WITNESS-BEARING FOR CHRIST
"Ye shall receive power, when the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."-- Acts 1:8.
ALL MACHINERY needs driving-power. A motor-car may be bright and new, the wheels tired with rubber, and it may contain the latest contrivances for speed and comfort, but it will not move an inch until the driving-power is applied. So it is with the Gospel message. Christ died and rose again, and the work of redemption was finished. His disciples were appointed to carry the tidings of salvation to the world of men, but they could do nothing until they received the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a serious question for each of us--Have I received the Holy Spirit, to be in me the source of power? (Acts 19:2). If not, is it to be wondered at that we are weak, and our testimony for Christ faltering?
Notice the circles of our life: witnesses in Jerusalem, our home; in Judea--the society in which we mingle and work; in Samaria--the city or town or village in which we live; the uttermost part of the earth, which represents the claim of the heathen world upon us all. For each of these we have some responsibility. Let us begin at Jerusalem, in our home, and God will lead us on step by step to the great world beyond. Alas, there are many who are eager enough for the "uttermost parts," while they neglect Jerusalem, and ignore the claims of Judaea!
God wants witnesses. A witness is not expected to reason or argue, but simply to state what he saw or heard, and to give facts. We are required to tell people what we have found Jesus to be to ourselves--to say what we have known and tasted and handled of the Word of Life (1Jn 1:1, 2, 3). Our witness-box may be the shop in which we are employed, or the position in life where we are daily called to rub shoulders with those who know not Christ. Men cannot see Him, unless they see Him in us. As the moon reflects the sun during the dark hours of the night, so the Church of Christ bears witness to her unseen Lord. In every emergency, let us lift our hearts to Christ, and ask that His Holy Spirit may enable us to be true witnesses for His glory.
My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim
And spread through all the earth abroad
The honours of Thy Name. AMEN.
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT--LOVE!
"But now abideth Faith, Hope, Love, these three, and the greatest of these is Love."-- 1Co 13:13.
LET US lay the emphasis on the word fruit, as contrasted with the works of the law. In work there is effort, strain, the sweat of the brow, and straining of the muscles; but fruit comes easily and naturally by the overflow of the sap rising from the root to bough and bud'. So our Christian life should be the exuberance of the heart in which Christ dwells. The Apostle Paul prayed that Christ might dwell in the heart of his converts, that they might be rooted and grounded in love. It is only when the Holy Spirit fills us to the overflow that we shall abound in love to all men.
We must distinguish between love and the emotion of love. The former is always possible, though not always and immediately the latter. Our Lord repeating the ancient words of the Pentateuch, taught us that we may love God with our mind and strength, as well as with our hearts. We all know that the mind and strength are governed not by our emotions, but by our wills. We can love, therefore, by determining to put our thought and energies at the service of another for the sake of God; and we shall find our emotions kindle into a sacred glow of conscious affection.
In the chapter from which our text is taken, St. Paul distinguishes between the Gifts of the Church and Love. After passing them in review he comes to the conclusion that all of them, without Love as their heart and inspiration, are worth nothing.
The greatest word in the world is the unfathomable phrase, "God is Love." You can no more define the essence of love than you can define the essence of God, but you can describe its effects and fruits. I give Dr. Weymouth's translation: "Love is patient and kind, knows neither envy nor jealousy; is not forward and self-assertive, nor boastful and conceited. She does not behave unbecomingly, nor seek to aggrandize herself, nor blaze out in passionate anger, nor brood over wrongs. She finds no pleasure in injustice done to others, but joyfully sides with the truth. She knows how to be silent; she is full of trust, full of hope, full of patient endurance."
We ought to take each of these clauses, and ponder whether our lives are realizing these high ideals. God send us a baptism of such love!
O Lord, my love is like some feebly glimmering spark; I would that it were as a hot flame. Kindle it by the breath of Thy Holy Spirit, till Thy love constraineth me. AMEN.
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT--JOY
"These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be fulfilled."-- Jn 15:11.
JOY IS a spontaneous thing. The joy of a little child, like the carol of the lark, arises naturally and easily when certain conditions are fulfilled, so if we would experience the joy of Christ we must realize the conditions He lays down. If we are grafted into the true Vine, there is nothing to check the inflow of His love to us, if we do as He tells us, and forbear doing what He forbids--then Joy will come to us as a flood.
"'Abide in Me"--it is inferred, of course, that we are in Christ. It was not always so. Once we were outside, separate from Christ, "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world." (Ep 2:19-note) We were shoots in the wild vine, partaking of its nature, involved in its curse, threatened by the axe which lay at its roots. But all this is altered now. The Father, who is the Husbandman, of His abundant grace and mercy, has taken us out of the wild vine, and grafted us into the true, and we have become one with Christ. When, therefore, we are told to abide or remain, it is only necessary that we should stay where He placed us. You are in a lift until you step out of it; you are on a certain road until you take a turning to the right or left, although you may be too engrossed in converse with a friend to think of the road; so amid the pressure of duties and care, you remain in Christ unless you consciously, by sin or unbelief, thrust yourself away from the light of His face into the darkness. (see in Christ or in Christ Jesus or in Christ) When, therefore, the temptation arises to leave the words of Christ for the maxims of the world, resist it and you will still remain in Him. Whenever you are tempted to leave the narrow way of His commandments to follow the desires of your own heart, reckon yourself dead to them (Ro 6:11-note), and you will remain; whenever you are tempted to forsake Christ's love for jealousy, envy, hatred, resist these impulses and say, "I elect to remain in the love of God."
Thus abiding in Him you will learn to know His mind, and will naturally ask those things which His love is only too willing to grant. "Ye shall ask what ye will." (Jn 15:7) We must remove any hindrances from the indwelling of Christ (He 12:1-note), then His love will break out into song, and we shall share in His joy. It will remain in us, and our capacity for joy will be fulfilled (Jn 16:24, 17:13).
O Thou who art the True Vine, I desire to abide in Thee, that I may bear abundant fruit for Thy glory, and my life be full of Thy joy. AMEN.