by J.C. Metcalfe
CH. 1 -- THE SICKNESS OF SIN
CH. 2 -- THE DAWN OF A NEW LIFE
CH. 3 -- THE NATURE OF THE NEW LIFE
CH. 4 -- LIFE OUT OF DEATH
CH. 5 -- THE LIFE I NOW LIVE
CH. 6 -- THE HOLY SPIRIT
CH. 7 -- LIVING WITH OTHERS
CH. 8 -- ENEMIES IN THE PATH
CH. 9 -- THE GOAL
A visit to East Africa is a wonderful experience, particularly when one is privileged to visit the Mission Stations of a number of different Societies and Denominations; and it was such a tour that led to the writing of this little book. It was born out of discussion and prayer with several missionary friends, who were deeply concerned with the establishing of African Christians in Christ; and laying such spiritual foundations that African leaders and teachers should be able to stand firm and lead their flocks whatever the future holds for Africa along political and educational lines. Literature was being sought to help meet this need, and I therefore embarked very diffidently on my small contribution to this campaign.
The first edition was immediately translated into Swahili; and was used as one of the text books in the Church Missionary Society's Divinity School. It has also been translated into other languages. A French edition, for instance, was produced in France with the title LA VIE EN CHRIST. An English edition has not been available now for a considerable time, but we have recently had one or two enquiries for it; and feel that the time has come to send out another edition. Here it is! A small book specially for young people is also available, which is a re-written version of this. The title is: TO BE A CHRISTIAN.
My aim has been to present simply the basic Scriptural facts concerning our union with Christ. This little book makes no pretence at being a theological work, and I have sought avoid both complicated phraseology and any suggestion that there is some special pattern of experience into which all must be moulded. I have made a sincere effort to follow the Christian life from its source in the New Birth, through its channel in Christ, to the place where it is lost in the glory of His likeness. These pages will obviously not satisfy or appeal to everyone, but if some who read catch a vision of the inexhaustible store of riches which are ours in Christ, and are, therefore, impelled to seek that God alone will lead them by His own way out of Adam into Christ, that will be His own seal. And what more can a man want?
May God be graciously pleased to use all that is of Him, and lovingly to cover the defects.
THE SICKNESS OF SIN
"From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness" (Isaiah 1:6)
The Bible is full of pictures. Sin, for instance, is often compared to sickness - something with which all of us are familiar. In the Gospels the Lord Jesus Himself is again and again seen healing sickness of the body, and holding back the advance of physical death. This is chiefly that we may know that, since His death for us on the Cross, He lives in order to heal those spiritual diseases which lead to the final spiritual death of being shut out for ever from God's presence. When John the Baptist was in prison, and doubts were troubling him as to whether Jesus, to whom he had witnessed, was indeed the Savior of the world, this message was sent to him. "The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me" (Matthew 11:5,6). Man without Christ suffers from all these sicknesses. Shall we therefore look at them one by one?
The Blind. Paul wrote as follows ... "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them" (2Corinthians 4:3,4). He again describes the condition of men without Christ as those who walk "in the vanity of their mind having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart" (Ephesians 4:18).
Two effects of blindness are pointed out in the New Testament. The man who is spiritually blind is ruled by hatred. There are many today, who preach hatred and distrust between men. Wherever you hear such teaching, and see the actions born of hatred, you can be sure that you are in touch with something which does not belong to God. This is what the Bible says: "He that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes" (1John 2:11). Again, the blind man does not know where he is going. He is dependent on others to lead him where they will, and is swayed this way and that by every new teacher he meets. Nothing is clear to him. God - Christ - the Holy Spirit are vague, meaningless names to him. He has no clear but aim in life. Heaven and hell mean nothing to him. "He that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth" (John 12:35).
There is only One, Who can heal blindness - the Lord Jesus Christ. Shall we see if we can learn anything of His method of healing from the cases of physical blindness with which He dealt? John 9 gives us the most beautiful picture of the healing of a blind man. Jesus spread clay on the eyes of this man, and sent him to wash in the pool of Siloam. He spreads over our eyes the clay of our own earthly weakness, and sends us to wash away our sins in the blood shed for sinners at Calvary. When he had washed, the man "came seeing", and when a man plunges into the "fountain opened ... for sin and for uncleanness" (Zechariah 13:1), he also comes seeing, and is able, using the words of one of our English choruses, to say:
"I know a fount where sins are washed away; I know a place where night is turned to day; Burdens are lifted, blind eyes made to see, There's a wonder-working power in the blood of Calvary."
The man in our story could explain very little about how Christ had healed him, but his witness carried authority with it - "One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see" (John 9:25). When he looked into the face of Jesus he saw in Him all he needed - "And he said, Lord, I believe, and he worshipped Him" (John 9:38).
Mark 8:22-25 records the healing of a blind man in two stages. In this case Jesus placed His hands over the eyes of the man, and at His first enquiry the man says: "I see men as trees, walking". After the second touch he "saw every man clearly". It is often the same in the spiritual life. Full sight does not always come at once, and we need to stay very close to Him that He may finish the work which He has begun. Paul's prayer for the Christians of Ephesus is a striking one with this thought in mind - "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, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward, who believe ..." Ephesians 1:17-19). How few Christians see these things clearly, and those of us who are set apart to teach others need more and more to pray and labor for the healing of the blinded minds of those entrusted to our care.
Luke 18:35-43 gives us yet another picture of the healing of blindness. In spite of the rebuke of those who stand by, this man will not be satisfied until his blindness has been brought to the notice of Jesus Himself. The effect of his healing is very striking. "Immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God" (Luke 18:43). The blind man who has received his sight will follow not men but Jesus, and his life will cause all who see it to praise God. Matthew 12:22, gives yet another brief, but significant account of the healing of blindness. "Then was brought unto Him one possessed with a devil, blind and dumb, and He healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw." Here the cause of blindness was the presence of an evil spirit. Heathenism and false religion have their evil spirits that blind, and the result is always dumbness as well. Those thus possessed have no power nor reason to praise God. They are blind to the beauty of Jesus, and their words are a meaningless jumble of sounds that bring no glory to God. There are two kinds of blindness which are incurable. The blindness of trusting in a religion of externals and despising the Lord Jesus Christ, "And some of the Pharisees ... said unto Him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; Therefore your sin remaineth" (John 9:40, 41). Then there is the blindness of self-satisfaction, which is just as dangerous. "Because thou sayest ... I have need of nothing: and knowest not that thou art ... blind ..." (Revelation 3:17). The Lord Jesus cannot enter into such a life. He is shut out by pride, and cannot save.
There is a blindness too that affects Christian people, who have had their eyes opened to see their Savior, but have gone no further. Their characters are undeveloped, they have failed to set out on the search for virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly-kindness and love. They never run the heavenly race, but must always be in the crowd. They run to others rather than seek the Lord. The Bible tells us of such. "But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten, that he was purged from his old sins" (2Peter 1:9). Losing sight of their Savior, and failing to follow closely after Him, such cannot see the wonders of His grace, and have lost the joyous simple assurance of pardon and complete cleansing.
Shall we end this section with a Bible proverb, asked as a question by the Lord Jesus, "Can the blind lead the blind? Shall they not both fall into the ditch?" No man can teach another of the things of God until his own eyes have been opened. He must first be able to bear the same witness as the apostle Paul - "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" (2Corinthians 4:6). This miracle worked by God Himself makes a man a Christian. Nothing less than this is of any avail. Until a man receives his sight he is lost in darkness, and must not dare to attempt to teach others.
Next in our list comes the lame man. We are told in Leviticus 21:18 that no man who was lame could bear office as a priest; and in Deuteronomy 15:21 that lame animals were never to be brought as a sacrifice. In another Old Testament book we have the beautiful story of how David not only spared Jonathan's lame son, Mephibosheth, but gave him a place amongst his own sons. There was one thing David could not do for Mephibosheth. He could not heal his lameness. What is lameness? The inability to walk properly! God seeks for those with whom He can have fellowship - those who can walk with Him. Man through sin is lame, and cannot walk as God would have him walk. He must be healed. Again there is only One Who can make the lame walk - the Lord Jesus Christ; and we are given instances in the New Testament of His power to heal physical lameness, as promises of His ability to deal with spiritual inability to walk.
In Matthew 15:30, 31 we find this record, "And great multitudes came unto Him, having with them those that were lame ... and cast them down at Jesus' feet; and He healed them. Insomuch that the multitude wondered ... and they glorified the God of Israel". Again in Matthew 21:12-14 we see the Lord Jesus driving out of the Temple of God those things that did not glorify His Father, and the immediate result was that, "The blind and the lame came to Him in the Temple and He healed them".
Acts 3:1-11 carries the story further and tells how in the Name of the crucified, risen Savior, a lame man is healed on the very steps of the Temple. The apostles could not give the man silver and gold, but in His Name were able to give him something far more precious - his ability to walk once more, free of his sickness.
The gospel never offers a man material prosperity, but it does preach a Savior Who can heal lameness. Again and again the word "walk" is used in the New Testament. "Walk in love" (Ephesians 5:2). "Walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8). "Walk ... as wise" (Ephesians 5:15). If you and I are honest we have to say, I cannot walk like that. I am lame, and need to be healed. It was this that Christ died for on the Cross, that we might be healed.
Now we come to the leper, and in spite of the growth of medical knowledge there are still types of leprosy which can be stayed but not cured. All through the Bible leprosy is a picture of sin. Such passages as Leviticus 13:44; 2Kings 7:3, etc., show the leper as one shut out from the fellowship of the people of God; one forced to live alone, and to cry - "Unclean" should there be any danger of him coming into contact with other men. The Old Testament also provides us with a very wonderful story of the healing of a leper - Naaman (2Kings 5:1-14). Like our blind man in John 9 he is told to go and wash, and to wash in the river Jordan, so often used as a picture of death. At first he is angry, and says that the rivers in his own land are bigger and better than this Jordan. In the end his servants persuade him to obey the prophet's word, and "his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean". The blood of Christ, we are told in the New Testament, can "purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God" (Hebrews 9:14). The leprosy of sin, which defaces our lives with the ugly marks of disobedience to God, and constant failure to live as our conscience tells us is right, can be cleansed only by our willing acceptance of the death of Christ on the Cross for us. There are many, who are at first angry, as was Naaman, when they are told that nothing they can do can cure their leprosy, but that only the cleansing blood of Jesus can avail for them. If any man will wash, however, he may be clean.
I want to write about two occasions in the New Testament when the Lord Jesus healed the disease of leprosy. The first is recorded in Matthew 8:2-4; and the second Luke 17:12-19. In both these simple stories, in which the touch of the Lord Jesus, and His word, were the means by which healing was given, two things are done. The disease is healed, and therefore, the men are sent to the priest to be pronounced ceremonially clean. His touch has still the same power, and His word still heals; and in dealing with us the Lord Jesus does two things in putting away our leprosy. He actually heals, and the guilty conscience finds itself at peace, because of His touch. He also opens the way for us to go into the presence of God as those who are no longer shut out of the company of His people, but are "made nigh" through the shedding of His blood for us. It is as true today as it was when He was upon the earth - "The lepers are cleansed".
The Deaf are the next to whom we are told that the healing touch of the Lord Jesus is extended. In the Bible the ideas of hearing and obedience are often found together, and also of deafness and disobedience. Paul, for example, in the last chapter of Acts, quotes from the Old Testament the condemnation of the people of Israel. He has again and again preached the gospel to them (and we must always remember that the gospel demands immediate obedience from its hearers), but they would not listen. "The heart of the people," he then cries, "is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing" (Acts 28:27). This is followed by a final verdict passed on their disobedience. "Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it" (Acts 28:28).
Cases of the healing of the deaf are recorded in Mark 7:31-37, and 9:14-29. In both instances the deafness goes together with inability to speak. It is only possible to speak the language of salvation when our deafness and natural tendency to disobey has been healed, and again the Lord Jesus is the only One Who can work this miracle. In the first case the healing brought about by the simple command - "Be opened", caused great astonishment, and those who witnessed it said - "He hath done all things well: He maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak" (Mark 7:37). In the second case the inability to hear and speak was caused by the presence of an evil spirit. Satan was the first rebel, and has led man away into the same attitude of disobedience, so that we find now that "the carnal mind is enmity against God" (Romans 8:7). Men cannot hear the voice of God because they will not, and this deafness of disobedience can only be cured as the voice of the Son of God, Who has already triumphed over the devil, speaks to us the command of love - "Be opened".
The last and greatest miracle given as a sign of the reality of the claims of Christ is "the dead are raised up". Here we are brought face to face with a power which is beyond that of any man. It has been known that medical skill has wrought cures or been of great help in all those diseases so far mentioned, but here we go far beyond the reach of any human doctor. God alone can give life, and three times in the New Testament we see the Lord Jesus, Who is God, exercising divine power to raise the dead. The raising of Jairus' daughter is recorded in each of the first three gospels, that of the widow's son of Nain only in Luke 7:11-17, and that of Lazarus in John 11. This same Savior, Who worked such miracles by the power of God, Himself died on the Cross, and the third day God raised Him from the dead in order that He in turn might give life - eternal life - to those "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1).
To be a Christian is to have performed in our life all these miracles in one mighty act of salvation. When a man comes to the foot of the Cross and, humbly confessing his need, puts his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, at that moment the risen Savior stretches out His mighty hand, takes away the scales from his eyes, heals his lameness, cures and cleanses his leprosy, opens his ears to hear and to obey, and gives, as a free gift, eternal life! "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
The Christian gospel is more than a set of ideas and teachings which must be accepted and believed. It is also much more than a call to try and live a better life. It reveals to us our great need; that we are so full of the sickness of sin that we can do nothing for ourselves. It tells of the boundless love of God, Who having pity on our helplessness gave His only Son to be our Savior. It calls us to come direct to Him, and seek from Him healing and life. This life is given through a new birth - a birth from above, and we must remember that - "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God" (John 3:3). To be a heathen is a dreadful thing, but to be the member of a Christian Church, and yet to be "dead in sins", because the new birth has not been experienced is a still greater evil. This new birth must be the aim of every preacher or teacher, because nothing else is pleasing to God; and we can only bring it about by lifting up the Lord Jesus before men's eyes. Has He not said: "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32)? so that the Christian preacher should be able to take his place beside the Apostle Paul, and say:
"We preach Christ crucified ... the power of God, and the wisdom of God" (1Corinthians 1:23-24).
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