The Threefold Means of Victory
It becomes evident that the secret of victory is simply the Abiding Life.
As we abide we put ourselves in the way of appropriating every provision He has made for a life of victory. Were we able perfectly to abide in Him, our life would approximate His life. Could our life be wholly and solely the expression of His life in us, we would not [intentionally] sin. These considerations point to the fact that the practical realization of a truly Christian life waits upon our practice of the presence of GOD – anything that makes the bond of union between us and Him vital, that renders Him a transforming force in daily experience. GOD has appointed certain specific means that minister spiritual health, that make for reality in the Abiding Life – means so essential as to preclude the possibility of success if ignored or neglected.
These means are threefold, as mentioned by our Apostle [John]: the Word of GOD abiding in us; an emboldened prayer-life; a keeping of His Word in a worthy, obedient walk.
1. THE WORD OF GOD
This is the means mentioned in the first section (I John 2: 14). It is His means for ministering Light to us: “The entrance of Thy Word giveth light.” And what a means it is to this end. GOD has promised that it shall not return unto Him void, empty, fruitless (Isaiah 55:10,11). It is declared to be “living and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Does anyone desire a life freed from the thralldom of sin, the simple means are at hand in a faithful following of the Psalmist’s example: “Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee” (Psalm 119:11).
Do we weary of bearing the impress of the world in our plastic, fleshly nature? Here is GOD’s way out: “But we all” – the common privilege of Christians as compared with the one experience of Moses – “with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Moses let GOD talk to him, and his face shone. With the Bible in hand, the mirror for seeing His face, whensoever we will we may have a like experience of its transforming power, making us over into the likeness of His glory. Saints in all the ages, having recourse to His Word, have proved its strangely quickening [life-giving], sustaining, glorifying power. To root out sin and self, to make us over into the likeness of our Lord, it must be given its day-by-day play upon the believer’s heart. Its neglect is suicidal and fatal to the spiritual life.
2. THE PRAYER-LIFE
This is the means mentioned in the second or Love section (1 John 3:21, 22; 5:14,15). Prayer is not merely, nor chiefly, getting things from GOD – although it is that. Prayer is GOD’s provision for drawing out the love of His children toward Himself. He bids them come boldly. As they thus come, the heart-life is laid bare before Him. He has opportunity to search it, lift it to a higher level, make it altogether pleasing to Himself, then turn it into channels of self-sacrificing love to fellow-men. No Christian loves deeply, worthily, unselfishly, who is neglecting the prayer-life. Prayer, while conditioned upon the Abiding Life, has a gloriously quickening effect upon that life.
As our Lord prayed, in the mount, He was transformed; out from His whole being, suffusing the veil of flesh, shone the life divine [Matthew 17:2]. Something of that same [phenomenon] takes place in the soul and shines out through the face, whenever we have truly prayed. It slays the self-life; it quickens the spirit-life; it gives the love of GOD free rein over the heart-life. We need a new evaluation of prayer for its incomparable work within our own being, for the contribution it makes to the Abiding Life, in the constant, transforming communion of Father and child.
3. THE LIFE OF OBEDIENCE
This is the practical means pervading the entire Epistle [of 1 John], just as the theme of Life pervades all its pages. We are so to live that we:
– “keep His commandments,”
– “keep His Word,”
– “do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”
It is the Life lived out. No man has truth beyond what He is able and willing to prove in daily living. The life that abides in Him is the life that lives, not only in communion with Him but in conformity to Him.
So the focal point of Christian doctrine is the appeal for a life that makes practical proof of it: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1, 2).
If we would know the reality of the Abiding Life, let us draw a circle, defining the bounds of Christian living, into which we deliberately step, there to find fellowship with our Lord JESUS CHRIST, delighting ourselves in the things that He and we have in common, letting Him search out the things in us that are foreign to our fellowship, that they may be put away, rejoicing in all that the circle includes “In Him,” renouncing without reserve all that the circle excludes as not in Him.
“Keep Yourselves from Idols”
With these words our Epistle concludes. What a climax! How succinctly they state the sine qua non of success in spiritual things. An idol is anything that claims a supreme place in our lives, anything that displaces GOD, anything that seeks to be a substitute for GOD.
The covetous man is an idolater (Ephesians 5:5); he is letting money, possessions, things take the place of GOD. The ambitious business man, the devotee of pleasure, the one whose life centers wholly in some dear one – all such are in the danger zone of idolatry. The Abiding Life is the very opposite. It keeps CHRIST central. It makes Him its center, sphere, and circumference. It says with the Psalmist: “I have set the Lord always before me”[Psalm 16:8]. It lets Him fill and satisfy the soul, saying, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee” [Psalm 73:25].
Discipleship must ever subject itself to the Lord’s searching of its aims and purposes. As He turned to His first followers, saying, “What seek ye?” (John 1:38), so would He search us today.
Part 3 of 3
Bracketed words and references added
From LIFE, LOVE and LIGHT: The Gospel of John and First Epistle of John. By Norman B. Harrison, D.D. Pastor, Bible Teacher and Evangelist. Minneapolis: The Harrison Service, 1929. Edited and republished courtesy of http://www.baptistbiblebelievers.com/