natural man is a fallen creature, morally corrupt, and hellbent on autonomy (i.e. self-government). He hates God because He is righteous and hates His laws because they censure and restrict his evil. He hates the truth because it exposes him for what he is and troubles what still remains of his conscience. Therefore, fallen man seeks to push truth, especially the truth about God, as far from him as possible. He will go to any extent to suppress the truth; even to the point of pretending that no such thing exists or that if it does exist, it cannot be known or have any bearing on our lives. It is never the case of a hiding God but a hiding man. The problem is not the intellect but the will. Like a man who hides his head in the sand to avoid a charging rhino, modern man denies the truth of a righteous God and His moral absolutes in hopes of quieting his conscience and putting out of mind the judgment he knows to be inevitable. The Christian Gospel is a scandal to man and his culture because it does the one thing he most wants to avoid – It awakens him from his self-imposed slumber to the reality of his fallenness and rebellion, and calls for him to reject autonomy and submit to God through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
WARNING WITH TEARS – C.H. Spurgeon
“For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.”—Philippians 3:18-19.
Paul was the very model of what a Christian minister should be. He was a watchful shepherd over the flock; he did not simply preach to them, and consider that he had done all his duty when he had delivered his message; but his eyes were always upon the Churches, marking their spiritual welfare, their growth in grace, or their declension in godliness. He was the unsleeping guardian of their spiritual welfare. When he was called away to other lands to proclaim the everlasting gospel, he seems always to have kept an eye upon those Christian colonies which he had founded in the midst of heathen darkness. While lighting up other lamps with the torch of truth, he did not fail to trim the lamps already burning. Here you observe he was not indifferent to the character of the little church at Philippi, for he speaks to them and warns them.
Note, too, that the apostle was a very honest pastor—when he marked anything amiss in his people, he did not blush to tell them; he was not like your modern minister, whose pride is that he never was personal in his life, and who thus glories in his shame, for had he been honest, he would have been personal, for he would have dealt out the truth of God without deceitfulness, and would have reproved men sharply, that they might be sound in the faith. “I tell you,” says Paul, “because it concerns you.” Paul was very honest; he did not flinch from telling the whole truth, and telling it often too, though some might think that once from the lip of Paul would be of more effect than a hundred times from any one else. “I have told you often,” says he, “and I tell you yet again there are some who are the enemies of the cross of Christ.”
And while faithful, you will notice that the apostle was, as every true minister should be, extremely affectionate. He could not bear to think that any of the members of the churches under his care should swerve from the truth, he wept while he denounced them; he knew not how to wield the thunderbolt with a tearless eye; he did not know how to pronounce the threatening of God with a dry and husky voice. No; while he spoke terrible things the tear was in his eye, and when he reproved sharply, his heart beat so high with love, that those who heard him denounce so solemnly, were yet convinced that his harshest words were dictated by affection. “I have told you often, and I tell you, even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ.”
ACQUAINTANCE, NOT HEARSAY – A.W. Tozer
“It is one thing,” said Henry Suso, “to hear for oneself a sweet lute, sweetly played, and quite another thing merely to hear about it.”
And it is one thing, we may add, to hear truth inwardly for one’s very self, and quite another thing merely to hear about it.
I do not wish to reflect on the genuineness of any man’s religious experience; rather I rejoice in every small shred of true godliness that may yet remain among us in these days of superficiality and pretense. But an examination of the state of things in gospel churches creates a strong suspicion that an alarmingly high percentage of professing Christians today have never heard the lute for themselves. They have only been told about it by others. Their acquaintance with saving truth is by hearsay merely. The mysterious Voice has never penetrated to their own inner ear.
Particularly is this true of the so-called deeper life. Even in those circles where the doctrines of the Spirit-filled life are taken for granted there is a strange lack of inner certainty. We hear the “deeper” truths recited with a glibness that makes us wonder whether the preacher is not telling us about something of which he has only heard, rather than about something which he himself has experienced. The widespread indoctrination in the deeper life without a corresponding enjoyment of the power of the doctrine may easily do more harm than good.
We are turning out from the Bible schools of this country year after year young men and women who know the theory of the Spirit-filled life but do not enjoy the experience. These go out into the churches to create in turn a generation of Christians who have never felt the power of the Spirit and who know nothing personally about the inner fire. The next generation will drop even the theory. That is actually the course some groups have take over the past year.
One word from the lips of the man who has actually heard the lute play will have more effect than a score of sermons by the man who has only heard that it was played. Acquaintance is always better than hearsay.
How long must we in America go on listening to men who can only tell us what they have read and heard about, never what they themselves have felt and heard and seen?
THE CENTER OF MAN’S BEING – Philip Mauro
This experience [the effect of regeneration on the intellect] is to me, and will be to any one who reflects upon it, very wonderful and impressive. I had no notion at all that intellectual difficulties and questionings could be removed in any way except by being answered, one by one, to the intellectual satisfaction of the person in whose mind they existed. But my doubts and difficulties were not met in that way. They were simply removed when I believed on the Crucified One, and accepted Him as the Christ of God, and as my personal Savior. The explanation of this is that the seat of unbelief is not in the head, but in the heart (Romans 10:9). It is the will that is wrong; and the bristling array of doubts and difficulties which spring up in the mind are mere disguises and pretexts supplied by the enemy of souls, behind which the unbelieving heart tries to shelter itself and to justify its unbelief. This is the explanation of those words of our Lord, who knew what was in man, “You will not come to Me that you might have life” (John 5:40). It is man’s unbroken and unyielded will that prevents him from coming to the Fountain of eternal life and receiving that unspeakable gift of God. And this, too, is why it is written, “For with the heart man believes unto righteousness” (Romans 10:9). The natural mind is the congenial breeding place of doubts and questionings, and (as it deems these to be of great importance) it supposes that these must be dealt with seriatim [one by one in sequence]. The natural man knows nothing about being “transformed by the renewing of the mind” (Romans 12:2) and he “receives not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). But when the heart, the center of man’s being, that inmost place to which God alone has access, is persuaded, the whole man is changed, and the mind likewise renewed and purged of its pestilential brood of doubts and reasonings. Therefore, what had previously held me back from accepting the salvation that is freely offered through Christ Jesus was not the brood of doubts and reasonings with which my head teemed. In supposing that the difficulty lay there I was miserably deceived, as are myriads of others “in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should dawn upon them” (2 Corinthians 4:4). God took no notice at all of the questionings of my puny mind, which seemed to me very formidable and worthy of the most respectful consideration. He dealt with them according to His own sovereign will and removed them in a moment. This was not difficult at all to Him who “takes up the isles as a very little thing.” Hence the stupendous change, whereby one dead in trespasses and sins is quickened together with Christ (Ephesians 2:5) is not accomplished through any process of reasoning, nor is it the outcome of any process of development. It is the immediate and mighty work of God—“the working of His mighty power which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:19, 20); and it is a work which is done instantly in them that believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
NONE OF SELF AND ALL OF CHRIST – Austin Sparks
Now note – the furnace of affliction is not for the ungodly. The fire of eternal judgment is for the ungodly, not the furnace of affliction. The furnace of affliction is for those who by faith are in Christ. What happens in the furnace of affliction? What is it that is dealt with in the fire? Is it you, and is it I, that are refined in the fire? Are you refined in the fire? Am I refined in the furnace of affliction? I say, No! emphatically NO!! If we say, Yes! well, let us look at the furnace of affliction, the fire with the metal in the crucible. What are you doing with that metal? Well, you say, you heat the fire intensely and all the uncleanness, the corruption, comes to the surface; this is skimmed off, and when that process has been carried through to its end, there is left pure gold! Then if you say that is you or that is me you will have to abandon your doctrine of total depravity, and you will have to come back to the place where you say there is good in us, after all! You will have to say there is good and bad in us, and the furnace of affliction is to get the badness out of us and leave the goodness! Is that true doctrine? No! The furnace of affliction is not for the removal of the bad out of us so as to leave the good that is in us, and secure it! Then what is its purpose? Is it to refine Christ in us? We need not discuss that! Christ needs no refining! What is it for? It is to divide between what is us in fallen nature, and what is Christ, and to get rid of the one in order to give full place to the other! The furnace of affliction is the application of the Cross to the getting rid of you and me, in order to leave the whole place for Christ. It is the measure of Christ that God is after, not to cut in between the good and bad in us, but to cut in between what is Christ, and what is ourselves. That is what the Lord is doing. He is after increasing Christ, and in order to do that He has to displace self, the old creation. It is all the measure of Christ in this realm. The realm of God is not going to be refined self, reformed self, or any kind of patching up of self. It is going to be none of self, and all of Christ. That is God’s standard. That standard has been fixed in the Cross of the Lord Jesus before God commenced. God is working to a fixed standard. He has applied the rule from the beginning, and He is working to bring us to that measure. The measure is none of self and all of Christ. The new creation is that of all things of God, and the activity of the Lord in our lives is simply to get rid of us as to the old creation, and to bring us in full measure into the new creation, which is Christ. I want that we should be taken hold of by clear, precise, definite truth in Christ, and that, if the Lord will, this shall be fixed upon us in a new way, so as to grip us. We speak much about the Testimony of Jesus, and we say the Testimony of Jesus is our concern. Now what we have just seen brings us back again, perhaps in another way, to the defining of the Testimony of Jesus. What is that Testimony? It is simply the testimony to the fact of the utterness, the absoluteness of the Lord Jesus as in God’s sight, that He is the centre and the circumference, He is the absolute sphere of the Divine interest and concern, that has made Him all and in all, and that outside of Christ in the consideration of God nothing is acceptable, usable, or a ground of blessing. God’s entire concern by the Holy Spirit is to put Christ in, and to enlarge Christ until there is nothing but Christ.
DELIVERED FROM THE FEAR OF MAN – Arthur Katz
The fear of man is so powerful, so repressive an element in our Christian living because we have never gone down and been brought up in blindness by that light that never again permits us to see man, even ourselves in our own humanity. Now I want to tell you the last and cruellest of our deceptions – it is our concern to be understood and to be perceived in the way we would like men to acknowledge us spiritually. And until we are blind to men, even to the ‘spiritual man’ that we think ourselves to be or who we desire to be known as, we cannot serve God apostolically. We must come to such a selflessness, such a mindlessness about this last man, this last cruel deceiver, who, after we have given up every other form, yet retains this kind of power by which we are traduced and compromised; the necessity to be understood by men in the way that we would wish ourselves to be seen and to be approved! We need to come to place where we see no man, even our own man, even our own seeing! That is why Paul could say, “Follow me as I follow Christ,” without an iota of arrogance or audacity. Is it not we who think that he is arrogant because we project upon him the ego in which we still live, not having fallen on our face upon the ground upon which he had fallen, and been blinded by the light of God, which blinded him? You project on him your own idea of “man” and assume that he must mean by that some kind of egotistic statement because you cannot understand a man who sees no man, and in which the element of self is therefore not a factor. He does not have to be recognised, he can be despised, he can be cast out, he can be the offscouring of the world, without so much as blinking at it, for he sees no man. The light that has come down has blinded him once and for all to that last crippling seeing, even the seeing of ourselves that makes us spiritually self-conscious and therefore compromised. “And he, trembling in astonishment asked, Lord, what would You have for me to do?” [Acts 9:6].
COMMUNION WITH CHRIST – A.W. Pink
“Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” 1 Peter 5:7
This means just what it says. Christian reader, there ought to be no restraint between you and the Lover of your soul. He would have you be on, and maintain, more intimate terms with Himself, than with any human creature. He is always accessible, and never changes in His feelings toward you. He would have you make Him your “Friend”: not only your Counselor, but your Confidant – the One into whose ear (and the only one) you are to pour the very secrets of your heart. He would have you be quite artless and natural, just like a little child coming to its mother, pouring into her ear its every little woe, trouble, and disappointment. when harassed by any soul-troubles, such as a feeling of coldness of heart toward Him, burdened about a lack of faith, or because your thoughts so often wander when you try to meditate on Divine things, or in prayers; come to Him, tell Him all about it, unburden yourself to Him: cast “all your care upon Him,” keep back nothing when something has irritated you, disturbed your composure of mind and peace of soul: when someone has said or done something which causes a resentment to rise within you, and you find it hard to forgive them; go and tell the Lord about it: confess to Him that this ought not to be, that you are ashamed of yourself, and ask Him to lay His calming hand upon you, and to give you a forgiving spirit. Or suppose something in the household arrangements has “gone wrong,” something which you could not help: perhaps the milkman or the baker is late, or the stove is not cooking as you wish, and you are disturbed: go to Him, tell Him about it, cast this “care” upon Him. You can never weary” the Lord. It is the Christian’s holy privilege to cultivate the most familiar converse with Christ. Nothing more honours Him, nothing more delights Him, for this is giving Him His true place in your daily life. The “Christian life” is not the vague and mystical thing which the unsaved deem it to be, and which some preachers have made people think it is. No, it is an intensely practical and blessed thing. It is pride (quite unsuspected) which hinders so many from maintaining this simple and childlike converse and communion with Christ. People are ready to call upon Him when some big thing (as they think it) confronts them, some really urgent need comes up; but the little (?) things they seek to carry and work out themselves. But God’s Word says, “in everything by prayer and supplication let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6). Above, we have said that it is “pride” which keeps back the Christian from casting all (every) his care upon Christ. The proof of this is intimated in the verse immediately preceding (1 Pet. 5:7): for there we read, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” It is an humbling thing to our haughty flesh, our self-sufficiency, our proud reason, to be made to feel the truth of Christ’s words “without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)—acceptably to God. But it is a blessed thing for the heart when we are brought to the place of complete conscious dependency upon the Lord for everything. That is the place of rest, joy, victory.
REFORMATION BEFORE REVIVAL – Austin Sparks
I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! (Malachi 3:10 NLT)
There is very much prayer being made, and appeal being pressed for revival…. If the Spirit of God either ignores or transcends so much that marks the Christian system, and makes it as though it counts so little, (and the Holy Spirit never compromises on what is vital and really of God), does it not mean that He calls for a reconsideration of very much that obtains? The days of the Church’s greatest spiritual power and impact were days when ecclesiastical forms, architecture and ritual were nil, and the Lord Himself was everything…. To get away from the lesser things we need a mighty visitation of the Spirit of God; this, and this only, will do it. Most people agree to this, and we have heard very much said along this line. What has always perplexed us is that, while things of this kind have been so repeatedly and strongly stated, the implication seems never to have registered itself with sufficient strength as to result in practical adjustments. So, on the other hand, if we seriously faced the things which the Spirit of God has again and again ruled out when He has had His way, would not the way be opened for a more permanent high level of spiritual life, fullness, and effectiveness?
Is not reformation an essential part of revival? Does not the Lord call for certain drastic adjustments before He can “open the windows of heaven”? (Mal. 3:10). Whenever and wherever, by a new revealing of Himself, His purpose and method, the Lord has secured those who have moved out on to the ground of Christ only and in fullness, they have always had to meet a great and painful cost. Usually it has been their own brethren in Christ who have exacted it…. How difficult it is for organized Christianity to believe that anything very much of real value can go on without machinery, publicity, and all the framework of organized work! May it not be well to pause and consider whether God’s mightiest and most fruitful works in nature and in grace are not done hiddenly, quietly, unobtrusively, and – in many cases – done before anyone knows about it? What of the resurrection of nature every Spring-time? The law of God’s highest work is the biological, the law of Life; it is organic.
GOD’S GOAL IS THE CHURCH – Watchman Nee
Many would think, “As long as I am zealous, victorious, and a holy Christian, that is good enough.” Brothers and sisters, I say a strong word; these are not what God is after; they are not His unique goal. I am by no means saying that zeal, victory, and holiness are insignificant. These are significant, but they are not God’s ultimate goal. What God desires is the corporate church, the building, the spiritual house. He is not after fragmentary or individual pieces of brick, tile, wood, or stone. God desires a body, not a finger or any other member. What God wants is the church. His desire is for Christ to have the preeminence in the church and to be Head of the church as well. Although wood, stone, brick, and tile are necessary, they are by no means the goal of God. You have been a Christian for these many years, but how much time have you spent considering what God is after? Have you ever thought about this matter of the church? Or has your primary attention been paid to how to pray, how to overcome sin, how to help sinners be saved, and how to study the Bible well? Do you only think about these things, or have you really considered what the church is? What God wants is a church. Anything that falls short of this fails to meet the goal of God. I am by no means saying that these other things are not good, but I am saying that anything short of the church cannot be counted as the goal of God. If Sunday schools are merely for the sake of Sunday schools, orphanages merely for orphanages, humanistic societies merely for humanistic societies, and gospel preaching merely for gospel preaching, it is fine as long as they do not replace the church. For all these things fall short of the church of God. What God wants is the church. The death of the Lord Jesus was for the church, and the coming of the Holy Spirit was also for the church. From beginning to end, in the New Testament, one principle can be found: Everything is for the church. Take, for example, the fact that the Lord’s death was for the church. The book of Ephesians tells us, “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” The Lord was raised from the dead to be far above all rule and authority, and He is above all to be Head over all things to the church. The Lord builds the church on this rock. The work of the Holy Spirit for the past two thousand years has been for the building up of the church. God saves sinners and enables men to overcome in order to establish the church. It is for the building up of the church that God has given us apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. Ephesians tells us that the Lord cleanses the church by the washing of water in the word and sanctifies her in order that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such things, but that she should be holy and without blemish. Here again it is a matter of the church. God’s ultimate goal is to have the New Jerusalem, and what the New Jerusalem typifies is the church. God’s goal as recorded in the Old Testament, New Testament, the four Gospels, and Revelation is to have the New Jerusalem, which is for the church. I say strongly that unless our aim, work, and living today are for the church—that is, for the accomplishment of what God is after—we are a big failure. May the Lord have mercy on us and deliver us from our limited vision into His goal and into what He emphasizes in the Scriptures.
MAN’S PROMISES OR GOD’S PROMISES – Bob Hoekstra
Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the LORD commanded him. Then all the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” (Exo_19:7-8)
The promises of the old covenant of law depend upon the performance of man. “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them” (Lev_18:5). The better promises of the new covenant of grace depend upon the performance of God. “I will make a new covenant . . . I will put My law in their minds” (Jer_31:31, Jer_31:33).
When man attempts to live under the law (thereby needing to perform up to God’s standards by human resources), he typically tries to live by his promises to God. Israel was a vivid example of this futile tendency. “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” This well-intended promise to God was consistently broken. Moses’ words are a stinging indictment of the vanity of basing life with God on our promises to Him. “You have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you” (Deu 9:24).
The desire to obey God appropriately resides within the hearts of His children, but a better way to obedience must be found than relying upon our promises to God. That better way is the path of grace, which offers a life based upon God’s promises to man. “I will give you a new heart and [I will] put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and [I will] give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and [I will] cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Eze_36:26-27).
* We are to live by the promises of God to us (instead of by our promises to Him). Living by God’s promises produces a growing confidence in the Lord, a confidence that results from His unique character. “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? ” (Num_23:19). Man may make promises to God, but, eventually, he will fail. God is not like man. God is true to His word. He will not lie, nor will He change His mind. Whatever He says, He will do! We can fully rely upon the promises of God that we find in His word.
Lord God of truth, forgive my multiplied attempts to develop a Christian walk by my promises to You. Lord, You know how often I have failed. What a joyous option this is — to live by Your promises to me! Please teach me how to think and live this way, in Jesus name, Amen.
* The “Promise Keepers” movement in the USA attempts to restore men to their rightful place of honour, integrity and responsibility in their homes and in the workplace, etc. Even though this is well-intentioned and undoubtedly a necessity for the times in which we live, it is partially built on a faulty foundation. Man cannot now under the New Covenant (see Romans 6 to 8), and never could live by his promises to God. There is a better way, the way of the Gospel. We live by the promises of God. A “Promise Believers” movement would be more appropriate. When Paul says in Gal. 2:20 that “I” have been crucified with Christ, he is speaking of that independent “I” that believes it can obey God by willpower (see v. 19). Jesus said “without Me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). As Christians we live by faith in the power of Christ who dwells in us, not by our own willpower. Our commitment should be to the Gospel, not to our own ability to obey God. There is another kind of obedience under the New Covenant (Rom. 1:5, 5:19, and 16:26). A.T.
LAW AND GRACE: MORTAL ENEMIES – Dan Stone
Law and grace are mortal enemies. Religion asserts, “No, they aren’t mortal enemies. They can flow together, like the Missouri and Ohio rivers flow into the Mississippi, and they become the Mississippi.” … Are you going to live under law, or under grace? They [the Galatians] couldn’t just pick out the law they wanted to keep. That’s what I used to do. I’d pick out those parts of Mosaic Law, Sermon on the Mount law, Baptist law, my personal law, and whatever other law I thought I could keep at least some of the time. I didn’t see that law and grace are mortal enemies. I didn’t see that you can’t live under both.
There’s no life in the law. The only thing the law tells you is what you ought to do, but can’t do. It will never relinquish its demand that you ought to do it, because it’s a divine ought-to; God gave it to Moses. We’ll keep ourselves under that divine ought-to, and the condemnation and death ministers (2 Corinthians 3), until we learn to live from the Person who dwells within us. Because there’s nothing in our flesh that wants to say, “I can’t do it. I can’t keep the law through my own effort.” Everything in our flesh says, “I want to try to do it, and with God’s help maybe I can do it.”
Like my friend Burt Rosenburg says, everything in that program is designed for futility, frustration, and failure. But they don’t tell you that up front, do they? When you sign up, no one makes this announcement:
WE’VE GOT A WONDERFUL PROGRAM HERE, THE END RESULT OF WHICH WILL BE FUTILITY, FRUSTRATION, AND FAILURE! WHEN YOU HAVE COMPLETED THE COURSE, WE WILL GIVE YOU A DIPLOMA, SAYING:
“CONGRATULATIONS, YOU HAVE FAILED!”
I remember talking to a group and proclaiming, “We have succeeded! In what? In failing!” And everyone smiled. For we finally recognized that we had succeeded in what we were supposed to do, which was to fail. “Everyone is telling us that we failed in what we were supposed to succeed in. But the truth is we have succeeded in what we were supposed to fail in. Now, we can get on with it. We can get on with what is true life.”
We usually quote Galatians 2:20 apart from its context. It immediately follows Paul’s admonition to Peter concerning the law. When Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ,” he was referring to his death to the law. Paul was saying, “The old me died on the cross with Christ, and when I died, I died to trying to keep the law. Trying to keep the law is living according to the flesh, with me and my efforts as my point of reference. I died to myself as my point of reference. Now, Christ in me is my point of reference. He is living His life through me.”
Responses to Law and Grace: Mortal Enemies – Albert Theron
Just a short note to address some complaints (two to be exact) that I received in response to the devotional, “The Law and Grace: Mortal Enemies.” There might be more of you out there who felt uncomfortable with the devotional, but you might not have the time or inclination to respond.
Perhaps Dan Stone could have chosen a less provocative title. It is, however, important to always attempt to ascertain the context of what a person is saying, preaching or writing. It is very clear from Stone’s little article that when he speaks of “the law” he is referring to the way we are sanctified as believers. Are we sanctified by the law or by grace? Are we “under” the law, or “under” grace. The crux of the article was, however, that we cannot even mingle the two. We cannot and should never attempt to live both under the law and under grace. The two ways of living do not mix. Jesus plus anything equals nothing. But Jesus plus nothing equals everything! The cross of Jesus Christ brought an absolute divide.
Rom 7:4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.
Gal 4:30-31 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.
There is nothing wrong with the law and there never was:
Rom 7:7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
Rom 7:12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
The problem is with us. Because of the principle of independence within us (“indwelling sin”: see Romans 6 to 8) the law can only provoke more independence and then show us that we could never fulfill the law through our own effort to keep it. For those of you who feel we no longer have indwelling sin, please note that Romans 6 makes it clear that sin did not die in us, we died to sin (Rom. 6:2).
Gal 3:21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.
Gal 2:19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.
Gal 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
The law still remains as an unveiling of the will of God, but we cannot now and never will be able to fulfill it by relying on it. It can only be fulfilled by the power of Christ who dwells in us.
Rom 8:3-4 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
D.L. Moody once said “the law can only take you as far as the cross, no further”. Hence the main purpose of the law is to bring us to the cross so that we may there be cast on Christ alone for our justifictain, sanctification, and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30).
THE NEW COVENANT IS A PERSON – Joseph Tkach
At its core, the new covenant is Jesus Christ. He embodies everything the new covenant is. He is the Word of God and the Son of God, made flesh for us. He is the Message of God, the Mind of God, the Meaning of God, made flesh for us to see and know and love. In himself, he enables us to be friends with God. In Jesus Christ, God has given us a new basis for our relationship with God. This is the covenant God has given; we respond to Christ with either yes or no.
Now you might ask, How can a person be an agreement? It is a biblical idea. In a prophecy about Christ, Isaiah 42:6 says that the Messiah, or Christ, would be made a covenant. The Bible calls Jesus a mediator, a go-between. A mediator’s purpose is to get two parties to relate positively to each other. His work is what causes the barriers to come down and the relationship to bear positive fruit. Jesus was the greatest diplomat, the brilliant negotiator of the greatest covenant, or agreement, in human history. Jesus could do that because he was both God and human. He was not only able to represent both parties, he was able to be both parties.
How does Jesus Christ make possible this positive relationship between God and us? Romans 5:8-10 puts it in a nutshell: Christ died for us, and because of his death we are now justified before God, rescued from God’s punishment upon his enemies and reconciled to God as one of his own children. Through the death and life of Christ, God has personally provided the one and only means by which we can actually become the faithful and loving friends and children he created us to be.
DISCOVER GOD’S PROGRAM – Ray Stedman
And this is what he promised us—even eternal life 1 John 2:25
Most of us read the words eternal life as though they only apply to heaven in the future. Everlasting life, we call it, life that never ends. That is not inaccurate. Eternal life is life that never ends, but the essential factor about eternal life is not quantity, but quality. What John is speaking of here is not merely something we are going to get in heaven someday, but it is something we can experience and enjoy now. It is fullness of life, the full quality of divine life lived out in your situation, right now, and increasing in fullness of enjoyment forever. In other words, eternal life is the daily adventure of experiencing God’s solution to every problem instead of your own. It is the discovery of God’s program for every opportunity, instead of yours. Every time we are confronted with a problem, there are two things we can do.
In the weakness of our own intellect, relying upon our own human resources, we can try to work out the problem. When we do, the result is inevitably the same. Life dissipates into a drabness, a boredom, a routine that leaves us utterly uninterested and desiring to be uninvolved. That is our program.
Or we can have God’s solution to any problem or any opportunity. In any situation we can say, Lord, You are in me, and You have come in me to live through me. This situation has been brought about by your planning and your programming. Father, I wouldn’t be in it if it were not for you. Now, Lord, do through me what you want to do with it. Then we watch to see what God does, and we become instantly available to Him to move in whatever direction it looks like the situation demands. As we do, we discover that His program begins to unfold in that situation. Every obstacle becomes a glorious opportunity to display the fullness of glory, wisdom, and power that is in the God who has come to live and make His home within us.
BEING DRIVEN OUT OF YOURSELF – Bill Freeman
“And He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may tabernacle upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Paul had a thorn in the flesh. It was a chronic problem that caused him to feel weak. He asked the Lord three times to remove it, but the Lord did not remove it. The Lord answered him instead with His grace and His strength. When Paul realized that God was using an environment to put a demand upon his flesh that was beyond his natural strength, he completely changed his attitude toward his thorn in the flesh. He said, “Most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may tabernacle upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” In other words, Paul was saying, “When I am weak, I allow my weakness to escort me to Christ! It is in my weakness that He tabernacles over me and I draw from Him. Instead of my weakness becoming a frustration to my experience of the Lord, it has become a path to lead me to the One who supplies me continuously with His grace.”
Paul learned this through his experience of the demands in his environment. So none of us should allow any environments to embitter us. Instead they should sweeten us, because they bring us so much God. In all the demands, God is teaching us one lesson—”I do not want you to live by your own life anymore. I am simply driving you out of yourself into Myself so that I can be your all in all!” Brothers and sisters, there are hundreds of hallelujahs within us as we appreciate the fact that all the demands in our lives are one escort after another, lined up, to lead us continuously to the all-sufficient Christ!
CHRIST ALONE EXPLAINS AND REVEALS THE SCRIPTURES – A.T. Pierson
“There is in a Russian palace, a famous ‘Saloon of Beauty,’ wherein are hung over eight hundred and fifty portraits of young maidens. These pictures were painted by Count Rotari, for Catharine the Second, the Russian empress; and the artist made a journey, through the fifty provinces of that vast empire of the north, to find his models. In these superb portraits that cover the walls of this saloon, there is said to be a curiously expressed compliment to the artist’s royal patron, a compliment half concealed and half revealed. In each separate picture, it is said, might be detected, by the close observer, some hidden, delicate reference to the empress for whom they were painted. Here a feature of Catharine appears; there an attitude is reproduced, some act, some favorite adornment or environment, some jewel, fashion, flower, style of dress, or manner of life — something peculiar to, or characteristic of, the empress — so that the walls of the saloon are lined with just so many silent tributes to her beauty, or compliments to her taste. So inventive and ingenious is the spirit of human flattery when it seeks to glorify a human fellow-mortal, breaking its flask of lavish praise on the feet of an earthly monarch. The Word of God is a picture gallery, and it is adorned with tributes to the blessed Christ of God the Savior of mankind. Here a prophetic portrait of the coming One, and there an historic portrayal of Him who has come, here a typical sacrifice, and there the bleeding Lamb to whom all sacrifice looked forward; here a person or an event that foreshadowed the greatest of persons and the events that are the turning points of history; now a parable, a poem, an object lesson, and then a simple narration or exposition or explanation, that fills with divine meaning the mysteries that have hid their meaning for ages, waiting for the key that should unlock them. But, in whatever form or fashion, whatever guise of fact or fancy, prophecy or history, parable or miracle, type or antitype, allegory or narrative, a discerning eye may everywhere find Him — God’s appointed Messiah, God’s anointed Christ. Not a human grace that has not been a faint forecast or reflection of His beauty, in whom all grace was enshrined and enthroned — not a virtue that is not a new exhibition of His attractiveness. All that is glorious is but a phase of His infinite excellence, and so all truth and holiness, found in the Holy Scripture, are only a new tribute to Him who is the Truth, the Holy One of God. This language is no exaggeration; on such a theme not only is exaggeration impossible, but the utmost superlative of human language falls infinitely short of His divine worth, before whose indescribable glory cherubim and seraphim can only bow, veiling their faces and covering their feet. The nearer we come to the very throne where such majesty sits, the more are we awed into silence. The more we know of Him, the less we seem to know, for the more boundless and limitless appears what remains to be known. Nothing is so conspicuous a seal of God upon the written Word, as the fact that everywhere, from Genesis to Revelation, we may find the Christ; and nothing more sets the seal of God upon the living Word than the fact that He alone explains and reveals the Scriptures.
JESUS HAS ABSOLUTE AND FINAL AUTHORITY OVER THE WHOLE CHURCH – Ed Marks
When the Gibeonites heard of Israel’s victories at Ai and Jericho, they worked craftily to deceive Israel and escape destruction. The most telling verse in this account is verse 14, which informs us that the men of Israel “did not ask for the counsel of the Lord.” As a result, they were deceived by the Gibeonites and made a covenant with them, which the Lord had strictly commanded them not to do (Exo. 34:11-17). This should be a lesson to us believers in the New Testament. We should never take the management of our personal affairs or the church’s affairs into our own hands without consulting the Lord. This offends the Lord’s headship over us. When we act without consulting the Lord, we are trusting in ourselves not in the Lord, and we do not have His presence. When we honor His headship by seeking His counsel in all things, we have His presence. When we have God’s presence, we have wisdom, insight, foresight, and the inner knowledge and discernment of all situations. Because the men of Israel did not seek the counsel of the Lord with the Gibeonites, they were deprived of a victory in the unmixed possession of the good land, the land of blessing. We must always honor the Lord’s headship by seeking counsel of Him as our Husband. This is to give Him the pre-eminence. This will ensure our victory over the enemy, and the land of blessing, typifying the all-inclusive Christ, will be ours. When we speak to Christ as the spiritual rock in such an intimate way, we enjoy the divine dispensing of Himself as the living water into our being. It is in this way that we drink of Him as the Spirit, our spiritual drink [1 Cor. 12:13]. A. W. Tozer lamented the situation of Christianity at large, when he said: Jesus Christ has today almost no authority at all among the groups that call themselves by His name.…The idea that the Man Christ Jesus has absolute and final authority over the whole church and over all its members in every detail of their lives is simply not now accepted as true by the rank and file of evangelical Christians.…For the true Christian the one supreme test for the present and ultimate worth of everything religious must be the place our Lord occupies in it.…Is Jesus Christ Lord in this act? Whether our works prove to be wood, hay and stubble or gold and silver and precious stones in that great day will depend upon the right answer to that question. Tozer goes on to exhort us to “go down in meek humility and confess that we have grieved the Lord in failing to give Him the place His Father has given Him as Head and Lord of the church”. May we all pray “that He alone in everything and in every respect might occupy the chief place [stand first and be preeminent]” (Col. 1:18b, The Amplified Bible). In giving Christ the pre-eminence in all things, we must take heed never to usurp the position of the Lord as the Head over each of His members. In addition to giving Christ the pre-eminence in all things, all of us must take heed never to usurp the position of the Lord as the Head over each of His members. We do not have the right to tell people what to do or where to go. Are we the Lord to particularly direct people in their personal affairs? Surely we need to fellowship with others concerning the clear teaching of the Bible and open up our inner feeling to them in the Lord’s presence, but we should always direct them to seek the Lord personally and contact Him as their Head directly. The Lord Himself as the Head within them in accord with the clear speaking from His holy Word must be the deciding factor in what they do. It was with the realization of Christ as the personal Lord and Head of each believer that Peter charged his fellow elders not to lord it over the believers but to become patterns of the flock (1 Pet. 5:3). The elders in the church should take the lead by being patterns of pursuing and living out Christ. Among the believers only Christ is the Lord, and all of us are slaves (Matt. 25:24-28; 2 Cor. 4:5). We should be in fear of ever usurping His headship among His children.
WAITING IN SILENCE – Arthur Katz
“At the doorway of the tent of meeting, moreover, you shall remain day and night for seven days, and keep the charge of the Lord, that you may not die, for so I have been commanded.” Thus Aaron and his sons did all the things which the Lord had commanded through Moses. Leviticus 8:35-36
Acts, Chapter 13, commences with a group of people ministering unto the Lord. In that mode of being, the Holy Spirit could say, “Set apart for Me Barnabbas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” These men were set apart, or consecrated, in a separation of such an ultimate kind that they would have been just as content to remain in the place of worship at Antioch as to be sent into the purposes of God. They had come to a place of death to themselves, even the religious desire to serve God, and to see fruit, and to be used, that it was all the same to remain as to go. It was a separation from the deepest and most subtle elements of ambition that hide themselves in the last place in which they can find refuge, namely, a religious and spiritual ambition to do for God. God has said that we will ‘die’ if we go before the time, and untold numbers have done that, and died – a short spurt, a little flurry of activity and recognition, and then lost to obscurity. The seven days of waiting is the final death to that last impulse to do for God, and to be found doing. When we have passed those seven days, then we are safe to minister in a priestly way for God, free from any consideration of the effect and benefit for ourselves. If there is something in us that wants to be heard, then our service is not priestly. We are a generation that is so ministry-minded, so doing-oriented that we have no concept for, and no disposition to see, the extraordinary investment that God requires in the preparation of His servants. God sets His premium on what we are, not what we do. If the doing does not flow from the being, then it is not apostolic.
CONVERSION IS NOT AN END IN ITSELF – Austin Sparks
The Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God (Colossians 2:19). What is the believer? In God’s sight the believer is one in whom Christ is implanted, and God never looks at Christ in a limited way. He always looks at Him in an absolute way, and when Christ is implanted at the beginning of our life it is not as though God implanted Him in a fragmentary way. God’s thought was that the end should be bound up with the beginning, and that Christ should be All and in all. That is why conversion is never an end in itself. It is only the first step toward the full end of God. It defines the nature of the believer in God’s sight, that it is of Christ. You cannot make that. No decision cards can accomplish that. You can never make men and women Christians by inviting them to make certain decisions, to assent mentally to certain propositions of Christian doctrine, though perfectly true as to the Person and work of the Lord Jesus. There has to be something which constitutes in that individual, right at the very center of the being, a living union with Christ, and a deposit of Christ. Anything other than that is a false conversion. It is the depositing of Christ at the very center of the being, with a view to His spreading to the very circumference, that is the nature of a believer…. You see the pathetic hopelessness of trying to propagate anything by organized means and methods which really is all of God. It simply has to grow, it simply has to be. Ah, but when it is so it is mighty, it is indestructible, it is incorruptible. Nothing can stand in the way of Christ. It is that which rouses hell and the energies of the devil. He does not mind all the other: doctrine, work, profession. That may often serve his ends as a great deception and misrepresentation; but bring Christ in, bring Christ through, realize Christ, and then you meet every force in this universe which is antagonistic to Christ.
A NEW CREATURE IN CHRIST – Dan Stone
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature [or creation]; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all things are from God…” 2 Corinthians 5:17-18a
Are you in Christ? If so, you are a new creation. At your new birth, God birthed in you a new spirit, created in His likeness, in holiness and righteousness (John 3:6-8; Ezekiel 36:26; Ephesians 4:24). I like what author David Needham says in Birthright: at that moment a new person came into being who had never existed before. You are not a repaint job, but a brand new creature. The old you was crucified on the cross with Christ. The new you was born of the Holy Spirit and has been raised with Christ and seated with Him in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:6). You were dead spiritually; now you are alive spiritually. For the first time you are alive the way God meant you to be alive. In your spirit you are a completely new creation. Do you look like a new creation? No. You look like the same old Tom, Dick, Harry, Mary, Jane, or Elizabeth. Externally, you still are. But you have been renewed from within. Life is within. What you’ve been trying to bring into being below the line, Paul says you already are. You already are a new creature. You don’t have to try to become a new creature. But you’re going to try to become a new creature until you know you’re a new creature. Of course, we can give mental assent: “Yes, I’m a new creature, but…” Where you are really living comes after the but. “I’m a new creature, but…” But what? “But I sure do fail a lot. ” Then that’s the way you see yourself. You don’t see yourself as a new creature. You see yourself as failing a lot. Instead, you could say, “I sure do fail a lot, but I’m a new creature.” Then that’s where you’re living. You’re always living after the but. You are a new creation in Christ Jesus. The old is gone. To whom? To God. It may not disappear as quickly to you, in the seen and temporal realm, as you’d like. But it’s gone to God. He sees the unseen and eternal. He sees the first from the last. And He knows that the old is gone. The question is who’s keeping score? You or God? The old you is gone to the One who is in charge of the universe. To Him, you are not the same person you were before you entered into Christ. You are a brand new creation in Christ.
TRUE CHRISTIAN LOVE – Arthur W. Pink
Love is the Queen of the Christian graces. It is a holy disposition given to us when we are born again by God. It is the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. True spiritual love is characterized by meekness and gentleness, yet it is vastly superior to the courtesies and kindnesses of the flesh.
We must be careful not to confuse human sentimentality, carnal pleasantries, human amiability and affability with true spiritual love. The love God commands, first to Himself and then to others, is not human love. It is not the indulgent, self-seeking love which is in us by nature. If we indulgently allow our children to grow up with little or, no Scriptural discipline, Proverbs plainly says we do not love them, regardless of the human sentimentality and affection we may feel for them. Love is not a sentimental pampering of one another with a loose indifference as to our walk and obedience before the Lord. Glossing over one another’s faults to ingratiate ourselves in their esteem is not spiritual love.
The true nature of Christian love is a righteous principle which seeks the highest good of others. It is a powerful desire to promote their welfare. The exercise of love is to be in strict conformity to the revealed will of God. We must love in the truth. Love among the brethren is far more than an agreeable society where views are the same. It is loving them for what we see of Christ in them, loving them for Christ’s sake.
The Lord Jesus Himself is our example. He was not only thoughtful, gentle, self-sacrificing and patient, but He also corrected His mother, used a whip in the Temple, severely scolded His doubting disciples, and denounced hypocrites. True spiritual love is above all faithful to God and uncompromising towards all that is evil. We cannot declare, ‘Peace and Safety’ when in reality there is spiritual decay and ruin!
True spiritual love is very difficult to exercise because it is not our natural love. By nature we would rather love sentimentally and engender good feelings. Also many times true spiritual love is not received in love, but is hated as the Pharisees hated it. We must pray that God will fill us with His love and enable us to exercise it without dissimulation toward all.
THE FOOLISHNESS OF COMPARISON – 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.”
BEYOND PERSONALITY – Chip Brogden
“We regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.” 2 Corinthians 5:16
In our relationships it is easy to touch one another in the flesh. But to put on the Lord Jesus is to make no provision for the flesh, even in our relationships. To “know no man after the flesh” is truly a challenge. We “project” a certain something, and either it is ourselves, or it is Christ.
We note the personality differences between Paul, and Peter, and John, and James, and Barnabas; even so, they each have the same clothing, having put on the Lord Jesus. So we can touch them on a deeper level than who they are in themselves. We can still see the man, but we mostly see the Lord of the man. When we put on the Lord Jesus then the outward man becomes consistent with the inward man. This is fruitfulness, and this should be the normal experience of all disciples of the Lord.
SLAVES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS – Mike Baer
Paul has already told us that we have died to sin [Rom. 6:1-11] that the old man has been crucified with Christ, that we are raised as new creatures, that we have an entirely new life, and that we are alive to God. This is a new identity and the core of our Christian life. We are not old men trying to please God nor are we partially renewed striving to complete what God has begun. We are new in every way. This is who we are. Now, in answer to the repeated question about the relationship between grace and sin, Paul explains further who we are: we are the slaves of righteousness. This is also who we are. The illustration that Paul uses to communicate our new relationship to righteousness comes straight from the culture of his day. Slavery was common; in fact, many of the believers reading this letter were slaves. They belonged to someone and were bound by that relationship to serve that person. They were the property of their master. And they could not be the property of two masters; they belonged entirely to one person. To him they owed their human allegiance. In the same way, we belong to God. We once belonged to sin. We were the slaves of sin. Sin was our master and we were bound to obey it–even though that way of living resulted in death and destruction. BUT GOD… But God made us free from sin. God delivered us. God put us to death and raised us anew and bound us now to Himself, to righteousness, to holiness, to obedience. Our identity has changed; our relationships have changed; our masters have changed. You and I are slaves to righteousness. That is who we are. And that answers the question: shall we keep on sinning? No, we now are the slaves of righteousness so we should be obeying. Where all of this “identity stuff” meets experience is in the way we use our bodies. The body is morally neutral. It can be made to serve evil or good, God or Satan; it is merely an instrument. The key is the person in the body. Those who do not yet know God and are, by nature, the property of sin use their bodies to commit sins; they offer, so to speak, their morally neutral body as tools for the fulfilment of sin’s desires. That is the way we once were. Having an identity as a sinner, as a slave to sin, we (the old man) constantly offered our bodies to serve our master; the result–death. But now, with a new identity (the new man) we offer our bodies to God, as instruments for His use; the result–eternal life. We are new men and women in the old body; and the choice is to whom we offer this tool. Once we have established our new identity in Christ, understanding this passage [Rom. 6:15-23] is not particularly difficult. We have changed. Our bodies have not. The new you is to use the body for God just as the old you used the body for sin. Simple! Let me close with a silly illustration. I love golf. Unfortunately, I am a terrible golfer. I pick up my club, swing it, and land the ball in the woods, the water, the sand– anywhere but the green. Is that the club’s fault? No. It’s my fault. I am a lousy golfer; that is my golf identity. But suppose that Jack Nicklaus takes that same club and swings. He will hit the green every time. Should the club get the praise? No. It’s not the club but the golfer; and Jack’s golf identity is as a pro. It is the identity that counts. Me or Jack. The club is just a tool. In the same way, my body is a tool. The identity of the person inside is the key. Am I a sinner, belonging to sin? Or am I a saint, belonging to God? As a Christian, I am new and now I can use my body to honor the Lord.