A CAUSE GREATER THAN I|
A delegation of Greeks went to the big Passover festival in Jerusalem to worship. While there, for some reason, they contacted Philip and made a most famous request, saying, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." John 12:21.
I have often wondered what the motive was behind their expressing such a desire. Was it that Philip could station them where their natural eyes could behold Him more clearly? Was it a yearning to satisfy the peculiar demands of idle curiosity? Was it to test Him with hard questions as the Queen of Sheba did Solomon? Was it to secure His attitude toward the outlying districts of the dominion of Messianic reign? Had they found in Him what they could not find in Judaism, a satisfaction for divinely awakened longings?
Probably none of these reveal accurately their motive. And this we conclude because of the response Jesus gave when confronted with the proposition. He said, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Verily, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. . . . Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour."
The answer Jesus gave indicates that both the Greeks and Jesus were in dead earnest, but their purposes were crossed. The Greeks wanted one thing for Jesus: He wanted another. They would take Him away from the battle, away from the cross, away from the Jews, and in so doing they would take Him away from the great cause for which He lived.
Though the Greeks may not have meant it as such, yet they hurled a temptation at Jesus paralleled by Satan when he took Jesus to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; at which time Satan said to Jesus, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me."
The same type of temptation came to Jesus again. This time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took Him and began to rebuke Him, saying, "God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you."
Satan would divert Jesus from His major purpose in life by causing Him to accept a temporal empire which one day would crumble beneath His feet. Peter would have Him refuse the bitter cup and fulfill the requirements of a Jewish Messiah. But Jesus rebuked them both and pursued the cause which He considered of greater value than Himself.
No person, young or old, ever finds the real essence and joy of life until he first discovers a cause of unlimited value which he considers to be greater than himself, and to which he wholly gives himself. Jesus discovered this cause and allowed neither friend nor foe to tear Him from it. He could say, "For this cause came I unto this hour."
Today, may we march in quest for a cause greater than ourselves and to which we can wholly give ourselves. First, we shall seek for this cause in a philosophy of life; then in a system of theology; and finally, in a historical Person whom we call Jesus Christ.
Every normal human being on earth is directed in his decisions and in his destiny by an over-all aim, or a philosophy of life. Tell me what a man desires most, and I will tell you his philosophy of life. There are those who believe the getting of wisdom to be manís major purpose in life; others, the getting of wealth, or the work of a manís hands, or the enjoyment of pleasure. However, Solomon indicated that manís supreme duty was to fear God and keep His commandments. To do this in the light of New Testament teachings, we find that the Christian in his approach to the problems of life moves forward in reverse, when his techniques are compared with the materialistic standards of present day thinking. To verify this we submit the teachings of our Lord. He said, "If there be any great among you, let him be the servant of all. If a man sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, give him thy cloke also. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs of you and do not refuse him who would borrow from you."
Jesus teaches us to love our enemies, pray for our persecutors, bless those who curse us, and do good to them who mistreat us. It is amazing what Jesus taught, and yet His teachings are the most profound in existence. The only real way up is to step down and lift others up. The only way to keep an eternal robe is to give both coat and cloke. The way to complete the journey to the Celestial City is to go the second mile when forced to go the first. The only way to gain is by giving. The only way to live is by dying. The only way to win is by losing. The only way to climb is by falling.
Experience has taught me that these principles of our Lord are not fanciful thinking or merely theoretical, but practical and applicable to the problems of everyday living. During 1941 I was both pastoring a church and attending the University in Columbia, South Carolina. In the library, one afternoon, I had studied for hours on the techniques of education as advocated by Pestalozi and Rousseau. About four oíclock in the afternoon the pinch of hunger reminded me that I had not eaten lunch.
Deciding to eat a bit, I dashed from the University library through drizzling rain to my seven-year-old Chevrolet, and driving to the corner, I almost stopped at the stop sign. But being in a hurry, I looked in only one direction. A boy driving his fatherís new Ford crashed into my old car. When the policeman made a check of the wreck, he asked if I had stopped. I informed him that I almost stopped. "Then you are to blame," he said.
The boyís father arrived about that time and discovered his new car with the right front fender, the headlights, and the wheels smashed. The manís temper, along with his disappointment, quickly reached the boiling point, and I caught the steam from his scorching reprimands. He informed me that I should be "beneath" the jail and he would see to it that damages in full would be paid for his car as well as for the loss of his time. He proceeded to make arrangements for a trial for the following morning.
I was dazed from the shock of the wreck and stunned by the fury of his speech, but managed to secure an appointment at his home for seven oíclock that evening. In the meantime I had an opportunity to go to my secret place of prayer for wisdom, strength, and courage. Since he had mentioned taking me before the courts, the Scripture came into my mind, "If a man sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, give him thy cloke also." The Spirit impressed me to see if it would work.
That evening I arrived at his home five minutes before seven. His youngest son was there. We talked of school and religion. Finally the man and his wife arrived. I stood, as he entered, and spoke. Both of them, seeing me, turned their heads and brushed by without speaking. In the adjoining room I heard him make sharp and cutting remarks, and inform his wife that court proceedings would begin the following morning. She heartily agreed that a brute like me should be handled with the severest penalties.
After a season he entered the room to inform me of his decisions. In the meantime he again lost control of his temper and his tongue was loosed with fiery darts. I could not answer, nor did I desire to do so until he had finished speaking. Then came my turn.
"My neighbor, you have been injured and the police inform me that I was to blame. You may proceed with your court trial if you like. However, I will pay the damages. I have no money. I have an old car, which is now wrecked. It is of little value, but this I will give to you. I have a dresser, a bed, a studio couch, a table, a stove. I
will give you the dresser, the studio couch; and if you will let me keep the springs and mattress for my wife and baby, I will give you the bed. I have two suits and two pairs of shoes. I will give you my best suit. I will give you my best pair of shoes. If this will not meet the obligation, I will pay further."
By this time a change had taken place. His wife clutched at the lapel of his coat With tears streaming down her cheeks, and pointing a long finger into his face, she said, "You will not turn this boy into the street. You will not !"
He was shaken with emotion and evidently touched by the spirit of the hour. He looked to his right and to his left with a pale face, and finally whispered, "No, I cannot do that." Without saying a word more, he went to his telephone, called the judge, canceled the court proceedings, and returning, said, "If you will pay $50, the insurance campany will take care of the rest."
This experience taught me that though the philosophy of life taught by Jesus moves forward in reverse, yet it is practical and sound. If we can take hold of these principles and put them into practice in our daily lives, we have gone far in our quest for a cause greater than ourselves.
The second field where we find a cause greater than self is in a system of theology. The Apostlesí Creed is an introduction to such a system: "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead, and buried; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead." "I believe in the Holy Ghost; the Holy Christian Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen." - One who believes this creed has a hold upon and a faith in God.
However, it is amazing how few people have a real faith in God. Let us secure an array of testimonies, and see for ourselves what men believe about God.
Mr. Agnostic, tell us, what do you believe about God? And he answers, "What do I believe about God? Well, Iíll just have to frankly confess, I donít know, and I really donít believe anyone else knows or can know." Now let us secure the testimony of Mr. Atheist. Tell us, sir, what do you believe about God? And he answers, "I do not believe that Godís exists, therefore I do not believe." Mr. Realist, tell us what do you believe about God? He answers, "As far as I am concerned, the universe is governed by natural laws and God is not necessary." Let us call Mr. Pragmatist. And here is what he says, "I cannot see God. I cannot experience Him. I cannot understand His working. Therefore, why worry ?"
Let us have Mr. Hedonist witness: "As far as God is concerned, I am not much interested. Let me eat, drink, and be merry, for the greatest in life comes now." Mr. Idealist says, "Man has innate qualities of greatness which he dignifies, and these become his deity." The Pantheist says, "All is God and God is All." The Polytheist says, "God? Yes, I believe in God, or rather in gods-in fact, many gods." And the Dualist indicates, "Of course, there are two powerful supreme opposing forces, the good and the evil."
And now, let us take our faith to the battle between the modernist and the fundamentalist. For a while may I robe myself with the garment of the modernist and tell you of the modernistís faith? As for the Genesis account of the Creation, these reports areantiquated and should be harmonized with the latest scientific data. The plagues in Egypt were mere products of imagination flowing from a bitter and oppressed people. Instead of the Law of Moses being penciled by the finger of God on tablets of stone, this was a mere improvement by Moses upon ancient laws which he studied from the archives of Egypt. As for Joshua's commanding the sun to stand still over the hill of Gibeon, this is only a poetical statement for the purpose of presenting beauty rather than truth. The book of Ruth was written as an Oriental tale to promote diplomatical relations between two small nations. The book of Ecclesiastes is morbid pessimism and should be pen-knifed from the Biblical record. Davidís conquering Goliath is a children's story of hero worship told to develop appreciation for a Hebrew monarch. Old Testament prophecies were not predictions but natural circumstances to which readers attach some future event.
In the New Testament, the Virgin birth of Jesus was a scientific impossibility. When Jesus healed Peterís mother-in-law he became a great opportunist working with a person who had a fever which quickly came and quickly went, and when Jesus appeared it was time for the fever to depart. His followers interpreted it as a great miracle of healing. The ten lepers who stood by the highway side, crying, "Unclean!" had a functional psychosis in which mind, warped and delusioned, had power over matter and thus they developed a skin disease commonly called leprosy. Here, Jesus proved to be a great psychiatric counselor. When he corrected the malady of their minds, it automatically corrected their functional psychosis. So-called miracles of Jesus were products of overly zealous disciples who were spurred with emotional exaggerations. As far as the second coming of Christ is concerned, this teaching is one of the many segments of mythology which were so prevalent in the Oriental and Semitic thinking.
Now, donít you enjoy the teaching of the modernist? I say, "Yes, as much as one enjoys the sting of a scorpion, the bite of a serpent, or a slap in the face."
But, brother, I believe that the Genesis record of the Old Testament is inspired and infallible truth which gives a more plausible answer to the question of beginnings than any science or philosophy existing. I believe that the plagues in Egypt were actual products of divine justice rightly bestowed on the wicked nation of Egypt. I believe the Ten Commandments were written by the finger of God on the tablets of stone and by them Israel was to be governed through centuries.
I believe the sun stood still over Gibeon and the moon over the valley of Ajalon when Joshua gave commandment. I believe the book of Ruth is an inspired writing to portray decision, service, rest, and reward, as well as the fact of a Gentile ancestry of our Lord. I believe the book of Ecclesiastes was written to explode heathen philosophies which are still prevalent to this date, and to present the truth of God which shows man his greatest duty. I believe that David stepped into the valley of Elah and marched to meet roaring Goliath with a faith in God that brought the giant to defeat. I believe the Old Testament prophecies were inspired declarations of Godís will for that day and Godís predictions for future days. I believe the virgin birth of our Lord was a divine reality and that nothing is impossible with God. He established the laws; He has power to break them. I believe the hands of Jesus were laid upon the fevered brow of Peterís mother-in-law and from these hands flowed virtue which expelled the power of her fever. I believe the spoken word of the Son of God loosed the fangs of incurable leprosy and sent men on their way rejoicing because of perfect healing. I believe miracles are events of divine origin contrary to and divergent from existing laws in nature, and that the miraculous with Christ was as natural as the natural law is to us. I believe the second coming of Christ one day will become a reality, when the dead in Christ shall rise to meet Him as He girdles the globe and we believers who are alive and remain shall not be left behind.
These things, my friends, I believe, and in these and other truths revealed in the Bible, we discover a cause which is greater than ourselves.
And last, we discover this cause in an historical Person, whom we know as Jesus Christ. God in ages past revealed His will by a still small voice, by a rod of correction, by a miracle of judgment or mercy, by a fleece, or a dream, by the thundering voice of a prophet. But when Jesus came, a light sprang out of darkness, and God made known to man His highest will by this Person.
We believe that this historical Person was incarnate in human flesh, took upon Himself the form of man, and became subject to His Fatherís will, even unto death. Before His birth Gabriel announced, "His name shall be called Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins." At His birth angelic hosts sang, "Glory to God in the Highest, and peace on earth toward men of good will." While He lay in the manger, shepherds from the hillsides came to worship. Before He left Bethlehem, wise magi from the East came with gold, frankincense, and myrrh to give their Gentile homage. While He was in Egypt, Herod full of jealousy and rage, sought His life and produced the first martyrs for His cause.
He grew up as a tender plant out of dry ground, living in an obscure town. At the age of twelve, He astonished the doctors. At the age of thirty He was baptized of John, driven by the Spirit into the wilderness, suffered temptation of Satan, entered the ministry, soon collected a nucleus of disciples, and thus He sowed the small seed of the Kingdom which would become great and permanent. He came to bind up the broken-hearted, to loose the chains of the bound, to heal the sick, to unstop the ears of the deaf, to open the eyes of the blind, to be a friend to the friendless, to give hope to the benighted and courage to the struggling. He lived a life of servitude and humility; and though He was the Son of God, yet He learned obedience through sufferings. He was shamefully treated, and in the hour of His greatest need He was denied by His chief apostle, betrayed by Judas, rejected by the masses, condemned by the priests and crucified by the Romans. His portion was a rugged cross, a crown of thorns, nail-pierced hands, a crucifixion by the wicked, a grave with the rich. But, thank God, death could not hold Him! He shattered the gates of hell. He conquered the forces of death. He led the righteous captives from Paradise to the heights above. He gave gifts to men. He proved with many infallible proofs that He was the Monarch of the ages, the Victor over devils, the Conqueror of diseases, the Master of nature, the Forgiver of sins, the Giver of life, the Consolation of the human race.
Think of it! We are permitted to be His disciples, recognized and blessed by His presence and redeemed by His blood. I shall never forget the night that He saved my soul. A holiness preacher was conducting a revival in an abandoned country church. Two families, including the one to which I belonged and our neighbors, rode seven miles across the sandy, black-jack lined roads of Oklahoma to this revival. The preacher told every person present all the meanness I had recently done. It made me wonder who had been talking to him. I felt as though he were speaking only to me and had forgotten that others were present. I did not go to service that night primarily to become a Christian, and when he had finished his message I felt that I must scurry away, but something got hold of me. Before I knew it, I had staggered almost blindly to the front of the church.
A recently converted friend placed his arm around my neck, and said, "R. 0., wouldnít you like to be a Christian?" And that is what I wanted more than anything else in the world. We bowed at the old-fashioned altar bench. One friend said, "Hold on!" Another said, "Let go!" I didnít know exactly which to do, and finally decided to do both. I let go of the world and held on to God. And God, for Christís sake, forgave my sins. A burst of laughter started in the bottom of my stomach. It came up through my heart and out on my face. I laughed and shouted and praised God for thirty minutes.
And then through the back door came one of our community boys and reported that the team had run away with the wagon! As far as I was concerned, it made little difference. A neighbor took our families home, and another boy and I borrowed two horses on which we rode while searching for the run-away team. We rode from one section-line corner to another in the beautiful moonlight in quest of the lost animals. The team was not found until the next morning, but during the search, it seemed to me that the entire world had changed. The sound from the horsesí hoofs seemed to say, - "Hallelujah!" and looking to the moon, I caught a new view of the man up there. As I thought, "Man in the moon, I love you," it seemed to me that he smiled and nodded his head. Everything was changed. As we rode on I bent over, caught the old horse around the neck, and said, "God bless you, I love you, too !"
It was that night that I discovered an historical Person who lives, as the crowned King of my spiritual dominion, and from that day til this I have rejoiced in His blessings and given homage to His name. In Him I have found a Person whom I love better than myself, a cause greater than I.
©1952 by R.O.Corvin - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED