February 10: The Desire Of The Christian

To present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: if you continue in the faith grounded and settled. Colossians 1:22, 23.

NEXT to an ardent desire to be assured that he possesses the truth—the believer in Jesus will feel anxious for establishment in the truth. It will not suffice for him to know, upon evidence he may not gainsay, that he is a converted man; He will aim to be an advancing Christian.

Just to have touched the border of the Savior’s righteousness, and obtained the healing, will not satisfy his conscience; with a strong and growing faith he will strive to wrap the robe more closely around him, in that full assurance of his “acceptance in the Beloved,” of his “completeness in Christ,” which supplies the strongest incentive to a walk worthy of his heavenly calling.

The Christian’s faith includes not merely what we are to believe, but also what we are to practice. It embraces not only the doctrines of Christ, but equally the precepts and commandments of Christ. The true Christian desires to stand “complete in all the will of God.” No longer under a covenant of works, but under the law of Christ, He aspires to be an obedient disciple, manifesting his love to Jesus by observing the commands of Jesus. He needs Christ to be his King, as he needs Him to be his Priest; to govern him, as to atone for him; to sanctify, as to save him.

His faith is characterized by the apostle Jude as our “most holy faith.” Its nature is holy, its principle is holy, its actings are holy, its tendencies are holy, its fruits are holy. It seeks to “bring every thought into obedience to Christ;” nor will it cease its mighty work—opposed, thwarted, and foiled, though it be—until the soul it sanctifies takes its place “without fault before the throne,” perfected in the image of God and of the Lamb.

Establishment in the faith is a matter of great moment in the experience of a child of God. The relation of stability in the truth with progress in the Divine life, is the relation of cause and effect. It is impossible that there can be any progress of the inner life in connection with unsettledness and instability of opinion on the great points of the Christian faith. Hence the especial stress which the Spirit of truth has laid upon it. What says the Scripture? “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk you in Him: rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith, as you have been taught.” “Now He which establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, is God.” “I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end you may be established.”

Welcome all God’s dealings, as designed and as tending to build you up on your most holy faith, and thus advance the life of God in your soul. A hallowed possession of trial is a great mean of soul-advancement. Affliction is God’s school. Every true child of God has been placed in it. Every glorified saint has emerged from it. “Blessed is the man whom You chasten, O Lord, and teach him out of Your law.” Chastening—the school; instruction—the end. Humbling and painful though the process be, who, to secure such an end, would not meekly welcome the discipline?

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November 17: Be Fully Persuaded

“Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. But why do you judge your brother? or why do you set at nothing your brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Let us not therefore judge one another any more; but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” Romans 14:5, 10, 13

The exercise of private judgment is the natural and inalienable right of every individual. Sanctified by the Spirit of God, it becomes a precious privilege of the believer. He prizes it more than riches, claims it as one of the immunities of his heavenly citizenship, and will surrender it only with life itself.

Christian love will avoid infringing, in the least degree, upon this sacred right. I am bound by the law of love to concede to my brother, to its fullest extent, that which I claim for myself. I am moreover bound to believe him conscientious and honest in the views which holds, and that he maintains them in a reverence for the word, and in the exercise of the fear of God. He does not see eye to eye with me in every point of truth—our views of church government, of ordinances, and of some of the doctrines are not alike.

And yet, discerning a perfect agreement as to the one great and only way of salvation—and still more, marking in him much of the lowly, loving spirit of his Master, with an earnest desire, in simplicity and godly sincerity, to serve Him—how can I cherish or manifest towards him any other than a feeling of brotherly love? God loves him, God bears with him; and Christ may see in him, despite of a creed less accurately balanced with the word of truth than mine, a walk more in harmony with the holy, self-denying, God-glorifying precepts of that truth. With an orthodoxy less perfect, there may be a life more holy.

With less illumination in the judgment, there may be more grace in the heart. How charitable in my interpretation, then, how loving in my spirit, how kind and gentle in my manner, should I be towards him. How jealous, too, ought I to be, of that independence of mind, in the exercise of which he may, notwithstanding, have arrived at conclusions opposite to my own.

Cherishing these feelings, Christians who differ in judgment, will be placed in a more favorable position for the understanding of each other’s views, and for the united examination of the word of God. Diversity of judgment, through the infirmity of our fallen nature, is apt to beget alienation of feeling; and consequently, the development of truth is hindered. But where harmony of affection is cultivated, there will be a greater probability of arriving at more perfect agreement in sentiment, thus walking in accordance with apostle’s rule—”I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you: but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment.”

October 9: The Pillar And Ground Of Truth

“That you may know how you ought to behave yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” 1 Timothy 3:15

God has been graciously pleased to appoint His church the great conservator of His truth, and His truth the especial medium of sanctification to His church; there is a close and beautiful relation between the two.

The church may be compared to the golden lamp which contains the sacred oil, which, in its turn, feeds the flame of its light and holiness. The church is to guard with a jealous and vigilant eye the purity of the truth, while the truth is to beautify and sanctify the ark which preserves it. Thus there is a close relation, and a reciprocal influence, between the church of Christ and the truth of God.

Every individual believer in Jesus is himself a subject, and therefore a witness, of the truth; he has been quickened, called, renewed, and partially sanctified through the instrumentality of God’s revealed truth: “Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth.” “For the truth’s sake which dwells in us.” “You are my witnesses, says the Lord.”

Here is unfolded one of the most solemn and affecting truths touching the character and individual responsibility of a child of God. He is a subject of truth, he is a repository of the truth, and he is a witness for the truth; yes, he is the only living witness to the truth which God has on earth. The world he lives in is a dark, polluted, God-blaspheming, Christ-denying, truth-despising world. The saints who have been called out of it according to His eternal purpose and love, and by His sovereign, distinguishing, and free grace, are the only lights and the only salt in the midst of this moral darkness and corruption.

Here and there a light glimmers, irradiating the gloomy sphere in which it moves; here and there a spot of verdure appears, relieving the arid and barren desolation by which it is surrounded. These are the saints of the Most High, the witnesses of the Divine character, the omnipotent power, and the holy tendency, of God’s blessed truth.

Let the saints of God, then, solemnly weigh this affecting fact, that though the written word and the accompanying Spirit are God’s witnesses in the world, yet they are the only living exemplification of the power of the truth, and, as such, are earnestly exhorted to be “blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” Let them be careful to maintain good works, and so walk in all the holiness of the truth they profess; let them see that by no carelessness of deportment, by no want of integrity, by no worldly conformity, yes, by no inconsistency whatever, they bring a slur upon the holy doctrines they avowedly maintain and love; but let them show that, with the truth in their judgments, they possess grace in the heart, and unspotted holiness in the life.

October 2: A Great Mystery

“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory.” 1 Corinthians 2:7

There is much of deep mystery in revelation. God, considered both in Himself and in His operations, is a mystery stretching far beyond the most sublime power of finite reason. “Can you by searching find out God? can you find out the Almighty unto perfection?” and of His operations may we not exclaim with the inspired penman, “Lo! these are parts of His ways; but how little a portion is heard of Him!”

Christ, too, is the great “mystery of godliness.” Whether His complex person is regarded—the union of the Divine and human natures in one—or whether we look at His work—His obedience and death constituting a full atonement to Divine justice in behalf of the sins of His people—it must be acknowledged a depth too profound for human thought adequately to fathom.

What can poor finite reason accomplish here? What beams can its feeble, flickering light cast upon this world of mystery? And if ever it stands forth invested in its own native impotence, it is when it sits in judgment upon the doctrines and facts of revelation, discarding or retaining such only as are intelligible to its dwarfish capacity. “Which things,” says the apostle, “the angels desire to look into.” Mark his expressions!

He represented not these celestial beings of purity and intellect as scaling the heights and diving into the depths of redemption’s mystery, but “which things the angels desire”—scarcely dare—but “desire to look into.” And yet for a fallen and unrenewed mind to sit in judgment upon God’s truth can only be exceeded in its temerity by the depravity which prompts it.

If the truth of God, in its doctrines and facts, is a mystery incomprehensible to unrenewed reason, what shall we say of the truth as experienced in the heart? If reason cannot understand the vast framework of truth, how can it comprehend the secret power by which it operates? The very fact, that to be understood it must be experienced, accounts for the difficulty. The transforming operation of the Holy Spirit upon the mind—giving it a new bias, new inclinations, turning its darkness into light, and kindling its enmity into love; the life of God in the soul, creating the man anew in Christ Jesus—that life which is hidden, ever productive of a holy life that is seen—its hopes and its fears, its defeats and its triumphs—the causes which operate to deaden it, and the spiritual nourishment by which it is supported—all, all is incomprehensible to human reason. Truly “the world knows us not.”

The cause of this incapacity of reason, in its natural state, to comprehend spiritual and experimental truth is its corruption and perversion by sin. Sin has impaired our mental faculties—enslaved, clouded, and debased our reason. We open God’s word, and it declares that since the fall the nature of man has been corrupt, and his reason blind; his understanding darkened, and his heart, the seat of his affections, polluted: “having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.”

The natural man, while in that state, so far from being able to explore the wide domain of spiritual truth, hates and flees from it when proposed to his consideration, “receiving not the things of the Spirit of God, they being foolishness unto him.” This being the state of man, God’s word consequently declares it necessary that, before spiritual truth can be understood, he should be “transformed by the renewing of his mind;” that he should be restored to that sound mind, and enlightened understanding, and spiritual discernment, with which his nature was endowed when it came originally from the hand of God; in a word, that he should be born again, created anew in Christ Jesus; that old things should pass away, and that all things should become new.

Then, and then only, will he be able to understand the “truth of God in a mystery.”

September 30: The Abiding Word

“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31, 32

In proportion to a believer’s simple, filial, and close walk with God, will be his deep and spiritual discoveries of truth. “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God.” The more steadily he walks in God’s light, the clearer will he see the light. The nearer he lives to the Sun of Righteousness, the more entirely will he be flooded with its glory, and the more vividly will he reflect its brightness. The more simply and entirely the believing soul lives on Christ, the more enlarged, experimental, and practical will be his ideas of all truth.

The central fact of the Bible is, Christ crucified. From this, as their center, all the lines of truth diverge, and to this, as by a common attraction, they all again return. To know Christ, then—to know Him as dwelling in the heart by His own Spirit —is to have traversed the great circle of spiritual truth. What is His own testimony? “He that has seen me, has seen the Father.” “I am the Father’s great revelation. I have come to make Him known. To unveil His attributes, to illustrate His law, to pour forth the ocean fullness of His love, and to erect one common platform on which may meet in holy fellowship God and the sinner—the two extremes of being. Learn of me; I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

Not only will a spiritual perception of the beauty and fitness of the truth be the result of a close and filial communion with God, but the assurance that God’s word is truth, and not fiction, will increase. And to be thoroughly established in this is no small attainment.

To know that God’s word is true—to cherish no doubt or hesitancy—to give Him full credit for all that He has said—to repose by simple faith upon the promise, and on the faithfulness of Him that has promised—is a blessing earnestly to be sought, and, when found, diligently to be kept.

To quote the striking words of the apostle, “He that believes on the Son of God has the witness in himself.” He has the inward witness to the truth. He needs no outward demonstration. He is in possession of a sort of evidence to the truth of God’s word which scepticism cannot shake, because it cannot reach it. He may not be able to define the precise nature of his evidence; his reply to the unbelieving objector is, “It must be felt to be known, it must be experienced to be understood.

This evidence is not the result of a labored process of thought. I arrived not at it by mathematical reasoning. I was convinced by the Eternal Spirit of sin, fled to Christ, ventured my all upon Him, and now I know of a surety that God’s blessed word is truth.” And not more completely was his sophistry confuted, who attempted to disprove the doctrine of motion, by his opponent immediately rising and walking, than a humble, spiritual, though unlettered believer may thus put to silence the foolishness and ignorance of men.

Their sophistry he may not be able to detect, their assertions he may not be able to disprove, yet by a walk holy and close with God he may demonstrate to the unbelieving universe that Jehovah’s word is true.

Christian professor! are you one of Christ’s true disciples, following Him closely, or are you walking at a distance from Him? A distant walk will as certainly bring darkness into the soul, with its painful attendants—unbelief—loss of evidence—hard thoughts of God—slavish fear—as if an individual were to close every inlet of a habitation to the rays of the sun, and sit down amid the gloom and obscurity with which He has enshrouded Himself.

There is no true spiritual light but that which beams from the Sun of Righteousness, and to this every inlet of the soul must be open. To enjoy this light, then, a believer must dwell near the Sun—he must live close to Christ; he must live the life of daily faith upon Him—he must look away from himself to Jesus—he must walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing—he must be found prayerful and diligent in the means; while, rising above them, he draws all his life, light, and peace from the God of the means.

Oh, what losers are they who walk as Peter walked—at a distance from their Lord; what seasons of endearing communion—what tokens of love—what visits of mercy they rob themselves of! What losers are they who neglect the means of grace—closet prayer—church fellowship—the communion of saints—the blessed ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper—these channels, through which a covenant God conveys such untold blessings into the soul of His dear child; for “The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him;” and to fear Him is not to dread Him as a slave, but as a child to walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

“Oh, send out Your light and Your truth; let them lead me, let them bring me unto Your holy hill and to Your tabernacles. Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yes, upon the harp will I praise You, O God, my God.”

Reason 5: Trial Is Precious Because It Corrects Our False Judgments

We conceive dark thoughts of God’s character, wrong views of His dealings, crude interpretations of His word—our judgments often miscarry in their opinions of persons, of actions, and events; but when under God’s hand how much of this is corrected. The passing tempest has swept the clouds away, cleared our intellectual, and purified our moral atmosphere, and a brighter, serener sky has smiled upon us from above, and our path has become easier and pleasanter. We see God’s character and our own in a different light—His so glorious, our own so vile. We interpret His dealings differently and more favorably, and begin to learn that there is no individual who has not, perhaps, more in his character to admire and love than to censure and condemn; and that there is no event in Divine Providence that has not a lesson of truth and a message of love.

“The Preciousness of Trial” taken from “The Precious Things of God”

Part 5 of a 12 part series.

September 8

“But the natural man receives 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

THE mere presentation of truth to the unrenewed mind, either in the form of threatening, or promise, or motive, can never produce any saving or sanctifying effect. The soul of man, in its unrenewed state, is represented as spiritually dead; insensible to all holy, spiritual motion. Now, upon such a mind what impression is to be produced by the mere holding up of truth before its eye? What life, what emotion, what effect will be accomplished? As well might we spread out the pictured canvas before the glazed eye of a corpse, and expect that by the beauty of the design, the brilliancy of the coloring, and the genius of the execution, we would animate the body with life, heave the bosom with emotion, and cause the eye to swim with delight, as to look for similar moral effects to result from the mere holding up to view divine truth before a carnal mind, “dead in trespasses and sins.” And yet there are those who maintain the doctrine, that divine truth, unaccompanied by any extraneous power, can effect all these wonders! Against such a theory we would simply place one passage from the sacred word: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” The sacred word, inspired though it be, is but a dead letter, unclothed with the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit. Awful as are the truths it unfolds, solemn as are the revelations it discloses, touching as are the scenes it portrays, and persuasive as are the motives it supplies, yet, when left to its own unaided operation, divine truth is utterly impotent to the production of spiritual life, love, and holiness in the soul of man. Its influence must necessarily be passive, possessing, as it does, no actual power of its own, and depending upon a divine influence extraneous from itself, to render its teaching efficacious. The three thousand who were converted on the day of Pentecost were doubtless awakened under one sermon, and some would declare it was the power of the truth which wrought those wonders of grace. With this we perfectly agree, only adding, that it was truth in the mighty hand of God which pricked them to the heart, and wrung from them the cry, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” The Eternal Spirit was the efficient cause, and the preached truth but the instrument employed to produce the effect; but for His accompanying and effectual power, they would, as multitudes do now, have turned their backs upon the sermon of Peter, though it was full of Christ crucified, deriding the truth, and rejecting the Savior of whom it spoke. But it pleased God, in the sovereignty of His will, to call them by His grace, and this He did by the effectual, omnipotent power of the Holy Spirit, through the instrumentality of a preached gospel.

Thus, then, we plead for a personal experimental acquaintance with, and reception of, the truth, before it can produce anything like holiness in the soul. That it has found an entrance to the judgment merely will not do; advancing not further—arresting not the will, touching not the heart, renewing not the whole soul—it can never erect the empire of holiness in man; the reign of sanctification cannot have commenced. The mental eye may be clear, the moral eye closed; the mind all light, the heart all dark; the creed orthodox, and the whole life a variance with the creed. Such is the discordant effect of divine truth, simply settled in the human understanding, unaccompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit in the heart. But let a man receive the truth in the his heart by the power of God Himself; let it enter there, disarming and dethroning the strong man; let Jesus enter, and the Holy Spirit take possession, renewing, sealing, and sanctifying the soul; and then we may look for the “fruits of holiness, which are unto eternal life.”

Unshaken

Christianity lacks no evidence. Occupying the central position of all truth, it attracts universal notice, challenges the closest scrutiny, and summons its testimony from every object and source. All modern attempts of infidelity to impugn the divinity, to sap and undermine the foundation of our holy faith, have been met, answered, and exploded a thousand times over: and the gospel of Christ has invariably come forth from the battle and the scrutiny, its evidence all the stronger, its glory all the brighter, wearing fresh laurels and girt with new strength. The discoveries of science and the march of intellect have but accumulated around the gospel increased proofs of its divinity, while the foes of our faith, retiring from the conflict discomforted and dismayed, have but foamed forth their shame and revenge as the billow hurled from the rock against which it thundered but which it could not move.

The Tree of Life