EXCERPTS FROM: "HOLINESS: GOD’S WAY BETTER THAN MAN’S”
By Ethelbert W. Bullinger
[Selected Writings II. Holiness: God’s Way Better Than Man’s. 1999, Invictus for "Truth For Today Bible Fellowship. Lafayette, IN.” Pp. 7-8, 13-14, 21, 28-31]
Holiness of life and walk is God’s will for His children; as it is, or should be, their own earnest desire.
God’s will on this matter has been declared and revealed:
"This is the will of God, even your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:3).
God has not left His will, or the means for its accomplishment, to chance…
One of God’s methods for securing holiness of life is by "HOPE.” This hope is set upon a person – Christ (1 John 3:3). It is part of the foundation of true Christian standing to be waiting for God’s Son from heaven (1 Thess. 1:9,10). Thus, looking for Christ, we are, of necessity, looking to Christ, and are occupied with Christ, and in this manner we are "conformed to His image.”
"We beholding-as-in-a-mirror the glory of the Lord, ARE changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Lord the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18).
Here is no restless effort, no anxious toiling, no spiritual dissipation, no occupation with "the ordinances of men,” but occupation of heart with a heavenly object, producing a heavenly character and walk – and this by secret transmutation – without an effort! This is God’s one, simple, and withal, efficacious method for securing the accomplishment of His will in those who believe God as described in Rom. 5:12 – 8:39, and are thus counted righteous by Him.
Now, man has always thought that he can improve on God’s plans; and he has ever sought to do so, or to substitute his own for them.
As in the matter of justification, in Genesis 4, so in the matter of sanctification, "the way of Cain” is contrary to the "way of God.”
This has been so from the first, and it is seen in all the various forms of false religion. They all say, "Something in my hand I bring,” though they quarrel bitterly as to what that "something” is to be. But that it is to be "something,” they are all at one, and are all agreed. True religion, on the other hand, says, "Nothing in my hand I bring.”
As it is with justification, so it is with sanctification. And those who hold that they are "justified by His grace,” too often act as though they were deceived by the specious delusion that they are to be sanctified by works. Whereas Christ, of God, is made unto us sanctification, as well as righteousness (1 Cor. ), and in precisely the same way. God having made His people righteous in Christ, has not afterwards left them to seek their sanctification in themselves.
… It has often been well said, that the work of the Holy Ghost is not to direct our attention to His work in us, but to Christ’s work for us. This is absolutely true. "HE SHALL GLORIFY ME,” was Christ’s own definition of that which characterizes the work of the Holy Spirit… of the Holy Spirit it is declared that His work is known by His abasing man, and glorifying and exalting Christ (1 Cor. 1:31). When He works in us, Christ is not a mere helper, or a makeweight, or a puppet, in my hands, but my all in all, occupying my thoughts, filling my heart, and unconsciously influencing my life...
…It has been well said, "what is true is not new, and what is new is not true.”
"A cleansed heart” is one of the (religious) commonest expressions. But the question is, which heart?
Scripture speaks of two natures – the "old” and the "new.” Which of these two is meant when such language is used?
If it be the "old” nature, then nothing can ever cleanse it! God has declared that it is "desperately wicked,” and impossible of renovation. "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one.” (Job 14:4.) And Christ declares that all evil, springs from this old heart (Matt. -20.)
And if it be the "new” nature, it needs no cleansing. The old heart or nature has been thoroughly judged and condemned by God; and for His people it has been crucified with Christ. The NEW heart or nature CANNOT sin, for it is born of God (1 John.)
Their diverse nature is declared in John 3:8 – "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” And their hostility is declared in Gal. – "These are contrary the one to the other.” (See also Rom. 7:23; 8:6,7.) The flesh is never changed into spirit, and the spirit can never be changed into flesh.
… the words of Gal. 2:20, should be (and are in the R.V.) rendered, "I HAVE BEEN crucified with Christ.” In the Epistle to the Romans we have the objective judicial aspect of this wondrous fact; while in Gal. 2:20 we have the statement of the Apostle’s personal and subjective application of the Christian revelation, and the secret of his life as a Christian and an Apostle. It is a glorious summing up of his faith, the mainspring of this wonderful activity.
… we would fain urge upon the Lord’s people:
"A MORE EXCELLENT WAY.”
… We all desire the same conformity to Christ, the same separation from the world, the same graces and gifts which God has treasured up in the glorious Head in heaven, for the supply of the members of His Body here upon earth.
But it is here that we join issue with many of our brethren. Not with their end, but with their means. We would say to them and to all who are perplexed by their teaching, What you desire is right, but you go the wrong way to get it. There is a way more honouring to God, more easy, more simple, more efficacious – in short, "a more excellent way,” simply because it is God’s way.
"Which of you, by taking thought, can add one cubit unto his stature?” (Matt. 4:27).
This is a very important question… You are all "taking thought” to add to, to heighten, or deepen your spiritual "stature.” But the Saviour’s words remind us of the Laws of nature, and show us that "stature” is not to be added to by such means, for the means used must correspond with the end to be reached. Given the means of proper nourishment and pure air, stature must increase unconsciously and without an effort. Nay, it cannot be repressed! When we use the means of eating and breathing, the end is not ever before our minds as an object, but we enjoy the means which secure the end. So it must be with our spiritual stature. "Christ is our life” – and the mission of the Holy Spirit is to take of the things of Christ and minister them unto us. We feed upon Christ in His death, as in eating and drinking (John -63), and our spiritual stature is added to without "taking thought.” The Blesser becomes our object, and "all blessings” are ours in Him (Eph. 1:3.) The Blesser is our object, and not "the blessing.” The blessing is ensured and secured in Him.
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to witness in our hearts of Christ… Christ’s work for us, of whom and of which He witnesses…
THE AIM OF THE ENEMY.
And our great enemy is all the while well content. He knows (if Christians do not) that Christ is the source of all our strength and blessing. His one aim, therefore, is to keep the heart from being occupied with Christ. Any means will serve his purpose so long as this can be accomplished. Hence he will occupy:
The sinner with his sins,
The penitent with his repentance,
The believer with his faith,
The servant with his service,
And The saint with his holiness.
Anything, so long as to it is not Christ. This is the great blot on this modern (religious) movement. And it is certain that many souls are perplexed and hindered by thus being directed to self-occupation.
The whole system of (religious) teaching is calculated to centre the thoughts and the attention on self, however much the Holy Spirit and Christ may be mentioned.
It all begins with self, and the "conditions” which self must fulfill. It is all summed up in the significant words "if” and "we.”
The "more excellent way” is laid down for us in 2 Cor. 3:18:
"We, beholding-as-in-a-mirror the glory of the Lord, ARE CHANGED into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
The point is this. Moses, when he went up into the mount, saw the glory of the Lord, and when he came down, his face shone with the reflection of it.
From 1 John 3:1-3 we learn that the actual sight of the Lord Jesus will make us really like Him in body (actions), as well as in soul (inner thoughts) and spirit (power from on high). Even so now, it is as we behold Him with the eye of faith, that we are transformed into His likeness. If we are occupied with Christ we necessarily have a deeper realization of Christ, and hence cannot but unconsciously reflect His glory. If we are occupied with a heavenly object, we shall become heavenly, our countenances, our walk, our life, will shine. We may not see it; we may not know it; we may be quite unconscious of it. Moses saw not his own countenance, but the people saw it. So it will be with us!
It is not some standard which we have got to reach; it is not some emotion which we have got to feel; it is not some "blessing” which we have got to "claim”; it is not some "act of faith,” or "act of surrender,” or any "act” of our own, but it is simply the occupation of the heart with Christ in glory…
The great work of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Christ, and the best evidence we can possibly have that we are "filled with the Spirit” is this – that we are occupied with Christ. In other words, the measure in which we are filled with the Spirit is to be known by the measure in which our hearts are filled and taken up with Christ; and the test of this is not the excitement of any emotional feelings, but a readiness to receive and to be guided by ALL the teaching of God’s holy Word.
If we be not wholly occupied and satisfied with Christ, then truly it is "another Jesus” that is being preached; "another Spirit” which has been received; and "another gospel” which has been accepted (2 Cor. 11:3,4). It is an awful fact that there are other spirits which may energize the old nature, and hence the solemn warnings to be on our guard against them, and to "try” or prove them (1 Tim. 4:1; 1 Cor. ; 1 John 4:1, &c.)
Now, see how the "will of God” is manifested in securing our sanctification. "Looking off unto Jesus” is the simple means to this great end, and to ensure that His people shall be looking TO Christ, God has given us the "blessed hope” of looking FOR Christ. Hence this has been well called "the purifying hope” (1 John 3:1-3).
If Conferences are to be held at all, then those for the Study of the Truth connected with the Lord’s Coming, are much more calculated to produce holiness of life, than those convened especially for that purpose (to produce holiness of life).
We may well apply
JEHOVAH’S SOLEMN WORDS TO ISRAEL
To the whole of this modern (religious) movement, with all its modern methods and developments, and say:
"Behold, I will plead with thee, because thou sayest, I have not sinned. Why gaddest thou about so much to change thy way?” (Jer. 2:35,36).
The so-called "act of faith” only tends to glorify man; but it is a life of hope, and not a "life of faith” which causes the Christian to forget himself altogether, and to acknowledge that this is
A MORE EXCELLENT WAY,
And that God’s way of holiness is better than man’s.
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