Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Self Life and the Christ Life by A. B. Simpson, Chapter 3

The Self Life and the Christ Life by A. B. Simpson, Chapter 3

Chapter 3 --SAUL, OR SELF LIFE LEADING TO DESTRUCTION

The place of Saul in Old Testament history is significant and, we believe, typical of great spiritual truths. It is conceded that Israel's redemption from Egypt foreshadowed human redemption through the cross of Calvary and the finished work of Christ. It is also beyond question that the triumph of Joshua and the conquest of Canaan pointed forward to the Pentecostal baptism and blessing of the Apostolic church and the deeper rest into which the Holy Ghost brings the individual Christian.

The dark period of declension recorded in the book of Judges and the earlier chapters of Samuel were typical of the dark ages of Christianity, and the Reformation under Samuel was strongly parallel to our Protestant Reformation and the revival of the church of Christ from the bondage of mediaeval darkness and superstition. A little farther on we shall find that the kingdom of David and Solomon was the type of Christ's Millennial throne.

But what was the meaning of the strange parenthesis of Saul's life that came before the kingdom of David and Samuel? Alas! it is the counterfeit kingdom which Satan is seeking to set up on the throne of human selfishness and worldly pride, instead of the true kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of which, alas! we have too many evidences in the compromising and worldly ecclesiasticism of our day, and in the Laodicean picture which the Apocalypse has given of the church that is to be rejected at the coming of the Lord.

But while this is the dispensational meaning of Saul's life, it has a still more solemn personal application for every individual Christian. It is God's fearful object lesson of the power and peril of the self life and the need of its utter crucifixion before we can enter into the true kingdom of spiritual victory and power.

1. We see the spirit of self in the very motive that prompted the kingdom of Saul. Samuel perfectly understood it as a virtual rejection of God as the supreme King of Israel and a real vain-glorious desire to be independent of Divine control and to be like the surrounding nations of the world. "Make us a king," they said, "to judge us like all the nations." No wonder that Samuel was deeply displeased and prayed unto the Lord, but God answered him: "Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them."

Nevertheless, Samuel still protested and solemnly warned them of the burdens and the exactions which their king would claim from them and the trouble they were bringing upon themselves, adding: "Ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day." But it was no use. They had set their heart upon their king and they answered: "We will have a king over us; That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles." This is the spirit of the prodigal, saying, "Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me." It is the desire of independence which is the very root of human sin, and it is the spirit of conformity to the world into which self life always develops. We see it in the spirit of worldly conformity in the church today, and we are conscious of it in our own natural hearts as that broad, self-asserting and dominant ‘I’ which makes man a God unto himself and refuses to surrender his will to Christ, or yield the direction of his life to the will of God and the government of the Holy Ghost.

Therefore, the very first step in the new life must ever be surrender; and the essential condition of the baptism of the Holy Ghost is to yield the very last point to God, and even the things which may in themselves be harmless must be first surrendered if for no other reason than to prove our will is wholly laid down, and that God is all in all.

2. We see the spirit of self in the character of Saul, and the qualifications which made him the choice and the idol of the people. Saul was the very embodiment of the human. He represented all that was most strong, chivalrous, attractive and promising in human nature. He was of splendid physique, a head taller than all the people, a magnificent specimen of physical manhood, and "every inch a king."

He possessed the intellectual, moral and social qualities that constitute a great public leader. He was brave, heroic, enthusiastic and generous, and the early years of his reign are adorned with some stirring examples of heroic deeds. He was all that the human heart would choose. He represented the best possibilities of human nature, and as the people looked at his splendid figure they shouted again and again that patriotic cry which has so often reechoed since, and which has so seldom been fulfilled as a prayer to heaven, "God save the king."

God had to let this man stand before the ages to show that man at his best is only man and that human self-sufficiency must end in failure and desperate sorrow. This is the lesson that God is trying to teach His children still. How few of them have found it out so fully that they can say, "I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing." The sentence of death has passed upon the flesh, and there is but one thing that we can do with it -- to nail it to the cross of Jesus Christ, to reckon it dead, and to keep it forever in His bottomless grave.

3. The spirit of self in Saul was combined with much that was good and attractive, both naturally and spiritually. Naturally, we have seen that he was not only a man of princely bearing, but of many noble and heroic qualities. He had also a most beautiful family, and Jonathan, his son, is the most attractive figure in the long gallery of Bible characters.

When Saul came to Samuel and was first called to the kingdom he seemed to have many elements of sterling virtue and genuine humility. Like a dutiful son, he went to search for his father's asses, and then he went to the prophet Samuel to ask counsel about finding them. When he came to Samuel and was told his extraordinary message and anointed to be king there was no unbecoming self-consciousness about him. He kept his secret with discretion and modesty, and even in telling his uncle about the words of Samuel, he said nothing to him about the greater message concerning the kingdom. When he left the presence of Samuel he did just what he was told, and when he met the company of prophets he joined them and received a real baptism of the Spirit like them, and prophesied among them with genuine religious enthusiasm. And even when they sought for him to bring him out before the people and announce to him their choice as the national ruler, they could not find him, for he was hiding among the stuff and he seemed a very paragon of modesty and unobtrusiveness. And yet this was the very man who let the dark and dreadful shadow of himself blight his own life and ruin his kingdom and his family. Oh, how self-deceptive is the human spirit. Oh, how pride itself will hide away in the very guise of deepest humility! In speaking of his earlier life the prophet Samuel pays a tribute to his earlier humility. "When thou wast little in thine own sight," he says, "wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel?" We cannot doubt that Samuel's language is perfectly sincere, and that he is giving Saul credit for at least a measure of genuine humility. What then was the defect? May it have been this? It is one thing to be little in our own eyes, it is another thing to be out of our own sight altogether. True humility is not thinking meanly of ourselves, it is not thinking of ourselves at all. What we need is not so much self-denial as self-crucifixion and utter self-forgetfulness. The perfect child is just as unconscious in the highest place as in the lowest, and the true spirit of Christ in us recognizes ourselves as no longer ourselves, but so one with the Lord Jesus that we may truly say: "Not I, but Christ liveth in me." "By the grace of God I am what I am."

But what are we to learn from this combination of so many excellencies in one life and its ultimate failure and ruin? Alas, we are to learn that Satan's choicest wile is to mingle the good with the evil and to cover his poison as a sugar-coated pill, because he knows we would never take it in its unmixed and undiluted evil. Satan's choicest agents are those that are attractive and naturally lovely. Esau was a more winning man naturally than Jacob; but Esau was lost and Jacob was chosen. You may be beautiful, you may be wise, you may be cultured, you may be moral, you may be useful, you may be noble and generous, and yet, withal, you may be living for yourself and, at last, like Saul, be self-destroyed. Satan doesn't want your property outright now; he only wants a mortgage on it, and he is content to take a mortgage for a thousand dollars if he cannot get one for a hundred thousand. He can wait for the day of foreclosure. All he wants is to have his hand in it. It is the mixed lives that are doing the mischief.

"Wherefore come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."

4. The first test came to Saul in an hour of severe trial when, beleaguered by his enemies and deserted by almost all his soldiers, he seemed to be facing destruction. Waiting seven days for Samuel to come and begin the battle by the usual sacrificial offering, Saul at last grew discouraged and impatient, and then he presumed to take upon himself the priestly functions which belonged only to Samuel, and to offer up the sacrifice without waiting for the prophet. As he was offering it, Samuel came and instantly pronounced upon Saul the terrible sentence: "Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which He commanded thee: for now would the LORD thy God have established thy kingdom upon Israel forever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee."

Many a life succeeds while all is successful, but in the hour of trial self always shows itself. Saul was a splendid king until the first great trial met him, and then he became discouraged, distrustful, self-asserting and presumptuous, and dared to take in his own hands the things that belonged only to God. He usurped the throne of God Himself and showed his true nature. He was a man of his own heart and not of God's heart, and henceforth God sought Him a man after God's heart who should do God's will and not his own, and thus be a true representative of Israel's true King.

As soon as Saul had shown himself in his real character, God immediately delivered the people out of their peril by two feeble men -- Jonathan and his armorbearer -- that He might show to Saul how little he needed his strength or any human strength or wisdom, and how all-sufficient God was to those who truly trusted Him. Even this victory Saul almost wrecked by his interference and wilfulness, and it became apparent by his own folly that he could not be trusted with God's work, and that his persistent self-will would always hinder the will and the work of God.

Not instantly did the crisis come. God let this spirit of self work out to its full development slowly; but it was evident from this hour that Saul's life must fail, and that Samuel's prophecy was, alas, true.

5. God gave another opportunity and second test. He sent Saul on an important expedition to destroy Amalek, the race of Esau that had tried to hinder Israel in their passage through the wilderness. There is a deep spiritual meaning back of this story; for Amalek was a type of the flesh; and the destruction of Amalek was just an illustration of the very principle which Saul's life so strongly emphasizes, and Saul's failure to destroy Amalek is, therefore, the more significant because it shows how deeply rooted the self-principle was in his own soul. The man who spared Agag was the man who spared the principle of self in his own heart; and the two pictures blend with an awful significance for everyone of us.

Saul successfully accomplished the invasion and returned victorious. He even seems to have been so possessed with the spirit of self-complacency that he failed to realize his own true character until Samuel uttered his fearful words of doom. "Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord," he cried with perfect assurance, and when the awful words of the prophet answered back: "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. . . . Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king"; it is doubtful if even then Saul fully realized the nature of his sin. So subtle and self-deceiving is the spirit of self that even then all he seemed to feel was the fear of being humiliated before the people, and he begged the petty bauble of Samuel's public recognition and honor, and this little bit of vainglory was the solace and the comfort of his wretched soul in the hour when the sentence of death and ruin was thundering in his ears.

What a spectacle of complacent self-deception; the snare of a religious motive, keeping the spoil to sacrifice to the Lord! We see the fear of man, the unwillingness of this weak man to displease the people when they begged him to save the precious booty of Amalek.

But one word above all others seems to crystallize the very element of this stupendous folly. It is the word "compromise." Saul obeyed, but with a compromise. Saul did much good, but he compromised with evil. God's commandments are uncompromising, inexorable, unqualified, and our obedience must be inflexible, absolute and complete. The faintest reservation is really the very soul of disobedience. The failure even to hearken to the full meaning of God indicates a spirit of unwilling obedience.

Saul stands before us in this picture the incarnation of self-will and, therefore, the enemy of God, nay, the rival of God upon His very throne. Could there be any other issue? "Thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord hath rejected thee from being king."

6. Not immediately did the judgment culminate. Slowly still, the coil of self unwinds until all its hidden sinuosities have been revealed. Saul did much work after this, much good work, fought many battles, fought them well, reigned over Israel, and established a powerful kingdom, but it was Saul's kingdom and not God's. All the remaining years were years of self-activity and self-vindication. For nine years he pursued David, his rival, with ferocious hate. The Spirit of God left him, and an evil spirit, by God's permission, possessed him; and as the years went on, the beginning and the end of his existence was Saul and not Jehovah. It was self-incarnate with all its miserable works and fruits.

7. At last the culmination came. Eaten out by the canker of self, his heart became the dwelling place of Satan. The devil took entire possession of him, and in one dreadful hour he gave himself up to spiritualism, and, rejected of the Lord, sought the counsel of necromancers, whom he had formerly persecuted and banished from his kingdom. It was the last fatal step. Self had driven God from his throne, and now it gave it to Satan and the next chapter of self life was self-destruction.

Trembling and prostrated by the fearful vision which his own presumption had brought up from the depths of Hades, Saul dashed with reckless despair into the last battle of his life, and the next day the tragedy was complete -- the flower of Israel's youth was lying on the slopes of Gilboa -- the army of Saul was annihilated -- the Philistines were victorious on every side -- the kingdom which Saul had built up for a quarter of a century for himself was broken to pieces and scattered to the winds -- Saul's sons were lying dead on the mountain sides, and Saul himself, a wretched suicide, had gone to his own place. The scorpion, self, had stung others, and now, at last, it stung itself to death. The revelation of human selfishness was complete, and before the sad and fearful spectacle we may well stand in awe and humbly, earnestly and fervently pray:

Oh, to be saved from myself, dear Lord,
Oh, to be lost in Thee!
Oh, that it might be no more I,
But Christ that lives in me.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Self Life and the Christ Life by A. B. Simpson, Chapter 2


Chapter 2 --RESURRECTED NOT RAISED

THERE is a great difference between risen and resurrected. One may rise from one level to another; but when one is resurrected he is brought from nothing into existence, from death to life, and the transition is simply infinite. A true Christian is not raised, but resurrected. The great objection to all the teachings of mere natural religion and human ethics is that we are taught to rise to higher planes. The glory of the Gospel is that it does not teach us to rise, but shows our inability to do anything good of ourselves, and lays us at once in the grave in utter helplessness and nothingness, and then raises us up into new life, born entirely from above and sustained alone from heavenly sources.

The Christian life is not self-improving, but it is wholly supernatural and Divine. Now, the resurrection cannot come until there has been the death. This is presupposed, and just as real as the death has been, will be the measure of the resurrection life and power. Let us not fear, therefore, to die and to die to all that we would leave behind us and detach ourselves from, nay, to die to ourselves and really cease to be. We lose nothing by letting go and we cannot enter in 'till we come out. If we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him.

But the passage Col. 3: 1 expresses the fact that we have already died and risen, and that we are now to take the attitude of those for whom this is an accomplished fact. Paul does not tell them here to die with Christ and rise with Him, but rather he calls upon Christians to take their places as having died and risen with Christ and to live accordingly. He tells them later in verse 3, "For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."

In the sixth chapter of Romans this thought is much more fully worked out. "So many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ," the Apostle says, "were baptized into his death. Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." To emphasize more forcibly the finality of this fact, he says, "Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God." Therefore, and in like manner, the Apostle bids us to "reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ," and to "yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God."

Now, much of the teaching of the day would bid us yield ourselves unto God to be crucified and to die afresh, or more fully, but the Apostle says nothing of the kind here. On the contrary, we are to yield ourselves unto God as those who have already died and are alive from the dead, recognizing the cross as behind us; and for this very reason presenting ourselves to God, to be used for His service and glory. Have you never seen soaring in mid-heaven some glorious bird with its mighty pinions spread upon the bosom of the air and floating in the clear sky without a fluttering feather or apparently the movement of a muscle? It is poised in mid-air; floating yonder, far above the earth below; it does not need to rise, it has risen and is resting in its high and glorious altitude. Very different is the movement of the little lark that springs from the ground and, beating its wings in successive efforts, mounts up to the same aerial heights to sing its morning song, and then returning again to earth. One is the attitude of rising and the other is the attitude of risen.

Perhaps, you say, "How can I reckon myself dead when I find so many evidences that I am still alive, and how can I reckon myself risen when I find so many things that pull me back again to my lower plane? It is your failure to reckon and abide that drags you back. It is the recognizing of the old life as still alive that makes it real and keeps you from overcoming it. This is the principle which underlies the whole Gospel system, that we receive according to the reckoning of our faith. The magic wand of faith will lay all the ghosts that can rise in the cemetery of your soul; and the spirit of doubt will bring them up from the grave to haunt you as long as you continue to question. The only way you can ever die, is by surrendering yourself to Christ and then reckoning yourself dead with Him.

It is a portentous fact that spiritualism has power, apparently, to bring to life and to rehabilitate in the forms of flesh and blood the spirits of the dead. It is not an uncommon thing for a deceased father to appear to his child, and even speak to her in the old familiar tone, and tell of things that nobody could know but he, until the credulous mind is compelled to believe it is the same person, and that her buried father is truly alive. But it is not true. It is a lie. He is as dead as when you laid him in the tomb; his body is still there, corrupting in the ground, and his spirit is in the eternal world, although he seems to be alive. What does it mean? Why, it is one of the devil's lies. Satan has impersonated that father. He has supernatural power to paint upon the air the forms of those that have passed away, and to speak from those lips until they seem to be real. This is one of the mysteries and yet realities of the present day, and no wise or well informed man will attempt to dispute it. But the explanation is this: It is simply a creation of Satan before your senses to deceive you? What is the remedy? Refuse to recognize it. Reckon it dead. Tell it to its face, it is not your father, but one of the devil's brood, and it will immediately disappear. There is one thing Satan cannot stand and that is to be ignored and slighted. He lives on attention and dies of neglect. And so if you will refuse to recognize that manifestation of spiritualism, you will always find it disappears and has no power to continue its movements. It is wholly dependent on the consent of your will.

Now, here is a fine illustration of the principle of the Gospel. You surrender yourself unto Christ to be crucified with Him, and to have all your old life pass out, and henceforth to live as one born from heaven and animated by Him alone. Suddenly, some of your old traits of evil reappear, old thoughts, evil tendencies assert themselves and say loudly and clamorously, "We are not dead." Now if you recognize these things, fear them and obey them, you are sure to give them life and they will control you and drag you back into your former state. But if you refuse to recognize them, and say, "These are Satan's lies, I am dead indeed unto sin; these do not belong unto me, but are the children of the devil, I therefore repudiate them and rise above them," God will detach you from them and make them utterly dead. You will find they were no part of you, but simply temptations which Satan tried to throw over you, and to weave around you that which seemed part of yourself.

This is the true remedy for all the workings of temptation and sin. It is an awful fact that when one counts himself wicked he will become wicked. Let that pure girl be but made to believe that she is degraded and lost to virtue and she will have no heart to be pure, and she will recklessly sink to all the depths of sin! Let the child of God but begin to doubt his acceptance and expect to look upon his Father's face with a frown, and he will have no heart to be holy, he will sink into disobedience, discouragement and sin.

There is a strange story written by a gifted mind, describing a man who was two men alternately. When he believed himself to be a noble character, he was noble and true, and lived accordingly; but when the other ideal took possession of him and made him feel degraded, he went down accordingly. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." Our reckonings reflect themselves in our realities; therefore, God has made this principle of faith to be the mainspring of personal righteousness and holiness, and the subtle, yet sublime, power that can lead men out of themselves into the very life of God.

Beloved, shall we let the Master teach us not so much to rise as to remember we are risen; that we have been raised with Christ from the dead, resurrected from the grave of our nothingness, and worse than nothingness, and that we are sitting with Him in heavenly places, recognized by the Father and permitted to reckon ourselves as being "even as he."

Our attitude will influence our aim. People live according to their standing. The high-born child of nobility carries in his bearing and his mien the consciousness of his noble descent, and so those who have their title to be on high, and are conscious of their high and heavenly rank, walk as children of the kingdom. The remainder of this chapter is devoted to working out this most practical idea, because we have risen with Christ, therefore let us live accordingly.

The argument against lying is: we have put off the old man and put on the new man. We have ceased to be paupers and become princes. Therefore, we are to put off the rags of the beggar and wear the epaulette of the prince. We have put on the new man, therefore, let us put on the kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering, and over all that charity, which is a perfect girdle that binds all the garments together. The best of all our robes is Christ Himself; and we are to put on Christ. This resurrection life is intensely practical. The Apostle brings it into touch with the nearest relationships of life, with the family circle, with the position of masters and servants, and with all the secular obligations of life. It is to affect our whole conduct and aims and lead us to walk wherever we are called.

This leads us to notice the practical power there is in this glorious fact, that we have been raised up together with Christ. It has power, in the first place, to confirm our hope and assurance of salvation because the resurrection of Jesus was the finishing work and a guarantee to men and angels that the ransom price was paid and the work of atonement complete. When Jesus came forth triumphant from the tomb, it was evident to the universe that the purpose for which He went there was fulfilled, the work He undertook satisfactorily done, and the Father satisfied with His finished atonement. Therefore, faith can rest upon His resurrection, as an everlasting foundation, and says: "Who is he that condemneth, It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again."

Again, the resurrection of Christ is the power that sanctifies us. It enables us to count our old life, our former self, annihilated, so that we are no longer the same person in the eyes of God, or of ourselves; and we may with confidence repudiate ourselves and refuse either to obey or fear our former evil nature. Indeed, it is the risen Christ Himself who comes to dwell within us, and becomes in us the power of this new life and victorious obedience. It is not merely the fact of the resurrection, but the fellowship of the Risen One that brings us our victory and our power. We have learned the meaning of the sublime paradox, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." This is the only true and lasting sanctification, the indwelling life of Christ, the Risen One, in the believing and obedient soul.

Again, there is power in the resurrection to heal us. He that came forth from the tomb on that Easter morning was the physical Christ, and that body of His is the Head of our bodies, and the foundation of our physical strength, as well as our spiritual life. If we will receive and trust Him, He will do as much for our bodies as our spirits, and we shall find a new and supernatural strength in our mortal frame and the pulses of the future resurrection in our physical being.

Christ's resurrection has also a mighty power to energize our faith and encourage us to claim God's answers to our prayers, and ask difficult things from God. What can be too difficult or impossible after the open grave and the stone rolled away? God is trying to teach us the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward "who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead and set him at his own right hand." This is the measure of what God is able and willing to do in the name of Jesus under a Christian dispensation. Christ's resurrection is a pledge of all we can ask for, and if we fully believed in the power of that resurrection we would take much more than we have ever done.

The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is the power for true service. The testimony of His resurrection is always peculiarly used by the Holy Spirit as the power of God unto the salvation of men. It was the chief theme of the ministry of the early apostles. They were always preaching of Jesus and the resurrection. It gives a peculiar brightness and attractiveness to Christian life and Christian work. Many Christians look as gloomy as if they were going to their own funeral. We heard not long ago of a little girl who met some sad looking people on the road and she said, "Mother, those are Christians, aren't they?" And when the mother asked her why she thought so, she said, "They look so unhappy."

This is the type of Christianity that comes from the cloister and the cross. This is not the Easter type, and certainly it is not the higher type. The religion of Jesus should be as bright as the blossoms of the spring, the songs of the warbling birds and the springing pulses of reviving nature. Our Lord met the women on that bright morning with the cheering message, "All hail," and so He would meet each one of us on the threshold of the year and the morning of a new Christian life and bid us go forth with the joy of our Lord as our strength.

This joy must spring from the resurrection and be maintained in a life beyond the grave, in the Heavenlies with its ascended Lord. This is the message that a sad and sinful world needs today. Its motto must not be the "Ecce homo" of the judgment hall, but the glad "All hail!" of the Easter dawn. The more of the indwelling Christ and the resurrection life in Christian work the more will be its living power to attract, sanctify and save the world.

Again, Christ's resurrection will enable us to meet the hardest places in life and endure its bitterest trials. And so we read in Philippians that the power of His resurrection is to bring us into the fellowship of His sufferings, and make us conformable unto His death. We go into the resurrection life that we may be strong enough to suffer with Him and for Him.

Now, let there be no misunderstanding here. It does not mean that we are to suffer for ourselves through sickness or the struggles of our spiritual life. These sufferings ought to belong to the earlier period of our experiences. Our Lord had no conflicts about His sanctification and no physical disease to contend with during His life. So, in bearing these, we are not bearing the sufferings of Christ. Nay, His sufferings are for others and the power of His resurrection will bring us to share His high and holy sorrows for His suffering church and a dying world. It is a fact that the harder our place and the lower our sphere of toil and suffering the more do we need the elevation of His grace and glory to meet it. From the heights we must reach the depths. And, therefore, we find these epistles, which lift us into heavenly places, bring us back in every instance to the most commonplace duties, the most ordinary relationships and the most severe trials. These letters to the Ephesians and the Colossians which speak about the highest altitudes of faith and power, speak also more than any others of the temptations common to men, and the duties of husbands and wives, and the need of truthfulness, sobriety, honesty and righteousness, and all the most unromantic, practical experiences of human life.

There is a very remarkable passage in Isaiah which we have quoted above and which seems to be parallel with the thought in Philippians. It tells us of those that mount up with wings as eagles; but immediately afterward we find the same persons coming down to the ordinary walks of life, to run and not be weary, to walk and not faint. It would seem as if the mounting up was just intended to fit them for the running and walking, and that the higher experiences of grace and glory were just designed to enable them to tread the lower levels of toil and trial. It is in keeping with this that the apostle speaks of glorying in tribulation. "Glory" expresses the highest attitude of the soul, and "tribulation" the deepest degree of suffering. And so it would teach us that when we come to the deepest and lowest place we must meet it in the highest and most heavenly spirit. This is going down from the Mount of Transfiguration to meet the demoniac in the plain below, and cast out the power of Satan from a suffering world. Yes, these are the sufferings of Christ. The power of His resurrection is designed to prepare, enable us and help us to rise into all the heights of His glorious life, that like Him we may go forth to reflect it in blessing upon the lives of others, and find even sweeter joy in the ministrations of holy love than we have in the ecstasies of Divine communion.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Self Life and the Christ Life, by A. B. Simpson


I love reading works by great evangelicals of yesteryear, men like Andrew Murray, Albert Benjamin (A.B.) Simpson, Dwight L. Moody and others. At the close of the 19th century Simpson was a well-known figure in American evangelicalism, though he was born a Canadian. According to Wikipedia, Simpson was a preacher, theologian, author, founder of The Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA), an evangelical protestant denomination with an emphasis on global evangelism (and a hymn writer!). I previously read his book The Gospel of Healing, a pioneering work which seems to have influenced much teaching on healing today in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles. Whether or not one agrees with all of Simpson's teaching, I enjoy his writing style and his obvious passion for studying God's word.

Other biographical information on A.B. Simpson:
A. B. Simpson Biography, Parts 1 and 2
Albert Benjamin Simpson 1843-1919
A.B. Simpson- A Matter Of Spiritual Vision


Since in following Christ as His disciple overcoming the self-life is an issue both timeless and universal, I am posting here Simpson's study on the subject. There are four chapters, and today I am posting the first chapter; the others will follow.

The Self Life and the Christ Life by A. B. Simpson, Chapter 1

Chapter 1 --NOT I BUT CHRIST

"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." (Mat. 16: 24). "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ." (Gal. 2: 20).

HERE lies the great difference between the world's gospel and the Lord's Gospel. The world says, when it bids you good-bye, "Take care of yourself." The Lord says, "Let yourself go, and take care of others and the glory of your God." The world says, "Have a good time, look out for Number One." But the world gets left in the end, and the last comes in first. The man that lets go gets all, and the man who holds fast loses what he has, and the Lord's words come true -- "Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."

So the law of sacrifice is the greatest law in earth and heaven. The law of sacrifice is God's great law. It is written in earth and every department of nature. We tread on the skeletons of ten thousand millions of generations that have lived and died that we might live. The very heart of the earth itself is the wreck of ages and the buried life of former generations. All nature dies and lives again, and each new development is a higher and larger life built on the wrecks of the former. A corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die, or else be a shrivelled-up seed, but as it dies it lives and multiplies, and grows into the beautiful spring, the golden autumn and the multiplied sheaves. And so it is in the deeper life of the higher world, as you rise from the natural to the spiritual. Everything that is selfish is limited by its selfishness. The river that ceases to run becomes a stagnant pool, but as it flows it grows fresher, richer, fuller.

If you turn your natural eye upon yourself, you cannot see anything. It is as you look out that the vision of the world bursts upon you. The very law of the natural life is love for others, caring for others by giving away and letting go. It is death and self-destruction to be selfish.

The law of sacrifice is the law of God. God who lived in supreme self-sufficiency as the Father, Son and Holy Ghost gave Himself. God's glory was in giving Himself, and so He gave Himself in the creation, in the beauty of the universe, so formed that every possible sort of happiness could come according to its natural law. And then God gave Himself in Jesus Christ. "God so loved the world that he gave." He gave His best, gave His all, gave His only begotten Son. The law of God is sacrifice. He loved until he gave ALL.

Then it is the law of Christ Himself. He came through God's sacrifice, and He came to sacrifice. He laid His honors down, left the society of heaven for a generation, and lived with creatures farther beneath Him than the grovelling earth worm is beneath man. He made Himself one of them, and became a brother of this fallen race. He was always yielding and letting go, always holding back His power and not using it. He was always being subject to the will of the men beneath Him, until at last they nailed Him to the cross. His whole life was a continual refusing of Himself, carrying their burdens and sharing their sorrows. And so love and sacrifice is the law of Christ. "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." The law of Christ is the bearing of others' burdens, the sharing of others' griefs, sacrificing yourself for another.

It is the law of Christianity. It is the law of the saint. It is the only way to be saved. From the beginning it has always been so. It was so on Mt. Moriah where Abraham, the father of the faithful, gave up his only child, the child of promise. It reached its climax on Mt. Calvary. All along, the way was marked by blood and sacrifice. Not only did Abraham give up his Isaac but Isaac gave up his life and all through his life he laid himself down for others. We know how Jacob served for his wife, and then did not get the one of his choice. His was a suffering life, a passive life, a patient life. And so Joseph died to his circumstances. Because he was to rise so high, he must go down as low; down not only into banishment but into shameful imprisonment and almost into death. When Joseph was out of sight and all God's promises concerning him seemed lost, and his prospects seemed hopeless, then God picked him up and set him on the world's throne.

Moses had to be a fugitive. Moses had to try and then fail and for forty years God had to teach him and train him, and when at last Moses was out of sight, He gave him his desire. At the very last moment Moses had to let go the prospect of entering the Promised Land. He died outside the gates of Canaan, sacrificed his most cherished hope and waited till the years should roll and Jesus Himself should bring him in to stand with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration and say, "Now, Moses, you have the thing you let go, the thing you lost and died to, and now you have a better resurrection." And so it was all through the past. Saul would not give up himself, would not destroy Agag and Amalek, types of the flesh. So Saul, head and shoulders above the people, all that a man could be, went down into the darkness, sank into obscurity and shame and perhaps perdition. And Jonah, the man whom God honored to deliver His own people and lead His kingdom into victory and mighty power in the days of Jeroboam II, the man whom God honored to be the first foreign missionary, the man whom God had picked up and sent to Assyria, and said, Go and preach to Nineveh, go bring the world to know and honor me; was so greatly blessed that in that city the mightiest revival the world ever saw was consummated. And yet Jonah got angry because He did not kill all the people in Nineveh, and so compromised Jonah's reputation. Jonah had said that the people would die in forty days and before the forty days were up the people repented of their sins and God repented of what He said and forgave them, and Jonah said, "Where am I in this transaction? I will never be believed again. Why did you not destroy Nineveh and save my reputation?" And because Jonah could not let his own glory go, God had to dishonor him and leave him under the withered gourd, a sort of scare-crow to show to all generations how contemptible it is to seek one's own glory. I think there is no more shocking and ridiculous spectacle than that poor old prophet sitting under his withered gourd scolding God and begging to die just because he felt God had dishonored him in fulfilling his mission in the repentance of the whole nation. And God just let him stand there as a spectacle of the shame and dishonor of selfishness.

We need not trace through the New Testament the story of Simon Peter. The Master's last message to him when He restored him was: "When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shall stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God." And Jesus sent him to a life of crucifixion to be yielded, submissive, surrendered and led about by others against his natural choice till at last he should be crucified with downward head upon his Master's cross.

The world says, look out for yourself; but Jesus says, "Not I, but Christ." Not only your old self but the new man with all his strength and self-confidence, too, must die. Not only Ishmael must go out and be an outcast, but Isaac must be yielded and not hold up his head again.

It is so easy to talk about this. The longer I live, the longer I know myself and friends, the more thoroughly I am satisfied that this is the great secret of failure in our Christian life. We come a little way with Jesus but we stop at Gethsemane and Calvary. They followed Him in His ministry in Galilee. The Sermon on the Mount was splendid morality. They loved the feeding of the thousands, and said, What a blessed King He would make! They would not have to work as they used to. But when He stands and talks about Calvary and speaks of the cross for them as well as for Him, and how they must go with Him and go with Him all the way, they say, "This is a hard saying; who can bear it?"

And a few days after you could count them on your fingers. They said we do not understand Him; we thought He would be a king. They were not willing to go to the cross.

I am sure this is where multitudes have stopped short. They have said yes to self and no to God, instead of saying no to self and yes to God. Oh! it is so much easier to talk than to live! There is no use to talk about it unless the Holy Ghost shall bring it home to us. A writer has recently said that there are three baptisms to be baptized with. First, the baptism of repentance, then we turned from sin to God. Second, the baptism of the Holy Ghost, when we receive the Holy Spirit to live in us. Third, the baptism into death, after the Holy Spirit comes in. While he, perhaps, has no Scriptural authority for this precise distinction, there is no doubt that there are these three steps to take. After you receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost, after God comes to live in you, after the Holy Spirit makes your heart His home, then it is that you have to go with Christ into His own dying, and so He says, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." And so He said about Himself, "I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!" I have a burial to be buried with. He was going out into deeper dying every day, and His heart was all pent up with it, until He went down into Gethsemane, down to Joseph's tomb, and down into Hades, and He passed through the regions of the dead and opened first the gates of heaven. That is what Jesus saw before Him after He was baptized on the banks of Jordan.

Oh! beloved, who have received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, it is you who have to go down into His death. Now, I know that in a sense we take all that by faith when we consecrate ourselves to Christ, and we count it all real and God counts it all real; but, my dear friends, you have to go through it step by step. I know God treats us as though it was accomplished, as though we were sitting yonder on the throne. But we must go through the narrow passage and the secret places of the stairs. There must be no fooling here. You may count it all done; but step by step it must be written on the records of your heart.

Now, my friends, what does all this mean? It is dying to self-will. After you consecrate yourself to God, then comes the tug of war, and tomorrow morning you will have the most awful battle of your life. Just because you have given up your will, the devil wants you to take it back. Do not think it will be an Elysian field; no, it will be a battlefield; battles with the dragon and the fiery darts. The devil will try to show you how unreasonable it is, how right it is that you should stand and have your will. It will be life or death perhaps for a week or for a month. Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days, and the devil tried to have Him have His own will, but He stood the test. He let His own will go, "I came . . . not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me."

God could make Him a leader because He had been led. No man can govern until he has been governed. Joseph could not have been where he was in Egypt unless he had been sat upon by the people and then he sat there a broken man and a lowly, humble spirit. His brothers came down to see him. The world would have said, Make them feel how mean they were and how wicked. God said, No, help them to forget it; and so Joseph said, Don't be angry or grieved with yourselves, God meant it "for good." If Joseph had not been humbled, he would have been no good as Egypt's ruler. No man can lead until he has been led. David had to have nine years of training, and it might have been better for him to have had nine more, then he would not have abused so shamefully his power when he got to the throne. Daniel in Babylon had to be disciplined by suffering before he could sit as Premier with Cyrus and Nebuchadnezzar. If God is going to make anything of you, let all your will go into His hands. You will find a good many tests after the first surrender, but these are just opportunities for allowing the work to be done.

Then comes self-indulgence, doing a thing because you like to do it. No man has a right to do a thing for the pleasure it affords, because he enjoys or likes it. I have no right to take my dinner just because I like it. This makes me a beast. I do it because it nourishes me. Doing things because they please yourself, seeking your own interest, is wrong. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness." We have no Divine warrant to seek ourselves in anything. Seek God, and God will seek your good. Take care of the things of God, because He will take care of you. Look not any man on your own things, but on the things of others.

Again, there is self-complacency, dwelling on the work that you have done. How easy after performing some service or gaining some victory to think, "How good." How quickly this runs into vain glory! How many are more interested in what people think and say of them than what they are themselves.

In the work of God there is nothing we need to so guard against as vanity. That was Jonah's curse. The seraphim covered their faces with their wings, they covered their feet with their wings. They covered their faces because they did not want to see their beauty, and their feet because they did not want to see their service, nor have anyone else see them. They used only two to fly. Take care how you put temptation in another's way. It is all right to encourage workers with a "God bless you." But don't praise. God does not say, How beautiful, how eloquent, how lovely, how splendid! That is putting on a human head the crown that belongs to Jesus. I want the Holy Ghost to enable me simply to do you good, but I do not want power to bring me the honor of the world. If I had it, I should feel it the greatest peril of my life. We have no more right to take Christ's honors here than we have to sit on Jesus' throne and let angels worship us. We have to be so careful when God uses us to bless human souls. There is a sweetness which is not of God. God save us from all these snares woven by the tempter.

Philip as soon as he had led the eunuch to Jesus got out of the eunuch's way. Beloved, there are subtle spells that come between man and man, and between woman and woman, and between man and woman. They seem sweet and right, but you need much of the Holy Ghost to keep your spirit pure. I am not talking here of sinful love. Surely, it is not needful to speak of that. I am thinking of a far more subtle and refined and spotless spell, which is more dishonoring to God and more dangerous to you, because it is so pure. God keep us from every service, and every friendship, and every thought that is not in the Holy Ghost and not to the honor of Jesus alone.

Then there is self-confidence, that which feels its strength, spiritual or mental self-righteousness, power to be good or do good. God has to lead us to lay all that aside and realize our utter nothingness.

Time will not permit me to speak of the self life of sensitiveness, that fine susceptibility of your feelings to be wounded, and of selfish affection, wanting people to love you because you like to be loved. Divine love loves that it may bless and do good. You ought to love not because it pleases you, but because it blesses them. Paul could say, "And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved." He does not say, I will help you as long as you love me. No; I gladly spend my last drop of blood to bless you at any cost even when I know you don't appreciate me the least bit. That is what is the matter with you. People hurt you, they don't appreciate you. Well, spend and be spent all the more when you are the less loved.

Time would fail to tell of selfish desires, covetousness, selfish motives, selfish possessions, our property our own, our children our own, and they give us loads of trouble, and care, and worry, just because we insist on owning them.

There are selfish sorrows. I know of nothing more selfish than the tears we shed for our own sorrows. When God saw Israel weeping, He was angry and said, "You have polluted my altar with your tears." You are weeping because you have not better bread. You are weeping because something else is dearer to you than Christ. You are weeping because you are not altogether pleased or gratified.

Even our sacrifices and self-denials may be selfish. Yes, our sanctification may be selfish. A sarcastic friend of mine used to say when he heard people testify about their sinlessness, "Poor old soul, she committed the biggest sin of her life for she told the biggest lie." Self can get up and pray, and sit down and say, "What a lovely prayer!" Self can preach a sermon and save souls and go home, pat itself on the back and say, or let the devil say through him, "You did splendidly; what a useful man you are!" Self can be burned to death and be proud of its fortitude. Yes, we can have religious selfishness as well as carnal selfishness.


-How can we get rid of this? Well, I think above everything else we must see the reality of the thing, we must see the danger of the thing, we must see that it is our sin. We must look at it frankly and choose that it shall go. The worst of it is that it deceives us so. It says, "How that fits somebody else, not me." Many of you are shedding it on others and not taking it home. God means you. Pass sentence of death upon it or else it will pass sentence on you. You may keep it as long as you like. It is like the lovely little serpent with little spots on it like Jewels. Ah -- at the last -- how it stings!

May God show us everything in us that will not stand the searching flames. Above everything don't let us have a bigger Gospel than we have a life. Having passed sentence of death upon ourselves then take Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to do the work. Don't try to fight it.

Then when the test comes and God leads you out to meet the test, be true, BE TRUE. The test will come in that very line after you have taken the victory, and when the battle comes, forget yourself; don't defend yourself but say, Lord, keep me. Perhaps someone will try to provoke you. Perhaps someone will try to praise you. Just say, Yes, the Lord let you come to see if I wanted to be appreciated. The Holy Spirit is able to take everything we dare to give and gives everything we dare to take. "He is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless." What a blessed exchange it will be! Take the cross and we shall some day wear the crown, sit upon the throne, and all that He is we shall be, and all that He has we shall share.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Christian Carnival CX (110): The Education of the Soul Edition


Welcome to Christian Carnival CX (110). This is my second time hosting, and I'm pleased and privileged to present the writings of Christian bloggers of various backgrounds. In this Carnival you will find, for your enjoyment and edification, fresh inspirations culled from a week's worth of blogging.

Last time I hosted, I chose the theme Applying the Gospel to All of Life, as it seemed to me to fit the overall thrust of many of the posts. This time, as I have perused through the submissions and wracked my brain trying to see if there is any common theme among the various articles, my first thought was "education of the soul". And so, with your kind indulgence, I will use this as my theme.

The 110th Christian Carnival: The Education of the Soul

As Christians we are supremely fortunate to be in the hands of the infinitely wise Teacher, the One whose knowledge is without limit regarding all the vast intricacies of the universe He created, but even more amazingly, One who knows each of us as individuals-- by name. Picture Jesus speaking to Simon and naming him Peter (meaning Rock), as He spoke forth the destiny of the man. He foresaw that Peter would someday deny Him three times, yet be restored to become a builder and pillar of the church. Or remember when God spoke to Jacob saying, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed."

Yes, God knows us, and He still speaks to the souls of men, women and children today through His Word, by His Spirit, and most of all, through His Son. When I use the word "soul" here, I'm using it in the sense of "a person's total self". I think that God creates each person with purpose, and I'm using the phrase "education of the soul" to signify the process by which the Lord teaches our souls--first by drawing us to himself and making us His children, then by conforming us to the image of Christ, each becoming a unique reflection of the Son. God's "education of the soul" --as I mean it here-- entails "the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:9)", which Peter said is the outcome of our faith in Christ.

If the soul is the "total self", then His plan for educating our souls probably includes a large number of areas of development (fortunately for me, so I may fit the wide range of articles submitted this week into my chosen theme). But seriously, I think every aspect of our lives, brought under submission to the Lord, develops us into the kind of people that reflect and bring glory to God, albeit with all our weaknesses and imperfections. So that is how I have divided up the posts for this Carnival-- each article falls under a category of things God uses to teach our souls. The categories/articles are not presented in any particular order of importance, and of course in real life, many of these categories overlap with one another.

Grappling with Ethics and Morality

In On missions: Updates on the persecuted church, Dave Taylor at Disciple's Journal presents news about a case of three Indonesian Sunday school teachers and how a legal glitch could lead to Burmese Christian refugees being labeled as terrorists.

David Gross of The Picket Line gives us a look at one man, Ammon Hennacy: Christian Anarchist, "One Man Revolution" who said, "Study the Sermon on the Mount, and the lives of such dedicated men as St. Francis, George Fox, Tolstoy and Gandhi. Try to make whatever you do coincide with Christ’s teachings. Ask yourself whether returning evil for evil in courts, legislatures, prisons and war is not denying Christ. If your answer is yes, then stop doing it."

DeputyHeadmistress at the The Common Room was Too Baffled to Be Outraged by the recent court ruling that considers nativity scenes to be religious, and therefore banned, but finds Menorahs and the Islamic Crescent are secular symbols, and therefore acceptable.

Children, Community, Peace and Relationships

At Habakkuk's Watchpost, Tyler Simons, a seminarian and intern at an Episcopal church, tells a story about teaching on Forgiveness at the Children's Chapel he led on a recent Sunday. "One of the kids, I hope, learned a little bit about the forgiveness of Jesus. It almost seemed like no one had ever forgiven him before."

Spunky at SpunkyHomeschool considers the calling of the homeschool mom and offers her thoughts on what the great commandments would be in The Ten Commandments for Homeschooling Moms.

This week at Light Along the Journey John Hollandsworth discusses the vital nature of Christian community in his post The Importance of "Together".

Dana Hanley at Principled Discovery presents Motivation and Self Government, which explores motivation and the spiritual needs of the child, and begins a discussion into how to encourage intrinsic motivation in our children.

Rev Bill speaks of the challenges of living peacefully in his "piece" titled Monday's Monk: Merton On Peace.

Funky Dung of Ales Rarus confesses "When it comes to the kind of acerbic and caustic blogging that I believe is poisoning the Body of Christ, and the rest of the world for that matter, I too am guilty." He offers Have Christian Bloggers Lost the Plot? to help remedy the situation.

In The Allure of Toys: You May Want to Play With Them, But They Don't Want to Play With You, Shaun Nolan at Postscript Posthaste suggests that parents take a greater role is deciding which toys our children play with.

Theology, Intellectual Growth and Sharing Our Faith

In a post that lives up to the name of his blog, John Howell at Brain Cramps for God discusses Natural Law: Objections and C.S. Lewis's Tao.

Meanwhile, Kyle at Neumatikos is trying to be controversial with a new line of thinking about why the analogy between circumcision and baptism might be a point against infant baptism, in Circumcision and Infant Baptism

The term 'Arminian' gets thrown around a lot, and people get put into the category when they wouldn't label themselves that way. So what does it take to be an Arminian? Jeremy Pierce, Parableman, tackles this subject in his post Definition of Arminianism

In Open Mind, Insert What?, Sherry Early at Semicolon shares interesting reflections on her phone conversation with a Mormon elder.

Mark Olson at Pseudo-Polymath presents a short defense of what he thought were incorrect accusations about how Christian doctrine instructs us to deal with those not sharing our beliefs, in Rowing a Leaky Boat.

In the ongoing Muslim protests over the publication of cartoons, ten more people are dead in Libya, and a mob in Pakistan was met with police gunfire. All the dead in Libya are Libyans--a tragedy for their country and themselves. What kind of "sword" was it that Jesus brought, and how does it relate to this situation askes Tom Gilson at Thinking Christian, in his post More Rioting Over the Cartoons: What About Religious Violence?

Cultural Discernment (reading the "signs of the times" biblically)

Tyler F. Williams at Codex: Resources for Biblical Studies Blogspot provides a list (with discussion) of fourteen Essential Films for Theologians: The "Director's Cut".

In my Carnival entry for this week, I argue that there are times When Being Nice is Wrong, even for Christians, as I present further analysis of the End of the Spear controversy and why I think it significant for Christian communicators of the gospel.

The Physical Body (Confronting Mortality)

In Perfect Problems, David Knowles of all kinds of time writes on how physical short-comings daily remind us of a physical perfection to come.

Jesus always healed those with faith who came to Him. Why is it that people with faith are not always healed today? rev-ed at Attention Span asks, "Is it fair to tell them they lack the faith to be healed?" in his post, "When God Doesn't Heal".

Handling Worldy Riches

Many Christians excuse themselves from giving because they think they don't have enough to give. They think "What good would my little amount do?", and as a result miss the joy and privilege of giving to help others. But this attitude is contrary to what the Bible teaches, says FMF in the post The Gift is Acceptable According to What One Has.

Finding Our Life's Work

We often think about calling in terms of the extraordinary, but in Neglected occupation, Martin Labar at Sun and Shield quotes Paul and writes, "'He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life (Romans 2: 6-7, ESV)'. This patience in well-doing includes lots of ordinary work, I think."

Becoming Spiritual
In My Women's Sunday Sermon, Karen at The Thomas Institute speaks on learning to take leaps of faith in trusting God. This is her first submission to the Christian Carnival. Welcome, Karen!

Kim at Sharing Spirit describes the origin of her post Jars of Clay, this way: During this nutty week one day I received two emails, nearly back-to-back about being the teacup or the potter’s clay. I laughed out loud because I KNEW of course that the Lord was telling me, “Kim remember I’m in control, you’re the vessel but I’m the Potter, so chill out.”

Kathleen Dalton of Vegetable Soup would like to challenge women to stand out (for the right reasons) in An Uncommon Woman.

Penitens, The Penitent Blogger offers a reflection about the path out of disorder and conflict in Disorder.

The Bloke at in the outer asks Can We Learn Anything From Judas? According to his article, rethinking our view of Judas could actually be profitable spiritually.

At Back of the Envelope, Donald Crankshaw begins a conversation with Some thoughts on demons, about the nature of the believer's protection from demons, or lack thereof, expanding on thoughts expressed by one of the characters in a novella he wrote.

The School of Life

Some lessons we learn only through life experience. In Abortion affects men too!, Lennie at Cross Blogging writes on the "Empty Swing syndrome"-- the feelings of regret that men who have been part of an abortion may feel. He suggests "Maybe we as pro-life people should be taking a real good hard look at this! This may be our way to way to get legislation to pass some laws in our country/states to save some of these babies and Mothers! Maybe we need to put a lot of focus on the Dads’ rights."

Finally, Dory of Wittenberg Gate writes about mourning in Grieving Like a Christian.

Thanks for visiting and I hope you enjoyed this 110th edition of the Christian Carnival. Blessings to you in Christ.

Alex

This Carvival entry is listed in the √úberCarnival:
http://www.truthlaidbear.com/ubercarnival.php

Christian Carnival 110 is... On the Way!


It was my intention to have the Carnival up by this morning, but I wasn't able to complete it last night. But don't worry, I'll have the Carnival up soon... check back later, most likely it'll be up by this afternoon.

Please be patient... Thanks. Blessings to you, Alex

Sunday, February 19, 2006

When Being "Nice" is Wrong

A few weeks ago I linked to Chris Anderson's article on the End of the Spear controversy. Here at Jordan's View, the reasons I wrote so much on the movie and the surrounding controversy are reflected in his excellent analysis-- it's not that I think the film itself is so significant, but the controversy surrounding the film highlighted issues concerning how evangelical Christian communicators are to properly fulfill our calling as proclaimers of the gospel message.

Evangelical leaders who endorsed the film seemed to downplay or completely overlook the serious mistakes of the Christian producers who made the movie. Others confronted the film's critics for what they had done wrong, but did not seem to be able to find much wrongdoing in the actions of the makers of the movie. As Mr. Anderson said:

"Apparently the evangelical church has lacked the willingness to confront error for so long that it has now lost the ability to discern error. The church has developed its own version of political correctness. It has elevated "niceness"; as a virtue over truth. It promotes a supposed unity even at the expense of purity. It insists that we ignore gross error in order to present a "unified front." When someone finally addresses an obvious error and points out that the emperor has no clothes on, he is chastised for being uncharitable. It's beyond ironic. It's tragic...

...Sadly, evangelical priorities have changed drastically today. Holiness and truth are overrated. Let's just get along.

I urge those who are still wavering on this point to learn from Paul's example in Galatians 2 and throughout the New Testament: public error demands public correction. Should it be gracious? As gracious as possible. Should it be accurate? Without a doubt, and we must be much more careful on that point, even with incidental details. But for Janz to have addressed a sin that affects the entirety of American Christianity via a discreet conversation would have been reckless, not godly. He did the right thing. Let's get past the squeamishness that sees every conflict as unloving, every exposure of error as sowing discord, every stand on principle as arrogance. Being nice is not more important that being right, despite our conditioned senses."


At the end of the day, a company (Every Tribe Entertainment), justifying their decision as biblical, has produced a movie that (unintentionally) associates the message of the gospel with the message of the homosexual activist they hired to star in it. The movie communicates one message, Allen communicates another, opposing message. Allen has not repented of his sin and continues to promote his gay activist agenda, and Every Tribe Entertainment helped enlarge his platform for doing so. Whether they meant for this to happen or not, that is what happened. Jason Janz and others have called ETE to task on this, as well as on the content of the gospel in their film.

ETE made a film that does not clearly show the gospel motivations of the missionaries it was telling the story of, and which presents a fuzzy gospel message. Since they are Christians making a public statement about the gospel with this movie, since the movie's story is based on true events, and since they were asking for the support of the Christian community to promote this film, the filmmakers had a responsibility to get it right. They have been criticized, and rightly so, for getting it wrong.

As a Christian communicator and artist, I will try to take away these personal lessons from all of this:

Let me be bold in proclamation of the gospel, as I develop all the gifts and artistry I can to deliver with excellence the only message that saves. Let me strive to live in such a way that my life and words line up with the message, pointing out error when I see it, being careful first to "take the log out of my own eye". May I speak the truth in love, having equal concern for both. And finally, may I never be ashamed of the gospel, but rather delight in, and proclaim, the Lord's merciful grace.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Blips on the Blogosphere 7

Understanding Islam
Recent worldwide protests by Muslims offended by the publication of cartoons depicting their prophet Muhammad have turned violent, sometimes even lethal. Why is this happening? I've been wanting to explore what these events tell us of the Islam religion and perhaps write about it, but felt I first needed to do more research. Some helpful articles I have found in this regard:

Being Mocked: The Essence of Christ’s Work, Not Muhammad’s John Piper, DesiringGod.org

Shari'ah Nation Charlie Lehardy, AnotherThink

Islam's Uncertain Future Freedom House's Paul Marshall says Shari'ah is both less and more dangerous than you think. Interview by Stan Guthrie

Islam, Christianity, and a moral morass that must be slogged through promptly Weekend Fisher, Heart, Mind, Soul, and Strength

More on the End of the Spear

The Lack of Biblical Discernment... a public call for prayer and repentance Steve Camp, CAMPONTHIS. Mr. Camp as always, is hard-hitting and presents his arguments from a biblical standpoint.

The End of 'End of the Spear' Doug Phillips, VisionForum.com
Doug Phillips has been following the topic in an incisive series of articles, also analyzing the film biblically.


Miscellaneous

Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth by Wayne Grudem
A free-online book on an often controversial topic.

Davinci Code: The Challenge
Highly regarded Christian leaders and scholars volunteered to tackle the controversial topics within The Da Vinci Code. Between now and the release of the film, the Da Vinci Challenge will regularly post new and insightful essays from these experts.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Christian Carnival 109/Next Week's Carnival (110) here at Jordan's View

The 109th edition of the Christian Carnival went up today at Pursuing Holiness, and its theme, very fitting just a day after Valentine's Day, is love.

The subjects of posts in the Carnival can be a reflection of what's happening in Christian culture, in the Christian blogosphere, or in culture at large. For example, there's a post this week Examining the Complex Relationship between Christians and Homosexuals that I found quite interesting in light of my recent blogging about the End of the Spear controversy and the "Brokeback Mountain phenomenon".

Next week, the 110th Christian Carnival will be hosted right here at Jordan's View. I'm looking forward to receiving your great post submissions, as my theme will be: the Greatest Christian Carnival Ever (no, not really).

But do send your submissions early, por favor (please). Send them by email to ChristianCarnival@gmail.com. Include the following items in your email:

    *The name of your blog and a link to your main site (adding the name with a hyperlink would be a nice courtesy to the host).

    *The title and the URL of the post (again, adding the title with a hyperlink would be helpful).

    *If you want a trackback, include a trackback link (tracking back is optional. I'm not sure if I'll have time to trackback).

    *Include a short (one or two sentence) description of the post. Your description may be edited, but is often used just as it is.


Remember, submit just one post per blog, and the post should be something published sometime during the week preceding February 22.

Blessings to you,

Alex

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Call for Prayer for Persecuted Christians in India

In a new post, What Christians in India Are Facing Soon, Dan Edelen brings attention to persecuted Christians in India and links to an article titled Conversion By Force by an Indian Christian blogger. The article describes a "reconversion" initiative that was supposed to have been launched in India recently, and which will try to force Christians there to recant their faith in Christ.

This an outrageous. Dan asks all Christians everywhere to pray for the persecuted church in India, which is also apparently in the midst of a great revival!

I join with Dan in asking readers of this blog to pray that plans to try to force Christians to recant their faith will not work, and that the Christian revival in India will continue and flourish.

See also this article highlighting what's happening:
Christians in India Brace for Hindu 'Reconversion' Event

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Taking Up the Spear Once More

Reading through post titles at the latest Christian Carnival (#108), which is now up, by the way, at Part-Time Pundit, I discovered another End of the Spear-related post (besides mine) was included. Naturally, I just had to read it.

Now, my thought is this: shall I put down my spear, or take it up again? (joke). Actually since the post by Applejack seems to well represent a common view I've encountered in blogs about Spear-- that all the ranting and raving by Christians about this movie is ridiculous, and that such ranting just shows Christians in a bad light-- I'd like to respond. The supposed overly harsh criticism of the makers of the Spear, our "homophobic" reaction to Chad Allen playing a missionary, our pulling back of support for this film -- all of this represents to some, the backwards "culture warrior" mentality. I'm not saying that all of the critics of Spear have done everything correctly, or that some of the critics haven't displayed inappropriate meanness of spirit and sarcasm; however, I think Applejack and others seem to place (almost) all their focus on these issues and not necessarily engage the legitimate biblical arguments made by EOTS' critics, the best of whom have been civil, reasonable and willing to make amends for errors.

The state we're in
Western culture is in its current moral state because Christians have slowly but surely lost their influence in it. Yes, sometimes the focus of the culture war may be wrong-- something like the infamous Janet Jackson episode at the Superbowl, for example, is probably not the most important battle.

Salti-ness or salti-less?
Still, we are the "salt of the world", right? Jesus says:

"But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men".

If we are not fulfilling the role of preserving what is good and true in human society, who is going to do it, unbelievers? If we're not salty, Jesus says, we're not good for anything. How will we as "salt" preserve what is good and true unless we do our job of pointing to the objective standard of the revealed word of God? I think that is precisely what many who have criticized the film are trying to do.

The makers of End of the Spear wanted to make a film to appeal to Christians, yet also reach a wider secular audience. So they fashioned a film with a subtle Christian message, reasoning that the story itself would communicate its gospel intentions. They marketed the movie carefully, wanting non-believers to come, but perhaps aiming not to scare them away by overtly advertising the film as Christian. During this process, however, they also courted evangelical support for the film. Of course, Christians would likely make up the core audience for the movie. They asked churches and pastors to promote the film by saying it could be used as a great evangelical tool. And at first, they did not reveal the fact that they had chosen a homosexual to star in the film. Later of course, they would have to explain that choice.

If the film was to be used as an evangelical tool, and ETE was asking evangelicals to view it in this way, then it is understandable that the evangelical community would ask: what gospel message is being communicated by this movie? And that is exactly where the movie falls short, for many (Steve Camp has a strong post on this). I won't go into it in depth here, as I have already talked about these issues in other posts, but suffice to say that film is not particularly clear about the gospel motivation of the five missionaries and only manages to paint caricatures of the missionaries and of the Waodani. The seriousness of these young people, their earnestness, intelligence and most of all, their passion for the gospel, is not revealed, and the transformation of Mincayani as a result of the gospel is not convincingly shown on screen.

Combining the shortcomings of the film with ETE's decision to cast a homosexual activist as its star, and the ultimate message communicated by the film does not appear consistent with the true gospel. Instead, it seems to give a message of love that means "tolerance", without a clear call for repentance.

Do all Christian-made movies have to present the gospel? No, I dont think so. I think there are other truths that Christians can talk about and illustrate. But this particular true story, in which the gospel message was so essential a part of everything that happened, needed to include it. As I said in my comments over at Steve Camp's site, perhaps if the filmmakers had followed more the lead of the missionaries who reached the Waodani, being true to their spirit of uncompromised boldness, they would have made a film that truly shines out with the gospel (and was a great movie to boot).

In the words of Forrest Gump: "and that's all I have to say, about that".

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

When We Say “Gospel”: My Primary Concern with End of the Spear | Jason Janz

I really appreciate Jason Janz's summarizing statement of his primary concern with the movie, End of the Spear-- its missing gospel element -- and his clear articulation of what the gospel is. So, go read his post (click on title link above)!

Here's what I told him in my comments over at SharperIron.org:

A thousand thank yous for this well-argued post! You have stated in a fuller and more complete way what I have been perhaps straining toward in my "rants" all last week, which culminated with this post, What Was the Point at "The End of the Spear"? You have exposed the core reason for the weakness of this movie--it's failure to show the gospel that first changed the missionaries and then changed the Waodanis, and you have rightly connected this failure with a dangerous larger trend in Evangelicalism.

I realize that showing the gospel clearly in not necessarily an easy thing to do in a film, but your article points out that this important aim was something the producers of the film were mistakenly avoiding, rather than pursuing. I think that the most powerful films (secular or not) do "preach" a message, and do so unabashedly. But EOTS used the seeker-sensitive approach and ended with a film in which the wonderful "results" of the gospel-- the transformation of Waodani culture away from the violence that threatened to make them extinct--is made incomprehensible because we don't clearly see the power (the gospel) that made it happen.

ETE may not "market" themselves as a Christian company, but it is quite obvious that in fact they are Christians who are trying to make films with Christian messages, albeit in a seeker-friendly way. So I completely agree with Jason's suggestion that ETE should have been more bold about the gospel element, rather than trying to package the movie so that seekers would somehow understand its subtly stated, contextually placed message. Whatever other weaknesses the film may have, the central one is that missing gospel element from the screenplay. Properly shown, that element would have made this film not only a better vehicle for evangelism, but also a more effective movie/story.

Thanks again, Jason.

Blessings to you,

Alex

Saturday, February 04, 2006

What Was the Point at "The End of the Spear"?

I thought my "End of the Spear marathon" had come to rest with my previous post, but after reading My Two Cents on Randy Alcorn's Perspective on the "“End of the Spear" Controversy by Chris Anderson and A Youderian Family Member's Response by Dan Kachikis, a relative of one of the slain missionaries who feels betrayed by the film-- and I am stirred yet again.

Why Criticize?

I have to thank these men for helping me regain my bearings on the whole issue. I have tried, in the posts here at Jordan's View about End of the Spear, to contend for the truth of the gospel the movie was aiming to communicate, while at the same time, watching myself, that I would demonstrate a Christlike attitude even as I had some pointed criticism of the makers of this film. It's so easy as a human being to allow pride and self-righteousness to sneak in, even if we think the "rant" is a righteous one.

I admit I was feeling rather guilty too, after reading Randy Alcorn's long article about the controversy, and Jason Janz's humble apologies to ETE. I thought to myself-- who am I anyway, to judge these brothers and make proclamations on my blog about the movie? After all, I'm just a sinner here, and it's only by God's merciful, continuing grace that I am able to stand before Him and say anything to anyone.

True. But deep down I know that the burning in my own heart has been the desire that the glorious, precious gospel of Jesus Christ, the only message that saves, be honored and not defamed; preached truly, and not compromised or distorted.

Judging the film, not the people who made it
And let's face it, I'm mad that the film takes the gospel message that was the driving force in these lives and renders it so fuzzily, and, that in terms of quality, Spear is yet another second-rate Christian product. But the thing that frustrates me most of all is that some would have us embrace this mediocrity in the name of what, politically correct ideas about tolerance?

Are we supposed to overlook the fact that the gay activist who stars in Spear is--would you believe-- using the film as a platform to continue his work? Yes, Christ died for him, but the transforming experience of working on the film that was supposed to happen apparently has left him quite unscathed at the moment. Should one accept the idea that this state of affairs is the result of God's orchestrations, or am I allowed to think and state that the producers made a bad choice in hiring Allen, knowing his background?

Put a fuzzy gospel message together with the misguided choice by the producers of Chad Allen for the lead role, and write a script whose missionary characters are incomprehensible because their chief motivation is barely shown. And what do you have? A film that communicates a message as weak as if it were a poorly written Hallmark card: "Reach out in love to those different from you, and you will make them non-violent"... What is that love, where does it come from, who or what makes it happen? Lord help us! I know that the love of Jesus Christ must overtake me, because in myself, I don't want to love! But the men and women who inspired this story, young as they were, had mastered a discipline of radical Christian love that the world cannot fathom and that sadly many Christians too (myself included) have not yet touched.

It was no sentimental love-- like the film says, they found it only at the "End of the Spear". Would that the film then, would have had the courage to show more fully how they got there, what really made these men and women so able to do what they did. We gather from their public statements that Mart Green, Steve Saint and Jim Hanon have really hoped that making this movie would be a transforming experience for all involved. Their intentions were noble. They were inspired by the story of these missionaries and worked so hard work to get this movie to the screen.

But along the way, the gospel message that the producers obviously care about personally has unfortunately been obscured in the film. It seems their direction might have been thrown off course during the process of making the film-- how would they make and market a movie to reach the non-believer, as well as the Church; could the "mission field" of this movie include even its star? I think it's also telling that the cooperation of the Waodani was enlisted by appealing to them that publicizing their story through the movie could help stop violence, in places like Columbine in America. But stopping violence is only an effect of the gospel, it's not the primary message.

I stand by my contention that sadly, the movie they have produced obscures the critical "point of the Spear"-- the gospel message that inspired it all. Maybe they were trying to do too much at once. They tried to give us the story of the missionaries and of the brave women who continued the mission after their violent deaths, and at the same time, tell some of the story through Waodani eyes. But they fail to show the thing that would have made it all make sense: the mysterious power of the gospel that worked in and through the missionaries to touch the Waodanis.

Lesson Learned
The lesson I would like to take away from this is that if one is a Christian voice in the marketplace, there is no need for apology or accommodation as we present a Christian perspective. The great filmmakers today are not only talented, but have a strong point of view. Whether you agree with their views of the world or not, they use every ounce of their talent to convey, without apology, their ideas about meaning in life. And some do it so effectively that they are able to make false ideas seem like truth.

But our message is both urgent and the revealed Truth! Perhaps the arts can mostly point in the direction of Christ, rather than be as didatic and clear as preaching a sermon might be. The arts convey truth in a different sort of language. So a well-made movie will engage the imagination, hearts and mind of people in a medium that is unique and very powerful in the world today. Many are taking their cues about the meaning of life from works such as these. May God bless us then, with the talent, the clarity and the courage to speak His messages through the arts and through films-- boldly, effectively and excellently-- that many might come to know Jesus.

Another reviewer of the film who felt as I did:
"What I saw in "End of the Spear" Tom Ascol, Founders Mnistries Blog

My previous End of the Spear "rants":
End of the Spear- A Review and Assessment
A Few Further Thoughts About End of the Spear
Be Bold, Christian!
Telling A Story

Friday, February 03, 2006

Telling A Story

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes..." (Romans 1:16)

I hadn't intended to blog so much about End of the Spear-- it sort of became an obsession for me this past week. It seems that for many Christians the whole controversy surrounding the film touched a deep nerve. Perhaps because there is so much moral compromise all around us in the culture, and because the story of these five missionaries is such a beloved one, we are concerned lest the truth and beauty of this beautiful story be compromised as well. But some have also made the important point that the Christian community ought to be treating each other with love and kindness, even in the midst of sharp disagreements.

To put the matter in perspective, it is not the end of the world if the movie isn't as good as it might have been, or whether the producers erred in casting the actor they did. Yes, I think that the concerns the Christian community voiced about the Spear are important, because the integrity of the gospel message is something we must defend. Still, the movie is just one small witness among many, and none of us perfectly reflects the goodness of God in our testimony. Each of us is telling a story, by the conduct of our lives, that testifies to the marvelous saving grace of our Lord. Each of us must learn how to bear good fruit.

Jesus says: "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35)".

Forgive me Father, if any words I have spoken this past week have been more from my self than from you. Help me to be a truer representative of You in this world. May the cast and the producers of End of the Spear be filled with the knowledge of You, and grant them wisdom and courage in their future endeavors.

May we all be willing to be bold in standing for the truth, and at the same time, gracious, respectful and loving towards all.

Blessings to you,

Alex