PERFECTION OR DIRECTION? – Albert Theron
1 CORINTHIANS 3:11-13 “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.”
Have you ever heard the phrase ‘if you find the perfect church don’t join it because you will spoil it’. This is a popular phrase in Christianity, but is it true? Is it reflective of the attitude that God wants us to have towards His church? Let us consider the facts.
In the first place we need to know that from God’s point of view the church is perfect. Not the visible church, but the Body of Christ. God does not live in time, but in eternity. He sees the end from the beginning. Ephesians 5:27 says that Christ is going to ‘present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish’. That is God’s goal with the church and He will accomplish it because He is God and no man can stop Him.
From our point of view we do not always see this perfection. Sometimes we see anything but perfection. The right attitude towards the human side of the church is not however to make peace with this humanness and therefore to invent phrases to excuse this condition. The New Testament attitude is to keep on dreaming with God and to constantly adjust that which is not in line with God’s dream for the church. In this endeavour we have a powerful ally in the Holy Spirit, for He is the active agent in the Trinity who is moving everything towards perfection. You only need to read the letters that Paul wrote to Timothy, Titus and the Ephesians to realize that God is continually moulding His church and working by His Spirit towards perfection and therefore we have to submit to His program if we want to be pleasing to Him. The question is not whether we are a perfect church on earth, but whether we are moving towards the perfection that already exists in Christ. Hence it is not merely a matter of perfection, but of direction towards perfection.
Therefore the uncritical acceptance of the above-mentioned phrase must be seen as opening the door widely for allowing doubtful things into the church and at the same time closing the door firmly for the Holy Spirit to bring reform. It is a recipe for stagnation. It is also a very convenient excuse for human failures. There is some truth to it, but it is definitely not the New Testament pattern for judging the condition of the church. Yes, we do not have a perfect church in human terms, but we should never stop striving for it. Moreover, we should always be ready to adjust the direction in which we are moving to line up with the biblical pattern for the church. Let us be careful with the statements that we make about God’s church.
Quote of the Day: “Never cease to strive for perfection when it comes to the church of the living God. He gave His Son so that we may share His own desire for a dwelling place pleasing to Him (Eph. 1:19-22).”
LIVING BY THE ABUNDANT MERCY OF GOD – A.W. Tozer
Any idea people may have that God works according to one facet of His nature one day and according to another facet the next day is all wrong. I repeat again—God never violates any facet of His nature in dealing with men.
When God sent Judas Iscariot to hell He did not violate mercy and when God forgave Peter it was not in violation of justice. Everything that God does is with the full protection of all of His infinite attributes. That is why a sinner may live to be 100 years old and sin against God every moment of his life and still be a partaker of the mercy of God. He still floats on that sea of mercy and it is because of the mercy of God that he is not consumed.
However, brethren, we know there will be a day when the sinner will pass from this realm where God’s mercy supports him. He will hear a voice saying, “Depart from me, you that work iniquity, for I never knew you!” Hell will be the justly-apportioned abode of those who refuse redeeming mercy even though there has been a providential mercy at work on their behalf throughout their lives.
We Christians should realize, also, that we do not come through the door of mercy and then expect to live apart from that door. We are in the very room of mercy and the sanctuary is a sanctuary of mercy. We must not become self-righteous and imagine we are living such wonderful lives that God blesses us because we are good. That is not so!
God blesses us because of His abundant mercy, the mercy which He has bestowed upon us, and not because of any of our goodness. I do not believe that heaven itself will ever permit us to forget that we are recipients of the goodness of God and for that reason I do not believe that you and I will ever be permitted to forget Calvary.
Another thing in this regard is that although God wants His people to be holy as He is holy, He does not deal with us according to the degree of our holiness but according to the abundance of His mercy. Honesty requires us to admit this.
We do believe in justice and we do believe in judgment. We believe the only reason mercy triumphs over judgment is that God, by a divine, omniscient act of redemption, fixed it so man could escape justice and live in the sea of mercy. The justified man, the man who believes in Jesus Christ, born anew and now a redeemed child of God, lives in that mercy always.
The unjust man, however—the unrepentant sinner—lives in it now in a lesser degree, but the time will come when he will face the judgment of God. Though he had been kept by the mercy of God from death, from insanity, from disease, he can violate that mercy, turn his back on it and walk into judgment. Then it is too late!
THE END OF MAN-MADE CHRISTIANITY – Austin Sparks
“When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested. . . ” Col. 3:4
One of the main objects of the Holy Spirit is to get believers really identified with Christ as the risen and exalted Lord, and to make His risen life real in their experience. As the age moves toward its consummation–the manifestation of Christ–two features will become increasingly evident. On the one had things, men, movements, institutions, organizations, etc., will predominate and draw multitudes after them, and will attach the crowds to themselves. On the other hand, with a growing disappointment and disillusionment over these, a minority will turn to the Lord Himself to find Him alone as their life. Three elements will inhere in all this. One is the unmistakable development of the principle of Antichrist; that which will definitely supplant Christ, or intend to do so. The second is the alternative to the whole Christ in man-made Christianity, an imitation life born and carried on by its own momentum. The third, a deep and genuine quest for reality, truth, and inward knowledge of the Lord Himself. In the first case it will be naked worship of man in human power: a tremendous overflow of humanism, the wonder and glory of man. The third will be Christ altogether as the life. If the Christian is attached to some thing, such as a teaching, a tradition, an institution, a movement, or person, the end will certainly be a limitation of life and eventually confusion and disappointment, perhaps worse. The New Testament makes it unmistakably clear and emphatic that the destiny of all is to be “Christ all and in all.” We must learn that a true work of the Spirit of God is to attach everything to Christ Himself. He, Christ, must be the life of our spirit, the “inner man,” so that we are strong in the Lord: not in ourselves, nor in others, nor in things. We shall have to survive adversity by His strength within alone. Christ will have to be the life of our mind. Perplexity will find us without the power to explain and understand, but the Spirit will teach and lead. Christ will need to be life for our bodies. There is such a thing as Divine life for the physical body. Not always does the Lord choose to heal the body, but He does always want to be its life, even in suffering, to fulfill His purpose. It is the Lord Himself, and for this to be so, it often has to be against a background of natural inability. The power of His resurrection is the law of union with Christ from beginning to end. Days of terrific pressure are upon the Lord’s people. Their enemy is taking very little off-time. The only sufficiency is in the Lord Himself as our life.
Barnabas exhorted the believers at the beginning that “with purpose of heart they should cleave unto the Lord.” (Act. 11:23). There is an utterness about this that will be pressed upon us until the time “when Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested.”
THY WILL BE DONE – Andrew Murray
“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39
The death of Christ on the cross is the highest and the holiest that can be known of Him even in the glory of heaven. And the highest and the holiest that the Holy Spirit can work in us is to take us up and to keep us in the fellowship of the cross of Christ. We need to enter deeply into the truth that Christ the beloved Son of the Father could not return to the glory of heaven until He had first given Himself over unto death. As this great truth opens up to us it will help us to understand how in our life, and in our fellowship with Christ, it is impossible for us to share His life until we have first in very deed surrendered ourselves every day to die to sin and the world, and so to abide in the unbroken fellowship with our crucified Lord.
And it is from Christ alone that we can learn what it means to have fellowship with His sufferings, and to be made conformable unto His death. When in the agony of Gethsemane He looked forward to what a death on the cross would be, He got such a vision of what it meant to die the accursed death under the power of sin — with God’s countenance so turned from Him that not a single ray of its light could penetrate the darkness — that He prayed the cup might pass from Him. But when no answer came, and He understood that the Father could not allow the cup to pass by, He yielded up His whole will and life in the word: “Thy will be done.” O Christian, in this word of your Lord in His agony, you can enter into fellowship with Him, and in His strength your heart will be made strong to believe most confidently that God in His omnipotence will enable you in very deed with Christ to yield up everything, because you have in very deed been crucified with Him.
“Thy will be done” — let this be the deepest and the highest word in your life. In the power of Christ with whom you have been crucified, and in the power of His Spirit, the definite daily surrender to the ever-blessed will of God will become the joy and the strength of your life.
GOD’S PURPOSE TO GLORIFY JESUS – John Piper
Finally, God’s purpose in our weaknesses is to glorify the grace and power of his Son. This is the main point of [2 Corinthians 12] verses 9–10. Jesus says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God’s design is to make you a showcase for Jesus’ power. But not necessarily the way the market demands: not by getting rid of all our weaknesses; but by giving strength to endure and even rejoice in tribulation.
Let God be God here. If he wills to show the perfection of his Son’s power in our weakness instead of by our escape from weakness, then he knows best; trust him. Hebrews 11 is a good guide here. It says that by faith some escaped the edge of the sword (v. 34) and by faith some were killed by the sword (v. 37). By faith some stopped the mouths of lions, and by faith others were sawn asunder. By faith some were mighty in war, and by faith others suffered chains and imprisonment (see also Philippians 4:11-13). The ultimate purpose of God in our weakness is to glorify the kind of power that moved Christ to the cross and kept him there until the work of love was done. Paul said that Christ crucified was foolishness to the Greeks, a stumbling block to the Jews, but to those who are called it is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:23f). The deepest need that you and I have in weakness and adversity is not quick relief, but the well-grounded confidence that what is happening to us is part of the greatest purpose of God in the universe—the glorification of the grace and power of his Son—the grace and power that bore him to the cross and kept him there until the work of love was done. That’s what God is building into our lives. That is the meaning of weakness, insults, hardships, persecution, calamity.
LIBERTY IS ALWAYS WORTH FIGHTING FOR – Charles Swindoll
I find it amazing that we as a nation will fight other nations for our national liberty, and that we as a people will if necessary, fight one another for the freedom of those within our borders, but when it comes to the living out of our Christianity, we will give up our liberty without a fight. We’ll go to the wall and square off against any enemy who threatens to take away our national freedom, but we’ll not be nearly so passionate as Christians under grace to fight for our rightful liberty. Let enough legalists come aboard and we will virtually give them command of the ship. Peace at any price leads to slavery.
If Patrick Henry had the courage to say “Give me liberty or give me death,” then the Christian ought to have the courage to say, “Give me freedom because of Christ.” Bondage is bondage, whether it is political or spiritual. Give me the liberty that He won at Calvary or I am still enslaved. To live in slavery is to nullify the grace of God.
Grace brings a freedom to enjoy the rights and privileges of being out from under slavery and allowing others such freedom. Its freedom to experience and enjoy a new kind of power that only Christ could bring. It is a freedom to become all that He meant me to be, regardless of how He leads others. That freedom is then released to others so they can be who they are meant to be different from me! God isn’t stamping out little cookie-cutter Christians across the world so that we all think alike and look alike and sound alike and act alike. God is pleased with variety.
Freedom to be who we are is nothing short of magnificent. It is freedom to make choices, freedom to know His will, freedom to walk in it, freedom to obey His leading me in my life and you in your life.
It is a liberty you will have to fight for. Why? Because the ranks of Christianity are full of those who compare and would love to control and manipulate you so you will become as miserable as they are.
“Misery loves company” is the legalists’ unspoken motto.
The one place on earth where we would most expect to be set free is, in fact, the very place we are most likely to be placed into slavery: the church. Surely, that must grieve our God.
THE FREEDOM OF GRACE – Charles Swindoll
Won’t some people take it to an extreme? Doesn’t a minister run the risk that some in his flock may take unfair liberties if he presents the message of grace. Couldn’t an awakening of grace lead to an abusing of grace?
Martyn Lloyd-Jones states that preaching grace is not only risky, but the fact that some take it to an unwise extreme is proof that a minister is indeed preaching the true grace of God. Some people will take advantage of it. They will misrepresent it. They will go to such an extreme that they will promote the erroneous idea that you can go on sinning as much as you like. If you claim to be a messenger of grace, if you think you are really preaching grace, yet no one is taking advantage of it, maybe you haven’t preached it hard enough or strong enough. I can assure you of this: Grace killing ministers will never have that charge brought against them. They make sure of that! This issue of grace is indeed controversial. It brings grace abusers as well as grace killers out from under the rocks!
All who embrace grace become “free indeed.” Free from what? Free from oneself. Free from guilt and shame. Free from the tyranny of others’ opinions, expectations, and demands. Free to obey. Free to love. Free to forgive others as well as myself. Free to allow others to be who they are different from me! Free to live beyond the limitations of human effort. Free to serve and glorify Christ.
Because of grace we have been freed from sin, from its slavery, its bondage in our attitude, in our urges, and in our actions. But having been freed and now living by grace, we can actually go too far, set aside all self-control, and take our liberty to such an extreme that we again serve sin. But that isn’t liberty at all, that’s license. And knowing of that possibility, many opt for legalism lest they be tempted to live irresponsibly. Bad choice!
Freedom is frightening. There are people who want to be told what to do and when and how to believe and why. And the result is tragic perpetual adolescence.
You can’t be afraid of the heights if you’re going to walk on the tightrope of grace. But at the same time you have to watch out for the strong gusts of wind that will occasionally blow like mad.
THE WAY OF DELIVERANCE – Austin Sparks
So wrote Dr. Trumbull in relating the secret of the great change in his life and work: “I realised for the first time that the many references in the New Testament to ‘Christ in you,’ ‘Christ our Life,’ ‘Abiding in Christ,’ are literal, actual, blessed facts, and not figures of speech. I had always known that Christ was my Saviour; but I had looked upon Him as an external Saviour, one who did a saving work for me from the outside, helping me in all that I needed, giving me power and strength and salvation. But now I know something better than that. At last I realised that Jesus Christ was actually and literally within me; that He had constituted Himself my whole life.”
We may also quote from the experience of soul-anguish through which Mr. Hudson Taylor passed even after many years of Christian life and service, and of how deliverance came to him.
“As I thought of the Vine and the branches, what light the blessed Spirit poured direct into my soul! How great seemed my mistake in having wished to get the sap, the fulness out of Him! I saw not only that Jesus would never leave me, but that I was a member of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. The Vine now I see is not the root merely, but all – root, stem, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit; and Jesus is not only that: He is soil and sunshine, air and showers, and ten thousand times more than we have ever dreamed, wished for, or needed. Oh, the joy of seeing this truth!”
A careful consideration of this matter will make clear some fundamental differences, and some important discriminations will be necessary. The whole centre of gravity is changed. Instead of Christ being objective, He is subjective. He is the inward dynamic and life, and not an outward pattern or example to be copied or imitated. The Christian life is not a theory or a creed, not a ritual or a morality; it is experimental, the spontaneous manifestation of a divine nature.
It is not the Church, not even the Book, but it is the living Christ: Christ within, God within,Heaven within. We can only understand the teaching of the New Testament as we have this conception. If the mind of Christ is in us, and the mind is the seat of unity, wisdom, understanding, control, direction; then a higher type and standard of life is both possible and inevitable than that which is the mere outcome of blindly and weakly struggling to discover and imitate an outward example.
OUR CALVARY CIRCUMCISION – Miles Stanford
The believer’s circumcision was not a fleshly ritual, but rather a spiritual reality. Not a part of the flesh was cut away, but all—and that not with hands, but by the Spirit through the Cross.
Our crucifixion with the Lord Jesus on the Cross was our circumcision from fleshly Adam—”putting off the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Col. 2:11). His death unto sin cut the Lord Jesus free from both the penalty and the power of sin. “For in that He died, He died unto sin once; but in that He lives, He lives unto God. Likewise, reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God in Jesus Christ, our Lord” (Rom. 6:10, 11).
On the basis of his Calvary circumcision, the believer is to exercise his faith in that fact, and thereby “put off concerning the former manner of life the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Eph. 4:22). Positionally cut off from the old man, he no longer has to depend upon or walk in the flesh—he is free to abide above in the Lord Jesus Christ, to walk in dependence upon Him, in the Spirit. That abiding above by faith consists of putting on “the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24).
“Putting off,” turning from the fleshly first Adam, and thereby “putting on,” turning to the spiritual Last Adam, the believer learns to abide in and fellowship with the Lord Jesus for both his growth and his service. “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). Hence he can say from his heart, “We are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3).
Dr. Chafer wrote, “Any aspect of life or conduct which is undertaken in dependence on the energy and ability of the flesh is, to that extent, purely legal in character, whether it be the whole revealed will of God, the actual written commandments contained in the Law, the exhortations of grace, or any activity whatsoever in which the believer may engage.
“Dependence on the arm of flesh, is consistent with pure law; dependence on the power of God is necessary under pure grace. Since there is no provision for the flesh in the plan of God for a life under grace, the Law is done away.”
ARE WE BUILDING ON THE ONE TRUE FOUNDATION? – DeVern Fromke
Paul would insist that once we have been truly identified with Christ in His death, we have also become identified with Him in a new motive and purpose for living. Henceforth we are not “to live unto ourselves but unto Him” – this is the new and only footing for the resurrected life. But if the work of the Cross has not touched the deepest areas of the life and ministry, men will most surely build their own kingdom upon the hidden footing of private ambition. And alas, many have convinced themselves that their ministry and motives are adjusted at the Cross and wholly upon the proper line and foundation. Perhaps these most searching questions that follow can help us test our own motives, can help us realize whether we are carving out our own kingdom, or truly living and pouring out our lives unto Him for building His spiritual house. Let us check our motives. Do I attempt to draw men to myself and into my orbit so as to use them for my church or little kingdom, or do I seek always to thrust them upon Christ and what He desires for their life and ministry even if they never become related to my work or vision? Without realizing what he was saying, one pastor admitted: “I never waste my time visiting in our local hospital, for almost all the patients come from nearby towns and already belong to other churches.” Another pastor who came to see how self-relating his ministry had been confessed: “I’m ashamed that I have visited only my own members – how guilty I have been of seeing folk only as they related to my work.” Do I make others more dependent upon me and the spiritual food I can give them, or make them more dependent upon the Lord as their Source? Do I teach them how to heed my words, or how to become alive to His speaking through His own Word? Do I secretly enjoy making others dependent upon me so it will be difficult for them to accept another teacher or spiritual leader, by winning their affections and pampering their little prejudices? In these past twenty years what a shocking time it has been for me as God broke up the little honeymoons with those who have been won or fed under our ministry. Yet – when we are unwilling to thrust them upon Him, then He must allow some misunderstanding, some unveiling of our own frailties and blunders, some drastic crossing of purpose and vision – anything to break up the little “love affair” and release them from inordinate attachments and knowing one another after the flesh. Do I, perhaps unwittingly, build upon my own gift and ministry so as to remain essential, or am I seeking always to build up the gift and ministry of others so I can soon be released or move out? Am I really reproducing myself in others so as to have a manifold ministry throughout the whole world, yet never to have anything visible or concrete to glory in for myself? Then all I shall have is the deep inner sense that God is getting more lives truly upon His foundation – those who are living wholly according to the divine pattern of ministry. Do I rejoice when I see those “we” have won (that is, the Lord working through me) begin to fill the pews of every other group or fellowship? Do I rejoice when all our workers go out to help in other fields until it almost appears that our place has become a spawning ground for all the other fish bowls of the area? This proverb takes on new meaning: “There is one who scatters, yet increases more; And there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty” (11:24). Oh, how one should rejoice when he sees the enlarging of his ministry to reach into every part of the world. But such rejoicing can only come when we have truly “seen” the One Foundation.
THE NATURE OF PROPHETIC MINISTRY – Austin Sparks
God takes hold of a vessel (it may be individual or it may be collective: the function of prophetic ministry may move through a people, as it did through Israel), and He takes that vessel through a deep history, breaking and undoing, disillusioning, revolutionising the whole mentality, so that things which were held fiercely, assertively, are no longer so held. There is developed a wonderful pliableness, adjustableness, teachableness. Everything that was merely objective as to the work of God, as to Divine truth, as to orthodoxy or fundamentalism, all that was held so strongly, in an objective, legalistic way, as to what is right and wrong in methods – it is all dealt with, all broken. There is a new conception entirely, a new outlook upon things; no longer a formal system, something outside you which you take up, but something wrought in an inward way in the vessel. It is what the vessel is that is its ministry. It is not what it has accepted of doctrine and is now teaching. Oh, to get free of all that horrible realm of things! It is a wretched realm, that of adopting teachings, taking on interpretations, being known because such and such is your line of things. Oh, God deliver us! Oh, to be brought to the place where it is a matter of life – of what God has really done in us, made of us! First He has pulverised us, and then He has reconstructed us on a new spiritual principle, and that expresses itself in ministry: what is said is coming from what has been going on behind, perhaps for years and even right up to date. Do you see the law of prophetic function? It is that God keeps anointed vessels abreast of truth by experience. Every bit of truth that they give out in word is something that has had a history. They went down into the depths and they were saved by that truth. It was their life and therefore it is a part of them. That is the nature of prophetic ministry.
RELIGIOUS GAMES: ‘SIMON CALLS THE SHOTS’ – James Fowler
“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” Matt. 11:16-19
Jesus then compared the Jewish religion of that time, which is indicative of all religion, with a typical children’s game. Religion engages in the hypocritical charade of play-acting and role-playing. It likes to assume the director of activities to dictate what people should do in the “wedding game” or the “funeral game.” It is like the child’s game of “Simon says…” “Simon says, do this, do that – play this game, play that game – act happy, act sad – celebrate, mourn.” Simon calls the shots, but does not engage in the activity, and is never satisfied with what others do. The participants can never measure up to the performance demanded; they will always be charged with imperfection and impropriety; they are damned if they do, and damned if they do not. John’s ministry, for example, was like a funeral dirge. John did not eat or drink, and was charged with having a demon. The ministry of Jesus, on the other hand, was like a celebratory wedding dance, with feasting rather than fasting. Jesus came eating and drinking, and was charged with being a sacrilegious friend of publicans and sinners. Religion was not satisfied with either one of them. The wisdom of God is justified however, for God is shown to be righteous in what He has done both in John and in Jesus, despite the fact that neither met the religious expectations of the day. Despite some misunderstanding of what the other was doing, God was working novelly and uniquely in both men at different times and in different circumstances. We must beware of the religious demands for conformity of methodology and expectation.
JESUS MY REPAIRMAN – Bill Freeman
“You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, the Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.”
Draw near to God. Draw near, not after you adjust yourself, but before you even try. Because the blood has been shed, we can enter into God—the real Savior. He is the real Repairer. He is the real Healer. He is the One who cleans up our heart. He is the real Cleaner-upper. He is the real Restorer. He does all this, and He does it while we are in contact with Him.
Being oriented to Christ in my experience means that I am in contact with Him—no longer living to myself but to Him. My point of reference is no longer me. My point of reference is Christ. For example, if I am broken down, and I need some repair, then I need to go to the Repairman. Jesus is my Repairman. I do not know how to fix anything. I am just simply to come to Jesus. This is what I appreciate about some saints. They have their weaknesses, but amazingly, even in their frailty, weaknesses, and feelings of failure, they still have that boldness to just keep coming to God. Sometimes we may wonder how a saint could be testifying in a meeting so boldly when they are feeling so weak. But this is the right way—”Just as I am, without one plea . . . Fightings within and fears without, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.” Just like that. And He does the work in us.
CHURCHIANITY OR CHRISTIANITY? – Chip Brogden
Once we realize that our fellowship is supposed to be based on a relationship with Jesus, not a relationship with “church”, we will discover that there are more opportunities for fellowship OUTSIDE the local church building than there are INSIDE.
That is because Christ-based fellowship lasts as long as you are abiding in Jesus, while church-based fellowship only lasts as long as you are attending that church. When you go to their services and support their agenda then they love you. Once you leave, and they realize you are not coming back, they want nothing more to do with you. The reality is simply this: their fellowship with you is church-based, ministry-based, man-based, or money-based, but it is not Christ-based.
The true character of a church, fellowship, or ministry is not judged by how they receive you when you join, or how they treat you when you are there, but rather, how they send you when you go, and how they relate to you after you have left.
LIVING BY THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT – Bill Freeman
To live incompatibly with the Lord’s life is to live a frustrated and miserable Christian life. We cannot change the way His life reacts. His life, reacting from within our spirit (Rom. 8:10), is like a compass that always points in one direction. Whatever way you turn the compass, the arrow points north. Similarly, regardless of how we may reason and argue with the Lord’s life, we cannot change its nature. It is eternally destined to react and behave according to the life that is in Christ Jesus. Thus, to live compatibly with His life is to go along with the requirement of that life. It is important at this juncture to point out the difference between outward demand and inward requirement. There is a difference. The former is related to the letter of the law and brings in bondage; the latter is related to the Spirit of life that brings in freedom. Outward demand is accompanied with condemnation, but inward requirement is accompanied with grace and life-supply. When you are controlled by outward demand, as in Romans 7, you end in failure. But when you are controlled by the inward requirement of life, you experience God’s inner operation, as in Romans 8 and Philippians 2:12-13. The requirement of life is what Romans 8:2 identifies as the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.
ETERNAL LIFE IS CHRIST – W. Ian Thomas
What is eternal life? Is it a place that you are going to when you are dead? Is it a peculiar feeling inside? If you were to ask a normal congregation, or any sort of Bible class or Sunday school in an evangelical church to define eternal life, you would be amazed at the strange answers you would get!
What is eternal life? When does it begin? I noticed just the other day, in a hospital chapel where I was speaking, a tablet on the wall in memory of one of the previous chaplains, and in giving the date of his death it said, “He entered into eternal life.” Is that true if he was a Christian? Is it right to imply, as did that tablet on the wall, that eternal life begins when a man is physically dead? No, indeed!
“And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that has the Son has life; and he that has not the Son of God has not life” (I John 5:11,12)
Jesus Christ and eternal life are synonymous terms, and eternal life is none other than Jesus Christ Himself, of whom it is written in John 1:4 “In Him was life; and this life was the light of men.” “If you have eternal life at all, it simply means that you have the Son, Jesus Christ now! Jesus said, “I am the Way, I am the Truth, I am the Life” (John 14:6)
Eternal life is not a peculiar feeling inside! It is not your ultimate destination, to which you will go when you are dead. If you are born again, eternal life is that quality of life that you possess right now, at this very moment, in your own physical body, with your own two feet on the ground, and in the world TODAYI And where does this life come from? Of Him! He is that Life!
So if you have eternal life, it means that you have Somebody, Jesus Christ, and the life that you possess is of Him.
TIME TO CHOOSE – Albert Theron
He came as God, from God. He came to perfectly display grace and truth in a human body. He was God’s final message. He came to reveal God’s infinite mercy and grace. He came to reveal eternal love in the heart of a Father. He came to call man from sin and back to his origin and identity in God. He came to proclaim the rule of God, to shatter all human plans and self-made religious fallacies. He came to His own, but they did not recognise Him. He came as the Servant King, but they did not discern the time of God’s favour. They got too comfortable in the religious domain called Man-city. They enjoyed their own rule and the myth of ‘human control’ and would not have God’s King call the shots. Their religious hierarchies and man-made pecking orders were far too neat for God’s Ruler to come and turn it upside down. They would not have it. So they crucified Him to rid themselves permanently of this ‘disturber of the peace’. But He rose again and now rules from heaven. To all those who receive His testimony and bow the knee to His sovereign rule He gives the right to be called children of God and they will reign with Him forever. Religion is alive and well on planet earth and smack bang in the middle of many churches. It purports to proclaim God’s rule and His Ruler, but in reality it serves only its own agenda. In God’s book there is only one Ruler on planet earth. His name is Jesus and soon He will return with myriads of ‘mighty angels in flaming fire’. We cannot serve God and religion. It is time to choose.
WHEN WE DON’T UNDERSTAND – Martyn Loyd-Jones
All things work together for good to them that love God. Romans 8:28
Our Lord’s message to us is that we must trust Him absolutely and explicitly, even when we cannot understand. That, in effect, as we have seen, is what He was saying to John in Matthew 11:2-6. “I am doing the things you have heard reported of Me. But then you say, ‘Why aren’t You doing other things?’ But if you really believe that I am the Messiah, the Son of God, cannot you leave it to Me? Even about this question of your being in prison and what your friends are saying about My not being concerned about you—John, if you know that I am who I am, cannot you trust Me there in prison itself?”
Faith means that I believe on the Lord Jesus Christ absolutely. Ah, we all have to learn this lesson. Even Paul had to pass this way. He had a thorn in the flesh, and he could not understand it. It seemed all wrong to him. He wanted to preach the gospel, but the thorn was a hindrance to him. Three times he besought the Lord to remove it, but this was the answer he got: “My grace is sufficient for thee.” “I am not taking out the thorn,” said the Lord in effect, “but I will do something infinitely bigger. I will bless you with the thorn in your side. I assure you that even with the thorn I can do wonders through you.”
“Quite right,” says Paul, “and I see that when I am weak, then I am strong, and I care about nothing except that I be right with You.” The place that God would have us come to is the one in which we can say, “All things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28). “All things”—it doesn’t matter what. “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11).
BOAST ONLY IN THE CROSS – J.C. Ryle
Who is there among the readers of this tract that trusts in his Churchmanship for salvation? Who is there that is valuing himself on his baptism, or his attendance at the Lord’s table,—his church-going on Sundays, or his daily services during the week,—and saying to himself, “What lack I yet?” Learn, I say, this day, that you are very unlike Paul. Your Christianity is not the Christianity of the New Testament. Paul would not glory in anything but the cross [Gal. 6v14]. Neither ought you.
Oh, reader, beware of self-righteousness Open sin kills its thousands of souls. Self-righteousness kills its tens of thousands. Go and study humility with the great apostle of the Gentiles. Go and sit with Paul at the foot of the cross. Give up your secret pride. Cast away your vain ideas of your own goodness. Be thankful if you have grace, but never glory in it for a moment. Work for God and Christ with heart and soul and mind and strength, but never dream for a second of placing confidence in any work of your own.
Think, you who take comfort in some fancied ideas of your own goodness,—think, you who wrap up yourselves in the notion, “all must be right, if I keep to my Church,”—think for a moment what a sandy foundation you are building upon! Think for a moment how miserably defective your hopes and pleas will look in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment! Whatever men may say of their own goodness while they are strong and healthy, they will find but little to say of it when they are sick and dying. Whatever merit they may see in their own works here in this world, they discover none in them when they stand before the bar of Christ. The light of that great day of assize will make a wonderful difference in the appearance of all their doings. It will strip off the tinsel, shrivel up the complexion, expose the rottenness, of many a deed that is now called good. Their wheat will prove nothing but chaff: their gold will be found nothing but dross. Millions of so-called Christian actions will turn out to have been utterly defective and graceless. They passed current, and were valued among men: they will prove light and worthless in the balance of God. They will be found to have been like the whitened sepulchres of old, fair and beautiful without, but full of corruption within. Alas, for the man who can look forward to the day of judgment, and lean his soul in the smallest degree on anything of his own!
BEWARE THE PHARISEE WITHIN – Andrew Murray
The chief mark of counterfeit holiness is its lack of humility. Every seeker after holiness needs to be on his guard, lest unconsciously what has begun in the Spirit be perfected in the flesh, and pride creep in where its presence is least expected. Two men went up into the temple to pray: the one a Pharisee, the other a publican. There is no place or position so sacred but the Pharisee can enter there. Pride can lift up its head in the very temple of God, and make His worship the scene of its self-exaltation. Since the time Christ so exposed his pride, the Pharisee has put on the garb of the publican, and the confessor of deep sinfulness equally with the professor of the highest holiness, must be on the watch. Just when we are most anxious to have our heart the temple of God, we shall find the two men coming up to pray. And the publican will find that his danger is not from the Pharisee beside him, who despises him, but the Pharisee within who commends and exalts. In God’s temple, when we think we are holiest of all, in the presence of His holiness, let us beware of pride. “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.” (Job 1:6).
“God, I thank Thee, I am not as the rest of men, or even as this publican.” It is in that which is just cause for thanksgiving, it is in the very thanksgiving, which we render to God, it may be in the very confession that God has done it all, that self finds its cause of complacency. Yes, even when in the temple the language of penitence and trust in God’s mercy alone is heard, the Pharisee may take up the note of praise, and in thanking God be congratulating himself. Pride can clothe itself in the garments of praise or of penitence. Even though the words, “I am not as the rest of men,” are rejected and condemned, their spirit may too often be found in our feelings and language towards our fellow worshipers and fellow men.
CHRIST THE ONLY FOUNDATION – Austin Sparks
The fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 1 Corinthians 3:13
There are many things to which the name of the Lord is being affixed which are being constructed, and which appear fine and great and like “the Church,” but the twofold reality is neither in the builders or the buildings. They are destined to collapse when God’s hurricane and fire test every man’s work. Good works: philanthropy, hospitality, reform, education, religion, relief, etc. may be the products, or by-products, of what is called “Christian civilization,” and things for which to be profoundly grateful, but let us not confuse these with “a new creation,” regeneration, a being “born from above.” The Church is nothing which man can build by any resource in himself personally or collectively.
The Church is an organism, not an organization. “Behold, I show you a mystery, we are members of His flesh and of His bones.” Build that, if you can! Launch that; organize that; “run” that! It cannot be done. It is the spontaneous outworking of spiritual forces released, in the acceptance by faith of tremendous facts concerning Christ; which facts are proclaimed out of experience in the power of the Holy Ghost. Not the theological Christ; not the doctrinal Christ; not the Christ of the letter, much less the Jesus of history; but the Christ of eternity in all the meaning of His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension into the Throne of God revealed in the heart by the Holy Spirit. This alone is authority to preach, to serve, to occupy position, to “build” in relation to the house of God. It is folly to spend time and strength otherwise. It is wisdom to labor on this foundation.
DRAWING ASIDE – Martyn Lloyd-Jones
And Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. Exodus 33:7
Moses set the Tabernacle up outside the camp—“afar off from the camp.” Now here is the point at which I am most liable to be misunderstood, but it is here, and it is part of the teaching. There is invariably, in the history of every revival, this drawing aside. Let us not forget that the camp of Israel was then the “church” of God. In the Old Testament the nation of Israel was the “church” in the wilderness. This is the church we are talking about, and yet you see what Moses did? He took this tabernacle from the midst of the “church,” as it were and put it up outside, “afar off from the camp.”
No revival that has ever been experienced in the long history of the church has ever been an official movement in the church. That is a strong statement, is it not? But I repeat it. No revival that the church has ever known has ever been an official movement. You read of the great precursors of the Protestant Reformation, people like Wycliffe, Jan Hus, and others. It was always unofficial, and the officials did not like it. It was the same with Martin Luther. Nothing happened in Rome. No, it happened just to this monk in his cell. And so it has continued to happen.
Even after the reformation of the Church of England, there were men who began to feel dissatisfied, and they began to follow this pattern and do the self-same thing. That is the origin of Puritanism. Then you are all probably familiar with the story of Methodism in its various branches. The two Wesley brothers and Whitefield and others were members of the Church of England. But they did not begin to do something in the Church of England but formed what they called their Holy Club, outside the camp.
A Thought to Ponder
No revival that has ever been experienced in the Church has ever been an official movement in the church.
DEALING WITH MANIPULATION – Gayle Erwin
The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.” Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side. Mark 8:11–13
Jesus knew the Pharisees were there for hostile reasons and not to get help. Often, such hostility is clear. Out of his humility (being who he was and not less or more), Jesus was able to express the anger he felt at the moment. Then because further interaction was not profitable, he withdrew from them. A secondary method of resisting manipulation then, is withdrawal. Jesus used it more than once. John records that “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again into the hills by himself.” (John 6:15) A particular characteristic of manipulation is reducing our ability to choose. It forces us to move defensively into the pattern or mold that others have chosen for us. Not a single person who tried to manipulate Jesus got the answer they expected. All of them received an expression of the true feelings of Jesus. From some of them he withdrew. In each case he protected his ability to choose. There is a distinctive difference between coerced slavery and servanthood by choice. When Jesus stated that he chose to lay down his life and that no one was taking it from him, he was describing the basic element of love. Love always chooses to do the right and serving things for others – but it is a choice. You can love only by choice. True love cannot be the result of either decree, force or manipulation. Anything that I do to deprive someone of the right to choose is a violation of his personhood. When I sense that my own right to choose is being threatened, then I know that I am not being loved, and the doors are not open to ministry. In humility, I can say something like this: “Although it may not be true, I am feeling pressured and manipulated. I am not able to choose and act out of love when I feel this way, so I am removing myself from the situation until I feel free to make the choice I feel is right.” Sometimes, when manipulation is detected in a request, a simple no is the right thing to say. A demand for a reason is often part of the manipulative process. We must, in order to properly resist, know that we don’t need to give the answer, but we do need to live with integrity so that we can have the power to make loving, others-oriented choices. Often, when we say, “no,” the person who has been trying to coerce us will create a scene. That, too, is part of the manipulative process. And it is included in the price to be paid if we wish to keep our integrity. But don’t let the scene fool you. It can also be part of the healing process for the manipulator. To be a manipulator is to be a sick person. If we permit someone to manipulate us, then we have contributed to and reinforced that person’s sickness. To resist manipulation, though it may be difficult and may cause scenes, is to contribute to that person’s health and certainly to contribute to our own health.
TWO KINDS OF SERVANTS – K.P. Yohannan
In Ezekiel 44, we find two groups of servants of God. One group were the Levites who spent their days busy, busy, busy in the outer court of the temple serving the people who came to worship the Lord. These men were responsible for preparing the sacrifices and getting them ready for offering. Twenty-four hours a day, they were busy in the outer court, where it was full of people and noises. Many people saw the work the Levites were doing; it was a very visible thing. They were dragging the animals in, sacrificing them and putting them on the altar. These men were in great demand by the multitudes, pulled in all different directions, motivated by the screaming needs around them and all that needed to be done. But there was also another group—the sons of Zadoc. These were men of the inner court. Where they stood, there was stillness. Unlike the outer court, the inner court was silent. Deadly quiet. The only individual there was God. There was no busyness, no service in front of people, no demand but to come into the holy of holies and minister unto the Lord. Let me ask you—which group are you in? Are you like one of the sons of Zadoc, more concerned with coming into the holy of holies and ministering to the Lord than being busy serving the people? Or do you just keep going, going, going, moved in every direction with the busyness of the ministry? These are serious questions we must ask ourselves. This reminds me of the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38–42 (NIV). As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” It is clear in this passage, although our flesh would much rather be in the center of attention, that the better thing is to be more concerned with sitting “at the Lord’s feet listening,” rather than busy with all the ways we are trying to serve God. It wasn’t that Martha’s service was wrong. Not at all. What was wrong was that “Martha was distracted” from her first love by all of it. Jesus said Mary “has chosen what is better”—to leave the busy place of the outer courts and come into the inner court and minister to Him.
CHRIST IS ALL SPIRITUAL THINGS – Watchman Nee
We have already briefly seen that all the spiritual things and all spiritual matters are Christ. God gives us Christ to be our spiritual things and matters. This is the crucial point in the spiritual life. Is our experience merely an experience? Or is our experience Christ? Is our righteousness merely righteousness? Or is our righteousness Christ? Is our holiness merely holiness? Or is our holiness Christ? Is our redemption merely redemption? Or is our redemption Christ? We often speak of the way, but the way we speak of may not be Christ Himself. We often speak of the truth, but we do not realize that Christ Himself is the truth. We often speak of the life, but the life we speak of may not be Christ Himself. In other words, we have many things other than Christ. This is the biggest spiritual problem among God’s children. We say with our mouth that Christ is the centrality of all things, but in our living we still keep many things other than Christ, as if these things could help us live our Christian life. We must turn this concept around. We must realize that God has no intention for us to keep so many so-called spiritual things other than Christ. Under God’s sovereign arrangement, there are things and matters, but God’s things and matters are just Christ. Christ is all spiritual things. He is our righteousness; He does not give us a righteousness apart from Himself. He is our holiness; He does not give us a power apart from Himself that enables us to be holy. He is our redemption; He does not give us a redemption apart from Himself. He is the way; He does not open a way for us apart from Himself. He is the truth; He does not present us a truth apart from Himself and then charge us to understand it. He is the life; He does not give us something called life apart from Himself. Brothers and sisters, the more we go on in God’s way, the more we will discover that there is only one grace among all God’s graces. There is only one gift among all God’s gifts. The grace is Christ, and the gift is Christ. Thank God that He is showing us that Christ includes everything day by day.
NO SWEAT – K.P. Yohannan
When our ministry to the people around us is done as a ministry unto the Lord—doing His work in His way— there will be no striving. There will be no human sweat. Why? Because sweat signifies man’s effort. The first time sweat is mentioned in the Bible is in Genesis 3:19. Because Adam had eaten from the forbidden tree, God told him, “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (Genesis 3:17–19). Sweat is a result of the curse that sin brought. Because of it, the ground would not yield its fruit without man’s effort and sweat. Scripture also tells us that those who ministered before the Lord in the inner court were not to wear anything made of wool, anything that would cause them to sweat. “And it shall be, whenever they enter the gates of the inner court, that they shall put on linen garments; no wool shall come upon them while they minister within the gates of the inner court . . . They shall not clothe themselves with anything that causes sweat” (Ezekiel 44:17–18). This is a picture of the kind of service that honors the Lord. Work done out of man’s ability, smartness or money can be a horrible sweat. But when you come to the place in your life at which you begin to live and serve in His strength, you understand what it means to bear His yoke, which is easy and light (see Matthew 11:28). In this way, the assignment He gives you will never destroy you emotionally or physically. It will not tear you apart. Why? Because you are not working in the realm of human talents, resources and strength. You are not producing it out of your own labor and sweat. There is no longer any flesh involved. It is Him—ministry unto Him and empowered by Him. This brings tremendous freedom and liberty to laugh and be content and joyful in whatever comes. It makes no difference whether you are asked to turn the world upside-down or just to be a doorkeeper at the house of God. You simply do the work that He has given you in the strength that He supplies as a ministry unto Him.
GOD DISCIPLINES HIS OWN – Paul Washer
One of the greatest honors in my life is to be a father. One of the greatest hardships in my life is having to leave my children at times. Oh, I guard over my children. I am careful to discipline them. I will protect them with my life. I will lay it down. How is it that we think such mean and simple thoughts about God? What would you think about me if I let my children, from the moment they were born until they left the house at 18, I let them run wild and do absolutely anything they wanted to do? What would you say about me? That I was a derelict father? Yes, you would. That I was wrong? Yes. That I was not just? Yes. That I did not love even? If you are biblical that is what you would say about me. Yet how is it that you say that God has a whole bunch of children in the United States of America and yet he lets them run wild and live in sin and follow the devil all the days of their life until he brings them home? The very things you demand from an earthly father you don’t even believe your heavenly Father accomplishes. My dear friend, God zealously guards his children. That is why it says in Hebrews chapter 12 that if you claim to be a child of God and you are with out discipline there is no reality of God disciplining you and training you and teaching you and leading you and guarding over you zealously, then you are an illegitimate child. You are a false professor. You have never come to know him. He has never come to know you. You see, God will begin to separate us from the things he hates, from the things that are wrong. He will begin…he doesn’t drag us, but he so works in our heart to change us that he begins to cause a separation between us and that which is evil inwardly. The true Christian has a changed heart so they begin to hate the things that God hates and to love the things that God loves. A work of separation.
PRIVATE KINGDOMS WILL COME DOWN – DeVern Fromke
The lines are becoming more clearly drawn between that which is “of men” and that which is “of God.” The hour is fast approaching when there will be an increased shaking of everything that can be shaken, “… that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we, receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb. 12:27-28). Therefore we can expect the testing of our motives. Work that is done with a view to some selfish advantage, advancement, better salary, greater ecclesiastical influence and recognition, social popularity and worldly success is really all of a piece with secular work and one laboring with these motives had better get into secular work altogether. The use of religion, the employment of sacred things to build a secular and private kingdom will surely end in sore judgment. It is true that God has His place for each one to work, and when He is honored as Head He will help them build according to His pattern. But there is one thing that is primary with God: that is the exaltation and glorification of His Son. He will not be a part to glorifying any individual, any group movement, any body of people or ecclesiastical system apart from Christ. All that God has ordained, all ministries, all gifts, all appointments, all positions, all relationships – all exist solely for the increase of Christ. No one in a God-established order has any position or ministry which is merely official. In the order which God sanctions, there is no ministration of any kind which is given for any other purpose than the increase of Christ. When any other thing, the lifting up of any other leader, the advantage of any man or set of men comes into the motive, then God is not interested.
THAT JEALOUS REGARD FOR THE INSTITUTION – Austin Sparks
Shun (keep clear away from, avoid by flight if need be) any sort of idolatry (of loving or venerating anything more than God). (1 Corinthians 10:14 AMP)
There are many things which are not only harmless but good in themselves, which have, nevertheless, been allowed to take the place of the Lord Himself, and good things can therefore embody the principle of idolatry in the one in whom the devotion is found. Touch some Christians, or Christian institutions, and let the touch be even in relation to something more of the Lord Himself, and you will find an uprising of jealous regard for the institution which utterly blinds to that possibility of an extra measure of the Lord Himself. You can be so devoted to a denomination, a missionary society, a piece of Christian work, that there is no room for any extra measure of the Lord. The thing itself has become the end, the object for which you live, and when the Lord wants to get you moved on into something more of Himself, the obstacle is that good Christian work, association, institution, tradition, connection. Yes, and that is idolatry in principle, and we see from history how the Lord again and again has had to smite with smashing blows things which in themselves were good, in order to save His people unto Himself personally….
What is He after? It is Himself which He is seeking to establish as the object of man’s life, and not the things that have relation to Himself: and I say again, you meet something intensely fierce if you touch a thing, even though you are touching it maybe with a view to getting people to move on with the Lord Himself. To put that in the other way, if your appeal for moving on with the Lord seems to people to involve their having to move away from this or that or some other thing, then there is warfare; which shows that Satan in his eternal campaign of idolatry, has got a footing amongst Christians in relation to things which take the place of the Lord Himself, good things though they be in themselves; and you find, if you are spiritually sensitive, that you are not just encountering the established institutions, but you are encountering a terrific spiritual force. Is that true? It is true. Had I never come up against it, never would I have believed the terrific force there is lying behind Christian institutions if your ministry touches them. You meet something which turns upon you, and it is not just the thing or the people. It is something that threatens your very life, to slay, and this in principle and essence, beloved, is idolatry; because its ultimate effect is that even the Lord cannot have what His heart is set upon and get His people spiritually where He wants them, because they are so bound up with His things. They are not able to discriminate between His things and Himself.
ONE THING IS NEEDFUL – C.H. Spurgeon
“But one thing is needful.”—Luke 10:42.
You are very diligent in your religion, you are attentive to all its outward rites and ceremonies, you believe the articles of your church, you practice the ceremonies ordained by its rulers; but, but, do you know that all this is nothing , unless you sit at Jesus’ feet?” we may do what the church tells us, and never do what Christ tells us, for these may be different things; and the church is not our Saviour, but Christ. We may believe what a certain creed tells us, but not believe what Jesus teaches; for our creed and Christ may be two very different things. Ay, and we may believe even what the Bible itself teaches to us, or think we believe it; but, if our heart has never made submission to the Teacher himself, so as to sit at his feet, and receive the truth obediently from him, our religion is altogether vain. Traditional religion is not submission to Christ, but to custom. Obedience to a denomination is not obedience to Jesus himself. How I wish that all professing Christians would bring themselves to an examination and enquire, “Do I really believe in the person of my Lord, and accept him as my Teacher? Do I study the Word of God to learn the truth from him, and not accept it blindly and at second hand from my minister, or my parents, or the church of the nation, or the creed of my family?” We go to Jesus for teaching, desiring in our hearts to be taught by his book and his Spirit, cheerfully agreeing in all things to shape our faith to his declaration, and our life to his rule. For us, there must be no spiritual law-giver, and no infallible Rabbi, but the Blessed One, whom Magdalene called “Rabboni,” and whom Thomas saluted as, “My Lord and my God.”