LIVING BY GRACE: HUMILITY AND FAITH – Bob Hoekstra
God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble . . . through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand. (Jam_4:6 and Rom_5:2)
How does a believer in Jesus Christ access the ongoing, sanctifying grace of God for daily godliness? It is accessed the same way that the initial, justifying grace of God was acquired – – by humility and faith. We were justified, declared righteous in God’s sight, when we humbly trusted in the Lord Jesus. We humbly agreed with the Lord’s account of our guilty condition. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God . . . For the wages of sin is death” (Rom_3:23; Rom_6:23). We also put our trust in Christ concerning His offer of life (based upon His death and resurrection on our behalf). “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom_6:23). Thereby we partook of the justifying grace of God, through humility and faith. This is how the Lord wants us to continue to relate to Him for sanctifying grace.
Our God wants us to walk in humility, because grace is what we need for growth in godly living. Remember this great truth of grace: “But grow in the grace . . . of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2Pe_3:18). If we are unwilling to walk in humility, we will not enjoy this wondrous sanctifying impact of grace, because “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” When we live by self-sufficiency, God’s resists us. When we function in humility, God gives us grace for living.
Our God also wants us to walk in faith, because faith accesses grace. “Through whom [Christ] also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” We now stand in a kingdom that offers “grace upon grace” (Joh_1:16). Abundant grace is available for every step we are to take. This grace is partaken of by faith. Whenever we trust in the Lord Jesus concerning any issue of life, we are reaching by faith into God’s unlimited resources of grace, by which we are enabled to live effectively.
Hereby we see that living by grace involves two relational realities: humility and faith. We do not produce either. Neither are a work. Humility admits we cannot do the work (of being holy, loving, perfect). Faith relies upon the work of another, the Lord Jesus Christ. They are both relational realities, since they become real in our lives through a growing relationship with the Lord. The more we get to know the Lord Jesus Christ, to that degree humility and faith will become realities in our lives.
O Lord, You are my salvation, from justification throughout a lifetime of sanctification. Forgive me for underestimating my need for You. Forgive me concerning the self-sufficient, self-confident ways by which I have often lived. I humble myself before You. I want to live by trust and confidence in You . I long to live by Your grace, not by my best efforts. Help me to know You, that humility and faith might develop in my life, Amen.
THE GOSPEL – Malcolm Smith
The Gospel is the call to rest, to receive the free, undeserved gift that God has given us in Christ. There is nothing man can do to earn salvation from his past, or his present acceptance and walk with God. It is, from beginning to end, the grace of God, which can only be received by faith. The body of truth that proclaims the revelation of God is called the Good News. News, by definition, is the announcement of something that has happened, not a list of things that must be done! All that must be done for a man to live in perfect union with God has been accomplished by Jesus in His death and resurrection. The heart of the Christian life is to stand in wonder before His love and say, “Thank You!” The Gospel is not a call to do something, but the announcement that all is done in the One Who stood for all. The Christian life is not living in our own strength and resources, but from the infinite Christ Who lives within those who believe. All human strength will come to an end sooner or later, leaving each of us with charred, burned out life. But His strength knows no end! We have one function in life: to be the manifestors of His life to the world. Only when we are living His life are we truly living our own! This is the reason for our creation. We realize that He is not only the past tense Savior from sin, but also the One Who now lives within us in the present tense, our life and breath. Christianity is not a formula, but the Person of Jesus Himself. Never think that Christianity is a matter of adjusting behavior, but rather, of letting Christ live through us in His strength and power.
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.”
A short note to address some complaints on “The Law and Grace: Mortal Enemies – Albert Theron
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.
AN OPEN HEAVEN – Austin Sparks
And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him…. Luke 24:31
The full meaning of the Cross; the Life side; the glory side; He had given them that. Their eyes were opened; deliberately opened. What I am saying is this, dear friends, that there is a Divine Fiat [God’s creative command] which should take place when, when the Cross has had its place, done its work, been accepted for its own meaning, but we have moved on, onto Resurrection ground; onto the Life side. Then our eyes are opened. And the focus of all this, which I think to be so important, oh, I can’t tell you how important I know it to be: the real issue of a right apprehension of the Cross and entering into it, it’s meaning, is that a spiritual faculty inside is created for spiritual understanding.
I’m going to explain it in this way. For years, for years, I was a Christian. Yes, I know I belonged to the Lord. I was a preacher of the gospel; I was an expounder of the Scriptures. Yes, I could take you through all the scriptures, and find Christ in all the Scriptures. I could do it all! Expound the scriptures, analyse the books of the Bible; give it to you all like that. Then, there came a crisis, a deep crisis: a crisis of the Cross, yes, for an end; an end that has its place and an essential place, but the crisis of the Cross, or the climax of the Cross, in a new position!
A New Position
And what was the chief mark of that new position? * It is what I have always called, and many of you have heard me speak of it, my open heaven, an opened heaven; a faculty, a spiritual faculty was, so to speak, born within. Whereas before all this work on the Scriptures was hard going, having to get the latest books on the doctrine of the Cross; and all that… cumulating all the works belonging to the theological libraries. My word, it was hard work! As I have said: finding the straw myself for making the bricks! Oh, years of it.
The crisis, the turning point, now that was forty-seven years ago. From that day to this, I have never had to put in any laborious work to get a message! An open heaven! If you don’t believe it, believe me, remember what I said this morning: I want another whole week just to touch on one aspect of things. You know, it’s like that! It’s like that. It’s the twelve baskets full over after all the feedings, of all the days and the hours. An opened heaven! You’re seeing, seeing, seeing! More and more!
But what was it that I came to see with that new faculty? It’s a wonderful thing. It’s a faculty; it isn’t an intellectual ability at all. Nothing like that, I haven’t got any brains, I’m a no-talent man in that realm. No, it isn’t there. What did I see? Did I see the Cross? No, I did not, in the first place. Did I see the Church? Not in the first place. However much of the Cross I’ve come to see, and however much of the Church I have come to see, how did I come to see? I saw the Lord Jesus. And I came to see that it’s the Person that makes the Cross. You can have a thousand, a million crosses, with not that effect. It’s the Person.
A TIME TO WEEP – Albert Theron
Ecclesiastes 3:1,4 “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: 4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”
Ecclesiastes 7:3-4 “Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.”
Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
2 Corinthians 7:10 “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”
We live in a time where there is a quick fix for everything. We believe in instant solutions and the slogan of the day is “Don’t worry, be happy”. To be sure, God wants us to have joy. The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). In God’s kingdom things work completely opposite to the ways of this world, however. The way up is down. Brokenness, humility and mourning are the forerunners of true joy and comfort in God’s book. In the world self-preservation, pride and a careless attitude are prerequisites to happiness. The spirit of our age is superficial and light. We believe in Band-aid for cancer. Everything has an easy solution. As believers we cannot afford to go along with this mindless, pleasure-cruise mentality that wants to lightly skim over even the most serious of problems. Unfortunately the largest contingency of the church has already succumbed to the world’s attitude.
We have lost the ability to weep and be touched inwardly by the many broken relationships and lives around us. We are no longer in touch with real needs and real solutions to those needs. We do not know how to respond appropriately to various situations. Our text says that ‘there is a time for everything under heaven’. The person in contact with reality knows inwardly when and how to weep and when to laugh. Our times do not make allowance for much weeping though. There are so many avenues of escapism that it has become fashionable to just forget about the things that require our earnest concern and prayer. If we would only be quiet for awhile, turn off the radio and television, and think about what’s happening around us. If we would then have a good look at what the New Testament considers a normal situation we would soon be on our knees before God. I suggest to you that there are many situations in our lives that require serious thought, prayer and repentance. If ever there was a generation that needed to face reality (God’s view of things) and pray for true repentance it is ours.
Someone once said that the apostle Paul knew enough about man to be a complete pessimist, but he knew enough about God and His plan of salvation to be an incorrigible optimist. This is true, but then we have to understand God’s condition for healing. Jesus said, blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. The point is they alone shall be comforted. If you are tired of the fleeting happiness of instant solutions, go to God’s Word and ask Him to show you how He sees various situations in your life. Ask Him to grant you true repentance, that is, the right response to the areas that fall short of the New Testament standard of life. God will give you godly sorrow and that will produce salvation (deliverance) and comfort of the deep and abiding kind. “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy” (Ps. 126:5).
Quote of the Day: “Mourning is not prescribed for itself, but that it may lead on to something else, that it may lay a train for comfort. Therefore we sow in tears that we may reap in joy. Holy mourning is a spiritual medicine. Now a medicine is not prescribed for itself, but for the sake of health. So gospel-mourning is appointed for this very end, to bring forth joy.” Thomas Watson
ALL REVEALED IN CHRIST – Chip Brogden
“In [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:3
It is not that God gives us revelation into five, ten, one hundred, or one thousand things. None of these “things” by themselves really matter. Rather, He has placed all those “things” within Christ, and reveals Christ to us. He will not reveal anything to us apart from the Revelation of Jesus Christ. To possess the Son is to possess all that pertains to the Son, for the Scriptures declare, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).
It is not that God desires to give us revelation into these many things, but for us to have the Revelation of Jesus Christ. By apprehending Him we will subsequently gain insight in those “things.” To seek revelation into the “things” apart from the Revelation of Christ fails to give Christ the pre-eminence. We dare not circumvent the knowledge of Him in the pursuit of “things,” even spiritual things, for they are all summed up into Him.
CHRIST IS THE TRUTH – Watchman Nee
The Lord said that He is the way, and He also said that He is the truth. Truth is just Christ Himself. Truth is not words concerning Christ. Truth is not doctrines about Christ. Truth is just Christ Himself. Christians often consider expositions and explanations of Christ to be the truth. Actually, truth is not an exposition of a thing. Truth is just Christ Himself. The Lord said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). Brothers and sisters, let us consider how many truths have set us free. God’s Word says that the truth shall set us free, that it shall liberate us. But many times, the truth is merely a doctrine to us; it is not Christ. Our eyes have not been opened to see Christ. What a pity that we have been preaching so many doctrines for ten years, yet we still have not seen. We may have heard many doctrines for ten years, yet we still have not seen. Men can speak about the doctrine of co-crucifixion, but others do not see the power of crucifixion in them. They can speak about the resurrection life, but others do not see the resurrection power in them. If what we preach are merely doctrines, then we only have things that are dead, not something that is living.
Once a person wrote a letter to a brother and said, “A brother has offended me. I do not know if I should forgive him. Therefore, I am writing to you. My heart is unbiased. If you say that I should forgive him, I will forgive him. If you say that I should not forgive him, I will not forgive him.” Brothers and sisters, do you think that this sounds like a Christian? Suppose I have a loved one who has died, and I write a letter to others, saying, “My loved one has died. Should I cry? If you say I should cry, I will cry. If you say I should not cry, I will not cry.” If you heard this, you would surely laugh, because this is ridiculous. If one cries because others tell him to cry or does not cry because others tell him not to cry, his crying will be a performance, and his not crying will also be a performance. Both will be a performance, and both will be dead works without life. Here is a brother. You either forgive him or you do not forgive him. If you say, “I will forgive him if I know I should forgive him, and I will not forgive him if I know I should not forgive him,” this is dead work based on dead teaching; it is even a kind of false performance.
Brothers and sisters, if we do not have the Lord living within us, and if it is not the Lord who is our truth, a teaching that guides our action is nothing but dead works; it is not life, and it is not living. Do you see the difference? The difference here is too great and too tremendous. Working requires that we exercise our memory, but life does not require us to exercise our memory. When we speak something out of life, we do not speak it because we remembered to speak it. A power within us motivates us to speak. The Lord is controlling us; a doctrine is not coaching or controlling us. The day will come when the Lord will open our eyes to see that spiritual reality is not apart from Christ. We do not present some doctrines to others. Rather, we lead others to Christ Himself. We do not need to remember a doctrine and then act according to it. Rather, Christ is living in us, and Christ is becoming our truth.
LOVE IN HIS LOVING – Bill Freeman
“And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, Abba, Father!” Galatians 4:6
The love of God is now in the Holy Spirit. It is concentrated there. This love is being dispensed into us, poured out in us, through the Holy Spirit. So when we speak about the love-life of the bride, we are not speaking about natural energy that tries to work up a love for God. We are talking about relaxing and resting in a poured-out love that already exists in our spirits and hearts. All we have to do is give voice to it. Just give voice to it a little bit. Echo it. Praise in His praising! Sing in His singing! Love in His loving!
To have the Spirit of the Son in our hearts crying out, “Abba, Father” seems somewhat objective. It seems that we need to put a stethoscope up to our heart and listen for an “Abba, Father.” But when Romans 8:15 says, “You have received a spirit of sonship in which we cry out, Abba! Father!” (NASB), it becomes subjective in our experience. Who is crying “Abba, Father”? The Son in our hearts or we in our spirits? By putting Galatians 4:6 together with Romans 8:15, we can see that there is one crying and also one loving. He cries in our crying, He loves in our loving. In our crying, it is Him. In our loving, it is Him. It is Him crying, loving, worshipping, and saying “Abba.” By this we see that there is one love, and this one marvelous love poured out in our hearts is what we are giving voice to.
GOD CANNOT USE THE OLD MATERIAL – C.A. Coates
I had to see about some work being done the other day, and was asking the contractor how much it would cost. ‘It won’t cost very much,’ said he, ‘because we can use all the old material.’ Now that is precisely what God could not do. There must be a new start altogether with new material. God rejects the old material altogether and begins entirely anew, and the one who is born again begins to learn the true character of the old material — i.e. all that he is as a child of Adam and a man in the flesh — and to be as dissatisfied with it as God is. You may see this in Job and Saul of Tarsus. One of them said, “I abhor myself,” and the other said, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing.” Such language as this is the mark of one born again. He identifies himself with that new “inward man” which is of God, and he judges everything of a contrary nature to be sin. In itself this is not a happy experience. It is not very pleasant for one who has been self-sustained and self-satisfied in a moral and religious life to find that there is not one bit of good in him. * Some may discover this by a single flash of divine light, as in the case of Saul of Tarsus, and others may have years of struggling and disappointment before they learn it, but it must, and will, be learned sooner or later by every one that is born again. You might be very well up in the doctrine of deliverance (Gal 2:20), and yet all the time be secretly attempting to correct and improve yourself, and suffering a good deal of private vexation and disappointment on account of the failure of your attempts. I know how long I struggled on in this way myself, praying and striving to be more holy and Christ-like, and continually disappointed with the result. I do not think that it ever occurred to me in those days that I was trying to improve the man whom God had set aside. It was at a moment when I was utterly discouraged, and ready to give up the whole thing in complete despair, that God showed me how I was attempting to work upon the old material which He could only condemn, and that my disgust and despair as to myself were only a feeble echo of His. I shall never forget the joy of finding out that in the depth of my disgust with myself I was thoroughly at one with God. God had ceased to look for any good in me and had Christ before Him, the perfect and infinitely acceptable Object of His heart; and I, in my nothingness, had ceased to look for good in myself, and was tasting the deep joy of being in CHRIST, and free to have Him as my Object; while, as to life, I entered in some degree into the blessedness of knowing that it was “not I, but Christ lives in me.”
CHRIST-ESTEEM, NOT SELF-ESTEEM – Chip Brogden
“I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think.” Romans 12:3
We do not need Self-Esteem, we need Christ-Esteem. The more we see of Jesus the less we will trust in ourselves.
That is why, once Paul learned his lesson, he wrote, “We have no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). He then goes on to list quite a number of things that seem important in terms of religion, status, social order, education, and good works – all the things that tend to make one self-confident and self-righteous. With one grand stroke, Paul says, “Yet, I count them all as dung, that I may win Christ.” He simply discards what some people spend a lifetime trying to achieve. Here is a man who knows the sufficiency of God as well as the insufficiency of himself.
PRAGMATISM – Paris Reidhead
I would like to call attention to the fact that our day is a day which the ruling philosophy is pragmatism….Pragmatism means if it works it’s true. If it succeeds it’s good. And the test of all practices, all principles, all truth, so called all teaching, is do they work? Do they work? Now – according to pragmatism, the greatest failures of the ages have been some of the men God has honored most. For instance, whereas Noah was a mighty good ship builder, his main occupation wasn’t shipbuilding, it was preaching. He was a terrible failure as a preacher. His wife and three children and their wives were all he had. Seven converts in 120 years, you wouldn’t call that particularly effective. Most mission boards would have asked the missionaries to withdraw long before this. And then we come to another well known person, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was a failure according to all the standards. He never succeeded in organizing a church or denomination. He wasn’t able to build a school. He didn’t succeed in getting a mission board established. He never had a book printed. He never was able to get any of the various criteria or instruments that we find are so useful, I’m not being sarcastic at all, they are useful. And our Lord preached for three years, healed thousands of people, fed thousands of people, and yet when it was all over there were 120…500 to whom he could have revealed Himself after His resurrection. And the day that He was taken, one man said, “If all the others forsake you, I’m willing to die for you.” He looked at this one and said “Peter you don’t know your own heart. You’re going to deny me three times before the cock crows this morning.” So all men forsook Him and fled. By every standard of our generation or any generation, our Lord was a singular failure. The question comes then to this, what is the standard of success and by what are we going to judge our lives and our ministry? And the question that you are going to ask yourself, “Is God an end or is He a means?” Our generation is prepared to honor successful choices. As long as a person can get things done or get the job done then our generation is prepared to say well done.
SO THAT WE MAY KNOW HIM – Austin Sparks
We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him. (1 John 5:20 ESV)
It is of the greatest importance for the Lord’s children to recognize fully that, above all other things, His object is that they should know Him. This is the all-governing end of all His dealings with us. This is the greatest of all our needs….
Our minds are so often occupied with service and work; we think that doing things for the Lord is the chief object of life. We are concerned about our lifework, our ministry. We think of equipment for it in terms of study and knowledge of things. Soul-winning, or teaching believers, or setting people to work, are so much in the foreground. Bible study and knowledge of the Scriptures, with efficiency in the matter of leading in Christian service as the end in view, are matters of pressing importance with all. All well and good, for these are important matters; but, back of everything the Lord is more concerned about our knowing Him than about anything else. It is very possible to have a wonderful grasp of the Scriptures, a comprehensive and intimate familiarity with doctrine; to stand for cardinal verities of the faith; to be an unceasing worker in Christian service; to have a great devotion to the salvation of men, and yet, alas, to have a very inadequate and limited personal knowledge of God within. So often the Lord has to take away our work that we may discover Him. The ultimate value of everything is not the information which we give, not the soundness of our doctrine, not the amount of work that we do, not the measure of truth that we possess, but just the fact that we know the Lord in a deep and mighty way.
THE PREVALENCE OF SPIRITUAL SEDUCTION – T. A. McMahon
Without biblical discernment, this upcoming generation is “adrift at sea”–heading for a rocky coast and pending shipwreck. As I have had the opportunity to speak with young people throughout the U.S. and around the world, many of whom seem to be biblically knowledgeable, I’ve found that they are largely ignorant of false teachings, movements, and practices, along with the false teachers who are seducing multitudes of Christians today. I have no sense of their being like the “children of Issachar…that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32). They don’t seem to be heeding the many, many warnings in Scripture regarding the prevalence of spiritual seduction and deception (Matthew 24:4; Mark 13:21-23; 2 Corinthians 2:3-4; Galatians 3:1; Colossians 2:4,8; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 2:26, 3:1-2, 3:6, 4:3-5, 1 John 2:26, etc.). They seem to be out of touch with the exhortations of John and Peter and Jude concerning those who would deceive them. They are missing Paul’s cry to the Ephesian elders:
For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. (Acts 20:29-31)
When the full counsel of God’s Word is not taken to heart and put into practice, there is little basis for spiritual growth. Often the result is an experiential faith, based upon subjective feelings rather than the objective Word of Truth. Such a condition produces a shallow if not false faith and completely eliminates biblical discernment. Such a one cannot be like the Bereans (Acts 17:11), whom Luke commended because they listened to the Apostle Paul and then searched the Scriptures to see if the things he taught were true.
THE BRAND OF THE CROSS – A.B. Simpson
Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. (Galatians 6:17)
The word marks in this text is translated… “brand marks.” The word describes a mark that has been branded into the flesh and suggests the idea of the cruel practice of certain nations in branding political offenders in the face with a badge of dishonor which never could be erased. The Greek word literally means “a stigma,” and suggests a mark of reproach and shame. The Apostle [Paul] says that he bears in his body the branded scar which identifies him with Christ and His cross. The kind of mark which he refers to is made plain by the verse almost immediately preceding. “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (6:14). It is the cross of Christ which is the object at once of His shame and His glory…
The Cross Marks of Christ
He was always overshadowed by the cross which at last He bore on Calvary. His life was a life of humiliation and suffering from the manger to the tomb.
His birth was under a shadow of dishonor and shame. The shadow that fell upon the virgin mother could not be removed from her child, and even to this day only faith in a supernatural incarnation can explain away that reproach.
His childhood was overshadowed by sorrow. Soon after His birth, He was pressed by Herod with relentless hate. He spent His early childhood as an exile in the land of Egypt, which had always been associated in the history of His people as the house of bondage.
His early manhood was spent in toil and poverty and he was known all His later life as “the carpenter’s son.” A modern painter represents Him as under the shadow of the cross even in the early days at Nazareth; as He returns from a day of toil with arms outstretched with weariness, the setting sun flings the shadow of his figure across the pathway, suggestive of a dark cross.
His life was one of poverty and humiliation. He had nowhere to lay His head, and when He died His body was laid even in a borrowed tomb.
He was rejected and despised by the people among whom He labored. “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11). His work was, humanly speaking, a complete failure. When He left the world, He had but a handful of followers who had remained true to His teachings and person.
His very friends and companions were of the humblest class, rude fishermen and common people without culture and, indeed, often without the ability to appreciate their blessed Master. Coming from the society of heaven, how He must have felt the strange difference of these rude associates; and yet, never once did He complain or even intimate the difference.
The spirit of His life was ever chastened and humble. The veil of modesty covered all His acts and attitudes. He never boasted or vaunted Himself. “He will not quarrel or cry out; / no one will hear his voice in the streets” (Matthew 12:19) was the prophetic picture which He so literally fulfilled. He sought no splendid pageants, asked no earthly honors; and the only time that He did assume the prerogatives of a king, He rode upon the foal of an ass and entered Jerusalem in triumph as the King of meekness rather than of pride.
Perhaps the severest strain of all His life was the repression of Himself. Knowing that He was almighty and divine, He yet held back the exercise of His supernatural powers. Knowing that with one withering glance he could have stricken His enemies and laid them lifeless at His feet, He restrained His power. Knowing that He could have summoned all the angels of heaven to His defense, He surrendered Himself to His captors in helplessness and defenselessness. He even surrendered the exercise of His own will and drew from His heavenly Father the very grace and power which He needed from day to day, the same as any sinful man who lives by faith and prayer. “By myself I can do nothing” (John 5:30), He said. “Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me” (6:57). He took the same place of dependence that the humblest believer takes today and in all things lived a life of self-renunciation.
At last the climax came to the supreme trial of the judgment hall and the cruel cross. When He became obedient unto death, a death of shame and unparalleled humiliations, insults and agonies completed His life sacrifices for the salvation of His people. What words can ever describe, what tongue can ever tell the weight, the sharpness, the agony of that cruel cross, the fierceness of His fight with the powers of darkness and the depths of woe when even His Father’s face was averted and He bore for us the hell that sin deserved.
After His resurrection, He still bore the marks of the cross. The few glimpses that we find of the risen Christ are all marked by the same touches of gentleness, self-abnegation and remembered suffering. The very evidences that He gave them that He was the same Jesus were the marks of the spear and the nails. And in His manifestations to them, especially in that memorable scene at Emmaus, we see the same gentle, unobtrusive Christ, walking with them by the way unrecognized, and then quietly vanishing out of their sight when at last they knew Him.
And even on the throne to which He has now ascended, the same cross marks still remain amid the glories of the heavenly world. John beheld Him as “a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6). The Christ of heaven still bears the old marks of the cross as His highest glory and His everlasting memorial. Such are the marks of the Lord Jesus. And all who claim to be His followers and His ministers may well imitate them. The men who claim to be His apostles and ambassadors, and who come to us with the sound of trumpets, the bluster of earthly pageants and the pompous and egotistical boastings of pride and vainglory, are false prophets and wretched counterfeits of the Christ of Calvary. They can deceive only the blind and ignorant dupes who know nothing of the real Christ.
These were the marks of the Master, and they will be worn by His servants, too.