January 27: Partakers In Christ’s Suffering

But rejoice, inasmuch as you are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy. 1 Peter 4:13

WITH the cross of Immanuel before us, and with the heaven of glory which that cross unveils, and to which it leads, can we properly contemplate our trials in any other view than as loving corrections? “He that spared not His own Son, but gave Hint up for us all,” shall He send an “evil” which we refuse to interpret as a good? and shall not that good, though wearing its somber disguise, raise the soul to Him upon the outstretched and uplifted wing—as the wing of the “anointed cherub”—of adoration, thanksgiving, and praise? If, numbered among His saints—and, oh, be quite sure, beloved, of your heavenly calling—we stand before Him, objectively, the beings of His ineffable delight, and, subjectively, the recipients of his justifying righteousness. Thus loved and accepted—and we believe, and are sure, that this is the true and unchangeable condition of all His people—shall anything but a sentiment of uncomplaining gentleness—a submission not shallow but profound, not servile but filial—respond to the dealings, however severe, of our Father in heaven?

It is, beloved, in these disciplinary seasons that we become more thoroughly schooled in the knowledge, of the infinite worth, glory, and preciousness of the Savior. How much is involved in a spiritual and experimental acquaintance with the Lord Jesus! We are in the possession of all real knowledge when we truly know Christ. And we cannot know the Son, and not know also the Father. And it is utterly impossible to know the Father, as revealed in His Son, and not become inspired with a desire to love Him supremely, to serve Him devotedly, to resemble Him closely, to glorify Him faithfully here, and to enjoy Him fully hereafter. And oh, how worthy is the Savior of our most exalted conceptions—of our most implicit confidence—of our most self-denying service—of our most fervent love! When He could give us no more—and the fathomless depths of His love and the boundless resources of His grace would not be satisfied by giving us less—He gave us himself.

Robed in our nature, laden with our curse, oppressed with our sorrows, wounded for our transgressions, and slain for our sins, He gave His entire self for us. And let it be remembered, that it is a continuous presentation of the hoarded and exhaustless treasures of His love. His redeeming work now finished, He is perpetually engaged in meeting out to his Church the blessings of that “offering made once for all.” He constantly asks our faith—woos our affection—invites our grief—and bids us repair with our daily trials to His sympathy, and with our hourly guilt to His blood. We cannot in our drafts upon Christ’s fullness be too covetous, nor in our expectations of supply be too extravagant. Dwelling beneath His cross, our eye resting upon the heart of God, we will in all things desire and aim to walk uprightly, presenting our “bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God;” that “the trial of our faith may be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”

December 31: Parting Words For The Year Gone By

“Father, I will that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory.” John 17:24

As suffering precedes glory, so glory assuredly follows suffering. Thus was it with our Lord. “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?” Our Lord is in glory!

The head that once bowed in death, pale and bleeding, is now raised in life, encircled with a glory brighter than ten thousand suns. The humanity that was despised from the lowliness of its birth, that was mocked, and scourged, spit upon, and slain, is now, from its indissoluble union with the Deity, exalted far above principalities and powers, glorified with the glory He had with the Father before the world was. Having purged our sins, He is set down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.

To that glory which belongs to Him as the Mediator of the church, each suffering confessor of Christ shall be exalted—the body with the Head, and each part of that body with the whole. A joint-heirship of suffering, it is now a joint-heirship of glory: “We shall be glorified together” with Christ. Still the oneness is manifest, and never so clearly seen as now. Glory bathes it in its light, and eternity impresses it with its seal. It is an undimmed and changeless glory. And Christ acknowledges their right to this oneness in glory.

As they were not ashamed of Him among men, He is not now ashamed of them among angels. As they linked themselves to His cross, He leads them to His throne. As they confessed Him before the world, He now confesses them before His Father: “Glorified together.” Wondrous words! Elevated to His side—leaning upon His bosom—gazing on His beauty—listening to His voice—entering into His joy—at home, and forever with the Lord. Now is answered in its fullness, the prayer mingled with tears, breathed from the scene of His suffering below—”Father, I will that they also whom You have given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory.” Welcome the suffering, succeeded by such glory! Welcome the cross, followed by such a crown!

Let us learn to regard our present tutorage as preparatory to our future inheritance. “The heir, as long as he is a child, differs nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.” Thus it is with us. But soon we shall attain our majority, and come into possession of our estate. Before long we shall have done with governors and tutors, and need no more the lessons of the school, and the discipline of suffering.

Oh, let us live in its near anticipation. To the poor of Christ’s flock, how animating the prospect! “Has not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which He has promised to those who love Him.” What though straitened resources, pinching poverty, or even absolute want, be your present allotment; lift up your heads with joy, for you have a joint-heirship with Christ in a kingdom which your heavenly Father will give. Confide in its security: it is made sure to you by Divine oath; “Wherein God willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath.”

Thus inalienably is it secured. Death, which robs the earthly heir of his inheritance, puts you in possession of yours. Your estate comes not to you robed in mourning, for your Father never dies. No succession awaits you, for your inheritance is yours forever. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.”

With consolations so rich, and with a hope so glorious, let us close the year through which we have traveled, with a feeling of thanksgiving and with a song of praise. We will thank God for all the way He has led us, chequered though it may have been; and we will trust Him for life’s future, dark and uncertain though it may appear. We have found Christ enough for all the past—loving, faithful, wise, He is enough for the present; and we are quite sure all that He has been He will again be—”Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Before another year begins, or closes, we may be with Jesus forever!

“Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!” Your love will fill our hearts, Your beauty will engage our thoughts, and Your praise will employ our tongues, through eternity.

April 20: The Burning Bush

“And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.” Exodus 3:3

This remarkable incident in the history of God’s ancient Israel is illustrative of most important truth, bearing upon the experimental and practical experience of each believer in Jesus. It presents a true and beautiful outline of the Church of God. We are reminded of the two opposite natures of the believer- the fallen and the restored, the fleshly and the spiritual. The one low, sinful, unlovely, and of the earth- earthly; the other elevated, holy, glorious, and of heaven- heavenly. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

The conflict between these opposite and antagonist natures in the child of God is also presented to view. As the bush in which the Divinity dwelt was surrounded by flame, so the regenerated man, in whom the eternal God deigns to dwell by His spirit, is perpetually encircled by the fire of conflict, trial, and suffering. Nature and grace, sin and holiness, are as contrary the one to the other as any two principles can be. They can no more agree, commingle, or coalesce, than can the opposite and antagonist elements in the natural world. Nor can there ever be a truce between them. They must necessarily and perpetually be at variance, hostile to and at war one with the other. The contest is for supremacy.

The great question at issue is, “which shall reign in the believer- sin or holiness; nature or grace; Satan or God?” Oh, what a fiery conflict is this! Hear the confession of an inspired apostle, drawn from his own painful experience: “I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do, I allow not; for what I would, that I do not; but what I hate, that do I.” Who cannot trace the conflict here? Sin he deeply, inveterately abhorred.

The prevailing tendency, the habitual and fixed inclination, of his renewed mind was to holiness- the bent of his desires was towards God. And yet, in consequence of the native depravity of his heart, the influence of sinful propensities, corrupt inclinations and desires, he felt like one chained to a body of death, from which he longed to be delivered. Here was that which defined the two natures, marked the perpetual conflict between both, and which distinguished the holy man from the sinner.

In addition to this spiritual conflict, there are the flames of suffering and trial which often encircle a dear child of God. This is the baptism of fire, connected with, and ever following, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. “He shall baptize you,” says John, “with the Holy Spirit, and with fire.” God has His “fire in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem.” But it is not the furnace of justice, nor the fire of wrath.

Jesus, the surety, has passed through and sustained all this; He has quenched its flame, and extinguished its embers. But it is the discipline of everlasting love and mercy. And though persecution may be permitted to rage, and the confessor of Christ may ascend, to glory in a chariot of fire- though trials of various kinds may overtake the child of God, his grace and his graces “tried with fire,”- yet both the persecution of the Church and the trial of the believer are but the fruit of eternal and unchangeable love; and will prove purifying, sanctifying, and saving. Nothing will be consumed but the tinsel of the world and the dross of sin, the alloy so much and so frequently found mixed with the pure gold.

April 8: Our Infirmities

“This is my infirmity.” Psalm 77:10.

The infirmities of the believer are as varied as they are numerous. Some are weak in faith, and are always questioning their interest in Christ. Some, superficial in knowledge, and shallow in experience, are ever exposed to the crudities of error and to the assaults of temptation. Some are slow travelers in the divine life, and are always in the rear; while yet others are often ready to halt altogether.

Then there are others who groan beneath the burden of bodily infirmity, exerting a morbid influence upon their spiritual experience. A nervous temperament- a state of perpetual depression and despondency- the constant corrodings of mental disquietude- physical ailment- imaginary forebodings- a facile yielding to temptation- petulance of spirit- unguardedness of speech- gloomy interpretations of providence- an eye that only views the dark hues of the cloud, the somber shadings of the picture. Ah! from this dismal catalogue how many, making their selection, may exclaim, “This is my infirmity.”

But be that infirmity what it may, let it endear to our hearts the grace and sympathy of Him who for our sake was encompassed with infirmity, that He might have compassion upon those who are alike begirt. All the fulness of grace that is in Jesus is for that single infirmity over which you sigh.

Thoughts On Japan From Winslow’s Help Heavenward

I was recently contacted through the website by Chris Wood who recently wrote a great post entitled “Hurled Into The Depths” concerning the tragedy in Japan in which he used a few quotes from Winslow’s Help Heavenward. Chris currently lives in Japan and has first hand experience of the heartbreak that is currently engulfing that nation.

He has kindly given me permission to repost his article here.

Hurled Into The Depths

As many of you know I am writing to you from Japan. The country is clearly in a state of shock. The death toll from the Tsunami following Japan’s largest earthquake on record (just upgraded to a 9.0) is beyond comprehension, the devastation of entire towns, explosions in nuclear plants, blackouts, a series of earthquakes continuing beyond the big one, and the pictures released on Japanese TV just more and more horrific. We are used to Hollywood throwing such images at us from all directions and so it is so strange to view these things and actually realize these things are real.

I am personally so thankfully none of my own friends or family were caught up in it and many of my fiends here have friends or family displaced but thankfully their own lives were also spared. But of course we are distraught for those who have suffered such losses. Clearly the road to recovery for Japan will be a long one. Our location, in the far south west of Japan is among the least effected areas – we experienced just a small rice in sea water – less than half a meter, in the north west it was a wall of water 10 meters high that penetrated as much as 10km inland.

Continue reading

The Octavius Winslow Reading Group: Help Heavenward (Chapter 4)

Chapter 4: The Clouds of the Christian, the Chariot of God

This was admittedly a tough chapter to crack. As a matter of fact, I had to re-read it a few times just to make sure I was able to take away from the chapter what I think Winslow was trying to convey.

Let’s start by letting him open for us:

The subject on which this chapter engages our thoughts presents another path heavenward of the Christian. And as this path is frequently, and by many, trodden, we desire to present it in such an aspect as shall help onward those who are walking in darkness having no light, or around whose way the dense dark clouds of Divine dispensations are gathering, filling the soul with fear and trembling. “He maketh the clouds His chariot;” and soothed with this assurance, the beclouded, benighted traveller may “be still, and know that He is God.” Let us view some of those clouds of the Christian pilgrimage which Christ makes His chariot.

So to summarize, God will bring his “clouded dealings” with us that we may trust Him and love Him all the more. Sickness, depression, pain, death, anxiety, and doubtings may all be viewed as providential clouds sent by our Lord to drive us to our knees in dependence and form in us a childlike faith that calls out to our Father for rescue and deliverance.

He then goes on to provide a few illustrations of past clouded chariots which the Lord employed in times past:

Our Lord has many chariots. It is recorded of Solomon that his “chariots were fourteen hundred;” but “the chariots of God are twenty thousand:” and every cloud in the history of the Church and in the experience of the saints is a Divine chariot, and every chariot is, like the King of Israel’s, “paved in the midst with love.” We may illustrate this by a reference to Christ’s state-chariot, or, in other words, the Lord’s appearance to His people in the cloud of His essential and divine glory. It was in this cloud He entered and filled the tabernacle, “so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord,” (1 Kings 8:11.) In this same cloud, too, He descended upon the Mount Sinai: “And a cloud covered the mount. And the glory of the Lord abode on Sinai,” (Exod. 24:15, 16.) The same glorious chariot was seen descending and lighting upon the Mount Tabor, in that sublime and expressive scene of our Lord’s transfiguration, when “He received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The same chariot of state waited His ascension and bore Him back to heaven, reinvested with the glory which He had with the Father before the world was; for as He went up, and His lessening form disappeared from the gaze of His disciples, “a cloud received Him out of their sight.”

But as I said before, these chariots are sent to teach us something or strengthen something within us, namely our often times weak and small faith. Using the gospel itself as a clouded chariot, God will come to us in many a mystery and clouded view:

If, then, my reader, your mind is perplexed, agitated, and distressed respecting these clouds which vail much connected with the revealed truths of the gospel, learn you this lesson—that Christ maketh these very clouds His chariot. In each and all of these profound yet glorious verities of our faith, these great and precious doctrines of the gospel, Christ is revealed, Christ is embodied, Christ travelleth. The gospel is the vehicle in which Christ makes his constant advent to our souls; and if our reason may not be able perfectly to comprehend all the parts of the vehicle, let it content our faith that Jesus, the revelation, the substance, and glory of all Divine truth, occupies it; and that ere long the cloud of mystery, into which we entered with trembling will, as in the transfiguration, dissolve into light and splendour—pure and soothing— and we shall see Jesus only.

What an odd thought! The same mysteries that we simply cannot comprehend and wrestle mightily with concerning the glorious depth of the gospel is sent and is adorned by He who loves us! It is almost like standing in a field covered in dense fog and mist where nothing may be seen. But as you begin to focus your gaze and hone your eyes to a fixed point beyond, a muddled shape begins to appear of that of a tree or a fence. In the dense darkness and confusion of the clouded chariot we currently find ourselves enveloped in, we need but fix our eyes beyond the cloud itself to see He who it is that controls and drives it! It is He who loves us. Our Lord.

Not less are the clouds of His providential government the chariot of God. “Clouds and darkness are round about Him,” and in these dispensations of His government He moves among men, and especially His saints.

Are cloudy dispensations gathering around you? Are God’s ways such as fill you with fear and foreboding agitation and alarm? Does sickness threaten, resources fail, friendships chill, changes in the relations or social position of life approach? Is separation feared, death anticipated, followed in its gloomy wake by weakened dependencies, closed channels, sundered ties, the sad farewell to a parent’s society, the home of childhood, and the dearest, sweetest ties of earth? Oh, these gathering clouds are but the Lord’s chariot, in which He rides to thee in all the wisdom of His dealings, the faithfulness of His covenant, the tenderness of His love, and the righteousness of His procedure.

His providential government may be seen as His overarching governing of your life. Perhaps not so much as the smaller providences He sends, but the larger clouds such as death, frailty of frame, or sickness. Again, all of these are clouded chariots are sent by God to cause us draw closer to Him in love and yes, even godly fear. It is the Creator of all things who does this, who sends these trials and clouds to you this very hour and there is not one mis-spent purpose in any minute of it. We must, says Winslow, look beyond them to the One who drives them. Then, and only then, will a deep worship and adoration of our King begin to blossom in the hearts of His saints.

Again, he drives home this “looking unto Jesus” thought:

The Lord, too, is equally in all the providential clouds which unfold His government and trace our pilgrimage heavenward. It is our wisdom and our happiness to know that there is not an event or circumstance, a cloud or a sunbeam, in our personal history and experience, that is not a vehicle of Christ.

Look not, I beseech you, at the sombre hue of the chariot, but rather at the love and loveliness and graciousness of Him who sits within it. It is your beloved Lord!

Lastly, there is the clouded chariot of death for the blessed believer in Jesus. To that end, I think I will let Winslow finish off this post:

Ere long another chariot will appear at your door—the chariot sent to bear you home to God, to Christ, to heaven. We know not what form this messenger will assume—whether it will be Christ’s state-chariot, which shall convey Him in person to us, or whether it shall be Christ’s chariot of death, which will convey us to Him; but this we believe, and are assured of, that in a very little while and we shall see the Lord, and be with Him forever. The chariot is preparing for us, let us be preparing for the chariot. Let us so live detached from, and above, the world, and creatures, and earthly delights; let us so live in fellowship with God, and in communion with Divine and eternal things, that when the Lord’s chariot gently knocks at our door, we may have nothing to do but to step into it and away to heaven! Aged saint! art thou looking through the window and the lattice of thy frail tabernacle, exclaiming, “Why is his chariot so long in coming? why tarry the wheels of his chariot?” Be patient and trustful; the Lord’s time is best, and ere long thou shalt exclaim, “It is the voice of my Beloved that knocketh! the Master is come and calleth for me. Earth, farewell! friends, farewell! parents, kindred, wife, children, home, farewell! Sorrow, suffering, trial, sin, farewell! I go to be with Jesus for ever!” And then a cloud of glory shall receive you out of their sight, and so shall you ever be with the Lord.

Conclusion

Whoever signs up for the Christian walk and thinks it will be easy and joy at all times is deceived. I would probably argue that there are just as many clouds and their are green pastures, if not more. But we can know and be assured that the One who orchestrates and sends the clouds and chariots is at all times for us…never against us. We must learn in humility to see past and through the clouds to the One who rides upon them.

Next Week

Please read Chapter 5: Bonds Loosed. It will be due on February 14!