Thursday 19 May 2011

Life in the Melchizedek Order XI : Maurice Smith - I'm Dead

From Chapter 2 - 20th Century Pilgrim by Maurice Smith
We were lost. There was no doubt about it. We had left Canterbury pushed for time, and now Eileen and I were trying to arrive in time for 'Here comes the bride' at a wedding in Barnet, Hertfordshire. We found London all right, but emerging from under the River Thames via the Blackwall tunnel, had taken a wrong turning and were now exploring the awful delights of the Mile End Road. In frustration I turned down a side street.
At least we were now facing north and not heading straight for the heart of the great metropolis.
'We'll stop and ask those two fellas,' I said, as I swung the car across the road, pulling up by a grimy corner pub where they were fixed in discussion over a matter that was obviously of worldwide importance. Both looked up inquisitively from under the peaks of their caps.
'Yes mate?' one enquired.
'I want to get to Barnet please,' I said as politely as I could manage, struggling under the pressure of being late. He looked blank.
'Barnet? ... Barnet?' His bewildered gaze questioned my face as if I'd asked for Bangalore. I thought as quickly as I could; we were wasting precious time. Maybe if I suggested somewhere between our present location in the Mile End Road and Barnet, then one of these East End philosophers could at least get me en route.
'Highgate,' I offered. 'Do you know Highgate Archway?'
They shook their heads in unison. By now I was approaching my normal state of desperation and blurted out,
'Finsbury Park! The Arsenal! Surely you know where that is?'
I reasoned that if I could get just that far at least I'd be going in the right direction. Their faces lit up in joint recognition. Impatience caused me to lean out of the window to hurry them along. No such luck. They were making a meal of this enquiry. It was obviously not every day that someone sought them out for advice. Finally they ceased their deliberations and the spokesman approached me with as much authority as he could muster. I waited expectantly. Drawing himself up to his full height, he announced with absolute finality:
'Sorry mate, you can't get there from here!'
I was dumbfounded. I began to remonstrate with the man. 'Where else do you expect me to start from?' I demanded logically.
He looked puzzled.
'I should close the window dear; we'll have to ask somebody else.'
It was my wife, the source of all calmness and wisdom, from the passenger seat.
How impossible to start anywhere other than where we are now. Why even God can't meet us where we are not (if you can sort that out!). I realised that on my spiritual pilgrimage I'd got myself into a fair old muddle, but there seemed no way I could guarantee to sort myself out. My Christian life looked like a big tangled ball of wool, and all I could do was pull one of the ends to see what came out. That was where I was at. I had to start from there. I was weighed down with over-re?
sponsibility, declaring 'his yoke was easy' but finding everything pretty difficult really. Trying to make this Christian life have impact, trying to live a godlier life, trying to bring maturity to the bunch of people who had recognised me as an 'elder' and were submitting areas of their lives to me for guidance. It was all so trying, and was certainly the blind leading the blind; although as ever, I was willing to wave my stick about in front a bit more than most. I'd just have to have a weak pull of one of the wool ends again and see what happened. All this effort was beginning to wear me down.
Dorrie Brooking was a lady for whom I had much respect. I suspected she was in her sixties, and she had that tell-tale twinkle in the eye that always tantalised me. These twinklers had what I was after, so when she invited Eileen and me to her Canterbury home one evening about fourteen years ago, I went gladly.
'We've a man called John Anderson from Scotland speaking,' she said.
Well speak he did. I've never seen anyone so relaxed. He sat there explaining that he didn't live this Christian life, Christ lived it instead.' He used to kneel by his bed at night and feel sorrowful for his sins; instead he said he now walked in holiness. He took a cigarette from his pack and lit it up, turned to the assembled company and asked, 'Any questions?'
Any questions?!! If he had suggested an orgy he couldn't have caused more impact. There were several of my evangelical friends in the room and the backs of their necks were nigh purple with rage. One man began, 'Every night I kneel down and confess all my sins . . .'
'Must be a miserable existence,' John commented with some concern.
'You don't keep sinning?!' 'You smoke?!' The questions came thick and fast. In spite of all their biblical knowledge about God not looking on the outer appearance but on the heart, they seemed obsessed by John's three inch tube of tobacco. In Hungary, I recalled, some of the finest Christians I've met smoked quite freely, and gave their lives in martyrdom freely also. The Germans drank wine without condemnation, and the American ladies wore make-up (what a stir Billy Graham's wife caused when she arrived in this country back in the fifties!)
'What about you, Maurice? How are you coping?' It was that still small voice inside. I admitted I was confused, and stayed behind for question time, while Eileen went home to relieve the babysitter. I was asking God to show me the truth, for it seemed the speaker was on one end of a spiritual see-saw and most of his hearers on the other. I was rushing up and down the plank, unable to settle either end. I felt the Lord was asking me if I could accept new light, even if it meant losing some of the friends I'd had for years. Although the connection eluded me, I said 'yes', and the Holy Spirit spoke more clearly in response than I'd heard him speak for years.

'You're dead, Maurice,'he said, and I instantly
knew I was.
Nothing ever happens to me by halves. It was as if I'd been groping about in the dark for years and suddenly all the house lights came full on. This was evidently to do with freedom from sin, because the contents of a verse from Romans seven planted themselves plainly in my mind: 'But if I do that I
would not ... it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me." No more I! (Mistakenly I thought I had seen I was dead to the law also, but that was to come years later and after what seemed like reservoirs full of tears and lorryloads of anguish.)
This unlikely scripture was used to ram home the 'no more I' emphasis. It came simply as a direct revelation to my spirit, sealing the fact that I was dead.
I knew I didn't have to wrestle with sin anymore. The more I sinned, the more grace abounded.' But who wanted to sin anyway? Should I just go and have a good old sin-up in order to experience more grace? After all, He who is forgiven most, loves most! No, I found myself with Paul saying, 'God forbid'; or, more accurately with his modern translator J. B. Phillips when he penned, 'What a ghastly thought!'
Oh, what an emancipation. I bounded home to my wife; it was by now very late and she was in bed. In my elation I woke her up and shared my discovery.
'I'm dead! I'm dead!' echoed round the bedroom. She obviously wondered what it was all about, for I had never looked so much alive! Eileen reminded ,me that I had been preaching this truth from Romans for ten years. What was so different now? I just had to reply,
'I know, dear, but it's true!'
For years I had been telling myself it was true because it was in the bible and The Normal Christian Life.
'I'd like to run down the streets of Canterbury and tell everyone,' I said on waking next morning. We realised together, lying there in bed, that these
were exactly the words Watchman Nee had used when he had received the same revelation. Only with him it had been Shanghai, and considerably earlier on in his pilgrimage. Now I was free, really free from all those desperate attempts to stop sinning. I didn't live anymore, it was Christ that lived in me. That old accusing nagging self was dead and buried. Not only had my sins been carried away two thousand years ago, but so had 1. Jesus had not only dealt with the fruit, but with the root of the trouble. I had sinned because I was a sinner, and not the other way round. Now the sinner was dead.
It was not long before I was in trouble with my friends.
'You are so heavenly-minded, you'll be no earthly use!'
'You have to do your part you know.' 'You have to be responsible .. .'
On and on it went until finally I was labelled an antinomian. Until then I had jokingly half-thought that described a particular aversion to garden gnomes, but now I knew better. It is a relief to know that such an eminent scholar as Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones has declared that anyone preaching the true good news of grace was sure to be called an antinomian, or one who uses the gospel as an excuse to sin. I'm sure glad the Apostle Paul didn't feel bound to add in a bit of self-help bad news to make sure his contemporaries didn't go off into licence. If they wanted to use their freedom as an occasion to fulfil their fleshly desires, then do so they must, with dire consequences; but he stressed primarily, 'It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!''
These friends of mine were serious. They really felt I had to fight to resist sin, to grit my teeth and stick at this Christian grind. Their actual words didn't go this far, but their attitudes did. They had no alternative but to try to stop sinning; failing time and again, then keep getting forgiveness. I'd crept further along the other end of the see-saw than that. I tried to explain that 'by myself (in this area) I can do nothing'. All I was capable of doing was 'yielding' 11 to Christ within. These dear friends seemed to have the ability to make even the give-up type of words, like 'yield', take on a massive personal responsibility. Gradually many began to refer to me as 'off the rails' and to edge me out of their company. Moving from doctrine to experience had proved a costly step and I guess it often is. Anyway, I would not be put off. I was going to trust God to keep me from sin.
O.B.H. (Old Brother Holloway)had been right again when he had caught me worrying one day. As I trudged along the Deal seafront early one morning with those two ungodly perpendicular lines creasing my forehead, he crept up behind me and whispered,
'It's perfectly safe to trust the Lord, old boy' And so it is.
This was a major blow against all those demons of false doctrine who had been successfully harassing me into trying to do what Jesus had already done. As far as I was concerned, he had freed me from both the guilt and the power of sin: I am dead to sin and alive to Christ;" I was crucified with him; I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. Thank goodness there are not two natures within me fighting for the upper hand. I am a container for the living God." I used to contain the spirit of my original father, the devil.'

I now contain the spirit of my new father, God. I'm glad I started where I was, in all my confusion, and went up to Dorrie Brooking's home with all the ensuing controversy.
From time to time, as a new creation, sin may penetrate my outer defences and get into my flesh and soul realm, but never deep into the depth of the spirit realm – that's where I am entirely new. Once gain a foothold and, of course, Satan makes a great fuss and starts to argue that 'The old man is alive again' or 'you never were crucified with Christ" or you would not be behaving like this'; but we know he is a liar 17 and can quickly send him packing. Sin 'dwelling in us' (taking up a dwelling or a temporary residence) is quite a different matter to having a sinful nature.
As usual, I thought I'd arrived and Jesus would be here by the weekend. Maurice has had revelation And will have no more problems! Well, it hasn't been quite like that you can be sure, but the impact of that wonderful revelation has never left me during the many following years. What I know now is that I was finally in the good of Romans six. I was dead to sin; no more effort in that direction; but I had a long way to go before I could say the same of Romans seven – before being dead to trying to serve God," and trying to be an effectual Christian was a reality.
Freed from worrying about sin, now I was to turn my full attention on 'growing up in Christ'. More effort! And that's what the last fourteen years have been about. It was subtle, and painful, and doubtless all part of the divine plan to get me across the wilderness and up into the promised land. Like the Israelites, I seemed to have turned a few days'
journey into years of misery, and he has been there in it all. I realise now that Jesus 'lured' me into the wilderness that I might come out 'leaning on my beloved', but there was no awareness of that during the troubled years.
Are you just a little perplexed by the ups and downs, the winding route? Join the club. I've been perplexed for years and according to his testimony to the Corinthians, so was Paul, for he openly stated, 'We are perplexed.' We're in good company. I've a large shelf in my life and on it I place all the things I don't understand. From time to time, I take some of them down and review them. Some go back up, some go out, and some of them I am able to receive into my life. I cannot believe everything now. There is a time for everything and group pressure from others, or trying to keep up with the spiritual Jones' from my side, will only mean an abortive birth of the truth in me, with all the attendant traumas that follow in its wake. I want to go on, I want to be changed into all the Lord has for me, but I'm all right where I am too. In fact I shall probably never go on to be all that I desire to be until I've fully accepted that where I am is all right. So let's stay perplexed, if need be, and live with things we don't understand. We're running full stretch; let's first maintain our form and not try to go faster than we're capable of, that's the way to get our best time, and if running isn't your sport I'm sure you can find another analogy.

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