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Christlikeness

Some time ago I had the following extract passed on to me, which I quote in full

"There are many reasons why men to-day are kept away from Christ. But the greatest of all is the un-Christlikeness of His followers. The world's great difficulty in believing the gospel is that it sees so few of His professed followers who are in any appreciable degree like their Master, who said, 'Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart ' " (Matthew 11. 29).

The indictment is a grave one. Each one of us, alas, must take some blame, for we are too prone to be like the world in our ways, too much like the thing we rebuke.

Samuel Rutherford, in one of his letters, writes : "Alas, that there is such a scarcity of love, and of lovers to Christ amongst us all! Fie, fie, upon us, who love fair things, as fair gold, fair houses, fair lands, fair clothes, fair pleasures, and do not pine and melt away with love to Christ! Oh, would to God that I had more love for His sake

Yet, I doubt not that Paul would yield nothing to Rutherford as a lover of Christ, "For whom," said he, "I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may gain Christ" (Philippians 3.8). "Christ shall be magnified in my body .

For to me. to live is Christ" (Philippians 1.20, 21). The heart, and passion, and intensity of that man's life arose out of his ardent affection for that One. His one absorbing objective was Christ. Full well did he realize that the Lord's desire was not only lip exponents, but living witnesses. He was both.

One of the secrets of Christlikeness is found in the opening verses of Romans 12. where the Spirit of God beseeches us to present our bodies "a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God." The roots of this portion carry us back through those preceding chapters burying themselves in verses 23 and 24 of chapter 3. We have in those opening chapters some of the greatest and grandest truths that could ever fall on human ears; elsewhere it is described as the "Gospel of the glory of the blessed God" (1 Timothy 1.11), that by which we, as guilty sinners, are brought through grace to glory. Paul now intreats us to yield our bodies to Christ, the rightful Owner. The Lord wants our body, our hands, our feet, our brain, yea, all the powers of the redeemed body. He wants them all. The presentation of the body is vital and comes first. No doubt it would startle people who had been delive~red from pagan practices and immoral standards. Nevertheless it was essential. Our loyalty to the Lord, our devotion to the Lord, our love to the Lord, cannot find expression apart from the body.

Another important reason why the Spirit of God emphasizes this is that the Adversary makes many of his fiercest assaults on the believer through the passions of the body. This is probably the sphere where he gains more victories than in any other sphere of temptation. Elsewhere Paul says, "I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage" (1 Corinthians 9.27). It is not someone else he is speaking about, it is himself. The language is very forceful. He believed that self-mastery was essential to obtain the Lord's "Well done "in that day of~wards. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth unto his own flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth unto the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap eternal life" (Galatians 6.7, 8). A life of chastity and devotion to Christ is possible. He not only breaks the power of cancelled sin, and liberates the prisoner, but, thanks be to God, He is able to give us the victory and liberate us from the bestial flesh that lurks within, that of which the apostle said,-" In me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing" (Romans 7.18). Oh, for grace to magnify Christ in these bodies of our humiliation!

Then, beloved, another most important factor is this, "Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 6.19). How sacred then is the body of the child of God! This is not the only ground, but I confess that it is the strongest ground on which I would utter a warning against many questionable practices, the which should never be named amongst us as the Lord's people.

From that standpoint alone we have no right to indulge in any habit which is harmful. In view of this, and if for no other reason, and there are many, it is difficult to understand how anyone can "Glorify God in the body" whilst indulging in the habit of smoking.

Then regarding cosmetics, I was recently asked by a sister whether I approved their use. To me, it is a pity that so many spoil their natural comeliness. We read that Jezebel "painted her eyes. and tired her head" (2 Kings 9.80), but she was a true daughter of Belial.

The beauty parlours will not produce true loveliness. True loveliness springs from within when Christ is in the heart. A Christian lady was once asked what she used for her complexion. She replied:

"For my lips I use truth; for my voice prayer; for my eyes pity; for my hands charity; for my hair the oil of gladness; for my figure uprightness; for my heart love." Try out these heavenly cosmetics. Mary, after she had deliberately broken that box, for it was never to be used again, lavished its precious contents on the Master. She then, in all humility, loosed her silken tresses, and, with that which was her glory, she wiped His feet, those precious feet of her beloved Lord. Thus not only by the costliness of her tribute, but also by the manner of it, she tells out the love of her heart to the Lord Jesus. She had no words, but in that silent act she evidenced the true instincts of a woman's love, love that was more to Him than all the perfumes of Arabia. The Lord has put the seal to this, "If a woman have long hair it is a glory to her" (1 Corinthians 11.15). Beloved sister, resolutely refuse, whatever the fashion, to be robbed of your glory.

Reverting to those verses in Romans 12., the Spirit of God tells us, "Be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind." By the term "world" here is meant, of course, this "present evil world," the world system of which Satan is its prince. Its grandeur is undeniable and challenges our admiration. In it we can all have a share, but of it the Lord Jesus said"Ye are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (John 17.14). We are also exhorted to "love not the world" (1 John 2.15). The "world" has its own laws, its own standards; it has its own code of morals, its own rewards. In this world we are born and in this world we live. But in it your Lord and mine had nowhere to lay His head; this world gave Him the manger, the cross and the tomb. It is the sworn relentless foe of true Christlikeness. That being so, to compromise with such a world is fatal. Do not yield one hair's breadth. See to it, that the world does not shape your opinions, ideals and actions. Remember, the Lord's attitude should be my attitude.

"When Christ Himself was tempted, and Satan in that day,

Showed Him earth's glittering kingdoms, in all their grand array, He trampled on the evil with the cross before His eyes, He overcame by suffering, He would not compromise."

Some believers appear to have difficulties regarding amusements, theatres, pictures, dancing, and such like. I realize that early training does count for something. Some of us were brought up in godly homes where such things were not countenanced (for which we are deeply thankful). Nevertheless, of this I am fully convinced, that one who loves the Lord and is willing to do His will shall know of the teaching (John 7.17).

All such problems need facing with the question, "Is it of the world?" The question is often asked, "Why not? What is wrong with it?" I would like to say right away that the believer is not governed by a code of laws which puts him in bondage and shuts him out from the legitimate joys of life. Away with such notions! Certainly he is "under law to Christ" (1 Corinthians 9.21), the law of true liberty and real joy. The believer's life is a type of love, and love can never be forced. True, a keen Christian will sacrifice. He drops certain indulgences which he judges are wrong or at least not expedient, but there is no difficulty in that, for he has Christ and with Him a "joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter 1.8). The great principle which should govern such matters for us is this:

"I belong to Christ, can I do this and please Him? " Take the matter of the pictures, music halls and theatres. One admits here and there they may have an educational value and are utilized by educational authorities. What one is dealing with has reference to them as places of amusement. It is generally conceded that the more sensationa] a picture is and the more sensual a production, the greater is its financial success. The whole atmosphere of these things is tainted. Granted, respectable people will go to the good picture or play, but does that justify a child of God? We should be guided by such a scripture as-" Love not the world . . . . For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the vainglory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world " (1 John 2.15, 16).

Then in regard to dancing, some suggest that it is a form of exercise which is beneficial. It is freely admitted that bodily exercise is profitable (1 Timothy 4.8). That applies especially to young life. But one asks the question, " Is that the way?" David has frequently been cited when he "danced before the LO~D with all his might" (2 Samuel 6.14). On that occasion he threw aside all pride of place, and in utter abandon he flung himself into the triumphant entry of the Ark into the city of David. How like his greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom it was said-" The zeal of Thine house shall eat Me up" (John 2.17)! Would there were more of such zeal to-day amongst the children of God. What really is the attraction? Would it still be as fascinating if it were men dancing with men? The answer is, emphatically, "No! " It is an incontrovertible fact, that dancing excites carnal passion more than any other thing. Alas, that children of God should allow themselves to be contaminated with it! "Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, . . . lest thou be consumed," and find your pleasures in that glorious Person at God's right hand where there are pleasures for evermore.

Another matter which is a menace to the child of God to-day is "the sweep." Not only has it established itself in most of the factories and offices, as well as workshops, but it has worked its way into the schools. Sweepstakes, lotteries, raffles, "pitch and toss," are simply forms of gambling. What should be our attitude to it? The question arises, "What is the object?" The idea, of course, is to get rich quickly. Judas, who sold his soul for money, was in that class. "They weighed unto him thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought opportunity to deliver Him unto them" (Matthew 26.15, 16). Imagine him in the upper room, when the Lord said, "One of you shall betray Me"! With the blandest kind of effrontery he followed the rest with the question-" Rabbi, is it I ? " He went out with those words ringing in his ears, and it was night, and upon his spiritual night the light will never dawn! The spirit of gambling is utterly selfish and un-Christlike. We are told to "Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20.85). Furthermore, a Christian is the Lord's steward and consequently he has no right to take risks with his Lord's money. Be the amount ever so small, the principle is the same.

"Some modern Christians linger, and wonder what to do,

Say, 'Shall we yield to mammon, or evei~~ wrong eschew?' No I let us check the tempter, and from our sloth arise, Keep clear of all things doubtful~nd nc'er compromise."

When we examine those words of Romans i2. more closely, we discover something of the yearning of the Master which has taken possession of the apostle himself. Out of a full and possibly a weeping heart, he says, "I beseech you . . . . by the mercies of God." This is not law, but grace. The law commands, but grace beseeches. Only by grace could we ever be "conformed to the image of His Son" (Romans 8.29). Grace speaks with the voice of entreaty. It is the crowning revelation of God's sovereignty and it trains the believer for a life of Christlikeness.

"With mercy and with judgment, My web of time He wove,

And aye the dews of sorrow

Were lustred with His love."

Many of us have been blessed with Christian homes, and those spiritual influences, under God, have not only led to early conversion, but have given us a place in the House of God. What is the object of it all? Shall we not here and now face up to it, that, by God's grace, Christ shall be magnified in our bodies?

<Author:J. Bennison>