"And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment." John 16:8.
Voice of Conscience
"Those who would be benefited by the tilling of the soil must go forth with the word of God in their hearts. They will then find the fallow ground of the heart broken by the softening, subduing influence of the Holy Spirit. Unless hard work is bestowed on the soil, it will not yield a harvest. So with the soil of the heart: the Spirit of God must work upon it to refine and discipline it before it can bring forth fruit to the glory of God."óChristís Object Lessons, page 88.
"And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left." Isaiah 30:21. So said the Old Testament prophet of Godís provision for His childrenís guidance.
The apostle Paul effectively describes his personal experience as he seeks for immortality.
"Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:12-14.
The apostle represents himself as putting all his abilities to the utmost stretch as he strains to reach and grasp an understanding of himself and his potentialities, viewed through the eyes of God. To do this he realizes that he must put behind him the discouraging remembrance of his past mistakes and arrogant sinning, and concentrate on making full use of all the powers with which God has endowed him, henceforth magnified and increased by the indwelling Spirit of God. This is no superman complex which Paul visualizes. It is not even the "power of positive thinking." Instead, it fully comprehends his own nothingness apart from God, while recognizing the limitless possibilities when manís inadequacies are linked up with Godís graciously proffered completeness.
Even as he admits a candid viewpoint of his own slender resources, he leans heavily on God as his only means of fulfillment. He relies confidently on the assurance that "if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you." Verse 15. Thus does God reassure His struggling children that He will not leave them unaware of their shortcomings past the "point of no return." This is the first and most basic work of the Third Person of the Trinity as He sets about to finish in the lives of men what Jesus accomplished on the cross for the ultimate reconciliation between man and God.
In this ministry He is assisted by hosts of loyal angels who are "all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation." Hebrews 1:14. This shadowy ministration is carried on outside the range of human comprehension by beings of a higher order than man. According to the psalmist, man was originally created "a little lower than the angels" (Psalm 8:5), and he has since sunk lower and lower with the weight of the inheritance from ancestors habitually disobedient to physical law. Manís senses, far duller than they were created to be, can never comprehend these compassionate heavenly messengers, who nevertheless are concerned with his redemption from his worst enemyóhimself.
Jesus assured His disciples, "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you." John 16:7. Such sentiments must have been incomprehensible to them. They were no closely knit organization ready to take over the evangelization of the world after their Leader left them. They were but eleven ordinary men who had followed Him about for some three years. They had listened to Him teach wherever He found listeners, watched Him do miraculous deeds. They had been wonderfully impressed by what they had seen and heard, and they were affectionately attached to Him in spite of the disapproval of the Jewish and Roman authorities. Inspired by Him, they had been encouraged to launch out on small forays of their own; but they were still totally unprepared, even under His divine direction, to take over or even to comprehend a work that would make great headway. No, it was impossible for them to understand His use of the word "expedient."
Only from the vantage point of succeeding years could they evaluate what He intended them to understand: that the work of the gospel could be undertaken more comprehensively under the leadership of the Third Person of the Godhead than under Himself, with the limitations he had accepted when He joined the human family and was "in all things Ö made like unto His brethren." Hebrews 2:17.
In this transaction we catch a fascinating glimpse of the gracious interaction of the members of the Trinity. Each is willing to co-operate. None calls attention to His own merits or accomplishments. The Father is pleased that in His Son "should all fullness dwell," "that in all things He might have the pre-eminence." Colossians 1:19, 18. Jesus said simply, from the depths of His self-imposed humiliation, "My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28); and of Him Paul stated, "And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all" (1 Corinthians 15:28). Yet we hear no regrets of His decision to step down to the level of this lost race whom He loves so unselfishly. For our sakes He is glad to remain forever our Elder Brother in order that we may be adopted into the family whence we should otherwise be barred by our natural unfitness for such association. Then, when the Comforter comes to accomplish the work of our sanctification, we know the least about His ministry because "He shall not speak of Himself," but, said Christ, "He shall testify of Me." John 16:13; 15:26.
Here and there in Scripture we catch glimpses of heavenís organization to come to the aid of guilty man, helpless to lift himself up to the plane which he was created to occupy. The view of Godís throne afforded us in the fifth chapter of the Revelation shows us "Him that sat on the throne," surrounded by four living creatures, a slain Lamb, four and twenty elders, and angels numbering "ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands." These living creatures surrounding Christ, who is here depicted as the slain Lamb, seem closely related to the cherubim seen in vision by the prophet Ezekiel in chapter 10 of his book, and to the seraphim of the vision of Isaiah 61-3. They symbolize the intricate yet wonderfully efficient organization by which the angels watch over the affairs of men and do Godís bidding in our behalf.
Most interesting and provocative of further study are the "seven eyes" possessed by the "Lamb as it had been slain." John further explains that as he sees them, they are "the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth." Revelation 5:6. In Revelation 4:5 he sees them as "seven lamps of fire burning before the throne." These seven are mentioned also in Revelation 3:1 and in Revelation 1:4. Whoever they are, they stand close to the throne of God. Centuries before, when Israel returned chastened from the Babylonian captivity, Godís angel brought a message of comfort to those who mourned over the diminished glory of the new temple being erected on Mount Moriah above the ruins of what had been Solomonís magnificent edifice. "For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth." "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." Zechariah 4:10, 6.
God assures spiritual Israel today, which too often tends to be impressed with earthly might, that His successes are to be won on a different plane. Harking back to glories of the past and sighing for departed splendor unfit His people for going forward to the spiritual victories that He wants them to have.
Hanani, an obscure seer in the days when Asa occupied the throne of Judah, was entrusted with a similar message for the king and the nation over which he ruled. "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him." 2 Chronicles 16:9.
King Asa was "in a rage" because this message rebuked his reliance on Syria rather than on God, who hitherto had exerted His power in behalf of Judah. We ought to consider the facts to which Asaís petty pride had blinded him. God has an "intelligence system" to keep close watch on all parts of His universe. We thus see Him as a benevolent and efficient Monarch who has wisely surrounded Himself with beings whom He can trust. Men engaged in business now and again find themselves in need of information which they cannot gather personally. They may retain skilled individuals, commonly called "private eyes," to do some investigating for them. So God has His host of "private eyes" to look into the affairs of men and report back to Him, and also to represent Him to this fallen race.
Who are these heavenly beings who are active in Gods vast "intelligence system"? We have already noted that they are "spirits." In Hebrews 1:7 we read that these are angels, and in verse 14 Paul asks, "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" Through their willing and efficient work God sought to accomplish the destiny of ancient Israel. This is the message with which the prophet Zechariah sought to encourage Zerubbabel and his discouraged people. Yet they preferred to lean on the arm of flesh, whether of Egypt, Assyria, Syria, or Babylon; and as a nation they were miserably defeated. And so will Gods people continue to be humiliated in the eyes of the watching world just as long as they depend on earthly might.
Still "the eyes of God" are seeking throughout this earth to find men and women, boys and girls, whose Ďhearts are perfect toward Him." Upon these He waits to pour out all the resources of heaven. And what does it mean to have a perfect heart in the sight of God? Must one have perfected his life before he can have a perfect heart? The perfected life is achieved through the power of God. But the individual must set his will in the right direction. He can reach out after God with all the longing of his heart.
Of this there are examples in Scripture. One enlightening instance concerns Godís own estimate of Solomon in contrast to his father, David. "His heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father." 1 Kings 11:4.
Viewed by any standards, there were incidents in the life of David which were not exemplary. Davidís sins were great, but so also were his virtues. How could this man possibly be considered by God to have a perfect heart? By the simple fact of Davidís willingness to accept reproof and to humble himself before God and his people whenever a messenger of God rebuked him. Because David was willing to listen to Godís agents and be guided by them, he grew steadily in grace, profiting by his mistakes, and mellowed into a man of whom God could speak with pride. These are the people God is looking for-those who love Him whole-heartedly, and are willing to work with His divine agencies to overcome inherited weaknesses and build in their place a likeness of Himself. Then they will be like those whom John saw in his vision of the saints awaiting translation, "They that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." Revelation 14:12. These have profited by the promise, "That ye might be filled with all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:19. It is said of them: "They are without fault before the throne of God." Revelation 14:5.
As we contemplate the action and interaction of the cherubim and seraphim, we begin to understand why Christ made the statement to His disciples recorded in John 16:7. Unhampered by the limitations which Christ had deliberately taken upon Himself, the Comforter could direct in all parts of this earth while Christ could work only in that portion of the earth where He happened to be at the moment.
What the apostle Paul reveals to us concerning things to come, he has learned, as he states in 1 Corinthians 2:9-16, through the revelation of the Spirit of God who "searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." It is the Spirit who understands the things of God as no man can know them, because He is GodóGod the Spirit, the Third Person of the Godhead. These things "are freely given to us of God" through the ministry of His Holy Spirit and the angelic host.
The Army in World War II developed a gadget known popularly as the "walkie-talkie." By it a soldier, on a dangerous mission and necessarily separated from headquarters, could at all times keep in contact with his superior officers to give and receive information. Surely it does not stretch our imaginations too far to suppose that God has always known how to operate such communication and that He maintains constant contact between Himself and the angels who do His bidding here on earth.
This is the mighty agency for which the apostles were instructed to wait at Jerusalem before they set out on their world-wide mission. ĎWait for the promise of the Father," they were told. "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you." Acts 1:4, 8. Verses 13 and 14 describe briefly their ten-day preparation for this momentous experience destined to change the whole course of their ministry. Scripture records the secret of their readiness for an experience which the modern church still awaits. "And when the Day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place." Acts 2:1. Henceforth the One who was to guide them "into all truth" could take over the direction of the work. Those whose lives He would direct into heaven-appointed pathways were now prepared to follow His leadership.
ĎAngels are helping in this work to restore the fallen and bring them back to the One who has given His life to redeem them, and the Holy Spirit is cooperating with the ministry of human agencies to arouse the moral powers by working on the heart, reproving of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment."óTestimonies, vol. 6, p. 260.
With all heaven thus enlisted to the aid of man, with its best counsel constantly available, with the full resources of Gods character free at his call, why is it that man still falls short of Gods expectations? The answer must lie in the condition of manís conscience, that marvelous awareness of the voice of God with which man is divinely endowed. The seat of conscience, so closely allied to reason, discrimination, judgment, and will power, is in the forefront of the brain area. It is this that makes man superior to Godís lesser creatures. In this respect it is proof that man was truly created in the image of God. This truly godlike possession is the most sensitive of manís powers, the most delicately poised; therefore, it is first to be disturbed when man is subject to prolonged intemperance, tension, anxiety, fear, or fatigue.
This is the area under attack in the fiendishly clever treatment of war prisoners known as "brainwashing." Many men subjected to this subtle treatment lose their ability to discern between right and wrong. They perform acts and reveal information at which they are horrified when once more in full possession of all their faculties. Whether we like to admit it or not, modem man is prone to inflict upon himself a form of brainwashing that robs his mind of its ability to discern spiritual dangers. Those who are preparing to meet Christ in peace need especially to be on guard lest they deaden the very means God has provided to keep them close by His side. Temperance is one of the most important stages in the development of a godlike character, according to Paulís description in Galatians 5:22, 23. For this reason Godís people living in these last days have been given principles of healthful living, that all their powers, and most especially the higher powers of the brain, be kept active and alert.
"Under the influence of unhealthful food, the con-science becomes stupefied, the mind is darkened, and its susceptibility to impressions is impaired."óCounsels on Diet and Foods, page 247.
Not without reason we have been warned to follow a course of temperance in everything. Only thus will the conscience continue to receive warning, comfort, and hope from heaven.
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