THE PLURALITY OF ELDERS – Watchman Nee
This work of leading, teaching, and shepherding the flock, which we have seen to be the special duty of the elders, does not devolve upon one man only in any place. To have pastors in a church is scriptural, but the present-day pastoral system is quite unscriptural; it is an invention of man.
In Scripture we see that there was always more than one elder or *bishop in a local church. It is not God’s will that one believer should be singled out from all the others to occupy a place of special prominence, while the others passively submit to his will. If the management of the entire church rests upon one man, how easy it is for him to become self-conceited, esteeming himself above measure and suppressing the other brethren (3 John verses 9-10). God has ordained that several elders together share the work of the church, so that no one individual should be able to run things according to his own pleasure, treating the church as his own special property and leaving the impress of his personality upon all its life and work. To place the responsibility in the hands of several brethren, rather than in the hands of one individual, is God’s way of safeguarding His church against the evils that result from the domination of a strong personality. God has purposed that several brothers should unitedly bear responsibility in the church, so that even in controlling its affairs they have to depend one upon the other and submit one to the other. Thus, in an experimental way, they will discover the meaning of bearing the cross, and they will have opportunity to give practical expression to the truth of the Body of Christ. As they honor one another and trust one another to the leading of the Spirit, none taking the place of the Head, but each regarding the others as fellow members, the element of mutuality, which is the distinctive feature of the church, will be preserved.
* ‘Elder’ and ‘bishop’ (in the KJV) are different terms in the New Testament, but they both refer to the same function in the local church, namely that of eldership. A.T.
WHY ARE CHRISTIANS LEGALISTS WHEN IT COMES TO SANCTIFICATION? – Tullian Tchividjian
The way many Christians think about sanctification is that it’s a step beyond our need for Jesus and his finished work on our behalf. In other words, we tend to think of justification as step one and sanctification as step two. And once we get to step two, we never need to go back to step one. We needed Jesus a lot for justification. We need him less for sanctification. The truth is, though, that sanctification is simply getting used to your justification–it’s receiving Christ’s words “It is finished” into our rebellious regions of unbelief.
As Luther put it, “To progress is always to begin again”–it’s going back to the already secured reality of your justification and hitting the refresh button 1000 times a day. Going forward, in other words, requires a daily going backwards.
Legalism happens when what I need to do, instead of what Christ has already done, becomes the end game of my life. The gospel tells us the determining factor in my relationship with God is Jesus’ work for us, not our work for him; his performance for us, not our performance for him; his obedience for us, not our obedience. The Gospel is the good news that God doesn’t relate to us based on our feats for Jesus but Jesus’ feats for us. *The gospel tells us that God’s acceptance of us is not gained by our successes or forfeited by our failures—because it’s not about us!
* “Our” in this sentence should be understood as referring to ‘’successes’’ and failures that are the result of striving to be or act independent of the life of Christ within us (Gal. 2:20). God’s acceptance of us is based on faith (Rom. 1:17b; Heb. 11); a faith that should include both justification and sanctification. A.T.
CHRIST AND THE WORD OF GOD ARE ONE – Austin Sparks
The thing that must be said at once is, that by the Holy Spirit the Word is Christ. It is not a statement of things, it is the expression of a Person. What we mean to say is, that we have to take the same attitude toward the Word, that we take toward Christ. We have to face the Word of the Lord in the same way that we face the Lord Himself. It is not something of the Lord presented to us in words, but it is the Lord Himself coming to us. We cannot reject any part of His Word and keep Him. We cannot divide between the Lord and His Word. People seem to think that they can take some of the things the Lord has said and leave others. The Word is one. The Word is the Lord. To refuse the Word in any part, is to refuse the Lord, is to limit the Lord, is to say, in effect: Lord, I do not want You! Lord, I will not have You! It is not that we will not have the Word, but that we will not have the Lord Himself, for the two are one: “His name is called The Word of God.” “The Word became flesh….” You cannot get in between, the two are one. He is the Word of God. God does not come to us in statements, He comes to us in Person, and the challenge is to take an attitude, not towards the things said, but towards the Lord Himself.
THE ONLY BASIS FOR FELLOWSHIP – Roy Hession
The only basis for real fellowship with God and man is to live out in the open with both. “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another.” To walk in the light is the opposite of walking in darkness. Spurgeon defines it in one of his sermons as “the willingness to know and be known.” As far as God is concerned, this means that we are willing to know the whole truth about ourselves, we are open to conviction. We will bend the neck to the first twinges of conscience. Everything He shows us to be sin, we will deal with as sin–we will hide or excuse nothing. Such a walk in the light cannot but discover sin increasingly in our lives, and we shall see things to be sin which we never thought to be such before. For that reason we might shrink from this walk, and be tempted to make for cover. But the verse goes on with the precious words, “and the Blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” Everything that the light of God shows up as sin, we can confess and carry to the Fountain of Blood and it is gone, gone from God’s sight and gone from our hearts. By the power of the precious Blood we can be made more stainless than the driven snow; and thus continually abiding in the light and cleansed by the Blood, we have fellowship with God.
But the fellowship promised us here is not only with God, but “one with another”; and that involves us in walking in the light with our brother too. In any case, we cannot be “in the open” with God and “in the dark” with him. This means that we must be as willing to know the truth about ourselves from our brother as to know it from God. We must be prepared for him to hold the light to us (and we must be willing to do the same service for him) and challenge us in love about anything he sees in our lives which is not the highest. We must be willing not only to know, but to be known by him for what we really are. That means we are not going to hide our inner selves from those with whom we ought to be in fellowship; we are not going to window dress and put on appearances; nor are we going to whitewash and excuse ourselves. We are going to be honest about ourselves with them. We are willing to give up our spiritual privacy, pocket our pride and risk our reputations for the sake of being open and transparent with our brethren in Christ. It means, too, that we are not going to cherish any wrong feeling in our hearts about another, but we are first going to claim deliverance from it from God and put it right with the one concerned. As we walk this way, we shall find that we shall have fellowship with one another at an altogether new level, and we shall not love one another less, but infinitely more.
UNION WITH CHRIST IS THE HUB – Austin Sparks
Union with Christ is the heart or center of all that has been revealed of God’s thought concerning man and of man’s relationship to God. Union with Christ is like the hub of a mighty wheel. There are many spokes to that wheel – election, creation, redemption, salvation, sanctification, glorification; and then, like a series of subsidiary spokes – repentance, faith, justification, conversion, regeneration, and so on. These are the spokes of the wheel, but they all center in Christ and radiate from Christ and reach the rim, which is God. They unite us in Christ with God. To give all this its true and full value, it is necessary to contemplate or have revealed to us the meaning of Christ, to see what an immense thing has taken place by the Son of God becoming the Son of man, by God becoming incarnate. It is a question of our being taken, not into Godhead or Deity, but into God’s Son incarnate. Now, the first preachers of the Christian evangel preached Christ. They did not, in the first place, preach salvation or sanctification or forgiveness or judgment or heaven. That does not mean that they did not preach those things, they did; but not in the first place. They preached Christ, and all those things were included in the preaching of Christ, Christ as inclusive of all and as transcending all; for, after all, such things as salvation and sanctification, forgiveness, justification, are subsidiaries, they come afterward. Christ was before them all and Christ will be after them all. They are inside of Christ, but He vastly outstrips them all.
TRUE GRACE ALWAYS LEADS TO HOLINESS – John Owen
Sin diverts the mind by emphasizing “cheap grace.” The gospel is never divorced from ethics. Not only is the gospel deliverance from the evil of sin, its filth, and its guilt, but it also leads us to discover what we ought to do. “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world” (Titus 2:11-12). Holiness is thus called “a conversation that becomes the gospel” (Phil. 1:27). Its aim, end, and design are to make us live holy lives. When the word of the gospel is thus received, it produces holy living (see Rom. 12:2 and Eph. 4:20-24). Here then is where the deceit of sin intervenes. It separates the doctrine of grace from its purpose. It persuades us to dwell upon the notion of grace and diverts our attention from the influence that grace gives to achieve its proper application in holy lives. From the doctrine of assured pardon of sin, it insinuates carelessness for sin. God in Christ makes a true proposition, but Satan with sin makes a false conclusion. To reprove this deceit, Paul says, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid” (Rom. 6:1-2). “Man’s deceitful heart,“ he is saying, “is apt to make that conclusion. But we should never entertain such a thought.” On the other hand, Jude speaks of ungodly men, who turned “the grace of God into lasciviousness” (Jude 4). The wisdom of faith and the power of grace oppose such deceit. The great effect of the gospel’s wisdom and grace keeps the heart always in deep humility, in abhorrence to sin, and in self-abasement. This is the test of the real efficacy of the gospel: It keeps the heart humble, lowly, sensible to sin, and broken on that account. The Spirit of grace moves us to repentance and teaches us to detest sin. But if men remain secretly or insensibly loosened and relaxed in their thoughts of sin, then they cling to a false spirit of grace. Sometimes we see men walking in a spirit of bondage, with little appreciation of the grace of God. It is difficult to determine whether they live under law or grace. On the one hand, they seem more sensitive to sinning than many who know more of the experience of grace. Yet the deceitfulness of sin diverts them from a consideration of the nature and danger of sin. This is done in several ways. First, the soul – needing frequently to return to gospel grace because of guilt – allows grace to become commonplace and ordinary. Having found a good medicine for its wound, it then takes it for granted. Second, the deceitfulness of sin takes advantage of the doctrine of grace to abuse it, stretching the soul’s sense of liberty beyond the limit that God assigns. Some never feel free from legalism unless they indulge in sensuality and plunge into its depths. Sin pleads that certain limits are quite unnecessary. “Shouldn’t the gospel relieve one of such narrow bounds?” they argue. But does this mean we should live as if the gospel was unnecessary or as though pardon of sin was nonessential? Third, in times of temptation, the deceitfulness of sin goes to such lengths as to actually plead the need to sin, in order to show the reality of gospel grace. It pleads for this in two ways. The first argument suggests that the new creature does not need to live so strictly. The manner of vigilance against sin is overly scrupulous, it argues. The second argument contends that when sin is committed, it is not so serious after all. It will not lead to the destruction of the soul, because it will be pardoned by the grace of the gospel. The truth is thus twisted into deception; and it is a source of temptation to sin once more. It becomes a deadly poison when it is thought to be a nourishing food. The mind thus becomes careless about sin, and the sense of sin’s vileness is lost.
THE MEASURE OF TRUE GREATNESS – Ray Stedman
Mark 9:34-35 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
There are two kinds of ambition. There is the ambition to be approved and applauded by men, and the ambition to be approved and applauded by God. These are as different as night and day. There are those who want to gain fame and attention and influence and power. The measurement of the ambition to be great before men is always: “How many serve me? How much power do I exercise over others? How wide is the extent of my influence? How far has knowledge about me travelled?” Who of us has not suffered many times this desire to be known, to be admired, to be considered important and great in the eyes of men? But Jesus points out that true greatness is never found there. The measure of true greatness is: “How many do I serve? How many am I willing to minister to? How many can I help? This is the mark of greatness in the eyes of God. This is enduring greatness. You can see how disparate these two views are, how widely they diverge. Christianity is a radical faith! It will completely revolutionize our thinking. It is exactly the opposite of the natural instincts of the heart. This is why, as we grow as Christians, we learn more and more to act not according to the way we feel, the natural inclination, but to act on a quite different basis. Our natural inclinations will simply get us deeper and deeper into trouble. Though we may achieve a form of greatness in the eyes of men, it will turn into cobwebs and ashes in our hands. It is nothing but a temporary, momentary achievement.
DYING TO LIVE – Roy Hession
To be broken is the beginning of Revival. It is painful, it is humiliating, but it is the only way. It is being “Not I, but Christ,”[footnote1:Gal. 2: 20.] and a “C” is a bent “I.” The Lord Jesus cannot live in us fully and reveal Himself through us until the proud self within us is broken. This simply means that the hard unyielding self, which justifies itself, wants its own way, stands up for its rights, and seeks its own glory, at last bows its head to God’s will, admits its wrong, gives up its own way to Jesus, surrenders its rights and discards its own glory–that the Lord Jesus might have all and be all. In other words it is dying to self and self-attitudes.
And as we look honestly at our Christian lives, we can see how much of this self there is in each of us. It is so often self who tries to live the Christian life (the mere fact that we use the word “try” indicates that it is self who has the responsibility). It is self, too, who is often doing Christian work. It is always self who gets irritable and envious and resentful and critical and worried. It is self who is hard and unyielding in its attitudes to others. It is self who is shy and self-conscious and reserved. No wonder we need breaking. As long as self is in control, God can do little with us, for all the fruits of the Spirit (they are enumerated in Galatians 5), with which God longs to fill us, are the complete antithesis of the hard, unbroken spirit within us and presupposes that it has been crucified.
Being broken is both God’s work and ours. He brings His pressure to bear, but we have to make the choice. If we are really open to conviction as we seek fellowship with God (and willingness for the light is the prime condition of fellowship with God), God will show us the expressions of this proud, hard self that cause Him pain. Then it is, we can stiffen our necks and refuse to repent or we can bow the head and say, “Yes, Lord.” Brokenness in daily experience is simply the response of humility to the conviction of God. And inasmuch as this conviction is continuous, we shall need to be broken continually. And this can be very costly, when we see all the yielding of rights and selfish interests that this will involve, and the confessions and restitutions that may be sometimes necessary.
A VITAL UNION – Martyn Lloyd-Jones
And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace. John 1:16
We are joined to Christ in a union with Him by means of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us. It is a vital union because our spiritual life is drawn directly from the Lord Jesus Christ. We are sustained by Him through the indwelling Holy Spirit. There is nothing more important in the Christian life than to realize that our union with Christ is a vital one. It is a living thing. It is not something mechanical or conceptual; it is not a thought or an idea; it is really a vital, spiritual union. And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace (John 1:16). That says it all. That is our relationship to Him, says John; something of His fullness and of His life is passing into us, and we are receiving it. The trouble with all of us is that we do not realize the truth of these things. But this is the truth given by the Lord Himself. It is His prayer for His people that they may know the meaning of this vital, spiritual relationship. And He does not hesitate to compare it with the relationship that subsists between the Father and Himself: As the Father is in Him, so He is in us, and we are in Him. But consider the statement of this truth that is made by the apostle Paul in Galatians 2:20: I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me. There is nothing greater than that, and what it does teach is that this is a life-giving relationship; it is a union of life. Not I, but Christ lives in me. And then Paul goes on to say, And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
A Thought to Ponder
Our union with Christ is a vital, spiritual union.
A MIND ATTUNED TO THE HOLY SPIRIT – Watchman Nee
It is true that when a man reads the Bible, he needs to exercise his mind. Yet his mind must follow the same direction and flow along the same line as the mind of the Holy Spirit. Wherever the Holy Spirit goes, he should follow. He should find out the Holy Spirit’s thought in a sentence, a passage, a chapter, or a book. His entire mind has to be attuned to the Holy Spirit. He has to find out what the Spirit is saying in a passage, what He is thinking, and what His main thoughts and subsidiary thoughts are. The first question we should ask when we read a portion of the Scripture is what is the Spirit’s intention in writing this portion. If we do not know the intention of the Holy Spirit behind a portion, we are liable to make a mistake in quoting it at a later time; we may even twist the original meaning of the Holy Spirit. It is not enough for us to merely read the letters or remember the words, memorize the words, or study their meaning in an isolated way. When we read the Bible, we should sense what the Holy Spirit was thinking at the time He was writing it. Putting it in another way, we should sense the thoughts of Paul, Peter, John, and the others when the Holy Spirit spoke through them. Our thoughts must merge with the Spirit’s thoughts before we can understand the Bible.
A story was told of a believer who took a journey through the forty-two stations that the Israelites passed through from Egypt to Palestine. Where the Israelites turned, he turned. Where they detoured, he detoured. He went through the entire journey this way. Later he wrote a book recounting the journey. He did not choose his path; he took Moses’ path. This is the way we should read our Bible. We must not determine the direction ourselves; we have to go where the Spirit is going. Paul went down to Jerusalem, and we should go down with him to Jerusalem. He felt a certain way and thought a certain way, and we should feel and think the same way. We should not have our own independent direction. We must follow the direction of the writers of the Bible. In other words, we must follow the direction of the Spirit. The thoughts of the writers of the Scripture should be the thoughts of the readers of the Scripture today. The writers of the Bible were inspired by the Holy Spirit to think a certain way. The readers of the Bible should also be inspired by the Holy Spirit to think the same way. If our thoughts can closely follow the thoughts the Spirit bore at the time of the writing of the Scriptures, we will understand what the Bible is saying.
THE LIFE-OUT-OF-DEATH PROCESS – Miles Stanford
The Spirit of Christ is extremely practical in His operations. He uses everyday means in bringing our positional sanctification into our experience. As we reckon upon the fact of self’s crucifixion, He conveys the effect of that finished work into our lives through daily circumstances. Due to our weakness and sinfulness, He is able to utilize situations and human relationships to show us what we are in ourselves. We are thereby faced with the choice: self, or Christ. If we count ourselves to have died unto sin and self, the emancipation of the cross is experienced within. And as we abide in the Lord Jesus, knowing ourselves to be alive unto God in Him, He is free to manifest Himself more fully in our condition. This is spiritual growth. The “works” of the flesh are curtailed, the “fruit” of the Spirit is revealed. “For to me to live is Christ…” (Phil. 1:21). “…Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies it remains by itself alone; but if it dies it bears much fruit” (John 12:24 NASB). This statement of the principle of life out of death applies primarily to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Grain of Wheat who refused to abide alone as God’s only begotten Son, but gave Himself at Calvary to become the “firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29). Since He died and rose again, thereby bringing forth “much fruit,“ and that harvest being after His kind, our lives as similar grains of wheat are based upon the same principle of life out of death. No matter how self-contained and comfortable our Christian life may be, there is bound to develop a deep heart-hunger to see others become grains of wheat. The Lord Jesus “shall see his seed … He shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied” (Isa. 53:10–11). His heart-hunger is expressed through Paul: “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ is formed in you” (Gal. 4:19). And the Spirit of Christ yearns in our hearts that the Lord Jesus may gain a rich and lasting harvest of golden grain through us. This entire life-out-of-death process is directly related to our reckoning upon our position of life out of death. As we yearn to be used, to multiply, to be brought to harvest, the Holy Spirit takes us down into death in our experience. He “plants” or “buries” us in this difficult situation or that dark area and, as the old life is thus held in the place of death (inoperative), the new life grows up and is manifested not only in us, but in others through us. “So then death works in us, but life in you [others]” (2 Cor. 4:12).
THE PERENNIAL FRESHNESS OF THE BIBLE – Philip Mauro
The Bible differs radically from all other books in its perpetual freshness. This characteristic will be recognized only by those who know the Book in that intimate way which comes from living with it, as with a member of one’s family. I mention it first because it was one of the first unique properties of the Bible which impressed me after I began to read it as a believer in Christ. It is a very remarkable fact that the Bible never becomes exhausted, never acquires sameness, never diminishes in its power of responsiveness to the quickened soul who comes to it. The most familiar passages yield as much (if not more) refreshment at the thousandth perusal, as at the first. It is indeed as a fountain of living water. The fountain is the same, but the water is always fresh, and always refreshing. We can compare this to nothing but what we find in a living companion, whom we love and to whom we go for help and fellowship. The person is always the same, and yet without sameness. New conditions evoke new responses; and so it is with the Bible. As a living Book it adapts itself to the new phases of our experience and the new conditions in which we find ourselves. From the most familiar passage there comes again and again a new message; just as our most familiar friend or companion will have something new to say, as changed conditions and new situations require it from time to time. This is true of no other book. What man’s book has to say we can get the first time; and the exceptions arise merely from lack of clearness on the writer’s part, or lack of apprehension on the part of the reader. Man can touch only the surface of things, and he cares only about surface appearances. So, in all his writings, whatever substance they contain lies on the surface, and can be gathered by a capable reader at once. If the Word of God may be compared in this particular to a living person, the books of men may be compared to pictures or statues of living persons. However beautifully or artistically executed, a single view may readily exhaust the latter, and a second and third look will be mere repetitions. The difference is that which exists between the living and the dead. The Word of God is LIVING. But while the Bible resembles in this important respect a living person, who is our familiar, sympathetic, and responsive companion, it differs from such a human companion in that the counsel, comfort, and support it furnishes are far above and beyond what any human being can supply; and the only explanation of this is that the source of its life and powers is not human, but Divine.
A ONE-TIME CRUCIFIXION – Bill Freeman
“And those who are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:24
Concerning his own flesh, Paul had to admit, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells” (Rom. 7:18). Then in Colossians he warns the believers that if they relate to the evil flesh with a religious flesh, they will encounter certain defeat (Col. 2:18-23). How then can we be related to our flesh, if flesh cannot overcome flesh? The answer to that question is found in Paul’s words, “And those who are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” The phrase uttered by Paul, “those who are of Christ Jesus,” tells us how we are to be related to the flesh. It is those who simply belong to Christ Jesus, who are one with Him in spirit, that have crucified the flesh. Are you one who is of Christ Jesus? This means you do not have a separate life from Him. You are wholly identified with Him. You do not have a separate relationship with the flesh in your flesh. You are of Christ Jesus, and as such, you own His relationship with the flesh. His relationship with the flesh is not a long, drawn-out battle with it; rather it is a one-time crucifixion to it. The word “crucified” in Galatians 5:24 is in the aorist tense in Greek, indicating a blow was dealt to the flesh in the past that is decisive, complete, and final. That blow was dealt to the flesh on the cross of Calvary two thousand years ago. How we are related to the flesh is wrapped up in the answer to one question—Are we of Christ Jesus? That is all we need to answer. We do not need to examine whether or not we have any potential. Neither do we need a record or string of victories that we can boast in. Nor do we need to look at our condition to see whether or not we feel like a crucified person. We just need to answer one question: Are we of Christ Jesus? If so, then we have crucified the flesh. Paul says it—If we are of Christ Jesus, then we have crucified the flesh. This means that Christ is our relationship with the flesh.
ARE WE REALLY PREACHING CHRIST? – Albert Theron
Paul said in Col. 1v28 ‘Him [Christ] we preach..’ It is possible to preach every Christian theme in such a way that the focus falls squarely on Christ as the center of the Christian life (Col. 1v15-20). Unfortunately it is also possible to preach Christian themes and topics in such a way that only a principle or a lesson is unveiled. Consequently Christ remains in the shadows, and believers remain babes; gaining knowledge about Christian subjects but not being rooted, grounded and established in Christ (Col. 2v7). C.H. Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, had the following to say about this: “Did you never hear a sermon as to which you felt that if Jesus had come into that pulpit while the man was making his oration, He would have said, ‘Go down, go down; what business have you here? I sent you to preach about Me, and you preach about a dozen other things. Go home and learn of Me, and then come and talk.'”
The New Testament is thoroughly Christ-centered, and all themes in the NT emanate, and should emanate in our preaching, from Him alone. We may never assume the pre-eminence of Christ, but should rather constantly and consistently state, affirm and preach it. ‘Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets [the Old Testament], but in these last days he has spoken to us in His Son…’ (Heb. 1v1-2a). Consider the following words of a song by Michael Card: “God spoke the Incarnation, and so was born the Son, His final word was JESUS, He needed no other one…”! How precious. We should never ever preach in such a way that believers merely hear God speaking in “many ways”, without clearly seeing Christ revealed. If we preach thus we will never enter the full glory of the New Covenant (see 2 Corinthians 3).
Have you ever wondered why Paul would say to Timothy, in his last letter in the New Testament, “Remember Jesus Christ…” He was speaking to an apostolic co-worker who laboured with him in ministry for many years. Why on earth would he say to him at the end of his (Paul’s) life “Remember Jesus Christ…”? Would you or I give that advice to an apostolic co-worker at the end of our lives? And if we received a letter like that would we not say “huh, how on earth can I forget that?” Are we therefore not missing something in our churches today? There can be only one explanation for this emphasis by Paul, he never assumed the centrality of Christ in the church or in his preaching…’we already know that or that’s already been established, now let’s move on to other things’. No, that was never the attitude of any of the apostles! That’s why Col. 2v6 says ‘just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.’ It was all about Jesus in the beginning when you were born again, it’s all about Jesus in the here and now of your life, and it will be all about Him in the end (Jn. 15v5). Then when He has ‘destroyed every rule and every authority and power’, He will deliver the kingdom to God the Father (1 Cor. 15v24) and we will live with Him forever as His Bride in His Father’s house. Until then our aim in all things in the church should be what Paul’s was, namely that “Christ may be all, and in all” (Col. 3v11).
In 2 Cor. 11v3 Paul says “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ [First Love].” Jesus said when we use communion (the Lord’s Table) we should do it in remembrance of Him (1 Cor. 11v24). Why? Because we forget so easily and according to 2 Cor. 11v3 we can be so easily deceived by satan in this area. There are dozens upon dozens of emphases in Christian churches, and very often they become distractions from God’s agenda. It is even possible, with the best intentions, to preach strictly the Bible; yet when preached without a revelation of the centrality of Christ, it becomes just a dogma and could even in a sense be considered a ‘wind of doctrine’ (Eph. 4v14) that subtly takes the focus away from Christ. This happens in many Evangelical churches. We have to preach the Bible in such a way that Christ is revealed. We can give people principles and lessons and still not establish them in Christ Jesus. Sometimes we preach about Christ, giving all kinds of detail in our preaching, but we do not “preach Christ”, the Person and finished work of the Son. We do not proclaim Him in such a way that people see clearly that their only hope, life and salvation is in Him, not even in the church per se. Only this kind of preaching was called “the power of God unto salvation” according to Paul (Rom. 1v16). On the other hand Charismatic churches often emphasise the work of the Holy Spirit narrowly as being just about gifts, ministries, lively praise and worship, and goose bumps. All those things have their place, but Jesus made it very clear in His crucial teaching on the Holy Spirit in John 14 to 16 that the Holy Spirit’s primary ministry would be to ‘glorify Me [Jesus], for He will take what is mine and declare it to you’ (Jn. 16v14). This is something we need to fight for in our churches, because the New Testament makes it very clear that satan will in subtle and less subtle ways, in fact in every possible way, attack this more than anything else in the church. Our life is in Christ (Col. 3v1-4)! ‘He was made unto us wisdom, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.’ (1 Cor. 1v30). We are ‘’complete in Him’’ (Col. 2v10). He is all we will ever need.
Quote of the Day: A very well-known gospel artist wrote a song a while ago in which he confessed that his ministry and even worship became to him something less than what it was intended to be, because he lost his focus on Christ: “I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus. I’m sorry Lord, for the things I have made it, when it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus.”
JESUS IS THE CENTRE – Dr. Christopher Peppler
‘Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders’. Revelation 5:6
We often used to sing ‘Jesus be the centre’, a lovely song with sincere lyrics: ‘Jesus, be the centre, be my source, be my light, Jesus.’ The problem is though, that the words may reflect our perception but they do not reflect reality. Jesus cannot be the centre because we wish Him to be – He IS the centre. Many may choose to deny this, or be ignorant of this truth, but this does not change reality.
When Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ascended into heaven He continued to live in transformed bodily form. He is not just a memory of a man who once was, He is alive and real, and at the very centre of reality. This is why John the revelator described Jesus, the Lamb of God, standing in the centre of the throne. This why the book of Acts records how ‘Stephen , full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”’ (Acts 7:55-56) This is why we must understand that Jesus IS, not was, or even will be, the living centre of all things.
So the centrality of Jesus, Christocentricity, is not just a concept, it is a term that describes a relationship with the living Lord. To be Jesus-centred is therefore more than singing or theologising about Him, it is about relating to Him as the central person in our lives and in our churches.
The Bible is our inspired reference to who Jesus is and what He is like, but the Jesus it speaks of is not pressed between its pages like a rare but dry flower from the past. Nor is the Jesus the Bible describes a religious icon or a historical artefact. Jesus is alive! He is as described in the scriptures but He is not a literary character, He is a living being.
Religion honours a historical Jesus and studies His teachings in order to determine laws for living. Relationship seeks to know Jesus, to learn about Him from the ‘then’ of scripture so that He might be real to us in the ‘now’ of living. To acknowledge that Jesus is both alive and central to life is to talk to Him, minister with Him, make joint decisions together with Him, and to experience daily life with Him.
DISTRACTED WITH MUCH SERVING – Watchman Nee
The *soulish are second to none in the matter of works. They are most active, zealous and willing. But they do not labour because they have received God’s order; they labour instead because they have zeal and capacity so to do. They believe doing God’s work is good enough, unaware that only doing the labour of God’s appointment is truly commendable. These individuals have neither the heart to trust nor the time to wait. They never sincerely seek the will of God. On the contrary, they labour according to their ideas, with a mind teeming with schemes and plans. Because they diligently work, these Christians fall into the error of looking upon themselves as far more advanced than their leisurely brethren. Who can deny, however, that with God’s grace the latter can easily be more spiritual than the former?
Carnal Christians crave works; yet amid many labours they are unable to maintain calm in their spirit. They cannot fulfill God’s orders quietly as can the spiritual believers. Much work disturbs them. Outer confusion causes inner unrest. Their hearts are governed by outward matters. Being “distracted with much serving” (Luke 10.40) is the characteristic of the work of any soulish believer.
Lacking in farsightedness, believers who trust in the soul easily become discouraged. Only what is immediately ahead can they see. Momentary victory begets them joy, temporary defeat renders them sad. They have not discovered how to see on to the end of a matter through the eyes of faith. They yearn for an immediate success as comfort for their heart; failure to achieve it renders them unable to press on unwearily and to trust God in continued darkness.
The tendency to be hasty often stamps those who follow their souls. They cannot wait on God. Whatever is done is done hurriedly, precipitously, impetuously. They act from impulse rather than from principle. Even in God’s work, these Christians are so propelled by their zeal and passion that they simply cannot stay for God to make clear His will and way.
The mind of the carnal is occupied wholly with their endeavors. They ponder and plan, plot and predict. At times they presage a bright future, hence are beside themselves with joy; at other moments they foreglimpse darkness and immediately become haunted by untold misery. Do they thereby think of their Lord? No, they think more of their labours. To them, working for the Lord is of supreme importance, but often they forget the Lord Who gives work. The Lord’s work becomes the center, the Lord of work recedes to the background.
* The ‘soulish’ refer to believers who lean on their intellect, and/or emotions and will to do God’s work instead of trusting the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s will in the inner sanctuary of the regenerated human spirit. Proverbs 20:27 says the spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all his innermost parts. A.T.
THE TENDER SYMPATHY OF THE BELOVED – Octavius Winslow
This is my beloved, and this is my friend. Song of Songs 5:16
THE object of the believers trust is Jesus, his Beloved. He is spoken of by the apostle as THE Beloved, as though he would say, There is but one beloved of God, of angels, of saints—it is Jesus. He is the beloved One of the Father. Behold my servant, whom I uphold; my elect, in whom my soul delights. This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
But Jesus is also the church’s beloved, the beloved of each member of that church. His person is beloved, uniting all the glories of the Godhead with all the perfections of the manhood. His work is beloved, saving His people from the entire guilt, and condemnation, and dominion of their sins. His commandments are beloved, because they are the dictates of His love to us, and the tests of our love to Him. O yes! you have but one beloved of your heart, dear believer. He is white and ruddy, the chief among ten thousand; He is all the universe to you; heaven would be no heaven without Him; and with His presence here, earth seems often like the opening portal of heaven. He loved you, He laboured for you, He died for you, He rose for you, He lives and intercedes for you in glory; and all that is lovely in Him, and all that is grateful in you, constrain you to exclaim—I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine.
And where would you lean in sorrow but upon the bosom of your Beloved? Christ’s heart is a human heart, a sinless heart, a tender heart; a heart once the home of sorrow, once stricken with grief; once an aching, bleeding, mournful heart. Thus disciplined and trained, Jesus knows how to pity and to support those who are sorrowful and solitary. He loves to chase grief from the spirit, to bind up the broken heart, to staunch the bleeding wound, and to dry the weeping eye, to comfort all that mourn.
It is His delight to visit you in the dark night-season of your sorrow, and to come to you walking upon the tempestuous billows of your grief, breathing music and diffusing calmness over your scene of sadness and gloom. When other bosoms are closed to your sorrow, or are removed beyond your reach, or their deep throbbings of love are stilled in death—when the fiery darts of Satan fly thick around you, and the world frowns, and the saints are cold, and your path is sad and desolate—then lean upon the love, lean upon the grace, lean upon the faithfulness, lean upon the tender sympathy of Jesus.
That bosom will always unveil to welcome you. It will ever be an asylum to receive you, and a home to shelter you. Never will its love cool, nor its tenderness lessen, nor its sympathy be exhausted, nor its pulse of affection cease to beat. You may have grieved it a thousand times over, you may have pierced it through and through, again and again—yet returning to its deathless love, penitent and lowly, sorrowful and humble, you may lay within it your weeping, aching, languid head, depositing every burden, reposing every sorrow, and breathing every sigh upon the heart of Jesus. Lord! to whom shall I go? yes, to whom would I go, but unto You?
AS HE IS, SO ARE WE – Bill Freeman
“And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgement; because as He is, so are we in this world.” 1 John 4:16-17
The context of these verses indicates that at this very moment on the throne, in the heavenly life between the Father and the Son, there exists a continuous motion of love between them. The Son is in a wonderful, constant love relationship with the Father. This is the meaning of the phrase “as He is.” He is always and ever being loved by the Father. In the same way that the Father is presently loving the Son on the throne, He is loving us in this world. This is the meaning of the next phrase, “so are we in this world.” The intensity of love that the Father has toward the Son is the same intensity that He has toward us, because we are in His Son, and His Son is in us.
The Son is not the only beloved one. We are also beloved in Him. We too are the objects of the Father’s love. It is so important that we see how this love is concentrated in His Son. It was concentrated in Him during His earthly life. It is now concentrated in Him in His heavenly life. And it is concentrated in us by virtue of His indwelling life. Because of our union with Him, as He is loved, so are we loved. He cannot be loved without us getting the benefit.
APPROPRIATION OF OUR RICHES IN CHRIST – Miles Stanford
Here is an important subject that has to do with faith and the practical reception of that which we are able to trust Him for. Appropriation does not necessarily mean to gain something new but to set aside for our practical possession something that already belongs to us.
In order to appropriate something for our daily walk in Christ, there are two essentials: to see what is already ours in Christ; and to be aware of our need for it. On these two factors rests the ability to appropriate—to reach out in steadfast faith and receive that which belongs to us in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Regarding the first essential, to see that which is already ours, William R. Newell wrote: “Paul does not ask a thing of the saints in the first three chapters of Ephesians but just to listen while he proclaims that wondrous series of great and eternal FACTS concerning them; and not until he has completed this catalogue of realities about them does he ask them to do anything at all!
“And when he does open his plea for their high walk as saints, everything is based on the revelation before given the facts of their high character and destiny as saints: ‘I therefore … urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called’ (Eph. 4:1). Let us cease laying down to the saints long lists of ‘conditions’ of entering into the blessed life in Christ; and instead, as the primal preparation for leading them into the experience of this life, show them what their position, possessions, and privileges in Christ already are. Thus shall we truly work with the Holy Spirit, and thus shall we have more, and much more abiding fruit of our labors among the people of God.”
Once we see that which is ours in Christ Jesus, practical need will cause us to appropriate, to receive, the answer to that need. “There was a ‘supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ’ for Paul [Phil. 1:19], and that made it possible for Christ to be magnified in him. It was a supply which was always available, but only appreciated and appropriated as and when the Apostle came to know his need. Life is meant to bring a succession of discoveries of our need of Christ, and with every such discovery the way is opened for a new inflow of the supply. This is the explanation of so much that we cannot otherwise understand—this plunging of us into new tests where only a fresh supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ will meet our need. And as our need is met, as we prove the sufficiency of Christ to meet our inward need, so there can be a new showing forth of His glory through us.”
THE HEAVENLY REALITY – Austin Sparks
The Cross of the Lord Jesus represents the liberty in the spirit for God to lead into the fullness of His life and light. That is the whole purpose of the letter to the Hebrews. It was for that very purpose; that here was a people that had received light concerning the true nature of fellowship with God in Christ. The Lord Jesus had taken the place of the temple and the priesthood and the sacrifices and the ordinances, and even the sabbath. The sabbath was no longer merely a point of time but related to a Person. God had reached His rest in Christ. All God’s works were finished in Christ. God had entered into His rest when Christ perfected the work of God in redemption on the Cross.
Now that is no longer a matter of form, ceremony, external rites, buildings, priests, sacrifices; it is all Christ. They had seen that; He had called upon them to go outside the religious, formal, historic, traditional camp, and that brought persecution, ostracism, isolation, loneliness and all manner of things. The official religious people made it very hard for them because of that. The price to be paid for what is truly spiritual and heavenly was and is great, and they were dangerously in peril of going back to the old thing. The letter to the Hebrews was just written to save them from that peril, and to more fully tell them about the great change that had come about in the Cross, the work of the Lord Jesus. One system had passed, the earthly representation, and the other, the heavenly reality, had come in. You know how that letter speaks about the “pattern of things in the heavenlies” and “the heavenly things themselves”. The letter comes to the great conclusion in “We are come to the heavenly Jerusalem, to the blood of sprinkling, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant”, come to that in Him.
Now you see historic Christianity as such, traditional Christianity as such, may still keep us on a soul-level of worship where we must have a certain kind of building with certain kinds of windows, with a certain kind of music, and certain kinds of prayers, certain kinds of people and certain kinds of dress, and all this to “aid” our worship: all this to make real our fellowship with God. It is living back on pre-Calvary ground and it may be all soulish, and it may just be obstructing the path to a full personal inward spiritual life with God.
COMING TO A FULL STOP – Arthur Katz
Everyone who has driven a car has had the experience of approaching an intersection, slowing down, glancing both ways, and then choosing either to stop or to slowly slide through. The sign says “full stop,” but…that is only a guide, a warning; it does not really mean “full stop.” After all, stopping is so inconvenient, so time-consuming and wasteful of gas and brake linings. It requires going against the momentum of a vehicle already in motion, of a set of well-practiced attitudes and choices in favour of self-assurance, ease and convenience. Therefore, we do not stop. We make truth relative to our own judgment, our own needs, and our own subjectivity. “It says…but it doesn’t really mean.” Then we wonder why the Spirit seems to be absent from our lives. We are all guilty of this, or offenses like it. We are all, to some degree, in one place or another, not coming to a full stop. As long as it is convenient and serves our interests, truth, like a stop sign, is obeyed. When there is traffic in the intersection, or we cannot see far enough to proceed safely, we are willing to come to a full stop. But what happens when there seems to be nothing to gain, no apparent benefit from stopping and some obvious benefits to be obtained from coasting through? What happens when we, like Eve in the garden, examine the forbidden fruit before us more closely and determine that it is good for food, beautiful to the eye, and able to make one wise? “God said do not eat…but what He really means is… It says “full stop,” but what it really means is…” We would never simply disregard a sign. We slow down to provide enough of an appearance of obedience to satisfy ourselves and others, but it is just an appearance. The issue has already been decided. Once truth is made relative to our ends, however base or noble, it has ceased to be an end in itself. Truth that is relative to our ends is our servant. Only truth that is loved and obeyed for its own sake, apart from its apparent utility, is our Lord. Relativism is at the very heart of worldly wisdom. The world celebrates tolerance as a cardinal virtue and is prepared to tolerate everything except absolute values and absolute truth.
SIT DOWN AND ENJOY – Qatchman Nee, excerpted from his book Sit, Walk, Stand.
“The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, . . . raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Eph. 1:17-21). “And raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: . . . for by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory” (Eph. 2:6-9).
“God . . . made him to sit . . . and made us to sit with him.” Let us first consider the implications of this word “sit.” As we have said, it reveals the secret of a heavenly life. Christianity does not begin with walking; it begins with sitting. The Christian era began with Christ, of whom we are told that, when he had made purification of sins, he “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3). With equal truth we can say that the individual Christian life begins with a man “in Christ”—that is to say, when by faith we see ourselves seated together with him in the heavens. Most Christians make the mistake of trying to walk in order to be able to sit, but that is a reversal of the true order. Our natural reason says, If we do not walk, how can we ever reach the goal? What can we attain without effort? How can we ever get anywhere if we do not move? But Christianity is a queer business! If at the outset we try to do anything, we get nothing; if we seek to attain something, we miss everything. For Christianity begins not with a big DO, but with a big DONE. Thus Ephesians opens with the statement that God has “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (1:3) and we are invited at the very outset to sit down and enjoy what God has done for us; not to set out to try and attain it for ourselves. Walking implies effort, whereas God says that we are saved, not by works, but “by grace . . . through faith” (2:8). We constantly speak of being “saved through faith,” but what do we mean by it? We mean this, that we are saved by reposing in the Lord Jesus. We did nothing whatever to save ourselves; we simply laid upon him the burden of our sin-sick souls. We began our Christian life by depending not upon our own doing but upon what he had done. Until a man does this he is no Christian; for to say, “I can do nothing to save myself; but by his grace God has done everything for me in Christ” is to take the first step in the life of faith. The Christian life from start to finish is based upon this principle of utter dependence upon the Lord Jesus. There is no limit to the grace God is willing to bestow upon us. He will give us everything, but we can receive none of it except as we rest in him. “Sitting” is an attitude of rest. Something has been finished, work stops, and we sit. It is paradoxical, but true, that we only advance in the Christian life as we learn first of all to sit down.
From the Introduction
In the first section of the letter we note the word sit (2:6), which is the key to that section and the secret of a true Christian experience. God has made us to sit with Christ in the heavenly places, and every Christian must begin his spiritual life from that place of rest. In the second part we select the word walk (4:1) as expressive of our life in the world, which is its subject. We are challenged there to display in our Christian walk conduct that is in keeping with our high calling. And finally, in the third part we find the key to our attitude towards the enemy contained in the one word stand (6:11), expressive of our place of triumph at the end.
Thus we have Key Words in Ephesians:
1. Our Position in Christ—“SIT” (2:6)
2. Our Life in the World—“WALK” (4:1)
3. Our Attitude to the Enemy—“STAND” (6:11)
The life of the believer always presents these three aspects—to God, to man, and to the Satanic powers. To be useful in God’s hand a man must be properly adjusted in respect of all three: his position, his life, and his warfare. He falls short of God’s requirements if he underestimates the importance of any one of them, for each is a sphere in which God would express “the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (1:6).
SPEND TIME CULTIVATING – Bill Freeman
“And He was saying, Abba, Father, all things are possible for You.” MARK 14:36
It takes time to cultivate a love relationship with the Lord. This was demonstrated by the Lord’s own earthly life. He repeatedly spent time with the Father, enjoying the Father’s love (Luke 5:16). In Mark 14:36 we find Him in the garden of Gethsemane, where it was His habit to go and be with the Father (Luke 22:39). Here He is once again pressing into the bosom of the Father while facing the critical hour of crucifixion. Mark records that the Lord was saying repeatedly, “Abba, Father.” This means that even when He became obedient unto death, the death of the cross, He did it by enjoying the Father’s love. To say “Abba” is to call upon the Father in the most sweet and intimate way.
Now we must see that this same “Abba, Father” love-life has been sent into our hearts. Paul declares, “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, Abba, Father!” (Gal. 4:6). What a joy! What a hope! The very prayer life of God’s Son is in our hearts. The intimate love-life between the Father and the Son has been put into us. We have it! It is not a matter of trying to find it or longing to possess it. We have the Triune God’s love-life within us. And by virtue of our being a born-again Christian, we are entitled to merge in our hearts with the love flowing between the Father and the Son in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14).
The Lord’s love-life with the Father simply needs to be cultivated and released in us. That life is in us twenty-four hours a day. The same life that cried “Abba, Father,” the same life that withdrew so many times into the wilderness to pray, the same life that wanted to be with the Father alone—that life is in us. And that life in us needs time. The same life that took time to pray in the Gospels still needs time to pray in us. The Spirit of His Son is located within our hearts, waiting for us to join in and cry “Abba, Father.” What an indescribable enjoyment—that we could merge with the Son’s life which is ever pressing anew with equal intimacy into the bosom of the Father.
ONLY THE LIFE OF CHRIST IS VICTORIOUS – Mike Baer
Christian teaching is filled with formulas for victory. Usually in the form of “keys,” or “principles,” or “steps,” methods of living in holiness and overcoming sin have been presented to the church for centuries.
Some, for example, stress discipline. They teach that the key to living victoriously is found in developing a consistent prayer life or personal Bible study habits. Others stress the Holy Spirit, urging devotees to experience the baptism or fullness of the Spirit in order to live effectively. Still others push fellowship and open sharing with like-minded believers in order to be “held accountable.”
Unfortunately, while each of the “schools” contains elements of truth, most commonly ignore the one vital ingredient of the victorious life. In order to live a victorious life, we must already have a victorious life. In other words, it is not something we do; it is not about trying. Rather, it is about living. And in order to live you must have life! And the astounding news of Romans 6 is just that. We do have life. In fact, we have the only life that can be victorious, the only life that can live the Christian life; we have the life of Christ, new life, His life…in us. And His life in us, living through us, is the life of victory.
Meet The New You
Most of us, having believed the gospel, find ourselves striving to live well. We want to obey God and live a life that honors him. We dedicate ourselves and rededicate ourselves to the proposition that if we work at it long enough and hard enough we shall be able to drag our tired selves into some measure of Christ-likeness. Soon enough, however, our constant failure catches up with us and, frustrated, we begin to think that a life of holiness isn’t possible. Instead, we learn to content ourselves with a low level of spirituality hoping that, in the life to come, we will finally attain that to which we aspire.
Listen up! The life to come is already here. It is the life of Jesus Himself dwelling in you and longing to live through you so that it is no longer you trying to be like Him but Him being Himself in your body! That is the truth of Romans 6.
OCCUPIED WITH GOD – Andrew Murray
I fear that there are not a few who, by strong expressions of self-condemnation and self-denunciation, have sought to humble themselves, and have to confess with sorrow that a humble spirit, a “heart of humility,” with its accompaniments of kindness and compassion, of meekness and forbearance, is still as far off as ever. Being occupied with self, even amid the deepest self-abhorrence, can never free us from self. It is the revelation of God, not only by the law condemning sin but by His grace delivering from it, that will make us humble. The law may break the heart with fear; it is only grace that works that sweet humility which becomes a joy to the soul as its second nature. It was the revelation of God in His holiness, drawing nigh to make Himself known in His grace, that made Abraham and Jacob, Job and Isaiah, bow so low. It is the soul in which God the Creator, as the All of the creature in its nothingness, God the Redeemer in His grace, as the All of the sinner in his sinfulness, is waited for and trusted and worshipped, that will find itself so filled with His presence, that there will be no place for self. So alone can the promise be fulfilled: “The haughtiness of man shall be brought low, and the Lord alone be exalted in that day.” It is the sinner dwelling in the full light of God’s holy, redeeming love, in the experience of that full indwelling of divine love, which comes through Christ and the Holy Spirit, who cannot but be humble. Not to be occupied with your sin, but to be occupied with God, brings deliverance from self.
CHRIST IN US – Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? 1 Corinthians 6:19
The New Testament tells me that Christ is in me, and I am meant to live a life of constant fellowship and communion with Him. Sin is to look away from Him, to be interested in anything that the world can give rather than in Him. Oh, if it is something foul it is ten times worse; but the best that the world can give me is an insult to Him if I put it before Him.
There are endless statements of this. Paul puts it in terms of the Holy Spirit: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). The argument is about fornication and adultery. Paul does not merely give a moral lecture on immorality; he says in effect, “What is wrong about that is that you are joining your body, which is a temple of the Holy Spirit, to another, and you have no right to do it. The way to overcome that sin is not to pray so much that you may be delivered from it; it is to realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and that you have no right to use it in that way.” Another way he puts it is this, and it is very tender: “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30). He is tender, He is sensitive, He is holy; do not grieve Him.
If you and I would only think of our lives like that, it would very soon begin to promote our sanctification. May I commend to you a simple morning rule: When you wake up, the first thing you should do (and I need to do the same) is to say to yourself, “I am a child of God. Christ is in me. That old self is gone: I died with Christ. ‘I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me.’ Everything I do today must be in the light of this knowledge.”
A Thought to Ponder
The Holy Spirit is tender, He is sensitive, He is holy; do not grieve Him.
THE GRACE OF COURTEOUS LISTENING – D.A. Carson
“He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame” Proverbs 18:13
This, of course, invites wide application. We think of those exasperating, aggressive conversationalists who rarely let you finish a sentence or a thought before they interject their own viewpoint. How much worse is the situation when neither side in a dispute really listens to the other side. In rare cases, of course, there is literally nothing to be said in favor of one particular side. But almost always there is at least something to be said for a contrary position, even if on balance it is not all that defensible. But how can you find out if you do not really listen? How can you hope to convince the other party of what you are saying if you cannot give that party the grace of courteous listening? In most disputes, tensions will improve if one party takes the initiative to lower the volume, slow the pace, cool the rhetoric, and humbly try to listen and discover exactly what the other side is saying.
CHRIST BEING FORMED IN US – Bob Hoekstra
My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you… Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? (Gal_4:19 and 2 Cor._13:5)
When we take the truth of the gospel to others, that they might be born again, we often enter into spiritual birth pangs on their behalf. They are wresting over issues and questions. We are agonizing with them, that they might embrace the truth they need to become a child of God by faith. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal_3:26).
When the Apostle Paul took the gospel into the region of Galatia, he labored in this manner on behalf of those who would become believers in Jesus Christ. Later, he is writing them, telling them that once again he was in spiritual labor for them. “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again.” This subsequent agonizing was not concerning their initial salvation. They had already been born again through faith in the Lord Jesus. Now, he was laboring “until Christ is formed in you.”
It is the will of our Heavenly Father that we invite His Son into our lives. “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God” (Joh_1:12). Furthermore, it is His will that we allow the life of His Son to be expressed in and though our lives. As we face life day by day, we become engaged with issues, opportunities, challenges, responses, ideas, relationships, values, priorities, etc. The Lord Jesus Christ died for us in order to live with us through all of these aspects of living. “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us that… we should live together with Him” (1Th_5:9). In every situation of life, the Lord Jesus is with us, dwelling within us, wanting to express His life through us.
Although this great reality is described in many places throughout the word of God, many of God’s people seem not to know it. “Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? ” Either they have not heard it, or they have forgotten it. What a great privilege it is to share these grand truths with others. The process will not be without difficulties. “To this end I also labor, striving [agonizing] according to His working which works in me mightily” (Col_1:29). However, though we may experience spiritual birth pangs for others, God will see us through, as He touches their lives.
Lord Jesus, my indwelling Savior, please express Your life in and through me. May there be no area of my life that is just me doing my best or me fulfilling my will. Also, Lord, be my strength, enabling me to share these great realities with others, in Your mighty name, Amen.
IS YOUR LIFE ADEQUATE? – Watchman Nee
When Christ our life is manifested… Colossians 3:4
But these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, you may have life in His name. John 20:31
Suppose a temptation comes and stirs you up. You know that you have to be patient. But where does this patience come from? Your life supplies you with patience. You need to have life before you can exercise your patience…. We are dealing with things, and every moment we have reactions. We deal with the demands of the outward world moment by moment with our life.
God has not given us Christ so that He could just die for us on the cross; He has given Christ to us to be our life. Originally, we react to all the demands that are outside of us by exercising our own life; we act according to our own life. If our own life is strong enough, we make it. If our own life is not strong enough, we do not make it, or worse, we collapse. We react with our own life and deal with outward matters with our own life. But God has given Christ to us to be our life [and He is strong, vigorous, buoyant, and glorious]. Before we received the Lord Jesus, we lived by ourselves. After we receive the Lord Jesus, God wants Him to live inside of us and live for us. It is not a matter of the Lord Jesus giving us commands, suggestions, or teachings and then us carrying them out. Rather, He becomes our life within and carries things out for us. Formerly, we responded to outward demands with our own life. Now we should allow Christ’s life to respond to them.
ANOINTING AND REVELATION – Austin Sparks
We cannot recover New Testament conditions by re-stating New Testament doctrine. We have to get New Testament anointing. I am not dismissing doctrine; it is necessary; but it is the anointing which makes things alive, fresh, vibrant. Everything must come by revelation.
Some of us know what it is to be able to analyse our Bibles and present, perhaps in a very interesting way, the contents of its books and all its doctrines. We can do that with “Ephesians” as well as we can do it with any other book. We can come to “Ephesians” and analyse it and outline the Church and the Body and all that, and be as blind as bats until the day comes when, God having done something in us, something deep and tremendous and terrific, we see the Church, we see the Body – we see “Ephesians”! They were two worlds: one was truth, exact in technical detail, full of interest and fascination – but there was something lacking. We could have stated the truth from beginning to end, but we did not know what was in it; and until we have gone through that experience and something has happened in us, we may think we know, we may be sure we know, we may lay down our life for it; but we do not know. There is all the difference between a very keen, clear, mental apprehension of things in the Word of God, and a spiritual revelation. There is the difference of two worlds – but it is quite impossible to make people understand that difference until something has happened.
ACCEPTED IN THE BELOVED – Ray Stedman
Paul uses a wonderful phrase in Ephesians: accepted in the beloved (Ephesians 1:6 KJV). When we have acknowledged our guilt, when we have acknowledged that what we have done is contrary to what God wants, and we stand there with nothing to defend ourselves and no attempt to do so, but simply in honest acknowledgment of our own doing, then we are accepted in the beloved.
In our area where I grew up in Montana, we had many sheep farms. Spring was the lambing season when the little lambs were born. But spring in Montana is not like it is in California. Sleet storms can come whirling down out of the north, and snow can still be three or four feet deep on the prairies. Often there are long, protracted seasons of bitter cold during lambing season. When the sheep must bear lambs in that kind of weather, many of the lambs and ewes die. As a result, sheep farmers have many mothers whose newborn lambs have died and many newborn lambs whose mothers have died. It would seem that a simple way to solve the problem would be to take the lambs without mothers and give them to the mothers without lambs, but it is not that simple. If you take a little orphan lamb and put it in with a mother ewe, she will immediately go to it and sniff it all over, and then she shakes her head as though to say, Well, that’s not our family odor, and she butts it away and refuses to have anything to do with it. But the sheep farmers have devised a means of solving this. They take the mother’s own little dead lamb and skin it and take the skin and tie it onto the other little orphan lamb. Then they put the orphan lamb with this ungainly skin flopping around—eight legs, two heads—in with the mother. She pays no attention at all to the way it looks, but she sniffs it all over again, and then she nods her head. The little lamb goes to work at the milk fountain, and all is well.
What has happened? The orphan lamb has been accepted in the beloved one. There came a time when God’s Lamb lay dead on our behalf, and God took us orphans and clothed us in His righteousness, and thus we stand accepted in the beloved, received in His place. That is where repentance brings us. That is the way you begin the Christian life.