Satan knows the secrets of the great success of the first disciples--their whole-hearted devotion, their all absorbing love of Jesus Christ, and their utter renunciation of the world. They were consumed in working for the salvation of their fellows and promoting the glory of God. An enthusiastic Christianity swallowed them up and made them willing to become wanderers and vagabonds upon the earth. For Jesus' sake they would dwell in dens and caves, be torn asunder, and be persecuted in every form.
Facing this degree of devotion in Jesus' disciples, Satan saw he had no chance. He knew such people as these could ultimately subdue the world. Human nature could not stand before that kind of spirit, that amount of love and zeal. If subsequent believers had continued as the first disciples began long ago, the glorious prophecy would have been fulfilled: "The kingdoms of this world" would have "become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ." Therefore, the arch-enemy asked, "What must I do? I shall be defeated after all. I shall lose my supremacy as the god of this world."
It would do Satan no good to bring in a gigantic system of error that everyone would recognize. That has never been Satan's way. His plan has been to get hold of a good man here and there, who will creep in unawares and preach another doctrine. He shall deceive, if it were possible, the very elect. And he did it. He accomplished his design. He gradually lowered the standard of Christian life and character. To a certain extent in every revival God has raised the true standard again. However, we have never gotten back thoroughly to the simplicity, purity, and devotion set before us in the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles. And in every age where God has raised the devotion of His people, Satan has gotten someone to oppose Him and say that this was too high a standard for human nature. Therefore, Christians have been content to say "Oh, wretched man that I am" to the end of their days.
Satan has gotten the church into a condition that sometimes makes a person positively ashamed to hear professing Christians talk, and ashamed also that this world should hear them talk. I do not wonder that such "Christianity" drives away thoughtful, intelligent people. I believe this kind of "Christianity" has made more unbelievers than all the infidel books ever written. If I had not known the power of godliness, it would have driven me off.
Yes, Satan knew that he must get Christians down from the high pinnacle of whole-hearted consecration to God. He knew that he had no chance until he had tempted them down from that blessed vantage ground, and so he began to spread false doctrines to counteract it. John saw this and wrote before he died, "Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil." Lord Jesus revive this doctrine! Help us afresh to put up the standard!
Oh, the great evil! Dishonest-hearted people, because they feel this standard condemns them, lower the standard to their own miserable experience. But Jesus Christ put the glorious standard before us. He offers us the power. He lays down the conditions and we can attain the standard, if we will. For the sake of the children and generations yet unborn, if we refuse to attain it, let us not drag down the standard to make it meet our little, paltry, circumscribed experience. LET US KEEP IT UP. In this way, we will get the world to look at it. Show the world a real, living, self-sacrificing, hard-working, toiling, triumphing Christianity, and the world will be influenced by it. But anything short of that, and they will turn around and spit upon it.
I have been reading the New Testament with special reference to the assertive spirit of the first Christians. And it is wonderful what floods of light come upon you when you read the Bible concerning any particular topic on which you are seeking help. When God sees you are panting after the light, to use it, He pours it in upon you. It is an indispensable condition of receiving light that you are willing to follow it. People say they don't see this and that, no, because they do not wish to see it. They are not willing to walk in it; therefore, they do not get it. But those who are willing to obey shall have all the light they need.
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