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Upward and onward, excelsior, every wave that strikes the shore, seems to say it more and more, excelsior! Such was the old saw. It had some merit, depending on the exact connotation... Was it to be a matter of improving myself so as to exalt myself? There is in this, taken at the barefaced level, a certain repugnance. Not that it is wrong to improve, to develop, to labour, to strive and to excel. It is the ulterior motive of self-exaltation, company exaltation, national exaltation which is a sad distortion, and indeed one which will tend always to create disturbances, whether those of Saddam Hussein (a puppie, or political yuppie, one might think), or some commercial maverick whose near to insane desire is for more for me, of me, to me.
All the little me's may provoke jealousy, sour resistance, murder, malice and if big and brazen enough, mayhem, from time to time. There is a fatal flaw in much philosophy that Darwin, Nietzsche, Wagner and a covey of military conquerors and Barchester Towers type clerics, for that matter, ignore to their ruin.
The development of oneself may bring joy to others, in that the God-given talents, being pitched to the uttermost, may sing and bring glory to Him who gave the gifts, and aid to man in his messes. It is when it is for oneself that the ruin comes; for then the playful or stimulating competition for new heights can become an emulous vying, not for what is to be gained in product, but for the producer. Then the concept of service becomes the Satanic substitute of self-service.
But is service enough ? Serve what ? Serve murderers as they murder, business barons while they candidly seek to extinguish (rather than simply surpass with excellence) the 'opposition' ? Serve the psychopaths, the oppressors ? After all, they are all people and some quite sorry for themselves.
There is here neither reason nor value. The service needs to be for that which is intrinsically right, excellent. In what ? In folly ? in ruthlessness ? And right ? for whom ? and on what grounds ?
One is at last forced to God as the objective of rational striving, which does not irresponsibly revolve around a non-centre of the universe (oneself), but around the occasion and base of it, the designer and drafter of it. Forced ? What need is there of force before such splendour, as is uniquely His ? The force needed is to detach the sin-felled, from the deadly 'electricity' of their iniquity.
Once God has done this within a man, then is there a new meaning to striving and securing and moving... upward. It is not an irrational motion on no base for no reason but pleasure, wealth, power or self-gratification. It becomes an aspiration for inspiration, a devotion to that excellence which is in God and to which we are made to move, if we follow design.
Made in God's image, defiled from it, we move towards it. What does Paul say in his two fascinating treatments of this energy and dynamism, this desire for the standards and wonders of God Himself ?
To this we shall in a moment allude; but for the moment let us phrase the pith in our text:
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, (Philippians 3:14).Consider it in the Twentieth Century New Testament, put out by Moody Press:
I press on towards the goal, to gain the prize of the heavenward call which God gave me through Christ Jesus.Indeed let us hear more from this:
But this one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining every nerve for that which lies in front, I press on to the goal, to gain the prize ...
Its direction is up... up in quality, in calibre, in contentment, in understanding, in vision, in victory, in vigour, in inspiration, in character, in grace, in love, in soundness of doctrine, in spiritual attainments, in blessedness, in being a course for God's divine power to impart blessing. Oh how diametrically opposed it is to this childishly proud folly of Darwin and the crowd who have followed this Pied Piper, children of rebellion in their minds, who do not pause to consider. Is it grace which squashes and blasts and seeks devices for the overthrow of others ? or is it vice ? Is it not God who says:
We then who are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves (Romans 15:1).Has character to be lost so that the world too may be lost ? Have we to forget the creative kindness of help in the Godly direction which includes talent development, moral strength and loveliness of nature, in the interests of sacrificing the earth to insanely misdirected war for self-exaltation ? Will man forever fail to differentiate between the curse which blights, and the creation of light ? (Some war may be necessary: but never mere self-affirmation.)
The upward call implies greater harmony with God, with one's design in His service, with His designs, with His love, patience and constructiveness, including His forgiveness of others and His return of good for evil. The other way does not work. It is a lie, a laugh and a ludicrous lordliness. What! will guile and murder and intrigue, will injustice and misused force enabling the strong and the self-pre-occupied to prey on the inventive, the creative and the kind, be deemed a worth-while end product ? will the dust never then settle till Armageddon ? In fact, no. Yet it is only right to remind man in the meantime of His follies, and to recall him to the upward vocation.
It is sickening to see sickness masquerading as health, while puny powers use lying frauds to push personal pursuit of power! It is horrifying to find goodness reviled, godliness detested and mercy despised by those directionless specks of human protoplasm that merely pursue their selfish advantage as though such gross distortion of real values, workable relationships and genuine merit could work wonders.
Rather - and now we return to those two fascinating texts drawn from Paul, of which we made mention - let us follow this advice:
But far different is the lesson you learnt from Christ - if, that is, you really listened to Him, and through union with Him were taught the truth, as it is to be found in Jesus. For you learnt with regard to your former way of living that you must cast off your old nature, which, yielding to deluding passions, grows corrupt: that the very spirit of your minds must be constantly renewed: and that you must clothe yourselves in that new nature which was created to resemble God, with the righteousness and holiness springing from the truth (Ephesians 4:20-24... The Twentieth Century New Testament.)This rendering helps to bring out the force of this passage, and has the beautiful reminder that the last part reads, 'the holiness of truth'. To be sure, it may be thought of as 'true holiness', but it goes somewhat deeper, a holiness that springs from, is bound to, is found in the truth, who, of course is Christ Jesus revealing reality.
Here you see the depreciated human nature, cheapened, tawdry, tiny in spirit, debased in morals, misled in vision, denuded of victory, a depraved relic and residue, prone to passions and problems which pollute and destroy. You see it in contrast with the life in the Redeemer, who knows how to reconstruct such ruins... ruins in which devils glory, as landlords may glory in slums. There is profit there; however unprofitable it all may be for human habitation.
On the contrary, there must be found - and may be found only in Christ Jesus - a new nature which is not so much novel as renewed, like the restored flesh of a once corrupt wound. A new freshness of a re-natured mind blows upon the spirit of man and the New Man in Christ must reach out and take on (v.24) that new nature, like a garment, a wholesome garment of gladness and grace. Now here is the fascinating thing: this new nature which is to be taken upon oneself is one which already has been created in righteousness and true holiness springing from truth. One puts on a created, a tailor made suit of holiness. One reaches forward for it, one travels towards this mark of the heavenly calling in its pursuit, one garbs oneself with it, tries it on, walks about in it and grows accustomed to its folds. Now note this: in this metaphorical expression of the truth, you must act, you must reach, you must move upwards, by taking upon yourself what is already created.
God has provided for you the form and image, the power and the name, so that you may freely take of the armour of sainthood, the tunic of truth and the power of His Presence. In so doing, however, do not forget that it is a matter of so moving that you actually don your equipment, then use it. This is being taught in this passage of Paul. The Greek aorist indicates no leisurely dressing, but decisive action!
The matter applies to the personal characteristics of your life, like honour and the beauty of holiness; to the publishing power of your life, in setting forth the gospel to others; but it also concerns the very quality of your spirit in its dynamic interchanges with that God who is not dead, but alive for evermore, that alpha and omega, that outshining of His presence, Jesus Christ.
When I was younger, I had a pastorate in the New Zealand Presbyterian Church. There with the young people, I would often go into the mountains (yes, not hills!) and we would climb up and on, past different types of trees, shrubs and grass, through different alpine zones. There was movement, endurance, determination; there a pressing toward the mark, in our case, of the mountain summit, perhaps, the splendid view. In the case which is before us, it is to the true righteousness and holiness, holiness in the truth.
In the one case, we see the completed
and perfect reality to which we are heirs, and we must put it on.
As we go, the air changes, the atmosphere has greater benignity, blessing,
impact; the spiritual climb induces hunger, and eating strength. We recall
Elijah, and how he moved so far to deal directly and closely with the Lord
concerning his affairs, and how the still, small voice spoke kindly but
clearly to him. This is only one phase; for not everything is vocal which
is imparted, nor is everything audible which is done. The shepherd has
methods of dealing with His sheep: but it is best to be close.
Then there is less calling or clamour, a more intimate course with the
leader, and more opportunity to ... find explanations.
Here we find the earthly situation in which, and with which you move on the heavenward, the upward call.
Lie not to one another, seeing that you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man, which is renewed knowledge after the image of Him who created him.In the Twentieth Century New Testament, we find it expressed like this:
Never lie to one another. Get rid of your old self and its habits, and clothe yourselves with that new self, which, as it gains in knowledge, is being constantly renewed in resemblance of Him who made it.These renderings bring out forcibly the Greek facts in the text: this time it is a question of having already on the new man, the new nature, and of realising that it is one which is subject to continual refreshment and development. Here the status of new life is focussed and the necessity of growth. Before, we were seeing the reality of the dowered, the donated new life, and the necessity of reaching forward to it, seeking upward and outward as it is 'put on'.
Both points relate to the whole region.
We are already equipped with the new man - it is given: it is a fact. But we must strive to live up to, and live in this great new realm of life. We had to 'put it on'.
Now, however, we are seeing that we are also actually covered completely; we must look to the Lord who will renew and develop His image in us as redeemed people. Since we have 'put it on', then we are to work in the Lord with its development as a practical going concern. What in Ephesians was to be put on, was a completed thing. It was the new man who was created... it is already done, it is there, it is complete, in righteousness and holiness of truth. We don it. Here in Colossians however we are seen as already (by court order) clad with the reality of the new man.
In the one case, we find a gift to be fully utilised; in the other, we are find the practical expression of the gift grows, it is a living gift, and we look at its vital development aspects. We must realise this is an ongoing concern, with renewing and fulfilment of all its specifications going on. Before, it was already developed, and we developed the feel for it; in the Colossians imagery, however, it - that is - we are being developed as the gift potential moves our souls, tempers our spirits and moulds our characters.
There we considered moving heavenward, with arms outstretched, becoming more intimately related to what lived in spiritual heights - here we are based on earth, while there was developing the savour of the heavenly scene. The first was directional; this is developmental.
Here the arms of heaven stretch down; there our arms stretched up. But in both cases this is an upward result: whether in a figure to reach up to the heights right for adopted children, or to the heights of development to be formed within.
There has to be both a closer company with Christ and a closer conformity to Christ. Hear how the prophet of old, buoyed by God's Spirit, and freely predicting the coming of Christ, both looked upward and sought a more intimate fellowship with God:
Oh send out Thy light and Thy truth!
Let them lead me, let them bring me to Thy holy hill
And to Thy tabernacle. Then I will go to the altar of God,
To God my exceeding joy...
27:8 When Thou didst say to me, "Seek my face," my heart said to Thee,
"Thy face, Lord, I will seek."
27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation...We must quest for the best of His spiritual buoying of the soul; we must also live for the best in His spiritual way. Character must change; graces should develop; knowledge of God should grow, delight in Him should spread to wider and wider realms. The touch of His Spirit upon us should 'touch us up' - as if an artist were clarifying lines, or creating a softening effect, or whatever the task might be. Meanwhile, we should like Paul experience such a yearning for His personal heights of wonder and goodness, that like him we might say: I do this
36:8 They are abundantly satisfied with the fulness of Thine house,
and Thou givest them to drink of the river of Thy pleasures.
For with Thee is the fountain of life;
In Thy light we see light.
That I may gain Christ, and be found in Him, not having my righteousness which is of the law, but that which is by faith of Christ... to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.Thus we see there is:
Thus Paul, when saying, "Those who are in the flesh cannot please God," is certainly not implying that to be human is fatal; for he himself was human. It is a synonym for 'following your own pleasure, desire and opinion without submission to and redemption in Christ': That is what being 'in the flesh' means.
Again, in 11 Corinthians, Paul talks of:
Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh - II Corinthians 4:10.Now the fascinating thing about this last treatment is this: it is always! Now, to return to our earlier figure, you do not always throw out gear, not always wanting to lighten a ship. There are also processes of taking goods on board. However this is a continual process: to evacuate garbage! - What sort of garbage... ?
The desire for self-direction, self-protection, self-exaltation or self-vindication can be too strong! This can order; it can betoken both a lack of faith and a failure to proceed with one's duty. It might resemble a nervous or uncontrolled seaman who could not discipline himself for the good of the ship, to the word of the Captain, but must be peeping here, leaping there and following his own wishes even when on duty.
Not that this is a Spartan regime; for it is possible to have such a sense of duty that being human is an afterthought. It is as in the image of the Lord whose rest is glorious, that we must die to deformities. We are, says our passage in Colossians, being renewed in resemblance to Him, the One who created us.
That then is the evacuation side, the dismissal side, the area of load lightening, and it relates not a little to our earlier emphasis, from Paul, on ''forgetting those things which are behind...''
One aspect of Altzheimer's syndrome for some old people seems to be this: that they may have fixed ideas and impressions, making communication and co-operation difficult. It is not the rule, but it is not uncommon. Without age performing this trend, there may be a certain awkwardness and relative gracelessness even when one is young, a certain stony faced self-assurance and unwillingness or unreadiness to learn... even when the word of God is in view. The opacity of a cloudy opal, without its light, may spoil a young life no less than an old one.
However, as our text in Philippians tells us, with the upward call, there is also a goal. It is not merely directional; it is a matter of determinate destiny. There are not only two sides of the field, as it were (and now consider a vertically tilted field, where you can play up or down - quite a change!). There is also a goal to which one must, like a rugby player, actually go.
One might almost think of it in terms of the earnest striving for the goal, the touch-down. Bearing, not the ball but the 'deposit of faith', one must look to the Lord, who has said:
Look unto Me all you ends of the earth and be saved (Isaiah 45:22), and this:
This is the will of Him who sent Me: everyone who sees the Son, and believes on Him should have eternal life (John 6:40).Thus there is motion upward, there is quality movement higher, there is dross dumping and there is a designed destiny for the designed disciple, who not merely was once created, but was again created in the likeness of Christ with a new man of righteousness and holiness of truth. For this design, there is a destiny, and that destiny has a prize, is centred on a prize, and that exceedingly great reward, as God told Abraham, is God Himself. With God are 'pleasures for evermore', there is peace and harmony and happiness and holiness and conformity to reality, and love in its plenitude, realising the first dim yearnings with the final mark of the high calling. This goal, like a dazzling sun, sheds its rays on your approach, and at the same time, its light actually accompanies you, enlightening your face, suffusing your way and making you glad.
Thus you find this delightful weaving of the elements by Paul. On the one hand, you are seeking that you may know Him... if by any means you might attain to the resurrection of the dead. On the other hand, you find Paul telling us in the same chapter:
But the state of which we are citizens is in heaven: and it is from heaven that we are eagerly looking for a saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the exercise of His power to bring everything into subjection to Himself, will make this body that we have in our humiliation, like to that body which He has in His glory (Twentieth Century New Testament, Philippians 3:20-21).Now notice this: He will make, not may make, this body to be like His - compare 11 Thessalonians 3:3: "But the Lord is Faithful, who will establish you, and keep you from evil"; and ... 1 Thessalonians 5:24: "Faithful is He who calls you, who also will do it", and 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10: "For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him." It does not have, may make this body to be like His. The final goal will in fact be reached. On the one hand, Christians strain for it, yearn for it, the ultimate point of redeemed body (our souls are already redeemed if we are His) in the presence of the Redeemer, pilgrimage complete, task done, the will of God executed. On the other hand, we know, or can know with both certainty and security, for He is faithful who promised (Hebrews 11:1) that the time will indeed come when that final transformation, that cardinal development, that resurrection finale, will occur.
Thus He has said, "I will not leave you or forsake you"; and "I give unto them eternal life"; and "I am the door, by me if any man enter, he shall be saved ..."; and so He will do.
Like pilots of spiritual Spitfires,
equipped with the canon of His word, we roar into the light of the oncoming
We have churches which do not bother to exclude women Ministers or women elders, although for sound, and explicit theological reasons, the apostle forbids such things (1 Timothy 2:15, Acts 20:28). It is useless, in terms of the Biblical as doctrinal determinant, to philosophise about what might have been if we had this situation in another phase of church history! We don't; it is here and now, and the case is expressly covered by Paul in words which base themselves on the action of the Fall of Adam, which is neither a matter for now nor then, but a matter of history, which is not rescindable. Indeed, Paul also expressly outlines this history in Romans 5.
Whose Lord is theirs ? Why refer to scripture only to flout it! Or they have formal dealings with Rome at the spiritual level, despite the most intense prohibition from Paul (I Cor. 5:11, 6:9, II Cor. 6:16), whose authority is neither dubious nor undeclared (1 Corinthians 14:37, 2:9-13). Or they may even more honestly, it seems, but in even more rampant rebellion, refuse to testify that the Bible, being the testimony of truth, immediately inspired by that God whom even the devil cannot shut up, is inerrant, infallible and right in all it affirms whatsoever, to be true. Whose Lord is theirs ? Whose church is this ?
The world says, no, have women like men and men like women and train toddler boys to have feminine ways and vice versa; and so it seduces humanity afresh, as if to be like what you are made is something intolerable. We will not have this Creator to reign over us, they belch, in-between the sexual perversion they so kindly help to create in endless maimed lives. The false church says, no, have Protestants like Romanists, and train your youth to share in their experiences with all of them; do thus, they pander, as if the Cross of Christ were some symbol and not a task performed by Heaven's Task Force No. l, Jesus Christ who offered Himself without spot, and is in the hands of no man; for even those who took Him were merely tools of truth in effecting for God the redemption through His blood (Ephesians 1:7).
We will not have this Redeemer to rule over us, they hiss, in-between the spiritual perversion of yet more misled and mauled spiritual remnants, taught religiously to trust spiritually in men. Meanwhile, the papacy, as before, in its 'creed', the Tridentine Profession of Faith, advises of the necessity for people who will not be ruled by the pope - to go to hell! After all, this is only the due extension of the justly famed Papal Bull, Unam Sanctam, which expressly so provides.
No, they say, we will not have this word to rule over us; for why should God presume to speak words sure and steadfast, free from our capacities to remould, reform, and bring up to date, the earlier pronouncements made in the name of the Ancient of Days. God will just have to grow up with us, or be ruled by us; anyway, He cannot and we will not let him just speak as if we were walking ears! We have mouths. Furthermore, we have something between those ears, and God Himself had better note that we will hear what and how and when and indeed - if we please. This is the tenor of this spirit!
Thus a generation philosophically perverted grow up to the idea that men make gods, and some of them say so, so that evil runs in places where one might have thought the church should be. And the people love to have it so; and ''What will you do in the end of it ?'' asks Jeremiah, facing substantially a similar sort of situation (5:31). The Lamentations of Jeremiah show what God did...
In view of all this, it seems timely now, today, to consider these three matters: The world, the witness and the way.
After all, you may say, What harm is there in innocent pleasure ? Why should I not figure with those whom the world loves ? I do not have to be upset if it loves me, do I ? And of course there may be no harm in innocent pleasure. But is it innocent if it is confined, constrained and conditioned by the world ? Has the world then forgotten its quality control, its love of its system and its sins ? Does it then now love the Lord and find the good fight agreeable ? Not that one has noticed; not that scripture predicts, prior to the return of Christ, who in that very act will judge, in flaming fire taking vengeance on the enemies of the gospel (II Thessalonians 1:7).
Enemies of the gospel ? Where have they come from in an agreeable world ?
When the wheat is gathered (Matthew 13:24), why are there then tares ? No, the world will have an end that makes its present pains seems like a touch of 'flu by contrast.
James tells us:
Do you not know that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God (4:4).If you are willing to have the world as your friend, says the scripture, and so act, then you are an enemy of God. The two are in total disagreement; and the world is like a sin-o-scope. You cannot look at it amicably, without being drawn in... look with any feeling of belonging, in innocence.
Do not love the world, neither the things that are in the world. if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 John 2:15).Here we learn that if you love the world, then you do not have the love of God. The two are diametrically opposed. Let one draw you; and the other does not. If you are brass, then the magnet has little effect on you; if iron, they you are drawn. If you are not drawn to Him, then of what are you made ? and if you are drawn to the world, then the character and calibre and quality that God gives, lacks in you.
It is, despite what a conditioned conscience might whisper, a case of black and white. There is no miscibility, no compromise, no harmony, no tolerance. Like light and darkness, where one is present, the other is absent. Therefore examine yourselves.
John continues from the above, to tell us why:
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (2:16).
And this flesh - what is it ? ... that independent, potentially self-willed, arbitrary, self-assertive little capacity to act-as-if God, while in fact acting as less than human and wholly defiled. That is what it is. Thus at the flood God announced that the end of all flesh was before Him; and that He would not always strive with man because he was flesh; and He notes that all flesh had corrupted His way. The body is not the point: it is made of flesh, but it is the fleshly format which comprises all the temporary housing, and the potential. It does not say, Man had corrupted his flesh, but that all flesh had corrupted his way.
Thus Paul in telling us of the flesh lusting against the spirit and vice versa, notes many spiritual crimes that the flesh fulfils... like idolatry, hatred, heresies (Galatians 5:20); and the apostle announces that "In me, that is in my flesh dwells no good thing." He is equating the potentially autonomous Paul, the independent man that Paul could be with the term "flesh" (Romans 7:18). Again in Romans 8:7 he talks of the carnal (or 'fleshly') mind being "enmity against God"; and he contrasts it with the spiritual mind which is one of life and peace: "For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (Romans 8:6).
There is, in short, a style of thinking, more, a spirit in one's thinking which is godly; or one that is not, that knows or countenances, or at least is intimate with no God! It dwells in itself and its world and, free from God, it is worldly; yet this 'freedom' is merely the freedom not to see, and to stumble without even knowing at what one falls. It seeks the rebuke of Jeremiah 13:16:
Give glory to the Lord, your God, before He cause darkness, and before your feet stumble on the dark mountains, and while you look for light, He turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness.God sent His Son into the world (I John 4:9), to be the Saviour of the world (4:14); but as for the world itself, and in itself: a) It has a master: "Greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world" (I John 4:4). It is the 'spirit of antichrist' which is in the world (I John 4:3): there is its foundation, its fire and its function (John 14:30-31).
b) It has a way: "They are of the world; therefore they speak of the world, and the world hears them," (I John 4:5). The world is good at hearing its own talk; but it cannot hear Christ talk (John 8:47, 8:43). It has ears that are pre-tuned to its own, and just not on the spiritual wave-length. Not only is it not in accord with its desires for it to hear, possessed by a different spirit, with a different lord; it cannot hear. Jesus said to some: "You are from beneath; I am from above: you are of this world: I am not of this world."
The world is an anti-celestial, contra-heavenly, spiritually dead auto-fascination unit that disowns, disparages or disagrees with God, has another rule, reason and relief; and its darkness is irremediable, intense and deadly. It is to be destroyed with its works (II Peter 3:10). The Spirit, said Jesus, convicts of judgment because the prince of this world has been judged. The Judgment is made; and world is statedly under it (John 16:11).
To be of one mind with what is under God's final judgment is to be out of the kind friendship of God, to be alien in inspiration. To be 'of this world', John 8:23, goes with being unable to go where Christ is (to heaven - 8:21); with dying in your sins; with not believing that Jesus is the Lord - 8:24. Remember that perfect tense in the words, "has been judged" (16:11). In Greek it means that it has happened at some time, and that the results of its having happened continue right on! It is now in force. Judgment is in the wind the world blows, and if it blows in your face ? then judgment it is that blows in your face. Do not love the world. Do not attempt to follow it or please it in any of your ways.
So much harm is done by being psychologically modish. You see a psychiatrist because the world does; it likes to prattle on about its infancy or boyhood or girlhood or feelings and to indulge itself in a great mystical piece of magic, that by sharing all this doubtful recollection, it can become 'whole'; but in no way is this to be done. To be whole and to be holy are in one sense much the same. To be made as you should be is to be made as God would have you, and that is like Himself!
Of course you should consult on moral, spiritual, mental matters with no pagan psychiatrist. How would you ? diseases of the brain, yes; of the mind, no! For how would someone in the world which hates God, atune you to God, without which you are not whole! Do you not see the folly of it, indeed the insult to God ? Could you imagine Simon Peter consulting with Judas or the High Priest (very learned) on the topic of some emotional upset ? as if holiness were a derivative of the flesh in the world ? Do you see that this is not mere doctrine in some glass bottle, but life and need! Or do you rely on drugs for your health ? It is not wrong to use means; what IS wrong is to rely on them. Or do you rely on your financial provisions ? It may be good to make them; but not to rely on them. Riches, as Solomon assures us, take wings (Proverbs 23:5):
Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven.I sometimes consider what very wealthy people might reflect, after losing millions, now lacking the power to help and do the good they neglected, when they might have acted, before the loss: good they could have done then, while still perhaps no worse off than now! Yet they did not.
The witness of life thus must be pure; but so too the witness of truth. Would you combine with worldly ways in presenting the truth ? How would darkness combine with light except by dimming it ? Would you flatter in order to gain acceptance, and so compliment what God has already judged! That would sound like betrayal or treachery. Would you pretend the truth was not unilateral and final in order to please a relativistic world which loves to act as if nothing were really quite sure, except that nothing is really quite sure (and how that became sure it never really seems to know), stupefied into self-contradiction.
Yet many would pander to the world to gain the world, while losing their witness in the world and to the world, by the agreement with the world in spirit and basic approach. Quite the contrary was Paul:
According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death (Philippians 1:20).Note that it's now as always. There is no free-wheeling, no wheeler-dealing; Paul does not, simply does not pander to the world or follow its ways, even in order to present the ways of the Lord; for the world is wrong, its spirit is wrong; its master is wrong, its way is wrong. What, will you do evil that good may come ? (Romans 3:8). Those who would put those words into his mouth, says Paul, are justly condemned!
Or would you teach or allow or coalesce with teaching or conduct that belies or belittles the Lord ? Would you, for example, consent to be muzzled about the truth because some little academic potentate says so ? Would you sell your tongue for your stomach ? Poor trade-off. Would you allow your conduct to suggest that you agree with vice or squalor or lies or false doctrine ? That would be, to be of the world while in it; and of what is of the world - remember Christ's words:
You are of this world; I am not of this world. I said therefore to you that you will die in your sins ... (John 8:23).Do you recall all those negatives that went together ?
This world will not always confront you; but if it does, as Jesus did, you must confront it; and if it seeks to seduce you by flattery or fame or riches or name, then you must resist it; inhabit it and while in it testify to it from a different spirit and a different Master with a different way. East might much more easily be found reposing with West, than a child of God reposing with the world; or would you repose in the mouth of a crocodile, protesting that the poor animal is maligned, and that the teeth have a certain crystalline beauty ? Much less in the world.
In spirit too you must diverge from the world. If it is selfish, you're unselfish; if it is frail in spirit and inordinately vain, then you're humble; if it takes things for granted, then you take them from the Lord; if it rests on its (diminishing and increasingly polluted) self, then you rest on your Lord. There is no agreement, there is no common ground, no common spirit, no community with it. There is and can be no community of Christians with non-Christians. There is a total disunity. Do you see how here Hawke-talk has misled some ? 'Community' is almost the name of the game, and the assumption that you either are or ought to be just one in mind, spirit, aspiration or conduct is explicitly anti-Christian; for are God and Satan at peace ? How then should their followers be one or have a common unity, a 'community'!
Such concepts stem readily from atheism, but have no place in spiritual life. The further they go, the more they defy the Lord and deify the devil, who recognises no distinctions; for being without God, and having all in mind as intended to be under himself, and wishing to negate God, he indeed would have all things for all men one: one over which he would be the one!
But you are not so taught in Christ; so resist all suggestion of unity in society. To be kind in society is not at all to be one with it; for it is merely part of the world. Think differently, act differently, feel differently, speak differently, have a different spirit, different master and so a different destiny from the world! It is judged already, and if you are Christ's, you are acquitted already (John 5:24), have passed (perfect) from death to life - eternal: you do not come, says the scripture to such persons, into condemnation. It has however already come there! That is all the difference.
Love what is beautiful and of good report and virtuous and godly and spiritual; it does not do so! and cease to be surprised when you find this. On the other hand, commend yourself to the consciences at least of the ungodly by being consistent in making sacrifices, being spiritual, practising holiness, being unified with those who follow the word..."that the world might believe" (John 17:21-23). Be one in the Lord... that the world may believe that the Father has sent the Son (17:21); and be completed in one in Him, "That the world may know that you have sent Me and have loved them, as you have loved Me..." (17:23).
In Christ alone is there complementarity and cohesion, without compromise and confusion, mastery without submergence of individuality, vision without vice as an accomplice, because in Him only is the Creator and the Redeemer jointly operative, with the omniscience of love and truth undivided.
Enter in at the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there be who go in that way; for narrow is the gate and hard is the way, which leads to life, and few there are who find it (Matthew 7:13-14).You enter it - John 10:9, when you enter the fold by the Lord who as the Saviour is the gate; and you continue in it, because all who are His do so, and those who enter, He advises us, are saved, and go in and out and find pasture; none shall snatch away (vv. 27-28) those who are His, nor shall they perish.
This way is narrow (but you are never narrow-minded in this, because you understand something of the length and breadth and height and depth of God's love as you follow it - it is like walking on a narrow path, safely, with all the stars in full view - Ephesians 3:18-19).
It does not assist wandering to every folly and rapturous craze and maze. Consider indeed Bunyan's delightful expression of it, to follow this presentation (p. 609 infra). It is in fact, this way, not only narrow but straightened - a third perfect tense: it is in a compressed, or pressured condition, one experiencing weight. It is not flimsy; it does not make for flippancy. It is a way which has been made as it were under pressure. It is like the shell of a car: great forces constrained it, and it is well-built. You do not wander about here; it is like a magnetic field - there are constraints in it, restraints on it, forces in it. It is a way in which the Spirit of God is at work, and in which sin, the whole flesh, is crucified. (Galatians 2:20.)
There is nothing free-wheeling about being crucified; it is restrictive. This pilgrimage is a thing, like a launched rocket; it moves on a way built for discipline, devotion and discipleship. On the other hand, it leads to life.
Like the burrowed out rocks in which some valiant, salient, jutting and abutting stream courses with strength, this way has the power to overcome pressures, and the function to impart pressures so that the stream will go where it should, not breaking down restraints and wandering meaninglessly and without beauty, abroad over the plains.
Isaiah mentions the way, also (35:8):
A highway will be there, and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, shall not go astray.The constraints help this rigorous and righteous course for believers. Journeying, people will not be at a loss. Are you ever at a loss ? : then realise that in this way, there is provision for you not to be at a loss. You may for a moment experience witlessness, but when you are so crowded that really you cannot discern, see, know, recognise the right: then in faith put it to the Lord and find by faith the answer.
What is faith ? It is the assured knowledge of the Lord so that, though you cannot see Him, you know by His work in your heart, and in your mind, and in your experience, and especially by His promises, which you believe: that what He says is just what He will do; and you know also that He will be there with you as you execute His word.
To try to walk in this way without faith would be like electricity moving in flashes between the clouds: there would be fire but little production. Power would be lashing out, without helpful work done through containment in the narrow way. The expressions of prodigious power are for God; the fulfilments of His directed path, this is for man.
In faith, moreover, God Himself becomes your realisation; and the power of God surpassing as it does the power of Nature, teaches you to rest and rely on Him.
It is a way of everlasting joy which continues to increase (Isaiah 29:19); words can describe it, but only life can know it.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away ... (Isaiah 35:10).There is the form of it, the kind; there is the spirit of its progress and the sense of its end, jointly.
The way, then, that goes contrary to the world, and in conformity with correct witness, is a narrow one and a constraining one. You need to watch and pray; to humble yourself as a little child, but play the man. By being little before God, you can be used by God and thus maturely walk in His way. It is too little for large feet, let alone large sittings in large comfort. It is like a mountain way: beautiful in aspect (Isaiah 33:16-17), challenging in the extreme, clearly defined though sometimes occasioning real concern as you look, swiftly leading to your destination, and providing a magnificent perspective. The best of that perspective is this: "Your eyes shall see the King in His beauty" (33:17).
You do not winge and cringe and singe in the foolish wandering paths forbidden in the fires of sin and selfish advantage; but in clean ways, in the fear of the Lord, you conduct yourself. The world not merely does not walk this way, but does not even understand it, scarcely can see it, even under microscope, with telescope, or electron microscope (cf. John 3:3, 5). It is too real for the world's flimsy foolishness and carnal invention, for its flesh. It demands spirit; is helped by the Spirit; and in this Spirit, in the name of Christ, do its pilgrims progress.
Therefore now: Avoid the world:
watch your witness: and keep the way. These three are like three musketeers.
They assemble nicely; they influence each other. IF you avoid the ways
of the world, then your witness is blessed, and if you keep God's way,
the way of the world is over the hill and in the dale, and not in your
way at all. If moreover you witness in spirit and in truth, fearlessly,
with all boldness that Christ may be magnified, yes as Paul says
(Philippians 1:20): "whether by life or by death"; not so that you
lose no dollars, but so that you are willing to lose your life,
literally: then the world is distant, very... and the way is near,
at hand, at foot... just as Stephen found it, so near indeed that as they
stoned him, he actually saw, yes saw the Lord standing at
the right hand of God. So he passed on from the way to the Lord Himself,
* The noted excerpt from Pilgrim's Progress
"Now, as I said, the Way to the Celestial City lies just through this Town, where this lusty Fair is kept; and he who will go to the City, and yet not go through this Town must needs go out of the World. The Prince of Princes himself, when here, went through this Town to his own Country, and upon a Fair-day too: Yea, and as I think, it was Beelzebub, the Chief Lord of this Fair, that invited him to buy of his Vanities; yea would have made him Lord of the Fair, would he but have done him reverence as he went through the Town. Yea, because he was such a Person of Honour, Beelzebub had him from street to street, and showed him all the Kingdoms of the World in a little time, that he might, (if possible) allure that Blessed One, to cheapen and buy some of his Vanities...
"Now these Pilgrims, as I said, must needs go through this Fair. Well, so they did; but behold, even as they entered into the Fair, all the people in the Fair were moved and the Town itself, as it were, in a hubbub about them; and that for several reasons: For,
"First, The Pilgrims were clothed with such kind of Raiment as was diverse from the Raiment of any that traded in that Fair. The people, therefore, of the Fair made a great Gazing upon them: Some said they were fools; some they were bedlams; and some they were outlandish men. Secondly, And as they wondered at their apparel, so they did likewise at their speech; for few could understand what they said; they naturally spoke the language of Canaan; but they that kept the Fair were the men of this World; so that from one end of the Fair to the other, they seemed barbarians each to the other. Thirdly, But that which did not a little amuse the merchandisers, was, that these Pilgrims set very light by all their wares; they cared not so much as to look upon them; and if they called upon them to buy, they would put their fingers in their ears, and cry, turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity: and look upwards, signifying, That their trade and traffic was in Heaven.
mockingly, beholding the carriages of the men, to say unto them, What will
ye buy ? But they looking gravely upon him, said, We buy the Truth. At
that, there was an occasion taken to despise the men the more; some mocking,
some taunting, some speaking reproachfully, and some calling upon others
to smite them. At last things came to an hubbub, and great stir in the
Fair, insomuch that all order was confounded. Now was word brought to the
Great One of the Fair, who quickly came down and deputed some of his most
trusty Friends to take these men into examination, about whom the Fair
was almost overturned. So the men were brought to examination; and they
that sat upon them asked them, Whence they came, whither they went, and
what they did there in such unusual Garb ? The men told them, That they
were Pilgrims and Strangers in the World, and that they were going to their
own country, which was the Heavenly Jerusalem; and that they had given
none occasion to the men of the Town, nor yet to the merchandisers, thus
to abuse them, and to let (hinder) them in their Journey: Except it was
for that, when one asked them what they would buy, they said, they would
the truth. But they that were appointed to examine them, did not believe
them to be any other than Bedlams and Mad, or else such as came to put
all things into confusion in the Fair. Therefore they took them and beat
them, and besmeared them with dirt, and put them into the Cage, of the
Fair. There therefore they lay for some time, and were made the objects
of any man's Sport, or Malice, or Revenge; the Great One of the Fair laughing
still at all that befell them: But the men being patient, and not rendering
railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing, and giving good words for
bad, and kindness for injuries done; some men in the Fair that were more
observing, and less prejudiced than the rest, began to check and blame
the baser sort for their continual abuses done by them to the men."
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