Excerpts from The Messenger of the Cross by Watchman Nee:
Page 26: ”Let us read another Scripture passage to help us understand what is the difference between depending on natural life and depending on supernatural life. ’Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit. He that loveth his life loseth it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal’ (John 12.24, 25).”
Page 28: ”But what does this phrase ‘fall into the earth and die’ really mean? By reading the succeeding words which the Lord utters here, we may readily understand: ’He that loveth his life loseth it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal’ (12.25). In the Greek original, two different words are used for the several times ‘life’ is mentioned here. One Greek word psuche has reference to the soul life or natural life; the other word zoe signifies the spirit life or supernatural life. Hence what the Lord is actually saying here is: ’He that loveth his soul life loseth the spirit life; and he that hateth his soul life in this world shall keep the spirit life unto eternity.’ To put it simply, we should deliver the soul life to death, just as the grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies; and then by our spirit life many grains will come forth and be kept to eternity. How we long to bear much fruit, yet we do not know how to let the soul life die and the spirit life live.
“Soul life is our natural life. It is the soul life which enables our flesh to live. It is therefore the life factor of the natural man. A person’s natural endowment belongs to the soul—such elements as our will, strength, emotions, thought, and so forth. These things which all natural lives share in common are accessories of the soul life. Our cleverness, reasoning, eloquence, affection, and ability belong to the soul life. The spirit life, though, is the life of God. It is not an evolvement from any part of the soul life but is a life especially given to us by the Holy Spirit when we believe in the finished work of the cross of the Lord Jesus and are saved. God is then in us to quicken this spirit life so that it may grow and thus become the power of all our good deeds and works. It is the will of God for Him to put our soul life in the place of death (note, however, that this is different from the death prescribed in 2 Corinthians 4).”
Here is an excerpt from A.W. Tozer’s The Cross is a Radical Thing:
The cross of Christ is the most revolutionary thing ever to appear among men.
The cross of the Roman times knew no compromise; it never made concessions. It won all its arguments by killing its opponent and silencing him for good. It spared not Christ, but slew Him the same as the rest. He was alive when they hung Him on that cross and completely dead when they took him down six hours later. That was the cross the first time it appeared in Christian history.
After Christ was risen from the dead the apostles went out to preach His message, and what they preached was the cross. And wherever they went into the wide world they carried the cross, and the same revolutionary power went with them. The radical message of the cross transformed Saul of Tarsus and changed him from a persecutor of Christians to a tender believer and an apostle of the faith. Its power changed bad men into good ones. It shook off the long bondage of paganism and altered completely the whole moral and mental outlook of the Western world.
All this it did and continued to do as long as it was permitted to remain what it had been originally, a cross. Its power departed when it was changed from a thing of death to a thing of beauty. When men made of it a symbol, hung it around their necks as an ornament or made its outline before their faces as a magic sign to ward off evil, then it became at best a weak emblem, at worst a positive fetish. As such it is revered today by millions who know absolutely nothing about its power.
The cross effects its ends by destroying one established pattern, the victim’s, and creating another pattern, its own. Thus it always has its way. It wins by defeating its opponent and imposing its will upon him. It always dominates. It never compromises, never dickers nor confers, never surrenders a point for the sake of peace. It cares not for peace; it cares only to end its opposition as fast as possible.
With perfect knowledge of all this Christ said:
Luke 9:23 (NIV) “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
So the cross not only brings Christ’s life to an end, it ends also the first life, the old life, of every one of His true followers. It destroys the old pattern, the Adam pattern, in the believer’s life, and brings it to an end. Then the God who raised Christ from the dead raises the believer and a new life begins.
This, and nothing less, is true Christianity, though we cannot but recognize the sharp divergence of this conception from that held by the rank and file of evangelicals today. But we dare not qualify our position. The cross stands high above the opinions of men and to that cross all opinions must come at last for judgment. A shallow and worldly leadership would modify the cross to please the entertainment-mad saintlings who will have their fun even within the very sanctuary; but to do so is to court spiritual disaster and risk the anger of the Lamb turned Lion.
We must do something about the cross, and one of two things only we can do–flee it or die upon it. And if we should be so foolhardy as to flee we shall by that act put away the faith of our fathers and make of Christianity something other than it is. Then we shall have left only the empty language of salvation; the power will depart with our departure from the true cross.
If we are wise we will do what Jesus did: endure the cross and despise its shame for the joy that is set before us. To do this is to submit the whole pattern of our lives to be destroyed and built again in the power of an endless life. And we shall find that it is more than poetry, more than sweet hymnody and elevated feeling. The cross will cut into where it hurts worst, sparing neither us nor our carefully cultivated reputations. It will defeat us and bring our selfish lives to an end. Only then can we rise in fullness of life to establish a pattern of living wholly new and free and full of good works.
The changed attitude toward the cross that we see in modern orthodoxy proves not that God has changed, nor that Christ has eased up on His demand that we carry the cross; it means rather that current Christianity has moved away from the standards of the New Testament. So far have we moved indeed that it may take nothing short of a new reformation to restore the cross to its right place in the theology and life of the Church.
The Missing Cross
The following is a letter of encouragement to the flock of Christ.
[By William Dewsbury]
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ walk, so as to reign over all that is contrary to the light; that, in the light and glory of God, you may all shine forth, living witnesses of the name of the everlasting, holy, pure God, who has looked upon you in his tender love, to gather you to stand against all deceit, in his everlasting power. Blessed are you who are faithful in obeying the light of Christ, who follow him in the cross and the straight way of self-denial, You are my brethren and sisters in the Lord Jesus, our Captain. He will crown you with his mighty power to stand over all [temptations] to follow him in faith and patience, until every tongue that lifts up itself against you, shall fall in judgment, together with all who stumble at Christ Jesus, our light and life, who will gather a large people to himself. In that country, many shall come in, who are yet wandering upon the mountains, where they find no rest. Blessed are all you that abide and walk faithfully with the Lord, whom he has called and chosen to be the first fruits. Whatever arises contrary to the light, within or without, watching in the light, you will discern; stay your hearts upon the Lord, holding fast your confidence in him. He will deliver you out of all that is contrary to the light, and cause you to rejoice in the daily cross, crucifying you to the world and the world to you. Over the world He will cause you to rejoice, and you shall stand over it in the power of God, with all its pomp and glory and the evil therein, to his praise and glory. Even so be it with you all, in the mighty power of God, in which my soul salutes you that faithfully and humbly walk before the Lord, in obedience to his counsel.
Dear lambs, called to lie down in the safe fold of rest, in Christ our life, in tender love beseech you, that you are faithful in meeting together in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ; and diligently watch to know your own measure of grace in Christ, to feel him in you to judge your thoughts, and every vain imagination, that you may reign over them, and delight in the refreshing of his presence. And all take heed of many words; at all times let them be few, and from the savory spirit of life, in Christ. In him, the blessing of the Lord rest on you all forevermore; there to farewell with me in the everlasting love of the Father in Christ, Amen.
Bald heads forgetful of their sins,
Old, learned, respectable bald heads
Edit and annotate the lines
That young men, tossing on their beds,
Rhymed out in love’s despair
To flatter beauty’s ignorant ear.
All shuffle there; all cough in ink;
All wear the carpet with their shoes;
All think what other people think;
All know the man their neighbour knows.
Lord, what would they say
Did their Catullus walk that way?
This poem from The Wild Swans at Coole means a great deal to me because it reminds us that poetry is an Art and a passion before it is anything else. In this piece, Yeats evokes the blinkered academic, furiously analysing – “edit[ing] and annotat[ing]” – the dry pages of tomes full of poetry that was “Rhymed out in love’s despair” by “Young men, tossing in their beds.” The Scholars is a spot-on, well-aimed jab at literary critics, but also a very pertinent comment on the nature of poetry.
I love the contrast between the bald heads – those “Old, learned, respectable bald heads” – and the young poets rhyming out “in love’s despair”. Notice how the scholars don’t seem to have bodies; they’re just heads. The “young men” are living their lives, and experiencing every moment of it intensely. Their writing is what Wordsworth described as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”. The way the scholars are described as annotating and editing suggests they manipulate the verse to fit their purpose (which critics often do).
“All shuffle… all cough in ink”, Yeats tells us. The shuffling certainly amplifies this idea of quiet living – blinkered living – and the coughing brings to my mind a person that almost ignores the needs of his body because he is so deeply buried in his books. “All think what other people think”; these scholars seem to be dictated to by tradition, and pressure about what is the ‘right’ literature to venerate.
When we come to the end of the piece, Yeats poses us a question: “Lord, what would they say/ Did their Catullus walk that way?” I like this very neat ending. If Catullus (a Roman poet, known for his love poems) had been as dry, as hermit-like, and as studious as Yeats’ scholars, what on earth would his poetry have been like? Without experience – without a life – without at least some kind of passion – a poet is nothing, because it is in moments of intense emotion that poems are ‘born’, even if they are completed and polished in a calmer state (or “in tranquility” to quote Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads again).
As you can probably tell from this blog, I kind of like literary criticism. I love to read about writers and their techniques; I love to take a poem and really get to grips with it and work out how and why it’s such a marvel because I love poetry. But The Scholars reminds us that the greatest literary theorist cannot necessarily write a poem, and the greatest poets need not by any means be academics. On the contrary; the poet is an artist. Yeats certainly was.
Here is my comment to the above post:
This is an excellent post and I liked the poem by Yeats.
There is a passage in Thomas Wolfe’s “The Web and the Rock” where Wolf writes that he would rather paint the world’s most beautiful painting than own the world’s most beautiful painting. A young man has the passion to write beautiful poetry; an old man (“old, learned, respectable bald heads”) can only read about and analyze this passion from a distance.
This reminds me of what A.W. Tozer once wrote: “They were prophets, not scribes, for the scribe tells us what he has read, and the prophet tells what he has seen.” I don’t care for theological aesthetes.
I am grateful to have read this poem by Yeats because I tried to read Yeats years ago and I couldn’t get into his poetry. My favorite poets are T.S. Eliot and Gerard Manley Hopkins.
“Scribes and Prophets” http://hitchhikeamerica.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/scribes-and-prophets/
This is the most poetic prose that I have ever written that was published:
“High Plains Drifter” http://hitchhikeamerica.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/high-plains-drifter-short-story/
“During the month of January, 1066, the holy King of England St. Edward the Confessor was confined to his bed by his last illness in his royal Westminster Palace. St. Ælred, Abbott of Rievaulx, in Yorkshire, relates that a short time before his happy death, this holy king was wrapt in ecstasy, when two pious Benedictine monks of Normandy, whom he had known in his youth, during his exile in that country, appeared to him, and revealed to him what was to happen to England in future centuries, and the cause of the terrible punishment. They said: ‘The extreme corruption and wickedness of the English nation has provoked the just anger of God. When malice shall have reached the fullness of its measure, God will, in His wrath, send to the English people wicked spirits, who will punish and afflict them with great severity, by separating the green tree from its parent stem the length of three furlongs. But at last this same tree, through the compassionate mercy of God, and without any national (governmental) assistance, shall return to its original root, reflourish and bear abundant fruit.’ After having heard these prophetic words, the saintly King Edward opened his eyes, returned to his senses, and the vision vanished. He immediately related all he had seen and heard to his virgin spouse, Edgitha, to Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury, and to Harold, his successor to the throne, who were in his chamber praying around his bed.”
Here is the prophecy in verse:
“The green tree which springs from the trunk
When thence it shall be severed
And removed to a distance of three acres
By no engine or hand of man
Shall return to its original trunk
And shall join itself to its root
Whence first it had origin
The head shall receive again its verdure
It shall bear fruit after its flower
Then shall you be able for certainty
To hope for amendment.”
From what I can see in this prophecy/vision by King Edward, the Norman Invasion of 1066 was God’s wrath on the wickedness of the English people because the Christian church had become so corrupt. After being chastened by the Lord for three hundred years (“And removed to a distance of three acres”), the Lord would bring England back to its Christian foundations. In 1382, John Wycliffe completed his translation of the English Bible from the Latin Vulgate. Now the English people could begin to read the Scriptures for themselves. 1382 is a little more than three hundred years removed from 1066.
So why did I discover the prophecy of King Edward today? It is a mirror of what is happening to the United States in 2014 (and probably for the past forty years) because there is so much sin (like abortion, homosexuality and earth worship) in this country.
“O you lambs of the green pasture! you sheep of my Father’s fold! you who by the word of life are made acquainted with the power of regeneration, and are born into the nature of the Lamb’s innocence; and are grown up in the virtue of sincerity. Oh! how glorious is your appearance? My eye beholds, and my heart is ravished; my soul shall praise the God of my life forever and ever on your behalf. From the hill have I viewed you, and from the high tower of my refuge have I looked on you; my eye is opened, and I see you the flock of undefiled lambs in whom my God is glorified. Oh! feed you, and be you nourished; for your pastures are enlarged. and your Shepherd’s care is over you; his arm is able to defend you from every beast of the field. By day will he feed you in his pleasant pastures, and by night will he fold you in a fold of rest. Oh! my beloved Friends, this is the day of which we have spoken, and in which not only the words, but the nature must be manifested. You who bear the Lamb’s image, and grow in his nature, first being proved, shall be preserved and delivered, and in the day of trial feel the word of patience; for that stays the thoughts, and keeps satisfied in the present state. Here is the glory of the saints, who only of all the children of men, can glory in tribulation, and can grow then in patience. Now the glory of Zion’s daughters appears to be within them, and their strength is a continual spring, whereby her sons are armed with power, to tread down change and alterations, and dwell in the dominion over trouble. Glory, glory to the God of our strength, who keeps us, who guards Israel, who arms his chosen ones, and leads them to the battle, and keeps our head covered therein, that the enemy cannot wound it.
“Here, my dearly beloved brethren and sisters, in the generation of our endless posterity, is my unity with you preserved, though by locks and bars I be separated outwardly from you, yet by the invisible flowings of life, do I reach you, and am felt by you, in that eternal Spirit which quickens and gives life to every member of the church of Christ. This present separation, is for trial of our faith, love and patience, that through exercise they may be perfected, and we all may learn the heavenly and internal knowledge, sense and feeling one of another, by sinking into, and waiting in the spirit of the Father, by which the whole body is knit and united together; and who knows us not in this, is not truly of us; for as we have said, declarations and prophecies must cease, but the word which begets and gives life, abides forever, and is the daily bread, which is set before the mercy seat, in the house of our God, of which none may eat, but those who are sanctified, washed and clean, according to the law, and are witnesses of the offering, that makes atonement; and these may now feed together, being nourished, and grow strong, as well as ever; because the enemy cannot rob you of your food, and your water. Therefore eat, O Friends, and drink abundantly of the new wine, well refined; let your hearts be glad, and let your souls rejoice in the promise, for this is the day of the Lamb’s battle, and the day of his victory is near at hand, wherein the carcasses must be buried out of sight, and all dead worship without life put under, and the living worship of the living God, be exalted more and more. Therefore rejoice you, and I say again, rejoice. Let your hearts be strong, O my beloved Friends, and comfort you yourselves therein, and one another, and love one another. Let the spirit of love abound in you, one towards another, in how much you see the enemy seeks to discomfort you. Mark the weak among you in true love and compassion; beware of the wiles of those who are crafty, who seek to lead from the simplicity of the gospel. Keep your testimony alive in all things, wherein you are required by the Lord, and be not terrified at all that is, or may come to pass. The God of peace and power, of eternal love and truth, preserve you all faithful to the end, to the everlasting consolation of your souls, and glory of his great name; for the sake whereof he has saved us, and delivered us, and will yet deliver us; to whom be everlasting praises, and holy thanksgiving forever and ever. Amen.”
Stephen Crisp Letters
From Beyond Tolerable Recovery
By Ed M. Smith
Family Care Publishing
Matthew 6: 12: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
Matthew 6: 14-15: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Quotations are from Matthew 18: 21-30:
Principle One: Forgiveness is not a means of changing another but rather is the avenue of release for the one holding the debt. “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Principle Two: Forgiveness requires that we take a full account of the debt. “…a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owned him ten thousand talents was brought to him…”
Principle Three: The debtor does not have the means to repay the debt. “Since he was not able to pay…”
Principle Four: Anger is a normal reaction to injustice, but it must be released before freedom will come. “Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.”
Principle Five: The integrity and sincerity of the indebted offender is not critical for true forgiveness to be administered. “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’”
Principle Six: Genuine forgiveness requires we find compassion. “The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go…”
Principle Seven: Forgiveness benefits the forgiver more than the forgiven. The king “canceled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.”
Principle Eight: Forgiveness should not be confused with reconciliation.
RESENTMENT IS LIKE TAKING POISON AND THEN WAITING FOR THE OTHER PERSON TO DIE. HANGING ON TO RESENTMENT IS LETTING SOMEONE YOU DESPISE LIVE RENT FREE IN YOUR HEAD.
The Jerry Shey Family
Letter from Iran
A Conversation with a Vietnam Veteran