- Overcomer Literature Trust
Life from Christ
The Ever-present Power of Calvary
Recent years have produced a crop of books taking as their theme, “The Life of Jesus”. Some of these ‘biographies’ have been reverent and helpful, others have been the opposite. All, however, are in danger of contributing to a carefully planned attack on ‘vital’ Christianity. The objective of this attack is to get everyone looking back into the past. Not a very terrible thing you feel? A poisonous thing! The message of the Christian Church is “Jesus lives” not, “Jesus lived”; and there is a very big difference between the two. Christianity is a personal, present experience of the living Christ, and anything short of this is delusion. If Satan can persuade men and women to build up a religion looking back at past facts, however true and wonderful they may be in themselves, he has brought them down to eternal ruin. This may be startling, but it is true.
“The Christian religion provides”, wrote Bishop J C Ryle, “the very thing that man’s soul and conscience require. It is the glory of God’s Word that it reveals to man the very Friend and Mediator that he needs, the God-man Christ Jesus. It tells us of the very Priest that meets our wants, even Jesus the Son of God. It sets Him fully before us . . . as the very Person that our longing hearts could desire.”
He is right, for the Lord Jesus Christ “is before all things, and by Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the Church: who is the beginning, the first born from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell” (Col l v17-19).
If then you and I are to become true Christians it will only be through the power of the Saviour who once died for our sins, and now lives to be our Lord and King. Let us see how this works out in experience. Take for instance the question of:
Often the words of El Nathan’s lovely hymn come to mind in seeking to preach the Gospel:
Come, weary soul, and here find rest;
Accept redemption, and be blest;
The Christ who died, by God is crowned
To pardon on redemption ground.
Much so called Gospel preaching never goes any further than ‘You must just believe that Christ died for you’. That is precisely the error of which we have been speaking. It is the living Christ appearing in heaven for us and pleading the might of His Own sacrifice on Calvary by Whom we are saved. The Epistles make this plain with tremendous emphasis. “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom 5 v8-10). “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom 8 v34). “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins . . .” (1 John 2 v1-2). These three extracts taken at random are only the beginning of a long list which anyone with any knowledge of the New Testament would speedily be able to compile for themselves.
Never imagine that because you accept past facts about the Lord Jesus, and reverence the Jesus of the Gospels, that you have the root of the matter in you. If you will have salvation you must have it in your Saviour, the two are inseparable, “He that hath the Son hath life” (1 John 5 v12). If you will have forgiveness it will only be because the Great High Priest “hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb 7 v24-25).
There are many earnest folk in our Churches to-day, who through ignorance of these things are living powerless, inadequate, defeated lives.
The Victorious Life is all a matter of union with a living Saviour. Look where you will and evidence of this stands right out for all to see. “If ye then be risen with Christ seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God . . . for ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col 3 v1-3). Here surely is overflowing life! When Christ died on the Cross, I (who in unconverted days, was, so to speak, king of my own castle) died, and now my life with all its possibilities, its moments as well as its years, its weakness as well as its capability, whatever confronts it of joy, or sorrow, of triumph or difficulty, is hidden in the hollow of the hand of an almighty Saviour. Will He not make something useful and beautiful of it? And may I not trust Him utterly?
Can you not grasp the relief with which the impetuous, yet weak Peter could give expression to the common experience he shared with his converts, “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (l Peter 2 v24-25). Again can you not trace the triumph with which the converted Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus, whose chief ‘stock-in-trade’ had been ‘good works’, declared “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” (Gal 2 v20). Think of it! That troublesome self shared the death of Christ, now He lives in me, my “hope of glory”, and the practical, everyday life is now faced in the strength and faith of an indwelling Saviour. This is victorious living, and living that will inevitably find its expression in that service of God and our fellows, which becomes the business and purpose of the true Christian. The Christ who suffered and died to save a lost world, lives on in His people that they too may suffer, and if need be, die, not for ‘a cause’, not merely in defence of ‘truth’, but that souls may be saved from the awful reality of a Christless eternity. Have you entered into this glorious life of rest and yet ceaseless activity? Rest because the Shepherd carries every burden for you, activity because He is leading you in that “path of good works” already prepared for you?
Now to return to this insidious disease, if we may coin a word to express our meaning, “Pastitis”. Its symptoms can be seen everywhere. I was in a Roman Catholic Church some years back. Round the walls were pictures of the ‘Seven stations of the Cross’. Reverent silence and deep genuflections I certainly witnessed, but I had all about me the emblems of a religion, of a dead past, with no power to minister to the deep needs of the human heart, offering no Living Christ. As I walked out into the sunshine I thought, ‘Where can I turn if not to a church that boldly claims infallible authority? Can I trust my eternal welfare into the hands of the modern, broad-minded, enlightened school of preachers? What shall I be given? I shall be taught once more to look back to the Jesus of the Gospels. He will be painted as a man subject to error, whose teachings coloured by the mistakes of the day in which He lived are not entirely trustworthy. I shall be told to take Him as a pattern, to copy His attitude, to seek to bring something of His Spirit into modern life. I may, however, find that I can also benefit from the teachings of the founders of other religions.’ Avoid such poison as you would the plague. If Christ is not God, if He does not live now to plead His precious blood before the throne of grace, if He is not ready to come now through His Spirit and dwell in our hearts by faith, then Christianity has no message for the world, it is simply a pious fraud. As the great British statesman, W. E. Gladstone, put it. ‘A Christianity without Christ is no Christianity; and a Christ not Divine is one other than the Christ on whom the souls of Christians have habitually fed.’ ‘But if I seek refuge within the fold of Evangelical Christian teaching’, I asked myself, ‘Am I certain to be led in the right path?’ I wish with all my heart I could positively and certainly say ‘Yes!’. But may I not even here find myself in the midst of those whose ‘doctrines’ and ‘teaching’ are dead traditions of the past, and who live dominated by legal principles, defeated at home, worldlings in business, aloof from the need of the throbbing, suffering world, walking perilously on the brink of a Pharisaism, which can only repel?
May I not, in reverencing the truth, or the letter of Scripture become merely a controversialist, lacking the fresh sweetness of the grace of God in my heart? Is it not possible too that having been taught at a moment when I was concerned about my soul’s welfare that the acceptance of certain statements about Christ was all that was necessary for my salvation, I may find in a few months time that it ‘doesn’t work’; and then be left either to drift back into the world, become a formalist, or go after some error which seems on the surface to offer a solution to my heart’s need, that a dead Evangelicalism has utterly failed to give? The aftermath of modern evangelistic campaigns is only too often tragedy of this kind.
Professor Henry Drummond saw this danger, ‘Are there not men’, he asks, ‘who can prove to you and to the world, by the irresistible logic of texts, that they are saved, whom you know to be not only unworthy of the Kingdom of God, which we all are, but absolutely incapable of entering into it?’ Years ago his mind worked through a certain chain of phrases in which the words ‘believe’ and ‘saved’ were the conspicuous terms. And from that moment, by all Scripture, by all logic, and by all theology, his future was guaranteed. He took out, in short, an insurance policy, by which he was infallibly securing eternal life at death. This is not a matter to make light of. We wish we were caricaturing instead of representing things as they are. But we carry with us all who intimately know the spiritual condition of the Narrow Church in asserting that in some cases at least its members have nothing more to show for their religion than a formula, a syllogism, a cant phrase, or an experience of some kind which happened long ago and which men told them at the time was called ‘salvation’.
It is never the Christ of the past, nor facts about Him that bring man into fellowship with God. Christianity is centred in Christ Himself, and has no being apart from Him. To quote Professor Drummond once more, ‘Christianity’, he declares, ‘is the infusion into the spiritual man of a New Life, of a quality unlike anything else in Nature. This . . . gives to Christianity alone of all the religions of mankind the strange mark of divinity . . . What is this strange and new endowment in its nature and vital essence? And the answer is brief, it is Christ. “He that hath the Son hath Life”.’
And now, in conclusion, shall we face these things together? What of you? Is the living Jesus yours?
Listen to the dying testimony of John Fletcher, one of the greatest saints that early Methodism produced:
I nothing have, I nothing am,
My treasure’s in the bleeding Lamb,
Both now and evermore.
Does that find an echo in your heart? Is your experience its counterpart? Or is yours the sad condition of which we are warned, as being prevalent in “the last days”. “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof . . .” (2 Timothy 3 v5). ‘Power?’ you ask, ‘What Power?’ Why! “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1 v24).
Who alone can cure ‘pastitis’ and make life bright with the ever-present reality of His presence.
Life in Christ
under the Shadow of Calvary
It often amazes me when l think of the wonders that God is prepared to do for those who will learn of Him, and who readily accept the invitations He extends to them. In the story about the Marriage Supper in Luke 14, an invitation is given to feast with the King, and thus to enter into real fellowship with Him, but it is immediately followed by a host of excuses from those who were invited. Then in the verses that follow the Lord Jesus lays down the conditions upon which entrance to His feast is granted, and brings us face to face with the simple basis of union with Christ at Calvary. It sounds a very terrifying thing, when we first hear of it, that we have to be “crucified”, and “reckon ourselves dead”, and so on. When I first heard it, I could not get a grip of it at all. It sounded to me rather as if some great force was going to take hold of me, to mould me into something which I did not understand, and was not quite sure I wanted to be made into! It all seemed so impersonal, until I began to see that, behind everything that was taught there was just this, the pierced hands of the Lord Jesus stretched out to me, to make me conformable to His own image. Then I began to see things from a different angle altogether; and I want to put it to you that the message of the Cross, and the basis of union with Himself, finds its starting place in the words of Christ and in His promises. The Lord Jesus never minces matters, and He says perfectly plainly that if a man is not prepared to take up his cross, none of the joys and benefits of the Christian life can be his. It is uncompromising, but there it stands. Jesus “knew what was in man”. There is no one else who knows fully what is in the depths of you, or in me, not even our nearest and dearest. But Jesus “knew what was in man”, and He was not prepared to trust the extension of His Kingdom to man, or to let man make Him a king. To-day so much Christian work is what is done by man for the Lord. Therefore it is of no use.
In the early days of my Christian life I worked intensely for the Lord; and how I often hurt myself, and those about me too! Then there came a time when I came to the end of my own capabilities, and the Christian walk began to be very hard and difficult. It began to irk and to become a burden, a worry. I did not know where I was until the Lord began to show me this one thing: “You must take up your cross. If you will trust Me and take up your cross I will work in you, and will show you a blessedness you did not know was possible, and afterwards you shall enter into the real Harvest Home with Me”. There is no end to what God can do with a man, who will go out, not to work for the Lord, but to let the Lord make His own beauty part of his life, and work through him. There is no end to the joy and romance of such a life. There will be difficulties, but what is life without difficulties. People who want life without difficulties are sponges, not men and women. God has planted in man one great desire, the ambition to accomplish something worth-while, but it makes all the difference whether that desire has as its objective the satisfying of the heart of Jesus, or whether it is just the exaltation of ourselves.
Three Greek words are used by the Lord Jesus concerning the taking up of the cross:
(1) LAMBANO, meaning to take, or receive, is the word used in Matthew 10 v38. There is something very definite about this word. It is a personal transaction, the act of going to a person and receiving something from them. One of my boys once entered for his school sports and won one or two events. He was all right while the sports were going on, but he was really frightened when the time came for him to go up and receive his prizes. Why? Because he had to make a definite move before other people, to go out from amongst the crowd, stand alone, and receive his prizes from the hand of the one who was presenting them. This illustrates the force of that word, ‘lambano’ - to take or receive. We are bidden to take up the cross, and receive it as our own, as the basis upon which we live.
The Lord Jesus says to you and to me, ‘I am going to give you a share in My Cross. It is My will for you that the shadow of My cross must fall upon your life. You can never bring forth fruit, or enter into joy, or be used of God without it’. Do you want that to happen? Do you remember the young man who came to Jesus and said, “What good thing must I do?” There are many who are willing to go as far as that; and the Lord said, “I want you to leave everything and take up your cross and follow Me”. The young man had great possessions, so he turned, and went away very sorrowfully. But listen to Paul, “I have counted all things but refuse that I might win Christ”, he says, and again, “God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world”. It sounds hard, but it makes all the difference when you find that it is held out to you by those hands which were pierced for you. Then you will come and take from Him your new basis of life, founded in this one thing,‘I do not count any more at all, I am crucified with Christ, it is Christ Who lives in me. I resign into His hands absolutely, the right to rule my life’.
When I was in the army I could not do just as I pleased. By putting my signature to certain papers l made a definite transaction. From that moment I had the right to wear uniform, and to have all my physical needs supplied, but there was also this condition, ‘You are ours. Wherever we tell you to go you must go; whatever we tell you to do you must do without question’.
One night, three days before my twenty-first birthday, I went down to the officers’ mess, and there on the rack was an envelope for me, marked ‘SECRET AND CONFIDENTIAL’. I opened it. ‘You will report to the Landing Officer at Dover on Monday morning’. It was then Friday night. It was no use arguing. I had undertaken to obey orders, and while I was in the army I was at the disposal of the Government. This is an illustration of the way in which the shadow of the cross falls over our lives.
The life of the cross is the life where we DENY OUR RIGHT TO CONTROL OUR OWN LIFE, but where the Lord Jesus Christ takes the control into His own hands, and guides as He wills. How many of us have taken from Him this life? It is easy enough to believe such a life to be the right course to take, but it is quite another thing to take, to embrace it for your self. You say, ‘Lord, if such a life is necessary, I suppose I must take it’. Yes, but you must not do it grudgingly. Do you not see that you cannot do anything in Christian work, or in Christian life, apart from this one thing, the shadow of the Cross over your life? The mark of the Cross is the mark of the servant of the Lord. There is an abiding place, where one is just led along by Christ, step by step. Do you find great difficulty in being impartial about the happenings of life? You come to a cross-road, and you want to do so and so, but He may not want you to do it. Can you get outside of things and say, ‘Lord, I want whatever You want with my life, I trust You to look after me. I will leave it to You’.
People talk about being ‘guided by the Lord’. Be very careful how you use such expressions. Very often our hearts are so deceitful that we act according to our own inclination, and then say, ‘The Lord is leading’. But the sad thing is that we see no fruit from such ‘guidance’. I have had young people under my charge, and have had to put this very thing before them, and then stand by and watch them make their choice. Very often trouble starts when young people want to get engaged. It is a point where the ‘own inclination’ comes in and many young lives are ruined. On the other hand, I can show you a young couple out on the Mission Field. They accepted the call of the Lord to service. They separated for five years while one of them went through a full course of hospital training, and the other one said, ‘I must equip myself for the Lord’s service, and I am rather soft and of an artistic temperament’, so he got a job, and a menial job at that, on a liner, saying, ‘If I can witness there I can witness anywhere’. Now they are together, united in loving, fruitful service, both having learnt the Lord’s lesson, both having been chipped and moulded; and both having accepted the path of the Cross.
When we say the way of the Cross is hard, surely we blacken our Lord’s character and unconsciously adopt the words of Peter, “Far be it from Thee, Lord”. The voice in which He says, “You must take up your cross”, is the voice of utter gentleness and perfect understanding.
There must be the definite attitude on your part. You cannot just shilly-shally with it. ‘This life is mine!’ Well, take it up, here and now. But wait! Count the cost! Sit down and count it all up. Is it worth it, to let the Lord have His way utterly and completely? There is a great gulf between a life of usefulness and a life of barrenness. The way of the Cross is the life of usefulness, and the way of your own will is the life of utter barrenness.
(2) AIRO is the second word, and it occurs in Matthew 16 v24, Mark 8 v34, and Luke 9 v23. It means ‘to grasp’, ‘to win’, ‘to carry away’; but there is something even more intense in it yet, ‘to carry like a standard, lifting it up’. When I was a very small boy and first went to school, we had a game we called ‘French and English’. The playground was divided in half and at each end there were arranged handkerchiefs or flags. You had to try to cross the centre dividing line, get past the ‘enemy’, take hold of a flag, lift it up, and take it back to your own end. You had to leave the safety of your own territory, and if you were caught on the way you were a prisoner, and had to be rescued.
If you want to feel that you are safe and comfortable, if you do not want a life with any risk in it, a life at peace with all men, never rubbing anybody up the wrong way; if your aim is a life with no cost in it, then you had better not study this word ‘airo’.
The privilege of the life of the Cross is wonderful. All the greatest souls down the ages have borne the imprint of Calvary. To hear people talk about John Bunyan nowadays, you would think he was the most popular man of his day, but actually he was most unpopular. Where did Paul end? Very lonely in Rome, awaiting the headsman’s axe, yet he writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice”. What in a life of labour and hardship? The other day I picked up the Word, and read what Paul endured and then knelt down in my office and wept for shame. “Stripes”, “beaten with rods”, “stoned”, “shipwrecked”, . . . “In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fasting often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.”
I said, ‘Lord, what do I know of this life?’ Paul’s life goes on to-day. “He being dead yet speaketh”. His testimony lives. He is gathering fruit to-day unto eternal life. We need to have the same vision, to win this life. Paul counted everything else loss and launched out to win it. You may say, ‘Yes, Lord, I will give up my job....’ Not so fast! Remain just where you are and count for God. Learn to co-operate with Him there in the salvation of souls. He will see to your leaving business in His own way, if that is His plan for you, when you have won your spurs just where you are. To be utterly His in the familiar setting of home, office, or wherever your normal life has placed you, will try the real temper of your Christian experience, and form an ideal training ground for future service.
(3) BASTAZO - to bear or to carry, in the sense that a porter carries a heavy burden, occurs in Luke 14 v27. It is used in the verse, “Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ”. The Lord says, “Unless you take up the Cross and bear it and take the whole weight of it, you cannot be My disciple”. That sounds very difficult, does it not, but He also says, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”. “Cast your burden on the Lord and He shall sustain you.” On those who will let Him, He puts big burdens. Sometimes I have said, ‘Lord, I can’t carry any more’. How is it with you? Perhaps sickness or some other difficulty has come into your home circle; or perhaps you yourself have had to battle with ill health, and you have said as I have, ‘Lord I can’t carry any more’. Then, when your shoulders are just bowed down under what seems an intolerable weight, can you say, ‘Lord, You carry this for me’? If you can, then before you know where you are, you will come into contact with some needy soul and be able to minister to their needs. The Cross woven into our inner life and experience inevitably brings forth fruit.
If you want souls and by that I do not mean conversions such as people talk about to-day. I do not mean do you want to be able to influence a meeting so that people come up and put their names on a card; I do not mean do you want to be able to use your personality to work on the emotions of a congregation. I mean this, ‘Do you really desire to see souls BORN OF GOD? If you want this there is only one way. “Except a man take up his cross....” If you are prepared to do it there is fruit ahead. If you are prepared to take it, win it, BEAR it, what joy will be yours when the Lamb’s Marriage Supper is spread in Heaven.
Remember when the shadow of the Cross fell upon the Lord Jesus, we are told that “He . . . offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared”. Awe at being entrusted by His Father with the commission to taste death for us, stilled the anguish of His humanity. What of us? Even if we are called to face suffering that seems to rob life of every bit of its joy and colour, yet He whispers to us, “My child! I have been this way! Not only so, I have endured worse, far worse for you. Will you not trust Me? Will you not walk this way in fellowship with Me? I will never leave thee. There are those I can reach only in this way who may perish eternally if you fail me. But if only you will leave all to Me you will find joy you never dreamed possible when you enter fully into My presence”. Tell me, what shall we answer?
Life for Christ
The Cloister, or The Cross - Which ?
My attention was arrested recently by a verse in the great High Priestly prayer of John 17, “I pray not that Thou shoulder take them out of the worldly but that Thou shoulder keep them from evil”, and I have been seeking since to discover the implications of that request. Does it provide a clue to the puzzling fact of modern life, that there seems to be no point of contact where the Christian Church of to-day can meet the ordinary men and women of our world; so that the Gospel is unknown to them, and a startling ignorance of even the simplest and most fundamental facts of the Christian life is almost universal.
Many who read this will answer immediately, ‘This ignorance is no mystery to us. It is caused by the rising tide of evil flooding over the world, as a prelude to the final apostasy of the last days’. But is it? Is it not possible that the working of the enemy is subtler than we have realised, and that he may be using even the Church as his instrument to bring about the darkness that suits his purpose so well? If this is so, he has been employing a device which has proved successful again and again in many lands and in different ages, and which might be called ‘the lure of the cloister’.
To quote one example only of this simple strategy. In the middle ages, those who sought for holiness sought it by way of the cloister, and the cell. The result was failure. The monastic life bred corruptions of every kind, in the midst of which such lives as Thomas a Kempis, Tersteegen and others, stood out in lonely grandeur as mighty exceptions. They gained their strength, not from the cloister-life itself, but from triumphing over, and in spite of it. It also caused so wide a rift between the ‘religious’ and the ‘secular’ that ignorance, darkness and superstition, threatened completely to overwhelm humanity. All hell rejoiced at the state of affairs so admirably suited for the fulfilment of its prince’s purpose. But God had His answer ready. The counter-flood of the reformation swept the cloister away, and the light of the Gospel burned brightly in the common paths of life. The effect even upon politics and international relationships was so great that the first Earl of Birkenhead, writing as a politician, classes it amongst the ‘turning points of history’.
To-day I believe the Christian church has been lured into the same ‘cloister’ trap, differently disguised, with the same disastrous results. With the growth of Liberalism, and the broadening influences which were at work after the strict Victorian era, ‘separation’ became one of the battle cries of evangelical Christendom. It has often been pointed out that error is usually the over-balance of truth; and it was not long before there became mixed with genuine separation, a measure of exclusivism and mental if not practising monasticism.
The effects of this unconscious trend have been two-fold. In the first place, evangelical Christendom is now, in spite of the disturbances of recent years and their influence, a ‘hotch-potch’ of self-sufficient communities. These bodies are the modern counterpart of the mediaeval monastic orders. Each has its own special emphasis of teaching. Obedience to its tenets, devotion to its leaders, and its brotherhood or fellowship, are necessary parts of its spiritual programme. In the quiet ‘shutawayness’ of their gatherings they find calm, and protection from the tumult of modern life. But to quote the Rev.G.S.Bowes, ‘There may be the spirit of the world in a convent, under a monk’s cowl, or a Quaker’s dress; whilst the spiritual mind may hold communion with God in a crowd’. And the ‘spirit of the world’ has often reared his head in these evangelical retreats. Jealousy, place-seeking, quarrels, bitterness, censoriousness, narrowness, un-love, etc., have divided many such communities where spiritual truths have been prized. In some cases refusal to have any contact with the civic and political life around has further restricted the bounds of such assemblies and churches.
In the second place, a gulf, the natural corollary of this isolation, has grown wider and wider during recent years between evangelical Christians as a class and the average man and woman outside their churches. All attempts to bridge this gulf by evangelistic meetings or campaigns has proved practically abortive. In the cases where genuine converts have been won they are generally those who have had some previous background of teaching and knowledge, and were therefore ripe for the working of the Holy Spirit. The vast masses of ordinary folk neither know nor care anything for the Gospel, and look upon it as just another of the many ideas and theories having wide publicity through literature and special activities, which seem to thrive so well on the barren soil of this modern ignorance.
I was once talking to a politician. His verdict on the state of the world was, ‘What we need more than anything else is another Wesley’. John Wesley said of himself, ‘I am a man sent of God to persuade men to put Christ at the centre of their relationships’. In this he was in true apostolic succession, for Paul tells us that he was, “A minister . . . to make known what is the riches of the glory of the mystery among the Gentiles, which is, Christ in you . . .” (Col 1 v24). This, too, is the grand commission of the Church to-day. Christ in us must be shown to the world: and Satan will use his cunning to the utmost to prevent it. How can it be if we are to be shut up in the cloisters of our self-made separations? The monasteries must be broken up, and men and women must not only work alongside, but live alongside the ignorant and unconverted. It is not enough to hold services for them, to pray for them, or to ‘do warfare’ behind the scenes for them. The great cry of a clamant, if unrealised, need is rising with tremendous power in these days, “Sirs we would see Jesus”.
“Ye are the salt of the earth”, the Lord Jesus told His disciples (Matt 5 v13). But salt must be mixed into the substance it is to add savour to. Again, “ye are the light of the world”, but “neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel”. A lamp hidden behind a wall is of no use to those the other side. The antidote to every ‘ism’, political or otherwise, and the salvation of the world from chaos, is Christ Himself. He dwells, by faith, in the heart of those individuals who together form His Church; and the light of His presence must perpetually be where it can be seen by those needing the light.
The writer of an article entitled ‘Europe at the Cross Roads’, written just after the outbreak of World War 2, said, ‘If the abuse of Christianity produces hostility to its claims, yet a knowledge of its Founder often kindles interest. If Christianity is dogma, the working classes of Europe know nothing about it and care less: if it is Christ, then the prospect is not so dark’.
Christianity is Christ, and His only contact with men is as He lives with them in His people.
As the world chaos seems to grow greater, a crop of speculations will be made as to the future both of the Church and the world. The powers of evil will endeavour to make themselves loom so large on the stage of world affairs that the Christian Church will be disheartened and bewildered. The tendency will then be more than ever to turn inwards to our own fellowship with one another; our own thoughts as to the will of God; our own prayers and efforts. This tendency, if indulged in, will prove fatal. Christ-filled Christians, not living for self, not even for the enjoyment of spiritual experiences and triumphs, must forsake the cloister. They must live with, and get to know and love, the men and women outside. It is instructive to see how the Saviour Himself moved about amongst the needy. ‘How is it’, ran the complaint of the Scribes and Pharisees, ‘that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?’ The reply of Jesus was, “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 2 v16-17). Peter expressed it in these terms, “Who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him” (Acts 10 v38). It is a plain denial of all His purpose for His own if we seek to protect ourselves, and to minister to our religious self-indulgence. He said to His disciples, “As my Father hath sent Me, even so send I you” (John 20 v21); and the same thought is expressed by the apostle to the Philippians, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who . . . became obedient unto death even the death of the cross” (Phil 2 v4-8).
As we seek to mix with, and win others, we shall experience a great helplessness, and wonder how anything can be done. We need not wonder. Our very weakness will be our strength. Weakness is the law of Calvary, and the basis of all witness given direct through the life is, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live: yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal 2 v20). Think of it, “Christ lives in me”. What need of the shelter of the cloister? He Who went about doing good, Who manifested God to man, Who triumphed in the midst of the clamour of the worlds and was victorious on the Cress, prolongs His days in me! The burning question then is, am I ready to turn my back upon everything else so that I can learn the way of it? Do I love Him enough to do so?