Christianity – Process of Transformation (2)


Broad Overview of Geography Relevant to Paul o...

Broad Overview of Geography Relevant to Paul of Tarsus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

INTELLECTUALISM

Now what is this natural category, this natural species? Look at the Letter again. First of all, the dominance, ascendancy, control of intellectualism, the wisdom of this world. That is the thing that is being marked and underscored as a part of the trouble in Corinth; the control of intellectualism, the natural reason, the natural mind, the idea that you are going to solve the problems of life along intellectual lines. Will you tell me that that is not a peril of Christianity today? Why, it is everywhere! It shouts at you from the religious press. You may not read so much of it, but it is my business to be familiar with what is happening in the Christian theological world, and I tell you, friends, that as I read certain theological magazines I find DEATH. They are wearisome to the spirit. All this terrific effort to solve the problems of Christianity by the human intellect; the research, argument, discussion and debate, theses, etc.; philosophical Christianity trying to solve spiritual problems; what a weariness it is! I have to put these papers down sometimes! I cannot finish them, for they are so dead, so utterly lifeless. And that sort of thing is everywhere. It is thought that if you go to our seats and seminaries of learning with a clever brain, able to put out a convincing argument, you are going to save souls. There never was a greater fallacy!
This Letter to the Corinthians says that. Read this second chapter again and you will find that Paul is saying that. Paul was an educated man, so much so that for two thousand years the best scholars have found him defeating them, and they have not mastered him yet! Come to the religious bookshops and look at the shelves on the exposition of the New Testament, and you will find that Paul predominates. I got a book by one of our leading professors of theology in the universities and it was called A Portrait of Peter. This man, with all his learning, set out to give us a portrait of Peter. I opened the book and found that the first few pages were wholly occupied with Paul! He could not get to Peter because Paul was in the way, and the issue of his attempt was: ‘Well, Peter was a great man, but Paul was very much greater!’ Yes, this man Paul was an educated man, an intellectual man, a learned man. You cannot discredit Paul along that line at all, for he will beat you every time in that realm – but listen! ‘You Corinthians, when I came to you I came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, but in fear and in much trembling. I had determined that I would know nothing amongst you intellectual Corinthians save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.’ What was Paul’s conclusion? ‘It is no use, however much I may have of the schools, whatever I may know, however I might be able to argue with the Corinthians or the Athenians on Mars Hill, I will get nowhere along that line with a spiritual situation like this. I have made up my mind about that.’ It is part of the natural man to think that you are going to be able to build up something by intellectual, scholastic, academic acumen. The fact is that what intellect can build up, intellect can pull down!

POWERISM

Then look at this prominent word: power. It is there in the chapter: wisdom… power; and at Corinth there was a worshipping of natural power, ability to conquer by natural strength. You can call it ‘powerism’, for it was an ‘ism’ there. Crush by your superior strength, impose something forceful, mighty, upon people, and you will win. Only be strong enough and you can solve all the problems and change all the situations. ‘Powerism’ is the natural man’s idea of how it is going to be done.

EMOTIONALISM

Then emotionalism has a large place with these Corinthians. Going to capture, captivate and master, and gain your end by force of emotion stirring up people’s feelings, playing upon them, working upon them until they make an almost hysterical response. If you do that well and thoroughly you will get some Christians! The Apostle says: ‘Not at all!’ It is evident that these Corinthians were very emotional people.

FOOLISHNESS

What does the Apostle put over against these three aspects of the natural man? Over against wisdom he puts ‘foolishness’. In the first chapter he speaks of “the foolishness of the preaching”. You find that ‘foolishness’ was a great thing with the Apostle Paul! “We are fools for Christ’s sake” (1 Corinthians 4:10). What did he mean? Well, he did not mean: ‘Be simpletons!’, which is what we immediately take to be the meaning of being foolish. What Paul meant by foolishness was the denial that intellectualism could find out God. ‘The princes of this world, and the wisdom of this world did not find out God’, said Paul, ‘and they could not find Him out. They could not find out anything to do with God.’ “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: and he cannot know them.” Foolishness is the denial that all the wisdom and all the philosophy of the Greeks there in Corinth, where they boasted of this thing so much, could get through the barrier to find God; and that all this power of mind and will projected and asserted in any way whatever will come up against the barrier and not get through, will not find God, nor the things of God. It is all written off as foolishness when the quest for God is pursued along that line. How foolish it is! And Paul gives a wonderful, almost startling, example of this: “God’s wisdom… which none of the rulers of this world knoweth: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” There is not much sense in that wisdom, is there? Not much logic or philosophy in that!
So Paul puts what he calls ‘foolishness’ over against their wisdom, meaning a positive denial registered by the Cross of the Lord Jesus that mere intellectualism can find God and the things of God. It cannot, for the natural man cannot!

WEAKNESS

Over against the powerism of this mentality of the natural man, the Apostle almost glories in using the word ‘weakness’. He says even that Christ was crucified through weakness, and he is always speaking about, and glorying in, his own weakness. What does he mean? The denial that this kind of human force, assertiveness, can achieve anything in the spiritual world. What a building we are tearing down!
You know, that has been the test of man right from the beginning. Was it not the test of Abraham to let go even of what God had given him in Isaac? The test of this man’s real spirituality was the ability to let go. Was it true of Jacob? Was he not a man of tenacity, of determination, a man who would get what he wanted at any price, at the cost of anyone else’s convenience and wellbeing? Was that not the issue of Peniel, or Jabbok? “I will not let thee go!” That is Jacob! He had been like that all his life, holding on tenaciously to what he wanted, what he had or what he wanted to have. But the finger of God touched the hollow of his thigh, and after that you can see that he is a cringing man! See how he meets his brother Esau!
You are not, whether you are Abraham or Jacob or any of the others whom we might mention, going to get through with God fully and finally by your own natural determination and tenacity. One of the great lessons of the Christian life is to learn how to let go to God. Oh, all the exhortation to be strong in the Lord, to endure, to acquit you like men and be strong, does not mean with this natural strength. It is another kind of strength, and a very different kind, a strength which is only seen by our ability to let other people sometimes have their way, to get what they are after and set us at nought. They hold, grip, maintain things in their hands to our disadvantage, and our real strength is in our weakness. The Apostle Paul put this into words. Read the second chapter of the Letter to the Philippians: “Christ Jesus, who, being in the form or God, counted it not a prize to be on equality with God, but emptied himself, taking the form of a bondservant… becoming obedient, even unto death, yea, the death of the cross.” Well, has it proved to be the right thing? ‘We are being changed…’ Do you see the point now?

(..to be continued..)

Reference T A Spark

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His Calling Is Positive


The Calling is PositiveLord Howe Island snorkeling - Double headed wr...

In every situation and at all times the calling is positive. That heavenly calling is never negative, never neutral, never passive, but always positive. You may not have very much in your daily life to make the calling seem positive. It may be you go to business in the morning and fulfil your daily work, the trivial round, the common task, as we say, with very little variety entering into it. It is the same round day after day, week after week, month after month; the same people, the same surroundings, the same activities very largely. Only on the rarest occasion does something specially interesting come into the daily course. It would be so easy in a situation like that to say: Well, in my sphere of life there is not much of the glamour of a heavenly calling! My work is plain and simple. I have just to get on with it every day, and I see very little else beyond it. Remember that at all times, in all circumstances, the calling is positive.

Every day will provide some opportunity for you to learn spiritual ascendency; some occasion for you to bring in the value of your relationship with the Lord; to put to the test the resources which you have in Christ; to grow in grace; to know victories. How do you know but that in that very uninteresting, perhaps unpromising sphere of life you are on test on some of those great matters, such as faith, patience, or patient endurance.

It would be interesting to know exactly what the throne of the Lord is made of. When we come to that throne, I wonder whether we shall find a throne of gold in a literal sense, or whether we shall find it made up of many things? When we come to analyze the throne we may find that it is made up of patience, faith, endurance, and all such moral elements, and that these elements constitute the power by which He governs. It is sharing the patience of Jesus Christ which is sharing the throne. There is something mighty in the ultimate outworking of the patience of Jesus, the faith of Jesus Christ, the endurance. These are the constituents of His throne.

He is working throne elements into us now in the drab, uninteresting life day by day. You may be on test for the throne. for we are all expected to conform to the image of Christ. There may be bound up with the least interesting course of life some very, very real intention of the Lord. Let us remember that the heavenly calling is always positive, in all circumstances, in all places. We are on test for the throne, as to whether it shall function through us both here and hereafter.

May you be endowed with the mind and patience of Christ.

An Assault on Fellowship


There are few matters which go to the heart of the Lord’s testimony more than the matter of fellowship between the Lord’s people, and especially where there is particular responsibility for His testimony. The drive of the enemy and all his subtle and diabolical wit, as well as his pressure and his misrepresentations, will be directed toward destroying that relationship of fellowship. He will seek somehow to divide believers, and get in between. And if you are not careful you will resolve all such matters into merely natural problems and say: Well, it is incompatibility of temper! So-and-so is made this way, and the other person is made that way; you can never blend people who are so different in temperament and outlook! If you allow a conclusion of that kind your testimony is gone; you may as well abandon your position in the Lord and go and scour the world for people who in everything see eye to eye. Does it mean that the Lord’s work, as entrusted to two or three or more together in one place, can only continue in so far as these children of His are able at all times to get on with one another on a natural basis? The Lord help His work if that is what is required. We have to look deeper than that.

This drive on fellowships and relationships is Satanic. There may be ground, there may be human elements, but those concerned should take this attitude toward one another: The Lord’s testimony is bound up with our oneness; the Devil will do everything he can to destroy that, and to strike a blow, therefore, at the testimony! You and I are going to be one in the name of the Lord, and stand our ground against the enemy! There we have something altogether different from the attempt to get on with one another on a natural basis, we have a dynamic for fellowship. We have to get on with one another in the name of the Lord, or else the Lord’s testimony is not established.

There is something much bigger than a natural or human situation to be dealt with, and when we realise that back of what may truly be natural difficulties there is always something else at work, and that therefore we must keep these natural things in the place of the Cross, and stand together against the enemy, we will get through; but we will never do so by spending a lot of time trying to adjust ourselves to one another, and seeing how far we can work together. Standing shoulder to shoulder against the enemy who is assailing fellowship, we will find the way of triumphant fellowship. Come down on the natural level, and the enemy will soon make terrible havoc of the whole relationship.

  • “Receive one another just as Christ also received us’ Romans 15” 7
  • “Bless those who persecute you, bless do not curse” Romans12: 14
  • “Let love be without hypocrisy” Romans 12: 9
  • “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, it is not puffed up, does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, its not provoked nor thinks no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the truth” 1 Corinthians 13: 4-6
  • “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” Luke 18: 27
  • “You were bought at a price do not become slaves of men” 1 Corinthians 7: 23

Remember, then, that all these things which sometimes seem to be so natural are in principle deeper down, and the activity of the enemy is behind them in his seeking to circumvent that gain, that advance, that increase, that attaining unto dominion, and he must be withstood in these matters.

Many Questions – One Universal Answer


 

English: the first of the Epistles to the Colo...

English: the first of the Epistles to the Colossians (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Perhaps one of the greatest, if not the greatest, of the difficulties of the Christian is to accept in a practical way, and establish as a governing rule of life, the things “most surely believed” as truth. We are all greatly oppressed with some of the big problems and questions which are related to Christian life and experience, either subjectively or objectively; and yet, the most difficult thing is to accept the true answer or solution when it is offered.

This difficulty is largely due to the fact that, before a change in the situation in question can be effected, there has to be a change in our attitude toward it. We want things changed. God wants us changed. But even here, it is not just a psychological change. That might be very artificial and self-deceptive. The question is: Is there one answer to most, if not all, of our problems? Is there just one thing which, if we embraced it, would be God’s answer to, and explanation of, our difficulties? Has God one answer to most of our cries of ‘Why?’

The Problem of Suffering

Take the problem of suffering. That may include many things; physical, circumstantial, spiritual. It may relate to ourselves or to others. Almost countless are the ways of God’s dealings with us, which are most trying and hard to bear. The most acute form of suffering is that which relates to God Himself: His silence; hiding Himself; seeming to have neither knowledge nor care. Prayers seem to be unheard, and are, apparently (we would say positively) unanswered.

What is the explanation? Well, the Word of God has made very clear that such an explanation exists.

There is one all-comprehending, all-embracing, all-governing purpose to which God has committed Himself, by creation, by redemption, and by union. That purpose is the conformity of a race to the image of His Son. This is man’s chief end and chief good. What more satisfied and ‘happy’ person is there – even amidst suffering and sorrow – than he or she who is most perfect in patience, love, faith, and the other ‘fruits of the Spirit’? If our requests regarding things were granted, while we were left the same people, unchanged in disposition and nature, it would not be long before we should be in the same unhappy condition over other things. There is possible for us some inherent quality that wears out circumstances and reigns above them. Some of the most radiant people have been the greatest sufferers in infirmity, poverty, or other forms of adversity; whilst the most ‘privileged’ are often the most discontented.

The solution to the problem of suffering does not lie in being philosophical; it is not in fatalistic resignation – ‘This is my lot; I suppose I must accept it’. It is not in passive or active suppression of desire. It is far removed from self-pity, bitterness, cynicism, or envy, and the rest of their wretched family of wilderness-makers and wanderers.

We may have to let go the particular occasion of our trouble, and first recognise, and then embrace with our heart, the fact that in the affliction there resides the immense eternal potentiality of an increase of the image of God’s Son, which is to be the one and the only character and nature of the eternal kingdom. We have too much visualised the ‘Heaven’ that is to be, as geographical and pleasurable, without giving sufficient weight to the fact of a nature to be inculcated and perfected.

The Work of God

Why is it that – God willing and purposing a certain object to be accomplished, e.g. the salvation of souls, the building of the Church, the increase of spiritual measure; and God being Who and What He is, All-mighty, All-wise, All-gracious – the work is fraught with so many problems? The workers are often at the end of themselves; everything is so hard and heartbreaking; and in deepest suffering many die with so little accomplished. Why is the vindication of those who have honestly sought to do the will of God and have suffered deeply at the hands of men, even Christian men, so long delayed?

How much we could enlarge upon the perplexities of the work of the Lord! But if we could say all, does not the same solution apply as above?

It has become almost a platitude now to say that ‘God is more concerned for the worker than for the work’. Yes, and, as a proposition, we may quite honestly believe it; but as applied and experienced it is the root of unspeakably much perplexity and disappointment. Yet there it is: the whole fact that, second causes being admitted or rejected, the work of God has never been something easy or straightforward, with the continuous manifestation of His absolute All-mightiness making difficulties as though they were nothing.

God will never put work or service in the place of character; and, if we do that, eternity will reveal that, however much we may have done, we are very small amongst the inhabitants of the Land, whose stature will be measured by ‘the measure of Christ’. It would be well if all who contemplate or are engaged in the work of God were governed by this one absolutely final law: that, both as to themselves and as to those amongst whom they minister, the ultimate test is – not how much work is done, but how much of Christ is present, or results from the ministry. This might solve many problems, explain many ‘strange’ ways of God, and seal life with the kind of ‘success’ that is worthy of the name in the eyes of Heaven.

The Church’s Unity

We touch on one other problem, though it is too big for any adequate handling here: the problem of the Church’s unity or disunity.

What a problem and heartbreak this is! What efforts are being made to solve it! Never was it engaging so much attention as now. We are not unfamiliar with this matter from the standpoint of Church History, the Ecumenical movement, World Councils, Conferences, and so on; and we sincerely trust that we shall not be thought to consider ourselves superior when we say with emphasis that we believe that there is one answer and only one.

It is God’s answer, anticipating all divisions and established before them. That answer is a right apprehension of Christ, and conformity to Him. Every Christian believes in ‘the oneness of the Body of Christ’. Books, almost without number, have been written on the Church. But we are really no nearer a manifest expression of the Church, as set forth in the letters of Paul to the Ephesians and Colossians, because the real secret is in the measure of Christ in all concerned. No two members of Christ can keep apart, if Christ is really dominantly Lord in their hearts by the Holy Spirit! We may have put systems, institutions, denominations, traditions, interpretations of doctrine, etc, before Christ Himself. It may be necessary to dethrone and displace these, and make everything of Christ, before there will be any solution of the problem.

There are other questions and difficulties, but the same answer applies to all. God’s end – to which, in a thousand ways, He works – is that “Christ may be all and in all”, and light is thrown upon all the dark things by this.

 

 

Undeveloped Lives (2)


The Pain of God in Seeing Undeveloped Lives

Now there is one thing that I should like to say in passing. It is that in the light of undeveloped lives there must be infinite pain in the omniscience of God. Do you remember how Robert Browning sang, “All I could never be, All men ignored in me, This, I was worth to God”? God recognizes the value and the power of the possibilities we never even see. We take men as we see them, for the most part. We do not trouble about hidden talents. If our eyes were opened in the city street to the undeveloped love and gifts and character in the crowd, what a new sense of hopelessness would strike us! But the hungering of love we never dream of, and the craving of hearts, and the gifts that cannot blossom, all these are clear as a star to the Eternal, and that is one sorrow of divine omniscience.

Christ’s Influence in Developing Lives

Now one of the first things to humble me in Christ Jesus is His influence in developing the lives He touches. It is as if God, in that sorrow of omniscience, had charged His Son to call forth all possibilities. I doubt not there were other publicans with gifts as good as Matthew’s, and that there were other doctors quite as sincere as Luke; but under the influence of Jesus Christ the gifts of these men so developed that they have made all Christendom their debtors, while the rest are sleeping in unrecorded graves. When Simon Peter first steps upon the scene, he is a rash, impulsive, and impetuous man. One recognizes the slumbering greatness in him; but one feels the boundless possibilities of evil. So Jesus takes him and uses him as a master musician might use his beloved instrument, till the chords are wakened into such glorious music that the centuries are ringing with it still.

Jesus touched nothing which He did not adorn. And He adorned, not as we decorate our streets, but as God adorns the lilies of the field. He drew from the worst their unsuspected best. He kindled the love and pity that were sleeping. He roused into most effectual exercise whatsoever gift or talent was concealed.

And if today the aggregate life of Christendom is infinitely deeper, fuller, and more complex than any life the world has ever known, we largely owe it to the influence of Jesus in the development of human life, the development of  our and others talent, the development and revealing  of infinite possibilities

This is our assignment, our resolve, our ultimate task as a true child of God.

Whose Will (11)


 

Fellowship Rests on the Will

Think of the relationship of will to fellowship—man’s spiritual fellowship with his Redeemer. That friendship is not based on kindred feeling; it is based, according to Christ, on kindred-will. “Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee”; and Jesus answered, “Who is my brother? He that doeth the will of my Father in heaven, the same is my mother, my brother, and my sister.” It is not a question, then, of what you know, if you are to be a brother or sister of the Lord. It is not a matter of excited feeling nor of any glowing or ecstatic rapture. He that does the will—though it might be often sore and though the way might be dark and though the wind be chill—he that does the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My sister and My brother. That means that all fellowship with Jesus Christ depends on dedication of the will.

We must say, “Take my will, and make it Thine,” if we are to be numbered in His company. And if fellowship with Him be true religion—the truest and purest the world has ever known—you see how it does not rest on thought or feeling, but has its wellspring in the surrendered will.

Surrender of the Will

And in the life of Christ this is the crowning glory—a will in perfect conformity with God’s. He is our Savior and our great exam-pie because of that unfailing dedication. Look at Him as He is tempted in the wilderness—is there not there a terrible reality of choice? Does there not rise before Him the alternative of self, to be instantly and magnificently spurned?

Think on these things – Christ who was also one with God, left His throne and Majesty, left His glory and splendor and took on the human state, the nature of mere men. He had the power to unleash legions of angels to clear the road, heal every sick man and triumph into Jerusalem, but every action, every thought, has to be the will of His Father in Heaven, (I must do the will of Him that sent me and finish it). And ever through the progress of His years, He left what He was and could do behind, only and fully focused on one goal which was His meat is to do the will of God who sent Him; until at last, upon the cross of Calvary, the dedication is perfected and crowned.
May we  all, young or old, shepherds and ministers, ever remember that the will is the very citadel of manhood.

To be a true Christian that must be yielded up. Everything else, (personality, fame, charisma, tongues, gifts, eloquence, wealth and riches)  without it aligning with the perfect will of God for us for this time is in vain.

Perfect Will of the Almighty God comes when we humbly go to Him everyday and everytime for direction and guidance, not repeat methodology, because “it worked perfectly yesterday” or “that principle is what we used last year” or as some say “this is how it is done”. Don’t forget the strategy for parting the red seas, was different from the conquering of Jericho, and that was different from other battles that confronted the people of Israel, when you search the scriptures, you discover that every time the Israelites go into battle without consulting the Lord, failure and death awaits them. The Almighty God is unique in His ways and dealings with us as a Nation and as an individual.  “It is not for man to direct His ways, the Lord orders our steps” and He does this every single day, that is why His blessings and mercies are NEW every day.

Religion founded on feeling is unstable. A religion of intellect is cold and hard and doomed for failure

Our ultimate goal is to be conformed to the image of Christ our saviour. Total surrender is what Christ did and demands, and in it lies the secret of all peace. You may have the best idea, most tenderest feelings but if you habour an un-surrendered will, your righteousness is but a  filthy rag before the Almighty God.

So I urge you to pay attention to these words..“And do not be conformed to this world (and its system of things), but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” Romans 12: 2

Think on these things.

Rebecca Ajibola

 

Whose Will (1)


 

The Dedication of the Will

My meat is to do the will of him that sent me— Joh_4:34

Is Religion Based on Reason or Feeling,’

It has been a matter of controversy time and again which is the true wellspring of religion; and to this question, which is fresh in every age, there are two answers which demand attention.

On the one hand there are many reverent thinkers who trace the roots of religion to the reason. It is because we are reasonable beings that we know the infinite reason, which is God. A dumb beast is not endowed with reason though it has instinct. It is man alone, lifting his forehead heavenward, who is a truly reasonable creature; and in man alone, because he is so gifted, is there the craving for the eternal Being, and the assurance, at the back of all things visible, of a hand that guides and of a heart that plans. Thought is the lattice through which the human spirit peers forth upon the vista of eternity. Thought is the mystical ladder that goes heavenward and lifts itself through the silence to the throne. And if the angels, clad in their garb of ministry, move up and down upon its steps of radiance, it is because the head that lies upon the pillow is that of a reasonable man.

On the other hand, there have been many thinkers who have denied this primary place to thought. It is not from reason that religion springs, they tell us; it is from the deeper region of the feelings. How can the fragmentary thought of man reach forth to the perfect thought of the Almighty? Can any by intellectual searching find Him out, and are not His thoughts different from out thoughts? Do we not know, too, that an age of so-called reason is never a time when eternal things are clear, but always a time when voices are but faint that come with the music of the faraway? On these grounds there has been raised a protest against reason as the wellspring of religion. Not upon reason is religion based; it sinks its shaft into the depth of feeling. It is born in the longing you cannot analyze; in the emotion that is prior to all thought; in the craving for God that rests upon no proof, and stirs in a depth below the reach of argument.

 

The Wellspring of Personal Religion Is the Will

But when we turn to the word of Jesus Christ and to its translation in apostolic doctrine, we discover that neither thought nor feeling is laid at the foundation of religion. Christ had no quarrel with the human intellect. He recognized its wonder and its power. His own intellectual life was far too rich for Him to be a traitor to the brain. Nor was Christ the enemy of human feelings. He never made light of tenderest emotion. He who wept beside the grave of Lazarus could never be the antagonist of tears. But in the teaching of Christ, it is not thought nor feeling that is the wellspring of personal religion. “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me”; the wellspring is in the region of the will. It is there that a man must pass from death to life. It is there that the path of piety begins—not in the loftiest and holiest thought nor in the rapture of excited feeling. The first thing is the dedication of the will; the response of a free man to a great God; the yielding of self to that imperious claim which is made by the loving Father in the heavens. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness”—”Let the dead bury their dead, follow thou me“—such are the words in which our Lord describes the primary and determinative action. A man may cherish the most reverent thought or may luxuriate in tenderest feeling, yet if he harbor an unsurrendered will, he knows not yet the meaning of religion.

 

Yield Your Will to Christ

It is thus that we begin to understand the condemnation of Christ on indecision. “He that is not with me, is against me”—”No man can serve two masters.” No matter how ignorant a man might be, Christ never was without hope for him. No matter how depraved he was, there was a spark within him that might be fanned to flame. But of all men the most hopeless in Christ’s sight was the irresolute and undecided person, the man who refused to take a spiritual stand and who was contented to drift aimlessly. It is very probable that Judas Iscariot was a man of such irresolution. It had been growing increasingly clear to him, as months went by, that he was hopelessly out of sympathy with Jesus. But instead of arising in some great decision that might have closed that mockery of following, he drifted, amid ever quickening waters, till suddenly the whirlpool and the cry. The man who hesitates, we say, is lost—but Christ has come to seek and save the lost. Am I speaking to any waverer, to any hesitating, undecided person? Till the will is right, nothing is right. No man is Christ’s until the will has been yielded. “Our wills are ours, we know not how; Our wills are ours to make them Thine.”

Jesus Never Overpowered the Will

It is further notable in this connection that Jesus never over powered the will. It was His glory to empower it, but to overpower it He scorned. “Come unto me, and I will give you rest”—a man must come; no hand from heaven will drag him. No irresistible and irrational constraint will force him into the presence of the Savior. A man is something better than a beast—he is but a little lower than the angels—and as a man, or not at all, Christ will have the allegiance of the will. “Ye will not come to me that ye might have life” —there is the ring of an infinite pity about that; but the other side of that so baffled yearning, reveals the very grandeur of humanity. For it tells of a being whose heritage is freedom—not to be overborne by God Himself—of one who must come with a freely yielded will, or else not come at all. With Mohammed it was the Koran or the sword, and that compulsion was a degradation. Hence never, under Mohammedan dominion, has manhood risen to its highest splendor. But with Christ there was no compulsion of the will, save the compulsion of overmastering love, and that great recognition of our freedom has blossomed into the flower of Christian manhood. Do not wait, then, I would beg of you, as if a day were coming when you must be good. Do not think that the hour will ever strike when you will be swept irresistibly into the kingdom. At the last it is a matter of decision, and in all the changes of the coming years, never will it be easier for you to make the great decision than now.

Christ’s Emphasis on the Motive

We might further illustrate Christ’s emphasis on will by some of the relationships in which He sets it. Think first of its relationship to action. It is not the action in itself that Jesus looks at; He has a gaze that pierces deeper than the action. He sees at the back of every deed, its motive, and that is the measure of value in His sight. Viewed from the standpoint of the day’s collection there was no great value in the widow’s mite. One coin out of the pocket of the rich was worth a hundred such in some eyes. But there is a certain kind of calculation that is intolerant of all arithmetic, and it was always on that basis Christ computed. Was there no sacrifice behind that little gift which was dropped so quietly into the temple treasury? Was there no will so bent upon obedience that it must pour its all into the offering? What Jesus saw was not the mite; it was the dedicated will behind the mite. An action had no value in Christ’s eyes unless at the back of it there was the willing mind. Deep down, in the unseen springs of a man’s being, lay that which determined the value of his conduct. And that is the reason why Christ appraises action in a way that is sublimely careless of the common standards by which the world distributes applause.

To Know, You Must Will

Or think of the relationship of will to knowledge if you want to know how Christ regarded will. “If any man will to do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God.” If any man will ( or want) to do His will—then at the back of true knowledge is obedience, and what we know of the highest and the best ultimately depends upon the will. Let a man refuse to submit his will to God, and the gateway of truth is closed to him forever. No daring of intellect will pierce its deeps, nor will any imagination see its beauty. Truth at the heart of it is always ethical, kindred in being to man’s moral nature; and if that nature be choice less and disordered, the power and majesty of truth are never known. That is the reason why the simplest duty has always an illuminating power. Do the next thing, and do it heartily, and the very brain will grow a little clearer. For the Word of God is a lamp unto our feet, and only when our feet go forward bravely will the circle of light advance upon the dark and reveal what is always shadowed to the stationary. It is not merely by His depth of thought that Christ has kindled the best thought of Christendom. It is by His urgent and passionate insistence upon the dedication of the will. And men have obeyed Him, and taken up their cross, and followed bravely when all in front was shrouded, to find that they were moving into a larger world and under a brighter heaven.

(..to be continued)

Rebecca Ajibola

 

Unwarrantable Interferences 11


Times We Must Leave Men Alone

If there are times when we must leave God alone, there are times when we must let men alone. And that is our second thought; there are times when we must let men alone.

And here again, as was the case with God, these times are rarely the times when men would like it. The very hour when a man cries to be let alone may be the very hour when I dare not do so. The Bible is full of instances of that. One notable one springs up, and it is this. It is the morning when Jesus entered the synagogue at Capernaum, and there was a man with an unclean spirit there. And the man cried, “Let us alone, what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth?” And Jesus? Jesus rebuked him saying, “Hold thy peace and come out of him.” It was impossible for Christ, just because He was the Christ, to let that devil-ridden soul alone. And wherever men are living on in sin, helpless and bound, strangers to peace and God, the Church of Jesus Christ cannot let them be. A sinful soul may cry, Let me alone! But with a sweet and masterful intolerance, Christ is still deaf to that; and we must help, and we must save mankind, even against their own wishes.

This grace, then, of letting alone, frees no man from his moral responsibility either towards his wandered or his heathen brother. Where, then, does it enter into human life? We shall take another Gospel incident and see. I find Christ sitting at Simon the leper‘s table, and the woman who was a sinner is kneeling there, and she has broken the alabaster box and is pouring the precious ointment on the feet of Jesus. And the disciples murmur and are indignant. They cannot understand this gross extravagance. “Might not this ointment have been sold for three hundred pence and given to the poor?” Let her alone, says Jesus, why trouble ye the woman? Let her alone, you do not understand. She is serving with a service of her own, moved by the passion of an all-pardoning love: there is one work; there is one character for her; there is another service and another life for you.

And that is one glory of the Gospel. It does not crush men into one common mould, but it gives the greatest freedom to individuality and perfects and crowns each struggling soul uniquely. You are never yourself till you are Christ’s, and woe to that preaching of an exalted Lord that forces men’s service into a common type! It is not because I want to be original, it is because I want to be a Christian, that I say to all murmuring disciples, let me alone; I have my box to break; it is not yours. I want to see the keen man, the man who is honorable and Christian in his business. And I want to see the philanthropist, the man who is eagerly bent on doing good. And I want to see the dreamer, the man who feels the beauty of the world, and never does anything, perhaps, except reflect it. And I wish to say to the philanthropist, Do not upbraid the merchant. And I wish to say to the keen man of business, Do not despise the dreamer. Let him alone. He too is serving God. There is need for the purification of the market. There is need for heroic work among the poor. There is need that the beautiful should be interpreted. And when all is over and the morning breaks and the manifold service of a million hearts is unified in Christ, you will be thankful that you let others alone, for there will be more “well done” than you have ever dreamed!

In the meantime, let us all and individually work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.

Pray That God Never Lets You Alone

There are times, then, when we must leave God alone. There are times when we must let man alone. I just want to say this in closing: Heaven grant it that God never lets you or me alone.

There is a terrible text in the Old Testament: “Ephraim is joined to his idols: let him alone.” I have pleaded with Ephraim, says God, for years. I have pleaded with Ephraim as a father with his child. But Ephraim has spurned Me; he has given his heart to his idols; and Ephraim is reprobate. His day of grace has set. “Ephraim is joined to his idols: let him alone.” Drive on thy chariot, Ephraim, to thy hell. There is a terrible text in the New Testament. It is when Jesus says to Judas, “What thou doest, do quickly.” For I have pleaded with thee, O Judas; I have prayed with thee. And now his doom is sealed; let him alone. Out, Judas, get it over, get it done, and to thine own place, hastily.

The hour then comes when God really lets us alone. May that not be your portion.

Do you say that hour will never come to you? Watch! For it is not by a desperate career, and it is not by one black and awful deed, that a man shall sin away the grace of God. It is by the silent hardening of our common days, the almost unnoticed tampering with conscience, the steady dying-out of what is best under the pressure of a worldly and adulterous city; it is by that the spiritual dies, it is by that men become castaways.

Better the harshest discipline than that.

Great God of mercy, let none of us alone! Deal with us, lead us, chasten us as Thou wilt, if only we be sanctified, ennobled, and drawn out of self into the light of Him who is chiefest among ten thousand and altogether lovely.

As I close, I pray that the eyes of our understanding may be enlightened and may we desire the patience and mind of Christ Amen.

Rebecca Ajibola

Unwarrantable Interferences


The Chastisement of Uzzah

The Chastisement of Uzzah (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him— Joh_11:48

The Error of the Pharisees

There was a sense in which the Pharisees were entirely wrong. Historically, and in the sovereign will of God, it is just because the Pharisees did not let Christ alone that we believe and worship Him. Had they let Christ alone, I speak with reverence, there would have been no Calvary for Jesus. And had Jesus never been lifted up on Calvary, He never would have drawn all men to Him. They were quite wrong, then, these Pharisees, in one sense. Their interference was a predestined thing. They plotted and schemed and compassed the death of Jesus. And they said, That ends it, none will believe Him now. Yet the King in His beauty is the crucified Redeemer still.

 

Don’t Leave God Alone When He Wants to Be Prayed to

Now the strange thing is—and I call it strange though to the man who knows his Bible it is quite familiar—the strange thing is, that the times when we must leave God alone are not the times when God appears to wish it. Go back to the story of Exodus, for instance. Recall that sad scene of the golden calf. The people made their idol and they danced around it, and they played the harlot and forgot God around it till the anger of God was like a scorching flame. And what did God cry to Moses? “Let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, that I may consume them.” And Moses simply refused to let God be—he fell on his face, entreated passionately, saved the people, and was never more Christlike than in that splendid disobedience. Or take the cry of the Syrophoenician woman. “Lord, save my daughter, save my daughter, Lord!” And if the silence of Christ meant anything at all, and if His word about the lost sheep of the house of Israel meant anything at all, it meant, “Let Me alone.” But her mother’s heart refused to let Christ alone. She pleaded, she parried, she found a choice argument in His refusal, till Christ was mastered by that most disobedient persistency, and she went home to find her daughter healed.

I think you see now what the lesson is. With a life to live and with a death to die, never let God alone by not praying. “Let me alone,” the God of science is crying, “for I work by my inexorable laws, and I shall not change them at my creature’s bidding.” “Let me alone,” the God of providence is crying, “for your neighbor yonder has not prayed for years, and yet he has all he needs.” But I take sides with Moses and that woman. And if new depth, new insight, new power for the little self-denials of everyday, new cravings for holiness, new humility—if these things rise in me as the tide rises, come to me like a bird upon the wing, I shall thank God that I have learned the lesson of never letting Him alone in prayer.

Let God Alone to Have His Way with You

That, then, is one sphere where the earnest heart cannot leave God alone. And I have thought it right to touch on that to safeguard this topic from abuse. But there is another sphere where God is sovereign. It is the sphere of action. It is the realm of life. And there it is wisdom, it is peace, just to let God alone to have His way with you. I suppose there never was a general, not even Lord Roberts, who was more loved by his soldiers than the Viscount de Turenne, who was marshal of France in the time of the great Louis. It was he who, if he gained a battle, used to write we won, and if his army were defeated, wrote I lost. Well, I have read how one night, going the round of his camp, he overheard some of the younger soldiers bitterly murmuring at the discomforts of the march. And an old veteran just recovering from a wound was saying, “You do not know our father. When you are older, you will never talk like that. Be sure he has some grand end in view that we cannot make out, or he would never allow us to suffer so.” And brave Turenne, who tells the story himself, used to say that that moment of eavesdropping was the proudest and happiest moment of his life. The young men were bitter and angry at his leadership. Things would be different if they were in command. But the old veterans who had fought with their general in many fields and marched with their general in many  weary mile, they let him alone because they so loved and trusted him.

Do that with God. It is one secret of a strenuous life. The deepest philosophy comes to its crown in that. I have known fathers whose hearts turned hard as adamant when the angel of death stooped down and kissed their children. They are the raw recruits in life’s great army, and they cannot let their General alone. But the trained soldier trusts Him, believes in a life-plan that he cannot see, and prays for submission to the will of God, though the cup be bitter and the cross be sore. O follower of Christ, let God alone. Perhaps it is kinder to bring the rod upon our back than to put the jeweled ring upon our finger. He has a path for thee. He has a plan for thee. He has a heaven for thee. Watch, wait, cooperate, accept, but do not insolently interfere.

I believe, too, that there is a wider sense in which we are called to let God alone. For I am conscious in the religious life of our time of a certain fretful anxiety and unrest and the absence of a quiet and solemn dignity that gave a grandeur to our fathers’ piety. I am amazed, indeed, to note how men and women can be engaged for years in so-called Christian service, and it never seems to dignify their characters, and never lifts them an inch above the world, and never sweetens their so unkindly tongue. Do you remember Uzzah? Do you remember how the ark of God on the new cart was jolted and shaken by Nachon’s threshing-floor? And Uzzah, in terror lest the ark should fall, put out his hand, took hold of it, and steadied it. And the anger of God was kindled against Uzzah, and God smote him there, and he died. Happy for Uzzah had he let God alone! And the spirit of Uzzah is very much abroad today.

Rather than line ourself with His perfect will, we find men and women alike advising God, blaming God, telling Him what to do, suggesting to Him, Yes Him, the Eternal, Immortal, Ancient of Days, Our Maker, the Creator of Heavens and Earth, Oh what a folly on our path.

There is an irreligious anxiety for God. And while I thank Him for all loyal service, and praise Him for all consecrated hands, may we believe that the ark is holy, and may we believe that God is sovereign, and may we give a little of the reverence and of the wonder and of the awe brought back again that befit the creature serving his reigning King.

Twelve Hours In A Day


Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbles not, because he sees the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbles, because there is no light in him — Joh_11:9-10

The Confidence of Christ

These words are the recoil of Jesus from the fearfulness of the disciples. They had just told Him that if He went into Judaea, He did it at the peril of His life. To that, the answer of their Lord was, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? Is not My life planned out for Me by God? Are not My times in His hand? Till the appointed hour strikes, ten thousand may fall at My right hand, but it shall not (and it cannot) come near Me.” It was this confidence, not in a dark fate, but in the perfect ordering of love, that kept our Savior undismayed and tranquil when fear was on every hand. There were twelve hours in His day, and till the sands of the twelfth hour had run, His enemies were powerless to touch Him.

In View of the Glory of the Cross

Now this was spoken by our Lord when He knew that Calvary was not far away. The miracle He was about to work on Lazarus was to prove to be the crisis of His life. When St. John speaks of the Savior being “glorified,” he is almost always thinking of the cross. That lifting up of Jesus was His glory: the cross was His crown. And when our Lord says here that the sickness of Lazarus was for the glorifying of the Son of God (Joh_11:4), He knew that the impending miracle was to lead Him straight to the bitter way of Calvary. There were twelve hours in His day—with what swiftness these winged hours had fled! It seemed but yesterday since He had played at Nazareth, and now the sun was setting. What deep thoughts of life and opportunity and of the flying shuttle on the loom of time must have occupied the heart of Jesus as, deliberately, He moved onward to Judaea! Must He die just then? Might He not prolong His life a little? It was a sweet, glad thing to be alive—could He not postpone the agony a season? If He was tempted in all points like as we are, surely He was tempted, thus when He went forward to raise Lazarus—and to die (Joh_11:53).

Heavenly Light on the Pathway of Life as Long as It Lasts

And then out of these deep and solemn musings come these wonderful words that stir the heart—”But if a man walk in the night, he stumbles.” The figure is, that as long as daylight lasts the traveler has the light of heaven to guide him. But let him push on into the falling darkness, and he stumbles, for the light is gone. And Christ fought back the insidious temptation to escape death and to live a little longer by that awful thought of stumbling in the night. Just as long as His twelve hours endured He had the promise and certainty of light. Led by His Father, He would be kept from stumbling, however hard and perilous the way. But let Him push on, past the appointed time, into the service of a thirteenth hour, and His feet, which had been beautiful upon the mountains, would stumble in the bewilderment of night. In other words, He must not shun the cross. To escape it would only lead to tragedy. A year gained by avoidance of the agony would be a year bereft of the shining of God’s face. So He set His face steadfastly towards Jerusalem and refused the aid of the legions of angels and cried with a loud voice, “It is finished.”

Prolongation of Physical Life at Spiritual Detriment

And for us the lesson is just this—and there are times when we all need to learn it—that we may purchase a few years of added life at far too great a spiritual cost. When a believer, in times of persecution, lengthens his years by being false to Christ;  when a minister shuns the sickbed of infection lest he catch the infection himself and perhaps die; when a physician flees at the approach of plague; when anyone evades or shirks the cross, he is prolonging his life into the night. I do not think I have known a single young fellow who got exemption in the war to save his skin whose character has not deteriorated steadily. Life thus lengthened is always un- illumined. There is no sunshine in the thirteenth hour. To shirk one’s duty that life may be prolonged is to gain years that are not worth the living. And yet how often gentle, kindly hearts beg us to take care and not run risks, just as Peter did when he heard about the cross. We are immortal till our work is done. There are twelve hours in the day. Possibly by shirking dangerous duty a man might add to his day a thirteenth hour. But if he does, says Jesus, no birds will sing for him nor will the light of the glad sun direct his feet— he will walk in the night and he will stumble.

Think on these things my friend especially in these perilous times; when it’s not popular to be a Christian or do your Christian virtue.

But think seriously too, because we all must give account of that which has been entrusted into our ours.

Our time here is for us to fulfill an assigned task from our Maker, as an ambassador when our time is up, its up; right now we have but twelve hours in a day.

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