Monthly Archives: January 2013

DESCENDING AND ASCENDING

DESCENDING AND ASCENDING
“‘He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.”– Eph_4:10.

THIS IS an amazing verse! Why did our Lord descend? In the Council-Chamber of Eternity, when the creation and fall of man were foreseen, it was agreed that He should deliver man; but how could this be effected, unless He had experienced conditions of human life? Mere power, though it were that of Omnipotence, would not have availed. Even perfect love might have failed in absolute sympathy, for lack of actual experience. “Forasmuch, then, as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself took part in the same, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest” (Heb_2:14-17).
How low did He descend? He bowed the heavens, and came down, and darkness was under his feet. Down to the Virgin Mother and the Manger-bed; down to Joseph’s home in despised Nazareth, and the carpenter’s shop; down to hunger and thirst, to agony and bloody sweat, to the Cross and Passion; down to Death and burial even in a borrowed tomb; down to the dim shadow-world of Hades, to the spirits in prison, and if there be any lower depth, thither!
But He ascended from these low depths, with the keys of Death and Hades at His girdle. He ascended on high, leading captivity captive; and as He passed upward, He annexed each province as He went. This same Jesus who descended is now ascended, with no change in His nature, that He may fill all hearts, all lives, all homes, with the grace and love and help that He exhibited during His earthly ministry. When I saw that, only the other day, I said to myself: “Jesus Christ is literally in this room. It is true that He is at the right hand of God, but this is only to allow Him the more easily to fill my heart, my need, my life. He is the very same as when Martha and Mary welcomed Him to their home in Bethany. I will read the Gospels again, not so much as a record of the past, but as a mirror of the living present” (Heb_13:8).
Is there one person who reads this page, in loneliness, poverty, sickness, sorrow, and pain, that can fail to get this comfort? Read the Gospels again as the Diary and Day-Book of the Living Saviour! He that descended is the same also that ascended; and He ascended that He might fill the lowest depths of human need. Though ascended to the right hand of the Majesty on high, He is the same loving, tender Saviour as when the children flocked around His knees, and His tears brimmed over at the grave of His friend.

PRAYER
I bless thee, O Son of God, that there is no need for me to go up to Heaven to bring Thee down, or into Thy grave to bring Thee up. Thou art here, in this hour, and at this place. AMEN.

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DISLOCATED LIMBS

DISLOCATED LIMBS
“Now the God of Peace, make you perfect in every good thing to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ.”– Heb_13:20-21.

THE GREEK word here rendered perfect really means “to put in joint, to complete.” In his original creation man’s will was intended to register the Will of God, to say Yes to it, and to pass the divine impulses and commandments to the rest of our being. Sometimes on board ship, before the phone made it possible for the captain to speak to every part of the ocean-liner, I have heard Him quietly utter his orders to a subordinate officer beside him, who in turn repeated them in a loud voice through a speaking-trumpet or tube. That intermediary may represent the will which was intended to receive its directions from the Will of God, and pass them throughout the economy of our being. Such was our Lord’s attitude throughout His earthly life. He said: “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me”; “I seek not My own will, but the will of Him that sent Me”; “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.”
But in the Fall, the dominance of God’s will and the loyal response of man’s will became disorganised; and the human will instead of functioning in harmony with the Will of God, began to obey the will of the flesh in its grosser or more refined forms. Not what God wills, but what “I” will, has become the working principle of the great majority. Thus it has come about that the will, by constant misuse, has become dislocated, warped, “out of joint.” Tennyson says: “Our wills are ours to make them Thine!” Just so, but they are too stubborn for some of us to manage. Hence the suggestion that we should pass the matter over to the “God of Peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus.”
Sometimes at football, or on the ice, a player may lose his balance, or be tripped up, and in the fall his shoulder may become dislocated. His arm is still in the body, but out of joint, so that it hangs useless by his side, until the surgeon by one strong wrench forces the bone back into its proper place. Is not that true of us? We are in the Body of Christ by redeeming grace, but we need to be set, i.e., to be brought into articulated union with the Will of God in Christ Jesus. Let us humbly ask the great Surgeon of souls, by the pressure of His strong and gentle hands, here and now, to joint our wayward wills with the Will of God, and then to work in us and through us that which is well-pleasing in His sight!

PRAYER
Gracious Father! I yield to Thee my will and desires, my members and faculties, the life of my body, the thoughts of my heart, and the aspirations of my spirit–perfect, I pray Thee, that which concerneth me. AMEN.

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REIGNING IN LIFE

REIGNING IN LIFE
“For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by One, Jesus Christ.”– Rom_5:17.

IT WOULD take a lifetime–nay, it will demand eternity–to explore the treasures of this paragraph from which our text is taken. Let us not, however, stand gazing into heaven, but avail ourselves of the privilege offered us during our earthly life of reigning through the One, even Jesus Christ. Do not postpone the fulfilment of this promise! We may have to wait for the future life to unfold depths of meaning which now transcend our thought; but any fair reading of this radiant verse compels us to appropriate it for here and now.
But, “how can these things be?” He, a master in Israel asked that question of Christ! This blessed life of victory is only possible to those who have been born from above. By nature we were born from below into the first Adam, who was “a living soul.” We must be born from above, into the second Adam, who becomes to all who trust in Him a Life-giving spirit (1Co_15:45). That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and cannot of itself rise into the Spirit; the Holy Spirit must stoop to lift it into union with Himself. But He will do this for you, if only you will lift your heart to Christ in simple faith and surrender.
The difference it will make! Each life has been planned by God with the intention of training it for high service here and beyond; and whatever happens in life, there is always an abundance of grace awaiting our use. But how often we are as blind to it as Balaam was to the Angel that stood on the wayside! We make our plans! We lie awake half the night in a fever of anxiety! We go to this friend or that! But we do not claim that abundance of grace which is intended to meet the need of the hour. It is only as we receive it by a childlike faith that we can reign in life. That word “abundance” in its Latin original speaks of ocean-waves. Stand on the shore and look out on that infinite expanse, and do not be content with scooping up enough to fill an oyster-shell!
What will result? A royal life! If a throne means power–we are strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man. If it means victory–we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. If it means largess–we have always all sufficiency in all things, and abound to every good work.

PRAYER
Heavenly Father, I thank Thee for the trials and pains that are ever working for my good, and making me a partaker of Thy holiness. May I receive the abundance of Thy grace, and reign in life here and hereafter. AMEN.

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ABIDING IN CHRIST

ABIDING IN CHRIST
“I am the Vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for apart from Me ye can do nothing.”– Joh_15:5.

OUR SAVOUR’S perennial joy was due to His unceasing endeavour to minister help and blessing to others. He saved others; He could not save Himself. He said: “I am the true Vine,” i.e., the vine was made by Him in creation to represent a certain phase or characteristic of Himself. It is the reflection in the waters of materialism of eternal principles deep-seated in His own divine nature. The study of the vine is, therefore, specially precious in its teaching.
Behind the vine, as we know it, there is an immense pressure of energy. In the spring-tide, it seems as though the love of God were pressing for expression in the corn that supports life, in the oil that makes the face to shine, and in the grape that cheers. The vine cannot bear fruit, of itself; it is only the channel along which the energy of God flows in its endeavour to gladden the heart and life of man. So Jesus is the channel through which the life and love of God reach us, that we may pass them on in loving ministry, and in so doing we are creating and storing up for ourselves infinite joy.
Let each of us learn to abide in Christ with the heart open to Him on the one hand, and open to men, women and children on the other. Then let us trust Christ to pour His love and grace into our hearts, that the pressure within may lead us to perform acts of tender sympathy and helpfulness of which we would not otherwise have been capable. Let us resolve to let no day pass without doing something at cost to ourselves, to make the burden lighter and the path easier for someone else. Our willingness for Christ to do these things through us will always meet a response from Him; and His Spirit being in us will show us exactly what to say or do. It may be only a smile, a touch of the hand, or a word! Thus life will be filled with joy, and this will be perpetuated surely in that other life, when we shall awake and be satisfied. As we mingle with the throngs of happy spirits who have come out of great tribulation–the martyrs, prophets, apostles, and saints of every age—the greatest wonder of all will be that we are there. “Lord, when saw we Thee an hungred, and fed Thee? or athirst, and gave Thee drink? And He will say, Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these.., ye did it unto Me.”

PRAYER
May I never forget, O Lord, that the best and happiest life must be lived in communion with the needs, sorrows, and trials of others. Give me closer sympathy with Thyself, who didst not please Thyself, but whose blessed life was perpetually laid down for others. AMEN.

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WALKING NOT AFTER THE FLESH, BUT AFTER THE SPIRIT

WALKING NOT AFTER THE FLESH, BUT AFTER THE SPIRIT
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. That the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”– Rom_8:1-4 (R.V.).

THE APOSTLE here is dealing with the conditions of a holy life; and the condemnation to which he refers is that caused by the constant failure so graphically described in the previous chapter. From my own experience, I think that the introspection which is often induced by ill-health and weakness makes us very sensitive to the failure and shortcoming of the inner life. We know that we are accepted in Christ, and that our sins are forgiven us for His sake; but we are deeply conscious that in us (i.e. in our flesh) dwelleth no good thing from. Rom_7:18).
The Reservoir of Eternal Life.–”the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus.” We perceive what physical life is when a child comes bounding into our room in a very ecstasy of health and joy. We know what intellectual life is as we see the mind developing under the process of education. We know what the moral life of a stoic is, repelling by force of will the appeal of the senses. But above all these, there is Life which is resident in Jesus Christ, stored in Him, abounding in Him, which He longs to communicate to every soul that trusts in Him. This was the witness of those who knew Jesus most intimately in His brief human life–that “God hath given unto us Eternal Life, and this Life is in His Son.” “He that hath the Son hath the Life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not the Life.” This more than outweighs the down-pull of the self-life. The law of that life makes us free from the law of sin and death, for it has mastered death and the grave.
This Life is communicated and sustained by the Holy Spirit. We must be one with Christ; we must be in Him, as the sponge is in the ocean. We must be in Him, not only in our standing, but also in our daily walk. We must be in Him as the branch is in the vine, and the vine-sap in the branch. And this must not only be a theory, but an hourly experience. We must abide in Him and He in us. But how can this become our daily experience? There is but one way. Through the co-operation of the Holy Spirit, as we walk in Him (Gal_5:16). He is the essence of the Life which is in Christ Jesus. “The Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”

PRAYER
Almighty God, I beseech Thee to raise me from the death of sin to the life of righteousness by that same power that brought the Lord Jesus from the dead, that I may walk in newness of life through the aid of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

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CHRIST’S TEACHING ABOUT BENEFICENCE

CHRIST’S TEACHING ABOUT BENEFICENCE
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,.., and thy neighbour as thyself…. But he said, And who is my neighbour?”– Luk_10:27-29.

WE CANNOT live alone. No one of us can be entirely independent of others. I am not only a centre, but I am part of another man’s circumference; and every other man, woman or child I know is part of my circumference. We are members one of another. In other words, we all have neighbours; and a complete human life, which has windows opening to the Infinite Creator, must have doors opening on the street towards our finite fellow-creatures.
When we talk about neighbours, we naturally think of those who live next door, and we are apt to reduce the divine command to those who reside in the same street. If these are very comfortable and well-to-do, it seems as though there is not much scope for helping them. This definition of neighbours, however, is altogether too narrow and contracted, as our Lord shows in the parable of the Good Samaritan. The lawyer asked who was his neighbour, and Jesus said, “Be a neighbour to someone else.’” And if it be asked what kind of people I am to neighbour, the answer comes: “Make no distinction of race or creed; but wherever you come across a man who has been stripped, beaten, robbed, and is half-dead, don’t wait for other men to succour him. but bind up his wounds; minister to him, and treat him as though you loved him with the natural love of brotherhood.”
A rich man might have paid an agent to patrol that dangerous road from Jerusalem to Jericho, and to look after those in distress, but it would not be so blessed in its effect on his own character, or on the men who were helped, as personal ministry would be. We ought to combine the two, because our personal experience of such cases will enable us to direct our agents, and live in their efforts, so that they may become our own. Perhaps the better policy is to get elected on the Council, or Magistrates’ bench, so that we may put down the gangs of thieves which infest life’s highways.
Remember that a gift of money is by no means the only way of helping your neighbours. What men and women need most is compassion, sympathy, your hand and heart-help. “Silver and gold have I none” has been the confession of some of the greatest benefactors of our race. Above all, it was true of our Lord Himself, who became poor that He might really help us, as He never could have done had He remained rich. Let Him be our Example, Who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.

PRAYER
Show me, to-day, O Lord, that one of Thy little ones to whom I am to give a cup of water in Thy Name. AMEN.

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CHRIST’S TEACHING ABOUT JUDGING OTHERS

CHRIST’S TEACHING ABOUT JUDGING OTHERS
“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged.”– Mat_7:1-2.

OUR LORD evidently does not, in these words, condemn that honest judgment which, for our own safety and for the good of society, we are compelled to form of men and women with whom we come in contact. Such judgments are inevitable. But He condemns that censorious and uncharitable judgment which is always finding fault, always neglecting the good and dwelling on the bad, always spreading unfavourable and inaccurate reports, which are often founded on very superficial and insufficient grounds.
How true it is that we are measured by the measure we use for others. There is a remarkable Nemesis in life, which is the judgment-seat of God. The evils we inflict on others, like the Australian boomerang, which becomes almost a speck in the sky, come back to ourselves. If you are generous in your estimate of others, you will be estimated generously. If you are mean and stingy, others will treat you in the same spirit.
We are all would-be oculists! Nothing pleases us better than to try our hand at recovering motes of sawdust, as well as splints, from the eyes of others, while we are indifferent to the beams of timber which obstruct our own vision. Christ is always saying to us, “Cast out the filthiness from the holy place”; and as His light falls deeper and deeper into our nature, it must reveal hidden evils which need to be put away. “Let us be true to the inner light, and then with tender and chastened spirits, from which all consciousness of superiority has departed, we shall help others to be rid of their own obstructions.”
In Mat_7:15-20, Christ gives us the infallible test. He suggests that in every age there will be those who care for the fleece more than for the flock, and who come into the fold under a most winsome and bewitching guise. Beware of such people, and judge them, not by their doctrine, but by their fruits. The Devil is the most orthodox theologian in the world: “I know Thee, who Thou art, the Holy One of God.”
“By their fruits ye shall know them.” You cannot judge what a man is by hearing him repeat a creed; but as you observe his character, his disposition, his behaviour; not in public, but in private; not for a day, but for a year, you can come to an almost certain judgment as to whether God or self be the ruling consideration of the inner being.

PRAYER
Make us merciful, O Christ, in our judgments of others. May we think no evil. May we forbear and forgive one another as Thou dost forgive us. AMEN.

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