A CHANGED OUTLOOK – Jessie Penn-Lewis
LET us turn back a moment to 2 Corinthians 5: 14-16 (Conybeare): “The love of Christ constrains me, because I have thus judged, that if One died for all, then all died [in Him] … I therefore, from henceforth, view no man carnally; yea, though once my view of Christ was carnal, yet now it is no longer carnal”. Here we have the outcome of the changed centre in a wholly new point of view, i.e., when the ‘I’ is crucified there is a changed outlook! We view no man from the ordinary standpoint of the flesh, we have exchanged the earthly vision for the vision of God. The Corinthians had charged the Apostle with being ‘mad’ in his zeal for God, but he replies showing how the centre-spring made all the difference. Now turn to the Gospel to see that this was the very kind of life lived by Christ when He walked on earth as man. Let us read first the Lord’s words in John 5: 19 and 30. “Verily, verily I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of Himself but what He sees the Father do. . . .” “I can of Mine own self do nothing …… This is the position and privilege which the Cross is purposed to bring us into. Not only identification with Christ in His death, as a judicial fact, but a practical life where the ‘I’ is kept in the place of death, so that there results such a union with the Risen Lord, that moment by moment we rely upon Him as our new centre, our source of action-even of speech, as He depended upon His Father, saying, in our measure, as He did, “I can do nothing of myself “. When Christ is thus the centre spring of a believer’s life, as he is taught of the Spirit he draws upon Him even for words. What a revolution this would make in our conversation and our general tenor of speech. The ‘old creation’ life is very profuse. But as Christ becomes our centre., and the ‘I’ is yielded to the Cross, the whole life is brought into light to be placed under His control. Then it is possible that you will become slow of speech, for the knife of the Cross deals with the profuse and diffuse language of nature-what we may describe as ‘unnecessary talk’ and the clamour of earth dies away! You will be willing then to sit in silence when you have nothing to say, and what is more, you can be still amidst the clamour of tongues, and be content that you cannot join in the soulish streams of earth. In the Church of Christ there is a vast amount of infant talk. May the Lord bring us to the Cross to have the prattle of the ‘I’ cut down. What shall be done about our speech? Shall we consent to be like John the Baptist, and say “I am a voice”? May the Lord deal with our words. “Let your yes be yes, and your no, no, for more than these is of the evil one.” The evil one is at work in the old creation life, and he knows how to fan up and inflame floods of speech. But the Lord says ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is enough, if we are relying upon Him to enable us to speak according to His will.
LED TO HIS SIDE – J. Butler Stoney
It is a great thing to learn faith: that is, simple dependence on God. The more natural resources you have, the more difficult it is to be wholly dependent upon the Lord. Still it will comfort you much to be assured that He is teaching you dependence upon Himself, and it is very remarkable that faith is necessary in everything. “The just shall live by faith,” not only in your circumstances, but in everything. I believe the Lord allows many things to happen on purpose to make us feel our need of Him. The more we find Him in our sorrows and wants the more we will be attached to Him and drawn away from this place where the sorrows are, to Him in the place where He is.
If you have only learned the Lord at your side, the tendency is to be occupied with yourself, or to seek to be an object of consideration, whereas if you have been led to His side, His interests and concerns will singularly occupy you.
How slowly one learns that His sympathy is not necessarily expressed in removing the affliction but in raising one above it to Himself, so that He becomes so endeared to the heart that He is more an object to the heart than oneself.
Patience or endurance is a wonderful quality. I am convinced that the sense of the Lord’s support under a pressure, not only attaches us to Him in a peculiar way, but nothing so weans us from this place. Relief makes this place more agreeable, but support detaches us from everything here, because we are supported by One who is not here, and He is increasingly endeared to us.
WE DIED IN HIS DEATH – Watchman Nee
God does everything in this age through the Lord Jesus Christ. He needs to punish sinners, yet He punished the Lord Jesus instead because the Lord Jesus stood in the position of and on behalf of sinners. God wants the old man to die, but He caused the Lord Jesus to die on the cross instead. By doing so, He brought all the sinners along with the Lord onto the cross. First there was a substituting death, then a participating death. This is the clear word of the Bible. Jesus Christ is the One who “died for all, therefore all died” (2 Cor. 5:14).
This point should be emphasized and should not be glossed over easily. A believer, that is, a saved one who confesses that he is a sinner and believes in Jesus, should remember that the crucifixion of his old man is not an independent activity apart from the Lord Jesus, but is done in union with the Lord Jesus. When the Lord Jesus died, our old man died together with Him and died in Him. This explains the failure of many people. Many times believers exercise their own strength to crucify their old man. However, they find out again and again that the old man is still alive. They try, mostly unintentionally, to crucify the old man independently by themselves without Christ. This can never be done. Unless one dies with the Lord Jesus, there is no crucifixion of the old man. The old man is crucified together with the Lord Jesus.
We do not die by ourselves; rather, we die together with the Lord. We were baptized “into His death” (Rom. 6:3); “we have grown together with Him in the likeness of His death” (v. 5); “we have died with Christ” (v. 8); and “our old man has been crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be annulled, that we should no longer serve sin as slaves” (v. 6). We cannot crucify ourselves and die. This “co-crucifixion” is an accomplished fact. It was accomplished when the Lord Jesus was crucified on the cross. The death of the Lord Jesus is a fact; that the Lord Jesus died for us is also a fact, and our being crucified together with Him is also a fact. “Has been crucified,” according to the original, is a continuous word; it is in the absolute perfect tense, which means that our old man’s crucifixion with the Lord Jesus is an act that was accomplished once for all when the Lord died.
TO BE OR TO DO – A.W. Tozer
Historically the West has tended to throw its chief emphasis upon doing and the East upon being. What we are has always seemed more important to the Oriental; the Occidental has been willing to settle for what we do. One has glorified the verb to be; the other, the verb to do. Were human nature perfect there would be no discrepancy between being and doing. The unfallen man would simply live from within, without giving it a thought. His actions would be the true expression of his inner being. With human nature what it is, however, things are not so simple. Sin has introduced moral confusion and life has become involved and difficult. Those elements within us which were meant to work together in unconscious harmony are often isolated from each other wholly or in part and tend to become actually hostile to each other. For this reason symmetry of character is extremely difficult to achieve. Out of deep inner confusion arises the antagonism between being and doing, and the verb upon which we throw our emphasis puts us in one of the two categories: we are be-ers or we are do-ers, one or the other. In our modern civilized society the stress falls almost wholly upon doing. We Christians cannot escape this question. We must discover where God throws the stress and come around to the divine pattern. And this should not be too difficult since we have before us the sacred Scriptures with all their wealth of spiritual instruction, and to interpret those Scriptures we have the very Spirit which inspired them. In spite of all our opportunity to know the truth, most of us are still slow to learn. The tendency to accept without question and follow without knowing why is very strong in us. For this reason whatever the majority of Christians hold at any given time is sure to be accepted as true and right beyond a doubt. It is easier to imitate than to originate; it is easier and, for the time being, safer to fall into step without asking too many questions about where the parade is headed. This is why being has ceased to have much appeal for people and doing engages almost everyone’s attention. Modern Christians lack symmetry. They know almost nothing about the inner life. They are like a temple that is all exterior without any interior. Color, light, sound, appearance, motion—these are thy gods, O Israel. “The accent in the Church today,” says Leonard Ravenhill, the English evangelist, “is not on devotion, but on commotion.” Religious extroversion has been carried to such an extreme in evangelical circles that hardly anyone has the desire, to say nothing of the courage, to question the soundness of it. Externalism has taken over. God now speaks by the wind and the earthquake only; the still small voice can be heard no more. The whole religious machine has become a noisemaker. The adolescent taste which loves the loud horn and the thundering exhaust has gotten into the activities of modern Christians. The old question, “What is the chief end of man?” is now answered, “To dash about the world and add to the din thereof.” And all this is done in the name of Him who did not strive nor cry nor make His voice to be heard in the streets (Matthew 12:18-21). We must begin the needed reform by challenging the spiritual validity of externalism. What a man is must be shown to be more important than what he does. While the moral quality of any act is imparted by the condition of the heart, there may be a world of religious activity which arises not from within but from without and which would seem to have little or no moral content. Such religious conduct is imitative or reflex. It stems from the current cult of commotion and possesses no sound inner life. The message “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27) needs to be restored to the Church. We must show a new generation of nervous, almost frantic, Christians that power lies at the center of the life. Speed and noise are evidences of weakness, not strength. Eternity is silent; time is noisy. Our preoccupation with time is sad evidence of our basic want of faith. The desire to be dramatically active is proof of our religious infantilism; it is a type of exhibitionism common to the kindergarten.
ALREADY DEAD – Various Authors
J. Penn-Lewis: “If the difference between ‘Christ dying for us,’ and ‘our dying with Him,’ has not been recognized, acknowledged, and applied, it may safely be affirmed that the self is still the dominating factor in the life” (Memoir, p. 26).
William Culbertson: “Who died on the cross? Of course, our blessed Lord died on the cross; but who else died there? ‘Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away, that we should no longer be in bondage to sin; for he that has died is justified from sin. But if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him’ (Rom. 6:6-8)” (God’s Provision for Holy Living, p. 46).
Reginald Wallis: “God says in effect, ‘My child, as you reckoned on the substitutionary work of the Lord Jesus Christ for your salvation, now go a step farther and reckon on His representative work for your victory day by day.’ You believe the Lord Jesus died for your sins because God said so. Now take the next step. Accept by faith the further fact that you died with Him, i.e., that your ‘old man was crucified with Him’” (The New Life, p. 51).
James R. McConkey: “Because He died ‘death has no more dominion over Him,’ and because of our union with Him ‘sin shall not have dominion over you,’ even though it is present in you. Our ‘reckoning’ ourselves dead to sin in Jesus Christ does not make it a fact—it is already a fact through our union with Him. Our reckoning it to be true only makes us begin to realize the fact in experience” (The Way of Victory, p. 16).
NO REAL PROGRESS WITHOUT THE CROSS – Austin Sparks
And let me go on to say at once that the Cross never ceases to govern the Christian life. It governs the Christian life at every stage, in every phase and aspect. There is never a point in the Christian life but that the Cross is basic and dominant. A building may rise with every added storey, but it never moves from its foundation. However high you go, however much you add, it never moves from its foundation and in a sense the foundation governs each additional level. If the foundation should give way at any point, that is the end of your building, that spells disaster however far you have gone. And the Cross is like that. The Cross is the foundation of everything. It is there, of course, at the beginning in what we call conversion and new birth, but after that the Cross governs the whole matter of spiritual growth and progress. We never make one bit of progress except by reason of the law of the Cross operating. The Cross is basic to the church, basic to fellowship. Fellowship is only possible in so far as the Cross is at work in all those concerned. Relatedness and corporate life demand a deep work of the Cross, for that is only saying, in another way, that the Cross has got to be planted very deeply into our individualism – I am not saying ‘individuality’, but ‘individualism’. It takes a deep work of the Cross to do that and so make the way for related fellowship and corporate life. Every bit of fresh light (if it is real light – living light) which transforms and transfigures, springs from the Cross or some working and application of the Cross. And every bit of conformity to Christ demands the continuous operation of the Cross. It never ceases; it goes right on to the end. As for service, work for God, ministry, for this to be fruitful and effectual, living and powerful, it must spring out of the Cross deeply rooted in the life of the worker, the minister, the servant of the Lord. Having said that, surely we are ready to contemplate and consider this matter still further, and no one will just shrug their shoulders and say, “The Cross again?!”
ACCEPTANCE IN CHRIST – Miles Stanford
There are two questions that every believer must settle as soon as possible. The one is, Does God fully accept me? and the second, If so, upon what basis does He do so? This is crucial. What devastation often permeates the life of one, young or old, rich or poor, saved or unsaved, who is not sure of being accepted, even on the human level. Yet so many believers, whether “strugglers” or “vegetators,” move through life without this precious fact to rest and build on: “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he has made us accepted in the beloved” (Eph. 1:5, 6). Every believer is accepted by the Father, in Christ. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). The peace is God’s toward us, through His beloved Son—on this our peace is to be based. God is able to be at peace with us through our Lord Jesus Christ, “having made peace through the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:20). And we must never forget that His peace is founded solely on the work of the cross, totally apart from anything whatsoever in or from us, since “God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Our faith becomes a fixed attitude once it begins to rest in this wonderful fact.
GOD-CENTERED MINISTRY – DeVern Fromke
An Indian legend tells of a tribe that lived in a great forest at the foot of a lofty mountain peak. One day the old chief summoned the lads of the tribe to his side and called upon them to clamber to the top of the lofty summit and win the renown of its conquest. This would test their mettle and prove their worth to the tribe, for it had been many a moon since a young brave had mastered the sky-piercing pinnacle. The braves obeyed. Hours went by and they began to return. One brought a tuft of moss torn from the mountainside, a token only accessible from a lofty height. Presently another came with the broken twig of a tree which stood still higher up the mountain, but yet not upon its summit. By and by came another grasping a beautiful flower which grew well up toward the top of the peak, but still not upon its top. All the lads were back save one. For hours he delayed. But as the gloom of the night began to fall, they heard his voice calling in the distant forest. Nearer and nearer he came until he stepped into the fire-lit circle of the waiting camp. He had no token in his hand but when they saw his face they did not need to ask him if he had conquered the towering peak. For there was a certain light in his face and his eyes shone gloriously as he cried aloud, “I have seen the crystal sea!” So it will be with all who participate in this ultimate ministry. The emphasis is not on what they do but on what they are. People always recognize one who has lived in His presence, one who has glimpsed the crystal sea of Eternal Truth: God Himself. When such a one moves out to minister, his authority is not legal but spiritual, his sacrifices are not symbols but reality, he shares more than knowledge – he shares Christ. While I am still man-centered I am merely ministering for God. But as I become truly God-centered He is through me ministering to man.
THE FINGER OR THE HAND? – Frank Viola
There’s a big difference between the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the accusation of the enemy. It’s the difference between the finger and the hand. Let me ‘splain [explain]. The word “devil” means slanderer. The nature of our enemy is to slander, defame, and accuse. In the book of Revelation, satan is called “the accuser of the brethren.” One way he accuses is in our conscience, overwhelming us with a sense of condemnation and unworthiness to the point of despair and even hopelessness. Standing in the virtue of the blood of Christ is the remedy for the enemy’s accusations. “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb . . . “ The blood was enough to satisfy a holy God, and it looms larger in His eyes than any sin you or I could ever commit. So one of satan’s chief weapons is the sense accusation, which obstructs our fellowship with God. It causes us to withdraw from the throne of grace instead of “boldly coming to it” as Hebrews exhorts. By contrast, when the Holy Spirit convicts us, He points to a specific issue in our lives from which to repent or deal with in His light. Like the finger, the Spirit’s conviction is very specific. And it always leads us to Christ. (In fact, the Spirit always leads us to Jesus.) When the enemy accuses, it’s often a vague sense of guilt and condemnation. Like the hand, it’s unspecific. Learning to distinguish between the finger and the hand — the Spirit’s conviction and the enemy’s accusation — keeps us from being debilitated by the paralysis of self-analysis. Keep your eyes focused ahead, on Christ, rather than on yourself. And you will make progress in the spiritual path. Stand in the virtue of the shed blood of Jesus . . . the only thing that makes us worthy to come before our Father who is pure holiness and light.
CHRIST AS EVERYTHING AND CHRIST IN ALL – Austin Sparks
There is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. (1 Corinthians 8:6 NIV)
Salvation is not just to get a soul saved, but to start that soul on the way to the fullness of Christ. Every ministry in the Word and in the Spirit, is governed by that end. And to be just saved and stay there is to fail of the purpose of the Word and to fall short of the energy of the Holy Spirit. To go to any part of this world in what we call “the work of the Lord” must mean that we are governed by this thing: that in that place there shall be nothing less than the fullness of Christ; as far as it is possible, that Christ shall be everything and in all there. That is final, utter, and ultimate. There can be no division and no sharing with Christ. It must be Christ as everything and in all.
When we recognize that that is the aim and object of the Holy Spirit, we have life and ministry defined. It applies to all. If you are the Lord’s, your life should be governed by the Word of the Lord and by the Holy Spirit. If it is not, there is something wrong with your relationship to the Lord. Whatever your work is – it may be in the home as a parent, it may be in household duties, it may be in business – if you are there in relation to the Lord, so far as you personally are concerned, your life has got to represent Christ; and that is the ministry. If we carried that into every sphere of life, things would be very different. That must challenge every motive, that must govern every consideration, that must settle every quarrel, every conflict, everything that arises which causes us disturbance, annoyance, and throws us into the vortex of some battle. The thing has to be tested on this point only – Christ as everything and Christ in all.
THE HIGHEST PLACE ORDAINED BY GOD – Titus Chu
The highest place ordained by God for you is to be a brother. This is quite different from our concept. Our concept is that the highest place is to be an apostle, followed by prophet, then evangelist, and so on, according to the sequence given by Paul in Ephesians 4:11. * Even for an apostle, however, the highest exercise in his apostleship is for him to be a brother. When referring to his commission, Paul referred to himself as an apostle (as in Ephesians 1:1). This, however, was not his title. The reality of being even an apostle comes out of the exercise of one’s place as a brother, not the exercise of some position. Peter wrote of “our dear brother Paul” in his Epistle (2 Peter 3:15), and Paul referred to Apollos, another apostle, as a brother (1 Cor. 16:12). In the church life there are none besides brothers. And this is the highest status. Any other title among us reveals there is a shortage of truth. It seems, however, quite common to think of certain ones as being higher than others in the church life. Part of our problem is that we think seniority merits privilege. With seniority we feel there is a certain status. This is the thought of the world. For instance, I have flown so many miles on a particular airline that my flights are often upgraded to first class. Do I not deserve it? We bring this kind of thinking into the church life: “I have attended so many meetings, suffered through so many changes, offered so much, and served faithfully. Surely that earns me something.” When you view yourself in this way you become something other than a brother. You become special. This is particularly true of those who serve full-time. Actually, no one can promote you to any higher position than that of brother. Therefore, never think of anyone as “just a brother.” “Brother” is the highest place to which you can attain in the church life. The Lord desires to see you operating as a brother.
* This does not in any way invalidate the full functioning of any of these ascension gifts in Eph. 4:11 according to the complete revelation of the New Testament. Nor does it imply that we should not respect one another and out of reverence for Christ submit to the authority that God has placed in His church. Chu is merely pointing out the profound truth that we need to gather as brothers and on that basis function in our gifts and ministries. If we gather with a gifting-and-ministry mindset we seriously hamper the free flow of the Holy Spirit and the Headship of Christ. This is especially something that needs to be heeded by those with strong gifts. Few things have done more damage to the church life than the misunderstanding of this truth. When I fellowship with my natural brothers and sisters I am first a brother, before anything else. On that basis and in that atmosphere I can serve them with my gifts. This is exactly how it should be in the church life with our spiritual brothers and sisters. “But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.” (Mt. 23:8) “For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers” (Heb. 2:11). A.T.
THE WANING AUTHORITY OF CHRIST IN THE CHURCHES I – A.W. TOZER
HERE IS THE BURDEN of my heart; and while I claim for myself no special inspiration I yet feel that this is also the burden of the Spirit. If I know my own heart it is love alone that moves me to write this. What I write here is not the sour ferment of a mind agitated by contentions with my fellow Christians. There have been no such contentions. I have not been abused, mistreated or attacked by anyone. Nor have these observations grown out of any unpleasant experiences that I have had in my association with others. My relations with my own church as well as with Christians of other denominations have been friendly, courteous and pleasant. My grief is simply the result of a condition which I believe to be almost universally prevalent among the churches. I think also that I should acknowledge that I am myself very much involved in the situation I here deplore. As Ezra in his mighty prayer of intercession included himself among the wrongdoers, so do I. “0 my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.” Any hard word spoken here against others must in simple honesty return upon my own head. I too have been guilty. This is written with the hope that we all may turn unto the Lord our God and sin no more against Him. Let me state the cause of my burden. It is this: Jesus Christ has today almost no authority at all among the groups that call themselves by His name. By these I mean not the Roman Catholics nor the liberals, nor the various quasi-Christian cults. I do mean Protestant churches generally, and I include those that protest the loudest that they are in spiritual descent from our Lord and His apostles, namely, the evangelicals. It is a basic doctrine of the New Testament that after His resurrection the Man Jesus was declared by God to be both Lord and Christ, and that He was invested by the Father with absolute Lordship over the church which is His Body. All authority is His in heaven and in earth. In His own proper time He will exert it to the full, but during this period in history He allows this authority to be challenged or ignored. And just now it is being challenged by the world and ignored by the church. The present position of Christ in the gospel churches may be likened to that of a king in a limited, constitutional monarchy. The king (sometimes depersonalized by the term “the Crown”) is in such a country no more than a traditional rallying point, a pleasant symbol of unity and loyalty much like a flag or a national anthem. He is lauded, feted and supported, but his real authority is small. Nominally he is head over all, but in every crisis someone else makes the decisions. On formal occasions he appears in his royal attire to deliver the tame, colorless speech put into his mouth by the real rulers of the country. The whole thing may be no more than good-natured make-believe, but it is rooted in antiquity, it is a lot of fun and no one wants to give it up.
THE WANING AUTHORITY OF CHRIST IN THE CHURCHES II – A.W. TOZER
Among the gospel churches Christ is now in fact little more than a beloved symbol. “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” is the church’s national anthem and the cross is her official flag, but in the week-by-week services of the church and the day-by-day conduct of her members someone else, not Christ, makes the decisions. Under proper circumstances Christ is allowed to say “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden” or “Let not your heart be troubled,” but when the speech is finished someone else takes over. Those in actual authority decide the moral standards of the church, as well as all objectives and all methods employed to achieve them. Because of long and meticulous organization it is now possible for the youngest pastor just out of seminary to have more actual authority in a church than Jesus Christ has. Not only does Christ have little or no authority; His influence also is becoming less and less. I would not say that He has none, only that it is small and diminishing. A fair parallel would be the influence of Abraham Lincoln over the American people. Honest Abe is still the idol of the country. The likeness of his kind, rugged face, so homely that it is beautiful, appears everywhere. It is easy to grow misty-eyed over him. Children are brought up on stories of his love, his honesty and his humility. But after we have gotten control over our tender emotions what have we left? No more than a good example which, as it recedes into the past, becomes more and more unreal and exercises less and less real influence. Every scoundrel is ready to wrap Lincoln’s long black coat around him. In the cold light of political facts in the United States the constant appeal to Lincoln by the politicians is a cynical joke.
The Lordship of Jesus is not quite forgotten among Christians, but it has been relegated to the hymnal where all responsibility toward it may be comfortably discharged in a glow of pleasant religious emotion. Or if it is taught as a theory in the classroom it is rarely applied to practical living. The idea that the Man Christ Jesus has absolute and final authority over the whole church and over all of its members in every detail of their lives is simply not now accepted as true by the rank and file of evangelical Christians. What we do is this: We accept the Christianity of our group as being identical with that of Christ and His apostles. The beliefs, the practices, the ethics, the activities of our group are equated with the Christianity of the New Testament. Whatever the group thinks or says or does is scriptural, no questions asked. It is assumed that all our Lord expects of us is that we busy ourselves with the activities of the group. In so doing we are keeping the commandments of Christ.
To avoid the hard necessity of either obeying or rejecting the plain instructions of our Lord in the New Testament we take refuge in a liberal interpretation of them. Casuistry is not the possession of Roman Catholic theologians alone. We evangelicals also know how to avoid the sharp point of obedience by means of fine and intricate explanations. These are tailor-made for the flesh. They excuse disobedience, comfort carnality and make the words of Christ of none effect. And the essence of it all is that Christ simply could not have meant what He said. His teachings are accepted even theoretically only after they have been weakened by interpretation. Yet Christ is consulted by increasing numbers of persons with “problems” and sought after by those who long for peace of mind. He is widely recommended as a kind of spiritual psychiatrist with remarkable powers to straighten people out. He is able to deliver them from their guilt complexes and to help them to avoid serious psychic traumas by making a smooth and easy adjustment to society and to their own ids. Of course this strange Christ has no relation whatever to the Christ of the New Testament. The true Christ is also Lord, but this accommodating Christ is little more than the servant of the people.
THE WANING AUTHORITY OF CHRIST IN THE CHURCHES III – A.W. TOZER
But I suppose I should offer some concrete proof to support my charge that Christ has little or no authority today among the churches. Well, let me put a few questions and let the answers be the evidence. What church board consults our Lord’s words to decide matters under discussion? Let anyone reading this who has had experience on a church board try to recall the times or time when any board member read from the Scriptures to make a point, or when any chairman suggested that the brethren should see what instructions the Lord had for them on a particular question. Board meetings are habitually opened with a formal prayer or “a season of prayer”; after that the Head of the Church is respectfully silent while the real rulers take over. Let anyone who denies this bring forth evidence to refute it. I for one will be glad to hear it. What Sunday school committee goes to the Word for directions? Do not the members invariably assume that they already know what they are supposed to do and that their only problem is to find effective means to get it done? Plans, rules, “operations” and new methodological techniques absorb all their time and attention. The prayer before the meeting is for divine help to carry out their plans. Apparently the idea that the Lord might have some instructions for them never so much as enters their heads. Who remembers when a conference chairman brought his Bible to the table with him for the purpose of using it? Minutes, regulations, rules of order, yes. The sacred commandments of the Lord, no. An absolute dichotomy exists between the devotional period and the business session. The first has no relation to the second. What foreign mission board actually seeks to follow the guidance of the Lord as provided by His Word and His Spirit? They all think they do, but what they do in fact is to assume the scripturalness of their ends and then ask for help to find ways to achieve them. They may pray all night for God to give success to their enterprises, but Christ is desired as their helper, not as their Lord. Human means are devised to achieve ends assumed to be divine. These harden into policy, and thereafter the Lord doesn’t even have a vote. In the conduct of our public worship where is the authority of Christ to be found? The truth is that today the Lord rarely controls a service, and the influence He exerts is very small. We sing of Him and preach about Him, but He must not interfere; we worship our way, and it must be right because we have always done it that way, as have the other churches in our group. What Christian when faced with a moral problem goes straight to the Sermon on the Mount or other New Testament Scripture for the authoritative answer? Who lets the words of Christ be final on giving, birth control, the bringing up of a family, personal habits, tithing, entertainment, buying, selling and other such important matters? What theological school, from the lowly Bible institute up, could continue to operate if it were to make Christ Lord of its every policy? There may be some, and I hope there are, but I believe I am right when I say that most such schools” to stay in business are forced to adopt procedures which find no justification in the Bible they profess to teach. So we have this strange anomaly: the authority of Christ is ignored in order to maintain a school to teach among other things the authority of Christ.
THE WANING AUTHORITY OF CHRIST IN THE CHURCHES IV – A.W. TOZER
The causes back of the decline in our Lord’s authority are many. I name only two.
One is the power of custom, precedent and tradition within the older religious groups. These like gravitation affect every particle of religious practice within the group, exerting a steady and constant pressure in one direction. Of course that direction is toward conformity to the status quo. Not Christ but custom is lord in this situation. And the same thing has passed over (possibly to a slightly lesser degree) into the other groups such as the full gospel tabernacles, the holiness churches, the pentecostal and fundamental churches and the many independent and undenominational churches found everywhere throughout the North American continent.
The second cause is the revival of intellectualism among the evangelicals. This, if I sense the situation correctly, is not so much a thirst for learning as a desire for a reputation of being learned. Because of it good men who ought to know better are being put in the position of collaborating with the enemy. I’ll explain. Our evangelical faith (which I believe to be the true faith of Christ and His apostles) is being attacked these days from many different directions. In the Western world the enemy has forsworn violence. He comes against us no more with sword and fagot; he now comes smiling, bearing gifts. He raises his eyes to heaven and swears that he too believes in the faith of our fathers, but his real purpose is to destroy that faith, or at least to modify it to such an extent that it is no longer the supernatural thing it once was. He comes in the name of philosophy or psychology or anthropology, and with sweet reasonableness urges us to rethink our historic position, to be less rigid, more tolerant, more broadly understanding. He speaks in the sacred jargon of the schools, and many of our half-educated evangelicals run to fawn on him. He tosses academic degrees to the scrambling sons of the prophets as Rockefeller used to toss dimes to the children of the peasants. The evangelicals who, with some justification, have been accused of lacking true scholarship, now grab for these status symbols with shining eyes, and when they get them they are scarcely able to believe their eyes. They walk about in a kind of ecstatic unbelief, much as the soloist of the neighborhood church choir might were she to be invited to sing at La Scala. For the true Christian the one supreme test for the present soundness and ultimate worth of everything religious must be the place our Lord occupies in it. Is He Lord or symbol? Is He in charge of the project or merely one of the crew? Does He decide things or only help to carry out the plans of others? All religious activities, from the simplest act of an individual Christian to the ponderous and expensive operations of a whole denomination, may be proved by the answer to the question, Is Jesus Christ Lord in this act? Whether our works prove to be wood, hay and stubble or gold and silver and precious stones in that great day will depend upon the right answer to that question. What, then, are we to do? Each one of us must decide, and there are at least three possible choices. One is to rise up in shocked indignation and accuse me of irresponsible reporting. Another is to nod general agreement with what is written here but take comfort in the fact that there are exceptions and we are among the exceptions. The other is to go down in meek humility and confess that we have grieved the Spirit and dishonored our Lord in failing to give Him the place His Father has given Him as Head and Lord of the Church. Either the first or the second will but confirm the wrong. The third if carried out to its conclusion can remove the curse. The decision lies with us.
THE TURNING POINT – Chip Brogden
The turning point in my life came in 1995. At that time I was a 24 year-old burned out pastor of a church that had just closed. I was a little angry, a little frustrated, and a little depressed. As I was half-reading and half-praying, I came across a passage that I had seen hundreds of times before: “[God] has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6). That word “together” exploded upon my consciousness – together, together, TOGETHER! I finally grasped the fact that I am in Christ, and Christ is in me. From there, everything else fell into place. If I am seated together with Him, then I ascended together with Him. If I ascended together with Him, then I was resurrected together with Him. If I was resurrected together with Him, then I died with Him. If I died with Him, then “I was crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20). I knew all those Scriptures… I had read them hundreds of times… I had taught these things for years… But on that day, the written Word became the Living Word. I saw Him. I saw myself in Him – just one of the crucified, dead, buried, resurrected, ascended, and seated Branches of a crucified, dead, buried, resurrected, ascended, and seated Vine. I saw it backwards and forwards, upside down and rightside up, from every possible angle and from every possible color.
MIDDE IN DIE WÊRELD – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“Here, U het my oorgehaal, en ek het my laat oorhaal; U was te sterk vir my en het my oorwin.”
God, U het my nie met rus gelaat nie, U het my agtervolg, U het nou hier, dan weer daar in my pad kom staan, my gelok, my betower, my hart gebrei en gewillig gemaak, U het met my gepraat van U verlange en ewige liefde, U trou en sterkte. Toe ek krag gesoek het, het U my versterk: toe ek ‘n houvas gesoek het, het U my opgerig; toe ek vergiffenis gesoek het, het U my skuld vergewe. Ek wou nie, maar U het my wil, my verset, my hart oorwin.
God, U het my onweerstaanbaar verlok sodat ek my aan U oorgegee het. Soos ‘n niksvermoedende het U my vasgegryp – en nou kan ek nie van U loskom nie, U sleep my, ons, weg as ‘n buit, maak ons op U triomfwa vas en sleep ons agter U aan sodat ons geskonde en gebroke aan U triomftog deelneem. Kon ons weet dat U liefde so seer maak, dat U genade so hard is? U was te sterk vir my, U het gewen. Toe die gedagte aan U in my sterk geword het, het ek swak geword. Toe U oor my kom, was dit klaar met my; my wil was gebreek, my krag was te klein, ek moes die pad van lyding loop, ek kon nie meer omdraai nie, die beslissing was oor my lewe geneem. Nie ek het beslis nie, maar U. U het my aan U verbind, in lief en leed. God, waarom is U so vreeslik naby aan ons?
Om van God nie meer te kan loskom nie, dit is die beklemmende verontrusting van elke Christelike lewe. Wie hom eenmaal met Hom ingelaat het, kom nie weer los nie; soos ‘n kind nie loskom van sy moeder nie, ‘n man nie van die vrou wat hy liefhet nie. Met wie Hy eenmaal gepraat het, kan Hom nie meer heeltemal vergeet nie, hom vergesel Hy voortaan in die goeie en in die slegte, Hy agtervolg hom soos ‘n skaduwee. En hierdie voortdurende nabyheid van God word vir die mens te veel, te groot, ooreis hom, en soms dink hy: “As ek my maar nooit met God ingelaat het nie; Hy druk te swaar op my; Hy verbrysel my sielsvrede en my geluk.” Maar dit baat hom alles niks. Hy kom nie los nie. Hy moet vorentoe, saam met God, kom wat wil. En wanneer hy dink hy kan nie meer nie, dan weet hy tog dat hy in Sy hande bly, as Sy offerande.
Maar juis hier waar ons dink dat die pad saam met God onmoontlik swaar geword het, juis hier word die nabyheid van God, sy trou, sy sterkte vir ons tot troos en help, hier eers sien ons vir God en die sin van ons lewe regtig raak.
RICHES IN POVERTY – Albert Theron
Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Revelation 3:17 “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ – and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.”
We have two ‘words’ spoken by Jesus before us. One was spoken on earth and the other from heaven. In both these words we see the same fundamental principle of kingdom living emphasized. The one in Matthew states a fact and the one in Revelation gives a warning. In the first verse of Scripture we are told that the poor in spirit are blessed. That is, they are exceedingly happy, in modern language. In the second verse we see a group of people in an ancient church that think they are rich and probably think they are happy, but Jesus says they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, naked.
To be ‘poor in spirit’ is to live in a constant state of dependence on God. It is to be continuously aware of the fact that you have nothing that you did not receive from God (1 Cor. 4:7). It is the attitude that glories in Christ alone, because it knows that we are but vessels that contain the riches of Christ. Right here we have to ask ourselves the question: ‘Are we deceived, as was that church in Laodicea, spoken of in Revelation 3?’ The scary part of this condition is that a church may be blissfully unaware of its poverty until that moment when the living Lord reveals their true condition before the Father.
We may be rich in many aspects of our church life. We may have the best programs, a beautiful and impressive church building, eloquent and professional pastors, a talented worship team, padded seats and carpeted pews, flawless organization and marvellous media facilities, but the question remains: ‘Are we rich in Christ?’ We may have the answers to many questions that previous generations never had, but are we rich in Christ? We may have more money, better organization and the means to communicate the gospel in a way never known before, but are we rich in Christ?
We have to urgently ask ourselves this question, both as individuals and as churches. How do we fare before the penetrating gaze of the One who walks in the midst of the seven candlesticks (Rev. 1:13)? There has never been a time in history when there were more ‘things’ and external props that could make a church or individual believe that they are rich in the Lord when in fact they are poor, naked and miserable. Let me leave you with the encouragement that Jesus gives in verse 18 of Revelation 3: “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.”
Quote of the Day: “We may as well face it: the whole level of spirituality among us is low. We have measured ourselves by ourselves until the incentive to seek higher plateaus in the things of the Spirit is all but gone.” A.W. Tozer
BROKENNESS – Austin Sparks
We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV)
All God’s purpose, all that God means for us on that other side of the Cross in union with Christ risen and exalted absolutely demands brokenness, complete brokenness, in all those concerned. Not just the brokenness of their pictures and outward hopes, but an inward brokenness. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves” (2 Cor. 4:7). The self-hood broken, broken vessels for heavenly eternal fullness.
The Cross is necessary for our breaking. It is not a pleasant note, I know, but in all faithfulness it must be said. This is the Lord’s word to you: that if you are not broken by the Cross, if you have not gone through an experience of real brokenness under the hand of God, all that the Lord means in you and through you will still be suspended, it will be impossible. If the Cross means one thing, it does mean that the Cross is the way to the glory and to heavenly fullness. It is the way of an inward breaking. Let me be very precise, because I know of different kinds of brokenness. I know the brokenness of disappointments, of disappointed hopes and expectations, but the kind of brokenness I am talking about is the brokenness of the self-hood, the strength of Self that holds its position and holds its ground and that will not let go. That is the kind of brokenness. This self-strength, whether it be intellectual and mental or whether it be emotional or whether it be in the will, that strength of the natural life has got to be broken as truly as the sinew of Jacob’s thigh had to be touched and withered. Something like that has to happen in us that we carry through the rest of our days. God has done something in the realm of our self-hood and we are broken men and women so far as self-sufficiency, self-assertiveness, self-confidence and every other form of Self is concerned. It must be.
TORN AWAY FROM OURSELVES – Bill Freeman
“We judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer to themselves, but to Him who died for them and rose again.” 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
For God to be our source, we need to see that God is not going to improve us. He is not going to mend us or even upgrade us. We may upgrade our computer software, but when it comes to improving the self, there are no upgrades in God’s arrangement of things. God is not going to improve me, nor is He going to render some help to me, as if I was the source of my life. Christ becomes our righteousness in order that we might be torn away from ourselves and catapulted into Another life and source. God does things in absolutes. He crucifies the self and terminates it. He does not even give it a chance to try to work out its own righteousness. The fact that we “all died” in His death deals with the matter of source. A dead person can no longer live to himself. Christ comes to replace us. He comes to be the very source of our being. He comes to exchange our life for His life. He does this by joining Himself to our spirit, so that we become one spirit with Him(1Cor.6:17).
God’s goal is to come into my spirit to become my source. The way He does this is by first taking me completely out of the realm of my self by crucifying me outright. This co-crucifixion with Christ quickly ends my religious history. God terminates me in one realm that He might resurrect me in another. The experiential effect of this co-resurrection, where Christ Himself is now my righteousness, is that I become completely reoriented. It is truly no longer I, but Christ in me, who is living to God. Because Christ is my life, God is now my source.
THAT FINAL WAITING – Arthur Katz
“At the doorway of the tent of meeting, moreover, you shall remain day and night for seven days, and keep the charge of the Lord, that you may not die, for so I have been commanded.” Thus Aaron and his sons did all the things which the Lord had commanded through Moses. Leviticus 8:35-36
There is something so human in us that is adept at producing schools of discipleship to process men in three months, and send them out to change the world. Where is the waiting? There is a human itch, where the last refuge of self hides, ostensibly in doing the work of God, but that corrupts it from being a pure and priestly work. It is not, and can never be, a work of eternal consequence. That final waiting somehow brings the death to that last thing. We are not to rush out and do our ‘ministry.’ There is a season of waiting that is an ultimate waiting. Seven is the number of completion. One can do a lot of ‘good’ things, but the ultimate things, the priestly things, the apostolic things, require waiting seven days at the door of the tent of the congregation. A lot of us have fallen short at this one place, and have allowed the cutting and shedding, but we have rushed out prematurely without first waiting for the last processes of God to take place. The book of Acts, Chapter 13, commences with a group of people ministering unto the Lord. In that mode of being, the Holy Spirit could say, “Set apart for Me Barnabbas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” These men were set apart, or consecrated, in a separation of such an ultimate kind that they would have been just as content to remain in the place of worship at Antioch as to be sent into the purposes of God. They had come to a place of death to themselves, even the religious desire to serve God, and to see fruit, and to be used, that it was all the same to remain as to go. It was a separation from the deepest and most subtle elements of ambition that hide themselves in the last place in which they can find refuge, namely, a religious and spiritual ambition to do for God. God has said that we will ‘die’ if we go before the time, and untold numbers have done that, and died-a short spurt, a little flurry of activity and recognition, and then lost to obscurity. The seven days of waiting is the final death to that last impulse to do for God, and to be found doing. When we have passed those seven days, then we are safe to minister in a priestly way for God, free from any consideration of the effect and benefit for ourselves. If there is something in us that wants to be heard, then our service is not priestly. We are a generation that is so ministry-minded, so doing-oriented that we have no concept for, and no disposition to see, the extraordinary investment that God requires in the preparation of His servants. God sets His premium on what we are, not what we do. If the doing does not flow from the being, then it is not apostolic.
THE CROSS AND THE CHURCH – Watchman Nee
The consummation of the work of the cross is the church. The work of the cross goes as far as the Body of Christ and consummates with the Body of Christ. Hence, the knowledge of the cross brings us to the knowledge of the Body of Christ. The cross brings a man to a state of weakness and inability, one in which he totally loses hope in the old creation. When he is brought to this point, he is delivered in a real way from the old creation and brought into the new creation. Everything in the old creation has been condemned and terminated by the cross. The Body of Christ is the new creation; it has nothing to do with the old creation. If we resort to human methods, tactics, and skills (which we have used in the past) to deal with the affairs of the church, the result will only be disastrous. God does not approve of anything that is from the old creation, and He will not allow anything from the old creation to remain in the new creation. Everything of the old creation must pass through the cross and remain on the cross. The church has no use for anything that comes from the old man. The church only takes that which issues from Christ.
When man fell, he fell because of his own concepts, choices, and judgments. Therefore, God will not allow anything that issues from the old creation to gain the upper hand. The “backbone” of the natural man must be broken; the hollow of his thigh must be touched. Before he will submit to God, he must be crippled and fall flat on his face. This is what God is doing in the new creation. He is smashing everything of the old creation, and He is constituting us with everything that issues from Christ so that we can become the Body of Christ in practicality. I saw the evil of man’s flesh twelve years ago in Philippians 3, Romans 5, and John 5. For seven months I was hesitant to make any move at all, because I knew that everything that issued from the flesh would be rejected by God. God wants to remove everything in man that is from the flesh. God’s children must first deal with the natural life. If they deal with their natural life, they will be in the Body spontaneously, because the Body of Christ is composed of everything that issues from Christ. Nothing of the old man can remain in the Body. As soon as a man passes through the experience in Romans 5 through 8, he can enter into the experience of Romans 12.
THE ETERNAL PURPOSE OF THE CHURCH – Arthur Katz
God’s wisdom is at odds with every assumed rational, sane and conventional understanding of life, its purpose and its meaning. Unless we understand this reality, we do not understand the purpose of the Church, and we will therefore condemn the Church to some kind of Sunday addendum, some kind of institutional function that has for its purposes “us” rather than Him. That is a fatal mistake. We are not true church until this mystery comes into the central place of our consideration. We are too rooted in the immediate, rooted in our needs and in the visible and temporal. God intends for us to have a view of the unseen that alone is calculated to free us from the bondage of narrow self-interest. This is God’s genius and wisdom. He did not give us His eternal purposes because He wants to ‘get fancy.’ He knew that if we were not occupied with something that is beyond this age, we would become so rooted in this age that we would be null and void to address this present age. God’s eternal purposes can only be performed through the Church, a demonstration of a certain magnitude that is not primarily for the benefit of mankind as an evangelistic witness to the nations. This is beyond that and more ultimate than that, even though mankind will be instructed by this demonstration. It is cosmic, beyond the earth, and occupies all the ages to come. God is delighted by it; it is something that He wants, and He has created all things in order that this should take place. It has absolutely nothing to do with our success or our well being, with our enjoyment or any of those things with which we are so occupied. It is totally irrelevant to the practicalities of our daily life, and yet our daily life will suffer in exact proportion to our indifference to the eternal purposes of God. Is that not why we have insoluble problems in our daily life? *Is that not why we are sickly? We are suffused and suffocated and taken up with myopic concentration upon ourselves. We like to feel our spiritual pulse and the programmatic activity of the congregation all centered in an egocentric Christendom. We will never be saved from sins, lusts and the distractions of the world unless our souls are preeminently occupied with God’s purposes for our salvation. The only thing calculated to liberate us is to be taken up with the eternal purposes of God in Christ Jesus. Nothing else has the power to counter the powers of the world and the things that are secular, mundane, and that clutch at us even things that have a seeming legitimacy. Good, respectable, conventional and legitimate things can occupy us as much as, or more than, the more blatant orgies of materialism. To take this seriously will alert the principalities and powers that we have now become something formidable, and that they need to regard us with a certain tremor of apprehension and fear. Let them see a people who are earnest for the eternal purposes of God and there will be a war being waged in the heavenlies that we will feel and encounter.
Katz is referring here to spiritual weakness. A.T.
A PERSON TO BE LIVED WITH – Austin Sparks
Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. (Romans 5:18 NLT)
The whole subject of spiritual power is most important. So many Christians find themselves involved in a continual struggle to live up to what they know to be God’s standard. For them Christianity is a manner of life composed of various rules and regulations. They know what ought to be and what ought not to be, and they therefore struggle to attain to this level of living. Their consciences play a large part in this constant effort, and for this reason they suffer many fears and fail to experience the promised joys. Life for them has become a strenuous business, fraught with much disappointment and many failures. They may from time to time have a sense of attainment and success, with much resultant gladness, but with the fluctuating emotions of the soul, things seem to collapse and go all wrong. So it is that people find the Christian life burdensome; they long to know real victory, true deliverance and the joy of the Lord, whereas they experience the ups and downs of a constant struggle. The Christian life depicted in the New Testament seems so different from their actual experience that the devil is never slow to pounce in with his suggestions that a life of constant victory is quite impossible, so that all their hopes are but unreal dreams. Satan wants God’s people to despair of knowing His power.
But there is an altogether different life, different because it is based on the entering into something already completed in Christ; not something to be attained to but rather that which has already been accomplished. It is not a standard to be lived up to, but a Person to be lived with. It is impossible to measure the vast difference between these two kinds of life. The former is one of self effort and defeat, while the other consists in enjoying the reality of Christ the power of God.
GOVERNED BY A FAMILY SPIRIT – Austin Sparks
Serve each other through love. (Galatians 5:13 GW)
It is always the work of God’s enemy to clog up our lives by introducing love of self or love of the world, and it needs ruthless determination to remove the accumulated rubbish and re-dig the well in purity of devotion to Christ. It may well be, though, that the hindrances arise from lack of love to our fellow believers. We must remember that the Holy Spirit can never have free course in us and through us if we harbor unloving thoughts concerning other of God’s children, let alone put those thoughts into actions. He is the Spirit of fellowship, so that if we fail in that realm then we fail in the matter of love. It is so easy to allow unworthy considerations to quench brotherly love, to be clogged up with resentment or to be wrongly influenced by our susceptibilities or hurt feelings…. We have to be active in positive cultivation of fellowship. To some it is quite natural to be independent. For them deference to others represents a major difficulty. Sometimes they may deliberately ignore or despise others, but sometimes they just prefer to do it alone and never seriously think of inter-relatedness and inter-dependence.
The Word of God, however, is most explicit in ordering us to esteem one another, to submit to one another and to live and work together. The Holy Spirit demands that the people of God live according to a team order of things, that they should be governed by a family spirit. Anything which is of an isolated or detached nature, which fails to recognize and fully accept the family thought of God, is a check on Him. By failing to observe fellowship we quench the Spirit. It is not only a matter of avoiding giving offence but of active pursuit of fellowship. Some may be wondering why there is so little up-springing from the inner well, when they are sitting back in a wrong kind of modesty, failing to bring in their own personal contribution to fellowship life and ministry. Unkindness is not the only obstacle in this realm. Shyness and diffidence can equally rest like a stone on the flow of Life. The only thing to do is to dig it up and move it away. Get in, get right in, and let yourself go! Do not always choose the back seat because you like to be left alone, but come forward in the Lord’s name and give the Holy Spirit a free course in your lives. He is well able to check you if you become too self-assertive, but there is little He can do if your well is all stopped up with fears and inhibitions.
THE KNOWLEDGE THAT PUFFS UP – Albert Theron
“Add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge.” 2 Peter 1:5a
“Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.” 1 Corinthians 8:1a
We are specifically commanded in the Bible to grow in knowledge. We are told to not be children in understanding (1 Cor. 14:20), to pursue the excellence of the knowledge of Christ (Phil. 3:8), and in our text in 2 Peter to fill out our faith with knowledge, among other things. There are many more Scriptures that exhort us strongly to be zealous to know all that we may know as children of the Most High God. Believers who are hungry to discover as much as possible about the kingdom that we have been called into will always have a greater potential to grow spiritually than believers who are more reluctant to learn, but right here we have to be careful and consider the Scriptural view of knowledge.
Knowledge in biblical usage is never a mere intellectual or theoretical exercise. When we look at the Scripture verse in 1 Corinthians 8:1 it almost seems like we are discouraged to be knowledgeable. The point is, however, that knowledge that is not applied puffs up. The Greek concept of knowledge encourages knowledge for the sake of knowledge, but the Hebrew concept is always directly linked to something that is life-changing and necessarily applied. Even though the New Testament was written in Greek the biblical notion of knowledge is always Hebrew throughout the Scriptural record. The reason for this is that knowledge in the Bible is always in the first place related to a Person, namely God. The greatest aim of biblical knowledge is to know God. In Philippians 3:10 Paul explains with great passion that the ultimate goal of his life is ‘to know Him (Christ) and the power of His resurrection’. Hence it is clear that you cannot separate knowledge from relationship, in the Bible. Furthermore, the idea is that this knowledge of God will inevitably change your conduct as the character of Christ begins to permeate your entire being through the true knowledge of Him.
Lastly, let us always remember that knowledge of the Word of God is exclusively the domain of the Holy Spirit. He is called the ‘Spirit of truth’, because He is the One who leads us into all truth. Once again the matter of relationship is emphasized. Knowledge pursued apart from the ministry of the Holy Spirit will always lead to a puffed-up attitude, often without our realization that we have become proud in all our knowing. It is Father’s desire for us to constantly grow in knowledge and to never come to a place where we think we know it all, but we must strive to have His focus, Christ, and give ear to His Instructor, the Holy Spirit.
Quote of the Day: “It is better to experience contrition than to know its definition.” Thomas a Kempis
THE POWER OF THE NEW COVENANT – Ray Stedman
Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant (2 Corinthians 3:4-6a).
The new covenant is a very important subject. If I had to list the most important truth in the Word of God, aside from the deity of Christ, I would say it is this truth: that God has given us the new covenant, the new provision for life for His people. But the one thing I find most missing in the church across the world today is the knowledge and understanding of this new way to live.
Paul is talking about confidence, and many people in the world are trying to gain confidence. When you turn on the television or listen to the radio or pick up a magazine, you are constantly bombarded with suggestions on how to become a self-sufficient, confident, capable, well-adjusted person, able to handle life. There are all kinds of approaches, and almost all work on the same basis. Confidence, we are told, has to come from within you. You have to somehow find in yourself the power to achieve and be a success. You can build up confidence through courses you take and skills you develop. That is how you will prove to be a successful individual. The world understands, quite properly, that you have to have a degree of confidence. People who lack confidence are unsure of themselves and insecure, and they go bumbling through life and never make a good impression on anyone and are always failing. Therefore the great thing to aim for is to buildup a deep sense of confidence.
This new covenant that Paul talks about is entirely different from anything the world knows about. The world would say that Paul was a success because he was doing his very dedicated best to give himself totally to mobilize all his resources and his considerable abilities to serve God with all his heart. But if you asked Paul, he would never say that. He would say that there was nothing coming from him. And he is not just being modest; he means that. I don’t make that kind of a contribution at all, he says. Everything is coming from God. The ability that is evident in my ministry, the changes that occur in people’s lives because of what I am and where I go have nothing to do with my natural skills or ability. It’s all coming from God at work in me. The old covenant is Paul’s trying to do his best on behalf of God; the new covenant is God’s doing His best through Paul. What a difference that is! That is the great truth we need to learn. That is true of all Christians, not just apostles. We are all ministers of Christ; there is no special class set aside to be ministers. You too are called to be a minister of the new covenant, depending on God to be at work in you, not on your ability to do something for Him.
AN INSTRUMENT FOR GOD TO USE – A.W. Tozer
The Word of God speaks with such appreciation of the common people that I am inclined to believe it is a term dear to God. Jesus was always surrounded by the common people. He had a few “stars,” but largely His helpers were from the common people, the good people—and surely, not always the most brilliant. Jesus looked first for consecration and in our own day it is surely true that His Spirit uses those who are no longer interested in their own promotion, but are consecrated to one thought—getting glory for Jesus Christ, who is Saviour and Lord! To please God, a person must be just an instrument for God to use. For a few seconds, picture in your mind the variety of wonderful and useful appliances we have in our homes. They have been engineered and built to perform tasks of all kinds. But without the inflow of electrical power they are just lumps of metal and plastic, unable to function and serve. They cannot do their work until power is applied from a dynamic outside source. So it is in the work of God in the church. Many persons preach and teach. Many take part in the music. Certain ones try to administer God’s work—but if the power of God’s Spirit does not have freedom to energize all they do, these workers might just; as well have stayed home. Natural gifts are not enough in God’s work. The mighty Spirit of God must have freedom to animate and quicken with His overtones of creativity and blessing. There have been great preachers in the past who were in demand all over the world. I think of one of the greatest, a recognized divine in New England. We still may think of him as an evangelical, but he was not known primarily as a Bible preacher. He expounded on such subjects as nature and science, literature and philosophy. His books had instant sales and his pulpit oratory attracted great crowds. But when that preacher died, the bottom just dropped out of all the work which had kept him so busy. The work of the Spirit of God had been given no place in directing all of that natural talent and energy. God’s eternal work had not been furthered. We may recall, however, that when Spurgeon and G. Campbell Morgan passed away, their work and outreach went right on. Both of these well-known preachers had built their lifetime ministries on the Word of God and the power of the Spirit. You can write it down as a fact: no matter what a man does, no matter how successful he seems to be in any field, if the Holy Spirit is not the chief energizer of his activity, it will all fall apart when he dies. Perhaps the saddest part about that is that the man may be honored at his death for his talents and abilities, but he will learn the truth in that great day when our Lord judges the work of every man. That which is solely his own work and is wrought by his own talent will be recognized as nothing but wood, hay and stubble.
EMPTIED OF SELF-SUFFICIENCY – K.P. Yohannan
Ask the average Christian why the Lord destroyed Sodom, and he or she will cite the city’s gross immorality. Ezekiel, however, reveals the real reason in chapter 16, verses 49 and 50: “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.” Sodom refused to aid the needy poor because of pride. We are caught up in a national pride similar to Sodom’s. Yes, selfishness and perversion come from that pride, but we need to see that pride is the real root. Deal with that root and you cut off a multitude of sins before they have a chance to grow. One night while speaking at a church missionary conference, I was asked to meet privately with the church council to give my reaction to a new mission program they were considering. I already had preached and was very tired. I did not feel like sitting in a board meeting. The meeting, attended by 22 persons, began in the usual way, more like a corporate board meeting at IBM or General Motors than a church board. The presenter made an impressive, business-like proposal. The scheme involved shifting “third country nationals” from Asia to a mission field in Latin America. It was very futuristic and sounded like a major leap in missions, but warning lights and bells were going off in my mind. To me it sounded like 19th-century colonial missionary practice dressed in a different disguise. The Lord spoke to me clearly: “Son, tonight you must speak to people who are so self-sufficient they’ve never asked Me about this plan. They think I’m helpless.” When the chairman of the church council finally called on me to respond with my opinion of the proposal, I stood and read certain parts of Matthew 28:18–20: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations . . . to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway. . . .” Then I closed my Bible and paused, looking each one in the eyes. “If He is with you,” I said, “then you will represent Him—not just be like Him—but you will exercise His authority. Where is the power of God in this plan?” I did not need to say much. The Holy Spirit anointed my words, and everyone seemed to understand. “How often have you met for prayer?” I asked rhetorically. “How long since you have had an entire day of prayer to seek God’s mind about your mission strategy?” From their eyes it was easy to see they had prayed little about their mission budget, which was then in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The discussion went on until 1:30 in the morning, but with a new sense of repentance in the room. “Brother K.P.,” said the leader to me afterward, “you have destroyed everything we were trying to do tonight, but now we’re ready to wait on God for His plan.” That kind of humility will bring the Church back into the center of God’s will and global plan. Churches today are not experiencing the power and anointing of God in their ministries because they do not have the humility to wait on Him. Because of that sin, the world remains largely unreached. So little of evangelical Christian work is done in total dependence upon the living God. Like our brothers and sisters in that big church, we have devised methods, plans and techniques to “do” God’s work. Those involved apparently sense no need to pray or be filled with the Holy Spirit to do the work of Jesus. How far we have drifted from the faith of the apostles and the prophets! What a tragedy when the techniques of the world and its agents are brought into the sanctuary of God. Only when we are emptied of our own self-sufficiency can God use us. When a church or a mission board spends more time in consultation, planning and committee meetings than in prayer, it is a clear indication the members have lost touch with the supernatural and have ended up, in Watchman Nee’s words, “serving the house of God and forgot the Lord Himself.”
TOTAL REJECTION OF THE OLD CREATION – Austin Sparks
You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. (Hebrews 3:13 NLT)
We talk about our motives, and we say, “Our motive was right!” We talk about our conscientiousness, we talk about our intentions; but you and I do not know what lies behind what we call our good motives. There is a deceitfulness about this human heart that defies our greatest attempt at tracking it down, and we shall never do it…. Here is where the church has become such a confused thing, and such a tragedy; for the prevailing idea is that if you give yourself over to God He will take you up and use you: “Bring over your humanity and consecrate it to the Lord! Consecrate your old man to the Lord, and go out and serve the Lord, with a consecrated old man!” it is utterly contrary to the teaching of God’s Word. The result is that in the work of God all the world over you have people serving the Lord in the energy of the flesh, in the reasoning of the flesh, in the emotions of the flesh. Meet them, counter them, frustrate them, and you meet something evil; you meet with a fight, a division, a schism, a scattering, and wholesale resignations.
Do you see what a havoc the enemy can make in that which is called the church, because people with best intentions and purest motives have come to serve the Lord with all their own intelligence, their own strength, and their own emotion? They have not seen that God has closed the door to the old creation, and that God’s attitude is this: “The only thing that can satisfy Me, that can serve Me is My Son, and if you are going to come into My service, He has to be the energy of everything, the Life of everything, the Wisdom of everything!” He has to be the governing, ruling reality in everything. It is not to be a matter of your impulses, but of His urgings and leadings by the Holy Spirit; not your sitting down to reason out what it would be good to do for the Lord, what ought to be done, what needs to be done, but what He shows you, nothing more…. You and I must not bring over our old creation and give it to God, expecting God to use it. God begins with birth. The church of the firstborn is something quite new, and it comes out of a death. That death is the death of an old creation, and the resurrection is of something that is not the resuscitation of an old creation, but the resurrection of something wholly of God.
NO MAN CAN SERVE TWO MASTERS – Watchman Nee
The Lord said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Mt. 6:24). Many people do not have light because their eye is not single [Mt. 6:22]. The reason their eye is not single is that they are short of consecration before the Lord. What is consecration? It is serving Jehovah alone. A man cannot serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other; he cannot serve both well. He cannot maintain such a balance. No one can serve the Lord on the one hand and serve mammon on the other hand. All those who try to serve two masters find out sooner or later that they love one and hate the other. We must either consecrate ourselves to the Lord absolutely, or we will serve mammon completely. The Lord said that the eye has to be single. This means that our service and our consecration must be single. Singleness of the eye signifies singleness of consecration.
May the Lord show us this basic principle. If we want to read the Bible, understand its teachings, and receive its revelations, we have to bear one responsibility before the Lord: We have to consecrate ourselves absolutely to Him. Only this will give us light through the Bible. Once we have a problem with our consecration, we have a problem with our seeing. When we have a problem with our seeing, it means that we first have a problem with our consecration. We must be fully convinced that no man can serve two masters.
The other master has a name—mammon. Mammon signifies money and wealth. Much light from the Bible has been veiled because of money. Many people have been veiled from the light of the Bible because of mammon. Many people fail to see the truth in the Bible because they have a problem with money. In addition to God, they have money, and they are not willing to drop their pursuit of money. There is a conflict between the truth and their personal interest. If they could lay aside their personal interest and pursue the truth at all costs, the Bible would be crystal clear to them. Many people sacrifice the teachings of the Bible because they have a problem with mammon. If all the Christians were settled in the matter of mammon, there would be a big increase in the number of obedient ones. We have to heed this warning from God. Whenever we are careless and turn a little to our private interest, God’s light will be cut off. In order to see light, we cannot serve mammon. We cannot have two interests. We cannot maintain God’s interest as well as our own interest. We can only consider one interest—God’s interest. Once our personal interest is taken into consideration, we have two masters, and our eye is no longer single. A double-minded person cannot study the Bible; neither can one who has reservations from private interests. Only those with a single eye can study the Bible.