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The New Testament Way.
By Oliver Chandler.
The New Testament way is not an easy way. It was never meant to be. There is only one way in which it will work, and there is absolutely no alternative, it is only by sincere, hearty and absolute surrender to the Lord and absolute obedience to His Word.
By means of money, human activity and will-power we can maintain a semblance, keep meetings, preaching, prayer and testimony going. We can keep the thing, as an organisation, going but the reality and power, the presence and fruit of the Holy Spirit will not be there. We can even deceive ourselves by the apparent success that results from all our work, and glory in it, much as the disciples admired the great stones of the temple, but be unaware that in God’s sight it is repugnant because there is no place for Him. Long ago He had to withdraw Himself. Such is the picture of the church in Laodicea, satisfied with its achievements but unconscious that, in the Lord’s sight, it was valueless.
Engineers dream of perpetual motion, of a machine that will work on and on, endlessly, without attention. Spiritually, we dream of the same thing. Churches, believers, that will go on and on, endlessly, without care and attention.
Friction is the engineer’s great problem, the rubbing of moving parts, wearing them down, making the functioning of the motor laborious and, unless it is repaired, a serious breakdown will result. Friction is the greatest problem to the full realization of the New Testament Way.
There is the friction between our natures and God’s, our wills and His, our thoughts and ways and His. Unless self is dead indeed, and what a battle it is to get to the place where we accept our being put to death, there can only be friction.
There is the friction between human natures, among missionaries and believers. We must not blind ourselves to reality. There is no such thing as a trouble-free Church. There is no such thing as believers or churches which will go on and on without needing attention. Oil must be poured in constantly to maintain at a minimum the danger of friction.
Then there is friction with the devil, and we can expect no mercy at his hands. Any carelessness, any softening, any “going to sleep” and he is ahead, sowing his tares. And once he has his tares in, we cannot get them out. Once he has a believer down, the problem is to get him up again. Once he has put a lack of confidence into our minds regarding a fellow-worker or fellow-believer, it is not easy to free the mind of it. Once a congregation is divided, how difficult it is to bring it back to spiritual unity.
How can we maintain vitality and the dynamic spirit of true evangelism? Were all conversions in the New Testament times genuine? Were all the baptisms real? The net brings in all kinds. Will there not be those who will say “have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils?” Did not the Apostle say “they went out from us because they were not of us”? Can we expect a church to be entirely free from these problems? If we are looking for a “way” that will be problem-free then we are doomed to disappointment.
Are we going to say that the New Testament way is impractical, that it does not work? No, never. For the New Testament way is in very essence the triumphing over difficulties. We are “troubled on every side yet not distressed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not forsaken, cast down but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4 v8-9).
Do we see this triumph being manifested everywhere? No, we do not. Did Paul? Did he not write to the Galatians “I am in pain again for you until Christ be formed in you”? He was in agony because they had so soon turned from the true way, but did he give up? He laboured in prayer all the more. He himself speaks of being hindered by Satan (1 Thess. 2 v18). Did that make him sit back and say “what’s the use”? Every church, every believer will have battles, but it is the very thing that puts strength into them. If everything were easy going, all would be spiritually flabby and lacking vitality. It is the spiritual battle that keeps churches on their knees and makes their praying real. It is that that makes our dependence upon our Lord in Heaven a practical experience.
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