"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

Category: Sanctification (Page 3 of 4)

The Lonely Road of True Fellowship

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)

Lonely

William Barclay was correct: “A man had to be prepared to be lonely in order to be a Christian.” (The Gospel of Matthew, 1:107). A.W. Tozer also asserted that “Most of the world’s great souls have been lonely.”

Indeed, how could it be otherwise? Tozer declared in another place that “The Christian, the genuine Christian, realizes that he is indeed a lonely soul in the middle of a world which affords him no fellowship.”

This world is no friend of grace, nor of those who live by and offer it. There is a reason Jesus put “peacemakers” just before “persecuted” when enumerating His Beatitudes. Yet Jesus’ words do speak of a deeper fellowship than the world can offer, indeed, a fellowship that is truly found only in the world’s rejection. It is fundamentally a communing fellowship with the King Himself. To the rejected, despised, persecuted and reviled, Jesus promised a present experience (“is”) of “the kingdom of heaven.” Which at least means that such folk get to come under that special reign and relationship with the King Himself right now, in the present. Jesus’ words may mean more than simply that, but they do not mean less.

There is then (marvelously, but only secondarily) down this painful road also the fellowship that is found with “the prophets who were before you.”

Again, I affirm that Barclay was correct: “A man had to be prepared to be lonely in order to be a Christian.” But he was also correct when he then later wrote, “… no man ever suffers persecution alone; if a man is called upon to bear material loss, the failure of friends, slander, loneliness, even the death of love for his principles, he will not be left alone, for Christ will be nearer to him than at any other time. …. When a man has to suffer something for his faith, that is the way to the closest possible companionship with Christ.” (1:113, 114)

Is it possible that your present hardship is not an evidence of Jesus distancing Himself from you, but, quite the contrary, an evidence that He is drawing near to you? Is it possible that current distress is only God’s answer to your prayer to know Him more deeply?

John J. Murray, was speaking about God’s plan for building our character, but I wonder if his words do not also fit with this matter of bringing us into true fellowship with Himself: “We might be tempted to ask whether God can [give us true intimacy with Himself] without suffering. That is a hypothetical question. He has not chosen to do so.” (p.15, Behind a Frowning Providence)

 

The Life that is Life

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“The life that wins is an actuality, not just an aspiration. Its secret is simple, and yet profound.

It is plain to the heart filled with faith and obedience, but it is perplexing to self-will and self-effort. It is an obtainment, not an attainment; a gift to be received and not an achievement to be earned. It is from above and not from within ourselves; it is from heaven and is revealed on earth. Its life arises out of death to ourselves and not from deeds that we have done.

The details in individual experience differ appreciably, and are related to the personality and the circumstances of that life. Beyond the details, however, the pattern of the exchanged life is quite the same for each one. First, there is an awareness of our need, as expressed by the Lord Jesus, ‘If any man thirst …’ (John 7:37) …

Then there is agony of soul because of that awareness. One remembers the beatitude: ‘Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled’ (Matt. 5:6) …

Then follows wholehearted abandonment to the Savior. Sick of self and sin we obey the clear injunction of Romans 6:13: ‘… yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.’ …

There must be appropriation by faith of the Holy Spirit to fill life with the presence of the Lord Jesus. That obtainment is by faith, and not by works. Inquires the Scripture: ‘This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?’ (Gal. 3:2) …

Following appropriation there must be abiding by faith in the Savior. Did He not say: ‘Abide in me, and I in you …’

The exchanged life is one of abundance. The Savior promised ‘rivers of living water’ to flow from the Spirit-filled life (John7:38). There is provision for life more abundant (John 10:10). And that life is indeed one of constant adventure, for it learns the wonderful reality of John 10:4: ‘And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.'” (V. Raymond Edman, They Found The Secret, pp.186-188)

A Real Union

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“Another great mystery in the way of sanctification, is … our being in Christ, and having Christ Himself in us … I may well call this a mystical union … It is one of the three mystical unions that are the chief mysteries in religion. The other two are, the union of the Trinity of Persons in one Godhead, and the union of the divine and human natures in one person, Jesus Christ, God and man.” (Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, p.21)

The Course of Character

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“… when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” (Job 23:10b)

“Whatever else we may have, if we do not have character we have nothing. It is character that determines destiny. The only failure that matters in the end is the failure to build character. In ordinary life character is formed by overcoming difficulties. . . . We might be tempted to ask whether God can build character without suffering. That is a hypothetical question. He has not chosen to do so.” (John J. Murray, Behind a Frowning Providence, 14-15)

Singleness of Heart

“Every man is ultimately concerned with something. He has given his heart, his allegiance, to something–set his direction. Thus the Scripture speaks of the ‘godly’ man in the Psalms, the man whose heart is ready to seek God. His counterpart has set his heart to seek things which are going to pass away. No man can be headed in two directions at one time.” (Elizabeth Elliot, The Liberty of Obedience, pp.49-50, emphasis added)

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