The Christian’s Daily Pathway
From notes of an address
Christianity is not a spasmodic and casual thing, as many people appear to think. It is not something to put on in the meetings of Christians, and put off in the office and workshop, or to be donned on Sunday and doffed on Monday.
The newly converted American Indian felt the incompatibility of such a thing, and prayed that his Christianity might not be like his cloak which he could put on and off at his pleasure, but that it might be like the tattoo on his face that could be seen every day and all the day.
In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, the apostle Paul refers to things he had been called to pass through in his career of service; but besides these he speaks of “that which comes upon me daily,” which in his case was “the care of all the churches.” We have not got his responsibilities, nevertheless there are things that will come daily upon every person who lives the true, practical, Christian life. They may be roughly summed up under two heads—
THE DAILY DEMAND and THE DAILY SUPPLY.
It is a good thing that there is the latter as well as the former. If the wherewithal were not forthcoming to meet the demand there would come certain bankruptcy. The daily demand has to be faced, so let us look at it in more detail. It is this everyday business that tries and tests us. When thing come upon us now and again we more easily bear them, but when they come every day they are likely to be galling to our spirits. A pin prick is trying enough, but a continual sore is worse. To find that we are constantly against the stream calls for “enduring constancy of hope” (1 Thess. 1:3, N.Tr.).
First, THE DAILY TEST. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). We are beginning with the most serious and constant demand. It is the call to discipleship, which is just the full and practical expression of Christianity. To be a disciple we must have a Master; to be a servant we must have a Lord, and Christ is both. The pathway of discipleship is very closely connected with service in John 12:26; “If any man serve Me, let him follow Me.” If we follow our Master it is useless to expect that our path will lie among beds of roses, since His did not. If the cross was in his path it will certainly be in ours. Some one has said the most natural way for a Christian to die is at the stake.
Discipleship is the way in which we may return His love; and it is love alone that will sustain us in the daily demand that is made upon us.
The term “cross” is used often in the Scriptures, but always, I believe, in connection with shame and suffering and reproach. The cross was, apart from its terrible suffering, the most shameful and dishonouring of deaths. It was the shameful end to what was notoriously a shameful life. This was the death to which our beloved Master was put. But we know another side to the matter. He “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,” or as we love to sing,
“Lord e’en to death Thy love could go
A death of shame and loss.”
So there are two ways in which we may view that cross, “on which the Lord of glory died.” It was at the cross of Christ that wretched man foamed out his own shame on God. It was at that same cross that God lavished His love on guilty, sinful man.
At the cross God expressed His judgment of man in the flesh, and there man expressed his judgment of God manifest in flesh. It is thus quite impossible for us to justly take sides with both.
Man in the flesh has met his judgment at the hand of God in that cross of shame. “Our old man is crucified with Him” (Rom. 6:8). Christ in His deep grace identified Himself with us in our old corrupt life—the self life, or the life that has self as its centre—and in Himself has accepted God’s withering judgment on it, when He was made sin for us; and by that sacrifice for sin God has “condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3).
In the other aspect of the cross we find man’s judgment of Christ recorded. Man has put Him to an open shame, and in effect said, “We judge Him worthy only of a death that is meted out to those who come to the end of a shameful life.”
At the cross of Christ God was saying of our old self life, “I see the shameful end of a shameful life.” The Christian now says, “If that is what the world thinks of my Master, then for ever that is the end of a shameful world for me.” “The world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” For us that means that the world may give us the same shame and reproach that it gave Him, and we will gladly bear it. Nothing but love for Him will take us into such a path. But His love charms us into it.
To “deny myself daily” is to accept God’s judgment on my old self life daily; that is, not denying certain things to self, but denying self. What is often called “self-denial” is only self-curbing. Self curbed is self recognized: self denied is self unrecognized.
They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts (Gal. 5:24). What a daily test this is! Deny myself daily! Discipleship does not mean some of self and some of Thee, nor less of self and more of Thee, but none of self and all of Thee. I accept God’s full judgment of self and I have done with it.
To take up my cross daily. This is not exactly my accepting God’s judgment on myself, but rather that I accept this world’s judgment on Christ. It means that I identify myself with Him in reproach and shame every day, and would do it in the spirit of the early disciples who rejoiced, “that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” They were not of the sort that only spoke of Christ in a whisper, or under their breath as if they apologised for being Christians, but they accepted the world’s verdict against Christ as the world’s verdict against them, and did it with joy. Many people speak of the trials that are the common lot of mankind, sickness, poverty, etc., as their, cross. But these the unconverted get as well as the Christian. Anything that you have to suffer because you are following Christ, that is your cross. You will meet it daily, so take it up daily.
Second, there is the DAILY FOE. This is closely connected with the foregoing. The world not only slights the Christian, but comes out into open antagonism, and that every day. “Man would swallow me up: he fighting daily oppresseth me . . . they be many that fight against” (Ps. 56:1-2).
We are in a hostile world, and are face to face with Satan, who is a vigilant and inveterate foe, and then there is the flesh within us. The foe inside is in league with the foe outside—the world—and Satan uses both; only let us remember that we should not have such foes were we not Christians. Satan’s tactics aim at bringing about a spiritual demoralization and disheartenment. Daily opposition is both wearing and wearying, and he is on the look-out for a vulnerable point. He acts as did Amalek when Israel came out of Egypt—“He met thee by the way, and smote the hindermost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary” (Deut. 25:18).
Satan has two great weapons, seduction and violence. He will tempt us into an easier path—the path of least resistance, or he will with violence oppose us, hoping to destroy the morale and dishearten. He is the god of discouragement. He wants to see us with hands hanging down and knees become feeble, in order that we may be tempted to say, “I give it up; it is not worth the struggle.” All this is the daily effort of a daily foe.
It is sad when discouragement reaches us through our fellow-believers; but sometimes it is so. Here is someone complaining, “They always pour cold water on anything I want to do for Christ!” Well, just you get near to the Lord, so that the fires of love get well stoked up, and then you can turn their cold water into steam, so that the thing that might have hindered you only helps you! The oak tree, you know, violently shaken by the storms of winter is only the more deeply rooted in by the shaking. The bunch of keys in continual use is kept bright by the friction, when the key put away in cotton-wool will develop rust. Happy is it when we can say, “The things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel.”
Now we can consider the brighter side of our subject—the daily supply. We are not left to proceed at our own charges. We must note however that the effect of the enemy is not only to oppose and demoralize but also to break our lines of communication. He knows right well that if he can cut us off from the base of our supply we shall easily fall a prey. Hebrews 4:12-16 gives us two things, the Word of God and the Throne of Grace. And beside these we have the present power of Christ as our High Priest.
First then as to THE WORD OF GOD. We need to be like the Bereans, who, in Acts 17:11, are commended because they “searched the Scriptures daily.” The idea of searching is that there is an object to be sought for. We are really seeking something, and not just aimlessly scanning the pages.
We may seek for pictures of Christ in the various incidents, types and prophecies of the Old Testament.
We may seek for the doctrine of Christ in the epistles of the New Testament.
We may seek the company of Christ—putting ourselves in spirit into companionship with Him—in the marvellous records of the four Gospels.
The Bereans took nothing on trust, even from so great an apostle as Paul. They did not listen to Paul proving the Bible to be true, but rather they searched the Scriptures which proved to them that what Paul said was true. A person buying property does not take on trust all that is told him, whether by owner or agent, but he gets his lawyer to search the title-deeds to see if the title is as good as represented. The Bereans were truly noble, says Luke, and many of them believed.
Proverbs 2:4 gives us the true idea of searching, we are to search for wisdom “as for hid treasure.” If you had a good reason to believe that in your garden there had been hidden a priceless gem, you know the kind of digging and sifting each spadeful would get. There would be nothing casual about your searching. Is that the way we are reading our Bibles? It is not a question of how many verses you read each day, but how many you put into the sieve!
You may observe that the promoters of the various anti-Christian cults are reading the Bible. They look for some apparent support for their evil doctrines. There is not an evil system in the religious word today that has not some text of Scripture that appears to support it. If they think it important, why should not we? Are not your Bibles sometimes like a rusty looking sword hanging in the hall of a house? It is an heirloom from one of the family who long ago knew how effectually to use it when facing the foe. The present owner has it on show; but it is of little use, for he is unskilful in the use of such a weapon. How many of us are, as Hebrews 5:13 puts it, “unskilful in the word of righteousness.” Don’t treat the Bible as a kind of promise box, or a compendium of important precepts, or even as a book from which to get texts for preaching. This is to bemean the sacred volume.
It is one thing to search for information: it is quite another to search for food, and to desire it as a babe desires milk. Only don’t be like spoon-fed children, who can get nothing unless it is broken up and put into their mouths. Become more and more anxious about your souls; not for their salvation, but for their edification and spiritual growth.
Then secondly, there is PRAYER. In this matter we should be like the Psalmist who said, “O Lord, . . . I cry unto Thee daily” (86:3); and again, “Lord, I have called daily upon Thee, I have stretched out my hands unto Thee” (88:9). Heaven is the base of operations for us, and it is by this means that the line of communication, which the enemy would like to cut, is kept open. Two things that contributed to Peter’s downfall, were his neglect of his Master’s word, and his failure to pray.
Prayer is not only the expression of our need at any given moment. Some time ago there was a remarkable article in a newspaper by a naval officer. Looking back over his war experiences, he declared, “If I could begin again, I would pray more.” That was good, yet prayer to him seemed only to be a resource when he was in tight corners and needed deliverances. Now that is not enough. Prayer is the great means by which we can commune with God.
Keep clear of the habit of merely saying prayers. Have definite, positive requests to present to God. Much that passes as prayer in public might be more correctly described as “oblique sermons.” They are made up of meditations, quotations, expositions and exhortations, and all these cannot for one moment take the place of supplications.
Above all, avoid the frequent and unnecessary repetition of the sacred Name in your prayers. So often this is in the nature of padding used to fill up the gaps caused by want of thought and desire. And don’t think that asking in the name of the Lord Jesus merely means the tacking of His precious Name on to the end of our requests. It means that we are really asking as those left to represent Him on earth, who are concerned with His interests.
Thirdly, there is THE DAILY CHEER which we may get as the fruit of Christian companionship. “Exhort one another daily” (Heb. 3:13). Even if we have to rebuke one another, let us do it in a way that will encourage and not depress. Encouragement is of God, just as discouragement is of the devil. We have only to read about the end of the ten spies, who discouraged the heart of Israel, to see what God thinks of the discourager.
Pessimism is no feature of Christianity, nor is the magnifying of difficulties and minimizing of the power and grace of God. There is plenty to discourage today, and it is the enemy’s business to supply it. Let us see to it that as far as possible we supply encouragement. Don’t think of yourself as being the person who is always to be encouraged—except that you may always encourage yourself in the Lord your God, as David did—it is the other person who is to be encouraged, and you are to do the encouraging. This we should do more and more as we “see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:25).
Thus we may foster in each other any traits of Christ that we may see and we shall see them if we look for them. We are in a cold heartless world, and all too easily we get under its frigid influence. Let us keep each other from taking cold by a steady flow of warm love and care.