THE LORD IS VERY NEAR – A.T. Pierson
If we are in Christ, He is between us and all our hostile surroundings. Perhaps, like Paul, we are encompassed by foes and what men call fears, actually prisoners for the Gospel’s sake with martyrdom in prospect. What is the Spirit’s word to us? “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand” (verse 5). [Philippians 4:5]. We may be permitted to doubt whether even such English words adequately render the brief but sublime original: “Let your mildness, gentleness, forebearingness, patience, be manifest, evident to all men. The Lord is close by — very near.” This latter expression has been perhaps hastily applied and limited to the Lord’s second coming. But may the thought not be even more comforting than this? When, looking at your human environment, you find cause for disquiet, alarm, fear, and are tempted to resistance and self-defense or vindication, God says to you, let your forebearingness be manifest unto all men — remember that the Lord Himself is nearer you than anyone else, between you and your foes. They cannot come within the sphere of your security, nor come between you and Him. Paul himself found that when all men forsook him, the Lord stood by him and strengthened him. And no man perhaps ever lived, whose peace was more absolutely uninterrupted by hostile surroundings, or whose sense of his Master’s close proximity proved more absolutely satisfying and sufficient. Are you in Christ Jesus? Remember He is near, very near, next to you in respect to interposition, between you and all human foes.
YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN – Philip Mauro
Since God is infinitely holy, and inflexibly just, He cannot excuse sin, or overlook any fault, however minute. He must condemn it. But since God is full of compassion and rich in mercy, loving us even when we were dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:4-5), He has provided a way whereby He can, in perfect justice, pardon — not sin but — the sinner who accepts His way of salvation. To do this, He must first condemn sin in the place where it dwells, namely, in the flesh; and this He has done in the holy and immaculate person of His own well-beloved Son. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and (as a sacrifice) for sin, condemned sin in the flesh “ (Romans 8:3). I beg you, dear friends, to give close attention to this. It is a fearful, fearful thing, after that God, against Whom we have all grossly offended, has met our desperate case by putting His own Son in the place of the guilty, “that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Hebrews 2:9); after God has done this, it is a fearful thing, I say, for any to spurn that grace, and to refuse to accept the Son of God as Savior and Lord. “For He has made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). I am most anxious that you should apprehend the teaching of God’s Word on this point, concerning which so many are in ignorance. I was in like ignorance for many years. I supposed that if we “did the best we could,” and “tried to lead a good life,” it would be all well with us; and that, somehow, our wrongdoings would be overlooked. But just consider the matter for a moment. Suppose that a man not only tried to live a good life, but succeeded, from the ordinary point of view, in doing so. Do you not see that this leaves him with the same corrupted nature, which, even should he suppress its tendencies, still remains unchanged. We cannot bring this old nature into the Kingdom of God. Wemust get a new and incorruptible nature. As our Lord has stated it: “You must be born again” (John 3:7). There are only two kinds of righteousness. One is the righteousness that a man attains by his own efforts, and which, in God’s sight, is “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6); and the other is the “righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ.” This righteousness is “unto all, and upon all them that believe” (Romans 3:22).
YOUR CHILDREN – Charles Spurgeon
“Bring him unto Me!” Mark 9:19
Despairingly the poor disappointed father turned away from the disciples, to their Master. His son was in the worst possible condition, and all means had failed—but the miserable child was soon delivered from the evil one, when the parent in faith obeyed the Lord Jesus’ word, “Bring him unto Me!”
Your children are a precious gift from God—but much anxiety comes with them. They may be a great joy—or a great bitterness to their parents. They may be filled with the Spirit of God—or possessed with the spirit of evil. In all cases, the Word of God gives us one recipe for the curing of all their ills, “Bring them unto Me!”
O for more agonizing prayer on their behalf, while they are yet babes. Sin is there, let our prayers begin to attack it.
In the days of their youth we shall see sad tokens of that dumb and deaf spirit, which will neither pray aright, nor hear the voice of God in the soul—but Jesus still commands, “Bring them unto Me!”
When they are grown up, they may wallow in sin and foam with enmity against God! Then, when our hearts are breaking—we should remember the great Physician’s words, “Bring them unto Me!” Never must we cease to pray for them—until they cease to breathe. No case is hopeless—while Jesus lives.
The Lord sometimes allows His people to be driven into a corner—that they may experimentally know how necessary He is to them. Ungodly children, when they show us our own powerlessness against the depravity of their hearts—drive us to flee to the Strong One for strength—and this is a great blessing to us!
Whatever this day’s need may be, let it like a strong current—bear us to the ocean of divine love! Jesus can soon remove our sorrow. He delights to comfort us. Let us hasten to Him—while He waits to meet us!
ALL OUR RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY WEIGHED IN THE BALANCES – Austin Sparks
God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him. (Colossians 1:19 NIV)
The next thing I am going to say may be difficult to accept, just as it is difficult to say, and yet faithfulness demands that things like this should be said. There is going to be a tremendous surprise one day over this matter. There is a tremendous amount of energy, and activity, and machinery, and zeal and devotion in the work of the Lord, in the service of the Lord, which seems to be producing something quite big, and carrying on something quite extensive. It is not for us to judge, but it is for us to lay down laws and recognize those laws, or, rather, recognize laws that are laid down by God. When eventually all work, all service, all activity, is weighed in the balances, which will determine what abides forever or passes away forever, all that which was merely human energy for God will go; all that which was merely man’s enterprise for the Lord will go; all that which was in any way out from man himself, even though in devotion to God, will go. Only that which was the energy of Christ, the wisdom of Christ, the power of Christ, will remain. God is not using your energies and my energies. He is calling upon us to use the energies of Christ. God cannot set His seal upon anything that is of man.
God’s seal only rests upon that which is of His Son, and we must not say that because a thing is big, extensive, and seems to be a great work for God, that it necessarily is such. What we have got to be quite sure about is that that thing is not being carried on by the momentum of man, or the momentum of organization, the momentum of machinery, the momentum of human zeal and energy for God, nor by the momentum of a program, but that it is being energized by the Holy Spirit, that it is Christ Himself who is the Life and the power of that thing. In so far as human personalities, energies and all that kind of thing are the mainspring, we may be sure that in the end there is going to be a good deal that goes. That can be seen as you look back over the history of things which claimed to represent God. The object of saying this is not for one moment to cast a cloud of suspicion or doubt over anything, but it is to emphasize this truth, this basic truth. It is along the line of jealousy for Christ. Nothing will remain in this universe eventually but what is Christ, and we must recognize that everything for God’s ultimate purpose is bound up with and in Christ, and it IS Christ.
WE MUST HAVE REALITY – A.W. Tozer
The world is perishing for lack of the knowledge of God and the church is famishing for lack of His presence. The cure of most of our religious ills would be to enter into the Presence in spiritual experience, to become suddenly aware that we are in God and God in us. This would lift us out of pitiful narrowness and cause our hearts to be enlarged. This would burn away the impurities from our lives as the bugs and fungi were burned away by the fire when the bush is burned. What a broad world to roam in, what a sea to swim in is this God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We must go beyond the mere idea of God that is so often held, and get to the person of God beyond the creed and theory. We must have reality, instead of going through life trying to love an ideal and be loyal to a creed. Then I think a new world will arise out of the religious mists when we approach our Bible with the idea that it is not only a book which was once spoken, but a book which is now speaking. If you would follow on to know the Lord, come at once to the open Bible expecting it to speak to you. I would emphasize that our committal, this one great volitional act establishes the heart’s intention to gaze forever upon Him. God takes this intention for our choice and makes what allowances He must for the thousand distractions which beset us in this evil world. He knows that we have set the direction of our hearts toward Jesus, and we can know it too, and comfort ourselves that a habit is forming wich will become, after a while, a sort of spiritual reflex requiring no more conscious effort on our part.
THE HEART OF IDOLATRY – Albert Theron
Man was created to find his joy in God in a uniquely intimate-personal way and to thus reflect the glory of God throughout the universe for all eternity. Therefore God commands us to “Delight yourself in the Lord” (Ps. 37:4) and to “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4). Anything less than ultimate joy in God, above all other enjoyments in your life, is idolatry! The heart of idolatry is not that we fail to serve and obey God, but that we do not find our ultimate joy in Him. Obedience is a fruit of joy in God. It is only as I behold the glory of Christ in the gospel (2 Kor. 3:18) that joy in God increasingly becomes the heartbeat of my entire life. Man was made to be a container and reflector of the infinite beauty of God. But to do so without passion and joy would be the ultimate insult to the glory of God, and would utterly defeat the purpose.
DIE HART VAN AFGODERY
Die mens is geskape om op ‘n besondere, intiem-persoonlike manier sy genot in God te vind en sodoende die heerlikheid van God te reflekteer en vertoon deur die hele heelal vir alle ewigheid. Daarom beveel God ons “verlustig jou in die Here” (Ps. 37:4) en “verbly julle altyd in die Here” (Fil. 4:4). Enigiets minder as totale vreugde in God, bo alle ander vreugdes in ons lewens, is afgodery! Die hart van afgodery is nie dat ons nalaat om God te dien en gehoorsaam nie, maar dat ons nie ons grootste vreugde in Hom vind nie. Gehoorsaamheid is ‘n vrug van blydskap in God. Dit is net terwyl ek die heerlikheid van Christus aanskou in die evangelie (2 Kor. 3:18) wat vreugde in God toenemend die hartklop van my hele lewe word. Die mens se skeppingsdoel is om ‘n houer en reflekteerder van die onpeilbare lieflikheid van God te wees, maar om dit te doen sonder passie en vreugde sou die grootste moontlike belediging vir die heerlikheid van God wees en die doel geheel en al mis.
THE RESPONSIBILITY OF FAITH – Miles Stanford
Think for a moment of the positional truth of 2 Corinthians 5:17, “… If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature [creation]: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” In the Lord Jesus we are altogether new creations, born anew and complete in Him. He is the eternal Source from which our condition is to develop. “For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us, (taking paths which He prepared ahead of time) that we should walk in them—living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live” (Eph. 2:10, Amp.).
Even though the work is complete in Christ, there is nothing automatic about our experience of it. Ours is the responsibility of faith. We were not only born anew by faith, but we are to live, walk, and grow by faith. To enter intelligently and cooperatively into that which our Father has established for us in Christ, by faith we are to “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24). This simply means that we are to rest in our position in the Lord Jesus as our life. We are to abide there because we have already been established (born) there. “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col. 3:10). “For as many of you as have been baptized [spiritually, by the Holy Spirit] into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Rom. 13:14). The Lord Jesus is “put on” as we abide in Him by faith. Our risen Lord is full provision for our Christian life and service; and the cross is the only provision we have for the self-life. As we confidently rest in the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit gives us the things of Christ by means of growth. As a result, our condition begins to reflect what we already are in position. By faith, we abide and live in Him; by faith, His life is developed and manifested in us. “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Gal. 4:19).
SATAN’S ETERNAL CAMPAIGN OF IDOLATRY – 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.
COMPLETE IN CHRIST – A.W. Pink
Christian progress does not denote that the work of regeneration was incomplete. Great care needs to be taken in stating this truth of spiritual growth lest we repudiate the perfection of the new birth. We must repeat here in substance what was pointed out in the first article. When a normal child is born into this world naturally the babe is an entire entity, complete in all its parts, possessing a full set of bodily members and mental faculties. As the child grows there is a strengthening of its body and mind, a development of its members and an expansion of its faculties, with a fuller use of the one and a clearer manifestation of the other; yet no new member or additional faculty is or can be added to him. It is precisely so spiritually. The spiritual life or nature received at the new birth contains within itself all the “senses” (Heb. 5:14) and graces, and though these may be nourished and strengthened, and increased by exercise yet not by addition, no, not in heaven itself. “I know that whatsoever God does it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it nor anything taken from it” (Eccl. 3:14). The “babe” in Christ is just as truly and completely a child of God as the most matured “father” in Christ.
Regeneration is a more radical and revolutionizing change than glorification. The one is a passing from death unto life, the other an entrance into the fulness of life. The one is a bringing into existence of “the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:22), the other is a reaching unto the full stature of the new man. The one is a translation into the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col. 1:13). the other an induction into the higher privileges of that kingdom. The one is the begetting of us unto a living hope (1 Peter 1:3), the other is a realization of that hope. At regeneration the soul is made a new creature” in Christ, so that “old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). The regenerate soul is a partaker of every grace of the Spirit so that he is “complete in Christ” (Col. 2:10), and no growth on earth or glorification in heaven can make him more than complete.
DIE GEVAARLIKSTE LEEFRUIMTE OP AARDE – Albert Theron
“En Ek sal julle ‘n nuwe hart gee en ‘n nuwe gees in jul binneste gee; en Ek sal die hart van klip uit julle vlees wegneem en julle ‘n hart van vlees gee. En Ek sal my Gees in jul binneste gee en sal maak dat julle in my insettinge wandel en my verordeninge onderhou en doen.” Eseg. 36:26-27
Die belofte van die Nuwe Verbond het alles te doen met ‘n nuwe hart. Uit die hart vloei “die oorspronge van die lewe” (Spr. 4:23). Daarom is die wedergeboorte onontbeerlik en godsdiens sonder ‘n nuwe hart nie net dwaas en geheel en al nutteloos nie, maar sekerlik die gevaarlikste leefruimte op aarde. Hoekom? Want dit is moontlik vir ons om met al ons godsdiens rites en rituele totaal mislei te wees en onsself te verbeel dat godsdiensbeoefening en allerhande godsdienstige aktiwiteite God vreeslik beïndruk en outomaties Sy guns waarborg. Die Bybel leer egter duidelik dat God slegs beïndruk is met dit wat Hyself inisieër en onderhou in en deur Sy geliefde Seun (Rom. 11:36). Daarom is gemeentes, groepe, en bedieninge waar persoonlike bekering, wedergeboorte, en die nuwe lewe in Christus nie verkondig en konstant beklemtoon word as die basis van alles wat ons doen nie, gevaarlike plekke. Daar vind ons gewoonlik groot getalle mense “wat ‘n gedaante van godsaligheid het, maar die krag daarvan verloën het” (2 Tim. 3:5). Wat dit so gevaarlik maak is dat hierdie mense gewoonlik salig onbewus is daarvan dat hulle heeltemal verlore is en ‘n ewigheid sonder God tegemoet gaan. Dan liewer ‘n opperste wêreldling wat bewus is van sy behoefte aan redding. Mag God ons ‘n las gee vir verlore godsdienstige mense en ‘n dringendheid in ons gees om reguit te praat oor wedergeboorte. Om ons op te hou met allerhande godsdienspraatjies as dit nie gebaseer is op die nuwe lewe in Christus nie, is dwaas en gevaarlik.
“Jesus antwoord en sê vir hom: Voorwaar, voorwaar Ek sê vir jou, as iemand nie weer gebore word nie, kan hy die koninkryk van God nie sien nie.” Jn. 3:3
“En dié van die Fariseërs wat by Hom was, het dit gehoor en vir Hom gesê: Is ons dan ook blind? Jesus antwoord hulle: As julle blind was, sou julle geen sonde hê nie; maar nou sê julle: Ons sien! Daarom bly julle sonde.” Jn. 9:40-41
SELF-LOVE COMMANDED OR ASSUMED? – John Piper
To sum up, the ancient misunderstanding of the command, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” was the lawyer’s attempt to restrict the meaning of “neighbor” to a certain group and thus to raise a question which would hopefully conceal the real problem, namely, his failure to actually be the kind of person which the commandment was calling him to be—one whose heart of compassion could not allow him ever to pass by on the other side of the road [Luke 10:29-37].
The modern misunderstanding of this commandment, most prevalent within the cult of the self, is the remarkably common notion that Jesus is not presupposing but commanding self-love and that self-love is equivalent to self-esteem, positive self-regard and the like. I’ve tried to show that Jesus’ command offers no support at all to the purveyors of self-esteem. Jesus did not command but presupposed and stated as a fact that people love themselves; and the meaning of this self-love, as is seen from the context, the Golden Rule, and Ephesians 5:28f., is that all men desire and seek what they think is best for them. This universal human trait then becomes the rule to which all loving self-sacrifice must measure up.
It seems to me that there is but a hair’s difference between the self-justification which gave rise to the lawyer’s error and the craving for self-esteem which is part and parcel of the more modern error. Just how intimately the two errors are related I will leave for the reader to ponder.
As I see it, the meaning of the command, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” is this: our Lord is aiming to call into being loving, compassionate, merciful men and women whose hearts summon them irresistibly into action when there is suffering within their reach. And to that end he demands that they again and again ask themselves this question: am I desiring and seeking the temporal and eternal good of my neighbor with the same zeal, ingenuity and perseverance that I seek my own?
DO NOT ATTEMPT TO REPAIR AND REFORM THE FLESH – Watchman Nee
Man is not regenerated by doing something special but by believing the Lord Jesus as his Savior: “to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1.12-13). Those who believe the Lord Jesus as Savior are born of God and are therefore His children.
`Regeneration is the minimum of spiritual life. It is the basis upon which later building up takes place. One can neither speak of spiritual life nor expect to grow spiritually if he is not regenerated, since he has no life in his spirit. Just as no one can construct a castle in the air so we cannot edify those who are unregenerated. If we attempt to teach an unregenerate to do good and to worship God, we are simply teaching a dead man. We are attempting to do what God cannot do when we try to repair and reform the flesh. It is vital that each believer knows beyond doubt he has been regenerated already and has received a new life. He must see that new birth is not an attempt to tinker with the old flesh or to transform it into spiritual life. On the contrary, it is receiving a life, which he never had and could not have had before. If one is not born anew he cannot see the kingdom of God. He can never perceive the spiritual mysteries and taste the heavenly sweetness of God’s kingdom. His destination is but to wait for death and judgment; for him there is nothing more.
WHEN GOD HAS YOUR HEART – Paul Washer
Sometimes, I’ll go out visiting with my pastor, and we’ll go see somebody that hasn’t been in church for months and months and months, and knock on the door and the person will receive us very, very well, be very, very polite. Begin to speak with him about the things of God, and he’s automatically drawn to the duties of church, and he says, “You’re right. I know I need to get back in church.” How many of you have heard that before? “I need to get back in church, and I need to get my kids in Sunday school, and, yeah, I need to read my Bible, and I need to….” He’s lost. God is nothing but bad medicine to him that he takes only not to die. If I go home tonight and make it home, my wife’s waiting up for me, and she’s standing there at the door. And I walk in and I just give her a big old kiss, and she says, “Well, what’s all that about?” And I pull out this, and I say, “Well, on page 32 of the manual of good husbands, it says I’m supposed….” She will feed me that book page by page. She doesn’t want that. She wants my heart. When we talk about self-denial, I have never met a missionary, never in my life, worth his salt that’s given up almost everything that even thought about it. Never even thought about it. If you were to start talking to them about it, they get uncomfortable and try to change the subject because they can’t think of anything they’ve given up. Why? They’re so mesmerized by God. This is not about giving up stuff. It’s about looking at Him and following Him.
GLORIOUS RELEASE FROM MAN-MADE SYSTEMS OF RELIGION – Albert Theron
“When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” Jn. 10:4
The day a true disciple realises that he has already received everything in Christ that he will ever need in this life or the next, is the day everything changes. Henceforth no manipulation or intimidation can keep you chained to man-made religious systems. No threat or bribe can hold you back anymore. No guilt trip or condemnation aimed at your heart by unenlightened religious people can henceforth keep you cloistered within the confines of an ambitious leadership’s individualistic vision and agenda. No humanistic sweet-talk or clever psychological mind-game can fool you or persuade you to compromise anymore. No amount of religious bullying can scare you sufficiently to lure you back under man’s oppressive yoke. From that day forward you follow Jesus alone in the freedom of the children of God, to serve Him with other disciples who only want to be under His yoke. The vision and agenda of Jesus Himself is now your only passion. This is a passion you share with other disciples who have seen the all-sufficiency of Jesus, in loving submission to one another under the Headship of Christ (Eph. 5:20-21).
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Gal. 5:1
“Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” Jn. 12:42-43
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Mt. 11:30
DIE HEERLIKE VERLOSSING UIT MENSGEMAAKTE GODSDIENS-SISTEME
“En wanneer hy sy eie skape uitgebring het, loop hy voor hulle uit; en die skape volg hom, omdat hulle sy stem ken.” Jn. 10:4
Die dag wat ‘n ware dissipel werklik sien dat hy reeds alles in Jesus ontvang het wat hy ooit sal nodig hê vir hierdie lewe en die volgende, verander alles. Geen manipulasie of intimidasie kan jou dan geketting hou aan mensgemaakte godsdiens-sisteme nie. Geen dreigement of omkoopgeskenk kan jou meer terughou nie. Geen skuld of veroordeling van godsdienstige mense kan jou meer gekluister hou in die klooster van ‘n ambisieuse leierskap se individualistiese visie en agenda nie. Geen humanistiese gepaaiery of slim truuks van die sielkunde kan jou flous of oortuig om te kompromitteer nie. Jy volg Jesus alleen voortaan in die vryheid van die kinders van God, om Hóm te dien saam met ander dissipels wat net onder Sý juk wil staan. Jésus se visie en agenda is nou jou een passie. ‘n Passie wat jy deel met ander dissipels in liefdevolle onderdanigheid aan mekaar onder die heerskappy van Jesus (Efes. 5:20-21).
“STAAN dan vas in die vryheid waarmee Christus ons vrygemaak het, en laat julle nie weer onder die juk van diensbaarheid bring nie.” Gal. 5:1
“Maar tog het selfs baie van die owerstes in Hom geglo; maar ter wille van die Fariseërs het hulle dit nie bely nie, om nie uit die sinagoge geban te word nie. Want hulle het die eer van die mense meer liefgehad as die eer van God.” Jn. 12:42-43
“Want my juk is sag en my las is lig.” Mt. 11:30
OUR UNITY IS IN CHRIST – A.T. Pierson
As we come into contact with true fellow believers and perceive in them the Christ image — as we see that they breathe the same air and live the same life, that they also belong to Christ and partake also of His Spirit, our conception of the unity of all believers in Him grows continually in vividness of impression. We cannot help our love going out to them; to whatever different sphere they may belong, in family, social, or national life, they belong with us to that supreme sphere which is celestial and eternal. And here is the only real hope of unity in the Church: it is found in the recognition of our mutual relation to Christ, and in Him to each other -as our Lord prayed, “that they also may be one in us” (John 17:21). The spheres of family life, social life, church life, and national life are all visible, and they impress us with a vivid sense of our unity, as brothers, neighbors, fellow church members, fellow citizens. But, to a true child of God, the invisible bond that unites all believers to Christ is far more tender, and lasting, and precious; and, as we come to recognize and realize that we are all dwelling in one sphere of life in Him, we learn to look on every believer as our brother, in a sense that is infinitely higher than all human relationships. This is the one and only way to bring disciples permanently together. All other plans for promoting the unity of the Church have failed. Let us live more and more in Christ, and then we shall and must live more and more in the bonds of a holy love and peace. It must be first of all the unity of the Spirit.
LIVING BY REVELATION – Bill Freeman
“For we are not as the many, corrupting the word of God: but as out of sincerity, but as out of God, in the sight of God, speak we in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 2:17 (ASV)
Here the apostle Paul gives us a practical example of a person living out of God as his source. The three special phrases in this verse—out of God, in the sight of [or, before] God, and speak we in Christ—are all ways of describing how Paul’s speaking was out of the source of God, and not out of himself. His ministry was proceeding out of God, before God, and in Christ.
When we are redeemed and regenerated, we are ushered into the realm of the new creation, where God begins a process in which experientially the old things start to pass out of our lives. The old things are related to our self as our point of reference. We lived out of our own impulses, our own choices, our own thoughts. But now we begin to live by revelation, that is, by what God has revealed to us in His Word. It is when we live by revelation that God becomes our source. He reveals to us the purpose of our human life. We no longer take man’s views and concepts as the basis of our human existence.
Revelation unveils to us God’s eternal purpose, which is the purpose behind the created universe. This revelation causes me to be a person who is living to be conformed to the image of God’s Son, with the many brothers in the church (Rom. 8:28-29). Thus, we are squarely planted in the church life, with Christ as the focus and reality of our daily life. We do not live by our own thoughts—what we think we should do. We live by the unveiling of God’s heart’s desire for His Body, the church, where Christ is all and in all. It is by this unveiling that God becomes our source. The Spirit teaches us, through the Word, to be persons who are living a life in complete accord with God’s heart’s desire. Our daily life begins to proceed out of God as we learn to live out of Him as our source.
MOVED WITH COMPASSION – J.C. Ryle
Finally, let us mark the feelings of our Lord Jesus Christ towards the people who came together to Him. We read that He “was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep without a shepherd.” They were destitute of teachers. They had no guides but the blind Scribes and Pharisees. They had no spiritual food but man-made traditions. Thousands of immortal souls stood before our Lord, ignorant, helpless, and on the high-road to ruin. It touched the gracious heart of our Lord Jesus Christ. He was “moved with compassion toward them. He began to teach them many things.” Let us never forget that our Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever. He never changes. High in heaven, at God’s right hand, He still looks with compassion on the children of men. He still pities the ignorant, and those who are out of the way. He is still willing to “teach them many things.” Special as His love is towards His own sheep who hear His voice, He still has a mighty ‘general love’ towards all mankind–a love of real pity, a love of compassion. We must not overlook this. It is a poor theology which teaches that Christ cares for none except believers. There is warrant in Scripture for telling the chief of sinners, that Jesus pities them, and cares for their souls, that Jesus is willing to save them, and invites them to believe and be saved. Let us ask ourselves, as we leave the passage [Mark 6:30-34], whether we know anything of the mind of Christ? Are we, like Him, tenderly concerned about the souls of the unconverted? Do we, like Him, feel deep compassion for all who are yet as sheep without a shepherd? Do we care about the impenitent and ungodly near our own doors?
FAITH IN FAITH OR FAITH IN GOD? – Albert Theron
There is a massive onslaught in our time against biblical faith, and this onslaught is coming from within the church itself. Biblical faith is faith in God, not faith in faith. According to the Bible our faith can only grow stronger in reality to the measure that we see more of God’s Fatherhood, character, love and faithfulness in Christ. Thousands of believers today have swallowed the lie that God expects us to visualise what we want, and together with “positive” thinking and “positive” confession we will thus create a reality on this earth that manifests His will. According to this approach God is waiting powerless in the wings for us to take the authority by thinking and speaking reality into being so that our lives may be transformed. Success, health, finances, or whatever else I may need is within my reach if only I would continue to visualise and confess it, together with “positive” thought processes. Thát is not Christianity, but rather “Christian Science”. You only need to switch on your television and flick to one of the religious channels to be fed this lie in one form or another in most of the messages. In contrast the Bible teaches that God created man as a dependent being! Jesus came to this earth and died on a cross in order to restore us to a place of absolute dependence on God, not to place us in a fantasy world where we begin to play God. Jesus is the Son of God and when He was on earth He said “the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does the Son does likewise” (Jn. 5:19). There are many more of these statements of dependence in the gospel of John by which Jesus, the Author of our faith, demonstrates to us that such a dependent life is the only life that is pleasing to the Father. True disciples of Jesus grow in their dependence on God, and their thoughts and words are in everything subject to the Father’s will. The Father desires for us to have an attitude of dependence. He wants us in all things to live in relationship with Him. Relationship is the key term! This relationship can only be found in Christ. He uniquely demonstrated to us that only a life of absolute dependence on the Father and submission to His will can truly be considered a blessed life. “Blessed are the poor in spirit [the dependent ones], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:3).
GELOOF IN GELOOF OF GELOOF IN GOD?
Daar is ‘n massiewe aanslag op Bybelse geloof in ons tyd, en hierdie aanslag kom nie uit die sekulêre wêreld nie maar van binne die kerk. Bybelse geloof is geloof in God, nie geloof in geloof nie. Ons geloof kan volgens die Bybel net in werklikheid sterker word namate ons in Christus meer sien van Gód se Vaderskap, karakter, liefde en betroubaarheid. Derduisende gelowiges vandag het die leuen gesluk dat God van ons verwag om te visualiseer, “positief” te dink en “positief” te bely en dat ons sodoende ‘n realiteit kan skep op hierdie aarde wat God se wil ‘n werklikheid sal maak. Volgens hierdie valse benadering staan God magteloos en wag dat óns outoriteit moet neem en begin dink en praat wat ons wil sien gebeur in ons lewens. Sukses, gesondheid, finansies, of wat ek ookal nodig het lê binne my bereik as ek dit maar net lank genoeg visualiseer, bedink, en aanhou bely. Dít is nie Christenskap nie, maar eerder “Christian Science”. Skakel maar net die televisie aan op een van die godsdienskanale en jy sal hierdie leuen in een of ander vorm iewers in die meeste van die boodskappe vind. Die waarheid is dat God die mens geskep het as ‘n afhanklike wese! Jesus het na hierdie aarde gekom en aan ‘n kruis gesterf om ons terug te bring na ‘n plek van absolute afhanklikheid van God, nie om ons in ons eie droomwêreld te plaas waar óns God begin speel nie. Jesus is dié Seun van God en Hy het gesê toe Hy op aarde was “die Seun kan niks uit Homself doen tensy Hy die Vader dit sien doen nie. Want alles wat Hy doen, dit doen die Seun ook net so” (Jn. 5:19). Daar is nog talle sulke stellings van afhanklikheid in die evangelie van Johannes waar Jesus, die Leidsman van ons geloof, vir ons demonstreer hoe ons veronderstel is om te leef op hierdie aarde. Ware dissipels van Jesus groei in afhanklikheid van God, en hulle denke en woorde is in alles onderworpe aan die Vader se wil. Die Vader soek ‘n gesindheid van afhanklikheid by ons. Hy wil hê ons moet in verhouding leef met Hom. Verhouding is die sleutelwoord! Hierdie verhouding vind ons net in Christus. Hy het eens en vir altyd vir ons kom wys dat net ‘n lewe van absolute afhanklikheid van die Vader en onderwerping aan Sý wil ‘n werklik geseënde lewe is. “Geseënd is dié wat weet hoe afhanklik hulle van God is, want aan hulle behoort die koninkryk van die hemel” (Mt. 5:3).
THE TRUE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE – Austin Sparks
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. Think further of all the boundless resources of such a truth:-
“That you may be filled with all the fulness of God” (Eph. 3:19).
“In Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead, and in Him you are made full” (Col. 2:9,10).
“In Him should all fulness dwell” (Col. 1:19).
“All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth… and lo, I am with you always” (Matt. 28:18,20).
That such a Christ is really within us, and that we are a corporate part of Him gives almost unthinkable possibilities to our lives, and should – as it can – dismiss all fear, doubt, despair, and misgivings. We should be filled with hope and confidence, and the song of victory, actual and anticipated, should be more often in our mouths. There is one thing which we must interpret here. We have noticed that the people who have really come to see and know this wonderful secret and fulness of life have almost invariably been such as have been characterised by a desperate earnestness in matters of spiritual life; they have been men of prayer, and have jealously preserved time for meditation (not only reading) upon the Word of God. The careless, superficial and casual will never know these secrets of the Lord; they are the rich harvest of the quiet hour and the single eye.
In concluding, it is necessary to point out that Christ dwells in us in order that we may be conformed to His likeness. It is a progressive work of fashioning us after His image. This is the predestined purpose of God. “Foreordained to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29).
KNOWING THE SON MEANS KNOWING THE FATHER – John Piper
Only the Son and the Father have the capacity to know each other fully, since they have a wholly unique essence—they are God. Therefore, we cannot know them truly if it is not granted to us by a special work of grace. God the Spirit, in the service of the glory of God the Son (John 16:14), grants us the spiritual capacity to know God the Father (John 3:6-8). Because of that new capacity to know God, the Son takes his divine prerogative to make the Father known to us. Thus Jesus says, “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matt. 11:27). If the Son chooses to reveal the Father to us, then we have fellowship with both the Father and the Son through the life-giving Spirit. In this fellowship we enjoy seeing and savoring the glory of the Father and the Son. The Father and the Son are so inseparably one in glory and essence that knowing one implies knowing the other, and loving one implies loving the other. “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (1 John 4:15). Confessing Christ, the Son of God, results in God the Father’s coming to us and manifesting himself to us. The Father and the Son are so united that to have the one is to have the other. “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23). “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9). There is no possibility of knowing God or having a saving relationship with God without knowing and trusting the Son. This is made clear over and over—both negatively and positively. “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (John 5:23). “Whoever hates me hates my Father also” (John 15:23). “If you knew me, you would know my Father also” (John 8:19). “Whoever receives me receives him who sent me” (Matt. 10:40). “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16).
JESUS ALONE SAVES – Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Our Lord Himself constantly claimed to be the only Savior. He did not hesitate to say, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5). Now that is as exclusive a claim as you could ever make. Then he said, “I am the bread of life,” (John 6:35, 48) and, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Now either these statements are true, or they are the most arrant nonsense ever uttered. That is what Jesus said, and Peter and John were saying the same thing. The apostle Paul puts it even more strongly in writing to the Galatians when he says, “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8). When Peter said, “there is none other name,” he was insisting that no other individual who has ever lived in this world, or who ever will live here, can make this claim for himself. We maintain that Jesus of Nazareth is unique. He does not belong to any category; you cannot put anybody else in the same class. He is on His own. He is not one of many. He is not simply the best of many. There are people who talk about him like that. They have a list. They talk about Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Moses, Jeremiah, Jesus, and then various other great thinkers since then. But that is utterly to deny Him. There is no other; there is no second. It is not a question of whether He is better than everybody; He is different. He and he alone saves. We can put that in another way also: The apostle is not only asserting that nobody else can ever save or deliver us, but also that our Lord needs no help. Jesus alone saves, and He saves perfectly. Let me say it with reverence: He does not need the help of the Virgin Mary. She is not a “co–redemptress,” because He is the full, sufficient, complete Redeemer in Himself. He is all and in all, and to add anybody to Him, even His mother, is to deny Him, and it is blasphemy.
THE LAW AND THE ALTAR – Francis Schaeffer
There is only one payment possible from a holy God to creatures who have deliberately sinned against Him, and that pay envelope is marked with one terrible word: death. Many today who have no knowledge of the Bible experience this death as they search in vain for their purpose in life. The more logical such a person is, the more he sees this—that he can’t find anything in life, he can’t get hold of anything, the whole thing slips through his fingers. Well, the Bible tells us the reason for this. The reason simply is that since man sinned, since the historical Fall, the only thing man can earn in this life is death. But the good news, of course, is that true life, eternal life, is possible as a “gift of God . . . through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Even in Old Testament times God showed His people in various ways that salvation was by grace through faith and not by works. As soon as God had given Israel the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1-20), He commanded them to build an altar (Ex. 20:21-26), whereupon they would offer sacrifices to atone for their inability to keep the law. We see this combination of the law and the altar again in chapter 24: “And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar” (Ex. 24:4). The text goes on to emphasize the need for the shedding of blood to atone for Israel’s inability to keep the law: “And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you concerning all these words” (Ex. 24:8). The very covenant itself was sealed by the shedding of blood. There had to be the blood. Why? Because no one would be able to keep the law. Even back then, they understood. Indeed, the very method and materials used to build the altar were symbolic of Israel’s inability to come to God on the basis of works. The altar was to be built using a minimal amount of human labor: “If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it.” (Ex. 20:25). Before the Jews had any opportunity of thinking they could in any way earn salvation, God made it clear to them that they could really do nothing at all to that end, not even so much as taking a chisel and smoothing the stone of the altar.
DON’T BUY WHAT YOU ALREADY POSSESS – Tullian Tchividjian
Early in this letter [Colossians], Paul mentions “the word of the truth, the gospel,” and he then adds this: “which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you” (1:6). He’s speaking to Christians, and he tells them the gospel is not only fruitful and growing around the world, but in them as well. It was these verses, specifically, that first convinced me long ago that the gospel is not just for non-Christians. It’s bigger than that; it’s for Christians, too. The gospel represents both the nature of Christian growth and the basis for it. Whatever progress we make in our Christian lives—whatever going onward, whatever pressing forward—the direction will always be deeper into the gospel, not apart from it, or aside from it. Growth in the Christian life is the process of receiving Christ’s “It is finished” into new and deeper parts of our being every day, and it happens as the Holy Spirit daily carries God’s good word of justification into our regions of unbelief—what one writer calls our “unevangelized territories.” Paul was telling the Colossians, who in their culture were constantly tempted by contending worldviews and competing offers of salvation and freedom, that only the gospel of Christ has the power to bring about such freedom—such a radical, beautiful rescue. He was saying, “All the liberty and deliverance you long for is yours already in Christ. You don’t need to go out and seek it somewhere else, from some other teaching or philosophy or lifestyle. They’re selling you counterfeit freedoms, counterfeit deliverances. You already have the real thing, so don’t buy what you already possess.” Paul was trying to persuade the Colossian Christians not to live beneath the level of the exalted privileges that were theirs already in Christ’s everythingness. That was the good news.
THE WISDOM OF THE GOSPEL – C.H. Spurgeon
The gospel is the sum of wisdom; a collection of knowledge; a treasure-house of truth; and a disclosure of mysterious secrets. In it we see how justice and mercy may be associated; here we see unalterable law entirely satisfied, and sovereign love carrying away the sinner in triumph. Our meditation on it broadens the mind; and as it opens to our soul in successive flashes of glory, we stand astonished at the profound wisdom manifest in it. Yes, dear friends! if you seek wisdom, you will see it displayed in all its greatness; not in the firmness of the earth’s foundations: not in the measured march of the clouds of the sky, nor in the perpetual motions of the waves of the sea; not in the vegetation with all its intricate forms of beauty, nor in the animal with its marvelous tissue of nerve, and vein, and sinew; nor even in man, that last and loftiest work of the Creator. But turn aside and see this great sight!—an incarnate God on the cross; a substitute atoning for mortal’s guilt; a sacrifice satisfying the vengeance of Heaven, and delivering the rebellious sinner. Here is essential wisdom; enthroned, crowned, and glorified. Admire, you men and women of the earth, if you are not blind; and you who glory in your learning, bow your heads in reverence, and admit that all your skill could not have devised a gospel that is one so just to God, and so safe to man.
THE VARIATIONS OF SOUL-LIFE – Austin Sparks
Then we carry about this soul-life of ours which causes all the sensations from which we suffer. Oh, the variations of our soul life! Some are more variable than others. Sometimes we feel one way and sometimes another, and sometimes we do not know how we feel and there is a swirl and change in our soul-life; and there are times when without any explanation at all a darkness comes over our spirits and a sensation of the unreality of things. Everything at other times may be most real to us, but we may feel now the unreality of the things which were so much to us. That is all to do with our soul-life. It makes no difference to the inner truth of the Lord and our spirit. We go through these variations. Have we not passed through those experiences thousands of times? While in them we raised the ultimate question: Has the Lord left us, given us up, forsaken us; everything has gone wrong, were we deceived?
You cannot have bigger questions than these; yet that passes. You come through and everything is as clear and positive as ever it was. Which of those two things are you going to take as your ground? The variations of your soul-life or the unfailing faithfulness of the Lord and His spiritual things. Our life is not in ourselves, our own souls, bodies and minds, it is in Him within us, and we have to hold on to the Lord. We may be feeling pretty bad physically, there may be a lot that contributes to our feeling everything is all wrong, all false, and unreal, nothing in it. The Lord abides and the Lord works deep down in us, we will come up back to that abiding ground. But faith requires that through the time of the changes, the conflicting elements, and feelings, we say like David: “This is my infirmity, but I will remember the days of the right hand of the Lord.” This is me, this is not the Lord. This is my make-up, this is not the Lord. His life is unchanging, incorruptible , unfailing, it abides; it is deeper than our consciousness, deeper than our minds, our souls, and far deeper than our bodies. His work is an abiding work. Let us remember the power of His resurrection: that there is that where death has been defeated and robbed of its power. We may seem to be labouring, very little manifestation of the fulness of fruitfulness, but it is going on if His life is in you; it will go on and it will be manifested at some time or another.
VIBRANT CHRISTIANITY – Paul Washer
I travel all over the world. I visit many universities, and I am seeing quite an amazing thing that, even in secular universities when I go there to speak, I see a hundred, a hundred and fifty young men and women reading Edwards and Spurgeon and, more importantly, the apostle Paul and reading him rightly. There is a reformation occurring and God has done it, and He will do it, but there are certain doctrines that are key if we are going to see a reformation and a revival. And if it is to be sustained, it will be sustained not by zeal but by truth. And not just by truth, but Spirit-empowered truth. Biblical terminology with biblical definitions applied and empowered by the Holy Spirit is vibrant Christianity. Biblical terminology with biblical definitions without the application and power of the Holy Spirit is nothing more than dead orthodoxy and intellectual Calvinism, which is a demon in itself. And then biblical terminology without biblical definitions is basically traditional church in America. And that always leads to the fourth stage, and what is that? Abandoning all biblical terminology and going to church-growth methodologies to build something that is not a church. And so young men, I’m going to be speaking to you. I’m going to be speaking to the young men primarily, but to the old, because we all need to hear this, and it is this. We need truth. But the truth has to be more than just factual evidence in a book. It is more than propositional. It is empowered by the Holy Spirit. It must become a reality in your life, a reality of the cross, a reality of the resurrection, a reality of the power of the Holy Spirit and the presence of God, because, until it becomes a reality, you’re nothing more than a little boy parrot who says all the right things and doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about.
PRAYERFULNESS – John MacDuff
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5
“He continued all night in prayer to God.” Luke 6:12.
We speak of this Christian and that Christian as “a man of prayer,” Jesus was emphatically so. The Spirit was “poured upon Him without measure” — yet He prayed! He was incarnate wisdom, “needing not that any should teach Him” — yet He prayed! He was infinite in His power, and boundless in His resources — yet He prayed! How deeply sacred the prayerful memories that hover around the solitudes of Olivet and the shores of Tiberias! He seemed often to turn night into day to redeem moments for prayer, rather than lose the blessed privilege.
We are rarely, indeed, admitted into the solemnities of His inner life. The veil of night is generally between us and the Great High Priest, when He entered “the holiest of all;” but we have enough to reveal the depth of fervor, the tenderness and confidingness of this blissful intercommunion with His heavenly Father. No morning dawns without His fetching fresh manna from the mercy-seat. “He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught,” (Isaiah 50:4). Beautiful description! — a praying Redeemer, wakening, as if at early dawn, the ear of His Father, to get fresh supplies for the duties and the trials of the day! All His public acts were consecrated by prayer — His baptism, His transfiguration, His miracles, His agony, His death. He breathed away His spirit in prayer. “His last breath,” says Philip Henry, “was praying breath.”
How sweet to think, in holding communion with God — that Jesus drank of this very brook! He consecrated the bended knee and the silent chamber. He refreshed His fainting spirit at the same great Fountain-head from which it is life for us to draw, and death to forsake.
Reader! do you complain of your languid spirit, your drooping faith, your fitful affections, your lukewarm love? May you not trace much of what you deplore — to an unfrequented prayer chamber? The treasures are locked up from you — because you have allowed the key to rust! Your hands hang down — because they have ceased to be uplifted in prayer. Without prayer! — It is the pilgrim without a staff — the seaman without a compass — the soldier going unarmed to battle.
MOVING BEYOND OURSELVES – Heinrich Arnold
Ultimately , despite the strongest will, the best intentions, and the most intense striving and struggling, we can do nothing good without Jesus. Just as a branch can bear fruit only when it is connected to a living trunk or stalk, we can lead fruitful lives only insofar as we are connected to the Vine, which is Jesus. Yet Jesus is not content with our merely being attached to him. True, we have seen that it is not possible to recognize the universal significance of redemption –the significance of the cross – without having experienced Jesus himself in our hearts. But if we content ourselves with this personal fellowship with Jesus, and do not sense the greater picture of his plan for us as minuscule parts of an endless universe, we have made our Christ a very small Christ. It is not sufficient, I believe, to merely acknowledge and love Jesus as the friend of our hearts, as a Savior who brings us eternal fellowship with God. Surely he wants us to be filled with far more: the vision of his Father’s great kingdom. It cannot be enough to overcome a besetting sin and then settle back complacently, feeling, I have won my little fight. I can be the most righteous person in the world, morally speaking, but if I lack love and concern for others, my heart is not yet pure. If I let my neighbor go hungry when I am well fed, I have not truly overcome sin in my life. Jesus wants us to suffer the injustice and need of the world together with him; to hunger and thirst for righteousness for all people; to witness to his way of love and justice and peace – to fight with him for the building up of a city on the hill. Again, none of this is possible for us without the experience of personal rebirth. There is no question that every time a person is won for Christ, the power of sin and darkness is broken in his or her soul, and this is a victory for the kingdom of God. But if we go no further than individually edifying encounters with Jesus, we are missing the greatness of his cause.
CHRIST AS ALL IN ALL – Chip Brogden
“I am the Way.” JOHN 14:6
What is God after? What does He seek from us? What does He want?
First and foremost, He desires a people who will be conformed to the image of His Son, that they may demonstrate the preeminence of Christ in all things. But how does He gain such a people for Himself? The first step is to reveal His Son to us. This is the narrow gate. We cannot begin to walk the narrow path until we have entered the narrow gate.
Upon entering the narrow gate He begins to change us from the inside out so that it is Christ expressing Himself through us. “Not I, but Christ.” This is the narrow path. This narrow path we call discipleship. It leads us somewhere. A path is not for standing still. It has a destination. Where does the path lead? What is the End? Christ as All in All. That is the End. All things work together according to this supreme purpose, His Purpose.
NEW COVENANT CONFIDENCE – 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.