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By David A. J. Seargent
A VISION FOR THE CHURCH
As Christians we are commanded to proclaim the
Gospel; the good news of Christ. But what is this good news? And what
does proclaiming it entail?
First, let us be clear about what it is not. It is
not a set of ethical rules. It is not a religious system. It is not a
philosophy or theological system. To be sure, it embraces all of these
elements to a greater or lesser degree, but it is not to be confused
with any one of them.
The Gospel is not primarily a belief. It is an
invitation. An invitation to meet and become an intimate friend with a
Person who is both truly God and truly human and who gave his life so
that we may live in the presence of God forever.
But Jesus is not just an historical figure; not
even a unique Figure who performed something that nobody else could
(his atoning death and resurrection). He is all of these, but he is
also a very contemporary Person who stands before us now as a living
figure. Beyond the Jesus of ancient history is the Jesus of the
present moment; the Jesus who waits to come and dwell within our
spirits and through his Holy Spirit transform us increasingly into his
The Gospel is the good news that this miracle has
been made possible by the atoning death and victorious resurrection of
Jesus. It is also the good news that this same Jesus now waits for us
to turn away from a self-centred life and toward him, by inviting him
to come into our spirits in a real and vital way.
Christianity is not a religion. It is a
relationship. A relationship between a man or woman and God in Jesus.
A Christian is one who has Jesus spiritually within.
But this relationship with God is not something
simply to be enjoyed by ourselves. We are saved and transformed, not
simply that we may become holy people and go to Heaven when we die,
but so that we may become parts of a community of people who are
similarly being transformed inwardly and who, collectively, maintain
the presence of Christ in the flesh within today’s world. This company
of genuine Christians, the church (not to be confused with any
denomination, or even with the institutionalized church per se) is the
Body of Christ today. In a very real sense, it is the continuation of
the incarnation of Jesus down through history. Jesus Christ is the
Head and the church is his Body; his corporate Body in the world.
Through the church, God is involved in human society, just as Jesus
was involved in human society. Society is influenced by God to the
degree that all aspects of it are influenced by members of the church
and to the degree that each of these church members is surrendered to
the will of God. The healing of society and its transformation toward
a holy and just community is, I believe, a consequence of the
sanctification of the individual and the sanctifying influence of many
sanctified individuals upon the broader world.
Nevertheless, the church can only be a unifying and
transforming factor if it does not succumb to the divisions of human
society itself. Alas, this is just what has happened. The church as a
whole and the people who are its members have lost sight of the
unifying vision of being the Body of Christ and have allowed the false
gods of human society to usurp the place that belongs to Christ alone.
Christian has become divided from Christian along the lines of race,
politics, class (and sundry other “secular” divisions) as well as the
peculiarly “religious” divisions of denomination, worship style,
theological doctrine and so forth.
These become “gods” when they assume a greater
importance than the simple but profound fact of belonging to Christ,
being in him as part of his corporate Body and being indwelt by his
For example, one’s theology may become so critical
to one’s definition of a Christian that anyone having a different
theological position is regarded either as a non-Christian or as a
“sub-standard” Christian. (I am not talking about essential
theological doctrines, eg the Deity of Christ, but such things as
predestination, eschatological doctrines, apostolic succession etc). A
Calvinist (say) may so highly regard the doctrine of Predestination
that it effectively becomes his Gospel, such that anyone rejecting it
is thereby not considered a true Christian, even though he or she may
be truly committed to following Christ. Similarly, a Pentecostal may
place speaking in tongues so highly as to believe that anyone not
speaking in tongues is unsaved. Or, from the other perspective, an
Armenian may reject the Calvinist position as heresy and a strongly
anti-charismatic may dismiss Pentecostals as being inspired by the
devil. Yet, if all of these people have truly given themselves to
Jesus, in reality they are all members of the Body of Christ. Surely,
this fact is more important than their differences, important though
these may well be.
Of course, they will not all be correct and I am
certainly not arguing that we take a position of theological
relativism. I am only saying that we should recognize that it is
relationship with God in Jesus that determines whether or not a person
is a fellow member of the Body, not whether they speak in tongues (or
reject speaking in tongues) or whether they believe in Predestination
(or reject belief in Predestination).
Similarly, there are some who prefer a highly
formal style of worship, while others like free expression. But if
both have experienced the saving grace of God in Christ, are they not
It is probably even worse when Christians are
divided over secular matters such as race or politics. It is a
terrible thing when Christian fights Christian because their countries
are at war. In past ages, wars were even fought over theological
differences (although these were always bound up with politics) and
many Christians have been persecuted and put to death at the hands of
other equally committed Christians. Think of the persecution of early
Quakers by the Church of England, to name just one example. If only
they could have seen Christ in each other … if only!
All of these false gods must go. The church must
spiritually unite, not necessarily by merging into a single
denomination, but by awakening to a single vision … the vision of
itself as it ought to be; a vision of the church in all its sundry and
diverse manifestations united in a higher unity as the Body of Christ,
indwelt by the same Holy Spirit, with Christ alone as its Lord and
Head. The church must awaken to the vision of itself as the New
Jerusalem into which stream all the diverse strands of human society,
merging there as the single citizenry of the Holy City. It must have
the vision of this citizenry going forth into the world again, still
being members of whatever race or faction they previously were, but
now with this one great difference; that from henceforth they carry
first and foremost the badge of a citizen of the Heavenly City.
Ambassadors now of Heaven, being transformed inwardly by the
continuing workings of the Holy Spirit, in the process of being molded
into the likeness of the Man from Heaven, they enter the world again,
bringing with them the vision of humanity redeemed, of society
transformed and of a world truly reflecting the qualities of heaven.
This is, unfortunately, not what we have today. But
how do we get from today’s church to the ideal? How can this great
renewal occur? Is it just a dream?
Although many Christians would disagree with me, I
do not believe that it is just an unrealizable ideal. After all, Jesus
taught his disciples to pray that the Father’s will be done on earth
as in Heaven. God’s will is followed in Heaven totally, otherwise it
would not be Heaven. And in praying what we have come to call the
“Lord’s Prayer”, we are praying for the same to apply on earth as
well. Surely Jesus would not have taught us to pray for something that
would never come to pass!
However, even if you don’t agree that the church
will one day be “without wrinkle or spot” in this present age, you
would surely agree that we push toward it as an ideal. Did not William
Law (though speaking of the individual Christian rather than the
church as a whole) advise that we should strive toward perfection, for
by so doing we might at least arrive at something a little better than
In my opinion, the present-day church must
recapture the vision of holiness; both the absolute holiness of God
and the thirst for purity that is an inevitable consequence of true
conversion. A. W. Tozer lamented that there were too many “half
converted” people in the church. Of course, we cannot really be “half
converted”. We either are or we are not, as Tozer himself well knew.
But what he meant was that too many church members are satisfied with
settling down at a point below full commitment to Jesus. They believe,
they go to church and they live relatively moral lives, but true
spiritual transformation is simply not there. Or if it is there, it is
too weak to have any real impact either on their lives or upon the
life of the church and world.
There are, alas, many within the visible church who
seem only to have been converted in the mind. They believe truly
enough, but their belief bears little fruit in their lives. The real
impact of the Gospel does not penetrate into the deeper recesses of
their being. Some of these people become those of whom Jesus spoke in
the Parable of the Sower as the seeds that fell on shallow ground.
Because the ground is shallow, the seeds germinate quickly in the
warmth, but their roots are so close to the surface that the plant
soon dies. It takes little for such people to lose their faith,
because theirs was never a saving faith in the first place. It was
simply an interesting belief that they held until something more
appealing came along, or an emotional response to an energetic
preacher that evaporated once the emotion cooled. Nothing penetrated
into their deeper spirits.
Not all people with a merely “surface faith” fall
away however. Some go through life with the sort of faith that James
spoke about; a faith that has no spiritual impact whatsoever and
which, as James said, is a faith that is shared even by the devils. At
least, the devils have enough appreciation of the holiness of God to
tremble. Unfortunately, the holiness of God has become such a taboo
subject in so many pulpits today that the nominal Christians with
their surface-only religion do not even do that. If they did,
presumably they would take their relationship with God more seriously!
So the first step is to become truly aware of the
holiness of God … and not just “aware” as an intellectual assent, but
as a deep spiritual experience. Watchman Nee used the term “the
shining” to indicate a type of inward spiritual illumination, brought
about by the Holy Spirit, that made the truth of a spiritual fact
experientially real to the individual. Genuine conversion is a
“shining” on the fact that salvation lies in surrender to Jesus.
Simply believing this in the head, however, saves no-one. But when the
Holy Spirit illuminates its truth and applies it to the individual, a
true spiritual conversion takes place and the person is saved.
What the church, and its members, needs is a
“shining” on the fact of God’s holiness. But the fact must be heard
before it can be “shone”!
Once the holiness of God is truly revealed to us,
the full force of sin begins to be correctly appreciated. We read
about people falling to the ground during the revivals under Wesley
and Edwards, often in a state of great terror as they experienced the
double-edged “shining” of God’s holiness and their own sinfulness.
Even someone as holy as John told, in the first chapter of the Book of
Revelation, how he fell at the feet of the glorified Christ like one
who was dead. Such is the effect on people of the holiness of God when
truly revealed to their spirits.
A genuinely converted person will feel inwardly
drawn toward personal holiness. If one claims to have been converted
and yet delights in some deliberate sin, something is seriously wrong.
It is true that even a converted person will, at times, commit sin and
it is true that Christians continue to struggle with sin, but it is
not true that a genuine Christian can continue to wallow in deliberate
sin. Unless holiness becomes increasingly attractive and sin
increasingly distasteful following conversion, the validity of that
conversion must be seriously questioned, irrespective of the intensity
of sobs and fervor of promises at the penitent form.
The church and all those within it must also be
clear that Jesus is their personal Lord and that allegiance to Him
must come before allegiance to anything or anyone else. Christians
must see themselves as individual members of the corporate Body of
Christ and must be submitted to the Head and work together in the
unity of the Spirit so that the will of the Head (Jesus) is carried
out through the corporate Body. We must realize that in trying to put
in motion our own plans for the way in which we think the church
should operate, we are treating the Body as our own bodies would be
treated if our limbs and organs acquired wills of their own and
started operating independently of the brain. Our own bodies would
tear themselves apart; so why should we expect any less disastrous
result for the Body of Christ?
We must always remember that God wants his people
to be one in heart and mind. He has given us this unity as a
free gift; the unity shared by having the mind of Christ. But while
ever we allow other things to disrupt our unity, we will not
experience it. We remain like the beggar who was given a cheque for a
vast amount of money, but failed to cash the cheque and remain in
All of this must, I believe, be “shone” into the
innermost spirits of Christians and into the corporate spirit of the
church. Like everything else in the Christian walk, intellectual
understanding is not enough. The truth of it must go deep down into
the spirit; be “shone” as Nee would say and “engrafted” into our
spiritual nature, as Selwyn Hughes expressed it. Then, and only then,
will the spiritual unity of the Body (which the church has been given
already … it is not something to be acquired) be realized in fact and
the church made ready to be the instrument of the Holy Spirit in
driving back the gates of Hell.
This then, is the vision. A vision of the spiritual
renewal of individual Christians and of the church itself; a spiritual
renewal that stresses the transforming inner work of the Holy Spirit
in the individual and a vision of the church in which the unity of the
Body of Christ and the mutual indwelling of the Holy Spirit is an
experience of fellowship so powerful that all divisions of society and
the world pale in comparison; a spiritual renewal in which the gospel
and its consequences for humanity are seen to be so vital that it is
openly proclaimed as the God-given alternative to the many unhealthy
and disruptive features with which society is riddled. It will be, as
we shall see as this book unfolds, a spiritual renewal which calls for
preparation through spiritual exercise of prayer, meditation and
reflection, preferably within the context of small groups, although
individually if this proves not to be possible in any particular
For the present though, let us look at what God is
doing in the world today.
If asked the question “What is God doing in the
world today?” what would be your answer?
There are many possible answers, but the one that
most impressed itself upon my mind was given by a man named Geoff
Wilson whom I knew in my university days.
“God”, he said “is building a house”!
Now what on earth could he have meant by that
Simply this. God is building together the church –
his people – into a living home in which his Spirit may be found; a
temple in which he can be worshipped in spirit and in truth. Whatever
else God may be discerned as doing in modern Christianity, whether
bringing Christians of different cultural and denominational
backgrounds together in common worship, reviving the spiritual life of
the church through a variety of renewal movements and so forth, this
is the overriding divine action; God is building his church into a
living house wherein he is to dwell in this world and wherein he is to
Of course, this house is not one of bricks and
mortar. It is built up of living persons, Christians whose lives are
dedicated to him. But each living brick is to be fitted into its
proper place and each rough beam is to be made smooth before it can be
used in the structure. In other words, each person must allow himself
or herself to be placed by God in the correct spot within his church
and each must allow God to purify and refine his or her spirit to make
it more receptive of the leadings of the Holy Spirit. Bricks are of no
use if they are scattered around in the yard and a wooden beam cannot
be placed in a building whilst it remains roughly hewn!
Likewise, bricks cannot be used in a house while
ever they are cemented together into an outhouse. No, first the
outhouse must be torn down and the bricks cleaned of whatever old
cement continues to cling to them. Only then may they be used for the
But here the “bricks” are Christians, the outhouses
are man-made projects and the clinging cement is whatever belongs to
these projects that separates those involved from the rest of God’s
people. The real point of the analogy now becomes clear. How can
God properly fit us into the structure of his church universal
while we refuse to budge from the little houses that man has
built in response to one facet of the universal truth of Christ?
We may now see renewal and church unity movements
in their proper perspective. They are necessary for the living bricks
to be cleansed and removed from their false positions in outhouses and
placed in their true positions in the house of God. They are necessary
for the rough-hewn timber to be dressed and moulded and in general
made fit for the Householder. But they can no longer be seen as ends
in themselves. They are not the primary activities of God. They are
only some of the ways in which he is making preparation for his
principal work in this day and age; the building of his House – a
House which, let it be said, may include the projects and
denominations that are presently seen as evidence of schism. However,
these will be included, not as independent “outhouses” but as internal
rooms of the one great House.
Of course, this “principal work” may be thought of
under the form of other metaphors. God is building a Kingdom or Family
of people dedication to himself – as the chorus says, “I’m building a
people of power”. Or, he is building a Body animated by his Spirit and
each of the organs is being placed in its rightful region. All of
these metaphors are biblical and each says the same thing in a
different way. We may even see in these three metaphors of the church
– kingdom/family, temple/house and body – a reflection of the nature
of God himself. God is building a Temple of the Spirit in which the
Family of the Father worship him in the corporate Body of the Son.
“But” you protest, “why do you say that God is
doing this today? Has he not already done it? Surely
the church is already the Body of the Son, Temple of the Holy
Spirit and Kingdom of the Father! The Bible states quite plainly that
we are already the children of God, heirs with Christ, part of
the body of Christ in this age, and so on (1Jn. 3: 1-2, Gal. 4:7,
1Cor. 12: 13-31). Why do you say that God is doing this today
as if it is an unfinished work?”
In a real sense you would be quite correct. This
has been accomplished, just as our sanctification and election to
eternal life have also been accomplished. St. Paul, form instance,
felt no reticence about addressing his letters to saints at
Corinth (1 Cor. 1:2) and so forth as he saw these Christians as having
already inherited the full blessing of God; as already being in
possession of sanctification and eternal life. But this realization
did not stop him from immediately chastising them for their sins. He
did not pull any punches concerning the gravity of their sinful
actions and he let them know in uncompromising terms how far they had
strayed from the commands of Christ. Yet, he continued to refer to
them as “saints”; because that is exactly what they were! They were
saints because of what Christ had done on their behalf and they had
been spiritually sealed by God in the assurance that they would
eventually be purified and transformed into the very likeness of
Jesus, even though their present spiritual state was in practice
something a lot less sublime.
So it is with the church as a whole and with each
manifestation of this church in the local congregation. Because of
what Christ has done, the church is already the Body of Christ, the
Temple of the Holy Spirit and the Family of the Father. It is, indeed,
the elect Kingdom of God. Moreover, each congregation, each group of
Christians gathered together for worship, is a local manifestation of
all these aspects of the church. This is how it is seen by God through
the finished work of Jesus Christ.
But, alas, just as the saints to whom Paul wrote
were seldom very “saintly” in the more colloquial meaning of the word,
so the actual church, and its local congregations, has not been famous
for displaying spiritual unity. This is not to say that they church
does not already possess this unity. God has given the church
all the spiritual power and unity that according to his infinite
wisdom it can require, just as he has given each Christian the
fullness of his Holy Spirit and sanctification. In his eyes, all this
has been done already through Christ. But having all of these truly
supernatural and divine gifts does not necessarily mean that we as
individuals or the church as a whole will use them. Individually we
fall far short of our full potential as saints of God by allowing self
will and less than divinely inspired courses of action (which the
biblical writers call “sin”) to get in the road. And the church as a
whole has done exactly the same thing. Like us – its individual
members – it has compromised its status as a divine institution and
allowed outside non-spiritual and all-too-human influences to disrupt
its unity of spirit and cause it to fall short of its true potential
as Body, House/Temple and Kingdom/Family. In some respects the church
has been like a person who had received as a gift an elaborate box
but, unaware of its contents, placed it underneath his bed and forgot
that he even owned it. Desperate for money, he tried all manner of
schemes (not all entirely honest) but could never really lift himself
from relative poverty. Little did he know however, that contained
within the box was a collection of precious stones worth literally
millions of dollars. Had he examined his gift more closely and found
that it could actually be opened up, he would have possessed wealth
beyond his wildest dreams … and all as a free gift!
The result is that the church has been, for all
practical purposes, knocked to pieces by sin and the lack of
realization of the great gift that it possesses. To go back to Geoff
Wilson’s metaphor, it is as if the house has been knocked over before
the building had even properly begun and all through history the
bricks have either been lying scattered in the yard or else built
together by human agents into a variety of little outhouses, each
vainly trying to masquerade as the true structure originally intended
by the Master Builder’s plan.
Keeping to that metaphor, God is in these times
breaking down the smaller buildings, mixing the bricks together,
cleaning them up and laying them anew in the building of his original
plan, each in its own proper place.
Geoff Wilson was not speaking of the Ecumenical
Movement. He was not speaking of man’s attempts at bringing
about structural denominational unity. Nor was he predicting the
merging of all Christians into a single super-denomination, nor an
ending of denominational structure altogether. His frame of reference
was the spiritual awakening that took place in many churches in the
early 1970s and the fact that the same spiritual experiences and the
same ideas appeared to be springing up “spontaneously” all over the
place and in a variety of denominations. This movement played a large
part in the rise of lay involvement and the widespread charismatic
influence which has entered so much into mainstream Christianity
today, but which was then looked upon with much skepticism by many
church people. But the structure of God’s house was being put together
and piece by piece the building continues to take shape according to
the Master Builder’s divine plan.
Since the 1960s and 1970s, an important feature of
the church at large has been the growing involvement of the laity. We
are finally waking up to the fact that a church congregation should
never be seen as a passenger liner with one captain up front and the
rest of the people simply being carried along for the ride. The ideal
church is more like a racing canoe, where everyone rows to his or her
uttermost. In other words, the church should not have a “minister” out
on his own directing the service while the rest of the congregation
listens passively in the pews. This structure, which unfortunately
became traditional long ago, makes a mockery of the New Testament
concept of the church as the Body of Christ. If there is one
overriding feature of a body (a living body at any rate!), it is the
active interrelation of all of its members. A body is an organism; its
members fit together and function together as constituent parts of a
Changing the imagery to that of a household or of a
team, St. Paul stresses this same fact again when he speaks of the
distribution of spiritual gifts amongst the members of the church.
Gifts are given to each member, he states, and it naturally follows
that if one has been granted a gift, one is supposed to use that gift,
i.e., one has a responsibility to exercise a ministry, in the
exercise of which, the gift is to be used. Each member of the
church is a “minister”, not just those who have been ordained to their
special position, and each member of the church should be actively
exercising his or her particular ministry for the good of all.
When each member of the church is exercising his or
her ministry, then the members of the team will have been placed in
their proper positions and each of the living bricks will have been
laid in its rightful place in the House of God. The church, in other
words, will then be functioning as God intended it to function. But of
course, for each church member to be placed in his or her correct
place, that person must first become convinced of the truth of the
statement that God has a specific ministry for his or her life and,
secondly, he or she must become sufficiently sensitive to God’s will
as to allow him to guide the person to that ministry. In this way, the
building up and spiritual unification of the church is seen to be the
other side of the same coin as the spiritual renewal and Christian
growth of each of its members. (It must also be said that those who
exercise organizational authority in the church must also become aware
that they are part of a spiritual racing canoe and not captains of an
It almost seems too simple; too trite!
All we need do is,
accept that, as a member of God’s church, we
each have a specific role (a ministry) and that God has equipped
us with special gifts for this purpose – both “natural” gifts or
“talents” (as we may call them) and specifically spiritual gifts
given when we became Christians (these are the ways in which the
Holy Spirit manifests himself through us in our divinely appointed
role in the church) and,
(b) make ourselves more receptive of the
guidance of God as he places us where he wants us to be.
It all sounds so simple. Not easy … but simple. And
as such it tends to be dismissed by an age for which only complicated
answers to questions are acceptable. Yet, if we think about it, can
there really be any other way? If the unity and revitalization of the
church is not to be on God’s terms, then on whose terms can it be and
how can God be expected to bless it?
Unity for its own sake is not necessarily good.
Even revival, though essentially good, may not always attain its
potential best. Unless the true nature of the church is kept in
mind and unless unity and revival are such as to make this true nature
increasingly explicit, all that we are left with is a man-made formula
of political union and psychological gimmicks masquerading as evidence
of renewal. Even if the Ecumenical Movement could bring about a single
denomination into which all the present-day denominations were merged
and even if the Gospel was given such a popular face and embroidered
with all the methods that high pressure psychology could muster, such
that churches were filled to overflowing, the result would almost
certainly not be union and revival but rather a mere imitation thereof
which would leave Christianity in a truly sorry state. We would risk
going back, not to New Testament Christianity, but to the
authoritarian and politics-dominated church of pre-Reformation Europe.
In my opinion, any unity or “program of renewal”
imposed upon the church from the top – from the hierarchy – will be
more likely to end with a pre-Reformation Western church than with one
truly alive and united in the deeper spiritual sense. Unless I am
seriously mistaken, the spiritual renewal which is the true mark of
God’s building of his house will come from the bottom; from small and
mostly lay groups and movements. The movement of the church in this
direction is, as we have said, one of the most encouraging signs of
spiritual renewal in recent decades.
The breaking down of prejudicial barriers between
Christians of differing traditions is allowing a greater mixing and
interchange between the different parts of the church. Small prayer
and/or study groups comprised of Christians of different denominations
or even from different traditions within the same denomination do not
present the difficulties that would have occurred in earlier and more
insular ages and it is in the continuing development of these that the
main thrust of union and revival is, I believe, coming.
Imagine the following situation. In a small town or
suburb there are several Christian denominations, but with a growing
spirit of co-operation between them. Already there is a good deal of
sharing of Christian work in such fields as religious education in
schools and the like. Periodically there is even a combined church
service held on a rotation basis at the different churches.
As an extension of this spirit of co-operation, a
“house group” was formed with an open membership to Christians of any
tradition. The only stipulation was that all members of the group
should have a personal and committed faith in Jesus Christ as their
Lord, Saviour and God. That, of course, implied a certain degree of
theological agreement (for instance, one could hardly accept Jesus in
this sense if he or she rejected Jesus’ divinity) but the stress was
upon basic spiritual relationship with God through Christ rather than
theological agreement per se.
This group met regularly for prayer, meditation,
sharing and study. It came to include Christians of various
denominational traditions as well as those who, though personally
committed to Christ as Lord, had nevertheless not really found a
spiritual home in any denomination. It also included people of
differing traditions from within the same church. For example, the
Anglican Church includes those who do not feel that they have truly
worshipped God unless the “altar” is ablaze with candles and the air
heavy with incense, but it also harbours others who feel that placing
a lighted candle on the “communion Table” – let alone lighting incense
– is almost making a pact with the Devil! Not surprisingly, members of
these factions can be further apart than members of separate
denominations and relationships between them can be less than
demonstratively Christian. Nevertheless, for those members of each
faction who truly accept Christ as Lord and who understand that this
acceptance constitutes the essence of being a Christian, meeting
together in a spirit of simple Christian fellowship – without the
“trappings” acquired by either faction – can be an enriching
experience and may even be the first time that each comes to see the
other as being genuinely Christian.
Of course, such fellowship will not be possible for
those who hold that more than the simple acceptance of Jesus Christ as
one’s personal Lord is required for Christianity, but such people
effectively separate themselves from the wider fellowship of the
church by retaining what might be called a Christ-plus Christianity;
“Christ plus membership of the catholic tradition” or “Christ plus
fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible” or “Christ plus speaking
in tongues” and so forth. One may indeed enter into fellowship with
other Christians of different traditions even if he/she believes that
these other Christians are in error at some points. We may be
surprised to find that these “other Christians” are not so different
after all! But if we were to reject adherents of other Christian
traditions, even if they still accept Jesus as Lord, then fellowship
is not possible. Thankfully, this attitude is declining, but enough
continues to exist to erect barriers between genuine believers. In
truth, an attitude that places something other than, or in addition
to, Christ at the centre of Christianity is essentially idolatry. This
question of subtle idolatry and the false gods which split the church
will be looked at in some detail as we turn to the third chapter.
IDOLS OF OUR LIVES
We know also that the Son of God has come and has
given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we
are in him who is true – even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true
God and eternal life. Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 Jn.
What did John mean when he wrote this passage?
Was he really concerned lest the Christians to whom
he was writing turned from worshipping Christ to the worship of Zeus
or Diana or falling prostrate before a statue of the Roman Emperor?
I think not. I think that the Elder had something
far more subtle in mind when he sent this warning to those early
Christians; something which is every bit as relevant to us today.
A “god” or an “idol” need not be a pagan deity or
graven image. Idolatry is not restricted to non-Christian cults. A
“god” is really anything around which a person’s life is molded, the
pivot about which a life turns. Think of a royal control room at the
very centre of our being. From the throne at the centre of this room,
all aspects of our lives are controlled and around this throne, all
the scattered features of our lives unite in paying homage to whomever
or whatever occupies it. But who or what really sits on the
throne of our lives? Who or what truly commands the whole of our
The answers will vary from person to person, and
even those answers will very often be in terms of what that person
would like to believe occupies the throne, rather than truthful
recognition of its actual occupant!
Try this quick test to identify the occupant of the
throne of your own life at this moment. Simply answer these questions
as honestly as possible without too much reflection as to what the
answers “should” be.
During your idle moments, to what does you mind
most often tend to revert?
Discounting necessary expenditure, on what are you
most happy and most likely to spend your money? What do you value most
in these practical monetary terms?
About what do you most enjoy reading and
In conformity to what do you most desire your life
and attitudes to be molded?
What is the overriding ambition in life? In the
attainment of what would you deem your life to be successful?
What is it that you would prefer to see promoted
above all else?
What do you most ardently wish to defend when it is
attacked, derided or misunderstood by others? The scorn and derision
of what topic makes you most annoyed?
If a pattern of similar answers emerges here, the
subject most indicated will be the one on the throne of your life.
This subject – this person or thing – will be your personal god; the
idol that you, by your desires and actions, are worshipping!
It was these false gods that John warned his
readers to avoid. Anything, in short, that commandeers the throne at
the centre of ones’ being which Jesus Christ alone should occupy.
Christ will not share his throne with another god. If something else
moves in, Christ by necessity moves out!
What are some of these false gods that fight for
the throne of Christ?
Truly, they are legion. Just to name a few; money,
prestige, sex, a “good job”, a respected place in society, ones’
business, ones’ lodge, political party, trade union, employer
organization, service club, sporting club, garden, pets, home, church,
interpretation of the Bible, theological doctrine … In other words,
These are not necessarily evil of course. On the
contrary, many of our “false gods” are in themselves both good
and necessary to a well balanced life. But they become evil when they
are allowed to stray out of their proper sphere and assume a
dominating influence in our lives. When they usurp the rule of Christ,
instead of being subject to him, they overstep their authority and war
against the rule of God just as surely as the rebel angels. In the
blunt language of the Old Testament, they have seduced us into
committing spiritual adultery with another god.
This is, I believe, what John had in mind when he
warned those to whom he was writing about the danger of idols. The sin
of pushing Jesus out of the pivotal place in our lives is not
something to be taken lightly. Not only does it damage our own
spiritual life and seriously stunt our spiritual growth, but it lies
at the root of much division in both church and society and seriously
weakens the mission and witness of the church.
If we are to be serious about our Christian walk,
we must engage in constant vigilance against these “false gods” who
are forever trying to assail the Throne Room. Without falling victim
to morbid introspection, we must nevertheless take frequent
inventories of our spiritual lives, lest a new “god” seduces us from
pure allegiance to Jesus. Most of us will experience many attempted
inner coups as one “false god” after another tries to wrest the throne
from Jesus. We must be prepared to be ever ready to knock these
presumptuous upstarts off the throne and return them to their rightful
place in our lives. Most need not be cast out completely; just placed
back in their correct position under the feet of Jesus.
Probably the most dangerous “gods” are those whose
correct place actually lies very close to the feet of Jesus. I am
thinking specifically of those subjects concerned with church and
belief. These are dangerous because we may easily become so involved
with them that we fail to see that we have let go of Christ himself.
We may become so caught up in doing God’s work or defending God’s
truth that these actually come to replace Jesus as our motivation for
action. We may even come to feel self righteous through our defense of
the “gospel truth” against those who we see as perverting it that we
start to see our own interpretation as being the essence of
Christianity itself. I am not denying the necessity of defending the
gospel against heretical doctrines, but I am cautioning that we make
sure that the beliefs attacked are really heretical and not simply
Christian views which place a difference emphasis on scriptural truths
that we personally do not.
We said earlier that the presence of “false gods”
weakens the church. But what would the church be like if they could
all be permanently driven out?
In such a church, Jesus would truly be worshipped
as Lord of all. Each member of the church would have his/hr life
centred on Jesus. All aspects of life would have the imprint of the
Holy Spirit, because all would be under his direction. Like the
Blessed in Dante’s vision of Paradise, the wills of all would be made
one through union with the Will Divine. In the ideal church, the will
of God would refract in perfect harmony through the many prisms of
individual wills totally united with his own. The will of each is the
will of all and the will of all is the will of God. Yet no-one is a
puppet, such is the total harmony of human natures transformed
spiritually into the likeness of the human nature of Jesus. As God
wills that everyone totally submits to Jesus, their wills become one
with the will of God.
In such a church, conflict can have no place.
Alas, the actual church is quite different!
We have been blessed with the Holy Spirit.
We have been enabled to submit to Jesus and to come into
perfect harmony with the will of God.
So what is wrong?!
The following may sound simplistic, but then again,
it is often the simple answers that fall nearest to the mark.
The church is split and weak because it has not
come into full submission to the will of God. The allegiance of each
believer, and the company of all believers in general, is split
between Jesus and “other gods” – idols, in John’s blunt terminology.
Once the high vision of the church in spiritual
unity is lost, “natural instincts” take over and “other gods” are
placed upon the throne that ought to be reserved for Christ alone.
Factions tend to form, centred on people whose real desire is other
than furthering the Kingdom of God (even though they may not even
recognize this themselves!). “These are the men who divide you, who
follow mere natural instinct and do not have the Spirit” (Jude 1:19).
These divisions may not be specifically doctrinal
or “religious”. Imagine a congregation in which two elders fall out
with each other over party politics. One is (say) very far left and
the other is conservative. They may even come to the point of denying
that someone with the opponent’s political orientation can even be a
true Christian. We can easily see how this could induce division
within a congregation. Church members cold begin to take sides and,
unless this problem was nipped very early in the bud by a wise pastor,
a serious problem could develop.
We can also imagine a similar situation arising
from the influx of Christians of mixed nationalities and/or economic
circumstances coming into a traditional middle-class and very
conservative church. We could imagine similar problems arising in an
elderly congregation following a successful youth outreach mission. Of
course, anyone truly centred of Jesus and totally committed to
extending his Kingdom would be thrilled by either scenario, but if
one’s own ethnicity or conservatism had already removed Jesus from the
throne, the reaction might be less charitable.
Moreover, we not infrequently are faced with the
spectacle of Christians from two different traditions treating one
another as enemies, and hurling accusations of having corrupted the
Gospel across the denominational lines. There can be little that turns
away the non-believer faster than this. Of course doctrine is
important, but it is not God. Only God is God, and he will tolerate no
How distressing to God must be the spectacle of
religious wars! Yet, the spirit of religious wars lurks in the heart
of the bigot, even if violence is never contemplated. He who is angry
with his brother commits murder in his heart, said Jesus … so surely
the one who is estranged from another Christian over a point of
doctrine or form of worship is guilty of religious warfare “in the
We begin to travel down this road the moment we
start thinking of ourselves as Baptists, Pentecostals and the like,
rather than as Christians. It is not even as though we are
Christians first and Baptists (say) second, as this designation adds
something to our Christianity. That too would be an idol. Rather,
being Baptist is just one of many ways of being Christian. Certainly,
there will be differences between denominations. But no one
denomination has a monopoly on truth … or on error. And the one thing
that all genuinely Christian denominations share in common is the
spiritual unity of the Body of Christ; the most important common
denominator of all!
Every time something other than Christ assumes the
role of a god in the life of an individual Christian, of a
congregation, of a denomination or of the Church Universal itself,
dissention and hurt result. And dissention conceives and brings forth
factionalism and factionalism, when it is fully grown, gives birth to
If only we Christians would just keep in the
forefront of our minds the immense value of the gift that we have
received from God. We have been made sons and daughters of the Father,
brothers and sisters of Christ, heirs of eternal life, partakers of
the very life of God himself and in the unity of love which unites the
three persons of the Holy Trinity. In the face of this, how trivial
are our petty little divisions! And how disgustingly small these roots
of division frequently are. How obscene they must appear to God!
If we are honest, we must admit that we all have
our own private collection of petty little idols waiting to usurp the
throne of Jesus in our lives. Only a firm concept of what it really
means to be Christian and consistent and frequently examination of our
spiritual lives can adequately counter the danger which they pose.
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols”.
In the previous chapter we said a few words about
what the ideal church would be like and how far below this standard
the actual church falls. We saw that the ideal church can only become
actual if Christ is retained on the throne of the life of each
Christian, of each congregation and of the church as a whole. Once
something else, be it “religious” or “secular”, is placed above Christ
or on an equal footing with him, the will of the individual – person
or church – ceases to be in union with the will of God and disharmony
begins to arise between the person, or the church, and God and between
person and person, congregation and congregation, faction and faction,
group and group. Factions are effectively the temples of idols as
their members are united in the worship of something that has usurped
the throne of Christ and split his true church (1Cor. 1: 10-17).
But something else may be said about the ideal
church. Because God’s primary will is for no-one to be lost, the ideal
church would embrace everybody within its fellowship. There
would be no division of church and society, because both would be the
same. Everybody would be Christian and the church would simply be
“society at worship” or, conversely, society would be the church in
action. Not even the barriers between church and world, sacred and
secular, would remain.
The Christian’s vision of the ideal society must of
necessity follow from his or her vision of the ideal church. St.
John’s vision of the redeemed in the New World symbolically expresses
the main features of a Christian ideal society. John’s vision, true
enough, was of the absolute perfection of Heaven, but if a Christian
could dream of an ideal society on earth, the main features of St.
John’s vision would be included in at least a modified form.
As I understand it, the essential features are,
the obvious presence of God. In John’s vision,
God’s glory was everywhere, transforming all aspects of living.
Nothing was done out of sight of God and no action was performed
that was not in accord with his will. All life was to the praise
and glory of God, implying,
absence of a temple or specified place
of worship. Everywhere was the place of worship and every
activity was worship. Gone was all division of “sacred” and
“secular” because all had become “sacred” by being wholeheartedly
dedicated to God in a totally spontaneous manner – a natural, and
yet a supernatural, response from the centre of the transformed
nature of the risen saints.
Any terrestrial reflection of this celestial glory
must exhibit these features in some degree. If the presence of God is
not as “objective” and “cosmic” as in the celestial perfection, at
least his presence will be k own inwardly by the members of the
hypothetical ideal terrestrial society and would be outwardly
displayed in the lives of its people.
Specific places of worship may indeed remain, but
the meetings held therein would no longer be seen as being
fundamentally apart from the rest of life. Meeting for worship would
be how society as a body would meet God, dedicate itself anew to his
service and receive spiritual direction and blessing.
Such a society has never existed on earth. Had
mankind never fallen, we may imagine that human society would have
been somewhat like this. But mankind has fallen. The unfallen
spiritual state does not exist. But redeemed mankind does exist; a
section of fallen mankind that is being lifted toward perfected
mankind. The only unfallen man is Jesus Christ, but those who have
committed their lives to him and who, by and through this living
commitment, have received his Spirit, are already seen by God the
Father as if they are unfallen. It is they who are reserved for the
celestial glory that would have been the destiny of unfallen mankind.
Therefore, even though the ideal human society is
not for this age, mankind is being redeemed and to the extent that
this “redemption presence” is present in society, some features of the
ideal society will shine through.
Those members of mankind who have been redeemed
through Christ can and, I believe, should play a real part in
influencing society to travel just a little closer to the ideal, even
if the full ideal could not come unless most of humankind became
followers of Jesus. It is for this reason that I do not believe that
political power exercised by “Christian” political parties is in
accordance with God’s will. That, after all, was one of Satan’s
temptations of Jesus (Matt. 4:8-10). Let us not, as confessed
followers of Jesus, succumb to the temptation which our Master
Indeed, although a “Christian” political party can
uphold a basic Christian morality, and legislate for the same once in
power, it cannot legislate for the one thing essential for
transforming human society into the ideal; it cannot legislate for the
awareness of God.
What society is crying out for (although it does
not know it) is exactly the same as the church is crying out for and
for which each and every Christian should be striving … for a great
awakening of the spiritual depth and unity which God gives us in
Christ. What is desperately needed is a mighty revival; not a
preaching campaign, but a mystical revelation of the glory of God
breaking out throughout the population, necessarily accompanied by a
revelation of how spiritually filthy we are – and the church is, and
society is – in the glorious Light of God.
This is what happened in Wales in 1904. From a few
small but persistent prayer meetings there broke forth upon the
population at large what can best be described as a wave of divine
illumination. It was as if God tore open the veil of Heaven and
allowed himself to be seen by the people; not with their physical eyes
of course, but with the inner spiritual sense which most of us try to
deny even exists. Virtually overnight, chapels were filled and bars
emptied. Magistrates had no cases to try in the courts. Pit ponies in
the coal mines that had previously only responded to swear words
needed retraining because the minors had ceased using profanities.
Bible studies and prayer meetings were held in mines, and a tourist
passing through one of the towns influenced by the revival at 3am
commented on how all the houses were lighted even at that hour and
people were even seen on their knees in the streets.
The society in that part of Wales changed overnight
to a degree that no human revolution could imitate.
Similar effects accompanied the Methodist revival
and the Great Awakenings in America. The early Salvation Army saw
changing society as part of its mission to evangelize the poor. True
revival cannot do otherwise than impact upon society as a whole!
If society is to be changed into something more
like the ideal, revival rather than reform or revolution is the
The Marxists got it right insofar as they believed
that the inner nature of people must change, but they were wrong in
believing that this change follows the reorganization of society. They
were mislead by the humanistic philosophy which sees mankind as being
basically good and co-operative and which blames a corrupted society
for turning us into selfish creatures capable of any crime. Christians
see this as putting the cart before the horse. Society is corrupt
because we are corrupt … and this innate corruption has a deep
spiritual root which can only be plucked out and destroyed at the
Cross of Jesus. First, let our corrupted nature be crucified with
Jesus that we may spiritually rise with him as truly converted and
spiritually remade people, and then society can change for the better.
Clearly, this involves something far more radical
than a moral revolution or a campaign of “law and order”, or even a
“return to faith”. It involves an inward reorientation of each
individual – a dying to self and living to Christ – such that society
itself undergoes the process of death and resurrection.
The process starts with us. It begins with those
who name Jesus as our Lord surrendering our minds to the mind of
Christ, yielding to the movement of the Holy Spirit and allowing
ourselves to be transformed little by little into the image of our
Lord. As we change, so the church changes and, ultimately, the world
changes … as we become more like Christ, so the church increasingly
reveals her high calling as the Bride of Christ and as more and more
people are attracted into the Bride, so society itself comes to look
more and more like the Kingdom of God. Can any calling be higher than
this? Can any ambition be more magnificent?
A COURSE OF ACTION
We will now look at a practical suggestion; one
suggested way that this high calling might become a reality. This is
in the form of a “spiritual exercise” that can either be followed
alone or with a small group of up to six or so people. It is, however,
strictly for committed Christians who have made a personal commitment
to Jesus as their personal Saviour, Lord and God and who hold the
Bible to be the revealed word of God and that everything necessary for
salvation is contained therein or provable from what is written
therein. It is important to be sure about this, as the belief in
spiritual illumination of truth already revealed in the Bible can
easily slide over into a belief in revelation beyond what the Bible
actually says. We need to be very clear about this from the very start
and remain firm in our resolve to test every illumination and word of
prophecy against the revelation recorded in the pages of the Bible.
We must also be clear that this “exercise” is a
form of quiet time intended to open our spirits to the gracious work
of the Holy Spirit. It is not a form of spiritual relaxation and is
not intended to produce “warm fuzzy glows”. Indeed, it should
constantly present us with challenges and there may be times when we
are made to feel decidedly uneasy. But this is how it should be, for
only through challenge and confrontation (under the guidance of God)
with those aspects of our lives that are still not surrendered to the
Lordship of Jesus, can we expect to grow spiritually.
Although following a set form may be challenged by
some as incompatible with freedom in the Spirit, we nevertheless feel
that it is essential for the initial times of spiritual exercise. We
therefore strongly urge all those participating in these times of
quiet (whether as individuals or as small groups) to follow the format
at least for the first four times i.e. while the meditations listed
below are being used. One of the following four meditations is to be
used each time, in the order in which they are given below, and
included with the form of the exercise which we will soon present.
We therefore urge that, at least initially, the
personal or group time of meditation and reflection follow this form.
We suggest the following prayer, or one very
similar. Please pray it slowly and reflectively.
Loving Heavenly Father, we pray that by your Holy
Spirit, we your people may be moved to take hold of the deep unity
that you have so graciously given us already in your Son Jesus Christ
Mould your church into a living unity transcending
race, class, denomination and all else that divides us and continues
to tear apart the Body of Christ in this age.
We thank you for that immeasurable love through
which, in the Cross of your dear Son, you made possible our unity in
his Body, the church, and we stand in awe as we contemplate both the
joy of the privilege of being part of his Body and the responsibility
of being the arms, legs and mouth of Christ in today’s world.
Forgive us the sin of forgetting this great fact.
Forgive us the blasphemy of so often treading underfoot your mighty
gift as we allow worldly divisions and prejudices to set us against
our fellow Christians, and thereby tear asunder Christ’s body and
frustrate your work of reconciling the world to yourself and its
people to each other in your family. Forgive us for continually going
our own way and following our own plans and desires.
Remove from us all worldliness and pride, from
which strife and division proceed. Lead us always to put your will
before our own plans and desires. Mercifully grant us true repentance
and so lead us to experience that glorious fellowship and profound
unity of spirit, mind and will enjoyed by our brothers and sisters in
Christ long ago in the early days of the first church. In Jesus name
we earnestly pray. Amen.
A Time of Self Examination
Reflect on the past week, asking ourselves whether
there have been times of spiritual growth or of stumbling. What has
assisted our growth? What has been a cause of stumbling? Have we been
faithful witnesses to Christ? Commit this to the Lord.
A Time of Meditation
Pray the Lord’s Prayer slowly and reflectively,
taking time to pray it, while pondering each line. Pray it with the
heart and not simply with the head.
Move then to silent meditation on a short passage
of the Bible. Please follow the meditations listed below (one for each
session) for the first four sessions. It is also advisable to
periodically keep returning to them, as they are very important.
Simply dwell upon the passage in complete silence,
placing all in God’s hands. Ask him to deepen your understanding of
the passage and to engraft it into you spirit. Don’t try to analyse
the passage intellectually, but simply allow God to speak through it;
to make it “live” in the silence of your mind. Waiting in silence, you
may receive an illumination from God or hear the “still small voice”
speaking to you.
Try to remain in meditation for at least ten
minutes, longer if possible. You may wish to remain in meditation for
half an hour or more.
A Time of Reflection, Application and, if in a
Reflect on what you have experienced in the time of
meditation. Have you been granted some insight that you can put into
practice at your church, family, place of work etc.?
In a group, this will be a time of mutual sharing
and maybe of shared plans for the practical application of
A suitable closing prayer, for a group, may be,
We thank you Lord Jesus for our time of fellowship
this day and we ask that you will remain with us as we pursue our
separate lives, that we be ever mindful of remaining in you and you in
us and that through our mutual union with you in the Holy Spirit, we
remain together one Family of the Father, one Body of the Son, one
Temple of the Holy Spirit; one Church of the Blessed Trinity, God
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of
God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore.
Amen. (2 Cor. 13:14).
THE FOUR BASIC MEDITATIONS
"Our God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:29).
This meditation holds before us the awe and
holiness of God.
Holy fear has somewhat fallen out of fashion these
days, and Christians are all the poorer for that. Certainly, we have
the immense privilege of being able to approach God through Christ,
but we must remember that this privilege is one that has been won for
us by the blood of Jesus and that the God whom we approach is a God of
holiness and might.
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the
life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6).
"Jesus is Lord"
The first part of this meditation shows us the way
to the God who is a consuming fire, and the Way is Jesus. In Jesus,
the Fire wears a human body. Through Jesus and only through Jesus can
we approach the Unapproachable and through Jesus alone, Almighty God
comes down to us, not in fire and wrath, but in the Person of a divine
Human Being inviting us to come into a personal loving relationship
Jesus is the Way ... the way through whom each
individual human being can reach up to God and through whom God
reaches down to each of us.
He is the truth ... the truth about what God is and
what man ought to be and can be through the transforming power of the
And He is the life ... the Life of Deity manifested
in human form so that human life may be transformed and partake of the
Divine Nature in and through Him.
The second part of this meditation is, or ought to
be, our response to this revelation of Jesus. It focuses upon the
central core of Christian spirituality. It is the absolutely essential
step that we all must take to become a true Christian.
But what does it mean - really mean - to accept
Jesus as Lord?
It means that we accept him as the central
authority of our lives. We make a definite commitment to live the kind
of life which he desires of us and we both accept this and welcome the
indwelling power of his Spirit who enables us to live in this way.
Acceptance of Jesus as Lord also implies belief in
his divine and human natures; that he is truly God and truly Man. If
he is Lord, he is also Saviour, but only as both Man and God can he be
Saviour. As Man he lifts humanity up to God and as God he brings
divinity down to Man.
We likewise note that Paul also says that no one
can call Jesus "Lord" except he or she be moved by the Holy Spirit
(1Cor, 12:3). Of course, this does not mean that no one can simply say
"Jesus is Lord" without inspiration (a parrot could be taught to do
this!) but, rather, no one can assert this with conviction. Asserting
and truly believing that Jesus is Lord (which really means being a
Christian) is not something that one can do "naturally". It is a
divine miracle - dependent entirely upon the grace of God!
Once we accept him as Saviour and worship him as
our God, his image becomes - as it were - stamped on a sensitized
heart. Something inexpressible begins to happen in our lives; our
existence has a new "feel" about it which (though very real) is not
easy to pin down with words. A new hunger begins to appear; a new
desire to really surrender more and more to Jesus and, paradoxically,
the more we rise to this desire, the stronger it becomes. If this
inner change truly appears and grows, we can say that we have truly
accepted Jesus as Lord and our Christian life has begun.
As we meditate on the Lordship of Christ, keeping
these thoughts in mind, we allow ourselves to experience an attitude
of total and complete helplessness in the hands of Almighty God. We
allow ourselves to feel the weight of our sin and how we are as filthy
rags before the absolute purity of God. And yet, as we surrender to
Him through our acceptance of the Lordship of Christ, He washes our
sins away and looks upon us as pure with Christ's own purity!
We see Jesus as our life, our everything. We depend
totally upon God to bring us to the point of acceptance of him. We
abandon ourselves completely to God and to the moving of the Holy
"you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is
a part of it." (1 Corinthians 12:27).
As the previous meditation concentrated upon the
individual's relationship with God through Christ, so this
concentrates upon the life of the believer as a part of the corporate
Body of Christ. All who are members of the church are "organs" in the
Body by and through which Christ has chosen to be active in the world
In our meditation, we remember that the one divine
life - the Holy Spirit - inspires and guides each member of the Body
and that, through each being united with the Holy Spirit, we are also
united with one another.
We remember that as we yield our personal and self-centred
lives and wills to Jesus - as we increasingly allow him to be the one
true Lord of our lives - we yield our personal life to the life of the
Body. We yield to Jesus as Lord and Head of the church as well as to
Jesus the Lord of our individual lives.
We seek this deepest life within us - a life
manifested through all desires to surrender to Christ and to follow
him. We dwell upon these spiritual desires and let all other desires
fall away from us. We allow ourselves to be drawn increasingly into
the life of the group and, through the group, into the life of the
Body of Christ. As each of us allows himself/herself to be drawn into
a deepening experience of the Body and increasingly live for the Body
through his/her role within it, so the Body itself increasingly
functions as the Body of Christ. It comes under increasing control of
the Head as each of its members more fully yields to the Divine Mind
within the Body ... the Holy Spirit.
This deeper inner commitment will show itself in
practical terms as increasing involvement, increasing interest and
increasing desire for involvement in church life and witness. It will
also manifest as a growing love for other Christians ... including
those of different persuasions, temperament or background.
"[you] ... have put on the new self, which is being
renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. here there is no
Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave
or free, but Christ is all, and is in all (Colossians 3: 10-11).
"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ
Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed
yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor
free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
In this meditation, we are shown three classes of
division between people and we are assured that they are overcome
amongst Christians through mutual unity within the Body.
The first division is social. Paul exemplifies this
by "slave and free", but today we could also add "employer and
employee", "politically conservative and politically liberal",
"professional person and manual labourer" and so forth. Think about
this. The differences that cause so much division both within society
at large and, all too frequently, at a personal level, melt away as we
become increasingly aware of the "Body unity". In other words, as we
experience fellowship at this deep level, we increasingly see one
another as Christians first and primarily. The tags which society may
place upon us become decreasingly important.
The second division might be called divinely
instituted if we bear in mind that it was actually the sin of humanity
that made it necessary in the first place. It is the division of Jew
(the chosen of God) and gentile or heathen (Paul exemplifies this as
"Greek"). What Paul is saying is that both Jew and gentile must leave
behind their former position ... the gentile "comes in from the cold",
from beyond the people of God, and is brought into union within the
Body, but the Jew also must renounce any thought that he is right with
God simply by virtue of birth within the Jewish nation. Both groups
are now united in being equally in need of Christ and individuals from
each group can find fellowship together if they turn away from their
past condition and become united in the Body.
Thirdly, membership of the Body transcends natural
divisions, eg sexual (male and female) and racial (Greek, barbarian,
Scythian). Such natural differences include Asian and Caucasian, black
and white and all of the many innate differences between people and
groups of people that can so often be exaggerated into matters of real
significance. But these differences too melt away into the unity that
exists between true Christians.
We meditate on this fact and allow the true
enormity of it to become realized in our minds.
With this meditation we touch the very heart of the
unity that alone is adequate to bring Christians of different
theological and denominational differences into true unity of spirit.
We meditate on this fact.
But the impact of these passages goes beyond church
unity in the usual sense. We imagine the world as it would be if all
its people fulfilled the potential for which they were created and
truly became parts of the Body. Imagine the ideal; all divisions
transcended by the unity of Spirit knitting all parts of the Body
together as all people reflected in their lives the Glory of God. We
meditate on this and pray that God will inspire more and more people
with this magnificent vision.
These four meditations focus attention upon the
four important themes; the majesty of God, the Lordship of Jesus
Christ and the implications of membership in his corporate Body, the
church. It is suggested that these meditations be repeated frequently
in order to keep focus.
The Bible is a deep well of passages for
meditation. As we read the Bible, passages will frequently impress
themselves upon us as subjects for meditation. The following are just
a few suggestions.
Meditations on the Nature of God
God is light (1 Jn 1:5)
God is love (1 Jn 4:8 also 1 Jn 4:16)
God is spirit (Jn 4:24)
God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29).
These are the four positive statements about the
nature of God in the New Testament. In them, a little of the Divine
nature is revealed to us.
Light. We think of purity, splendor and, in the
spiritual sense, the total lack of evil. The light also illuminates
others. It purifies, but it also judges in so far as it illuminates
aspects of our character that we would rather remain hidden.
Love. “How much an I loved?” I asked. “This much”
answered Jesus, as he spread out his arms on the Cross!
God is love. His deep nature is love. His whole
being is love. It is in their mutual love that the three Persons of
the Holy Trinity unite into one God. In loving, God is therefore
fulfilling his very nature. He loves us, but do we respond? He goes on
loving us, even while we grieve him by our coldness and sin. When will
we be so loving with those who turn away from us?
But if we are truly regenerate in Christ, if God’s
Spirit is indeed within us, then love must be our deepest nature as
well. The same love which is expressed through the Persons of the Holy
Trinity is placed within our hearts! Through the Holy Spirit, we are
grounded in God’s own nature … in perfect love!
Spirit. God is not bounded by the confines of the
material world. He is not confined to space and time, but is of an
altogether different and more wonderful nature. Nothing causes him to
exist and nothing can destroy him. He is the only totally
self-sufficient being. Spirit is living. Spirit is loving. Spirit is
intelligence. God is a living God, an active God, a God of
intelligence far beyond anything conceivable by the feeble mind of
man. God is a loving God. God knows every atom of this infinite
universe, knows everything that has ever, is and shall ever happen …
and he knows it all in a timeless instant! Nothing can contain him.
Nothing can comprehend him. Nothing can know more of him than it is
his pleasure to reveal. Our response is not understanding, but
overwhelming awe in the eternal presence of such a God.
Fire. God is a God of awe. God is a God of wrath.
How can there be wrath in a God who is love? Wrath and love are not so
far apart. As love burns fiercely, so must wrath against all that
damages or corrupts the beloved. The awe of God, the love of God, the
wrath of God overwhelms us. All we can do is bow in reverence and
adoring contemplation before the Awesome presence. Think of the power
of the atom. Or of the Sun. Even though the Sun is very far away, we
can still not look at it for more than an instant without our eyes
being damaged. Its rays burn the skin of fair-skinned folk and may
even cause death if they are exposed for too long. Yet the atom and
the Sun are but creatures of God. How much more awesome and wonderful
must the Creator be and how much less can we take liberties with him?
He may be our loving father, but he remains the Creator of the mighty
stars with their furnaces of thermonuclear fire. He reigns amid light
impenetrable … only through Jesus may we look upon him without being
burnt away by the Consuming Fire!
Meditations on the Nature of
Creation and the Ultimate Intention of God
In the beginning God created the heavens and
the earth (Gen. 1:1)
The creation waits in eager expectation for the
sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to
frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who
subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated
from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of
the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been
groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present
time” (Rom. 8:20 – 22)
For God was pleased to have all his fullness
dwell in him [Jesus], and through him to reconcile to himself all
things, whether things on earth or in heaven, by making peace
through his blood, shed on the cross (Col. 1: 19-20).
The whole creation is God’s. He created it from
nothing by the power of his Word and nothing that al all-good God
creates can be in itself evil. Parts of the creation may have become
corrupted, but it remains essentially good just because it is the
work of God.
Whatever else is brought forth in the creation,
its divine purpose is the revealing of the sons of God, the brothers
and sisters of Christ the incarnate Word; spiritually mature men and
women who share Christ’s own relationship of sonship with God the
Father. Spiritual copies of the incarnate Word, the same Word
through whom the universe was created in the first place. From
within the creation, God brings forth images of the Creator! Images
of the Creator to worship him – creation responding through them in
worship of its creator.
Creation awaits this to happen. For the moment,
sin has spoiled those for whom this great gift has been predestined,
and the creation has shared in this corruption. It has been
corrupted by the actions of fallen mankind and it has also been
denied the positive influence that an unfallen race would have
exercised. If the stewards of God’s property are corrupted, not only
is the property damaged, but the garden of God has not been properly
cared for and it has failed to produce a worthy crop.
As fallen humanity is restored to its predestined
place as the sons of God, the creation itself is purified by the
removal of this stain. We may wonder how this vast universe can be
corrupted by a race confined to one tiny planet. Well, God is so
pure that even one sin in an infinite ocean renders the entire ocean
polluted before him. Perhaps the removal of sin from mankind, and
therefore from creation itself, will be followed by the creation of
other children of God on other worlds. Perhaps the removal of sin
from creation by the redemption of man will release the power of God
within creation in ways that are now hindered by the presence of
that very sin. Perhaps redeemed man will have a role in determining
the fate of the entire universe in a way that we cannot even imagine
now; a divinely guided cosmic engineering that reverses the bondage
to decay of the entire creation. We do not know. All we do know is
that the redemption of mankind somehow has cosmic consequences and
eternal significance. We do not need to believe that the whole
attention of God is focused upon it or upon us however. Many
thoughts must occupy the great mind of God, most of them further
removed from our comprehension than the Theory of Relativity is
removed from the understanding of a microbe. But neither must the
redemption of mankind be considered some secondary concern happening
in a cosmic backwater. This cosmic dimension of mankind’s redemption
and role in creation – and in the renewed creation – must be placed
in its proper perspective before a true concept of man and his
relationship with God and creation can be formed. Once this is
realized, the mission of Jesus will be seen in a broader perspective
as well; as the restoration of those predestined to be sons of God,
not simply as the setting up of a nice religious faith.
As we see Christ and ourselves against this
cosmic canvas, we respond in worship and adoration.
Meditations on the Nature of Jesus
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one
comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you
would know my Father as well (Jn. 14:6-7)
Then Jesus cried out, “When a man believes in
me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me.
When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. I have come into
the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should
stay in darkness (Jn. 12:44-46)
No one who denies the Son has the Father;
whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also (1Jn. 2:23)
If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of
God, God lives in him and he in God (1 Jn. 5:15)
He is the image of the invisible God, the
firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created:
things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether
thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were
created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him
all things hold together (Col. 1:15-17 )
Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this
testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made
him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony
God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has
given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the
Son has life; he who does not have the Son does not have life
No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the
Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3b)
This is how we can recognize the Spirit of God:
Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the
flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge
Jesus is not from God (1 Jn. 4:2-3).
Jesus said “I am the way”. He did not give his
disciples instructions in some religious system or series of spiritual
exercises and tell them “do this, and you will find the way to the
Father if you try hard enough and don’t falter”. No. Spiritual
exercises are not the way to salvation. Jesus is … and Jesus alone
is! Not Jesus plus some other teaching or practice.
Because Jesus is in union with the Father and it is
through Jesus and through Jesus alone that God reaches down to
mankind, it follows that in relating to Jesus, we relate in just the
same manner to the Father; we relate directly to God. To know Jesus
personally is to know God personally.
Through Jesus’ death on the Cross, we have obtained
forgiveness of sin. Those who rely on their own good works
underestimate the seriousness of sin. They reduce sin to something
that they can eradicate from their lives by their own efforts. But sin
is far too serious and deep-seated in our spirits to be dealt with by
our own abilities. God is so totally holy that he can only save a
perfect person, and since none of us comes anywhere near being
perfect, we stand under his condemnation. But – praise God – Jesus was
perfect, and if we yield to him as our Lord, God sees us as sharing in
his perfection. The punishment that we deserve fell on Jesus on the
Cross and his righteousness has been born within us in its place. He
took our sin and gave us his purity!
We take this miracle to ourselves, each of us
personally. Had each of us individually been the only person ever to
have responded, he would still have died. For each of us alone. That
is how much he loves each of us individually!
Dwell upon this thought. Had Jesus not died, I
would be doomed to spend eternity in Hell. That is what Jesus did for
me. How should we feel toward someone who saved our life; and died in
the attempt? Jesus saved my eternal life, and not only died but
bore my punishment! But even more than that, he brought me to a place
where I am being transformed by the Spirit of God and fitted for an
eternal habitation with the Creator of the universe!
The other side of this means that my sins alone
would have been enough to have taken Jesus to the Cross. I
crucified Christ! Each of us stands before God either as
Christ-slayers or as individuals redeemed through his blood. How we
respond to him determines which we are.
We sometimes hear it said “How can someone enjoy
Heaven knowing that a loved one is in Hell?” I don’t know the answer,
but I do know that God loves each of us more deeply than any human
love. Thing how greatly God would have suffered if the whole human
race – beings created in his very image – had gone to Hell. Such would
have happened if Jesus had, by exercising his free will, avoided the
Cross. We can now better appreciate his pain in Gethsemane. Not only
did the eternal fate of the human race rest upon him, but in a sense,
even the eternal fate of God depended upon his actions. The fate of
the creation that groans in travail as it awaits the manifestation of
the sons of God, likewise depended upon his decision. He prayed that
if the “cup” could be taken from him – if there was an alternate plan
– may it be so. But there was no alternative. Think about this … if
there had been an alternative, God would have revealed it then to
Jesus. He could have told Jesus to go back and teach a form of
fasting, or some type of meditation or whatever. But he did not. This
is surely evidence – if any more is needed – that salvation is in
Jesus alone and could become actual only through the Cross.
But the Cross of Calvary was really the culmination
of Jesus’ suffering. All through his earthly life, he carried a kind
of cross. Have you ever been trapped for a time in the company of lewd
and blasphemous people? It is not pleasant, is it? Well, if we, who
are sinners, can experience this embarrassment and lack of ease,
imagine how the pure Son of God must have felt surrounded for thirty
three years by sinners? Yet he loved them all, and for your sake, and
for mine, was wiling to bear this cross also out of love.
Meditate on these matters, praying that God will
cause us to better appreciate the unfathomable sacrifice that Jesus
made for each and every one of us, that we may love him more deeply.
Meditations on the Fruit of the Holy
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and
self-control … Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the
sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the
Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Rom. 5:22 – 25).
Notice that Paul said that the fruit of the Spirit
is … “Is” not “are”! The fruit of the Holy Spirit is singular,
and manifests in a variety of ways, some of which Paul enumerated in
the passage. To have the fruit of the Holy Spirit is to possess the
nature of Jesus. The fruit of the Spirit is the Christ-like
nature. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control are how it is revealed through the
character. These are the characteristics revealed in the nature of
Jesus, and they are the mark of the true Christian. Their sinful
opposites belong to the godless nature which we crucified when we
accepted Christ, that the nature of Jesus may live in and through us.
This is our standard, the measure of our spiritual
O Lord, enable us to be more like Jesus; may the
nature of Jesus be increasingly seen in us. May we continually die to
the old nature and its sinful desires, that we may live more and more
according to the nature of Jesus; the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear children, let us not love with words or
tongue but with actions and in truth (1 Jn. 3:18)
You have been born anew, not of perishable
seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of
God (1 Pet. 1:23)
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the
Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with
ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the
Spirit (2 Cor 3:18) [an alternative translation has “contemplate”
for “reflect” in this passage]
Jesus declared “I tell you the truth, no one
can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again … flesh gives
birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit (Jn. 3:3 &
Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or
uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is
all, and is in al. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and
dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness,
humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and
forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.
Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues, put
on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity (Col.
CONTEMPLATION AND THE AWARENESS OF GOD
After meditation has been practised for a while, it
may grade off into a deeper form of prayer known to spiritual writers
as contemplation. As this phase is approached, you may find that it
becomes increasingly difficult to dwell on the meditations as thoughts
expressed in words. Words and images begin to get in the way of what
you feel you should be doing. What you feel that you should be doing
is simply resting in the attitudes (for want of a better term) that
the meditation has aroused within you; the love of God, surrender to
God, a passion for holiness because you know that this is pleasing to
God and a silent, wordless, adoration of God. This silent adoration,
beyond words and specific thoughts and images, is probably about as
far into contemplative prayer that the majority of us will go in this
life, but it is enough to be really and truly touched by God and
experience a beautiful something that many busy and cerebral
Christians miss to their detriment.
In what ever degree contemplation is experienced
however, it comes to us as a gift from God, not as something that we
can reach by our own efforts. It is a spiritual gift, and has always
been recognized as such by the church. In this it differs from
meditation. Meditation is something that we do; contemplation is
something that God does.
It helps, I think, to understand the difference
between meditation and contemplation by considering the analogy of a
person crossing a body of water by boat. He begins the journey with
much physical effort, rowing out through the calm waters close to
shore. However, once he has rowed out a certain distance into the
lake, out beyond the sheltering headlands, he begins to pick up a
slight tail wind and hoists his sails, still rowing. He continues to
row, but no longer as hard as the wind in his sails is now assisting
his labour. Finally, far out on the surface of the lake, his boat
experiences the full force of a strong breeze, so strong that he can
cease from his rowing altogether as his boat is simply and swiftly
propelled along by the wind, faster and further than even his most
strenuous rowing could carry him.
Meditation is like rowing the boat. Certainly, it
is an activity within the grace of God, but it is something into which
a good deal of mental and spiritual effort must be placed. But the
more we meditate within the will of God, the more shall the boat of
our souls be carried by the wind of the Holy Spirit as he begins
filling our sails and our praying becomes more contemplative. Like the
wind, contemplation is something God-given, over which we have no
control. All we can do is raise our sails in surrender to the Wind of
God, while steering the boat with the compass of his Word.
In contemplation, God may be said to impress upon
our hearts an intuition or appreciation of his nature – Who he is and
What he is. This (for want of better terms) “intuition”, this vague
“perception” of God through a glass darkly, how ever dim it may be, is
nevertheless sufficient to set the heart ablaze; to throw into stark
contrast the sinfulness of our nature and the holy, pure and utterly
transcendent being of Almighty God. We may already know in the head –
with the rational mind – that God is almighty, ure and holy; a
consuming fire. But until God touches our hearts with these truths we
can never know them as they should be known. And it is only when the
are known in this heart-felt way instead of as dry theological
propositions, that God himself is perceived as being sufficiently real
to us for our worship to be truly acceptable to him.
This “heart knowing”, this “perception” or
“intuitive appreciation” of God and his attributes, even though
through a glass darkly, is the essence of contemplation. From the
simple adoring silence that is probably as far as most of us will go,
to the rapturous ecstasy of the mystic saint, it is the work of the
Holy Spirit granting us some level of awareness and appreciation of
the God whom we worship, such that we fall back in silent wonder and
praise beyond all words and “contemplate” (if only for an instant) the
awesome Deity who calls us to himself.
All true worship, all genuine and effective
Christian service, all Christian ethics, must surely begin with some
degree of contemplative “vision” and awareness if it is to be based
upon a sure foundation. How can one who has felt the heat of the
Consuming Fire and has had It ignite a flame within his own heart ever
again turn to the idols that split God’s church and weaken the
instrument of Christ in the world? How can anyone who has been granted
even the vaguest, fleeting and obscure impression of the Infinite
Majesty ever be satisfied with anything less than total dedication to
Christ? How can such a person ever again attach supreme importance to
things of this world; things which divide person from person and end
all too often in conflict at a personal level and in strife, war and
death on a larger scene?
All of these are seen as but mist before the face
of God and once even the dim reflection of the radiance of that Face
has been discerned, how can any of these infinitely lesser things ever
again assume the status of gods?
Why then, do so many worldly thorns and briers
choke the Word in the lives of all-too-many churches and individual
church members? Why is so much worship dry and formal, and why do so
many church people worship a god who is little more than a caricature
of the God of the Bible?
There is, I believe, essentially only one answer.
We have lost the desire for the gift of contemplation. We are no
longer willing to come to God through biblical meditation; to enter
through his Word into that quiet inner temple where he may grant us
something of that vision, that appreciation of holiness, that he
granted the prophet Isaiah so long ago. For Isaiah it was a true
vision. He “saw” God high and lifted up on the throne of the Universe
(Is. 6: 1 – 13). So powerful was Isaiah’s “heart appreciation” of
God’s holiness that he cried “Woe to me! … I am ruined! For I am a man
of unclean lips … and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty”
(Is. 6:5). Isaiah would have possessed “head knowledge” of God’s
majesty and hominess, but it was not until he “saw” it for himself
that he truly appreciated the truth of God’s majesty and the
sinfulness of his own nature. It was only then that he responded with
I fear that much church worship is not like
Isaiah’s response in that it does not proceed from a “vision” of God.
It is more like the sacrifice of Cain.
God, it will be recalled (Gen. 4:3 – 5), rejected
Cain’s sacrifice but accepted that of his brother Abel.
What was right with Abel’s sacrifice that was not
right with Cain’s?
Some biblical commentators find the difference in
the nature of the sacrifices themselves. Abel’s was a blood sacrifice
whereas Cain’s was not. This, they argue, showed that Abel was more
aware of sin than Cain was and this led him to realize that only in
the shedding of sacrificial blood was there remission of sins.
This, I feel, reads too much back into the story.
Abel raised animals whereas Cain tilled the soil, so it would have
seemed appropriate for him to offer an animal sacrifice without any
thought of “sacrificial blood’ per se. Similarly, it would have seemed
appropriate for Cain to have offered a portion of his crop to God.
The real difference, I believe, lies in the fact
that Abel offered “fat portions from some of the firstborn of his
flock” (Gen. 4:4) whereas Cain was satisfied to offer to God “some of
the fruits of the soil” (Gen. 4:3) … what was left over, so to speak.
It was Abel’s “appreciation” of the nature of God, not primarily
any consciousness of his own sin (although, like Isaiah, this
awareness would have been an inevitable consequence), and his serious
response with his sacrifice of part of the best of his possessions,
that made his worship acceptable to God. For Cain, on the other hand,
sacrifice and worship were simply duties that had to be performed.
Whereas Abel was truly godly, Cain was merely religious. The actions
of Abel, like those of Isaiah, were serious responses to a
contemplative appreciation of the nature of God. Cain responded only
to what was expected of him; to “tradition”.
It is often said that “God has no grandchildren” –
each generation must experience God itself and not rely merely upon
religious tradition handed down from ones’ forebears. Abel was a child
of God. In responding to traditional expectations rather than to true
experience, Cain tried to be a grandchild of God … and ended up being
a child of the devil! (1 Jn. 3:12).
Is our worship and our Christian service truly
grounded in contemplative appreciation of the holiness, awe, majesty
and magnificence of God? Do we ever sit in silent rapt adoration of
our God and praise him from the depths of our hearts and spirits in
silent outpourings of love? Or is our worship cold and mechanical;
simply a response to traditional expectations?
It is a sobering thought that so much “worship” may
be no more acceptable to God than the sacrifice of Cain!
Worship of God, wrote Dr. A. W. Tozer, is the
primary purpose of man. And worship that is a response of the whole
person – body, intellect, emotion and spirit – to the grace of
contemplation should be a major focus of our churches.
Ceremony and ritual do not constitute worship,
although a certain amount of ritual is clearly approved by Christ as
part of the expression of worship. Had he not approved of any
form of ritual, he would not have instituted Holy Communion!
Listening to a sermon is also a necessary and valid
part of Christian meetings, but let us not fool ourselves into
thinking that a church meeting which is all sermon is an adequate
expression of worship.
On the other hand, mere emotionalism devoid of a
true underlying spirituality is not worship either, how ever warm the
fuzzy glow that it induces may be.
Even the exercise of spiritual gifts does not of
itself guarantee true worship. Although, as Tozer taught, spiritual
gifts are given by God so that a Spirit-filled Christian can
adequately live the Christian life and worship in ways beyond merely
human potential, simple possession of the gifts themselves does not
necessarily mean that one is a Spirit-filled Christian or that
one is certain to use the gifts correctly. Indeed, it seems that one
can exercise the gifts and not even be saved! We must remember that
some of those whom Jesus “never knew” exercised the gifts of healing,
casting out demons and the like, yet were quite mistaken in their
assumption that this was a sign of their salvation.
Were their gifts not authentic?
This is possible, though Jesus did not say this. At
issue was the lack of authenticity of Christian commitment, not of the
spiritual gifts per se. The ability to preach or work miracles are not
in themselves evidences of being in the saved state, if Jesus is not
in the heart!
For someone who has tasted even the most
rudimentary level of contemplative experience however, neither ritual
nor teaching can ever be sufficient in themselves. Moreover, there
will be an experience of a relationship with God through Jesus that is
deeper than human emotion, even though it might at times be expressed
in an emotional way. The only adequate worship for one touched in this
way will be the heart’s outpouring; the first fruit of heart, soul,
mind and strength dedicated to God as surely as Abel’s finest beast.
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