TRUTH ~ by Man’s Will or God’s Grace?

So then it depends not on human will or exertion,
but on God, who has mercy.

Romans 9:16 ESV

As deists, Voltaire and Diderot attacked Christianity—“their primary weapon aimed at the church was ‘truth’.” (Dr. Bruce Shelley, Church History in Plain Language)  “We think that the greatest service to be done to men,” said Diderot, “is to teach them to use their reason, only to hold for truth what they have verified and proved.” What did these men know of “truth” in their young years of their own “enlightenment?”  What had they proven by their own “reasoning” in their latter years?  What did they have in the end?

Man may create happiness for himself while he is able to think clearly, when everything seems to be in his control, but this does not last. God has proven His work of grace, not only through His written word (which “reasoning” discards), but in the reality of life to its very end.

God proved the truth of His grace to me in 1994 as I, for three weeks, watched my dad gradually consumed by esophageal cancer.*  How could he “reason” for himself what was happening to him?  What was truth to him, at that point of his life?  He had only the mercy (which he had asked for) and the grace of God, which we all experienced together.  He could no longer eat or drink.  He could do nothing but wait for his final breath. He was never on morphine, and so was aware of everything going on around him. He could hear, (until now I had not realized that as a work of God’s grace), and we had those last days to sit by his side, to sing to him, to read the Father’s precious words of truth.  God’s grace was strikingly evident in Daddy’s humility, and his peaceful spirit of acceptance in his last week, and at the end.  He died on Labor Day—his epitaph, “Resting in the Lord.”

For five years we experienced the devastating effects of dementia in Mother’s life. She had no means of “reasoning.”  Nor could we, even though we could still think clearly—clearly in that we could accept that God was sovereign, in control of all things.   Though we could not understand through our own reasoning, we were learning more and more to trust in God’s mercy and grace for what each day would bring. (And we failed many times—for who is prepared ahead of time for such things.)  Her last month was spent in a nursing home, much to our grief; but we were not able to care for her any longer.  I could not “reason” with that.

But, even there, in her last few days, God’s hand of mercy and grace sustained us and held us together.  She had been unresponsive for almost four days.  Jerry and I sat with her those last few hours.  Monday was my birthday, and I prayed, “Father, please don’t let her die on my birthday.”  At midnight the nurses were in and out, checking her vital signs.  The younger nurse asked the older (who was wearing the white cap, and the white uniform), “Shouldn’t we give her something?”  The older nurse answered, “No, she is at peace.”  A few minutes later, as I detected her breathing to be very shallow, and holding her hand, I stood and recited Psalm 23 for her.  When I finished, she took her last breath.  I looked at the clock.  It was 12:38. I could not have willed that; it was God’s grace.

Another example is Ed, 86, who was a member of our church.  He has dementia and now lives with his daughter, Cyndi,  and her husband in another state.  In her last email she wrote of how she reads the Bible to him, and he will quote with her much of God’s Word, as she reads.  It is not by his “reasoning” but by God’s grace, that he recalls the Word of truth that he had hidden in his heart.

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace,
who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself
restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
This is the true grace of God.  Stand firm in it.
1 Peter 5:10-12 ESV

*One Month to Live ~ A Father’s Last Words was my first book (yet unpublished), in which I recorded the working of God’s grace in those three weeks.

 

HUMILITY and Happiness ~ Chapter 11

The last two chapters of Andrew Murray’s Humility (PDF) are extremes. From this chapter that deals with the valley, the last chapter takes us to the pinnacle. When we reach the depths of humility then we are lifted to the heights of Christ’s glory.  And here is true happiness on this earth.  This is not the experience for most believers. Most of us know nothing of the consecration and persecution that comes from following Christ. And we must remember that none of this is our own work. It is always the supernatural power of God working in the believer.

1151057_10202161160409750_1613618240_n-300x300In this chapter, we see how Paul got where he was; from the height of his own glory, to the depths of his own weakness, and then to the glory of Christ’s sufficiency. He, like some of the Old Testament prophets and like John in his recording of Revelation, had been blessed with revelations of a higher kind than is usual for man. Paul did not record these, but they were of such that, he could have been exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations.

From His Own Glory
He was brought down so as not to glory in such visions. How? The thorn in the flesh was not described as a physical infirmity, but as the buffeting of Satan.

Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace;” 1 Corinthians 4:11

What he learned in his state of humility was how to live in response to infirmities, reproaches, necessities, persecutions, and distress; he knew they were all for Christ’s sake. He could glory and find pleasure in these things because he knew they were his sufferings for Christ.

 “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; Philippians 3:10

It is in our own experiences that we will know Christ and the fellowship of His sufferings, so as to be humbled and made conformable unto His death ~ the death of self.

There are people in the New Testament that our heavenly Father has recorded for our imitation ~ especially Jesus Christ His Son, and then the apostle Paul. If we spend our time in this life researching the life of Christ, and how Paul was called and given up to follow Christ we shall see the purpose of Christ’s coming and dying for His people. We shall see the work of the Holy Spirit in drawing a person to Christ, and the devotion and obedience of faith that only He can bring about in this world.

Other Examples
So that this review will not be so long I ask you, the Reader, to read this chapter from the book. In this article I want to allude to other examples that reflect the truth that Murray is sharing, and to record my own impressions.

Beginning with our Lord’s own words from Matthew 5:10-12 we remember:

Blessed (happy) are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you,
and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven:
for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

 The name, the glory and power of God and Jesus Christ are revealed in the New Testament as relating to times of persecution because of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the book of Acts when the apostles, having been beaten and commanded not to speak in the name of Jesus, they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. Acts 5:40-42

From Simon Peter’s Letter 
“But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;” 1 Peter 3:14

Peter reminds those believers who were being persecuted, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:

But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.” 1 Peter 4:12-14

As they were a part of Christ’s sufferings He was being glorified. They could be happy knowing and experiencing the spirit of glory and of God resting upon them.
They could endure the evil done to them knowing the promise that just as Christ suffered for them they could suffer for Him and also share His glory.

“Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:” Colossians 1:24

We owe our thanks and praise to the work of the Holy Spirit in Paul’s life. His sufferings and afflictions were counted to him as for the sake of the church. As we see in Paul’s life what it meant to deny self and follow Christ, we have enough visions to lead us to humility and to follow Christ. In this is our only means of survival and true life here and for eternity.

Others are following in our footsteps. What do they see; do they see the true Christ in us? Do they see the happiness in our humility in serving Christ? Will they be led to self-denial, willing to suffer for Christ’s sake and His church, to rejoice in the Lord through any circumstance?

Gracious Father, we, in this country know nothing of the persecution that Paul and the early Christians endured.  We pray for those who are suffering for Christ’s sake, that they not only endure but be filled with the power of your Spirit to rejoice in the Lord in the middle of persecution.  Let their oppressors see the joy and power of Christ in them and wonder at such great salvation that you bring to your people.
Prepare us for such persecution that is sure to come in this nation.  Have mercy upon us as your people.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

And the Lord Said Unto Me: Scripture Tunes

The Plight of the Discontented Woman

(This is a follow-up from the previous article.  If you have not read it I encourage you to read it before you read this article.)

There are many single women today who are discontent with their families, their education, their jobs, their singleness, and many other reasons; not only unbelievers but Christian women as well.16_discontented-singles Some Christian women that I know personally want to be married and have a family.  They sincerely want a husband with whom they can share their life and to bear children. This is a noble desire, a natural desire for women in all ages. My only counsel, as an older woman, is that you not make this the main focus in your life.

As the apostle Simon Peter writes in his second letter to those who are waiting for the second coming of our Lord, the message is to us today.  Whether male or female, young or old, while we wait for a new heavens and a new earth, we are to “grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  2 Peter 3:18  Take advantage of this time in your life to immerse yourself in His word and prayer; not so that you can be an expert and able to argue certain doctrine, but so that you can humbly discern the faith of others (I did not say to judge) and support and compliment one that may become your husband.

Some beautiful women have no problem finding a husband (we cite the record of Rachel and Leah, Genesis 29-30),  yet their lives are no happier than a single woman without one.  This is the point that I want to make.

If you are unhappy with your situation now, a husband will not make your life any happier.  Your contentment is not dependent on your position in life, but on the condition of your heart. Is Christ all to you now?  Then He is enough.  If Christ is your life, then live humbly and fully in the joy of His presence.  His work of grace in your heart will make you more desirous to those who are looking for a virtuous wife.  Your contentment will be an attraction to others.  It says to a man that you are not dependent on others for your happiness.  It relieves a prospective husband of the burden (the oppression) of making you happy.

Seeing Christ as your contentment and joy is an encouragement to others that you would be a suitable help mate. And if God does not give you to a man, then live in service always to Him.  He will more than fulfill your need for companionship and love in this world, with the promise of an eternal love beyond that which any man can give.

” A Christian has that which may make him content. Has not God given you Christ? In Him there are unsearchable riches. He is such a gold mine of wisdom and grace that all the saints and angels can never dig to the bottom. Never complain as long as Christ is your Friend. He is an enriching pearl, a sparkling diamond. The infinite luster of His merits makes us shine in God’s eyes.   In Him there is both fulness and sweetness. He is indescribable good. Lift up your thoughts to the highest pinnacle; stretch them to the utmost; let them wander to their full latitude and extent—yet they fall infinitely short of those ineffable and inexhaustible treasures which are locked up in Jesus Christ. And is there not enough here to give the soul contentment: A Christian who lacks necessities, yet, having Christ, has the one thing needful.” ~ Thomas Watson The Art of Divine Contentment

Dear Father, I pray for these women whose desires are not fulfilled; who feel that they need something else in life beyond what you have given.  Reveal Christ as the fulfillment, the contentment and joy that you meant Him to be when you sent Him to the earth.  As the propitiation for our sins you have expressed and bestowed a love beyond any that we can ask for or understand.  Make us all humble, accepting the role and position you have given each of us in this life.  Thank you for the hope of your fulfilling every promise that you have given us in your word, now and for eternity.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen

Related Article: I Don’t Wait Anymore

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