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.

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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 (3)


Development Does Not Depend on Time

The question, then, which I desire to ask is this:

What were the forces that Jesus used in this great work? And I wish you to notice, as it were by way of preface, how the historical career of Jesus makes the thought of development independent of the years. We say that the days of our years are threescore years and ten. We get to think that three score years are needed if human life is to come to its fruition. And then we are confronted with the life of Jesus, a life symmetrical, proportioned, perfect, and Jesus of Nazareth died at thirty-three. Most lives are just awaking into power then; but the life of Jesus was perfect in its fullness. Most of us would cry at thirty-three, “It is only now beginning”; but Jesus upon the cross cried, “It is finished.” And the great lesson which that carries for every one of us is that we must not measure development by time. There may be years in which every talent in us is stagnant. We live in a dull and most mechanical way. Then comes an hour of call or inspiration, and our whole being deepens and expands. A crushing sorrow, a crisis, or a joy, develops manhood with wonderful rapidity, and may do the work of twelve months in a week. Let us remember, looking unto Jesus, and noting the shortness of that perfect life, that the scale of development is not the scale of years.

“Love Lifted Me”

What, then, were the great forces Jesus used in developing undeveloped life? The first was His central truth that God is love. He taught men that in heaven was a Father; that the heart that fashioned them and ruled them, also loved them; and in that vision of the love of God, men found a magnificent environment for growth. I think we all know how love develops character. I think most of us have known that in our homes. If in our childhood we were despised or hated, the most expensive schooling could not right things. A mother’s love is the finest education. When a man is afraid he never shows his best. When all the faces around him are indifferent, there is no call to stir upon his talents. But when love comes, then all the depths are opened, and life becomes doubly rich and doubly painful, and every hope is quickened, and every desire enlarged, and common duties become royal services, and common words take a new depth of meaning. We all know how love develops character. That was the first power that Jesus used. He said to a repressed and fearful world, “God loves you.” And if human life has been developing in Christendom into amazing and undreamed-of amplitude, it is primarily a response to that appeal.

To Develop One Must Surrender

Now, there was another power that Jesus used. It was the human instinct of self-surrender. It is the glory of Jesus that He called self-surrender into the service of our self-development.

There was one religion in the ancient world that strove with all its power to make man complete. It was the beautiful religion of the Greeks, and its aim was to make life a thing of beauty. It did not fail; but it slowly passed away. It proved unequal to the terrible strain of life. And one reason of its decadence was just this, it had no place for the grandeur of self-sacrifice. Then rose the philosophy of Stoicism, and it grasped with both hands the truth of self-surrender. It said the first duty of man is to surrender, till he has steeled himself into impregnable manhood. It failed, because life insisted on expansion. It failed, as every philosophy and creed must fail, that says to the God-touched soul, “Thus far thou shalt come and no farther.” It had grasped the vital need of self-surrender, but by self-surrender it had really meant self suppression.

And then came Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God. And He said, “If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out.” Surrender thy sight, if need be; but then why? That the glories of heaven may break upon thy soul. And if thou hast ten talents, give them out; and why? That thou mayst have thine own with usury. And if thou art a rich young ruler, sell all thou hast; and why? That thou mayst enter into the deeper, larger life that comes from the wholehearted following of the Lord. The Greek philosophy had said, “Develop and be happy.” The Stoic had said, “Surrender and be strong.” But Jesus said, “You never shall develop till you have learned the secret of surrendering.” I think, then, that was Jesus’ second power in advancing the development of life. He did not only say, “Take up thy cross.” There were other teachers who might have said that too. But He said, “Take up thy cross that thou mayst follow Me”; and He is life abundant and complete.

Our Life Shall Go on Developing Forever

Lastly, and this is the crowning inspiration, our Lord expanded life into eternity. Our life shall go on developing forever, under the sunshine and in the love of God. “I go to prepare a place for you,” He said. The environment of heaven shall be perfect. Love is at work making things ready for us that we may ripen in the light forevermore. I know no thought more depressing than the thought that all effort is to be crushed at death. It hangs like a weight of lead upon the will, when a man would launch into some new endeavor. But if death is an incident and not an end, if every baffled striving shall be crowned, if “All I could never be, All men ignored in me,” is to expand into actuality when I awake, I can renew my struggle after every failure. It is that knowledge, given us by Jesus, that has inspired the development of Christendom. I affectionately plead with you to make it yours.

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


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.

The Number Of Hours


 

Jesus

Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Are there not twelve hours in the day?   John_11:9

 

 

 

The Disciples’ Misunderstanding of Christ

 

These words were spoken by Jesus at the time when news had been brought Him that Lazarus was sick. For two days Jesus had made no move, but had abode with His disciples where He was. The disciples would be certain to misconstrue that inactivity—they would whisper, “Our Master at last is growing prudent”—and therefore their amazement and dismay when Christ announced He was going to Judea. They broke out upon Him with expostulation—”Lord, it was but yesterday that You were stoned there. It is as much as Your life is worth to think of going—it is the rankest folly to run that tremendous risk.” And it was then that Jesus turned upon the twelve with a look which they never would forget and said to them, “Are there not twelve hours in the day?” It is on these words that I wish to dwell a little. I want to use them as a lamp to illumine some of the characteristics of the Lord, for they seem to me to irradiate first, the earnestness; second, the fearlessness; and third, the restlessness of our Savior.

 

 

 

The Earnestness of Christ

 

What first arrests us, reading the life of Jesus, is not His strong intensity of purpose. It is only gradually, and as our study deepens, that we feel the push of that unswerving will. If you put the Gospel story into the hand of a pagan to whom it came with the freshness of discovery, what would impress him would not be Christ’s tenacity, but the variety and the freedom of His life. Never was there a career that bore so little trace of being lived in accordance with a plan. Never were deeds so happily spontaneous; never were words so sweetly incidental. To every moment was perfect adaptation as if that were the only moment of existence. This hiding of intensity is mirrored in the great paintings of the face of Christ. In the galleries of the old masters I do not know one picture where the face of Christ is a determined face. For the artists felt with that poetic feeling which wins nearer to the heart of things than argument, that the earnestness of Jesus lay too deep to be portrayed by brush upon the canvas.

 

But when we reach the inner life of Christ, there passes a wonderful change over our thought. We slowly awake, amid all the spontaneity, to one tremendous and increasing purpose. As underneath the screaming of the seabirds we hear the ceaseless breakers on the shore, as through the rack and drift of driving clouds we catch the radiance of one unchanging star, so gradually, back of all stir and change and the varied and free activity of Christ, we discern the pressure of a mighty purpose moving without a swerve towards its goal. From the hour of His boyhood when He said to Mary, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business,” on to the hour of triumph on the cross when He cried with a loud voice, “It is finished,” unhasting and unresting, without one check or falter, the face of Jesus is set in one direction; and it is when we come to recognize that unity hidden amid the luxuriance of freedom that we wake to the sublime earnestness of Christ. I think that the apostles hardly recognized it till He set His face steadfastly towards Jerusalem. Before that, they were always offering suggestions: after that, they offered them no more. They were amazed, we read; they were afraid. The eagerness of Jesus overwhelmed them. At last they knew His majesty of will and were awestruck at the earnestness of Christ.

 

 

 

Christ’s Certain Knowledge of His Limited Time

 

There were many reasons for that wholehearted zeal which it does not fall to me to touch on here. But one was the certain knowledge of the Lord that there were only twelve hours in His day. Before His birth, in His pre-existent life, there had been no rising or setting of the sun. After His death, in the life beyond the grave, the day would be endless, for “there is no night there.” But here on earth with a mighty work to do and to get finished before His side was pierced, Christ was aroused into triumphant energy by the thought of the determined time. “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night comes, when no man can work.” That must—what is it but the shadow of sunset and the breath of the twilight that was soon to fall? A day at its longest—what a little space! Twelve hours—they are ringing to evensong already! Under that power the tide that seemed asleep moved on “too full for sound or foam.”

 

It is always very wonderful to me that Christ thus felt the shortness of the time. This Child of Eternity heard with quickened ear the muffled summons of the fleeting hours. It is only occasionally that we hearken to it; far more commonly we seek to silence it. Most men, as Professor Lecky says, are afraid to look time in the face. But Christ was never afraid to look time in the face; steadily He eyed the sinking sands, till moved to His depths by the urgency of days, the zeal of the house of His Father ate Him up. Have you awakened to that compelling thought, or do you live as if your sun would never set? There are but twelve hours in the day, and it will be sunset before you dream of it. Get done what God has sent you here to do. Wait not for the fool’s phantom of tomorrow—Act, act today, act in the living present!

 

 

 

Christ’s Fearlessness

 

In the next place, our text illuminates Christ’s fearlessness, and that indeed is the textual meaning of it, for it was when the disciples were trying to alarm Him that Jesus silenced their suggestions so. “Master,” they said, “It is a dangerous thing to show Yourself at Bethany. Remember how You were stoned on Your last visit; it will be almost certain death to go thither again.” And it was then, to silence all their terror and with a courage as sublime as it was simple that Jesus asked, “Are there not twelve hours in the day ?” What did He mean? He meant, “I have my day. Its dawn and its sunset have been fixed by God. Nothing can shorten it and nothing can prolong it. Till the curfew of God rings out, I cannot die.” It was that steadying sense of the divine disposal which made the Christ so absolutely fearless and braced Him for every “clenched antagonism” that rose with menace upon the path of duty. When Dr. Livingstone was in the heart of Africa, he wrote a memorable sentence in his diary. He was ill and far away from any friend, and he was deserted by his medicine-carrier. But he was willing to go anywhere provided it was forward, and what he wrote with a trembling hand was this: “I am immortal till my work is done.” That was the faith of Paul and of Martin Luther, the faith of Oliver Cromwell and of Livingstone. They had caught the fearless spirit of the Master who knew there were twelve hours in the day.

 

 

 

The Strength in Knowing That God Appoints Our Times

 

Now it is always a source of buoyant strength when a man comes to see that his way is ordered. There is a quiet courage that is unmistakable in one who is certain he is led by God. But remember, according to the Master’s doctrine, our times are fixed as surely as our ways; and if we are here with a certain work to do which in the purposes of God must be fulfilled, no harm can touch us nor is there power in death till it draws to sunset and to evening star. What is it that makes the Turk such a brave soldier that with all his vices we cannot but admire him? It is his conviction of a relentless fate which he cannot hasten yet cannot hope to shun. In the name of freedom, Christ rejects that fatalism; but on the ruins of it He erects another. It is the fatalism of a love that is divine, for it includes the end in the beginning. Never shirk dangers on the path of duty. On the path of duty one is always safest. Let a man be careful that he does his task, and God will take care of the task-doing man. For always there are twelve hours in the day, and though the clouds should darken into storm, they cannot hasten the appointed time when it is night.

 

And just here we ought to bear in mind that the true measurement of life is not duration. We live in deeds, not breaths—it is not time; it is intensity that is life’s measurement. Twelve hours of joy, what a brief space they are! Twelve hours of pain, what an eternity! We take the equal hours which the clock gives, and we mould them in the matrix of our hearts. Was it the dawn that crimsoned in the east as Romeo stood with Juliet at the window? It seemed but a moment since the casement opened, and—”It is my lady, O it is my love.” But to the sufferer tossing on her sickbed and hearing every hour the chiming in the dark, that night went wearily with feet of lead, and it seemed as if the dawn would never break. “Are there not twelve hours in the day?” said Jesus—yet Jesus died when He was thirty-three. The dial of God has got no minute hands; its hours are measured by service and by sacrifice. Call no life fragmentary. Call it not incomplete. Think thee how love abbreviates the hours. If God be love, time may be fiery-footed, and the goal be won far earlier than we ever dreamed.

 

 

 

Christ’s Restlessness

 

 

 

Then lastly, and in a word or two, our text illuminates Christ’s restlessness. For never was there a life of such untiring labor that breathed such a spirit of unruffled calm. We talk about our busy modern city, and many of us are busy in the city, but for a life of interruption and distraction, give me the life of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Some of us could hardly live without the hills—a day in their solitude is benediction; but when Jesus retired to that fellowship of lonely places, even there He was pressed and harassed by the crowd. Every day was thronged with incident or danger. There was no leisure so much as to eat. Now He was teaching—now He was healing—now He was parrying some cruel attack. Yet through it all, with all its stir and movement, there is a brooding calm upon the heart of Christ that is only comparable to a wave less sea asleep in the stillness of a summer evening. Some men are calm because they do not feel. We call it quiet, and it is callousness. But Christ being sinless was infinitely sensitive—quick to respond to every touch and token. Yet He talked without contradiction of His peace—”My peace that the world cannot give or take away”—and down in the depths of that unfathomed peace was the thought of the twelve hours in the day. Christ knew that if God had given Him a twelve hours’ work, God would give Him the twelve hours to do it in. To every task its time, and to every time its task, that was one great method of the Master. And no man will ever be calm as Christ was calm who cannot halt in the midst of the stir and say, “My peace”; who cannot stop for a moment in the busiest whirl and say to himself, “My times are in Thy hand.” God never blesses unnecessary labor. That is the labor of the thirteenth hour.

All that God calls us to and all that love demands is fitted with perfect wisdom to the twelve.

Therefore be restful; do not be nervous and fussy; leave a little leisure for smiling and for sleep.

There is no time to squander, but there is time enough—are there not twelve hours in the day?

 

That I May Know Him and The Power Of His Ressurection


That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 1:17-20).

From time to time, right through the ages, those who have stood in quite a definite relationship to the things of God have either been seduced, or have drifted, or have for some reason come to be in a fixed and systematized positions as to the ways, works, and purposes of God, and these fixed ideas have come to limit Him, bind them, and result in going round in a circle instead of on a direct course of ever-enlarging and clarifying spiritual fulness and newness.

This propensity for fixedness and finality in conceptions has threatened the people of God many times with a fatal impasse. Indeed, Israel’s captivity and eventual disintegration among the nations, with all the agony of centuries, very largely rests upon their fixed idea of being so right as God’s elect. This same peril threatened to frustrate the real spiritual way and purpose of God with Christ’s own disciples. Because of Jewish ideas interpreted by their natural minds, they had prejudices and preconceptions which menaced their spiritual lives and constantly came into conflict with Christ’s mind and way. Paul’s life and ministry was continually opposed by this element, and he himself in his pre-conversion days, is a supreme example of its danger.

So it has been through the ages since, and is one of the greatest hindrances to the quicker realisation of the thought and purpose of the Lord in our own times. The fact is that God must not move or do anything which does not conform to the accepted and recognised order of traditional evangelical Christianity.

Anything that is outside of a prescribed circle of what has been done and how it has been done for generations is unfortunately suspect and boycotted.

The official bodies of organised evangelical Christianity are the final court of appeal. One of the strong factors in the ministry that this paper has sought to fulfil through these many years has been that, while there are those foundational facts which are in their essence unalterable and unchanging, there is always, in everything that comes from God, a wealth and fulness of meaning and value which is commensurate with its infinite Source and Fountainhead, and that the Spirit of Truth can continually make us know that God’s meaning infinitely transcends our apprehension.

We must therefore never box the compass of truth or interpretation, and fix our methods and framework of doctrine or work in a way that makes it impossible for the Lord to show us that, although a certain way of out working was all right for the time being, it was only relatively so, and fuller light means further adjustments. All this, not because the Lord is developing or changing, but because we can only move and change by life, organically, as we grow in understanding. That this is so is proved by much Scripture, and Ephesians 1:17-20 is the great stand-by in this matter; a word written to believers of no immature degree.

We venture to say that a time has begun when the old and fixed positions of traditional Christianity are losing their hold on—not only the Christian public in general—but many sincere seekers for reality, and that great numbers of young people are looking for something not to be found in many of the churches, and what they are looking for is the real and true life of God.

The question which confronts us all is this:

Can the Lord lead us on into His fulness in Christ without continually bumping up against something in our own carry-over of—not fixed truth, but—our fixed limit of its meaning; or something in our fixedness of position in any direction or connection?

Steadfastness, unmovableness, faithfulness, etc. are to be to the Lord, and to the foundation realities of the faith, and also in the purpose for which and to which He has called us in life and service; but adjusting is an essential to growth and increase in light and fulness. At the same time, we cannot change and move on only as there is a basic work of the Cross by which the strength of nature; even as it impinges upon Divine things is set aside.

May the Lord find us such all to have only one object, and that truly at any cost, “That I may know Him”,..that We all may Know Him and the power of His Resurrection, Amen.

Shalom
Rebecca.
Reference: T Sparks

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