The New Life
Words of God for Young Disciples of Christ
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Table of Contents
|JESUS THE KEEPER|
|POWER AND WEAKNESS|
|THE LIFE OF FEELING|
|THE HOLY GHOST|
|THE LEADING OF THE SPIRIT|
|GRIEVING THE SPIRIT|
|FLESH AND SPIRIT|
|o XXVI.||THE LIFE OF FAITH|
|o XXVII.||THE MIGHT OF SATAN|
|o XXVIII.||THE CONFLICT OF THE CHRISTIAN|
|o XXIX||BE A BLESSING|
|o XXX.||PERSONAL WORK|
|o XXXI.||MISSIONARY WORK|
In the word of Micah, in the previous section, righteousness was the first thing, to love mercy the second, that God demands. Righteousness stood more in the foreground in the Old Testament: it is in the New Testament that it is first seen that love is supreme. Utterances to this effect are not difficult to find. It is in the advent of Jesus that the love of God is first revealed; that the new, the eternal life, is first given; that we become children of the Father, and brethren of one another. On this ground the Lord can then, for the first time, speak of the New Commandment -- the commandment of brotherly love. Righteousness is required not less in the New Testament than in the Old. (Matt 5:6,17,20; 6:33)
Yet the burden of the New Testament is, that power has been given us for a love that in early days was impossible. (Rom. 5:5; Gal. 5:22; 1 Thess. 4:9; 1 John 4:11; 3:23)
Let every Christian take it deeply to heart, that in the first and the great commandment,
the new commandment given by Jesus at His departure, the peculiar characteristic
of a disciple of Jesus is brotherly love. And let him with his whole heart yield
himself to Him, to obey that command.
For the right exercise of this brotherly love, one must take heed to more than one thing.
Love to the brethren arises from the love of the Father. By the Holy Spirit, the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, the wonderful love of the Father is unveiled to us, so that His love becomes the life and the joy of our soul. Out of this fountain of the love of God to us springs our love to Him. (Rom. 5:5; 1 John 4:19)
And our love to Him works naturally love to the brethren. (Eph. 4:2,6; 5:1,2; 1 John 3:1; 4:7,20; 5:1)
Do not attempt then to fulfil the commandment of brotherly love of yourselves: you are not in a position to do this. But believe that the Holy Spirit, who is in you to make known the love of God to you, also certainly enables you to yield this love. Never say: I feel no love; I do not feel as if I can forgive this man. Feeling is not the rule of your duty, but the command, and the faith that God gives power to obey the command. In obedience to the Father, with the choice of your will, and in faith that the Holy Spirit gives you power, begin to say: I will love him; I do love him. The feeling will follow the faith. Grace gives power for all that the Father asks of you. (Matt. 5:44,45; Gal 2:20; 1 Thess. 3:12,13; 5:24; Phil. 4:13; 1 Pet. 1:22)
Brotherly love has its measure and rule in the love of Jesus. 'This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you.' (Luke 22:26,27; John 13:14,15,34; Col. 2:13)
The eternal life that works in us is the life of Jesus; it knows no other law
than what we see in Him; it works with power in us what it wrought in Him. Jesus
Himself lives in us and loves in and through us: we must believe in the power of
this love in us, and in that faith love as He loved. O, do believe that this is true
salvation, to love even as Jesus loves.
Brotherly love must be in deed and in truth. (Matt. 12:50; 25:40; Rom. 13:10; 1 Cor. 7:19; Gal. 5:6; Jas. 2:15,16; 1 John 3:16-18)
It is not mere feeling: faith working by love is what has power in Christ. It manifests itself in all the dispositions that are enumerated in the word of God. Contemplate its glorious image in 1 Cor. 13:4-7.
Mark all the glorious encouragements to gentleness, to longsuffering, to mercy. (Gal. 5:22; Eph. 4:2,32; Phil. 2:2,3; Col. 3:12; 2 Thess. 1:3)
In all your conduct, let it be seen that the love of Christ dwells in you. Let your love be a helpful, self-sacrificing love, like that of Jesus. Hold all children of God, however sinful or perverse they may be, fervently dear. Let love to them teach you to love all men. (Luke 6:32,35; 1 Pet. 1:22; 2 Pet. 1:7)
Let your household, and the Church, and the world, see in you one with whom 'love is greatest;' one in whom the love of God has a full dwelling, a free working. Christian, God is love. Jesus is the gift of this love, to bring love to you, to transplant you into that life of godlike love. Live in that faith, and you shall not complain that you have no power to love: the love of the Spirit shall be your power and your life.
Beloved Saviour, I discern more clearly that the whole of the new life is a life in love. Thou Thyself art the Son of God's love, the gift of His love, come to introduce us into His love, and give us a dwelling there. And the Holy Spirit is given to shed abroad the love of God in our hearts, to open a spring out of which shall stream love to Thee, and to the brethren, and to all mankind. Lord, here am I, one redeemed by love, to love for it, and in its might to love all. Amen.
1. Those who reject the word of God sometimes say that it is of no moment what we believe, if we but have love, and so they are for making love the one condition of salvation. In their zeal against this view, the orthodox party have sometimes presented faith in justification, as if love were not of so much importance. This is likely to be very dangerous. God is love. His Son is the gift, the bringer, of His love to us. The Spirit sheds abroad the love of God in the heart. The New Life is a life in love. Love is the greatest thing. Let it be the chief element in our life: true love,
that, namely, which is known in the keeping of God's commandments. (See 1 John 3:10,23,24; 5:2) (WStS Note: Emboldened emphasis is ours.)
2. Do not wonder that I have said to you that you must love, although you do not feel the least love. Not the feeling, but the will is your power: it is not in your feeling, but in faith, that the Spirit in you is the power of your will to work in you all that the Father bids you. Therefore, although you feel absolutely no love to your enemy, say in the obedience of faith: Father, I love him; in faith in the hidden working of the Spirit in my heart, I do love him.
3. Pray, think not that this is love, if you wish no evil to any one, or if you should be willing to help, if he were in need. No: love is much more: love is love. Love is the disposition with which God addressed you when you were His enemy, and afterwards ran to you with tender longing to bless you.
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'And what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?' -- Micah 6:8 'Learn of me that I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.' -- Matt. 11:29
One of the most dangerous enemies against which the young Christian must watch, is pride or self-exaltation. There is no sin that works more cunningly and more hiddenly. It knows how to penetrate into everything, even into our service for God, our prayers -- yea, even into our humility: there is nothing so small in the earthly life, nothing so holy in the spiritual life, that self-exaltation does not know to extract its nutriment out of. (2 Chron. 26:5,16; 32:26,31; Isa. 65:5; Jer. 7:4; 2 Cor. 12:7)
The Christian must therefore be on his guard against it, must listen to what Scripture teaches about it, and about the lowliness whereby it is driven out. Man was created to have part in the glory of God. He obtains this by surrendering himself to the glorification of God. The more he seeks that the glory of God only shall be seen in him, the more does this glory rest upon himself. (Isa. 43:7,21; John 12:28; 13:31,32; 27:1,4,5; 1 Cor. 10:31; 2 Thess. 1:11,12)
The more he forgets and loses himself, desiring to be nothing, that God may be
all and be alone glorified, the more happy shall he be.
By sin this design has been thwarted: man seeks himself and his own will. (Rom. 1:21,23)
Grace has come to restore what sin has corrupted, and to bring man to glory by the pathway of dying unto himself and living solely for the glory of God. This is the humility or lowliness of which Jesus is the exemplar: He took no thought for Himself, He have himself over wholly to glorify the Father (John 8:50 Phil. 2:7)
He who would be freed from self-exaltation must not think to obtain this by striving against its mere workings. No: pride must be driven out and kept out by humility. The Spirit of life in Christ, the Spirit of His lowliness, will work in us true lowliness. (Rom. 8:2; Phil. 2:5)
The means that He will chiefly use for this end is the word. It is by the word that we are cleansed from sin; it is by the word that we are sanctified and filled with the love of God. Observe what the word says about this point. It speaks of God's aversion to pride, and the punishment that comes upon it. (Ps. 31:24; Prov. 26:5; Matt. 23:12; Luke 1:51; Jas. 4:5; 1 Pet. 5:5)
It gives the most glorious promises to the lowly. (Ps. 34:19; Prov. 11:2; Isa. 57: 15; Luke 9:48; 14:11; 18:14)
In well-nigh every Epistle, humility is commended to Christians as one of the first virtues. (Rom. 12:3,16; 1 Cor. 13:4; Gal. 5:22,26; Eph. 4:2; Phil. 2:3; Col. 2:13)
It is the feature in the image of Jesus which He seeks chiefly to impress on His disciples. His whole incarnation and redemption has its roots in His humiliation. (Matt. 20:26,28; Luke 22:27; John 13:14,15; Phil. 2:7,8)
Take singly some of these words of God from time to time and lay them up in your heart. The tree of life yields many different kinds of seed -- the seed also of the heavenly plant, lowliness. The seeds are the words of God. Carry them in your heart: they shall shoot up and yield fruit. (1 Thess. 2:13; Heb. 4:12; Jas. 1:21)
Consider, moreover, how lovely, how becoming, how well-pleasing to God, lowliness is. As man, created for the honour of God, you find it befitting you. (Gen. 1:27; 1 Cor. 11:7)
As a sinner, deeply unworthy, you have nothing more to urge against it. (Job 40:6; Isa. 6:5; Luke 5:8)
As a redeemed soul, who knows that only through the death of the natural does the way to the new life lie, you find it indispensable. (Rom. 7:18; 1 Cor. 5:9,10; Gal. 2:20)
But here, as everywhere in the life of grace, let faith be the chief thing. Believe in the power of the eternal life that works in you. Believe in the power of Jesus, who is your life. Believe in the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in you. Attempt not to hide your pride, or to forget it, or to root it out yourself. Confess this sin, with every working of it that you trace, in the sure confidence that the blood cleanses, that the Spirit sanctifies. Learn of Jesus that He is meek and lowly in heart. Consider that He is your life, with all that He has. Believe that He gives His humility to you. The word: 'Do it to the Lord Jesus,' means, 'Be clothed with the Lord Jesus.' Be clothed with humility, in order that you may be clothed with Jesus. It is Christ in you that shall fill you with humility.
Blessed Lord Jesus, there never was any one amongst the children of men so high, so holy, so glorious as Thou. And never was there any one who was so lowly and ready to deny himself as the servant of all. O Lord, when shall we learn that lowliness is the grace by which man can be most closely conformed to the divine glory? O teach me this. Amen.
1. Take heed that you do nothing to feed pride on the part of others. Take heed that you do not suffer others to feed your pride. Take heed, above all, that you do nothing yourself to feed your pride. Let God alone always and in all things obtain the honour. Endeavour to observe all that is good in His children, and to thank Him heartily for it. Thank Him for all that helps you to hold yourself in small esteem, whether it be sent through friend or foe. Resolve, especially, never on any account to be eagerly bent on your own honour, when this is not accorded to you as it ought to be. Commit this to the Father: take heed only to His honour.
2. By no means suppose that faint-heartedness or doubting is lowliness. Deep humility and strong faith go together. The centurion who said: 'I am not worthy that Thou shouldst come under my roof,' and the woman who said: 'Yea, Lord, yet even the dogs eat of the crumbs' -- these two were the most humble and the most trustful that the Lord found (see Matt. 8:10; 15:28).
The reason is this: the nearer we are to God, the less we are in
ourselves, but the stronger we are in Him. The more I see of God, the less I become,
the deeper is my confidence in Him. To become lowly, let God fill eye and heart.
Where God is all, there is no time or place for man.
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'In many things we all stumble.' -- Jas. 3:2
This word of God by James is the description of what man is, even the Christian, when he is not kept by grace. It serves to take away from us all hope in ourselves. (Rom. 7:14,23; Gal. 6:1)
'Now unto Him that is able to guard you from stumbling ... be glory, majesty, dominion, and power ... forevermore' (Jude 24,25). This word of God by Jude points to Him who can keep from falling, and stirs up the soul to ascribe to Him the honour and the power. It serves to confirm our hope in God. (2 Cor. 1:9; 1 Thess. 5:24; 2 Thess. 2:16,17; 3:3)
'Brethren, give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never stumble' (2 Pet. 1:10). This word of God by Peter teaches us the way in which we can become partakers of the keeping of the Almighty: the confirmation of our election by God in a godlike walk (see verses. 4,8,11).
It serves to lead us into diligence and conscientious watchfulness. (Matt. 26:41; Luke 12:35; 1 Pet. 1:13; 5:8-10)
For the young Christian, it is often a difficult question what he ought to think of his stumblings. On this point, he ought especially to be on his guard against two errors. Some become dispirited when they stumble: they think that their surrender was not sincere, and lose their confidence towards God. (Heb. 3:6,14; 10:35)
Others again take it too lightly. They think that it cannot be otherwise: they concern themselves little with stumblings, and continue to live in them. (Rom. 6:1; Gal. 2:18; 3:3)
Let us take these words of God to teach us what we ought to think of our stumblings.
There are three lessons.
Let no stumblings discourage you. You are called to perfectness: yet this comes not at once: time and patience are needful for it. Therefore James says: 'Let patience have its perfect work that ye may be perfect and entire. (Matt. 5:48; 2 Tim. 3:17; Heb. 13:20,21; Jas. 1:4; 1 Pet. 5:10)
Think not that your surrender was not sincere; acknowledge only how weak you still
are. Think not also that you must only continue stumbling: acknowledge only how strong
your Saviour is.
Let stumbling rouse you to faith in the mighty keeper. It is because you have not relied on Him with a sufficient faith that you have stumbled. (Matt. 14:31; 17:20)
Let stumbling drive you to Him. The first thing that you must do with a stumbling is: go with it to your Jesus. Tell it out to Him. (Ps. 38:18; 56:6; 1 John 1:9; 2:1)
Confess it, and receive forgiveness. Confess it, and commit yourself with your
weakness to Him, and reckon on Him to keep you. Sing continually the song: 'To Him
that is mighty to keep you, be the glory.'
And then, let stumbling make you very prudent. (Prov. 28:14; Phil. 2:12; 1 Pet. 1:17,18)
By faith you shall strive and overcome. In the power of your keeper and the joy and security of His help, you shall have courage to watch. The firmer you make your election, the stronger the certitude that He has chosen you, and will not let you go, the more conscientious shall you become, to live in all things only for Him, in Him, through Him. (2 Chron 20:15; Ps. 18:30,37; 44:5,9; John 5:4,5; Rom. 11:20; 2 Cor. 1:24; Phil. 2:13)
Doing this, the word of God says, you shall never stumble.
Lord Jesus, a sinner who is ready to stumble every moment would give honour to Thee, who art mighty to keep from stumbling: Thine is the might and the power: I take Thee as my keeper. I look to Thy love which has chosen me, and wait for the fulfilment of Thy word: 'Ye shall never stumble.' Amen.
1. Let your thoughts about what the grace of God can do for you, be taken only from the word of God. Our natural expectations -- that we must just always be stumbling -- are wrong. They are strengthened by more than one thing. There is secret unwillingness to surrender everything. There is the example of so many sluggish Christians. There is the unbelief that cannot quite understand that God will really keep us. There is the experience of so many disappointments, when we have striven in our own power.
2. Let no stumbling be tolerated, for the reason that it is trifling.
XIX. JESUS THE KEEPER
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'The Lord is Thy keeper: ... The Lord shall keep thee from all evil; ... He shall keep thy soul.' -- Ps. 121:4,7 'I know Him whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to guard that which I have committed unto Him against that day.' -- 2 Tim. 1:12
For young disciples of Christ who are still weak, there is no lesson that is more necessary than this, that the Lord has not only received them, but that He will also keep them. (Gen. 28:15; Deut. 7:9; 32:10; Ps. 27:8; 89:33,34; Rom. 12:2,9)
The lovely name, 'the Lord Thy keeper,' must for this end be carried in the heart,
until the assurance of an Almighty keeping becomes as strong with us as it was with
Paul, when he spake that glorious word: 'I know Him in whom I have believed, and
I am persuaded that He is able to guard that which I have committed unto Him against
that day.' Come and learn this lesson from him.
Learn from his to deposit your pledge with Jesus. Paul had surrendered himself, body and soul, to the Lord Jesus: that was His pledge which he had deposited with the Lord. You have also surrendered yourselves to the Lord, but perhaps not with the clear understanding that it is in order to be kept every day. Do this now daily. Deposit your soul with Jesus as a costly pledge that He will keep secure. Do this same thing with every part of your life.
Is there something that you cannot rightly hold -- your heart, because it is too worldly; (Ps. 31:6; Jer. 31:33)
your tongue, because it is too idle; (Ps. 51:17; 141:3)
your temper, because it is too passionate; (Ps. 119:165; Jer. 26:3,4; John 14:27; Phil. 4:6,7; 2 Thess. 3:16)
your calling to confess the Lord, because you are too weak? (Isa. 50:7; Jer. 1:9; Matt. 10:19,20; Luke 24:53)
Learn, then, to deposit it as a pledge for keeping with Jesus, in order that He may fulfil in you the promise of God about it. You often pray and strive too much in vain against a sin: it is because, although this is done with God's help, you would be the person who would overcome. No: entrust the matter wholly to Jesus: 'the battle is not yours, but God's. (Ex. 14:14; Deut. 3:22; 20:4; 2 Chron. 20:15)
Leave it in His hands: believe in Him to do it for you: 'This is the victory that hath overcome the world, even your faith.' (Matt. 9:23; 1 John 5:3,4) (WStS Note: Emboldened emphasis is ours.)
But you must first place it wholly out of your hands in His. Learn from Paul to set your confidence only on the power of Jesus. I am persuaded that He is able to keep my pledge. You have an almighty Jesus to keep you. Faith keeps itself occupied only with His omnipotence. (Gen. 17:1; 18:14; Jer. 32:17,27; Matt. 8:27; 28:18; Luke 1:37,49; 18:27; Rom. 4:21; Heb. 11:18)
Let your faith especially be strengthened in what God is able to do for you. (Rom. 4:21; 14:4; 2 Cor. 9:8; 2 Tim. 1:12)
Expect with certainty from Him that He will do for you great and glorious things, entirely above your own strength. See in the Holy Scriptures how constantly the power of God was the ground of the trust of His people. Take these words and hide them in your heart. Let the power of Jesus fill your soul. Ask only: 'What is my Jesus able to do?' What you really trust Him with, He is able to keep. (John 13:1; 1 Cor. 1:8,9)
And learn also from Paul where he obtained the assurance that this power would keep his pledge: it was in his knowledge of Jesus. 'I know Him whom I have believed:' therefore I am assured. (John 10:14,28; Gal. 2:20; 2 Tim. 4:18; 1 John 2:13,14)
You can trust the power of Jesus, if you know that He is yours, if you hold converse
with Him as your friend. Then you can say: 'I know whom I have believed: I know that
he holds my very dear: I know and am assured that He is able to keep my pledge.'
So runs the way to the full assurance of faith: Deposit your pledge with Jesus; give
yourselves wholly, give everything, into His hands; think much on His might, and
reckon upon Him; and live with Him so that you may always know who He is in whom
you have believed.
Young disciples of Christ, pray, receive this word: 'The Lord is thy keeper.' For every weakness, every temptation, learn to deposit your soul with Him as a pledge. You can reckon upon it, you can shout joyfully over it: 'The Lord shall keep you from all evil. (Josh. 1:9; Ps. 23:4; Rom. 8:35,39)
Holy Jesus, I take Thee as my keeper. Let Thy name, 'The Lord thy keeper,' sound as a song in my heart the whole day. Teach me in every need to deposit my case as a pledge with Thee, and to be assured that Thou art able to keep it. Amen.
1. There was once a woman who for years long, and with much prayer, had striven against her temper, but could not obtain the victory. On a certain day she resolved not to come out of her room until by earnest prayer she had the power to overcome. She went out in the opinion that she should succeed. Scarcely had she been in the household, when something gave her offense and caused her to be angry. She was deeply ashamed, burst into tears, and hastened back to her room. A daughter, who understood the way of faith better than she, went to her and said, 'Mother, I have observed your conflict: may I tell you what I think the hindrance is?' 'Yes, my child,' 'Mother, you struggle against temper, and pray that the Lord may help you to overcome. This is wrong. The Lord must do it alone. You must give temper wholly into His hands: then He takes it wholly, and He keeps you.' The mother could not at first understand this, but later it was made plain to her. And she enjoyed the blessedness of the life in which Jesus keeps us, and we by faith have the victory. Do you understand this?
2. 'The Lord must help me to overcome sin:' the expression is altogether outside of the New Testament. The grace of God in the soul does not become a help to us. He will do everything: 'The Spirit has made me free from the law of sin.'
3. When you surrender anything to the Lord for keeping, take heed to two things: that you give it wholly into His hands; and that you have it there. Let Him have it wholly: He will carry out your case gloriously.
XX. POWER AND WEAKNESS
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'He hath said unto me, My power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore will I glory in my weaknesses, that the strength of Christ may rest upon me. Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses: for when I am weak, then am I strong.' -- 2 Cor. 12:9,10
There is almost no word that is so imperfectly understood in the Christian life
as the word weakness. Sin and shortcoming, sluggishness and disobedience, are set
to the account of our weakness. With this appeal to weakness, the true feeling of
guilt and the sincere endeavour after progress are impossible. How, pray, can I be
guilty, when I do not do what it is not in my power to do? The Father cannot demand
of His child what He can certainly do independently. That, indeed, was done by the
law under the Old Covenant; but that the Father, under the New Covenant, does not
do. He requires of us nothing more than what He has prepared for us power to do in
His Holy Spirit. The new life is a life in the power of Christ through the Spirit.
The error of this mode of thinking is that people estimate their weakness, not too highly, but too meanly. They would still do something by the exercise of all their powers, and with the help of God. They know not that they must be nothing before God. (Rom. 4:4,5; 11:6; 1 Cor. 1:27,28)
You think that you have still a little strength, and that the Father must help you by adding something of His own power to your feeble energy. This thought is wrong. Your weakness appears in the fact that you can do nothing. It is better to speak of utter inability -- that is what the Scriptures understand by the word 'weakness.' 'Apart from me ye can do nothing.' 'In us is no power.' (2 Chron. 16:9; 20:12; John 5:19; 15:5; 2 Cor. 1:9)
Whenever the young Christian acknowledges and assents to this his weakness, then he learns to understand the secret of the power of Jesus. He then sees that he is not to wait and pray to become stronger, to feel stronger. No: in his inability, he is to have the power of Jesus. By faith he is to receive it; he is to reckon that it is for him, and that Jesus Himself will work in and by him. (John 15:5; 1 Cor 1:24; 15:10; Eph. 1:18,19; Col. 1:11)
It then becomes clear to him what the Lord means when He says, 'My power is made perfect in your weakness.' He knows to return the answer, 'When I am weak, then am I -- yea, then am I -- strong.' Yea, the weaker I am, the stronger I become. And he learns to sing with Paul, 'I shall glory in my weaknesses.' 'I take pleasure in weaknesses.' 'We rejoice when we are weak.' (2 Cor. 11:30; 12:9,11; 13:4,9)
It is wonderful how glorious that life of faith becomes for him who is content to have nothing, or feel nothing, in himself, and always to live on the power of his Lord. He learns to understand what a joyful thing it is to know God as his strength. 'The Lord is my strength and song.' (Ps. 89:18; 118:14; Jer. 12:2)
He lives in what the Psalms so often express: 'I love Thee, O Lord, my strength;' 'I will sing of Thy strength: unto Thee, O my strength, will I sing praises.' (Ps. 18:2; 28:7,8; 31:5; 43:2; 46:2; 59:17; 62:8; 81:2)
He understands what is meant when a psalm says, 'Give strength to the Lord: the Lord will give strength to His people;' and when another says, 'Give strength to God: the God of Israel, He giveth strength and power to His people.' (Ps. 29:1,11; 68:35)
When we give or ascribe all the power to God, then He gives it to us again. "I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the Evil One." The Christian is strong in his Lord: (Ps. 71:16; 1 John 2:14)
not sometimes strong and sometimes weak, but always weak, and therefore always strong. He has merely to know and use his strength trustfully. To be strong is a command, a behest that must be obeyed. On obedience there comes more strength. 'Be strong ... and He shall strengthen thine heart.' In faith the Christian must simply obey the command, 'Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.' (Ps. 27:14; 31:24; Isa. 40:31; Eph. 6:10)
The God of the Lord Jesus, the Father of glory give unto us the spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Jesus, that we may know what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe. Amen.
1. So long as the Christian thinks of the service of God or of sanctification as something that is hard and difficult, he will make no progress in it. He must see that this very thing is for him impossible. Then he will cease still endeavouring to do something; he will surrender himself that Christ may work all in him. See these thoughts set forth in detail in Professor Hofmeyr's book, Out of Darkness into Light: a Course of Instruction on Conversion, the Surrender of Faith, and Sanctification * (J.H. Rose, Cape Town), chapter third and following of the third part.
2. The complaint about weakness is often nothing else than an apology for our idleness. There is power to be obtained in Christ for those who will take the pains to have it.
3. 'Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.' Mind that. I must abide in the Lord and in the power of His might, then I become strong. To have His power I must have Himself. The strength is His, and continues His; the weakness continues mine. He, the Strong, works in me, the weak; I, the weak, abide by faith in Him, the Strong; so that I, in the self-same moment, know myself to be weak and strong.
4. Strength is for work. He who would be strong simply to be pious, will not be so. He who in his weakness begins to work for the Lord, shall become strong.
* Professor N.J. Hofmeyr is senior professor of the Theological College of the Dutch Reformed Church, Stellenbosch, Cape Colony. The volume referred to has been recently published in English under the title, The Blessed Life: How to Find and Live It (J. Nisbet & Co.), (vide P. 185). -- Translator
XXI. THE LIFE OF FEELING
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'We walk by faith, not by sight.' -- 2 Cor. 5:7 'Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.' -- John 20:29
'Said I not unto thee, that, if thou believedst, thou shouldest see the glory of God?' -- John 11:40
In connection with your conversion there was no greater hindrance in your way than feeling. You thought, perhaps for years, that you must experience something, must feel and perceive something in yourselves. It was to you as if it were too hazardous thus simply, and without some feeling, to believe in the word, and be sure that God had received you, and that your sins were forgiven. But at last you have had to acknowledge that the way of faith, without feeling, was the way of the word of God. And it has been to you the way of salvation. Through faith alone have you been saved, and your soul has found rest and peace. (John 3:36; Rom. 3;28; 4:5,16; 5:1)
In the further life of the Christian there is no temptation that is more persistent
and more dangerous than this same feeling. The word 'feeling' we do not find in Scripture,
but what we call 'feeling' the Scripture calls 'seeing'. And it tells us without
easing that not seeing, but believing, that believing right in opposition to what
we see, gives salvation. 'Abraham, not being weak in faith, considered not his own
body'. * Faith adheres simply to what God says.
The unbelief that would see shall not see; the faith that will not see, but has enough in God, shall see the glory of God. (2 Chron. 7:2; Ps. 27:13; Isa. 7:9; Matt. 14:30,31; Luke 5:5)
The man who seeks for feeling, and mourns about it, shall not find it; the man who cares not for it shall have it overflowing. 'Whosoever would save his life shall lose it, and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.' Faith in the word becomes later on sealed with true feeling by the Holy Spirit. (John 12:25; Gal. 3:2,14; Eph. 1:13)
Child of God, learn to live by faith. Let it be fixed with you that faith is God's way to a blessed life. When there is no feeling of liveliness in prayer, when you feel cold and dull in the inner chamber, live by faith. Let your faith look upon Jesus as near, upon His power and faithfulness, and, though you have nothing to bring to Him, believe that He will give you all. Feeling always seeks something in itself; faith keeps itself occupied with what Jesus is. (Rom. 4:20,21; 2 Tim. 1:12; Heb. 9:5,6; Jas. 3:16; 5:16)
When you read the word, and have no feeling of interest or blessing, read it yet again in faith. The word will work and bring blessing; 'the word worketh in those that believe.' When you feel no love, believe in the love of Jesus, and say in faith that He knows that you still love Him. When you have no feeling of gladness, believe in the inexpressible joy that there is in Jesus for you. Faith is blessedness, and will give joy to those who are not concerned about the self-sufficiency that springs from joy, but about the glorification of God that springs from faith. (Rom. 15:13; Gal. 2:20; 1 Pet. 1:5,7,8)
Jesus will surely fulfil His word: 'Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet
have believed.' 'Said I not unto thee, that, if thou believedst, thou shouldest see
the glory of God?'
Betwixt the life of feeling and the life of faith the Christian has to choose every day. Happy is he who, once for all, has made the firm choice, and every morning renews the choice, not to seek or listen for feeling, but only to walk by faith, according to the will of God. The faith that keeps itself occupied with the word, with what God has said, and, through the word, with God Himself and Jesus His Son, shall taste the blessedness of a life in God above. Feeling seeks and aims at itself; faith honours God, and shall be honoured by Him. Faith pleases God, and shall receive from Him the witness in the heart of the believer that he is acceptable to God.
Lord God, the one, the only, thing that Thou desirest of Thy children is that they should trust Thee, and that they should always hold converse with Thee in that faith. Lord, let it be the one thing in which I seek my happiness, to honour and to please Thee by a faith that firmly holds Thee, the Invisible, and trusts Thee in all things. Amen.
1. There is indeed something marvelous in the new life. It is difficult to make it clear to the young Christian. The Spirit of God teaches him to understand it after he perseveres in grace. Jesus has laid the foundation of that life in the first word of the Sermon on the Mount: 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven'; a feeling of deep poverty and of royal riches, of utter weakness and of kingly might, exist together in the soul. To have nothing in itself, to have all in Christ -- that is the secret of faith. And the true secret of faith is to bring this into exercise, and, in hours of barrenness and emptiness, still to know that we have all in Christ.
2. Forget not that the faith, of which God's word speaks so much, stands not only in opposition to works, but also in opposition to feeling, and therefore that for a pure life of faith you must cease to seek your salvation, not only in works, but also in faith. Therefore let faith always speak against feeling. When feeling says, 'In myself, I am sinful; I am dark; I am weak; I am poor; I am sad;' let faith say. 'In Christ, I am holy; I am light; I am strong; I am rich; I am joyful.'
XXII. THE HOLY GHOST
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'And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father.' -- Gal. 4:6
The great gift of the Father, through whom He obtained salvation and brought it near to us, is the Son. On the other hand, the great gift of the Son, whom He sends to us from the Father, to apply to us an inner and effectual salvation, is the Holy Spirit. (John 7:38; 14:16,26; Acts 1:4; 2:33; 1 Cor. 3:16)
As the Son reveals and glorifies the Father, so the Spirit reveals and glorifies the Son. (John 15:26; 16:14,15; 1 Cor. 2:8,12; 12:3)
The Spirit is in us to transfer to us the life and the salvation that are prepared in Jesus, and to make them wholly ours. (Job 14:17,21; Rom. 8:2; Eph. 3:17,19)
Jesus who is in heaven is made present in us, dwells in us, by the Spirit. We have seen that in order to become partaker of Jesus there are always two things necessary: the knowledge of the sin that is in us, and of the redemption that is in Him. It is the Holy Spirit who continually promotes this double work in believers. He reproves and comforts, He convinces of sin and He glorifies Christ. (John 16:9,14)
The Spirit convinces of sin. He is the light and the fire of God, through whom sin is unveiled and consumed. He is 'the Spirit of judgment and of burning,' by whom God purifies His people. (Isa. 4:4; Zech. 12:10,11; Matt. 3:11,12)
To the anxious soul who complains that he does not feel his sin deeply enough, we must often say that there is no limit as to how deep his repentance must be. He must come daily just as he is; the deepest conviction often times comes after conversion. To the young convert we have simply to say: let the Spirit who is in you convince you always of sin. Sin, which formerly you knew but by name, He will make you hate. Sin, which you had not seen in the hidden depths of your heart, He will make you know, and with shame confess. Sin, of which you fancied that it was not with you, and which you had judged severely in others, He will point out to you in yourself. (Ps. 139:7,23; Isa. 10:17; Matt. 7:5; Rom. 14:4; 1 Cor. 2:10; 14:24,25)
And He will teach you with repentance and self-condemnation to cast yourself upon
grace as entirely sinful, in order to be thereby redeemed and purified from it.
Beloved brother, the Holy Spirit is in you as the light and fire of God to unveil and to consume sin. The temple of God is holy, and this temple you are. Let the Holy Spirit in you have full mastery to point out and expel sin. (Ps. 19:13; 139:23; Mic. 3:8; 1 Cor. 3:17; 2 Cor. 3:17; 5:16)
After He makes you know sin, He will at every turn make you know Jesus as your
life and your sanctification.
And then shall the Spirit who rebukes also comfort. He will glorify Jesus in you, will take what is in Jesus and make it known to you. He will give you knowledge concerning the power of Jesus' blood to cleanse, (1 John 1:7; 5:6)
and the power of Jesus' indwelling to keep. (John 14:21,23; Eph. 3:17; 1 John 3:24; 4:13)
He will make you see how literally, how completely, how certainly Jesus is with you every moment, to do Himself all his own Jesus-work in you. Yea, in the Holy Spirit, the living, almighty, and ever-present Jesus shall be your portion; you shall also know this, and have the full enjoyment of it. The Holy Spirit will teach you to bring all your sin and sinfulness to Jesus, and to know Jesus with His complete redemption from sin as your own. As the Spirit of sanctification, He will drive out sin in order that He may cause Jesus to dwell in you. (Rom. 1:4; 5:5; 8:2,13; 1 Pet. 1:2)
Beloved young Christian, take time to understand and to become filled with the truth: the Holy Spirit is in you. Review all the assurances of God's word that this is so. (Rom. 8:14,16; 1 Cor. 6:19; 2 Cor. 1:22; 6:16; Eph. 1:13)
Pray, think not for a moment of living as a Christian without the indwelling of the Spirit. Take pains to have your heart filled with the faith that the Spirit dwells in you, and will do His mighty work, for through faith the Spirit comes and works (Gal. 3:2,5,15; 5:5)
Have a great reverence for the work of the Spirit in you. Seek Him every day to believe, to obey, to trust, and He will take and make known to you all that there is in Jesus. He will make Jesus very glorious to you and in you.
O my Father, I thank Thee for this gift which Jesus sent me from Thee, the Father. I thank Thee that I am now the temple of Thy Spirit, and that He dwells in me. Lord, teach me to believe this with the whole heart, and to live in the world as one who knows that the Spirit of God is in him to lead him. Teach me to think with deep reverence and filial awe on this, that God is in me. Lord, in that faith I have the power to be holy. Holy Spirit, reveal to me all that sin is in me. Holy Spirit, reveal to me all that Jesus is in me. Amen.
1. The knowledge of the person and the work of the Holy Spirit is for us of just as much importance as the knowledge of the person and the work of Christ.
2. Concerning the Holy Spirit, we must endeavour especially to hold fast the truth that He is given as the fruit of the work of Jesus for us, that He is the power of the life of Jesus in us, and that through Him, Jesus Himself, with His full salvation, dwells in us.
3. In order to enjoy all this, we must be filled with the Spirit. This simply means, emptied of all else and full of Jesus. To deny ourselves, to take up the cross, to follow Jesus. Or rather, this is the way in which the Spirit leads us to His fulness. No one has the power to enter fully into the death of Jesus but he who is led by the Spirit. But He takes him that desires this by the hand and brings him.
4. As the whole of salvation, the whole of the new life is by faith, so is this also true of the gift and the working of the Holy Spirit. By faith, not by works -- not in feeling, do I receive Him, am I led by Him, am I filled with Him.
5. As clear and definite as my faith is in the work that Jesus only and alone finished for me, so clear and definite must faith be in the work that the Holy Spirit accomplishes in me, to work in me the willing and the performing of all that is necessary for my salvation.
XXIII. THE LEADING OF THE SPIRIT
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'As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God.' -- Rom. 8:14,16
It is the very same Spirit that leads us as children who also assures us that we are children. Without His leading there can be no assurance of our filiation. True full assurance of faith is enjoyed by him who surrenders himself entirely to the leading of the Spirit. In what does this leading consist? Chiefly in this, that our whole hidden inner life is guided by Him to what it ought to be. This we must firmly believe. Our growth and increase, our development and progress, is not our work but His: we are to trust Him for this. As a tree or animal grows and becomes large by the spirit of life which God has given to it, so also does the Christian by the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. (Hos. 14:6,7; Matt. 6:28; Mark 4:26,28; Luke 2:40; Rom. 8:2)
We have to cherish the joyful assurance that the Spirit whom the Father gives to us does with divine wisdom and power guide our hidden life, and bring it where God will have it. Then there are also special directions of this leading. 'He will lead you into all the truth,' When we read the word of God, we are to wait upon Him, to make us experience the truth, the essential power of what God says. He makes the word living and powerful. He leads us into a life corresponding to the word. (John 6:63, 14:26; 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:10; 2:14; 1 Thess. 2:13)
When you pray, you can reckon upon His leading: 'The Spirit helpeth our infirmities.' He leads us to what we must desire. He leads us into the way in which we are to pray, trustfully, persistently, mightily. (Zech 12:10; Rom. 8:26,27; Jude 12,20)
In the way of sanctification it is He that will lead: He leads us in the path of righteousness. He leads us into all the will of God. (1 Cor. 6:19,20; 1 Pet 1:2,15)
In our speaking and working for the Lord, He will lead. Every child has the Spirit: every child has need of Him to know and to do the work of the Father. Without Him no child can please or serve the Father. The leading of the Spirit is the blessed privilege, the sure token, the only power of a child of God. (Matt. 10:20; Acts 1:8; Rom 8:9,13; Gal. 4:6; Eph. 1:13)
And how then can you fully enjoy this leading? The first thing that is necessary for this is faith. You must take time, young Christian, to have your heart filled with the deep and living consciousness that the Spirit is in you. Read all the glorious declarations of your Father in His word concerning what the Spirit is in you and for you, until the conviction wholly fills you that you are really a temple of the Spirit. Ignorance or unbelief on this point makes it impossible for the Spirit to speak in you and to lead you. Cherish an ever-abiding assurance that the Spirit of God dwells in you. (Acts. 19:2; Rom. 5:5; 1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 5:5 Gal. 3:5,14)
Then the second thing that is necessary is this: you are to hold yourself still, to attend to the voice of the Spirit. As the Lord Jesus acts, so does the Spirit. As the Lord Jesus acts, so does also the Spirit: 'He shall not cry nor lift up His voice.' He whispers gently and quietly: only the soul that sets itself very silently towards God can perceive His voice and guidance. When we become to a needless extent engrossed with the world, with its business, its cares, its enjoyments, its literature, its politics, the Spirit cannot lead us. When our service of God is a bustling and working in our own wisdom and strength, the Spirit cannot be heard in us. It is the weak, the simple, who are willing to have themselves taught in humility, that receive the leading of the Spirit. Sit down every morning, sit down often in the day, to say: Lord Jesus, I know nothing, I will be silent: let the Spirit lead me. (1 Chron. 19:12; Ps. 62; 2,6; 131:2; Isa. 43:2; Hab. 2:20; Zech. 4:6 Acts 1:4)
And then: be obedient. Listen to the inner voice, and do what it says to you. Fill your heart every day with the word, and when the Spirit puts you in mind of what the word says, betake yourself to the doing of it. So you become capable of further teaching: it is to the obedient that the full blessing of the Spirit is promised. (John 14:15,16; Acts 5:32)
Young Christian, know that you are a temple of the Spirit, and that it is only through the daily leading of the Spirit that you can walk as a child of God, with the witness that you are pleasing the Father.
Precious Saviour, imprint this lesson deeply on my mind. The Holy Spirit is in me. His leading is every day and everywhere indispensable for me. I cannot hear His voice in the word when I do not wait silently upon Him. Lord, let a holy circumspectness keep watch over me, that I may always walk as a pupil of the Spirit. Amen.
1. It is often asked: How do I know that I shall continue standing, that I shall be kept, that I shall increase? The question dishonours the Holy Spirit -- is the token that you do not know Him or do not trust Him. The question indicates that you are seeking the secret of strength for perseverance in yourself, and not in the Holy Spirit, your heavenly Guide.
2. As God sees to it, that every moment there is air for me to breathe, so shall the Holy Spirit unceasingly maintain life in the hidden depths of my soul. He will not break off his own work.
3. From the time that we receive the Holy Spirit, we have nothing to do but to honour his work: to keep our hands off from it, and to trust Him, and to let Him work.
4. The beginning and the end of the work of the Spirit is to reveal Jesus to me, and to cause me to abide in Him. As soon as I would fain look after the work of the Spirit in me, I hinder Him: He cannot work when I am not willing to look upon Jesus.
5. The voice of the Father, the voice of the good Shepherd, the voice of the Holy Spirit is very gentle. We must learn to become deaf to other voices, to the world and its news of friends and their thoughts, to our own Ego and its desires: then shall we distinguish the voice of the Spirit. Let us often set ourselves silent in prayer, entirely silent, to offer up our will and our thoughts, and, with our eye upon Jesus, to keep ear and heart open for the voice of the Spirit.
XXIV. GRIEVING THE SPIRIT
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'Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed unto the day of redemption.' -- Eph. 4:30
It is by the Holy Spirit that the child of God is sealed: separated and stamped and marked as the possession of God. This sealing is not a dead or external action that is finished once for all. It is a living process, which has power in the soul, and gives firm assurance of faith, only when it is experienced through the life of the Spirit in us. (WStS Note: Emboldened emphasis is ours.) On this account we are to take great care not to grieve the Spirit: in Him alone can you have every day the joyful certitude and the full blessing of your childship. * It is the very same Spirit that leads us who witnesses with our spirit that we are children of God. And how can any one grieve the Spirit? Above all by yielding to sin. He is the Holy Spirit, given to sanctify us, and, for every sin from which the blood cleanses us, to fill us with the holy life of God, with God. Sin grieves Him. (Isa. 53:10; Acts. 7:51; Heb. 10:29)
For this reason the word of God presently states by name the sins against which
above all we are to be on our guard. Mark the four great sins that Paul mentions
in connection with our text.
There is first lying. There is no single sin that in the Bible is so brought into connection with the devil as lying. Lying is from hell, and it goes on to hell. God is the God of truth. And the Holy Spirit cannot possibly carry forward His blessed working in a man or woman that lies, that is insincere, that does injury to the truth. Young Christian, review with care what the word of God says about lying and liars, and pray God that you may never speak anything but the literal truth. Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God. (Ps. 5:7; Prov. 12:22; 21:28; John 8:44; Rev. 21:8,27; 22:15)
Then there is anger. 'Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil-speaking, be put away from you.' Hastiness, proneness to anger, sin of temper is, along with lying, the most common sin by which the Christian is kept back from increase in grace. (Matt. 5:22,26,27; 1 Cor. 1:10,11; 3:3; 13:1,3; Gal. 5:5; 15:21,26; Col. 3:8,12; 1 Thess. 5:15; Jas. 3:14)
Christian, let all passionateness by put away from you: this follows on the command not to grieve the Spirit. Believe that the Holy Spirit, the great power of God, is in you. Surrender yourself every day to His indwelling, in faith that Jesus can keep you by Him: He will make and keep you gentle. Yea, believe, I pray you, in the power of God, and of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit to overcome temper. (Matt. 11:29; 1 Cor. 6:19,20; Gal. 6:1; Eph. 2:16,17; Col. 1:8; 2 Tim. 1:12)
Confess the sin: God shall cleanse you from it. Grieve not the Holy Spirit of
Then there is stealing: all sin against the property or possession of my neighbour: all deception and dishonesty in trade, whereby I do wrong to my neighbour, and seek my own advantage at his cost. The law of Christ is love whereby I seek the advantage of my neighbour as well as my own. O the love of money and property, which is inseparable from self-seeking -- it is incompatible with the leading of the Holy Spirit. The Christian must be a man who is known as honest to the back-bone, righteous, and loving his neighbour as himself. (Luke 6:31; Rom. 13:10; 1 Thess. 4:6)
Then says the apostle: 'no corrupt speech -- but such as is good for edifying as the case may be.' Even the tongue of God's child belongs to his Lord. He must be known by his mode of speech. By his speaking, he can grieve or please the Spirit. The sanctified tongue is a blessing not only to his neighbours but to the speaker himself. Foul talk, idle words, foolish jests -- they grieve the Holy Spirit. They make it impossible for the Spirit to sanctify and to comfort and to fill the heart with the love of God. (Prov. 10:19, 20,21,31; 18:20; Eccles. 5:1,2; Matt. 12:36; Eph. 5:4; Jas. 3:9,10)
Young Christian, I pray you, grieve not the Holy Spirit of God by these or other sins. If you have committed such sins, confess them, and God will cleanse you from them. By the Holy Spirit you are sealed if you would walk in the stability and joy of faith, listen to the word: 'Grieve not the Holy Sprit of God.'
Lord God, my Father in heaven, do, I pray thee, cause me to understand what marvelous grace Thou art manifesting to me, in that Thou hast given to me Thy Holy Spirit in my heart. Lord, let this faith by the argument and the power for cleansing me from every sin. Holy Jesus, sanctify me, that in my thinking, speaking, acting -- in all things, Thine image may appear. Amen.
1. The thought of the Christian about this word, 'Grieve not the Holy Spirit' is a touchstone as to whether he understands the life of faith. For some it is a word of terror and fear. A father once brought a child to the train to go on a journey with the new governess, with whom she was to remain. Before her departure he said: 'I hear that she is very sensitive and takes things much amiss: take care that you do nothing to grieve her.' The poor child had no pleasant journey: it appeared to her very grievous to be in anxious fear of one who was so prone to take anything wrong amiss.
This is the view of the Holy Spirit which many have: a Being whom it is difficult to satisfy, who thinks little of our weakness, and who, even though we take pains, is discontented when our work is not perfect.
2. Another father also brought his daughter to the train to go on a journey, and to be a time from home: but in company with her mother, whom she loved very dearly. 'You are to be a good child,' said the father, 'and do everything to please your mamma; otherwise you shall grieve her and me.' 'Oh, certainly, papa!' was the joyful answer of the child. For she felt so happy to be with her mother, and was willing to do her utmost to be agreeable to her.
There are children of God to whom the Holy Spirit is so well known in His tender, helpful love, and the Comforter and the Good Spirit, that the word, 'Grieve not the spirit of God' has for them a gentle, encouraging power. May our fear to grieve Him always be the tender childlike fear of trustful love.
* childship -- a word coined by the writer to express the relation of a child. Our childhood expresses rather the state or stage of child-life. -- Translator
XXV. FLESH AND SPIRIT
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The following chapter,
"He Will Subdue Our Iniquities"
has been inserted in place of Mr. Murray's "Flesh and Spirit",
because we at WStS feel that this depicts more accurately
the struggle between man's flesh and spirit.
HE WILL SUBDUE OUR INIQUITIES
Or, How God Makes Normal Christians to Walk Without Sinning
Or, How Anyone Can Be Ready to Meet God at Any Time
"He will turn again, He will have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities; and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:19).
by Tom Stewart
How can anyone speak of walking without sinning, without being completely out of touch with the human condition? The Son of Man, the LORD Jesus Christ, did exactly that. He said, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). No one can truthfully say that the Sinless Son of God was out of touch with humanity. "For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).
But, it may be said, Jesus lived a sinless life on earth because He was the Son of God, "who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth" (1Peter 2:22). That is certainly true; however, could we be neglecting the fact that what He accomplished by becoming a man was to prove that a human being-- by the power of God-- could actually walk without sinning? "Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people" (Hebrews 2:17).
Jesus came as the "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). By living a sinless life, the LORD Jesus vindicated the Creator's Wisdom in designing man as a free moral agent. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33). Our Wonderful LORD left us THE example of how to walk without sinning. "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps" (1Peter 2:21).
Sin: The Sad Truth About So Many Professing Christians
Unfortunately, self-deception and hypocrisy are easy to find in the professed Church. "And why call ye me, LORD, LORD, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). It should be said to these, Look into the Mirror of the Word of God and repent of your hypocrisy. "For if any be a hearer of the Word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was" (James 1:23-24).
However, most who read this probably understand that the Spirit testifies of our sonship by our obedience. "He that hath My Commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him" (John 14:21). How often have we all fallen into sin? "For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief" (Proverbs 24:16). If we did not know that the LORD Jesus made a special point about how often He was willing to forgive us when we truly repent, we would despair of ever repenting. "Then came Peter to Him, and said, LORD, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:21-22).
Our beloved brother Paul testified in Romans 7 of the so-often-defeated condition of those of us who name the name of Christ. Remember, this is not how it should be, but how it so often is. This is how a Backslider approaches Christianity. Notice the frustration and the complete lack of victory. "For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:15-24).
Like the Apostle Paul, I "thank God through Jesus Christ our LORD" (Romans 7:25) that Jesus has not only "delivered us from the wrath to come" (1Thessalonians 1:10), but has also assured us that "there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Romans 8:1). Romans 8 is the exact opposite of Romans 7. Victory belongs only to those who walk after the Spirit. If walking without sinning is the same as walking after the Spirit, then I am sure that there is hope for any who see walking without sinning as humanly impossible. "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God" (Luke 18:27).
The Foundation of Moral Obligation: Everyone Ought to Be Like Jesus
Everyone ought to be like the LORD Jesus Christ. What a wonderful world this would be, if everyone truly followed the example of the LORD Jesus Christ! "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps" (1Peter 2:21). However, only the children of God will actually follow the example of the LORD Jesus. "For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you" (John 13:15).
The very Foundation of Moral Obligation for all mankind is tied to Who and What God is. For example, why should we be holy? Because God is holy. "But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy" (1Peter 1:15-16). Why should we be perfect (i.e., walk with a perfect heart)? Because God is perfect. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).
Like mindedness to our LORD Jesus Christ is the argument of the Apostle Paul for why we ought to walk humbly. In other words, we ought to walk humbly because the LORD Jesus walked humbly. "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:3-8).
To discover to our hearts the very nature of God is the purpose of the Indwelling Holy Spirit. "But when the Comforter is come, Whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me" (John 15:26). We, the Body of Christ, should not look at these necessities to be like the LORD Jesus as an overwhelming, crushing burden, but as an opportunity to enter into His joy. "These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (John 15:11).
The Unity of Moral Action: No Man Can Serve Two Masters
If we would conduct our Christian walk with our iniquities subdued, we need to more intelligently understand the anatomy of the Christian walk. "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind" (Romans 14:5). The LORD Jesus clearly defined the Unity of Moral Action, that we could not serve two masters at the same time. Yes, there is something as clear as black and white, when it comes to whom we really serve. "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon [literally, treasure or riches]" (Matthew 6:24). [Please read "Unity of Moral Action" ---New Window by Charles G. Finney]
Whom we choose to serve, colors everything else about us. "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light" (Matthew 6:22). We are either good or evil, light or darkness; but, not both at the same time. "But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Matthew 6:23). Why so strong a warning against serving mammon (treasure)? Because "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:21). God is not satisfied with anything less than our whole heart. "Blessed are they that keep His Testimonies, and that seek Him with the whole heart" (Psalm 119:2).
Gray is the color of ungodly compromise. "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity [literally, hatred or hostility] with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (James 4:4). Gray areas are the breeding ground for sinful doubt. "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Romans 14:23). Gray is the tone that questions the commands of God. "Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" (Genesis 3:1). Gray permeates the Church of Laodecia. "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth" (Revelation 3:15-16).
Separation from the wrong and cleaving to the right is the only preservation for the Righteous. "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?... Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the LORD, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you" (2 Corinthians 6:14,17).
Toward the End of the Tribulation Week, God will reaffirm the need of His people to separate themselves from the Harlot Religion of the False Prophet. "And I heard another Voice from Heaven, saying, Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues" (Revelation 18:4). This is the final call for the last train out to the Pre-Wrath Rapture. Separation from sin is not just a good idea, but it is essential to participate in this Second and Final Rapture event. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7).
Remember that God's name is Jealous. "For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God" (Exodus 34:14). Consequently, He will not tolerate any attempt to make Himself simply another God on the shelf of the human heart. "Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and His redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside Me there is no God" (Isaiah 44:6).
He designed man's heart with only a single function-at-a-time capability. For this reason, we say that there is a Unity of Moral Action, or singleness of supreme choice for the human heart. If the inward heart is clean, then the outward life will be clean also. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also" (Matthew 23:25-26). Likewise, if the inward is unclean and impure, then no amount of cosmetic effect on the outward life will hide from God the spiritual dirt.
Abiding in Christ: The Secret of the Christian Walk
He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked" (1John 2:6). Unquestionably, we who profess the LORD Jesus Christ to be our LORD and Saviour, ought to walk as Jesus walked. But, what does it mean to Abide in Christ? The Greek word for "abide" is meno. It has been translated as "abide", "continue", and "endure".
The Gospel of John, Chapters 14 and 15 are a feast for God's children to read, understand, and savor. The LORD Jesus is giving His last instructions to His disciples the evening before His crucifixion. "In My Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2). He mentions the concept of "mansions" in His Father's house. These "mansions" are literally dwellings or abodes. Here, He begins a discourse on abiding-- the secret of the Christian walk.
Our LORD masterfully answered Thomas' query about how the disciples would know the way to those heavenly mansions. "Jesus saith unto him, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me" (John 14:6). Confused about Jesus' reference to the fact that they "have seen" the Father (14:7), Philip asks to be shown the Father. The Master responds that the works that the disciples see Him do are accomplished because "the Father dwelleth in" Himself (14:10).
Again, the Greek word meno is used. This time, it is translated "dwelleth" (14:10). The LORD Jesus shared the secret of His walk. The Father dwells in the Son; likewise, the Son dwells "in the Father" (14:10). Jesus set the example for the Christians' abiding. When the Saints abide in their LORD, it is God that performs the works. "Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? the Words that I speak unto you I speak not of Myself: but the Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works" (John 14:10).
Jesus proceeded to teach the disciples about the Holy Spirit. "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever" (John 14:16). We can never abide in Christ without the continual help of the Holy Spirit. But, what is the condition of this continual help? Jesus said, "If ye love Me, keep My Commandments" (14:15) immediately before promising to pray for the Holy Spirit's abiding. Obedience to God is the condition for the Spirit's abiding. "Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love Me, he will keep My Words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him" (John 14:23).
Jesus commanded us to abide in Him. "Abide in Me, and I in you" (John 15:4). That we could abide in Christ is critically important, but that He would in turn abide in us is monumentally of the greatest importance! "But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? behold, heaven and the Heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee; how much less" (2Chronicles 6:18) are we to be the place of Christ's abiding? "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are" (1Corinthians 3:16-17).
When we abide in Him, we can be certain that He abides in us (John 15:4). But, what happens if we do not abide in Christ? "If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned" (15:6). It is certain that the LORD Jesus designed this statement to offer no eternal comfort to those desiring to shirk the command to abide.
When we do not abide in Christ, we lose the Source and Power of the Christian walk. "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me" (John 15:4). Not only do we lose the fruit that could have been produced, but we lose the Spirit's testimony of our sonship. "He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His Commandments, is a liar, and the Truth is not in him" (1John 2:4).
What else is the Word of God than the voice of the Holy Spirit? "For the Prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2Peter 1:21). We may intellectually remember the event in our spiritual history that we recall as the time of our Born Again spiritual experience, but only the testimony of the Spirit establishes the reality of that experience. "And he that keepeth His Commandments dwelleth in Him, and He in him. And hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He hath given us" (1John 3:24).
Church members and others professing Christ, who have never been converted to the LORD Jesus, may intellectually remember events in their religious history that correspond to what they feel is a Born Again spiritual experience. They may have responded to an Invitation at the end of an evangelistic message at a church service, been baptized, received the ordinance of the LORD's Supper, have attended Sunday School, attended weekly Prayer Meetings, have brought the unchurched to special Revival Meetings, etc. and still NOT have the testimony of the Spirit. "Many will say to Me in that day, LORD, LORD, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works?" (Matthew 7:22). Yet, one thing they lack-- the testimony of the Spirit of God, that they have been received as a child of God. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit Itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Romans 8:14-16).
But, some may object that requiring the testimony of the Spirit to our sonship, would cause many, who have been truly converted but are now stumbling in sin, to doubt their salvation. Further, they would feel themselves to be rejected by God. "Yet ye say, The way of the LORD is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not My Way equal? are not your ways unequal?" (Ezekiel 18:25). If the testimony of the Spirit is only "given to them that obey Him" (Acts 5:32), why should God comfort and assure disobedient rebels-- the Backsliders-- for their prodigal walk?
There has been a great mistake in the Church to give the comfort of Heaven to those who walk in disobedience-- the never saved as well as the deceived backslider. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7). The Good Shepherd assures us of the Security of the Abiding Saint. "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand" (John 10:28). Likewise, the Judge of All the Earth (Genesis 18:25) also assures us of the Insecurity of the Sinner-- the Lost as well as the Backslidden. "He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His Commandments, is a liar, and the Truth is not in Him" (1John 2:4). "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and ALL LIARS [not just lost liars, but all liars], shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8).
There is a difference between a Non-Abiding Backslider and a Never-Been-Saved Sinner. "Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a Good Work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6) applies to the Saints and not to the Sinners. The Backslider can have no assurance of this promise from the Holy Spirit, but God will justify His Word by performing it nonetheless. Though the Backslider has lost all right to the Spirit's testimony of his sonship, God still remembers the Good Work which He has begun, and finishes it. "If his children forsake My Law, and walk not in My Judgments; If they break My Statutes, and keep not My Commandments; Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless My lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer My faithfulness to fail. My Covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of My lips" (Psalm 89:30-34).
Backsliders always and ultimately repent before dying. "If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?" (Hebrews 12:7). Only a Lost Sinner can die in his sins. "Then said Jesus again unto them, I go My way, and ye shall seek Me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come" (John 8:21). If they die in their sins, they never were a Backslider-- only another deceived, future occupant of the Lake of Fire. "And whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15).
With this understanding of abiding, we can read and understand a passage such as Hebrews 6:4-6: "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the Good Word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame" (Hebrews 6:4-6).
The impossibility of Hebrews 6:4-6 is to renew to repentance those who are not abiding in Christ. It is impossible to be crucifying (present tense) the Son of God afresh and putting (present tense) Him to an open shame, while repenting at the same time-- consistent with the Unity of Moral Action. Those "who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the Good Word of God, and the powers of the world to come" are easily describing someone who has been truly converted.
It is painful to note that our lack of abiding is called crucifying "the Son of God afresh" (Hebrews 6:6). If Jesus died on the cross to redeem us from our sins, why should we think it strange that Scripture describes those, who have been truly converted but are now presently sinning, as crucifying Jesus afresh? If ever we had a powerful argument to learn the secret of abiding in Christ, our revulsion at the thought of lifting a hand against our Saviour should be enough! "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?... There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Romans 7:25;8:1).
Abiding in Christ: What Must I Do?
Abiding in Christ is the secret of the Christian walk, but that is not supposed to make the word "abide" mystical. "Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father" (1John 2:24). Abiding is continuing to do what you did in the beginning of your walk with the LORD Jesus Christ. What did you begin to do when you first met the LORD Jesus? Keep doing it.
Continue in faith. The Apostle Paul confirmed "the souls of the disciples" and exhorted "them to continue in the faith" (Acts 14:22). Continuing in faith is a condition of receiving the benefits of the reconciling work of the LORD Jesus on the cross. "And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight: IF YE CONTINUE IN THE FAITH grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister" (Colossians 1:21-23). If it was necessary for us to repent and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15) to begin the Christian walk, should it be thought strange that it is necessary to continue in faith to continue our abiding in Christ?
Continue in the grace of God. "Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God" (Acts 13:43). Again, the Apostle Paul gave us the example. Grace is literally the help of God. "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16). Only as the Holy Spirit persuades us of our neediness, do we cry out for the grace of God.
Continue in the Word of God. "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If ye continue in My Word, then are ye My disciples indeed" (John 8:31). We are what we have been commissioned to make of the world-- disciples of the LORD Jesus (Matthew 28:19)-- if we continue in His Word. This is encouragement to not be a forgetful hearer. "But whoso looketh into the perfect Law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed" (James 1:25).
Continue in prayer. "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving" (Colossians 4:2). We know that "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). If we continue in the Word, we have been given assurance of answers to our prayers. "If ye abide in Me, and My Words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you" (John 15:7). The Exceeding Great and Precious Promises connect the Word to prayer. "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious Promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the Divine Nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2Peter 1:4).
Continue in the love of God. "As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love" (John 15:9). Jesus demonstrated His love of the Father by His obedience to the Father. "If ye keep My Commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father's Commandments, and abide in His love. These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (John 15:10-11). Continuing in obedience is continuing in love. "For this is the love of God, that we keep His Commandments: and His Commandments are not grievous" (1John 5:3). Again, we have the agency to choose to be kept in the love of God. "Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our LORD Jesus Christ unto eternal life" (Jude 21).
Continue in brotherly love. "Let brotherly love continue" (Hebrews 13:1). The Church of Philadelphia (literally, brotherly love) represents the Church of the Pre-Tribulational Rapture. We not only know that we are the children of God, but that we will leave at the Pre-Tribulational Rapture because we continue in brotherly love. "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren" (1John 3:14). Couple this with Philadelphia's promise to escape the Tribulation. "Because thou hast kept the Word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth" (Revelation 3:10). Brotherly love is a further proof of our discipleship. "A new Commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:34-35).
Endure to the end. "Endure" is the same word translated as "abide". "He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved" (Matthew 24:13). Does our necessity to abide or endure to the end detract from the fact that God's Almighty Power keeps the Saints unto Heaven? "Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1Peter 1:5). Certainly not. Our abiding or enduring no more detracts from God's power in keeping, than did the LORD Jesus' earthly works diminish the Father's Heavenly Help. "But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5:17). Abiding or enduring is cooperating with God.
It may seem that abiding in Christ has now become a tribute to the force of the Moral Agency of man to will it, but that would be a great mistake in understanding. "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). Whenever we have a good thought to act upon, God is the Author of it. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of Lights, with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17). So complete a title does God have on all good actions that anyone could will, that Scripture authoritatively declares Him to be The Only Good. "And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou Me good? there is none good but One, that is, God" (Mark 10:18).
In abiding, Jesus set the example of how to use the human will-- unconditionally submitted to God. "Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered" (Hebrews 5:8); even so, we are to submit ourselves to the will of God as reasonable service. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Romans 12:1-2).
Abiding in Christ: To Appropriate Christ by Faith in All His Offices, Capacities, and Relations
With the understanding that obedience to Christ's command to be "perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48), is part of abiding in Christ, we can seek after this kind of Christian perfection without stumbling over the very words. Christian perfection is to appropriate Christ by faith in all of His offices, capacities, and relations to meet our every need in life. For example, Jesus desires that we look upon Himself as our Saviour. "Thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). Jesus literally means Saviour. He came to save us from not only our sins but from sinning. Jesus told Paul His purpose in sending Paul to the Gentiles was "to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me" (Acts 26:18). Jesus can only be appropriated in His office, capacity, or relation of Saviour by faith to meet our need of salvation.
The LORD Jesus Christ is Our Redeemer From All Our Iniquity. "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works" (Titus 2:13-14). Jesus redeems us from all iniquity. Like the Apostle Paul, we seek to be delivered from "the body of this death" (Romans 7:24), i.e., from being in bondage to sinning. Also, like Paul, we "thank God through Jesus Christ our LORD" (7:25) for the deliverance from sin and sinning that Our Redeemer From All Our Iniquity can accomplish in us, when we trust Him to do it.
Is not the LORD Jesus the One Who Cleanses Us From All Unrighteousness? "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1John 1:9). Certainly we are talking about the confession of all known sin. God will never forgive us for any sin, until we are willing to give up all known sin. God is not so desperate as to negotiate for anything less than complete agreement with Himself about the despicableness of our sin, the justness of His anger and punishment, and the magnanimity of His mercy. "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isaiah 1:18). As the One Who Cleanses Us From All Unrighteousness, He maintains a holy people. "Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless" (2Peter 3:14).
Jesus is the One Who Is Able To Subdue All Things To Himself. "Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself" (Philippians 3:21). Our wills are included in this listing of things which the LORD Jesus is able to subdue. Either man voluntarily submits to the One Who Is Able To Subdue All Things To Himself now, or the confession that Jesus is LORD will be taken later at the White Throne Judgment. "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a Name which is above every name: That at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in Heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:9-11).
The Subduer of Our Iniquities is an appropriate title for the LORD Jesus. "He will turn again, He will have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities; and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:19). Many of these promises have been relegated to someone else at some other time. "For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace" (Jeremiah 8:11). Without a confidence that the LORD Jesus came to obliterate the works of the Devil, the professed Church will be willing to wait for the next Millennium to come before we come to grips with how to walk without sinning. "He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil" (1John 3:8).
Our LORD Jesus is Our All In All. "And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all" (1Corinthians 15:28). The goal of God is that He would be Our All In All. He knows that He already is the supply for all the needs of all who trust Him. "But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19). When all rebellion has been put down and all sin has been judged, then all will be subject to the KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS (Revelation 19:16). If the professed Church would only practice now what all will confess later... "And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:11).
Charles G. Finney, an American evangelist from the 1800's, noted, "When we sin, it is because of our ignorance of Christ." We would be more inclined to drink deeply from the Living Water, if we believed that there was anything we could do to be free from sin or sinning. There is. Believe the "Exceeding Great and Precious Promises" (2Peter 1:4) of the LORD Jesus to make us "partakers of the divine nature" (1:4). Every title, office, or capacity of the LORD Jesus is an implicit promise of what Jesus will do for us. "For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us" (2Corinthians 1:20). We do not lack because God will not supply. We lack because we do not have the understanding or faith to ask. "Ye have not, because ye ask not" (James 4:2).
The Church is in its present Laodicean condition, not because of any inability on God's part to sanctify the Church with His promises, but because Laodicea sees no need of sanctification or the promises. "Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Revelation 3:17). This is inexcusable blindness. This is sin, with only one remedy-- repent. "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent" (Revelation 3:19).
But, "at this present time also there is a remnant [Praise God] according to the election of grace" (Romans 11:5) that "do know their God" and who will "be strong, and do exploits" (Daniel 11:32). I especially pray for you. "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our LORD Jesus Christ, of Whom the whole family in Heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God" (Ephesians 3:14-19). Amen.
For further information, read
"A Tale of Ten Virgins",
"Exceeding Great and Precious Promises",
and "An Urgent Call to Christian Perfection".
"He will turn again, He will have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities; and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:19).
XXVI. THE LIFE OF FAITH
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'The righteous shall live by his faith.' -- Hab. 2:4 'We have been discharged from the law, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.' -- Rom. 7:6 'I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself up for me.' -- Gal. 2:20
The word from Habakkuk is thrice quoted in the New Testament as the Divine representation of salvation in Christ by faith alone. (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38)
But that word is oftentimes very imperfectly understood, as if it ran: Man shall on his conversion be justified by faith. The word includes this, but signifies much more. It says that the righteous shall live by faith: the whole life of the righteous, from moment to moment, shall be by faith. (Rom. 5:17,21; 6:11; 8:2; Gal. 2:20; 1 John 5:11,12)
We all know how sharp is the opposition which God in His word presents betwixt the grace that comes by faith and the law that works -- demands. This is generally admitted with reference to justification. But that distinction holds just as much of the whole life of sanctification. The righteous shall live by faith alone, that is, shall have power to live according to the will of God. As at his conversion he found it necessary to understand that there was nothing good in him, and that he must receive grace as one that was powerless and godless, so must he as a believer just as clearly understand that in him there is nothing good, and that he must receive his power for good every moment from above. (Rom. 7:18; 8:2,13; Heb. 11:38)
And his work must therefore be every morning and every hour to look up and believe and receive his power from above, out of his Lord in heaven. I am not to do what I can, and hope in the Lord to supply strength. No: as one who has been dead, who is literally able for nothing in himself, and whose life is in his Lord above, I am to reckon by faith on Him who will work in me mightily (Rom. 4:17; 2 Cor. 1:9; Col. 1:20; 2:3)
Happy the Christian who understands that his greatest danger every day is again to fall under the law, and to be fain to serve God in the flesh with his own strength. Happy when he discerns that he is not under the law which just demands and yet is powerless through the flesh, but is under grace where we have simply to receive what has been given. Happy when he fully appropriates for himself the promise of the Spirit who transfers all that is in Christ to him. Yea, happy when he understands what it is to live by faith, and to serve, not in the oldness of the letter, but in the newness of the Spirit. (Rom. 7:4,6; 12:5,6; Gal. 5:18; Phil. 3:3)
Let us make our own the words of Paul: they present to us the true life of faith: 'I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live.' My flesh, not only my sin, but my flesh, all that is of myself, my own living and willing my own power and working, have I given up to death. I Live no longer -- of myself, I cannot. I will not live, or do anything. (John 15:4,5; 1 Cor. 15:10; 2 Cor. 12:10)
Christ lives in me: He Himself, by His Spirit, is my power, and teaches and strengthens me to live as I ought to do. And that life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in Him: my great work is to reckon upon Him to work in Him, as well the willing as the accomplishment. Young Christian, let this life of faith be your faith.
O my Lord Jesus, Thou art my life: yea, my life. Thou livest in me, and art willing to take my whole life at Thine own charges. And my whole life may daily be a joyful trust and experience that Thou art working all in me. Precious Lord, to that life of faith will I surrender myself. Yea, to Thee I surrender myself, to teach me and to reveal Thyself fully in me. Amen.
1. Do you discern the error of the expression -- if the Lord helps me -- the Lord must help me? In natural things we speak thus, for we have a certain measure of power, and the Lord will increase it. But the New Testament never uses the expression 'help' of the grace of God in the soul. We have absolutely no power -- God is not to help us, because we are weak: no, He is to give His life and His power in us as entirely impotent. He that discerns this aright will learn to live by faith alone.
2. 'Without faith it is impossible to please God'; 'All that is not of faith is sin.' Such works of the Spirit of God teach us how really every deed and disposition of our life is to be full of faith.
3. Hence our first work every day is anew to exercise faith in Jesus as our life; to believe that He dwells in us, and will do all for us and in us. This faith must be the mood of our soul the whole day. This faith cannot be maintained except in the fellowship and nearness of Jesus Himself.
4. This faith has its power in the mutual surrender of Jesus and the believer to each other. Jesus first gives Himself wholly for us. The believer gives himself wholly in order to be taken into possession and guided by Jesus. Then the soul cannot even doubt if He will do all for it.
XXVII. THE MIGHT OF SATAN
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'Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as wheat: but I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not.' -- Luke 22:31,32
There is nothing that makes an enemy so dangerous as the fact that he remains hidden or forgotten. Of the three great enemies of the Christian, the world, the flesh, and the devil, the last is the most dangerous, not only because it is he that, strictly speaking, lends to the others what power they have, but also because he is not seen, and, therefore, little known or feared. The devil has the power of darkness: he darkens the eyes, so that men do not know him. He surrounds himself with darkness, so that he is not observed. Yea, he has even the power to appear as an angel of light. (Matt. 4:6; 2 Cor. 4:4; 11:14)
It is by the faith that recognizes things unseen that the Christian is to endeavour
to know Satan, even as the Scripture has revealed him.
When the Lord Jesus was living upon earth, His great work was to overcome Satan. When at His baptism He was filled with the Spirit, this fulness of the Spirit brought him into contact with Satan as head of the world of evil spirits, to combat him and to overcome him. (Matt. 4:1,10)
After that time the eyes of the Lord were always open to the power and working of Satan. In all sin and misery He saw the revelation of the mighty kingdom of the very same superior, the evil one. Not only in the demoniacs, but also in the sick, He saw the enemy of God and man. (Matt. 12:28; Mark 4:15; Luke 13:16; Acts. 10:38)
In the advice of Peter to avoid the cross, and in his denial of his Lord, where we should think of the revelation of the natural character of Peter, Jesus saw the work of Satan. (Matt. 26:23; Luke 22:31,32)
In His own suffering, where we rather speak of the sin of man and the permission of God, Jesus perceives the power of darkness. His whole work in living and in dying was to destroy the works of Satan, as He shall also at His second coming utterly bruise Satan himself. (Luke 10:18; 22:3,53; John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; Rom. 16:20; Col. 2:15; 2 Thess. 2:8,9; 1 John 3:8)
His word to Peter, compared with the personal experience of the Lord, gives us a fearful insight into the work of the enemy. 'Satan hath eagerly desired you,' says Jesus. 'As a roaring lion, he walketh about, seeking whom he may devour,' says Peter himself later on. (1 Cor. 7:5; 2 Cor. 2:10; 1 Pet. 5:8)
He has no unlimited power, but he is always eager to make use of every weak or unguarded moment. 'That he might sift you as wheat:' what a picture! This world, yea, even the Church of Christ, is the threshing-floor of Satan. The corn belongs to God; the chaff is his own. He sifts and sifts continually, and all that falls through with the chaff he endeavours to take for himself. And many a Christian is there who does fall through in a terrible fashion, and who, were it not for the intercession of his Lord, would perish for ever. (1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Tim. 1:20)
Satan has more than one sieve. The first is generally wordly-mindedness -- the love of the world. Many a one is pious in his time of poverty, but when he becomes rich, he again eagerly strives to win the world. Or in the time of conversion and awakening he appears very zealous, but through the care of the world he is led astray. (Matt. 4:9; 8:22; 1 Tim. 6:9,10; 2 Tim. 4:10)
A second sieve is self-love and self-seeking. Whenever any one does not give himself undividedly to serve his Lord and his neighbour, and to love his neighbour in the Lord, it soon appears that the principal token of a disciple is lacking in him. It will be manifest that many a one, with a fair profession of being devoted to the service of God, fails utterly on this point, and must be reckoned with the chaff. Lovelessness is the sure token of the power of Satan. (John 8:44; 1 John 3:10,15; 4:20)
Yet another sieve, a very dangerous one, is self-confidence. Under the name of following the Spirit, one may listen to the thoughts of his own heart. He is zealous for the Lord, but with a carnal zeal, in which the gentleness of the Lamb of God is not seen. Without being observed, the movements of the flesh mingle with the workings of the Spirit, and while he boasts that he is overcoming Satan, he is being secretly ensnared by him. (Gal. 3:3; 5:13)
O it is a serious life here upon the earth, where God gives permission for Satan to set his threshing floor even in the Church. Happy are they who with deep humility, with fear and trembling, distrust themselves. Our only security is in the intercession and guidance of Him who overcame Satan. (Eph. 6:10,12,16)
Far be from us the idea that we know all the depths of Satan, and are a match for all his cunning stratagems. It is in the region of the spirit, in the invisible, that he works and has power, as well as in the visible. Let us fear lest, while we have known and overcome him in the visible, he should prevail over us in the spiritual. May our only security be the conviction of our frailty and weakness, our confidence in Him who certainly keeps the lowly in heart.
Lord Jesus, open our eyes to know our enemy and his wiles. Cause us to see him and his realm, that we may dread all that is of him. And open our eyes to see how Thou hast overcome him, and how in Thee we are invincible. O teach us what it is to be in Thee, to mortify all that is of the mere Ego and the will of the flesh, and to be strong in weakness and lowliness. And teach us to bring into prayer the conflict of faith against every stronghold of Satan, because we know that Thou wilt bruise him under our feet. Amen.
1. What comfort does the knowledge of the existence of Satan give us? We know then that sin is derived from a foreign power which has thrust itself into our nature, and does not naturally belong to us. We know besides that he has been entirely vanquished by the Lord Jesus, and thus has no power over us so long as we abide trustfully in Christ.
2. The whole of this world, with all that is in it, is under the domination of Satan: therefore there is nothing, even what appears good and fair, that may not be dangerous for us. In all things, even in what is lawful and right, we must be led and sanctified by the Spirit, if we would continue liberated from the power of Satan.
3. Satan is an evil spirit: only by the good Spirit, the Spirit of God, can we offer resistance to him. He works in the invisible: in order to combat him, we have, by prayer, to enter into the invisible. He is a mighty prince: only in the name of One who is mightier and in fellowship with Him can we overcome.
4. What a glorious work is labour for souls, for the lost, for drunkards, for heathen; a conflict to rescue them from the might of Satan. (Acts. 26:18)
5. In the Revelation the victory over Satan is ascribed to the blood of the Lamb. (Rev. 12:11)
Christians have also testified that there is no power in temptation,
because Satan readily retreats when one appeals to the blood, by which one knows
that sin has been entirely expiated, and we are thus also wholly freed from his power.
XXVIII. THE CONFLICT OF THE CHRISTIAN
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'Strive to enter in by the narrow door.' -- Luke 13:24 'Fight the good fight of the faith.' -- 1 Tim. 6:12 'I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.' -- 2 Tim. 4:7
These texts speak of a twofold conflict. The first is addressed to the unconverted: 'Strive to enter in by the narrow door.' Entrance by a door is the work of a moment: the sinner is not to strive to enter during his whole lifetime: he is to strive and do it immediately. He is not to suffer anything to hold him back; he must enter in. (Gen. 19:22; John 10:9; 2 Cor. 6:2; Heb. 4:6,7)
Then comes the second, the life-long conflict: by the narrow door I come upon the new way. On the new way there are still always enemies. Of this life-long conflict Paul says: 'I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.' With respect to the continuous conflict, he gives the charge: 'Fight the good fight of faith.' There is much misunderstanding about this twofold conflict. Many strive all their life against the Lord and His summons, and, because they are not at rest, but feel an inner conflict, they think that this is the conflict of a Christian. Assuredly not: this is the struggle against God of one who is not willing to abandon everything and surrender himself to the Lord. (Acts 5:39; 1 Cor. 10:22)
This is not the conflict that the Lord would have. What He says is that the conflict is concerned with entering in: but not a conflict for long years. No: He desires that you should break through the enemies that would hold you back, and immediately enter in. Then follows the second conflict, which endures for life. Paul twice calls this the fight of faith. The chief characteristic of it is faith. He who understands well that the principal element in the battle is to believe, and acts accordingly, does certainly carry off the palm: just as in another passage Paul says to the Christian combatant: 'Withal taking up the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one.' (Eph. 6:16; 1 John 3:4,5)
And what then does it mean, this 'fight of faith'? That, while I strive, I am to believe that the Lord will help me? No: it is not so, although it often is so understood.
In a conflict it is of supreme importance that I should be in a stronghold or fortress which cannot be taken. With such a stronghold a weak garrison can offer resistance to a powerful enemy. Our conflict as Christians is now no longer concerned with going into the fortress. No: we have gone in, and are now in; and so long as we remain in it, we are invincible. The stronghold, this stable fort, is Christ. (Ps. 18:3; 46:2; 62:2,3,6,7,8; 144:2; Eph. 6:10)
By faith we are in Him: by faith we know that the enemy can make no progress against our fortress. The wiles of Satan all go forth on the line of enticing us out of our fortress, of engaging us in conflict with him on the open plain. There he always overcomes. But if we only strive in faith, abiding in Christ by faith, then we overcome, because Satan then has to deal with Him, and because He then fights and overcomes. (Ex. 14:14; Josh 5:14; 2 Chron. 23:15; John 6:33; Rom. 8:37; 2 Cor. 2:14)
'This is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith.' Our first
and greatest work is thus to believe. As Paul said before he mentions the warlike
equipment of the Christian: 'From henceforth be strong in the Lord, and in the strength
of His might.'
The reason why the victory is only by faith, and why the fight of faith is the good fight, is this: it is the Lord Jesus who purchased the victory, and who therefore alone gives power and dominion over the enemy. If we are, and abide, in Him, and surrender ourselves to live in Him, and by faith appropriate what He is, then the victory is in itself our own. We then understand: 'The battle is not yours, but God's. The Lord your God shall fight for you, and ye shall be still.' Just as we in opposition to God can achieve nothing good of ourselves, but in Christ please Him, so also is it in opposition to Satan: in ourselves we achieve nothing, but in Christ we are more than conquerors. By faith we stand in Him righteous before God, and just so in Him are we strong against our enemies. (Ps. 44:4,9; Isa. 45:24)
In this light we can read and take home to ourselves all the noble passages in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms, where the glorious conflict of God in behalf of his people is spoken of. Fear, or spiritlessness, or uncertainty, makes weak, and cannot overcome: faith in the living God is equal to everything. (Deut. 20:3,8; Josh. 6:20; Judges 7:3 Ps. 18:32-40; Heb. 11:23)
In Christ this truth is now still more real. God has come near. His power works in us who believe; it is really He that fights for us.
O Lord Jesus, who art the Prince of the army of the Lord, the Hero, the Victor, teach me to be strong in Thee my stronghold, and in the power of Thy might. Teach me to understand what the good fight of faith is, and how the one thing that I have need of is, always to look to Thee, to Thee, the supreme Guide of faith. And, consequently, in me, too, let this be the victory that overcometh the world, namely, my faith. Amen.
1. The conflict of faith is no civil war, in which one half of the kingdom is divided against the other. This would be insurrection. This is the one conflict that many Christians know: the unrest of the conscience, and the powerless wrestling of a will which consents to that which is good, but does not perform it. The Christian has not to overcome himself. This his Lord does when he surrenders himself. Then he is free and strong to combat and overcome the enemies of his Lord and of the kingdom. No sooner, however, are we willing that God should have His way with us than we are found striving against God. This also is truly conflict, but it is not the good fight of faith.
2. In Galatians 5 reference is made to the inner conflict; for the Galatians had not yet entirely surrendered themselves to the Spirit, to walk after the Spirit. 'The connection,' says Lange, 'shows that this conflict betwixt the flesh and the Spirit of God is not endless, but that there is expected of the Christian a complete surrender of himself, in order to be led only by the one principle -- the Spirit; and then, further, a refusal to obey the flesh.' The believer must not strive against the flesh, to overcome it: this he cannot do. What he is to do is to choose to whom he will subject himself: by the surrender of faith to Christ, to strive in Him through the Spirit, He has a divine power for overcoming.
3. Hence, as we have seen in connection with the beginning of the new life, our one work every day and the whole day is to believe. Out of faith come all blessings and powers, also the victory for overcoming.
XXIX BE A BLESSING
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'Get thee out of they country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land that I will show thee; and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee; and be thou a blessing.' -- Gen. 12:1,2
In these first words that God spake to Abraham, we have the short summary of all
that God has to say to him and to us as His children. We see what the goal is to
which God calls us, what the power that carries us to that goal, and what the place
where the power is found. Be a blessing: that is the goal for which God separates
Abraham and every believing child of His.
God would have him and us made to understand that, when he blesses us, this is certainly not simply to make us happy, but that we should still further communicate His blessing. (Matt. 5:34,35; 10:8; 18:33)
God Himself is love, and therefore He blesses. Love seeketh not itself: when the love of God comes to us, it will seek others through us. (Isa. 43:10,11; 1 Cor. 13:5; 1 John 4:11)
The young Christian must from the beginning understand that he has received grace with the definite aim of becoming a blessing to others. Pray, keep not for yourself what the Lord gives to you for others. Offer yourself expressly and completely to the Lord, to be used by Him for others: that is the way to be blessed oveflowingly yourself. (Ps. 112:5,9; Prov. 11:24,25; Matt. 25:40; 1 Cor. 15;58; 2 Cor. 9:6; Heb. 6:10)
The power for this work will be given. 'Be a blessing': 'I will bless thee,' says the Lord. You are to be personally blessed yourself, personally sanctified and filled with the Spirit, and peace, and power of the Lord: then you have power to bless. (Luke 24:49; John 7:38; 14:12)
In Christ God has 'blessed us with all spiritual things': let Jesus fill you with these blessings, and you shall certainly be a blessing: you need not doubt or fear. The blessing of God includes in it the power of life for multiplication, for expansion, for communication. See in the Scriptures how blessing and multiplication go together. (Gen. 1:22,28; 9:1; 22:17; 26:24)
Blessing always includes the power to bless others. Only give the word of the Almighty God, 'I will bless Thee,' time to sink into your spirit. Wait upon God, that He Himself may say to you, 'I will bless thee.' Let your faith cleave fast to this. God will make it truth to you above all asking and thinking. (2 Cor. 9:8,11; Eph. 1:3; Heb. 6:14)
But for this end you must also betake yourself to the place of blessing: the land of promise, the simple life of faith in the promises. 'Get thee out thy land and thy father's house,' says the Lord. Departure, separation from the life of nature and the flesh, in which we were born of our father Adam, is what God would have. The offering up of what is most precious to man is the way to the blessing of God. (Luke 8:29,30; John 12:24,25; 2 Cor. 6:17,18)
'Get thee to a land that I will show thee,' says the Lord, out of the old life to a new life, where I alone am your guide; that is, a life where God can have me wholly for Himself alone, where I walk only on the promises of God -- a life of faith. Christian, God will in a Divine fashion fulfil to you His promise, 'I will bless thee.' O go, pray, out of your land and your father's house, out of the life of nature and the flesh, out of intercourse with the flesh and this world, to the New Life, the life of the Spirit, the life in fellowship with God to which He will lead you. There you become receptive of His blessing; there your heart becomes open to full faith in His word, 'I will bless thee'; there He can fulfil that word to you, and make you full of His blessing and power to be a blessing to others. Live with God, separated from the world: then shall you hear the voice of God speak with power: 'I will bless thee'; 'Be thou a blessing.'
O my Father, show me the way to that promised land where Thou bringest Thy people to have them wholly for Thyself. I will abandon everything to follow Thee, to hold converse with Thee alone, in order that Thou mayest fill me with Thy blessing. Lord, let Thy word, 'I will bless thee,' live in my heart as a word of God: then shall I give myself wholly to live for others and to be a blessing. Amen.
1. God is the great, the only Fountain of blessing: as much of God as I have in me, so much blessing can I bring. I can work much for others without blessing. Actually to be a blessing, I must begin with that word, 'I will bless thee': then the other, 'Be a blessing' becomes easy.
2. In order to become a blessing, begin on a small scale: yield yourself up for others. Live to make others happy. Believe that the love of God dwells in you by the Spirit, and give yourself wholly to be a blessing and a joy to those who are round about you. Pray God to shed abroad His love in you still further by the Spirit. And believe very firmly that God can make you a greater blessing than you can think, if you surrender yourself to Him for this end.
3. But this surrender must have time in solitary prayer, that God may obtain possession of your spirit. This is for you the departure from your father's house: separate yourself from men that God may speak with you.
4. What think you? Was Abraham ever filled with regret that he placed himself so entirely under the leading of God? Then do you likewise.
5. Do you now know the two words which are the source of all promises and all commands to the children of believing Abraham? The promise is: 'I will bless thee.' The command is: 'Be a blessing.' Pray, take them both firmly for yourself.
6. And do you now understand where these two words to Abraham are fulfilled? In separation from his father's house -- in the walk in fellowship with God.
XXX. PERSONAL WORK
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'Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation: and uphold me with a free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto Thee.' -- Ps. 51:12,13
'I believe, for I will speak.' -- Ps. 116:10 'But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Ghost is come upon you.' -- Acts. 1:8
Every redeemed man is called to be a witness for his Lord. Not only by a godly walk, but by personal effort must I serve and make known my Lord. My tongue, my speech, is one of the principal means of intercourse with others and influence upon them. It is but a half dedication, when I do not also bring the offering of the lips, to speak for the Lord. (Ps. 40:10,11; 66:16; 71:8,15,24; Heb 13:15)
Of this work there is inconceivably real need. There are thousands of Christians who continually enjoy the preaching of the word, and yet do not understand the way of salvation. The Lord Jesus not only preached to the multitudes, but also spoke to individuals according to their needs. (Luke 7:40; John 3:3; 4:7)
Scripture is full of examples of those who told to others what the Lord had done for them, and who thus became a blessing to them. (Ex. 18:8,1; 2 Chron. 5:3)
The teacher alone cannot do this work of personal speaking: every ransomed soul must co-operate with him. He is in the world as a witness for his Lord. His own life cannot come to its full healthy increase, if he does not confess his Lord and work for Him. That witness for the Lord must be a personal witness. We must have the courage to say, 'He has redeemed me: He will also redeem you: will you not accept this redemption? Come, let me show you the way.' (John 1:42,46; 4:28,39; Acts. 11:19)
There are hundreds who would be glad if the personal question were put to them, 'Are you redeemed? What keeps you back? Can I not help you to go to the Lord?' Parents ought to speak personally with their children, and put the question, 'My child, have you already received the Lord Jesus?' Teachers in Sabbath schools and in day schools, when they teach the word of God, ought to bring forward the personal question, whether the children have really received salvation, and ought to seek the opportunity of also putting the question to them separately. Friends must speak with their friends. Yes: before all else should this work be done. Such work must be the work of love. Let souls feel that you love them tenderly. Let the humility and gentleness of love, as this was to be seen in Jesus, be seen also in you. At every turn surrender yourself to Jesus to be filled with His love: not by feeling, but by faith in this love, can you do your work. 'Beloved, keep yourselves in the love of God. And on some have mercy who are in doubt; and some save, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear.' The flesh often thinks that strength and force do more than love and patience. But that is not so: love achieves everything: it has overcome on the cross. (Heb. 3:13; 10:24; Jude 1:23)
Such work must be the work of faith, of faith working by love: faith that the Lord desires to use you and will use you. Be not afraid on account of your weakness: learn in the Scriptures what glorious promises God from time to time gave to those who had to speak for Him. (Ex. 4:11,12; Josh. 1:9; Isa. 50:4,11; Jer. 1:6,7; Matt. 10:19,20)
Surrender yourself continually to God to be used for the rescue of souls, and take your stand on the fact that He who has redeemed you for this end, will for this end bless you. Although your work is in weakness and fear, although no blessing appears to come, be of good courage: at His time, we shall reap. (2 Chron. 15:7; Ps. 126:6; Hag. 2:5; Gal. 6:9; 1 John 5:16)
Be filled with faith in the power of God, in His blessing upon you, and in the certainty of the hearing of prayer. 'If any man see his brother sinning a sin not unto death, he shall ask, and God will give him life.' Whether it be the most miserable and neglected, or whether it be the decent but indifferent who does not know his sin, take courage, the Lord is mighty to bless: He hears prayer. But above all, -- for this is the principal point, -- carry out this work in fellowship with Jesus. Live closely with Him -- live entirely for Him -- let Jesus be in all your own life and He will speak and work in you. (Acts. 4:13; 2 Cor. 3:5; 8:3)
Be full of the blessing of the Lord, full of His Spirit and His love, and it cannot be otherwise than that you should be a blessing. You shall be able to tell what He is continually for you. You shall have the love and the courage, with all humility, to put to souls the question, 'Is it well with you? Have you indeed the Lord Jesus as your Saviour?' And the Lord will made you experience the rich blessing which is promised to those who live to bless others. Young Christian, be a witness for Jesus. Live as one who is wholly given away to Him to watch and to work for His honour.
Blessed Lord, who hast redeemed me to serve the Father in the proclamation of His love, I will with a free spirit offer myself to Thee for this end. Fill my heart for this end with love to Him, to Thee, and to souls. Cause me to see what an honour it is to do the work of redeeming love, even as Thou didst do it. Strengthen my confidence that Thou art working with Thy power in my weakness. And let my joy be to help souls to Thee. Amen.
1. The question is often asked, 'What can I do to work for the Lord? Can you not take a class in the Sabbath school? Perhaps you live in the country where there are children that have no hour of the Sabbath devoted to them. Perhaps there are heathen children, or even grown-up people of the farms, who do not go to Church. See whether you cannot gather them together in the name of Jesus. Make it a matter of prayer and faith. Although you do this work with trembling, you may be sure that to begin to work will make you strong.
Or can you do nothing for the circulation of books and tracts? When you have a book that has been useful to you, order six or twelve copies of it. Speak of it, and offer it for sale: you can do great service by this means. So also with tracts: if you are too poor to give them for nothing, have them to sell: you may procure blessing by this method. It will especially help you to speak to others, if you begin with telling what is in a book.
2. But the principal thing is personal speaking. Do not hold back because you feel no freedom. The Lord will give you freedom in His own time. It is incredible how many are lost through ignorance. No one has ever personally made it clear to them how they can be saved. The thought that a change must first be sought and felt is so deeply rooted that the most faithful preaching is often of no avail against it. By their erroneous ideas, people misunderstand everything. Begin then to speak and to help souls to understand that they are to receive Jesus just as they are, that they can certainly know that He receives them, and that this is the power of a new and holy life.
XXXI. MISSIONARY WORK
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'And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by the signs that followed.' -- Mark 16:15,20
Every friend of Jesus is a friend of missions. Where there is a healthy spiritual
life, there is a love for the missionary cause. When you consider the reasons of
this, you obtain an insight into the glory of missions, and into your calling to
embrace this cause as apart of your soul's life. Come and hear how much there is
to make missionary work glorious and precious.
1. It is the cause for which Jesus left the throne of heaven. The heathen are His inheritance, given to Him by His Father. It is in heathendom that the power of Satan has been established. Jesus must have Himself vindicated as the conqueror. His glory, the coming and manifestation of His kingdom, depend on missions. (Isa. 2:8; Matt. 24:14; 28:18; Mark 13:10; Luke 21:24; Rom. 11:25)
2. Missionary work is the principal aim of the church on earth. All the last words of the Lord Jesus teach us this. (Mark. 16:15; Luke 24:47; John 17:18; Acts 1:8)
The Lord is the head and He has made himself dependent upon His body, upon His members, by whom alone He can do His work. (1 Cor. 7:21)
As a member of Christ, as a member of the church, shall I not give myself to take
part in the work, that this goal may be reached?
3. It is the work for which the Holy Spirit was given. See this in the promise of the Spirit: in the leading of the Spirit vouschafed to Peter and Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 1:8; 11:12,23,24; 8:2,4; 22:21)
In the history of the Church we find that times of revival go hand in hand with
new zeal for the missionary cause. The Holy Spirit is always a holy enthusiasm for
the extension of the kingdom.
4. Missionary work brings blessing on the Church. It rouses to heroic deeds of faith and self-denial. It has furnished the most glorious instances of the wondrous power of the Lord. It gives heavenly joy over the conversion of sinners to those who watch for it with love and prayer. It cleanses the heart to understand God's great plans, and to await the fulfilment of them in supplication. Missionary work is a token of life in a Church, and brings more life. (Acts 14:28; 15:4,5; Rom. 11:25,33; 15:10; Eph. 3:5,8,10)
5. What a blessing it is for the world. What would we have been, had not missionaries come to our heathen forefathers in Europe? What a glorious blessing has onto missionary work already won in some lands? What help is there for the hundred millions of heathen, if not in missions? (Isa. 49:6,12,18,22; 54:1,2)
Heaven and hell look upon missions as the battlefield where the powers of Satan
and of Jesus Christ encounter one another. Alas! that the conflict should be carried
on so feebly.
6. There will be a blessing for your own soul in love for missionary work. (Prov. 11:24,25; Isa. 58:7,8)
You will be exercised in faith. Missionary work is a cause for faith, where everything
goes on slowly, and not according to the fancy of men. You will learn to cleave to
God and the word. Love will be awakened. You will learn to go out of yourselves and
your little circle, and with an open eye and a large heart to live in the interests
of your Lord and King: you will feel how little true love you have, and you will
receive more love.
You will be drawn into prayer. Your calling and power as an intercessor will become clearer to you, and therewith the blessedness of thus co-operation for the kingdom. You will discern how it is the highest conformity to Him who came to seek the lost, to give up your own ease and rest to fight in love the fight of prayer against Satan in behalf of the heathen.
Young Christian, missionary work is more glorious and holy than you suppose. There is more blessing in it than you are aware of. The new life in you depends upon it more than you can as yet understand. Yield yourself up anew in obedience to the word to give missions a large place in your heart; yes, in your heart. The Lord Himself will further teach and bless you. And if you would know how to have your love for missions, as the work of your Lord, increased, attend to the following hints: - Become acquainted with the missionary cause. Endeavour by writings and books to know what the condition and need of heathendom is; what, by the blessing of the Lord, has been already done there; what the work is that is being done now. Speak with others about this cause. Perhaps there could be instituted in your neighbourhood a little missionary society. Perhaps one of your prayer-meetings, say, once a month, could be set apart for prayer in behalf of the missionary cause. Pray also for this in secret. Let the coming of the kingdom have a definite place in your secret prayers. Endeavour to follow the material for prayer in the promises of the word about the heathen, in the whole Scriptures, especially in the prophet Isaiah. (Isa. 49:6,18,21,22; 54:1,3; 60:1,3,11,16; 62:2)
Give also for missions: not only when you are asked; not merely what you can spare without feeling it; but set apart for this cause a portion of what you possess or earn. Let the Lord see that you are in earnest with His work. If there is missionary work that is being done in your neighbourhood, show yourself a friend to it. Although there be much imperfection in that work, -- and where is there work of man that is perfect? -- complain not of the imperfection, but look upon the essence of the cause, the endeavour to obey the command of the Lord, and give your prayer and your help. A friend of Jesus is a friend of missions. Love for missionary work is an indispensable element of the new life.
Son of God, when Thou didst breathe Thy Spirit upon Thy disciples, saying, 'Receive ye the Holy Ghost,' Thou didst add: 'As the Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.' Lord, here am I: send me also. Breathe Thy Spirit into me also, that I may live for Thy kingdom. Amen.
1. 'Unknown makes unbeloved,' is a word that is specially true of missionary work. He who is acquainted with the wonders that God has wrought in some lands, will praise and thank God for what the missionary enterprise has achieved, and will be strengthened in his faith that missionary work is really God's own cause.
Among the books that help to awaken interest in missions are biographies of missionaries. 'The life of Henry Martyn' is one, formerly issued by the Book Society. 'Uncle Charles' is the name of a book with an account of missionary work in South Africa. Some books on missions are generally to be found in our Sabbath school libraries.
2. We should never forget that the missionary cause is an enterprise of faith. It requires faith in the promises of God, in the power of God. It has need of love -- love to Jesus, whereby the heart is filled with desire for His honour, and love to souls, that longs for their safety. It is a work of the Spirit of God, 'whom the world cannot receive': therefore the world can approve of missions only when they go forward with the highest prosperity.
3. Let no friend of missions become discouraged when the work proceeds slowly. Although all baptized men are not converted, although even amongst the converts there is still much perversity, and some fall back after a fair professions. Amongst our forefathers in Europe, a whole century was occupied with the introduction of Christianity. Sometimes a nation received Christianity to cast it off again after thirty or forty years. It required a thousand years to bring them up to the height at which we now stand. Let us not expect too much from the heathen at once, but with love and patience and firm faith, pray and work, and expect the blessing of God.
Introduction ---New Window
CHAPTERS 1-15 of page 1 ---New Window
CHAPTERS 16-31 of page 2 (this page)
CHAPTERS 32-52 of page 3 ---New Window
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