IT was Wade Robinson who coined the phrase,
Christless eyes have never seen."
The Christless eyes of the scientist look on the ancient ruins of Philippi and see nothing there but a paradise for archeologists. The unillumined eyes of the historian look back to Philippi and remark on the fact that there Octavian and Mark Antony met Brutus and Cassius in battle and subdued them. But the anointed eyes of the Christian see Philippi as the place where the Apostle Paul established a bridgehead for the gospel of the grace of God in Europe.
When Paul arrived in Philippi, he had already been to Jerusalem, the capital city of the Jewish religion. He had stopped at Ephesus, the capital city of heathen religion; he was en route to Athens, the capital city of the intellectuals, and would finally finish his course in Rome, the capital city of military might. There, on his last missionary journey, he wrote his epistle to the people of Philippi, where he had first entered Europe with the message of redeeming love. At the time of Paul's writing to the Philippians, he had notched twenty-three golden years of ministry all over Asia Minor. What a God-inspired ministry! Henry Varley's statement, "The world has yet to see what God can do through one man completely dedicated to Jesus Christ," may have been effective to challenge D. L. Moody, who was sitting there listening -- but actually the statement is not true. One could list a hundred names, glorious names of outstanding men who in their day have turned the world upside down; and then when one has made the list, he could put Paul at the head of them all. It is said that a Chinaman wrote the Lord's Prayer on a grain of rice. That was wonderful. But there is something infinitely more wonderful: God crammed eternity and infinity and immensity into the heart of the Apostle Paul. Apart from the Son of God, Paul was the wealthiest man that ever lived (though the original John Rockefeller left more riches than any other living man and made Croesus look like an amateur at gathering wealth). What a legacy Paul left to the world! Down through the ages, millions of men and women, spiritually exhausted, have renewed their strength as they have read the mighty epistles of this colossus. Including the Epistle to the Hebrews, Paul wrote fourteen marvellous epistles. Yet after reading them all, one is impressed not by the cleverness of the remarkable thinker but by the courage of a remarkable leader.
It all began on the Damascus road when Saul carried beneath his toga what he considered to be the death certificate of the infant Church. Had Saul at that time met only a preacher and heard only a sermon, he might never have been heard of again. But Saul met Christ and heard His voice. Then when the fire-eating Pharisee, whose stormy soul was corroding with the acid of religious bitterness, was met by Deity, Saul was turned from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God. That day the history of man took a new turn. One can summarize Paul's spiritual transaction in this way:
It was an exchanged life --"Not I, but Christ."
Paul had found rest -- and yet he became the most restless man that ever lived. He had found joy -- and yet he was in continual heaviness and sorrow of heart for the lost. He had found peace -- but he waged an unending war against all the powers of darkness.
Self-abasement ("humble yourselves") is one thing; self-effacement ("not I but Christ") is entirely different. To the Philippians, Paul uttered what to me is one of the most daring things ever uttered by any man: that "Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death" (Phil. 1:20). Else -- where Paul said of the very people to whom he wrote these words: "We were shamefully treated at Philippi" (backs torn till they had been like a plowed field). Truly Paul bore in his body the marks (the brands) of the Lord Jesus. Paul was like those escaped slaves who had their hands and feet and backs branded in the temple of Heracles. Henceforth Paul's hands, feet, and mind were sanctified to the eternal purpose of the fearless Prince of Peace.
Having presented his own body a living sacrifice, Paul had authority for exhorting the Romans to do likewise: "I beseech you... by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice" (Rom. 12:1, 2). As someone has pointed out, to realize what the mercies of God are, there is no need to go back to sin's origin in the garden of Eden, but merely to unveil the rebellious human heart in man, which is set against the will and works of God, and loves darkness rather than light. (Read the first six chapters of Romans.) It is the mercy of God that man can be forgiven; it is the mercy of God that man can be reinstated to be a son of God; it is the mercy of God that man can be cleansed from his sin; it is the mercy of God that man can be endued with power from on high.
Paul, then, beseeches (the word is "I entreat; I urge, or I beg"). He beseeches others to present themselves living sacrifices, holy, acceptable unto God (Rom. 12:1). Did this mean that they were to go to the altar and dedicate themselves? Can you dedicate corruption? Can you dedicate carnality? When getting married, does a bridal couple take to the altar a filthy garbage can, overrunning with all the waste from the kitchen? Is it any less fitting for a man to present at God's altar all his corruption -- his evil, his lust, jealousies, pride, bitterness and inflated ego? Do we present our bodies to be made holy? Do we not rather go first to the Cross for cleansing, and then present what we have as a living sacrifice? The Spirit-controlled tongue has no acid; the Spirit-controlled heart has no bitterness; the Spirit-controlled mind has no evil imaginations; the Spirit-controlled will lusteth not to envy; the Spirit-controlled affection knows no covetousness.
In the Old Testament, the offering was examined by the priest first; if it had blemishes, it was rejected. In the same way, unless there has been complete cleansing, I believe we can not present our entire being at the altar to be a living sacrifice. Likewise in the Old Testament, there was a set order for presenting offerings to God: the skin, the blood, the flesh, and the fat. And there is order also in the New Testament. Let the man who has had by the Spirit a revelation of his inward corruptions cleanse himself from these through the blood of Christ and through the baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire and then present his cleansed heart and life at the feet of Jesus Christ to be a living sacrifice.
One of the poets captured the meaning of presenting ourselves to the Lord when he said, "That my whole' being may proclaim Thy being and Thy ways." Another put it this way:
"Let my hands perform His bidding,
Joachim Lange in about 1690 wrote,
"0 God, what offering shall I give to Thee, The Lord of earth and skies?
Lord, may we be living sacrifices, "holy and acceptable unto God, which is [our] reasonable service."
Used by permission, and excerpted from MEAT FOR MEN by Leonard Ravenhill, copyright (c) 1961, and published by Bethany House Publishers, a ministry of Bethany Fellowship, Inc. All rights reserved. ISBN 0-87123-362-2. For further information about the missionary outreach of Bethany Fellowship or for a complete listing of Ravenhill titles and others, please contact the publisher at 11300 Hampshire Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55438; ph: (612) 829-2500; FAX: (612) 829-2768.
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