Each Christian has certain authors, preachers, or teachers that they click with. People who speak to them in a way others do not. I have many of them just as I am sure you do. Some of the people who have profoundly affected me range (the list is not exhaustive) from Charles Spurgeon, to J. I. Packer, to A. W. Tozer, Deitrich Bonhoeffer, John Owen, John Frame, Tim Keller, Richard Sibbes, Jonathan Edwards, Jerry Bridges, Wayne Grudem, R. C. Sproul, Ravi Zacharias, Gordon Fee, John Piper and the person you will hear from today -- James S. Stewart. Some of you may be scratching your heads wondering who some of them are, when they lived, and why I'm enamored with their take on things, just as I likewise have wondered the same thing after reading some authors people gushed about and said, "you just have to read_____________"!
Anyway, if you do have the time today, maybe you could zip off a quick response telling me your top three authors. I'd be very interested in knowing which one's "speak your language" and have fed your soul (along with the book titles that helped you most). If enough respond, maybe I'll share the results.
Yet, today, you will hear from James S. Stewart, from his book "A Man in Christ." For me it has been a "go to" book whenever I want something of substance to challenge or feed my soul. These excerpts simply give you the essence of what he fleshes out in greater detail throughout the rest of the book. Enjoy.
A Man in Christ
“The evangel of an ethical example (salvation by trying to be good) is a devastating thing. It makes religion the most grievous of burdens. Perhaps this is the real reason why, even among professing Christians, there are so many strained faces and weary hearts and captive, unreleased spirits. They have listened to Jesus' teaching, they have meditated on Jesus' character; and then they have risen up and tried to drive their own lives along Jesus' royal way. Disappointment heaped on bitter disappointment has been the result. The great example has been a dead-weight beating them down, bearing them to the ground, bowing their hopeless souls in the dust.
One of the vital distinctions between true religion and false, is that, whereas the latter is a dead burden for the soul to carry, the former is a living power to carry the soul… "Christ in me" means something quite different from the weight of an impossible ideal, something far more glorious than the oppression of a pattern for ever beyond all imitation. "Christ in me" means Christ bearing me along from within, Christ as the motive-power that carries me on, Christ giving my whole life a wonderful poise and lift and turning every burden into wings. This is what the apostle means when he speaks of "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27)... This, and this alone, is the true Christian religion.
To be "in Christ," to have Christ within, to realize your creed not as something you have to bear, but as something by which you are born. This is Christianity. It is more: it is release and liberty, life with an endless song at its heart. It means feeling within you, as long as life lasts here, the carrying power of Love Almighty; and underneath you, when you come to die, the touch of everlasting arms…
The heart of Paul's religion is union with Christ. This, more than any other conception – more than justification, more than sanctification, more even than reconciliation, is the key which unlocks the secrets of Paul’s soul. Within the Holy of Holies which stood revealed when the veil was rent in two from the top to the bottom that day on the road to Damascus, Paul beheld Christ summoning and welcoming him in infinite love into vital unity with Himself.
If one seeks for the most characteristic sentences the apostle ever wrote, they will be found, not where he is refuting the legalists, or vindicating his apostleship, or meditating on eschatological hopes, or giving practical ethical guidance to the Church, but where his intense intimacy with Christ comes to expression. Everything that religion meant for Paul is focused for us in such great words as these: "I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20). "There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1). "He that is joined unto the Lord is one with him in spirit" (I Cor. 6:17)… Paul declares his conviction that in Christianity the final stress must ever fall on one thing – and on one thing only – union with Christ. Life in fellowship with Christ.”
If what is written here resonates with you, or intrigues you, and you would like to go into it further, I would encourage you to pick up the book. I don't think you would be disappointed. God has given the Church gifted teachers and preachers, it is wise to avail yourselves of the things he has laid upon their hearts to share with us.
In His Service, Pastor Jeff