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by Jacob Ninan
The apostle Paul, who saw the trend of the development of Christianity in his own days, warned Timothy that the last days would be characterised by an outward form of godliness without an inner power of reality (2Ti.3:1-5). Jesus warned us that the condition of the world in the last days would be like the days of Noah and Lot just before God's judgment came (Lk.17:26,28). We know that violence and sexual perversion marked those days, while many people were occupied with earthly things alone. But Paul, through the Holy Spirit, warns us about the condition of religious minded people that there will be many who have only an external form.
The easiest way to end up as one among such is to follow the letter of the law (even New Testament commandments) without submitting to the spirit of the law. The law relates to external behaviour and the spirit relates to the inner motives, attitudes and condition of the heart. For example, if we have learned to say, "Thank you", we have got our form right. But it remains to be seen whether there is a spirit of thankfulness within.
Many today are getting disgusted with the form they find in many Christian denominations and groups. There are many things like the pastor system, the preacher system, tithing, organisational set up, prominence given to those who are great in the world, seeking for money and numbers, etc., which people dislike, quite apart from the corruption and sin within the system. They would like to find a clean, scriptural set up. Others look for correctness in teaching.
Some leave their group because of personal problems with others. But all who leave their system for the sake of a better FORM alone, are going to be disappointed again, sooner or later.
The new and living way, which Jesus opened for us, is not a form or a pattern, however it might look like that from the outside. It is not merely a matter of getting all church matters to fit according to the scriptural pattern. It is an inner way of life which leads through the flesh to the glory of God (which is the divine nature). It is not a doctrine to be believed and acknowledged, but a life to be lived in the daily situation. It is true indeed that very few find this way that leads to life (Mt.7:14).
Jesus asks those who are weary and heavy laden to come to Him because He can give them rest (Mt.11:28). It is first of all a matter of being weary and fed up with oneself (Jn.12:25). Such ones have seen their own need and come to the conclusion that there is nothing good in their flesh (Ro.7:18). They have seen that when it comes to doing God's will, they are weak even though they are willing (Mt.26:41). The real difference between such people and the others is that while the rest blame their circumstances and other people for their problems, the former have seen that the real root of the problem lies in the lusts and desires in their OWN flesh (Jas.4:1).
People who are actually walking in the new and living way come to increasing rest, liberty, transformation and fellowship with God and with others who are walking in the light (He.4:1;2Co. 3:17,18;1Jn.1:7). As they proceed, they see the glory of God more clearly, and they see themselves in that light as more unworthy than ever before, and are filled with a greater sense of thankfulness to God. They learn the way of falling into the ground and dying, rather than standing for their rights and demanding that others should treat them in a certain way (Jn.12:24). They learn to say, "Not my will, but Your will" to God in every situation (Mt.26:39). And in this weakness, they experience more of the power of God (2Co.12:9).
It is in times of trial that we feel the need for grace the most. If we do not receive grace at that time, we shall be overcome by the trials, instead of overcoming in trials, as we are called to do (Ro.5:17;Jas.1:12;1Pe.1:6,7). But if we have not sown during times of peace, how can we expect to reap a harvest when the fruit is needed? If we have not been faithful in that which is small, how can we expect to have 'grace' to be faithful in that which is great?
We can run to the elders in the time of need (as the foolish virgins did), and ask them for oil (Mt.25:8). But however much the elders may desire to help us, they cannot give us grace. We need to get that ourselves (Ga.6:5). The elders can only show us the way to the dealers.
Who are these dealers, but the daily situations that we find ourselves in? If we humble ourselves in the ordinary situations that we meet every day, we can store up oil for times of need. There is no other way. God gives grace only to the humble (Jas.4:6). May we take life seriously then and use every opportunity to store up oil in our vessels, so that we may not be found lacking in the day of trial -for trials have a way of coming upon us all of a sudden, without any warning.
May God help us so that we shall not be content with a form but press on to greater reality and power in our lives.
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