| Father, Thank You for Blessing & Equiping us, Your Body!|
[b]XI. DO SOMETHING FOR GOD[/b]
You were neither born nor reborn for yourselves alone. You may not be able to do much, but do something; work while it is day. You may not be able to give much, but give something; according to your ability, remembering that the Lord loveth a cheerful giver. Take heed, and beware of covetousness; for the love of money is the root of all evil. Whenever worldliness comes in, in any shape, whether it be love of money or love of pleasure, you cease to be faithful to Christ, and are trying to serve both God and mammon.
Do something, then, for God, while time lasts. It may not be long; for the day goeth away, and the shadows of evening are stretched out. Do something every day. Work, and throw your heart into the work. Work joyfully and with a right good will, as men who love both their work and their master. Be not weary in well-doing. Work, and work in faith. Work in love, and patience, and hope. Don't shrink from hard labour or disagreeable duties, or a post trying to flesh and blood. 'Endure hardness, as a good soldier in Jesus Christ' (2 Tim 2:3). Be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Cor 15:58). Don't fold your hands, or lay aside your staff, or sheathe your sword. Don't give way to slothfulness and flesh-pleasing, saying to yourselves, 'I can get to heaven without working.'
Your gifts may be small, your time not much, your opportunities few; but work, and do it quietly, without bustle, or self-importance, not as pleasing men, but God; not seeking the honour that cometh from men, but that which cometh from God. The day of honour is coming, and the Master's 'Well done' will make up for all hardship and labour here. When the Son of man shall come in His glory, with all His holy angels, and when He shall sit upon the throne of His glory, it will be blessed to be set upon His right hand, and acknowledged as those who have fed Him, and clothed and visited Him in prison; and it would be a bitter thing, indeed, to be 'saved so as by fire,' namely: barely saved, and no more; saved (if such a thing can be thought of) without doing anything for Him that saved us; having given Him no water when He was thirsty, no food when He was hungry, no clothes when He was naked, and when in prison having never once come nigh Him.
[b]XII. LIVE WAITING FOR YOUR LORD[/b]
He that loves Christ will long to see Him, and will not be content with the interviews which faith gives. The lover seeks the absent loved one, the wife the husband, the child the mother; so do you your Lord. It is not enough that you can communicate with Him daily by the epistles which faith brings and carries; you must see Him face to face, otherwise there is a blank in your life, a void in your existence, a cloud over your love, and a faltering in your song. The saved one desires to meet his Saviour, and feels that his joy must be imperfect till then. It is the mark of a disciple that he 'waits for the Son of God from heaven' (1 Thess 1:10); that he loves, looks for, longs for the appearance of Christ. Let this mark be seen on you; and be like the Corinthian saints, of whom it was told by their apostle, 'Ye come behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ' (1 Cor 1:7). 'Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ' (1 Peter 1:13).
| 2009/2/21 16:09|
| Re: Follow The LAMB|
[b]XIII. THE LORD OUR GOD[/b]
'I am the Lord your God,' was God's greeting of love to Israel (Lev 11:44); it is no less now His salutation of grace to every one who has believed on the name of His Son, Christ Jesus. God becomes our God the moment that we receive His testimony of His beloved Son. This new relationship between God and us, in virtue of which He calls us His, and we call Him ours, is the simple result of a believed gospel.
If any one reading these lines is led to ask, How may I become a son? We answer in the words of truth, 'He that believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.' Nothing less than believing can bring about this sonship; and nothing more is needed. The joy, and the peace, and the love, and the warmth, these are the effects of faith, but they are not faith; they are the fruits of a conscious sonship which has been formed by the belief of the divine testimony to Jesus as the Son of God and the Saviour of the lost. 'As many as received Him, to them gave He the right of being sons of God, even to them that believed on His name' (John 1:12). God's simple message of grace contains peace for the sinner; and the sinner extracts the peace therein contained, not by effort or feeling, but by the simple belief of the true sayings of God. Good news makes glad by being believed, and they refuse to yield up their precious treasure to anything but to simple faith. Believe the tidings of peace from God, and the peace is all your own.
It is not to him that worketh, or feeleth, or loveth, but to him that believeth that God says, 'I am the Lord your God.' And when God used the word believing, He just meant what He said, and intended nothing else than what man means by that word. Had He meant anything else, He would have told us, and not suffered us to be misled or deceived by our misunderstanding of a word of which the Bible is full. Had He meant working, or feeling, or loving, He would have said so, and not allowed us to suppose that believing was really all. What a book of deception and mystery the Bible would be, if 'believing' does not mean 'believing,' but something less or something more! To make it something less, would be to take from God's word as truly as if we had struck out a book from the Bible. To make it something more, would be to add to God's word, as truly and as sinfully as if we had forged another Gospel or another Epistle, or accepted the Apocrypha as part of the inspired record. We make God a liar when we refuse to take Him at His word, or give Him credit for speaking that simple truth, in believing which we are saved; but let us remember the other side of his statement, namely, our being found liars by reason of our adding to His word. 'Every word of God is pure' (Prov 30:5); can we make it purer, or more transparent, or more simple? We add to it, lest it should be too simple, too childlike, too blessed; we put something of our own into it to make it more substantial and complete; and that something (call it feeling, or realizing, or loving) destroys the divine simplicity and transparency of faith. Add thou not unto His words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar (Prov 30:6). Does casting dust upon the sunbeam improve its quality or make it more like the sun from which it came? Would pouring filth into a cup of pure spring water make it more lucid and refreshing? Whatever we add to believing, tends to destroy its real nature and to mar its effects. If God had said that we are to be saved by believing that the deluge overflowed the earth, and that the sun once stood still in the heavens, we should have understood what He meant by the word. And is there any more difficulty in understanding Him when He says, 'He that believeth is justified from all things'? Does believing mean one thing in Genesis and another in Romans? Does it mean one thing to Abraham and another to us? Does it mean one thing today and another tomorrow? Or is not the formula of salvation, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,' meant to be the simplest and most intelligible of all declarations ever made to man?
We believe the Holy Spirit's testimony, that Jesus died and rose again, 'the Just for the unjust.' That saves. We believe the divine promise annexed to this testimony, that life is the possession of every man who believeth this heavenly testimony; and this belief of the promise (which some call appropriation) assures us, on God's word, that life is ours personally. We do not get life by believing that life is ours; nor do we get Christ by believing that Christ is ours. This is as absurd as the idea of getting our debts paid by believing that they are paid. But we get life and Christ by believing God's glad tidings concerning Jesus and His finished work upon the cross. There is enough in Christ to pay every man's debt; but no man's debt is actually paid until he has taken God at His word, and believed the record which God has given of His Son.
It is the blood that pacifies my conscience. The sight of it is all I need to remove fear and impart confidence. It is not my 'seeing that I see it' that gives me boldness, but my direct and simple sight of it. My guilt passes away from me so soon as I believe; and I don't need to wait till I believe in my own act of believing before becoming conscious of this deliverance. The blood contains my pardon and my peace; and by looking at it I extract the pardon and the peace. I don't need to look at my looking; I need only to look at the blood. If I cannot extract from it pardon and peace, I never shall be able to extract them from my own act of seeing. I am to believe in Jesus; not in my own faith, nor in my own feelings. I am to look to the cross, not to my own convictions or repentance. The well of peace is not within me; and to let down my bucket into my own heart for the purpose of drawing up the water of peace, is mockery as well as foolishness. I do not fill the cup of peace out of anything that is in myself. Christ has filled that cup already,--long, long ago--and in love He presses it to my parched lips. Let me drink at once of it, for all the peace of God, the peace of heaven is there.
When God said to Israel, 'I am the Lord your God,' He added this, 'Ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves; and ye shall be holy, for I am holy' (Lev 11:44); and He added this also, 'I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy' (Lev 11:45).
God calls us to be holy. He becomes our God to make us like Himself. 'He calls us to be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.' He expects that we should represent Him among our fellow-men by our resemblance to Himself.
The carrying out of this holiness is His own work,--the operation of His Spirit. Whether our perfection in holiness is to be wrought gradually or instantaneously, is a question to be determined solely by His word, and not by any theories of our own. That God could make each soul perfect the moment he believes, we admit;--that He may have wise reasons for not doing this, wise reasons for gradual growth, --will not be denied. He has given us no instance in the Bible of any one made instantaneously sinless, either at his conversion or during his after life. All the men of faith and holiness, the men 'full of the Holy Ghost,' which He presents to us as our models, are imperfect men to the end of their days, needing forgiveness and cleansing constantly. He glorifies Himself in our imperfect bodies; in an imperfect Church, on an imperfect earth. His object here is to glorify Himself in imperfection and growth, as He is hereafter to glorify Himself in perfection and completeness of every kind. Gradual growth is the law of all things here,--man, beasts, trees, and flowers,--so that unless we had some very notable example in Scripture of a sinless man, or of miraculous and instantaneous perfection by an act of faith, we are not disposed to accept the theory of instantaneous sinlessness, as that to which we are called in believing; even though that be veiled under the specious name of 'entire consecration,' or accompanied with the profession of personal unworthiness,--a 'personal unworthiness' which, however, does not seem to require any actual confession of sin.
Yet God calls us to be holy. He expects us to grow in unlikeness to this world, and in likeness to that world which is to come. He expects us to follow Him who did no sin, even though the attainment of perfection should not be in a day or a year, but the growth of a lifetime.
It is for want of daily growth, not for want of complete and constant sinlessness, that God so often challenges His own.
Let us grow. Let us bring forth fruit. Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof. What is the use of taking so long to make us sinless?--some may say. I answer, Go and ask God. What was the use of taking six days to bring creation to perfection? Why did He let sin enter our world when He could have kept it out? What was the use of not making the whole Church perfect at once? Why did He not make Abraham or David or Paul perfect at once? He could have done so. Why did He not?
Let us study soberly and truly the word of God in regard to the past history of His saints, lest it be said to some in our day who think themselves on a far 'higher platform' than others,--more perfect than Paul or John,--'Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast Thou made me thus?' Let us grow. The impatience that demands instantaneous perfection is unbelief, refusing to recognize God's spiritual laws in the new creation. The gradual evolution of the heavenly life in a lifelong course of conflict and imperfection, is the way in which sin is unfolded, the human heart exposed to view, the power of the cross tested, the efficacy of the blood manifested, and the power as well as the love of Father, Son, and Spirit magnified. God's purpose is not simply to reveal Himself, but to reveal man,--not simply man dead in trespasses and sin, but man after he has been made alive unto righteousness, to exhibit, step by step, and day by day, that most solemn and humbling of all processes, namely, that by which 'the inward man is renewed day by day' (2 Cor 4:16): while the strength of the human will for evil is manifested, the awful tenacity of sin shown forth, and the absolute hopelessness of any sinner's salvation demonstrated, save by the omnipotence of God Himself.
Let us grow daily and hourly. Let us grow down; let us grow up. Let us strike our roots deeper; let us spread out our branches more widely. Let us not only 'blossom and bud,' but let us bring forth fruit, ripe and plentiful, on every bough. 'Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples' (John 15:8).
| 2009/2/23 10:25|
| Re: Follow The LAMB|
~ Horatious Bonar
[b]XIV. HINDRANCES TO AVOID[/b]
Many things can hinder growth and fruit-bearing. Mark the following:
'So we see they could not enter in because of unbelief' (Heb 3:19). This poisons the tree at its very root. Christ can do no mighty works in us, or for us, because of unbelief (Matt 13:58). 'Only believe' (Mark 5:36). 'Have faith in God' (Mark 11:22). 'He that believeth' (Mark 9:23). 'He that believeth on me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water' (John 7:38).
Want of love
No love, no fruit; much love, much fruit (Heb 10:24). 'Labour of love' means the labour which love produces, to which love stimulates (1 Thess 1:3). Love is by its very nature fruit-bearing. When 'love waxes cold' (Matt 24:12), when we 'leave our first love' (Rev 2:4), then everything that deserves the name of fruit dies away. If there be fruit at all, it is poor and unripe. Our zeal is the zeal of Jehu (2 Kings 10:16); our warmth is false fire; our energy is the vigour of the flesh; our work is the work of men urged on by a false stimulus; our words, however earnest, are the words of excited self. If any one ask, How am I to get love? I answer, Look to Jesus, deal with Him about it, learn anew to love by learning anew His love to you. I do not say, 'Work, and that will stimulate you to love.' No. It is not first work, and then love; but first love, and then work. Get more love by dealing more with Jesus personally, and then love will set you all on fire. You will work unbidden; you will work in the liberty of fellowship and in the joy of love (1 Thess 3:12; Gal 5:6; 2 Cor 5:14).
Selfishness (Mark 8:34)
Self in all its forms is a hindrance to our growth (Rom 14:7). Self-will, self-sufficiency, self-indulgence, self-importance, self-glory, self-seeking, self-brooding,--all these mar fruitfulness. Denying self is the beginning, the middle, and the end of our course here, as followers of Christ. Selfishness takes the form of covetousness, or love of money; of luxury, or love of meats and drinks, and the good things of this life; of religious dissipation, or love of excitement; of spiritual restlessness, or running from meeting to meeting, or book to book, or opinion to opinion, or minister to minister; of craving for religious stimulants and spices, with loathing of what is tame or common, however good and true. These are some of the forms of selfishness which destroy both growth and fruitfulness. How can a man grow when he is pampering self instead of crucifying the flesh; when he is indulging and fondling the old man instead of nailing him to the cross; when he is enjoying all softness and ease and worldly comfort, instead of enduring hardness, and taking up his cross and mortifying his members which are upon the earth (Rom 8:13; Gal 5:24; Col 3:5)?
'The love of money is the root of all evil' (1 Tim 6:10). Few things are more hateful in a Christian man than this; few things more completely destroy his influence; and few things more sadly or more justly make him the scorn of the world than eagerness for money, or niggardliness in parting with it. The covetous man cannot grow. He must ever remain a stunted Christian. 'Filthy lucre' is poison to the soul. If we do not 'make friends of the mammon of unrighteousness' by laying out our substance for God, it will become the blight of spirituality, the destruction of our religious life (Prov 30:8; 1 Tim 6:6-10). Be generous, be large-hearted, be open-handed, be loving, be free in giving, if you would grow.
Self-satisfaction in any shape, or self-admiration of any kind, in regard to person, or property, or accomplishments, or position; these are immensely hurtful to spiritual life. True godliness prospers only in the lowly heart; the heart which, in proportion as it becomes more and more satisfied with Christ, becomes more and more dissatisfied with itself. If the Master was meek and lowly, shall the disciple be anything else?
To take things easy is by some reckoned a great virtue; and not to get warm or excited or zealous, is regarded as proof of a noble and well-balanced mind. We might admit this to be the case, were it confined to worldly matters. To lose a fortune, and yet be calm, is well. To endure provocation and be unruffled is also well. But to take religion easy is not so to be commended. Easy-going religionists are strangers to the fervour of John or Paul. To be contented while uncertain of our salvation is something very awful. To be contented while making no progress, or perhaps going back, is nearly as awful. Easy-minded religion is just the same as lifeless coldness, though perhaps not so repulsive to others. The good natured formality of thousands is just the hateful lukewarmness of Laodicea.
But let these hints suffice. They will help a little, and guide a little, and teach a little, and warn a little. In reading them, let there be much self-questioning and self-applying. 'Is it I, Lord, is it I?'
[b]XV. BE OF GOOD CHEER[/b]
A revival time is one of blessing, but it is one of peril. The running well and the going back, the flocking to the cross and the turning away from it, the warm confession and the subsequent silence,--these are things which have been witnessed in other times, and may be witnessed again. Hence our anxiety to give all the guidance and the counsel that we can. Let the young listen. Let them humble themselves to Christian counsel. Let them take heed and watch narrowly their own footsteps.
But still we would not dishearten any. Be not discouraged, we say; but be of good cheer. Faint not, though you may often be weary. Though we bid you count the cost, yet we say to you, as God said to Israel, 'Behold, the Lord your God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged' (Deut 1:21). We would not be of those to whom God spoke, and said, 'Why discourage ye the hearts of the people?' (Num 32:7). We remember it is said that 'the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way' (Num 21:4); and that this discouragement led to sin. We would not discourage the weakest; for we call to mind Him who 'breaks not the bruised reed, nor quenches the smoking flax' (Isa 42:3); who 'gathers the lambs with His arms, who carries them in His bosom, and who gently leads those that are with young' (Isa 40:11).
We say to 'those who are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not' (Isa 35:4); and we would 'strengthen the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees' (Isa 35:3). You say the 'fearful' are among those who are cast into the lake of fire, and you fear you are one of them. Not so. The 'fearful' specified in the Book of Revelation (Rev 21:8), are the cowards who have refused to confess to Christ, who have turned their back on Christ; and they are very different from the 'fearful' spoken of in Isaiah.
Be of good courage. You have God upon your side. You have Christ to fight for you. You have the Holy Spirit to sustain and comfort you. You have more encouragements than discouragements. You have the example of millions that have gone before you. You have exceeding great and precious promises (2 Pet 1:4). You have many fellow-travellers and fellow-soldiers on the right hand and on the left. You have a bright kingdom in view which will compensate for all triaI and conflict here. And then, the way is short. The toil will soon be over. The battle will not last for ever. Greater is He that is with you than all that can be against you. Be strong in the Lord. Be strong in His love and in His power. Take to you the whole armour of God (Eph 6:10,11).
Do you say that you are in Christ, and that you are abiding in Him? Then you ought to walk as He walked. You are bound to follow His footsteps; and if you say that you are not bound to do so, you set aside the divine teaching of the apostle here given us.
The man who says, 'I am Christ's,' is under obligations to imitate Him. Duty and love alike constrain him to do so; not duty without love, nor yet love without duty. Duty without love would mean reluctance and compulsion; love without duty would mean love fixed upon an unlawful object, whom it was not right to love. Duty and love going together mean that our love is fixed upon a worthy and lawful object; in loving whom we are feeling what is right, and in obeying whom we are doing what is right.
If I love that which it is not my duty to love, I sin. If I love that which it is my duty to love, I am doing the right thing,--the thing which God delights in. If I honour my parents, I do so for two reasons: (1) Because God has said, 'Honour thy father and thy mother'; (2) Because I love them. The two things, the duty and the love, are in perfect harmony with each other. It is a dutiful thing to love, and it is a loving thing to be dutiful. Suppose you have a mother in Scotland and a father in India. You love both of them as truly as a son can love. But the question may arise as to which of them you are to visit or to stay with. Are you to remain in Scotland or go to India? Love cannot determine this question, for you love both equally. How is it to be decided? By duty. You ask, Is it my duty to go to my father, or to remain with my mother? If you decided to leave your mother, from a sense of duty, would she doubt your love, and say, I want none of your professions of it? And when you went to India, and told your father that it was a sense of duty that brought you to him, would he scorn you, and say, I want none of your duty, give me your love? Duty is a right and proper motive.
It is again and again referred to in Scripture, as the words 'ought,' 'are bound,' 'must,' 'debtor,' 'owe,' and the like abundantly show. 'He that saith he abideth in Him, ought himself so to walk even as He walked' (1 John 2:6).
We read such passages as the following:--'Ye also ought to wash one another's feet' (John 13:14); 'We have done that which was our duty to do' (Luke 17:10);--'We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak' (Rom 15:1);--'So ought men to love their wives' (Eph 5:28);--'We are bound to thank God' (2 Thess 1:3);--'We are bound to give thanks' (2 Thess 2:13);--'We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren' (1 John 3:16);-- 'We ought to love one another' (1 John 4:11). These are a few out of many passages in which duty is spoken of in very plain terms. That duty and love should go together, is no proof that there is no such thing as duty, or that a Christian should rise above it into the region of 'pure love,' as Romish mystics have held. Duty means the thing that is due; are we not to do it because it is due, because it is the right and proper thing? Let us exercise our common sense, and understand the meaning of words, whether Greek or English, before soaring into transcendental regions, into which neither prophets nor apostles have gone before us.
There is a danger of running to excess in our day, of attempting the superfine in religion; of soaring too high, of getting away from both Scripture and common sense; of indulging in a sentimentalism, which looks very spiritual, but which, when analysed, is simply absurdity, or, at best, a one-sided exaggeration of some isolated truth. There is great danger, in a time of spiritual quickening, of being carried about with diverse and strange doctrines. Let us cleave to the word. Only thus can we find steadfastness and sobriety. Only by feeding on it, and being guided by it, can we maintain a manly and healthy religion,--free from error, yet devoid of effeminacy, following out the old paths of reformers, apostles, prophets, and patriarchs, unshaken by novelties, yet unfettered by bigotry or self-will.
'He that is dead,' says the apostle, 'is freed from sin' (Rom 6:7); or more exactly, 'He that has died is justified from sin.' Death was the penalty, and he who has paid the penalty is legally justified. There is no further claim against him. We pay the penalty when we take the death of the Substitute as ours, and God reckons the penalty paid when He obtains our consent to the exchange. It is the thought of having paid the penalty that pacifies the conscience; and it is the thought of God reckoning it paid that gives us peace with Him. When we come to understand the meaning and value of the work upon the cross; when we accept what God has declared concerning all who believe His testimony to that work, the burden drops, and we enter into liberty.
With that liberty comes holiness. We seek henceforth conformity to Him who has set us free, and who bids us follow Him in the path of conformity to the Father's will.
With that liberty comes love,--love to Him who hath brought our souls out of prison by going into prison for us.
With that love comes zeal,--the zeal of Him who followed after His lost ones till He had recovered them,--of Him it is said, 'The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.'
With this love and zeal there comes self-denial, the self-denial of Him who 'pleased not Himself,' who lived on earth solely for others; though rich, for our sakes becoming poor.
Of all this be it ever remembered, that the root is 'peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ'; and that this peace comes from the knowledge of the peace-making blood, the blood of the one divine peace offering, whom to know is peace! It is out of the sacrificial blood that we extract the peace which is the beginning of all service, all religion, all uprightness of walk. 'No condemnation' commences the life of freedom and self-denial and zeal. We cease to know the law as our enemy, and begin to know it as our friend; for that which is 'holy, and just, and good' must ever be our delight, our joy, our guide. 'I delight in the law of God after the inner man' (Rom 7:22) is one of our truest watchwords; for we were set free from the law just in order that we might delight in the law and in order that 'the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us' (Rom 8:4). With law satisfied,--nay, transformed into a friend, and speaking not condemnation, but pardon, not wrath, but love, we walk onwards and upwards, realizing in that blessed law what David did when he said, 'The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. (Psa 19:8-10).
| 2009/2/24 11:10|