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CMF eZine


The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship.


The Delivered Life

The Delivered Life

TEXT: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”—John 8:36.

THE most widespread and universal of the delusions current among men is the notion that they are free. No imputation is more quickly, more vehemently resented than the imputation of slavery, of bondage. There are no free men. Millions, thank God, are in the process of emancipation, but none are yet completely emancipated. Paul told the Roman chief captain that he was born free. In the limited sense in which he used the word it was true; Paul was born a Roman citizen. But in every other important sense the words were not true, as Paul would have been the first to admit. Like all of us, Paul inherited chains. For centuries that mysterious force, heredity, had been silently, invisibly, preparing bonds for him—bonds for spirits, soul, body. Every soul born into the world is born into an invisible net which the centuries have been weaving for him. Its meshes are race predisposition, race habit, family habit, family sin, family religion.

Think of the men to whom Christ was talking when He uttered the words of our text. “We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man.” They spoke honestly enough, as we do when we boast of our freedom, but at that moment they were in political, intellectual and religious bondage.

Politically, they were under bondage to an assortment of despots from Caesar down to Herod and Pilate. Morally, they were the slaves of race pride, of prejudice, of ignorance, of habit, of sin, of self-will. Religiously, they were the slaves of traditionalism, of bigotry, of formalism.

WE ARE SLAVES OF PARTY

Is our case better? Very slightly. Theoretically, we are free politically. Actually, we are the slaves of party, of the caucus, of the bosses. The very minute I give over into the hands of a convention the right to formulate my political creed I am no longer absolutely free. When I take my opinions, my convictions, concerning morals or religion second-hand from other men, whether they are men of today or men of the Reformation period, or of the early church councils, I am no longer free.

When I allow a habit to dominate my life, I am no longer free. When I allow pride or vanity, or ambition, or pleasure to control my life, I am the basest of slaves. The very fact that I do not, can not, of myself, cease from sin proclaims me a slave. Jesus Christ came into a world of slaves.

CHRIST THE EMANCIPATOR

It is interesting to note that His first formal announcement of His mission on earth touched life at that very point. In the synagogue at Nazareth there was handed to Him the book of the Prophet Isaiah, and He found the place where it was written: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach * * * deliverance to the captives.”

He begins with our slavery to sin. And here He encounters an initial difficulty. The man whom He would set free is not only a slave, but a condemned slave. He is a slave, exposed for sale, but with a halter round his neck. Who will redeem him? Nay, rather, who can redeem him? Not his brother man, for he too is a slave with a halter round his own neck. “What is the price of this slave? of that one?” One price for all. Whoever will redeem these slaves must die in their stead. And, obviously, only one who has never sinned, and who is himself perfectly free, can be accepted. Only one being has ever appeared who met these necessary conditions—Jesus Christ. And, to pay that price is the very business that brought Jesus Christ to this earth. At the cost of His own life, of His own unimaginable suffering, He pays the last demand of a holy law and redeems from death the slaves of sin.

Are they free from the curse of the law? Yes. From the habit of sin? No. Then begin those great redemptive processes which work in the sphere of the inner life, the object of which is the transformation of character and complete deliverance from the dominion of sin.

THE PROCESS OF DELIVERANCE

It begins with the complete removal of fear. The believer is told that he is not under law, that is, a system of probation to see if he can work out a righteousness for himself, but under grace, that is, a system of divine inworking, which produces the very righteousness which the law required, but which man never achieved. The believer is assured that Christ has given to him eternal life, and that he shall never perish; that nothing is able to pluck him out of the omnipotent hand which holds him; that He who began a good work in him will perfect it till the day of Christ. As for his sins; they are blotted out, cast behind God’s back, buried in the depths of the sea, forgiven and forgotten. And this is a necessary first work, for no man is really free who is under the bondage of fear.

Then grace imparts to the believer the indwelling Holy Spirit. The nature that was open to every assault from without, and a slave to every vile impulse from within is now garrisoned by omnipotence. In the power of that indwelling One, the believer is made free from the monstrous necessity of sinning under which every unredeemed life groans. No Christian needs to sin. If he yields to solicitations from without, or the more subtle suggestions from within, it is because he deliberately or carelessly wills it so. The Spirit is there to break the power of sin.

GRACE AND THE INSPIRATION OF NEW RELATIONSHIP

Then grace puts the renewed life under the stimulus and inspiration of great relationships. The believer is not merely a pardoned criminal, he is a child and son of God; and that by a new birth which is as actual in the sphere of the spiritual as his natural birth was in the sphere of the physical. He is a son of God, not by some far-off fact of creation, but by the immediate and personal fact of a divine begetting. He no longer traces his descent from God through Adam, but is, as Adam was, a son of God with no intervening ancestor.

This, the believer is told, brings him into the wonderful privileges of access to the Father, and of fellowship with Him. Christ is not ashamed to call him “brother”; he is raised to joint heirship with Christ in all things, and is to share the power and glory of Christ in the coming kingdom.

Grace confers upon the believer the great offices of priest and king. As priest he is set free from the ancient formalism in the worship of God “entering into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,” and offering, without regard to time or place, “spiritual sacrifices, acceptable unto God through Jesus Christ.” His worship, freed from ceremonialism, is a son’s adoration of a Father who is infinite in holiness and benevolence and power, but who is none the less a Father because He is God. And this office of priest carries of necessity the privilege of intercession. The believer-priest prays for those outside the family of God who do not pray for themselves. He is the daysman and remembrancer before his Father of the unbelieving world.

Grace tells the believer that he is as vitally united to Christ as the members of his own body are united to him. “By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.” “He that is joined unto the Lord is one Spirit.”

WHAT TRUE FREEDOM IS

But Christian freedom is not anarchy, which is the mere riot of self-will, but it is to be so joined to God the Father; so vitally one with Christ the Son; so yielding to the gentle sway of the Holy Spirit, that the human will is blended into the divine will, and so made one with the absolutely free and sovereign will of God Himself. God does as He wills, but God always wills to do that which is at once absolutely right and absolutely benevolent.

And in all this there is no subversion of the believer’s individuality, but the lifting of that individuality to the divine level of a passionate love of all that is lovely. It is obedience, but obedience under the new covenant, where the law is written in the heart, like mother-love. A mother finds her highest joy in obedience to that imperative born into her deepest being with the birth of her child.

No truly honest man feels the constraint of the laws against theft. He is not honest because of something printed in a statute book, but because of something printed on his heart. He would still be honest if the statute were repealed. And therefore he is perfectly free. Without that interior work no external thing done to a man makes or can make him feel free. Executive clemency extended to a convicted criminal does not make him a free man. He is still the slave of his criminal desires. But if he falls in love with honesty and uprightness and integrity, then he is free. All this transformation grace works in the redeemed heart.

THE NEW IDEAL OF LIFE

Then grace works transformingly by the power of new and exalted ideals. The whole conception of life is changed. Under the old bondage life was conceived of as a possession which man might rightly use for himself; under the new ideal life is precious because it may be used for the blessing of others. The new man in Christ has accepted as the new ideal of his new life Christ’s law of sacrifice. He heartily adopts Christ’s formulae: “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many”; “He that will save his life shall lose it, but he that will lose his life for my sake, shall find it”; “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”

Such an ideal, heartily accepted, under the conviction that so only may life be nobly lived, works of itself toward disenthralment from the old slavery of self.

Pursued, though with many a failure, and with steps which often halt, such an ideal is a transformation. The man who accepts it has issued to the universe his declaration of independence. He is free from the old appeals and solicitations which had power over him because they seemed to promise something toward the old monstrous ministry to the god self. No longer desiring self-exaltation or self-pleasing, the bride has ceased to appeal. Its presentment only causes pain to the heart that has fallen in love with humility.

THE VISION OF ETERNITY

The grace allures and charms with the vision of eternal things. Paul divides all things into two categories, things seen and things unseen, and he declares that the seen things have the fatal defect of being temporary, while the unseen things have the infinite value of eternal endurance. Believing this, the new man in Christ sits lightly to things seen. They become the mere accidents of life, not its substance. Of this world’s goods he may have much, and he is glad because they can be used to enrich other lives; or he may gather little, and he is glad because he has not the responsibility of the right use of great possessions. His true inheritance is in heaven. And in and through all this the Son has made him free.

Walking in the Spirit, the Lord’s free-man has but to heed the exhortation, “Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”

Scofield, C. I. (1915). The New Life in Christ Jesus (pp. 45–55). Chicago: The Bible Institute Colportage Ass’n. (Public Domain)

The Tragedy of the Inner Life

The Tragedy of the Inner Life

TEXT: “For to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good, I find not.”—Rom. 7:18.

THAT is the tragedy of the inner life; the breakdown of the human will before the Christian ethic; the torment of an unattained ideal.

The defeat of a languid desire is nothing; but to throw the whole power of the will on the side of something which God commands, and then to find the will break down, that, for an earnest soul, is tragic beyond words.

It is a very common mistake to suppose that we could be holy if we only wanted to. We think our difficulty lies in bringing the will to act on the side of what God requires, and that if we really put forth sufficient will power we should enter upon a spiritual life. But here is a man who makes the amazing discovery that the spiritual life is something above the reach of his will at its highest stretch. He can not grasp spirituality and bring it down into his life by willing to do it. And this was the experience, let us remember, of one of the strongest wills that ever was lodged in a human character. The Apostle Paul was not a weakling; he was endowed with immense will power. When he was a mere

RELIGIONIST AND NOT A CHRISTIAN

he was not a lax nor a languid one. He saw that the great enemy of the traditionalism in which he had been reared was this new thing, Christianity; and his imperious will forced him into the very front of the fight against Christianity; made of him “the tiger of the Sanhedrim.” Nothing deterred him—no weeping of women, no plaint of age, or youth; he put Christian men and women in prison, and when the question was one of stoning them to death he gave his vote against them. No, Paul was never a half-and-half man. There was in him not merely a fullness of intellectual vigor and life that compelled him to take sides, but there was in him a force of will that enabled him to accomplish his desires.

But here was a seemingly simple thing that he was not able to do; but now he has before him an ideal which is unattainable by the power of his resolution. “To will is present with me,” he says, “but how to perform that which is good, I find not.” He can not will himself into spirituality.

WHAT IS “GOOD”?

That is the case before us. But we shall never understand what Paul means unless we stop for a moment to consider his little word “good.” What is this good that Paul can not do by willing to do it? We may exclude some things at once. He is not speaking here of morality, of honesty, of kindliness, of chastity, of faithfulness in the relations in which man stands to man, as husband, as parent, as friend. These things lie completely within the power of the will. Every one of us has known men wholly apart from Christian power and Christian influence who were all of these things. Every community has upright, truthful, honest, kindly, courageous, helpful, clean, high-living men who are not Christians. The Apostle Paul is not speaking of those good qualities at all; all those things he had done all his life; his will had proved effective in that sphere.

And neither is he thinking, by this word good, of common religiousness, church-membership, church-going, saying prayers, reading the Bible, giving money; all these things he had done all his life by will power. He was the foremost religionist of his time, by a conscientious use of his will.

Well, then, what does he mean by speaking of the good which he wills but can not attain? He means such things as this: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” And this: “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I but Christ, liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” That is what he is thinking about—the

REPRODUCTION OF CHRIST BEFORE MEN

—of being Christlike. That is what he calls “good.” Did Paul mean, then, that he was defeated in a will to be Christlike—not as good as Christ, but good like Christ in measure? Yes.

He had before his mind, to illustrate it further, perhaps, the beatic character. He had read the Sermon on the Mount, and we may be very sure that he put it into its right place, dispensationally, but he was not willing for one moment to say that because he was in grace and in the church, and not in the kingdom and not under law, that therefore he was justified in living on a lower level than the kingdom life—rather he would say, “a higher demand is laid upon me.”

And while there was not in his mind all this negative and inferior morality, there was in his mind the spiritual morality which forms the Christian standard. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” he would say, and then I can imagine that he would beat upon his breast and say, “Oh, proud Paul! Oh, Paul, when will you ever be poor in spirit?” And then, perhaps, in the earlier stages of his experience he would say, “I will be poor in spirit.”

“Blessed are the meek.” “Oh,” he would say afterward, “I am the chief of sinners. When I read that word meek, I dare not lift my eyes to him—I can not.” Did you, my hearer, every try to be meek? If you did, did you succeed? It is open to any one to act meekly, to go around with a kind of

URIAH HEEP ’UMBLENESS

but that only makes a hateful Pharisee of you; that is not being meek. And if there is anything that Jesus Christ hates, it is Phariseeism; that is the one thing He can not do anything with. The only word he had for the Pharisee of his day was, “Woe unto you.” He had no messages for them; there was nothing in his gospel for a Pharisee. No, Paul is not going back to Phariseeism. And, deeper than that there was in Paul’s heart, when he talked about being good, the imperious demand which his new nature and the urge of the new life made upon him that he should have victory over self in all the forms in which self manifests itself.

Now in the face of a standard as exalted as the Christlike life there is

A GRAVE DANGER

That danger must have been present to Paul, and I have no doubt he had to resist it and to cry mightily to God about it; the danger, I mean, of saying or thinking that the Christ standard is too high; that it was put there, not to attain to, but as an ideal toward which we are to aspire. We are to consent to it that it is good, but for flesh to expect to attain to it is another thing. Well, here was a man who was minded to live that kind of a life, somehow, and never let himself go till he did.

There is a saying, you know, that if you aim your arrow at the moon you won’t hit the moon, but you will shoot higher than if you aimed your arrow at a barn. Well, Paul never let himself down by any poor sophistry like that. You and I do, my friends.

Now I want to pass on to

A VERY PRACTICAL QUESTION

What does Paul mean by saying, “To will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good, I find not”? I have heard all my Christian life the statement that Christians are not to live in the seventh of Romans. Well, I would to God that nine out of ten of them go into the seventh of Romans. The man in the seventh of Romans is not a listless dweller in spiritual things; he is a man whose heart is breaking and whose being is in agony because his life is not like Christ’s! The man in the seventh of Romans is a man who was all red with the blood of the Son of God. He knew that he was wrestling with something that was awful and real, and he was bound to have the solution for this problem if God has one for him. I ask, what does this man need who wills and resolves to do good, and then finds himself defeated? Does he need more ethics? A higher standard? Why, the poor man knows more good now than he is doing; and just there is the weakness of mere ethical preaching. It continually says to the poor sinner, “Be good,” but never tells him how to be good. And the pulpit today is largely engaged with telling people to “be good” and not telling them how.

We come to him with the Ten Commandments and say, “Why, Paul, I do not know what is the matter with you; you seem beside yourself with all this talk about not being able to be good. Here are the Commandments.” And he says, “But I know them; I have known them from my youth up, and I delight in them after the inner man, but I can not keep even them.” No, law can not help him. Law says, “Thou shalt,” and “Thou shalt not,” but it adds nothing to the force and power of man; nothing whatever. Well, what does he need?

NOT ETHICS, BUT DYNAMICS

The man needs superhuman power to enable him to realize in his life a superhuman spirituality.

Now, when any one says, as an objection to Christianity, that the ethical demand of Christianity is too high for human nature, he has just begun to find out the truth; a truth that about eight out of every ten Christians never do find out. It is too high for human nature. It is meant to be too high for human nature. It is put where no hand of man can ever touch it; where no unassisted human capacity can every reach it. And if that were all, the gospel would be to the saint, whatever it may be to the sinner, a message of despair. But that is not all.

Along with this superhuman demand, superhuman power is offered. And Paul laid hold upon it. He did not stay in the seventh of Romans, for when the will is aroused to its utmost power and yet can not do a thing, then the man has reached the end of himself.

AT PEACE AND VICTORIOUS

When we pass from the seventh to the eighth of Romans we find the wretched man of the seventh of Romans at peace and victorious; what is now his testimony? “The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Not a new resolution, nor a new habit, nor a deeper hold on himself, nor more prayer. Do you think that a man in the agony of the seventh of Romans does not pray? Why, the Apostle Paul, when he was there, prayed, you may be sure, day and night on his face before God. Not more prayer, nor more anything that you and I can do, nor that Paul could do, but something that God can do.

THERE IS THE REMEDY

That is what Paul means: not more from within, but something from without put within. And almost while he is saying, “Oh, wretched man that I am,” out of the very agony of spiritual defeat, he lifts up his face in triumphant testimony for he has found the secret, and he says, “The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”
So this man can write afterward, “For me to live is Christ”; write it to Philippians who knew him more intimately than you know me. “The life which now I live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God” he could say to those Galatians who had seen him under trial and testing, “Not by my efforts, nor by my resolutions, nor by my vows, but by the power, the authority, the law, of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus.”

Defeated along the line of the will, he is victorious by the power of the Spirit within him; the superhuman standard achieved by super human power. Paul laid hold upon that power, and so we have the triumphant eighth chapter of Romans, which may be the experience of every child of God—a life of continual victory, peace and power.

Scofield, C. I. (1915). The New Life in Christ Jesus (pp. 33–44). Chicago: The Bible Institute Colportage Ass’n. (Public Domain)

Excellence in All Things

Excellence in All Things

While our adversary prowls around … seeking someone to devour (1Pe 5:8), we resist him, strengthened in The Lord by praying for each other, supporting each other as the Proverbs 11:14 multitude of counselors, living the seven “reproducibles”. Inductive Bible Study, Conversational Prayer, and Scripture Memory were outlined last month. Here we’ll consider Excellence, Growing Together, and Pray-and-Plan.

Excellence in all things. “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (Col 3:17) Part of an integrated life, this is an attitude to be lived, modeled, encouraged. Military duties, marital and family relations, social life, recreation…everything reflects who we are and how God is working in us, so everything deserves to be excellent, high-quality, … an act of worship (cf Col 3:17,23). In addition to making “even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Pr 16:7 NKJV), such worship reveals God’s transforming, empowering Life in us!

Finding an “excellent” solution involves understanding the problem and balancing solution approaches and quality with expectations and such realities as resources and time available…a second opinion often helps me recognize traps like perfectionism (late at best, maybe impossible) or laziness (“just get something out the door”). Whether that opinion comes from my wife, friends/co-workers, or the guys I pray with, it’s an example of encouraging one another unto love and good works (Heb 10:24)

Pray and Plan, below, is an excellent way to find our way to excellence individually, as families, as groups/teams, etc.

Grow together. We “Run Together” because we value and need each other. Interacting, learning from, and strengthening each other we move beyond anonymity and isolation, beyond dependence to empowerment, to finding the way forward through prayer and Bible study together, guided by the Holy Spirit. Often this means regularly getting together face-to-face, but we can maintain the connections by a handshake as we cross paths at shift-change, etc, or from a distance by messaging app’s, cell-phone, etc. Far beyond “another meeting to go to,” this can lead to the Jesus-centered lifestyle, unity, and joy of Acts 2:42-47, to favor with all the people, to The Lord adding to those who are being saved!

We’re in this together! We benefit from whatever leadership experience or Biblical background anyone brings to the group, while respecting the IBS guideline that “All who want to may participate; No one dominates.” This lets us all explore together with “awe-inspired fear and trembling” how to “bring (our salvation) to full effect” (Phil 2: 12, Amplified). Check out the Australian MCF’s “Small Group Code of Conduct” at the link below.

In between meetings there’s a low-tech approach to growing together: “journal” by screenshots inside a smartphone Bible app or DTO study form and “text” it to your buddy (see the briefing at the link). There are printable cards at the link to use with your pocket Bible in a no-electronics environment; pray for a buddy on the same outpost or “inside the same fence”.

The key is staying centered on learning and living the Word, connected with each other to grow together, to recognize and resist the enemy’s lies and distractions together, to build up one another. Use simple ideas, simple tools, low overhead activities...SIMPLE ENOUGH THAT THEY GET USED!

Pray and Plan. “Running Together” implies that we’re going in the same direction toward shared goals. Pray and Plan (P&P) engages us together in developing direction and goals as we prayerfully let our insights complement and complete each other, working together in Jesus’ presence to let Him align our wills with His (Mt 18:20), to understand His direction.

Whether it’s a small group deciding what to study next, or a group of leaders planning a large-scale event like a conference, the distinguishing aspect of P&P is how the meeting is conducted. The AMCF Reference Manual (access via the link below) describes the process:

The Process. The essential start point for a Pray and Plan is prayer and praise … to “take every thought captive to obey Christ." (2 Cor.10:5) … mention the subjects for which prayer is needed…explain a bit of background where necessary…prayer for each subject mentioned.

Discerning The Plan. …The discussion should not be dominated by any one member … a group of sharing and expectant Christians who are sensitive to the Lord's leading. When there is no agreement on an issue the group should turn to specific prayer and then try again to discern by discussion what the Lord is saying. The characteristic of Pray and Plan should be consensus, but sometimes when seeking to undertake a new initiative a group will have to meet three or four times before the Lord will reveal the fundamental issue, such as the essential aim of the undertaking from which all else depends. The Lord can as easily reveal detail to a Pray and Plan team as He can reveal principles.

The Pray and Plan team should close each meeting with a time of praise and thanksgiving that the Lord has given the team His wisdom and discernment.

A small group is likely to P&P about what to study next; how to bring a new member up to speed on E&RT basics; how to serve “where we are” (the needs, how to reach out effectively )’; “have we grown to the point where we should become 2 groups (‘divide to multiply’)?”

Pray and Plan works for individuals praying alone, for families, for teams, ….
Conclusion. See http://ow.ly/qCfk30e12lm  for the previous E&RT articles, a briefing, resources & links.

Think of the E&RT “reproducibles” as aspects of a single, integrated, Christ-focused life. As they come to characterize our daily lives we’ll realize we’re already leading by example … the topic for next time.

The Imparted Life

The Imparted Life

TEXT: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”—John 10:10.

THIS was the new note in the message of Jesus Christ. It fell, for the most part, upon uncomprehending ears. After nineteen centuries of alleged gospel preaching it is still for the most part uncomprehended.

That Christ was a teacher of ethics, as in the Sermon on the Mount, is understood. That He died for our sins is, as a fact, understood. That He changed the issue from righteousness by works to righteousness by faith, moving the centre from Mount Sinai in Arabia to Mount Calvary in Judea, is understood, though haltingly, but that He came to impart to believing human beings a new quality of life, even the very life which was and is in Himself—this is not understood.

Eternal life is, indeed, much spoken of, but it is understood to mean mere duration of being—the persistency of life notwithstanding the fact of physical death.

In the teaching of Jesus Christ, as in the apostolic writings, the eternal life imparted by Christ to all who believe in Him, is indeed a term implying endlessness of life, but, since endlessness is also a quality of mere human life, eternal life is, far more emphatically, a term of quality, of kind.

The ministry of John the Baptist also had its startling message, “And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees.” There was to be no more experimentation with the old Adamic tree, no more seeking of fruit from a stock that, after centuries of testing, could produce but wild fruit. “Make the tree good” is the new word, and this can only be done by giving the tree a new life and nature. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” and can never be made aught else. The old man under the new gospel is to be crucified with Christ, not improved by higher ideals. “They that are in the flesh cannot please God.” The Adamic taint forbids it, and is ineradicable.

Two things are said by Christ in this tenth chapter of John: He gives his life for the sheep (vs. 11, 15, 17), and this is redemption; and He gives His life to the sheep (vs. 28) and this is regeneration.

Precisely this duality is found in the third chapter. The sheep are under a two-fold disability: they are “perishing” under the curse and sentence of the law, and must be redeemed by one able and willing to be “made a curse” in their stead; but also they are born of the flesh and therefore mere flesh-men, unable to “see” or “enter” the kingdom of God, and for this there is no remedy save in a re-birth.

But precisely these two needs are met by the gospel of the love of God; the Son of man must be lifted up on the cross to redeem the perishing, and the Holy Spirit imparts the divine nature and the new life to all who believe on the Son of man as crucified for their sins.

THE NEW LIFE IS CHRIST’S LIFE

Mere endlessness of being would not be “eternal” life. Eternal is “from everlasting to everlasting.” Only He who “was in the beginning with God * * * was God” would bestow, through the eternal Spirit, eternal life.

And this imparted life is His own life. “I am the vine, ye are the branches.” What a symbol of unity of life is the vine with its branches. The branch has no independent source of life. The life of the vine and the life of the branch are one. All possibility of renewal, of growth, of fruitfulness depends upon the life energy of the vine. Well might the vine say to the branch, “Because I live, ye shall live also.”

It would not be possible to state more strongly than does our Lord this identity in life of Himself and those who through faith in Him crucified have been born again. “As * * * I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.” “As thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.” “I in them, and thou in me.”

The vital suggestions are, if possible, even more intense in our Lord’s simile of “the corn of wheat.” Just as a grain of wheat sown dies, indeed, yet dies into countless grains of wheat, giving its own life to each, so Christ speaks of His own death.

And this testimony to oneness of life with Christ pervades the apostolic explanation of the gospel. The church is declared to be His body. The human body, composed of many members, is the figure used to express the oneness with Him of the “many members” who constitute, like the members of the natural body, one organism, and this organism is called “Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12). It is declared of Christ, not only that He gave life to the believer, but that He “is our life.” And John declares the record to be “that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”

THE INLIVING CHRIST TO BE OUTLIVED

God expects nothing from the flesh—the self-man. In the divine reckoning our old man was crucified with Christ. The old man is summed up in one terrific word of three letters—sin. Acts of sin proceed from a nature which is sin.

In one great and luminous passage the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul states, in the terms of the apostle’s actual experience, the fact and method of the new life: “I am crucified with Christ.” This is a fact of revelation not a fact of consciousness. Paul does not “feel” crucified, but in the divine reckoning he is counted so, and this the apostle also reckons to be true. God expects nothing from the old Saul of Tarsus, and in the seventh of Romans experience the apostle has learned the final truth about Saul: “In me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.”

Then comes a fact of consciousness, “Nevertheless I live,” followed by another fact of revelation, “Christ liveth in me.” Saul lives as yet, but death or the return of Christ will be the end of the Saul life, and Christ also lives in Paul.

Then comes the practical, present outcome of it all, “The life which I now live in the flesh” (body). How shall that life be lived? The Holy Spirit gives an answer to which, speaking broadly, the church has never risen.

THE METHOD OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

Two theories of Christian living here on earth have measured, and do measure, the average faith.

First, life by precept, by rule. There is a large truth here. The Bible is a great instruction in righteousness; a great revelation of the mind of God about human life. No inner light can take the place of the divine revelation. It is perfect ethically and also complete.

But it has the fatal defect of furnishing no dynamic. “The law made nothing perfect.” Precept gives a perfect rule of life, and by it life must always be tested, but precept carries no enablement. “The law * * * was weak through the flesh.” A chart does not carry us across the ocean, but it shows us where we are on the trackless deep, and where to go. The life by precept was tried under law and left the whole world of humanity in speechless guilt before God.

Still more hopeless is the notion of life by the example of Christ. “What would Christ do?” is the formula. As to immoralities, selfishness, worldliness, the answer is easy. In all the real crises of life it utterly breaks down. Our conclusions as to what Christ would do are vitiated by our limitations of habit of thought, of unspirituality, of ignorance of Christ. In His earth-life He constantly did the things that shocked every religionist in Palestine—Pharisee, Sadducee, Herodian. He did not do the things they thought He ought to do, but every day did something they thought inconsistent with His Messiahship.

What then is Christian living? It is Christ living out His life in the terms of our personality, and under the conditions which environ us. We do not ask, “What would Christ do?” we say to self, “Let not I,” and yield our powers to the sway of the inliving Christ. “Always bearing about in the body the putting to death of the Lord Jesus,” (the practical expression of our co-crucifixion with Him being “having no confidence in the flesh”), “that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.”

And we are not to be discouraged by failures. Not all at once does Christ gain complete control over powers and faculties accustomed to the rule of self; but, “walking in the Spirit,” there assuredly comes an increasing sense of peace, rest, joy.

Scofield, C. I. (1915). The New Life in Christ Jesus (pp. 24–32). Chicago: The Bible Institute Colportage Ass’n. (Public Domain)

Live the Essentials

Live the Essentials

Live the Essentials

Live the essentials as we Engage & Run TOGETHER!

Following Christ in a demanding environment calls for simple ideas, simple tools, low overhead activities, and personal initiative. Inductive Bible Study, Conversational Prayer, and scripture memorization, the three individual / small group “Reproducibles”, help us continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:42)

The Holy Spirit is our primary counselor as we study and pray. He also uses a group as part of Proverbs 11:14’s “multitude of counselors”, confirming or overriding human insights which may come up, directly or by bringing up the appropriate Scripture for teaching, reproof, correction, or training in righteousness….(2 Tim 3:16)

Inductive Bible Study (IBS) is the study of a limited portion of Scripture by a small group in an informal, discovery style. It emphasizes hearing from God, devotion, and obedience (“what do I do with this”) in context of all of Scripture, while not trying to force acceptance of controversial doctrines or denominational distinctives. The basic guidelines are: Stick to the passage; All who want to may participate; No one dominates; Answer 3 questions: What does it say? What does it mean? What does it mean to me? The traditional who/what/where/when/why/how questions can be useful for understanding what it means; the CMF DTOs offer Bible study tips and a study form to provide additional structure. The DTOs and verse cards at the link below are a good place to start.

The leader’s role is primarily administrative, rather than “teaching”, involving start/stop times and helping the group follow the guidelines. It’s normally best to stay in the agreed passage so that those with less experience aren’t intimidated; at times it will be important to refer to complementary or balancing scriptures for “the rest of the story.”

A group as small as two (The Holy Spirit plus one) can engage in Inductive Bible Study!

Conversational Prayer (CP) is clearly not the only way to pray. It is presented here because many national Military Christian Fellowships have found that it produces an increased consciousness of God's presence, resulting in greater group vitality and unity. CP follows the normal rules of polite conversation … only one speaks/prays at a time … 2-3 sentences or a short paragraph as the others pray along silently. Someone else prays next. At least one person follows up the current topic before a new topic is started, perhaps praying about other details or from a different perspective. Who is the next to pray? Anyone else! Silence in between is fine; it leaves time to hear God speak. Include adoration & praise to God, confession & petition for ourselves, intercession for others. Leave “who’s next” to the Holy Spirit rather than “going around the room.”

And consider conversational prayer as a group of two…God plus one!

Scripture Memory and Meditation help us live Joshua 1:8’s “… you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.” (NKJV) Learn the passage (with its “address” before and after), and understand the context. Hide/treasure it in your heart that you may not sin against Him (Ps 119:11). Meditate on it as you review, prayerfully asking “what does it say/mean/mean to me”, sing it, chant it, pray it … let the Word transform / renew your mind, your reactions & relationships. Some printable verse cards are available at the link, along with a template for making your own.

Conclusion: IBS, CP, & Scripture memory/meditation are practical forms of individual and small-group worship reproducible in even the harshest, most primitive environments. They’re simple ideas, simple tools, low overhead activities.
This is the second article in the “Engage & Run Together (E&RT)” series. Article #3 will address “Excellence in all Things”, “Grow Together”, and “Pray and Plan”. For the overview article, briefing, & further resources see
http://ow.ly/qCfk30e12lm

Let’s invite others to join us in living this self-reproducing integrated life of faith!

The Inner Life

The Inner Life

TEXT: “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee: wherefore I abhor myself.”—Job 42:5, 6.

SOMEONE has called the Book of Job “The Epic of the Inner Life.” It is most felicitous. We all know that there is an inner life; that within the barriers of our being, behind all activities and externalities, we ourselves live. We all know that there is transacted the real life. We all know that there we are solitary, that there every man is a hermit.

And while this, past all controversy, is true, in another sense this strange inner life is immensely populous. Passions, desires, temptations, lurid and demoniacal thoughts, angelic thoughts, prayers, adorations, mean selfishnesses, wrestle and plead, and it is into this chaos that faith brings the nature of God, and the life of the risen Christ, and the immense peace and power and joy of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. And we all know that when we have received eternal life we have written but the first chapter in the new history of the inner life. New conflicts, new victories, alas! new defeats, too.

The most commonplace Christian whom you know is transacting in the recesses of his being an epic.

And we know that this inner life is, finally, the source and spring of the outer life. It is, of course, possible to keep these dissimilar for years, but soon or late the inner life becomes determinative of the external life. It is with this life, therefore, that God most concerns Himself. It is the distinctive characteristic of the gospel dispensation. “Now is the ax laid to the root of the tree,” says the forerunner, John. “Make the tree good, and his fruit good,” is almost the opening word of Christ. It was always so, indeed. “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts.” “The Lord pondereth the heart.”

I can not, I think, do better than to take the last chapter of the Book of Job for my point of departure, verses 5 and 6:

“I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” It is

THE CRISIS OF THE TROUBLED PATRIARCH

The thing itself is very simple. “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear.” There was a testimony concerning God which had come to Job, and upon which he had based a true faith and a good life. Ordinarily, Christian experience has just that history. There is a record concerning Christ, His person and work. It is God’s testimony, and we receive it and set to our seal that God is true. We are saved. It is a very real faith, though a faith based wholly upon testimony, the hearing of the ear. That was the faith of Job down to the very last chapter.

Here was a godly man whose outward life was so blameless that God could challenge the malice of Satan himself to find a flaw in it. Nor was he but negatively good. He was a good man in the positive sense. His life counted on the right and helpful side of things.

Then began that strange dealing of God, that permitted chastening, which has been the mystery in so many other lives. How strange a thing that the best man of his time should be the most troubled; should be the man upon whom, as it seemed, the hand of God lay most heavily. And the fact, as you know, called out various interpretations. The opinion of Satan concerning this man’s goodness and usefulness was that he was a mere hireling. “Hast not thou made an hedge about him?” You have given him unusual prosperity, and in a certain sense you have bribed him. That was Satan’s opinion. That was a lie. And God permitted Satan to demonstrate the falsity of his theory of this man’s life. God said, in effect, “Take away the hedge”; and then you know what happened: his property went, his children went, and yet the integrity of the man remained. He did not curse God. And then Satan fell back upon another theory which was just as false as the other. He said: “Skin for skin; yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life.” You have left the man his health. “Put forth now thine hand, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.” And so that was permitted. His health went, grievous pains fell upon him. Bereft of property, bereft of family, bereft of health, and yet this man, with a faith which was founded upon a hearing about God, maintained his integrity.

And then came the theories of his friends. They agreed in the belief that there must be in his life some secret sin, although he had succeeded in covering it from human vision. They were very sure that the only explanation of the sorrows which were falling so heavily upon him was, that he was a hypocrite; was not as good as he seemed to be, and upon that belief they argued the question with him. But Job knew that also to be false, and he made good his contention that he was not a hypocrite.

A VISION OF GOD

And now we come to the real epic of his inner life. God Himself took up the matter. And if you follow the closing chapters of this wonderful Book of Job, you will find the whole mechanics, so to speak, of the deeper dealing of God with the inner life of a saint whom He is about to make saintly.

There was, first of all, the unveiling of His power, His majesty, His greatness.

“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind. * * * Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? * * * Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the cornerstone thereof, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? * * * Hast thou commanded the morning since the days, and caused the dayspring to know his place? Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? Canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth? * * * Wilt thou also disannul my judgment?”

Ah, poor Job! Thou wert able to maintain thy cause against Satan and against man, but what wilt thou answer to God? What, indeed, can Job say before this personal manifestation of God Himself but that which he did say:

“I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself.”

THE UTTER COLLAPSE OF SELF

Yes, fellow-man, thyself. Now the secret is out.

It was not at all something Job had done, it was what Job was. Job himself was wrong. He had never judged self before God. He had not the sentence of death in himself. The interpretative chapter of Job is the twenty-ninth. The personal pronoun occurs forty-eight times in twenty-five verses. He was a good man, but he was too much aware of it, and he was in deep darkness as to the real state of his soul, of his inner life before God. And nothing, not the depth of his affliction, nor the reproaches of his friends, nor his own self-communings ever brought him to see himself. But when he passed from a knowledge about God to a personal acquaintance with God there was nothing to be said but the despairing:

“I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself.”

The revelation of God, bringing a real sense of personal unworthiness and demerit, is what I think essentially we have in this experience of Job. It is not in exercises of self about self; not in any efforts of Job to discover the mystery of his inner life, that he comes to real self-consciousness; but it was the vision of God Himself which, flooding his inner being, brought the humbling, hateful vision of self.

A NEW AND HIGHER SERVICE

And then the most astonishing thing of all happened. God took up the vindication and restoration of the man who abhorred himself!

The Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.”

And then, as you know, God made of Job a priest through whom alone the three reproachful moralizers could approach His offended holiness.

“My servant Job shall pray for you, and him will I accept.”

You see, we have essentially four things here: First, the vision of God; secondly, the utter collapse of self; thirdly, a new and higher service; and lastly, a doubled fruitfulness.

“Also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.”

Now I believe we have here an order which is invariable, and I am very sure that we have here an experience which is not exceptional.

Oh, beloved, we too have heard of Him by the hearing of the ear, but we need to come to deeper things, closer things, with God. We need to come to that personal and underived acquaintanceship with Him, so that we may say with the men of Samaria, “Now we believe not because of thy saying; for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ,” although the first effect of it will be this awful humbling, this utter collapse of self. But oh, how blessed a place is that valley of humbling. No one falls there who does not rise to newness of life and service. But remember, it costs the sentence of death in self; the thorough reconstruction of the inner life.

NOT AN ISOLATED EXPERIENCE

It will help us in interpreting this experience to see that it came, not to Job alone, but to every man greatly used of God. The circumstances differ but the essence is the same—God is realized, self-strength is turned into helplessness, new power and blessing are given. Joshua fell at the feet of the Man with the drawn sword (Josh. 5:13–15); Isaiah must cry, “Woe is me” (Isa. 6:5–8), only to be cleansed and recommissioned; Jeremiah must learn that he “cannot speak” before the Lord will touch his mouth (Jer. 1:6–10); Ezekiel, prostrated by the glory, must fall on his face in the collapse of self before the Spirit can fill him, and Jehovah can say, “I send thee” (Ezek. 1:28; 2:1–10); Daniel must say, “I saw … and my comeliness was turned in me into corruption” (Dan. 10:5–12). Even John the Beloved, before the vision of the glorified Christ, must fall “at his feet as one dead” before the “right hand” can be laid upon him, and he can hear the “fear not.”

I wish now to gather up briefly what all this means. And first of all,

TWO THINGS WHICH IT IS NOT

It is neither the entire eradication of the flesh, the death, the extinction of self, nor is it sinless perfection. Self is abhorred, distrusted, detested, set at naught. But so uniform are the characteristics of this experience, whatever the age or dispensation, that it is not difficult to state both the result accomplished and the steps by which it is wrought.

  1. We have, then, in this supreme experience, the revelation of God Himself to the soul. It is not something about God; some new testimony concerning God, or some lesson of sorrow or trial. It is God’s own act, His self-revelation of something which testimony had never communicated to heart or conscience, so that there is a new and intense apprehension of himself.
  2. The instances quoted from the Scriptures agree, too, in the effect of this unveiling of God. Before that vision of God self is abhorred. So absolute is this effect that, as we have seen, it is constantly spoken of as the utter deprivation of strength. The self-life is not slain, but it is so seen in that glory as never again to be trusted, or in any way counted on in the things of God. As Paul said: “We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God, which raiseth the dead,” in the God of the resurrection, in the God of the new, undying life.
  3. In agreement, too, are the biblical instances that this destruction of self-confidence is followed by the infilling with the strength of Him who was dead and is alive again. Not once is the man on his face before the awful, beautiful vision left prostrate. “I received strength,” is the unvarying testimony.
  4. And then comes the new and higher service. This is the blessed consummation; this and the new fruitfulness.

Could I covet anything better for you than that you should see God face to face? Than that there should come to you this highest word in the epic of the inner life? May He grant it, for His name’s sake.

Scofield, C. I. (1915). The New Life in Christ Jesus (pp. 11–23). Chicago: The Bible Institute Colportage Ass’n. (Public Domain)

Let Us Engage and Run Together

Let Us Engage and Run Together

Let's Engage and Run Together

… & let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus… (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Let’s Engage & Run TOGETHER!… because it’s time for a reproducible approach to discipleship.

Continuous/combat operations, frequent deployments & personnel turbulence require simple ideas, simple tools, low overhead activities, and personal initiative. Let’s tailor how we follow Christ & how we train others so it works in any environment. The enemy of our souls is looking to devour isolated soldiers/seamen/airmen & families … many get at most an hour a week of spiritual input and think they have no need for more! As we Engage & Run TOGETHER we can include them in small groups, draw them to Christ, and train them to Engage & Run Together wherever they go.

Perhaps initiated by a CMF leader or a Chaplain, small groups organize and direct themselves in cooperation with Chaplains/Pastors, … and CMF leaders. The key idea is that each participant should see, live, and learn these seven reproducibles well enough to begin reproducing them at his/her next duty station:

  • Inductive Bible Study
  • Conversational Prayer
  • Scripture Memory & Meditation
  • Excellence in all Things
  • Grow Together
  • Pray and Plan
  • Lead by Example

Future articles will briefly discuss these aspects of a self-reproducing integrated life of faith. For an E&RT overview briefing & further descriptions see http://ow.ly/qCfk30e12lm

While a curriculum is something you start, follow for a while, and finish, E&RT is a framework, a philosophy of ministry, a set of basic tools and attitudes …something to be taught by example, lived individually and in small groups; a way to help us and those we lead to press on toward the mark. After Bible Study of three sets of foundational verses and the seven reproducibles, subsequent study topics should be pray-and-planned by the group in coordination with Chaplains/Pastors and leaders.

What's in Your Eternity

In a recent Sunday School lesson in 1 Peter, the question was asked: “When you hear someone say, “The end of the world is near” how do you respond, and why?”

I could say, “Why do you ask?” Knowing why the comment was made just might help guide the conversation along it’s path, especially if your desire is to steer it toward the message of the gospel.

Given that the topic is the end of the world, I could get straight to the point and ask, “What’s in YOUR eternity?”

First, phrasing it more like a credit card commercial might elicit a more positive response than just asking “Where’s your soul going when you die?” like the sidewalk Christian evangelist downtown handing out tracts. I could claim just about any religion and ask my question. Without being overly blunt, my question assumes that, like a credit card, everyone has an ‘eternity’. Every major religion believes we will eventually spend eternity somewhere. My goal is to present the Christian view of eternity in a loving manner, using the Bible as my source document.

The Bible tells us that there is something about ‘eternity’ in each and every one of us:

“He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:11) (Emphasis mine)

John MacArthur says of this passage:

“God. put eternity into man’s heart.  God made men for his eternal purpose, and nothing in post-fall time can bring them complete satisfaction.”

Our innate sense of eternity comes from knowing something of God, the eternal creator. Concerning this knowledge of God, there is perhaps no clearer verse in all of scripture than Romans 1:19, in which the Apostle Paul tells us:

“For what can be known about God is plain to them (men), because God has shown it to them.”

We all know something about God and eternity, although what we know is limited. I believe this knowledge is part of the ‘imago dei’, the image of God, in which we were created. God IS eternal, and although our bodies will one day die, we have an innate interest in life after death.

Here’s where the conversation can get a bit more challenging. You see, along with being told that we all know that God IS, we are also told something about those who try and deny the existence of God. Immediately before Romans 1:19 we are told:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18)

So what’s this about “The wrath of God”? We can turn to Matthew, Chapter 25 and Jesus’ teaching about His second coming and the final judgment of all men.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…. “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-34 & 41-46)

In the above verses, there are two groups of people, the ones on Jesus’ right, and the ones on Jesus’ left. The ones on Jesus’ right represent those who knew and loved Him in this life and those on Jesus’ left represent those who denied Him in this life. Those on the right will inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the world’s beginning. Those on the left will experience eternal fire reserved for the devil and his angels.

SO WHAT?

  1. There are two groups of people inhabiting this world; those who have received the truth of God and the ones who suppress the truth of God; the ones who have repented of their sin and believed the gospel and the ones who have rejected Christ.
  2. There is an eternal destiny for every human being who ever lived or is living today; eternal life or eternal death.
  3. What’s in YOUR eternity, my friend?

He is Alive

Last year marked the 350th anniversary of the publication of Paradise Lost, by John Milton. It is the greatest epic poem in the English language and certainly one of the greatest works in Western literature. Sadly, the anniversary went by largely unnoticed. What is encouraging is that this work has been translated more frequently in the last 30 years than in the preceding 300 and mostly in non-Western languages.

Milton began this work in 1652, the year he became completely blind and lost his first wife. He dictated the more than 11,500 lines of verse to his nephew, Edward, in perfect form in groups of 10 to 30. He finished this work in 1665.

The importance of this work to the Christian faith is that is is a collection of mirrors displaying evil as disarmingly close in appearance to the good! In 1639 he wrote in his commonplace book, “In moral evil much good may be mixed, and that with singular craft.”

This is all too apparent in the news of our day where we find our human depravity being displayed in all of our institutions. How can this be in a nation that was founded subsequent to the “Great Awakening”?

Jonathan Edwards, who was the most gifted theologian and philosopher ever to set foot on this continent, said it best in his work, “A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections.” It was written principally to describe the quenching of this amazing awakening of which Edwards was its chief preacher.

It was Edwards assertion that there is no greater importance of understanding than this: “What are the distinguishing qualifications of those that are in favor with God, and entitled to his eternal rewards?” He goes on to say that, “Though it be of such importance, and though we have clear and abundant light in the word of God to direct us in this matter, yet there is no one point, wherein professing Christians do more differ one from another.” With the number of Christian Denomination now surpassing 40,000 it is not hard to see that the saints are separated by a distance spiritually in a similar manner as the stars within the multitude of galaxies in the universe.

“It is a hard thing to be a hearty zealous friend of what has been good and glorious, in the late extraordinary appearances, and to rejoice much in it; and at the same time to see the evil and pernicious tendency of what has been bad, and earnestly to oppose that. But yet, I am humbly but fully persuaded, we shall never be in the way of truth, nor go on in a way acceptable to God, and tending to the advancement of Christ’s kingdom till we do so. There is indeed something very mysterious in it, that so much good, and so much bad, should be mixed together in the church of God; as it is a mysterious thing, and what has puzzled and amazed many a good Christian, that there should be that which is so divine and precious, as the saving grace of God, and the new and divine nature dwelling in the same heart, with so much corruption, hypocrisy, and iniquity, in a particular saint.”

From Milton to Edwards we see the threat is true Christianity mixed with the counterfeit not discerned and distinguished by which Satan has enjoyed his greatest advantage against the cause and kingdom of Christ (Edwards, paraphrase mine). The magnificent ramparts of the city of Mansoul become of none effect when the “Eye-gate, Ear-gate, Mouth-gate, Feel-gate, and Nose-gate are left open to the enemy as he approaches in a form over which the inhabitants think they have dominion (The Holy War, John Bunyan). The personification of virtues are thus extinguished in Bunyan’s allegory and Mansoul lay shipwrecked and lying in a pool of blood from self-inflicted wounds unable to be extricated (Edwards, Paraphrase mine).

It is fair to say that Jesus requires us to follow Him, not just attend Him. The former leads to “experiences of saving affections,” while the latter results in “those manifold fair shows and glistering appearances, by which they are counterfeited.” (Edwards)

Perhaps it is almost prophetic that Easter will be celebrated on April 1st this year. For it is written of a time when even the saints will be deceived. May we find this as an opportunity to ensure that we are on the “highway of holiness” that Isaiah described which is Christ Himself. For He said, “I AM the High Way, the truth and he life, and no one comes to the Father but by me.”

This immutable Christ is still available to us at the ground level. We need not try to climb into a second-story window, that is to “bring Christ down.” Nor do we have to dig a tunnel under a wall, that is to “raise Christ up” (Calvary Road, Roy Hession. Illusion to Romans 10:6-8). The foot of the Calvary Cross, according to Hession, is the place where the proud stiff-necked “I” is made to bow low until it becomes a “C”! This is what Andrew Murray call “Absolute Surrender.” This then is what fueled the Great Awakening and birthed a nation of which Tocqueville spoke: “Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits, aflame with righteousness, did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

This Easter let us not just go through the motions of attendance but rather prepare our hearts with the cloak of thankfulness for this so great a salvation! For Christ has risen just as He said! Death could not hold Him in the grave. By his vicarious sacrifice He has purchased us out of the market place of sin and delivered us from the sinful travails of bondage into the liberty of His kingdom.

May we rejoice with renewed exuberance as we ponder the immensity of the Grace that saved us and extol with our loudest voice joined in unity that Christ has Risen! He has Risen indeed! Now Go and tell somebody what Jesus did for you!

The Best of All Good Resolutions

The Best of All Good Resolutions


“I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned”—Luke 15:18

I DO not know what day of what month of what year the prodigal said that, but I do know that for him it was the real New Year—the real beginning of life. The children of Israel sacrificed the Passover in Egypt on the fourteenth day of the month of Abib, but they were made to revise their whole chronology because of that event.

“This month shall be unto you the beginning of months:”—Exodus 12:2

No man who is wrong with God is really living. In the deepest of all senses, he is like the corpse in the death ceremony of an ancient people, who dressed in costliest attire the body of a dead friend and carried it about to their houses, seating it at their tables before the finest feasts.  The cheeks were painted to represent life and the most flattering compliments were paid to what, after all, was a mere dead body.

Let us consider together this good resolution of the boy in the old parable.  It was for him the best of good resolutions, because it began with the most important fact in his life—the fact of his father.  And the most important fact in the whole universe to each one of us is the fact of God.  We are in God’s universe and we cannot get out of it.  God made it, God sustains it, God rules it.  It is all His.  Every acre of ground, every blade of grass, every one of the cattle upon earth’s thousand hills, every spring of water, every bird, every fish, every molecule of air—all are His.  He has never parted with His title to one of these things.  We are all tenants by sufferance.  We till God’s earth, breathe God’s air, sustain life upon His bounty.  We are absolute paupers, from king to peasant. T he next moment, the next breath are not ours.

Furthermore we all want to go to God’s heaven when we die.  There is no other heaven. Money can neither buy nor make heaven. The world, for whose opinion we care so much, has no heaven. Satan has no heaven.  The heavenly things which are available here and now—unselfishness, helpfulness, purity, high and noble thinking, clean living, love—these are all God’s.  Think then of the folly of living on wrong terms with God.  Think of the unspeakable unreason of supposing that anything in life can be really right, till we are right with God.

But who and what is God?  Creation is an answer to that question.  God is the Being who made this fair universe.  He it is, who made this wonderful earth for man, and man for this wonderful earth.  He it is who adorned the heavens and sprinkled them with stars.  He it is who painted the flowers.  And it is He who made us capable of love and all the blessed relationships of life.  That is one answer.

The Bible is another.  God is the God of the Scriptures.  The Bible is the most human book in the world, because it reveals God at work in human lives, and at last reveals Him in the terms of a human life.  What is God like?  He is like Jesus.

“He that hath seen me hath seen the Father;”—John 14:9

And in all the Book of God there is no more alluring portrait of God than that painted by the Son of God in the parable of the prodigal son.

What is God like?  Like this:

“But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.”—Luke 15:20

“But the father said, to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”—Luke 15:22–24

We are all prodigal sons. The son in the parable committed his worst sin when he wished to be independent of his father. When he said:

“Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me,”—Luke 15:12

his heart was already in the far country.  The riotous living and the wasting of his substance were but details and mere incidental consequences.  The Bible says that sin is anomia—lawlessness. When Isaiah says that

“We have turned every one to his own way;”—Isaiah 53:6

it does not seem like a very serious charge.  But it is the sum of all iniquities.  Self-will is the Pandora’s box out of which come all the evils of earth.  We have treated God evilly.  The meanness of sin is that it robs a loving God of the love and fellowship which are his due.

When David said of his greatest sin,

“Against thee, thee only, have I sinned,”—Psalms 51:4

we do not at once see the truth of his bitter words.  First of all, we think that his sins were against the husband whom he had wronged and the wife whom he had degraded.  But whose creatures were these?  They were God’s; and every sin against a fellow man is tenfold more a sin against God.

This prodigal about whom we are thinking, doubtless did many a kindly act in the far country.  It is the way of prodigals to be generous and to wish all men well.  You and I have done that.  We have had kindly thoughts and good intentions.  We have wished other prodigals happy new years with all sincerity, and because of this, have thought well of ourselves.

On one of Mr. Moody’s western campaigns, he was followed from city to city by an aged and broken man of venerable appearance who, in each place, asked the privilege of saying a word to the great congregations.  He would stand up and in a quavering voice say:  “Is my son George in this place?  George, are you here?  O, George, if you are here, come to me.  Your old father loves you, George, and can’t die content without seeing you again.”  Then the old man would sit down.  One night a young man came to Mr. Moody’s hotel and asked to see him.  It was George.  When the great evangelist asked him how he could find it in his heart to treat a loving father with such cruel neglect, the young man said:  “I never thought of him; but Mr. Moody, I have tried to do all the good I could.”  That is a good picture of a self-righteous prodigal in the far country.  He was generous with his money and with his words—yet every moment of his infamous life he was trampling on the heart of a loving father.

The other day, I met a foul old sot whom I knew as a beautiful boy and later as a handsome and high-spirited young man.  But he was no more in the far country when I met him in his degradation than he was when I parted with him in the pride of his youth. The far country is anywhere away from God.

Did you ever think of the parable of the Prodigal Son as an unfinished story?  Why have we no account of the boy after he came back to his father’s house?  Perhaps you have all felt what some forgotten poet has expressed so well:

“You have told me, preacher, the story sweet,
How the prodigal son, bereft of pride,
Left the far country with wayworn feet
And came back to his father’s house to bide.

You have told of the father, unfailing, fond,
You have told of the ring, of the robe, of the feast;
Of the long night’s revel all care beyond,
Till the Syrian stars grew pale in the East.

But, O, could I more of the tale invoke,
I would pray you tell me, thou man of God,
How it fared with the boy when the morning broke,
And his feet the old pathway of duty trod?

Did he never forget that he ate with swine
And suffered sore ’neath far-off skies,
Remembering only the nights of wine,
And the light in the dancing woman’s eyes?

Did he never go frantic with equal days,
And long to the wide world prisoner-wise,
Till a host rose up from the banished ways
To beckon, and beckon, with gleaming eyes?

If thus he fared, as we fare today,
O speak, that the world may sing with joy,
And tell how the father could banish away
The beckoning hands from before his boy.”

Ah, that is why the story seems unfinished.  When we have really come back from the far country when through faith in Jesus Christ we have come to God and have found Him, through the new birth our Father,—a new story begins, and it takes a eternity to tell it.

There is a way from the far country to the Father arms.  The actual journey of the prodigal may have been across forbidding mountains and along caravan trails over blinding deserts.  No such obstacles intervene between the returning sinner and God.  The blessed Christ from whose lips fell the tender story about which we have been thinking, also said:

“I am the way,”—John 14:6

When we come to Christ we find the Father, for Christ and the Father are one. And the way to come to Christ is to believe on Him; to put our whole life into His care and ordering, knowing that He has put away our sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and that all who come unto the Father by Him can never more lose the way.  Let us say:

“I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned”—Luke 15:18

“but know Thou hast saved me through Jesus Christ.”

Scofield, C. I. (1922). In Many Pulpits with Dr. C. I. Scofield (p. 9). New York; London; Toronto; Melbourne; Bombay: Oxford University Press. (Public Domain)


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