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The Victorious Life
VI. THE PERILS OF THE VICTORIOUS LIFE
(Sermon 6 of 6)
In the truly Victorious Life, the Christian believer, having put on the whole armor of God (Eph. 6: 11), moves forward under the protection of the shield of faith, wherewith he is able to quench all the ﬁery darts of the Evil One (v. 16). God’s Word is absolute on the completeness of the victory that is the experience of every child of God who trusts that victory wholly to Christ. It is not a once-for-all victory; it is a moment-by-moment victory, enjoyed each moment only in the present, but enjoyed completely in that present moment as the believer “looks away” from all else “unto Jesus,” the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12: 2).
But what a perilous life it is! Satan hates it; for it is an incarnate advertisement of the sufﬁciency of his Conqueror, Jesus Christ. Therefore to trust Christ for complete victory is to be moved up into the front line trench of the Christian warfare; and front line trenches are perilous places when the attack is on. There is no life in the world so perilous as the Victorious Life. Neither is there a life so safe. Where the onslaughts of the Adversary are the most terriﬁc, the grace of the Captain of our salvation is the most effectively demonstrated.
Some of the perils are so subtle. so unexpected, that they may not be recognized unless we frankly face them in advance as terribly real possibilities-nay, not possibilities, but certainties. We need a supernaturally sensitized consciousness of these perils if we would be safeguarded.
For, as has been iterated and reiterated by all who know anything of real victory in Christ, the Victorious Life is not the untempted life, but it is the most tempted life that any one can live. Our Lord was tempted, and the servant is no greater than his Lord (John 13: 16). Indeed, it may fairly be said that one never knows the full meaning of temptation until he has dared to trust Christ for full victory. Then come the temptations as never before: desperate, diabolical, hellish, subtle, reﬁned, gross, spiritual, ﬂeshly,-the whole gamut of all the deception and the downpull that the world, the ﬂesh, and the devil can bring to the soul of a child of God. But Christ sees them all, and He is standing on sentry-guard in our lives against them; the Word of God has disclosed them all to us, and this “sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6: 17) is our sure weapon today as it was our Lord’s in those victorious words, thrice repeated, “It is written” (Matt. 4: 4, 7, 10).
If We Should Fail
The secret of complete victory is faith: simply believing that Jesus has done and is doing it all. Victory is entered upon by a single act of faith, as is salvation. Victory is maintained by the attitude of faith. But suppose the believer, having experienced the miracle of victory over sin through trusting his Lord’s sufﬁciency, comes, somehow, to doubt that sufﬁciency? At once his victory is broken, and he fails. This is possible at any moment. And at once, if there should be failure through unbelief, comes a real peril. The lie of Satan is whispered in the ear, “You have sinned; and that proves that you never had the blessing you thought you had: you never had the Victorious Life.” This is a lie, of course, as are most of Satan’s attacks. They say at Keswick, “If you should fail, shout Victory!” Not with any idea of denying the reality of the failure, but in recognition of the fact that Jesus has not failed, and that there may be instantaneous and complete restoration through faith in His unimpaired sufﬁciency.
The peril just here is, either that we shall think we never had the blessing we thought we had; or that we shall imagine it will now take us some time to get back into that blessing. Satan may tell us that we cannot have complete victory again until we have gone apart alone with the Lord for a day, or an hour, or ﬁve minutes. But our Lord wants us to believe Him for instantaneous cleansing and restoration. The way back is as “it is written”: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1: 9). The confession can be unspoken, in the instant turning of the heart to God and claiming of cleansing. Every moment of delay in believing him for this is further sin, grieving and wounding His loving heart.
Over-Conﬁdence & Under-Conﬁdence
Another peril is twofold: our supposing, on the one hand, that the longer we continue in victory the safer we are; and, on the other hand, that if by sin we have broken our victory we are thereby weaker, and less certain of continued victory. Both ideas are perilous, and fallacious.
This is quickly seen when we recognize that Christ, and Christ alone, is our Victory. Suppose we should live for ten years in unbroken victory; that ten years’ record of unbroken victory does not add a particle to the strength of our Lord Jesus Christ; it does not increase the sufﬁciency of His grace, for that sufﬁciency is inﬁnite. The assurance of our continuance in victory is not our good record in victory, but the grace of our Lord. Our Lord and His grace are the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever (Heb. 13: 8). We have all His inﬁnite grace at work for us and in us, any moment and every moment. Therefore our continued record in victory adds nothing to our assurance of victory, for it adds nothing to Christ, and He alone is our assurance of victory. Of ourselves we are just as weak and helpless, just as sinful, just as impotent for victory after ten years of unbroken victory as we were the ﬁrst moment after being born again into the family of God. Even the veteran warrior in the Victorious Life is always capable of unbelief and of disastrous defeat in sin. He needs the moment-by-moment looking away unto Jesus as his only Savior just as much as the young Christian who has just entered upon that life.
And so of failure, my unbelief and resulting sin do not weaken my Lord at all. Having confessed that sin and having been cleansed and restored by him, He is just as strong, just as omnipotent, as though I had never failed. And my victory now, after failure, depends wholly upon His sufﬁcient and omnipotent grace, which is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.
We shall be safeguarded from these two perils-of overconﬁdence through continued victory, and of weakening fear through failure-if we remember God’s Word concerning the absoluteness of the victory that is ours in Christ. That victory is not a relative thing, not a comparative thing, not a matter of degree at all; it is the freedom with which the Son sets men free (John 8: 36), a freedom so complete that God himself cannot add to it in time or eternity. Not that we are given “sinless perfection.” We always have our sinful nature, which can sin and will sin any moment that we fail to trust Christ for His victory in us. But as we trust Him, His victory in us is absolute.
Driven Beyond God’s Will
The very joy of the yielded life, the life where God’s will is wholly accepted, brings with it another peril. It has been said that when Satan ﬁnds he cannot prevent one from doing the whole will of God, he then tries to drive that one to go beyond the will of God. And it is a perilous thing to go beyond the will of God, even in matters that of themselves are right.
It often happens, for example, that the Victorious Life Christian is driven beyond the will of God into imaginary duties. Satan comes as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11: 14), suggesting that the believer do this or that thing, which is good in itself, but not the will of God for that person. The believer has found great blessing listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit and in instantly obeying; but when Satan speaks, giving leadings in directions that of themselves are entirely right, the unsuspecting believer follows those leadings, obtains no blessings, and experiences anxiety, confusion, and perhaps doubt and fog.
God prompts us, for example, to speak to this or that one about Jesus as Savior. We do so, and revel in the joy of leading a soul into salvation.
But Satan comes with the insistent suggestion that we continue speaking to one and another, under all sorts of circumstances and at all times, about salvation or victory. We follow the suggestion, which is not of God, and obtain no blessing. A soul-winning Christian had a “leading” to go to a certain street and number in the city where he lived and to talk with the persons there about Christ as their Savior. The house was one of which he knew nothing, but he went. He rang the bell, and after some time of waiting found that it was an unoccupied house. That leading was evidently not from God. The resulting confusion and doubt in that young man’s mind are easy to see.
It is also possible to fall into confusion regarding the confession of sin. Perhaps we have confessed some personal sin or failure to a fellow-Christian, to which real blessing result to that one and to ourselves. Then the suggestion comes to us that, inasmuch as that confession was so blessed, we must now confess to some fellow-Christian every sin that we recognize, perhaps even some sins that were long ago put away, forgiven and cleansed by our Lord, or every present failure or mistake of any sort. And the obsession for confession takes hold of us, and sends us into the fog. God does not want this. God will guide us as to when He may desire a confession to be made to another; and He will guide us as to when to let it be a matter wholly between Himself and ourselves. One general principle here is that it is to be kept to God and ourselves unless some one else will be injured by our withholding confession. If a confession to another or to others will accomplish nothing except give them a knowledge of our sin, it is to be questioned whether God would have such confession made.
Or again, having surrendered the whole life to the mastery of the Lord, having given up the pride of the ﬂesh, all luxuries and self-gratiﬁcation, there is the peril of asceticism. Perhaps ﬁne clothes, or jewelry, or over-indulgence in food, were among the things that had to go when we surrendered wholly to the Lord. As we ﬁnd our new joy in him and not in these things, we may be driven beyond the will of God into a dishonoring asceticism. More than one wholly surrendered Christian has mistakenly become indifferent and careless about personal attire or appearance, and has actually become repellent to others because of this mistake.
We are to maintain a golden mean between the extremes of asceticism and luxury. We are to take care of our personal appearance, our cleanliness, our clothing, so as to be attractive to our fellow-men. In fact it is a positive duty to be attractive as Christians, both in dress and in appearance, that others may be won to us in order that we may win them to our Lord. We are to do all things to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10: 31).
This includes our pleasures as well as all else. We are not to believe the lie of Satan that everything that is pleasurable or attractive is sinful. We are to enjoy our meals, for example, not reduce them to the minimum of mere physical sustenance. And so of the other temporal details of our life.
We may get the mistaken idea that when we have a choice between something that is hard and something that is easy, the hard thing is always God’s will. His will may be just the opposite. There is not necessarily any virtue in difﬁculty, and there is not necessarily any sin in ease. The only question is, what is God’s will for us in each matter that comes before us?
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God” (1 John 4: 1). And we are never to abandon our God-given common sense in the Victorious Life.
Finding God’s Will: Through Scripture
We may say, “Well, if I am to get leadings from Satan to do things that are right, how shall I ever know whether it is Satan or God?” We cannot know unless we seek God’s guidance in his own Book. We are to check our leadings, the inner impulse,-which we may have even in a time of prayer,-by the Bible, the Word of God. We are to see if a leading conforms to the written Word of God, and if it does not, we must abandon it. Any leading that is contrary to the written Word of God is of Satan. The Holy Spirit never contradicts himself. We are to check up all our leadings by his Word.
Finding God’s Will: Circumstances
Again, if you are committed to a deﬁnite obligation at a certain hour, in which other people are trusting you, an obligation which must be met and will not be met if you do not meet it, and you have an impulse to do something else at that hour, you can be pretty sure that impulse is not from God, but from Satan. We are to check such leadings by circumstances and by common sense. God has given us our brains to use. If we will check on the leadings that we have by outer circumstances we can know whether they are of God.
I remember a man at the Stony Brook conference some years ago who said he had been praying that morning and believed he ought to leave the conference that day, two days before it was over; he had a strong leading in that direction. But he added, “Now I am going to the long distance telephone to call New York and check up on my leading.” That is common sense, and consecration too. After he had tested by outer circumstances, over the long distance phone with people in New York, he found out whether his leading was from Satan or God,
Here is one way of distinguishing between God’s leadings and Satan’s “angel of light” leadings. To the really surrendered Christian, who is trusting Christ for victory, God’s leadings and promptings never nag, or worry, or harass. Satan’s do just this. If one has a seeming “leading” to do something that is in itself good, yet with the impulse there is a sense of nagging disquiet, almost as though a mosquito or a gnat were buzzing about to try to drive us in a certain direction, that is Satan’s earmark, his calling card; and his false “leading” is to be instantly recognized and rejected. The Holy Spirit’s leadings to the surrendered and trusting Christian come with a sense of peace and quiet, even if they point in a really difﬁcult direction which only the grace of God can enable one to follow.
Depending On Supernatural Experiences
The Victorious Life is a supernatural life; it is a living miracle, a thrilling adventure, for it is God’s work and God’s working. Our early experiences in the life of victory are likely to be so different from anything we have known before, so out of the ordinary in supernatural demonstration of God’s grace and power, that at once we are plunged into a peril.
The peril emerges as we mistakenly suppose we must continually have thrilling, unexpected, and supernatural evidences of God’s power. And if these supernatural phenomena do not occur, we are tempted to think that something is wrong,
Now God wants us to trust, not in supernatural experiences, but in Himself. It is for Him to decide when the unusual shall come into our life, and when our life shall be commonplace and humdrum so far as things of sight and sense are concerned. It would seem safe to state that it is God’s purpose that the “supernatural” so far as circumstances and experiences are concerned, should be the unusual rather than the usual in the life of his wholly trusting children. (Of course we remember that victory over sin is itself supernatural, and that God expects us to live in continual victory over sin, which means that our life in that respect is to be continually supernatural, always the “life that is Christ.” This is apart from the question of the supernatural experiences or phenomena that are often granted to us in our ministry in his name.) And so He would deliver us from the peril of testing him, or testing our victory, by circumstances or manifestations. He instead asks us to trust “just Himself.”
It has been well said that every one needs two conversions: ﬁrst, from the natural to the supernatural; and second, from the supernatural to the natural.
Let us be delivered, also, from the peril of unconsciously assuming an infallible knowledge of God’s will. God’s leadings may be so blessed and so unmistakable that, as we testify to others about them, we speak of how “God said this to me,” or “God led me to do that.” And then, if we are not careful, we thoughtlessly slip into habitual expressions about God’s telling us what to do, and God’s leading us. Some true and yielded Christians almost never speak of any action or decision of theirs without prefacing it with the words that God told them to do this or that. And quite often in the experience of such a one, later circumstances show plainly that God did not tell them to do this or that, but that they had misunderstood His leading, as is possible at any time for any believer, even while wholly yielded.
There is an unconscious assumption of infallibility in that “God told me” kind of expression which can become really unconscious cant. Is it not better, instead of saying, “God told me to do this,” to say, “I believe God would have me do this”? Let us recognize that we may be mistaken. Even if we are quite certain in our own hearts and minds of what God’s leading is, it is not well to claim infallible knowledge, without qualiﬁcation, in our conversation with others.
Worshipping Our Blessings
The blessings that Christ gives us in the Victorious Life in the nine-fold “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5: 22, 23), for example, are so wonderful that we are in danger of thinking more about the blessings than of the Blesser. Joy becomes such a wonderful experience-we are referring to the supernatural joy which nothing can defeat, which is independent of all circumstances and environments-that we may, without realizing it come to think more of the “joy of our Lord” than we do of our Lord Himself. He wants us to worship, not the fruit of the Spirit, but the Spirit. There is a needed reminder in the saying that is attributed to Spurgeon: “I looked at Jesus, and the dove of peace ﬂew into my heart. I looked at the dove of peace, and she ﬂew away.”
Pride And The Critical Spirit
The Christian who is wholly trusting the Lord for victory soon realizes that many believers that he associates with have not seen the truth of victory, and are not thus trusting Christ. He may be in close contact with Christians who are older, much farther along in many ways, yet not living in the victory secret that is so precious to him. At which point comes the peril of pride. Almost without realizing it the Christian who knows Christ as victory can let slip some word criticizing a fellow Christian who is not in the secret, or a condescending comment on such a one’s mistake or failure. “Holier than thou” is one of the perils of the Victorious Life. Of course the instant one speaks thus of another, or thinks in his inmost heart regarding another, his victory is gone, he has sinned. And we must recognize this peril if we would be kept from it. The Christian who is living in victory is in himself no better than the carnal Christian who is plainly sinning. The self-nature of the two is identical: hopelessly sinful. The only good thing about the victorious Christian is Christ; and we deserve no credit for Christ: the glory and honor and victory are all His. True victory, therefore, must keep us humble; and it will.
Yet it is a sad fact that more than one young person, or older person, has gone away from a Victorious Life Conference where the Lord was received in his fullness and victory was entered into, and has returned to the home church to speak disparagingly or critically of other Christians, even perhaps of the minister himself, who may not have seen and accepted the truth of victory by faith in Christ. This has brought the very preciousness of the message of victory into disrepute, has wounded the Lord in the house of his friends, and of course has made it well-nigh impossible to pass on the truth of victory to those who have not known it. The truly victorious Christian always speaks of others with humility, with a keen consciousness of his own natural sinfulness and helplessness, and in that perfect love that is kind, vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, taketh not account of evil, never faileth (1 Cor. 13: 4-8).
Then there is the peril of being unteachable. Here is one who has entered into victory through faith in Christ. At once there comes from the Holy Spirit a new illumination on God’s Word, a new knowledge of things never before known, a new wisdom, unmistakable and directly from God. There is a ﬂood of light on duties that were heretofore confused. He is able to counsel others as never before. All this is not imaginary; it is genuine and vital. And he praises God with gratitude unspeakable.
Then perhaps a fellow-Christian criticizes him for something he has done or said, and says that it was not as it ought to be. This fellow-Christian may not know Christ as victory at all, and the one who has been criticized is keenly aware that his critic has not the illumination and the victory that are his own. Now comes the peril: that this victorious Christian will say to himself about the other, “He cannot tell me anything about this. He does not know the secret of victory. The Bible has not been opened to him by the Holy Spirit as it has to me. He has not the light that I have.” And so the heart is closed to the criticism, and the man has fallen into the peril of being unteachable. And all the time the criticism that has come to him from perhaps an unenlightened Christian is sound and true, and God sent it to him for his own guidance and blessing.
May God deliver us, in victory, from this subtle danger of being unwilling to learn from those who may not be as far along in the Christian life as we are. A completely victorious Christian can learn from the criticisms of unsaved, unregenerate people, and often he ought to. The Victorious Life is does not guarantee omniscience, or infallibility. Humility of mind, eagerness to know any and every criticism that any one may have concerning us, and grateful acceptance of whatever truth there may be in that criticism-and there is sure to be some truth in it-is our safeguarding against this peril of unconscious unwillingness to learn.
Sagging Below God’s Will
After one has recognized the peril of being driven beyond God’s will, there comes the peril of sagging below God’s will.
We have learned that victory is all of grace, that no works of our own are needed to accomplish it, nor can these works possibly accomplish it. We rejoice that we have learned to “let God do it all,” and He will abundantly vindicate His pledge to do that “all” as we trust Him.
But there comes the peril of presuming on God’s grace: substituting presumption for faith, license for liberty. We used to think that the more we studied the Bible the more victorious we would be. We used to think that the more time we spent in prayer would bring more victory. Now we see that even these good works cannot accomplish our victory, but simple faith in God’s sufﬁcient grace can.
“Very well, then,” we are tempted to say, “we need not be so careful in taking the same amount of time for Bible study, or prayer, because ‘Christ is doing it all.’” And down we go into defeat at that moment as we are deceived by another lie of Satan. While it is true that victory comes by faith, that faith must be fed, and that faith cannot be fed apart from the daily nourishment found in the Word of God, and daily time alone with God in prayer. The new experience of freedom from the power of sin through the sufﬁciency of Christ should result in more time with His Word and more time with Him in prayer, not less. We cannot know the continuance in victory if we presume on God’s grace and neglect our opportunities of fellowship with him.
Never, never, Never during this life can any Christian dare to neglect the written Word of God. A young Christian who had seen Christ as his Victory and was rejoicing in the new blessings of freedom and power, was talking with a veteran Christian minister about his new experience. Here is what this wise older man shared: “Keep close to the Word of God,” and he went on to tell the younger man how time after time in the history of the so-called “higher life” experience among Christians down through Christian history, individuals and groups of Christians had gotten off course and crashed through supposing they had, by Christ and the Holy Spirit within them, all that they needed, and could safely pay little attention to the Bible.
We must not sag below God’s will in the ordinary duties of life in our relationships with our fellows either. Those who have found the joy and blessing of the deep things of God are often careless in keeping appointments with their fellowmen, careless about answering letters, careless about money matters so far as exactness and thoughtfulness go, though not involving honesty. The Christian who is trusting Christ for full victory dishonors Christ if he does not establish and maintain a reputation for being utterly dependable in his contact in every relationship with other human beings. Failure to keep an appointment on the minute, to be scrupulously exact in the fulﬁllment of small as well as large obligations, cannot be excused on the ground that God’s larger interests overrule the lesser matters. There are no “lesser matters” with God. The Holy Spirit is a Person of orderliness, punctuality, and efﬁciency. If our lives are not conspicuous for this it is because we are not allowing him to be in control. God keeps sun and moon, earth and stars, moving in dependable and orderly ways; should we not let him do as much for us who are members of the Body of Christ?
Complacency In Defeat
In every blessing there is a corresponding peril. In our knowledge of the marvelous blessing, for example, that our Lord will instantly forgive our sins and cleanse and restore us upon confession to Him, and our faith in Him, there is the peril that we may take sin too lightly and tolerate a break in our victory as though it were rather unimportant after all. Complacency in defeat is a peril of the Victorious Life! We would not say, doubtless, that we are willing to “sin that grace may abound” (Rom. 6: 1), nevertheless we may unconsciously fall into that perilous attitude. More than one Christian who has known Christ as complete victory will testify that, learning by experience the possibility of instant and complete restoration after failure, he began to tolerate breaks and failures in his life until they became the expected rather than the unexpected, the usual instead of the unusual, and sadly even the habitual. Now that is tragedy, indeed! And God may have to go deep with us if we have played with God’s grace before He can bring us back into habitual victory. Spiritual surgery may be necessary, and it may cause an agony of suffering before the cancer of “sinning that grace may abound” has been cut out. But, praise God, the Master Physician is ready and able to deal with this, and after His work has been completed we shall praise Him for what He has done, even though we may have been wondering if we were being cast us off while the operating and the hospital treatment were in progress. But why should we make it necessary for Him to do this? We do not need to ever lose our horror of sin, if in Christ we see sin as He sees it, and hate it as the loathsome, hellish thing that it is.
While there will come to the victorious Christian temptations to subtle, reﬁned sin, sin on a seemingly very high plane, the mystery of our sinful nature and of the wiles of the Adversary is such that even gross sin is one of the perils of the Victorious Life. We need not try to explain this, for history from the time of the early church abundantly declares it. There is something about the life of spiritual power and victory that, when broken into in the slightest way by unbelief, seems to terribly open the door to sins of gross immorality and degradation. Those who have gone highest with the Lord can also go lowest. Let us recognize this peril; let us confess this possibility in our utterly sinful nature; and then let us yield ourselves afresh to the mastery of our holy Lord, and trust Him afresh for His sufﬁciency to safeguard us from this awful denial of His name and betrayal of our stewardship.
The lesson from this particular peril is that after we have known the best that Christ offers us, to accept anything less than that which is best for a single moment is to be in deadly peril. If we should slip in the slightest way, if we should ﬁnd that sin has entered through unbelief in our Lord’s sufﬁciency, let us instantly stop whatever we are doing and take the necessary time necessary to confess to Him, claim His forgiveness and entire cleansing, and trust Him at once for His complete restoration and victory. Satan would like us to think that pressing godly duties demand our attention, and thus negate the need to come wholly back until later. If a failure has come toward the close of the day, perhaps after a hard day’s work, when we are about ready to retire, the temptation will come that we are physically or mentally too weary now to think or pray this thing through, and we will get a good night’s sleep and then let the Lord clear it all up in the morning. That is deadly perilous. May God keep us from ever daring to go to sleep with unconfessed sin in our hearts, and in conscious loss of the victory that is ours in Christ. More than one Christian who has thus presumed on the grace of God has failed to let the Lord clear up everything in the morning, and has gone on into another day of defeat. “Now is the acceptable time” (2 Cor. 6: 2), not only for salvation from the penalty of sin, but for salvation from its power, and restoration into that salvation if we have faithlessly denied our Lord. “Make me to walk on mine high places” (Hab. 3: 19) is the only safe prayer and plane for the Christian who has ever known victory.
Longing To The Past Or Future
It is perilous to look back at our best blessings of victory in Christ as though those best blessings were necessarily in the past. This is an almost inevitable temptation, because the new blessings of victory when one ﬁrst trusts Christ for it are so new, so unexpected, so overwhelming and so satisfying. And we may look longingly back at those ﬁrst hours or days or months, and unconsciously suppose that we will never again have the rich blessing we had then. This denies the sufﬁciency of God’s grace, and denies that our Lord is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
And it is equally perilous to look to the future as the time when God’s best blessings of victory for us are to be realized. God wants us to have his best now. To look for that best in the past or in the future is a peril that Satan will do his best to bring us into and keep us in. But the sufﬁciency of our Lord’s grace, which was true in the past and will be true in the future, is described by the Holy Spirit in the infallible Word of God as being in the present. “My grace is sufﬁcient for thee,” is His word (2 Cor. 12: 9). And the very name of our Jehovah-Jesus is “I am!’
Relationship Of Men And Women
A word should be spoken here regarding another peril, on we need to recognize and be accordingly safeguarded? It has to do with the relationship of men and women in the spiritual life. This peril is generally evident from the Word of God as to the marriage relation, and from experience, observation and common sense, suggests that the deeper spiritual relationships between fellow-Christians should observe the same lines that the ordinary conventionalities of life insist upon: that is, that the deeper spiritual relationships should be between men and men, and between women and women, rather than between two persons of the opposite sex,-unless God is bringing two individuals together for the purpose of uniting their lives in marriage.
Not that there should be any unnaturalness in this, or any unhealthy self-consciousness when men and women, regardless of age, properly talk together or pray together about their Lord and their possessions in their Lord. But Satan as an angel of light may lead the spiritual fellowship of two such persons into a spiritual intimacy and a spiritual dependency which is not of God, and which can lead to unhappiness in more than one life, and real disaster.
Finally, let us recognize the peril of being unhuman-not inhuman, but unhuman-because of the depth and intensity of our spiritual life. To be “unhuman” is not of the Lord. We are not only living a spiritual life, but also a bodily life; and we live among those who exist in similar human bodies, and live in a world of rightful temporal interests and eternal interests. Let us not make the mistake of living in such a way that persons will say of us, as has been said of some, that we have a deep interest in others’ souls, but no interest in their bodies. Let us be human. Let us be kind. Let us deliberately make it our business to cultivate certain secular and human interests that will allow us to have points of contact with the many individuals around us who know nothing of the spiritual interests that are so precious to us.
Some of the greatest spiritual leaders, some of the most blessedly used ambassadors of Christ, have had “hobbies,” such as nature-study, music, or something else of that sort, which God has instilled in them and others. Such a hobby keeps one in touch with the wonderful present-day world which God made, and provides “bait” which can be used to catch the interests of others, and through that “bait” bring others to Christ and to victory.
We are not to be afraid of healthy amusements of the right sort. If we go with a friend to see or play a tennis match or a baseball game, if we are watching or playing a game of checkers, let us not participate in such a way that others will see that we are not genuinely interested and merely making concessions to the earthly interests of our unenlightened friends, and patiently waiting until we can give our time to the really worth-while things. This is not victory. It may sound harsh to call it asceticism and even priggishness, but that is the way it will seem to others, and they may be right.
God wants to deliver us from the peril of narrowness in the Victorious Life. If we have any musical ability, let us praise God for it and let us prayerfully ask him to enable us to cultivate that ability in order that he may use our music to his glory. And this does not mean that we shall play or sing only hymns, either. There is plenty of other music that is not of the devil and that God would use to keep us close to our fellows in a joyous, healthy way.
Let us be very careful, too, about social courtesies. Christian people whose life-interests are wrapped up in the deeply spiritual are often criticized for carelessness about the little courtesies and attentions in their social relationships with others. This must not be, for it dishonors our Lord. The Christian who is trusting Christ for victory should not be one whit less careful than the man of the world or the society woman about the little niceties of life that betoken good breeding, good manners, true gentleness, and unselﬁsh thoughtfulness for others. “The King’s Business” never requires discourtesy or lack of proper attentiveness to our fellows.
Moreover, let us not be deceived by letting the great needs of the outside world or of the church of Christ make such demands upon our time and energies that we are taken away too much from loved ones in the home circle whom God has entrusted to us as our own supremely precious stewardship. Husbands or wives who have found Christ as their victory are often so eager to share this blessing with others that they unconsciously neglect the members of their family-the children or the married partner-upon whom God would have them lavish their love and testimony, and care beyond all others. Christians rejoicing in Christ as victory sometimes need to “learn ﬁrst to show piety toward their own family,” remembering that “if any provideth not for his own, and specially for his own household, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5: 4, 8).
1 heard some one say this morning, “I do not want to go away from here.” Of course you don’t; none of us do. Why don’t we want to leave? Because we don’t want to have the marvelous human fellowship of this conference, the prayer groups, the opportunities for Bible study, come to an end. But they must come to an end, and the only substitute for what we have been getting here is daily Bible study, prayer, and witnessing. We cannot maintain the Victorious Life unless we are as careful about these things as we are about the meals we eat each day and the way we care for our own bodies.
So, at any cost, let God (immediately, if you have not done it before coming here) so organize your life that it will include daily, habitual, stated times-ample time-for feeding on God’s Word for your own personal nourishment, and prayer. Do not let preparing a lesson for Sunday-school take the place of that time. Do not let preparing a sermon for preaching take its place. In my editorial work I must constantly remember that the necessary Bible study I do in my ofﬁce editing cannot possibly take the place of the quiet time I must have in my own life, just for myself, alone with God, when He meets my own personal, spiritual needs.
Have you ever realized that if you take eight hours a day for sleep, and of the remaining sixteen hours give one hour every day to this personal, devotional Bible-feeding and prayer, you are giving six and a quarter percent,-not of the twenty-four hours, but only of your waking hours-for that which is most important in your life, and ninety-three and three-quarters per cent to those things that are less important? A person who gives an hour a day is considered to be doing very well in this matter of daily Bible feeding and prayer, yet that is only six and a quarter percent of the waking hours. If we give two hours a day to God, we are giving twelve and a half percent to the supreme thing God asks us to do, and eighty-seven and a half percent to other things.
These percentages may challenge us to ask God what percentage of our waking hours He wants us to give Him in daily Bible feeding and prayer. There is no rule for this. I believe the morning time, before breakfast, alone, is the best time. The Bible is ﬁlled with the record of saints who gave that time, to say nothing of the Lord Jesus Himself who rose up early in the morning and went out to pray. That surely is the best time if we can manage it. Some cannot. It may be impossible, with home duties, to put the quiet time there, but I am sure it is not impossible for any human being to put it in at some point during the twenty-four hours.
Even our stated time may be interrupted by circumstances beyond our control; and even on that particular day, if we have neglected it, we must not let Satan tell us that we cannot possibly have the victory that day that might have been ours had we enjoyed our quiet time. That is another one of his lies, because our victory, after all, depends on personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. If we have failed to have our usual Bible reading and prayer, let us commit that weight to the Lord and trust Him for victory for that day. He can give us full victory, but he cannot maintain victory day in and day out, week in and week out, if we habitually neglect what he has told us we must have. Victory is by faith, but faith must be fed. In addition to our daily Bible feeding and prayer there must be continued witnessing. We must continue witnessing to our Lord Jesus Christ if we would have the blessing continued in fullness in our own hearts,-or rather, the Blesser reigning in His fullness. Witnessing is Christian service. Every form of Christian service is witnessing in some way. We are not to force it. I do not believe the Lord wants us to promiscuously button-hole people and ask them if they are saved. We are not to be anxious about it; but we are to hold ourselves in sensitive readiness to hear the Holy Spirit whenever he says, “Now speak to this one.”
The Victorious Life is the only balanced life on earth. It is lived by body, mind, and spirit; it lives victoriously in all three; and it touches our fellow-beings at proper points of contact with their bodies, minds, and spirits.
Thinking More Of Satan Than Of Christ
We shall need to be ever and always on our guard, sensitive to the approach of the enemy in all the thousand-and-one ways by which he will seek to ﬁnd a cleft in our armor. But-and here is another peril to be avoided-we are not to think more of Satan than of Christ. We are to recognize the terrible reality of Satan; we are to study the Word of God about our Adversary; we may know all that God wants us to know about Him; and then we are to look away from Satan unto Jesus; for “amid all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who has loved us,” and “to God be the thanks who in Christ ever heads our triumphal procession, and by our hands waves in every place that sweet incense, the knowledge of him” (Weymouth, Rom, 8: 37; 2 Cor. 2: 14),
These sermons were given in Princeton NJ in 1922 at the Victorious Life Conference.
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