Life on the Highest Plane
Vol. 3: The Believer's Response to the Holy Spirit's Inworking
The Believer's Part in Remaining Spirit-filled Bible Study
The greatest problem of the spiritual man is how to live habitually on the highest plane. The question of continuance is the one that perplexes him most. What the Holy Spirit begins in salvation He continues in sanctification. He works for permanence and progress in the spiritual experience of the Christian.
AN ABIDING AND AN ABOUNDING LIFE
Salvation which commences in accepting Christ as Saviour continues in abiding in Him as Life. The last word Christ spoke to His disciples was on the kind of life they were to live after He went away from them. It was not to be a variable up-and-down experience but their life was to be characterized by steadiness and sturdiness. Permanence would be one of its outstanding marks. It was to be an abiding life. Abiding is a steady continuance in an already established relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
It was to be a life abounding in the exhaustless resources of the Lord of heaven and earth. Life on the highest plane demands growth. There is to be nothing static in experience, stagnant in condition or slothful in action in the spiritual man's life. The language of the spiritual man is always, "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: . . . forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." The passion of the spiritual man is progress in things spiritual. He is not content with bearing "fruit," no not even with bearing "more fruit"; his heart is fixed upon the bearing of the "much fruit" which alone glorifies the Father. Abounding means continually rising to higher ground in the already established relationship in Christ.
Abiding implies reciprocity or mutual giving and taking. It connotes such intimacy of relationship as demands interchange of thought, love, devotion. Abiding means fellowship, the walking and talking together of two who love each other devotedly; the friendship of truly sympathetic persons capable of mutual love and mutual response.
1 John 1:3, "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ."
Genesis 5:22, "And Enoch walked with God."
Revelation 3:20, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."
But how can such fellowship exist between One in heaven and another on earth? Through what means, by what medium, can such communion be maintained? The answer to this question is to be found in the life of God's second Man. As the Son of Man He maintained unbroken fellowship with His Father in heaven, and as the representative Man He did it through the same means and by the same medium as our fellowship with Him is to be maintained. In this as in all other things He is our Example.
The Holy Spirit was the divine means of communion and the Holy Scriptures were the divine medium of communication between the eternal Father and the incarnate Son. In other words, the Spirit used the Word as the link between heaven and earth.
The incarnate Son lived by the Word of God. He was both obedient to it and dependent upon it. His spiritual growth as a child and His guidance as a Man had their spring in the Word of God.
Luke 2:40, "And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him."
Strength and stature were His in ever increasing measure. "He was filled with wisdom" that is from above, the wisdom of God. At twelve He astounded the doctors in the Temple by His understanding of the Scriptures.
Luke 4:4, "And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by breadalone, but by every word of God."
Luke 24:44, "And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me."
The "it is written" of the Scriptures molded His conduct and the "that all things must be fulfilled which were written" marked out His course from the beginning to the end of His ministry. In Scripture He found His Father's plan and path clearly outlined for Him. The loving fellowship which existed between Father and Son was rooted in the Son's habitual obedience to and dependence upon the Word of God.
Is it any wonder, then, that He commended to His disciples a similar life of obedience to and dependence upon the living Word of God if they would abide in Him as He had abided in the Father?
John 15:10, "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love."
John 8:31, "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed."
John 15:7, "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
We only abide in Him as His Word abides in us and accomplishes its own divinelppointed work. Upon our relationship to the Word of God the permanence and progress of our spiritual life depends. This claim may be easily verified through a study of the Spirit's use of the Word.
THE WORD OF GOD IS THE MEDIUM IN REGENERATION
The instrument used to implant in the human spirit the divine seed of the uncreated life of God is the Word of God. Through the Word we are brought out of death into life.
1 Peter 1:23, "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."
THE WORD OF GOD IS THE MEDIUM IN REVELATION
Life requires light. Regeneration presumes revelation. The newborn soul has been "called . . . out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9) and the light of God cannot be concealed from the one to whom the life of God has been communicated.
Illumination is absolutely essential to the new life in Christ. To maintain the life, light is imperative.
John 1:4, "In him was life; and the life was the light of men."
John 8:12, "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
Illumination is absolutely essential to the new walk in Christ.
Ephesians 5:8, "For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light."
1 John 1:5-7, "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."
When the Holy Spirit enters the human spirit He bestows a spiritual nature which has the capacity to perceive and an appetite to know. An insatiable hunger and an unquenchable thirst for the knowledge of God possesses a Spirit-filled, Spirit-controlled man. He cries with the psalmist, "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for the living God."
One of the sure marks of a spiritual man is his ever increasing knowledge of God. Spiritual perception and spiritual enlightenment stamp a man as a growing Christian. God puts no premium on ignorance. Paul prayed that his converts might have spiritual understanding, heaven-born wisdom, divine enlightenment.
Ephesians 1:17-18, "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints."
Colossians 1:9, "For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding."
God expects every child of His to be growing in the knowledge of Him. Paul did not pray that the Colossian Christians might be filled with the knowledge of God's will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding that they might be equipped to fill a chair in a theological seminary or to go as a missionary to some foreign field, but that wherever they were and whatever their task they might "walk worthily of the Lord unto all pleasing," "be fruitful in every good work," and "be strengthened with might, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness."
The apostle Paul constantly said "Know ye not?" Again and again in the letters to the Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians he speaks of the things we should know. The words "we know" are almost the key words of the first epistle of John. Count for yourself the number of times they are used and write out the things the Christian should "Know." In the realm of the spiritual it is the man who knows who does.
Daniel 11:32, "And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall be corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits."
In Romans 6 God's divine order is "Know" (v. 6); "Reckon" (v. 11); "Yield" (v. 13); "Obey" (v. 17). It is the man who really knows God who believingly reckons on the great facts of salvation, who voluntarily yields himself to the Saviour, and who gladly obeys Christ, the Lord. Growth in ladly obeys Christ, the Lord. Growth in grace and growth in the knowledge of God are simultaneous.
2 Peter 3:18, "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
But spiritual knowledge comes through just one channel. The Word of God is the divinely appointed medium of revelation. The entrance of God's Word giveth light. Life and light come from the same source.
Psalm 36:9, "For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light."
Psalm 119:130, "The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple."
Romans 10:17, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
In the Word of God the Christian finds the revelation of everything needful for salvation, sanctification and service. All that the Father intends His child to know regarding his spiritual possessions, privileges and responsibilities He has revealed in the Bible. The clear revelation of Himself, His will, His way and His purpose is all in the Word.
John 15:15, "Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you."
Ephesians 1:9, "Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself."
The man who gives himself to daily thought and prayerful meditation on God's Word possesses a degree of spiritual perception out of all proportion to his intellectual capacity or attainment, judged from the standpoint of things natural.
THE WORD OF GOD IS THE MEDIUM OF RENEWAL
Even the spiritual man has no resources in himself. He is in daily need of replenishing. "The spiritual blessings, which are given to him according to the everlasting covenant, are all treasured up in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Once we have begun to draw nigh to God, we must continue to draw nigh. It is both a necessity and a delight. A necessity because we are still as dependent on the creative, supernatural influence of grace . . . Such pensioners are we of the divine bounty, daily and hourly we must be recipients of His gifts and of His power. Peter imagines he has a stock of courage and loving loyalty in himself; but sad experience teaches him that his nature is feeble and selfish; that not he, but Christ in him, is rock . . . We have nothing in ourselves; our sufficiency is of God" (Adolph Saphir, The Hidden Life, pp. 19-20). The spiritual man never ceases to feel his utter dependence upon God.
God provides for his renewal. The man who is saved by the truth of God's Word is also sanctified by it. The stature and strength of the spiritual man will be in exact proportion to his faithful continuance in the Word of the Lord. The study of God's Word is the divinely appointed means of spiritual culture; the divinely ordained method of spiritual growth.
John 17:17, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."
John 8:31, "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed."
A careful study of the scriptural names of the Word of God will reveal God's intended use of it in the renewal of the Christian's life.
The Word is a Mirror to Reveal
James 1:23-25, "For if any [man] be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed."
A mirror reveals the personal appearance of the one who looks into it. The Bible is just such a revelation of man. In it we see the human heart mirrored exactly as it is in the sight of God. We have in the Word full-length portraits of the natural, the carnal and the spiritual man. As one studies the Bible he finds himself; mirrored in the lives of men and women who lived centuries ago he sees himself. In the covetousness of Achan, the backsliding of David, the despondency of Elijah, the avarice of Jacob, the falsehood of Ananias and Sapphira, the denial of Peter, the self-righteousness of Saul of Tarsus and the jealousy, unbelief and self-seeking of the disciples, he looks into his own sinful heart and his own wayward life. The Bible takes the covering off the inmost spirit and unveils its secret thoughts and motives. It shows us to ourselves as we are. But it does not stop there. It unfolds to man's vision the perfect Man. He "beholds as in a glass the glory of the Lord" for in the Word, God gives "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." Then the Bible challenges him, who has seen himself as he is and as he may become, to act upon the vision, to become a doer of the Word in order that he may be conformed to the image of Christ.
The Word is Water to Cleanse and Refresh
Ephesians 5:25-26, "Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word."
John 15:3, "Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you."
Psalm 119:9, "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word."
Walking as pilgrims through a world reeking in sin we are in constant contact with its defilement and in constant need of cleansing. In olden times the priests, who were cleansed by the blood at the brazen altar, still needed the washing of water at the layer to make them fit for the worship and the work of the tabernacle. So we, though cleansed from the guilt of sin through the blood of the living Word, yet need daily the washing by the water of the written Word. The Christian's life is kept pure and clean only in the proportion to which the Word of God is hid in the heart and applied to the life.
Water also refreshes. Countless Christians could testify to the removal of weariness of spirit, discouragement of soul and even exhaustion of body through a quiet hour of meditation upon the Word.
The Word of God is Food to Nourish and Delight
The Word is milk for the newborn babe; it is strong meat for the spiritual adult; and it is honey for the spiritually minded.
1 Peter 2:2, "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby."
Hebrews 5:14, "But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."
Psalm 19:10, "More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb."
The man who feeds upon God's Word will become strong; the one who neglects it will be dwarfed. Both stature and strength are gauged by the quality of spiritual food eaten and assimilated. Wherever you find a spiritual anemic the reason is improper food.
The Christian who is improperly or insufficiently fed is the prey to all kinds of spiritual disease. He is powerless to resist temptation, blind to discern error, helpless to overcome sin. He is open to all the deceiving devices and subtle strategies of the evil one. He not only makes no progress but he cannot even hold his own and lives a flabby, inconsistent, dishonoring life before the world.
The Christian who is not entering into new possessions of God's grace, love and power through new conquests of the Word is living on the stale manna of some moldy experience or musty testimony. The new nature is starved because forced to exist on denatured emotions and devitalized vocabulary, "he feedeth on ashes" instead of "the bread of life." Christ knew that the only food upon which the new nature could thrive was the Word of God. In His high priestly prayer He said to His Father, "I have given them thy word" (John 17:14).
Sometimes a Christian worker has lost his power for no other reason than neglect of the Bible. Because of this his message is devoid of freshness and fruitfulness. The inevitable result is the giving of his own word in the wisdom, eloquence and energy of the flesh. This God never promises to bless.
1 Corinthians 2:4, "And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power."
1 Thessalonians 2:13, "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe."
"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God" (Luke 4:4). "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63). Can we think it possible that the food on our tables should be so transmuted in nature's laboratory that it should reappear, now in stalwart muscle of the blacksmith's arm, and now in the fine texture of the poet's brain, and let it seem incredible that the Word of God can reappear in every kind of spiritual power and holy efficiency?
The Word of God is a Lamp to Guide
Psalm 119:105, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."
Pitfalls are all around the Christian; the devil has well-laid snares to entrap.
2 Timothy 2:26, "And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will."
Psalm 119:110, "The wicked have laid a snare for me: yet I erred not from thy precepts."
The straight and narrow way is not always easily discerned and still less easily followed. In these perilous times when there is so much of the world in the Church and when even the shepherd of the flock may walk in ways quite contrary to the Word of God, many an earnest Christian is perplexed and at a loss to know what is a consistent walk. He surely needs a light upon his path.
But he needs even more than that; he needs to be shown each step of the way. The Word of God is just such a guide and, when it is hid in the heart and heeded in the life, the Christian need not wander nor stumble. His every step may be ordered in full conformity to God's will and ways because in full obedience to God's Word.
Psalm 119:133, "Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me."
Psalm 37:31, "The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide."
Many mistakes are made by Christians through seeking and following the counsel of men rather than that of God. Some have lost the way altogether and are living outside the will of God because they have listened to man's voice. I know a life that is shipwrecked upon the rock of human counsel, devoid of both peace and power. We cannot be reminded too often of the solemn fact that Adam's sin came through heeding Eve's voice, and Eve sinned by believing and obeying the devil's word instead of God's. There is but one absolutely safe counselor for the Christian, the Word of God.
Psalm 119:24, "Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors."
2 Timothy 3:15, "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."
The teaching, instruction, warning, correction and guidance which every Christian needs to make him complete and to equip him for service are all to be found in the Bible.
2 Timothy 3:16-17, R.V., "Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work."
The Word of God is Wealth to Enrich
Psalm 119:14, "I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches."
Psalm 119:72, "The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver."
Psalm 119:127, "Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold."
Psalm 119:162, "I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil."
There is constant drain upon the Christian. Everything in his environment tends to impoverishment of spirit. There is unceasing need of renewal through enrichment. But in the Lord Jesus are "hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3); in him are embodied all the unsearchable riches of grace and glory (Philippians 4:19; Ephesians 1:7). The Spirit opens these to us by opening the Scriptures and enabling us through the Word to know and to claim all the things which He hath given us richly to enjoy.
The Word of God is a Critic to Judge
Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
The Greek word Kritikos means able to judge. The tendency today is that men choose to be critics of the Word rather than to accept the Word as their critic. But one very salutary function of the Bible is its judgment upon the Christian's thoughts and actions. The psalmist who offered that sincere prayer, "Search me, 0 God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting," knew the helpfulness of God's righteous judgments.
Psalm 119:164, "Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous judgments."
Psalm 119:175, "Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me."
What a quickening of spiritual life would take place today if every child of God would put his life under the righteous judgment of the Word of God. The long-prayed-for revival undoubtedly would burst forth like fire if the Bible were permitted to become the critic of men's thoughts, feelings and actions, and if they were willing to act upon its kindly, beneficent criticism.
The Word of God is a Manual of Holy Living
Psalm 119:1-3, "Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways."
God has provision for every step of the way in the life of godliness, which He expects His child to live. In His Word He has given the principles that govern such a life, and the precepts which teach us how to practice them. The Christian who practices the presence of God and who lives the Christ-life most transparently is the one who is most thoroughly saturated with God's Word and who deliberately has given himself to live out that Word in deed.
The Word of God is a Weapon
Ephesians 6:17, "And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
The Spirit-filled man has enemies; he is engaged in a warfare. The powers of hell are all against him. He is always open to attack and momentarily liable to defeat. He needs both defensive and offensive weapons. lie must be able both to stand and to withstand in every assault of Satan.
There is but one way this can be done and it is the way the God-man used. His only weapon in the wilderness was the Sword of the Spirit. "It is written," repeated three times in the threefold attack, repulsed the enemy.
Let us note that the God-man had His sword burnished and ready. He did not wait to draw out the scroll of Scripture and read from it to get an answer for the devil. In the years of seclusion in the Nazareth home He had stored away the words of God in His heart, and in the hours of quiet work in the carpenter's shop He had meditated upon them. It may be that the Son of Man had gone into the wilderness fresh from the study of Deuteronomy. His mind was so saturated with its truth that when Satan attacked, the Spirit instantly brought to remembrance the very words that utterly routed him. The Son of Man was kept in the moment of temptation by the Word hid in His heart.
Deuteronomy 11:18, "Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes."
Psalm 119:11, "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee."
Colossians 3:16, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord."
Often the reason we yield so quickly to temptation is that our sword is rusty. This gives Satan the advantage over us. Temptation comes to us on the street, in the office, when we may not have a Bible with us. It comes unexpectedly. There is no time to stop and search for an effectual portion of Scripture. It is only that part of the Word that is bid in the heart that will become a Sword in action at the moment most needed. It is the portion of the Word of God which we have learned and lived that will be effectual in the fight with Satan.
Another essential to success is confidence in the weapon we use. I feel sure there was the certitude of victory in the very tone of the voice when the Lord Jesus said, "It is written!" To Him the Word was authoritative and final. His confidence in the absolute authority of Deuteronomy had not been weakened by a doubtful attitude toward its authorship. To Him it was the Word of God forever settled in heaven. He had no question concerning its potency because He had no doubt concerning its purity or its permanence.
Psalm 12:6, "The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times."
Proverbs 30:5, "Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him."
Luke 21:33, "Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away."
Many Christians are defeated today in the warfare against sin and Satan because of doubt regarding their weapon, the Word of God. To them the Word is not the Sword of the Spirit but it is merely a staff of man s making to assist him on the pathway of life which he feels at liberty to whittle down to the measure of his own intellect and experience. Belief in the absolute trustworthiness and final authority of the Word is an essential to the potent use of it as the Sword.
The Word of God is a Fire That Both Burns and Warms
Jeremiah 20:9, "Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay."
The Bible is like a fire that burns out the dross, purifying and purging. It is a devouring flame before which nothing that is contrary to God's will and ways can stand.
Jeremiah 5:14, "Wherefore thus saith the LORD God of hosts, Because ye speak this word, behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them."
1 Peter 1:22, "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently."
It is at the same time a fire that warms with comfort and cheer the heart desolated by sorrow and distressed through suffering.
1 Thessalonians 4:18, "Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
Psalm 119:50, "This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me."
Psalm 119:165, "Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them."
The Word of God is a Hammer to Break
Jeremiah 23:29, "Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?"
There is such a residue of stubbornness, resistance and rebellion in every life! The man who has been accustomed to go his own way, seek his own pleasure to do his own will is not easily made submissive and humble. There is much in every one of us that is hard which needs to be broken; much that is resisting which needs to be melted.
As the Christian studies the Word and comes under the softening rays of God's loving-kindness, tender mercy, unfailing faithfulness, unquenchable love and exhaustless grace, his heart is melted, his will is broken and his life is turned into joyous, humble submission to the loving will of God.
The Word of God is a Seed That Matures and Multiplies
Luke 8:11, "Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God."
James 1:18, "of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures."
Psalm 126:6, "He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him."
A seed in itself is but a small hard substance which, if laid away in a drawer will remain only a seed. But put into suitable soil, given needed nurture, it will become a plant or a tree. The Word of God is seed. Left on the drawing-room table to give semblance of religion to the home or carried when traveling to fulfill a promise to a praying mother at home, or as a sacred charm to ward off disaster, it will never influence or change the life in any way whatsoever. But let that incorruptible seed which has the very germ of life in it "My words are life" be sown in the soil of the human heart by the Holy Ghost and it fructifies in a new creation.
Nor is it enough to accept the Bible as historically true. Before it can manifest its power to save and to sanctify it must be engrafted upon the inner life.
James 1:21, "Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls."
The seed needs to be fostered and nurtured by earnest study and eager searching. Seed needs time to grow. The Word must be pondered and meditated upon. It must lie fallow in the mind, heart, conscience and will to bring forth its full fruitage. The seed must be kept abiding in the soil of faith. The Christian must continue in the Word. The Word must abide in him by day and by night.
Psalm 119:97, "O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day."
Psalm 119:148, "Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word."
John 15:7, "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."
Countless times have I seen the maturing, multiplying power of the Word of God when engrafted upon a human life but in none more beautifully illustrated than in the life of a Chinese teacher who came to a summer conference as an interpreter. Although he had been a Christian for many years and was active in Christian work yet he was lamentably ignorant of the Word of God. This fact was so borne in upon him as he interpreted the missionary's message that he determined to leave his position as teacher immediately and devote himself to the study of the Bible. He went to a seminary for a short time, t
Shortly afterward I received a letter from a missionary in that city, in which she said:
"It would delight your very soul could you see and know all the wonderful way in which the Lord has led and used W in the last six or eight months. His Bible classes last fall and winter numbering about two hundred, were very fine indeed. He had them for all classes, from college boys down to the cooks and other servants on our compounds. His year away made a new man of him. That year's study did worlds for him in the Scriptures. His familiarity with the Bible now is as marked as his lack of it was before this year of close application, and of course he is going on too, gaining ground all the time. He is probably going to he ordained in a few weeks now and become assistant pastor of the church. The strongest thing about W is his life of prayer. Partly through the instrumentality of him and his sister, if not mostly, there are now being held three meetings a day just for prayer. And praise His Name, there have been some extraordinary answers to the prayers of this little circle which has for many months met every Sunday morning very early, really before the dawn. Now they have it every day."
Coldness of heart, callousness of conscience, weakness of will, feebleness of testimony, joylessness in worship, fruitlessness in service, powerlessness in prayer all are traceable to just one thing ignorance of and indifference to God's Word. "Ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you" (John 8:37). But, when the Word is given its rightful place in any life, it has power to convict, to convert, to cleanse, to control, to criticize, to correct and to consecrate. It becomes a mold that fashions the life into ever growing likeness to the image of Christ Jesus. "The Word is an expulsive power to turn out the tyranny of sin; an enlightening power to dispel the darkness of ignorance; an ennobling power to elevate the mind; an eradicating power to cleanse the heart; an endowing power to enrich the being, and an effectual power to bless in every way to the glory of God" (F. E. Marsh, The Spiritual Life, p. 49).
BIBLE STUDY FOR PERSONAL SPIRITUAL GROWTH
I was once asked by a group of high school pupils to lead their Christian Endeavour meeting. The invitation read as follows, "We would like for you to tell us how to read it so as to get the most out of it. Most of us read a chapter a day but then I am afraid that we do not do very much else," Doubtless this is the experience of many Christians.
To know how to study the Bible for personal spiritual growth is the need of every Christian, old and young. It is not possible in the confines of this chapter to make suggestions regarding methods of Bible study. Nor is it necessary to do so, for the person who truly desires to know the Word will discover for himself the best method.
But I would mention three things which to me seem essential for the kind of Bible study which will lift a Christian to life on the highest plane. They are an adequate objective, a right attitude, and an obedient response.
The reason the Bible "has no taste" and why it is so unproductive of spiritual harvest in our lives is partly due to the lack of an adequate objective. To read the Bible aimlessly, to read it because one has signed a pledge promising to read a chapter a day or because of the desire to please a parent, teacher or friend, but without the purpose to remember what is read and to reproduce it in character and conduct, while it may bring blessing, will not lift one to life on the highest plane. To read it spasmodically, to desire comfort in sorrow, to obtain strength in trial, to find wisdom in perplexity and to receive guidance in uncertainty, while all are legitimate motives, yet they are not the highest nor those most productive of spiritual gain.
There is, in fact, but one objective that is altogether adequate and it is that through the Word of God, we may know the Son of God. The Lord Jesus Christ is the central fact, and the commanding Figure of the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation He is to be found. No book of the Bible will be fully understood until Christ be seen in it. He is the pivot upon which everything in the divine revelation turns and He is the fountain from which everything in spiritual experience springs. To know Him is eternal life, to know Him better and better is life abiding and abounding.
Philippians 3:8, 10, "Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ. That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death."
"That I may know him" that I may win Christ this is the objective that will challenge one to earnestly, eagerly search the Scriptures.
The papers of a continent recorded the story of the nonstop flight of Colonel Lindbergh from Washington, D. C., to Mexico City. Alone he flew for twenty-seven hours through an untraversed track of air, enduring loss of sleep and lack of food, surmounting great difficulties and encountering great dangers from the beginning to the end of the trip. He faced all these conditions before he started, but be had an objective that was big enough and worthy enough and challenging enough to win Mexico City in a nonstop flight. And he reached his goal while the people of a whole continent looked on his achievement with admiration and praise.
Colonel Lindbergh had an adequate objective but how was it attained? Through skill you say. But was there any other contributing cause to the success of his flight? Judging by an article written by the commandant of Bolling Field from which he took off on his flight, half of the success of the trip was won before he ever stepped into his plane at Washington. He says, "The flier studied everything. He pored over weather maps; figured time and fuel needed; and examined the field minutely. On three different occasions he walked over the entire airdrome carefully, noting the soft or boggy places, the rough spots, the sound, high, firm or grassy places, the ditches, depressions and obstacles bordering the airdrome, the height of trees, buildings, smoke-stacks, radio towers, etc., within a mile from the field; also the fact that the river level was ten to fifteen feet below the airdrome level at one particular end of the field where no hurdle presented itself." Colonel Lindbergh had an adequate objective which constrained him to make this minute and masterful study of everything pertaining to that flight.
One day on the road to Damascus the young Hebrew, Saul of Tarsus, saw the Lord Jesus Christ. Then and there he was not only converted but captivated. "One figure enraptured him, captivated his being, bound him as with chains, and that figure is Christ Jesus, the Lord. One passion reigns, one motive dominates, that the Lord, in love, devotion and service should be his all-in-all. Everything else is subservient, everything else is counted as refuse that this one object may be altogether his. Nothing of earth is comparable to Him, nothing of earth is desired beside Him. All that once was counted gain is discarded as loss for the priceless possession of the eternal treasure Jesus Christ the Lord."
Paul, having caught a vision of his risen, exalted Lord, having been captivated by His grace and glory, was consumed with the passion to make "a nonstop flight" to the perfect possession of all his glorious inheritance in Christ Jesus. His objective "that I may win Christ" so big, so worthy, so challenging that it made the things of time, sense and earth sink into utter insignificance. His objective "that I may know him" so constraining that it carried him away into Arabia for three years where he received the God-inspired revelation which has come down to you and me through his epistles.
What is your objective in Bible study? Is it merely to satisfy intellectual curiosity? Is it only to know the contents of the Bible and to appreciate its literary value as one of the great books in the world's library? Is it even for a purely selfish enrichment of your own life? Or do you come every day to the written Word of God that you may better know the eternal, incarnate, risen, living Word of God as He is revealed in its pages? Your goal will very largely determine your gain. Will you today enter the company of those who, emulating the apostle Paul's example, approach God's Word daily saying "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord . . . that I may win Christ and be found in him." There will surely be a divine response to such seeking and God will give "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
2 Corinthians 4:6, "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
The second essential in Bible study for personal spiritual growth is a right attitude. What we get from the Bible is determined very largely by what we bring to it. If we approach the Bible in an attitude of doubt we shall probably leave it in doubt.
A Christian worker whose faith in the Word of God had been so undermined and poisoned that she said she disbelieved and doubted everything in the Book before she even opened it, came one day to me in great distress. She had been asked to give an Easter message and she had none to give. She came to ask that we might read together the accounts of the resurrection in the four gospels. As we read Matthew 28:17, "And when they saw him: they worshipped him: but some doubted," she just dropped her Bible and said, "Oh! it is no wonder they doubted!" I said, "Oh! is that the way you read it? As I read it, it is no wonder that they worshipped!" "I see," she replied, "it all depends on the attitude you bring to the Bible; if you bring doubt, you will doubt; if you bring worship, you will worship."
The first secret of Bible study is faith born of humility. He that comes to God must believe that He is and that He does. He must come believing that through the Word, God speaks and therefore he must come humbly and reverently.
Hebrews 11:6, "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
Psalm 119:161, "Princes have persecuted me without a cause: but my heart standeth in awe of thy word."
But we must approach the study of God's Word not only in faith but in love. It will not yield a very abundant harvest to the one who comes to it merely from a sense of duty. To enrich the life Bible study must be regarded as a delight. How well the psalmist knew his Lord. The secret is not hard to discover.
Psalm 1:2, "But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night."
Psalm 119:47, "And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved."
But how contrary is such an attitude to that of most Christians. In what a purely perfunctory, desultory manner many Christians study or read the Bible. It is like a bit of distasteful medicine that is needed for the sake of health but the quicker taken the better. The Bible is opened in a haphazard fashion to any place; the reading is done with no relish; the Book is gladly closed and what was read makes little impression.
The Word of God is a living thing and accordingly responds to the treatment given to it. What a difference it makes when one truly hungers for the bread of life; when one thirsts for the living water; when one comes to the Word of God with a keen appetite for a full meal. The Word of God becomes food to such a one and honey to his taste.
Jeremiah 15:16, "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, 0 LORD of hosts."
Job 23:12, R.V., "I have not gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured up the words of his mouth more than my necessary food."
Psalm 119:103, "How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!"
What a difference it makes when one approaches the Bible as on a quest, when one is really hunting for something as the gold digger hunts for the gold. Then he is content with no superficial reading but he systematically searches; he seeks for great spoil; he diligently digs for the deepest truths. Such a one is saved from intellectual laziness and stands ready for the concentration and meditation required of one who deeply knows God. The Bible becomes a gold mine to such a searcher after truth.
Psalm 119:127, "Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold."
Psalm 119:162, "I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil."
What a difference it makes when one truly loves the Book and longs to know Christ! Then he does not study with an eye on the clock but rather rejoices to find an extra hour or two that he may spend upon the Word. Such a man knows the thrill of "a nonstop flight" even through Genesis, Isaiah or Revelation. He loves the Book of God because he loves the God of the Book.
Psalm 119:140, "Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it."
John 14:21, "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him."
We must approach the Word of God not only in faith and in love but in a willingness to obey. To learn and then not to live is deadly and disastrous. Disobedience to what God said through doubt kept the children of Israel out of Canaan and later took their posterity into captivity and exile. One must become a doer of the Word.
Deuteronomy 6:1, "Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it."
John 14:23, "Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."
The Bible will never really become ours until we have the consistent and persistent purpose to live what we learn. We might make a very careful study of the constituent elements of foods and know just how much of each we need in our system to ensure health but that knowledge will not give strength of body. Only as we eat, digest and assimilate the food itself does it minister to our bodily needs. So we need to beware of mere head knowledge of the Bible. Apart from the Holy Spirit's inworking of the Word of life into the very fabric of our being it has no saving or sanctifying power. This He cannot do unless there is an obedient response on our part. The Word is not given to us to make our intellects treasure-houses of heavenly wisdom but to make our hearts the sanctuaries of the heavenly One. God's warnings have no value for one unless they are heeded: His precepts profit nothing unless they are followed and His commandments can only bless as they are obeyed. "If ye keep my commandments." The whole force of what follows draws its meaning from that little word "if." If we take food into the body, it becomes blood and muscle, so if we incorporate the Word of God into our life, it becomes character and conduct. When studying God's Word we should say to ourselves constantly, "How can this be worked into the very woof and warp of my life?" The Bible to yield its full fruitage demands not only consideration and meditation but application.
Someone had told of a Korean Christian who was examined on the Sermon on the Mount and was able to repeat it without mistake. When the missionary asked, "How did you manage to learn it so perfectly?" the reply came, "I learned it a verse or a few verses at a time. I would learn a verse and then go out and find someone to practice it on."
A native of India read the gospels for the first time and while filled with admiration for the God-man, yet such a life in such a world seemed wholly incredible to him. Then he read on into the epistles and learned that the Christian was one who was like his Lord and whose life was lived in obedience to the Word. So he started out on a quest to find a man whose life matched the Book determining that if his quest were successful, he would believe. If he had seen yen you or me would he have found one whose life matched the Book?
Dr. Alex. Smellie wrote of Evan H. Hopkins, "He was a sermon incarnate. The sunshine of the Better Country where his days and nights were spent, played on his soul and articulated itself in his speech; it was sunshine not merely visible but audible."
It is the man who obeys the truth as he knows it whose capacity is enlarged to receive larger and fuller revelations of truth. The man who steadfastly lives out what he learns is ever learning more.
Genesis 13:14, "And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward."
"The Lord said after that." Here is a most significant sequence. Obedience to God's command brought the fuller revelation of God's purpose to Abram. So will it be with you and me. Disobedience to the known will of God as revealed in His Word is the cause of much of the stagnancy and slothfulness in the churches of today. What a revival would take place in the corporate Body of Christ, the Church, and what a revolution there would be in the individual members if every Christian began to live what he has learned of the Word of God.
Sir Arthur Blackwell has summed up the Christian's relationship to the Bible in four great words.
Open your whole being to let it be flooded with light. Let the truth in. Study the Bible sympathetically and lovingly. Let it be God's voice to you direct.
Let the truth grip you that it may govern you. "Let the plain declarations of God's Word be the end of all controversy. Whenever we raise an issue with God all growth and all blessing must stop until that issue is settled."
Grip the truth by hiding it in your heart. Let today's message be articulated to yesterday's so that a chain is forged that is a veritable anchor to your soul in times of temptation, trouble and trial.
"Don't be a pool; be a stream." Don't hoard your riches; share the bounties of the Lord's table with another. Make every truth tenfold your own by passing it on.
Missionary A possessed some strawberry plants which he shared with Missionary B who came to live beside him. That year Missionary A's plants were all destroyed by insects and Missionary B gave back to Missionary A half his plants. So all the plants which Missionary A possessed were what he gave away.
THE HOLY SPIRIT THE DIVINE TEACHER, GUIDE AND REVEALER
There is no reason for ignorance of divine things on the part of any Christian who can read, for God has not only furnished us with a Textbook but with a Teacher: He has given us not only a Guidebook but a Guide: He has unfolded to us not only a Revelation but has bestowed upon us the Revealer.
John 14:26, "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name,
John 16:13, "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come."
1 Corinthians 2:9-10, "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God."
Millions of Christians never have the opportunity to study the Bible in a theological seminary, Bible school or college. Comparatively few even have the privilege of being in a Bible class. But that does not exclude them from knowing all things which God has given in Christ to them that love Him. God not only desires but expects His children to know the way of life, how to enter upon it and how to walk in it. There are some things which God has not revealed to us but all that He has revealed belongs to us and a full knowledge of this revelation is our birthright as His children.
Deuteronomy 29:29, "The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law."
God has taken our ignorance and inability into account and has made provision for our supernatural illumination and enlightenment. Read 1 Corinthians 1:183:4, with this in mind.
The spiritual man then has One who will teach him "all things that pertain to life and godliness" and who will apply them to his life so that the knowledge will not be only intellectual or academic but spiritual and experiential. The Holy Spirit will not only teach us the truth but will guide us into it, enabling us to incorporate it into our lives that we may become holy and righteous even as He.
One reason the Bible has no meaning to us but rather seems incredible and unintelligible is because we try to understand it with our unaided and unanointed intellect. God only promises spiritual apprehension to the one who has received the Holy Spirit's anointing. Only a spiritual mind can receive spiritual truth.
1 John 2:20, R.V., "And ye have an anointing from the Holy One, and ye know all things."
1 John 2:27, R.V., "And as for you, the anointing which ye received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any one teach you; but as his anointing teacheth you concerning all things, and is true, and is no lie, and even as it taught you, ye abide in him."
"Ye have an anointing ye know," "His anointing teacheth you." God has a divine order which is irreversible.
I know a Chinese man who has a spiritual apprehension and appreciation of Scripture beyond that of the majority of Christian workers, yet he never attended a Bible school a day in his life or studied in a mission school. But his eyes have been anointed to see, his heart to receive and his mind to understand the deep, eternal verities of the Word of God.
Fellow Christian, have you had that anointing? Have your eyes been anointed to see the beauties and excellencies of the adorable Lord of glory as revealed in the Word? Or are you groping your way through the Bible depending upon your unaided human intellect to fathom the unsearchable riches of God's grace? Have you come from your study of the Bible disappointed and discouraged?
I once visited a wonderful cave in Colorado. Impatient of the delay caused by the slowness of the party gathering together I rushed alone into the cave. All was dark, I could not even see which way to go. Seeing a lantern near the entrance I took that and tried to lift it high enough to see some of the loudly proclaimed beauties of that cave. But I saw nothing and turned back in disappointment. After a while the party came with a guide. He commanded us to follow him very closely. In a few minutes he lifted a big torch, which he carried in his hand, high up to the ceiling of the cave and oh! what exclamations of surprise and delight came from every member of the party as the beauty and wonder of the stalagmites and stalactites burst upon our vision. Every step we took our guide unfolded to us some fresh glory of God's handiwork in the heart of that cave.
And we have such a Guide whose mission is to unveil before us the beauty and glory of our risen, exalted Lord and Saviour. If you would live your life habitually on the highest plane, you must seek His anointing; you must wait upon Him to reveal to you in the Word "the things which God hath prepared for them that love him"; you must through your obedient response allow Him to apply the Word wherever and however He sees it is needed for your conformity to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ.
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