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Gems from the Treasury of Scripture

Written by Prof Johan Malan.

There are various Christian authors who discovered and described great truths when contemplating the deep significance of our life of faith. That which they have found in the heavenly treasury of God’s Word, illuminated their hearts and became indispensable guidelines in their earthly journey. It motivates them to spiritually enrich themselves by further exploring this unfathomed treasury of divine truths.

This is a quest which can only be pursued under the guidance of the Holy Spirit: “For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:10). The great discovery made by all honest seekers to the truth is that all the precious promises in God’s Word can only be appropriated by faith in the name of Jesus Christ – in Him the are Yes and Amen (2 Cor. 1:20). These truths are not abstract and impersonal thoughts, but profound revelations of a Person – the Word that became flesh (John 1:14). The quest for divine truths should be aimed at understanding “the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:2-3).

The statements below are meant to examine our own faith, to asses how genuine our religious experience is, and to determine if we truly live up to the high calling in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14). Consider the following truths and evaluate yourself in its light:

“Intelligence must follow faith, never precede it, and never destroy it” (Thomas A. Kempis). In His Word, God has revealed great and unsearchable truths to us on Himself, His Son, His Spirit, the world in which we live, His wondrous grace, His judgements, and also on the opposing kingdom of darkness: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements and His ways past finding out!” (Rom. 11:33). He enabled us, through the Holy Spirit, to accept these great promises in faith, even though we may not be able to comprehend and fathom everything with our intellect. Faith in God should be the starting point of our understanding, since: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 111:10). But we are living in the age of reasoning. Human rationalising is the norm for measuring everything, and in this way fallen, agnostic man exalts himself against the knowledge of God. In spite of his limited insights he does not hesitate to question the existence of God, to explain His creative works as a self-perpetuating process of evolution, and to deny miracles such as the resurrection of Christ from the dead, thereby completely destroying the integrity of God and His Word in their own minds. Such people extinguish the flame of faith, and in the process become their own god who determines their destiny. The Bible calls them fools (Ps. 14:1).

“The rich man was not in hell because he led an immoral life outwardly. The Scripture does not say that he committed adultery, or murder, that he gambled, or drank, or swore. His trouble was inside. Like unsaved men, women, and children everywhere he had a wicked heart. In his secret heart he was against God. Be sure to remember, too, that the rich man did not go to hell because he was rich. Hell has more poor men than rich men. The rich man himself knew why he went to hell. He pled that Abraham might send Lazarus to testify to his five brothers, ‘lest they also come into this place of torment.’ In the conversation he said, ‘If one went unto them from the dead, they will repent’! (Luke 16:28-30). The rich man knew that if his brothers were to escape hell, they must repent. He went to hell because he did not repent” (John Rice).

“He who neither cares to please men nor fears to displease them will enjoy great peace, for all unrest and distraction of the senses arise out of disorderly love and vain fear” (Thomas A. Kempis). As long as we still harbour forbidden forms of love and obey men more than we obey God we will not experience the peace of God in our hearts. We should love the Lord with all our heart and only fear and serve Him. Fear of men should not influence our decisions.

“When my wishes and God’s will are absolutely coincident, then, and then only, am I free” (A. Maclaren). Many people have conflicting desires in their hearts because they still live in two worlds. The flesh with its lusts has not yet been fully surrendered to be crucified, and therefore comes into conflict with the Holy Spirit and His guidance (Gal. 5:17). As long as this state of affairs continues we are still slaves of wrong desires and therefore not completely free in Christ. We should commit ourselves to unreservedly walk in the Spirit and only doing only God’s will (Gal. 5:16; Rom. 13:14).

“Christ was perfected through suffering (Heb. 5:8). So must we be. Our characters will never reach the refinement, the delicacy, the unworldliness, the dependence upon God, which they require for their completion, unless we have passed through many a sorrow” (A. Maclaren). Do not kick against the goads when you are in a crucible of suffering or testing – these are the situations in which your character is formed and when you learn to put your trust in the Lord alone.

“Into every true believer there arises an awareness of failure, a falling short of all that one should be in the Lord; then there is a definite meeting with the risen Saviour in utter surrender of heart, which is indeed death to self. There follows an appropriation by faith of His resurrection life through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. As a result there is realised an overflow of life likened by the Lord Jesus to rivers of water – see John 7:37-39” (V. Raymond Edmund). After conversion, all of us are faced by the challenge of sanctification. Are you prepared to die to yourself, so Christ can be formed in you through the Holy Spirit?

“’He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk, even as He walked’ (1 John 2:6). Abiding in Christ and walking like Christ: these two blessings of the new life are presented here in their essential unity. The fruit of a life in Christ is a life like Christ” (Andrew Murray).

“At the Day of Judgment, we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done” (Thomas A. Kempis). All our works will be judged before the judgement seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:13). Faith without works is dead (Jas. 2:17, 26) and likewise, knowledge which does not lead to an active life of dedication, is an idle asset. “If you know these things, happy are you if you do them” (John 13:17; cf. Jas. 1:22). We are spiritually enlightened by the Word of truth so that we can teach others (Matt. 28:19).

“Bear the Cross cheerfully and it will bear you” (Thomas A. Kempis). If we take up the cross of self-denial and follow Christ (Luke 9:23), we will find that it is a liberating experience as we will be set free from all our sins, weights, and cares.

“I can understand why so many Christians do not have the joy they might have, or do not have overflowing praise in their heart. There must be a full surrender of life to the Saviour to have the fullness of the Holy Spirit” (Robert E. Nicholas). The Holy Spirit did not only come to regenerate us but also to fill and sanctify us. We should pray for the filling of the Spirit, and be prepared to confess and forsake everything which is in conflict with His holy presence.

“How quickly passes away the glory of this world!” (Thomas A. Kempis). Our life is like a night watch, and like yesterday when it is past. We should learn not only to live for the temporary things which are seen but for the unseen, spiritual realities of God’s everlasting kingdom (2 Cor. 4:18). “The world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever” (1 John 2:17).

“There is a world of meaning for us in the Master’s injunction to His disciples, ‘...greet no one along the road’ (Luke 10:4). Your work is a serious life purpose; it will involve detachment from much that is legitimate and congenial. You must forgo other claims and calls” (C. Inwood). During revival times, there were dedicated preachers who even declined invitations to meals as that would have encroached upon their quiet times and preparations for preaching. We also need to redeem the time to serve the Lord, because the days are evil (Eph. 5:16).

“The vast mass of Christians are like rivers emptying in to the Arctic Sea – frozen over the mouth” (B. Thomson). Christians who do not have boldness to witness about their salvation do not have strong, inner convictions and easily backslide into unbelief when they are subjected to tests and temptations. The seed that fell into shallow soil quickly sprang up but soon became scorched in the heat as it had no root and depth of earth (Matt. 13:5-6; 20-21). The lives of such people are often likened to the Dead Sea, as it only receives water but never gives out anything. Their spiritual experience ends in stagnation, cooling down, and even a complete loss of life, and for that reason their barren lives end in a dead salt sea or in a frozen arctic ocean. A true Christian’s life should resemble the Sea of Galilee, which has living waters because it gives out the same amount of water as its inflow.

“I look upon this world as a wrecked vessel. God has given me a lifeboat and said to me, Moody, save all you can” (D.L. Moody). All true Christians have “passed from death into life” (John 5:24), and it should be their biggest mission in life to assist other people in coming over from the sinking ship of this world into the lifeboat to which the Lord Jesus calls all sinners (Luke 19:10). When a sinner repents and receives the Lord Jesus as his Saviour he also enjoys the safety of this lifeboat. The “ship” of this world is the proud handiwork of human beings (much like the Titanic) but due to the haughtiness of its captain it is also heading for destruction. We Christians who can see the disaster coming, should earnestly plead with people to leave the doomed ship and take refuge with Christ while there is still time. He stretches out to us His righteous right hand as He once did to Peter when he was sinking in the stormy sea (Matt. 14:28-32).

“Attachment to Christ is the only secret of detachment from the world” (A.J. Gordon). There is only one alternative to life in the depraved world in which we were born, and that is the new life in Christ Jesus. Love for the one excludes love for the other, and therefore compels us to make a clear choice: “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). Carnal Christians, who still love the world because of their uncrucified fleshly nature, act contrary to the Holy Spirit who instils the new nature of Christ in us as an entirely new way of living (Gal. 5:17). There is a solution to this problem: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil its lusts” (Rom. 13:14).

“Our failures, our falseness are to drive us to Him, not from Him” (M.G. Pearce). When we discover that we are hypocritical and lead a life of double standards, we should not be deterred from calling ourselves Christians and to be known as His disciples. We should rather use the opportunity to do introspection and determine the full extent of our problem – also the hidden sins and evil thought which are unknown to others. In view of these problems we must search the Scriptures to obtain greater clarity on the doctrine of sanctification: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:3). He does not only wish to save our souls, but also to sanctify us completely in our whole spirit, soul and body (1 Thess. 5:23-24). But we must first break with all known sins before we can enjoy the abundant life: “Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).

“Revival is the renewal of the first love of Christians. A revival of true Christianity arouses, quickens and reclaims the backslidden church and awakens all classes, ensuring attention to the claims of God. Revival presupposes that the church is mired in a backslidden state. A revival always includes Christians being convicted of their sins. Those who claim to know God, yet are backslidden, cannot wake up to begin and serve God without deeply searching their hearts. The fountain of sin in their lives needs to be broken up. Like newly converted sinners they must take the first step of deep repentance – breaking the heart, getting down into the dust before God with deep humility and forsaking their sin” (Charles Finney).

“Much weakening of spiritual impulse and strengthening of worldly-mindedness have come from the church’s comparative neglect of the inspiring, patience-producing, world-conquering hope of His coming” (A. Maclaren). It is imperative that every Christian seriously regards the promises on the second coming of the Lord Jesus. It will teach us patience while we wait on Him: “You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (Jas. 5:8). A Christian future expectation also emphasises the need for holy living in order to be blameless when we appear before the heavenly Bridegroom (Eph. 5:25-27; 1 Thess. 3:13; 2 Pet. 3:11, 14).

“’[Y]ou should do as I have done to you’ (John 13:15). What a precious word! What a glorious prospect! Jesus is going to show forth in me the divine power of His love, so that I may show it forth to others. He blesses me, that I may bless others, He loves me, that I may love others, He saves and cleanses me, that I may save and cleanse others. He becomes a servant to me, that I may become a servant to others. He gives Himself wholly for and to me, that I may wholly give myself for and to others. I have only to be doing to others what He is doing to me – nothing more. I can do it because He is doing it to me” (Andrew Murray).

“In the life of grace, forgiveness is one of the first blessings we receive from God. It is also one of the most glorious. It is the transition from the old to the new life – the sign and pledge of God’s love. With it, we receive the right to all the spiritual gifts which are prepared for us in Christ. The redeemed saint can never forget, either here or in eternity, that he is a forgiven sinner. Nothing works more mightily to inflame his love, to awaken his joy, or to strengthen his courage than the experience, continually renewed by the Holy Spirit as a living reality, of God’s forgiving love. Every day, every thought of God reminds him: I owe all to pardoning grace. This forgiving love is one of the greatest marvels in the manifestation of the divine nature. In it, God finds His glory and blessedness. And, it is in this glory and blessedness that God wants His redeemed people to share. When He calls upon them, as soon and as much as they have received forgiveness, they are also to bestow it on others” (Andrew Murray).

“Through our first birth, we were made partakers in Adam’s death. Through our second birth, we became partakers in the death of the second Adam. Every believer who accepts Christ is a partaker of the power of His death, and is dead to sin. But, a believer may be ignorant of much of what he has. In their conversion, most believers are so occupied with Christ’s death for sin as their justification, that they do not seek to know what it means that in Him they are dead to sin. When they first learn to feel their need of Him as their sanctification, then the desire is awakened to understand this likeness of His death. They find the secret of holiness in it – that as Christ, so they also have died to sin” (Andrew Murray).

“Though the cross of Christ has been beautified by the poet and the artist, the avid seeker after God is likely to find it the same savage implement of destruction it was in the days of old. The way of the cross is still the pain-wracked path to spiritual power and fruitfulness. So do not seek to hide from it. Do not accept an easy way. Do not allow yourself to be patted to sleep in a comfortable church, void of power and barren of fruit. Do not paint the cross nor deck it with flowers. Take it for what it is, as it is, and you will find it the rugged way to death and life. Let it slay you utterly” (A.W. Tozer).

“God is not looking for brilliant men, is not depending upon eloquent men, is not shut up to the use of talented men in sending His Gospel out in the world. God is looking for the broken men who have judged themselves in the light of the Cross of Christ. When He wants anything done, He takes up men who have come to the end of themselves, whose confidence is not in themselves, but in God” (H.A. Ironside).

Richard Baxter 07