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a forty horse-power car refuses to climb a hill, it is time
to find out what is wrong. Had it been a car of eight horse-power,
or even ten horse-power, we might have concluded that the
hill was too steep, but a forty horse-power car is made
to climb any hill.
are in the same plight to-day with religion. It looks as
though Christianity had stopped on the hill. Certainly the
type of Christianity to which we have been most accustomed
has not been able to surmount the hatreds and fears which
divide nations, races, and classes, or the selfishness which
results in want amidst a world of plenty. It has also failed
to reach the need of vast numbers of men and women who are
at war with themselves and in great want of peace, freedom
from fear, and the power to deal with life victoriously.
Meanwhile materialist ideologies have swept past it in the
race for world leadership.
plead the difficulties of the time--war reactions, materialistic
tendencies, and the rest--is to beg the question. The power
which Christians claim to wield is God’s power. That
should be enough to take us up any hill and over all obstacles.
has it not done so?
we choose, we may say that the car is a fraud that it was
never capable of a quarter of its alleged horse-power, and
we may leave it at the roadside. That will not take us up
the hill. And we do need desperately some means of getting
to the top. For one thing the gradient is dangerous. We
are in danger of running backwards at any moment into social
chaos, personal unhappiness and defeat, or world disaster.
But apart from damage, there is in us the desire for life
at a level of freedom, effectiveness, and happiness for
ourselves and for the world greater than anything we have
yet reached. We need something to lift us to this level.
We should be silly to abandon the car before we have made
quite sure that its breakdown is not our fault and that
it cannot be put right.
is all the more reason to examine our car, since there is
none other available. It is not only our type of religion
which seems to have failed: education has not overcome the
passions which make war, nor has it emptied the divorce
courts. Statesmanship is baulked and helpless in a fear-ridden
world that cannot outlive its memories. Industry and commerce
have built up the marvelous and intricate mechanism of production
and distribution, but they have not been able to make it
proof against the grit that men are throwing so plentifully
into the wheels. Science has provided us with amazingly
varied means for the enrichment of life, but it has not
given us happiness. Where is the alternative to another
trial of the Christian solution?
the Christian solution is giving more signs of working than
perhaps we thought. When an ex-communist and a Russian princess
speak on the same platform of the answer that Christ has
brought to their hatred, we may well ask how it happened,
and whether it cannot happen again to others. When the wife
of a Blue-shirt officer in Ireland discovers how to work
for a new Ireland in friendship with a woman who wheeled
her baby through Dublin streets in a perambulator half-full
of Mills' bombs, we begin to see a possible end to civil
strife. When the home of two people, who were on the edge
of divorce, becomes a centre of Christian action, we know
that there is a real working answer to unhappy marriages.
And when this same answer begins to work out, as it is doing
to-day, in the lives of thousands of men and women, giving
them release from all manner of personal problems, not only
is it worth while, but it is imperative, that we should
find out whether it can work on such a scale that it can
remake a nation-and a world.
we had the brakes on all the time, or perhaps we had allowed
dirt to block the petrol-pipe.
we are to try out the Christian life, we must understand
what it is.
is a widespread notion that a Christian is a man who tries
to live up to certain ideals. That is to miss the most important
fact about him. A Christian is not a man who is trying to
do something. He is a man who has received
something. He is a man raised to a new level of power. This
is evident as soon as we turn to the New Testament.
New Testament contains something far greater than a new
set of ideals. It is the story of what God can do with men
and women when they let Him-the revolution that takes place
when God is given control of lives. The people we meet in
the Acts of the Apostles are clearly men and women to whom
something has happened. They are acting with a courage that
was not theirs at first. They speak with a force and clarity
not natural to their uncultured tongues. They have shed
the self-seeking and contentious spirit that marred their
earlier record. They are irrepressible in their confidence
and joy, when, before, they were so easily daunted. For
the most part they are obscure folk, yet they succeed in
turning their world upside down. Here are personalities
released and raised to a new level of effectiveness. They
are adequate in a new way to meet all demands.
is what all of us want to be.
may be looking for the secret in all sorts of places where
it cannot be found, but the object of our quest is adequacy
for life. That is exactly what Jesus promised. He did
not say, 'I have come that you might have a new and more
exacting set of rules,' or 'I have come to call you to strive
after a higher level of conduct.' He said, 'I have come
that you might have Life-and have it to the full.'
'Life to the full' must mean a life set free from the haunting
sense of failure, victorious over temptation, released from
fears, with a new mastery over moods, impulses, and habits,
a clear purpose, and a power which makes possible the effective
use of the whole personality. If that sounds a sweeping
programme, it is no more than is promised in the New Testament.
A body of people who had found this secret could change
is it to be found?
announced His answer to man's need in one phrase, 'the
Kingdom of God'-that is the Kingship of God--God's
complete control of life, of your life and mine.
we see happening to men and women in the Acts of the Apostles
is what happens when God is really allowed to take over
and run our lives Himself. Our fundamental need is for Him
to be in charge. Our fundamental sin is that we have not
allowed Him to be. We may have referred some of our difficulties
and questions to Him. We may have accepted portions of His
programme for us--selected according to taste-but we have
not given Him complete command. The self-run life has been
direction, power-the fullness of life await the complete
surrender of ourselves to God for His purposes. This is
the great experiment that is waiting to be made--giving
do we begin the experiment?
put it very simply, God cannot take over my life unless
I am willing. Willingness is not a matter of feeling.
It is not a vague desire that God should change me. It is
not an impulsive resolve to obey God in future. It is a
very practical thing.
a man is bankrupt and consents to his chief creditor reorganizing
and running the business, the first thing he must do is
to produce the books--all of them. The difficulty with so
many debtors is that they conceal some of their debts, or
fail to mention some particularly foolish blunder or some
doubtful transaction to which fear prompted them. A satisfactory
re-organization is impossible if there is only a partial
disclosure. If, then, I want God to take control of my life,
the first thing I must do is to produce the books. I must
be willing to look with God at everything I know about myself,
and at everything He can show me when I honestly test my
life by what I see of His will in Christ.
good way to begin this examination of the books is to test
my life beside the Sermon on the Mount. A convenient and
pointed summary of its teaching has been made under four
heads--Absolute Honesty, Absolute Purity, Absolute Unselfishness,
and Absolute Love.
is very necessary to keep that word 'Absolute' in mind.
It is like a clear white light searching into all sorts
of hidden corners. It makes sure that I shall not overlook
the places where I was content with a second best or excused
myself for a compromise.
Well, that is not too bad. I do not rob the till, or make
fraudulent returns to the Inspector of Taxes. (Or do l?)
But Absolute Honesty? That looks different. Do
I make elaborate excuses over something that I have simply
forgotten to do? Do I waste my employer's time by lateness
or slackness? Am I living in the open with my family?
Purity? What would my thought-life look like on the screen?
Unselfishness? Why do I get touchy and defensive when people
criticize me? Am I only thinking of them, or is it my own
feelings and reputation for which I still care? And what
would my family say about my absolute unselfishness?
Love? Yes, I know that I did not begin the trouble, and
as far as I know, have done nothing to keep it going, but
what have I done to end it? And what about my likes and
may be useful at this point if I get a pencil and paper,
and make some notes. This business of looking into the books
is taking me further than I expected, but I must see it
life is many-sided. How far am I allowing God to take control
over its various interests and activities? There is my business.
Is He managing director? There is my money. Does He spend
it? My time. Does He dispose of it? There are my friendships,
my home, my career, my leisure. How far is God in absolute
control of these? Willingness for Him to take charge will
mean an honest and thorough scrutiny of every area of my
life. It will bring to light all sorts of things that I
have not been willing for God to alter-habits, indulgences,
wrong relationships, personal ambition, opinions, and sheer
self-will. Sin will take on a deeper meaning for me. Anything
that I am not willing to submit to God is sin.
next practical result of my 'willingness' will be that I
shall take any steps which God shows me, to put right the
wrong I. have done. There may be a broken relationship to
be healed, an apology to be offered, a sin to be confessed
to the person most concerned, reparation to be made for
some dishonesty. For one man the step of honesty with God
and with his fellows meant offering to go back to the country
lie had left and face his trial for breach of trust. For
another it meant admitting to his University that he had
received a diploma on the basis of a false statement. Others
have had to disillusion altogether misled families about
the kind of persons they really are.
first steps of restitution are absolutely necessary if I
am to start the new life clear with God and other people.
There will be a great many things I can never put right
now. Even the restitution I can make will seem altogether
inadequate. I must simply accept the wonder of God's forgiveness,
but I dare not take it unless I am prepared to do everything
which can honestly and usefully be done to put wrong right.
must be just as practical in making effective the new quality
of life that God is leading me to see. If I realize my indiscipline,
I must pin myself down to some definite step-perhaps getting
up earlier, replying to letters, or promptness in keeping
my appointments. If I find myself tied up by shyness, it
may mean going out among people, or speaking in front of
them until the fear is broken. If God speaks to me about
unselfishness, it may involve some simple, but costly step
at home. If my treatment of my employees, or my attitude
to my business rivals has been unloving, there will be immediate
steps to take in establishing new relationships. Vague resolutions
and dreams of what I might be, never lead to God control.
I must let God pin me down to the next thing to be done.
then, are the first elements in a surrender of life to God-honest
and thorough facing of myself with God, restitution to others,
and practical steps of new obedience. They are best talked
through with another person. It is so easy to deceive myself,
to escape the real shame and humiliation of sin, or to evade
the necessary steps. To face a completely honest talk with
someone I can trust makes me see myself as I could never
do in any other way. It may bring to light much that I have
massed. It will certainly make it harder for me to go back
or postpone carrying out my resolutions. This is one of
the purposes for which God has given us fellowship. It is
dangerous to neglect it.
goes on. It is not simply an initial act. It is a process
carried deeper every day. We find out more of ourselves
to give to God. We find out more of what God can do with
us. But it must begin, and it is possible for us now to
give all we know of ourselves to all we know of God.
initial surrender, if it is thorough and honest, is met
at once from God's side. When we hand over, God takes charge,
and things begin to happen. A world of strain falls from
us. The business of running life is off our hands. We find
that we get through more work, because it is being ordered
better. We meet people we were afraid of, and discover that
fear has gone. A habit that always beat us seems to have
lost its power. Someone wee could not bear appears to us
in a new light, and we love them. We come through an ordeal
and know that it was not in our own strength.
fascinating experience of getting 're-made' has begun. The
interest grows, because the process does not end with us.
Other people notice the difference, and God begins to work
in them. An area of life around us begins to change.
how are we to be sure that this will happen? We want good
reasons before we take such a plunge.
is only one way to be sure--by trying. That is true of all
life. It is a tremendous experiment. We only know how the
water can bear us up when we get our feet off the bottom.
We only find what marriage is like by getting married. We
test a remedy by taking it. That is what faith means. It
does not mean being quite confident beforehand-- working
up one's feelings into a state of certainty. It means making
are grounds for the venture. First of all, our need. Life
as we have run it ourselves, has not been the kind of success
of which we can be proud. It is worth while giving God the
chance to run it better. Then there is all that other people
say they have found. We take big steps in life on far less
recommendation than is available for this step. Beyond all,
there is Christ Himself. He lived this life. He lived it
on the basis of absolute obedience to and trust in God.
He invited us to make the experiment and prove the willingness
have to start from the place where we happen to be. Sometimes
all that we can say, is, 'O God, if there is a God, take
charge of my life.' If we mean it, God does take control.