R. V. Court, Bristol, England
Throughout history there have been those who have rested upon the experience of others for their spiritual life and, although saved, have had no deep-rooted convictions of their own. They have gone along with others, they have been identified with others, until something has happened to reveal the true position. In many cases young people brought up in Christian homes and regularly attending assembly meetings have accepted scriptural principles automatically without really examining them and receiving them personally as the teaching of the Word of God. In later years, on leaving home or coming into close contact with those who teach differently, their beliefs have been shaken while loosely held convictions have been swept away. The door then has been flung wide open for the acceptance of alien teachings leading to spiritual shipwreck.
In some cases young people have wrongly assumed then-salvation; they have been baptized because it was the right thing to do and it was expected of them; they have met with the Lord's people gathering together to remember Him; they have enjoyed the young peoples' fellowship with its hearty singing of hymns and choruses, but all the time there has been no real vital relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. They have been borne along and borne up by the spiritual influences around them and the scriptural truths which govern the assembly have been accepted without question. They could give "all the answers" because they have repeatedly heard them. Later there has come the realization that they have been relying on props, the experience of others, and when the props have been removed there has been collapse. It is well, of course, that this realization should come, but it is a tragedy that such an experience should be necessary.
The Bible tells of two men whose lives illustrate these two classes: Lot and Joash - let us look at them.
Lot. Although referred to by Peter as "just (righteous) Lot", 2 Pet. 2. 7, there is little in the record given in the book of Genesis that would lead us to this conclusion. Obviously there was a knowledge of God but one suspects that it was not a very deep knowledge. Even though, as Peter says, he vexed his soul "with the filthy conversation of the wicked", the vexation he felt did not cause him to separate himself from them and so the vexation continued "from day to day" and in all probability these things troubled him less and less as the days passed by as he became accustomed to them.
Why did Lot leave Ur in the first place? We read of no specific call to Lot as came to Abraham his uncle. Concerning Abraham the record is plain, "the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, into a land that I will show thee", Gen. 12. i. Abraham went out in response to this call and verse 4 tells us that "Lot went with him". Chapter 13. 1 tells of Abraham going up out of Egypt with his family and again it says "and Lot with him*'. Verse 5 once more refers to Lot as one who "went with Abram". One gets the impression that Lot was prepared to go with Abraham but that it was not personal conviction which took him out of Ur. It is likely that he had an intense admiration for the outstanding character of his uncle and felt the influence of this remarkable man, and while they remained together Lot seemed to have got along reasonably well. Genesis 13. 7-13 tells of their separation due to the need to find adequate pastures for their growing flocks, and from this moment we see Lot going down. His choice of the cities of die plain was an unfortunate one and it was not long before he was dwelling in Sodom. The divine comment concerning the men of Sodom is a solemn one, "wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly", 13. 13. Lot must have known something of their character before he went there but he went just the same. The man who had left Ur with its idolatry now went to live among the "wicked" of Sodom. The man who had seen his uncle's glad obedience to the will of God now dwells with the godless.
If one asks why this departure from the pathway of faith which had been trodden by Abraham, we are impelled to the view that it had not been for Lot a pathway of faith, but a pathway he was willing to tread while under the influence of his uncle, upon whom God's blessing rested and to whom there came increasing prosperity. Away from Abraham he was guided by his own eyes and his own desires, and even though there was a vital link between him and God it was not sufficiently recognized by him as to influence his life in such a way as to counteract the influence of Sodom. The prop had been removed and collapse followed.
As indicated in the earlier part of this article this has been repeated in the lives of many young people who have come to know the Lord Jesus as their Saviour but have relied for their spiritual life upon others in their immediate Christian circle and have not made it their business to "grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ". When the time has come to leave this circle and they have found themselves among those to whom the things of God mean nothing, they have had no prop to lean upon and the experience has been a hard one. Some have succumbed to outward pressure and although their vital link with Christ has remained because of His faithfulness, their lives have been useless so far as Christian witness is concerned and "joy and peace in believing" has gone.
Joash. We read in 2 Chronicles 24 that this man came to the throne of Judah when he was only seven years old. In chapter 22 we are told that it was by the grace of God that he was alive at all, for he was the only one saved from the massacre of the seed royal by wicked queen Athaliah. Hidden in the temple for seven years, during which time Jehoiada the priest was making plans to set him upon the throne as the rightful king, the day came when Athaliah was slain and Joash was joyfully proclaimed king. It was a dreadful responsibility for a young boy and it can be well understood that he was very dependent upon his counsellors and guides, and pre-eminent among these was the priest who had risked everything for him. That his influence was for good is plainly indicated in 2 Chronicles 24. 2, where it is declared that "Joash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest". Joash had the privilege of godly counsel and this was reflected in his behaviour. The land prospered and in large measure the worship of God was restored. Verse 15 however introduces us to a "but"; "But Jehoiada waxed old, and was full of days when he died". What now? Will the king continue to do "that which is right in the sight of the Lord"? Alas, the driving force was gone and very quickly evil advisers turned the king's heart to idols, this being followed by the anger of God. Murder of a faithful witness followed, 21, and then the sad word, "the army of the Syrians came with a small company of men and the Lord delivered a very great host into their hand because they had forsaken the Lord God of their fathers. So they executed judgment against Joash", v. 24. What a tragedy! Young Joash had an unparalleled opportunity to learn the ways of God for himself but it seems that there was the mental acceptance of these while the powerful personality of Jehioada was there but no personal committal to God. In consequence when the prop went it was spiritual collapse. This experience has also been often repeated. There has been the mental acceptance of vital spiritual truths but these have failed in the testing time.
It is of supreme importance that profession should be based on a personal experience of the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ and when this experience is known there should be progress by personal feeding upon the Word of God and development of the prayer life. If, in the purpose of God, those who have influenced our life are removed, or we are removed from them, may the loss of their influence not be the cause of spiritual collapse, but the means, in God's hands, of leading us into a deeper understanding of His power to keep.