En Gedi: Finding rest in the wilderness!

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Archive for September, 2008

How to Try the Spirits!

Posted by Scott on September 28, 2008

by A.W. Tozer

THESE ARE THE TIMES that try men’s souls. The Spirit has spoken expressly that in the latter times some should depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron. Those days are upon us and we cannot escape them; we must triumph in the midst of them, for such is the will of God concerning us.

Strange as it may seem, the danger today is greater for the fervent Christian than for the lukewarm and the self-satisfied. The seeker after God’s best things is eager to hear anyone who offers a way by which he can obtain them. He longs for some new experience, some elevated view of truth, some operation of the Spirit that will raise him above the dead level of religious mediocrity he sees all around him, and for this reason he is ready to give a sympathetic ear to the new and the wonderful in religion, particularly if it is presented by someone with an attractive personality and a reputation for superior godliness.

Now our Lord Jesus. that great Shepherd of the sheep, has not left His flock to the mercy of the wolves. He has given us the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit and natural powers of observation, and He expects us to avail ourselves of their help constantly. “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good,” said Paul (I Thess. 5:21) . “Beloved, believe not every spirit,” wrote John, “but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (I John 4:1) . “Beware of false prophets,” our Lord warned, “which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matt. 7:15). Then He added the word by which they may be tested, “Ye shall know them by their fruits.”

From this it is plain not only that there shall be false spirits abroad, endangering our Christian lives, but that they may be identified and known for what they are. And of course once we become aware of their identity and learn their tricks their power to harm us is gone. “Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird” (Prov. 1:17)

It is my intention to set forth here a method by which we may test the spirits and prove all things religious and moral that come to us or are brought or offered to us by anyone. And while dealing with these matters we should keep in mind that not all religious vagaries are the work of Satan. The human mind is capable of plenty of mischief without any help from the devil. Some persons have a positive genius for getting confused, and will mistake illusion for reality in broad daylight with the Bible open before them. Peter had such in mind when he wrote, “Our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (II Pet. 3:15, 16).

It is unlikely that the confirmed apostles of confusion will read what is written here or that they would profit much if they did; but there are many sensible Christians who have been led astray but are humble enough to admit their mistakes and are now ready to return unto the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls. These may be rescued from false paths. More important still, there are undoubtedly large numbers of persons who have not left the true way but who want a rule by which they can test everything and by which they may prove the quality of Christian teaching and experience as they come in contact with them day after day throughout their busy lives. For such as these I make available here a little secret by which I have tested my own spiritual experiences and religious impulses for many years.

Briefly stated the test is this: This new doctrine, this new religious habit, this new view of truth, this new spiritual experience how has it affected my attitude toward and my relation to God, Christ, the Holy Scriptures, self, other Christians, the world and sin. By this sevenfold test we may prove everything religious and know beyond a doubt whether it is of God or not. By the fruit of the tree we know the kind of tree it is. So we have but to ask about any doctrine or experience, What is this doing to me? and we know immediately whether it is from above or from below.

1) One vital test of all religious experience is how it affects our relation to God, our concept of God and our attitude toward Him. God being who He is must always be the supreme arbiter of all things religious. The universe came into existence as a medium through which the Creator might show forth His perfections to all moral and intellectual beings: “I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another” (Isa. 42: 8) . “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Rev. 4:11).

The health and balance of the universe require that in all things God should be magnified. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable.” God acts only for His glory and whatever comes from Him must be to His own high honor. Any doctrine, any experience that serves to magnify Him is likely to be inspired by Him. Conversely, anything that veils His glory or makes Him appear less wonderful is sure to be of the flesh or the devil.

The heart of man is like a musical instrument and may be played upon by the Holy Spirit, by an evil spirit or by the spirit of man himself. Religious emotions are very much the same, no matter who the player may be. Many enjoyable feelings may be aroused within the soul by low or even idolatrous worship. The nun who kneels “breathless with adoration” before an image of the Virgin is having a genuine religious experience. She feels love, awe and reverence, all enjoyable emotions, as certainly as if she were adoring God. The mystical experiences of Hindus and Sufis cannot be brushed aside as mere pretense. Neither dare we dismiss the high religious flights of spiritists and other occultists as imagination. These may have and sometimes do have genuine encounters with something or someone beyond themselves. In the same manner Christians are sometimes led into emotional experiences that are beyond their power to comprehend. I have met such and they have inquired eagerly whether or not their experience was of God.

The big test is, What has this done to my relationship to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? If this new view of truth-this new encounter with spiritual things-has made me love God more, if it has magnified Him in my eyes, if it has purified my concept of His being and caused Him to appear more wonderful than before, then I may conclude that I have not wandered astray into the pleasant but dangerous and forbidden paths of error.

2. The next test is: How has this new experience affected my attitude toward the Lord Jesus Christ? Whatever place present-day religion may give to Christ, God gives Him top place in earth and in heaven. “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” spoke the voice of God from heaven concerning our Lord Jesus. Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, declared: “God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Jesus said of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Again Peter said of Him, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) . The whole book of Hebrews is devoted to the idea that Christ is above all others. He is shown to be above Aaron and Moses, and even the angels are called to fall down and worship Him. Paul says that He is the image of the invisible God, that in Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily and that in all things He must have the preeminence. But time would fail me to tell of the glory accorded Him by prophets, patriarchs, apostles, saints, elders, psalmists, kings and seraphim. He is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. He is our hope, our life, our all and all, now and forevermore.

All this being true, it is clear that He must stand at the center of all true doctrine, all acceptable practice and all genuine Christian experience. Anything that makes Him less than God has declared Him to be is delusion pure and simple and must be rejected, no matter how delightful or how satisfying it may for the time seem to be.

Christless Christianity sounds contradictory but it exists as a real phenomenon in our day. Much that is being done in Christ’s name is false to Christ in that it is conceived by the flesh, incorporates fleshly methods, and seeks fleshly ends. Christ is mentioned from time to time in the same way and for the same reason that a self-seeking politician mentions Lincoln and the flag, to provide a sacred front for carnal activities and to deceive the simplehearted listeners. This giveaway is that Christ is not central: He is not all and in all.

Again, there are psychic experiences that thrill the seeker and lead him to believe that he has indeed met the Lord and been carried to the third heaven; but the true nature of the phenomenon is discovered later when the face of Christ begins to fade from the victim’s consciousness and he comes to depend more and more upon emotional jags as a proof of his spirituality.

If on the other hand the new experience tends to make Christ indispensable, if it takes our interest off our feeling and places it in Christ, we are on the right track. Whatever makes Christ dear to us is pretty sure to be from God.

3. Another revealing test of the soundness of religious experience is, How does it affect my attitude toward the Holy Scriptures? Did this new experience, this new view of truth, spring out of the Word of God itself or was it the result of some stimulus that lay outside the Bible? Tender-hearted Christians often become victims of strong psychological pressure applied intentionally or innocently by someone’s personal testimony, or by a colorful story told by a fervent preacher who may speak with prophetic finality but who has not checked his story with the facts nor tested the soundness of his conclusions by the Word of God.

Whatever originates outside the Scriptures should for that very reason be suspect until it can be shown to be in accord with them. If it should be found to be contrary to the Word of revealed truth no true Christian will accept it as being from God. However high the emotional content, no experience can be proved to be genuine unless we can find chapter and verse authority for it in the Scriptures. “To the word and to the testimony” must always be the last and final proof.

Whatever is new or singular should also be viewed with a lot of caution until it can furnish scriptural proof of its validity. Over the last half-century quite a number of unscriptural notions have gained acceptance among Christians by claiming that they were among the truths that were to be revealed in the last days. To be sure, say the advocates of this latter-daylight theory, Augustine did not know, Luther did not, John Knox, Wesley, Finney and Spurgeon did not understand this; but greater light has now shined upon God’s people and we of these last days have the advantage of fuller revelation. We should not question the new doctrine nor draw back from this advanced experience. The Lord is getting His Bride ready for the marriage supper of the Lamb. We should all yield to this new movement of the Spirit. So they tell us.

The truth is that the Bible does not teach that there will be new light and advanced spiritual experiences in the latter days; it teaches the exact opposite. Nothing in Daniel or the New Testament epistles can be tortured into advocating the idea that we of the end of the Christian era shall enjoy light that was not known at its beginning. Beware of any man who claims to be wiser than the apostles or holier than the martyrs of the Early Church. The best way to deal with him is to rise and leave his presence. You cannot help him and he surely cannot help you.

Granted, however, that the Scriptures may not always be clear and that there are differences of interpretation among equally sincere men, this test will furnish all the proof needed of anything religious, viz., What does it do to my love for and appreciation of the Scriptures?

While true power lies not in the letter of the text but in the Spirit that inspired it, we should never underestimate the value of the letter. The text of truth has the same relation to truth as the honeycomb has to honey. One serves as a receptacle for the other. But there the analogy ends. The honey can be removed from the comb, but the Spirit of truth cannot and does not operate apart from the letter of the Holy Scriptures.

For this reason a growing acquaintance with the Holy Spirit will always mean an increasing love for the Bible. The Scriptures are in print what Christ is in person. The inspired Word is like a faithful portrait of Christ. But again the figure breaks down. Christ is in the Bible as no one can be in a mere portrait, for the Bible is a book of holy ideas and the eternal Word of the Father can and does dwell in the thought He has Himself inspired. Thoughts are things, and the thoughts of the Holy Scriptures form a lofty temple for the dwelling place of God.

From this it follows naturally that a true lover of God will be also a lover of His Word. Anything that comes to us from the God of the Word will deepen our love for the Word of God. This follows logically, but we have confirmation by a witness vastly more trustworthy than logic, viz., the concerted testimony of a great army of witnesses living and dead. These declare with one voice that their love for the Scriptures intensified as their faith mounted and their obedience became consistent and joyous.

If the new doctrine, the influence of that new teacher, the new emotional experience fills my heart with an avid hunger to meditate in the Scriptures day and night. I have every reason to believe that God has spoken to my soul and that my experience is genuine. Conversely, if my love for the Scriptures has cooled even a little, if my eagerness to eat and drink of the inspired Word has abated by as much as one degree, I should humbly admit that I have missed God’s signal somewhere and frankly backtrack until I find the true way once more.

4. Again, we can prove the quality of religious experience by its effect on the self-life.

The Holy Spirit and the fallen human self are diametrically opposed to each other. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Gal. 5:17). “They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit . . . . Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8: 5, 7).

Before the Spirit of God can work creatively in our hearts He must condemn and slay the “flesh” within us; that is, He must have our full consent to displace our natural self with the Person of Christ. This displacement is carefully explained in Romans 6, 7,and 8. When the seeking Christian has gone through the crucifying experience described in chapters 6 and 7 he enters into the broad, free regions of chapter 8. There self is dethroned and Christ is enthroned forever.

In the light of this it is not hard to see why the Christian’s attitude toward self is such an excellent test of the validity of his religious experiences. Most of the great masters of the deeper life, such as Fenelon. Molinos, John of the Cross, Madame Guyon and a host, of others, have warned against pseudoreligious experiences that provide much carnal enjoyment but feel the flesh and puff up the heart with self-love.

A good rule is this: If this experience has served to humble me and make me little and vile in my own eyes it is of God; but if it has given me a feeling of self-satisfaction it is false and should be dismissed as emanating from self or the devil. Nothing that comes from God will minister to my pride or self-congratulation. If I am tempted to be complacent and to feel superior because I have had a remarkable vision or an advanced spiritual experience, I should go at once to my knees and repent of the whole thing. I have fallen a victim to the enemy.

5. Our relation to and our attitude toward our fellow Christians is another accurate test of religious experience.

Sometimes an earnest Christian will, after some remarkable spiritual encounter, withdraw himself from his fellow believers and develop a spirit of faultfinding. He may be honestly convinced that his experience is superior, that he is now in an advanced state of grace, and that the hoi polloi in the church where he attends are but a mixed multitude and he alone a true son of Israel. He may struggle to be patient with these religious worldlings, but his soft language and condescending smile reveal his true opinion of them-and of himself. This is a dangerous state of mind, and the more dangerous because it can justify itself by the facts. The brother has had a remarkable experience; he has received some wonderful light on the Scriptures; he has entered into a joyous land unknown to him before. And it may easily be true that the professed Christians with whom he is acquainted are worldly and dull and without spiritual enthusiasm. It is not that he is mistaken in his facts that proves him to be in error, but that his reaction to the facts is of the flesh. His new spirituality has made him less charitable.

The Lady Julian tells us in her quaint English how true Christian grace affects our attitude toward others: “For of all things the beholding and loving of the Maker maketh the soul to seem less in his own sight, and most filleth him with reverent dread and true meekness; with plenty of charity to his fellow Christians.” Any religious experience that fails to deepen our love for our fellow Christians may safely be written off as spurious.

The Apostle John makes love for our fellow Christians to be a test of true faith. “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him” (I John 3:18, 19). Again he says, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (I John 4:7, 8).

As we grow in grace we grow in love toward all God’s people. “Every one that loveth him that begot loveth him also that is begotten of him” (I John 5:1) . This means simply that if we love God we will love His children. All true Christian experience will deepen our love for other Christians.

Therefore we conclude that whatever tends to separate us in person or in heart from our fellow Christians is not of God, but is of the flesh or of the devil. And conversely, whatever causes us to love the children of God is likely to be of God. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).

6. Another certain test of the source of religious experience is this: Note how it affects our relation to and our attitude toward the world.

By “the world” I do not mean, of course, the beautiful order of nature which God has created for the enjoyment of mankind. Neither do I mean the world of lost men in the sense used by our Lord when He said, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16, 17). Certainly any true touch of God in the soul will deepen our appreciation of the beauties of nature and intensify our love for the lost. I refer here to something else altogether.

Let an apostle say it for us: “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (I John 2:16, 17) .

This is the world by which we may test the spirits. It is the world of carnal enjoyments, of godless pleasures, of the pursuit of earthly riches and reputation and sinful happiness. It carries on without Christ, following the counsel of the ungodly and being animated by the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that works in the children of disobedience (Eph. 2: 2) . Its religion is a form of godliness, without power, which has a name to live but is dead. It is, in short, unregenerate human society romping on its way to hell, the exact opposite of the true Church of God, which is a society of regenerate souls going soberly but joyfully on their way to heaven.

Any real work of God in our heart will tend to unfit us for the world’s fellowship. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (I John 2:15). “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (II Cor. 6:140. It may be stated unequivocally that any spirit that permits compromise with the world is a false spirit. Any religious movement that imitates the world in any of its manifestations is false to the cross of Christ and on the side of the devil and this regardless of how much purring its leaders may do about “accepting Christ” or “letting God run your business.”

7. The last test of the genuineness of Christian experience is what it does to our attitude toward sin.

The operations of grace within the heart of a believing man will turn that heart away from sin and toward holiness. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:11-13) .

I do not see how it could be plainer. The same grace that saves teaches that saved man inwardly, and its teaching is both negative and positive. Negatively it teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. Positively it teaches us to live soberly, righteously and godly right in this present world.

The man of honest heart will find no difficulty here. He has but to check his own bent to discover whether he is concerned about sin in his life more or less since the supposed work of grace was done. Anything that weakens his hatred of sin may be identified immediately as false to the Scriptures, to the Saviour and to his own soul. Whatever makes holiness more attractive and sin more intolerable may be accepted as genuine. “For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity” (Psa. 5: 4, 5).

Jesus warned, “There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they should deceive the very elect.” These words describe our day too well to be coincidental. In the hope that the “elect” may profit by them I have set forth these tests. The result is in the hand of God.

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine!

Posted by Scott on September 27, 2008

by A.W. Tozer

IN THE DIVINE SCHEME OF SALVATION the doctrine of faith is central. God addresses His words to faith, and where no faith is, no true revelation is possible. “Without faith it is impossible to please him.”

Every benefit flowing from the atonement of Christ comes to the individual through the gateway of faith. Forgiveness, cleansing, regeneration, the Holy Spirit, all answers to prayer, are given to faith and received by faith. There is no other way. This is common evangelical doctrine and is accepted wherever the cross of Christ is understood.

Because faith is so vital to all our hopes, so necessary to the fulfillment of every aspiration of our hearts, we dare take nothing for granted concerning it. Anything that carries with it so much of weal or woe, which indeed decides our heaven or our hell, is too important to neglect. We simply must not allow ourselves to be uninformed or misinformed. We must know.

For a number of years my heart has been troubled over the doctrine of faith as it is received and taught among evangelical Christians everywhere. Great emphasis is laid upon faith in orthodox circles, and that is good; but still I am troubled. Specifically, my fear is that the modern conception of faith is not the Biblical one; that when the teachers of our day use the word they do not mean what Bible writers meant when they used it.

The causes of my uneasiness are these:

1. The lack of spiritual fruit in the lives of so many who claim to have faith.

2. The rarity of a radical change in the conduct and general outlook of persons professing their new faith in Christ as their personal Saviour.

3. The failure of our teachers to define or even describe the thing to which the word faith is supposed to refer.

4. The heartbreaking failure of multitudes of seekers, be they ever so earnest, to make anything out of the doctrine or to receive any satisfying experience through it.

5. The real danger that a doctrine that is parroted so widely and received so uncritically by so many is false as understood by them.

6. I have seen faith put forward as a substitute for obedience, an escape from reality, a refuge from the necessity of hard thinking, a hiding place for weak character. I have known people to miscall by the name of faith high animal spirits, natural optimism, emotional thrills and nervous tics.

7. Plain horse sense ought to tell us that anything that makes no change in the man who professes it makes no difference to God either, and it is an easily observable fact that for countless numbers of persons the change from no-faith to faith makes no actual difference in the life.

Perhaps it will help us to know what faith is if we first notice what it is not. It is not the ‘believing’ of a statement we know to be true. The human mind is so constructed that it must of necessity believe when the evidence presented to it is convincing. It cannot help itself. When the evidence fails to convince, no faith is possible. No threats, no punishment, can compel the mind to believe against clear evidence.

Faith based upon reason is faith of a kind, it is true; but it is not of the character of Bible faith, for it follows the evidence infallibly and has nothing of a moral or spiritual nature in it. Neither can the absence of faith based upon reason be held against anyone, for the evidence, not the individual, decides the verdict. To send a man to hell whose only crime was to follow evidence straight to its proper conclusion would be palpable injustice; to justify a sinner on the grounds that he had made up his mind according to the plain facts would be to make salvation the result of the workings of a common law of the mind as applicable to Judas as to Paul. It would take salvation out of the realm of the volitional and place it in the mental, where, according to the Scriptures, it surely does not belong.

True faith rests upon the character of God and asks no further proof than the moral perfections of the One who cannot lie. It is enough that God said it, and if the statement should contradict every one of the five senses and all the conclusions of logic as well, still the believer continues to believe. “Let God be true, but every man a liar,” is the language of true faith. Heaven approves such faith because it rises above mere proofs and rests in the bosom of God.

In recent years among certain evangelicals there has arisen a movement designed to prove the truths of Scriptures by appeal to science. Evidence is sought in the natural world to support supernatural revelation. Snowflakes, blood, stones, strange marine creatures, birds and many other natural objects are brought forward as proof that the Bible is true. This is touted as being a great support to faith, the idea being that if a Bible doctrine can be proved to be true, faith will spring up and flourish as a consequence.

What these brethren do not see is that the very fact that they feel a necessity to seek proof for the truths of the Scriptures proves something else altogether, namely, their own basic unbelief. When God speaks unbelief asks, “How shall I know that this is true?” I AM THAT I AM is the only grounds for faith. To dig among the rocks or search under the sea for evidence to support the Scriptures is to insult the One who wrote them. Certainly I do not believe that this is done intentionally; but I cannot see how we can escape the conclusion that it is done, nevertheless.

Faith as the Bible knows it is confidence in God and His Son Jesus Christ; it is the response of the soul to the divine character as revealed in the Scriptures; and even this response is impossible apart from the prior inworking of the Holy Spirit. Faith is a gift of God to a penitent soul and has nothing whatsoever to do with the senses or the data they afford. Faith is a miracle; it is the ability God gives to trust His Son, and anything that does not result in action in accord with the will of God is not faith but something else short of it.

Faith and morals are two sides of the same coin. Indeed the very essence of faith is moral. Any professed faith in Christ as personal Saviour that does not bring the life under plenary obedience to Christ as Lord is inadequate and must betray its victim at the last.

The man that believes will obey; failure to obey is convincing proof that there is not true faith present. To attempt the impossible God must give faith or there will be none, and He gives faith to the obedient heart only. Where real repentance is, there is obedience; for repentance is not only sorrow for past failures and sins, it is a determination to begin now to do the will of God as He reveals it to us.

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Man: The Dwelling Place of God!

Posted by Scott on September 27, 2008

by A. W. Tozer

DEEP INSIDE EVERY MAN there is a private sanctum where dwells the mysterious essence of his being. This far-in reality is that in the man which is what it is of itself without reference to any other part of the man’s complex nature. It is the man’s “I Am,” a gift from the I AM who created him.

The I AM which is God is underived and selfexistent; the “I Am” which is man is derived from God and dependent every moment upon His creative fiat for its continued existence. One is the Creator, high over all, ancient of days, dwelling in light unapproachable. The other is a creature and, though privileged beyond all others, is still but a creature, a pensioner on God’s bounty and a suppliant before His throne.

The deep-in human entity of which we speak is called in the Scriptures the spirit of man. “For what man knoweth the things of man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God” (I Cor. 2:11) . As God’s self-knowledge lies in the eternal Spirit, so man’s selfknowledge is by his own spirit, and his knowledge of God is by the direct impression of the Spirit of God upon the spirit of man.

The importance of all this cannot be overestimated as we think and study and pray. It reveals the essential spirituality of mankind. It denies that man is a creature having a spirit and declares that he is a spirit having a body. That which makes him a human being is not his body but his spirit, in which the image of God originally lay.

One of the most liberating declarations in the New Testament is this: “The true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23, 24) . Here the nature of worship is shown to be wholly spiritual. True religion is removed from diet and days, from garments and ceremonies, and placed where it belongs-in the union of the spirit of man with the Spirit of God.

From man’s standpoint the most tragic loss suffered in the Fall was the vacating of this inner sanctum by the Spirit of God. At the far-in hidden center of man’s being is a bush fitted to be the dwelling place of the Triune God. There God planned to rest and glow with moral and spiritual fire. Man by his sin forfeited this indescribably wonderful privilege and must now dwell there alone. For so intimately private is the place that no creature can intrude; no one can enter but Christ; and He will enter only by the invitation of faith. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20).

By the mysterious operation of the Spirit in the new birth, that which is called by Peter “the divine nature” enters the deep-in core of the believer’s heart and establishes residence there. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his,” for “the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Rom. 8:9, 16). Such a one is a true Christian, and only such. Baptism, confirmation, the receiving of the sacraments, church membership-these mean nothing unless the supreme act of God in regeneration also takes place. Religious externals may have a meaning for the God-inhabited soul; for any others they are not only useless but may actually become snares, deceiving them into a false and perilous sense of security.

“Keep thy heart with all diligence” is more than a wise saying; it is a solemn charge laid upon us by the One who cares most about us. To it we should give the most careful heed lest at any time we should let it slip.

by A.W. Tozer

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The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing!

Posted by Scott on September 27, 2008

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

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          Matt. 5:3

Before the Lord God made man upon the earth He first prepared for him by creating a world of useful and pleasant things for his sustenance and delight. In the Genesis account of the creation these are called simply `things.’ They were made for man’s uses, but they were meant always to be external to the man and subservient to him. In the deep heart of the man was a shrine where none but God was worthy to come. Within him was God; without, a thousand gifts which God had showered upon him.

But sin has introduced complications and has made those very gifts of God a potential source of ruin to the soul.

Our woes began when God was forced out of His central shrine and `things’ were allowed to enter. Within the human heart `things’ have taken over. Men have now by nature no peace within their hearts, for God is crowned there no longer, but there in the moral dusk stubborn and aggressive usurpers fight among themselves for first place on the throne.

This is not a mere metaphor, but an accurate analysis of our real spiritual trouble. There is within the human heart a tough fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess. It covets `things’ with a deep and fierce passion. The pronouns `my’ and `mine’ look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant. They express the real nature of the old Adamic man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do. They are verbal symptoms of our deep disease. The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended. God’s gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution.

Our Lord referred to this tyranny of things when He said to His disciples, `If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.‘ (Matt. 16:24-25).

Breaking this truth into fragments for our better understanding, it would seem that there is within each of us an enemy which we tolerate at our peril. Jesus called it `life’ and `self,’ or as we would say, the self-life. Its chief characteristic is its possessiveness: the words `gain’ and `profit’ suggest this. To allow this enemy to live is in the end to lose everything. To repudiate it and give up all for Christ’s sake is to lose nothing at last, but to preserve everything unto life eternal. And possibly also a hint is given here as to the only effective way to destroy this foe: it is by the Cross: `Let him take up his cross and follow me.’

The way to deeper knowledge of God is through the lonely valleys of soul poverty and abnegation of all things. The blessed ones who possess the Kingdom are they who have repudiated every external thing and have rooted from their hearts all sense of possessing. They are `poor in spirit.’ They have reached an inward state paralleling the outward circumstances of the common beggar in the streets of Jerusalem; that is what the word `poor’ as Christ used it actually means. These blessed poor are no longer slaves to the tyranny of things. They have broken the yoke of the oppressor; and this they have done not by fighting but by surrendering. Though free from all sense of possessing, they yet possess all things. `Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’

Let me exhort you to take this seriously. It is not to be understood as mere Bible teaching to be stored away in the mind along with an inert mass of other doctrines. It is a marker on the road to greener pastures, a path chiseled against the steep sides of the mount of God. We dare not try to by-pass it if we would follow on in this holy pursuit. We must ascend a step at a time. If we refuse one step we bring our progress to an end.

As is frequently true, this New Testament principle of spiritual life finds its best illustration in the Old Testament. In the story of Abraham and Isaac we have a dramatic picture of the surrendered life as well as an excellent commentary on the first Beatitude.

Abraham was old when Isaac was born, old enough indeed to have been his grandfather, and the child became at once the delight and idol of his heart. From that moment when he first stooped to take the tiny form awkwardly in his arms he was an eager love slave of his son. God went out of His way to comment on the strength of this affection. And it is not hard to understand. The baby represented everything sacred to his father’s heart: the promises of God, the covenants, the hopes of the years and the long messianic dream. As he watched him grow from babyhood to young manhood the heart of the old man was knit closer and closer with the life of his son, till at last the relationship bordered upon the perilous. It was then that God stepped in to save both father and son from the consequences of an uncleansed love.

`Take now thy son,’ said God to Abraham, `thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.’ (Gen 22:2) The sacred writer spares us a close-up of the agony that night on the slopes near Beersheba when the aged man had it out with his God, but respectful imagination may view in awe the bent form and convulsive wrestling alone under the stars. Possibly not again until a Greater than Abraham wrestled in the Garden of Gethsemane did such mortal pain visit a human soul. If only the man himself might have been allowed to die. That would have been easier a thousand times, for he was old now, and to die would have been no great ordeal for one who had walked so long with God. Besides, it would have been a last sweet pleasure to let his dimming vision rest upon the figure of his stalwart son who would live to carry on the Abrahamic line and fulfill in himself the promises of God made long before in Ur of the Chaldees.

How should he slay the lad! Even if he could get the consent of his wounded and protesting heart, how could he reconcile the act with the promise, `In Isaac shall thy seed be called’? This was Abraham’s trial by fire, and he did not fail in the crucible. While the stars still shone like sharp white points above the tent where the sleeping Isaac lay, and long before the gray dawn had begun to lighten the east, the old saint had made up his mind. He would offer his son as God had directed him to do, and then trust God to raise him from the dead. This, says the writer to the Hebrews, was the solution his aching heart found sometime in the dark night, and he rose `early in the morning’ to carry out the plan. It is beautiful to see that, while he erred as to God’s method, he had correctly sensed the secret of His great heart. And the solution accords well with the New Testament Scripture, `Whosoever will lose… for my sake shall find…’

God let the suffering old man go through with it up to the point where He knew there would be no retreat, and then forbade him to lay a hand upon the boy. To the wondering patriarch He now says in effect, `It’s all right, Abraham. I never intended that you should actually slay the lad. I only wanted to remove him from the temple of your heart that I might reign unchallenged there. I wanted to correct the perversion that existed in your love. Now you may have the boy, sound and well. Take him and go back to your tent. Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing that thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me.’

Then heaven opened and a voice was heard saying to him, `By myself I have sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.’

The old man of God lifted his head to respond to the Voice, and stood there on the mount strong and pure and grand, a man marked out by the Lord for special treatment, a friend and favorite of the Most High. Now he was a man wholly surrendered, a man utterly obedient, a man who possessed nothing. He had concentrated his all in the person of his dear son, and God had taken it from him. God could have begun out on the margin of Abraham’s life and worked inward to the center; He chose rather to cut quickly to the heart and have it over in one sharp act of separation. In dealing thus He practiced an economy of means and time. It hurt cruelly, but it was effective.

I have said that Abraham possessed nothing. Yet was not this poor man rich? Everything he had owned before was still his to enjoy: sheep, camels, herds, and goods of every sort. He had also his wife and his friends, and best of all he had his son Isaac safe by his side. He had everything, but he possessed nothing. There is the spiritual secret. There is the sweet theology of the heart which can be learned only in the school of renunciation. The books on systematic theology overlook this, but the wise will understand.

After that bitter and blessed experience I think the words `my’ and `mine’ never had again the same meaning for Abraham. The sense of possession which they connote was gone from his heart. things had been cast out forever.They had now become external to the man. His inner heart was free from them. The world said, `Abraham is rich,’ but the aged patriarch only smiled. He could not explain it to them, but he knew that he owned nothing, that his real treasures were inward and eternal.

There can be no doubt that this possessive clinging to things is one of the most harmful habits in the life. Because it is so natural it is rarely recognized for the evil that it is; but its outworkings are tragic. We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety; this is especially true when those treasures are loved relatives and friends. But we need have no such fears. Our Lord came not to destroy but to save. Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.

Our gifts and talents should also be turned over to Him. They should be recognized for what they are, God’s loan to us, and should never be considered in any sense our own. We have no more right to claim credit for special abilities than for blue eyes or strong muscles. `For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive?’

The Christian who is alive enough to know himself even slightly will recognize the symptoms of this possession malady, and will grieve to find them in his own heart. If the longing after God is strong enough within him he will want to do something about the matter. Now, what should he do?

First of all he should put away all defense and make no attempt to excuse himself either in his own eyes or before the Lord. Whoever defends himself will have himself for his defense, and he will have no other; but let him come defenseless before the Lord and he will have for his defender no less than God Himself. Let the inquiring Christian trample under foot every slippery trick of his deceitful heart and insist upon frank and open relations with the Lord.

Then he should remember that this is holy business. No careless or casual dealings will suffice. Let him come to God in full determination to be heard. Let him insist that God accept his all, that He take things out of his heart and Himself reign there in power. It may be he will need to become specific, to name things and people by their names one by one. If he will become drastic enough he can shorten the time of his travail from years to minutes and enter the good land long before his slower brethren who coddle their feelings and insist upon caution in their dealings with God.

Let us never forget that such a truth as this cannot be learned by rote as one would learn the facts of physical science. They must be experienced before we can really know them. We must in our hearts live through Abraham’s harsh and bitter experiences if we would know the blessedness which follows them. The ancient curse will not go out painlessly; the tough old miser within us will not lie down and die obedient to our command. He must be torn out of our heart like a plant from the soil; he must be extracted in agony and blood like a tooth from the jaw. He must be expelled from our soul by violence as Christ expelled the money changers from the temple. And we shall need to steel ourselves against his piteous begging, and to recognize it as springing out of self-pity, one of the most reprehensible sins of the human heart.

If we would indeed know God in growing intimacy we must go this way of renunciation. And if we are set upon the pursuit of God He will sooner or later bring us to this test. Abraham’s testing was, at the time, not known to him as such, yet if he had taken some course other than the one he did, the whole history of the Old Testament would have been different. God would have found His man, no doubt, but the loss to Abraham would have been tragic beyond the telling. So we will be brought one by one to the testing place, and we may never know when we are there. At that testing place there will be no dozen possible choices for us; just one and an alternative, but our whole future will be conditioned by the choice we make.

Father, I want to know Thee, but my coward heart fears to give up its toys. I cannot part with them without inward bleeding, and I do not try to hide from Thee the terror of the parting. I come trembling, but I do come. Please root from my heart all Those things which I have cherished so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that Thou mayest enter and dwell there without a rival. Then shalt Thou make the place of Thy feet glorious. Then shall my heart have no need of the sun to shine in it, for Thyself wilt be the light of it, and there shall be no night there. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

by A.W. Tozer

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Following Hard After God!

Posted by Scott on September 27, 2008

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          Ps. 63:8
    • My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.

Christian theology teaches the doctrine of prevenient grace, which briefly stated means this, that before a man can seek God, God must first have sought the man. Before a sinful man can think a right thought of God, there must have been a work of enlightenment done within him; imperfect it may be, but a true work nonetheless, and the secret cause of all desiring and seeking and praying which may follow.

We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit. `No man can come to me,‘ said our Lord, `except the Father which hath sent me draw him,‘ and it is by this very prevenient drawing that God takes from us every vestige of credit for he act of coming. The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after Him; and all the time we are pursuing Him we are already in His hand: `Thy right hand upholdeth me.‘ In this divine `upholding’ and human `following’ there is no contradiction. All is of God, for as von Hugel teaches, God is always previous.

In practice, however, (that is, where God’s previous working meets man’s present response) man must pursue God. On our part there must be positive reciprocation if this secret drawing of God is to eventuate in identifiable experience of the Divine. In the warm language of personal feeling this is stated in the Forty-second Psalm: `As the hart panteth after the waterbrooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?‘ This is deep calling unto deep, and the longing heart will understand it.

The doctrine of justification by faith–a Biblical truth, and a blessed relief from sterile legalism and unavailing self-effort–has in our time fallen into evil company and been interpreted by many in such manner as actually to bar men from the knowledge of God. The whole transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless. Faith may now be exercised without a jar to the moral life and without embarrassment to the Adamic ego. Christ may be `received’ without creating any special love for Him in the soul of the receiver. The man is `saved,’ but he is not hungry nor thirsty after God. In fact he is specifically taught to be satisfied and encouraged to be content with little.

The modern scientist has lost God amid the wonders of His world; we Christians are in real danger of losing God amid the wonders of His Word. We have almost forgotten that God is a Person and, as such, can be cultivated as any person can. It is inherent in personality to be able to know other personalities, but full knowledge of one personality by another cannot be achieved in one encounter. It is only after long and loving mental intercourse that the full possibilities of both can be explored.

All social intercourse between human beings is a response of personality to personality, grading upward from the most casual brush between man and man to the fullest, most intimate communion of which the human soul is capable. Religion, so far as it is genuine, is in essence the response of created personalities to the Creating Personality, God. `This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.‘ (John 17:3)

God is a Person, and in the deep of His mighty nature He thinks, wills, enjoys feels, loves, desires and suffers as any other person may. In making Himself known to us He stays by the familiar pattern of personality. He communicates with us through the avenues of our minds, our wills and our emotions. The continuous and unembarrassed interchange of love and thought between God and the soul of the redeemed man is the throbbing heart of New Testament religion.

This intercourse between God and the soul is known to us in conscious personal awareness. It is personal: that is, it does not come through the body of believers, as such, but is known to the individual, and to the body through the individuals which compose it. And it is conscious: that is, it does not stay below the threshold of consciousness and work there unknown to the soul (as, for instance, infant baptism is thought by some to do), but comes within the field of awareness where the man can `know’ it as he knows any other fact of experience.

You and I are in little (our sins excepted) what God is in large. Being made in His image we have within us the capacity to know Him. In our sins we lack only the power. The moment the Spirit has quickened us to life in regeneration our whole being senses its kinship to God and leaps up in joyous recognition. That is the heavenly birth without which we cannot see the Kingdom of God. It is, however, not an end but an inception, for now begins the glorious pursuit, the heart’s happy exploration of the infinite riches of the Godhead. That is where we begin, I say, but where we stop no man has yet discovered, for there is in the awful and mysterious depths of the Triune God neither limit nor end.

    Shoreless Ocean, who can sound Thee?
    Thine own eternity is round Thee,
    Majesty divine!

To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily- satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart. St. Bernard stated this holy paradox in a musical quatrain that will be instantly understood by every worshipping soul:

    We taste Thee, O Thou Living Bread,
    And long to feast upon Thee still:
    We drink of Thee, the Fountainhead
    And thirst our souls from Thee to fill.

come near to the holy men and women of the past and you will soon feel the heat of their desire after God. They mourned for Him, they prayed and wrestled and sought for Him day and night, in season and out, and when they had found Him the finding was all the sweeter for the long seeking. Moses used the fact that he knew God as an argument for knowing Him better. `Now, therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, show me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight‘; and from there he rose to make the daring request, `I beseech thee, show me thy glory.‘ God was frankly pleased by this display of ardour, and the next day called Moses into the mount, and there in solemn procession made all His glory pass before him.

David’s life was a torrent of spiritual desire, and his psalms ring with the cry of the seeker and the glad shout oft he finder. Paul confessed the mainspring of his life to be his burning desire after Christ. `That I may know Him,‘ was the goal of his heart, and to this he sacrificed everything. `Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may win Christ‘ (Phil 3:8).

Hymnody is sweet with the longing after God, the God whom, while the singer seeks, he knows he has already found. `His track I see and I’ll pursue,’ sang our fathers only a short generation ago, but that song is heard no more in the great congregation. How tragic that we in this dark day have had our seeking done for us by our teachers. Everything is made to center upon the initial act of `accepting’ Christ (a term, incidentally, which is not found in the Bible) and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls. We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him we need no more seek Him. This is set before us as the last word in orthodoxy, and it is taken for granted that no Bible-taught Christian ever believed otherwise. Thus the whole testimony of the worshipping, seeking, singing Church on that subject is crisply set aside. The experiential heart- theology of a grand army of fragrant saints is rejected in favor of a smug interpretation of Scripture which would certainly have sounded strange to an Augustine, a Rutherford or a Branierd.

In the midst of this great chill there are some, I rejoice to acknowledge, who will not be content with shallow logic. They will admit the force of the argument, and then turn away with tears to hunt some lonely place and pray, `O God, show me thy glory.‘ They want to taste, to touch with their hearts, to see with their inner eyes the wonder that is God.

I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God. The lack of it has brought us to our present low estate. The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain.

Every age has its own characteristics. Right now we are in an age of religious complexity. The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations and a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart. The shallowness of our inner experience, the hollowness of our worship, and the servile imitation of the world which marks our promotional methods all testify that we, in this day, know God only imperfectly, and the peace of God scarcely at all.

If we would find God amid all the religious externals we must first determine to find Him, and then proceed in the way of simplicity. Now as always God discovers Himself to `babes’ and hides Himself in thick darkness from the wise and the prudent. We must simplify our approach to Him. We must strip down to essentials (and they will be found to be blessedly few). We must put away all effort to impress, and come with the guileless candor of childhood. If we do this, without doubt God will quickly respond.

When religion has said its last word, there is little that we need other than God Himself. The evil habit of seeking God-and effectively prevents us from finding God in full revelation. In the `and’ lies our great woe. If we omit the `and’, we shall soon find God, and in Him we shall find that for which we have all our lives been secretly longing.

We need not fear that in seeking God only we may narrow our lives or restrict the motions of our expanding hearts. The opposite is true. We can well afford to make God our All, to concentrate, to sacrifice the many for the One.

The author of the quaint old English classic, The Cloud of Unknowing, teaches us how to do this. `Lift up thine heart unto God with a meek stirring of love; and mean Himself, and none of His goods. And thereto, look thee loath to think on aught but God Himself. So that nought work in thy wit, nor in thy will, but only God Himself. This is the work of the soul that most pleaseth God.’

Again, he recommends that in prayer we practice a further stripping down of everything, even of our theology. `For it sufficeth enough, a naked intent direct unto God without any other cause than Himself.’ Yet underneath all his thinking lay the broad foundation of New Testament truth, for he explains that by `Himself’ he means `God that made thee, and bought thee, and that graciously called thee to thy degree.’ And he is all for simplicity: If we would have religion `lapped and folden in one word, for that thou shouldst have better hold thereupon, take thee but a little word of one syllable: for so it is better than of two, for even the shorter it is the better it accordeth with the work of the Spirit. And such a word is this word God or this word love.’

When the Lord divided Canaan among the tribes of Israel, Levi received no share of the land. God said to him simply, `I am thy part and thine inheritance,‘ and by those words made him richer than all his brethren, richer than all the kings and rajas who have ever lived in the world. And there is a spiritual principle here, a principle still valid for every priest of the Most High God.

The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One. Many ordinary treasures may be denied him, or if he is allowed to have them, the enjoyment of them will be so tempered that they will never be necessary to his happiness. Or if he must see them go, one after one, he will scarcely feel a sense of loss, for having the Source of all things he has in One all satisfaction, all pleasure, all delight. Whatever he may lose he has actually lost nothing, for he now has it all in One, and he has it purely, legitimately and forever.

O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, `Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.’ Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

by A.W. Tozer

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Doing the Will of God!

Posted by Scott on September 27, 2008

Doing the Will of God by A. W. Tozer

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. –1 John 5:2-3

We urgently need a new kind of reformation throughout our Christian churches–a reformation that will cause us not only to accept the will of God but to actively seek it and adore it!…

The reformation we need now can best be described in terms of spiritual perfection-which reduced to its simplest form is no more and no less than doing the will of God! This would expose us all at the point of our need, no matter how sound we think we are in doctrine and no matter how great our reputations.

I long for the positive and genuine renewal which would come if the will of God could be totally accomplished in our lives. Everything that is unspiritual would flee, and all that is not Christlike would vanish, and all that is not according to the New Testament would be rejected….

Do we voluntarily and actively observe God’s commandments, making positive changes in our lives as God may indicate in order to bring the entire life into accord with the New Testament?

That is the active aspect of the will of God that I would own as reformation in the church, and it would surely result in revival. I Talk Back to the Devil, 89-90.

“Oh Lord, ‘I long for the positive and genuine renewal which would come if the will of God could be totally accomplished in our lives.’ Let it begin in me…today. Amen.”

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Critique of “The Shack”!

Posted by Scott on September 26, 2008

THE SHACK, “Elousia,” & the Black Madonna

IMAGINATION, IMAGE, AND IDOLATRY

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

Herescope

Mackenzie Allen Philips’ youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever. In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant “The Shack” wrestles with the timeless question, “Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?”
description of The Shack on www.amazon.com

God is Truth. That He is Truth distinguishes Him from idols which are false. Of the Lord, the prophet declared, “There is none like Thee, O Lord; Thou art great, and great is Thy name in might,” and explained of those who create idols, “But they are altogether stupid and foolish In their discipline of delusion—their idol is wood!” The prophetic commentary which follows then states, “Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish, And gold from Uphaz, The work of a craftsman and of the hands of a goldsmith; Violet and purple are their clothing; They are all the work of skilled men. But the Lord is the true God . . .” (Jeremiah 10:6-10, NASB).[1] In this vein, A.W. Tozer once wrote: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”[2]

But idols arise out of human imagination. Humanoids make god however they want him/her/it to be. In the description of the declension into idolatry, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man (Emphasis mine, Romans 1:21-23a, KJV). Imagination creates images — even idolatrous images — and the images can either be material or mental, actual or verbal.[3]

Words can create mental pictures. Someone once said that a picture is worth a thousand words. In an image-oriented age where people watch more and read less, this statement makes its point. But words can also create images. Through the mind’s eye, we see. Someone once defined idolatry as thinking wrong thoughts about God. So the question becomes, with the stroke of his verbal brush and in his bestselling novel The Shack, what picture of God does William P. Young create? I am fearful that the book’s painting of God, even though fictional, might promote the wrong image of Him.

The novel tugs at the emotional strings of its readers, and for just that reason the book has become a bestseller in the fiction category. I am therefore aware that I am about to tread where angels might not dare. This pastor realizes he is about to enter the personal and emotional space of the human heart. People feel very deeply about this book and its author. I ask only, as you read Young’s book with an open heart, that you might also read this theological review of the book with an open mind.

We now proceed to look at the theology of The Shack.[4] We turn to the ideas presented in the book about God. The god of The Shack (In this reference, I refuse to spell God with an upper case “G.”) is an imagined hermaphroditic trinity, consisting of a retreat center owner and hostess who goes by the name of “Elousia,” a carpenter-handyman by the name of “Jesus,” and a gardener who goes by the name of “Sarayu.” In order, we consider the three main characters, and another omniscient and sensual lady who goes by the name of “Sophia,” or Wisdom.

THE FIRST PERSON — At first mention, and according to Mack’s wife Nan’s understanding, the first person of the godhead goes by the name of “Papa” (perhaps alluding to the Apostle Paul’s designation of Him as “Abba,” Romans 8:15). But upon Mack’s arrival at The Shack, “Papa” morphs into a large and loving African-American woman named “Elousia” (i.e., a combination of the Hebrew name for God the Creator, “El,” and the Greek word “ousia” suggesting a Platonic meaning of “being” or “existence”).[5] Among other characteristics, “Elousia” describes herself as, “the Creator God who is truly real and the ground of all being.”(The Shack, 111).

This name for God appears to be borrowed from the writings of theologian Paul Tillich (1886-1965), who referred to God as “the Ground of Being.” By so designating deity, Tillich meant that, “God is not a being alongside others or above other but God is Being-itself or the Ground of Being.”[6] Likewise, to Tillich, “God is not a being, not even the highest of all beings; he is being itself, or the ground of being, the internal power or force that causes everything to exist.”[7] This conception of God compliments the conception of deity amongst devotees to the New Age/New Spirituality.

Even though Tillich’s assertions about deity were esoteric and complex, Young presents a Tillich-like scheme of deity who describes herself as “the ground of all being” that dwells “in, around, and through all things . . .” (The Shack, 112). Such a view of God is acknowledged to be panentheistic (i.e., God dwells “through all things”).[8] This may explain why, toward the end of his life, Tillich no longer prayed. He only meditated. To him there existed no personal or transcendental God to pray to. God was immanent only, his “ground of being.” So like an airplane, which is refused take-off for reason of mechanical failure, the concept of god in The Shack never gets off the “ground.” However, according to The Shack’s picturing of God, there may be a similarity even more startling.

Having finished reading The Shack, and while surfing the Internet, I was quite smitten when inadvertently, I ran across an internet article by Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox, The Return of the Black Madonna: A Sign of Our Times or How the Black Madonna is Shaking Us Up for the Twenty-First Century. Fox’s description of the Black Madonna (or the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis as she is alternately understood) included her supposed leading of distressed people to find emotional healing within themselves. This description seemed to possess, at first glance, an eerie parallel to the black goddess character (“Elousia”) created by William Young. The comparison upon further reading, study and thought, revealed that their similarity was more than just color. In both writings, two similar personages emerge. I proceed to note a few of the analogies between Fox’s Black Madonna and Young’s “Elousia.”

First, Fox states that, “The Black Madonna invites us into the dark and therefore into our depths. This is what the mystics call the ‘inside’ of things, the essence of things. This is where Divinity lies. It is where the true self lies. It is where illusions are broken apart and the truth lies.”[9]

In The Shack, we note the word “darkness” occurs frequently. It is as if darkness is archetypal to Mack’s Great Sadness. This is especially noticeable in his appearance before “Sophia.” In the chapter “Here Come Da Judge,” darkness is the dominant aura surrounding Mack’s experience. As he entered the cave, “with his hands outstretched in front of him, he ventured a couple of steps into the inky darkness and stopped.” (The Shack, 151). To create Mack’s experience, Young heaps up references to amplify “darkness”—“deep shadows . . . inky blackness . . . dim light . . . darkened room.” Similarly, in Fox’s words, the Black Madonna “invites us to enter into our grief and name it and be there to learn what suffering has to teach us.”[10] By entering the darkness, Mack dealt with his sadness. In contrast, 1 John 1:5 informs us that “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (KJV).

Second, Fox also notes, “The Black Madonna calls us to Grieve. The Black Madonna is the sorrowful mother, the mother who weeps tears for the suffering in the universe, the suffering in the world, the brokenness of our very vulnerable hearts.”[11] Fox goes on to say, “To grieve is to enter what John of the Cross in the sixteenth century called the ‘dark night of the soul.’ We are instructed not to run from this dark night but to stay there to learn what darkness has to teach us.”[12]

In The Shack, at the climactic moment when “Papa” (AKA “Elousia,” the black goddess) enfolded Mack into his/her arms and gently invited him to “Let it all out,” the story records that in a moment of emotional catharsis Mack “closed his eyes as the tears poured out . . . He wept until he had cried out all the darkness, all the longing and all the loss, until there was nothing left.” (The Shack, 226).

Third, Fox explains that “The Black Madonna calls us down to honor our lower charkas [sic] . . . The Black Madonna takes us down, down to the first charkas [sic] including our relationship to the whole (first chakra, as I have explained elsewhere is about picking up the vibrations for sounds from the whole cosmos), our sexuality (second chakra) and our anger and moral outrage (third chakra). European culture in the modern era especially has tried to flee from all these elements . . . in religion . . .The Black Madonna will not tolerate such flights from the earth, flights from the depths.”[13]

To those unacquainted with eastern religion, Fox’s words appear as mumbo-jumbo. But according to Yoga teaching, chakras are, “vortices that penetrate the body and the body’s aura, through which various energies, including the universal life force, are received, transformed, and distributed.”[14] It is believed that there are seven points of entry for the energy; among others, they include,

  • “The root (muladhara) [which] is located at the base of the spine and is the seat of kundalini . . .
  • The sacral (svadhisthana) [which] lies near the genitals and governs sexuality . . . [and]
  • The crown (sahasrara) [which] whirls just above the top of the head.”[15]

The experience of the entrance of energy into the body, which can happen spontaneously, is called kundalini (Sanskrit for “snake” or “serpent power,” named as such because of the belief that it lies coiled within the body ready to strike at any moment). Kundalini describes the mystical experience when energy enters the body and arouses the “sleeping serpent” (Shouldn’t we compare this to Genesis 3:1?). When that happens, wham . . .! This transient moment of arousal is defined to include, “physical sensations . . . clairaudience, visions, brilliant lights . . . ecstasy, bliss, and transcendence of self.”[16] With this description in mind, let’s look at one incident in The Shack to see if Mack, the novel’s main character, experienced kundalini.

Upon hearing the sensual Sophia ask him, during his journey into the darkness, “Do you understand why you’re here?” the novel records that, “Mack could almost feel her words (clairaudience) rain down on his head first (the 7th chakra) and melt into his spine (the 1st chakra), sending delicious tingles everywhere (the 2nd chakra). He shivered (physical sensations) and decided that he never wanted to speak again (transcendence of self). He only wanted her to talk (bliss) . . .” (The Shack, 153). What do you think? Did Mack experience kundalini? If so, then it came to him at a spontaneous moment in the darkness via the voice of the goddess-like Sophia.

Fourth, Fox states that, “The Black Madonna calls us to our Divinity which is also our Creativity.” He goes on to state that The Black Madonna “expects nothing less from us than creativity. Hers is a call to create, a call to ignite the imagination.”[17] On the next point Fox again states, “The Black Madonna calls us to Diversity. There is no imagination without diversity — imagination is about inviting disparate elements into soul and culture so that new combinations can make love together and new beings can be birthed.”[18] His Black Madonna calls us to a magical consciousness that has nothing to do with Scripture.

Likewise, when the goddess-like Sophia calls upon Mack to role play as The Judge, to sit in judgment over all other persons including God, she notes his pensiveness about assuming such an awesome responsibility. Sophia says to Mack: “‘Your imagination,’ she interrupted his train of thought, ‘is not serving you well at this moment’.” (The Shack, 160). In the Front Matter of the book, Greg Albrecht informs the potential reader, “You will be captivated by the creativity and imagination of The Shack, and before you know it, you’ll be experiencing God as never before.” Young’s novel itself serves to ignite the imagination, something Fox writes that the returning Black Madonna is also doing.

Other parallels between Fox’s Black Madonna and The Shack’s Elousia — their gender diversity, nurturing of hurting hearts, emphasis upon developing personal relationships, concern for the environment, and so on — form archetypal metaphors around which the mystery of life and suffering can be probed and explained, and upon which transcendent values can be formulated and applied for the social welfare and unity of the world’s diverse and divided population. These ecumenical metaphors are increasingly making their way into the evangelical church, especially via the Emergent Church.

The feminization of deity extends back to time immemorial. The Egyptian goddess Isis, in which Matthew Fox finds his precedence for the return of the Black Madonna, was likely the source for all the female deities of ancient Middle Eastern religion, including the idolatrous “queen of heaven” worshiped by the women and men of ancient Israel (Jeremiah 7:18-20; 44:15-19). The Black Madonna and “Elousia” find themselves in company with an idol goddess that Yahweh could not, and did not, tolerate before His face (Exodus 20:3-4). We now consider the second person of Young’s trinity.

THE SECOND PERSONThe Shack describes Jesus to be a quite human person, a relatively unattractive Middle Eastern Jewish man with a “big nose” who functioned as the retreat center’s repairman. (The Shack, 111). As regards Young’s portrayal of Jesus’ humanity, there is little disagreement. The author’s portrayal of Jesus in a literary symbolic sense seems reasonable and within the bounds of Scripture (See Matthew 1:1-17; Romans 1:3; Isaiah 53:2; Mark 6:3).

Nevertheless, the author leaves the door open for the idea that Jesus originated from “Papa-mama.” In explaining the derivation of woman from man, The Shack‘s Jesus tells Mack: “We created a circle of relationship, like our own, but for humans. She out of him, and now all males, including me, birthed through her (Eve), and ALL originating from God” (capital emphasis mine, The Shack, 148). Seemingly, this dialog makes Jesus’ birth to be as profane as the rest of humanity, thus calling into question His being the “only begotten of the Father” (meaning unique, or only one of His kind, John 1:14). Theologically, doubt is also aspersed upon Jesus Christ’s eternal generation.[19] After this assertion, the novel pictures Jesus’ desire to join all humans in “their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved.” (The Shack, 182)[20] In this regard, never once in the novel is Jesus (His human name) ever referred to as “Christ” (His self-chosen messianic and divine name, Matthew 16:16).

Young presents his readers with a very human Jesus who comes up short of being Christ. We turn now to the third member of The Shack’s trinity.

THE THIRD PERSONSarayu, the retreat center’s gardener — perhaps referring to Spirit’s production of fruit for Christian living (Galatians 5:22-23) — is the character meant to represent the Holy Spirit. Just after his introduction to her, Mack asks The Shack‘s Jesus, “Speaking of Sarayu, is she the Holy Spirit?” Jesus answers, “Yes, She is Creativity; she is Action; she is Breathing of Life; she is much more. She is my Spirit.” Mack responds, “And her name Sarayu?” Jesus explains, “That is a simple name from one of our human languages. It means ‘Wind,’ a common wind actually. She loves that name.”(The Shack, 110)

Sarayu is likely a Sanskrit word (the language that is the most important religious and literary language of India). It might also be construed to compare to the blowing of the wind in the necessary new birth spoken of by Jesus (John 3:8). But by naming the Spirit Sarayu, there seems to be allusion to the Rig Veda, the Hindu scriptures, for Sarayu bears semantic and phonetic resemblance to Vayu.[21] In so naming the Spirit with the Indic word for “wind,” is the author making overture to eastern religion?

Nevertheless, the novel’s impersonation of the Holy Spirit as female contradicts Jesus’ clear statement that the Spirit is neither an “it” nor a “she,” but “He” (John 16:13).

Is there a fourth member of Young’s polymorphous trinity? Maybe . . . we are left to our imagination.

WISDOMSophia, though separate from the trinity, but secluded not far away from the resplendent retreat center, is a divine-like lady-judge, who is wise in all the ways in which “Papa” conducts his/her affairs (See Proverbs 8:1-36; 1 Corinthians 1:24.). In her verbal exchanges with Mack, she clearly possesses clairvoyant, if not omniscient, perception. (The Shack, 156, 160)

IN CONCLUSION, The Shack, under the cover of biblical allusion, presents a god which may be likened to a deity of eastern mythology and mysticism. The reader ought to beware lest biblical allusion be used to peddle theological illusion. But you ask, “How can that happen?” How can scriptural allusion promote spiritual delusion? I would point out that Satan used biblical allusion to tempt Jesus. In the second phase of the temptation of Christ, Satan alluded to Psalm 91:11-12, to which Jesus responded by quoting Deuteronomy 6:16, “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (See Matthew 4:5-6, KJV.). Presenting a potpourri of spirituality combining biblical allusion with mystical illusion and mythological delusion, The Shack will surely resonate with an Emergent Christian mindset that attempts to flirt with the New Age/New Spirituality of postmodernism. The fact that the novel is fiction makes no difference — it communicates wrong ideas about God. As A.W. Tozer wrote,

Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.

“Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel demonstrates this clearly enough, and the history of the Church confirms it. So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards decline along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.

“Before the Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, ‘What is God like?’ and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is, and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.” [22]

THE TRUTH:

“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4)

ENDNOTES
1. The Apostle Paul also remarked of the reputation of the church at Thessalonica how they, “turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God” (I Thessalonians 1:9). Scripture also records that both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are also Truth (John 14:6; 1 John 5:7, 20). In this vein, one must note John’s closing word: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).
2. A.W. Tozer,
The Knowledge of the Holy, The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1961) 12
.
3. The word “imagination” (Greek, dialogismos) literally means, “the thinking of a man deliberating with himself” (Romans 1:21, KJV). On this point, it is appropriate to note that
William P. Young accounts for the origin of his novel for reason of personal and private conversations he had with God on his daily work-commute from Gresham to Portland, Oregon. World magazine reports that, “Young used 80 minutes each day . . . to fill yellow legal pads with imagined conversations with God focused on suffering, pain, and evil.” (See Susan Olasky, “Commuter-driven bestseller,” World, June 28/July 5, 2008, 49.) Paul, the apostle states that idolatry germinates out of people “deliberating” within themselves. This is gnosis spirituality which is ever in contest with the Logos spirituality of the Bible. The Word finds its origin with God (John 1:1, 14). Gnosis, the basis of the New Age/New Spirituality, finds its origin in the mind of man, or perhaps might even be received from demons (1 Timothy 4:1).
4. In that in the Front Matter The Shack book receives rave theological kudos, it is not unfair to investigate and evaluate the book’s theology, especially the doctrine of God known to systematic theologians as the category of Theology Proper.
5. On this point, I find it interesting that the novel has not yet been accused of racial stereotyping, i.e., that God is pictured as being a “large” or “big black woman” (The Shack, 84, 86), and that Jesus comes from a Jewish nation of people with “big noses” (The Shack, 111).
6. John P. Newport, Paul Tillich (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1984) 108. Newport also observes that in the “grounding” of God, Tillich “seems to synthesize the pantheistic element of immanence with the theistic element of transcendence in a way that leans toward pantheism.” (110). Newport’s assessment may be too generous. At the end of his life, Tillich might have been an out and out pantheist. Of Tillich’s book, Courage to Be, Erickson remarks that it “appears to have more in common with Hinduism than it does with historic Christianity.” See Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998) 334.
7. Erickson, Theology, 333.
8. For sake of explanation, pantheism teaches that God is all things while panentheism holds that God dwells in all things. For sake of analogy, a tree is not God (pantheism), but the sap which is the “life force” in the tree is. God is “in” the tree, but the tree is not God. See Erickson, Theology, 333.
9. Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox, “The Return of the Black Madonna: A Sign of Our Times or How the Black Madonna Is Shaking Us Up for the Twenty-First Century,” Friends of Creation Spirituality, January 2006, Article Number 1 (
http://www.matthewfox.org/sys-tmpl/theblackmadonna/).
10. Ibid. Article Number 8.
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid.
13. Ibid. Article Number 3.
14. Rosemary Ellen Guiley, “Chakra,” Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience (San Francisco: Harper Collins Publishers, 1991) 86.
15. Ibid. 86-87.
16. Guiley, “Kundalini,” Encyclopedia, 319.
17. Fox, “The Black Madonna,” Article Number 6.
18. Ibid. Article Number 7.
19. When it acknowledged Jesus to have been “begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead,” it might be construed that the Chalcedonian Creed (AD 451) allows for a concept that God originated Jesus (See
http://www.carm.org/creeds/chalcedonian.htm). However, to imagine the mystery surrounding the Trinity to be analogous to some kind of human begetting (i.e., as in the Mormon doctrine of God) is improper. The relationship of the Father and Son to each other is their personal relationship, and it would be well for us creatures not invade their privacy (i.e., mystery). Their relationship is theirs alone. Though the unity for which Jesus prayed may be compared to that of His with the Father, it is only similar to (“as”), but not the same as their unity (John 17:21).
20. In this regard, one can note the capitalization of “Beloved.” When used in the NASB translation of the Bible, “Beloved” is capitalized as when Paul wrote of the grace God bestowed upon the believer “in the Beloved” (in Christ, Ephesians 1:6, NASB, NKJV, NRSV, 1901 ASV). Thus when the “Jesus ” of The Shack said he desires people to be transformed “into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved” (The Shack, 182), it is as if Jesus envisions that humans can achieve a theotic state of “being” that morphs into divinity. While believers are “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), we are not consumed of it (Romans 7:14ff.).
21. “Word Mythology Dictionary: Vayu,” Answers.com (
http://www.answers.com/topic/vayu-2).
22. A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy,
9.

Pastor Larry DeBruyn is the author of Church on the Rise: Why I am not a Purpose-Driven Pastor. This article used with permission.

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More Than Talk and Prayer Needed for Revival!

Posted by Scott on September 26, 2008

Revival: More Than Talk and Prayer by A. W. Tozer

Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. –Joshua 1:7

It will take more than talk and prayer to bring revival. There must be a return to the Lord in practice before our prayers will be heard in heaven. We dare not continue to trouble God’s way if we want Him to bless ours….

If we are foolish enough to do it, we may spend the new year vainly begging God to send revival, while we blindly overlook His requirements and continue to break His laws. Or we can begin now to obey and learn the blessedness of obedience. The Word of God is before us. We have only to read and do what is written there and revival is assured. It will come as naturally as the harvest comes after the plowing and the planting.

Yes, this could be the year the revival comes. It’s strictly up to us. The Size of the Soul, 10-11.

“Lord, I’m beginning to get the picture that there’s a real key to seeing the revival for which so many are praying! I pray indeed that this would be the year when Your people will get serious about heart-felt obedience to Your commands. Then send the great revival among us! Amen.”

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Serious Holiness in an Unholy World!

Posted by Scott on September 23, 2008

God takes worship towards Him from us very seriously.  The Israelites found this out some 2500 years ago.  In Malachi 3:16-18 God is stating His promise to return to His people if we will return to Him in unabashed holiness before Him.

Malachi 3:6, “I am the Lord, I do not change”.

God does not like to be cheated, lied to, lied about, or talked badly about from anyone.  Today we have many inside and outside the church that think God is an old man with a hearing and seeing problem.  However, I testify to you today that God is no old man with a hearing or seeing problem.  He is seeing and hearing everything we do for Him and against Him.  Rest assured, our heavenly Father will not be mocked.

16 Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.

 17 “They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. [a] I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. 18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.   Malachi 3:16-18

What is God calling us to do today?  “Repent of wickedness, habitual sinful life styles, filthy minds and mouths, our prideful attitudes, money hungry habits, our spoiled selfishness, and the theft of what is rightfully His.”  His calling is to return to Him in holiness, purity, righteousness, and all godliness.  God will return to us in favor if we will return to Him in holiness.  God is looking for us to honor Him with our very best, not our rags.  He wants us to serve Him with our very best, not what is left over. 

The Lord has promised mercy for those that remain solidly pure and holy before Him as we walk this land today.  This is a time of great defection from the ways of God and towards a philosophy of man centered salvation.  God has always preserved a remnant that will stoke the fires of holiness for His chosen people.  In these final days, we will witness a return from the few to holiness and purity.  As that desire planted long ago is stirred into a raging inferno of godliness in the midst of a vile and crooked land.

Even as the judgement and wrath of God falls down upon our country and people around us, God’s protection will be magnified even more.  Those caught up in desparate turmoil will wonder how and why we come through unscathed.  The testimony of the saints will find greater opportunities to be exposed. 

As Ezekial 18:1-32 tells of the contract between God’s holy people who will live verses the wicked who will die…7 points emerge for the righteous men of God to observe:

The righteous man….

1….does not worship idols!  The righteous man lives each moment of every day to honor and glorify God with his all.  Money, cars, houses, vacations, loose women, Vegas, clothes, retirement plans, jobs, businesses, travelling, sports, etc…..anything that can become an idol, the righteous man forces himself to be focused on God.

2….is not an adulterer!  He does not sleep around with other women other than his wife.  This is that simple.  The righteous man is a one woman man with eyes and heart for his wife only.

3….is merciful in all things.  The righteous man is merciful is the way he extends credit to people.  He does not take advantage of people especially the poor.  He acts with dignity and integrity at all times with people.  He exudes grace upon the people he deals with.

4….does not rob from the poor.  He seeks to feed and cloth the poor if financially capable.  His heart has sympathy or empathy for those with less than him.  He does not seek out to take from them as easy prey.

5….when capable and asked to loan something to someone, he does so without interest.  The righteous man does not loan money to his brother and charge him interest…he extends grace to his brother in need without charging him into the poor house. 

6….is honest and fair when passing judgement on someone.  The righteous man looks at the entire circumstances, listens to the person and renders a judgement based on the truth and wisdom given to him.  The righteous man has a gift called discernment empowered by the Holy Spirit in order to sift through what is being said to see what is really being done.

7….faithfully obeys the commands or decrees of his God.  The righteous man is like a well trained soldier receiving his commands from his General and carrying them out without wavering.

As our times get grossly worse the holy ones of God will become even more obvious to all those around.  As God draws us to Himself the desire in our hearts to be holy will become stronger.  I can sense that in my own life and many of those around me.  God takes His hand and places it upon my head and turns me in the direction He desires….that direction is towards Him.  

In this time of great apostasy us men need to remember a few things:

1. Be careful not to live closely to the world’s ways.  Yes, we live here, but we are to be a strange people.  We are to be looked upon like we are aliens from another planet.  Living too closely to the world will alter our minds to thinking like the world and ultimately killing our zest for Christ and a life of holiness.

2. Commit to serve God and Him alone.  Choose truth over philosophical lies of this worldly system.  This takes commitment like you have never experienced. 

As Thomas Watson has written, “Hypocrites are good only out of worldly designs.  They embrace the gospel for secular advantage and these will in time fall away.” 

This commitment to serving God starts within our family first.  We have a living breathing mission field within our home’s walls, yet, we usually neglect it in order to travel to some foreign land (nothing wrong with foreign missionaries).  When we arrive in heaven before our Lord He will not mention at first the ministry outside our home….He will address our success or failure within our home.  It is important to Him that we nurture, teach, and father our children in the ways of God.  Living out the holiness we are called to live before their young eyes.  They will know us warts and all, but they need to an example of their heavenly Father shining through towards them daily.

3. Be sincere in our faith in Jesus Christ.  Speak the truth, but also live it out before the world.

4. Love the Lord with the same kind of love that held Him on the cross.  This is a love that carries the believer beyond the fear of death and is the deliverer of true life.  The love mentioned here is a love that is not deterred by suffering if it will honor and glorify God.

5. Harden our hearts towards evil and wicked desires.  The devil will throw out “reproaches” in our path.  These are temptations that are to draw us in. 

Thomas Watson puts it this way:  “Reproaches are but assulae crusis, splinters of the cross.”

These failed temptations or reproaches upon the believer are as “crowns around our heads”.  Remember it is far better that men condemn us for holy and righteous than to have God damn us to hell for being wicked and vile like the unbelieving world.

6. Become a solid wall of grace.  This is an exciting grace that is contagious to other believers around us.  This type of grace is firm yet on the truth, but gracious in its delivery to others.

Men, we have only two real choices in this short life on earth:

Godliness or Worldliness

Which one will we choose.  As Joshua stated in 24:15:

“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

The calling is clear, but will you choose to serve the Lord?

Great 2 part message on the holiness of God by Pastor Paul Washer (enjoy)!

(c) Scott Bailey 2008

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Christ is All!

Posted by Scott on September 17, 2008

CHRIST IS ALL

by J. C. Ryle

“Christ is all” (Col. 3:11).

The words of the text which heads this page are few, short and soon spoken; but they contain great things. Like those golden sayings, “To me to live is Christ,” “I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me,” they are singularly rich and suggestive (Phil. 1:21; Gal. 2:20).

These three words are the essence and substance of Christianity. If our hearts can really go along with them, it is well with our souls. If not, we may be sure we have yet much to learn.

Let me try to set before my readers in what sense Christ is all, and let me ask them, as they read, to Judge themselves honestly, that they may not make shipwreck in the judgment of the last day.

I purposely close this volume with a message on this remarkable text. Christ is the mainspring both of doctrinal and practical Christianity. A right knowledge of Christ is essential to a right knowledge of sanctification as well as justification. He that follows after holiness will make no progress unless he gives to Christ His rightful place. I began the volume with a plain statement about sin. Let me end it with an equally plain statement about Christ.
 

1. Christ is all in the counsels of God

a. There was a time when this earth had no being. Solid as the mountains look, boundless as the sea appears, high as the stars in heaven look, they once did not exist. And man, with all the high thoughts he now has of himself, was a creature unknown.

And where was Christ then?

Even then Christ was “with God” and “was God” and was “equal with God” (John 1:1; Phil. 2:6). Even then He was the beloved Son of the Father “You loved Me,” He says, “before the foundation of the world.” “I had glory with You before the world began.” “I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was” (John 17:5, 24; Prov. 8:23). Even then He was the Savior if “foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1 Pet. 1:20), and believers were “chosen in Him” (Eph. 1:4).

b. There came a time when this earth was created in its present order. Sun, moon and stars, sea, land and all their inhabitants were called into being, and made out of chaos and confusion. And, last of all, man was formed out of the dust of the ground.

And where was Christ then?

Hear what the Scripture says: “All things were made by Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). “By Him were all things created, that are in heaven and that are in earth” (Col. 1:16). “And You, Lord, in the beginning have laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of Your hands” (Heb. 1:10). “When He prepared the heavens, I was there: when He set a compass upon the face of the depth: when He established the clouds above: when He strengthened the foundations of the deep: when He gave to the sea His decree, that the waters should not pass His commandment: when He appointed the foundations of the earth then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him” (Prov. 8:27–30). Can we wonder that the Lord Jesus, in His preaching, should continually draw lessons from the book of nature? When He spoke of the sheep, the fish, the ravens, the corn, the lilies, the fig tree, the vine, He spoke of things which He Himself had made.

c. There came a day when sin entered the world. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and fell. They lost that holy nature in which they were first formed. They forfeited the friendship and favor of God, and became guilty, corrupt, helpless, hopeless sinners. Sin came as a barrier between themselves and their holy Father in heaven. Had He dealt with them according to their deserts, there had been nothing before them but death, hell and everlasting ruin.

And where was Christ then?

In that very day He was revealed to our trembling parents as the only hope of salvation. The very day they fell, they were told that the seed of the woman should yet bruise the serpent’s head, that a Savior born of a woman should overcome the devil, and win for sinful man an entrance to eternal life (Gen. 3:15). Christ was held up as the true light of the world, in the very day of the Fall; and never has any name been made known from that day by which souls could be saved, excepting His By Him all saved souls have entered heaven, from Adam downwards; and without Him none have ever escaped hell.

d. There came a time when the world seemed sunk and buried in ignorance of God. After four thousand years the nations of the earth appeared to have clean forgotten the God that made them. Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Grecian and Roman empires had done nothing but spread superstition and idolatry. Poets, historians, philosophers had proved that, with all their intellectual powers, they had no right knowledge of God, and that man, left to himself, was utterly corrupt. “The world, by wisdom, knew not God” (1 Cor. 1:21). Excepting a few despised Jews in a corner of the earth, the whole world was dead in ignorance and sin.

And what did Christ do then?

He left the glory He had had from all eternity with the Father, and came down into the world to provide a salvation. He took our nature upon Him, and was born as a man. As a man He did the will of God perfectly, which we all had left undone; as a man He suffered on the cross the wrath of God which we ought to have suffered. He brought in everlasting righteousness for us. He redeemed us from the curse of a broken law. He opened a fountain for all sin and uncleanness. He died for our sins. He rose again for our justification. He ascended to God’s right hand, and there sat down, waiting until His enemies should be made His footstool. And there He sits now, offering salvation to all who will come to Him, interceding for all who believe in Him, and managing by God’s appointment all that concerns the salvation of souls.

e. There is a time coming when sin shall be cast out from this world. Wickedness shall not always flourish unpunished, Satan shall not always reign, creation shall not always groan, being burdened. There shall be a time of restitution of all things. There shall be a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness, and the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Rom. 8:22; Acts 3:21; 2 Pet. 3:13; Isa. 11:9).

And where shall Christ be then? And what shall He do?

Christ Himself shall be King. He shall return to this earth, and make all things new. He shall come in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, and the kingdoms of the world shall become His. The heathen shall be given to Him for His inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession. To Him every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord. His dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed (Matt. 24:30; Rev. 11:15; Ps. 2:8; Phil. 2:10, 11; Dan. 7:14).

f. There is a day coming when all men shall be judged. The sea shall give up the dead which are in it, and death and hell shall deliver up the dead which are in them. All that sleep in the grave shall awake and come forth, and all shall be judged according to their works (Rev. 20:13; Dan. 12:2).

And where will Christ be then?

Christ Himself will be the Judge. “The Father . . . has all judgment unto the Son.” “When the Son of man shall come in His glory: then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats.” “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad” (John 5:22; Matt. 25:31, 32; 2 Cor. 5:10).

Now if any reader of this message thinks little of Christ, let him know this day that he is very unlike God! You are of one mind, and God is of another. You are of one judgment, and God is of another. You think it enough to give Christ a little honor, a little reverence, a little respect. But in all the eternal counsels of God the Father, in creation, redemption, restitution and judgment—in all these, Christ is “all”.

Surely we shall do well to consider these things. Surely it is not written in vain “He that honors not the Son honors not the Father which has sent Him” (John 5:23).
 

2. Christ is all in the Bible

In every part of both Testaments Christ is to be found—dimly and indistinctly at the beginning, more clearly and plainly in the middle, fully and completely at the end—but really and substantially everywhere.

Christ’s sacrifice and death for sinners, and Christ’s kingdom and future glory, are the light we must bring to bear on any book of Scripture we read. Christ’s cross and Christ’s crown are the clue we must hold fast, if we would find our way through Scripture difficulties. Christ is the only key that will unlock many of the dark places of the Word. Some people complain that they do not understand the Bible. And the reason is very simple. They do not use the key. To them the Bible is like the hieroglyphics in Egypt. It is a mystery, just because they do not know and employ the key.

a. It was Christ crucified who was set forth in every Old Testament sacrifice. Every animal slain and offered on an altar was a practical confession that a Savior was looked for who would die for sinners—a Savior who should take away man’s sin, by suffering, as his Substitute and Sin–bearer, in his stead (1 Peter 3:18). It is absurd to suppose that an unmeaning slaughter of innocent beasts, without a distinct object in view, could please the eternal God!

b. It was Christ to whom Abel looked when he offered a better sacrifice than Cain. Not only was the heart of Abel better than that of his brother, but he showed his knowledge of vicarious sacrifice and his faith in an atonement. He offered the firstlings of his flock, with the blood thereof, and in so doing declared his belief that without shedding of blood there is no remission (Heb. 11:4).

c. It was Christ of whom Enoch prophesied in the days of abounding wickedness before the flood “Behold,” he said, “the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all” (Jude 14, 15).

d. It was Christ to whom Abraham looked when he dwelt in tents in the land of promise. He believed that in his seed, in one born of his family, all the nations of the earth should be blessed. By faith he saw Christ’s day, and was glad (John 8:56).

e. It was Christ of whom Jacob spoke to his sons, as he lay dying. He marked out the tribe out of which He would be born, and foretold that “gathering together” unto Him which is yet to be accomplished. “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come, and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be” (Gen. 49:10).

f. It was Christ who was the substance of the ceremonial law which God gave to Israel by the hand of Moses. The morning and evening sacrifice, the continual shedding of blood, the altar, the mercy–seat, the high priest, the passover, the day of atonement, the scapegoat—all these were so many pictures, types and emblems of Christ and His work. God had compassion upon the weakness of His people. He taught them Christ, line upon line, and, as we teach little children, by similitudes. It was in this sense especially that “the law was a schoolmaster to read” the Jews “unto Christ” (Gal. 3:24).

g. It was Christ to whom God directed the attention of Israel by all the daily miracles which were done before their eyes in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud and fire which guided them, the manna from heaven which every morning fed them, the water from the smitten rock which followed them—all and each were figures of Christ The bronze serpent, on that memorable occasion when the plague of fiery serpents was sent upon them, was an emblem of Christ (1 Cor. 10:4; John 3:14).

h. It was Christ of whom all the judges were types. Joshua and David and Gideon and Jephthah and Samson, and all the rest whom God raised up to deliver Israel from captivity—all were emblems of Christ. Weak and unstable and faulty as some of them were, they were set for examples of better things in the distant future. All were meant to remind the tribes of that far higher Deliverer who was yet to come.

i. It was Christ of whom David the king was a type. Anointed and chosen when few gave him honor, despised and rejected by Saul and all the tribes of Israel, persecuted and obliged to flee for his life, a man of sorrow all his life, and yet at length a conqueror—in all these things David represented Christ.

j. It was Christ of whom all the prophets from Isaiah to Malachi spoke. They saw through a glass darkly. They sometimes dwelt on His sufferings, and sometimes on His glory that should follow (1 Pet. 1:11). They did not always mark out for us the distinction between Christ’s first coming and Christ’s second coming. Like two candles in a straight line, one behind the other, they sometimes saw both the advents at the same time, and spoke of them in one breath. They were sometimes moved by the Holy Spirit to write of the times of Christ crucified, and sometimes of Christ’s kingdom in the latter days. But Jesus dying, or Jesus reigning, was the thought you will ever find uppermost in their minds.

k. It is Christ, I need hardly say, of whom the whole New Testament is full. The Gospels are Christ living, speaking and moving among men. The Acts are Christ preached, published and proclaimed. The Epistles are Christ written of, explained and exalted. But all through, from first to last, there is one name above every other, and that is the name of Christ.

I charge every reader of this message to ask himself frequently what the Bible is to him. Is it a Bible in which you have found nothing more than good moral precepts and sound advice? Or is it a Bible in which you have found Christ? Is it a Bible in which Christ is all? If not, I tell you plainly, you have hitherto used your Bible to very little purpose. You are like a man who studies the solar system, and leaves out in his studies the sun, which is the center of all. It is no wonder if you find your Bible a dull book!
 

3. Christ is all in the religion of all true Christians.

In saying this, I wish to guard myself against being misunderstood. I hold the absolute necessity of the election of God the Father, and the sanctification of God the Spirit, in order to effect the salvation of everyone that is saved. I hold that there is a perfect harmony and unison in the action of the three People of the Trinity, in bringing any man to glory, and that all three cooperate and work a joint work in his deliverance from sin and hell. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit. The Father is merciful, the Son is merciful, the Holy Spirit is merciful. The same Three who said at the beginning, “Let us create,” said also, “Let us redeem and save.” I hold that everyone who reaches heaven will ascribe all the glory of his salvation to Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three People in one God.

But, at the same time, I see clear proof in Scripture, that it is mind of the blessed Trinity that Christ should be prominently and distinctly exalted, in the matter of saving souls. Christ is set forth as the Word, through whom God’s love to sinners is made known. Christ’s incarnation and atoning death on the cross are the great corner–stone on which the whole plan of salvation rests. Christ is the way and door, by which alone approaches to God are to be made. Christ is the root into which all elect sinners must be grafted. Christ is the only meeting–place between God and man, between heaven and earth, between the Holy Trinity and the poor sinful child of Adam. It is Christ whom God the Father has sealed and appointed to convey life to a dead world (John 6:27). It is Christ to whom the Father has given a people to be brought to glory. It is Christ of whom the Spirit testifies, and to whom He always leads a soul for pardon and peace. In short, it has “pleased the Father than in Christ all fullness should dwell” (Col. 1:19). What the sun is in the skies of heaven, that Christ is in true Christianity.

I say these things by way of explanation. I want my readers clearly to understand, that in saying, “Christ is all,” I do not mean to shut out the work of the Father and of the Spirit. Now let me show what I do mean.

a. Christ is all in a sinner’s justification before God.

Through Him alone we can have peace with a holy God. By Him alone we can have admission into the presence of the Most High, and stand there without fear. “We have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him.” In Him alone can God be just, and justify the ungodly (Eph. 3:12; Rom. 3:26).

With which can any mortal man come before God? What can we bring as a plea for acquittal before that glorious Being, in whose eyes the very heavens are not clean?

Shall we say that we have done our duty to God? Shall we say that we have done our duty to our neighbor? Shall we bring forward our prayers, our regularity, our morality, our amendments, our churchgoing? Shall we ask to be accepted because of any of these?

Which of these things will stand the searching inspection of God’s eye? Which of them will actually justify us? Which of them will carry us clear through judgment and land us safe in glory?

None, none, none! Take any commandment of the ten, and let us examine ourselves by it. We have broken it repeatedly. We cannot answer God one of a thousand. Take any of us, and look narrowly into our ways, and we are nothing but sinners. There is but one verdict we are all guilty, all deserve hell, all ought to die. With which can we come before God?

We must come in the name of Jesus, standing on no other ground, pleading no other plea than this: “Christ died on the cross for the ungodly, and I trust in Him. Christ died for me, and I believe on Him.” The garment of our Elder Brother, the righteousness of Christ, this is the only robe which can cover us, and enable us to stand in the light of heaven without shame.

The name of Jesus is the only name by which we shall obtain an entrance through the gate of eternal glory. If we come to that gate in our own names, we are lost, we shall not be admitted, we shall knock in vain. If we come in the name of Jesus, it is a passport and shibboleth, and we shall enter and live.

The mark of the blood of Christ is the only mark that can save us from destruction. When the angels are separating the children of Adam in the last day, if we are not found marked with that atoning blood, we had better never have been born.

Oh, let us never forget that Christ must be all to that soul who would be justified! We must be content to go to heaven as beggars, saved by free grace, simply as believers in Jesus, or we shall never be saved at all.

Is there a thoughtless, worldly soul among the readers of this book? Is there one who thinks to reach heaven by saying hastily at the last, “Lord have mercy on me,” without Christ? Friend, you are sowing misery for yourself, and unless you alter, you will awake to endless woe.

Is there a proud, formal soul among the readers of this book? Is there anyone thinking to make himself fit for heaven, and good enough to pass muster by his own doings? Brother, you are building a Babel, and you will never reach heaven in your present state.

But is there a laboring, heavy–laden one among the readers of this book? Is there one who wants to be saved, and feels a vile sinner? I say to such an one, “Come to Christ, and He shall save you. Come to Christ, and cast the burden of your soul on Him. Fear not only believe.”

Do you fear wrath? Christ can deliver you from the wrath to come. Do you feel the curse of a broken law? Christ can redeem you from the curse of the law. Do you feel far away? Christ has suffered, to bring you near to God. Do you feel unclean? Christ’s blood can cleanse all sin away. Do you feel imperfect? You shall be complete in Christ. Do you feel as if you were nothing? Christ shall be all in all to your soul. Never did saint reach heaven with any tale but this “I was washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14).

b. Christ is not only all in the justification of a true Christian, but He is also all in his sanctification. I would not have anyone misunderstand me. I do not mean for a moment to undervalue the work of the Spirit. But this I say, that no man is ever holy until he comes to Christ and is united to Him. Until then his works are dead works, and he has no holiness at all. First you must be joined to Christ, and then you shall be holy. “Without Him, separate from Him, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

And no man can grow in holiness except he abides in Christ. Christ is the great root from which every believer must draw his strength to go forward. The Spirit is His special gift, His purchased gift for His people. A believer must not only “receive Christ Jesus the Lord” but “walk in Him, and be rooted and built up in Him” (Col. 2:6, 7).

Would you be holy? Then Christ is the manna you must daily eat, like Israel in the wilderness of old. Would you be holy? Then Christ must be the rock from which you must daily drink the living water. Would you be holy? Then you must be ever looking unto Jesus, looking at His cross, and learning fresh motives for a closer walk with God, looking at His example, and taking Him for your pattern. Looking at Him, you would become like Him. Looking at Him, your face would shine without your knowing it. Look less at yourself and more at Christ, and you will find besetting sins dropping off and leaving you, and your eyes enlightened more and more every day (Heb. 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18).

The true secret of coming up out of the wilderness is to come up leaning on the Beloved (Song 8:5). The true way to be strong is to realize our weakness, and to feel that Christ must be all. The true way to grow in grace is to make use of Christ as a fountain for every minute’s necessities. We ought to employ Him as the prophet’s wife employed the oil—not only to pay our debts, but to live on also. We should strive to be able to say, “The life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (2 Kings 4:7; Gal. 2:20).

I pity those who try to be holy without Christ! Your labor is all in vain. You are putting money in a bag with holes. You are pouring water into a sieve. You are rolling a huge round stone uphill. You are building up a wall with untempered mortar. Believe me, you are beginning at the wrong end. You must come to Christ first, and He shall give you His sanctifying Spirit. You must learn to say with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).

c. Christ is not only all in the sanctification of a true Christian, but all in his comfort in time present. A saved soul has many sorrows. He has a body like other men, weak and frail. He has a heart like other men, and often a more sensitive one too. He has trials and losses to bear like others, and often more. He has his share of bereavements, deaths, disappointments, crosses. He has the world to oppose a place in life to fill blamelessly, unconverted relatives to bear with patiently, persecutions to endure and a death to die.

And who is sufficient for these things? What shall enable a believer to bear all this? Nothing but the consolation there is in Christ (Phil. 2:1).

Jesus is indeed the Brother born for adversity. He is the Friend that sticks closer than a brother, and He alone can comfort His people. He can be touched with the feeling of their infirmities, for He suffered Himself (Heb. 4:15). He knows what sorrow is, for He was a Man of sorrows. He knows what an aching body is, for His body was racked with pain. He cried, “All my bones are out of joint” (Ps. 22:14). He knows what poverty and weariness are, for He was often wearied and had not where to lay His head. He knows what family unkindness is, for even His brethren did not believe Him. He had no honor in His own house.

And Jesus knows exactly how to comfort His afflicted people. He knows how to pour in oil and wine into the wounds of the spirit, how to fill up gaps in empty hearts, how to speak a word in season to the weary, how to heal the broken heart, how to make all our bed in sickness, how to draw near when we are faint, and say, “Fear not I am your salvation” (Lam. 3:57).

We talk of sympathy being pleasant. There is no sympathy like that of Christ. In all our afflictions He is afflicted. He knows our sorrows. In all our pain He is pained, and like the good physician, He will not measure out to us one drop of sorrow too much. David once said, “In the multitude of my thoughts within me, Your comforts delight my soul” (Ps. 104:19). Many a believer, I am sure, could say as much. “If the Lord Himself had not stood by me, the deep waters would have gone over my soul” (Ps. 124:5).

How a believer gets through all his troubles appears wonderful. flow he is carried through the fire and water he passes through seems past comprehension. But the true account of it is just this, that Christ is not only justification and sanctification, but consolation also.

Oh, you who want unfailing comfort, I commend you to Christ! In Him alone there is no failure. Rich men are disappointed in their treasures. Learned men are disappointed in their books. Husbands are disappointed in their wives. Wives are disappointed in their husbands. Parents are disappointed in their children. Statesmen are disappointed when, after many a struggle, they attain place and power. They find out, to their cost, that it is more pain than pleasure, that it is disappointment, annoyance, incessant trouble, worry, vanity and vexation of spirit. But no man was ever disappointed in Christ.

d. But as Christ is all in the comforts of a true Christian in time present, so Christ is all in his hopes for time to come. Few men and women, I suppose, are to be found who do not indulge in hopes of some kind about their souls. But the hopes of the vast majority are nothing but vain fancies. They are built on no solid foundation. No living man but the real child of God—the sincere, thorough–going Christian—can give a reasonable account of the hope that is in him. No hope is reasonable which is not scriptural.

A true Christian has a good hope when he looks forward; the worldly man has none. A true Christian sees light in the distance; the worldly man sees nothing but darkness. And what is the hope of a true Christian? It is just this that Jesus Christ is coming again, coming without sin, coming with all His people, coming to wipe away every tear, coming to raise His sleeping saints from the grave, coming to gather together all His family, that they may be forever with Him.

Why is a believer patient? Because he looks for the coming of the Lord. He can bear hard things without murmuring. He knows the time is short. He waits quietly for the King.

Why is he moderate in all things? Because he expects his Lord soon to return. His treasure is in heaven, his good things are yet to come. The world is not his rest, but an inn; and an inn is not home. He knows that “He that shall come will soon come, and will not tarry.” Christ is coming, and that is enough (Heb. 10:37).

This is indeed a “blessed hope!” (Titus 2:13.) Now is the school–time, then the eternal holiday. Now is the tossing on the waves of a troublesome world, then the quiet harbor. Now is the scattering, then the gathering. Now is the time of sowing, then the harvest. Now is the working season, then the wages. Now is the cross, then the crown.

People talk of their “expectations” and hopes from this world. None have such solid expectations as a saved soul. He can say, “My soul, wait you only upon God; my expectation is from Him” (Ps. 62:5).

In all true saving religion Christ is all in justification, all in sanctification, all in comfort, all in hope. Blessed is that mother’s child that knows it, and far more blessed is he that feels it, too. Oh, that men would prove themselves, and see what they know of it for their own souls!
 

4. Christ will be all in heaven

I cannot dwell long on this point. I have not power, if I had space and room. I can ill describe things unseen and a world unknown. But this I know, that all men and women who reach heaven will find that even there also Christ is all.

Like the altar in Solomon’s temple, Christ crucified will be the grand object in heaven. That altar struck the eye of everyone who entered the temple gates. It was a great bronze altar, twenty cubits broad, as broad as the front of the temple itself (2 Chron. 3:4; 4:1). So in like manner will Jesus fill the eyes of all who enter glory. In the midst of the throne, and surrounded by adoring angels and saints, there will be “the Lamb that was slain.” And “the Lamb shall be the light, of the place” (Rev. 5:6; 21:23).

The praise of the Lord Jesus, will be the eternal song of all the inhabitants of heaven. They will say with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain …. Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever” (Rev. 5:12, 13).

The service of the Lord Jesus will be one eternal occupation of all the inhabitants of heaven. We shall “serve Him day and night in His temple” (Rev. 7:15). Blessed is the thought that we shall at length attend on Him without distraction, and work for Him without weariness.

The presence of Christ Himself shall be one everlasting enjoyment of the inhabitants of heaven. We shall see His face, and hear His voice, and speak with Him as friend with friend (Rev. 22:4). Sweet is the thought that whoever may be warning at the marriage supper, the Master Himself will be there. His presence will satisfy all our wants (Ps. 17:15).

What a sweet and glorious home heaven will be to those who have loved the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity! Here we live by faith in Him, and find peace, though we see Him not. There we shall see Him face to face, and find He is altogether lovely. “Better, indeed will be the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire!” (Eccl. 6:9.)

But alas, how little fit for heaven are many who talk of going to heaven, when they die, while they manifestly have no saving faith and no real acquaintance with Christ. You give Christ no honor here. You have no communion with Him. You do not love Him. Alas, what could you do in heaven? It would be no place for you. Its joys would be no joys for you. Its happiness would be a happiness into which you could not enter. Its employments would be a weariness and a burden to your heart. Oh, repent and change before it be too late!

I trust I have now shown how deep are the foundations of that little expression “Christ is all”.

I might easily add to the things I have said, if space permitted. The subject is not exhausted. I have barely walked over the surface of it. There are mines of precious truth connected with it, which I have left unopened.

I might show how Christ ought to be all in a visible church. religious buildings, numerous religious services, gorgeous ceremonies, troops of ordained men, all, all are nothing in the sight of God, if the Lord Jesus Himself in all His offices is not honored, magnified and exalted. That church is but a dead carcass in which Christ is not all.

I might show how Christ ought to be all in a ministry. The great work which ordained men are intended to do is to lift up Christ. We are to be like the pole on which the bronze serpent was hung. We are useful so long as we exalt the great object of faith, but useful no further. We are to be ambassadors to carry tidings to a rebellious world about the King’s Son, and if we teach men to think more about us and our office than about Him, we are not fit for our place. The Spirit will never honor that minister who does not testify of Christ, who does not make Christ all.

I might show how language seems exhausted in the Bible, in describing Christ’s various offices. I might describe how figures seem endless, which are employed in unfolding Christ’s fullness. The High Priest, the Mediator, the Redeemer, the Savior, the Advocate, the Shepherd, the Physician, the Bridegroom, the Head, the Bread of Life, the Light of the world, the Way, the Door, the Vine, the Rock, the Fountain, the Sun of Righteousness, the Forerunner, the Surety, the Captain, the Prince of life, the Amen, the Almighty, the Author and Finisher of faith, the Lamb of God, the King of saints, the Wonderful, the Mighty God, the Counselor, the Bishop of souls—all these, and many more, are names given to Christ in Scripture. Each is a fountain of instruction and comfort for everyone who is willing to drink of it. Each supplies matter for useful meditation.

But I trust I have said enough to throw light on the point I want to impress on the minds of all who read this message. I trust I have said enough to show the immense importance of the practical conclusions with which I now desire to finish the subject.

1. Is Christ all? Then let us learn the utter uselessness of a Christless religion. There are only too many baptized men and women who practically know nothing at all about Christ. Their religion consists in a few vague notions and empty expressions. They “trust they are no worse than others.” They “keep to their church”. They “try to do their duty”. They “do nobody any harm.” They “hope God will be merciful to them”. They “trust the Almighty will pardon their sins, and take them to heaven when they die”. This is about the whole of their religion!

But what do these people know practically about Christ? Nothing, nothing at all! What experimental acquaintance have they with His offices and work, His blood, His righteousness, His mediation, His priesthood, His intercession? None, none at all! Ask them about a saving faith, ask them about being born again of the Spirit, ask them about being sanctified in Christ Jesus. What answer will you get? You are a barbarian to them. You have asked them simple Bible questions. But they know no more about them experimentally than a Buddhist or a Turk. And yet this is the religion of hundreds and thousands of people who are called Christians all over the world!

If any reader of this message is a man of this kind, I warn him plainly that such Christianity will never take him to heaven. It may do very well in the eye of man. It may pass muster very decently at the vestry meeting, in the place of business, in the House of Commons, or in the streets. But it will never comfort you. It will never satisfy your conscience. It will never save your soul.

I warn you plainly that all notions and theories about God being merciful without Christ, and excepting through Christ, are baseless delusions and empty fancies. Such theories are as purely an idol of man’s invention as the idol of Juggernaut. They are all of the earth, earthy. They never came down from heaven. The God of heaven has sealed and appointed Christ as the one only Savior and way of life, and all who would be saved must be content to be saved by Him, or they will never be saved at all.

Let every reader take notice. I give you fair warning this day. A religion without Christ will never save your soul.

2. Let me say another thing: Is Christ all? Then learn the enormous folly of joining anything with Christ in the matter of salvation. There are multitudes of baptized men and women who profess to honor Christ, but in reality do Him great dishonor. They give Christ a certain place in their system of religion, but not the place which God intended Him to fill. Christ alone is not all in all to their souls. No! It is either Christ and the church, or Christ and the sacraments, or Christ and His ordained ministers, or Christ and their own repentance, or Christ and their own goodness, or Christ and their own prayers, or Christ and their own sincerity and charity, on which they practically rest their souls.

If any reader of this message is a Christian of this kind, I warn him also plainly, that his religion is an offense to God. You are changing God’s plan of salvation into a plan of your own devising. You are in effect deposing Christ from His throne, by giving the glory due to Him to another.

I care not who it is that teaches such religion, and on whose word you build. Whether he be pope or cardinal, archbishop or bishop, dean or archdeacon, presbyter or deacon, Episcopalian or Presbyterian, Baptist or Independent, Wesleyan or Plymouth brother, whoever adds anything to Christ, teaches you wrong.

I care not what it is that you add to Christ. Whether it be the necessity of joining the church of Rome, or of being an Episcopalian, or of becoming a free churchman, or of giving up the liturgy, or of being dipped—whatever you may practically add to Christ in the matter of salvation, you do Christ an injury.

Take heed what you are doing. Beware of giving to Christ’s servants the honor due to none but Christ. Beware of giving the Lord’s ordinances the honor due unto the Lord. Beware of resting the burden of your soul on anything but Christ, and Christ alone.

3. Let me say another thing. Is Christ all? Then let all who want to be saved, apply direct to Christ. There are many who hear of Christ with the ear and believe all they are told about Him. They allow that there is no salvation excepting in Christ. They acknowledge that Jesus alone can deliver them from hell, and present them faultless before God.

But they seem never to get beyond this general acknowledgment. They never fairly lay hold on Christ for their own souls. They stick fast in a state of wishing and wanting and feeling and intending, and never get any further. They see what we mean; they know it is all true. They hope one day to get the full benefit of it, but at present they get no benefit whatever. The world is their all Politics are their all. Pleasure is their all. Business is their all. But Christ is not their all.

If any reader of this message is a man of this kind, I warn him also plainly, he is in a bad state of soul. You are as truly in the way to hell in your present condition, as Judas Iscariot or Ahab or Cain. Believe me, there must be actual faith in Christ, or else Christ died in vain, so far as you are concerned. It is not looking at the bread that feeds the hungry man, but the actual eating of it. It is not gazing on the lifeboat that saves the shipwrecked sailor, but the actual getting into it. It is not knowing and believing that Christ is a Savior that can save your soul, unless there are actual transactions between you and Christ. You must be able to say, “Christ is my Savior, because I have come to Him by faith, and taken Him for my own.” “Much of religion,” said Luther, “turns on being able to use possessive pronouns. Take from me the word ‘my, ’ and you take from me God!”

Hear the advice I give you this day, and act upon it at once. Stand still no longer, waiting for some imaginary frames and feelings which will never come. Hesitate no longer under the idea that you must first of all obtain the Spirit, and then come to Christ. Arise and come to Christ just as you are. He waits for you, and is as willing to save as He is mighty. He is the appointed Physician for sin–sick souls. Deal with Him as you would with your doctor about the cure of a disease of your body. Make a direct application to Him and tell Him all your wants. Take with you words this day, and cry mightily to the Lord Jesus for pardon and peace, as the thief did on the cross. Do as that man did cry, “Lord, remember me” (Luke 23:42). Tell Him you have heard that He receives sinners, and that you are such. Tell Him you want to be saved, and ask Him to save you. Rest not until you have actually tasted for yourself that the Lord is gracious. Do this, and you shall find, sooner or later, if you are really in earnest, that Christ is all.

4. One more thing let me add. Is Christ all? Then let all His converted people deal with Him as if they really believed it. Let them lean on Him and trust Him far more than they have ever done yet. Alas, there are many of the Lord’s people who live far below their privileges! There are many truly Christian souls who rob themselves of their own peace and forsake their own mercies. There are many who insensibly join their own faith, or the work of the Spirit in their own hearts, to Christ, and so miss the fullness of gospel peace. There are many who make little progress in their pursuit of holiness and shine with a very dim light. And why is all this? Simply because in nineteen cases out of twenty men do not make Christ all in all.

Now I call on every reader of this message who is a believer, I beseech him for his own sake, to make sure that Christ is really and thoroughly his all in all. Beware of allowing yourself to mingle anything of your own with Christ.

Have you faith? It is a priceless blessing. Happy indeed are they who are willing and ready to trust Jesus. But take heed you do not make a Christ of your faith. Rest not on your own faith, but on Christ.

Is the work of the Spirit in your soul? Thank God for it. It is a work that shall never be overthrown. But oh, beware lest, unawares to yourself, you make a Christ of the work of the Spirit! Rest not on the work of the Spirit, but on Christ.

Have you any inward feelings of religion, and experience of grace? Thank God for it. Thousands have no more religious feeling than a cat or dog. But oh, beware lest you make a Christ of your feelings and sensations! They are poor, uncertain things and sadly dependent on our bodies and outward circumstances. Rest not a grain of weight on your feelings. Rest only on Christ.

Learn, I entreat you, to look more and more at the great object of faith, Jesus Christ, and to keep your mind dwelling on Him. So doing you would find faith and all the other graces grow, though the growth at the time might be imperceptible to yourself. He that would prove a skillful archer must look not at the arrow, but at the mark.

Alas, I fear there is a great piece of pride and unbelief still sticking in the hearts of many believers! Few seem to realize how much they need a Savior. Few seem to understand how thoroughly they are indebted to Him. Few seem to comprehend how much they need Him every day. Few seem to feel how simply and like a child they ought to hang their souls on Him. Few seem to be aware how full of love He is to His poor, weak people, and how ready to help them! And few therefore seem to know the peace and joy and strength and power to live a godly life, which is to be had in Christ.

Change your plan, reader, if your conscience tells you are guilty; change your plan, and learn to trust Christ more. Physicians love to see patients coming to consult them; it is their office to receive the sickly, and if possible to effect cures. The advocate loves to be employed; it is his calling. The husband loves his wife to trust him and lean upon him; it is his delight to cherish her and promote her comfort. And Christ loves His people to lean on Him, to rest in Him, to call on Him, to abide in Him.

Let us all learn and strive to do so more and more. Let us live on Christ. Let us live in Christ. Let us live with Christ. Let us live to Christ. So doing, we shall prove that we fully realize that Christ is all. So doing, we shall feel great peace, and attain more of that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

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