I am taking a break from the The Big Picture series this morning due to the death of my father-in-law and my needs there. Following is something I read on Thursday that spoke to me. I hope it will speak to you as well.

The Way of a Soul

Ephesians 5:14-18

The Way of the Awakening of the Soul (Ephesians 5:14-15)

Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead . . . (Ephesians 5:14)

What is Possible in the Way of Habits
A good many of us are in the condition that St. Augustine described himself to be in, the condition of a half-awakened man who does not wish to be awakened—“a little more sleep.” God smote St. Augustine with the words, “not in chambering and wantonness.” When the Spirit of God brings a word of God to us, are we going to wake up and lay hold of it, or remain in the condition St. Augustine was in—“a little more worldliness; a little less intensity”? If God tells us to awake, we must get into the habit of awakening. We have to wake up physically before we can wake up spiritually. When God tells us to do a thing He empowers us to do it, only we must do the doing. Think of the number of times we say, “Oh, I can’t.” For the good of your own soul, say “I won’t.” To say, “I can’t” enervates the whole life. If we really cannot, God has misled us. Jesus said “All power is given unto Me”; if He tells us to do something and we cannot, this is simply not true.

We talk about attacks of the devil—“I cannot concentrate my mind, the devil hinders me.” The reason we cannot concentrate is that we are culpably ignorant about ourselves. The devil does not need to bother about us as long as we remain ignorant of the way God has made us and refuse to discipline ourselves; inattention and our own slovenliness will soon run away with every power we have. Watch the care students take in other domains of life, and then think of our own laziness and the way we continually fall back and say, “It can’t be done.” All we need is grit and gumption and reliance on the Holy Spirit. We must bring the same determined energy to the revelations in God’s Book as we bring to earthly professions. Most of us leave the sweat of brain outside when we come to deal with the Bible.

Anything and everything is possible in the way of habits. Habits form a pathway in the material stuff of the brain. We cannot form a habit without thinking about it; but when once the pathway in the brain is formed we can do a thing easily without thinking about it. For instance, we were not born with the ready-made habit of dressing ourselves, we had to form that habit. If we persist in using our bodies in a certain way, alterations will take place in the make-up of the brain. Spiritually we have to learn to form habits on the basis of the grace of God. What happens at new birth is that the incoming of a totally new life breaks all the old habits, they are completely dislodged by the “expulsive power of a new affection.” Most of us do not realise this and we continue to obey habits when there is no need to. The incoming of the Spirit of God from without forms a disassociation physically, and new habits can be formed. Never dispute for a second when God speaks; if you debate, you give an opportunity to the old habits to reassert themselves. Launch yourself with as strong an initiative as possible on the line of obedience; it is difficult at first, but immediately you start to obey, you find you can do it. The danger is to say “I can’t,” or, “I will do it presently.” When in your soul’s vision you see clearly what God wants, let me advise you to do something physical immediately. If you accompany a moral or spiritual decision with a physical effort you give the necessary initiative to form the new habit. A physical exertion is imperative in spiritual transactions, otherwise it is in danger of passing into thin air. When God tells you to do a thing, never wait for a fitting opportunity, do it now. You may dream about doing it to further orders,* the only thing to do is to launch out at once and make things inevitable, make it impossible to go back on the decision.

Beware of divorcing the physical and the spiritual. Habits are physical, and every command of God has a physical basis. “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”†† You cannot hear with your heart if you do not listen with your physical ears. Does God find me quick in the uptake to discern what He says? Am I awake enough to hear? God always locates His spiritual revelations in a physical body. The great God became Incarnate in flesh and blood; the great thoughts of God became crystallised in words. When the Spirit of God touches us, we are responsible for forming the mind of Christ. God does the wonderful indwelling part, but we have to do the expressing (see Philippians 2:12-13), and when once we understand how God has made us, it becomes not at all difficult to do it. The Spirit of God knocks and says, “Wake up, form this habit,” and if you try, you find you can because you find you have a wealth of power within. It is only when we are willing to be identified with the death of Jesus that the full power of His life is able to work, and we find a new page of consciousness open in our lives. There are new forces in us and we are able now to do what we never could before; we are free from the old bondage and limitations. The gateway into this life is through the death of Jesus Christ.

Be a saint physically.

The Way of the Apprehension of the Soul (Ephesians 5:16-17)

understanding what the will of the Lord is . . . (Ephesians 5:17)

What is possible in the Way of Intelligence
Have we begun to form the habit of thinking? Thinking is the habit of expressing what moves our spirit. In order to think we must concentrate. Thinking is a purely physical process. No one can tell us how to begin to think, all they can do is to tell us what happens when we do think. In the grey matter of the brain are multitudes of blood-vessels, distributed equally all over the brain, and when we think, the blood gathers to the one part of the brain we are using. This is called concentration. Dissipated thinking means that the blood goes back to the other parts of the brain and wakens up associated ideas. When we focus our will around certain thoughts, the blood converges to that particular part of the brain, and if we can hold our wills fixed there for five minutes, we have done a tremendous thing, we have begun to form the habit of mental concentration. The majority of us allow our brains to wool-gather, we never concentrate on any particular line. Concentration is physical, not spiritual. The brain must be brought into order by concentration, then when the Spirit of God brings a spontaneous illumination of a particular theme instantly the brain is at the disposal of God. If we have not learned to concentrate, the brain cannot focus itself anywhere, it fusses all round and wool-gathers. No one is responsible for that but ourselves.

This is true in ordinary thinking, and the same brain is used by the Holy Spirit. We have to learn to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (rv); to “stay our imagination” (rv mg) on God. This can only be done by concentration, by fixing our thoughts and our imagination deliberately on God. The majority of us are unable to fix our thoughts in prayer, we lie all abroad before God and do not rouse ourselves up to lay hold of Him, consequently we have wandering thoughts continually. God will not bring every thought and imagination into captivity; we have to do it, and that is the test of spiritual concentration. The inattentive, slovenly way we drift into the presence of God is an indication that we are not bothering to think about Him. Whenever our Lord spoke of prayer, He said, “ask.” It is impossible to ask if you do not concentrate. The marvel of the goodness of God is that He does so much for us; if we would only meet with physical obedience what God does for us spiritually, the whole of our body would be under such control that we should apprehend His meaning when He speaks. It is not a question of learning a thing outside but of determination inside. God gives us the Holy Spirit not only for holy living but for holy thinking, and we are held responsible if we do not think concentratedly along the right lines. To concentrate with our mind fixed on one trend of things is never easy to begin with. There never is a time when we cannot begin to concentrate.

“Be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” We have to use the same power of concentration spiritually as we do naturally. How are we going to find out the will of God? “God will communicate it to us.” He will not. His will is there all the time, but we have to discover it by being renewed in our minds, by taking heed to His word and obeying it. If we are not going to be “conformed to this world; but . . . transformed,” we must use our brains. God does the spiritual, powerful part we cannot do; but we have to work it out, and as we do the obeying we prove, i.e., “make out,” “what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” We need to make our own nature the ally of the Spirit of God. The grace of God never fails us, but we often fail the grace of God because we do not practise. If we do not practise when there is no need, we shall never do it when there is a need. When people say, “I cannot think, I have not the gift,” they mean that they have never used their brains. We all have bodies and brains. When we use our brains in concentration in a way we have never done before, we will have growing pains; a headache after thinking is a sign we have brains. The more we work and get beyond the conscious stage of doing things, the more easily will we do them. We all have unconscious mental methods. Never imitate to stick to what you imitate; imitate only in order to provoke your mind to know its own mechanism.

An artist is one who not only sees but is prepared to pay the price of acquiring the technical knowledge to express what he sees. An artistic person is one who has not enough art in him to make him work at the technique of art whereby he can express himself, he indulges in moods and tones and impressions; consequently there are more artistic people than there are artists. The same is true of poetry, there are many people with poetic notions, but very few poets. It is not enough for a man to feel the divine flame burning in him; unless he goes into the concentrated, slogging business of learning the technique of expression, his genius will be of no use to anyone. Apply these illustrations spiritually: if we have not enough of the life of God in us to overcome the difficulty of expressing it in our bodies, then we are living an impoverished spiritual life. Think of the illuminations the Spirit of God has given you; He expected you to bring your physical body which He made into obedience to the vision, and you never attempted to but let it drift, and when the crisis came and God looked for you to be His mouthpiece, you crumpled all to pieces. You had not formed the habit of apprehending; your physical machine was not under control. It is a terrible thing to sit down to anything.

Beware of being side-tracked by the idea that you can develop a spiritual life apart from physical accompaniments. It is a desperately dangerous thing to allow the spiritual vision to go ahead of physical obedience.

Do some practical obeying.

The Way of Appreciation by the Soul (Ephesians 5:18)

. . . be filled with the Spirit.

What is Possible in the Way of Inspiration
There are two ways of inspiration possible—being drunk with wine, and being filled with the Spirit. We have no business to be nondescript, drunk neither one way nor the other. A man may be sober and incapable as well as drunk and in capable. Watch human nature; we are so built that if we do not get thrilled in the right way, we will get thrilled in the wrong. If we are without the thrill of communion with God, we will try to get thrilled by the devil, or by some concoction of human ingenuity. Don’t be inspired with wine, the counterfeit of the Spirit, says Paul, but be filled with the Spirit. Enthusiasm is the idea— intoxicated with the life of God. Paul puts it as a command, “Be being filled.” When our Lord talked to the woman of Samaria, He said, “the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” Profoundly speaking, there is no refilling; “a well of water” is there all the time. The picture is not that of a channel, but of a fountain, a continual infilling and overflowing of the inspiration of God.

In the matter of inspiration the first thing to watch is the temper of our own soul. A blameworthy temper of mind about another soul will end in the spirit of the devil. We cannot approach God in a wrong temper of mind, it will put a shutter down between and we shall not see Him. God introduces us to people who conduct themselves to us as we have conducted ourselves to Him, and if we do not recognise what He is doing we will ride a moral hobby-horse—“I will not be treated like that.” There is no further inspiration possible from the Spirit of God until that temper of mind is gone. “Take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.” Our Lord always puts His finger unerringly on the thing that is wrong. “First be reconciled . . .” (Matthew 5:24). The next thing we have to watch is our private relationship with God. Are we determined to prove that God must do what we have said He must? If so, our intercession becomes frenzied fanaticism. Or are we only concerned about being brought into an understanding of God, which is the real meaning of prayer? The greatest barrier to intercession is that we take ourselves so seriously, and come to the conclusion that God is reserved with us; He is not. God has to ignore things we take so seriously until our relationship to Him is exactly that of a child. If we are watching the temper of our minds towards other people and towards God, there will be the continual incoming and outflowing of the inspiration of God, a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit all the time. Imagine Jesus being jaded in the life of God! There was never anything jaded about Him. When we are jaded there is always a reason, and it is either the temper of our mind towards another or towards God. We have no business to be half-dead spiritually, to hang like clogs on God’s plan; we should be filled with a radiant intensity of life, living at the highest pitch all the time without any reaction. “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

Be being filled with the life Jesus came to give.

— Taken from the Complete Works of Oswald Chambers


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