If the Walls Go Down: The Effect of Pride and Secretiveness—and Their Cure
By NORMAN P. GRUBB
The author, recently General Secretary of the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade with headquarters in London, England, is now American Director of this great missionary venture which C.T. Studd founded a generation ago. In this article he describes “one way that God is moving among His people, and then out through them to other men.” He continues, “It is not ‘deeper truths’ we need, but a simple, daily re-application of the most elementary truth of repentance and cleansing.”
The most vital working of the Spirit of God that I have seen and experienced in recent years has taken the simplest forms; nor has it been some particular moving of the Spirit in some special place, but rather a simple re-application of an eternal Christian principle in many places and among many different types of people.
The spirit has come, we are told, to “convince the world of sin,” and to “take of the things of Christ and show them to us”; and when we get down to the roots of things, this is the only way He can ever manifest Himself among men. Our blind eyes, whether of Christian or non-Christian, have to be opened to the real facts of our condition in the light of God’s standards of perfection. We have to recognize and admit this to be our condition; and then there has to dawn on us the wonder of God’s forgiveness through Christ and renewal through the indwelling Spirit.
In the final analysis, whatever verbal or experiential form it may take, that is the one vital working of the Spirit of God in man. When that happens to a company of men, it becomes Christian news, and is called a religious awakening, or spiritual revival.
Speaking from the point of view of evangelical Christians, of whom I am one and among whom I mainly move, one grave danger is very prevalent and is a constant blockage in the way of these continuous movings of the Spirit among us. We evangelical Christians have usually experienced some dynamic and often clearly dated meeting wit the Spirit. There has been this conviction of sin, repentance and confession, forgiveness through Christ and regeneration. The Spirit has moved vitally upon us. But our spiritual “birthday” has been so outstanding and so clearly marked, and its benefits for time and eternity are so immeasurable, that it casts its shadow, like a giant peak, too much upon our dusty pathway and tends to obscure the white light in which we are to walk as constantly and openly as on that first day in which we responded to it. In other words, conviction, repentance, confession, and cleansing are to be continuous (I John 1:7), if the movings of the Spirit are to be continuous in us.
Man Has a Double Life
Now there is an acid and costly test of our Christian profession on all levels. We live in a dual relationship, which may be described as vertical and horizontal. We live in an inner “vertical” relationship with God through Christ. We live in an outer “horizontal” relationship with man. We live in heaven and on earth, at one and the same time.
But this is the important point. Always the claims we make of a hidden and inner relationship with God are demonstrated and incarnated in us by a like relationship with man. Thus, if we say we are justified (declared righteous) through faith in Christ, the visible proof of it is that we become righteous people in our dealings with men: “He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.”
If we say we love God, the proof is that we love our brother: “He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” Likewise, if we have made a committal of faith by trusting and accepting Jesus as Saviour and Lord, the proof of it being genuine is that we confess it before men (Romans 10:8-10). In other words, we live before men, in word and deed, as openly and exactly as we live before God.
Now what actually happens in most of our lives? We usually start clear. We accept Christ and confess Him before men. Walls go down, as well as roof off this “earthly house of our tabernacle!” But all too soon, while we keep the roof off by inner repentance and faith, the walls of our respectability grow up nearly as high as ever. It is much too costly to “walk in the light” with our brethren, or in our homes.
We don’t mind admitting that in the past (in a general sense, maybe) we were sinners and came to the Saviour; but for me to admit today, in a specific sense, that I was caught out by the devil in irritability, or untruth; in hard or critical thoughts; in selfishness, or sloth, or sensuality—that I could never do! Why? Because I am too proud. I say I glory in no righteousness except Christ’s imputed to me, and have no plea except His blood shed for me; but actually I am most sensitive about my own righteousness before men. Pride, in fact, is my root sin, underlying all the rest.
This Hurts But Heals
This has one most serious effect on me: I become insensitive to sin. It is easy enough for me to admit sin in a sort of a way to God; that doesn’t cost too much, for he is very merciful, and I am not too ashamed, because anyhow He knows all about me. It is when I am honest before men that the thing hurts and shames; that is what makes it real to me, and equally makes the forgiveness of God wonderful to me. When I confess Christ before men, specifying where I needed Him and where He met me, then He bears witness to me in my heart as well as before the Father. When I praise the precious blood because I have needed its cleansing here, and here, and here, then the song of the Lord begins in my heart and among the brethren and the angels.
“There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be made known.” Much better walk in the light now, than have it all brought out to the light then!
For instance, when I was on a visit to Central Africa recently, I found myself among companies of African Christians, and some missionaries, who lived “walking in the light” with each other. I had never before experienced such free, open, and happy fellowship; but it was completely honest. If jealousy, criticism, covetousness, impurity, coldness of heart had a hold on any, as they met together, they would quietly say so, and praise would ascend from all for Jesus’ cleansing.
I was often smitten in heart that the same kind of things went on within me, but I was not saying so. Then one day a man unexpectedly arrived whom I had met in England and had disliked. He gave me a warm greeting and I gave him the same; but in a second the Spirit said to me, “You hypocrite; you know you don’t mean that!”
Saving Face, Losing Grace
I recognized my sin of dislike and hypocrisy and confessed it in secret to God. But did I get rid of it that way? Indeed not. Every time I saw him, I felt the same towards him.
Then God showed me that my repentance was not genuine; I wanted to repent in secret and save my face in public. My respectability meant more to me than the fact that I had sinned and needed cleansing. I had to tell the man right out; and, as a member of that Christian company, to be really honest, I had to tell them all. That took me two days to do!
No Better Place than Home!
I learned how deep inward pride is. But when I “broke” and did it, in a moment the antagonism had gone, the blood had cleansed. And I began then to see the reality and release of walking in the light, for myself and for the fellowship.
I had much more to learn. I came home wanting to walk like this with all my fellow-Christians, but God soon said to me, “Start at home.” I have been married over thirty years, but I found myself face to face with a sin I had slurred over, all these years, the sin of impatience and hard attitudes towards my wife, because I am quick moving and she slower.
Then I saw myself a bit more really as I am with my children, and how often I would “go for” them, not out of genuine love for them, or for their improvement, but because they had annoyed me or caused me to lose face. And so on, in my mission relationships, too, until today, two years later, there is a whole new plane of living relationships, and honest, open fellowship with my fellow-secretaries and workers. It is like a new world. It is “revival.”
Sins always binds—that’s its nature—and the worst of it is that we are so often bound just because we have not seen sin as sin. What release, as sin is squarely recognized, confessed to God, forgiven, and the facts frankly spoken of, as God guides! What new bonds of understanding and love are forged as fellow-Christians meet “down at the Cross!” What liberty when we do not have to live suppressed!
One of Satan’s favourite weapons is to whisper to us that we are the only Christians who ever do a thing like that, and for goodness’ sake don’t let anyone know. And what release to find that we are all “men of like passions,” and none of us have anything to boast of, in our wretched flesh—but only in the Cross! How frank and practical we can be in speaking to others “outside,” when we can tell them of what we are even now without Christ, and what a difference He makes!