THE WAY OF THE SPIRIT
"As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all" (Ecclesiastes 11, 5).
HUMAN life is a profound mystery. There was a time when neither you nor I enjoyed a conscious existence. In some strange and mysterious way, the unfathomable stream of life from God, marred and polluted through Adam, coming down through countless generations, reached a point when that unconscious stream was transmuted into consciousness in you and me; and then, perhaps in an equally strange and marvellous way, was later transmitted to another.
that in itself, is something marvellous; and the method, too. " How the bones do grow," disclosing a handiwork so subtle, so profound, that nobody ever contemplates it really without being profoundly moved at the origins and the circumstances of human birth. And the Preacher turns round and says: Such is the work of God! You who would presume to fathom Deity and to find an answer to all your questions, there is the work of God-find that out. Plumb your self, and when you have plumbed yourself then you may attempt to plumb God! In the New Testament our Lord Himself takes up the thought in another way, so graphically, with Nicodemus, the teacher of Israel. How think you? says He. You know something about the Kingdom of Heaven. Do you think so? Listen! The wind blows where it will. Your part in it, Nicodemus is to hear it, to hear the rustling of it, but you do not know whence it comes and you do not know where it is going! Ah! so is everyone that is born of the Spirit--once dead to God, and then, the Spirit! and they were alive-and not life that was human, but life that was Divine, came to consciousness in them-they were born (when they were old) again!And that is the wonderful analogy which the Preacher in the Old Testament, with that further disclosure by our Lord in the New, seeks to bring home to men and women-the truth of spiritual experience. The Spirit of God is a quickener.
The Sins of Sex
Now in the Scriptures the sins of sex are under a very severe Divine indictment. Jealousy in a Christian is a very serious sin. So is covetousness. So is the spirit that will not forgive. So is the spirit that will not confess. All these are very serious sins. But in the Scriptures, within the realm of sex there is an indictment from God, which, in my view, no human being dare violate- certainly no Christian,-because no man, there sins by himself-no woman. Some other person has been entangled, influenced and affected, and often f will never recover from it. The way back to God from such sin is always very painful. But, it may be not only another, it may be yet another. It is surely a very serious thing to involve a little human life in one's own sin.
I have always discovered (though I do not agree that it should be so) that a person 'born in illegitimacy is conscious of a stigma. If any reader of these lines feels like that, don't you accept that stigma; you refuse it in the name of Christ; you have no right to be burdened by that stigma. But far worse than any wounds of a social stigma, it must be a most serious thing to be responsible for a little life that comes into the world under some kind of moral or spiritual or physical handicap because of the sin of its parents. The crown of God's handiwork is human personality. Personality is there glorious at the right hand of God in the incorruptible Body of Jesus, and, therefore, if any human being does, by any manner of means, mar human personality, there must be an answer made to the Judge of all the earth.
The Glamour of the Evil
Now, I don't mind. telling you these matters are not such as I jump to in the course of my ministry. I am so frequently tempted to avoid them. But, you know, the cinema throws a glamour about these things which is absolutely of the Devil, the theatre, too, and the novel. And there are strange teachings about in the world that can easily get hold of young people. I would say, remember this, that beyond yourself there are others involved, and to be in any way responsible for a little life coming into the world marred by your sin, is to make for yourself a most painful path back to God.
That will not be disclosed in any film you may see, but it will be clear in the hour of Divine reckoning. When one sees the terrible inheritance that has come into the human race-the handicapped bodies, the nervous systems so entirely deranged and not infrequently mentally, defective-this, indeed, is a crime against God, and every guilty man and woman will be held to Divine account concerning it. But there is a quickening of the Spirit and it has its analogy in the realm of human nature. there is a moment when a man or woman is born of God.
I have been very much concerned, as I suppose every Christian is now concerned, with the fact that we have so many people on our church rolls who seem to be falling away, people who once went well but seem to have lost their spiritual vigour. One is beginning to wonder whether some people have been saved properly-because there are various ways of being saved. Of course, a man cannot be saved apart from repentance. If he has seen that the issue between God and himself is his sin, and that God comes to meet him only in Christ, by His Blood, then it is impossible to accept that Sacrifice without renouncing the sin. You may do so ecclesiastically; you may do it as a matter of ritual, but as a matter of moral experience you cannot accept the Blood of Christ without renouncing the sin with which it deals.
There must be repentance. And, of course, there must be faith-faith in Jesus Christ. Repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ. There can be no true salvation until I have, without any reserve of mind or heart, acknowledged my complete, utter and entire inability to escape the judgment of God, and I cast myself upon the mercy of God in Jesus Christ. If I do not come there, I shall never really know salvation. I may know Church membership, I may be baptised, but this is where we need to understand the truth: I may have repented before God and I may have trusted to the merits of Jesus Christ by His Blood, yet I may still not be a Christian. No man is a Christian until, by those dispositions of the mind and heart, he has made himself accessible to the Spirit and the Spirit of God, given by Jesus, has brought the spirit to life, and so he has been born again! There are all the elements of human personality in the human body, but it needs quickening, and we are not Christians simply by the potentialities that are in us of repentance and faith; we are made Christians by the action of the Spirit of God. It is by that act of God which brings Divine life within me to birth, that I become a Christian.
Life for a Life
And then, of course, there is the fashioning of the life. The ends of life are in reproduction. Immediately a human life has entered into reproduction, it has accomplished its human purpose and begins to wither. The life and the growth and the strength of a child proceed out of the strength of its parents, and at their expense. When your father and mother get frail and you are getting a bit impatient with them because they are getting old, just remember that you sapped their vitality. It may do you good to remember that. As I look round I am not so well satisfied that children are always treating their aged parents as they ought to do. But always remember this that you have lived on their strength in actual fact. And remember this, too, that when you are given to licence you are taking an option upon your future; you are paving the way to your own decrepitude. That is the truth to be remembered. The old, frail, feeble body is sometimes the fruit of a foolish, ignorant youth. And, although it is not a perfect analogy, yet it is true that when I receive the Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour, and Divine life is imparted to me, the ends of God in my body are henceforth Divine. Paul says " We are crucified with Christ," and from that moment it is the purpose of God that that holy thing which the Spirit of God has brought to birth in us shall alone flourish. That is God's purpose in you and me.
The Mysterious Formation
Now, the forming of the human body is a mystery beyond words and thought. How marvellous must be the Mind that conceived it and planned it! How profound, how delicate, the fingers that carry it out! Really, I wonder sometimes whether agnostics who think that reason is the end of everything are reasonable themselves! How marvellous the Mind that conceived the means, how marvellous the Hand that carries them through! When a mother has got that tremendous commission, from that instant it is the absorbing thing in her mind, it is her supreme concern; she lives, and brings everything in life into relationship to that fact, in order that nothing may impair the life. Compare that with Christians. Do you realise that this is the mystery of the Gospel, which is Christ in you? Do you realise that the reason for yesterday and the reason for today is that Christ may be formed in you-not a Christ idea, not a Christian science,- but Christ? Not a life, but THE Life, His Life. Women do not bring ideas to birth; they bring personality. You and I are not Christians by ideas, or even by inspirations. You and I, if we are Christ's, have received the Divine Nature, and it is the supreme thing in life that Christ be formed in us. Christ in you is the hope of glory, and, therefore, everything human must subserve that Divine influence.
Gabriel and Mary
The Angel Gabriel came to Mary and said to her: "Hail, thou blessed amongst women." She was profoundly amazed. Then he disclosed the Divine purpose. "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." That is why you are a Christian; that in your human personality, to which the Spirit of God has brought Divine life, Christ may be daily formed. The fact is that many Christians have been guilty of abortion. We want Jesus to save us; we want, of course, to go to heaven; but we have not the slightest intention -- it is true of hundreds of Christians --we have not the slightest intention that Christ shall be formed in us. You will find such professing Christians queuing up with the world from Monday morning till Saturday night, never giving themselves a thought about this holy thing which has been brought to birth within them.
That is why we are, as Christian churches where we are today, because we have been guilty of this vilest of crimes against God: we will not, we will not give ourselves to the forming of Christ within us. Think of it! If there was a mother who dealt so recklessly, so sinfully, with the life that was growing within her, as Christians do with the Divine life that has been given them by the Holy Ghost, why, such a woman would be disreputable indeed. Do you make it your concern, this Divine thing within you? Do you guard it with Divine care and thought? Do you nourish it? Or is it a fact that, provided you can sweep round the corner and miss the fires of hell and get to heaven, you have not the slightest concern, about this life within you? Are you guilty of spiritual abortion? Christian experience can easily be secondary in our lives, but if the Spirit of God has quickened us, there is a holy thing within us. God is more concerned about that holy thing within us than He is about our physical bodies. That is what God is wanting, and it is upon that that God will judge us. A girl might have a wonderful voice, she might have the applause of the greatest audiences of the world, but if she cannot live and sacrifice for that nucleus of life within her, she is not worthy of her womanhood. And if you and I cannot guard and nourish that holy life within us, then we have frustrated the purpose of God in our lives.
Finally, of course, there is the fulfilment of life. All this is expressed in birth, which is the supreme objective. In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ is the First Begotten from the dead. It is a new conception of the whole lay-out of life, when you see that the moment of parturition is the moment which most people fear, and that is what we call death. Then it will be that either by rapture or by resurrection this holy thing which was brought to life within our mortal bodies, will be brought forth in the body of incorruption. That is why the Spirit of God is the Seal of our Redemption. And this holy thing which was quickened within us and which has been nourished within us, shall come forth in the body of incorruption and in the likeness of its Parents --the Triune God. That is the ultimate of our salvation. That is the end of our being, that this holy thing within us should ultimately be brought forth to birth out of the dead, in all the majestic glory of incorruption, like unto Jesus our Saviour. That is the way of the Spirit, and the more we give ourselves to it the more we look upon the glory of Jesus Christ "beholding as in a mirror the Lord of the glory," the more the Spirit will weave within us, not the bones of a corruptible body, but all those eternal elements of incorruption; the day of death will be the day of birth, and by the Spirit we shall be in the body of incorruption -like Him.
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