rss

CMF eZine


The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship.


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)

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.


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