ON WRESTLING IN PRAYER – A.W. Tozer
There is an idea abroad that wrestling in prayer is always a good thing, but that is by no means true. Extreme religious exercises may be undergone with no higher motive than to get our own way. The spiritual quality of a prayer is determined not by its intensity but by its origin. In evaluating prayer we should inquire who is doing the praying—our determined hearts or the Holy Spirit? If the prayer originates with the Holy Spirit, then the wrestling can be beautiful and wonderful; but if we are the victims of our own overheated desires, our praying can be as carnal as any other act. Two examples are given in the Old Testament, Jacob and the prophets of Baal. Jacob’s wrestling was a real exercise, and at first it was not Jacob’s doing. “And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day” (Genesis 32:24). Obviously the “man” was the aggressor, not Jacob, but when Jacob had been beaten upon, he became the aggressor and cried, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me” (32:26). The wrestling was of divine origin, and the blessed results are known to every Bible student. The other example does not turn out so well. The prophets of Baal wrestled also, much more violently that Jacob, but they wrestled in the flesh. Their writhings were born of ignorance and superstition and got them nowhere. Everything was a mistake—their zeal, their body-punishing prayer, their determination. They were wrong in spite of their zealous praying. And such error did not die with them. Only the Spirit can pray effectively. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).
OP GODDELIKE BANE VAN VREDE – Albert Theron
“..die wysheid wat van Bo kom…is inskiklik..” Jak. 3:17
Twee van die Engelse vertalings vertaal inskiklik onderskeidelik as ‘open to reason’ en ‘ready to yield’. Wysheid van Bo is iets wat God vir ons deur Sy Gees gee. Dit is nie ‘n natuurlike kenmerk of bloot ‘n ingesteldheid van sekere temperamente nie. Geen mens se ‘vlees’ is byvoorbeeld werklik inskiklik nie. Die Heilige Gees bring egter ‘n sagtheid wat bereid is om na ander mense te luister en na ‘n situasie te kyk vanuit hulle perspektief met die oog op ware begrip, versoening, genesing, seën, en vrede. Soms verg ‘n moeilike verhoudingsituasie net hierdie hemelse inskiklikheid om te ontknoop en op Goddelike bane van vrede te begin hardloop. Sonder die unieke werking van die Gees sal dit egter nooit gebeur nie.
A TEACHABLE AND CHILD-LIKE FRAME OF MIND – J.C. Ryle
The corruption of human nature is a universal disease. It affects not only a man’s heart, will, and conscience, but his mind, memory, and understanding. The very same person who is quick and clever in worldly things, will often utterly fail to comprehend the simplest truths of Christianity. He will often be unable to grasp the plainest reasonings of the Gospel. He will see no meaning in the clearest statements of evangelical doctrine. They will sound to him either foolish or mysterious. He will listen to them like one listening to a foreign language, catching a word here and there, but not seeing the drift of the whole. “The world by wisdom knows not God.” (1 Cor. 1:21.) It hears, but does not understand. We must pray daily for the teaching of the Holy Spirit, if we would make progress in the knowledge of divine things. Without Him, the mightiest intellect and the strongest reasoning powers will carry us but a little way. In reading the Bible and hearing sermons, everything depends on the spirit in which we read and hear. A humble, teachable, child-like frame of mind is the grand secret of success. Happy is he who often says with David, “Teach me Your statutes.” (Psalm 119:64.) Such an one will understand as well as hear.
GOD’S MESSENGERS – Harry Ironside
Throughout the entire Christian era, which is that of the dispensation of the grace of God (Eph. 3:2), believers in Christ are called out from the world and are responsible to live for the glory of Him who has saved them. But though separated from the surrounding evil, they are not to shut themselves up as in a monastery or convent in order to be protected from defilement, but are to go forth as God’s messengers into that very world from which they have been delivered, preaching to all men everywhere the gospel, which is God’s offer of salvation through the finished work of His beloved Son. Whatever suffering or affliction this entails is to be borne cheerfully for His sake, knowing that He will reward abundantly for all endured, when He returns in glory. His Church is to be in the World, but not of it, witnessing rather against its evil, and offering pardon through the cross. Tertullian declared that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. This has been demonstrated over and over again. Persecution can never destroy the Church of God. The more it is called to suffer for Christ, the stronger it becomes. It is internal strife and carelessness in life that endangers it. But so virile is the life it possesses that even this has never been permitted to destroy it, for although its outward testimony has at times been ruined by such things, God has always kept alive a witnessing remnant to stand for the truth of His Word.
LOOK AWAY FROM YOURSELF – C.H. Spurgeon
It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ. He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of His children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.” All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: He tells us that we are nothing, but that “Christ is all in all.” Remember, therefore, it is not your hold of Christ that saves you–it is Christ; it is not your joy in Christ that saves you–it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument–it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to your hand with which you are grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to your hope, but to Jesus, the source of your hope; look not to your faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “looking unto Jesus.” Keep your eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon your mind; when you wake in the morning look to Him; when you liest down at night look to Him. Oh! let not your hopes or fears come between you and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail you.
“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness:
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”
MOET HOM NIE VERVANG NIE! – Albert Theron
“En die salwing wat julle van Hom ontvang het, bly in julle, en julle het nie nodig dat iemand julle leer nie…” 1 Joh. 2:27
“En Hy het gegee sommige as apostels, ander as profete, ander as evangeliste, ander as herders en leraars, om die heiliges toe te rus vir hulle dienswerk…” Efes. 4:11-12
Elke ware dissipel van Jesus het met wedergeboorte ‘n inwonende Leraar, die Heilige Gees, ontvang. Geen mens op aarde kan, of mag, die intens persoonlike lering van die Heilige Gees vervang nie. Aan die ander kant het God tog ook menslike leraars gegee wat saamwerk met die Heilige Gees om die gemeente van Jesus tot volwassenheid te bring. Daarom moet ons aan die een kant waak dat ons nie die heerlike, persoonlike bediening van die Gees vervang deur te swaar te leun op menslike leraars nie, en aan die ander kant dat ons leerbaar bly en nie die gawes wat God vir Sy gemeente gegee het minag nie. En leraars/bedienaars moet waak dat hulle nie begin dink dat alles in die gemeente staan en val by hulle persoonlike salwing en bediening nie. Daardie plek behoort aan die Heilige Gees alleen!
GOD WITHOUT DISGUISE – C.S. Lewis
Why is God landing in this enemy-occupied world in disguise and starting a sort of secret society to undermine the devil? Why is He not landing in force, invading it? Is it that He is not strong enough? Well, Christians think He is going to land in force; we do not know when. But we can guess why He is delaying. He wants to give us the chance of joining His side freely. I do not suppose you and I would have thought much of a Frenchman who waited till the Allies were marching into Germany and then announced he was on our side. God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realise what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else–something it never entered your head to conceive — comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing: it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realised it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last for ever. We must take it or leave it.
WISDOM’S WAYS OF PLEASANTNESS – A.W. Pink
It is our duty to refute the world’s lie that Christianity is incapable of making its subjects happy. Few things have done more injury to the cause of the Gospel than the sourness, sadness, and moroseness of a large class of its professors. Where Christ rules in the heart He sheds abroad a peace which passes all understanding and a joy which is unspeakable and full of glory. True we must not pretend a peace and joy we do not possess, yet we should be most diligent in opening our hearts unto the influences of that Truth which we profess to believe. God’s commands are not grievous, and in the keeping of them there is great reward. Let us seek to make it evident to those around us that Christ’s yoke is not a hard one nor His burden heavy. Let us make it appear that the Truth has not made us slaves, but free, and that wisdom’s ways are ways of pleasantness.
A FULLER REVELATION OF HIS MIND – J.B. Stoney
Most Christians dwell upon the fact that they are forgiven their sins. They have the satisfaction that they are Christians, and they look for proofs of God’s favor; and this mercy and the other, they say, is a mark of His favor.
No doubt His mercies are “new every morning”; but there is much more. The greatest mark of the Father’s favor is a fuller revelation of His mind. If you were to be given all of Europe it would not be equal to the favor of a better acquaintance with the One who has done everything for you. Any day that you see and understand more of Him and His greatness and preciousness, then you are most highly favored.
SO NABY SOOS SUURSTOF – Albert Theron
“En dit is die ewige lewe, dat hulle U ken…” Joh. 17:3
Jesus Christus het nie na hierdie aarde gekom om van ons godsdienstige mense te maak wat net op sekere tye en plekke en slegs deur middel van ons onderskeie unieke kerktradisies se rites en rituele tot God nader nie. Jesus het vlees geword, gesterf, en opgestaan om ons in ‘n lewende, oomblik-vir-oomblik, egte, spontane en intieme liefdesverhouding te stel met ons hemelse Vader. Hy is nie ver van ons nie. Hy is nie iewers toegesluit in ‘n ‘heilige gebou’ nie. Hy is so naby soos die suurstof wat ons inasem en waarvan ons elke oomblik leef. Hy praat gedurig met ons harte. Al wat Hy vra is dat ons in geloof die deur oophou vir die werking van Sy Gees in ons binneste.
LOVE WITH WHICH TO LOVE – Bill Freeman
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” Ephesians 5:25
We love because He first loved us. Because we are in this vertical relationship, we cannot help but love. There is a necessity in us to receive and love others the way He loves us. The problem many times is that we are trying to work out a horizontal relationship, when we ourselves do not know the love God has toward us. We need to enjoy that unconditional love which is based on Calvary—on the precious blood, cleansing, and forgiveness. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us, and that love is poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. It is out of this love that we have love with which to love others. May the Lord show us this kind of relationship that is in the unconditional love of God. It is by our experiencing His life—by fellowshipping with Him and obeying Him—that the reality of that life will come out in perfect love which casts out all fear and brings in another kind of attitude.
If you will bring to your marriage relationship the unconditional love of God, and not your expectancies, your standards, what you hope she will be, or he will be, then you will not be disappointed. You will also avoid hurt feelings, lack of communication, and just trying to get along. None of this will come into your relationship. But if instead you have a lot of standards and expectancies and dreams, your relationship will eventually fall apart because you brought the wrong thing into it. Bring perfect love. Bring the enjoyment that you are having in fellowship with the Lord and in following Him day by day. Bring that to your relationship. And then there will be compassion, tenderheartedness, forgiveness, mercy, and enjoying God together.
DIE AANBIDDING VAN SUKSES – Albert Theron
Een van die mees subtiele dinge wat dissipels van Jesus dikwels ongemerk laat afwyk van God se koninkryksplan is die manier wat ons dink oor sukses. Ons waardesisteem is in baie gevalle eintlik maar dieselfde as die wêreld s’n. Roem, prestasie, finansiële voorspoed, groter en beter is die doel en die maatstaf. Ons sukkel om uit te styg bo ons tydgees, en in baie gevalle besef ons nie eers dat ons net soos die wêreld ‘n afgod van “sukses” gemaak het nie! Ware sukses het volgens Jesus baie meer te doen met nederigheid, gebrokenheid, en die oorwinning van die liefde. Dikwels ongemerk en weg van die oë van die skares speel die drama en die stryd vir ware sukses in families, huwelike, gemeentes, en werksituasies af. Hoe dink jy oor sukses? Het jy al vrede gemaak daarmee dat dit dikwels diegene is wat “verloor” in die wêreld se oë wat werklik wen in God se boek, die wat gee wat werklik ontvang en die wat dien wat ryklik deur God beloon word?
DAILY SPIRITUAL RENEWING – A.W. Pink
Until the Christian has learned his dependence upon the Spirit’s workings within him, until he personally realizes his urgent need of a fresh “supply of the Spirit,” being daily renewed by Him, he will not and cannot make any true spiritual progress. Faith upon Christ will not be operative, love for Him will not be warm and regular, communion with Him will not be enjoyed. That is why this request for the saints to be strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inner man [Eph. 3:16] precedes the other petitions. Christ has an objective and influential dwelling in our hearts only as faith is kept in exercise upon Him and as our affections are set upon Him. As Christ was received by faith at first, so it is by the same faith we delight ourselves in Him, feed upon Him, have fellowship with Him, and draw from His fullness. But our faith is exercised only in proportion as we are first strengthened within by the Spirit. Faith is indeed an act of ours, yet it does not act by or from anything of ours, but only as it is stirred into action by the Spirit.
“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” When one dwells in the heart of another, that one is the object of the intense affection of the other. For Christ to dwell in the heart is for Him to have the chief place in our thoughts and affections. Alas, how many other objects plead our notice, claim our attention, and absorb us. How spasmodically is faith occupied with its grand Object! This shows our urgent need for praying that we may be strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inner man, for the believer cannot put forth a single act of spiritual life except by His agency. The Christian is as wholly dependent upon the Spirit’s operations within him as he is upon Christ’s work without him. He has no more power of his own separate from the Spirit than he has righteousness of his own apart from Christ. As he looks outside of himself for the latter, so he must for the former. The Spirit alone gives us strength to act grace, grow in grace, and bring forth the fruits of grace. “Thou also hast wrought all our works in us” (Isa. 26:12).
JESUS CHRIST IS IN YOU – Andrew Murray
Know ye not your own selves? Every Christian needs to know himself. Not only his own sinfulness and helplessness, but much more, the divine miracle that has taken place within him and made him the temple and dwelling of the three-one God. Do learn above everything to know your own selves, that Jesus Christ is in you. There are in every Christian community numbers who are living a low and feeble life, without joy or power over sin, or influence to bless others. To all such the message of [the apostle] Paul comes; pause and listen, and take in the wonderous thought, that will be to you both the motive and the power to an entirely new life: Christ is in you. If you but learn to believe this, and to give way to it, and to yield yourself to Him, He will do His mighty saving work in you.
You see how we here get at once to the two great questions that occupy us at a Convention like this. The one is, How is it that so many Christians fail? To this the answer comes: They do not know aright that Jesus Christ is in them. Not one of us could live a worldly life, could give way to pride and selfishness and temper, could so grieve the Holy Spirit of God, if he knew, indeed, that Jesus Christ was in him. The effect of this knowledge would be simply wonderful. On the one hand, it would solemnise and humble, and draw man to say: I cannot bear the thought of grieving the Christ within me.
On the other hand, it would encourage and strengthen him to say: Praise God I have Jesus Christ within me, He will live my life for me. May God bring us to the confession of how much we have lost because we lacked this faith, and teach us to pray much that from moment to moment our life may be: Jesus Christ in us. Then comes the other question. If I find that I have not known and lived this life, am I ready to say to-night: Henceforth, by the grace of God, I will. I can rest content with nothing less than the full experience, Jesus Christ is in me? Let us but come in deep poverty and emptiness: He who did the work for us so perfectly on Calvary undertakes to do it in our hearts too.
RETURN TO YOUR FIRST LOVE – Harry Ironside
“The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the LORD, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holy to the LORD, the firstfruits of his harvest. All who ate of it incurred guilt; disaster came upon them, declares the LORD.” Jer. 2:1-3
How He delights to recall the first love of His people, when their hearts beat true to Himself and joy welled up in their souls at the thought of His dwelling among them (Exodus 16)! Do we not well remember that it was so with us when first we knew Him to be really our Saviour-God and ourselves to be His forever, when the confidence of our hearts was established in His grace? How much He was to us then! What a poor thing this world seemed, with all its glittering baubles! How gladly we turned from everything we had once delighted in to go out after Himself revealed in JESUS! He was outside this scene, the rejected One; we, too, then, must be separated from it. That which had before been as the well-watered plains of Egypt to us now became as a desert, parched and dry, in which was nothing for our hearts. With deepest joy we exclaimed, “All my springs are in Thee,” (Psa. 87:7) and sang exultingly of the “treasure found in His love,” which had indeed “made us pilgrims below.” Those were truly bright and happy days when first CHRIST dwelt in our hearts by faith: days when He joyed in us and we in Him. But, may we not ask ourselves, is it so now? Must He look back and say, “I remember,” or does He find us still occupied with Himself, still gladly and cheerfully counting all below as dross and dung for Him, still exclaiming, “One thing I do”? (Phil. 3:13) Alas, that it should be ever otherwise! But the first complaint He had to make against the newly-founded Church, when all else was going on well and orderly, was this: “You have left your first love” (Rev. 2:4).
THE THORNS ARE CHOKING THE AGE – C.H. Spurgeon
Luke [8v14] tells us of another kind of weed, namely, “the pleasures of this life.” I am sure that these thorns play a dreadful part nowadays. I have nothing to say against recreation in its proper place. Certain forms of recreation are needful and useful; but it is a wretched thing when amusement becomes a vocation. Amusement should be used to do us good “like a medicine”; it must never be used as the food of the individual. From early morning until late at night some spend their time in a round of frivolities, or else their very work is simply carried on to furnish them funds for their pleasures. This is vicious. Many have had all holy thoughts and gracious resolutions stamped out by perpetual trifling. Pleasure, so called, is the murderer of thought. This is the age of excessive amusement. Everybody craves for it, like a babe for its rattle. In the more sober years of our fathers, men and women had something better to live for than silly sports. The thorns are choking the age.
WHAT IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD? – Andrew Murray
It is that spiritual state in which the life of God and of heaven is made accessible to men, and they enter into its enjoyment here on earth. If we ask what its marks are we find the answer in the wondrous change we see in the life of the disciples. The mark of a kingdom is the presence of the king. With the Holy Spirit Christ came down to be with His disciples as really, and more nearly, than when He was with them in the flesh. The abiding nearness and fellowship of Christ, and in Him of God the Father, is the very central blessing of the Kingdom. This experience was what the Holy Spirit at Pentecost made real. The disciples had their Lord with them as consciously as the angels in heaven. His presence made heaven all around and in them. A believer to whom a full entrance into the Kingdom is given, has the Presence. The mark of the kingdom is the rule of the king. We read, “His Kingdom rules over all.”
Before Pentecost the disciples could not love or be humble, could not trust or be bold. But when the kingdom came the dominion of God prevailed, God’s Presence through the Holy Spirit gained the victory, sin was overcome, and the will of God done in them to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as in heaven,” He promised this. As the Kingdom came down with the Holy Spirit the promise was fulfilled. And our entering into the kingdom means our being brought into a life in which God rules over all, His will is truly and joyfully done, and all the blessedness that reigns in heaven finds its counterpart here below. As it is written, “The Kingdom of God is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
The mark of a kingdom is power. “The Kingdom of God is not in word but in power.” Just think of the work these simple fishermen dared to undertake, and were able to accomplish. Think of the weapon with which they had to do their work – the despised Gospel of the crucified Nazarene. Think of all that God wrought through them, and see how the coming of the Kingdom brought a new power from heaven by which feeble men were made mighty through God, and the slaves of Satan were made God’s holy children.
THE CHURCH IN THIS DISPENSATION – Austin Sparks
Here, very little need be said. All that is necessary is to underline one thing: the church in this dispensation is not an institution; it is not an earthly system; it is not something national; it is not sectarian; it is not denominational, interdenominational, or undenominational. The church in this dispensation is a Person – it is Christ and it is the extension of that Person – that is the church. It is not a hierarchy at all; it is certainly not a clerisy; it is Christ! And, I said, the extension of Christ, of the Person – that is, a people, a people in whom Christ dwells, in whom Christ is Lord, and over whom Christ is Head – that people and no other, is the church. It is not a name; it’s not a name – far better to avoid all names. Immediately you put names on something that is the church, you bring it to earth and divide it from all others. It’s not a name, it is not a tradition. It is not a place, and it is not a form. It is a people whose basis of life and sum-total of life is Christ Himself!
THE MEANING OF THE CROSS – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Only when we have become completely oblivious of self are we ready to bear the cross for his sake. If in the end we know only him, if we have ceased to notice the pain of our own cross, we are indeed looking only unto him. If Jesus had not so graciously prepared us for this word, we should have found it unbearable. But by preparing us for it he has enabled us to receive even a word as hard as this as a word of grace. It comes to us in the joy of discipleship and confirms us in it. To endure the cross is not a tragedy; it is the suffering which is the fruit of an exclusive allegiance to Jesus Christ. When it comes, it is not an accident, but a necessity. It is not the sort of suffering which is inseparable from this mortal life, but the suffering which is an essential part of the specifically Christian life. It is not suffering per se but suffering-and-rejection, and not rejection for any cause or conviction of our own, but rejection for the sake of Christ. If our Christianity has ceased to be serious about discipleship, if we have watered down the gospel into emotional uplift which makes no costly demands and which fails to distinguish between natural and Christian existence, then we cannot help regarding the cross as an ordinary everyday calamity, as one of the trials and tribulations of life. We have then forgotten that the cross means rejection and shame as well as suffering. The Psalmist was lamenting that he was despised and rejected of men, and that is an essential quality of the suffering of the cross. But this notion has ceased to be intelligible to a Christianity which can no longer see any difference between an ordinary human life and a life committed to Christ. The cross means sharing the suffering of Christ to the last and to the fullest. Only a man thus totally committed in discipleship can experience the meaning of the cross.
HEARING WHEN GOD SPEAKS – C.H. Spurgeon
“Then Samuel answered, Speak; for Your servant hears.” 1 Sam. 3:10
The child Samuel was favored above all the family in which he dwelt. The Lord did not speak by night to Eli, or to any of Eli’s sons. In all that house, in all the rows of rooms that were round about the Tabernacle where the Ark of the Lord was kept, there was not one except Samuel to whom Jehovah spoke! The fact that the Lord should choose a child out of all that household and that He should speak to him, ought to be very encouraging to you who think yourself to be the least likely to be recognized by God. Are you so young? Yet, probably, you are not younger than Samuel was at this time. Do you seem to be very insignificant? Yet you can hardly be more so than was this child of Hannah’s love! Have you many troubles? Yet you have not more, I daresay, than rested on young Samuel, for it must have been very hard for him, while so young a child, to part from his dear mother, to be so soon sent away from his father’s house and so early made to do a servant’s work, even though it was in the House of the Lord!
I have noticed how often God looks with eyes of special love upon those in a family who seem least likely to be so regarded. It was on Joseph, whom his brothers hated—it was upon the crown of the head of him who was separated from his brothers—that God’s electing love descended! Why should it not come upon you? Perhaps, in the house where you live, you seem to be a stranger. Your foes are they of your own household! You have many sorrows and you think that waters of a full cup are wrung out to you, yet the Lord may have a very special regard for you. I invite you to hope that it is so, yes, and to come to Christ and put your soul’s trust in Him—and then I am persuaded that you will find that it is so and you will have to say—”He drew me to Him with cords of a man, with bands of love. Because He loved me with everlasting love, therefore with loving kindness has He drawn me.”
THE ROLE OF GOD THE FATHER IN SALVATION – Francis Schaeffer
God imputed righteousness to Abraham because Abraham believed God’s promises [Rom. 4:17-22]. And He will impute this righteousness to us as well, if we believe His promises. Abraham was dead and Sarah was dead, as far as reproduction is concerned. God made a promise. Abraham believed that God could quicken the dead—and the child was born. There was life from death. Likewise, Jesus was dead, but we are called to believe that God did in fact raise Him from the dead. As we noted earlier, in most evangelistic preaching the emphasis, rightly, is on “accepting Christ as our Savior.” In the context of his discussion of Abraham [Rom. 4:23-25], however, Paul seems to emphasize the role of God the Father in salvation. He says that we must believe on “him who raised Jesus from the dead.” In so doing, we’re believing the same God that Abraham believed. Several other passages in the New Testament similarly underscore the role of God the Father in salvation. Elsewhere in Romans, we read: “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death, that as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father . . .” (6.4). And again: “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you . . .” (8:11). And yet again: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (10:9). Peter likewise urges his readers to “believe in God, who raised him up from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:21). Jesus Himself stressed the role of God the Father in salvation, and the importance of believing on Him: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that hears my word, and believes on him that sent me, has everlasting life” (John 5:24). Throughout the New Testament, then, you find this emphasis on “believing on him that raised Jesus,” or “believing on him that sent me.”
VICTORY IS A GIFT – Watchman Nee
Please remember that victory is a gift; it is not a reward. What is a gift? A gift is a present; it is something freely given. What we receive as a result of work is a reward. But what we freely receive without doing any work is a gift. The latter is given to us freely; it has nothing to do with what we have done, and we do not have to exert any effort to get it. The former requires our work; we must strive for it before we can have it. The overcoming life which we speak of does not require our own effort. We can look at 1 Corinthians 15:57, which says, “But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Victory is something that God has prepared and given to us. Our victory comes to us free of charge; we do not have to earn it by our own effort.
Brothers and sisters, a great mistake is to think that salvation comes to us freely, while victory comes to us as a result of our own effort. We know we cannot trust in any merit or any work of our own for salvation. We simply need to come to the cross and receive the Lord Jesus as our Savior. This is the gospel. While we think that salvation does not require our works, we also think that we should have good works after we are saved. Even though we do not try to be saved through works, we try to overcome through works. But just as one cannot be saved through good works, one cannot overcome through good works. God says that we cannot have any good works at all. Christ has died for us on the cross, and He is living for us within us. What is of the flesh will always be of the flesh, and God wants nothing that is of the flesh. We think that salvation is through the Lord Jesus’ death for us on the cross, but that after salvation, we should try our best to do good and hope for the best. But let me ask, “Though you have been saved for years, are you good yet?” Thank and praise the Lord. We cannot do good. We cannot produce any amount of good. Hallelujah! We cannot do any good. Thank and praise Him that victory is a gift from Him; it is something freely given to us!
THE BATTLE FOR PRAYER – Austin Sparks
I am quite sure that I have the agreement of most of the Lord’s people when I say that one of the most difficult things, if not the most difficult thing, is to be able to get to prayer and give ourselves to prayer. When we contemplate prayer we meet a host of unsuspected and unforeseen difficulties which suddenly rise up as ambush forces breaking out upon us. Anything to prevent prayer! I am not saying something that you do not know, but I am saying it in order that you may recognize it clearly, definitely and deliberately, and face the fact that it is not just ordinary circumstances, but a designed, well-laid scheme of the enemy to prevent prayer. The enemy, instead of objecting, will promote occupation with a thousand and one things for the Lord if thereby he can crowd out prayer. He does not mind how busy we are in the Lord’s work, nor how often we are found preaching, conducting meetings, and doing the many-sided work of the Lord, as we may call it. He knows quite well that all the work for the Lord which is not founded upon triumphant spiritual prayer will count for little or nothing in the long run and will break down. I say that he does not mind you working. Work for the Lord as hard as you can, but if you leave out prayer you will not accomplish very much. One of the subtleties of the enemy is to get us so busy, so occupied, so much on the go and on the rush with – as we think – things for the Lord and the work of the Lord that our prayer is cramped and pushed up into a corner and limited, if not almost entirely ruled out; and the Lord will never accept the excuse: ‘Lord, I am too much engaged in Your interests to pray.’ The Lord never favours an attitude like that.
FACTS AND PROMISES – Miles Stanford
It is by means of the Spirit-ministered Word that we see and understand the facts concerning our position of sanctification in the Lord Jesus. Without the scriptural facts, there would be nothing upon which we could base our faith. But as we see that the Holy Spirit has already sanctified us in Christ, we are able to trust Him to separate us unto God in our condition. The Spirit carries out His subjective work in our lives from the basis, the source, the standing, the position, the objective truth, of our eternal completeness in our risen Lord Jesus Christ.
In this matter of faith in the Word, it is essential to distinguish between God’s promises and His facts. Promises are to be anticipated; facts are to be accepted. We wait upon our Father to fulfill His promises in His own time, according to His will and His integrity. On the other hand, facts are to be appropriated and enjoyed now; we are to accept them with thanksgiving. By faith we know that we are justified (Rom. 5:1), that we are reconciled (Col. 1:20–22), that we are accepted (Eph. 1:5–7), and that we are sanctified (Acts 26:18). Since the Holy Spirit ministers to us through the channel of faith, He gives us in our condition what we appropriate from our position. For instance, in the matter of peace, from our position of justification we receive peace concerning the penalty of our sins; from our reconciliation, peace with God; from our acceptance, the peace of God; and from our sanctification, peace and assurance that He will conform us to the image of our Lord Jesus.
THE PATH OF PROGRESS – Chip Brogden
“If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” John 3:12
The path of progress, of spiritual maturity, hinges upon our willingness to let go of the old ways and embrace the new ways; to rise above the lower order of things and walk in a higher order – a heavenly way, a spiritual way, as opposed to the earthly, natural, carnal way that we are so used to walking. Repentance is a continual process of agreeing with what God shows us about ourselves and then making the necessary adjustments.
The Holy Spirit is intent upon making radical adjustments – to create in us a willingness to look at things differently; an eagerness to begin seeing things as God sees them, regardless of how uncomfortable that may be; to value the things that He values and let go of lesser things; to align ourselves with His Mind and Will for all things; to leave our ground altogether and come onto His ground – regardless of the consequences.
YOU ARE ALREADY A BRANCH – Watchman Nee
Mr. Hudson Taylor was at one time continuously experiencing failure and weakness. Once he wrote to his sister about how his heart was very troubled because he felt that he was lacking sanctification, life, and power within. He thought that if he could only abide in Christ, everything would be fine. His sister prayed for him. For a few months he prayed, struggled, fasted, made resolutions, read the Bible, and used more time for quiet meditation. However, nothing was effective. He wished he could abide in Christ forever, but it seemed that after dwelling in Him for a short while, he came out again. He said, “If I only knew I could abide in Christ, then everything would be well; but I could not.” From his diary we read the following story: one day he was praying again. He thought that if he could abide in Christ and could draw His juice and receive His nourishment and supply, he would have the power to overcome sin. He prayed again and read the Bible again. Then he came to John 15:5, which says, “I am the vine; you are the branches.” He said, “I am the most foolish man in the whole world. I have been praying to be a branch; I wanted to abide in Christ. However, the Lord has said that I already am a branch and abiding in Him.” O brothers, if we realize this, we will say, “Hallelujah!” We do not need to enter anything, because we are already in. We do not need to strive to be a branch, nor do we become a branch only after we have overcome sin. We are already a branch, and we are abiding in Him. The purpose of John 15:5 is to tell us that we are abiding in Him and that we should not leave this abiding. We are a branch. All the juice, nourishment, and love are ours. Mr. Taylor said that since he saw this, he became a new Hudson Taylor. This was a great turning point in his life.
A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT’S ALREADY OURS – Tullian Tchividjian
Because we’re so naturally prone to look to ourselves and our performance more than we look to Christ and his performance, we need constant reminders of the gospel. If we’re supposed to preach the gospel to ourselves every day, what’s the actual content of that message? What is it exactly that we need to keep reminding ourselves of? If God has saved you—if he’s given you the faith to believe, and you’re now a Christian, if you’ve transferred trust from your own accomplishments and abilities to Christ’s accomplishment on behalf of sinners—then here’s the good news. In the phraseology of Colossians 1, it’s simply this: you’ve already been qualified, you’ve already been delivered, you’ve already been transferred, you’ve already been redeemed, and you’ve already been forgiven. Day by day, what God wants us to experience practically only happens as we come to a deeper understanding of what we are positionally—a deeper understanding of what’s already ours in Christ. I used to think that growing as a Christian meant I had to somehow go out and obtain the qualities and attitudes I was lacking. To really mature, I needed to find a way to get more joy, more patience, more faithfulness, and so on. Then I came to the shattering realization that this isn’t what the Bible teaches, and it isn’t the gospel. What the Bible teaches is that we mature as we come to a greater realization of what we already have in Christ. The gospel, in fact, transforms us precisely because it’s not itself a message about our internal transformation but about Christ’s external substitution. We desperately need an advocate, mediator, and friend. But what we need most is a substitute—someone who has done for us and secured for us what we could never do and secure for ourselves. The hard work of Christian growth, therefore, is to think less of ourselves and our performance and more of Jesus and his performance for us. Ironically, when we focus mostly on our need to get better, we actually get worse. We become neurotic and self-absorbed. Preoccupation with our effort instead of with God’s effort for us makes us increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective.
THE DEMAND FOR QUICK RESULTS AND A POPULAR FOLLOWING – A.W. Tozer
A beauty salon ad recently defined a term which has long needed clarification. It read: “Permanent Waves. Guaranteed to last three months.” So, permanence is the quality of lasting three months! These may be extreme cases, but they illustrate the transiency of men’s hopes and the brevity of their dreams apart from God. The church also is suffering from a left-handed acceptance of this philosophy of impermanence. Christianity is resting under the blight of degraded values. And it all stems from a too-eager desire to impress, to gain fleeting attention, to appear well in comparison with some world-beater who happens for the time to have the ear or the eye of the public. This is so foreign to the Scriptures that we wonder how Bible-loving Christians can be deceived by it. The Word of God ignores size and quantity and lays all its stress upon quality. Christ, more than any other man, was followed by the crowds, yet after giving them such help as they were able to receive, He quietly turned from them and deposited His enduring truths in the breasts of His chosen 12. He refused a quick shortcut to the throne and chose instead the long painful way of the cross. He rejected the offers of the multitude and rested His success upon those eternal qualities which He was able to plant in the hearts of a modest number of redeemed men. The ages have thanked God that He did. Pastors and churches in our hectic times are harassed by the temptation to seek size at any cost and to secure by inflation what they cannot gain by legitimate growth. The mixed multitude cries for quantity and will not forgive a minister who insists upon solid values and permanence. Many a man of God is being subjected to cruel pressure by the ill-taught members of his flock who scorn his slow methods and demand quick results and a popular following regardless of quality. These children play in the marketplaces and cannot overlook the affront we do them by our refusal to dance when they whistle or to weep when they out of caprice pipe a sad tune. They are greedy for thrills, and since they dare no longer seek them in the theater, they demand to have them brought into the church. We who follow Christ are men and women of eternity. We must put no confidence in the passing scenes of the disappearing world. We must resist every attempt of Satan to palm off upon us the values that belong to mortality. Nothing less than forever is long enough for us. We view with amused sadness the frenetic scramble of the world to gain a brief moment in the sun. “The book of the month,” for instance, has a strange sound to one who has dwelt with God and taken his values from the Ancient of Days. “The man of the year” cannot impress those men and women who are making their plans for that long eternity when days and years have passed away and time is no more. The church must claim again her ancient dowry of everlastingness. She must begin again to deal with ages and millenniums rather then with days and years. She must not count numbers but test foundations. She must work for permanence rather then for appearance. Her children must seek those enduring things that have been touched with immortality. The shallow brook of popular religion chatters on its nervous way and thinks the ocean too quiet and dull because it lies deep in its mighty bed and is unaffected by the latest shower. Faith in one of its aspects moves mountains; in another it gives patience to see the promises afar off and to wait quietly for their fulfillment. Insistence upon an immediate answer to every request of the soul is an evidence of religious infantilism. It takes God longer to grow an oak than to grow an ear of popcorn. It will cost something to walk slow in the parade of the ages while excited men of time rush about confusing motion with progress. But it will pay in the long run—and the true Christian is not much interested in anything short of that.
THE TRUE NATURE OF THE CHURCH – Austin Sparks
Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God! (Acts 7:56 ISV)
One, perhaps supreme, factor in the significance of Stephen was what he saw at the end and said with almost his last breath: “Behold, I see the heavens opened; and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56). Here we have the central and basic reality of true New Testament Christianity, of the Church and the churches – Jesus on the right hand of God. The government, the authority, the headquarters, vested in the ascended Lord, and centered in heaven; not in Jerusalem, nor anywhere else on earth…. The Jewish rulers and Stephen’s accusers were quick and shrewd enough to recognize the implications, for they had no less and no other import than that the “Temple made with hands” was finished; the dispensation of the Law was ended. There was an implicit call to the Church of Jesus to leave the Temple and all that went with it and to move into the greater, the fuller, and the abiding reality.
The tragedy is that, with “Hebrews” in their hands, responsible leaders of the Church can still adhere to a system and form which is but the extension or carry-over of the Old Testament, with certain changes of phraseology. The immensity of the change and gap has certainly not been apprehended. Some of the most terrible things in the whole Bible are contained in that letter in relation to the crisis and the two ways and realms. The issue is no less than that of Life and death. All this has much to say regarding the true nature of the Church and the churches. He that hath eyes to see, let him see!
HOW REVIVAL STARTS – Jim Cymbala
If you study any of the great revivals of the past, you will always find men and women who longed to see the status quo changed- in themselves and in their churches. They called on God with insistence, and prayer begets revival, which begets more prayer. It is like Psalm 80, where the psalmist Asaph bemoans the sad state of his time: the broken walls, the rampaging animals, the burnt vineyards. Then in verse 18 he pleads, “Revive us, and we will call on your name.”
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of prayer. Only when we are full of the Spirit do we feel the need for God everywhere we turn. We can be driving a car, and spontaneously our spirit starts going up to God with needs and petitions and intercessions right there in the middle of traffic.
If our churches don´t pray, and if people don´t have an appetite for God, what does it matter how many are attending the services in our church? How would that impress God? Just imagine the angels saying, “Oh, your pews! We can´t believe how beautiful they are!”…
If we don´t want to experience God´s closeness here on earth, why would we want to go to heaven anyway? He is the center of everything there. If we do not enjoy being in His presence here and now, then heaven would not be heaven for us. Why would He send anyone there who does not long for Him passionately here on earth?
I am not suggesting that we are justified by works of prayer or any other acts of devotion. I am not a legalist. But let us not dodge the issue of what heaven will be like: enjoying the presence of God, taking time to love Him, listening to Him and giving Him praise.
THE INTIMACY OF PERSONAL COMMUNION – A.W. Tozer
Failure to get a right viewpoint in the beginning of our Christian lives may result in weakness and sterility for the rest of our days. May not the inadequacy of much of our spiritual experience be traced back to our habit of skipping through the corridors of the kingdom like children through the marketplace, chattering about everything, but pausing to learn the true value of nothing. In my creature impatience I am often caused to wish that there were some way to bring modern Christians in a deeper spiritual life painlessly by short, easy lessons; but such wishes are vain. No shortcut exists. God has not bowed to our nervous haste nor embraced the methods of our machine age. It is well that we accept the hard truth now: The man who would know God must give time to Him. He must count no time wasted which is spent in the cultivation of His acquaintance. He must give himself to prayer and meditation. The eternal God must be more than a text in a book, an idea in our head. The true Christian will crave to know God with vital awareness that goes beyond words and to live in the intimacy of personal communion. While the Bible is absolutely essential as the revelation of our God, we must plumb the depths and reach to the heavens for the “life” of those words. For many in the church, God may simply be entombed in a book. No, we must see with our own eyes, and hear with our own ears, and our own hands must handle the Word of Life.