WHAT we need is revival, a spiritual awakening of God's people, a powerful testimony to the world, a new vision and a fresh experience of the saving and keeping power of Christ through His word and the Holy Spirit.
This experience is possible, for Christ is living today! He is the eternal Victor, the Exalted One, the spring of all life and strength for everyone who puts his trust in Him. Christ never disappoints.
But God grants His free gifts only to faith. Only where there is trust and devotion, will God's fountains be opened. Only upon a life, fully surrendered, will He pour out His abundant blessings.
Where there was failure, He can give restoration. All weakness can be overcome. New joy and hope can fill our hearts.
That is the message of this book. It is at the same time my personal testimony. It differs from my previous books, The Dawn of World Redemption, The Triumph of the Crucified and From Eternity to Eternity in that those dealt with the general lines of development of God's plan of redemption, but this bears testimony chiefly to our personal experience of salvation. For the deeds of God are not only around and above us, they should be in us at the same time. The general plan of salvation must centre in a personal experience of salvation in the individual.
I am indebted very much to my friends Dr. and Mrs. A. E. Wilder Smith for their very great and most valuable share in the work of translation. Without their keen interest and united efforts this English edition would not have come to pass.
The book was published first in German in 1952. In this English edition there is added a special treatise on "The ancient Greek and Roman Racecourses and the Spiritual Warfare, as compared in the New Testament." We have given this discussion in a more detailed form because the knowledge of these Greek and Roman customs illuminates greatly the figurative language of many New Testament Scriptures which refer to them. At the same time it gives us a clearer understanding of the surroundings and some most important features of the outward conditions of the early Christian church. By elaborating the description of this special side of ancient culture in its relationship to the New Testament, we also hope to render a certain service to such students of Scripture who might want to make use of this book for the preparation of messages in their ministry, and therefore might be glad to have a more detailed view of these ancient customs and their history. Such readers may also value the Greek terms of these institutions as well as the references to certain Greek expressions in the Biblical text that are occasionally given in the book when this seemed helpful for a more exact understanding.
The chapter on the Races has been translated by Mr. G. H. Lang, the translator of my three previous books. To him I wish also to express my sincere thanks.
The book is written in a simple style. It sets out to express its message in a language understandable to all. It is designed as an appeal to heart and mind for new spiritual zeal and devotion, for new confidence and hope. It bases its teachings on the truths of Hebrews 12. Therefore at the head of each chapter is given the relevant quotation from Hebrews 12 so that the word of the Scripture and the meditation thereon may hang closely together, and the reading and understanding of the whole be facilitated.
May the Lord bless the testimony of this book. May He lead us all more and more into a real experience of His blessings. His promises are to all those who in holy earnestness reach out towards the prize, those who lift up their eyes to Him, those who do His commandment. In the arena of faith "let us look unto Jesus."
Wiedenest, Rhineland, Germany.
God's people have heard God's call. For only by this call has a People of God come into being, since "faith cometh by hearing" (Rom. 10: 17). By means of this call God's miraculous dealings with His church began. We cannot think or speak highly enough of the redeemed of the Lord. They are saved and reconciled, freed and blessed (Col. 1:13,14; Eph. 1:3). They are "elect of God, holy and beloved" (Col. 3:12). They are vessels of His grace, sons of the mighty Father, royal children, citizens of heaven. Even though many imperfections and weaknesses are indeed still present, we may be of good courage and have firm confidence as to the work of the Holy Spirit in His own. We are able to see Christ's image in His followers, yes, we can see Christ Himself in our brother and with all our heart we can rejoice in Him seen in one another. "The saints that are in the earth, they are the excellent, in whom is all my delight" (Psa. 16:3).
God's people need a new awakening! It is an alarming fact that, in spite of the mighty voice of God in the momentous happenings of recent years, there has been no really great lasting general revival, not in a single European country!
Certainly in not a few towns and districts the Spirit of God has been able to work in local movements. The general public has been spoken to with power by the gospel. Christians have been quickened and non-Christians won, triumphant songs of thanks and salvation have been heard in churches and tents, in halls and homes. For all these works of grace in town and country we cannot sufficiently bless the Lord.
And yet, amongst believers, we see so much earthly-mindedness, so much love of the world, so much anxiety, so much narrow egoism, so much exclusive concern for one's own little circle, so much firm holding fast to old forms which have long since been dead and which, not seldom, never had any solid warrant in Scripture, so much over-emphasis on secondary matters, and so much neglect of the true values that really matter.
We must seriously ask ourselves the question: Have our ears become so deaf that we are not able to hear the voice of God for the thunder of the battlefields, the roaring of the bombers, the crashing of walls, the collapsing of houses, the dying of millions of men and women, old and young?
Without a doubt, sin has been at work here. Not God but the demoniacal powers of world kingdoms separated from Him have caused all this. But in this thunder of catastrophies God has spoken, secretly controlling them and, in the last analysis, mightily ruling by them (cf. Jer. 51:20; Isa. 45:1-7): "Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations He has made in the earth" (Psa. 46:8).
How could God speak yet more impressively? First-class world powers have been smashed, towns have been changed to fields of ruins, irreplaceable works of art, centuries old, have been destroyed, millions of men have been killed. Under the judgment of God the estrangement of sinners from Him has worked itself out in a most terrifying manner to their own disaster.
How clearly ought God's people to have recognized God's voice in the midst of this Satan-driven whirl of history! To what a large extent should there have been power-filled witness, missionary energy, readiness to sacrifice, zeal to be sanctified, and willingness to show brotherly love, showing forth thus the fact and the fruit of really living for eternity!
And yet in general one has seen so very little of all this.
How can we expect non-Christians to awake if we ourselves are not awakened? How can "fire" arise if we ourselves do not "burn"? How shall life be begotten if we ourselves are not truly filled with "life"?
Things must be altered. God's people must awake. You must awake and I too! We must let ourselves be clothed anew by life-giving power from on high. The living Christ must become again the reality of our souls and take possession of all we are and have.
We must forsake all false quietism and reach out into a holy activity. We must learn anew to regard our Christian life as a "race," as a running (I Cor. 9:24), as "combat" in the "arena of faith" (cf. Phil. 3:14; Heb. 12:14). "I therefore so run" (I Cor. 9:26). "Neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy" (Acts 20:24; II Tim. 4:7), "that I have not run in vain" (Phil. 2:16).
"The prize" is waiting to be won (I Cor. 9: 24). "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:14).
"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain" (I Cor. 9:24).
But he alone has the victory who looks to Christ. For Christ also was a warrior. He was both pioneer and victor. For this reason He is also our example and source of power, our umpire and rewarder.
What we need is a renewed vision of the person of the Redeemer, a vision of the cross and a practical obedience to the ways of the cross, a thankful recognition of God's grace abundantly bestowing its blessings upon us. We must be taken hold of and flooded through and through by the power of His Spirit so that we may run in His strength unto the goal of our calling.
This implies in detail that we must stand the test in difficulties, in sorrows, we must be able to dismiss the spirit of worrying and overcome all spiritual weariness and symptoms of fatigue, we must be ready to bear witness and must have a missionary spirit. Brotherly love and sanctification, prayerfulness and hearkening to the Word of God, must characterize us. All this will enable us to run steadfastly towards heaven and glory.
Such is the purpose of this book. In the main, this is the message of the 12th chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews. And thus the message of God in those bygone days will become a message of admonition and warning for us today, a message of revival from the past for the people of God in the present.
It is these truths that I feel of the greatest importance. In fact, in them lies the fulcrum, the secret of our own intimate heart relationship to the Lord: that is, in personal experience of the crucified and resurrected Christ, in faith in a present full salvation, in the realization of the heavenly standing of the redeemed, in the spirit of joyful gratitude for the richness of blessing which we have received in Christ by the Holy Spirit.
On the other hand we must not fail to confess our very great imperfections. We must see our obligation to strive for practical holiness, the necessity for sacrificial readiness in vital missionary testimony, for steadfast standing of the test in all the trials of the present time. There must be intercourse with the Lord through prayer and through His Word, devotion and dedication, freshness in faith and pressing forward to the goal, realization of responsibility, holy earnestness, and, at the same time, joyful expectancy of His glorious coming again.
All this is possible only through Him, who is Himself the fountain of all salvation. "From Me is thy fruit found" (Hos. 14:8). "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, yea and for ever" (Heb. 13:8). Only an actual God working in the actual experience of man can help us; there must be faith for a realized experience of His person, a reckoning upon His presence. He is at hand (Phil. 4:5). He is here where I am. His presence is my salvation. He is the ever-ready helper at any moment in my own personal experience and He helps in every situation joyfully, the present living Christ here and now. "Jesus saves me now."
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