S J B Carter – Unspoken Prayer

Unspoken Prayer S J B Carter
Can He heed a groan?
He can also heed a sigh.
He also heeds a tear
Then there is a look
Then there is a desire

Brother “Aquila” emailed me following my posting of Golden Nugget

Entwine with your Prayers the small Cares

 

UNSPOKEN PRAYER

 

 

S J B Carter

Thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, not comforted! Behold, I will set thy stones in antimony, and lay thy foundations with sapphires; and I will make thy battlements of rubies, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of precious stones. And all thy children shall be taught of Jehovah, and great shall be the peace of thy children, (Isaiah 54:11-13).

Spoken prayer is audible, and normally it is distinct, and generally, it is public. Unspoken prayer is inarticulate – it is too deep to be voiced in words, but it is heard– heard in secret by God.

When passing through seasons of trial and sorrow, when the waterfloods of grief and bereavement overflow the soul, when depressed by one’s moral state or circumstances, when the pressure seems well-nigh at breaking-point, and prayer seems torpid and dead, what a relief, what a comfort it is to know that the priestly eye of Jesus “searches the hearts” (Romans 8:27), eager, as it were, to detect, to decipher anything there that is for God, and that He interprets the groanings of the spirit and makes intercession accordingly.

Can He heed a groan? Yes, even a groan. He counts a groan as a prayer – not only the groanings of the Spirit, “which cannot be uttered,” but also the groanings of our own spirits. A groan may speak anguish or longing desire. We may “groan, being burdened” (2 Corinthians 5:4) – groan for deliverance. We may likewise groan because what is awaiting us up there is so enchanting that we yearn to enter into it (2 Corinthians 5:2). “The whole creation groans,” and Paul adds, “we also ourselves groan, Romans 8:22,23. Sometimes that is all we can do. Sometimes we may even groan, “O wretched man that I am!” But we never add: “Who shall deliver me?” (Romans 7:24) if we know who He is. But every groan to God is heard. “Lord, … my groaning is not hid from thee,Psalms 38:9 (KJV). Thank God, it never is.

But He can also heed a sigh. A sigh has not that intensive force which a groan has, it is softer. Yet how affecting it sometimes is. The weeping prophet was full of sighs: “I sigh“her people sigh” – “her priests sigh” – “my sighs are many,” Lamentations 1:21, 11, 4, 22. The weeping Saviour, Jehovah’s servant-prophet, often sighed, yea, “He sighed deeply,” Mark 8:12 (KJV).

For ever on Thy burdened heart,

     A weight of sorrow hung,

     Yet no rebellious murmuring word

     Escaped Thy silent tongue.

The Psalms breathe His sighs. They reveal what Jesus felt as He suffered. In the Pentateuch we have the figures; in the prophets, the forecasts; in the gospels, the facts; in the epistles, the fruits; but in the Psalms, we have the feelings of Christ as He suffered.

Every sigh He heaved was to God, and, like the frankincense of the meat-offering, it went up to God. Every divinely prompted sigh we utter to God is heard. Ay, and, poor weary soul, it may mean more to Him than ten thousand words, however eloquent – “For the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord,” Psalms 12:5 (A.V).

No faintest sigh His heart can miss,

     E’en now His feet are on the way,

     With richest counterweight of bliss

     Heaped up for every hour’s delay.

He also heeds a tear. The great men of the Bible were often great weepers – Joseph, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Ezra, Nehemiah. “Jesus wept,” John 11:35. The Man of sorrows mingled His tears with those of His bereaved and beloved ones. He wept, too, over Jerusalem. He wept also in other ways – ways too mysterious and sublime for us to understand (Hebrews 5:7). Oh! let us ponder His tears well – ponder them till every fibre of our moral being pulsates with holy emotion.

Whilst guarding against what is natural sentiment, yet we should cultivate spiritual emotions. A tear in the eye of a child may be very appealing and do what words fail to do. God treasures the tears of His people. He has a bag for their transgression, a book for their thoughts and words, a bottle for their tears (Job 14:17; Malachi 3:16; Psalms 56:8). David was not satisfied with a divine record of his tears being kept – he wanted them preserved. “Put my tears into thy bottle.”

Even in public let us not check the tear when it starts. John Bunyan said he liked to see “Mr Wet-Eyes” among the saints. I once saw a brother in tears at a prayer meeting, though he spoke not a word. I murmured, “Amen,” to his unspoken prayer. The woman of Luke 7 said nothing with her lips, but her tears said a good deal. Paul speaks of his “many tears” (2 Corinthians 2:4); John wrote, “wept much” (Revelation 5:4); Timothy was in tears about the testimony of our Lord (2 Timothy 1:4, 8). We need to steep the gospel seed in tears (Psalms 126:6). Who can estimate the worth and power of a tear shed before God in prayer?

Then there is a look. Solomon prayed, at the dedication of the temple, “When they shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and shall spread forth his hands toward this house,” 1 Kings 8:38. What a mute appeal, yet how pathetic! How many a pious Israelite, in captivity or alienation from God’s house, feeling the plague of his own heart and otherwise oppressed, looked towards God’s house, like Daniel at his open window, and got blessing. We can look toward heaven to a Person. “They looked unto him, and were enlightened (Psalms 34:5) – that is the way of relief and happiness. Try it, dear troubled one. Perhaps you say, I have looked but have got no relief. Look again– look till your spiritual vision becomes calm and clear. Jonah said when down among “the weeds” and at “the bottoms of the mountains” and tempest-tossed by “the flood,” “breakers,” and “billows,” “I will look again toward thy holy temple,” and he did. Then he was able to add, “And my prayer came in unto thee,” Jonah 2:3-7.

Then there is a desire. How cheering and reviving it is that even a desire can cleave the mighty space between earth and heaven and be heard above. “Jehovah, thou hast heard the desire of the meek,” Psalms 10:17. Every desire born in the renewed affections after Him is cherished and fostered by Him. “Lord, all my desire is before thee,” Psalms 38:9.

Are we so overwhelmed that we cannot even groan or sigh; so low that we cannot give vent to even a tear or a look: so utterly cold, inert, and hopeless that the soul feels it is prayerless? Yet, surely there must be a desire after God if there is life! Beloved, that is prayer!“With my soul have I desired thee in the night,” Isaiah 26:9. Amid impenetrable gloom that may sometimes enshroud us, when the soul seems shut out from God, and the heavens seem like brass, when there is neither moon nor stars to lighten the darkness of our night – then, even then, we can rest in a quiet waiting, heaven-inwrought desire after God, and be encouraged by knowing that even the desire of the heart is graciously heeded and interpreted by Him as unspoken prayer.

S. J. B. Carter

From his notes before 1938

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Classic Quote by JND – True Greatness

This is true greatness – to serve unnoticed,
And work unseen.

Learn to grapple with souls
Aim at the conscience, Exalt Christ.
Use a sharp knife with yourself,
Say little, Serve all, Pass on.

This is true greatness – to serve unnoticed,
And work unseen.

Oh, the joy of having nothing, and being nothing,
Seeing nothing but a living Christ in glory,
And being careful for nothing
But His interests down here!

 

From Miscellaneous Tracts

Praying for our Leaders – Mrs Theresa May as new British Prime Minister

, ‘I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth’ (1 Tim 2:1-4).

In July 2016 our country, the United Kingdom, had a new government.  There were also terrorist atrocities in France and Germany, and an attempted coup in Turkey. With the Islamist president and government there, things do not bode well for Christians in that country.  But this we can leave with God.  There was also a political party conference in the USA with the Christian runner-up, clearly out-of-tune with the powerful billionaire who is bidding to be the next president.

There were also meetings of the Church of England Synod, the Canadian church, the Methodists and the United Reformed Church, all of which have been pointing towards rejection of the Word of God and accepting of ‘same-sex’ marriage.

Indeed as lovers of the Lord Jesus, who will yet reign in righteousness, we can be restful.  I was talking to a brother the other day.  He has a high powered job bringing him into contact with chief executives of leading companies.  He told me that there was a state of panic amongst many top people on 24 June, the day after the Brexit referendum.  As the result was not what they were expecting: it seemed as if they were anchorless and rudderless.  It gave him opportunity to witness that God was in control.  So if in the next few lines I cite some areas of concern, we can be restful that for Christians there is always a way through.  ‘Seeing no apparent issue, but our way not entirely shut up’ (1 Cor 4:8 Darby), or ‘perplexed, but not in despair’ (1 Cor 4:8 KJV).

Theresa_MayAs to the United Kingdom, Mrs Theresa May is now in charge.  On the face of it she should be a practical leader, supported by some good ministers and civil servants.  She should do well for the country, especially with all the ramifications of leaving the European Union.  We need to pray for her in this regard.

Is she a true Christian?  We would hope so.  Certainly she goes to church, and is the daughter of a Church of England vicar.  She admits that her Christian faith has influenced her politics and one of her favourite hymns is ‘When I survey the wondrous cross’.  However, she supported David Cameron in the introduction of same sex marriage, something abhorrent to any bible-loving believer.

Her rival in the race to become prime minister was far more open about her love for the Lord Jesus, as was another contender who withdrew earlier.  Both Andrea Leadsom and Stephen Crabb opposed this and other ‘liberal’ moves.  Thankfully Mrs Leadsom is still in the government as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

There is, however an area of concern, for which we need to pray.  The Cameron government had been working on measures to curb extremism, especially in Islam.  Radical teachers have infiltrated schools and universities, with dire consequences.  This would appear to be a wise move.  However some secularists, especially in the judiciary, have regarded adherence to the gospel as being extreme.  As is the case in English law, wording is often deliberately vague, it being left to the courts to interpret it, and sadly many judges would appear to be set against the gospel and true Christian teaching.  Christians are under pressure, with threats of losing their employment and worse.  There is a danger that ‘Extremism Disruption Orders’ could be used to silence preachers, constrain Christian youth groups and even close churches.

Why I highlight this, is that as Home Secretary, Mrs May would have been the architect of this policy.  We must pray that she modifies and clarifies her intentions as Prime Minister, protecting normal Christian activities.  Significantly earlier in her political career (2000-2002) she voted against the promotion of homosexual practices and opposed children being placed for adoption by same-sex couples.  Pressure to confirm to this world must have caused her to change her position on these matters.

Another legal attack on our young people is in Scotland.  The nationalist government under Nicola Sturgeon proposed that every child in Scotland was to be assigned a named state guardian to monitor their ‘wellbeing or happiness’.  In this way the rights and responsibilities of parents would be seriously undermined, and the state would have a right to obtain the closest family secrets.  Moreover, these proposals would promote an anit-Christian secularist agenda.  It was opposed by many Christian organisations.  Mercifully the Supreme Court has deemed this unconstitutional and contravening article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.  The Supreme Court justices observed: ‘The first thing that a totalitarian regime tries to do is to get at the children, to distance them from the subversive, varied influences of their families, and indoctrinate them in their rulers’ view of the world.’  We can expect the Scottish government to continue is line in a modified form.

Another area of concern is in the area of education.  There is a proposal that Sunday schools and other gatherings where young people are taught need to be registered and may be inspected by the British Government’s agency OFSTED.  ‘Unacceptable’ teaching such as the exclusivity of the gospel, the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman, and creation could be attacked.  It could even be envisaged that this could extend to Bible readings too.  But let’s be calm, with God and pray about this.

Our hope is that with the pressure of work caused by Brexit, these measures will not progress.  But there is always the danger of their being quietly slipped through.  Evil workers abound.  As Christians we are to ‘walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man’ (Col 4:5-6).

As Paul wrote, ‘I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth’ (1 Tim 2:1-4).

 

Note – for much of this I am grateful to Colin Hart of the Christian Institute – Please pray that Theresa May will protect religious liberty and from Andrea Williams of Christian Concern, Theresa May, our new Prime Minister

 

Indeed Christian Concern says, ‘We as believers can draw spiritual encouragement from Psalm 46:10, in the wake of uncertainty following the decision to leave the EU. ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ (Darby and others).

As ever in times of uncertainty and change, the Word of God offers us profound reassurance. In the wake of the United Kingdom’s decision to exit the European Union, let us turn to Psalm 46 and draw encouragement and wisdom from our Lord.’

Our walk here

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

In this short article, based on a lecture by J N Darby entitled,32 p  ‘This one thing’ – Collected Writings vol. 32 (Miscellaneous 1) page 347 ,  he goes over Paul’s experiences from his arrest on the Damascus road till his writing the epistle.  He saw the Lord in glory, and at that point everything that he had trusted in was smashed.

Philippians 3

  • There are two ways in which we may look at the Christian. One is according to the counsels and thoughts of God (Hebrews – in respect to the grace Christ obtains for us as Priest on high)
  • The other as walking in this world (Philippians – down here, and the energy and power of the Spirit of God working in him). Philippians is the book of experience, the Christian on earth.

We have to pass through the world, and there are difficulties in our path.  As we walk in the power of God’s Spirit, we rise above these difficulties.

In Philippians, we have a person entirely above it all the troubles; one who can ‘rejoice in the Lord always’ (ch 4:4). Paul had been four years in prison at that time, which must have been very trying, as he could not engage in his missionary service.  He could have reproached himself for going up to Jerusalem, but he remained positive saying, ‘I can rejoice in the Lord always’ (see Phil 4:4).

We know Paul’s early career. He used to have an earthly righteousness, and he boasted in it.  He said, ‘touching the righteousness which was in the law, blameless’ (ch 3:6). But the Lord met him, and he discovered that all that had been gain to him had brought him into open enmity with God.  All that Saul of Tarsus could clothe himself with outwardly, was utterly smashed[1], and he was left to dwell in darkness three days.  During this, he discovered in his own soul what this terrible revelation meant.

Seeing Christ in glory resulted in his setting aside and putting away all that was of man. Whereas the first thing we need as sinners is ‘redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins’ (Eph 1:7), with Saul of Tarsus it was different.  His own righteousness had kept him away from God, and that had to be put away.  The upright, honest, law-keeping Pharisee had been full of enmity against God.  Now he learned the end of the first man, not just as a doctrine, but practically.  The best man in the world (best as man goes) was the chief of sinners.  Now he knew what redemption through the blood meant.

The law had required righteousness from man for God, but, nobody had attained it. So it does not say, ‘not having my own sins’, but ‘not having mine own righteousness’ (see ch 3:9).   Paul saw that God would not accept him clothed in the human Adamic robe of his own righteousness..

He needed Christ who appeared to him on the way to Damascus and said, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth’ (Acts 9:5).’ He saw the Man in the glory – the rejected carpenter’s son.  Paul was totally and entirely condemned.  But he soon learned that Christ had taken the place of everything, and that everything he had counted gain was finished.  He came to that  ‘There is … now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom 8:1).  The whole standing of the first man was judged in his soul; and another Man, Christ in glory, would now be for him.

When Paul was writing to the Philippians many years later, it was still a present reality to him – ‘I… do count them but dung’ (Phil 3:8).    Right from his conversion, Paul was a man whose whole course and career were marked by one object before him.  That object was Christ.

Having judged all that he was naturally, Paul was brought him face to face with all kinds of difficulties.  An example of this was his death sentence[2].  He was going to be tried for his life; but he had done with the old ‘Paul’.   He no longer trusted in himself, but in God: in effect he says, ‘The God I know, has raised Christ from the dead, so I am not afraid of death or of anything that might come on the road; I can glory in it all.’

Have we had a revelation of Christ?  Are we following Him?  Is He our  only object? As we follow, we are called to suffer in a small way for Christ’s sake.  But as we go through the world of sin and sorrow that crucified Christ, we also learn what it is to suffer with Him.  It may be a difficult road, and we might get distracted, but we get refreshment as we go: it is the road that He travelled.

A term used by some Christians is ‘higher life’.  But in reality they are following the world.  The Christian has no calling to anything down in this world.  His calling is to a risen, glorified Christ –  this is the only Christ.  Christ down here is a pattern for our walk, but we cannot attain Christ down here.  Attempting it only lowers the standard of holiness: instead of being ‘higher Christian life’, it is lower life.  It is the hope of being like Him in glory in glorified bodies, that makes us purify ourselves even as He is pure (See 1 John 3:3).  I may get to heaven now in spirit, and be happy there with Him, but I never attain to or win Him, until I am with Him in the glory.   Then I shall have won Christ.

In these days, when people are giving up Christianity everywhere, it is well to know what Christianity is. Christianity is perfect peace, perfect reconciliation with God, perfected for ever before Him.   Then as regards my path in this world, it is having our eye on Christ Himself in glory, with all our energy in following Him. In every step we take, we get to knowing Him better, and we become more like Him.

Of course, when it says, ‘as many as be perfect’ (ch 3:15), it does not mean being being perfect like Christ was, when He was down here.  But in walking with Him up there,  we become like Him down here.  That is what is meant by being a  perfect, or fully grown, Christian.  He knows that all his debts have been paid, and in running the race, he says, ‘I have seen the excellency of Christ Jesus, my Lord, and it has set aside everything here. I have done with it all; I belong to another place, and no longer own this old man’.

Paul contrasts the Christian life with mere profession.  Professors are ‘enemies of the cross of Christ’ (v.18).  They carry the name of Christian, but go on with the world, not perceiving that Satan, its prince, is against Christ.  The world is subject to Christ’s execution of judgment. It does not know HIm as Saviour.

As Christians, our conversation, or citizenship, commonwealth or relationships of life are in heaven (See ch. 3:20).  Though we live, our relationships up there, because Christ is up there – He is our life.   A Christian’s life is not here at all.   Christ is there, and we await our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Our hope, therefore, is not to die, for our Saviour to ‘ change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body’ (v. 23).

We are running the race towards the place where our standing is?  Can we say with the apostle, ‘The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God’ (Gal 2:20)?  We are in earthly Is circumstances, but are we living by them, or are we living to Him?   Time presses on; His return is near.  Each of us is to take up our cross and follow Him. May we have a conscious relationship with the One whom we love.  We look for Him to come from heaven to change our vile bodies because they will not suit that place.  May the Lord give us so to have our eyes set on Him in His love, and that we might know real deliverance from the power of sin and the world.  The Lord fix our eyes on Him in steadiness and earnestness of heart, so that we may say with David,  ‘My soul followeth hard after thee’ (Ps 63:8).

Summary by Sosthenes

February 2016

 

[1] Note that it is not that Paul was smashed, as some have erroneously affirmed.  It is what he could boast in according to flesh, and the whole system he relied upon.

[2] Paul says that he was going to be tried for his life, according to JND.  That raises an interesting question as to what is meant,  Was it:

  1. As a sinner, in the race, he is guilty and death is the consequence.
  2. As Paul, it would be the legal judgment for the murder of Stephen
  3. As having to do with sin, and the man who sinned, he was passing the death sentence on himself.

Worshipping God

 

JohnNelsonDarbyMany Christians have only a vague notion as to worship. They may have turned from clerical formalism with its superstitious rituals, but they do not have a true understanding of what worship is. What, then, is it?

Worship is the honour and adoration rendered to God, by reason of what He is in Himself, and what He is for those who render it. Worship proceeds in heaven, and we have the privilege of entering into it here collectively. In doing so we have joy and blessing, our hearts feeling and responding to God’s love. We love Him in return.

Of course an isolated individual can worship, but not in its fullest sense. He or she can bless God for His goodness. But it needs more than one person for true worship.

 

What is, and what is not Worship

  • A testimony respecting God and His grace is not worship.
  • Preaching the gospel to the unconverted is not worship.
  • A sermon is not worship.
  • Prayers addressed to God as to our need are not worship.
  • Referring to God’s glory, but not addressing Him is not worship.

The gospel might produce worship for it is God’s testimony to man. No Christian worship could exist without it, for the gospel makes known the God who is to be adored. The Holy Spirit leads the soul into the state in which it is able to render true homage to Go in spirit and in truth.  It is sweet to rehearse, one to the other, the excellences of Him whom we love with God Himself in our thoughts.

But in worship Christians delight to address themselves to Him.

  • They to speak to and converse with Him, adoring Him personally.
  • They speak to God of His attributes and acts.
  • They open their hearts to Him, to tell Him that they love Him.
  • They delight in their relationship and communion with Him.
  • They testify to His greatness and goodness.

In worship communion is between ourselves and God, and God is more precious to us than even our brethren. Our affections have a higher tone and communion is more complete.

As to Israel

The children of Israel worshipped God, but they could not draw near to Him. God had redeemed them out of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm and had borne them as upon eagles’ wings, and had brought them even to Himself (See Ex. 19:4). God had promised that they should worship Him upon Mount Sinai, but it was amid thunders, fire, and the voice of a trumpet. Even Moses trembled.

Under the law God placed man in a position where he could bring forth fruit to His glory. He showed what man ought to be and blessed him if he was faithful and judged him if he was not. Under such circumstances God could not fully reveal His holiness and love. Either have had to tolerate iniquity, or banish those who sinned absolutely and eternally from His presence. So, under the law, God concealed Himself.

The people did not even enter into His house. The high priest alone went in once every year in order to carry in the blood of the ram and the bullock — the propitiatory victims — and to make reconciliation for the people with a God who could not endure iniquity. The people sought His protection, and worshipped Him for the benefits He conferred. This was a foreshadowing of Christian worship, but the principles of its exercise were totally different.

 

Christian Worship

It has all changed now. God has not changed, the revelation which He makes of Himself has. Although there is a light to which we cannot approach, He has revealed Himself in Christ.

Christianity is based upon an altogether new relationship between God and man. It was in God’s counsels before the world’s foundation, but it waited for the height of man’s enmity against God: Christ appeared, and man crucified Him!

Now if there is to be a relationship, all must be grace. If God’s goodness and grace is rejected there can only be judgment. This dark background throws into relief the perfection and brilliancy of grace.

Thank God, we are now occupied with grace. There is no longer any question of guilt between the worshipper and God. Christ has abolished it by His sacrifice. The work of Christ has provided the meeting-place between God and the sinner: love has free course, and we can enjoy all God’s blessings. We are reconciled to God and have been brought to enjoy a new relationship.

We have a striking expression of the consequence of the death of Christ in the rending of the veil of the temple. The holy of holies was hidden behind the veil, so no one could draw near to God. Who would dare to present himself before God if all guilt had not been removed? But the veil has been rent from the top to the bottom: now we can enter the most holy place freely. The stroke which rent the veil, smote the Son of God, when He took our sin upon Himself. He has cleansed our consciences by His perfect and eternal work. Hence we are able to enter the holiest joyfully and without spot.

The relationship of God to the Church is presented to us strikingly in the title ‘God of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ When God is called the God of any one, it indicates that a tie of intimacy. Christ is viewed as a man, the head of a new family, who has ascended to His God and our God. We see this truth in Ephesians chapters 1 and 2 Those who were ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ (Eph 2:1) are to know ‘what is the hope of the calling of God, and what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints’ (Ch. 1:18). We learn the true power and extent of that glory:the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places (v. 19-20). All that is His is ours – we have a place then in the presence of God! Even the glory that God has given Jesus, He has given to us, in order that the world may know that we are loved as He is. (See John 17:22-23).

 

The Holy Spirit

Another truth connected with the work of Christ is the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit shows, reveals, and communicates divine things to us. We are ‘strengthened by the Spirit in the inner man, in order that, being rooted and grounded in love, Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith, and that we may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fulness of God’ (Eph. 3:16-19). ‘That which eye hath not seen, which ear hath not heard, which came not into the heart of man — the things which God has prepared for him whom He loves — God has revealed them unto us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, even the deep things of God (1 Cor 2:9-10).

  • The Holy Spirit is “the unction” by which “know all things” (See 1 John 2:20).
  • He is the seal which God has put upon us unto the day of redemption
  • He gives us the full assurance of the efficacy of the work of Christ.
  • He imparts to us the knowledge that as cleansed by the blood of the Saviour, we are without spot in the God ‘s sight.
  • He reveals to us the glory of Christ as presented in the scriptures.
  • By the Holy Spirit, the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts.
  • He is the originator in us of all the thoughts and affections which respond to this love.
  • He gives us the consciousness of our union with Christ on high

But He is more than all this. “He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” (1 Cor 6:17). This is not merely an imagination; it is a fact. The same Spirit abides in us, and we are united to Christ as members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. ‘By one Spirit are we all baptised into one body (1 Cor. 12:13). The Spirit is not only the power of this union, but He gives us the consciousness of it. Christ is the Head of the body, so each Christian is a member of it, united by the Holy Spirit. The Christian’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (See 1 Cor. 6:19), and believers as together as a whole, they form God’s temple and dwelling place (See 1 Cor. 3:16).

 

The Father

We must know the character of the Father in order to worship God ‘in spirit and in truth’ (John 4:24). God is a spirit: but it is as the Father” that He seeks worshippers.

  • To worship ‘in spirit’ is to worship according to the true nature of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit.
  • To worship God ‘in truth’ is to worship Him according to the revelation which He has given of Himself.

This is in contrast to religious forms and ceremonies.

The Samaritans did not worship God in spirit or in truth. The Jews worshipped God in truth, according to their imperfect revelation but not in spirit. They did not know the gentle and loving name of ‘Father’. By contrast, we are in a position of freedom before a majestic God as the children of His love and sons by adoption. The Spirit, who is the spirit of adoption cries ‘Abba, Father.

The Christian, however simple, who understands the grace of God and has received the spirit of adoption, is entitled to enjoy all these privileges. Like a child, he or she does not reason things out, but knows, loves and enjoys its father’s love without describing it. This relationship is in Christ, and with Christ, He being ‘the first-born among many brethren’ (Rom 8:29). And we, who were formerly strangers, know that He is the only-begotten Son, the firstborn, the Eternal Son* of the Father, revealing His love to as He Himself knows it. [*]The feeblest Christian is therefore perfectly competent to worship.

  • We worship the God of glory, in whose presence we have confidence, not terror.
  • We worship the God of love and kindness, whose will it is that we should be perfectly happy in Him.
  • We worship our Father who blesses us with all spiritual blessing.
  • We worship our Father who knows all our present needs.
  • We worship Him for that which He is in Himself.
  • We adore God for that which He is to us, the children of His house for eternity.

But the effect of the presence of this ‘one Spirit’ goes much further. Not only does He give us the consciousness of being in Christ, He also gives us the consciousness of being ‘baptised into one body, (1 Cor. 12:13) – the body of Christ, and as such, ‘members one of another’ (See Eph 5:25). In the Church, which God has newly-created in Christ (the one new man), the redeemed worship in ‘the unity of the Spirit’. The Head has ascended up on high, in order that the members of the body may worship freely and joyfully before God, by the unction which is from Him.

 

Some practical Effects

God cannot admit sin into His presence, so only those who are washed in the blood of the Lamb, and who have received the Spirit, can draw near to God to worship Him. An unconverted man cannot please or worship God. He may pray for something and his prayer might be answered, God having tender compassion for him, as a poor sinner. However he does not yet know God, has not the Spirit, and is not washed in the blood of Christ. Therefore it is utterly impossible for him to worship God. If he thinks he can draw near to God, he is ignorant of what he is in himself, and of what the God is whom he thinks to serve. He does not have the Spirit, and is not of the body.

To enter into the sanctuary, we must be sanctified. Before entering, we might measure the value of the work of Christ by reference to our load of sin. But now, brought into communion with God, we taste the sweetness of His love, and value the work of Christ by the grace and love of God. Our consciences are set at liberty, free to draw near to God, by virtue of the efficacy of the work of Christ. We may be timid in drawing near, and need encouragement. But if we do not have a real knowledge of the efficacy of the work of Christ, we will be ill at ease in approaching God, because he will still have a guilty conscience.

Even if there are just two or three present, we can worship in common, because we are united in one body by the same Spirit. Each can say, ‘We’ in sincerity, when addressing God.

The two great elements of Christian worship are the presence of the Holy Spirit and the remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ. The Holy Spirit, who acts in the body, is the source and energy, of genuine worship. This is clearly established by 1 Corinthians 14: the assembly being formed as the body of Christ. The Spirit acts through spiritual men to express the love of the assembly. This is the way in which worship is rendered to God.

Our joy in the presence of God, worshipping Him in love is our eternal goal. Gifts will cease in heaven, and nobody will be ignorant or lazy. Worship will never cease.

 

The Value of the Cross

Instead of seeing the work of Christ as saved sinners, we contemplate its value according to God’s estimate – the greatness of Christ’s love for us. The death of Christ is of such value in God’s sight, as to constitute, so to speak, a new claim on the affections of His Father.  His confidence in God, devotedness, patience, love, obedience, submission and sacrifice united in the cross. It was for us He suffered all. Satan was overcome; death destroyed, the veil removed from before the presence of God, making us heirs who enjoy the love of God. This must lead us to worship. At the cross God was glorified, otherwise His glory could not have been fully displayed.

But we are not dazzled by the glory of the cross. Christ hung upon the cross for us. It is the expression of love stronger than death for us. He loved us to the end. In doing so, He undertook to render us happy in the presence of the Father. ‘I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also’ (John 14:3).   He said, ‘With desire, I have desired to eat this passover with you, before I suffer; for I will eat no more thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God’ (Luke 22:15-16). As the passover was Israel’s memorial of the deliverance out of Egypt, so the supper is the memorial, not only of our deliverance, but of His love.

If Jesus attaches value to our remembrance to Him and produces deep affection in us, we can understand how the Lord’s supper is the centre of our worship. In the supper, united in one body, we show forth the Jesus’ death ‘until he come’ (1 Cor 11:26).   We recall the act in which the Saviour has testified His love in the most powerful way. Other activities – hymns and thanksgivings are grouped around it. The worshipper is thereby reminded of that which is the most precious of all things in the sight of God — the death of His beloved Son. We enter with spiritual affection into the perfection His work. ‘He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him’ (John 6:56).

The peace-offering and the passover present the most vivid images of the true character of the Lord’s supper. The peace-offering was a feast following a sacrifice, the partakers being God, the priest who officiated, the priests, the worshipper, and those who were with him.   In the passover, Israel fed on the sacrifice, the blood of which was their safeguard against judgment. This expresses the full satisfaction of God in the sweet odour of the work of Christ. Thus God Himself has His part in the joy, so has Christ: His joy is in our joy.

 

The Spirit’s Service

The Holy Spirit is the source and power of all true Christian worship. The unity of the body formed by Him, and in which He acts, necessarily holds a prominent place in the worship. The interceding presence of the Holy Spirit produces the consciousness of this unity. ‘We, [being] many, are one loaf, one body; for we all partake of that one loaf’ (1 Cor 10:17 Darby). Jesus Himself is present in the midst, according to His promise. If the bread broken represents the broken body of Christ, the unity of the bread represents the unity of His spiritual body, embracing all the saints in love. We are united to them, wherever they may be, in the unity of the body of Christ. We have all the privileges which attach to it by reason of the love of Him who ‘nourishes and cherishes it’. Consequently, we have a sense of what we owe to God. We have received grace; now we desire to glorifying Him, expressing this in worship.

In the early days they broke bread in private houses, maybe daily. In Acts 20 it would appear that they broke bread on the first day of the week. It is clear from 1 Cor 10 that the supper was to be something special. They had been abusing it, and their lives reflected that. What sort of life should we be careful to lead in order to render suitable praise to God.

As there are two great subjects about which Christian worship is occupied, namely the love of God our Father, and the love of the Lord Jesus, seen in His work, and as Head of His body the Church. Those who give voice to worship will concentrate on different aspects. At times the Lord Jesus will be especially before the mind; at other times thoughts of the Father will be more present. The Holy Spirit alone can guide us in this; but the truthfulness and spirituality of worship will depend upon the state of those who compose the assembly. If the majority in the company are untaught and ‘babes in Christ’ then this will be reflected in what is said. Those with more experience depend on the Comforter — the Spirit of truth — for true united service to God, bringing in nourishment promoting spiritual growth. Nothing, however, is more simple or evident than the truth that the worship which is rendered should be the worship of all.

 

Hindrances

If there is evil in the company, or even in an individual, it will be felt in the service of worship. If a hypocrite is present, he will be a hindrance in the worship; but the unity will not be destroyed. If most have cultivated a delicacy of spiritual feeling, they will feel that the Holy Spirit has been grieved. If there is true spirituality and the Holy Spirit fills the assembly with His presence, evil of every kind is quickly discovered. God is a jealous God, and He is faithful. Fleshly pride loves to make much of a gift, claiming lordship over God’s heritage and arranging things humanly – this gets in the way of the free flow of worship. Likewise do narrow sectarian views.  Achan was discovered at the commencement of the history of Israel ; a single lie in Ananias came in in the beginning of the Church’s history – and what has happened since! May God make us humble, watchful, and true to Him with a sense of the efficacy of the work of Christ, in order, despite the failure, to render spiritual worship. Even with two or three gathered together in the name of Jesus, He is there as the joy and strength. The name of Jesus unites us.

There is another hindrance to worship. In Philippians 3:3 it says, ‘We are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.’ This is about the religion of the flesh, which is altogether as evil as its lusts, religiousness being one of them. Religion of the flesh does not tend to the glory of Jesus. It is occupied in good works, ethical conduct, outward piety and humility, talking of the love of God, but more of our love for God. In circumscision the flesh is cut off. We can judge these things if Christ is our all.  As in Deut 26, the worshipper professed aloud that it was God that had accomplished everything for him.

Another thing which marks carnal religion is that, it does not ‘seek those things which are above’ (Col 3:1). The soul that has truly learnt that he was dead in sins, and that the Saviour has come down and been made sin for him and has died and been raised up for him, knows in God’s sight just one sole thing – that God has placed His delight in Jesus.

We should not mingle carnal religion with that of the Spirit. The effort of the adversary, at the commencement of the Church, was, not to substitute the law and circumcision in the flesh, in place of Christ, but to add to it. Paul saw clearly, by the Spirit, that if this were admitted, everything would have been lost. Instead of being in Christ and happy in God’s presence by virtue of a completed work, man tries to find a way of making himself acceptable to God. May God grant us to have no confidence in the flesh, but to rejoice in Christ Jesus (See Phil 3:3).

 

Conclusion

Let us revert to the subject of collective worship. What a sweet and precious privilege it is to anticipate that which will be our eternal employ in heaven! There our worship will be perfect. There, all the Church, in its completeness, will be assembled to render worship in the midst of the general assembly on high. There, without distraction and without fear, worship will be the Church’s eternal joy in the perfect favour of God. What a privilege, even here below, to close the door for a moment upon all the distractions of this world, and by the Spirit to satisfy the desires of the heart in rendering to God the thanksgiving which He is worthy to receive, and which in His grace, He has breathed into our souls!

 

[*] There are those who might object to this expression. But I have no difficulty. He is Son; He is eternal. As Man he is that now. Scripture does not go into the relationship prior to the incarnation. See Heb 1:5, Acts 13:33 and Psalm 2:7.

Sosthenes

November 2015

For original see  On Worship

The Perils of Legality

By Harry Foster

Acts 27:9-26,44.

We take this experience of Paul’s not merely for its own sake, but as an illustration of the supremely important truth of the difference between a legalistic attitude and a standing in grace. Out of terrors which might strike despair into the stoutest heart comes the ringing cry of the man who knows the grace of God,

Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer; for I believe God.’ (Acts 27:25)

All the exhortations of the Word are calling us to “go on,” but it is of extreme importance that we go on in grace, for once we are found on legal grounds there is an end to all progress. If the law reigned, neither Paul, nor the centurion, nor the master, nor the owner, could have any future at all. All hope of salvation would then be taken away. Since the grace of God reigns, however, they were able to be of good cheer, and to go on in hope.

Man’s Tendency Towards Legalism

There are few matters of graver importance than that of legality. Right through the Old Testament we are confronted with the oft-recurring tendency of the human heart to choose its own ground, which is legal, instead of accepting God’s ground, which is that of grace. Legality is a fault, not of the ungodly, but of those who have an earnest zeal for God. In the New Testament the same phenomenon reappears among the people of God. Like the Galatians they are ever prone to build again the edifice which at their conversion they had destroyed. Having been found on the ground of free grace, they are so quickly moving away from it; having begun in faith, they seek to be made perfect by works.

This tendency did not end with the New Testament. The multitude of sects and heresies in modern Christendom appals us. It would take a lifetime to discover the particular fallacy of each one, but here is a simple test which will almost invariably expose their untruth; in some point they make salvation to depend upon works and not upon grace. Not only does the great Roman Catholic system stand foursquare on grounds of legality, but every departure from Divine truth tends to move on to the same legal basis, for legality is very dear to the natural man. For this reason every new sect has its rules and prohibitions, its regulations as to what must be done and what is prohibited; not so much with reference to moral laws as to provide a basis of enjoying the Divine favour.

But the principle of salvation “by works of law” goes even deeper than this. Even among truly Evangelical Christians it is only too apt to creep in. If we track down the source of clashes, strained relationships, criticisms, schisms and pride, we shall generally find it in a failure in respect of the grace of God. In other words, legality has again asserted itself, even in the House of God. As it was with the Jews and the Judaisers, so with the Church of today; men are overtaken by a legalistic spirit even in their very zeal for God.

Some Features of Legality

Without attempting any precise definition of legality, may I indicate a few of its characteristics?

Legalists are always occupied with externalities. They attach the greatest importance to the niceties of orthodox practice and language as things in themselves. By them the simple practices of the New Testament are made into a ritual. The spirit of a thing is lost sight of in an exaggerated devotion to the thing, whereas to God nothing has value apart from the spiritual truth it is meant to express.

Moreover the legalistic mind is always obsessed with deciding what is right and what is wrong. That, after all, is what the law is for! Far be it from us to encourage any laxity in the matter of what is morally right or morally wrong. If, however, we make ourselves judges or arbitrators; if we let our relationship with other believers be governed by our own interpretation of what is right and wrong; if, indeed, being right, we insist upon our own rights, we have been overtaken by legality. There is no possibility of spiritual progress if it is made to depend on blamelessness, either in ourselves or in others.

There is an outstanding case of this in the parable of the two debtors. The one, you. may remember, was pardoned a large debt which he owed to his ‘master. But he immediately seized upon a fellow-servant, who owed him a trifling sum, and demanded prompt and full payment. He was punished as a wicked servant. So far as the matter of the hundred pence was concerned he was right, and his debtor was blameworthy. He had the law on his side: nevertheless his master condemned him. He was right; and yet he was grievously wrong. Having become an object of grace he sinned gravely in refusing to show grace to another. How many bitter words and cruel deeds among the Lord’s people are due to a legalistic insistence on what is “Scriptural”! An unforgiving spirit is but one aspect of legality. A proneness to be always judging the rights and wrongs of everything can manifest itself in countless ways, until it becomes an attitude of mind, a basis of life, and an obsession.

Then again legality is always profuse in argument. Reasoning is the business of the Law Courts. The emotions of the heart have little place there, but logic and ability to argue are essential. The pharisaical mind can dispute every matter and prove its own correctness, even from the Scriptures. It delights in controversy. It is so argumentative that it can never conceive of the possibility of its being wrong. It even dares to dispute with the Lord.

Legality is independent in a wrong way; it has forsaken the yoke of Christ to come under a yoke of bondage to law. The Galatians were told that if they sought to live by “works of law” they were “severed from Christ,” having “fallen away from grace.” Such a state does not necessarily involve gross evil living. It rather means that those concerned have departed from that utter dependence upon Christ which is essential to standing in Divine grace, and have become self-sufficient. The legalist imagines he knows just how and why God works, as though Divine activity could be reduced to mere formulae. He will probe into every circumstance where the Lord’s blessing seems to be lacking, seeking the cause in some supposed breach of spiritual rules. Now while it is true that spiritual principles do obtain in all God’s working, we can never confine Him to our understanding of His laws. Grace always goes beyond such limits, and surprises those who live by it. The legalist, however, is never surprised, for he imagines that he knows the explanation and the cause of all that takes place.

We refrain from enlarging on these features in order to stress our main point, which is the paralysing effect of legality on spiritual life.

Legality Hinders Love

“Sirs, be of good cheer!” Only a heart full of the grace of Christ could have enabled the apostle to speak such words to such men at such a time. If Paul’s attitude to his fellow-travellers had been at all legalistic he would never have addressed them thus. He had told the centurion what would happen, but his warning was despised and his advice unheeded. Quite clearly the leaders were wholly to blame for the sad predicament of the whole ship’s company: Paul was right, and they were altogether in the wrong. However, he did not allow his behaviour towards them to be governed by this fact. The legalist would have said that Paul deserved to be saved, and the others deserved to be lost. Paul was no legalist, so he made great claims upon the grace of God, and the Lord gave him all that sailed with him.

Happily, indeed, for Paul that he was no legalist, for perhaps he deserved as badly as any of them! What was he doing in that ship? Why had he persisted in going up to Jerusalem? And why had he become involved in Judaistic practices there? The centurion had foolishly taken his own course, instead of listening to the voice of the Lord. A careful reading of Acts 21 makes it difficult to resist the conclusion that the apostle himself had done the very same thing. His protest, “Ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have… gained this harm and loss” may well have been an echo of the Lord’s reproof to his own heart. What then? Has failure, even disobedience, alienated him from God’s love? The legalist says “Yes.” The Scriptures say “No,” for in spite of everything the gracious Lord stood by him, and said, “Be of good .cheer, Paul.”

Legally, the centurion and his fellows had forfeited all rights to Paul’s love, even as the apostle might be thought to have forfeited all claims upon the love of God. Only grace can maintain love. Nothing so paralyses our sense of God’s love, and nothing so hinders love to others as a legalistic frame of mind about the rights and wrongs of conduct. Away in Corinth and Rome there were Christians quarrelling and standing aloof from one another over unimportant matters of judgment, allowing barriers to arise between them over foolish trivialities. Why? Because instead of receiving one another as Christ received them – in grace – they were criticising one another’s judgment and understanding of the truth. There is always division and a breakdown of brotherly love when relationships are brought on to a legal basis.

The Lord may have so dealt with us that we cannot do certain things which other servants of God practice. Let us not, indeed, compromise, or sacrifice our revelation of God’s will, but at the same time we must not despise these others, nor have a separateness of spirit towards them. Spiritual progress is always attended by this temptation to judge others. Those who approximate most closely to God’s will are most conscious of faultiness. If, however, progress is to be genuine it must be in the love of God, and the subtle tendency to become legal-minded must be resisted and overcome.

Legality Hinders Faith

Faith can only triumph where grace reigns. Surely if the law governed there would be no future for such men who had rejected God’s warning, and steered their own course. There would be no place for faith. Paul might justly have said, “All hope and expectations are gone. It is useless to trust or pray. We shall sink here as we deserve, for we have disobeyed the Lord.” He might have, but he did not. Instead, having impressed upon them how wrong and foolish they had been, he exhorted them to be of good cheer; for grace, thank God, is greater than all our folly and sin. Faith, then, can be strong. Paul is bold to believe that all will be saved according to the Lord’s promise.

Faith is impossible without grace. If God’s blessing is made to follow logically upon our observance of rules of procedure, any failure on our part suspends all further expectation from Him. How can faith persist and triumph, when God’s way has been missed, if there is no confidence in the abounding grace of the Lord? The Devil will invariably point out our faults and failures, sometimes bringing back to remembrance mistakes of years ago, in order to challenge and wither our faith. It is important for us to recognise our faults, and to learn from our mistakes, but we must not let them be the ruling factor. Grace reigns! Doubtless Paul profited from his mistakes. Certainly the centurion learned his lesson. But that was not all. They might still have been dejected and hopeless men, but for the Lord’s appearance in grace, bidding them rejoice and have faith. We too may feel dejected about ourselves or about others, and give ourselves to grieving over failure, spiritual dullness and unworthiness; but rather let us be of good cheer, and believe God!

Legality Hinders the Divine Purpose

So far we have spoken only of the human side, but there is a Divine aspect to the matter. Paul’s arrival at Rome was not merely for his own blessing; it represented a goal of God’s purpose. He had been chosen as an instrument for the fulfilment of God’s will, but had that depended upon a relationship based legally upon rights and wrongs, that will was doomed to failure from the start. After Paul’s doubtful conduct in going up to Jerusalem, and his still more doubtful behaviour there, the Lord twice appeared to His servant, encouraging him with the assurance that, though the way might be strange, the end was sure: “Thou must stand before Caesar.” What is true of this event in the apostle’s life is also true in the great end of all Divine purpose. The grace of God provides for the realisation of God’s full intention for His people, in spite of their unworthiness. Therein lies the supreme importance of abiding in grace. Satan knows that, while the people of God are found on the ground of legality, there is an arrest of the Divine purpose. If, then, he finds a zeal for God among them, he will seek to nullify it by introducing legality among them, thus causing them to set up barriers as to what must be and what must not; to regard the things of God from the viewpoint of earthly order and procedure, or to concentrate on the weaknesses or faultiness of one another. If he succeeds in this there is no good cheer, and there is no going on unto the fulness of Christ.

A glorious goal is set before the people of God. Legally they have neither the right nor the ability to attain it; but grace beckons them on, and cries triumphantly above the noise of the storm, “Sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even so as it hath been spoken unto me.” The full promise of God shall find fulfilment in a people who maintain their life in the realm where grace reigns.

 

First published in “A Witness and A Testimony” magazine, Vol. 20-3, May-June 1942

How are we to regard other Christians

We are called to stand apart from what is evil. But how do we act practically when it comes to our fellow believers, whatever their background or history. I believe that there are several considerations.
1. Do what the Lord would have done
2. Glorify the Lord yourself
3. Cause others to glorify the Lord
4. Go by scripture
5. Do not cause offence
6. Do not get into a dangerous situation – physically, mentally or spiritually.

walking-in-assemblyA most important part of our Christian life is the testimony that we give to others, believers or not. As to other Christians, Paul tells us ‘Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves’ (Phil 2:3). That applies to all – to one strong in the faith and well taught, down to one who, though the Lord’s, is not even sure of salvation.

It has been said that Christians who seek to be faithful to the Lord should be the humblest people in Christendom, especially if they have been well taught, but have failed in their practical Christianity. The writer can look back to times when he has flaunted his superior knowledge of Christian doctrine and possibly the scriptures, giving the impression of being a ‘superior’, even if not a ‘better’ Christian. He was no better than a Pharisee in the Lord’s time, and even a hypocrite. Indeed, on occasions, he was rebuked by simple believers for what he said or did.

It is not for this booklet to say what one should, or should not do, whether as to general relationships or as to specific instances such as social, family or religious events. To do so would be legality. It will, I trust give the reader some thoughts to consider prayerfully before being confirmed as to what the Lord’s mind is. One of the scriptures that should be considered is 1 Cor 10:28, ‘All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: … Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: … If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof: Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?

Of course the guidance that Paul gives us in scripture is in relation to unbelievers. Our fellow believers are different, and it is wonderful if we can share our common appreciation of the Lord and God’s goodness with them, even if there are differences of interpretation and practice. In apostolic times there were no denominations or sects, as we know them today. But these thoughts should be relevant to all our relationships with our fellow human beings, believers or unbelievers.

We are called to stand apart from what is evil. But how do we act practically when it comes to our fellow believers, whatever their background or history. I believe that there are several considerations.

  1. Do what the Lord would have done
  2. Glorify the Lord yourself
  3. Cause others to glorify the Lord
  4. Go by scripture
  5. Do not cause offence
  6. Do not get into a dangerous situation – physically, mentally or spiritually.

The Lord’s actions are well known. He went to a wedding, and it was clear that the hosts did not appreciate whom He was. A tax gatherer was a ‘child of Abraham’ and when the Lord accepted his hospitality, He was criticised for it. ‘The Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them’ (Luke 15:2). Put simply the Lord socialised with others, but was totally undefiled by the environment.

We are told to do all things to the glory of God. That is a simple test. Can I glorify God in the company or place where I am invited? If so then I will affect others – wherever you are. On this line is the help I can be to others – practically as well as spiritually. We are told, ‘Let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith’ (Gal 6:10). Such help can take many forms.

Scripture does not give us rules, but 1 Cor 10 above is a guide. Some might ask, ‘Why would you be minded to go?’ I would be cautious about going to something religious, where I might be found in a position that I would find compromising. My friend or relative who invited me would understand it if you said, for example, ‘I do not feel I should go because I would be expected to take communion.’ But if I said, ‘I cannot go because the Christians I meet with don’t do this’, then I shouldn’t be surprised to receive the answer, ‘So you think you’re better than us!’   My friend could well have pre-conceived ideas of the sad history of the company I am with, and sees me as marked by the same attitude, even if less extreme than others. One is never going to help others as to the truth of the assembly if one behaves in a supeior way. It is not the Lord’s way. Do not give offence.

I can also give offence to those I meet with. I might feel free to go to something, but know that others would be offended. This is what Paul talked about in Romans 14. This was on the subject of vegetarianism, but it can apply to many situations. ‘Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of: For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost’ (v.13-16).

Finally we should not put ourselves in a situation where we might suffer harm – even in the company of other Christians. I guess in this I am mainly addressing myself to my younger brethren. Sadly there are able teachers who teach false doctrine. They might start with what is outwardly the gospel, but are really intent on getting a personal following ‘speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them’ (Acts 20:30) – you will find them calling for money, promising a better life here, telling you what to do to be a better person or a better Christian, or being carried away by emotional responses, not of the Holy Spirit. So if you are being invited to something like this (you can easily find out what they are like from the internet), you can respond with a polite, inoffensive, ‘No’. Your Christian friend will respect your feelings, especially if you can explain, using scripture, why you cannot go the way he or she would like you to go.

See that there be no one who shall lead you away as a prey through philosophy and vain deceit, according to the teaching of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ’ (Col 2:8 Darby).

 

 

Sosthenes

 

July 2015

Divine Guidance

I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye (Psalm 32:8)
The Lord sometimes guides, or rather controls, by providential circumstances, so that I do not go wrong, and I should be thankful that He does so. But I am like a horse or mule without understanding. If, like a stubborn mule, I am insubject to the Lord’s will, I must be controlled with bit and bridle. Providence does sometimes control, but it never guides persons; it guides things. Suppose that I am going to a place to preach, and my train is delayed and I miss a connection and hence fail to give my sermon. God has ordered things, but God has not guided me. It was my will to go, and I would have gone had the train not been delayed. This is not being guided by the ‘eye’, but controlled by the “bit” of God. Though providence overrules, it does not, properly speaking, guide.

Based on J. N. Darby‘s

I will guide thee with mine eye

eyeRead the following portions from the Psalms.

I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye (Psalm 32:8)

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.  But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night (Psalm 1:1-2).

Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD (Psalm 119:1).
Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word (Psalm 119:67).
It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes
 (Psalm 119:71).
I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments 
(Psalm 119:176).

We need to see how the Spirit of God deals with the insubject soul. Before David confessed he said, ‘When I kept silence my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long’, and ‘Thy hand was heavy upon me‘ (Psalm 32:3-4).    The Lord’s hand is heavy upon a man until he confesses his sin (all sin, not just a particular sin) before God: then there is forgiveness of the iniquity.  Until then there is no forgiveness – that is the government of God.  When he said ‘Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me‘ (Psalm 51:5), he recognised the root principle of sin.  When there is confession of that,  there is then positive restoration of soul.

Freed from the bondage of things that hinder intercourse with God, the soul learns to lean upon God, rather than those things which take the place of God.  It understands deliverance, and is confident in times of trouble.  In Psalm 32:9, we are told not to be like a horse or mule.  A mule is stubborn.  When our wills are at work, there is not free intercourse in our hearts and affections with God – consequently we are not being led simply by God.  When the heart is in a right state, the whole body is ‘full of light‘ (Luke 11:34), quickly perceiving the will of God by the indwelling Holy Spirit.  We are ‘of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD’ (Isa 11:3):,” without any object but the will and glory of God.  Just as the Lord delighted in His Father’s will (See Psalm 40:8), so we will be guided by the Father’s eye, and therefore full of joy.

Before I embark on anything, I should seek God’s mind, judging my hearts as to what may be hindering. If I have not done so, and later meet with difficulties, I will be uncertain as to whether it was God’s mind or not, and be discouraged.   But on the other hand, I have God’s mind and am in communion with Him, I shall be ‘more than a conqueror’ (Rom 8:37).  The power of faith removes mountains: as I am obedient, the Lord gives me to find out His way.

Many speak of providence as a guide. The Lord sometimes guides, or rather controls, by providential circumstances, so that I do not go wrong, and I should be thankful that He does so.  But I am like a horse or mule without understanding.  If, like a stubborn mule, I am insubject to the Lord’s will, I must be controlled with bit and bridle.  Providence does sometimes control, but it never guides persons; it guides things.  Suppose that I am going to a place to preach, and my train is delayed and I miss a connection and hence fail to give my sermon. God has ordered things, but God has not guided me.  It was my will to go, and I would have gone had the train not been delayed.  This is not being guided by the ‘eye’,  but controlled by the “bit” of God. Though providence overrules, it does not, properly speaking, guide.

There is guidance with knowledge, and guidance without knowledge. The former is our blessed privilege; but we may need the latter to humble us. In Christ everything was exactly according to God. In a certain sense He had no character. When I look at Him, what do I see?  Constant, never-failing, perfect obedience. There is great diversity of character amongst men – one tender and soft, another decisive and domineering.  You do not see that in Christ: there is no unevenness – every faculty in His humanity was obedient, and subject to the impulse of God’s divine will.

In Colossians 1:9-11, we find the individual to be ‘filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding‘  The Holy Spirit guides us as to the divine will, and there is no need even to pray about it.  If I have spiritual understanding and have prayed a lot in general, I will have enjoyed such communion so as to know God’s will.  The way is full of stumbling blocks. As children of light we miss them.  If we walk in the night we have to look out for the stones and it is easy to stumble over them.  Jesus said, ‘Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.’  (John 11:8).

May our hearts be led to desire to know and to do God’s will. It will then be not so much a question of what that will is, but of knowing and doing God’s will. And then we shall have the certain and blessed knowledge of being guided by His ‘eye’.

Sosthenes

June 2015

For original see   I will guide thee with mine eye

How a Christian is to Exist in this Evil World

The word ‘world’ can be used in three ways:

The world-space – The earth, the platform on which the world-system operates.
The world-people – Those on the earth.
The world-system – The order or system according to which human affairs are managed on the earth.
When we read that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners (world-people), that was to the world-space. In so doing He came in contact with the world-system which hated Him. When He said to His disciples, ‘They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world’ (John 17:16), He meant that they were not under the system, governed by it, or finding their life in it.

Based on J. N. Darby

JohnNelsonDarbyWhat the World is; and how a Christian can live in it

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 (1 John 2:15).

Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world, is the enemy of God (James 4:4).

  • What is the world?
  • What is it from which we are to keep ourselves unspotted?

The word ‘world’ can be used in three ways:

  1. The world-space – The earth, the platform on which the world-system operates.
  2. The world-people – Those on the earth.
  3. The world-system – The order or system according to which human affairs are managed on the earth.

When we read that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners (world-people), that was to the world-space. In so doing He came in contact with the world-system which hated Him. When He said to His disciples, ‘They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world’ (John 17:16), He meant that they were not under the system, governed by it, or finding their life in it.

He that is a friend of the world-system is an enemy of God, because this world is self-governing and not subject to God. It is a bit like the military system which funds, clothes, arms, trains, accommodates and orders. The soldier simply has to subject himself to the system. It is a self-contained system.

Man wants society. Position is everything: there is an innate desire to climb the great ladder. Some succeed, whilst others strive to maintain their current levels. What a tremendous power to absorb heart and mind the social world-system possesses! People want good government, physical protection, property, human rights, free trade, education, health care – these are met by the world-system. It is amazing! Non-academic people find manual labour or serve in restaurants or care homes; others have creative talents in art, music and literature. Entrepreneurs run successful businesses; others are doctors, administrators and politicians. It takes all kinds to make a world, they say

The object of the world-system is to keep the great moving mass of humanity thoroughly occupied and reasonably contented. People’s hearts and are kept busy from the cradle to the grave.

Man is a very complicated creature. A good many different things taken together are needed for self-fulfilment; a little business, a little politics, a little society, a little study, and a little religion. Man is naturally religious. The word ‘religion’ occurs only five times in the whole Bible. Religion is not godliness, for worshippers of idols are religious. Even humanism can be a religion. Religion is as much a part of man’s nature as his intellect or memory. The world-system provides for man’s religious needs. One may like beautiful music; others relish imposing ceremonies; another wants to give vent to his unrestrained emotions, while another is opposite, preferring cold, legal orthodoxy. To assuage their guilty feelings some do penance. There are creeds, doctrines and sects for every shade of religious temperament, outlook and traditions.

Now God is leading some, alas a very few, to see that all this business, politics, education, government, technology, inventions, electronic communications and the internet, entertainment, charitable institutions – and religion are all part of the ever-improving world-system. But the Christian’s place is not in them, though he r she may use them. Whatever Christ’s present relationship to the world is, that is the Christian’s too – His place is above. That defines our place. Meanwhile, Satan is the god of this world, the manager of this stupendous system. His has the energy and genius: he is the prince. When Jesus Christ was on earth, the devil came and offered Him all the kingdoms of the world. He said ‘All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine’ (Luke 4:6-7). That exposed Satan. Scripture described him as ‘full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty’ (Ezek 28:12) and ‘like an angel of light’ (2 Cor 11:14).

It is little wonder if men are deceived and deluded? A few have their eyes opened to see, by the word of God, and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, what the world really is. Some may think they have escaped from the snare of worldliness, if they have given up worldly pleasures, and become active in churches. They do not realise that they are just as much in the world-system as before, only Satan, its prince, has shifted them from one department to another, to quieten their uneasy consciences and make them better satisfied with themselves.

The question arises, how is the Christian to escape from the control of the world-system? Paul says, ‘As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God’ (Rom 8:14). The Christian’s normal mode of life is being governed by Christ, the Christian’s Head, under His immediate direction in all things small and great. This is how Christianity cuts at the very root of worldliness, for man’s free-will is the foundation on which the world-system is constructed, just as Christian life is founded on dependence on God and obedience to His will. Satan’s world is a great system for man which is a perfect substitute for the leading of God’s Spirit. The great apostasy is fast approaching and Satan openly will declare himself personally to be god of this world. So is it not high time for Christians to awake out of sleep, and to see to it that they are not in any way associated with a system that is fast heading for judgment?

But we will say, ‘How can we help it? Are we not bound by necessity to these things by our trades and professions, as members of government and of society -business must be attended to?’ Everybody admits that, but the very fact that everybody admits it, demonstrates that it as not of God.

It is our faith that gets the victory that over the world (See 1 John 5:4). Faith does not look at outward circumstances, at what is, or is not, possible; it disregards what seems, and looks at God. People will tell us what we should and should do not do, but the child of God walks straight ahead, paying no attention to what they say. Our natural way may appear perfectly reasonable and satisfactory, but the one who walks by faith knows that whatever is universally agreed on as the right way must be wrong – that is the broad way.

Another question arises as to our citizenship. Should a Christian be interested in the government of the country to which he belongs, and vote, so as to help to put good men in power. Darby said ‘No, as God’s child, I am not a citizen of any country, or a member of any society; my citizenship is in heaven, and I have henceforth to do with heavenly things; the cross of Christ has crucified me to the world, and the world to me; if I give my mind and heart to these earthly things I shall be the enemy of the cross of Christ. Be not conformed to the world.’ God orders governments, so we submit ourselves to them, pay our taxes, and pray to God for kings, and all in authority (See 1 Tim 2:2). It is not that he voting in itself wrong, as that the Christian has given his vote and interest to the Man in heaven, whom God has exalted as King of kings, and Lord of lords. On the other hand, he sees that the world is ungodly and independent of God, coming under judgment.

We who are saved are to be distinct, blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke shining as lights in the world (See Phil 2:15). This is to be our mission. But to live in this way costs something. We will be like a single rock in a fast-flowing river. Everything around us is on the move, pressure, pressure, pressure, and we would get swept it away were we not a rock on a firm base. We have the word of God governing our lives, so we are stable when the storm comes. Being an honest and good church-going citizen brings no persecution, that is just flowing with the river, but to shine as a light in the world for Christ, provokes the world’s enmity because He is hated. If I enjoy a fair reputation in the world, the life of Jesus is not made manifest in my mortal body, Christ is not discoverable in me. That is a test.

When once a person has really come to know God, he is drawn upward, by union with Christ on high, from participation in the things of the world-system. His desire is to be more like Him, and transformed from this present evil world. He has become a son of God, with eternal life in Christ. How can he turn back to the world’s weak and beggarly elements? There are no rules. It does not say, ‘Thou shalt not vote, thou shalt not be honoured in this evil age, thou shalt suffer shame.’ It is a wonderful provision, that the heart of love finds no difficulty in discovering the will of God, while the heart that is not sincere finds excuses and invents ways of enjoying the worldly path whilst appearing sincere externally.

To conclude, we have to be in contact with the world-system to some degree, but this contact is never to be one of fellowship; what concord can there be between Christ and Belial (2 Cor 6:15)?  Jesus said to His Father in John 17:15, ‘I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.’ Jesus, who was not of this world, suffered and was straitened; the loneliness and tribulation were real to Him, and they will be real to us just as we follow in His steps. Are we at home here, where Christ is not? We are homeless wanderers and weary pilgrims.

Alas, we live too much according to the world-system to be brought into conflict with it. The result is that we become disloyal subjects of Christ, and we escape the cross and its reproach. There is a narrow way; may we be of the “few” who find it. We carry our passports with us. We are sealed by the Holy Spirit, waiting for the shout to be caught up into the air, to meet our Lord and be for ever with Him – What a blessed hope!

 

Sosthenes

June 2015

For original see Union in Incarnation, the root error of modern theology.

520BC Zechariah, Buddah and Confucius

It would appear that in 520BC Zechariah, Buddah and Confucius were all engaged in their work. Which one brought people back to God? Zech 1:3

It would appear that in 520BC Zechariah, Buddah and Confucius were all engaged in their work.  Which one brought people back to God?  Who said ‘Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you’ (Zech 1:3).  Who had an idea of God’s standard (the measuring line) Zech. 2?  Who saw a man’s filthy garments changed to festival robes (Zech 3 – Darby trans. – from our own righteousness to God’s)? And which could speak of the sons of oil (Zech 4 – the limitless supply from God’s Holy Spirit)?

These two wise men from the East were no more than that – giving good advice – but none changing the man which cannot be improved, however much men try!