CMF eZine The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship. 14 November Communication Breakdown By Becky Juett Miller Prayer 0 Comment Cummunication Breakdown Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:6-7 In 2016 here in America all forms of communication are available and often taken for granted. When you can't get a cell signal, GPS, or other things it is very disconcerting. I think of those in the recent hurricane's path who were without electricity and possibility communication. But even leaving home without your mobile device can send you into a turmoil because you get so used to it. Did you know God communicates to you? Yes through His word. Who hasn't had one of those days and then miraculously a friend or family member shows up and things much better? God cares about what you are going through. You may feel as if He has forgotten you but that will never happen. Don't allow Satan to discourage you. Press on! PRAYER: In my times of despair or hopelessness I know you are right there with me. Your word is a light to my path. Thanks. In Jesus' name. Amen. Becky Juett Miller God's Lemonade Stand https://www.facebook.com/GodsLemonadeStand/ https://www.godslemonadestand.blogspot.com Cummunication Breakdown Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:6-7 In 2016 here in America all forms of communication are available and often taken for granted. When you can't get a cell signal, GPS, or other things it is very disconcerting. I think of those in the recent hurricane's path who were without electricity and possibility communication. But even leaving home without your mobile device can send you into a turmoil because you get so used to it. Did you know God communicates to you? Yes through His word. Who hasn't had one of those days and then miraculously a friend or family member shows up and things much better? God cares about what you are going through. You may feel as if He has forgotten you but that will never happen. Don't allow Satan to discourage you. Press on! PRAYER: In my times of despair or hopelessness I know you are right there with me. Your word is a light to my path. Thanks. In Jesus' name. Amen. Becky Juett Miller God's Lemonade Stand https://www.facebook.com/GodsLemonadeStand/ https://www.godslemonadestand.blogspot.com Related The Head and the Body The Head and the Body That we may grow up into Him in all things, Which is the head, even Christ; from Whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:15, 16. Great S. Mary’s Church, 22nd Sunday after Trinity, 1870. My text last Sunday appealed to the secret experience of the individual heart: my text to-day refers to the mutual relations and interdependencies of a vast and varied society. The theme then was necessarily concentrative; the theme now will be essentially diffusive. I introduced the text as taken from the Epistle to the Ephesians. At the very outset this statement needs amendment; for, if true, it is only partially true. We know now that the Epistle, which we are accustomed so to designate, was addressed to a much wider circle of readers. As S. Peter later writes to the strangers scattered throughout several districts in Asia Minor, as S. John later still addresses the Divine message to the principal Churches of the Roman province called Asia, so (there is good reason to think) the destination of S. Paul’s letter was not Ephesus only, the metropolis of the region, but all the Christian communities established in the several populous centres—perhaps throughout the province, perhaps extending over a still wider area. This result we may consider to be established by recent investigation and criticism. In the copies used by more than one of the ancient fathers, the words ‘in Ephesus’ were absent from the opening verse. They are wanting in the two oldest MSS which time has spared to us. Plainly these copies were derived from an archetype, in which a blank had been left for the name of the Church and had never been filled in. Another still more ancient writer called this the Epistle to the Laodiceans. Clearly he fell in with a copy addressed, not to Ephesus, but to Laodicea. And, if it be asked, how the common title prevailed, how the Church came to receive this as an Epistle to the Ephesians, the answer is simple. From Ephesus, the most populous city and the most important Church, the political and ecclesiastical metropolis of the region, the most numerous copies would be disseminated; and as some definite title was necessary, Ephesus, occupying this vantage ground, usurped the room and displaced the name of the other Churches in the heading of the Epistle. The Epistle was an encyclical, a catholic Epistle. This hypothesis, as it is demanded by external testimony, is necessary also to explain the internal character of the letter. Critics had observed that there was an entire absence of all personal and local allusions in it, and they had objected that in a communication written to a Church, with which the Apostle was on the closest and most affectionate terms, in which he had resided three whole years, labouring night and day, this silence was most strange and inexplicable. They were therefore disposed to question the Apostolic authorship. Certainly, if it had been addressed to the individual Church of Ephesus, I do not know how we could explain the absence of all marks of individuality, or what answer could be given to the objection founded thereupon. But criticism has solved the difficulties, which itself created. It has pulled down, only to build up on a broader and stronger basis. It has vindicated the Epistle to S. Paul, but it has denied the claims of Ephesus as the exclusive destination. Copies then of this circular letter were entrusted to the bearer, Tychicus, who (as you will remember) is charged in the letter itself to deliver orally the special messages, the special information, which S. Paul desired to communicate to each Church severally. Thus one copy would be left at Ephesus, another at Sardis, a third at Thyatira, a fourth at Laodicea, and so with the remaining Churches to which the several transcripts were addressed. Laodicea was the chief city of the district in which the smaller town of Colossæ was situated. The Epistle to the Colossians was despatched at the same time, and by the same messenger, as this circular letter. Hence the Colossians are charged to get and read the copy which was sent to the neighbouring Laodicea. If there was any obscurity in the terms of this brief message, Tychicus, the bearer of both letters, was at hand to clear it up. This is perhaps one of the most instructive results of Biblical criticism. But I should not have dwelt so long upon the subject merely for the sake of its critical interest. In all S. Paul’s Epistles the subject-matter is determined by the destination. This is especially the case with the letter before us. Its encyclical character explains its main theme—the Church as one, and yet manifold; one, as united in Christ; manifold, as comprising various members, various functions. The Churches, to which the letter was addressed, had their several capacities, their distinct interests, their special advantages and their special temptations. The respective messages addressed in the Apocalypse to the Seven Churches enable us to appreciate the different tempers and conditions of these several communities. Side by side were the Church of Smyrna which in spite of poverty was rich, and the Church of Laodicea which boasting of its wealth was miserably poor; side by side, the Church of Ephesus which had left its first love, and the Church of Thyatira whose last works were more than the first; side by side, the Church of Pergamos where prevailed the doctrine of Balaam, the excess of Gentile sensuality, and the Church of Philadelphia where was established the synagogue of Satan, the excess of Jewish formalism. Addressing these various communities, the Apostle cannot occupy himself with the refutation of individual errors, with the remedy of individual needs. Rather he seeks for some one grand comprehensive theme, which shall correspond to the comprehensive destination of the Epistle. This theme he finds in the idea of the Church as embracing all the Churches, the ideal community regarded as one harmonious whole, but comprising diverse branches, diverse offices, diverse members. Starting from the phenomenon of variety, he arrives at the idea of unity. He seeks the centre of union, the principle of cohesion, in Christ the Head. They all are one body, animated by one spirit; they all acknowledge one faith, into which they have been admitted by one baptism; they all are united in the one Lord, and through Him draw near to the one God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in all. This then—the relation of the many to the One, of the Christians and the Churches to Christ and to one another through Christ—is the main theme of the Epistle. In one form or another it will be discerned running through paragraph after paragraph, inspiring alike the doctrinal statements and the practical injunctions; and it culminates in the words of the text. Under three images especially this relation is developed. 1. The Church is the Bride; Christ is the Bridegroom. Here a special aspect of this connexion is figured. The purity of love, the singleness of devotion, the perfection of obedience, the entire oneness of interests and aims—these are the features especially brought out. ‘They twain shall be one flesh.’ ‘This is a great mystery.’ ‘I speak concerning Christ and the Church.’ 2. The Church is a Temple; Christ the Chief Corner-Stone. This again, though a very expressive image, is yet partial. The compactness, the coherence, are prominent in it. The succession of layers, the stratification of the edifice, is also significant. And lastly, the object of the erection, the indwelling of the Spirit, finds its proper place. 3. But far more expressive and more full is the third and remaining image, the image of the text. Christ is the Head; the Church is the Body; each individual is a member, a limb, of the whole. This image supplies what was deficient in the last, the idea of mobility, vigorous life, diffused through the whole from one central, guiding, inspiring, vivifying power, the idea of an internal principle of growth, the idea of infinite variety of conditions, functions, needs, in the several parts, and combined with this the idea of the closest sympathy and interdependency, so that each is sensitive to the action of the other, and each necessary to the well-being of the whole. The language of the text is not free from exceptional difficulties. Of these, however, I need not speak. They do not affect the significance of the image, either as a whole or in its several parts; and therefore they may well be neglected. Setting aside these minor points as unimportant, we may paraphrase the passage thus. The Church of Christ is one colossal being, a single body animated by a single soul. It has not yet attained its maturity; its powers are still undeveloped; its growth still imperfect; it has hardly yet passed its infancy. But grow it will, and grow it must, for growth is the law of its being. And this growth can only be attained in one way. Connexion with the Head is the indispensable condition; obedience to the Head the inseparable accompaniment. As in the human body there is an almost infinite variety of parts—bones, muscles, veins, arteries, nerves; so likewise in the Church you have the same manifold combination of diverse elements—different individuals, different capacities, different communions, different nationalities. Each one of these supplies some distinct want, performs some distinct office, which is necessary to the well-being of the whole. We speak of a good constitution. If a man has a good constitution, we say, he will rally after this or that attack, he will survive this or that wound. What is implied by this? That the setting together of the different parts, which combine to form the body, is harmonious; that the machinery of the human frame, as a whole, works well, works without any jarring or any entanglement; that not only each part has its proper development, but that the relative adjustment of the parts is true; that they preserve their separate independence, and yet respect their mutual interdependence. In like manner the different branches, functions, capacities in the Church work separately, but work for and into each other. They are knit together in one compact whole. Nay, more than this. They cannot exist separately. It is this very connexion that preserves their vitality. It is by adaptation and contact with the neighbouring parts, and through these with the whole body, that each receives that degree and that kind of nutriment which is necessary to sustain it. But the centre of this cohesion, this correlation, this cooperation, is the Head. Here resides the power which controls, commands, animates, harmonizes the whole. Through orders transmitted from this central government, each part receives its directions, and in obedience thereto fulfils its work. Each acts singly; each performs its own task. The eye sees, and the feet walk, and the hands handle; and, so far as regards the particular action of each, there is no direct connexion between them. It is just because there is a centre of union, to which each severally refers, that the functions of all are directed to some one definite end, and that an adequate result is achieved. Thus composed, thus united, thus controlled, the body grows—grows towards its ideal limit, the full moral stature, the perfect standard, of which the Person and the Life of Christ are the measure; while, throughout, the pervading element in which it moves, which it breathes, from which it derives sustentation and strength, is love. This image of the Head and the Body must have had a speaking significance to the Apostle’s contemporaries. To ourselves it presents itself with even greater vividness and force, in the light of later discoveries. The two main points in this relation are summed up in the two prepositions used to describe it in the text—‘into Him’ and ‘from Him.’ There is a concentrative energy tending towards the Head; and there is a diffusive energy spreading from the Head. The head, the brain, is the initiative centre of our actions; and it is also the receptive centre of our sensations. From it all the various motions of the body are originated; and to it the manifold impressions of the senses are communicated. By two sets of nerves, as by two sets of telegraphic wires, this twofold communication with the head, as the central office, the seat of government in the human frame, is maintained. By the one set, the brain, the thinking, planning, originating power, transmits its orders to the furthest member; the order is received; the muscle contracts; the joint is moved; and the hand holds, or the foot walks. By the other set, the reverse process is carried on; the grasp which presses the hand, the rays which strike the eye, the pulsations which beat on the ear, all these are transmitted to the centre, and the corresponding sensation is thereby and there produced. Such also is the relation of Christ to the Church. His control guiding the various members, and His sympathy feeling with the various members—these are the functions which this image brings clearly out. 1. There is the controlling power. The direction, the influence, the illuminating, guiding energy of the Eternal Word of God, is infinitely varied and extends throughout mankind. Of this however I do not intend to speak, though in these Epistles of S. Paul it assumes a prominent place. But it is rather the more definite, concentrated form of this control, which the same Word exerts, as the Incarnate Christ, not as the Head only of Universal Nature, but as the Head of the Church specially, that we are led by the text to consider. His teaching, His example, His Incarnation and Passion are the manifestation of the Father’s love, His Resurrection is the manifestation of the Father’s power—these are the outward agency; the Spirit, Which the Father sendeth in His name—this is the invisible medium, through which He controls and enlightens and directs His Church. Thus He communicates the Almighty Will to us. Not veiling but revealing the Father, not interposing between man and God, but reflecting God to man, He acts upon the Church. And it is just according as we, the individual members of His Body, preserve our communication with Him; according as (in the language of the parallel passage in the Epistle to the Colossians) we ‘hold fast the Head,’ that is, according as our life is conformed to His life, our spirit interpenetrated with His Spirit, our being incorporated in His Being, that His orders are duly received, prompt, healthy, vigorous action ensues, and the will of the Father is done. The joint may be dislocated by worldly indulgence and distraction; or the limb may be paralysed by spiritual carelessness. If so, there will be no response, or no adequate response, to the message transmitted. But if the communication is intact, then, by a necessary spiritual law, action must follow, obedience must be complete. 2. But, secondly, the sympathetic office of Christ is suggested by the image. As the natural body, so also the spiritual body has its system of nerves, which communicate the sensations of its lowest, most distant, members to the Head. This entire sympathy of Christ is no after-thought of the Apostle’s, no idle fancy of an overwrought imagination, or outgrowth of unrestrained metaphor. The ‘crucifying of the Son of God afresh’ has its parallel in Christ’s own declarations. No language of S. Paul or of the Epistle to the Hebrews can express this truth more strongly than His own words—recorded (be it observed) not in this instance by S. John, but by the other Evangelists—‘Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye did it unto Me.’ ‘Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the least of these, ye did it not unto Me.’ With the humblest member of His body He suffers: with the humblest member also He rejoices. The image of the human body, as representing a society with its many members and various functions, was not new. The newness consisted in the significance of the Head. This was necessarily so; for the revelation of the Person, Who was the Head, was new. In the familiar apologue, addressed to the Roman crowd, the ‘kingly-crowned head,’ though it may be mentioned, means nothing, adds nothing, to the moral of the story. And if the popular application was defective, the philosophic was equally so. For the Stoic too spoke of society, of the world, of the universe, as one vast body of which individual parts and individual men were members. He went so far as to imagine it animated by one soul. But the image was vague, inarticulate, fruitless. It made no appeal to the experience, none to the heart, none to the consciences of men. He said nothing, could say nothing, of the Head. The body was to him a huge, headless, shapeless trunk, living a sort of unconscious, vegetable life, hanging together by a loose, uncertain, inappreciable bond. This defect, which attended the popular and the philosophical application alike, was first supplied by the teaching of the Apostles, as it first became possible by the revelation of the Gospel. The Son of Man, the Pattern and Ideal of humanity, the Chief of His race, the Son of God, the Image of the Father, the Incarnation of the Divine Word—He Who centred in Himself both natures, He and He only could claim this place. From Him all the members must draw their inspiration, their strength; to Him all the members must direct their actions, must render their account. To hold fast to Him, to grow into Him, this has been the secret of the highest life. Above all the jarring conflicts of creeds, amid all the distracting forms of Church polity, this presence, this consciousness, this intimate relation, has been the one constant, guiding, inspiring, strengthening, renovating energy. And, in and by His name, lives of unsullied saintliness have been lived, and works of transcendent heroism wrought, by men in different ages, of different Churches, in different lands; because through Him they all alike have grown into a more perfect knowledge of the truth and the perfections of the Eternal Father. But the image in the text speaks especially of the diversity resulting in unity. It tells of a harmony which comes from the due performance by each several member of its special function, the energetic working of every part in its proper measure or relation—for so it would seem we should translate the words κατʼ ἐνέργειαν ἐν μέτρῳ ἑνὸς ἑκάστου μέρους. There is an ideal of the Church, which confuses unity with uniformity, which would force every section and every individual into the same mould, which would exact of every age the same work, and is disappointed in not finding what it exacts. This is not the Apostle’s conception. Uniformity would be fatal to the higher harmony which he requires. The unvaried repetition of the same function would be comparatively barren. The richness and the fulness of the result depend on the countless variety of the energies thus working together. ‘All the members have not the same office.’ ‘If they were all one member, where were the body?’ The examples, which the Apostle selects, are necessarily limited to the experience of the infant Church; but the principle is of the widest application. To us, who can look back on a history of eighteen centuries, the image will speak with much fuller significance than to S. Paul’s immediate hearers. We may observe, how each great subdivision of the human race in turn has contributed its special work to the building of the Church; how the intellectual subtlety of the Greek was instrumental in drawing up her creeds and elucidating her doctrines; how the instinct of organization and the respect for order in the Latin moulded and strengthened her political and social life; how the self-devoting enthusiasm of the Celt gave the immediate impulse to her greatest missionary labours; how the truthfulness and stedfastness of the Teuton reformed her corruptions and brought her into harmony with the intellectual and the social acquisitions of a more enlightened age. We might turn from Churches to individuals; and we might point out, how an Origen, an Athanasius, a Benedict of Nursia, a Francis of Assisi, a Luther, each in his generation by his special gift, his special energy, introduced a distinct element, did a distinct work in the Church. Nay, we might even appeal to sects, and shew that however one-sided, however erroneous, each nevertheless has contributed something, has brought into prominence some neglected or half-forgotten aspect of truth. In this and diverse ways we might illustrate the Apostle’s image of ‘the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth.’ But the task would be long. And the time which remains will be better employed in directing the lesson of the image to ourselves. We here are all members of one body, of a whole compacted of various parts, are members of an University. An University may be regarded as a Church within a Church, a Church viewed especially from its intellectual side. The name, and the thing alike, imply the same idea as the image of the text—multiplicity and unity—not manifoldness only, but manifoldness resulting in harmony and in oneness. (1) This is an University of sciences. Such is the original idea of the term. It aims, or it should aim, at teaching every branch of knowledge. Each of us selects, or should select, his own study or studies, as the object of all the energies and powers of his mind. If I venture to urge the lesson of the text in connexion herewith, it is because I feel that these our studies will be pursued most truthfully and most profitably in the spirit there recommended, and that the consecration of the intellect to God thus attained is the highest achievement of man. And by pursuing our studies in the spirit of this image I mean two things; first, that each individually should follow his own pursuit with all his might; and secondly, that there should be no jealousy, no impatience, no contempt, of the studies of others. I do not think either caution unneeded at the present time. As the sphere of human knowledge enlarges, it becomes more and more necessary, that each should make choice of his pursuit and concentrate himself on this. He should make his choice, and he should believe in his work. No branch of study is contemptible, none is fruitless. Each has its place, each conduces to the well-being of the whole. ‘Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary.’ Not to make a brilliant display, not to satisfy an appetite for diffusive reading, not to dissipate our intellectual energies, but to achieve something, to add something—however little—to the store of human knowledge—this should be the aim of all. But this caution is not complete without the other. It is not only necessary that we should believe in our own work, but also that we should leave room for the work of others. This conflict between the old studies and the new, between theologians and men of science, between the investigation of the faculties of mind and the investigation of the phenomena of nature, should have no place with us. There is need of all; there is room for all; there must be no jealousy or depreciation of any, for none can be spared. Reason tells us, as S. Paul tells us, that ‘if one member suffer, all the members suffer with it.’ Reason shews us, as S. Paul shews us, a more excellent way, a comprehensive charity in the intellectual as in the social community, which ‘beareth all things, believeth all things.’ Thus bearing and thus believing, content ‘to labour and to wait,’ we shall look forward in faith to the time when the unity to which science, not less than religion, points, shall be attained, when the manifold cords of human knowledge shall be knotted in one, and attached to the throne of Heaven. (2) But this is not only an University of studies; it is also an University of men. We bring to this place our different trainings, different experiences, different capacities. We each contribute something, and we receive much in turn. Here, if anywhere, the lesson of the text is exhibited in daily life, written in large characters that he may run that reads. This our body is large enough to afford the requisite variety, and small enough to be sensitive throughout to the healthy or unhealthy working of each individual part. A good example is more immediately felt here than elsewhere; a bad example spreads with fatal rapidity. Here, if anywhere, the moral interdependence of the members is close and sympathetic. Here no man can evade responsibility, no man can live to himself. If he is not a centre of light and health, he must become a centre of darkness and disease. He may count many a habit innocent, because he does not trace any immediate evil consequences to his own character. Could he hold it so, if he saw its effect on others? A lavish personal expenditure, for instance, seems to him very allowable, if it does not exceed his means; but extravagance in one calls forth extravagance in others, and the disease thus feeds itself, and his expensive tastes beget a fashion of expenditure which may prove the ruin of many a poorer man, both body and soul. Or he is reckless in his language, talks lightly of moral obligations, talks scoffingly of religious truths or religious men. To himself this does not mean much; it is a random shaft shot idly into the air; but it has lodged in another’s breast, has poisoned his thoughts, has mortally wounded his moral nature. ‘I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.’ It is enough, more than enough, to answer for our own ill deeds. It will be an intolerable, crushing load, if we have to bear also the burden of another’s sins. The curse of one thus misled, thus degraded, thus lost by our carelessness, might well ‘drag to hell a spirit from on high.’ Remember this now. Resolve thus much at least, that through your influence, your example, no member of the body shall suffer. And to render this your resolution effectual, you will not forget that one safe way, and one only, is open; that, if you would do your duty to the members, you—each one of you individually,—must preserve healthy, vigorous, intimate connexion with the Divine Head. So only will you do your several parts. So only will harmonious action ensue. So only will the whole body grow ever more and more to the edifying of itself in love. Lightfoot, J. B. (1890). Cambridge Sermons. London; New York: MacMillan and Co. (Public Domain) Romans 3:13 - Poison Lips - Graveyard Throats Romans 3:13 Rom 3:9-18 Here again is shown that all mankind are under the guilt of sin, as a burden; and under the government and dominion of sin, as enslaved to it, to work wickedness. This is made plain by several passages of Scripture from the Old Testament, which describe the corrupt and depraved state of all men, till grace restrain or change them. Great as our advantages are, these texts describe multitudes who call themselves Christians. Their principles and conduct prove that there is no fear of God before their eyes. And where no fear of God is, no good is to be looked for. Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary "'THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE, WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING," "THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS'" (NASB) "Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:" (KJV) "'Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with lies.' 'Snake venom drips from their lips.'" (NLT) "'Their throats are open graves, they deceive with their tongues, the poison of asps is under their lips.'" (NET) "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart." (Luke 6:46) "My enemies cannot speak a truthful word. Their deepest desire is to destroy others. Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with flattery." (Psalm 5:9 NLT) "Their tongues sting like a snake; the venom of a viper drips from their lips. Interlude" (Psalm 140:3) Out of the heart, then through the throat, tongue and lips comes the truth of our fallen estate. If we only knew the grief that each of out thoughts and acts would cause we could see the fulfillment of God's Grace as the indwelling Spirit gives us the strength to choose victory over our lostness. From graveyard throats to those that sing praises. What an amazing journey! The poison of the snake is stored in the small sack at the base of the individual fang. During the strike the poison is injected into the wound and quickly spreads throughout the body causing great harm and even death. Mathew 23:33 "Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?" (NLT) Dr. John Gill expresses it thus: ''the throat' is said to 'be an open sepulcher', as in Psalm 5:9, so called, for its voracity and insatiableness; both as an instrument of speech, for the words of the wicked are devouring ones; and as an instrument of swallowing, and so may denote the sinner's eager desire after sin, the delight and pleasure he takes in it, the abundance of it he takes in, and his insatiable greediness for it; likewise for its filthy stench, the communication of evil men being corrupt; and because, as by an open grave, persons may fall unawares to their hurt, so the evil communications of wicked men, as they corrupt good manners, are dangerous and hurtful: R. Aben Ezra explains it by ???? ???, 'immediate destruction', or sudden death." Listening Ears Thoughts to Ponder by Doris Listening Ears Doris Waldrop Mincks How many times have I said to my children and grandchildren, "Did you hear what I said?" or "Do you hear me?" It is normal to want to be heard. Little children especially have a difficult time being heard, and they are often ignored. Even in adult conversations, I have had times when I felt like I was not heard. To be more effective in communicating, I have learned to listen when people are talking. Proverbs 4:1,2 is an excellent example of true communication: "Listen, my sons, to a father's instruction; pay attention and gain understanding." Do I listen to learn from the person I am with, or do I want to inform? If I am truly listening, my facial expression should show interest in what is being said, giving the person my full attention. Am I listening to understand what the person is saying? "He who answers before listening--that is his folly and his shame." As I give my full attention to the person talking, am I willing to hear their story, experiences, and to know how he or she is feeling? This type of communication is called "empathy". I am trying to understand their experiences or feelings. As I have learned to listen to God through His instructions in the Bible, it has helped me to listen to people. Jesus' words in Luke 10:16: "He who listens to You listens to Me; he who rejects You rejects Me;" Proverbs 1:33 —"but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease; without fear of harm." James 1:22 —"Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." Thought to Ponder: As I listen to God's voice, am I willing to act on what He says? As God speaks to me through His Word, am I then willing to listen to those people God brings into my path? As a military spouse and family counselor, Doris Waldrop Mincks has ministered to military families for many years. Her ministry, Wives of Warriors Worldwide, WOWW, desires to come along side the military community to give encouragement and support to military wives, meeting the life situations unique to them. The Great Privilege The Great Privilege SGM Dan Cartwright, USA (Ret) Chairman, Board of Directors Idon't know about you, but I get tired of always hearing about “process” where I work as a government contractor. “Process” seems to have taken over everything! It's not like when I was running a communications shop in the Army, or even when I was the Operations Sergeant Major in the Battalion Headquarters. At least then ”process” was about more effectively getting the job done. Sometimes that meant figuring out how to do more with the same or fewer people. Sometimes it was learning to accomplish the mission with the resources that were available. If the “process” worked, it ended up as part of somebody’s SOP (Standard Operating Procedure). These days it seems the “process” is the mission! I sit next to a “process engineer” and sometimes, when I overhear his side of phone conversations, I feel his pain! Well, guess what? God is into “process”! Check this out: “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How are they to call on one they have not believed in? And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How timely is the arrival of those who proclaim the good news.’ But not all have obeyed the good news, for Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’ Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ.” Romans 10:14-17 (NET) That looks like a “process” to me! Just in case you missed it, let’s identify the process steps. Call on the Name of the Lord and you will be saved. (The end state.) Before you can call on the Name of the Lord you have to believe. Before you can believe you have to hear. Before you can hear, there needs to be a preacher. Before there's a preacher, there is a “sending.” If it didn't before, does it look like a process now? Where I work, my Process Engineer (PE) buddy keeps track of all the written processes we use and helps develop new processes when they are needed. He also ensures people are actually following the established processes. The Apostle Paul, who wrote the letter to the Romans, is reminding Christians in Rome of the process, like my buddy at work does. You might also see Paul as one of the “sent preachers,” since after his conversion he dedicated his life to preaching the gospel, at times while working a regular job (tent making). Now the process “developer” ─ that’s another story. In fact, you've probably already figured out that God is the originator of the process, the Grand Architect. The only part of the process not specifically mentioned in the above passage from Romans is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the person who has NOT yet called on the name of the Lord for salvation. In order for any person to call on the Lord, that person needs to have come to the point of realizing his/her condition of being lost and helpless, without a hope in the world of being saved through human effort. Some would say that this is the “drawing” by the Father to the Son that Jesus spoke of in John 6:44 and the enabling spoken of in John 6:65. When that drawing happens in the heart of the one who is needy and the gospel is preached, there is a supernatural combining of the realization of one’s lost condition and the hearing of the Word that results in calling out to the Lord and the saving of a soul for eternity! This amazing process that brings such sweet relief on the day of our salvation even honors the human will by turning the human heart, which is totally dead and unable to choose anything but sin (Romans 3: 10-18), toward God, so that our decision for Christ is out of our own freed will. We choose Christ because we desire Him. We desire Him because God has given us mercy and placed the necessary desire with us. You could say God “owns” the process (using the terms of the workplace). All three Persons of the Trinity act in unity to miraculously create the new birth in Christ! The Father is the Master Architect, the Son suffered, died and was resurrected to make it possible, and the Holy Spirit operates at both ends; preparing the heart of that one lost in sin and prompting someone to share the gospel (“sends the preacher”). So what does all this process “stuff” have to do with the “The Great Privilege”? Let me answer that with a couple of other questions: Did God have to develop a process to save anyone? No! Isn’t He God? Yes! After all, didn’t he confront Paul on the road to Damascus without human intervention? Yes! God can save ANY ONE, ANY TIME, ANY WAY He wants! At stake are the eternal souls of men and women, and God decides to use a method to save them that involves using regular, ordinary people as “process agents.” Consider the original twelve disciples. Among those Jesus chose were some fisherman, an IRS agent and at least one political activist. None of them had any sort of higher education. There wasn’t a learned religious leader, popular speaker, or finely dressed rich guy among the lot. Peter denied him, they argued about who was the greatest, and when he went to the Cross, all but one (John) disappeared from the scene. Why these guys? About all I can say to that is that He is GOD and it's HIS choice. The Apostle Paul, speaking to Christians at Corinth provides a better answer: “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” There are probably other reasons why He chooses to use bumbling believers as process agents, but for the moment, it’s enough that He chose the method ─ “designed the process.” That’s where “Privilege” enters the picture. God doesn’t need people to save anyone—you, me or anyone else. It’s our Great Privilege to take the Good News to the world around us. If He prompts me to share that news and I refuse, He’ll send another. If that one refuses, He’ll send another. The mission WILL be accomplished, with or without me. God WILL send a man or woman obedient to the call, and souls WILL be saved according to HIS plan! As one pair of evangelical writers said so well: “The Spirit of God uses the Word of God through men and women of God to make the message about the Son of God available to all who want to know the truth. There is no limit to the creative ways God can use to bring about this process.”— from “I’m Glad You Asked” - Ken Boa and Larry Moody Reader, listen closely. Do you remember when you first embraced your Savior? Did not something happen inside you to cause you to desire God? Did you not somehow “hear” the good news of salvation in Christ and then call out to Him for that precious gift? Are you saved, to your eternal benefit and His everlasting glory? If so, the One who saved you now “sends” you into the world to share the greatest news mankind will ever know! (That's not my opinion─hear some of the last words of Jesus as He prayed earnestly to the Father on behalf of his closest disciples, those twelve ordinary men, shortly before He went to the cross of Calvary. “But now I am coming to you, and I am saying these things in the world, so they may experience my joy completed in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them, because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but that you keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to the world just as I do not belong to the world. Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.” John 17:13-18 (NET) Do you desire to be called? Are you prepared to go when called? Will you share in the Great Privilege? I leave you with the question, and pray that the answer is a resounding YES! That like the prophet of old, you will hear the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And you will say, “Here am I. Send me!” NOTE: The only reason CMF exists is to support, train and equip believers serving in all branches of military service as they grow in Christ and as the “sent ones” wherever they live and serve God and our country. Folly and Weakness Triumphant Folly and Weakness Triumphant The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1:25. Great S. Mary’s Church, 20th Sunday after Trinity, 1876. The Apostle here represents the character and progress of the Gospel as a paradox. It is weakness superior to strength; it is folly triumphant over wisdom. It is an illustration—a unique and signal illustration—of God’s mysterious working, whereby He chooses the base things of the world, yes, even the things that are not, to bring to nought the things that are. This mode of working is not confined to revelation alone. History teems with examples of this paradox. For the most part the great crises in the progress of our race have been surprises of this kind. They have come from an unexpected quarter, or at an unexpected time. Their prime agents have not been the wise or mighty or noble in the estimation of the world. The reformer, or the avenger, has started up, as it were, suddenly from the earth beneath. It was an obscure Saxon monk, who broke up the empire of Papal ascendency, and created a new era in the history of intellectual and religious thought. It was an unknown Corsican adventurer, who dictated terms to a whole continent, made and unmade peoples and dynasties, and introduced as mighty a revolution in the world of politics as the other had done in the world of thought. There is perhaps a scarcely audible muttering of some social grievance; it is unheeded and unredressed; men go on their way, suspecting nothing; when suddenly the volcano bursts out under their very feet, and in a few short hours society is buried in fire and ashes. There is a silent stealthy idea, which insinuates itself into the crevices of human thought; it is hardly perceived, or, if perceived, it seems too insignificant to deserve attention; but it creeps and spreads, filling all the interstices, till the fabric, which has defied the storms of ages, cracked and loosened in every part, falls in ruins overhead. And then it is seen that God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty. But all illustrations of this Divine irony are faint and shadowy compared with the progress of the Gospel. Sacred history is an intensification of secular history. The triumph of the Cross is the paradox of all paradoxes. No language is too strong for the expression of this fact in S. Paul’s mind. These opening chapters of the Epistle are a very Morias Encomion, a Praise of folly and of fools. Does this account of his language seem extravagant? See how he describes the Gospel itself. His words are so strong, that we tacitly mistranslate or misinterpret them, in order to dilute their force. He speaks of the folly, the fatuity, of the thing preached, the Gospel message in itself (τῆς μωρίας τοῦ κηρύγματος). We render it ‘the foolishness of preaching,’ as if he were stigmatizing the weakness of the human, fallible advocate. He says that ‘the foolishness,’ or rather ‘the foolish thing’, ‘of God is wiser than men.’ We half unconsciously regard it as an a fortiori argument; as though he were maintaining that, if God’s foolishness, God’s lowest purposes, can so far transcend man’s counsels, much more must God’s wisdom, God’s highest dispensations. But in fact he styles this very Gospel—this message of Christ crucified—a ‘foolish thing’ in itself. By what other name could he call it? It had been offered to the Greeks, the most cultivated, most intellectual, most keenly critical race of mankind, to the Greeks, who were the schoolmasters of the whole civilised world, and the Greeks had pronounced it unreservedly folly. And not only is the message folly, but the messengers also are fools. So the Apostle describes himself afterwards. He is even proud of this strange distinction. ‘We are fools,’ he writes, ‘fools for Christ’s sake.’ And again in the second Epistle, in a strain of lofty irony, he intreats his Corinthian converts, as they had always shewn a forbearing sympathy with men of feeble minds and senseless lives—notwithstanding the lofty intellectual eminence on which they themselves were placed—so now not to deny him this condescension which they had freely extended to others; ‘As a fool receive me.’ ‘For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.’ And once more; if the messengers are fools, the recipients of the message must become fools also. It is necessary that the disciple should be in harmony with the teacher and with the lesson. He must sink all those pretensions which are his greatest pride. He must resign absolutely all claims to intellectual superiority or prudent discernment. ‘Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool—that he may be wise.’ Yes, none but a fool can appreciate this message of folly. But this is not all. Folly itself may possess a certain brute force. The fool may be a giant in strength. What the brain lacks, the muscles and sinews may compensate. Does the Gospel possess any such advantage, as this figure implies? If it shews no wisdom, as the world counts wisdom, may it not possess some strength, as the world estimates strength? Nay, it is the weak thing of God, as well as the foolish thing—weak in itself, and weak in all its personal relations. Christ Himself, its theme, ‘was crucified through weakness.’ They, the preachers, are weak in Him. He, Paul, ‘glories in infirmities;’ ‘takes pleasure in infirmities.’ He declares himself ‘glad,’ yes, glad, that he is weak. Here again there is the same emphatic reiteration, as before. The Gospel is the very alliance of infirmity with folly. Its body is weakness; and its soul is foolishness. Strange words these to address to a Corinthian audience. Corinth was a Roman colony on a Greek soil. As Greeks, his hearers set an excessive value on wisdom; and he recommends his message to them, because it is folly. As Romans, they worshipped power with an idolatrous worship; and he offers the Gospel for their allegiance, because it is weakness. But stranger still than this encomium of folly, this panegyric of weakness, is the confidence with which he predicts its victory. The Apostle is quite sure that the folly of fools like himself will triumph over the wisdom of the wise. He does not shrink from declaring that the weakness of weaklings such as he is will dictate terms to the strength of the strong. ‘God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty.’ Could anything well have appeared more unreasonable, more reckless, more futile, than this confidence? Look at the two antagonists. Can you doubt for a moment to which side the victory must incline? At no other epoch in the history of the world would the Gospel have been confronted with a foe more formidable than at the actual crisis of its appearing. It found leagued against it all the wisdom of Greece and all the strength of Rome—a wisdom wiser, and a strength stronger, than mankind has ever seen before or after. The human race has grown older in experience since then. Vast accumulations of thought and knowledge have been amassed. The collision of races and nations has from time to time struck out sparks, which have kindled the flame of the human intellect in some fresh quarter. But still the literature of Greece—its philosophy, its poetry, its oratory—enjoys a unique preeminence. It still supplies models for the imitation of a remote posterity. It is still fresh with the vigour of a perennial youth—a deathless power in the world of intellect and imagination. And yet these are only shattered fragments saved from the wreck of time, which we possess. What must it not have been then, when it was entire? What must it not have been then, when its language was still a living tongue—the medium of communication between all civilised peoples; when it was still upheld and interpreted by the religion, customs, institutions, daily life, of a race which had ramified and spread over every part of the known world? And, as in the world of thought, so also in the world of action. In the whole life of the human race no power has arisen like the power of the Romans. There have been, and there are, empires which cover a larger superficial area. But for concentration, for unity, for available force, it has never had an equal. The greatest modern empires are rivals: each neutralises the power of the other. The domination of Rome owned no peer and no second. The voice of Rome was the law of the world. It was the Roman’s mission, said their great poet, ‘to rule over the peoples, to spare the submissive, but to crush the proud and defiant.’ Confronted by this league of powerful allies, what was there in the story of Christ crucified that it should lead captive a reluctant world? We cannot, even with a conscious effort, realise all the repulsive associations which the Cross suggested to S. Paul’s contemporaries. Substitute for the word some modern equivalent, as the gallows or the gibbet, and you approach more nearly to the idea conveyed. We shudder at such a substitution; we shrink from it as a profanation; our very reluctance shows how great a change has come upon mankind. Not in vain have eighteen Christian centuries passed over our heads. Not in vain has S. Paul’s startling resolve—startling and repulsive when it was uttered, but obvious, self-evident, admirable now—to glory in nothing but the cross of Christ, been proclaimed from the pulpit Sunday after Sunday, and repeated day after day in thousands of Christian homes. Not in vain have saints been schooled to live, and martyrs nerved to die, in the strength of those words. The Cross is now the symbol of power, of heroism, of saintly patience, of triumphant love. But only reflect in what light it would be regarded by the Romans then? We ourselves, if we dwell on the repulsive aspects of the Cross, dwell chiefly, or solely, on the torture. But to the Roman the pain was only a small part of the horror. It was the ignominy of the punishment, from which he would turn away with disgust. No Roman citizen—however deep his crime—ran any risk of crucifixion. The law exempted him from this extreme degradation. It was the punishment of slaves, of the lowest and vilest of their kind. And they—these Romans, the masters of the world, with their proud bearing, with their innate respect for law, with their strong sense of political privilege—were invited by this Paul to fall down before a gibbet, and to admire a criminal condemned by a Roman magistrate to this most ignominious of all deaths. Weakness? It was far worse than weakness. It was vile, it was shameful—an outrage on all their most cherished feelings. And, while thus repulsive to the Romans, this message of the Cross would be still less attractive to the Greek. With his gay spirit and his keen appreciation of the bright side of life, he could have nothing to say to this horrible tale of suffering. With his strong sense of beauty, he would avert his eyes with a shudder from this unlovely scene on Calvary. With his speculative cast of mind, with his eager craving after intellectual subtleties, how could he possibly find in this plain, this forbidding, this worse than common-place Jewish tale of an obscure convict, the answer to his philosophic questioning? It was folly, folly in its most foolish mood—this story of the Cross—to the Greek. And, if it was such in itself, it would certainly gain nothing from the character of its advocate. S. Paul’s opponents did not suffer him to indulge any feelings of self-complacency on this point. Their taunts served only to remind him that in his own person he illustrated the divine paradox. As was the Gospel, so was its preacher. Was he not weak? This was the very reproach which they hurled at him. They pointed to his insignificant stature; they glanced at his spare frame, worn out with toil and bowed down with sickness. He was a despicable object to these Corinthians, accustomed to the perfection of physical strength and grace in the athletes of their Isthmian games. They could not away with one who ‘in bodily presence’ was ‘weak.’ Was he not foolish also? Here again his enemies held up the mirror to him, and forced him to see his defects. This itinerant Jew, speaking with a foreign accent, breaking loose from all the approved forms of logic, defying all the established laws of rhetoric in his halting, tumultuous, solœcistic utterances—how could he hope to recommend his message to the fine ear and the fastidious taste of the Greek? Foolishness was not a strong enough word to express their estimate. He was ‘in speech contemptible.’ Yes, he was weak, he was foolish. He could not gainsay the charge. Looking at his own heart, he condemned himself of foolishness far greater than that with which his enemies charged him. Reviewing his own life, he saw everywhere signs of weakness, which even their contempt had failed to detect. What were an insignificant presence and a faulty rhetoric after all, compared with the foolishness of a heart struggling against self, and the weakness of a life oppressed by the fears within and baffled by the fightings without? He was weak; he was foolish. Who knew this so well as himself? But what then? Strength was made perfect in weakness; wisdom started up full armed from the head of folly. Aye, there was a divine purpose in all this. He had this treasure, this priceless treasure in cheap, vulgar, fragile vessels of earthenware, ‘that the excellency of the power might be of God, and not of himself.’ And so the cry of despair becomes the pæan of thanksgiving. The taunt of his enemies is the boast of the Apostle. He was not strong, but God’s weakness was strong through him. He was not wise, but God’s foolishness was wise in him. And this weakness, this folly, crushing all opposition, would press forward on its march from victory to victory. A strange confidence to entertain. And yet this Paul was right after all. The centuries rolled on, and the prediction was fulfilled. The monstrous paradox, so contradictory to reason and so defiant of experience, proved true. All human calculation was baffled. The foolish things confounded the wise, and the weak things confounded the mighty. Neither the power and the polity of Rome, nor the philosophy and the arts of Greece, could check the triumphant progress of the Cross. And do we ask how this triumph can be explained? S. Paul has answered the question by anticipation. ‘The world by wisdom knew not God.’ There is little danger that in this place you should underrate the intellectual and social triumphs of Greece and of Rome. Even as preparations for the Gospel, they hold a foremost place. What was the wisdom of Greece, but an elementary schooling for the higher spiritual lessons of Christianity? What was the power and organization of Rome, but the roadway of the Gospel of Christ and the scaffolding of the Church of God? But the arts of Greece and the polity of Rome had left a deep craving in mankind unappeased. Like the hart panting after the water-brooks, the soul of humanity was thirsting after a living God. It might not be altogether conscious of the object of its thirst; but the thirst itself was a terrible reality nevertheless. Men were feeling after God, but they had not grasped Him. He was near to every one of them, and they had not found Him. Wisdom had failed, and now it was the turn for foolishness. Could he for a moment entertain any misgivings of its triumph? He knew what the Cross of Christ had been to himself. It had guided his zeal, it had purified his passions, it had widened his sympathies, it had opened his heart. It had filled him with new aspirations, new resolves, new hopes. That was no rhetorical figure, but a sober expression of fact, when he said that to be in Christ was to be a new creature, a new creation. In the light of this glory, all the lessons of the past had started up into new life: just as with the sunrise the landscape, which has appeared before a dark, indistinguishable mass, emerges in all the infinite beauties of form and colour. And, if it had been all this to him, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, what might it not be to these Gentiles tossed to and fro between the extremes of idolatry and scepticism? It was the touch of God, which mankind needed to heal the sores, to purge the corruption, to arrest the decay. And he knew that this touch had thrilled through his inmost being in the revelation of Christ crucified. ‘Man cannot live by bread alone.’ This is the lesson which the triumph of the Cross teaches; a palimpsest traced in letters of fire on the erased page of an ancient civilisation; a voice emphasized by the thunder-crash of a fallen world. ‘Man cannot live by bread alone’—whether the bread of social organization, of material appliances, of legislation, of polity (Rome had given enough and to spare of this); or the bread of intellectual culture, of æsthetic taste, of philosophy, of poetry, of art (Greece had dealt with these with a lavish hand). Fed to surfeiting with these, ancient society, nevertheless, had fallen from bad to worse, had become day by day more corrupt, more impotent, more helpless, till at length it lay seething in its own decay. And then the magnificent irony of God’s purpose was seen. Foolishness triumphed over wisdom, and weakness set her foot on the neck of strength. And that which has been will be again, if ever the conditions should be repeated. If ever—I will not say science, but scientific speculation, should hold out promises which from its very nature it cannot perform; if ever, dazzled by its unparalleled triumphs, it should invade provinces which belong to another rule; if ever, consciously, or unconsciously, its representatives should attempt to eliminate from the Universe everything which renders possible either the guiding providence of God or the moral responsibility of man; if ever a materialistic philosophy should gain the ascendant, which offers no strength to the life struggling in the meshes of temptation, holds out no hand to the conscience staggering under the burden of sin, speaks no words of comfort to the soul torn with suffering or aching with bereavement; then, assuredly, soon or late the heart of humanity, finding itself deluded and betrayed, will rise in the name of conscience and faith, and turn upon its betrayer. Then again, as of old, the foolish things of the world will confound the wise. But then again, also, much that is useful, much that is beautiful, much that is true, may be buried in the ruin. The less must be sacrificed to the greater. Baffled, disappointed, starved in its highest moral and spiritual needs, humanity has no heart and no leisure for nice discrimination. For this Cross of Christ—this strange, repulsive, foolish thing—did give to a hungry world just that food which alone could allay its pangs. Only reflect for a moment before we part, what ideas, what sanctions, what safeguards, what hopes, it has made the common property of mankind. First of all: it went right home to the human soul. It demanded no scientific training: it required no natural gifts. It addressed itself, not to the Greek as Greek, or to the Roman as Roman, but to the man as man. It took him, just as he was, stripped of all adventitious ornaments and advantages, and it spoke to his heart, spoke to his conscience, spoke from God to the godlike within him, but spoke nevertheless as a man speaketh with his friend. And, so taking him, it set before him in the story of Christ’s doings and sufferings an ideal of human life, absolutely pure, unselfish, beneficent, righteous, perfect, such as the world had never seen—an ideal, which once beheld could not be forgotten, but must haunt the memory of men for evermore, fascinating by its beauty, purifying, ennobling, transforming into its own bright image by the wonderful magic of its abiding presence. And then again, it gave aid, where aid was most needed. It illumined the dark places of human existence. It dignified sorrow; it canonized suffering. The Cross of Calvary threw a glory over all the most harrowing and repulsive trials of life. Toil, sickness, pain, want, bereavement, neglect, obloquy, persecution, death—these were invested with a new meaning by the foolishness of the preaching. It was an honourable distinction now to share with Him—the head of the race—the prerogative of suffering. It was a comparatively light thing now to bear a little, where He had borne so much. Pain did not cease to be pain—whatever the Stoic might say; but pain had become endurable, for pain had been glorified. And then again; it proclaimed in language, which could not be misunderstood, the universal brotherhood of man. The triumphs won on the Cross had obliterated, as in the sight of God, all distinction of race, of caste, of class. He the Crucified, He the Triumphant, was a poor artisan of a despised village of a despised nation—henceforth the accepted King of men, the Pattern of His race—the admired, honoured, worshipped of His brethren. But above all, this Cross of Christ was the atonement, the reconciliation, of man to God. It united heaven and earth in an indissoluble union. It threw an unwonted and glorious light on the Fatherly mercy of God. It brought a new and unforeseen promise of pardon and peace, extended freely to all. Who shall despair now? Who shall dare to put limits to our Father’s forgiveness? Who will refuse to Him the tribute of filial obedience? Who will not strive day and night to win His pardon, to win His favour, strong in the faith of this one perfect sacrifice—the supreme manifestation of Divine goodness and love? These lessons, and others such as these, cluster round the Cross of Christ. And they can never fade or lose their freshness. What wonder then, if mankind preferred the folly of God to the wisdom of men? Here, and here only—in this old, foolish message of Christ crucified—is the promise and the potency of life, the one true and abiding life, the life that is now, and that shall be hereafter, eternal in the heavens. Lightfoot, J. B. (1890). Cambridge Sermons. London; New York: MacMillan and Co. (Public Domain) The Tragedy of the Inner Life TEXT: “For to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good, I find not.”—Rom. 7:18. THAT is the tragedy of the inner life; the breakdown of the human will before the Christian ethic; the torment of an unattained ideal. The defeat of a languid desire is nothing; but to throw the whole power of the will on the side of something which God commands, and then to find the will break down, that, for an earnest soul, is tragic beyond words. It is a very common mistake to suppose that we could be holy if we only wanted to. We think our difficulty lies in bringing the will to act on the side of what God requires, and that if we really put forth sufficient will power we should enter upon a spiritual life. But here is a man who makes the amazing discovery that the spiritual life is something above the reach of his will at its highest stretch. He can not grasp spirituality and bring it down into his life by willing to do it. And this was the experience, let us remember, of one of the strongest wills that ever was lodged in a human character. The Apostle Paul was not a weakling; he was endowed with immense will power. When he was a mere RELIGIONIST AND NOT A CHRISTIAN he was not a lax nor a languid one. He saw that the great enemy of the traditionalism in which he had been reared was this new thing, Christianity; and his imperious will forced him into the very front of the fight against Christianity; made of him “the tiger of the Sanhedrim.” Nothing deterred him—no weeping of women, no plaint of age, or youth; he put Christian men and women in prison, and when the question was one of stoning them to death he gave his vote against them. No, Paul was never a half-and-half man. There was in him not merely a fullness of intellectual vigor and life that compelled him to take sides, but there was in him a force of will that enabled him to accomplish his desires. But here was a seemingly simple thing that he was not able to do; but now he has before him an ideal which is unattainable by the power of his resolution. “To will is present with me,” he says, “but how to perform that which is good, I find not.” He can not will himself into spirituality. WHAT IS “GOOD”? That is the case before us. But we shall never understand what Paul means unless we stop for a moment to consider his little word “good.” What is this good that Paul can not do by willing to do it? We may exclude some things at once. He is not speaking here of morality, of honesty, of kindliness, of chastity, of faithfulness in the relations in which man stands to man, as husband, as parent, as friend. These things lie completely within the power of the will. Every one of us has known men wholly apart from Christian power and Christian influence who were all of these things. Every community has upright, truthful, honest, kindly, courageous, helpful, clean, high-living men who are not Christians. The Apostle Paul is not speaking of those good qualities at all; all those things he had done all his life; his will had proved effective in that sphere. And neither is he thinking, by this word good, of common religiousness, church-membership, church-going, saying prayers, reading the Bible, giving money; all these things he had done all his life by will power. He was the foremost religionist of his time, by a conscientious use of his will. Well, then, what does he mean by speaking of the good which he wills but can not attain? He means such things as this: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” And this: “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I but Christ, liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” That is what he is thinking about—the REPRODUCTION OF CHRIST BEFORE MEN —of being Christlike. That is what he calls “good.” Did Paul mean, then, that he was defeated in a will to be Christlike—not as good as Christ, but good like Christ in measure? Yes. He had before his mind, to illustrate it further, perhaps, the beatic character. He had read the Sermon on the Mount, and we may be very sure that he put it into its right place, dispensationally, but he was not willing for one moment to say that because he was in grace and in the church, and not in the kingdom and not under law, that therefore he was justified in living on a lower level than the kingdom life—rather he would say, “a higher demand is laid upon me.” And while there was not in his mind all this negative and inferior morality, there was in his mind the spiritual morality which forms the Christian standard. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” he would say, and then I can imagine that he would beat upon his breast and say, “Oh, proud Paul! Oh, Paul, when will you ever be poor in spirit?” And then, perhaps, in the earlier stages of his experience he would say, “I will be poor in spirit.” “Blessed are the meek.” “Oh,” he would say afterward, “I am the chief of sinners. When I read that word meek, I dare not lift my eyes to him—I can not.” Did you, my hearer, every try to be meek? If you did, did you succeed? It is open to any one to act meekly, to go around with a kind of URIAH HEEP ’UMBLENESS but that only makes a hateful Pharisee of you; that is not being meek. And if there is anything that Jesus Christ hates, it is Phariseeism; that is the one thing He can not do anything with. The only word he had for the Pharisee of his day was, “Woe unto you.” He had no messages for them; there was nothing in his gospel for a Pharisee. No, Paul is not going back to Phariseeism. And, deeper than that there was in Paul’s heart, when he talked about being good, the imperious demand which his new nature and the urge of the new life made upon him that he should have victory over self in all the forms in which self manifests itself. Now in the face of a standard as exalted as the Christlike life there is A GRAVE DANGER That danger must have been present to Paul, and I have no doubt he had to resist it and to cry mightily to God about it; the danger, I mean, of saying or thinking that the Christ standard is too high; that it was put there, not to attain to, but as an ideal toward which we are to aspire. We are to consent to it that it is good, but for flesh to expect to attain to it is another thing. Well, here was a man who was minded to live that kind of a life, somehow, and never let himself go till he did. There is a saying, you know, that if you aim your arrow at the moon you won’t hit the moon, but you will shoot higher than if you aimed your arrow at a barn. Well, Paul never let himself down by any poor sophistry like that. You and I do, my friends. Now I want to pass on to A VERY PRACTICAL QUESTION What does Paul mean by saying, “To will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good, I find not”? I have heard all my Christian life the statement that Christians are not to live in the seventh of Romans. Well, I would to God that nine out of ten of them go into the seventh of Romans. The man in the seventh of Romans is not a listless dweller in spiritual things; he is a man whose heart is breaking and whose being is in agony because his life is not like Christ’s! The man in the seventh of Romans is a man who was all red with the blood of the Son of God. He knew that he was wrestling with something that was awful and real, and he was bound to have the solution for this problem if God has one for him. I ask, what does this man need who wills and resolves to do good, and then finds himself defeated? Does he need more ethics? A higher standard? Why, the poor man knows more good now than he is doing; and just there is the weakness of mere ethical preaching. It continually says to the poor sinner, “Be good,” but never tells him how to be good. And the pulpit today is largely engaged with telling people to “be good” and not telling them how. We come to him with the Ten Commandments and say, “Why, Paul, I do not know what is the matter with you; you seem beside yourself with all this talk about not being able to be good. Here are the Commandments.” And he says, “But I know them; I have known them from my youth up, and I delight in them after the inner man, but I can not keep even them.” No, law can not help him. Law says, “Thou shalt,” and “Thou shalt not,” but it adds nothing to the force and power of man; nothing whatever. Well, what does he need? NOT ETHICS, BUT DYNAMICS The man needs superhuman power to enable him to realize in his life a superhuman spirituality. Now, when any one says, as an objection to Christianity, that the ethical demand of Christianity is too high for human nature, he has just begun to find out the truth; a truth that about eight out of every ten Christians never do find out. It is too high for human nature. It is meant to be too high for human nature. It is put where no hand of man can ever touch it; where no unassisted human capacity can every reach it. And if that were all, the gospel would be to the saint, whatever it may be to the sinner, a message of despair. But that is not all. Along with this superhuman demand, superhuman power is offered. And Paul laid hold upon it. He did not stay in the seventh of Romans, for when the will is aroused to its utmost power and yet can not do a thing, then the man has reached the end of himself. AT PEACE AND VICTORIOUS When we pass from the seventh to the eighth of Romans we find the wretched man of the seventh of Romans at peace and victorious; what is now his testimony? “The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Not a new resolution, nor a new habit, nor a deeper hold on himself, nor more prayer. Do you think that a man in the agony of the seventh of Romans does not pray? Why, the Apostle Paul, when he was there, prayed, you may be sure, day and night on his face before God. Not more prayer, nor more anything that you and I can do, nor that Paul could do, but something that God can do. THERE IS THE REMEDY That is what Paul means: not more from within, but something from without put within. And almost while he is saying, “Oh, wretched man that I am,” out of the very agony of spiritual defeat, he lifts up his face in triumphant testimony for he has found the secret, and he says, “The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” So this man can write afterward, “For me to live is Christ”; write it to Philippians who knew him more intimately than you know me. “The life which now I live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God” he could say to those Galatians who had seen him under trial and testing, “Not by my efforts, nor by my resolutions, nor by my vows, but by the power, the authority, the law, of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” Defeated along the line of the will, he is victorious by the power of the Spirit within him; the superhuman standard achieved by super human power. Paul laid hold upon that power, and so we have the triumphant eighth chapter of Romans, which may be the experience of every child of God—a life of continual victory, peace and power. Scofield, C. I. (1915). The New Life in Christ Jesus (pp. 33–44). Chicago: The Bible Institute Colportage Ass’n. (Public Domain) Comments are closed.