Essentials Of The Christian Life
Talks with Young Believers
- What is a Christian and How to Become One
- Feeding and Developing the New Nature
- The Old Nature and Victory over it
- The World and Separation from it
- Worship in Spirit and in Truth
- Serving the Lord
- "Looking for that Blessed Hope."
WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN AND HOW TO BECOME ONE
A. WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?
1. One Who Belongs to Christ
The word "Christian" is first found in Acts 11:26 - "the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." This name was given by the world to those who acknowledged Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and followed Him. They were identified with the crucified and rejected Christ. A Christian is a "Christ-man", one who belongs to Christ. So 1 Corinthians 15:23 speaks of "they that are Christ's at his coming" and in John 13:1 the evangelist speaks of the believers as "his own", whom the Lord loved unto the end. What a wonderful privilege to belong to the all-glorious, perfect and eternal Son of God and Son of Man, Christ Jesus!
Dividing the word Christian, we get "CHRIST-Is-All- Now." One who accepts Christ as his all-in-all is a Christian in the true sense of the word.
2. One Who is Born Again
A Christian is one who is born again by the Holy Spirit, for John 3:3-5 declares, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God . . . Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." This is a spiritual birth whereby one is born into the family of God by the work of the Holy Spirit. "Born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God" (1 Pet. 1:23).
One thus born of God has received a new nature which loves God and hates sin. This is "the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" (Eph. 4:24). He has thus been made "par takers of the divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4). A Christian, then, is one who has been born again and possesses a new, divine nature which cannot sin (1 John 3:9).
3. A Converted Person
The Lord said, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3). To be converted means to change, and one who has been born again by the Spirit of God experiences a moral change or conversion. Such an one proves the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:17: "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
4. A Child of God
A Christian is a child of God by new birth and faith in Christ. "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:26). He thus knows God as his father, so the apostle John wrote: "I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father" (1 John 2:13). Wonderful privilege indeed!
5. One Indwelt and led by the Holy Spirit
In addition to being born again and possessing a new nature, a Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, the Comforter and divine Teacher. "The Spirit of truth . . . he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you" (John 14:17). "Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God" (1 Cor. 6:19). "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:14). "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Gal. 4:6). This indwelling Spirit gives the believer the affections of a child and the consciousness of being a child of God, bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God (Rom. 8:16).
6. One Assured of Sins Forgiven and Eternal life
The born-again believer in Christ is assured of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. "I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake." "To him give all the prophets wit ness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins" (1 John 2:12; Acts 10:43).
The Word of God, and the Spirit of God within, assure the believer that "God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son" (1 John 5:10-13). Thus a Christian is one who has the blessed assurance of sins forgiven and eternal life. One may be a believer in Christ and lack this assurance and need help as to this, but such assurance is the true possession of a Christian.
Such, dear reader, are some of the essential characteristics of a Christian. Are they true of you? If not, perhaps you need help as to how to become a real Christian, so we pass on to this subject.
B. HOW TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN
1. Repentance Toward God
Repentance is necessary in becoming a Christian. The Lord said, "repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15), and "that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations" (Luke 24:47). The apostle Peter preached, "Repent ye there fore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out," and the apostle Paul testified to Jews and Greeks "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ," and "that they should repent and turn to God and do works meet for repentance" (Acts 3:19; 20:21; 26:20).
Repentance is a change of mind, a complete reversal of one's inward attitude towards self, towards sin, to wards God, towards Christ and towards the Gospel. It is to give up one's own mind and opinion and to accept God's mind as revealed in the Gospel. One may think that he is a Christian because he has tried to live a good life, belongs to a church, has been baptized and does religious works. Yet none of these and kindred other things will ever make one a born-again Christian, so there must be a change of mind about all this. One must come to God as a repentant sinner and believe on Christ as his Savior to become a Christian.
2. Receive Christ as Personal Savior
"As many as received him, to them gave he power [authority] to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" ( John 1:12). To become a Christian one must receive Christ by faith into one's heart as the sent one of God, as one's own personal Savior. Like Zacchaeus of old, one must "come down" and receive Him joyfully (Luke 19:6).
3. Confession of Mouth and Belief and Obedience of Heart
"If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Rom. 10:9-10). Confess Jesus as your Lord and believe in your heart that He "was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification" (Rom. 4:25). If you do this, the Word of God assures you that you are saved. Obey from your heart the Gospel of salvation in Christ and you will be made free from sin and a child of God (Rom. 6:17-18).
4. Saved by Grace and not by Works
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9). "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but ac cording to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5). Accept God's gift of free salvation through faith in Christ and you will become a real Bible Christian.
FEEDING AND DEVELOPING THE NEW NATURE
In our previous lesson we observed that a Christian is one who has been born again and received a new nature, a divine and holy nature from God. This is the "new man" spoken of in Colossians 3:10 which the Christian has put on. This new nature must be fed and developed if the Christian is to grow and become strong. The apostle Peter exhorts us as to this growth and development. He tells us that we should "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby." Again he says, "But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18).
Observe that it is "the sincere milk of the word" which is the food that will cause the babe in Christ to grow. The Word of God is the only food for the new nature. The Lord Jesus Christ is the theme of that Word and He is the bread of life for the new man. "Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger . . . I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat or this bread, he shall live for ever" (John 6:35, 51).
The Christian must therefore feed on Christ in the Scriptures every day or else he will not grow strong and develop. The Lord said, "As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me" (John 6:57). Jesus lived in daily dependence upon the Father and so we must daily eat of Christ in true dependence for sustain ment and development of the divine life within us. The new nature can only be nourished and sustained by daily feeding upon Christ in the Scriptures.
The new nature instinctively craves for the Word of God as food, and there is nothing else in the whole world that will feed and strengthen the new nature outside of the Word of God. Everything else is food for the natural man and feeds our old sinful nature.
Like the Children of Israel in Exodus 16 we need to gather up and eat fresh manna every day if we would be healthy and strong Christians. God said to Israel that He fed them with manna daily "that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live" (Deut. 8:3). We also need to learn this lesson that as Christians we cannot live by material food only; we must have spiritual food for our souls and live by the words that have come from God which are found in the Holy Bible. So let us read our Bibles each day and meditate upon and digest what we read.
Breathing the Air of Prayer
A newborn babe also needs air to sustain its life and likewise the newborn babe in Christ needs to breathe the air of prayer for sustainment of spiritual life. Prayer is the breath of spiritual life and indicates the presence of divine life. Prayer is the expression of dependence upon God and this dependent leaning upon God is an inborn, natural instinct of the divine nature of the Christian. Prayer, then, is the natural outflow and utterance of our new nature and necessary for its growth and development.
Prayer brings one into the presence of God and promotes communion with Him. Without communion with God, spiritual life cannot be sustained and renew ed. "They that wait upon, the Lord, shall renew their strength" (Isa. 40:31). When we read the Bible, God talks to us and when we pray we talk to God. Both are necessary for communion, growth and development of the new nature.
The Psalmist said, "Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud" (Psa. 55:17). Daniel "kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God" (Dan. 6:10). So we should also do if we would be healthy Christians; do not begin the day without reading your Bible and praying to God. If you neglect to do so, you will soon be a defeated, starving Christian. Besides regular times of prayer each day, the believer is exhorted to be "continuing instant in prayer" and to "pray without ceasing" (Rom. 12:12; 1 Thess. 5:17). The dependent attitude of prayer should always characterize the child of God.
Walking in the Spirit
We observed in our previous talk that a Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God; He is the power for the Christian life and strengthens the new nature "Strengthened with might by his spirit in the inner man." (Eph.3:16). This divine Person who indwells the believer would ever put into action the desires and instincts of the new nature. He will guide us and man age all our affairs if we let Him control our lives and yield to His leading. Therefore we are exhorted to "walk in the Spirit" and to be "led of the Spirit" (Gal 5:16, 18). This means submission of heart and obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit within us and to the Word of God. This is a vital essential of the Christian life, to do otherwise means defeat and failure in the Christian pathway.
The Holy Spirit would ever encourage the believer in the desires and activities of the new nature. It is His special work to guide us into all truth and to take of the things of Christ, the living Bread and the living Word, and show them unto us (John 16:13-15). He would teach us to pray too - "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit"; "praying in the Holy Ghost" (Eph. 6:18; Jude 20). Thus we must be walking in the Spirit if we desire that our new nature be fed and developed. If a believer disobeys the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, the Holy Spirit is grieved and quenched and He is not free to promote the desires of the new nature (Eph. 4:30). He can only convict such an one of sin and lead him to self- judgment and confession of sin. Walking in the power of the ungrieved Spirit, then, is vitally essential for the Christian life.
Fellowship with Christians
"If we walk in the light, as he is the light, we have fellowship one with another" (1 John 1:7). Fellowship and companionship with other Christians are also vital for feeding and developing the divine life. The new nature desires fellowship and companionship with God and with fellow believers Association with fel low Christians draws out the new nature and strengthens the divine desires. "Two are better than one . . . for if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow" (Eccl. 4:9-10). If one is weak in the faith and liable to fall, companion ship with stronger Christians will lift him up and strengthen him. "Iron sharpeneth iron; so man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend" (Prov. 27:17). This is especially true in Christian companionship.
We are told in Hebrews 10:24-25 to "Consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together." By associating with other Christians we stir up each other unto love and good works and in attending Christian meetings our souls are fed together and built up in the faith. When two or three gather together unto the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, He is there in their midst (Matt 18:20), and special blessings are obtained thereby which strengthen and develop the new nature. Therefore fellowship in the light with other Christians is vital for the Christian life.
Exercising the New Nature
As in physical life, so in spiritual life, exercise and activity are necessary for growth and development. By exercise and use of our physical members they grow, develop and become strong. So it is also in spiritual things; as we exercise ourselves in the desires and activities of the new nature, we grow, develop and become strong in the Lord.
Young Timothy was told to "refuse profane and old wives' fables," which only feed the old sinful nature, "and exercise thyself rather unto godliness" (1 Tim. 4:7). The Christian needs to engage in daily spiritual exercises to be in a healthy state of soul. He must train his members unto godliness. The eyes, ears, mind, tongue, heart, hands and feet should be directed in the way of godliness and exercised therein daily.
The Christian should practice seeing, hearing, thinking, speaking, feeling and working for the Lord each day. The more one does so, the more natural such activities will become and the stronger one will be in these spiritual exercises of the new nature. Our eyes and ears should be on the lookout for some service to be done for the Lord, for some opportunity of witnessing for Him. The heart needs to be trained in compassion for lost souls and the Lord's Own and in willingness to serve God and man. The mind and tongue need to be exercised in speaking for the Lord and the hands and feet trained in activities of love for Christ. Thus the new nature will be develop ed by spiritual exercises.
THE OLD NATURE AND VICTORY OVER IT
Discovery of a sinful nature
In the happy enjoyment of the new nature with its desires Godward, the young Christian is soon disturbed by the discovery of evil still present in his heart. In spite of love for the Lord and desires to please Him, the young convert finds that evil desires are also in his heart and mind. This is a disappointing but true discovery which every Christian has to make for it is verily true that the evil nature which we were born into the world with still remains in the Christian after being born again of the Spirit of God.
Experience of Romans 7
In reading Romans 7 we find that our experience of the discovery of evil within us is somewhat like that described in this chapter where the personal experience of what the flesh in the renewed man is under law is delineated, "I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members" (Rom. 7:21-23). The converted person thus discovers that he has two natures, the new nature of the inward man and the evil nature of sin. One is human and polluted, the other is from God and holy and sinless.
One also learns that when one does what the new man hates, "it is no more I [the converted person] that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me" (Rom 7:17). The sinful nature that still dwells in the believer is the source of all the evil thoughts, feelings, passions and actions which the new nature hates.
Furthermore, the believer experiences that his evil nature is not any better since he was saved than it was before salvation and that it cannot be improved upon or changed. "The carnal [fleshly] mind, is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:7). We have to learn the lesson of Romans 7:18 "I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing." This is a hard lesson to learn, but it must be learned if one would have settled peace about the old nature and have vic tory over it.
Crucified with Christ
In Romans 6:6 we read: "Knowing this, that our old man has been crucified with (him), that the body of sin might be annulled, that we should no longer serve sin" (New Trans.). Here is something vital which God would have us know, that "our old man has been crucified" with Christ. The term "the old man", found but three times in Scripture, expresses what the believer was in his past state as a responsible sinner - "the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts" (Eph. 4:22). This state has been met and judged in the death of Christ upon the cross. Christ has so fully accomplished deliverance for the believer that the believer can identify himself by faith with Him on the cross and see in His death his own death as a responsible sinner before God. Thus we can say with the apostle Paul, "I am crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20). By faith we can look back to the cross and say, "Our old man has been crucified with Christ".
This gives rest of heart and a true sense of power against sin. "Seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him" (Col. 3:9-10). This is an accomplished fact for the Christian and as we realize this by faith the practical result will be "that the body of sin [indwelling sin] might be annulled, that we should no longer serve sin" (Rom. 6:6). Power to overcome indwelling sin is by believing these truths of the death of the old man and the existence of the new man before God. Because God says, "ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3), the believer mortifies, that is, he puts to death practically, everything that is inconsistent with the death of Christ (Col. 3:5).
"God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh" (Rom. 8:3). In the Person of Christ, our substitute on the cross, God condemned sin in our flesh, our sinful nature, and judged it there once and for all. He not only died for our sins, but for that root principle of evil in us, sin in the flesh, and has "put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb. 9:26). The condemnation of sin in the flesh by the just judgment of God is the doing away with it before God by Christ's sacrifice. This act is effective for everyone that believes in Jesus who accomplished it.
Thus we are not to try to improve, eradicate or "burn out" the old nature of sin within us as some would teach. We should accept God's condemnation and judgment of sin in the flesh in the cross of Christ and rejoice that it too has been put out of His sight. He does not forgive sin in the flesh, though He forgives our sins, but has judged and condemned it.
A New Standing
In the cross of Christ our old standing before God as children of Adam's lost race came to an end. There we died under the judgment of God executed upon Christ our substitute. As believers in the Savior who died for us, we are now associated with the risen and glorified Christ and have a new position before God in Him. God no longer sees us as standing before Him in our sinful nature. He no longer sees us in connection with the condemned life of the first Adam, but in the risen life of Christ the last Adam. He is not looking at our sinful nature which the young convert is some times occupied with and so distressed about. God sees the believer IN CHRIST, "accepted in the beloved" and "complete in Him" (Eph. 1:6; Col. 2:10). "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1). This is the Christian's new standing before God and the realization of this is a great comfort to one troubled by the discovery of his sinful nature and occupation with it. Knowing that God is done with our old man and does not see us as such anymore, helps us to be done with the old nature too and not to be further occupied with it.
Reckon Yourselves Dead unto Sin
Knowing that God reckons our old man as dead with Christ, we are told: "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ Our Lord" (Rom. 6:11). We are to reckon like God does, owning that we have died with Christ and are risen with Him and thus dead to sin.
Though our old nature is still very much alive with in us, we should refuse to listen to it or obey it when it would make its voice heard, making us to think this or that or telling us to do what would be displeasing to God. We must treat it as a dead person that has no right to live or be listened to. It must be kept in the place of death and we must ever remember God's death sentence upon it. This is the way to practically reckon ourselves dead unto sin and alive unto God.
"Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof" (Rom. 6:12). Though sin still dwells in us, we are not to let it reign in us or rule there. We should not obey it in its lusts.
Yield Yourselves unto God
"Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God" (Rom. 6:13). Here is the third point of vital instruction from Romans 6 - yield your members unto God as servants to righteousness. Once, we were the servants of sin, but now we are made free from the bondage of sin by our Savior and therefore should yield ourselves to Him and serve righteousness. We need to recognize the Lord's claims upon us and realize that we are His and should serve Him. The apostle tells us: "ye are not your own. For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
As one yields oneself to the Lord and serves Him, one, while doing so, escapes temptation to serve the flesh, for one cannot do two different things at the same time, that is, serve the Lord and the flesh too. Therefore it is good for the believer to do something for the Lord and get his heart occupied with Him and His things. In doing so he is yielding his members as instruments of righteousness unto God and will find himself above the power of the evil nature.
Power in the Holy Spirit
The power to put down the old nature and keep it in the place of death is found through the Holy Spirit, "if, by the Spirit, ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Rom. 8:13 New Trans.). We find that we are helpless in ourselves to put down the evil nature within us for it is stronger than the new man. But, by the help of the indwelling Spirit of God, who strengthens us with might (Eph. 3:16), we are able to put to death the evil deeds of the flesh and keep it under control. This is the secret of victory over the old and sinful nature - victory by the power of the Spirit.
We are exhorted to "Walk in the Spirit [heed the voice of the Spirit and do through His power what He tells us to do], and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16). The Holy Spirit in the believer is like a strong man living in a house where there is a bad roomer that must be kept under control. This bad roomer is stronger than the owner of the house and overcomes him, but the strong man helps the owner keep the bad roomer locked up and under control. The bad roomer we may liken to our evil nature. If we let the Holy Spirit have control of our lives, He will keep the old nature down and give us victory so that we do not walk after the flesh hut after the desires of the new nature.
Practice Self-Judgment and Confession
If one has listened to the flesh, yielded to its desires and done evil, the Spirit of God within is grieved, com munion with God is broken and one feels miserable. The Spirit of God is then not free to act for us in putting to death the deeds of the body, but is grieved because we have slighted Him and given way to the flesh. The only way of restoration is to judge ourselves before the Lord and confess to Him our wrong. "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged" (1 Cor. 11:31). "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all un righteousness" (1 John 1:9). Self-judgment and confession should be practiced daily for we will always find something in our hearts and lives to judge before the. Lord. When we judge ourselves we take sides with the Lord against ourselves and against what is displeasing to Him and have the promise that He will forgive and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we do not practice self-judgment, God must chasten and judge us "that we should not be condemned with the world" (1 Cor. 11:32).
Maintain a Good Conscience
Connected with self-judgment is the maintenance of a good conscience which is very necessary for victory in the Christian life The apostle Paul said, "herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men" (Acts 24:16). The only way we can have a good conscience before God and man is to walk in the truth and if we have failed in this, self-judgment and confession must be exercised before God and man. "Maintaining faith and a good conscience; which (last) some, having put away, have made shipwreck as to faith" (1 Tim. 1:19 New Trans.). If a believer gives up seeking to maintain a good con science, he will make shipwreck of faith and have a ruined Christian life and testimony.
"If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight" (1 John 3:20-22). Such is the happy result of a good conscience before God, and the opposite is true, if a believer's conscience and heart condemn him he must constantly reckon himself dead unto sin, yield himself unto God, walk in the Spirit, and practice self-judgment if he would enjoy a good conscience to ward God and man.
Do not Feed the Old Nature
Ere closing this talk, we would remind our readers that, if our old man is crucified with Christ, and our old nature should be kept in the place of death, it follows, then, that we should not feed it, but rather starve it. Romans 13:14 tells us to "make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lust thereof." If we heed the cravings of the old nature and feed it with what it likes, we make provision for the flesh to fulfill its lust, it is thereby strengthened and becomes strong and will soon reign over us.
We saw in a previous talk that we need to feed the new nature so that it will grow strong and develop. In doing so we will starve the old nature, for what feeds the new nature will starve the old nature, as they each desire different food. As an illustration, we may picture a dog and an eagle chained together. What would feed the dog would starve the eagle and the dog would have the mastery, but if the eagle were fed, the dog would starve and the eagle would become strong and mount up on high, carrying the dog with it, so with ourselves if we feed the old nature or the new nature.
The foregoing subjects which we have discussed in connection with "The Old Nature and Victory Over It" are, we believe, some of the vital and Scriptural essentials for a happy and victorious Christian life. The true Christian life can only be lived and enjoyed as the Christian realizes that the old man has been crucified with Christ and that his sinful nature has been condemned by God at the cross, and as he reckons himself dead unto sin and yields himself unto God and walks in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. As taught by the Spirit, the believer realizes his new position of acceptance be fore God and man by walking in the truth and practicing self-judgment and confession in regard to any fail ure therein.
THE WORLD AND SEPARATION FROM IT
The world which we shall speak about in this lesson is not our material or created world but the world order and system which Satan has built up on this material earth.
In the Greek language, in which the New Testament was originally written, there are three different words used which are all translated "world" in our King James English Bible. They are (1) "aion" which means "an age, time, dispensation," (2) "kosmos," meaning "order, form, fashion, arrangement," (3) "oikoumene" meaning "the habitable earth or land." The majority of the verses in our Bible which speak of the world have reference to the world order and system which man under Satan has built upon earth - "kosmos." It is this world system which the Christian is called to walk in separation from.
Satan, its Prince and God
In John 12:31 and 14:30 the Lord spoke of Satan as "the prince of this world" (kosmos) and in Ephesians 2:2 we are told that "in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience." The course and order of the world system we are surrounded by is after Satan who is its' ruler and the prince of the evil powers of the air that work in the unsaved.
2 Corinthians 4:4 speaks of Satan as "the god of this world" or "this age" (aion), and in Galatians 1:4 we read of "this present evil world" (aion) or "age." Because Satan is its head and god and has built up its great system and orders its course, it is an evil world or age which we live in. "The whole world lies in the wicked one," John tells us (1 John 5:19, New Trans.).
The Character of the World System
In 1 John 2:15-17 we are told: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world [kosmos]. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 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. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
Here we have clearly set forth the character of all that is in the world which Satan has built up. Every thing in it appeals to one or the other of the three lusts of fallen man's evil nature - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the lust of the pride of life. When Satan tempted Eve and Christ, he appealed to these three lusts in his temptations (see Gen. 3:6; Matt. 4:1-10). Eve responded and sinned but Satan found in Christ no response to his temptations, for there was no sinful nature in Him. The things in the world system are not of God our Father and will pass away. They appeal to our evil nature, which we saw in our last talk we are to reckon ourselves as dead with Christ, therefore the Christian must walk in separation from Satan's evil world and all its enticement if he would have a happy and victorious Christian life.
The things of this world system, which Satan would get us occupied and taken up with, are temporal, for time, and will pass away. "The world languisheth and fadeth away" (Isa. 24:4), "but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever." The new nature, which the Christian is to walk after, does not love Satan's evil world; it loves God the Father and seeks to please Him, and since the world is not of the Father, but after Satan, the Christian with a divine nature does not desire to walk after the things of this evil world and cannot be happy in any fellowship with it, therefore the apostle says, "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." A true Christian is not characterized by love for the world.
The World Crucified Christ
When the Lord Jesus came into the world He had created, the world (kosmos) knew Him not (John 1:10). Later Jew and Gentile, religious and irreligious, united together in rejecting and crucifying Him. The title which was put upon His cross was written in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, the languages of the religious world, the learned world and the political world of that day. Thus the whole world system united in rejecting their Creator and crucifying Him.
In speaking of the wisdom of God in 1 Corinthians 2:7-8, the apostle says, "Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." Thus the princes of this world are spoken of as ignorant of Christ, the wisdom of God, and as those who crucified Him.
In John 15:18-25 the Lord speaks of the world hating Himself, His Father and His own without a cause. This attitude of the world towards Christ and God is still the same. It has never repented of the terrible crime of crucifying Christ, therefore this world system is stained with the blood of God's beloved Son, and the Christian who loves the Lord must walk in separation from it if he would be true to His rejected Savior.
The Cross Separates us from the World
Since the world gave Christ the cross of rejection and crucifixion, how then can the Christian love or be one with this evil world system that has Satan as its god and prince and hates Christ and His Father and His people? Friendship with such a world is enmity with God as James 4:4 tells us - "whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.". The apostle Paul said that by the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ the world was crucified unto him and he unto it (Gal. 6:14). The cross of Christ should stand as an impassable and immovable barrier between the world and the Christian - as that which forever separates him from it.
The Christian is not of the World
In John 15:19 the Lord. tells us, "because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." The Lord has chosen us out of this world system, and in saving our souls He "delivered us from the power of darkness," from Satan's kingdom of this evil world, and "translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Col. 1:13). Our citizenship and associations of life are in heaven (Phil. 3:20; Rev. Ver.). The Christian thus belongs to a different world and kingdom of which Christ is the center and circumference and is therefore not of this present evil world system.
The Christian is in the world but not of it.He is like a ship in the water. The ship is made for the water and to be useful in it, but if the water gets in the ship it will soon sink. So with a Christian; he is to be useful to the Lord and precious souls in the world, but the world which he is in must not get into his heart so that he becomes part of it, if it does, he will make shipwreck of the faith (1 Tim. 1:19).
So the Lord prayed in John 17:15-16: "I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." The Lord's desire and prayer for His own is that they may be kept from the evil of the world system, that they might truly and practically be "not of the world." May we, then, dear Christian reader, keep ourselves "un spotted from the world" (Jas 1:27) in answer to our Lord's desire and prayer.
A Separate People
The Lord would thus have His people separated unto Himself and walking apart from this evil world which crucified Him and hates both Himself and His Father. This is the way the new nature of the believer would go and the way the indwelling Spirit would lead us. This is a vital essential of the Christian life and no child of God can prosper in his soul or really enjoy Christ and his heavenly inheritance if he is not walking in practical separation from the spirit and course of this present evil world.
God's people throughout the Bible, in every age, were called upon to be a separated people unto the Lord. The following Scriptures emphasize this: Exodus 33:16 ; Leviticus 20:24; Ezra 10:11; Nehemiah 9:2. "Ye shall be holy unto me: for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine" (Lev. 20:26), is a typical example of God's call to His people of old, and to us today, to walk in separation from the world and those who are not His.
No Unequal Yokes with Unbelievers
If one would walk in separation from the world, one cannot be unequally yoked with those who are unbelievers and thus part of Satan's system. 2 Corinthians 6:14 gives us definite instructions as to this: "Be ye not un equally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" When two are yoked together they are to pull and work together as one. But how can a Christian walk together with an unbeliever? They are as different as light and darkness. To be yoked together thus is an unequal and unhappy yoke. Therefore, any business, religious or marriage yoke of Christians with unbelievers is an unequal yoke with the world and is to be shunned because it is very detrimental and harmful to one's Christian life and testimony. Many believers have not heeded the above instruction and have found out to their great sorrow how such unequal yokes have made them to suffer and hindered them in their Christian life.
Watch Your Companionships
What leads to unequal yokes with the world is the first step of companionship with the world, with the unsaved. Therefore, it is most important that Christians be very careful as to whom they have companionship with. The Psalmist said, "I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts" (Ps. 119:63). Make the Lord Jesus your chief companion and all those that love and fear Him and keep His word your friends and companions. We are affected by the company we keep. "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners" (1 Cor. 15:33). "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed" (Prov. 13:20). If a believer has companionship with those who are of the world and love its evil course, he will soon be worldly minded and mixed up with the world system himself.
Having considered what has been presented in this lesson, we trust the reader will see that separation in every way from this present, evil world system is a vital essential of the Christian life and that one cannot en joy the abundant life in Christ if friendship with the world is practiced. Separation from the world should be the natural result of communion with Christ and walking in the Spirit and after the new nature. Devotedness to the Savior and the enjoyment of Himself is the spring and power for separation from the world. May we know more of it in living power.
WORSHIP IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH
The apostle Paul gives us in Philippians 3:3 three characteristics of Christianity. There we read, "We are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." Thus worshipping God in the spirit and rejoic ing in Christ Jesus is a real characteristic and essential of the Christian life. This life is from God and rejoices in Him as its source of life and of every blessing. In the delineation of the Christian's position and blessings, as given in Romans 5:1-11, that which is given as the highest step in the ladder, as it were, is: "we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we now have received the atonement" (reconciliation - New Trans.). This joy naturally expresses itself in worship and praise to Him who is acknowledged as the Giver and Source of all its joy and blessings.
What is Worship
Worship is the grateful and joyful response and over flow of the heart to God when filled with the deep sense of the blessings which have been given from Him. It is giving Him the honor, adoration, praise and thanksgiving which is His due because of what He is in Himself and because of what He has done and does do for us. Praises, thanksgivings and the making mention of the at tributes of God and of His acts in the attitude of adoration is what constitutes worship.
The meaning of the Greek word for worship (pros-kum), which is used in most of the New Testament, is: "to do reverence or homage by prostration - to bow one's self in adoration."
In John 4:24 we are told that "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" As God is a Spirit, spiritual worship is all that He accepts. He must be worshipped "in spirit and in truth." Spiritual worship is in contrast with religious forms and ceremonies which the unregenerate man is capable of. These are not that spiritual worship which God is looking for. True Christian worship is the expression of the new, inward, divine life in the energy and power of the Holy Spirit, and manifested in utterances of praise, adoration and thanksgiving. This sets aside all human formulas, imposing ceremonies and rituals practiced by human will and the energy of religious but unregenerate man.
The Father Seeketh Worshippers
"The true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him" (John 4:23). God is known as Father by His children and worshipped as such in spirit and in truth. He has made Himself known as a Father seeking and adopting children to worship Himself. God has gone out in His own redeeming love in quest of worshippers, seeking them under the gentle name of "Father," and placing them in a position of nearness and freedom before Himself as the children of His love. This is the blessed place the Christian is brought into, and now our loving Father is looking for the worship of His blood-bought children. Let us, then, freely give Him daily the praise, thanksgiving and worship which is due Him and which He is seeking from His children.
Cultivate the Spirit of Praise
The psalmist tells us: "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High: to show forth thy loving-kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night" (Ps. 92:1-2). The apostle, writing to the Hebrew believers, says: "By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name . . . for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (Heb. 13:15-16). So also the apostle Peter writes: "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 2:5).
These Scriptures, and many others, tell us of the spirit of praise and worship that should daily characterize the Christian. Let us, then, cultivate this spirit of thanksgiving and worship which is the natural outflow of the divine nature and an essential characteristic of the Christian life.
Where are the Nine?
The Lord asked this question of the one leper out of ten who returned to Him and fell at His feet to give Him thanks when he discovered that he was cleansed of his leprosy. "Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that return to give glory to God, save this stranger" (Luke 17:17-18). This shows how the Lord appreciated the worship of this cleansed leper and how keenly He felt the ingratitude of the other nine. May we not be like the nine but like the one who worshipped His Savior.
"This do in Remembrance of Me"
Connected with giving the Lord the praise and worship which He seeks and which is His due, there is the special request, which He has asked of us, and that is that we re member Him in His death for us by eating the bread and drinking the cup of the Lord's Supper. "He took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you" (Luke 22:19-20). "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come" (1 Cor. 11:26).
It is therefore the Lord's desire that we often par take of the Lord's Supper in remembrance of Himself and of His atoning death for us and to give Him praise and worship therewith as our Savior, Redeemer and Lord. This is a vital essential of the Christian life and one the believer cannot neglect if he would be found pleasing his Savior and prospering in his soul. Are you, dear young believer, obeying the Lord in this special request and remembering Him in His own appointed way?
In John 15 the Lord spoke to His disciples about bearing fruit for the glory of God. He told them that He was the vine, His Father was the husbandman and that they were the branches. He also said: "He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit... Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples" (v. 5, 8). Then He told them: "Ye have notchosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that yourfruit should remain" (v. 16).
From the above words of our Lord we learn that the purpose of our calling and salvation is that we should bring forth fruit to the Father's glory. To this end we have been chosen and ordained. Our Father is looking for fruit toHis delight and satisfaction in His children and "every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit" (v. 2). Thus we may be sure that bearing fruit for God is a vital essential of the Christian life. The Lord has saved us for this very purpose and every Christian ought tobe exercised about this important and practical subject of fruit-bearing.
What is Fruit-Bearing?
Fruit-bearing is a manifestation of life and characteristics of that life. A seed is planted which contains life and its certain characteristics. It grows into a plant which produces fruit of the same nature and character as the life in the seed that was planted. There is a re production of life and nature which is manifested in fruit. The seed of an orange tree, if planted, will produce another orange tree with its characteristic fruit. The seed of a lemon tree that is planted will produce another lemon tree which bears lemons as fruit.
So in the Christian life, fruit-bearing is a reproduction of the life and characteristics of Christ in the believer. Fruit-bearing is more what one is than what one does; it is being something for God rather than doing something for Him. Bearing fruit for God has todo with character and Christ-likeness rather than service.
Christ the true vine which the believer is to abide in, would reproduce Himself in those who thus dwell in communion with Him. The Father, the divine husband man, looks forthe life of Christ and His characteristics to be reproduced and manifested in His children. This is the fruit He is seeking for His satisfaction and de light. He has predestinated us "to be conformed to the image of his Son" (Rom. 8:29) and desires that "Christ be formed in you"(Gal. 4:19). Thus the apostle Paul realized that the purpose of God, in all the troubles of life he and we are called topass through, is "that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body" (2 Cor. 4:10). When Christ is seen in our lives, that is fruit to His and the Father's glory.
In Galatians 5:22-23 we are told that "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." All these nine- fold virtues were perfectly exemplified in the life of Christ as fruit tothe Father's glory and delight. The indwelling Spirit of God would also produce this beautiful cluster of nine-fold fruit in the life of every believer that abides in Christ the true Vine. These Christ-like virtues are notspoken of as fruits, but as "fruit of the Spirit." They are, as it were, all in one bunch like a cluster of grapes - one fruit of nine different flavors. It is a complete harmonious development by the Spirit of Christian character, in which every part is in evident relationship with the rest. Love is the first mentioned and shines out in them all and strings them together as it were.
The first three of the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace) are Godward and for His eye. They may be called internal fruit. The next three (longsuffering, gentleness, goodness) are of a relative character, the result of the first three filling the heart. They will be manifested towards one's brethren, the world, and even one's enemies. All can see these and appreciate them. The last three (faith, meekness, temperance or self-control) are personal and necessary for the soul's sustainment in passing through the world with its trials and testings.
Requirements for Fruit-Bearing
In John 15 where fruit-bearing is especially spoken of, the Lord gives the conditions necessary for bearing fruit. In verses 4 and 5 we read: "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing."
Here we learn that our abiding in Christ and He in us is the prime necessity for fruit-bearing. Every true believer is united with Christ and is in Him positionally as a branch is with a vine, and the very life that flows through the Vine - Christ - flows through the branch the believer, thus the power to produce fruit for God is in Christ, the Vine, and in us also as branches in Him. But we are responsible to abide in Christ practically and this what is stressed in John 15 as necessary for fruit-bearing.
We cannot bring forth fruit for God of ourselves; it is not by our efforts that fruit for Him is borne, it is by simply abiding in Christ in practical and living communion with Him the life-giving Vine that fruit to His glory is produced in the Christian. If a soul dwells in Christ, Christ dwells in that soul and that which is in Him is communicated to that one just as the sap flows from the vine into the branches. In abiding in Christ we draw strength continually from Him and fruit-bearing follows as a result of abiding.
In the natural world there is no activity involved in fruit-bearing, but quiet rest and drinking in of the rain and sunshine and partaking of the life-giving sap in the vine. So in the spiritual realm fruit for God is produced by quiet communion and rest in Christ, by keeping in practical and constant touch with Him in the sense of our need and inability to do anything without Him. It is by occupation with Christ that fruit is borne for Him rather than by employment and service for Him or efforts on our part to produce fruit pleasing to Himself.
A spirit of complete dependence upon Christ is necessary for abiding in Him and fruit-bearing. "Without me ye can do nothing" the Lord would remind us. It is only as we realize our nothingness and make Christ our sole resource and confidence and lean upon Him in constant dependence that we will abide in Him and bear fruit.
Another point is mentioned in verse 7. "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." It is necessary that Christ's words abide in us and control our thoughts and desires if we would have confidence to ask what we will and receive power for fruit-bearing. When we truly abide in Him and His words abide in us, our mind, will and thoughts are formed by Christ's words and we get guidance of heart and have confidence to ask of the Father in prayer. Thus we get the power of abiding and fruit-bearing by His Word abiding in us.
In verse 3 the Lord said, "Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." The Word of God has a purging and cleansing power upon our souls and the Christian must have daily recourse to it if he would abide in Christ and bear fruit. To abide in communion with the Lord there must be the constant cleansing action of the Word of God in our hearts which are so easily defiled by the activity of the evil nature with in us and by the evil about us. We cannot abide in Christ if sin is allowed in our hearts, therefore we ever need the sanctifying and cleansing power of the Word of God upon our souls to keep us from sinning and defilement. "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee" (Ps. 119:11).
In verse 10 another point follows: "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love." Here we have obedience to the Lord's commandments as a condition necessary to abide in His love. We are not only to have His Word abiding in us, but to walk in obedience to it even as Christ obeyed His Father's commandments and enjoyed its fruit of abiding in His love. Thus a spirit of simple obedience to the will of God as revealed in His Word is necessary for abiding in Christ and fruit-bearing.
Then follows the blessed result of having Christ's joy remaining or abiding in us and our joy made full as verse 11 indicates. The Lord had perfect joy in the Father. His joy was in bringing forth fruit to the Father's glory and He is here showing us how in fruit- bearing we can have joy and blessedness down here.
Summing up, we thus learn that the divine requirements for fruit-bearing are abiding in Christ in living communion, a spirit of complete dependence upon Him, His Word abiding in us as a cleansing and formative power begetting confidence to ask in prayer, and walking in obedience to His commandments which results in abiding in His love and having His joy remaining in us.
The Care of the Husbandman
Another important item in the subject of fruit-bear ing is the care of the divine Husbandman for the branches and His work of purging them that fruit and more fruit might be borne to His glory. The Lord said: "my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." (vv. 1-2).
It is the Father who is the husbandman and as such He looks after the branches in tender love and watchful care. He combines perfect wisdom and love in His treatment of the branches and knows how to cause them to bear fruit and more fruit. The fruitless professor He removes and the fruitful one He purges and cleanses so that more fruit may be borne. He cuts away out of our lives everything that hinders our being like Christ and bringing forth fruit to His delight. He may use the pruning knife to cut away superfluous things in our lives so that more and better fruit may be produced in us. He chastens us and may put us through the fires of affliction that the dross may be removed from us and that "we might be partakers of His holiness." The process may be painful and grievous, "nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteous ness unto them which are exercised thereby" (Heb. 12:10-11).
So when trials come, perhaps of sickness and suffering, or stress of circumstances, or bereavement, we may be sure it is the Father's loving care for us as a fruit- branch and that it is His purging process to make us more fruitful for Himself. Sometimes He has to say as in Song of Solomon 4:16: "Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out." The chilly north winds of adversity and the south winds of grace and love are combined to blow upon the Father's vineyard so that the fragrance of fruit sweet to His taste may flow out. Then follows the pleasing words, "Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits," and "at our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved" (S. of S. 4:16; 7:13).
May we be enabled by grace to say these blessed words to our beloved Savior and loving Father who are looking for fruit, more fruit and much fruit from our lives. May we give more thought to this vital essential ofthe Christian life; fruit-bearing, and know more of abiding in Christ as the only way in which fruit can be produced in our lives to the Father's glory.
SERVING THE LORD
When the Lord called Simon and Andrew, He said, "Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fish ers of men" (Mark 1:17). We thus see that the Lord had called them to become workers for Himself and to fish for the souls ofmen. Serving the Lord, being His fishermen, was to be their business now.
Just before the Lord went to the cross, He told His disciples, "The Son of man is as a man taking a far journey who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch" (Mark 13:34). By this the Lord meant that He was going back to heaven and was leaving His interests here in the hands of His own, whom He expects will be His servants and that each one will do his own particular work for his Master while he watches for His return.
After Christ arose from the dead He told the disciples: "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you" (John 20:21), and "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). He was here in the world as the busy servant of God, going about from early morning till night ministering to needy man. The Father had sent him "not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). And as the Father had sent Him into the world, so He would now send His own into the world to serve Him and needy mankind.
From these Scriptures we may rightly gather that serving the Lord is a vital essential of the Christian life and one which every believer is called to in some measure or another. To live for the Lord and to serve Him should be the main business and vocation of the Christian. We are not saved merely to be safe for heaven and at peace down here. The Lord has saved us and left us here in this world to work and to occupy for Himself and to be His witnesses, lights and representatives in this scene where He was cast out and crucified.
Our Savior would have us to be His very hands and feet and heart and lips in this world. He wishes us to carry His messages and run errands for Himself, togo about doing good as He did when here below. He would have His love flow forth to poor suffering mankind through our hearts and He would speak to men and women and children by our lives and lips. What a privilege this is! Archangels are not entrusted with such service as is given to us in wondrous grace. May we prize such a privilege and opportunity and be found serving the Lord who has bought us with His own precious blood. May we realize that thus we are not our own but are called to glorify God in our bodies (1 Cor. 6:20).
Of the new converts at Thessalonica it is written that they turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God: and to wait for his Son from heaven" (1 Thess. l:9-10). One of the three great things that characterized them was "labor oflove" for the Lord and serving the living and true God to whom they had turned from their idols. May this also characterize us who today have "turned to God from idols." May it in particular be true of every reader of these lines.
What Shall I do?
Sometimes believers ask the question, "What can I do for the Lord?" and add that they have not much ability, or time, or money to serve the Lord with. In seeking to be of some help on this point, we would first say that it is good to be thus exercised and inquiring of the Lord as to what service one can do for Him. When Saul of Tarsus was arrested by Christ on the Damascus road and brought face to face with Jesus whom he was persecuting, he at once said, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:6). This is a good question and one which every believer should ask the Lord for himself. The Lord answered Saul's question directly with explicit directions that led to his being brought in to full deliverance and salvation in Christ and into the knowledge of his particular service for His new found Lord. We then read that "straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God" (Acts 9:20). At once he was busy for His Lord and testifying for Him.
As to what one can do for the Lord, it is helpful to read Colossians 3:23-24, which was probably written to those who were menial servants, perhaps slaves: "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord... for ye serve the Lord Christ." Thus we learn that we can do our everyday, commonplace work as unto the Lord and serve Him in it. So whatever is given us to do, we are to do it heartily as to the Lord and glorify Him in it. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might" (Eccl. 9:10), is another helpful and encouraging word for our guidance in the matter of service for the Lord. Of Mary the Lord said, "She hath done what she could" (Mark 14:8). This is all that He expects of each of us. If we have a heart that is willing to serve the Lord and desirous of doing whatever He directs us to do, be it ever so small and commonplace, we will soon find that which we can do in service for Him and precious souls.
When Moses made excuses for not doing what the Lord told him to do, God said to him, "What is that in thine hand?" (Ex. 4:2). It was a rod he had in his hand and God used it in mighty power. So the Lord would use what we have, however little it may be, but we must surrender it to Him and He will bless it and give us more as we use it for Himself.
There are a multitude of diversified things which can be done in service for the Lord everywhere. There is something for every believer to do as unto his Lord, something for which he or she is especially fitted as a distinct member of the Body of Christ. Be in commun ion with Him and He will show you what your work is and what you can do, and He will strengthen you for it and use you in blessing to precious souls and for His glory.
" 'Father, where shall I work today?'
And my love flowed warm and free,
Then He pointed me out a tiny spot,
And said, 'Tend that for me.'
I answered quickly, 'Oh, no, not that.
Why no one would ever see,
No matter how well my work was done.
Not that little place for me.'
And the word He spoke, it was not stern,
He answered me tenderly,
'Ah, little one, search that heart of thine.
Art thou working for them or me?'
The important thing in service for the Lord is not what we are doing, but that we are doing that which He gives us to do for Himself, and that we do it for His eye and not for the eyeof man or for self-praise.
For our encouragement in the trials and sorrows connected with service for the Lord, He graciously promises toreward us for all that we do for Him. He promises to reward even a cup of cold water given in His name (Mark 9:41), and various crowns will be given to those who serve Him here (see 1 Thess. 2:19; 2 Tim. 4:7-8; 1 Pet. 5:4; Rev. 2:10). One of the last promises of the Lord is, "Behold, I come quickly; and my re ward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be" (Rev. 22:12). He also will associate the faithful servant with Himself in His kingdom reign. This we learn from Matthew 25:21: "His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord." Precious encouragement indeed! May we be thereby spurred on to more faithful and diligent service for our worthy Lord and Savior in the little while that remains before His coming and thus manifest in our lives this vital essential of the Christian life.
"LOOKING FOR THAT BLESSED HOPE"
The blessed hope of the Christian is expressed in many passages in the New Testament. In Titus 2:13 we are told to be "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us" The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the believer's hope according to 1 Timothy 1:1. Just before the Lord went to the Cross He told the disciples; "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:2-3). His coming again to receive His own, the true Church, which is His bride, unto Himself and bring them into the Father's house on high, is the blessed hope the Christian is to look for. This "Looking for that blessed hope" is indeed an essential of the Christian life and that which should characterize every true believer.
The Christians at Thessalonica were characterized bythree wonderful things which the apostle Paul enumerates in his epistle to them. He wrote: "Remembering without ceasing your (1) work of faith, and (2) labor of love, and (3) patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ". He further spoke of "how ye turned to God from idols," which was their work of faith, and "to serve the living and true God," their labor of love, "And towait for his Son from heaven," their patience of hope (1 Thess. 1:3, 9-10). Here we have the wonder ful triplet of faith, love and hope, which are linked together in 1 Corinthians 13:13 and in other Scriptures.
It is this third feature of hope which we desire to be occupied with in this chapter, so we should notice that the hope of the Thessalonian Christians was expressed in their practical waiting for the coming again of Jesus the Son of God from heaven. This subject of the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is the prominent theme of the two epistles of Paul to the Thessalonian Assembly. It is spoken of in every chapter of both epistles and shows what a large place this blessed hope and truth had in the apostle's heart, and the place it should also have in every Christian's affections.
Coming for and with His Saints
A careful study of the various passages which speak of the second coming of Christ will reveal that His coming will be in two parts. First, He shall come for His bride, the true Church of His blood-washed believers, and bring them into His Father's house. Then later He will come with all his saints to earth and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. The Scripture previously quoted from John 14 definitely speaks of Christ's coming for the purpose of receiving His own unto Himself that they may be with Him in the prepared place of the Father's house.
1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 also clearly sets forth the coming of the Lord for His saints as an event separate from His coming with His own to earth to reign. "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." Here we read of only the dead in Christ being raised and of those that believe in Jesus' death and resurrection being caught up together with the resurrected believers to meet the Lord in the air and being forever with Him. This pas sage presents the Lord coming for His saints, Old and New Testament believers, and as the Bridegroom coming for His bride. Matthew 25:1-10 also presents this aspect of His coming for the wise virgins who are ready and go out to meet Him.
The appearing of the Lord, or His manifestation as Son of man with power and great glory, and His coming to earth in judgment with His saints is definitely set forth in the following Scriptures: Matthew 24:30; 25:31-46; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 5:2-3; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; 2:8; 1 Timothy 6:14-15; Revelation 1:7; 19:11-21 and other passages. To mix these Scriptures with those texts we have given above as referring to the Lord's coming for His saints, nd to designate them all as applying to one and the same event, creates great confusion and is a careless reading of things that differ. The Lord once said to a certain lawyer, "What is written in the law? how readest thou?" (Luke 10:26).
The Bible does not teach a single, indivisible return of Christ at the end of the tribulation period, as some are teaching and contending for today. We are persuaded that the Scriptures do teach Christ's coming for His Church before the tribulation period that begins in Revelation 6, the secret rapture of the saints first, and then His coming to earth in power and great glory with His saints at the end of the great tribulation as seen in Revelation nineteen.
We have stated that the Lord will come for His bride, the true Church. Let us enlarge upon this relationship of bride and bridegroom somewhat and see how it emphasizes our subject of "Looking for that blessed hope" of the Lord's coming as being an essential of the Christian life. First, we may state that Ephesians 5:23-32 clearly presents to us Christ and His Church in this blessed and most intimate relationship of bride and bridegroom. In Revelation 19:7-9 we read of the marriage of the Lamb in heaven and in chapter 21 we have a description of the bride as the Lamb's wife, "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." Thus the highest and most intimate of earthly relationships is used to shadow forth the link and affinity that exists between the heart of Christ and the Christian. This the Song of Solomon so vividly sets forth in type.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians that he had espoused, or engaged, them to one husband, that he might present them as a chaste virgin to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2). Thus every true Christian is as one engaged to Christ and there should be bridal affections and longings for Him, just as every engaged young lady's heart goes out in affectionate desires for her lover. Her heart is not satisfied with the wonderful communications and gifts of his love, or with his little visits, but longingly looks forward to the union or marriage day when she shall have him and be with him and his for all of life. If this is true in the earthly sphere of love, how much more should not it be true of us who have accepted the heavenly and divine love of the greatest Lover of all, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The divine nature within the believer affectionately desires the Lord Himself, and longs for His promised coming to receive us unto Himself that we may be for ever with Him in the glory. The Spirit of God that in dwells us ever seeks to develop these bridal affections and longings for our Lover. "The Spirit and bride say, Come" and the response to the Lord's promise of "Sure lyI come quickly," should be "Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:17, 20).
Waiting and Watching
In Luke 12:35-37 we have the words of the Lord Him self as to the attitude of heart He desires us to have in relation to His coming. "Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching." He would have us with loins girded about in preparation for service unto Himself, our lights burning brightly in testimony for Him, and our hearts truly waiting and watching for His return in sincere and affectionate expectation of His coming for us. It will cheer His heart to find His loved ones thus looking and longing for Himself and His coming again. While we wait and long for our Bridegroom to come, we are to be working and witnessing for Him. The two things go together. "Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing" (Luke 12:43).
May we be characterized by this vital essential of the Christian life, of "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ," and also manifest all the other essentials of the Christian faith which have been before us in these studies.