Psalm 86 - 89
Great Is Your Steadfast Love
A PRAYER OF DAVID.
Psalm 86:1 Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
2 Preserve my life, for I am godly;
save your servant, who trusts in you — you are my God.
3 Be gracious to me, O Lord,
for to you do I cry all the day.
4 Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
6 Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer;
listen to my plea for grace.
7 In the day of my trouble I call upon you,
for you answer me.
8 There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
nor are there any works like yours.
9 All the nations you have made shall come
and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
10 For you are great and do wondrous things;
you alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, O LORD,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
14 O God, insolent men have risen up against me;
a band of ruthless men seeks my life,
and they do not set you before them.
15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me;
give your strength to your servant,
and save the son of your maidservant.
17 Show me a sign of your favor,
that those who hate me may see and be put to shame
because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.
Glorious Things of You Are Spoken
A PSALM OF THE SONS OF KORAH. A SONG.
Psalm 87:1 On the holy mount stands the city he founded;
2 the LORD loves the gates of Zion
more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.
3 Glorious things of you are spoken,
O city of God. Selah
4 Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon;
behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush—
“This one was born there,” they say.
5 And of Zion it shall be said,
“This one and that one were born in her”;
for the Most High himself will establish her.
6 The LORD records as he registers the peoples,
“This one was born there.” Selah
7 Singers and dancers alike say,
“All my springs are in you.”
I Cry Out Day and Night Before You
A SONG. A PSALM OF THE SONS OF KORAH. TO THE CHOIRMASTER: ACCORDING TO MAHALATH LEANNOTH.
A MASKIL OF HEMAN THE EZRAHITE.
Psalm 88:1 O LORD, God of my salvation,
I cry out day and night before you.
2 Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry!
3 For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am a man who has no strength,
5 like one set loose among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
6 You have put me in the depths of the pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah
8 You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
9 my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon you, O LORD;
I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah
11 Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12 Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
13 But I, O LORD, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 O LORD, why do you cast my soul away?
Why do you hide your face from me?
15 Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
your dreadful assaults destroy me.
17 They surround me like a flood all day long;
they close in on me together.
18 You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
my companions have become darkness.
I Will Sing of the Steadfast Love of the LORD
A MASKIL OF ETHAN THE EZRAHITE.
Psalm 89:1 I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever;
with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.
2 For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever;
in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.”
3 You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn to David my servant:
4 ‘I will establish your offspring forever,
and build your throne for all generations.’ ” Selah
5 Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD,
your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones!
6 For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD?
Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD,
7 a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones,
and awesome above all who are around him?
8 O LORD God of hosts,
who is mighty as you are, O LORD,
with your faithfulness all around you?
9 You rule the raging of the sea;
when its waves rise, you still them.
10 You crushed Rahab like a carcass;
you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.
11 The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours;
the world and all that is in it, you have founded them.
12 The north and the south, you have created them;
Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name.
13 You have a mighty arm;
strong is your hand, high your right hand.
14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.
15 Blessed are the people who know the festal shout,
who walk, O LORD, in the light of your face,
16 who exult in your name all the day
and in your righteousness are exalted.
17 For you are the glory of their strength;
by your favor our horn is exalted.
18 For our shield belongs to the LORD,
our king to the Holy One of Israel.
19 Of old you spoke in a vision to your godly one, and said:
“I have granted help to one who is mighty;
I have exalted one chosen from the people.
20 I have found David, my servant;
with my holy oil I have anointed him,
21 so that my hand shall be established with him;
my arm also shall strengthen him.
22 The enemy shall not outwit him;
the wicked shall not humble him.
23 I will crush his foes before him
and strike down those who hate him.
24 My faithfulness and my steadfast love shall be with him,
and in my name shall his horn be exalted.
25 I will set his hand on the sea
and his right hand on the rivers.
26 He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father,
my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’
27 And I will make him the firstborn,
the highest of the kings of the earth.
28 My steadfast love I will keep for him forever,
and my covenant will stand firm for him.
29 I will establish his offspring forever
and his throne as the days of the heavens.
30 If his children forsake my law
and do not walk according to my rules,
31 if they violate my statutes
and do not keep my commandments,
32 then I will punish their transgression with the rod
and their iniquity with stripes,
33 but I will not remove from him my steadfast love
or be false to my faithfulness.
To be sure, ‘self-satisfaction’ in fallen human beings is a particularly unpleasant phenomenon, whether it refers to the satisfying of our instincts and passions or to our complacency. Since we are tainted and twisted with selfishness, to say ‘I must satisfy myself’ lacks self-control, while to say ‘I am satisfied with myself’ lacks humility. But there is no lack of self-control or humility in God, since he is perfect in all his thoughts and desires. To say that he must ‘satisfy himself’ means that he must be himself and act according to the perfection of his nature or ‘name’. The necessity of ‘satisfaction’ for God, therefore, is not found in anything outside himself but within himself, in his own immutable character. It is an inherent or intrinsic necessity. The law to which he must conform, which he must satisfy, is the law of his own being. Negatively, he ‘cannot disown himself’ (2 Tim. 2:13); he cannot contradict himself; he ‘never lies’ (Titus 1:2, RSV: apseudēs, ‘free from all deceit’), for the simple reason that ‘it is impossible for God to lie’ (Heb. 6:18); he is never arbitrary, unpredictable or capricious; he says ‘I will not...be false to my faithfulness’ (Ps. 89:33, RSV). Positively, he is ‘a faithful God who does no wrong’ (Deut. 32:4). That is, he is true to himself; he is always invariably himself. ( The Cross of Christ )
34 I will not violate my covenant
or alter the word that went forth from my lips.
35 Once for all I have sworn by my holiness;
I will not lie to David.
36 His offspring shall endure forever,
his throne as long as the sun before me.
37 Like the moon it shall be established forever,
a faithful witness in the skies.” Selah
38 But now you have cast off and rejected;
you are full of wrath against your anointed.
39 You have renounced the covenant with your servant;
you have defiled his crown in the dust.
40 You have breached all his walls;
you have laid his strongholds in ruins.
41 All who pass by plunder him;
he has become the scorn of his neighbors.
42 You have exalted the right hand of his foes;
you have made all his enemies rejoice.
43 You have also turned back the edge of his sword,
and you have not made him stand in battle.
44 You have made his splendor to cease
and cast his throne to the ground.
45 You have cut short the days of his youth;
you have covered him with shame. Selah
46 How long, O LORD? Will you hide yourself forever?
How long will your wrath burn like fire?
47 Remember how short my time is!
For what vanity you have created all the children of man!
48 What man can live and never see death?
Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah
49 Lord, where is your steadfast love of old,
which by your faithfulness you swore to David?
50 Remember, O Lord, how your servants are mocked,
and how I bear in my heart the insults of all the many nations,
51 with which your enemies mock, O LORD,
with which they mock the footsteps of your anointed.
52 Blessed be the LORD forever! Amen and Amen.
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
Having Begun In The Spirit
By Andrew Murray (1828 - 1917)
The words from which I wish to address you, you will find in the epistle to the Galatians, the third chapter, the second and third verses: "This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Are ye so foolish?" And then comes my text-"Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?"
When we speak of the quickening or the deepening or the strengthening of the spiritual life, we are thinking of something that is feeble and wrong and sinful. It is a great thing to take our place before God with the confession: "Oh, God, our spiritual life is not what it should be!" May God work that in your heart, reader.
As we look around at the Church, we see so many indications of feebleness, failure, sin, and shortcoming. They compel us to ask: Why is it? Is there any necessity for the Church of Christ to be living in such a low state? Or is it actually possible that God's people should be living always in the joy and strength of their God?
Every believing heart must answer: It is possible.
Then comes the great question: Why is it, how is it to be accounted for, that God's Church as a whole is so feeble, and that the great majority of Christians are not living up to their privileges? There must be a reason for it. Has God not given Christ His Almighty Son to be the Keeper of every believer, to make Christ an ever-present reality, and to impart and communicate to us all that we have in Christ? God has given His Son, and God has given His Spirit. How is it that believers do not live up to their privileges?
In more than one of the epistles, we find a very solemn answer to that question. There are epistles, such as the first to the Thessalonians, where Paul writes to the Christians, in effect: "I want you to grow, to abound, to increase more and more." They were young, and there were things lacking in their faith. But their state was so far satisfactory, gave him such great joy, that he writes time after time: "I pray God that you may abound more and more; I write to you to increase more and more" (I Thessalonians 4: 1,10). But there are other epistles where he takes a very different tone, especially the epistle to the Corinthians and to the Galatians, and he tells them in many different ways what the one reason was that they were .not living as Christians ought to live. Many were under the power of the flesh. My text is one example. He reminds them that by the preaching of faith they had received the Holy Spirit. He had preached Christ to them; they had accepted that Christ and had received the Holy Spirit in power.
But what happened? Having begun in the Spirit, they tried to perfect the work that the Spirit had begun in the flesh by their own effort. We find the same teaching in the epistle to the Corinthians.
Now, we have here a solemn discovery of what the great need is in the Church of Christ. God has called the Church of Christ to live in the power of the Holy Spirit. But the Church is living, .for the most part, in the power of human flesh, and of will and energy and effort apart from the Spirit of God. I do not doubt that this is the case with many individual believers. And oh, if God will use me to give you a message from Him, my one message will be this: "If the Church will return to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is her strength and her help, and if the Church will return to give up everything, and wait on God to be filled with the Spirit, her days of beauty and gladness will return. We will see the glory of God revealed among us." This is my message to every individual believer: "Nothing will help you unless you come to understand that you must live every day under the power of the Holy Spirit." God wants you to be a living vessel in whom the power of the Spirit is to be manifested every hour and every moment of your life. God will enable you to be that.
Now, let us try to learn what this word to the Galatians teaches us-some very simple thoughts. It shows us how (1) the beginning of the Christian life is receiving the Holy Spirit. It shows us (2) what great danger there is of forgetting that we are to live know what it is, since that time, to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us try to take hold of this great truth: The beginning of the true Christian life is to receive the Holy Spirit. And the work of every Christian minister is that which was the work of Paul-to remind his people that they received the Holy Spirit, and must live according to His guidance and in His power.
If those Galatians who received the Holy Spirit in power were tempted to go astray by that terrible danger of perfecting in the flesh what had been begun in the Spirit, how much more danger do those Christians run who hardly ever know that they have received the Holy Spirit. How much more danger is there for those who, if they know it as a matter of belief, hardly ever think of the gift of the Holy Spirit, and hardly ever praise God for it!
NEGLECTING THE HOLY SPIRIT
But now look, in the second place, at the great danger.
You may all know what shunting is on a railway. A locomotive with its train may be traveling in a certain direction, and the points at some place may not be properly opened or closed, and unobservingly it is shunted off to the right or to the left. And if that takes place, for instance, on a dark night, the train goes in the wrong direction, and the people might never know it until they have gone some distance.
And just so, God gives Christians the Holy Spirit with this intention-that every day, all their life, should be lived in the power of the Spirit. A man cannot live one hour of a godly life unless by the power of the Holy Spirit. He may live a proper, consistent life, as people call it, an irreproachable life, a life of virtue and diligent service. But to live a life acceptable to God, in the enjoyment of God's salvation and God's love, to live and walk in the power of the new life-he cannot do it unless he is guided by the Holy Spirit every day and every hour.
But now listen to the danger. The Galatians received the Holy Spirit, but what was begun by the Spirit they tried to perfect in the flesh. How? They fell back again under Judaizing teachers who told them they must be circumcised. They began to seek their religion in external observances. And so Paul uses that expression about those teachers who had them circumcised so "that they may glorify in your flesh" (Galatians 6:13).
You sometimes hear the expression used, religious flesh. What is meant by that? It is simply an expression made to give utterance to these thoughts: My human nature and my human will and my human effort can be very active in religion. After being converted, and after receiving the Holy Spirit, I may begin in my own strength to try to serve God.
I may be very diligent and doing a great deal, and yet all the time it is more the work of human flesh than of God's Spirit. What a solemn thought, that man can, without noticing, be shunted off from the line of the Holy Spirit onto the line of the flesh.
How solemn it is that man can be most diligent and make great sacrifices, and yet it is all in the power of the human will! Ah, the great question for us to ask of God in self-examination is that we may be shown whether our Christian life is lived more in the power of the flesh than in the power of the Holy Spirit. A man may be a preacher, he may work most diligently in his ministry, a man may be a Christian worker, and others may say of him that he makes great sacrifices, and yet you can feel there is something lacking. You feel that he is not a spiritual man; there is no spirituality about his life. How many Christians there are about whom no one would ever think of saying: "What a spiritual man he is!" Ah! there is the weakness of the Church of Christ. It is all in that one word-flesh.
Now, the flesh may manifest itself in many ways. It may be manifested in fleshly wisdom. My mind may be most active about Christianity. I may preach or write or think or meditate, and delight in being occupied with things in God's Book and in God's Kingdom. Yet, the power of the Holy Spirit may be markedly absent. I fear that if you take the preaching throughout the Church of Christ and ask why there is so little converting power in the preaching of the Word, why there is so much work and often so little result for eternity, why the Word has so little power to build up believers in holiness and in consecration-the answer will be: It is the absence of the power of the Holy Spirit. And why is this? There can be no other reason except that the flesh and human energy have taken the place that the Holy Spirit ought to have. That was true of the Galatians; it was true of the Corinthians. You know Paul said to them: "I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual men, but as unto carnal" (1 Corinthians 3:1). And you know how often in the course of his epistle he had to reprove and condemn them for strife and for divisions.
LACKING THE FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
A third thought: What are the proofs or indications that a church like the Galatians, or a Christian, is serving God in the power of the flesh-is perfecting in the flesh what was begun in the Spirit? The answer is very easy. Religious self effort always ends in sinful flesh. What was the state of those Galatians? They were striving to be justified by the works of the law. And yet they were quarreling and in danger of devouring one another. Count the number of expressions that the apostle uses to indicate their want of love. You will find more than twelve-envy, jealousy, bitterness, strife, and all sorts of others. Read in the fourth and fifth chapters what he says about that. You see how they tried to serve God in their own-.strength, and they failed utterly. All this religious effort resulted in failure. The power of sin and the sinful flesh got the better of them. Their whole condition was one of the saddest that could be thought of.
This comes to us with unspeakable solemnity.
There is a complaint everywhere in the Christian Church of the lack of a high standard of integrity and godliness, even among the professing members of Christian churches. I remember a sermon which I heard preached on commercial morality. But let us not speak only of the commercial morality or immorality; let us go into the homes of Christians. Think of the life to which God has called His children, and which He enables them to live by the Holy Spirit. Think of how much there is of unlovingness, temper, sharpness, and bitterness. Think how often there is strife among the members of churches, and how much there is of envy, jealousy, sensitiveness, and pride. Then we are compelled to say: "Where are marks of the presence of the Spirit of the Lamb of God?" Wanting, sadly wanting!
Many people speak of these things as though they were the natural result of our feebleness and cannot be helped. Many people speak of these things as sins, yet have given up the hope of conquering them. Many people speak of these things in the church around them, and do not see the least prospect of ever having the things changed. There is no prospect until there is a radical change, until the Church of God begins to see that every sin in the believer comes from the flesh-from a fleshly life midst our Christian activities, from a striving in self-effort to serve God. We will fail until we learn to make confession, and until we begin to see that we must somehow or other get God's Spirit in power back to His Church. Where did the Church begin in Pentecost? There they began in the Spirit. But, how the Church of the next century went off into the flesh! They thought to perfect the Church in the flesh.
Do not let us think, because the blessed Reformation restored the great doctrine of justification by faith, that the power of the Holy Spirit was then fully restored. If it is our belief that God is going to have mercy on His Church in these last ages, it will be because the doctrine and the truth about the Holy Spirit will not only be studied, but sought after with a whole heart. It is not only because that truth will be sought after, but because ministers and congregations will be found bowing before God in deep abasement with one cry: "We have grieved God's Spirit. We have tried to be Christian churches with as little as possible of God's Spirit. We have not sought to be churches filled with the Holy Spirit."
All the feebleness in the Church is owing to the refusal of the Church to obey its God. And why is that so? I know your answer. You say: "We are too feeble and too helpless, and we vow to obey, but somehow we fail." Ah yes, you fail because you do not accept the strength of God. God alone can work out His will in you. You cannot work out God's will, but His Holy Spirit can. Until the Church and the believers grasp this, and cease trying by human effort to do God's will, and wait upon the Holy Spirit to come with all His omnipotent and enabling power, the Church will never be what God wants her to be. It will never be what God is willing to make of her.
YIELDING TO THE HOLY SPIRIT
I come now to my last thought, that question: What is the way to restoration?
Beloved friend, the answer is simple and easy. If that train has been shunted off, there is nothing for it to do but to come back to the point at which it was led away. The Galatians had no other way in returning but to come back to where they had gone wrong. They had to come back from all religious effort in their own strength, and from seeking anything by their own work, and to yield themselves humbly to the Holy Spirit. There is no other way for us as individuals.
Is there any brother or sister whose heart is conscious: "My life knows little of the power of the Holy Spirit"? I come to you with God's message that you can have no conception of what your life would be in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is too high, too blessed, and too wonderful. But I bring you the message that just as truly as the everlasting Son of God came to this world and did His wonderful works, that just as truly as on Calvary He died and brought about your redemption by His precious blood, so can the Holy Spirit come into your heart. With His divine power, He may sanctify you and enable you to do God's blessed will, and fill your heart with joy and strength. But, we have forgotten; we have grieved; we have dishonored the Holy Spirit; and, He has not been able to do His work. But I bring you the message: The Father in heaven loves to fill His children with His Holy Spirit. God longs to give each one individually, separately, the power of the Holy Spirit for daily life. The command comes to us individually, unitedly. God wants us as His children to arise and place our sins before Him, and to call on Him for mercy. Oh, are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you perfecting in the flesh that which was begun in the Spirit? Let us bow in shame, and confess before God how our fleshly religion, our self-effort and self-confidence, have been the cause of every failure.
I have often been asked by young Christians: "Why is it that I fail so? I did so solemnly vow with my whole heart, and did desire to serve God. Why have I failed?" To such I always give this answer: "My dear friend, you are trying to do in your own strength what Christ alone can do in you." And when they tell me: "I am sure I knew Christ alone could do it; I was not trusting in myself," my answer is: "You were trusting in yourself, or you could not have failed. If you had trusted Christ, He could not fail." Oh, this perfecting in the flesh what was begun in the Spirit runs far deeper through us than we know. Let us ask God to show us that it is only when we are brought to utter shame and emptiness that we will be prepared to receive the blessing that comes from on high.
And so I come with these two questions. Are you living, beloved brother-minister-I ask it of every minister of the Gospel-under the power of the Holy Spirit? Are you living as an anointed, Spirit-filled man in your ministry and your life before God? Oh friends, our place is an awful one. We have to show people what God will do for us, not in our words and teaching, but in our life. God help us to do it!
I ask it of every member of Christ's Church and of every believer: Are you living a life under the power of the Holy Spirit day by day? Or are you attempting to live without that? Remember, you cannot. Are you consecrated, given up to the Spirit to work in you and to live in you? Oh, come and confess every failure of temper, every failure of tongue however small. Confess every failure owing to the absence of the Holy Spirit and the presence of the power of self. Are you consecrated, are you given up to the Holy Spirit?
If your answer is no, then I come with a second question-Are you willing to be consecrated? Are you willing to give yourself up to the power of the Holy Spirit? You well know that the human side of consecration will not help you. I may consecrate myself a hundred times with all the intensity of my being, and that will not help me. What will help me is this-that God from heaven accepts and seals the consecration.
And now are you willing to give yourselves up to the Holy Spirit? You can do it now. A great deal may still be dark and dim, and beyond what we understand. You may feel nothing; but come. God alone can work the change. God alone, who gave us the Holy Spirit, can restore the Holy Spirit in power into our life. God alone can "strengthen us with might by his Spirit in the inner man" (Ephesians 3:16). And to every waiting heart that will make the sacrifice, and give up everything, and give time to cry and pray to God, the answer will come. The blessing is not far off. Our God delights in helping us. He will enable us to perfect, not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, what was begun in the Spirit.
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Impossible With Man, Possible With God
By Andrew Murray (1828 - 1917)
"And he said, the things which are impossible with men are possible with God" (Luke 18:27).
Christ had said to the rich young ruler, "Sell all that thou hast ... and come, follow me." The young man went away sorrowful. Christ then turned to the disciples,: and said: "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" The disciples, we read, were greatly astonished, and answered: "Who, then, can be saved?" And Christ gave this blessed answer: "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God" (Luke 18:2227).
The text contains two thoughts-that in the question of salvation and of following Christ by a holy life, it is impossible for man to do it. And then alongside that is the thought-- What is impossible with man is possible with God.
These two thoughts mark the two great lessons that man has to learn in the Christian life. It often takes a long time to learn the first lesson-that in the Christian life man can do nothing, that salvation is impossible to man. And often a man learns that, and yet he does not learn the second lesson-what has been impossible to him is possible with God. Blessed is the man who learns both lessons! The learning of them marks stages in the Christian's life.
The one stage is when a man is trying to do his utmost and fails, when a man tries to do better and falls again, when a man tries much more and always fails. And yet, very often he does not even then learn the lesson: With man it is impossible to serve God and Christ. Peter spent three years in Christ's school, and he never learned, it is impossible, until he had denied his Lord, went out, and wept bitterly. Then he learned it.
Just look for a moment at a man who is learning this lesson. At first, he fights against it. Then, he submits to it, but reluctantly and in despair. At last, he accepts it A,llllngly and rejoices in it. At the beginning of the Christian life, the young convert has no conception of this truth. He has been converted; he has the joy of the Lord in his heart; he begins to run the race and fight the battle. He is sure he can conquer, for he is earnest and honest, and God will help him. Yet, somehow, very soon he fails where he did not expect it, and sin gets the better of him. He is disappointed, but he thinks: "I was not cautious enough. I did not make my resolutions strong enough." And again he vows, and again he prays, and yet he fails. He thinks: "Am I not, a redeemed man? Have I not the life of God within me?" And he thinks again: "Yes, and I have Christ to help me. I can live the holy life."
At a later period, he comes to another state of mind. He begins to see such a life is impossible, but he does not accept it. There are multitudes of Christians who come to this point: "I cannot." They then think that God never expected them to do what they cannot do. If you tell them that God does expect it, it is a mystery to them. A good many Christians are living a low life-a life of failure and of sin-instead of rest and victory, because they began to say: "I cannot, it is impossible." And yet they do not understand it fully. So, under the impression, I cannot, they give way to despair. They will do their best, but they never expect to get on very far.
But God leads His children on to a third stage. A man comes to take, it is impossible, in its full truth, and yet at the same time says: "I must do it, and I will do it-it is impossible for man, and yet I must do it." The renewed will begins to exercise its whole power, and in intense longing and prayer begins to cry to God: "Lord, what is the meaning of this? How am I to be freed from the power of sin?"
It is the state of the regenerate man in Romans, chapter seven. There you will find the Christian man trying his very utmost to live a holy life. God's law has been revealed to him as reaching down into the very depth of the desires of the heart. The man can dare to say:
"I delight in the law of God after the inward man. To will what is good is present with me. My heart loves the law of God, and my will has chosen that law."
Can a man like that fail, with his heart full of delight in God's law and with his will determined to do 'What is right? Yes. That is what Romans, chapter seven teaches us. There is something more needed. Not only must I delight in the law of God after the inward man and will what God wills, but I need a divine omnipotence to work it in me. And that is what the apostle Paul teaches in Philippians 2:13: "It is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
Note the contrast. In Romans, chapter seven, the regenerate man says: "To will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not" (Romans 7:18). But in Philippians, chapter two, you have a man who has been led on farther. He is a man who understands that when God has worked the renewed will, God will give the power to accomplish what that will desires. Let us receive this as the first great lesson in the spiritual life: "It is impossible for me, my God. Let there be an end of the flesh and all its powers, an end of self, and let it be my glory to be helpless.
Praise God for the divine teaching that makes us helpless!
When you thought of absolute surrender to God, were you not brought to an end of yourself? Did you not feel that you could see how you actually could live as a -nan absolutely surrendered to God every moment of the day-at your table, in your house, in your business, in the midst of trials and temptations? I pray you learn the lesson now. If you felt you could not do it, you are on the right road, if you let yourselves be led. Accept that position, and maintain it before God: "My heart's desire and delight, 0 God, is absolute surrender, but I cannot perform it. It is impossible for me to live that life. it is beyond me." Fall down and learn that when you are utterly helpless, God will come to work in you not only to will, but also to do.
Now comes the second lesson. "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. "
I said a little while ago that there is many a man who has learned the lesson, it is impossible with men, and then he gives up in helpless despair. He lives a wretched Christian life, without joy or strength or victory. And why? Because he does not humble himself to learn that other lesson: With God all things are possible.
Your Christian life is to be a continuous proof that God works impossibilities. Your Christian life is to be a series of impossibilities made possible and actual by God's almighty power. That is what the Christian needs. He has an almighty God that he worships, and he must learn to understand that he does not need a little of God's power. But, he needs-with reverence be it said-the whole of God's omnipotence to keep him right, and to live like a Christian.
The whole of Christianity is a work of God's omnipotence. Look at the birth of Christ Jesus. That was a miracle of divine power, and it was said to Mary: "With God nothing shall be impossible" (Luke 1:37). It was the omnipotence of God. Look at Christ's resurrection. We are taught that it was according to the exceeding greatness of His mighty power that God raised Christ from the dead.
Every tree must grow on the root from which it springs. An oak tree three hundred years old grows all the time on the one root from which it had its beginning. Christianity had its beginning in the omnipotence of God. In every soul, Christianity must have its continuance in that omnipotence. All the possibilities of the higher Christian life have their origin in a new understanding of Christ's power to work all God's will in us.
I want to call on you now to come and worship an almighty God. Have you learned to do it? Have you learned to deal so closely with an almighty God that you know omnipotence is working in you? In outward appearance there is often little sign of it.
The apostle Paul said: "I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and ... my preaching was ... in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (I Corinthians 2:3,4). From the human side there was feebleness; from the divine side there was divine omnipotence. And that is true of every godly life. If we would only learn that lesson better, and give a wholehearted, undivided surrender to it, we would learn what blessedness there is in dwelling every hour and every moment with an almighty God. Have you ever studied in the Bible the attribute of God's omnipotence? You know that it was God's omnipotence that created the world, and created light out of darkness, and created man. But have you studied God's omnipotence in the works of redemption?
Look at Abraham. When God called him to be the father of that people out of which Christ was to be born, He said to him: "I am the Almighty God, walk before me and be thou perfect" (Genesis 17: 1)'. And God trained Abraham to trust Him as the omnipotent One. Whether it was his going out to a land that he did not know, or his faith as a pilgrim midst the thousands of Canaanites-his faith said: "This is my land." Whetherit was his faith in waiting twenty-five years for a son in his old age, against all hope, or whether it was the raising up of Isaac from the dead on Mount Moriah when he was going to sacrifice him-Abraham believed God. He was strong in faith, giving glory to God, because he accounted Him who had promised able to perform.
The cause of the weakness of your Christian life is that you want to work it out partly, and to let God help you. And that cannot be. You must come to be utterly helpless, to let God work. He will work gloriously. It is this that we need if we are indeed to be workers for God. I could go through Scripture and prove to you how Moses, when he led Israel out of Egypt; how Joshua, when he brought them into the land of Canaan; how all God's servants in the Old Testament counted on the omnipotence of God doing impossibilities. And this God lives today; and this God is the God of every child of His. And yet some of us want God to give us a little help while we do our best, instead of coming to understand what God wants, and to say: "I can do nothing. God must and will do all." Have you said: "In worship, in work, in sanctification, in obedience to God, I can do nothing of myself, and so my place is to worship God, and to believe that He will work in me every moment"? Oh, may God teach us this! Oh, that God would by His grace show you what a God you have, and to what a God you have entrusted yourself-an omnipotent God. He is willing, with His whole omnipotence, to place Himself at the disposal of every child of His! Will we not take the lesson of the Lord Jesus, and say: "Amen; the things which are impossible with men are possible with God"?
Remember what we have said about Peter, his selfconfidence, self-power, self-will, and how he came to deny his Lord. You feel, "Ah! there is the self-life; there is the fleshlife that rules in me!" And now, have you believed that there is deliverance from that? Have you believed that Almighty God is able to reveal Christ in your heart, to let the Holy Spirit rule in you so that the self-life will not have power or dominion over you? Have you coupled the two together- and, with tears of penitence and with deep humiliation and feebleness, cried out: "O God, it is impossible to me; man cannot do it, but glory to Your name, it is possible with God"? Have you claimed deliverance? Do it now. Put yourself afresh in absolute surrender into the hands of a God of infinite love. As infinite as His love is His power to do it.
GOD WORKS IN MAN
But again, we come to the question of absolute surrender, and feel that that is lacking in the Church of Christ. That is why the Holy Spirit cannot fill us, and why we cannot live as people entirely separated unto the Holy Spirit. That is why the flesh and the self-life cannot be conquered. We have never understood what it is to be absolutely surrendered to God as Jesus was. I know that many earnestly and honestly say: "Amen, I accept the message of absolute surrender to God." Yet they think: "Will that ever be mine? Can I count on God to make me one of whom it will be said in heaven, on earth, and in hell, he lives in absolute surrender to God?" Brother, sister, "the things which are impossible with men are possible with God." Do believe that, when He takes charge of you in Christ, it is possible for God to make you a man of absolute surrender. And God is able to maintain that. He is able to let you rise from bed every morning of the week with that blessed thought directly or indirectly: "I am in God's charge. My God is working out my life for me."
Some are weary of thinking about sanctification. You pray; you have longed and cried for it; and yet, it appeared so far off! You are so conscious of how distant the holiness and humility of Jesus is. Beloved friends, the one doctrine of sanctification that is scriptural and real and effectual is: "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God." God can sanctify men. By His almighty and sanctifying power, God can keep them every moment. Oh, that we might get a step nearer to our God now! Oh, that the light of God might shine, and that we might know our God better!
I could go on to speak about the life of Christ in us-living like Christ, taking Christ as our Savior from sin, and as our life and strength. It is God in heaven who can reveal that in you. What does that prayer of the apostle Paul say: "That he would grant you according to riches of his glory, to be strength- ened with might by his Spirit in the inner man" (Ephesians 3:16)? Do you not see that it is an omnipotent God working by His omnipotence in the heart of His believing children, so that Christ can become an indwelling Savior? You have tried to grasp it, understand it, and to believe it, and it would not come. It was because you had not been brought to believe that "the things which are impossible with men are possible with God."
And so I trust that the word spoken about love may have brought many to see that we must have an inflowing of love in quite a new way. Our heart must be filled with life from above- from the Fountain of everlasting love-if it is going to overflow all day. Then it will be just as natural for us to love our fellow-men as it is natural for the lamb to be gentle and the wolf to be cruel. When I am brought to such a state that the more a man hates and speaks evil of me--the more unlikable and unlovable a man isthe more I will love him. When I am brought to such a state that the more obstacles, hatred, and ingratitude surround me, the more the power of love can triumph in me. Until I am brought to see these, I am not saying: "It is impossible with men." But if you have been led to say: "This message has spoken to me about a love utterly beyond my power. It is absolutely impossible"-then we can come to God and say: "It is possible with You."
Some are crying to God for a great revival. I can say that this is the unceasing prayer of my heart. Oh, if God would only revive His believing people! I cannot think of the unconverted formalists of the Church or of the infidels and skeptics or of all the wretched and perishing around me, without my heart pleading: "My God, revive Your Church and people." It is not for a lack of reason that thousands of hearts yearn after holiness and consecration. It is a forerunner of God's power. God works to will and then He works to do. These yearnings are a witness and a proof that God has worked to will. Oh, let us in faith believe that the omnipotent God will work to do among His people more than we can ask. "Unto him," Paul said, "that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,. unto him be glory" (Ephesians 3:20,21). Let our hearts say that. Glory to God, the omnipotent One, who can do above what we dare to ask or think!
"The things which are impossible with men are possible with God." All around you there is a world of sin and sorrow, and Satan is there. But remember, Christ is on the throne; Christ is stronger; Christ has conquered; and Christ will conquer. But wait on God. My text casts us down: "The things which are impossible with men", but it ultimately lifts us up high-"are possible with God." Get linked to God. Adore and trust Him as the omnipotent One, not only for your own life, but for all the souls that are entrusted to you. Never pray without adoring His omnipotence, saying: "Mighty God, I claim Your almightiness. " And the answer to the prayer will come. Like Abraham you will become strong in faith, giving glory to God, because you account Him who has promised able to perform.
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O Wretched Man That I Am!
By Andrew Murray (1828 - 1917)
"0 wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 7:24,25).
You know the wonderful location that this text has in the epistle to the Romans. It stands here at the end of the seventh chapter as the gateway into the eighth. In the first sixteen verses of the eighth chapter, the name of the Holy Spirit is found sixteen times. You have there the description and promise of the life that a child of God can live in the power of the Holy Spirit. This begins in the second verse: "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2). From that, Paul goes on to speak of the great privileges of the child of God who is to be led by the Spirit of God. The gateway into all this is found at the end of chapter seven: "0 wretched man that I am!" There you have the words of a man who has come to the end of himself. He has in the previous verses described how he had struggled and wrestled in his own power to obey the holy law of God, and had failed. But in answer to his own questions, he now finds the true answer and cries out: "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." From that he goes on to speak of what that deliverance is that he has found.
I want, from these words, to describe the path by which a man can be led out of the spirit of bondage into the spirit of liberty. You know how distinctly it is said: "Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear" (Romans 8:15). We are continually warned that this is the great danger of the Christian life, to go again into bondage. I want to describe the path by which a man can get out of bondage into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Rather, I want to describe the man himself.
First, these words are the language of a regenerate man; second, of a weak man; third, of a wretched man; and fourth, of a man on the border of complete liberty.
THE REGENERATE MAN
There is much evidence of regeneration from the fourteenth verse of chapter seven on to the twenty-third verse. "It is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me" (Romans 7:17). That is the language of a regenerate man-a man who knows that his heart and nature have been renewed, and that sin is now a power in him that is not himself. "I delight in the law of God after the inward man" (Romans 7:22). That again is the language of a regenerate man. He dares to say when he does evil: "It is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth me." It is of great importance to understand this,
In the first two great sections of the epistle, Paul deals with justification and sanctification. In dealing with justification, he lays the foundation of the doctrine in the teaching about sin. He does not speak of the singular sin, but of the plural, sins-the actual transgressions. In the second part of the fifth chapter, he begins to deal with sin, not as actual transgression, but as a power. Just imagine what a loss it would have been to us if we did not have this second half of the seventh chapter of the epistle to the Romans-if Paul had omitted in his teaching this vital question of the sinfulness of the believer. We should 'have missed the question we all want answered as to sin in the believer. What is the answer? The regenerate man is one in whom the will has been renewed, and who can say: "I delight in the law of God after the inward man."
THE WEAK MAN
Here is the great mistake made by many Christian people-they think that when there is a renewed ,will, it is enough. But that is not the case. This regenerate man tells us: "I will to do what is good, but the power to perform I find not." How often people tell us that if you set yourself determinedly, you can perform what you will! But this man was as determined as any man can be, and yet he made the confession: "To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not" (Romans 7:18).
But, you ask: "How is it God makes a regenerate man utter such a confession? He being with a right will, with a heart that longs to do good, and longs to do its very utmost to love God?"
Let us look at this question. What has God given us our will for? Had the angels who fell, in their own will, the strength to stand? Surely, no. The will of man is nothing but an empty vessel in which the power of God is to be made manifest. Man must seek in God all that is to be. You have it in the second chapter of the epistle to the Philippians, and you have it here also, that God's work is to work in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Here is a man who appears to say: "God has not worked to do in me." But we are taught that God works both to will and to do. How is the apparent contradiction to be reconciled?
You will find that in this passage (Romans 7:6-25), the name of the Holy Spirit does not occur once, nor does the name of Christ occur. The man is wrestling and struggling to fulfill God's law. Instead of the Holy Spirit and of Christ, the law is mentioned nearly twenty times. In this chapter, it shows a believer doing his very best to obey the law of God with his regenerate will. Not only this; but you will find the little words, I, me, my, occur more than forty times. It is the regenerate I in its weakness seeking to obey the law without being filled with the Spirit. This is the experience of almost every saint. After conversion, a man begins to do his best, and he fails. But if we are brought into the full light, we no longer need to fail. Nor need we fail at all if we have received the Spirit in His fullness at conversion.
God allows that failure so that the regenerate man should be taught his own utter inability. It is in the course of this struggle that the sense of our utter sinfulness comes to us. It is God's way of dealing with us. He allows man to strive to fulfill the law so that, as he strives and wrestles, he may be brought to this: "I am a regenerate child of God, but I am utterly helpless to obey His law." See what strong words are used all through the chapter to describe this condition: "I am carnal, sold under sin" (Romans 7:14); "1 see another law in my members bringing me into captivity" (Romans 7:23); and last of all, "0 wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:24). This believer who bows here in deep contrition is utterly unable to obey the law of God.
THE WRETCHED MAN
Not only is the man who makes this confession a regenerate and a weak man, but he is also a wretched man. He is utterly unhappy and miserable. What is it that makes him so utterly miserable? It is because God has given him a nature that loves Himself. He is deeply wretched because he feels he is not obeying his God. He says, with brokenness of heart: "It is not I that do it, but I am under the awful power of sin, which is holding me down. It is 1, and yet not 1: alas! alas! it is myself; so closely am I bound up with it, and so closely is it intertwined with my very nature." Blessed be God when a man learns to say: "0 wretched man that I am!" from the depth of his heart. He is on the way to the eighth chapter of Romans.
There are many who make this confession a pillow for sin. They say that if Paul had to confess his weakness and helplessness in this way, who are they that they should try to do better? So the call to holiness is quietly set aside. Pray God that every one of us would learn to say these words in the very spirit in which they are written here! When we hear sin spoken of as the abominable thing that God hates, do not many of us wince before the word? If only all Christians who go on sinning and sinning would take this verse to heart. If ever you utter a sharp word say: "0 wretched man that I am!" And every time you lose your temper, kneel down and under stand that God never meant His child to remain in this state. If only we would take this word into our daily life, and say it every time we are touched about our own honor! If only we would take it into our hearts every time we say sharp things, and every time we sin against the Lord God, and against the Lord Jesus Christ in His humility and in His obedience and in His self-sacrifice! Pray God that we could forget everything else, and cry out: "0 wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
Why should you say this whenever you commit sin? Because it is when a man is brought to this confession that deliverance is at hand. And remember, it was not only the sense of being weak and taken captive that made him wretched. It was, above all, the sense of sinning against his God. The law was doing its work, making sin exceedingly sinful in his sight. The thought of continually grieving God became utterly unbearable. It was this that brought forth the piercing cry: "0 wretched man!" As long as we talk and reason about our inability and our failure, and only try to find out what Romans, chapter seven, means, it will profit us little. But once every sin gives new intensity to the sense of wretchedness, and we feel our whole state as one of not only helplessness, but actual, exceeding sinfulness, we will be pressed not only to ask: "Who shall deliver us?" but to cry: "I thank God through Jesus Christ my Lord."
THE ALMOST-DELIVERED MAN
The man has tried to obey the beautiful law of God. He has loved it; he has wept over his sin; and he has tried to conquer. He has tried to overcome fault after fault, but every time he has ended in failure. What did he mean by "the body of this death"? Did he mean, my body when I die? Surely not. In the eighth chapter, you have the answer to this question in the words: "If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Romans 8:13). That is the body of death from which he is seeking deliverance.
And now he is on the brink of deliverance! In, the twentythird verse of the seventh chapter, we have the words: "I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." It is a captive that cries: "0 wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body I of this death?" He is a man who feels himself bound. But look to.the contrast in the second verse of the eighth chapter: "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." That is the deliverance through Jesus Christ our Lord, the liberty to the captive which the Spirit brings. Can you keep captive any longer a man made free by the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus"?
But you say, the regenerate man did not have the Spirit of Jesus when he spoke in the sixth chapter. Yes, he did not know what the Holy Spirit could do for him.
God does not work by His Spirit as He works by a blind force in nature. He leads His people on as reasonable, intelligent beings. Therefore, when He wants to give us that Holy Spirit whom He has promised, He first brings us to the end of sel brings us to the conviction that though we have been striving to obey the law, we have failed. When we have come to the end of that, then He shows us that in the Holy Spirit we have the power of obedience, the power of victory, and the power of real holiness. God works to will, and He is ready to work to do, but many Christians misunderstand this. They think because they have the will, it is enough, and that now they are able to do. This is not so. The new will is a permanent gift, an attribute of the new nature. The power to do is not a permanent gift, but must be received each moment from the Holy Spirit. It is the man who is conscious of his own weakness as a believer who will learn that by the Holy Spirit he can live a holy life. This man is on the brink of that great deliverance; the way has been prepared for the glorious eighth chapter. I now ask this solemn question: Where are you living? With you, is it, "0 wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me? " with now and then a little experience of the power of the Holy Spirit? Or is it, "I thank God through Jesus Christ! The law of the Spirit hath set me free from the law of sin and of death"?
What the Holy Spirit does is to give the victory. "If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Romans 8:13). It is the Holy Spirit who does this-the third Person of the Godhead. It is He who, when the heart is opened wide to receive Him, comes in and reigns there, and mortifies the deeds of the body, day by day, hour by hour, and moment by moment.
I want to bring this to a point. Remember, dear friend, what we need is to come to decision and action. There are in Scripture two very different sorts of Christians. The Bible speaks in Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians about yielding to the flesh; and that is the life of tens of thousands of believers. All their lack of joy in the Holy Spirit, and their lack of the liberty He gives, is just owing to the flesh. The Spirit is within them, but the flesh rules the life. To be led by the Spirit of God is what they need. If only I could make every child of His realize what it means that the everlasting God has given His dear Son, Christ Jesus, to watch over you every day, and that what you have to do is to trust. If only I could make His children understand that the work of the Holy Spirit is to enable you every moment to remember Jesus, and to trust Him! The Spirit has come to keep the link with Him unbroken every moment. Praise God for the Holy Spirit! We are so accustomed to thinking of the Holy Spirit as a luxury, for special times, or for special ministers and men. But the Holy Spirit is necessary for every believer, every moment of the day. Praise God you have Him, and that He gives you the full experience of the deliverance in Christ as He makes you free from the power of sin.
Who longs to have the power and the liberty of the Holy Spirit? Oh, brother, bow before God in one final cry of despair: "0 God, must I go on sinning this way forever? Who shall deliver me, 0 wretched man that I am! from the body of this death?"
Are you ready to sink before God in that cry and seek the power of Jesus to live and work in you? Are you ready to say: "I thank God through Jesus Christ"?
What good does it do that we go to church or attend conventions, 'that we study our Bibles and pray, unless our lives are filled with the Holy Spirit? That is what God wants. Nothing else will enable us to live a life of power and peace. When a minister or parent is using the catechism, and a question is asked, an answer is expected. How sad that many Christians are content with the question put here: "0 wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" but never give the answer.
Instead of answering, they are silent. Instead of saying: "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord," they are forever repeating the question without the answer. If you want the path to the full deliverance of Christ, and the liberty of the Spirit-the glorious liberty of the children of God-take it through the seventh chapter of Romans. Then say: "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." Do not be content to remain ever groaning, but say: "I, a wretched man, thank God, through Jesus Christ. Even though I do not see it all, I am going to praise God. "
There is deliverance; there is the liberty of the Holy Spirit. The Kingdom of God is "joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17).
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The Fruit Of The Spirit Is Love
By Andrew Murray (1828 - 1917)
I want to look at the fact of a life filled with the Holy Spirit more from the practical side. I want to show how this life will reveal itself in our daily walk and conduct.
Under the Old Testament you know the Holy Spirit often came upon men as a divine Spirit of revelation to reveal the mysteries of God, or for power to do the work of God. But He did not dwell in them then. Now, many just want the Old Testament gift of power for work. But, they know very little of the New Testament gift of the indwelling Spirit, animating and renewing the whole life. When God gives the Holy Spirit, His great object is the formation of a holy character. It is a gift of a holy mind and spiritual disposition, and what we need, above everything else, is to say:
"I must have the Holy Spirit sanctifying my whole inner life if I am really to live for God's glory. "
You might say that when Christ promised the Spirit to the disciples, He did so that they might have power to be witnesses. True, but then they received the Holy Spirit in such heavenly power and reality that He took possession of their whole being at once and so fitted them as holy men for doing the work with power as they had to do it. Christ spoke of power to the disciples, but it was the Spirit filling their whole being that worked the power.
I wish now to dwell upon the passage found in Galatians 5:22:
"The fruit of the Spirit is love."
We read that "Love is the fulfilling of the law"' (Romans 13: 10), and my desire is to speak on love as a fruit of the Spirit with a twofold object. One is that this word may be a searchlight in our hearts, and give us a test by which to try all our thoughts about the Holy Spirit and all our experience of the holy life. Let us try ourselves by this word. Has this been our daily habit, to seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of love? "The fruit of the Spirit is love." Has it been our experience that the more we have of the Holy Spirit, the more loving we become? In claiming the Holy Spirit, we should make this the first object of our expectation. The Holy Spirit comes as a Spirit of love.
Oh, if this were true in the Church of Christ, how different her state would be! May God help us to get hold of this simple, heavenly truth that the fruit of the Spirit is a love which appears in the life. Just as the Holy Spirit gets real possession of the life, the heart will be filled with real, divine, universal love.
One of the great causes why God cannot bless His Church is the lack of love. When the body is divided, there cannot be strength. In the time of their great religious wars, when Holland stood out so nobly against Spain, one of their mottoes was: "Unity gives strength." It is only when God's people stand as one body, one before God in the fellowship of love, one toward another in deep affection, one before the world in a love that the world can see-it is only then that they will have power to secure the blessing which they ask of God. Remember that if a vessel that ought to be one whole is cracked into many pieces, it cannot be filled. You can take one part of the vessel and dip out a little water into that, but if you want the vessel full, the vessel must be whole. That is literally true of Christ's Church. And if there is one thing we must pray for still, it is this-Lord, melt us together into one by the power of the Holy Spirit. Let the Holy Spirit, who at Pentecost made them all of one heart and one soul, do His blessed work among us. Praise God, we can love each other in a divine love, for "the fruit of the Spirit is love." Give yourselves up to love, and the Holy Spirit will come; receive the Spirit, and He will teach you to love more.
GOD IS LOVE
Now, why is it that the fruit of the Spirit is love? Because God is love (I John 4:8).
And what does that mean?
It is the very nature and being of God to delight in communicating Himself. God has no selfishness; God keeps nothing to Himself. God's nature is to be always giving. You see it, in the sun and the moon and the stars, in every flower, in every bird in the air, in every fish in the sea. God communicates life to His creatures. And the angels around His throne, the seraphim and cherumbim who are flames of firewhere does their glory come from? It comes from God because He is love, and He imparts to them part of His brightness and His blessedness. And we, His redeemed children-God delights to pour His love into us. Why? Because, as I said, God keeps nothing for Himself. From eternity God had His only begotten Son, and the Father gave Him all things, and nothing that God had was kept back. "God is love."
One of the old Church fathers said that we cannot better understand the Trinity than as a revelation of divine lovethe Father, the loving One, the Fountain of love-the Son, the beloved one, the Reservoir of love, in whom the love was poured out-and the Spirit, the living love that united both and then overflowed into this world. The Spirit of Pentecost, the Spirit of the Father, and the Spirit of the Son is love. And when the Holy Spirit comes to us and to other men, will He be less a Spirit of love than He is in God? It cannot be; He cannot change His nature. The Spirit of God is love, and "the fruit of the Spirit is love."
MANKIND NEEDS LOVE
Why is that so? That was the one great need of mankind, that was the thing which Christ's redemption came to accomplish: to restore love to this world.
When man sinned, why was it that he sinned? Selfishness triumphed-he sought self instead of God. And just look! Adam at once begins to accuse the woman of having led him astray. Love to God had gone; love to man was lost. Look again: of the first two children of Adam, the one becomes a murderer of his brother.
Does that not teach us that sin had robbed the world of love? Ah! what a proof the history of the world has been of love having been lost! There may have been beautiful examples of love even among the heathen, but only as a little remnant of what was lost. One of the worst things sin did for man was to make him selfish, for selfishness cannot love.
The Lord Jesus Christ came down from heaven as the Son of God's love. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16). God's Son came to show what love is , and He lived a life of love here on earth in fellowship with His disciples, in compassion over the poor and miserable, in love even to His enemies. And, He died the death of love. And when He went back to heaven, whom did He send down? The Spirit of love, to come and banish selfishness and envy and pride, and bring the love of God into the hearts of men. "The fruit of the Spirit is love."
And what was the preparation for the promise of the Holy Spirit? You know that promise as found in the fourteenth chapter of John's Gospel. But remember what precedes in the thirteenth chapter. Before Christ promised the Holy Spirit, He gave a new commandment, and about that new commandment He said wonderful things. One thing was: "Even as I have loved you, so love ye one another." To them His dying love was to be the only law of their conduct and fellowship with each other. What a message to those fishermen, to those men full of pride and selfishness! "Learn to love each other," said Christ, "as I have loved you." And by the grace of God they did it. When Pentecost came, they were of one heart and one soul. Christ did it for them.
And now He calls us to live and to walk in love. He demands that though a man hate you, still you love him. True love cannot be conquered by anything in heaven or on earth. The more hatred there is, the more love triumphs through it all and shows its true nature. This is the love that Christ commanded His disciples to exercise.
What more did He say? "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35).
You all know what it is to wear a badge. And Christ said to His disciples in effect: "I give you a badge, and that badge is love. That is to be your mark. It is the only thing in heaven or on earth by which men can know me." Do we not begin to fear that love has fled from the earth? That if we were to ask the world: "Have you seen us wear the badge of love?." the world would say: "No, what we have heard of the Church of Christ is that there is not a place where there is no quarreling and separation." Let us ask God with one heart that we may wear the badge of Jesus' love. God is able to give it.
LOVE CONQUERS SELFISHNESS
"The fruit of the Spirit is love." Why? Because nothing but love can expel and conquer our selfishness.
Self is the great curse, whether in its relation to God, or to our fellow-men in general, or to fellowChristians, thinking of ourselves and seeking our own. Self is our greatest curse. But, praise God, Christ came to redeem us from self. We sometimes talk about deliverance from the self-life-and thank God for every word that can be said about it to help us, But I am afraid some people think deliverance from the self-life means that now they are no longer going to have any. trouble in serving God. They forget that deliverance from self-life means to be a vessel overflowing with love to everybody all the day.
And there you have the reason why many people pray for the power of the Holy Spirit. They get something, but oh, so little! because they prayed for power for work, and power for blessing, but they have not prayed for power for full deliverance from self. That means not only the righteous self in fellowship with God, but the unloving self in fellowship with men. And there is deliverance. "The fruit of the Spirit is love." I bring you the glorious promise of Christ that He is able to fill our hearts with love.
A great many of us try hard at times to love. We try to force ourselves to love, and I do not say that is wrong; it is better than nothing. But the end of it is always very sad. "I fail continually," many must confess. And what is the reason? The reason is simply this-they have never learned to believe and accept the truth that the Holy Spirit can pour God's love into their heart. That blessed text has often been limited!-"The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts" (Romans 5:5). It has often been understood in this sense: It means the love of God to me. Oh, what a limitation! That is only the beginning. The love of God is always the love of God in its entirety, in its fullness as an indwelling power. It is a love of God to me that leaps back to Him in love, and overflows to my fellow-men in love-God's love to me, and my love to God, and my love to my fellowmen. The three are one; you cannot separate them.
Do believe that the love of God can be shed abroad in your heart and mind so that we can love all the day.
"Ah!" you say, "how little I have understood that!"
Why is a lamb always gentle? Because that is its nature. Does it cost the lamb any trouble to be gentle? No. Why not? It is so beautiful and gentle. Has a lamb to study to be gentle? No. Why does that come so easy? It is its nature. And a wolf-why does it cost a wolf no trouble to be cruel, and to put its fangs into the poor lamb or sheep? Because that is its nature. It does not have to summon up its courage; the wolfnature is. there.
And how can I learn to love? I cannot learn to love until the Spirit of God fills my heart with God's love, and I begin to long for God's love in a very different sense from which I have sought it so selfishly-as a comfort, a joy, a happiness, and a pleasure to myself. I will not learn it until I realize that "God is love," and to claim and receive it as an indwelling power for selfsacrifice. I will not love until I begin to see that my glory, my blessedness, is to be like God and like Christ, in giving up everything in myself for my fellow-men. May God teach us this! Oh, the divine blessedness of the love with which the Holy Spirit can fill our hearts! "The fruit of the Spirit is love."
LOVE IS GOD'S GIFT
Once again I ask, Why must this be so? And my answer is: Without this we cannot live the daily life of love.
How often, when we speak about the consecrated life, we have to speak about temper, and people have sometimes said: "You make too much of temper."
I do not think we can make too much of it. Think for a moment of a clock and of what its hands mean. The hands tell me what is within the clock, and if I see that the hands stand still, or that the hands point wrong, or that the clock is slow or fast, I say that something inside the clock is not working properly. And temper is just like the revelation that the clock gives of what is within. Temper is a proof whether the love of Christ is filling the heart or not. How many there are who find it easier in church, or in prayer meeting, or in work for the Lord-diligent, earnest work-to be holy and happy than in the daily life with wife and children. How many find it easier to be holy and happy outside the home than in it! Where is the love of God? In Christ. God has prepared for us a wonderful redemption in Christ, and He longs to make something supernatural of us. Have we learned to long for it, ask for it, and expect it in its fullness?
Then there is the tongue! We sometimes speak of the tongue when we talk of the better life, and the restful life, but just think what liberty many Christians give to their tongues. They say:
"I have a right to think what I like."
When they speak about each other, when they speak about their neighbors, when they speak about other Christians, how often there are sharp remarks! God keep me from saying anything that would be unloving. God shut my mouth if I am not to speak in tender love. But what I am saying is a fact. How often sharp criticism, sharp judgment, hasty opinion, unloving words, secret contempt of each other, secret condemnation of each other are found among Christians who are banded together in work! Oh, just as a mother's love covers her children and delights in them and has the tenderest compassion with their foibles or failures, so there ought to be in the heart of every believer a motherly love toward every brother and sister in Christ. Have you aimed at that? Have you sought it? Have you ever pleaded for it? Jesus Christ said: "As I have loved you that. ye also love one another" (John 13:34). And He did not put that among the other commandments, but He said in effect:
"That is a new commandment, the one commandment: Love one another as I have loved you" (John 13:34).
It is in our daily life and conduct that the fruit of the Spirit is love. From that comes all the graces and virtues in which love is manifested-joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness-no sharpness or hardness in your tone, no unkindness or selfishness, meekness before God and man. You see that all these are the gentler virtues. I have often thought as I read those words in Colossians, "Put on therefore as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering" (Colossians 3:12), that if we had written this, we should have put in the foreground the strong virtues, such as zeal, courage, and diligence. But we need to see how the gentler, the most tender virtues are especially connected with dependence on the Holy Spirit. These are indeed heavenly graces. They never were found in the heathen world. Christ was needed to come from heaven to teach us. Your blessedness is long-suffering, meekness, kindness; your glory is humility before God. The fruit of the Spirit that He brought from heaven out of the heart of the crucified Christ, and that He gives in our heart, is first and foremost-love.
You know what John says: "No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another; God dwelleth in us" (I John 4:12). That is, I cannot see God, but as a compensation I can see my brother, and if I love him, God dwells in me. Is that really true? That I cannot see God, but I must love my brother, and God will dwell in me? Loving my brother is the way to real fellowship with God. You know what John further says in that most solemn test, "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (I John 4:20). There is a brother, a most unlovable man. He worries you every time you meet him. He is of the very opposite disposition to yours. You are a careful businessman, and you have to associate with him in your business. He is most untidy, unbusiness-like. You say:
"I cannot love him."
Oh, friend, you have not learned the lesson that Christ wanted to teach above everything. Let a man be what he will, you are to love him. Love is to be the fruit of the Spirit all the day and every day. Yes, listen! If you don't love that unlovable man whom you have seen, how can you love God whom you have not seen? You can deceive yourself with beautiful thoughts about loving God. You must prove your love to God by your love to your brother; that is the one standard by which God will judge your love to Him. If the love of God is in your heart, you will love your brother. The fruit of the Spirit is love.
And what is the reason that God's Holy Spirit cannot come in power? Is it not possible?
You remember the comparison I used in speaking of the vessel. I can dip a little water into a small vessel, but if a vessel is to be full, it must be unbroken. And the children of God, wherever they come together, to whatever church or mission or society they belong, must love each other intensely, or the Spirit of God cannot do His work. We talk about grieving the Spirit of God by worldliness and ritualism and formality and error and indifference. But, I tell you, the one thing above everything that grieves God's Spirit is this lack of love. Let every heart search itself, and ask that God may search it.
OUR LOVE SHOWS GOD'S POWER
Why are we taught that "the fruit of the Spirit is love"? Because the Spirit of God has come to make our daily life an exhibition of divine power and a revelation of what God can do for His children.
In the second and the fourth chapters of Acts, we read that the disciples were of one heart and of one soul. During the three years they had walked with Christ, they never had been in that spirit. All Christ's teaching could not make them of one heart and one soul. But the Holy Spirit came from heaven and shed the love of God in their hearts, and they were of one heart and one soul. The same Holy Spirit that brought the love of heaven into their hearts must fill us, too. Nothing less will do. Even as Christ did, one might preach love for three years with the tongue of an angel, but that would not teach any man to love unless the power of the Holy Spirit should come upon him to bring the love of heaven into his heart.
Think of the Church at large. What divisions! Think of the different bodies. Take the question of holiness, take the question of the cleansing blood, take the question of the baptism of the Spirit-what differences are caused among dear believers by such questions! That there are differences of opinion does not trouble me. We do not have the same constitution and temperament and mind. But how often hate, bitterness, contempt, separation, and unlovingness are caused by the holiest truths of God's Word! Our doctrines, our creeds, have been more important than love. We often think we are valiant for the truth, and we forget God's command to speak the truth in love. And it was so in the time of the Reformation between the Lutheran and Calvinistic churches. What bitterness there was in regard to communion, which was meant to be the bond of union among all believers! And so, through the ages, the very dearest truths of God have become mountains that have separated us.
If we want to pray in power, and if we want to expect the Holy Spirit to come down in power, and if we indeed want God to pour out His Spirit, we must enter into a covenant with God that we will love one another with a heavenly love.
Are you ready for that? Only that is true love that is large enough to take in all God's children, the most unloving and unlovable and unworthy and unbearable and trying. If my vow-absolute surrender to God-was sincere, then it must mean absolute surrender to the divine love to fill me. I must be a servant of love to love every child of God around me. "The fruit of the Spirit is love."
Oh, God did something wonderful when He gave Christ, at His right hand, the Holy Spirit to come down out of the heart of the Father and His everlasting love. And how we have degraded the Holy Spirit into a mere power by which we have to do our work! God forgive us! Oh, that the Holy Spirit might be held in honor as a power to fill us with the very life and nature of God and of Christ!
CHRISTIAN WORK REQUIRES LOVE
"The fruit of the Spirit is love." I ask once again, Why is it so? And the answer comes: That is the only power in which Christians really can do their work. Yes, it is love that we need. We want not only love that is to bind us to each other, but we want a divine love in our work for the lost around us. Oh, do we not often undertake a great deal of work-just as men undertake work of philanthropy-from a natural spirit of compassion for our fellow-men? Do we not often undertake Christian work because our minister. or friend calls us to it? And do we not often perform Christian work with a certain zeal but without having had a baptism of love?
People often ask: "What is the baptism of fire?"
I have answered more than once: "I know no fire like the fire of God, the fire of everlasting love that consumed the sacrifice on Calvary." The baptism of love is what the Church needs, and to get that we must begin at once to get down on our faces before God in confession, and plead:
"Lord, let love from heaven flow down into my heart. I am giving up my life to pray and live as one who has, given himself up for the everlasting love to dwell in and fill him."
Ali, yes, if the love of God were in our hearts, what a difference it would make! There are hundreds of believers who say:
"I work for Christ, and I feel I could work much harder, but I do not have the gift. I do not know how or where to begin. I do not know what I can do."
Brother, sister, ask God to baptize you with the Spirit of love, and love will find its way. Love is a fire that will burn through every difficulty. You may be a shy, hesitating person, who cannot speak well, but love can burn through everything. God fills us with love! We need it for our work.
You have read many a touching story of love expressed, and you have said, How beautiful! I heard one not long ago. A lady had been asked to speak at a Rescue Home where there were a number of poor women. As she arrived there and passed by the window with the matron, she saw a wretched woman sitting outside, and asked:
"Who is that?"
The matron answered: "She has been into the house thirty or forty times, and she has always gone away again. Nothing can be done with her, she is so low and hard." But the lady said: "She must come in."
The matron then said: "We have been waiting for you, and the company is assembled, and you have only an hour for the address."
The lady replied: "No, this is of more importance"; and she went outside where the woman was sitting and said:
"My sister, what is the matter?"
"I am not your sister," was the reply.
The the lady laid her hand on her, and said: "Yes, I am your sister, and I love you"; and so she spoke until the heart of the poor woman was touched.
The conversation lasted some time, and the company was waiting patiently. Ultimately, the lady brought the woman into the room. There was the poor, wretched, degraded creature, full of shame. She would not sit on a chair, but sat down on a stool beside the speaker's seat, and she let her lean against her, with her arms around the poor woman's neck, while, she spoke to the assembled people. And that love touched the woman's heart; she had found one who really loved her, and that love gave access to the love of Jesus.
Praise God! there is love on earth in the hearts of God's children; but oh, that there were more!
O God, baptize our ministers with a tender love, and our missionaries, our Bible readers, our workers, and our young men's and young women's associations. Oh, that God would begin with us now, and baptize us with heavenly love!
LOVE INSPIRES INTERCESSION
Once again. It is only love that can fit us for the work of intercession.
I have said that love must fit us for our work. Do you know what the hardest and the most important work is that has to be done for this sinful world? It is the work of intercession, the work of going to God and taking time to lay hold of Him.
A man may be an earnest Christian, an earnest minister, and a man may do good, but alas! how often he has to confess that he knows little of what it is to tarry with God. May God give us the great gift of an intercessory spirit, a spirit of prayer and supplication! Let me ask you in the name of Jesus not to let a day pass without praying for all saints, and for all God's people.
I find there are Christians who think little of that. I find there are prayer unions where they pray for the members, and not for all believers. I pray you, take time to pray for the Church of Christ. It is right to pray for the heathen, as I have already said. God help us to pray more for them. It is right to pray for missionaries and for evangelistic work and for the unconverted. But Paul did not tell people to pray for the heathen or the unconverted. Paul told them to pray for believers. Do make this your first prayer every day: "Lord, bless Thy saints everywhere."
The state of Christ's Church is indescribably low. Plead for God's people that He would visit them, plead for each other, plead for all believers who are trying to work for God. Let love fill your heart. Ask Christ to pour fresh love into you everyday. Try to grasp, by the Holy Spirit of God: I am separated unto the Holy Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit is love. God help us to understand it.
May God grant that we learn day by day to wait more quietly upon Him. We must not wait upon God only for ourselves, or the power to do so will soon be lost. But, we must give ourselves up to the ministry and the love of intercession, and pray more for God's people in general, for God's people around us, for the Spirit of love in ourselves and in them, and for the work of God we are connected with. The answer will surely come, and our waiting upon God will be a source of untold blessing and power. "The fruit of the Spirit is love."
Have you a lack of love to confess before God? Then make confession and say before Him, "O Lord, my lack of heart, my lack of love-I confess it." And then, as you cast that lack at His feet, believe that the blood cleanses you, that Jesus comes in His mighty, cleansing, saving power to deliver you, and that He will give His Holy Spirit. "The Fruit of the Spirit is love."
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Ye Are The Branches
By Andrew Murray (1828 - 1917)
AN ADDRESS TO CHRISTIAN WORKERS
Everything depends on our being right in Christ. If I want good apples, I must have a good apple tree. If I care for the health of the apple tree, the apple tree will give me good apples. And it is just so with our Christian life and work. If our life with Christ is right, all will come out right. Instruction and suggestion and help and training in the different departments of the work may be needed; all that has value. But in the long run, the greatest essential is to have the full life in Christ-in other words, to have Christ in us, working through us. I know how much there is to disturb us, or to cause anxious questionings. But the Master has such a blessing for every one of us and such perfect peace and rest. He has such joy and strength if we can only come into, and be kept in, the right attitude toward Him.
I will take my text from the parable of the Vine and the Branches, in John, chapter fifteen, verse five: "I am the vine, ye are the branches." Especially these words: "Ye are the branches."
What a simple thing it is to be a branch, the branch of a tree, or the branch of a vine! The branch grows out of the vine, or out of the tree, and there it lives and grows and, in due time, bears fruit. It has no responsibility except to receive sap and nourishment from the root and stem. And if only we knew, by the Holy Spirit, about our relationship to Jesus Christ, our work would be changed into the brightest and most heavenly thing on earth. Instead of there ever being soul-weariness or exhaustion, our work would be like a new experience, linking us to Jesus as nothing else can. For, is it not true that often our work comes between us and Jesus? What folly! The very work that He has to do in me, and 1 for Him, I take up in such a way that it separates me from Christ. Many a laborer in the vineyard has complained that he has too much work, and not enough time for close communion with Jesus. He complains that his usual work weakens his inclination for prayer, and that his many conversations with men darken the spiritual life. Sad thought, that the bearing of fruit should separate the branch from the vine! That must be because we have looked on our work as something other than the branch bearing fruit. May God deliver us from every false .thought about the Christian life.
Now, just a few thoughts about this blessed branch-life.
In the first place, it is a life of absolute dependence. The branch has nothing; it just depends on the vine for everything. Absolute dependence is one of the most solemn and precious of thoughts. A great German theologian wrote two large volumes some years ago to show that the whole of Calvin's theology is summed up in that one principle of absolute dependence upon God; and he was right. Another great writer has said that absolute, unalterable dependence upon God alone is the essence of the religion of angels. It should also be that of men. God is everything to the angels, and He is willing to be everything to the Christian. If I can learn to depend on God every moment of the day, everything will come right. You will receive the higher life if you depend absolutely on God.
Now, here we find it with the vine and the branches. Every vine you ever see, or every bunch of grapes that come to your table, let it remind you that the branch is absolutely dependent on the vine. The vine has to do the work, and the branch enjoys the fruit of it.
What has the vine to do? It has to do a great work. It has to send its roots out into the soil and hunt under the ground-the roots often extend a long way out-for nourishment, and to drink in the moisture. Put certain elements of manure in certain directions, and the vine sends its roots there. Then, its roots or stems turn the moisture and manure into that special sap which makes the fruit that is borne. The vine does the work, and the branch has just to receive the sap from the vine. The sap is then changed into grapes. I have been told that at Hampton Court, London, there was a vine that sometimes bore a couple of thousand bunches of grapes. People were astonished at its large growth and rich fruitage. Afterward, the cause was discovered. The Thames River flows nearby, so the vine had stretched its roots hundreds of yards under the ground until it had come to the riverside. There, in all the rich slime of the riverbed, it had found rich nourishment, and obtained moisture. The roots had drawn the sap all that distance up and up into the vine. As a result, there was the abundant, rich harvest. The vine had the work to do, and the branches had just to depend on the vine and receive what it gave.
Is that literally true of my Lord Jesus? Must I understand that when I have to work, when I have to preach a sermon or address a Bible class or go out and visit the poor, neglected ones, that all the responsibility of the work is on Christ? That is exactly what Christ wants you to understand. Christ desires that in all your work the very foundation should be the simple, blessed consciousness: Christ must care for all. And how does He fulfill the trust of that dependence? He does it by sending down the Holy Spirit-not now and then only as a special gift. But remember, the relationship between the vine and the branches is such that hourly, daily, unceasingly, the living connection is maintained. The sap does not flow for a time, and then stop, and then flow again. Instead, moment to moment, the sap flows from the vine to the branches. And just so, my Lord Jesus wants me to take that blessed position as a worker. Morning by morning and day by day and hour by hour and step by step-in every work-I have to go out to abide before Him in the simple, utter helplessness of one who knows nothing. I must be as one who is nothing, and can do nothing. Oh, beloved workers, study that word nothing. You sometimes sing: "Oh, to be nothing, nothing"; but have you really studied that word and prayed every day and worshipped God in the light of it? Do you know the blessedness of that word nothing?
If I am something, then God is not everything; but when I become nothing, God can become all. The everlasting God in Christ can reveal Himself fully. That is the higher life. We need to become nothing. Someone has well said that the seraphim and cherubim are flames of fire because they know they are nothing, and they allow God to put His fullness and His glory and brightness into them. Oh, become nothing in deep reality, and, as a worker, study only one thing-to become poorer and lower and more helpless, that Christ may work all in you.
Workers, here is your first lesson: learn to be nothing, learn to be helpless. The man who has got something is not absolutely dependent. But the man who has got nothing is absolutely dependent. Absolute dependence on God is the secret of all power in work. The branch has nothing but what it gets from the vine. You and I can have nothing but what we get from Jesus.
But second, the life of the branch is not only a life of entire dependence, but also of deep restfulness.
That little branch, if it could think, feel, and speak, and if we could say: "Come, branch of the vine, I want to learn from you how I can be a true branch of the living Vine," what would it answer? The little branch would whisper: "Man, I hear that you are wise, and I know that you can do a great many wonderful things. I know you have much strength and wisdom given to you, but I have one lesson for you. With all your hurry and effort in Christ's work, you never prosper. The first thing you need is to come and rest in your Lord Jesus. That is what I do. Since I grew out of that vine, I have spent years and years, and all I have done is just to rest in the vine. When the time of spring came I had no anxious thought or care. The vine began to pour its sap into me, and to give the bud and leaf. And when summer came, I had no care; and in the great heat, I trusted the vine to bring moisture to keep me fresh. And in the time of harvest, when the owner came to pluck the grapes, I had no care. If there was anything in the grapes not good, the owner never blamed the branch; the blame was always on the vine. And if you would be a true branch of Christ, the living Vine, just rest on Him. Let Christ bear the responsibility."
You say: "Won't that make me slothful?"
I tell you it will not. No one who learns to rest on the living Christ can become slothful. The closer your contact with Christ, the more the Spirit of His zeal and love will be borne in upon you. But, oh, begin to work in the midst of your entire dependence by adding to that deep restfulness. A man sometimes tries and tries to be dependent on Christ, but he worries himself about this absolute dependence. He tries and he cannot get it. But let him sink down into entire restfulness every day.
In Thy strong hand I lay me down.
So shall the work be done;
For who can work so wondrously
As the Almighty One?
Workers, take your place every day at the feet of Jesus, in the blessed peace and rest that come from the knowledge- I have no care, my cares are His! I have no fear, He cares for all my fears.
Come, children of God, and understand that it is the Lord Jesus who wants to work through you. You complain of the lack of fervent love. It will come from Jesus. He will give the divine love in your heart with which you can love people. That is the meaning of the assurance: "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit" (Romans 5:5); and of that other word: "The love of Christ constraineth us" (2 Corinthians 5:14). Christ can give you a fountain of love so that you cannot help loving the most wretched and the most ungrateful, or those who have wearied you. Rest in Christ, who can give wisdom and strength. You do not know how that restfulness will often prove to be the very best part of your message. You plead with people and you argue, and they get the idea: "There is a man arguing and striving with me." But if you will let the deep rest of God come over you-the rest in Christ Jesus, the peace and the rest and holiness of heaven-that restfulness will bring a blessing to the heart, even more than the words you speak.
But third, the branch teaches a lesson of much fruitfulness.
The Lord Jesus Christ repeated the word fruit often in that parable. He spoke, first, of fruit, and then of more fruit, and then of much fruit. Yes, you are ordained not only to bear fruit, but to bear much fruit. "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit" (John 15:8). In the first place, Christ said: "I am the true Vine, and my Father is the Husbandman" (John 15:1). God will watch over the connection between Christ and the branches. It is in the power of God through Christ that we are to bear fruit.
Oh, Christians, you know this world is perishing for lack of workers. And it lacks more than workers. Many workers are saying, some more earnestly than others: "We need not only more workers, but we need our workers to have a new powera different life-so that we workers would be able to bring more blessing." Children of God, I appeal to you. You know what trouble you take, say, in a case of sickness. You have a beloved friend apparently in danger of death, and nothing can refresh that friend so much as a few grapes. But, they are out of season. Still, what trouble you will take to get the grapes that are to be the nourishment of this dying friend! And, there are people around who never go to church, and so many who go to church, but do not know Christ. And yet, the heavenly grapes-the grapes of the heavenly Vine-are not to be had at any price except as the child of God bears them out of his inner life in fellowship with Christ. Except the children of God are filled with the sap of the heavenly Vine, except they are filled with the Holy Spirit and the love of Jesus, they cannot bear much of the real heavenly grape. We all confess there is a great deal of work, a great deal of preaching, teaching, and visiting, a great deal of machinery, and a great deal of earnest effort of every kind. But, there is not much manifestation of the power of God in it.
What is wanting? The close connection between the worker and the heavenly Vine is lacking. Christ, the heavenly Vine, has blessings that He could pour on tens of thousands who are perishing. Christ, the heavenly Vine, has power to provide the heavenly grapes. But "Ye are the branches," and you cannot bear heavenly fruit unless you are in close connection with Jesus Christ.
Do not confuse work and fruit. There may be a good deal of work for Christ that is not the fruit of the heavenly Vine. Do not seek for work only. Oh! study this question of fruit-bearing. It means the very life, power, spirit, and love within the heart of the Son of God. It means the heavenly Vine Himself coming into your hearts and mine.
You know there are different sorts of grapes, each with a different name. Every vine provides exactly that peculiar aroma and juice which gives the grape its particular flavor and taste. Just so, there is in the heart of Christ Jesus a life, a love, a Spirit, a blessing, and a power for men, that are entirely heavenly and divine, and that will come down into our hearts. Stand in close connection with the heavenly Vine and say: "Lord Jesus, nothing less than the sap that flows through You, nothing less than the Spirit of Your divine life is what we ask. Lord Jesus, I pray, let Your Spirit flow through me in all my work for You." I tell you again that the sap of the heavenly Vine is nothing but the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the life of the heavenly Vine. What you must get from Christ is nothing less than a strong inflow of the Holy Spirit. You need it exceedingly, and you want nothing more than that. Remember that. Do not expect Christ to give a bit of strength here, and a bit of blessing yonder, and a bit of help over there. As the vine does its work in giving its own peculiar sap to the branch, so expect Christ to give His own Holy Spirit into your heart. Then you will bear much fruit. Perhaps you have only begun to bear fruit, and are listening to the word of Christ in the parable, "more fruit," "much fruit." Remember, that in order for you to bear more fruit, you just require more of Jesus in your life and heart.
We ministers of the Gospel, how we are in danger of getting into a condition of work, work, work! And we pray over it, but the freshness, buoyancy, and joy of the heavenly life are not always present. Let us seek to understand that the life of the branch is a life of much fruit, because it is a life rooted in Christ, the living, heavenly Vine.
And fourth, the life of the branch is a life of close communion.
Let us again ask: What has the branch to do? You know that precious, inexhaustible word that Christ used-Abide. Your life is to be an abiding life. And how is the abiding to be? It is to be just like the branch in the vine, abiding every minute of the day. The branches are in close communion, in unbroken communion, with the vine, from January to December. And can I not live every day-it is to me an almost terrible thing that we should ask the question-in abiding communion with the heavenly Vine?
You say: "But I am so occupied with other things."
You may have ten hours' hard work daily, during which your brain has to be occupied with temporal things. God orders it so. But the abiding work is the work of the heart, not of the brain. It is the work of the heart clinging to and resting in Jesus, a work in which the Holy Spirit links us to Christ Jesus. Oh, do believe that deeper down than the brain, deep down in the inner life, you can abide in Christ, so that every moment you are free, the consciousness will come: "Blessed Jesus, I am still in You." If you will learn for a time to put aside other work and to get into this abiding contract with the heavenly Vine, you will find that fruit will come. What is the application to our life of this abiding communion? What does it mean? It means close fellowship with Christ in secret prayer. I am sure there are Christians who do long for the higher life, and who sometimes have received a great blessing. I am sure there are those who have at times found a great inflow of heavenly joy and a great outflow of heavenly gladness. Yet, after a time, it has passed away. They have not understood that close, personal communion with Christ is an absolute necessity for daily life. Take time to be alone with Christ. Nothing in heaven or earth can free you from the necessity for that, if you are to be happy and holy Christians.
Oh! how many Christians look on it as a burden and a tax, a duty and a difficulty, to often be alone with God! That is the great hindrance to our Christian life everywhere. We need more quiet fellowship with God. I tell you in the name of the heavenly Vine that you cannot be healthy branches-branches into which the heavenly sap can flow-unless you take plenty of time for communion with God. If you are not willing to sacrifice time to get alone with Him, and to give Him time everyday to work in you, and to keep up the link of connection between you and Himself, He cannot give you that blessing of His unbroken fellowship. Jesus Christ asks you to live in close communion with Him. Let every heart say: "O Christ, it is this I long for. It is this I choose." And He will gladly give it to you.
And then finally, the life of the branch is a life of absolute surrender.
These words, absolute surrender, are great and solemn. I believe we do not fully understand their meaning. But yet the little branch preaches it. "Have you anything to do, little branch, besides bearing grapes?" "No, nothing."
"Are you fit for nothing?"
Fit for nothing! The Bible says that a bit of vine cannot even be used as a pen. It is fit for nothing but to be burned. "And now, what do you understand, little branch, about your relationship to the vine?" "My relationship is just this: I am utterly given up to the vine, and the vine can give me as much or as little sap as it chooses. Here I am, at its disposal, and the vine can do with me what it likes."
Oh, friends, we need this absolute surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ. The more I speak, the more I feel that this is one of the most difficult points to make clear. It is also one of the most important and needful points to explain what this absolute surrender is. It is often an easy thing for a man or a number of men to come out and offer themselves up God for entire consecration, saying: "Lord, it is my desire to give myself up entirely to You." That is of great value, and often brings very rich blessing. But the one question I ought to study quietly is: What is meant by absolute surrender?
It means that, as literally as Christ was given up entirely to God, I am given up entirely to Christ. Is that too strong? Some think so. Some think that can never be. They cannot believe that just as entirely and absolutely as Christ gave up His life to do nothing but seek the Father's pleasure, and depend on the Father absolutely and entirely, I am to do nothing but to seek the pleasure of Christ. But that is actually true. Christ Jesus came to breathe His own Spirit into us. He came to help us find our very highest happiness in living entirely for God, just as He did. Oh, beloved brethren, if that is the case, then I ought to say: "Yes, as true as it is of that little branch of the vine, by God's grace, I would have it to be true of me. I would live day by day that Christ may be able to do with me what He will."
Ah! here comes the terrible mistake that lies at the bottom of so much of our own Christianity. A man thinks: "I have my business and family duties, and my responsibilities as a citizen. All this I cannot change. And now alongside all this, I am to take Christianity and the service of God as something that will keep me from sin. God help me to perform my duties properly!"
This is not right. When Christ came, He bought the sinner with His blood. If-there was a slave market here and I were to buy a slave, I would take that slave away to my own house from his old surroundings. He would live at my house as my personal property, and I could order him about all day. And if he were a faithful slave, he would live as having no will and no interests of his own. His one care would be to promote the well-being and honor of his master. And in like manner I, who have been bought with the blood of Christ, have been bought to live every day with the one thought-How can I please my Master? Oh, we find the Christian life so difficult because we seek God's blessing while we live in our own will. We desire to live the Christian life according to our own liking. We make our own plans and choose our own work. Then, we ask the Lord Jesus to come in and make sure that sin will not conquer us too much, and that we will not go too far wrong. We ask Him to come in and give us so much of His blessing. But our relationship to Jesus ought to be such that we are entirely at His disposal. Every day we are to come to Him humbly and straightforwardly and say: "Lord, is there anything in me that is not according to Your will, that has not been ordered by You, or that is not entirely given up to You?"
Oh, if we could wait patiently, I tell you what the result would be. A relationship between us and Christ would spring up. It would be so close and so tender that afterward we would be amazed at how we formerly could have lived with the idea: "I am surrendered to Christ." We would feel how distant our fellowship with Him had previously been. We would understand that He can, and does indeed, come and take actual possession of us, and give us unbroken fellowship all day. The branch calls us to absolute surrender.
Now I do not speak so much about the giving up of sins. There are people who need that, people who have got violent tempers, bad habits, and actual sins which they from time to time commit, and which they have never given up into the very bosom of the Lamb of God. I pray you, if you are branches of the living Vine, do not keep one sin back. I know there are a great many difficulties about this question of holiness. I know that all do not think exactly the same with regard to it. To me, that would be a matter of comparative indifference if I could see that all are honestly longing to be free from every sin. But I am afraid that unconsciously there are often compromises in hearts, with the idea that we cannot be without sin. There are those who think that we must sin a little every day; we cannot help it. Oh, that people would actually cry to God: "Lord, do keep me from sin!"Give yourself utterly to Jesus, and ask Him to do His very utmost for you in keeping you from sin.
There is a great deal in our work, in our church, and in our surroundings that we found in the world when we were born into it. It has grown all around us and we think that it is all right, that it cannot be changed. We do not come to the Lord Jesus and ask Him about it. Oh! I advise you, Christians, bring everything into relationship with Jesus, and say: "Lord, everything in my life has to be in most complete harmony with my position as a branch of You, the blessed Vine."
Let your surrender to Christ be absolute. I do not understand that word surrender fully. It gets new meanings every now and then. It enlarges immensely from time to time. But I advise you to speak it out: "Absolute surrender to You, Oh Christ, is what I have chosen." And Christ will show you what is not according to His mind, and lead you on to deeper and higher blessedness.
In conclusion, let me gather up all in one sentence. Christ Jesus said: "I am the Vine, ye are the branches." In other words: "I, the living One who have so completely given Myself to you, am the Vine. It is impossible to trust Me too much. I am the Almighty Worker, full of a divine life and power."
You are the branches of the Lord Jesus Christ. If there is in your heart the consciousness that you are not a strong, healthy, fruit-bearing branch-not closely linked with Jesus, not living in Him as you should be-then listen to Him say: "I am the Vine; I will receive you. I will draw you to Myself; I will bless you. I will strengthen you; I will fill you with My Spirit. I, the Vine, have taken you to be My branches. I have given Myself utterly to you; children, give yourselves utterly to Me. I have surrendered Myself as God absolutely to you. I became man and died for you that I might be entirely yours. Come and surrender yourselves entirely to be Mine."
What shall our answer be? Oh, let it be prayer from the depths of our heart, that the living Christ may take each one of us and link us closely to Himself. Let our prayer be that He, the living Vine, will so link each of us to Himself that we will go away with our hearts singing: "He is my Vine, and I am His branch-I want nothing more-now that I have the everlasting Vine."Then, when you get alone with Him, worship and adore Him; praise and trust Him; love Him and wait for His love. "You are my Vine, and I am Your branch. It is enough; my soul is satisfied."
Glory to His blessed name!
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Follow Me'; The Holy Trinity
By Andrew Murray (1828 - 1917)
The Lord did not speak these words to all who believed on him, or who hoped to be blessed by him, but to those whom he would make fishers of men. He said this not only at the first calling of the apostles, but also later on to Peter: 'Henceforth thou shalt catch men' (Luke 5. 10). The holy art of winning souls, of loving and saving them, can be learned only in close and persistent intercourse with Christ. What a lesson for ministers and for Christian workers and others! This intercourse was the great and peculiar privilege of his disciples. The Lord chose them that they might be always with and near him. We read of the choice of the twelve apostles in Mark 3.14: 'And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach. 'So also our Lord said on the last night (John 15.27): 'And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.'
This fact was noticed by outsiders. Thus, for instance, the woman who spoke to Peter: 'This fellow was also with Jesus' (Matt. 26.71). So in the Sanhedrin: 'They took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus' (Acts 4.13). The chief characteristic and indispensable qualification for the man who will bear witness to Christ is that he has been with him. Continuous fellowship with Christ is the only school for the training of ministers of the Holy Spirit. What a lesson for all ministers! It is only he who, like Caleb, follows the Lord fully, who will have power to teach other souls the art of following Jesus. But what an unspeakable grace that the Lord Jesus himself would train us after his own likeness, so that others may learn from us! Then we might say with Paul to our converts: 'Ye became followers of us, and of the Lord...' (I Thess. 1. 6), 'Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ' (1 Cor. 11.1).
Never was there a teacher who took such trouble with his scholars as Jesus Christ will with us who preach his word. He will spare no pains; no time will be too precious or too long for him. In the love which brought him to the cross, he would hold intercourse, converse with us, fashion us, sanctify us, and make us fit for his holy service. Dare we still complain that it is too much for us to spend so much time in prayer? Shall we not commit ourselves entirely to the love which gave up all for us, and look upon it as our greatest happiness now to hold fellowship with him daily? Oh, all you who long for blessing in your ministry, he calls you to be with him. Let this be the greatest joy of your life; it will be the surest preparation for blessing in your service. 0 my Lord, draw me, help me, hold me fast, and teach me how daily to live in thy fellowship by faith.
The Holy Trinity
1. God is an ever flowing fountain of pure love and blessedness.
2. Christ is the reservoir wherein the fullness of God was made visible as grace, and has been opened for us.
3. The Holy Spirit is the stream of living water that flows from under the throne of God and of the Lamb.
4. The redeemed, God's believing children, are the channels through which the love of the Father, the grace of Christ, and the powerful operation of the Spirit are brought to the earth, there to be imparted to others.
5. What an impression we gain here of the wonderful partnership into which God takes us up, as dispensers of the grace of God! Prayer, when we chiefly pray for ourselves, is but the beginning of the life of prayer. The glory of prayer is that we have power as intercessors to bring the grace of Christ, and the energising power of the Spirit, upon those souls which are still in darkness.
6. The more surely the channel is connected with the reservoir, the more certainly will the water flow unhindered through it. The more we are occupied in prayer with the fullness of Christ, and with the Spirit who proceeds from him, and the more firmly we abide in fellowship with him, the more surely will our lives be happy and strong. This, however, is still only a preparation for the reality. The more we give ourselves up to fellowship and converse with the triune God, the sooner shall we receive the courage and ability to pray down blessing on souls, on ministers, and on the Church around us.
7. Are you truly a channel which is always open, so that the water may flow through you to the thirsty ones in the dry land? Have you offered yourself unreservedly to God, to become a bearer of the energising operations of the Holy Spirit?
8. Is it not, perhaps, because you have thought only of yourself in prayer that you have experienced so little of the power of prayer? Do understand that the new prayer life into which you have entered in the Lord Jesus can be sustained and strengthened only by the intercession in which you labour for the souls around you, to bring them to know the Lord? Oh, meditate on this--God an ever flowing fountain of love and blessing, and I his child, a living channel through which every day the Spirit and life can be brought to the earth!
Life and Prayer
Our life has a great influence on our prayer, just as our prayer influences our life. The entire life of man is a continuous prayer, to nature or to the world, to provide for his wants and make him happy. This natural prayer and desire can be so strong in a man who also prays to God that the words of prayer which his mouth utters cannot be heard. God cannot at times hear the prayer of your lips because the desires of your heart after the world cry out to him much more strongly and loudly.
The life exercises a mighty influence over prayer. A worldly life, a self-seeking life, makes prayer powerless and an answer impossible. With many Christians there is a conflict between the life and prayer, and the life holds the upper hand. But prayer can also exercise a mighty influence over the life. If 1 give myself entirely to God in prayer, then prayer can conquer the life of the flesh and sin. The entire life may be brought under the control of prayer. Prayer can change and renew the whole life, because prayer calls in and receives the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit to purify and sanctify the life.
Many think that they must, with their defective spiritual life, work themselves up to pray more. They do not understand that only in proportion as the spiritual life is strengthened can the prayer life increase. Prayer and life are inseparably connected. What do you think? Which has the stronger influence over you, prayer for five or ten minutes, or the whole day spent in the desires of the world? Let it not surprise you if your prayers are not answered. The reason may easily lie here; your life and your prayer are at strife with each other; your heart is more wholly devoted to living than to prayer. Learn this great lesson: my prayer must rule my whole life. What I request from God in prayer is not decided in five or ten minutes. 1 must learn to say: 'I have prayed with my whole heart. 'What I desire from God must really fill my heart the whole day; then the way is open for a certain answer.
Oh, the sacredness and power of prayer, if it takes possession of the heart and life! It keeps one constantly in fellowship with God. We can then literally say, 'On thee do I wait all the day' (Ps. 25.5). Let us be careful to consider not only the length of the time we spend with God in prayer, but the power with which our prayer takes possession of our whole life.
Perseverance in Prayer
'It is not reason,' said Peter, 'that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables' (Acts 6.2). For that work deacons were chosen. And this word of Peter serves for all time and for all who are set apart as ministers. 'But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word' (Acts 6.4). Dr Alexander Whyte, in an address, once said: 'I think sometimes, when my salary is paid to me so faithfully and punctually: the deacons have performed faithfully their part of the agreement; have I been so faithful in my part, in persevering in prayer and the ministry of the word?' Another minister has said: 'How surprised people would be if I proposed to divide my time between these two equallyone half given to prayer, the other to the ministry of the word!'
Notice, in the case of Peter, what perseverance in prayer meant. He went up on the roof to pray. There, in prayer, he received heavenly instruction as to his work among the heathen. There, the message from Cornelius came to him. There, the Holy Spirit said to him: 'Behold, three men seek thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them' (Acts 10. 19-20). And from there he went to Caesarea, where the Spirit was so unexpectedly outpoured on the heathen. All this is to teach us that it is through prayer God will give the instruction of his Spirit to make us understand his will, to let us know with whom we are to speak, to give us the assurance that his Spirit will make his word powerful through us.
Have you ever earnestly thought over why it is that you have a salary and a parsonage, and are set free from the need of following earthly business? It is for nothing else than that you should continue in prayer and the ministry of the word. That will be your wisdom and power. That will be the secret of a blessed service of the gospel.
No wonder that there is complaint about the ineffective spiritual life in minister and congregation, while that which is of prime importance, perseverance in prayer, does not hold its rightful place-the first place.
Peter was able to speak and act as he did because he was filled with the Spirit. Let us not be satisfied with anything less than hearty surrender to and undivided appropriation of the Spirit, as leader and Lord of our lives. Nothing less will help us. Then, for the first time, we shall be able to say that God 'hath made us able ministers ... of his Spirit' (2 Cor. 3.6).
Carnal or Spiritual?
There is a great difference between those two states which is but little understood or pondered. The Christian who 'walks in the Spirit' and has 'crucified the flesh' (Gal. 5.24) is spiritual. The Christian who walks after the flesh and wishes to please the flesh is carnal (see Rom. 13.14). The Galatians, who had begun in the Spirit, were ending in the flesh. Yet there were among them some spiritual members who were able to restore the wandering with meekness.
What a difference between the carnal and the spiritual Christian (I Cor. 3.1-3)! With the carnal Christian there may be much religion and much zeal for God, and for the service of God. But it is for the most part in human power. With the spiritual, on the other hand, there is a complete subjection to the leading of the Spirit, a deep sense of weakness and entire dependence on the work of Christ-it is a life of abiding fellowship with Christ, wrought out by the Spirit.
How important for me it is to find out and plainly to acknowledge before God whether I am spiritual or carnal! A minister may be very faithful in his orthodoxy, and be most zealous in his service, and yet be so, chiefly, in the power of human wisdom and zeal. And one of the signs of this is that there is little pleasure or perseverance in fellowship with Christ through prayer. Love of prayer is one of the marks of the Spirit.
What a change is necessary for a Christian who is chiefly carnal to become truly spiritual! At first he cannot understand what must happen, or how it can come to pass. The more the truth dawns upon him, the more he is convinced that it is impossible, unless God does it. Yet to believe truly that God will do it requires earnest prayer. Quiet retirement and meditation are indispensable, along with the death of all confidence in ourselves. But along this road there ever comes the faith that God can, God is willing, God will do it. The soul which earnestly clings to the Lord Jesus will be led by the Spirit to this faith.
How will you be able to say to others: I brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ'? (1 Cor. 3. 1). It is impossible unless you yourself have the experience of having passed from the one state to the other. But God will teach you. Persevere in prayer and faith.
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A New Spirit, and God's Spirit
By Andrew Murray (1828 - 1917)
A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you. And I will put my Spirit within you.' -Ezekiel 36: 26, 27.
GOD has revealed Himself in two great dispensations. In the Old we have the, time of promise and preparation, in the New that of fulfilment and possession.' In harmony with the difference of the two dispensations, there is a two fold working of God's Spirit. In the Old Testament we have the Spirit of God coming upon men, and working on them in special times and ways, working from above and without, inwards. In the New we have the Holy Spirit entering them and dwelling within them, working from within, outwards and upwards. In the former we have the Spirit of God as the Almighty and Holy One; in the latter we have the Spirit of the Father of Jesus Christ.
The difference between the twofold, operation of the Holy Spirit is not to be regarded as if, with the closing of the Old Testament, the former ceased,and there was in the New no more of the work of preparation. By no means. Just as there were in the Old blessed anticipations of the indwelling of God's Spirit, so now in the New Testament the twofold working still continues. According to the lack of knowledge, or of faith, or - of faithfulness, a believer may even in these days get little beyond the Old Testament measure of the Spirit's working. The indwelling Spirit has indeed been given to every child of God, and yet he may experience little beyond the first half of the promise, the new spirit given us in regeneration, and know almost nothing of God's own Spirit, as a living person put within us. The Spirit's work in convincing of sin and of righteousness, in His leading to repentance and faith and the new life, is but the preparatory work. The distinctive glory of the dispensation of the Spirit is His Divine personal indwelling in the heart of the believer, there to reveal the Father and the Son. It is only as Christians understand and remember this, that they will be able to claim the full blessing prepared for them in Christ Jesus.
In the words of Ezekiel we find, in the one promise, this twofold blessing God bestows through His Spirit very strikingly set forth. The first is, 'I will put within you a new spirit,' that is, man's own spirit is to be renewed and quickened by the work of God's Spirit. When this has been done, then there is the second blessing, ' I will put my Spirit within you,' to dwell in that new spirit, Where God is to dwell, He must have a habitation. With Adam He had to create a body before He could breathe the spirit of life into him. In Israel the tabernacle and the temple had to be built and completed before God could come down and take possession. And just so a new heart is given, and a new spirit put within us, as the indispensable condition of God's own Spirit being given to dwell within us. The difference is the same we find in David's prayer. First, 'Create in me a clean heart, 0 God ! and renew a right spirit within me;' then, 'Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.' Or what is indicated in the words, 'That which is born of the spirit is spirit :' there is the Divine Spirit begetting, and the new spirit begotten by Him. So the two are also distinguished, 'God's Spirit beareth witness with our spirits that we are the children of God! Our spirit is the renewed regenerate spirit; dwelling in this, and yet to be distinguished from it, is God's Holy Spirit, witnessing in, with, and through it.'
The importance of recognising this distinction can easily be perceived. We shall then be able to understand the true relation between regeneration and the indwelling of the Spirit. The former is that work of the Holy Spirit, by which He convinces us of sin, leads to repentance and faith in Christ, and imparts a new nature. Through the Spirit God thus fulfils the promise, ''I will put a new spirit within you.' The believer is now a child of God, a temple ready for the Spirit to dwellin. Where faith claims it, the second half of the promise is fulfilled as surely as the first. As long now as the believer only looks at regeneration, and the renewal wrought in his spirit, he will not come to the life of joy and strength which is meant for him. But when he accepts God's promise that there is something better than even the new nature, than the inner temple, that there is the Spirit of the Father and the Son to dwell within him, there opens up a wonderful prospect of holiness and blessedness. It becomes his one great desire to know this Holy Spirit aright, how He works and what He asks, to know how he may to the full experience His indwelling, and that revelation of the Son of God within us which it is His work to bestow.
The question will be asked, How these two parts of the Divine promise are fulfilled ? simultaneously or successively ? The answer is very simple: From God's side the twofold gift is simultaneous. The Spirit is not divided: in giving the Spirit, God gives Himself and all He is. So it was on the day of Pentecost. The three thousand received the new spirit, with repentance and faith, and then, when they had been baptized, the Indwelling Spirit, as God's seal to their faith, on one day. Through the word of disciples, the Spirit, which had come upon them, wrought mightily on the multitude, changing disposition and heart and spirit. When, in the power of this new spirit working in them, they had believed and confessed, they received the baptism of Holy Spirit to abide in them. And so still in times when the Spirit of God moves mightily, and the Church is living in the power of the Spirit, the children which are begotten of her receive from the first beginnings of their Christian life the distinct conscious sealing and indwelling of the Spirit. And yet we have indications in Scripture that there may be circumstances, dependent either on the enduement of the preacher or the faith of the bears in which the two halves of the promise are not so closely linked. So it was with the believers in Samaria converted under Philip's preaching; and so too with the converts Paul met at Ephesus. In their case was repeated the experience of the apostles themselves. We regard them as regenerate men before our Lord's death ; it was only at Pentecost that the promise was fulfilled, 'He shall be in you!' What was seen in them, just as in the Old and New Testaments,-the grace of the Spirit divided into two separate manifestations,-may still take place in our day. When, the standard of spiritual life in a Church is sickly and low, when neither in the preaching of the word nor in the testimony of believers, the glorious truth of an Indwelling Spirit is distinctly proclaimed, we must not wonder if, even where God gives His Spirit, He be known and experienced only as the Spirit of regeneration. His Indwelling Presence will remain a mystery. In the gift of God, the Spirit of Christ in all His fulness is bestowed once for all as an Indwelling Spirit; but He is received and possessed only as far as the faith of the believer reaches.
It is generally admitted in the Church that the Holy Spirit has - not the recognition which becomes Him as being the equal of the Father and the Son, the Divine Person through whom alone the Father and the Son can be truly possessed and known, in whom alone the Church has her beauty and her blessedness. In the Reformation, of blessed memory, the Gospel of Christ had to be vindicated from the terrible misapprehension which makes man's righteousness the ground of his acceptance, and the freeness of Divine grace had to be maintained. To the ages that followed was committed the trust of building on that foundation, and developing what the riches of grace would do for the believer through the indwelling of the Spirit of Jesus. The Church rested too content in what it had received, and the teaching of all that the Holy Spirit will be to each believer in His guiding, sanctifying, strengthening power, has never yet taken the place it ought to have in our evangelical teaching and living.
And there is many an earnest Christian who will in the confession lately made by a young believer of intelligence: I think I understand the work of the Father and the Son, and rejoice in them, but I hardly see the place the Spirit has. Let us unite with all who are pleading that God in power may grant mighty Spirit workings in His Church, that each child of God may prove that in him the double promise is fulfilled: I will give a new spirit within you, and I will give my Spirit within you. Let us pray that we may so apprehend the wonderful blessing of the Indwelling Spirit, as to turn inward and have our whole inmost being opened up for this, the full revelation of the Father's love and the grace of Jesus.
'Within you ! ' Within you ! This twice-repeated word of our text is one of the keywords of the 'New Covenant. ' I will put my law in their inward parts, 'and in their heart will I write it.' I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.' God created man's heart for His dwelling. Sin entered, and defiled it. Four thousand years God's Spirit strove and wrought to regain possession. In the Incarnation and Atonement of Christ the Redemption was accomplished, and the kingdom of God established. Jesus could say, 'The kingdom of God is come unto you;' 'the kingdom of God is within you.' It is within we must look for the fulfilment of the New Covenant, the Covenant not of ordinances but of life: in the power of an endless life the law and the fear of God are to be given in our heart: the Spirit of Christ Himself is to be within us as the power of our life. Not only on Calvary, or in the resurrection, or on the throne, is the glory of Christ the Conqueror to be seen,-but in our heart: within us, within us is to be the true display of the reality and the glory of His Redemption. Within us, in our inmost parts, is the hidden sanctuary where is the ark of the Covenant, sprinkled with the Blood, and containing the Law written in an ever-living writing by the Indwelling Spirit, and where, through the Spirit, the Father and the Son now come to dwell.
0 my God! I do thank Thee for this double blessing. I thank Thee for that wonderful holy temple Thou hast built up in me for Thyself-a new spirit given within me. And I thank Thee for that still more wonderful Holy Presence, Thine Own Spirit, to dwell within me, and there reveal the Father and the Son.
0 my God! I do pray Thee to open mine eyes for this the mystery of Thy love. Let Thy words, within you,' bow me low in trembling fear before Thy condescension, and may my one desire be to have my spirit indeed the worthy dwelling of Thy Spirit. Let them lift me up in holy trust and expectation, to look for and claim all that Thy promise means.
0 my Father!, I thank Thee that Thy Spirit doth dwell in me. I pray Thee, let His indwelling :be in power, in the living fellowship with Thyself, in the growing experience of His renewing power, in the ever fresh anointing that witnesses to His Presence, and the indwelling of my Glorified Lord Jesus. May my daily walk be in the deep reverence of His Holy Presence within me, and the glad experience of all He works. Amen.
Andrew Murray Books | Go to Books Page
A New Year Meditation
By Andrew Murray (1828 - 1917)
How many of us are longing and praying that the New Year may be a new beginning? How many sad hearts will make a vow of renewed consecration to God and will pray for a new revelation of God as January arrives? In order to understand what such a recommitment really means, we need to take in the lesson which this new beginning in Abrams life teaches.
Genesis 13:14 And the Lord said unto Abram When we give ourselves afresh to God, let it be our first thought to listen for him coming to us and telling us what he wants us to say and do. Have open ears for Gods voice. Do not imagine that because you are separated to God you now know how to serve him. I am deeply persuaded that the chief reason for the failure and feebleness of so many Christians is that they so seldom keep their ears open, waiting for Gods voice and teaching, for the guidance of his Holy Spirit.
The very first effect of a true consecration to God ought to be the deep sense that now God himself alone may say what we are to do. Out of this will grow a true confession of ignorance and a great assurance that God will not withhold the needed guidance. Again, this will lead to a very humble and dependent waiting for the teaching which is hidden from the wise and intelligent, which flesh and blood cannot give, which comes only by revelation from the Father.
Andrew Murray Books | Go to Books Page
By Charles Dyer 2001
A. Request of the Lord (86:1–5)
B. Recognition of the Lord (86:6–13)
C. Relationship to the Lord (86:14–17)
This individual lament attributed to David reflects some trial in his life that threatened to undo him, though he described it so generally as to make it impossible to isolate any particular event. This fact makes this psalm and many others pertinent to believers of any generation. David believed that God could and would deliver him because he understood God’s nature (86:5). He alone is God (86:8), and therefore only He is worthy of praise (86:12). Because David was God’s servant, he had special claim on God’s mercy and grace which, when bestowed on him, would put to shame those who sought to do him evil (86:17).
A. Glory of Zion (87:1–4)
B. Grace to Zion (87:5–7)
This brief song of Zion by the sons of Korah was apparently written after some occasion when Jerusalem was delivered by divine intervention. It speaks of the centrality of the holy city and of the privilege of those fortunate enough to have been born there (87:5). In the future that will continue to be an evidence of grace, so that when the final records are kept it will be especially noted who was native to Zion and who was not (87:5–6).
A. Despair of the Psalmist (88:1–7)
B. Desolation of the Psalmist (88:8–12)
C. Distress of the Psalmist (88:13–18)
Attributed to Heman the Ezrahite, perhaps the same as the wise man compared to Solomon (1 Kings 4:31), this individual lament depicts its author as one who is as good as dead (Ps. 88:4), lying already it seems in the depths of the earth (88:6). Like Job, he seemed all alone, cut off from family and friend (88:8; see Job 19:13, 19). If he died, his desolation would be all the worse, for in death even God is absent—or so the psalmist feared (Ps. 88:11). Again like Job, he lamented God’s refusal to reveal Himself (88:14; see Job 13:24), concluding in most pessimistic terms that his case was hopeless (Ps. 88:16).
A. The Covenant of the Lord (89:1–4)
B. The Conquests of the Lord (89:5–18)
C. The Constancy of the Lord (89:19–37)
D. The Chastisement of the Lord (89:38–45)
E. The Concealment of the Lord (89:46–51)
F. Postlude (89:52)
This royal psalm by Ethan the Ezrahite (see 1 Kings 4:31) focuses on David as the servant of the Lord whose messianic descendants—culminating in One who will reign forever—represent the rule of the Lord on the earth. In an affirmation of the promises initially made to David himself, the psalmist declared that God’s covenant with David is unconditional and everlasting (Ps. 89:3–4; see also 2 Sam. 7:16; Isa. 9:7). Its guarantee lies in God’s faithfulness to Israel in the past, in His triumph over Egypt and the Red Sea (Ps. 89:10), and in His dominion over all His creation (89:11–12). His choice of David (89:20) assured the psalmist that God would never forsake King David (89:24). Indeed, God will exalt him to the highest position, one so eminent that David would be able in a unique way to call God “Father” (89:26). But such blessings would not be exhausted in David, for his royal descendants would also inherit the covenant promises (89:29). Even if they sinned, the Lord would punish, of course, but He would never go back on His word to David (89:35).
Then, in a sudden change of mood, the author lamented a tragedy that had occurred, one so severe as to call into question the faithfulness of the Lord to His covenant pledge (89:39). Possibly the tragedy was the invasion and pillaging of Jerusalem by Shishak of Egypt in the days of Rehoboam, David’s grandson (1 Kings 14:25–28), though this is only a guess. In any case the king had been humiliated and his glory tarnished (Ps. 89:44–45). God seemed to have hidden Himself, and so naturally there was a theological conundrum: How could the Lord’s unconditional promise of an eternal Davidic dynasty be reconciled to the reality of its imminent danger of collapse? Unable to offer a satisfactory response, the psalmist could only appeal to God, who is altogether reliable (89:52).
Charles Dyer et al., Nelson’s Old Testament Survey: Discover the Background, Theology and Meaning of Every Book in the Old Testament (Nashville, TN: Word, 2001)
By Don Carson 6/30/2018
I Once heard a learned Sociologist, by confession an evangelical, explain with considerable erudition why even a major revival, should the Lord choose to send one to a country like America, could not possibly speedily transform the nation. The problem is not simply the degree of biblical illiteracy in the controlling echelons of society, or the extent to which secularization has penetrated the media, or the history of the Supreme Court decisions that have affected the curricula and textbooks of our schools, and countless other items, but also how these various developments interlock. Even if, say, a million people became Christians in a very short space of time, none of the interlocking social structures and cultural values would thereby be undone.
To be fair to this scholar, he was trying, in part, to steer us away from shallow thinking that fosters a glib view of religion and revival — as if a good revival would exempt us from the responsibility to think comprehensively and transform the culture.
The element that is most seriously lacking from this analysis, however, is the sheer sweep of God’s sovereignty. The analysis of this sociologist colleague is reductionistic. It is as if he thinks in largely naturalistic categories, but leaves a little corner for something fairly weak (though admittedly supernatural) like regeneration. Not for a moment am I suggesting that God does not normally work through means that follow the regularities of the structures God himself has created. But it is vital to insist that God is not ever limited to such regularities. Above all, the Bible repeatedly speaks of times when, on the one hand, he sends confusion or fear on whole nations, or, on the other, he so transforms people by writing his Law on their heart that they long to please him. We are dealing with a God who is not limited by the machinations of the media. He is quite capable of so intruding that in judgment or grace he sovereignly controls what people think.
As early as the Song of Moses and Miriam, God is praised for the way he sends fear among the nations along whose borders Israel must pass on the way to the Promised Land (Ex. 15:15-16). Indeed, God promises to do just that (Ex. 23:27), and promises the same for the Canaanites (Deut. 2:25). So it should not be surprising to find the evidence of it as the Israelites approach their first walled town (Josh. 2:8-11; cf. Josh. 5:1).
God may normally work through ordinary means. But he is not limited by them. That is why all the military muscle in the world cannot itself guarantee victory, and all the secularization, postmodernism, naturalism, and paganism in the world cannot by themselves prevent revival. Let God be God.
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 69Save Me, O God
69 To The Choirmaster: According To Lilies. Of David.
22 Let their own table before them become a snare;
and when they are at peace, let it become a trap.
23 Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see,
and make their loins tremble continually.
24 Pour out your indignation upon them,
and let your burning anger overtake them.
25 May their camp be a desolation;
let no one dwell in their tents.
26 For they persecute him whom you have struck down,
and they recount the pain of those you have wounded.
27 Add to them punishment upon punishment;
may they have no acquittal from you.
28 Let them be blotted out of the book of the living;
let them not be enrolled among the righteous.
29 But I am afflicted and in pain;
let your salvation, O God, set me on high!
By John Walvoord
Major Theological Interpretations of Prophecy
Amillennial interpretations. Within orthodox interpretations of the Bible the most prominent theological interpretation of prophecy since the fourth century of the Christian era has been amillennial or nonmillennial. Beginning with Augustine, the amillennial interpretation held that there would be no literal future thousand-year reign of Christ on earth, but that the millennium referred to the present age or possibly the last thousand years of the present age. Because this did not provide a literal interpretation of millennial passages, it has been designated as amillennial since the nineteenth century.
The amillennial interpretation within the limits of orthodox theology has had various explanations of fulfillment of the millennial prophecies. The most popular, the Augustinian interpretation, relates the millennium in the present age as a spiritual kingdom ruling in the hearts of Christians or embodied in the progress of the gospel in the church.
Amillenarians of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have offered varied interpretations, some holding that the millennium is fulfilled in the time between the death and resurrection of a Christian. Some in the twentieth century hold that the millennium will be fulfilled in the new heaven and the new earth as described in Revelation 21–22. Some amillenarians have also suggested that the millennial passages are conditional and will not be fulfilled due to the departure of Israel from the faith. Still others suggest that the kingdom of earth was fulfilled in the reign of Solomon who controlled the land promised to Abraham ( Gen. 15:18 ).
Within twentieth-century amillennialism the neoorthodox interpretation of Scripture may also be considered. This view considers the kingdom being fulfilled now in the experience of individual Christians. Generally speaking, neoorthodox scholars hold that God directly communicates to Christians supernaturally, but the Bible is not considered in itself an infallible record of revelation.
Liberal theologians also are amillennial in the sense that they do not believe any future millennium will ever take place.
Postmillennial Interpretation. Beginning with Daniel Whitby in the eighteenth century, an interpretation of prophecy became popular that held specifically that the millennium would be the last one thousand years of the present age. Adherents of this view believed the gospel would triumph to such an extent in the world that the whole world would be Christianized, bringing in a golden age that would correspond to the millennial kingdom. Like amillennialism, it places the second coming of Christ at the end of the millennium. Postmillennialism in its original form attempted a more literal interpretation of the millennium than was followed by the later postmillenarians of the twentieth century.
In the twentieth century, however, postmillennialism, influenced by evolution, became less biblical and adopted the concept of spiritual progress over a long period of time as in a general way bringing in a golden age. These postmillenarians, however, are not considered orthodox. As a theological movement, postmillennialism largely died in the first part of the twentieth century, but small groups have attempted to revive it in current theological discussion.
Premillennial Interpretation. From the first century, Bible scholars have held that the second coming of Christ will be premillennial, that is, the second coming will be followed by a thousand years of Christ’s literal reign on earth. This was a predominant view of the early church as witnessed by the early church fathers. By the third century, however, the Alexandria school of theology, bringing in sweeping allegorical interpretation of Scripture, succeeded in displacing the premillennial view.
In the last few centuries, however, premillennialism has been revived by biblical scholars and now is held by many who are orthodox in other respects. Unlike amillennialism and postmillennialism, the premillennial interpretation has no liberal adherents as it builds on the concept that the Bible is the Word of God and that prophecies are to be interpreted in their normal literal sense.
The premillennial view has much to commend it, as it has the same principles of interpretation regarding prophecy as is normal in other areas of theological interpretation. The premillennial view is generally adopted in the interpretation of prophecy in this work. The fact that so many prophecies have already been literally fulfilled lends support for the expectation that prophecies yet to be fulfilled will have the same literal fulfillment.
The Continual Burnt Offering (Mark 7:7, 13)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
Mark 7:7 in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
Mark 7:13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” ESV
Man is ever prone to suppose that formal religious observances will be acceptable to God as a means of procuring the divine favor. But religion as such has no saving value. If forms and ceremonies could purchase a place in Heaven, there would have been no need for Christ’s redemptive work. And even on the part of those already regenerated, the only thing that gives value to outward observances is a right state of heart before God, who desires truth in the inward parts (Psalm 51:6). He has said, “But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2). Again and again He sought to impress upon Israel the importance of reality in their approach to Him (Deuteronomy 10:12; Isaiah 57:15; Micah 6:8). Yet they were persistently substituting the outward for the inward, supposing that God would be satisfied by sacramental observances, when all the time He was calling for repentance from dead works and a living faith In His promises.
Many today make the same mistake, a mistake fraught with sad and fearful consequences, for it involves the rejection of the only way of life and salvation and the substitution of “a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
Psalm 51:6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Isaiah 66:2 All these things my hand has made,
and so all these things came to be,
declares the LORD.
But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word.
Deuteronomy 10:12 “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite.
Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death. ESV
One Priest alone can pardon me,
Or bid me “Go in peace;”
Can breathe that word “Absolvo te,”
And make these heart-throbs cease:
My soul has heard His priestly voice;
It said. “I bore thy sins — Rejoice!”
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
11. Another point is, that this corruption never ceases in us, but
constantly produces new fruits--viz. those works of the flesh which we
previously described, just as a burning furnace perpetually sends forth
flame and sparks, or a fountain is ever pouring out water. For
concupiscence never wholly dies or is extinguished in men, until, freed
by death from the body of death, they have altogether laid aside their
own nature (Book 3 chap. 3 sec. 10-13). Baptism, indeed, tells us that
our Pharaoh is drowned and sin mortified; not so, however, as no longer
to exist, or give no trouble, but only so as not to have dominion. For
as long as we live shut up in this prison of the body, the remains of
sin dwell in us, but if we faithfully hold the promise which God has
given us in baptism, they will neither rule nor reign. But let no man
deceive himself, let no man look complacently on his disease, when he
hears that sin always dwells in us. When we say so, it is not in order
that those who are otherwise too prone to sin may sleep securely in
their sins, but only that those who are tried and stung by the flesh
may not faint and despond. Let them rather reflect that they are still
on the way, and think that they have made great progress when they feel
that their concupiscence is somewhat diminished from day to day, until
they shall have reached the point at which they aim--viz. the final
death of the flesh; a death which shall be completed at the termination
of this mortal life. Meanwhile, let them cease not to contend
strenuously, and animate themselves to further progress, and press on
to complete victory. Their efforts should be stimulated by the
consideration, that after a lengthened struggle much still remains to
be done. We ought to hold that we are baptised for the mortification of
our flesh, which is begun in baptism, is prosecuted every day, and will
be finished when we depart from this life to go to the Lord.
12. Here we say nothing more than the apostle Paul expounds most clearly in the sixth and seventh chapters of the Epistle to the Romans. He had discoursed of free justification, but as some wicked men thence inferred that they were to live as they listed, because their acceptance with God was not procured by the merit of works, he adds, that all who are clothed with the righteousness of Christ are at the same time regenerated by the Spirit, and that we have an earnest of this regeneration in baptism. Hence he exhorts believers not to allow sin to reign in their members. And because he knew that there is always some infirmity in believers, lest they should be cast down on this account, he adds, for their consolation, that they are not under the law. Again, as there may seem a danger that Christians might grow presumptuous because they were not under the yoke of the law, he shows what the nature of the abrogation is, and at the same time what the use of the law is. This question he had already postponed a second time. The substance is, that we are freed from the rigour of the law in order that we may adhere to Christ, and that the office of the law is to convince us of our depravity, and make us confess our impotence and wretchedness. Moreover, as this malignity of nature is not so easily apparent in a profane man who, without fear of God, indulges his passions, he gives an example in the regenerate man, in other words, in himself. He therefore says that he had a constant struggle with the remains of his flesh, and was kept in miserable bondage, so as to be unable to devote himself entirely to the obedience of the divine law. Hence he is forced to groan and exclaim, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:24). But if the children of God are kept captive in prison as long as they live, they must necessarily feel very anxious at the thought of their danger, unless their fears are allayed. For this single purpose, then, he subjoins the consolation, that there is "now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1). Hence he teaches that those whom the Lord has once admitted into favour, and ingrafted into communion with Christ, and received into the fellowship of the Church by baptism, are freed from guilt and condemnation while they persevere in the faith of Christ, though they may be beset by sin and thus bear sin about with them. If this is the simple and genuine interpretation of Paul's meaning, we cannot think that there is anything strange in the doctrine which he here delivers. 
13. Baptism serves as our confession before men, inasmuch as it is a mark by which we openly declare that we wish to be ranked among the people of God, by which we testify that we concur with all Christians in the worship of one God, and in one religion; by which, in short, we publicly assert our faith, so that not only do our hearts breathe, but our tongues also, and all the members of our body, in every way they can, proclaim the praise of God. In this way, as is meet, everything we have is made subservient to the glory of God, which ought everywhere to be displayed, and others are stimulated by our example to the same course. To this Paul referred when he asked the Corinthians whether or not they had been baptised in the name of Christ (1 Cor. 1:13); intimating, that by the very circumstance of having been baptised in his name, they had devoted themselves to him, had sworn and bound themselves in allegiance to him before men, so that they could no longer confess any other than Christ alone, unless they would abjure the confession which they had made in baptism.
14. Now that the end to which the Lord had regard in the institution of baptism has been explained, it is easy to judge in what way we ought to use and receive it. For inasmuch as it is appointed to elevate, nourish, and confirm our faith, we are to receive it as from the hand of its author, being firmly persuaded that it is himself who speaks to us by means of the sign; that it is himself who washes and purifies us, and effaces the remembrance of our faults; that it is himself who makes us the partakers of his death, destroys the kingdom of Satan, subdues the power of concupiscence, nay, makes us one with himself, that being clothed with him we may be accounted the children of God. These things, I say, we ought to feel as truly and certainly in our mind as we see our body washed, immersed, and surrounded with water. For this analogy or similitude furnishes the surest rule in the sacraments--viz. that in corporeal things we are to see spiritual, just as if they were actually exhibited to our eye, since the Lord has been pleased to represent them by such figures; not that such graces are included and bound in the sacrament, so as to be conferred by its efficacy, but only that by this badge the Lord declares to us that he is pleased to bestow all these things upon us. Nor does he merely feed our eyes with bare show; he leads us to the actual object, and effectually performs what he figures.
15. We have a proof of this in Cornelius the centurion, who, after he had been previously endued with the graces of the Holy Spirit, was baptised for the remission of sins, not seeking a fuller forgiveness from baptism, but a surer exercise of faith; nay, an argument for assurance from a pledge. It will, perhaps, be objected, Why did Ananias say to Paul that he washed away his sins by baptism (Acts 22:16), if sins are not washed away by the power of baptism? I answer, we are said to receive, procure, and obtain, whatever according to the perception of our faith is exhibited to us by the Lord, whether he then attests it for the first time, or gives additional confirmation to what he had previously attested. All then that Ananias meant to say was, Be baptised, Paul, that you may be assured that your sins are forgiven you. In baptism, the Lord promises forgiveness of sins: receive it, and be secure. I have no intention, however, to detract from the power of baptism. I would only add to the sign the substance and reality, inasmuch as God works by external means. But from this sacrament, as from all others, we gain nothing, unless in so far as we receive in faith. If faith is wanting, it will be an evidence of our ingratitude, by which we are proved guilty before God, for not believing the promise there given. In so far as it is a sign of our confession, we ought thereby to testify that we confide in the mercy of God, and are pure, through the forgiveness of sins which Christ Jesus has procured for us; that we have entered into the Church of God, that with one consent of faith and love we may live in concord with all believers. This last was Paul's meaning, when he said that "by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body" (1 Cor. 12:13).
16. Moreover, if we have rightly determined that a sacrament is not to be estimated by the hand of him by whom it is administered, but is to be received as from the hand of God himself, from whom it undoubtedly proceeded, we may hence infer that its dignity neither gains nor loses by the administrator. And, just as among men, when a letter has been sent, if the hand and seal is recognised, it is not of the least consequence who or what the messenger was; so it ought to be sufficient for us to recognise the hand and seal of our Lord in his sacraments, let the administrator be who he may. This confutes the error of the Donatists, who measured the efficacy and worth of the sacrament by the dignity of the minister. Such in the present day are our Catabaptists, who deny that we are duly baptised, because we were baptised in the Papacy by wicked men and idolaters; hence they furiously insist on anabaptism. Against these absurdities we shall be sufficiently fortified if we reflect that by baptism we were initiated not into the name of any man, but into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and, therefore, that baptism is not of man, but of God, by whomsoever it may have been administered. Be it that those who baptised us were most ignorant of God and all piety, or were despisers, still they did not baptise us into a fellowship with their ignorance or sacrilege, but into the faith of Jesus Christ, because the name which they invoked was not their own but God's, nor did they baptise into any other name. But if baptism was of God, it certainly included in it the promise of forgiveness of sin, mortification of the flesh, quickening of the Spirit, and communion with Christ. Thus it did not harm the Jews that they were circumcised by impure and apostate priests. It did not nullify the symbol so as to make it necessary to repeat it. It was enough to return to its genuine origin. The objection that baptism ought to be celebrated in the assembly of the godly, does not prove that it loses its whole efficacy because it is partly defective. When we show what ought to be done to keep baptism pure and free from every taint, we do not abolish the institution of God though idolaters may corrupt it. Circumcision was anciently vitiated by many superstitions, and yet ceased not to be regarded as a symbol of grace; nor did Josiah and Hezekiah, when they assembled out of all Israel those who had revolted from God, call them to be circumcised anew.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
1/1/2013 Recovering Lost Disciplines
As I write, I am looking out over the vast and cold Atlantic Ocean as I come to the end of a short family getaway at the beach. I have shut off my mobile phone. I have closed all unnecessary programs on my computer. I have turned off the music I had been listening to while I read a few articles online, and, as is my habit before sitting down to write, I prayed and asked the Lord to grant me discernment as I strive to write for his glory and for the edification of his people.
The missionary and martyr Jim Elliott (1927–1956) wrote, “The devil has made it his business to monopolize on three elements: noise, hurry, crowds…Satan is quite aware of the power of silence.” It is difficult to escape the busyness, noise, and crowds of life. We are bombarded by a host of amusements and contraptions, most of which we have enthusiastically welcomed into our lives, homes, communities, and churches. We have conditioned ourselves to distraction, and we are leading the next generation down the same path in a hurry. C.S. Lewis wrote, “We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private.” We stand at a crossroads, and we will either rediscover the lost virtues of listening, meditating, and thinking, or we will amuse ourselves to death.
However, our problem lies not in our twenty-first-century tools and toys, but in our inability to use them without them using us. Every gadget we own was invented to make life more easy and simple, and, in God’s providence, every device, network, and program is given to us by God to use for His kingdom, His gospel, and His glory. God has called us to subdue the earth, and we do this by listening intently to His Word, meditating on it, carefully thinking through how to apply it, and being doers of it as we commune with God and live in community with one another in the family, the church, and the world. We are made for family, we are made for worship, we are made for community, and we are made to engage the world as we follow Jesus Christ, bringing the light of His gospel to a dark world. But in order to do this well, with biblical discernment, ancient wisdom, and enduring passion, we must recover the disciplines of listening, meditating, and thinking as we live coram Deo, before the face of God.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
What was the first settlement in North America? Was it Jamestown or Plymouth? Actually, it was Fort Caroline at Saint John’s River in Florida. It was founded this day, June 30, 1564, by the French Protestants, known as Huguenots, and was the first attempt at religious toleration in America. A settler recorded: “We sang a psalm of Thanksgiving unto God, beseeching Him that it would please Him to continue His accustomed goodness towards us.” Unfortunately, the French colony was short-lived. The Spanish, whose treasure ships passed that route, destroyed it, butchering hundreds of men, and taking captive the women and children.
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
I believe in the sun
even if it isn't shining.
I believe in love
even when I am alone.
I believe in God
even when He is silent.
--- Author Unknown
Free Refill: Coming Back for More of Jesus
If I am to be a true branch, if I am to bear fruit, if I am to be whatChrist as Vine wants me to be, my whole existence must be asexclusively devoted to abiding in Him, as that of the natural branchis to abiding in its vine.
--- Andrew Murray
Essential Works of Andrew Murray - Updated
Blest be Thy love, dear Lord, that taught us this sweet way,
Only to love Thee for Thyself, and for that love obey.
--- J. Austin
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Always, everywhere God is present,
and always He seeks to discover Himself to each one.
--- A.W. Tozer
The Pursuit of God (The Definitive Classic)
... from here, there and everywhere
CHAPTER 15 / Does God Need Our Love?
Indeed, the Torah assumes a mutual “dependency” between God and man and their “need” for each other. Thus, the proclamation of divine unity (Deut. 6:4) is followed by the commandment to love Him: “and You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your might” (Deut. 6:5). Although divine injunctions to do or obey do not imply God’s “need” for us, God does “need” us to love Him.
“The Lord is one” implies that God is, as it were, a lonely God. This loneliness and sadness are reflected in the divine image, humans, of whom He said, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). Both God and human beings deserve rachmones, pity—we, for our failure and pain and suffering, and God, for being abandoned by this creature created in God’s very own image and endowed with the gift of free will that we misuse and abuse. And so each waits and longs for the other. The way to bridge the brooding cosmic loneliness, to find our way to each other, is through—love.
It is this sense of mutual sympathy that gives rise to love. God reaches out for us with love—as affirmed in the blessing immediately preceding the Shema: “Blessed are You, O Lord, who chooses His people Israel in love”—and we, recognizing that “the Lord is One,” that the Creator is lonely, yearning for our companionship, respond with love immediately after proclaiming God’s utter oneness: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart …”
Those thinkers whose interpretations of the Love of God we discussed in chapters 10 to 14 all worked on the premise that God is transcendent and perfect: we need God, but God does not need anyone or anything. He is utterly self-sufficient. But here we are speaking of God in a different way. Conceived of in poetic and psychologically human terms, the divine-human relationship takes on a different dimension, best understood through distinction between two types of love usually referred to in theological writings by their Greek names, eros and agape. (10) Agape is the love that a protective parent feels for his or her child. It is a selfless love: the parent asks nothing in return, not even to be loved by the child. Eros, in contrast, is romantic love, such as that felt by husband and wife for each other. Such love is expected to be not only reciprocal, but also mutually pleasurable. The love we feel for and from God is agape, not eros.
(10) See the beginning of chapter 12.
Yet in the Torah and throughout Jewish liturgy, the metaphors describing the love relationship between God and Israel do not reflect such hard and fast distinctions. God is depicted as Father and as King—but also as the Lover of Israel. Solomon’s Song of Songs, considered by R. Akiva as holier than all other songs in the Bible, is heretical if we reject eros as a model for the love between God and human beings. Isaiah refers to Israel as God’s beloved; Hosea freely uses marriage as a metaphor for the God-Israel relationship; and throughout the prophetic writings we find similar analogies. Yet no talmudic eyebrows are raised at these apparently bold anthropopathisms.
Michael Wyschogrod has argued (11) that this bifurcation of love into two distinct categories must be rejected or, at least, seriously questioned from a Jewish perspective. He argues that the Jewish vision of love for God must be understood as both agape and eros. Although such an approach leaves God, as it were, vulnerable to the vagaries of Israel’s temperament and conduct, it has the virtue of making God’s love for Israel less abstract and more personal, and it accords with the scriptural description of God as jealous when Israel “goes whoring” after “strange gods.” Only in the universe of eros do such terms, as well as adultery, divorce, and remarriage, make sense.
(11) See his The Body of Faith: Judaism as Corporeal Election (New York: Seabury Press, 1983), pp. 13, 60–5, and 119–24. One need not accept Wyschogrod’s entire thesis in order to appreciate his contribution to a broader and more existentially meaningful conception of Judaism’s understanding of love between God and man.
Yet we must be wary of taking such images and expressions too literally. For though the rigorous condemnation of any and all anthropomorphisms and anthropopathisms in the Bible and Talmud may sometimes lead to an excessively depersonalized Deity, the opposite tendency is even more dangerous: it may well lead us to form an infantile conception of a corporeal god, blurring the differences between the divine Creator and His human creatures.
How can we arrive at a position that satisfies both the theological demands of monotheistic purity and the psychological need for putting a “human face” on religious experience? Rabbi Leon (Aryeh) de Modena Italy (1571–1648), in his Ari Nohem, provides a useful analogy in a slightly different context: A sailor on an incoming vessel approaches the pier and throws his line to those who stand on the pier. After they tie the line to the pier, the sailor tugs on the line in order to pull himself and his craft toward the pier so that he can disembark. To the onlooker, the sailor is pulling the pier toward himself, whereas in fact he is pulling himself to the pier. So, when we speak of God’s “needs”—for compassion or companionship or love or relief from distress—we are in reality pulling ourselves to Him, i.e., expressing our own deepest feelings and needs and projecting them upon Him as an act of communion as we cleave to Him.
For a more sophisticated explanation of this point, it would be useful at this time to revisit an important distinction that engaged us earlier, in chapter 7. The first verse of the Shema, according to R. Shneur Zalman and R. Ḥayyim of Volozhin, alludes to the exclusive ontological reality of God. That is, nothing else can be said to truly exist; all that is non-divine is mere illusion. But the verse Barukh shem kevod that we recite immediately afterward, in keeping with rabbinic tradition, assures us that the world we inhabit does exist, and so we must act accordingly. Borrowing a distinction first formulated by the sixteenth-century Safed Kabbalist R. Moshe Cordovero, R. Shneur Zalman and R. Ḥayyim of Volozhin explain that this apparent contradiction is resolved by assigning the Shema verse to mi-tziddo, from God’s point of view, and the rabbinic verse to mi-tziddenu, from our point of view. Thus, in the most fundamental sense, reality can be ascribed only to God; however, it is His will that we mortals, bound inextricably in this web of illusion, close our eyes to the cosmos’ ultimate unreality and act as if it were all real. So it is that we first affirm the abstract proposition that nothing but God exists, that our world is devoid of all ontological validity. Then we return to our “everyday” world of sensate experience and human needs and declare that we are both real and worthy to serve God. We accept this world as real because of our human need to do so and because God has willed that we act this way, as if “God is in Heaven and we are on earth.” In the course of living our lives mi-tziddenu, we thus confront and engage God as if we were “real” beings, participating in “true” existence.
In similar fashion, we acknowledge that from the point of view of ultimate reality—understood fully only by God and only asserted philosophically but never fully comprehended existentially by human beings—we can never attribute such imperfections as need, injury, vulnerability, and loneliness to God; God is beyond all emotion, including love. Nevertheless, in our daily lives as thinking, feeling, and active beings, we relate to God psychologically as a sentient, feeling, reacting Being.
Approaching God this way respects Onkelos’s and Maimonides’ strictures against anthropopathisms (and certainly anthropomorphisms), yet allows us to go beyond the realm of metaphor, to nurture our relationship to God in an existentially and psychologically more meaningful way than merely poetic or metaphoric analogy. The Cordoveran paradigm resolves the conflict between the philosophers and those ordinary religious folk (and some extraordinary ones as well!) for whom prayer is more than poetry, and love more than metaphor. It allows us to keep our hearts without losing our heads. And it tells us that, yes, God needs our love as surely as we need His. If this understanding emerges as only “from our point of view,” so be it, for it is quite presumptuous—and impossible—to view anything “from God’s point of view.”
The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
Thanks to Meir Yona
Antipater Is Accused Before Varus, And Is Convicted Of Laying A Plot [Against His Father] By The Strongest Evidence. Herod Puts Off His Punishment Till He Should Be Recovered, And In The Mean Time Alters His Testament.
1. Now the day following the king assembled a court of his kinsmen and friends, and called in Antipater's friends also. Herod himself, with Varus, were the presidents; and Herod called for all the witnesses, and ordered them to be brought in; among whom some of the domestic servants of Antipater's mother were brought in also, who had but a little while before being caught, as they were carrying the following letter from her to her son: "Since all those things have been already discovered to thy father, do not thou come to him, unless thou canst procure some assistance from Caesar." When this and the other witnesses were introduced, Antipater came in, and falling on his face before his father's feet, he said, "Father, I beseech thee, do not condemn me beforehand, but let thy ears be unbiassed, and attend to my defense; for if thou wilt give me leave, I will demonstrate that I am innocent."
2. Hereupon Herod cried out to him to hold his peace, and spake thus to Varus: "I cannot but think that thou, Varus, and every other upright judge, will determine that Antipater is a vile wretch. I am also afraid that thou wilt abhor my ill fortune, and judge me also myself worthy of all sorts of calamity for begetting such children; while yet I ought rather to be pitied, who have been so affectionate a father to such wretched sons; for when I had settled the kingdom on my former sons, even when they were young, and when, besides the charges of their education at Rome, I had made them the friends of Caesar, and made them envied by other kings, I found them plotting against me. These have been put to death, and that, in great measure, for the sake of Antipater; for as he was then young, and appointed to be my successor, I took care chiefly to secure him from danger: but this profligate wild beast, when he had been over and above satiated with that patience which I showed him, he made use of that abundance I had given him against myself; for I seemed to him to live too long, and he was very uneasy at the old age I was arrived at; nor could he stay any longer, but would be a king by parricide. And justly I am served by him for bringing him back out of the country to court, when he was of no esteem before, and for thrusting out those sons of mine that were born of the queen, and for making him a successor to my dominions. I confess to thee, O Varus, the great folly I was guilty for I provoked those sons of mine to act against me, and cut off their just expectations for the sake of Antipater; and indeed what kindness did I do them; that could equal what I have done to Antipater? to I have, in a manner, yielded up my royal while I am alive, and whom I have openly named for the successor to my dominions in my testament, and given him a yearly revenue of his own of fifty talents, and supplied him with money to an extravagant degree out of my own revenue; and' when he was about to sail to Rome, I gave him three talents, and recommended him, and him alone of all my children, to Caesar, as his father's deliverer. Now what crimes were those other sons of mine guilty of like these of Antipater? and what evidence was there brought against them so strong as there is to demonstrate this son to have plotted against me? Yet does this parricide presume to speak for himself, and hopes to obscure the truth by his cunning tricks. Thou, O Varus, must guard thyself against him; for I know the wild beast, and I foresee how plausibly he will talk, and his counterfeit lamentation. This was he who exhorted me to have a care of Alexander when he was alive, and not to intrust my body with all men! This was he who came to my very bed, and looked about lest any one should lay snares for me! This was he who took care of my sleep, and secured me from fear of danger, who comforted me under the trouble I was in upon the slaughter of my sons, and looked to see what affection my surviving brethren bore me! This was my protector, and the guardian of my body! And when I call to mind, O Varus, his craftiness upon every occasion, and his art of dissembling, I can hardly believe that I am still alive, and I wonder how I have escaped such a deep plotter of mischief. However, since some fate or other makes my house desolate, and perpetually raises up those that are dearest to me against me, I will, with tears, lament my hard fortune, and privately groan under my lonesome condition; yet am I resolved that no one who thirsts after my blood shall escape punishment, although the evidence should extend itself to all my sons."
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
by whether his deeds are pure and right.
12 The hearing ear and the seeing eye—
ADONAI made them both.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Do it now
Agree with thine adversary quickly. --- Matthew 5:25.
Jesus Christ is laying down this principle—Do what you know you must do, now, and do it quickly; if you do not, the inevitable process will begin to work and you will have to pay to the last farthing in pain and agony and distress. God’s laws are unalterable; there is no escape from them. The teaching of Jesus goes straight to the way we are made up.
To see that my adversary gives me my rights is natural; but Jesus says that it is a matter of eternal and imperative importance to me that I pay my adversary what I owe him. From our Lord’s standpoint it does not matter whether I am defrauded or not; what does matter is that I do not defraud. Am I insisting on my rights, or am I paying what I owe from Jesus Christ’s standpoint?
Do the thing quickly, bring yourself to judgment now. In moral and spiritual matters, you must do it at once; if you do not, the inexorable process will begin to work. God is determined to have His child as pure and clean and white as driven snow, and as long as there is disobedience in any point of His teaching, He will prevent none of the working of His spirit. Our insistence in proving that we are right is nearly always an indication that there has been some point of disobedience. No wonder the Spirit so strongly urges to keep steadfastly in the light!
“Agree with thine adversary quickly.” Have you suddenly turned a corner in any relationship and found that you had anger in your heart? Confess it quickly, quickly put it right before God, be reconciled to that one — do it now.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Renoir- The Bathers
What do they say?
Here is flesh
not to be peeped
at. No Godivas
these. Thet remain
not pass, naked
for us to gaze
our fill on, but
is the mind's feast,
where taste follows
are in reverse
here. Such soft tones
are for the eye
only. These bodies
smooth as bells
from art's stroking, toll
an unheard music,
keep such firmness
of line as never,
under the lapping
of all this light
to become blurred or dim.
Between here and now
Won’t your ears hear what your own mouth says?
BIBLE TEXT / Genesis 11:26–32 / When Terah had lived 70 years, he begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Now this is the line of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begot Lot. Haran died in the lifetime of his father Terah, in his native land, Ur of the Chaldeans. Abram and Nahor took themselves wives, the name of Abram’s wife being Sarai and that of Nahor’s wife Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah and Iscah. Now Sarai was barren, she had no child. Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and they set out together from Ur of the Chaldeans for the land of Canaan; but when they had come as far as Haran, they settled there. The days of Terah came to 205 years; and Terah died in Haran.
MIDRASH TEXT / Genesis Rabbah 38, 13 / Haran died in the lifetime of his father Terah. Rabbi Ḥiyya the son of the son of Rav Adda of Jaffa: “Terah sold idols. One time, he went to a certain place and left Abraham to sell in his stead. A man came in and wanted to buy one [an idol], and he [Abraham] said to him, ‘How old are you?’ He said to him, ‘I am fifty years old’ or ‘… sixty years old.’ And he said to him, ‘Woe to that man who is sixty years old and will bow to something a day old.’ He [the man] was embarrassed and left. One time, a certain woman came with a plate filled with fine flour. She said to him, ‘Here, offer this before them.’ He took the stick in his hand, broke all the idols, and put the stick into the hand of the biggest [idol]. When his father returned, he [Terah] said to him [Abraham], ‘Who did this to them?’ He [Abraham] said to him [Terah], ‘I can’t hide it from you: A woman came with a plate of fine flour and told me, “Offer this before them.” I brought it to them, when one said, “I’ll eat first!” and another said, “I’ll eat first.” The biggest of them took the stick and broke them.’ He [Terah] said to him [Abraham], ‘Don’t try to fool me! Do they know what’s going on?’ He [Abraham] said to him, ‘Won’t your ears hear what your own mouth says?’ ”
CONTEXT / This is one of the most well-known Midrash Texts. In fact, it is so famous that many assume that the story of Abraham smashing the idols is in the Bible itself! This is a good reminder of the popularity of certain midrashim. It also reminds us to be aware of what is Bible Text and what is commentary on that text.
How does this Midrash on idolatry come out of this verse? Rabbi Ḥiyya the son of the son of Rav Adda (that is, the grandson of Rav Adda) evidently sees a connection between the sin of the father and the premature death of the son. Haran died in the lifetime of his father Terah because Terah sold idols. One time, he, Terah, went to a certain place, in other words, went away. He left Abraham to sell in his stead, to look after his “idol store.” A man whose identity does not matter came in and wanted to buy an idol, and Abraham said to him, “How old are you?” He, the man, said to him, “I am fifty years old” or “sixty years old.” Again, this detail is unimportant. What matters to Abraham is that this mature man is willing to buy a day-old idol and worship it. And he, Abraham, said to him, “Woe to that man who is sixty years old and will bow to something a day old.” He, the unnamed man, was embarrassed and left without buying an idol. Abraham is a good monotheist and a poor idol salesman.
One time (perhaps the phrase means here “another time”), a certain woman came with a plate filled with fine flour. The Hebrew word סֹלֶת/solet is often used in the Bible to describe the high-quality flour that was to be presented in certain sacrificial offerings. She said to him, “Here, offer this before them.” Abraham seems to be left in charge not only of sales but also of service! He took the stick in his hand, broke all the idols, and put the stick into the hand of the biggest idol. Is the woman still standing there, or did she leave before Abraham broke the idols? If we use the model of the previous story, where he taught the customer a lesson, then we might assume that the woman stayed. Abraham used this incident to teach his father a lesson. When Terah returned, he asked Abraham who had done this. Abraham told him that it was the biggest idol, to which Terah responded, “Don’t try to fool me! Do they know what’s going on?” He, Abraham, said to him, Terah, “Won’t your ears hear what your own mouth says?” “You’re being a hypocrite! You say that the idols could not have done this, that they have no intelligence or power, yet you somehow believe in them and sell them to others as gods. Father, listen to what you are saying!”
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
W. W. Wiersbe
"Queen Victoria was celebrating sixty years on the British throne when Rudyard Kipling published his poem “Recessional.” Not everybody in Great Britain liked the poem because it punctured national pride at a time when the empire was at its peak. “Recessional” was a warning that other empires had vanished from the stage of history and theirs might follow in their train. God was still the Judge of the nations. Kipling wrote:
Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
Recessional and, the Moon of Other Days.
The prophet Nahum would have applauded the poem, especially Kipling’s reference to Nineveh, for it was Nahum who wrote the Old Testament book that vividly describes the destruction of Nineveh, the event that marked the beginning of the end for the Assyrian Empire. (Nineveh was destroyed by the Medes and Babylonians in 612 b.c., but the empire didn’t collapse immediately. Remnants of the army and of political leadership struggled on until they were overpowered in 609 at the battle of Haran. But when Nineveh fell, it was the death knell for the empire.) Nahum made it clear that God is indeed the Judge of the nations, and that “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18, NKJV). In the seventh century B.C., the very mention of Nineveh brought fear to people’s hearts, but today, Nineveh is mentioned primarily by Bible students, archeologists, and people interested in ancient history. Sic transit gloria!
In his brief book, Nahum makes three declarations about God and Nineveh.
1. God Is Jealous: Nineveh Will Fall (Nahum 1:1–15)
The prophet characterizes his inspired message as both a “burden” and a “vision,” something he felt and something he saw. The word translated “burden” simply means “to lift up” and was often used to describe prophetic messages that announced judgment. Isaiah used the word ten times in his prophecy as he wrote about “the burden of Babylon” (Isa. 13:1), “the burden of Moab” (15:1), etc. These burdens came as a result of the visions God gave His prophets (“seers”) of dreadful events determined for the nations. It wasn’t easy to be a prophet and see what lay in the future, and they felt the burden of their messages. Nineveh isn’t mentioned by name until Nahum 2:8, but its destruction is the theme of the book.
God speaks of Himself (Nahum 1:2–8). Three important words in this paragraph need to be understood because they all relate to the character of God: jealousy, vengeance, and anger.
Jealousy is a sin if it means being envious of what others have and wanting to possess it, but it’s a virtue if it means cherishing what we have and wanting to protect it. A faithful husband and wife are jealous over one another and do everything they can to keep their relationship exclusive. “Jealous” and “zealous” come from the same root, for when you’re jealous over someone, you’re zealous to protect the relationship.
Since God made everything and owns everything, He is envious of no one, but since He is the only true God, He is jealous over His glory, His name, and the worship and honor that are due to Him alone. In the second commandment, God prohibited the worship of idols and backed up the prohibition with this reason: “for I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God” (Ex. 20:5).
When we studied the Book of Hosea, we learned that the Lord was “married” to Israel in a covenant relationship, and any breach of that covenant aroused His jealous love. He will not share His people with false gods any more than a husband would share his wife with his neighbor. “For you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (34:14, NKJV). “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deut. 4:24, NKJV; and see 6:15; 32:16, 21; 1 Kings 14:22). Nineveh was a city given over to iniquity, especially idolatry and cruelty, and God’s jealous love burned against their pride and willful breaking of His law.
In Scripture, vengeance is usually presented as a sin. Both Jesus and Paul warned about it (Matt. 5:38–48; Rom. 12:17–21). But a just and holy God cannot see people flouting His law and do nothing about it. “It is mine to avenge; I will repay.… I will take vengeance on my adversaries and repay those who hate me” (Deut. 32:35, 41, NIV). The God’s people prayed to God to avenge them when other nations attacked them. “O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongs—O God, to whom vengeance belongs, shine forth!” (Ps. 94:1, NKJV) When God takes vengeance by judging people, it’s because He is a holy God and is jealous (zealous) for His holy law.
God’s anger isn’t like human anger, which can be selfish and out of control. His is a holy anger, a righteous indignation against all that defies His authority and disobeys His law. God’s people ought to exercise a holy anger against sin (Eph. 4:26), for, as Henry Ward Beecher said, “A person that does not know how to be angry does not know how to be good.” He was speaking, of course, about righteous anger that opposes evil. If we can stand by and do nothing while innocent,helpless people are mistreated and exploited, then something is wrong with us. “Anger is one of the sinews of the soul,” wrote Thomas Fuller. “He who lacks it has a maimed mind.”
In Nahum 1:2, Nahum wrote that God was “furious” (“filled with wrath,” NIV); and in verse 6, he described God’s “indignation” as so fierce and powerful that it is “poured out like fire” with the power to “shatter” the rocks (NIV). However, verse 3 assures us that God’s wrath isn’t a fit of rage or a temper tantrum; for “the Lord is slow to anger” (see Jonah 4:2; Ex. 34:6; Num. 14:18).
God is so powerful that if His anger were not a holy anger, and if He were not “slow to anger,” He could easily destroy everything. He controls the forces of nature (Nahum 1:3); He opened the Red Sea for the people of Israel to march through, and he can turn off the rain and make the most fruitful areas of the land languish (v. 4). (Lebanon on the north, Carmel on the east, and Bashan on the west were known for their fruitfulness. See Isaiah 2:13; 33:9; and 35:2.) At Sinai, He made the mountain shake (Ex. 19:18), and when He pleases, He can cause the people of the world to tremble (Heb. 12:18–21).
The God that Nahum introduces to us is a jealous God who is angry at sin (Nahum 1:2), but He is also a good God who cares for His people (v.7). Nahum invites us (as Paul put it) to “consider the goodness and severity of God” (Rom. 11:22, NKJV). “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16), but He is also light (1:5), and His love is a holy love. He is a refuge for those who trust Him, but He is an “overwhelming flood” to those who are His enemies.
God speaks to Nineveh (Nahum 1:9–11, 14). He informs the leaders of Assyria that He knows their plots (vv. 9, 11) and will cause all of their plans to fail. When the proud nations plot against God, He laughs at them and turns their schemes into confusion (Ps. 2:1–4). The Assyrians had plotted against Judah in the days of King Hezekiah, and God thwarted their plans (Isa. 36–37), but the Lord wouldn’t allow this to happen a second time. Instead of marching out triumphantly, the leaders would be like drunks entangled in thorn bushes, and stubble burned in a prairie fire (Nahum 1:10).
The plotter mentioned in verse 11 is the king of Assyria, and God addresses him in verse 14, making three declarations: (1) his dynasty will end, because he will have no descendants; (2) the help of his gods and goddesses will end, because they will be destroyed; and (3) his life will end, because God will prepare his grave. What a solemn message for a man who was sure his plans would succeed! Why would God do all these things? The answer is plain: “You are vile!”
nbsp; God speaks to Judah (Nahum 1:12–13, 15). Although the Assyrian army outnumbered the army of Judah, and Assyria had more allies to help them fight, that didn’t mean Assyria was bound to win, for God was fighting on behalf of Judah. Yes, the Lord had used Assyria to chasten Judah in the past, but that would not happen again. (Isaiah 10:5–18 explains that Assyria was God’s tool (“the rod of My anger”) to chasten Judah because of her idolatry, but the Assyrians had gone too far and been too ruthless. In his pride, the king of Assyria had boasted of his past victories, so the Lord announced that He would humble him. This God did when His angel destroyed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night (37:36–38; see 10:16).) This time, God would break the yoke and remove the shackles that Assyria had put on Judah, and Assyria would attack them no more.
In ancient days, news was carried by couriers, and the watchmen on the walls scanned the horizon hoping that messengers would bring good news. In this case, it was good news indeed: the courier would announce that Nineveh was fallen and the Assyrian army defeated and in disarray (v. 15). (Nahum 1:15 in our English versions is 2:1 in the Hebrew text. What a contrast between the announcement of peace in 1:15 and the declaration of war in 2:1!) Judah could now live in peace and enjoy her annual feasts and regular religious festivals.
You find this same statement in Isaiah 52:7, where the messenger announced the defeat of Babylon, and Paul quoted the verse in Romans 10:15 and applied it to the proclamation of the Gospel to lost sinners. We don’t usually think of feet as being beautiful, but they certainly are beautiful when they enable a messenger to carry good news that God has defeated our enemies. To Judah, it meant that Assyria was completely destroyed and could never again invade her land. To us who trust Christ, it means that He has completely defeated sin, death, and Satan, and that we are now free to enjoy the blessings of salvation.
Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)
In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished.
--- Galatians 5:11.
The cross was an offense to the Jews because it swept away much that they took a pride in. (George H. Morrison, “The Offense of the Cross”) If there was any meaning in Calvary at all, some of their most cherished things were valueless. The Jews were preeminently a religious people, and this is always one peril of religious people—to take the things that lead to God and let the heart grow centered on them. There was the ceremonial law, for instance, with its scrupulous abhorrence of defilements. And there were the sacrifices and the feasts and festivals and journeys to Jerusalem. And there was the temple, that magnificent building, sign of their hope and symbol of their unity. Let this be said, that if they were proud, they were proud of worthy things. It is better to be proud of law and temple than to be proud of battleship and millionaire. Yet all that pride was swept away like autumn leaves—if there was any meaning in the Cross. No more would people’s eyes turn to Jerusalem, no more would sacrifices fill the altars, no more was there room for ceremonial law, if the Son of God had died on the tree. And it was this crushing into the very dust of all that was dearest to the Jewish heart that was so bitter an offense of Calvary.
Today, has that stumbling block been removed? This is still the offense of Calvary—it cuts at the root of so much that we are proud of. There hangs the Redeemer saying, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Here is the offense of the cross in cultured ages: it is that people must go with empty hands, knowing our utter need of the pardoning mercy of Almighty God. We like a little toil and sweat. We measure the value of most things by all that it has cost us to procure them. And Calvary costs us nothing, though it cost God everything. The love and the life of it are freely offered, and to a commercial age there is something suspicious and offensive there. Ah, people, if I preached salvation by good works, how it would appeal to many an eager heart. I do not believe that if you do your best, all is well for time and for eternity. But I do believe—
Not the labors of my hands
Can fulfil Thy law’s demands;…
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Augustus M. Toplady
--- George H. Morrison
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Eroticism to Evangelism
The best missionaries are often those saved from vilest lifestyles. Raymond Lull, for example, grew up self-indulged on the island of Majorca off the Spanish coast in the Mediterranean. His father was wealthy and powerful, a friend of the king. Lull, sexually indulgent, slept with many women, even following his marriage and the birth of two children. But one day at age 32, writing some erotic poetry, he was stricken with guilt. He envisioned Christ suffering on the cross. He was converted.
Majorca was controlled by Muslims, and gradually the young man felt a desire to reach the Islamic world. After providing for his wife and children, Lull gave away the rest of his possessions. He studied extensively for several years, learning the Arabic language and all he could about both Christianity and Islam. With the king’s help, he established a school on Majorca for the training of missionaries. He met repeatedly with popes and cardinals, trying to persuade them to establish similar schools across Europe for missionary training and language study. He lectured, wrote, and preached extensively. Then he began his actual missionary work at age 55, targeting North Africa.
It began unsteadily. Having announced his departure for Tunis, Lull was joined by well-wishers at the port at Genoa. But he was suddenly overwhelmed by the terror of possible martyrdom. His belongings were unloaded and the ship sailed without him. He quickly recovered and caught the next ship for Tunis. His fears were valid. He found himself in constant danger, living a fugitive’s life. He was eventually arrested, deported, and stoned on his way to the boat. But he couldn’t stay away, and he made repeated forays into North Africa, always at risk of life and limb. Throughout his 70s and into his 80s, Lull was preaching to Muslims. Finally on June 30, 1314, Lull was seized, dragged out of town, and stoned. He died shortly afterward. But he advanced Christian missions like no one else in his age and paved the way for everyone since with a burden for the Muslims.
What offering should I bring when I bow down to worship
The LORD God Most High?
Should I try to please him by sacrificing calves a year old?
The LORD God has told us
what is right and what he demands:
“See that justice is done,
Let mercy be your first concern,
And humbly obey your God.”
--- Micah 6:6,8.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - June 30
“And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them.” --- 1 John 17:22.
Behold the superlative liberality of the Lord Jesus, for he hath given us his all. Although a tithe of his possessions would have made a universe of angels rich beyond all thought, yet was he not content until he had given us all that he had. It would have been surprising grace if he had allowed us to eat the crumbs of his bounty beneath the table of his mercy; but he will do nothing by halves, he makes us sit with him and share the feast. Had he given us some small pension from his royal coffers, we should have had cause to love him eternally; but no, he will have his bride as rich as himself, and he will not have a glory or a grace in which she shall not share. He has not been content with less than making us joint-heirs with himself, so that we might have equal possessions. He has emptied all his estate into the coffers of the Church, and hath all things common with his redeemed. There is not one room in his house the key of which he will withhold from his people. He gives them full liberty to take all that he hath to be their own; he loves them to make free with his treasure, and appropriate as much as they can possibly carry. The boundless fulness of his all-sufficiency is as free to the believer as the air he breathes. Christ hath put the flagon of his love and grace to the believer’s lip, and bidden him drink on for ever; for could he drain it, he is welcome to do so, and as he cannot exhaust it, he is bidden to drink abundantly, for it is all his own. What truer proof of fellowship can heaven or earth afford?
“When I stand before the throne
Dressed in beauty not my own;
When I see thee as thou art,
Love thee with unsinning heart;
Then, Lord, shall I fully know—
Not till then—how much I owe.”
Evening - June 30
"Ah Lord God, behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee." --- Jeremiah 32:17.
At the very time when the Chaldeans surrounded Jerusalem, and when the sword, famine and pestilence had desolated the land, Jeremiah was commanded by God to purchase a field, and have the deed of transfer legally sealed and witnessed. This was a strange purchase for a rational man to make. Prudence could not justify it, for it was buying with scarcely a probability that the person purchasing could ever enjoy the possession. But it was enough for Jeremiah that his God had bidden him, for well he knew that God will be justified of all his children. He reasoned thus: “Ah, Lord God! thou canst make this plot of ground of use to me; thou canst rid this land of these oppressors; thou canst make me yet sit under my vine and my fig-tree in the heritage which I have bought; for thou didst make the heavens and the earth, and there is nothing too hard for thee.” This gave a majesty to the early saints, that they dared to do at God’s command things which carnal reason would condemn. Whether it be a Noah who is to build a ship on dry land, an Abraham who is to offer up his only son, or a Moses who is to despise the treasures of Egypt, or a Joshua who is to besiege Jericho seven days, using no weapons but the blasts of rams’ horns, they all act upon God’s command, contrary to the dictates of carnal reason; and the Lord gives them a rich reward as the result of their obedient faith. Would to God we had in the religion of these modern times a more potent infusion of this heroic faith in God. If we would venture more upon the naked promise of God, we should enter a world of wonders to which as yet we are strangers. Let Jeremiah’s place of confidence be ours—nothing is too hard for the God that created the heavens and the earth.
Morning and Evening
WHY DO I SING ABOUT JESUS?
Words and Music by Albert A. Ketchum, 1894–?
Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing to the glory of His name; offer Him glory and praise! (Psalm 66:1, 2)
Fill me with gladness from above,
Hold me by strength divine;
Lord, let the glow of your great love
Through my whole being shine.
The Christian life was meant to be a joyous experience. One of the most effective ways to demonstrate our inner joy is to carry a song upon our lips throughout our daily activities. It was my father who first taught me this truth. As a painter-decorator, Dad became known to his many customers as the “singing painter.” Singing his favorite hymns while he worked became his natural way of life. At his funeral, many of his customers, both believers and nonbelievers, told me of the impact my father had upon them as they observed his cheerful attitude while he worked.
It is important that we carry a song of the Lord with us. The world needs to see and hear the story of Jesus and His love. And the song that we carry on the inside will be reflected on our countenance. An inner song and a cheerful countenance are always the result of a life that is enjoying an intimate daily fellowship with our Lord and Savior—the One who sets us free!
Albert Ketchum, the author and composer of “Why Do I Sing About Jesus?”, wrote this song while a student at the Moody Bible Institute during the early 1920’s. The song first appeared in Gospel Truth in Song, published in 1922. It provides believers a fine vehicle for a musical testimony about their Lord:
Deep in my heart there’s a gladness—Jesus has saved me from sin! Praise to His name, what a Savior! Cleansing without and within!
Only a glimpse of His goodness; that was sufficient for me; only one look at the Savior, then was my spirit set free.
He is the fairest of fair ones. He is the lily, the rose; rivers of mercy surround Him; grace, love, and pity He shows.
Chorus: Why do I sing about Jesus? Why is He precious to me? He is my Lord and my Savior: Dying, He set me free!
For Today: Psalm 32:7; 40:3; 66:16; Proverbs 15:13; Philippians 2:5–11; 1 Peter 2:7.
Determine to allow the warmth of God’s love to be reflected in all of your activities. Carry this musical testimony with you as you seek to be a witness for Christ even in your working attitudes ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Origins and Authority of NT
"Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
It is here that we can begin to fully appreciate one of the primary divine qualities present in the New Testament books: their Christocentric nature. Early Christians were able to recognize the canonical books because these were (among other things) the books that fully exalted Jesus Christ as the long-awaited resolution to the problem of sin and rebellion articulated throughout the Old Testament books. (122) Again, the WCF observes this very reality when it declares that the divinity of Scripture is evident by “the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation” (1.5). We see, then, that canonical books are not only books where Christ is the speaker (through the apostles), but also books where Christ is the subject. (123) Or, we could say that canonical books are those that have both apostolic origins (from Christ) and divine qualities (speak of Christ). Of course, this not only applies to New Testament books; the Old Testament books were also understood to be Christocentric in their core message (Luke 24:44). Indeed, it can be rightly said that the unifying factor for all canonical books is Jesus Christ. He is what makes the Bible one book.
Because the Old and New Testaments form one overall book, we would expect to see evidence of this not only in a unified story but also in a unified structure. Thus, part of the internal evidence for the authenticity of the New Testament canon is demonstrated through the way these twenty-seven books fit together as the structural completion of the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament.
Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. LXXI. — BUT, says the Diatribe — “what then mean all those Scriptures which promise a kingdom and threaten hell? Why is the word reward so often repeated in the Scriptures; as, “Thou hast thy reward,” “I am thy exceeding great reward?” Again, “Who rendereth unto every man according to his work;” and Paul, Rom. ii. 6, “Who by patient continuance in well doing, seek for eternal life,” and many of the same kind?” (Rom. ii. 6, 7.) —
It is answered: By all these passages, the consequence of reward is proved and nothing else, but by no means the worthiness of merit: seeing that, those who do good, do it not from a servile and mercenary principle in order to obtain eternal life, but they seek eternal life, that is, they are in that way, in which they shall come unto and find eternal life. So that seeking, is striving with desire, and pursuing with ardent diligence, that, which always leads unto eternal life. And the reason why it is declared in the Scriptures, that those things shall follow and take place after a good or bad life, is, that men might be instructed, admonished, awakened, and terrified. For as “by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. iii. 20,) and an admonition of our impotency, and as from that, it cannot be inferred that we can do any thing ourselves; so, by these promises and threats, there is conveyed an admonition, by which we are taught, what will follow sin and that impotency made known by the law; but there is not, by them, any thing of worthiness ascribed unto our merit.
Wherefore, as the words of the law are for instruction and illumination, to teach us what we ought to do, and also what we are not able to do; so the words of reward, while they signify what will be hereafter, are for exhortation and threatening, by which the just are animated, comforted, and raised up to go forward, to persevere, and to conquer; that they might not be wearied or disheartened either in doing good or in enduring evil; as Paul exhorts his Corinthians, saying, “Be ye steadfast, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Cor. xv. 58.) So also God supports Abraham, saying “I am thy exceeding great reward.” (Gen. xv. 1.) Just in the same manner as you would console any one, by signifying to him, that his works certainly pleased God, which kind of consolation the Scripture frequently uses; nor is it a small consolation for any one to know, that he so pleases God, that nothing but a good consequence can follow, even though it seem to him impossible.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Reformation to the Present 1
Reformation to the Present, Bonhoeffer 26
Reformation to the Present 27
Modern Theologies | Roger Green
Diversity in Rhode Island, Quakers
the American Colonies
Jonathan Edwards 1
1st Great Awakening
Jonathan Edwards 2
1st Great Awakening
Religion and the
American Revolution 1
Religion and the
American Revolution 2
2nd Great Awakening