God's Methods For Holy
© 1951 Donald Grey Barnhouse
Editor of Eternity Magazine
Published by Eternity Book Service, Philadelphia
Used by Permission
1. Christian life
Library of Congress: 41011606 || BV.4501.2 B262g || OCLC #4316896 || 181p.
God's Methods For Holy Living is presently held by 112 libraries including Point Loma University and the University of Oxford.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood
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Table of Contents
Preface ..... 9
Foreword to the First Edition ..... 11
1. Assurance ..... 13
2. Knowledge ..... 37
3. Cleansing ..... 60
4. Walking ..... 84
5. The Power of Bible Study ..... 109
6. The Power of Christ's Love ..... 129
7. The Power of the Blessed Hope ..... 144
8. The Power of the Spirit ..... 160
AT KESWICK, in England, situated on lovely Derwentwater in the Lake District made famous by Wordsworth, Ruskin and so many others, the third week in July each year for three-quarters of a century has seen the gathering of several thousands of God's people for a week of Bible conferences on the deepening of the spiritual life. The author first visited Keswick just after World War I, and first spoke from its platform in 1935. In 1936 he was invited to speak each afternoon in the great tent and brought a series of studies which were published in England, but never in America, under the title God's Methods for Holy Living. These had considerable circulation in the British Isles, but only about 5000 were imported and sold in America, as the coming of World War II made further importation impossible.
Two years later, in 1938, the author was asked to give the Bible Readings at Keswick. A Bible Reading at Keswick is a very special thing, and follows certain set lines almost as much as a writer of symphonic music
composes in three movements according to a classical formula. I did not know this at the time, and when I had delivered the messages one of the British religious papers said, "Whatever these messages were they were not Bible Readings, but they were blessed to the listeners."
Now in this present volume these two series of devotional studies are printed together. The first half has appeared in print in several editions and has sold tens of thousands of copies under the title Life by the Son. As both slender volumes are out of print, the reprinting of the two in one American edition may have some value.
It will not be necessary to read more than a random page to discover that these studies are very simple. They were intended to furnish a young Christian a primer of truth for Christian growth. I believe it no exaggeration to state that several thousand people have written or spoken to me in the intervening years to tell of blessing in their lives through these studies. On every occasion that I have returned to Keswick, several people have told me that the fourth of the studies in this book was the means of leading them to "all things new" in their life with Christ.
It is with the hope that these studies may have a continuing part in the building of Christian lives that this volume is once more issued. I would like to remind the reader that any blessing received puts the reader in debt to pray for the author, who ever feels a deeper need of resting in God alone.
Foreword to the First Edition
THESE are practical messages. It will be impossible for you to read them without seeing that they come out of many experiences of living, and learning to have all "Life ... by the ... Son" (Galatians 2:20).
This life, Paul says, is lived in the flesh. But, praise God, it is not necessary to live according to the flesh.
The author must say that he is yet a learner in this school of living by the Son. He has seen his own nine-year-old child carefully teaching the three-year-old sister letters. Because the nine-year-old teaches what he knows, it does not mean that he himself has nothing more to learn. So, brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended ... but to my younger brethren in the faith I can teach a few of the lessons that have been learned along the road.
One special word must be said about these studies. They have been carefully thought over, during a period of years, and were finally given as the Bible Readings
in the great tent at the English Keswick. There, thousands heard them and they went forth in the printed report to every part of the world. The fourth of these studies, "Walking," was printed with a foreword which should be repeated here. The gist of it concerned the fact that, as I had planned the messages in anticipation of the Convention, I had used a different fourth message, abandoned it for another, and still had no liberty. "Finally, leaving the small tent in the middle of the Missionary reception on Wednesday afternoon, I went to my room with the certainty that I must prepare an entirely fresh message for delivery on the morrow. With a natural reticence that was almost repugnance I prepared the very personal message that follows, and which came to me with impelling force. It was received in such a way that I knew that it had been blessed to many hearts. Undoubtedly the Lord had a special purpose in it."
Since then several months have gone by and word has come from various parts of the world, telling of blessing that has been received because of the very simplicity of the messages. They are to be read, then, not as pretentious essays, but as warm messages for the heart, that, together we may grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Practical Foundation of Experimental Holiness
SOME time ago I was invited to speak to a group of society people in a meeting that was held in rooms of one of the great metropolitan hotels. The chairman rose at the beginning of the meeting and announced that a telegram had been received, addressed to a certain man, and that it could be obtained by his coming to the front of the room. The young man came forward and received his message, to the accompaniment of a little polite laughter and some genteel applause. A few moments later I was introduced as the speaker of the evening. I told that audience that I had a message for each one of them, as directly addressed to each individual, as the telegram had been to the young man. The same is true of the messages which are to be given here.
If the Word of God contained your name, you would always have the fear that the message was addressed to some one else of the same name. There are some
fourteen pages of John Smiths in the New York telephone directory, and even if ones name belonged to a rare group, there would always be the possibility of mistaken identity if the Gospel message had your name on it. But God has given His Word to us in such terms that every one who hears or reads may know that God is speaking directly to his own need, and I want that this should be in your consciousness as you follow the word that God has given me for you.
The function of the true minister of Jesus Christ is to preach the message that is given to him by the Lord. The sceptic may wonder whether God has ever spoken by human lips, but those who have been saved by the Lord, have been given the ear of the sheep to know the Masters voice; and they will always recognise His tones, through whatever lips they may fall, and will not follow another. When we receive the call from God to minister His Word, we are responsible only to Him for our faithfulness in preaching that which He gives us to preach. This was the word which came to Jonah, Preach the preaching that I bid thee (Jonah 3:2), and there can be no fruitfulness apart from obedience to this Divine command. The Lord must furnish the message; we must deliver it. If a boy asked for a job delivering telegrams, he would not be allowed to select the messages which he would deliver. He could not ask for those messages which announced weddings, births, and advances in the stock market, and refuse those which told of loss, illness, and death. His function would be to take every message that came and deliver it as rapidly as possible to the person to whom it was
addressed. Thus must the minister of the Gospel of Christ look upon his work.
There are times when the message must be a message of condemnation, for in some instances it is the savour of death unto death (2 Corinthians 2:16). I am thankful, however, that these messages, for the most part, will be words of joy, since they are words of comfort, assurance, healing, deliverance, and power. There may be moments of pain for some readers, just as the sharp cut of the lance held by the surgeon must precede cleansing and healing, but the end is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
I know that this little book will go into every foreign mission field and will be read in every part of the world by people in every conceivable state of spiritual advance. You should realise that it takes just as much of the filling of the Spirit of God to receive a message as it does to prepare and to give it. Therefore, will you stop a moment and ask the Lord how you are about to receive this message. What is your state of mind and heart? Are you yielded to Him? Perhaps the turning point of your whole spiritual experience would be reached in this moment if you would stop and say: Speak, Lord; for Thy servant heareth.
Speak, Lord, in the stillness,
While I wait on Thee,
Hushed my heart to listen,
The practical basis of Experimental Holiness is the assurance that the work of salvation has been done in our hearts,
and that it has been done for ever. No Christian can ever enter into the depths of the Christian life, nor can he ever become useful for God until he comes to a place of certainty as to his own relationship with God. As long as a man has any doubts as to his own personal salvation, he can never communicate a living, vital faith to others. Yet there are innumerable Christians who have no certain assurance of their salvation. All those within the Church of Rome, for example, who have seen through the clouds of error to the heart of true faith in Christ, are, nevertheless, in a bondage of fear as to the finality of the salvation for which they hope. They have no other grounds of deliverance, yet they still are greatly concerned lest they die in a frame of mind that is not within the faith, and so be lost. Within the Protestant Church, strange to say, in spite of the centuries of life with an open Bible, there are multitudes who are in the same bondage. They can say nothing beyond the fact that they hope they will be saved; they are trying to be saved; they are doing their best to be saved. But none of these have the sure, strong knowledge of the present certainty of salvation which is the God-given right of every soul who has been saved through Jesus Christ.
There are whole denominations denying the finality of salvation, teaching that it is possible to lose salvation after it has once been possessed, teaching that one can be born again and then unborn, teaching that it is possible to be a part of the body of Christ, and then to be severed from it. They base their teaching on human speculation, or upon a small portion of Scripture, generally twisted from its context. Those who teach
that we have no right to certainty are perfectly described in the Epistle to the Hebrews, For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness; for he is a babe... (Hebrews 5:12, 13). Thus God teaches us very definitely that there is a difference between spiritual babyhood and the strong position of one who has grown into spiritual manhood. The difference between a babe and an adult is that the adult has passed through adolescence and has had his body so developed that he is now able to reproduce himself in the next generation. The child cannot do this. So God rightfully complains that many believers remain babes when they should be teachers, capable of bringing others to a knowledge of Christ. The next verses of this passage show that the elemental truths must be known and built upon as a foundation, and that when the foundation is secure, it must henceforth be taken for granted and our time given to the building of the superstructure. Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God (Hebrews 6:1).
We must pause for a moment, however, to make the plan of salvation very plain and sure. One simple illustration will suffice for this. Some time ago a group of young people from a church in another part of our city asked if they could have a conference with me on the subject of salvation. About thirty of them
came to our evening service one Sunday, and afterwards they came to our home to talk over this matter in an intimate way. One young woman spoke for the group, and asked how they could know that their salvation was sure. Just exactly what does God require of us? was the way she put it. I answered the whole group by replying to her personally. I held in my hand a fountain pen, and showing it to her, said, Here is a fountain pen that is different from any other pen in the world. This difference lies in the following fact. On the barrel of the pen you will see that my signature is engraved. When I purchased the pen, they put it in a machine and gave me a metal stylus with which I was to sign my name on a metal plate, just as I would sign it on a check or other document. As I did so, electrical impulses communicated that signature to an engraving tool and my signature was engraved on the barrel of the pen. Then I asked her if she had a pen exactly like it, one that was marked with my signature. Of course she replied that she had not. And here let me refer to another incident which concerns the signature on my pen.
Two or three years ago, while in Palestine, I spent a night in the German Lutheran Deaconesses Hostel on top of Mount Carmel. An Arab climbed up the drain pipe, entered the window and stole my wallet and fountain pen. He threw the wallet away and kept the dollars and pounds that were therein. When the police caught him he said that it was his money, that he had earned it, but he overlooked the signature that was almost invisible on the pen. I got my money back, and he was sent to the penitentiary for two years.
The British Courts recognised that there was no other pen quite like this one.
Then I said to the young lady: Now, suppose I had the right to ask, and the power to enforce it, that you should never leave this house again unless you placed in my right hand a fountain pen that was engraved, not with an imitation or a forgery, but with my real signature. What would be the result? She replied that she would be forced to remain in that house until the end of her days.
Then, with my left hand, I offered her the pen, saying: But suppose I should hold this pen out to you with my left hand and offer it to you as a gift, while I still held this right hand out to receive that which I demand? She understood immediately, and replied: All I would have to do would be to receive the pen from your left hand and place it in your right hand. Would you then be free to go? I asked. Since that was the only condition you made, I would be perfectly free to go, she answered. I asked her to take the pen out of my left hand and place it in my right in order that she might see how simple it was, and then I made the spiritual application which was not only for her, but which is for every one who reads these words.
God the Father, the righteous One, and the Holy One, demands of us that which we do not possess. The right hand of His holiness is extended toward us, and He demands that we give Him a holiness equal to His own. His very nature requires him to ask perfection of all who would enter His presence, there to live and abide in fellowship with Him forever. I remember one of my professors saying that the righteousness of God was that righteousness which His holiness requires Him to require.
But when I examine my attainments in the light of His demands, I see that I have nothing that I could ever offer to Him, and I know myself to be condemned unless He does something about it. And then the left hand of His love shows me the Cross. There I learn that He took my sin and provided me with His own righteousness. Nothing else can satisfy God. Nothing can replace this righteousness. Then, by faith I, as a poor, lost sinner, go to the Cross of Christ to receive the righteousness of my Saviour. Then I go to God and place that righteousness in the hand of His demand, and all His requirements are met, once and forever. I am received immediately, and in there is planted the life of Christeternal life. Therefore I have eternal life, now, as a permanent and present possession.
Only the man who possesses, and knows that he possesses great wealth, can live largely and help others. A man who possesses, but is not sure whether his account is good, and, therefore, does not draw upon it, is, for all practical purposes, a pauper. So it is with this question of the present possession of eternal life. I know that I am saved. I am just as sure that I am going to be in Heaven as I am sure that my Lord Jesus Christ is already in Heaven. The first time that I heard someone make a statement like that it took my breath away a moment. I then realised that it was not conceited presumption, but the most simple faith. The man who thus spoke had believed Gods Word, and knew that his salvation depended on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. Therefore, he dared believe that what God said about it is true. The only conceit that is
to be found in the matter of assurance is that of the person who believes it to be possible to lose his salvation, and who still continues to believe that he is saved. He is in the conceited position of believing that he has lived up to whatever conditions he thinks are involved in his conditional salvation. If salvation were conditional, who would live in any other state than mortal fear? But perfect love casteth out fear, and it is not our perfect love, but His perfect love in us that makes it impossible to fear when we have simply rested in the finished work of Calvary. The Word of God is the guarantee of our salvation and the ground of our assurance. There is nothing evasive about the message, it is direct and sure. This is one of the reasons why so many people have found comfort in the Word of God. It is a solid ground of certainty. The old Scotswoman was right when she said: I often tremble on the Rock, but the Rock never trembles under me!
Christ spake as One having authority and not as the scribes, and those who follow Him, filled with His Spirit, speak with like assurance. Luke begins to write of those things which are most surely believed among us (Luke 1:1). John writes with a certainty that is one of the marks of his authorship. The Gospel that bears his name as the longest of his epistles carry at their close definite statements concerning the purpose of the writing, and name the group to which they are addressed. We turn to the Gospel and read: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His Name (John 20:31). God is not primarily interested in the intellectual opinions of men,
but He does want them to believe with that belief which produces life, that supernatural implantation of divine life which is the work of God in the heart of the one who believes the simple statements God has made concerning the death of His Son. That Gospel is addressed to you, no matter who you may be, for it is the Gospel that is universal in its appeal, meeting, as it does, the need of the whole race. To every rebel comes the offer of settlement out of court. To every sinner comes the promise of supernatural life. You may become a partaker of the Divine nature. You may have the righteousness of Christ put to your account and the life of Christ planted within you.
When we come to the Epistle of John we find that it is much more restricted in its scope or circulation, being addressed to the few. One of the important principles in Bible study is to realise that not all of the Bible was written to every one. This Epistle of John is limited to one particular group of people. What tragedy has been in our churches because the whole of the Bible message is frequently presented as belonging to every one! Young people who have not been born again listen to messages that were designed to build believers in the advanced truth of Christ, and as a result they have attempted to live a Christian life without having the life of Christ to enable them to live that Christian life.
Someone may hand you canvas, brush, and oils, put you in front of a Rembrandt or a Velasquez, and tell you to take it for an example and to produce a masterpiece just like it. You would be right in answering, I do not need an example, I need genius which I do not possess.
Someone may give you paper and pen with Shakespeare for your example, and ask you for an immortal drama like his. You would be right in answering, I do not need an example; I know Shakespeares work by heart. What I need is genius, for that I do not possess.
So all of the sermons on the Christian life are worthless to the one who has not been born again. The Gospel, with its offer of salvation, with its settlement in grace of Gods demands against the rebel, is indeed for all. But parts of the Scripture, like sermons on the Christian life, are for those only who have believed. At the close of his Epistle, John says: These things have I written unto you that believe (1 John 5:13). So everything in that Epistle is for believers only. Do not attempt to take the truths that we are going to study unless you know that your name is in the address.
How different are the two groups mentioned in the Gospel and the Epistle covered by the single word you. The one is as broad as the universe, the other as narrow as the Cross. A candidate for the Presidency of the United States may speak into a microphone on a national broadcast the words, I want you and that you will include every voter in the nation. But when he says to his wife, I want you to stand near me on Inauguration Day, the same three words have shrunk from millions to one. This is precisely the effect of the two clauses in Johns Gospel and in Johns Epistle. These things have I written that you, and these things have I written to you. The one is as universal as the fever of the human race, the other as endearing as a bridegroom speaking to his bride.
You are undoubtedly a person of honour: You would not open someones letters without permission. You have been brought up to believe it most dishonourable to tamper with a letter addressed to someone else. Face, then, this fact. Have you believed? If not, the rest of this book is not for you. If so, these things can be received by you.
For one last time we will make it clear just what is required of the soul that comes to God through Christ. There are those who speak of conditions. There is one, and only one, condition. You must cease from any trust in yourself or anything that comes from yourself, and you must rest in Him alone. The word rest must be taken in its strictest sense. This leads naturally to a story that will illustrate the nature of a belief better than anything known to me.
When John G. Paton landed in the New Hebrides to begin his mission work, he faced an enormous task. The language had never been reduced to writing. He had to listen to the speech of the natives and write down in his notebook the sounds that he heard them speak. Little by little he developed a large vocabulary, and finally thought that he could begin his work of translating a part of the New Testament. It was not long before he discovered that he had no word for belief, for trust, for faith. One cannot get far in the New Testament without a word that conveys to us the idea or thought of trusting, yet try as he might, he could not obtain any expression of this thought from the natives. But one day he went on a hunting trip with one of the islanders. The day was hot, the road was long. A large deer was shot and the game carried down the long mountain toward his house.
The two men struggled with their burden, and finally reached home. They flung the deer down on the grass and dropped, exhausted on to two lounge chairs on the porch overlooking the sea. The islander said: My, but it is good to stretch yourself out here! It was an expression that Paton had never heard before, and he made haste to have it recorded in his notebook. When his translation was complete, this was the word that was used for belief and trust. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever stretcheth himself out upon the Saviour, shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life. Stretch yourself out on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thine house.
This, then, is faith. It is the turning away from everything that is in self, and the utter reliance upon all that Christ has done for us. If this has been your experience, then you may claim the promise that goes with the resting in Christ. It is something that belongs to you, then, as a right. You have the right to say: I am saved. I have been born again. I now possess eternal life. You have that right, because God has given you the authority to speak so.
The Greek language is very strong on this point. Our English word power translates several different words from the original. There is the word dunamis from which we get dynamo and dynamite, a word meaning explosive power. This is used by Paul in the great verse: For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). There is another word, kratos, from
which we get democrat, plutocrat, aristocrat, and the other words denoting rule. There is a third word, exousia, which means authority. It is the word used in John: But as many as received Him, to them gave He authority to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (John 1:12).
It is this Divine authority that makes it possible for the Christian to be bold in his claims of eternal life. Unfortunately, positive language is not in the vocabulary of many Christians. Their experience with Christ is a vague one. They have trusted Him as best they know how, and have closed their eyes for a leap in the dark, hoping that it will turn out all right. Someone has gone so far as to say that faith is gambling on God. All this is foolishness in the light of the Word of God. Faith is just the opposite of a gamble. Faith is reliance upon the Rock that cannot be moved. The solid foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are His (2 Tim. 2:19).
I am going to misquote, purposely, the great promise that closes the Epistle of John. You may measure your point of spiritual advance by whether or not it grates upon your ear. I have a friend who is a professional musician, who does not like a certain hymn, for which I expressed a liking. He told me that there was a musical sequence that was not correct according to the laws of harmony. He admitted that it was a very fine point, and an error that frequently occurred in music, and said that few could discern it. But the error that I am going to make in misquoting John is not a little one that only an advanced theologian can distinguish. Every believer should detect it at once.
Yet I have known Christians who have been church members for years who could not find anything wrong with the sentence. These things have I written unto you that believe on the Name of the Son of God; that ye may hope that ye will have eternal life. How does that sound to you? Does it seem normal, pious enough? Does the ye instead of the more modern you make it sound orthodox? For there are some people for whom anything in the English style of the King James Version is quite all right. Nevertheless, in the light of what we have seen the Gospel to be, such a misquotation would be a slander on the very grace of God. God cannot do all that He has done for us in Christ and then tell us, merely, that we may hope that some day in the future we will have eternal life. Such an expression would shift the pivot of faith to the effort of the human heart, rather than to place it where God has placed it, upon the finished work of Christ. This is, of course, what the Devil wants people to do, and we can say, most certainly, that any teaching which denies the finality and completeness of salvation to those who have rested in Christ, and ceased from their own works, is an error that comes from Satan, even if the error is given in the guise of warnings to believers to be careful lest they be presuming upon the grace of God.
Yet there are teachers who fight against the Word of God and teach souls that they can never be absolutely sure of salvation unless they themselves keep on producing the conditions of faith which will permit God to keep on having them saved.
There was a group of people in the Galatian Church which believed and taught thus. To them the Holy Spirit
wrote: O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth... This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Gal. 3:1-3). In other words, having had your first steps in salvation, the receiving of the life of God through absolute grace, are you so foolish as to think that God is going to oblige you to keep saved by what you do yourselves? Nevertheless, the enemies of grace cry, You will be lost if you do not keep on fulfilling the conditions. God says through Paul: Your moment-by-moment life in the flesh cannot even be through your own faith, for I live by the faith of the Son of God (Gal. 2:20).
Yes, we who have trusted in Christ and who have received His very life with its unending production of faith within us, can claim the strong language of the New Testament for ourselves. Is there anything that can surpass the assurance of St. Paul? I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day (2 Tim. 1:12). There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus... For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creation, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1, 38, 39).
Every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has a right to describe his experience in language as strong as this.
We say again that we are as sure that we will be in Heaven as we are sure that Christ will be there. This is not pride and presumption, it is simple trust. Is it presumptuous to believe God or to doubt God? It is certainly the height of arrogance and rash boldness for the believer to doubt God. The Word goes even farther and expresses it in even stronger terms. God says that the one who denies the reality of salvation and the assurance of present possession of eternal life makes God a liar.
A few years ago I was preaching in Brussels to a French-speaking congregation. One Sunday morning I took as my subject the doctrine of the new birth. In the course of that message I said: I know I have been born again. I know I have eternal life. Believers have been given the right to know that they will be in Heaven, so I am sure I shall be there. The next morning the bell in the corridor clanged, and soon the concierge brought to my office a young man in the uniform of the Belgian army. He wore the stripes of an adjutant. He had been in church the day before, and immediately began speaking of the manner in which I had presented my message.
Monsieur le pasteur, he said, your assurance frightens me. If you had said, I hope I am saved, I am trying to be saved, I am doing the best I can to be saved, I hope that I shall be in Heaven, then I could understand. But for you to say so dogmatically, I know I am saved; I am sure I will be in Heaven, Monsieur, your assurance frightens me!
I looked at him and said: Adjutant, are you married? With some surprise he answered: Oh, yes, I am!
Immediately, I retorted: Adjutant, your assurance frightens me! If you had said: I hope I am married, I am trying to be married, I am doing the best I can to be married, I hope that after I have lived with my wife for twenty years I shall be married, then I should understand. But for you to say right out, I am married, well, your assurance frightens me! Oh, but, he began to protest, it is not the same thing; it is not the same thing.
Why isnt it the same thing? I asked him. Didnt you go to the City Hall and get married?
Here we must interject one word of explanation concerning marriage on the continent. The Church has no part. It is an entirely civic ceremony. There is no such thing as a valid religious marriage. Only the Mayor of a town can perform the wedding ceremony. In the large cities the different wards have local mayors for such ceremonies. Those who wish to be married go through certain preliminary forms; their names are posted in the corridor of the building for a certain number of days, then they come to the City Hall for the final ceremony. In the large centres, like Brussels, there are magnificent marriage rooms, where prince and peasant alike must come for the marriage ceremony, and where there is even a place for the curious to stand and watch. The couples come, some in wooden shoes, some with gorgeous trains, and pass through, one after the other. The Mayor stands with the broad tricoloured sash over his shoulder, the colour of the national flag, takes the documents that an assistant hands him, and speaks to the candidates. After asking their identification, he says to the man: Will you have this woman to be your wife?
Then to the woman: Will you have this man to be your husband? When they have given their assent, he says: It is the duty of the husband to provide for the wife in all things, and to the woman: It is the duty of the wife to accompany her husband wherever he desires to live. A marriage booklet is then signed, and it is the turn of the next couple. If those who have been married are good Catholics, they then go to the Church for a nuptial mass. If they are Protestants, they go to what is called the Temple for the blessing of the marriage. If they are Jews they go to their Synagogue. If they are nothing at all, they go to the cafe and drink.
With all this in mind, let us go back to our Adjutant. If you had said, I hope I am married, I could understand, but for you to say, I am marriedyour assurance frightens me! Here he objected that it was not the same thing.
I said to him: Adjutant, how do you know that it was the Mayor who performed your ceremony? How do you know that the Mayor was not sick that morning, and that the janitor did not take his place!
He looked at me, nonplussed, and then cried, But I am quite sure that it was the Mayor!
But, how do you know? I insisted. For would you be really married if the man who performed the ceremony were a substitute, an imposter? Would the marriage certificate be valid if the name were a forgery? Would you be really married?
Well, no, he hesitated, but I am sure that it was the Mayor.
In other words, I answered, you have faith in a man and in a document. Your assurance that you are married depends upon the identity of the man and the validity of the document. Now I have no doubt whatever that you had the real Mayor, and that you are really married. But I want you to see that, while there may be doubt concerning your marriage, there can be no doubt concerning my salvation. My assurance depends, not on myself, but upon that Man, Jesus Christ. This Bible is my certificate of eternal union with Him. I look to the Cross and see Him dying. Is He an imposter, or is He the Eternal Jehovah, made flesh in order to die in my place? When He died on the Cross He spoke those words: It is finished, which sealed my salvation forever. Now, as long as He is Who He says He is, and as long as this Book is what He claims it to be, then I may be persuaded that nothing can ever separate me from His love, and since one Epistle was written that we might know that we have eternal life, I am going to continue to say, I know that I have eternal life. To put it in any other way would cast aspersions upon the truthfulness of God.
God recognises the validity of this argument, and says: If we receive the witness of men that is, if we believe marriage certificates, time tables, bills and checks, and the thousand other works of faith that go to make up life the witness of God is greater (1 John v. 9). Strange, is it not, that God should have to take the trouble to tell us this? How little we understand the difference between our fallible nature and His unchanging faithfulness! John then goes on to say: This is the witness of God which He hath testified of His Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the Witness in himself.
That is, when we are born again, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within our hearts. It is He who whispers to us, My child, thou art Mine. It is He Who ever points to Christ, to take our confidence away from ourselves and to put it forevermore in Him. Then the climax is reached when God says: He that believeth not God hath made Him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son. I cannot insist too strongly that these words are not spoken to unbelievers concerning their failure to accept Christ. That failure does indeed give the lie to God, but it is not the lie spoken here. Beyond any shadow of doubt the only allowable interpretation of this passage in Johns Epistle is the following: the believer who has admitted his own sinfulness, who has accepted Gods verdict as to his lost condition, and who has turned to build on Christ alone, and who subsequently doubts that God has really planted eternal life within him as his present possession, thereby makes God a liar. It is as the summary of this teaching that God gives our text: These things have I written unto you that believe on the Name of the Son of God, and this time we quote it correctly, that ye may know that ye have eternal life.
When the Wesleys were first converted they had little to help them grow in doctrinal truth. They had the Word and their own experience, and made their way falteringly through the Word of God. There were no Bible schools, no Keswick Conventions, no great mass of Christian literature to help them. At times they longed for something in their lives which in reality they already had, but were not aware that they possessed it.
There are some children in the nursery who ask the nurse questions about life. Being put off with false information, the children may really believe that they were brought into this world by a stork, and they may go along for years thinking such a thing. In like manner there are Christians brought up in an uncertain knowledge of the faith, who may not know precisely what happened when they were born again. Nevertheless, God Almighty gives to us in the Word the great principle that when we are born again God has indeed given to us eternal life. Shortly after they had Found rest to their souls, one of them wrote a hymn it is still in use that does not recognise the function of the Holy Spirit.
I want a principle within,
A jealous godly fear,
A sensibility of sin,
And pain to feel it near.
As a matter of fact the principle was within. It was there from the first. That principle is a Person. That principle is the eternal life of Christ, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
Oh, that believers might realise that God cannot lie, and that therefore God does not lie when He says that He has given eternal life to all who have trusted His Son! He has not promised us anything short of eternal life. What do we read? He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have six months life? What foolishness! And if He did promise us six months life, when could we lose it? Could it cease to be ours in five months?
Of course not! Six months life in the promise of God could not be lost before six months. We must never forget that the gifts and calling of God are without repentance (Romans 11:29). Is it a ten years life that He has given us? Then it could not be lost before ten years. What kind of life, then, does He say He has given to us? He says it is eternal life. But, Lord, does it really mean that eternal life is eternal? He is as patient with us as with a small child, for He makes it doubly clear and sure, like the carpenter who turns the board over and clinches the nail on the other side. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: and I give unto them eternal life: and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand (John 10:27, 28).
In spite of this, it is necessary for us to point out that one teacher, at least, has written against the assurance and security of the believer, saying that we may not claim the promise of eternal life as adding anything to the duration of the believers existence. The truth is, of course, that all men have eternal existence. The one who believes on Christ as Saviour has existence changed to life. That is just the point. It is a quality of life, and not merely a duration. The writer against assurance then goes on: Can this quality of life end in the believer? and answers that he believes it can. He gives no Scripture whatsoever for his bald statement.
On the contrary, the life that God has given us is the life of His Son. All whom He has called He has also justified, and all whom He has justified He counts as already glorified. God never begins anything that He does not bring to an end. The world may start that
which it cannot finish, but God says: He which hath begun a good work in you, will keep on perfecting it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6). Here are all three of the great doctrines of Gods work within us. He which hath begun a good work in you that is justification will keep on perfecting it that is sanctification until the day of Jesus Christ that is glorification. There is no change in God, and there will be no change in His work in us.
This truth is taught in still another way in the Epistles. God says: Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). This is, of course, the plain announcement that the Holy Spirit, Who has been the instrument of our new birth, and Who has come to dwell within us making our bodies His temples, has also placed us in Christ, sealing us there until the day when He shall give us our eternal bodies, and we shall be made like Him in all things in reality as we have already been made like Him in promise. It is the announcement that God has given us a gift that can never be lost. Were it anything less than this we would have to read, Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of your sin, or unto the day when God goes back on His promises, or until the day when the new creation can be uncreated. It is all so evident that no such event is possible. Those that Thou gavest Me I have kept (John 17:12), and No man is able to pluck them out of My Fathers hand (John 10:29).
The Practical Road to Experimental Holiness
NOW that we have established together that assurance is the practical foundation of experimental holiness, we can go on to the superstructure of Christian living. I am quite convinced that no one can ever know Biblical holiness until he knows that salvation is secure, that salvation never can be lost, that it is eternal life, the gift of the Father in regeneration, something that can never be withdrawn by God, or touched in the slightest by the enemy. When we thus are able to say: "I know that I have eternal life, I know that I have the principle within upon which all the rest of the Christian life is to be constructed," we are able to go forward with God.
In the second chapter of our study, we find that as assurance is the practical foundation of experimental holiness, so knowledge of our position in Christ is the practical road that leads to experimental holiness.
At the beginning of the year, one of the leading
American magazines had a most striking photograph for its front cover illustration. The scene was in one of the great hospitals. A doctor and a nurse were shown in their white gowns, wearing rubber gloves, and with gauze masks over the lower part of their faces. Most striking of all, however, was the fact that the doctor was holding a newborn infant by the foot, with the body suspended head down. The editor of the magazine had selected this photograph of the newborn baby as a symbol of the new year. Anyone familiar with hospital routine could easily explain the layman's startled question as to why such a fragile thing as a newborn babe should be held dangling by the foot. At the moment a child comes into this world there must be many readjustments made in its physical being to accommodate itself to its new environment. Lungs that have never breathed air must begin their lifelong work. Blood that has been pumped by the mother's heart must now circulate under the power of the infant heart. These are the most important changes that come to the babe, though there are many lesser ones in connection with nose, throat, eyes, and the very pores of the skin. I am informed that a doctor has catalogued several score changes that take place in the life of the newborn babe in the first few seconds of its earthly life. If the child does not cry, the doctors do not know if life is in the body. Many a nurse has slapped a minute-old baby to cause the lungs to function. Many a child has been swung sharply by the foot to induce that first cry which is music to the attendants.
So it is with one who is born again. When the life of God
enters a believer's heart through the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit, there are many things which take place. First of all, however, we wish to hear the child cry. We want a witness that the breath of God has come into the being. This is why the Scriptures demand that there be public confession of our faith in Christ. Some may think it possible for one to be a secret believer, but I find no basis for such a hope in the Scriptures. "Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in Heaven (Matthew 10:32). "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:9-10).
In the early chapters of the Gospel of John we have a striking contrast between two characters who are presented to us as the audience of two great messages given by the Lord Jesus. Nicodemus in the 3rd chapter, and the woman at the well in the 4th chapter, were each privileged to hear for the first time wonderful truths concerning the work of God in the salvation of a soul. Was Nicodemus a saved man? Did he come to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as his own personal Saviour from sin? All that we can say from the evidence is that we hope so. He heard the great message of the new birth, but no record is given us of any definite response that can be taken as positive proof that he had received the gift of eternal life. It is true that we see Nicodemus in later moments of his life, but again we are not fully satisfied. He intervened to
defend the officers who were being berated by the Pharisees. In a truly liberal statement he asked, "Doth our law judge any man before it hear him, and know what he doeth?" (John 7:51). There are many unsaved liberals who would say as much and more in the defence of civil liberties. This is no proof of salvation. And once again, when Christ had been crucified and His body was being prepared for burial, Nicodemus came with a magnificent gift of myrrh and aloes in accordance with the Jewish manner of burial and presented it for the embalming of the dead body of our Lord. All we can do is to hope that this was a gesture from a renewed heart. We cannot know with certainty. Guilty conscience has, with the spoils of sin, installed many a stained glass window, and built many a church, while unbelief in every age has brought the spices of compliments to perfume the body of a Christ whose person and work is denied and whose resurrection is flouted. Nicodemus may be in Heaven today, but we have no proof beyond our hope.
How different it is with the woman at the well! The Saviour gently and deftly reveals to her heart her lost condition. She sees herself as a sinner, she sees Him as the Messiah Saviour, and she leaves her waterpot to go back up the hill to the gate of the city, in order that she may cry: "Come! see a man who told me all things that I ever did: is this not the Christ?" And it is recorded that the Holy Spirit spoke through her renewed heart, and her first baby cry was sufficient to clothe the living Word of God and bring life from the dead to some of those who heard. For we are told in the narrative that "many of the Samaritans of that city
believed on Him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that I ever did" (John 4:29, 39). We have no doubt about this child of God. She was not stillborn; she cries; she is alive! And, as is the case in a newborn child of physical birth, there are very many things that take place in the life of the newborn child of the second birth in the very moment in which God communicates the divine life through His grace.
Some time ago, after I had spoken along these lines in a certain meeting, I was informed by a member of my audience that someone had catalogued sixty-four different things that take place in the life of the believer at the moment of the new birth. I have not seen that list, but I want to take you to a few of the major results of our new birth, as I am convinced that knowledge of what our Lord has done for us in the new birth is the practical road to experimental holiness.
We saw in our first study that we have every right to accept as a fact the present possession of life from God. He gives us a life which He calls eternal life. It is the same life that we shall be living a million years hence out in that eternity that will know nothing but God. The fact that the life we now have received, and that which we shall always live, are one and the same life may be illustrated by the following anecdote.
A few years ago my mother went to be with the Lord. Some months after her death all of her children were gathered together in the family home in California for the first time in several years. My sisters were engaged in that work which always follows the death
of a person who has lived a rich life through a full generation in the same house. In the attic there were trunks and boxes of affairs which mother had put by during the course of the decades. All these had to be sorted, some for keeping and some for destruction. All our letters were there, beginning with our first school days away from home and continuing through the years. Neatly sorted and carefully arranged, they told the stories of our various lives through different periods. Among other things there was a little package which none of my sisters could explain. It contained a small pillow, some sixteen to eighteen inches long, carefully wrapped in tissue paper and tied with a little blue ribbon. We did not know why this had been kept among the things that were precious to my mother. That evening my father was able to answer our riddle. "I remember that!" he cried with eyes lighting up, and the story followed. My parents had been married for almost twenty years before I, their only son, was born. All of us know that anticipation of a son after there has been a line of girls in a family, and it would appear that my home was no exception to the rule. There was, therefore, some excitement among that household when I finally put in an appearance, and this was increased by the fact that I was the smallest of the babies in our family. My father been been able to carry me, even when I was several weeks old, lying on a pillow which had now been found. It was merely the length of his forearm, and I rested quite comfortably, I am told, with my head above the palm of his hand and my feet in the crotch of his elbow. Yet none of you will doubt that the physical life
which was in that little baby is the same physical life which is in me today as a man. There is a vast difference between my five or six pounds on that first day and my more than 210 pounds today, while my less that twenty inches have increased to about seventy-five of them. Yet it is the same life. Today I have greater control over it, and I have consciousness of it, but it is the same life.
In exactly the same way it is possible for me to say that the spiritual life which was planted within me at the moment of my new birth is the same spiritual life which I shall be living far out in eternity. When I first received the Lord Jesus Christ I was counted as a babe in Him, and was told to desire the sincere milk of the Word that I might grow (1 Peter 2:2). Then I became mature enough to lead other souls to Christ, and He put His power upon me as one of His witnesses. Then I began to learn that "the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18). And I am confident of this very thing that He who began a good work in me will keep on perfecting it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6). At that moment I shall see Him and become like him, seeing Him as He is (1 John 3:2). And all through eternity I shall learn to know Him better, for this is life eternal, that we might know the only true God, and Jesus Christ who was sent by Him (John 7:3). That life is the life that I am now living, yet it is not I, but Christ living in me, so that this very life which I now live in the flesh is eternal life, lived by the faith of the Son of God (Galatians 2:20).
A second result of my new birth is that by the
receiving of eternal life I become a child of God. Once a child of wrath, now a child of peace; once a child of disobedience, now a child of faith and trust; once a child of the Devil, now a child of the Heavenly Father. There are some who read these words who may still be conscious of continuing disobedience, and who know that some of their ways, thoughts, and actions still merit the wrath of God. We will see, further, how we may be cleansed from all sins and how we may be maintained in a life of conscious trust and victory. Just here, we must see the extent of our potential resources, and, most certainly, our position as a child of God is one of them.
Some years ago I was living in one of the Alpine valleys of Southern France, preaching to one of the little Huguenot congregations while I was pursuing my studies at the University of Grenoble. Every Thursday morning I walked four miles up the valley to a little center where I instructed a score of children in the things of God. In that village there lived a Roman priest who on Thursday used to come down the valley to a village near the one where I lived. Frequently our paths crossed, and at times we found ourselves going in the same direction.
One day as we went along together he said to me, "Why do you Protestants object so strongly to our praying to the saints?" I asked him to explain what advantage there was to be gained from praying to the saints. He replied, "Well, suppose, for example, that I wanted an interview with the President of the Republic, Monsieur Poincaré. I could go to Paris and arrange for an interview with any one of the members of the cabinet.
I could go to the Minister of Agriculture, or to the Minister for the Colonies, or to the Office of the Interior, the Navy, National Defence, or any other of the ministries. They would facilitate my obtaining an interview with the President. In the same way I may obtain the intercession of the Virgin and the saints on behalf of my desires as I pray." He looked rather triumphant as he completed his illustration. Then I said to him, "Monsieur le Cure, let me ask you a question. Suppose that my name is Poincare, and that my father is the President of the French Republic. Suppose that I live in the Palace of the Elysee with him, sit at his table three times a day, and am frequently the object of his tender solicitations, and know the touch of his loving hand. Do you think for a moment that if I have a problem to present to him I am going to go across Paris to one of the ministries, pass all the guards and secretaries that surround a cabinet member, and finally reaching his office, say, 'Monsieur le Ministre, would you be so kind as to arrange an interview for me to talk with my daddy?' Do you not rather think that I will look him in the eye at one of the moments when he puts his arm across my shoulder in a gesture of affection, and then tell him that I have a request to make?"
The Curé was taken aback. He looked at me and his mouth opened and closed and opened again as though he were seeking for words that would not come. Then I took my little French Testament from my pocket and turned to two or three passages of Scripture and had him read them aloud. To "as many as received Him (Christ), to them gave He the authority to become
the children of God, even to them that believe on His Name" (John 1:12). "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:1-2). "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:14-16).
He had me write down the references that he might look them up in what he called a Catholic Bible, and frequently thereafter he stopped me with questions, coming as a learner to discover some of the wonders that are ours in Christ. Access! Think of it. At any moment, in any place, I may go to the Father, knowing that with Jesus Christ as my one Mediator, I will be instantly received. I am a child of the King. I have become at the very moment of my new birth an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Jesus Christ. I have an inheritance that is incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, that is reserved in Heaven for me.
Another result that is mine in the instant of my new birth is that my body becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit. It matters not whether that body has been racked by sin. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin, and the whole
Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, comes to dwell immediately within my heart and life, nevermore to leave. Our Lord has said: If a man love Me, he will keep My words; and my Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him" (John 14:23). Yet not only the Father and the Son, but also the Holy Spirit of adoption, dwells within, who cries out to the Father within our hearts, leading us in our prayer life and making intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered.
I remember several years ago a great Bible conference being held in New York, in Carnegie Hall, where the symphony concerts are usually given. On the platform were some of the noted Bible teachers in America at the time R.A. Torry, J. Wilbur Chapman, Charles F. Alexander, and also C.I. Scofield, the Editor of the Notes in The Scofield Reference Bible. The chairman called on a minister of New York to lead in prayer. He made one of those interminable prayers which began like this: "O Thou great and terrible God, great in Thy majesty, Great is the distance that separates us from Thee; from that distance we cry out after Thee, poor lost sinners that we are, have mercy upon our souls." It was reported afterwards that at that point Dr. Scofield very discreetly whispered to his neighbor, "Why doesn't someone give that man a New Testament!"
Oh, no, dear friends, we do not pray, "O Thou great and terrible God, great is the distance that separates!" I know that when I get home after an absence, a child is going to run to meet me, and she is not going to say, "O thou Keswick platform speaker!"
but I am going to have to be very careful that I am not knocked off my balance with the rush. And I look forward to it! I am quite sure that one of the greatest privileges that we have, a privilege that is ours in the very instant of the new birth, is that we have access to the Father because we have received the spirit of adoption whereby we cry, "Abba, Father!"
Then, still further, we find that the moment we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as our own personal Saviour from sin, not only does the Godhead come to dwell within us, but we are said to be in God. There are scores of references which speak of the believer as being in Christ, and our final study will center around this little preposition. We are in Christ, from His death on the Cross to His enthronement at the right hand of the Father. A score of blessings are to be found under this heading that, like the rest, are not to be gained through prayer, or good works, or church attendance, or Bible study, or effort of any kind which has its source in the human heart. Every item in the glorious inventory becomes the birthright of the believer the very instant he believes in his heart that God raised the Lord Jesus from the dead and confesses with his mouth this risen Jesus as his Lord.
Let us illustrate this by a case in the Acts of the Apostles. In Philippi, Paul and Silas were put into prison. At the moment of their midnight service of prayer and praise to God, they were suddenly freed by the earthquake from their bonds, while the doors of the prison were opened, thus making escape possible. The keeper of the prison and this is the important point
for my illustration was a man of violence. His whole character is summed up in the fact that in his dilemma he sought to kill himself. To all practical intents he was already a suicide. Here, then, was a man with a vicious nature, living in the midst of a pagan world, in the heart of heathendom and all its corruption. The probability is great that he was steeped in the practices of a vicious life. But he was instantly saved. Though the marks of depravity might have yet scarred his face and form, that body immediately became the temple of the living God. Though he had been a moment before a child of the Devil, he was now a child of God. He was an heir of God, a joint-heir with Jesus Christ, a possessor of the very life of God, eternal life, since he had been made a partaker of the divine nature. All these things were his, in the very moment he saw his need and received the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour. To sum it up in one word, he had become a saint, and he had become a saint instantly.
It is remarkable how different are the processes by which the Church of Rome creates a saint and those by which God creates a saint. Some time ago we began publishing in our magazine a series of articles concerning incidents in personal work in the life of H.A. Ironside, late of the Moody Church in Chicago. One of the stories we have published tells of a conversation he had with a group of Catholic nuns whom he met in a transcontinental railway train. He astonished them with many things he said, but the most astonishing of all was when he told them that he was a saint. They had never seen a real, live saint before,
but he opened the Bible and proved it to them. Saint Harry! Certainly. And if you are a believer, you too, are a saint, no matter what your name may be. They had been thinking in terms of Rome's creation of saints, and he was talking in terms of the Word of God. For Rome makes a saint by the exaltation of a man and his works, and God makes a saint by the exaltation of Jesus Christ. The process followed by Rome is now well established. When it is expedient for them to canonize another saint, for political reasons, as in the case of Joan of Arc; or for geographical reasons, as in the case of some of the newer saints in Canada and America, the procedure is always the same.
The candidate is first beatified, which is to say, he or she is counted as among the blessed dead, that is those already in Heaven, though God's Word makes no provision for what might better be pronounced "purge-atory," where sins are to be purged by self-suffering. We know from Scripture that Christ Himself purged us from our sins, and that all who die in Him are absent from the body and present with the Lord. Then, when Rome has beatified its candidate, it appoints both a defender and an avocatus diaboli, a Devil's advocate; the latter to bring all the charges against the candidate that history or tradition has recorded, the former to clear the candidate. So smooth is the machinery of Rome that the defender has never lost a case! and every candidate brought up to trial has gone through to canonization and ultimate sainthood. Then these men who have been responsible for creating the saint are supposed to pray to the one whom they have elevated.
But how different is God's method of creating a saint. He looks not at the righteousness of the individual. He does not examine the works of that individual, except to announce that they are condemned, as coming from a source that is defiled. We rightly sing:
He saw me ruined in the fall,
And loved me notwithstanding all;
He saved me from my lost estate,
His loving-kindness, Oh, how great!
And it would be true and proper to add:
When I was ruined, weak, and faint,
He lifted me to be a saint;
He looked at Christ; not at my race,
His loving-kindness flows from grace.
Thou art Jacob; thou shalt be Israel! Thou art Simon; thou shalt be Peter! Thou art Saul; thou shalt be Paul! The sly swindler; the rash braggart; and the man who, touching the righteousness of the law, saw himself blameless all three and any like them can be suddenly touched by the grace of God and lifted to the position of those who are counted holy in Christ. The reason for this, and the method by which it is done, and the purpose of its doing, are all answered in one word: Christ!
When you look through a piece of blue glass you see all things with a bluish tinge. When you look through a piece of yellow glass, you see all things in yellow. So it goes through the whole prism of colors. In exactly the same way the Word of God shows us that God the Father comes to look at us through Jesus Christ, and
He sees us in the pure holiness of our Lord. This is why we are called saints. We must not forget that the word "saint" is an exact synonym for "holy one." We have taken the names of our days from the German, and our months from the Latin. We confuse "saint" and "holy" in the same fashion. The French say Sainte Bible and Saint Jean, while the Germans say Heilige Schrift and Heiliger Johannus. We have taken one from each language and say "Saint John," like the French, and "Holy Bible" like the Germans, but they are the same.
The truth behind all this is that we have been counted as righteous, just, and holy in Christ, and thus we are called saints, which is the equivalent of "the righteous ones," "the justified ones," "the holy ones." And the beautiful part of it is that Christ receives all the glory.
As I present these truths there are some readers who are conscious of the stormy presence of sin within their hearts. They look within and wonder if it is possible that they may call themselves saints since they know that their thoughts and actions are not saintly. Too often they must cry out to God, "I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:23-24). I am convinced of the fact that only the knowledge of the Word of God and the application of that knowledge can bring a consistent life of victory to the individual Christian. Our Lord said, "Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy Word is truth" (John 17:17).
That is why we have spent the time in this study to see what the Word of God teaches us about the perfection of our position in Christ.
We will close this portion of our study with a consideration of the difference between our position and our condition, and will spend the last two studies considering the means whereby we can live in accordance with our position in Christ. We must not allow our awareness of the sinful nature within to cause us to doubt the perfection of our position in Christ. The first epistle to the Corinthians gives us a sharp contrast between the two, shows that they are not incompatible in the same life, and brings us to see that it is possible for us to know and experience day by day maintenance of the dominating power of the life of Christ exalted within our beings.
It should be recalled that the Corinthian church was composed of men and women who had been living, but a few months before, in stark paganism. Corinth, we know from history and archaeology, was one of the port cities of Greece, and a center of the cult of vice that surrounded the pagan temples. Suddenly the Spirit of God came among them in awakening power; there were many who believed, and who received the gift of eternal life in Christ. Their position is described in the opening verses of the epistle. First, they are called "The Church of God." In other words, they were members of that called-out body of believers, chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, "to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in the Heavenlies might be known through them the manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3:10).
Next, it is said that they were "sanctified in Christ Jesus." This is really two statements, for the fact that they are declared to be "in Christ Jesus" includes much more than their sanctification. For "in" Him they were blessed with all spiritual blessings in the Heavenlies (Ephesians 1:3). This included their sanctification. That is to say, they had been positionally set apart by God as the objects of His grace through whom He determined to manifest Himself in the midst of this rebel world.
Because of this positional sanctification it is next announced that they are "called saints." In the eyes of God they were considered as His holy ones, made holy through the work of Christ. It is further stated that they had been the objects of God's grace, so that they were enriched by Him in everything. That is to say that God had deposited to their account all the riches of His grace, and that they were thus equipped by Him with sufficient power and grace to supply their every need. In a day when the New Testament had not yet been completed they were enriched in all utterance and in all knowledge. This means that the Holy Spirit was speaking all the truth of the New Testament to them before He had seen fit to have it confined to its permanent form. The full supply of the food of the believer, which is every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, was available to them because of their position in Christ. As a result of this, it is said that the testimony of Christ was confirmed in them, so that they were not lacking in any gift as they waited day by day for the return of the Lord Jesus, for whom they had been taught of the Spirit to look.
Would it not be wonderful to live among such Christians? Would it not be delightful to be the pastor of a church composed of such Christians? I dare to say that I do live among such Christians. I dare to say that I am pastor of such a church. I dare to say that the thousands of believers who may read these words are Christians like the Corinthians, members of the called-out body of Christ, sanctified in Him, called saints, enriched by the grace of God in all utterance and in all knowledge, with Christ's witness confirmed in you, not lacking in any God-supplied gift.
Some of you may think that I do not know you. But I do. The first nine verses of the epistle speak thus of the standing of the believers in Christ. The next verse, however, begins a picture that would seem to be of another group, but which is merely another view of the same people. Paul says to them: You are not speaking the same thing, there are divisions among you, yes, contentions. We turn over to the 3rd chapter and read that these who are called "brethren," and who are said to be "in Christ," are also said to be "carnal." It was impossible to feed them with the deep truths of the Word of God because they could stand nothing but the milk of the Word, and were not able to take the meat. There were among them envying, strife, and divisions, so that it was difficult to tell from their walk whether they were saved or unsaved. The 5th chapter takes our breath away. One of the saints had actually been living in fornication. The following chapter reveals that their differences were so acute that they were quarreling one with the other before the heathen law courts. The Spirit of God
said that they were utterly at fault. The following chapters show that they were still frequenting the pagan temples with all their devil worship and carnality. The 11th chapter shows us that some of them even were drunken as they came to the table of the Lord's Supper.
Some of you recognize yourselves in some of these pictures. Here you see that which you know to be a true picture of your actual practice. Most, indeed, will be free from the grossest of these sins, since twenty centuries of Christianity have given a flavor even to the godless civilization in which we live, and most of us have been brought up from youth to curb the passions which were encouraged in the frankly pagan world.
Not long ago I was lunching with friends near London, and the conversation turned on certain phases of our Christian work in the United States. It was necessary to say that a certain minister who had become one of the leaders in a little separatist movement had become contentious and cantankerous, and that he had clearly revealed that he was not a man of his word. This conversation took place with dear English friends who sometimes like to remind me with a smile that I am an American. One of the group looked up with a shocked expression, but with a twinkle in the eye, and said: "Are Christians like that in America?" Yes, dear friends, Christians are like that from Corinth to California, whether you travel east or west, or from the first to the twentieth century; and they are like that from Ephesus to England in both time and space. The whole heart and purpose of the Keswick Movement is to bring into emphasis and practice those truths
of the Word of God which enable the saints of God to live more saintly lives; in short, to bring our condition of living up to our position in Christ.
The whole matter may be presented graphically in the following illustration. Some years ago, in England, there was a noble family which had a second son who was a dishonor to his name. His drunken scandals had grieved his father and mother and his young wife. The affair finally reached such a stage that the family cut off all income except a quarterly amount which was to be paid him only on condition that he went out to the Dominions. His banker in Toronto would see that he received sufficient remittance each quarter providing he took his name and his shame away from England for good. He drifted from Toronto down into the States, and made arrangements for his drafts to be paid to him in Des Moines, Iowa. It was his custom to spend his whole allowance in the course of a few days and to live as best he could during the remainder of the quarter. There came a time when he lost his entire remittance in gambling, even before it was due, so that he looked forward to a period of several months without any income at all. In despair he looked for a job, and the best he could do was to obtain work a $15 a week, operating an elevator in one of the large buildings. Just at this time, according to the story as it appeared in the New York papers, his older brother was killed in a motor accident, and within a few days his father died. His young wife came out to America to get him. The newspapers helped her find him. His photographs appeared in the press. Here was a man whose position was that of a Peer of England,
eligible to sit in the House of Lords, master of the estates and fortunes of his family, but his condition was that of a $15-a-week elevator operator. It was a simple matter for him to avail himself of the funds his wife had brought with her. With the help of a tailor and price of a steamship ticket, he was soon restored to the place of his position.
The contrast between what we are in Christ and what we are in ourselves is even greater, for ours is the highest position which any creator can know in earth or Heaven. He has given us a position above that of angels and the archangel. We are called sons of God, and given title to a host of gifts which are ours the moment we have the life that is in Christ, and which contains all our other gifts. For "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). Yet in spite of this we are forced to sing:
Look how we grovel here below,
Fond of these trifling toys.
Our souls can neither fly nor go
To reach eternal joys.
In vain we tune our formal songs,
In vain we strive to rise;
Hosannas languish on our tongues,
And our devotion dies.
Dear Lord, and shall we ever live
At this poor dying rate;
Our love so faint, so cold to Thee;
And Thine to us how great.
Thank God, it is not necessary to live in accord with our condition! It is possible for us to know that condition altered, to realize day by day that our path shines more and more to the perfect day, and to experience the reality of the good works which He has begun in us being perfected until the day when He shall come to complete that perfection. That life is ours, and that position is ours as children of God, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. Sons? Yes, but to sum it all up, we are "IN CHRIST."
The Practical Gate to Experimental Holiness
SOME time ago at the close of a meeting, a young woman came to me and said that she was greatly concerned for the salvation of her twin sister. Among other things, she told me that inconsistencies in her life were stumbling blocks in the way of her unsaved sister. I pointed out to her that what she called inconsistencies were in reality sins, and that they should be confessed and forgiven, forsaken and cleansed.
For the cleansing of the believer from his daily sins of omission and commission is the gateway to the maintenance of an unbroken fellowship with God which will enable us to have fewer sins to confess to God, and more periods of unbroken fellowship and victory in Christ.
First of all, we must consider the difference between sin and sins. Individual sins are the manifestation of the old nature of sin. They break out like boils because there is some poison in the blood stream. Drive them in
at one spot with surface ointment and they will appear elsewhere. The nature of the poison is that it must break out. There is nothing else that it can do. Anyone who forms any other estimate of the nature of sin brings a serious charge against God, who has said that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and incurably wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9). To take any other opinion of sin is to call God's solemn Word into question. It can readily be seen, therefore, that we must consider both sin and sins if we are to know true victory in Christ. And it should be remarked and admitted by all that every human being is on the same level so far as the existence and the potentialities of sin are concerned.
In order to understand this difference we must first of all remove from our minds the concept of sin which is held by the world. Round about us we find the unsaved world with its laws and codes of conduct based on a philosophy far removed from God's concept of sin. Human law does not hold a man to be a thief until he has actually stolen something. A policeman might find a man loitering in a dark alley near the open window of a house, but the man could not be charged with robbery unless he had reached through the window and extracted some article that did not belong to him. In other words, the world says that a man is not a criminal until he has committed some crime. God's declaration is of a quite different order. Let the world say that men are not sinners until they have sinned; God declares that men sin because they are sinners. The world looks only at the eruption of the boils and gives no consideration
whatever to the poison virus of sin that is within. Whenever unsaved people philosophize about the origin of crime the best they can do is to call it a disease and attribute it to some organic maladjustments in the personality, or of the body. One eminent psychologist has gone so far as to state that all of man's actions are a result of certain glandular disturbances, and that if he could take full control of the glands of any child, he could make of him a criminal or a virtuous man according to his will. But God has declared all men to be sinners by nature and by choice, and has written over them the divine decree that they are estranged from Him because of their sin.
Now let us consider how God deals with any individual manifestation of sin. Let us take for our example two people who are brought up in the same environment. The best example would be brothers born of the same father and mother, and born at the same time. These twins have had, we will say, the same education and training, and, of course, they have the same inheritance. We will conceive them to be equally endowed with intelligence and health, so that outwardly they are equal. But one of them has come to see himself in God's sight as a guilty and lost sinner, and he has turned away from any hope of salvation through himself. He has come to put his faith in Christ alone. He could readily sing:
My hope is built on nothing less,
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness,
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' Name.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
The other brother has never received the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour, and he still stands in the sight of God a lost sinner. Now we will suppose, for the sake of our argument, that a great temptation has come to the Christian brother, and he has succumbed. You can make that individual act of sin to be whatever you will, whether it be the sin that was committed by Moses, by David, by Peter, or by you. At the same time the unsaved brother is guilty of committing exactly the same sin. What is the difference in the sight of God between these two acts of sin, precisely alike, committed by two men with similar backgrounds, their only difference being the presence of saving faith in the life of one?
We make bold to say that there is a vast difference between the two acts, and that the treatment of the two sins by God is entirely different. Let us first take the act of sin as committed by the unsaved man. Let it be what you will, it has not changed his status before God in the slightest detail. Though, like David, he may have compounded sin to cover sin, murder to protect adultery, yet this unsaved man is just the same in the sight of God a lost soul, without hope and without Christ. The individual act of sin, whether it were but an isolated outbreak, or one in a lifelong series of crimes, makes no difference whatsoever in God's estimate of the lost soul as being one who is dead in trespasses and sins, and under the just condemnation of the broken law, deserving the wrath of God which comes upon all of the children of disobedience. After one such act, or after ten thousand such acts, the mercy of God can come through to the lost soul, call him out of darkness into light, and translate him
from the power of Satan into the kingdom of the Son of God's love. But until the moment that regeneration comes, he is a lost soul. If he dies in his sins, the Word of Christ stands formally to attest it, "Whither I go ye cannot come" (John 8:21).
The brother who is now a believer was once like the unsaved brother. It can truly be said of him, "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath" (Ephesians 2:1-3). But the moment of regeneration has come. Sin is dealt with once for all, and forever. The poison nature of the corruption is put to the account of Christ who bears the stroke of its judgment and who frees us from its penalty forever. That is why we can say that "by Christ all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:39). This is the positive cleansing of the believer from all sin, and do not think for a moment that all that we receive at the moment of our new birth is the remission of sins that have been committed up to the moment of salvation.
Up to the day of conversion it is impossible in the case of a believer for his sins to be partially forgiven, for no sins can be forgiven without the sinner's person being accepted through Jesus Christ. Every individual is either under the curse of sin or under the justifying power of Christ's atoning work.
One commentator has said: "Now the object of Christ's work was to still wrath." He knew that the holiness of God required that wrath should go forth even against the most trifling sin, and wrath in all its fulness, for God is complete in all that He does. Christ undertook to appease this wrath and to silence it forever. So wrath is now effectually stilled by virtue of Christ's blood sacrifice which has been offered. Therefore, if wrath were ever to break forth again, it would of necessity require another sacrifice. But where could another sacrifice by found? Is Christ to die again? "Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him" (Hebrews 9:25-28). If wrath were once to reawaken, then, unless you could provide another sacrifice like Christ, that sacrifice would burn forever. So wrath was altogether stilled for the believer, as a person, in the totality of his history.
Put very simply, this means that the moment a person is born again, forgiveness has been provided for all the sins he ever has committed or for all the sins
that he ever will commit in the course of his life. This is the true meaning of justification. As the old saying has it: "Justified means JUST-AS-IF-I'D never sinned." This is amplification of the illustration which we used in a previous study, in pointing out that God looks at the believer through Jesus Christ, and sees him in all the light and holiness of Christ Himself.
My sin oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to His Cross and I bear it no more;
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh, my soul!
But it must be realized that though God looks at the unbeliever in only one way, He looks at the believer in two ways. It is not to be supposed that the sin committed by the believing brother is to go unchallenged because God foresaw it and provided pardon for all the manifestations of the root from which it grew. God must certainly deal with that sin, and there can be no fellowship and no victory until it has been sternly dealt with in a way that does no violence to the holiness of God.
Faithfulness to the whole counsel of God forces me to add a paragraph that I would fain leave out. There are times when Christians get out of the will of God; sin enters the life and remains unconfessed and unforgiven. Like a splinter in the flesh, it festers, and can poison the whole life, and even bring the body to death. One unconfessed sin brings others in its train. Abraham's lie followed his leaving Palestine where God had told him to stay; David's remaining at home from battle was followed by one sin and then another.
It is possible that these mounting sins shall bring the believer to instant judgment, for there is a sin that is unto death not unto spiritual death, but physical death. Paul told the Corinthian believers to deliver one brother over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh so that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord. Again, he told them that their commission of one particular sin in connection with not discerning the Lord's body in the Communion service had brought sickness and death in its wake. "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." I have brought out at length in a message on "Men Whom God Struck Dead," that such men as Nadab and Abihu, Uzzah, Ananias and Sapphira, seem most evidently to have been in a saved relationship with God, but their execution was a matter of judgment because they were not following in the path that God laid for them as saints. O let us fear God, Christian brethren, and remember that He is a God of holiness who must demand holiness of His people.
God does look at the believer through Jesus Christ, seeing him perfect in the Saviour, but God also looks at the believer as he is in his condition, and has provided a series of measures whereby the believer's condition may be lifted toward his position in Christ.
Before looking at these measures of cleansing in detail it is necessary for us to pause a moment in order to dispose of two false ideas which Satan has attempted to pass as true currency. There have been, first of all, certain Christians who have taught that the old nature is entirely eradicated at some time when the soul is regenerated, and that, henceforth, the Christian is in
a state of sinless perfection. They have built their doctrine on a few passages of Scripture without regard to the whole body of Biblical teaching on the subject. Their principal rallying point is the Authorized Version translation of 1 John 3:9: "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." We know, of course, that the Revised Version renders it correctly: "Whosoever is born of God doeth no sin." But even if we were to take the Authorized Version translation, I believe the passage can be rightly interpreted with due reference to all the other passages that bear on the subject. We must place it beside Paul's estimate of himself: "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing" (Romans 7:18). What the Bible is teaching is that every believer has two distinct natures which we may name Saul and Paul. The teaching of the Word, then, is that Saul can do nothing that is good in the sight of God, and Paul can do nothing that is bad, since it is no longer anything of him but of Christ that dwelleth in him. Saul has an old nature that cannot possibly do righteousness under God's definition of the term, and a new nature that cannot possibly commit sin, since it is the very life of the sinless Christ. The difficulty with the teachers who hold the doctrine of sinless perfection is that they have looked at only one side of Bible truth.
How foolish, then, to teach that the old nature has been eradicated. There is one teacher who boasted that he used a stronger word. He said that he followed Romans 6, where we read of the body of sin being "destroyed." I wonder if the man had ever read any Greek at all,
for the same word "destroyed" is used in Hebrews 2:14, where Christ is said to have destroyed the Devil (but the Devil is very active yet, and so is our old "Saul"!). In Romans 7, Paul found that this body of death was far from destroyed; it was still actively working.
But fortunately God has left us in no doubt whatsoever in this matter, for we have a formal statement from Him covering the whole doctrine: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). There is a practical tragedy in connection with the self-conceit of this school of thinking. Believing that they have no old nature, and believing that what they do is not sin. Therefore they do not confess it to God for forgiveness, and they remain in a state of unforgiveness, and of self-delusion which has no proper concept of the holiness of God, or of the exceeding sinfulness of sin.
Another school has seen the error involved in this delusion, yet in seeking to escape it has fallen into a more grievous one, teaching that the old nature of sin remains within the believer, but that it does not operate any more because of the presence of the new life. We are going to see in a moment how we may have victory. But we must be careful to guard against the error of the inoperation of the old nature, no matter under what name that error may be taught, as such teaching is far removed from the Biblical doctrine of continuing holiness by looking to Christ. For any man to say at the close of any day that there has been nothing in his life that could be displeasing to God is to ignore
the character of the old nature of sin that dwells within. And it is to ignore the character of that nature in face of God's definite declaration describing it. Thus we read: "If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us" (1 John 1:10). I make so bold as to say that if any man, be he the most saintly believer who has ever lived, at the close of any evening in his life, and looking back over that day, should say he had lived that day entirely without sin of omission or commission, he would be guilty, according to this verse, of making God a liar.
But between these two errors there lies one of the most glorious truths of all Scripture. God, knowing that there was a fountain of evil within us which could never do anything but pour forth its wicked stream, made provision in advance for our daily, hourly, momentary cleansing from sin, so that the old life can be held in check. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). That is the truth which makes our fellowship with God a continuing possibility, and which opens the gate to a true walk with God.
I have put the truth so squarely that some critical minds will immediately ask if I have not gone too far. I believe that I have merely followed the language of Paul and the New Testament, and that such criticism would arise only as it arose against Paul when he, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, presented these truths in faultless form. For after he had told us that we were justified in Christ, and that nothing could ever touch our relationship with God, which was now
a settled matter forever, he heard the voice of those who were afraid that he was giving men license to sin. There have always been those who fear that a full declaration of the love and grace of God will lead men to take advantage of it and rush headlong into an enjoyment of the pleasures of sin for a season. Paul immediately repudiated such teaching. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace my abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (Romans 6:1-2). There was no place for antinomianism in the theology of Paul.
I remember talking with a man who expressed his fear that the open teaching that God had offered pardon in advance for any sins which might be committed by the believer would lead men to take advantage of that grace of God. I asked him if he had known the truth for long. He replied that it had been familiar to him for many years. "And has it led you personally to excesses of sin?" I asked him bluntly, "To be frank," he replied, "it has caused me to weep before God that I have ever had to take advantage of the provision which He has made." If you read the Memoirs of Robert Murray M'Cheyne, you will find that he asks if it be possible that God has provided a way from the pig-sty to His presence for repeated forgiveness. And he concludes that God has made just such provision in His Word.
And has not God Himself told us that this knowledge of full provision for daily pardon and cleansing from sin was calculated to keep us from sinning? "My little children," He tells us, "these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin" (that clearly means,
if any born-again man sin) "we believers have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our (the believers') sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:1-2).
Yes, we can be sure of it, because of the presence of the Holy Spirit living within our hearts, this bounteous proof of the love of God will constrain us toward Himself. An incident occurred in the course of my work several years ago which beautifully illustrates this. I was invited to hold a week of meetings in one of our colleges. Each day, both morning and evening, I had the several hundred members of the student body in attendance, and during the day arrangements were made for any of the students to come to one of the offices for a personal interview in connection with their spiritual problems. After one of the meetings, one of the professors came to me, asking if he might have a personal interview, which I arranged. He was quite a young man, but he had a sad story to recount. During the war he had been sent overseas to France, and there had fallen in with bad companions. He made no profession of being a Christian at the time, and during several months, while stationed in Paris, he had lived in terrible sin. But now, returned to his home and other influences, he had come to a knowledge of Christ as his personal Saviour, and was seeking to live a Christian life. He told me that he had fallen in love with a fine Christian girl in that university town; he had reason to believe that she loved him, but he hesitated to speak to her
because of the memory of his past sin, and because of a fear that his proclivities toward sin might lead him to wound the heart and life of the girl he loved. What should he do? He had stated his problem: he waited for me to answer.
I prayed for a moment, asking that I might be given the right word, and after assuring myself that he had a knowledge of the reality of the new birth and the indwelling presence of Christ, I told him to talk frankly with the young woman. I said: "You have been loving her for months, and restraining yourself from speaking to her about it. Do you think for a moment that she does not know you care for her and that there is something holding you back? Women have a way of knowing the thoughts of those who love them long before those thoughts are expressed. If you are going to live your lives together, there should be no barriers between you, and her knowledge of your weakness will help you at every turn of the road." And then I started to tell him a story of two other people who had come under my ministry some time before that. The reason I tell this story in the midst of the professor's story is in order to bring out the word of comment that was wrung from him when I had finished.
"Some time ago," I told him, "I had occasion to deal with a man and his wife in very particular circumstances. The man had an almost dog-like devotion toward the woman, who was, in my opinion, a much stronger character than he. He had lived a life of sin, and then, after his conversion under conditions that were almost the equivalent of those obtaining in a
rescue mission, he had met and married this noble Christian woman in whom he confided in a few sad words the nature, though not the details of his sordid past. He told me that his wife had taken his head in her hands and had drawn him to her shoulder, and had kissed him, saying, 'John, I want you to understand something very plainly. I know my Bible well, and therefore I know the subtlety of sin, and the devices of Satan working in the human heart. I know you are a thoroughly converted man, John, but I know that you still have an old nature, and that you are not yet as fully instructed in the ways of God as you soon will be. The Devil will do all he can to wreck your Christian life, and he will see to it that temptations of every kind will be put in your way. The day might come please God that it never shall but the day might come that you will succumb to temptation and fall into sin. Immediately the Devil will tell you that it is no use trying, that you might as well continue on in the way of sin, and that above all you are not to tell me because it will hurt me. But John, I want you to know that here in my arms is your home. When I married you I married your old nature as well as your new nature. And I want you to know that there is full pardon and forgiveness in advance for any evil that may ever come into your life.' "
As I told this story to the college professor, he had bowed his head and covered his face with his hands. When I reached this point in the story, he lifted his eyes to me and said, reverently: "My God! if anything could ever keep a man straight, that would be it."
Full provision in advance for any evil that may come into your life.
That is exactly what God has provided in the arrangements He has made for our cleansing from sin. We must realize that nothing has ever issued from our heart that has astonished God. He knew before He ever started to save us exactly what we were. "He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust" (Psalm 103:14). It was "when we were yet without strength," that "in due time Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6). In fact, God comes to us recommending His love to us on the basis of the fact that it was while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
As you come to know the Lord better, you will come to understand yourself better, and will admit without question the horror of the potentialities of sin which are within your heart. Herein lies the explanation of the strange advance of the knowledge of sin which is exhibited in the verses from the writings of Paul. Early in his Christian life he looked out over the company of the apostles, compared himself with them, and wrote to the Corinthians: "I am the least of the apostles, and am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God" (1 Corinthians 15:9). Several years later he writes to the Ephesian Church, saying: "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8). What progress is this? He puts himself as number thirteen in comparison with the apostles; then he takes the position of number one hundred thousand, shall we say, in the number of all the saints. What is happening? Paul is now in prison in Rome. The Spirit is revealing
to him that his days are numbered. He is soon to know that the time of his departure is at hand. Yet, writing to young Timothy, he no longer compares himself with apostles or saints, but declares boldly: "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief" (1 Timothy 1:15). Here we have one phase of the pilgrim's progress which is not often realized: least of apostles, less than the least of all the saints, chief of sinners. And how was Paul coming to this growing realization of the sinfulness of sin in his own life: The answer is that he was coming nearer and nearer to the Lord Jesus Christ in his condition of life, and therefore was realizing, more and more, how unlike the Lord he was.
Suppose that you are leaving your home some dark evening on your way to some important function. You walk down the street and a passing motor splashes you with dirt from the rainy streets. Your first moment of indignation past, you begin to appraise the damage. Perhaps it is not so bad, you console yourself. Then you get nearer to the large street light and you are aware that there is much more than you at first thought. At length you reach the place where the illumination is brilliant, and, seeing yourself, you decide immediately that you must return home and change your clothes. The direct rays of light have revealed a condition that was intolerable. So as we come nearer to the Lord Jesus Christ we will know more and more that we have nothing of our own upon which we may rely, and as we know Him we will readily adopt His verdict as to the character of our evil nature.
Then, and only then, are we increasingly eager to avail ourselves of the way of cleansing which He has provided. There will never be a decrease of confession as we grow older in the Christian life, there will be, rather, a growing revelation of the reality of the Evil One against whose hosts we wrestle, and an entire and continuing revelation of evil in the sight of God, and in the light of the conflict that we wage in the Heavenly places, and for which we need the whole armor of God. There will be, thank God, less and less of what the world might call sin, but some of the things which we did lightly as young Christians will now be put aside as we increase in godliness, and will grieve us when they come to molest our hearts in the advancing stages of our Christian walk.
It may readily be seen, in the light of all this, that an unbeliever might pass over certain manifestations of the old nature without even a pause to question the right or wrong of the act involved. The believer, however, with the sensitive presence of the Holy Spirit in his heart, will be aware of the sinfulness of sin and will desire the clearing away of those earth-born clouds which hide our Lord, even momentarily, from the eyes of our faith.
It is the presence of the Holy Spirit that will keep revealing the presence of sin. When once we have come to a moment of full surrender to His will, the Lord will then give us soul-leanness if there is anything less than the full joy that we have once known. "Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation" will be our cry if once that reality had been tasted and then lost.
And how will the believer come into the presence
of God in confession of sin in order that that fellowship and joy shall be restored? It must be realized that Satan will bring up his heaviest reserves to resist the child of God at this point. If the enemy of our souls can keep us with unconfessed and unforsaken sin in our lives, he has succeeded in nullifying our Christian life and in making our Christian witness ineffective. If ever we wrestle against the principalities and against powers, if ever we have to do with the rulers of this world's darkness, if ever we contend against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the Heavenlies, it is at the moment when we attempt to seek the Lord for forgiveness and cleansing. Someone has said that Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees. That may be so, but trembling or not, he brings up his reinforcements! It may be answered that the Bible says: "Resist the Devil and he will flee from you." I know that in practice it will readily be discovered that there is only half a verse and half a truth in that quotation. In practice you will find that if you resist the Devil he will advance toward you, unless you are first of all fulfilling the other half of that verse: "Submit yourselves therefore unto God." Then you may "Resist the Devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7).
This submission to God recognizes His lordship anew in your life. It includes a confession of your sin, not sparing yourself as the fleshly nature likes to be spared. Abraham lied about Sarah, and then tried to pass it off by saying that after all there was a grain of truth in what he had said, since Sarah was indeed his half-sister. There must be none of this in our dealings with God.
David had sinned against Bathsheba, and against Uriah, her husband, whose life he had taken; he had sinned against the families of all the men who were slain in battle because defeat had followed his sin; he had sinned against the nation over which he ruled by staying at home upon the housetop of temptation in the days when kings should be going to battle. Yet, when he saw the Lord, none of these phases of his sin seemed to enter into the account. "Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight" (Psalm 51:4).
Before we can ever get to the point of thus confessing our sin, the whole struggle against Satan will have to be waged. We are talking about practical holiness, and so I am going to give to you what might be called the formula which has been developed through years of trial and error in the method of approach to God in my own life as I have learned more about the Word. Since we must be coming every day of our lives to face this battle with the enemy and to obtain access to the Father, it is well that we do not go through a few motions and consider that we have fought. Then, indeed, we would be fighting as one that beats the air. Though the words may vary, and though the form may at times even be with groans that are not words, the Holy Spirit sees and knows the heart, and can guide us into the truth of God and bring us to the place of cleansing. Looking back upon the great conflicts of my life, I recall that the approach to God was somewhat in the following terms, though they appear lifeless in comparison with the reality of the battle,
just as a soldier's description of his advance from the trenches can never recapture the atmosphere of "No-man's-land." I pray "through the Lord Jesus Christ, I come unto Thee, my Father and my God, and in the Holy Spirit. Beat back the powers of darkness that would oppose my way. Thou knowest, Lord Jesus, all of the attacks of the accuser of the brethren, for Thou didst overcome them all, and it is through Thy victory that we are enabled to come. Thou didst shed Thy blood in order to redeem me, and there on the cross Thou didst spoil principalities and powers, Thou didst make a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it (Colossians 2:15). And it is only on the basis and ground of that redemptive blood and triumphant victory that I dare approach Thee, O Father, for Thou seest that I am naught but a sinner in myself. Look upon me now in Christ. It is through His faith that I have access into this grace which permits me to stand before Thee."
Dear friends, it is difficult to record the passionate, staccato cries that are like heartbeats. Sometimes the soul is so conscious of the warfare that is going on in the Heavenlies between the forces of Satan and the forces of God, that one can do no more than lie panting a while, like a soldier who has made his sharp dash towards the enemy, and who crouches behind some shelter until he can regain breath and courage to go on. For as we approach God in any reality of power, the enemy would battle the strongest. But Christ crucified is our hope, and soon we find that we stand strong in Him in the very presence of the Father. What holiness is here! How shall I speak to Him?
Eternal Light! Eternal Light!
How pure the soul must be
When, placed within Thy searching sight,
It shrinks not, but with calm delight
Can live, and look on Thee!
The spirits that surround Thy throne
May bear the burning bliss;
But that is surely theirs alone,
Since they have never, never known
A fallen world like this.
O how shall I, whose native sphere
Is dark, whose mind is dim,
Before the Ineffable appear,
And on my naked spirit bear
That uncreated beam?
There is a way for man to rise
To that sublime abode:
An offering and a sacrifice,
A Holy Spirits tender energies,
An Advocate with God.
These, these prepare us for the sight
Of holiness above;
The sons of ignorance and night,
May ever dwell in the eternal Light,
Through the eternal Love.
The accuser of the brethren would bring his charge against us for the very things we come to confess. But the Judge knows how to treat this disbarred accuser. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? God has justified us"; there can be no charge
against the saint of God. "Who is he that condemneth? Christ has died; yea, rather, He is risen again."
Then the Father reveals His heart of love. I try to tell Him what I feel, but there are things that He will not let me say. Remember how the prodigal son rehearsed his speech on the way home. He said: "I will arise and go to my father; and I will say, Father I have sinned against Heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants" (Luke 15:18-19). Say that over and over to yourself. Say it in the tone of voice of a boy who is memorizing his lessons for school. Do I have it right? Shall I say it that way? Then the son comes home. Who ever attached this false name of prodigal son to this parable? This is the parable of the forgiving father. The father sees him afar off. He runs to meet him. The boy begins his well-rehearsed speech. "Father ... I have sinned against Heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son." But the father stops his mouth with a kiss, and the boy never gets to finish the sentence. The father would not let that heart say, "Make me as one of thy hired servants." It is just as if we were to say to our Heavenly Father: "Father, I am not worthy to be a saint, just reduce me to an angel!" If the Lord should ever degrade one of his redeemed sons because of the manifestation of the sins of the old nature, He would be taking away the value of the Lord Jesus Christ.
No! Zechariah's vision of the Joshua of his day tells the story. The priest stood before God with filthy garments, and Satan was there to resist him. But the Lord Jesus
said unto Satan, "Jehovah rebuke thee, O Satan, even Jehovah that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?" And the Lord spoke to "those that stood before Him saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him He said, Behold I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with a change of raiment" (Zechariah 3:2-4). So they clothed him with clean garments; the cleansed mitre was brought and placed upon his head, and he stood once more in the fellowship and joy of the Lord.
And so do we! Let us go into the presence of God in the way that He has determined, and we shall have the knowledge of sins forgiven, of fellowship restored, and of power provided.
Our hearts, if God we seek to know,
Shall know Him and rejoice;
His Coming like the morn shall be,
Like morning songs His voice.
The Practical Maintenance of Experimental Holiness
"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31).
THE truths which we have considered in our earlier chapters may be likened to flying and running. Our gifts from Christ, our high position in Him, the glorious provision for our constant cleansing from sin; the absolute assurance that we stand His, and His alone forever; these are truths which take us into the Heavenlies and keep us there.
All of that, however, will be but head knowledge if we do not come to the final step in our practical studies and see how we can live moment by moment under the power of the Holy Spirit, so that there will be less frequent outbursts of the old nature to bring to the Lord in confession. We consider, then, our day by day walk in Christ,
as the practical maintenance of experimental holiness.
I propose for our study that we consider a day out of life, with all that a day brings to your life and mine. In this way we shall be able to bring our studies out of the realm of the theoretical and the theological into the domain of the intensely practical and experimental, though we shall be in the Bible at every moment of it. Our calendar day begins at midnight, the Jewish day began at sundown. I may be permitted, therefore, to begin the recital of our experimental day somewhere between the two of these, and, for a reason that will soon be manifest, I choose the moment when we are about to go to sleep for the night. Someone may wonder why I should begin the account of my day at that point, and the answer rises from a psychological truth that many of us know from experience. I frequently noticed that I awoke in the morning thinking the same thoughts that had been in my mind at the time I closed my eyes in sleep the night before. Many people know from sad experience that the mind frequently drifts to thoughts that are utterly of self, and its interests and desires, in those half-asleep, half-awake moments that end our day and that begin our night. I discovered, therefore, that it was of great importance to capture this half-world of the mind for our Lord Jesus Christ.
One morning when I awoke trying to solve a chess problem that had filled my mind as I had put my head upon my pillow, I became conscious of this law and determined that, henceforth, I should go to sleep thinking of Christ. As the months passed, I discovered
that there was much more than a habit involved in this. Here was a proof of the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in my heart and mind, controlling even the subconscious element of my life. Then I learned that I must not merely go to sleep thinking about Christ, but that I must go to sleep in communion with Him. I began memorizing verses of Scripture at night and reciting them as I fell asleep. At first these truths were merely objective "His Name shall be called wonderful ..." might be my verse on a certain night. At first I would meditate on this, in terms somewhat like those in which I might expound them to an audience. His Name is full of wonders. His Name is the name Jesus, that of the Saviour. He shall save His people from their sins. Then there came a change that He brought in my procedure. Those same sentences were altered to the person, number, and tense of fellowship. Thy Name is full of wonders. Thy Name is Jesus. Thou art my Saviour. Thou shalt continually save me from my sins. Soon He became more real than the inside of my eyelids. I could not see them though they were close to my eyes; Him I learned to know in everything but the touch. And closing one's eyes with Christ takes away all fear of sleepless nights. Let others count sheep jumping over a wall; I shall talk with the Shepherd. "He giveth His beloved sleep" (Psalm 127:2). "I laid me down and slept," says David, "I awaked; for the Lord sustained me" (Psalm 3:5).
When sleep her balm denies,
My silent spirit sighs,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
The night becomes as day,
When from the heart we say,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Then, when I awake to a new day, I wake to hear Him speak to me, and I to Him. David knew this when he said: "When I awake, I am still with Thee" (Psalm 139:18).
Still, still with Thee, when purple morning breaketh,
When the bird waketh, and the shadows flee;
Fairer than morning, lovelier than daylight,
Dawns the sweet consciousness, I am with Thee.
Alone with Thee, amid the mystic shadows,
The solemn hush of nature newly born;
Alone with Thee in breathless adoration,
In the calm dew and freshness of the morn.
Still, still with Thee, as to each newborn morning,
A fresh and solemn splendor still is given,
So does this blessed consciousness, awaking,
Breathe each day nearness unto Thee and Heaven.
Oh, how important are those first awaking moments! To live them with Christ will save us, perhaps, hours of our day. We will not have to come back later to confess that we have lived in the flesh instead of the life of faith in Christ. And the verse which we were learning as we fell asleep comes back afresh to our hearts and minds, and our fellowship is fed with the wonder of His Name and all that it conveys.
And then the heart naturally turns to praise. For Christ, recognized, exalted, and enthroned in the life,
will live the same life of praise and intercession within us that He is living in Heaven. Have you seen that beautiful picture in the epistle to the Hebrews, of Christ leading the praise, the music if you like, that rises from the hearts of the redeemed? Because He has set us apart for Himself, He says He is not ashamed to call us brethren, saying, "I will declare thy name unto My Brethren; in the midst of the Church will I sing praise unto thee" (Hebrews 2:12). My heart loves that picture of the singing Christ, and I find that, as the springtime calls forth the song from the birds, so the indwelling life of Christ, exalted and owned, calls forth praise from my redeemed being.
Robert Murray M'Cheyne has given a wonderful passage in his memoirs, in which he tells how he learned to banish temptation with praise. When Satan moves up with his forces, the Lord within raises the cry of triumphant praise to God, and the hosts of the enemy must flee. M'Cheyne found that the Devil could not resist a psalm of praise. There is, of course, a profound spiritual truth behind this, because the believer cannot be living in praise unless he is yielded to the Lordship of Christ. A true psalm cannot rise from lips that have not been fully cleansed. So
When morning gilds the skies,
My heart, awaking, cries,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Then, there must be a swift, sharp prayer that the Lord shall take hold of my being, my mind, my tongue, as I greet my loved ones. This is for their sake, not mine, for they are easy enough to get along with.
How many of us must realize that those who live in the house with us have a special blessing from God to get along with us! There are some dear women and children that would rather go into a bear pit than have to meet some of you before you have had your morning cup of tea or coffee. Does your family sigh with relief when you leave for a religious convention or a Bible conference, knowing that they will have a week of peace in the house with you away? The Lord never meant that any Christian should have to growl a later apology to husband or wife, saying, "Perhaps I did roar a bit, but I wasn't fully awake, and you know I am not responsible until half an hour after I am out of bed." The Lord will do away with all of that for you, and every side of the bed will be the right side of the bed for you to get out of, when you have committed your mind and your tongue to Him for those first moments of contact that you will have with others.
Now, I have learned experimentally, that the best thing for me to do is to have my day marked off in sections, and to come to God for a constant renewal of life as I go on. David says, "Seven times a day do I praise Thee because of Thy righteous judgments" (Psalm 119:164). You may find it necessary to mark your day into longer or shorter sections, but there must be a constant coming to Him in the midst of the activities of life. When I was in South India, I visited Miss Amy Carmichael at Dohnavur. One of the customs of what is perhaps the most beautiful mission station in the whole world, is to pause at the striking of the hour. In the tower of prayer that rises, flower-covered, above the chapel, there are chimes which can be heard
throughout the compound. The whole outward activity of the mission ceases when the chimes begin the hour. The older girls, in their beautiful saris, walking along the flowered pathways, will stop and bow in meditation. The children in the playing fields will cease their games for a brief moment. The big brothers will get down from their bicycles as they go on some errand, and will stand a moment in silence while the chimes play. It is all like a moving picture that turns, for a moment, into a stereopticon slide, and then it resumes its motion. Unhappy the Christian life that does not have its chimes in it somewhere during the day, to stop the earthly activities while we listen to the heavenly peal, think upon the Saviour a moment, talk directly to Him, listen to His voice in some verse that He will recall to mind, and then step on into the work and the activity of the moment.
God has taught me to look ahead like one who walks along a road, asking God to keep and sustain until the next tree, the next milestone, the next bend in the road, at which point I draw the breath that comes from another atmosphere than this and step out toward the next point. At home I look ahead, in the morning, to the breakfast table. There we gather first of all around the Word of God, with our children and the servants, for a few moments with the Book. We like to have our family worship before eating. I remember that Leland Wang, of Hong Kong, gives his people the slogan, "No Bible, no breakfast!" If you must go without one of them skip the porridge, but do not let your soul starve through a morning. Your body can live on the stored-up strength, but the manna from yesterday spoils
if we try to use it over again today. There is many a Christian who could find the whole secret of a life of defeat in a neglected Bible.
And then, somewhere at the close of the prayer, perhaps even silently, after the audible words have ended, I look forward to the next bend of the road and commit the table conversation to the Lord and all that must happen until the children go out of the door to school. So much can be taught to children by the incidental and indirect conversation of the father and mother, while they pay attention to their food. We can pick out incidents from the daily press or the life of the parish, and point out someone's failure or success and see the basis for it. To say that John Smith got into trouble because he did a certain thing may leave a more lasting impression than to say, "Now, Donald, mind you never do such a thing." The discussion of some verse in the Scripture may bring out a truth which father and mother will know needs strong application in the life of one of the children, and they are quicker at catching the point than are many grown folks.
Then breakfast is over and they are about to be off to school. I often wonder when I sing "Like a river Glorious," if Miss Havergal, who wrote the words, ever listened to four children, full of health and vigor, as they rose from the table and prepared to leave for school. She says,
Not a surge of worry,
Not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry,
Touch the spirit there.
I am afraid that there are times when we have "a blast of hurry" in our household. We manage well with the worry and the care, for we have long since learned that if we are worrying we are not trusting, and that if we are trusting, we are not worrying. You cannot have a cup of water and a cup of milk in the same cup at the same time. Nor can you have a heart that is resting in Christ that is filled with care. This covers all of the events in the life of the home: sickness, trouble, death, money, discipline, or whatever may be the emergency that may arise. He is faithful to His promise and supplies the strength, meets the need, comforts the heart, and keeps us looking to Himself. This goes for your home life and your circumstances, whether you are responsible for the home, or whether you are going off to school or to work. The Lord is faithful and able, and He will continually keep us. This is the walk of the life that is lived by the faith of the Son of God.
And now that the children are off to school, I sit at my desk and for a quick glance at the newspaper. Just here I must commit myself to the Lord. I must know the Lord in my heart as I read the paper of these days. Look at those black headlines. What city is being bombed today? What dictator is destroying more of the liberties of God's dear children? What new persecution is breaking out against the Jews? What preacher is making a scandalous utterance in denial of the faith? And in communion with my Lord I hear Him say, as I read the newspaper, "See that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass" (Matthew 24:6). Does this seem impossible? It is the Lord who has spoken it.
But do you realize that we are having to take measures of air raid prevention? Do not forget that the first half of that verse is, "Ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars." It is of this that He says, "See that ye be not troubled."
And of late, as I read my newspaper, I find that the Lord who dwells within my heart leads me in the same work that He is doing in Heaven; for there He is interceding for His people. It would be strange that He should do otherwise when He is given full control of a life here below. "In all their afflictions He was afflicted" (Isaiah 63:9), and that affliction must be in our hearts as we see this poor, sick world today. I never see the news from China that my heart and mind do not go over that land in prayer. Do I read of Peiping? My heart says, Lord, bless Wang Ming Tao as he preaches, and keep him safe from the enemy. Is it Changsha? There are Marcus Cheng and Ch'eng Chi Kuei. Or Nanking? What has happened to Jonathan and Lena Cheng, and Calvin Chao? Or Shanghai? Lord, what of John Soong, and Watchman Nee? Or Hong Kong? Lord, bless Lelang Wang as he preaches. And so on, across China and across the world. You may not know all of these particular people, but you should have a list of those for whom you pray. In a drawer in my desk there are three books, filled with the names of missionaries and national Christian leaders the world over. I love to go over the map with these books and these names, bearing them up before the Lord.
Just here somebody is going to say, "Oh, but you are a minister, and have time to do this! We have our housework or our office work, and cannot spend time
like this in prayer, or stop to read the Bible." I am not sure that I quite believe you. Granted that I have more time for this than many of you, I am convinced that most people spend much more time on unnecessary things than need be, and that they neglect the important things. You sleep eight hours, you work eight hours, and in the remaining hours there are many moments which you could give to the business of intercession and the joy of feeding on the Word of God, if only you would surrender your wills to the Lord for this purpose. It is far more necessary than you know.
I want to pause here to illustrate this with a story. My four children are very fond of stories and riddles, and frequently ask me to bring forth fresh ones for their entertainment. One day I told them this one. "A baby was born in New York just a few months ago, and it weighed about 50 pounds at birth. They fed it ten gallons of milk every day, and in a few months it weighed about 100 pounds." There was a moment of silence, and then Mr. Nine-year-old replied, "Why, Daddy, that can't be so! We weighed less than ten pounds when we were born, and here Donny is over eleven and he doesn't weigh 100 pounds." After discussion and the display of much incredulity they at last asked for the explanation, so I replied that the baby was born at the Zoo, and that it was a baby elephant! Then I said to them: "Suppose that the keeper at the Zoo was making his rounds with the food one morning, and found the ten gallons of milk heavy to carry. Suppose that he said, 'I will give these ten gallons of milk to these little birds in this nest in the bird house
and take these worms down to the elephant.' What would happen? Why, of course, the birdlings would drown and the elephant would starve!" We understand that every member of the animal kingdom must have its own particular nourishment, without which it cannot live.
Then we can draw this analogy. We have a new nature which is the life of Christ, and we have an old nature which is the life of sin within us. Saul and Paul dwell together in the same body of the Christian. Saul has a voracious appetite, and the whole organization of the civilization of this world is keyed to the feeding of this old nature. So many of the books, the magazines, the trivialities of conversation, the pictures on the billboards, the cinema I think that it may be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah than for Hollywood in short, the whole of life round about us is food for the old nature. On this food the old nature waxes fat and flourishing, and the only cure is to bring it to be crucified. There is but one food for the new nature. "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). O Christians, why will you starve your spirits till you have no strength to resist the enemy when he comes against you! He, the Devil, will never flee except before the Word of God, and the Word of God which has been freshly appropriated and assimilated and flashed forth in the power of the living presence of the Lord of the cross of Calvary. Here is the place of victory. "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony" (Revelation 12:11). And in the course of my day there must be many fresh appropriations of the Word of God to meet the subtle and varying attacks of the enemy.
And now we come to the business of the day. One of the secretaries comes with mail and business. Here is another of my milestones. A swift prayer must be sent Heavenward. Lord, all praise be Thine for the life of the past hour, and I go to the next hour utterly relying upon Thee. Let every letter and every item of business be considered and acted upon in the light of Thy holy presence and in accord with Thy will. Here, again, I have an analogy with your business, whether it be the directing of an office, the performance of some employment, the studying, the ordering of the household, or whatever your particular occupation may be. We publish a monthly magazine, we have a large radio correspondence, there are the problems that arise in connection with some of the families of a city parish. There is more than fifteen hundred dollars to be found each month to pay the radio bills. There are manuscripts to consider, and much religious poetry to reject! Yet every detail has to be done in the strength of the Lord, in a moment-by-moment looking to Him.
Christ has promised power for every need. Recently I came across a paragraph on the varieties of power furnished by the Holy Spirit to men in the Bible. What a range of induement for special purposes! For instance, the Old Testament tells of Joseph, the shepherd lad, who is made adequate to rule the mightiest kingdom in the old world and save countless lives in a time of unprecedented famine. Bezaleel is given the ability of "craftsmanship" to bring into being the
divine plan for the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. Samson is endued with physical strength sufficient to slay a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass. The sweet psalmist of Israel is taught the songs, so rich in deep, spiritual experience, which have been the heritage of God's people down through the ages. Prophets are given boldness to stand before the backsliding people of Israel, and rebuke in plainest terms their idolatry and sin. The remnant, returning to their land under Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest, are given that purpose of heart which, in the teeth of bitter opposition, sees the new Temple slowly, but surely, erected on the ruins of the old.
I believe that it is quite in line with the teaching of the Bible to say to you women that God the Lord can furnish you the Holy Spirit of household order, whether your place is in the kitchen or the drawing room. The Holy Spirit of executive ability can be given to men who need it. The Holy Spirit of faithfulness to humble tasks can be given to those who are employed. The Holy Spirit of skill can be given to doctors and nurses. I know of young Christians who have asked the Lord to give them skill in their gifts for music and painting, and whose prayers have been answered. The Spirit of God is provided to meet many kinds of needs in our lives.
In the course of the years we have had scores of thousands of letters in connection with our radio work. A very few are from cranks, and the Lord furnishes my secretaries the patience to read those, and the wisdom to keep them from me. I have come to the place where I never take one of the letters that are brought to me
without a quick prayer to God for the ability to meet the need that is therein expressed. I have come to realize that these letters are almost pieces of the human spirit. I know of letters that have been copied because there were too many tear marks over the writing. I know of one letter that was written and placed in a drawer for several months before the courage was found to post it. We need the Lord Himself to answer those tender questions that come from the very depths of torn souls.
Then suddenly with the jangling of a telephone bell, there comes a sharp attack of the enemy. We never know the avenue which he will choose. We never know which envelope may contain his approach, which telephone call may conceal his darts. Here is a friend on the phone. Have I seen such-and-such a paper this week? No, I have not! Do I know that I have been bitterly attacked by some Fundamentalist, and that the leading article in the paper tells people that I am bound up in apostasy and false teaching because I do not leave the denomination I am in? Have I heard that it has been intimated that I am staying in because of my salary, and my unwillingness to leave buildings and pension in order to step out with the little flock, who are now saying that their work is the very cause of God? I had neglected to pray about this telephone conversation when the bell rang. I had not asked the Lord to give me the Holy Spirit of answering the telephone when it comes rudely into my work. And so I answer: "These men are cowards, and they are doing the work of the Devil, the accuser of the brethren!" Then, when the receiver is back on the hook, I find I am restless.
I turn to my letters, but there is something wrong. I read a paragraph two or three times and cannot get the meaning.
Listen carefully, now. Just here the Christian soul stands in the greatest peril that confronts us in the Christian life. There are two courses of action before us. We can say to ourselves, This work must be done and we can drive ahead into the correspondence and can get the letters answered in the energy of the flesh. These are the letters that will commit us to meetings that are not blessed. These are the letters that cause us two or three other letters later on to explain what we meant, and then to explain our explanation. The other course of action is to say, Lord, what is wrong? Have I offended Thee? What have I done in my strength that should have been submitted to the Holy Spirit? The secretary who waits, pencil poised, may think that the answer to the letter is being formulated, but in reality, a child is getting back into fellowship with One who is truly holy, and who will not permit answers like that on the telephone. Then, swiftly, I say, Lord there was that old nature again. It broke out! Wilt Thou crucify it right now and restore me to the fulness of Thy fellowship?
And now the cloud has gone, the sun shines through and there is light again; there is the clear recognition of the fact that I should have spoken otherwise; there is the opportunity for examining the whole course of my actions in the light of these accusations. Lord, would I sell Thee for buildings, salary, and pension? Is this brother right? Have I missed a turning? Should I have gone out with noise and clamor? And the Holy Spirit
brings to my heart the memory of the peace after the long struggle in coming to a decision. I turn again in my mind to that page of Scripture where the risen Lord spoke to the Church at Sardis. And though He was forced to say that they had a name to live and were yet dead, He told His messenger to "Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die" (Revelation 3:2). He reassures me that there has been no change in His orders, and I remember how I received and heard, and I rest my heart upon His Word and go on. And I remember that the Lord turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for those friends who probably hurt him more than his boils, and I ask the Lord to give me an honest prayer for this brother who has written the attack, and that he may be blessed in the sphere of his labors, in so far as he exalts the Lord Jesus Christ. And joy flows in my heart once more.
There are moments when we need more power than we need at other moments. The young men who operate the amplifiers in the great tent at Keswick have told me that on a fair day they need very little power to take the voice of the speaker to the thousands of people in the great tent, as well as beyond to those who sit in the grass. When it is raining and the tent is wet it takes three times as much electricity to carry the same power or voice. There are wet days in life when all the canvas seems saturated with troubles, and we must come much more constantly to the Lord, in order to receive the increase of His power that must be turned on to overcome all of these circumstances that come in life.
But the power is there with Him, and He is always ready to flow through to meet any need.
Thus the day goes on. There may come stabs of sorrow, moments when His compassion is needed to meet some soul who has lost a job, who has had death come in his circle. There may be moments of joy, high and wide, when some penitent sinner kneels down by my desk to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, as many have done. There may be hours of calm meditation when the Spirit causes the words of the Book to glow, and gives the messages for the hungry sheep who are to look up and be fed. He is in it all as the day wears on. There are moments when the checkbook is in hand and the careful scrutiny of every item must be submitted to His searching gaze. One-tenth is Thine, yea, ten-tenths are Thine, O Lord, when this relationship has been established, and the same Holy Spirit of writing checks must come upon us for the grocery bill and for the missionary cause. He will see to it that the proper balance is maintained in both senses of the word, the balance between His work and the necessities of life, what I am to spend on myself and the balance at the first of the month to pay the bills.
The afternoon wears on. The children come home from school and it is their place and privilege to come in and sit on Father's knee to babble forth all that may come to the child mind, for the study is in the heart of the home. There are questions to be answered, or little nothings to be told; and they are seldom to be told that Father is busy. The Holy Spirit of family relationships guards them. They have their rights and this is their
privilege, especially since Father must leave soon to go to a meeting, and there hold forth the Word of life to those who will be gathered together.
And just here there is special need for communion with the Lord and submission to the Holy Spirit. There has been prayer watering every part of the preparation of the message, and now there must be a special anointing for the delivery of the message. How dare we stand to preach when we have not received power from the Lord! How dare we speak to an individual in conversation without looking to the Lord; and asking Him to control that conversation! How dare we carry on any work without Him! Has He not said, "Without Me ye can do" just exactly "nothing"? There are times when I have leaned against the wall of the vestry of some church with a profound sense of physical weakness, the weakness that must be most like the weakness of a mother who is delivering a child. I do not know who it was who first applied the word "delivery" to a sermon as well as to a child, but I believe that the Holy Spirit of preaching must have given him the idea. Paul knew this when he wrote: "I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (1 Corinthians 2:3-5). What joy!
We must have such relationship with Christ, such constant communication with Him, that no matter what difficulty may arise in the course of the preaching or the meetings of the day, we can turn to Him and know that we have met Him,
and that our problems have been fully dealt with. Let me explain by an illustration that is very precious to me. I suppose every good family has a private vocabulary that is unknown to anybody else. You have been in a group of people, when someone mentions something with an added significance that means nothing to anyone else but you and one other person in the group. You turn your head and glance across to where that person is, and you say in that glance: "Did you get it?" and you get the response: "Yes, I got it." No one else knows that there has been a touch that brings a whole experience to your memory. We have a private vocabulary like that in our home. We have incidents that call up certain experiences in life.
In the early years of our married life, when our eldest child was almost a year old, Mrs. Barnhouse and I were living in Southern France, where I was studying at the University of Grenoble. We went to Greece one autumn for several months, and while we were there we went out on certain field trips in connection with my work in archaeology. One day we left Corinth and went down to Mycenae, where lie the ruins of the city of Agamemnon. We got off at the little station and walked the mile or two to the mount that was the ruins of the ancient city. There I installed my wife and the baby in the shade, and I proceeded with my work. After a while, crossing over on the other side of the mound, I came upon a field of wild cyclamen. I had never seen this flower growing wild, and I gathered a large bunch and came back over the mound with them behind my back, and finally presented them to my wife.
We often talked about their beauty, and in after years frequently had similar ones growing in our home. Years passed, and every time we saw cyclamen of the particular hue, we would glance at each other and remember those experiences of our early life. One evening, just before Christmas a few years ago, we were walking down a street in Philadelphia with a friend between us. The spirit of Christmas was in the air, snow was falling, it was a crisp, winter evening. The three of us were talking about something far removed from Greece, or from flowers. We passed by a florist's shop, and there in the window was a great pot of cyclamen of our particular pastel lavender shade. We both saw it at the same time, and leaning forward, she said: "Oh!" and I leaned forward and said, "Oh!" We went on, continuing with our interrupted conversation, but what we had really done in that moment was to draw up our chairs by the fireside and say: "Do you remember those days, that walk, the dusty road, the fragrance and the sweetness of those flowers, and all the joy of those days?" All that was said by one word and in a flash of a second.
Life is made up of thousands of such experiences that the Spirit of God can recall to us in moments of need. We know times, for example, in the midst of a sermon when it may be necessary to glance to God, and in one flash look into His face and to recall some thought or experience that He once gave to us, to remember that there was once a battle in the soul that settled forever certain points that the Devil might now bring to our minds.
For instance, you give some point, and you see it has gone home to the minds of your listeners and it has been used. The old nature of pride can rise and seek to take the credit for something that God has been pleased to do through the human instrumentality. It becomes necessary to flash a quick look to God and to remember: "Lord, not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are; that no flesh should glory in His presence." You may remember some long battlefield experience in life when you determined to go His way and preach the preaching that He bid you. You can get all that in a glance, in one flashing moment, as your spirit is taken to His, and you can go on in the power of the Spirit in the midst of your work.
New strength and vigor has come with the preaching. He so abundantly supplies that there can be no doubting that His own strength has been poured into the body. And then home at last, to that sanctity upon earth where there is a companion living this same life of the Spirit and making home a refuge from all the strife of tongues abroad.
The evening comes to a close. The Book is taken once more and the day is brought into review beneath the eyes of Him who is naught but holy. How sad it is to look back and see the things that have displeased Him.
One night as I brought my day before His gaze, His Spirit convicted me of a sin of omission. I had had luncheon at noon with a group of young men. After the meal we sat for an hour and talked of the underlying principles of the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I had a strong feeling as I left that some of them were not yet born again, even though they may be looking forward to a life of religious work. I did not ask them to give diligence to make their calling and election sure. I did not ask them if they had been born again. That night I asked the Lord to forgive me for my neglect, to forgive me for not pleading with them to forsake the ministry rather than stand in any pulpit of the land with some ethical message that rises from the naturally good elements in the old nature which is, nevertheless, alien to the life of God as it is in Christ Jesus. The Lord tenderly forgave me for that and other sins of the day, and later graciously gave me the opportunity of pleading for them to accept Christ. There have been days, however, when the confession of missed opportunities brought with it the shaming sense that they could never return, and that some soul had been touched by the old nature without the Spirit of God reaching through me to its need.
And just before retiring for the night, I turn once more to find Him in His Word and worship Him there. I read for my closing meditation that description of the throne of God where the redeemed of the earth are gathered. There we are seen, our position already guaranteed by all that our Saviour is, seated with Him in the Heavenly places. "And before the throne there
was a sea of glass like unto crystal." I remember that the sea, in Solomon's temple, was the laver where the priests of the Lord washed, after they had offered up the lamb. I know that it is the symbol of my daily cleansing through the Word, even as the altar is the symbol of my justification. But here in the passage I am meditating the sea is of glass, like unto crystal. The Word has taken its eternal form, there is no more need for me to come to God for cleansing. How the heart is filled with praise, with adoration, with worship in the Spirit and in truth! There shall come a day without an evening that brings the time of confession. There shall come a time when I stand before God in all the holiness of Jesus Christ, in my condition, as well as in my position, with my old nature gone forever, with the root of sin then destroyed forever, since it passes from me with the death of this body, or its transformation at the coming of my Lord. And as I read my evening Word, I look around in that Heavenly scene, and see that moment of eternal triumph. For I read: "Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being" (Revelation 4:9-11). And I look again before my eyes shall close in sleep, and see myself there among them, as one day I shall be,
and I am able to join in their devotion, as I know that the wonderful provision for my momentary cleansing will no more be needed in that day.
Holy, holy, holy! all the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who wert and art, and evermore shalt be.
I know of no truth more calculated to bring forth our deepest devotion than the certainty that the day shall come when we will never have to look into the past and say, "Lord, there is this to confess, and that to be forgiven."
Then quietly to rest, thinking of Him, talking to Him, with meditations that even He has called sweet. And I know that whether I wake to a day of storm or of calm, I shall wake with Him. Whether I am to know the calm sunny days of work and blessing, or the battles of illness and troubles that beset all members of this race, I can, none the less, pillow my head upon the promises of God, with the certain knowledge that all things will work together for my good, and that nothing shall ever touch me until it has been passed through the loving will of my Heavenly Father, who knows the thoughts that He thinks toward me, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give me this expected end (Jeremiah 29:11).
The Power of Bible Study
"Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth" (John 17:17).
ONE of the great purposes of the redemption that Jesus Christ provided for us was that here and now on this earth we might have life. It was not merely that we might be saved for the future, and thus come some day to dwell in Heaven, but that we might know today what it is to live Christ. John brings his Gospel to a conclusion, saying: "These things have I written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." He does not stop there, but completes the thought: "And that believing ye might have life through His Name." So one of the principal purposes of faith is that we might know holiness in our lives today.
In thinking of some of the divine impulsions to holy living, we shall look outward to the Word of God; backward to the cross; forward to the return of our Lord; and finally, within to the indwelling Spirit.
In all of these we shall find that we are looking upward to our Lord Jesus Christ seated upon the throne making intercession for us. In the midst of the high priestly prayer of our Lord, we read: "Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth."
Our English language is very rich in words, rich beyond other European languages, because of the Norman conquest. There came to England conquerors who lived in the cities, while the Anglo-Saxons dominated the country. Each had their own language, and as the generations passed, they fused and gave us both tongues in our present speech. Sir Walter Scott, in the first pages of Ivanhoe, tells how "sheep in the country became "mutton" in the town, and how "oxen" became "beef," and how the "pigs" became "pork," as they passed out of the hands of the Anglo-Saxon farmers and into the hands of the Normans in the towns. These double forms run all through our language. "Fraternal" and "brotherly" have really no difference of meaning, though they came from different points of the compass with different peoples who invaded this land. But this richness of speech is not without its confusion in spiritual terms. Take for example, the word "holy" and the word "saint." There is no difference between them radically. "Holy" has come to us from the Germanic, and "saint" has come to us from the Latin, and has brought with it related forms, one of which is "sanctify." This word sounds more sweetly in our ears than one like "holify," so we have been spared that word. The meaning, however, becomes evident. We know that the suffix "ify" added to a word means "to make it that," so, to sanctify means to make saintly, or to make holy.
With that in mind, we look at our text and find that we may translate it: "Make them holy through Thy Word: Thy Word is truth." Every true child of God longs for the deepening of the Christian life. We have God-given desires for holiness. How important then that we should remember that the Lord Jesus, about to go to the cross, looked to the Father and said: "Make them holy through Thy Word: Thy Word is truth." It is an amazing thing, and we realize it more and more as we come to know the Word of God, that almost all that God does in this world today, He does by the Holy Spirit through the instrumentality of His Word. It follows that if we are to expect to secure blessings from God, we must receive them in the way that He has planned to give them to us. And though we may find holiness in many ways in the Bible, we shall not find it apart from the Bible.
We must recognize, therefore, that there are some ways in which holiness cannot come to us. We must not expect to find holiness merely through preaching, or listening to preaching. We have, all of us, met people who have been to so many Bible conferences and conventions that they can readily foretell a speaker's third point while he is still in the midst of the second! Yet such people frequently confess that they do not possess blessing in their own lives. They have listened without hearing. "Faith cometh by hearing; and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). Hearing is, of course, a Biblical term for obedience, that takes truth to the heart and submits self to its rule. A carnal Christian may listen to all the preaching available, but if there is no yielding to it, there will be no blessing.
Another truth we must realize is that God may use any part of His Word to bring the force of holiness into our lives. I have found in my own experience that God has used strange passages of Scripture to bring great blessings. I remember, for example, a study which I once made of the doctrine of Satan. As I found in the Word, God's revelation of what the Devil was, what he had been doing, what he wanted to do, and what he was never going to be able to do, the Lord used this knowledge to bring me one of the richest experiences of my Christian life.
Further, we must not expect to find holiness merely through prayer meetings. Prayer is vital, and the true Christian will find that the indwelling Holy Spirit draws the heart to God in prayer. Early in the morning, especially, we should find ourselves alone with God. Do not think, however, that by multiplying prayer meetings you are going to find the sanctifying power of God in your own life. I have found that prayer with the open Bible is the most effective. When you get down upon your knees and expect God to speak to you through that particular passage upon which you are meditating, you will find that He does speak. Many people make of prayer something that God never intended it to be. Prayer to them is a monologue instead of a dialogue. George Muller said that the most important part of prayer was the fifteen minutes after he had said "Amen." People do not realize how they rush into the presence of God and how they rush out again. They treat God in a way they would never treat anyone of human renown. If by some chance you should be taken for an interview with the King of England, what would you do?
Would you walk in, and as you entered begin talking? "Oh, I am most delighted to be here, it is indeed a great honor. I have followed your career through all the years of your youth, and also followed you with my prayers. I have been greatly interested in all that you have done." Would you go on talking thus, telling him all about his kindness in receiving you, and then thank him for the honor without giving him the opportunity of opening his mouth?
You smile, yet is it not true that many people pray just like that? They come in at close of day, and say: "Now, let me see, I have been taught before going to bed at night to say my prayers." So they say: "Bless me and mine; give me this and give me that. Amen"; and then they go right back to what they were thinking about before they started the prayer. People may seek guidance in some such fashion, but there is a danger in guidance apart from the Word of God. There is a type of guidance current that is a sort of fashion with some people. From some of the experiences that they have desired to share with everybody, it would seem that their guidance has frequently been auto-suggestion instead of the direction of the Holy Spirit. If one seeks to have the mind brought to a state of blank quietness, there is a danger that enemy voices shall speak counterfeits to the mind. Meditation with the Word is the safeguard that God has given us.
Then again, we must not expect to find that the life of holiness can be attained by any type of self-preparation. It is not by what some people have called "Tarrying Meetings," that the Holy Spirit is going
to come upon us in power. Whenever you find anyone looking for an "it," there is always spiritual danger. It is to Him we must look. We must not be seeking an experience, we must be desiring Christ exalted in our lives. In Los Angeles a man became associated with a little cult in which all the devotees were looking for an experience which they called "the witness of the Spirit." This man went to a Christian who was deeply taught in the Word, and said: "Do you have the witness of the Spirit?" The Christian replied: "I have what the Word of God calls the witness of the Spirit." "Oh, but you don't understand," replied the man. "I went to tarrying meetings; night after night I waited and tarried, and I did not get 'it'. I went home and tarried further, and toward morning it was just as though a ball of fire came through the ceiling into my bosom, and burned and burned all the sin out of me. Did you ever have an experience like that?" The Christian who was taught in the Word, replied: "No, thank God, I never did. I would not know whether it came from God or the Devil." When a Christian begins to look for emotional experiences instead of looking for the quiet application of the Word to the heart by the Holy Spirit, he is on a wrong track, that can lead to nothing but deception, and can only delay the reality of blessing.
How many people have failed to understand the meaning of that word in the Acts, where the Lord told His disciples that they were to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father. They were not to tarry in Jerusalem in order to become fit for the Holy Spirit, they were to wait for the calendar and nothing more,
for the prophesied day had been clearly announced, and it was to be a day of God's grace, dependent upon nothing but His sovereign desire. If a man received an announcement that upon the King's Birthday he was to be made a peer of the realm, would he rush to London and say: "I must go and begin to feel like a peer; what can I do to make myself worthy to be a peer?" All he could do would be to reveal his ignorance. Rather would he wait quietly until the calendar brought the King's Birthday. Then his name would be published in the Honours List, and he would enter into his new position by the grace of the King. So it is with Pentecost. "When the day of Pentecost was fully come" the gift was given. It was not the day before nor the day after. It was fixed in God's calendar. It was announced as the Feast of Weeks in the 23rd chapter of Leviticus. Seven Sabbaths were to be counted; that is forty-nine days, and the morrow after the seventh Sabbath was the fiftieth day Pentecost, which means literally the fiftieth day. It was on this fiftieth day the Spirit came, right on schedule, not because of any merit that was in those people, but because it was God's arrangement thus to work out His eternal plan in grace.
In addition to those negatives there are certain positive truths which are far more important. If we are to be made holy by the Word, it will be by appropriation of certain truths that are in the Word of God, and obedience to them.
First of all, I do not think that there is any possibility of real sanctification in any life until we possess the knowledge of what happened when we were saved.
I am not saying it is necessary for you to know when you were saved. One day I had a telephone call asking if I would call on an old gentleman who was nearing the end of his life. I went. It was in a simple home, and the wife said to me: "He has been listening to you on the radio, and he wanted very much that you should come and talk to him." He was an elderly Irishman, who had come over to America from Ulster, and, in the course of our conversation, I found he was trusting the Lord. After reading the Word and praying, we talked of other things. "How old are you, sir?" I asked. "I do not exactly know," he replied. "There were lots of children in our family, twelve or fourteen, I do not know how many, and an uncle brought me over to the States when I was seven or eight or ten, either in 1863 or 1864." I said: "Well, you may not know when your birthday is or how old you are, but you know you are alive don't you?" "Oh, yes, I know I am alive!" So I say to Christians: "Do not get worried if you cannot say, 'I was born again on the 26th of July, or the 13th of February.' Do you know you are alive in Christ?" That is the first step, the foundation step for holiness, and no one can ever know it in the Christian life until he has entered into the knowledge of what happened when he was saved.
We were many years old physically before we knew we were alive. Certainly none of us at the age of one or thereabouts started to philosophize, and say: "I am a human being, I have life." We grow into such knowledge. One of the marks of the passing from childhood into manhood is the growth in the knowledge
of all that occurred when we were born, and the knowledge of those processes by which we were brought into this world. In the matter of the new birth God lets us have this knowledge as early as we are willing to take it. It is thus that the Gospel is preached to the unsaved, but explained to the believer.
What happened when we were born again? We read in James: "Of His own will begat He us with the Word of truth." Here we find the Word is the means of the communication of divine life to us. Peter tells us we are born again, "not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God that liveth and abideth for ever" (1 Peter 1:23). What is the Spirit telling us here? That our birth in Christ was the work of the Holy Spirit, who took the Word of God into the womb of the heart; there faith laid hold upon it, and from the contact of the incorruptible seed of the Word with our faith, there was created within us an absolutely new life. God did not take Jacob and begin to work on him to cut off one tendency and reform him in something else. God condemned Jacob and planted Israel within him. God did not take Simon and say: "We will have to polish him to make something of him." God said: "There is no good in Simon," and planted Peter right alongside the old nature. God did not take Saul of Tarsus and say: "There is a good bit there I could use." He said: "In the flesh there dwells no good thing," and put Paul within. Later Paul knew what had happened, admitted there was no good in himself, and said: "It is not I, but Christ that liveth in me" (Galatians 2:20). So the first stage in
holiness is the knowledge that when we were saved, God the Holy Spirit came permanently to dwell within in an absolutely new creation.
That leads on to the second step, the assurance that we are saved. We should never say: "I hope to be, I am trying to be." Once in a while I ask some soul who is not quite clear about his spiritual state: "Have you been born again? Have you received Christ? Are you trusting the Lord?" And I get the answer: "Well, I hope I am saved. I am doing the best I can. I hope if I walk in the straight and narrow path for twenty years, I might be possibly perhaps." That is not the language of the New Testament, and there cannot be any true progress in the Christian life, any advancement in holiness until we have the absolute assurance that when God gave us life, He gave us eternal life, and that it is our present possession.
Why do you go down to the station for the ten o'clock train at ten instead of eleven? Because you believe the time-table of the railway company, that the train is to start at the hour announced. John, in the 5th chapter of his first epistle, says: "If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater." Why would you believe the witness of man as to engagements and train schedules, and not believe God's Word that He has given you eternal life, and that that life is in His Son? So many people are timid about believing God, but He says we make Him a liar if we do not believe His record of life given in Christ.
There can never be any holiness in the Christian life, any reality that is firm and unshakable, if we doubt God. We must stand upon the Rock, knowing
that what God has done He has done well and has done forever. Oh, that we might have in our testimony the language of the New Testament! Imagine Paul saying: "I hope I am saved; I am doing the best I can." He said: "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day" (2 Timothy 1:12). "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).
What about John? John says: "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life" (1 John 5:13). He knew he had it. He was not going around saying: "I trust, if I do not fall away, that finally I shall be saved." He knew that God had given him His Son, and that in the Son he had eternal life. Peter says: "We are redeemed, not with corruptible things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18, 19). You may say: "That is all right for Peter and John and Paul, those giants in the faith, but what about some of the little ones?" Well, let us refer to Jude. He only wrote twenty-five verses, but this is one of them: "Now unto Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy" (v. 24).
These two truths, a knowledge of what happened when we were saved, and an assurance that it has
happened in our own lives, are prerequisites to any further growth in the Word of God, and in holiness. When I use the word "prerequisite," I do so that we should understand it. You could not study Astronomy if you had not completed certain preliminary studies. Arithmetic is a prerequisite to Algebra; Algebra is a prerequisite to Geometry; and Geometry is a prerequisite to Astronomy. You take these things in order, and no one will be able to study the parabolic curves, and the movements of the stars through space, who does not know the multiplication table. You need not expect in your Christian life to have the joyous overflow that some people know, unless you have passed through the rudimentary course of prerequisites in the Word of God. There must be the knowledge of what happened when you were saved, and the assurance that it has happened to you. Then you can move on to higher things.
A third step towards holiness is the Bible's revelation of the will of God. As we study the Word we find out some of the things that reveal His will, and we learn then to do them. Some people think they have done quite enough for the Lord if they keep a nodding acquaintance with the ten commandments. So far as doing anything for the Lord from pure love, they know nothing about it at all. But when we read carefully the Word of God we find certain revelations of His desires, and learn how we may be well pleasing in His sight.
There was a simple man in the Western part of the United States who was saved, and they asked him what difference it had made in his life. He said: "I am a butcher,
and since I have been saved I have stopped weighing my thumb. I sold that thumb for the price of beef hundreds of times. Then I found in the Word of God that 'a false balance is an abomination to the Lord.' " In reading the Word that man had discovered a practical point about the will of the Father, and he was growing in the Spirit by applying that Word to his scales. Thus he was beginning to know a little more of sanctification.
People say: "How am I to know the will of God?" I can tell you from my own personal experience that ninety per cent of knowing the will of God consists in being willing to do it even before you know it. We must realize that in our Christian life God is desiring to be loved by us, wanting us to seek out His will, to know it and do it. If there is not real love, there cannot be any desire to do His will.
At the Keswick Convention a gentleman came to me on the street, pulled out a photograph, and said: "Do you know these two young people?" I had received a photograph of the same people a few days before. A young woman who found Christ in my church in Philadelphia went out to China as a nurse under the China Inland Mission. A young man saved in England went out to the same Mission in China and met the young lady. She wrote me a letter, three pages of it, telling me about Henry, but forgot to mention his last name. She said his pastor would be at Keswick, and he would come and see me. So his pastor came to me and said: "My Henry wrote me three pages about Helen, but forgot to tell me her last name." Now you know how it is when young people are that way, they
like to do things that are well pleasing to the other.
A young man learns just by chance that his Helen likes violets better than roses, so he goes to a florist and says: "I want some violets." The shop assistant says: "I am very sorry, sir, we do not have any violets; won't you take some of these roses?" The young man says: "No, thank you," and walks twelve blocks to another shop, and he considers his twelve blocks well walked if he can find some violets. Why? Just so that when he gives his Helen the violets, she will say: "Oh, Henry, you knew I liked violets better than roses!"
There is a spiritual lesson in that. Have you ever really tried to find out what God wants? Tried to "surprise" His will? To say: "Lord, I have sought diligently to know what pleased Thee best, and in my life I have sought to bring forth just this fruit because Thy Word reveals principles which show that that is well pleasing to Thee?" Thus we apprehend our Lord's will in matters which are not specifically mentioned in the Word. The Bible is not a set of rules, but a book of divine principles. As we yield to those we have learned, He reveals His will still further.
It is most important, however, that we be willing to do His will as soon as we know it; even before we know it. We learn a great deal from our children. A few months ago I walked out of our dining room with Miss Twelve-year-old beside me, and went to my study. A certain matter was being discussed. "Daddy, what do you want me to do?" I gave her a definite answer. She began to argue, and went on at a great rate. I sat writing as though I had not heard her. She was silent for a moment, and then began all over again,
telling me why that which I had expressed as my will was wrong, and why it should be something else. After the child had said this about three times, her mother came into the room and asked: "Why don't you come?" and the child said: "I am waiting to find out what Daddy wants me to do." I said to her: "Wait a minute, my dear, whatever else you may be doing, you are not waiting to find out what I want you to do. I told you what I wanted you to do the moment I came into the room. What you are waiting for is to see if you cannot get me to change my mind, and you cannot!"
Frequently you find someone who says: "I am earnestly seeking the will of God," when in reality they are seeking to justify their failure to do what they know God wants them to do. A young student in a theological seminary said that he was earnestly seeking the will of God as to whether or not he should marry a young lady who was not saved. Now the Word of God says: "Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers, for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14). Like the little girl, he continued quibbling with God to find out His will, when that will was revealed definitely and unchangeably in His Word.
If we are going to grow in holiness, we are going to come with a willingness to do His will and a diligence to study to find out what that will is. Not only does the Word of God give us this knowledge of what happens when we are saved, the assurance that we are saved, and the revelation of God's will in every phase of life, but it gives us something far more, it gives us a
knowledge of His whole plan. We learn the line of His march in history, we learn enough of His present and future plans to set our minds at rest. We are satisfied when we know the Word of God. We are not troubled by the rumors of rearmament, and not troubled by the disquieting news that fills the press from day to day, because we have been to the Word of God. We know His plan. We are not worried about the latest theories of the intellectuals who attack the Bible. Young people who are concerned because of some of the things that are being taught in our schools will find all the difficulties disappear when they come to the Word of God and learn His plan.
Suppose I go out one evening and see a group of men standing upon a mound under a summer sky, looking up to the stars, and I say: "What are you doing?" They say: "We are astronomers, we are studying the stars." "What, out here on a mound?" "Yes, here we have a broad sweep, we can see the whole horizon." I say: "Come with me into this little house and apply your eyes to this little one-inch eyepiece." They say: "Oh, no; we could not have the narrow restrictions that you would impose upon us. Give us this broad, fine mountain top." Yet we know they could learn more in one moment by taking the restrictive eyepiece of a telescope than they could learn in a hundred years out on their broad mountain top.
So it is with the Word of God. Men stand today and say: "Look at the eminence to which we have raised ourselves. We look backwards into history and can see as far as the protoplasm in the primordial ooze."
We bring them to God's Word and show them even further: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, the same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made" (John 1:1-3).
We as believers come to a group of men who look forward into the future. H.G. Wells writes of things to come, and how fearfully and wonderfully they are made. The best of the world's thinkers see chaos ahead; war and the passing of civilization. We ask: "What do you see in the future?" "We see confusion, we see the end of an era." Well, we see the Lord Jesus Christ through our telescope, and we see the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and righteousness covering the earth as the waters cover the sea, at the return of our Lord.
Then we go to the scientists and philosophers and say: "What do you see from your little mountain top?" Sir James Jeans says: "We see that behind the universe there is something." And Mr. Eddington ponders and says: "Yes, definitely, and it is a mathematical something." How wonderful! But looking through the Word of God we find a Father pitying His children, sending His Son Christ to redeem and save the world from sin.
The psychologists take us to their little summit and bid us look within our own being. We say: "What have you found?" A psychologist in one of our universities wrote a book called "The Beast Within," and he tells young people that they have atavisms from their ancestors, who went in the forests on all fours,
and that if they do not want to have too many difficulties, they must not inhibit those ancestral strains, that when the beast rages in his cage, it is best to take him out for a walk, but discreetly. Thus our young people are taught to go the way of the godless.
But we go to the Word of God and we find all our comeliness in the dust before Him. We see, not a beast from the forest, but rebellious creatures who have disobeyed God, and who are not willing to accept that which he offers in Christ, and we learn to see that in man, that is, in the flesh, dwells no good thing. Thus we are prepared to take the righteousness that is offered to us in Christ. The Scriptures reveal to us the past and the future in a clarity that is divine. They show us God, they show us ourselves. All this gives great stability to the Christian life. This makes it possible for us to walk uprightly, standing in Jesus Christ in absolute certainty, with our minds at peace in Him in the midst of life.
There is a fifth point which we can mention only in passing. A knowledge of the Scriptures keeps us from the counterfeits that are so prevalent in our day. I am reminded of a story that appeared recently in one of our weeklies. A young man took a young lady to the theater, and afterwards they went to a night club. They danced for hours in that atmosphere of smoke and stale beer, and it was in the freshness of the dawn that they left the place. "What is that smell?" asked the young lady, as they came out. "That's not a smell," replied the young man. "That is fresh air!" There are some people today who have spent so much time in the musty atmosphere of form, ceremony,
ritual, and religion, that when the Gospel is preached, they say: "What new thing is that?" It is not new, it is simply Christianity. The man who has lived his life in the country knows fresh air, and the man who is really taught in the Word of God will easily detect any counterfeit. It is a great thing to have the stability of the Word of God.
These words are for the young Christians who are just beginning the Christian life, and are the prospectus of an elementary course in sanctification which will lead on to the deeper truths that we must learn when we go in for our Master's degree in sanctification. But though we have not touched upon these deeper truths, they do exist.
God tells us in Hebrews 5 why some people find it rather difficult to take in the deeper truths of sanctification. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews wanted to tell them about Melchizedek. He seems to approach that truth, and then turn away from it, and then go toward it again, as much as to say: "I have something to tell you that I find most difficult." He talks about Melchizedek in verse 6, again in verse 10. It seems, then, as though the teaching problem was too great for him. He says: "Of him we have many things to say and hard to be uttered" because the audience is stupid (that is my own translation) "and hard to be uttered, seeing that ye are dull of hearing."
We are all in that audience. These truths of the eternal High Priesthood of Christ are most important, but God the Holy Spirit says His ministers have difficulty in preaching them. Why? Because we are so dull of hearing, and fail, therefore, in receiving them.
If we wish the deeper truths, learn from the last verse in this chapter: "But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Hebrew 5:14). It is by living in the Word of God, by studying from day to day, by learning, as David teaches us in the first Psalm, to delight ourselves in the Word of God, and in His law to meditate day and night, that we shall have our senses exercised to discernment. The phrase "to meditate day and night," is a Hebraism. It does not mean you are to be in cloistered seclusion reading morning, noon, and night, and never going out into the world. It means that in the midst of the most ceaseless activity in university, in home, in business, wherever we may be in the plan of God, that we are to live our lives within the sphere and boundaries of this Book. That gives us all the space we need to move around comfortably, for it takes us from eternity, and from the depths of our sin to the heights of God. He says: "Live there in the bounds of the Book and you shall grow in Christ."
May we not join Christ in His High Priestly prayer: "Make them holy through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth." And then we shall exclaim: "Make me thus holy, O Lord!"
The Power of Christ's Love
"For Christs love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again" (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
ONE of the principles that run through the New Testament is that God expects the Christian to live a Christian life. Spiritual Christians know this, but some find it strange, because so many try to make detours around some of the plain commands that are in the Scripture. All through the Word of God the principle is laid down that after we have been saved in the Lord Jesus Christ, God wants the life of Christ to be lived and worked out practically in our day-by-day experience. Peter tells us: "Even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow His steps" (1 Peter 2:21). Now we know very well that the unsaved man cannot profit by an example; he is lost, and all the
examples in the world can never save him. When a man is born again, however, God plants within him the power or the genius to live the life of Christ.
There have been some artists who dissipated their gifts and did not create for the world all that was within the limits of their capacity. Likewise there are Christians who dissipate the gift of the Christ-life and do not live up to the capacity which God has given them. That does not alter the fact that God has given to each one of us, who are believers, that divine genius of life in Christ, and that one of the fundamental principles of the New Testament is that He expects Christians to live Christ.
Consider the call of God to holy living found in our text, a text addressed to a limited group. When one is staying with other people in the same house, and the postman brings the mail in the morning, one does not take up randomly any envelope one sees, slit it open and begin to read it. One looks very carefully to see that one's name is on the envelope before opening it; it is considered extremely bad manners to open anyone else's letters. Now, in the Word of God there are texts addressed to everybody in the world, and there are texts that are specifically addressed to certain people. Do not think that everything in the Bible is for everybody in the world, for that is not true. There are many things said only to those who have been born again. If an unsaved man tries to live by Christian promises he will make a complete failure of his efforts. Frequently in our churches, when the minister gives his message with a desire to help the people of God, unsaved people come in; they listen to a declaration of courage,
faith, and hope, and they say to themselves: "I should like to have a little more courage, a little more faith, and a little more hope," but they have not been born again, and it is as impossible in spiritual things for them to walk before they have been born as it is in the earthly sphere.
Our text is limited in its address: "For the love of Christ constrains us." Who are the "us"? It is addressed to those who were once dead but who are now alive. "We thus judge: that if One died for all, then were all dead: and that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves." Ask yourself this question: Am I alive in Christ? If so, this message is directed to you. If not, you cannot live unto Him. "The carnal mind is enmity against God; it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can it be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Romans 8:7-8). "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14). All these things and more are said of those who are dead in trespasses and sins. If we are to be constrained by the love of Christ, we must realize that, in addressing us thus, He addresses us as those who were once dead, but who are now alive.
Some time ago, out in China, I heard the story of a Chinese evangelist who spoke of the weight of sin. A heckler in the crowd said: "How much is this weight of sin? Is it 50 pounds or 100 pounds?" Quick as a flash the Chinese preacher answered: "If you put a weight upon the chest of a corpse, whether it was 50
pounds or 100 pounds, he would not know the difference." So the unsaved man does not know the weight of sin. Now and again, he may feel a little remorse, but there is a great deal of difference between remorse and repentance. Remorse weeps for lost innocence with which to go out into sin afresh, but repentance weeps in the presence of God, because it has grieved the One who is righteous and who is holy. God tells us that we were dead, and that He brought us out into life. "And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:1-2). With this in mind we must realize that our text is addressed to those who know that once they were dead that is easy to know and who know just as surely that now they are alive. Do you know that you are alive in Christ? That is the only knowledge that will permit true growth in the Christian life.
Secondly, this text teaches us, the resurrected people in Christ, that those who live in Christ have a new faculty which they did not before possess the faculty of spiritual judgment. "We thus judge." This faculty of spiritual judgment in the Christian life is one of great importance. It comes because the life that is ours is the life of Christ. We read (in 1 Corinthians 1:30): "But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom." Thus we are able to comprehend even in our own lives, that which before we were not able to comprehend. Then in the 2nd chapter of the same epistle we read:
"But he that is spiritual judgeth or discerneth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ (v. 15-16). That is the reason we are able to judge sin; that is the reason we are able to judge ourselves, and know how we should live.
Now, since we are going to speak about judging ourselves, I want to take just a moment to point out the fact that we are not to judge others. It is so easy to talk about the sins of other people and to judge them. I know some people whose capacity for the judgment of others is very highly developed, and some of us might wish that it could be developed concerning themselves! I know a woman in Philadelphia who is sometimes severe with the young people of this generation. She does not understand them at all. One evening I went into the church for a special prayer group, where about a dozen people met. When I opened the door she said: "Ah, here he comes; we will ask him," and she said: "Do you think it is right for Christian young women to put powder on their faces?" Well, I had an Irish great-grandmother, and sometimes the Irish strain comes out in me, and I answered quickly, without reflecting at all, and without attempting to decide the matter: "Well, if in David's day it was the fashion to put oil on the face to make it shine, and if it is the fashion today to put on power to take the shine off, I do not see that it makes any great difference!" All these things really depend on the lordship of Christ in the individual life. Christians can always honor the Lord by looking their best, but each individual will
know without question whether what is seen in the mirror is dominated by the Lord or ruled by self. Let our judgment be for ourselves, and not for others, thus we will become more like the Lord Jesus Christ.
Sin, as you know, is not merely the commission of iniquity, it is anything that is contrary to the will of God, and therefore sin in another. Of course, I am not speaking of iniquity, of things which are not even named among the gentiles. The Word of God gives us clear definition of things which are sin in any life. Did you ever stop to think that going to too many meetings might be a sin in some cases? I had a young lady in one of my meetings at home, whose mother came to me and said: "I wish you would say a word to my daughter. We have had a very bad report from her school about her work. She has become interested in Christian Endeavor, and on Monday evening she goes to a committee meeting, on Tuesday evening she goes to a rally of some kind, on Wednesday evening she attends a social group, and on Thursday evening she goes to something else. Her algebra has gone down so much that the teacher says she may have to drop the class." I turned to the young lady and said, "There is a danger of your becoming religiously intoxicated; you will have to stop going to meetings so much, and get on with the work which is your present duty. You must get through your classes in a way that will honor and glorify the Lord and give you the witness of good scholarship before your teachers." Perhaps you never thought that going to a meeting might be a sin, but in this young lady's case going to a meeting was sin, for she was
doing too much of it, in the wrong way. Perhaps there are some people who are sinning in just the opposite way. The Word of God says in the epistle to the Hebrews: "Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is" (Hebrews 10:25). So we must be ready to judge ourselves severely, and be willing to move in whatever way our Lord directs.
Thirdly, we find that there is constraint here "The love of Christ constraineth us." We are driven on. It is that constraining force which activates this faculty of judgment which God has given to us. The Christian has become a son of God, and in that capacity has been raised to the nobility of Heaven. Just as the aristocracy of the centuries has created the motto, "Noblesse oblige," so it is that the very fact of bearing the Name of Christ should force us toward Him. A being who is a child of God should live as a child of God. If we are to be of Heaven's royalty, we should learn to live regally; a king should live like a king.
Some time ago our newspapers in America contained references to a monarch on the Continent who was living in a way that caused even the world to ridicule his fashion of life; he scandalized the world by his actions. Someone said: "What could you expect? His great-grandfather was a swineherd who took the throne." But the real reason at the back of it all was not the fact that the man's great-grandfather was a swineherd; it was the fact that he, like every one else, had an old nature. Whether you give to your old nature the courage of the playing field of some great public school, or the tonal accent of some university,
does not matter; it is not a question of the polish of the old nature; it is a question of letting the new nature exercise its royal sovereignty. The old nature cannot be bred out by any Mendelian selection. We cannot, by giving people proper ancestors, bring them to Christ. It is a question not of race, but of grace. It is the supernatural life, and when once we have been born again, our nobility must be a factor in our lives, constraining us to live in keeping with that which we are in Christ.
Next, we come to the very heart and the most important part of this text. We are led to the judgment scene. "We thus judge." One of the most impressive sights in the world is a High Court of Justice. You see the judge with his wig and his magnificent robes taking his seat in solemn pomp to pass upon the highest affairs of the tribunal, and it is indeed a scene that causes the respect of every right thinking person who desires justice and judgment. Here we have before us such a scene. "We thus judge." We are to sit upon the bench. Whom are we to judge? We are to judge ourselves. That causes us to realize that there are within ourselves two natures: we have an old nature and we have a new nature. It is this very gift of Christ that enters into all believers. Our text teaches us that the enmity between these two natures must be settled in court. The prisoner must be brought to the bar. The new life that is Christ within us must bring to the bar of judgment of Christ all that is within us of the old nature, that it may be delivered over for crucifixion. As we search the Word of God, we find the terms of the indictment that we shall bring against ourselves in this judgment scene.
We find that we are sinners by choice, and that we are sinners by divine decree.
Some people do not like the teaching of the Word of God that we are sinners by nature. A man says to me: "Oh, do you believe in total depravity?" "Yes, I do," I reply. Then he says: "That there is no good at all in man?" That is not the same thing at all. I believe in total depravity, but there is a great deal of good in man. The point is merely this, that the good which is in man cannot be accepted in Heaven. A man may be a millionaire in character and that will buy him a high position in this country and in this world, but when he crosses the frontier to go to Heaven it is debased coinage and God cannot accept it at all. That is the reason why we believe in total depravity. It is not that there is no good in the human heart outside of Christ; there is a devotion and there is an honor among unsaved people that frequently Christians would do well to emulate in their own lives. But there is no doubt that the new nature, which is the life of Christ, is an entirely different thing. It is Christ Himself. God says that we were conceived in sin and shapen in iniquity. Some people do not like to believe that. I remember a woman came to me once and said: "Do you believe my little baby, who is one year old, is a sinner?" I said to her: "I want to tell you a story about my own little child. I have a little girl who, when she was only about nine months old, told a lie before she could even talk." So I told her how it happened. My little girl was born in France, where we were living while I was studying at a university there. We had a French maid, who taught her a nursery rhyme, which was this:
Ainsi font, font, font,
Les petites marionettes;
Ainsi font, font, font,
Trois petits tours
Et puis s'en vont.
She moved her baby fingers at the words of that little French nursery rhyme. It was a cute little trick, and you know how parents are with their small children, they have a great joy in their baby ways. Many a time we had laughed with her and kissed her when she did this. But she also sucked her thumb, and many a time I had taken her little hand and slapped it gently when I found her doing this. One day I came into the room and she had a wet thumb and was just moving it towards her mouth. She saw me, and she immediately began to wave her hands about. It was just as though she had said: "Daddy, you are quite mistaken. I wasn't going to suck my thumb at all. I was acting that nice little marionette rhyme which delights you so much!" The worst of it was that the Bible told me she had inherited that nature from her father! Eve may be blamed in the comic papers but in the Bible it says "as in Adam all die," and "by one man sin entered." The responsibility was plainly there, and I knew that she and I, and all our fathers and mothers before us, were sinners by nature. Sin is within, and we must realize that the new man in Christ Jesus must sit in judgment upon the old nature that is within. We must realize that the roots of all sin, of all iniquity, are within us, and that the only way to deal with that old nature is to condemn it in such judgment, the love of Christ constraining us to the judgment.
If Christ had to go to the cross and die it was because we were dead sinners by nature, but this is not all. Because we are sinners by nature we became sinners by choice. We did not stop all our evil doing when we reached the age of one. It was not merely that the root was within us in childhood. As we grew and developed in life all of us came to the stage when very definitely we chose that which was sin. We are told in the first epistle of John, chapter 1, that if we say "we have no sin" we deceive ourselves; and if we say: "Oh, yes, I have an old nature, but I have brought it to the stage where it does not work any more," God says we make Him a liar and His Word is not in us.
There is only one thing we can do, and that is to accept God's verdict that we are sinners by nature, and that we are sinners by choice, and that God has declared us, therefore, under the divine decree of His wrath. We sin solely because we are sinners. We must live in the courtroom. That is the solution, for it will bring us to the very heart of victory in Christ Jesus. We must take up our position with the Judge on the bench and agree to His verdict. "We thus judge," and moment by moment and day by day we consent that our old nature and all that is associated with it should be brought into judgment before the Lord Jesus Christ. We deliver it over to be crucified and, as Paul says, we die daily. Paul had to condemn himself, daily deliver himself over to crucifixion, once more tell the Judge who sat with him on the bench that his old nature must be kept in constant death in the place of execution, so that he might live thus in the death of Christ. And so must we.
Then we must give consideration to the love that constrains. "The love of Christ constraineth us." How are we to speak of the love of Christ? I must confess that here I am in a dilemma. We must go on with the text and talk about the love of Christ, but the Word of God tells us very definitely that the love of Christ passes knowledge. In the epistle to the Ephesians Paul says: "That you may be able to comprehend what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge." It is something like a boy in school, who on going to the blackboard to work out a problem in mathematics, hears his teacher say: "Now we are working on the question of the ratio of the circumference to the radius of a circle, and I want you to find exactly what that is." Mathematicians call it pi, and they have worked it out at 3.14159..., and then, for want of anything better, they have put 3.1416, instead of 3.14159285 and so on. I saw recently in a paper a table published by the Royal Society in London in which a mathematician in England had worked out pi to the two-thousandth place; it was just a great block of figures right across the paper, yet still there were more to follow. Mathematicians know that you cannot square a circle; you go on and on and on, and the problem never ends. Paul says to the Ephesians: "I want you to know that love of Christ which passes knowledge I want you to know something that cannot be known." That is the problem that God puts up to us very definitely to know something that cannot be known. Yet in the measure that we comprehend the love of Christ; in the measure that we fix our gaze upon the cross; in the measure
that we see what it meant for Him who was rich to become poor for our sakes, that we through His poverty might be made rich; in the measure that we enter into this great love of Christ; in that measure we are going to be constrained. As we grow in knowledge of that love, we shall judge more truly, we shall act more definitely with our old nature, we shall be more unsparing with the flesh. We shall enter more into the life of Christ as the love of Christ constrains us. And as we grow in knowledge of this love that passes knowledge, so shall we be filled unto all the fulness of God.
In the King James Version, the words are: "That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God" (Ephesians 3:19). In the Mississippi valley there are many millions of people who have never seen the ocean. Every once in a while people make the trip East and come to one of our shore resorts to get a glimpse of the ocean. Their friends at home always say to them: "Take a good look at the ocean, so that you can describe it when you get back." Now suppose a man went down to the shore of Atlantic City with a pint bottle and dipped the bottle in the ocean and filled it with the fulness of the ocean. Suppose he took that bottle back to Kansas and said: "You asked me to describe the ocean, but instead of that I have brought it back to you." How foolish he would be. Anyone who knew the sea would say: "That is not the ocean; that is a pint of stale salt water." How could you have in the bottle the thousands of waves that beat upon the sand, that dash themselves against the rocks? How could you see the warm tropical sea of indescribable blue, with the white waves foaming up the beach as the palm trees
bend above them? How could you see those placid days in mid-ocean as the prow of the ship cuts its way through the waters? How could you put all that in a bottle? Paul's problem must have been similar when he wrote to the Ephesians: "I am praying that you might know the love of Christ that cannot be known, that you might be filled unto all the fulness of Christ" "unto," not "with." You can fill your bottle with one little dip into the ocean, but to put all of the ocean into the bottle is quite a different thing; a miracle would be required there. Now, says God, that is the miracle of the Christian life. That which is unknowable, that which is the mathematical formula that never ends, you can find in your life; it will grow within you, and as it grows and grows, you begin to realize more of the riches of all that is there in the mathematical formula, in the wonder of the unknown, in the sea and all that is therein. Then you realize that this love of Christ which cannot be fully known is becoming known. Little by little we learn it; thus more and more it constrains us.
Last of all, we must see that this love of Christ constrains us in a very definite direction. We have been living to ourselves. We are taken off that road and put on the road that leads to Him. Living unto ourselves describes the life of the carnal Christian. After describing the unsaved man as being "the natural man" who receiveth not the things of the Spirit," the apostle describes the Christian who has been living unto himself as being filled with envy, strife, and division. He then adds: "Are you not carnal, and walk as men?" (1 Corinthians 3:3). That is to say: "Are you not carnal and walk as the unsaved man?"
It is hard to tell the difference between your life and that of the man who has not been born again. It is from this road that the love of Christ constrains us. Because of His death for us, because of that amazing revelation of His love, we are drawn into the new path of living unto Him. We become spiritual Christians, to use the language of the apostle once more. We have judged our carnal mind and delivered it over to death; the mind of Christ, which we have, is thus allowed full play. Christ lives in us; thus we live unto Him. May God grant us today so to see the love of Christ that we may be constrained to this judgment, and that we shall walk with our lives directed unto Him.
The Power of the Blessed Hope
"Every man that has this hope in Him, purifies himself, even as He is pure" (1 John 3:3).
THE world has a proverb, "While there's life there's hope." The Bible teaches that where there is hope there is life. We read in 1 John 3:2-3: "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure." This purifying power of the blessed hope is that which will occupy our attention.
The early Church lived in the light of the thought of the Lord's return. At night they closed their eyes in sleep, thinking: Perhaps before morning our Lord will be at the door and call us to be with Himself. In the morning when they awakened it was with the thought: "Today, perhaps, the Lord Jesus will call us to be with Himself."
They laid down their lives in martyrdom, and undoubtedly many of them thought, as they went toward the block or toward the arena and the lions: "Would not it be wonderful, if, before the ax could fall, or before the animals were released, the Lord Jesus should call us to be with Himself, and the unbelieving crowd should see that we are no longer there." That gave life and power to the Church. They were always thinking: At any moment our Lord may be here, and the miracle of the first phase of His return shall come to pass. "The dead in Christ shall rise first, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). This hope was in no small measure responsible for the first love of that Church, whose members were so willing to die for the Lord.
The points of our message are very simple. First, He shall appear; secondly, we shall be like Him; thirdly, we shall see Him; and the conclusion is that every one who believes these things is going to live differently, because these truths are possessing the heart.
First of all, let us look at the words "He shall appear." Oh, how many men have written foolish things about the coming of the Lord! We must insist that we have nothing whatsoever in common with anyone who tries in any wise to set any date for the coming of the Lord. We know not the day, nor the hour, nor the time, nor the season. I once happened to pick up a book, and read in it the prophecy, which the writer said the Lord revealed to him, that Christ would appear the following year. In the next edition, after the time
had passed, the writer merely added a preface, and said: "I was mistaken, but the Lord had graciously permitted me to see that I made a mistake in my calculations; but He had now permitted me to say most positively that it will be next year." The Bible says that if a man prophesies and it does not come to pass, we shall know that he is prophesying lies. Do not believe any man who in any wise commits himself to any system of dates in prophetic interpretation "In such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh" (Luke 12:40).
Some have said that the second coming of Christ is the conversion of the sinner, that it was the Day of Pentecost, that it was the destruction of Jerusalem, and many other like things, but it is none of these. When He comes many things shall take place that have not yet been and that are not now. The dead in Christ shall rise, and the living shall be changed and be made like unto the Lord. His kingdom shall be brought from Heaven and be established on earth. How we rejoice to know that He shall appear and shall set right all that is so terribly wrong upon the earth! The Church in the Middle Ages was like the dog in Aesop's Fables, which, passing over a bridge with a bone in its mouth, saw its reflection, and opening its mouth to seize the bone in the reflection, lost the bone that it had. The church in the Middle Ages, looking at power round about it, and desiring to have a kingdom, gave up the blessed hope and the true heavenly calling, and began to seek temporal power. That horrible thing, ecclesiastical ambition, came into its own, and the church has been the poorer ever since because of it.
But when we get away from that and realize that we are a heavenly people with a heavenly hope, looking for the coming of our Lord Jesus who shall appear, then all our work will be better, for we shall be in line with that which the Lord Himself has called us to do. In this present age He is taking out a people for His Name. Some are always trying to build a kingdom that shall be a mere earthly kingdom, but that is not what God is doing today. He is calling out the Church, not building a kingdom. There will be no kingdom till He comes.
A few years ago I was out in the western plains of America, in the State of Montana. In those flat prairies one can see a great distance, and the road lay straight ahead of us for miles without a bend. Far away I saw a speck, and as we came nearer I saw it was a man who was bending over, pumping air into a tire. He did not seem to be making much headway. When I got up to him I stopped and said: "Perhaps you would like to use my pump." He replied: "My pump is all right, but I'm afraid there is a hole in my tire!" There he was, pumping air into a tire which had a hole in it!
You know, dear friends, there is so much Christian work that is just like that. You see men slaving away, and you ask them: 'What are you doing?" and they reply: "Oh, we are bringing in the kingdom!" They are trying to bring in the kingdom, but they are doomed to failure. Only the King will do that. You are not going to Christianize Moscow, or Tokyo, or Chicago, or London. You are not going to Christianize Foreign Offices and the Stock Exchanges. If you read the Sermon on the Mount to those people it would
have exactly the same effect as if you took the eleventh chapter of Isaiah to the Zoological Gardens and insisted that the lion should lie down with the lamb, and that the lion should eat straw like the ox. Yes that will come to pass some day, but not until He has come and set all things right. He shall appear, and then all shall be put in order. Then shall come the righteousness and the peace which He has promised to the earth.
The coming of the Lord is a series of events, and its climax is the establishment of His kingdom. Until He comes we need not expect to see it. The first coming of the Lord was a series of events, thirty-three years long, and likewise the second coming of the Lord is also a series of events. The first coming of the Lord was announced by an angel to a virgin, it was the bringing forth of the Lord in a manger at Bethlehem, it was the anointing of Christ by the Spirit for His work and ministry as He went about doing good. The first coming of Christ was the death of a Man upon the cross; it was an open grave and an ascent in the clouds; it was thirty-three years long. A great many people, however, are very confused about prophecy because they think of the second coming of Christ merely as one flashing moment. There shall be a flashing moment just as "the lightning cometh out of the east and shineth even unto the west," but the coming of the Lord is much more than that.
It is related that in a Bible School one of the students was being examined on the subject of prophecy, and the examiner said to the young man: "Before the Lord sets up His reign on the earth, what must take place?" The young man replied: "The reign of the Antichrist and the great tribulation."
"Yes," said the examiner, "that is correct. And what must take place before the great tribulation?" "The taking out of all the believers," said the young man. "Yes, that is correct. And must what happen before the taking out of the believers?" The young man said: "Nothing but the shout." That is the truth of God, dear friends nothing but the shout. "The Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God" (1 Thessalonians 4:16), and then this great series of events will be inaugurated, all of which are bound up in the related truths of the coming of the Lord. His return is the answer to the world's problems.
One day friends took me from London down through Essex, and, reaching the little town of Epping, we turned round a bend in the road, and saw before us a billboard with bills prominently displayed. My eye caught this sentence: "If the U.N. fails, what?" and next to it there was another bill: "Behold, I come quickly!" I could not help thinking that, perhaps by accident, or perhaps by the deliberate action of the man who stuck up the bills, and who knew Christian truth, those two bills had been placed in close proximity. This world has only question marks when it comes to the problems that confront us. The answer is with God, and He is upon the throne, and in His own good moment He will bring to pass that which He has ordained.
Secondly, we consider the phrase: "We shall be like Him." To my mind, that phrase is perhaps the most breath-taking in all literature. It is to be compared only with the phrase that may be greater because it makes all else possible: "He loved us."
In those two phrases, "He loved us," and "we shall be like Him," we have two of the greatest wonders of the universe, and undoubtedly those two thoughts shall occupy our hearts long after eternity has begun for us. He loved us, and He shall make us like Himself. What does it mean, that we shall be like Him?
First, we shall be like Him in His holiness. If I could have only one attribute of Jesus Christ thank God we will not be thus limited I am sure that I would rather be like Him in His holiness. How we need it! We have a wonderful story from the life of Peter given us in the 13th chapter of John's Gospel. You remember that when the Lord started to wash the disciples' feet, Peter drew back and said: "Lord, Thou shalt never wash my feet!" and the Lord said: "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me." Then Peter said: "Lord not my feet only, but also my hands and my head." Jesus answered: "He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but clean every whit." The Lord was stating the principle that when a man is born again and saved, he cannot be born again, and again, and again; once forever he has been justified, has been looked upon in the righteousness of Christ. God sees him in all the perfection of His Son.
He that is washed needs not to be washed again. The Lord Jesus was saying to Peter: "I see thee in My own righteousness." But there must be the daily cleansing. Peter learned that and knew it well, and we must learn the same. Day by day we must go back to the presence of the Lord to be cleansed. "If we confess our sins,
He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). The day is to come, however, when we shall no longer have to bow down in the evening and say: "Lord, the old nature has broken out again. Lord, Thou seest my daily and hourly need to be crucified with Thee." We shall be like Him. Is it any wonder that in the book of Revelation the elders cast down their golden crowns when they see the glassy sea and realize that there will never be need of confession of sin again? You remember the verse of the hymn:
Holy, holy, holy, all the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea.
Why did they cast their crowns at that particular place? Well, when Solomon built his Temple he made a laver that was called a sea. It was the symbol of cleansing. It stood between the altar, where the blood was shed, and the tabernacle, where the worship of God was centered. The priests who had been cleansed from their sin by the shedding of the blood came to be cleansed from their sins in that water in the laver. It was a symbol, just as the washing of Peter's feet was a symbol, that you and I as Christians must day by day and moment by moment creep back to the cross. We must ever remember that when we have been able to pass a whole day without conscious sin, that even then, at the best we are unprofitable servants and still must confess that in ourselves there dwelleth no good thing. But God tells us that in the heavenly temple the sea shall be turned to crystal; no longer will there need
to be water to cleanse us; there shall be no more sea; there will be no more sins to be confessed.
I am quite sure that when we come to that heavenly temple we shall be reminded by the sea that has been turned to crystal that we shall never have any more sin to confess, that it has been taken away forever, every root gone. The Lord Jesus when He spoke of Satan, said: "The prince of this world cometh and findeth nothing in Me." You and I must say, "The prince of this world cometh and findeth plenty in me." There is in our hearts an ally of Satan, like the wooden horse of Troy, all ready to let the enemy come in if we are not on the watch. But the day will come when that old nature shall be removed, and we shall be able to say that there is nothing left of sin within us. Thus sin can never break out in the universe again. How glad we shall be to cast down any crowns we may have around that reminder of the end of sin, and from holy hearts like His, cry:
Lord, Thy glory fills the Heaven;
Earth is with its fulness stored;
Unto Thee be glory given,
Holy, holy, holy, Lord.
Then, too we are going to be like Him in His love. How cold we are, how unloving! He really loves souls. Can we say we do? I wonder if you have seen that little leaflet, several millions of which have been printed, called "Suppose!" The writer asks: "Suppose someone offered you 1000 dollars for every soul that you tried to lead to Christ, would you be more diligent than you are today? If you would be more diligent in soul-winning if someone gave you 1000 dollars for every soul
that you tried to lead to Christ, can it be that you love dollars more than you love souls?" How quickly such a thing reveals the hearts of men! But our Lord Jesus Christ loved us. How He loved; and we shall be like Him in that love. Self shall be put away, and His love will be ours.
We shall also be like Him in His power. In the 2nd Psalm we have that great passage that speaks of His returning. Our Lord says that He shall break the nations with a rod of iron and dash them to pieces as a potter's vessel. Yet, in the 2nd chapter of Revelation it says of believers: "And he that overcometh, to him will I give power over the nations. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken in pieces" (5:26-27). The prospect is given to us to be associated with the Messiah in His reign, to sit upon His throne, and to be the instruments of His rule. How wonderful that we shall be like Him in His power!
In the third place, not only shall He appear, and not only shall we be like Him, but we shall see Him as He is. It would seem that this sight of the Lord is the cause of our being made like Him, as though the vision of Him in all His eternal glory, no longer hidden with the veil of the flesh but eternally transfigured, would have in it that which shall transform us, making us like unto Himself. In that day when we see Him how much there will be to say!
Then we shall be where we would be;
Then we shall be what we should be;
Things which are not now, nor could be,
Then shall be our own.
And we shall be able to say what we should like to say to Him then. When two people fall in love with each other, and both know it, then they like to talk about it. Who saw the other first? "When Mrs. So-and-So brought me across the room to present me to you, what did you think? I liked you from the beginning! What did you think about me?" They also argue with each other as to who fell in love with the other first. When we see our Lord there will be many things to hear and say, but while we shall love to talk about how He came and how He loved us, there will never be any argument as to who was loved first. We read that He loved the ungodly, and that we love Him because He first loved us.
He saw me ruined in the fall,
And loved me notwithstanding all;
He saved me from my lost estate;
His loving-kindness, O, how great!
Oh, the joy of seeing Him! Ten thousand times greater than any earthly joy will be that sight of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.
Some criticize those who talk about seeing the Lord. I have heard people assail the hymn, "O that will be glory for me!" There is a sense, of course, in which such thoughts may be mere sentimental emotion. But there is a present power in such a hope. The Bible tells us in this text of ours: "Every man that hath this hope purifieth himself." Let me set before you two attitudes, both of which are held by some believers in these days of our Lord's absence. In 1917, when the United States entered into the Great War, there was a young couple
in the West who had made their plans to be married. They had a little house which they had been furnishing for weeks, and all their resources had gone into the preparation of that home. Their plan had been to be married and to move into this new little home, but war was declared, and the young man, who was a reserve officer, was immediately called to the troops. His company was ordered to go to the Mexican frontier to train before going to France. The young lady said to him the day before he was due to go on: "It is not quite the date for our wedding, but you might be ordered overseas immediately; you might be killed, and thus I might never see you again. I would a thousand times rather go through life bearing your name than go through life always explaining that the man I loved had been killed in the war. So let us go through with it and be married right now." So they were quietly married, and for their honeymoon he went with the troops and she went to the little house. She was very lonely, of course, and you can well imagine how she missed her lover-husband! Day after day he wrote to her, and the letters began to accumulate. He sent her gifts; a Navajo rug, some Mexican lace, and some Indian pottery. Months passed, and there came an afternoon when she felt especially lonely. She took some pillows and put them on the floor in front of the open fireplace, spread the rug upon the floor and sat down upon it. She took the box with all her husband's letters; on some pillows she spread the lace that he had sent her, and put the pottery on a chair before her. Then, taking two or three handkerchiefs for a good cry, she settled down to enjoy herself
with his letters and with thoughts of him. But, as she began reading the letters and thinking of him, suddenly there was a step on the porch, the door opened, and he was there. He had sent a telegram and it had been delayed in delivery, as so frequently happened in those war days. When she saw him and the realization came to her that he was there, she jumped to her feet; the letters in her lap were scattered all over the place, some even falling into the fire; she stepped on the lace, and knocked a piece of pottery off the chair, but she was in his arms, and that mattered more to her than all the letters and all the gifts he ever could have sent her. He had returned. She had him, and having him, had all. Before I draw the analogy, which you have already seen, let me tell you another story.
When I first set foot on English soil, in the days when there were still food cards and when saccharine was being used, I wanted to get a newspaper, for I had been at sea, on a transport, for many days. I knew the name of only one newspaper in England, so I went to the newsstand and said: "I want a copy of the Times." Then I got into the railway carriage to go up to London, and as I looked at the paper I thought this was the most curious paper I had ever seen in the world. There were only advertisements on the front page, whereas in the States we have nothing but news on the front page. I turned over page after page, looking for the news, and finally, when I got to the fourth or fifth page, I saw some news, and I thought this must be the most important news in the world that day. But it was the report of a divorce case heard in London. I started to read it.
It was the story of a young aristocrat who had married a girl and had then gone off to the trenches. She had written to him that she was occupied in war work, saying how tired she was with nursing in a certain hospital. She apologized for not writing frequently, saying that she was spending hours every day with the war wounded. Some months later her husband was coming on leave, and a friend of his, who had received information about the state of affairs, said to him: "I would not announce, if I were you, that I was getting leave; I would slip over quietly." The husband took his advice, arrived in London unannounced, and went to the hospital where the girl was supposed to be a nurse. He found that she was not there at all! Then he found out where she was living, but on calling got no satisfaction, merely being told: "Oh, she will probably be at the tea dance at the Ritz this afternoon." He found her there, in the company of another man. He soon found out a great deal more, and the judge readily granted him a decree of divorce. I could not help contrasting those two stories and drawing the spiritual analogy.
Dear friends, our Lord Jesus is coming back and He is going to find you and He is going to find me in one of those two attitudes. Will you be flirting with the world, or will you be occupied with His love letters, His gifts, His work, thinking of Him? He is coming! "Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure." What a judgment that is going to be when He appears! Paul speaks of that moment, and we cannot wonder that he says: "Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men."
Those words were written to Christians; Paul was speaking of the judgment seat of Christ. Knowing what that white light of His holiness will be, when we see it, we persuade Christian men to be living in the light of His coming, to be remembering that our Lord is at the door, to be purifying themselves; for while in that judgment there may be no possibility of eternal condemnation for the redeemed who appear there, yet, nevertheless, there will be something so searching when we see our Lord, that Paul can speak of it as terror. John tells us to abide in Him, that we may "not be ashamed before Him at His Coming." How are we living? Shall we be ashamed? Blessed is the man who when the Master cometh He shall find watching. Dr. Torrey used to say: "We must live as though He were coming this day, and plan and work as though He were not coming in our lifetime, for then as we work we shall not be ashamed before Him at His coming."
The last point is very brief. It is the conclusion of all the rest. He shall appear; we shall be like Him; we shall see Him. Belief in these things brings us strength to say: We shall seek to purify ourselves. "Every man that hath this hope purifieth himself."
How can we purify ourselves: We have such need of it. The answer is: We cannot do it ourselves. At the time of Shakespeare there was an English poet, Robert Herrick, who wrote a beautiful little quatrain, taking as the thought upon which he had made his lines that incident in Greek mythology of the labors of Hercules. Hercules was sent forth to do an impossible thing, to clean up the filthy stables of Augeas. Robert Herrick compares his heart to that stable, and writes:
Lord, I confess that Thou alone art able
To purify this Augean stable.
Be the seas water and the lands all soap,
Yet if Thy Blood not wash me, there's no hope.
What that old poet of England found is true, of course, for the unsaved man for salvation from sin, and it is true for the saved man for his sins. Man cannot purify himself. There must be that moment by moment yielding to the Lord. If you can have victory over sin for one minute, you can have victory over sin for two minutes. Continue yielding to the Lord, saying: "Lord, Jesus, this old nature must be crucified; Thy life must be my purity." If you can do this for two minutes, then you can do it for three minutes, and if you can do it for three minutes, you can go on for an hour, and then a day, and then a year. The old nature will still be there; it will still seek to break forth with at least one of the lusts of the flesh. The carnal mind is enmity against God, but our God has made provision for victory, and the sanctifying power of the Word, and the constraining force of His love are factors in it, and a belief in the return of the Lord Jesus Christ is one of the beliefs that will bring us closer to Himself. May we not say to ourselves: "Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus, and I, who have this hope, must purify myself even as Thou art pure"?
The Power of the Spirit
"And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lords glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18).
IN ONE of our Lord's parables we have the picture of a man who stands between God and men to get a blessing from the One and give it to the other. A friend came in the middle of the night, so the man had to get up and go out and knock on the door of a neighbor and ask for food for the guest who had come unexpectedly. I have been impressed by something which is to be found in that passage: the man who stood there to minister used the word "friend" twice as he knocked on the door. He said: "Friend! a friend has come to me in need, and I have nothing." If you and I as Christians are ever to be a blessing to any other person, it must be because we have that double friendship towards the world and its great need, and toward the Father. Our friendship with the world must not be, need we say it, that friendship which is enmity with our God; such friendship is treason. To warm our hands
at the world's fire is to betray Christ. But we must have that friendship with the world that loves souls for Christ's sake. And our friendship with God must be a close one. It is not to a casual acquaintance that we will go in the middle of the night to seek food for our guests. It is only to someone near that we will go with our cry: "Friend! ... friend! ... a friend has come ... I have nothing!"
Someone comes in the middle of the night and knocks on your door and says: "We are late in arriving, but we have had trouble with our car, and here we are, and we have not had supper." You would go out to the refrigerator, and if you had even a little food there, which you could make to appear more by putting a little lettuce round it, you would serve that! You would not go in the middle of the night and knock on the door of your neighbor to borrow unless you had absolutely nothing. These three things are the principles of the human place in the ministry of the Word; love for souls, friendly communion with God, and that constant, utter and absolute acknowledgment of the fact that of ourselves we have nothing, and can have nothing. "A friend has come, and I have nothing." Thus we must turn to the Word of God. Any human message can be absolutely nothing unless the Lord shall speak, unless He shall take, and break, and use it to His glory.
The passage that will occupy our attention is one that speaks of beholding the Lord, and of being changed until our lives reflect His glory. And this transformation is the work of the indwelling Spirit. God is not in some far-off place; God dwells within those who have been born again. "Closer is He than breathing, nearer than hands and feet."
We need not expect any blessing if we must look away to some far distant God who is separated from us by great abysmal distance. Christ has come to dwell within our hearts through faith, and, though we see Him on the throne of Heaven, yet He is with us in most intimate fellowship here on earth.
A great contrast is placed before us. We are to see in the truths related to our text, illustration of the great truth that is outlined doctrinally in the 8th chapter of Romans. "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." This verse will illuminate the truth that Paul expounded in that chapter which stands as one of the greatest in the Word: "because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (Romans 8:2-4).
The chapter in which our text is found is, in itself, a great contrast. On the one hand, we have the giving of the law described, with the emphasis laid on the glory which surrounded Sinai and which filled the being of Moses. On the other hand, we have the greater glory of the ministration of the Holy Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Have you noticed how many times Paul speaks of glory in this chapter? "The giving of the law was glorious." The result was that Moses received a glory upon his countenance.
It is then stated that that was but a temporary glory, and that the giving of the Spirit was to be much more glorious. Then, lest some might have missed it, it is stated in terms of condemnation and righteousness. The giving of the one was attended with glory; it follows that a righteousness is greater than condemnation, so its glory is greater than the former. In fact that which was glorious can hardly be described as glory when compared with the greater glory which excelleth. Paul reverts to the phraseology of Romans. Again and again, he has contrasted the past with the present, using the term "much more" over and over again. Here he returns to this idea, saying: "For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious." Thus, eleven times in a few brief verses he speaks of the glory of the giving of the law, and the greater glory that excels the former glory. Finally, our text uses the word glory yet three times more, telling us of the glory of the Lord, and promising that we shall be changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
God has there put before us a tremendous contrast between the actual giving of the law and our position toward God in grace. From the Old Testament, He recalls the Mount of Sinai where He gave the law to Moses. He contrasts that occasion with the vision that is now ours through the living life of the Lord Jesus Christ dwelling within us.
There is a great body of matter concerning the Old Testament which is not found in it, but which is to be found in the New. A few years ago I began to note
in my Bible, information about the Old Testament which is found in the New Testament but is not in the Old Testament itself. There are many instances in the New Testament where the Holy Spirit has given an absolutely new revelation, where the Word of God enlightens passages in the Old Testament which otherwise we never would have fully understood. One of the most striking examples is Enoch. We would not know that Enoch had been translated, that he should not see death, were it not for the New Testament. The Old Testament merely tells us that Enoch walked with God and he was not for God took him (Genesis 5:24). If we had only had that verse, it might be claimed that the phrase is a euphemism, a polite, pretty way of saying that Enoch died. The New Testament tells us that he did not die but was translated; that he should not see death. It gives us further a paragraph out of his sermon warning the ungodly of his day (Jude 14-15). Similarly, in the passage in 2 Corinthians, the narrative causes much wonder about an Old Testament event. Why were these things not told then, we ask? We must realize, however, that God is giving a fresh revelation of an old historical event in order to emphasize the startling and striking differences so that those in whose hearts the Holy Spirit dwells may comprehend what is theirs in Him.
This change, this new knowledge in the New Testament, concerns the manner of the giving of the law. One may remonstrate, "Was it not written in the Old Testament that Moses told them to rope off a space around Mount Sinai; that he went up; that he saw God;
that his face shone and that he had to put a vail on his face?" That is true, but in the twelfth chapter of Hebrews for instance, we read: "For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more" (v. 18-19). The Old Testament did not record that when the law was being given the millions of Israel cried out that they should not hear that voice of God any more. "For they could not endure that which was commanded, and if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: and so terrible was the sight that Moses said" (that which the Old Testament does not mention), "I exceedingly fear and quake" (v. 20-21). Obviously, something happened there. But the passage continues with a contrast: "But ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem ..." (v. 22).
The passage in 2nd Corinthians as well as this in Hebrews offers a sharp contrast between two scenes. In the book of Hebrews, two mountains are prominent, Mount Sinai and Mount Zion the law and Calvary. In Corinthians, Paul is rather concerned with the glory. At Sinai only one man got a message from God, but now there is a power and a light for every one of us who is in Christ Jesus. God is showing that only by the coming of Christ, only by the ending of the law, only by the beginning of grace, only
by the coming of the indwelling Spirit is it possible for any human being to have true righteousness within the heart.
The glory which now has come, the glory which excelleth, is a glory that makes alive. Its effect is to change us into the image of the Lord. We should remark just here, that many people say, in error, that man is made in the image of God, but that sin came and Adam died spiritually. The son which he begat was not in the image of God, but as the Scripture plainly declares, in his own fallen image. It is only when we are born again that the image of God "is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him" (Colossians 3:9-10). That is how man can be made in the image of God. Other verses clearly teach the same truth. It is only as we pass from death into life in Christ that we are made safe in the image of God. Our text reveals how that image can be made to dominate within our lives. [The webmaster somewhat disagrees with this author, because the Bible clearly teaches that everyone is made in the image of God. His point here is well taken, however, that this image flourishes upon one's becoming a new creation in Christ and continues to develop as the believer grows in Christ.] Other verses clearly teach the same truth. It is only as we pass from death into life in Christ that we are made safe in the image of God. Our text reveals how that image can be made to dominate within our lives.
The first point is that this glory is for every believer, not for the face of one man. Moses alone had the shining face at the giving of the law, but we all are to know the glory that is ours since Pentecost. In the day of grace, salvation and righteousness are not for a class, for a group, for a hierarchical overlordship, for priests who keep the people at an immeasurable distance below them. For in the sight of the Word of God there is no difference between the clergy and the laity. The fact that he may be spending his whole time giving forth the message, in no way puts a clergyman in a place apart.
We are one in Christ Jesus. "I am the chief of sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15), said Paul, "less than the least of all the saints" (Ephesians 3:8). Those who consider Paul the leader of them who give the message, see his own estimate of himself as he came directly in contact with the Word of God. Since no difference exists, we all can have that which God has given us through Christ.
We read in the 2nd chapter of the Acts of the Apostles that the blessing was not to be restricted. Your young men and your old men, your servants and your handmaidens, men and women, old and young, bond and free, sons and servants all were to receive the Holy Spirit; in fact, He had come upon all. That is the word that was spoken and fulfilled at Pentecost. How different was that from what Moses heard when he saw the glory in the coming of the law. The people knew nothing of it; his was the only face that shone. All believers should know what it is to have the glory of that outshining light of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
The Lord Jesus Christ enunciates this same principle in a wonderful way in the Gospel of Matthew. You remember that John the Baptist when in prison became the prey of doubts, and sent his disciples to Jesus to question Him. After they had finished their errand and had left, Jesus, ever courteous, turned to the people in order to give them the proper view of John. The Lord said: "Verily, I say unto you, among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist" (Matthew 11:11). Stop and think what that means. Jesus is saying in effect:
"You may consider Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, Daniel, all the men of the Old Testament, but none of them have surpassed John the Baptist." This makes John the Baptist as great as any other Old Testament character, for he, of course, though found in the first pages of the Gospels, is the last of the Old Testament characters. Then Jesus adds this even more astounding word: "Notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of Heaven is" as great as? No "greater than he!"
Now, if any man came before you today and said of himself: "I am greater than Moses, I am greater than Elijah, I am greater than Elisha, I am greater than Daniel, I am greater than all the heroes of the Old Testament," you would have every right to say: "What consummate egotism! What right has a man to speak like that?" But if any man should say: "I aspire to the title of the least in the kingdom of God," you would consider that he was speaking from his heart, and not from mock-humility, that he was not offending against modesty. Yet, to those who are least in the kingdom of God, the Lord says in effect: "In this age, since Pentecost, you are greater than John the Baptist," and therefore greater than all the men of the Old Testament. What truth this is! We heard the story the other day of a drunken wretch who had found the Lord Jesus Christ and had been transformed. The moment that the new birth had taken place it could be said of him that he was greater than Moses, greater than David, greater than Solomon, greater than John the Baptist. Why? Simply because of the greater glory that is now for us all.
We know, of course, that the passage refers primarily to those who shall be in the future kingdom, but it is none the less possible to apply this truth to the present age. We, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, have a higher standing than the saints of Old Testament times.
God has worked in three ways since the foundation of this world. Before Jesus Christ came, everything that was done may be summed up as done by God, for His people. Watch these prepositions. During the years when Jesus Christ was here His Name was Immanuel, which, being interpreted, is God with His people. But since the Day of Pentecost it is something far greater than that; it is God in His people. That is the reason why Jesus Christ was able to say that the least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than John the Baptist. While the Spirit of God did come upon these men in a certain way for the inspiration of the Scriptures which they wrote, and for the work that they performed for God, they did not have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them, as you and I have Him dwelling within us. David indeed had been filled with the Spirit for his work, but in the 51st Psalm he prayed something which, thank God, you and I cannot pray: "Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me." For we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption, and that is why the least today may be called greater than John the Baptist. Our God dwells in us. Our bodies are now the temples of the Holy Spirit. Let us not forget that. No place in this world has the right, Biblically speaking, to be called, in our day, a tabernacle or a temple. A church may be consecrated
for the service of God, but even an abbey, even a cathedral, even the mightiest ecclesiastical structure, at three o'clock in the morning, when it is empty, is just as void of the Holy Spirit of God as a tent. On the other hand, the Spirit of God can meet you there just as much as He can meet people where there happens to be stained glass windows. Oh, thank God for His grace! It is not for an inner circle! It is for you! Every one of us may know that all that has been spoken in the New Covenant is spoken for us.
Secondly, this vision of the Lord is to be ours through the Word of God. Paul says: "We all, with open face beholding as in a glass." There are many symbols of the Bible to be found in the Bible itself. It is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). "Is not My Word like ... a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?" (Jeremiah 23:29). It is like a fire: "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105). Paul speaks of it as a diet upon which we feed; Hebrews 4:12 gives us still another word, though the English "sword" in the Greek is "scalpel"; "The Word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged scalpel" (a surgeon's scalpel). James calls it the seed of life: "Of His own will begat He us with the Word of truth" (James 1:18). The word in Corinthians is but one more such example, for undoubtedly the glass is the Word of God. There it is that we see the Lord Jesus Christ. He can be seen in no other place today.
You are not going to find the Lord Jesus Christ today in any ecstatic vision that comes by way of the emotions. You are going to find Jesus Christ in the Word of God, or you are not going to find Him.
It is important that we realize this. I suppose that every Bible teacher has people coming to him from time to time, saying: "I want to tell you about a vision I had." Whenever anybody says that to me I say: "Now, wait a moment. There was one man who had a vision, and it was true, a God-given vision. He immediately said that he saw things that were not lawful to be uttered, and I would prefer that you did not utter your vision." I am quite sure that if any of us really saw Jesus Christ we should be like St. Paul, and say: "I saw things beyond words, not lawful to be uttered." Today is not the day of visions; today is the day of the Word. This is our standard of judgment. If a man comes to you and says: "Follow me. See, I have worked miracles," do not for that reason follow him. We must not forget that it is said that the working of Satan is "with all power and signs and lying wonders." God has given us His standard of judgment. "To the law and to the testimony. If they speak not according to this Word there is no light in them." "There are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the Word, and the blood; and these three agree in one."
Now that which is perfect is come. We have the Word of God. That which is in part has been done away and miracles are no longer the test for a man. When a man speaks, those in the audience should be measuring him by the Word of God, to determine whether he is telling the truth by the Book. It was for this last that Paul complimented the Bereans, for they received the Word with all readiness of mind but searched the Scriptures daily to see whether those
things were true (Acts 17:11). The Bereans would not have believed something just because Paul taught it. No man who loves the Lord and knows the Book in any wise wishes that it should ever be said: "I believe this because Dr. So-and-So teaches it." Oh, no, to the law and to the testimony be the glory. We believe because of the teaching of God's Word and test the preaching of men by it.
Next, we are to notice that it is the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ which we are to behold in His Word, and the Holy Spirit will use the sight of this glory to change us into the same image. The glory of the Lord Jesus Christ is to be found throughout His Word. In the year that King Uzziah died, Isaiah had his great vision of the Lord, high and lifted up. You remember that the seraphim cried: "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory" (Isaiah 6:3). It was then that Isaiah saw his own worthlessness, confessed his uncleanness, and was cleansed by the touch of the coal on his lips from the altar. There is a remarkable sidelight on this vision in the 12th chapter of John's Gospel. Quoting from this very chapter in Isaiah, John tells us: "These things said Isaiah when he saw His glory and spake of Him." But whereas in the prophecy of Isaiah the reference is clearly to the glory of the Lord God of Hosts, in the Gospel the reference is clearly to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. The inference is inescapable. The Lord Jesus occupied the same place in the mind of John that Jehovah of Hosts occupied in the mind of Isaiah. Things equal to the same thing are equal to each other.
The outward manifestations of this glory were laid aside when
our Lord left the throne of Heaven to come to earth. It was of this that "He emptied Himself." The appurtenances of majesty remained in Heaven when He came in humility, but He was able to pray at the close of His life: "Glorify Thou Me with the glory I had with Thee before the world was" (John 17:5). And now He has gone to sit at the right hand of the Father, and this "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6). There is where we are told to behold it, and as we see it, others will see that we are indeed changed from glory to glory and will behold Him in us.
It is worth while remembering that no one will ever see in us that which we cannot see ourselves. The simple law of physics works in this spiritual matter. The angle of refraction is equal to the angle of incidence. But let me give you that in a story. My two small children came to my knees one day, and the smaller of the two was eagerly examining my features. Suddenly she said: "I see David in your eye." This surprised me, as I did not know you could see two images in an eye. I had often seen my own reflection in another eye, but I now realize the simple fact that the eye is a mirror. Anything that you can see yourself can be reflected from your eye. I took the boy and moved him, little by little, until I could see him no longer. As soon as I could not see him, the little girl said that she could not see him. Thus it is with our vision of the Lord. Keep Him in the center of your gaze, and all who look into your eye will see Him there.
Peter tells us in one of his epistles that God raised Christ from the dead and gave Him glory. We are not to confuse this glory with that for which Christ prayed in the early part of His last great prayer. The glory which He had with the Father before the world was became His when He had completed His earthly task. In addition to this, God gave Him a special glory at the resurrection. It is of this last that Peter speaks. And our Lord has taken care to leave us a careful record of what He has done with that special glory. "And the glory which Thou gavest Me, I have given them" (John 17:22). He who endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him, thought of us not only in His death, but in the moment of His triumph. The glory which He had so richly earned He set aside for us. It is well for us to remember that we do not have to wait until we reach Heaven in order to have that glory. He wishes us to have it now. While the Christian does not now have his glorified body, it is none the less true that, beholding Him, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory. There is no place for drabness in the life that is yielded to Him. Let us learn to know not only of the glory which shall be, but of the glory which is the present possibility of every life that is yielded to the working of the indwelling Spirit.
There is yet another point that is of great importance, and which must be stressed, especially in these days. What does the Spirit mean when He tells us "we are changed into the same image"? Here is the true life-change. According to the Word of God, it belongs only to Christians, only to those who have
been born again. You cannot change an unsaved man. The old nature is condemned; God cannot do a thing with it; God will not do a thing with it. He tells us that the heart is deceitful above all things, and incurably sick. When God says a thing is incurable we may well know that it is indeed incurable. All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags in His sight. God does not work with anything we have, with the thought of changing it. There is always great danger that an unsaved man will have some experience that is not the new birth, but which will make him live a little different life, so that he will say: "You see how changed I am."
When I was in India I traveled along the famous Great North Road that leads from Calcutta right through the United Provinces and the Punjab to the North-West Frontier. It was most interesting, of course, to see all that was to be found in the villages through which we passed, but the road itself interested me also. At one side the road was just sand and dust for the camels, as their soft feet cannot stand a hard road. The main road, however, was the macadam highway for motor cars. You can well imagine that in the rainy season, when the camel road was a quagmire, it would not be as easy walking there as on the paved road. Suppose a man is making his way along the camel road, up to his knees in the mud. Someone calls to him to come over to the other side of the road. He will have no difficulty in testifying that there has been a great change. Now the broad road that leads to destruction has a muddy side and a paved side. If someone is walking on his way to destruction in the
foul mire of iniquity, and another comes along and shares the knowledge that there is a cleaner side, he may come over to a moral way of life and testify in turn: "My life has been changed; I have a changed life." Nevertheless, he would still be on the broad road leading to destruction, and would not have been born again. Reform, any moral change, is not sufficient. A changed life is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches a new life, an exchanged life, not the changing of what already existed but the implanting of an absolutely new principle. That is the new birth which is from above. When we have received that new life which God gives, that living Presence grows and increases, changing everything in our lives so that the new nature dominates the old nature. We read in the second epistle to the Corinthians: "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation" (5:17) an absolutely new creation. But after we have been born again then comes the change. God plants the new life within, and then that new life is to take control.
It should be pointed out, too, that this change will have its effect in every phase of our life. If there is entire yieldedness to the work of the Spirit, there will be astonishing changes. We will have to learn that the Lord will come down paths in our lives which we have not used at all. He will lead us not merely into ways of sweetness and light, but into ways of boldness and courage for Himself.
I can illustrate that by this incident. Some time ago, just before I was leaving the States to go on a tour of the mission fields, I spoke one evening in one of the suburbs of New York. In introducing me, the chairman said:
"I am going to ask Dr. Barnhouse to take a moment to tell us about his trip to the foreign mission fields." I explained that one of the reasons for my trip was to counteract a false impression that had been made shortly before. A commission had been sent out by a liberal group and had reported that all the missionaries were inferior people, and that they were not doing good work. Some of us believed that that report was false, and that it had no more value than the report of a group of color blind men who might be sent to study the paintings in the Louvre. How could these men, who were not stalwart defenders of the great doctrines of Scripture, bring back an adequate picture of what Christ is doing through missionaries in the foreign field? The next evening, in the same church, while the chairman was introducing me, an usher handed me a note. It was anonymous. I glanced at it and read: "Some of the listeners were deeply hurt last night when you spoke so harshly of Christian men by saying that they were color blind in their report on the missionaries. We hope that tonight you will display more of the spirit of the Master." If the letter had come to me at any other time it would not have been mentioned, but I took the occasion to say: "I want to ask the friends who wrote the letter and asked me to display the spirit of the Master: What phase of the spirit of the Master do they wish me to display? Do they wish me to say that these men are hypocrites, a generation of vipers; that they are like graveyards, clean outside and full of dead men's bones within? Am I to say that they are filthy cups, with the outside clean?" That takes you aback, perhaps. Is that the
spirit of the Master? Yes, that is the spirit of the Master, just as much as the fact that He was loving and kind, and went about doing good.
The Word of God tells us of our Lord Jesus Christ in Hebrews 1: "Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore, God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows" (v. 9). Therefore to be like Jesus must include a hatred of sin, just as much as it is to include a love of righteousness. The Holy Spirit will keep you careful that you do not turn that hatred toward individuals for the exaltation of your own pride. We must, as Paul puts it, "speak the truth in love." We must have the spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ upon us, changing us into His image. As you become more like Him you will hate everything that is mean, everything that is little, everything that is false. You will come to know Him better, and, as you become more like Him, you will find that He Himself is being reflected moment by moment in your life. I rather think, too, that those around you will see much more of the "going about doing good" than they will see of calling the enemy hypocrites. He will teach us the proper balance in all things.
The last clause brings us to our closing point. All this great and continuing transformation is to be "by the Spirit of the Lord." It is He who comes in to be the active and effective agent of all that God intends to do within us. In the measure that we yield to Him, He will do the glorious work. We need not expect that the change can take place in any other way. "What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh,"
God is going to do by "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus." That alone can "make us free from the law of sin and death." Frequently we are asked how it may be possible to cease walking after the flesh. God has given us a plain answer in the Galatian epistle. "This I say, Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh" (5:16). It is simplicity itself. You cannot choose to put yourself in front of a fire on a cold day and still remain cold. The man who asks how he can cease walking after the flesh has a problem of the same nature as the man who would ask how he could stop being cold. There is a fire; go and stand before it, and the fire will do the work that is according to its nature. There is the Holy Spirit, planted within us, ready to do His warming, transforming work. Let Him take control. As naturally as fire banishes cold, He will bring glory into our life.
As we know Christ better, we come to know Him in different ways and by different names. When we first know Him, we think of Him as Jesus the Saviour. Later, we know Him as Lord and then a little farther along we come in the intimacy of our own thoughts to think of Him as the Rose of Sharon, the Altogether Lovely, the Beloved, the Fairest of Ten Thousand. With the natural reticence of our hearts and lives, we refrain from speaking of Him in the tenderest ways in public. Dr. Jowett has said that only Rutherford and Murray M'Cheyne, he thought, ever had the right to call the Lord, "Beloved," in public, because they had so lived with Him that the very love of Christ was stamped upon them and everyone knew
that they lived with no other thoughts, no other passions. In coming closer to Him, we learn more and more of His Names and begin to enter into the Holy of Holies, that wonderful inner chamber of communion with Him where we can say what He says to us: "My Beloved is mine, and I am His" (Song of Solomon 2:16).
The teacher who dwells in the hearts, says: "Come, see the Lord, come behold Him in the Word. Come see in the glass the image of this One who, in the vision of it, will be able to transform you from glory to glory." Thus He speaks with us on the way.
When that wonderful girl of Ur of the Chaldees was wooed by Eleazar for his absent master, Isaac, she was told that she had to be ready to leave immediately to go back to Isaac (Genesis 24). Her parents pled for ten days' grace. Of what use they thought was such a fine marriage if the wedding presents were not placed on display that the other girls might see them! But Eleazar said: "We must go." "Well," they said, "we will ask the damsel." They asked her. She said: "I will go." The young girl and the old man started on that desert journey. What do you think they talked about on the way? It doesn't say in the Word. Surely young girls in those days were the same as they are today and have been in all ages. Here was a young girl on her way to be married to a young man she never had seen. Can you not imagine her plying the old man with persistent questions? "Tell me that again, how tall did you say he is? What color are his eyes? What is he like? Tell me that story about his hunting? What else can you remember about him?" All she wanted to hear as they went along on that desert journey
was more about Isaac. Day after day the slow, rolling motion of the camels marked the rhythm of her constant demand: "Tell me more of Isaac; tell me more of Isaac; tell me more of Isaac." Eleazar could talk of nothing else, but you may be sure that he originated the conversation. That was his design, that she might come to his master with a heart that should be filled with love because she had grown to know the one to whom she was going.
So it is with us. We are on our way to Him. The Holy Spirit, our Eleazar, goes with us, dwells within our hearts, speaks to us of Christ, and we all, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even by the Spirit of the Lord.
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