|Experiencing The Fullness Of The Holy Spirit|
|How "Christian" Are Christians?||8||The Meaning Of Full Consecration||12|
|Something Alien In The Cellar Of Life!||9||Exercising Faith For a Pure Heart||13|
|Acknowledging The Need For Drastic Action||10||Victory Through Surrender||14|
|The Call To Discipleship||11||Discussion Questions:||15|
How "Christian" Are Christians?
I have a friend with whom on several occasions I have been involved in rather deep and engrossing conversations about the serious issues of life. He is full of questions about God, about personal and social morality, about the meaning and purpose of personal existence. He is a deep and perceptive thinker and his questions are challenging to answer. He is seeking for truth and reality, but is experiencing many struggles in trying to live the Christian life. During a two hour dialogue together, our discussion soon passed the merely theoretical and abstract and became very concrete and personal. We found ourselves confiding in one another and even confessing our needs and problems to one another. Then my dear friend said something like this to me: "I am a poor representative of Christianity. I wouldn't want anyone to judge Christianity by my life! I may possess many of the skills that would make me a good Church worker, but what I most lack is what is most important, and that is Christian character!"
So many Christians today know the mechanics of Christianity, but lack the power of Christ. Many know intellectually the content of Christian truth, but lack the volitional ability to live the Christian life. There are far too many Christians who are living defeated Christian lives. Many, like my analytically-minded friend, find it easier to analyze Christianity than to live the Christian life.
Notes Dr. Stanley Walters, "In America, religion has not penetrated to the depths of life and its motivation, and as a consequence, the religious boom in many ways has been apparent rather than real. Another way of putting it is to say that in many places our people and our churches are nominally, but not really Christian". (Christianizing the Christian; article by Stan Walters)
What is the cause for the religious boom being apparent rather than real? Is it because Christians have stopped short of experiencing the Spirit- filled life? The "Christian soon finds that his personality is not fully united around the will of God. He has a bent to evil which he must fight against constantly. Flesh and spirit war against each other … He has made a start, but he needs a further work of divine grace if he is to fulfill the whole will of God". (Entire Sanctification: Studies In Christian Holiness, p. 30)
When asked about the spiritual state of a certain woman, back came the reply, "Well, she's in a very bad state of mind. She's got just enough Christianity to make her miserable when she's doing wrong, but not enough to make her happy in a prayer meeting".
"Father, what I need most, you are most ready to give–Christlike character. More than skills, I need the Saviour; more than gifts I need the Giver; more than knowledge I need wisdom; more than diamonds I need resources. Make me thoroughly, not nominally, Christian! In Christ's name!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Christ has come into my life that He may sit on the throne of my life. I will gladly allow Him to reign in my life today!
Something Alien In The Cellar Of Life!
Writes E. Stanley Jones, "The soul gets on by a series of crises. I've found it so. In conversion there is the sudden or gradual rise to a new level of life, a life as different from the ordinary man as the ordinary man is different from the animal. Then after the rise, life is on a permanently higher level. But on that new level there usually ensues an experience of ups and downs, of alternate encouragement and discouragement, of victory and defeat. It was so with me. For a year I lived under cloudless skies. The sun of my happiness seemed to have risen in the heavens to stay there forever. But after a year of unalloyed joy I found something alien began to rise from the cellar of my life. I felt there was something down there not in alignment with this new life I had found–ugly tempers, moodiness, deep-down conflicts. The general tenor of life was victory, but there were disturbing intrusions from the depths. I was becoming a house divided against itself. I was puzzled, confused, hurt with a tinge of disappointment. Was this the best that Christianity could do–to leave me wrestling with myself, or with something alien to myself? What was this dark something within?" (Song of Ascents, p. 51)
Many Christians are living 'Roller Coaster' lives, regularly experiencing the lows of defeat and guilt. James writes that the double- minded man is unstable in all his ways, like the waves of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed. Unpredictable, unsteady, unfaithful, wrestling with a dark something within.
Some Christians have lost their 'first love' (Revelation 2:4-5). They are luke-warm and unexciting and unexcitable. The fire of holy love on their heart's alter is burning very low. "God's Word, God's house, and God's people are all sources where the spiritual desires can be satisfied. And yet these are not the objective of many of today's Christians. In such a person the affectional system is out of kilter–it is carnal because instead of evidencing spiritual traits it gives evidences of a disturbing anti-spiritual trait–a distaste for spiritual things." (Entire Sanctification: Studies in Christian Holiness)
What is the source of such serious problems in the lives of believers? The carnal mind is the source of the problem! The carnal mind has various manifestations–pride, self-will, self-seeking, putting worldly things before spiritual things, desire for man's approval at almost any cost, fear of man's criticism and fear of being different, shallowness in spiritual insight, double-mindedness, considerable wavering in faith.
"Father, search me and try me and see if there is within me the wickedness of a divided heart. Go into the cellar of my life and cleanse me from the defilement of sin."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Where my sins abound, God's grace super abounds. God has not only promised to give me a new nature, but also to get rid of hyoid nature.
Acknowledging The Need For Drastic Action
Wrote Paul, "Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:22-24, RSV) The verb tense for putting off the old nature and putting on the new nature is the Greek Aorist which refers to an action in a point of time–a decisive action in contrast to an action that is a continuous process. There must come a point of time in which the Christian puts off his old carnal nature and puts on the new nature of true holiness. The old nature must be destroyed or crucified. "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." (Romans 6:6) The Christian must die to sin and to selfishness with all of its envy, resentment, wranglings, contentions, divisions, covetousness, anger, and uncharitableness. Paul wrote to the Ephesian Christians: "Let there be no more resentment, no more anger or temper, no more violent self-assertiveness, no more slander and no more malicious remarks. Be kind to one another; be understanding. Be as ready to forgive others as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you". (Ephesians 4:31-32, Phillips)
The consuming passion of Christians must be for the fruit of the Spirit- -love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) Paul Rees, in one of his books, says it so well: "True, all Christians have these qualities of Christlikeness more or less in their lives. True, also, these plants of spiritual beauty take time for full growth. But every gardner knows that if his soil is being taken by weeds, or if his plants are not healthy, he needs something besides time to produce a lovely garden. Something drastic, like weeding or spraying, needs to be done. Then luxuriant growth and fragrant loveliness will follow in due course".
The putting off of the old nature and the putting on of the new nature involves a decisive surrender of the will of the believer to the total lordship of Christ. "The surrender of the self is a once-and-for-all business, even when a daily surrender is involved. The daily surrender is not really a surrender of the self, but an unfolding of the once-and-for-all surrender. It is an application to a specific thing of a surrender once made." (Christian Maturity, p. 272; E. Stanley Jones)
It was Francis Havergal who wrote: "It was on Advent Sunday, 1873, that I first saw the blessedness of true consecration. I saw it as a flash of electric light, and what you see you can never unsee. There must be full surrender before there can be full blessedness. God admits you to the one by the other". (Entire Sanctification: Studies in Christian Holiness, p. 52)
"Father, you have saved me from sinning, now save me from sin. You have made me a citizen of the Kingdom, now make me a soldier of the Cross. You have taken me out of the world of sin, now take the sin of the world out of me. You have sanctified me initially, now sanctify me fully. In Jesus I name. Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: He who has called me to holiness will work his holiness within me!
The Call To Discipleship
Jesus demanded total surrender from His followers: "Then said Jesus to his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it'." (Matthew 16:24-25, NIV)
Said Jesus regarding the conditions of discipleship: "Anyone who wants to be my follower must love Me far more than he does his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, or sisters–yes, more than his own life–otherwise he cannot be my disciple". (Luke 14:26, Living Bible)
Jesus demands absolute allegiance, unreserved commitment to Himself: "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters" (Luke 11:23). No middle ground, no razor blade of non-committal upon which we may balance precariously!
Jesus asked nothing of His followers, but what He Himself practiced. Jesus' entire life was a life of self-giving. He came to save His creatures from their sins, and to do this He had to go to a Cross! Jesus forever showed the necessity of death to self-will when He prayed to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane: "Not my will, but thine be done".
"When we come to God for forgiveness, our concern is with the guilty conscience, the sense of estrangement from God and from others, and we are asking, 'How can I enjoy the benefits of Christ's atonement in the forgiveness of sin?' In the later development of the Christian life, the focus is not on what I may receive from Christ, but what Christ may receive from me. The question becomes, 'Will Christ enjoy the benefits of my life, surrendered to do His will?'" (Christianizing the Christian; address by Stanley Walters)
"You can find plenty of people whose heart is like a tavern, where Christ finds no welcome, where evil plies its trade busily and brazenly. You can find others whose heart is like a hotel with rooms all parceled out, and a rather nice one assigned to the Lord Jesus. You can find yet others whose heart is like a home, where Christ the Lord has been given not only the right of entry but the right of mastery. There's not a room He cannot occupy, not a corner He cannot inspect, not a piece of furniture he cannot either enjoy or remove!" (Prayer and Life's Highest, p. 23; Paul Rees)
"Before the believer makes the great commitment to God in entire consecration, it is necessary for him to sense his need of God for a further or deeper deliverance. He must sense something of the clash with the carnal mind and long for a better way. It is more of a conviction of want, need, or lack, than it is of actual wrongdoing or guilt. The conflict is within and the sighs and tears expressed rise eloquently before God who knows how to read our need better than we can express it." (Entire Sanctification: Studies in Christian Holiness, p. 51)
"Father, I sense that my life has been indwelt by the Spirit, but not controlled by the Spirit, that the Spirit has been resident in my heart, but not president of my heart. I have been more concerned in what you can do for me than in what I can do for you. Help me to be a true disciple–one whose life is totally disciplined to follow Christ!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: He who has created a holy desire in my heart to serve Christ will impart to me a holy power to serve Christ!
The Meaning Of Full Consecration
It is important to distinguish between consecration and sanctification. Notes J. Paul Taylor, "Consecration is the work of man; entire sanctification is the work of God. Consecration is man's giving to God what he owes; entire sanctification is God's giving to man what He has promised. Consecration is placing oneself on the altar without reserve; entire sanctification is the descent of purging fire upon the offering. Consecration is laying oneself on the surgeon's table; entire sanctification is the removal of the cancer of sin. Consecration is human exposure to the cleansing action; entire sanctification is the expulsion of sin by the cleansing action of God". (Holiness, The Finished Foundation, p. 52)
Consecration to God involves all that we are and all that we have. A surrender of time, talents, money, relationships! A surrender of all! "Just as the canvas surrenders itself to the painter, the violin to the musician, the wire to the electricity, so you put yourself at the disposal of the Divine. You surrender for better or for worse, for riches or for poverty, in sickness and in health, in life and in death–you will keep yourself only unto Him. He has you. Are you thereby lost, or thereby found? You are lost just as the musician is, when he takes his violin, surrenders himself to the music, lets go, becomes a part of the music and is thereby lost. He is lost only to find himself a part of the universal harmony. You lose your petty, isolated, defeated self in the universal Self of God and are harmonized with the heart of reality. As Rufus Moseley says: 'I died and I died ungraciously, but I died to nothing but that which caused me to die'. You die, just as an engine dies to the thought and purpose of wandering free anywhere and surrenders itself to the rails–only to find its freedom there." (Abundant Living, p . 157; E. Stanley Jones)
John Wesley's prayer which he used at his covenant services should be the prayer with which each earnest believer should identify: "I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee; let me be full, let me be empty; let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal. And now, 0 glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen".
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–which is your spiritual worship." (Romans 12:1, NIV)
"Father, save me from the tyranny of self-rule and help me to make an unconditional surrender to Christ's total rule. Help me to make a once-and- for-all surrender that results in a daily surrender to the lordship of Christ. Help me to see that in losing my all, I gain His all. I lose all that is petty in my little self to gain all that is powerful in Christ's big Self! Glory!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: 'Success' is failure outside of Christ, and 'failure' is success inside of Christ. I will follow Christ regardless of man's evaluation of my success and failure!
Exercising Faith For a Pure Heart
Our Scripture reading today says that God gave the Holy Spirit to believers and "purified their hearts by faith".
A pure heart and empowerment for service–these are the needs in every believer's life!
The disciples before the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) had many ugly weeds growing in their lives. They needed to have their hearts purified by faith. Carnal ambition was manifested among the disciples. James and John thought Jesus' kingdom was to be a materialistic kingdom, founded upon military might. They were ambitious for special positions in that coming kingdom; they requested to sit on the right and on the left hand of the King in His kingdom glory! The disciples strove between themselves, favorably comparing themselves to one another. The comparative, competitive, and contemptuous attitudes are what the disciples needed to be cleansed from. They fought for status, position, and honor. They loved to be served, but hated to serve one another. Their love for God and for their fellow disciples was obviously incomplete and inadequate.
There are too many weeds growing in the lives of Christians today: carnal ambition, resentments, striving after vain glory, peevish temper, stubborn self-will, mean stinginess, smug complacency, lukewarmness of spirit, crippling fears. What an ugly weed patch!
How different the disciples were after Pentecost! They were cleansed from carnal ambition and from striving for positions and honor. They became aglow with the warmth of fellowship and mutual care for one another. "Their hearts were purified by faith.
While it is true that consecration is a condition for full sanctification, it might be better stated that consecration is the outward manifestation of inner faith. Strictly speaking, faith is the only condition for receiving the Holy Spirit in His fullness. Notes Dr. A. F. Harper: "There is a sense in which faith is the only condition for receiving the Holy Spirit. Desire and consecration are necessary, but they are foundations for our faith". (Entire Sanctification: Studies in Christian Holiness, p. 59)
The Holy Spirit is God's gift for God's people; said Jesus, "If even sinful persons like yourselves give children what they need, don't you realize that your heavenly Father will do at least as much, and give the Holy Spirit to those who ask for Him?" (Luke 11:13, Living Bible)
E. Stanley Jones expresses the attitude of faith: "Having given yourself, you now have a right to take Himself. Then repeat to yourself: 'He comes–He comes. I let Him come. I welcome with open heart His coming. I am grateful for His coming. It is done. We belong to each other, forever'. Close the eternal bargain". (Abundant Living, p. 158)
"Father, decisively fill me today with your Holy Spirit. I surrender the controls of my heart to your total control. Cleanse me from all inward sin and shed abroad your love in my heart by your Holy Spirit. Enable me to live a consistently victorious life as I daily learn to affirm your lordship in all of my actions, attitudes, and relationships. Thank you. In Jesus' name."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: He who converted my conscious mind is now cleansing my subconscious mind.
Victory Through Surrender
Surrendering to the Lordship of Christ leads one to unlimited freedom to commune with God for whom each person is made. Sin causes man to live in an alien environment; surrender to God enables men to find his natural habitat– the unhindered fellowship of God. Such fellowship frees the Spirit-filled believer from deep loneliness.
Surrendering totally to God results in a person receiving creative energy to cope with life's problems and changing circumstances. Wrote Paul, "This is my work, and I can do it only because Christ's mighty energy is at work within me" (Colossians 1:29). The strength, power, and energy of God can only flow effectively in and through the life channel which is unclogged of selfishness and self-centeredness.
Surrender to the lordship of Christ results in a new freedom to know, to love, and to accept yourself. "When you love Christ by self-surrender to Him, then you love others and you love your self. For the Christian faith teaches self-love: 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself'. You are to love yourself. to hate and reject and despise yourself is just as bad as to hate and reject and despise others. When you surrender to Christ, all self-hate, all self-loathing, all self-rejection drop away. How can you hate what He loves? How can you reject what He accepts? How can you look down on what He died for? You are no longer a person, you are 'a person for whom Christ died'. If He died for me, there must be something in me worth dying for. I am important, because I'm His. So I can accept myself." (Victory Through Surrender, p. 25-46; E. Stanley Jones)
Surrender to the lordship of Christ enables one to serve people without being in bondage to people. "You cannot serve people unless you are delivered from them. If you always wonder, 'What do they think of me' you are not free to serve people. Self-surrender delivers you from surrender to the herd, and that is a blessed deliverance." (Ibid, p. 54)
Surrender to the lordship of Christ enables one to be free to live in harmony with the basic law of the universe. When Jesus chose the way of self- giving–dying on a Cross and surrendering all of His own rights–he was openly revealing the nature of God–the nature of total self-giving. The cross on Mount Calvary was the revealing of the very cross that had been on the heart of God eternally. Taking the way of self-surrender is taking the way of God Himself, and results in living in harmony with the very nature of reality. The way of self-surrender is the way of God. Therefore, self-surrender leads to self-realization. Victory comes through total surrender to God!
"Unconditional surrender leads to unlimited freedom–freedom not to indulge the passions of the flesh, but freedom to serve the Lord passionately, freedom not to live a self-centered life, but freedom to live a self-giving life. Freedom to be the best self that you, O God, created me to be! A thousand 'thank yous' for such glorious freedom!
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I win by losing, I get by giving, I live by dying, I find victory through surrender–all because of Christ!
Experiencing The Fullness Of The Holy Spirit
Tell why you believe (if you do) too many Christians are living defeated and frustrated Christian lives.
What are some of the manifestations of the alien elements in the souls of carnal Christians, and what is the source of such serious problems?
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "There must come a point of time in which the Christian puts off his old carnal nature and puts on the new nature of true holiness". (How does the Greek verbal tense in Ephesians 4:22-24 help in deciding the accuracy of the above statement?)
What is necessary, beyond mere Christian growth, if the problem of carnality in the believer's life is adequately to be dealt with?
What is the relationship between once-and-for-all surrender and daily surrender, as understood by E. Stanley Jones?
List some of the conditions for discipleship as Jesus stated them (with appropriate Scriptural references). Show how Jesus practiced what he taught, regarding discipleship, as demonstrated in His life.
What is the difference between the focus of the needy sinner when he initially comes to God, and the focus of the believer when he later comes to God seeking to serve God more fully?
What is meant by the statement that some people's hearts are like a 'tavern' and some like a 'hotel' and some like a 'home'?
How do you distinguish between 'consecration' and 'sanctification'?
Can a believer's full consecration and surrender to Christ best be described as an experience of 'dying' or of 'new life' or of both? Explain your answer. (Note Romans 12:1 and Galatians 2:20)
What are some of the 'ugly weeds' growing in the lives of carnal Christians, which need to be destroyed?
What are the specific conditions for being filled with the Holy Spirit?
List at least five benefits to be derived from full surrender to the Lordship of Christ.
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Taking the way of self-surrender is taking the way of God Himself, and results in living in harmony with the very nature of reality".
Share from your personal experience the benefits which believer, have derived from making a full surrender of your life (If you have not yet made that full surrender, are you presently take that most important step?)