Lev. 14:7 π 1 Ki. 19:12 π Job 42:5-6 π Psa. 25:9; 2nd π Psa. 78:72 π Prov. 11:3 π Song 5:2 π Song 5:4 π Isa. 6:5 π Isa. 40:4 π Isa. 50:10 π Mt. 3:15 π Mt. 4:6 π Mt. 6:10 π Mt. 17:26-27 π Mt. 24:24 π Jn. 7:8 π Jn. 10:4-5 π Jn. 14:21 π Jn. 14:23 π Acts 11:18 π Acts 14:8-15 π Acts 14:19 π Acts 16:9-10 π Acts 17:16 π Acts 24:16 π Rom. 6:6 π Rom. 6:11 π Rom. 8:14 π Rom. 8:14-15 π Rom. 12:2 π Rom. 12:17 π Rom. 14:16 π 1 Cor. 2:14 π 1 Cor. 2:16 π 1 Cor. 4:13 π 1 Cor. 7:22 π 1 Cor. 8:9 π 1 Cor. 9:12 π 1 Cor. 10:23 π 1 Cor. 12:7 π 2 Cor. 4:10-11 π 2 Cor. 6:8 π 2 Cor. 8:20 π 2 Cor. 11:14 π 2 Cor. 12:2 π 2 Cor. 12:4; 2nd π 2 Cor. 12:6 π 2 Cor. 12:7-10 π Gal. 4:6 π Gal. 4:7 π Gal. 5:13; 2nd π Eph. 1:18 π 1 Ths. 5:22 π 2 Ths. 2:9 π Heb. 4:12 π Heb. 5:14 π Heb. 10:19 π Heb. 11:6 π 1 Pet. 1:7 π 1 Pet. 2:15-16 π 1 Jn. 1:7 π Rev. 1:17
Having examined the various parts of the heavenly armour, let us see that we are now encased in it safely under the protection of the Blood of the Lamb, as we take the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and unveil some of the wiles of the devil which he plans around some aspects of the life in the spiritual sphere.
In a previous chapter we saw the way the Holy Spirit unveiled the Cross to the believer in liberating power, translating him out of the realm of darkness into the Kingdom of the Son of God. But there are many who enter the sphere of the Spirit without intelligent knowledge of how they were led in. Some will say that it was when they surrendered wholly to God, the Holy Spirit filled them, and revealed the Risen Lord. Others that it was suddenly, and in response to a simple act of faith, they received the Holy Ghost, and others again will tell of long seeking, and deep anguish of heart, as the Divine Spirit searched, and bent them to the dust. The truth is, that absolute unreserved surrender to God, and faith that God the Holy Spirit does enter and take possession, must bring response from Him, whether the believer understands or not with his intelligence the conditions of his indwelling. The Spirit of God also works in the soul in accordance with the individual character and temperament. Some abandon themselves to Him more recklessly than others! Some see at a glance the crucial conditions for the effectual manifestation of His power, and quickly enter a life of liberty, which many may reach by a slower and longer road.
But one point is clear for all, and it is that those who enter the "heavenlies" by intelligent apprehension of the meaning of the Cross for the Christian in true identification and crucifixion with Christ, and as the continuous cause of abundance of life, have a depth and permanency of experience which others fail to know. It is necessary to point this out in connection with the particular wiles of the devil to which the believer is exposed in the heavenlies, for those who know the Cross know the only place where the Holy Spirit is able to unveil the tactics of the evil one. Let us note first -
The wiles concerning "revelations."
"I know a man in Christ...caught up into Paradise." ( 2 Cor. 12:2 , 4; top )
"The manifestation of the Spirit [is for] profit." ( 1 Cor. 12:7; top )
"I will love him, and manifest Myself to him" ( Jn. 14:21 ) is a promise made by the Lord to His disciples on the eve of His Cross and Passion, and He added "and my Father will love him, and WE will come unto him and make our home with him." ( Jn. 14:23; top ) The disciples said, How? But after Pentecost they knew!
It is just so with every believer who is led by the Spirit into union with the Living Christ. There is a moment when the promise is fulfilled, and the Christ Who rose from the dead reveals Himself to the obedient heart, and the believer knows the Risen Lord. To some He is manifested in light above the brightness of the sun, as to Paul in a wondrous heavenly vision, and others are but conscious of His Presence in a peace and joy unspeakable. Some are "caught up into Paradise," ( 2 Cor. 12:4 ) and others fall at His feet as dead ( Rev. 1:17 ), or can only cry like Isaiah "Woe is me," ( Isa. 6:5 ), or like Job "Now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself..." ( Job 42:5-6 ) In any case the glorified Christ now becomes a living bright reality to the soul. What are the wiles of the adversary now but an attempt to personate the Lord! The believer must know that the evil one can fashion himself as an angel of light ( 2 Cor. 11:14 ), and work with all "power and sights and lying wonders" ( 2 Ths. 2:9 ) to lead astray if he possibly can the very elect. (See Mt. 24:24; top ) Alas, some have found to their bitter cost that he is able to give "manifestations" and "visions" of heavenly things.
The believer is in a new world, and he does not know the subtlety of the foe. The adversary now will watch his opportunity to counterfeit the working of the Spirit, and he waits but for an element of self to manifest itself in the believer, to gain his end. If he seeks "visions and revelations" for his own enjoyment the adversary will give them, for the Holy Spirit cannot respond to any desire but fore the glory of the Lord. It is here that the knowledge of the Cross is the safeguard, for the believer knows that "crucified with Christ" so that the self-motive in spiritual things is kept in the place of death, is the only way for keeping him out of the snares of the foe.
The one who would walk in victory must also take heed not to glory in, or boast of his experiences; nay, often he may not even tell them without opening the door to the evil one. In the letter of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians we find that he felt it necessary to draw a veil over much of this aspect of his inner life. "I forbear to speak," he said, "that I may not cause any man to think of me more highly than what he sees my deeds, or hears my teaching." ( 2 Cor. 12:6 C.H.) He knew how men were disposed to "glory in men" and account them wonderful, as the Lycaonians did Barnabas and himself when they saw the miracle of healing done in the crippled man. "We also are men with the same nature as you," the Apostles cried, as with horror they sought to prevent them giving them the worship due to God alone. ( Acts 14:8-15; top )
In Paul's letter to the Corinthians we also see the means used by the Lord to counter-balance the danger to the earthen vessel of "abundance of revelations," for Paul is given "a stake in the flesh," a "messenger of Satan" to buffet him, so that he should not be exalted overmuch. The Lord's plan fulfilled its purpose, for the Apostle is kept broken and humbled, saying, "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." ( 2 Cor. 12:7-10; top )
We need to walk carefully with God at this stage of the spiritual life, and hide very deeply in the death of Christ - not coveting wonderful experiences, but rather an ever-deepening conformity to the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested to all around. ( 2 Cor. 4:10-11 ) Our faith too, is more precious to God than gold ( 1 Pet. 1:7 ), and it is safer to be content to walk by faith and not by sight. We need to remember also that "visions and revelations" are not given to the soul for its own enjoyment, but for some definite purpose in the counsels of God, or in a special and critical time of need, as with the Apostle Paul when he was stoned in Lystra ( Acts 14:19 ; 2 Cor. 12 agrees in date with this time) - called to Macedonia ( Acts 16:9-10 ) - or needed clear guidance to remain in Athens. ( Acts 17:16; top )
But normally, as the believer matures, the "eyes of his heart" ( Eph. 1:18 ) - the spiritual power of sight possessed by the inner man of the new creation - must be more and more filled with light, until the spiritual vision becomes acute, and able to see the things of the spiritual world, not so much by "revelations" as by the simple power of seeing, a faculty of the new man which is called by Paul "discernment" ( 1 Cor. 2:14 ); for "fullgrown men" in the spiritual life, "by reason of use, have their senses exercised to discern good and evil." ( Heb. 5:14 ) Then the believer "walks in the light, as [God] is in the light," ( 1 Jn. 1:7 ) and the light makes manifest, or reveals all things around him. At all stages of experience let the one who would walk in safety in the Spirit-sphere, test all visions and revelations by direct appeal to the Spirit to apply the power of the Blood, which dispels all that which may come from the adversary fashioned as an angel of light. And with the claiming of the "Blood" there must be the definite position maintained on the basis of Rom. 6:6 , 11 (top), and then any counterfeit will fade away, and the believer be delivered from all the wiles of the devil.
The wiles concerning the voice of God.
"The sheep follow Him: for they know His voice...they know not the voice of strangers." ( Jn. 10:4-5; top )
These words clearly show that the Lord does speak to His children, and that He makes them able to know His voice from the voice of strangers. They know it as a babe knows its mother's voice, but, like the babe, they may not be able to say how or why! When the believer is brought by the Spirit into the Spirit-sphere, and Christ is manifested to him, one of the first results is the voice of the Lord in the heart, speaking in a way the soul has never realized before. How unspeakably sweet and precious this voice is none can understand save those who know it, and have realized how even one word pierces deep into the very joints and marrow of the life, satisfying, calming, strengthening and quickening by its power. ( Heb. 4:12 ) "It is the voice of my Beloved...and my heart was moved within me," ( Song 5:2 , 4; top ), cries the soul, who from this time feels it is one thing in life to him to obey the voice of the Lord, and the inner ear of the heart is kept open and attent to catch the faintest whisper of His will.
But in the early days the adversary knows that the believer has but little knowledge of his foe, so the wiles are soon planned to counterfeit the voice of the Lord, so as to confuse or to mislead the soul, either to destroy his faith in the guidance of the Spirit, or else to lead him in obedience to the voice of the devil, and in strong delusion to believe a lie, thinking it to be the truth of God.
The adversary works through ignorance, and the overcomer must know how to distinguish the voice of the Lord from the voice of the foe. This is done 1) by its sound, 2) by its effect, 3) by its object. Elijah descries the voice of the Lord as a "sound of gentle stillness" ( 1 Ki. 19:12 ), whereas the adversary's voice is always harsh. So gently does the Lord speak, that the heart must be in great stillness to hear His voice, and it seems to come from, what we may describe as, the central depth of the spirit, where the Lord is enthroned. But the voice of the adversary is loud, and appears generally to ring more in the outward ear with a metallic sound, endeavoring to force the soul to hasty actions. We need then to remember the character of the Holy Spirit Who is depicted as a Dove, and recollect that He never forces or drives, but leads the yielded heart gently into all the will of God, whereas the evil one hurries and pushes the poor soul until it is compelled to obey the urgent voice, almost for the sake of peace! The voice of the Lord, too, brings a deep calm over the spirit, and a quiet assurance of the will of God, whereas the voice of the devil often causes restlessness, agitation and uncertainty. Again the voice of the Lord is invariably in accord with the teaching of the word of God, although the adversary also can quote Scripture, as he did to the Lord Himself in the wilderness ( Mt. 4:6; top ), but it is usually texts with the portions omitted which safeguard, or interpret the whole, or else he uses isolated words wrenched from the context which explains them!
The lying voice of the evil one also aims at bringing the soul into bondage in the minutest trifles, instead of the glorious liberty of the children of God. It is not that the Lord overlooks the importance of careful walking in His will, but He desires to obtain the intelligent cooperation of His redeemed ones, rather than their blind obedience as if they were but machines, so He watches them with eyes of love, and only speaks to direct their steps when He sees them likely to miss the path. Again we must notice that the wiles of the Adversary are the most subtle, and likely to succeed, in the early days of the life in the Spirit-sphere, for as the believer matures in the knowledge of God, the Lord speaks more rarely, as the "mind of Christ" ( 1 Cor. 2:16; top ) becomes the very mind of the one living closely in fellowship with God.
It is well that the overcomer should understand this, lest he give advantage to the enemy by falling into discouragement or depression, when the transition from childhood to manhood takes place. In the early days the voice of the Lord was so sweet, that the believer was well content to obey it as a little child, but the life of Christ in him has been growing more rapidly than he was aware, and now the voice that guided him has not spoken for so long a time. "My Father have I fallen away from You, that You do not speak?" he cries! And the answer comes, "What is in your mind, My child, towards this or that?" "This looks the right course to take," the childlike heart replies, and the word comes back "You have the mind of Christ - do what is in your mind!" Then the believer understands that from this time shall be fulfilled in him that which is written in the Scripture of truth, "The meek He will guide in judgment [and] teach His way." ( Psa. 25:9; top ) This brings us to consider -
The wiles concerning guidance.
"As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you received not the spirit of bondage...but...the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." ( Rom. 8:14-15; top )
There is scarcely any subject connected with the spiritual life more difficult to explain, and more misunderstood than the subject of guidance! The words "I was led to do this or that" are so often used when there is no evidence of any leading at all. For instance, two letters will say that each of the writers felt "led" to ask the same person to speak at a meeting in different places at the same time, so that obviously all were not under the true leading of the Spirit.
And yet it cannot be that the Father in heaven has made it difficult for His children to know His will. The truth is, that guidance is simple to the childlike heart, and difficult to the wise and prudent who lean to their own understanding, and make perplexities by their own reasonings, and the multiplicity of their thoughts.
Let us note first some of the wiles of the adversary around the subject and then some of the conditions for walking in the will of God. One tactic of the evil one is to make souls confused and distracted over what is the will of God, for he knows that a tranquil heart is necessary for the leading of the Spirit; others he deludes into throwing aside all use of their judgment and knowledge, to act upon some isolated text, or some "thought" that came to them in prayer! Others again who are truly shown by the Spirit the will of God for their own path, are beguiled into an attitude of judgment upon the walk of others, or else into a position for themselves not far short of infallibility, though they would not use the word! Then there is the fine line between faith and presumption which the devil always tries to blur: the knowledge as to where the yieldedness necessary for God's mightiest working through us, becomes fatalism; or else where creaturely activity hinders the Spirit working effectually through us.
But just as with the wiles concerning revelations, and the inner voice, the matter of guidance is more open to the workings of the adversary in the early stages of the life in the heavenlies. The dread of "going back into the flesh" often drives the believer to extremes, and for a time he throws aside all mental food, and forgets that the Lord redeemed the whole man - spirit, soul and body - and that he consists of something more than spirit! All culture of the intellect is neglected, and the life is thrown into one groove, until the body rebels, and nature asserts her claims.
But the soul who will rely on the Lord as a little child will be brought safely through the dangers of its early days. Our text gives in a few words the principal mark of the true guidance of the Lord. "Led by the Spirit" means that He leads, and does not drive of force, therefore the soul must take heed not to force itself to any course of action which is repugnant to it, that is presupposing that the will is surrendered to God as ready to take any course, unmistakably shown to be His will. This is an important point, and one to which souls who have really been taken into one life with Christ in the heavenlies, should take special heed, for some have failed to recognize the Spirit restraining them from taking a certain path, thinking it was the devil hindering their way! The texts again meets this aspect, for it is written "As many as are led...they are sons of God!" ( Rom. 8:14 ) They know God as a Father, for the spirit of bondage has passed away. They cry, "Father," and walk with God as a Father, because they partake of the nature of His Son. "God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba Father," ( Gal. 4:6 ), so that you are "no longer a bondservant, but a son" ( Gal. 4:7; top ) O child of God. Remember that as a son the Spirit will lead you, and work in you to want to do His will. You must never force yourself into any path against any inward restraint, but if you fear the adversary, you may claim the power of the Blood to clear your path, and trust the Spirit to draw you into it with all your heart, and soul, and strength, causing you to bound toward the will of God.
Then let us understand too, that as the life of Christ matures in the believer, the Spirit leads more from within by the working of a life, which manifests itself as simply and naturally as the life of nature. The actions of the body moved by the physical life are mainly unconscious, and to a certain extent instinctive! So when the believer becomes a "full grown man," with heart and will fully possessed by God, and his whole being under the complete control of the Spirit, the new life will increasingly work in him with less and less perceived action to his consciousness. As many as are led by the Spirit, in this way, are indeed sons of God, with spirit, soul, and body, working out His will with ease and spontaneity. 1) They are "guided by the skillfulness of His hands" upon them ( Psa. 78:72 ), moving them hour by hour into the path prepared for them. 2) They are guided by their faithfulness to God, "The integrity of the upright shall guide them" ( Prov. 11:3 ) - for they know what to do by the very instinct of right and wrong which God has planted within them. 3) "The meek will He guide in judgment," ( Psa. 25:9 ), for He uses their renewed minds ( Rom. 12:2; top ), yea, giving them the very mind of Christ, which led Him to empty Himself, and be obedient unto death - the death of the Cross. The soul that knows this principle of sacrifice and self-effacement as the characteristic of the life of Christ, needs no inner voice nor special guidance, to tell him what course he is to take whilst walking in this present evil world!
But there are times in the life of the Spirit-possessed believer, in all stages of experience, when special guidance is needed, and clear knowledge as to the will of God must be known.
1) There must be no hidden sin, or disobedience to the known will of God, if true guidance is to be obtained from the Lord in any emergency. Here, maybe, the adversary will torture honest hearts, but the question can be quickly and easily settled if there is any doubt. Let the seeker go before the Lord, and waiting before Him, ask Him as the Faithful Witness to bring to mind anything in heart or life contrary to His will, or any step taken unknown to the seeker, which has grieved Him. If the soul is honest before God, and ready to put away at once anything which is revealed, the faithful Lord is certain to reveal it. If nothing is shown after this honest seeking of the face of God, let the believer count upon the present cleansing of the precious Blood of Jesus, and rejoice in access to the Throne of Grace.
2) There must be no bias of the will toward one course or the other in the matter on which guidance is sought. The will should be like the compass needle, turning toward the Lord as the needle turns to the north, whichever way the compass is held. The very least "desire" towards one way or another in a debatable course, prevents the obtaining of the mind of the Lord. The believer seeking guidance should therefore wait before the Lord for His light to reveal the attitude of the will before Him, and an act of surrender may be necessary on the point where any bias is discovered. There is a stage of maturity in the Spirit-filled life, where the will is so truly one with God's will, that it has no desire outside of that blessed will, but this means that deep Gethsemane experiences, and fellowship with Christ in His sufferings, have been passed through, until the believer is truly one spirit with Christ in God. Let every child of God take special heed to this point of a surrendered will, for many have often sought their own will thinking it to be the will of God.
3) There must be no preconceived plan in the mind if true light from God is to be obtained. How many ask to be "led" after they have made their plans, instead of going to Him with their minds entirely unbiased for His direction. But here again there is a danger of the adversary creating bondage. A "plan" may be taken to the Lord when suggested by others, but the seeker must himself be careful to keep an open mind, and an obedient heart to carry out the light the Lord gives upon the plan submitted to Him. We may note again here that as the life matures, and the will of God becomes deeply the will of the believer, he finds that he may lay before the Lord personal tastes and preferences, which are wholly separate from the attitude of the will, and are subservient to the choice of the Lord.
4) There must be no preconception of the way in which the Lord will give the guidance sought. Many expect the Lord to answer in their particular way - by a voice, or revelation, or text, or through this or that circumstance or person, and so they are not able to discern His guidance if it comes in any other way. If He does not work according to their ideas, they think He does not work at all! They have sought guidance, none has been given, they say, and so they cast away their confidence, and sometimes drift into a life of chaos and perplexity, with no assurance of the presence of God. But the soul who truly desires His will must leave to the Lord complete freedom to work in any way that He shall choose. This brings us to the final point that
5) There must be absolute trust in the faithfulness of God, that He does hear, and does respond to the soul that seeks His will. The fulfillment of all the previous named conditions of guidance are fruitless if the seeker fails here, for "he that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them who diligently seek Him." ( Heb. 11:6; top ) Granted that there is no hidden sin, no known disobedience, no bias of desire toward one course or another; no preconceived plan; no previous idea of the way God will guide, let the one who seeks the mind of God to be revealed to him: -
- Enter the Holy Presence boldly, plead the Blood of Jesus, and believe that it cleanses now. ( Heb. 10:19; top )
- Look up into the face of God as a Father in Christ Jesus, bending His ear to listen to the words of His child.
- Spread the need before Him in simplicity, as if talking to a father on earth, and pour out all the heart concerning the various difficulties and points of need.
- Then definitely commit the whole matter into His hand, to be wrought out for the best, from the standpoint of His clearer vision, and knowledge of all things concerned.
- Yield wholly to Him for His use in answering prayer, if so needed, and for His highest purpose to be fulfilled in the seeker, and the circumstances.
- Then calmly, restfully, commit all to God, and leave Him to guide into His will in His own way.
Trust Him to work in the will, to will His will.
Trust Him to work out in the life in practical obedience.
Trust Him to sway the affections into the right direction.
Trust Him to guide the judgment into clear decision.
Trust Him to restrain quickly when turning towards the wrong.
- Now let the trusting one steadily believe that God is faithful, and God is guiding, then take the next step that lies in the path of duty, and "do the next thing"! Should no step be clear, let him wait in peace, and quiet trust, that the Father will not fail His child. Should the path continue dark, let him not cast away the confidence which will have sure reward. Yea "let him trust in the name (or character) of the Lord, and stay upon his God." ( Isa. 50:10; top )
There are also certain principles connected with the leading of the Lord which the matured believer learns to know, and which materially assist the obtaining of guidance in any special time of need.
- The Holy Spirit will not lead into any step directly contrary to the written Word, and to the character of God as revealed therein.
- The Holy Spirit will always confirm any step He has led us into, by His presence, and His blessing with us in the matter. For instance, He led Peter to go to the house of Cornelius contrary to all that the other Apostles would have devised, but the Spirit bore witness that He had really led Peter there, by pouring out His blessing in such measure, that his brethren had to acknowledge that it was of God. ( Acts 11:18 ) We must learn therefore in walking with God, to prove His will step by step, and watch for His witness that we are in the right path, for when He leads He goes before, and makes the rough places plain, and the crooked things straight. ( Isa. 40:4; top )
- The Holy Spirit Himself must bear witness to others of our being led of Him, for it does not seem in accord with the pattern-life of Jesus, that we should be constantly asserting the leading of God. The Lord Jesus did not say "I was led" to this or that, but to the brothers who pressed Him to go to the feast, He simply said "My time has not yet come"! ( Jn. 7:8; top ) It ill becomes any child of God to take an infallible position of guidance, and assert too emphatically absolute certainty to others, for to the world we are but human fallible beings, therefore let God set His seal in His own way on those He truly leads.
- The Holy Spirit Himself is responsible to bring about the fulfillment of His plans. It is for Him to lead and the soul to follow! Therefore there should be no "push," or creaturely activity, to bring about what has been shown us as the mind of the Lord. God has a time as well as a plan, and yet how many , although they have been shown by the Lord His will for them, think that they must at once act to bring about His plan! Let the Spirit prove His revealed will, by making iron gates open of their own accord for the soul who is ready to follow Him.
The knowledge of these things will defeat many of the wiles of the adversary, for the veil one knows that the armour of light can only encase the soul, whilst he walks in the path marked out for him by the Lord, hence his wiles planned to imitate the voice of the Lord so as to confuse or mislead, or to ensnare in guidance, so as to draw us out of the keeping power of God, and then lead into any snare he can devise. This brings us lastly to -
The wiles concerning "liberty."
"You have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." ( Gal. 5:13; top )
the believer who has emerged into the life in the Spirit finds himself free in a way he has never known before. The spirit of bondage has passed away, and he feels like the bird let go "into the open field." ( Lev. 14:7 ) It is just now that the evil one is ready with new wiles to ensnare the freed one, suggesting to him, 1) you have liberty now to do anything, for you are free; or 2) you are under no man's control now, especially those who are in the "flesh"! And the adversary now does his best to counterfeit the true freedom in Christ by inciting rebellion to those in authority, and fleshly zeal under the name of the liberty of the Spirit. But the Word of God is the safeguard which unveils the tactics of the adversary, for it shows that the liberty wherewith Christ makes us free is really freedom from slavery to sin, and the evil one. The freed soul passes under law to Christ, under the perfect law of liberty, which is liberty to do right, instead of seeing what is right, and doing what is wrong. Liberty to obey God instead of disobeying Him. Heavenly liberty, which the angels have in fulfilling His commands with ease and joy - the will of God done on earth in us as it done in heaven! ( Mt. 6:10 ) It is freedom to do what we like in truth, when we like only to please God! "You have been called to liberty," writes the Apostle to the Galatians, but "do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but by love serve." ( Gal. 5:13 ) He "who is called while free is Christ's slave." ( 1 Cor. 7:22; top )
The soul is also now free to do many things that once it feared to do, and this is the time for the adversary to endeavour to obtain an occasion for the flesh. The law of Christ comes in here, and shows that there is a limitation placed to liberty, and that limit is defined by the conscience of the weak brother. The freed one is not only to be subject to others in authority for the Lord's sake, but is to take heed lest his liberty of action becomes a "stumbling block to the weak." ( 1 Cor. 8:9 ) Yea, "all things are lawful" unto you, O child of God, but "all things are not expedient." ( 1 Cor. 10:23 ) You must "abstain from every appearance of evil" ( 1 Ths. 5:22 ), and "let not your good be spoken of as evil" ( Rom. 14:16 ), but "have regard for good things in the sight of all men." ( Rom. 12:17; top ) the spirit of the Cross calls to sacrifice, and the overcomer must ofttimes sacrifice his liberty, as well as his life, to gain all men for Christ. This is very different to worldly expediency, for it is sacrifice for others, and this must be the motive of every life lived in fellowship with Christ. "How things look to others" when our self-credit is at stake, is altered when it is for the honour and character of Him Whose name is upon us in the eyes of the world.
The Apostle Paul sets the example to the believer, and he wrote, "I have used my right, but forego every claim, lest I should by any means hinder the course of Christ's glad-tidings" ( 1 Cor. 9:12 C. H. and note) - the meaning of the word "claim" is "to hold out against" - he would not "hold out" for his rights, but foregoing everything for himself rather than hinder the Gospel. How careful too he was in the handling of money which was placed in his care. He did not trade upon his position as an Apostle, nor ask unlimited confidence from others on account of his wonderful spiritual experience, but writes frankly to the Corinthians that he had take all precautions that "no man should blame us," in the matter of administrating the gift of money sent by his hand to the needy saints. ( 2 Cor. 8:20; top )
Let him who would overcome and walk in victory take heed, and forego all lawful rights which are not expedient, for the sake of the Gospel. Let what is good never have the appearance of evil, or be open to be evil spoken of, but in all things take thought for what is honourable and commendable in practical action to all men, "for so is the will of God, that by well-doing you should put to silence the ignorance of men [who would not understand your 'liberty']; as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak..." ( 1 Pet. 2:15-16 ) Even thus did the Lord Christ sacrifice His liberty for the sake of others, saying, "The sons are free. Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go..." ( Mt. 17:26-27 ) and in the Jordan submitted Himself to baptism by John, with the words, "Thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." ( Mt. 3:15; top )
Yet we must not omit to refer to another side which came in the life of the Lord, as well as in His servant Paul. Walking as Paul thus walked with a conscience without offense ( Acts 24:16 ), he had to write to the Corinthians, "being defamed, we entreat" ( 1 Cor. 4:13 ) in "everything commending ourselves...by evil report and good report; as deceivers and yet true..." ( 2 Cor. 6:8; top ) showing that however carefully the servant of God may walk, defamation and evil report may still come in the path of following the Lamb.
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