THE MOST DECEPTIVE SUBSTITUTE – DeVern Fromke
Recently during a morning Bible session the director of the YMCA where we were meeting, slipped into the service. Though I did not at that time know him, I recognized that he was immediately enthused and seemed to be receptive to the laws and principles I was explaining. I learned later that he had been presenting some of the very same principles to the men and boys in his Y membership. For almost an hour his was undoubtedly the most enthusiastic face in the audience. I knew he was being carried along by the “Christian philosophy” I was sharing. But I also felt sure he did not, then, realize I was setting forth the false “tree of knowledge” that I might contrast it with God’s provision of Christ as our “tree of life.” It was only as I proceeded to show how all of these laws and principles, which seemed so good, could become the most deceptive substitute that a noticeable change came in his expression. Through the years I have watched this same initial enthusiasm in others. Men are always eager to learn the ways for successful living, but they are not usually interested in the way which God has given. They will embrace a philosophy of life but not the Lord Jesus as the Person who becomes our life. Even when preachers present from the Bible the ideals, principles, ethics and laws for full and successful living – there will be an amazing acceptance as long as Jesus Christ and His Lordship are by-passed or ignored. He becomes the crucial issue! The very moment the conscience and heart are confronted with His rightful claim to govern the life, a strange wall of resistance develops. Men will rejoice in receiving more and more knowledge, laws, principles, and patterns for successful living, but they will studiously avoid the One, whom God has given, who alone can implement and operate these laws in real fruitfulness. It is true men will make some progress in using these principles on their own, but only for a brief period. God has so designed everything that it will only function as Christ becomes all and all in life.
THE LANGUAGE OF TRUE FAITH – A.W. Pink
The heart of one feeble woman laid hold of Jehovah’s strength: “He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and on them he has set the world. “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail. The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the power of his anointed.” (1 Sam. 2:8-10). That was the language of true faith, and faith is something which God never disappoints. Most probably Hannah lived not to see the realization of her Spirit-inspired expectations, but in “due season” they were realized. How encouraging and comforting ought the above to be to the little remnant of God’s heritage in this “cloudy and dark day”! To outward sight, there is now much, very much, to distract and dishearten. Truly “men’s hearts are failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth” (Luke 21:26). But, blessed be His name, “the Lord has His way in the whirlwind” (Nahum 1:3). Faith looks beyond this scene of sin and strife, and beholds the Most High upon His throne, working “all things after the counsel of His own will” (Eph. 1:11). Faith lays hold of the Divine promises which declare, “at eveningtide it shall be light” (Zech. 14:7); and “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him” (Isa. 59: 19). In the meantime God’s grace is sufficient for the feeblest who really trusts Him. Samuel was given by God in response to the prayers of Hannah, and who can doubt that David also was the answer to the earnest supplications of those who sought Jehovah’s glory.
PLODDING ON BY THE IMPETUS OF KNOWLEDGE – DeVern Fromke
May God apply the spiritual eye-salve to help us discern between that which is merely the tree of knowledge and that which is the tree of life. The great battle of the ages has never changed. It still centers in man’s accepting that which is seemingly good, necessary and important as a substitute for accepting God Himself – in Christ. It is alarming that multitudes of believers are deluded in living from “another source” than God. Many who have not discerned how they are living from the “tree of knowledge” are blindly dedicated to promoting principles, patterns and purposes which seem so good – even seem spiritual! Yet they have missed the proper foundation. If they are not living by a revelation, that is, living by a spiritual seeing as their source and dynamic, they are plodding on by the impetus of knowledge. The songwriter was making this distinction when he said: “Beyond the sacred page I see Thee, Lord.” How many get stalled on the sacred page. They do not meet Him, or find Him as the Living Revelation in those pages. All they receive is cold knowledge, life-less words. Jesus warned the religionists of His day: You…“Search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And you will not come to me, that you might have life” (John 5:39-40). Now to be sure, there are hundreds in our fundamental churches who loudly proclaim that Christ is all we need, that He is completely sufficient, that Christ is our only center and circumference. These have become very proper slogans. But perhaps many have only learned these nice phrases and echo them as a parrot would. It seems quite evident that the real significance of Christ as our all has not dawned, for in the very next breath they launch into extensive methods, means and programs for accomplishing the work of God; immediately they start to search out patterns and principles for doing things – all of which are simply good religious substitutes for Him. What a blessed hour of revelation to our hearts when we quit using things and allow Him to use us; when we cease looking for methods and allow Him to become the method in us; when we stop preaching knowledge and allow Him to display knowledge through us. Only then have we truly learned to reject all that issues from the “substitute tree” to find our all in the living tree.
LIVE ABOVE THE PRAISE AND THE CENSURE OF SELF – C.H. Spurgeon
Perhaps you find yourself full of virtue and grace one day, and the devil flatters you: “Ah! you are a bright Christian; you might join the church now, you would be quite an honor to it; see how well you are prospering.” And unconsciously to yourself you believe the sound of that syren music, and you half believe that really you are growing rich in grace. Well, the next day you find yourself very low indeed in godly matters. Perhaps you fall into some sin, and now the devil says, “Ah! now you are no child of God; look at your sins.” Beloved, the only way in which you can maintain your faith is to live above the praise of self and the censure of self; to live simply upon the blood and merits of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who can say in the midst of all his virtues, “These are but dross and dung; my hope is fixed on nothing less than Jesus Christ’s finished sacrifice”—such a man, when sins prevail, will find his faith remain constant, for he will say “I once was full of virtue and then I did not trust in myself, and now I have none still do I trust in my Saviour, for change as I may, he changes not. If I had to depend on myself in the least degree then it would be up and down, up and down, but since I rely on what Christ has done, since he is the unbuttressed pillar of my hope, then come what may my soul doth rest secure, confident in faith. Faith will never be weak if self be weak, but when self is strong, faith cannot be strong, for self is very much like what the gardener calls the sucker at the bottom of the tree, which never bears fruit but only sucks away the nourishment from the tree itself. Now, self is that sucker which sucks away the nourishment from faith, and you must cut it up or else your faith will always be little faith, and you will have difficulty in maintaining any comfort in your soul.
WHAT IS THE GOOD? – Bill Freeman
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:29
As part of God’s plan, we were made with a spirit, a soul, and a body (Gen. 2:7; 1 Thess. 5:23). In His economy, the arrangement is that we would be born again and He would be dispensed into our spirit to begin the process of conforming us to His image. In the Bible God’s economy begins with creation and continues through the Old Testament with the called race, and into the New Testament with His Son. Then His Son is dispensed into our spirit. Now His arrangement is that our soul, with our mind, emotions, and will, would be conformed to the image of His Son. This takes place in the realm of the Spirit.
For this conformity, there is the absolute necessity of our being oriented to the Lord by walking according to spirit, by knowing that realm. For example, in the morning when I am exercising my spirit by saying, “Lord Jesus, I love You,” I am linked to the whole history of God’s economy. His life is being dispensed into my thoughts at the very beginning of the day. To conform me to the image of His Son, He is using not only my touch with the Spirit, but also the “all things” mentioned in Romans 8:28. All things are working together for good. What is the good? The good is my being conformed to the image of His Son. This means I must handle my problems in an altogether new way now. If I see God’s economy, I am forbidden to murmur, to reason, or to complain about my spouse, my problems, my finances, my situation. I am forever forbidden if I am a person under the view of God’s economy.
LOOKING ON – Martyn Lloyd-Jones
And it came to pass, when Moses went out unto the tabernacle, that all the people rose up, and stood every man at his tent door, and looked after Moses, until he was gone into the tabernacle. Exodus 33:8
I am rather interested in what we are told about the remainder of the people. They say that Moses and one or two individuals used to go out of the camp to the Tabernacle to pray. In Exodus 33:8 we read, “And it came to pass, when Moses went out unto the tabernacle, that all the people rose up, and stood every man at his tent door, and looked after Moses, until he was gone into the tabernacle.”
There is something very wonderful about this. All they did was to look on with interest. They were aware that something was happening, but they did not know what it was, and they did not understand it. They did not go out of the camp with Moses into the tent of meeting with God and pray and intercede. All they knew was that Moses had taken the tent outside the camp and that he and certain others periodically visited it. So they just stood at their tent doors, watching Moses as he went and talking about him, wondering what he was doing and what exactly was happening. Now the appalling thing is that the right place for the tent was in the midst of the camp. But it was not there.
As you read the history of the church, you will find this repeated. At first just a few people feel the call and separate themselves, and then the others begin to say, “What is happening to so and so? Have you heard about this man or that woman?” They stand at their tent doors, and they look on. They have a feeling that something is happening. But they do nothing at all. Oh, if we wait until the whole church moves, revival will never happen.
WARFARE IN ANOTHER REALM ALTOGETHER – Austin Sparks
When we are carnal as believers, our warfare and our weapons are carnal. That is, we meet men on their own level and answer back their challenge with that with which they challenge us. If they come out in argument we counter with argument; if they come out with reason we meet them with reason; if they come out with fierce temper we meet them in the heat of the flesh; and if they come out to us with criticism, well, we give them what they give us and try to go one better, meeting them always on their own level.
That is carnal warfare, using carnal weapons. When we cease to be carnal and leave all carnal ground, becoming wholly spiritual, we find ourselves in a new realm at the back of men, dealing with spiritual forces directly and not with merely carnal forces. We have come into touch with something at the back of carnal man, and the carnal man is utterly helpless in the presence of a spiritual man for the simple reason that he cannot get the spiritual man to come down to his level. Therefore he is disarmed, and sooner or later he will have to recognize that that spiritual man is his superior. But the superiority is not just in that the spiritual man is on a new level. It is that he is meeting not the man naturally, but the forces behind the man. It is spiritual warfare now. We cease to fight after the flesh; we cease to fight man; we cease to battle with flesh; our warfare is in another realm altogether. That represents spiritual advance, spiritual growth, and it represents spirituality. And when we come into real spiritual warfare a spiritual state is pre-supposed. In that realm the natural man’s resources are utterly useless. They are ruled out, because for that warfare only spiritual equipment is either permissible or effective. The warfare then is with spiritual weapons, spiritual resources and spiritual equipment. So Ephesians 6 finds us in the heavenlies, battling, not with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers, but we are equipped with a spiritual armour, the armour of God.
LIVE BY YOUR OWN CONVICTION – Ray Stedman
…just as it has taught you, remain in him (1 John 2:27b).
The emphasis in these verses is on the words as it has taught you. What the Spirit has taught you, not what He has taught the other fellow. After the resurrection, Jesus said to Peter, Feed my sheep. And Peter turned and looked at John and said, Lord, what about him? Do you remember what Jesus said? That is none of your business. You follow me. What I teach this man to do is for him to know. What I have said for you to do, that is for you to do (John 21:15-22).
This is an intensely personal thing. What you have learned from the word of the Spirit, through the intermediacy of human teachers, is to be the ground of your actions. But your activity must always be based on the conviction of what has come home to you. In other words, you walk by faith in the Word of God as God has taught it to you and not by what you have learned by tradition. Tradition has, historically, been one of the most deadly foes of the church and has held people back from advancement in their spiritual life.
Any time you condition people to take their truth secondhand through some other individual, some line of authorities standing in succession above them, you have conditioned them to respond immediately to falsehood as well if it starts from the top. That is why hierarchies go astray so quickly and so easily. No, in the Christian life, all truth is intensely personal and comes directly to you from the Holy Spirit.
That means you do not need to have a scholar interpreting the Word of God for you. You can be grateful for scholars, you can read their helpful comments, and the Lord will use them to teach you something, but you are not dependent upon them. You have no need that any person teach you at that level, for the Holy Spirit can instruct you. We must be open, of course, to hear all that others have to say. Charles Spurgeon once said, I do not understand those men who have such a high opinion of what the Holy Spirit says to them, and such a low opinion of what he says to anyone else. We must remember that the Spirit of God does speak through other people, as well as through us. But, finally, we must act only on what the Lord has said to us. That is what made it possible for Martin Luther to stand alone before the emperor, with all the assembled dignitaries of state and church arrayed in opposition to him, and to say, Here I stand! I can do no other, God help me. He was listening to the voice of the Spirit to him.
Now this obedience is absolutely necessary because it is only on this basis that you can abide in him, and that is where fruitfulness comes from. You cannot go another’s route, you cannot live another’s spiritual life for him or her or force him or her to go your route either. You are to open the Word, pour over it, listen to the Holy Spirit in it, listen to others as the Holy Spirit has taught them, and then, faced with this entire array of external testimony, obey that which the Spirit confirms to your heart is the truth. John says when you do that, you will abide in Him.
HOU DIT EENVOUDIG – Albert Theron
Maar ek vrees dat, net soos die slang Eva deur sy listigheid bedrieg het, julle sinne so miskien bedorwe kan raak, vervreemd van die opregtheid teenoor Christus. 2 Kor. 11:3
Maar ek is bang dat julle gedagtes weggelei sal word van die onverdeelde en suiwere toewyding aan Christus, net soos Eva verlei is deur die listigheid van die slang. 2 Kor. 11:3 (NAV)
Daar is vandag soveel Christelike bedieninge waaraan gelowiges deur die media blootgestel word en baie van hulle maak groot uitsprake oor die impak wat hulle het en gaan hê; wêreldwye invloed, profesieë oor herlewing, ensovoorts, ensovoorts. Verder word persoonlike profesieë dikwels die somtotaal van gelowiges se geestelike lewe en verwagting en bou hulle alles rondom sulke “woorde” van ander. Hoe moet die dissipel van Jesus homself posisioneer ten opsigte van al hierdie dinge? Daar is sekerlik ‘n tyd en ‘n plek vir sekere van hierdie dinge, maar God het vir ons ‘n vaste anker gegee in Christus en dit bring stewige grond onder ons voete en ‘n fondasie waarop ons kan bou. Maak seker dat jou fokus op Christus alleen is as die Een in wie jy volkome is (Kol. 2:10), en dat jy vanuit ‘n ‘’Eerste Liefde’’ verhouding met Hom in gehoorsaamheid leef in jou daaglikse lewe. Ons moet maar gereeld in gedeeltes soos die bergpredikasie (Mt. 5-7) gaan kyk en seker maak of ons werklik ‘n lewe van liefdesgehoorsaamheid leef. Dit hou ons nederig en help ons ook om verby die uiterlike en die oorvloed van woorde te kyk en duidelik te onderskei in die tyd van “information overload” waarin ons leef. In 1 Kor. 4:20 sê Paulus “die koninkryk van God bestaan nie in woorde nie, maar in krag.” Die krag waarvan Paulus hier praat is die krag om ‘n heilige lewe te leef wat vir God welbehaaglik is. Die primêre verskil tussen die ou en nuwe verbond is dat ons nou “onder die wet van Christus” is, omdat Hy in ons leef. In verhouding met Hom is daar ‘n toenemende geloofsgehoorsaamheid in ons lewens wat Christus se karakter openbaar. Voor ons weghardloop met profesieë oor hoe ons die wêreld gaan verander, moet ons miskien eerder begin by onsself en ons eie huis en seker maak dat self-verloëning die pad oopgemaak het vir Christus om deur ons te begin leef.
REJOICE IN YOUR FREEDOM – A.W. Tozer
Everything that is bad and that is against me I got from the devil—so why should he have the effrontery and the brass to argue with me about it? Yet he will do it because he is the devil, and he is committed to keeping God’s children shut up in a little cage, their wings clipped so that they can never fly!
In our churches we often sing, “Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears.” But nothing happens and we keep our fears. Why do we claim on one hand that our sins are gone and on the other act just as though they are not gone?
Brethren, we have been declared “Not Guilty!” by the highest court in all the universe. Still there are honest Christians, earnestly seeking the face of God, who cannot seem to break loose and find real freedom. The grave clothes trip them up every time they try to move on a little faster. Satan uses their past sins to terrify them.
Now on the basis of grace as taught in the Word of God, when God forgives a man, He trusts him as though he had never sinned. God did not have mental reservations about any of us when we became His children by faith. When God forgives a man, He doesn’t think, “I will have to watch this fellow because he has a bad record.“ NO, He starts with him again as though he had just been created and as if there had been no past at all! That is the basis of our Christian assurance—and God wants us to be happy in it.
FIX AND FASTEN YOUR FAITH IN GOD’S SON – Austin Sparks
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? (2 Corinthians 13:5)
The sum of everything in the new creation is in Christ, or, to put that in another way, it is outside of man himself. It is apart from man, and it always will be. Although Christ, the sum of the new creation, may be in us, that new creation will remain in Christ, and we are only in it by reason of our union with Him. He becomes the fullness of everything in us, but the practical outworking of that fullness will ever, and always, be purely and solely on a basis of faith. If the thing could be said at any time to have its origin in us, then faith would be dismissed. If we had it in ourselves, if it were our constitution, faith would be dispensed with. That would result in a repetition of us….
The difficulty which we shall be meeting all along the way will be ourselves. We shall find that the main obstacle, the main enemy to our fullness in Christ, to all that the new creation means, will be ourselves in some way. It will either be our self-occupation – which is but a form of trying to be something fine, something in ourselves which will bring satisfaction to God – or it will be our self-effort in service. It will be this natural life of ours cropping up in some direction or another, and as it crops up it will cut clean in between us and the “all things” which are of God, and we shall find that it is ourself which brings us up short, which creates the arrest…. If we look within ourselves to find more good, we are going to look in vain. We shall never find anything in ourselves but corruption. Is that really settled with us? On both sides, the people who have some opinion of themselves had better settle it once and for all that there is nothing in them but corruption, and also those who have settled it, and yet are so occupied with their old man as though it were something really worth being occupied with. Put it where the Lord Jesus has put it, in the grave, and do not walk round it, turning it over, if peradventure you might find something worthwhile. Fix and fasten your faith in God’s Son, and leave yourself alone for ever. Only so will you find your emancipation.
WAIT CONTINUALLY ON GOD – Andrew Murray
At our first entrance into the school of waiting upon God, the heart is mainly set on the blessings which we wait for. God graciously uses our needs and desires for help to educate us for something higher than we were thinking of. We were seeking gifts; He, the Giver, longs to give Himself and to satisfy the soul with His goodness. It is just for this reason that He often withholds the gifts, and that the time of waiting is made so long. He is constantly seeking to win the heart of His child for Himself. He wishes that we would not only say, when He bestows the gift, “How good is God!” but that long before it comes, and even if it never comes, we should all the time be experiencing: it is good that a man should quietly wait. “The LORD is good unto them that wait for him.”
What a blessed life the life of waiting then becomes, the continual worship of faith, adoring, and trusting His goodness. As the soul learns its secret, every act or exercise of waiting becomes just a quiet entering into the goodness of God, to let it do its blessed work and satisfy our every need. And, every experience of God’s goodness gives new attractiveness to the work of waiting. Instead of only taking refuge in time of need, there comes a great longing to wait continually and all day. And, however duties and engagements occupy the time and the mind, the soul gets more familiar with the secret art of always waiting. Waiting becomes the habit and disposition, the very second nature and breath of the soul.
Dear Christian, begin to see that waiting is not one among a number of Christian virtues, to be thought of from time to time. But, it expresses that disposition that lies at the very root of the Christian life. It gives a higher value and a new power to our prayers and worship, to our faith and surrender, because it links us, in unalterable dependence, to God Himself. And, it gives us the unbroken enjoyment of the goodness of God: “The LORD is good unto them that wait for him.”
Let me stress once again that you must take time and trouble to cultivate this much needed element of the Christian life. We get too much secondhand religion from the teaching of men. That teaching has great value, even as the preaching of John the Baptist sent his disciples away from himself to the living Christ, if it leads us to God Himself. What our faith needs is—more of God.
SELF-ESTEEM VERSUS CHRIST-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.” Rom. 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.
WINNING THE BATTLE AGAINST DISCOURAGEMENT – John Piper
Henry Martyn was a young missionary to India and Arabia and Persia in the early 1800’s. He had left his fiance Lydia Grenfell behind in England in 1806 and would never see her again-he died at 31. On the boat he fought back self-pity and discouragement with the promises of God’s word. He arrived in Calcutta in May and two months later had a devastating experience. One of the veteran missionaries preached a sermon directed against Henry Martyn and his doctrines. He called his teaching inconsistent, extravagant, and absurd. He accused him of seeking only to “gratify self-sufficiency, pride and uncharitableness.” How could this lonely young man endure such a crushing experience and not only endure but during the next six years have the perseverance to translate the New Testament into Hindustani, Persian and Arabic? We can hear the answer in his own journal: In the multitude of my troubled thoughts I still saw that there is a strong consolation in the hope set before us. Let men do their worst, let me be torn to pieces, and my dear Lydia torn from me; or let me labour for fifty years amidst scorn, and never seeing one soul converted; still it shall not be worse for my soul in eternity, nor worse for it in time. Though the heathen rage and the English people imagine a vain thing, the Lord Jesus, who controls all events, is my friend, my master, my God, my all. Henry Martyn fought the battle against discouragement and hopelessness with the truths of God’s word: “Jesus is my friend, my master, my God, my all!” And that is the way we must fight every day, and never stop until the war is over and the Commander puts the wreath of victory on our heads. To instruct us and and encourage us in this battle lets look at Rom. 15:4. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by the steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.”
OP REIS MET GOD – Albert Theron
As ‘n dissipel of gemeente van Jesus te gemaklik raak hier op aarde en nie aanhou vorentoe beweeg om al die beloftes van God in besit te neem nie, stagneer ons baie vinnig en word onvrugbaar. Ons is ‘vreemdelinge en bywoners’ hier op aarde (Heb. 11:13); tentbewoners wat nie ons tentpenne te diep moet inslaan nie. Die geskiedenis van die Ou Testament leer ons dat God se plan vir Sy mense nog altyd was om die beloofde land in besit te neem en gedurig meer grond in Sy naam en vir Sy eer te eien. Hierdie “land” verteenwoordig ons geestelike rykdom in Christus. Ons weet wat met Israel gebeur het toe hulle gaan stilstaan het. Laat ons verder gaan en die Heilige Gees toelaat om ons na groter oorwinnings te lei. Lees Hebreërs 11 vir meer insig oor hierdie saak.
“Nie dat ek dit al verkry het of al volmaak is nie, maar ek jaag daarna of ek dit ook kan gryp, omdat ek ook deur Christus Jesus gegryp is.” Fil. 3:12
JESUS REVEALED IN AN AGE OF SPIRITUAL WEAKNESS – Austin Sparks
There must be this characteristic feature, that He is bringing His Son into pre-eminence in the hearts of His own where things are ceasing to satisfy. Teaching, movements, fellowships, all bearing the marks of disappointment. The Lord does not let them become the dominating thing in the life of His children – He will allow disaster to overtake things upon which our hearts have been set and which have become the object of our strength. He allows those things to break down, to disappoint us; allows other people to disappoint us, opens our eyes to see how disappointing everything is, until we wonder if there is anything at all that is really satisfactory, really according to God; whether there is anything that really does come up to the standard. The Lord is working very much in that way today, beloved. Disappointment with things, with people, with fellowships, with Christian movements, with Churches – everywhere there is weakness. It is an age of spiritual weakness.
How will the Lord meet such a time? By bringing His own Son, the Lord Jesus, into pre-eminence and prominence, and making HIM the object, that is how it was in the beginning; how it has always been in the days of power amongst the Lord’s people. The secret of power has been that the Lord has been the supreme and all-governing Object of His people’s life. Not the things of the Lord, but the Lord Himself.
MEEKNESS IS NOT WEAKNESS – A.W. Pink
Meekness enables the Christian to endure provocations without being inflamed by them: he remains cool when others get heated. ” Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of meekness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1). This means, not with a lordly and domineering attitude, not with a harsh and censorious temper, not with a love of finding fault and desire for inflicting the discipline of the church, but with gentleness, humility and patience. But meekness must not be confounded with weakness. True meekness is ever manifested by yieldedness to God’s will, yet it will not yield a principle of righteousness or compromise with evil. God-given meekness can also stand up for God-given rights: when God’s glory is impeached, we must have a zeal which is as hot as fire. Moses was “very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3), yet when he saw the Israelites dancing before the golden calf, in zeal for Jehovah’s honour, he broke the two tables of stone, and put to the sword those who had transgressed. Note how firmly and boldly the apostles stood their ground in Acts 16:35-37. Above all, remember how Christ Himself, in concern for His Father’s glory, made a whip of cords and drove the desecrators out of the temple. Meekness restrains from private revenge, but it in nowise conflicts with the requirements of fidelity to God, His cause, and His people.
JESUS SELF IS DIE WAARHEID! – Albert Theron
Die gemeente van die Here word in 1 Tim. 3:15 “‘n pilaar en grondslag van die waarheid” genoem. In ‘n wêreld van leuens, verwarring, verdraaide boodskappe, en ‘n massiewe verskeidenheid van uiteenlopende leringe is dit van kardinale belang dat ons styf vashou aan die suiwer waarheid van die evangelie. Die belangrikste van alles is dat ons moet verstaan dat Jesus self ‘die Waarheid’ is (Jn. 14:6). Daarom moet ons alles oor Sy Persoon, Sy verlossingswerk, en Sy koninkryk verslind en koester. Maar ons moet ook seker maak dat Hy alleen die middelpunt bly van ons gemeentelewe, en al ons leringe, besluite en aktiwiteite. Kinderlike gehoorsaamheid aan Hom bo alles, selfs al is dit onpopulêr, is die sentrale vereiste van ons Vader. Sodoende sal ons nie net in ons leer nie, maar ook in ons lewe, gesindhede en verhoudings die kosbare vrug van Sy Heerskappy sien.
MORE THAN CONQUERORS EVEN IN IMPOSSIBILITIES – Bob Hoekstra
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (Romans 8:35-37)
When considering the triumphant Christian life, we may wrongly think that victory depends upon getting out of impossible situations. Actually, we are already “more than conquerors” even while we are in the midst of the impossibilities.
For us to be ultimately defeated, we would have to be separated from Christ’s love for us. We would have to be cut off from the loving care of our victorious Lord. Can any foe or any situation accomplish that? “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” This question is answered in verses 38 and 39. “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
No spiritual foe can enforce such a separation between God and His redeemed children. Neither can any circumstance of impossibility separate us from our loving God. Verses 35 and 36 list some of the impossibilities that make us feel as though we are being defeated. “Shall tribulation, make us feel as though we are being defeated. “Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.'” When troubles and pressures arise, when we are attacked or are lacking resources, we may be tempted to think that victory is no longer available. When our experience is like a lamb being led to the slaughter, we may think that victory could never be ours. Nevertheless, the truth is that “in all these things we are more than conquerors.”
Yes, right in the middle of the impossibilities of life, we are already more than a spiritual victor. Actually, we have already been made participants in a mighty, eternal, abundant victory, the victory that Christ accomplished on the cross and in the resurrection. “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Our victorious position in any situation is not circumstantial. It is relational. We are united by faith to the victorious one, the Lord Jesus Christ! “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
Dear Father, I praise You for the constant provision of victory through Your triumphant Son. Lord, help me to view spiritual victory as a relational matter and not a circumstantial one. I thank You that through Christ I am already more than a conqueror right in the midst of my present impossibilities, Amen.
A MINISTRY TO THE HEART – Austin Sparks
God… was pleased to reveal His Son in me. (Galatians 1:15,16 NIV)
Spiritual discernment, perception, understanding and intelligence are all too rare. The causes are many. The engrossment with the work and its multifarious concerns; the rush and hurry of life; the restless spirit of the age; these, with an exhaustive provision of external religious facilities, all tend to render the inner place of Divine speaking inoperative or impossible of functioning. Perhaps we have forgotten that the Bible is not only a revelation, but also contains a revelation, and that that deeper spiritual content is only possible of recognition and realization by such as have had their eyes and ears opened; in other words – who have been awakened. Some of the Lord’s most faithful servants are still only occupied with the letter of the Word, the contents of books, topics, themes, subjects, outlines, analyses, etc., and in the deepest sense are not in “revelation.” (This is not meant as a criticism). The difference too often is that of a ministry to the mind or head, and not one to the heart or spirit. The former will sooner or later tire and weary both the minister and those ministered to. The latter is a ministry of Life to both, and is inexhaustible in freshness.
Whether it comes at the beginning or later, it is the greatest day in our history of which we can say: “It pleased God to reveal His Son in me.” “I received it, not from men but by revelation.” That is the beginning of an inwardness of things which may have many crisis issues. One of these is the one of which we are particularly thinking now, namely, the awakening to see what is the thought and desire of God at given and specific times. Such a revelation – through the Scriptures – is nothing less than revolutionary, though usually costly.
ENGELE WIL GRAAG WEET, MENSE TOON MIN BELANGSTELLING – Albert Theron
“Maar julle oë is gelukkig, omdat hulle sien; en julle ore, omdat hulle hoor. Want, voorwaar Ek sê vir julle, baie profete en regverdiges het begeer om te sien wat julle sien, en het dit nie gesien nie, en om te hoor wat julle hoor, en het dit nie gehoor nie.“ Matt. 13:16-17
“Aan hulle is geopenbaar dat hulle nie vir hulleself nie, maar vir ons dié dinge bedien het wat julle nou aangekondig is deur dié wat die evangelie aan julle verkondig het in die Heilige Gees wat van die hemel gestuur is—dinge waarin die engele begerig is om in te sien.” 1 Pet. 1:12
Ons het die onuitspreeklike voorreg om in die ‘aangename jaar van die Here’ (Luk. 4:19) te leef. Vanuit God se perspektief is ons in die era wat die ‘volheid van die tyd’ (Gal. 4:4) genoem word. God het sy Seun uit die hemel gestuur om ons oë oop te maak. Die Vader het finaal en volledig gespreek deur sy Seun (Heb. 1:1). Ons het die Bybel in ons eie taal. Ons kan vryelik lees en delf in die Woord en ons het ‘n inwonende Leraar wat begeer om die dieptes van God vir ons te openbaar. “Maar soos geskrywe is: Wat die oog nie gesien en die oor nie gehoor en in die hart van ‘n mens nie opgekom het nie, wat God berei het vir die wat Hom liefhet. Maar God het dit aan ons deur sy Gees geopenbaar, want die Gees ondersoek alle dinge, ook die dieptes van God.” (1 Kor. 2:9-10). Wedergebore mense het ‘n verstommende geeskapasiteit om die dinge van God te verstaan en om onbeperk te groei in begrip en insig m.b.t. die koninkryk van God. Hoekom is dit dan dat gelowiges vandag so traak-my-nie-agtig is oor dit wat in die hart van God leef oor Sy koninkryk en ons deel daaraan? Hoekom maak mense stellings soos: “nog ‘n preek, lering of Bybelstudie, ai ek het al duisende gehoor en gedoen!” Hoekom stel baie gelowiges dikwels min belang in enige lering wat nie hulle “eie lewe” prakties raak en dan sogenaamde “praktiese hulp” vir hulle kan bied nie? (Let wel die Bybel gee wel baie praktiese lering oor die toepassing van ons rykdom in Christus en praktiese voorbeelde help ons dikwels om beter te verstaan. Daar is dus geldige vrae oor die praktyk. Dis nie waarna ek hier verwys nie.). Is dit omdat ons so baie dinge het wat ons vermaak en ons aandag aflei dat ons nie ‘n honger het vir geestelike insig nie? Is dit omdat daar dalk baie “gelowiges” is vandag wat nie werklik wederbaar is nie, en daarom nie ‘n aptyt vir die dinge aangaande die Koning en Sy koninkryk het nie? Is dit omdat ons geestelike peil so geweldig laag is vandag? Miskien soek ons net wonderlike geestelike “ervarings” of dink ons dat lering en dieper insig grotendeels ‘n mors van tyd is en dat ons liewer moet uitgaan en ‘n verlore wêreld gaan bedien? Is dit dalk omdat ons met baie van ons onskriftuurlike kerktradisies die Bybel die domein gemaak het van predikers, teoloë en die sogenaamde “slimkoppe” onder ons? Is dit omdat ons te trots of bang is om te sê ‘ek weet nie, leer my asseblief’? Of dalk te lui en “unteachable” om te leer en nou vaar ons maar uit teen ander wat delf in die Woord, want dis makliker as om te erken ons wil nie die moeite doen om self die Woord te begin ondersoek nie? Dalk het ons ‘n heel verkeerde idee oor die doel van Bybelse kennis en insig en sien ons dit as ‘n middel tot die wen van debatte teen gelowiges wat anders dink as ons? Of is dit omdat ons nie verstaan dat Bybelse kennis nie in die eerste plek ‘n kopkennis is nie, maar ‘n verhoudingskennis wat die Heilige Gees deur openbaring skenk aan die wat ‘n honger het vir die dieptes van God? Die saak onder bespreking is nie een of ander teoretiese “pie in the sky” nie, maar is krities belangrik vir die mense van God. Wat sou die rede(s) wees vir die huidige stand van sake? Wat dink julle?
THE NECESSITY OF PRAYER – C.H. Spurgeon
“Continue in prayer.” Col. 4:2
It is interesting to remark how large a portion of Sacred Writ is occupied with the subject of prayer, either in furnishing examples, enforcing precepts, or pronouncing promises. We scarcely open the Bible before we read, “Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord;” and just as we are about to close the volume, the “Amen” of an earnest supplication meets our ear. Instances are plentiful. Here we find a wrestling Jacob—there a Daniel who prayed three times a day—and a David who with all his heart called upon his God. On the mountain we see Elijah; in the dungeon Paul and Silas. We have multitudes of commands, and myriads of promises. What does this teach us, but the sacred importance and necessity of prayer? We may be certain that whatever God has made prominent in his Word, he intended to be conspicuous in our lives. If he has said much about prayer, it is because he knows we have much need of it. So deep are our necessities, that until we are in heaven we must not cease to pray. Do you need nothing? Then, I fear you do not know your poverty. Have you no mercy to ask of God? Then, may the Lord’s mercy show you your misery! A prayerless soul is a Christless soul. Prayer is the lisping of the believing infant, the shout of the fighting believer, the requiem of the dying saint falling asleep in Jesus. It is the breath, the watchword, the comfort, the strength, the honour of a Christian. If you are a child of God, you will seek your Father’s face, and live in your Father’s love.
‘N OMGEDOPTE GENADEBOODSKAP – Albert Theron
Daar is ‘n boodskap oor genade en geregtigheid wat vandag verkondig word, wat net mooi die teenoorgestelde is van Bybelse genade. Hierdie boodskap leer dat God deur die evangelie mense in hulleself sterk maak om te kan heers, oorwin, en wen in hierdie lewe. Dit leer dat ons as’t ware onafhanklike bemagtigdes in Christus is en dat ons vanuit hierdie identiteit en posisie beheer kan neem oor negatiewe omstandighede. Dit leer dat ons hierdie ‘vryheid’ ontvang het om nou met outoriteit situasies en omstandighede aan te spreek en kan beveel om te buig voor ons woorde en uitsprake. Dit is net naby genoeg aan die waarheid om menigtes baie subtiel te mislei. Bybelse genade is egter altyd iets wat uitgestort word vir die wat in totale swakheid en afhanklikheid in Christus voor God staan en in geloof alles ontvang wat Hy in sy Seun goedgunstiglik vir ons skenk. Die deurbrake wat God gee in omstandighede is altyd “uit Hom, deur Hom, en tot Hom” (Rom. 11:36) en dit word gegee aan gebrokenes wat uit swakheid krag ontvang. Dit is ook nie ‘n verskoning vir mislukking en mismoedigheid nie, maar juis die sleutel tot ware oorwinning. Dit is in lewe, woord, daad, en werklikheid “nie ek nie, maar Christus” (Gal. 2:20). Pasop vir “nagemaakte genade”! Dit is ‘n baie algemene produk op die godsdiensmark vandag en dit word ‘verkoop’ teen afslagpryse. Ware genade is verniet, maar dit kan net ontvang word deur mense wat niks in hulle hande het nie en as leë houers vanuit volheid in Christus leef. Laat ons ook diegene wat afgedwaal het met liefde, dog met erns, teruglei na die paaie van ware genade. Daar is baie wat met alle opregtheid onder die invloed van hierdie verdraaide boodskap beland het, maar wat met liefde en gebed dringend gehelp moet word om weer “gesond in die geloof” te wees.
THE WORLD AND ITS WORKS – Philip Mauro
The assertion that the works of the world are all evil is one that is hard for many of God’s children to receive. They have been so used from their very infancy to hearing the praises of the age and its marvelous progress chorused on every side, that they do not readily receive the clear witness of the Word of God on this weighty subject. Then, moreover, the devil is so exceedingly clever, and has elaborated in his world system so many works and enterprises that seem to be good and praiseworthy, that we poor silly sheep would be led astray did we not hear the voice of the Shepherd, who is “the faithful and true witness,” declaring of the world: “but Me it hates, because I testify of it, that its works are evil!” What, all its works? Yes, all of them. Our Lord makes no exception, and we dare make none. And how could it be otherwise? How could the unregenerate man do any but evil works? It is impossible. Indeed, his best works are his very worst. Take, for example, the world’s moral agencies, such as its temperance movements. Suppose a poor drunkard is induced, by signing a pledge or otherwise, to “reform” and “quit his bad habits,” instead of being led to Christ to receive from Him a new nature and eternal life. That man has been taught that something has been done for him without Christ, and the work of the temperance society may be the means of carrying that soul to hell. Any scheme which offers improvement or help apart from a change of nature is directly opposed to the work of the Holy Spirit, and is in the interest of the spirit of the world. And yet the children of God are drawn into these things and help them along.
SPIRITUAL FATALISM – John Piper
A great threat to salvation and to our growth toward salvation (verse 2 – 1Pet. 2:2) is what I would call spiritual fatalism-the belief or feeling that you are stuck with the way you are-“this is all I will ever experience of God-the level of spiritual intensity that I now have is all I can have; others may have strong desires after God and may have deep experiences of personal pleasure in God, but I will never have those because . . . well, just because . . . I am not like that. That’s not me.”
This spiritual fatalism is a feeling that genetic forces and family forces and the forces of my past experiences and present circumstances are just too strong to allow me to ever change and become more zealous for God (Tit. 2:14), or more fervent (Rom. 12:12), or more delighted in God (Psa. 37:4), or more hungry for fellowship with Christ (Joh. 6:35), or more at home with spiritual things (Rom. 8:5), more bold (2 Tim. 1:7), or more constant or joyful (Rom. 12:12) or hopeful (1 Pet. 1:13).
Spiritual fatalism is tragic in the church. It leaves people stuck. It takes away hopes and dreams of change and growth. It squashes the excitement of living-which is growth. It’s like saying to a gawky little girl who feels like her body is all out of proportion: well that’s the way you are, and you will always be that way, when in fact she is meant to grow and change. That would be tragic to convince her of a kind of physical fatalism-that her growth is stopped right there at 13. So it is with the spirit. Only spiritual fatalism is much worse. Because greater things are at stake, and because we never do get to a point where we’ve arrived at the final stature like we do in our physical bodies.
So thousands of people live year after year without much passion for God or zeal for his name or joy in his presence or hope in his promises or constancy in his fellowship and feel-well, that’s just the way I am. And they just settle in-like an adolescent who stops growing and lives with pimples till he’s eighty.
COMMUNION RESTORED – George Cutting
Your safety hangs upon Christ’s work FOR you. Your assurance upon God’s Word TO you. Your enjoyment upon not grieving the Holy Spirit IN you. When as a child of God, you do anything to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, your communion with the Father and the Son is for the time practically suspended; and it is only when you judge yourself and confess your sins, that the joy of communion is restored.
Your child has been guilty of some misdemeanour. He shows upon his countenance the evident mark that something is wrong with him. Half an hour before this he was enjoying a walk with you around the garden, admiring what you admired, enjoying what you enjoyed. In other words, he was in communion with you, his feelings and sympathies were in common with yours. But now all this is changed, and as a naughty, disobedient child he stands in the corner, the very picture of misery. Upon penitent confession of his wrong-doing you have assured him of forgiveness, but his pride and self will keep him sobbing there. Where is now the joy of half an hour ago? All gone. Why? Because communion between you and him has been interrupted. What has become of the relationship that existed between you and your son half an hour ago? Is that gone too? Is that severed or interrupted? Surely not. His relationship depends upon his birth; his communion depends upon his behaviour. But presently he comes out of the corner with broken will and broken heart confessing the whole thing from first to last, so that you see he hates the disobedience and naughtiness as much as you do, and you take him in your arms and cover him with kisses. His joy is restored because communion is restored. When David sinned so grievously in the matter of Uriah’s wife, he did not say, “Restore unto me Thy salvation,” but “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation” (Psalm 51:12).
KRAG IN SWAKHEID EN GEBROKENHEID – Albert Theron
Ons probleem as dissipels van Jesus is nooit dat ons te swak is nie, maar dat ons te sterk is in onsself. Daarom kry ons die opdrag in Efes. 6:10 “word kragtig IN DIE HERE en in die krag van SY Sterkte”. Pasop vir boodskappe wat subtiel die idee skep dat God dissipels as’t ware meer en meer self-vertroue wil gee sodat hulle kan oorwin en wenners kan wees in hierdie lewe. Ons sien ‘n heel ander prentjie in die Bybel. Ons hemelse Vader se skool van genade werk andersom. Hy wil ons al hoe meer vry maak van enige vertroue in onsself sodat ons toenemend kan leef uit die algenoegsaamheid van Jesus Christus ons Here.
“En Hy het vir my gesê: My genade is vir jou genoeg, want my krag word in swakheid volbring. Baie liewer sal ek dus in my swakhede roem, sodat die krag van Christus in my kan woon.” 2 Kor. 12:9. Lees gerus die hele gedeelte in 2 Kor. 12:1-10.
EXCHANGING WEAKNESS FOR STRENGTH – A.W. Tozer
I suppose it is not improper to say that God makes His people strong, but we must understand this to mean that they become strong in exact proportion to their weakness, the weakness being their own and the strength God’s. “When I am weak, then am I strong,” is the way Paul said it, and in so saying set a pattern for every Christian.
Actually the purest saint at the moment of his greatest strength is as weak as he was before his conversion. What has happened is that he has switched from his little human battery to the infinite power of God. He has quite literally exchanged weakness for strength, but the strength is not his; it flows into him from God as long as he abides in Christ.
One of the heaviest problems in the Christian life is that of sanctification: how to become as pure as we know we ought to be and must be if we are to enjoy intimate communion with a holy God. The classic expression of this problem and its solution is found in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, chapters seven and eight. The cry, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” receives the triumphant answer, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”
No one who has given attention to the facts will deny that it is altogether possible for a man to attain to a high degree of external morality if he sets his heart to it. Marcus Aurelius, the pagan emperor, for instance, lived a life of such exalted morality as to make most of us Christians ashamed, as did also the lowly slave Epictetus; but holiness was something of which they were totally ignorant. And it is holiness that the Christian heart yearns far above all else, and holiness the human heart can never capture by itself.
THE PROCESS THAT MAGNIFIES THE TREASURE – Bob Hoekstra
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:7-9)
New covenant servants (followers of Jesus Christ) are “earthen vessels” (ordinary clay pots). Yet, in the container of their redeemed humanity dwells “this treasure” (the Son of God Himself). This arrangement calls for the treasure (Jesus), not the vessels (you and me), to be the object of all trust and the recipient of all glory: “that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” Appropriately, the Lord has also arranged a process that magnifies the treasure.
This process involves the every day pressures of life, which come from all sides. “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed.” Clay pots cannot withstand much pressure, but the treasure within us (Christ) is able to keep us from being smashed. “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1)
The process that draws attention to the treasure also involves many perplexities. “We are perplexed, but not in despair.” We face difficult decisions and impossible issues, but our Wonderful Counselor protects us from hopelessness: “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).
Persecutions are included in the process: “persecuted, but not forsaken.” People accuse us, misunderstand us, or lie about us. Still, we know we are not abandoned by our Lord who lives within us. “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you'” (Hebrews 13:5).
Even catastrophes are a part of the process that magnifies the treasure who indwells us: “struck down, but not destroyed.” Circumstantial upheavals and overwhelming heartaches occur, but the Lord stabilizes our souls. “They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my support” (Psalm 18:18).
Thus, life comes at us like an overpowering military tank, ready to flatten us. There is no natural hope, because clay pots can’t handle tanks. Yet, as the dust clears, the flower pot of our lives can remain intact (if we are trusting in the able and faithful one who lives in our hearts). There is no attacking tank that can overcome the Lord Jesus Christ. “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
Lord Jesus, You are my indwelling treasure. When pressures, perplexities, persecutions, or catastrophes come my way, teach me to trust in You. When others ask how I am sustained through these difficulties, remind me to give all glory and honor to You. In Your name I pray, Amen.
THE SPIRIT ENABLES US TO PRODUCE FRUIT – Warren Wiersbe
It is one thing to overcome the flesh and not do evil things, but quite something else to do good things. The legalist might be able to boast that he is not guilty of adultery or murder (but see Matt. 5:21–32), but can anyone see the beautiful graces of the Spirit in his life? Negative goodness is not enough in a life; there must be positive qualities as well. The contrast between works and fruit is important. A machine in a factory works, and turns out a product, but it could never manufacture fruit. Fruit must grow out of life, and, in the case of the believer, it is the life of the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). When you think of “works” you think of effort, labor, strain, and toil; when you think of “fruit” you think of beauty, quietness, the unfolding of life. The flesh produces “dead works” (Heb. 9:14), but the Spirit produces living fruit. And this fruit has in it the seed for still more fruit (Gen. 1:11). Love begets more love! Joy helps to produce more joy! Jesus is concerned that we produce “fruit… more fruit… much fruit” (John 15:2, 5), because this is the way we glorify Him. The old nature cannot produce fruit; only the new nature can do that. The New Testament speaks of several different kinds of “fruit”: people won to Christ (Rom. 1:13), holy living (Rom. 6:22), gifts brought to God (Rom. 15:26–28), good works (Col. 1:10), and praise (Heb. 13:15). The “fruit of the Spirit” listed in our passage has to do with character (Gal. 5:22–23). It is important that we distinguish the gift of the Spirit, which is salvation (Acts 2:38; 11:17), and the gifts of the Spirit, which have to do with service (1 Cor. 12), from the graces of the Spirit, which relate to Christian character. It is unfortunate that an overemphasis on gifts has led some Christians to neglect the graces of the Spirit. Building Christian character must take precedence over displaying special abilities.
A REAL CHRIST – C.H. Spurgeon
Brothers and Sisters, there often is a great deficiency in our love to Jesus. We do not realize the Person of Christ. We think about Christ and then we love the conception that we have formed of Him. But O, how few Christians view their Lord as being as real a Person as we are ourselves— very Man—a Man that could suffer, a Man that could die, substantial flesh and blood—very God as real as if He were not invisible and as truly existent as though we could compass Him in our minds. We want to have a real Christ more fully preached and more fully loved by the Church. We fail in our love because Christ is not real to us as He was to the early Church.
The early Church did not preach much doctrine. They preached Christ. They had little to say of truths about Christ. It was Christ Himself—His hands, His feet, His side, His eyes, His head, His crown of thorns, the sponge, the vinegar, the nails. O for the Christ of Mary Magdalene—rather than the Christ of the critical theologian! Give me the wounded body of Divinity, rather than the soundest system of theology. Let me show you what I mean.
Suppose an infant is taken away from its mother and you should seek to foster in it a love to the parent by constantly picturing before it the idea of a mother—and attempting to give it the thought of a mother’s relation to the child. Indeed, my Friends, I think you would have a difficult task to fix in that child the true and real love which it ought to bear towards her who bore it. But give that child a mother. Let it hang upon that mother’s real breast, let it derive its nourishment from her very heart—let it see that mother, feel that mother, put its little arms about that mother’s real neck and you have no hard task to make it love its mother.
So is it with the Christian. We want Christ—not an abstract, doctrinal, pictured Christ—but a real Christ. I may preach to you many a year and try to infuse into your souls a love of Christ. But until you can feel that He is a real Man and a real Person, really present with you and that you may speak to Him, talk to Him, and tell Him of your wants, you will not readily attain to a love like that of the text, so that you can call Him, “You whom my soul loves.” I want you to feel, Christian, that your love to Christ is not a mere pious affection, but that as you love your wife, as you love your child, as you love your parent, so you love Christ. That though your love to Him is of a finer cast and a higher mold, yet it is just as real as the more earthly passion.