ALTERNATIVE CHRISTIANITY by Martin Mosse © 1988, 1998 M. B. Mosse 1 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Alternative   Christianity   first   apeared   in   1988-89   as   a   series   of   articles   in   ARMLink ,   the   quarterly magazine   of   Anglican   Renewal   Ministries.   Since   then   ARMLink   has   been   renamed   Anglicans   for Renewal . I   would   like   to   acknowledge   also   my   very   considerable   debt   to   the   Rev   Dr   Walter   Moberly,   and   to   my wife   Barbara,   without   both   of   whose   loving,   sensitive   and   penetrating   advice   this   booklet   would   be   a whole lot shoddier than it is now. M. B. M., September 1998. 2 CHAPTER 1 ON THE NEED TO SLOW DOWN “The world is perishing for lack of the knowledge of God and the Church is famishing for want of His presence.” - A. W. Tozer. “It   seems   to   me   that   today   we   always   want   to   be   moving   on;   we   cannot   stand   still.   So   many   things claim   our   attention   that   we   are   perpetually   on   the   go.   We   cannot   stop   for   a   moment.   But   he   who   is spiritual   knows   how   to   stand   still.   He   can   stand   before   God   in   worship   while   God   makes   known   to   him His will.” - Watchman Nee. We   live   in   an   age   in   which   it   is   becoming   increasingly   difficult   to   hear   the   voice   of   God. Amid   the   hustle and bustle of everyday life the call of God to humanity is heard less and less. We   are   a   generation   in   a   hurry.   Like   our   expanding   universe,   we   seem   to   run      way   from   God   at   speeds which   are   ever   increasing.   The   faster   we   go,   the   harder   it   becomes   to   hear   God’s   voice. As   he   said   of his Old Testament people, “The more I called Israel, the further they went from me.” (Hosea 11:2 NIV) This   condition   afflicts   not   just   “the   world”   -   those   outside   the   church   -   but   also   the   church   itself,   and even   that   section   of   the   church   which   rejoices   in   the   title   “evangelical”,   to   which   I   myself   belong.   We have   the   traditions   and   trappings   of   godliness   -   our   “orthodox”   theology,   our   gospel   services,   our   prayer meetings   and   our   Bible   studies   -   but   God   himself   we   all   too   easily   miss.   Our   “challenges”   are   to   more zeal,   more   activity,   not   more   saintliness.   We   mistake   traditional   evangelical   practice   for   the   presence   of God   -   which   has   been   enjoyed   throughout   history   by   his   attentive   children   in   all   sectors   of   the   church   - and are tragically unaware of our loss. 3 I   want   in   this   booklet   to   look   at   ways   in   which   we   can   rediscover   the   presence   of   God,   primarily   by looking    at    the    concept    of    communication,    and    then    by    applying    our    findings    to    the    practice    of evangelical    Christianity.    I    shall    try    to    avoid    matters    of    doctrine    and    academic    theology    wherever possible.   My   central   thesis   will   be   that   the   church,   no   less   than   the   world,   needs   to   SLOW   DOWN   and LISTEN   to   God   until   once   more   we   hear   him   speaking,   and   only   then   to   go   forward;   and   that   this principle should apply in our devotions and worship, in our witness and in our everyday life. Imagine   a   man   standing   on   the   earth   as   it   rotates.   In   the   natural   case   (Figure   (a))   he   has   his   back   to God   and   both   the   rotation   of   the   earth   and   his   own   motion   upon   it   carry   him   away   from   God.   If   he comes   to   faith   in   Christ,   he   repents,   i.e.   turns   about   and   changes   direction   (Figure   (b)).   Now   he   can   see God,   but   the   world   on   which   he   is   still   standing   goes   on   carrying   him   as   fast   as   it   can   the   wrong   way. He   has   a   real   struggle   to   maintain   his   position   and   keep   his   eyes   on   his   Saviour.   However   as   he   goes on   gazing   even   fitfully   at   God   something   miraculous   happens   (Figure   (c))   :   the   world   loses   its   grip   on him. He begins to stop spinning, stand still and slowly, very slowly step forward along the Way. This   is   what   we   experience   when   we   begin   to   spend   time   with   God:   The   pace   of   our   life   slows   down. A semblance of order begins to appear as our priorities change. A sense of purpose forms as we learn his will and follow it point by point. We start to become the “real people” we were created to be. 4 Consider   another   image,   this   time   from   the   parables   of   Jesus.   Here   is   a   wandering   sheep   lost   out   on the   mountains,   far   away   from   the   Shepherd   and   the   rest   of   the   flock.   What   advice   do   we   offer   it   ? Perhaps   the   best   advice   we   can   give   is,   “Stop   wandering   further   and   further   away.   Stay   right   where   you are.   The   Shepherd   who   loves   you   and   cares   for   you   is   as   a   matter   of   certainty   coming   to   find   you.   Wait for him and in due course you will hear his voice.” The   point   is   the   same.   If   we   are   out   of   communion   with   God   we   must   stop   running   away   from   him,   slow down,   get   down   on   our   knees   and   spend   time   before   him   in   prayer,   waiting   for   him   until   we   hear   his voice. I   sometimes   think   that   if   there   is   one   thing   that   God   is   wishing   to   say   to   his   people   in   these   hectic   times, it must be this : “Slow down. Slow down! Slow down!! Slow down!!! SLOW DOWN!!!!” 5 CHAPTER 2 ON COMMUNICATION “The man who would know God must give time to him” - A. W. Tozer. In   the   first   chapter   we   noted   the   urgent   need   for   modern   man   -   and   especially   modern   evangelical   man -   to   learn   to   slow   down   and   spend   time   with   God   if   ever   he   is   to   encounter   him.   I   want   now   to   describe the nature of that encounter in terms of the concept of communication. The   activity   of   communication   in   its   simplest   form   involves   just   two   parties.   At   any   given   time   one   of these   will   be   talking   and   the   other   listening,   after   which   the   roles   may   be   reversed.   If   so,   what   the second   speaker   then   says   will   have   been   to   some   extent   affected   by   what   he   has   just   heard.   When   this happens we call it a conversation. The   supreme   Communicator   is   of   course   God,   and   a   record   of   some   of   his   communication   may   be found   in   the   Bible.   Occasionally   we   perhaps   catch   glimpses   of   communication   within   the   persons   of   the Godhead   (eg   Genesis   1:26,   Isaiah   6:8   and   perhaps   Hosea   11),   but   more   often   we   read   of   his   word      to man.    Through    creation    he    addresses    all    people    generally    (Romans    1:20).    More    specifically    on particular    occasions    he    speaks    through    intermediaries    whom    we    call    prophets    (2    Peter    1:21). Supremely   God   makes   his   personal   revelation   of   himself   in   Jesus,   the   Living   Word   (John   1:1-14, compare   Hebrews   1:1-2a).   And   finally   he   speaks   directly   to   the   hearts   of   his   children   through   his   Holy Spirit. Since   man   is   made   in   the   image   of   God,   some   of   these   activities   of   talking   and   listening   may   also   take place between man and man. A   simple,   normal   dialogue   in   which   the   thread   of   conversation   passes   easily   between   two   parties A   and B may be represented by a wave diagram as follows: 6 When   A   is   tal king   and   B   is   listening   the   curve   is   shown   above   the   line.   When   B   talks   and   A   listens   the curve is below the line. On the other hand no sensible con versation can look like this when both parties are talking at the same time, and neither listening to the other; or like this when B doesn’t get a word in edgeways. How many marriages could be represented in these ways ! In   conversation   between   man   and   God   it   is   always   God   who   takes   the   initiative.   We   see   this   illustrated in the call of Samuel in 1 Samuel 3 which (without the narrative) may be summarised as : God : Samuel, Samuel. Samuel : Speak, for your servant is listening. God : I am going to punish the house of Eli. 7 It   follows   that   if   communication   between   man   and   God   is   broken   (other   than   for   reasons   beyond   man’s control   such   as   ill   health   or   depression),   it   must   be   because   man   has   either   failed   to   speak   to   God   or   - perhaps more often - failed to listen. Adherents   of   Christianity   fall   into   two   camps   :   those   who   believe   God   speaks   personally   today   and those   who   don’t.   Jesus   taught   that   his   sheep   would   follow   him   because   they   would   know   his   voice (John 10:4). We   evangelicals   are   often   taught   to   ‘listen’   to   God   in   Bible   study   and   ‘talk’   to   him   in   prayer.   All   too frequently,   no   more   than   this   is   asked   of   us.   This   is   a   tragedy,   and   is   in   great   measure   responsible   for the   spiritual   poverty   in   our   churches   today.   The   saints   throughout   the   ages   have   always   known   better. They   have   been   distinguished   by   their   regular   practice   of   spending   hours   alone   with   God   listening   to him   in   silent   prayer.   This   attitude   of   quiet,   listening   prayer   was   known   in   the   Old   Testament   as   “waiting on   God”   (modern   translations   often   use   variants   of   this   such   as   “resting”   or   “hoping”   in   God),   and   its importance can be gauged from even a few of the many references to it : “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.” (Psalm 62:1 RSV) “They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31 RSV) “The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” (Lamentations 3:25-26 RSV) 8 By   spending   time   with   God   in   this   way   prayer   itself   becomes   a   two-way   interaction   as   we   begin   to experience   the   living   God   at   levels   previously   unknown   to   us.   The   reader   who   wishes   to   embark   on such   a   course   under   the   encouragement   of   an   experienced   master   is   well   referred   to   the   thirty   one daily   lessons   offered   by Andrew   Murray   in   his   classic   Waiting   on   God ,   written   over   eighty   years   ago   but still   readily   available   and   as   vital   as   ever.   I   would   simply   add   here   that   for   most   people   by   far   the hardest   part   is   getting   started   (rather   like   entering   a   cold   swimming   pool);   in   time,   however,   the   habit becomes addictive. “Watch and pray !” 9 CHAPTER 3 LISTENING TO GOD “Father of Jesus, love’s reward, What rapture will it be, Prostrate before thy throne to lie, And gaze and gaze on thee.” - F.W.Faber. “If you do not understand my silence you will not understand my words.” - Poster. In   the   previous   chapters   we   have   seen   the   crucial   importance   of   spending   time   in   God’s   presence   and listening   to   him   in   silent   prayer.   This   is   in   order   to   ‘slow   down’   the   pace   of   our   lives   until   it   meets   that   of his. What may we expect when we try? Almost   certainly,   any   attempt   to   empty   our   heads   of   our   own   thoughts   so   as   to   concentrate   on   God   will meet   with   vigorous   resistance   from   both   within   and   without.   Every   kind   of   distraction   -   be   it   the   noise   of traffic   outside,   the   children   downstairs,   the   telephone,   an   itchy   foot,   thoughts   about   today’s   work   or tomorrow’s shopping list - will attempt to divert us from our goal. So we (1) Choose a time when we are least likely to be disturbed. (2) Seek   the   quietest   place   available,   go   in   and   shut   the   door   (Matthew   6:6).   (On   a   nice   day   we   may prefer   a   secluded   spot   outdoors,   or   go   for   a   walk;   if   home   offers   no   quiet   you   could   try   the   local library; some have even been known to pray in church !) (3) Arm ourselves with a Bible and a notebook or paper and pencil. 10 (4) Find the most comfortable position in which we can easily relax; this may be on our knees, in a chair, on top of a bed or prostrate on the floor (there are scriptural precedents for most of these). Most   of   us   will   want   to   begin   with   whatever   forms   of   prayer   and   worship   we   are   already   happiest   with, say,   studying   the   Bible,   reading   a   short   passage   from   a   devotional   book,   singing   (but   not   in   the   library!), thanksgiving,   intercession   and   so   on;   and   this   is   right.   Then   when   we   are   ready   we   move   -   or   try   to move   -   into   quietness.   (Here   I   can   report   only   my   own   paths;   the   reader   must   find   out   by   sheer experience how God speaks to him or her.) Diverting   thoughts   will   come,   and   keep   on   coming.   If   I   wish   to   remember   them,   I   write   them   into   my notebook   and   so   clear   my   head.   It   may   indeed   be   no   more   ‘spiritual’   than   an   item   for   the   shopping   list or a reminder to do something like write a letter or make a phone call. What   has   happened   ?   By   pausing   before   God   we   have   begun   to   organise   our   life,   so   removing   some   of the   chaos   that   reigned   before.   This   may   not   be   what   we   came   for   and   it   requires   no   supernatural explanation.   But   we   have   started;   and   we   have   started   to   slow   down.   When   we   rise   and   go   about   our day   we   have   at   least   an   agenda. The   moral   here   is   that   true   ‘spirituality’   as   it   affects   us   is   probably   very different   from   our   initial   concept   of   it.   How   many   times   did   Jesus   put   his   finger   on   something   very   down to   earth   when   asked   an   ethereal,   ‘spiritual’   question   ?   Is   not   something   similar   implied   by   the   command to   ‘Seek   first   the   kingdom   of   God   and   his   righteousness’,   when   ‘all   these   [everyday,   material,   secular] things’ would be ‘added unto’ us (Matthew 6:33) ? This   whole   topic   of   personal   organisation   has   been   admirably   handled   in   Gordon   MacDonald’s   modern classic,   Ordering   Your   Private   World   (Moody   1984   /   Highland   1987),   which   I   warmly   commend   to   the reader. As   we   continue   on   our   way,   other   types   of   thought   may   greet   us.   There   may   be,   say,   the   desire   to   pray for someone, or to look up a passage of scripture. 11 We   may   become   aware   of   areas   in   our   personal   lives   or   relationships   which   are   unworthy   of   God   and need to be put right (Matthew 5:23-24). And we know that “The   Spirit   helps   us   in   our   weakness;   for   we   do   not   know   how   to   pray   as   we   ought,   but   the Spirit   himself   intercedes   for   us   with   sighs   too   deep   for   words. And   he   who   searches   the   hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit....” (Romans 8:26-27 RSV) I   find   it   helpful   to   keep   a   loose   leaf   notebook   with   a   number   of   ‘lists’   in   it.   For   example,   I   have   one   list   of topics   on   which   I   need   guidance,   and   another   of   problems   where   I   am   asking   for   help.   The   entries   are brief   -   a   line   or   two   -   and   cryptic   (in   case   I   lose   it;   other   people   are   identified   only   by   their   initials).   If   a positive   answer   is   received,   I   enter   it   in   ink   and   rule   through   with   a   line   so   that   the   entry   is   still   legible.   If a   negative   answer   is   received,   I   do   the   same   in   pencil,   to   be   rubbed   out   if   a   later   “Yes”   comes   to replace   it.   To   date   in   8   years   I   have   recorded   209   “Yes”s,   27   “No”s,   with   55   pending.   (I   got   the   germ   of this idea from the back of Corrie ten Boom’s book, The Hiding Place.) In   the   same   notebook   I   keep   a   diary   of   ‘Praises’,   where   I   record   the   special   blessings   that   have occurred   in   the   course   of   the   day.   Over   a   period   of   a   year   or   two   this   becomes   very   heartening,   not   to say exciting, reading. More   recently   I   have   adopted   the   practice,   recommended   by   MacDonald   among   others,   of   keeping   a journal   of   my   spiritual   pilgrimage.   This   too   is   of   enormous   benefit   by   encouraging   me   to   sit   down,   take time   and   think   seriously   about   what   God   is   saying   to   me,   expressing   as   clearly   as   I   can   understand   it what   he   says   to   me   and   I   to   him.   An   excellent   introduction   to   journalling   may   be   found   in   Keeping   a Spiritual Journal, edited by Edward England (Highland, 1988). Hence   at   the   beginning   or   end   of   every   day   I   have   a   wide   range   of   hannels   open   to   me   for   processing my   thoughts   and   so   refreshing   my   mind   before   God.   This   allows   my   thinking   and   my   life   to   take   on   a new   ‘shape’   of   their   own   :   in   Paul’s   phrase   I   am   being   transformed   by   the   renewing   of   my   mind (Romans 12:2). 12 Again, there are many Christians to whom God speaks quite differently. Some will find helpful Joyce Huggett’s beautiful Prayer Journal, published by Marshall-Pickering, which offers a ready made structure for recording different types of prayer thoughts. Others I know find that sometimes during the day God brings a particular individual to mind, and that often if they make contact right away, they find an immediate need which they can meet. To others he speaks in dreams as so often in scripture. * * * * * · When words have ceased, there is God, and there are we. As the psalmist put it, “Be still then, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) What follows is for you to find out for yourself. Try it. 13 CHAPTER 4 RESTORING THE RELATIONSHIP What   happens   when   disorder   creeps   into   our   spiritual   lives   ?   When   we   become   out   of   tune   with   God   ? When   our   attempts   to   serve   him   fail   like   flat   jokes   ?   When   we   teach   or   preach   only   what   we   think   God ought   to   be   saying,   being   unable   to   report   what   he   really   is   saying   ?   When   God   may   not   seem   dead   but does   seem   to   be   totally   silent   ?   When   the   romance   has   disappeared   from   our   love   affair   with   Jesus Christ   ?   When   we   conclude   that   spiritual   sparkle   never   was   part   of   God’s   permanent   plan   for   us,   and after all we “mustn’t trust our feelings” or “seek experiences” ? All   of   these   problems   are   symptoms   of   the   same   thing.   We   are   out   of   phase   with   God.   For   whatever reason,   there   is   a   failure   of   communication   between   him   and   us.   We   may   not   be   embracing   open   sin. We may not have lost interest or the desire to serve God. But we are out of step. Consider again our wave diagram. The situation we are facing can be epicted like this : The   desire   to   communicate   is   there   on   both   sides,   and   yet   communication   isn’t   happening. The   solution now   becomes   apparent   :   if   we,   the   lower   wave   train,   slow   down   and   wait   long   enough,   the   waves   of God   will   in   due   course   catch   up   with   us   where   we   are.   When   this   happens   the   picture   will   again   be   one of   a   single   continuous   curve   which   denotes   two-way   communication   between   ourselves   and   God.   The problem is resolved. 14 In   practice   this   boils   down   yet   once   more   to   seeking   God,   spending   time   waiting   on   him   as   the   Bible directs.   (For   some   this   may   involve   fasting;   for   others   perhaps   a   retreat.   Where   sin   is   recognised   there will   obviously   have   to   be   repentance   in   the   sure   expectation   of   forgiveness   through   Jesus’   blood.)   I apologise   to   any   readers   who   like   Naaman   hoped   there   might   be   a   different   way   out,   but   there   is   no alternative   way   back   to   God   which   does   not   involve   seeking   him   with   all   your   heart.   Look   up   Jeremiah 29:13,   1   Chronicles   16:11   and   28:9,   Psalm   27:8,   Isaiah   55:6,   Zephaniah   2:3   and   Matthew   6:33   and   7:7 as   a   beginning   if   you   have   any   doubts.   Christians   who   have   a   Bible   and   a   pair   of   knees   should   need   no further   instruction!   Jesus   Christ   did   not   die   simply   to   give   his   followers   a   change   in   their   legal   standing before God, but a change in their experience of him as well : “And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3 NIV) When   waiting   upon   God   in   our   prayer   life   is   not   enough,   we   may   have   to   wait   on   him   over   a   period   of time   in   our   exterior   “life   life”   :   rein   in   some   of   our   less   essential   activities,   pause   and   begin   to   tie   up some   of   our   loose   ends.   We   may   need   to   introduce   order   where   there   is   disorder,   clear   the   backlog   of unanswered   letters   and   unpaid   bills,   straighten   out   our   neglected   relationships   and   do   those   things which   we   have   silenced   our   inner   voice   by   putting   off. Then   we   should   come   back   to   God   in   prayer   and seek him afresh. How   God   will   meet   any   individual   I   dare   not   guess.   For   one   it   may   be   through   the   reading   or   preaching of   the   Word.   For   another,   through   an   experience   of   worship. Another   may   be   overwhelmed   by   the   Spirit of   God   through   the   laying   on   of   hands.   Others   may   find   themselves   to   be   simply   swimming   in   the   love of   God   as   they   pray   alone.   “Your   young   men   shall   see   visions,   and   your   old   men   shall   dream   dreams.” But one thing they will all have in common : all shall know that they have met the living God. 15 I   have   another   picture   for   describing   this   process.   Imagine   a   bicycle   chain   moving   over   its   sprocket wheel.   Over   the   years   the   chain   has   stretched   so   that   it   no   longer   fits.   As   it   goes   round,   friction   and tension   mount   until   there   is   a   painful   jarring   and   then   suddenly   a   lurch   as   the   whole   chain   slips   one   cog and   for   the   time   being   normality   and   smooth   running   are   restored.   I   find   this   to   be   particularly   true   of fasting.   The   discipline   may   be   hard   but   it   does   seem   very   effective   in   lifting   people   out   of   a   rut   to   a   new level where God’s goodness and power can be experienced afresh and in greater measure. In   another   context   a   holiday   can   do   something   similar   for   us   when   we   are   stressed   at   work.   The sabbath rest likewise was provided in the Old Testament to do the same thing for the Jews. By   way   of   further   illustration   consider   how   you   can   restore   harmony   to   a   relationship   with   another individual    which    is    stretched    during    a    heated    argument.    Suppose    that    instead    of    yielding    to    the temptation   to   clout   your   opponent   with   the   first   thing   that   comes   into   your   head,   thereby   exacerbating the   contest   (usually   at   the   expense   of   a   part   -   your   antagonist’s   part   -   of   the   truth),   you   pause   for   a moment,   listening   to   what   she   says.   As   you   pause,   you   reflect   that   you   are   a   disciple   of   Christ,   you think   about   what   you   have   just   been   told   and   its   validity,   about   who   said   it   and   only   then   come   up   with an answer. Several things are likely to happen : (1) You may address her in love. (2) You may say something you are less likely to regret. (3) You may well return the “soft answer” that “turneth away wrath.” (Proverbs 15:1 AV) (4) You may be listened to. (5) You may receive a similar reply. (6) You may listen to the reply. (7) Both of you may learn something that is genuinely true. (8) Both of you will then have begun once more to communicate with each other. 16 Why   all   this   ?   Because   by   waiting   -   not   this   time   on   God,   but   on   your   friend   -   you   have   allowed   the   top and   bottom   halves   of   the   curve   to   slide   into   place   again.   The   problem   -   failure   of   communication,   being out of step with each other - was essentially the same, and the solution is the same. Again,   when   you   are   seeking   a   rapprochement   with   an   estranged   friend,   you   may   have   found   it   wise   to wait   for   his   response   rather   than   repeat   your   own   initiative.   By   letting   time   pass   until   he   is   ready   to react,   even   though   you   seem   to   yourself   weak   and   vulnerable   in   the   interim,   you   give   the   pair   of   you the   best   chance   of   moving   back   into   phase.   So   it   is   when   we   are   seeking   restoration   with   God.   Once the   decision   to   turn   and   seek   him   has   been   made,   we   should   stick   by   it   come   what   may,   even   though the   whole   endeavour   threatens   to   be   a   fruitless   disaster.   This   is   faith.   By   coming   through   such   an experience   we   shall   know   him.   If   instead   we   give   up   hope   and   seek   alternative,   second-   best   paths   -   be they   extra-zealous   evangelism,   increased   attendance   at   meetings,   further   “decisions”   or   other   spiritual activities   (all   of   which   have   their   place)   -   we   shall   lose   our   goal.   To   protect   yourself   from   your   own   lack of trust in God is not a recipe for finding him. “For   whoever   wants   to   save   his   life   [or   soul]   will   lose   it,   but   whoever   loses   his   life   for   me   will find it.” (Matthew 16:25 NIV) “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8 RSV) Are you in phase ? 17 CHAPTER 5 PERSONAL EVANGELISM “Everyone should be quick to listen.” (James 1:19 NIV) In   previous   chapters   we   have   looked   at   the   nature   of   communication   as   it   relates   God   to   man.   I   wish now to consider the practice of communication - in particular of the Gospel - between man and man. The   thesis   offered   is   this   :   In   order   to   present   Jesus   Christ   to   someone   who   does   not   know   him,   you   will normally   have   to   take   several   distinct   steps.   Each   step   may   convey   information,   arouse   interest, express   love   or   sympathy   and   so   on.   After   each   step   we   must   WAIT   until   we   get   a   response   before proceeding   further.   In   the   terms   of   our   original   wave   drawing   from   Chapter   2,   there   must   be   continuity of   the   curve   both   above   and   below   the   line.   That   is   to   say,   it   is   essential   to   respect   the   right   of   your friend to reject your witness, or to take time to ponder it before proceeding. Consider   Jesus’   appearance   to   the   two   disciples   on   the   road   to   Emmaus   that   first   Easter   evening   (Luke 24:13-35). After   engaging   them   in   conversation   he   explains   to   them   “what   was   said   in   all   the   scriptures concerning   himself”   (v.27).   Having   done   so   he   does   not   immediately   reveal   his   identity,   but   “made   as   if to   go   on”   (v.28).   Only   when   they   “urged   him   strongly”   (v.29)   does   he   agree   to   stay   for   a   meal   and   so disclose himself. He waited for their response. 18 The   response   may   never   come.   Or   God   may   use   someone   else   instead   of   you.   What   matters   is   that you   say   what   God   gives   you   to   say,   no   more   and   no   less.   A   good   personal   evangelist   or   counsellor   is not   primarily   someone   who   knows   how   to   explain   or   preach;   she   is   before   that   one   who   knows   how   to listen   -   to   the   Holy   Spirit   and   to   the   counsellee,   not   just   to   what   she   says   out   loud,   but   also   to   what   her heart   is   saying   in   silence.   See   how   often   in   the   gospels   Jesus   penetrates   through   the   superficial problems   that   people   first   present   to   him   to   the   real   unspoken   ones   that   lie   beneath   the   surface.   See how   when   talking   with   the   Samaritan   lady   at   the   well   (John   4)   he   opens   the   conversation   at   the   point   of contact   (drawing   water,   vv.7-15),   then   exposes   her   real   problem   (multiplicity   of   husbands,   vv.16-18), answers   her   religious   speculation   (vv.19-25),   and   only   then   when   she   reaches   the   point   (v.25)   identifies himself   as   the   Christ   (v.26).   In   each   case   he   secures   a   positive   response   from   the   woman   before   going on to the next step. You   can   tell   if   you   are   a   good   listener.   When   you   are   talking   with   someone,   does   what   they   say   make any   difference   to   how   you   reply   ?   Or   are   you   simply   waiting   until   they   have   finished   so   that   you   can deliver   yourself   of   whatever   is   already   in   your   head   ?   In   communicating   the   Gospel   do   you   always   say the   same   thing   to   everyone,   or   do   you   seek   first   to   identify   their   personal   hurts,   hangups   and   problems in   order   to   see   how   particularly   Christ   can   meet   each   of   these   ?   If   you   are   a   non-listener,   you   could   well be leaving behind you a very long trail of disasters. Believe me, this happens. One   of   our   greatest   weapons   is   SURPRISE.   Do   we   always   have   to   be   predictable   ?   Jesus   never   was. There   are   some   Christians   who   at   the   first   mention   of   evolution   or   religion   in   the   workplace   will   always dive   in   at   once   until   everyone   else   knows   in   advance   precisely   what   to   expect   -   and   switches   off.   By doing   so   they   deprive   themselves   of   priceless   opportunities   to   LISTEN   to   their   colleagues   and   so   learn precisely   where   and   how   the   Spirit   is   at   work.   Remember   that   Jesus   himself   only   did   what   first   he   saw the   Father   doing   (John   5:19).   We   ignore   his   example   to   our   own   loss,   to   the   loss   of   others,   and   perhaps to   the   loss   of   the   kingdom.   Why   not   surprise   people   by   listening   to   them   first   ?   Or   by   showing   first   and foremost   that   we   have   a   genuine   interest   in   them   ?   There   are   more   ways   to   take   a   city   than   by   frontal assault! 19 (This   whole   question   of   listening   has   been   brilliantly   covered   in   Michael   Mitton’s   admirable   little   booklet, The Wisdom to Listen (Grove Pastoral Series No. 5, 1981).) It   is   always   very   sad   when   we   see   would-be   personal   evangelists   who   instead   of   listening   to   their   victim simply   contradict   everything   he   says   on   the   grounds   that   if   he   isn’t   a   Christian,   everything   he   believes must   be   wrong   (especially   if   the   evangelist   doesn’t   understand   it).   This   is   simply   unbiblical.   Consider how   St.   Paul   on   the Areopagus   at Athens   did   everything   he   could   to   establish   common   ground   between himself   and   those   pagan   gentiles,   even   quoting   their   own   literature   to   them,   before   setting   out   the distinctiveness   of   the   Faith   (Acts   17:22-31).   I   believe   we   should   be   agreeing   with   our   friends   wherever possible,   seeking   to   identify   a   bridge   of   common   ground,   rather   than   trampling   on   and   insulting   their most cherished ideals which they have laid bare before us. “Blessed are the PEACEMAKERS” ! Again,   in   some   evangelistic   quarters   there   are   practices   which   are   ethically   scandalous.   Sometimes these   relate   to   methods   of   raising   finances,   sometimes   to   the   use   of   undue   emotional   pressure, sometimes   to   personality   cults   and   also   often   to   appalling   breaches   of   confidentiality.   Usually   these stem   from   a   belief   that   we   as   individuals   are   indispensible   to   God   in   his   world   plan,   and   that   our contribution   is   so   important   that   a   few   cut   corners   won’t   matter.   If   we   think   so,   we   are   wrong,   very wrong, and risk being set aside in favour of others with a little humility. Cowboy   evangelists   who   go   in   with   all   guns   blazing,   convinced   that   any   means   and   any   attitudes   are acceptable   in   the   advancement   of   the   kingdom,   would   do   well   to   remember   Our   Lord’s   words   to   those of his day who behaved similarly: “Woe   to   you,   scribes   and   Pharisees,   hypocrites!   for   you   traverse   sea   and   land   to   make   a   single proselyte   [convert],   and   when   he   becomes   a   proselyte,   you   make   him   twice   as   much   a   child   of hell as yourselves.” (Matthew 23:15 RSV) 20 Where   have   we   derived   this   strange   heresy   that   our   own   evangelistic   contribution   is   somehow   of   more importance than our personal holiness and loving walk with God? For   the   ultimate   weapon,   against   which   all   our   other   ‘methods’   stand   or   fall,   is   LOVE.   The   love   which makes   us   increasingly   into   whole,   “real   people”,   is   the   only   force   which   will   ultimately   bring   others   into the   kingdom.   Without   it   we   wield   the   sword   of   the   Spirit   IN   VAIN   and   our   attempts   to   win   converts, successful   or   not,   will   cut   and   severely   damage   those   human   souls   for   whom   Christ   died.   As   Francis Schaeffer   put   it,   “Truth   without   love   is   a   lie”.   Only   when   people   realise   that   first   and   foremost   we   LOVE them are they likely to be interested in what we have to say. And then we have begun to communicate. 21 CHAPTER 6 ON PATIENCE “Not only that, but we even rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces patience, patience character, and character hope.” (Romans 5:3-4) “Although [Jesus] was a Son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8 NIV) We   have   in   previous   chapters   seen   the   need   to   slow   down   the   pace   of   our   lives   by   spending   time   in silence   before   God.   We   look   now   at   one   of   the   principal   benefits   to   be   gained   from   this,   and   that   is patience. This   much   underrated   Christian   virtue   has   two   sides   to   it.   The   first   is   the   ability   to   SUFFER   or   endure, traditionally   translated   “longsuffering”   (e.g.   Galatians   5:22   AV),   which   is   produced   in   the   Christian   soul primarily   by   having   to   suffer.   The   second   is   the   ability   to   WAIT   for   God’s   time,   and   this   I   believe   grows as   we   “wait   upon   God”   as   already   described.   Further,   waiting   on   God   in   our   prayer   life   enables   us practically to wait on him in our (active) “life life” as described in Chapter 4. We learn how to pass time. Why   is   this   so   important   ?   Because   patience   is   an   essential   attribute   of   God   himself.   It   is   the   patience of   God   which   is   the   secret   of   his   power.   Because   he   is   prepared   to   wait   and   to   go   on   waiting   until precisely   the   right   time   to   act,   he   acts   with   economy   and   to   greatest   effect.   Jesus   taught   this   in   the parable   of   the   weeds   in   the   field   (Matthew   13:24-30,   36-43),   in   which   we   see   the   Father   waiting   until the   maximum   harvest   can   be   reaped   before   sending   in   the   reapers;   to   do   so   prematurely   would   lose some   people   who   as   it   is   are   saved.   The   same   explanation   is   given   in   2   Peter   3:9   of   the   ‘delay’   in   Our Lord’s return: 22 “The   Lord   is   not   slow   in   keeping   his   promise,   as   some   understand   slowness.   He   is   patient   with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (NIV) This   quality   is   exhibited   in   the   very   human   story   of   Esther.   When   her   people   are   on   the   brink   of   being legally   massacred   by   Haman,   she   bravely   undertakes   to   get   King   Xerxes   to   reverse   his   edict.   Risking death   she   enters   his   presence   and   is   asked   what   she   wants.   But   instead   of   answering   immediately,   she invites   the   king   to   a   banquet   (5:4).   When   he   comes   she   again   defers   her   request   until   a   second banquet   the   next   day   (5:7-8).   Not   until   then   does   she   make   her   petition   for   the   safety   of   her   people, which   is   granted   (chapter   7),   but   only   after   an   intervening   act   of   (unnamed)   Providence   the   previous night. Esther, it is implied, knew how to wait for God’s time. And   here   the   connection   between   the   two   aspects   of   patience   comes   to   light.   For   in   the   interim,   God’s people   -   anywhere   -   may   be   called   to   suffer,   spiritually   if   not   physically.   Hence   arises   the   cry   “How long?”,   common   both   to   the   Psalmists   (e.g.   6:3,   13:1-2   etc)   and   to   the   risen   martyrs   in   Revelation   (6:9- 10). Jesus   too   had   to   wait   for   God’s   time.   He   always   knew   he   had   “a   baptism   to   be   baptised   with”   (Luke 12:50)   yet   he   waited   thirty   years   before   beginning   his   public   ministry.   Once   started,   he   rejected   at   first his   mother’s   plea   for   a   miracle   at   the   wedding   at   Cana,   saying   “My   hour   has   not   yet   come”   (John   2:4). Twice   he   escapes   arrest   for   the   same   reason   (John   7:30,   8:20),   thereby   declining   to   join   battle   with   the enemy   except   on   his   Father’s   chosen   ground.   But   at   his   final   Passover   (John   12:23-28)   and   in Gethsemane   (Mark   14:41)   his   hour   came,   and   the   rest   of   the   New   Testament   (as   Hebrews   5:8-10) rings with praises of the total victory won by his perfect obedience. 23 Picture   a   man   trying   to   overturn   a   large   boulder,   most   of   which   lies   buried   beneath   the   ground.   He   digs down   until   he   thinks   he   has   reached   its   bottom,   then   pushes   hard   on   his   spade.   If   he   has   misjudged, and   the   rock   actually   goes   much   deeper,   he   breaks   his   spade   or,   more   seriously,   himself.   If   on   the   other hand   he   does   his   preparation   more   thoroughly   so   that   he   reaches   the   rock’s   true   bottom,   his   effort   to dislodge   it   is   more   likely   to   be   successful.   Patience   is   the   spadework.   If   we   try   to   do   some   great endeavour   for   God   while   being   insufficiently   prepared   and   before   God’s   time   has   come,   we   will   fail   and possibly   suffer   personal   damage.   If   we   wait   on   him   in   our   prayer   life   and   in   our   “life   life”,   obeying   his commands   meanwhile,   we   will   grow   as   Christians   until   we   are   ready   to   do   that   to   which   he   has   called us. All   the   time   that   we   are   learning   patience   God   is   at   work.   Each   of   us   begins   life   like   a   blank   key.   As through   the   frictions   of   life   God   chips   away   at   us,   he   fashions   each   of   us   to   be   a   unique   individual,   the only   person   on   this   planet   capable   of   opening   the   particular   door   which   he   has   in   mind   for   us.   If   in rebellion   we   kick   against   the   pricks,   the   process   becomes   both   more   lengthy   and   more   painful,   and   we risk   missing   his   best   plan.   If   we   accept   his   hand   with   patience,   obedience   and   surrender,   we   acquire both   character   and   depth   of   character,   which   is   the   distinguishing   mark   of   “real   people”.   One   day   when he   is   ready,   he   will   with   his   own   hand   place   us   in   the   keyhole   and   the   door   will   open,   releasing   the floodgates   of   his   Spirit   on   a   needy   world.   Abraham,   Joseph   and   Moses   all   learned   the   hard   way   the dangers of a false start. Can we afford not to be patient ? 24 CHAPTER 7 ON TEACHERS “Nor are you to be called ‘teacher’, for you have one teacher, the Christ.” (Matthew 23:10 NIV) “As   for   you,   the   anointing   you   received   from   him   remains   in   you,   and   you   do   not   need   anyone   to   teach you.” (1 John 2:27 NIV) “It   was   [Christ]   who   gave   some   to   be   apostles,   some   to   be   prophets,   some   to   be   evangelists,   and   some to be pastors and teachers...” (Ephesians 4:11 NIV) “It   is   scarcely   possible   in   most   places   to   get   anyone   to   attend   a   meeting   where   the   only   attraction   is God.” - A. W. Tozer. We   have   a   paradox.   Jesus   who   forbade   his   disciples   to   be   called   teachers   appointed   such   a   calling within his church. Why ? What is the underlying truth ? In   both   passages   the   concept   of   service   is   to   hand.   Paul’s   apostles,   prophets,   evangelists,   pastors   and teachers   are   there   “to   prepare   God’s   people   for   works   of   service”   and   by   implication   to   be   servants themselves.    Jesus    in    St    Matthew    continues,    “The    greatest    among    you    will    be    your    servant.    For whoever   exalts   himself   will   be   humbled,   and   whoever   humbles   himself   will   be   exalted.”   (The   whole   of Matthew   23:8-12   should   be   read.)   Jesus   is   not   forbidding   the   activity   of   teaching,   but   rather   any exaltation   -   especially   self-exaltation   -   of   the   teacher   which   might   cause   him   to   receive   any   credit   for   his ministry which is the sole right of Jesus himself. 25 “For   when   one   says,   ‘I   follow   Paul,’   and   another,   ‘I   follow Apollos,’   are   you   not   mere   men   ?   What, after all, is Apollos ? And what is Paul ? Only servants...” (1 Corinthians 3:4-5 NIV) Today   in   many   parts   of   the   evangelical   church   there   is   a   strong   emphasis   on   teaching.   People   will travel   in   their   thousands   to   hear   the   Word   expounded   by   prominent   speakers,   often   for   days   at   a   time. The   better   known   preachers   can   be   guaranteed   to   fill   a   hall   anywhere   they   go   at   the   very   mention   of their   name.   The   importance   of   good   teaching   is   universally   accepted.   The   unimportance   of   the   teacher is not. It is sad. It   is   not   always   the   preachers   who   are   entirely   to   blame.   We   should   consider   the   posters,   the   publicity techniques   so   frequently   adopted   by   host   churches   :   “Come   and   hear   the   famous   man   of   God   / preacher / international speaker / author / missionary leader...”. How far is this justified ? “For   we   do   not   preach   ourselves,   but   Jesus   Christ   as   Lord,   and   ourselves   as   your   servants   for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Corinthians 4:5 NIV) Nevertheless   what   we   are   left   with   all   too   often   today   is   a   personality   cult,   and   it   is   very   hard   indeed   for the   subjects   of   such   treatment   not   to   become   affected   by   it   themselves.   It   is   also   a   slur   on   the   Name   of Christ   in   the   eyes   of   those   outside   the   Church   who   may   be   more   sensitive   to   these   things   than   we   are. Instead   we   should   recall   the   dictum   of   that   great   servant   of   God   Charles   Simeon   of   Cambridge,   which is   as   true   today   as   it   was   150   years   ago   :   that   the   first   three   qualities   required   of   a   preacher   are   “1. Humility. 2. Humility. 3. Humility”. Such a man will challenge hell. The   true   teacher   is   called   to   walk   a   tightrope.   Like   John   the   Baptist   he   must   decrease   in   importance   if Christ is to increase (John 3:30). Would-be teachers should therefore heed the warning of James : “Not   many   of   you   should   presume   to   be   teachers,   my   brothers,   because   you   know   that   we   who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1 NIV). 26 School   teachers   tend   to   fall   into   two   categories   :   those   who   simply   teach   their   subject   to   their   pupils, and   those   who   teach   them   to   think   about   their   subject.   Between   these   two   there   is   a   qualitative difference,   just   as   there   is   between   giving   a   hungry   man   a   fish   and   giving   him   a   fishing   rod.   So   in   the Church   there   are   two   kinds   of   teacher   :   those   who   bring   their   listeners   closer   to   God   and   those   who   - for   all   their   dynamism   or   charisma   -   actually   make   him   more   distant,   by   implicitly   setting   themselves   up as   mediators   of   God’s   truth,   and   thereby   diminishing   or   removing   altogether   their   hearers’   capacity   to think   critically   about   what   they   are   being   taught. The   difference   may   be   one   of   humility.   Only   the   pure   in heart   will   ever   see   God   and   only   such   will   ever   declare   him   aright.   Even   Charles   Simeon   quoted   above wept   with   repentance   when   his   natural   forcefulness   of   character   betrayed   him   into   pride   and   self- assertion. Hear the words of Jesus : “Take heed what you hear.” (Mark 4:24 RSV) “A   disciple   is   not   above   his   teacher,   but   every   one   when   he   is   fully   taught   will   be   like   his   teacher.” (Luke 6:40 RSV) If   you   allow   yourself   to   be   tied   to   one   particular   teacher,   then   for   as   long   as   you   are   his   pupil   you   can never   come   any   closer   to   God   than   he   is.   His   opinions   will   become   yours   and   you   will   have   no independent   means   of   verifying   them,   except   perhaps   recourse   to   another   teacher.   You   will   read   he Scriptures   through   his   eyes   and   become   to   that   extent   incapable   of   receiving   any   direct   illumination from   the   Spirit,   because   you   have   made   someone   else   your   arbiter.   If   you   always   rely   on   someone else’s understanding you will lose the ability to develop our own. 27 How   often   do   we   hear   in   argument   X’s   opinion   on   baptism,   spiritual   gifts   or   the   Second   Coming   put forward   to   settle   the   matter   in   such   a   way   as   to   preclude   there   being   any   other   authority   or   even another tenable view. We do people no service by denying them the right to think. I   believe   there   may   actually   be   more   safety   in   seeking   out   a   multiplicity   of   godly   teachers   and   learning what   God   is   saying   through   each.   The   Spirit   will   confirm   his   words   through   different   people;   problem areas will be seen to be such. There   is   a   parallel   here   with   commentaries.   The   excessive   use   of   any   single   commentary,   especially   if it   is   a   good   one,   can   bias   the   mind   just   as   much   as   undue   devotion   to   a   single   teacher.   Reference   to several commentaries is more likely to result in a balance. A   good   teacher   -   like   a   good   pastor   -   will   try   to   do   himself   out   of   a   job.   He   will   try   to   bring   those   whom he   seeks   to   serve   so   much   closer   to   God   that   they   will   no   longer   need   his   instruction,   however   much they   enjoy   and   reciprocate   his   love.   Then   they   will   be   more   attuned   to   learn   from   God   himself,   and equally, more ready to learn from other teachers, to whom God has given other truths. Finally : “Prove [test] all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21 AV) “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32 NIV) “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:6 NIV) 28 CHAPTER 8 ON SELF-DECEPTION “The farther we push into the sanctuary the greater becomes the danger of self deception.” - A.W.Tozer. “God’s   ‘vessel   unto   honour’   is   the   man   who   has   waited   for   the   Spirit   to   teach   him,   and   who   has   not been ashamed meanwhile to admit he does not know.” - Watchman Nee. “The   man   who   thinks   he   knows   something   does   not   yet   know   as   he   ought   to   know.”            (1   Corinthians 8:2 NIV) Hands   up   anyone   who   has   ever   heard   a   sermon   on   this   verse!   What   is   Paul   the   apostle   of   the   Gospel of   Jesus   Christ   doing   preaching   intellectual   nihilism?   Why   do   these   words   come   from   the   same   pen that   wrote   the   epistle   to   the   Romans,   and   what   do   they   mean   to   us   today   ?   What   have   they   to   say   to   us who   have   been   entrusted   in   the   Bible   with   the   “lively   oracles”   of   God   ?   Let   us   look   outside   the   Bible   for the beginnings of an answer. The   story   is   told   how   Socrates,   whose   name   is   still   proverbial   for   wisdom,   was   designated   by   the   oracle of   Delphi   as   the   wisest   man   in   the   world.   Baffled   by   this,   since   (in   his   own   ironically   modest   account)   he knew   that   he   had   no   wisdom,   Socrates   searched   high   and   low   for   someone   less   ignorant   than   himself. In   vain   :   rival   candidates   for   the   title,   while   being   no   wiser   than   himself,   mistakenly   believed   that   they were   so,   thereby   marking   themselves   out   as   fools.   Socrates   concluded   the   meaning   of   the   oracle   to   be that, while the others were no less ignorant than himself, he alone was aware of his ignorance. He   was   of   course   jesting   -   though   on   trial   for   his   life   -   but   the   point   is   a   fair   one   and   may   cast   some   light on   St.   Paul.   Have   we   any   idea   of   the   extent   of   our   own   ignorance?   As   we   daily   go   about   our   Master’s business,   confident   of   the   truth   of   what   we   say,   does   intellectual   or   spiritual   humility   ever   come   our way? 29 Have   we   any   concept   of   the   magnitude   of   those   areas   where   we   know   nothing   at   all   ?   What   certainty do   we   have,   in   those   grey   areas   where   good   men   differ,   that   the   dogmatism   with   which   we   cling   to   our own   private   opinions   is   really   justified   by   the   scanty   texts   we   adduce   in   their   support?   Can   we   be   sure that pride has not obscured truth ? We are called to humility. This   is   especially   true   when   meeting   Christians   of   other   persuasions.   If   our   understanding   of   the Gospel   or   of   the   Bible   makes   us   feel   superior   to   other   Christians,   we   understand   wrong.   (“Though   I memorise   the   entire   Bible   by   heart,   and   have   not   love,   I   am   nothing”   !)   Our   cherished   “purity   of doctrine” is going to be flawed. Truth cannot coexist with pride, any more than righteousness can. (One   might   add   that   much   of   the   internecine   strife   that   has   taken   place   between   the   differing   churches throughout   history   might   have   been   avoided   if   the   simple   principle   had   been   adhered   to   that Thou   Shalt Only Criticise Thine Own Tradition.) Returning   to   Delphi,   let   us   recall   the   inscription   prominently   carved   on   the   temple   of   Apollo,   “Know thyself   ”.   This   priceless   teaching,   though   largely   omitted   from   the   interests   of   modern   philosophy, nevertheless   lies   close   to   the   heart   of   most   of   the   major   world   religions,   and   we   do   well   to   heed   it.   Hear again St. Paul : “Do   not   think   of   yourself   more   highly   than   you   ought,   but   rather   think   of   yourself   with   sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”  (Romans 12:3 NIV) Peter   at   the   Last   Supper   boasted   of   his   loyalty   to   Jesus. As   events   proved,   Jesus   knew   him   better   than he knew himself. “And he went outside and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:62 NIV) 30 Let   us   take   this   a   stage   further.   Do   we   have   have   any   idea,   not   just   of   our   own   ignorance,   but   of   our infinite   capacity   to   be   wrong?   It   is   possible   for   any   of   us   to   believe   that   black   is   white   and   white   black. This   form   of   self-deception   is   the   work   of   the   father   of   lies   who   still   has   his   way   wherever   pride   offers him   an   entrance.   Until   we   recognise   this   we   can   pose   a   real   menace   to   those   around   us.   Some   main line   evangelicals   can   become   so   dogmatic   about   their   own   personal   interpretations   of   scripture   that they   reject   not   only   other   types   of   Christian,   but   even   fellow   evangelicals.   This   does   wonders   for   the body   of   Christ   !   Within   the   charismatic   movement   also   there   are   immature   Christians   who   are   unaware that   they   have   not   yet   learned   to   distinguish   the   voice   of   God   from   that   of   their   own   psyche. As   a   result they   behave   as   though   every   thought   or   impulse   that   passes   into   their   mind   were   a   word   from   God   to be   declared   immediately   to   all   and   sundry,   with   no   need   for   validation.   This   too   can   cause   chaos.   Such ill-disciplined   and   self-centred   use   of   the   charismata   is   addressed   by   Paul   in   1   Corinthians   14   (note especially verse 20, “Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.” (NIV)) Similarly   we   need   to   be   very,   very   circumspect   before   taking   upon   our   lips   that   oft-repeated   phrase, “The    Lord    told    me”.    To    do    so    when    in    fact    the    Lord    has    said    no    such    thing    is    to    break    the commandment   not   to   take   his   Name   in   vain   just   as   surely   as   did   the   false   prophets   condemned   in Ezekiel 13 and Jeremiah 23. We do well to be cautious. Let Paul conclude by illuminating himself : “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”   (Galatians 6:3 NIV) 31 “Do   not   deceive   yourselves.   If   any   one   of   you   thinks   he   is   wise   by   the   standards   of   this   age,   he should become a ‘fool’ so that he may become wise.”   (1 Corinthians 3:18 NIV) “Therefore   let   anyone   who   thinks   that   he   stands   take   heed   lest   he   fall.”         (1   Corinthians   10:12 RSV) Spiritual adults know their limitations. Do you ? 32
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