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

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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.

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

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