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Choice Excerpts: Part 1

By J.R. Miller

      Only slightly evil

      Avoid every kind of evil." 1 Thessalonians 5:22

      Some professors are accustomed to think of some things as 'only slightly evil', while other things are considered as most vile in their eyes.

      They appear to think, that if they keep themselves from the worse kind of sins--then they need not be so watchful against the minor forms of evil. They will not lie, nor steal, nor swear, nor do other things which would brand them as 'wicked' in the eyes of the community. But meanwhile they are satisfied to be ungentle, unkind, selfish, bad-tempered, and worldly!

      But Paul's exhortation is, "Avoid every kind of evil." We are not to pick out certain things and condemn these alone as evil, abstaining from them; meanwhile indulging in pet vices and sinful habits of our own. Whatever is sinful in even the slightest way--is to be avoided!

      Living out the lessons in daily life!

      If you know these things--happy are you if you do them." John 13:17

      A great many people know plenty of Scripture truth--but do not live it out. Yet the real test of knowing Scripture--is obedience. We really know only so much truth--as we get into our experience and conduct. The only part of the Bible we have really learned--is what we have learned to live. It is a beautiful thing when a person has been well-taught; it is still more beautiful when he abides in the things which he has been taught, living out the lessons in daily life.

      The one true aim in living

      What is success?

      What is the true aim in life?

      What should one, setting out to make his way through this world--take as the goal of all his living and striving?

      'Views of life' differ widely. Many think they are in this world to make a career for themselves. They set out with some splendid vision of success in their mind--and they devote their life to the realizing of this vision. If they fail in this, they suppose they have failed in life. If they achieve their dream--they consider themselves, and are considered by others, as successful.

      The world has no other standard of success:
            it may be the amassing of wealth;
            it may be the winning of power among men;
            it may be the triumph of a certain skill;
            or genius in art, in literature, in music, etc.
      But whatever the definite object may be,
            it is purely an earthly ambition.

      Applying this standard to life--but few men are really successful. Great men are as rare as lofty mountain peaks. Only a few win the high places; the mass remain in the low valleys. Only a few win honor, rise into fame, and achieve 'distinction'; while the great multitude remain in obscurity--or go down in the dust of earthly defeat.

      Is this the only standard of success in life? Do all men, except for the few who win earth's prizes, really fail? Is there no other kind of success? The world's answer gives no comfort to those who find themselves among 'the unhonored'.

      But there is another sphere--there is a life in which success is not material--but spiritual. One may utterly fail, so far as earthly results are concerned; and yet, in the invisible spiritual realm--be a splendid winner in the race!

      The true test of life--is character. Everything else is extraneous, belonging only to the husk, which shall fall off in the day of ripening! Character is the kernel, the wheat--that which is true and enduring. Nothing else is worth while--except that which we can carry with us through death, and into eternity! "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18

      It is altogether possible that a man may fail of winning any earthly greatness, any distinction among men, anything that will immortalize him in this world's calendars--and yet be richly and nobly successful in spiritual things, in character, in a ministry of usefulness, in things which shall abide--when mountains have crumbled into dust! It is possible for one to fall behind in the race for wealth and honor--and yet all the while to be building up in himself--an eternal fabric of beauty and strength!

      What is the standard of success in the sphere of the unseen and the eternal? It is the doing of the will of God. He who does the will of God--makes his life radiant and beautiful, though in the world's scale he is rated as having altogether failed in the battle. He who is true, just, humble, pure, pleasing God and living unselfishly--is the only man who really succeeds--while all others fail.

      Really, there is no other final and infallible standard of living. One who writes his name highest in earth's lists, and yet has not done God's will--has failed, as God Himself looks at his career.

      God had a purpose in our creation--and we only succeed, when our life carries out this purpose. The most radiant career, as it appears to men, means nothing--if it is not that for which God made us. We fail in life--if we do not realize God's will for us.

      We live worthily--only when we do what God sent us here to do. A splendid career in the sight of men--has no splendor in God's sight!

      Not the making of a fine worldly career, therefore--but the simple doing of God's will--is the one true aim in living. Only thus can we achieve real success. If we do this, though we fail in the earthly race--we shall not fail in God's sight. We may make no name among men, may raise for ourselves no monument of earthly glory--but if we please God by a life of obedience and humble service, and build up within us a character in which divine virtues shine, we shall have attained abiding success!

      In the presence of God

      In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead . . . I charge you!" 2 Timothy 4:1

      Life is very serious!

      We are always standing before God who is our Judge.

      Our commonest days--are judgment days.

      We should learn to do everything "in the presence of God". This makes every word and act serious.

      If only we were more conscious of God and of eternity--we would live better!

      It is never safe to make pets of tigers!

      Run for your lives! Do not stop anywhere in the plain. Do not look back! Escape to the mountain, or you will die!" Genesis 19:17
      Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him!" Genesis 4:8

      See here, the fearful growth of the evil feeling in Cain's heart. It was only a thought at first--but it was admitted into the heart and cherished there. Then it grew until it caused a terrible crime! We learn here, the danger of cherishing even the smallest beginning of bitterness; we do not know to what it will grow!

      Some people think lightly of bad temper, laughing at it as a mere harmless weakness; but it is a perilous mood to indulge, and we do not know to what it may lead.

      "Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you!" In His reproof of Cain, the Lord likens his sin to a wild beast lying in hiding by his door, ready to leap on him and devour him. This is true of all sin which is cherished in the heart. It may long lie quiet and seem harmless--but it is only a wild beast sleeping!

      There is a story of a man who took a young tiger and resolved to make a pet of it. It moved about his house like a kitten and grew up fond and gentle. For a long time its savage, blood-thirsty nature seemed changed into gentleness, and the creature was quiet and harmless.

      But one day the man was playing with his 'pet', when by accident his hand was scratched and the beast tasted blood. That one taste, aroused all the fierce tiger nature, and the ferocious animal flew on his master and tore him to pieces!

      So it is, with the passions and lusts of the old nature, which are only petted and tamed and allowed to reside in the heart. They will crouch at the door in treacherous lurking, and in some unguarded hour--they will rise up in all their old ferocity!

      It is never safe to make pets of tigers!

      It is never safe to make pets of little sins!

      We never know what sin may grow into--if we let it abide in our heart!

      "Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him!" That is what came of the passion of envy in Cain's heart! It was left unrebuked, unrepented of, uncrushed--and in time it grew to fearful strength. Then in an evil moment, its tiger nature asserted itself!

      We never know to what dreadful stature--a little sin may grow!

      They want to keep just as near to Sodom as possible!

      Run for your lives! Do not stop anywhere in the plain. Do not look back! Escape to the mountain, or you will die!" Genesis 19:17

      This is still the gospel message. We are in danger of God's judgment--and must escape from it--if we would live. We must not stay anywhere in all the plain of sin--for there is no safe spot, no shelter anywhere, no place where the fires of judgment will not fall.

      Some people would like to compromise; they are willing to flee from some sins--but not from others. There are some professed Christians who like to stay on the borders of their old life. They are continually asking whether they can do this or that, go here or there--and still be Christians. They want to keep just as near to Sodom as possible--so as not to be burnt up in Sodom's destruction! The answer to all such questions is, "Run for your lives! Do not stop anywhere in the plain. Do not look back! Escape to the mountain, or you will die!" Even the borders are unsafe! The only safe place is the mountain, the mountain where Christ's Cross stands!

      Lot's wife 'looked back'. There had been a specific command, "Do not look back!" Why Lot's wife looked back is not explained. Was it curiosity to see the nature of the terrible destruction that she heard roaring behind her? Or was it her dismay as she thought of her beautiful home, with all its wealth of furnishing and decoration, and all her jewels and garments and other possessions--which were now being consumed in the great conflagration?

      It would seem to be, that she was appalled at the thought of leaving and losing all her beloved possessions, and paused in her flight and looked back, with the hope that possibly she might yet run back and snatch some of the ornaments or gems--something, at least, from the awful destruction. "But Lot's wife looked back--and she became a pillar of salt!"

      "Remember Lot's wife!" Luke 17:32. We should not miss the 'lesson' which our Lord Himself teaches us from the tragic fate of this woman: we cannot have both worlds! Lot's wife could have escaped with her husband and her daughters--but she could escape only by resolutely and determinedly leaving everything she had in Sodom. Her love for her possessions, cost her her life!

      Just so, there are thousands today, to whom God's message comes, "Run for your lives! Do not stop anywhere in the plain. Do not look back! Escape to the mountain, or you will die!" They somewhat desire to follow Christ--but their love for the world is so intense that they cannot give it up--they cannot renounce it. They must decide, however, which they will renounce--Christ or the world. They cannot keep both!

      In Lot's wife--we have an example of one who was almost saved--and yet lost! She was lost because she loved the world.

      "Remember Lot's wife!"

      Manifest the life of Christ in our daily living

      True religion will manifest itself in every phase of life. We sit down in the quiet and read our Bible--and get our lesson. We know it now--but we have not as yet got it into our life--which is the thing we must really do.

      Knowing that we should love our enemies, is not the ultimate thing--actually loving our enemies is.

      Knowing that we should be patient, is not all--we are to practice the lesson of patience, until it has become a habit in our life.

      Many know the cardinal duties of Christian life--who yet have not learned to live them. It is living them, however, that is true religion.

      It must always be our aim, to live our religion--to get Christ's love of our heart, wrought out in a blessed ministry of kindness to others. Christ lives in us; and it is ours to manifest the life of Christ in our daily living.

      We worship God on Sunday--in order to gather strength and grace to live for God in the six days that follow. It is evident therefore, that it is in the experiences of weekday life, far more than in the quiet of the Sunday worship and the closet, that the real tests of religion come.

      It is easy to assent with our mind to the commandments, when we sit in the church, enjoying the services. But the assent of the life itself can be obtained, only when we are out in the midst of temptation and duty, in contact with others. There it is, alone, that we can get the commandments wrought into ways of obedience, and lines of character. This is the final object of all Christian teaching and worship--the transforming of our life into the beauty of Christ!

      Does God hear when we grumble about the weather?

      The Lord hears your murmurings which you murmur against Him!" Exodus 16:8

      This is startling! Does God really hear every discontented word we speak?

      Does God hear when we grumble about the weather, about the hard winter, about the late spring, about the dry summer, about the wet harvest, about the high winds, about the storms?

      Does God hear when we complain about our circumstances, about the hardness of our lot, about our losses and disappointments?

      If we could get into our hearts and keep there continually, the consciousness that every word we speak is heard in heaven, and falls upon God's ears before it falls upon any other ear--would we murmur as we now do?

      The Lord hears your murmurings which you murmur against Him!" Exodus 16:8

      And I tell you this, that you must give an account on judgment day of every idle word you speak!" Matthew 12:36

      A most valuable lesson for every Christian to learn

      I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day." Exodus 16:4

      They were not to lay up in store--but were taught to live simply by the day. When night came, they did not have a supply of food left over for the next day--but were entirely dependent upon God's new supply to come in the morning.

      In this method of providing, God was teaching all future generations a lesson. When the Master gave the disciples the Lord's Prayer, He put this same thought of life into it, for He taught us to say: "Give us this day--our daily bread."

      This is a most valuable lesson for every Christian to learn. We should make a little fence of trust around each day, and never allow any past or future care or anxiety to break in. God does not provide in advance for our needs. We cannot get grace today--for tomorrow's duties; and if we try to bear tomorrow's cares and burdens today--we shall break down in the attempt.

      TIME comes to us, not in years, not even in weeks--but in little days. We have nothing to do with 'life in the aggregate' --that great bulk of duties, anxieties, struggles, trials and needs, which belong to a year or even to a month. We really have nothing to do even with tomorrow.

      Our sole business is with the one little day now passing, and the one day's burdens will never crush us; we can easily carry them until the sun goes down. We can always get along for one short day--and that is really, all we ever have.

      They put the nickels and the pennies in the collection plate!

      Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys!" 1 Samuel 15:3

      Saul and the troops spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, cattle, and fatlings, as well as the young rams and the best of everything else. But they did destroy all the worthless and unwanted things." 1 Samuel 15:9

      They utterly destroyed all the common spoil--but spared whatever was especially good. They kept all the fat, plump sheep and cattle--and destroyed the poor, lean and worthless ones. That is the way with a good many people. They are quite ready to devote to God the things they do not care much for--but the things that are desirable for their own use, they keep.

      This spirit is shown in the way many give to the Lord's service. The gold and silver and the banknotes they keep for themselves; while they put the nickels and the pennies in the collection plate!

      It is shown, too, in the way they treat their own vices and lusts. Those that they do not particularly love--they crush out with amazing zeal. But their favorite vices and fat, rich sins--they spare for their own indulgence!

      The evil things in us--are our Amalekites, and we are to destroy them! Yet how many of us, like Saul, cut away at the little Amalekites--and spare the big Agags? Do not some of us also see the story of our own disobediences and failures--in the way Saul treated God and His commandments?

      The quickest way to conquer an enemy

      "Love your enemies,
      do good to those who hate you,
      bless those who curse you,
      pray for those who mistreat you.
      If someone strikes you on one cheek,
      turn to him the other also." Luke 6:27-29

      We are too apt to resent insults and retaliate, when others say or do evil things to us. The Christian way is either not to speak at all, or to give the soft answer that turns away wrath. Not only is this the Christian way, it is also the way of wisdom.

      The quickest way to conquer an enemy--is to treat him with kindness in return for his unkindness. Stopping to resent every insult--keeps one continually fretful; whereas ignoring slights and going on quietly with our own duty--is the way to get the better of them. The best answer to sneers and scoffs and abuse--is a sweet, quiet, beautiful life of patience and gentleness.

      The lesson our Master teaches us, is . . .
      to bear wrong patiently,
      to forgive injury,
      to return kindness for unkindness,
      to return good for evil,
      to return love for hate.

      It is a fatal injury to his life--when one allows himself to grow bitter, to cherish resentment, to let envy or any hurt feeling rankle in his heart. At last love is utterly driven out, and dark and malignant passions take full possession.

      We do not have to be crucified on pieces of wood!

      I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship." Romans 12:1

      The godly life is not one of ease, pleasure and self-indulgence.

      We are taught to present our bodies, as a living sacrifice unto God. Ancient offerings were brought to the altar, and presented dead. But the Christian sacrifice, instead of being poured out in a bloody oblation, is to be a living sacrifice--of service, of love, of devotion.

      The great sacrifice of Christ is both the model for all Christian life, and also its inspiration. We look at His six hours on the cross--as if that were its only act and expression. But the cross was not endured by Christ merely during those six hours on Calvary; it was in all His life, in every day and hour of it. Everything He did was in love, and love is always a living sacrifice. He was always sacrificing Himself. On Calvary, He only wrote the word out in capital letters!

      The cross stands not merely for the sufferings of Christ endured in redeeming sinners--but also for the law of love and of sacrifice in every department of Christian living. It is not enough to have the cross on our churches, as a symbol of redemption; or to wear crucifixes as ornaments; the cross and the crucifix must be in the heart--and manifested in the life!

      We talk a great deal about the love of Christ--but we must strive to illustrate it and reproduce in our own lives, in our own measure--the sweetness, the charity, the kindness and the helpfulness of Jesus Christ. The cross is everywhere. The more of the 'sacrificial' quality we get into our life--the diviner and the lovelier our life will be.

      We do not have to be crucified on pieces of wood--to bear a cross, and make a living sacrifice. The cross must be in the lives of those who follow Christ; not branded on their bodies--but wrought into their character, their disposition, their conduct, their spirit! We cannot live a Christian life for a day, without coming to points of sacrifice. The cross of Christ does not take our own cross from us--Christ does not bear our cross for us. His cross becomes the law of our life, and makes it all sacrificial. Every sacrificial thing we do, reveals the cross. The Beatitudes are all sacrificial. No one can live the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, and not crucify self continually.

      All sacrifice at length blossoms into Christlike beauty, sweetness and joy.

      Grow old sweetly and beautifully

      It takes a great deal of grace to grow old sweetly and beautifully. It is not possible to carry the alertness and energy of young manhood, into advanced years. Yet if we live wisely and rightly all our lives--old age ought to be the best of life. We certainly ought to make it beautiful and godly, for our life is not finished until we come to its very last day.

      We ought to be wiser when we are old--than ever we have been in any former years. We ought to have learned by experience. We ought to be better in every way--with more of God's peace in our hearts, with more gentleness and patience. We ought to have learned self-control, and to be better able to rule our own spirit. We ought to have more love, more joy, more thoughtfulness, to be more considerate, to have more humility.

      Old age never should be the dregs of the years, the mere cinder of a burnt-out life. One may not have the vigor and strenuousness of the mid-years--but one should be every way truer, richer-hearted, holier. If the outward man has grown weaker and feebler--the inner man should have grown stronger and Christlier.

      Our birthdays!

      Some people come to birthdays regretfully. They do not like to think that they are growing older. But there is no reason for regret, if only we are living our years as we should live them, as we may live them.

      Empty years--are a dishonor. Years filled with sin--are blots in the calendar. We should be ashamed to come to a birthday at the close of a year of idleness, indolence, neglect, or unfaithfulness. Jesus said we must give account for every idle word we speak. It will be an unhappy reckoning that we must make, after an idle year, or for idle hours and days in a year.

      But there need never be a shadow of regret in coming to a birthday, when we have lived our best through all the days. If we go through a year walking with God--we shall come to its close with enlarged life, with nobler character, with richer virtues--in every way a more godly man or woman.

      Growth is a law of life. When growth ceases, death is beginning. God counts our age, not by our birthdays--but by the advances which His eye sees in our inner life. Growth, too, is not marked by height or weight or by accumulations of money or property or earthly honor--but by an increase in godly character.

      I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:7

      Our invisible building

      This fellow began to build--and was not able to finish!" Luke 14:30

      We are all builders. We may not erect any house or temple on a city street for human eyes to see--but every one of us builds an edifice which God sees!

      Life is a building. It rises slowly, day by day, through the years. Every new lesson we learn, lays another block on the edifice which is rising silently within us.
      Every experience,
      every touch of another life on ours,
      every influence that impresses us,
      every book we read,
      every conversation we have,
      every act in our commonest days--
      adds something to our invisible building.
      All of life furnishes the materials which add to our life-wall.

      Many people build noble character structures in this world. But there are also many who build only base, shabby huts, without beauty--which will be swept away in the testing fires of judgment!

      There are many, too, whose life-work presents the sorry spectacle of an unfinished building. There was a beautiful plan to begin with, and the work was promising for a little time--but after a while it was abandoned and left standing, with walls halfway up--a useless fragment, open and exposed, an incomplete inglorious ruin--telling no story of past splendor--as do the ruins of some old castle or coliseum--a monument only of folly and failure!

      Sin in some form draws many a builder away from his work--to leave it unfinished.

      It may be the world's fascinations, which lure him from Christ's side.

      It may be evil companions, which tempt him from loyal friendship to the Savior.

      It may be riches, which enter his heart and blind his eyes to the attractions of heaven.

      It may be some secret debasing lust, which gains power over him and paralyzes his spiritual life.

      Many are those now amid the world's throngs--who once sat at the Lord's Table and were among God's people! Their lives are unfinished buildings, towers begun with great enthusiasm--and then left to tell their sad story of failure to all who pass by. They began to build--and were not able to finish.

      It is sad to think how much of this unfinished work, God sees as He looks down upon our earth. Think of the good beginnings which never came to anything in the end. Think of the excellent resolutions which are never carried out. Think of the noble life-plans entered upon by so many young people with ardent enthusiasm--but soon given up. Think of the beautiful visions and high hopes which might have been splendid realities--but which have faded out, with not even one earnest attempt to work them into life!

      In all aspects of life--we see these abandoned buildings. Many homes present the spectacle of abandoned dreams of love. For a time, the beautiful vision shone--and two hearts tried to make it come true--but they gave their dream up in despair, either enduring in misery--or going their own sad and separate ways.

      So life everywhere is full of beginnings, which are never carried on to completion.

      There is   . . .
      not a soul-wreck on the streets,
      not a prisoner serving out a sentence behind prison bars,
      not a debased, fallen person anywhere--
      in whose soul, there were not once visions of beauty, high hopes, holy thoughts and purposes, and high resolves of an ideal of something lovely and noble. But alas! the visions, the hopes, the purposes, the resolves--never grew into more than beginnings. God bends down and sees a great wilderness of unfinished buildings, bright possibilities unfulfilled, noble might-have-beens abandoned; ghastly ruins now, sad memorials only of failure!

      The lesson from all this, is that we should . . .
      finish our work,
      allow nothing to draw us away from our duty,
      never become weary in following Christ,
      persevere from the beginning of our ideals--steadfast unto the end.

      We should not falter under any burden, in the face of any danger, before any demand of cost or sacrifice.

      No discouragement,
      no sorrow,
      no worldly attraction,
      no hardship--
      should weaken for one moment our determination to be faithful unto death! No one who has begun to build for Christ--should leave an unfinished, abandoned life-work, to his own eternal grief!

      This fellow began to build--and was not able to finish!" Luke 14:30

Back to J.R. Miller index.

See Also:
   Part 1
   Part 2
   Part 3
   Part 4
   Part 5
   Part 6
   Part 7
   Part 8
   Part 9
   Part 10
   Part 11
   Part 12
   Part 13
   Part 14
   Part 15
   Part 16
   Part 17


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