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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Cross of Calvary # 5

The Cross of Calvary # 5

The Cross and Human Wisdom

"The word of the Cross ... is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise. (1 Corinthians 1:18-19).

Paul, who had himself once been a Pharisee rejecting with bitter antagonism the story of a crucified Messiah, with heaven-lit vision sees deeply into the purpose of the Cross. He beholds it as the master-stroke of Jehovah against one cause of the Fall in Eden.

"The woman saw that the tree ... was to be desired to make one wise."

The desire of knowledge beyond the limit set by the Lord was one of the causes for the Fall, the effect thereof continuing unto this day, for pride of intellect is still a barrier between men and the knowledge of their Creator.

Salvation through the Cross, was a master-stroke of the All-wise Creator against the pride of knowledge in His fallen creatures, for the "word of the Cross" is the power of God to "destroy", or being to naught" the wisdom of the wise." The Cross as the power of God is so wholly beyond the comprehension of the natural man, that he must submit his intellect to his Creator, and accept the message on the word of Jehovah alone.

The "foolishness of God" is "wiser than men", saith the Scripture, and in the day when all men shall know themselves as they are known by their Creator, all that appeared as "foolishness" to carnal reasoning, will be proved to be the highest wisdom of God.

The "word of the Cross" is the energy of God and through it the All-wise Lord is already making "foolish" the "wisdom of the world"; for while the world, "through its wisdom", is failing utterly to know Him, it is "God's good pleasure through the foolishness of the thing preached" to "save them that believe." Through the "thing preached" which is accounted foolishness.  God is working the miracle of salvation from the guilt and power of sin, and re-creating a new race after the likeness of Him Who is the First-born of many brethren - the First-born from the dead.

The "weakness of God" manifested in Him Who was "crucified through weakness", is "stronger than men." The weak and suffering Saviour upon His Cross of shame is mighty to save all who believe in Him.

The Cross and True Wisdom

"Howbeit we speak wisdom ... yet a wisdom not of this world ... we speak God's wisdom in a mystery" (1 Corinthians 2:6-8).

The word of the Cross, unto those who are "being saved", is the power of God to bring to nought the pride of knowledge, so that they may be taught God's wisdom. "Things which eyes saw not, and ear heard not, and which entered not into the heart of man."

A wisdom which is a mystery to the natural man, but which is revealed by the Spirit of God unto all those who love God; a wisdom, writes the Apostle, which will be "unto our glory" when the wisdom of this world shall have passed away.

"God's wisdom in a mystery," is the "mystery of God, even Christ, in Whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden". A Messiah crucified, unto the called themselves, both Jews and Greeks, the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

The Two-fold Message of the Cross

"Having made peace through the blood of His Cross ... you ... hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death." (Colossians 1:20-22).

The prophecy of Isaiah tells us that the sufferings and death of the Man of Sorrows were not for Himself, but for those who had gone astray; "an offering for sin" by the express will of the Father, Who was pleased to "bruise Him" and "put Him to grief".

Paul the Apostle takes up the same theme, and writes to the Romans, that God Himself purposed the sacrifice of Christ Jesus to be "a propitiation through faith in His blood", for only thus could He "pass over sin", and show His righteousness to a guilty world.

Jehovah spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all! Yea, it is written that God Himself "was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself", for Father and Son are One.

Heralds sent forth and equipped by God the Holy Spirit, must proclaim the tidings of peace. Commissioned by the Risen Son of God as His ambassadors, they are to plead on "behalf of Christ" with perishing souls, and "as though God were entreating" by them they are to say, "Be ye reconciled to God".

To the Colossians, Paul writes, "Having made peace through the blood of His Cross" you - who were separated  from God, and enemies to God, because of your evil doings - " hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death."

Having made peace through the blood of His Cross" refers to the propitiatory aspect of the sacrifice of Christ when He trod the winepress alone, and of the people there were none with Him. While the reconciliation of the sinner to God "in the body of His flesh through death",shows us the Saviour and the saved as one. In this latter aspect we see the second Adam as the Representative Man, and how in His death all who are united to Him by faith, suffered the penalty of their sins, and are reconciled to God through Him.

"In the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and without blemish and unreprovable before Him," continued the Apostle.

The Cross is the gateway through which the reconciled soul passes into the new sphere, where it is presented in Christ to the Father "holy", and without blemish, and unreprovable before Him. Those who are thus reconciled die with Christ to their old sins. Their "evil works," which made them alienated, and enemies to God in their mind, are now left behind. They are not "reconciled", to continue in the life they lived before.

The message of "peace through the blood of His Cross", and reconciliation to God in the body of Christ through death, therefore includes deliverance from the power, as well as the guilt of sin.

In still plainer language we have the deliverance from the bondage of sin, together with the remission of past sins, proclaimed by the Apostle Peter. Writing in his first epistle of the sufferings of Christ, he says, "His own self bare out sins in His body upon the tree, that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness". The alternative reading given in the margin of the R. V. is still more striking, for it says that Christ "carried up our sins in His body to the tree" - surely not that we might continue under their control, and do them again and again!

The union of the believer with his Saviour in death is thus clearly expressed by the Apostle. Having made peace by the atoning sacrifice of His Cross, the Lord Jesus carried our sins to the tree, so that in Him we have died to them and their power; and now sharing His life from God, we may "live unto righteousness" by the might of the Holy and Righteous One Who dwells within our hearts.

"By whose stripes ye were healed" adds the Apostle quoting the prophecy of Isaiah, and linking the deliverance from the guilt and bondage of sin, to that most sacred foreshadowing of the Cross.

It was the Lamb of God Who had the actual bruising and suffering on our behalf, so that the healing power of His life might be imparted to us, who believe that He has carried our sins to the tree, and in Him have died unto those sins, henceforth to live unto God.

This is the message of Calvary as revealed unto Paul by the Risen Lord, and by the words of Peter confirmed as the Gospel preached by all the apostles in the days of Pentecost, and incalculable loss has come to the Church of God by the severance of these two aspects of the Word of the Cross, in the proclamation of the Gospel of Calvary.

Moreover, deliverance from the power of sin was manifestly not taught by Paul as an advanced experience, for when he wrote to the converts in Rome he seemed to speak of the death with Christ as an elementary stage of experience, ignorance of which surprised him, for their fellowship with Christ's death was the only basis upon which they could realize the newness of life in Him.

~Jessie Penn-Lewis~

(continued with # 6)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Cross of Calvary # 4

The Cross of Calvary # 4

Isaiah the prophet had been chosen and fitted by God to foreshadow the wondrous story of the Cross, and portray in tender language the characteristics of the Lamb of God. Even so was Paul chosen by the Lord to receive and proclaim the message of the Cross.

Isaiah and Paul were each prepared for their special service by a personal meeting with God - a meeting which aroused in each such self-abhorrence that Isaiah could but cry, "Woe is me, for I am undone", and the Apostle say, "In me ... dwelleth no good thing". Each also came to the same entire surrender to God, Isaiah saying, "Here I am, send me", and Paul, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do".

"Isaiah's bitter weeping over his people," and Paul's agony of soul over the blindness of Israel, also show that both were men capable of deep suffering, and of utter abandonment to the service of God; and that both had largeness of spirit to receive and communicate the teachings of the Spirit of God. Each was given the theme of Calvary, the one in its germ, and the other in its full fruition. Each was inspired by the Spirit of Christ Himself; in the one testifying beforehand His sufferings, and in the other interpreting the glorious results of His death.

We are not surprised, therefore, to find Paul declaring emphatically that the Gospel which he preached, was not "after man" nor did he "receive it from man" - not even from one who had been an eye-witness of the sufferings of Christ; that he was not taught it by anyone, but that it had been given to him by direct "revelation of Jesus Christ"; and so he wrote to the Galatians, "The message you have heard from me was out and out Divine, authentic from the throne. ...The Risen Lord personally unveiled it to me".

We have then, this pathetic and solemn fact, that the Risen and Ascended Lord, with the marks of His passion upon the sacred body He carried into heaven, Himself interpreted to Paul the object of His death. If we keep this in mind as we meditate upon the message of Calvary as expressed in the writings of Paul, the "word of the Cross" will in truth be unto us the "energy of God".

That the gospel of the Cross as preached by Paul was given him directly by the Lord Himself, is also proved by the results of his visit to the leading apostles of Christ in Jerusalem. "By revelation" Paul is bidden to lay before the apostles the gospel by was preaching among the Gentiles, and when he did this he found that he had been taught so fully by the Risen Lord Himself, that they who had seen Christ die,had held converse with Him after He was risen from the dead, and had been filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost; had nothing to impart to the one chosen of the Lord to proclaim the message of His love.

Not only had they nothing to impart, but they "perceived the grace given unto him", and acknowledged that this man had in truth been "entrusted with the Gospel". Accordingly they gave unto him the "right hand of fellowship", proving for all time that the gospel preached by him was in full harmony with the gospel proclaimed by all the apostles - the gospel doubtless given to them by Christ Himself, when after His passion He appeared unto them "by the space of forty days", "speaking the things concerning the kingdom of God".

Since the message of Calvary was therefore given to Paul by direct revelation of the Lord, we do not marvel that it dominated his life, and was woven into the very texture of all his writings. Burnt into his heart, he who had not seen the God-Man actually die, preached His Cross and passion with such intensity, and with such manifest illumination of the Holy Spirit, that he could declare to the Galatians that "Jesus Christ had been painted large upon His Cross to their very eyes."

May God the Holy Spirit bear witness again to the gospel of the Cross through Paul, as we reverently listen to the Lord Himself, through messenger, interpreting His death.

The Cross to the Natural Man

"The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit ... they are foolishness unto him." (1 Corinthians 2:14).
"The word of the Cross is to them that are perishing foolishness" (1 Corinthians 1:18).
"Christ crucified, unto Jews a stumbling block, and unto Gentiles foolishness" (1 Corinthians 1:23).

Although Paul received his gospel by direct revelation of Jesus Christ, he  was under no delusion as to its reception by the natural man. Like Isaiah he knew that the Cross as the "arm of the Lord" must be revealed by the Holy Spirit, for to the darkened intellect and rebellious will of the children of unbelief, the whole message would appear but folly.

Salvation through the death of Another! It is "contrary to all justice!" Man unable to save himself! Nay, it is all folly!

To the Jews the word of the Cross would be a still greater stumbling-block. Was it not written in their Scriptures, "He that is handed is accursed in the sight of God"?

Again and again Paul must have had the words cast in his teeth, "accursed of God", or an "insult to God", as he preached to the Jews a crucified Messiah, for in speaking of the Lord Jesus they often called Him by the name, "the gibbetted (hung on a tree) one", which they found in the original Hebrew of Deuteronomy 21, 23).

Apart from the illumination of the Spirit, the Jews could not see that the very words in Deuteronomy interpreted the Cross of Christ, Who became a "curse for us" on the tree of Calvary.

But the Jews were looking for a Messiah who would reign as a King on earth, and in reading the prophecy of Isaiah they had only seen foreshadowings of glory, and kingship in the Coming One. With preconceived ideas, as to the tokens of authority which would make known unto them their looked-for Messiah, the Jews had demanded of the Lord Jesus again and again, to "show them a sign from heaven", and with pain the Lord replied, "There shall no sign be given" but "the sign of Jonah". "For as Jonah shall the Son of Man be ... in the heart of the earth."

Calvary and the grave, foretold by the prophet Isaiah,and pictured again in the mysterious experience of Jonah the prophet, was the special "sign" promised of God to make known the Messiah, but Isaiah had written of Israel, "their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed", and his prophecy concerning the blinded people was fulfilled.

"The Jews ask for signs," writes Paul, but have not eyes to see the signs foretold of God; the "Greeks seek after wisdom", and fail to perceive that "Christ crucified" is the power and wisdom of God.

~Jessie Penn-Lewis~

(continued with # 5)

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Cross of Calvary # 3

The Cross of Calvary # 3

The Effect of the Cross in Heaven (verse 12)

"He bare the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors."

In this brief sentence, we are given a glimpse into the  heavens to see the Victor from Calvary within the veil, "before the face of God" on behalf of all for whom He died.

"Numbered with the transgressors," He could make intercession for the transgressors, "touched with the feeling" of their sorrows, having been Himself tempted in all points like as they (yet without any sin), and "suffered being tempted" when He walked on earth as man.

Let us go to Calvary, and in the light thrown on it by the prophecy of Isaiah, behold Him, Who for the joy set before Him, endured the Cross despising the shame. The hour had come for which He had entered into this world. Hear the God-Man cry "It is finished" as He bows His head, and yields up His spirit into His Father's hand. We know now that He is the Father's provided Lamb, the guilt-offering for sin. The One Who with a visage more marred than any man's was wounded and bruised for our iniquities, so that by His stripes we may be healed.

Sometimes later, after the day of Pentecost had fully come, a man of authority was riding in his chariot in the desert, reading the prophecy of Isaiah. At the moment he reached the words - "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter", "His life is taken from the earth", a certain disciple named Philip drew nigh, and was hidden of the Holy Spirit to join himself unto the chariot. Sitting the eunuch, he preached unto him JESUS from the prophecy of Isaiah, the Spirit-given foreshadowing of the Cross, and now again the Spirit-given message to a seeking heart through a messenger taught of Him.

Thus did the Holy Spirit bear witness that Isaiah, had truly foreshown the Christ of God, and that "He saw His glory, and He spake of Him."

The Cross Interpreted By the Ascended Christ

"The gospel which was preached by me ... is not after man. For neither did I receive it from man; nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:11, 12).

We have already noticed the words of the Apostle Peter that the Spirit of Christ was in the old-time prophets, testifying beforehand to the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow.

This testimony revealed the Son of God, not only as  suffering the death of the Cross when His hour had come, but as being the Spirit of prophecy concerning Himself from the beginning of the world. By the Holy Spirit He inspires the preaching of His coming Cross in the centuries preceding His manifestation to the world. Since this was so before His passion, He would not have ascended into heaven after His death, and committed the interpretation and proclamation of His Cross entirely to the wisdom of men.

The apostles were eyewitnesses of His sufferings, but they were not left to preach what each may have thought to be the meaning of the Cross, for in the upper room on the day of Pentecost we find that the Third person of the blessed Trinity - the Spirit of Truth which proceeded from the Father - takes possession of the chosen band of witnesses to equip them for their work.

The Holy Spirit, the gift of the Father to the Son for His redeemed on earth, comes forth Himself to bear testimony to the crucified One, and, through His disciples, to witness to His death and rising again.

"Ye shall receive the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me," the Risen Lord had said, and now, energized by the Holy Spirit, we find the chosen witnesses bearing testimony to the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

"Ye ... did crucify and slay," but "God raised up". "God hath made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified." "Ye denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted unto you, and killed the Prince of Life; whom God raised from the dead." "Ye crucified, whom God raised."

This was the burden of the message born witness to by "distributions of the Holy Spirit", and by signs and wonders done through the name of the crucified and risen Son of God.

Stephen in particular, "full of grace and power, wrought great wonders and signs among the people", bearing witness before the Jewish council to the crucified Jesus, and crowning his testimony by laying down his life for the One who had died for him.

The fruit of the Cross was manifested in a signal way through the death of Stephen, for from his death sprang the one who was to proclaim in mighty powers the full meaning of the sacrifice of the Son of God.

In the death of Stephen, and the resulting conversion of Saul the Pharisee, we have an object lesson of the way in which the message of the Cross is the power of God; since it is the word of the Cross spoken by the Holy Spirit, in conjunction with the spirit of the Cross imparted to the messenger, that produces the fruit of the Cross in other souls.

It may even be said that Saul the Pharisee was an eyewitness of the sufferings of the Lord Jesus in His martyr Stephen, when he heard the dying Stephen pray, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge", just as the Lord had prayed on the Cross for those who crucified Him, saying, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

We may well believe that an arrow of conviction pierced the heart of Saul that day, and when he so suddenly met the Risen Lord on the way to Damascus, and heard his say, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me", "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks", Saul knew that he had seen the Spirit of Christ in the martyr Stephen,and the "chosen vessel" was won to the feet of the Lord.

~Jessie Penn-Lewis~

(continued with # 4)

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Cross of Calvary # 2

The Cross of Calvary # 2

Moreover Isaiah not only foretold the sufferings and death of the Christ, but the very way of His burial. His grave would be with the wicked, and He Who had been despised and rejected of men, would be with the "rich in His death."

This was literally fulfilled; and the instrument prepared of God to carry out His counsels was found in "Joseph of Arimathea, a counsellor of honorable estate", who was one "looking for the kingdom of God", and said to be a secret disciple of the Lord Jesus.

Joseph had sat in the council that condemned the Righteous One, but "he had not consented to their counsel and deed". He must have marveled with the Governor at the extraordinary silence of the Divine Sufferer, and in his heart reechoed the verdict of Pilate that there was no cause worthy of death found in Him.

Unable to save the victim from His accusers, Joseph did what he could as soon as the sentence of death had been carried out, by going boldly to Pilate, and asking for the body of the Lord, afterwards reverently laying it in his own new tomb.

The Provided Lamb of God (verse 10)

"It pleased the Lord to bruise Him..."
"He hath put Him to grief ..."
"His soul a guilt-offering for sin ..."

"God will provide Himself a lamb" Abraham had said to Isaac on Mount Moriah, and Isaiah foreshows the Lamb provided by God Himself, to be revealed in the fullness of time.

Despised and rejected of men, wounded, bruised, cut off out of the land of the living, this One with the marred face is now plainly described as "a guilt-offering for sin" - the anti-type of all the guilt-offerings sacrificed day by day in Israel, by the command of God Himself.

Hitherto the worshipers had to bring the sacrifice, but when God provided the Lamb, and laid upon Him the iniquity of all, there would be nought for them to do but accept the provision made for them.

The One Who had grown up before the Father as a "tender plant" is "put to grief" by the express will of Jehovah. It was His sovereign pleasure to "bruise Him".

In this passage we see Calvary from the standpoint of the Father, Who so loved the world that He spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all; just as in the preceding paragraph we have foretold the voluntary offering of the Son, when "He humbled Himself", and gave Himself up to death, as a "lamb led to the slaughter"; a sheep in the hands of the shearers, opening not His mouth.

The Fruit of the Cross (verses 10, 11)

"He shall see His seed ..."
"He shall prolong His days ..."
"He shall see of the travail of His soul".
"He shall ... be satisfied ..."

Another aspect of the Cross is referred to in these words.

Calvary is viewed now as in harmony with a law of God - the law of sacrifice for fruitfulness.

Bruised and put to grief, the Christ is said to "prolong His days" through the seed thus brought into being and "the pleasure of the Lord" in seeking fruit after His own image, prospers in His hand.

The yearning of the Creator for fellowship with beings created after His own likeness, is  one of the greatest mysteries in the revelation of the heart and character of Jehovah. "Let us make man in Our own image, after Our likeness," the triune God had said, when the beautiful earth, created by His word, lay before Him, but with no beings upon it answering to His heart.

"He shall see His seed." "He shall see and be satisfied with the travail of His soul" reveals the same yearning in the heart of the God-man. Grieved over the fall of the first creation, He gives His life on Calvary for the birth of a new race, a re-creation of those who had gone astray, and had turned each one to "his own way." By His death "making many righteous" through His bearing of their iniquities,He beholds the fruit of His travail, and is satisfied.

This new birth for the fallen children of the first Adam, is declared to be the fruit of His Cross by the Lord Jesus Himself, at the beginning of His public ministry on earth, when He told Nicodemus that sinful men "must" be born again; and that the Son of man "must" be "lifted up" to become the source of life eternal to them.

The Victory of the Cross (verse 12)

"Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great."
"He shall divide the spoil with the strong ..."

Yet another aspect of Calvary is shown us here. Another one called the "strong" is mentioned, and the language used suggests a battle, and the dividing of the "spoil" won in the fight. Elsewhere Isaiah speaks of the "prey of the terrible" and the deliverance of the "captive of the just" from the "mighty."

It is also said that the spoil is given to the Man of sorrows "because ... was numbered with the transgressors."

Calvary was thus to be not only the bearing of our iniquities that we might be healed; the guilt-offering for sin through which we would be made righteous; the travail for the birth of a new race in the likeness of the Son of God, but also a battle with a terrible foe for the deliverance of those held captive in his power.

This accords with other Scriptures, for David in vision beheld the ascended Lord leading "captivity captive" into the sanctuary on high, and the inspired writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, says that "through death" the Christ brought to nought the devil, that He might "deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."

It is written that He took the spoil from the strong because He was "numbered with the transgressors." In perfect obedience to His Father's will, He accepted and drank the cup of suffering and death! How can we fathom what it meant to Him "Who knew no sin", to be "numbered with the transgressors", and "made sin on our behalf?" This view of Calvary may reveal to us one cause of the victory of Christ over the terrible one. The devil had sought to be exalted even as the Most High, but the Son of God humbled Himself, and consented to be made lower than the lowest. Therefore God highly exalted Him, and gave unto Him the Name which is above every name; for Calvary in its depth of shame on earth, was exaltation in heaven.

~Jessie Penn-Lewis~

(continued with # 3)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Cross of Calvary # 1

The Cross of Calvary # 1

Calvary and the Foreshadowed Cross

"Behold the Lamb of God, which beareth the sin of the world" (John 1:29)

"And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him" (Luke 23:33).

The hour had come! The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world was now to be slain before the eyes of the world. "Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, were gathered together, to do "what had been "foreordained to come to pass."

By picture lessons and prophetic voices, for centuries before, God had been foretelling this dread hour; and He has been directing the world back to it for nearly two thousand years.

Calvary is the very pivot of the world's history. All prior things pointed forward to it; and all subsequent things point back to it. Even the future rests upon it, for the redeemed in heaven find it the center of heaven as they behold a Lamb in the midst of the throne, "standing as though it had been slain."

Seven hundred years before the Man Christ Jesus was led to the place called Calvary, a prophet inspired to God foreshadowed the Cross; and gave such a word-picture of the Saviour of the world, that none but blinded hearts could fail to recognize Him when He came to earth - God manifest in the flesh.

Through the prophet Isaiah the Spirit of God poured a flood of light upon Calvary; depicting the pathway to the Cross, its atoning sacrifice, its sufferings and its fruit; so that all who knew the Scripture of the prophets, were without excuse as they crucified the Lord of glory.

The prophecy of Isaiah makes it clear that Christ was "delivered up by the determinate counsel and fore-knowledge of God", for God "forshewed by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer", and when at Calvary", the rulers of Israel fulfilled the predictions of the prophets they read every sabbath day, condemning Him."

The Foreshadowed Lamb of God (Isaiah 53:1-4)

"He hath no form nor comeliness ..."
"No beauty that we should desire Him ..."
"He was despised and forsaken of men ..."
"A Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief..."
"As One from whom men hide their face ..."

"Who hath believed that which we have heard?" and to "whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?" cries the prophet, who was reporting that which he had heard from God. But the message, or report, was so beyond all human thought, so contrary to all human ideas, that he wonders to whom the revelation will be given. For it was revealed to the old time messengers of God that when they "testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow them", they were ministering to those who, in after years, should hear the message of the Cross; and the Apostle Peter writes that the Spirit of Christ Himself was in the prophets, testifying to the sufferings that would come to Him on earth.

Isaiah foresees the questionings which would fill the minds of men as they heard the marvelous story of that which was told him from God, seven hundred years before it came to pass. "Who hath believed?" and "to whom" is it revealed? he exclaims, as he describes the Christ growing up before the Father" as a tender plant; and as a root out of a dry ground". Very precious to God must have been the tender plant; the Branch that should "bear fruit". For the choice vine of Israel, the plant of His delight, had disappointed the heavenly Husbandman, and His cherished vineyard had become dry ground. But here was the shoot out of a stock in Israel that would bring forth the fruit the Father wanted, although to the eyes of men there would be "no form nor comeliness", no beauty to cause them to "desire Him."

He, Who was the precious tender plant to the Father, would be despised of men. He would be a "Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief", therefore they would reject and forsake Him, for suffering and sorrow are not attractive to men.

To Jehovah, His Righteous Servant would be "exalted and lifted up", even "very high", but to men He would be as One from Whom they would hide their faces with astonishment, for His face and His form would be marred" more than the sons of men."

How marred must have been the face of the Holy One of God from His crown of thorns! How lacerated the form of His sacred body from the scourging of the soldiers, for the scourges were made from hundreds of leathern thongs, each armed at the point with an angular bony hook, or a sharp sided cube.

"Look at yonder pillar, black with the blood of murderers and rebels ... Look at the rude and barbarous beings who busily surround their victim." See them "tear off His clothes, bind those hands - press His gracious visage firmly against the shameful pillar", binding Him, "with ropes in such a manner that He cannot move or stir". See! The scourging lasts a full quarter of an hour! The scourges cut ever deeper into the wounds already made, and penetrate almost to the marrow until "His whole back appears an enormous wound". A purple robe is then thrown over the form of the agonized Sufferer,and the twigs of a long-spiked thorn bush are twisted into a circle, and pressed upon His brow.

It was thus that His face was marred, and His form more than the sons of men. The prophet Isaiah had even foretold the words of the Man of sorrows, saying in His hour of agony, "I was not rebellious, neither turned away backward. I gave my back to the smiters, and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not My face from shame and spitting. For the Lord God will help Me ... therefore have I set My face like a flint".

Men hid their faces from Him, but "He hid as it were His face from us" is the marginal reading of the R. V. Did the group who had seen His face shine as the sun on the Mount of Transfiguration, remember the hidden glory in that marred frame? Nay, even they "esteemed Him not" and forsook Him in His hour of shame.

The Divine and human estimation of the Man of sorrows in His pathway to the Cross, are thus fully foreshadowed by the prophet, and the Holy Spirit as plainly foretells the substitutionary object of His death.

The Purpose of the Cross (verses 4-6)

"He hath borne Our griefs ..."
"He hath carried Our sorrows ..."
"He was wounded for Our transgressions ..."
"He was bruised for Our iniquities ..."
"The chastisement of Our peace was upon Him."

The Holy Spirit leaves no room for doubt as to the purpose, and the cause of the sufferings of Christ. The word substitution is not actually used, but the language is unmistakably clear. This One with the marred face was bearing the "griefs" and "sorrows" of others. His wounds were for their transgressions, and the bruises upon His body were for their iniquities.

"All we like sheep have gone astray;we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath made to light on Him the iniquity of us all".

Beholding, as it were, the One thus wounded and stricken - Isaiah knows not actually how - the prophet becomes a spokesman for the whole human race as he cries.

We behold His sufferings, we esteem Him "stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted". We, who have "gone astray!" We, who have turned "every one to his own way". But the Lord laid upon Him - the Holy Son of our God, our iniquity, the iniquity of us all.

Thus briefly we have portrayed for us the result of the Fall of man in Eden, and the cause and purpose the Cross.

Independence of God is the very essence of sin. To every man "his own way" ends in transgression and iniquity. The first ALL includes every human being brought into the world, and the second ALL proclaims the atoning sacrifice of Christ for every one under the curse of sin.

The Death of the Cross (verses 7-9)

Isaiah now depicts the obedience unto death of the suffering one. He sees Him as a sheep in the hands of the shearers, dumb and passive; as a lamb being led to the slaughter, innocent and powerless. He Who was equal with God, counted it not a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself,and came in the likeness of men. As man He humbled Himself yet more, even unto death,consenting to be "led to the slaughter" as a victim in the hands of men. How literally the prophecy was fulfilled in every detail the gospels unfold.

The Christ standing before Pilate "when He was accused" "answered nothing", so that even the Governor marveled. From "oppression and judgment He was taken away" outside the city wall to the place called Calvary, and "as for His generation" - the people of His own nation and time - "who among them considered" the tragedy that was being enacted in their midst?

"Cut off out of the land of the living" in the very prime of life, how few realized that it was for the transgression of His people "to whom the stroke was due".

How many in Jerusalem during that awful time "considered", and pondered over, the Scriptures of the prophets, which gave them the portrait of the Man they crucified?

But the Man of sorrows knew! He said every step of His path must needs be "as it is written of Him". As He set His face to go on His last journey to Jerusalem it was with the words "All the things that are written through the prophets shall be accomplished unto the Son of man. For He shall be delivered up", and they shall scourge and kill Him".

He said, "It is written", when Judas betrayed Him,and when His disciples forsook Him, and again, after He was risen from the dead, He reminded them that when He was yet with them, He had sought to prepare them for His Cross, by telling them that "all things that must needs be fulfilled" which were written in "the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the Psalms", concerning Him.

~Jessie Penn-Lewis~

(continued with # 2)

Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Gentle Heart

A Gentle Heart

~J. R. Miller~

"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart." Matthew 11:29

"By the meekness and gentleness of Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:1

"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . gentleness." Galatians 5:22

"Let your gentleness be evident to all." Philippians 4:5

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Ephesians 4:2

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Colossians 3:12

"We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children." 1 Thessalonians 2:7

"But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness." 1 Timothy 6:11

"The Lord's servant must be gentle towards all." 2 Timothy 2:24

"The unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." 1 Peter 3:4

Gentleness is a beautiful quality. It is essential to all true character. Nobody admires ungentleness in either man or woman. When a man is harsh, cold, unfeeling, unkind, and crude and rough in his manner—no one speaks of his fine disposition. When a woman is loud-voiced, dictatorial, petulant, given to speaking bitter words and doing unkindly things—no person is ever heard saying of her, "What a lovely disposition she has!" She may have many excellent qualities, and may do much good—but her ungentleness mars the beauty of her character.

No man is truly great, who is not gentle. "Your gentleness has made me great." Psalm 18:35. Courage and strength and truth and justness and righteousnessare essential elements in a manly character; but if all these be in a man and gentleness be lacking—the life is sadly flawed. We might put the word gentleness into Paul's wonderful sentences and read them thus: "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not gentleness, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not gentleness, I am nothing. And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but have not gentleness, it profits me nothing."

If any Christian, even the Christliest, would pray for a new adornment, an added grace of character—it may well be for gentleness. This is the crown of all loveliness, the Christliest of all Christly qualities.

The Bible gives us many a glimpse of gentleness as an attribute of God. We think of the Law of Moses as a great collection of dry statutes, referring to ceremonial observances, to forms of worship, and to matters of duty. This is one of the last places where we would look for anything tender. Yet he who goes carefully over the chapters which contain these laws, comes upon many a bit of gentleness—like a sweet flower on a cold mountain crag.

We think of Sinai as the seat of law's sternness. We hear the voice of thundering, and we see the flashing of lightning. Clouds and darkness and all dreadfulness surround the mountain. The people are kept far away because of the fearful holiness of the place. No one thinks of hearing anything gentle at Sinai. Yet scarcely even in the New Testament is there a more wonderful unveiling of the love of the divine heart than we find among the words spoken on that smoking mountain. "I am the Lord, I am the Lord, the merciful and gracious God. I am slow to anger and rich in unfailing love and faithfulness. I show this unfailing love to many thousands by forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion." Exodus 34:6-7
There is another revealing of divine gentleness in the story of Elijah at Horeb. A great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks—but the Lord was not in the wind. After the storm there was an earthquake, with its frightful accompaniments—but the Lord was not in the earthquake. Then a fire swept by—but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was heard a soft whisper breathing in the air—a still, small voice, a sound of gentle stillness. And that was God. God is gentle. With all His power, power that has made all the universe and holds all things in being, there is no mother in all the world so gentle as God is.

Gentleness being a divine quality is one which belongs to the true human character. We are taught to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect; if we would be like God—we must be gentle!

This world needs nothing more than it needs gentleness. All human hearts hunger for tenderness. We are made for love—not only to love, but to be loved. Harshness pains us. Ungentleness touches our sensitive spirits as frost touches the flowers. It stunts the growth of all lovely things.

We naturally crave gentleness. It is like a genial summer to our life. Beneath its warm, nourishing influence beautiful things in us grow.
Then there always are many people who have special need of tenderness. We cannot know what secret burdens many of those about us are carrying, what hidden griefs burn like fires in the hearts of those with whom we mingle in our common life. Not all grief wears the outward garb of mourning; sunny faces often times veil heavy hearts. Many people who make no audible appeal for sympathy yet crave tenderness—they certainly need it, though they ask it not—as they bow beneath their burden. There is no weakness in such a yearning. We remember how our Master himself longed for expressions of love when he was passing through his deepest experiences of suffering, and how bitterly he was disappointed when his friends failed him.

Many a life goes down in the fierce, hard struggle—for lack of the blessing of strength which human tenderness would have brought. Many a man owes his victoriousness in sorrow or in temptation—to the gentleness which came to him in some helpful form from a thoughtful friend. We know not who of those we meet any day, need the help which our gentleness could give. Life is not easy to most people. It duties are hard. Its burdens are heavy. Life's strain never relaxes. There is no truce in life's battle. This world is not friendly to noble living. There are countless antagonisms. Heaven can be reached by any of us, only by passing through serried lines of strong enmity. Human help is not always ready, when it would be welcomed. Too often men find indifference or opposition—where they ought to find love. Life's rivalries and competitions are sharp, and often times deadly.

We can never do amiss in showering gentleness. There is no day when it will be untimely; there is no place where it will not find welcome. It will harm no one—and it may save someone from despair. The touch of a child on a woman's hand, may save a life from self destruction.

It is interesting to think of the new era of love which Jesus opened. Of course there was gentleness in the world before he came. There was mother love. There was friendship, deep, true, and tender. There were marital lovers who were bound together with most sacred ties. There were hearts even among heathen people in which there was gentleness almost beautiful enough for heaven. There were holy places where affection ministered with angel tenderness.

Yet the world at large was full of cruelty. The rich oppressed the poor. The strong crushed the weak. Women were slaves and men were tyrants. There was no hand of love reached out to help the sick, the lame, the blind, the old, the deformed, the insane, nor any to care for the widow, the orphan, and the homeless.

Then Jesus came! And for thirty-three years he went about among men—doing kindly things. He had a gentle heart, and gentleness flowed out in his speech. He spoke words which throbbed with tenderness. There was never any uncertainty about the heart-beat in the words which fell from the lips of Jesus. They throbbed with sympathy and tenderness.

The people knew always, that Jesus was their friend. His life was full of rich helpfulness. No wrong or cruelty ever made him ungentle. He scattered kindness wherever he moved.

One day they nailed those gentle hands to a cross! After that the people missed him, for he came no more to their homes. It was a sore loss to the poor and the sad, and there must have been grief in many a household. But while the personal ministry of Jesus was ended by his death, the influence of his life went on. He had set the world a new example of love. He had taught lessons of patience and meekness which no other teacher had ever given. He had imparted new meaning to human affection. He had made love the law of his kingdom.

As one might drop a handful of spices into a pot of brackish water, and therewith sweeten the waters—so these teachings of Jesus fell into the world's unloving, unkindly life, and at once began to change it into gentleness. Wherever the gospel has gone these saying of the great Teacher have been carried, and have fallen into people's hearts, leaving there their blessings of gentleness.

The influence of the death of Jesus also has wonderfully helped in teaching the great lesson of gentleness. It was love that died upon the cross! A heart broke that day on Calvary. A great sorrow always, for the time at least, softens hearts. A funeral touches with at least a momentary tenderness, all who pass by—loud laughter is subdued even in the most careless. A noble sacrifice, as when a life is given in the effort to help or to save others, always makes other hearts a little truer, a little braver, and a little nobler in their impulses.

The influence of the death of Jesus on this world's life is immeasurable. The cross is like a great heart of love beating at the center of the world, sending its pulsings of tenderness into all lands. The life of Christ beats in the hearts of his followers, and all who love him have something of his gentleness. The love of Jesus, kindles love in every believing heart. That is the lesson set for all of us in the New Testament. We are taught that we should love as Jesus loved, that we should be kind as he was kind, that his meekness, patience, thoughtfulness, selflessness, should be reproduced in us.
There is need for the lesson of gentleness in homes. There love's sweetest flowers should bloom. There we should always carry our purest and best affections. No matter how heavy the burdens of the day have been, when we gather home at nightfall we should bring only cheer and gentleness. No one has any right to be ungentle in his own home. If he finds himself in such a mood he should go to his room—until it has vanished.

The mother's life is not easy, however happy she may be. Her hours are long, and her load of care is never laid down. When one day's tasks are finished, and she seeks her pillow for rest, she knows that her eyes will open in the morning on another day full as the one that is gone. With children about her continually, tugging at her dress, climbing up on her knee, bringing their little hurts, their quarrels, their broken toys, their complaints, their thousand questions to her—and then with all the cares and toils that are hers, and with all the interruptions and annoyances of the busy days—it is no wonder if sometimes the strain is almost more than she can endure in quiet patience.

Nevertheless, we should all try to learn the lesson of gentleness in our homes. It is the lesson that is needed to make the home-happiness a little like heaven! Home is meant to be a place to grow in. It is a school in which we should learn love in all its branches. It is not a place for selfishness or for self indulgence. It should never be a place where a man can work off his annoyances, after trying to keep polite and courteous to others, all the day. It is not a place for the opening of doors of heart and lips to let ugly tempers fly out at will. It is not a place where people can act as they feel, however unchristian their feelings may be, withdrawing the guards of self control, relaxing all restraints, and letting their worse tempers have sway.

Home is a school in which there are great life-lessons to be learned. It is a place of self-discipline. All friendship is disciple. We learn to give up our own way—or if we do not we never can become a true friend.

It is well that we get this truth clearly before us, that life with all its experiences is our opportunity for learning love. The lesson is set for us is, "Love one another. As I have loved you—so you must love one another." Our one thing to master this lesson, is love. We are not in this world to get rich, to gain power, to become learned in the arts and sciences, to build up a great business, or to do great things in any other way. We are not here to get along in our daily work, in our shops, or schools, or homes, or on our farms. We are not here to preach the gospel, to comfort sorrow, to visit the sick, and perform deeds of charity. All of these, or any of these, may be among our duties, and they may fill our hands; but in all our occupations the real business of life, that which we are always to strive to do, the work which must go on in all our experiences, if we grasp life's true meaning at all—is to learn to love, and to grow loving in disposition and character.

We may learn the finest arts—music, painting, sculpture, poetry; or may master the noblest sciences; or by means of reading, study, travel, and converse with refined people, may attain the best culture. But if in all this, we do not learn love, and become more gentle in spirit and act—we have missed the prize of living. If in the midst of all our duties, cares, trials, joys, sorrows—we are not day by day growing in sweetness, in gentleness, in patience, in meekness, in unselfishness, in thoughtfulness, and in all the branches of love, we are not learning the great lesson set for us by our Master, in this school of life.

We should be gentle above all—to those we love the best. There is an inner circle of affection to which each heart has a right, without robbing others. While we are to be gentle unto all men—never ungentle to any—there are those to whom we owe special tenderness. Those within our own home belong to this sacred inner circle.

We must make sure that our home piety is true and real, that it is of the spirit and life, and not merely in form. It must be love—love wrought out in thought, in word, in disposition, in act. It must show itself not only in patience, forbearance, and self control, and in sweetness under provocation; but also in all gentle thoughtfulness, and in little tender ways in all the family interactions.

No amount of good religious teaching will ever make up for the lack of affectionateness in parents toward children. A gentleman said the other day, "My mother was a good woman. She insisted on her boys going to church and Sunday-school, and taught us to pray. But I do not remember that she ever kissed me. She was a woman of lofty principles—but cold and reserved—lacking in tenderness."

It does not matter how much Bible reading, and prayer, and catechism-saying, and godly teaching, there may be in a home. If gentleness is lacking, that is lacking which most of all, the children need in the life of their home. A child must have love. Love is to its life, what sunshine is to plants and flowers. No young life can ever grow to its best—in a home without gentleness.

Yet there are parents who forget this, or fail to realize its importance. There are homes where the scepter is iron—where affection is repressed—where a child is never kissed after baby days have passed.

A woman of genius said that until she was eighteen she could not tell time by the clock. When she was twelve her father had tried to teach her how to tell time; but she had failed to understand him, and feared to let him know that she had not understood. Yet she said, that he had never in his life spoken to her a harshword. On the other hand, however, he had never spoken an endearing word to her; and his marble-like coldness had frozen her heart! After his death she wrote of him, "His heart was pure—but cold. I think there was no other like it on the earth."

I have a letter from a young girl of eighteen in another city—a stranger, of whose family I have no personal knowledge. The girl writes to me, not to complain, but to ask counsel as to her own duty. Hers is a home where love finds no adequate expression in affectionateness. Both her parents are professing Christians, but evidently they have trained themselves to repress whatever tenderness there may be in their nature. This young girl is hungry for home-love, and writes to ask if there is any way in which she can reach her parent's hearts to find the treasures of love which she believes are locked away there. "I know they love me," she writes. "They would give their lives for me. But my heart is breaking for expressions of that love." She is starving for loves' daily food!

It is to be feared that there are too many such homes—Christian homes, with prayer and godly teaching; and with pure, consistent living—but with no daily bread of lovingness for hungry hearts.

I plead for love's gentleness in homes. Nothing else will take its place. There may be fine furniture, rich carpets, costly pictures, a large library of excellent volumes, fine music, and all luxuries and adornments; and there may be religious forms—a family altar, good instruction, and consistent Christian living; but if gentleness is lacking in the family communion—the lack is one which leaves an irreparable hurt in the lives of the children.

There are many people who, when their loved ones die, wish they could send some words of love and tenderness to them, which they have never spoken while their loved ones were close beside them. In too many homes gentleness is not manifested while the family circle is unbroken; and the hearts ache for the privilege of showing kindness, perhaps for the opportunity of unsaying words and undoing acts which caused pain. We would better learn the lesson of gentleness in time, and then fill our home with love while we may. It will not be very long until our chance of showing love shall have been used up!

But home is not the only place where we should be gentle. If the inner circle of life's holy place have claim on us, for the best that our love can yield—the common walks and the wider circle also have claim for our love and gentleness. Our Master manifested himself to his own—as he did not to the world; but the world, even his cruelest enemies, never received anything of ungentleness from him. The heart's most sacred revealings are for the heart's chosen and trusted ones, as the secret of the Lord is with those who fear him; but we are to be gentle unto all men, as our Father sends his rain upon the just and upon the unjust. What we learn under home's roof, in the close fellowship of household life—we are to live out in our associations with others.

As Moses' face shone when he came down among the people, after being with God in the mount—so our faces should carry the warmth and glow of tenderness from love's inner shrine—out into all other places of ordinary social interaction. What we learn of love's lesson in our home—we should put into practice in our life in the world, in the midst of its strifes, rivalries, competitions, frictions, and manifold trials and testings.

We must never forget that true religion—in its practical outworking—is love. Some people think religion is mere orthodoxy of belief—that he who has a good creed is truly religious. We must remember that the Pharisees had a good creed, and were orthodox; yet we have our Lord's testimony that their religion did not please God. It lacked love. It was self-righteous, and unmerciful.

Others think that true religion consists in the punctilious observance of forms of worship. If they are always at church on Sundays and other church meetings, and if only they attend to all the ordinances, and follow all the rules—they are religious. Yet sometimes they are not easy people to live with. They are censorious, dictatorial, judges of others, exacting, severe in manner, harsh in speech. Let no one imagine that any degree of devotion to the church, and diligence in observing ordinances, will ever pass with God for true religion—if one has not love, is not loving and gentle.

The practical outworking of true religion—is love. A good creed is well; but doctrines which do not become a life of gentleness in character and disposition, in speech and in conduct, are not fruitful doctrines. Church attendance religious duties are right and good; but they are only means to an end—and the end is lovingness. The religious observances which do not work for us kinder thoughts, diviner affections, and a sweeter life—are not profiting us. The final object of all Christian life and worship—is to make us more like Christ—and Christ is love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, "You shall love." "The one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments are all summed up by this: Love your neighbor as yourself." Romans 13:8-9

Those who live the gentle life of patient, thoughtful, selfless love—make a melody whose strains are enrapturing.

Someone asks almost in disheartenment. "How can we learn this lesson of gentleness?" Many of us seem never to master it. We go on through life, enjoying the means of grace, and striving more or less earnestly to grow better. Yet our progress appears to be very slow. We desire to learn love's lesson—but it comes out very slowly in our life.

We must note, first of all, that the lesson has to be learned. It does not come naturally, at least to most people. We find it hard to be gentle always, and to all kinds of people. Perhaps we can be gentle on sunny days; but when the harsh north wind blows—we grow fretful, and lose our sweetness. Or we can be gentle without much effort to some gentle-spirited people, while perhaps we are almost unbearably ungentle to others. We are gracious and sweet to those who are gracious to us; but when people are rude to us, when they treat us unkindly, when they seem unworthy of our love—it is not so easy to be gentle to them. Yet that is the lesson which is everywhere taught in the Scriptures, and which the Master has set for us.

It is a comfort to us to know that the lesson has to be learned—and does not come as a gift from God, without any effort. We must learn to be gentle, just as artists learn to paint lovely pictures. They spend years and years under masters, and in patient, toilsome effort—before they can paint pictures which at all realize the lovely visions of their soul. It is a still more difficult are to learn to reproduce visions of love in human life—to be always patient, gentle, kind. It gives us encouragement, as we are striving to get our lesson, to read the words in which Paul says that he had learned to be content whatever his condition was. It adds, too, to the measure of our encouragement to see from the chronology of the letter in which we find this bit of autobiography, that the apostle was well on toward the close of his life—when he wrote so triumphantly of this attainment. We may infer that it was not easy for him to learn the lesson of contentment, and that he was quite an old man before he had mastered it!

It is probably as hard to learn to be always gentle—as it is to learn to be always contented. It will take time, and careful, unwearying application. We must set ourselves resolutely to the task; for the lesson is one that we must not fail to learn, unless we would fail in growing into Christliness. It is not a matter of small importance. It is not something merely that is desirable, but not essential. Gentleness is not a mere ornament of life, which one may have, or may not have—as one may, or may not, wear jewelry. It is not a mere frill of character, which adds to its beauty, but is not part of it. Gentleness is essential in every true Christian life! It is part of its very warp and woof. Not to be gentle—is not to be like Jesus.

Therefore the lesson must be learned. The golden threads must be woven into the texture. Nothing less than the gentleness of Christ himself, must be accepted as the pattern after which we are to fashion our life and character. Then, every day some progress must be made toward the attainment of this lovely ideal. "See that no day passes, in which you do not make yourself a somewhat better Christian." The motto of an old artist was, "No day without a line." If we set before us the perfect standard—the gentleness of our Master—and then every day make some slight advance, though it be but a line, toward the reproducing of this gentleness in our own life, we shall at last wear the ornament of a gentle spirit, which is so precious in God's sight.

We must never rest satisfied with any partial attainment. Just so far as we are still ungentle, rude to anyone, even to a beggar, sharp in speech, haughty in bearing, unkind in any way to a human being—the lesson of gentleness is yet imperfectly learned, and we must continue our diligence. We must get control of our temper, and must master all our moods and feelings. We must train ourselves to check any faintest risings of irritation, turning it instantly into an impulse of tenderness. We must school ourselves to be thoughtful, patient, charitable, and to desire always to do good. The way to acquire any grace of character—is to compel thought, word, and act in the one channel—until the lovely quality has become a permanent part of our life.

There is something else. We never can learn the lesson ourselves alone. To have gentleness in one's life—one must have a gentle heart. Mere human gentleness is not enough. We need more than training and self-discipline. Our heart must be made new—before it will yield the life of perfect lovingness. It is full of selfand pride and hatred and envy and all undivine qualities. The gentleness which the New Testament holds up to us as the standard of Christian living—is too high for any mere attainment. We need that God shall work in us, to help us to produce the loveliness which is in the pattern—Christ. And this divine co-working is promised. "The fruit of the Spirit is gentleness." The Holy Spirit will help us to learn the lesson, working in our heart and life the sweetness of love, the gentleness of disposition, and the graciousness of manner, which will please God.

There is a legend of a great artist. One day he had labored long on his picture, but was discouraged, for he could not produce on his canvas the beauty of his soul's vision. He was weary too; and sinking down on a stool by his easel, he fell asleep. While he slept an angel came; and, taking the brushes which had dropped from the tired hands, he finished the picture in marvelous way.Just so, when we toil and strive in the name of Christ to learn our lesson of gentleness, and yet grow disheartened and wary because we learn it so slowly—Christ himself comes, and puts on our canvas the touches of beauty which our own unskilled hands cannot produce! "Your gentleness has made me great." Psalm 18:35

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Letter Killeth

The Letter Killeth

"During the affliction I was brought to examine my life in relation to eternity closer than I had done when in the enjoyment of health. In this examination relative to the discharge of my duties toward my fellow creatures as a man, a Christian minister, and an officer of the Church. I stood approved by my own conscience; but in relation to my Redeemer and Saviour the result was different. My returns of gratitude and loving obedience bear no proportion to my obligations for redeeming, preserving, and supporting me through the vicissitudes of life from infancy to old age. The coldness of my love to Him who first loved me and has done so much for me overwhelmed and confused me; and to complete my unworthy character, I had not only neglected to improve the grace given to the extent of my duty and privilege, but for want of improvement had, while abounding in perplexing care and labor, declined from first zeal and love. I was confounded, humbled myself, implored mercy, and renewed my covenant to strive and devote myself unreservedly to the Lord. Bishop McKendree.

The preaching that kills may be, and often is, orthodox - dogmatically, inviolably orthodox. We love orthodoxy. It is good. It is the best. It is the clean-cut teaching of God's Word, the trophies won by truth in its conflict with error, the levees which faith has raised against the desolating floods of honest or reckless misbelief or unbelief; but orthodoxy, clear and hard as crystal, suspicious and militant, may be but the letter well-shaped, well-named, and well-learned, the letter which kills. Nothing is so dead as a dead orthodoxy, too dead to speculate, too dead to think, to study, or to pray.

The preaching that kills may have insight and grasp of principles, may be scholarly and  critical in taste, may have every minutia of the derivation and grammar of the letter, may be able to trim the letter into its perfect pattern, and illume it as Plato and Cicero may be illumined, may study it as a lawyer studies his textbooks to form his brief or to defend his case,and yet be like a frost, a killing frost. Letter-preaching may be eloquent, enameled with poetry and therefore, sprinkled with prayer spiced with sensation, illumined by genius and yet these be but the massive or chaste, costly mountings, the rare and beautiful flowers which coffin the corpse. The preaching which kills may be without scholarship, unmarked by any freshness of thought or feeling, clothed in tasteless generalities or vapid specialties, with style irregular, slovenly,savoring neither of closet nor of study, graced neither by thought, expression, or prayer. Under such preaching how wide and utter the desolation! how profound the spiritual death!

This letter preaching deals with the surface and shadow of things, and not the things themselves. It does not penetrate the inner part. It has no deep insight into, no strong grasp of, the hidden life of God's Word. It is true to the outside, but the outside is the hull which must be broken and penetrated for the kernel. The letter may be dressed so as to attract  and be fashionable, but the attraction is not toward God nor is the fashion for heaven. The failure is in the preacher. God has not made him. He has never been in the hands of God like clay in the hands of the potter. He has been busy about the sermon, its thought and finish, its drawing and impressive forces; but the deep things of God have never been sought, studied, fathomed, experienced by him. He has never stood before "the throne high and lifted up," never heard the seraphim song, never seen the vision nor felt the rush of that awful holiness, and cried out in utter abandon and despair under the sense of weakness and guilt, and had his life renewed, his heart touched, purged, inflamed by the live coal from God's altar. His ministry may draw people to him, to the church, to the form and ceremony; but no true drawings to God, no sweet, holy, divine communion induced. The Church has been frescoed but not edified, pleased but not sanctified. Life is suppressed; a chill is on the summer air; the soil is baked. The city of our God becomes the city of the dead; the Church a graveyard, not an embattled army. Praise and prayer are stifled; worship is dead. The preacher and the preaching have helped sin, not holiness; peopled hell, not heaven.

Preaching which kills is prayerless preaching. Without prayer the preacher creates death, and not life. The preacher who is feeble in prayer is feeble in life-giving forces. The preacher who has retired prayer as a conspicuous and largely  prevailing element in his own character has shorn is preaching of its distinctive life-giving power. Professional praying there is and will be, but professional praying helps the preaching to its deadly work. Professional praying chills and kills both preaching and praying. Much of the lax devotion and lazy, irreverent attitudes  in congregational praying are attributable to professional praying in the pulpit. Long, discursive, dry, and inane are the prayers in many pulpits. Without unction or heart, they fall like a killing frost on all the graces of worship. Death-dealing prayers they are. Every vestige of devotion has perished under their breath. The deader they are the longer they grow. A plea for short praying, live praying, real heart praying, praying by the Holy Spirit - direct, specific, ardent, simple, unctuous in the pulpit - is in order. A school to teach preachers how to pray, as God counts praying, would be more beneficial to true piety, true worship, and true preaching than all theological schools.

Stop! Pause! Consider! Where are we? What are we doing?Preaching to kill? Praying to kill? Praying to God! the great God, the Maker of all worlds, the Judge of all men! What reverence! what simplicity! what sincerity! what truth in the inward parts is demanded! How real we must be! How hearty! Prayer to God the noblest exercise, the loftiest effort of man, the most real thing! Shall we not discard forever accursed preaching that kills and prayer that kills, and do the real thing, the mightiest thing - prayerful praying, life-creating preaching, bring the mightiest force to bear on heaven and earth and draw on God's exhaustless and open treasure for the need and the estate of man's extreme poverty?

~E. M. Bounds~

(The End)

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Crucified With Christ

Crucified With Christ

"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" (Galatians 2:20).

"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. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing nor uncircumcision, but a new creature" (Galatians 6:14, 15).

These last words the Apostle Paul sums up his important letter to the churches of Galatia, and he emphasizes the great sum and substance, the essence and marrow of the Gospel of Christ, and of true Christianity. This is utterly and entirely opposed to the world and to the world's religion. The world is that which is opposed to the Father (1 John 2:16). The world has always been willing to support religion, and even Christianity, provided it has been allowed to alter it, and adapt it, (like watering it down), and put its own marks upon it. And in all ages Christians have been willing to comply with this condition, and have allowed its sacred deposits to be tampered with.

To such Paul says, "As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the Cross of Christ" (Galatians 6:12). It was the fear of the world that constrained Christians to submit to circumcision. They allowed themselves to be made bad Jews lest they should be persecuted for being good Christians. "Marvel not," said Christ, "if the world hate you"; but His followers grew weary of being despised and hated, and so they listened to the world's overtures of peace, and accepted the world's terms to gain for themselves the world's security and laxury. But the world has ever broken its promise, and will yet break it more and more! "The friendship of the world is enmity with God." We cannot purchase peace with the world without losing peace with God. Its last work will be to strip and destroy that church, which has purchased peace at the cost of disobedience to the Lord and by compliance with the requirements of man!

Paul's counsel here is, that mere religion without Christ is nothing, is useless, is worthless. Circumcision is useless without Christ, and uncircumcision is useless without Christ, i.e., the old nature in any shape is nothing. Man's thought ever is that it is something, that something can be made of it. Hence no effort has been spared. In one age restraint has been tried, in another, liberty. In one age discipline cuts it down, in another, indulgence lets it grow. One school advises, and tries monasticism, another believes in the development of man, but no modification of the natural man will suffice; it must be a "new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

We Must Be Made New

Man must be made over again, made new. This is the great point on which the Apostle lays such stress here. He says, "From henceforth let no man trouble!me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus" (Galatians 6:17). There is a double reference in his words, when translated more closely, "Administer not to me your cuts." I need them not, I am crucified with Christ. It is not marks nor brands made by man upon the flesh that we want, but it is the brands of the Lord Jesus. He was crucified for us, "wounded for our iniquities," and those who are crucified with Christ have His marks on them, and to such can be said, "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit (verse 18). This is the cry from Heaven to all who are crucified with Christ, this "grace" in them and with them is the "mark" and "brand" which the world will never countenance and approve.

The world threatens with loss all who are thus marked as the Lord's. But what says He to such? "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you." "God shall supply all your need." We need not fear about not pleasing the world; Christ takes all excuses away."Take no thought, saying, 'What shall we eat? or 'what shall we drink' or 'wherewithal shall we be clothed?' Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself" (Matthew 6:31, 34). This is godliness, and godliness has the promise of this life as well as of that which is to come.

Thus we see that the Apostle's argument is based on the declaration of our Lord. We see that the only thing we can really glory in is the Cross of Christ, by which we are crucified to the world, because we are crucified with Christ, and this may mean perils and hardships. But there is a very important point connected with this matter -and it is, that it is a very personal and individual concern. The Apostle says, "I and Me." "I am crucified with Christ - He gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). This is the glory of the Gospel. The world talks about "man," and would deify "man"; but God, while he has condemned "man," saves "men." Men lose themselves in masses, and attempt to hide themselves in the multitude; but so soon as God speaks He separates one from the other, and deals with individual souls.

The Gospel does not deal with the masses as such; it takes out from the masses "a people for His name." The Cross stands out in relation to all who are crucified with Christ. It is not that you have been born in a land where the Cross is honored; it is not I that you have relations with a church that holds forth the Cross; it is not that you wear a cross, but that you are in living vital union with the crucified, so that you may say, "I have been crucified with Christ." Oh, what a wonderful expression! What a mysterious truth, when a lost sinner comes into the vital experience of it!  Then for him these 1,800 years are blotted out, and he counts himself as being on Calvary in Christ. So real is this great truth that the very crucifixion scene becomes part of our experience. In God's sight, in the Divine view, the saved sinner is identified with Christ. Everything he gets from God is in Christ. He is "chosen in Christ," accepted in Christ, redeemed in Christ, and represented by Christ. Not only is this great fact and truth for every saved sinner, but in measure and in part the very experiences of Christ are ours. There is a sense in which they become true in our experience.

Take first, His rejection. He was "rejected of men," not rejected of the Father! No. We must make the distinction which the Scripture of truth makes. Not as is commonly said that the Father hid His face from the Son, but it was God against "man." "Awake, O sword, against ...the man that is My fellow" (Zechariah 13:7) - "against the man," not against "My Son." "The Son of Man" was "rejected of men," and the penitent soul, the sin-convicted sinner, has this experience. The first thought of such as one is, "I am accursed before God." Never before has the sinner known the terrible weight of Divine rejection till the Holy Law of the Holy God is written by the Holy Spirit on the fleshy tables of his heart. He that has been crucified with Christ enters into the real positions and in measure and in part into the experience of the darkness which overspread the heavens when Christ as "man" hung upon the Cross, being made a curse for us. The death due by the law is realized by such a one; conscience is now for the first time awakened; sin now for the first time is seen as that which separates from God; and the sinner loathes himself, as he thus enters into the first experience of what it is to be crucified with Christ.


But, secondly, there is, thank God, another experience. There is another view of the Cross of Christ, a Divine view, that of "acceptance." If at His baptism and transfiguration the testimony of heaven was, "My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," surely it was so here when that Beloved One was accepted; for the holiness of God was then vindicated, the law of God was then honored, the majesty of God was then magnified, and the same words are pronounced over every sinner who can say, "I have been crucified with Christ." The Father in heaven declares of Him and of every such a one, "My beloved son, in whom I am well pleased," and this, just because he is "accepted in the Beloved." Oh what a mighty reality there is in this great truth! How great the merits of this Saviour who has thus stood in the sinner's place, that the sinner might stand in His! No wonder that of all such the Holy Spirit has written, "There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." What a perfect satisfaction do we present! Who can measure the glorious answer to the law, the vindication of God's holiness, which the man (who a little while ago was a poor forlorn outcast sinner) brings before God, as soon as by grace he is enabled to say, "I have been crucified with Christ." Ah, this is light that will dissipate our darkness: all our bondage and fear would be instantly gone if we could only realize what it means to be "crucified with Christ."

His Words Become Ours

But more than this is contained in the truth: not only Christ's acts and position are ours, but "His Words" and utterances become in part ours. We know what it is to cry, "My God, my God, why has Thou forsaken me?" It is our cry of felt helplessness; it says, if God should cast us out for ever, "just and true is He." No reason can we find in ourselves, no ground for our acceptance can we find in our past living or present feelings. If saved at all, it must be by grace, and grace alone; and it shows that even this cry is the result of life which has been given; for though we cry, we say "My God." This is the beginning of the end, all else is assured when we can say "my God." But the full measure of our absolute unworthiness is never experienced by us until this life and light has been imparted. It was when God said, "Let there be light," that ruin and desolation was seen at its worst, and so it is with the sinner. Talk not about repentance or contrition as a preparation for coming to Christ, for if we "have been crucified with Christ," we will surely experience the horror of this great darkness, but it will be coupled with hope. "My God." Then another cry, "It is finished." What a blessed confession is this for Christ and for us! He who is crucified with Christ may take it upon his lips, and claim it as his own. His salvation is finished, the work is complete and perfect, nothing can be put to it nothing can be taken from it. Of course, if we mean to be saved by our own merits it will never be finished, and if we hesitate to say this, it is a proof that we are trusting to our own merits. If we are seeking to be saved by anything we can produce, our rest will always be unrest. But if saved by Christ, in Christ, with Christ, "for Christ's sake," then it is presumption if we do not admit to their fullest extent such statements as these, "He that believeth hath everlasting life," "is passed from death unto life," "shall not come into condemnation." It is not presumption to claim these words, but it is presumption, and unbelief too, if we hesitate as saved sinners to confess them. Come, all ye that are going about to establish your own righteousness, all ye that are seeking some other way to the glory of God, listen to this joyful sound of a finished salvation for all who have been crucified with Christ.

The World and the Crucified

We cannot follow all the other thoughts which gather around "Christ Crucified," but there are two other facts that we must not omit. The Apostle says, "By whom the world is crucified to me, and I unto the world" (Galatians 6:14).

1. What is the relation of the world to the crucified? Ah, it wore a very solemn aspect as the Crucified looked upon it, and he who is crucified with Christ sees it in the same way (in part and in measure). This is more than a figure. What did Paul mean when he said, "If ye be dead with Christ" - and "Ye are dead"? Not that we are actually dead, but "judicially" dead in God's sight, and therefore we are so to "reckon" ourselves. "If ye be dead with Christ," says the Apostle. "If ye then be risen with Christ, set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth, for ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 2:20; 3:1-3). What does this language imply? We are to be blind and deaf and indifferent to the world, as was Christ upon the Cross. We are "in" the world, indeed, but rejected by it, not "of" it. All the hum and distracting noises fell upon unheeding ears,as they rose from Jerusalem and were wafted by the winds towards Calvary! If we are crucified with Christ we shall know something of this experience; only remember always that it is the "effect" and not the "cause" of being thus crucified. We cannot crucify our selves, we cannot make ourselves dead. How did the Lord Jesus pray? "I pray not that Thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldst keep them from the evil" (John 17:15). "Let me see life,"says the man of the world, and he plunges into sin. "Let me see life,"says the saved sinner, and he separates himself from sin. He only "lives" who is crucified and risen with Christ.

Joy and the Crucified

2. Those who are crucified with Christ know something of His sustaining joy. We are not left to imagine what this was, but we know that "For the joy that was set before Him He endured the Cross, despising the shame" (Hebrews 12:2). Great were His sufferings, but greater still His joy. So it will be with us. This alone will support those who have been crucified with Christ. We shall never know the measure of His sorrow, but we shall know something of His joy. For a joy is set before us, and it will enable us to despise the shame and endure the suffering, and confess that "The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18). "Our light affliction which is but for a moment worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17). Only those who have been crucified with Christ can truly say, "I live" (Galatians 2:20), and I have the blessed hope of everlasting life. Can we say this? If we cannot, "What is our life?" Your life which you are living for yourselves? Let us not call this "life." Let us not call our sinful pleasures joy. For what is our experience? Is it not a consciousness of a disappointed present, and a future without hope? Is it not a heart unsatisfied with earthly objects? Is it not a will at cross purposes with God's will? Do we call this "life"? Nay, call it what it is, "death." Not dead with Christ, not dead to sin, but dead in "sins."

May this testimony for the Crucified One quicken us together with Christ, that we may be able to say, "I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now life in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loveth me, and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).

~E. W. Bullinger~

(The End)