rss

CMF eZine


The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship.


Christlikeness

Christlikeness

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 1 Peter 2:21-22 (NIV)

A few days ago I was engaged in what a co-worker and friend of mine likes to call one of our “theological discussions.” He had been wrestling with the issue of “Christlikeness” and his thought process had reached a certain conclusion. A paraphrase of his reasoning could sound like this:

“Christ lived a perfect life and never sinned.”

“The Bible tells us to be like Christ, therefore God demands perfection from us.”

“Since we can’t get there from here, it’s the mother of all guilt trips.”

If we were to believe that sinless perfection in the life of a Christian is a commandment from God, then my friend is absolutely correct! If, on the other hand, we accept the premise that Christians, even after having received redemption and salvation, have a tremendous capacity to sin (and we do), God’s command for us to be imitators of His Son and to live holy lives before Him (Isaiah 53:9; 1 Pet 1:16) might have a slightly different meaning and purpose.

John Wesley's thoughts on the matter follow: “I think it was in the latter end of the year 1740 that I had a conversation with Dr. Gibson, then Bishop of London, at Whitehall. He asked me what I meant by Perfection. I told him, ‘ without any disguise or reserve.’ When I ceased speaking he said, ‘Mr. Wesley, if this be all you mean, publish it to all the world.’ I answered, ‘My Lord, I will’; and accordingly wrote and published the sermon on Perfection.

A pastor from Pennsylvania explains it this way: “That is, in all His perfections, Jesus is the standard by which we are to measure our own lives. He is the model after which we are to pattern our lives. He is the example which we are to imitate.  He is the measure of men.” (This author’s emphasis.) In the words of Saint Augustine, Patron of the Order of Canons, ‘O God, Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.’ The Apostle Paul, writing to the early Christian church and by extension to us, also emphasizes the importance of Christ as our Example: “Pattern yourselves after me [follow my example], as I imitate and follow Christ (the Messiah).”  (1Cor. 11:1, AMP). Paul’s admonishment was that others would imitate him only to the extent to which he was an imitator of Christ. The imitator without disguise or reserve who rests in Christ.

Thomas A. Kempis, in Imitators of Christ said: “With vivid clarity he shows man's complete dependence on, and need of, God, and the empty futility of life lived apart from its only source of true Life and Light.”

Arvid Gradin, a Swede who was a member of the Moravians said: “Repose in the blood of Christ; a firm confidence in God, and persuasion of His favor; the highest tranquility, serenity, and peace of mind; with a deliverance from every fleshly desire, and a cessation of all, even inward sins.”

We are to be imitators of Christ. We cannot be Him, but we can be imitators of Him (provided ‘be’ means to submit to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to empower us as credible imitators). And let me tell you, the enemy absolutely hates it when the saints become Christlike! He knows that he is a defeated enemy of God, and he knows that the same Christ that wrought his complete and utter defeat lives inside of each and every believer! Dear friends, as believers we need to know and believe the same things the enemy already knows! Arthur W. Pink, in his book entitled The Holy Spirit, said: “...ignorance of the Third Person of the Godhead is most dishonoring to Him, and highly injurious to ourselves. The late George Smeaton of Scotland said, “Wherever Christianity has been a living power…the distinctive feature of Christianity as it addresses itself to man’s experience, is the work of the Spirit, which not only elevates it far above all philosophical speculation, but also above every other form of religion.”

The Christ within us is the perfect Son of the living God, who “. . . committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” He is the One in whom Satan has no foothold, no ground, and against whom he has no hope of victory! Hear Christ Himself, speaking to His disciples after His last meal with his followers and before the Gethsemane experience:

“I will not talk with you much more, for the prince (evil genius, ruler) of the world is coming. And he has no claim on Me. [He has nothing in common with Me; there is nothing in Me that belongs to him, and he has no power over Me.] (John 14:30 AMP)

This same Jesus who has defeated every enemy and made impotent every foe, this is the same Jesus who lives inside each and every believer! What an unfathomable gift! “What is the supreme benefaction, the gift and treasure above all others which even God can give? He gives Christ to be in our nature forever. This is God’s supreme and final gift. . . . He makes us the repository of the nature and person of the Lord Jesus. ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory.’” (Col 1:19-29), A.W. Tozer, God’s Greatest Gift to Man.

It is this same Jesus, the very hope of all glory who desires to express Himself to a world enslaved by sin through those whom He redeemed! The measure of Christ expressing Himself through us in the exact measure of our Christlikeness, and truly the weapon most feared by the enemy of our soul!

In His Tool Box

In His Tool Box

Sound corny? I thought so too when the phrase popped into my head seemingly from out of nowhere. I have heard of “In His Steps,” and “In His Service” but “In His Toolbox?” I did a search of my mental directory for slogans, mottos and phrases to see if it might be stored somewhere between "An Army Of One", "Be All You Can Be", "Just Do It", or W.W.J.D..  After all, what is a toolbox anyway? It is a collection of tools stored in a common container that allows the user to perform a variety of tasks. Who uses toolboxes?  Mechanics, electricians, carpenters, plumbers, maintenance men and God—all use toolboxes. But perhaps we think of ourselves as highly trained, highly motivated and successful individuals. Who among us thinks of himself as a hammer, a pair of pliers, or a pipe wrench that can be used of God?

I have to admit that in our current American culture the idea of being a useful tool in someone else's toolbox (even God’s) certainly violates the philosophies touted by motivational speakers, success gurus and all the get rich quick promoters. Then again, I am not talking about worldly success. I'm talking about being a tool in God's toolbox.

Think about it. God, our creator and author of our salvation, is the master mechanic. His desire is that no one would perish and although He could deliver the salvation message Himself, He has chosen common folk like us to be the “tools” of His service. The mechanic at the local automobile repair shop would not be able to fix your car without tools. God has made it so His Church cannot serve without you, His tools.

As Christians serving in the military, no matter where you are stationed, no matter what your occupation, there are those around you in need of The Savior. By God's design, you represent the Savior and Lord of the universe. The Master's desire is that we allow Him to mold us into useful tools: tools are well maintained and cared for by His love; tools that are resting in the toolbox (His Sabbath Rest), ready and available for His use on every occasion. What an honor to be gently lifted out of God's toolbox and to be used to heal, nurture, and encourage the Saints or even better yet, share the Good News with those around us!

Why am I excited about being 'just a tool'? It is because of my gratitude to our Lord, knowing that He paid so dear a price for my sin. I was once separated from fellowship with Him and doomed to an eternity without Him. But now I am restored into fellowship with Him (He lives in me), and I look forward to spending eternity in His glorious presence! When I remember that My Savior and Lord one day long ago shed a drop of blood with my name on it, a crimson coin He used to purchase me out of the marketplace of sin—how could I not serve Him? One of my favorite gospel songs puts it this way:

“Well... He chose me when I could not choose Him,
Well... He loved me long before I knew Him,
And He died for me on Calvary long before my life began -
The least I can do is live for Him!”

I am deliriously happy to be 'just a tool' in the Masters toolbox! I endeavor to keep myself well oiled and ready for the His use. Oh, to be so valued by God! Are you a deliriously happy tool of the Master?

ERT: Lead By Example

ERT: Lead By Example

This reproducible really applies to all who seek to “Engage & Run Together.” We owe it to our brothers and sisters to follow Jesus, to live, care, and serve in a way that helps them follow Him, to grow in grace, to be conformed to the image of His Son. Whether we think of ourselves as newcomers, steady participants, emerging or established “leaders”, our example affects those around us.

Live as an example. Sincerely do what you’re asking others to do, starting with an attitude of continuous repentance, a continuous emphasis on living in the presence of God. And actively living the Reproducibles: Inductive Bible Study, Conversational Prayer, Scripture Memorization, personal and professional Excellence, Grow Together, Pray & Plan (P&P).

The Fort Benning statue says it clearly:

Let’s go, get moving, do what I’m doing, Follow Me!

The spiritual warrior-leader is strong, as expected of a military leader,

  • not threatened or offended by different points of view, and able to bring a discussion back to “the main things”, for they “are the plain things”.
  • able to admit that some questions are “above my pay grade”, sometimes to be left there, sometimes to be taken up with a chaplain or another leader in his/her “abundance of counselors” (Pr 24:5-6).
  • gaining strength by absorbing and acting on The Word, able to receive wise guidance, new ideas, Spirit-led reproof, Godly counsel.

The leader knows there are hungry lions prowling about, giants in the land, and that

“We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.” (Numbers 13:30)

For us, to “take possession” is to fully follow the Lord in a way that others recognize as real, strong in Him, pressing toward the mark so that we converge individually and as a community on what He intends for us. As we become living examples of what Paul taught Timothy in the presence of many witnesses, we will be able to teach others also to Engage & Run Together.

Help the group grow together.  Make sure the pleasure of warm fellowship doesn’t distract us from concern for the lost or individual closeness to God. Ask the Holy Spirit, and P&P to find the balance. Stick to the things make for peace and the building up of one another (Romans 14:19). Remember Jesus, how He reacted, how He related. Keep the focus on Him.

Review, discuss, and use the seven reproducibles and the foundational Bible verses. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide to the right understanding and application of any Bible passage being discussed. Use marginal references to find clarification from related passages. Explore together; avoid imposing personal or denominational conclusions. Begin the Bible study sequence with the 3 sets of memory verses found at the link below. Newcomers can go through them “offline” or when the group does them each year (or as locally needed). The idea is to have used everything you’ll need to reproduce this approach at your next duty station.

Pray and Plan to select follow-on studies, plan outreaches & activities:

  • Some may be unfamiliar with basic Christian standards of conduct; others may have learned and rejected them earlier. The P&P could choose a study in Ephesians, Colossians, Timothy or Peter as a way for them to discover the need and rationale for lifestyle changes.
  • Prioritize low-overhead activities … chapel services when available & small group gatherings in living or work areas; enjoy the occasional “big deal” activities without becoming dependent on them.
  • Think of “fellowship” as purposeful activity together: study, prayer, planning, serving … “team building” by engaging together! Try a before-duty-hours Bible Study, a trip to the pistol range for Chapel people, P&P and run a service project! The spiritual nature of the team is caught from the unforced way we offer all aspects of life, including work & relationships, to Jesus!

In any context we soon learn “the rules” we have to live with, and eventually find that most of them actually make sense for that context. Given the realities of military culture, it takes time for some to feel free to interact or take initiative in a small-group context. They hesitate out of respect for people of higher rank or deeper experience. Help them know they really are welcome to interact, to question, to explore and discuss and still honor the old saying that “while the senior never remembers his/her rank, the junior never forgets.”

We Engage & Run Together to help people move:

  • from external motivation (food, great worship music, good fellowship, etc)
  • to internal motivation (pleasing Christ, serving Him and each other, concern for the lost),
  • from consumer to contributor, from passive to proactive,
  • from limiting faith to a place or centrally planned activities to engaging with others.

Invite, include, & empower emerging leaders. Make ways for emerging leaders to trust God for empowerment to do “greater things”, to grow from speaking up during a Bible study, to co-leading a session, joining a “leaders meeting”, walking a newcomer through the reproducibles and verse sets, starting up another group, … 

 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” (John14:13, NASB)

Work with Chaplains, Pastors, and other Christian ministries to build the Kingdom of God. There’s no place for power struggles and competition; they are destructive.

For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. (James 3:16, NLT)

Wrap-up

…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus,… (Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV, emphasis added)

This is the fourth article in the “Engage & Run Together (E&RT)” series. For the previous articles, briefing, & further resources see http://ow.ly/qCfk30e12lm Let’s live, and invite others to join us in living a self-reproducing integrated life of faith.


CMF Operating Principle Number One

CMF Operating Principle Number One

Encourage and help individual members to establish and maintain personal Bible study, prayer and obedience to God in every area of their lives.

Encourage—To give courage to; to give or increase confidence of success; to inspire with courage, spirit, or strength of mind; to embolden; to animate; to incite; to inspirit. (Noah Webster)

Help—To aid; to assist; to lend strength or means towards effecting a purpose; as, to help a man in his work; to help the memory or the understanding. (Noah Webster)

Obedience—is compliance with a command, prohibition or known law and rule of duty prescribed; the performance of what is required or enjoined by authority, or the abstaining from what is prohibited, in compliance with the command or prohibition. To constitute obedience, the act or forbearance to act must be in submission to authority; the command must be known to the person, and his compliance must be in consequence of it, or it is not obedience. Obedience is not synonymous with obsequiousness; the latter often implying meanness or servility, and obedience being merely a proper submission to authority. That which duty requires implies dignity of conduct rather than servility. Obedience may be voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary obedience alone can be acceptable to God. (Noah Webster)

Servile—Such as pertains to a servant or slave; slavish; mean; such as proceeds from dependence; as servile fear; servile obedience. Held in subjection; dependent. Cringing; fawning; meanly submissive; as servile flattery. (Noah Webster)

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24 NIV

The aforementioned verse from Hebrews may sound a bit draconian if one is not familiar with horses. The spur is but one of many of the rider’s “aids” that allow for precision guidance of the trusty steed. In short, the rider’s aids represent the non-verbal language used to let the horse know what is required of it. It would follow that the words spur, provoke, encourage, stimulate, help or motivate, used to translate the Greek word paroxusmos (G3948) means significantly more than mere “incitement (to good).” It also presupposes a need to be spurred! When used together, the rider’s aids can guide the mount through all manner of intricate maneuvers necessary to provide utility. The choice of aids then must fit the current circumstance. The current circumstance for believers in the military is war and lengthy repeated family separations.

The Apostle Paul has given us a few words for when life really SUX, a Navy aviation weather term (invented for the Simoom—A strong, hot, sand-laden wind of the Sahara and Arabian deserts) that indicates an indefinite ceiling, visibility fully obscured in blowing sand; not a good day to fly):

“But this precious treasure─this light and power that now shine within us─is held in perishable containers, that is, in our weak bodies. So everyone can see that our glorious power is from God and is not our own. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don't give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. Through suffering, these bodies of ours constantly share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies” (2 Corinthians 4:7-10 New Living Translation).

The problem for us as believers is to discover whether it is suffering for the faith OR suffering in the faith that is occurring. The answer can be found in our obedience (or lack thereof). If suffering in the faith, then no amount of perseverance, tenacity, or intestinal fortitude will keep you in the battle. But that is exactly where our fallen nature will lead us because we are above all arrogant! The other extreme is to wait for a holy lightening bolt to strike that will change the attitude of our heart and allow us walk along in life surrounded by clouds of heavenly bliss (Star Trek XIV—Life in the tail of a comet).

John Wesley, in “A Plain Account of Christian Perfection”, says that we ought not to wait “in careless indifference, or indolent inactivity; but in vigorous, universal obedience, in a zealous keeping of all the commandments, in watchfulness and painfulness, in denying ourselves, and taking up our cross daily; as well as in earnest prayer and fasting, and a close attendance on all the ordinances of God. And if any man dream of attaining it any other way (yea, or of keeping it when it is attained, when he has received it even in the largest measure), he deceiveth his own soul. It is true, we receive it by simple faith; but God does not, will not, give that faith unless we seek it with all diligence, in the way which He hath ordained.”

When horses have an itch on their neck, they will find another horse and nibble and bite the other horse’s neck exactly where they themselves itch. They are saying, “scratch me in the same spot.” In addition to the many free resources, Bible studies, books, newsletters, etc., that CMF provides to our membership, we also have a small cadre of experienced Christians serving fulltime in key locations. Vic Primeaux serves the many bases in the northwest; Dick and Sue Price serving with the Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune and MCAS New River; Steve Blythe at Camp Pendleton; Udell and Janet Meyers at Naval Air Station Pensacola; Carol Simning at the many Veterans facilities in Montana; Greg Holm serves in the northeast as well as facilitating our Prayer and Encouragement ministry and Electronic Prayer Ministry; Pastor George Band serves South Florida; and Dan Baerg and I at the Home Office are available. This is an opportunity for you to tell other believers that you “itch.” This is important because when you are discouraged, it affects the body. When you are inspired it provides lift to every wing. Don’t miss out! Instead, reach out!


The Spirit Controlled Life

The Spirit Controlled Life

TEXT: “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”—John 4:14.

LET us think of the Holy Spirit and the inner life of the believer. There is an inner life; an inner life so deep, so truly inner, that no one knows it but God and ourselves. It is a life of which, in its deeper depths, we never speak to our dearest friends. There are defects there, there are victories there—heart-surgings, heartaches that we cannot put into words—we can only go with them before God, and the Spirit, who helpeth our infirmities, can make intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

Now, we are to think of the Holy Spirit as indwelling the believer:

THE UPSPRINGING FOUNTAIN WITHIN

What a wonderful symbol it is! How apart from all other instructions, it speaks of the constant renewal of the spiritual life. You know the contrast was with Jacob’s well, which was very deep, and out of which water must be laboriously drawn. When our Lord spoke to the woman about this living water, this water which was not down in the bottom of the well, but was upspringing, she asked a question: “Whence hast thou this water? Thou hast nothing to draw with and the well is deep.”

What a contrast, what a picture of the average Christian life! Somehow, if we are Christians at all, we get on; we manage to get through the day after a fashion, but it is just like that poor woman, laboriously drawing water out of Jacob’s well. We draw it up just a little at a time, and some of us with a sense that we have nothing to draw with, and there is a constant effort to be spiritual; and over against that our Lord puts the picture of a fountain that springs up of its own lovely energy, and throws its crystal flood into the clear air and dances and sparkles there in the sunlight, and then flows away to be kissed by the sun back again into the azure blue.

Now the Christian life, the true spiritual life in Christ’s conception of it, is a life which has within it the source and renewal of its freshness and vigor and power. An upspringing fountain constantly fed from a higher source, coming down that it may ascend again. Here is a little springlet in the valley half afraid that it may dry up; and the spring up on the mountain says: “No, you shall not dry up, for I am renewing your abundance all the time.” What a contrast with the average life! Here is the plentitude of divine power, the omnipotent Spirit of God, who has not only taken up his abode in us, but wishes to be in the believer a living vital force, constantly renewed, himself the unwasting Source.

Now, is our Christian life like that, or do we have to painfully draw it with a creaking windlass out of Jacob’s well till our backs ache? Which is it? Here is the contrast.

SOURCE HIGHER THAN ITSELF

And, too, the inlet must be kept open and the outlet must be kept open.

There are two sins which Christians commit against the Spirit. We are said to grieve the Spirit, and we are told some of the things which grieve Him. “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and evil speaking be put from you with all malice.” Now are you allowing a little bitter feeling toward somebody in your heart? Bitterness! Wrath! Anger! Perhaps we do not care much about that. We say, “The Lord knows I was born with a hot temper; I am made up that way, but it is just a flash and all over in a minute.” All over with you, perhaps, but is it all over with the heart you have wounded? Anger! Malice! Envy! Ah, my friends, all these things which we allow in ourselves, defended, petted, kept there, are but stones that choke the inlet and prevent the upspringing of the fountain.

And then we are told not to quench the Spirit; not to say “No” to the Spirit, but to let the Spirit have His way. To say “No” when the Spirit says, “Pray, serve, give,” is to choke the outlet, and the fountain does not flow. Now

JUST A FEW PROPOSITIONS

Do not imagine that your Jacob’s well experience proves that you have not the fountain within you. In other words, don’t imagine, if you are a believer on the Lord Jesus Christ, that you have not the Spirit within. Every believer of the Lord Jesus Christ is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. You have not to intercede for Him, you have not to seek Him, you have but to take account of the fact that you have Him already. “What?” says Paul in the sixth chapter of 1 Corinthians, “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” And remember, the apostle is addressing there a people whom he has just described as “carnal”—running after human leaders—babes in Christ, to these he says, “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?”

Now, when that fact is received by faith, without waiting for feeling, you have taken a long step toward better things. If you really believe that the Holy Spirit of God dwells in your mortal body, a transformation of life has begun.

WHAT THE UPSPRINGING FOUNTAIN DOES

First, the Spirit indwells the believer that he may give victory over the old self-life. A mightier power has come in and while the old, evil life of the flesh is there, omnipotence is holding it in the place of death and we may be free from the dominion of it. Not by good resolutions, not by struggling to keep a law, but by divine power within, to which we have yielded our whole being. Ah, it is a deep truth that old John Newton uttered when he said, “I hear a great deal of talk about the pope, but the pope who troubles me most is Pope John Newton.” Now, the Spirit of God is there to govern, to control, to keep that self life in the place of death and to give us victory as we walk in the Spirit.

And secondly, He is there to make real the things of Christ. “He shall receive of mine,” as the promise was, “and show it unto you.” Now that does not mean “exhibit,” but make actual to us the things of Christ.

And thirdly, He is here to make real to you the Fatherhood of God. You realize that God is your Father by the Holy Spirit. And when you pray to God you are not merely praying to a Creator, to one who laid the foundations of the earth and who keeps the planets in their courses, but you are praying to your Father in heaven; and just as you go to an earthly father with your needs, wanting help and counsel, just so you may go to your heavenly Father. So, because the Spirit of sonship dwells in you, you realize the Fatherhood of God.

Furthermore, the Spirit will take up every one of the blessings which we have in Christ and give us possession of them.

And when He is ungrieved and unquenched, He is doing that. That is the life in the Spirit.

And then he takes up the problems, the difficulties that we have to do with our lives and settles them for us according to the will of God; so that the outer life is the unforced expression of an inner life which is pure and clean and high, and full of love and tenderness, looking about with the eyes of love on all humanity, watching for opportunities to put out the helping hand and to lift up the downtrodden and oppressed.

The whole problem lies, not in self-effort, not in painfully drawing water out of Jacob’s well—that is going back to the law; to what the apostle calls the “beggarly elements of the world”; to elementary things—and not going on to the fulness of what God has for us. Which is it to be hereafter? The upspringing fountain, or Jacob’s well?

Scofield, C. I. (1915). The New Life in Christ Jesus (pp. 67–74). Chicago: The Bible Institute Colportage Ass’n. (Public Domain)

The Larger Christian Life

The Larger Christian Life

TEXT: “He brought me forth also into a large place.”—Psa. 18:19.

YOU observe that we have here a testimony, not a promise. God actually had done this things for David. He was a shepherd lad; obscure, conscious but dimly if at all of his own capacities; shut up to the small things and small thoughts of a young rustic. Then God began to work in his life, stimulating him with great promises, leading him into great ventures, beating him with the hammer of adversity till the crude ore of him was turned into tempered steel; but all the while breaking shackles, tearing away enmeshing nets, lifting the wings of his soul, filling him with divine inbreathings, expanding, enlarging, disenthralling him; until at last David came to the consciousness that he was a free man and in a large place. He could stand with lifted head, strong young arms outflung, upraised chest breathing deep the free, ample air, a man at home in the universe. I repeat it, David is testifying here, not theorizing. He had found it so. Upon which I remark:

THE REAL CHRISTIAN LIFE IS LARGE1

It is the men who are living without God who are living in a small and narrow place. There is no more shameless lie afloat among men than that the Christian life is a narrow life, and that the life that does not subject itself to the will of God is a high, free thing.

We are all, I believe, passionate lovers of liberty. We seek room; we want a place in which we may expand and broaden out. A great many young people of today have a fancy that to come into the will of God is to come into narrowness. It is Satan’s lie. But let us not blame the devil overmuch. He never could have got his lie believed if so many of God’s people had not made “religion” a poor negative thing: a system of “don’t” and of outward observance.

It was to intensely “religious” people—in this sense—that Christ spoke His great word, “If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” He came to preach deliverance to the captive of formalism no less than to the captive of sin. The gospel is a call out of littleness, out of pettiness, out of insignificant things, to the breadth and sweep of great thoughts and forces, and to the wide horizon of limitless possibilities.

Now it is true of every child of God that he is brought into a large place. Unfortunately, many persist in living narrow lives in the large place. To be free and not to know it, this seems to me tragical and pathetic beyond words. One thinks of old prisoners set free, and weeping for the old dungeon again.

CIRCUMSTANCES CANNOT NARROW IT

Just here permit me to anticipate a very natural objection. You say, “I live in obscurity; God has set me in narrow circumstances, in a routine of petty duties. I live in a farm house; I live in a village; I toil in a factory; I monotonously feed pieces of leather or wood into a machine and never see them again; I plow, I delve, I sell cloth by the yard, I wash pans and dishes. I know of no large and beautiful way to wash pans. I keep a little district school; I must have my mind on my work; my back grows bent and my muscles stiff and sore. I am no exultant young David, anointed of the Lord, free to go and come, to sing deathless songs, to rule over men.”

PATIENCE, DEAR HEART, HEAR THIS

Jesus Christ lived thirty years in Nazareth, but He never permitted Nazareth to give the measure of His life. You may think of Him as a boy helping His mother, holding baby, fetching water from the fountain and chips from the shop. He made yokes, I suppose, not wholesale with a big iron machine, but one by one, patiently fitting them to peasant shoulders, broad and narrow, stooped and straight. Thirty years He lived there, and there was matured the finest human character the world ever saw. The baptism with the Spirit added power; suffering perfected sympathy, but it was the largest, freest man that ever lived who laid down His carpenter’s tools one day and walked down to Jordan to be baptized of John.

Do you not see the secret? He never permitted Nazareth to put its littleness upon Him. The one man upon whom there are no limitations whatever of race, of circumstance or of character was a villager who toiled for bread!

It is not given to many of us to live in great scenes and to be a part of great transactions. Our life is a round of small cares and duties. But Jesus Christ lived in narrower circumstances than ours. The newspapers, the telegraph, the railway and steamship bring largesses to the remotest of us. Homer chanted his deathless songs from door to door, in poverty, unappreciated, for a crust of bread. Milton, shut up to physical blindness, ranged in spirit from the Paradise that was to the Paradise that shall be. Dante, in exile, in a petty, mediæval town, learning “the steepness of another’s stairs and the saltness of another’s bread,” fathomed the upper and the nether depths.

Do you say, “But we are not Homer, Milton, and Dante?” Thank God! I would rather have my two eyes than Milton’s fame; my own good native land than Dante’s exile; my humble home than Homer’s wanderings. But surely our souls have some power of flight; their wings may beat the upper air for some distance, somewhere, if they may not take Dante’s tremendous spirals.

WHAT WE ARE, NOT WHAT WE DO, DETERMINES THE LARGENESS OF LIFE

Lacordaire says: “A king may pass through our streets clothed in purple and fine linen, and he may be a mean and base man, because his thoughts are mean and base; and there may pass by a poor man in vile raiment and he may be a great man, because his converse with himself is high and great.” That is true. Things do not make life large. Men do large things sometimes in small places, and others do small things in large places. If we are of kin to the great souls we shall some times be known as of that strain.

A homely American poet has put this into his poem: “The Unexpressed.” Three men, writer, musician, builder, plod through life, toiling day by day for daily bread; and the writer never pens the epic which he dumbly feels; the musician never composes the oratorio which resounds in his soul; the builder builds wooden houses instead of the cathedral of which he feels himself capable. And then they die, and the three men who greet them are Homer, Mozart, and Michel Angelo!

 “This dead musician’s soul went forth
Into the darkness drear—
A glad voice smote the clouds apart—
The brother-greeting of Mozart,
Who hailed him as his peer.
‘Souls know,’ he said, ‘that music best
That haunts the dumb soul unexpressed.’ ”

Yes; many a life of obscurity, poverty, neglect, self-denial and pain is essentially great because it is lived in fellowship with great things—the things of God. Such a soul can wait. It is elect, and shall yet come to its own.

 “Serene, I fold my hands and wait,
Nor care for wind, or tide, or sea;
I rave no more ’gainst time or fate,
For, lo, my own shall come to me.

“I stay my haste, I make delays;
For what avails this eager pace?
I stand amid the eternal ways,
And what is mine shall know my face.

“Asleep, awake, by night and day,
The friends I seek are seeking me.
No wind shall drive my bark astray,
Nor change the tide of destiny.

“What matter if I stand alone?
I wait with joy the coming years;
My heart shall reap where it has sown,
And garner up its fruit of tears.

“The waters know their own and draw
The brook that springs in yonder height;
So flows the good with equal law
Unto the soul of pure delight.

“The stars come nightly to the sky,
The tidal waves unto the sea;
Nor time, nor tide, nor deep, nor high,
Shall keep my own away from me!”

THE SECRET OF THE LARGER LIFE

If now you ask me how all this larger Christian life may be lived, I shall venture three suggestions:

1.  Put your life under the great law of exclusion by preoccupation. Keep littleness out by being with greatness. There was no place in Christ for mean things. It was not that Christ refused small cares, drudgeries, duties. It was that He accepted them and was filled with the joy of doing them.

2.  Live your Christian life in the sense of its great verities. You are children and heirs of God by faith in Jesus Christ. Say every day, “I am a child of God.” I defy circumstances to narrow and dwarf the life that is lifted by the consciousness of divine sonship and divine fellowship.

“The larger Christian life is independent of circumstances.”

There drifted into my house once a human wreck. He had been the editor of a great daily newspaper, and was a man of rare gifts. It was the old story; little by little the drink habit had fastened upon him and had dragged him down to a living hell. I could not tell him to “assert his manhood;” he had none. I had a better gospel than that. I told him that he could be born again; that he could become a partaker of the divine nature, and a son and heir of God. He fell upon his knees. “My God!” he cried. “Can a dog like me become God’s son?” And he poured out his heart, giving himself away to Christ. I shall never forget his transfigured face, nor the singular solemnity and loftiness of his bearing as he took my hand and said: “I am a child of God.”

Get out under the stars on a clear night, and look over your estate. The stars are yours and Christ’s. Know that as a child of God you are greater than any possible estate, and you will not wash pans, plow and reap any less thoroughly, but you will do these things royally, like a king or queen. Remember, you are of the family of God.

A poor saint went into a very aristocratic church in a strange place. “I believe,” said the usher rather dubiously, “that I do not know you.” “Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ?” asked the poor saint. “Oh, yes.” “Well,” said the poor man, “I am a poor brother of His.”

3.  Be a vital part of Christ’s work.

“The field is the world.” Your field is the world. Keep your sympathies world wide. If your heart is in China or Africa or Central America, and with the work there, it is just the same as if you were there, wherever your body may happen to be.

At the Student Volunteer Convention in Cleveland they had Carey’s cobbler’s hammer. It was better worth seeing than the crown jewels in the Tower. No scepter in Christendom is so venerable as that hammer. It is as if it came out of the shop in Nazareth, almost. Carey beat hobnails into peasants’ shoes with that hammer; beat sturdily and well. But, as one thinks of him, the narrow walls of his cobbler’s stall fall away; and his humble bench changes to the likeness of a throne, and one sees a pierced hand hold over his head the diadem of righteousness. For that cobbler, bowed over his daily task, was sweeping the darkened continents into his yearning, and holding a world up in prayer to God.

Scofield, C. I. (1915). The New Life in Christ Jesus (pp. 56–66). Chicago: The Bible Institute Colportage Ass’n. (Public Domain)

The Delivered Life

The Delivered Life

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

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

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

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

WE ARE SLAVES OF PARTY

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

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

CHRIST THE EMANCIPATOR

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

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

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

THE PROCESS OF DELIVERANCE

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

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

GRACE AND THE INSPIRATION OF NEW RELATIONSHIP

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

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

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

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

WHAT TRUE FREEDOM IS

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

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

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

THE NEW IDEAL OF LIFE

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

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

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

THE VISION OF ETERNITY

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

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

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

The Tragedy of the Inner Life

The Tragedy of the Inner Life

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

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

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

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

RELIGIONIST AND NOT A CHRISTIAN

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

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

WHAT IS “GOOD”?

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

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

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

REPRODUCTION OF CHRIST BEFORE MEN

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

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

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

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

URIAH HEEP ’UMBLENESS

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

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

A GRAVE DANGER

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

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

Now I want to pass on to

A VERY PRACTICAL QUESTION

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

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

NOT ETHICS, BUT DYNAMICS

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

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

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

AT PEACE AND VICTORIOUS

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

THERE IS THE REMEDY

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

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

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

Excellence in All Things

Excellence in All Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Imparted Life

The Imparted Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE NEW LIFE IS CHRIST’S LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

THE INLIVING CHRIST TO BE OUTLIVED

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

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

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

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

THE METHOD OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Christian Military Fellowship

An Indigenous Ministry • Discipleship • Prayer • Community • Support
Encouraging Men and Women in the United States Armed Forces, and their families, to love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

Contact Us

  • Address:
    PO Box 1207, Englewood, CO 80150-1207

  • Phone: (800) 798-7875

  • Email: admin@cmfhq.org

Webmaster

Book Offers