Monday, June 1, 2009

Jenks - Whitsun Week Devotions









In the Face of Jesus Christ



David Jenks




WHITSUNDAY








The Gift of Tongues


WHITSUN DAY



“And began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”Acts ii. 4.


Picture: the preaching of the apostles on the day of Pentecost to the assembled multitudes.


Pray: to believe intensely in the Holy Ghost.




  1. The gift was in harmony with the giver.

    1. It was an intellectual gift. In the early days there was a gift of tongues, which required a gift of interpretation (1 Cor. xii. 28-30) to make it rational (1 Cor. xiv. 14, 18, 19). On this day the Holy Spirit combined the gifts (Acts ii. 4-8), thus signifying that he is the inspirer and illuminator of the newly founded Church, whose message to mankind is to be intelligible. In this he was applying to the new society the office which he has always ministered to the human intelligence.

    2. It was a social gift. Language is the means of communication and fellowship between men, and a common language draws men together. In truest sense all Christians speak a common language as from heart to heart, and it knits men together through “the fellowship of the Holy Ghost.” “The unity of the Spirit” is illustrated the more fully by the diversity of gifts appealing to many nations, which binds diverse men in one society.

    3. It was a spiritual gift. Its purpose was the spreading abroad “the wonderful works of God”: it brought no material benefit to the apostles, but rather they were accused of drunkenness. In the early Church the gift of tongues was sometimes degraded to minister to self-importance. Many of God’s gifts are now similarly abused, so that the world does not see the full witness to the truth that the Holy Ghost is the inspirer of the Church, and that all natural endowments are spiritual gifts to be spiritually used.



  2. The gift was suited to the occasion.

    1. It was a striking witness to the birthday of the Christian society. Consider the spiritual miracle which has transformed the face of human society in the growth of the Church, leavening the manners of the world even where it has not converted it. A striking manifestation was becoming to her inauguration. Now contrast the silence of the birth of Christ.

    2. It was appropriate to the event. The Holy Ghost so manifested himself in the introduction of the Church to the world as her vital power. No organization, guild or corporation, but a divine institution, divinely held together, divinely working. “I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Catholic Church.”

    3. It was significant of the great fruit of the gift, the breaking down in each age of the barriers which separate men—national, intellectual, social. The Holy Ghost is the great leveller, not by human revolution, but by leavening the heart, not by sacrifice of truth, but by entering into the truth.



  3. The gift was illustrative of the history of the Church.

    1. In its catholicity. All present heard the praises in variety of language: All nations shall praise him.” It struck the note of universal missions: “Out of every nation under heaven.” Where the Holy Ghost works in pentecostal power, there the zeal of Christians goes out into the whole world.

    2. In its mission. The first work of the Church is to preach. She should think less of nursing herself in Jerusalem, and more of the use of the gift of tongues for reaching through human influence those whom God significantly gathered round her on that day. The world asks the Church “What meaneth this?” (ver. 12); and the Holy Ghost is with her to answer the question.

    3. In its duration. In the early days language was not much needed: now the full importance of manifold tongues is amply realized; and herein we perceive a new interest in the gift. It was a divine promise of blessing on the labours of student and missionary in the study of languages for theological or mission work.














Another Paraclete


MONDAY IN WHITSUN WEEK


“Another Comforter” (“or Advocate, or Helper.” Gk. Paraclete. R.V. marg.).—S. John xiv. 16.


Picture: an advocate in his twofold office (see § I. b and c).


Pray: to realize the strength of grace.




  1. “Another.”

    1. Our blessed Lord, then, is also a Paraclete. And so the Holy Spirit is he whom the Son has sent to continue his mission to us under its changed and extended conditions. Consider that what he was on earth to his disciples that is he to us also through the Spirit.

    2. Once elsewhere the Son is called Paraclete. “We have an advocate with the Father” (1 S. John ii. 1): Advocate, Paraclete, are the same word in two languages; it is one who is “called to the side of” another to defend him and plead his cause. The ascended Lord in his human nature advocates our cause before the Father against the accuser.

    3. But the advocate had another office to fulfil towards his client; he must encourage and help him, put heart into him, lest he despair of his case. The Holy Spirit is thus the Paraclete at our side assuring us of the strength of our case as presented in heaven. His work is therefore not to be .dissociated from that of the ascended Lord.



  2. Comforter—Paraclete.

    1. The word “Comforter” is due to the late Latin verb centortare, which means “to strengthen much.” But do justice to the truth suggested to modern readers by the English word. Let not the robustness of health or the light-heartedness of prosperity blind one to the desperate need of comfort for many of our brethren in material or spiritual distress. Pray for them.

    2. But Paraclete is more virile; the title suggests vigour. To invigorate and enhearten is the thought. Hope is of more stimulus than sympathy, new life than comfort. The English word lends support to the false notion that Christianity is suited to the passive endurance rather than the active assault of life. It is the Paraclete who has said, “I am come to cast fire on the earth.”

    3. Learn therefrom an aggressive Christianity: there is to be defence as well as endurance, and attack as well as defence. Boldness is needed at least as much as patience, the manly virtues as well as the gentler ones. He came with the manifested sign of flame, leaping tongue wise, and distributing itself. Our religion should be on fire.



  3. Apply.

    1. To self. What have I to do with softness and supineness i The Paraclete betokens endurance, hardness, challenge. Why should I put up with the power of sin, as though no one were called to my side Y It is his part to enable. A feeble personal religion is apostasy from the Holy Spirit. Why be content to be modestly in the background, to be apologetic Christians, when one should be pressing on?

    2. To the Church. The festival is the trumpet-call to a forward Christian policy, an imperial and not- s little-England Christianity. With the Paraclete the Church should venture. Apply such thoughts to foreign missions. and to the determination that the Church at home shall seize boldly all aspects of life and thought.

    3. In all that in the Name of the two Paracletes the Church dares, or the individual, there is the Advocate above who embraces the Church in his own person, and whose ascended humanity is our victorious encouragement, and the Advocate within, the Sanctifier and Life-giver.














The Apostles before and after Pentecost


TUESDAY IN WHITSUN WEEK



“Power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.”Acts i. 8.





Picture: the apostles in council before dispersing on missionary work.



Resolve: to claim the power of the Holy Spirit.




  1. Power.


    1. Before Pentecost the apostles were by no means devoid of grace. Particularly since the Resurrection the Lord had breathed on them and said, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” But they still waited for that endowment of power which was to be their equipment for the development of the Church. They were to receive the power of the ascended Lord.


    2. Much stress is often laid upon the value of a powerful character for Christian influence; and indeed it is as wrong as it is foolish to deny the natural gift of power merely because as a Christian one can see the danger of self-reliance and personal influence, and knows that natural power alone is insufficient.


    3. And we may misinterpret the oft-repeated assurance of power as a chief mark of the gifts of the ascended Lord. We think rather of the power of conviction, of hope, faith, and love, and the power of prayer. These are, however, indirect. It is he to whom all power is given in heaven and in earth who is the giver of direct power to the individual. He supernaturally endows, and pre-eminently through the sacraments.



  2. Illumined zeal.


    1. Thus the contrast between the apostles before and after Pentecost was not the result of the slow and steady progress in grace, such as is to be witnessed in the developing life of a devout Christian; it was due to the gift of the Holy Ghost, coming in the power of the ascended Lord, for which gift they had the faith and dependence upon God to wait.


    2. Nor had they lacked zeal in earlier days, but they lacked illuminated zeal, the zeal which is of the Holy Ghost and not merely of natural temper. The power with which they now spake proved irresistible, for it was of God. Or consider the contrast in zeal between Saul the persecutor and Paul the apostle.


    3. Their grace of zeal was now a supernatural love of souls, and it marked its character by its accompanying conditions. It was no longer jealous, or jealous about the wrong things; it was a zeal of holiness and not merely of propaganda; and, too, it was a disciplined zeal with the great powers of endurance and self-restraint.



  3. Unity.


    1. Where power and zeal are manifested as natural qualities, disunion results. The holding of truth should lead to unity as inevitably as false-hood leads to disunion. Opinion is self-assertive, but there is often the disunion of self-assertiveness within the fellowship of revealed truth, for the truth may be held as one’s own and not as a revelation.


    2. The apostles received the revelation of the truth, and in the power of the Holy Spirit they received also the spirit of unity which controlled the self-assertion of individualism. In their age it was realized that union is strength, for not even the Judaic Christians could divide S. Paul and the elder apostles, James and Peter. It was the united Church which won the greatest victories, and had power over persecution.


    3. There are who boast that division is the proof of healthy life and stimulating rivalry. In the religion of Jesus Christ, love, which is of the Holy Ghost, is the stimulating rivalry; and that the unity of the truth is not destructive of healthy intellectual activity must be realized by all readers of the epistles. The true cause of disunion is natural character unrestrained by the Holy Ghost’s power and sanctity.














The Pentecostal Power of the Cburcb


WEDNESDAY IN WHITSUN WEEK



“We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.”Acts ii. 11.




Picture: the crowd hearing the wonderful works of God.



Resolve: habitual prayer that the Church may not die of inanition.




  1. The gift of tongues.

    1. Often thought that the apostles were endowed—at least for that day—with the gift of speaking diverse languages. But, even so, how could such a Babel be heard? No; it was not preaching in different languages, but ecstatic praises of God, which were heard. The “other tongues” (ver. 4) were one with the gift of tongues (1 Cor. xii. 10). Doubtless they all understood Peter’s Ararnaic sermon shortly afterwards.

    2. Lifted up by the divine enthusiasm of the Holy Ghost, the disciples were carried beyond human speech in their inspired realization of God’s glory. But unlike the gift elsewhere, where an interpreter was required (1 Cor. xiv. 13, 27, 28), there was here a special gift of hearing. Each listener understood what was being exultingly declared. The uniqueness of the occasion was marked by the uniqueness of the gift.

    3. Frequently regarded as symbolic of the divine aid of languages in the evangelistic work of the Church. More truly an exposition of the divine will that the highest exercise of the spirit-inspired Church should be to praise God for his wonderful works. That gift is still ours, if we will use it. The gift of knowing languages was never given to the Church; for this purpose we have the divine gifts of intelligence and application.



  2. “Every nation under heaven” (ver. 5).

    1. So it seemed to that generation. The day of Pentecost is the revelation of the propagation of the Church. This is its earliest note struck on the great feast. We speak of the marks of the Church; but how rarely is “extension” regarded as one of them! We speak of her catholicism, and do not make efforts to spread her life. Not so in those days; they believed that the first duty of the Church was to grow, and to this end they set to work.

    2. We believe in the Church too much after the way of Jewish pride and exclusiveness. We hear much of what a Church cannot and must not do. If we really believed in the Church, as the vital force of the Holy Ghost, we should go forth and venture, regarding her extension as the response to grace. Not one of the apostles felt that he could not be spared from the central Church of Jerusalem; and the one who was left was allowed to become a martyr.

    3. The extension of the Church is regarded as a voluntary duty. Confirmation candidates are taught the marks of the Church, but are not instructed in the first energies of the Holy Spirit. Parish priests rightly regard it their duty to instruct their people in the essentials of the faith, but they leave it to strangers—and once a year—to teach the primary duty of Church extension.



  3. “Ye are straitened in yourselves.”

    1. The day of Pentecost has often been called the Church’s birthday. Perhaps better regarded as her Confirmation. She died and rose in Jesus Christ: that was her baptism. Now she was come to years of discretion. During the fifty days she had been growing up. Now she realizes that this promise is “to all that are afar off” (ver. 39).

    2. The conditions were fulfilled: the Church had living witnesses of the personal Christ, convinced of his resurrection and of the forgiveness of sins; they believed in the Holy Ghost, and in the truth of the promise, and also that every man must be called of God (i. 21, 22; ii. 32, 33, 39).

    3. There is a gospel of the Holy Ghost, and it is naught for us to boast of who have the sacraments, that outside are Christians who rival us in the first-fruits of the Spirit. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” If the proof of the Holy Spirit were seen in an unparalleled devotion to the extension of the Church, we should have no need to assert the claims of Churchmen.






(For EMBER-TIDE MEDITATIONS, see pp. 486-496.)












The Sanctitication of Natural Gifts


THURSDAY IN WHITSUN WEEK



“He led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men. . . . And he gave some apostles . . . for the edifying of the body of Christ.”Eph. iv. 8, 11, 12.



Picture: as on Thursday after the Ascension (No. 206).



Pray: for the sanctification of natural gifts.



  1. The gifts of captive men.

    1. Once elsewhere S. Paul uses the same picture, but it is entirely misunderstood in the A.V. translation. “But thanks be unto God, who always leadeth us in triumph in Christ” (2 Cor. ii. 14, R.V.). S. Paul’s glory is that he is not a free man, but God’s captive, led about by God in his triumph of Christ, contributing to his glory.

    2. There is a fearful parody of this bringing into captivity. There is such a thing as, instead of bringing every thought into captivity to him (2 Cor. x. 5), ourselves exerting effort to bring others into captivity not to him but to ourselves, bringing them under our own influence instead of under God’s (2 Tim. iii. 6). This may even be done with a good intention, where personal influence is used apart from the grace of God and prayer.

    3. This warning shows the conditions of the right use by men of God’s gift of influence. It can only be exerted by one who is himself God’s captive. Natural gifts given in tribute to God are bestowed back upon the captives to enhance his own glory. (See S. Matt. v. 16.)



  2. “Some apostles . . . for the building up of the body of Christ.”

    1. This gift is manifested in the sacramental system of the Church, dependent on the ministry of men. But the human agency in sacraments is in harmony with a wider scope of divine ministry. He works through men in his sacraments, because he has taken a blessed captivity from mankind, and because he himself works upon men.

    2. The building up of the Body is, however, the work of all the members of the Church. The gift of men to men is exercised personally by the influence of sympathy, by the use in subjection to God of natural gifts, cleansed and consecrated, and by the pentecostal blessings, and by the example of holy lives and by prayers.

    3. Appreciate the sanctity and the responsibility of natural gifts, as attractive manners, sympathy, a skilful hand, artistic faculties, physical excellency, intellectual power; and, considering what tremendous power of unconscious influence we are always exerting, pray for the gifts of the Holy Spirit.



  3. The gifts to the captivity are men.

    1. The gifts are men—not things; men with all their powers of intellect, will, character, emotion, affections. Whatever is mawkish, sentimental, cowardly (including intellectual cowardice), effeminate, silly, and the like, is not the gift of God to man, and will not be used by him to his glory.

    2. The captivity is the Church, and the Church is the Body of Christ. Appreciate the fact that Christ ascended is the elevation of human nature to the throne of God. After the Ascension we cannot marvel that God’s gift to men should be men in union with and in captivity to the ascended Jesus, the Son of God.

    3. Learn the power of being joined to his captivity. In Christ the Church already reigns in heaven; in Christ each member of the captivity is already ascended. The gift of Christ is the gift of ascended men in the power of this ascended life.














The Cleansing Power of tbe Holy Spirit


FRIDAY IN WHITSUN WEEK



“What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.”Acts x. 15.



Picture: S. Peter’s vision of the vessel descending from heaven.


Resolve: to seek the Holy Spirit against some prejudice or lack of faith.




  1. The divine cleansing.

    1. Embrace the scope of redemption: here both the heathens and unclean foods are declared to have been cleansed. Appreciate the assurance: it is God’s cleansing, and he declares himself satisfied with it. Who am I, that I should dare to call anything common or unclean which he says has been cleansed?

    2. The work of the Holy Spirit is to bring this cleansing to us, by making us clean. “Now ye are clean through the word that I have spoken unto you,” says Jesus Christ; but the disciples did not know the cleansing until the Holy Spirit was given; then in him the world was found to be cleansed to them.

    3. And only in the Holy Spirit are all things clean to us. Many things are found by us in life not to bo clean to us, because we do not approach them in the Holy Spirit. That nothing is clean to us apart from God, is the sad experience of our lives.



  2. The case of S. Peter.

    1. Illuminated at Pentecost, he yet required further illumination. This was not because S. Peter was slow to learn the lessons of grace, but because the unfolding life of the Holy Spirit in us is a developing life, expanding in proportion to loyal response. We can never be independent of the Holy Spirit.

    2. It will help to great reliance upon the power of the Holy Spirit that he enabled S. Peter to receive the truth of the cleansing of the Gentiles. Consider this revelation in application to all human relationships, and learn in him not to think of any man as common or unclean, either in friendship or through despair.

    3. And in him S. Peter lost the distinction between meats. But it was not until the Holy Spirit revealed it to him, that S. Peter allowed himself this liberty. Contrast with him the easy self-assurance with which the Corinthians enjoyed their knowledge, puffed up thereby.



  3. The illumination of the Holy Spirit.

    1. Learn from this vision the work of tho Holy Spirit within the heart, to bring home to us by degrees the revelation of the atonement. Not at once is it learnt, nor by one’s self. We have yet much more to learn of it in application to ourselves, as well as in the extent of its range. He is to be within us the Spirit of Jesus, leading us into all truth, by taking of the things of Jesus and showing them unto us.

    2. There is need of great dependence upon him against the prejudice or narrowness of the illuminated conscience. If there be indeed this humble dependence upon him, it will check liberty from being degraded into licence. Very different is this broad and Christian outlook upon life from the tolerance engendered by indifference or more geniality of temperament.

    3. It is part of his work to bring home to us the truth of the cleansing of the Gentiles in the power of intercession, as in him we have courage to pray and to hope for the conversion of sinners and of the heathen. Herein he helpeth our infirmities. And in him too is the illumination of the heart in charity towards those Whom we still deem unclean, because we do not see them in Christ the Redeemer.






(For EMBER-TIDE MEDITATIONS, see reference given on page 212.)











Quenching the Holy Spirit


SATURDAY IN WHITSUN WEEK



“Quench not the Spirit.”1 Thess. v. 19.


Picture: how a fire needs to be fed, and how it may be extinguished, or allowed by neglect to go out.



Pray: that you may respond actively to the Holy Spirit.




  1. The Holy Ghost is the guide of life.

    1. He equips for life. He gives suitable gifts, both natural and spiritual, and he elevates the natural gifts into spiritual. Do not rest satisfied until your naturally good qualities are confirmed into spiritual graces. Do not despair of the gifts which you do not seem naturally to have: the Holy Spirit is above the natural: he can make the desert blossom as the rose.

    2. He controls in life. We need much more the Holy Ghost to control us from the errors of natural impulse than to equip us with natural gifts which God has not given us. He has given us all that we need for his glory, when our powers are quickened and controlled by the Holy Ghost. The gift of tongues was a wonderful power on the day of Pentecost; it was a mischievous possession in the Church of Corinth.

    3. He alone makes life fruitful. There is no fruit apart from him. What is not of him does not live unto eternal life, but is of temporal character. Knowledge is good, but knowledge apart from the Holy Spirit is not enduring. In heaven we shall not need to be learned; but the lessons which he has taught us through the discipline of learning, and the use which he has inspired us to make of it, will remain through eternity.



  2. The Holy Ghost seeds a response

    1. To his love. It is in love that he comes forth to us: and he is love. In response we are to love him and to exercise his gifts in the spirit of love. To use natural gifts selfishly is to abuse his love, and to tend towards quenching him.

    2. To his truth. He is the Spirit of truth, and is given to guide us into all truth. Truth is the right response to him, and includes love. Conceit as well as selfishness is fatal to truth, for both are false to him, to whom we owe what we are, and who has given his gifts to be used for others to the glory of God. We must respond to his truth by truth of life.

    3. To his fellowship. We are to respond to this by keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. This involves faithfulness to love and to truth. There cannot be unity without truth.



  3. The Holy Ghost can be quenched.

    The simile here used by S. Paul is of the extinguishing of fire. We may put a fire out by water, or by giving it no draught or by neglecting to add fuel.



    1. We may quench the Holy Ghost directly by grievous sins against him in his purity, or his love, or his truth. And this may be either by directly quenching him in ourselves, or by grieving him in others. When we sin against others by defect of Christian love towards them, it is the Holy Spirit against whom we sin.

    2. We may quench him by lack of responsive exercise of his inspirations, by not stirring up the gift which is within us. All his gifts are for use. We must exercise ourselves to live as we pray, or we may find that our prayers are false. Let the Holy Spirit direct our prayers and our hearts also.

    3. We may quench him by neglect. Make now an act of faith in him: see whether you pray habitually to him: ask yourself whether in your daily life you think of him, believe in grace, confess your sins against him, strive to honour him.






(For EMBER-TIDE MEDITATIONS, see reference given on page 212.)












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