Safe from Harm

1 Pet. 3:13.---' Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers [RV 'zealous'] of that which is good?'

Let us hear Christ ask that question. For He is the expert here. In all matters of importance sane men go to the best expert they can discover, and act on his authority. By common consent, in things that pertain to eternity the supreme expert is the Supremely Good, who is Jesus Christ our Lord. At the back of our minds we all, of whatever varying types we may be, admit His right to speak upon these matters, and our duty to listen. And what is it that He says? He says at least four things.

1. First, He says that goodness is beyond words important, and sin is beyond words dangerous. Now listen to Him when He says that; and listen in the sense of learning and marking and inwardly digesting His teaching. It is so easy to make light of wrong, and so easy to find good reasons for making light of it. Everybody is doing it, and what is our poor sin amongst the sins of so many? So we are inclined to think within ourselves. It is precisely against that sort of thought that Jesus most gravely warns us, for it is the kind of suggestion that comes straight from the Evil One. Every wrong matters, and matters in a sense greater than we can guess. If you sin, at least be prepared to acknowledge that your sin is something from which you cannot lightly turn away. If we sin it is not from our carnal nature. It comes from our very being. As a child of God there is no power of temptation over us. God never lets one of His own to be destroyed. The distinction between good and evil is the one distinction that is supreme.

The degree of our immunity from moral disease is governed absolutely by the degree of our moral health. If we complain that we are slaves to sin, we confess that we desire sin. If we say that at certain times we are overtaken by sin, we proclaim that we are not travelling on the road of virtue. Sin is neither footpad nor assassin; it lives, and can only live, in the heart which does not love goodness with all its strength, with all its earnestness, and with all its fixed and strong desire.

2. In the second place, He teaches us that we all need forgiveness. If we acknowledge that we need to be forgiven---and who would deny it?---then let us give heed to Christ's further word that forgiveness is there for us to take, if we want it, and ask for it rightly. Let us believe that splendid Christ-given fact, and live on our belief. Let us go out to face life's dangers as those whose sins are hidden in the covering garment of the mercy of God.

I do not wish to prophesy smooth things nor sprinkle the way of life with rose-water. I know that if a man breaks the laws of nature, he will be punished to the uttermost, for there is no forgiveness in nature. I know that if a man breaks the laws of society he will find no mercy, for there is no forgiveness in society. But I believe that if a man breaks the law of God his transgressions can be taken away, for there is forgiveness with God.

3. Thirdly, He teaches us that we can all get power to live well, if we are concerned enough about living well; but we must be concerned---asking for it, not casually, but earnestly. You remember the words in the Scripture that indicate the type of desire for goodness that we must display: 'Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.' Hunger and thirst are big words.

Christ pronounces a benediction on unfulfilled aspiration. The preceding Beatitudes concern some form of attainment---disciplined feeling---an enlightened conscience---humility, meekness. The condition of hunger and thirst is not in itself associated with any kind of virtue---only with striving, yearning dissatisfaction. Indeed, the picture of a ravenous man with a parched throat does not even suggest dignity---yet he may be among the number of the blessed. It is a great demand on faith and patience. The meek seem to posses nothing---those who hunger and thirst after righteousness seem to remain dissatisfied.

But there is a point between these two when he is submerged and hampered, groping in the slimy darkness for the pearl. That is the strain---before he has found it, when the weight of waters threatens to crush him.

This is the very moment when Christ pronounces His benediction. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst before they are satisfied, before they find the pearl. It is the spirit, the intent of our life that God blesses. We are blessed for what we are, for what we want to be, as well as for what we have, and the blessings of God covers every stage of our life---the first plunge---the period of unfulfilled aspiration---the glorious moment of possession.

And lastly, He teaches us that we, the essential 'we,' are in the keeping of a gracious power. The 'we' that we call the soul, and that belongs to God. He keeps us for a very simple reason. He keeps us because He loves us. Let us try to appreciate how great and strong a thing the love of God for each one of us is. Let us remember that Jesus is the unveiling of the graciousness of God in a measure suited to our capacity for understanding. If we seek goodness and thus are God's, nothing can harm us. That is a great image of the Apostle Paul which is given in the eighth chapter of Romans. You can see him standing within the entrenchments of the Divine love looking round upon all the powers that might threaten him harm, and defying them all from the security of his shelter. Principalities, powers, demons of the air, demons of the deep, the present, the unknown future, life with all its temptings---he faces them all, steady and clear eyed, and laughs at their menaces while he has the defenses of the love of God about him. And who is this last foe that comes with mutterings and threatenings, this pale rider on a pale horse, with features like a skull behind his visor, and bony hands gripping his spear? Lo! the last enemy which shall be overcome---the death which all men fear. But his unvenomed curse have lost their sting to the man who knows the mercy of God. 'Neither death . . . shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.'

To keep the soul in eager strong impassioned zealous fiery hot goodness taxes and tires. It is not an easy indolence. It is not a way of polite passive acceptance. It is not a thoughtless and spiritless obedience to convention. These things hold not the secret of either safety or power or peace. The key to strength and joy hangs at another girdle, even at the girdle of him who knows the greatness of his treasure, the threatening perils that menace it, and who has set his whole life to guard it with a fidelity which nothing can shake or abate . . . . The path that every man takes is a way of peril. Hour by hour he is beset upon every hand with many and great dangers. He may give his heart to the Philistine and cast his shield from him, and be a traitor to the highest. Defense is not to be found in little and careful neglects of open and avowed sins. Negation is a cardboard shield. Abstention from evil is a wooden sword painted to look like steel. He that would go in that great way with an undaunted soul and return with victory as his guerdon, must cast his soul on God [He loves the burden!] and guard the sacred fire that burns upon the altar of his own heart. It is no way of ease that he takes. His face is set to the Holy City, where abides all that is noble and good. Steep and hard is the ascent, rough and troubled is the way, but he is safe who has made the everlasting God his refuge, and under whom are ever the everlasting arms.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha

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