By J.R. Miller
In music, everything depends on tune. It is so also in living. Many people are like instruments out of tune, sometimes badly out of tune. There is no sweetness in their lives. The chords of their being, are jangled. The object of Christian culture--is to bring our lives into perfect tune with God--so that they will give forth sweet music. The standard key to which all lives are to be tuned--is the life of God himself. This 'tuning' is the work of the whole life--it takes all our earthly years, to come into perfect accord with the music of heaven.
Some people do not like theological terms. Such terms suggest to them abstruse doctrines which are not easily understood. One of these disliked words is "atonement." It means 'attunement'--the bringing of two people, hitherto at variance, into cordial and kindly relations. The theological meaning is the reconciling of God and man, the bringing of them together in love and friendship--that is, the bringing of men into harmony and fellowship with God. God always loves his people--but we have to learn to love him. That is what religion is intended to do in us--to lift us into harmony with God. It takes our discordant lives and brings them into tune with the holy life of Christ who was the revealing of God.
Before we can receive the blessings of the heavenly life, our hearts must be made ready, must be in tune with God himself. In wireless telegraphy, the receiver must be perfectly attuned to its transmitter, or it will not get the message. There may be a thousand stations, with their wires and electrical apparatus--but only the receivers which are in tune with the transmitter sending the message, can receive it.
In one of the psalms we read, "The friendship of Jehovah is with those who fear him; and he will show them his covenant." Only those who fear God--that is, who love him, trust him, do his will, and are in accord with him--receive the secret revealings of his friendship.
The standard of spiritual attunement, is the Word of God. Every note is to be keyed to that. We are to learn to say always, "May Your will be done." In the Scriptures, godly men are sometimes said to walk with God. That is, they go in God's way, think God's thoughts, and obey God's commandments. "Shall two walk together, except they have agreed?" All over the world, saintly ones are walking with God all these common days. When he speaks--they listen to his voice and obey. Yes. Their communion with him is never broken. The music in their hearts never ceases and is never jarred and spoiled by discords.
We cannot see God with our natural eyes--but if our hearts are in tune with his Spirit--we are conscious of his presence, and its blessing flows into our lives. Our beholding him does not depend on the darkness or the light. We can see flowers and trees and human faces only in the day, when the sun is shining. We can see the stars only at night, when the sun has gone down. But our seeing God depends on our own hearts.
Some good people have the impression that Christian joy comes only as the result of emotional experiences. No doubt there are those who are lifted up at times on the high tides of spiritual feeling. But really the only true basis for a joyful life--is obedience to the divine commandments. Jesus lived the perfect life. His joy was never broken. There was never any interruption in his communion with his Father. And the secret of his gladness--was his patient, quiet, unbroken doing of the divine will. He said of his Father, "He has not left me alone--for I do always the things that are pleasing to him." Then he gave his disciples the secret of a joyous life in the words, "If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love."
Could any teaching be plainer than this? We are in tune with God, when we obey his words without question, and when we acquiesce quietly and trustfully in his will. Disobedience always makes discord. It is so in music. When the singer or the player strikes a wrong note, the harmony is broken. It is so in life. So long as we are obedient, sweetly accepting God's way, however it may go against our way, patiently enduring pain, or sorrow, or loss, when God wills it so--we make pleasing music. But the moment we fail to obey some word of our Master's, or do some evil thing, or resist some pleading of love, or rebel against some hard experience, there is discord; at once we are out of tune with God, and our joy is broken!
The object of all spiritual training, is to bring our lives into tune with God. Toward this we strive in all our training and discipline. We begin very far away, and at the best we are only learners. But we are living worthily, only when we are getting a little more into the heavenly spirit every day. We never can enter heaven--until we have brought heaven down into our hearts. We would not be happy there--if we had not learned heaven's lessons before we go there. All the qualities of beautiful character set for us in the Word of God, are things that belong to the perfected life. This should be true of every godly person. Evil things should be cast out, and whatever things are lovely should have their home in the heart.
The life that is in tune with God--is keyed to the note of love. "He who loves not--knows not God; for God is love." Any unlovingness in thought, feeling, word, or act--makes discord in the music of our life. We are brought into close, intimate, and unhindered relations with God--only as we have learned the lesson of love. This includes loving relationships with men--as well as with God.
We are besought by Paul not to grieve the Spirit of God. It is a startling thought that the Holy Spirit loves us enough, to be hurt by anything we may do or may fail to do. The words which follow this exhortation show us how we may thus grieve the divine heart: "Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you." This is the way to get in tune with God.
We can please God and enjoy his favor--only when we love. Any failure in loving interrupts the consciousness of God's presence. John Wesley wrote in his diary one day, "Today I grieved the divine Spirit by speaking uncharitably of one who is not sound in the faith. Immediately I was in great darkness." We cannot keep the peace of God in our hearts--unless our human relations are as they should be. We cannot claim to be Christians--unless we love others. "As I have loved you--so you also ought love one another."
One of the benefits of prayer--is that it keeps us in tune with God. A good man was overheard saying one night at the close of his devotions, "Dear Lord Jesus, we are on the same old terms." There was no discord in the music of his communion with Christ.
We are taught to pray always, after every request we make, "May Your will, not mine, be done." If we do this sincerely, it will always bring us into complete agreement with God. When we first begin our pleading, we may be unsubmissive; at least we may not be ready to accept God's will and take up the burden of sorrow, disappointment, or trial, which is laid at our feet. But as we continue to pray, "Not my will--but yours, be done," gradually the struggle grows less intense, and our mind comes more and more into the mood of quiet acquiescence, until at last all resistance has ceased and the peace of God fills our hearts.
We have a high example of this in our Lord's own pleading in Gethsemane. When he went away alone the first time his prayer was, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me; nevertheless, not as I will--but as you will." But when he went away a second time and prayed, there was a marked change in his words: "My Father, if this cannot pass away, except I drink it, may your will be done." Instead of a strong pleading, as at first, that the cup might pass, there was now an acceptance of the fact that it would not pass, and an acquiescence in the Father's way. His will was coming into perfect acquiescence with his Father's.
The same is true in the history of many earnest prayers. We stand face to face with a great sorrow and we fall upon our knees and plead with God to spare us the grief. We are not rebellious--but it seems to us we cannot endure it. However, as we pray with all earnestness and importunity--yet in faith, and submissively, there comes into our hearts a strange feeling of trust, which deepens into peace, until we are ready to acquiesce in God's will without any further struggle. Our will has been brought into accord with God's.
This is the great work of life--to come into tune with God, to grow into such trust that we shall rest in God in the silence of love, so to lose our wills in God's--that there shall never be any disharmony in our relations with God. The outcome of such a life of acquiescence is peace and joy.
"But I cannot do half of those things," said the bewildered new pupil to the gym teacher, as the two stood together in the gymnasium. "I simply cannot do them at all." "If you could do them--there would be little use in your coming here," was the reply. "You are here to learn how to do them."
We say we never can bring our lives into tune with God's. We think it will be impossible for us to learn to take God's way in all things quietly, joyfully, sweetly. But that is just what we are here for--to be fashioned into the likeness of Christ, to learn to live in perfect peace!