Overland Monthly / OV313 - How and What to Fight "The Good Fight"
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OV313 HOW AND WHAT TO FIGHT "The Good Fight"
By C. T. Russell Pastor New York, Washington and Cleveland Temples and the Brooklyn and London Tabernacles
"So fight I, not as one that beateth the air."—#1Co 9:26.
EVERY organ of the human mind is useful, if it be properly directed and controlled.
Combativeness, the fighting quality, might at first be supposed to be inimical, even antagonistic, to the proper Christian development—a hindrance and blemish. But this is not the correct thought. The man or woman who does not possess this quality of combativeness to some degree will be unsuccessful in heavenly, spiritual matters, as well as in earthly affairs. True, the Lord pronounces special blessings upon the meek, the peacemakers, the peace lovers, and He calls His people "sheep," and thus implies that they must not be ravenous nor vicious. But, on the other hand, the Lord’s call to His people for a separateness of life and opposition to the world, the flesh and the Devil, implies resistant and fighting qualities of mind. He who possesses none of this quality can evidently never be a victor in the "good fight."
The thought of Christian warfare as a continual battle against adverse influences is everywhere prominent in the Scriptures. Our Lord Jesus is styled the "Captain of our Salvation." And the Apostle speaks of his followers as "good soldiers of Jesus Christ" who "fight the good fight," and thus come off "conquerors and more than conquerors, through Him that loved us and bought us with His precious blood."
Good and Bad Combinations.
It is our mental combination that counts. The various members of our mental organism unite, combine their influence, federate, as it were, and thus form personality.
Our mental members make one or another of their members chairman or controller of their interests and eternal destiny. Or, perhaps, it is an association of members which control, with one in the ascendency. It is thus that man is a free moral agent and an image of his Creator. It is for this reason that knowledge and wisdom from on High are so very essential to a proper character development.
The whole world may be divided along these lines into two classes, the one guided and controlled by earthly affairs and interests, and the other by heavenly hopes and interests. The former are what the Scriptures term the "natural man," and include many of earth’s noblemen, as well as the earthly, sensual, devilish. Those controlled by the heavenly hopes, called the "spirit-begotten," "new creatures," are but a small number, and include some
OV314 gathered from every plane of natural life, noble and ignoble by nature, but all now impulsed by the Holy Spirit, by which they have been begotten again to heavenly hopes, ambitions and aims. A consideration of these two classes may help us to locate ourselves and to determine to what extent, if at all, we desire a change. Let us consider first:
The Natural Man.
The mistake is too commonly made of supposing that a "natural man" signifies a mean or bad man. Adam was a "natural man," in the image of his creator, and pronounced by the Almighty "very good." His children to-day are all natural men, but fallen in varying directions and degrees, some of them more and some of them less noble, estimable, lovable. Each of these has his own peculiar combination of faculties and has reached his own conclusions, or will, respecting his course in life. The person without a will is like a ship without a rudder, a derelict carried by winds and currents, but lacking individuality. No one should be content to remain in such a condition. The will should be formulated and put into control. Life should be realized to be the valuable asset, and should be used accordingly, with the best wisdom or judgment which the individual can command.
Looking amongst people of this class we behold some noble, benevolent, reverential, the world’s wise, the great and good—though we must not for a moment suppose that they have no faults, no blemishes, no weaknesses, which they should also be seeking to conquer. Such noble men and women are often mistakenly called Christians and thought to be regenerate by those who do not clearly comprehend the difference between the "Natural Man" and the "New Creature" in Christ Jesus. These are "Natural" because their thoughts, ambitions and efforts, though noble, are earthly, not heavenly—not spiritual. The fact that they attend church service and appreciate music, sermons and prayer, proves nothing; because all natural men should esteem these things and appreciate them, as the first perfect man unquestionably did, and as restored humanity undoubtedly will in the future.
The other extreme of the "natural man" is sensual, vicious, devilish. He possesses some good traits and abilities, but as a whole is wrong, because he has put the wrong combination of faculties into the place of control in his life. A change of control, a new will, conformed to justice, would make a new man of him—not the same as the man of nobler natural constitution, but nevertheless a nobler man than he is at present.
But such a change or conversion of the will from a course of evil would not, of necessity, signify that the individual had ceased to be a "natural man" and had become a "new creature," spirit-begotten.
Spirit-Begotten New Creatures.
A "new creature," from the Spiritual standpoint, is one to whom old things, both good and bad, have passed away, and all things have become new. Such an one may have been a noble, natural man, as above described, or a less noble, or a most degraded natural man. The change may take place regardless of the moral station of the individual. Reasonings and philosophies may and do effect the "natural man"—sometimes favorably and sometimes unfavorably—but these do not produce the change from natural to spiritual, from earthly to heavenly nature. This change comes from only one source, and only to persons in one condition of mind or heart. It comes from on High. It is superhuman, and in its effect it is revolutionary. It comes to those who, because of natural humility of mind, realize themselves to be sinners, and, with natural conscientiousness and veneration, desire to approach their Creator and to obtain His favor and forgiveness of sins, and who thus are led to accept Christ as their personal Savior and Deliverer from sin.
OV315 Or it may come to others naturally less tender of heart, through sorrows and sufferings and heart-breaking experiences, leading them to look for the Friend above all others and to accept His proffered forgiveness and guidance. These experiences, accompanied by a turning from sin, with a desire to live soberly and righteously, bring such characters to the place which the Scriptures designate justification by Faith. Still, however, they are not "new creatures." The word justification implies making right, and does not imply making over, or a change of nature. It is the human nature that is justified or reckoned right in God’s sight, because of faith in the precious blood of Jesus, the Redeemer. Another step must be taken before the change of nature can take place—the step of consecration, of devoting life, time, aims, ambitions, all, to the Lord and to His service.
It is to such only that the blessing of the Holy Spirit from Above is granted. Its effect in their hearts is the opening of the eyes of their understanding to new hopes and prospects and interests—not earthly, but heavenly. These become deeply interested in "the things which God hath in reservation for them that love Him"—the things which the natural eye hath not seen and the natural ear hath not heard, neither have entered into the natural heart.—#1Co 2:9.
Many natural ears have heard something about spiritual things, but they never really understood or appreciated these things. They have seen that there is this spiritual something, but the details of it they cannot discern any more than the natural sight can discern the conditions prevailing on the moon, though the moon be seen often. The "New Creatures" begin a newness of life—living in the future and for the future. They count all earthly things but as loss and dross, that they may win and share with Christ in the spiritual realm. Necessity, indeed, still compels them to provide things earthly, decent and honest for their families and themselves, but aside from these proprieties, they are dead to the world’s ambitions, hopes and aims, because they have seen with their new eyes and their spiritual understanding through the telescope of God’s Word, the Bible, wonderful things, grand beyond description and beyond the comprehension of the earthly mind. They are rich with the heavenly riches and daily becoming wiser with heavenly wishes and more thoroughly copies of their Redeemer if they follow on to know the Lord.
Different Fights—Different Fighters.
It will be readily discerned that there must be a great difference in all the affairs of these two classes—the "natural man" (better and worse) and the "New Creature" in Christ Jesus (more or less developed.) But what we wish now to impress is the weighty influence of the mental attitude, in respect to these. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." He may think one thing and strive to do another thing, but he will find it a difficult contract, and ultimately it will prove a failure. This Scripture should never be misinterpreted, as it is by some, to mean that if one thinks a thing right, that makes it right. No; it signifies that the mental determination or will represents the real man, from the Divine standpoint, whatever his weaknesses or blemishes or good traits; and whether he be an "old creature" or a "New Creature," this principle prevails. He cannot live above or beyond his will, his intention, his mental desires. How all-important, then, it is that both the "natural man" and the New Creature in Christ should have the will properly poised, balanced and fixed upon a righteous basis.
Although the Scriptures are addressed almost exclusively to the New Creatures, they nevertheless incidentally mark out lines of wisdom appropriate to the "natural man."
His standards of justice should be nothing less than the Golden Rule—to do unto others as he wishes them to do unto him, under similar conditions. He
OV316 must be merciful, as he would wish them to be merciful; gentle and kind, as he would wish them to be gentle and kind. His business, his pleasures, his home relationship, should all be gauged by high standards of justice. If heretofore he has been allowing the baser and lower qualities of his mind to dominate him, he should see that this is a wrong course, and change it forthwith. Instead of allowing the lower, sensual appetites to control, he should have a mental re-election and vote into office and control the higher qualities of his mind, represented by the organs of conscientiousness, benevolence and the esthetic tastes, and should give these rule or authority over his meaner, baser nature, as it was originally in the perfect man, and as is indicated by the higher position of the nobler organs of the mind in the brain structure. The thing necessary is to reach the decision that the higher organs shall control, and the lower ones be subservient.
The Fight of the New Creature .
The conversion or turning of even a decent "natural man" from a life controlled by selfishness to one controlled by justice and mercy is apt to be a strenuous fight. The lower faculties of the mind will continually seek to assert themselves and to regain their old control of the life which will thereafter be one of discussion between the higher ideals and the lower ones. The fight in the case of the more meanly born natural man is a more severe one, and generally results in his dissatisfaction because the lower qualities of his being are so strong that his will for righteousness, mercy and generosity is usually overridden, his conscience bruised and dissatisfied. He cries in his heart, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the power and domination of my body, which is dead in trespasses and sin, in evil propensities?" There is no relief for either of these extremes, nor for the intermediates of these natural men who desire to thoroughly abandon sin and live righteously, soberly and godly. The warfare is a continual one, and it is little by little that he gains, even temporarily, a victory.
The Apostle represents himself in the condition of this natural man, desiring righteousness and unable to attain it because of his own weaknesses and his evil environment, and then he gives us the key, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this dead body?" He replies, "I thank God through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the Law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin." (#Ro 7:25.) The deliverance comes through a full surrender to Christ in harmony with the same Apostle’s appeal, "I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."—#Ro 12:1.
It will be noticed that the Apostle does not address sinners, but "brethren." They are counted brethren from the time they turn from sin and accept by faith Divine forgiveness through the merit of Christ’s sacrifice. None but justified believers are thus privileged to present themselves or to be sacrifices upon the Lord’s altar. All by nature are sinners, and not until the sins are reckonedly purged away through faith in the redeeming blood can the offering be accepted.
With the acceptance of the offering of the believer comes his begetting of the Holy Spirit, as a spiritual son of God and joint-heir with Jesus—to heirship in the Millennial Kingdom. These spirit-begotten ones have thenceforth a totally different standing before God. They are viewed as without sin, because the weaknesses of the flesh belong to the old nature, which was sacrificed. The New Creature, begotten of the.Holy Spirit, is holy, pure, heavenly, in its desires and aspirations. It feeds upon the "bread from heaven," and is blessed with the peace of God which passeth
OV317 all human understanding. It is embryotic, however, and develops, grows in grace and knowledge.
Renewed Day by Day.
Speaking of the conflict, the fight, of these New Creatures, the Apostle indicates that it is chiefly with their own flesh. The new will is begotten in the old frame, or body, and needs a reorganization of the government of the man, by which his rule of life is not only taken away from the baser faculties to the higher ones, as when he was justified through faith and turned from sin, but it means much more. It means the placing of the control outside of himself entirely—the acceptance of Christ as his Head as well as his Redeemer.
Henceforth for him to live is Christ—as a member of the Body of Christ. This class everywhere throughout the world may be Scripturally considered as The Christ in the flesh, because His Spirit dwells in them—His mind controls them. In this sense of the word, be it observed, the "flesh" of Christ is still in the world, and the Spirit or mind of Christ is still ruling it. In this larger thought "the sufferings of The Christ" are still in progress, for, as the Apostle suggests, "All these are daily dying"—taking up their cross and following after their Lord and Head. By and by the sufferings of this present time will be ended—the last "member of the Body of Christ" will have died, will have passed beyond the veil, will have been "changed in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye," in the First Resurrection. Shortly thereafter the Kingdom of glory will be inaugurated and "the reign of Sin and death" will be brought to an end; and the binding of Satan will take place, and the blessing of all the families of the earth will begin.
The battle of the New Creature is one of the principal topics of the New Testament. It tells that his battle is to be unto victory, if he is faithful—if he will continue loyal to his covenant of sacrifice; because the Lord stands pledged to give him needed grace and strength and to bring him off "more than conqueror." It tells who are his foes, namely, the flesh and the devil.
SHOW ME THY FACE
SHOW me Thy face—one transient gleam Of loveliness Divine, And I shall never think or dream Of other love than Thine; All other lights will darken quite, All lower glories wane, The beautiful of earth will scarce Seem beautiful again.
Show me Thy face—the heaviest cross Will then seem light to bear, There will be gain in every loss, And peace with every care.
With such light feet the years will fleet, Life seem as brief as blest, Till I have laid my burden down, And entered into rest.