Christianity – Process of Transformation (3)


Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber to be an example of a charismatic religious leader. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Conclusion – BALANCE

So, over against intellectualism – foolishness; over against powerism – weakness; over against emotionalism – what? The denial that the quest, the craving, the pursuit of sensationalism will get you there. For I believe that was the heart of these Corinthians’ lust, their excessive desire, their outreach of soul for spiritual gifts. It is impressive that it is to the Corinthians, far more than to any other church in the New Testament, that so much is said about spiritual gifts. These demonstrations, this display, these things that you can see and glory in because you can see them, are all out of sensationalism. I am quite sure, from what we read, that if you had gone into those gatherings in Corinth you would have seen some hysterical behaviour as they made these spiritual gifts, as THEY thought, the ground and nature of their spirituality – and they are the most unspiritual church of all. So over against unbalance, lopsidedness in the Christian Church, there is need of balance.
Do you notice one characteristic of these Christians, one defect which is written so clearly and so largely here in the Letter? There is a lack of the power of spiritual discernment, the spiritual perception, the spiritual intuition which warns us: ‘Go steady! Don’t be carried away! Don’t be thrown off your balance! This thing may be all right in its right place and under proper control, but be careful! There is a snare in every spiritual gift, and if you make the GIFT the main thing and not the spiritual meaning of the gift, that thing, which in itself may be quite right, will lead you into trouble.’ I am covering a lot of history when I say that. Perhaps some of the biggest problems with which some of us have had to deal in people have been the result of this unbalanced quest for the manifestation of the sensational aspects of Christianity.
Well, perhaps some of you are not able to understand all this, but this is the situation here in Corinth, and I am only saying this to show that there are these two orders, these two categories of what I have called species of humanity which have their residence within one shell of the human body: soul and spirit. They are there, and the Apostle writes to these same people – for the second Letter is only a continuation of the first – ‘We are being changed from one form to another.’

What is going on?

What is the process of the Spirit of God in the believer?

What is the meaning of all this that the Lord allows to come our way, this discipline, these adversities, these trials, these sufferings, these difficulties, these ‘strange things’ (to use Peter’s words, for they are strange to us as coming from God, or being allowed by God)?

What is the meaning of it all?

To bring about the change, the transformation from one species to another, from one kind of humanity to another. There is something in each trial, in each adversity in the suffering, which, under the sovereignty of God, is intended by Him to make a difference in us.

‘We are being transformed.’
It is certainly not wrong to have a soul! It is THAT which has to be saved. In the course of that salvation, the great lesson is how to keep the soul under the control of the spirit. This is what is meant by being ‘spiritual’.

This is truly “He that is spiritual”.

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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

Article Reference:

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.

Oil For Light (Revised)


 

The book of Exodus, chapter 27 at verse 20:

“And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually. In the tent of meeting, without the veil which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall keep it in order from evening to morning before the Lord: it shall be a statute for ever throughout their generations on behalf of the children of Israel.”

Oil for the light.

It is my growing conviction dear friends, that the greatest need of our time is a true knowledge and understanding of the Holy Spirit and His work. Such knowledge, if spiritually apprehended, would really solve by far the greater number of the problems which beset Christians and the church today. If only we really lived in the good of the indwelling Holy Spirit with all that that means as a matter of light… how different everything would be.

So I say again, the pressing need of our time is for such knowledge, such understanding. And so, what follows this day is just touching on the very fringe of that matter; not by any means an attempt to cover it or exhaust it.

This simple fragment: “thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring pure olive oil for the light…” You notice this is a command to the Lord’s people. This is an imperative. This is a necessity. This is indispensable, this is essential – a command. It is not optional, left to choice; this is an obligation: “Command the children of Israel that they bring oil for the light”.

Now, first of all note the place of the light. The lampstand, as you know, was in the holy place, between the outer court and the most holy place. It was in that place which in type is a between place, a place between heaven and earth, heaven and the world – there’s the outside and there’s the inside. There is all that is here in this world on the one side, on the other side there is all that which is essentially heaven – the very presence of God. And in between heaven and earth, this light was to be a place which united heaven and earth and yet divided them.

I think the meaning is what our Lord meant in His great prayer. It seems to me that He was standing very much in this position when He prayed in John 17: “They are not of the world even as I am not of the world, and yet… and yet they are in the world, these are in the world. I come to Thee, they are not of the world.” It is so familiar a truth, almost a hackneyed phrase, “in the world but not of it”. Here is an in-between place which is the place of believers in this present dispensation at this present time. It is our place between heaven and earth in a very real sense. Well, we know that don’t we? We know that on the one hand we are here in this world, right enough and it’s very real. And yet it is just as real that we don’t belong to it, we are not of its life, we’re in an in-between place. We know that we’re not yet literally and actually in heaven, and yet and yet! Somehow or other we are deeply linked with heaven. The place between… that is where the light was to be or where the light was; a place which divides heaven and earth and yet brings them together.

There were no windows in that place. No windows in the holy place. No provision was made for natural light. Natural light was excluded. But for this lamp-stand, it would have been totally dark. All that was there represented in type and symbol, all the values and functions of that place were only possible, capable, of being effective by a light which was not the light of nature.

The Light of the Spirit

The light is produced by the oil. That is very true and touches very closely upon my opening remark. This holy place, this in-between place was symbolic of the position in which Israel were just at that time, they were out of Egypt but they were not yet literally and altogether in the land of Canaan. They were in an in-between place and oh, how they needed the light of heaven for that wilderness journey!

There are two aspects of the Christian life. In Christ it is true we are seated in the heavenlies, but Peter will tell us that we are still pilgrims and strangers; we are sojourners – always the two aspects. And on this side, the peculiar, peculiar position of God’s people at the present time: the pilgrimage aspect.

And this is true to very positive teaching in the New Testament. In this life God has made no provision for natural light. If you and I are going on our way to reach God’s full end then natural light, for one thing, will be no good to us, but for another God has ruled it out. He has made no windows. That’s the argument of the first letter to the Corinthians isn’t it? “The natural man receives not the things of God and neither can he know them”. And the whole force of the chapter in which those words occurs, is: “God has made no windows for that – your reason doesn’t come in here, the light of your natural judgement is not allowed here. It is all excluded. The light that is here is the light from the oil. It’s the light of the Spirit.”

So the argument of the first letter to the Corinthians is the argument about the Spirit, isn’t it? And about what is spiritual for guidance, for judgement, for counsel, and for the knowledge of everything of the Lord. No place for natural light, yet God’s own provision for light which is better than that, it’s God’s own light.

Now look at the contents of this place, the holy place. Well, in addition to the lamp stand, the golden lamp stand, you know there was the golden altar of incense and then there was the golden table of bread, of the loaves. Simple symbols that help us to understand the meaning of the light, the functioning of the oil. Just this, dear friends, and of course we know the symbolism is that the oil is the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is our light for the things of God. But this light is not just unto itself. It is to throw its rays upon, to light up, to illumine this whole matter of prayer.

And I’m quite sure I carry you with me when I say what a tremendous need there is that the people of God should know how to pray in the Spirit. If only we knew how to pray in the Holy Ghost! That’s a New Testament phrase: “praying in the Holy Ghost”. We need that. We shall never really get very far without that. We’ll be going round in circles. And you see the Lord from time to time called a halt in this journey for the setting up of the tabernacle again, with everything that it contained. But right in the center was this thing: the light in the holy place upon this matter of intercession and prayer – the altar of incense. It is as though the Lord was saying, “we can’t get any further until we have put a new emphasis upon this matter of prayer in the Spirit, praying in the Holy Ghost”.

Our future, our progress, our fresh stages will require that we get into the Spirit of prayer again and we get prayer in the Spirit. Now, it’s difficult for me to convey all that I am feeling about that, but dear friends, you will grasp the point. If in our prayers and in our own prayer life privately, and when we came together, we come together for prayer as the Lord’s people, we were really praying in the Spirit, how much further we should get! Instead of praying in our own judgements, our own feelings, our own impulses, our own ideas, our own reasoning – what ought to be, what we think should be and so on – and uttering a lot of things out of our own natural light. If the Holy Spirit got hold of our praying and we prayed in the Spirit even one thing, how much further we should get! See, I do not believe it is possible to pray a thing in the Holy Ghost without an issue, without something happening, without something being reached and some moving taking place.

Look again in the book of the Acts. That’s just what it was, you see, they prayed in the Spirit. And that does not mean that they just prayed in a kind of feeling, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of light, you see. And the Holy Spirit knows what God wants. He knows all the purposes of God, all the designs of God, all the ways of God, all the times of God. He knows when the time is due for such and such a thing. He knows exactly how that thing ought to be done. He knows it all, He’s the Spirit of light! Pray in the Holy Spirit and you pray right on to the things that God intends and they must be.

And I can do no more this day than just make this appeal: that you and I seek the Lord yet more earnestly that our prayer life shall be in the Spirit, illumined by the Spirit, that we shall pray in the intelligence and the understanding of the Holy Spirit.

So the oil for the light has a relationship to prayer in the Holy Spirit. On the other hand this light was thrown upon the table and the bread. And that surely indicates that we must feed upon the Word of God in the illumination of the Holy Spirit. This is the extra factor that is so necessary, I feel perhaps more necessary today than ever, if that’s possible.

You can take this book, the Bible, and from the same book, using exactly the same Scriptures, get a hundred different positions, even every one of which is in conflict with the other. That is what has been done! That is what is being done. You see nearly all the different aspects and forms of Christianity today build themselves upon Scripture, support their position by Scripture, and very few of them can stand together. They are contradictory if not antagonistic to one another, they take one thing out of the Word of God and you get these different views which are absolutely in conflict with each other and yet built upon Scripture. And that can be extended over so many things, so many ways.

Well, what are we to do? How are we to know?

Not by leaving the Scripture and arriving at our own conclusions and judgements, but we need the Holy Spirit to tell us what the Scripture means. There’s something, you see, extra to the Word. The Spirit gave this Word and He knew what He meant by it. And He never meant two conflicting and contradictory things. He’s not like that. The Spirit’s mind is one mind. Always very consistent is the Holy Spirit, and there are no contradictions in the Bible where the Holy Spirit is concerned; there are in our natural light interpretations or apprehensions.

Do you not see how important it is to bring oil for the light? That in the Word of God upon which we have got to feed (it is our Bread) Christ has come to us as the Bread in the form of the Word, “man shall not live by bread alone but by every word…” every Word! Christ is the living Word as the living Bread. But oh! We need the Holy Spirit to illumine this Word and to interpret, and to convict, to save us from contradiction. Ah yes, but the Holy Spirit has no windows for our reasoning and our interpretations – natural light. Here everything is shut up to Him; shut up to Him – everything else excluded.

The tremendous importance in our day of the Holy Spirit – knowing the Holy Spirit. My last word is this: beaten. “Bring pure olive oil beaten for the light”. There’s got to be definite exercise about this matter of the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the illumination of the Holy Spirit. It just does not happen and come about. It does not just come about, we’ve got to get down to this matter in real exercise and energy and make, shall I say, a business of it: “Lord, Lord, rule out my judgement, rule out my feelings, rule out my likes and my dislikes. You come by Your Spirit and have absolute per-eminence in my heart, in my mind as I pray, as I read Thy Word”. See? It’s business, beaten out, real exercise about the place and the work of the Holy Spirit in our personal life with the Lord and in our collective life.

Let us long to hear that note in our prayer gatherings, a real laying hold of the Lord, “Now Lord, in this hour we must come into the mind of the Spirit about things…” A real laying hold of God, beating it out. “Command the children of Israel that they bring pure olive oil, beaten… for the light”.

 

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

The Way Of Spiritual Growth


Rembrandt - Apostle Paul - WGA19120

Rembrandt – Apostle Paul – WGA19120 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before we can or will consider the laws of spiritual growth, we need to have a real concern for that growth. There must be in us a strong sense of its importance and necessity. We must realize in a living way that:

1. The measure of our ultimate satisfaction to the Lord will be the measure of the fulness of Christ.

2. The measure of our value to others will depend entirely upon our own spiritual measure: not merely upon what we believe, or think, or say.

3. The measure of our own joy and satisfaction will be according to what fulness of Christ we know and live in.

Because these three things constitute the whole nature of, and reason for, our being called “into the fellowship of His (God’s) Son”, the New Testament is ninety percent occupied with the growth and maturity of believers.

As there are definite laws of growth in the physical and mental man, so there are in that of the “inward man”. Some of these are quite obvious, such as proper and suitable food, pure air, regular exercise, and systematic self-discipline. To violate or neglect any of these laws of body and mind is to arrest development, limit capacity, and open the door to adverse and destructive elements.

There are corresponding laws, the counterpart of the above in the spiritual life, with similar effects for good or ill in observance or neglect. We are not taking up these particular factors here, but are specifying three other although related laws of spiritual growth. The first of these is
That Unattractive thing — Obedience.

No one naturally likes that word. It is unpleasant from infancy onward. It’s very essence seems to imply the presence of at least a peril of disobedience, and the universal natural dislike of it, more than implies, it proves the presence of a wish to be free from any obligation or law.

Yes, that primeval revolt, and break from God which was the beginning of actual sin has entered as the Serpent’s poison into the very blood stream of the entire creation, and the very mention of obedience stirs a secret dislike, if not resentment.

It would take too much space to show how, through all time, the one thing which has been God’s supreme obstacle to man’s relationship with Himself has been this inherent disobedience as the active expression of unbelief. On the other hand, it would take volumes to show fully how every movement into fellowship with God in His great purposes has been based upon a demanded obedience of faith; a test, a challenge and a conflict issuing in a willing capitulation to the Divine will in some general or particular direction.

Here, our only intention is to point out and emphasize the fact that there is no possibility of the slightest true and genuine spiritual progress and growth beyond the point where light received, the Lord showing His mind, has not had a definite response in practical obedience. Time does not change this, and no matter how long we go on or imagine that the matter is passed over, when at length the real question of approval for particular usefulness arises, we shall be brought right back to the hindrance of that reserved obedience. It is like the presence and secret working of some injury in the physical system which flares up when a particular demand is made years after. God does not live in time. All past and future is present with Him.

But there is a realm of obedience which is not law but love, and love transforms the unlovely to delight.

Hence the Apostle Paul, in calling for an obedience which would make possible a spiritual enlargement, puts the matter on the basis of love, and then gives the supreme example of the obedience of love.
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ, Who… became obedient” (Phil. 2:5).
It is those whose love for the Lord leads to swift actions in relation to light received, who make swift progress, and are seen to grow up in beauty before the Lord. On the other hand, those who are careless or rebellious when the Lord has spoken, and tardy in response, that is practical response, are marked by repeated defeats, recurrent bouts of spiritual cloudiness, and inability to meet an emergency demand when it arises. Too often this lack of obedience, or positive disobedience, is due to its origin in Satan’s Pride .

The second thing to be mentioned here is

That Unrecognized Thing — Adjusting.

One of the most common causes of spiritual stratification is fixedness (fixed mindset). It is peculiarly common in the realm where Christian truth has been reduced to a fixed form, particular order, system of things, greed and creed. The doctrines of Christianity are such and such; so many says.

The accepted and established ideas of Christian service and methods are so-and-so. Peter had his fixed position as to Jews and Gentiles, and, because of it, came perilously near missing the larger purpose of God, and presented the Lord with a real battleground in his Christianity. It has so very largely resolved itself into a finality of position, which results in a closed-door to fuller revelation as to what God means by His Word.

The fact is, that God only gives us enough light to get us to take the next step, but when that step has been taken, we are in the way of being shown that much more was meant by the Lord than He showed then (this is clearly shown in His dealings and relationship with all listed Heroes of Faith). The first expectations of many servants of the Lord in the Bible, expectations resultant from something said by the Lord to them, were later seen to have been not all that He really meant, but there was something more, and perhaps other than they thought.

Can anyone really dispute that full light very often means a shedding of things and ideas that we thought were of God? Is it not true that, as we go on, we find that certain leading of the Lord were tactical, intended to get us to a certain place where alone we could learn of a greater necessity? There is very much of this kind of thing in relation to both doctrine, practice, and service its nature and ways, and while Divine principles will never change to all eternity, the clothing of those principles may vary and change with both dispensations and generations and stages of our own lives.

In all this, while Truth remains unalterable the only way to grow is to be adjustable and not static and fixed.

Do your religious traditions bind you in such a way that you are not free to move with God? If He sees this to be so, He may not give you the light necessary for enlargement. But if He sees that, although you may be in a comparatively false position, your heart is really set on His fulness at any cost, He may present you with light which will test your comitment severely.

See the case of the disciples of John the Baptist transferring their discipleship to Christ. See the case of Peter and what happened in the home of Cornelius. See also the case of Apollos in Acts 18:24–28; as also the disciples mentioned earlier in that chapter.

Our third principle of growth is: That Critical Point Of Committal.

Very often the whole mounting avalanche of Divine working in our lives, an avalanche built up as silently and slowly as the added snowflakes in the Alps, just waits to move with power and overwhelming for that final yet all-inclusive act of committal. We wait; we think, wrestle, contemplate, analyze, go round and round; we reason and argue; we recognize that there is nothing else for it, and even say so; we even come to the point when the matter is settled in our conviction and acceptance, and we think that we are over the hedge, but nothing happens, nothing eventuate. Why is it?

The Lord knows more than we do about the deceitfulness of our hearts.

A covenant has two sides, and in the Old Testament two sacrifices were connected with a covenant; one representing God, the other the offerer; both were killed and the two parties to the covenant were represented as passing between the two (See Abraham in Gen. 15).

There has to be a slaying of something on our side! In other words, God is waiting until we have burned our boats behind us. Though we may have approached the shore of His will and way for us, there will be nothing from God’s side while our boats are just left on the shore so that, if things don’t go quite as we expect, we still can retreat. That boat is an evidence of doubt or reservation. It must be burned, so that whatever the consequences we have no alternatives.

The young believer will not grow unless he or she makes a committal in testimony, so letting others know where they stand. The law holds good in every stage of development and progress. If policy governs, or fear, or how such a step will affect our prospects, or any consideration which conflicts with what we know in our deepest hearts is the way indicated for us, for us, those things are boats or bridges representing a false “Safety first” policy. As when the bleating lambs were preserved by Saul the finger of God will point to them and say, What is the meaning of those boats?

God will wait for the full and final capitulation without a reservation, and to defer is only to be involved in confusion, and either becoming a misfit, having missed God’s first best, or losing out altogether.

I leave you at this stage with the revelation in Ephesians 1: 15 – 19.
Shalom
Rebecca

Reference: T Sparks

The Riches of HIS Grace


“In whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7).
In his Letters the Apostle Paul uses the word ‘riches’ some thirteen times. Each occasion has a context which is deeply valuable. From these we take this one: “The riches of His grace”, and we are going to let David and Solomon be our example of this superlative grace. I would just like that you look at one or two fragments in the first book of the Chronicles, chapter 28, verses 1-6:

“And David assembled all the princes of Israel, the princes of the tribes, and the captains of the companies that served the king by course, and the captains of thousands, and the captains of hundreds, and the rulers over all the substance and possessions of the king, and of his sons, with the officers and the mighty men, even all the mighty men of valour, unto Jerusalem. Then David the king stood up upon his feet, and said, Hear me, my brethren, and my people: as for me, it was in mine heart to build an house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and for the footstool of our God; and I had made ready for the building. But God said unto me, Thou shalt not build an house for my name, because thou art a man of war, and hast shed blood. Howbeit the Lord, the God of Israel, chose me out of all the house of my father to be king over Israel for ever: for he hath chosen Judah to be prince; and in the house of Judah, the house of my father: and among the sons of my father he took pleasure in me to make me king over all Israel: and of all my sons, (for the Lord hath given me many sons) he hath chosen Solomon my son to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel. And he said unto me, Solomon thy son, he shall build my house and my courts: for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father.”
“Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 3:1).
“And Solomon the son of David was strengthened in his kingdom, and the Lord his God was with him, and magnified him exceedingly” (2 Chronicles 1:1).


We have said that the summit of Old Testament fullness was reached in Solomon, and we shall find that Solomon will lead us to Christ, and then Solomon will be eclipsed, as out of view, when the Greater than Solomon is here. Solomon’s wealth and wisdom and glory and heritage are proverbial and fabulous, renowned, and far famed. He does represent the summit of kingship and glory in the Old Testament. Jesus Himself acknowledged the greatness of Solomon on two occasions, you remember. He pointed to the flowers in the field and said: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Solomon in all his glory was proverbial, even in those days; Jesus Himself acknowledged it. On another occasion He said: “The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation and shall condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon,” acknowledging the great place that Solomon had in the world of wisdom. But then Jesus added after that, “Solomon in all his glory”, and ‘Solomon in all his wisdom’, that “a greater than Solomon is here”. Solomon fades when Jesus arrives. The unsearchable riches of Christ! We have, then, to consider how in various respects Jesus is greater than Solomon.

One thing that we have been saying, and that is in our hearts in this time together, is our great need for a new apprehension of the Lord Jesus to adjust everything for us. But there are two preliminary considerations before we can proceed with this matter. Why did God magnify Solomon? For it says that “the Lord magnified Solomon above all that have been before him”. The Lord endowed Solomon with this fabulous, proverbial greatness of wealth, dominion and wisdom. Why did He do it? God from eternity has only one person in view, and that person was not Solomon, nor any other one but His Son, and if the Lord so magnified Solomon, it was to bring His Son, the still greater, into view. Through the greatest thing He could do here on this earth to lead on to the much greater of the heavenly. God had His Son in view, the other One, the Greater than Solomon, and that is why He did it. I wish Solomon had known that! It would have saved him a great deal of historic tragedy. If we really saw that, and this One, this only One, were ever filling our vision, all these tragedies, mistakes and blunders that we make – or that Solomon did later – would be obviated.

Oh, the wonderful things that God said seemingly about Solomon could never possibly have been fulfilled in Solomon himself. They were quite beyond him! God was reaching beyond this man in the things that He seemingly said about him, and to him, and you have to pick up your New Testament in order to discover to Whom they really applied. Well, we may come on that as we go on, but the point is that we must not see Solomon as just the end in himself. We must look through him to Another and see that God in His sovereignty magnified and glorified this Solomon only with another One in view, and in the long run we shall see the Greater than Solomon, the Greater than the greatest that God has ever done on this earth.

Another thing we must remember in this preliminary consideration is that Solomon was not really himself. I mean this: Solomon was his father, David. Solomon was the fullness of his father, David, and you can never see Solomon without seeing David. That is, it was not so much the person as the significance of the person that is present in contemplating Solomon. When you turn to the New Testament, Solomon is only referred to, at most a half a dozen times, almost in a casual way, but David is referred to in a very positive way over thirty times. That is a statement you must dwell upon, of course, to verify. When you open your New Testament at the first book, the Gospel by Matthew, you find that you have read but a few words and you are on David. He comes there, in that place of priority, right at the beginning of the New Testament. You go through the New Testament and, as I have said, you will find yourself with David more than thirty times. Right on the last page, in the twenty-second chapter of the book of the Revelation, David creeps up again. This man is something very wonderful, very full, and he has a very large place. There is one clause in Isaiah 55, and repeated in the New Testament, which defines this as “the sure mercies of David”. Oh, to be able to plumb the depth of that! This morning we shall see a little of it – “the sure mercies of David”.

All that pertained to Solomon was “the sure mercies of David”, and that brings us to the first of the greatnesses, the first of the “unsearchable riches of Christ”, the first in Ephesians, and everywhere and always: The riches of His grace. Have you seen the riches of His grace as conveyed to us by Solomon? Having seen the great eminence of glory, of wealth, of wisdom to which God brought this man Solomon, we have to look to see where it all began. Where did all that begin?

There is a very dark background indeed to Solomon’s birth and life. We have said that he was the fullness of his father, David. Solomon was the son of David’s old age. He was not the only son – we read: “God hath given me many sons”. We know some of them, and one in particular – Absalom. But Solomon was the son of David’s old age, and it was an old age full of shadows: the shadows of tragedies, of sorrows, and of great mistakes. Solomon was related to the darkest clouds in David’s life.

We know the story of David’s great sin with Bathsheba and her husband, Uriah. David, relaxing wrongly at the time when kings go out to battle, went up to the housetop (there are relaxations which are very dangerous!) and from the housetop he espied that beautiful woman, Bathsheba, and coveted her. His passions rose and he said: ‘I must have her.’ Passion is a very, very fertile thing in evil, and so he schemed to get her. You know the rest of the story – how he planned, plotted, to get her husband, Uriah, in the forefront of the battle, and then told the other fighters to retire and leave him alone to the enemy, which they did. Uriah was left and slain according to David’s precalculated plan, and they came back to David and told him: ‘It has succeeded. Uriah is dead.’ Then David sent to fetch Bathsheba, and he took her. The child born of that iniquitous union was smitten by God. He languished for days and then he died. Nathan, the prophet, went to David with a message from God and wrapped it up in a parable about something that happened in the city, and he painted it in such lurid pictures that David rose in anger, in wrath, and said: ‘The man who has done such a thing shall die.’ Nathan pointed at him and said: “Thou art the man!” Nathan brought home the accusation in a smashing, crushing blow, and then added: “Thou shalt not die.” We will see the point of that in a moment.

The depth and greatness of David’s sin is seen in those terrible confessions, heart-brokenness and sorrows. We have to look at the Psalms, for they are touched here and there with this. In Psalm 32: “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord.” Psalm 38 verse 18: “For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.” And then a whole Psalm – Psalm 51 – one of the most terrible bits of literature in existence. Look at the heading of this Psalm: “A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” … “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned and done that which is evil in thy sight.” So the whole Psalm, which we will not read, but one more fragment: “Deliver me, O God, from bloodguiltiness.” Here we are; broken-hearted, penitent, standing at God’s tribunal, pleading for mercy, full of self-condemnation, a conscience stained with iniquity, and God’s face turned away, a desolation of heart. He cries: “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, have mercy upon me.”

David had sinned the sin which put him beyond the pale of the virtue of all the Levitical sacrifices. If you read the sacrifices and the conditions, you will find that they do not cover this sin, they have no provision for this. Even the cities of refuge which provided for the man-slayer would not take in David, because the man-slayer who found refuge there was the man who had caused someone to die inadvertently, without premeditation, by accident. So there was no provision for him, a man who had premeditated, planned, schemed, and brought about a death; the city of refuge had no place for him. No sacrifice is provided for him, therefore. In this Psalm 51, David says: “Sacrifice and offering and burnt offering thou desirest not” – ‘It is no good. I have not any.’ He was out of the pale of all their sacrifices and their virtue by premeditation. Oh, how far this man had gone! No wonder his conscience made him cry out like this! Uriah’s death – murder – lies at David’s door, and the little innocent babe’s death lies at his door. What are you going to do with a man like that? What are you going to do with a sin like that? It is outside the pale of all God’s Mosaic prescribing. What answer have we got to this? How can this man escape? How can glory be the end of that? There is only one answer, and there is an answer: Grace! Grace goes beyond all Old Testament limits.

David is the greatest Old Testament example of pardon through Grace. Remember that! That is why he is brought into view so much. That is the meaning of “the sure mercies of David”. Why of David? Unsearchable riches of His grace! The son gathers into himself all that meaning of Divine grace, what grace can do in relation to a situation like that. How glorious! Glory can follow grace. “The glory of HIS grace” is a phrase in Ephesians. My, how deep!

You ask: Can there be anything greater, a greater demonstration of grace than that toward David represented in a temporal way in Solomon? (Underline that word ‘temporal’.) Can there be anything greater than that? Is there greater grace than that represented by Solomon? Oh, yes: “A greater than Solomon is here!” As Son of Man, God’s Son came into the inky darkness and blackness of the sin of the whole race, not of one man. He bore the judgment of that sin upon the whole race and brought God’s infinite grace to the world – to the world!

Look again at that cross on Calvary’s hill! Take another look, and listen. Listen to that bitter, heartbroken cry: “Eli, Eli, lama sabach-thani?” … “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” The word embracing all time and eternity: “forsaken… forsaken”, David may have tasted something of that. Dear friends, when you look at that cross and hear that cry, you touch the deepest, deepest depth of human tragedy, that is, that the race, but for the grace of God, is God-forsaken eternally. If you have ever tasted a deep, deep sorrow within the compass of human capacity, you know that that hour of darkness is like an eternity. It is not momentary; it is like an eternity. It seems that an end of things for ever has been touched. In that moment when Jesus cried “forsaken, forsaken”, He touched the eternity of man’s destiny outside of God. That cry with that word “forsaken” is the measure of human depravity. We have yet to feel the tremendous impact of the Cross in this sense – that if Jesus had not gone there for us, we would be eternally forsaken of God. The face of God is turned away. The blackness and darkness of eternal doom rests upon the race – but for the Cross of Jesus Christ and what He has done there as forsaken.

Have you ever tasted the slightest drop of death? Oh, yes, it is possible, even in our Christian, spiritual life. I confess that there have been times when I wondered if the Lord had gone out of my universe, if He was really still alive and if He had not forgotten me. I cried: ‘Has the Lord forgotten to be gracious?’ It was as though the Lord had gone. I could not find Him. I would pray, but I could not touch Him. A little experience like that is not God forsaking us, thank God! It never is, for He said: “I will never forsake you”, but a little consciousness of the remoteness of the Lord from us is the worst experience of tragedy in our life. Oh, it is the most awful thing to have to go for a little while without the realization of the Lord, to be groping for the Lord and not finding Him, like Job, a righteous man: “I go on the right hand, he is not there; on the left, he is not there; I go forward, he is not there. Oh, that I knew where I might find him!” Have you had any experience at all like that? I do not want you to have it if you have not. Do not covet it. But some of you might just know a day, or a few days or more, of: ‘Oh, where is the Lord? Where is the Lord?’ It may be that the Lord lets us know something about that to bring us into that fellowship of His suffering and to make us understand how great a thing He has done for us, for He does not believe in theories and doctrines. The Lord is very practical. Experience is His school, and He will teach us in that heavy school of experience.

Yes, a greater than Solomon or David is here. He came, and He touched the deepest depth of human depravity which is found in that word “forsaken”. Anybody who does not believe in the depravity of human nature, and a total depravity, has not yet seen the Cross of the Lord Jesus, and seen us there, forsaken of God, on the one side. Yes, grace reaches the deepest point of human tragedy, and that is man’s forsakenness, but for Christ. Grace! What a word this is! If Solomon, in all his glory, was brought out of that terrible iniquity, judgment, outside of the pale of Levitical provision; if all his glory comes out of that, what can you say about it? What word is there to explain it? Only this one: Grace! We will go around that word for all time and all eternity.

Dr. J. H. Jowett, who was one of the greatest preachers of the last century, said this: “There is a word I have wrestled with so much. There is no word with which I have wrestled more than this one: Grace! It is like expressing a great American forest in a word. No phrase can express the meaning of grace. Grace is more than mercy, it is more than tender mercy, it is more than a multitude of tender mercies. Grace is more than love, it is more than innocent love. Grace is holy love, but it is holy love instantaneously going out in eager quest toward the unholy and the unlovely. It is the ministry of a great sacrifice, to redeem the unholy and unlovely into the beauty of God. The grace of God is holy love on the move to thee and to me and the like of me and thee. It is God’s unmerited, undeserved going out toward the children of man that He might bring them into the glory and brightness of His own likeness.” Well, that is an attempt to define this word.

Was not Paul right in speaking of the unsearchable riches of His grace? And Paul knew what he was talking about. There was a background to this man’s life. ‘I am not worthy,’ said he, ‘to be called an apostle. I persecuted the church.’ He was on his knees before the Lord, and the Lord was showing him His grace and His mercy. He said: ‘But, Lord, when Your servant Stephen was martyred, I was there, giving my consent. What ground have I for apostleship? What ground have I to be anything at all? My hands are stained with bloodguiltiness, all premeditated, designed and enacted with terrific force. How dare I look up into Thy face and be a disciple, a child of God, to say nothing about being an apostle!’ “But unto me, who am less than the least of all the saints, was this grace given to preach among the nations the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
If you cannot comprehend me, may the Lord register the impression upon us!

Prayer: How easily, with facile speech, we repeat: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!” Oh, Lord, challenge us with that word, lift us with that word, save us with that word. Can we dare to say, glorify us with that word? Oh, if all the words are forgotten, and our human efforts to convey it fail entirely, leave the impression! The grace of God is indeed the greatest thing in this universe for humans such as we are. We commit it to Thee; oh, give us to glory in Thy grace, for Thy Name’s sake. Amen.

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