timeless The Classical Literary Resource for Today’s World Christian
A Publication of Timeless Impact International
PROOFSOF HIS PRESENCE
SPIRITUAL RENOVATION MACARIUS THE GREAT 03 FRUIT THAT LASTS MICHAEL BARTON 06 THE EMBODYING OF THE SPIRIT A.J.GORDON 10
THE PRACTICE OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD BROTHER LAWRENCE 15 THE MARKS OF A SPIRITUAL CHRISTIAN RUTH PAXSON 19 TRUE DEVOTION JEAN NICHOLAS GROU 24 LOVE FOR OUR BROTHERS OTTO STOCKMAYER 27 The Classical Literary Resource for Today’s World Christian
From the Editor
TIMELESS IMPACT INTERNATIONAL, LLC P.O.Box 407 Brownsburg, IN 46112 USA (317) 456-5210 EDITOR: Bruce Garrison Email: email@example.com
“If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all other people on the face of the earth?” So Moses stated his case before God as he sought God’s continued presence thousands of years ago. The presence of God is the great differentiator; it is that certain something that sets apart the people of God. Without the presence of God, we may go through all kinds of religious motions or rituals, or we may involve ourselves in various activities, but if his presence is not the determining characteristic of our motives and actions, we will quickly get lost in the crowd of contemporary spiritualities that seem to promote anything and everything. Jesus seems to indicate similar ideas when he communicates that the coming of the Holy Spirit would bring a presence that would help the disciples to be witnesses of his life and power. The coming presence of the Holy Spirit was so vitally important that Jesus advised his disciples to stop everything until the Spirit had been given. Once the Holy Spirit had come, the lives of those first disciples were altered forever, just like our lives can be transformed today. In spite of this truth, it seems that our generation of Christians often looks to other things to set themselves apart. Many try to differentiate themselves through political views or affiliations.
Others find a particular cause regarding justice or the environment to set themselves apart. Others seek proof of God’s activity in their lives through financial gain or material blessing. When reading the story of the people of God, it is the transforming presence of God that has made the difference in the church and ultimately throughout society. That presence produces fruit, and it is the fruit of the Spirit’s presence that will always be the church’s great distinctive. In this issue, we consider what it means to be transformed by the presence of God. We look at the lives of those who have fervently sought to practice the presence of God in every aspect of their lives. And we examine some of the fruit of that divine presence that has been the lifeblood of the church for centuries. We pray that the articles will encourage you and stir you to seek the fullness of the presence of God in your life day by day by day. It is only his presence that will strengthen and empower us as we live the lives to which he has called us in the face of the uncertainties and difficulties that are presently facing our world.
TIMELESS magazine is a quarterly publication of TIMELESS IMPACT INTERNATIONAL, INC., a 501(c)3. SUBSCRIPTIONS are available at a cost of $12.00/£8.00/€12.00 per year (4 issues) OUR MISSION To build the body of Christ by equipping and encouraging local church leaders and believers worldwide OUR VISION Timeless Impact strives to achieve the mission through focusing efforts on the following: MINISTRY EXPANSION - Timeless Impact collaborates and networks with trustworthy ministries involved in discipleship, leadership training, and humanitarian work—all specifically suited to the local conditions, cultures, and needs. RESOURCES – Timeless Impact publishes and distributes classic Christian literature to over 70 countries in their own language or dialect. These materials utilize the wisdom and insight of Christian scholars, pastors, and writers throughout history. TEACHING – Timeless Impact conducts conferences and leadership seminars for Christian pastors and leaders sharing biblical teaching and wisdom in culturally relevant ways. We believe this will result in: MATURE DISCIPLES growing in a relationship with Jesus Christ that is reflected in a Kingdom lifestyle. STRONGER CHURCH LEADERS giving direction and guidance to the rapidly expanding church of Jesus Christ throughout the world. VIBRANT LOCAL CHURCHES that display the glory of God, the salvation of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit to transform individuals and cowwmmunities. CORE VALUES Every person is called to be a disciple of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). Christians everywhere should have an equal opportunity to benefit from the resources of the universal church (2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15). God’s Word and his faithfulness provide the foundation to our mission (1 Peter 1:23-25; Matthew 24:35).
Bruce Garrison http://www.timelessimpact.blogspot.com/
God gives different gifts and resources to his people as they work together according to his call and purpose (Romans 12:1-8; 1 Corinthians 3:5-9). We are to be good stewards of all that God has given to us—talents, finances, opportunities (Luke 12:47-48). Timeless Impact supporters are fellow laborers in the task of global missions (Philippians 4:14-20). We are called to build up the body of Christ around the world, supporting and facilitating ministries wherever directed (Ephesians 4:11-16).
What change and renovation Christ works in a Christian whose passions of the soul and diseases he heals
hoever approaches God and truly desires to be a partner of Christ must approach with a view to this goal, namely, to be changed and transformed from his former state and attitude and become a good and new person, harboring nothing of “the old man.” For it says, “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17). For our Lord Jesus Christ came for this reason: to change and transform and renew human nature and to recreate this soul that had been overturned by passions through the transgression. He came to mingle human nature with his own Spirit of the Godhead. A new mind
and a new soul, new eyes, new ears, a new spiritual tongue, and, in a word, new humans—this was what he came to effect in those who believe in him. Or new wineskins, anointing them with his own light of knowledge so that he might pour into them new wine which is his Spirit. For he says, “New wine must be put into new wineskins” (Matthew 9:17). For just as the enemy took man under his hand and made him new for himself by covering him with evil passions, and anointing him with the spirit of sin, and pouring into him the wine of all iniquity and evil teaching, so also the Lord, having redeemed him from the enemy, made him new. He anointed him with
his Spirit and poured into him the wine of life, the new teaching of the Spirit. For he who changed the nature of five loaves into the nature of the multitude, and gave a voice to the irrational nature of an ass, and converted a prostitute to purity, and prepared the nature of burning fire to become dew upon those in the furnace, and tamed the nature of wild lions for Daniel, is able also to change the soul that was barren and savage from sin to his own goodness and kindness and peace by the holy and good “Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13).
The Classical Literary Resource for Today’s World Christian
The great healer of souls As a shepherd is able to heal the scabby sheep and to protect it from wolves, so the real Shepherd, Christ, came and alone was able to heal and to convert the lost and scabby sheep, namely humanity, from the scab and leprosy of sin. For earlier the priests, and Levites, and teachers, were unable to heal the soul by means of the offering of the gifts and sacrifices and by the sprinklings of blood. With such they were unable to heal themselves, for they were also clothed in infirmity. For it says: “It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin” (Hebrews 10:4). But the Lord said, pointing out the weakness of the physicians of that time, “You will surely say unto me this parable: ‘Physician, heal yourself’” (Luke 4:23). In substance he meant: “I am not as those who are unable to heal themselves; I am the true physician and the good shepherd who ‘lays down my life for the sheep’ (John 10:15), who am able to ‘heal all sickness and all disease’ of soul (Matthew 4:23). I am the spotless sheep that was once offered and that am able to heal all who come to me.” For the true healing of the soul comes from the Lord alone. For it says, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)—namely of the person that has believed in him and has loved him with his whole heart. Thus the Good Shepherd heals the scabby sheep. But sheep are unable to heal sheep. And unless the intellectual sheep, humanity, is healed, he does not enter into the heavenly Church of the 4
Lord. For in a similar way it was said in the Law through shadow and image. Concerning the leper and the person with a blemish, the Spirit speaks these things figuratively and means: “A leper and one having a blemish shall not enter” into the Church of the Lord (Leviticus 21:17; Numbers 5:2). But it commanded the leper to go off to the priest and to beg him with much entreaty to take him to the house of his tabernacle and to lay his hands on the leper, who indicated the place where the leprosy was located and to heal him. In a similar manner also Christ, the true “high priest of good things to come” (Hebrews 9:11), bending over the persons stricken with the leprosy of sin, enters into the tabernacle of their body and heals and cures their passions. In this way a person can enter into the heavenly Church of the saints of the true Israel. Every person infected with the leprosy of the sin of passions that has not approached the true High Priest and has not been now healed in the assembly of the saints will not enter into the heavenly Church. For that Church, being spotless and pure, seeks persons that are spotless and pure. It says: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:5).
Transformed by the Spirit of God For the person that truly believes in Christ must be transported and changed from his present state of evil to another state—one that is good—and from his present lowly nature into another, divine nature. He must be made anew by the power of the Holy Spirit. And in this way he can be fit for the
heavenly kingdom. These things come to us who believe and love him in truth and live according to all his holy commandments. For if in the time of Elisha the casting of wood, that which is light by nature, upon the waters dredged up the iron that by nature is heavy, how much more will the Lord send forth his light, subtle, good, and heavenly Spirit, and through him dredge up the soul that has sunk into the waters of evil and make it light to take up wings to the heights of heaven and transform and change it out of its own very nature!
Sailing to the heavenly harbor In the visible world no one can by himself pass over and cross the sea unless he has a light and buoyant boat made of wood which alone is capable of traversing over the waters, for he will go under and be drowned. In a similar way, no person of himself can cross and pass over the bitter sea of sin and the dangerous abyss of the evil powers of the darkness of the passions, unless he receive the buoyant and heavenly and winged Spirit of Christ who walks over all wickedness and journeys on. Through him a person will be able to reach by a straight and right path the heavenly harbor of rest, the city of the kingdom. As those on the boat do not draw up water from the sea and drink it, nor have their clothing from the sea, nor their food, but they carry these things aboard the ship from land, so too Christians do not receive from this world but from above, from heaven, heavenly food and spiritual raiment.
And they live on these while they are on the ship of the good and life-giving Spirit. They pass beyond the opposing evil powers of principalities and dominions. And as all boats are built of one nature of wood, through which boats men are able to traverse the bitter sea, so from the heavenly light of one Godhead, Christians are enabled to fly over all wickedness. Since the ship needs both a pilot and a well-tempered and mild wind to navigate successfully, the Lord himself is all of these in the faithful person and carries him over the violent storms and the wild waves of evil and the forces of the violent winds of sin. Powerfully and with skilled expertise as he knows how, he dissipates their tempest. Without Christ, the heavenly Pilot, it is impossible for anyone to pass over the evil sea of the powers of darkness and the gusts of the bitter temptations. For it says: “They go up to the heavens and descend down to the depths” (Psalm 107:26). But Christ has a full knowledge of a pilot in regard both to wars and temptations as he journeys over the wild waves. For it says: “He himself, having been tempted, is able to aid those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18).
The reality of a new nature Therefore our souls must be changed and transformed from the present state to a new one, to a divine nature, and to become new instead of old, that is, good and kind and faithful from being bitter and faithless. And thus, having become fit, we will be restored to the heavenly kingdom. For the blessed Paul likewise writes
about his transformation and his being captured by Christ: “But I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12). How was he apprehended by God? Just as if some tyrant was to seize and carry off a captive, and then the latter would be apprehended by the true king, so Paul, having been under the tyrannical spirit of sin, persecuted and devastated the Church. But since he was acting in ignorance out of zeal, thinking he was battling for truth, he was not rejected, but the Lord apprehended him, and the heavenly and true King, flooding him with ineffable light and deigning to honor him with his voice, struck him like a slave and set him free. See the goodness of the Master and his power to change, how he can transform persons steeped in evil and turned back to a wild state. In a moment he can lead them back to his own goodness and peace. All things are possible with God, as it happened in the case of the good thief. In a moment through faith he was converted and was restored to Paradise. The Lord came for this in order to change us and recreate us and make us, as it is written, “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), and to give to our soul a heavenly soul, that is, the Spirit of the Godhead leading us to every virtue so that we might be able to live eternal life. Therefore may we believe with our whole heart his inexpressible promises, because “he is true that promised” (Hebrews 10:23). We must love the Lord and always strive to live in all the virtues and to beseech assiduously and without ceasing in order to receive
the promise of his Spirit totally and perfectly so that we may be brought to life even while we are still on this earth. For if in this world a person would not receive the sanctification of the Spirit through much faith and imploring, and be “made a partaker of the divine nature” and permeated by grace by which he can fulfill every commandment without blame and purely, he would not be made for the kingdom of heaven. Whatever good anyone has obtained here, the same in that day will be his life through the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit forever. Amen.
Macarius the Great (295-392) was among the most influential of the Desert Fathers of Egypt. He was known for his virtuous life, and he also suffered persecution because of his strong spiritual teaching. His profound spiritual writings are based on his own personal experience. Although he was an Egyptian monk from the fourth century, when John Wesley published his series of classic Christian books for his traveling preachers, Macarius’ book, The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, was the first that Wesley reprinted. The above excerpt is taken from that classic work of early Christianity.
The Classical Literary Resource for Today’s World Christian
Fruit that lasts by Michael Barton (2008)
uring his earthly ministry, Christ taught that there should be a complete change in the inner life of all who follow him as his disciples. This change cannot be accomplished by mortal man; it can only be wrought by God’s almighty sovereign power. All who responded to
Christ’s call in belief and repentance experienced God’s transforming power deep within and were changed from the ways of the old life to the ways of the new life. Baptism followed this cataclysmic change, and the truth of the inner transformation was outwardly confirmed to all as they publicly owned Jesus as their Lord, Savior, and life. Believers were no longer what they had been; they were now possessors of the new creation life, born into God’s family. They immediately left their old ways and entered into a life of worship, witness, and testimony in the service of their Lord.
Transformation in the early church “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ “With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:37-47). Peter and the Apostles taught the same thing at Pentecost. After hearing the message, the people were convicted of their sin and were cut to the heart. As they responded to God’s call through Peter, they were changed in their inner being. This change then affected fundamentally the whole of their outer lives. They no longer regarded the things of this world to be the highest priority in their lives; they gave freely to each other’s needs and daily hearkened to and followed the disciples’ lives and teachings, eager to learn more of Christ and to become more like him. This new social gathering became known as the Church of the living Lord Jesus. The “I” of their old nature had been crucified with Christ on the Cross, and now Christ was living in them by his Spirit.
God’s presence changed every aspect of their lives, and it showed. The testimony of their lives loudly proclaimed that Jesus was their Lord and life. The explosion had begun. And the Word and testimony went forth to the glory of God. God has not changed. When someone truly comes to Christ today, God brings the same miracle into their life. Whenever God enters into the inner life of man, the miraculous transforming changes he brings about will also directly affect the outer life. So what are the proofs of the presence of God in an individual life, assembly, and ministry?
The fruits of repentance “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near’” (Matthew 4:17). The gospel message begins with a call to repentance which does not simply mean to turn and walk a different way. Repentance means to turn in the sense of rolling over out of one life and into a new life. It means that everything must be changed; it is not just doing seemingly godly things with the old person remaining unchanged within. Everything must be seen as God sees it and not as the old self saw things. The consequence of repentance is that God not only grants forgiveness, but he also draws close; and under the light of his presence every thought, feeling, and emotion changes. The essence of who we are is changed, and we no longer think independently of God who has now become the center of our being. When someone truly repents, they will be changed in such a way that all will be aware of the fruit of their transformation of heart. Who they are will radiate a higher order as they live under God’s light in Christ. God’s presence will be evident. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world
to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God” (John 3:16-21). One who has come to repentance and has declared belief in Jesus as Savior and Lord enters into a commitment that is not temporary but for always. As Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). Jesus’ presence in a life brings purification from sin and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to overcome sin. This power enables and frees us to say “No” even to the things that we want but that are not according to God’s holiness in Christ. This purity of life is one of the proofs of God’s presence in the life of a believer.
Love for others “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:36-40). Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ are not to love him in isolation. In Matthew 22 Jesus inextricably linked two great commandments into one, showing that we cannot truly love God without also loving our neighbor. Our love for God cannot be a lonely or selfish thing. The gift of love and devotion that God’s presence brings is to be shared with our neighbor. Discipleship means the complete dedication of all we are for the cause of love. This kind of love shows itself in every aspect of the believer’s life. It is a proof of God’s presence that cannot be denied.
Spiritual fruit “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and 8
puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7:21-27). “A tree is recognized by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33). It is by the fruit of a person’s life that we can tell whether their words and actions are hypocritical or whether they are true. The fruits of repentance in a believer’s life are seen as they do the will of God. In the same way that a branch cannot bear fruit unless it is connected to the vine, we cannot bear forth the fruit the presence of God without a personal relationship with Jesus. Unless we remain in a relationship with Christ we will die spiritually and bear no fruit. When we are in Christ and he is in us in this consummate relationship, the purity of his lordship will manifest itself in purity and reverence of God. It is by such evidences as these that we see the poof of God’s presence in an individual’s life, walk, way, and ministry.
Proofs in the church But what of the church? What are the proofs of God’s presence in the church and in its ministers? How do we tell what is from God and what is not? More and more, all about me, I am made starkly aware that the church of our Lord Jesus Christ is under immense pressure to conform to the worldly values and judgments of the unregenerate world order. This need not overly worry God’s covenant people; it should only cause us to rest deeper in the peace of his able embrace. Our Lord is sovereign and nothing can ever overcome the Spirit of the living God. He is with us always, and in him we can take our stand and spiritually prevail.
The work of discernment The area where we are most vulnerable is our lack of discernment. This is our choice. We can blame none other. God has given us the enabling of his Spirit and the guidance of his Word. Yet so often we seem to choose to ignore the gift of discernment by the Holy Spirit and the weighing against God’s word in our desperate desire for signs, wonders, the miraculous, and the satisfaction of our desires. It would seem that as long as any or all of these are present we regard anything else as of no value. But this is not the counsel of the word of God. If we judge only by sight and feelings, we
are lost. Sight and feelings alone are not sufficient to discern Notice that the Bible counsels God’s people to have the true presence, power, and will of God. nothing to do with such people and their practices. So it We are a people who are called to “live by faith, not by follows that we need to be clearly able to discern whether sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Living by faith in the Lord Jesus what we “see” is from God or somewhere else. means that we live by his direction, judgment, power, and The life of the vessel and the fruit of the ministry will be life. It means we judge all things by his Person and his Word. consistent with the nature and character of the One who is Unless we follow his direction in this way, we are in effect served. Those who serve the god of this world will display the without sight and lacking in faith. fruits of the unregenerate life of the fallen world. Let me give you a simple example that has been used over As with the proofs of God’s presence with the individual, and over to illustrate a most important point. The banking so it is with the church and its ministers and ministries—all systems of the world generally teach their staffs to detect fake will display the fruits of repentance. We are to judge the tree currency by familiarizing them with every aspect of the real by its fruit. Many things glitter and seek to satisfy our lusts thing. It is only by truly knowing the real that we can detect and desires, but do they bear the fruit the Bible tells us to the false. Many things may look like the hand of God but look for? Do they bring forth that fruit in us? they do not necessarily have the God of the Bible as their We need not only to be true disciples of the Lord Jesus source. but also to be diligent to insure that what we receive is clearly In the ancient world many pagan religions were devoutly from the Lord. We need to accept and embrace spiritual practiced. Most of these were inextricably linked to occultism ministries and manifestations that stand the tests of Scripture of one form or another. Occult manifestations were often and clearly display biblical proofs of God’s presence. Any part and parcel of these pagan worship rituals, and ecstatic ministry or miraculous sign that cannot be validated in this languages were a main feature in most of these. Demonic way we are to reject. presences were conjured up using ritual incantations. If we are diligent to weigh all things by the fruits and Often these entities made their presence known by evidences the Bible shows us, God will bless us way beyond supernatural miraculous signs and wonders. The fruit of these any glitz or glitter or passing wonder. He will grant us fruit religions in the lives of the worshipers was a life of continued that will last. He will manifest the glory of his presence in our depravity that reflected the character of their chosen demonic midst, and many will see and wonder and give their hearts to god. The darkness begat darkness. him. May it be so in Jesus’ name. There are manifestations of the Spirit of God that truly accompany the presence of God in the individual and in Michael Barton is the Director of Pastoral Management for Timeless Impact. He has been involved with the the assembly, but displays of a “supernatural” type do not ministry since 1988. Michael and his wife, Anne, currently necessarily guarantee that they are from God. reside in Normandy, France. The Bartons work with The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “When Pharaoh says to Timeless Impact affiliates around the world. They are also you, ‘Perform a miracle,’ then say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and involved in teaching and preaching ministry in Europe, throw it down before Pharaoh,’ and it will become a snake.” Asia, Africa, and North America. So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front I would need to spend a week with EDITOR’S NOTES of Pharaoh and his officials and it became a snake. Pharaoh him at his home to make that kind of It is said of the great 19th then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian century Irish author, C.H. Mackintosh, a judgment.” magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: Each We are quick to make public that toward the end of his life one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s appearances and visible displays and ministry he was attending a by charismatic personalities the conference of the Brethren churches staff swallowed up their staffs. Yet Pharaoh’s heart became mark of spiritual life and power, but in Ireland. An up and coming speaker hard and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had throughout the Scriptures, we are had just finished his message in said (Exodus 7:8-13). reminded that God looks at the heart. the evening service, and somebody Pharaoh’s wise men, sorcerers, and magicians continued As God works in our heart and we give from the congregation came up to perform the same miracles as Moses and Aaron (Exodus ourselves fully to him, he transforms to Mackintosh and exclaimed, “Oh 7:12, 22; 8:7) until God’s power prevailed and vindicated us in ways that display his presence Brother Mackintosh, isn’t this young whether we are at home, in the man one of the finest Christian his holy name. The point I want to make is that, as indicated workplace, in private, or in the middle speakers you have ever heard?” The in Deuteronomy 13:1-3, it is written that the false prophets of a large church gathering. elderly Mackintosh paused a moment may well be able to produce what appeared as supernatural and then replied, “I really can’t say. wonders and miraculous signs. 9 The Classical Literary Resource for Today’s World Christian
The Embodying of the Spirit A.J. Gordon (1894)
he church, which is his body, began its history and development at Pentecost. Believers had been saved and the influences of the Spirit had been manifested to men in all previous dispensations from Adam to Christ. But now an ecclesia, an outgathering, was to be made to constitute the mystical body of Christ, incorporated into him the Head and indwelt by him through the Holy Ghost. The definition which we sometimes hear, that a church is “a voluntary association of believers, united together for the purposes of worship and edification” is most inadequate, not to say incorrect. It is no more true that hands and feet and eyes and ears are voluntarily united in the human body for the purposes of locomotion and work. The church is formed from within—Christ present by the Holy Ghost, regenerating men by the sovereign action of the Spirit, and organizing them into himself as the living center. The Head and the body are therefore one and predestined to the same history of humiliation and glory. And as they are one in fact, so are they one in name. 10 timeless
He whom God anointed and filled with the Holy Ghost is called “the Christ,” and the church, which is his body and fullness, is also called “the Christ.” “For as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is the Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12). Here plainly and with wondrous honor the church is named o Christos. Commenting upon this fact Bishop Andrews beautifully says: “Christ is both in heaven and on earth; as he is called the Head of his church, he is in heaven; but in respect of his body which is called Christ, he is on earth.”
The church is united to Christ As soon as the Holy Ghost was sent
down from heaven this great work of his embodying began, and it is to continue until the number of the elect shall be accomplished or unto the end of the present dispensation. Christ, if we may say it reverently, became mystically a babe again on the day of Pentecost, and the hundred and twenty were his infantile body, as once more through the Holy Ghost he incarnated himself in his flesh. Now he is growing and increasing in his members, and so will he continue to do “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). Then the Christ on earth will be taken up into visible union with the Christ in heaven, and the Head and the body will be glorified together. Observe how the history of the
THE EMBODYING OF THE SPIRIT
church’s formation, as recorded in the Acts, harmonizes with the conception given above. The story of Pentecost culminates in the words, “and the same day there were added about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). Added to whom? We naturally ask. And the King James translators have answered our question by inserting in italics “to them.” But this is not what the Holy Ghost actually says. All such glosses and interpolations have only tended to mar the sublime teaching of this first chapter of the Holy Spirit’s history. “And believers were the more added to the Lord” (Acts 5:14). “And a great number of people were added to the Lord” (Acts 11:24). This is the language of inspiration—not the mutual union of believers, but their divine co-uniting with Christ; not voluntary association of Christians, but their sovereign incorporation into the Head and this
incorporation effected by the Head through the Holy Ghost.
Baptized into his body If we ask concerning the way of admission into this divine ecclesia, the teaching of Scripture is explicit: “For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13). The baptism in water marks the formal introduction of the believer into the church; but this is the symbol, not the substance. For observe the identity of form between the ritual and the spiritual. “I indeed baptize you in water,” said John, “but he that comes after me … shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost and in fire” (Matthew 3:11). As in the one instance the disciple was submerged in the element of water, so in the other he was to be submerged in the element of the Spirit. And thus
it was in actual historic fact. The upper room became the Spirit’s baptistery, if we may use the figure. His presence “filled all the house where they were sitting” and “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” The baptistery would never need to be refilled, for Pentecost was once and for all, and the Spirit then came to abide in the church perpetually. But each believer throughout the age would need to be infilled with that Spirit which dwells in the body of Christ. In other words, it seems clear that the baptism of the Spirit was given once for the whole church extending from Pentecost to Parousia (his second coming). “There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). As there is one body reaching through the entire dispensation, so there is “one baptism” for that body given on the day of Pentecost. Thus if we rightly understand the meaning of Scripture, it is true, both as to time and as to fact, that “in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slave or free.”
Baptized into the life of the Spirit The typical foreshadowing, as seen in the church in the wilderness, is very suggestive at this point: “For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Corinthians 10:1-2). Baptized into Moses by their passage through the sea, identified with him as their leader, and committed to him in corporate fellowship; even so were they also baptized into Jehovah, who in the cloud of glory now took
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his place in the midst of the camp and tabernacled henceforth with them. The type is perfect as all inspired types are. The antitype first appears in Christ our Lord, baptized in water at the Jordan, and then baptized in the Holy Ghost which “descended from heaven like a dove and landed on him.” Then it recurred again in the waiting disciples, who besides the baptism of water, which had doubtless already been received, now were bap tized “in the Holy Ghost and in fire.” From this time forward, they were in the divine element, as their fathers had been in the wilderness, “not in the flesh but in the Spirit!” (Romans 8:9); called “to live according to God in the Spirit” (1 Peter 4:6); to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25); “praying always with all prayer and
“But now the Holy Ghost is given more perfectly, for he is no longer present by his operation as of old, but is present with us so to speak, and converses with us in a substantial manner. For it was fitting that, as the Son had conversed with us in the body, the Spirit should also come among us in a bodily manner.” —Gregory Nazianzen d. 389 12 timeless
supplication in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18). In a word, on the day of Pentecost the entire body of Christ was baptized into the element and presence of the Holy Ghost as a permanent condition. And though one might object that the body as a whole was not yet in existence, we reply that neither was the complete church in existence when Christ died on Calvary, yet all believers are repeatedly said to have died with him.
We are anointed by the same Spirit To change the figure of baptism for a moment to another which is used synonymously, that of the anointing of the Spirit, we have in Exodus a beautiful typical illustration of our thought. At Aaron’s consecration, the precious ointment was not only poured upon his head, but ran down in rich profusion upon his body and upon his priestly garments. This fact is taken up by the psalmist when he sings: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his clothes” (Psalm 133:1-2). Of our great High Priest we read: “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power” (Acts 10:38). But it was not for himself alone but also for his brethren that he obtained this holy unction. He received that he might communicate. “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Ghost” (John 1:33).
And now we behold our Aaron, our great High Priest, who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, standing in the holiest in heaven. “You loved righteousness and hated iniquity,” is the divine encomium now passed upon him, “therefore God, your God, anointed you with the oil of gladness above your companions” (Hebrews 1:9). He, the Christos, the Anointed, stands above and for the Christoi, his anointed brothers, and from him the Head, the unction of the Holy Ghost descended on the day of Pentecost. It was poured in rich profusion upon his mystical body. It has been flowing down ever since, and will continue to do so till the last member shall have been incorporated with himself and so anointed by the one Spirit into the one body which is the church. It is true that in one instance subsequent to Pentecost the baptism in the Holy Ghost is spoken of. When the Spirit fell on the house of Cornelius, Peter is reminded of the word of the Lord, how that he said: “John indeed baptized in water, but you shall be baptized in the Holy Ghost” (Acts 11:16). This was a great crisis in the his tory of the church, the opening of the door of faith to the Gentiles, and it would seem that these new subjects of grace now came into participation of an already present Spirit. Yet Pentecost still appears to have been the agebaptism of the church. As Calvary was once for all, so was the visitation of the upper room.
A holy people indwelt by Christ Consider now that, as through
The Embodying of the spirit
the Holy Ghost we become incorporated into the body of Christ, we are in the same way assimilated to the Head of that body, which is Christ. An unsanctified church dishonors the Lord, especially by its incongruity. A noble head, lofty-browed and intellectual, upon a deformed and stunted body, is a pitiable sight. What, to the angels and principal ities who gaze evermore upon the face of Jesus, must be the sight of an unholy and misshapen church on earth, standing in that place of honor called “his body.” Photographing in a sentence the ecclesia of the earliest centuries, Professor Harnack says: “Originally the church was the heavenly bride of Christ and the abiding place of the Holy Spirit.” Let the reader consider how much is involved in this definition. The first and most sacred relation of the body is to the head. Watching for the return of the Bridegroom induces holiness of life and conduct in the bride, and the supreme work of the Spirit is directed to this end so that “he may strengthen our hearts so that we will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” (1 Thessalonians 3:13). In accomplishing this end he affects all other and subordinate ends. The glorified Christ manifests himself to man through his body. If there is a perfect correspondence between himself and his members, then there will be a true manifestation of himself to the world. Therefore does the Spirit abide in the body, so that the body may be “inChristed,” to use an
old phrase of the mystics; that is, indwelt by Christ and transfigured into the likeness of Christ. Only thus, as “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people,” can it “declare the praises of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
A display of the life and death of Christ And who is the Christ that is thus to be manifested? From the throne he gives us his name: “I am he that lives and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore” (Revelation 1:18). Christ in glory is not simply what he is, but what he was and what he is to be. As a tree gathers up into itself all the growths of former years and contains them in its trunk, so Jesus on the throne is all that he was and is and is to be. In other words, his death is a perpetual fact as well as his life. And his church is predestined to be like him in this respect, since it not only heads up in him, as says the apostle, that you “may grow up into him in all things which is the Head, even Christ,” but also bodies itself forth from him, “from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:16). If the church will literally manifest Christ, then she must be both a living and a dying church. To this she is committed in the divinely given form of her baptism. “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him
through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:3-4). And the baptism of the Holy Ghost into which we have been brought is designed to accomplish inwardly and spiritually what the baptism of water foreshadows outwardly and typically—to reproduce in us the living and the dying of our Lord.
Life and death working together First, the living: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). That is, that which has so far been the actuating principle within us, i.e., sin and death, is now to be met and mastered by another principle, the law of life, of which the Holy Spirit of God is the author and sustainer. As by our natural spirit we are connected with the first Adam and made partakers of his fallen nature, so by the Holy Spirit we are now united with the second Adam and made partakers of his glorified nature. To vivify the body of Christ by maintaining its identity with the risen Head is, in a word, the unceasing work of the Holy Ghost. Secondly, the dying of our Lord in his members is to be constantly effected by the indwelling Spirit. The church, which is the fullness of him “that fills all in all,” completes in the world his crucifixion as well as his resurrection. This is certainly Paul’s profound thought when he speaks of filling up “what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s
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The Embodying of the spirit
afflictions for the sake of his body which is the church” (Colossians 1:24). In other words, the church, as the complement of her Lord, must have a life experience and a death experience running parallel. It is remarkable how exact this figure of the body, which is
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” —Romans 8:2 employed to symbolize the church, really is. In the human system life and death are constantly working together. A certain amount of tissue must die every day and be cast out and buried, and a certain amount of new tissue must also be created and nourished daily in the same body. Arrest the death process and it is just as certain to produce disorder as though you were to arrest the life process. This is literally true of the cor porate body also. The church must die daily in fulfillment of the crucified life of her Head, as well as live daily in the manifestation of his glorified life. This italicized sentence, which we take from a recent book, is worthy to be made a golden text for Christians: “The Church is Christian no more than as it is the organ of the continuous passion of Christ.” To sympathize, in the literal sense of suffering with our sinning and lost humanity, is not only 14 timeless
the duty of the church but the absolutely essential condition to her true manifestation of her Lord. A self-indulgent church disfigures Christ; an avaricious church bears false witness against Christ; a worldly church betrays Christ and gives him over once more to be mocked and reviled by his enemies. The resurrection of our Lord is prolonged in his body, as we all see plainly. Every regeneration is a pulse-beat of his throne-life. But too little do we recognize the fact that his crucifixion must be prolonged side by side with his resurrection. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” The church is called to live a glorified life in communion with her Head and a crucified life in her contact with the world. And the Holy Spirit dwells evermore in the church to effect this twofold manifestation of Christ. “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted,” writes the apostle (Romans 6:17). The teaching, as the context shows, is Christ dead and risen. If the church truly lives in the Spirit, he will keep her so flexible that she will obey this divine mold as the metal conforms to the die in which it is struck. If she yields to the sway of “the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience,” she will be stereotyped according to the fashion of the world and they that look upon her will fail to see Christ in her.
Adoniram Judson Gordon (1836-1895) grew up in New Hampshire, USA in a devout Christian family. Gordon is best known for pastoring Clarendon Street Baptist Church in Boston for more than 25 years. He was also a prominent leader and speaker at D.L. Moody’s Northfield Conventions. His speaking and writing had powerful influence throughout the USA. The above excerpt is from his exceptional book on the work of the Holy Spirit, Ministry of the Spirit.
EDITOR’S NOTES Many Christians think that living a life of devotion to God and practicing his presence can occur only if we are living in a cave or fulfilling the existence of a hermit, but this is simply not the case. A life of spiritual devotion can also be a life of varied and effective spiritual activity. In her classic work, Mysticism, Evelyn Underhill writes, “All records of mysticism in the West are also records of supreme human activity. Not only of ‘wrestlers of the spirit’ but also of great organizers such as Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross; of missionaries preaching life to the spiritually dead, such as Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, Meister Eckhart, Henry Suso, Jan Tauler, and George Fox; of philanthropists, such as Catherine of Genoa who founded the first hospital in her city; poets and prophets, such as Mechthild of Magdeburg, Jacopone da Todi, and William Blake; finally of some immensely virile souls whose participation in the Absolute Life has seemed to force on them a national destiny. Of this, Bernard of Clairvaux, Catherine of Siena, and the blessed Joan of Arc are the supreme examples.” Practicing the presence of God is not only for the purpose of building ourselves up spiritually but it is also to empower us to live a life of service to others in whatever context God chooses to place us.
Photography by Sjon Heijenga
The practice of the presence of God Brother Lawrence (1682)
FIRST LETTER — A habitual sense of God’s presence Since you desire so earnestly that I should communicate to you the method by which I arrived at that habitual sense of God’s presence which our Lord, of his mercy, has been pleased to give to me, I must tell you that it is with great difficulty that I am prevailed on by your importunities, and now I do it only upon the terms that you show my letter to nobody. The account I can give you is this: Having found in many books different methods pre scribed of going to God and diverse practices of the spiritual life, I thought that this would serve rather to puzzle me than to facilitate what I sought after, which was nothing else but how to become wholly God’s. This made me resolve to give the all for the all. So after having given myself wholly to God
to make all the satisfaction I could for my sins, I renounced, for the love of him, everything that was not his, and I began to live as if there was none but he and I in the world. Sometimes I considered myself before him as a poor criminal at the feet of his judge; at other times I beheld him in my heart as my Father, as my God. I worshiped him as often as I could, keeping my mind in his holy presence and recalling it as often as I found it wandering from him. I found no small trouble in this exercise and yet I continued it, notwithstanding all the difficulties that I encountered, without troubling or disquieting myself when my mind had wandered involuntarily. I made this my business, as much all the day long as at the appointed times of prayer; for at all times— every hour, every minute, even in the height
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of my business—I drove away from my mind everything that was capable of interrupting my thought of God. Such has been my common practice ever since I entered into religion, and though I have done it very imperfectly, yet I have found great advantages by it. These, I well know, are to be imputed solely to the mercy and goodness of God, because we can do nothing without him and I still less than any. But when we are faithful to keep ourselves in his holy presence and set him always before us, this not only hinders our offending him and doing anything that may displease him, at least willfully, but it also births in us a holy freedom and, if I may so speak, a familiarity with God whereby we ask, and that successfully, the graces we stand in need of. In conclusion, by often repeating these acts, they become habitual and the presence of God is rendered, as it were, natural to us. Give him thanks, if you please, with me for his great goodness towards me, which I can never sufficiently marvel at for the many favors he has done to so miserable a sinner as I am. May all things praise him. Amen.
Second Letter— The effects of the presence of God I have taken this opportunity to communicate to you the thoughts of one of our society, concerning the wonderful effect and continual succor which he receives from the presence of God. Let you and me both profit by them. You must know that during the forty years and more that he has spent in religion his continual care has been to be always with God and to do nothing, say nothing, and think nothing which may displease him. This has been without any other view than purely for the love of him and because he deserves infinitely more. He is now so accustomed to that divine presence that he receives from it continual succor upon all occasions. For above thirty years his soul has been filled with joys so continual and sometimes so transcendent that he is forced to use means to moderate them and to prevent their appearing outwardly. 16 timeless
If sometimes he is a little too much absent from that divine presence, which happens often when he is most engaged in his outward business, God presently makes himself felt in his soul to recall him. He answers with exact fidelity to these inward drawings, either by an elevation of his heart towards God, or by a meek and loving regard to him, or by such words as love forms upon these occasions, for instance, “My God, behold me, wholly yours. Lord, make me according to your heart.” And then it seems to him (as in effect he feels it) that this God of love, satisfied with such few words, reposes again and rests in the depth and center of his soul. The experience of these things gives him such an assurance that God is always deep within his soul that no doubt of it can arise, whatever may betide. Judge from this what contentment and satisfaction he enjoys, feeling continually within him so great a treasure: No longer is he in anxious search after it, but he has it open before him, free to take of it what he pleases. He complains much of our blindness and exclaims often that we are to be pitied who content ourselves with so little. God’s treasure, he says, is like an infinite ocean, yet a little wave of feeling, passing with the moment, contents us. Blind as we are, we hinder God and stop the current of his graces. But when he finds a soul permeated with a living faith, he pours into it his graces and his favors plenteously; into the soul they flow like a torrent which, after being forcibly stopped against its ordinary course, when it has found a passage, spreads with impetuosity its pent up flood. Yes, often we stop this torrent by the little
The practice of the presence of god
value we set upon it. But let us stop it no longer. Let us enter into ourselves and break down the barrier which holds it back. Let us make the most of the day of grace, let us redeem the time that is lost, perhaps we have but little left to us. Death follows close; let us be well prepared. For we die but once, and a miscarriage then is irretrievable. I say again, let us enter into ourselves. Time presses; there is no room for delay, our souls are at stake. You, I believe, have taken such effectual measures that you will not be surprised. I commend you for it. It is the one thing needful. We must, nevertheless, always labor at it, for in the spiritual life not to advance is to go back. But those whose spirits are stirred by the breath of the Holy Spirit go forward, even in sleep. If the bark of our soul is still tossed with the winds and the storms, let us awake the Lord, who reposes in it, and quickly he will calm the sea.
Sixth Letter— Simple faith in God In a conversation some days since with a person of piety, he told me that the spiritual life was a life of grace which begins with servile fear, which is increased by hope of eternal life, and which is consummated by pure love. He also said that each of these states had its different stages by which one arrives at last at that blessed consummation. I have not followed all these methods. On the contrary, from I know not what instincts, I found that they discouraged me. This was the reason why at my entrance into religion I took a
resolution to give myself up to God as the best satisfaction I could make for my sins and for the love of him to renounce all besides. For the first years, I commonly employed myself during the time set apart for devotion with the thoughts of death, judgment, hell, heaven, and my sins. Thus I continued some years, applying my mind carefully the rest of the day, and even in the midst of my business, to the Presence of God, whom I considered always as with me and often as in me. At length I came insensibly to do the same thing during my set time of prayer, which caused in me great delight and consolation. This practice produced in me such a high esteem for God that faith alone was capable to satisfy me in that point. Such was my beginning, and yet I must tell you that for the first ten years I suffered much. The apprehension that I was not devoted to God as I wished to be, my past sins always present to my mind, and the great unmerited favors which God bestowed on me, were the matter and source of my sufferings. During all this time I fell often, yet as often rose again. It seemed to me that all creation, reason, and God himself were against me and faith alone for me. I was troubled sometimes with thoughts that to believe I had received such favors was an effect of my presumption, which pretended to be at once where others arrive only with difficulty; at other times that it was a willful delusion and that there was no salvation for me. When I thought of nothing but to end my days in these times of trouble and disquiet (which did not at all diminish the trust I had in God and which served only to increase my faith), I found myself changed all at once and my soul, which till that time was in trouble, felt a profound inward peace as if it had found its center and place of rest. Ever since that time I have been and am now walking before God in simple faith, with humility, and with love; and I apply myself diligently to do nothing, say nothing, and think nothing which may displease him. I hope that when I have done what I can, he will do with The Classical Literary Resource for Today’s World Christian
me what he pleases. As for what passes in me at present, I cannot express it. I have no pain nor any doubt as to my state because I have no will but that of God which I endeavor to carry out in all things and to which I am so submissive that I would not take up a straw from the ground against his order or from any other motive but purely that of love to him. I have quit all forms of devotion and set prayers except for those to which my state obliges me. And I make it my only business to persevere in his holy presence wherein I keep myself by a simple attention and an absorbing passionate regard to God, which I may call an actual presence of God. Or to speak better, a silent and secret, constant intercourse of the soul with God, which often causes in me joys and raptures inwardly and sometimes also outwardly so great that I am forced to use means to moderate them and prevent their appearance to others. In short, I am assured beyond all doubt that my soul has been with God these past thirty years and more. I pass over many things that I may not be tedious to you, yet I think it proper to inform you after what manner I consider myself before God whom I behold as my king. I consider myself as the most wretched of men, full of sores and corruptions, and as one who has committed all sorts of crimes against his king. Moved with deep sorrow, I confess to him all my wickedness, I ask his forgiveness, I abandon myself in his hands that he may do with me what he pleases. This king, full of mercy and goodness, very far from chastising me, embraces me with love, makes me to eat at his table, serves me with his own hands, and gives me the key of his treasures. He converses and delights him self with me unceasingly, in a thousand and a thousand ways, and treats me in all respects as his favorite. It is thus that I consider myself from time to time in his holy presence. My most usual method is this simple attention and this absorbing, passionate regard to God, to whom I find myself often attached with greater sweetness and delight than that of an infant at his mother’s breast so that, if I dare use the expression, I should choose to call this state the bosom of God, by reason of the inexpressible sweetness which I taste and experience 18 timeless
there. If sometimes my thoughts wander from it by necessity or by infirmity, I am soon recalled by inward emotions so charming and delightful that I am confused to mention them. I beg you to reflect rather upon my great wretchedness, of which you are fully informed, than upon the great favors which God does me, all unworthy and ungrateful as I am. As for my set hours of prayer, they are only a continuation of the same exercise. Sometimes I consider myself as a stone in the hands of a carver, whereof he wills to make a statue. Presenting myself thus before God, I beseech him to render me entirely like himself and to fashion in my soul his perfect image. At other times, as soon as I apply myself to prayer, I feel my whole spirit and my whole soul lift itself up without any trouble or effort of mine, and it remains as it were in elevation, fixed firm in God as in its center and its resting place. I know that some charge this state with inactivity, delusion, and self-love. I avow that it is a holy inactivity and would be a happy self-love, were the soul in that state capable of such; because, in fact, while the soul is in this repose it cannot be troubled by such acts, as it was formerly accustomed to, and which were then its support but which would now rather injure than assist it. Yet I cannot bear that this should be called delusion, because the soul which thus enjoys God desires herein nothing but him. If this be delusion in me, it is for God to remedy it. May he do with me what he pleases; I desire only him and desire to be wholly devoted to him.
Nicholas Herman (1611-1691) was born in Lorraine, France. He was a lowly born and unlearned man. In 1666 he began to work in the kitchen of a monastic community in Paris. From this time on, he was known as Brother Lawrence. For the next 25 years Brother Lawrence lived a saintly life of communion with God. He wrote a series of letters describing his pursuit of the presence of God. These letters were published together as a small book. This book, The Practice of the Presence of God, is still today a classic of Christian devotion. He also wrote a lesser known work, Spiritual Maxims, which contains Brother Lawrence’s principles for spiritual growth. The above three letters are from The Practice of the Presence of God.
It is a life of abiding peace “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). There is still conflict in the life of the spiritual Christian, for growth comes through conquest in conflict. But there is peace through conscious victory in Christ. The spiritual Christian does not continue in the practice of known, willful sin, so he lives in the unclouded sunshine of Christ’s presence. His communion with the Father is unmarred by the
gnawing consciousness of soiled hands, by the pricking of a wounded conscience, or by the condemnation of an accusing heart. So he enjoys abiding peace, deepening joy, and satisfying rest in the Lord. Do you have it in your life?
It is a life of habitual victory “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). Note it does not say “victories” but “the victory.” The victory of the resurrection is an all inclusive one. He who has ever given you a victory over
one sin can give you victory over all sin. He who has kept you from sin for a moment can with equal ease keep you from that same sin for a day or a month. The victory over sin is a gift through Christ which is ours as we claim it. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). It would have been very wonderful had he said we were just conquerors. But he declares we are “more than conquerors.” This is victory with a plus sign. This means enough and to spare. This verse tells us we do not have to
The Marks of a Spiritual Christian
Ruth Paxson (1930)
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The Marks of a Spiritual Christian
live on the ragged edge of a victory that we have to strain and struggle to keep. “But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him” (2 Corinthians 2:14). Note the word “always.” This victory is not restricted to certain times, places, and circumstances. God says he can cause us always to triumph in Christ. I can almost hear some person in this audience say, “It is all right for you to stand there and preach that such victory is possible, but you do not know what a cantankerous person I have in my family with whom I have to live all the time.” No, I do not know the circumstances of your life, but God does, and he put the word “always” in that verse. Dare you accept it and believe that God can cause you to “always triumph in Christ”? The words, “habitual victory,” were carefully chosen. By “habitual” I mean that victory is the habit of the Christian’s life. This does not mean that the possessor of such victory is not able to sin but he is able not to sin. Continuous sinning will not be the practice of his life. What is the real, inward meaning of “victory”? Well, it does not mean mere outward control over the expression of sin but a definite dealing with the inner disposition to sin. Real victory makes a change in the innermost recesses of the spirit that transforms the inner disposition and attitude as well as our outward deed and act. “Real victory never obliges you to conceal what is inside.” Many of us do not call sin sin. Of course, we are obliged to call some glaring offence against God or man that becomes more or less public, sin. But what about that black, defiling thing hidden away in the innermost spirit? Is that sin? God says it is. “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:6, 10). “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). Let us face a few simple tests and see if we have been “purified from everything that contaminates the spirit.” You 20 timeless
used to lose your temper and give way to violent outbursts; now there is a large measure of outward control, but a great residue of inward irritation and secret resentment. Is that real victory? Someone says something unkind or unjust to you; you do not answer back and outwardly you appear polite, but inwardly you are angry and say to yourself, “I’d like to give her a piece of my mind.” Is that freedom from sin? A sixteen-year-old girl came to a meeting once where we were speaking of complete victory in Christ. She lived with a cantankerous aunt who was quite addicted to scolding. The girl often tried her aunt’s patience by being home late from school. When scolded for it, she always answered back. She went from the meeting determined to be victorious, both in returning from school on time and in answering back, and she told her aunt so. The skeptical aunt replied that she would believe in the victory when she saw it. A few days later she was late home again. The aunt tauntingly said, “Ah! This is your victory is it?” But not a word escaped the girl’s lips. You say, “What wonderful victory.” But listen! A few days later, I received an exultant letter from the girl saying, “Oh! Miss Paxson, now I know the meaning of real victory, for when my aunt scolded me I not only didn’t answer back but I didn’t want to.” This is victory indeed. Someone has wronged you; you do not openly retaliate or seek revenge, but in your innermost heart you wish the person misfortune and rejoice when it comes. Is that having a right spirit? At a summer conference in China a woman came seeking help. She was unhappy, and others around her were made unhappy. There was unlove in her heart; in fact, there was someone she hated. She was a Christian worker and, recognizing the havoc this feeling was working in her own life and in that of others, she tried to gain gradual victories over it. She had hated even the sight of the other person, but she acknowledged finally the sinfulness of that. So she invited the person to dinner in her home, but hoped she wouldn’t come! Was that victory? When she came to me she had reached the point where she was “ready to forgive” but “would never forget!” Was that
The Marks Of A Spiritual Christian
victory? Then she compelled herself to say that she “wouldn’t hate” but she “couldn’t love.” Was that victory? Not until God, who is love, really possessed her heart did she have God’s kind of victory. Perhaps someone here is saying, “I have experienced occasionally this glorious freedom from some besetting sin, but it has been only a transient liberty. Is there really such a thing here on earth as habitual victory over all known sin?” God says there is. “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). “…through Jesus Christ the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). On Calvary’s cross Christ died to set us free from sin. To make that perfect victory permanent he has sent the Holy Spirit to indwell and control. The carnal man is under the power of the law of sin. It operates in his life, bringing him much of the time under its dominion. But there is another and a higher law at work in the believer, and as he yields himself to its mighty power the spiritual man is delivered from the law of sin and death. Herein lies his habitual victory over all known sin. Do you experience such victory?
It is a life of constant growth into Christ-likeness “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). There is nothing static in true spiritual experience. The upward look and the unveiled face must catch and reflect something of the glory of the Lord. With a growing knowledge of him and a deepening communion with him there must be a growing likeness to him. On one occasion I was travelling upon the Yangtze River in Central China. A heavy rainstorm had just cleared away and the sun had come out brightly from behind the bankedup clouds. I felt an inward impelling to go out upon the deck, and the Lord had a precious message awaiting me. The water of the Yangtze River is very muddy. But as I stepped to the
railing and looked over, I did not see the dirty, yellow water that day but instead the heavenly blue and fleecy white of the heavens above and all so perfectly reflected that I actually could not believe that I was looking down instead of up. Instantly the Holy Spirit flashed 2 Corinthians 3:18 into my mind and said, “In yourself you are as unattractive as the water of the Yangtze River, but when your whole being is turned towards God and your life lies all open to him so that his glory shines upon it and into it, then you will be so transformed into his image that others looking at you will see not you but Christ in you.” Oh friends, are you and I “reflecting as in a mirror the glory of the Lord”? But there is to be a progression in our likeness to Christ— it is to be from glory to glory. The spiritual nature is ever reaching out after and laying hold of that which is spiritual in order that it may become more spiritual. “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:2, 5). “No fruit,” “fruit,” “more fruitful,” “much fruit.” Do these phrases not unveil before us the potentialities for Christlikeness open to every branch in the Vine? Do they not also show us the positive progression “from glory to glory” God expects to see in us? These expressions are descriptive. Which one describes you? Only the much fruit glorifies the Father. “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourself to be my disciples” (John 15:8). But what is the fruit God expects to find on the branch? He tells us. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). The “fruit of the Spirit” is the full-orbed symmetrical character of the Lord Jesus Christ in which there is no lack and no excess. Note it is not “fruits” as is so often misquoted. It is just one cluster, and all nine graces are essential to reveal the beauty of true Christ-likeness. But how often we see a great heart of love spoiled by quickness of temper—there is
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The Marks of a Spiritual Christian “love” but not “self-control.” Or we see a person of great longsuffering but he is also very long-faced. There is “patience” but no “joy.” Again one sees a Christian very long on “faith” but very short on “gentleness.” He has more of the thunder of Sinai than the love of Calvary in his makeup. He defends the doc trine with better success than he adorns it. Sometimes we see one whose life is the embodiment of goodness but the goodness is overshadowed by worry and fretfulness. There is “goodness” but not “peace.” Oh how the lack or the excess of any one of these graces mars the symmetry of the cluster! In the spiritual Christian all nine graces blend in such winsome attractiveness that the world sees Christ living within.
It is a life of supernatural power “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). These words were spoken by Christ to a group of unlettered men. One of them was a sun-burnt, weatherbeaten, rough old fisherman. He would be ill at ease in a modern college crowd and very probably would fail to pass entrance examinations into a present-day theological seminary. But he belonged to the company of believers to whom this promise was given, and one day it was marvelously fulfilled in his life when, through one sermon, he won six times as many souls to true discipleship as Jesus did in the three years of his public ministry. In what did Peter’s power consist and does it avail for you and me? Was it the power of personal charm? Of gracious manner? Of giant intellect? Of eloquent speech? Of massive scholarship? Of dominant will? While there were many lovable qualities in the impulsive, eager, loving old fisherman, none of them could begin to account for such an overwhelming fulfillment of our Lord’s promise in him. God clearly reveals the secret of Peter’s power: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The power to do “the same works and even greater” is not 22 timeless
the power which resides in anything human. On the contrary, it is the power of God the Holy Spirit, which is fully at our disposal when we are fully yielded to him. Is his supernatural power manifested in your life and works today?
It is a life of devoted separateness “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified…” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). “Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26). The spiritual man takes Christ as his Example and determines to walk as he walked. Christ lived a life of separateness. He was in the world but not of it. He had the closest contact with the world but without conformity to it or contagion from it. The spiritual man aspires to a similar separateness of walk. He bears the same relationship to the world as Christ bore to it, and the world will have the same attitude toward him that it had toward Christ. The Christian will regard the pleasures, pursuits, principles, and plans of the world exactly as Jesus Christ did. He was not of the world, therefore the world hated and persecuted him. So will it treat the Christian. “They are not of the world, even as I am not of it” (John 17:16). “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. “Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also” (John 15:19-20). God calls you to a life of spiritual “isolation” and “insulation” in order that you may be more fully conformed to the image of his Son. Have you responded to the call to come out and be separate?
It is a life of winsome holiness “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written, ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16).
The Marks Of A Spiritual Christian
Every Christian is called to a holy life. But many Christians do not want to be holy. They may want to be spiritual but they are afraid to be holy. This may be due to a misunderstanding of what holiness is through false teaching on this subject. What, then, is holiness? Let us first say what it is not. It is not sinless perfection, nor eradication of the sinful nature, nor is it faultlessness. It neither places one beyond the possibility of sinning nor removes the presence of sin. Scriptural holiness is not “faultlessness” but it is “blamelessness” in the sight of God. We are to be “preserved blameless” unto his coming, and we shall be “presented faultless” at his coming. “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). “To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy” (Jude 24). This truth was unfolded to me with fresh meaning four years ago when I was called upon to dispose of the personal belongings of a dearly loved sister whom God had called home. Among the things she especially treasured was found a letter written to her when I was seven years of age. She had gone on a visit; I loved her and missed her, and that letter was the love of my heart expressed in words. The letter was by no means “faultless,” for the penmanship was poor, the grammar was incorrect, and the spelling was imperfect; but it was “blameless” in the sight of my sister, for it came out of a heart of love and was the best letter I could write. For me, a grown woman, to write the same letter today would not be “blameless,” for my experience in penmanship and my knowledge of grammar and of spelling are far greater. Holiness is a heart of pure love for God. It is Christ, our sanctification, enthroned as Life of our life. It is Christ, the holy one, in us, living, speaking, walking. Such holiness is winsome, for it spells the holy calm of God mirrored in the face, the holy quietness of God manifested in the voice, the holy graciousness of God
expressed in the manner, and the holy fragrance of God emanating from the whole life. Is such winsome holiness yours? May we bow in a few moments of silence? Which is your life—that of a carnal or a spiritual Christian? If you are not living habitually on the highest plane, will you determine now to do so?
Ruth Paxson (d. 1949) was born in Manchester, Iowa USA. She was converted as a child and grew up to become a renowned Bible teacher throughout the world. With a strong emphasis on missions, Paxson worked with Moody Bible Institute, the YWCA, and the Student Volunteer Movement. She also taught on several occasions at conferences for missionaries in China and other countries. With some connection to the Keswick Convention in England, Paxson was known for several books on holiness and living a victorious Christian life. Her best known book is the classic work, Life on the Highest Plane. R.A. Torrey called it one of the most worthwhile books he had ever read. The above excerpt is taken from her book, Rivers of Living Water, which is based on a series of teachings she gave for the China Inland Mission.
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Photography by Sjon Heijenga
True devotion is uniform and invariable. It is a permanent adhering of the heart to God, independent of all the changes incidental to the spiritual life. It remains the same in dryness as in consolation, in privation as in enjoyment, in the trouble of temptations as in the calm of peace, when God seems to forsake it as when he favors it with the most intimate union. However he treats me, says the devout soul, he is always what he is and merits to be served just the same. My devotion must never change, since he who is its object is himself unchangeable.
It is simple and has only one aim. God alone! is its 24 timeless
motto. It studies to purify its motives, raising itself above everything in order that it may see only God and his will. There is no keeping one eye on God and another on itself. The devout soul sees itself, but in God and in his good pleasure, which means everything to it.
It is fervent That is to say, it is always determined to do and to suffer whatever God wishes, cost what it may. For I do not call fervor those passing transports which a sensible grace produces in the soul. Beginners are apt to be deceived by this; they consider that they are then capable of everything and beg God to put them to the test. But let this sensible grace pass and they soon change their notions and language and realize their weakness. True fervor resides in the depths
of the will and sub足sists as long as the will does not yield to tepidity, laxness, and weariness, but preserves the same ardor, courage, and zeal.
It is faithful and carries its attention and precision to the point of extreme delicacy, yet without scruple or anxiety. It is faithful in little things as in great, in what is of perfection as of obligation, to the least sign as to the most express commandment. Its principle, from which it never departs, is that nothing is little in the service of so great a Master whose will alone is what gives value to that service. Indeed we cannot testify to our love better than by acting the moment his pleasure is known, without waiting for an express command.
Various Qualities of true devotion
It is discreet and always quick to follow the mind of God. It is never inconsiderate, rash, or reckless. It loves order and does everything in its proper time and place, and knows just when to be firm or to adapt itself to the weakness of others, when to be exact in its pious exercises or when it should relax temporarily from a spirit of charity.
It refuses to pay any attention to the imagination which is the great stumbling block of most pious persons. For imagination troubles and upsets them, presents them with a thousand fears, causes them to take up a good work and then leave it only half done. It is forever tempting them to go off at a tangent to every kind of extravagance, caprice, and inconstancy. But in spite of it all, true devotion makes a particular point of despising and dominating the imagination, and so finds a great peace, an evenness of temper which nothing disturbs, and a serenity of soul which extends to the exterior and preserves a happy countenance in the face of the most difficult situations.
Other qualities of true devotion True devotion is docile, is not attached to its own ideas, but submits them without difficulty to those who have authority over it. It will even give up what it regards as a conviction and a principle, obeying its superiors in spite of the greatest reluctance. It adheres to no method against their will and changes nothing in its way of life without first consulting them. It never judges itself—neither favorably (so as not
to expose itself to presumption) nor unfavorably (so as not to fall into discouragement).
It is equally on its guard against a false humility, which is never content with its progress and finds fault with all its actions, as against a false conscience, which is proud of its accomplishments and presumes all too readily on its progress. It considers it much safer and more humble not to examine itself in order to judge of its state, preferring to leave this to those who are charged with its direction. And it believes them with the same simplicity, whether they approve or condemn it. Severe towards itself, true devotion is indulgent towards others. It prudently takes account of their weakness, choosing for its share what is most painful and difficult, carrying always a greater burden than it is obliged to. It is active without being over eager, steady without being slow, grave without affectation, joyful without being dissipated. It is never meticulous, scrupulous, or anxious, and is neither unbending nor careless. In all things it keeps the perfect balance, leaning, if at all, to the side of kindness rather than to a too exacting justice. Although zealous for virtue and always ready to undertake such good works as Providence throws in its way, it does not seek them out officiously but awaits them quietly. It does not offer its service or push itself forward, and seeks neither to intrude nor to interfere, as though nothing could be well done unless it is at the head of it. It keeps to itself, is not inquisitive or curious, and forms no judgments.
Only when charity obliges does it offer its services, and then with the greatest circumspection; then it is indefatigable in endeavoring to ensure success, sparing neither pains nor means, not even its reputation, for that purpose. And yet it is always ready to withdraw, much preferring that good works of this kind should be undertaken by others rather than by itself. Its zeal does not consist in incessantly exclaiming bitterly against abuses, even though they may be real. Rather does it make these the subject of its most earnest prayers, begging God to put matters right. If it is not charged with correcting them, it suffers them patiently; but if it is, it goes about its business with as much gentleness and patience as efficacy, and without fuss or violence. More concerned to put its own house in order, it does not set itself up as a public reformer. It is too conscious of its own failings to pay much heed to those of others. Either it does not see them or, if it does, it finds excuses for them or keeps its own counsel. If it is obliged to speak of them, it is always out of charity and for the good of those concerned. It is the sworn enemy of cliques, factions, and particular friendships. It is not that it is above forming a sacred alliance with certain chosen souls with whom it can confidentially discuss holy things, but such friendships are the work of grace. There is no affection or mystery about them, or anything that might show contempt for others as if they were not worthy to be admitted to their society. Much less does it set out to praise this preacher or that director to the disadvantage of others. This kind of party spirit is characteristic of false devotion and is held in abhorrence by true piety.
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Various Qualities of true devotion
True devotion corrects and perfects the natural character From what I have said, it is clear that one of the great objects of true devotion is to reform the natural character. This is what it directly leads to, by opening our eyes to our defects to which we ourselves are only too blind, and by inspiring us with the desire to overcome them, the courage to attack them, and the hope to triumph over them with the help of grace. Everyone knows that there is no character so accomplished that it is not subject to some defect and that even the best natural qualities are never far removed from some vice. Thus gentleness can degenerate into weak ness, soft complaisance, and indolence. Strength of character exposes us to become stiff, harsh, and stubborn. The cautious soul is liable to become timid, diffident, and suspicious; the resolute soul bold, presumptuous, and rash. So it is with the other qualities—they are rarely free from some blemish but are almost always a mixture of good and bad. Reason alone will never effect a perfect separation of these two aspects. It is not subtle enough to discern the delicate shades which divide the good from the bad qualities, nor is it exact enough to strike the happy medium between the two. It has not sufficient command over itself to remain firm, still less to reconcile and bring together two good qualities which at first sight seem so opposed to one another. This can only be done by grace, the light of which is much more penetrating and sure and which, while enlightening the 26 timeless
mind, stimulates and fortifies the will in the work of remolding nature.
Remolding nature Now when I speak of remolding nature, I do not mean that one’s character is entirely changed. At bottom most characters are good; why then should grace change them? This basic goodness remains, therefore, but the bad that self-love has added to it disappears while the good improves. Each moral quality loses what is superfluous and acquires what it lacks, and by thus adjusting itself becomes in time a true virtue. Not only that, but devotion supernaturalizes these moral qualities and communicates to them a something that is divine which ennobles and sanctifies them. However, it must be acknowledged that the work of our perfection is rarely brought about by our own efforts, however much these may be aided by grace. Even in the most saintly persons there generally remains some defect or excess which is part of their original character. This is noticeable in the writings and life of Cyprian, Jerome, and many others. But when God himself undertakes the work of our sanctification and, with this end in view, takes possession of a soul and leads it into the interior way—if that soul is faithful—habitual recollection, mental prayer, and trials purify it radically and cause its character to pass through the crucible which rids it of all dross. Such a soul becomes like wax in the hands of the great
artificer who handles and fashions it according to his good pleasure, giving it impressions which are as profound as they are delicate. Then all seems to be supernatural—nothing human is now seen. No one good quality exceeds or encroaches on another; all is perfect harmony. Such were Augustine and Francis de Sales. How attractive their devotion was: what consistency, what admirable evenness of soul did not their lives, their conversation, and their good works reveal.
Jean Nicholas Grou (1731-1803), although French, passed the last eleven years of his life in England. He is buried there. Grou was considered among the greatest spiritual writers of the 18th century. The historian, Cuthbert Butler, reckoned him “more gripping than any other spiritual writer.” Grou’s writings have inspired and encouraged many into a deep life of prayer and devotion. Although a member of the Society of Jesus, his influence can be seen all the way from J. Gregory Mantle of the Keswick Convention to the author Thomas Kelly of the Society of Friends. His book, How to pray, is a spiritual classic. The above article is taken from the very popular work, Marks of true devotion. The book ultimately ran into 46 editions
Love our for brothers Otto Stockmayer (1907)
“…God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart” (1 Peter 1:21-22). The whole Christian life is an exercise of faith so that we may learn to walk, in every circumstance, as seeing him who is invisible. The great failure in the history of Israel began when the people came to Samuel and said, “Make us a king to judge us like all the nations”—let us have a visible king. They got weary of waiting by faith in the Lord of hosts who was ever ready to help his people when they humbled themselves, after he had humbled them. They grew weary and desired a king whom they could see and who would lead their battles without being obliged on their part to humble themselves before their God. “Let us have a king,” they cried, “that we may be like all the nations, and that he may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” And now also it is just these shameful desires of our wicked hearts which keep us from depending upon God for everything—these desires to have something, or someone, before our eyes upon which, or upon whom,
we may lean for help in critical hours; whereas God sends critical hours on purpose that we may be thrown upon him and give him his right place in our daily life and work and conflict. If we have learned more deeply to trust our God and not to lean upon man or circumstances—if we have learned better than ever before to walk and serve as seeing him who is invisible—I should like to bring before you another subject which is as deeply on my heart. It is that we may see the unseen, invisible Christ in our brother, in our sister.
Seeing Christ in our brother or sister In some recent meetings in Germany in which I was privileged to take part, the subject was, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Today it came to me that the Apostle does not say, Christ in us—in a way that is simply general—but “Christ in you.” He turns to his brothers who had been brought out from among the Gentiles through the living God and to these he says, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Let us stop and consider the form of the expression. Of course, so far as we are children of God, Christ is in us. We cannot be born of God without having Christ in us. Christ must indeed be formed in us (Galatians 4:19),
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Lov for brot but at the very moment we are born again from above he is in us. Might it not be a very practical test, and a biblical and scriptural way of proving that Christ is in us, to get into the holy habit of always seeing Christ in our brother? Even if he were born again but yesterday, or only an hour ago, it is well for us at the very beginning of his Christian life to see in him, through faith, Christ abiding in his heart by the Spirit of God, a being of whom God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—has taken possession. Let us learn to look at our brother as seeing in him the unseen Christ, and we shall help him in a mighty way to take heed that Christ may shine in his life. By this means he will become conscious of the holy ground on which he stands and moves and walks by having become a Christian.
Helping them to live up to their high calling
We who have for years walked with Christ must help the babe, the child, to awake to his high calling as quickly as possible. By recognizing Christ in him, we shall help him to become conscious of the wonderful secret of his new life; and we must prove ourselves to be men in Christ by not stopping short at what we see with our eyes and hear with our ears of the manifestations of the flesh which we may find in the young Christian. We must be able, through divine love shed abroad in our hearts and free grace in our lives, to look beyond what is seen. We must love our brother through faith in God, so that he may bring out the new creation in him in a beautiful way ... more beautiful, it may be, than in our own lives. Instead of looking at our own progress in sanctification—measuring how far we have grown up in Christ—let us rather turn our attention to our young brother in whose life, perhaps, Christ is not clearly seen by the Church and the world. By thus considering him and exercising divine love, we shall help him to take his stand as one in whom Christ lives. And let us never forget to put the shoes from off our feet when dealing thus with a brother or a sister. It is holy ground—holy because we approach a being in whom Christ dwells unseen—and much may depend on the attitude we take towards him in helping to bring forth in our brother the features of Jesus Christ.
The fruit of Christ’s death
In those last days before his decease, the Greeks came to 28 timeless
see Jesus (John 12:20-24), and he answered them, “You have indeed come at the right time.” “The hour is come when the Son of Man shall be glorified.” And how? By his sinking down, even into the earth. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” The life of love which the Lord lived was the only true life of love ever lived on earth. If it wasn’t for him, there would be no life of love seen in the world—no fruit springing out of the grain of wheat that fell into the earth. The moment came in which the Son of Man should be glorified, and that glory—his fruit in them whose faith and hope would be in God—is unfeigned love of the brothers (1 Peter 1:22). Too long we have expected things of our brothers and sisters, and so there have been disappointment, grief, and pain ... because our hopes and expectations have been in our brothers instead of in God. We have failed to look for the unseen Christ in them. And because we have seen the old nature still existing in that brother or sister, we have forgotten that they are also fruit of the grain of wheat which has fallen to the ground.
Looking to the heavenly glory
On that account we must help them, and we can help them by putting our hope and faith for them in God in such a way that unfeigned love—or as it might be translated—intense, fervent love may spring forth. Because our life for the brothers no more depends upon their character, but upon divine, heavenly glory. God gave Christ glory, and if Christ is in me, there must be glory to triumph over shame, over the spirit of judgment, over the flesh in my brother. I may see only the flesh, but when my hope—the crown of glory—and my faith rest in God, I can overlook what is not like Christ, and by seeing him who is invisible, despite discouraging experiences with a brother or sister, I can endure and I can love. The Incorruptible has power over the corruptible. By faith we overcome the old nature by the new nature given us by Jesus Christ. If the brother cannot let Christ’s nature triumph over his own nature, let us older ones who have known Christ so long set him the example. When he finds in us unquenchable love, even when we see little of Christ in him, it will help him to let Christ triumph over him. “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth,” you can now have faith and hope for your
ve our rthers brother, so that Christ the Truth may have liberty in your hearts and lives to show forth his glory. Unquenchable, unfeigned love, love from a heart rooted in the love of God, grounded in Christ—the reigning, ruling Christ! Thus we are called to love one another, “having been born again, not of corruptible seed.”
Bearing with those who are weaker
Do you feel paralyzed in your love by what you meet of the corruptible in your brother? Do you not perceive that what you see to be corruptible in your brother is allowed to come before you that you may triumph over it by the power of the incorruptible in you, and so that you may manifest love and faith and hope in God? Do you not understand these things? We have power to love—power to abstain from our own flesh, from being provoked—because we have been born again by incorruptible seed and we know it. But our young brother does not yet know this—he does not yet see the power he has in Christ, but we—who for ten, twenty, thirty years have known our Bible and the heart of God—we see and are being exercised not to stop short at the seen world but through the continual exercise of faith to look deeper, even into the unseen. “Having been born again” and redeemed, not with corruptible things but with the precious blood of Christ, born not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible. God’s wonderful power has created a new world within—a new way in which we cease to look to earthly things for happiness. It is the world of light, seen through the Word of God, which lives and abides. Today you discover in your brother things from which you shrink and which might have the effect of freezing your love to him, but you do not need to have these feelings. When the current approaches you, go back to the ground of your standing in Christ—the Word of God which has power to keep you. It is Jesus the living Word, and it is also the written Word. Let what you have learned in this Holy Book go forth and prove its power in its moment of conflict. When some corruptible thing appears in your brother that has the tendency to call forth that which is corruptible in you, go back to your regeneration in God. You, being born of the incorruptible, are to overcome evil by the glory of God. That is glory. “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field” (1 Peter 1:24). Our love (to the
brother) must not depend on the aspect and the sweetness of the flower—the lovely character which attracts our admiration—all this is corruption. “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever” (1 Peter 1:25). And whoever is begotten by this word of God and has a new nature formed in him can stand the falling of the flower, the withering of the grass.
Salvation in a life of love
And if tomorrow you see in your brother things quite different from those to which you were accustomed, your love takes fresh power and springs forth to show your heavenly standing, proving that your faith and hope are in God. When your love grows cold, then you feed the flesh in your brother, but when the love of God in you can stand the test, you help forward the divine life in your brother. “This is the word that was preached to you. Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:1). This salvation is a life of love, and he who loves his brother like this will cease from putting stumbling blocks in his way or being an occasion of his falling. “Love one another from a pure heart fervently.”
Otto Stockmayer (1838-1917) was born in Aalen, Germany. Through a physical healing in his own life, Stockmayer began to pursue a fullness of life with God in 1865. He spent many years in full-time ministry in Switzerland, focusing on a healing ministry in Hauptweil, Thurgau. Stockmayer spoke at early Keswick Convention meetings in England, and his conference speaking spread throughout Europe and the United States. He authored several books, many on the subject of healing. The above excerpt was taken from a series of messages that were published under the title, Triumph of Forbearing Love.
The Classical Literary Resource for Today’s World Christian
A Practical Application Frank Laubach was a missionary and leading figure in global literacy in the 20th century. He was also advisor to US presidents. In the midst of his busy existence, he was dissatisfied with the fact that he was not really following the will of God as he should. He decided to work on practicing the presence of God in every part of his life. During his remaining years, he made progress in the following ways:
• First, he began trying to “line up” his actions with the will of
God every few minutes.
• He also made an effort to say a quick prayer for every person
he encountered in any way throughout the day, thus continually reminding himself of God’s presence in his own life.
• For a short time, he tried to set aside a few minutes of each hour
to give intensive thought to God.
• Laubach then began to offer “arrow prayers” to God (a quick
one sentence prayer acknowledging or praising God) every time the thought of God crossed his mind during the day.
• After many years, and a lot of working at it, Laubach got to the
place where he tried to give God one second out of every minute.
For further reading on the life and spiritual practice of Frank Laubach, we recommend Letters by a Modern Mystic and Practicing His Presence (which also includes works by Brother Lawrence).
Time Out for
Macarius the Great speaks of Paul’s “transformation and his being captured by Christ.” Do you see the Christian life as simply a case of your sins being forgiven, or do you consider your spiritual life as a lifelong transformation, as the Holy Spirit makes you new? According to the Scripture, what is the primary basis of this transformation and how can you practically cooperate with God to see his presence bring newness to your life?
Practicing the presence of God
In his sixth letter, while describing his pursuit of living consistently in the presence of God, Brother Lawrence makes the observation: “I must tell you that for the first ten years I suffered much.” What does this say to you about the fact that practicing the presence of God is a lifelong pursuit? What do you think Brother Lawrence would say to our fast-food, instant gratification society and the way it has influenced the church’s perspective of spiritual life?
Fruit that lasts
Michael Barton describes fruit that will last as a sign of God’s presence in our lives. What can we do in our lives to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit? Notice that Galatians 5:22-23 does not say “fruits” but “fruit.” Why is it significant that we be growing the entire group of fruit rather than individual “fruits”? Are you pursuing the spiritual fruits or the Source of the spiritual fruit? What’s the difference?
Considering Brother Lawrence’s example and the practical steps described by Frank Laubach, how can you begin to practice the presence of God in your own life? Make the commitment to yourself and to God to start practicing today.
The marks of a spiritual Christian Take a moment to review the different marks of a spiritual Christian as described by Ruth Paxson.
The embodying of the Spirit
How could these things be visible in your own life?
A.J. Gordon makes the comment, “If the church will literally manifest Christ, then she must be both a living and a dying church.” What do you think this sentence means practically? How can the church be both living and dying?
Use the marks as points of prayer for your own spiritual growth and as landmarks on the path of your spiritual journey.
Take some time to consider the mystery of “life rising out of death” which is fundamental to the message of the New Testament. How does dying to self bring the presence of Christ into our daily lives, activities, and relationships?
The Classical Literary Resource for Today’s World Christian
From India: Greetings. I am in Dubai ministering in churches since Feb 3rd. I will be in Oman from 10th to 20th. God is doing great and marvelous things among the Tamil brethren here. Thousands have accepted Jesus from Hindu background after coming here for employment from India. All the 10,000 Light for Life magazines has been distributed. I have collected some testimonies too from the readers which I will mail to you after my return. I am about to start translation of the next issue. Is there a possibility of raising the number of copies from 10,000 to 15,000? Churches are very much interested in receiving this magazine. From Tanzania: “We have had a very good response to the Swahili magazine, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and here in Tanzania. Pastors like the teaching a lot. I also received calls from Kenya”.
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From Myanmar: I am very grateful to you for your kindness and approval of my request to send Light for Life magazine. I received the magazine sent to me on the 5th of December 2007. My only reward I can provide is to thank you, and God bless you for your kindness shown to me. I am very proud of you that through your magazine, I will know more about God’s plan for mankind in these last days and also to preach the gospel to non-Christians. Thank you for Light for Life magazine. Looking forward to receive the next magazine. Pastor........ Baptist Church, From Kayin State I am receiving Light for Life magazine from you, and I am blessed very much. Your magazines encourage and inspire me because the teachings are inspired by God. Your magazine is useful and thought-provoking. Also, through your magazine, I have been touched, grown spiritually, and my life has been transformed completely. Thank you Timeless Impact and Light for Life magazines. Looking forward to receiving another magazine. Victory Christian Church, From Shan State
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Published on Jun 2, 2009