True Religion

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
James 1:26-27

The religion toward which every man’s heart is prone is characterized by a boasting in his own spirituality through the outward show of lofty words, and even lovely deeds, while inwardly there dwells secret depravity unchecked. But true religion in the sight of God is characterized by the golden harmony of authentic selflessness and personal holiness.

There is a sureity of tongue which is not born of holy confidence, but of arrogance; and yet there is also a self-deprication that is not born of humility, but of pride.
The spiritual worship that is to be the very walk of every child of God is a daily offering of life to receive Life; it is the fragrance of holy conduct born of the fear of the Lord’s mercy. For he in whom the demerrited mercy of God does not invoke a reverence unto obedience has not known God.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Romans 12:1

To “worship in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:24) is directly equivocal to living a selfless and holy life. For to be authentically selfless only flows from the shattering recognition of the mercy of God; and to be truly holy is to be true – which is to be without mixture in one’s dealings with He who is all-knowing.

How, therefore, does the selfish man walk humbly, and the sinner live holy? By the application of the cross to every facet of his life and being, spirit soul and body. For he to whom the cross of Christ truly applies shall bear his own cross also. And it is this bearing of the cross which promises the abundant entrance into the heavenly kingdom. In the urgency of such a life in God, there is found the foretaste of eternal rest; and in the overcoming obedience of such a faith, there runs a trust which takes hold of a purely God-ward contentment.

“The truly religious man does everything as if everything depends on himself, and then leaves everything as if everything depended on God.”
– Joseph Parker

Quote – Ignatius Of Antioch

“Let not those who seem worthy of credit, but teach strange doctrines, fill you with apprehension. Stand firm, as does an anvil which is beaten. It is the part of a noble athlete to be wounded, and yet to conquer. And especially, we ought to bear all things for the sake of God, that He also may bear with us. Be ever becoming more zealous than what you are. Weigh carefully the times. Look for Him who is above all time, eternal and invisible, yet who became visible for our sakes; impalpable and impassible, yet who became passible on our account; and who in every kind of way suffered for our sakes.”
– Ignatius of Antioch, in his letter to Polycarp

The Lord Is A Man Of War

The Lord is a man of war: The Lord is His name.
Exodus 15:3

Throughout the earthly life of our Lord was manifested this very truth in all that He did and said. Never was the warfare a distant or partial truth to the Son of God – it always was the present reality within which His deeds were done, and His words spoken…

…For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
1 John 3:8

Whether in preaching the good news, in healing the sick, or in casting out demons, His eyes were alight with the vision of the battle before Him. His passion, His compassion, and His righteous anger all symphonized into the heavenly music of His ministration: vigorous, gentle, and awesome.

In the synagogue He healed the man with the withered hand; and in so doing condemned those who with vehement disapproval looked on. In this He warred against and exposed the false spirit of the pharisees’ religiosity. In large crowds He walked about, teaching men the way of Life; thereby releasing them from the bondage of contrived burdens unto the freedom of His Lordship. In this He warred against and exposed the captivity of the adversary. With great frequency He also cast out demons; directly throwing off the power of the wicked one from those who drew near to His holy light. In this He warred against and exposed the secret devices of the enemy. And in all these things, our Lord was ever in prayer, communing with the Father; and gained final victory over the corruption that is in the flesh by His perfect intercession.

What then of ourselves? Are we men of war after His likeness? For such will be those who are indeed His workmanship!

“…The Lord is a man of war: The Lord is His name…”

Is the Spirit of The Lord upon you? Should you not then be a man of war after His likeness? One will say, “Ah, but the scriptures say, “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (Ex 14:14), and, “The battle belongs to the Lord.” – And truly indeed does the battle belong to Him, truly indeed is it His own to glory in. Yet it is on the children’s behalf that He fights while they hold their peace, since war is not the province of children. But He is a man of war: for war is the province of men, not of children; and He would not have us always remain helpless children (Eph 4:13-14). For through men of war, God glories all the more in battle, since then He displays two victories: the one over us, and then the one through us. Under Joshua, the men who warred for the advance of Israel were at times called “mighty men of valour” – and would that we could also be so named!

But carnal men love the convenience of slavery to Pharaoh; and after a time, slaves grow to love the providence of their worldly captors over the deliverance of God. How many a warring man of God is met even by brethren with the accusation, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” (Ex 2:14) Cowards fear deliverance, and spit upon its purveyors.

How easily does the slumbering soul dismiss the Lord’s zeal for His house as undue severity! And how quick also is the conceited mind to mistake the Lord’s dispassion in battle as a lack of heart. For if many of us today had witnessed Jesus drive the moneychangers out of the temple, we might have thought to take Him aside and suggest that He utilize a more “civil” or “toned down” measure against their grievous evil. And if we had observed Him seated outside the temple beforehand, weaving the whip in silence, we might have gasped in self-righteous shock, hand-over-heart at this “uncaring” and “ruthless” display of quiet premeditation.

O, how we trust the unreliable fire of human offense, and disdain the white-hot furnace of Godly passion! O, how we embrace the nihilism and empty hatred of human apathy, and recoil at the unearthly calm of Godly dispassion! This is because we do not know God, and in particular because we have not spent a day on the battlefield – except either in captivity of the enemy, or in cowering behind the Lord, who is trying to teach our hands to war and our fingers to fight.

But the warring character of Christ – with both holy zeal and divine peace – shone forth brightly in Peter when he confronted Ananias and Saphira in their lie…

And Peter answered unto her, “Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much?” And she said, “Yea, for so much.” Then Peter said unto her, “How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.” Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.
Acts 5:8-11

Peter derived no earthly pleasure in the demise of these two; yet he also did not shrink from his duty in keeping the house of God clean from the blemish of deceitful scheming. When the Spirit of the Lord is upon a man to do battle against the devil’s handiwork, the man is on fire; and as he fights, he finds peace in the Lord while doing the Lord’s will – though in his wake other men lie possibly condemned, and all around him the demons are stirred up.

“In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and His children shall have a place of refuge.”
Proverbs 14:26

But to fear man is to not fear the Lord; and Egypt is always more than happy to take back its slaves.

Let not the house of God remain such a den of theives: trading the souls of its men for mammon, and their divinely-given birthright for a single meal.

Men of war kneel only for their King.

Bearing the Cross – John Calvin

“No one will calmly and quietly submit to bear the cross except those who have learned to seek their happiness beyond this world.”
– John Calvin

In This World You Will Have Trouble

…the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.
Mt 8:20, Lk 9:58

The Lord is our only stay. We have this fantastical image in our minds of Daniel in the lion’s den: where the lions all have smiles on their faces and Daniel is petting their manes. But the man beloved of God whom the Lord ordains to be thrown in with the lions will shortly find that their den is no such place. The lions may well be subdued and have their mouths held shut from truly harming him; but they nonetheless have every intention of ripping at and tearing apart the man of God, and will mercilessly intimidate him day and night. Even in the envelopment of our Lord’s protection, there is every earthly reason to abandon faith and be devoured.

When the Lord our Shepherd prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies, we are no less in their presence. We may eat and rejoice at the bounty of the Lord, yet the ravenous wolves stand across from us, at every moment spitting and shouting curses upon the Food and Drink of which we partake, seeking to shame us from partaking in the table of His sufferings. But the one whom the Lord upholds will not give in to fear.

We shall find no rest in this world of rebellion. We will be afflicted on all sides. Our blessed hope is a heavenly one, and it is one which we yet await. Let our running therefore not be stumbled by vexation with trials, as if a temporary world of tribulation is not worthy to be suffered for His eternity victory.

Rejoice in affliction!

A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing,
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He
Lord Sabaoth, His Name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us;
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That Word above all earthly pow’rs,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him Who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

– Martin Luther