By J.R. Miller
Nothing less than a LIVING Christ will do for us!
He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" 1 Corinthians 15:4
If your faith stops at the cross--it misses the blessing of the fullest revealing of Christ!
You need a Savior who not merely two thousand years ago went to death to redeem you--but one who also is alive to walk by your side in loving companionship.
You need a Savior who can hear your prayers, to whose feet you can creep in penitence when you have sinned, to whom you can call for help when the battle is going against you.
You need a Savior who is interested in all the affairs of your common life, and who can assist you in every time of need.
You need a Christ who can be a real friend--loving you, keeping close beside you, able to sympathize with your weaknesses.
You need a Savior who will come into your life, and will save you, not by one great act of centuries past--but by a life warm and throbbing with love today, and living again in you.
A DYING Christ alone, will not satisfy our heart. We must have the living One for our friend! Nothing less than a LIVING Christ will do for us! And that is the Christ the gospel brings to us: one who was dead--and is now alive for ever and ever!
"My soul thirsts for God, for the living God!" cried the psalmist, and cries every redeemed soul. It is only as we realize the truth of a living Christ--that our hearts are satisfied. We crave love--a bosom to lean upon, a hand to touch ours, a heart whose beatings we can feel, a personal friendship that will come into our life with its sympathy, its inspiration, its companionship, its shelter, its life, its comfort. All this, the living Christ is to us!
I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!" Revelation 1:18
Would you see what sin is?
My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" Matthew 27:46
There is a picture which represents the after-scenes on that day of the crucifixion.
It is all over. The crowds have gone away. The evening sun is shining out again on Calvary. The body of the Savior has been borne to the sepulcher. The cross has been taken down, and lies on the ground. A company of little children, bright with the glow of childhood's innocence, led to the place by accident or curiosity, are seen bending over the signs of the day's terrible work. One of the children holds in his hand, a nail which a little time before, had pierced a hand or a foot of the patient Sufferer, and stands spellbound with horror as he gazes at it. His gentle heart is shocked at sin's dreadful work! On all the children's faces, the same expression of horror is depicted.
No one with pure and gentle heart, can ever look at the death of Christ on the cross--with any but feelings of amazement and horror at sin's awfulness!
It was sin that nailed Jesus on the cross!
It was sin that wreathed the circlet of thorns for His brow!
We say the Jews crucified Christ; yes--but WE helped to do it!
Our sins drove the nails!
Would you see what sin is? Stand by the cross and ponder its terrible work, there in the death of the Redeemer. See what it cost the Lamb of God, to take away sin!
Let nothing be wasted!
Gather the fragments that are left over. Let nothing be wasted!" John 6:12
It seems remarkable, that He who so easily could multiply the five loaves into an abundant meal for thousands, should be so particular about 'saving the fragments'. But Jesus would teach us economy. No matter how great our abundance, we should take care of the 'fragments'. After we have eaten at our tables, there are hungry people who would be glad for the pieces that are left over.
This applies also to the fragments of time. Many busy people waste whole years of time in their life--in the minutes which they lose every day! If at the end of a year they could gather up all these 'fragments', they would have many basketfuls of golden time in which they might do much good!
Likewise, we should not waste our strength. Many people waste their bodily energy, using it in play, or useless amusements, when it belongs to God--and ought to be employed to its last particle for His glory!
Likewise, we should not waste our affections by allowing them to be given to unworthy objects or people.
There is no limit to the application of this principle. We must give account of everything we have, even the minutes of time, the little fractions of strength, and the smallest bits of bread on our tables!
Gather the fragments that are left over. Let nothing be wasted!" John 6:12
There are 'Jebusites' in every Christian heart!
The king and his men marched to Jerusalem, to fight against the Jebusites who inhabited the land." 2 Samuel 5:6
The Jebusites still held a stronghold in the heart of the country, never having been dislodged. Just so, there are 'Jebusites' in every Christian heart!
In every heart, there are little 'Jebusite strongholds', which it seems impossible for us to conquer. Sometimes it is a secret sin which lives on, unconquered, amid the general holiness of a life. Sometimes it is a remnant of the old nature--such as pride, worldliness, selfishness, lust, or bitterness. There are many other such citadels of evil, which rear their proud towers and defy conquest.
"We all have our faults!" we say, and under this 'cloak' we manage to tuck away a large number of dear idols that we do not want to give up!
We ought to give attention to these unsubdued parts of our life--that every thought, feeling, and temper may be brought into subjection to Christ. It is perilous to leave even one such unconquered stronghold in our heart!
We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ!" 2 Corinthians 10:5
Begin where you can!
I am God Almighty; walk before Me and be perfect." Genesis 17:1
"Perfection is impossible!" we are in the habit of saying; and therefore we do not try to reach perfection. But it is better for us always to keep our aim high, although we cannot hope to reach it. If we have low ideals and aims--our attainments will be low. We cannot look with approval upon anything lower than the perfect beauty of God Himself--and not have the beauty of our own life dimmed thereby. We should always keep perfection before us--as our aim. We should keep our eyes ever fixed upon the perfect model, Jesus Christ!
He Himself taught, "Be perfect, therefore--as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:48. We are always to seek to model our life upon the divine pattern. Of course we cannot reach this lofty standard in a day--but the way to Christlikeness, is to strive toward it.
When a child begins to write, his scrawling lines fall far short of the beauty of the original at the top of the page. Book after book he fills with his scribble--but if he is diligent, each new page shows a little improvement, and by and by--his writing rivals the original. We can learn to live holy and sweetly, only in the same way. Begin where you can, no matter how imperfect or faulty your life--but strive always toward perfection, and at last you shall be like Christ! That is the hope which shines before us: when we shall see Him as He is--and shall be like Him!
Do not forget all His benefits!
"Praise the Lord, O my soul, and
do not forget all His benefits:
who forgives all your sins,
who heals all your diseases,
who saves your life from the pit,
who crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things!"
What an enumeration of divine blessings is this!
Any one of them is worth more than all earth's treasures combined!
If we are not forgiven--we must lie forever under the burden of sin, a weight greater than all the Alps! But God forgives--and forgives all our sins--and forgives freely, fully and forever!
If we are not healed--we must be sick forever, sick with the plague and leprosy of sin! But God heals--and heals all our evils, and heals completely!
If we are not saved from the dangers of this ensnaring world--we never can reach heaven! But God keeps, rescues, and saves our life from all impending destructions!
Earth's crowns are made of thorns, and at the best are only what the children call, 'play-crowns', for they are but of leaves that wither, or of gold and gems that will not last. But God crowns His people with crowns of love and compassion, which are real and radiant, which shall never fade--but shall shine forever, becoming crowns of eternal life and glory in heaven!
This world cannot satisfy our heart's deepest cravings. Its possessions only make our hunger more intense! But God satisfies the souls of His people, and meets all their cravings and hungers with truly good and eternal realities!
Lord, teach me to number my days!
Teach us to number our days aright--that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12
We so number our days aright, when we give to each one as it passes, its own measure of faithfulness. Our days come to us 'one by one'. God breaks up His great years, into 'little sections' for us--that we may be able to get along with our work, our burdens, and our struggles. Take the 'single days' as they come to you. He who has learned this secret--has gained a heart of wisdom.
Take the 'one little day', and . . .
do all its duties faithfully;
seize its opportunities;
endure its trials;
meet its temptations victoriously;
bear its burdens;
receive its blessings;
miss not its privileges;
do all the kindness you can;
make it a beautiful day.
Anyone can live 'one single day' sweetly and victoriously. Make today beautiful. Then do the same with tomorrow, and with the next day--and so on, to the end of your life! Thus you will 'number your days' in a way that will make each one profitable. Thus you will write on each day's page--a record of which you will not be ashamed, when it is spread before you on the judgment day.
Our morning prayer each day should be, "Lord, teach me to number my days!"
As your days--so shall your strength be." Deuteronomy 33:25
So he called ten of his servants--and gave them ten pounds. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.'" Luke 19:13
We are doing business in this world for Christ. Each one of us has something of His--a pound which He has entrusted to us--to trade with as His agent. Our life itself, with all its powers, its endowments, its opportunities, its privileges, its blessings, its possibilities--is 'our pound'.
Our life is not our own. We are not in this world merely to have a good time for a few years. Life is a trust. We are not done with it either, when we have lived it through to its last day. We must render an account of it to Him who gave it to us. Our business is to gather gains, through our trading with our Lord's money. We are required to make the most that is possible of our life!
The first came forward and said--Master, your pound has earned ten more pounds!" Luke 19:16
We always find a few of these ten-pound Christians among the followers of Christ. They are those Christians who, from the very beginning, through divine grace--strive to reach the best things attainable in life. They are not content with being merely saved from sin's guilt, with being mere members of the church. They make their consecration to Christ complete, keeping nothing back. They set their ideal of obedience to their Lord--at the mark of perfectness, and are not slack in their striving, until they reach the mark in heaven. They seek to follow Christ entirely, fully, with their whole heart. They accept every duty--without regard to its cost. They seek to be like Christ, imitating Him in all the elements of His character. They give their whole energy to the work and service of Christ. They lie, like John, on the Master's bosom, and their souls are struck through, as it were, with the Master's loving spirit.
These ten-pound Christians grow at last--into a Christ-likeness, a spiritual beauty, and a power of usefulness and influence, by which they are set apart among Christians, shining with brighter luster than other stars, in the galaxy of the church. Their one pound has made ten more pounds! Their high spiritual attainment has been won by their diligent and wise use of the one pound with which they began!
Stay away from the church service!
Serving Christ is something very practical. Some people seem to think it is something aside from their common life, something that belongs only to Sundays, something that can be done only in certain holy moments. But serving Christ is really one's very life--or it is nothing. It does not consist merely in acts of worship. There are times when one's first and most sacred duty--is to stay away from the church service!
A young mother was regretting that she had been able to attend church so rarely during the six months since her baby came. But if the baby really needed a mother's care all those months, she would have been unfaithful to her Master--if she had neglected it even to attend church services.
A pleasant story tells of a dying mother, who left her young daughter in charge of her little sick sister. All her days and nights were filled with this care of love. She could not attend church services nor take any part in Christ's work outside of her little home. It grieved her, for she loved Christ and longed to be of use in His service.
One night she dreamed that the Master had come, and she stood before Him, painfully explaining why she had not been able to do any work for Him, because all her time and strength were required in caring for her suffering sister. "That child is Mine!" said the Master. She could not have served Him better--than in tending this little one of His that needed her care and was her special charge. If she had failed in this duty, even in order to attend church services, if she had neglected this sick child in order to help others outside her home--the Master would have been grieved!
Our duty in serving Christ lies always near to our hand. It is never some impossible thing that He wants us to do.
There was an artist who wished to leave behind him some noble work that would live through all time. He sought for material fine enough for his dream. He traveled to distant lands and journeyed far and near in vain quest for what he sought. He came home an aged man, weary and disappointed, and found that from the common clay beside his own door--his old apprentice had made marvels of loveliness which were praised by all who saw them, and had won him fame.
Just so, many people longing to do noble things for Christ, look far off for the opportunities, missing meanwhile services which wait for them close by their doors. Nothing is grander for us any day, than . . .
the quiet doing of God's will,
simple faithfulness in common duty,
making the best of what lies close to our hand!
Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master's happiness!" Matthew 25:21
No higher praise can be given to any life--than to say it has been faithful. No one could ask for a nobler epitaph than the simple words, "He was faithful." This will be the commendation given in the great account, to those who have made the most of their talents: "You have been faithful with a few things!" Faithfulness should therefore be the aim in all our living.
It is not great things that God expects or requires of us--unless He has given us great gifts and opportunities. All that He requires of us, is faithfulness. He gives us certain talents, puts us in certain relations, assigns to us certain duties--and then asks us to be faithful--nothing more. The man with the plain gifts and the small opportunities, is not expected to do the great things which are required of the man with the brilliant talents and the large opportunities. We should get this truth fixed deeply in our mind--that God asks of nothing more--than simple faithfulness.
Faithfulness is not the same in any two people. In the man who has five talents, there must be a great deal more outcome to measure up to the standard of faithfulness, than in the man who has but two talents.
Faithfulness is simply being true to God--and making the most of one's life. Of those who have received little--only little is required; where much has been received--much is required. Never does God expect anything impossible or unreasonable from anyone. If we are simply faithful--we shall please God.
Jesus said of Mary, after her act of love, when men murmured at her, "She has done what she could!" Mark 14:7. What had she done? Very little, we would say. She loved Jesus truly and deeply. Then she brought a flask of precious ointment and broke the flask, pouring the sacred nard upon her Lord's tired feet--those feet which soon were to be nailed to the cross.
What good did it do? We know it wonderfully comforted the Savior's sorrowful heart. Amid almost universal hatred, and maddening enmity--here was one who sincerely loved Him. While other hands were weaving a crown of thorns for His brow, and others still were forging cruel nails to drive through His feet--Mary's hands were pouring ointment on His head, and bathing His feet with the nard. Who will say that Mary's act did no good? It seemed a little thing--but we cannot fathom how her sweet, pure, loyal love--blessed our suffering Savior in His bitter anguish.
There is an Eye that sees all things as they are!
I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist." Matthew 11:11
These were the strong words which fell from the lips of the Master. It was a wonderful thing to have our Lord speak such praise. He knew what was in men, and He never spoke an insincere word.
Human estimates of greatness are ofttimes defective, sometimes false. Men see only the outward appearance.
Many people are not as great--as they seem to be. They practice tricks which deceive the world. They pass for great--while in reality, they are very small in character. Strip off their gaudy tinsel--and but little would be left.
Other people, however, are greater than they seem. They lack the popular qualities which attract attention and win applause. Yet they are great in their souls, great in spiritual graces, in heart-purity, in the elements of true manhood, in moral strength.
But there is an Eye that sees all things as they are! It pierces all thin disguises, and penetrates to the core of things! It discerns the poor shriveled soul--which is hidden beneath the external glitter. On the other hand, it sees in the humble life, which gets but little praise of men, whose outer form is homely and plain--the true worth, the qualities of holy character.
It is well that we sometimes stop to think--how we appear to God, what God thinks of us. One says, "There is some things in every man's heart, which, if we could know--would make us hate him!" Perhaps this is true; but it is true also that there is something in every Christian, in even the most repulsive, which, if we could know, would make us love him.
As God sees us, we are both worse and better than we seem to any other eyes in all the world. He sees the hidden faults and the secret stains; but He also sees the feeble yearnings which at length will be splendid spiritual qualities. I love to think of this side of the lives of my fellows--not the poor stained fragments of being which my eyes now see--but what they will be when God's work of grace in them is finished!