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CMF eZine


The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship.


Live the Essentials

Live the Essentials

Live the Essentials

Live the essentials as we Engage & Run TOGETHER!

Following Christ in a demanding environment calls for simple ideas, simple tools, low overhead activities, and personal initiative. Inductive Bible Study, Conversational Prayer, and scripture memorization, the three individual / small group “Reproducibles”, help us continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:42)

The Holy Spirit is our primary counselor as we study and pray. He also uses a group as part of Proverbs 11:14’s “multitude of counselors”, confirming or overriding human insights which may come up, directly or by bringing up the appropriate Scripture for teaching, reproof, correction, or training in righteousness….(2 Tim 3:16)

Inductive Bible Study (IBS) is the study of a limited portion of Scripture by a small group in an informal, discovery style. It emphasizes hearing from God, devotion, and obedience (“what do I do with this”) in context of all of Scripture, while not trying to force acceptance of controversial doctrines or denominational distinctives. The basic guidelines are: Stick to the passage; All who want to may participate; No one dominates; Answer 3 questions: What does it say? What does it mean? What does it mean to me? The traditional who/what/where/when/why/how questions can be useful for understanding what it means; the CMF DTOs offer Bible study tips and a study form to provide additional structure. The DTOs and verse cards at the link below are a good place to start.

The leader’s role is primarily administrative, rather than “teaching”, involving start/stop times and helping the group follow the guidelines. It’s normally best to stay in the agreed passage so that those with less experience aren’t intimidated; at times it will be important to refer to complementary or balancing scriptures for “the rest of the story.”

A group as small as two (The Holy Spirit plus one) can engage in Inductive Bible Study!

Conversational Prayer (CP) is clearly not the only way to pray. It is presented here because many national Military Christian Fellowships have found that it produces an increased consciousness of God's presence, resulting in greater group vitality and unity. CP follows the normal rules of polite conversation … only one speaks/prays at a time … 2-3 sentences or a short paragraph as the others pray along silently. Someone else prays next. At least one person follows up the current topic before a new topic is started, perhaps praying about other details or from a different perspective. Who is the next to pray? Anyone else! Silence in between is fine; it leaves time to hear God speak. Include adoration & praise to God, confession & petition for ourselves, intercession for others. Leave “who’s next” to the Holy Spirit rather than “going around the room.”

And consider conversational prayer as a group of two…God plus one!

Scripture Memory and Meditation help us live Joshua 1:8’s “… you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.” (NKJV) Learn the passage (with its “address” before and after), and understand the context. Hide/treasure it in your heart that you may not sin against Him (Ps 119:11). Meditate on it as you review, prayerfully asking “what does it say/mean/mean to me”, sing it, chant it, pray it … let the Word transform / renew your mind, your reactions & relationships. Some printable verse cards are available at the link, along with a template for making your own.

Conclusion: IBS, CP, & Scripture memory/meditation are practical forms of individual and small-group worship reproducible in even the harshest, most primitive environments. They’re simple ideas, simple tools, low overhead activities.
This is the second article in the “Engage & Run Together (E&RT)” series. Article #3 will address “Excellence in all Things”, “Grow Together”, and “Pray and Plan”. For the overview article, briefing, & further resources see
http://ow.ly/qCfk30e12lm

Let’s invite others to join us in living this self-reproducing integrated life of faith!

The Inner Life

The Inner Life

TEXT: “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee: wherefore I abhor myself.”—Job 42:5, 6.

SOMEONE has called the Book of Job “The Epic of the Inner Life.” It is most felicitous. We all know that there is an inner life; that within the barriers of our being, behind all activities and externalities, we ourselves live. We all know that there is transacted the real life. We all know that there we are solitary, that there every man is a hermit.

And while this, past all controversy, is true, in another sense this strange inner life is immensely populous. Passions, desires, temptations, lurid and demoniacal thoughts, angelic thoughts, prayers, adorations, mean selfishnesses, wrestle and plead, and it is into this chaos that faith brings the nature of God, and the life of the risen Christ, and the immense peace and power and joy of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. And we all know that when we have received eternal life we have written but the first chapter in the new history of the inner life. New conflicts, new victories, alas! new defeats, too.

The most commonplace Christian whom you know is transacting in the recesses of his being an epic.

And we know that this inner life is, finally, the source and spring of the outer life. It is, of course, possible to keep these dissimilar for years, but soon or late the inner life becomes determinative of the external life. It is with this life, therefore, that God most concerns Himself. It is the distinctive characteristic of the gospel dispensation. “Now is the ax laid to the root of the tree,” says the forerunner, John. “Make the tree good, and his fruit good,” is almost the opening word of Christ. It was always so, indeed. “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts.” “The Lord pondereth the heart.”

I can not, I think, do better than to take the last chapter of the Book of Job for my point of departure, verses 5 and 6:

“I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” It is

THE CRISIS OF THE TROUBLED PATRIARCH

The thing itself is very simple. “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear.” There was a testimony concerning God which had come to Job, and upon which he had based a true faith and a good life. Ordinarily, Christian experience has just that history. There is a record concerning Christ, His person and work. It is God’s testimony, and we receive it and set to our seal that God is true. We are saved. It is a very real faith, though a faith based wholly upon testimony, the hearing of the ear. That was the faith of Job down to the very last chapter.

Here was a godly man whose outward life was so blameless that God could challenge the malice of Satan himself to find a flaw in it. Nor was he but negatively good. He was a good man in the positive sense. His life counted on the right and helpful side of things.

Then began that strange dealing of God, that permitted chastening, which has been the mystery in so many other lives. How strange a thing that the best man of his time should be the most troubled; should be the man upon whom, as it seemed, the hand of God lay most heavily. And the fact, as you know, called out various interpretations. The opinion of Satan concerning this man’s goodness and usefulness was that he was a mere hireling. “Hast not thou made an hedge about him?” You have given him unusual prosperity, and in a certain sense you have bribed him. That was Satan’s opinion. That was a lie. And God permitted Satan to demonstrate the falsity of his theory of this man’s life. God said, in effect, “Take away the hedge”; and then you know what happened: his property went, his children went, and yet the integrity of the man remained. He did not curse God. And then Satan fell back upon another theory which was just as false as the other. He said: “Skin for skin; yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life.” You have left the man his health. “Put forth now thine hand, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.” And so that was permitted. His health went, grievous pains fell upon him. Bereft of property, bereft of family, bereft of health, and yet this man, with a faith which was founded upon a hearing about God, maintained his integrity.

And then came the theories of his friends. They agreed in the belief that there must be in his life some secret sin, although he had succeeded in covering it from human vision. They were very sure that the only explanation of the sorrows which were falling so heavily upon him was, that he was a hypocrite; was not as good as he seemed to be, and upon that belief they argued the question with him. But Job knew that also to be false, and he made good his contention that he was not a hypocrite.

A VISION OF GOD

And now we come to the real epic of his inner life. God Himself took up the matter. And if you follow the closing chapters of this wonderful Book of Job, you will find the whole mechanics, so to speak, of the deeper dealing of God with the inner life of a saint whom He is about to make saintly.

There was, first of all, the unveiling of His power, His majesty, His greatness.

“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind. * * * Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? * * * Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the cornerstone thereof, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? * * * Hast thou commanded the morning since the days, and caused the dayspring to know his place? Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? Canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth? * * * Wilt thou also disannul my judgment?”

Ah, poor Job! Thou wert able to maintain thy cause against Satan and against man, but what wilt thou answer to God? What, indeed, can Job say before this personal manifestation of God Himself but that which he did say:

“I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself.”

THE UTTER COLLAPSE OF SELF

Yes, fellow-man, thyself. Now the secret is out.

It was not at all something Job had done, it was what Job was. Job himself was wrong. He had never judged self before God. He had not the sentence of death in himself. The interpretative chapter of Job is the twenty-ninth. The personal pronoun occurs forty-eight times in twenty-five verses. He was a good man, but he was too much aware of it, and he was in deep darkness as to the real state of his soul, of his inner life before God. And nothing, not the depth of his affliction, nor the reproaches of his friends, nor his own self-communings ever brought him to see himself. But when he passed from a knowledge about God to a personal acquaintance with God there was nothing to be said but the despairing:

“I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself.”

The revelation of God, bringing a real sense of personal unworthiness and demerit, is what I think essentially we have in this experience of Job. It is not in exercises of self about self; not in any efforts of Job to discover the mystery of his inner life, that he comes to real self-consciousness; but it was the vision of God Himself which, flooding his inner being, brought the humbling, hateful vision of self.

A NEW AND HIGHER SERVICE

And then the most astonishing thing of all happened. God took up the vindication and restoration of the man who abhorred himself!

The Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.”

And then, as you know, God made of Job a priest through whom alone the three reproachful moralizers could approach His offended holiness.

“My servant Job shall pray for you, and him will I accept.”

You see, we have essentially four things here: First, the vision of God; secondly, the utter collapse of self; thirdly, a new and higher service; and lastly, a doubled fruitfulness.

“Also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.”

Now I believe we have here an order which is invariable, and I am very sure that we have here an experience which is not exceptional.

Oh, beloved, we too have heard of Him by the hearing of the ear, but we need to come to deeper things, closer things, with God. We need to come to that personal and underived acquaintanceship with Him, so that we may say with the men of Samaria, “Now we believe not because of thy saying; for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ,” although the first effect of it will be this awful humbling, this utter collapse of self. But oh, how blessed a place is that valley of humbling. No one falls there who does not rise to newness of life and service. But remember, it costs the sentence of death in self; the thorough reconstruction of the inner life.

NOT AN ISOLATED EXPERIENCE

It will help us in interpreting this experience to see that it came, not to Job alone, but to every man greatly used of God. The circumstances differ but the essence is the same—God is realized, self-strength is turned into helplessness, new power and blessing are given. Joshua fell at the feet of the Man with the drawn sword (Josh. 5:13–15); Isaiah must cry, “Woe is me” (Isa. 6:5–8), only to be cleansed and recommissioned; Jeremiah must learn that he “cannot speak” before the Lord will touch his mouth (Jer. 1:6–10); Ezekiel, prostrated by the glory, must fall on his face in the collapse of self before the Spirit can fill him, and Jehovah can say, “I send thee” (Ezek. 1:28; 2:1–10); Daniel must say, “I saw … and my comeliness was turned in me into corruption” (Dan. 10:5–12). Even John the Beloved, before the vision of the glorified Christ, must fall “at his feet as one dead” before the “right hand” can be laid upon him, and he can hear the “fear not.”

I wish now to gather up briefly what all this means. And first of all,

TWO THINGS WHICH IT IS NOT

It is neither the entire eradication of the flesh, the death, the extinction of self, nor is it sinless perfection. Self is abhorred, distrusted, detested, set at naught. But so uniform are the characteristics of this experience, whatever the age or dispensation, that it is not difficult to state both the result accomplished and the steps by which it is wrought.

  1. We have, then, in this supreme experience, the revelation of God Himself to the soul. It is not something about God; some new testimony concerning God, or some lesson of sorrow or trial. It is God’s own act, His self-revelation of something which testimony had never communicated to heart or conscience, so that there is a new and intense apprehension of himself.
  2. The instances quoted from the Scriptures agree, too, in the effect of this unveiling of God. Before that vision of God self is abhorred. So absolute is this effect that, as we have seen, it is constantly spoken of as the utter deprivation of strength. The self-life is not slain, but it is so seen in that glory as never again to be trusted, or in any way counted on in the things of God. As Paul said: “We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God, which raiseth the dead,” in the God of the resurrection, in the God of the new, undying life.
  3. In agreement, too, are the biblical instances that this destruction of self-confidence is followed by the infilling with the strength of Him who was dead and is alive again. Not once is the man on his face before the awful, beautiful vision left prostrate. “I received strength,” is the unvarying testimony.
  4. And then comes the new and higher service. This is the blessed consummation; this and the new fruitfulness.

Could I covet anything better for you than that you should see God face to face? Than that there should come to you this highest word in the epic of the inner life? May He grant it, for His name’s sake.

Scofield, C. I. (1915). The New Life in Christ Jesus (pp. 11–23). Chicago: The Bible Institute Colportage Ass’n. (Public Domain)

Let Us Engage and Run Together

Let Us Engage and Run Together

Let's Engage and Run Together

… & let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus… (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Let’s Engage & Run TOGETHER!… because it’s time for a reproducible approach to discipleship.

Continuous/combat operations, frequent deployments & personnel turbulence require simple ideas, simple tools, low overhead activities, and personal initiative. Let’s tailor how we follow Christ & how we train others so it works in any environment. The enemy of our souls is looking to devour isolated soldiers/seamen/airmen & families … many get at most an hour a week of spiritual input and think they have no need for more! As we Engage & Run TOGETHER we can include them in small groups, draw them to Christ, and train them to Engage & Run Together wherever they go.

Perhaps initiated by a CMF leader or a Chaplain, small groups organize and direct themselves in cooperation with Chaplains/Pastors, … and CMF leaders. The key idea is that each participant should see, live, and learn these seven reproducibles well enough to begin reproducing them at his/her next duty station:

  • Inductive Bible Study
  • Conversational Prayer
  • Scripture Memory & Meditation
  • Excellence in all Things
  • Grow Together
  • Pray and Plan
  • Lead by Example

Future articles will briefly discuss these aspects of a self-reproducing integrated life of faith. For an E&RT overview briefing & further descriptions see http://ow.ly/qCfk30e12lm

While a curriculum is something you start, follow for a while, and finish, E&RT is a framework, a philosophy of ministry, a set of basic tools and attitudes …something to be taught by example, lived individually and in small groups; a way to help us and those we lead to press on toward the mark. After Bible Study of three sets of foundational verses and the seven reproducibles, subsequent study topics should be pray-and-planned by the group in coordination with Chaplains/Pastors and leaders.

What's in Your Eternity

In a recent Sunday School lesson in 1 Peter, the question was asked: “When you hear someone say, “The end of the world is near” how do you respond, and why?”

I could say, “Why do you ask?” Knowing why the comment was made just might help guide the conversation along it’s path, especially if your desire is to steer it toward the message of the gospel.

Given that the topic is the end of the world, I could get straight to the point and ask, “What’s in YOUR eternity?”

First, phrasing it more like a credit card commercial might elicit a more positive response than just asking “Where’s your soul going when you die?” like the sidewalk Christian evangelist downtown handing out tracts. I could claim just about any religion and ask my question. Without being overly blunt, my question assumes that, like a credit card, everyone has an ‘eternity’. Every major religion believes we will eventually spend eternity somewhere. My goal is to present the Christian view of eternity in a loving manner, using the Bible as my source document.

The Bible tells us that there is something about ‘eternity’ in each and every one of us:

“He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:11) (Emphasis mine)

John MacArthur says of this passage:

“God. put eternity into man’s heart.  God made men for his eternal purpose, and nothing in post-fall time can bring them complete satisfaction.”

Our innate sense of eternity comes from knowing something of God, the eternal creator. Concerning this knowledge of God, there is perhaps no clearer verse in all of scripture than Romans 1:19, in which the Apostle Paul tells us:

“For what can be known about God is plain to them (men), because God has shown it to them.”

We all know something about God and eternity, although what we know is limited. I believe this knowledge is part of the ‘imago dei’, the image of God, in which we were created. God IS eternal, and although our bodies will one day die, we have an innate interest in life after death.

Here’s where the conversation can get a bit more challenging. You see, along with being told that we all know that God IS, we are also told something about those who try and deny the existence of God. Immediately before Romans 1:19 we are told:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18)

So what’s this about “The wrath of God”? We can turn to Matthew, Chapter 25 and Jesus’ teaching about His second coming and the final judgment of all men.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…. “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-34 & 41-46)

In the above verses, there are two groups of people, the ones on Jesus’ right, and the ones on Jesus’ left. The ones on Jesus’ right represent those who knew and loved Him in this life and those on Jesus’ left represent those who denied Him in this life. Those on the right will inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the world’s beginning. Those on the left will experience eternal fire reserved for the devil and his angels.

SO WHAT?

  1. There are two groups of people inhabiting this world; those who have received the truth of God and the ones who suppress the truth of God; the ones who have repented of their sin and believed the gospel and the ones who have rejected Christ.
  2. There is an eternal destiny for every human being who ever lived or is living today; eternal life or eternal death.
  3. What’s in YOUR eternity, my friend?

He is Alive

Last year marked the 350th anniversary of the publication of Paradise Lost, by John Milton. It is the greatest epic poem in the English language and certainly one of the greatest works in Western literature. Sadly, the anniversary went by largely unnoticed. What is encouraging is that this work has been translated more frequently in the last 30 years than in the preceding 300 and mostly in non-Western languages.

Milton began this work in 1652, the year he became completely blind and lost his first wife. He dictated the more than 11,500 lines of verse to his nephew, Edward, in perfect form in groups of 10 to 30. He finished this work in 1665.

The importance of this work to the Christian faith is that is is a collection of mirrors displaying evil as disarmingly close in appearance to the good! In 1639 he wrote in his commonplace book, “In moral evil much good may be mixed, and that with singular craft.”

This is all too apparent in the news of our day where we find our human depravity being displayed in all of our institutions. How can this be in a nation that was founded subsequent to the “Great Awakening”?

Jonathan Edwards, who was the most gifted theologian and philosopher ever to set foot on this continent, said it best in his work, “A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections.” It was written principally to describe the quenching of this amazing awakening of which Edwards was its chief preacher.

It was Edwards assertion that there is no greater importance of understanding than this: “What are the distinguishing qualifications of those that are in favor with God, and entitled to his eternal rewards?” He goes on to say that, “Though it be of such importance, and though we have clear and abundant light in the word of God to direct us in this matter, yet there is no one point, wherein professing Christians do more differ one from another.” With the number of Christian Denomination now surpassing 40,000 it is not hard to see that the saints are separated by a distance spiritually in a similar manner as the stars within the multitude of galaxies in the universe.

“It is a hard thing to be a hearty zealous friend of what has been good and glorious, in the late extraordinary appearances, and to rejoice much in it; and at the same time to see the evil and pernicious tendency of what has been bad, and earnestly to oppose that. But yet, I am humbly but fully persuaded, we shall never be in the way of truth, nor go on in a way acceptable to God, and tending to the advancement of Christ’s kingdom till we do so. There is indeed something very mysterious in it, that so much good, and so much bad, should be mixed together in the church of God; as it is a mysterious thing, and what has puzzled and amazed many a good Christian, that there should be that which is so divine and precious, as the saving grace of God, and the new and divine nature dwelling in the same heart, with so much corruption, hypocrisy, and iniquity, in a particular saint.”

From Milton to Edwards we see the threat is true Christianity mixed with the counterfeit not discerned and distinguished by which Satan has enjoyed his greatest advantage against the cause and kingdom of Christ (Edwards, paraphrase mine). The magnificent ramparts of the city of Mansoul become of none effect when the “Eye-gate, Ear-gate, Mouth-gate, Feel-gate, and Nose-gate are left open to the enemy as he approaches in a form over which the inhabitants think they have dominion (The Holy War, John Bunyan). The personification of virtues are thus extinguished in Bunyan’s allegory and Mansoul lay shipwrecked and lying in a pool of blood from self-inflicted wounds unable to be extricated (Edwards, Paraphrase mine).

It is fair to say that Jesus requires us to follow Him, not just attend Him. The former leads to “experiences of saving affections,” while the latter results in “those manifold fair shows and glistering appearances, by which they are counterfeited.” (Edwards)

Perhaps it is almost prophetic that Easter will be celebrated on April 1st this year. For it is written of a time when even the saints will be deceived. May we find this as an opportunity to ensure that we are on the “highway of holiness” that Isaiah described which is Christ Himself. For He said, “I AM the High Way, the truth and he life, and no one comes to the Father but by me.”

This immutable Christ is still available to us at the ground level. We need not try to climb into a second-story window, that is to “bring Christ down.” Nor do we have to dig a tunnel under a wall, that is to “raise Christ up” (Calvary Road, Roy Hession. Illusion to Romans 10:6-8). The foot of the Calvary Cross, according to Hession, is the place where the proud stiff-necked “I” is made to bow low until it becomes a “C”! This is what Andrew Murray call “Absolute Surrender.” This then is what fueled the Great Awakening and birthed a nation of which Tocqueville spoke: “Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits, aflame with righteousness, did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

This Easter let us not just go through the motions of attendance but rather prepare our hearts with the cloak of thankfulness for this so great a salvation! For Christ has risen just as He said! Death could not hold Him in the grave. By his vicarious sacrifice He has purchased us out of the market place of sin and delivered us from the sinful travails of bondage into the liberty of His kingdom.

May we rejoice with renewed exuberance as we ponder the immensity of the Grace that saved us and extol with our loudest voice joined in unity that Christ has Risen! He has Risen indeed! Now Go and tell somebody what Jesus did for you!

The Best of All Good Resolutions

The Best of All Good Resolutions


“I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned”—Luke 15:18

I DO not know what day of what month of what year the prodigal said that, but I do know that for him it was the real New Year—the real beginning of life. The children of Israel sacrificed the Passover in Egypt on the fourteenth day of the month of Abib, but they were made to revise their whole chronology because of that event.

“This month shall be unto you the beginning of months:”—Exodus 12:2

No man who is wrong with God is really living. In the deepest of all senses, he is like the corpse in the death ceremony of an ancient people, who dressed in costliest attire the body of a dead friend and carried it about to their houses, seating it at their tables before the finest feasts.  The cheeks were painted to represent life and the most flattering compliments were paid to what, after all, was a mere dead body.

Let us consider together this good resolution of the boy in the old parable.  It was for him the best of good resolutions, because it began with the most important fact in his life—the fact of his father.  And the most important fact in the whole universe to each one of us is the fact of God.  We are in God’s universe and we cannot get out of it.  God made it, God sustains it, God rules it.  It is all His.  Every acre of ground, every blade of grass, every one of the cattle upon earth’s thousand hills, every spring of water, every bird, every fish, every molecule of air—all are His.  He has never parted with His title to one of these things.  We are all tenants by sufferance.  We till God’s earth, breathe God’s air, sustain life upon His bounty.  We are absolute paupers, from king to peasant. T he next moment, the next breath are not ours.

Furthermore we all want to go to God’s heaven when we die.  There is no other heaven. Money can neither buy nor make heaven. The world, for whose opinion we care so much, has no heaven. Satan has no heaven.  The heavenly things which are available here and now—unselfishness, helpfulness, purity, high and noble thinking, clean living, love—these are all God’s.  Think then of the folly of living on wrong terms with God.  Think of the unspeakable unreason of supposing that anything in life can be really right, till we are right with God.

But who and what is God?  Creation is an answer to that question.  God is the Being who made this fair universe.  He it is, who made this wonderful earth for man, and man for this wonderful earth.  He it is who adorned the heavens and sprinkled them with stars.  He it is who painted the flowers.  And it is He who made us capable of love and all the blessed relationships of life.  That is one answer.

The Bible is another.  God is the God of the Scriptures.  The Bible is the most human book in the world, because it reveals God at work in human lives, and at last reveals Him in the terms of a human life.  What is God like?  He is like Jesus.

“He that hath seen me hath seen the Father;”—John 14:9

And in all the Book of God there is no more alluring portrait of God than that painted by the Son of God in the parable of the prodigal son.

What is God like?  Like this:

“But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.”—Luke 15:20

“But the father said, to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”—Luke 15:22–24

We are all prodigal sons. The son in the parable committed his worst sin when he wished to be independent of his father. When he said:

“Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me,”—Luke 15:12

his heart was already in the far country.  The riotous living and the wasting of his substance were but details and mere incidental consequences.  The Bible says that sin is anomia—lawlessness. When Isaiah says that

“We have turned every one to his own way;”—Isaiah 53:6

it does not seem like a very serious charge.  But it is the sum of all iniquities.  Self-will is the Pandora’s box out of which come all the evils of earth.  We have treated God evilly.  The meanness of sin is that it robs a loving God of the love and fellowship which are his due.

When David said of his greatest sin,

“Against thee, thee only, have I sinned,”—Psalms 51:4

we do not at once see the truth of his bitter words.  First of all, we think that his sins were against the husband whom he had wronged and the wife whom he had degraded.  But whose creatures were these?  They were God’s; and every sin against a fellow man is tenfold more a sin against God.

This prodigal about whom we are thinking, doubtless did many a kindly act in the far country.  It is the way of prodigals to be generous and to wish all men well.  You and I have done that.  We have had kindly thoughts and good intentions.  We have wished other prodigals happy new years with all sincerity, and because of this, have thought well of ourselves.

On one of Mr. Moody’s western campaigns, he was followed from city to city by an aged and broken man of venerable appearance who, in each place, asked the privilege of saying a word to the great congregations.  He would stand up and in a quavering voice say:  “Is my son George in this place?  George, are you here?  O, George, if you are here, come to me.  Your old father loves you, George, and can’t die content without seeing you again.”  Then the old man would sit down.  One night a young man came to Mr. Moody’s hotel and asked to see him.  It was George.  When the great evangelist asked him how he could find it in his heart to treat a loving father with such cruel neglect, the young man said:  “I never thought of him; but Mr. Moody, I have tried to do all the good I could.”  That is a good picture of a self-righteous prodigal in the far country.  He was generous with his money and with his words—yet every moment of his infamous life he was trampling on the heart of a loving father.

The other day, I met a foul old sot whom I knew as a beautiful boy and later as a handsome and high-spirited young man.  But he was no more in the far country when I met him in his degradation than he was when I parted with him in the pride of his youth. The far country is anywhere away from God.

Did you ever think of the parable of the Prodigal Son as an unfinished story?  Why have we no account of the boy after he came back to his father’s house?  Perhaps you have all felt what some forgotten poet has expressed so well:

“You have told me, preacher, the story sweet,
How the prodigal son, bereft of pride,
Left the far country with wayworn feet
And came back to his father’s house to bide.

You have told of the father, unfailing, fond,
You have told of the ring, of the robe, of the feast;
Of the long night’s revel all care beyond,
Till the Syrian stars grew pale in the East.

But, O, could I more of the tale invoke,
I would pray you tell me, thou man of God,
How it fared with the boy when the morning broke,
And his feet the old pathway of duty trod?

Did he never forget that he ate with swine
And suffered sore ’neath far-off skies,
Remembering only the nights of wine,
And the light in the dancing woman’s eyes?

Did he never go frantic with equal days,
And long to the wide world prisoner-wise,
Till a host rose up from the banished ways
To beckon, and beckon, with gleaming eyes?

If thus he fared, as we fare today,
O speak, that the world may sing with joy,
And tell how the father could banish away
The beckoning hands from before his boy.”

Ah, that is why the story seems unfinished.  When we have really come back from the far country when through faith in Jesus Christ we have come to God and have found Him, through the new birth our Father,—a new story begins, and it takes a eternity to tell it.

There is a way from the far country to the Father arms.  The actual journey of the prodigal may have been across forbidding mountains and along caravan trails over blinding deserts.  No such obstacles intervene between the returning sinner and God.  The blessed Christ from whose lips fell the tender story about which we have been thinking, also said:

“I am the way,”—John 14:6

When we come to Christ we find the Father, for Christ and the Father are one. And the way to come to Christ is to believe on Him; to put our whole life into His care and ordering, knowing that He has put away our sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and that all who come unto the Father by Him can never more lose the way.  Let us say:

“I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned”—Luke 15:18

“but know Thou hast saved me through Jesus Christ.”

Scofield, C. I. (1922). In Many Pulpits with Dr. C. I. Scofield (p. 9). New York; London; Toronto; Melbourne; Bombay: Oxford University Press. (Public Domain)

That They Might Have My Joy

That They Might Have My Joy

“That they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”—John 17:13.

We have here two simple ideas—Jesus Christ filled with joy; ourselves privileged to partake of that joy until we also are filled.

Pleasure, Happiness, Joyousness

It is not uncharitable to say that many people in this world are content if they may be merry; they seek nothing higher from life than pleasure. If they may put far from them the burden and sorrow and care of this world, and forget its grief in a passing jest, they are content. There is a place in life for pleasure, but pleasure is never the object of lives which are noble.

Better than this and the pursuit, I would fain believe, of a far great number, is happiness. Happiness is an infinitely higher thing than pleasure, and the desire of God that His children should be happy is abundantly revealed in the Bible. The Beatitudes are instructions in the art of happiness.

But our text speaks of something which is better even than happiness, and that is joyousness. Joyousness, in the scriptural sense of the word, might be defined as happiness overflowing. Happiness too full to be used up in mere personal satisfaction; happiness all alive and aglow. If happiness might be compared to a tranquil lake, embosomed in protecting hills, joyousness would be like the outflowing of a brimming river.

It may, then, help us just at the beginning, to fix in our minds these three things which stand over against sorrow or pain; pleasure, which exists for and ends upon self; happiness, a deeper, nobler thing, and joyousness, which is the overflow of happiness.

The Joy of Jesus Christ

First of all, Jesus speaks of His own joy. Now, we do not habitually think of Jesus Christ as joyful. Long before His manifestation, the Prophet Isaiah had said of Him that He would be a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” And so it was. But observe: A man of sorrows, not a man of melancholy. We can not think of Jesus Christ as moping through life; we can not think of Him as turning fretfully toward His burden, as thinking of His wrongs—His throne denied Him, His people rejected Him, His poverty and humiliation in a world which He had made. Just once, in Gethsemane, He speaks of His sorrows: “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death.” But habitually He speaks of His joyfulness. That, then, is the paradox of His life. “A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”; but bearing these sorrows, as it were, upon the deep floodtide of a mighty joy. And the joy was more than the sorrow.

Let us try to understand this paradox—an exultant and joyful man of sorrows.

Have you ever observed that the nearer Jesus came to the cross, the more He spoke of His joy? You do not find that He testified of His joyfulness much in the earlier part of His ministry, and I believe not once in that which is called “the year of public favor,” when the multitudes thronged Him, and it seemed as if the nation would really receive Him as the long-expected Messiah. But as He went on, drawing ever nearer to Calvary, and as the burden of the shame and sorrow and sin of the world began to gather in awful darkness over Him, He speaks ever more and more of His joyfulness, and in His closing admonitions and instruction there is a constant reference to the deep joy which filled His being. Just when the tide of sorrow is rising highest, the joyfulness seems to rise above it and triumph over it.

The Paradox Solved

If we ponder that, and connect it with the prophet’s explanation of the sorrows of Jesus Christ, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows,” I think we shall be on the very verge of solving the paradox. In other words (and is it not very simple?), Jesus found His Supreme joy in bearing the sorrows of others. He was not joyful in spite of having to bear the sorrow and burden of the world; He was joyful because He could bear it. It was the fountain head, the very source, of His joy.

I think we can conceive of that, if we are willing to separate ourselves for a moment from that shrinking which we all feel at the thought of pain and sorrow, and get upon the nobler side of our own souls. We can understand that such a being as Jesus would rejoice, with joy unspeakable, that He could do that thing. We can understand how, when looking down upon this world, with its sin and misery and want and woe, and mountainous iniquity, there would be ever in His heart the exultant joy at knowing that it was He who, in due time, should come down here and get underneath all that unspeakable guilt and bear it away from man through the cross.

Just as Jean Valjean, in Victor Hugo’s great story, was happy under the cart; it hurt him cruelly, but he lifted it away from the old man who was being crushed by it. So there was a joy in the very pain which it cost to do it—the joy of vicarious suffering; the joy of getting underneath all that was bearing down the heart of humanity, and lifting it forever away—this was the joy of the Lord.

You know how easily, after all, poor as this world is in nobleness, this truth finds illustration. Surely, Winkelreid must have felt something of that joy when he gathered the spears of the enemy into his own bosom so that his comrades might break the hostile line and make way for liberty. There must have been in him an ineffable joy as he felt those spears crushing into his heart and his life going out. There was suffering, but it was a joyful thing so to die.

I think that pilot, who kept his burning boat against the shore until every passenger was safe, though his own hands burnt to a crisp as he held the wheel, must have had a joy greater than the pain. This is a very high kind of joy, but we may realize it after all, may we not?

I think that captain who stood upon the deck of the sinking ship and gave his place in the last boat to a poor stowaway, who had no kind of claim upon him, and saw him pass on into safety while he went down with the ship, drank deeply of this joy of vicarious suffering.

Sources of the Savior’s Joy

Then there was another source of the joy of the Lord. He rejoiced in the will of God. Will you consider that for a moment? What a joyful thing it is that we are not left alone in this world! What a joyful thing to know that one is not the sport of circumstance and of accident; not orphaned amid all these destructive forces that move in upon us, as children of God here in the world; to know, in short, that over it all there is the resistless will of God. Things are not happening to the children of God. We are moving upon an appointed course, and the joys and sorrows of our life are all appointed and portioned out, molding and shaping us for better things. The joy of doing and enduring the will of God, and of suffering that others might not suffer—here are the abiding sources of our Lord’s joy.

In the Hebrews we are told of another source of joy which sustained our Lord in the supreme agony of the cross—“the joy that was set before him.” The joy of the final consummation; the joy of anticipation when He should see the eternal results of His suffering; all this was present with Him helpfully in the hour of agony. That is what we need to see. Beyond question we do not live enough in the inspiration of the compensations and balancings of heaven.

The Lord’s Joy, Our Joy

Turn now for a moment to the other thought—the human side of it.

“That my joy might be fulfilled in them.”

But how shall we have the joy of the Lord? Evidently there is here a call to the unselfish heights? If we are to share the joy of the Lord we must be willing to share that out of which His joy sprang. We must rejoice if we can bear away some sorrow from another heart, some burden from another life, even if it means sorrow and burden to us.

We must learn to rejoice as we never yet have learned to rejoice, in the salvation of the lost. We read that there is “joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”

We must stop regretting that “only ten were converted,” and, like the angels, rejoice over one sinner that repenteth.

Then we must turn our thoughts more toward the future, toward the heavenly rest, the heavenly activities and the eternal joys which are there. I repeat, it is a trumpet call. It costs something to have the joy of the Lord. Salvation, with its joy, is a free gift, but the joy of the Lord is to be had only by entering into fellowship with the Lord in His life plan; to be, in the measure of our capacity, Christ’s in the world; to get with Him into the joy of suffering; into the joy of the great sweet will of God; into the expectation of the things to come.

It was a great thing for humanity when that strange being, Peter the Hermit, went through Europe preaching the Crusades. It was a call to those barons and knights to cease petty neighborhood wars; to come away from their pompous and empty way of life; from tilting in the castle yard, and feasting in the castle hall, to go forth to do an unselfish thing.

Is not the sorrow and pain of human life a call to a perpetual crusade, a call up out of the petty things in which our lives are frittered away, into sympathy and helpfulness? And is not the sin of the world a call to go out upon Christ’s own great enterprise of salvation into the uttermost parts of the earth? It seems to me there is something in this that ought to lay hold of the noble side of us, that ought to redeem us from the meanness of self-pleasing and to lift us up into a glad participation in our Lord’s sufferings and also in His unspeakable joy.

Romans 8:24 - Better in Hope

Romans 8:24 - Better in Hope

For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? (NASB)

For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? (KJV)

We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don't need to hope for it. (NLT)

For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? (NET)

Now that we are saved, we eagerly look forward to this freedom. For if you already have something, you don't need to hope for it. (NLT96)

No matter how you slice it, we have hope of the future when we shall be with Christ. Perhaps the New Living Translation, First Edition (NLT96) captures the language for modern thought. Deliverance received is hope now for our future estate. We see now (as through a dark glass) but a little light. However, the light of future glory is nevertheless seen. It is the lamp of hope burning in our hearts, a gift of God's presence.

For we are saved by hope - It cannot be said that hope is the instrument or condition of salvation. Most commentators have understood this as meaning that we have as yet attained salvation only in hope; that we have arrived only to a condition in which we hope for future glory; and that we are in an attitude of waiting for the future state of adoption. But perhaps the word “saved” may mean here simply, we are kept, preserved, sustained in our trials, by hope. Our trials are so great that nothing but the prospect of future deliverance would uphold us; and the prospect is sufficient to enable us to bear them with patience. This is the proper meaning of the word “save”; and it is often thus used in the New Testament; see Matthew 8:25; Matthew 16:25; Mark 3:4; Mark 8:35. The Syriac renders this, “For by hope we live.” The Arabic, “We are preserved by hope.” Hope thus sustains the soul in the midst of trims, and enables it to bear them without a complaint. (Dr. Albert Barnes)

Mat 8:25 The disciples went and woke Him up, shouting, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!" (NET)

Mat 16:25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it. (NET)

Mar 3:4 Then He turned to His critics and asked, "Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?" But they wouldn't answer Him. (NET)

Mar 8:35 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. (NET)

1Pe 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (NET)

Col 1:5 Your faith and love have arisen from the hope laid up for you in heaven, which you have heard about in the message of truth, the gospel (NET)

1Ti 1:1 From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, (NET)

Heb 6:18 so that we who have found refuge in him may find strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us through two unchangeable things, since it is impossible for God to lie. (NET)

Romans 8:23 - Beauty Fades and Loveliness Decays

Romans 8:23 - Beauty Fades and Loveliness Decays

The world is one where beauty fades and loveliness decays; it is a dying world; but it is waiting for its liberation from all this and the coming of the state of glory. (William Barclay)

And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. (NASB)

And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (KJV)

And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as His adopted children, including the new bodies He has promised us. (NLT)

Not only this, but we ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies. (NET)

It is the longing of my heart to be with Christ. This is an attitude shared among all those who have been redeemed by His blood. Is it not considered part of love to be with Him who first loved us? Though we now experience the foretaste of what is to come by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we long for the fruition of the promise and are assured our hope will not lead to disappointment.

Rom 8:23
The first fruits (tēn aparchēn). Old and common metaphor.
Of the Spirit (tou pneumatos). The genitive of apposition. The Holy Spirit came on the great Pentecost and his blessings continue as seen in the “gifts” in 1 Corinthians 12-14, in the moral and spiritual gifts of Galatians 5:22. And greater ones are to come (1Corinthians 15:44.). (WORD PICTURES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT by Archibald Thomas Robertson)

Rom 5:5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love. (NLT)

2Co 5:5 God Himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee He has given us His Holy Spirit. (NLT)

Eph 1:14 The Spirit is God's guarantee that He will give us the inheritance He promised and that He has purchased us to be His own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify Him. (NLT)

Eph 5:9 For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. (NLT)


Romans 8:22 - The Whole Creation Groaning

Romans 8:22 — The Whole Creation Groans

For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now — If for man’s sake alone the earth was cursed, it cannot surprise us that it should share in his recovery. (A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown)

For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. (NASB

For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. (KJV)

For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (NLT)

For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers together until now. (NET)

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. (ESV)

What a sad state of affairs. The condition of everything is bondage and corruption. Could we not understand that the fall from the garden changed all. The future redemption will again be for all. Therefore, all groans. For us who belong to Christ we have our earnest expectation of His return and the new heave and new earth that will not be afflicted nor in need of groaning but rather praise to the glory of the Son.

However, this groaning is not a useless thing: Paul compared it to a woman in travail. There is pain, but the pain will end when the child is delivered. One day creation will be delivered, and the groaning creation will become a glorious creation! The believer does not focus on today’s sufferings; he looks forward to tomorrow’s glory (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:15–18). Today’s groaning bondage will be exchanged for tomorrow’s glorious liberty!
(The Bible exposition commentary)


He had said (Romans 8:20-21) that the condition of a Christian was one of bondage and servitude. It was an imperfect, humiliating state; one attended with pain, sorrow, and death. This might be regarded as a melancholy description, and the question might arise, why was not the Christian at once delivered from this? The answer is in this verse. “It is just the condition of everything.” It is the manifest principle on which God governs the world. The whole creation is in just this condition; and we are not to be surprised, therefore, if it is the condition of the believer. It is a part of the universal system of things; it accords with everything we see; and we are not to be surprised that the church exists on the same principle of administration; in a state of bondage, imperfection, sorrow, and sighing for deliverance. (Dr. Albert Barnes)

There is an impurity, deformity, and infirmity, which the creature has contracted by the fall of man: the creation is sullied and stained, much of the beauty of the world gone. There is an enmity of one creature to another; they are all subject to continual alteration and decay of the individuals, liable to the strokes of God's judgments upon man. When the world was drowned, and almost all the creatures in it, surely then it was subject to vanity indeed. The whole species of creatures is designed for, and is hastening to, a total dissolution by fire. And it is not the least part of their vanity and bondage that they are used, or abused rather, by men as instruments of sin. (Matthew Henry)

2Pe 3:13 But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth He has promised, a world filled with God's righteousness. (NLT)

Jer 12:11 They have made it an empty wasteland; I hear its mournful cry. The whole land is desolate, and no one even cares. (NLT)

 


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